Croatia (I) – Split

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A beautiful country known for its beaches and islands, Croatia has become a popular tourist destination. More popular destinations in Croatia include Split and Dubrovnik. Day trips to nearby islands or waterfalls are often made from these places, but if you are looking for a chill holiday, you can turn those day trips into overnight stays.

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Possible day trips from Split include
1. Plitvice
2. Krka waterfalls
3. Omis
4. Hvar

Possible day trips from Dubrovnik include
1. Mljet Island
2. Elafiti Islands

However, I did not manage to fit all these trips into my itinerary for Croatia but I’ll be writing in detail about the trips I managed to make. One thing I realized about Croatia is that there is limited information available about the destination itself, so I’m trying to plug in the gap here to make it easier for future travellers:>

Split
Top things to do in Split would be to

(i) hike up Marjan hill for the great views
(ii) wander around the town
(iii) visit the markets

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The hike up Marjan hill was tiring but well worth it because of the gorgeous view. There are many viewpoints on the hill overlooking the Adriatic sea, making it a relaxing afternoon trip. As the sun sets, head down the hill and have dinner at Konoba Marjan which is conveniently located at the foot of the hill. If prices aren’t to your liking, there are many other good restaurants located on that street, one of which includes Café Sperun.

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Wandering around Split by foot is one of the best things you can do in Split. The Diocletian Palace or what remains of it, makes a nice attraction and photo. I suggest passing up on the Diocletian basements because there isn’t much to see. Besides the palace, there are small narrow streets with interesting restaurants and random flea markets. There is also a Zara and Bershka for the shopaholics like me. Prices of these shops are definitely cheaper than in Singapore/ Asia.

Must visit markets in Split would be the daily market located near the bus terminal and the fish market located in the Diocletian palace compound. The daily market, opened from 8am to 2pm, has a section dedicated to fresh produce and local products, and another section dedicated to souvenirs. So if you’re looking for trinkets to buy back, the daily market is the place to go. The fish market is an interesting sight, with the fishermen displaying their catches and using metal weights to weigh the fish. If you stay in a self-catering apartment/ airbnb and love to cook, do consider purchasing some fish or mussels from the market and head home to cook. We did just that, and bought 2kg worth of mussels at only 15 kunas per kg. It was our first time cleaning and cooking mussels but the hearty pot of mussels at the end was worth the effort. Though our airbnb host left a bad review for us for messing up her kitchen. Oops!

Food recommendations

1. Buffet Fife
Very popular amongst tourists and even locals because of its generous portions. Trust me, the portions here are gigantic for the price you pay. I ordered a fish soup and grilled bream, cooked Dalmation style at prices easy on the pocket. Croatian fish soup reminded me of home because soup is such a Cantonese thing and a regular feature at home cooked meals. The fish soup, served in a huge metal bowl, was very tasty and had rice in it. Our fish came in a large silver platter, with 2 fishes for each person. In Croatian standards, 2 fishes is a double serving. Restaurants usually serve 1 fish per portion. In some sense, you win some and you lose some because the fish wasn’t the best I’ve tasted but with that price and portion, Fife still wins my heart.

Trumbićeva obala 11, 21000, Split, Croatia
+385 21 345 223

2. Konoba Marjan
Marjan is THE place for fish. Portions are comparatively small though but the fish you get is one of the best in town. I tried the fish platter for two which was a nice, holistic tasting platter of ocean fish. The platter had scampi, Class I fish like Tuna (with a delicious sear) and Class II fish like hake. Service was fantastic too, with the waiter patiently bringing out the catches of the day on a silver plate and explaining it to us twice with a wide smile on his face.

Senjska 1,Split 21000, Croatia
+385 989 346 848

3. Appetit
This eatery is located on the second floor of the building but do not fret, because it is super easy to spot. It can be found in the same building as Billa in the Old Town. Their prices are standard, about 120 kunas for a fish main and 90 kunas for a risotto. Must tries are their grilled fresh fish and the cuttlefish black risotto. The risotto was the best I’ve tried in Croatia.

Ul. Pavla Šubića 5, 21000, Split, Croatia
+385 21 332 549

4. Kantun Paulina
Looking for Croatian street food? Pauline serves authentic Cevapi, a minced beef sausage that is pocketed in warm fluffy bread, topped with the local red pepper salsa, at 25 kunas. The perfect thing to get if you need a quick meal on the run or maybe some fuel after climbing Marjan Hill.

Matošića ul. 1, 21000, Split, Croatia
+385 21 395 973

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Top 5 Places to Eat in London

1. Dishoom
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Rated London’s top restaurant in 2015, I knew I had to try this bombay-style cafe, especially since I love Indian food. The menu was extensive and it was a pity I could only try the Deep fried Okra, Chicken Ruby and Chicken Briyani.

In my opinion, your experience at Dishoom very much relies on how wise your selections were. Next to us was a table of two which ordered naan and chicken ruby, and they were very angry about how small the portions were and how they had to go find more food after dinner. In contrast, Sandra and I traded the naan (even though it would have been lovely to have some naan dipped in curry) for biryani (basmatic rice) and had a satisfying meal.

