YQrtw: Why Hong Kong

Hong Kong. Panorama of the harbour, Old timey Hong Kong

Today is the end of my stream of posts of countries I am visiting while on my round-the-world (RTW) trip.

The last stop of RTW is Hong Kong!

Hong Kong. Panorama of the harbour, Old timey Hong Kong
Old timey Hong Kong

Credit: The National Archives UK

Confession: I’ve not been to Hong Kong. [Insert surprised gasp from the audience here.]

In Singapore, Hong Kong, along with Bangkok, seems to be taken for granted as a place everyone has been to. Not sure why these two locations are so popular among Singaporeans.

While I’ve not been to Hong Kong, I have been to Macao. Many people tell me that having been to Macao does not make up for not having been to Hong Kong.

My plan for Hong Kong is simple: Rest, shop and eat.

Since Hong Kong will be my first East Asian stop after many months, I will probably gorge myself with loads of Chinese food. YUMMY!

I was thinking of visiting Tim Ho Wan, dubbed the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, but after reading The Telegraph article about how horrendous the queue is, I think I’ll pass.

I’ll settle for a regular ole dim sum place and Hong Kong cafe where they serve cheese baked rice and milk tea.

Any Hong Kong eating tips for me?

YQrtw: Why South America, Central America

Machu Picchu, Peru

Out of all the places I am going to on my round-the-world (RTW) trip, South America and Central America are least familiar to me.

For me, South America’s allure is its mystery and affordability. (Sort of what western tourists think about South East Asia.)

I’ve wanted to visit the continent but never did because it’s expensive to get there for no reason. Since I’m doing a RTW, I might as well visit South America along the way. Besides that, South America is most likely cheaper than Europe or the United States.

I have only 2 months in South America. That’s very little time so I won’t be visiting some countries.

For example, I won’t go to Brazil because they speak Portuguese there. (A rather strange reason but I want to practice Spanish and not get muddled up.)

I’ve put Central America into the blog title, but I’m only visiting El Salvador. My flight from Lima to Los Angeles had a stopover at San Salvador so I requested an extra 7 days there.

Argentina

 National Capital at Buenos Aires,
old timey buenos aires

Credit: OSU Special Collections & Archives : Commons

I stop at Buenos Aires after a transit at Dubai airport from Istanbul (yes, the connection is terrible). I don’t plan to spend too much time in the capital because I’ve heard that things can be as expensive as the US or Europe.

I want to be able to speak Spanish so I might take a week or so of lessons here. I’ve read that Argentinian Spanish is very different from the rest of the Latin American countries but it would be quite cool to speak differently from others.

From Buenos Aires, I plan to head to Iguazu Falls to see the magnificent waterfalls. I’m thinking if I should take the chance to step into Brazil and Paraguay since they are near the falls.

Bolivia

Mountain gorge near La Paz, Bolivia

Mountain gorge near La Paz, Bolivia
Photo credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives

I didn’t know of Bolivia until I started reading up on South America. I fell in love with the name Bolivia and want to visit the place very much.

Another reason I want to visit here is because I’ve heard that living expenses here is really really cheap. If I can handle the high altitude, I might even take Spanish classes (if I haven’t done so in Argentina).

[Side note, while in search of La Paz, I found a photo of this posed skeleton.]

Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru

Credit: Epsilon31

Can you go to South America without heading to Peru? (Well, technically yes but my plane leaves from Peru so I must be there.)

Top on my list for Peru is MACHU PICCHU!!!!!! OMGWTFBBQ!!! I haven’t made any bookings for the site. I wonder if I will be able to get into the place when I am there.

El Salvador

I have a week in El Salvador to recover from my 2-months in South America. Since my flight from Lima has to make a stop in San Salvador, I requested Airtreks to let me extend a week here for an extra US$60.

I have no plans for San Salvador but I will probably stay in the country for the whole week despite it being the smallest country in Central America. (It might even feel like Singapore without the tall buildings, great public transport and airconditioned malls.)

What tips do you have for South and Central Americas?

YQrtw: Why turkey

Interior of St. Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey, 1914 Hagia sophia

We’re almost at the end of YQrtw Europe edition. My last stop in the continent is Turkey and I will head to South America afterwards.

Interior of St. Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey, 1914 Hagia sophia
St. Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey, 1914

Credit: Brooklyn Museum

I’m glad that Airtreks suggested I add Istanbul as a stop because I didn’t realize how wonderful the country is. Just the photo of Hagia Sophia (picture above) has convinced me to see Istanbul.

Mom will be joining me in Istanbul so that makes it even more exciting. My mom’s never been out of Asia before and it’ll be quite a culture shock to send her straight from Malaysia to Turkey.

While mom’s quite open to adventure, she has told me that the hamam (Turkish bath) is a big NO. I replied, “But mom, you’ve went to the onsen in Japan before.” Turns out, for mom, not wearing anything in a public bath is still ok but getting scrubbed by another person is not.

Aside from Istanbul, we will head to Cappadocia for the cave hotels. I want to bring mom to take a hot air balloon ride. The recent hot air balloon crash has made my father nervous about the rides but he doesn’t have to know if we don’t tell. ;)

More reading about Istanbul

Istanbul has suddenly become more popular in my feeds from travel bloggers. Here’s a list of some fun read about Istanbul.

Liz from Young Adventuress has a series of posts about her trip to Istanbul. Check them out, especially the one about Turkish bath, because she’s hilarious.

Steve tells his story about queuing to get into Hagia Sophia. (Thanks for the tip about the museum pass.)

Have you been to Turkey? Any travel tips?

YQrtw: Why Greece

Old timey Athens

[We’re back on schedule with my round-the-world warm up posts thanks to my mom’s mobile broadband.]

Today, we’re going to visit Greece and say “Hi!” to all my patron gods and goddesses.

Old timey Athens
Old timey Athens

Image credit: Brooklyn Museum Archives

Greece was no. 1 on my list of countries to visit ever since I watched Disney’s Hercules: The Animated Series. That’s why I listed Greece as a must-visit when I planned my RTW.

I will land in Athens after an EasyJet flight from Rome. I plan to spend most of my time in the capital before making my way over land to Istanbul.

I want to visit Acropolis Museum and the other Greek ruins. I will also make a pilgrimage to the Parthenon to visit Athena’s temple.

Apart from the museum and the temple, I’m pretty much plan-less so I will read more on Athens when I travel.

I’m glad I’m going to Athens after the Olympic Games  because this means that the public transportation has been upgraded.

I love train rides so I am excited to take the Athens to Thessaloniki route. But I’m kind of disappointed that the overnight train to Turkey has been cancelled.

Have you been to Greece? Any visit tips to share?

YQrtw: Why Italy

Old Timey Florence, vintage, florence, commons

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

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

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

Photo credit: Library of Congress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travel plans for Italy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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.