E: Emerald Glass Waters – Switzerland

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Managing to find time for one final excursion before the start of term, I held tight to my print-at-home boarding passes as I waited in the Luton airport departure zone. My chin rested on a soon to be confiscated bottle of water as I glanced intermittently up to the departures board. The last time I’d seen Alex was only a few weeks ago when she was visiting London. Almost days after I’d waved goodbye to her at Piccadilly tube station I had fixed my sights on an affordable £70 return flight to Zürich. Being the shameless nature freak I am, I sat bright-eyed and feverish at the prospect of experiencing the Swiss countryside which had been plastered and boasted about on chocolate wrappers I’d witnessed countless times growing up.

My beloved friend Alex is a Swiss humanoid of Chinese descent currently studying at the University of Zürich. We met last year in Singapore and after a few iced coffees and some waffles we decided each other was alright. We’ve experienced a lot of good times together including reaching Singapore’s laughable summit and voyaging to the idyllic Pacific Island of Pulau Tioman, this trip would be a great excuse to add to the list of memories. The only problems about our reunification would be a) that I would be reminded of the fact Alex, a non native speaker talks better English than me and b) I would need to readjust to keep up with the amount of irony in our conversations.IMG_2238

My easyjet flight was 20 minutes delayed so I hurried my way through baggage collection and border control (where I encountered a man who did not seem to like my surname) to be greeted by the familiar face I was here to see!  Within roughly 2 hours from being on UK soil I was sat in Alex’s sophisticated student kitchen devouring her pasta and juice whilst she lectured me on all the locations she wanted to go this week. (I’m sorry I wasn’t paying much attention, the pasta was really good). As the sun hid behind the horizon we met up with one of Alex’s friends who’d accompanied her to London and had a wander around central Zurich at night. From the bar at the Urania Observatory we witnessed some superior views of the slumbering city.

Following an early awakening, we dashed onto numerous trains and buses until eventually we found ourselves smittenly gazing upon the sparkling green waters that rest in the Verzasca Valley. The scenery was breathtaking as the gentle river casually meandered between the colossal mountains smothered in greenery that surrounded it. Character filled settlements made cameos outside of the bus windows frequently during our journey, By far the most prominent of these man-made creations was the staggeringly elegant Catholic church with a stone front, which along with the scenic ‘Bridge of Leaps’ marks the starting point of the trail.

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The water here is truly impressive, your eyes are left free to explore the bottom of the riverbed with only the glimmering reflections of the sunlight acting as distractions. The stone that surrounded the river bed was also of interest, the distinct layers of rock are clearly visible and the indentations of the rock alongside of the river made for peculiar places to squeeze your body into.

Our hike led us to discover more hidden gems along the river bank, the majority of our time was spent wandering in the woods that rested at the foot of the valley, occasionally stumbling into a waterfall or two along the way. We made numerous attempts to submerge ourselves the water but shamefully none were of any success. The deepest I managed to get into the water was to my knees, which within 5 seconds the glacial water proceeded to cut off my circulation as I lost the feeling in both of my feet.

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Pitying ourselves at how disappointing our cold tolerance remained, we chose a small  flat river island made of polished marble like stone as our lunch spot. The glorious surroundings made for the most breathtaking backdrop I have ever had during lunch. A definite benefit of bringing a packed lunch instead of allowing a restaurant owner to pick your lunch spot. We consumed various pieces of Swiss bread, dried meats and grapes as we sat admiring the views on our conquered piece of land. After a few hours of repeating the formula of stopping every ten minutes to admire the beauty of the same majestic mountains from a slightly different angle, we reached a bridge leading us back to the other side of the bank where a bus awaited to take us to Bellinzona.

As usual I was heartbroken to be leaving this bewitching valley with its bright emerald waters and unusual stones. There was nothing too complex about the area to discuss, it was simply a place of consistent natural beauty showcasing merely a sample great outdoor space that remain in Switzerland. Stepping out of the bus onto the attractive streets of Italian speaking Swiss town of ‘Bellinzona’ helped to comfort me slightly. The town proved to be a sophisticated little metropolis laying discreetly in the shadows of grand stone castles which peered down at the town from their position high above in the surrounding hills.

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The three castles of Bellinzona are impressive sights, all three are considered UNESCO world heritage sites and are easily reached by elevator. They offer an array of impressive views over the city, as well as the connecting castle walls are a treat to walk within. Grass has been laid between the walls making it appear as if it’s a green carpet, making the space ridiculously photogenic. The town offers plenty of cobbled streets, a healthy selection of stores to browse into and numerous eateries. As our legs ached, we were easily seduced by the prospect of a pizza cooked in a log burning oven. The pizza as predicted was delicious and I didn’t have a single shred of shame about the money I spent on it.

