I must say that!! You will be sorry if you overlook "Romania"!!!
Most of my journeys in search for new experiences end up in Asia, only the last trip allowed me to breath in the Arabian atmosphere at Africa. This time, I'd like to go out of my comfort zone again by exploring Europe. Oh well, the cost is quite high when talking about "Europe" and it doesn't seem safe for both personal belongings and oneself. So what country is our best answer for this trip?
I research quite a lot for each country and finally I choose to visit "Romania" due to several reasons:
1.This country welcomes few tourists, including Thai. Probably due to the fact that Romania was ruled by a Communist government and just recently overthrown the dictatorship and changed into a democracy country. So some tourists may still worry about safety.
2. In fact, Romania has several attractions that are worth visiting including historical sites in which 7 of them were recognized by the UNESCO as the World Heritage Sites. Some of these attractions are newly open and exclusively only found in Romania.
And the last reason and most importantly one is the cost of living in Romania is similar to Thailand. It can be said that it is lower than several other European countries.
To enter to Romania, we need to apply for a visa. If you already hold a Schengen Visa, you can freely enter this country. Otherwise, we must apply the visa at the embassy. We need to apply for a short term tourist visa via internet at http://evisa.mae.ro/home. We must firstly apply using our email. Then, we will get the responding mail with our visa application number to us. When we get this email then we go log in and fill out all the necessary information to apply for the visa. At the same time, we also need to attach following documents:
1. 1 photo of 2 inches color photo (white background)
2. A booking of round trip ticket
3. A booking of hotel in Romania
4. Financial statement issued by the bank where we must have our balance within the last 30 days not less than 500 Euro when calculating by multiply each day in Romania with 50 Euro.
5. Medical insurance and loss of life insurance during the trip must not be less than 2 million THB and the duration must include one day more than the trip (for instance, if we travel 7 days, we must have 8 days insurances).
6. Work Certificate
After the staff at the embassy check our documents, they will send email back to us (within 1-2 days) to make an appointment for us to personally visit the embassy in order to hand in the passport and its copy as well as all documents both the original and copied ones. Also, we need to pay the visa fee of 2,400 THB. The Romanian Embassy is located at the 12th floor of the Sirinrat Building, Rama 4 Road, which is just opposite to Maleenont Tower. The visa hours is from 14.00-16.00 p.m. on Tuesday and 9.30 a.m.-12.20 p.m. on Friday only. I submitted my application on Tuesday and the embassy asked me to get my passport back on Friday which is quite fast. On the day we come take our passport, the embassy gives us a small paper advising us to bring all the copied documents submitting to the Embassy along with us in case the Immigration at Romania ask to see. For those who can't collect passport themselves, they must write the Power of Attorney letter.
First of all, let's get to know about Romania!
Romania is located in south-eastern Europe. The north-eastern boarders Ukraine and Moldova and the west borders Hungary and Serbia. The south boarders Bulgaria and the south-eastern borders the Black Sea.
For this trip, I spend 9 days as below itinerary.
1st Day: BKK > Malaysia
2nd Day: Malaysia > Doha > Bucharest
3rd Day: Bucharest > Curtea de Arges > Transfagarasan Highway > Sibiu
4th Day: Sibiu > Medias > Biertan Villege > Sighisoara
5th Day: Sighisoara
6th Day: Sighisoara > Salina Turda > Cluj Napoca
7th Day: Cluj Napoca > Rasnov Castle > Bran Castle > Brasov
8th Day: Brasov > Peles Castle > Bucharest
9th Day: Bucharest > Doha > BKK
You might wonder when seeing my itinerary of why I need to go Malaysia first. This is because I fly with Qatar Airways and there's no promotion on BKK>Doha route but KL>Doha, Doha> Bucharest and Bucharest > Doha , Doha > BKK. In order to save money, I fly to Malaysia to take my flight from KL.
Finally, my travel date comes and I fly with Air Asia to Malaysia.
At 17.10 p.m. we start to fly and my important journey in life is also begun.
When flying into Malaysian airspace, th e darkness covers the entire area. All we can see when looking down is the beautiful bright stars on the ground.
It takes about 2 hours from Don Mueang Airport to KLIA2 Airport.
I have 5 hours to take my next flight which is sufficient for me to enjoy my dinner without having to hurry. There're a lot of restaurants at KLIA2 Airport and I choose to have my dinner at Nando's which decorates their restaurant in chic style. I have vegetable salad and grilled chicken which are quite delicious.
