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Archive for the 'Travel' Category

04
Apr

Efficient Packing

If you’ve struggled over which personal effects to bring, you’re certainly not alone. Packing for a trip is often a struggle — especially for us women — to distinguish what we want and what we need to bring.  I’m sure you agree that in traveling, less is best.  I’m sharing here some practices I’ve employed through the years in order for you to get rid of unnecessary excess baggage:

  1. Review the list of TSA-prohibited items before anything else.
  2. Gather your passport, ticket, valid ID and black/blue-inked pen in one purse and put it in an easy-access pocket of your carry-on or backpack.  It’s good to keep a scanned copy of your passport and paper tickets in your webmail in case you lose any of them during the trip.  Believe it or not, this will keep you stress-free.
  3. Divide your pocket money, even your credit cards, to the number of luggage/bags you’re going to bring.  This is to make sure you’d still survive  in case you get victimized by a thief.  But if you’re checking in some of the bags, make sure you wrap them in a manner than no one will ever think they are valuables.
  4. Do not lock bags you plan to check except with TSA-approved locks; otherwise, if any of them is selected for random screening, securities will have to break the lock to open.  It’s important to remember this because my Delsey bag’s zipper handle got broken and I suspect it was because they forced the lock I used for it.
  5. Keep any medication and important papers in your carry-on bag. On long flights with multiple stopovers (especially if flying via London, LA or other major airports), packing a fresh change of clothes is a good idea as bags tend to get delayed or lost on long haul, multiple stop flights. You don’t want to end up stuck without medication, clothes or your important papers even if it is just for a few days.
  6. If you want to make sure everything else in your bag stays clean and odor free, place your shoes inside airtight plastic bags.
  7. Don’t bring your entire dresser.  Solid shampoo bars and tooth powder (instead of tooth paste) can be easily located on the internet and make carry-on travel in this age of liquid restriction possible. Places like Beijing now bar all liquids in carry-on bags, and you’ll still be able to breeze through without checking. You can also use small bottles to repack shampoo or lotions so that you don’t have to always carry a big bottle with you. This is especially useful if you normally take these items in your carry-on luggage, which as of early 2007 is much more restricted than before.
  8. It is always handy to have a few plastic bags around certain items, especially toiletries. Not only does it counter any leaking, the bags can also come in useful to keep dirty clothes in, as garbage bags or even as a makeshift umbrella. Ziplock or other airtight plastic bags are the best.
  9. Pack everything in clear plastic bags, divided into items e.g. underwear, t-shirts, shorts etc. before packing in your suitcase or backpack — one plastic bag for each type of clothing. This is extremely useful in various ways. When you unpack your bag you just take out a series of bags and you can see immediately what you want, so an overnight stay somewhere just means taking 1 item out of a bag — no rummaging.  In addition, if you have to unpack at customs, instead of having to disgorge all your clothing out in front of everybody, you can calmly take maybe 4 bags out, the contents of which can be clearly seen by the officials. To repack then is also dead easy, just be sure not to leave your plastic bags lying around if you are traveling in nature.
  10. Take only half a tube of toothpaste rolled up tight, store shampoo in small containers, only take half a roll of toilet paper (for emergencies only) and crush it so the middle is folded.
  11. Pack only the clothes you know you will use and if you are traveling beyond 3 weeks, plan to wash them.
  • If you are packing things into a backpack, place the lighter items at the bottom and the heavier ones on top. Your bag will feel lighter this way as the pack rests on your lower back. It is also smart to place the things you use the most on top. Dirty clothes are perfect to pack at the bottom of a backpack.
  • Somehow it seems that bags will hold more if the clothes are rolled rather than folded. If you roll in tissue paper, the clothes will also get less wrinkled.

While carrying a lot of luggage is not recommendable, sometimes it is necessary in the case of relocation. If you have the option, fly via the US as airlines will allow you 64kg (two 32kg bags) instead of the 20kg in the rest of the world. Even if it is just a stopover in the US, you will be allowed to carry the extra weight.

