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somitomi
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Travel advice/questions

Postby somitomi » Thu Jul 26, 2018 2:53 pm UTC

I decided to make this a general travel advice thread rather than just use it for my single question, which is:
What's worth seeing in the Benelux countries?
I'm thinking of traveling around these countries using an Interrail ticket, because, well I haven't really seen them yet. Maybe I'll visit some of Germany too, I don't know. I generally like wandering the streets and looking at scenery more than I like going into buildings crowded with tourists and I'm a sucker for railways and technical museums. I kind of like trekking too although the Netherlands might not be the place for that now that I think about it.
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby doogly » Thu Jul 26, 2018 3:00 pm UTC

They have like 0 mountains. Some waffles and beer though, so there's that?
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Zohar » Thu Jul 26, 2018 3:02 pm UTC

I've only been to Luxembourg very briefly and haven't been to Belgium since I lived there as a child. I remember Brussels was pretty, supposedly has good beer. In the Netherlands I've only been to Amsterdam - it's very fun to just walk around the streets. I highly recommend renting a bicycle (if you can ride those) and taking it outside of town. There are lovely areas all around the city to ride in. There are also guided bike tours you can go on if you're concerned about finding your way.
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Sableagle » Thu Jul 26, 2018 3:19 pm UTC

You are heading too far north for me to share personal experience (I've been through Belgium and Luxembourg but never put my feet down) so I checked a tour company's site and the answer seems to mostly be Bruges.

They do offer a Belgian Beer Tour:
Brussels

Enjoy an orientation walk of the city before a free day to explore. Opt to visit a chocolate factory, the Delirium beer hall, Art Deco Turkish baths, or indulge in a gourmet Belgium tour.

Brussels/Rochefort

See the church at Abbaye Notre Dame de Saint Remy where Rochefort is made – with some luck, they'll let us in for a peek. Head to the markets and collect some picnic supplies to enjoy with a Trappist beer.
Exclusive Inclusions:Hands-On Rochefort Picnic with Trappist Beer Tasting

Rochefort/Bruges

Visit Orval in the late morning to try beer and Trappist cheese. Enjoy an included lunch at the brasserie near Chimay for a taste of beer normally reserved for the monks. Head to Bruges for the night.
Exclusive Inclusions:Hands-On Orval Visit with Beer and Cheese Tasting

Bruges

Enjoy a free morning in Bruges. In the afternoon, head to the Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan brewery in the heart of the historic centre for a tour of the grounds, beer tasting and traditional Flemish lunch.
Exclusive Inclusions:Hands-On Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan Beer Tasting and Lunch

Bruges/Antwerp

Travel to Antwerp, stopping en route to visit Westmalle. Enjoy a tasting at the Café Trappisten. Next, sample some Achel near the brewery before continuing on to Antwerp.
Exclusive Inclusions:Hands-On Westmalle Visit with Beer Tasting|Hands-On Achel Visit with Beer Tasting

Antwerp

Enjoy a free day in Antwerp with the option to visit a local brewery by bike, check out some museums, or venture underground on an Antwerp sewer tour.
A sewer tour.

THIS was going to be their tour?!?
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Zohar » Thu Jul 26, 2018 3:26 pm UTC

I can confirm Bruges is really great as well.
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Jul 26, 2018 3:34 pm UTC

If you enjoy a laid back sort of day and do hit Germany, they have riverboat trips along the Rhine that are quite nice. It's been some time, so I can't recall the specific boat/tour taken, but it might make a nice change from the rails.

I do agree that simply walking around the streets was a good deal of fun. All sorts of shops, local foods are quite tasty, and it's fun to just wander sometimes.

As far as sights go, I took quite a lot of castle tours, but in retrospect, they kind of blur together. So maybe aim for more variety than I did!