It takes less than 5 minutes to go from KLIA2 to KLIA with the KLIA Transit and the fee is 2 MYR.
I fly from KL to Doha with Qatar Airways and I come to check in even before the counter opens. Well, I really don't know where else to go and I want to quickly finish my check in so I can take a rest at the boarding gate.
I think the KLIA is not as grand and lively as KLIA2. It's rather quiet.
At 02.00 a.m., we start the journey again. The glittering stars on the ground remain the same.
When we take off for a while, snack like hot chicken pie and cake are served. The breakfast is also served an hour before we land.
I reach Doha Airport at around 7 a.m. and I have around 3 hours to transit my flight.
The Doha Airport is quite modern and very spacious.
There're a lot of gates here so the alphabets are used in front of the number. For example, the gate E45, we need to follow the E sign. The notice point is the gigantic yellow bear which is located at the center of the airport. When we are here, there's a sign for us to walk and find the E gate.
This gigantic yellow bear is so huge, you can simply compare it with people nearby.
The moving dinosaur is also here at the airport.
There's also children playground here. For the gate that is far, the train is also there to serve us.
The sitting corner as well as internet is also here to make us relax.
Like I mentioned earlier, for the far away gate, the train service is available. We can see the train track on the two sides above the walkway.
At 07.10 a.m., we are flying again towards Bucharest.
The outside view is quite beautiful. The city that looks dry but have skyscrapers from here and there, looking quite contrasting.
Soon after taking off, the breakfast is served.
Beautiful clouds are spreading all over the sky.
From the dry land, now I start to see the green and immediately I also know that we are entering Romania
Soon, the cabin crew makes a public announcement which I didn't understand it all. Overall, it is said that we are now landed at Bucharest and the local time is 13.00 p.m. It takes 5 hours flying from Doha to here. Romania Airport is not big. It's similar to Chiang Mai Airport.
Before going through the immigration, I prepare all the copied documents that I sent to Romania Embassy earlier. I'm quite worried if I'm asked by the immigration officer as my English is not that good. Seems like the luck is on my side, the officer is talking on the phone while checking my documents and let me go without asking or showing any further documents. P'Nut, my co-trip friend has a different experience. He was asked about the hotel in Romania but still they didn't ask for further documents.
Bucharest is the capital city of Romania. It is located in the southwest of the country. The city is considered to be the most prosperous city of Romania. With a prime location surrounded by mountains and lakes, Bucharest has earned the nickname throughout Europe as "Little Paris". Bucharest sounds similar to Budapest, the capital city of Hungary. I have to concentrate every time I call it, still, I make some mistakes.
At the airport, I stop to exchange for some changes as the bus fee to downtown Bucharest. I choose to go with bus number 783. We can wait for the bus at the ground floor of the building. The ticket machine is there and we must buy the ticket before taking the bus. The fare is 2 lei. When boarding the bus, we need to put our ticket to the reading tab for it to read. It takes about 45 minutes from the airport to downtown Bucharest.
I get off at the terminal stop. Then, I go find my hotel which I have booked it from Thailand. The big luggage was dragged along small cobbled square and it gave out a big noise along the way that the people there start to look at me. The way is paved with small stone cubes. I quite like it. It looks classic. But what I don't like is it's uneven and that makes a loud noise when we have to drag our luggage.
Before I can find my hostel, it's already 14.30 p.m. When I reach my hostel, I didn't go to my room yet as I'm afraid that I can't make it to the parliament building. I have asked the hostel to book it for me at 15.00 p.m. I then leave my luggage at the lobby. Since I only have half an hour, I asked the staff if I can make it on time and they said it's not far from here and I can reach there within walking distance. Immediately, I go out for the parliament building.
When looking at the map, the parliament building is quite far from my hostel. I really want to use the taxi but the staff voice echoes in my ears that it's within walking distance. Also, I don't want to spend for a taxi in case it's really close. But the more I walk, I still see nothing. That I have only half an hour, I must quickly walk and I almost get a cramp.
After walking about 20 minutes, I see the parliament building in front of me. I'm so happy and quickly go to the entrance. But the staff told me that I can only enter at the North Gate. Now my happiness is all gone.
