safe landing

Literally the shortest day of my life [YQrtw Day 125 Aug 13]

Location: Pacific Ocean

My flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong left around August 13 midnight and reached on August 14 at about 6am. The flight was about 14 hours long.

so if we do a bit of subtraction, we can deduce that August 13 lasted about 6 hours for me. That’s the shortest day of my life!

Of course this does not take into consideration that one other time I flew from San Francisco to SIngapore. But then I’ve forgotten how long that flight was so we’ll just take it that August 13 was the shortest day of my live.

Happy to blend in

Being on the Cathay Pacific flight from LAX to HKG was the first time in many months that I was around so many East Asian people. It was a weird feeling being one of the faces that blended into the crow,

I was expecting people to holler, “Chino!” as they did in South and Central America and the crowd to riot but Latin American stranger said that so all was calm and peaceful.

The 14-hour flight didn’t feel that long. I’ve been travelling so much on this trip that the process of getting from one place to another doesn’t seem very significant now. As long as I get there without vomiting, I’m happy.

Watching ‘Library Wars’

I did watch quite a lot of shows on the plane.

My very favorite movie among all that I’ve watched was Library Wars. It’s a Japanese movie adapted from a manga (Japanese comic) series. I have a friend who’s a fan of the comic so I thought I should give it a try. Plus, the male lead actors are all damn hot. Seriously.

Within the first 10 minutes of the movie, tears streamed down my face. I’ve forgotten how much Japanese films and manga make me cry happy/sad tears. There was quite a lot of book burning going on in the movie. Those scene make me cry silently. I think there would be less of an effect if they burnt Kindles. (Coincidentally, sales of e-readers have dropped so low in the period of the movie that they were mentioned once in a news program.)

The premise of the movie is that the Japanese government have set up a Media Betterment Unit (aka Bastards Who Burn Books) which censors unhealthy media in the public by deleting files off the internet and burning books. There is another much less funded unit against this censorship. It’s the “Library Protection Unit”” (or something like that) which helps preserve these so-called “unhealthy media” by gathering the materials in their library.

The public is free to use resources from The Library. The Library will also protect the privacy of the readers and not reveal what they have been reading.

Back to the plot, our gutsy Heroine signed up to be one of the Protection Team (PT) in the Library Unit because a member of the PT saved her from a jerk from the Media Betterment Unit. She even nicknamed this mysterious unknown person as her Prince (they do a lot of that in Japanese comics).

By 20 minutes of the movie, we–the audience–guessed that the hero (or her “prince) is actually our heroine’s rather nasty Higher-Up. He is supposed to be a lot shorter than her but the guy who played the role did a lot of Dreamy Prince roles that we cannot help associate him with Dreaminess.

There’s also the Sidekick to Higher-Up played by the guy who usually plays the leading man when he’s in his own movie. Sidekick and Higher-Up have a very strong bromance going on. But we know that they are straight because they do a lot of action-related training.

There’s also the Handsome-Smart-Well-Pedigreed-but-Snobbish-Boy and the Beautiful-Smart-Friend-of-Heroine. Even though Snobbish Boy confessed his confused love to Heroine, by the end of the movie, we all hope that the two Beautiful non-leading characters end up together because they are so smart and good looking.

I’m glad I watched the movie because reading the comic or else I might get the The Book is Much Better than The Movie syndrome.

Other shows I’ve watched were many of The Big Bang Theory episodes from Season 6. It’s funny how I started following this series in South America and not back in Singapore.

Bing Bang Theory on the plane

Bing Bang Theory on the plane

Bumpy landing

There’s a typhoon coming to Hong Kong about the same time as my arrival. Luckily, the typhoon was still in Guangdong when the place was landing.

It wasn’t a smooth landing as the pilot had to pull up the plane back into the air once.

Safe landing

Safe landing

There were a few crying kids. I’m not sure why they are dry crying with lots of crying noises but no tears. Is it because their ears hurt or that they are afraid to die? I wasn’t sitting near a kid so I couldn’t ask him.

