5 transportation I took during my travels

I rarely take taxis when travelling. One main reason is that I am stingy thrifty. The other reason is that it’s more interesting to take the public transport and see how the locals travel.

Train in Yogyakarta

Train in Yogyakarta
The ladies-only carriage was among the Top 10 Things I Love about Central Java

D and I were travelling from Jogja to Solo on the local train. Some of the ladies brought their own stools so they don’t need to sit on the floor.

The whole journey felt like a big party, except I was standing.

Public bus in Kamakura

Public bus in Kamakura
Japanese buses are efficient. They even have a timetable of when the buses come.

Biking in San Francisco

Biking in San Francisco
I love cycling and I love cities that embrace cycling. I rented an electrical bike and cycled to Sausalito from San Francisco. It didn’t matter that my bicycle chain fell off and I had to put it back.

Boat in Kuching

Boat in Kuching
A 50 cents ride across the river in the City of Cats.

Becak in Solo

Becak in Solo
One becak drive who took us from Jogja town back to our hotel didn’t manage to get any commission from batik shops and complained about us being “gemuk” (fat). I thought it was quite funny.

Indie Travel Challenge
This blog post was inspired by BootsnAll’s Indie Travel Challenge weekly travel blog project.

Week 36 of the Indie Travel Challenge is all about photography: Share 5 photos you took during your travels.

Check out my other #indie2012 posts.

6 tips for a pleasant budget flight

Once you go budget, you never go back. Unless you have lots of money that is.

I’m a big fan of budget airlines, although I don’t like the hidden charges they secretly add on while you book.

The longest budget flight I’ve taken was the now-defunct Kuala Lumpur-Paris route. Thank goodness I was sleepy both ways and was deep asleep during the 14 hours trip.

As a veteran budget flyer, here are some tips for a more comfortable budget flight. Tips are based on budget flights in the Southeast Asia region, some other airlines might have more strict rules.

1. Book strategically
Do you know that booking early doesn’t guarantee you a cheap seat? It’s best to book when the airlines have promos. Keep up-to-date with promotions by joining their mailing lists.

A cheap flight makes me happy and cancels out much of the inconvenience of budget flights.

2. One carry on
I’ve reached the stage where I can go on a 7-night trip with only one carry on. It really saves time and hassle when I do not need to check in my luggage or wait for it to come out from the unmerry-go-around.

I cheat at this by bringing an extra large handbag or a backpack that works as a laptop bag but stuff it with well…stuff…other than a laptop.

3. Bring an empty bottle
Most airports will allow an empty bottle (not Jakarta, I found out the semi-hard way) which you can fill with drinking water in the lounge. But only some airports have drinking fountains, which is why I love Changi Airport.

4. Sneak food
Despite my unnatural love for plane food, I don’t buy extra food on budget flights unless the flight at a weird timing like right in the middle of lunch or dinner. I sneak in food that can be munched on stealthily like a ninja.

Have you seen a ninja eat? Never? That’s what I call stealth.

5. BYOEntertainment
I usually bring a book (or my darling Kindle) when I travel. On a budget flight, I pore through the in-flight magazine then ration my book. I also write blog posts or watch videos on my laptop.

You should never EVER play your smartphone game with the speakers on. You can be attacked by ninjas for this.

6. Sleep
If you are blessed with the ability to sleep on a plane, use it wisely and often.

This blog post was inspired by BootsnAll’s Indie Travel Challenge weekly travel blog project.
Week 31 of the Indie Travel Challenge is all about air travel.

What other tips do you have for a better budget flight?

Why you should visit an Olympic host city post-Games

What’s the first thing that comes to you mind when you see the word “Olympic city”? Is it buff sports people, sportmanship, patriotism, world peace?

For me, the first thing that comes to my mind is: CROWDS. I hate crowds. So there’s no way that I would visit an Olympic host city during the games.

So I’ve compiled five reasons we should visit a post-Olympic city instead of a host city during the games:

not the Olympic Rings so no copyright infringement

1. Far from the madding crowd

When the Games are over, so will the crowd. I think it is best for my sanity not to share [place of Olympic venue] with thousands of other tourists.

This also means that people who I meet on the streets will not be talking all about the games, a good deal for me since I have no love for sports.

2. Normal prices

If I were a merchant, I would happily fleece the tourists visiting my city during the Olympics. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event anyway.

