Catching sunrise from North of Northland! 

It was a surreal morning. Driving slightly over 60km to the north most point of North Island – Cape Reinga. Swapped our flip flops to sneakers, pulled our jumpers over, held hands and chased the sun.

Moments later, after the sky lit up for us, we watched the clashing of the Tasman Sea with the Pacific Ocean. It felt like I was standing right on the line where the earth was clashing before me. For Maori, these turbulent waters are where the male sea meets the female sea. The whirlpools where the currents clash are like those that dance in the wake of a waka (canoe). They represent the coming together of male and female – and the creation of life.

Next up, was sandboarding at the Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes which was about 15km away. Apart from the struggle to climb up the sand dunes, it was fun! There is a mobile shop for board hire just next to the carpark. If I remember right, boards are about $15 each to hire.  Do note there is a fair bit of unsealed road driving before you get to the dunes.

Running along the base of the sand dunes is the famous Te Paki Stream that leads to the Ninety Mile Beach. We tried our luck to drive on the beach but due to tide conditions, we were told we had to wait another 2 hours or so. We didn’t have that much time on our side so we decided to make a round in the stream and head back down towards Auckland.

And with that, our 8-day Northland adventure comes to an end! Next up, was B’s birthday celebrations in Auckland and then hello, Hamilton!

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

4D3N in Langkawi!

Sunset along Cenang Beach

I managed to score cheap tickets to Langkawi thanks to Air Asia’s sale back in April this year. Advance booking almost always helps!

Despite a rather gloomy weather forecast before we set off, the weather was pretty great with only occasional showers now and then, so our moods weren’t really dampened.

Accommodation

I was a bit skeptical when booking Dayang Bay Service Apartments due to it’s rather remote location in Kuah town, which is a 20 minute drive from Pentai Cenang. But, the spacious rooms and lovely sea view definitely made up for the location. Plus, we hired a car so getting around wasn’t too much of a hassle.

Travel Tip: There is no need to advance book  to rent a car. When you touch down at Langkawi Airport, you’ll be greeted with MANY companies offering you car rental services. I managed to rent a Honda City for RM 240 (additional deposit of RM 100) for 3 days through Geopark Tours Pte Ltd.

Activities 

1. Skycab

 

Langkawi’s skycab ride is one of the world’s steepest cable car experience you can have. So, this is definitely a must try! Located in the southwestern coast of the main island, this attraction is within the compound of Oriental Village. This 15-20 minute is the world’s largest free span for a single rope cable carat 950m. Tickets costed us RM 30.

As you can see from the photo, maintenance is ongoing on the Skybridge. Was a pity we weren’t able to have a ‘stroll’. It is however expected to reopen in February 2015.

View from middle station (elevation of 650m from sea level)

For more information: http://www.langkawi-online.com/pages/places-of-interest/langkawi-cable-car.php

2. Underwater World

 

The Underwater World in Langkawi is the largest aquarium in Malaysia housing a large collection of over 4000 aquatic lives. We didn’t initially plan on making a visit down to The Underwater World but since we had some time to kill (i.e. digest our lunch) before our massage, we decided to pop by. Tickets cost RM 40 for non-malaysians. I managed to sneak myself in as a ‘malaysian’ for RM 30.

For more information: http://www.underwaterworldlangkawi.com.my/

3. Island hopping on jetski

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Littered along Pentai Cenang are many tour operators so booking a 3 island tour would not be a problem at all. Activities include Pulau Dayang Bunting (Preganant Maiden Island) for freshwater swimming, Pulau Singa Besar (Big Lion Island) for eagle watching and Pulau Beras Basah (Wet Rice island) for swimming/snorkelling/suntanning.

Most companies offer about the same services so go ahead and book with a tour agency that offers you a good deal. I managed to get a offer for RM 500 (double rider) for a 4 hour jetski experience. Should you prefer not to jetski, you can have the option of doing this tour via speedboat (definitely costs much less). But, I assure you, the jetski experience was awesome (despite the rather steep price).

Things to note:

1. Make sure jet skis are in good, working condition before you set off.

2. Apply hell lots of sunscreen to avoid sunburn.

3. Reef shoes are provided so not to worry about slippers flying off.

4. Try to wear long sleeved clothings if possible.

5. Bring your phone to get photos from your guide after the end of the tour. (We left all our belongings in the car so didn’t manage to get hold of any photos the guide took for us.)

4. Massage

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After a good body workout (i.e. 4 hour jetski experience), having a body massage would definitely be a good idea. I recommend Teratai reflexology located just next to The Underwater World. 1 hour full body massage costed RM 88. Was slightly expensive but service was excellent, so no regrets.