I would tell the kid, “Hey, you should be crying when the adults are crying. Not now. Nothing bad is happening now.” Then I’ll point to a random corner of the screen and say that I think I saw a UFO.

Still, we manage to land safely and the kids stopped making loud noises.

It’s time to formally meet Hong Kong.

Onwards to LA for my transit to Hong Kong [YQrtw Day 124 Aug 12]

Location: San Salvador, El Salvador to Los Angeles, USA

After two months in Spanish-speaking countries, I’m finally leaving for Asia. But first, I need to head to LA for a transit.

In the morning, I was surfing Facebook and I realized that Cathay Pacific had a typhoon warning for the 13th and 14th on its Facebook page. The airline added that we’re allowed to change our flights for free.

I thought that it would be a great chance to extend my visit in the US and BUY ALL THE THINGS WITH MY CREDIT CARD.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get anyone from Cathay Pacific on the phone. In the end, I decided that I would wing it at the check in counter,

After checking out my hostel at 10am, I headed out to the post office and for breakfast. The weather was hot and I was sweating like nobody’s business as I walked around.

When I got back to the hostel, I waited patiently for my taxi at 12 noon. No car came during that time so I had to remind the hostel owner about the cab. She hurriedly made a call and a cab came after 5 minutes.

The ride from the hostel to the airport was US$30. It’s kind of expensive for El Salvador but the airport was 37km away from the city and about 45 minutes drive away.

When the cab sped to the airport, I admired the landscape. El Salvador’s hills and random jungles by the road reminded me a lot of home. I was glad to come and visit since it was a good buffer from the harsh Peruvian landscapes.

San Salvadorian sky

San Salvadorian sky

Felt up by airport agents TWICE!

I reached the airport around 1pm and checkin was smooth. What wasn’t smooth was when I got to my gate.

Turns out, passengers to the US require strict inspection. There were rows of table to inspect the contents of our carry ons. My purse, laptop case and electronic cases were zipped open and closed.

Next up was the body check where the officers felt everyone once in the front and once in the back.

The last inspection was the most ridiculous. There were several chairs and everyone had to take off their shoes. The shoes were then felt up. Luckily, I was wearing my most horrible pair of flip flops. The airport agent wasn’t too happy when she bended my flip flops around.

The flight from San Salvador to Los Angeles was alright. I watched Iron Man 3 and a couple of sitcoms during the 5-hour flight.

Thank Hermes for USB chargers on planes.

Thank Hermes for USB chargers on planes.

At LAX, I had to grab my luggage from the carousel and check in at the other terminal. The custom officers were lenient since I was only doing a transit.

However, at the luggage check for flights, I was singled out again when the metal detector flashed. Seriously, the only metal objects on me were my glasses screws and my teeth filling.

The TSA officer asked me to put out one foot. She felt up my leg and asked me to put out the other foot to feel. Do they think I was Resident Evil’s Ada Wong with some metal strapped to my thigh? I was wearing a maxi dress and look positively pregnant with my flabby stomach.

Anyway, I think it’s funny that I had to go through the legs check ups. I can now tick [] Felt up by TSA officers off my list of “Things I Do Not Want to Happen to Me”.

No shopping in LAX?

LAX waiting area

LAX waiting area

Now I’m in my LAX terminal. I’m a bit disappointed by the duty free shopping here (almost non-existent). Where are the Coach and LeSportSac shops? I have a shopping list for my family and myself. Tsk.

OK, I have about three hours to go before my flight. I’ll look for things to amuse myself before my flight.

Here’s something interesting about my flight. I will be flying around midnight of August 13 but arrive in the early morning of August 14 because I’m crossing the international date line. This means my flight is about two-day long and my August 13 only lasts about 7 hours. That’ll be fun!

I’m very excited about Hong Kong

While on the plane. I read Wikitravel entries on Hong Kong and I realized that I really really really want to be there for the food.

If this was a regular straight-to-Hong-Kong trip, I might not have been as excited. But I’ve been away from good Asian food for so long that I think I might cry when I eat the first siewmai that I meet.

