thetravellingsarawakian’s Guide to Planning Your Dream Trip

There are 1001 ways to do Europe. If you read all the blogs or ask any traveller, you will not find two identical routes/plans.

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This was version number 3 (I think) before I settled on version number 6

Some people prefer to just focus on one part of Europe i.e. Western Europe, Northern Europe or the Balkans. Whereas for me, I mixed a little bit of everything.

If you look at the map of Europe, it’s huge, it’s overwhelming. So many countries scattered about. How to choose? It’s impossible to visit every country in such a short time. The keyword here is research.

It took me 2 years to plan my routes. You have no idea how many times I’ve changed my routes. I prefer to do things the old fashioned way – pen & paper. So just imagine the number of crumpled up papers within than 2 years. During lunch breaks I would finish my lunch quickly & start to research the countries & their cities. The next morning before work starts, I’d continue where I left off. Jotted down names of places that interest me. Things I want to do, places I want to see. One thing that I can tell you is that the countries on my list are all visa-free for us Malaysians. I didn’t want to go through the hassle of applying for visas in every country. So I eliminated countries that require visa; yes, even countries with visa-on-arrival services because you’ll never know if they’ll approve your application or not.

I list down the countries that I want to visit & went online to find out more about those countries. How to get there, what are the must-visit cities, what attractions are there, what are the things you must do, what currency they use. Then I look at the map & see which countries are near to each other & figuring out the level of difficulty to get to those countries; whether I need to fly or if it’s possible to just take the bus or train. And of course I needed to take into account the transportation costs between those countries. Even if it’s easy to go by land in just 6 hours, if it’s too expensive, it’s not going to happen. I am after all, travelling on a budget.

Basically, when I was doing my travel research, I had at least 5 opened tabs in my browser. One is on the country, one is on the cities, one is on the particular main attraction, one is Skyscanner and one is the country’s rail website. Once I’ve figured out which countries are near to each other & their transportation connectivity, it was a matter of arranging them in a nice little line. It was just like arranging puzzle pieces & figuring out where each piece goes. Slot in, slot out until I’m happy with the plan. And I had to triple checked everything until I was fully satisfied.

I allocate enough time for each country & city. For instance Day 1 in Switzerland, I’ll be landing in Zurich. In Zurich, my interests are the Grossmunster, Lake Zurich etc. Again, I’ll research on ways to get to those places whether it’s from the airport or the train station. And how far those places are from one another, what their opening times are, whether there are any entrance fees.

Then on to the budget, the costs. Transportation, accommodation, food, entrance fees. For accommodation, my budget allowance is €20 per night. For food is €20 per day. Then I need to figure out the costs of getting around in that particular city. Whether I need a city day pass (1-day, 3-day or 5-day) or just a normal ticket will suffice. I research deeper every city day pass & see whether they are cost effective or otherwise such as how many train/bus trips I’ll be making in a day, what attractions are free & if I’m ever going to use all the perks that comes with the pass. Most of the time, a city day pass is not necessarily cheaper unless you are going to efficiently utilise all the perks that come with it. So again, do your research accordingly.

Then it’s just a matter of adding everything up & triple checking every detail in my plan. After everything is complete & I’m fully satisfied with my plan & budget, I’ll transfer every detail from paper to Microsoft Excel. That way it’ll be easier to make any changes & update accordingly. I have a copy of it in my laptop, in my email & in my phone. When the time comes, I’ll just whip my phone out & refer to my plan from there.

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All I can tell you is this – a plan is just a plan. It’s not set in stone. It’s a rough guide & it’s good to have a plan; instead of going head first into a wall, make sure you have a helmet on as protection. Having a plan will prevent time-wasting (and money-wasting) when you get to that particular country. At least you know where to go & what to do. My plan & routes did change, albeit slightly, in the middle & towards the end of the trip. But it was fine & I was fine. You can plan all you want but at the end of the day, it’s not you who gets to decide whether your plan stays or otherwise. You don’t get to control the weather, you don’t get to control citizen strikes & you don’t know if the bus you’re on will get to the destination safely & on-time.

