Japan Day 6 – Shinjuku & Harajuku

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This was the last day of our trip and so we just explored the area near our neighbourhood. We woke up rather early that day to clean up the apartment and checkout by 8am. The reason why we got up rather early is to make sure that we manage to secure lockers at Shinjuku Station. We hear that it fills up really fast and considering it was a Saturday, we didn’t wanna risk not having any lockers for our luggage. By the time we reached the station it was a little past 8am and we managed to secure lockers at the same spot when we first came to Tokyo. So happy to dump our luggage there and spend the rest of our day exploring.

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But before that, we needed to secure our bus tickets to Narita Airport later in the evening. So we headed up to the appropriate bus stop at the Shinjuku Station West Exit and the ticket booth is just conveniently across from it. One way ticket for adults is 3100 Yen and the journey takes about 1.5 – 2 hours. So do keep in mind of your required travel time and plan accordingly so that you don’t end up missing your flight! Continue reading

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Singapore: Airbnb at Tiong Bahru

Last week I made a trip back to Singapore. It’s been about a year since my secondment and i’m back again but this time for a company training session. Since the training is on a Monday and Tuesday, I figured I might as well spend my weekend in Singapore as well. I spent a night at an Airbnb before moving to my hotel. The Airbnb was a cozy studio apartment located in Tiong Bahru.

The place is in a nice quiet neighbourhood not too far off from the Tiong Bahru mrt station. I took the MRT directly from Changi Airport. Simply follow the signs to the the MRT and catch either side of the trains as both of them head towards Tanah Merah. Once you reach Tanah Merah, get off the correct side (towards Jurong East). Then it’s just a direct ride all the way to Tiong Bahru. The train ride itself takes about 40mins or so. Then it’s a quick walk from the station to the apartment. Took me about 15mins walk from the station and it’s reasonably sheltered throughout most of the way. However if you’re carrying a lot of luggage, it would probably be best to take a cab there as I initially got lost and ended up walking a lot more than I thought while lugging by bags with me. But after a while, you get more familiar with the place and it’s a pretty direct route.

Above the Tiong Bahru mrt station is a small mall where you can grab a quick meal or get some necessities before you continue off to the apartment. The apartment itself is above P.S Cafe Petit which is a smaller scale version of the popular P.S Cafe restaurant (you can see my blog post on the branch at Harding Road here). They have a nice selection of cakes, pizzas and breakfast choices. They’re also open until pretty late (last order at 10.30pm).

The place was rather secure with two points of security (electronic access pad for you to enter the passcode) before you reach your room. Also take note that the place is one floor up a flight of stairs. So keep that in mind if you’re carrying huge luggage. But it wasn’t an issue for me as I was just traveling with a small luggage bag. It’s generally a very small space (quite common in Singapore), but it had everything I needed in one space. As you can see from the pictures, it’s complete with a queen size bed, tv mounted on the wall, small cooking area with electric stove, washing machine, fridge, basin, and a table for two. It also comes with complimentary wifi. The bathroom was also small but had the basic things I needed including towels, hair dryer, facial tissue, hand soap and body wash.

Overall it was a great stay and definitely value for money. You can check out the listing here. Also if you haven’t tried Airbnb before, do give it a try! First time users get a discount if you sign up through my link which you can find in the sidebar. ;)

 

 

Lombok: Day 2 and 3 – Gili Islands, Kuta Beach and Tanjung Aan

Day 2 was spent entirely at the Gili Islands (Gili Air, Gili Meno, & Gili Trawangan). We hired a speedboat for the whole day which included a snorkeling package where the driver would stop at various spots for us to freely snorkel. The water was gorgeous and crystal clear! There are a number of small jellyfishes swimming around though, but nothing to be concerned with since they just sting a little. We also went to the deeper side and my friend managed to swim with a turtle which totally made her day! If you plan on taking a speedboat, do take note that the ride is very bumpy and may cause seasickness. Im usually fine with boats, but I somehow got seasick from this. So if you easily get sea sick, do consider taking meds first.

Among the 3 Gili Islands, Gili Trawangan is the biggest and most famous. You will find a lot of shops, bars, and activities here. We snacked on some of the best grilled corn on cob here. They had various glazings to choose from and the garlic one was awesome!

There’s a divers association as well if you wanna do some diving. Then there’s also bicycles for rent if you prefer to just hang around on land.

After spending almost the whole day on the islands, we took our speedboat back and headed out for dinner. Our driver took us for seafood where we can choose our own fresh fish to be cooked in various styles. Can’t remember the name of the place, but the food was just alright.

The following day was our final day in Lombok. Our friend had to take an earlier flight in the afternoon while the rest of us have a flight in the evening. Since we had some spare time in the morning, we took the cab out to the Sasak Traditional Village on the way to the airport. You can experience the true village experience here and buy handmade items from the villagers themselves. Entrance is generally free, but it’s a custom to provide donations to the village/tour guide and write in their guestbook at the end of the trip.

