HOT INFO On The Road

Email #2 Feb 20, UK

It's been a long time, more than 4 months, since I sent to you an email about THAI & TURKEY. Sorry for my long absence. Here I'll write to you on the rest of my stay in Turkey and how I could get to so beautiful capital city of Czech Republic, PRAGUE.
This is SHIKOU, writing

Leaving Istanbul:
After the careless house-keeper at DREAM PENSION put my shoes into a big trash can, I went back to Istanbul to pick up my main BACKPACK and arrange my route to the next destination, BUDAPEST, the capital of Hungary. However, after checking the train fares to Bucharest and Budapest before leaving Istanbul, discovering that the direct train to Budapest was more expensive than a circuitous route via Bucharest, I opted for the via Bucharest route. The ticket from Istanbul to Bucharest was about TL
10,000,000 (US$23).

Visas and other technical matters:
There was no need for Japanese to worry about the Bulgarian VISA. No VISA was required. I guess most Europeans, including US, don't need any VISAs when they are going through Bulgaria. More pressing for me was the matter of currency exchange. There was no bank near the border crossing and less banks are working for foreign currencies with less commissions. In ROMANIA and BULGARIA US banknotes are the best form to carry your money in, easiest to change and best rates. You should definitely bring some small bills as well, for Romania, residents of some countries are required to get VISAs before their entries. I've heard that Japanese can normally get their visas, paying US$1 at the border from officers, whereas, in my case, I didn't pay anything for it. However, during my stay in Bucharest, I met one Japanese lady who had been required to pay more that US$20 for her visa at the border. The cost varies according to the officer. This would also probably be the case in Slovakia, Ukraine, Mordova, Belarussi, etc. You'd better get those visas, before entry.

Bulgaria - Romania:
By the way, I arrived in Bucharest the next evening, I could buy some food near the border after I had exchanged my Bulgarian LEV into Romanian LEI on the black-market. The black-market is still alive in those countries, even now. You should be careful exchanging, check the notes and calculate the rate. I changed currency at the border to buy something to eat.
ROMANIA Buccharest:
When I arrived at Bucharest station, I bumped into a group of BACKPACKERs. Most of them were from Baltic countries, and, except one from Korea, they were heading out to the north. We wandered around the station for about one hour. We were looking for cheap accommodation, guided by his Lonely Planet. But the cheap accommodations near the station were all closed or occupied already, or otherwise turned out not to be cheap. Finally, we found a good and inexpensive hotel. It was in the opposite direction indicated in the guide.

Safety in Romania:
Living standards in Romania seems to be almost the same as in Bulgaria. They have a lot of Turkish who run their own burger shops and it provides us with many cheap fast foods. Try one near the station. You'll never miss them. As in all other big cities, take care of your belongings, especially wallets. There could be many pick-pockets. The Gypsies and boys are known for it, be aware of who is around you and what they are doing.

A few days after I arrived in Bucharest, I headed off to the north-west in search of VAMPIRES.

Brashov and Castle Bran(known as Dracula's Castle):
We made Brashov, the nearest big city, our base for visiting the Castle.
Brashov isn't so big, though it's a former capital of this region. Brashov, one of the oldest cities in the region, was actually more beautiful than expected and so surprising me, as I had never imagined its scenery before I arrived there. The city centre though rather dirty at a first glance, still retains an old European atmosphere. A relaxing comfortable city and compact as well. Easily walkable from top to toe, stopping at the centre to surf the Internet as well! For some 2 days may be enough to explore, whilst other might think it's so pretty and worth staying for more than 1 week.
When you arrive at the station, you will see two groups which strongly
recommend you their accommodations. One of them is called 'Maria', the other is 'Gabrieli'. Both arrange tourist accommodations in private rooms, taking more than 50% of the rent as commission. Yes, they are kind of gangs. They sometimes try to sell you expensive, and comparatively bad, accommodation. I bumped into 'Gabrieli', got in their car they took me to a dirty, bad-smelling room with a sofa as a bed. After I strongly rejected their offer, they took me to another house. 'Coz it was nice and lovely, though expensive, I decided to stay there. I saw the landlady pay them half of the rent I paid her. After they left, she complained to me that both of the groups controlled catching tourists at the station. Not letting people like my landlady get their own guests. I spent a pleasant three days in her house, eating her nice breakfast for free. To avoid the touts: head away from the platform towards a small market in front of the station. Find the bus stop and go to the city centre. Take bus #4 and get off at PARCUL CENTRAL, bus stop name is 'Str Muresenilo'. North end of the city centre. It's just 5 minutes walk to the central square. It's so easy because there is a big church in the heart of the city as in other traditional European cities. Just 50m behind a huge expensive hotel is a small hotel, 'Aro Sport', facing a narrow path. It will cost about US$10/person or less and could be nicer than following 'Gablieri'.