The Palace of Parliament of Romania is the world's second largest building after the Pentagon of the United States. It is located in the heart of Bucharest. The construction began in 1984 by Nicolae Ceausescu, the leader of the Communist Party of Romania for the government and parliament used purpose. The building is built in Neo-Classic architecture. It is 270 × 240 meters large with a height of 12 floors of which 8 floors are above the ground. This building was designed by 700 architects and 30,000 labors. It spent more than 13 years to complete. Even though the building is the second largest in the world and seems to be a proud thing, in fact, this building comes with the pain of the people of Romania at the time. The parliament building was built with almost all of the budget of the nation of more than 3.3 billion EUR. It was known as the most expensive and extravagant buildings in the world leaving the people starve and without any welfare.
Upon entering the parliament building, the ticket counter is at the ground floor. There're several tour plans we can choose as shown in above photo. I choose to visit the V option and the ticket fee is 45 lei each.
The photo is prohibited inside the parliament building. If we wish to take it, we must pay additional cost of 30 lei which is quite expensive. There's a rule of photography too. We must not photograph the staff and the ground floor at the scanning point which is near the ticket booth. We might be randomly picked to check photos too.
Actually, I take the ticket booth photo. But when I leave, the staff asked to see my photos and it turns out that that ticket booth photo captures a bit of scanning area so they asked me to delete it.
After paying the ticket fee, we must exchange it for the pass again. We must exchange our passport for the visiting pass. We also get photographed and need to hang that pass around our neck.
This is the first room the staff takes us to visit. It's a big hall with statues of former parliament leaders as well as the latest parliament leader of Romania. The wall is decorated with marbles. The ceiling is a white curving arch and the ground is paved with green carpet.
This is the oval meeting room. It designs this way to make it feel like a theater. It has the biggest chandelier of this parliament. This chandelier weights 5 tons and made from over 2,000 crystal lamps, looking so beautiful.
This is a walkway towards the other room. Traditional costumes of Romania in each region is showcased here.
In addition to traditional costumes, many photos exhibit here as well. This picture is considered the highlight here. The painter wanted to express the Communist regime. It can be appreciated from several dimensions. With different dimension, the facial expression is also changed, depending on the angle presented by the painting.
This is also a meeting room.
This meeting room is decorated with pink marbles imported from Italy.
The hallway is made from delicate marbles and beautifully decorated with lamps and curtains. Even not all the lamps are light up, it's so beautiful already. I think it's going to look magnificently beautiful when they are all light up.
Another room that really strikes my attention is the reception hall in the middle of the building. It is outstanding with the Bohemia lamp, it looks so grand. You can imagine of how big it is with the scale of people. This hall is accompanied with two marble stairs on both sides.
The pattern on marble is the layout of this parliament building.
Circle Table Meeting Room
This room is open for rent to make the exhibition with Romanian style pattern. It used to hold one of the most important meetings of the world. Romanian president facilitated a meeting between two conflicted leaders: Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the Israel, and Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader. Both leaders accepted the invitation under the condition that two equally honorable entrances must present as they both will not be entering with the same entrance.
This room is an echoed room. When we clap our hands, we will hear the echoed sound. Both the pillars and the floor are made from marbles.
This room has the highest ceiling of about 3-story building. It also employs natural light. The ceiling is a glass one while the pillars and floor are made from marbles. I think this room doesn't look as uncomfortable as previous rooms, probably, the natural light helps.
Let's take a break with fresh air. There's walkway to this green garden. However, the garden wasn't well taken care, probably due to the tight budget.
Let's go take a look at other floors. Now we need to walk up with the marble stairs.
At the center of the stairs is the huge curtain from Persia. It is said that to weight more than 200 kg.
Then, we find this room with Romanian flag. What I like the most about this room is the pattern on the ceiling and the fact that it allows the natural light to flow in.
This is another big meeting room where Michael Jackson used to film his music video. This room is equipped with a walking way towards the front terrace.
This terrace is where Nicolae Ceausescu, the leader of the Communist Party of Romania delivered his speech with the public.
Then, the staff takes us on the elevator to I don't know which floor but here we are at this room. It is an open and high hall with equally beautiful pattern on the ceiling in a pink tone. This room has a door to the open space where we can view Bucharest from high angle.
This is the view looking back to the parliament building from that open area.
When viewing from this angle, we see the Bulevardul Unirii Road. I think this is the most beautiful road in Bucharest as it's decorated with many fountains and lights at night.
The high angle view of Bucharest is far stretching.
It's interesting note that no room in the parliament building has the air conditioner, yet, every room is cool like it has one. We must admit that their architects are really great to design this building using the air circulation making the inside is cool at all time.
