2 nights in Bagan and Mt Popa.

SAM_3577.jpgView of Shwedagon Pagaoda from Vista Bar, 2014

Back in 2014, when my friend and I visited Yangon we only had the chance to travel up to Bago to see the Golden Rock. We told ourselves that some day, we had to revisit to conquer Bagan and a hot air balloon ride had to be checked off the list as well. Nearly 4 years later, we got a chance to revisit this Golden Land again this January.

IMG_9627.JPGShwedagon Pagoda, 2016

We booked our flights on Jetstar for SGD 135 return during a sale last August. True backpacker style, we didn’t purchase check in luggage. Arriving into Yangon just before noon, we had about 7-8 hours to kill before our overnight bus to Bagan. Having seen the highlights of Yangon before, we fuelled up with some Thai at Green Gallery for lunch and chilled at Zephyr Coffee and Restaurant overlooking Inya Lake. Across the lake, you can see the house in which Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi stayed when she was under house arrest.

There are many ways to get to Bagan from Yangon but the most economical would be an overnight bus. We booked our seats via JJ Express in advance and were pleasantly surprised at how comfortable the ride was. The 9 hour ride costed each of us SGD 31. Comfortable seats, option to recline even, blankets provided, enough leg room, mineral water bottles. #manywins

Arriving in Bagan, just before 7am, be prepared to have a group of drivers approach you the minute you step down. These “hardworking people” greet your sleepy faces rather persistently to bring you to a secret spot to see sunrise. We were among the many who got scammed but lucky for us, we partnered another couple to save some costs in transport and it allowed to enjoy a comfortable car ride instead of a cheaper option of a horse cart. If you are pretty knackered from the overnight travel, I’d suggest skipping the sunrise as you’d be able to catch many more amazing sights over the next few days you are staying in town.

Travel Tip: To enter Bagan, a 25,000 Myanmar Kyat archaeological entrance fee is to be paid. It is usually collected when you cross into Bagan at the border. But, if you are not charged at that point, do purchase the ticket at your hotel otherwise the bigger temples in Bagan will sell it. The ticket also acts as your entrance ticket when visiting these temples. 

Temples in Bagan

Shwe Leik Too

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Nicknamed as one of the sunset pagodas, we caught the sunset on the first day in Bagan from this temple.

Ananda Temple – One of Bagan’s best known and most beautiful temples. The name ‘Ananda’ derives from ‘anantapannya‘ the Pali word for ‘boundless wisdom‘.

KVAC1797.JPG2 out of the 4 Buddhas in Ananda Temple

Thatbyinnyu – Tallest temple in Bagan, one of the four temples that survives in Old Bagan

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Pahto-thamya

Mimalaung Kyaung – A nice set of chinthe (half-lion/half-dragon deities) guards the stairway leading up to this small, square monastery platform

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Dhammayangyi – Largest temple in Bagan and was built similar to that of Ananda Temple

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Oak Kyaung Gyi Monastery

XEFT4318.JPGSunset from Oak Kyaung Gyi

To earn the beautiful sunrise view that you have been searching for, you have to climb up the small and dark staircases inside the square monastery. So prepare a torch or headlamp and watch your step.

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Travel Tip: You need a map, sometimes even more than one, to navigate around the temples as more often then not, reception is really poor even if you are travelling with a data sim. 

To cover the plethora of temples within Bagan we got ourselves a guide from a travel store just across our hotel, Zfreeti hotel (SGD 110/night). We paid the guide SGD 35 each to take us around for about 5 hours. We found getting a guide to be helpful as it allowed us to have more insight into details of the temple as well as the myths and legends behind each temple. Would recommend exploring a bit of Bagan on your own with a e-bike as well as spending half day with a guide to get more in-depth knowledge about beautiful Bagan.

Hot Air Balloon Experience

Prior to our arrival in Bagan, we booked ourselves with Golden Eagle Balloon Company about 2 months in advance. As the balloon season in Bagan is from October to April every year, slots get booked up pretty quickly as there are only 3 companies that operate. Balloons over Bagan and Oriental Ballooning are the 2 other companies.

All 3 companies would offer pretty much the same experience as the take off area is the same spot. Depending on the weather conditions and the pilot, your landing spot may differ as such your air time. But apart from that, it is usually 12 people in the basket at one go. For Balloons over Bagan, I gathered it could be up to 16 people. Price wise, when I did my homework, all costed between 290 USD to 300 USD.

Compared to other popular ballooning spots like Cappadocia and Jordan, Bagan is indeed among one of the most expensive ones. However, the tranquility of the one hour ride is quite unparalleled that is was worth every dollar (for me at least). Hopefully, the photos do some justice to my out of the world experience.

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Eats in Bagan

Frankly, Burmese food isn’t the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Myanmar. Especially, given the many other Asian options that are available to us in the region. Given our accomodation was at Zfreeti, the restaurant street was less than a 5 minute walk away. Do recommend staying somewhere around there if you are looking to reside in New Bagan.

IMG_2753.JPGOur first meal at Black Bamboo Restaurant

Usual items in the menu that are pretty safe bets are Burmese local curry with fish/chicken, served with rice and seafood fried rice.

Our favourite place in the few restaurants we sampled over the 2 days in Bagan was Weather Spoon’s Restaurant. Serving Thai, local as well as American cuisine, you would quite easily find something that catches your eye when you are browsing their menu. If you are looking to try a local dish, I’d recommend tea leaves salad. It is a mix of flavors and textures that includes soft, pickled tea leaves, crisp, roasted peanuts and other crunchy beans, toasted sesame seeds, fried garlic and, if you like, dried shrimp and chopped tomato.

UGBB0107DIY tea leaves salad at a local shop with homemade palm sugar on the drive to Mt Popa

Wonderful Tasty, Rain restaurant and Novel restaurant are some of the other eateries we had meals in while at Bagan. As a general rule of thumb, any restaurant with people dining in, are average places you can consider dining at.

For the 3rd day in Bagan, we checked out of Zfreeti Hotel and headed to Mt Popa for a night. Most people visit Mount Popa as a day trip from Bagan as it’s only about 50km away. However, we decided to spend a night at Popa Mountain Resort (SGD 200/night) to enjoy the view in its fully glory over different times of the day.

