Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Top 10 Hidden places in Vietnam


Vietnam is a breathtaking country, filled with hidden destinations and undiscovered beauty. If you want to escape with the holiday experience of a lifetime, with the chance to explore untouched regions and historical villages, there is no better destination than Vietnam. Read on to uncover some of best hidden places in this captivating country.

Halong Bay

- This breathtaking waterside village will have your heart captivated, as it provides the most astonishing and awe-inspiring landscape in Vietnam. Get lost in the glistening waters and fall asleep under the sparkling skies of Halong Bay.

Hanoi

- While it may not be the most ‘off the beaten track’ city in Vietnam, it is one of the most underrated destinations in the country. Hanoi offers breathtaking photo opportunities of French-colonial buildings and charming backdrops.

Cai Be

- Experience the traditional floating markets in one of the more traditional regions of Vietnam. Discover how the locals do business on a daily basis.

Lao Cai

- The small town of Lao Cai provides pristine environments for independent hiking tours and trekking expeditions. Quaint villages can be found in the dense forest surrounding Lao Cai, offering an insight into the traditional ways of many Vietnamese families.

Hue

- Situated on the banks of the river, Hue represents what life was once like in Vietnam. This isolated region still displays the intricate detailing of architecture from years past.

Nha Trang

- Nha Trang is truly one of Vietnam’s best kept secrets. While it may not be the smallest region in the country, very few visitors take the time to travel to the breathtaking beaches of Nha Trang. The tropical beaches of Nha Trang provide the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City.

Hoi An

- The riverside of Hoi An provides the perfect destination for travellers to Vietnam. The perfect combination of history and modern influences is on display in Hoi An, with traditional villages and delectable restaurants.

Sapa

- The colourful, traditional markets of Sapa are one of the best reasons to visit this charming village region. Smaller villages are scattered throughout the region, while hiking tracks seem virtually endless.

Perfume River

- Located in the city of Hue, the Perfume River is the ultimate destination to embark on a captivating dragon boat cruise and to discover small village life.

Cu Chi

- If you’re searching for a cultural experience, take the time to visit one of the most historically significant areas in Vietnam, as you uncover the hidden tunnels of Cu Chi, used by communist insurgents during the Vietnam War.

Whether you want to embark on the adventure of a lifetime or are just looking for a holiday with a little bit of difference, book your Vietnam airfares today to discover hidden cities and lost villages.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A great weekend within 2 hours of Singapore: Canggu, Bali


Canggu is one of the newest place to discover in Bali; just 15 minute drive from Bali's hip Seminyak district, just 35 minutes from Bali International Airport, this is the new getaway for tourists in Bali. You get the best Bali can offer without being in the crowded districts of Bali such as Legian, Kuta and Seminyak. Apart from restaurants and great ricefield views, Canggu is also home to many villas

There are many things to do in Canggu: you will be just 10 minutes away from attractions like the world famous Tanah Lot Temple, and the world renown Nirwana Bali Golf Club. 

Canggu beaches are a paradise for surfing. so, If its surfing you like, the world famous Echo Beach is just 600 meters away. However beware than Canggu beaches are not for swimmers - and the sand is black too - so don't expect the postcard's white-sand paradise beach.




Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Weekend Bintan Getaway

From what I have surveyed from friends and colleagues from the tourism industry, Bintan is realized to be one of the most popular islands to visit from Singapore as it is just a 45-50 minutes' ferry ride away.

Bintan Island, an island from the Riau archipelago in Indonesia has always been commonly promoted as a relaxing beach getaway destination, besides Bali Island. Since summer holidays is here, I would probably consider Bintan for a short holiday and to get a nice tan in a different environment even though I can easily get it in sunny Singapore ;)

After much research and talk with people who have been to Bintan, the Bintan Lagoon Resort has been recommended by many. Therefore, I will be featuring the resort for this blog post and sharing some of the things that you will need to know if you are intending to head there too.

Carry on reading if you are interested to know more!


