Top 5 cities to go for its food during long weekends in 2016 (Singapore travellers)

Have you heard the good news? Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower has announced 2016’s public holidays.

The news outlets reported that there will be six long weekends in 2016. But if your workplaces gives you off-in-lieu for Saturday public holidays (not all companies do), you actually have eight long weekends (nine if you take leave on 8 August, Monday).

2016 long weekend singapore yqtravelling

I really love weekend travels. Even though this means that my trip is short, I don’t want to use my work leave. I’m a hoarder even when it comes to annual leave.

If you are planning to go for more weekend travels in 2016, I recommend these locations to go for their yummy yummy food.

Ipoh, Malaysia

I would visit Ipoh again and again for its food. It might not be as famous as Penang for its local food but that little town serves really good chicken.

Ipoh Beansprout chicken
Beansprout chicken feast in Ipoh.

How to reach Ipoh from Singapore: 

Long-distance bus (7 to 8 hours)
Several bus companies run Singapore – Ipoh routes.

Train (6 + 2 hours + waiting time)
You can take the night train from Singapore/Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur. From KL, there is high-speed train to Ipoh, but the price isn’t budget friendly.

Airplane (1 hour 35 minutes)
Firefly and Tigerair has flights between Singapore and Ipoh. Remember to research on the timing.

Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Pronounced as “Jogjakarta”, the town on the Java Island is home to gorgeous historical sites such as Borobudur and Prambanan. But the food is fantastic too.

Nasi gudeg Jogja
Nasi gudeg

I was deceived by nasi gudeg the first time I ate it. I thought the dish had a surprisingly generous serving of beef boiled so soft that I don’t have to chew it like a cow. Later found out that the “beef” is actually young jackfruit. I was disappointed but it’s still a very tasty dish.

mie nusantara siomay
Mie and siomay

I also had the best mie while in Yogyakarta. It was in a noodle shop inside the main shopping mall. The noodles were springy and seasoned lightly with soy sauce.

How to reach Yogyakarta from Singapore: 

Airplane (2 hours 15 minutes)
AirAsia flies to Yogyakarta at a rather good timing. But the flight back leaves in the morning which is annoying.

If you find the flight timing for Yogyakarta terrible, your second best choice is Jakarta since it is the capital. There you can drink all the avocado juice you like.

Bangkok, Thailand

I went to Bangkok for my birthday in April, spending a three-day weekend there. I ate normal stuff like pad thai, I didn’t eat enough food. I still haven’t tried Mango Sticky Rice.

Pad Thai
Pad Thai

How to reach Bangkok from Singapore: 

Airplane (2 hours 25 minutes)
Loads of budget airlines fly from Singapore to Bangkok. Pick those with good departure and return timings so you can maximize your trip.

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

When I was in university staying in the dorm, my Vietnamese neighbors would cook with fish sauce. The potent smell wasn’t to my taste so I avoided Vietnamese food.

Then I went to Vietnam and I discovered that fish sauce is kind of like durian–stinky when you smell it but delicious when you taste it. I also discovered many other deliciousness that doesn’t involve fish sauce.

Vietnamese Pho

Vietnamese Pho

Declious banh mi in Saigon
Declious banh mi (Vietnamese baguette)  in Saigon
Extremely addictive Vietnamese Coffee.
Extremely addictive Vietnamese Coffee.

How to reach Ho Chi Minh from Singapore: 

Airplane: (2 hours 5 minutes)
Loads of budget airlines fly from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh. As usual, pick those with good departure and return timings so you can maximize your trip.

Shanghai, China

I would travel to Shanghai for just a weekend so I can eat the food. In fact, I’m doing it at the end of May.

My tongue still longs for the taste of shengjianbao: dumplings fried on one side ’til crispy. Take a bit and the soup flows out so you have to slurp it up fast. After two slurps, you can eat the meat along with the crunchy part.

The most delicious tiny buns/dumplings: shengjianbao
The most delicious tiny buns/dumplings: shengjianbao
小笼包 (xiao long bao)
Can you look at these delicate 小笼包 (xiao long bao) and not feel like licking your screen?

The home-cooked style restaurants in Shanghai are fantastic too. The soups come in porcelain basins and the servings are gigantic. I loved Grandma’s Place (a chain restaurant) when I was in Shanghai.

A feast at Grandma's Place.
A feast at Grandma’s Place.

How to reach Shanghai from Singapore: 

Airplane (5 hours 25 minutes direct)
Choosing a plane with a good timing is critical. I am taking Malaysian Airlines so I will reach Shanghai early at 7:30am on my first day and leave at 2pm-ish on my last day.

Another good alternative is Taiwan if you don’t want to fly that far to Shanghai.