US visa

To the US embassy for my visa [YQrtw Day 73 Jun 19]

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

US visa

US visa

This morning, I woke up at 6:00am to get ready for my appointment at the US embassy for my visa application interview. It was really painful waking up at that hour to brush my teeth in the cold air.

As with yesterday, I took a cab. The driver took a detour but we reached even faster than the cab yesterday.

My appointment slot was the earlier at 7:00am. About 20 people were already queuing outside (and not including those already in), waiting for the multiple checks.

Standing outside in the dark, I could see my breath when I breathe out. It was really really cold.

Anyway, let me tell you more about the different queues and checks at the US embassy:

The first check was outside of the embassy gate. Our passports and a form were checked. Then, we stood in another line next to the first one.

The second line is to queue for the X-ray machine and metal detector. Afterwards, there is a third line before the proper building. Here, we give the fingerprints of four of our fingers, either the left or the right, depending on which the lady behind the counter wants.

Finally, we go to the inside of the building where the air is heated. Here, we are told to sit in chairs to wait for our turn to queue.

When I first reached the room, I noticed that there was only two counters that were open. TWO! There was about 50 people inside the room but only 2 counters?

I decided to stop worrying and begin reading the only book I bought. I actually finished reading Mafalda while I was waiting. Of course I only understood about 20% of the content but I finally finished reading one of the books I’ve bought.

Mafalda

Mafalda

After I finished my book, I read all of the fliers within my eyesight for about 5 times and kept my mind blank.

Then I noticed that there was 3 counters. Later, that turned into 5 and it was my turn to queue.

My counter was 9 and I had a young man who interviewed me. He asked a lot of questions about my travel plans, my previous trip to the US, what my father and mother do for a living and so on.

When the interview ended, the official said he was giving me a 10-year tourist visa for the US. What a great surprise! I was expecting a US$160 transit visa but it turned into a 10-year visa. Woo!

Then I hurried to the bus station to catch the bus. I had a class to catch and I have to check out before I go to class.

I managed to reach the hostel at about 9:05am. Everything I had was about packed so I just stuffed them into the cupboard before telling the receptionist that I was checking out.

I reached class a little late and spent most of my time forcing my eyelids to stay open. The lack of sleep feels like being drunk as I was talking louder than usual.

When class ended, I had a strange feeling in my chest. Was it sadness? Anyway, I couldn’t tell.

Lunch was again empanadas. I headed back to the hostel and like an illegal squatter, used their ameninities and finish writing this post.

Heading to Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Photo source: CIA (Honestly!)

I’m joining a tour group to Iguazu Falls, up in the north-east of Argentina. It’s supposed to be a really gorgeous place. I’ve packed my mosquito repellent so I think I’ll do fine.

Unfortunately, since my passport is still with the US embassy, I will not be able to go to the Brazil part of Iguazu or even to Paraguay. I’m quite sad about that but you win some, you lose some.

I really hope I have internet all the way so I can complain to update you about the party tour bus.

PS Last night, I cut my hair at the back of my head with a razor because it was growing into a mini mullet. Urgh.

Round the World route

My round-the-world 2013 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:

temples

5 places of worship I visited while travelling

I’m not a very religious person although I do visit a Buddhist temple from time-to-time.

Since I am not bounded by a strict religion, I like to visit churches and temples when I travel.

The places of worship are usually peaceful and beautiful. Usually…

Sagrada Familia @ Barcelona

Sagrada Familia @ Barcelona

Sagrada Familia @ Barcelona

Work in progress. The inside is actually prettier than the outside.

Tokyo Daijingu @ Tokyo

Tokyo Daijingu @ Tokyo

Tokyo Daijingu @ Tokyo

This place is supposedly great for praying for romance. Has it worked for me?

Church of Scientology @ San Francisco

Church of Scientology @ San Francisco

Church of Scientology @ San Francisco

Pretty on the outside…

Candi Sewu @ Prambanan

Candi Sewu @ Prambanan

Candi Sewu @ Prambanan

Candi Sewu is actually nicer than its more famous neighbor.

