YQrtw: Why Italy

Old Timey Florence, vintage, florence, commons

[I’m stealing my mom’s mobile broadband to post these posts. Thanks mama! Let’s get back to our regular program.]

After floating about at sea for 15 nights for my round-the-world (RTW), I will be in Italy–the land of gelato, cappucino and pizza. Buon appetito.

Old Timey Florence, vintage, florence, commons
Old Timey Florence

Photo credit: Library of Congress

I must confess. Italy was not in my “MUST VISIT” list when I was first making plans. [By now, I know most of you will be like: YQ! Stop telling us you didn’t want to go to a country but ended up going anyway.]

Hear me out! I didn’t want to go to Italy because I felt that it was too touristy and would be more expensive than the other countries.

Besides higher-cost, I felt that since I was headed to Greece, I could skip Italy. My theory was that the Roman Empire followed the Greek Empire so I can see even more ancient stuff if I head to Greece. Of course, I did not take into consideration my lack of knowledge in ancient European grography and history.

In the end, Italy fell into my lap because it was the last stop of the cruise I will be going on.

Turns out, Italy is more exciting than I thought it would be.

I have 10 days in Italy (to divide my 30 days equally among the three European country I am visiting). As I like to travel slow, I plan to base myself in Florence for most of the time. If I get too bored in Florence, I’ll take a day trip elsewhere.

I’m not too keen on Venice because of the flock of tourists that will be there. Plus, I heard that Venice is not the cheapest Italian city to be in.

Travel plans for Italy

My travel plans for Italy is the most concrete among my other plans (including Sri Lanka which I will be heading in about a week’s time.) I’ve booked two 19 euro tickets, which is kind of a bargain.

My cruise will land at Civitavecchia. After a night there, I will head to Pisa before taking the train to Florence.

I plan to spend most of my time in Florence to look at the beautiful things they have there. My only regret about Florence is that I didn’t manage to finish Assassin’s Creed 2 which had a walking map of old Florence. I blame my old computer for that.

For the last three days of my trip, I will head to Italy’s capital Rome. I am not very sure what I want to do in Rome but I’m sure I’ll be able to pack all three days to the brim.

In Italy, I want to eat a lot of pasta, gelato and pizza. My stomach is hungry just thinking about these three food.

Have you been to Italy? What do you recommend doing there?

YQrtw: Why a repositioning cruise

Old timey cruise

We’re sort of back on schedule with my daily round-the-world (RTW) posts.

Today, we are talking about my 15-night repositioning cruise from Dubai to Europe.

Old timey cruise
Old timey cruise

Image credit: Australian National Maritime Museum

The cruise was the first booking I made for my RTW. After paying the deposit, I felt that the RTW was going to come true. It also helped with choosing travelling dates for the rest of my trip.

I planned to cross either the Atlantic or Pacific ocean on a cargo ship but the price wasn’t cheap enough.

In the end, I found out about repositioning cruises which are ships that travel during off-peak season back to popular starting points.

Pros and cons of a repositioning cruise

Pros

  • Cheaper per night than the usual cruise
  • Long sailing period (so much water! and sunsets on the ocean)
  • One-way (so I do not need to backtrack)
  • Full of retirees (so I don’t have to see party animals)
  • Unlimited food (vs cargos with three meals)
  • Stops at a few important locations (one-day excursion!)

Cons

  • Large one-time payment
  • Long sailing period (with few stops at shores)
  • Full of retirees (who have the time to travel on a long stretch of time)
  • Expensive (not the usual price of a budget flight and not recommended if you are on a round-trip journey)
  • High single surcharge (vs budget flights)
  • Short stays at shore

Cost of repositioning cruise

When I made the booking for the cruise from Dubai to Italy, my booking charge was around S$2,000. I felt it was a reasonable price since it included transportation and lodging.

I paid the final fees in early February. However, I was shocked when I did a search and found out that the type of room I booked for was going at an even cheaper rate.

My friend advised me to call up the cruise company and tell them that I am upset about the price difference. I did make and call and was surprised when the operator told me they would refund the difference.