IMG_3904Sunset from the pool with Mt Popa at the background

WSKV7216.JPGOur amazing breakfast spread which we kind of starved ourselves for 😂

If you are planning a night at this mountain resort, please bear in mind, it’s literally away from civilisation. So do pack supplies if you are not planning to have all your meals in the restaurant. The resort has transport options to get to the bottom of the hill but it’s fairly expensive so please be well prepared if you do choose to stay. Wifi only works in the resort’s lobby, not even in the pool. So the 1 night stay for us was a break away from people and technology and fully immerse ourselves with each other’s company.

With regards to visiting the Popa Taungkalat monastery itself, you have to tackle the 777 steps to the summit. The monastery is entirely surrounded by sheer cliff faces and offers stunning views of the surrounding plains and Mount Popa itself. But beware the monkeys! These fellows may look curious and friendly from a distance, but given half a chance they will steal anything they can get their hands on: food, purse or camera! They are highly aggressive so please be careful to take extra precaution.

For us, we skipped our visit to the monastery based on the reviews we read online. When we got to the hotel, it was also too comfortable to leave and venture out. I checked with fellow guests in the hotel who shared similar sentiments as the netizens who posted, that the monastery itself isn’t as beautiful as it appears to be from far. Especially after the tens of temples you have surrounding you in Bagan this monastery pales in comparison when you step foot in it.

All in all, our 1 night at Mt Popa was a good break for our tired feet from the numerous temples we visited in Bagan. Next up, we headed back to Bagan and off we went to Mrauk U.

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Great Ocean Road Self Drive!

Having visited the 12 Apostles for the first time back in Nov 2014 while I was travelling on a tour group (Wildlife Tours) to get myself from Melbourne to Adelaide, I told myself I had to be back and visit again on my own with my own 4 wheels. Low be hold, I got a chance to visit back again in July 2016 with then fiance, now husband. 😂

And just last December, in between our days in Tasmania and Perth, the dad wanted to make a drive down Australia’s most scenic coastal drive. Despite this being probably the only coastal drive I have ever done, it will always remain the closest to my heart.

IMG_0549.JPGGeelong town

On route to GOR, there is a seaside town called Geelong, not too far off from Melbourne City. I loved the beach vibes that were going on in Geelong town that I highly recommend stopping by for half day if you aren’t in a rush to visit the 12 Apostles. Please refer to my previous post on Geelong to know what you can expect.

The best recommendation to visit the 12 Apostles would be on a self drive as it gives you the chance to pull over at any spot (safety first though!) for a quick snap. So many breathtaking views along the over 200km coastal drive, you will be literally spoilt for choices!

If you can afford to stay one night, I would recommend you to do so as it helps break up the drive and you also have a higher chance of seeing the same spot in different times of the day.

During 2016, I spent a night at amazing Seafarers Getaway (SGD 230/night), located in Apollo Bay. Was a steep price, but the views more than made up for it.

IMG_0651.JPGView from our balcony at the break of dawn

Last December, since I was travelling in group of 4, I stayed with the family in an airbnb in Apollo Bay for 2 nights (SGD 280/night). Was a good decision to stay for 2 nights as it meant we could do a really leisurely drive. On the first day, we set off from Melbourne past noon, stopped at Geelong for an hour or so, before driving straight to Lorne for dinner before we checked into our accommodation. It allowed us to set off past 11am the next day and have a leisurely picnic lunch by the waters before beginning our GOR adventure proper.

IMG_8385.JPGAsian dinner at Chopstix Noodle Bar, Lorne

IMG_9046The arch commemorates the building of GOR as a memorial to WW1 Victorians

Pitstop #1: Point Danger – really windy area, which has resulted in the trees in the area windswept that they grow in a certain direction

Pitstop #2: Point Addis – impressive ocean, beach and sandstone cliff views toward Bells Beach and Anglesea

Pitstop #3: Anglesea – breathtaking coastal views from elevated memorial lookout

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Pitstop #4: Aireys Inlet – drive or walk up to split point lighthouse, ocean views over eagle and table rocks

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Pitstop #5: Teddy’s Lookout – one of the best along GOR, my personal fav!

Pitstop #6: Mt Defiance – panaromic ocean views toward Artillery Rocks

Pitstop #7: Cape Patton Lookout – spectacular views east towards Apollo Bay and Skenes Creek

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Pitstop #8: Marriners Lookout – fairly steep vantage point (about a 5 minute walk from carpark) but well worth the effort to get to

Pitstop #9: Cape Otway Lightstation – Australia’s oldest working lightstation, offers views of the rugged Otway coast (paid entry, AUD 19.50)

Pitstop #10: The Gables Lookout – magnificent views to Moonlight head, short walk to the lookout platform

This 10 pitstops are enroute the GOR as you are heading towards the 12 apostles. And now, on to the real deal.

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1. Gibson Steps – nice long walk down steps to the beach, you get a view of a few of the apostles from the beach level

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2. 12 Apostles – a collection of limestone stacks that has resulted it in being the most          popular  coastline, the viewing platform is a 5 minute walk from the carpark

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3. Loch Ard Gorge – a photo friendly gorge that allows you to get a dip in the waters

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4. The Arch – another amazing photo point

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5. London Bridge – a rock tragedy that resulted in part of the bridge collapsing into           the ocean

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6. The Grotto – part-blowhole, part-archway, part-cave, my personal fav!

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7. Bay of Martyrs –  a glimpse of the spectacular views, which encompass lush cliff              faces, sprawling beaches, and sparkling waters

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8. Bay of Islands – reserve providing picturesque views from its lookout areas of the          ocean, cliffs & rock stacks

From Bay of Islands, it takes about 3 hours to get yourself back to Melbourne City if you driving straight. So, do plan your visit as you are driving through the GOR. It’s quite usually the case where you underestimate the time taken to visit each stop.

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For lunch, there are a couple of restaurants in Port Campbell. Unfortunately, Karoa Restaurant, that I visited back in 2016 has been permanently closed. Such a pity as their food was so delicious!

Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 5.17.54 PMOverview of our self drive route

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Perth, not quite the same.

Having visited Perth more than a decade ago, visiting my dad’s old friend was a perfect excuse for us to stop for a few days in the city, on our way back to Singapore from Tassy. I didn’t step into Perth with too much expectations to be honest, as I have been told it is very similar to Singapore, even in terms of the weather. Oh boy!

But, I have to say, I was blown away by the cafe scene in Perth. I still recall the numerous good eats over the 4 nights I spent in Perth. We put up at an airbnb in Bull Creek (SGD 170/night), not too far away from the city centre. Renting a car in Australia is always the best way to move around. Since there were 4 of us, we rented a Camry for AUD 200 for the time we were there. It allowed us to venture all the way down south to Sugarloaf Rock, 300km away!

We arrived late in the night at around 10pm in Perth via our Virgin Australia flight from Melbourne. On a sale, the fare costed each of us AUD 200.

FOOD

Day 1 brunch at Duotone

Despite having not a very extensive menu, Duotone offered a couple of interesting fit bowls like spiced vege bowl and poke doke which piqued our interest to pop in for a meal. Definitely didn’t disappoint!

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IMG_8332 2Day 3 brunch at Port City Roasters

This cafe is one of the more popular ones in town so be prepared for some bustling action when you enter. More often than not, you got to end up waiting for a table. Ours was a slightly longer wait since it was a Sunday. Their breakfast spread is one with the usual suspects like eggs benedict and french toast but with a twist. Port City Roasters, as the name suggests, is home their very own in house roasted coffee. For coffee lovers, you’d enjoy Port City Roasters a little more for this reason.

We had another quick brunch on the morning of flight back to Singapore at Sayers Sisters. The waterfront at Freemantle is another spot lined with many eateries. We made a quick pitstop at Kailis’ Fish Market Cafe to have some good ol’ fish and chips before concluding our Australia adventure in Perth.

ROADTRIPS

IMG_1373Crawley Edge Boatshed aka Blue Boat House

Apart from the usual spots in Perth city to visit, 2 spots worth driving out to would be The Pinnacles and Sugarloaf Rock. The former is north of the city centre and the latter is South of it as mentioned earlier. However, we managed to squeeze in time to do both in our 3.5 days in Perth.

IMG_1446.JPGThreatening skies during our visit there

The Pinnacles are limestone formations within Nambung National Park and is the most popular day trips offered by tour companies when you are in Perth. It’s quite amazing to see the beauty of nature and to marvel at how these formations have evolved over decades due to the forces of natural elements. It is quite easy to drive through the desert admiring the formations as there is a path you can follow. As long as you stick to that, you and your car will be okay.

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Our drive took us slightly over 2 hours for the 190km. But instead of heading to the Pinnacles directly we drove past it, to Cervantes town, for a finger licking awesome lunch at Lobster Shack.

IMG_8336.JPGHalf grilled lobster with either chips and coleslaw or fried rice

Our meal for 4 costed us AUD 163 but the lobsters were so good, we couldn’t resist.

Another slightly longer road trip out of Perth City would be driving to Sugarloaf Rock through Busselton town. I had heard such good reviews from my friends who visited just couple of months back, that I had to force the family to join me in checking it out. But, a pity, the weather that day was not good at all. It was pouring cats and dogs when we pulled into Busselton. We stopped to have a bite at The Goose Beach Bar hoping the skies would clear but we were not in luck. Was a terrible weather to be at Sugarloaf Rock as the winds were beyond crazy.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_4ea8.jpgMy could have been view of Sugarloaf Rock (Pic credit, Anitha)

Perth was definitely a relaxing leg of the trip, after a week in Tasmania and a couple of days in Melbourne. It definitely was very different from my younger memories of Perth that consisted largely of homestays and kangaroos. Like I have always said, you can never leave a city feeling the same, even if you have step foot in it before.

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Tassy, you are your own beauty.

Last December, the sister’s graduation in Melbourne was a perfect chance for yet another family holiday. Having visited most parts of Australia across the 5 of us before, Tasmania seemed like a perfect bet to spend a week travelling. Return tickets for 6 of us with 80kg luggage on Jetstar costed us about AUD 100 per person, which was not bad at all, especially since we were travelling in December.

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This was our route for the trip. There is still so much of Tasmania to see that 1 week definitely wasn’t enough. But, I guess, we did the best we could. Tasmania is a country that you definitely need a car to get around. It gives you flexibility to stop and stare the beauty right out of your window as you are driving. For the 6 of us, we rented 2 cars via Bargain Car Rentals for slightly less than SGD 500.

Our flight landed us in Hobart at 8pm. And true to what people had warned us about Tassy, it felt like we landed ourselves in a ghost town. Nothing was open, hardly any human activity. Plus, it didn’t help that it was raining at that hour. I guess I am still very thankful we managed to get ourselves some hot food at a nearby lodge a stone throw away from the airport.

Our first agenda when day arrived was to visit Coles Bay, which was 170km from the airport. As such, we broke up the drive by spending the night at an airbnb in Spring Beach (SGD 200/night) . It was a really basic cabin house which was good enough to spend the night in. When morning came we checked out, had a quick breakfast at Gateway Cafe and headed straight to Coles Bay – our first stop for the trip. But, before that some wine tasting and oysters at Devil’s Corner Cellar Door awaited.

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Coles Bay is the main entrance point for visitors to stop by before heading to the Freycinet National Park. It was the same for us, except we decided to get lunch at Coles Bay town first. Highly recommend dining at Geographe Restaurant and Espresso Bar. We fuelled up with some amazing pizzas before driving to Wineglass Bay Lookout at Freycinet National Park.

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Starting from the Wineglass Bay Car Park, the wineglass bay lookout is about a 1 to 1.5hour return trek that offers a spectacular view of Great Oyster Bay. I would rate the trek as moderate difficulty, so as long as you have comfortable shoes you would be alright. The scenic trek takes you through giant granite boulders as pictured below.