Even if the merchants are not deliberating fleecing visitors, the number of visitors swarming into the city means that prices will be inflated. Room prices will be at its maximum and even food prices will be more expensive.

Post-Olympics, at least the prices will fall back to normal.

3. Rooms available

Even if I am able to afford rooms in the city during the Games, there’s no guarantee that there are vacant rooms.

Thus visiting the venue post-Games means less people to compete for rooms with and more more reviews online to decide which hotel/hostel to choose..

4. Cheap Olympics memorabilia

Besides sportsmanship, the Olympics is a showcase of consumerism. Fancy a one-eyed London 2012 mascot soft toy? That will be 12 pounds, thankyouverymuch.

If I ever have plans to become an antique collector (that is if I keep that toy in my attic long enough, it will become an antique) nor do I collect Olympics-themed souvenirs but if anyone wants cheap Olympics souvenirs, post-Games would be the best time as the businesspeople will be trying to get their merchandise off their shelves.

5. Upgraded public transport

Since all governments want to present the best to the public, you can bet that they will be upgrading their new train/bus lines to the venue.

So it’s worth delaying that trip for me to to escape the crowds and take advantage of the new metro or bus service.

What other reasons can you think of to visit a host city post-Olympic?


This blog post was inspired by BootsnAll’s Indie Travel Challenge weekly travel blog project.
This week’s topic: Have you ever been to the Olympics? Is it on your wishlist? Why? Why not?.

Other #indie2012 posts:

Splurging on musicals and performances

I’ve been known to be a penny pincher during my regular days. While I don’t become worse when travelling, I do keep an eye on my budget.

Fortunately, I am not too sporty so I do not spend my extra budget on anything that requires me to move my arms or legs too much. (Cycling does not really count as exercise as it is considered transportation.) I’m immune to theme parks so that’s another savings.

I love to eat but my unfortunate purse means I only eat cheap food–never 3-star Michelin restaurants. Visiting museums is my weakness but most are afforably priced.

So where do I splurge when I travel? Musicals and performances.

A musical in France

Since I first heard Le Roi Soleil‘s soundtrack, I swore to myself: “I will see a French musical live!” (A sample from the soundtrack, also the most romantic song on earth.)

Mozart l”opera rock

When I was planning my trip to Paris last year, I accidentally found out that Mozart, L’opera rock was performing in the country. I had been listening to the soundtrack of the musical ever since I accidentally (again!) stumbled upon the music video for L’assasymphonie which I thought was tres bizarre in the beginning.

Unfortunately, the troupe ended their Paris performances and were travelling around the country. I checked out their schedule and, on a whim, I bought a ticket for the show in Nantes.

It was now or never! While the show, the TGV ride and hotel stay set me back an extra few hundreds of euros, the chance to watch a real life performance was priceless.

The show rocked my socks off, though I was wearing none. I didn’t understand half the dialogue but music, gestures, dances and costumes do not need translation.

Being in the audience, peering at the stage was very different from watching it on Youtube which is still better than nothing. I felt goosebumps listening to the familiar songs.

The trip was also not a waste as it was in Nantes that I first “met” my travel idol, Nellie Bly, although my first impression of her was not great because of my poor French.

A burlesque in San Francisco

As mentioned in my post on money saving tips for San Francisco, I caught a once-in-a-lifetime show in The City.

Dita von Teese

Dita von Teese’s “Strip Strip Hooray” show was on for two days when I was in SF. I could not get the tickets online but managed to get them from the box office.

Despite standing through the whole 3 hours, the show was fabulous. Not only were the burlesque performers entertaining, even the audience was really sporting. (Not so sure about the girl standing in front of me with a large headdress though.)

There was much booze and weed going on. The audience catcalled and cheered at the right moments. I felt like I peeped into a part of San Francisco that’s not found on the streets.

In the end, it was worth spending the $35 which meant three meals or an extra hostel’s night stay. Thank you for the incredible night.

This blog post was inspired by BootsnAll’s Indie Travel Challenge weekly travel blog project.
This week’s topic: What do you splurge on when you travel?.

Other #indie2012 posts:

Travelling back in time at Jidai Matsuri

When AirAsia was having a promotion for Japan in February last year, I chose to travel in mid-October, thinking I might catch the red leaves season.

Unfortunately, I was too early for the red leaves.

Pitiful red leaves

Fortunately, I was in time for the Jidai Matsuri, a Japanese festival I have been hoping to catch for a long long time.

