Travel

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.

Europe one month itinerary

The highest concentration of nations is found in none other than Europe, which means you can experience the highest diversity of culture in the shortest time here. Europe also offers much in terms of places of historical significance, natural landscape, food, shopping and more, which is why you keep having to go back.

There are millions of permutations when planning for a Europe itinerary. Here’s how I am going to do it this time:

Days 1 to 8

Villa d’Este http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1025

Italy. I have been to Rome twice, yet there are many places near Rome I have not visited, such as Necropoli della Banditaccia (UNESCO heritage site) and Civita Di Bagnoregio. No trip to Italy is complete without a visit to The Mall, the famed luxury goods outlet centre. This would be my fourth time there. Continue reading Europe one month itinerary

How to get a Russia Tourist Visa in Singapore

St Basil’s Cathedral is the first thing that comes to my mind at the mention of Russia. The iconic cathedral with multi-coloured onion domes is something i thought i should behold someday. Well, the day is coming soon. I have just obtained the Visa for entry into Russia for tourism.

What deters many from visiting Russia, besides the distance, is probably the difficulty in getting a Visa. Yes, Russia is one of the few countries for which a Visa is required for a tourism visit with a Singapore passport. Vfs handles the application for Russia Visa in Singapore, and their website provides comprehensive information on how to do so. Continue reading How to get a Russia Tourist Visa in Singapore

Renting a car in Hokkaido

The rental car business is a very competitive one in Hokkaido, because the majority of visitors to Hokkaido will rent a car. This means plenty of choices and relatively low prices. I booked a rental car for JPY 32120 (S$405) for 7 days, which is only S$58 per day. This is inclusive of a one way fee of JPY 1500 (S$19) for returning the car at a different location (pick up at Airport but return in Sapporo), but excluding CDW, which would have cost an additional S$100.

Here are some findings that may be of interest to you. I basically tried getting a quotation from all the rental companies that are listed that may offer the Hokkaido Expressway Pass. Not all of them worked. Some of them are aggregator sites for which i have no interest. Some of them don’t allow one way rental. Here is a summary of the quotation for a compact car: Continue reading Renting a car in Hokkaido

Hokkaido 9 days itinerary

It took 3 days to work out this itinerary and book all the hotels, so you could say a trip to Hokkaido is actually not difficult to plan for. I do still need to work out details like where to go for meals, finding exact view points to see, as well as to book a rental car (that will be another blog post), but once the accomodation reservations are done, the rest are less worrying.

All my itineraries are planned with the same basic assumption – that i will never visit there again. This itinerary covers all attractions that are significant in Hokkaido, including places that seem less attractive, like Hakodate. I guess everyone has different preferences and pacing when it comes to how they do a trip, and few people will do it like i do. Nevertheless, i believe i have tips to share that may be useful for reference and consideration.

My trip happens in mid June, and unfortunately, the timeframe is in between the Pink Moss and the Lavendar bloom. Some people might be going to Hokkaido specifically for these. If so, to catch the Pink Moss, you need to be there mid to late May, and for Lavendar, mid to late July. Continue reading Hokkaido 9 days itinerary

Klang Bak Kut Teh and Kopi, round 2

My better half was feeling “gian” (or yearning in the Hokkien dialect) for Klang Bak Kut Teh (BKT). Specifically Teck Teh’s BKT. Well, the ever curious me decided to check out the other popular BKT places in Klang instead. Anyway, I was guessing that most of the better known BKT restaurants would be closed on this day, the 3rd day of the Chinese New Year. I was right.

For the record, I found out that Seng Huat and Teck Teh were closed. The other BKT place I was planning to visit, Lai Choon, was also not open. I suspect this would be the standard practice, that these restaurants would remain closed at least up to the 3rd day of the Chinese New Year. So, if you’re wondering if you could visit any of these three, then you better have a back up plan. No worries though, because you will definitely be able to satisfy your craving for BKT during the Chinese New Year, as it is said that there more than 400 BKT restaurants in Klang, and some of them are bound to be open. Continue reading Klang Bak Kut Teh and Kopi, round 2

Annual Ubin Pilgrimage

This project began by accident. We first went to Ubin island on New Year’s day 2015. Prior to that, my last trip to Ubin was in 1995, almost 20 years ago. When New Year’s day 2016 came, we thought, why not go to Ubin as an annual routine on New Year’s day. When we set foot on the island, we were struck with the idea to have photos taken at exactly the same spot or in the same pose. And what do you know, i was wearing the same shirt by chance, and so it is decided that, henceforth, inasmuch as it is possible, we will be wearing the same clothes as well.

2015 – 2017

This year, because New Year’s day fell on a Sunday, and we were busy in church, we did our pilgrimage on the 2nd. To keep to this tradition, we must. Who knows, someday i will be doing this with my grandchildren in tow.

I love the nature and the kampung feel of Ubin. There are a lot of photo opportunities for photography enthusiasts. Here’s what i snagged during the short 3 hours visit.

Smiling all the way to the bank. Brisk business on a public holiday.
Here’s proof that you need to slow down if you want to cultivate an appreciation for art. The centipede’s feet are made of sickle, something you don’t expect to find in Singapore. Anyway, to us urban dwellers, a sickle is more associated with horror movies than agriculture, don’t you think?
Reflections at Pekan quarry
An abundance of Flora awaiting your discovery on Pulau Ubin

Saying this always sounds cheesy to me, but Happy New Year!

