Athens, Greece


Greece, the birthplace of European civilization. The beginning of the sciences, the arts, philosophy, and democracy.

Do you know where the idea of using an owl to represent a teacher came from? Athens. The owl was a symbol of the Goddess Athena, who represented wisdom.


First thing first, the Acropolis.

It towered over the entire city centre and so all one needed to do was to walk up the hill. You wouldn’t need to climb to one of the other hills for a photo like this (indeed that’d be a bit too far), as the best spot was actually very close to the entrance to it (halfway up the hill), with a massive group of rocks acting as a platform for the perfect picture.

This was pictured from another angle though.


This was taken from the giant pile of rocks.


Zeus’s temple from afar.


The other side was under construction.


A Greek-style theatre, one of the two near the Acropolis.


A functioning theatre – I believe this was of a more Roman style, as there was a wall blocking the view.


One of the more complete structures in the Acropolis.


On the left, it’s female statues acting as pillars.


The back of one of the most recognizable buildings in the world.


A clearer view of the girls.


There was no theatre in town (one would have to go for an afternoon trip that ends at 2am or something), so I settled for an opera. It’s not on every day so you’d have to go check. It’s possible to just go before 9pm and buy a ticket. Maybe not the best seats. Free seating based on zones.

Awfully hot.


It was a pretty terrible experience actually. I couldn’t really figure out what they were doing in the story, up there the people were very small, there’s no English subtitles (it’s all in Greek), it’s very hot, the seats were very uncomfortable, and the speakers didn’t always work…Very often the singing just got cut off.

I left after two hours during the intermission.


In Athens, you can either choose to buy the tickets separately, or you can buy a combo that includes seven sites (you can visit each of them once), all but one in the downtown within walkable distance.

This was a big marketplace back then. It now houses several things including this museum. It’s got plenty of busts.


Climbing up the hill, you see this.


After walking for around 15 minutes, you get to the supreme god’s temple.


Or rather, what’s left of it…


View from another hill.


Hadrian’s Library as you walk up to the Acropolis. This closed at 3pm.


The first stadium of modern Olympics. Skip if you don’t have the time or the will to get there.


The observatory on one of the nearby hills.




Tower of the Winds. The Radcliffe Observatory tower in Green Templeton College Oxford was modelled after this.

Not very tall or elaborated, but then it’s Roman.


If you aren’t getting the combo, it may not be worth going at all, especially when you can see the whole thing from outside the gates.


Hadrian’s Library. I don’t get why it’s closed so early when everything else was 5pm or 8pm.


The hill opposite to the Acropolis.


I took an Uber from the centre to what’s left of Plato’s Academy.


It’s literally mostly just grass and honestly I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. They didn’t even have signs.


I think only one of these things might have been a part of The Academy, but I couldn’t figure out which one was it.

It’s free entry so I guess that’s OK.


Aristotle’s school was a bit better maintained. It’s included in the combo.


But this was basically it.


The Byzantine Museum, a nice building next to the above. Entry not included for this one.


Socrates’s prison. Free entry. You can just walk around the hill below the Acropolis and see things like this. There are no signs though so you’d need to know where you’re going based on the map on the main path outside.

Moscow, Russia


Raketa. Stainless steel. Made in Russia. Oldest factory in Russia, founded near Saint Petersburg by HIM Tsar Peter the Great. Worn by Soviet astronauts, Stalin, and Putin. Automatic mechanical movement. 200m water resistant.

Purchased from an official store in Red Square.


Moscow has always been a place I wanted to visit, for I’m fond of the unique Russian architecture and the stories from history.

This is the seat of power, from Red Square looking at the Kremlin. Lenin’s body, which btw looked very fake and wax-like, is in the little pyramid building. You aren’t allowed to take photos or even stay to observe it. It’s only opened 10am-1pm and there’s always a long queue. Free.