The refund turned out to be S$599.75 which is a really hefty sum and could help me with many nights in a cheap location.

I still need to pay about S$200 of tips for the whole trip but I haven’t made the payment yet.

While I’m very excited about the cruise, two of my friends who have been on cruises told me that it is actually really really boring. Gulp! I guess I’ll have to find out myself.

Have you been on a cruise? How was the experience? Will I be bored out of my mind?

Glutton in east coast of Peninsula Malaysia

Food in east coast Peninsula Malaysia keropok lekor, tapai, nasi kerabu, patin

D and I visited the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia during a 5-day trip in March. We crossed out Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan (again) off our list of 13 Malaysian states.

Five days is a lot of food so I will only be highlighting some of the best yummies we had.

Glutton in Kuantan, Pahang

We visited only Kuantan while in Pahang. On our first day, we visited the famous Akob Patin House which was (almost) right behind our hotel.

The Malay eatery is a medium standalone stall/house. It serves ready-cooked food for customers to scoop into their own plates.

The most famous dish there is their patin fish. I got a small piece cooked in tempoyak (fermented durian). The fish melted in my mouth but the fermented durian tasted strange (sort of like stinky tofu in Taiwan).

D found something strange in her plate of mixed rice. The strange food looked like a sliced cucumber but was mushy. Then D discovered that it was green durian cooked in curry. BANANA COOKED IN ITS SKIN!!

For dessert, there was tapai which was sticky glutinous rice wrapped in leaf. Sticky liquid dripped out. It turned out to be rice wine which was really strong and hit me in the head. BAM.

Find Akob Patin House: Tapak PCCL Jalan Besar 25000 Kuantan Pahang

Glutton in Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu

Madam Bee's Kitchen

In Chinatown of Kuala Terengganu, Madam Bee’s Kitchen serves peranakan food. D and I head there for a late lunch and tea on different days.

Some of the items on the menu were not available that day (watch out for the orange round sticker!)

The food was tasty but very down-to-earth. The menu did not have fancy peranakan food such as buah keluak or kong ba pao.

Find Madam Bee’s Kitchen: 177 Jalan Kampung Cina, Kuala Terengganu 21100, Malaysia

D and I stumbled upon Warung Pak Aziz while looking for breakfast in Kuala Terengganu. (McDonalds was not open until 9am!)

This little stall was in the middle of a carpark, next to office buildings. All the patrons looked like office people and we were the odd one out.

The best food here was the keropok lekor which was a deep fried fish cake. (I usually think of keropok as being thin.)

The owner, Pak Aziz, was delighted that D wanted to have another serving of keropok lekor. (Yes, I ate a lot of them too.)

Warung Pak Aziz address on Foursquare: Parking Kotitab

Glutton in Kota Bahru, Kelantan

Right opposite our hotel in Kota Bahru was a 24-hour hawker center. For our late-late-lunch, we had martabak and nasi air.

Martabak is a pancake-like dish with great filling. I had beef with mine.

Nasi air was a new discovery for D and I. It’s an interesting porridge-like bowl of rice and soup. The rice always seem to be in an interesting lump, instead of the watery grains found in Chinese cooking.

Have you had any of these dishes?

YQrtw: Why Dubai

Modern Dubai

[It’s supposed to be a week full of posts about my round-the-world but I do not have fixed internet connection at home so I will update a little sparsely.]

Today, we are talking about Dubai which I didn’t plan to visit but ended up on my list anyway.

Modern Dubai
Modern Dubai

Photo credit: Eugene Kaspersky  (The Kaspersky!)

Dubai wasn’t originally on my list of places to visit. From descriptions of the place, I imagined it to be like a faster growing Singapore with the occasional sand storm.

However, I suspected that I might have a layover there since it’s a transit hub.

In the end, I did get a few days in Dubai but not for flight transit as I first thought. Instead, my cruise leaves from Dubai.

When buying my ticket to Dubai from Colombo, I gave myself 3 full days in the city which stretches out into 4 days if you look at the calendar. Now I’m kind of regretting having such a long layover there.

