North-South highway lunch stop – Panchor

Today i found my new favourite lunch stop along the North-South highway – Hin Thoy restaurant at Panchor. It is easily accessible from the North-South highway – merely 8 minutes from the Pagoh toll exit.

Panchor is a quiet village by the Muar river, and i love the sense of serenity here. This was much more pleasant than the other nearby towns, Yong Peng and Tangkak, and even Pagoh.

All quiet on the river promenade
Exceptionally calm waters

Continue reading North-South highway lunch stop – Panchor

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

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

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.

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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 Update: m1 no longer go by billing cycle, which makes the calculation of use of local data quite complicated but can be done I guess. 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

Pearl River Delta Trip Report Card Part 2

In case you didn’t know, there are two ways to travel between Guangzhou/Foshan and Hong Kong. The first is the most commonly used Hexiehao high speed rail service, while the other one is actually an older service called the MTR Intercity through train. The advantage of the latter is not having to disembark from the train for border crossing, as you clear the immigration before boarding and after disembarking from the train. You do have to pay almost triple the amount compared to Hexiehao, but you save quite a bit of time and hassle, especially during peak hours, and probably have better comfort and privacy.

Continue reading Pearl River Delta Trip Report Card Part 2

Pearl River Delta Trip Report Card Part 1

Firstly, I wanted to showcase photos of my kids taken with some of the transportation vehicles/vessels we rode during the trip, spanning land, sea and air. If you have a kid who’s fascinated with various modes of transportation, a trip to the Pearl River Delta can fulfill his/her dreams. You don’t need to go to Europe.

transport
Clockwise from the top left, plane, ferry to Zhongshan, Hexiehao high speed rail to Lowu, MTR, double decker electric tram (aka “Dingding”), light rail (tram) at Yuen Long, mini bus, Hong Kong airport express. Not pictured above, taxi in Zhongshan, private rental car from Zhongshan to Kaiping and Dongguan, taxi and double decker bus in Hong Kong

Continue reading Pearl River Delta Trip Report Card Part 1