The cathedral. I actually went in for my first orthodox mass. The service was relatively short, with everyone standing facing a gated part I assumed to be an “altar”. The priests often went into the door behind that area and went out with something. Lots of people walking around kissing pictures of saints on the wall while all of these were ongoing.

Then people put their arms on their chest in a cross and one by one walked to the priest to consume the body and blood of Messiah Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, the Son of Man, the Son of God. They all shared the same gigantic cup and long spoon. No touching of any kind, and they didn’t hold the fresh with their hands.

I was very tempted to go, but I thought perhaps they’d just kick me out for being a fraud.

There were some benches just outside the main hall, so I just sat there for a bit before walking into Kremlin.


On the way to the walls of the Kremlin complex (from the cathedral), I was greeted by a giant statue of St Vladimir Putin.

But in between, there was a broad avenue and it was difficult to figure out how to get to the walled city exactly.


On the left, there was this raised magnificent building. It was from the side of the road one could get to the library and eventually the tunnel to the gardens outside of the walls.


I don’t recommend going into the walled city of Kremlin at all – one of the biggest tourist traps I’ve been to.

First of all, there are many charges. To go into anything, there’s an additional charge. There’s a general charge which you need to ask the box office about, and it doesn’t really include anything.

Secondly, it was packed with tourists. The box office was rather chaotic and it took quite a bit of time entering it because all the tour groups just gathered there and the staff prioritize them (they would just shout at you in Russian if you’re not in a group). Then there’s a security check that further slows down the flow.

Moreover, it’s not that big. The buildings weren’t that impressive (and actually some could be seen from the outside) and the interiors weren’t anything special.


You can always pretend to be in a group and walk in with other people without paying though.


Where His Excellency President Putin works. Minimal guards.


Red Square.


The other side of the Square. This one’s a museum.


One of the most beautiful structures I’ve ever seen, and definitely the most unique one. I have always wanted to see this. It’s smaller but more colourful than the copy in Saint Petersburg.


The areas beyond the Square were nice too.


One of the parks outside downtown. This one has monuments from different parts of the Soviet Union.


Even though more than half of the park was under construction (including this one, actually), I still got to see some very beautiful ones.


As well as certain interesting ones like this one.


This park was next to the museum that has a rocket monument at the top.

One of the evenings, I went on a bike tour with my Couchsurfing host and we saw different lakes and parks and one building shaped as an astronaut.


Before I left Moscow, I went back to the Square to see Lenin and buy my watch.


The mall where I bought my watch.

I ate around the area, too. Some restaurants were really cheap. In general, Russia was pretty cheap.


The back of the church. Unfortunately it was closed when I went.

Personally, I preferred Moscow over St Petersburg, because Moscow had various styles of architecture and was uniquely Russian.

Peterhof, Russia


Peterhof/Petergof is another place that doesn’t get to keep a Russian name. It means Peter’s court in German/Dutch. Peter of course the same one who founded SPb.


Apparently the Tsar designed this to troll people.


There are multiple “palaces” in the complex. “Palace” because they are generally quite tiny.


Peterhof is most famous of its fountain system which basically runs itself. But apparently it may fail soon. This waterway leads all the way to the sea.


During the Second World War, when Hitler was driving into the Soviet Union, they tried moving as many treasures from here to the cathedral in SPb as possible. And buried some.

They recovered most of them except the most famous one in the middle of this. This isn’t the original one as a result.


There are many, many fountains all over.


No, it’s not Norway yet.


Free area in the upper garden. I took the railway then a bus to the upper garden – quite easy to do that actually. Then I walked down to the lower garden and took the ferry.


There were also numerous trick fountains and the children loved them.

Ireland (Dublin and beyond)


I came here to avoid meeting Their Catholic Majesties The King and Queen of Spain, who were visiting Exeter College the same day I flew.


Galway Bay. Very close to the inspiration to Ed Sheeran’s “Galway Girl”.

Bus driver said the song wasn’t realistic when it mentioned a Galway falling for an Englishman.