After that it was straight to the airport to drop off our friend and bid our farewells to her. The remaining of us then headed out to Kuta Beach for lunch. We had a nice meal at this cool shack facing the beach and they have free wifi as well which makes it a good place to kill some time before our flight. Great spot, but beware of persistent roadside sellers trying to sell you scarves. There’s a bunch of them there and they tend to crowd tourists. We had a few come up into the cafe itself trying to sell us stuff. They’re quite persistent but they will eventually leave you alone if you don’t show any interest.

After lunch we decided to make one last stop before heading to the airport. We made our way to Tanjung Aan beach. This place offers gorgeous views but again, roadside sellers can be found here as well. Just avoid them and you can enjoy a peaceful time by the beach. There’s a number of huts for you to take shade in if you’re not keen on sunbathing. We hanged around here for quite a while just chatting and enjoying the breeze and the view.

After taking a bunch of Insta-worthy photos, we finally made our way to the airport and that was the end of our Lombok trip. It was definitely a memorable one and I would love to come back again one day. :)

 

Lombok: Day 1 – Waterfalls & Ayam Taliwang

Once again, this post has been way overdue. I had the trip way back in February and so I may not remember all the details. But i’ll try and capture as much as I remember anyway.

My friends and I managed to get cheap return tickets from KL to Lombok via AirAsia (RM300+) which is about 75 USD. So we immediately booked our tickets there and then. Our flight was in the evening and by the time we reached Lombok it was already around 9pm+. Getting through immigration was a really long process. The airport was fairly small with very few counters which is to be expected. So do expect to wait for some time to clear through that. They do have free airport wifi, but the connection was quite unstable but good enough to get a few whatsapp messages through.

By the time we collected our bags, it was already 10pm++. So we decided to stock up on some snacks at the convenience store in the airport before heading off to our hotel. Do try out their instant noodles (Pop Mie) which is fairly cheap and really nice for snacking. Getting a taxi at this hour was really easy as a bunch of Taxi’s were readily waiting for customers outside the airport. So don’t be shy to haggle as there are many options around. We were staying at Living Asia Resort & Spa which is located around Senggigi (roughly 57KM north from the airport and about 1.5 hours journey). The taxi ride came up to IDR285,000 (~USD22).

We took the partial sea view room and booked via Agoda. The room was on offer at that time so we managed to get it for a total of RM450 for 3 nights (~USD112). To be honest we didn’t really see the partial sea view from our room, but we assume it was named so due to the fact that the room is closer to the sea. The rooms are arranged in a double-storey concept with one room on top and one room at the bottom. If you manage to get the room on the top floor, then perhaps you will get the partial sea view. But since our rooms were on the bottom floor we didn’t get the view. Not a big issue though because as soon as we stepped out of our rooms we had a clear view of the infinity pool and the beautiful sea view. From the pictures above, you could see that the room was quite spacious and the bathroom in particular was huge with an open roof concept.

The next day we had an early start and made our way to the hotel restaurant for our breakfast by the sea. The breakfast buffet spread was just nice with a mixture of local and western selections. One thing I loved in particular were the freshly baked bread section. The croissants are really lovely! I literally had it everyday.

After our breakfast we asked the hotel to help find us a driver to take us around. We managed to get a friendly uncle who was very obliging and took us around during our entire stay. It’s common to hire drivers here and again, you can negotiate for the best price. I can’t remember how much we paid for the entire trip, but it was definitely a reasonable amount and I would highly recommend it. We spent our first day visiting the waterfalls near the foot of Mount Rinjani. There are two famous waterfalls here. The closer and smaller one is called Sendang Gile while the further and more majestic one is called Tiu Kelep. Both waterfalls require a hike through the forest, so we hired a guide just to be safe. You can hire one at the starting point of the hike where there’s also a small local restaurant for you to grab a bite or stock up on mineral water bottles.

The hike to the first waterfall was fairly easy. Just 10 mins hike with proper pavements. While the 2nd one was an additional 30mins hike through hills and small rivers. The path to the 2nd waterfall didn’t have proper pavement, so be prepared with proper shoes. I would advise something light and quick to dry as you will be passing through water at various points. Do be careful during raining season as the water levels may pose as a danger and guides would advise against it. However luckily for us, we managed to complete our hike right before the rain started pouring in.

Later that evening our driver took us to Mataram for the special local delicacy called Ayam Taliwang (spicy grilled chicken). Probably the best meal we had throughout our entire trip!

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That’s all for day 1! I’ll continue the rest in my next post (soon!)

 

Typo Online Sale – Stationary Galore!

For these past few weeks, my colleagues and I went a little crazy with the Typo sales. We’re major fans of pretty stationary. So when we saw these crazy deals, we bundled our orders together and had the items shipped over to the office.

