Japan – Day 2 Hakone

On our 2nd day in Japan we decided to venture out from Tokyo to Hakone where we hear we could see great views of Mount Fuji. We purchased our Romancecar train tickets (don’t ask me why it’s named that way haha. I have no idea) the day before. If you plan to take this train, do purchase earlier as it’s by reservation only. You can purchase the tickets at the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center within Shinjuku Station. There’s some tourist brochures set up around the area and useful maps and guides you can pick up for free. We also purchased our Hakone Freepass there. It’s basically a ticket that allows you to travel on any mode of transport within Hakone and discounts to museums, restaurants and etc. They only have 2 days and 3 days passes. Although we were only going for one day, I think the 2 day pass was still worth it for the convenience. We paid 5140 Yen for the Hakone 2 day freepass + (890 Yen surcharge to travel there via Romancecar each way). So that’s a total of 6920 Yen all together.

From Shinjuku station it was about 1.5 hour train ride to Hakone-Yumoto station. From there we switched over to the Hakone Tozan Train which climbs further up the mountain. This train is pretty unique as it goes up in a zig-zag motion up the mountain. From one station it will go towards the left side. Then when it reaches the next station, it will switch direction to the opposite direction. Which is pretty smart because if it goes in one single direction, it would be far too steep to climb. 40mins later we reached Gora where we hopped over to the Hakone Tozan Cable Car to Sounzan which was a short 10 min ride up a rather steep incline. Continue reading

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!)

 

Expat Life: Week 12 – Night Safari

My friends and I decided to check out the Night Safari just for the unique experience. So one day after work we all took a cab from Raffles Place. The cab ride took about 40mins and costed us around 40 dollars or so. The cab seemed like the best way to get there since the place is quite isolated. The Night Safari is clustered together with the Singapore Zoo and River Safari. If you have the whole day to spend, I would recommend going to 2 or more of the attractions as they tend to have a lot of good combo deals. But since we only had a few hours to spare, we only went to the Night Safari. One good tip would be to buy the tickets online as they offer up to 15% discount with certain credit cards.

The Night Safari opens at 7.30pm and the “Creatures of the Night” show also starts at that time. We arrived at around 7.45pm and decided to just grab dinner before going in. The F&B area outside the gates had a nice seating area where you can watch the “Thumbuakar Performance” (fire-eating show). So we bought our food and enjoyed the show from our seats (show starts at 6.45pm, 8pm and 9pm).

After the amazing fire performance, we headed into the park at around 8.15pm and immediately saw the huge line for the tram ride. The queue winds a whole long way and this was a weeknight (Thursday Night). I can’t imagine how much longer it would be on a weekend or public holiday! Anyway thankfully the line moved fairly quickly. We waited for about 15mins before it reached our turn.

The tram ride itself was a nice experience. There was a voice guide explaining all the various animals throughout the ride and stopped momentarily at certain areas for you to have a good look at the animals. It’s pretty dark and strictly no flash photography allowed so don’t expect any nice photo opportunities (hence why I don’t have a single photo of the animals in this post). Some of the animals I remember seeing were Hyena, Elephant, Tiger, Hippo, Giraffe, Rhino, Bear, Babirusa, Dears, and many more. All of which only had a ditch separating us apart from these wild animals. At some moments I really do wonder if the tiger could have just jumped over and pounce at us. But I kept reminding myself that the people probably would have thought long and hard about that and I should be safe.

The tram ride itself was about 20mins long and you have the option to hop off midway or make a full round back to the main entrance. I would recommend making one full round and then start your walk at the nature trail. Along the trails you’ll see all kinds of creatures such as wallabies, flying squirrels, foxes, armadillo, crocodiles, and etc.