Coming up with a travel plan is a lot of work, a lot of research, very tedious & time-consuming. Remember, it took me two years to come up with my plan. But of course I did it part-time & only when I have free time on my hands. But the thrill of planning, the satisfaction of completing your plan & finally executing it is just indescribable. Always remember: You can have the best plan in mind but EXECUTION IS EVERYTHING. 

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JANGAN LUPA 12 BENDA NI BILA PERGI BACKPACKING!!

Bila kau backpack ke negara org, ada beberapa benda yg wajib kau bawa. Benda yg kadang2 org terlepas pandang.

Kat sini aku senaraikan benda yg kau kena bawa tiap kali kau ke negara org terutama kalau kau seorg budget backpacker & banyak bermalam di hostel:

1. Travel adaptor

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– Jangan pernah sekali kau tinggalkan benda yg paling penting ni! Nangis tak berlagu kau nanti.

2. Extension socket

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– Bawa yg dua kepala cukup. Mostly katil hanya ada satu socket & kau at least ada 2 benda yg nak dicas; handphone & powerbank

3. Pad lock

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– Ada hostel yg akan sediakan locker tp kau kena bawa pad lock sendiri. Bawa yg kecil, jgn bawa pad lock besar mcm nak kunci pagar rumah. Preferably yg tangkai nipis, jgn tebal sgt.

Aku biasa bawa 2 jenis; yg besar utk locker & yg kecil utk beg

4. Selipar jamban

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– Kalau kau duduk hostel, biasa lantai kotor sbb diorg pakai kasut dlm bilik. Dan boleh juga pakai masa ke toilet atau untuk mandi

P/S: Bawa selipar getah biasa, jgn yg berbulu mcm dlm gambar. Selipar biasa aku tertinggal, hny yg ni ada dijual kat kedai masa tu.

5. Bed sheet / selimut & sarung bantal

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– Ada sesetengah hostel kebanyakkan di Europe takda bagi bed sheet so kena sewa. Kalau kau tak kisah byr, go ahead. Kalau nak jimat duit, bawa sendiri. Bkn berat pun.

Aku pakai selimut dlm gambar sebagai alas

P/S: Thank you Malaysia Airlines for the blanket. Jasamu dikenang

6. Sellotape

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-Aku byk guna utk sellotape barang makan mcm roti, biskut bila tak habis makan. Dan boleh guna utk lekat duit bila nak sorok.

7. Tuala Mandi

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-Byk hostel memang takkan bg tuala; kena sewa

8. Wet wipes
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-Ini penting utk kebersihan diri. Aku lagi prefer bawa wet wipes dari hand sanitiser sebab hand sanitiser leceh bila nak kena scan (liquid) kat airport

9. Sudu

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-Kalau kau seorg budget backpacker yg berjimat dlm bab makan, sudu wajib dibawa dlm beg ke mana shj. Bila beli makanan dlm tin, beli fruit jam atau nasi dlm pouch, boleh terus mkn di mana shj. Tak payah tunggu blk hostel.

10. Benang & jarum

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-Penting di masa kecemasan bila baju, seluar atau beg koyak. Ada sekali beg aku koyak, terus ambil jarum & benang jahit. Tak payah buang masa pergi kedai satu persatu utk cari)

11. Ear plugs

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-Kalau kau seorg light sleeper & bermlm pula di hostel, ini sgt penting utk tidur yg lena. Boleh block segala bunyi org (ke perkataan 🐷 lebih sesuai? 🤔) berdengkur, org bercakap & bunyi dubdubdub dari pub kat bawah.

12. Day pack

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-Atau beg galas kain mudah lipat. Beg besar tinggalkan di hostel atau locker, masukkan segala benda penting dlm day pack & galas ke mana shj kau pergi.

WHAT DID I PACK FOR MY 3 MONTHS BACKPACKING ACROSS EUROPE?

