Why a weekend trip is the best time to start solo travelling [Weekend Traveller series part 8]


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, I want to share why a weekend trip is the best time to travel solo.

solo travel selfie

After travelling around the world alone for 4 months, I have come to appreciate travelling with companions. That is, companions whom I can get along with on the road. There’s just something nice about being to share a moment with another person.

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Down side of travelling: Top 5 worst things about my RTW

top 5 worst things about my rtw

Now that I’m back in Singapore, I can finally take a break from travelling and take a good look at my 4.5-month round-the-world trip.

My friend M asked me to summarize my trip in a list of Top 5 best and worst things about my RTW. Since it’s an interesting way to summarize the trip, I will share with you my two Top 5 list today and next week.

Since I’m a “bad news first” kind of person, we’ll be looking at the worst things things that happened during the trip. In one of the next posts, I’ll share the other side of the trip: the Top 5 worst things that happened.
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Eat and party like an Argentinian [YQrtw Day 75 Jun 21]

argentina asado

Location: Puerto Iguazú, Argentina

It’s another 2-part post for Jun 21 because so much had happened!

I finished dinner at 12 midnight, seriously. I haven’t had dinner this late since I was in Paris when the person who brought a bunch of us girls to eat couldn’t find the right place in the semi-dangerous neighborhood.

The food came at about 11:00pm and it took us 5 people about one hour to polish off everything

Argentinian share platter
Argentinian share platter

Inside the shared platter, there was blood sausages, kidney, chinchulines (small intestines), chicken, meat sausages and beef.

It was my first time trying BBQ kidney and intestine, although I’m very familiar with these two parts. Kidney tasted better when grilled because the ammonia seemed to have lessen while intestine was still tasty as always.

Blood sausage was a new dish to me. The texture wasn’t as great as regular pig blood curd I had back home in Malaysia.

The rest of the BBQ meat were delicious. I especially love the fatty parts which were burnt crispy on the outside but oozing with cholesterol on the inside.

Party like an Argentinian

After the meal, I was persuaded to go to a party at a hostel nearby. It seemed like everyone was going so I tagged along.

By the time I left at about 2:30am, the party was still going on. There was much beer pong and dancing in the small living room space.

I did what I did best. I took off my shoes and curled on the ratty sofa to continue reading my book. This avoided awkward dance sessions and allowed me to read the book quicker.

South Americans really love to party. The girls were very forward in their search for dance partners, something I admire but would probably not be doing any time soon.

When I was ready to go to bed, it was about 3:00am. I don’t think the party ended until 4:30am.

What’s more amazing is that we had to wake up at 7:00am to get ready for the highlight of the day.

What’s the latest time you’ve had dinner?

Scary situations I’ve encountered as a solo woman traveller

creepy note in Dubai

On my blog, I focus on the good things about travel because I love travelling and I wish that more people will travel.

One of the excuses people give for not travelling is that they do not have anyone to go with.

Rubbish. If you travel alone, you can travel anytime you want.

While I love solo travelling, there are times that I wish I was travelling with someone else. These occasions are times when I did not feel safe.

I always take care to be back in my room before sundown. I feel like Cinderella with her midnight curfew, only my curfew was well earlier.

But despite all the precautions, sometimes scary situations still happen. Today, I want to share two of such tales. Thank goodness the situations were not majorly disastrous situations so you don’t have to feel too uncomfortable reading them.

Failed stalker in Istanbul

Istanbul otogar
Istanbul otogar

After I dropped off my mom at the Istanbul airport, I was back to being a solo traveller. This meant that there is no one to ask me if we’re walking in the right direction and that I can go wherever I want without any reason.

So I got off at the Coach Station stop on the metro. I remember seeing IKEA not far away from it. I really like visiting IKEAs of the world so I thought it was a good chance to add to my Local Things in IKEA list.

The Coach Station metro stop was a mess. It seemed like there were 50 bus companies around and each had a shop facing the metro exit.