Tips to speed-up security check:

  • Remember that you can only bring very limited amount of liquid and gel items in your carry-on bag.  Travel-sized containers (3 ounces US/100 ml EU or less) are allowed through airport security, but should be placed in ONE 1qt-sized plastic (clear ziplock-style bag).
  • The moment you reach the checkpoint, take off your coat/jacket and shoes; bring out mobile phones, keys, loose change from your pockets and put them in a bin.  Avoid wearing clothes, jewelry, and accessories that contain metal as they could set off the alarm on the metal detector.
  • Take your laptop, digicam, and videocam with cassettes out of their cases and place them in the bin, too.

I have surrendered gazillions of kikay stuff before I learned my lesson on airport security (well, I was being hard-headed most of the time).  My mom never failed to tell me that it’s best to make a list of the things to bring (especially those that you can’t be in-flight without) and pack them way ahead of time.  That’s a helpful one — for sure you wouldn’t want to ruin your day by surrendering personal effects to securities just so you can make it to your flight.  Just a sisterly advice :)

13
Dec

Singapore

As I write this post, I’ve been to Singapore 5 times.  Once to spend quality time with my then fiance, and the rest to fulfill my business duties.  Singapore is recorded to be the 5th wealthiest country in the world, and is a melting pot of nationalities — Chinese, Malaysian, Thai, Indian — and that diversity is reflected in its varied neighborhoods: Colonial Singapore, dominated by the magnificent Raffles Hotel; Chinatown, home to Buddhist and Taoist temples; and Orchard Road, once the stomping ground of wild tigers and now the poshest shopping street.

singapore

My Top 10 MUSTs for those who plan to visit Singapore:

  1. A walk down Orchard Road.  It’s the biggest shopping district in Singapore with lots of malls selling high-end stuff.  Tangs, Paragon, OG, Takashimaya Square, John Little, The borders, and Ngee Ann City are worth visiting.  If you are into designer brands, you’ll definitely find what you’re looking for in this place.
  2. Some impulse shopping at Bugis Street — you’ll only do it once :)  This is the place in Singapore where you’ll enjoy choosing from a wide selection and you wouldn’t mind carrying lots of shopping bags.  Explore all the adjacent streets to it and you will discover small eateries, fruit stalls, and department stores.
  3. A visit to the Merlion Park, the icon of Singapore.  It’s adjacent to Esplanade — the theater by the bay shaped like a dome (or rather the pungent-smelling durian fruit).  You can stroll along the park to see the major banks and busy central business district surrounding the park with huge sky scrappers and also enjoy the sea breeze, as the park is by the bay. You can hop on a boat in the Singapore river adjacent to it to see all the individual attractions.  A ride of half an hour trip costs S$12 per person.
  4. If you love rides, a day tour in Sentosa Island will definitely be worth your time.  It will take about 6 hours to see all the attractions in Sentosa, and note that the world-famous Musical Fountain Show is in the evenings only — 7:40pm and 8:40pm every day.  Weekends are very crowded so make sure to queue an hour ahead of showing because they always start on time.
  5. Swing by Suntec Mall and check out the Fountain of Wealth (listed as the largest fountain in the world).  This is the setting for laser performances, as well as live song and laser message dedications between 8pm to 9pm daily.
  6. Try out some Hawker food (the ones at Tiong Bahru, Newton, and The Esplanade are worthy to mention). Undoubtedly, eating out in Singapore isn’t complete without a visit to a Hawker Centre – a collection of individual stalls selling food at very reasonable prices, in an open-air setting. Start by “chope-ing” or reserving a table.  The typical way to do this is to leave a packet of tissue on the table, and people will immediately understand that the table is taken.  Don’t use your celfone or wallet to chope a seat because it’s gonna be stolen.  Hawker tables have numbers on them — note your table number because you need to say it to the specific stall where you are buying your food (so they’ll know where to deliver your food).  Once you finish eating, there’s no need to clean up or deposit the utensils in a receptacle because there are cleaners who will do it for you.
  7. Explore Clarke Quay.  During the day, G-Max Ultimate Reverse Bungee gets you tossed like a ball into the air to a heart-thumping flying experience.  Or you can embark on a scenic Singapore River Cruise and visit the Asian Civilisations Museum which is within the waterfront precinct. At night, this place turns into the center of  Singapore nightlife — with clubs especially targeted to those who love to get drunk.
  8. Have a Singapore Sling at Raffles.  Even if you’re not staying in this plush hotel, you can visit its famous Long Bar to sample their legendary cocktail.  The main ingredients are gin, cherry brandy and fruit juice, but if that’s not to your liking then you can choose something else from their extensive drinks menu.  Don’t forget to take your camera with you because Raffles is one of the most famous hotels in the world and even if you’re not staying there you can at least say you’ve been there.
  9. Go to the Night Safari to keep you going at night. If you’ve ever visited a zoo during the daytime and been disappointed to see so many of the animals sleeping, then you shouldn’t miss this one.  The Night Safari is the first wildlife park in the world designed to be viewed at night, to take advantage of the nocturnal nature of many of its four-legged inhabitants.  It’s worth getting there early to see the show before opening time, as this will ensure you have plenty of time to walk the trails and really experience being up close with the animals.
  10. Before going home, drop by the China Town to buy pasalubong. It’s a typical chinese street with many shops where you can get your souvenirs at 3 for S$10. Shops sell good table runners, windchimes, fortune buddhas, fans, purses, keychains, toys, decorative items, silk bouses, scarves, etc.

