Sunday, 31 December 2017

Highlights of 2017

1) Visited Japan in June

Covered Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo in that order.

The highlights of the trip was the super expensive Shinkansen train ride from Kyoto to Tokyo and the eye opeing experience of bathing in an onsen completely nude with other women.

 Was happy to see a familiar face (look at the yellow flag) in Dotonbori, Osaka.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

2) Visited Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro in September

That trip was one of the best trips I've had in a long time.

The Balkans is certainly blessed with amazing landscapes, aquamarine waters and awesome weather. It was also relatively easy to travel through these 3 countries.

I think it's kinda cool that they built this basketball court inside the Old City of Dubrovnik in Croatia.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

3) Visited London in September

London was my entry into Europe where I stayed with friends.

It was my second time in London (first trip was in September 2009) and this time I observed the following:

a) The locals are more friendlier. My friend said it's because Great Britain is no longer great after it voted out from the EU. So the locals have been made humble.

b) There were tourists everywhere. Perhaps the weakening of the GBP have enabled more people to visit London.

c) There were many foreign workers from other parts of Europe working in London.

d) London has become dirtier. There were rubbish everywhere. I found food wrappers and paper cups stuffed between shrubs/plants in that little square in front of the Bank of England where the London Troops War Memorial is. I also found chewing gum stuck on the underside of railings.

e) The British Museum and St Paul's Cathedral certainly needs a new coat of paint. Both buildings look rundown from the outside.

Having said all that, I did have a marvellous time in London. Some of the things I did:

- Went to the Bank of England to change an old 50 pound note for a colleague.
- Had dinner at Jamie's Italian restaurant on Threadneedle street.
- Visited the Natural History Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum.
- Went to Bicester Village to get two TOD's bags and two Longchamp bags.

London is a great city and I'll never get tired of visiting it again.


The Natural History Museum in London.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

4) Started participating in runs

- 2017 is the year that I ran my first 10km at the MPI Generali Run on 8 January 2017 to be exact. I've been running 5km all these while, so I thought why not up the game. Fellow running enthusiasts have encouraged me to do a half marathon next, but let's see it goes.

- Emerged 10th place in the 5km Women's Open KL New Year's Day Run

- Emerged 8th place in the 10km Women's Veteran HSN21KM Run on 14 October 2017.

- Participated in 8 runs and 2 bandit runs

- Still trying to do a sub 1 for 10km, best time is 1:04:28



++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

5) Collected 12 Hard Rock Bottle Openers (City-T Guitar V+)

- Bali Cafe
- Bali Airport
- Hamburg
- Ho Chi Minh City
- Kota Kinabalu
- Lisbon
- London
- Munich
- Osaka
- Podgorica
- Sentosa Singapore
- Tokyo

Didn't expect such a haul but luck was on my side because friends were travelling and I requested them to get the magnets for me.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that Kuala Lumpur finally has changed its bottle opener after having the previous one for ages.

The latest Kuala Lumpur bottle opener.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


May 2018 bring good health, happiness and success to everyone!


Photo was taken at the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Kyoto, Japan.


Sunday, 24 December 2017

Only One Plastic Bag (20cm x 20cm) for Liquids on easyJet

Whenever anyone asks me whether I've had experienced any travel mishaps before, I proudly tell them that I've not experienced any. That is until I took an easyJet flight from London Gatwick to Split in Croatia recently.

It was my first time travelling on easyJet. I only had a hand carry trolley bag because I like travelling light and I didn't want to pay extra to keep my luggage in the hold. 

Before the trip I had measured my trolley bag to ensure it's within the 56cm x 45cm x 25cm size mentioned in the easyJet website. The good thing about easyJet is that there's no weight limit to your hand carry luggage, unlike freaking AirAsia which has a 7kg limit.

Since my only luggage was a hand carry, I had ensured that all my liquid (skincare products and toiletries) were stored in 100ml containers.

I had already checked-in online, so when I reached London Gatwick, I headed straight to security to get my bags scanned.

At the security area, I saw passengers packing their liquids into transparent, resealable plastic bags (readily available) before joining the queue. So I also did the same. The only thing I didn't know is that each passenger is allowed only one plastic bag, and I had three of 'em!

Still oblivious to what I was headed for, I walked into the security area carrying all three plastic bags. The security personnel was polite enough to inform me that I'm only allowed one plastic bag. He gave me the option to go back outside and check-in my luggage or to repack my liquids. I chose the latter.

I was escorted back outside. They asked me to stand in a spot while they scanned my retina and then an officer accompanied me to the packing area where I repacked my liquids. Since I had to pack everything into one tiny 20cm x 20cm plastic bag, I had to be smart about it. What went into the bag were my Clarins and Innisfree products. I had to leave behind my toiletries and Rosken handcream (so sad).

After saying goodbye to my stuff, I went back into security and flew to Split safely where I had to buy toiletries to replace the ones I had left behind at London Gatwick.