Masjid Kampung Kling @ Melaka

Masjid Kampung Kling @ Melaka

Masjid Kampung Kling @ Melaka

A mosque with the most unique roof I’ve seen since I was familiar with the onion domes. (Apparently, I’ve not visited enough mosques.)

2012 travel yqtravelling

Recap of 2012 travels

Hello everyone,

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.

Ciao!

-Yun Qing

January 2012

Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia

yqtravelling january seremban negeri sembilan

Seremban


In a nutshell: The Seremban which D and I visited was sleepy. There wasn’t much going around as it seems like most of the people prefer to look for a living in Kuala Lumpur.

Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia

Port Dickson

Port Dickson


In a nutshell: The reason I dragged D along to PD was to wash my feet in the ocean. My family has a ritual of stepping into the ocean when the new year comes to “wash away the bad luck”. PD wasn’t as fantastic as what my primary school sample compositions tell me. I much prefer the beaches in Sabah.

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Kota Kinabalu for the Chinese New Year

Kota Kinabalu for the Chinese New Year


In a nutshell: Back home for Chinese New Year which is the most important festival for my family. I didn’t visit any new places while in Sabah.

February 2012

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur


In a nutshell: Impromptu trip to meet up with Nguyen in KL. It was great fun meeting her again after my trip to Saigon after graduation.

March + April 2012

Yogyakarta + Solo, Indonesia

Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta


In a nutshell: Back in Indonesia after D and my first trip back in 2009. It was great seeing the ancient monuments in Borobudur and Prambanan.

Solo, Indonesia

Solo, Indonesia


In a nutshell: The side trip to Solo was fun too since we visited Candi Sukuh and watched Orang Wayang.

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Ipoh

Ipoh


In a nutshell: Finally back to crossing Malaysian states off my list. Ipoh will forever be remembered as the town with great food (almost as good as Penang) and a “castle” that is not really a castle.

May 2012

San Jose, California, USA

San Jose

San Jose


In a nutshell: On a business trip to cover an event in San Jose. I had the chance to visit Cupertino and see the Winchester Mystery House. I didn’t get to see much of the city because I was stuck in the convention centers getting my bills paid.

San Francisco, California, USA

San Francisco

San Francisco


In a nutshell: Side trip from San Jose after the business trip. I had planned to visit Napa Valley for a night but decided to stay in SF for the whole week. I saw two great shows, visited many fine museums and cycled a little.

June 2012

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu


In a nutshell: Back home for a classmate’s wedding. didn’t get to visit other areas since I was back for only the weekend.

July 2012

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam


In a nutshell: A 5-day trip to central Vietnam. I had planned to visit another historical town, Hue, but decided to spend all the time in Hoi An. I ate a lot, drank a lot of coffee and cycled a lot.

August 2012

Jakarta, Indonesia

Jakarta

Jakarta


In a nutshell: A short weekend trip to the capital of Indonesia. We weren’t caught in traffic jams as we took the TransJakarta public bus. I didn’t do a lot of research so we ended up walking aimlessly.

September 2012

Tokyo + Kamakura Japan

Kamakura, Japan

Kamakura, Japan


In a nutshell: A day trip to historical Kamakura on the day I reached Tokyo. I love the little town with its little big Buddha and quaint streets.

Tokyo

Tokyo


In a nutshell: A 4-day business trip but I pre-extended the weekend before work. I had the chance to overnight in Ooedo Onsen Monogatari and catch Gintama Land before it was over.

Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

Kuching

Kuching


In a nutshell: Returned to Kuching. Trip wasn’t as great but I got to meet J the night before.

October 2012

Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok

Bangkok


In a nutshell: My first visit to Thailand. I narrowed down my to-do list to a few sites and spent a productive weekend.

Alor Setar, Kedah, Malaysia

Alor Setar

Alor Setar


In a nutshell: State 9 of my Visit Malaysia project. A small town where our fourth prime minister, Dr Tun Mahathir, was born. Visited the Alor Setar tower, the second tallest TV tower in Malaysia, and saw a bird’s eye view of the town.

