Review: Schützenbach Backpackers & Camping / Hostel

I had a dormitory Bed with Schützenbach Backpackers & Camping / Hostel while I was in Lauterbrunnen for 6 nights. This is my review of the place.
 
Name: Schützenbach Backpackers & Camping / HostelAddress: Schützenbach, 3822 Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Tel: +41338551268
website: https://www.facebook.com/Schutzenbachbackpackers/timeline 
Price: €33.5 (price varies depending on season & room types)

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Review: Garni Wolf (Val Gardena, Italy)

I stayed 3 nights amongst the magnificent Dolomites and stayed in Garni Wolf. Here's my review of the place.
 
Name: Garni Wolf
Address: Street Plan de Gralba 25, 39048 Selva Gardena Valley (BZ)
Tel: 0039 0471 795035
Fax: 0039 0471 794359
Email:
info@garni-wolf.it
website: http://www.garni-wolf.it/
Price: €40 - 70 (price varies depending on season)
 
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Doing Root Canal (dental) in Manila

*Sponsored review* 

I went to Manila (Philippines ) last month for some dental treatment. Many people were curious why I went to Philippines and whenever I told them I was going there to fix my teeth , I got the exact same reply "What?! All the way there?!".

Seriously guys, you guys must have superbly blessed teeth to not understand the extend of damage and COST dental works can jack up.

So a couple of months back, a big filling from one of my molar teeth fell off and I was left with a gapping hole in my molar teeth; the teeth at the back that does most of the chewing. I went to 2 dentist in Singapore and both suggested doing root canal treatment to save the teeth. As it seemed like the nerve of the teeth was already affected, the only way to save the teeth was to do root canal. The other alternative was to yank it out completely and then install a fake tooth in. I'm not sure about you but at my age, root canal seemed like the best solution. I bring age into the equation because your body health plays a part in the resistance of your teeth and how long it can last. That's why most elder people go for dentures instead while younger people would do root canals.

Anyway I digressed.

So I inquired about the cost of a root canal treatment and was bewildered to find out how much they cost. Left with no choice and a gapping hole in my teeth, I turned to the Internet and found DentalWorld Manila. Dental world Manila is spearheaded by Dr Malony L. Santos of St Luke’s Medical Center. St Luke’s Medical Center is Philippine’s foremost hospital. Dental World Manila’s website informs me about their expertise and specialisation in Dental treatments and best of all, they can cater to foreign travellers who are travelling just for dental! Dental World Manila
 
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Dental World Manila: http://www.dentalworld.com.ph/

 
Dental World Manila currently has 5 branches situated in prime landmark areas in Manila. They are located in Mall of Asia, Glorietta, St Luke’s Medical Center and SM North EDSA. A branch at Centuria Medical Makati will be opening soon. Check out their website for address of the branches.

Review: Sommerhostel Salzburg (Hostel)

I stayed 3 nights in the Sommerhostel Salzburg hostel and liked it a lot. Here's my review of the place.
 
Name: Sommerhostel Salzburg 
Address: Strubergasse 1, Lehen, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
Website: Booking.com
Check in: 14:00 - 16:00 hours
Check out: 14:00 - 16:00 hours
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Review: Sony Alpha 5000

I am a photo enthusiast who currently owns a Canon 700d along with 2 other canon Point and shoot cameras (Canon g12 & Canon ixus 1000). I am nothing near a good photographer but I have been trying to learn and has gotten some progress with my canon 700d. However for my 5 weeks Europe trotting trip, I've come to the conclusion that lugging a dslr around is not only extra bulky but also extra dangerous since i will mostly be staying in dormitory hostels.

Here is my simple /non - technical  review of the Sony alpha 5000 after lugging it around for 5 weeks. I am writing based on my experience as a simple user who wants nice photos easily and not as a hardcore photographer .

Model: Sony Alpha A5000 (White coloured)
Kit Lens: 16mm - 50mm
Free gift: Sony 8gb SD card (15mb/s)
Price: SGD$364 (*Price fluctuates) + SGD18 (shipping)
Bought from: Qoo10

 

 

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Pros:

  • 1. Lightweight. Compared to a dslr, this thing is extremely compact and lightweight. At the time of its release, it is also the lightest camera with interchangeable lens.

    2. Easy to use. It's basically a point and shoot with a very smart Artificial Intelligence program that automatically tunes and edit the colours in your photos.

  • 3. Kit lens is 16mm - 50mm which is a good range. Wide angle is really useful for travel photography where you mainly take landscapes and architectural pictures.

