My Time Capsule: 2018

29.7.18

Poland: Spending The Night At A Castle - Hotel St. Bruno

Gizycko, October 2016




"Dad, when I grow up I want to be a princess and live in a beautiful castle!" The 5 years old me said it firmly after watching Sleeping Beauty movie for the first time and got blown away.

"But I thought you wanted to be Cleopatra and live in a pyramid or last week you told me you want to be Tarzan and live in Africa." My Dad chuckled and shook his head. "Girl! You have such a mind-boggling imagination. You even told me you wanted to be a bird when we were in a plane!"

"I know! I know but can you build a castle for me?"

"Sure. Let's build a sand castle for now and later when you grow up, you can build your own castle. How does it sound?" The mini me squealed happily and rushed to get ready for the beach trip.


I was a very curious kid...well I still am I guess. A curious adult that is. As I remember I've always let my imagination run wild and crave for new adventures. I didn't really do playdate when I was a kid as I spent most of my time travelling. Tagged along on Dad's business trip since I was a toddler. Fairy tales books were my only friends, my everything. It accompany me during long flights or when Dad was busy with work. Mom would buy a new book for me every weekend and I would keep bugging her until she read it for me. So yes, it's easy to say that I've always been fascinated by princess stories and castles since forever.

Psst! I even tried to kiss a frog, hoping it would turn into prince charming. 🙅



Fortunately nowadays not only princess get to live in a castle, I found out that there are actually a bunch of castles around the world that can be rented for a night stay or a year if the budget allows. Thanks to the internet and Google! During the road trip around Baltic countries, from Vilnius in Lithuania we headed to Poland and stayed in Gizycko. I was thrilled when I found out that there's a castle-turned-hotel in the city so there's no way I would miss the chance to spend at least one night there. Dreams do come true!

St. Bruno is one of the most popular hotels in Gizycko, the biggest city in Mazury region which is also called the 1000 lakes. The red brick hotel surely has a beautiful surroundings next to the Åuczański Canal, connecting the lakes Niegocin and Kisajno. I think quaint is the word perfectly describes about this place.

glass winter garden pavilion 

the lobby

receptionist 

Hotel St. Bruno is housed in a restored Teutonic castle dates back to the 15th century. This castle has been through numerous restoration obviously. Original Teutonic Fortress was used as a Hunting Residence Lodge for renaissance princess until the year of 1850, then it as transformed to a military headquarters of the Boyen Fortress. Long story short, in 2010 the castle was finally restored to become a 4 stars boutique hotel.

My first impression as I stepped into the lobby was the contemporary design and interior looks quirky. After a swift check in, I walked around behind the lobby and found a narrow alleyway. It's dimly lit and going around like a maze. There's dozens of old portraits on the stone wall, probably pictures of some the previous landlords or knights who used to live in the castle. Walking through this alleyway alone certainly was a hair-raising experience yet triggered my curiosity. A kind of eerie feeling that made me feel even more excited. In each dark turn, I was kinda hoping to bump into a Knight or something. My Dad was right, I do have a mind-boggling imagination! 😝



the alleyway

my room for the night

image from amoma.com

I stayed in a double room with a sofa. Size wise it's pretty cramped but cozy enough with vintage-y interior. The beds were quite small even for me, a girl who is often called a hobbit. Perhaps I should have chosen other type of rooms such as studio, royal apartment or presidential apartment which I believe would be more spacious. Some of the room are located in the historical area of the hotel and have original parts of the castle still attached. All rooms are equipped with Internet Wi-Fi (seems like the most essential nowadays. Ha!), AC, mini bar, safe deposit box, TV and bathroom amenities.

Facilities of the hotel including Bowling Alley and the Music Club which are located in the castle vaults with old castle stone wall and curved red brick ceiling. It was a cellar, I think? Super cool ambiance along with a wide selection of alcohols. There's also billiard room, cigar room and spa with sauna and indoor swimming pool.

bowling alley

Music Club

lounge
image from amoma.com

the castle night view from the swing bridge

The swing bridge in Åuczański Canal is one of the most seek attractions by visitors in Gizycko. Until today it is still operated manually by a man pushing a "stick" in rotational movement for about 5 minutes each session (quite a work out!). It opens by swinging on one end to lay along the bank of the canal, to let a yacht of ship passing through. In its closed position, it works as a road over the canal allowing traffic to cross. I think it was my first time seeing a swing bridge operated manually. Pretty interesting! The history of the bridge dates back to the 19th century but have gone through some renovations to this day. Please do check the scheduled time if you are interested to see the whole opening routine.