Padang Besar, Perlis, Malaysia

Padang Besar

Padang Besar


In a nutshell: State 10 of my Visit Malaysia project. Went to the market bordering Thailand. I was a little disappointed that the market didn’t straddle the border with stall owners on one side accepting ringgit while the other baht.

November 2012

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.

December 2012

Kudat, Sabah, Malaysia
kudat
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”.

How has your year of travelling been?

#FoodFri 10 yummy things I ate while travelling in 2012

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
Crabs
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.

Read more: #FoodFri Glutton in Hoi An part 1
#FoodFri Glutton in Hoi An part 2: Restaurants

Sicilian pizza in San Francisco, USA
Sicilian pizza
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
Indonesian avocado juice, jus alpukat
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
Indonesia mie, noodle
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
japan beer, flavored beer
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.

Everything else
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.

Do you have a special dish for the year 2012? Share it in the comments below.

Lavender bush at Sausalito

A look back at my 2012 travels

Hello everyone,

I’m back home in Sabah for the holiday. My parents cancelled the house’s broadband service so I am stuck with using 3G on my phone. This means no aimless Youtube surfing or blogging.

Luckily, I’m now in a hotel lobby that has Wi-Fi so I can publish this post. My mom and I are in a 2-day roadtrip to Kudat.

Anyway, it’s the last week of 2012 so I want to bring you back to the different trips that I made this year. (A full recap of the towns I’ve been to later this week.)

First and last trip of 2012
First: I was travelling with D to Negeri Sembilan’s Seremban on New Year’s eve. We continued to Port Dickson the next day so that I could wash my feet in the ocean. (It’s a tradition for me.)

Last: I’m back home for the December break! I guess the Kudat trip I’m in now counts as the last trip for the year.

Best and worst Malaysian state this year
I haven’t been visiting as many Malaysian states as I promised myself last year. If I have to pick a favorite state (or town) this year, it would be Ipoh, Perak. Ipoh has lovely food and even one (kind of) historical ruin.

I’ve liked all the states which I visited but I totally hate the 13-hour bus ride–including 6+ hours of post-holiday traffic jam–that spanned from Kedah to Kuala Lumpur.

Longest bus ride
Related to the above, the longest bus ride I took was from Alor Setar to Kuala Lumpur. It caused enough travel trauma that I didn’t travel since then. (Kidding, I haven’t travelled in November because I’m trying to save more money.)

Longest flight
Tokyo to San Franciso: 9h, 30m, 8,224 km.

I took Delta for my business trip to the USA. The flight was better than I expected because they serve Coca Cola in cans. Gulp gulp gulp.

Unexpectedly nice and not-so-nice city
San Francisco was more awesome than I thought it would be: the buildings, the museums, the shows, the sea. Plus, lavender is planted as street plants there. I am sold!

Lavender bush at Sausalito

Lavender bush at Sausalito

Unfortunately, Jakarta wasn’t as exciting as I hoped it would be. The food wasn’t as fantastic as Yogyakrta.

Best and worst paid accommodation
I’m leaving out hotels that I stayed in as part of my business trip because it’s not fair to compare heaven with earth.

The best place I’ve stayed in this year is Manohara Hotel when D and I were in Yogyakarta. Well, the price is correlated to how great the beds are. The second place goes to Tune Hotel Asoke which was really 5-star hotel for 1-star price.

As for the worse accommodation. The Port Dickson room had thin walls and a common shower with only cold water. It was next to a night market which blasted music till 3 a.m.. The other guest had a kid who was screaming in the morning. But…the worst hotel award should go to the hotels in Yogyakarta where D and I caught bed bugs.

Funniest and least funny memory
Funniest: In Prambanan city, a random man called out to D and I from his stall: “AJINOMOTO!” It’s like a man shouting at two random white persons: “COCA COLA!”

Least funny: Being chat up by a hobo-like person on the San Francisco bus. I had to switch my seats to the front so I was sitting near the driver. The kind lady sitting at the front made up for the weird chat.

Yummiest and most disgusting meal when travelling
Cannot choose. TOO MUCH GOOD FOOD during the year.

As for worse meal: supermarket sushi.

