Sunday, 12 November 2017

Historic City of Trogir - A Lovely Day Trip from Split

When I was researching about Croatia I was delighted to discover that Trogir is only a short bus ride from Split. So I decided to visit the lovely town on a day trip from Split.

Buses run throughout the day from the bus station in Split to Trogir. The journey was approximately 45 minutes and costs HRK 15.00 (HRK = Croatian Kuna):

Two tickets because it was a return trip.

The bus conductor on the trip from Split to Trogir was a lady who looked like a supermodel. Dressed in white shirt and skin tight jeans, she had heavy make up on and perfectly manicured nails. She must have been like 6ft tall because I had to gaze up at her when I asked for the bus timings back to Split. She was the sexiest bus conductor I've ever seen and it was a pity I didn't take a photo with her.

This is the bus station in Trogir:

The bus station is located opposite the old town. So if you're making a day trip from Split, it's easy to navigate your way back to the station to take the bus back. Make sure you get the time for the last bus and don't miss it.

I got off the bus and crossed the bridge heading to the old town which is what most travellers come to Trogir for.

'Grad' means 'city'.

It was already time for lunch by the time I got to Trogir, so I decided to lunch first before entering the old town.

I found this spot to enjoy my packed lunch of a sandwich and peach (bought from the local open air market the day before):

Serene scenery

After lunch I walked into the old town.

Structure to inform visitors that the Historic City of Trogir is a UNESCO World Heritage Site:

Another UNESCO World Heritage site to add to my list!
I wonder why UNESCO refers to Trogir as a 'city' when it's actually a small town.

The old town is located on a small island connected to the mainland and Ciovo Island by bridges.

The buildings in Trogir are a mix of Baroque, Renaissance and Romanesque architecture:

View of the old town from Ciovski Most which is the bridge connecting the old town to Ciovo Island.

The Kamerlengo Fortress is one of the main structures in the old town:

Entrance fee to Kamerlengo Fortress:

I overheard a guy saying that with that kind of entrance fee, there'd better be a drawbridge in the fortress, hahaha.

I too didn't want to pay so much because I was already going to pay an arm and a leg to climb the mother of walls in Dubrovnik, and we all know that all walls will eventually look the same.

I peeked into the Kamerlengo Fotress and nothing much to shout about:

Just read the description outside will do:

Look at how clear the water is:

The land in the background is Ciovo Island. Too bad I didn't have enough time to explore the island. Can't do everything on a day trip.

There were ships along the promenade in the old town:

Cathedral of St Lawrence:

Another tourist group!

This is the opening hours for the Cathedral of St Lawrence:

Narrow alleys are common in the old town:

I sneaked into one of the buildings and was amused to see that the locals had strung out their clothes to dry:

The insides of the old buildings is contrast to the outside where everything is almost perfect.

Soon it was time to head back to the bus station to take the bus back to Split.

I bought this black coloured ice cream at one of the shops near the bus station:

I thought it was squid ink ice cream but the lady said it's dark chocolate. Must have been really dark and rich to get that kind of colour.
Price: HRK 8.00

Getting to Trogir was a breeze, the old town was gorgeous, the weather was awesome (blue skies!) and the ice cream was a nice end to the day trip.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

My First Trip of 2018

I've planned my first trip of 2018 and it's to the island of Boracay in the Philippines! It will be my first time to the country and I'm so excited!

I've put off Boracay many times before because of how inconvenient it is to get there.

For those travelling from Kuala Lumpur like me, flying into Kalibo International Airport is the best option. After arriving at Kalibo, travellers need to travel around 2 hours by bus or taxi in order to reach the jetty where ferries to Boracay depart. But since two of my colleagues had only praises for the island, I thought, "Why not? Just enjoy the journey, even if it takes 2 hours to get to the jetty."

So here I am with tickets bought, accommodation booked and heart all excited.

