Tag Archives: cheap

The Belgrade Ballet (Belgrade National Theatre)

~B~

The National Theatre in Belgrade was originally built in 1869 and is a protected cultural monument in Serbia.  Located next to Republic Square, it’s unlikely you’ll visit Belgrade without seeing this grand building, but you should take advantage of what it has to offer inside as well!

THe belgrade serbia opera theater

For around $5-$10/person you can see a ballet, a drama, or even an opera within an extravagant looking theater. Between the quality and price (and therefore value), I’m surprised this isn’t recommended by more people as an activity in Belgrade. Maybe they just don’t know about it! I read somewhere that performances are subsidized to allow more people to enjoy art and culture in Serbia which makes sense because I was wondering how they could pay all the performers and theatre workers based on the admission fees and the capacity of theater. 

Isn't it grand?

After we arrived in Serbia we checked out what was playing and decided on Don Quixote (the ballet) because we both were familiar with the story which we felt would make it easier for us to follow. There are usually several options at any given time, though.

I believe you can purchase your tickets at the theater but we opted to get our’s online (you can get tickets here). You’ll need to create an account on the website and while we had some issues with the site at first, it’s fairly straightforward.

Ballet tickets

Unfortunately, when I asked someone to confirm the time (we used Kyle’s email to reserve the tickets), they did not read it correctly (I guess) which resulted in us arriving several hours early. At least it wasn’t a couple hours late! It was quite a long walk there so we weren’t going to walk back to our place only to return, so we went wandering. At this point I think we had already been to Republic Square and even maybe the fortress multiple times so we felt very free to explore wherever we pleased. It’s a nice area and we enjoyed checking out some lovely streets, a couple churches, and somewhere in there we opted to have dinner.

Manufaktura food

We ate at Manufaktura which was a pretty nice place and between the restaurant and the theater, it felt like a pretty classy date night!

Outside the theaterDate Night

After arriving to the theater and checking out the decor, we were directed by various people to the correct location.

Selfienear the entrance

This was a little slower than it could have been because the ushers/workers would talk to us in Serbian and we’d pretty much just stare blankly, occasionally squinting to attempt to understand something until they realized we didn’t understand. Then they would laugh and start speaking in English. While most people in general did not seem to know a ton of English (if any) in Serbia, most people at touristy (if you can call them that- we hardly saw any tourists there) places (like museums and such) speak English.

The doors in

Anyway, while we pretty much remained in our seats, it seemed that after everyone was seated, the seats were sort of flexible because we saw other people change locations a little bit (like maybe over a few seats or down a row, something along those lines- you wouldn’t suddenly be able to get the $10 seats if you are in a $5 seat because the entrance would be different). Our seats were a bit tilted forward which made it slightly uncomfortable until you realize that in those seats you want to lean forward a bit anyway. They were fairly comfortable but I have read others report that their seats were very comfortable and I imagine they might have been in a different part of the theater.

Beautiful Belgrade TheaterView from our Seats

The performance itself was professional and high-quality and we were quite happy with it. The performance (including the, I believe, 20 minute break) was around 2-3 hours.

Chandelier

We walked home in the rain and it was a very lovely evening.

Me at the Belgrade Ballet

Yogyakarta Sweets

~B + K~

Yogyakarta has a large number of cafes, bakeries and sweet shops. We only got a chance to visit a few of them, but we’ve got the run down on the ones we did. In this article, Kyle wrote about Jasmine Cakery and Briana wrote about Almond Bakery and Il Tempo Gelato (we figured we might as well combine the sweets here too).

Jasmine Cakery

The Jasmine Cakery is a nice little bakery and cake shop in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The store front is rather unimposing and I (Kyle) came across it while coming back from grabbing a few items from a nearby convenience store.

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Although the store itself is small, they carry a decent assortment of cakes, muffins, rolls, and breads. Most are priced at between 4000 and 10000 IDR (~$0.30 – $0.80) with a few of the cakes running up towards the 50,000 IDR range (~$3.70). As well, you can even order a custom cake, though it will cost a little bit more and you’ll have to wait of course.

I grabbed us three different items: a strawberry beetle; a orange marmalade pastry; and a chocolate roast pastry. All were pretty good, but I think we both agreed that the strawberry beetle was the best. The chocolate roast pastry had the ability to fill the entire room with it’s aroma when we brought it home.

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Baked goods

There were a few other specialty pastries in the shapes of fish and turtles.

Find it: Jl. Kyai Mojo No.89, Tegalrejo, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta. They’re open every day from 8am – 9pm. You can also order delivery online or view all their products at Jasmine Cakery.          

Almond Bakery Cake and Ice Cream

I initially located this bakery when I was examining the areas surrounding our Airbnb on GoogleMaps. We ended up passing it a few times before we ever made it inside- either because we were busy trying to get somewhere, had our hands full with groceries, etc.

Almond Bakery Cake and Ice Cream

One day Kyle declared he was in the mood for ice cream and we determined this was the closest place we might be able to find it. We made our way over (it was just over 1km away) and were delighted with what we found. There were all kinds of little cakes, pastries, rolls, sweet breads (and regular breads), and cakes.

