Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fashionista's Travels: Disneyland Paris

I have never been to Paris. Never have my dad or my husband. The only person in our family to have been to Paris (and almost all of Europe) is my mum. And so since this honeymoon has been planned to start from London, I suggested that we make a short detour to Paris, and we did =). Here's a photoblog of the trip:

We left London St. Pancras International in the wee hours of the morning (note to self: next time, please don't go for ungodly hours for train departures. Waking up at 4 am is, to put it mildly, difficult). Our train departed at 5.40 am from St. Pancras International and we arrived at 9.17 am in Gare du Nord.

I got me a ladybird neck pillow (it's selling for only RM16.99 at the discount store at Green Heights Mall) specifically for this trip. Isn't it cute?

We boarded the Eurostar for our trip. Train tickets vary, the earlier you purchase your tickets, the cheaper they are. Our ticket from London to Paris costs GBP79.50 per person and the return ticket costs 64.50. If I'm not mistaken, the cheapest ticket is around GBP59. So peeps, make sure you get your tickets in advance to avoid paying extra (like us).

Since we only had two days in Paris, our first day was spent in Disneyland, Paris. After checking in at Le Regent Montmartre (where we were staying) , we took the Metro from Anvers Station to Nation, and then we interchanged onto the RER A train to Disneyland Paris. Oh, if you want to read more on how to get to Disneyland Paris, you can click [here]. And for a map of the metro in Paris, click [here].

We boarded a double-decker train from Nation to Marne-la-Vallee (the station for Disneyland). Can you imagine a double decker underground train? Well, I'd never in my life thought there's a double decker train. Ah, there's a first time for everyone and indeed it's a novelty experience for me =).

We chose to sit on the upper deck. Next to my dad is the stairs going down to the train's doors.

The train was fairly empty (well, suffice to say there's more seats than people boarding the train). Disneyland Paris is located on the outskirts of Paris, so the whole journey took about 45 minutes from Nation to Marne-la-Vallee.

We arrived to a wet Disneyland, which is not really a big deal but it was a cold spring and the rain (and wind) only made matters worse. We were freezing from our head to our toes. Not the best way to experience the magical world of Disney, in fact, we were quite miserable for the better part of our trip. Oh, just in case you're planning a trip to Disneyland, tickets to the park would cost you about EUR59 per person. However, there was a promotion when we booked the tickets (we booked online, which is more convenient), we got two parks for the price of one =).

Hey there, Woody! Since there was a slight drizzle outside, all of the Disney characters had to stay indoors.

So which way is it? We entered the confusing world of Alice in Wonderland and got lost in the maze. 

The infamous Cheshire Cat. Since it's the beginning of spring, we got to enjoy the blooming of beautiful flowers.

Went for a boat ride on the storybook-themed Happily Ever After ride. Here's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. 

Here's Hansel and Gretel. 

The Gingerbread House. 

King Arthur's sword in the stone. 

Beauty and the Beast. 

And they all lived happily every after...

Lucky for us the rain stopped (for about an hour or so) so we finally managed to walk around the park and enjoy some of the rides. 

The park is huge! If you've been to Disneyland Hong Kong, well, suffice to say Disneyland Paris's park is more than twice the size of Disneyland Hong Kong. So don't forget to wear comfortable shoes.

We weren't able to cover the park (I think we only covered about 25% of the whole park) and we didn't even get to visit the other park which is Walt Disney Studio Park due to the rain. We got caught in a downpour as we reached Marne-la-Vallee (even before we exited the station to enter into Disneyland).

Among the rides that we could enjoy, 'It's a Small World'.

Left Disneyland on a taxi, Dad insisted on getting a taxi (tired aching feet made the train ride extremely unappealing). As I've told you before, Disneyland Paris is rather far from the city so the cab ride costs us about EUR100 but Dad was really insistent on taking the cab. 

Oh, and for Muslims, there's an outlet in Disneyland that sells halal food, the Agrabah Cafe. For more info on Agrabah Cafe, click [here].

