Otentik Trip 2019 with We Like Travel and Attitude Hotels - Mauritius.Read More
When we started planing our trip to Asia, we were considering Sri Lanka, Philippines or Vietnam. Somehow Vietnam won the competition and once we’ve settled on a destination, next thing was to find a reasonably priced flights from Europe.
We found several options available with flights to Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Da Nang and with number of a different airlines.
I wanted to fly with some good airline and made a stop over either in Doha or Dubai. So we decided to try Qatar Airlines and their Dreamliner and booked the flight to Ho Chi Minh City with 18h stop over in Doha on the way back.
Our flight was departing from Prague Airport, and our check-in was smooth and plane was fairly new. I can imagine better entertainment system though. Anyway, food was good enough for plane food and cabin crew was lovely and helpful.
We had just two hours in Doha before we got to our second flight to HCMC, so not a much time. Smoking lounge at Doha Airport was tiny, smelly and disgusting room but at least I could inhale some nicotine there.
Prices and currency exchange rates
100K VND = 4.3USD or 3.80EUR or 100CZK
Prices: Water from 3.5K VND per 0.5l bottle, Fresh Coconut Water from 15K VND, coffee from 15K VND, meal in restaurant from 30K VND, box of Marlboro from 28K VND, motorbike rent for a day 150K VND
Our plan was to stay in Ho Chi Minh City for day or two and the move slowly to the north towards the city Da Nang. We only had two weeks so unfortunately Hanoi and the rest of the north Vietnam was impossible to make this time.
This time of the year in south Vietnam, weather is pretty consistent, sunny with around 35C and very humid. Simply perfect weather for me :)
Ho Chi Minh City - Saigon
Our flight landed at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City at the afternoon. Once we pass through the security and got our luggage collected, while still connected on Free Airport WiFi, I’ve used Grab app (iOS or Android) and booked a car to get us to our accommodation.
This is a must have app when you are in Vietnam. If you travel solo, you can book a motorbike with driver for very cheap. If you are a couple or group and need a car ride, usually the price is half of normal taxi price for that distance. On the top of that you can order a food delivery through the app and also a normal taxi, and way more. Pretty much it is an Asian Uber on steroids.
They even have a benefits system and I have received a two free rides worth a 100k VND each but I couldn't figure out how to use them. It was still pointing me to the T&C which had like two lines and no value.
Our accommodation for first two nights in Ho Chi Minh City was Apartment in Icon 56 Building in Quán 4 just over the river from the city centre. We have booked this accomodation through Booking.com in advance and the price seems to be reasonable. Apartment owner was waiting for us at the lobby when we arrived. The apartment was clean, with working AC and little balcony. It had included in price access to a rooftop swimming pool with great views around the city.
Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon is a crazy buzzing city, it has 14,5M citizens and 7.5M motorbikes, so you can imagine the noise and smell on the streets. It took us a while to figure out how to cross the street but once you realise that you just need to keep walking and don’t stop under any circumstances, you’re gonna be fine :)
Vietnamese cuisine is famous and we have found a few lovely restaurants, best one was Ngoc Chau Garden with “home like” food and lovely staff. First day we have wandered around the Quán 1 (City Centre), visited famous Ben Thanh Market and spend some time at the end of the day in our rooftop pool too.
Almost everywhere you going Vietnam, you will find a working WiFi network, however for maps, swarm check-ins instagram, long journeys etc. a permanent mobile data connection is a must have.
We found a little corner shop that sold me a local (VietnaMobile) SIM card for 150K VND with unlimited 3G valid for a month what sounded like a reasonable price to me. After a day of usage, I’ve realised that I may need something more faster than 3G and I bought another SIM card from another random street vendor for 250K VND that had 4GB of LTE per day for a month.
Have to say that both SIM cards worked as advertised and with Kate using the 3G and myself with LTE one, the had no issues to get connected anywhere.. Mobile coverage was pretty good even in countryside and for most of the train journey we had a working mobile network too.
On the second day we’ve decided to move on and purchased a bus ticket for one of the sleeper buses to the place called Mui Ne, Phan Thiet , north of the Ho Chi Minh City.
You have two companies that operate sleeper buses and we did go for the Sinh Tourist, second option is Hanh Cafe. Don’t ask me why the second bus operator have a cafe in the name, it is certainly a bit confusing.
Price was slightly higher as it was a public holiday that day in Vietnam so we paid 399 VND pp. I think that was a double, normally it should be around 200 pp. Always check local holidays when you travel :)
Sleeper buses are pretty cool, unfortunately they are made for Asian people so with my 185cm I couldn't properly sit and I had to be in kinda weird position. It was also too short to stretch my legs when I was in sleeping position. Kate had literally no issue with her 155cm :) I think that those 200km was my maximum that I could handle in that position.
Our bus was scheduled to depart from Sinh Tourist office in city centre (Quán 1) at 7am but it was late for almost an hour. The 215km journey to Phan Thiet took us around 5 hours including a 30min stop for toilet.
We have arrived at Mui Ne around 1:30pm at the afternoon, over an hour later than it was scheduled. From the place where bus stopped it was about 2km to our hotel so we obviously called a Grab :)
Phan Thiet - Mui Ne
Mui Ne is a totally different world, coconut palm trees, rowing fishing boats, fisherman and warm sea. This is how I was picturing south Vietnam. Wonderful Pink sunset was just a cherry on the cake :)
We had booked accommodation in La Marina Boutique Hotel & Spa, and it was really a great choice. Hotel is located just a few meters from the beach, with lovely swimming pool and restaurant serving local food. Our room was wonderful and spacious with lovely sea facing balcony.