the swing bridge at Łuczański Canal

La Bibliotheque restaurant

At the La Bibliotheque restaurant, the nine metres high ceilings gives a spacious and grand feeling as I walked in. And a two storey book shelf wallpaper adding a sense of depth of the interior, as if I was inside a library.....hence the name of the restaurant. I'm not really good at elaborating the interior design but believe me, it is too cute it felt like I was having breakfast inside a doll house. If you love shabby chic design, you would go "Awwwww, so cute! Awwww, soooo pweety!" all the time. There's just ample of Instagramable spots to take picture at.

 I chose a table in the glass winter garden pavilion so I could soak up the early morning sun while enjoying my food. Bliss! I could really get used to this princess-y life, in a heart beat.


glass winter garden pavilion 

cold station at breakfast buffet

The restaurant serves modern menu that combines traditional Polish cuisine with global trend. All products are delivered fresh daily from the local suppliers. There's wide array of food on breakfast buffet from cold station for varieties of ham and cheese, egg and omelet station, assorted bread, danish or croissant, hot station for grilled chicken, baked potatoes and else, also beverage station and dessert station. While the tea and coffee were served at my table.


shabby chic interior 

morning view from my room

One thing I regret about my stay in Hotel St. Bruno, it was such a brief one night stay. I could really stay for a couple days here to enjoy all the facilities they offer and explore this pretty town of Gizycko. Unfortunately I've already booked my visit and a lunch session at Marlbork Castle which is 200ish km away, so this princess had to leave her castle to pay a visit to another castle. Wait up, Prince Charming, I'm on my way 👸

Have you ever stayed in a castle before? Which castle would you recommend me to stay next time?



Hotel St. Bruno (*4)
ul. St. Brunona 1
11-500 Gizycko, Poland
Phone: +48 877 326 500
https://www.hotelstbruno.pl

6.6.18

Chiang Rai: The Blue Temple - Wat Rong Suea Ten

Chiang Rai, February 2017




Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple is undoubtedly the most famous landmark in Chiang Rai. It's the first images popped up when I was googling some information about must visit places in Chiang Rai. While I think the architecture is indeed stunning, my heart was actually stolen by the Blue Temple - a lesser known temple located slightly outside Chiang Rai's city centre, in Rim Kok District. The Blue Temple is about 7 km away from Mae Fah Luang - Chiang Rai International Airport.


Wat Rong Suea Ten

The Blue Temple or it's called Wat Rong Suea Ten by the locals is considered a new temple. Construction of the monastery and temple started from 2005 on a 6 acres area - upon the ruins of an ancient temple which abandoned nearly 100 years ago. The main hall was only completed in January 2016 and until today there's still works going on sites. Thus only a handful of visitors around when I was there, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed this temple more than the White Temple. It was so serene and enhance a more spiritual experience.

"Suea Ten" in Thai literally means the dancing tigers. According to the locals, it's an area where some tigers used to jumped over the Mae Kok  River. The tigers leap in such graceful way that it looked as if they were dancing, hence the name of Rong Suea Ten village. Honestly, I was secretly disappointed that there wasn't any tigers in Ballet tutu dress doing a tiptoe pirouette or grand jetté. I know, I shouldn't set my hopes too high 🙅


sunset gleam

Naga

"Wow! Such a striking colours!" I blurted out upon seeing the exterior of the temple which is mainly in electric blue colour (or is it Smurfs blue?) embellished with intricate gold details and covered with bright terracotta roof tiles. It certainly looks very different from any other traditional temples I have visited in Thailand. A more vibrant one I should say.  A local friend told me that blue colour represents Dharma in tribute to Buddha which is also the symbol of purity, wisdom and healing. Even the pair of fierce naga (dragon) that guarding the hall's entrance are in blue colour.


Blue Temple, Chiang Rai

Blue Temple ceiling

beautiful painting at Wat Rong Suea Ten

I was walking into the ubosot or the main praying hall when I froze in awe. My eyes widened as they swept across the room. The tall pearl-white Buddha statue is undoubtedly beautiful but what amazed me more was the paintings that covers the entire walls, pillars and ceiling. Delicate paintings in Thai contemporary style was created by Phuttha Kabkaew. He is a student of the national artist - Chalermchai Kositpipat who designed Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple. Hand painted murals along the blue walls depict the Lord Buddha's spiritual journey and also a fiery giant demon can be seen atop the exit door which depicts Hell. I love the fact that there's some huge windows along both sides of the main hall that allow natural lights and cool breezes to pass through.