Check out all the Weekend Travels posts:

 

 

How to use improv to survive Chinese New Year reunion

Hi folks, I’m flying home for the Chinese New Year holidays today!  So I thought I would leave you with a Chinese New Year-related post.

You might know from my Facebook post that I’ve been taking improv classes with The Improv Company (Facebook). I want to share my improv love with tips on how you can use improv to survive Chinese New Year. (I don’t mean hiding in your room watching improv all day on Youtube.)

Some of you might know about improv from Whose Line is it Anyway . While improv is very fun and entertaining, did you know that you could apply improv skills in real life? This branch of improv is called applied improv and is useful for the workplace and life in general.

Continue reading “How to use improv to survive Chinese New Year reunion”

How to cut pineapple and what they don’t tell you

I was thinking of buying a pineapple while out shopping today. I’ve never cut a pineapple before so I had to search for articles on how to cut pineapples.

The instructions seem simple enough so I bought one. After the shopping and cutting up of the fruit, I deduced that cutting pineapple is not as easy as people make it to be. Here’s why:

Instructions: Pick a pineapple that is yellow with green leaves.

What they don’t tell you: The yellow pineapples are hidden under the green ones so you have to battle through their prickly leaves to get the one you desire.

Continue reading “How to cut pineapple and what they don’t tell you”

How to apply for a Myanmar visa in Singapore

I just came back from a trip to Myanmar. I was on a tour group so I didn’t get to do a lot of things on my own. That’s why I’ll definitely go back. Before I drown you with posts about Myanmar, here’s a guide to applying for a Myanmar visa in Singapore.

When I was told that I could go to Myanmar, I only had less than 2 weeks before departure so I had to be quick about my visa application.

I was debating whether I should

In the end, my curiosity made me choose going to the embassy to apply for a visa. After my journey to the embassy, I’ve concluded that it’s really easier and cheaper to get a travel agency to do it for you.

The tourist visa fee is S$35 but there is a hidden administration fee of S$10 that they don’t tell you. Since the embassy is not in the most convenient location and the visa application hours are crazy, you should just save your taxi money and get the visa done at a travel agent.

Getting a Myanmar visa in Singapore personally

If you still want to DIY the visa application, here are the details. The Myanmar Embassy website is quite straight forward and will send you an e-mail telling you everything you need to do.

Step 1: Book an appointment online

Applying to a Myanmar visa online

The embassy now has an online appointment system where you need to book a date that you’re heading down to the embassy. I recommend giving yourself an extra day to fill up the form because there might be things that you need to prepare but do not have at hand.

Apart from having all the details about you, you’ll need a digital photo to upload to the system so please have that on your computer.

Applying to a Myanmar visa online

I chose to take a photo of the physical passport photo for the physical form and upload it to the system. I didn’t want to risk them rejecting my visa application because my hair was swept at a different direction.

Step 2: Receive forms to fill up

After your appointment, the embassy will send an e-mail with some documents that you need to print out. It’s best to print out all three of them.

Myanmar visa application

The form is pretty straight forward but there are parts that made me go, “Huh?” This part about my complexion made me pause a while.

What to write in Complexion entry for Myanmar visa

In the end, I wasn’t funny and wrote “Fair” for my complexion and “Dark brown” for my hair color even though my dye job looked more like, “Streaky.”

Step 3: Prepare everything you need to bring

This step takes a bit of time to get done because there’s a lot of things you need to bring.

Tourist visa application for Myanmar

Please bring an extra S$10 to the embassy on top of the S$35 visa fees because you’ll need to pay the admin fee.

Step 4: Arrive at the embassy early

Myanmar embassy in Singapore

There are two contradicting opening time in the documents that I’ve received. One told me to be at the embassy before 8am while the other said to reach before 9am.

Even though there is a queue number in your appointment letter, I don’t think there is an actual queue system.

I arrived at the embassy around 8:15am and queued at the “Foreigner” building–the yellow one. There were about eight people in front of me. Then around 8:30am, the counters started operating, even though the forms say the opening time is 9am. Well, anything quick suits me well.

The actual handing over of forms and other documents took about five minutes. I received a collection note. The man at the counter told me I could collect my visa in the evening. He also said that a representative can help with the pick up as long as they have the collection slip.

That was fast.

Visa collection slip for Myanmar Embassy

Step 5: Collect your visa

The visa should be available on the same day, unless your application looks suspicious.

My sister helped me collect my visa so I didn’t have to take time off work and take a cab to the embassy. Thanks sis!

Myanmar visa

After all the trouble, I recommend applying the visa using a travel agent. You won’t need to take time off work to apply and it might be just S$20 extra (which is less than most taxi money to and from the embassy twice).

Things to take note of when applying for a Myanmar visa

While my visa application and trip has been a success, I’ve heard stories about people not being able to get a visa to Myanmar. To summarize, here are the things to take note of:

  • Do not work for any newspaper
  • Do not say that you are a journalist or writer

Hope you have a smooth journey with your visa application.

