Two Cities in One – “Buda and Pest”!!
I took the 10am train to Budapest from Zagreb (they have two trains everyday. One at 10am and the other at 2.30pm (this one takes longer, about 8hrs)). The train was delayed for about 2 hours but there was no info. update on the status of the train, I kept pacing trying to find the new time of departure. I went to the information desk and I asked “what time is the train to Budapest scheduled to arrive?” The lady responded “10am, it’s 100minutes delayed”. At this point, it was way past 10am – it’s11am now. So I’m like what’s the new estimated time of arrival/departure? And she says 10am, go to platform 2. Clearly things operate differently in different countries.
Moral of the story – if you’re going via train, just wait at the platform because the train can just show up at anytime from the scheduled time of departure with no announcements or update to the information display. Luckily for me, I noticed that some of the folks I met going to Budapest weren’t in the waiting area anymore, so I went to the platform and guess what?? The train was there, ready to depart. No announcement guys. Anyways, the train ticket costs between 37-50 euros for one way.
You can also take the bus to Budapest at 5.30pm by OrangeWays – it is way cheaper and a shorter travel time. I didn’t know there was a bus until I met some folks who I met in Split, who told me that they were taking the bus to Budapest. Anyways, I was given a free train ticket by 3 Australians I shared a room with while in Split. It was cheaper for them to buy a round trip ticket to Budapest, so they gave me the second half since they weren’t going to use it. God bless them. I wasn’t sure if I could use the ticket but I was able to – Hooray.
I chose to take the train because I wanted to experience a different view – I had been traveling on buses throughout my entire trip. There’s some kind of serenity associated with train rides than bus rides – the train went through the farmlands and the ride was pure bliss. I’m able to think and reflect better in trains than on the bus. It was another rainy day, so the view was wet but still very peaceful. Anywhoos, I made it into Hungary and my Schengen was fine.
Where I visited:
When I got to Budapest, I was wowed. Totally not what I expected. I can’t explain to you what I expected but in my opinion, Budapest is the Paris of Western Europe and NYC of the United States (without the skyscrapers). Did you expect that? Budapest has a great nightlife, diversity of restaurants, shopping, diversity of the districts, you name it. All I kept saying was this city is HUGGEEE and I am not exaggerating. The buildings are ginormous and the streets are wide – you definitely can’t compare walking the blocks in NYC to the streets in Budapest. SIGH
Anyways I got in about 6:30pm and arrived at Déli train station. I had no idea where I was because my hostel directions did not mention anything about this station. So I came out and changed some money. Then I saw the local metro station. So I’m thinking lemme take the train but to where? I definitely wasn’t trying to take a taxi because I didn’t want to get ripped off. Then I remembered I could roam with my tmobile phone in Hungary – I put in the address on Google maps and the rest was history. The train ride costs 350HUFs (their local currency).
Where I stayed:
I stayed in the Pest side of Budapest (I bet you didn’t know that). I got to my hostel and immediately asked if they had a Thai restaurant in Budapest. The answer was “yes, there’s a really good one right around the corner”. That totally made my day. I stayed at Carpe Noctem Vitae. It is a nice hostel but definitely a full time party hostel – if you’re all about partying in Budapest, this is one of the hostels to stay. I enjoyed my stay there but the staff didn’t know much about non party/drinking related activities. BTW the Thai restaurant which is called Parász was really good (my greedy self ordered two dishes, almost like I was food starved the past weeks). Don’t Judge Me. My first night in Budapest was exploring the Ruin Pubs. The pubs in the ruins district were very fascinating, weirdly decorated, interesting, and of course huge. This is definitely unique to Budapest
I managed to wake up at 10am the next day after the “epicness” of the night before. I took my map and started walking around the city – around District 6 and 7. At 2pm, I went for a free walking tour of the city – the tour meets in front of the basilica, they also have a 10:30am tour. We explored the Buda side of town and visited the main tourist sites there. After 3hours on the tour, I continued exploring the town on my own. I basically just wandered the streets, getting “geographically displaced” and navigating my way gradually to my next point of interest. That evening, I felt like eating Indian food for dinner so I looked up best Indian restaurants and I found myself at Kashmir restaurant. I didn’t mention that I saw an Indian restaurant earlier called Indigo but I thought it was a little expensive, so I didn’t go inside. I also didn’t mention that it took me about an hour to find Kashmir restaurant because I was lost in Budapest – I kept walking in circles and squares. Eventually I found the restaurant and the food was more expensive than it was at Indigo (bummer right?). But I was so tired and hungry, I didn’t have a choice at that point. The service at Kashmir was good, ambiance nice but the food was just okay to me. I probably shouldn’t be comparing Indian food I eat in NYC to the one in Budapest. After dinner, I headed back home and got geographically displaced again. The good thing though – I got to see the Chain Bridge at night with all the lights (it was beautiful).
