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Santorini - Day Two

Friday, October 27, 2006
The day started with Bailey's to warm the tummy. As they only have a day left in Santorini and they would like to make the most out of it, The Princess and Ken Lee decided to sign up for a day tour. The tour would first bring them to the Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni islands, the results of the volacano's most recent activity.

In the bus on the way to the port

The journey to Athinios port was a most pleasant one, with postcard scenery all along the way. Going down the winding cliff, one could get a good view of the deep blue sea and the nearby islands.

Looking down on Athinios Bay from the cliff

They then proceeded to board the double-decked boat to Nea Kameni first. The weather that day was perfect for a day out - sunny but not too hot, with cool breeze.

The main island as the boat leaves for Nea Kameni

Alright, peeps. The Princess has to prepare for work now. Updates after she's back a'ight. Now say a prayer and wish the rashes on her face quickly disappear for good.

Part Two

Warning! Pictures overload. Get more bandwidth or proceed at your own peril.

Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni (The Volcano, as the locals call it) are two black-lava islands positioned in the centre of the Santorini caldera. Nea Kameni is the younger of the two, only about 500 years old. The Volcano is still active, with the most recent eruption occurred in 1950. Mild activity has continued to take place until this day.

As the boat approached Nea Kameni, heaps of black lava stones became apparent.

Nea Kameni beckons

Look at the black, glistening lava rocks

The Princess and Ken Lee got off the boat and started their hike up to the crater of Nea Kameni. The lava stones crunched under their feet and my, the hike was no small feat. Flat shoes are essential and do not wear any platform shoes (no matter how in season they are, though it's been awhile since Spice Girls made them popular) like two of the dumb girls she saw.

There are fissures with hot sulphur steam bursting through them and thanks to them, The Princess was bathed in the smell of rotten eggs. The tour guide stopped by an opening to let the tourists experience the degree of heat of the escaping steam. The Princess did not try (enough of rotten egg smell, thank you very much), but Ken Lee did. In her words, "It's like putting your hand in the rice cooker after the rice has cooked". Nice. Maybe The Princess should have popped her head in for a mini face steam, eh?

Fancy getting your hands steamed?

Nea Kameni offers an amazing view of the beautiful villages hanging on the cliffs. Watching the sun set from here would be nice, but The Princess would be going to the famous Oia for that later in the day.

They finally reached the highest point after a good 30 minutes climb. The tour guide gave a detailed history on the creation of Nea and Palea Kameni and the myth of Atlantis, but by now the increasing heat and the glare of sunlight (not to mention the guide's thick Greek accent) were getting too much for The Princess so much so they blocked everything from entering her mind. The above account were based on what she could remember.

Since there is virtually no soil on Nea Kameni, very few plants could grow here. That is why The Princess found the below picture interesting. It signifies hope and when-there's-a-will-there's-a-way thing, no?

Watch me grow!

After getting a good bake in Nea Kameni, the next stop was Palea Kameni hot springs. Palea Kameni is the much older of the two islands at about 2000 years old. Sad to say, The Princess forgot to bring her bathing suit (even after much mental note to include one while packing). Also, there's a catch - You'd need to swim to reach the hot springs. The Princess suspects this was due to the shallow water and the boat could not ply. Jumping into the icy cold water at this time of the year? No thanks, The Princess already has rashes on her face to think about, no need to add cold and flu to that. And so Ken Lee and she enjoyed a cold can of Hellenic lager.

Famous Greek home-grown beer

As the members of their tour started to strip down into their tiny bikinis, The Princess and Ken Lee noticed one thing. Most of them, no matter the size, have little or no stretch marks while the two of them have stretch marks up to their necks! How envious!

After the frolick in the hot springs, it was way past lunch time. The boat stopped by Thirassia so we could have a nice lunch by the sea. There were not much choices as only a few restaurants were available, and so they followed the tour guide and chose the same restaurant as him. Hey, if a local frequents that restaurant, it must be good right?

