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

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

Krabi and Phuket 4 days itinerary

I grabbed cheap tickets to Krabi, at S$60 per person, from more than a year ago, and it’s time for me to work out the details of the itinerary. I guess few would do this – visit both Krabi and Phuket in the same trip. In fact, i suspect very few know that Krabi and Phuket are only 3 hours apart by car.

There are slight differences to the kinds of attractions you find at Krabi vs Phuket. Besides islands and beaches which are common to both Krabi and Phuket, there are also on-land attractions such as hot spring, waterfall, lakes and mangrove in the region around Krabi. On the other hand, Phuket is far more developed and has more hospitality offerings as well as city vibe.

My initial plan was to just stay around Krabi, but i actually found it hard to fill 4 days worth of activities. Granted, i have two very young kids travelling with me, and safe for taking the long tail boat, we will not be able to be engaged in most of the water-based activities (e.g. kayaking) that are popular around here. So I thought, why not kill two birds with one stone. I probably won’t need to visit Phuket again.

Here’s what i have worked out for my trip:

Continue reading Krabi and Phuket 4 days itinerary

Pearl River Delta 5 days itinerary

Chikanzhen
Chikanzhen (https://postcardsfrombeijing.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/guangzhou-part-1-chikanzhen-and-kaiping/)

So, i picked up cheap flight tickets to Hong Kong. It cost a total of S$533 for 2 adults and 2 kids plus one piece of check-in luggage, which works out to be S$130 per person, in case you’re wondering. These are the cheapest tickets i have gotten for Hong Kong, ever. My last trip there was 2 years ago, and it was mostly a food trip. This would be my 6th time to Hong Kong. You can probably imagine that there’s almost nothing left for me to discover there. To make the trip more worthwhile, i decided i had to expand my exploration to places in the Pearl River Delta region. Continue reading Pearl River Delta 5 days itinerary

Jakarta 3.5 days itinerary

Situ Gunung (http://www.unmotivating.com/situ-gunung-park-indonesia%EF%BB%BF/)

Indonesia remains one of our favourite destinations for a short escape, and this time, we decided to fly to Jakarta. The last time we were in Jakarta was more than 5 years ago, and having spent only half a day in town in the wrong places (Ancol and Gandaria City Mall), i can’t say i have actually been to Jakarta.

Because we booked the flights rather late (less than 7 weeks away), budget flights were not budget friendly at all (it normally cost S$80 or less), and i ended up getting a flight on Malaysia Airlines for S$93 from CheapTickets. It does mean i have to transit in KL, adding 2.5 hours to the overall travel time, but i still feel better, paying more or less what a budget flight would have cost, but getting a non-budget flight instead. I’m rather impressed with CheapTickets by the way, as i’ve managed to book flights through them, more than once, for which i was prevented from completing the booking process on the official carrier websites, due to strange constraints or bugs on those websites. Continue reading Jakarta 3.5 days itinerary

Kyushu 8.5 days itinerary

Shiratani Unsuikyo (www.japan-guide.com)

This is the second leg of my 3 weeks holiday happening in May. Fukuoka is a mere 50 minutes’ flight from Busan, which is why I am combining a trip to Korea with a tour of Kyushu, southern Japan. Actually, the more important reason is that the open jaw flight (Singapore – Seoul, Fukuoka – Singapore) was being offered at the same promotional price by Vietnam Airlines (S$450) as booking a return flight. The downside to travelling on Vietnam Airlines is having to transit in Vietnam, which stretches 5 hours on my way to Seoul, but for the return flight, i specifically chose the longest transit time available – 21 hours, so i’ll have the chance to check out Hanoi. I’ll definitely do the overnight transit in Vietnam again if i fly with Vietnam Airlines in the future, for the food.

