Bike returning at West Lake/ Staying with a cute baby [YQasia Day 3 Sep 28]

cycling at west lake

Location: Hangzhou, China

Nicole and I woke up late today, not only because I watched anime till 1am last night–Tudou videos are viewable here and they load really fast–but also because the hotel didn’t include breakfast so we didn’t have to head out for the breakfast spread.

After checking out, we needed to claim the deposit on our bicycle rental. We walked a bit down the street where the hotel was and then headed to one of the bike rental stands to cycle back to West Lake for the refund.

Cycling in Hangzhou City
Cycling in Hangzhou City

Cycling in China is a rather scary activity. There are a lot of electrical bikes and motorcycle around so you have to watch out for those. Plus bicycles don’t have rear view mirrors so you have to turn your head back frequently to be sure you won’t die from getting hit.

Once, I wanted to cycle on the other side of the path and I didn’t look back to see if any vehicle was behind me. Just as I was approaching the side, I saw the front wheels of a motorcycle in my peripheral vision and I yelled out loud. The motorcyclist yelled out as well and he braked just in time.

After the hair-raising ride, we reached one of the booths. The guy in charge said we could refund our deposit but there wasn’t any space for us to return our bikes so we had to cycle down the road to find a booth that allowed refund and had bike space.

We did find one after 1km of cycling. We got our 300 yuan back and we were rich. What do rich people do? Eat. So off we went to eat at a Hong Kong dessert place.

Manji desserts
Manji desserts

I ordered a steamed milk pudding with caramelized walnut while Nicole ordered a steamed milk pudding with durian. Unfortunately, the durian pudding was out so she ordered a different pudding.

After desserts (or was it breakfast), we decided to head back to the hotel because Lilian’s friend will be picking us up to her place. Lilian is the bride-to-be whose wedding we are attending.

We went to the nearest bus stop to see if we could find a bus back to the hotel. There weren’t any. Luckily, the free Hangzhou Wi-Fi worked and I used Baidu Maps (which is a lot more awesome than Google Maps) to figure out which bus to take.

At the bus stop, there were two buses heading back to the hotel. Bus 7 costs 2 yuan (S$0.40) while bus 900 costs 3 yuan (S$0.60). At first I was quite firm that we should only take bus 7 but then I realized that the 1 yuan difference is only S$0.20 and it wasn’t worth waiting for a crowded and slower bus for that price.

Just then, bus 900 rolled in and we hopped on. The air-conditioned bus smelled of damp socks and it wasn’t very pleasant. Our stop was only one stop away and the bus drove a long way down before we reached our destination.

We went back to our hotel and got our luggage from the storage area. After a bit of waiting, Whitney arrived. We then put our luggage back into storage and went out in search of lunch.

Strolling on QIng He Fang pedestrian street

Qinghefang in Hangzhou
Qinghefang in Hangzhou

Not far from our hotel was Qing He Fang, a pedestrian street lined with ancient Chinese-themed buildings but modern wares. Since the long national day holidays was starting, the streets were filled with visitors strolling slowly.

We went into a noodle shop for lunch. My noodle had earth eels (is that what you call it?) and tiny prawns. It was an alright dish but the eel was fried crispy and tasted very good.

Next up was sightseeing/window shopping. The street of Qing He Fang had many old buildings and buildings recreated to look like shops back in ancient China.

All sorts of odds and ends targeted at tourists were sold. There were candy shaped into figures, caramel twisted into shapes, 5-minute portraits by street artists and even a man dressed in period costume selling flat bread under Wu Da Lang’s name. Wu Da Lang is a character from an old Chinese novel and his wife and her lover killed him.

We Da Lang and his bread business
We Da Lang and his bread business

There was also a haunted house on the second floor of one of the shops. While I’m curious about ghosts, the idea of getting scared by humans wasn’t very appealing.

We headed back to the hotel after finishing our walk. We passed by a street performance of an ancient Chinese play by a local university’s drama club. This was part of the international drama week or some strange celebration like that.

We picked up our luggage and went on the underground back to Whitney’s home in the suburb.

Hangzhou’s metro was launched recently. The train carriage was clean and the station sparkling. When we got on the train, we found a couple sitting on little foldable stools as if this was the norm.

Bring your own seat to Hangzhou Metro
Bring your own seat to Hangzhou Metro

We switched trains before reaching our stop. We then had to take a cab to Whitney’s place since the metro in front of her flat wasn’t opened yet. The cabbie even picked up another customer along the way. He told us that it would be difficult to make money if he doesn’t pick up different batches along the way.

