Remember last year when I hadn’t been travelling much? Not really? Well, my bad since I didn’t write that much about it.
I’m happy to announce that I will be travelling more frequently in the coming months. Hurray!
Welcome to part 4 of the Weekend Traveller series, a fortnightly segment where I share tips and strategies for travelling during the weekend so you can travel more without using your work leave.
Trip planning is stressful. What if you cannot eat all the food, see all the sights or buy all the things?
Actually, you don’t have to eat all the food, see all the sights or buy all the things while on a weekend trip. The whole point of being a Weekend Traveller is that you will be able to travel frequently and do all those things on multiple trips.
However, it doesn’t mind that you should throw all travel planning out of the window and wing it. The times I haven’t made plans for my weekend travel are times which I did not have productive trips (Kuching and Jakarta comes to mind) and that makes me very annoyed.
On the other hand, my Bangkok trip was almost perfect because I did take time out to plan and even make my own travel guide (that’s a post for another day).
Once you have decided on your destination (another potential headache if you are tracking budget flights), it’s best to plan for your stay if you want to have a productive trip.
There are some who recommend not planning and just going with the flow when you arrive. This will work if you have plenty of days to spare. If you only have 48 hours, walking around aimlessly while hungry is not a good plan.
[This guide is partly inspired by Taiwanese travel writer 943 who wrote an awesome book on round-the-world travel on cheap.]
I will use my 2-day Bangkok trip in October 2012 as an example because it was my first trip there.
List down the sites you want to see. You can think big at this stage. My initial plan was to eat a lot of Thai dessert (something I didn’t manage to do in the end), visit Khaoshan Road, pray at Erawan Shrine and get a massage.
Then I realized that getting a S$190 air ticket only for a massage was not worth it and I threw in other sites based on recommendations by friends, the internet and guidebooks.
I ended up with more sites in my list: Grand Palace, Chatuchak Market, Chinatown, ride on boat public transport, Cabbages & Condoms restaurant, Terminal 21, Platinum Mall, MBK.
The updated list was much better than the first but it was too ambitious. I mean, how many malls can you visit in a day without overdosing on air-conditioning?
Narrow down your sites using a pros-and-cons list. I list down the places to go and write down the pro’s and cons of visiting it as well as what other sights are nearby. You can find out what is nearby when you have a travel guide that lumps sights based on how they are clustered.
My Bangkok list looked like this:
+ (because everyone says so)
– I hate crowds. It is far from the city. Mom didn’t like it.
Nearby sites: NOTHING
> Platinum Mall
+ Recommended by a friend, lots of people shop there
– I don’t like shopping.
Nearby sites: Erawan Shrine.
> Grand Palace
+ It’s shiny!
– Entrance fee
Nearby sites: National Museum, Khaoshan Road
> Khaoshan Road
+ Fake IDs
– Loads of unkemptly backpackers
Nearby sites: (See above)
+ It’s Chinatown
– A bit far from other stuff
Nearby sites: ???
Cabbages & Condoms
+ Fun name and for a good cause
– Is it in the middle of nowhere? (I later discovered that it’s very near my hotel.)
Nearby sites: ???
In the end, I added National Museum to my To-Do list and took out Chinatown and Chatuchak. Since Erawan Shrine and Platinum Mall are near each other, I decided to go to both despite not liking shopping. By narrowing down my list, I only focused on bits of the city and did not have to run around a lot.
After having your real list of To-Do, it is time to make your own travel guide. I’ll be sharing how in another 2 weeks’ time. See you!
Do you somewhere to go for a weekend trip? Which parts of the city will you focus on?
Brush up on your weekend travel skills:
Part 1: Pros & cons of weekend travel
Part 2: Where to go for Weekend Travel?
