Travel is a very subjective matter – everyone has different preferences and appetite for adventure. My preference is for food, sightseeing and light shopping. I also prefer to pack as many places to visit as possible into the itinerary. I call this Fast Travel. As for adventure, i don’t bungee jump nor scale any mountain, but i do take a rental car wherever and whenever it’s cheap to do so (it usually is). I will share with you what was worthwhile and what’s not on my trips, as well as tips that may be helpful to your trip planning.
If you’re into history and food, these destinations may be of interest to you. I took advantage of a Jetstar promo and bought return tickets to Jieyang/Shantou for only $64. Here’s my itinerary:
Jieyang airport is about half an hour from Chaozhou, an hour away from Shantou and two hours from Meizhou. You may actually start your trip from any of the three cities. For me, Shantou seems to be the logical place to start. The Jetstar flight timing is such that by the time you’re checked into your hotel, it’s almost time for dinner.
Fuyuan is the place to be for Teochew dishes.
After dinner, we took a long stroll towards Xiao Wu rice rolls (小吴肠粉), stopping by Suning mall along the way.
The Shantou old city area is worth spending half a day to check out. Various traditional food outlets are littered throughout this area.
First stop, Laomagong (老妈宫) dumplings. It is named after the temple across the street, which is near the centre of the old city area.
To relieve the stomach from too much food, we visited the Shantou development museum, which is free admission and interesting enough. Still quite stuffed but had to proceed with lunch, at Fuhecheng (福合埕), just to check it off the list.
There are frequent buses to Chaozhou, although it is somewhat annoying that the bus spends half an hour picking up passengers in Shantou before actually starting on the journey to Chaozhou. It is also possible to take a train to Chaozhou and the trip takes only half an hour (vs more than an hour by bus), but you may have trouble finding a taxi when you arrive! In fact, this was the biggest problem we faced when in Chaozhou. The taxis don’t go by meter and you have to haggle over the price. More importantly, you may not even be able to find a taxi when you need one!
Other than this very distasteful tourist trap of being swindled every time you need to get around, Chaozhou is a pleasant place to be, despite being very touristic.
You could say this was the day when everything went wrong. My plan was to take a train to Meizhou. There was conflicting information on the train schedule and it turned out the 11am train I was hoping to take was no longer available since years ago. Lesson learnt: the train schedule that is actually available for booking online (via ctrip website for example) is accurate.
It’s unfortunate that Chaozhou and Meizhou are not well connected. There is only a single train trip per day at 530pm and two bus trips at 915 and 3pm respectively. The situation will be much improved when the high speed rail link is launched later this year (2019). If you’re interested to go to Meizhou, you might want to hold off your travel plans until the high speed rail is operational. It departs from the high speed rail station near Jieyang Chaoshan airport.
Anyway, I decided to catch a bus to Jieyang and transit to another bus for Meizhou. Little did I know, there was a detour from the usual 2 hours route from Jieyang to Meizhou due to road closure, and the journey became 4.5 hours! Anyway, this was still the best outcome possible, being able to arrive at Meizhou around 6pm. If I took the 3pm bus from Chaozhou or the 530pm train, I would have arrived at 8pm! It was raining the whole day anyway, and I may not have been able to do much anyway if I arrived at the planned timing 1pm.
My original plan for the day was to visit the neighbouring small town called Songkou as well as the Nanyanfei tea plantation (雁南飞茶园) and Qiaoxi Hakka village (桥溪古韵). Instead, I moved the itinerary I had planned for the day before to the present day, and thankfully it worked even better this way.
The plan for the day was to buy Hakka goodies and to have the final meal in Meizhou. The 1230pm bus arrived slightly ahead of the scheduled 230pm at Jieyang airport. Given we had more than 2 hours before the check-in counters open, we decided to explore the neighbouring villages. There isn’t any public transport at all, so we took a taxi to save some effort (the nearest village 孙畔村 is actually within walking distance). The fare had to be higher (20 Yuan) because the taxis usually take people into Shantou and Chaozhou instead of the nearby areas.
We knew we would arrive at the airport too early, so I did research and found out there were villages in the vicinity of the airport worth checking out.