However, Stephanie from Pearlsnpassport.com who was in Dubai recently loved the place and would consider working there. I met up with her just this afternoon for a lunch of ayam penyet. She helped with a lot of questions

[Stephanie is now on her RTW and her first two stops were Dubai and Sri Lanka. She helped me with a lot of questions about travelling in Dubai and Sri Lanka. It’s my first time seeing an actual RTW-er and a fellow travel blogger.]

I’ll give Dubai a chance and won’t judge the place until I’ve been there. If things aren’t as fun (meaning I only visit shopping malls), I might head over to Oman since I do not need a visa there.

Do you have any travel tips for Dubai? Share them in the comments below.

YQrtw: Why Sri Lanka

Old timey Ceylon

Welcome to a week full of posts to get you (and I) excited about my RTW. Today, we are talking about Sri Lanka but mostly about how I almost skipped Ceylon.

Old timey Ceylon
Old timey Ceylon

Colombo, Ceylon [Source: The National Archives]

In my original plans, I wanted to visit India. It wasn’t because I was particularly enamoured with India. It was because India is a staple of a modern RTW and I wanted to be hip (but not a hippy).

Later, I crossed India off the list because I was required to pay 161.56 ringgit in visa fees. Yucks.

Luckily, AirAsia started promoting its Kuala Lumpur-Colombo (Sri Lanka) route. [This route was later cancelled, I’ll talk more about it later.] I figured that Sri Lanka is a good beginner’s guide to South Asia. I booked a dirt cheap ticket to Sri Lanka and planned to stay there for two weeks.

I didn’t do much planning for Sri Lanka. My usual travel buddy D also bought tickets to Sri Lanka and I planned to steal her itinerary.  D happily planned her trip while I happily not plan my trip.

Then, we received bad news.

AirAsia cancels KUL-CMB

In February, AirAsia cancelled the Kuala Lumpur-Colombo route. It was a total WTF moment because I’ve seen AirAsia promote Sri Lanka like crazy. Every time I got my hands on its in-flight magazine, I had seen Sri Lanka featured.

What am I supposed to do?

Unfortunately, by that time, I’ve already booked my tickets from Colombo to Dubai. It would be too expensive for me to get a flight direct to Dubai from Malaysia.

I did worry a lot about my flight. I tried searching for cheaper tickets but all full service carriers were too expensive. The best ticket I could get was Tiger Air flight from Singapore but the 10pm arrival time was horrid.

Even if I wanted to make a booking from mid-February to early-March, I didn’t because of Mercury retrograde. Yes, I am very superstitious and did not want to make any bookings during the “horoscopely bad” period.

Things worked out in the end. By the tail-end of the Mercury retrograde period, I found out that Tiger Air changed their timing for the Sri Lanka flight to morning. I booked the 10am flight to Colombo and will reach at 11am in the morning. That’s a great timing.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

I still haven’t done a lot of research on Sri Lanka. I’ve heard only good things about the place from people who have visited: tea, curry, relaxation.

I do have vague plans such as taking the train, visiting Buddha’s tooth and avoid getting bitten by mosquitos.

By the way, I will be in Sri Lanka during their new year. My Sri Lankan friend, M, said most shops are closed then but the temples are open. It would be fun seeing how they celebrate new year there and how it differs from my Malaysian Chinese New Year.

I wonder how much I can wing it. Maybe I will do more reading once I head home on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka, here I come!

Do you have any travel tips for Sri Lanka? Share them in the comments below.

(Tomorrow I will be talking about my 15-night cruise that only costs about S$1,700 with tips.)

YQrtw: Round-the-world pre-trip expenses

old timey receipt

Get ready for an overload of posts on my round-the-world (RTW) trip the whole week [#YQrtw](minus Friday where I will be sharing food from my East Coast trip). During the week, I’ll be writing about the destinations I am going to and a special post on cruising.

Today, I will be talking about my pre-trip expenses.

old timey receipt

Receipt for “Confederate States Court” Upholstery, 12/1861
Photo credit: National Archives at Fort Worth, TX.

