Europe 2014 Munich, Germany 18122014 – 20122014

We arrived in Munich after a nice drive. Munich definitely feels much more alive than Frankfurt, there were quite a lot more to see compared to Frankfurt.

We stayed at ibis Munich City West, which was in a quiet part of Munich. However, as there is a U-Bahn station just outside the hotel, it was very convenient to get to where we wanted to go.

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The traditional German beer house is a must. We went to the famous Hofbräuhaus.

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Then it was another Christmas market in Munich.

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The next day, we left Munich and drove to Nuremberg, where we experienced the last, and the best, Christmas market in Germany.

Europe 2014 Romantic Road, Germany 15122014 – 16122014

The next part of the trip was traveling along the Romantic Road. We had a nice Turkish breakfast at Simit Sarayi, before having a really nice cup of coffee at this place Wackers Kaffee.

What we ate at the Turkish breakfast place:

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Coffee at the cafe:

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Fantastic coffee at this cafe that is full of character. We were walking around Frankfurt after coffee.

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Then we went to collect our car, and we almost did not make it. It seems they will only hold the car reservation for us for only 2 hours, and we collected the car with 15 minutes to spare. Just when we thought we can finally get onto the road, we realised the car they gave us was a manual car, even though we specifically asked for automatic one. In the end, the only automatic car they have is a van. Since we did not want to delay any further, we took the van.

The fastest way traveling along the Romantic Road is to use the Autobahn. There are almost no speed limit on it, and together with the fact that this was the first time I was driving in right hand traffic, i.e. steering wheel is on the left hand side of the car, it was especially stressful initially. Driving at 180km/h and most cars still overtake you is not something that happens often in Singapore.

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The starting point of the Romantic Road is the city Wurzburg. It is a beautiful city, and a wonderful place to start the Romantic Road trip. The first stop when we reach the city was the majestic Marienberg Fortress (German : Festung Marienberg). It is located on the left bank of the Main river in Wurzburg, and on top of a hill, providing a very nice view of the city. The fort itself was very quiet, and because it was winter and on top of a hill, we were freezing.

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Then we drove to our hotel for the night, Mercure Hotel, though we had to make a few turns to find it. It was not a bad place to stay, the staff were friendly, the rooms were clean, tidy though quite small. After checking in and putting down our luggage, we walked across the famous Alte Mainbrücke (Old Bridge) on our way to the Christmas Market.

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There is the bridge in the background as we walked along the river bank.

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We finally reached the Christmas Market of Wurzburg. It feels less commercialised than the one we went to in Frankfurt and was almost as big.

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Dinner was at the Nordsee restaurant, a chain of restaurants that serve really nice seafood. Besides, we were getting sick of the usual sausages that are found almost everywhere in Germany.

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After dinner, it was time to head back to the hotel.

The next time, we had a quick breakfast at a small cafe before heading to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Wurzburg Residence. I am not sure why it is called a ‘Residence’ when it is clearly a palace. We reached before they were open, so we spent the time taking photos of its exterior.

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Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos inside the Residence. However, it was definitely worth the visit. We then went back to the hotel to check out, before proceeding to our next location for a bit of shopping, the Wertheim Village Outlet.

It was not as good as the outlet shopping in Japan, but it was not too bad. Unfortunately, it was winter, and so it was selling mostly winter clothing. We managed to buy some additional winter wear, just in case, that was really cheap. It proved to be the correct decision in the subsequent days of this trip. We had this fantastic burger in one of the restaurant for lunch.

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We then head off to our next location, Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It is a very well-preserved German medieval old town, and was the inspiration behind the village in the 1940 Walt Disney movie Pinocchio. It was almost dark when we reached our stay for the night, Hotel Klingentor Garni. It was a nice bed and breakfast place, just a short walk to the medieval town. We found that the accommodation outside the medieval town tend to be cheaper than those within. The town is surrounded by old walls and towers. We wanted to walk around the walls but was told by the owner of the B&B not to do it after dark. We asked if it is because it was dangerous since there is no light, he said no and mysteriously left it at that. We eventually did walk along the walls for a short distance before we decided to move on to the town.

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The famous shop in this town is the Käthe Wohlfahrt, which sells Christmas decorations and items the whole year round. The shop was brightly lighted, and was filled with every kind of Christmas decorations and toys.

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Then we went to the Christmas market. It was not big and does not feel very commercialised.

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We also tried the town’s food speciality, Schneeballen or Snowball. It tasted quite good.

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Then we decided to head back to the B&B to retire for the night.

Europe 2014 Frankfurt, Germany 13122014 – 15122014

Planned this Europe trip to clear my leave in December 2014. Then unexpectedly, I found another new job, so have to ask for 3 weeks of leave immediately after starting work, which was approved.

The main objective of this trip was to see countries that we never have been to before, see snow, and hopefully, manage to catch the Northern Lights. Not only did we see lots of snow, caught the Northern Lights on two separate nights, we even had a little adventure. All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Flew in to Frankfurt on the 13th December night, and the plan was to rest the next day to prepare for the road trip in Germany. As it was going to be a one week road trip and this is the first time I am doing a left hand drive, I wanted to ensure I have enough rest before starting the road trip. I did not want the previous experience I had in Perth, where I flew in on a red-eye flight, collect the car, then drove for six hours all the while struggling to keep awake.

Frankfurt is primarily a business city, as such, it was functional. It lacked a certain character, a certain charm to it. However, there were still plenty of things to see, and do. We also encountered our first Christmas market, and though it felt very commercialised, we enjoyed it a lot.

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Reflections 2014

Reflections for the year 2014 is very late, in fact, almost 1 1/2 months late. Spending New Year in Europe, followed by trying to adapt to a new job had me postponing this post till now.