8.5 days probably sounds like a very short time to most people for going around Kyushu, and within this time frame, i’m actually going to cover Yakushima as well (pictured above), an island south of Kyushu (35 minutes flight time or almost 3 hours by ferry from Kagoshima). It is one among the most highly rated attractions in all of Japan (a UNESCO World Heritage Site, no less), so i’m making it a point to get there despite the trouble. Kyushu is relatively small compared to Korea and Honshu, so the distances are more manageable. I’m choosing to fly from Yakushima directly to Fukuoka, which saves me more than half a day if i travelled on land instead, and i think it is worthwhile despite the slightly higher cost. By the way, only Japan Airlines operates flights to/from Yakushima, and there is hardly any discount on the fare for such an exclusive destination, but you should do advanced reservations/purchase of the tickets anyway (more than 75 days ahead) to secure the lowest possible fare. Continue reading Kyushu 8.5 days itinerary

Korea 10.5 days itinerary

Ssang Waterfalls (image from www.meetup.com)

This is not quite the Korea itinerary many people will do. If you read my past travelogues, you’ll notice that i try to cram as much as i possibly can into any trip (in the spirit of Fast Travel), so for Korea, i will be going to all the important/popular sites in 11.5 days, covering Seoul, Seoraksan/Sokcho, Jeju and Busan.

The first and most important travel tip i would like to offer is this – use Korea Tourism Organization’s Visit Korea website (http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/) for your trip research. While doing my research, i gathered information from various sites/blogs, but i eventually realized that everything that is worthy of your time/calories is on the VisitKorea site! i immediately changed my trip research strategy – to using the VisitKorea site exclusively for shortlisting attractions and food places. The information presented on the VisitKorea site is very comprehensive, and despite the disclaimer that “VisitKorea does not guarantee the quality of products or services introduced on its site”, i found that everything listed on the site carries sufficient weight and are basically “disappointment-proof”.

My trip doesn’t happen until May, but as i’ve mentioned before, it’s always a good idea to make advanced arrangements to secure the best deals, such as flights. I booked flights on Jeju Air as soon as they were available for sale, and they’re pretty cheap –  Seoul to Jeju KRW 37100 (S$45), Jeju to Busan KRW 29100 (S$35) and Busan to Fukuoka KRW 88000 (S$105). Japan (Kyushu) is the destination of the second leg of my three weeks trip. So here’s my Korea itinerary: Continue reading Korea 10.5 days itinerary

Surabaya 5 days itinerary

What’s there to see in Surabaya you might ask? Not much actually (no offence intended). I took advantage of a promotion by Singapore Airlines and chose to fly to the nearest destination. At S$180 per adult, it’s a steal. The total came up to S$695 for 2 adults and 2 children. Comparatively, the tickets i bought for my old folks to fly to Surabaya from KL on AirAsia cost more than S$200 per person.

Since i’m travelling with my parents and with young kids, the trip has to be at a very relaxing pace, so it will consist of light sightseeing, food and shopping. Otherwise, the very exciting thing to do if one were to fly to Surabaya is to visit Mount Bromo (3 hours drive away) and Ijen Crater (6.5 hours away). Part of that journey has to be made on a bumpy Jeep ride, and one has to wake up in the wee hours to catch the sunrise, crowding with probably hundreds of other travellers who would do the same. Anyway, just to give you an idea of what Mount Bromo is like:

Mount Bromo

The other possible sightseeing location near Surabaya, which i have chosen to go to, is Batu, about 3 hours away. There are various attractions here, including waterfalls, theme parks and orchards. So here’s my 5 days itinerary:

Day 1
Arrival. Check in to Hotel Majapahit. Hotel Majapahit was founded by the Sarkies Brothers, who also founded Raffles Hotel. The room rates of the Majapahit is about S$140 and up, whereas for Raffles it is S$1040 and up, which is more than seven fold higher. You’d be doing yourself injustice if you don’t capitalize on this opportunity to enjoy some luxury at a bargain price. Staying at the Majapahit is an attraction in itself. The hotel offers a free shuttle service to the Grand City Mall, a good place to get lunch. After getting some rest at the hotel, we will walk to Tunjungan Plaza, the largest mall in Surabaya, for dinner and shopping.

Day 2
Since my mum is an Orchid enthusiast, we will visit the Pasar Anggerik (Orchid Market) of Surabaya. We will be using a hired car with a driver to get around. Previously when i visited Bandung and Bali, i was able to get a hired car without paying a deposit in advance. However, for Surabaya, i only managed to get a response from two car rental companies, and both require a 50% deposit payment. Anyway, both of them seem large-scale enough for me to trust them enough to make the deposit payment, and i went for the cheaper of the two. I will give a review of the car rental (and reveal the name of the company) after the trip.

Update: the car rental worked very well, the driver was very courteous. Thank you Globe rent a car.