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These were the stuff that was in my 20L backpack with a pre-trip total weight of 10KG. Some countries were cold, some were warm so I had to pack for both conditions.

For cold weather, I brought 2 sets of inner thermal wear, 2 long sleeves shirts, pashmina, beanie, gloves and synthetic fur lined jacket.

For warm weather, 3 short sleeves shirts, a pair of jeans and a pair of jogger pants.

The rest? Intimates, towel, 1 pair of boots, 1 pair of running shoes and 1 pair of flip flops. I wore a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. So in total I only had 5 shirts and 3 pants for my 3 months trip. How did I manage to survive with so little clothing?

Wear, wash, dry, spare, spare. Wear 1 shirt, wash the other while another one’s drying and keep 2 shirts as spare. For pants, 1 pair is good for a week (depending on wearing conditions). I did my own laundry whenever I could and my shirts were easy to dry overnight in an air conditioned room. Once a week or every two weeks I dropped by the coin laundry for proper washing & drying.

Packing light is crucial when backpacking because carrying the extra weight can really weigh & wear you down. 20 to 30 liter backpack fits just nice in an airplane cabin. Always carry a day pack with your essentials & leave your big backpack at the hotel/luggage storage. I also brought an extra foldable luggage as back-up just  in case I went crazy with my shopping (which I did).

I only flew with budget airlines with no cargo perks. Only 10kg of cabin bag allowed.

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Except for my flight back to Malaysia. I flew Singapore Airlines, economy class with 30kg baggage allowance. Always fly with regular airline and not low cost airline when returning to your home country because almost always your luggage will either double or triple its weight. And you definitely want to fly full service airline with THAT much luggage. I went with 1 backpack & came back with 2 additional bags. Heh. Don’t we all? 😉

Jangan Ingat Semuanya Indah di Europe #tips

Benda2 yg perlu kau take note sebelum jejak ke bumi Europe utk mengelakkan kau kena kejutan budaya kat sana & utk mengelakkan kau ditipu. Be an informed traveller, not an ignorant traveller.

Lif & escalator jarang2 ada. Kalau ada pun, tak berfungsi. Mana yg bawa luggage besar & berat tu, pandai2 lah nak hidup. Lagi2 kalau melibatkan transfer & terpaksa jln jauh, naik turun tangga.

Tren atau pengangkutan awam sgt kotor baik dari dalaman mahupun luaran. Exterior penuh dgn grafitti (termasuk yg lucah), simbahan cat & lukisan lucah. Dalaman pula seat kotor, dinding penuh grafitti, chewing gum merata, lantai basah dgn air kencing & berbau hancing. Kat dinding stesen, kat landasan pun penuh dgn grafitti.

Golongan belia & gangster wannabe akan “tumpang” skali bila kau nak masuk palang tiket utk ke tren. Diorang sanggup tunggu org yg beli tiket & ikut belakang rapat2 utk masuk sekali. Atau lagi teruk, diorg terus lompat palang atau terajang palang utk melepasi sebab diorg takda tiket.

Golongan homeless sgt ramai. Diorang akan tido kat lorong2, taman2 atau mana2 sahaja yang ada tempat utk baring membuatkan kau rasa tak selesa nak lalu.

Golongan “refugees” pun ramai. Dgn muka tak malu dtg kat kau tadah tgn & direct ckp “money”. Ada yang buat muka kesian, dukung budak kecil sambil tunjuk kan botol susu kosong. Ada juga golongan muda yg buat cerita sedih kononnya takda duit nak beli tiket utk balik ke negara asal. Ada yg bila kau ckp kau dari Malaysia, dia akan jaja cerita kononnya dia dari Syria (nak meraih simpati sebab Malaysia kan negara Muslim; konon2 tolong saudara sendiri lah kan). Ada juga yg ckp dia menganggur, takda kerja sebab org tak nak ambik dia bekerja, duduk dgn ayah & takda duit nak makan. Terpulang pada kau nak bagi ke tak. Kalau aku, dia dtg kat aku ckp “money”, aku ckp balik “you want money? Go work”.