Ferry Terminal
One of the things that makes Bintan Lagoon Resort different from most of the Bintan Resorts is that it has a private ferry terminal, in which the ferry transits right at the resort's doorstep. This means additional costs saved from shuttle services from the public ferry terminal.


Accommodation
Rooms: Deluxe Room, Deluxe Sea Facing



Suites: Forest Suite, Floral Suite, Indraloka Suite, Swargaloka Suite






Villas: Cempaka Villa, Buganvil Villa, Angsoka Villa




(Photos from Bintan Lagoon Resort's official website)


Beach
Bintan Lagoon Resort owns a private beach, golden sandy beach that is approximately 1.5km long. This prevents overcrowding and enables guests to fully enjoy the beach front location of the resort. Many guests have complimented the clear sea waters and fine sand, which attracted me deeply. For those interested in water sports activities, be mindful that the prices can appear to be overpriced. Popular ones include banana boat rides, snorkelling and kayaking. 


Food
Dining options are said to be pricey or comparable to Singapore's pricing. Personally, I feel that it could be due to the different expectations of tourists, with many Singaporeans expecting prices to be lower than what is offered from the city. Pasar Oleh Oleh have been strongly recommended as seafood are cheaper than what the resort offer. Do bring your own water if you want to cut cost. A taxi trip to the place will cost about S$22 and free transport can be arranged by the seafood restaurant or massage parlours if you patronise them.


Shopping
Shopping is not really highly recommended as there are limited shops located nearby. However if time allows you to, you can consider making a day trip to Tanjung Pinang where a couple of clothing and shoe shops are opened. There is also a small departmental store called Ramayana Mall and prices are said to be reasonably priced.




Promotional tour packages consisting of a 2D1N or 3D2N stay and ferry services ranges from $100~$200 per person currently so check them out if you are interested (:





Signing off,
Michelle


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fun at Taipei (Part 2)

Hi I am back to update about my second part of the Taipei trip!


There are plenty of themed cafes in Taipei and it would be a pity if you never get to visit one! For the girls, I would recommend you going to the Hello Kitty Sweets cafe which specializes in serving desserts. Best thing is, the restaurant's interior is designed according to the Hello Kitty theme, which is definitely going to leave you girls squealing with excitement.





The cheese tart that I ordered. Taste was pretty average and prices were slightly pricey but definitely worth the visit if you are a Hello Kitty fan. Moreover, much effort have been put in to incorporate Hello Kitty designs in the food presentation too. 


Even the cashier counter, with a pretty lady donned in pink. 




I would also recommend you to head down to Beitou, where all the popular hot spring pools are located. 

Just simply take the train to XinBeitou station.  

The interior of the train that specially transits at the station. As you can tell, the design is inspired by the hot springs with displays and exhibitions that educates visitors on the history of hot springs in Taiwan. 

I got unlucky as it was drizzling when I arrived so it caused some inconvenience in searching for the perfect place for the hot spring. Fortunately, a nice lady was distributing pamphlets at the station and introduced me this package which seems reasonable so I went ahead with what she recommended.

At approximately SGD$30 per person, transportation would be provided to and fro the station, a 3-hour hot spring session with shower facilities and a high tea meal.

Van from the Royal Seasons Hotel


The tub where you can choose to soak in extremely hot or cold water. 

Clean shower facilities right next to the tub.

High tea provided by the hotel.


Overall, I was satisfied with the service. Although the hot spring experience was nothing close to my imagination of soaking in an outdoor hot spring pool, (which is available at Beitou too but since it was drizzling, I didn't have the chance to explore my options) it was suited for me as I find myself taking a long time to adjust to the hot water temperature. For first timers like me, it would be better to try indoor hot spring instead since you will be able to manually control the temperature. 


I also attended the recording of one of the most popular variety shows in Taiwan, Guess, previously hosted by popular host Jacky Wu. For those who are fanatics of the show just like I am, you can consider emailing China Television Company at a_kevin2002@yahoo.com.tw or call 02-2781-3888 to enquire about the filming dates. China Television Company can be reached by taking bus 22 from the bus stop opposite Kunyang MRT Station.

