Saturday, 12 April 2014

Visit Singapore on a Cheap Budget (Part 1)

"World's Most Expensive City 2014"-Singapore has outranked placeholder Tokyo for this dubious honor. This new has created quite a stir and it is vigorously discussed in the internet. Many potential visitors to the tiny island have now second thoughts on their plans. Being a true blue Singaporean living in here for 40 over years, I believe there are some misconceptions on this statement. Yes, Singapore is not a cheap country to stay. There are high end retail shops and restaurants that dig deep into your pockets. But you also have the options to visit normal street shops and cheap hawker centers for your needs. Traveling here does not mean one has to visit expensive destinations. There are cheap and even free ones around to satisfy your travel lusts.  For this blog, I like to contribute my bits as a local and let you know the various destinations that you can visit on a cheap budget. Here it goes:

1. Merlion Park

Merlion and Marina Bay Sands

A must visit for your trip here. This is where Singapore most famous icon-The Merlion is situated. This is also where you can take fabulous skyline pictures of the "Spaceship hotel"-Marina Bay Sand, the "Durian"-Esplanade and Singapore Flyer. Four famous Singapore landmarks at a glance and it's for free. What more can you ask for ;-)?

Cost: Free
How to get there: Take MRT to Esplanade station. Follow directional signs and walk 10 mins to Merlion Park.
Further info: Here    

2. Singapore River Boat Ride

Bumboat at Fullerton Hotel

Make sure you take this river ride which takes you on the iconic bumboat down Singapore River from Clark Quay to Marina Bay Sand. The historic river will bring you pass many famous Singapore landmarks like the Asian Civilization Museum, Fullerton Building, Sir Stamford Raffles statue etc. Be fascinated by the colorful shop houses and pubs (converted from former cargoes' and coolies' houses) line along Clark Quay and Boat Quay. There are two kinds of available ride. Take the one meant for locals (at SGD$3 per person only)which is called River Taxi than the one (Singapore River Cruise) for tourists (SGD$22). I found out the vast cost differences were due to the latter offering commentaries and a longer ride. But personally, I think the cheaper version is good enough. The only drawback is that you may have to wait longer for the ride compares to those taking the River Cruise package.

Cost: SGD $3 per person
How to get there: Take MRT to Clark Quay. Walk 5 minutes to jetty. At the ticket booth, ask for the $3 River Taxi Ride.
Further info: Here

3. Haw Par Villa

Haw Par Villa

This place is always overlooked by tourists as many may not know it even exists! I advise you not to as it is the one and only left in the World. The ones at Hong Kong and China have been tore down for development very long ago. The place is filled with all kinds of statues that depict Chinese folklore, history and legends. You will need to climb a bit to explore this amazing place. The highlight of this destination shall be the "Ten Courts of Hell". Be warned that this is not for the faint hearts as it describes the extreme punishment for the sins commit in one's lifetime.

Cost: Free
How to get there: Take MRT to Haw Par Villa station. Walk 2 minutes to Haw Par Villa.
Further info: Here

4.  Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands at night

Not to worry. I am not asking you to stay here. For sure, it will cost a bomb. But come here at night to experience Singapore's latest icon at it's best. Stand at the Helix bridge and admire the marvelous architecture at close distance. Enjoy the breeze and the Singapore skyline. Catch the Laser and Water show (at 8pm, 9.30pm and 11pm on Friday and Saturday, and 8pm and 9.30pm on Sunday) which lasts 13 minutes long. Best place to catch the show is at the Event Plaza of Marina Bay Sands. If you have spare cash to spend, try your luck at the Casino.

Cost: Free
How to get there: Take MRT to Bayfront station.
Further info: Here

5. Gardens by the Bay


This attraction is just opposite Marina Bay Sands. The Supertrees are good reasons enough to visit the place. Standing at about 50 meters tall each,  you can easily spot them from a distance. The Gardens have different themes which allow visitors to witness plants that narrate the multicultural histories of  Singapore. At night, the Supertrees are lit up in stunning light which never fail to amaze and impress visitors. There is a newly opened playground (both wet and dry) which will keep your young ones happy. You can easily spend half a day here. Take note all attractions are free there except the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome.

Cost: Free     
How to get there: Take MRT to Bayfront station. Follow directional signs and walk 10 minutes to the Gardens.
Further info: Here

I will end this blog with these recommendations. More to come for Part 2. Hope they are helpful to you!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Pura Tanah Lot, Bali-Indonesia

Pura Tanah Lot

My mind was filled with anticipation as the van approached Pura Tanah Lot (often known as Tanah Lot only). I have heard a lot of this temple before coming here. It was the star icon of Bali. During our journey, our driver Aple stressed on the fact that one has not consider visited Bali without visiting Tanah Lot. I agreed with him wholeheartedly after witnessing the effort of the local tourism authority has put in to promote this star attraction.