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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Sableagle » Thu Jul 26, 2018 5:17 pm UTC

Just had an idea for another web search: markets!
https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attractio ... lgium.html
http://www.luxembourg.public.lu/en/visi ... index.html
https://www.holland.com/global/tourism/ ... arkets.htm
If you're into that kind of thing, it'd be really helpful of them to list what days they're open, eh? Luxembourg has it right.
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby flicky1991 » Thu Jul 26, 2018 6:03 pm UTC

I'm going to be in Penang for a week and Singapore for a week. Any essential things I should definitely see in either place?
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Link » Thu Jul 26, 2018 6:32 pm UTC

I was in Luxembourg a few years ago, and one of the main things I recall is that public transportation was dirt-cheap. Actually, I just checked and confirmed what I remembered: €4 for a full-day unlimited ticket for all public transportation. For comparison, a full-day trains only ticket in the Netherlands is €50.60. Riding a train into Luxembourg City is also a great experience (amazing view!), and the casemates were pretty cool and not insanely crowded.

Cycling is of course one of the best things to do in the Netherlands, and to a lesser extent in Belgium and Luxembourg. If you want to spend some time in or around a city in the Netherlands, rent a bike, put a navigation app on your phone, and go wherever you want!

Since you like technical stuff, the Delta Works are pretty much the pinnacle of Dutch engineering. There's a small amusement park at Neeltje Jans where you can also take a boat trip and get a lot of info about the Delta Works and the 1953 flood that led to their construction. There are guided tours too, but you need a group for those.

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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby somitomi » Thu Jul 26, 2018 8:32 pm UTC

doogly wrote:They have like 0 mountains. Some waffles and beer though, so there's that?

Less climbing then :P
Mullerthal is apparently a good place for hikes, I might check that one out.
Zohar wrote:I've only been to Luxembourg very briefly and haven't been to Belgium since I lived there as a child. I remember Brussels was pretty, supposedly has good beer. In the Netherlands I've only been to Amsterdam - it's very fun to just walk around the streets. I highly recommend renting a bicycle (if you can ride those) and taking it outside of town. There are lovely areas all around the city to ride in. There are also guided bike tours you can go on if you're concerned about finding your way.

Oh, I do like cycling and I'm usually pretty good at finding my way, so that's actually a great idea. I'm not a fan of guided tours anyway, I'd much rather go "after my own head" as we say.
Sableagle wrote:They do offer a Belgian Beer Tour:

I have to come clean, I don't like beer. At all. Sorry, Belgians...
Sableagle wrote:Just had an idea for another web search: markets!

Huh, I haven't considered markets a tourist attraction, but it sounds interesting. I could probably spend some time (and money) at a flea market.
Link wrote:Since you like technical stuff, the Delta Works are pretty much the pinnacle of Dutch engineering. There's a small amusement park at Neeltje Jans where you can also take a boat trip and get a lot of info about the Delta Works and the 1953 flood that led to their construction. There are guided tours too, but you need a group for those.

Wow, impressive stuff there, how come Tom Scott never said a word about it?
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Zohar » Thu Jul 26, 2018 8:54 pm UTC

If you do want a bit of help orienting yourself in the city itself, I've gone on many tours from this company and they were always great. They're "free" which means they work on tips, usually I ended up paying 10-20 euros, depending on how good the guide was. They have an Amsterdam one and a Brussels one. I always enjoyed taking that tour early on my visit to get a better idea of where I might want to go later in my stay.
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Jul 26, 2018 9:02 pm UTC

Link wrote:Cycling is of course one of the best things to do in the Netherlands, and to a lesser extent in Belgium and Luxembourg. If you want to spend some time in or around a city in the Netherlands, rent a bike, put a navigation app on your phone, and go wherever you want!

If you are cycling round Belgium and stop with your foot down at a junction on a quiet country road to check your map (or, I suppose, a device-with-map) you will inevitably find you have accumulated a car or two sitting behind you, waiting for you to move off again. You may have to alight your bike and stride onto the verge before they'll consider 'pushing past you' on their own journey. Considerate to the point of annoying, I've heard others call it.