Lunch would be at Layar Seafood Bukit Mas, one of the better known seafood eateries in Surabaya. After lunch, we would make our way to Malang, where we will be staying at Hotel Tugu. There is actually a complimentary afternoon tea offered to guests of the hotel, and somehow i’m quite looking forward to that. Dinner is WellDuck Bebek Goreng & Bakar, which obviously specializes in duck.

Day 3

We’ll start the day by visiting an Orchid Orchard along the way to Batu, after which we will check out Coban Rondo, a nice looking waterfall. After having lunch at Warung Wareg, i will bring the kids to Batu Secret Zoo. By the end of a 3 hours journey back to Surabaya, we will probably be ready for dinner, which i have decided on Dewa Ndaru, a restaurant housed in what looks like a former Chinese temple.

Day 4
Spend half a day in Galaxy Mall, one of the bigger malls in Surabaya. Dinner would be at Kya-Kya Kembang Jepun, the Chinatown of Surabaya, with street food sold from stalls.

Day 5
Check out Pasar Atom, a wholesale market. Have buffet lunch at Arumanis, a restaurant of Hotel Bumi. Fly home.

Looking forward to a relaxing holiday, and i think my parents will be pleased.

Bangkok 3.5 days itinerary

The last time i went to Bangkok was in 2001, for work. Back then, the only place i visited was MBK. I guess that was as good as not having been to Bangkok.

For my upcoming 3.5 days trip to Bangkok, i have come up with the following itinerary. Grouping nearby places to visit together seems to be a sensible thing to do for Bangkok, since not all areas are accessible by the BTS or MRT, and taking into consideration the traffic congestion which makes the travelling time increase exponentially the further you have to travel. My trips are always centred on food, especially for Asian countries, so this itinerary won’t make sense to you if you’re not a foodie.

Day 1 Sunday – Arrival at noon. Head straight to Chatuchak Market. Finish the day with dinner at Or Tor Kor Market (this turned out to be a bad idea because most stalls in Or Tor Kor close by late afternoon)

Day 2 Monday – Street food day. I will be following the recommendations on Thai Feature Stories for street food around Sao Ching Cha. After that, go for Thai massage at the Khao San Road area (planning on trying Shewa). Next, head to Chinatown – try the Yaowarat toasted bread (as recommended by Aroimakmak), visit Eiah Sae, a vintage Chinese Kopi shop. After some walking around Chinatown, get dinner at T&K Seafood. Hopefully we can stomach that much food! Finally, walk to River City and take the ferry crossing to the other side of Chao Phraya and finish the day with a visit to the Millenium Hilton Hotel Rooftop bar, one of the few with a view of the Chao Phraya river.

Bangkok Day 2
Day 2 itinerary

Day 3 Tuesday – Shopping day. Start the day with a nice breakfast at Chu Chocolate Bar and Cafe (just because i am staying nearby – any decent cafe will do for me). Try the Mango Sticky Rice from Mae Varee before going for shopping proper. Almost all the shopping in Bangkok is concentrated in one area – Siam, where Platinum Mall, Central World, Siam Paragon, Siam Center and MBK are located. I will probably visit only Central World and Platinum Mall. When done with shopping, grab a taxi to Victory Monument to try the Boat Noodles. The portion of the noodles is small enough to leave room for dinner proper at Somboon (my choice being the Surawong branch), where Aroimakmak recommends the curry crab as being a must. Finish the day with a visit to Asiatique.

Bangkok Day 3
Day 3 itinerary

Day 4 Wednesday – Relax day. With only half a day to spare, I plan to take it easy and try 2 must-eat places as recommended by Aroimakmak – Pad Thai at Sala Daeng and Prachak Pet Yang Duck Rice/Noodles. Finally, check out Terminal 21 before heading for the airport.

Bangkok Day 4
Day 4 itinerary

Excluded in the itinerary:

Grand Palace, Wat Pho and other temples – somehow i’m not into Thai architecture, so will give these places a miss.

Floating markets – Most are available only during the weekend, and the famous one (but with many bad reviews) -Damnoen Saduak is located far away from Bangkok city centre. Since i have only half a Sunday available, going Chatuchak is a more sensible choice.

Night markets – All of them are not open on Monday through Wednesday, so no luck for me.

Khlong tours – private tours seem expensive and involve a lot of waiting. The Khlong Saen Saep express boat sounds fun, but may not be a good idea for travellers with young kids (with the possibility of getting splashed with dirty canal water and the under 30 seconds window to embark or disembark).