Having been to Swatow and Teochew, i discovered that a lot of the food that many identify as “Singaporean” are actually Teochew. Here are the proof:Continue reading The Teochew connection
The easiest way, and actually still relatively inexpensive way to go about this is to use a local SIM card with data roaming activated. I say it is relatively inexpensive because it cost only $8 for 1GB of data over a week if you use a Starhub prepaid card, and I think it is wise to do so. Forget about buying any other types of prepaid SIM card, or worse, renting a WiFi sharing device. M1 data passport is also very expensive ($25) in comparison.Continue reading The cheapest way to access Google, WhatsApp and Facebook on a trip to China
Yong Peng remains the best lunch stop, timing wise, when traveling down to JB from KL. 688 coffee shop is a lively place with 5 stalls, which is considered a high stall count for Yong Peng. There is the drink stall that also sells Bak Kut Teh, Assam fish and porridge. There’s also a chicken rice stall, a Wanton noodle stall, a Tze Char stall and a soup stall (fish balls, pork ribs etc.).Continue reading North-south highway lunch stop – Yong Peng 688 coffee shop
I started off from KL fairly early in the morning and i wanted to have a quick lunch stop. Well, more like a snack stop. As with Yong Peng, Tangkak is just a short distance from the Toll booths, so it is good for a quick stop.
Everyone probably goes to the beef noodle shop. Not for me when i want to grab a quick bite and run. From Google maps, the eatery that caught my attention was Lok Pin Hotel & Coffee shop, conveniently located on the main street. From the name, you would know that it harkens from the days (many decades ago) when it was popular to run a hotel and coffee shop as part of the same business. It certainly reminds me of Chong Kok Kopitiam in Klang, which uses 中国酒店 as its Chinese name, meaning China Hotel. Except, Lok Pin Hotel is actually still in operation.Continue reading North-South Highway lunch stop – Tangkak revisit
Iceland boasts some of the most unique and impressive landscapes I have seen in my travels. My 5 days itinerary crams all the important sites you shouldn’t miss in possibly the shortest time possible, so you can use it as a reference if you like to get the most out of your time in Iceland.
The best sites to see in Iceland are mostly littered along the southern coast, including the Golden circle. My itinerary is for the winter months, and you can definitely see and do more during the summer, but some sites/activities are exclusive to the winter (and vice versa), like seeing ice caves and glacier formations.
A 4-wheel-drive car actually makes a difference in Iceland, as some gravel paths are exclusive to a 4WD. I would suggest avoiding gravel paths though, as you can end up damaging your rental car easily.
Another tip: you don’t need to exchange your currency into the Icelandic currency, as everything can be paid for by credit card, including the unmanned public toilets.
All tours begin in Reykjavik, and my itinerary is always planned such that the easy parts are done last. So we headed out of Reykjavik immediately towards Seljalandsfoss (Foss means waterfall). The coolest part about this waterfall is being able to walk around behind it.Continue reading Iceland 5 days itinerary
The northern lights is probably one item that I would imagine is high on anyone’s travel bucket list. The majority of us don’t live within the Arctic circle, and seeing a band of coloured light in the sky is a rare privilege.
I failed in my first attempt to catch the northern lights over 7 years ago, mostly because it was a last minute wish list item added on during the trip. I was in the Arctic circle (Tromso in Norway) for just one day, and I signed up for a tour (expensive as you can imagine), but didn’t get to see anything.
This time round, I made sure I did all the homework prior to planning my itinerary. I discovered however, that, though there is quite a bit of information out there, you won’t have a very clear idea on what you need to do exactly to gain the best chances of seeing the lights. One reason for this is that there is so much commercial value attached to seeing the northern lights that many options (i.e. tours) are made available. So, this is what this article is about, i’m going to tell you exactly what to do to see the northern lights.Continue reading Travel Bucket List – Northern Lights
“How to get a Russia Tourist Visa in Singapore” is one of the more popular posts on my blog. Obviously, by now, i have already been to Russia. More than a year ago in fact. This is a long over due post on how the trip turned out. In a gist, I’m certain I want to go again!
Russian people are among the most friendly I have encountered! I also appreciate their artistic ingenuity as manifested in the architecture and interior design. The motifs employed are out of the world, and i love their use of bold yet harmonious colours.Continue reading Travel Bucket List – Russia
Autumn turns out to be a good time to be in Northeastern China. The weather is cool, and the colour of leaves in shades of red, orange and yellow are breathtaking.
Harbin was especially mind blowing. They are obsessed about cleanliness! There is an army of cleaners tending the streets endlessly. Owing to Russian influence, the architecture is quite a bit more interesting than the generally drab ones built all over China during the 70s through 2000s.
Shenyang, in Liaoning province, is where people queue up to board transportation vehicles (and I have witnessed the same in Dalian a decade ago), something not emulated in other provinces. Their driving habits are horrendous though.Continue reading Venture to Northeastern China – Harbin, Changchun and Shenyang
So i did my maiden test drive of the Youtrip card, and i’m happy to report that it works as advertised. Continue reading Review of Youtrip card