Also, in the non-Francophone parts of Belgium, if you try to use your schoolboy/girl/robot French to converse with a local (in leiu of the Flemmish/Dutch you may not have) you may find a reluctance to respond until they work out that you aren't Walloon. In fact, I know of a Frenchman who was riding around on the other side of the internal border and needed directions and just got shrugs to question from one man he encountered. Until he got out his guidebook (something obviously "Touring Belgium for a French Person"-like in appearance) and suddenly the local was fluently francophone and francophile, once it was established he wasn't one of them! ;)



(Oh, and talking of borders: Try visiting Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau.)

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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Bloopy » Sat Jul 28, 2018 1:52 am UTC

I've heard Strasbourg is a particularly scenic city.

As for railways, the Wuppertal Suspension Railway in Germany is somewhat famous because a baby elephant crashed out of the train and into the river below. Hamburg has Miniatur Wunderland, the world's largest model railway exhibition.

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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby somitomi » Sat Jul 28, 2018 9:40 am UTC

Bloopy wrote:I've heard Strasbourg is a particularly scenic city.

As for railways, the Wuppertal Suspension Railway in Germany is somewhat famous because a baby elephant crashed out of the train and into the river below. Hamburg has Miniatur Wunderland, the world's largest model railway exhibition.

Thanks, I'm enough of a railfan to know about these already. :mrgreen:
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Jplus » Mon Jul 30, 2018 3:35 pm UTC

I live in the Netherlands. Maybe we can meet if you go anywhere near the Randstad (which I recommend)!

Some very broad recommendations given your interests (scenery, railways and tech):

  • City centers (and railway stations) of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht (you don't have to see all four, though I recommend to see at least two, choice depending a bit on your further interests)
  • Railway museum in Utrecht
  • Beaches and dunes in North and South Holland
  • Delta works as previously mentioned
  • National park de Hoge Veluwe (a bit to the east of the Randstad)
  • One of the smaller old cities, for example Gouda, Alkmaar or Leiden (these are still relatively large, but from a travelling perspective it's probably more efficient to visit one of these than to go to a really small one)
  • Going by train from one city to another, you're pretty much guaranteed to see our typical landscape of perfectly flat farming land with perfectly straight ditches, interspersed with villages and suburbs (we have a word for it: "verpostzegeling", meaning "post stamp-ification")

There's probably more, but this comes to mind right now. If you have any questions, please ask. PMs also welcome.
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby suffer-cait » Tue Jul 31, 2018 8:23 pm UTC

It's beautiful. There's great architecture all over the place. Great for wandering. Personally, I loved the fuck out of Brussels. I like having a city as a base and popping out to towns for a few days and then back. Have you traveled much before?
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Sableagle » Tue Jul 31, 2018 9:10 pm UTC

I would have suggested the tallest bridge in the world, but (1) it's a road bridge, despite being called a viaduct, and (2) it's too far south.

If you like bridges, though, there it is: Millau.

If you're feeling ambitious, there's another at Génolhac. Google reckons it's 10h 40m by bicycle or 24h walking upriver. Not a lot of trains there.
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Jul 31, 2018 9:59 pm UTC

Sounds like a bridge too far. (Arnhem, anyone?)

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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Bloopy » Wed Aug 01, 2018 6:34 am UTC

On my last holiday my parents and I got carried away photographing bridges from almost every conceivable angle. Namely the Glenfinnan Viaduct and the triple whammy at the Firth of Forth in Scotland. They've done the tourist thing at many more bridges than me. I really need to tone it down and not get caught up in the bridge thing so much, haha.

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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Sableagle » Wed Aug 01, 2018 9:54 am UTC

Sableagle wrote:I would have suggested the tallest bridge in the world, but (1) it's a road bridge, despite being called a viaduct, and (2) it's too far south.

If you like bridges, though, there it is: Millau.