He also told us he was detained in the United States for asking “any craic” (craic = fun, ie “what’s up”). 


Weather wasn’t very good, unfortunately. It’s not rainy or anything, but the Sun didn’t really come out.


The General Post Office. The museum was definitely worth going. So inspiring.

The GPO was the headquarters of the rebels during the failed 1916 Easter Uprising.

At the time, Ireland was debating home rule – whether to be autonomous, or be directly governed by Westminster. The United Kingdom was set to grant it, but the First World War put a pause on it – the republican movement was non-existent and Dublin was quite pro-British. In fact, many Irishmen volunteered to join WWI, fighting for the British Empire.

Ireland, including Northern Ireland, was around 0.8% of the total population of the Empire, and despite being in a general war, Britain still had plenty of military resources for this side of the British Isles.

A very small group of revolutionaries, armed with firearms from Germany, occupied certain major buildings in downtown Dublin, with practically zero public support.

In the beginning of the uprising, Dubliners despised the group, spat on them and all that. There was even a woman who marched into the GPO, telling them off, saying they had no mandate to do any of that.

Her Majesty’s government responded with an iron fist, sending a disproportionate amount of forces into what is now the Irish capital. They destroyed much of the city centre during the week, and still couldn’t best this tiny team of unsupported militia.

Public opinion, magically, started to stray. By the end of the week, when the occupants surrendered, republicanism became the majority and home rule was destined to be DOA.


I went on a tour to the Cliffs of Moher.

A bit disappointed actually. Very, very foggy. Also very windy. Little rocks kept hurting me.

Should’ve gone for the NI tour.


Feeling like Harry Styles.


One of Dublin’s landmarks, the Spire. It’s very tall but out of place.


Now you don’t see me!


The river.


Dublin Castle. Didn’t look like one.


Near the cliffs.


The cliffs just go on and on and on like it’s chained to the rhythm.


Ethical. Got it in my first go anyway.


Trinity College Dublin.


Cardiff, Wales (+ Doctor Who Experience)


Cardiff! Honestly I went just so I could say I’d been to Wales, and also for Doctor Who Experience.


Near Doctor Who Experience is Cardiff Bay, where Torchwood was filmed. This is a memorial forced on to the council by the public for Ianto.

That font though…


There are basically two sides of Cardiff. One is this side with the historical buildings, and then there’s the other side, coming up very soon…


The Shire of Ianto Jones.

People started posting stuff up there after Ianto Jones’s unfortunate death. The council wanted to remove it but caved it in the end.


Doctor Who Experience is called as such because it’s not just a museum, but essentially an episode in itself. Whilst some may laugh at the unnatural acting of the “curator”, it’s still quite fun. Not to mention you do get to a museum in the end.

I bought lots of souvenirs, including a TARDIS clock.


Downtown Cardiff. They had a bike thing that’s why.


Cardiff Castle. Not as built up as I thought it would be, but still cool.

The keep on the right was disappointing as it’s empty inside. Was expecting it to be a bit more like the Red Keep.

It’s good that I can read some Spanish now, because the English signs are always occupied. When the Spanish ones weren’t available either, I went for the Japanese ones.


I literally couldn’t recognize it so sunny. In Torchwood, it’s almost always raining. Couldn’t get to the perception filter.


The inside of a real-life TARDIS in the museum!

No, we couldn’t touch anything…


Help! I’m trapped in a Dalek!

I am not a Dalek.

I am a Dalek.










Going back to the nice part of the town.

Newport seemed cool too, btw. But I didn’t take any photos.

People were nice. I walked from the city to Cardiff Bay but I didn’t want to walk back, so I asked the staff if I could get on even though my ticket was from Cardiff city. And he was fine with it.

Rome, Italy


Rome, where the Roman Republic/Empire started. Coincidentally, also my favourite historical city. It has everything I like – impressive, imperial buildings, ancient ruins, and everything’s reasonably close.