A cute baby!

When we got back to Whitney’s place, we were introduced to her 2-year-old kid–Cola. He is cute as a button (rather rare for little boys his age) and has unlimited energy. He cannot carry on a conversation but keeps on babbling in his own language.

The baby entertained us as much as the TV program did. We watched one of the episodes of The Voice of China. Cola likes the duo who sings a song about curly lashes (It was originally a song by a Taiwanese pop idol, which explains the strange lyrics.) He bobbed around when the duo was on screen.

We spent much of the afternoon in the house watching TV reruns. Dinner came at about 7pm. Whitney’s husband cooked many platefuls of vegetable. We even had fresh water crabs and soup with pork ribs and corn.

After dinner, the family brought us to a branded outlet. I’ve never been to a branded outlet while travelling because I never found the time to do so. I should have in the US where Coach bags are said to be dirt cheap. Oh well…

Nicole and I had tea at Haagen Daaz after a stroll in the mall. I tried to use the free Wi-Fi but I was required to login with a password sent to a local Chinese number. Seems like I need to get a local number.

After the non-shopping trip, we headed back to the house.

Tomorrow Nicole and I will be going to Qiandao Hu–the lake with a thousand islands.

Follow my (2 weeks late) adventures in China:

Day 1 Misadventures at Hangzhou Airport [YQasia Day 1 Sep 26]
Day 2 Swindlers and bicycle misadventures at West Lake
Day 3 Bike returning at West Lake/ Staying with a cute baby [YQasia Day 3 Sep 28]
Day 4 To Thousand-Island Lake by bus [YQasia Day 4 Sep 28]
Day 5 Tour of Qiandao Hu (Thousand-Island Lake) [YQasia Day 5 Sep 30]
Day 6 Buying tix to Shanghai/ Eating on a floating platform in middle of nowhere [YQasia Day 6 Oct 1]
Day 7 A very Chinese wedding [YQasia Day 7 Oct 2]
Day 8 A very Chinese hotel/ 7-hour buses to Shanghai [YQasia Day 8 Oct 3]
Day 9 Exploring Shanghai: Buffet, the Bund and Nanjing East Rd [YQasia Day 9 Oct 4]
Day 10 A day of food and coffee in Shanghai [YQasia Day 10 Oct 5]

Museum day in Hong Kong and it was great! [YQrtw Day 129 Aug 17]

dragon at hk museum

Location: Hong Kong

As I went to bed the night before at 6pm, I woke up at 2am.

Since almost everything is closed at that time and I don’t want to walk around the streets in the middle of the night and meet those scary gangsters featured in 60% of Hong Kong movies, I did a bit of blog updating and Facebook game playing.

Slightly before 7am, I decided it was time to head out for breakfast. I found out that there’s a porridge place nearby that serves food at 7am. Yum yum.

It was quite easy finding the place with a combination of Foursquare and Google Maps. However, it was 5 minutes before 7am when I reached the doors so I didn’t dare enter.

Instead, I walked around for two blocks before deciding that I really need something to eat.

I had porridge with a cup of hot soy milk. The porridge was really good as it was silky smooth and not chunky.

[See this video]

After breakfast, I decided to see more of Hong Kong. What better time to sightsee that early in the morning where you don’t have crowds of people to deal with?

I took the tram to one of the Hong Kong MTR station exit and let Foursquare and Google Maps do my travel planning. According to the apps, I was near the famous Central Mid-Level Escalators.

The apps were right but it was before 10am so all the escalators were going down. One of the downward escalator was also being fixed so I decided not to head to the top to take them all the way down.

Riding one of the Central Mid-Level escalators
Riding one of the Central Mid-Level escalators

A trip to Tsim Sha Tsui

Once the escalator was off the To-Do List, I made my way to the land opposite Hong Kong Island–the New Territories. This is where the famous Avenue of Stars and most museums are.

View of Victoria Harbor from Avenue of Stars
View of Victoria Harbor from Avenue of Stars

It was really cloudy and I could see heavy clouds sitting on top of Hong Kong Island, waiting to let out a flood of rain. I imagine that it’ll be a lot prettier if it was sunny or even at night when all the lights are on. (I love city lights.)

Visiting the Hong Kong Museum of Art

Looking across the narrow block of water and smelling ocean air got a bit boring so I turned my back and headed to the Hong Kong Museum of Art. The museum wasn’t open yet at that time so I waited a long while before I could get in.