Jidai Matsuti, or the Festival of the Ages, is a long parade where people dress up in period costume (sometimes representing historical characters) [inset Japanese history fan girl cheer here] stroll through a fixed path from the Old Imperial Palace to the Hei’an Shrine.

It’s one of the three major festivals in Kyoto and falls on October 22 yearly. The parade is to celebrate the move of Japan’s capital from Kyoto to Tokyo way way back. (You know what Wikipedia is for.)

I arranged our Kansai trip so that we will be able to watch the parade. Our hostel receptionist advised us to take the subway since some roads are blocked.

When we reached the subway station nearest to the starting point of the festival, there were a lot of people. Following not very clear road signs, we found ourselves next to the stoney path of the Old Imperial Palace.

There are paid seats but we didn’t get those so we sat on the stones along with the old uncles and aunties.

Rocky pavement

Mom waited at our “seats” while I went off to take pictures of the performers.

Some people also brought their dogs along.

It took a while of waiting before the event started. The two obasan (aunties) in front passed us coffee candy while we waited. That was sweet of them.

The announcement of the start of the parade came and I waited excitedly.

Some ladies had a banner congratulation Kyoto’s 1300th birthday as a capital.

And a man carried a flag announcing JIDAI MATSURI.

The parade started with the Meiji period when the country was westernized. Then the more fun costumes followed.

The women of Jidai Matsuri

I’ve always been fascinated by famous women in history because fewer women than men are recorded in history. I want to know how they overcome gender inequality to have a place in history books.

I want to know what sort of power they have over the men and their children. How can this power translate to our modern world?

It seems to me that Japanese history has many wonderfully romanticized female figures–some arepoets, writers, great beauties or wives of famous men.

Murasaki Shikibu, author of The Tale of Genji
Princess Kazu
Daughter of Ki no Tsurayuki
Ono no Komachi
Kudara-O-Myoshin

Reflections of Jidai Matsuri

The procession was oddly solemn. No one cheered, not even when the popular historical characters like Sakamoto Ryoma stroll by.

I wanted to stand up, clap and holler “BRAVO!” but didn’t because everyone else was quiet. The only time when the audience was lively was when a band comes along playing music.

Also, I regret not having internet to google every character that I do not recognize because of my very shallow knowledge of Japan history. It would be more exciting to know who that man in blue pants is.

Tips for viewing Jidai Matsuri

  • Take the subway to the location: Some roads are closed for the procession so your best bet is the underground.
  • Bring a stool or something to put your butt on: If you are in the rocky grounds at start of the parade, a stool would help your butt from being too painful.
  • Bring food and drinks and an umbrella

Have you been to any celebrations with period costumes? How was it?

This blog post was inspired by BootsnAll’s Indie Travel Challenge weekly travel blog project.

Week 27 of the Indie Travel Challenge is all about celebrating: There are many reasons to travel and many moments make traveling special. Have you ever traveled to another country during a new [to you] holiday? If so, what was special about it?

Other festivals and Japan transportation tips:

Mid-year review of my 2012 travel resolutions

It’s the end of June and time for a mid-year review of my travel KPIs, and revise my KPIs for the rest of the year. (This sentence sound too depressingly like work.)

My travel resolutions set at the beginning of the year were:

1. Make flight bookings to Thailand and the Phillipines
–>Bangkok’s ticket is set. But I’ve ran out of leave for P’pines

2. Look less through the camera panel, instead straight at the scenery in front.
–>Does forgetting my camera during my bike ride to Sausolito count? Am I breaking the rules if I use my iPhone instead? This is so complicated!

3. When travelling, talk to a local and find out what they think is the best thing to do in town.
–>I used Yelp and found out what the locals thought were good food. Does that count as well?

4. While even CNNGo.com claiming Singapore as boring, I’ll find not boring activities to do, travel local and explore Singapore like it’s my first trip.
–>Travelling local seems to have been forgotten by me. Oops.

5. Start saving and planning for my 2013 round-the-world trip
–>I swear my bank balance looks exactly like it was at the beginning of the year. Argh

Are travel resolutions like the yellow brick road? Detouring wouldn’t hurt, would it?