The Italian part of Switzerland had been good to us, welcomed by its beautiful scenery and bribed by the delicious food I could easily see this becoming a weekend favourite if I ever find myself living in Switzerland. It was a sleepy trip back to Zürich and unsurprisingly we were flat-out as soon as we hit the mattress. Well… at least Alex was. I had the beautiful melodies of her snoring to lull me to my dreams.
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Things that impressed me the most about Switzerland so far:

  • No ticket barriers
  • Double-decker trains
  • Tasty carrot juice
  • Ancient castles of Bellinzona
  • Crystal clear emerald waters of the Valle Verzasca
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E: Tropical Forest in the City

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Bukit Timah is a nature reserve smack bang in the middle of Singapore. There’s a mountain biking track and numerous trails if you want to get away from the endless high rises in Singapore. It was a nice walk, nothing particular amazing to see. The summit of Singapore is pretty laughable so getting there took roughly 15 minutes. We did see some pretty funky plants though. After that it was a quick bus ride home to finish the endless assignments that come with the university’s elearning week. IMG_9087IMG_9003IMG_9101IMG_9111

E: South Pacific

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Despite the unrealistic surroundings, another factor which amazed me on Pulau Tioman was how the colours shifted during different points in the day. Early evening was uniquely special. The sun peeking through the mountains left beautiful reflections across the coast. Rays of light danced behind the palms eventually finding themselves across the golden sand. The photos taken in those two days required little to no editing, Malaysia as a whole continues to be ridiculously photogenic.

We spent our time based in a small village surrounded by locals in little tin shacks. Our beach huts blended in perfectly to the rustic feel of the place. To my surprise not only were they air-conditioned the restaurants nearby even had Wi-Fi. We were in the middle of nowhere yet somehow there’s still a wireless hotspot. Is it really that hard to get off the grid in the 21st century?

Back in Singapore we’ve been facing groggy weather. Yesterday morning I woke up to the biggest thunderstorm I’d ever experienced. Was pretty exciting. Lessons are proving difficult and last years late nights stumbling around clubs have evolved into far duller late nights in the study area listening to Theme Park, Winehouse and Jessie Ware on repeat. Most of the photos of me were taken by Alex, so many thanks to her. Unfortunately she can’t return the thanks for the photos of her as she really can’t take a bad picture so no credit should be directed at me. Enjoy the photos and the last set of Tioman pictures should be up soon!

IMG_8955You getting this? IMG_8460 IMG_8633 IMG_8912Alex got so much swag I don’t know where she keeps it allIMG_8929IMG_8766One of my favourite shots from the trip
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E: Rainforesting

IMG_8286 IMG_8284Still uploading pictures from Tioman, whilst we were there we went for a little hike to see the waterfall. The waterfall was beautiful, the trek totalled roughly three hours. What never occurred to me about being in a rainforest is everything surrounding you, wants to kill you. I got some lovely cuts from the vines and even the palm trees were loaded with thorns. When finishing there was nothing better than jumping into the sea, of course from the amount of sweat on my shirt it seemed as if I’d already had a swim.

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E: Pretty Near Paradise

IMG_8116Above and below are some more pictures from my time spent in Tioman. They can give you a rough idea of how beautiful it was, unfortunately I can’t give you a sense of how soft the sand was and the sounds the birds made. I can’t get over how special and lucky I felt to be there. Anyway I’ll be posting some  more pictures soon.
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E: Back of a Pick-up Truck

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I have just got back from literally 24 blissful hours in Malaysia on the island of Pulau Tioman. It was the most captivating place I have ever been in my life (sorry Colombo). After a painful 3 hours by coach from Singapore and 3 more hours on the boat we finally arrived on the island. Within a few steps we arrived at a few parking bays. “Ok who’s going in which car?”. The pick up trucks were for us! Complete surprise.

It was probably one of my favourite parts of the trip. We sat being shaken uncontrollably by the dodgy Japanese built concrete tracks as we climbed up some of the steepest roads I’d ever seen. All the while surrounded with abnormally large plants, bird song and stunning treetop scenery. Was not what I was expecting in the slightest.IMG_8061 IMG_8033 IMG_8057Below are some photos from near the port in mainland Malaysia

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E: Jaw Dropping Sri Lanka

IMG_7001On my trip over to the other side of the world where I optionally decided to banish myself to for a year, I got the option to get a stop over at a country along the way. My Dad suggested Sri Lanka and this suggestion I liked. I hadn’t heard much on Sri Lanka apart from the stories on the civil war and the odd picture of a beautiful palm forest in the travel brochures.

Since I was going to be there it made sense to get off and see the place. From the moment the plane started descending I could tell Sri Lanka was a beautiful country. From the window I could see dense forest, endless palms and beautiful rivers embedded within the countryside. Being my first time in a Tropical climate my mouth felt like it had literally fallen to the floor and would not close. It was astonishingly beautiful.

Due to the short nature of the stay (16 hours to be exact) there wasn’t many options on where to go. So we went to the closest place of notable interest to the airport, which was the capital ‘Colombo’. Now initially the capital didn’t strike me as the place to be as from what I had just previewed in the plane I wanted to be out in the countryside. The taxi drive to the city proved to me there was a lot to see cultural wise in the capital. (My mouth had still not closed at this point).

The thing about Colombo is, although it may function like a city it feels a lot more like a town. The people on the streets don’t seem like city folk, they appeared much more practical. I liked the vibes from the people in Sri Lanka. The people did seem very friendly, obviously my time there was short but generally walking around I felt quite safe.

What I was surprised was that the food was very good. Some things were very spicy, but others were a lot milder than expected. Even the ‘sri lankan’ food provided by sri lankan airlines was really tasty. What we’re really missing out on in the UK is all these Indian influenced breads they have available. The short trip has definitely been enough to entice me to come back one day. My next stop though would definitely be the countryside.

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The building above is a gift from China, that’s all I’ll say
IMG_6908 IMG_6960 IMG_7022Nice and drenched by the Ocean mist
IMG_6821IMG_6835It’s crazy the Orchids just grow on the trees
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