The most frequent question I get from people when I tell them about my round-the-world (RTW) trip is: “So, how much will your trip cost?”

I look sheepishly back at them, “I’m not sure.”

“How much are you saving?”

“I’m thinking S$10,000 but I’m not sure.”

So, to be open about my expenses, I will share the cost of RTW.

Since I’ve not been on the trip yet, I’ll list down my pre-travel expenses.

To be honest, I was a little shocked when I saw how much I’ve spent even before leaving. However, this also means that I will have less in-trip expenses (is that even a word?)

I also want to note that I have paid for everything myself. My parents do not have a trust fund for me and they are not paying for the trip (at least not yet. haha).

Let’s get back to the topic: Here is the spreadsheet of expenses and detailed explanation of each price.

Pre-trip expenses

Air tickets (Total: S$4,436.10)

Air tickets took up more than half of my pre-trip expenses (~60 percent). I have a split of budget airlines and full-service airlines.

For my budget flights, I booked them myself through the airlines’ website (AirAsia, Tiger Air and Easyjet).

For the rest of the flights, I didn’t get one of those RTW tickets sold by airlines. The first time I tried cobbling up a route, I was very shocked about the price. I sort of gave up on it in the end.

Instead, I booked the flights though Airtreks which specializes in multi-destination flight routes. I did a mock booking and sent my purchase query to the company. Later, an agent (mine’s Justin) set up a time to call me so we can book the tickets together.

One good thing about using Airtreks instead of looking on my own was that I didn’t need to look at different routes on my own. Also, I wouldn’t have known about South American airline TICA if I had booked on my own. I managed to add in a week in El Salvador since Justin told me there was a layover there (US$60 extra).

After my booking, Airtreks also sent me e-mail updates on some of the flight timing changes which was a nice touch. Another great thing that happened with Airtreks was that they had an offer of either a night in a fancy hotel or US$100 Amazon vouchers (I chose Amazon!).

The down side was that the tickets were about US$400 more than what it would have been if I booked them separately on my own. Of course, if I booked the flights on my own, I would have to religiously check if there are any flight changes.

Even though the flights are pretty expensive, it’s actually about the same as a Singapore-Brazil roundtrip flight (according to people who told me about it).

Cruise (S$1429.9)

Before you go “What on earth, you are taking a cruise? Are you old or something?!”, I want to tell you that I will have a separate post on why I chose the 15-night repositioning cruise during my RTW.

This time, I want to talk about the expenses. This cruise to Italy wasn’t my first booking with Royal Caribbean.I made another booking for Dubai to Barcelona since the Italy route wasn’t open when I first booked.

I found out about the Italy cruise later and cancelled Barcelona to buy the new cruise. Even though I had to forfeit S$100 of my deposit, I still managed to save S$50 because it was slightly cheaper.

I paid for the full ticket in February (S$2,030). However, I found out that the price for the cabin of my class had dropped significantly in March. I think it’s because the cruise had very low booking and they had to slash the price to about S$1,500 per person.

I was rather angry. My friends advised me to call up the cruise line to complain. I did and I managed to get a verbal agreement that they will refund me the price difference. (I asked for an e-mail update but I haven’t received it yet.)

The cruise does seem expensive. S$1,500. However, you must remember that it’s for 15 nights of accommodation and all-you-can-eat buffets. Plus, it stops in Egypt which would cost quite a lot if I had decided to fly in and out to visit the pyramids.

I still need to include the tips which will probably be around S$200 for the trip.

Insurance (S$582.00)

I bought a 22-week insurance from Chartis during the Natas Travel Fair. It was 40 percent off which was a very good offer.

I did consider getting World Nomads (which is popular among the long-term travellers) but I decided that I want someone in Singapore whom I can talk to in case (touch wood) anything bad happens.

Yellow fever vaccine (S$188)

I still have a few vaccines I need for the trip but I decided to get the yellow fever vaccine in Singapore, just in case they didn’t have any in Sabah.