First Round

Two boxes came in with our stuff. Check out the goodies in the box!

I got the 2015 A5 planner in Blush Pink and the Tiffany Blue A5 Journal for only SGD5! That’s only 2.5 dollars each! Original price for the pink planner was SGD24.95 while the tiffany blue journal was SGD17.99. I saved a total of SGD37.94!!

I also bought these two staplers for SGD5. And again only 2.5 each! Original price were SGD14.99 each. So I saved SGD24.98 for these two items.

Total Original Price: SGD72.92
Total Price Paid: SGD10
Total Savings: SGD62.92


Round 2

With such a great deal during the first round, we decided to get more stuff. But this time with more people and we ended up with 10 boxes shipped over to the office! I only ordered two items though which was a travel journal and a tape dispenser. Both items for only SGD10. Original price of the journal was SGD24.99 while the tape dispenser was SGD17.99.

Total Original Price: SGD42.98
Total Price Paid: SGD10
Total Savings: SGD32.98

Expat Life: Week 11 – Ramadan Bazaars & Flea Markets

Ramadan Bazaars

This post is a little late by a few weeks. Hence why i’m still blogging about Ramadan Bazaars even though it’s already Raya. Well better late than never! Throughout my stay in Singapore i’ve been to two of the popular bazaars here (one in Arab Street and the other in Paya Lebar).

First up is the one in Arab Street because it’s the closest for me. This one is situated right next to the Sultan’s Mosque and is pretty small to the usual bazaars that I get back in Malaysia. Most of the stalls here were selling Ramly burgers, kebabs, briyani rice, hotdogs, and some fried snacks such as karipap (curry puffs), pisang goreng (fried banana fritters) and etc. I tried not to compare with the variety that I get back at home, but I still couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed in this one. I was hoping to get the more rare kuihs such as tepung pelita, seri muka and etc. Also I was craving for murtabak (some kinda meat pancake?) and nasi tomato (tomato rice). Not sure if it’s just that particular day, but while I was there, there were only like a few stalls and selling similar things.

Next was the bigger bazaar situated right next to the Paya Lebar mrt station. This one was huge and well planned. All the stalls are located under big white canopies which were set up specifically for this event. So rain or shine, it’s business as usual. I was a little too excited to see the huge canopies and hence raised my expectations. Unfortunately among the huge numbers of stalls only a few sections were catered for food. The rest were for clothes, shoes, and other Raya prep stuff. Since I went there for the food and not for shopping, it was a bit of a let down as I still couldn’t find my nasi tomato and murtabak! Most of the food stalls were again kebabs, Ramly burgers, fried snacks and etc. They did have more variety compared to the one in Arab Street. Other than the usual stuff mentioned earlier, I also saw char kway teow, otah-otah, grilled squid, coney dogs, pizzas, mixed rice and a variety of drink stalls. I went ahead and got the grilled squid, coney dog and sugar cane drink.

Although I didn’t manage to find what I was craving for, it was still a fun and festive experience. If I had to recommend a bazaar, it would definitely be the one in Paya Lebar. Especially if you’re looking at doing some Raya shopping as well. There were a lot of stalls selling baju kurung, baju melayu (traditional malay outfits) and Raya cookies.

Flea Market at *Scape

Singapore has plenty of flea markets around and one of the more “hipster” flea market was at *Scape which is just a short walk from the Somerset mrt station. I went there towards the evening where there was a live band performing. In terms of stalls, it’s quite small scale. But i do love the items on sale. From phone & laptop accessories, to necklaces, custom charm bracelets, clothes and my fav was the vintage watch stall. This particular shops assembles their own watches with a vintage style. I got mines for around 40 dollars and it comes with warranty too!

Other than the stalls outside, do check out the shops inside the building as well which hosts a lot of items sold by young entrepreneurs.

Expat Life: Week 8 – Mustafa Centre

Mustafa Centre is a popular destination for tourists looking for cheap souvenirs. The place is a 24 hours shopping centre selling just about anything and everything from watches, to cooking ware, food items, electrical items, shoes, bags, perfume, memorabilia and much more. The place is situated within walking distance from Farrer Park MRT. It’s quite simple to get there as there are signboards leading towards the place and since it’s a popular spot, you can simply ask anyone around and they’ll lead you the way.

Some of the popular items here were the perfumes which are sold at cheaper prices and also food items such as chocolates and snacks which would make a great souvenir.

They also have a food centre at the rooftop floor where I had some really good indian cuisine. I took the escalator up but you can also access the floor from certain elevators. I ordered the mango lassi, lamb kebab and pakoras.

I also walked away with a new phone casing for my Samsung S3. Yes I still use an S3 and it’s very rare to find phone cases for this nowadays. So I was glad to find this one for 10 dollars.