I spend about 2 hours wandering around the parliament building. Since the room is more than 2,000 rooms, I can't see them all and only some rooms are available to visitors. The tour guide said that today we only got to visit about less than 10% of the entire parliament building.
If you wish to visit the parliament building, it's recommend to book the tour hour in advance. We can ask the hotel to help us make the booking and don't forget to bring your passport in exchange for the pass too.
We enjoy the visit so much that we forgot about eating. Today we only had breakfast and nothing afterwards. Now, it's 17.00 p.m., it probably is the time for dinner.
Before leaving the parliament building, we ask for the restaurant nearby and the staff recommends this one. It's not so far from the parliament building and also is located on the way back to our hostel.
Hanuberarilor is the restaurant recommended by the staff at the parliament building. It offers both indoor and outdoor zones. There're a lot of customers looking from outside. We go ask the receptionist who dress in traditional costume to find out that the reserved table is available if we finish before 19.00 p.m. Of course, we agree to enjoy our table in the garden which is more airy and seems more comfortable than the indoor one.
Our first menu is the cheese with salad. We need to mix the cheese with the salad when enjoying this dish.
The next menu is Sarmalute. It is made from minced meat wrapped by steam cabbage. It is marinated so long that the taste becomes sour, it's like Naem (preserved pork) in Thailand. It's served with ham and mamaliga which is made from corn flour. It looks like Toddy Palm Cake in Thailand and the taste is quite plain.
Here is Romanian sausage. It looks like Thai sausage. It is yummy and the taste is rather salty.
Fried fish is served with mamaliga and white sauce which I first though is milk but it tastes like garlic sauce.
The price is similar to Thailand. This meal costs us around 1,000 THB. Actually I also booked other restaurant at 19.00 p.m. but I think this meal is our dinner already as we are quite full now.
It's almost 19.00 p.m. when we leave the restaurant but the sky is still bright. I visit here during the summer so it's dark quite late. From what I researched, it gets dark around 22.00 p.m. which leaves us 3 more hours to roam around.
I just keep wandering here and there. I'm so enjoy seeing different architectures of these buildings.
Coltea Hospital is the oldest public hospital in Bucharest. It was built in 1704. It is a Neo-Classic building and very beautiful.
Nearby the Coltea Hospital is the Biserica Coltei, which is one of the important Orthodox Christian churches in Bucharest. It was built in 1701. Simply seeing exterior painting on the ceiling is already very beautiful, I think the interior is going to be magnificent. It's a pity that we didn't get to visit inside as it's already closed.
This old building was built in 1900. The building looks intense. The metal dome has Renaissance window glass. Currently, it's the CEC Bank office or the national saving bank headquarter.
Opposite to CEC Bank locates the Nation Museum of Romanian History. This building was built before the CEC Bank building, it was built in 1892. It used to function as a post office of Romania before turning into a museum. The building is so large. It is said to have more than 60 exhibition rooms with more than 8,000 square meters displayed area. In front of the museum is the statue of Emperor Trajan (the 16th Emperor of Roman Empire who is famous for battle and governance skills and can successfully led Roman army to fight as far as Persia and peacefully govern the area) stand naked and hold a fox. I'm wondering why he was made naked in this statue.
This building sells antique things. I think the antique things collectors would love it. The photography is not allowed inside.
This building is the Bank National Romania which is similar to the Bank of Thailand. The front has the underground ancient ruins. The visitors can enjoy the view from the large piece of glass on the top.
Opposite to the Bank National Romania is this Stavropoleos Monastery or Stavropoleos Church. The church was built by Renaissance Romanian architecture to honor St. Archangels Michael and St. Gabriel. Stavropoleos is a borrowed word from Greek. It means the city filled with crosses. So we can see a lot of crosses made from rock in this church.
From the Stavropoleos Church, it's very close to my hostel tonight. Tonight I stay at Little Bucharest Hostel which is located in old town area. The hostel area has similar atmosphere to that of Khaosan Road in Thailand. A lot of restaurants are open along the way with the music to attract customers.
Tonight we have been traveled the entire day and we continued to walk a lot, so I'd like to take some rest. Before going to bed, let's take a look at our first night accommodation.
From outside, this place doesn't look like a hostel. Good thing that I see small sign on the building. The ground floor is like the rental shop with a small door leading to second floor which is a simple and small lobby.
There's coffee room and it also serves as a living room.
This is our bedroom tonight. It is a 6-beds room. In addition to we 4 (including me), it's other 2 westerners.
