Vivid headgears worn by Minorities @ Sapa Market

Hong Kong

Hong Kong
Mango dessert sold in Hoi Lau San @ Yau Ma Tei


Rare glimpse of Proboscis Monkey @ Bako National Park


A Blue & White (青花) Vase displayed @ Forbidden City

Bellinzona / Mendrisio

Decided to visit Bellinzona (贝林佐纳) and Mendrisio (门德里西奥) with my 2 colleagues over the weekend from 12 Jun (Sat) to 13 Jun (Sun). These two cities are located in the canton of Ticino (提契诺州); the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. The main reason for visiting Bellinzona was because of its World Heritage castles, while to Mendrisio was for its famous brand outlet mall.

Day One

We woke up in the morning to take a train ride at 0724 hours to Bellinzona from Neuchâtel train station. Being lazy, I decided to share a SBB combined ticket with another colleague which cost CHF 45 per day instead of buying a return trip ticket from the train counter. Before each ride, passengers with the combined ticket would need to insert the ticket into the machine to get it stamped with date and time (left photo below).

Bellinzona lies east of the Ticino river and just at the foot of Alps. Taking train to the town was an enjoyable experience because great sceneries can be seen during the ride (right photo below).

After a long train ride of 4-hours, we arrived at Bellinzona train station (left photo below) at 1121 hours. The exterior of the station looked simple with just a single storey of complex (right photo below).

Bellinzona Town

As it was Saturday when we arrived, there was weekend market happening in the town (photos below).

In less than 100-meters from the train station is the Collegiate Church of St Peter and Stefano, or Collegiata dei Ss. Pietro e Stefano in Italian (left photo below). The church houses many works of art dating back to a period between the 15th and 19th century. The building facade is divided into three bands; on the first order there is a statue of St. Peter kept in a niche, above which there is a ledge. The second order is characterized by a rose window , while the third has an inscription with a dedication to Saints Peter and Stephen and the year 1654, the date on which the works were completed on the facade.

Another interesting place is the City Hall Court of Bellinzona, or Corte del Municipio a Bellinzona in Italian (right photo below). The beautiful arches of the interior court do make a good photographic backdrop.

When comes to budget shopping, probably the tutto 2 franchi store (left photo below) will satisfy most shoppers. Everything in the store cost only CHF 2, which range from household, gifts, toys, perfumes, cosmetics, personal hygiene to jewelry products. For wider varieties of products, there is Manor store located in the town centre (right photo below).

Located at ground floor inside the Manor Department Store is a cozy restaurant (left photo below). Since it was near to lunch time and rather hungry, we decided to settle our meal there. Ordered a Shredded Chicken with curry, or sminuzzato di pollo al curry in Italian at CHF 14.90 (right photo below). Generally the taste wasn't that bad except the rice was rather different from the usual Asian rice.

Hotel Gamper

Booked Hotel Gamper (left photo below) only few weeks before our trip. Room rate was CHF 200 for a triple-bed room including breakfast per night, which cost CHF 66.70 per person after division. The room was spacious (right photo below) with ample lightings, and toilet was clean without any detectable smell (bottom left photo). One interesting observation was the notice on top of the W.C. (bottom right photo). It came as a surprise to me that I didn't know toilet bowl can have shredder built-in!

Castles of Bellinzona

The Three Castles of Bellinzona are a group of fortifications which consists of Castelgrande, Castle Montebello, Castle Sasso Corbaro and some fortified walls.

The Three Castles of Bellinzona had been listed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.


Had a quick wash-up after checked-in to Hotel Gamper. Next we proceeded to visit our first sight: Castelgrande. The Castelgrande is located on a rocky peak overlooking the valley. However no hill climbing is required to get to the castle; elevator is built at the foot of the hill (photos below) conveniently for visitors. To facilitate the ventilation of the elevator area, an air vent was built (bottom left photo) through the hill to the castle ground (bottom right photo).

We explored almost every corner of the castle taking pictures (photos below). If I were to vote fortress with most medieval feel, there's no doubt that Castelgrande will be on my top list.

Part of the Castelgrande is connected to Castle Montebello by the fortified rampart (photos below).

From the castle ground, the town of Bellinzona could be seen clearly (left photo below). Also in close proximity are the other two famous castles: Castle Montebello and Castle Sasso Corbaro (right photo below).

As we proceed to walk to our second sight, the magnificence and extensiveness of Castlegrande could be seen from afar (photos below).

