Czech Republic

Trdelni'k, Prague, Czech Republic

Trdelni'k, Prague, Czech Republic

Julie Tam in Prague, Czech Republic

Julie Tam in Prague, Czech Republic

From Vienna, Austria, we took our tour bus to the final country on our 6-country tour of Europe — Czech Republic.

Prague
Tourism is the number-one industry in Czech Republic, according to our local tour guide. Office buildings and banking also are a big part of the economy. As one of those tourists contributing to the nation’s economy, we started our day at Prague Castle, the largest castle in Europe and Czech Republic’s most iconic landmark. Standing just inside the wall around the hill, we found an artist named Michael creating oil paintings for sale. We bought one to take to a friend back home — showing Prague Castle and the nearby Charles Bridge over the Vltava River. From that vantage point, we could see an Eiffel Tower look-a-like on a nearby hill. In the same area was St. Vitus Cathedral — a grand structure with dramatic, pointed spires — and the Astronomical Clock. Skyscrapers aren’t allowed in the Old Town, so most of what you see is historic buildings unscathed by war — unlike the other countries on our trip (Germany, Croatia, etc.). We walked toward Charles Bridge via Golden Lane, a romantic, winding, sloped walkway with shops and artisan museum displays in small spaces along the way. A unique and charming experience!

Michael the oil painter, Prague, Czech Republic

Michael the oil painter, Prague, Czech Republic

We walked across Charles Bridge, which was crowded with vendors selling everything from art to jewelry to food, perused mostly by tourists. We took a lunch cruise on the Vltava River, from which we saw the beautiful sights along the river — architecturally stunning buildings, people enjoying strolls along the banks. We spent the afternoon in the center of town, where we saw more tourists than in any other country on our tour so far. Continuing our European tradition, we enjoyed pastries and drinks at an outdoor table at Cafe Au Gormand. From there, we could people-watch and snap a photo of the prevalent graffiti on the facades of such historic buildings. In the squares around us, we found sausage stands, one of which sold us the best sausage I’ve ever had — juicy, tender, spicy, and full of flavor from the wiener to the sauce. Across the way, we saw a vendor making large treats that looked and, as we soon experienced, tasted a little like cinnamon rolls but with a cylindrical shape and hollow in the middle — called Trdelni’k! We wrapped up the afternoon shopping the stores down each street around us, being amused by the 7-person bicycles taking people around on the brick roads, and passing through the Jewish Quarter.

We had eaten too much all day long to finish our whole dinner in the 13th-century wine cellar of U Cisaru Restaurant.

spring water, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic

spring water, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic

Karlovy Vary

Saqib at end of Golden Lane, Prague, Czech Republic

Saqib at end of Golden Lane, Prague, Czech Republic

The next morning began with a drive to Karlovy Vary, which literally means “Charles Spring” because the city was discovered by King Charles IV. The mineral spring water there was found to have healing and age-preserving properties, and has drawn millions of tourists, including Beethoven and Mozart, each year to this spa resort town. We got to sample the water for free. An indoor fountain was the location of a geyser shooting high up into the air. Nearby were several indoor and outdoor water stations with salty spring water at different temperatures from warm to hot.

Shops sold porcelain mugs with a spout for drinking the water, plenty of artwork depicting scenes of Czech Republic, bells, and teapots. Before departing for Germany, we had lunch and an afternoon snack of warm Oblaten — thin, wafer-like, and in chocolate and cinnamon — from Teplé Oplatky, a stand in a busy part of the center of the city.

Our tour bus took us back to Frankfurt for our final night in Europe before departing for the United States. Our tour group had a great time singing after dinner and expressing our appreciation for the tour leader, bus driver, and fellow group members, who had helped make this tour the most pleasant I’ve ever taken.

graffiti, Prague, Czech Republic

graffiti, Prague, Czech Republic

The last destination on my summer trip to East Asia…

Macau

facade of St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church, which burned down (casino in background)

facade of St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church, which burned down (casino in background)

A 45-minute Turbojet ferry ride from Hong Kong across South China Sea, Macau is like a mini-Hong Kong. Similar architecture grace Macau Peninsula, and long bridges connect the peninsula to Taipa Island. Macau is China’s other Special Administrative Region (in addition to Hong Kong). This “casino town” has surpassed Las Vegas as the world’s largest gambling operation, which makes it one of the world’s wealthiest places. Once governed by Portugal, Macau retains its Portuguese and Chinese influences in language, food, and architecture.

MUST-SEE

Macau Tower

Macau Tower

1. Macau Tower. If you’re not afraid of heights, you can brave the world’s tallest bungy jump. Or just enjoy an unobstructed view of the peninsula from the indoor or outdoor observation deck.
2. Casinos. If you’re into gambling or eating at buffets, you’ll find some familiar casino-hotels also located in Vegas, including Sands and Wynn. From Fisherman’s Wharf, you can gaze across South China Sea, lined with elegant bridges.

Macau casino-hotels

Macau casino-hotels

So where am I going next? It depends on scheduling and other factors, of course, but I’m anxious to visit Greece, Eastern Europe, Northern China, India, Spain, the United Arab Emirates (which is trying to become like Hong Kong), and so many other places. Before that though, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and write about my past travels to Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and other parts of East Asia. Thanks for reading and stay tuned…

Thank you for visiting my new blog! Unlike other blogs that are controversial or critical, this blog is pure fun, with an adventurous spirit. My parents have taken me around the world since I was a toddler, and I’m grateful for that. Not everyone has the opportunity to travel to exotic destinations, so I want to take you to where I’ve been, through this blog. I’ll tell you my experiences and show you my photos. The trips I’ve taken are for pleasure, not work, so anything you read here reflects my personal perspective, not that of any company I work for.

I’ll begin with my recent trip to East Asia. In the coming months, I will dig up memories from past vacations, including those in Europe, Australia, Canada, Virgin Islands, and beyond. I might even write about my own country — the United States — for my international readers. Enjoy… and please come back often, as I travel often.