After check-in we had a quick lunch in the hotel restaurant and later went to stroll around the beach. As it was off the main season, it was almost empty, just a few local people and plenty of Vietnamese rounded rowing boats.
Next day we have decided to try a tour to the famous Red Sand dunes. I’ve done some research online but then we have asked on reception and they’ve booked for us a Sunrise private Jeep tour for 25 USD for both of us. (Half price of what I have found online, so its worth to ask for sure)
The tour started early, driver picked us up at 5am at the hotel and we drove for about 45min towards the place with dunes. From there we could either take a quad bike for 300k VND pp to get on the top of the Red Dunes or we could also walk to the top which should take about 30min.
As the sun was quickly rising, we have decided to pay extra and go for quad bikes to get to the top faster and obviously the same thing did the other tens of tourists that were arriving in another jeeps. Soon there was about 30 people on the top but the view was totally worth it.
Some people paid extra few bucks for sand sledging but I’ve rather took some shots with my drone and then enjoyed watching the rest of the sunrise with Kate.
It all took slightly over an hour and we jumped back to the jeep and they drove us to the White Sand dunes that were slightly smaller and even more crowded. We didn't stay there for long as it was staring to be unbearably hot so we moved towards the Fairy Stream.
A popular photography hotspot in located 18km northeast of Phan Thiet with dramatic landscape of reds, whites, oranges sand dunes on one side while the other is an expansive field of verdant trees, blossoming flowers, and coconut palms.
The stream is about ankle-deep for the most part and the water is flowing from Ham Tien’s Dinh Mountains. Entrance fee is just 15K VND and it was certainly a lovely and refreshing experience.
Our last stop on the tour was at the Mui Ne Fishing Village and then the Jeep returned us back to the hotel.
We spend the rest of the day at the Mui Ne beach and hotel pool relaxing and planning the next few following days of our trip. I could certainly imagine to stay in Mui Ne for longer but we had to go.
As our next stop was around 235km far city Nha Trang, we have booked again a ride in a sleeper bus. This time with the second company Hanh Cafe, their bus was a little bit different but still sized for Asian people :)
We spend the morning at the hotel pool as the scheduled departure was at 1pm from the stop next to our Hotel. We paid 149K VND pp for a 5h journey this time non stop and finally slightly after 6:30pm we arrived at Nha Trang.
We had booked room at V Hotel and when we arrived and got to our room, it was smelly room without balcony. After my complaint at the reception they offered a free cancellation as they have no other rooms available. That wasn't a big deal and after a quick search we found another hotel that based on the description was similar to one we picked at first.
When we arrived to the Boss Hotel, they tried to give us again a small room without the balcony first but after my another complaint they had changed the room and we were finally happy :)
Nah Trang is a completely different story compared to Mui Ne, pure party town, full of pubs, bars and restaurants buzzing all night long and beyond. As we are not party animals, drinking with Russian and Chinese tourists wasn't on the plan.
At the morning we tried to give a chance to the hotel breakfast as it was included in the price. Breakfast room for about 20 pax was tight packed with huge queue outside and the breakfast didn’t look very appealing, so we decided to find another place to eat.
After a long stroll around, we finally found Alpaca Homestyle Cafe that serve us a lovely breakfast. Then we rented a motorbike at the hotel and drove around to explore the city.
Nha Trang Bay
We have grabbed lunch and then decided to go to the port where we booked a boat trip to explore the islands of Nha Trang Bay. We had option for Speedboat 700K VND per person or fishing boat for 400K VND per person. Speedboat was like waste of money and old fishing boat sounds like more fun. As it was of season, we were the only one on the boat and it took about 45 min to reach the first stop that was Mun Island.
Not sure what to think about this island. Entrance fee was 25K VND per person and there was nothing except sun beds and rocky beach. I’ve expected some snorkelling activities or something but there was literally nothing on the island except one shop with water and some souvenirs. When we arrived the island was fully packed with Chinese tourists, luckily they started to leaving and within 30 min we were almost alone. This island didn't impressed me much though, rocks were sharp and water was clean but nothing special. After an hour the boat came back and took us towards next island.
Our next stop meant to be tiny Mot Island however our driver just passed by and we stopped at next one called Mieu Island. Entrance to the beach was 100K VND per person but the beach was pretty good. We were there almost alone and the boat returned after 3 hours and brought us back to the port.
Next day we spend on the Nha Trang beach and at the evening we went to the Nha Trang Train Station and book a train tickets for train SE8 Vietnam Railways. We didn't know what to expect from Vietnamese trains, so instead of the whole over 500km journey to Da Nang, we split it in to two parts. First would be to the city called Quy Nhon, stay there overnight and move to Da Nang next day..
Our train arrived on time and it was actually pretty comfortable, way better than the bus before and also quite clean for Asia. Train ticket was 236K VND pp on for the 219km journey to Diêu Tri and it took about 4 and half hours. From there it was about 15km to Quy Nhon and we used Grab app to get a ride (30K VND).
Quy Nhon - Diêu Tri
This was just our sleep stop over, so we haven’t really seen much from the city. We stayed in Hung Gia Hotel, small but clean Hotel with working AC and early at the morning we called Grab again and returned back to Diêu Tri train station.
We tried to book the train tickets to Da Nang through the reception at our hotel but as it was last minute, we somehow couldn’t do so without Vietnamese Credit Card. We have decided to get them at the train station and when we arrived, obviously the only way to pay was in cash and we didn’t have enough.