I’m usually less of a fan of art museums because I find that having just paintings is kind of boring. I’ve seen enough painting during this trip and I didn’t think I would like those at the HK Museum of Art that much.

But I was surprised by how much I liked the collection there. Maybe it’s because it has a lot of Chinese art which I didn’t get to see while travelling.

Chickens at the Hong Kong Museum of Art
Chickens at the Hong Kong Museum of Art

After 2 hours at the museum, it was time to feed my tummy. Luckily there was one of the branches of a famous ramen place nearby. I heard that there is usually a long queue at the Butao stores but there was only 5 other people in front of me.

Since I was eating alone, they found me a seat really fast. I accidentally ordered an extra serving of charsiew. The soup was very good but I ordered the wrong type of noodles and it felt like I was eating wanton noodles instead of ramen noodles.

Butao ramen in Hong Kong
Butao ramen in Hong Kong

Visit to the Hong Kong History Museum

After lunch, I was feeling the effects of waking up at 2am. I was tempted to go back to my hostel but I ploughed on. Next on the To-Do List was the Hong Kong History Museum.

The Hong Kong History Museum was great. The timeline starts waaaay back when there doesn’t seem to be any living organisms on earth to the time when Hong Kong is reunited with China.

Touch this rock
Touch this rock

The prehistoric parts were a bit dull but I love the second floor that talks about the different cultures in Hong Kong. They actually built houses inside the museum!


There were also audio visual halls where they show videos. I like that part because I can sit down and rest.

After visiting the permanent exhibition, I was very drained and wished to sleep. But I still have tickets to the temporary exhibition featuring clothes from the Qing royal family.

Emperor's new clothes
Emperor’s new clothes

While looking at the oversized clothes, I can’t help thinking how amazing it is that we’re able to see the clothes so near. Back in ancient China, a commoner might not even be able to see it from 1km away.

After a quick stroll through the exhibition, I decided to go back to the hostel. I took a bus that went through the undersea tunnel and saw lots of concrete walls.

Back in my hostel, I set my alarm for 8pm, thinking that I should check out Hong Kong at night. Unfortunately, when the alarm rang, I was still very sleepy and went back to bed.

See Hong Kong on a tram [YQrtw Day 127 Aug 15]

tramming in hong kong

Location: Hong Kong

[I was sleepy with jetlag on both the nights of August 15 and 16 so I wasn’t able to update the day’s blog post before midnight. Maybe nobody noticed… Anyway, here it is!]

I wanna hold your haaaaand
I wanna hold your haaaaand

I was fully awake at 7am even though I drifted to sleep well past midnight. It seems like it will take a lot more days before my jetlag goes away and for me to be familiar with GMT+8.

I took the chance to go to the common room to surf the internet. Wi-Fi on the fourth floor was non-existent, despite the sign outside giving the password for Wi-Fi.

The hostel that I was staying is a rather strange place. For one thing, they advertised themselves as at least 5 different hostels on booking sites. When the tourists get there, they are directed to the reception area on the third floor and then given a room or bed on another floor or at an entirely different building.

I was supposed to move out today because the bed in the 3-person room was booked. I asked the guy at the reception (who I think is the boss) about check out time and when I could move in. He was rather rude and replied me as if I’m trying to cheat him of a room even though I’ve made the booking online.

When he gave me back my change, I noticed that he gave me HK$100 less so I thought that he kept the HK$100 as the key deposit. Then I asked if I could have yesterday’s deposit back, he replied, “Of course not.”

So I pointed out that there as HK$100 less in the change, he said, “Oh.” and gave me a HK$100 note. No apology! He then asked one of the girls working there to bring me to my room.

The both of us had an awkward conversation about my travels as she spoke Mandarin with a Cantonese accent. I don’t know if in cases like these, I should step in and speak with my bad Cantonese or let her continue in a dialect she’s not very familiar with. In the end, I stuck with Mandarin.

My new room was any much better. It had a bed, a small table and enough space for my luggage to stand up straight. If I need anything from the luggage, I have to toss it up onto the bed.

Gundam character in front of Time Square
Gundam character in front of Time Square

Sightseeing in Hong Kong

After changing my accommodation, it was time to see Hong Kong. Thankfully typhoon day was over so the shops are open and the public buses are running.