The start of the 2014 had me making some mistakes in my job, which contributed to not getting the promotion. It was depressing actually, but I was glad I managed to put that behind me. The rest of the year career wise was pretty smooth sailing. In fact, I was doing a pretty good job managing the new projects that came my way subsequently, and managed to reduce the huge number of escalations previously from that account to zero. As mentioned in my reflections for 2013, I was always looking out for new opportunities, and this came sometime towards the last quarter of the year. It was to an environment that I had always wanted to work in, and with a nice increase in salary too. It is a big organisation, and with such size, it will definitely comes with its own set of challenges. I was sad to leave actually, especially since I had a good boss, and I was doing pretty well with the projects on hand, but there is no way I could reject the increase in salary. For 2015, I just want to perform well in my new job, considering the fact that it is a totally different ball game altogether, an environment that I was never in throughout my career.

On a personal note, I have continued with my exercise regime, and I really enjoyed it. The races that I ran in 2014 are the Sundown Marathon Half Marathon, which I will never do it again since I did not enjoy it at all, the SIA Charity Run 10k, which I enjoyed a lot and managed to get a PB for 10k, the SAFRA Half Marathon, which was not too bad, and the revenge run SCB Singapore Marathon 21k where I definitely performed than the disastrous one in 2013, but still not up to own expectations. I mentioned last year that I want to do a full marathon in 2015, and hopefully this is something that I can achieve. Also, I am seriously considering an overseas race. After that, perhaps it is time to move to triathlons.

I went on numerous work trips to Malaysia and Indonesia, even manage to go for a training trip to Melbourne. For personal trips, I manage to visit Bali where I witnessed one of the best sunset ever, Taipei where I eat, and eat, and eat some more, Germany where I drove a left hand drive van along the Autobahn at 180km/h and experienced many Christmas markets, Denmark where I spent the New Year and was amazed at how much the Danes love firework, and Sweden, catching 2 nights of Northern Lights in Kiruna, Northern Sweden, thrown off a dog sled three times, staying in the famous Ice Hotel, sharing a train cabin overnight with 4 other strangers while it cuts through a snow covered landscape, and discovering the delicious Senapssill or pickled herring. It was definitely a very fulfilling year when it comes to travelling. I hope to continue to do the same in 2015.

Financially, things improved in 2014, there was increase in liquidity, and only one case of investment losing money. I am treating this as a lesson learnt. I wanted to increase my savings by 25% in 2014, which was not achieved, though it was close. I will try to save even more for 2015, but with the expected increase in expenses due to the new car, this will be challenging. But I will try.

I have also started contributing back to the society in little small ways, and I want to continue this in 2015. I have almost stopped reading altogether in 2014, and this needs to be kick started again in 2015. As for the last resolution, I want to ‘de-clutter’, simplify, and learn to find happiness in the smallest of things.

2014 was not a bad year, one of the better year I had in recent memory. As I prepare to embark on another stage in my life in 2015, I shall learn to enjoy the little good things, forget about the unhappy and bad ones, and hope for an even better year.

Taipei 26 July 2014–30 July 2014 Day 4/Day 5

Day 1 is here. Day 2 is here. Day 3 is here.

For Day 4, we were spending it visiting the Taipei 101 area, and do some shopping.

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Then it was back to Dongmen area for dinner.

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Next day, Day 5, we woke up early to catch a flight back to Singapore. Will definitely be back to Taipei again, a nice place for a short break. And for the food.

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Taipei 26 July 2014–30 July 2014 Day 3

Day 1 is here. Day 2 is here.

For the third day, we visited Jiufen.

We decided to take the bus to Jiufen instead of taking the train/bus. It was not easy to find the bus stop to take the bus. A few taxi drivers trying to get customers at the bus stop confirmed it was the right place to take the bus.

After watching in awe how the bus driver managed to drive up the long, narrow and windy road to Jiufen, we arrived to a small place filled with tourists. And it was hot! We decided to hit the old market street first, where there is a wide variety of food.

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As it was too hot, we decided to take a taxi down to the train station, and then take a train back to Taipei.

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We headed to our next stop, Fisherman’s Wharf to catch a glimpse of their famous sunset.

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Back to Taipei for a late dinner.

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Thus end a very tiring Day 3!

Taipei 26 July 2014–30 July 2014 Day 2

Day 1 is here.

So after a good night’s rest, we embarked on a long day of food and places.

We first explored the Dongmen area around our hotel, and came across this dessert place that sells wonderful and tasty mango shaved ice dessert. So we tried it. For breakfast. We love it so much we had it again the next day!

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We then proceed to work up an appetite for lunch by exploring the Dongmen neighbourhood. Lots of food, hipster cafes and interesting shops.

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Entered this hipster café on a whim, well it was also partly because the poor guy was standing in the hot sun trying to get customers to patronise his café. The café was pretty cool, serving coffee from around the world. They even put a bit of the corner in this small cup, for you to sniff at the coffee fragrance, something that is being done for Chinese tea, which we found out later.

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After working up an appetite, we went to the supposedly famous place that sells delicious beef noodles. We were not disappointed. Besides the beef noodles, the pork ribs rice was just as delicious.

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After filling up our stomach, it was time to make our way up Maokong, which is famous for the tieguanyin tea that is grown there. We took the train to the train station, before walking ten minutes to the Gondola station, which took us to the top of Maokong.

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After walking for around thirty minutes, we found the tea house that was recommended. It was serenity. Bliss.

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Then it was time to enjoy the sunset.

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Then it was time to take the Gondola down and stopped by Ximending. It feels like Shibuya crossing in Tokyo!

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Then it was supper!

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Thus end Day 2!