I went to Singapore General Hospital’s Travel Clinic. Even though I told the nurse that I only wanted the yellow fever vaccine, she gave very detailed explanation about what other shots I will need. She also checked if I needed to bring any malaria tablets. She figured that if I skip a few of the high-risk areas, I wouldn’t need any tablets.

She also advised me to cover myself up with long sleeves and trousers. I also need to use repellent with high DEET. Gulp.

The other vaccines I need are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhiod, rabies. I’ll probably skip rabies and refrain from touching the cute cats on the trip.

The rest of the expenses are small change compared to the above but here they are anyway:

Train tickets in Italy: (19 euro per trip)
I bought train tickets for Civitavecchia to Pisa and Florence to Rome. They were on promotion and were only 19 euro each way. I still need tickets from Pisa to Florence but those weren’t available online yet and can be bought on the spot for less than 9 euros anyway.

Backpack: S$63
I bought a new backpack that was larger than my old one (which was breaking down anyway). I haven’t figured out how to pack neatly so I can stuff more things in the 20L bag.

I will only bring the backpack as my major storage unit. It’s just too difficult to bring too many things. Also, mom’s coming to Turkey too so she can pass me winter clothes for South America.

Feature phone: S$89
My old 3-year-old Nokia broke down last month. I have an iPhone as my smartphone/portable map/Whatsapp device but I really need a feature phone for local SIMs. I bought a new feature phone when I passed one of the phone shops. It has two SIM slots which mean I can use two at a go!

Visa for Sri Lanka S$38.22 (US$30)
I bought this visa before I found out that AirAsia cancelled the KL-Colombo route. At first I thought about giving up Sri Lanka because the alternative flights were too expensive. Luckily, Tiger Air was selling cheaper budget tickets. Even luckier was that the flights were shifted to an earlier time and I will be able to reach in the morning.

I still lack the visa to the United States. I didn’t have time to get them while in Singapore so I plan to apply in South America before my plane leaves for the transit. Even though I will only be transiting to 4 hours, I still need to pay US$160. WTF.

So these are my pre-trip expenses. I’ll be writing more as I go.

Do you think I am paying too much? Share them in the comments below.

FAQ Tips on taking train from Singapore to Malaysia

The person didn't give me permission to take the photo so I gave him sunglasses.

The original post Tips on taking train from Singapore to Malaysia brings the most search traffic to my post. It’s been more than a year since the post went up and thanks for your support.

Besides encouraging comments, I’ve also gotten A LOT of questions about this particular train route. Some questions were stuff I didn’t think about when I was writing the post while others were questions about stuff I’ve already mentioned in the post (this drives me nuts).

Instead of answering the repeated Qs, I’ve gathered the questions here.

1. Where can I book train tickets from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur?
2. My online booking didn’t go through. HELP!
3. I picked Kuala Lumpur as my destination, why isn’t there a night train?
4. Is it safe to travel on the Malaysian train?
5. How do I get to [location in Singapore]?
6. Where do I board the train at Johor?
7. Is there food at JB train station? (No one asked me this, actually.)
8. On the online booking, If I am coming to Singapore, which KTM train stop should I stop?
9. How do I get to JB’s train station from the rest of Singapore?
10. How much is the price of bed/seat/chamber/narnia’s closet?
11. How do I get to Bangkok on train?
12. Hey! Your post is about Singapore to Malaysia. But I’m in Malaysia, how do I get to Singapore by train?
13. Do they still give blankets for the common carriage?
14. I need to get to [location in Malaysia], can you help?

FAQ begins here! I hate the formatting too!

1. Where can I book train tickets from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur?
If you are booking online, the link is https://intranet.ktmb.com.my/e-ticket/Login.aspx Sign up for an account and you can check past reservations.
You can also visit the train stations to buy the tickets but I don’t recommend doing that for night trains.

2. My online booking didn’t go through. HELP!
Check your bookings in your account. I’m not sure what the phone number for KTMB is.

3. I picked Kuala Lumpur as my destination, why isn’t there a night train?
Pick Sentral Kuala Lumpur, not Kuala Lumpur (which is one stop after KL Sentral).

