Saturday, October 22, 2016

Sabbatical homework continues...

Back in 2015. In Saint Petersburg. Russia.

Here I am again. Been close to a month and finally over the past 2 weeks I had more progress in booking my accommodations and planning my itinerary. Hahaha.

Let's see what have I gotten so far after Netherlands and Paris:
Saint Petersburg - S$35 (4 nights)
Petrozavodsk - S$25 (2 nights)
Murmansk - S$31 (3 nights)
Moscow - S$60.15 (2 nights)

My main motivation to Russia. Saint Basil's Catheral in Moscow.

And the reason why Moscow is so expensive was coz the silly me didn't look carefully at the dates before confirming my booking. If not. The price for 2 nights' stay would have been S$39 only. :( Super upset with myself for my carelessness!

Petrozavodsk is just a quick stop as I want to head to Kizhi to see the 1714 Transfiguration Church!

Anyways. I've decided to do a day trip to Luxembourg from Belgium and save on accommodation. Reason? The accommodation for a 2 star hotel is at S$92 per night. Way out of my budget! And the best part? There are 2 Michelin restaurants there that I am debating of trying.. But cost and reservations are a concern. Ah well. I'll see how it goes!

And coz I'm not staying in Luxembourg. I want to make full use of my Eurail pass. So. I think I will splurge a little more in France (since I'm quite certain it's going to be a time visit and a strike off my list). I'm going to stay on a vineyard! :D Yes. It's gonna cost my way more than my usual stays. But I guess it's a once in a lifetime thing. Hahaha!

So this's just a quick update while I continue scourging for cheap domestic flights in Russia and places to stay in the province of Champagne! :D

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Surprise in my mailbox! :)



My Eurail surprise!

I didn't really have time to sit down and plan. So I did the next best thing - planning my trip on the go.

I have long bus rides to work (about an hour per way daily) and I started making use of whatever little time I could. Expedia. Agoda. Airbnb. Skyscanner. TripAdvisor and Google became my companions.

I signed up for Expedia many years ago when I was in school coz of a project we had to research on. And it came in handy when I had members' deal and I booked my accommodation for Netherlands through it. So in Netherlands I'm gonna stay in a hostel that costs S$18.24 per night.

Wanted to stay at an Airbnb in Paris and contacted a host but it was too far ahead and he was not able to confirm. :( So I saw an insider deal in Agoda and booked a hostel stay instead! (And this set me back S$35.63 per night.) 2 accommodations down!

There was also a summer offer for Eurail on the Benulax-France journey - 4 + 1 free travel day (S$416.03) So I bought it too! And it was delivered in my mailbox yesterday night! So exciting!

Now waiting for Luxembourg accommodations' offer. While making plans if I should visit Saint Petersburg first or Murmansk. Before heading to Moscow..

Ah.. But before that I think it's time for a little nap on the bus and hope inspiration strikes! :)


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Whiling away the afternoon..


A cuppa.. And my Lonely Planet. 

As I spent this afternoon holed up in a cafe called Alley No. 5 in Malacca. Malaysia. Random thoughts just flashed past my mind. 

Malacca is a city that I used to be so familiar with that I'll do a yearly 'pilgrimage' up from Singapore. And I always used to stick to the same old Jonker Street and after a while.. Without thinking. I could tell you how to walk and where are some of the places worth stopping by for food. 

But my notion of Malacca being an easy place to walk around vanished 2 years ago when I met Gus. My Airbnb host. He has been based in Malacca since 2010 and there are places where only locals go but he'll show us around too. 

I got to know Malacca better. From a local stand point. And since then.. Malacca has changed. I see how the locals are proud of their culture. Their roots. Of how their daily lives are and their jobs and roles in this little tourist-drawing city. 

This year.. This trip marks my 3rd. My first alone.

The places I went with Gus today were places I never knew.. Never been. Lest the weekly market behind his Airbnb and this cafe I was at this afternoon. 

I enjoy how friendly I've become with the locals. How we became friends and keep track of each other's lives via social media. :) 

Like at Alley No. 5. Oren. The owner/barista. He saw me fishing out a book from my bag and he went like 'Doing your 'homework' for Russia ah?' Or when his older brother Yalu walked past and asked me 'You're back? Alone?' And proceeded to talk to me about Gus other Airbnb like we've known each other for ages (which we ain't.. I only got to know him better this year.) 

And when another of their friend came over for a drink. We were chatting across the different tables and just whiling the afternoon away. 

It's a simple lifestyle. A simple trip up Malacca. But what made it all so special are the friends I've made here that makes me come back so much more often. 

Travelling to familiar places never cease to amaze me each time I go back. And that's probably the magic of travelling. <3

Monday, September 5, 2016

It's been a while..


My Trans-Siberian book I bought this year.. With the Russia travel guide a friend gave me. 