Gate to Tanah Lot
As expected, we saw loads of tourists at the entrance to Tanah Lot. Many of them were from China. We have to walk a distance through alleys lined with tourists' shops to the temple. I could not stop feeling a bit disappointed that this attraction has become overly-commercialized and evolved into a tourist trap. On the other hand, I was also comforted by the fact that the temple has provided many locals there a kind of livelihood. Well, life was always so ironical.

Charlotte with deity's statue
We knew we were closed when the crowd got thicker and the smell of sea struck our nose. We could also hear the sound of the waves crushing against the rocks. Our paces picked up. Finally we saw what we came to witness. The temple was a simple one but the setting was not. Set on top of a rocky formation- "Tanah" which means land in Balinese, the temple stood facing the Indian Ocean which represented the "Lot" and thus came the combined name Tanah Lot. The ferocious waves struck mercilessly and relentlessly against the temple ground. But like a monstrous guardian, Tanah Lot stood firm on it's ground and seemed to protect it's believers safely before the shoreline. Many locals believed a gigantic snake guarded the temple ground from those visiting the holy ground with ill intents.

Tanah Lot at Sunset 1
Welcome to Tanah Lot
As the tide was not too high, many visitors took the opportunity to wet their feet and  visited the temple area (You cannot visit the temple at high tide). Priests were at the temple to bless those who gave a donation for a good cause. We chose not to visit the temple. Instead, we went to  higher ground to wait for the sunset. The sunset at Tanah Lot was always described as something one would die for. It might be overly exaggerated but it was truly something worth waiting for.

Family Photo at Tanah Lot
We could hear religious music when the sun began to set. I guessed it should be telling the visitors to get ready for the sunset view. When the sun began it's descend into the blue horizon, Tanah Lot was bathed in it's heavenly-like golden rays.  The view was indeed breathtaking. We knew the golden moment would be short and hardly blinked our eyes as we absorbed the beautiful scenery. The waves seemed to got stronger and added to the spectacular aura of the whole place.

Golden Sunset at Tanah Lot

We have visited many temples before but was still fascinated by Tanah Lot. It's presence by the sea made the temple unique.  Is it a must to visit when you are in Bali? Well, it always depends on one's perspective and what he/she is looking for. My philosophy is always "Relax and do not hold high expectation. You will have a more fruitful and enjoyable trip". Have a great time when you are here next time ;-)!   

Tanah Lot at Sunset 2

*This article was a recap during my visit to Pura Tanah Lot on 19 March 2013

Monday, 3 March 2014

Taiwan Travel Tips

Yeliu, Taiwan

Before I start, I must put a disclaimer that I am not an expert for traveling in Taiwan. Although I have been to there 3 times already, I still have much to learn about the country. This blog is to share with everyone on the various ways that I adopted to have a more worry-free trip and save money on my visits to Taiwan. Please feel free to share at the comments' column on any tips you may have for the benefits of those traveling there soon.

1. Planning
Planning is the essential part of my traveling. Planning does not mean planning for your itineraries only. Before you step into Taiwan, learn a bit on it's history, the people and their culture. It will help you co-relate on the food, architectures, museum displays etc you get to see in this splendid country. I strongly believe this will certainly make your trip more fulfilling.  All these information can be easily retrieved from the internet.

2. Transport  
I must say Taiwan's transport system is one of the best around. Do your homework on the transports' availability to the places you are visiting. If you are utilizing the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit), trains and buses in Taipei, make sure you get the EasyCard from any convenience stores or the main train station. You will enjoy considerable discounts with the cards. Note that Kaohsiung has their own version of the EasyCard which cannot be used in Taipei and vice verse. For HSR (High Speed Rail) travel if you are visiting the different cities of Taiwan, make sure you book the tickets early through their website and get discounts as high as 40%! This is a significant amount if you are traveling in groups or a family.

3. Lodging
I always make in a point to stay near the Taipei Main Station. The reason is very simple. Taipei Main Station houses all the transports needed to travel to all parts of Taiwan. It saves me a lot of time by staying close. For my last trip, I have stayed in Orange Forte Hotel and Cosmos Hotel which are a stone's throw from the Taipei Main Station. I have not regretted my decisions. Book the hotels through trustworthy booking websites which many times offer good discounted rates. I use for most of my hotel bookings.

4. Admission Discounts
I must certainly mention Ibon for admission discounts. Their machines can be found in almost all Taiwan's convenience stores. It offers discounted tickets to various theme parks, places of interests etc in Taiwan. I saved a significant sum on admission fees courtesy of it's service with visit to Taipei 101, Eda Theme Park and Leofoo Theme Park.

5. Taiwan Embassy
This may vary country to country. I actually managed to get free vouchers for souvenirs and subsidized tickets to theme parks after producing flight tickets to my local Taiwan Embassy. You may want to check this up at your own country. 

Hope the above tips can help you plan a better trip to Taiwan. Do share your personal tips at the comments' column.