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After working out a sweat, our next stop was Bicheno. But, before that, we stopped by to have some ice cream at this quirky little cafe, The Pondering Frog, en route. True to it’s name apart from serving ice cream, there are plenty of frog collectibles in the store. After a short drive, we reached Bicheno. Home to a blowhole marvel and amazing fish and chips!

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IMG_8195Finger licking good seafood basket, AUD 31

We retired for the night at our airbnb at St Helen’s (SGD 360/night) which was a really spacious cottage with a huge living/kitchen area.

Day 2 in Tasmania begun with Bay of Fires! One of the highlights for the trip!

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This slice of coastal heaven that is the Bay of Fires stretches over 50 kilometres from Binalong Bay in the south to Eddystone Point in the north. This beautiful part of Tasmania’s east coast has been named by Lonely Planet as the hottest travel destination in the world, and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful places in Australia.

Our next pitstop for the day was Pyengana Dairy Company. A heaven for cheese lovers! Plenty of cheese to sample and a little cafe nests within the acres of greenery.

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We did a quick pit stop at Scottsdale for lunch before our next highlight for the trip – Bridestowe Lavender Farm. We made it just in time to join the farm tour that took us through the process of hand-picking the lavender seeds to the various uses of lavender today. It was a pity that it wasn’t full into flower season yet as we arrived early in December. We were told that in about 1-2 weeks the fields would be so much prettier to wander through. So if you can, please time your visit to the farm well to catch it in it’s full glory. Entry to the farm is AUD 10 per person during flower season.

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IMG_0423Everything lavender at the gift store 

I still remember the smell of lavender lingering long after stepping out of the gift store. Aaaaahhh.

After the lavender farm, we drove right to our accommodation in Launceston. This time round we didn’t end up with an Airbnb but instead booking ourselves a nice apartment in the golf course – Country Club Villas (SGD 320/night).

IMG_8216.JPGDinner for the night at Stillwater 

The following day, we checked out of the Country Villas and headed to Cataract Gorge. A true beauty of nature within Launceston. There is a walking path that takes you through the entire stretch of the gorge.

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Another option is taking the chairlift to have a bird’s eye view of the gorge as well. One way rides cost AUD 12 per person.

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We spent the rest of the day exploring Launceston after lunch at Pierre’s. Highly recommend checking Pierre’s out for a meal if you are in town.

IMG_0559.JPGPoached prawn + spanner crab + white fish + potato hash brown + wilted spinach + preserved lemon + hollandaise

IMG_0567.JPGOld Umbrella Shop in Launceston

Day 3 was pretty chill as the next day we were headed to Cradle Mountain, which also meant a hike awaited us. Our home for the next 2 nights was an airbnb in Sheffield (SGD 390/night), about 50km from Cradle Mountain, which was nothing short of AMAZINGNESS. Hands down the best accommodation for the trip! Despite the accommodation being in the middle of nowhere, the place makes you never wanna leave.

We spent a lot of time indoors enjoying the quiet and having quality time over home cooked meals, which was a good breather after a hectic past few days. The next day we did the Dove Lake trek in Cradle Mountain.

32F85ED8-1DA7-4396-8F59-77E8B12FA172.JPGVictory faces having conquered the 6km trek in 10 degrees

There are plenty of shorter and longer routes within Cradle Mountain. Camping within the grounds is also an option, like most national parks in Australia. Within the Cradle Mountain, there is a Tasmanian Devil Sanctuary, that you can visit if you are looking to take a break from the outdoors.

The next morning, we checked out of the wonderful retreat and made our way down towards Hobart. Our final 2 nights in Tasmania before it was back to Melbourne for us.

On the drive down to Hobart, we stopped at Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm Cafe. All sorts of food with raspberry was on the menu as well as homemade jams to sample before purchasing.

After 4 full days of touring the wilderness and nature around Tasmania, arriving in Hobart felt like reality had hit that the trip had ended.

IMG_0743.JPGLunch at Room for a Pony, Hobart

If you have time for only 2 things in Hobart it has got to be – Salamanca Markets as well as Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

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Do note, Salamanca Markets are open only on Saturdays from 8.30am to 3.00pm. As for MONA, I’d suggest setting aside at least half a day to wonder through the different exhibitions on display. Adult tickets cost AUD 28 but it’s well worth it.

IMG_8224.JPGFinal dinner at a greek restaurant, Mezethes

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Having visited many parts of Australia before – Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne, Sunshine Coast, Adelaide and Perth, Tasmania was something different. There was so much untouched wilderness to see and immerse in. It was literally beauty in every corner. The long drives were so therapeutic to unwind from the busyness of life. Take me back (soon)!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Koh Samui, another paradise.

Good Friday meant another perfect window to slot in another travel. And this time round another beach destination on my list was on the horizon. The major setback with getting to Koh Samui is that there are no direct non-budget flights despite it being an under 2 hour flight. Many travellers come to the island via Bangkok. I didn’t have much choice being on a time crunch to fly via Bangkok Airways. Tickets costed me SGD 400 each despite booking my tickets nearly 6 months early.

Arriving in Koh Samui Airport felt like visiting a golf resort. We got fetched from the plane in buggies to the arrival gates which were little huts. Definitely chill vibes from the minute you land in Koh Samui.

We got ourselves 3 day SIM Cards with unlimited data for 100 THB. How awesome! I don’t think I can ever go back to travelling without Google Maps.

We picked up our motorbike which was 250 THB per day from the airport and headed right to our Villa. Many villas/resorts in the island offer daily spa treatments along with the room. Ours was no different – Villa Nalinnadda. For 3 nights, we paid SGD 450 for all inclusive breakfast, daily 60 minute treatment in the in-house spa room, as well as a jacuzzi in our balcony that faces the sea. Good deal? Definitely think so! Our villa was about a 20 minute motorbike ride to popular area, Chaweng. But, we didn’t mind as our villa was 10/10.

IMG_7310The view from our villa balacony

Koh Samui is a less visited beach destination of Thailand in my opinion, largely due to the fact budget airlines do not commute to the paradise (yet). As such, a lot of honeymooners flock to the island all year round.