I walked around to see where IKEA was. It looked quite far away but I decided that I should go nearer and find a path.

While I was walking, I heard someone talking really loudly. Thankfully, I have mastered the art of ignoring anyone that wasn’t talking directly to my face. Often, I see people over-react to voices on the streets and I don’t think that is very street savvy.

As I was walking to IKEA, I saw a short slim man in a blue polo shirt walking about 5 steps away from me. I thought he was heading to the same direction as I was.

I slowed down to let him walk ahead. Then, I realized that he kept looking back, as if to see where I was going.

By then, I decided that IKEA was too far and I wanted to head back. So I turned around.

Then I saw that the man turned around too. I walked faster, hoping to reach the metro station ahead of him.

While I was walking, some other person walked to me and asked me where I wanted to go.

At times like these, “nowhere” is not a good answer even if it is honest. I said “nowhere” and mimed taking photos.

The direction-giver pointed to the metro entrance and said “Metro. Metro.” I thanked him for his kindness.

I did not check if the blue-shirt follower was still with me but I suspect that seeing me talk to the direction-giver probably scared him off.

Thank you, good man.

The creepy note and persistent delivery man in Dubai

Creepy note
Creepy note

I didn’t mention receiving a note under my door on my first night on in my blog posts because it felt too scary to write about it at that time.

My plane arrived in Dubai quite late at about 10:30pm so I checked into my AirBnb close to midnight. The area from the metro station to the house didn’t seem like the best place since there were many men loitering.

My studio apartment entrance was in a dark lane. I had to take a lift to the house as it was above some shops.

After checking me in, my AirBnb host (a guy) left my studio apartment at past midnight. I took a shower and when I got out, I saw the note under the door.

I thought it might be from the laundry person who came by to drop off my sheets and pillow cases. However, he did not leave a company name so it was unlikely.

I  sent the AirBnb host an e-mail to ask if he knows the person. The host didn’t know and said he would take care of it.

I didn’t know how he took care of it but the incident left a mark on me.

Some nights after… There was a knock on my door. I thought it might be the host but I still asked, “Who is it?”

A man whose voice I didn’t recognized said he was delivering groceries. I tensed up and went behind the door.

After the note incident, I had tied up my door knob to something sturdy with laundry string. No amount of pushing will open the door.

I stood behind the door as my heart raced. I shouted back at the “delivery man” that I DID NOT ORDER ANYTHING.

The man was persistent. He asked if my friend had ordered any. I thought it would be bad to tell him that I was alone so I said that my friend was not in.

The delivery person was silent. I was still behind the door. Then he banged the door again, saying that he was delivering cigarettes.

I was angry. I spat out, “I DO NOT SMOKE! NO ONE ORDERED ANYTHING.”

I could still hear the person behind the door. He made a call on speakerphone but no one picked up. I wondered if he was pretending to check if the phone who called for the delivery would ring in my room.

It wasn’t after a long while when he finally left. I was still in shock and e-mailed the host.

The host didn’t get back until days later since he was out of the country. He said that it was his friend who made the delivery call and said the wrong floor.

I felt really really pissed off that the person did not even bothered to give the right door number and caused me such anxiety. Still, there was nothing I could do.

I would still travel solo

Not everybody is pleased that I travel alone.

Someone once threatened me that “A girl travelling alone is not alone. She is with the Goddess of Death.” [I am sure that line was totally made up.]

Another person made a face and said, “What sort of parents let their daughter travel alone?”

Funnily, it is men who say such things to my face.

No woman has ever told me that we womanfolk should stay at home and knit. Usually, women tell me that they do not dare travel alone but they do not make threats. I give some encouragement in the form of, “Just try it.”

Despite everything, I would not give up travelling solo. It gives me peace and less anxiety when I am able to follow my own itinerary that is made up as every minute passes.

What was the scariest situation when you were travelling alone?