It's been a long while since I'm here blogging. I think stopped somewhere after closing down that page I had. Hmmmz. 

So what made me come back? Coz as I was researching on my Trans-Siberian trip next year. I realized there's not a lot of information on the trip and the planning. I'm not talking about the typical tour group trips. But rather. The DIY kind trip. I've only found a good webpage (read more here: http://www.railway-train-travel.com.au) by a couple who shared from their planning to during the trip and details. Had a friend who linked me up with her friend who also captured some of her accounts on the Trans-Siberian too (you can read more here: http://burtontravels.blogspot.sg/). 

So I decided to blog about the planning and the happenings during the trip (when that happens) and post-trip (if there is any) as I guess in a way. Besides wanting to share my experiences and how I got about doing it. To serve as a memory to myself that I can do all of this alone. 

And the story begins...

Ever since I went Russia (Saint Petersburg. Novgorod and Moscow) last year with Contiki (no.. I stopped blogging by then. So sorry.. No stories to share. ;P). I started dreaming about doing Trans-Siberian. It felt like a daunting journey.. But little did I know how close to the truth I was. 

I have a sabbatical next year that I am taking. So I decided to do the Trans-Siberian during that period. 

What exactly is Trans-Siberian? In simple terms. It's a train journey across Russia and Siberia. Starting in Moscow and usually ending in Vladivostok. Spanning 7 different time zones. It is also the longest railway in the world (at a length of 9289 km and still expanding). There are a total of 18 stops on the Trans-Siberian journey and it also branches out in the Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian. If you were to take the train journey straight from one end to the other. It will take you 10 days on the train non-stop. You can read more on the background and history brief here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans-Siberian_Railway

Daunted yet? :) 

I have already started researching on where to go. What to do. Where to stay. And studying Cyrillic (or at least trying to recognize the words) since the beginning of this year. Along the way plans changed. And new additions were added. :) 

So why Trans-Siberian? Coz I'm hooked on to the history. The culture. The architecture. And the beauty of the nature of the country. And that it was something that I guess I want to do while I'm still young and in good health. 

What popped up as I was planning? That the thought of visiting Keukenhof Gardens in Netherlands came up. And when I realized how close Netherlands is to Belgium (I have cousins living there). And a friend asked why not do a day trip to Paris from Belgium as I am unlikely to fly and just visit France on its own. Then there is a Eurail pass that covers Netherlands. France. Belgium and Luxembourg for S$400. And thinking of going down to Ho Chi Minh on my way back from Vladivostok before coming home.

Hence. From a simple Trans-Siberian. Suddenly I have an overwhelming list of places to cover together. :P

As of now. I have only bought my tickets to Amsterdam. And from Belgium to Saint Petersburg. My flight ticket from Singapore to Amsterdam is on Garuda Indonesia (direct 13 hours flight) for S$535 and from Belgium (on Brussels Airlines - 4 hours) for S$119. Will need to buy the Benulux-France rail pass by the end of this month so that I can get the 1 free travel day on top of the 4 travel days.

So yeah. It's time to find back my mojo for writing. Regardless who may be reading this blog. :) 

Safe travels to all. Wherever you may be heading! 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Why do women travel solo..


Love this video to bits. Amazingly close to my heart. <3 

How did I start traveling alone? When I realized it's gonna be tough for my friends to take leave during the same period as me as we're all in the same company (even though it's an MNC and we're in different departments). 

How did I feel when trying to convince my parents to let me travel alone? I didn't! =P I told little white lies example.. That my friend and I were going together but last minute a couple of days before she had to work so she couldn't make it but the tickets were bought and accomodation paid for so it'll be a waste if I couldn't go. =D 

How was my first experience of travelling alone? Nothing short of AMAZING! I never wanted to turn back the plane/bus that I was on and the thought of going home actually agitated me. The only downside was I didn't know how much/what currency to change (not enough research) hence a little tight on cash. =P 

How did I prepare myself for the solo trips that came after I was addicted? Research research and more research. I knew what kinda experiences I was looking for. What kinda accomodation I wanted to stay in. Some of the places I wanted to see. So I just did more homework around it! =) 

Was it ever daunting to be travelling alone? Never! I was never happier than to be alone. Maybe due to work I'm seen more as an extrovert but I know deep down I'm an introvert. I can go for weeks without speaking to anyone unless to order food. Coz I tried. =) 

No fears at all? None! I'm a little surprised at myself too. But the only fear would be that I didn't bring enough cash to enjoy myself I guess. =P sleeping eating and wandering alone became such a norm after a short while. And I continued doing it on my own even when I'm not travelling and back in Singapore. 

So.. Did it teach you anything? Independence. Courage. Cautiousness. 

And one thing you enjoy most about travelling alone? Freedom - from doing what you want at your own pace without needing to care about what others think! =D

Friday, April 17, 2015

Sipping my tea..