Moral of the story:
1) Don't take for granted that all airlines have similar rules on hand carry liquids.
2) Read the hand carry rules of the airline in detail, especially so if you're flying on a particular airline for the first time. This is to ensure you don't breech any rules which may cause you to miss your flight.
3) If you're too lazy to perform Item (1) and (2), just check-in your luggage.


Saturday, 16 December 2017

Tips to Travel Economically in Old City Dubrovnik

A group of Italian travellers whom I met in Mostar had prewarned me that Dubrovnik was going to be expensive. I didn't know how expensive it was until I got there.

Just to give you an idea how expensive Dubrovnik is, let me share with you some photos of prices in the Old City.

CITY WALLS TICKET

It costs HRK150.00 per adult to climb the City Walls.

Notice that the entrance fee is displayed in a form which can be conveniently changed anytime? This is because it keeps increasing every few months. I know this because I compared it with other blogs.


A friend said (in jest) that he had to sell a kidney to climb the City Walls :-)


LAUNDRY

If you need to use the laundromat in the Old City, be prepared to pay this price:

The cost of 1 wash in the Old City is equivalent to 4.6 washes in Kuala Lumpur .


LODGING

I stayed at Kings Landing Hostel which costs HRK125.00/night in a standard 4-bed mix dorm.

The main door to Kings Landing Hostel.


FOOD & BEVERAGE

Behold the price of food & beverage:







Here are some of the F&B that I had in Dubrovnik:

Dinner and beer on my first day in the beautiful city:

Price: HRK60.00


Price: HRK35.00


Barba was one of the cheaper eateries near my hostel ...


... where I had this huge tuna burger:

HRK74.00


I also had a fabulous whiskey cream ice-cream:

Price: 2 Euro
(Note: Some eateries and establishments in the Old City accept the Euro whilst some don't)


After sharing with you what I experienced and discovered in the Old City, here are my two tips to travel cheaply there:

1) Live outside the Old City

On my last night in the Old City, I decided to walk outside the city walls towards the back where there was a Pemo supermarket. Prices there were much lower compared to the Pemo inside the Old City. I was kicking myself why didn't I come here from Day 1 to get my stuff. I ended up buying 6 bars of chocolate because they were relatively cheaper.

So the further you move away from the Old City, you'll see prices start falling, be it for lodging or meals. The best way to keep your pockets happy is to choose a hotel that's further away and only enter the Old City for sightseeing.

2) Prepare your own meals

This is of course the most economical way to save, especially if you're on a tight budget.

Most hostels provide a small kitchen to prepare simple meals like pasta, sandwiches and salad. I also found instant soup at the supermarket, but unfortunately there were no instant noodles.

I remember the couple from Colombia who were preparing steaks in the tiny kitchen at Kings Landing Hostel. The guy was proudly sharing with me how much he had saved as he was flipping his sizzling steak over the stove.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Nudity, Equality and Bushes of the Female Kind at the Onsen

I'm a strong believer that we should buy experiences over possessions. It was because of this belief that I made it a point to visit an onsen during my visit to Japan in June.

I wanted the experience of being completely naked in public together with other naked people. Call it public nudity if you will, albeit amongst the same gender.

After doing some research about onsens. I decided on the Maenohara Onsen - Saya-no-Yudokoro in Tokyo.

This is the facade of the building:




Main entrance:



At the entrance of the building is the shoe locker:

Reminds me of traditional Chinese medicine shops.


I chose locker Number 026 because I was born on 26 January (easy to remember in case I get overwhelmed by too many naked bodies in the onsen):

After you've placed your footwear into the locker, insert JPY100 into the coin slot and you'll be able to remove the key. 


When I entered the building, I saw a common area at one corner with tatami mats where customers were lying down and chilling in their yukata. Some were sitting on massage chairs getting a good massage. I suppose they must be cooling off after soaking in the hot onsen.

(Note: I didn't take any photos from here onwards because I felt the customers may not like it. The other obvious reason is because the nakedness soon began).

The receptionist explained to me the rates, asked me whether I had a towel and needed to rent one, etc. At that point the only thing I could remember was her telling me to "go to the room with the red curtain".

The red curtain looked like the ones hanging from the doorway of traditional Japanese restaurants. The blue curtain was entrance to the male onsen and red curtain was to the female onsen (Question: What if a particular customer is colour blind? Muahahaha).

My heart was beating fast, curious to see what's behind the red curtain.

When I entered the room there were naked women everywhere - young, middle aged, old, fat, thin, obese and anaeroxic - they were all there.

The area was divided into two main areas, i.e. lockers on one side and dressing tables on the other side. Both the areas were covered in tatami mat.

There was a massage room where you can get a massage (book in advance) and toilets too (remember ... you're not supposed to pee while soaking in the onsen).

Everyone was doing their own thing - drying their hair, putting on clothes, applying makeup, etc.

I chose a locker and placed my items into it while observing what the other ladies were doing.