I’ve called Grab motorbike that drove me to the nearest ATM and back to the station, paid for the tickets 425K VND pp for a Vietnam Railways SE2 train and we still had a bit of time left to grab a coffee at before the departure. Train journey took slightly over 6 hours and again it was fun and great experience to see the passing country through the window.
We arrived to Da Nang train station around noon and we took a Grab ride from the train station to the hotel. We had booked two nights in Aria Grand Hotel close to the beach. This Hotel was fantastic, clean and spacious with lovely balcony.
Staff was super friendly and helped us rent a motorbike (160k a day) so we went to explore the city.
Called city of bridges for a reason, Da Nang is wonderful with all the spectacular bridges over the river Hàn, about 1M of citizens, lovely chilled down atmosphere and wonderful beaches. Easily my favourite city in Vietnam. I loved the Dragon Bridge (Cầu Rồng) and the Night Market with delicious food right next to it, little peninsula with Buddha statue overlooking the bay and pretty much anything here.
Hội An is a city on Vietnam’s central coast known for its well-preserved Ancient Town. It’s obviously a tourist trap but still worth a see. So as it was just a short motorbike ride from Da Nang we went to see it. The Old town is packed with merchants selling everything you need and don’t need with plenty of little cafes and restaurants to grab a coffee or beer. It was roasting hot and full of tourists so after and hour or so we have decided to come back to Da Nang.
Spend the rest of the day on the city beach and planned the trip to the Bà Nà Hills Park for the next early morning.
Bà Nà Hills - Golden Bridge
We get up early, sit on motorbike and stopped along the way for breakfast by the road. It was over an hour long ride and when we arrived at Sun World it was about 30 min before official opening time.
Golden bridge, the main attraction was build and finished last year and it quickly become an internet sensation. It is actually part of the Fun Park and the only way to get there is to pay entrance to a park and then get a 5.5km cable car to the top of the Bà Nà Hills.
Entrance fee is 750K VND and I do suggest to be there as early as you can to not only avoid the masses of tourist coming later but also to get a chance to experience a sunrise or at least the morning light :)
It was fun to but after two hours it started to be unbearably hot and the park filled with millions of people so we get back to the cable car and then jumped on our motorbike and drove back to Da Nang.
City beach in Da Nang isn’t that bad but there is a little peninsula in Da Nang that we knew must have a way better beaches so we decided to explore it further. After driving around for about an hour around the military bases and radars we have finally found a wonderful private beach where we spend the rest of the day.
We really liked this city a lot so we have decided to fly back to Saigon instead of the long train journey and save some time so we could stay longer in Da Nang.
I found flights with Jetstar Pacific for 70Euro pp (including seats and luggage) so we book them and extended stay for extra night in our lovely Aria Grand Hotel.
Next morning we went to visit the Mÿ Son, Ancient Hindu City build between 4th and 14th Century by the kings of Champa about 70Km from Da Nang. Spectacular abandoned and partially ruined Hindu temples in a valley roughly two kilometres wide that is surrounded by two mountain ranges. I do recommend you to get there as early as you can as it can be really hot there not to mention the loads of tourist too. Entrance fee is 150K VND pp and there is also a little museum and few shops with refreshments.
After another hour and half ride on motorbike and little stop for the coffee, we have arrived back at our hotel, packed our luggage, check-out and spend the time waiting for the flight at the rooftop hotel pool.
Our plan was to return to Saigon for last couple of nights, get to day trip to Mekong delta and do some souvenir shopping, so I’ve booked for our next place a lovely apartment in Ho Chi Minh City for three nights.
Two hours later after the booking was made, property have cancelled it and stated that they were overbooked. Booking.com promptly offered another apartment that seems to be fairly similar to one we chosen originally, so I’ve confirmed that.
JetStar Pacific flight was scheduled at 4pm from Da Nang Airport and unfortunately it was over two hours delayed. Da Nang is probably the worst airport I’ve ever been to. No Informations, No Airline reps, No Informations at all. Very frustrating. It was almost 8pm when we arrived at Ho Chi Minh City airport. Again Grab saved the time and money and within 30min we were at the apartment location.
Ho Chi Minh City - Saigon
Now the booking trouble part.. When we arrived, I’ve tried to call the owner of the apartment with no response. The SIM card we purchased for data had some allowance for local calls too. I keep trying calling for about 30in and when we still had no response, I’ve send message to booking support. The reply was, “we will contact you in 48h”. I nearly exploded, I kept trying to contact booking over the chat or email, bit with no response. I found UK customer care number but the Vietnamese SIM card in my phone did’t allow international calls and using my Czech SIM card fro calling Uk number from Vietnam would be too expensive.
So I’ve continued to try to contact booking through chat with no response. It was 11pm when a lady that saw us sitting in the lobby of the apartment and offered to stay for a night in her room. As we still didn't hear from booking yet and had booked place that we couldn’t get in to (I couldn’t cancel the booking either as there was a fee) we agreed and stay for a night. Around 1am booking finally responded and offered another place, as it was too late already, we decided to sleep where we were and move to another place next day. The place offered from booking.com wasn't the same category as the one we booked so I’ve asked them to find another one. They couldn't find comparable place in the city centre so they offered place in Vinhomes Central park slightly further away. As we had our plans completely ruined for two days, I’ve agreed and we moved to our new apartment.
It was slightly after 11:30am when we arrived at Landmark 4 Apartment in Vinhomes Central Park. Check in time was at 2pm but the owner agreed that we can drop the bags to the apartment earlier than that. We met with the owner and at noon and she gave us the key and we could leave our stuff in the apartment. She asked for payment in cash but the booking meant to be paid with the card. She asked for extra 2% charge for credit card payments which I’ve denied and advised her to contact booking.