Pickpockets tersgt banyak lagi2 di dlm tren, bas atau tempat2 yg penuh pelancong. Jgn sesekali letak duit atau brg berharga dlm beg atau dlm poket. Yg paling penting, jgn berpakaian mewah, jln gedik2 bawa handbag dgn spec mata hitam atas kepala, pastu dgn high heels nya. You look like a freaking rich tourist! Patut lah kena rompak 😏. Just dress normally & blend in. Pakai money belt, tgn sentiasa pegang poket, jgn main phone, jgn pakai earphones & jgn berdiri di kawasan ramai org (terutama dlm tren).

Golongan Africans /kulit hitam sgt ramai yg berlegar di kawasan main attractions. Diorg akan berlagak friendly & tanya “where are you from?” atau nak high-five/fistbump dgn kau. Tak payah nak layan. Terus kan berjalan. Dan yg paling penting, jgn sesekali ambik bracelet atau gelang yg dia bagi. Dia akan ckp free tapi sebenarnya bukan free. Dia akan minta “donation” dari kau. Nampak je golongan ni kau cari jln lain & elak. Tak pun buat bodoh je. Dia tanya “where are you from?”, kau jawab je “Africa”. 🤭

Golongan peminta “tandatangan” pun ramai di kawasan tumpuan pelancong. Diorang akan dtg kat kau tunjuk board/borang & suruh kau tandatangan konon2 untuk sign petition for “a good cause” katanya. Untuk tolong children lah, untuk AIDS lah & mcm2. Konon2 nak kumpul tandatangan je, free je. Tp lepas kau sign, dia akan ugut kau & minta duit. Nampak je golongan mcm tu, buat bodoh je. Buat2 tak nampak diorang.

Kalau beli makanan kat McDonald’s atau mana2 fast food, sos tomato tak dibagi free ye. Kena beli. Sos cili diorang pun tak sedap. Sos cili diorang sebenarnya ialah pes cili yg sememangnya cili. Takda rasa manis mcm sos cili kita.

Money Tips Untuk Ke Europe

Memandangkan aku baru shj menawan bumi Eropah, sini aku kongsikan money tips buat warga senegara yang hendak ke sana.

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Kebanyakan negara kat Europe pakai matawang Euro. Tapi ada juga yang pakai matawang sendiri contohnya Hungary, Croatia, Denmark etc.

Untuk Euro, boleh tukar siap2 kat money changer di Malaysia. Untuk matawang lain, aku cadangkan withdraw dari ATM di negara yang kau pergi.

☑️BigPay – Kalau kau nak pergi Europe atau travel mana2, wajib ada kad BigPay (ini bukan iklan berbayar & bukan nak promote si Tony). Kenapa BigPay? Sebab rate tukaran kad ni sama macam dlm Google atau XE.com.Dia tak mark-up mcm kad bank2 lain. Jangan risau ter-over shopping sebab ni ialah kad prepaid – kau masuk kan berapa amount yang kau nak. Ibarat masuk duit dlm akaun sendiri.

☑️ATM (part 1) – Mcm yang aku ckp, kalau utk negara yg tak pakai Euro, boleh withdraw dari ATM di negara tersebut. Lagi sekali, wajib ada kad BigPay. Kenapa BigPay? Sebab setiap withdrawal hanya dicaj RM10 shj. Bukan mcm bank lain yg caj RM12 atau RM14. Nasihat aku, buat budget & anggaran berapa byk duit yg kau perlukan sepanjang di negara tersebut. Keluarkan lump sum utk elak withdrawal charge byk kali.

☑️ATM (part 2) – Kalau nak withdraw dari ATM, pastikan ATM tu adalah betul2 ATM milik bank & bukan ATM independent. ATM independent yang bersepah kat Europe & paling popular ialah “Euronet”. ATM Euronet ada di mana2 shj. Jgn sesekali guna ATM Euronet! Kenapa? Byk caj tersembunyi & rate tukaran sgt teruk.