No admission is required to visit the Castlegrande, except for its museum. As we were not interested in the exhibits, we decided to give this museum a miss.

Castle Montebello

We finally reached Castle Montebello after an up-hill climb of stairs for about 20-mins. The courtyard outside the museum is rather small compared to Castlegrande (photos below).

Decided to visit the Archeological Museum located inside the castle. This museum is located inside a fortress tower and thus visitors have to walk up or down the stairs to visit the exhibits (photos below).

Many items from 1400–1500 B.C. were excavated from the Ticino canton are displayed in this museum, such as ceramics, glassware, funeral urns, ornamental objects and jewellery (photos below).

Admission fee to the Archeological Museum was CHF 5, and do note that it is opened only for nine months from March to November.

Unlike the Castelgrande, Castle Montebello was not protected by natural features. Therefore it is surrounded by deep moats that protected the walls (photos below).

There are even inner and outer drawbridges (photos below) that remind me of the scenes from movie 'Lords of the Rings'.

Getting to Castle Montebello is rather easy and straight forward; no map is required, just need to follow the signage along the path (photos below). Due to the rainy weather, we didn't visit the last of the three castles: Castle Sasso Corbaro.

Eating at Bellinzona Town

As it was still early before dinner, we then stopped by a Pizza shop to grab some snacks (left photo below). Got myself a slice of sausage pizza at CHF 4 (right photo below). The pizza did meet my expectation of what should be an Italian pizza.

Initially wanted to have our dinner at our hotel restaurant, but after waited for almost 10-mins and no one came to serve us, we then left the restaurant without hesitation. While walking towards to City Hall Court, we saw this 'Ristorante Corona' (left photo below). We were immediately served by the friendly lady boss, which formed a big contrast in attitude compared to the previous restuarant. Perhaps it was family owned, the restuarant wasn't that big and had only a few tables and seats (right photo below).

Ordered a Spaghetti Carbonara at CHF 18 (left photo below), and we shared a Tiramisu cake for CHF 9 (right photo below). Although food was slightly pricey, but taste was authentic to Italian.

Night sceneries were great where the City Hall Court (left photo below) and Castelgrande (right photo below) were lighted up.

Day Two

Had our breakfast at the hotel restaurant. Simple piece of bread and a croissant were served together with a cup of tea (left photo below). This was the standard breakfast offered at the hotel.

We then checked out from the hotel and took train to our next destination: Mendrisio (right photo below).

Although there are shuttle buses to FoxTown shopping mall, we decided to walk there instead as we would have to wait for 30-mins before the next shuttle bus arrives. Couldn't remember exactly the route, but could only recall that we had to walk along the main road and then made a left turn across a bridge over the train tracks (left photo below) before turning right towards the shopping mall (right photo below). It took us about 10-mins walk to reach the Mall.

Besides FoxTown Factory Stores, there is this Outlet Sports and Fashion Mall (left photo below) selling sports apparel. Being "Kiasu" is definitely not unique in Singaporeans, a long queue already formed by impatient customers waiting to enter the Mall (right photo below) before its opening hours at 11 am. As Mendrisio is just 50-km from Milan, Italy, therefore it is not uncommon to see tourists from Milan taking a day's trip to visit these outlet shops.

FoxTown Factory Stores

FoxTown Factory Stores (left photo below) is a paradise for smart shoppers on luxury and elegance brands. There are 160 shops (right photo below) in total with brand name items sold at a 30% to 70% discount all year round. These Brandname manufacturers often sell extra products and product lines from previous season, thus offering customers high-quality products at affordable prices.

Before our shopping spree starts, we managed to find a laundry shop at its basement for our luggage deposit at CHF 3 per piece. We also had our early lunch at this FoxGrill Pizza and Pollo restaurant (left photo below), where I ordered a sausage with fries for CHF 11 (right photo below). Its portion could only satisfied by hunger for several hours.

After shopping for almost 4 hours, our hands were all occupied with several shopping bags, including brands from Gucci, Timberland, Adidas and Nike, just to name few.

We then boarded the train at 1542 hours at Mendrisio train station back to Neuchâtel. The weather turned misty along the route and caused the mountains from afar to look as if they are floating in the air (photos below). Almost like the 'Hallelujah Mountains' in James Cameron's movie: Avatar.

After a long train ride, we finally reached Neuchâtel at 2032 hours. With this, it ended my short weekend getaway to southern part of Switzerland.

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