Castle Bran is located about 100km to the north of Brashov. It was a lovely old European castle without any horrible bats and him, I'm afraid he isn't there. To get there take bus from AUTO-GARA#2, second bus station, 2km to the north of Brashov. 1.5-2hours to the Castle. Be aware that there are few buses for the return journey.

Romania - Hungary:
Being taken in by 'Gabrieli', I bought a ticket to the border that was twice as expensive. While on the train I heard from other international passengers and a Romanian who could speak English. Some Japanese, said they were going to the heart of the region, an area where the old European style had been preserved - sorry, I forget the name. I
didn't get off there. I was on the way to Budapest in a hurry, to a city which I was really looking forward to return to, I was there 6 yrs ago. This is, indeed, a trip to the past. This could be an intersection of my past and forthcoming future. So, I was in a hurry in order to spent as long as possible there. 2 hrs later, they got off happily though feeling a little regret in a sense that we must say good bye to each other. I had been left in a small compartment with a Romanian. He said he was going back to his flat in our temporary destination, Cluj Napoca. According to his intro, the city is huge and known as a second biggest city in Romania. I had to change trains there for getting to ORADEA. Roughly, we have two routes to go over the border and, before doing so, we have to drop in at the nearest big city for our cheapest travel because the international trains going through the border are all expensive enough to drive us mad, tenth as expensive as domestic train tickets! The shorter a train travels, the cheaper it cost. So, I had to reach the nearest city for going over. Two corresponding cities are Oradea and Arad. The latter is much popular. I don't know why. But that was one reason why I took the route through Oradea: I love to explore just like you.
The route from Brashov to Oradea is not simple. Actually I had to wait in Cluj Napoca for more than 4hrs until a train bound for Oradea came there. Fortunately I could make friends with that chap before getting off. Then, I could enjoy my short stay, talking about lives, favourites of their own and hardship of the country in a cafe and a cool music pub. It was already midnight that I arrived in Oradea There were several mini-buses bound for Budapest directly. Tolls were all about US$15 or less, up to the number of their passengers. After all, I chose a train, bought a ticket to the first Hungarian station for US$9, then I slept for a while, taking care of my bags against, so-called, Gypsies. I got on a 4.30am train which could have taken me to my destination.

Email #1 Sep 1, 99, Istanbul, Turkey

I've been in Turkey since 10 Aug '99. In Turkey there was a big earthquake occurred in the South-East, 80 km away from Istanbul. I experienced it there and felt it quite usual because I'm Japanese, guessing it about 6.0 of its magnitude. It could be normal in Japan because most Japanese who stayed in Istanbul didn't get up and couldn't imagine that thousands of people are died at that moment. Now I have a bit of regret to say 'take it easy' to some Turkish lady.
Anyway, taking it away from our thoughts, a traveller goes on travelling around the most beautiful place in Turkey, called
KAPPADOKIA. After one-week stay in IST, I've been to there for a couple of days. I strongly recommend to stay in GOREME and rent a motorbike to go around the KAPPADOKIA area.
As I didn't know, guessing you also don't know, KAPPADOKIA is the name of the vast area and GOREME is located in the central area, that makes it easy for you to go around not only most touristic places also other rural places like Soanli. Now I'm in IST and plan to go to BUDAPEST, the capital of Hungary, by train. You will see me there next time.

Thai Travel Data

Accomm: C+C ... GH Double 150 B
You will see a guide in the train(22B)from BKK to there.
Access: Train from BKK -- 22B

Accomm: Burmese-Inn Double room -- 150 Bahts
you can eat good Burmese dishes there.
Access: Train to Nam Tok - 11 B, Bus to Sank- 80 B
leave : MiniBus- 100 B(121B)

Accomm: Sun-Set GH Bangalow -120 -150 B, On the lips of TAO(Turtle). There are good tasty dishes for vegits.
Access: Bus+HighSpeedBoat from BKK- 350 B, 410 B, 430 B

Turkey Travel Data
Accomm: KONYA GH 4-beded Domitory -US$5 2-beded Dom - US$7

Accomm: Dream Pansion Dom -US$5, Double common shower -US$6/p with shower - US$8/p +shower in Cave-US$10/p
Rent-a-motorbike 10hrs 8000,000 TL (bout US$20)
Rent-bike 3hrs 1000,000 TL (bout US$2.5)
Access: Bus -- 8500,000 TL come back : Bus -- 8000,000 TL

Now I'm in Prague.
I've been to Romania via Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria.
Wait for the next report.

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