North-south highway lunch stop – Ayer Hitam

Today i drove a little faster (okay way above the speed limit actually) and got to Ayer Hitam at 1230pm (in just 2.5 hours from KL), just the right time for lunch. Ayer Hitam is just off the highway, making it a convenient lunch stop.

If you Googled for Ayer Hitam food, you’ll invariably find Tang Chuan among the top search results. Tang Chuan sells Pau and other Dim Sum, not quite the staple people will usually choose for a lunch meal. We certainly did not feel like having Pau for lunch. After doing a quick survey, i settled for Meng Heng, located at the corner unit of the row of shops across the road.

For completeness sake, let me quickly mention that the Kopitiam next to Tang Chuan, called New Mui Thye, had two stalls open at lunch time, selling chicken rice and noodles. The corner unit at the other end of the same row of shops as Tang Chuan sold Wanton noodles. The two shops directly across the road from Tang Chuan sold mixed economy rice (什菜饭), and these two took in the lion’s share of the local lunch crowd. None of these eateries looked appealing, honestly speaking, and from intuition, i felt there was something about Meng Heng that seem just slightly more convincing.

Screen capture of Restoran Meng Heng from Google Street View.

Meng Heng sells various types of noodles, as well as mixed economy rice. I just found out they have been around for more than 60 years. Okay. Wow.

We ordered three types of noodles, and they did not disappoint.

Curry pork ribs. The curry has an obvious Tumeric taste, and overall, it was rather tangy, which i think is characteristic of Johorean curry. The pork ribs were very tender.
Laksa. Came with pretty good (stiff rather than soggy) fish cake.
Minced pork noodles. This was very fragrant and tasty.

The noodles used was chewy flat yellow noodles, a welcome change from the more common soggy round yellow noodles. There was a lot of (too much) oil in the noodles but no obvious taste of lard, which sat well with me as i do not like a lot of lard in my food.

I don’t have a photo of the coffee which we did order, but as mentioned in the news article, it was pretty good. Yes, despite the coffee being a little milky, as is typical of the coffee around this region (from Batu Pahat to Pontian in the south), there was enough of aromatic coffee taste to convince me i was drinking coffee instead of milk.

Just so that i can check Ayer Hitam off my list of food to try along the North-south highway in Johor, we went to sample the Pau at Tang Chuan after finishing our meal at Meng Heng.

Unfortunately, they don’t sell the glutinous chicken rice anymore

I would say the Pau were indeed nice. We sampled the big Pau and the Char Siew Pau. Both were more savoury than sweet, which suits my preference just nice. The filling were juicy and tender. The coffee from here, however, was no match to Meng Heng’s.

There was a steady stream of customers, and i think the internet lent a huge helping hand

To conclude, i would say Yong Peng is still the best place to do lunch along the North-south highway if you’re not in a hurry.

Krabi and Phuket trip report card

Probably the only thing that didn’t go as smoothly as planned during the entire trip was the immigration clearance at Krabi airport. I was among the last to disembark from the plane, and it took 40 minutes of queuing before it was our turn to get through immigration. Anyway, not a single hitch thereafter.

Day 1

After picking up the rental car, we headed towards the Emerald hot spring pool, and upon enquiry about entrance fee, i decided to only visit the hot spring waterfalls, which was also around the vicinity. It cost 200 Baht (S$8) to visit the Emerald pool, but only 90 Baht ($3.60) for the hot spring waterfalls. We had time only for one, and i had originally planned to only take a dip at the hot spring waterfall anyway. To me, there’s more novelty in a hot spring waterfall than a hot spring pool.

Take in the view of the river while dipping in the naturally formed pool from mineral deposits . Almost like a Japanese Onsen, except that the pools here are not man-made but natural. How cool is that.
At around 5pm, there will be intervals when you can have the pool to yourself.

Continue reading Krabi and Phuket trip report card

Renting a car in Thailand

The car rental experience in Thailand was a pleasant one. I was really impressed by the condition of the roads – wide, two lanes, level trunk roads just about everywhere. Very low volume traffic (in South Thailand), and few traffic lights. No speed camera, mostly. Thais are rather polite on the road (beyond comparison to Malaysia). Motorcyclists keep to the side. All these made for an ultra smooth and pleasant road trip.

Here’s how my rental experience went: Continue reading Renting a car in Thailand

Best travel prepaid data deal on earth

I doubt you will find a better deal – S$32 for 1GB of data over 30 days in 42 countries including Europe and USA. Or S$54 for 12GB. This incredible deal is offered by Three, UK, and even though it is intended for UK residents, there’s no way they can enforce it, and they won’t. For m1 subscribers in Singapore, the data passport option is also pretty good, at S$50 (plus S$2 activation fee) with 3GB and above for one month of usage in 28 countries in Europe. Update: Not wanting to be outdone, SingTel now offers a competitive package – ReadyRoam. Pricing wise, it is expensive for Asia (S$20 per 1GB) but competitive (S$35 per 1GB) for USA and Europe. It has the advantage of not being tied to your statement date unlike m1. The list of countries included is more limited though.

The problem with the m1 data passport is having to be mindful of the monthly statement rollover date. If the rollover date happens during your trip, you’ll be paying the monthly data passport subscription fee twice, which is terrible. You could be paying for two months of subscription for 2 days of usage in the worst case.

Continue reading Best travel prepaid data deal on earth