Part 3: Choosing transportation for weekend travel
Part 4: Travel planning for weekend trips
Part 5: Make your own travel guide for a weekend trip
Part 6: How to pack for a weekend trip
Part 7: How to use Foursquare to plan a day’s travel
Part 8: Why a weekend trip is the best time to start solo travelling
Part 9: I’m going to Melaka for a weekend trip
It’s the last day of 2012. For today, I am recapping the journeys I made in 2012, along with a few related entries.
(Some of the cities do not have related blog posts because I am working on a really limited internet connection back home in Sabah. I’ll follow up with the posts once I reach the land of high speed internet–Singapore.)
In case you find this entry a little TL;DR, I want to wish you a happy 2013. May the new year be filled with (productive) travels.
Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia
Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Yogyakarta + Solo, Indonesia
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
San Jose, California, USA
San Francisco, California, USA
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Hoi An, Vietnam
Tokyo + Kamakura Japan
Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Alor Setar, Kedah, Malaysia
Padang Besar, Perlis, Malaysia
No major travelling for the month. It wasn’t as bad as I expected because I had other things to busy myself with during the weekend. For example, reading Web comics, watching Youtube, eating, reading things online etc.
Kudat, Sabah, Malaysia
In a nutshell: Back home for the Christmas holiday because of forced leave implemented by the company. Went on a roadtrip with Mom to the north of Sabah. We read a lot, ate a lot of fruits while at the hotel. Also visited the “Tip of Borneo”.
It’s the last #FoodFri of 2012. Here at YQtravelling, I want to take a trip down memory lane and bring back memories of the best food I’ve eaten this year.
Seafood in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
I’m starting the list with a staple dish when I am back home for the holidays–seafood. In my case, seafood usually means crabs because they are cheaper than prawns and much fleshier than clams.
As for seasoning, I do not have a favorite and will eat crabs anyway it is cooked.
Read more: #FoodFri: See food, seafood
Tandoori chicken in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
In February, I was in KL with Nguyen. We, along with a friend working in KL, went to an Indian shop for dinner. I’ve been craving food from that store every since but I’ve not been able to visit again.
The naan that came along with the tandoori chicken was baked to perfection. The roasted red chicken was good on its own or with the naan.
Read more: Glutton in Kuala Lumpur
Salt baked chicken in Ipoh, Malaysia
I regret not taking photos of the salt baked chicken which L and I had in Ipoh. We bought it as an afterthought, thinking we might have something for supper while we wait for the day to end.
The chicken was still warm when we tore open the paper box. It was wrapped in wax paper. We had a little difficulty separating the chicken from the paper–bits of skin clung to the wax paper. The chicken tasted like steamed chicken that had been rubbed with salt. However, the skin was flaky like it had been baked.
We ate the whole chicken with our fingers while watching Johnny English in the hotel room.
Read more: Glutton in Ipoh
Banh Mi in Hoi An, Vietnam
Even though cau lao is most famous dish in Hoi An, the best that I had was made by the owner of the homestay. Her cau lao had heaps of meat and vegetable with generous sauce drizled all over.
Since you cannot buy her cau lao off the streets, I want to share the other great food I had in Hoi An: Banh mi.
I found out from Trip Advisor that there is a famous banh mi stall in Hoi An. The only reason I went was because Anthony Bourdain visited the stall before. I memorized the directions on the Web before peddling to the street. It took me a while to find the stall since it was tucked in between other shoe stalls.
I bought one with everything, another with pate and an empty bun. I cycled to the opposite bank and found a spot under a tree. My picnic was great. The bread was flaky and the filling juicy. I gobbled the two stuffed bread down in no time.
Sicilian pizza in San Francisco, USA
I wolved down the rectangular clam chowder pizza while sitting on a patch of grass (in the shade, of course).
I don’t know if the pizza’s taste was augmented by the location that I was eating. In any case, the pizza was crunchy and cheesy.
Read more: Glutton in San Francisco
Avocado juice in Indonesia
My trips to Indonesia had always been with D. I don’t remember how we found out about the magical avocado juice but I am glad we did.