5. Laze in the beach

If you’re looking for a secluded beach to enjoy a quiet moment, Tanjong Rhu is a perfect spot for you. Located far north of Langkawi, this beach is quite untouched by tourists as most people naturally flock to Cenang beach.

Seafood!

This rather unassuming shop along Persiaran Mutiara, in my opinion serves the most value for money seafood. I had 2 meals here and 1 at the probably the most famous seafood shop in Langkawi – Orkid Ria. For Rm 270, I’ll do a comparison of what I ate at Wonderland and Orkid Ria. So, you do the math yourself.

Orkid Ria                                                  Wonderland

1. 4 Tiger Prawns                                    1. 2 Tiger Prawns (size of 4 Tiger Prawns in Orkid Ria)

2. 600g Garoupa                                     2. 500g Red Snapper

3. 2 Mud Crab                                         3. 2 Mud Crab

4. Hotplate Beancurd                             4. Claypot Beancurd

5. Tom Yam Seafood Soup                     5. Baby Kailan

6. Sambal Kangkong                               6. Sambal Kangkong

                                                                7. Omelette with onion

                                                                8. Chilli Clams

                                                                9. Sambal Squid

RM 275.10                                             RM 236.10

Definitely worth a visit to Wonderland. Another seafood shop, worth trying would be Aquarium Seafood Garden in Taman Seri.

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

Best of Bangkok!

Bangkok is one of those popular and very frequented destinations among travellers, that getting started with planning a trip there isn’t hard at all. Thanks to every other up and coming travel blogger of course! So, I thought I shall dedicate this post to doing the best of Bangkok to aid your planning further. After all, having too many choices can also become a problem.

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Where to stay
Given Bangkok’s traffic situation, staying somewhere close to BTS/MRT station would definitely be convenient and helps you save time. I chose to stay in the vicinity of Sukhumvit due to the proximity of many (cheap) eateries and shops nearby. I stayed at On 8 Sukhumvit Nana Bangkok by Compass Hospitalitywhich was just next to Nana BTS. Pratunam was a mere 5 minute train ride away and Chatuchak market (Mo Chit BTS) was a 25 minute ride away. Being a mere 5m away from Nana BTS, was really convenient given the light showers that greeted us in the afternoons when I was there in early August.

More information on the train map and routes can be found here: http://www.transitbangkok.com/bts.html. Hope that helps you when selecting a hotel to stay in during your travel.

Activities 
This can be tricky depending on the agenda of your travel. Some visit Bangkok just to eat, some just to shop till they drop (literally). And others, just to visit temples and marvel at architecture.

Let me try and provide some details on all 3 for you.

Where to eat
Just like every other part of Asia, street food is the best way to discover some of the most authentic and mouthwatering eats. Since I was there just for 2 days I didn’t manage to visit the popular eateries most bloggers mentioned about. However, I rediscovered a gem by chance and it didn’t disappoint me at all; just like my first experience back in 2012.

This small eatery, Pantaree Restaurant, is just next Times Square (Asok BTS) is highly recommended. My friend and I ate like kings for under 400 Bhat (SGD 15). Although, the image below may not be the most photogenic capture, trust me, you have to have a meal here. No regrets at all.

If you are looking for other local food to try in Bangkok, do check out this post: http://www.misstamchiak.com/10-must-try-food-places-in-bangkok/

Where to shop
So everyone who arrives in Bangkok, probably hears about Chatuchak weekend market if they haven’t already. But, apart from that, there are many markets in Bangkok worth visiting. Other popular markets are Khao San market, Pratunam market and Flower market.

Here are couple of links for other options of markets, apart from Chatuchak, to stop at 😉

1. http://www.cookiesound.com/2011/10/5-markets-in-bangkok-thailand/

2. http://migrationology.com/2012/05/shopping-markets-in-bangkok/

3. http://travel.cnn.com/bangkok/shop/city-essentials/best-bangkok-night-markets-153964

These (very pretty) lights which were 100 – 150 Bhat were my favourite purchase from Chatuchak!

Where to go
Bangkok like most of Thailand is packed with temples. After a while, visiting temples become mundane and repetitive. So I definitely suggest going the more iconic ones. Combining all my temple visits from both my trips to Bangkok, my personal favourite would be Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn.

Next up, would be Grand Palace (Emerald Buddha Temple) just opposite Wat Pho. Wat Pho boasts a 46m long Buddha in a reclining position. Wat Traimit houses the world’s largest massive gold seated Buddha weighing at 5 and a half ton.

