When I was back home for my 10-day holiday in Sabah, the only tourist attraction I visited was the Tip of Borneo. It is publicized as the most Northern point of the Borneo island.
Getting there was no easy even with our own car. The road signs were very lacking.
3G connection was bad and we had to rely on our inner GPS to guess which road to take when at a junction.
Along the way, we saw a lot of oil palm tree plantations. The plantations were thick with oil palm trees with their evil-looking pointy leaves.
There were also coconut trees which looked like they were beheaded and left with pointy tree stumps.
On our way, we passed by several homestay houses that didn’t look as comfortable as a city person wants. But if you want to be able to see the beautiful sea during evey waking moment (only that and not much else), I suppose staying at the Tip of Borneo area is good.
After several turns and windy roads, we reached the seaside. The weather that day was great. The sun was bright but not too hot and the sky was clear with only some clouds.
The Tip was at the very end of the road and we had to park our car. There was an uphill slope that we needed to climb before we were at the edge.
Visitors of the Tip of Borneo
We reached the Tip of Borneo at around 10am. I was surprised to see that many people were already there and some just about to go back. What time did they leave their house/hotel to come here so early?
We also saw a TV production team with a TV host in a red T-shirt, a couple taking wedding photos (stunning view) and a few lovebirds.
As usual, there was a large globe-thing with words like “YOU ARE AT THE TIP OF BORNEO. NOW GET A COOKIE” so people can remember where they actually were when they look back at the photos. “Hmmm…this stone looks like the one in Sandakan, or was it Kudat?”
The actual Tip of Borneo is a protruding rock surface which is half-heartedly fenced off with a small wooden road block that said: “DANGER” in Malay.
Mom and I played it safe and didn’t walk down, although I would have if I were with friends.
We listened to the waves crash and the cicada sing as we stared at the very end (or beginning) of the Borneo island.
The weekend trip to Pontian was short and sweet. My sister and I did not do much, which also meant that we did not eat much.
There’s not much formal travel information on Pontian (zero at the time of writing on Wikitravel) so we did a lot of Google searching about food and things to do.
Pontian Wanton Noodles
Since Pontian Wanton Noodles is famous in Singapore, I decided that we must eat wanton noodles in Pontian.
Unlike its name suggest, the wanton noodles is not promiscuous or cruel. Instead, it is a noodle dish served with little dumplings (wanton) which are fried or boiled.
We headed to Kedai Mee Heng Heng, a 15-minute walk away from the hotel. I was so hungry that I brought us into the coffeeshop next door.
I was rather puzzled why there was no wanton noodle. We were told that the dish was served next door. We thanked the people and sheepishly left the place.
Our noodles came really really slowly. We found out later that serving food at a slow pace is typical of Pontian town.
We ordered the black sauce noodles (instead of the sweet red sauce–ketchup–which feels urgh). The noodles were alright and the wantons too but nothing to shout about.
Football Field Restaurant seafood
Another highly-raved about place was the Football Field Restaurant which seemed like a long distance from our hotel on Google Maps. In reality, the route was quite quick.
We didn’t order crabs because they were priced at a crazy RM70 per kilo. I could have RM18/kg crabs in Sabah so I refused to order crabs.
We did have grilled flounder which was amazing, as usual. The chilli paste that came along didn’t spoil the sweet taste of its flesh. (I sound like a cannibal.)
We wanted to try food at the Market. However, we found outthat the market only opens in the evening and at nights. In the end, we headed to a row of shophouses and tried our luck at one of the coffeeshops.
We stood in the shop waiting for tables to clear. No one was leaving and food was served at the usual snail pace.
We switched to a roadside eatery instead. The food was very bland.
Not counting the fish, this was probably the highlight of Glutton in Pontian.
Our taxi driver stopped at a roadside fruitstall where we bought a bag of mangosteens and two humongous guavas. I finished my guava only on the second day, biting through it like a beaver with my front teeth.
As for the mangosteens, they were sweet and delicious. I had fun making a video about how to peel a mangosteen, check it out if you haven’t seen it.
I haven’t talked much about my trip to Kudat with mom (except about food) so I’ll start with the hotel we stayed at during our 1 night in Kudat.
While we were planning the trip, mom said we could stay at Kudat Golf & Marina Resort since we’ve not stayed there the last time we were in Kudat. (Summary of the trip 10+ years ago: The whole family was in the north of Sabah to catch the eclipse. We stayed at a hall of a Taoist Temple because all hotels were full.)