Truth be told, having visited so many beaches in Asia, the ones in Koh Samui definitely didn’t wow me. The popular beaches in Koh Samui would be – Mae Nam, Chaweng as well as Lamai. Apart from Maenam, the other two are relatively more popular among tourists due to the location of them near usual spots people stay around. There was plenty of action both at Maenam and Lamai when we visited. From water sports ranging from jetski to banana boat to flyboarding as well as lounging on deck chairs, you will end up spending more hours than you had planned for in the beach.

Apart from the beaches, if you are on a time crunch, 2 places I highly recommend worth a visit are – Beach Republic and The Jungle Club!

Beach Republic is ranked probably one of the top few beach clubs around the island. As we rode past it multiple times during our days on the island, we had to pop in to check it out! And, I must say, the vibes of the place blew me away. There was a minimum spend of 1000 THB per person. Like us, if you end up lazing your afternoon away, it is worth it. We hit the minimum spend quite easily with their seafood platter for 2 and a few beers.

IMG_7421.jpgDeck chairs/cabana: Check, Pool: Check, Sea: Check, Music: Check

After a day in the beach, soaking in Vitamin D, if you wanna escape into some nature and wilderness, The Jungle Club would be your best bet. While searching on a place with good views in the island, this place kept popping up on my searches. Despite the tough ride on dirt road, this place is a must-visit! It is also possible, if you require the resort to come get you from the bottom of the hill. They charge a nominal fee of around 200 THB for their transport.

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3 tiers of bamboo decks with beanbags as chairs overlooking the entire coast of the island. Bliss! It was a pity we made The Jungle Club our stop during our final day on the island. Would have definitely loved to hang there longer.

I can’t decide which ranks higher for me, Beach Republic or The Jungle Club. But, I’m glad we squeezed in time for both over our 3 nights in Koh Samui.

For authentic local Thai food, 2 of the places we dined at were hits (at least for us). Haad Bang Po Seafood Restaurant, close to Mae Nam served very good steamed fish. I suppose this review was not inaccurate at all! Considering the location of the restaurant being far away from the main area, it felt like we had the entire place to ourselves. How perfect! Check out our drone capture while waiting for lunch!

Another local eatery we kept driving past was Eat Easy Restaurant. A very humble, fuss free dining option for some authentic Thai. Thai fish cakes, green curry chicken, steamed squid in garlic and chilli and mango sticky rice concluded our final meal on the island before we headed back to the villa to get our bags and off we went to the airport.

Thailand, I discovered another part of you and you still very much remain to be my favourite destination in Asia to visit. I hope to visit you again before the year ends. Till then.

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All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Ready, Set, Go, HK!

Despite Hong Kong being a real short 2 night trip for us, I must say it was truly a blast! They say you can never see a country the same way twice and it was really the case for me. It felt like a totally different country I was stepping into compared to my last visit back in November 2012.

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Although the agenda for the trip was food and a hike. We ended up just eating and shopping. Well, in our defence, the poor weather was to blame. It’s definitely not an understatement when you hear people saying Hong Kong is a food paradise. Locals and tourists alike flock to get a table even if entails a waiting time. It’s easily a 30 minute wait at most places. Another concept you have to embrace when in Hong Kong, would be the idea of communal dining. It’s almost always you are sharing the same table with strangers and sometimes you end up having a stranger right across you. If you are lucky, it’s at least a 1m spacing, mind you.

Transport and SIM Matters

The transport in Hong Kong is very well developed and easy to accustom yourself to even for first timers. From the Airport, we got ourselves a MTR Pass which included 2-way Airport express for 350 HKD (about SGD58). The validity for the pass was 3 days, which was sufficient for us.

Before my travel, I bought myself a 1.5GB SIM via KLOOK for SGD 7. It was really useful as travel these days, unfortunately, relies a lot on Google Maps to bring you places.

Dim Sum 

Having landed in Hong Kong close to 2pm, we headed straight with our luggage for a late dim sum lunch at the famous One Dim Sum at Prince Edward. It was about a 20 minute wait before we got ourselves a table for 2.

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A stone’s throw away is another popular Dim Sum place, Famous Dim Sum. Following the theory of the more crowded a shop is the better the food is, we stuck to our wait at One Dim Sum. I found the variety of dim sum that was offered pretty limited as opposed to the options we had back in Singapore. But, however, there is no competition when it came to the quality and size of the meat. The prawns and meat portion were sizeable as well so succulent.

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Expected damage: HKD 113 for 2

Ramen

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I daresay, the dinner at the end of first day, at Butao Ramen at their Tsim Sha Tsui outlet, was hands down the best meal in our trip, for me at least. You get to customise nearly every aspect of the dish from garlic to oil level to noodle texture etc.

To begin with you have 4 options to choose from for the choice of ramen as well as on lucky days, you have an option called limited edition as well. No surprise, it had run out by the time we got there for dinner.

1) Butao King 豚王: the original, with a tonkotsu pork bone broth
2) Green King 翠王: an Italian inspired pesto, basil and Parmesan cheese ramen
3) Black King 黑王: a tonkatsu squid ink broth
4) Red King 赤王: a spicy miso broth

This bowl of goodness was perfect comfort food for the soul especially after our rather bad experience of the Symphony of Light show. It didn’t help that the sky was so foggy.

Again, relatively close by to Butao Ramen is another more popular ramen shop, Ichiran. This post compares both Butao and Ichiran for those of you undecided on which ramen store would better suit your palette. Given that I was fully satisfied with my bowl of goodness at Butao, I gave Ichiran a miss this time round.

Expected damage: HKD 263 for 2

Wanton Noodle

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Everyone is familiar with Mak’s Noodle at Jordan. However, we missed original, one-star Michelin Star Mak’s Noodle and landed ourselves few stores away at Mak Man Kee Noodle Shop instead. This is literally right next to Australian Diary Co, which has a queue of at least 15 people at any time of the day, so it’s quite hard to miss this.