They ordered a skewer each of fish, shrimps, chicken and lobster, which were then grilled. Alas, they got cheated for the lobster part. The operative word here should have been lobsterball instead of lobster. A carafe of barrel white wine and Greek salad were also ordered.

Take your pick from the marinated meats

The food arrived and then it hit them. How on earth are they going to finish all the food? The skewers of meat came with either rice or fries on the side (they didn't know this). Putting the when-there's-a-will-there's-a-way idiom to test, The Princess is proud to say that they managed.

The famous Greek salad- look at the big piece of feta cheese

The Greek salad was nice. The sourish feta cheese lent a refreshing flavour to the otherwise bland salad. The succulent tomatoes and crunchy bell peppers were very fresh and a delight to bite. The meat skewers, sad to say, were only so-so. The white wine was like drinking acetone. The total bill came to about Є40+. Even local tour guide makes mistakes, huh.

Their stomachs filled, The Princess and Ken Lee visited the souvenir shops and bought some souvenirs. Then they saw donkeys! Her first time seeing a real donkey instead of pictures of Eeyore. By the way, they stinked big time.

Imagine your face stucked in between here

The horn of the boat soon sounded and everyone boarded the boat. Their next destination is Oia, finally. So much has been seen in travel books and brochures of the most photographed village of Greece with the unique houses dug into the lava, she couldn't wait to see it. The journey to Oia offered more amazing view of Santorini.

Small fishes swimming in the crystal clear water

The deep blue Mediterranean Sea

And then she saw it. Oia was looming nearer and it was as stunning, if not more, as what she imagined.

Now they have reached the foot of Oia, there was a problem. How the hell were they going to climb up the steep cliff? As if they have not walked enough that day. And the donkeys came to rescue. A ride on the donkey up to the village of Oia seemed like an interesting idea, and they eagerly paid the fee for the donkey ride.

What did you have for lunch, Mr. Donkey? You look constipated

It was a ride from hell. The donkeys were so competitive they started racing with each other. It was all Ken Lee's donkey's fault. Her donkey started to overtake the rest of the donkeys and the others follow suit. At one point, 3 donkeys were trudging up side by side with The Princess' donkey being edged near the steep cliff-side she thought her donkey would fall off, rider and all. Not to mention her legs were being constantly rubbed against the nearby donkeys and once, a donkey even swished its tail at her while passing! Did you know the donkeys shitted all the way up? How dare it put its icky tail near her! *Faint*

This is how narrow the pathway is. Imagine 3 donkeys going up abreast

A picture taken with the donkeys, for managing to carry The Princess (not light by any standard) up the cliff

After the terrifying near-death experience, she was glad to touch the ground again she almost kissed the cobbled pathway. Oia has very peculiar architecture. The traditional two-storey houses (called skafta) are dug into the lava and most are brightly-coloured.

Postcard scene of Oia

The Princess likes this photo. The dog's lazy expression seemed to declare "I'm the king of the world"

Another favourite picture of The Princess

After enjoying ice-cream at one of the cafes littered around the village, they proceeded to the castle - a vantage point to watch the sunset. Many people had already gathered here, waiting patiently for it to happen. The Princess was almost willing the sun to start sinking faster. And then it happened. Slowly at first, and almost speeding towards the end so much so if you blink your eyes, you'd missed it. The glowing orange yolk was finally swallowed by earth, and Santorini was shrouded by silence for awhile, all stopping as if to rue the short-lived beauty they had just witnessed and to reflect and be thankful even so.




To see how quickly the sun set, here's a video to give you an idea, if you'd excuse Ken Lee's irritating singing and The Princess' expletive words at the end.

They said picture paints a thousand words, but no amount of pictures could do justice to the beauty that is Santorini. You'd need to experience it to fully appreciate the charm that has never failed to captivate the flock of visitors year in year out, even some of the most discerning ones.