The girl beside me removed all her clothes, placed them into the locker, locked it, strapped the key on her wrist and walked to the onsen with only a face towel in her hand. It was as if getting naked was second nature to her.

It was then that I realised I had brought a bath towel which was too big for an onsen. The correct size is a face towel. So I decided to go in without any towel at all, which I thought was a brave thing to do because even some of the regulars use a face towel to cover their bits.

After removing my clothes and placing it in the locker, I walked to the pool area and met a local lady who could speak English. I asked her what I needed to do before entering the onsen. She was happy that it was my first time and explained that I needed to rinse myself first before soaking in.

After splashing myself with water from a giant tempayan, I went to survey the pools.

The indoor pools were actually jacuzzi hot tubs complete with water jets and all. There was also a sauna which was too hot that I came out after just a couple of minutes.

The outdoor pools were from the hotsprings. The water was yellow-ish in colour which means it contains minerals that's good for the body. The two unique pools that I liked were:

a) A pool with ankle high water which allowed you to lie down in the water.
b) An area with a few giant tempayan which you can climb in and squat till the water reaches your neck.

The outdoor pools were my favourite because I felt serene lying in a nice warm water amidst the trees and breeze. I came out and sat under the sun occasionally to avoid getting prunes on my fingers and toes.

After spending a good 1.5 hours soaking myself, I went to the communal bathing area to wash up. There was a stool to sit while you wash using a hose. Cleaning liquid like body soap, shampoo and conditioner were also provided. Some regulars brought their own bath kit.

After getting dressed, I went to reception to pay.

My receipt:

Costs JPY 870 for unlimited session at the onsen.


They gave me a card where I can collect stamps each time I visit:



I left the onsen feeling light headed and went to Tully's at the AEON mall opposite for a latte:

Caffe latte, JPY360. Taste was not great.


My observations/thoughts about the onsen:

1) Initially I though only senior citizens go to the onsen. But I saw people of all ages there.

2) An onsen is usually a place where elderly women gather to gossip. So I was surprised to see men in their 20s and 30s there too. No, I didn't go into the men's onsen. I saw those fellas at the reception area.

3) Not everyone has the guts to go full monty in public, due to one reason or another. My travel partner chickened out at the last minute and decided to go shopping instead. Maybe she didn't want to see me naked.

4) Bushes of the female kind - Some of the women didn't bother to shave. Their bushes were long and thick like wire. I was amazed to see one who had it so unkempt that it looked like a crows nest, no kidding. Me? I had a Brazillian before going to Japan knowing that I'll be visiting the onsen. I was perhaps the only one who was as clean as a baby :-)

5) Equality - Whether we're aneroxic, obese, rich, poor or anything in between, we're all equal in an onsen.


Monday, 27 November 2017

Fridge Magnets from Bosnia & Herzegovina

It's time for a post on the fridge magnets that I had bought from Bosnia Herzegovina, specifically from Mostar because that's the only city in the country that I visited.

For information sake I've included the price of each magnet at the bottom of each photo. Prices are cheaper compared to most other parts of Europe and even in Malaysia (gosh!).

All the magnets were bought from shops in the Old Bridge (Stari Most) area of Mostar.

The customary flag and map of each country that I visit:

Price: Flag (EURO 1.00), Map (EURO 2.00)


Here's a magnet of the Stari Most:

Price: EURO 1.00


Monday, 20 November 2017

St Blaise, the Superstar of Dubrovnik

If you visit the old town of Dubrovnik in Croatia, watch out for its superstar. His name is St Blaise, the protector of Dubrovnik who was a 4th Century bishop and martyr.

Story has it that in the year 971, St Blaise appeared to a priest, Stojko to warn that the Venetians were going to attack Ragusa (Dubrovnik's old name) because its position as a commercial powerhouse was a threat to Venice.

Stojko immediately alerted the city council and they fortified the city's defences. Seeing this, the Venetians decided not to attack Ragusa and the city was saved. Since that day St Blaise has become the protector of Dubrovnik and his feast day is celebrated on 3 February every year.

You can read more about St Blaise here.

Since St Blaise is the protector of Dubrovnik he's always looking over the city. That's why you can find him at the major entrances to the old town of Dubrovnik, like at the Pier Gate ...



... on other entrances entering the old town ...




... and on walls that look out to the sea ...



St Blaise is found on buildings ...



... and inside buildings ...

All of St Blaise's statue has him holding the city of Dubrovnik in the palm of his hand and close to his heart.


All superstars need to have buildings named in their honour and St Blaise has his own building too, i.e. the St Blaise Church (of course!):  

St Blaise's Church is right smack in the middle of the old town. Yes, that's him on the top of the church.


Since Dubrovnik was founded in the 7th Century to the time it developed into a prosperous maritime centre and now as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Balkans, St Blaise has certainly done a great job in protecting this beautiful city.

So now you know the superstar of Dubrovnik and his name is St Blaise.


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' in the local Croatian language.


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.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...