5 ways to take a selfie when travelling solo

For those who are not well versed in internet speak, here is a definition of “selfie” from urbandictionary.com:

A picture taken of yourself that is planned to be uploaded to Facebook, Myspace or any other sort of social networking website.
You can usually see the person’s arm holding out the camera in which case you can clearly tell that this person does not have any friends to take pictures of them…

I like taking photos when travelling but I do not have a lot of photos of myself.

In fact, I checked my Hoi An albums and found that out of the 440 photos I took, I was in 5 of them.

The reason I do not have as much photos of myself when travelling solo is that I am easily embarrassed and I do not ask strangers to take photos of me.

While I’ve not taken many photos of myself, I’ve devised a few ways to take a selfie when travelling:

1. Arm stretching

How to take a selfie

Basic level of taking a selfie is holding your camera at arm’s length. Make sure that not too much double chin appears.

2. Mirror mirror

How to take a selfie
Another basic level of taking a selfie is taking a photo of your reflection. This works best in museums with reflective surfaces or glass doors.

It’s best to crop the photo before you share it on the Internet or print it out:
How to take a selfie
The key to a good reflection selfie is to look at the camera lens or you will look distracted.

Take care to take photos of a smooth reflective surface, or you will end up looking like something else.
How to take a selfie

3. Balance it on things

How to take a selfie
An intermediate level way of taking a selfie is settling your camera on a surface and pose from a distance. This way, there is less chance of your double chin being exposed as it does in Tip 1.

Taking a photo this way requires an empty area, with no one to gawk at the poor tourist smiling at a camera on a timer or to steal your camera.

First set your camera’s timer (10 seconds is more than enough). Find a flat area to balance your camera. Look into the view finder/screen to guess where you should stand. Press the button to get the timer running. Run to the place to take a photo.

4. Hang it on things

How to take a selfie
Another intermediate level selfie. While I do not recommend hanging a DSLR from a skinny twig, it is possible to hang light snap and shoot on its strap and set the timer.

While waiting for the shot to take, pray hard that the camera doesn’t turn to the other direction or it will take a photo of the opposite direction.

5. Take photo of shadow

How to take a selfie
This is the most boring of selfies. A photo of your shadow isn’t the most exciting but at least there is a part of you in the picture.

It works best if you have a unique headshape or weird shaped clothes.

Do you have any selfie-taking tips for solo travellers?

Lesson from Kraton Surakarta: We were born to die


April 5. Solo.

On our last morning in Solo, we planned to visit the two palaces.

We took two motor-trishaws (becak) to Surakarta Kraton on a lovely morning. The drivers passed by batik shops but did not stop. I suspect they deliberately drive by to prove that they made an effort to turn into the street.

After paying for the palace entrance, an older man volunteered to be our tour guide. (Later he hinted for the guide tips but that’s just part of the protocol.)

We did the tour in Indonesian since that’s probably a better way to learn about the place than an English tour, although I think he’s able to do both.
Continue reading “Lesson from Kraton Surakarta: We were born to die”

10 things I love about central Java, Indonesia

Finally, my one week trip in the two cities of central Java–Yogyakarta and Solo–has come to an end. These seven days seem longer than they are and that’s always a good thing to feel when you’re having fun.

While my memory of Jogja and Solo is fresh, here are 10 things I’ll miss after leaving Indonesia. Items are ranked in priority and each deserve their own blog post.

1. Food

Feast at Mie Nusantara

Food in Indonesia is cheap and good. Most noodle dishes that we had didn’t cost more than S$2. Their noodles are good and the rice dishes are yummy. I even had siomay which we thought were siewmai posing as meatballs.

Surprisingly, we had Peranakan food for two (three?) times during our trip. We accidentally stumbled upon Kedai Tiga Nyonya while being lost. The avocado juice there made me think I went to heaven. Those were the more expensive meals that we had.

Continue reading “10 things I love about central Java, Indonesia”