I was excited to se e a lot of people on the streets. First stop on my to-see list was actually one of the Apple Stores. Using Google Maps in offline mode, I finally saw the place. It wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be.

Apple Store in Causeway Bay
Apple Store in Causeway Bay

Views of Hong Kong from the tram

Since the sky was still pretty gray, I decided to take the tram to see Hong Kong. Unlike the trams in San Francisco, the trams in Hong Kong are double decker trams. The second level has open windows so it’s very breezy and is a great place to sightsee.

At HK$2.30 per ride, this is probably the cheapest way to get around, apart from walking.

Upper level of a double decker tram in Hong Kong
Upper level of a double decker tram in Hong Kong
Looking at Hong Kong from above
Looking at Hong Kong from above
Entering dried seafood street. This guy must be hungry.
Entering dried seafood street. This guy must be hungry.
End of the line for this tram in Hong Kong
End of the line for this tram in Hong Kong

I have 3G, finally!!!

After the tram ended at Kennedy Town, I gathered my courage and went into a convenience store to buy a local SIM card. I am never sure if I should speak Cantonese or Mandarin and my Cantonese is so bad that I am embarrased to say it out loud.

It turns out, they did have the SIM card for tourist that I was looking for. For HK$69 (SG$11.50), I get 5 days of 3G internet and HK$25 credit for calls and SMS.

I plugged the SIM card into my phone and was delirious with joy when the 3G sign came on. For the past 2 months, I was in South and Central America where the 3G spectrum does not fit my phone. I’ve forgotten how useful it is to have constant internet.

I felt like I have grown a third eye that allowed me to see where I am, plan my journey and constantly report my every move to everyone on the internet. [Find me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.]

With 3G, I figured out where exactly I was and where the nearest cinema was. I made my way to IFC Mall but discovered that the movie ticket was HK$90. The miserly part of me refused to pay that much money for a movie so I looked for lunch.

Foursquare told me that there is a Tim Ho Wan branch at Hong Kong station so I went off to find the famous dimsum place. The directions were a bit confusing but I made it.

It was slightly before lunch time but there was already an unorderly queue. You pick up an order form where the lady scribbles a number. You order your food and wait for your number.

I ordered enough food for 1.5 people because I was too embarrassed to order only two dishes.

A feast for 1? Dimsum at Tim Ho Wan Hong Kong station branch.
A feast for 1? Dimsum at Tim Ho Wan Hong Kong station branch.

After the feast, I decided to check out a second hand bookstore, Book Attic. I walked from IFC Mall to the bookstore and passed by lanes that I didn’t know existed in Hong Kong (aka I’ve not seen in Hong Kong shows).

These were medium-sized stone paths on a sloppy hill. The sides of the slopes are little stalls selling odd things. One stall was selling electrical plus, another selling colorful Chinese threads and one selling tacky for-tourist souvenirs.

At the bookstore, I browsed for a long time and finally bought one book. For a used book, HK$60 (SG$10) is kind of expensive.

While at the bookstore, I found a note left by a high school friend who’s now working in Hong Kong on my Instagram account. We arranged to meet for dinner so I had about 4-5 hours before the meet up.

I decided to take the tram again. This time to the eastern end of the tram tracks. The journey was long but it was very comfortable sitting on the upper level.

The end of the line of Shau Kei Wan is the residential area. I walked around taking a few photos before I got on another tram to the hostel.

Shau Kei Wan residential area
Shau Kei Wan residential area

Back at the hostel, I napped. I wasn’t ready to get up when my alarm rang 30 minutes before the meeting time. Thankfully, my classmate sent a message saying that he would be delayed for one hour. That means more napping for me!

After the quick nap, it was finally time to get out and face the world. My classmate, Lane* (not his real name), brought me to an “OK Hong Kong restaurant” as there were any spectacular ones around. The food was still good. I ate wanton noodles and beef horfun then some desserts at another place.

Lane gave many food recommendations which I saved into my Foursquare app so I wouldn’t be hungry for good food.

After dinner, I was sleepy again and went back to the hostel where I fell asleep.

Living in the caves of Cappadocia [YQrtw Day 50 May 27]

Cave Hotel

Location: Göreme, Turkey

If it were up to me, I might not have planned a trip to Cappadocia. Instead, I would have spent many days in Istanbul.

However since my mom was visiting, my sister was very helpful and enthusiastic in looking for sights to see. She found out about cave hotels and balloon rides in Turkey and even helped us book 2 nights in a cave hotel in Göreme.