I'll be going to Boracay in January, so only 2 more months of waiting.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Tips to Ensure You Have Sufficient Cash in Japan

A friend is going to Japan this month for about 9 days. She wants to see Japan's golden colours of autumn. 

The other day I asked her how much Japanese Yen (JPY) is she planning to bring. She said she had already bought JPY3,000. I commented that JPY3,000 is definitely not going to last her 9 days and that she needs to buy more JPY.

Just to give you an idea, I spent approximately JPY96,000 when I was in Japan for 9 days in June. JPY96,000 is for ground transport (including the Shinkansen bullet train which was the most expensive train ride in my life), meals, entrance fees, souvenirs, etc. Flight and accommodation were already paid in advance before the trip.

Japan is not like most other countries where you can bring universally accepted currencies like the US Dollar and EURO to buy the local currency at the money changer or bureau de change.

Reason is because there are NO money changers in Japan. My Japanese colleagues had confirmed this before I went to Japan.

There are no money changers in Japan, not even in tourist spots like Dotonbori in Osaka.

In Japan the only place to get JPY is at the bank. Since most of the locals do not speak English, it may be difficult to express what you want. Even the ATMs are all in Japanese.

In Japan the only place to get JPY is at the bank.
Pic: A row of ATMs at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation's (SMBC) headquarters in Osaka. 

Here are two tips on how to ensure you have sufficient money when travelling in Japan:

1) Draw Out a Budget
Draw out a budget, add another 20% for contingency and buy enough JPY from your home country.

2) Use Credit Card
My favourite option is to use credit card, especially for big ticket items. This will leave you enough cash for the smaller stuff like meals and souvenirs.

Some of you may argue that credit card exchange rates are higher compared to paying in cash. Despite this I still prefer using credit card. Imagine buying too much JPY just because you're not sure how much to bring. Compared to losing from the credit card exchange rate, you'll lose much more if you convert the balance JPY back to your home currency.

However if you become a Japanophile and decide to make many trips to Japan, then perhaps it's a good idea to buy more JPY, especially if the exchange rate is attractive.

Happy travels!

Just a random shot in Kyoto.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Fridge Magnets from Montenegro

During my trip to the Balkans last month, I visited Montenegro on a day trip from the Croatian city of Dubrovnik.

Personally I didn't find Montenegro that fascinating and that it was overated, but that's a story for another day.

Here are the fridge magnets that I bought during the day trip to Montenegro.

Flag and map of Montenegro from the Old Town of Kotor:

Price: EURO 3.00

Price: EURO 3.00

After buying the red coloured map of Montenegro, I thought that's the only Montenegro map I was gonna get until I saw this lovely one and couldn't resist myself:

Price: EURO 1.50 
(This was cheaper than the red map because it was sold outside the Old Town of Kotor)

Celia absolutely adored these magnets which were made from match boxes:

Price: EURO 1.00 each

I though this magnet was kinda cool, ended up giving it to Natty:

Price: EURO 1.00

Five Ways to Slow Down Intoxication


Have you ever found yourself getting tipsy after just one or two glasses of beer? Here are a few tips on how you can drink like a fish and don't get intoxicated (a.k.a. drunk) fast.

1) Pace
Just like running, it is important to pace yourself while drinking. Drink large amounts of alcohol at one go will definitely get you intoxicated in no time at all.

Instead, take small sips with pauses in between. Ensure there's a gap of time between one glass to the next.

2) Drink Lots of Water
While you're downing those jugs of beer or hard liquor, drink lots of water in between. Water helps to dilute the alcohol that gets absorbed into the bloodstream thus slowing down intoxication.

3) Consume Oily Food or Cheese
Eat lots of oily food before you start drinking. It is believed that oil will coat the stomach lining and slows down the absorbtion of alcohol into the bloodstream. Not too sure whether this has been scientifically proven but it's worth a shot.

For economical oily local food, I would recommend mamak mee, char kuey teow and roti canai. I heard that cheese does the trick too.