If your travel agent or chosen airline offer a free tour, by all means, take it.  Singapore is a small island so most, if not all, the places I mentioned above would be covered.  Cabs may be hailed in designated stops (which every corner has practically), but it’s still best to take the MRT or city bus because the latter is dramatically affordable.  And oh, they follow a “no tips” culture.

Don’t forget to grab your free copy of the Singapore city map at the airport — it will surely help a lot.  Have a great Singapore getaway! :)

17
Apr

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

My fiance and I spent 6days on this trip last year (with a day trip to Singapore), though 3days would have been enough.  Come to think of it, we really just wanted to do something different for my birthday so I guess the extra 3days were okay somehow. When we started planning, we agreed not to spend excessively so we had our minds set to avoid malling even if KL is famous for shoes and clothes on bargain. Instead, we spent time and money sight seeing, eating, eating, and eating! :D

We booked our flight and accommodation with Cebu Pacific and Allson Genesis Hotel respectively — all done online 3 months ahead of schedule that’s why our overall expense appeared to be cheaper.  With extensive research and early reservations, you will be surprised to know how reasonably our money was spent for the entire trip.

Our hotel was located in Bukit Bintang, the shopping and entertainment district of KL.  Entering the lobby for the first time was a bit disappointing, but the cleanliness of the room as well as its size were enough to compensate.  Our reservation came with free breakfast which could be better, as the menu didn’t change until our 4th day.  Generally, it’s great for budget travelers who are after accessibility above anything else.

hop-on-and-offWe did all the tower, park, and museum visits  the 1st 2 days.   To conveniently explore KL, we purchased Hop-on Hop-off (HOHO) bus tickets sold at RM38 (about $11) good for 1 day… good thing station #6 was just a 2-minute walk from our hotel (many thanks to our friend Pauline who suggested HOHO).  The bus route actually covers 43 tourist attractions including shopping centers, but we only went to 20 of them.  What we liked so much about HOHO is that you have the option to either stay on the bus for the full tour or hop-off at any of the designated stops and explore the place at your own pace.  Every bus has a 30-minute interval, so if you miss the next bus, you can always hop-on to the next ones.

6a00e54f8d09138833010534daf6b9970c-500wi1We love visiting towers whenever we travel, and it’s interesting that KL has two.  We first went up to the Petronas Twin Towers.  Tickets to the SkyBridge/viewing deck are free, however, only 1300 tickets are awarded daily and there is always a long queue to get one.  We got there as early as 7am but to our surprise, about 200 people were already waiting ahead of us.  Viewing happens every 15mins and is open to the public from 9am-5pm,  Tuesday-Sunday.  The ticket counter opens at 830am, although on a very busy day, tickets are all awarded by 10:30 in the morning.  To avoid any disappointment, I would suggest you be there as early as possible so you wouldn’t have to wait too long in line.  **Petronas Twin is at bus stop #22 of HOHO**