I made the booking online and picked the Standard Garden Terrace (Twin-Sharing) room which was RM180.00 nett
While driving, the hotel is not the easiest to find as the sign only pops up once in a while. Our car drove past the golf area on the windy road before we reached the main building.
I didn’t have much expectations for the hotel, even though it has “Resort” in its name.
Sure enough, it was a small resort with only 3 stories (4 floors of room if you count the ground floor).
Standard Garden Terrace (Twin-Sharing)
Our room was located on the ground floor. The glass doors opened to a small pavement and a shrub which covered some of the view of the golf fields.
It wasn’t the most fantastic view but we were either sleeping or watching TV anyway.
Of course, there was no bathtub. (I adore bathtubs even if it uses too much water.)
Unfortunately, there wasn’t Wi-Fi in the room. I had to bring my laptop out to the lobby so I could surf the Net. (Why are you online when you are on vacation?!)
View from the lobby
Luckily, the view from the lobby was quite gorgeous.
I even woke up at 5.30 am, hoping I could catch the sunrise.
Unfortunately, a bunch of trees faraway blocked my view of the sun. It was too cloudy for sunrise anyway.
You probably cannot tell from my stomach that I like to eat because many kind Samaritans have offered me their seats on the train, thinking my food baby is a real foetus.
Our room came with free breakfast at the D’Conutt Coffee House at the other end of our corridor.
I have not figured why many Malaysian establishments LOVE to add a “de” or “d'” to their restaurants. Is it to give it a French flair? Why would they need a French sounding–but obviously not French because “d'” comes before a vowel–name?
Anyway, the breakfast was so-so local food although I quite enjoyed the drinks–orange syrup with water and coffee.
In a nut shell
Kudat Golf & Marina Resort is a nice pretty place with what you need for more than minimum comfort. You will need a vehicle to get in and out as the public transport to town is not developed.
There are other hotels right inside Kudat town if you wish something more central. (Shops all close really early so it’s not really that convenient anyway.)
It’s Tuesday and almost mid-week. This week, I will be sharing a post each on Tuesday and Wednesday because they are hotel reviews. I feel it’s kind of cheating when I post hotel reviews so I line two at a go. Enjoy!
Today’s post is about a charming hotel in Pontian, Johor.
If you don’t follow me on Twitter, you might not know that my sister and I had to cancel our plans to Gunung Ledang two weekends before. We missed the train to Sematan Segamat and took a bus to the long distance bus terminal but managed to missed the bus by 2 minutes! (TWO MINUTES!)
It felt like something in the universe was telling us not to go to Gunung Ledang so I cancelled our room reservation with the resort. (Yes, I’m superstitious) We sat in the busy bus terminal with our backpacks and googled the places nearby.
In the end, we decided to go to Pontian because it’s relatively near Johor Bahru. Also because I’ve actually heard of the place. (It’s food famous!)
Since we did not do any research about Pontian, we had to frantically read up links from Google.
While searching for a place to stay, I discovered Pontian Garden Hotel on Google Maps. I fell in love immediately because it looked like it overlooks the sea.
Pontian Garden Hotel’s strategic location
When we reached the bus terminal, I was delighted to find out from my Google Map app that the hotel is walking distance.
There’s even a Marrybrown under the hotel. I love fried chicken. Too bad we didn’t have any fried chicken during the trip. (Such a tragedy.)
When we checked in, the concierge told us that they only had standard rooms which were RM 118 per night. Good enough!
There was also FREE WI-FI! Password: jiayuanpg1001
Our room was on the second floor and there was no elevator. Thank goodness we have very light backpack.
The room was very comfortable as the air-conditioning worked very well.
I also like the coffee and tea set. Free coffee and tea!
The only problem with the room is the shower: The water sprayed almost everywhere. Eeek.
Best about Pontian Garden Hotel
Good points about the hotel include the helpful concierge. They helped us call up a taxi to bring us to Tanjung Piai to see the southern tip of the continent of Asia.
But, the best thing about the hotel is not the room, the people or the breakfast (I love food!).
It was the view of the breakfast place. Look!
Imagine having breakfast while looking at the deep blue sea. (OK, it was gray the day I was there.) The sea breeze is great in helping with invigorating the appetite!
In a nut shell
Pontian Garden Hotel is a fantastic place to stay if you are in Pontian. The price, view, room, people are all fantastic.
Today, I will tell you which are my Top 5 favorite free tools for travel blogging. The tools can be adapted to other types of blogging as well.
Since I’m too miserly to buy software for blogging, I choose to use free (not pirated) software for all my work on YQ Travelling.