Most and least productive trip
My weekend in Bangkok was really well planned, if I do say so myself. I’ll share the itinerary one day.

The least productive trip is either the Kuching trip or the Jakarta trip. I think Kuching might top the list because it was my second time there.

Well, that is all with the recap! I have to go. My people need me!

How has your year of travelling been?

Hidden treasures on the road: Second hand bookstores

I know books don’t make the best souvenirs:

Little Prince, Beauvoir

Little Prince, Beauvoir

Despite that, I always feel a sense of euphoria when I stumble upon second hand bookshops overseas.

The musty smell of the shop, the yellowing pages and the cheap price of books give me more thrill than shopping for clothes unless the garments are second hand and cheap.

Here are a few of the hidden treasures I’ve found during my travels:

BOOK OFF, Japan

BOOK OFF, Tokyo

BOOK OFF, Tokyo


BOOK OFF is one of Japan’s second hand book store chain. I was introduced to it by my host family in Fukuoka. At the end of my summer school, I sent home a heavy box of Japanese manga.

Popular manga usually go for 200 yen for a book while older manga are 100 yen. Foreign language books are not cheap though.

When I visit Japan (which is not often), I always have my eyes peeled for a branch of BOOK OFF on the streets. (There’s even some BOOK OFFs in Paris, if you are ever there.) When I see a BOOK OFF, I can’t help popping in to see their collection.

During my last trip to Japan, I had a free day waiting for the evening to come so I could go to Gintama Land. I found a BOOK OFF on the second floor of a building and spent hours in the shop, thumbing through comics.

Books in BOOK OFF are always in pristine condition. They look even better than most of the books on my shelf back home.

The Japanese usually read books stores while standing (it even has its own phrase “tachiyomi“). On weekends, it’s quite a sight to see everyone standing, reading while facing the bookshelves.

Bouquinerie du Centre, Nantes

Bouquinerie du Centre, Nantes

Bouquinerie du Centre, Nantes


I was looking for a place to have lunch in the center of Nantes when I came across a second hand bookstore “Bouquinerie du Centre”.

The selection wasn’t a lot but it had titles which weren’t easily available in Singapore.

Trying to look smart, I picked up a few Simone de Beauvoir’s books which looked easy enough to be read. Le deuxième sexe wasn’t available, unfortunately.

But I must confess that the books are still in the suitcase since my move to my new rented room in August 2011.

Adobe Bookshop, San Francisco

Adobe Bookshop, San Francisco

Adobe Bookshop, San Francisco


While in the Mission District looking for lunch (again!), I found Adobe Bookshop. The shop was in a state of orderly mess with stacks of books arranged alphabetically according to author and genre.

I browsed the rows and rows of books, squeezing through bookshelves and found a man snoozing in one of the armchairs.

While I was looking for something to buy back home, a man came into the shop. He said he accidentally bought the same book and asked if he could exchange it for another. The shopowner agreed.

The old gentleman came to my aisle and was looking up and down for the author’s row. When he asked me if I knew where the author’s book was, I helped him in his search. We found it.

He then asked if I had my lunch as he was going to grab a bite. Although he didn’t feel threatening, I pretended that I just ate because I don’t think I should go around having lunch with strangers I’ve just met, even if it was in a book store.

Bridget Jones

Bridget Jones


While browsing, I overheard the shopowner telling a customer that the shop will be closing down as the landlord wanted to increase the price of the rent. I looked at the price of the books and wondered how the shop manage to stay open in the first place.

When I paid for my books, the shopowner asked if I was from overseas. I answered, “Singapore”. He then said that he was collecting foreign currency and if I had any money from Singapore to exchange with one of the foreign money in the plate.

I did have a S$2 note and I chose a pre-Euro coin from France. I said my thanks and left with my books.

I think the shop would have closed down by now. I feel sad.

This post was inspired by this week’s #Travel Talk on Twitter (#TTOT): Hidden treasures.

Have you stumbled upon hidden treasures when travelling? What was it?

Follow me on Twitter or share a thumbs up on Facebook.

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.