Wat Rong Suea Ten


one of the guard with Dharma wheel representing the teaching of the Buddha

Green Yasha

Around this temple I also spotted some Yakshas known as guardian warriors who keep away evil spirits. It's very common in Buddhist temples throughout the country since the 14th century. Yakshas are important element in Thai temple art and architecture.

At the back of the temple, there's a Buddha statue displaying Abhaya Mudra hand position or gesture of fearlessness. It represents protection, peace and benevolence.


 the standing Buddha statue at the rear 

I was walking towards the parking lot when I turned around, decided to take some last shots of the Blue temple. It was right before the sun went below the buildings behind this temple. The pinkish sunset light against the intricate ornaments of the temple creating luminous golden orbs as I clicked my camera shutter. I looked at my camera screen and smiled. I knew I have captured a perfect image I want to remember about my visit to this beautiful Blue Temple. Whenever I look at this photo, I can still feel the warmth of sunlight in my face. Fond memories, indeed 😊


Tips:
* Don't forget to take off your shoes/sandals before entering the main hall
* Entrance fee is free and photography is allowed inside the ubosot
* However selfies could be considered rude since it's disrespectful to turn your back on Buddha statue
* Never point your feet at Buddha statue
* Dress properly and prevent loud talking

How to get there:
I'm not quite sure if there's any public transportation to Wat Rong Suea Ten since I went there by a private vehicle. Take Highway 1 north before crossing Kok River Bridge. After about 350 metres you'll find a direction sign to this temple and turn left. For a fuss free trip, you can always hire Tuk-Tuk or Taxi for a very affordable fare 😁



12.5.18

Croatia: Licitar Heart & Pickpocket In Zagreb

Zagreb, August 2013

St. Mark's church in Zagreb

I can't believe it's been 5 years since my Balkan trip! I can't believe there's still tons of stories from my previous trips that I haven't post here. I should really find a way to cure my chronic procrastination! Any tips, guys?

My parents, sister and I were exploring Slovenia then travelled through the stunning Plitvice National ParkSplit and Trogir. Spent a couple nights in Dubrovnik where we found a nudist beach in Lokrum Island during a boat tour. Moved to Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina before finally arrived in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.

a quiet morning


We started the Old Town walking tour early in the morning to avoid the unbearable heat on midday. Seriously, summer in Balkan can be harsh! Also it was the peak of summer holiday so the town got really crowded as the sun reached its highest point in the sky. At 9AM most of the shops haven't started their business yet. So we wandered around Lower Town until Upper Town where we visited the beautiful St. Mark's church. It was a perfect time to observe the local people doing their daily activities. Even if you don't have a goal, a long walk through the streets of Zagreb always brings discoveries.

Fun fact: Did you know that Croatia is the homeland of the tie?



beautiful dog! 😍

Dolac Market in Zagreb



If you love traditional market like I do, you shouldn't miss Dolac Market. The farmer's market is located in Gornji Grad - not far from Zagreb's Cathedral and the main square. People from all over the city come to this market to get groceries and other fresh product, specially on weekends. The vibrant red umbrellas agains the colourful products they sell there instantly caught my attention. I enjoy being in the middle of chatters and negotiation that buzzing around me. It's gotta be one of the most colourful sights in Zagreb! Even if shopping is not your thing, there's some cafes and restaurant which is a great spot to absorb the vibe of the town and to experience local flavours. Or like I did, scouring pretty traditional handmade stuff and souvenirs. Dolac Market opens everyday from 7AM until around 1PM.

handmade Croatian embroidery and lace

Licitar Heart

While wandering around the city of Zagreb, I've seen this pretty intricately decorated red heart with a little mirror on the centre - almost everywhere. Being a super curious cat, I just had to stop at one of the stalls and asked the seller what's all the hype about. The name is Licitar hearts and it's an interesting part of the old Croatian cultural heritage. Though the real Licitars are actually made out of gingerbread. Traditionally, instead of roses, it was used by young men to express their love to the girl they fond of on Valentine's day. Suddenly my imagination run wild and I visualised this romantic scene...