After a 12-hour bus ride from Istanbul, we arrived in the little town of Göreme. The tour company picked us up from the bus terminal but took a little while looking for our hotel.

When we got there, it was too early for check in but we were allowed to have breakfast. The spread was more generous than what we had in our Istanbul hotel.

Since we couldn’t check in so early, we decided to visit the Göreme Open-Air Museum (15 lira entrance, extra 8 lira for Dark Church).

It took us quite a lot of walking to reach the museum from our hotel. Along the way, we saw the many caves and mountains that are famous in this region. The rocks look quite funny.

One of the more famous rock formation is called “fairy chimney” but for my 15-year-old teenage boy mind, they look more like pen*ses (I looked up wikipedia for the plural of pen*s.) See for yourself.

One fairy chimney. Photo was not actually taken on this day.

After a gruelling walk up and down some hills, we finally reached Göreme Open-Air Museum. Thank fully the entrance fee wasn’t 25 as I previously thought it was.

Göreme Open-Air Museum, worth the visit

Before coming to the museum, I read a few conflicting reviews about Göreme Open-Air Museum on Tripadvisor.

The place was actually nice since I really like Christian Byzantine art for its “unrealness”. But the caves are really small and we needed to elbow a few other tourists to visit the tiny little chapels in the caves.

The best church among the caves was the Dark Church which requires an extra 8 lira entrance fee. Inside, the walls and ceilings are covered with art works but most of the saints have their faces chiselled off.

On our way back, I caved in so we got back on a taxi for 10 lira. It was well worth the money since the noon sun was even more cruel.

Six hour power nap

After a lunch in the little town, we head back to the hotel. Our room was ready and our bags were brought into our cave room.

The cave hotel room was cool even though it was blisteringly hot outside. With our double bed and light, the whole setting didn’t look very much like a cave. Instead, it was more like the walls having funky uneven patterns.

In a cave hotel room

Unfortunately, the room was rather humid and nothing would dry if we hung it inside. Thankfully we have a little porch with two sofas. We took the liberty of hanging a few of our laundry outside.

Since we took a night bus, our sleep quality the night before wasn’t very good. The room was so cool that we fell into a nap very soon.

Mom’s nap turned out to be 2 hours longer than mine. I admired the sunset and worked on May 26’s blog post during that time.

Goreme sunset

At night, we went to a restaurant suggested by Foursquare. The place was awesome as the tea and apple tea were served free and for as much as we want. Yum!

We walked back to the hotel in the cool night air and rested at 11:00pm to prepare for our early morning hot air balloon ride the next day.

Changing of guards at Syntagma Square [YQrtw Day 42 May 19]

Marching ceremony at Athens's parliament

Locations: Athens, Greece

Ceremony on Sunday at Athen's Parliament

In front of the Parliament building, there are guards dressed up in fancy costume, guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The guards are sort of like the those at Buckingham Palace–standing straight with no expression.

At the start of each hour, they have a changing of guards thing going on. The guards march with high kicks.

But on every Sunday at 11am, there’s an even more elaborate “show” with band music and many guards marching down the street.

Since I’ve not caught any of the changing of guards, I thought I should head down today to catch the most awesome of the show.

When I reached the area, I saw that many people were already lined up at the square in front of the Parliament. I went closer and looked between other people’s shoulders to find that the guards were already doing their lining up.

I had to look between others’ shoulders for a part view of the procession.

Then something caught my eyes. It was the very good looking face of a young policeman.

Why are Greek policemen so handsome?

I've cropped this photo. I didn't actually push my camera into this gentleman's neck to get this photo.

I think I now sound very much like a creep. And based on the photo above, you’ve probably removed the bookmark you had for this blog.

But I have to ask: Why are the young Greek police people so good looking?

Since coming to Athens, I have been stunned by how good looking the younger police officers are. (The policewomen are also gorgeous but there are more policemen around to look at.)

How is it statistically possible for this place to have so many good looking police people? Do they have a “good looking meter” that recruits have to pass?Someone, tell me!

Anyway, after the marching, I didn’t linger around for more stalker shots so that’s the one and only photo of Clark Kent that you’ll see here.

Benaki Museum and lunch on the rooftop

The Benaki Museum was just around the corner. Since today was International Museum Day part 2, it was free entry to the 3-storey museum.

The collection in the museum was great. Finally I get to see art that wasn’t related to Christianity (those are great too but there is a limit of how much Marys one can handle in a week).