Will post more on Paris soon =).

xoxo Mrs Fashionista

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fashionista's Travels: The Great Wall of China

In June 2010, the three of us went to Beijing (courtesy of AirAsia's free flights promotion). Well, we didn't get free tickets, but we did get the RM10 tickets, so in all, our flight Kuching - KL - Tianjin (return) costs less than MYR400 each. If I'm not mistaken it was only about MYR360 (return trip per person). And no trip to Beijing is complete without a trip to the Great Wall of China

There are several ways to get to the Great Wall, depending on which gate that you opt to visit. Among the famous gates are Badaling and Mutianyu; Unfortunately, I was informed that Mutianyu is quite far from Beijing (and less visited), thus we opted for Badaling. 

How to get there? Bear in mind that we did not book any tour packages (as we were informed via the net that tour packages tend to be very rushed and we do not want to be rushed as we savor our moment enjoying our trip to one of the wonders of the world). So, we decided to trust the net and look up ways to get to the wall. To read the website that we used as reference for the trip, click [here]. 

Alternatively, you can also choose to read my blog =). 

First, we used the subway from Qianmen station (where we were staying) and stopped at Jishuitan station. For those who are wondering on the fees, subways in Beijing uses a flat rate of RMB2 (equal to about MYR1) to any destination no matter how near or far. Coming out of Jishuitan station, we had to walk quite a distance, (I think around 15 to 20 minutes) to the Deshengmen bus station. Feel free to ask around on where is the bus station to Badaling (I'm terribly sorry but I forgot to take photos of the bus station). Most people are actually quite friendly and they will point you to the right direction. 

Upon arriving at the bus station, we followed the instructions from wikitravel and took bus no 919 to Badaling. As mentioned in the website, the bus fare is RMB12 (equal to about MYR6). The bus trip will take roughly about 1 hour plus (I don't remember exactly though, it was 2 years ago, you know). How do you know if you've arrived at your destination? There'll be plenty of signage indicating the Great Wall and if I'm not mistaken, it's the last stop, therefore everyone will be exiting the bus at the Great Wall station.

This is us in the bus. Usually the bus driver will wait until the bus is full before leaving the station. 

I actually made a new friend on the bus. I seem to have forgotten her name, but she was really helpful in sharing with us on the attractions and famous landmarks in Beijing.

Arriving at the bus station in Badaling. There's plenty of shops, restaurants and hotels along the road leading to the entrance of the wall. If you're uncertain of how to get to the entrance of the wall, just follow the road leading up the hill and you'll be fine. 

There's also a public toilet by the road just in case you need to take care of business. I'm not sure if there's any toilets along the wall itself though (public toilets were not my priority at the time of the visit).

We couldn't find any halal outlets near Badaling (and we were ravenous when we arrived at the bus station in Badaling) so we opted to eat at a vegetarian outlet instead. There's one vegetarian outlet by the roadside, so if you're hungry, you might want to look for that one (I have no photos of it, sorry).

As you can see, the Great Wall of China is included in the New Seven Wonders of the World list. 

At the entrance of the gate. I don't remember now how much we paid for the entrance fee. But I remember that it's not that expensive.

This is the entrance to the Great Wall.

This was erected in conjunction with Beijing Olympics in 2008.

As you can see, the wall itself is quite a distance, so you may want to decide on the distance that you're willing to walk. And you might also notice plenty of other tourists, so walking along the wall is relatively quite safe.

This shot was taken on one of the steep parts of the wall (thus the reason for the weird pose).

As you can see, a bit of stamina is needed to walk/ climb along the wall. The length of the wall is quite a distance and the path itself (though it's paved) is filled with ups and downs.

Did I mention that some parts of the wall are quite steep?

Notice the arabic letterings on top of the door frame? Although I do think that the letterings are more recent than the wall itself *heh*.

Along our trip, we met two Muslim Mongolian boys with their father. Super adorable =).

Stopping to pose with the father and his two boys. One of the benefits of donning the hijab is that it's easier to be recognized by another Muslim fellow. And most of the time (when traveling), Muslim travelers (or natives of whichever country that I'm in) would say the salaam to me. As strangers, it's a great way to find common ground (and start a conversation =P).

My brother and his jumping pose. Luckily he didn't jump his way off the wall *yikes*.

Yup, there's still a long way to go even though we've walked for about an hour or so. And if you notice, the whole length of the wall is filled with tourists.