👱 : "Ahem! (nervously presenting a Licitar heart to the girl). Dear Walawuluwili (or insert any preferred names here)...errr....I...I...really like you. Would you accept this heart of mine?"
👸 : (hesitant but eagerly accepting the Licitar. Her cheeks turn to rose colour as she smiles).
👱 : "That face you see in the mirror is the most beautiful girl in this universe and my most favourite things in the world besides noodle and gelato."

👸 : "Awwww! That's me! It's my face in the mirror!" (blushing even more)
👱 : "Of course it's you! I would have died if it was the face of the Evil Queen in Snow White!

Walawuluwili, would you be my girl?"
👸 : "Yes, I would! I like you too, Baraburubiri (or insert any preferred names here)". 💏 💏 💏


...and they lived happily ever after...or until they fight about what to eat for dinner.

Okay! I should never write a romantic piece ever. Horror stories definitely suit me better.  

Croatian souvenirs 


So yeah, it's corny but sweet. It's sweet but corny yet I still smile when I look at this Licitar hearts.

The colourful decorated cakes of sweet honey dough dated back to Middle Ages when food crafts became widely popular. It represents a special sign of devotion and attention. Nowadays they are sold as souvenirs in various form such as plates, bells, jars, fridge magnets, and else; as well as to decorate Christmas tree and wedding favours for guests.

Croatians are very proud of it, specially after Licitar heart was listed on the UNESCO list of Protected Intangible Cultural Heritage. It's still given as a way of showing affection to the loved ones. 




a bizarre collection of keepsakes from failed love affairs

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral 

Before leaving Zagreb, we managed to visit the Neo-Gothic styled Cathedral of Zagreb. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary which dates back to 1217 was formerly known as St. Stephen's Cathedral, located in Kaptol Square. Its twin 108 metres (354 ft) high spires soar over the city and made it the tallest building in Croatia.

The original construction of the Cathedral was damaged during the Tartar attack and and a fire in the 13th century. However the fatal destruction was during the Great Zagreb Earthquake on 9 November 1880. The deadly earthquake struck Zagreb at 07:03:03 which damaged the cathedral beyond repairs and the cathedral clock stopped working. Today the clock is mounted on the defence wall outside the cathedral and always show the time 7:03 as a remembrance to the disaster. 


interior of The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral 

Grave of Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac

We were walking around the grave of the former archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac amongst a group of visitors when I felt that someone was watching me intensely. You know, the strange feeling you get when you're being stared at though we can't see them? I took a glance around the church and noticed a group of three women sitting on the front pew were whispering to each other while pointing towards us. I shrugged off the suspicious thoughts and assumed they were just amused about how different our looks compared to other visitors. 

I was walking with my sister just a few metres ahead my parents when suddenly I heard my Mom screamed her lungs out. If you have met my Mom in person, you'll noticed that she has a overly powerful voice that will put Freddie Krueger Mercury to shame. Her 'AGGHH' sound echoed off the quiet church and I looked back in shock. I thought she fell down or something. I ran towards her and saw the trio women that stared at us earlier were standing too close behind my Mom. With startled face, they tried to move away from my Mom calmly. Obviously Mom's voice drew lots of attention to our direction. Two security guys were approaching us along with some curious visitors.

"I felt a tiny movement in my handbag as they walked very close to me!" Mom showed her handbag that already being unzipped. I could tell from her face that she was shocked too. The security rushed to the trio who nearly reached the exit door and stopped them right there. I came closer as the women were questioned by the security. But they kept saying "No English, no English!" then continued in French. They tried really hard to act calm but we could easily noticed a glimpse of panic on their face. Another visitor, a middle aged guy approached us and said something in Croatian to the security. Apparently he saw them doing the deed earlier. After a while, one of the security told me that we may leave and they escorted the pickpocket to the office to take further action.

Zagreb

My family and I then sat in a bench in the church yard, trying to grasp about what happened earlier.
"Can you believe we were almost pick pocketed inside a church!" I exclaimed as my parents nodded in disbelief. "And you know, Mom...for a second I thought the church was about to collapse because your voice is more harmful than an earthquake!" We laughed softly as we stood up and walked towards our bus. Such an amusing way to end our road trip around Balkan countries. That day we left the beautiful city of Zagreb with a not so beautiful experience. Nevertheless the precious memory will stay in our heart for a very long time and will put a smile in our face whenever we remember it. Shit happens on travelling, let's just laugh it off and keep walking. 💋



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