Curious about Myanmar? Here are some posts about the country:

I love train travel and you should too: Day 4 of #indie30

YQ Travelling About Me liau yun qing

Prompt #4: What is your favorite method of overland travel and why?

I didn’t mind bus travelling a lot but after being violently car sick in Peru, I’ve decided that my favorite overland travel is by train.

With train travel you get to:

  • skip traffic jam
  • go at a slow pace with not as much sudden turns (so you won’t get motion sickness)
  • see cute babies
  • have more leg room than a plane or bus
  • eat train bentou (Japan and Taiwan have these)
  • sleep on beds (To be fair, China has long distance buses with beds too. I slept in a bunk next to the toilet before.)

It’s unfortunate that KTM (Malayan Railway Limited) has removed their private 2-bed bunk on their overnight train. I really wanted to try one.

 

This post is part of 30 Days of Indie Travel Art Project.

Where to buy discounted entrance tickets for S.E.A. Aquarium

south east asia aquarium cheap ticket

[Update Jul 2, 2015 Check out RWS’s promos for S.E.A. Aquarium.]

Even though I’ve stayed in Singapore for almost nine years, I didn’t know that it was possible to buy cheap tickets to various attractions. I always thought that I needed to pay full price, and thinking about it makes my miserly heart cold.

Luckily, my friend Lilian showed me where I could get discounted entrance tickets. Lilian who is now back in China (and whose wedding I attended) wanted to visit the South East Asia Aquarium (SEA Aquarium) before leaving.

Continue reading “Where to buy discounted entrance tickets for S.E.A. Aquarium”

Self defense for women travelling alone: Household items edition

spray bottle of self defense

Safety is a very important issue when travelling and even more so for women travelling alone. While you might think that you need to sign up for karate course, actually there are other ways of self-defense that doesn’t require you to be physical.

I do many things when I am abroad to be safe. Before my trip, I read up on dangerous places and avoid them. During my trip, I am aware of my environment and I get the hell out of a place when I feel unsafe.

I also take precaution and arm myself when I go out on the streets. No, I don’t mean taking a gun but taking everyday things that can be used as a weapon. Fortunately, I never had the chance to test of my “weapons” would work in a real threat.

Here are some of the unconventional ways I used to protect myself.

Deodorant spray/ hair spray/ medicated oil as pepper spray

Spray bottle
Spray bottle

Did you know that pepper sprays are prohibited in Singapore? That’s why I don’t have any of it for self defense. Luckily, other daily items can be used as an alternative.

During my very first solo trip in China, I wanted to take a walk in Suzhou at night but I didn’t have company. I looked around my bag and saw that I had a small bottle of medicated oil.

I uncapped the bottle and held it in my palm during my walk. I practiced in my head how I would give the bottle a good flick of the wrist so that the oil would sting the assailant’s eyes.

Bottle of medicated oil
Bottle of medicated oil

You can also use small spray cans to double as pepper spray. Travel-sized deodorant work well too and can leave a scent mark in case you need to identify the baddie.

Pen as stabbing object

Sometimes I hold a pen with its pointy side out (kind of like Buffy) when I am walking alone. I would visualize how I could use the pen to stab any strangers that mean to harm me. Thank goodness I haven’t poked my eye out this way.

[Edit: Works with a key too as pointed out by Ana in the comments.]

Umbrella as a club or eye-poker

An umbrella is a very basic weapon that has many other functions. I carry an umbrella to protect myself against sun or rain but also for protection.

A closed umbrella can be used as a stick to beat off animals. The pointy ends of an open umbrella can be used to poke bad people in the eye but you will need a good aim for that.

Bag of fruits as weighted bag

On one of the nights in San Francisco, I was walking back to the hostel at an hour that I would usually be in. Heck, I’m usually back in the hostel before sundown in case of any bad incidents.

I didn’t have anything that I could use to fend off any possible attackers. The only thing heavy enough that I had was a mesh bag of oranges which I bought from San Jose. A bag of orange in hand is better than a club nowhere.

So I held on to the mesh bag and practiced swinging it like a lasso. The oranges felt heavy enough to cause damage to any assailant that might be stupid enough to come near me.

Of course, I didn’t consider what I would do if the bad guy had a gun.

Whistle as loud noise maker

Some time ago, Debbie pointed this tip from Legal Nomad’s Jodi about bringing a whistle when travelling. Since then, I try to remember to bring a whistle when I travel.

I have only used it once in Egypt when a vendor kept trying to block my way to show me his ware. I acted like a crazy lady and blew on my whistle. He got the message.

Still, my whistle is a sports whistle from the two-dollar shop so I’m not that sure if it would work sending sounds far.