  • 4. Seperate movie recording button. Makes it easy for you to jump from photo to video easily.

  • 5. The Superior Auto mode gives very sharp and vibrant photographs. It sometimes automatically detects that the subject is in backlight and does a special "HDR 3 exposure combine into 1" photo to give you the best result.

  • 6. It is cheap. The new sony a6000 has just launched and the price of the a5000 has plummeted to less than sgd500. If you buy it online from South Korea like I did, you can even get it for less than sgd400 inclusive of shipping!

  • 7. Can be charged with the common charging cable. The sony a5000 does not come with a seperate battery charger and instead requires you to charge through the camera (you plug the wire into the camera). The best thing about this set up is you can forgo the original sony charging adaptor and just use the charging cable and adaptor for your smartphone as Sony A5000 uses the very common Micro USB port.
  • 8. Performs very well in Low Light situations. The post processing done to compensate for the poor amount of light is impressive.

 

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Salzwelten Salt Mine in Hallstatt. Light show with the salt crystals.

Prague Square in Czech Republic.

Cons:

  • 1. The user interface is confusing and troublesome to navigate. Jumping modes requires you to press the middle button and then either rotate the dial or press up and down to move around. Because it's software base, it can be hard to move fast with precision.

  • 2. Jumping between Auto & Manual Focus is ridiculously troublesome. I initially thought it wasn't possible to focus manually but turns out it is possible, albeit very troublesome. You have to go into the settings to change the focusing from ‘Auto Focus’ to ‘ Manual Focus’. Then you focus by turning the rim around the lens. I find this highly ineffective and troublesome. More often than not, it delays the picture by a few minutes. Not to mention the trouble of resetting it back to auto focus afterwards.

  • 3. Annoying fake shutter sound. Since it is a mirrorless machine, there should be no shutter closing sound but there is and you can't turn it off. Not sure if it's a privacy protection scheme installed in the software or what but it’s annoying.

    4. The countdown timer flickers the same throughout. This is a negligible con really and only slightly important to people like me who likes taking floating selfies. Because the light does not indicate when the camera will snap, it becomes a guessing game.

  • 5. Kit lens cap is prone to dropping. Like a dslr,  the lens cap is an extra body by itself. Which can be troublesome to take off everytime you whip the camera out to snap a moment.

  • 6. The articulating screen is only 180 degree in 1 angle. This really inhibits the range of use. Like if I lift the camera above my head , i wouldn't be able to see what I'm doing.

  • 7. The lack of a seperate charging adaptor means the camera cannot be used when a battery is charging.

  • 8. The System tends to lag some times. It is also prone to delays and hiccups that stops the camera from starting or shows a black screen. The only solution is to turn it off and then patiently turn it on again. The delays are rarely more than 5 seconds…which is still too long to snap a fleeting moment haha. Sometimes preview is lagged too when you want to quickly preview your photo after snapping.

Train down from JungfrauJoch. Highest peak in Europe

 

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Italian Alps; the Dolomites. Hiking down Cinque Dita.

Conclusion:



Overall,  despite the cons above, I am still pleasantly surprised with how well this little camera functions. It is lightweight and takes excellent landscape and architectural photographs with little effort. The inbuilt image processor creates very appealing HDR images which reduces the need to photoshop/edit afterwards; mighty useful for travel photography where you have hundreds of photos to go through.

The snowy peaks of the swiss Alps, seen from JungfrauJoch. Highest peak in Europe
 
Train down from JungfrauJoch. Highest peak in Europe
 
Lavenders in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland.
 
Rain droplets caught on spider webs in Switzerland .
 

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Hallstatt, Austria.

 


For someone like me who just wants a travel camera, the sony a5000 is perfect. If you wait patiently at qoo10, you might find amazing promotions for this. I bought my extra battery from another seller for just $25.

 

None of the photographs here have been post processed, they are straight from the camera with only resizing and watermarking done.

 

Hope you found this simple review useful! Please leave me a comment and tell me what you think about this camera !

Megabus Stops in Rome, Venice, Milan & Paris

I just returned from a 5 weeks trip and to facilitate my budget travel, I took Megabus coaches a lot from one country to another.

If you are not familiar with Megabus, it is an intercity Bus service that is pretty famous for their low fares. Their wikipedia description attached below.


