When we looked at options on what to do for this weekend, we checked out the forecast and it suggested that it might be snowing again. Since we didn't really have much snow and cold weather this winter, we really like the idea of another snow day. So we decided to go somewhere, where the snow actually staying for a few hours seemed more likely than in our hometown.
So, the New Year has finally started.
2017 was a great year for us. We quite some traveling, and ended up posting a total of 28 posts on this blog. That has partly been due to us taking several trips to other countries - Straßbourg, France, for New Years, Uppsala, Sweden, in May and our main vacation to Vietnam in September. But we also explored more around our hometown and in the whole of Germany, including two trips to Hamburg.
Also, we started a instagram channel right at the end of the year. You can follow us at @zuhause_und_unterwegs.
We have some stuff planned for 2018, but we'll see how everything goes. We really want to explore Germany more than we've done previously.
During a visit to family in Hannover, we decided to take a short trip to Hamburg again, so that we would be able to visit the "Miniatur Wunderland", an enourmous miniature railway exhibition that's said to be the largest in the world, and one of hamburgs main attractions. We hadn't been able to make it there on our visit to Hamburg earlier this year, so this time we specifically planned the trip around our visit to the exhibition.
We had two days in Hamburg, arriving via train in the morning on the first, taking the train back on the evening of the second day.
Upon arrival in Hamburg we took a stroll through the city, walking through the old town, visiting the Jungfernstieg and then making our way through the city to the Speicherstadt. On our way we came by the "Mahnmal St. Nikolai" - the ruins of a church, and a remaining churchtower, now used as a viewing platform, and a museum that tells the story of the WWII Bombings of Hamburg.
The last few years we didn't get much snow in our hometown, which kind of made winter dull and gray. Tim especially is originally from a region in germany, where cold winters with a lot of snow are normal, so we did miss that white stuff.
This winter started off with a surprise: Our first snow fell today! And it didn't melt right away but started piling up, and that's the unusual part. Right now it looks like we have more snow than we'd had at any point in the last three years, the time that we lived here.
We took our cameras on a walk to enjoy the crisp cold day and the fresh snow, before too many people have walked through it, or it melts away.
A few weeks back we took long hike in the Odenwald Region, around the town of Reichelsheim. We've been using "Komoot", an app with maps for hikers and bikers, for a while now, and this was one of the tours the app suggested to us, when we plugged in that we'd like to see some stuff and walk at least two hours.
Reichelsheim is about 40 minutes by car from where we live, but if we could go straight there, it would probably take more like 20. Driving into the Odenwald Regions requires some time though, because the roads are fairly narrow, with lots of curves and just not made to speed.
We started our second day in Bangkok with a bath in the hotel pool - our last chance before having to go back to Germany. Then we went shopping for some souvenir foodstuff, and packed up our backpacks one last time.
Afterwards we had still half a day to see more of Bangkok. We decided to give the Great Palace another try. This time we got to the entrance, but there was already a large queue in front of it. That and the high entrance fee of 500 Baht for foreign visitors (Thai people can visit for free) made us decide to skip this attraction.
Instead we visited the Temple of the reclining Buddha. That one is really famous. And of course there were many tourists. We took a lot at the buddha and we also took some pictures, but the figure was a bit too big to actually fit well. But we also enjoyed the rest of the temple complex. It had several other temples with golden buddhas in them. In one of the porticos there was information about the reglious culture of Thai people, how the golden buddha figurines are made, historical aspects and much more, which was all very interesting.
We had arrived in Bangkok in the evening, and by the time we had managed to get from the airport to the hotel* with the Airport Rail Link it was already pretty late. So when we got up early the next day to explore the city, we didn't really know what to expect. Many people we know had been to Bangkok, and many of them liked the city very much. We on the other hand somehow got off on the wrong foot. Maybe it's because we didn't read up enough before coming here. We got tricked and cheated almost everywhere we went, and there just weren't enough good things about Bangkok to really make up for it. But let's start at the beginning.
One thing we had read, was that taxi scams where as common here as in Vietnam, so we tried to avoid Taxis and TukTuks as much as possible. Instead we took the metro to the old town part of the city. But the metro doesn't really go anywhere near the old town, so we walked through most of chinatown. On the way we got stopped once by a guy, offering us advice on the sights and trying to hail us a TukTuk. We declined, explaining that we wanted to walk to take in as much of the city as possible, and quickly walked away.
Our last two days in Hanoi, and also in Vietnam, we spent roaming around the city and meeting up with locals. We took long walks through the French Quarter, the Old Town Quarter and we visited the Cathedral. We watched people go about their daily lives, and we had a lot of delicious vietnamese foods and other treats.
Hanoi is our last stop in Vietnam and because of that we came there with a bit mixed feelings. During the last two weeks we experience so many things, and we weren't yet really ready to leave.
We had tried to set up meetings with Couchsurfers beforehand, but due to us only staying in Halong Bay for one day, and therefore being ahead of our schedule, we went out to experience the city on our own.
Our hotel was located close to Hoan Kiem Lake, so we headed out and started walking first around the lake, and then towards the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Presidents Palace. We knew that most things wouldn't open later in the day, but we ended up being really really slow anyways, just taking in the city and all the people living in it. We probably spent an hour at the train tracks running through the city, because that is just one of the craziest places we've seen - it is so fundamentally different to Germany.
Like many other people, we were unsure what would be the best way for us to actually explore Halong Bay. The absolute standard thing to do is to book a "Junk Tour" on a boat, either one, two or three days on the water and overnight stays in a cabin on the boat overnight. We had read good and bad things about those tours and even about Halong Bay itself. Supposedly the Bay was overcrowded with tourists and partly very dirty and full of trash, so at some point we even wondered if we should go at all. In the end we decided to book a junk tour anyways, because we wanted to do some special things while on holiday. To get around the overcrowded and trashy parts, we booked a tour that went to Bai Tu Long Bay, a part of Halong Bay that is further out and less crowded than the main regions.