☑️ATM (part 3) – Masa nak withdraw duit di mesin ATM, akan keluar kat skrin dua options utk dipilih:

1. With conversion to your home currency
2. Without conversion

Apa bezanya? Option 1 ialah bank kpd ATM tu akan convert duit tu ikut rate diorg. Option 2 ialah bank kpd kad ATM (dlm kes ni ialah BigPay since aku dah paksa kau pakai BigPay kan) akan convert duit tu. Always always always pilih option 2 – without conversion sebab mcm yg aku ckp, rate BigPay is the best so far. Sama juga bila kau beli ticket online atau guna PayPal – always always always pilih “without conversion”.

☑️Cash – Kalau kau bawa cash, simpan duit tu elok2. Jgn hanya simpan/letak kat satu tempat sahaja. Asing kan duit tu & sorok di beberapa tempat. Buat anggaran berapa byk kau nak pakai dlm sehari & keluarkan duit tu siap2 & letak dlm wallet atau poket. Pakai money belt kalau ada. Sorok duit tu ikut kreativiti & kepandaian kau.

Nasihat aku, tak payah nak bawa cash banyak sgt. Cukup kau top-up kan kad BigPay siap2 & hanya swipe atau withdraw dari ATM bila dah sampai negara org. Sebabnya, kalau kau nak beli ticket train atau metro atau bas di sesetengah negara, mesin ticket hanya terima kad & bukan cash. Sama juga kalau nak booking hotel. Mostly hotel akan terus caj kad kredit & hanya sesetengah hotel yg ada option “pay at the property”.

Akhir kata: Bring some cash & bring at least 2 credit cards (one is of course BigPay) as back-ups.

Europe’s Little Anecdotes

Croatia

Boarding the bus from Zagreb to Dubrovnik, there was this old man with long hair & beard, I honestly thought he was a homeless, crazy person. He kept shoving me when I was in a queue to put my luggage in the hold.

On the bus I happened to sit behind him. It was a night bus & in the morning when we reached the border, waiting for our passports to be returned (you have to surrender your passport to the border police), he asked me “Where are you from?“. He spoke perfect English. Here I was initially thinking he was a crazy old man, stunned. He worked in Zagreb & now returning to his home in Dubrovnik. He showed me pictures of his home, his son, his wife & dog (who sadly passed away in September) on his digital camera. He asked me to play chess with him on his tablet & said he’s been playing against the tablet. And he even invited me to his yacht. And when we stopped at the petrol station for a 5 minute break, he went down & came back up with a carton of cigarettes & said it was cheaper here compared to Croatia.

Here we were talking about cigarettes when he suddenly took a golden box from the the top compartment & showed me, whispering “I have canaria in here“. I had no idea what canaria is. He kept repeating “canaria“. I honestly thought he had drugs in the box because we were talking about cigarettes just now & he was whispering. And then he opened the box & showed me the content. Guess what was in there? A yellow CANARY! The poor bird locked in the box & when he opened the box, it flew towards me! No wonder I saw him put a small cage in the luggage hold. That’ll teach me to never judge a book by its cover.

France

In Paris, I stayed in a female only dorm. Stayed there for 2 nights. The first night was fine. The second night, guess who stayed in my dorm? A ladyboy from Thailand. He came into the room with a huge luggage, wearing high heels & heavy make up. Yeah trying so hard to look like a female but failed miserably. His voice was still all male & at night he snored like one! My God he snored so loud! He was talking to another girl in the room & kept saying “Paris so boring”, “I no like Paris”. And the girl asked him “Why did you come?” And the tranny said “My friend say Eiffel is beautiful with the ligh. Brue, red & whi. But I go, no ligh. I ask people they say only in January have ligh. Now no ligh.

Oh how I wish I could punch him in the balls! How dare he said Paris is boring!