4. Is it safe to travel on the Malaysian train?
Have you watched too many wild wild west movies? I don’t think there are any robbers ambushing the trains. It’s safe.

5. How do I get to [location in Singapore]?
Check out http://gothere.sg/ or https://maps.google.com.sg/.

6. Where do I board the train at Johor?
Johor train station. Map here (click to enlarge):

7. Is there food at JB train station? (No one asked me this, actually.)
There is a 24-hour KFC. A Starbucks is open until 10pm (I think).

8. On the online booking, If I am coming to Singapore, which KTM train stop should I stop?
Pick Woodlands. This isn’t the Woodlands MRT, it’s a KTM train station near Woodlands MRT.

9. How do I get to JB’s train station from the rest of Singapore?
If you are at Bugis, you can head to the Queen Street terminal where there are buses to JB. There are also Causeway Link buses to JB from Kranji and Newton.

* Woodlands train station is at the checkpoint. It is different from Woodlands MRT.

10. How much is the price of bed/seat/chamber/narnia’s closet?
It’s best to check directly on the site. https://intranet.ktmb.com.my/e-ticket/Login.aspx

11.How do I get to Bangkok on train?
I’ve never taken the train from Singapore to Bangkok (but it’s on my wish list!) So check out the wonderful Seat61: http://www.seat61.com/Malaysia.htm#Singapore_-_Kuala_Lumpur_-_Penang_-_Bangkok

12. Hey! Your post is about Singapore to Malaysia. But I’m in Malaysia, how do I get to Singapore by train?

Just reverse engineer my tips for Singapore to KL. Pick Sentral Kuala Lumpur as your starting point and Woodlands as your destination.

13. Do they still give blankets for the common carriage?

They didn’t have the thin sheet the last time I was on the morning sleeper to Singapore.

14. I need to get to [location in Malaysia], can you help?

Unfortunately, I come from Sabah so I am clueless about travelling in Peninsula Malaysia (unless I did research on it for a trip). Please check out the rest of the internet.

Glutton in Singapore

Best iced kopi I've had in Singapore. At Koufu Sengkang Sculpture Park

It’s funny how I’ve been in Singapore for so long but I have not had a Glutton post on the food here.

Since I’m leaving Singapore next week for the world, I thought it would be apt to have a post on food in Singapore, especially food that I love.

To be honest, food in Malaysia (especially those served at dingy restaurants) are a lot tastier than food in Singapore.

In Singapore, I usually eat at food courts where the cook is someone hired to put everything together and get it out of the stove as quickly as possible. This leads to disappointing meals.

Why don’t I go to nice places with nice food? Well, I don’t have a car and I don’t want to pay too much money for nice food. However, I have been having a lot of nice food this week as part of my many farewell parties.

Anyway, here are a few dishes and food places which I will miss if I leave Singapore:

Chicken rice

chatterbox chicken rice
Chatterbox chicken rice

When my friends were organizing a farewell party, one asked what food I would miss from Singapore. It took me a while to think about which dish but in the end, I chose “chicken rice”.

When I was a kid, there was a chicken rice branch called Singapore Chicken Rice. I loved that place. The chicken was tender and the soup that they served always had bits of chicken feet and vegetables.

While there are famous chicken rice stalls in Singapore, most of the time I just have it at a regular food court. The chicken rice comes with a bowl of rice decanted onto the plate and a few bits of chicken. That said, it’s one of the cheaper (less than $4) dishes around so I go for it frequently.

Kopi

Best iced kopi I've had in Singapore. At Koufu Sengkang Sculpture Park
Best iced kopi I’ve had in Singapore. At Koufu Sengkang Sculpture Park

I love coffee. Even though local coffee in Singapore and Malaysia are served similarly with condensed milk, I like how easy it is to just get a papercup of kopi to go.

In Malaysia where I live, I usually have kopi when I am out at the kopitiam, not as a pick me up in the late afternoon.

Mee hoon kueh

A stall at Compass Point serves really good mee hoon kueh. It’s a noodle dish where the noodles are flat and squarish.