Again, some reviews claim that Mak Man Kee Noodles are better than the original Mak’s Noodle. But, we were not too fussed that we learnt we ended up at the “wrong” noodle shop at the end of our late lunch. As hard as it is, you have got to pace yourselves in Hong Kong as there is literally something good to try at every corner. We swung by a dessert store for some sugar rush after our light lunch at Mak Man Kee Noodle’s.

Expected damage: HKD 157 for 2

Australian Diary Co. 

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This place definitely was better than I expected it to be because when I first chanced by it enroute to Mak’s Noodle I wondered to myself “how good can eggs on toast taste that people don’t mind queuing for it.” But, low behold, the next day (which was also the last day in HK) I dragged the husband for breakfast. Let’s just say, you’ll tolerate communal dining as well as rude waiters who pounce within seconds when your plate is empty to help clear them for you, just to have a good start to the day. At least, I didn’t mind. Added bonus, amazing milk tea!

Expected damage: HKD 80 for 2

Japanese

Thanks to the staff at Urban Coffee Roasters (next up!) our craving for Japanese for fulfilled on the last day for lunch. He recommended this joint (Hokkaido Katsu) which was nothing too fancy but high quality sushi and sashimi which was rather affordable.

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Expected damage: HKD 170 for 2

Alternative Dining 

Grassroots Pantry is a rather high end restaurant that serves fully vegetarian plates with a totally different twist. Some of the dishes on the menu include popcorn “chicken”, pulled jackfruit nachos and dragon maki roll. Wasn’t the most enjoyable meal for the trip but it was definitely refreshing on our taste buds, having had meat for every meal in our time in Hong Kong.

Coffee and Drinks

Having done my homework before the trip, I planned on checking out Urban Coffee Roasters for their speciality coffee as the husband is a huge coffee enthusiast. I planned it such that a good cup of coffee would help kickstart our fitness for the trip. But, turns out, as I mentioned earlier, the weather diverted our plans to staying indoors.

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Nothing fancy on the menu for food, the coffee is the real deal. Another joint we checked out was The Cupping Room located near Central. There are more food options in The Cupping Room so for the non coffee enthusiasts, don’t miss checking this one out.

There a plenty of bars that have opened up, especially around Central, but we only had one to check out over our 2 nights in HK. The Iron Fairies! I’ll let photos to do talking about this whimsical underground bar.

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Shopping

If you have only time for to visit one market, Ladies Market has to be your choice! From bags to electronics to toys the market has nearly everything for every age group. The bulk of our first day was spent frequenting the Ladies Market. Our hotel, S Hotel Yau Ma Tei, was about a 10 minute walk to the Market. Temple Street Night Market located at Mong Kok is another popular one. However, do note, it’s a night market so arriving after 8pm would be your best bet to see the market in it’s full glory. Here’s a list of the best 9 markets in Hong Kong for the shopping enthusiasts.

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Aside from markets, Mong Kok area has a plethora of electronics stores as well as sports stores. We frequented the area twice in the 3 days we had in Hong Kong.

Hike

For my next trip to Hong Kong, conquering the Lion’s Rock is in my to-do list. Hopefully,  our travel dates coincide with good weather. This guide has full details on what to expect during the hike. Another popular hiking trail is the Dragon’s Back. Some day soon I shall conquer you (both).

There were a couple of websites that helped me planned my food trail though HK. So, passing it on folks.

  1. http://www.tommyooi.com/must-eat-food-in-hong-kong/ 
  2. https://www.tripzilla.com/places-we-ate-hong-kong-food-guide/45682
  3. https://migrationology.com/hong-kong-food-guide/ 
  4. https://anakjajan.com/2017/06/28/hong-kong-food-guide-what-to-eat-in-hong-kong/
  5. https://chinchaijiak.wordpress.com/good-food-the-must-eat-in-hong-kong/

Till then, eat your way though Hong Kong guys!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

#36hoursinbangkok

One huge perk of being in Asia is that your weekend getaways can be flight away without a huge bomb in your pocket if you plan your travels quite in advance.

I spent the last weekend of October last year travelling to Bangkok on Scoot and return by Jetstar because of the flight timings that worked in our favour to maximise our weekend in the food haven. Tickets for each of us was about SGD $170 return.

Our mantra for BKK was: eat, shop, sleep, repeat. And it was definitely MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Eat

Bangkok is laden with ample options for affordable as well as authentic Thai food littered along regular streets.

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Having visited Pantaree Restuarant, back in 2014, I went in search of it this time round to have my first meal in Bangkok there. However, it is no longer located below Asok BTS, but instead it has shifted closer to Nana BTS, along Soi Sukhumvit 8. I felt like the standard of food had dropped since my last visit to Pantaree. But, we still enjoyed our lunch nonetheless.

But, our dinner the next day at  Inter Restaurant was THE BOMB!

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Because of it’s location right smack in the centre of Siam, it does get pretty crowded. But, I assure you the food really tugs at every corner of your stomach. Our meal for 2 costed 525 Bhat. We actually ordered till we used up all our Bhat as we were catching our flight in the next hour. Typical Singaporeans. LOL.

Shop

We conquered just 2 places relatively well in our 36 hours in Bangkok. Platinum Mall as well as everyone’s favourite Chatuchak market. This guide would help be navigate through the various sections of the market successfully before the heat gets you down. But, hey, there is always coconut ice cream to cool you down.

Stay

I loved our stay at Sivatel Bangkok (SGD130/night). It came with a super huge room, breakfast overlooking the infinity pool and floats in the pool. It took us only about 15 minutes to get us to Siam, so I found the location very good given our short time in Bangkok. Definitely heading back to Sivatel the next time Bangkok calls me!

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Till next time, Sawadikap 🙂

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

We got married and ran away to the beach!

With everything that went on for the first 3/4 of last year, house and wedding planning, I knew our first vacation as a married couple would revolve around just 1 word, BEACH. Being in Asia, it is relatively easy to fly yourself to the various beach destinations that surround Sunny Singapore. But, Indonesia’s Gili Islands had always been on my list. So, it felt natural to get ourselves there to literally do nothing and be beach bums all day, every day.