And in the morning his alarm was blaring but he did not wake up nor turn it off. His alarm kept blaring for 30 minutes waking everyone up but him. And he was so noisy when packing his stuff. He even banged the door on my bed (my bed was next to the toilet & if you open it too wide, it’ll hit the bed). And when he left, he kept banging his huge luggage on the floor & did not even close the door.

Italy

When you stay in hostels, you’ll meet people from  many countries. I stayed in a hostel in Rome with 2 Russians, 1 Kazakh & 1 South Korean. The Russians & the Kazakh were the worst roommates I’ve ever had. So freaking noisy, basically the most inconsiderate bastards ever! They drank until they were drunk, ate smelly cheese & meat & kept talking until 3 in the morning & kept the light on the whole night through. I barely slept. I thought they’d be gone by the morning but no. They stayed for 1 more night. Again, another sleepless night for me. The third night they checked out. Thank God! The South Korean came into the room and asked “Russia checked out?” I said yes. We basically high-fived each other! He was glad as well because he too couldn’t sleep. One funny story with the South Korean. In the morning he took a shower & kept screaming while showering. The rest of us was like WTH? Later that day we got to talking when he saw me with my hair wrapped in a towel (I just showered) and asked with a confused look “You have hot water?” I said yes. He said “How? This morning I shower no hot water! So cold!” I said there is hot water you have to turn to the right. Left side is cold water. He had a cute WTF, disbelief look on his face. He said “Aish! In Korea, hot water is on left. Cold water is right. Aish!” I laughed at him & thought why didn’t he try to turn the handle the other side??

Greece

I met a nice man at the hostel in Athens – a New Zealander. He’s in his 40s & travelling alone. An overall nice guy & he’s really funny when he’s drunk. He was singing at the balcony in the middle of the night after getting drunk. We got to talking & eventually made plans together to visit one of the islands near Athens. The weather was 9°C that day, freezing cold with wind blowing but guess what he did when we reached the island? He went swimming! Yup, that’s Kevin alright. Kevin the crazy guy who went swimming in freezing weather in cold waters!

Turkey

On my last day in Istanbul, I went to the Spice Bazaar to do some shopping. Went in to one of the shops & was greeted by a lovely Turkish man. He kept offering me free stuff – apple tea, Turkish tea, Turkish delight, saffron, perfume, lotion. He even gave me massive discounts on some of the things I bought. He was really friendly & he was flirting with me. He asked me out that night saying he wanted to show me around since it’s my last day in Turkey. I of course said no because I know how Turkey is. But I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I agreed to go out with him & we exchanged numbers. I went back to my hostel & waited for him to finish work to come get me.

He texted me on the way over. At first it was fine, quite normal conversation. But I sensed something was wrong he said he “will find a place with a room number” when I told him I’m staying in a hostel, not a hotel. Kept saying he wanted to show me a good time & he knows how to treat a lady. Of course I knew he meant sex. And he was quite straightforward about it. I immediately told him I didn’t want to meet with him anymore. The reason I agreed at first was because I thought we were just going sightseeing & dinner. And now that he has a “not so hidden” agenda, I refused. So I asked “Are you a Muslim?” & he proudly said yes. I was like “Wow. Just wow.” Safe to say I’ve blocked his number after that.

thetravellingsarawakian’s #EuropeBest7

As I’ve come to the end of my 3-month trip, I’ve made a list of my #EuropeBest7.

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Clockwise: Edinburgh, Paris, Porto, Cappadocia, Santorini, Gornergrat & Berat

I’ve travelled to 26 countries & more than 50 cities. But the cities/countries that I would most definitely visit again are:

1. Scotland – Particularly Edinburgh & Glasgow & definitely the rest of Scotland. It is so beautiful & there’s plenty of breathtaking places with magnificent architecture. The Scots are friendly, warm & I flutter a little bit when they call me “love” or “darling”. Plus, Scottish accent is quite sexy! It’s definitely the most laid back “country” I’ve been to.