We ended up staying there until around 11pm (park closes at 12am). Then we took the last bus which headed towards Ang Mo Kio train station. If you depend on trains to get back (especially if you require switching between lines), make sure you leave the park by 11pm. Otherwise you will most likely miss the last train back. Lucky for me, I made it back just in time for the last train on the green line. All in all, it was a really enjoyable trip and definitely something different. The next day we headed out to Sentosa Cove for a yacht cruise. I’ll cover that in my next post~

Expat Life: Week 4 – Gardens By the Bay | Selfish Gene Cafe

I’m now at my 5th week already and things have been going really well for me so far. Last weekend i’ve managed to cover Gardens By The Bay and one more hipster cafe.

Gardens By the Bay

This is a cluster of gardens hosting different species of flowers and also to the famous man-made supertrees. These “trees” work in a unique eco-friendly way by gathering solar energy and also collects rainwater. Then by night these supertrees light up in rhythm with the sound of music for the daily light show. So you can basically experience two different sides of the garden by day and night.

To get here, I took the mrt to Bayfront Station (yellow line). Once you exit from the mrt you should be able to see a shuttle buggy service just a little down the path. It costs 2 dollars to ride this buggy (2 ways) to the conservatory main entrance/ticketing area. If you prefer to walk, then there’s that option too. But since I reached there in the afternoon, it just seemed to make more sense to take a quick buggy ride rather than sweat my way through.

The ride took about 8 mins or so and drops right at the ticketing office. There are 2 conservatories here. One is the Flower Dome while the other is the Cloud Forest and unlike the other sections of the gardens, these two conservatories have an entrance fee. You can check out the prices at the website itself. However I just wanna highlight that local residents/holders of employment pass/work permit are entitled to cheaper rates. I decided to just check out 1 conservatory which is the Cloud Forest and since I have an employment pass, I got my ticket for 12 dollars.

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The conservatories are the best way to spend your hot afternoons as these domes are fully airconditioned. So I spent most of my time in the dome until the sun went down. I absolutely fell in love with the Cloud Forest upon entering as I was greeted with the beautifully greenery and large waterfall. There’s so many great picture opportunities everywhere and so if you’re an avid photographer, you definitely don’t wanna miss out on this.

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Another interesting thing about the Cloud Forest is that they have a sky walk around the man-made waterfall and also has scheduled mist sprays which engulfs the whole conservatory. So if you do drop by, be sure to wait for the mist to go on. The timing is around every 2 hours starting at 9am-11am and then every 2 hours between 2-8pm.

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After about 3 hours in the conservatory, the sun was setting and the weather finally cooled down for a comfortable stroll in the rest of the gardens. It was nice to see everyone just chilling around on the grass which is a great escape from the hustle bustle of the hectic city life.

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Then by 7.30pm I went to the supertrees grove and bought a ticket to go up the OCBC skywalk which is an elevated bridge that connects two supertrees. It costs 5 dollars to go up here and a tip to those of you who plan to go, do get in line earlier than the scheduled light show. I underestimated the queues and ended up catching most of the light show downstairs and only managed to catch a little bit of the end once I got up the skywalk. Also to avoid overcrowding, they only allow you about 15mins up there before the security people start escorting you down. So plan your time wisely if you plan on watching the lightshow from up the skywalk. The light shows go on twice daily (7.45pm and 8.45pm) and it lasts for about 15mins. Once the show starts you’ll definitely be caught in awe by the beautiful lights and the whole fairytale-like atmosphere.

Selfish Gene Cafe – 40 Craig Road

Not to be confused with the post above, this cafe is further away from that particular area. In terms of public transport, the closest mrt station would be Tanjong Pagar mrt (green line). As you go down Yan Kit Road you will come across Craig Road as shown in the picture below. Then turn left and go straight till you find number 40.

20150510_151937I ordered the Eggs Royale ($16) and hot Cafe Latte ($5). Food-wise, the eggs royale was perfect and just how I like it. However I thought the coffee tasted a bit acidic. Im not much of a coffee drinker, but I’d rather have something a bit mild. As for the atmosphere, it’s really chill and relaxed. I loved the glass roof which allowed natural light into the cafe. It’s also a great spot to catch up with some work, on the laptop or even catch up on your reading because it’s not noisy like other cafes i’ve been too and not overly crowded. Good spot for a quiet weekend!