In the studio. Where audience are seated on the ground, based on first come first serve basis. 

A flip chart used to provide cues and agenda for the show, for the emcees' references.


Lastly, do try out one of my favourite street food of my entire trip if you have the chance!

Cheese Chicken Fillet, inspired by the US.

Hot nacho cheese stuffed in a big piece of fried chicken fillet.




Hope this post helps you in some way if you planning for your own free and easy trip in Taipei!



If you haven't read part 1 of the trip, click here.

Stay tuned for more weekly updates about travels in and around Singapore.



Signing off,

Michelle


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fun at Taipei (Part 1)

Usually when people asks me for holiday destination recommendations in Asia that is suited for a Free and Easy trip, Taiwan or specifically, Taipei immediately comes to my mind.

For those of you who might be interested to travel around Taipei, hope this blog post helps as I try to recall the main places that I visited and those that left a deeper impression.

I choose TS hotel as my accommodation after looking through different reviews and TS hotel received generally very pleasant comments, especially about the service. Indeed, service was good and the hotel is located conveniently just a short walk away from Xi Men Ding, one of the main shopping districts in Taipei. The district was also safe, with a police station situated in proximity to the hotel.


Moreover this bubble tea shop is located right next to the hotel and serves really nice milk tea. If you have heard of Koi Cafe in Singapore, this bubble tea shop is the authentic Taiwanese version of it! 





Travelling around Taipei was easy as the train system works similarly to the one in Singapore. All you need is a card that allows you to pass through the gantry. You will be amazed by how organized the Taiwanese are when it comes to queueing up for the trains. The priority seat in the train is hardly taken up as people usually leave those seats for the elderly or people who really does need it. They deserve praises for their graciousness in public transportation.




Lunch at Xi Men Ding, ordered from the small stalls:

Fried Oyster Omelette 

Meatball soup


Century egg with tofu

Curry rice


When you are at Taipei, the night markets are a MUST GO! Especially Shilin Night Market and Raohe Night Market.

Shilin Night Market is famous for their fried chicken fillet and I had to queue for quite some time when I reached. This night market is divided into 3 areas, with one huge space dedicated to the popular Taiwanese food delights and the other two mainly consisting of small shops selling clothes, bags and accessories. My advice is, do not hurry to make your purchases. Spend some time walking about as the shops sell similar things and chances are, you will be able to get the item at a cheaper price some where else.




On the other hand, Raohe Night Market is known for its smelly tofu and ice desserts.


Smelly Tofu, only for those who can accept the pungent smell! 


I ordered the Mango Ice dessert and I was impressed to see a generous amount of fresh and sweet mangos. The shaved ice is also topped with skimmed milk, which adds a sweet taste to the dish. Strongly recommended  especially after a long and tiring walk in the market.



Other places that I visited during the first few days of the trip include Wu Fen Pu, a shopping district that is similar to Singapore's Bugis Street.


Try to ask for a discounted price when you make a purchase as the shop owners usually mark up the prices. Travellers are advised to visit this shopping district in the late afternoon, around 3.30pm as the shops do not open so early.  




I also went Jiu Fen, an old street with breathtaking scenery.


This is also the place where many famous shops sell Taiwan's speciality snacks such as the Sun Cake (Tai Yang Bing) and Pineapple tarts. Great for souvenirs shopping too!



Extra information

Weather
Taiwan enjoys warm weather all year round, except during spring and winter where weather conditions can get a bit more unstable. Continuous drizzling rain is common between March to May, the period of transition from spring to summer. Annual average temperature is a comfortable 22 Degree Celsius.