In Indonesia, even the small roadside stalls (warung) serve avocado juice. The cook scoops out creamy avocado flesh into a blender and mix it with ice (and maybe tons of sugar syrup). Then, she (most of the warung owners are ladies) decorates a glass with chocolate condensed milk.
The green blended drink is poured into the chocolate syrup glass. A straw follows.
Avocado juice feels like a creamy milkshake but with a green-ish taste. At first sip, you are surprised by how chunky it feels even though everything is puree. Then you slowly take more gigantic sips because you cannot get enough of it.
By the fourth sip, you are surprised that you only have an inch left in your glass. You wave down a server and order another glass before your meal arrives.
Mie in Yogyakarta, Indonesia
D and I were looking for a lunch place at the mall in Yogyakarta. We decided to have lunch at Mie Nusantara. Little did we know, it was the best noodle and that we would have (at least until now).
The noodle was springy and yummy with its black sauce. The gigantic fried meatballs were chewy and was nothing like the regular siewmai that I have back home.
We thought that other stores in Indonesia would have the same quality of food. Unfortunately, we went to a Mie place in Jakarta where we found the worst noodle ever.
Bean curd in ginger syrup in Bangkok, Thailand
I passed by the little hole-in-the-wall on the way to the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The spicy ginger syrup beckoned me with a wave like cartoon smoke.
I coughed through the meal because of the ginger. Strangely, the bean curd had hints of peanut in it even though I am quite sure they used soy bean for these dishes.
Flavored beer in Tokyo, Japan
During my October trip to Tokyo, I didn’t have any mind blowing meal. The sushi at Tsukiji was a little bland while the udon at Shinjuku was too salty.
But, I did manage to buy a can of flavored beer (or it is considered alcohol, not beer). I fell in love with these low-alcohol fizzy drinks the first time I was in Japan. Every trip, I make sure that I buy a can (mostly from convenience stores) and get a little tipsy before bedtime.
I quite like Japanese-styled pudding (pictured with the beer). I am not quite sure if I should eat the caramel part before the custard or the other way around.
To be honest, I’ve thought really hard about which food to put as the last in the Top 10 entry. Nothing special comes to mind so I am putting this generic entry.
Even the bad tasting supermarket sushi in San Francisco deserves a mention because without tasting something as foul, I would not be able to recognize what good food tastes like.
I am thankful that I am able to eat something other than McDonald while travelling. I am thankful for not being allergic to food types which gives me a chance to eat all sorts of interesting things while on the road.
Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of clothes shopping, I replied that I will see if I can visit. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for shopping, I included it into my itinerary to find out for myself why they say Bangkok is a shopper’s heaven as well as everyone’s strange devotion to the mall.
Plus, Platinum Mall is just a short walk away from Erawan Shrine and I did not have much planned for the day anyway.
The shops were never ending, each packed from floor to ceiling with merchandise.
The first and second floors were dedicated to Women Fashion Clothes, the third floor was for Bags, the fouth for Leather while the fifth was for Shoes.
The clothes were nice and rather trendy but the quality did not seem very good. Maybe that’s why they are considered fast moving consumer goods (along with shampoos and soapbars).
I also saw the stall selling Naraya knockoffs. The brand is famous among tourists who go to Bangkok. I do not know why they like it since the material of the bags are shiney and look cheap (not the low price type of cheap.)
I visited all the levels in the building, trying to find an excuse to buy something–anything–but nothing caught my fancy.
When I left the building, it felt like I had been walking in the mall for two hours but a check of my photo timestamps showed that it was only a 30 minute visit.
I guess clothes shopping malls are not my cup of tea, I prefer second hands clothes better especially those that look more sturdy than the regular FMCG stuff out there.
For me, the most stressful part of planning a trip is booking the right hotel. The price has to be right. The distance to town should not be too far. The beds should be comfy with no bed bugs.