4) Get Enough Sleep
I've had experiences before where a good night sleep has made all the difference to an awesome night out. There was once I drank a bottle of white wine without realising I didn't have enough sleep the night before. Not even half way through the bottle when I started getting tipsy and then threw up. What a waste of delicious Italian wine it was.

5) Don't Mix the Alcohol
Few people have told me before not to mix  alcoholic beverages. For example, if I'm drinking beer, beer it will be for the entire session. If it's whiskey, then I should be holding the whiskey glass in my hand the entire night.

However this may not be the case for some of us. At my company's annual dinner last weekend, I drank 2 glasses of beer and 4 glasses of red wine and still felt awesome. Maybe it was the pacing.

These tips will not make you invincible towards alcohol. It would only help slow down your intoxication rate. You would get pissed drunk eventually if you continue drinking like there's no tomorrow.

Last but not least, don't forget that you must never get behind the wheel when you're tipsy or intoxicated. Be responsible!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Fridge Magnet from Singapore

I was away in Singapore last week for one week of training. First time in my working life I travelled out of Malaysia for work/training. Such are the benefits of working for a multinational.

Anyway, during my week in Singapore, I met up with a cousin and he brought me to a few places including Bugis Village where I found this fridge magnet of the Singapore map:

SGD 2.00 (after conversion it's still cheaper than Malaysia!)

I was hoping to find a fridge magnet of the Singapore flag too. Unfortunately this is the only one I found, i.e. a combination of both.

I was planning to visit the Botanical Gardens on my first day when I arrived in Singapore simply because it's a UNESCO World Heritage site and I need to visit 50 site (travel bucket list). Unfortunately it was raining and I was too lazy to come out from the cozy hotel. Next time la.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Tourists Everywhere in Split & Dubrovnik

When my plane landed in the Croatian city of Split that September afternoon, the first things I noticed were the cool weather, beautiful landscape and the large number of tourists that come to Croatia.

Take a look at these photos of tourists at the Diocletian Palace in Split:

What's up there?

There were a good number of tourists from Asia too.

The tour groups that come to Split were endless. Bus load after bus load they come to admire the beauty of the Old City. 

Tourists are generally good for the local tourism industry although there have been reports that the locals in top tourist destinations in Europe are getting fedup with the 'invasion' of tourists in their homes and some are even calling for a ban on tourists. 

For a fellow tourist, crowds are never good because when crowds are big,
... moving around becomes a hassle especially in the Old Towns where lanes are narrow
... queues become long at the stores and washroom
... getting a seat in a popular cafe or restaurant may take forever during peak hours especially when patrons want to sit longer and do people watching
... trying to take a photo with less people in it becomes almost impossible

On my second day in Split I made a day trip to the historic city of Trogir which is a 45 minute bus ride from Split, hoping to get away from the crowds. Unfortunately it was no different in Trogir:

Most of the time I will step aside to let tour groups pass.

The sheer number of tourists in Split had prepared me for Dubrovnik where the number of tourists was even bigger!

If you've seen photos of Dubrovnik and its magnificent, well preserved wall surrounding the Old City, you'll understand why tourists come in droves to Dubrovnik. 

This is the Pile Gate which is the main entrance to the Old City of Dubrovnik:

To ensure an orderly stream of people walking in and out of the Old City, the authorities had divided the walkway into 'In' and 'Out' lanes.

Outside the Pile Gate is the meeting point for tour groups:

If this is the crowd in September, imagine how it would be in the summer!

Ivana from Kings Landing Old Town Hostel in Dubrovnik informed that the September crowd are mainly from the cruise ships that dock at the Dubrovnik Port. Therefore they will return to their ship in the evening.

If you're planning to take photos with less people in it, you'll need to start early like 7.30am before the crowd arrives, and hopefully you'll be able to take photos like these:

 The Stradun or Placa is the main street inside Old Town Dubrovnik.

Compare this photo of the Pile Gate with the one above ... a vast difference.

