Friday, June 27, 2008

Plaka, Athens, Greece

At last, I can sit down and write on my travel in Greece. After being away for 13 days, it took some time to get back into groove. Not so much the jet-lag but other matters like tons of e-mail to plough through and piles of old newspapers to catch up on what has happened back home while I was away.

I took this trip with my wife and two other lady friends. This was not the usual package tour so there was no local guide to accompany us for the trip. The flight to Greece was by Gulf Air from KLIA to Athens via Bahrain. The flight from KLIA to Bahrain took 7 1/2 hours. Since the connecting flight to Athens was in the next morning, Gulf Air provided the hotel for an overnight stay in Bahrain with dinner and breakfast thrown in. Had a walk around near the hotel (Bahrain International) in the old town center and found nothing special. It was more like Little India with lots of gold and jewellery and clothing shops run by Indians. The hotel room was spacious but very noisy at night with many well-endowed ladies moving around and the staff was unfriendly so this hotel is not recommended (unless you are fascinated by well-endowed ladies!)
The flight to Athens the next morning took 4 hours and we finally arrived at Athens at 2pm. You need one Euro to release a trolley so if you need one, get your Euro coin ready. We were greeted at the arrival hall by 2 taxi drivers (2 persons to a taxi) holding our names in the placard so we were like VIP's for our transfer to the hotel. After being so used to the greenery back home, I was surprised at the barren hills surrounding Athens. There were also no high-rise buildings and I later learned that this is because they did not want the Acropolis to be obstructed by any man made structures.

(If you plan to dine or shop at the Athens Hard Rock Cafe, remember to pick up the free Athens Map at the airport; the Hard Rock Cafe ad entitles you to 10% discount at their Athens store.)

We were booked into Baby Grand Hotel, a 5-star boutique hotel. The decor and the reception is very unique, see photos below.

The hotel is located near Omonia Square, the old commercial centre. After a short rest, we walked down to Plaka, the tourist centre of the town. There we had the first glimpse of the Acropolis (from a distance) while the ladies did a lot of window shopping among the many tourist shops there. On the way to Plaka, we passed the Central Market and we stopped to buy some fruits at the stores outside. There were quite a variety and some were much cheaper than back home. I bought 1 kilo of strawberries for 1 euro and 1 kilo of cheeries for 1.6 euro and we ate to our full. A bit of advice, don't buy your strawberry and take it for your walking tour, it'll get squashed by its own weight with all the swinging during the walking.

Since the evening was free, we decided to go on a local tour - Athens by night - so we had a quick snack (club sandwich at 2.4 euro, a bargain at Everest, a fast-food chain) since the tour includes a Greek dinner at a tavern in Plaka. The coach took us from Athens to Piraeus, the harbour and surroundings and had a photo stop at Mikrolimano, a picturesque bay. The main part of the tour was actually the Greek dinner at Plaka with Greek music and dances.

There was a lot of fun when some of the audience were roped in towards the end to join in the dancing. At the end of the show, the coach dropped us at the hotel and I had a much needed sleep at midnight.

Ronald Kwok

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