The structure above was my absolute No 1 in the metropolis. It’s extraordinarily well-maintained and you can go on it and get a marvellous view of the city.




It was awfully hot though – around 35 degrees. Would probably have died had there not been literally water fountains everywhere downtown!

But it was so hot that despite the fact that I kept drinking and drinking water, I never really needed to go to the loo.


The complex looked much better in the evening with the lights, even though it might have been more difficult to take good photos of them.


Rome is a highly walkable city (you’d need to be a big walker tho), ever if you want to walk from the central station (where I stayed) all the way to the Vatican and back. It’s quite a nice walk too, with all the unique and stylish ancient buildings at every corner.


One thing that stood out to me was the atmosphere in the city. The archaeological sites had all aged quite a bit, and they were all ruins beyond repair. Yet, Rome still felt like very much the seat of an empire, albeit one that had fallen a long, long time ago.

On another note, they projected videos and images on to some of the walls and that was cool.


Still an impressive building but didn’t look as good as it was in the evening.


The trouble with visiting Rome is that once you’ve got there, you won’t find Athens that special…


The churches are all empty, btw. Very cool tho so good to visit during a heat wave.


Apparently Italians are exceptionally sceptical of air-conditioning, so you can’t expect to have that in most places.


Amsterdam, North Holland, The Netherlands


A’dam, the Venice of the west, film location of The Fault In Our Stars.


Even though they didn’t have big, impressive architecture, I still quite liked it for its unique style (not just the canals).

I took a Megabus from London – Europe-bound we were on a train type of thing; coming back we were on a cruise-like thing. As far as I could tell, no refugees got in with us. We had to get off in Calais and there’s also a Rotterdam stop.


Like the Cambodians, some Dutch residents live on the water, except their homes are much nicer. To me, it feels very public tho.

And yes, I did try smoking marijuana for the very first time. Or smoking anything actually. It did nothing to me but I might’ve done it wrong, as I might not have inhaled much due to the smoke choking me.


In general, it felt like an extraordinarily young city, even though it wasn’t. Even its coat of arms, with the XXX looked very modern, but it wasn’t.

The entire city wasn’t like this, by the way – this was downtown, and there was still large parts of Amsterdam outside of this (even though it’s a bit uneventful).


The cathedral was the only old-looking building but the interior looked extremely modern as well (no pic).


Boom clap.

I went to the Anne Frank’s house but didn’t go in after seeing the exorbitantly long line. Ain’t nobody got time for that.


The houses in the city centre were all very narrow.


My first time seeing something like that I think, and then I discovered how common they were in Mexico.


The symbol of The Netherlands – think it was the only one in the city.


The red light district. They were some women behind the doors and some other establishments. 

Bournemouth, England


Bournemouth is a coastal city in southern England, very cheap to go from Oxford by Megabus (£6). It’s also where Mary Shelley was buried.


One of the main things to do in the city is to walk along to the river all the way to the sea.

I got an interpretation gig and booked my tickets due to the agent saying in her experience, they don’t get cancelled. It was cancelled. I went just as a tourist anyway.


It’s also very close to Poole and a peninsula, where you can just chill on the beach. The sea is no Caribean though.


I think this used to be in London.


It’s very close to the Jurassic Coast, but unfortunately I didn’t know about it. Perhaps I will go in the future.

Leeds, Yorkshire, England


Despite not being the county capital, Leeds is by far the largest city in Yorkshire. This, along with the fact that it’s got several big historical buildings built when it was filled with coal money (see Billy Elliot for what happened to it), and I guess also that it’s usually quite cold, makes it the real-life Winterfell.

It wasn’t a terribly eventful place, but good enough for a short excursion to the north. The buses were hella confusing though: we kept trying to pay but not sure how. As it turned out, there’s a staff selling tickets to you after everyone’s on the bus, but since it was so incredibly packed, he never managed to get to us.