There's a station there too. If you're feeling ambitious, there's another at Génolhac. Google reckons it's 10h 40m by bicycle or 24h walking upriver. Not a lot of trains there.
The bit in green is kind of important to the meaning of the post. I meant there are stations both sides of some rather pretty limestone landscape, one of them being really close to the world's tallest bridge and the other being ... on the other side of some rather pretty limestone landscape.
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby MakingProgress » Wed Aug 01, 2018 4:16 pm UTC

Antwerp central rail station is certainly worth a visit.
As for museums in Antwerp, i do recommend the Red Star Line museum.

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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby flicky1991 » Sat Aug 11, 2018 3:58 pm UTC

Reposting since mine got buried in the responses to somi's questions.
flicky1991 wrote:I'm going to be in Penang for a week and Singapore for a week. Any essential things I should definitely see in either place?
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Zohar » Sun Aug 12, 2018 6:33 pm UTC

Presumably eat all the foods, but I haven't been to either.
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby flicky1991 » Sun Aug 12, 2018 8:51 pm UTC

Foods are definitely a priority for me. :D
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Zamfir » Mon Aug 13, 2018 6:57 pm UTC

A bit late, some more information for somitomi. I live in Haarlem, you're invited to visit or stay a night if you're in the neighbourhood.

If you like trekking, consider cycling as your main mode of transport, at least in the Netherlands. Put your luggage in bike bags, and cycle from place to place. Either with a trekking tent ( there are plenty of campsites), or use Bnbs or hostels. Distances are short, the country is flat and the biking infrastructure is great, which means you can get around the country at just a few relaxed hours every morning and visit sights in the afternoon. I have spend holidays like that.

You can bring a bike on nearly every train if weather gets bad or you want to cover a longer distance. Cycling still works reasonably well in Belgium or Germany, but there you'll spend more time on roads shared with car traffic.

Some ideas not yet mentioned:
The Wadden are the sea and islands in the north. The islands are cute, and the sea falls dry at low tide which is an experience. You can go "wadlopen", organized hikes from mainland to an island during low tide. If you are in that area, visit the Afsluitdijk - it's the centrepiece of Dutch waterworks history. You can cycle across, that's probably the most Dutch thing you could do.

The sea coast area, criss crossed with bike lanes. There's a beautiful path from Haarlem to The Hague.

Bourtange, a perfect 17th century star fortress. Bit out of the way though. Naarden is a more accessible alternative. There are some well-preserved medieval castles in the country as well, the Muiderslot is a great example

The Rotterdam harbour. It's not trains, but scratches a similar itch. It's huge. A company called Spido does boat trips through the harbour . Consider one of their long trips out to the 'Tweede Maasvlakte" - the newer and larger harbour facilities are far downstream from the city, even out in the sea.

The Ruhr area across the border in Germany, if you like trains and technical museums. They have lots of "Industriekultur", old industrial sites turned into museums . Bochum has a mining museum and a railway museum, Essen has the Ruhrmuseum, and there's way more if you're into this kind of thing.

Gent in Belgium, as a less theme-parky alternative to Brugge. Gent has an Industrial Revolution museum with lots of 19th century factory equipment, it used to be the centre of the Belgian textile industry.

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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby plytho » Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:27 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Gent in Belgium, as a less theme-parky alternative to Brugge. Gent has an Industrial Revolution museum with lots of 19th century factory equipment, it used to be the centre of the Belgian textile industry.
Confirming that Gent is awesome! Somi, I'd be happy to show you around if you decide to visit.

I'll also second the biking in Flanders and the Netherlands less so in hillier Wallonia/Luxemburg.

And the delta works and neeltje jans are very cool indeed!
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Soupspoon » Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:44 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:A bit late, some more information for somitomi. I live in Haarlem, you're invited to visit or stay a night if you're in the neighbourhood.
If you ended up regularly hosting international travellers, after this initial casual offer, please do consider refering to your various guests as the Haarlem Globe-Trotters. ;)

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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby poxic » Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:00 pm UTC

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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Zamfir » Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:19 pm UTC

This is the original, not the new world knock-off.

