Flam Railway: The Most Beautiful Train Ride

Norway is home to some legendary scenery in Northern Europe and the Flam Railway (Flåmsbana) is among the most famous. It offers a panoramic view of Norway's wildest and most picturesque landscape.Flam Railway is the steepest standard-gauge railway in Northern Europe. 

I took the train from Aurlandsfjord to the high mountains of Myrdal and ended at the Klosfossen Waterfall before taking the transfer from Myrdal to Voss. As the train started to move, I heard the announcement, “The Flam Railway is 20 kilometers long. Our journey will take about one hour. The steepest climb on the Flam Railway is 1 to 18.”  There was also commentary in different languages along the way.  Our guide warned us that we would not be able to take good photos from a moving train, but I kept my eyes peeled for the opportunity to take pictures.

The Flam Railway was one of the most amazing train rides I've experienced and the most beautiful. For me, it’s not the technology that made it more spectacular than …

Norway: Sognefjord & Nærøyfjord

I came to Norway for the fjord land and boy it did not disappoint. I went through Sognefjord, Norway's longest and deepest fjord and its famous arm the Nærøyfjord, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has also been rated by the National Geographic Society as the world's number one natural heritage site along with the Geirangerfjord. I should have been disappointed because it rained when we were going through the fjords, but I'd guessed God perfected the art with the rain. The mist added drama to the most stunning scenery: the mountains along the fjords that rise to more than 5500 feet and the waterfalls that start from the clouds and plunge to emerald green water. 

The whole scenery begged to be stared upon; I took a few pictures and continued to video record the whole trip. The camera could not do justice to the unbelievably stunning scenery, and no words can describe what the whole experience of going through the fjords felt like but I'm still in awe. That said,…

NORWAY: Oppland

I came to Norway to see the famous Norwegian fjords. But before seeing the fjords, I traveled through the amazing landscape of Oppland county and saw spectacular scenery.
LillehammerI knew Lillehammer was the site of the Winter Olympics and have been once the center of the skiing world and still a skiing paradise in the winter season. So, I was not that excited at going to Lillehammer in the summer. But it was part of the itinerary of this trip. Obviously, the scenery was totally different from the winter season. Lillehammer was surrounded by mountains, forests, and lakes. It was a gorgeous scenery nonetheless.

One of Lillehammer’s most famous tourist attractions was the remnant of the 1994 Winter Olympic ski jump venue, officially known as the Lysgårdsbakkene Ski Jumping Arena. Our guide said that the Ski Jump can be called the "New Lysgårdsbakkene" because there was an old ski jump that was built there in 1903 and other ski jumps that collapse in the year 1966. The top o…

Norway: The Land of the Midnight Sun

I arrived in Oslo, Norway late in the afternoon on solstice day, June 21st. Instead of giving in to jetlag, I joined our host for a walk to the harbor after dinner. The harbor was packed and lively with a street concert that featured pop performers like HRVY and screaming teenagers dancing to his music. I decided to stay at the concert and listen to a few more songs. It was still light when I returned to the hotel past 11:00pm and crashed out when I hit the bed. At around 4am I was woken up by bright lights peering through the window shades. Did I miss 24-hours of daylight? I wonder.

Like most people, my goal for visiting Norway was to see the UNESCO World Heritage Natural site Norwegian fjords.  And most international flights to Norway land in Oslo, so my itinerary included 48 hours to explore Oslo. Coincidentally, the city was hosting a pride parade the following day, Saturday and it was said that more than fifty thousand people were expected to attend the pride event. Our guide…

Romania's Charming Cities: A Photo Essay

One of the most pleasant surprises of my recent trip to Romania was visiting charming and photogenic small cities like Timisoara and Sibiu. These cities are a photographer’s dream. Although I would not consider myself a photographer (I was more into travel writing when I started my blog), I have to say that I took so many pictures in my travel to the Balkans. Now that I've had a bit of time to go through the photos and reflect on my visit to Romania, I realize that the photos help me remember everything in detail. Join me as I re-visit my tour to Timisoara and Sibiu Historic Center.

SibiuThe thick fortified wall and one of the towers along Strada Cetăţii are impressive. The remaining defense wall and four defense towers are the last parts of the third fortification ring built in medieval Sibiu in the 1300s. They were restored in the 60s.

Cobblestone streets lined with colorful houses.
Everybody likes to take a picture of archways, and there's plenty in this town. Notice the flow…

Serbia: A Travel Journal

The Road to BelgradeDo you like the Chinese Highway? asked our guide. We were on a bus ride from Sofia to Belgrade and had just crossed the Bulgarian/Serbian border.  Our guide tried to explain the Chinese connection in order to give us some background of Serbia's complex geopolitical history.  The airstrike by NATO in the late 1990s destroyed a portion of transportation infrastructure and industrial facilities in Serbia and fueled an anti-Western sentiment. Serbia looked to the east and tried to maintain an alliance with Russia and China.  China invested in the infrastructure of Serbia and became a great ally in the Kosovo dispute, one of the issues being negotiated over Serbia's acceptance into the European Union (another complex issue, but worthy of a mention because it kind of answer our question why the process of going through the Serbian border took longer.)

The bus ride was lovely, with a stretch of green flatlands and rolling hills and mountains. It was an exhilarat…

Sofia, Bulgaria

I consider myself blessed by the many beautiful religious places I’ve seen in my life - the Vatican, Jerusalem, and the Wailing Wall, the temples in Kathmandu, the Hassan II Mosque in Morocco, the Blue Mosque in Turkey, Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon and Bagan's more than 2000 temples, the Ling Yin Soul Retreat Temple in China - now there’s a new addition to the list: Rila Monastery and my new way of seeing things. WhenTurkish Airlines changed my connecting flights to Sofia, Bulgaria to a much earlier time that no one could not possibly make, I rebooked my flight to an earlier date.It gave me a chance to explore the city on my own before joining a group tour to the Balkans.I had another stroke of luck when out of the blue, I received an email from a travel buddy from my North African past two weeks before my trip.She happened to live and teach at Sofia University, so she gave me a list of things to see and do in Bulgaria.

Another thing about travel is meeting people with the same inter…