I’m blogging on the WordPress.com platform so some of the tools might not work for you (eg #5).
Here are the Top 5 free digital tools I use:
Windows Live Writer
(Extra) LibreOffice writer
No. 1: Windows Live Writer
It’s funny how Windows Live Writer is on the top of the list when I’ve only began using it in December. Windows Live Writer is a desktop blogging software which allows you to easily post directly from your desktop to your blog (at least for my WordPress.com blog).
Previously, I drafted my blog posts in LibreOffice Writer (open source equivalent of Microsoft Office) and even add links using handcoded HTML. (My work requires me to add HTML by hand so I’ve very familiar with it.)
Windows Live Writer makes it easier to add text formatting, photos, links and a lot more right from the comforts of the desktop.
What I don’t like about the software is that the Insert Picture function shrinks the photo to a tiny size so I have to manually upload it on WordPress.
The second on my list is Dropbox. I usually blog on three computers: home PC, office laptop and a netbook when travelling. It’s hard to get everything synchronized without Dropbox.
I save only one copy of my file in Dropbox, but I can retrieve the most recently updated file through the system. Isn’t it like magic?
I’ve installed Dropbox on all three computers and my iPhone. I don’t use it just for travel blogging. I also upload my photos from my phone to it as backup but recently, I’ve began using Google+ as photo backup because of the almost unlimited space.
Photos are important as part of the narrative for travel blogging. (Although some take that to the extreme.)
I don’t have Photoshop as I don’t know how to use it (and too cheap to buy it). Instead, I have Picasa which I use to organize my photos as well as crop and resize for images I want to put on the site.
The best feature of this tool is the “Export”, which resizes photos to the pixel length you specify. I find that 1000 pixel makes a good image size.
My free WordPress.com account does not have unlimited storage for images so I am careful to resize photos before putting them up. Exporting the photos also cut down on the size.
By the way, Picasa is owned by Google so you can easily upload your photos to Google Drive from the software.
I use the software and its Chrome widget to “clip” interesting content on the Web. For example, when I was writing my first guest post about Kuching. I “clipped” a few relevant pages from the Internet for reference.
It’s also very useful for travel planning since you have all the pages gathered in an area.
I almost forgot about WordPress.com which is ironic because my blog would not exist without it.
The first post in this blog was written in Xanga because my friend was using it. The mass photo upload function knocked my socks off. Since then, I have cold feet for most activities.
Then I shifted the blog to Posterous because it’s a cute microblog site. Later I found out that the functionality is too limited so I ported it to WordPress.com.
Some people were telling me that I should have started the self-hosted version of WordPress instead. If you, like me, do not know what that means, you can just ignore that sentence.
Perhaps one day I might switch to WordPress.org, but that day is still not here yet.
Extra: LibreOffice Writer
LibreOffice Writer was in my original list of Top 5 but was kicked off the list when I discovered Windows Live Writer.
Instead of writing directly on my WordPress blog, I prefer having my draft on my computer because I can “Undo” more in here.
LibreOffice Writer looks a lot like Microsoft Word. It’s an open source word processing tool. You can write in it like Microsoft Word but you don’t need to pay Microsoft.
I started out using OpenOffice (LibreOffice’s past life) out of spite of Mircosoft. Then I got hooked to it. It feels a lot better than Word, although my boss would say that the Spellcheck is not working as well as Word.
I also use LibreOffice’s version of Excel for budgeting.
So, those are my favorite tools for travel blogging. What are your essential digital tools for travel blogging? Share it in the comments.
When I was in the first three years of university, I flew from Kota Kinabaluto Johor’s Senai Airport on AirAsia. From the airport, I usually take a private cab into Singapore for a princely sum.
Of course I had a choice of flying directly into Changi Airport but it was an expensive choice of SilkAir.
When AirAsia finally flew from KK to Singapore directly, I was ecstatic. I remember saying “goodbye” to Senai Airport, adding, “We’ll never see each other again.”
Unfortunately, I did see Senai again.
I took an AirAsia flight from JB back home to Sabah during the Christmas break. It was more than S$100 cheaper per trip compared with flying directly to or from Singapore. (RM284 [SG$115] vs ~S$250).
Compared to 4 years ago, AirAsia has made it convenient for passengers in Singapore to go to Senai. There’s a 2-hourly bus from JB’s CIQ to Senai. The bus journey is about 40 minutes and a pleasant ride.
When I was on the way to the airport, I asked the driver about the number of passengers who have taken the shuttle. He counted in his head and said, “13. And that’s a good number. It’s the weekend, you see.”