Bear in mind that the further you walk along the wall, the further you have to walk back to the gate. There is no bus station at the other end. You have to walk back to the bus station from where you came from.

This is the recognition from UNESCO claiming that the Great Wall is a world heritage site.

Indeed if you ever get the chance to visit Beijing, a visit to the Great Wall is a must! It's really amazing to be able to be there and imagine how difficult it must have been to construct the Great Wall. Even until now there's been no attempt to mimic China's Great Wall by other countries. I can only imagine how horrible it would be to man the wall during winter, it musn't have been easy on the soldiers. And it's only while you are standing on the Great Wall itself that you would notice how high up the wall really is. My climb was a humbling experience.

Left the wall and went down to the train station. Actually if you don't fancy using the bus to Badaling, you can opt for a train ride from Beijing North Station to Badaling. The train station is about 800m from the gate of the Great Wall so be prepared to walk a little bit further compared to if you use the bus. Unfortunately for us, the queue for the train was too long for us to endure (and the buses are more frequent that the trains) so we opted for a ride home using the same way we came, via the 919 bus.

Hope my post helps those who are planning for a trip to the Great Wall. Oh, in case you're wondering, my previous post on my trip to Beijing is [here].

xoxo Mrs Fashionista

Fashionista's Travels: The Science Museum

As I mentioned in my previous post, we managed to snag some time to visit the Science Museum at Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London. In actual fact, we only visited the museum on our last day in London. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 10 pm so we decided to spend the day doing some last minute sight-seeing (and some last minute shopping!).

Since we were staying at one of the hotels near Heathrow, we decided to leave our luggage at Excess Baggage, a storage facility that lets you leave your luggage for a small fee.  We then took the tube from Heathrow Terminal 4 to South Kensington (where the museum is located). 

According to the brochure, there are 7 levels (from the basement to the ground floor up until level 5) containing various exhibits in the museum. Because we were pressed for time, we only explored the ground floor (where the entrance is located) and the 1st floor. 

From the entrance hall, to walk further into the museum, you would have to turn slightly to the left. As entry to the museum is free, there are several clear boxes in which you could of course donate some pennies (or pounds) to the museum. Standing near the boxes are some of the museum staffs recommending that you donate at least GBP5 for the benefit of the museum. 

There are several exhibition areas on the ground floor, such as the Energy Hall, James Watt and Our World, Foucault's Pendulum, Exploring Space, and Making of the Modern World. 

I didn't really notice that we were walking from one exhibition hall to another, because there's no specific signage to indicate that we were entering another exhibition hall (maybe there were signage, but I sure didn't notice them). To me, the museum is kinda like a huge treasure box where they keep the old stuff, you know, like stuff we don't use anymore but used to be important to our society like carriages, steam trains etc. 

And the best part is, I get to see the different modes of transportation (on some part I did feel as if I was transported back to my elementary years where to me, riding in a car with my parents is the best adventure a 10 year old could ever have).

The museum's interior is designed with a high ceiling, therefore if you bother to look up, you would notice some planes (not one, but several planes) hanging from the ceiling. 

And may I introduce you to Miss England

I'm guessing this is part of a rocket... Basically the museum introduces you to most things that are English (i.e. they originated from England) but there are other things too.

Level 1 is slightly more interesting. FYI, I only got to level 1 (we only spent 2 hours in the museum before leaving for Harrods). So don't ask me what's on Level 2 onwards, or even what's in the basement. I wouldn't know.

Level 1 focuses on the human body. There were several computers terminals all over level 1 for interactive activities with visitors. It's more interesting because there were white screens with animations that kinda enhances your overall experience as compared to just watching exhibits.

You can see a model of the DNA...

A pool of blood and etc.. etc..

If you're planning to visit the museum, try to avoid coming during the weekends. We were there on a Saturday and the place was absolutely packed with people. I'm not sure if these people really did intend to visit the museum (because there was a slight downpour as we stepped out of the station) perhaps some of them were really looking for a spot of shelter from the rain.

I do wish that we have something like this in Kuching (where I live) because it would certainly pique our kids' interest with science. Now I'm wondering, do we have something like this in KL?

Happy exploring people!

xoxo Mrs Fashionista