Ayam Penyet or ayam anything!

Near my old workplace, there was a Malay stall which served ayam penyet (fried chicken hammered flat and served with rice) every Tuesday and Thursday. I loved that place but having fried chicken almost every week wasn’t such a good idea.

Eateries I will miss:

Saizeriya

Saizeriya food. Oishiii
Saizeriya food. Oishiii

Saizeriya is a Japanese-Italian family restaurant. The food is quite cheap for a restaurant environment. If you pay a few dollars extra, you can have unlimited drinks from the drink bar. I love drinking non-alcoholic drinks as much as eating.

I usually go to Saizeriya with friends and we chat over our glasses and glasses of cordial orange. I don’t have a favorite dish there but I do like their seaweed.

Check out the list of Saizeriya branches.

Botak Jones

Botak Jones have branches serving affordable Southern US food. When I was in university (that was 4 years ago?), their portions were crazy large (or what is considered normal-sized in the US) with fries that spill over the table if you accidentally bumped into a plate.

Now, the size has shrunk but I do like their cajun chicken. I had a Botak Jones branch near my old workplace and I usually pick that spot for online dates (less walking for me).

What is your favorite food in Singapore? Share them in the comments below.

My round-the-world 2013 route

Round the World route

It’s rather strange being at home on a Wednesday afternoon, typing at my computer…

Oh ya, I am unemployed now. Anyway, I have a whole lot of things to pack in my room and should spend less time on the computer. (I’m only getting started with “things on the floor”. I’ve only managed 15 tiles and it seems that I’ve dug out more things than I’ve tossed.)

Anyway, not to bore you with my packing, I’ll share with you the route of my round-the-world trip (while I procrastinate packing).

My concrete route for now is:

Round the World route
Round the World route

Malaysia -> Sri Lanka -> Dubai-> [Stopping by Jordan and Egypt on a cruise ship] -> Italy -> Greece -> Turkey -> South America (most likely Argentina, Bolivia, Peru) -> El Salvador -> Hong Kong

While there are other places in the world which I want to go, not all of them are on the list. The reasons why they are not in the list are: money, time and out-of-wayness.

The plans that you see now have been distilled from a murky “These are the places I want to go if I am rich” to something that’s more possible.

What my previous goal was

When I was planning the trip, I had big dreams. I wanted to see India, Egypt, Greece, UK (for flight transfer), USA, Hawaii (and by budget airline to) Australia.

I wanted to cross the Atlantic or Pacific oceans on a cargo ship. Even though this might sound like a good and cheap option to cross the sea, turns out it’s rather expensive and very time consuming.

I wanted to do so much but I knew my budget was limited. In the end, I narrowed down my destinations to a few continents while keeping to a few important places: Greece and South America.

Destinations such as Egypt and Hawaii were crossed out because it would be rather expensive to go solo (especially for only a few days). Since Hawaii was out, there was no point going by budget airlines to Australia which I’ve not found the wish to visit yet.

Where I’m going

I will be heading home to Sabah next Tuesday and spend about 2 weeks there. Then I’m heading to Sri Lanka for seven days which will coincide with the the local new year celebration. [Catch the Sri Lanka updates here.]

After Sri Lanka, I will be in Dubai for a few days before my cruise leaves for Italy. [Dubai posts here.] Yes, that’s right, I’m going on a cruise despite being on a backpacking trip. I’ve never been on a cruise but two people who have been on cruises told me it’s dead boring. Will I be bored to death? Stay tuned.

The cruise covers Jordan and three sites in Egypt so I might go on an excursion at those places.

While in Europe, I will only visit Italy, Greece and Turkey because I only have a month there. Mom will join me in Turkey! Yeah! We’ll be checking out exotic locations in Turkey.

After Turkey, I’m heading to South America for TWO MONTHS. Holy macarena! Two whole months in South America in winter. Actually, two months is not much if you consider how gigantic the continent is.

After SA, it’s a week in El Salvador. I know it’s a bit weird but I had a flight connection there and for an extra US$60, I could stop over for as long as I like. Great!