Beautiful architecture of Wat Arun

When to go
The best times to visit Bangkok are from December to February as subsequently the hot and rainy seasons kick in. If you’re looking for a getaway before the year ends, look no further, Bangkok is a great choice. Only if you can tolerate both the human and non-human traffic that is.

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

My Sunshine Coast!

This is quite a belated post of my 10 day Down Under adventure in April. But, thank god for iCal and my awesome photos to refresh my rather elephant memory. I spent 6 nights in Sunshine Coast before ending the trip with the sister in Gold Coast. I had previously blogged on my different accommodation types for my travel. For those of you who had missed it, here you go.

Sunshine Coast isn’t a very popular tourist destination in comparison to Brisbane or Gold Coast which are both an hour or two drive away. But, hey, if you’re looking for a place to spend a couple of days just chilling and lazing, Sunshine Coast will be perfect for you. If you’ve always thought Gold Coast is chill, Sunshine Coast is CHILLLLLL.

1. Spend a day in Mooloolaba 

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I spent my first day in Sunshine Coast staying with a local family so after a lovely home cooked meal for dinner we drove to Mooloolaba for a stroll before calling it a day. What Surfers Paradise is to Gold Coast, Mooloolaba is to Sunshine Coast. Wander into some cafe to while the morning away sipping coffee and reading. Grab a quick bite for lunch and head to Sea World to spend the afternoon. Lay by the beach to enjoy the sounds of waves crashing on the shoreline while watching sunset. Have a lovely dinner after in any one of the many scrumptious restaurants lined along the coast. Ah, what a perfect way to spend a day.

Quick tip: Stay at Buderim if accommodation at Mooloolaba is too expensive.

2. Local Markets!

It’s almost impossible to visit any part of Australia without stopping by a market. There are so many weekday and weekend markets available that you’ll be spoilt for choice. It was nice to spend a Sunday morning shopping for second hand books, clothes, fruits, knick knacks for the home etc. Usually the patrons are regulars, so the community is a rather close knit one, with stall owners greeting customers by their first names. As an Asian, this culture might take a bit of getting used to. But, after a while, you’ll wish you have such markets back home. At least, I do.

3. Mt. Coolum 

I decided to spend a night in Coolum so that I could climb Mt. Coolum first thing in the morning before I head up to Noosa. My couchsurfing experience worked out well as I met Ally, another adventure lover, so we did the climb together before she dropped me off at the bus station after a hearty brekkie. I wouldn’t call the climb easy so take your time and pace yourself well. We did the climb up in about 45 mins and took about 20mins to descend down.

This is the nature of the course so pace yourself well, really. There is no point rushing through the climb. And, once you are up at the summit take your time to enjoy the view before you make your way down. The view is easily worth a good 15 – 20 mins.

4. Frasers Island!

My Frasers tour has got to the best part of my Sunshine Coast adventure. Initially, I was sightly apprehensive. Can you imagine being a stuck with a boring bunch of travellers on an island for 2 nights?! Especially since, I was already travelling solo I was praying for some good company. Again thank god, everything worked out well and I met George, a dutch guy who was also travelling alone for 5 weeks along the East Coast of Australia. The 3D2N ended up being a blast despite being cut off from technology.

To explore this world’s largest sand island you’ll require a 4 wheel drive so decided to join a tour. I did my tour with Sunset Safaris and no regrets! Worth every buck despite me being a near SGD 700 poorer! I will be doing a separate post on Frasers soon so do keep a look out.

5. Cycle along the coast

After I got back to Sunshine Coast from Frasers, I spent my last night in Caloundra in a beautiful apartment booked through Airbnb. That meant I was 10 minutes away from the picturesque Dicky Beach. I borrowed a bike from my host couple and decided to cycle from Dicky beach all the way down to Golden beach through Moffat, Shelly and Kings. Apart from my minor injury (I didn’t brake in time so smashed into a tree), it was a good 30 minute ride down south. Feel free to stop by to grab a coffee or take some shots while cruising along the coast. If you’re looking to have a breakfast, do check out The Pocket at Moffat Beach.

 

Doing this post makes me miss Sunshine Coast so bad. :/

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

Penang in 48 hours.

Penang is probably one of the best weekend getaways given it is just about an hour away by plane from Singapore. With budget airline carriers always having last minute flash sales, it’s quite easy to plan an impromptu getaway.

Despite my numerous visits to Penang, Malaysia, there are a few reasons why I keep getting drawn to visiting “The Pearl of the Orient”.