Flashlight as surprise blinding light

I keep a flashlight on my day pack when I travel, this is useful to light up the interior of my bag as well as dark streets. But it’s also useful when you have a strong light that you can shine into an attacker’s eyes and hopefully blind the person momentarily.

Share how you stay safe when travelling:

Well, those are some of the strange things I have used as self-defense when travelling. Do you have other tips to share?

More information:

Top 5 best things about my RTW

best things about my round the world trip

2 weeks ago, I shared the Top 5 worst things about my round-the-world trip.

Of course everyone loves a happy ending so today we’ll be looking on the bright side of things.

Top 5 best things about my RTW

5. Learning Spanish in South America

Taking notes for Spanish class
Taking notes for Spanish class

There is something about learning a new language: A new way to express yourself. A different way of seeing the world. Being able to eavesdrop on other people.

Check out the rest of the post…!

How to pack for a weekend trip [Weekend Traveller series part 6]

pack for the weekend

Welcome back to the fortnightly Weekend Traveller series where I share tips and strategies for travelling during the weekend so you can travel more using less work leave. You can find all of the previous posts for weekend end travel here.

Today, we will be thinking up a packing list for a 2-day trip.

Now that it’s almost time to leave for your trip, we need to start packing!

Packing for a weekend trip is very easy since you won’t need that much clothes. In fact, for one of my trips, I bought just my pajamas and washed my day clothes and wore them the next say after washing and drying them for the night.

overpacking

(Photo credit: Flickr–AlphaTangoBravo / Adam Baker)

Since all my weekend trips were in Southeast Asia, I don’t need a lot of thick clothing, besides a light sweater for the inevitable cold airplane/train/bus.

Here are some of the things you will need in your backpack for the weekend (besides all the basic underwear):

For city trips:

  • Fancy clothes for the night (not that I go out much at night)

For countryside trips:

  • Mosquito repellant
  • Walking shoes

Funnily, my list of electronics is much longer than my clothing list. For a weekend trip, I would bring:

  • Phone
  • Phone charger
  • Camera battery charger
  • Laptop and charger
  • E-book reader

Check out what others have to say about packing for the weekend:

how not to pack for weekend trip

What would you pack for a weekend trip?

Missed the previous weekend travel posts?

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

Choosing transportation for Weekend Travel [Weekend Traveller series: Part 3]

where to go

Welcome to part 3 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.

Last week, we talked about deciding which places to go for the weekend. Today, we will learn the pros and cons of different transportations for your weekend trip.

Planes are great for long distance travels
Planes are great for long distance travels

Plane

For long distances, planes are your best bet but the ticket prices can be quite expensive if you do not do a lot of planning. I usually buy my air tickets for budget airlines about 6 months in advance when there is a sale. I try not to buy full price tickets because it’s not worth the money.

Pros of planes for weekend travel:

  • Fast
  • Comfortable (compared to 6 hours of bus or train)
  • Not affected by traffic jam

Cons of planes for weekend travel:

  • Expensive ticket price [Solution: Buy tickets only during promo periods, do not buy luggage for budget flights.]
  • Terrible arrival/departure timings [Solution: Check other airlines or skip the destination]

Trains for weekend travel are usually bigger than this.

Train

If you have good train connections to the places you want to visit, taking the train might be a good option. I love taking night trains because I save on the cost of a night’s accommodation.

Pros of trains for weekend travel:

  • Relatively cheap prices (at least in Malaysia)
  • Not affected by traffic jams on the road
  • Trains with bunks==better sleep

Cons of trains for weekend travel:

  • Limited tickets for weekend travel [Solution: Buy your tickets in advance]
  • Shaky train, snoring passengers==not enough sleep [Solution: Sleeping pills? Deal with it.]

Night buses are not the most comfortable but they are cheap.

Night bus

I put night bus instead of I figure that you will need night buses for long distance travels.

Pros of buses for weekend travel:

Cheap

Cons of night buses for weekend travel:

Bad sleep [Solution: Even I cannot solve this. I just suck it up]

Affected by traffic jams [I was once 5 hours late because of a massive jam. Lesson learned: Take the train ]

Beware of pedestrians when driving

Driving

My mom and I had a mini road trip to the most northern part of Borneo island [LINK: Kudat Marina]. I would choose trains and buses over driving for a weekend trip because it’s more tiring. But if the place you are going to doesn’t have good

Pros of driving for weekend travel:

  • You have a car to drive around

Cons of driving for weekend travel:

  • Driving is quite tiring, especially for long hours

The deep blue sea awaits.

Boat

If you’re planning an island getaway for the weekend, taking a boat is probably your only choice so I won’t go into the pros and cons.

I haven’t been on any island trips for the weekend but the planning process should be the same: pick a nearby place and a good package so you don’t spend too much money.

Check out the rest of the series here:

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