The restroom is a public one. The shower room is quite narrow. The room is 10 EUR per night. If you wish to have more personal space, you can book a two person room for 40 EUR per night.
Usually I sleep around 23.00 p.m. in Thailand but now it's only 21.00 p.m. The sky is still bright and the music is loud but I can sleep so deep without hearing anything. As soon as my head touches the pillow, I sleep tight and wake up again only the next morning. I didn't have any jet lag and I didn't even know when all my roommates are here.
I wake up again when the alarm clock rings at 05.00 a.m. I look out the window to see the sky is about to light. I quickly wash my faces, take my camera and out.
As soon as I step out of the building, I start to wonder whether I travel during the summer or the winter. The hot weather yesterday which continued until night time has turned into the cool weather. It's only some 20 degree Celsius. I wish the weather stays like this the entire day.
Our first destination is the Old Princely Court.
Then, we are back to the Bank National Romania again.
Then, we walk to the building that sells the antique things.
Nation Museum of Romanian History
I return back to the hostel to shower. This morning, We book the rental car at 08.30 a.m. After packing stuff, We still have about an hour left so we go out to explore the old town again. We start at the Old Princely Court again.
While busying taking the photos outside, suddenly, an uncle approaches me and invites me to go inside. When stepping inside, I must say that I'm stunned by the beauty in front of me. I think the exterior is already spectacular, the interior is much more. Even if the lights are not up, it is already so beautiful. I can't imagine how beautiful it could be when all the lights are up.
Nearby the Old Princely Court is the first hotel in Bucharest.
Buchrest really has a lots of churches. Even though some church is small, the beauty inside is not so. I see Christians come to perform their religious rituals at all time.
Another stop which is not far from the Old Town and within the walking distance is the Romania Glass Street. It is the street full of glassware made from blowing, grinding, crystal in many forms both in modern and the famous Bohemian style.
That I keep wandering around due to I want to kill times and wait for the restaurant to open. When I went out for photography at 05.30 a.m., some Romanian are still drinking. Some shops have just closed while some start to open. This morning, I have the kabab near the Old Princely Court. We have both chicken and beef kabab in an inexpensive price.
After food, it's time to move on. We are 10 minutes late than the appointed time. John (he was the receptionist at the hostel lobby yesterday and now he is our chauffeur and tour guide) said that the Romanian considers a 15 minutes late as everything is cancelled. We then quickly give him a big apology and explain that we were late because we were waiting for the restaurant to open.
I asked John to drive us to other interesting places in Bucharest before moving to Sibiu as planned. Some of these attractions are too far to walk from Old Town. The first stop is the Patriarchy Church which should be the most important church in Romania as it's the personal church of the bishop. Romanians are generally wearing long sleeves and trousers to the church to pay their respects. But for tourists it's more relax and okay.
Like I said earlier, I've only been to Muslim countries so I've only seen mosques. When seeing so many beautiful churches in this trip, I automatically fall in love with it. With the interior beauty, the paintings, the colorful glasses and melodious prayers as well as the Christians' faith, I ask to visit the church whenever I see one.
Kretzulescu Church is another church that I want to visit but it's close so I can't visit inside. This church is built from red brick. It is one of the oldest churches in Bucharest which was built between 1720-1722.
Near the Kretzulescu Church is the Revolution Square. It's surrounded by important building which used to be the headquarter of the Communist Party of the former President Nicolae Ceausescu who was the dictator and leader of this Communist Party. He abused his power so the revolution against him took place in 1989. The highlight of this square lies at the memorial built from gigantic triangle pillar and black cubes impaled with sharp pillar. Some Bucharest people said it looks like the potato with stick, some said it's like meatballs while some said it's like an olive with a toothpick, depending on each person's imagination.
Adjacent to the Revolution Square is the the Central University Library. The building was designed in Neo-Baroquestyle. In front to the library is the monument of the King Carol, the first king of Romania.
John points a building to me. It's the combination of the old (the brick building) and the new (the glass building). It looks quite contrast. They are located behind the Central University Library.
Not so far from the Central University Library is the Romanian Athenaeum. It was designed by a famous French architect, Albert Galleron. He designed it to look elegant like French and grand like Roman. This national theater appears on the 5 lei banknote. Now it's the end of Bucharest and then we are heading towards Sibiu.
Please follow the ROMANIA #2 : Sibiu at https://th.readme.me/p/5233