We went to the city centre to get some food and to Ben Thanh Market for some souvenir and presents shopping. When we arrived back to the apartment, owner was fine with the card payment without the fee :). I’ve mentioned that we booked also a breakfast and she didn't know what I’m talking about but agreed to drop us some food at the morning. (it was pho soup with piece of bread)
Mekong Delta - My Tho and Bén Tre
Next morning was time to go to Mekong Delta. We booked a tour organised by Get Your Guide and for the price 400K VND it was totally worth it. We met at 8am at the location in city centre near Ben Than Market as our Apartment was slightly far away from the centre. (they do a hotel pickup too within certain area) and with small bus we went towards My Tho. It took about hour and half and at My Tho we jumped to the boats and went down the river towards the Unicorn Island. There we got to the small rowing boats for a ride through the Mekong canals surrounded with the coconut palm trees towards Coconut Island.
We stopped at the coconut sweets factory, did some sweets shopping and had lunch at the restaurant before a boat ride back to the My Tho.
After a short bus ride we stopped at Vĩnh Tràng Temple, visited the Pagoda and then the bus drove us back to Saigon.
We spend our last day shopping and then got a Grab ride back to our Apartment, packed all our stuff and went to sleep as we had early morning flight from the Ho Chi Minh City Airport.
When we arrived at the Airport, we were already checked-in online so I was just looking for Qatar Airways Baggage drop.
With the bag on the belt, lady at the check-in counter told us that we wouldn't be able to access our bags in Doha. When I stated that we booked a separate flight with 18h layover and that we need the bags, she called Qatar Aiways representative to sort it out.
Lady from Qatar Airways pretty much just repeated that we cannot get our bags with our tickets and if we want them in Doha, we need to purchase a two new tickets. That doesn't make sense, so I’ve asked her for her name what she denied to tell and when I took my iPhone to snapped a photo of her, she called a security on me.
Later on at the Airport I found on Qatar Airways web page that they should gave us our bags in Doha when we asked and it was later confirmed on board by the cabin crew.
When we arrived in Doha, I found the Qatar Airways office and tried to get our bags. First lady at the counter almost agreed but then a man jumped in and asked for 30USD per bag to get them. When I was comparing that there is nothing about fee stated on their website, he decline to talking to me.
We pass the security and as I didn't want to give up, I went to another Qatar Airways office and tired to asked for the luggage again. This time the guy was calling somewhere and after like 30 min he said the same, we had to pay for the bags or they will go directly to Prague. I was tired and almost agreed to pay when he told me it will take another hour at least to get them.
We were already for almost two hours at the airport and I didn't wanted to cut more time from our stop in Doha, I’ve finally gave up.
Except those two little issues, one with Booking.com that let us down and the later with Qatar Airways leaving us in Doha only with shorts and camera, it was an amazing trip to a wonderful country.
We definitely need to come back to see the north of the Vietnam one day. Hanoi and Halong Bay I’m looking at you. :)
When folks from Xiaomi Czech asked me if I don’t want to test their Mi Scooter, I was pretty excited as I’m a big fan of electric vehicles.
This electric scooter does look great, it’s sleek with and the materials are great to touch. Well manufactured and just four allen (hex) screws away from hoping on right from the box. It was almost fully charged when arrived, so I went for a test ride. It’s not heavy nor very light, it’s about 12kg of weigh and its not hard to move around when folded.
iOS app is not the best one and offer some basic info like speed, battery level and mileage. It’s annoying that it need to pair on every start, however even when not paired, mileage info is synced on the next connection.
I have the white model and it does look awesome with almost Apple feel and a lot of heads turned my way when I was out. 250W engine is powerful enough to get around 25km/h of max speed and you should be able to ride for about 30km from a single charge. Most of my trips were around 5-7km so I’ve never reached bellow 40% of the battery on one day. Battery charger is small and easy to drop to bag and carry around if needed.
It’s a great commuter and it’s a big fun too. Can’t wait for spring to get on the road again.
If you like to support me, please use the link bellow to purchase your Xiaomi Mi scooter on Amazon UK or AlzaCZ
I have visited Italy many times but somehow I’ve never ended up in Florence, so when I was approached by Marriott Hotels to explore it obviously I couldn't say anything else than yes.
Project was called “Be My Cicerone” and the idea was that to create a joint-venture between Italian and foreign content creator to highlight the peculiarities of Italian destinations. Honestly, I couldn't wait to go and explore Florence.
Our flight was from Vienna to Florence was short and smooth, operated by Austrian Airlines in a small plane Embraer E95. We took a taxi from the Airport and within couple of minutes we were at Westin Excelsior Hotel, place where we will stay for the next three nights.
Westin Excelsior Hotel is a beautiful luxury five star hotel in an old historical building overlooking Piazza Ognissanti. Hotel has around 150 rooms and obviously a presidential suite. Our room has views of river Arno and hotel feature and Fine Dinning restaurant with 360 Views at 6th floor that is also open for public.
After arrival and check in we had quick shower and met at the hotel lobby with Gerardo from Marriott Hotels and our local guide and content creator Lorenzo. There was no point to wait and we went straight to explore the streets.
Florence is a magical city, especially at the morning when sun is rising and everything is waking up. If you know me, then you know that I’am not an early bird, however I never miss a good sunrise. As it wasn't the main season, streets weren’t that packed even during the day, obviously is a touristic place so unless you get lost in tiny narrow streets don’t expect to walk alone. Main boulevards are surrounded by plenty of shops with food and shops selling leather goods obviously.
Most famous cathedral is Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore with beautiful Duomo designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink, bordered by white. Stunning piece of architecture.