On my way back, something happened. A man dressed in a blue suit signaled at me with map (I’m also holding a map, bloody tourist). He says he’s looking for a bank and he points to the map. So I said, I can’t help you because I’m also trying to find my way and I’m here visiting (I guess that was quite obvious with my map in hand). He asked if I was a tourist too, then he says he’s Italian and mentioned he was looking for a bank to change money (or something like that, I honestly wasn’t listening to him). I kept saying I don’t get what you’re saying and I can’t help. Suddenly two other guys surround us (myself and the “Italian” man) and they said “we are police men, show us your passports” (oh they weren’t wearing uniform), flicking their torch lights really fast as though they were showing me their police ID but I couldn’t see anything. So they asked what I was doing with the man and if we exchanged money. I said no, I don’t know the man, he just asked me for directions. They asked us to open our wallets. The man opens his wallet and they inspect the dollars he had, then they checked my bag and didn’t see any money there (big lesson I’ve learned while traveling, don’t carry cash. I go to ATMs for withdrawal as needed, in case I get jumped). After the search, they let us go. Oh did I mention that they said they had been following the man?? What was funny was after they released us, the man went to a corner, popped out a cigarette and carried on with his life, and the guys kept walking. It all just seemed shady to me. Anyways, I’m glad nothing crazy happened. BTW, this event took place under 7mins. I got back to my bed and I totally passed out – I was very exhausted.
The next day Sunday, I looked up things to do in Budapest from this Visit Budapest website and went to eat breakfast/lunch at Kiado Kocsma. I had traditional Hungarian Goulash soup – it was really good and not expensive, I definitely recommend for Hungarian food. After eating, I walked to the Parliament and on to Falk Miksa utca (street with antique shops), walked around District 5 and 6 through Városligeti faso utca and walked down Andrássy to Heroes Square to the Széchenyi bath. Budapest is also famous for it’s baths- they have a lot of them in the city, be sure to visit one. My hostel works with the Széchenyi Bath, so I decided to go there. I got the bath and 30 mins massage package for about $40. When I got to the bath, I was told I needed to make an appointment for the massage, so I couldn’t do a walk-in and was booked for an appointment the next day (ensure that your hotel or hostel calls the bath to make a reservation for a massage, no reservations needed for the baths). I visited the House of Terror museum and all I can say is WOW. So I walked back the main streets to District 8 and just wandered around town, then I linked my way back to the Thai restaurant I mentioned above on Király Utca. After dinner, I joined the hostel for another wild night out exploring the city.
I woke up earlier the next day, so I could get a quick start to my day and also make my 3pm massage appointment, which requires you to be there 40mins prior. I walked to Mikszáth Ter (cute little street with restaurants) in District 8. This part of town is less touristy, has tons of restaurants and a more chilled vibe. I made my way to Ráday utca and this street was just beautiful – filled with restaurants with outdoor sitting. Then I went to the Grand Market and walked my way back to Kós Károly sétány where the spa bath is located. When I got inside the building I was amazed. The baths have huge pools, thermal baths, saunas, etc, everything in Budapest is huge anyways. I went for my massage and then indulged in the thermal baths. I stayed there for about 5hours moving from one bath to the other.
While there, I met two Italian guys who kept me company. They were so nice, they even gave me an open invitation to their town in Italy. Funny thing is I met a lot of Italians in Budapest (apparently it’s cheap for them to fly out there). At one point, I was even surrounded by 6 semi naked Italian men having convos. We were all talking about our trips in Italian ( well they spoke Italian and I responded in English. Don’t ask me how I understood what they said). One of the guys spoke Spanish, so we talked in Spanish for the most part. At about 7pm, the workers closed some parts of the bath and sent us to the front area. At about 8pm, we left the bath. I went to dinner at Funky Pho Vietnamese restaurant close to where I stayed. The food was good. It was not the tastiest Pho but definitely good. I was supposed to meet up with the Italians guys later but I was so exhausted and felt really sick. I decided to stay in and rest. I showered and packed my bags ready for my departure the next day.
My flight was at 11am with a 7am layover in Vienna (Please never do long layovers arghh). I left for the airport at about at about 8:15am with my roomie via public transport. I made it in good time for my flight and that was it for Budapest and my trip.
Bitter sweet moments ending my trip but I had to get back to my unknown reality. I had an amazing time in these countries and I cannot wait to go back to explore more countries in Eastern Europe. But before then, I think Southeast Asia is next.
Here are some things I did different on this trip:
1. Purchased a random round trip – I had no real itinerary for my days, I was going with the flow. I got my RT ticket and I was going to plan as I reached my destination
2. Packed clothes I didn’t care for and a few cute ones – I took simple shirts, jeans and tights. I also packed only 2 shoes (my faithful TOMS and sneakers)
3. I purchased my toiletries at my destination – I’m a sucker for my own products but I figured 3+ weeks off them won’t kill me. I still took my essentials but I dropped the lotion and shower gel
4. First trip traveling for more than 2 weeks backpacking (well not literally but with a suitcase) – I usually travel for 1 or 2 weeks max, this is the first time I traveled for a month. My next major trip would be 2 or more months.
5. Blogged on the go – I really tried to blog on the go, which was good and also a pain. I also didn’t bring my laptop which made it harder to blog but overall it has saved me some time.
6. I usually do this but just thought to throw it out there. I did my expenses and I spent a total of $1620 on this trip (flights, accommodation, transport, food, shopping, etc)