On the way to the airport, there were 3 passengers. On my way back to JB, there was only me. I have a feeling AirAsia might cancel the shuttle any time.
Since I had the chance to experience flying to Senai and to Changi, I will list down the pros and cons for you to decide.
Pros and cons of Senai and Changi
Tickets are cheaper than flying directly into Singapore
Marry Brown fast food at airport
Less crowded at airport
Free transport to Senai and CIQ
Extra travelling time to JB or Singapore (depending on traffic)
Update: Feb 23, 2014. I’ve shifted some of the steps because AirAsia changed their sequence.
Update: Jan 13, 2013. Changing publishing date so the post will be higher up, ready for this round of Free Seats.
AirAsia has revamped its whole Web site. Good news is, some of the sneaky charges in the previous booking procedure have been taken out.
However, there might be still some confusion with the booking, I’m doing up a new version of the guide too.
For this money saving activity, you will need
Direct debit e-payment method (save RM4 per journey)
I am using a return flight from Singapore to Kota Kinabalu as an example. Please ignore the exorbitant flight price.
Step 1: Pick a good price
Unless you are flying within the month, I recommend that you wait for a while for the promos to roll in. The AirAsia Facebook puts up updates about the sales frequently. I haven’t figured out the promo fares’ cycles but they come quite quick.
Plan as far in advance if you can and do not buy tickets at full price. If you are booking during the promo period, remember that a lot of people are doing the same so you need to strategize your booking.
Step 2: Beat the charges I–Luggage
When you have selected the flight with the best price and time combo, you are ready to eliminate those sneaky fees.
At the page where you fill in the passengers’ details, you will come across the first extra charge–baggage fee.
AirAsia lists the 20kg as default. You can select 0kg if you are hardcore.
I’ve been travelling with only a carry one for many of my trips now. It takes some getting used to but it is possible to stuff a laptop, two dresses and other things into one backpack.
Be careful, you will need to deselect luggage twice on the same page if you have booked a return trip.
Money saved with 0kg: S$17 one way (for default 20kg price). Total saved: S$34
Step 3: Beat the charges II–Insurance
With the revamp, AirAsia has made it much easier to skip buying insurance. But it’s still a bit sneaky.
To remove insurance,
untick the box
A word of caution: I do not recommend having no insurance when travelling. I have an annual travel insurance by another company so I do not buy from AirAsia.
Money saved no insurance S$12.
Total saved: S$46
Step 3: Beat the charges III–Seat allocation
Hurray! There is no sneaky extra charge here.
Just head straight to Confirm on the lower right.
I was given the “Hot Seat” once (for free) but I didn’t feel that it was any better than the rest of the seats. Maybe the red faux leather was prettier than the boring black, but everything’s the same.
Unless you and your darling are two lovebirds who cannot bear to be apart (nice ad by the way, AirAsia) or you need to take care of your child/elderly, please be sensible and do not add any seats.
No sneaky charges. Hurray!. Total saved: S$34
Step 5: Beat the charges IV–Processing fee
We are almost there!
The last fees that you will encounter is very much like the Boss level in video games. You will need that “Direct debit e-payment method” I prescribed up there.
If you pay using a credit or debit card, AirAsia will charge you something they call a “processing fee” for each flight that you take.
It doesn’t mean that you can buy 10 person’s tickets in one transaction to even out the processing fee. It means it’s 10 x [processing fee]=A lot of wasted money.
[Update Sep 16, 2013] Since a month ago or so, AirAsia has started charging processing fee for direct debit payments as well. However, you will still save a measly RM4 if you use direct debit.
In Singapore, we can use ENets as the direct debit payment option, which eliminates the processing fee. Just change the currency to Singapore Dollar to get the ENets function.
For other countries, there are other ways so please research before you start your payment.
If you are buying tickets departing from countries without your Direct Debit option, change the currency to the one your account is based to see if they have the option for you.
Money saved with no processing fee S$16 return trip. Total saved: S$62
Step 6: S$62 richer (+pre flying tip)
So by being careful, I just saved myself S$62 for a single person return trip–enough to fund for another trip to a closer location! The amount also adds up if there are more travellers.
Also, remember to use Web check-in because they might charge you extra at the counter.
My tips are targeted at AirAsia. At my favorite money saving site: UK-based MoneySavingExpert, there’s extra tips on how to save money on budget flights with a focus on inter-Europe cheap flights.
That is all I have to impart. Go on your money saving journey, my friends!