1. Local food

What is a visit to Penang without enjoying char kway teow! Along Lorong Selemat, Kedai Kopi dan Ais Kacang, boasts possibly one of the best, if not, the best char kway teow in entire Penang. I hear this coffee house is famous for their ABC (Air Batu Campur i.e. Ais Kacang) as well. Not a huge fan of Ais Kacang, I gave it a miss so I could save space in my stomach to try out other local food.

After char kway teow, chendol in Penang is probably the next item you have to try! This famous roadside stall is a stone’s throw from Lebuh Campbell, along Lebuh Keng Kwee. Under the sweltering heat, having a ice-cold chendol, before continuing your rest of exploration around Georgetown is definitely a good idea.

Hokkien Char

Lorong Baru is one of the many streets in Penang that morphs into a “food galore” with plenty of push carts selling local food when dusk sets.

With Penang’s food scene buzzing round the clock, for sure you will never get hungry no matter how late into the night it is.

2. Georgetown

Georgetown, capital of Penang, was listed by UNESCO in 2008 as a World Heritage Site. True to this accreditation, today, you would see many shophouses still well-preserved and it’s colonial roots intact.

Colourful shophouses along Lebuh Campbell

Big Expressions Gallery, Lorong Macalister

Street art and quaint cafes littered along entire Georgetown area bring back many fond memories, even for tourists visiting Penang.

Mugshot Cafe

As the cafe culture scene in Georgetown is also growing, spending a lazy afternoon over books and coffee would be just perfect as well.

3. Religious Sites/Historical Buildings 

Apart from Penang Hill and Khoo Kongsi, which are probably the more visited places of interest in Penang, there are a whole load of places to head to as well.

Wat Chaiyamangalaram, a Thai-style Buddhist Temple is known for a 33m long reclining Buddha, one of the longest in the world.

 Queen Victoria Clock Tower at sunset

Kapitan Keling Mosque

photo11Masjid Terapung, Floating Mosque of Tanjung Bungah 

Travel through the history of how cameras have evolved since 20th century in The Camera Museum. Sure to blow you away if you are a fan of photography.

4. Batu Ferringhi 

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Perfect for watersports and sunbathing, Batu Ferringhi is a very popular haunt for visitors to flock to when in Penang. Also, it’s night market is a huge draw to both locals and tourists.

5. Nightlife

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China House is one of the top places for nightlife in Penang at the moment as it caters to anyone and everyone. Be it a simple dinner over cakes, to just chilling with a book in the Library, to chilling with some drinks in the Courtyard, to some music and jazz in the Canteen; you really have it all in China House!

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

 

Travels for the year 2013!

2013 saw me travelling quite a fair bit. Bali, Melbourne, Sydney, Cambodia  Penang, Yogyakarta and then concluding the year with Sri Lanka. My highlight, of course, will be overcoming my inhibitions and attempting my first solo travel to Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Although, it was a short 4D3N, the trip taught me a lot on solo travelling.

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Sunset at Seminyak beach, Bali

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Post lunch smiles, Bali

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Kuta Beach, Bali

Bali, May 2013: A 3-night getaway with a couple of friends. Beach, sunset and laughter over cocktails. Got ourselves inked only for it to last not more than an hour. Also, my slippers that almost sailed away in the waters while at Tanah Lot. Oh, the fun times.

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Mt Buller Ski Resort, Melbourne

Melbourne, June 2013: A week of adventures with the sister. Tried out skiing for the first time. Amidst all the crashings and butt-aches was a memorable stay at Mt Buller. Watched 3 movies over the span of a week I was there. Felt like a local rather than a tourist. No surprises there, given my frequency in visiting Australia. Myriad of asian cuisine range conquered: Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese. Survived -10 degrees for 30 minutes in Chill On Bar. Relived bits of our childhood watching Circus Oz.

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Sydney Harbour Bridgeclimb: Check!

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Skydiving: CHECK!!

Sydney, August 2013: Sole purpose of this last minute travel was to conquer the Harbour Bridge Climb. Ended up, I conquered one of my biggest fears as well – tandem skydiving! At times, I still cannot digest the fact I went through with this decision. Plus given the fact I was alone, I must be quite brave I think. After all that adrenaline rush, spent the next 2 days in Manly just chilling. Manly is such a perfect beach town, you can just wake up, stumble into a coffee house and laze the day away, without feeling any tinge of guilt. Most spontaneous travel decision ever. And also, by far, my most favourite trip to Sydney.

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Ice ball making in process, Penang.

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Roadside chendol, Penang

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Street vendor selling banana pancakes, Penang

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Dim sum buffet for breakfast, Penang

Penang, October 2013: Nothing but a 3 day galore of food, food and more food. And I mean, GALORE. I’m sure my pictures are a testament to it.