The Basilica di Santa Croce is situated on the Piazza di Santa Croce, about 800 meters south-east of the Duomo. The site, when first chosen, was in marshland outside the city walls. It is the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli and others.
The Ponte Vecchio, famous medieval stone bridge over the Arno River, noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. Butchers used to occupied the shops, these days t tenants are jewellers, art dealers and souvenir sellers.
Nearby Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence. It overlooks the Piazza della Signoria with its copy of Michelangelo's David statue as well as the gallery of statues in the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi.
Galleria degli Uffizi is a prominent art museum located adjacent to the Piazza della Signoria. One of the most important Italian museums, and the most visited, it is also one of the largest and best known in the world, and holds a collection of priceless works, particularly from the period of the Italian Renaissance. Unfortunately we haven’t got time to queue for tickets and will have to visit next time.
Palazzo Pitti is a vast, mainly Renaissance palace, situated on the south side of the River Arno, a short distance from the Ponte Vecchio. Surrounding Boboli Gardens are great place to relax and enjoy the views.
Last sunset we spend at Piazzale Michelangelo, the square, dedicated to the Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo was designed by architect Giuseppe Poggi and built in 1869 on a hill just south of the historic centre. In 1869, Florence was the capital of Italy and the whole city was involved in an urban renewal.
Last night we spend just across the road at The St. Regis Hotel where were invited to a Champagne Sabering with dinner. I’ve personally tried sober the bottle of Champagne before and it’s fun so I was looking forward. St. Regis is a wonderful and luxurious hotel and it was a fun night as several guest were invited to try to sober the bottle of Champagne including Kate and me. Luckily I’ve done it at the first try and Kate was doing well too :) . Dinner was delicious and I cannot event remember how many bottles of Veuve Clicquot landed on our table.
Florence is beautiful and our stay was very pleasant thank to Marriott Hotels, I’m sure we will come back and spend more time strolling the narrow streets. You can find all photos posted be me or Lorenzo on Instagram under #bemycicerone hashtag.
If you find your self planning a trip to Florence, don’t forget to check Westin Excelsior for a room and if not at least go and check their 360 rooftop restaurant and bar.
I was thinking about a short trip from Prague and realised that I’ve never been to Saxon Switzerland that is just slightly over and hour drive from Prague. So we have decided on a sunny summer Sunday to give it a go.
The Bastei is a rock formation towering 194 metres above the Elbe River in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains of Saxon Switzerland in Germany. Reaching a height of 305 metres above sea level, the jagged rocks of the Bastei were formed by water erosion over one million years ago.
It’s beautiful and definitely worth a visit.
I've noticed INFLOW Summits some time ago and I knew they organised some pretty cool conferences and Influencer meetings in the past. When I've received invitation to come to Istanbul to meet Influencers from around the world and enjoy the launch of Tulip Festival my answer was yes.
I've never been in Istanbul before so I was looking forward to visit this city on borders of Europe and Asia with all that multicultural vibe. I was in Prague few weeks before departure so Inflow managed to get me direct flight from Prague to Istanbul with Turkish Airlines. It was my first experience with turkish hospitality and everything went smoothly.
When we landed on Ataturk Airport i was picked up and guided to taxi that would transfer me to my hotel. When i got to the taxi I've met guy named Patrick, who was invited as one of the Influencers too. He's damn cool guy, owning and maintaining quite a few accounts including @Paris.
After short drive we arrived at the Four Seasons Sultanahmet. What a place! Awesome five star luxurious hotel in Sultanahmet neighbourhood of Faith district between two most known mosques, Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque. Hotel was built on site of former Sultanahmet prison built in 1918 as the first jailhouse in the capital of the Ottoman Empire.
I've got room on third floor with views to the courtyard and sea, room was absolutely beautiful however after I've dropped my bags I immediately went up for terrace on top floor with stunning views.
At the evening we had welcome dinner at the hotel to meet with Inflow team and other Influencers. I was happy to see few faces that i know from Instagram and following for a long time and also to meet new. Here is the crew.
Saul - @saago
Ivan - @aivenn
Yura - @urayxor
Alessandro - @living_europe
Lesia - @mrs.thebest
Nicanor - @nicanorgarcia
Shuko - @studioshuko
Masaya - @moonlightice
Sylvia - @goldie_berlin
Juuso - @juusohd
Teresa - @teresacfreitas
Ekaterina - @travellersplanet
Irina - @absofashionlutely_
Viktoriya - @tiebowtie
Alessandro - @alessandro_carpentiero
and me :) @alanisko
Previous night I've spoked with Patrick and we decided to go shoot sunrise and Irina recommended us to go near Bosphorus Bridge and Ortakoy Mosque. Best way to get there was to call Uber, it was damn cheap around 30 Turkish Liras (5£ ish) and journey took around 20min. When we arrived, sky was amazing pink and we quickly get ready to shoot. That place was just magical, with Ortakoy and Bosphorus bridge as backdrop. I've loved it so much that I've decided to come back next day.
After that we called Uber again to get us back to the hotel and had wonderful breakfast in the restaurant. Next on our busy schedule was visit of MiniTurk.
Miniturk is pretty much a miniatures of cool buildings from all around the Turkey. It's great to walk through enjoy them and learn a bit history.
From there we went for lunch to the now famous restaurant called Nusr-et owned by no one than Mr #Saltbae. It was packed and we were told that Nusr just came back to Istanbul to meet with us. What a experience, he's absolutely lovely and patient guy and steaks were extraordinary delicious.
