Discovering The Truth About Dracula Castle

This post was originally written for my old travel blog Dream Explore Wander on 31 October 2016.

The day I decided to visit Bran Castle was all grey and cold with a chance of snow. Great. I took a peek at the sky and for a second I wanted to snooze for five more minutes. If only I was just visiting another castle. But no, I was going to Bran Castle, THE Dracula Castle. Any fans of Stoker would be stoked (pun intended) to see this place, and I too was excited about it. Besides, the gloomy weather gave some sort of dramatic effect.

My friends and I walked from our hostel to the said bus station that was supposed to take us to Stadionul Municipal. We had some trouble finding the right bus, but after asking a local with our very limited Romanian, we finally managed to find the bus. After getting inside the bus, we didn’t exactly know where to get off. Here was inside the bus, three very foreign looking tourists trying to find the right bus stop. We were lucky that the locals on the bus happily helped us.

The bus station was sad. It looked abandoned. I wondered if it would look more “cheerful” during the warmer months. No one was really there, and I was getting anxious that we were in the wrong place. A few people came, but I was still unsure. Maybe this was just the wrong time to see the castle, there didn’t seem to be many tourists like us, wait…is that wrong or perfect timing? I couldn’t decide. More people would justify that this was in fact the correct place to get to Bran, but more people would mean a crowded castle. As my mind was arguing with itself, a bus came. At the front of the bus was a sign “BRAN”. Oh yeah. Dracula Castle here I come.Read More »

Bucharest, a Surprising Foodie Destination

This post was originally written for my old travel blog Dream Explore Wander on 13 July 2016.

We’re talking about one of my favourite topics this week: Foodie Paradise! Who doesn’t love to eat during travelling?! For me it is one of the most essential things to do while travelling. Trying out new cuisines is a must so I always make the time, but it also doesn’t mean that I splurge all the time. I also cook (if I stay at an apartment) and make simple sandwiches too, it really depends on my mood. It is important for me not to get hangry (hungry and angry)!

When I moved to Bucharest in 2012 to study there for several months, I was a little worried about the food scenery. I know very little of Romania, I know absolutely nothing of the food there. I was a little nervous when I arrived but also curious of what I would find. I just hope the city/country wouldn’t leave me hangry all the time.

I was pleasantly surprised from my second day in Bucharest.

I lived at the university dorm, and near it was a shopping complex called Carrefour Orhideea. I spotted a restaurant called La Mama and was told they serve homecooked-like food. So I went and tried it. I loved their simple dish with its familiar taste. They had the perfect rosemary oven baked potatoes that I can still remember its taste until this day, and the chicken schnitzel was just the perfect combination with the potatoes. I also ordered their homemade iced tea lemonade which was refreshing. To top it off, the cost of my meal was not expensive (compared to Western Europe where I resided before).Read More »

Have Yourself a Foggy Romanian Christmas

This post was originally written for my old travel blog Dream Explore Wander.

For the second time in a row I’m spending Christmas away from my family. Although I can’t think of a better place than home to spend Christmas, I’m always lucky to be surrounded by my lovely friends in a beautiful place covered with snow. White Christmas for two years in a row ain’t bad!

Last year, I spent a very lovely white Christmas in Innsbruck, Austria. This year I decided to explore one of the cities in the famous, mystical Transylvania region of Romania – Braşov.

As soon as I got off the train station, the city was nothing like Bucharest – well except for the taxi who were trying to rip me off. Arguing with the annoying taxi driver would just ruin my Christmas holiday so I decided to take the bus (only 1.5RON compared to 60RON taxi ride!).Read More »

Dear Bucharest

This post was originally written for my old travel blog Dream Explore Wander.

Dear Bucharest,

You just doesn’t have that first-time-wow-impression. The first time I saw you, I just couldn’t say WOW like I mostly do when visiting a new place. Trust me I tried, even nearly popped my head out the taxi just to make sure I didn’t miss anything pretty. All I saw was gloomy buildings and dark aisles.

As I got to my residence, I got less excited. Apparently it’s normal here to share a room with someone. After living in France for a year having a tiny room all to myself, I was not happy by this prospect of sharing a room with a stranger. Yes I’m a friendly person (really, I am), but c’mon I need my privacy every once in a while!

I was greeted by a man who couldn’t speak English who asked for my name. After several hand gestures explaining me that I will be on the first floor, he took out my key and pointed a name on a sheet of paper.

“You, with her,” he said.

I recognized the name, my friend. I smiled. Well OK, maybe it isn’t that bad sharing a room.

Dragging my luggage through the spacious dorm, I looked at each door in search for my room number. I stared at a room with no number but the words “We love girls from Turkey”. I stared. Checked my number again. Yes, this numberless room is mine. I knocked once, twice. My friend came out and greeted me. A sigh of relief.

I asked her about the sign, she said the girl before me was from Turkey. Ah make sense, well maybe not. I will change it to girls from Indonesia and Ethiopia (my roommate) soon. The room is biggish, but still too small for two people. It had a little bit of coziness.

Here, your people stare at me. There’s something about their stare. It’s true that I don’t see a lot of Asians here. I somehow like the attention. As I was waiting for your metro, a friendly man started a conversation with me asking me where I’m from then we talked for 5 minutes or so. I realise that your people’s stare are simply just disguised curiosity.

On my first weekend, I decided to give you a second chance. So I set my foot to explore you. I was still not convinced. Your old city is definitely not the best in the world, but I kept an open mind. Maybe I missed something.

A few days passed and I was lucky to meet up with Earl from Wandering Earl who has lived on and off in Bucharest. Sitting in a cafe called Simbio, my heart melted a little. I love your cute cafe my dear Bucharest! It was so cozy with friendly locals who greeted us with a huge smile. Earl convinced me that it will take time to love you. He also pointed out some nice places to hang out and eat. Apparently you have some pretty amazing places to satisfy my highly demanding tummy.

There’s a Javanese proverb which goes “Witing tresno jalaran soko kulino” – it means love will grow as you get used to it. Maybe that’s what will happen to us. I really do. I can’t wait to discover more of you, Bucharest.