After taking deep gulps of air (at least it’s not wine), I’ve decided to set (or revise) my travel resolutions:

1. Stop making new flight bookings. Finish my Malaysian travels (Five more to go!).
2. Eat more during travels for #FoodFri!
3. Stop being so dang shy and ask the e-mail address/twitter handle of the cute hostel guy.
4. Stop using so many “stops” in my travel resolution. Start using more starts!
5. Really start saving and reach that $20,000 goal for RTW. (If Stephanie from 20-something Traveling can do it, so can I!)
6. Continue my Sunday, Tue/Wed and #FoodFri posts. (Doing a good job sister!)
7. Start picking up conversational Spanish. (How should we measure the success for this?)
8. Start real research for #rtw2013.

This blog post was inspired by BootsnAll’s Indie Travel Challenge weekly travel blog project.
Week 26 of the Indie Travel Challenge is all about checking in on your resolutions from Week 1.

YQ’s travel resolution for 2012


Directions to a Malay wedding

I wonder how many people actually keep to their new year resolutions.

I see them as sort of a pointer for the year but sometimes we don’t really need to follow them exactly to get somewhere.

Here are my travel resolutions for 2012

  • Make flight bookings to Thailand and the Phillipines
    -I haven’t visited these two neighboring countries yet so I’d better make use of thebudget airlines around
  • Look less through the camera panel, instead straight at the scenery in front.
  • When travelling, talk to a local and find out what they think is the best thing to do in town.
    -They might give generic touristy answers but I want to know what they like doing.
  • Wih even CNNGo.com claiming Singapore as boring, I’ll find not boring activities to do, travel local and explore Singapore like it’s my first trip.
    -Also blog about the local trip as travel tips
  • Start saving and planning for my 2013 round-the-world trip

This blog post was inspired by BootsnAll’s Indie Travel Challenge weekly travel blog project.
This week’s topic: Resolutions.

#indie2012

Homeless


“Anyway, home is where you feel at home. I’m still looking.”

Holly Golightly, Breakast at Tiffany’s

Same as Holly Golightly, I’m still searching for home.

“Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia” is the location where my passport was issued. It was the place where I sepnt 19 years growing up and learning about life.

If home is where your family is, I’ve been away since January 2, 2011. More than 10 months being away from the house where my family stays.

But if family is the only thing that makes a certain location home, then I’ve not been away for too long. I had two trips this year which allowed me to see my family. I met up with my parents and my sister in June in Xi’an and I was away in Japan with my mother in October.

Kota Kinabalu is not really home. I don’t really see a place where I’ve not been staying in for more than 2 months in a year as home.

Frankly, I’ve not seen anywhere as home for sometime now and see places where my bed is as temporary accomodation. Perhaps, like my friend D says, I should be a gypsy. 

Anway, here is a picture of the sky in front of my house back home. The rusty gate and mossy walls are still familiar.

Img_0146-2

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This post is part of BootsnAll’s 30 Days of Indie Travel project. Day 13: Home

The rest of my posts for the project can be found here.

What travel means to me in one word

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ESCAPE

During my trip in Paris, I had an unhealthy obsession with escape signs. I didn’t really know why I felt compelled to take photos of every exit sign I see and to seek escape signs where I can’t see them.

In the description of a Facebook photo album titled Escape in France (related photos here), I wrote:

I discovered that I’m actually very fascinated with escape signs. In a novel, this would have deep meaning but in real life, it means I’m weird.

These few weeks I had been feverish with the wish to travel. Then one day, I realized recently at work (my mind wanders) that for me, travelling means to escape, to be free. 

But to escape from what? 

Is it to be away from the usual scenery and to be in an unfamiliar place? Is it to be away from the local food and to taste something different? Is it to smell a different air?

That, I’m to afraid to answer.

This post is part of BootsnAll’s 30 Days of Indie Travel project. Day 29: ONE WORD

What does travel mean to you in one word?  

The rest of my posts for the project can be found here.

Long live Vietnamese coffee

Vietkopi

The first time I had Vietnamese coffee was in My Tho, the hometown of N. Before the trip, I was already a coffee junkie, requiring one cup of coffee with milk each day or else I’ll feel a headache coming up.

Before the trip, I’ve read about Vietnamese coffee. Butter roasted, dripped through a metal filter into condensed milk. I figured it would taste the same as the regular coffee in Malaysia or Singapore since we use condensed milk too.

I waited for the cup of coffee to finish filtering and stirred in my condensed milk.

I lifted the cup and took a zip, then frowned. Continue reading “Long live Vietnamese coffee”