Taiwan Visitors Association
For travellers who are interested in touring Taiwan without any tour guide, it would be useful to carry a map with you. Feel free to contact the Singapore office of Taiwan Visitors Association where they will be more than willing to send a copy of the Taiwan's map to you by post; that was what I did ;) 
Telephone number: +65-6223-6546/7
Email: tbrocsin@singnet.com.sg

Airport Transfers
Do not fear as airport transfers are not complicated in Taipei at all. Once you exit the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, you will be able to spot many coach booths at the Arrival Passenger Reception area (both Terminal 1and2), selling tickets of coaches going to many main destinations at high frequencies. I purchased my coach tickets on the spot from Kuo Kuang Motor Transport. One way fares ranges from NT$110 to NT$140 per adult.

(Taoyuan Airport)




Stay tuned for the second part of the trip which I will post next week (:

In the mean time, click here to explore a green travel blog by Greenty.com, your first green travel guide. 

P/S: Updated. Click here for Part 2. 

If you have any questions, feel free to leave your comments down!




Signing off,
Michelle 


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Must-Trys at JB

Hi readers!

To follow up with the blog post done about 2 years ago, I was thinking that it would be a great idea to share with you some of the most recommended places that I have dined at Johor Bahru (JB), Malaysia. Carry on reading if you are interested in exploring different affordable dining options, which are easily accessible from Singapore.

Kimdo/ Dimdo Seafood Restaurant (金都海鲜馆)
This seafood restaurant is located in Taman Sentosa and is very well known for its Salted Egg Crabs.


A-must-to-order.


Prices of the crabs are not exactly cheap (about S$50/kg), considering that it is expected to cost about half the price of crabs ordered in Singapore. 


Address:
23 & 25, Jalan Sutera, Taman Sentosa, 80150 Johor Bahru, Johor.
Tel: 07-3332209, 3323789
Operating hours: 4.30pm - 3.45am


If you still have some stomach space for more food, do try the BBQ-ed snacks served in satay sticks, priced at RM1-1.50 per stick. These are sold at a small stall which is situated right outside the restaurant. How convenient!

Some of the BBQ snacks available include: beancurd, cuttlefish, fishball, mushroom, chicken, hotdog.



Luk Luk at Taman Sentosa


Often confused with the above BBQ food, Luk Luk is sold from a van, where you choose the food which are skewed through a satay stick and the seller will either boil, grill or deep fry them on the spot for you.





If you look closer, you would notice that the satay sticks are actually colour coded, making it easier for the seller to calculate the total charges. 


Personally, this is my favourite thing to have for supper when I am at JB, since it is cheap and easy to order. If you have not tried it before, I would strongly recommend you to!

Taman Tebrau Market

Comprising mainly Chinese stalls and a few Malay stores, the Taman Tebrau Market is usually filled up with locals and Singaporeans at night. 


On average, prices are about half of Singapore's, which is the main reason why Singaporeans love to come back for seafood and have a big feast, perfect with a glass of sugar cane drink. 

What we ordered that night: Clams cooked with Sambal Chilli, Sambal Stingray, Chinese Gai Lan and Sotong (Octopus) 



Happy us after a hearty supper session.





If you are thinking of driving to JB at night from Singapore's Woodlands Causeway, do be prepared for heavy traffic especially on Friday nights and weekends. 

There are many food places that I have yet to visit but if I have the chance, I would like to visit these stalls or restaurants that I have chanced upon on the various food blogs and review websites:

1) Restoran Todak (Orange Asli)
2) Restoran Chuan Xin: specialty dish - Abalone noodles
3) Storia Cafe at Jalan Storey - great for breakfast and Roti Canai
4) Sub Hui Bin Restaurant at Permas Jaya Sports Complex
5) Restoran How Inn at Jalan Debap, Taman Johor Jaya
6) Restoran Feng Hai at Taman Pelangi Indah
7) Solid Caferia Kwap Chup at Jalan Bakawali, Taman Johor Jaya
8) Kedai Makan Tao Yuan at Jalan Sawah, Pekan Nanas
9) Restoran Hoa Bi at Jalan Meldrum - famous for their herbal duck
10) Ban Heong Seng Beggar Chicken Restaurant at Jalan Skudai

Feel free to comment and recommend other food places located in JB which you have heard of.

Have a good day!

Signing off,
Michelle