Because the items were so cheap, we could go wild! There were many small cakes and rolls for about $0.20 each. Some were displayed in a refrigerated area and others were under little glass domes.

Choosing things
Some refrigerated items
Bear cupcakes
Rolls
Delicious

Fortunately, they did end up having pre-packaged ice cream in a freezer in the back as well. I chose vanilla chocolate chip while Kyle chose coconut (of course).

Ice Cream

We pretty much went around choosing little things which caught our fancy and ended up paying $2.31. You will also find some nicely decorated and quite reasonably priced cakes. I often like to pretend which cake I would get at these types of places if it were my birthday. I saw a group of young girls oohing some of them as well. After purchasing all of our baked goods and ice cream, we made our way to leave and I decided I wanted a bag of rolls for bread (for our peanut butter back home). This cost us 3000 Indonesian Rupiah ($0.22).

Inside of a cake

We enjoyed our ice cream on our walk back. Kyle also decided to break into the baked goods before we even made it back. Of course our walk was extended by various people saying hello. People are very friendly in Yogyakarta. They smiled and waved at us, asked us where we got our treats, where we were from etc.

Selection of Baked Goods

We made a stop to Almond Bakery on one other occasion. It was near the end of our stay and we did not have too much food left (and no sweets), so we though a trip to the bakery would do us some good. This time Kyle had his eyes set on a brownie package. To me, this did not seem to make the most sense as it cost a little more than many of the other items (I thought we might be able to get more value taking another route) but it did look quite good and would make it easier so we purchased the brownies for 43,380 ($3.21). The brownies had nuts inside and were quite good. It ended up working out perfect for us.

Brownies

Find it: If you google this place (along with the name of the city), you will also find an Almond Bakery Cake and Restaurant. I don’t think this is where we went because there was not a restaurant area there, but the other is likely owned by the same people. The address for Almond Bakery Cake and Ice Cream is Jl. Mayjen Sutoyo No.91, Mantrijeron, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta, Indonesia and they are open everyday from 5:30am-10pm (barring holidays). (If you type this into Googlemaps you will find the place we visited).

Il Tempo del Gelato

One night after I was nearly keeling over from being so full from dinner, Kyle decided he wanted some ice cream to finish off the meal. I thought maybe not, but it doesn’t usually take too much to convince me with ice cream, especially since we hadn’t gotten too much of it in the previous couple months. We knew there was a place easily within walking distance of the restaurant so decided to head there.

Il Tempo Gelato

Il Tempo del Gelato was a little busy that evening. I suspect it is busy often.

Il Temp de Gelato Inside

There were many different flavors such as nutella, pistachio, hazelnut, good time chocolate, matcha tea, crocounte, cinnamon, and spicy chocolate. Most of them looked appealing (and if not, interesting and probably appealing to someone).

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Gelato selection

It was a difficult choice, but I ended up with pralines, while Kyle chose chocolate chip coconut.

Chocolate coconut and praline gelato

This was another treat we enjoyed on our sort-of-long walk back to our place. While we occasionally got a little harassed because we were tourists, we generally felt pretty safe walking around in Yogya, even at night.

Walking with our Ice cream

The cost was 25,000 IDR per cone so it cost us 50,000 Indoneian Rupiah ($3.66) for two cones. IT was a little bit more than we would have preferred to pay, but was not too bad for a gelato outing.

Find it: Jl. Prawirotaman No. 43, Brontokusuman, Mergangsan, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Hours: 11am-9pm. Here is their Facebook page.

This is just a small selection of the treat places which are available in Yogyakarta but it was all we ended up trying/had time to try during our time in the city proper.

Temple of Literature

~K~

Near the southern edge of Hanoi’s Old Quarter lies the Temple of Literature. This temple dedicated to Confucius was built in 1070 CE, is featured on the back of the 100,000 Vietnamese Dong banknote.

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The compound is quite expansive, containing five courtyards and ponds. Visitors pay 30,000 Dong (~$1.50) each to enter and see the temple. If you want, you can purchase a map or get a guided tour for an extra fee. We elected to just wander around ourselves.

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Upon entering, you find the first courtyard stretching for several hundred feet, with gardens to the side. The design is simple, yet elegant. It is quite peaceful. At the end of the first courtyard, you cross through a gate, to which you will then enter the second courtyard.

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The second courtyard contains the “Constellation of Literature Pavilion”. The pavilion sits atop four white stilts, and is topped by red circular windows with an elaborate roof. A bronze bell hangs inside and is rung on special occasions. In this courtyard, as in the first, you can find topiaries of the twelve zodiac animals.

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Proceeding on, we found the third courtyard – the “Well of Heavenly Clarity”. This courtyard has a large square pond in the center, with two halls on the side housing treasures of the temple. As well, you can find the Stelae of Doctors. in 1484, the King Le Thanh Tong erected 116 blue stone carved turtles to honor talent and study. The temple has been used since it’s construction for the training of scholars and testing of public officials. Exams were taken here, and those that passed had their names engraved forever upon the stone turtles. People might take testing a bit more seriously today if our names were going to be engraved in a temple for people to see centuries later. Today 1307 graduates of 82 triennial royal exams have been marked, with 82 stelae still remaining.