We managed to score ourselves relatively affordable tickets to Bali on Airasia during a sale for SGD 500 for the 2 of us. As we were flying off on 1 September, which was a public holiday, we knew we couldn’t score bargain tickets. Another way to get to Gili Islands, would be to fly to Lombok instead of Bali. However, as no budget airlines flies to Lombok yet, it was economical for us.

Since we arrived late into Bali, we decided to stay a night at Amnaya Resort Kuta (SGD 117/night) before we headed off to Gili Air in the morning. After checking in, we scooted off right away to Johnny Tacos which was close by for our late dinner.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_4e60Basic yet so yum tacos at Johnny Tacos 

The next morning, we set off to Gili Air. Our tickets were IDR 225k each and the ferry (Ganggari Fast Boat) took us through Padang Bai. We spent the whole morning travelling we checked in way past noon at our home for the next 2 nights – Samata Village (SGD 142/night). The place blew me away when I first found them online and boy, it was exactly what I had imagined it to be.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_5313.jpgIf this isn’t paradise, I don’t know what else is

Gilli Air, felt like I was in another world altogether having just come from Kuta. Although it was still fairly crowded with tourists, the cobbled pavements, horse carts, sand under your feet definitely did it’s magic on me. We spent the rest of the day indulging in food, more food (think gelato) and watching the sun set right before our eyes.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_52feSunset at Gili Air

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_5359.jpgExploring the island on bicycles

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_534d.jpgNumerous postcard moments

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_53b3.jpgMovie night at Ombak Restaurant 

Day 2 in Gili Air is better explained from the last 3 photos above. It was just the perfect kind of quiet to unwind after all the crazy months of planning. For food, we checked out Chill Out Cafe, Raja Bar and Restaurant, The Mexican Kitchen and Scallywags (only dessert though). My recommendation would for both the food as well as beach huts to lounge the afternoon away would be The Mexican Kitchen. Apart from that, the rest of the restaurants were passable for food but perfect for chilling.

Heads up, we got our hopes too high thinking we could have a good brunch before we set off to Gili Meno. We chanced upon Coffee and Thyme which greeted us right at jetty when we first got to Gili Air. But, trust me, when I say just enter the restaurant, take a few snaps of the pool by the side and leave. Do NOT spend your dollar. But, I suppose that experience was good to kick us out of Gili Air and onward to Gili Meno because we sure did not have much blues after our “meal” there.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_5453.jpgIf Gili Air was paradise, Gili Meno is heaven

We arrived from Gili Air to Gili Meno real quick given how close both islands were. Our ferry costed us IDR 85k per person. And as we were approaching the island, we knew for sure, we would be spending our unplanned night in Meno before we head to Ubud in 3 days time. Gili Meno was far quieter with lesser people and beach huts littered all around the coast line.

IMG_4647.JPGVilla Mojo in its full glory

Our first 2 nights were spent at Villa Mojo (SGD 148/night) and for the last night Les Villas Ottalia (SGD 84/night). Villa Mojo was in a very good location, near the beach and basically the main road of the island. However, getting to Les Villas was indeed a struggle. So if you are travelling with a lot of luggage, please bear that in mind. The highlight of Gili Meno was our meal over sunset at Mahamaya Resort. It was really a treat for the eyes and a feast for the tummy. And also, tears for the wallet. Our dinner for 2 was IDR 470k.

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Apart from Mahamaya, Karma Beach Club is another popular place in Gili Meno.

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With a view like this before your eyes, all the worries in the world probably disappear even if it is temporary.  The rest of our time in Gili Meno was spent beach hopping and indulging in sinful food.

Both Gili Air and Gili Meno are really small islands that you cover either by foot or a bicycle. There are no automobiles which equates to no pollution. It’s just you and nature and more nature.

As much as it was painful to say our goodbye to the islands after 5 days, I was very excited to finally visit Ubud. Despite, being to Bali multiple times, I never made it up to Ubud. Plus, when you have got an amazing Airbnb stay (SGD 104/night) with a view like this, who wouldn’t be! 😉

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No words can describe the peace and tranquility that greets you when you step into the villa. Ubud is littered with many many good cafes and eateries. I wish we had more days to explore (a.k.a. stuff our faces silly).

Among all our meals we had in Ubud, our best meal experience was at Clear Cafe. It was truly one of a kind. For those of you heading to Ubud, Clear Cafe is a MUST on your list.

For authentic Balinese food, we tried Cafe Lotus which is also famous for having traditional Balinese dance performance in the evenings. We got our Mexican fix at Taco Casa which was bustling with people every time we drove past. For coffee lovers, I would highly recommend Seniman Coffee Studio. We had brunch at Habitat which had amazing smoothie bowls. For our last dinner in Ubud, we concluded the night in Hujan Locale which caters to people looking for a twist in a typical Asian restaurant. For coconut lovers, you will go nuts (pun unintended), at Tukies Coconut Shop.

Apart from the delectable food scene, Ubud is also famous for their rafting day trips. We booked our rafting excursion with BMW (Bali Mitra Wahana) for IDR 500k for 2 pax. BMW was said to be one of the better rafting companies to go with. But, please do your homework before you decide on which company to go with. Some factors to consider would be the distance covered as well as the terrain grade.

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After a day out under the sun, we decided to pamper ourselves to a 2.5 hour spa package at Sang Spa 2 for IDR 900k.

With that, our amazing 10-day Indonesia adventure concluded! For a beach bum like me, Gili Meno were the best 3 days spent together with my husband. Till next time!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Krabi Days.

Exactly a year ago, I landed in Krabi on Christmas Day with the sister! Our 6D5N trip was such a blast, I nearly forgot to recap my holiday till a year later. 😉

Since I was arriving close to sunset in Krabi, I decided to stay a night (at Krabi Front Bay Resort) in Krabi town before leaving for Ao Nang the next morning. It also worked out so we could check out the Krabi Walking Street which essentially meant FOOD, FOOD and more FOOD. No complaints that we ended up tucking into bed with mango sticky rice!

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The next morning, we set off from Krabi town towards Ao Nang which is essentially the main area in Krabi where everything happens. We paid 220 Bhat for 2 of us for the 30 minute travel to our rather fancy accomodation at Bluesotel Krabi.