Next on our schedule was visit of one of the large parks in Istanbul called Emirgan Park, it was full of beautiful tulips so we got the taste for next day Tulip Festival Launch day. We spent there almost an hour running around with cameras and snapping some flower shots :)
Next stop was amazing again, Helicopter ride over Istanbul with Kaan Air. Weather wasn't the best that afternoon but it was still a spectacular ride.
The day of the main event, Tulip Festival. Why not start it with breakfast with the Mayor of Istanbul at Tunuslu Hayrettin Pasa Konagi. In this wonderful reconstructed building we got served breakfast and then had small chat with Mayor.
From there we followed Mayor to open the Tulip Festival Istanbul. They've created World's Largest tulip carpet made from 564k tulips, right at the historic Sultanahmet Square next to the Hagia Sofia Mosque. Spectacular view! Btw, Did you know that Tulip come from Turkey?
Once we get enough shots, we walked to nearby Matbah Restaurant for tasty lunch and then moved for few shots to Gulhane Park also full of tulips. Then we had about two hours of free time and I've decided with couple of others to visit neighbourhood called Balat with lovely small caffees, shops and colourful houses. Very pretty and so far my favourite part of the city. I could spend there walking around hours unfortunately we had to come back as next on schedule was visit of the Basilica Cistern.
Basilica Cistern, largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city. This cathedral-size cistern is an underground chamber approximately 9,800 square metres large, capable of holding 80,000 cubic metres of water. It was featured in several movies including James Bond's From Russia With Love or Dan Brown's Inferno among others. Pretty cool place, unfortunately a bit dark for pictures without tripod that most of us left at the hotel obviously :0
Last on the day was dinner in Feriye Lokantasi that had wonderful view of Ortaköy Mosque and Bosporus Bridge and delicious food. We met few other people there including founders of Inflow Summits and finished the evening with few shots outside and moved back to the hotel.
What a fabulous few days it was, Istanbul is amazing city and I know I have to come back and stay for longer to visit places I've missed.
Thank you Inflow Summits for having me and showing me around.
You can find all our pictures under hashtag #tulipfestivalistanbul
My long time planed trip to New Zealand at the end of the March was postponed last minute so I decided to visit Tatra mountains in Slovakia. I was there last time probably 20y ago so I was really looking forward.
Štrbské Pleso - Grand Hotel Kempinski
Grand Hotel Kempinski is located on shores of Strbske Pleso 1346m, second largest mountain glacial lake in Slovakia that is fed by underground springs and has no visible outflow stream. Its surface remains frozen for around 155 days per year.
Hotel offers 98 rooms and fantastic Zion Spa & Wellness. You can enjoy the views of Kriván Peak right from your balcony or while you're swimming in the pool. If you're into cross country skiing, then you would love this place.
Chopok, Jasná - Hotel FIS
Jasná is a well known ski resort in Low Tatras including 55km of slopes. Ski Boutique Hotel FIS is highest situated hotel in the ski resort of Jasna at 1220m and just a few steps walk from a gondola lift to Chopok. Amenities include a restaurant, along with a rustic-chic après-ski bar with an outdoor terrace.There is sleek Spa & Wellness with outdoor hot tub.
Chopok 2024m is the third highest peak of the Low Tatra range in central Slovakia. The peak offers a panoramatic view of High Tatra, Liptov and the valley of Hron.
Lomnický Peak - PanoraMic Mountain Residence
Lomnický Štít (Lomnický Peak) is one of the highest and most visited mountain peaks in the High Tatras mountains. Connected by cable car from Tatranska Lomnica, its summit is 2634 metres above sea level, making it the second highest peak in the High Tatras. You can stay at the top for 50min and enjoy breathtaking views of highest peaks of High Tatras and enjoy tea or coffee in the Café Dedo, the highest placed Café in Slovakia :)
Hotel PanoraMic Mountain Residence is luxurious self catered hotel style chalet in Smokovec surrounded by the High Tatras National Park and offers accommodation in modern apartments offering panoramic views. Each apartment is decorated with rustic elements and fitted with hard-wooden floors. All apartments feature a southern-oriented terrace providing valley views and northern-oriented with mountain views.
We had incredible time in Tatras with my girlfriend and i can only recommend you to go there and explore it yourself. Poprad Airport is easily accessible and from there is just few km drive to Highest Mountains in Slovakia.
Special thanks goes to:
We were at the dinner on a cold October evening when one my friends mentioned that he can get super cheap fly tickets from Prague to Seoul and after few words we had a plan. I was in Asia only once, few months ago in Singapore and I was really looking forward to see more of it. The only catch was that we will only have two nights in Seoul and then we have to fly back, but the price was too good to not do it.
Flight from Prague Ruzyne Airport with Czech Airlines was more than great as plane was almost empty and we had literally whole back part of the plane just for five of us :)
When we arrived at the Incheon Airport in Seoul, it was slightly after the noon and it was freezing cold with gusting wind but as we managed get a bit of sleep during the flight, after check in to Parkwood Hotel we've decided to explore the city a bit..
It turned out to be a pretty spectacular sunset so we made it to the top of Namsan hill to check out N Seoul Tower. It's one of the few places in Seoul that is not a NFZ for your drone so i was pretty excited to snap few shots from above.
We've spend about an hour at the top of the tower and then went downtown to try some street food in Myeong-dong, apparently the most famous street with food in downtown Seoul.
Parkwood Hotel isn't probably the best hotel, but it was cheap enough and very conveniently located just few stops on Maglev train from Incheon Airport and about 45min from downtown Seoul. We were pretty tired when we arrived there and fell to our beds.