One of the malls even had real reindeer! None of them had a red nose tho.

Instead of staying in a proper place, we were a bit more adventurous and stayed at a bathhouse (they’ve got actual rooms). I will spare you the juicy details of our night, but it was quite unsettling the next day, when we learned that the cars parked outside were all smashed  – an actual hate crime – and that the establishment increased security due to a homophobic attack (literally a mob trashed the reception) a few years back. So I guess it was also a bit like King’s Landing.

The Oxonian Experience (Part 2 of Oxford), England


The biggest benefit of living in Oxford – you get to meet Prof Richard Dawkins fairly often.


This is part 2 of Oxford city. The post will focus on the life of residing in Oxford, rather than just introducing the sights.

This is of course not going to be a comprehensive guide, and I don’t have the photos to demonstrate everything (some intentionally withheld as I don’t want to post photos where my friends’ faces are visible).


The typical applicant may start their Oxonian experience by going to an open day. Staff and current students work on the days as helpers and we get a free exclusive Oxford-branded t-shirt as a gift.

There are many different information sessions so you will need to do your research before getting there, as even walking through the city looking at the buildings would cost you the entire day.


Congratulations! You have been accepted and you have met your offer!

After your first week, you are expected to show up for matriculation, the official ceremony that makes you a member of the University. You have to do it in your first two terms or you’re sent down. If you are a graduate who has attended Cambridge, Trinity College Dublin, or Oxford as an undergraduate, you go for the aforementioned incorporation route instead. Basically, you don’t do anything and you get an instant degree just by living another day.

Us matriculants, with our gowns – either the commoner’s gown for undergrads or the advanced students’ gown for grads – wait our turn to sit in the Sheldonian Theatre. The latter gown is a full version of the former. You will need your gown for many events, such as certain dinners at your college, your graduation, your examinations (if you do one at the Examination Schools in person), your viva (if you’re a doctoral candidate), the honorary degree ceremony (if you manage to get a ticket), and if unfortunately you are being disciplined.

The mortarboard/cap is a controversial part of this. Many say you don’t wear it before you’ve graduated, but that’s just a myth. In reality, no-one cares when you’re outdoors, and traditionally, you’re only asked to take it off indoors (if you’re a man) before it’d be improper for a man to wear a hat indoors.


After the ceremony, you go to your college and take individual and group photos. And you eat.

You don’t just walk around with your gown, but with your sub-fusc. In Latin, it means dark brown; at Oxford, it means this – shirt with black trousers/skirts (with a suit if you’re a man), white or black bowtie, or black necktie (white bows are the traditional and most common one), or a black ribbon if like Shania Twain, you feel like a woman (you don’t have to actually be a woman to go for the traditionally feminine rendition of this). If you don’t want the cap, you wear a soft cap (feminine alternative) – but you can’t take it off if you choose that option. Very, very few people go for a soft cap.

If you don’t have the correct attire, you can actually be denied entry. Your college may ask you to buy something on the spot, or maybe someone will be able to lend you something.


A big part of student life is to go to the Oxford Union.

The Oxford Union is not the students’ union but a debating society. It has produced many prominent politicians such as some British prime ministers, the first female prime minister in the Islamic world, as well as other people like Secretary Boris Johnson, former mayor of London.

Many famous people, such as Shakira, Michael Jackson, Stephen Fry, Sir Ian McKellan, and President Dilma of Brazil have spoken at the Union.

If you’re very keen, you may participate in student politics here. If you’re active enough, you may get the title “union hack”.

I never really cared for the union but I was a representative for social sciences graduates at the Oxford University Student Union (used to be called OUSU, now Oxford SU). I sat on the University’s Social Sciences Board, Social Sciences Graduate Studies Committee, and Social Sciences Library Committee. It was an extremely interesting experience.


After that, you will probably start going into other colleges just to sightsee. This was from Hertford College.


Then you will also need to study. This was taken in the library of the OUP.