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We spent the rest of the day booking our island tour for the following day, shopping, eating and lounging.

IMG_9733Day 2 dinner at Cheap Cheap Restaurant, Ao Nang (630 Bhat)

Day 3 was all about our 4 islands tour! I was slightly skeptical about this highly touristy activity but gave it a short nonetheless as it was my last day in Ao Nang before more chill awaited me at Koh Lanta. The tour costed us 1200 + 800 Bhat (entrance fees) for 2. I wouldn’t say there was anything fantastic with the tour, especially given that we went during peak season but the clear skies and endless blue sure does its wonders.

The tour comprises of Phra Nang Cave Beach, Poda Island, Chicken Island as well as Tub – Mor Islands. There was nothing too spectacular about the tour largely because of how crowded the beaches were given the peak season.

IMG_9890.JPGLongtail boats lined up at Phra Nang Beach

After 3 nights in Krabi, we were ready for a less crowded Koh Lanta and our private villa (Chalaroste Lanta) for our stay was just perfect. Spent the rest of the day, hiring a motorbike and exploring Koh Lanta. We checked out Khlong Chak waterfall, drove back while watching sunset and had Greek for dinner. A perfect, relaxing day before we end the trip with another island tour.

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Prior to my arrival in Krabi, I had read the reviews of Trang Island tours by Freedom Adventures and was definitely keen despite it setting us back about 2000 Bhat between us. Ko Mook was my personal favourite as you swim in pitch blackness for about 30 seconds (150m) before a beautiful lagoon greets you. Worry not, non swimmers, you are covered as you have your life jackets on. Snorkelling up close with fishes in Ko Kradan felt really surreal. Definitely recommend Trang Island tour. Here’s a review that would give you more details on what to expect!

Do note the ferry point from Koh Lanta is at Old Town. True to it’s name it has a very rustic and untouched vibe.

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IMG_0255.JPGOur final dinner in Koh Lanta at  Krua Dan Tai (650 Bhat) 

Despite us not heading to Phi Phi Islands, it was an amazing trip back to Thailand – one of my favourite countries in Asia. Till next time, ka pun kap.

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

3 nights in Barcelona.

Nearly 8 months prior to my travel, I booked myself a seat on Qatar Airways for SGD 863 for a 2-way Singapore to Barcelona flight (layover in Doha) with my girlfriends! It was my first real trip to Europe (turkey doesn’t count ;)) and we were gonna be going for TOMATINA!! Couldn’t be more psyched that this was finally happening! After our countless talk of being part of the tomato madness and striking it off our bucket list, the moment was finally here! Tickets were booked!

We flew to Barcelona, figured out the metro system, struggled with street names, and directions while figuring out our apartment location, took a long while to locate a Vodafone that is actually open and possibly found the best (and very affordable) paella in town in a very fancy restaurant. Verdict: 3 nights ain’t enough!

Getting around

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A single trip from to airport to the city (or vice versa) costs EUR 4.50 via the metro line shown above. As you can see, the metro network is relatively easy to figure out. There a various day passes that can be purchased for your travels within Barcelona. As we were there for 3 nights, we got ourselves a 3 day pass for EUR 20.50. There is also another option of T10 (10 train rides) for EUR 9.90 (airport ride not included). On our return back to the airport, to pick up our rental car before we drove to Valencia, we tried to outsmart the system buying by a T10 pass to share it between myself and my 3 other friends. Sorry guys, didn’t work.

SIM Matters

Vodafone seemed to be the most reliable telecomm provider and since their price was affordable I decided to stick with a familiar name. It costed me EUR 15 for 1.5gb and lucky for me, there was a free upgrade to 3GB for the same price. The SIM was valid for a month, which was more than enough for my 16 day travel within Spain.

Attractions

  1. Sagrada Familia!

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THE place to visit when in Barcelona! Lucky me, could even get a glimpse of the Roman Catholic wonder from the balcony of my apartment! That was how near our apartment was to Sagrada! Despite walking by the Sagrada each time we took the Metro, I couldn’t help but marvel at Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece that is still under construction even after over 100 years. We pre-booked our tickets online way earlier and ended up scoring discounted tickets at EUR 7.30 for a Sunday entry into the church (without audio guide)

Other ticketing information can be found at: http://www.sagradafamilia.org/en/tickets/

2. Casa Batllo

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Following Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi’s next architectural marvel would be Casa Batllo. Located along Passeig de Gracia, Casa Batllo is a stone’s throw away from Guadi’s another beauty – Casa Mila. As entry to each costed quite a bit, we opted to visit just Casa Batllo. Known for it’s irregular oval windows, flowing sculpted stone work, very few straight lines, broken ceramic tiles making up a colourful mosaic, Casa Batllo was a beauty to be standing within.

Entry to Casa Batllo costed us EUR 22 each, which came with an audio guide. Highly recommended, despite being slightly costly!

3. Park Guell

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I nicknamed this, Gaudi’s little playground! Minus, the (insane) crowd, there is nothing not to love about Park Guell! It’s no surprise that there is a limit of 400 tickets every half hour to the Monumental Zone of the park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Booking your tickets online guarantees you a spot in the park and also allows you to save 1 Euro from the ticket price of 8 Euros at the door.

4. Camp Nou

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Camp Nou stadium experience is really ONCE in a lifetime! Highly recommend going for it! Tickets costs EUR 23 + EUR 5 (for an audio guide – which is helpful if you are not really game for reading all the information displayed in the gallery).

Food, Glorious food

In my entire trip around Spain, Les Quinze Nits was my favourite for their paella! It looks very fancy from the outside that we actually walked past it, till my friend actually pointed it out. Thank god for locals! The paella tasted very authentic and it was affordable, so what’s not to love about it.

A thing to note: paella actually tastes different all throughout Spain, so enjoy eating your way through 🙂

For churros, I enjoyed those I tried at Petritxol cafe. Thick, warm chocolate to dip sugar coated churros in. Aaaahhhh…. And there after, head down to Barceloneta Beach to laze the afternoon away. As good as life gets!

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Next up, was Valencia! And that meant, TOMATINA!!!!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.