Second day was a beautiful weather, still damn cold but sunny, so we decided to visit old town at Bukchon Hanok Village and then one of the largest royal palace, Gyeongbokgung Palace. It was pretty impressive but I'm sure it would be better to enjoy it in the spring when everything is in bloom.
After that we moved back downtown, done some shopping, visited a few hipster coffee and tea places and end up in Myeong-dong again for some more street food. I'm pretty sure that Seoul must have a a highest concentration of Skin Care shops per citizen, it was literally in every second shop :)
After dinner we went back to the hotel to get some sleep as in the morning we had to get to the Incheon Airport and fly another 11 hours back to Prague.
Here are instagram accounts of my travel buddies if you want to check them out.
At the end of October @London was running a promo on Instagram with Eurostar trains and return tickets were just 39£, the only condition was that you had to return the same day. I've bought a ticket to Paris and was really looking forward visiting this beautiful city again.
One day is certainly not enough to explore Paris properly, but as I knew exactly where I wanted to go I've made most of it. My train left from London St. Pancras International at 7am and arrived at Gare du Nord in Paris slightly after 10am. It was a sunny day in Paris but Air pollution was really bad and Mayor of Paris decided to limit access for cars to the city center and public transport was free which was quite handy.
Anyway, I've had a lovely day and ten hours and over 40k steps later I was on the train back to London, tired but smiling and with the camera full of pictures. Here are some of them, hope you like them.
I've been invited to spend weekend in Brussels by Radisson RED, the newly opened fancy hotel in European Quarter. After the recent terror attacks, Belgians are going through though time and they want to showcase some beauty that Brussels has to offer. As I've never been there before and it was for a good cause I've said yes.
It was an amazing weekend, damn cold but filled with some amazing food and festive drinks and obviously chocolate as we were in Belgium. I've met some old friends there and make some new ones too as Radisson invited about 20 influencers from all over the Europe to support this campaign. My favorite place in Brussels was the Grand Place with Christmas tree and the view from between the towers of Basilica Koekelberg. If you haven't been there yet, don't wait anymore :)
Enjoy my pictures and thank you again Radisson RED
I've spent few weeks in Bratislava early in November with my family and took few shots while everything was dressed in autumn colors.
My flight was from London to Toronto with Airtransat took only about 8h and I was lucky enough to have all three seats for me so it was very comfy :) Toronto Pearson International Airport is large and busy airport and it took me a while to get my luggage. Airport WiFi is free but sucks as block any apps requiring locations, so to get Uber, load map or check-in was impossible. Also Airport signage is not the most intuitive either and took me a while to find place where my Hotel shuttle bus was waiting. That's about all complaints I have, rest was good stuff.
It was almost 7pm when I arrived at Sheraton Centre Hotel, right in the centre of Toronto's downtown. As my pre-booked room didn't have free wifi and cost of that extra was almost the same as to upgrade room, I've decided to go for second option. My new Room was on 34th floor with totally awesome view of Toronto's City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square as a bonus. It was really huge and here was also massive flat screen telly, not that I planed to stay in but it's always a nice thing to have.
When I landed, sky was cloudy and raining however by the time I got to the hotel, it became one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. So after check-in I've dropped my bags in the room, grabbed my camera and went out to get few shots on the wet streets before Sun get down.
When I came back to the hotel, my friend Jiří was already there. He was in Canada for about week by now and done the trip around B.C. He'll be my travel buddy for four days in Toronto before he'll fly back home and Allan will come to join me.
First day wake me up with sunshine and temperature around 26C so we went to explore the city. Yonge Street is quite long street running from harbour front across the Toronto's downtown and by mistake it used to be called longest street in the world. It's still pretty impressive at 86km length and have plenty of shops, restaurants and at junction with Dundas Street is cool Yonge-Dundas Square that reminded me a bit London's Piccadilly Circus. Queen Street is also full of lovely small shops and restaurants and has amazing vibes. Tired after all day walking and hungry we started looking around for some dinner and found place called Beer Bistro that serves amazing and tasty food and their WiFi was just lightning fast. Great place!
On the Day two we've had a pre-booked activity on Toronto's CN Tower called 'Edge Walk' where I guess the name says it all :) So after breakfast in the hotel restaurant we walked to the CN tower. After short training session we were transferred in special lift up to the platform sitting at 356m or 1168ft and then hanging on special security harness you walk around tower for about 30 minutes. View from top is breathtaking and scary at the same time :). There is also a restaurant, viewing platform and small Skypod in the CN Tower so if you don't dare to go outside then give a try to Skypod, views are also pretty stunning from there unfortunately through glass panels.
Day three and another activity that we had pre-booked was Segway Tour around Distillery District. Gooderham and Worths Distillery used to be the largest Distillery in the world and these days you can find there plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants housed within old Victorian historical buildings.. I've never been on Segway before and what looked a bit boring on the beginning ended up as loads of fun :) Tour guides were also hilarious and told us plenty interesting facts about the district too.
This week Toronto hosted Hockey World Cup and Fan village was located at the end of Distillery District. It was pretty cool as the streets were full of fans in hockey jerseys. We've decided that after the tour we'll go to Air Canada Centre to find out if there are any tickets left for todays game CZE vs EUR. We were lucky enough and bought tickets and my dream of seeing ice hockey match in Canada was becoming a reality :). It was an amazing game in supercool arena and team Europe beat Czech so the day couldn't end better.