Megabus website: http://uk.megabus.com


" Megabus, branded as megabus.com, is an intercity bus service of Coach USA/Coach Canada and DATTCO (a non Stagecoach company, under contract) providing discount travel services since 2006, operating throughout the eastern,southernmidwestern, and western United States and in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Megabus is notable for using curbside bus stops instead of traditional stations, low fares starting at $1, and in recent years, operating a point-to-point network of routes with buses making few stops en route to their destination. "
source: Wikipedia


I took the Megabus for the following routes; Paris to Cologne. From Rome to Venice. From Venice to Milan and from Milan to Paris.

This blog entry is to share details about the bus stops for Rome , Venice, Milan and Paris because Megabus does such a lousy job of describing their Bus stops to their potential customers. The information here will be useful for anyone planning to travel with Megabus and departing/arriving from these points.



Picturesque Prague: Old Town Square

I came to Prague with almost no expectations. Sure,  I've seen the photos and videos and I know there are songs that reference it. But all those didn't quite seap into the brain of this traveller who doesn’t usually have a taste for city scape.



I think the only reason I had Prague on the itinerary was because I started from Paris and had to go a loop back to Paris after a few weeks, so Prague seemed like the most appropriate far east for me.
3 nights in Prague and here's my photo journey to share!

I sat through 11 hours of over night train from Cologne to Prague. I bought my tickets too late and had missed the sleeper couchettes I so much wanted. Needless to say, i was a little grumpy when I reached Prague. Didn't help either that I forgot to research the directions to my hostel and was feeling pretty stranded without internet.

But thank goodness the Praha Hl.n Station being a main station , was well equipped with everything to assist tourists. Food, water, toilets, information counters and Money changer were all available. However, I implore you to take caution when changing currency. Many Money Changer in Prague charges exorbitant commissions for their service and at 20% of commission, I'd say you're better off paying with Euros until you find a Money Changer that doesn't take commission. I changed SGD $270 and was charged 700 krons of commission, I got back only 3061 krons. Go do your research and you'll feel my heartache  ($sgd50 ommagardddd!!). The station also has Tourist Information counter at the basement where you can literally tell the staff your hotel and he will search the route for you. The staff then took a Metro & Tram map and circled the stops I should drop, very helpful indeed!


I stayed at the lovely Penzion & Sofi hostel (read my review by clicking here).  I arrived 9:22am but by the time  made it to the Hostel, checked in and bathed (hadn’t bathed since 2 nights ago!), it was already near 2pm! So the only place I could visit was the places without paid entrance. So a bit of panic research with the hostel wifi and off to the Old Town I go!

The moment I stepped out of the Metro was the moment it daunted upon me how beautiful Prague is. I admit, after visiting Paris and Cologne, I was wondering if Prague will even do anything for me. Yes yes, I’ve heard all about Prague being the best hidden gem in Europe and the blahblahblah but like I mentioned above, I just didn’t have much expectations. To be fair, I think every city has it’s own style and flair but Prague’s architectural style was very over the top. Colourful, flamboyant and intricacy all rolled into one atmospheric city of festival. I call it a city of festival because after 3 days in the tourist attractions, it’s not hard to tell how much the city caters to tourists and how hard some of them party haha.


First landmark worthy of mention is the prague municipal house. You will walk pass it en-route to the Old Town Square.


The famous Old Town Square!



My first day in Prague was spent wide eyed in amazement. I especially loved the Old Town Square. Sandwiched between the Church of our Lady before Tyn and the Astronomical Clock Tower, the square with it’s beautiful houses all around it is the centre of it all. And I finally understood why this area was always mentioned in travel guidebooks and promo posters. This place is truly beautiful. I never thought a place/landscape could be capable of being better looking at it is in photographs. It looked like a pretty normal place in the pictures but in real life, the whole vibe just springs right at you!


I’m going to shut up and let the photos do the talking now … oh wait, they failed to do that for me. But let’s see them try this time!
The Church of our Lady before Tyn is free admission and is not very big, so definitely check it out .

You can get to the church via a CD shop.

The Astronomical Clock tower famous throughout the world. The clock looked really beautiful and at every hour, it chimes. The 12 apostles look out from the top window in rotation. To be honest, the chime was not as amazing as I expected but since I’m around, might as well wait for it.

The old Town Square has a very enlivening hype that is both exciting and peaceful. There are all sorts of performers there such as bands and street buskers.



I got myself a small cone of Mojito Gelato for 45 Krons! It tasted really good and was refreshing on a hot day .



I spent the rest of the day just walking and walking and walking around the Old Town. Exploring the different shops and ended my day with a Goulash Dinner in a small restaurant slightly out of the main square.