kgtoh0605000901Then we visited the other tower, Menara KL.  Tickets are sold at RM20 (about $6) each which serves as entrance fee to the 335-meter high observation deck.  We took the high-speed elevator going up, and as we entered the deck, we were asked as to the language we prefer — soon after, each of us were given mp4 players with pre-recorded audio tour.  The tower offers an exhilarating view of KL including Genting Highlands; and since there’s no time limit, you can enjoy the views around the deck at your own pace.  There’s a fine-dining revolving restaurant just below the observation deck that showcases a different view every minute ( it takes about an hour to enjoy 360 degree view of KL).  We planned on having our lunch there after the tour, but we didn’t know that a reservation has to be made in order to be accommodated.  Oh well :) **KL Tower is at bus stop #2 of HOHO**

aquariaI’m not a fan of aquariums because I think they’re all the same — but my fiance is an aquatic person so we hopped off the bus to explore Aquaria.  Upon entering to begin our tour, we were greeted by a gallery that provides information on the evolution of fish.  After that, we headed down a wooden staircase to check-out the 5.3m high tube tank with aquatic wildlife such as catfish swimming around it.  The floor also had open pools about 3-4ft high that enabled visitors to see the fish up close, and even pet them.  As we walked the length of the pool, we came across some baby sharks but they didn’t seem to faze the catfish and stingrays from enjoying their time in the pool.  After those close encounters, we headed to the tunnel aquarium which had mini school of sandtiger sharks.  There were quite a few sections that I passed through without seeing, I totally lost interest and just wanted to go and see “Jaws” which marked the end of everything in Aquaria.  The entrance fee per person is RM38 (about $11).  **Aquaria is at bus stop #4 of HOHO**

merdeka-squareWent off to see the historical Merdeka Square, also known as Independence Square.  It’s the place in Malaysia where all the old British colonial buildings are situated.  The lawn frontingRoyal Selangor Club holds a hundred-meter flag pole which is said to be the tallest in the world.  Sultan Abdul Samad Building, which is just across, is very impressive — it’s very well designed and built, with a copper dome and a clock tower similar to Britain’s Big Ben.  If you love to see diverse architectures, you’ll sure enjoy your time in this place.  **Merdeka Square is at bus stop #16 of HOHO**

istana-negaraAnother architecture that’s worth seeing is Istana Negara — the official residence of the king and queen of Malaysia.  The palace is not open to the public, so visitors can only see and take pictures from the high black iron and gold crested gates.  On each side of the arch-shaped entrance gate is a guard house, and each of them had a guard mounted on a horse.  We came right in time to see the changing of the guards at the main gate, however, it was very short unlike the grand ritual of the Buckingham Palace.  **Istana Negara is at bus stop #10 of HOHO**

parkToward the end of our 2nd long day, having some snacks while seated on a bench at Taman Tasik Titiwangsa was very relaxing.  It is one of the most popular recreational parks in KL, where most locals go to canoe, jog, bike, and do their workout routines.  During our visit, the Eye on Malaysia, a 60m high viewing wheel consisting of 42 airconditioned gondolas was still operational in the park (apparently it’s been relocated to Malacca).  At the edge of the lake sits a floating restaurant that served local cuisine.  **Taman Tasik Titiwangsa is at bus stop #20 of HOHO**

Three days before our flight back home, we decided to go on a day trip to Singapore.  We were supposed to travel by air but since it was a last-minute decision, we were not very lucky to get a morning flight.  Instead, we took a KTM overnight sleeper train and by 8am we were already at Keppel Road in SG.  It turned out to be a good decision to travel by train because the cabin was comfortable enough that I had continuous sleep the whole time (which I’m sure would have not happened if we took a bus).  I’ll give a more detailed story of that day trip in my Singapore blog.

The friendly nature of the Malaysians make the tourists happy and their trip even more comfortable and enjoyable.  You can barely defy your appeal to go for endless shopping avenues, varied culture, tasty local foods and fascinating theme parks.  The most important thing that each and every visitor search for is the facility for accommodations.  In KL, you never face any problem in getting a good accommodation facility because it is filled with quite comfortable hotels and they include diversity of accommodations at rates which suit anyone’s budget.




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