How about some sports? Not good at sports? Don’t worry!

There’s always quidditch. Yes, the one from Harry Potter. It’s for everyone.


Along with my other stuff, I volunteered a lot.

I was the coordinator and English tutor at St Gregory’s The Great Catholic School for the Schools Plus programme at Oxford Hub. I was a trainer and active listener at Oxford Nightline. I was a mentor at IntoUniversity.

As a member of Hong Kong Round Table, I joined Oxford Round Table as a guest member and helped them out with the annual Fawkes’s night bonfire and fieworks.


We had to build it up very tall. 


Some people just like to watch the world burn.


You probably will join societies and attend events.

This was a talk with the Chancellor of the University, The Rt Hon Lord Patten, advisor to His Holiness The Pope, former chairman of the Conservative and Unionist Party, former Secretary of State, former European Commissioner, former chairman of the BBC Trust, and of course the last governor of Hong Kong.

That was an event organized by the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA). It was free to join during freshers’ week.


Inevitably, you will want to try punting. It’s quite physical and not that easy, but still fun.

Lots of ducks.


If you’re a graduate student, you may also do some graduate stuff like making an academic presentation.

I was presenting my research on Ed Ball’s Day.


If you’re lucky, you can see a day of snow!

Needless to say, there are many student parties but I’m not going to post any of those photos. They are called “bops”.


To make a tiny little bit of money, you can also volunteer at your college. This was me stealing a Master of Arts as a helper. We had a graduation ceremony that day.


I got a ticket to the encarnia, the honorary degree ceremony! Dame Hilary Mantel was honored there.


Towards the end of the year, you get to the balls’ season. (There are balls throughout the year but most of them are in May/June.)

I went to my college’s ball and pictured above was at Magd’s ball. Some balls are black tie, few are white. The white ones are more expensive and more formal. Different colleges do different things, but it’s basically a night of excessive drinking until 3am.


Gay pride. LGBT History month is a big thing at Oxford with many colleges flying the rainbow flag, even some of the religious PPHs.


In the end, you graduate.

I actually missed my own ceremony – we can delay for however long we want, but I didn’t want to wait, and I didn’t realize there were ceremonies during the summer as well, so I opted to graduate in absentia.

I went back this summer partly to take photos. Different degrees get different colours on the hood, and different levels of degree get different types of gown.


That’s Keble College. I thought it was absolutely beautiful from the inside, but back in the days, people hated it. St John’s College has/had this thing to steal one brick from Keble at a time until it collapses (it was built on John’s land).


If you have a bike, you will need to secure it. Oxford and Cambridge are the Top 2 cities in the nation for bike theft.


My department’s garden, As a graduate student, you get a mail box not just at your college (and wherever you’re living in), but also at your department. You also get two email addresses – one with your college’s name in it, one with your department like the one used by academics.


Inside of my college.


Exeter College.


Your thesis, if you have one, is forever stored in the Bodleian Libraries (even though it may be in the closed stack if it’s old). If you were awarded distinction, you get a sticker (pictured above).

As for the study experience, the undergrad and postgrad experiences are quite different, and different postgrads courses certainly vary depends on your discipline and specific course. But if you have a question, you’re welcome to ask me!

I did quite a lot during my year, actually. Apart from the above and the parties and normal socials and pulling and a student union representative (I even attended an NUS conference in London), I was a coordinating tutor at St Gregory’s The Great Catholic School on the Schools Plus programme at Oxford Hub, a mentor for IntoUniversity, and trainer at Oxford Nightline.

Beyond being an MSc, a member of Kellogg and the Education Department, I have several more connections to Oxford. I’m a life donor of the Bod, a “friend” of Exeter, and one of my exes went to Magdalen. I was, for two years, also a “country champion” at Oxford Education Society.

With my Oxford part concluding (for now), I’m planning to update this blog only periodically. I’m currently thinking of one update per week. We will see I guess!