So if you decide to visit Croatia especially its popular cities of Split and Dubrovnik, expect to jostle with other tourists. Just tell yourself that patience is the mother of virtue.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Fridge Magnets from Croatia

I just returned from a trip to the Balkans covering three cities of Split, Mostar and Dubrovnik (in that order).

For this first blog post after being away for 2 weeks, I'll share with you the fridge magnets that I bought in Croatia.

First, the flags that I collect each time I travel to a new country:

Left: HRK 20.00 (The Croatian currency is called Kuna) 
Right: HRK 15.00 

At the souvenir shop I saw this beautiful coat of arms and decided to buy it:

Price: HRK 15.00 

If you follow my blog, you would know that I also collect maps, so here's one of the Croatian map:

 Price: HRK 15.00

Lastly, I bought these two ceramic magnets because they're so pretty:

Price: HRK 20.00 each

I'll be passing some of the magnets to Celia when I go to Singapore next week for training. If she follows this blog she'll be wondering which are the ones I'll be giving her ;-)

Monday, 18 September 2017

Artistic Manhole Covers in Osaka

The word 'manhole' may sound like a mismatch, but if they had called it 'womanhole' then it would be the sexist word ever. Think about it.

Here's a post to show you three artistic manholes covers that I found in Japan.

Look at this one in the small town of Aikawa in Osaka where our Airbnb was:

The Japanese words said not to park vehicles on top of the manhole cover because there's a fire hydrant underneath. 

The Osaka Castle is depicted beautifully in this one:

The Japanese words say the same thing as the one above.

This is another one with a temple: 

I can't identify which temple is this. Do comment if you know the answer.

Since we're on the topic of metal art on the ground, here's a metal plate on the ground which shows the direction:

Found this in the Gion district in Kyoto.

I wish I had found more manhole covers in Japan, but my trip was only 9 days long.

If I return to Japan, rest assured I'll be looking for more manhole covers. In fact these three have inspired me to look for other unique manholes covers whenever I travel. Hopefully I'll find more.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Getting from Kansai International Airport to Osaka City by Bus

The most economical way to get from Kansai International Airport to Osaka city is by bus.

The counter to purchase your ticket is at the arrival hall:

The counter accepts payment via credit card, which is a good thing if you want to ensure the existing cash (JPY) in your wallet (which you've converted before coming to Japan) will last you the whole trip. 

A one-way ticket from Kansai International Airport to the city costs JPY 1,550:

My first purchase in Japan was a bus ticket.

You may also buy your ticket at the machines outside the arrival hall where the buses are:

See the two staff standing there ... they're ready to assist anyone buy tickets from the machines, especially since all the instructions are in Japanese.

Airport buses also run from Kansai International Airport to other parts of the Kansai region like Kyoto, Kobe and Nara, all information is available in the Kansai Airport Transportation Enterprise website.

We joined the queue together with the other nihon jin:

Hidden in the photo: Staff collecting our luggage and lining them up so that the luggage can be placed in the belly of the bus immediately when it arrives.

While waiting for the bus, I went gallivanting to snap photos of the airport. Here are two photos:

The square shaped grey colloured airport building looks like the movie set of Ultraman, you know the one where Ultraman will fight the monster amidst the square shaped, grey buildings.

The bus ride to Osaka city took about an hour.

Along the way I saw the harbour, fishing boats, factories ... all so clean and well organised. I didn't take many photos because it's difficult to snap photos from a moving bus, but here's one:

Later I found out it's the Umeda Sky Building. Pardon the glass reflection.

Soon we arrived at the first stop where we got off, i.e. Hotel New Hankyu:

I saw this nice waiting area for travellers going to the airport:

Osaka has two airports: Kansai International Airport and Osaka International Airport.

Hotel New Hankyu links to the Umeda Station which is an integral part of the major transportation hub in Osaka city. From Umeda Station subway lines run to all parts of Osaka city and the Kansai region.

From Umeda Station we took the subway (not the sandwich) to get to our Airbnb in Aikawa.

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