Day four, last day in Toronto with Jiri so we decided to jump on the bus and visit nearby Niagara Falls. Greyhound Bus station was just few minutes from the hotel and the 120km journey took about 2 hours. To our surprise instead of getting of the bus right at the falls we had to walk for another 40 minutes till we could see them. But it was damn worth it, view we got was absolutely spectacular! While it may not be the largest waterfallsIt's it was still incredible to see that mass of water falling right on the front of you and makes you realise how powerful the nature is. Niagara's are actually three falls connected, two on US and Horseshoe Fall on Canadian side. There is also Skylon tower on Canadian side and if you pay extra 14CAD you'll get panoramic view of whole Niagara.
Day five, my last day in Toronto before I'll move on more up north and there was still a few things to do on my list so i've started the day early with short ferry ride to Hanlan's Point at Centre island to take shots of downtown skyline at sunrise. It was pretty awesome and ferry is cheap, return ticket is only 7.50CAD. Next stop was Ripley's Aquarium of Canada, i've seen few aquariums before and this one was one of the better ones with large sharks and colourful jelly fishes. I would certainly recommend to visit at the morning to avoid crowds. I went there when they opened and I was there almost alone :)
While strolling Queen St. West i've found cool looking burger place called Burger's Priest and as i was hungry and it was lunch time, i walked in. Seriously, It was the BEST BURGER i've ever had. Later on couple of my friends confirmed that fame of this place is running around the world and they have this place on their ToDo lists for a long time. Now i know why :) Later on that evening Allan, my other travel buddy arrived so we were ready to move on from Toronto next day.
Day six, we've check-out from Sheraton and went to find AVIS Car Rental to pick up the car. Their offices are well hidden on Bloor St. East and took us while to find it. After couple minutes wandering around we were in and collected our Jeep Patriot that gonna drive us around for next couple of days. I had to also show Allan that burger place i've found so we went for lunch before journey.
Todays final destination was city called Kingston located at the east end of Lake Ontario near the Thousand Islands area and about 277km from Toronto. Unfortunately weather decided not to cooperate anymore and sky gets grey and cloudy with occasional raindrops. As it was fully raining when we arrived to our hotel, we just decided to relax and test hotel Spa features.
Day Seven and sky was still cloudy and rainy so we've decided to find some cozy coffee place and get brunch before we will go to our Boat Tour. Kingston is lovely small town and it's called Limestone City as many of the old heritage buildings were build using local Limestone. We found an awesome place called Pan Chancho and I've decided to try typical Canadian speciality called Poutine. It's pretty much fries, cheese curds and gravy but this place added extra bacon and egg. It was absolutely DELICIOUS!
After brunch we moved to Kingston Harbour where we embarked on board of our boat called Island Queen and went on cruise around 1000 Islands. It's an area of 1864 islands on Canada/US border covering around 80km. They range in size from over 100km2 to a smaller ones with only one house. The tour took 3h and served lovely meals accompanied by live music. Shame it was rainy and cloudy otherwise the views will be even more stunning.
Our next destination on itinerary was Ottawa, drive about 200km from Kingston. Along the way we've done a quick stop at Hill Island to visit 1000 Islands Tower. It was well worth the stops as you can see some of the islands from above. Views must be even more stunning few days later when the trees will be changing colour. From there we continued to our hotel in Ottawa. I went straight to bed as forecast for tomorrow was sunny and we had planned a lot to do.
Day eight, Ottawa, capital city of Canada and home of Canadian Parliament. I've get up early to catch sunrise on Parliament Hill and once sun risen i went to get breakfast to The Ministry of Coffee. Nutella late was absolutely amazing :) At noon we had pre-booked tour with Paul's Boat lines so we walked to the Rideau Canal and embarked on lovely cruise around Ottawa River. Rest of the day we spent exploring Ottawa and as the sun was going down i went on place called Napean Point that have beautiful views of Parliament Hill and Alexandra Bridge.
Day nine, another lovely warm and sunny day and we have checked out from hotel early in the morning and went on the road. Todays destination was 350km far town called Huntsville and Deerhurst resort where we will stay overnight, but there were few cool spots along the way we wanted to explore more. First we stopped at Golden lake took couple pictures and second stop was at Dorset Lookout Tower. It's pretty cool lookout tower with a panoramic view of beautiful Lake of Bay.
From there we continued to Deerhurst, massive resort in Ontario's Muskoka region. This place was voted as best place to see autumn collors in Canada but once again, we were here too early. Only around 15% of trees had started changing to red and orange yet. We've checked in to the hotel and get to explore area around the resort.
Day ten, sun is gone and water is falling from the sky. We've had breakfast and as there was not a much to do in a resort in these conditions and as the forecast for next days wasn't looking promising we've decided to check out a day early and return to Toronto as city would look better in rain. So we went on another 230km drive back to The 6ix. I love that city and was really looking forward to explore it even more. As we arrived i drove Allan to his AirBnb place and obviously went for dinner to Burger's Priest straight after. With full belly i went straight to the hotel and as it was right on Yonge St. i went for little stroll around before bed time.
Day eleven, last day in Canada and surprisingly sky cleared out and sun was shining. I had few things planed before i leave so i went straight to Toronto City Airport where i had booked Heli flight with Toronto Heli Tours. Highly recommended as it's quite cheap to compare with London and other cities. For 100CAD they will fly you for about 10min around Toronto's downtown and CN Tower. Check their page and if your lucky you may get Last minute special with 50% off the price. I guess it was my best spend 50 bucks :)
From the Airport i went to check Toronto's Hockey Hall of Fame where as a big hockey fan I wanted to see and touch the Stanley Cup. Loved that place thoroughly. From there I went to check Royal Ontario Museum but unfortunately i haven't got much time left and I had to come back to the hotel, pick up my luggage and get to the Pearson Airport for my flight back home.
Thank you Canada, you are amazing country and i'm sure i'll be back to explore even more!