They were very generous with the chicken pieces in the biryani, and I loved how quirky the dish was, with a sprinkling of cranberries to add a British twist to this Indian dish. The Chicken Ruby was a curry that was quite spicy, actually so spicy that the lady had to place a jug of water on our table instead of constantly refilling our glasses haha. But it was so flavourful that we wiped the entire bowl clean. There was not a single drop of curry left. The deep fried okra was a pleasant starter to our meal. I loved the Indian spices in the batter and how seemingly healthy this dish was (because ladies fingers= daily fix of veggies). It definitely made me feel less guilty about my deep fried okra addiction.

As long as you are in London, you HAVE TO try Dishoom even though the queues are long. At least they give out hot chai while you wait in the queue :>

Check out their locations at http://www.dishoom.com

2. Patty & Bun


BEST BURGER EVER. Enough said. I posted a photo of their burger on my instagram and other people agreed that this was the best burger they ever tasted. Everything on their menu looked so good that Huifen and I spammed order. We each ordered a “Smokey Robinson” burger, shared a “Winger Winger Chicken Dinner” and Chips with Roast Chicken Mayo and Chicken Sea Salt. Even their names sound awesome.


The “Smokey Robinson” consisted of a beef patty, caramelized onions, bacon, tomato, lettuce, cheese, ketchup and mayo. I loooooved the melted cheese, it was all over the burger and the paper wrapping the burger. I ordered my beef patty as Medium (they usually do it Medium Rare) and I found it to be cooked perfectly. Loved how thick the patty was and how it actually had a substantial taste of beef, as compared to the burgers found in Singapore.

Check out their locations at http://pattyandbun.co.uk/contact/

3. Burger & Lobster

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There are only 3 things on the menu at Burger & Lobster, you choose a whole lobster, a lobster roll or a beef burger. I guess ordering the beef burger is a bit silly and I’d rather eat a whole lobster than less lobster in a roll (unless you are lazy to crack open the lobster) so Sandra and I each spent 20 pounds on a whole lobster. Steamed, then grilled, with a garlic butter sauce to go with it.

The garlic butter sauce overwhelmed the natural sweetness of the lobster, so in the end, I just enjoyed the lobster by itself. The sauce was instead used as a dip for my fries, which I ashamedly cleared the entire cup of. Comparing prices with Singapore, getting a lobster for 20 pounds (S$40) is a steal. Plus the lobster was fresh and perfectly cooked (thank god they didn’t boil it because that would be stupid), so what’s not to like?

One of my friends commented on how he went to Burger & Lobster twice recently. London has too much good food for you to try B&L twice (please don’t waste your precious meals) but at least try it once. It’s worth the 1 hour wait and the 20 pounds.

Check out their many locations at http://www.burgerandlobster.com/home/locations/london/

4. Little Social

Burrata with Truffles Cod Brandade Braised Irish Ox Cheeks
This French-inspired British bistro is opened by Jason Atherton which means the food here was no doubt excellent. I particularly enjoyed the braised Irish ox cheeks and the roasted bone marrow. The ox cheeks were really tender and the bone marrow was really fatty. Other dishes that we ordered were burrata with shaved truffles, cod brandade with tapenade and a roasted turbot. It’s a pricey restaurant so visit it if you decide to splurge one night or if you are with the parents.

5 Pollen Street, Mayfair, London W1S 1NE
Tel: 020 7870 3730

5. The Mac Factory

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Found in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of Camden Lock market, this Mac & Cheese shop is a gem. They give out free samples to people so that you can decide if Mac & Cheese is your kind of thing but seriously, how can it not be your kind of thing?! We ordered the truffled Mac & Cheese for 7 pounds, plopped ourselves down on the stairs and ate away. They fry the Mac & Cheese for you on the spot so that when you eat it, it’s all warm and gooey and you can’t stop reaching for more. Writing about it is making me really really hungry. Now I want my mac & cheese >:

Camden Lock Market, West Yard
Open 10am to 6pm

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A Guide to Lauterbrunnen

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If you’re ever visiting the Bernese Oberland and at a lost of which village to stay in, stay in Lauterbrunnen! It is the most accessible village and the scenery in the valley is beautiful too! I stayed in Lauterbrunnen for 3 nights and I loved each and every night. I’ve compiled a list of things you should do and eat in Lauterbrunnen and also the places you can travel to from Lauterbrunnen:)

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Eat

1. Hotel Oberland Rosti

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Can I just say that this was the best Rosti I had ever eaten in my entire life. I’m not even kidding about how good the Rosti was. I couldn’t stop putting it into my mouth. And the fact that it had bacon and onion hidden between the strips of potatoes, topped generously with melted Alpine cheese just sealed the deal for me. You cannot miss this Rosti when you’re in Lauterbrunnen!