Amidst a busy/packed day. I decided to squeeze in time for a local breakfast (ok ok.. I had cravings for it ok?) 

It's not often that you'll find a coffee shop with alfresco dining by the roadside playing 90s music and with breakfast that cost S$2.50 - a toast. 2 soft boiled eggs and a mug of teh-o. And what's more? It's at the fringe of a party central/business district - Circular Road's BK eating house. 

So I sit facing the road and sipping my tea. Letting the cars zoom past me. I've never been happier. =)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The purpose in life..

It's been a long time since I'm here blogging. Most of the time I just share photos and articles. But this morning. I was reading an article in the newspaper which was talking about how a girl quit her job to travel and find herself. And it got me thinking. 

A little background about the article. This girl's a Uni graduate and came out to work in the corporate world. She got tired of climbing the corporate ladder and wanted to find herself. So she took off to Guatemala for 3 weeks. Hoping to find what she really wanted in life. There she met travellers who are as lost as her and did not know what they wanted to do with their lives either. Until she met a yoga instructor (who is now her boyfriend) and she opened a restaurant there and an agency helping others to look for jobs for Spanish teachers. That was 4 years ago that she left Singapore and she seems to have found her purpose in life. 

What I want to share here is this. If you want to find yourself. You do not need to leave the corporate world. Neither does it guarantee that once you leave and travel you will be able to find yourself. And I strongly disagree with the fact that travellers are lost. I have met and known travellers who know exactly why they are travelling. And travellers who are travelling to find themselves - but not lost. 

I've a full time job and in the corporate world. I face the corporate ladder and dog-eats-dog world every day. But do I know what I want to do with my life? I do. I know that this job I have now allows me to earn enough to continue travelling when I have the time. But it doesn't mean that I lose myself when I stop travelling. 

In the 9 years that I am in this full time job of mine. I travel. I travel to places that I grew up dreaming of. Never thinking they will come true one day. I travel alone. Living by the day.

Travelling opened up my eyes to the places beyond the horizon. It made me come back more appreciative of what I have and taught me things that education did not.

One of the first few places I travelled to alone.. Malacca, Malaysia.

Another one of the first few places I travelled to alone.. Taken at the foot of Mount Phousi, Luang Prabang, Laos. 

I didn't only take the less trodden path. But I splurged once in a while when I went to DisneyLand in Hong Kong. Universal Studios in Osaka. DisneySea in Tokyo. Of course with every splurge it came with a price. But have I ever regretted spending more money than what I brought over? Never. I worked so hard back home. Why shouldn't I treat myself a little better when I'm away?

With Mickey in DisneySea, Tokyo! 

I learnt to appreciate the beauty of Mother Nature. Especially when I started backpacking to The Philippines.


Kids playing on the sand bank in Batanyan Island, Cebu, Philippines. 

A 8 hours banca ride from Coron to El Nido, Philippines. 

Sunrise in Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

I made new friends along the way and hung out with them.. Just like a local. =) 

My friend and I sitting on the ledge of a waterfall in Siquijor, Philippines. 

And a family and me rafting away in Bali, Indonesia.

 I went to places that I never even dreamed of sometimes. Learning the ways as I go along. 

On top of one of the 5 peaks in Mount Hua Shan, Xi'an, China.

Floating down the Yellow River on a pig skin raft, China.

Drinking horse wine - neat - once we got down the bus in Inner Mongolia, China. 

And to fulfill my dream of getting to Tibet. I planned and on a whim. Signed up for the tour and off I went! My first destination that was crossed off my bucket list! 
Beautiful beautiful Lin Zhi, Tibet, China. 

Of course a visit and climb to the Potala Palace is a given! Lhasa, Tibet. 

Another place on my bucket list was to backpack to Sri Lanka. I love the hospitality. The people. The nature. What I didn't really enjoy was the food.. Coz I came back home and swore off Indian food for a good 9 months!

Sunrise from our 'tent' in Madulkele, Kandy, Sri Lanka. Across us was the Knuckles Range. Breathtaking!

Finally seeing the fishermen on stilts in Galle, Sri Lanka!

Just not too long ago. I took a 3 weeks break and went back to the Philippines and decided that after procrastinating for so long. It's time to pick up scuba diving. Never have I accomplished something that I'm so proud of. Till the extent that I'm thinking of doing the divemaster course too!

My Open Water session in Camiguin, Philippines.

Fish feeding in process in Batangas, Philippines.

Heading down into the unknown off White Island in Camiguin, Philippines.

And seeing a white tip reef shark so close while down under in Maldives is the icing on the cake!

I learnt. Through backpacking and staying in hostels. And through driving on road trips. I don't need to leave the corporate world to find my purpose in life. I know what I want and I go for it!