I guess that’s the reason why I keep choosing Tune Hotel when there’s a branch at my destination. When I found out that there was an opening sale for the new Bangkok branch. Tune Hotel – Asoke, I immediately made my booking.
During the sale, the basic room fee was 299 baht before taxes, Based on my past three experience staying at different Tune Hotels (Kota Bahru, Ipoh and Kuching), I decided that I needed to add on 24 hour airconditioning and Wi-Fi. The bill came around to 661.92 baht.
It’s a bit tricky to find how to take public transport from Don Muang airport to Tune Hotel as even the Web site is vague.
I printed out the hotel name and address (in English and Thai), showed it to the lady at the taxi counter who gave me a slip of paper and told me to wait for a cab.
To reach the hotel, the cabbie had to drive into the narrow lane of Sukhumvit Soi 14. The trip came up to be about 210 baht, even though the lady at the airport said it might be 350 baht.
If you are taking the public transport to Tune Hotel Asoke, stop at the BTS Asoke station. You will see a sign pointing to the hotel. Actually, you can see the hotel from the station.
After turning into Soi 14, you can see Suda Restaurant and a sign pointing to the hotel. (According to online reviews, this restaurant isn’t too bad. I’ve not tried it though.)
The hotel sticks out like a sore thumb (in a good way) among the posh housing.
There was a play area where you can take photos of yourself and send it to your e-mail box.
Finally! 1400 hours arrived. I queued behind some of the guests who were even more anxious about checking in.
There was quite a long form to fill out. The receptionist also scanned my passport and the immigration entry form.
I was roomed on the fourth floor which is not the most auspicious.
Strangely, there was a large mirror above the bed. It made the room seem larger but I cannot figure out what it is for.
Since I booked 24 hours of airconditioning, the key slot did not show the count down to my airconditioning-less hour.
As usual, there is a TV (which you can pay for) but I used it as towel rack. There’s also a menu for room service above the TV. The food is a bit overpriced though.
Wrapping up this post, I love everything about Tune Hotel Asoke, the location and price.
So I flipped through the traveller’s bible, aka Lonely Planet, and was shocked.
In the tiny two-inch column for Padang Besar, the guidebook said: “Very few people, if any, walk the more than 2km of no-man’s land between the Thai and Malaysian sides of the border.”
NO INSTRUCTION, IT’S THE DAY OF DESTRUCTION.
After freaking out, I decided to become one of the “very few people” to walk to Thailand and back. And write a post about it. (Although another reason I’m walking is that I am too stingy to pay for the RM40 cab fare.)
Step 1 Get to Padang Besar’s immigration checkpoint
Step 2 Get your documents verified (and stamped)
Pass through the immigration checkpoint using the electronic gates if you have a Malaysian passport.
If you have a foreign passport, you’ll need to get it stamped at one of the officer’s booth.
Step 3 Walk a lot
It’s quite a long walk to the end of the border from the document checking area. Even though you will see a path (which is persumably for pedestrians) near the walls, do not take that route as it brings you to a dead end.
Wave as drivers drive pass and motorcyclists give you a second look. Sticking out a thumb to hitchhike here does not work. I tried.
You will eventually reach the end of Malaysia’s border where a few officials hang around.
Step 4 Explain why you are walking to anyone who asks
The immigration officers will be curious why you are walking when there are motorcycle shuttles. The excuse “Because we want to” does not seem to satisfy their curiosity.
The officer practically interrogated us after looking at our passports. When we said we just wanted to walk to Thailand, he told that there were motorcycles shuttling people across. I asked where the motorbikes are, he pointed to the other end. I told him that I will not walk all the way back just for a motorcycle.
After being released, we walked to the Thai part of the border.
Step 5 Reach Thai border
There are no lines on the road to tell where passengers can walk, so be careful of traffic.
Follow the cars and where a bunch of people are filling up forms. Fill up the form and pay RM1 to the immigration officer.