Since Museum Weekend was on, there were a lot of events for children as well. I wished I had those when I was a kid but then I might rather stay at home than hang out with a crowd of stranger kids.

The Benaki Museum has a nice rooftop restaurant that is shaded by umbrella. I decided to treat myself to some nice lunch since I’ve been keeping within my budget in Greece.

Lunch was moussaka–which I dub eggplant lasagna–and a pricey frappe. The creamy moussaka took a lot of effort for me to finish.

Damn you Google Maps

Next stop, I thought of going to the Byzantine Museum, to see the wonderful…Christian art. (Wait, who was it that said she cannot stomach more Marys?) I like the Byzantine Christian works because the characters are deliberately stiff.

So using my trusty Google Maps, I mapped out my route. Hmmm… A 40 minutes journey? OK, I do have a lot of time.

I waited for the longest while before bus 132 came. The bus went through a long route before I got off.

Following Google Maps’s direction, I arrived at a residential area, in front of a house that did not look like a museum.

I got out my phone and checked Foursquare. The app told me that the museum was just next to where I got on the bus, near the Benaki Museum.


Other things that happened today: Got back to city center; sat at a nice cafe, reading; went to see the public cemetery of Athens but the gates were not open; saw creepy lady in cream blouse and skirt while walking away from cemetery; got back to hotel; bought club sandwich for dinner; read Jezenbel.

Sightseeing on wheels: Segway touring in Rome

segway tour

[Disclosure: I received a complimentary segway tour thanks to Italy Segway Tour but the post is all honest words by me.]

Just one week ago, I had two amazing events happen in my life on the same day.

In the morning, I saw the pope (quite far away, but we were within 1km radius of each other).

In the afternoon, I went on a segway tour with Italy Segway Tour’s tour of imperial Rome.

Posing in front of Italy Segway Tour's Rome office
Posing in front of Italy Segway Tour’s Rome office

I found the office easily and all the tour mates arrived on time too. My tour mates include 2 couples from Sweden and a couple from the USA.

Our tour leader was Roberto who was very hyper. He suited us up in our radio listening thingamajig and our helmets. We were told to lead our electrical horses (the segway, by the way) to a small square nearby.

There was plenty of training before we started the tour. I didn’t quite understand how to work the segway in the beginning but after a few turns, I found my own way of controlling my steed.

Off we go!

Here is a list of places we visited (copied from the website because I couldn’t take notes on the segway):

Circus Maximus, Arch of Constantine, Roman Forum, Colosseum, Traian Column, Capitoline Hill, Santa Maria’s Church and its Bocca della Verità wall sculpture, Marcello Theatre and a breathtaking panoramic view over Rome.

Luckily for us, one of the main roads was closed off that day and we could segway around (is that even a proper verb?) without much fear.

Since Robert was wearing the high-tech tour guide voice transfer machine (I really don’t know the name), we could hear every word he said. That is, if you are not too busy balancing yourself/ feeling awesome about being on a segway.

I just realized that I do not have the consent of my tour mates to put this up. Thank goodness no one lied to their boss that they're sick.
I just realized that I do not have the consent of my tour mates to put this up. Thank goodness no one lied to their boss that they’re sick.

Some of the sights we saw along the way include:

Road to Capitoline Hill
Road to Capitoline Hill
Part of the panoramic view of Rome
Part of the panoramic view of Rome

Circus Maximus

Mouth of truth
Mouth of truth

The first time I put my hand in a Mouth of Truth was back home in Sabah. Some company made machine copies of this and would tell your fortune.

There's a secret behind this gate's keyhole
There’s a secret behind this gate’s keyhole
Parts of the Roman Forum ruins
Parts of the Roman Forum ruins

Benefits of a segway tour

The segway’s really good for getting panoramic views of the city. We could just roll up a slope, listen to the history behind the sights, snap a few photos and head off to the next sight.

Other benefits are:

  • You see more with less time (Probably the equivalent of 3 walking tours–6 hours–crammed into one tour.)
  • You walk less (Quite priceless if you’ve been checking out too many museums.)
  • You get to use the segway (Awesome!)
  • You will be photographed by curious people (Perfect for camwhores.)
  • You will be photographed by tour leader (No need for selfies.)

More information about Rome Segway Tour

Robert, our tour leader from Italy Segway Tour
Robert, our tour leader from Italy Segway Tour

The tour I joined was with Italy Segway Tour (who also organized the Florence Food Tour). The office is really easy to find if you have Google Maps.