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The fourth courtyard houses the Dai Thanh sanctuary. The sanctuary honors Confucius and his four closest disciples as well as ten honored philosophers. There are gift shops in this section of the temple, as well as few snacks to be purchased. There was also a display of instruments within the building. A few people were testing out the instruments. I ended up trying to play the Dan Bau on display (I don’t know if I was really allowed, but no one got mad, and someone there tried to show me the correct way – I gave up quick because it’s way harder than it looks) – Briana wasn’t happy with me getting on the stage and playing around up there. It’s been months since I played an instrument, and my fingers have been itching to play (probably because I just went on stage to play someone else’s instrument without asking them.)

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The fifth and final courtyard houses the large building with shrines within and a second floor dedicated to the three monarchs who contributed to the foundation of the temple and the academy. The courtyard also houses 25 dormitories, a store house, and a drum room.

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Although the temple itself is no longer used for it’s initial purposes, it still is used ceremoniously at times. The most notable of which is before Tet, during which calligraphists will make write good luck wishes Han characters and given away as gifts. Outside of the temple is a public park with many badminton courts to play on.

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The temple is a lovely way to spend an afternoon and well worth the visit. Allot yourself about an hour and half to do it justice and take it at an easy pace. There is a lot of walking to do considering the temple is very long and narrow.

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Bonsai Trees

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Cool Tree

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Rub the turtle for good luck.

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Hospital Cave

~K~

Hidden deep within the karst, limestone mountains of Cat Ba island lies a cave that remained hidden from outside eyes for many years. It served the Vietnamese as a secret hospital and safe house during the “American War” as they call. Today you can visit it easily.

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Hospital Cave

We made our way to Hospital Cave by what is quickly becoming our favorite method of transportation – motorbike. Our AirBNB host on the island rented us a bike for $6/day and we went out in pursuit of the once hidden cave. We picked up 2 liters of gas on the way out of tiny Cat Ba Town for an agreeable 40,000 Dong (~$2) and proceeded on our way. Compared to our trip out to Cu Chi Tunnels, this was a far easier ride. It was also a ride with gorgeous views.

Bike Ride there
Beautiful Cat Ba Island

Not counting the tiny side streets, Cat Ba really only has two main roads: one from Cat Ba Town in the south that cuts straight through the center of island and ends on the northern tip, and a second that connects to dock from Haiphong on the western tip of the island and follows the coast until it meets up with the first road. There are a few other service roads, but honestly you’d have a difficult time getting lost on the island roads if you tried.

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Hospital Cave is located near dead-center of the island on the central main road (I don’t think it actually has a name). Just as we crested a small hill, situated between two cliffs, we came across the sign for the caves. I actually overshot it, and had to turn around. Across the street from what appeared to be a hiking trail was a small cafe with parking, and here a few locals were selling tickets to the caves at 30,000 Dong each, for a total of 60,000 (~$3).

We dropped our bike and helmets and made our way up the short, but steep trail. The trail wound it’s way for a few hundred feet, and climbed about a hundred feet up, through rough rock, stairs, and a few rickety ladders. Before entering the caves, we took a few moments to see the valley we ascended from and saw pretty breathtaking scenery of rural and secluded Vietnamese life. The valley was very much enclosed by the rough cliffs rising abruptly, and it actually reminded me of Yosemite, though much more tropical.

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Climbing up to the caveView from Hospital Cave

Turning into the cave, we were greeted by a tour operator, who offered to give us a tour or let us wander through freely. Ultimately, we decided to just wander in and explore the caves ourselves. The caves are pretty well lit throughout and easy enough to explore on your own. Though if you want a tour guide to help explain a few things for you, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to accept the guide’s offer.

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The cave was constructed in 1963 and 1965 as a secret hospital. It consisted of 17 rooms, all of which now stand eerily empty. Walking through the rooms, every step and sound echoes and booms. I can only imagine how bad it would have sounded during the war, with patients screaming in agony. However, due to it’s location deep within the mountain, it remained safe from even the most powerful of bombs (not that it needed to prove it – it was never found). Continuing on through the chambers, we came into a grand natural cavern that towered almost a hundred feet over head and could easily have held a couple hundred people. This chamber was actually used as a cinema and there was even a small swimming pool there (though currently it is drained). The cave remained in constant use until 1975.

Exploring the caves
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We spent a few minutes exploring the cavern before heading back down into the hospital chambers. We were the only ones in there to the time and the place was fairly large. It was really fun and exciting to explore the place just on our own and by ourselves. We were able to choose which directions to go inside. Eventually we made our way forward until we came to a point where we could start to see natural light again. Stepping out, we found ourselves on a small opening in an alcove of the cave. We had made it to the other side of the mountain. This part of the mountain seemed to be a little less hidden than the main entrance, but among these mountains, it’s easy for everything to remain hidden. We made our way down a few dozen stone steps, and walked a little further until we came of the jungle path nearly where we began. We jumped back on our bike and continued on through the island.

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We thought this was a really awesome place to explore! (It is one of Briana’s favorite activities we have done so far while traveling).