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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby somitomi » Sat Aug 18, 2018 9:51 am UTC

Thanks again.
I'm in a bit of panic, because university starts soon and I still haven't made any serious progress in booking accomodations or planning where and when I go. AAAAhhhhhh, how do people do holidays? I can't plan a week ahead...
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Zamfir » Sat Aug 18, 2018 12:20 pm UTC

I usually just book something for the first few days. Move on when you're done, arrange accomodations when you arrive in the next place. It's not like you have to plan a holiday for weeks in advance, you can do the detailled planning while you're there.

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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Soupspoon » Sat Aug 18, 2018 1:55 pm UTC

The one time I visited on a family holiday to the Netherlands¹ we broke from our usual "book everything in advance" practice and booked on-spec, only to find one night that our intended next night's location was unable to take us. This actually turned out better, though we would not know it until after it had been rearranged, as we reversed the loop-round we had intended to take (going back to booking all future nights ahead, as per SOP) and ended up with a far more fortuitous melding with the winds. Ome particularly blustery day in which we would have been doggedly cycling a long, unsheltered distance into the wind had been transformed into a day of 'refreshing' tailwinds that helped us on our way.


Not that this helps much, as a guide. If you do keep it entirely open, then of course you can let such conditions decide for you where you might head next (or if you want to switch to rail from bike/not bother with the bike-hire on that day), but let it go too far and you might end up being blown over the Urals or Pyrenees or something... ;) Still it's something to take with you, as a thought. Like a laminate, add flexibility to a strong backbone plan. Or something less trite, maybe.


¹ Sad to say that it was only the one time, in this form. Although I've been there on another couple of occasions, either passing through or with a more static location visit.

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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Sableagle » Sat Aug 18, 2018 6:52 pm UTC

Soupspoon wrote:... you might end up being blown over the Urals or Pyrenees or something...
I did once accidentally end up on the "other" side of the Pyrenees. It was 36°C in the shade. It looked a bit like these few seconds but ongoing all day. I think I may have cooked part of my exhaust system.

So ... important tip: Panorama Hotel by railway station in Vilnius is a popular venue for engine-revving and shouting late at night, making sleeping with the window open difficult, and they have heated towel rails in all bathrooms, making sleeping with the window shut very difficult.

Wait. Sorry. Clarification. "Heated towel rails" usually mean rails for towels with an option to heat them in some way. These rails are a bit like that, but without the "option" part. They're heated. 30°C outside? Towel rail's at 60°C. They've removed the taps. Also their breakfast hall is short of seating space, especially when Inco Travel books half of it for their exclusive use, and is filled with the sort of noise one might expect from the fire exit of a nightclub. Starting around 05:30, their reception area is also filled with noise, which today included:
It felt good. It felt good. It felt good. It felt good to be out of the rain.
It felt good. It felt good. It felt good. It felt good to be out of the rain.
It felt good. It felt good. It felt good. It felt good to be out of the rain.
It felt good. It felt good. It felt good. It felt good to be out of the rain.
It felt good. It felt good. It felt good. It felt good to be out of the rain.
It felt good. It felt good. It felt good. It felt good to be out of the rain.
It felt good. It felt good. It felt good. It felt good to be out of the rain.
It felt good. It felt good. It felt good. It felt good to be out of the rain.
It felt good. It felt good. It felt good. It felt good to be out of the rain.
Then I went out for another walk around the train station. Russian magazines in the window of a closed newsagent are a more interesting way to spend ten minutes than that.

Another hotel, in Kleipeda or some name like that. 'ang on.