The price of the 3 hour tour is 90 euro per person. By the way, there are a lot of discount codes for the segway tour on its webpage so do check it out.

Besides the morning segway tour, there is also a night segway tour which I think will be super amazing.

My tour with Italy Segway Tour was great because Robert took the time to give us training (very important to not run into pedestrians or cars) and was attentive to our safety during the trip.

Have you been on a segway tour?

Singapore for museum lovers (Part 2)

Bukit Chandu

Welcome to part 2 of Singapore for museum lovers. Last week I shared what I thought about the Asian Civilisation Museum, National Museum of Singapore, Singapore Art Museum and Peranakan Museum.

Today, I’ll be talking about three less visited museums: Reflections at Bukit Chandu, Memories at Ford Factory and Singapore Philatelic Museum.

The first two museums are dedicated to World War II so if you are a WWII fan, be sure to check those places out. The only down side about these two museums is that they are really far from other sights. Bummer.

Memories at Ford Factory

Memories at Old Ford Factory

Out of the three museums I will be talking about today, Memories at Old Ford Factory is my favorite. In its past life, the museum was the Old Ford  Motor Factory. I became interested in it because there were rumors that the place is haunted.

The museum was the location where the British signed its surrender contract (?) to the Japanese. The room where the signing is part of the museum collection. You can stand behind glass wall to see the room.

What I like the most about this museum is that it’s not full of artifacts (even though I do love reading). Instead, it has transcription of people telling their experience of what happened during the days of the Japanese occupation. [Or as the website says: “first-hand oral history accounts, archival records and primary documents”.]

Memories at Old Ford Factory

There’s also a theatrette at the museum (same as at Reflections at Bukit Chandu) and the film made me shed tears.

I like this museum a lot but just thinking about getting there gives me a headache. There are public buses to the museum but it’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere. If you do not have a lot of time in Singapore, I think you should skip this place.

Nitty gritty: Memories at Old Ford Factory
Where: 351 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 588192
Opening hours: Mondays to Saturdays, 9.00am to 5.30pm; Sundays, 12.00pm to 5.30pm
Entrance: S$3 for adults

Reflections of Bukit Chandu

Reflections at Bukit Chandu

Another museum focused on World War II. This time, it’s more about how the Malay community help defend Singapore against the Japanese army.

The museum is located at the top of Bukit Chandu (or Opium Hill). If you are walking, be prepared for the very hilly walk from the Pasir Panjang MRT station. On breezy days, it’s very relaxing to walk uphill since most of the route is shaded.

The museum is very small. A old mansion “close to the former battle site – the Battle of Pasir Panjang, where 1,400 brave soldiers from the Malay Regiment heroically defended the last stand against a 13,000-strong Japanese army”.

The best part about this museum is the little theater where they have great sound and light effects to show how it was like when the Japanese invaded. Be prepared to shed plenty of tears (more tears than Old Ford Factory).

Reflections at Bukit Chandu

The museum was different from the rest since it focused a lot on how the Malay Regiment defended Singapore. In other museums, it seemed like it was mostly the British work (and terrible work at that).

It’s also rather interesting since in the Peninsula Malaysia, Malay gave their bicycles to the Japanese army, giving them a chance to reach Singapore from a direction that wasn’t expected by the British.

One of the artifacts of the museum is drawings by a local Chinese who survived the war. It showed how cruel the Japanese soldiers were during the period.

A large part of the museum is dedicated to Lieutenant Adnan bin Saidi who was portrayed as a hero who never gave up. Honestly, I haven’t heard of Lieutenant Adnan until the visit, I hope he would be upgraded to the position of national hero in other places and not just this museum.

More photos and detail of Reflections at Bukit Chandu can be found at remembersingapore blog.

Nitty gritty: Reflections at Bukit Chandu
Where: 31-K Pepys Road S(118458)
Opening hours: Close on Mondays (except public holidays) Tuesdays to Saturdays, 9.00am to 5.00pm
Entrance: S$2 for adults

Singapore Philatelic Museum

Singapore Philatelic Museum

I’ve collected stamps when I was in primary school. The only reason I did it was because in the books I read, stamp collecting was a good hobby. The books never told me that watching TV, playing video games or reading can be considered hobbies.

My mom was writing to my grandfather back in Taiwan so we had many pretty stamps with the words “Republic of China”. I never knew then why they didn’t just write Taiwan but I accepted it and filed it in my stamp book.