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Santorini - Day One

Thursday, October 26, 2006
Even before the trip started, The Princess had a hectic morning. She woke up at 5.30 am to pick up Ken Lee from the technical building (as she's supposed to touch down at 6am) so that they could make it to the airport by 7.30 am to check in.

And then she had to forget her digicam. And so they turned back for the camera. Not a very promising morning this was turning out to be.

But then good things happen to good people. They were immediately issued boarding passes as the load to Athens was light.

Poor Ken Lee. She immediately dozed off after takeoff, she couldn't even wake up for breakfast. The journey to Athens was about 4+ hours. Upon landing, the land that is Athens became clear. They could even see the Parthenon from above! Many little islands are littered around the main island. It's a pity they were all brown as the autumn chill starts to extend its hand on shrubs and trees.

Look at how the sea and sky become one

To cut a long story short, they soon boarded the plane of Olympic Airways to Santorini island. And my, as soon as they step inside the plane, swarms of flies greeted them. Not your normal small flies, but flies as big as bees! Don't let her get started on the smell as well. Seriously what were they carrying in the cargo? Corpse?

The owner of the villa greeted them as they walked out from the arrival hall. He was a friendly guy, but sadly The Princess forgot his name (Greek names are hard to remember). They arrived at Villa Manos and promptly checked into their room. The villa was family-run and had a homey feeling to it. Their foom was small but cheerful, and painted in pink! It came attached with a balcony. For є25/night for 2, it was worth it.

View from the balcony

Villa Manos

To get a feel of Santorini, The Princess and Ken Lee decided to proceed to Fira, the town centre of Santorini. The walk to Fira was a pleasant one, as the weather was nice and not too chilly. One thing she noticed, houses in Santorini are all painted in white and blue, just like the colours of their national flag. Even the cemeteries looked er,cute and not sombre and lifeless.

Plants in Santorini were most curious. They have thick, sappy stems and leaves like aloe vera. There was even an interesting "rose". The leaves were arranged like those of rose petals.

Ever seen green roses?

Sakat sarang burung lookalike?

Fira is littered with tavernas, restaurants and hotels. It's narrow, cobbled stone pathways make for an interesting walk. Souvenirs and jewellery shops filled every nook and corner. Greeks are definitely one of the most friendly people (except for the stupid bus attendant). Warm smiles were aplenty and should you need direction, just ask and they would be more than happy to tell you, some even offering to personally show you the way. Of course, dinner invitations were also aplenty if you happened to be 2 pretty ladies travelling alone :p

Fira, Santorini

Flat comfortable shoes are essential - uneven pathways and steps are everywhere in Santorini

Fira has unique landscape. Houses clinging to the edge of the caldera - the crescent rim of what was once the crater of a volcano.

Souvlaki is a favourite food of Greek. It is basically skewers of meat. Souvlaki pita is another variation whereby the souvlaki, together with lettuce, some sourish cream and fries are wrapped in a pita bread. Gyro pita is prepared the same way, but instead of souvlaki, slices of meat from the giant skewer are wrapped in the pita instead.

Gyro pita aka kebab

The Princess and Ken Lee had some very good crepes in Fira. They opted for the sweet instead of savoury crepe, smothered with Nutella with a scoop of praline ice-cream. It was heavenly!

The Princess loves Greece for the fact that you can smoke anywhere. In the airport cafe, in taverna, crepe parlour, boat - everywhere. Nobody will give you patronising glances or remarks - beat that Singapore.

As tomorrow would be another long day, they went back early to get some rest.... and booze. A bottle of red wine and Bailey's were waiting. However, Si Ken Lee immediately went to slumberland after her bath, not stirring a bit even with The Princess' persistent nudging. And so The Princess had no choice but to sit at the balcony, under the blanket of stars of the Greek skies, enjoying the Bailey's and a smoke. Chilly wind was blowing, but as the heat from alcohol ran it's course through her body, she woulnd't want it any other way.

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