Here, this one: https://www.google.com/maps/@55.7109813 ... a=!3m1!1e3

It's two towers, which together look sort of like |<<| because they're funny shapes. The restaurant's on the 20th floor of the western one. There's a Skyline bar on the 21st. I assume the service at the bar is faster than the service in the restaurant, because they had customers. No, really. Arrived 19:30, placed orders 20:00, got drinks 21:30.
It's just back from the harbour. There's a "Gentlemen's Club" called Heavens inside the hotel. There's an adverts for an "Erotic Club" called Lolitas 150m away opposite the hotel. There's a "Gentlemen's Strip Club" in the building between the hotel and the port.
You need two cards, one to activate the lift and one for your room. Your room key will not activate the lift. If using the lift, put your luggage down and keep your knees bent. It is vicious.

If taking video of the mediaeval-styled street market in Vilnius, stop recording after each song just in case some ditz does a silly walk into the centre of your frame and stands there grinning like a fool and taking pictures of your front lens. Just off the north (downhill) end of that market, there's the Little Ghetto, as was, with commemorative plaque, highly inappropriate double-lightning-bolt covers over electricity mains and a pub with a lot of beer taps and a lot of "Support your local brewery" t-shirts just here: https://www.google.com/maps/@54.6797182 ... a=!3m1!1e3
Oh, Willie McBride, it was all done in vain.

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somitomi
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Location: can be found in Hungary
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby somitomi » Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:03 pm UTC

Thanks everyone. I panicked and pushed the Netherlands trip to next year. Mostly because there's little time to make see everything and make good use of the interrail ticket I plan to use. There's also a bunch of "summer projects" I want to finish and I've travelled enough this summer anyway. Hopefully I'll get started on planning earlier without the permanent stress of procrastinating on my thesis. :oops:
Zamfir wrote:A bit late, some more information for somitomi. I live in Haarlem, you're invited to visit or stay a night if you're in the neighbourhood.

plytho wrote:
Zamfir wrote:Gent in Belgium, as a less theme-parky alternative to Brugge. Gent has an Industrial Revolution museum with lots of 19th century factory equipment, it used to be the centre of the Belgian textile industry.
Confirming that Gent is awesome! Somi, I'd be happy to show you around if you decide to visit.

That is quite generous of you, I'll try to remember it come springtime.
Zamfir wrote:I usually just book something for the first few days. Move on when you're done, arrange accomodations when you arrive in the next place. It's not like you have to plan a holiday for weeks in advance, you can do the detailled planning while you're there.

I'll probably arrange accomodation in some "central point" and leave it at that, but I like the safety of at least knowing where I'll sleep tonight. I rarely make detailed plans in advance, but I'm evidently not good with utter spontaneity either. :lol:
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Zohar
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby Zohar » Tue Aug 21, 2018 2:19 pm UTC

When I went to Japan for a month I made sure to book my accommodation for the first week, and then made sure I always had something lined up a week in advance as I moved around. It wasn't too stressful for me, and let me switch plans around. I highly recommend doing VOIP calls for this sort of thing (calling through Google Voice or Skype, for example).
Mighty Jalapeno: "See, Zohar agrees, and he's nice to people."
SecondTalon: "Still better looking than Jesus."

Not how I say my name

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dubsola
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Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2007 11:55 am UTC
Location: Sunny Snakeville

Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby dubsola » Fri Aug 24, 2018 7:46 am UTC

flicky1991 wrote:I'm going to be in Penang for a week and Singapore for a week. Any essential things I should definitely see in either place?

I've been to Singapore a bunch of times, and my favourite thing there, apart from eating myself silly, is the botanic gardens. The zoo is a very fine zoo for people but I'm very, very dubious about how good it is for the animals.

As far as eating yourself silly, the hawkers markets are the best. I have NOT heard anything good about the Michelin star chicken rice guy - just pain and suffering with dealing with a good food, badly organised food vendor. Also check out Arab St.

Sorry, it's been a while so I'm going by hazy memories, and cannot be specific.

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flicky1991
Like in Cinderella?
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Re: Travel advice/questions

Postby flicky1991 » Fri Aug 24, 2018 10:52 am UTC

Thanks dubsola! Currently in Penang, flying over to Singapore on Sunday, I'll keep what you've said in mind!
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