But I’ve never really liked stamp collecting. It was most boring to me since the stamps just sat there and did nothing. At least books told me stories and running around makes my heart beat faster. I pretty much gave up stamp collecting when I was older.

Oh, where was I? Ah, the Singapore Philatelic Museum. The reason I gave a short history of my liaison with stamps is to tell you that I really do not like stamp collecting.

My introduction of the Singapore Philatelic Museum will be marred by my experience with stamp collecting.

Singapore Philatelic Museum

I visited the museum as part of the Free Museum Entrance Month. My head was already full of other exhibits in the other museums so the exhibition at the stamp museum was rather disappointing.

There is a room on how stamps are made. To me, a room showing how cookies are made is a lot more interesting.

There are blown up stamps for different occasions. I saw the Olympic Games stamp when I was there.

Surprisingly, there is a room about different cultures in Singapore. They must have ran out of stamp-related artifacts.

I was quite bored out of my mind at the museum. So I will stop here.

Nitty gritty: Singapore Philatelic Museum
Where:  23-B Coleman Street S(179807)
Opening hours: Mondays 1.00pm to 7.00pm; Tuesdays to Saturdays, 9.00am to 5.00pm
Entrance: S$6 for adults  (Seriously? I would rather take a bus to Old Ford Factory than pay this price for entrance.)

Have you been to the three museums I talked about? How was your experience?

A trip to erotic temple Candi Sukuh: Part 2

Symbolic penes at Candi Sukuh

This post is part 2 of 3 of D and my trip to erotic temple Candi Sukuh in Indonesia. Find out how we decided to visit the location and our journey to the site in part 1.
The motorcycle drivers deposited us at the foot of a hill after a rather calm ride (no one was tossed off their bikes, thank goodness). The way uphill was steep and would have taken forever if we had walked.

We couldn’t see the ruins from the entrance but the site didn’t look big.

I read someone’s blog which described Candi Sukuh as a mini Mexican temple. Did the ancient architects go to the same school of building design?

After paying for our entrance, we read the only description available of the site in the form of a faded poster on a display board behind a pane of dirty glass.

After reading, we entered the real site by climbing a flight of stone steps. I would rather climbed through the narrow staircase of the stone building near the steps but the gate was locked.

Stairs to Candi Sukuh
Stairs to Candi Sukuh

The real Candi Sukuh

When I first saw the real site, I was slightly disappointed at its petite size. I was expecting something on a grander scale but the area was rather small and could be seen in about half an hour time.

It was interesting how the ancient people “layered” the temple grounds so the main building was the highest.

Candi Sukuh
Candi Sukuh

Once I’ve gotten over my first world problem of being disappointed by the smallness of the site, I was in awe of the sculptures. I could not even draw half of these beings, how did they get them onto the rocks.

Gate of Candi Sukuh
Gate of Candi Sukuh
“I believe I can fly”
Candi SUkuh deco
Candi Sukuh deco
Wall carvings of Candi Sukuh
Wall carvings of Candi Sukuh
Basin of Candi Sukuh
Basin of Candi Sukuh
Mask of terror
Mask of terror

There was a couple taking pre-wedding photographs on the temple grounds. I think it’s really cool to take photos there because it’s a lot more unique than the general fake screens we see.

Wedding shoot at Candi Sukuh
Wedding shoot at Candi Sukuh

To the altar of Candi Sukuh

To the altar of Candi Sukuh
To the altar of Candi Sukuh

Stairs to rooftop bar of Candi Sukuh
Stairs to rooftop bar of Candi Sukuh

The highlight of the site was the rooftop altar which could only be reached by climbing a narrow staircase. The width of the entrance showed how petite 15th-century people were but us 21st century big boned folks also made it.

On the rooftop, it was a bit dizzying to see the tea gardens. I kept thinking I might slip and crash head first onto the stone pavement. Ouch!

Hi from Candi Sukuh's rooftop altar
Hi from Candi Sukuh’s rooftop altar

My only complaint

One embarrassing complaint I have about Candi Sukuh is the lack of erotic symbols. For a fertility temple, there’s too little eroticism around.

I was hoping for something like Haesindang Park but I only found two statues that were explicit.

Why Candi Sukuh is called an erotic temple
Why Candi Sukuh is called an erotic temple

I’ll leave you with this song from Flight of the Conchords titled Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor.

Follow me as I end my trip to Candi Sukuh with a hot sweet tea at a local warung.

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