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Borobudur, Yogyakarta

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Borobudur, Yogyakarta

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Borobudur, Yogyakarta

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The stranger who literally saved my life, Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta, November 2013: Highlight #1: My first (real) solo travel. Highlight #2: Catching sunrise at Borobudur which costed me nearly SGD 100. Was definitely worth it though. I won’t forget how I was almost stranded on Parangtritis Beach, 5 hours before my flight. The stranger (pictured above) showed me what kindness truly is and brought me back home for a nominal amount.

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Background of Sigiriya Rock from Hotel Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

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Scenic boat ride, Sri Lanka

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Footsteps in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

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Chaaya Blu Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

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The Golden Temple of Dambulla, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, December 2013: 10 days, 10 pax, clocked 1800km on the road. Truckloads of memories. Nothing beats the euphoria of scaling Sigiriya Rock (Lion’s Rock) despite the bad weather condition as we started our ascend. Waking up in Kandy at 6am to a full moon amidst the mist. Watching sunset at Galle. Will be doing up a full post on Sri Lanka very soon.

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Amidst all my travelling, I juggled a new job that has taught me so many things I love and hate about the real world. Obviously more hate, than love. But anyways.

Also, I decided to give accounting a shot and enrolled myself in ACCA. Have completed 3 papers till date.

Got myself a basic rock climbing certification.

Did a couple of runs. Conquered my first 10km at Sundown.

2013 has been by far the toughest year to get by. I’m glad I’m still surviving and standing strong. I recall that fateful span of 3 days in July where I lost 2 very dear people. There are days I just wanna crumble and disappear out of this world. The void is so indescribable that I have quit writing. But, there are other days I wanna live to make you’ll proud. Those days help me get by.

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I will live to make you proud.

I’m planning to march in to 2014 without any expectations whatsoever. I’m gonna quit wishing for things to happen and take things as they come along.

Keep writing your goals for the year ahead and, if necessary, re-write them as you go along. After all, we have got another year to get it right. Have a blessed year ahead folks!

Till we meet again,

Sights and sounds of Penang.

Cambodia blew me over and so, I booked tickets to Penang almost 24 hours before my flight. MOST.IMPROMPTU.TRIP.EVER!

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IMAG0391silhouette of khoo kongsi

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IMAG0428roadside chendol

IMAG0438sweet corn pancake for RM0.40 by the apong guan man

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

Hong Kong-ed!

I make no excuses. I’ve neglected Solosingaporean over the past 2 weeks cause I’ve been purely lazy. And now, I’ve so many backlogged posts that I better get started before this year comes to an end.

I ran away again for a short trip to Hong Kong to celebrate turning 24! All I can say was, Disneyland was amazing and definitely was the highlight of my 5D4N adventure!

Some pictures for you to be jealous! You will be hearing from me soon, I promise!

All images belong to Solosingaporean. Please give credit where it’s due. Thanks for stopping by!

Quick update!

Happy October and happy Monday! 🙂

I’m back on the sunny side of the world after an AWESOME road-tripping in Down Under with thy siblings! Can’t wait to share my travel adventures with ya’ll!

But, before that, brighton beach you had me at hello.

Brighton bathing box, Melbourne

“The Perks of Being A Wallflower”, I’ll be watching you soon!

Sydney loving!

Just as Gold Coast, Surfers to be specific, was growing on to me, we set off with our friends to Sydney for 6 days. Our planned itinerary for Sydney included more beaches, Blue Mountains, sky diving, Opera house, Luna Park and others. Blue Mountains and sky diving plans didn’t materialize as temperatures dropped to under 10 degrees and we weren’t prepared with clothing to embark on both. Nonetheless, we made full use of our transport pass that allowed for unlimited train (a particular colour zone) and ferry rides,  by heading up to Watsons Bay and Bondi Beach. We took a leisurely stroll one morning up to the Opera house while stopping at the Royal Botanic Gardens and churches along the way. And, ended our time in Sydney with a short trip to the Luna Park.

Took Virgin Airlines from GC to Sydney.

As the name suggests our hostel was actually railway cabins instead of actual rooms. How cool is that?! It felt like we were in some makeshift room that might move while we were asleep. Like overnight trains with sleeping facilities.

We didn’t get rooms here so settled for Railway Square YHA. Might have been a blessing in disguise since railway cabins were so much more fun!

Architecture outside Central station.

Circular Quay.

A shot of the Opera House while on the ferry.

P.S. All images you will be seeing about my Australia travel adventures belong to me (solosingaporean) unless otherwise stated. Most of them have been shot by the (talented) sister using her Canon 500D with 18-55mm kit lens. Be kind and give credit where credit is due. Cheers!