2. Paris, France – I’ve been here twice & I’m still strongly in love with this city. Paris after all is the city of love. How can you not love the chocolates, macarons, baguettes, croissants & the rest of the French pastries? And the amazing architecture & hundreds of museums to visit. The fact that I’ve come across a few people who said Paris is boring is blowing my mind! Dude, are you sure you went to Paris, France & not Paris, Texas?

3. Portugal  – Portugal was an unexpected surprise. If there’s one word that I could describe this country is “Magical“. My heart fills with love as days passed. I met a lovely Portuguese mother in Lisboa who made me feel welcomed & surrounded me with love & warmth. She was the mother I needed as I grew weary from travelling around. Oh and Portuguese egg tart! My God, the most delicious thing that ever existed! The world needs nata! If you want to relax & enjoy a good stroll around town, Portugal is exactly the perfect country!

4. Switzerland – Now I didn’t expect much from Switzerland. I keep hearing people say Switzerland is beautiful but I was like “Hmm. Is it really though?” Turns out Switzerland is THE ONLY country with the most beautiful natural landscapes I’ve ever seen! Now that I’ve seen Switzerland, I agree with those people. Honestly, I cried when I reached the top of Gonegrat because I cannot believe my eyes. I cannot believe how lucky I was to be able to witness one of God’s beautiful creations. I thought I’ve seen the most beautiful view until I got to Stanserhorn. Again, my eyes got watery and my mouth couldn’t stop praising the Man above. Please please please come to Switzerland at least once in your life. You will not experience a country more beautiful than Switzerland.

5. Albania – This country was the most challenging & the toughest one of all the other countries. It was a challenge getting from point A to point B. The buses have no set schedules; hell there are not really buses but furgons. They run & stop whenever the driver wants. They drive like crazy. When they say the journey takes 6 hours, what they really mean is 12. Every town you go, there are steep & slippery hills, uneven roads & broken pavements. Imagine lugging your luggage around those roads! Barely anybody speak English. But I would love to come back! Why? Because despite all of those, the Albanians are the most helpful & friendly people I’ve met. No other country can compare to that. Even though they can’t speak English, they try their hardest to help you & point you in the right direction. Unlike the other countries where you start asking in English, they run off. When the Albanians see me walking around town, they smile & wave. And the little kids come up to me to give me a hug. And the men even bought me coffee! Albania may be a poor country, but they are the richest where it matters most – hospitality.

6. Fira, Santorini – Ah Santorini! Where do I even begin? A picturesque place. White houses with blue domes. I dream of visiting Santorini – the one in postcards all over Greece. And visit I did! If you want to come here, make sure your pocket is fat. The postcard view is in Oia, an island in Santorini. I stayed in Fira & made day trips to Oia & Red Beach by bus. What made me love Fira is the people. They’re so friendly & laid-back, always smiling & some of them even speak Bahasa. I had three people buy me drinks when I was there. I had a great time in Fira, just chilling & walking around town, conversing with locals. They can be crazy when the music is turned on & when the drinks keep coming! Made a few friends there who want me to visit them in the summer next year. Who knows? I just might.

7. Goreme, Cappadocia  – Having spent just few hours in Istanbul, I’ve had enough. I had never felt such strong hostility towards a country before. I had bad experiences in Istanbul. I contemplated & kept going back & forth in my mind whether to go to Cappadocia or not. If Istanbul is miserable, surely Cappadocia is too. That’s what I thought until my mind say “F##k it. Let’s just go.” Bought my flight ticket at the last minute & jumped on the plane the next morning. It snowed on my first day in Goreme, Cappadocia. Imagine waking up, going outside & snow falling down on your head. I had a smile that couldn’t be wiped off for the rest of the day! Second day was even better. The highlight of my trip was seeing over 50 hot air balloons in the sky! That was the most magical view; not even Switzerland can compete with that! Cappadocia is different from Istanbul – people are nicer, friendlier, the views are incredible & overall relaxed atmosphere. I say f##K Istanbul & come to Cappadocia instead.