Step 6 Enter Thailand
With the new stamp in your passport, head out of the immigration checkpoint. Do not be alarmed that it looks exactly like Malaysia but with Thai signs.
Step 1 Get to Padang Beser checkpoint
The line back to Malaysia is not the same as the one you came in from. It’s at the other gate.
Step 2 Get passport stamped
Get your Checking Out stamp and hand over another RM1 to the person behind the booth.
Step 3 Walk back to Malaysia
The Malaysian folks will be less curious about you by now. Walk on. Same as usual, walk on the left side of the road to avoid traffic.
There is a sad duty free store along the no-man’s land.
Step 4 Get your documents verified to enter Malaysia
Step 5 Get your luggage scanned
There’s probably no one in luggage check so just ignore this step.
Step 6 Back in Malaysia
At the end of the Malaysian customs, another officer will be interested in why you are walking. Answer his questions even though you know all the answers are in the passport which he is holding. Smile pleasantly.
It’s Friday again. TGIF! And Fridays are special days here as it’s #FoodFri, a day when I share a food-related post with you. Today, we will visit Cabbages & Condoms in Thailand.
Tell me, how can you not visit a restaurant with a name like “Cabbages & Condoms” especially when its tagline is “Our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy”. That is hilarious.
Before you go around thinking this is a kinky place where people eat salad after some naughty exercises, let me explain the name. Cabbages & Condoms the restaurant is run by the Population and Community Development Association (PDA) which helps with family planning. Someone who’s involved in PDA and C&Cwanted condoms to be as ubiquitous as cabbages, therefore the name.
When I found out that Cabbages & Condoms is really near Tune Hotel, I added it into my itinerary even though guide books warned that the food is mediocre for its price.
After checking in Tune Hotel on my first day in Bangkok, I walked to Soi 12 where the restaurant is located.
It’s hidden inside the alley, after one suspicious “club” and a posh-looking massage center.
After walking on the shady path, I came across a souvenir shop but didn’t go in.
The place used condoms (not to be confused with condoms that were used) for decoration.
Exhibit A: Condom lampshade
Exhibit B: Condom fashion
Exhibit C: Condom clothes
Being Southeast Asia, I chose to lunch inside the airconditioned restaurant instead of hanging out at the alfresco area with the sun shining on me.
The interior is a bit dark. The walls were decorated with condoms from other countries.
My table was next to a wall with less racy deco.
There were a few news paper clipping in Japanese about the restaurant and a certificate of trademark.
I ordered a Tom Kah Kai and a coffee. While waiting for my drink and food, I found out that they have a recipe on the table mat. I wonder how many people actually copy it down to make a dish.
I also discovered that the utensils were branded with the name of the restaurant.
My soup and rice came after a while. The coconut milk curdled in my sourish soup.
The food wasn’t the best thing I’ve tasted on earth and was just “meh”. There wasn’t enough salt and felt like drinking lemongrass soup with hints of coconut.
The unsaltiness made my tongue confused. Was this supposed to be dessert or a main meal?
At the end of the meal, I asked for the bill. As expected, instead of a mint, there was a condom with my bill. I not-so-secretly slipped it into my bag before paying up.
At the exit, the restaurant cheekily had two separate boxes for condoms: Republican size and Democrat size. I peeped in and found out that they were the same size.
Review: Cabbages & Condoms, Bangkok, Thailand
Location: Sukhumvit Soi 12
Food: So so taste
Pro: Fun theme and for a good cause
Cons: So so food than regular Thai places
Have you ever been envious of how spies get to have multiple fake identities?
Well, you can get several identities too while you are at Bangkok’s Khaoshan Road.
Illegally, that is.
I first heard about the possibility of making fake IDs from a colleague. After some “research” on Google, I decided that I must visit Khaoshan Road to check out these counterfeit identity card makers.