The Goulash was okay, I’m not really a beef person. But the soup was really salty and the wifi doesn’t work :( The Czech concept of Dumplings are very different from Asians though hahhaa

Review: Penzion & Hostel Sofi (Prague)

Name: Penzion & Hostel Sofi
Address: Jeremenkova 304/55, Prague, 147 00, Czech Republic
Website: Booking.com

I stayed 3 nights in Prague at Penzion sofi in their mixed dormitory. Here is my simple review of the place.

Room:
The hostel offers dormitory beds and private rooms. I stayed at the 8 beds dormitory and loved how spacious it is. There is an open rack with hangers for everyone to hang their stuffs on. Other than that, there is a bedside drawer with lamp. The drawers are pretty spacious but cannot be locked.

There is no air conditioner and while I was there this summer, it felt a little hot if the windows are not opened.
There is a pantry, a toilet and a shower room with 2 wash basin and 1 mirror in the entire floor. The facilities are shared within everyone on the same floor. The same floor has 8 dorm beds and 1 private room.
Bed:
The bed is comfy and soft and clean. A comforter and a blanket is given along with a big almost square-ish pillow.

Toilet:
Toilets are generally clean though the floor of the shower room tend to be a little dirty.
I thought for so many guests, it's better for the basins to be separate from the shower room. Otherwise when someone showers, nobody can brush their teeth unless they use the toilet sink.
Toilet paper and hand towels are provided

Cleanliness:
The floor tend to be a little bit dusty but I think it's more because many guests wear their shoes into the room. But because the hosts vacuum and clean everything in the morning, i find everything clean enough.

Location:
Not exactly the best location to be honest. Other than 1 Mini market across the street, I don't see any other shops. The mini market always seemed to be closed by the time I return around 10pm.
There is a bus stop with just one bus ( Bus: 118) outside the hostel. The bus stop ( Pod Pekařkou ) is just outside. Thankfully, the bus schedule runs late so no worries about not being able to get back.
The nearest train station is Budejovick and you can take bus 118 from the Bus Stop Budejovick. Exit from the station, with a KFC on the ground floor (Mac Donalds is on the opposite exit ) turn left and follow the escalator up. The Bus Stop is immediately beside the escalator up.


I believe you can also take tram 3 and 17, alight at Dvorce and walk to the hostel. But I've personally never tried that before.
Learn more about travelling with public transport in Prague at this website.

Price:
I got it for €10 per night which I think is a steal.
However it seems like there are hostels in the old town with 24 hour receptions going at just €12 / beds. So on comparison, Penzion Sofi might not be as value for money.

Safety:
The neighbourhood is quiet so that seems ok. There is no place for you to lock your stuffs so it might be a concern for those who are carrying large amount of cash/valuables.
My other concern was the lack of 24 hour receptions. I forgot my keys one day and had to scream outside the gates for another hostee to open the door for me. I pressed all the bells i could find to no avail. It seems non of the staffs stay in the hostel over night. The reception is from 0900 - 2300 if i recall correctly.

Miscellaneous:
A towel with a sachet of shampoo and a sachet of shower gel is given upon check in. Hair dryer can be borrowed from the reception. Other than a hook stand in the shower room, I didn't see any other place for you to dry your laundry.
However, Laundry services that include washing, drying and folding can be provided for €10. I accumulated a big load and had them do my laundry for me. The detergent they used made me smell good the next few days :)
Wifi connection is pretty strong and available throughout the entire place.

Conclusions:
I liked how peaceful , clean and pretty the place is. Particularly liked how we have the entire floor to themselves. Other than the pantry, there is no other common area except the reception hall.
However due to the location, lack of shops and lack pf 24 hours reception, this hostel might not suit my next Prague trip. None of the staffs could speak decent english and trying to get travel advice from them can be difficult. This is a place suitable for someone who desires peac, doesn't mind the extra travel and is is relatively familiar with Prague.

I use Booking.com to book pretty much all my hostels and Hotel stays the past year or so. I've stuck with them because their website is simple, intuitive and highly intelligent, If you download the app on your smartphone, all your hotel information instantly syncs to it and you have all you need to know (maps, directions, agreed price, booking number etc) at the tip of your fingers. It is super useful for long trips as you can book and store all your accommodation information in a single place.

* Just a disclaimer, I may earn some commission when you book via the search engine below. It wouldn't come from you but from Booking.com & the hostee. I would really appreciate it if you do though, as it's a nice way to fund all these unbiased reviews and travel tips. But if you don't want to, of course I won't (be able) to force you to haha. Enjoy travelling! 

Booking.com

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