After El Salvador, I’m heading to Los Angeles for a transit to Hong Kong. I am not staying in the US because living expenses there is crazy compared to the other places I have on my plan. But I still need to pay US$160 for visa, even though it’s only a 4-hour transit. Boo hoo.

Finally, I will be heading to Hong Kong. I’ve only been to Macau so I look forward to the many dimsum feasts which I will have.

After Hong Kong, it’s back to Malaysia. I’ll take a mini break before I figure out the next step.

What will happen during RTW?

Of course my RTW isn’t a long vacation which some think it is.

I will continue blogging and share travel tips for the locations I go to. I will also jot notes for the book that I want to write after the trip.

During my journey, I also want to find “the next place I want to stay semi-permanently”.

I’ve been in Singapore for 7 years, which is about one-quarter of my life. I am not sure if I want to be in Singapore for the rest of my life so I want to find the next best place. What better way than to go to places and check out the place? (By the way, this doesn’t mean that I want to settle down in a place with “that special someone”.)

Do you have any recommendations for the countries I’m visiting? Share them in the comment!

Further reading

My RTW route:

Big news: You’ll never guess where I’m going!

If you’ve guessed that I’m going to Terengganu, you are right. But I’m not talking about my Malaysia trip this time.

Ahem. I’ve been keeping this a secret for a long while and now I am finally able to announce this. DRUM ROLL.

I’m going around the world!

Yes, it’s too early for April’s Fools so this is the real deal. I will embark on a career break to do a round-the-world (RTW) trip.

It took me about two years before I got to this stage. I had the idea that I wanted to go on a RTW after reading Round the World with NT$100K and now, I am (sort of ready).

Why an RTW now?

Vintage round the world map
Vintage round the world map

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sdasmarchives/8091775774/

You might be wondering why I choose to go now and not when I’m happily retired or more financially stable.

It’s for many reasons:

  • I’m young. OK, I’m not 18 like the gap-yearers from the UK. I mean I am still able to carry a backpack and walk for a long stretch without feeling weak in the knees.
  • I do not have serious commitments. I do not have a house mortgage, kids, husband/fiancé, ailing parents (choi!) or younger sibling still studying.
  • I want to do this. I know it will cause me more heart pain 50 years down the road if I do not do it now.
  • I know I can do it. I’ve read NT100,000 around the world and I now that it is possible to travel the world cheap.

I’ll share the my RTW route in a follow up post as well as detailed posts about why I choose the locations.

FAQ of my RTW

When I first announced RTW trip to my inner circle of friends, they had many questions. I’ve gathered them all into a Frequently Asked Questions segment.

  1. Are you going with your mom/friend/bodyguard?

No, this will be a solo trip. I can’t find someone with the time/budget/travel agenda as I do.

  1. Isn’t it dangerous for a woman to travel alone?

That’s a trick question, isn’t it? Yes, I understand that bad things can happen. But more good things will happen than bad especially when I know I can take care of myself.

  1. How much are you prepared to spend? Who’s sponsoring you?

To be honest, I am not sure how much I will spend but I am budgeting S$10,000 for this trip (not including prepaid expenses such as air tickets).

  1. Which countries are you going?

I’ll have a separate post for that soon. Short answer: one part of South Asia, very small bit of Middle East and Africa, some Europe and lots of South America.

  1. What, you’re not going to Australia or most of Africa? That doesn’t count as a RTW, does it?

Yes, it’s still a RTW if I circle the globe. Plus, I don’t have the money to go to literally every country.

  1. Aren’t you scared?

A friend once said, “YQ’s not brave, she’s just not afraid of dying.” (Well, it sounded better in Chinese.) Yes, there have been times during the trip planning which I doubted myself but I know I must do it.

  1. Wait, what about your job?

Well, I’ve left my 3.5 year job as a tech journalist. Hopefully, I can find a new position when I come back or discover a new career path.

In the next posts, I’ll be talking about the countries I will be visiting on my RTW.

What other questions do you have about RTW travel? Write them down in the comments!