2. Swiss Restaurant Weidstuebli

I loved the vibe of this restaurant, especially since it was World Cup period and there was a TV for everyone to cheer on their favourite soccer team while eating their food. The food was relatively reasonably priced (for Swiss standards) and well portioned. Though this restaurant veers off the normal touristy path, the walk to and fro was quite enjoyable.

3. Flavours

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This cafe just opened when I was there last June and we tried their burgers which were delicious while the oven baked potatoes that came with it were addictive. Besides the food, I also loved the design of the cafe. There were bean bags and fake grass outside the cafe for cafe-goers to lie on and chill while people-watching. A pity that we only visited Flavours on the last day of our Lauterbrunnen trip. We would eat there again if we ever had a chance to!

4. Airtime Cafe

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This is a really popular cafe with tourists, maybe because it offers adrenaline-packed activities and free wifi besides food and drinks. I came in just to pack a vegetarian sandwich for my walk which was quite passable but honestly, not really worth the money. But if you’re looking for a place to buy food to-go, this is one option.

Do

1. Walk the Mountain View Trail to Murren

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There are different ways to get to Murren from Lauterbrunnen. You could choose to hike all the way, which is only for the experienced hikers due to the super steep slope; you could choose to take public transportation all the way which would mean a gondola up and a train to the village or you could be like us and do both. We took a gondola up and then decided to walk to Murren. Even then, you have two choices: to walk on flat ground or to walk the Mountain View Trail.

We decided to walk the Mountain View Trail so as to get a vantage point of the breath-taking scenery around us. I mean it’s not every day that you can walk alongside mountains so we chose the more scenic route. However, the route was quite taxing and the terrain quite rocky

2. Visit Trummelbach Falls 541A6991

The sound of gushing water of these glacier waterfalls could be heard from a distance and it scared me bit. But the Trummelbach Falls were so magnificent. The water in these falls originate from Jungfrau and the falls are the only glacier waterfalls in the world accessible underground by lifts, stairs and pathways. Don’t miss this if you are in Lauterbrunnen! It really is a sight to behold.

3. Take the cruises on Lake Brienz or Lake Thun
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One of the perks of buying a Swiss pass is that cruises like these are free. We decided to capitalise on the fact that there were free and went on both cruises even though they were quite similar. Hence, my suggestion is to take just one of the cruises for the experience and also because it’s a different way of taking in the sights. I would recommend cruising on Lake Brienz because the lake has nice, calming turquoise waters which is really unique. The cruises can be found near Interlaken OST and you can stop along the way to visit small little villages.

4. Vist Jungfrau-joch 541A6678-2 541A6690 541A6850

Even though the trip to Jungfrau-joch will set you back by about $200, it is worth it to head up to the tallest reachable point by tourists in Europe. The views were so spectacular and breath-taking that we stayed up there for 4 hours, being fascinated with the snow and snow capped mountains. A warning first though, your body may have problems adjusting to the altitude, resulting in altitude sickness and a general lack of energy. Manlin faced problems breathing and felt tired really easily due to the lack of oxygen. After 4 hours on top, my head felt heavy and I came back down with a sunburnt face ): So lesson learnt is to always apply sunblock before heading for the mountains even though it seems very counter-intuitive to me.

5. Take a day trip or stay over at Mannlichen

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Männlichen is easily accessed by taking a train from Lauterbrunnen to Murren and then taking a gondola up to the mountain. We stayed in Berghaus Mannlichen for 1 night because we wanted to experience staying up in the mountains. However, because it was summer, the clouds were low and shrouded the entire mountain which meant that we spent an entire afternoon just chilling in a blanket of white mist. It was a frustrating experience to a certain extent but a unique one. What made the stay up there really worth it was the view in the morning. I jumped out of bed at 7am and was overjoyed to see that the clouds had cleared and the scenery was just breath-taking. Words can’t describe how amazing it felt to be surrounded by mountains so I’m just going to leave you with photographs.

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Stay

1. Hotel Stabbauch

Hotel Stabbauch offers attic rooms at a cheaper rates to budget travellers like me which I found to be a very good deal because I didn’t see the need to pay extra for a room view of the Stabbauch falls, considering that I could see the falls from anywhere in town and the hotel also had public balconies to chill and view the falls. The breakfast was not very memorable but at least it filled us up for our day ahead. I loved the fact that the hotel had a common lounge with a TV set and a piano for guests to hang around and watch soccer together. Also, the hotel staff here were incredibly helpful. There was this pregnant lady who loved Manlin and I, and never failed to answer all our questions and give us recommendations as to where to eat. The service in this hotel was impeccable!

2. Valley Hostel

We ended up with a free night with no lodging so we decided to bunk in at Valley Hostel where the person kindly offered us a 4-bed room at a 2-bed room price 🙂 The hostel had basic amenities and the room and sheets were clean, nothing to complain about as long as it gave me a comfortable night stay. What I loved about the hostel was this common porch right outside the room that allowed guests to sit on the benches and watch the trains go past. It was such a chill thing to do, just watching the world go past while enjoying the occasional breeze 🙂 It’s moments like these that make me fall in love with travelling.

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