There were a few stalls with photocopies of IDs. Photocopies of some of the more popular IDs were displayed on A4 paper while the rest were in the rather thick folders.
I didn’t study what sort of IDs they faked. From my photos, it seems like they can make certificates as well.
Some of the stalls were unmanned, as I assume that the person in charge is hiding away in a corner, in case the authorities come.
In the name of research, I approached a stall looked over by a woman. It felt safer dealing with a woman.
She told me that it costs 300 baht to create a fake student ID and would take 20 minutes. I asked for a discount but was denied when she heard that I only wanted one.
When I agreed to the price, she called out to a man. He had a pad with details to fill out.
After I filled out the slip of paper. He said the university name was too long and I had to change it. I made multiple variations until he was satisfied.
He then pointed to the folder on the table. Flipping through, he pointed a copy of a Singapore I.C..
I almost fainted. Can you imagine getting caught with one of it? It’s a fine of up to S$10,000 or imprisonment for up to 10 years, or both.
I waited for the final product in a cafe. When I received it, it did look like a real student card.
I’m refraining from posting it on the blog in case cops burst into my room to arrest me.
I’ve never been to Thailand before my trip a few weeks ago. I’ve always thought of Thai food as hot, spicy and sour.
Problem is, I can’t do hot or spicy. The last time I accidentally had a bite of chilli curry, my lips were swollen for half a day–not in an Angelina Jolie sexy lip way but a literal bee stung lip way.
So I was a little bit worried that I could only eat the desserts of Bangkok. Not that that’s a bad thing.
Turns out I got my food stereotype wrong and I had great non-hot meals during my 24 hours in Bangkok.
I only had one meal on Day 1. I skipped dinner because I was in a 1.5 hours queue for a 2.5 hours-long my Thai massage.
Tom kha kai
My first dish was a slightly overpriced tom kha kai (Thai chicken soup in coconut milk) from Cabbages & Condoms. I shouldn’t complain about the price because I’ve read about how the restaurant a bit pricey for the quality of the food. (A review of the place will come soon).
Tom kha kai was one of the few non-spicy dishes on the menu. It was an interesting soup. Slightly sour from lemongrass, it had an overpowering coconut taste. The coconut milk had curdled.
I supposed it was meant to be shared because by the time I had my last bowl of soup, my stomach felt like bursting.
The drink was ok but the strawberry tasted a bit off.
I wasn’t very hungry in the morning from yesterday’s lunch. But I made myself have some food since I know that the Grand Palace is pretty huge.
I chose one of the hole in the wall which is on the way to the palace from the jetty.
My dish of duck horfun noodles came with shallow soup and a duck drumstick. It smelled good and tasted amazing.
After my breakfast, I went to two shops down for a breakfast dessert. The spicy ginger soup seduced me into the shop. There was another large pot with white beancurd.
I pointed at the big pot of soup outside, and signalled “1” with my index finger and said “no” to the croutons.
I later found out that the dish is called tao huai nam khing. Bean curd served with ginger syrup.
The ginger syrup was both hot temperature-wise and gingery-hot-wise. I choked on the spicy ginger taste a couple of times but I finished the bowl because I learned that ginger is good for health.
The beancurd didn’t have the usual soybean taste. Instead, it had a hint of peanuts. I couldn’t figure out if they used peanuts or if their soybean just tastes different.
I initially thought pad thai was just like char kway teo and was surprised to find the rather pale-looking dish with peanut grounds.
It was sour and oily but still yummy. I believe it was only 30 baht.
My excuse was that it was the only affordable meal in the airport. I didn’t want to go hungry on my 2 hours and 45 minutes plane ride back and end up eating Popeyes when I reach around 10pm.
The food tasted exactly like it does in Singapore and Malaysia. But my drink seemed to be upsized.
Since I broke the rule of travel-eating, here is a photo of a Thai Ronald McDonald who is greeting passers by in a Thai way.