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A Short Singapore Trip – July 2011

August 2nd, 2011 No comments

Skyline - Marina Bay

Had a short weekend trip to Singapore. The last time I visited Singapore it was at least 5 years ago. Singapore is so much more efficient than Malaysia, everything just seems to be just works. Buses and MRTs are on the dots.  Shopping malls everywhere. “Organize” is the word that I can think of for the city state. Probably a bit too organized for me though.

Love the Night Safari (but no photos to share since I didn’t bring the camera). Geylang is interesting. Marina Bay skyline is magnificent. Little India and Chinatown are lively.

Would love to see Clarke Quay, Sentosa and Bird Park next time. Oh or maybe I will just put up a night at Marina Bay Sands just like my friend Bryan did. Maybe.

More photos at this link: http://travelgaia.com/gallery/Singapore_July2011/

Palawan 8-day trip [26 Mar ~ 2 Apr 2011] – Part 2

May 2nd, 2011 No comments

2nd day – Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

Unlike its name suggests, this World Heritage Site (Natural category) which inscribed in year 1999, is not situated at Puerto Princesa City (PPC) but at Sabang. Sabang is a tiny seaside town on the west coast of Palawan, 2 hours drive from PPC. Due to the proximity to PPC (well, it is all relative, Palawan is a huge island), this national park is one of the 2 most popular day-trip excursions from PPC, another one being Honda Bay at the East coast nearer to the capital.

The subterranean river national park is famed for the limestone karst formation, the fauna and flora in the area, as well as the longest navigable underground river beneath a mountain.

We booked the day trip package with Raq Pensionne the day before, paying P1350/pax. Trip included 2-way van transfer to Sabang, buffet lunch, national park entrance fee, spider boat from Sabang jetty to underground river entrance, then another row boat ride for the 45-min guided underground river tour.

Instead of 7am, the van was arriving late at Raq Pensionne  at 740am. It already picked up 4 persons, and later another 5 more so it is a pretty crowded van. Our guide is Ray, a friendly shorty. Journey to Sabang was about 2 hours, and there is one souvenir/toilet stop. Some stretches of the road are undulating, but in general the road condition is fine.

Arriving the national park headquarter at 10am, it is already so crowded, partly because it is already late (some arrived at 6am to avoid crowd!), partly because it is the summer break – super peak travel season for the filipinos (from late March to early May).

We ended up waited for 2 hours here, including having a buffet lunch in the nearby beach cottage. Food is not bad actually.

Strong waves throughout the trip (here and later at El Nido).

Selling salted-fish.

After the early lunch, there is another waiting period of 30mins before our turn to take the spider boat, which takes ~30mins to reach the entrance of underground river.

The wave is so strong that one of the spider boats got overturned from the tail up, and luckily not one gets hurt seriously. Karst landscape.

Registration booth, then a short 5min walk to the entrance of the underground river.

Lo and behold, the waiting crowd is even bigger here, probably about 100~150 heads. Most in good mood

 

 

Tips:

  • Go early. Take the earliest package tour from PPC to avoid the crowd and wait. Staying overnight at Sabang might be another good option too. Ask the hotel regarding the transportation options to Sabang from PPC.

 

 

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Palawan 8-day trip [26 Mar ~ 2 Apr 2011] – Part 1

April 9th, 2011 No comments
Palawan Map

Palawan Map

This is where Palawan is – at south-western Philippines. Provincial capital is Puerto Princesa (公主港), where most of the commercial flights touch down here. Roxas, Taytay are relatively big towns, but the real germ of Palawan is definitely El Nido at the north, a small laid-back town about 5~6 hours away by van through some rough roads.

Palawan is often called the “last frontier” of Philippines, to me indeed it is but not for much too long – tourists are starting to flocking in. Go visit now before El Nido is transformed into another Boracay. This is my first time visiting Palawan (Puerto Princesa & El Nido) – but it already makes me feel real good.

1st day – What’s new? Zest Airways’ flight to Puerto Princesa delayed

 

Partas Bus Schedule - Manila to Clark v.v.

Partas Bus Schedule - Manila to Clark v.v.

Arriving Clark airport from Kuala Lumpur by Airasia (4 hours), it is another 2 hours (P350) bus ride (Partas) to Manila metropolitan/Pasay City. I kinda know the drill – this is the 3rd time I am arriving at this deserted airport in as many years. It sucks to take that long on the road, and to worry about the traffic at EDSA that might have prevented us to catch the connecting flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa.
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Some recent Bali diving photos – Tulamben, Amed, Kubu

September 16th, 2010 No comments

Some more diving photos, taken at northeastern Bali area – Tulamben, Amed and Kubu.

A short write up to be followed soon, when I am back from Tioman. 🙂

Luck is not on my side – no Mola Mola and Manta Ray sighting at Nusa Penida dives!

September 12th, 2010 2 comments

I just come back from a diving trip to Bali a couple of weeks ago. I have to admit I have a blast, even if I didn’t see any Mola Mola and Manta Rays at Nusa Penida. Yeah it is right, I see none of them, which is probably harder to achieve at this time of the year (end of August) than seeing one or a few of them. Luck is just not at my side at times. It is a perfect excuse to come Nusa Penida again though!

We dived 2 days at Nusa Penida, followed by 1 day each at Tulamben, Amed and Kubu.

For Nusa Penida dives, we pre-book online with Bali Scuba at Sanur. 3 dives/day cost USD130. The price includes hotel transfer, tank & weight & guide, onbaoard soft drinks & mineral water, and a nice little lunch onboard (steam rice with beef & chicken, egg and sambal). Gear rental is not included – expect USD5/item/day. Our dive master for the 2 dive days are Knut and Henry. Knut is a tall Caucasian and likes to joke around. Henry is an over-sized fatty with over 30 years of diving experience. Both are really nice guys and helpful. Read more below. Read more…

Boracay revisit – 2nd time’s the charm!

August 1st, 2010 No comments

My first trip to this small but famous island in Philippines was in May 2009, about 10 months ago. Due to the flight delay and subsequently flight changed, I had less than 48 hours on the island in total, which means I have to leave with regrets of not able to explore much of what the island has to offer. I am pretty sure I was saying this to myself when I was leaving the island: I’ll be back (without Arnold’s accent, of course)!

True to myself, I made the trip again in late March 2010. This time around, I have 4 days on Boracay itself and another day in Manila. I wish I had 6 days on Boracay as I was having so much fun there. In retrospect, there are no Malaysian island retreats that can offer an island holidays like Boracay can – in fact, we are not even close, except in one aspect – diving. Perhentian and Tioman Island are way better in this regard IMHO. Time to plan for a Perhentian dive trip, but that’s a different story…

Back to Boracay trip.

Getting To Boracay

Not easy to go Boracay from Kuala Lumpur, and not cheap, especially for last-minute air tickets.

Intermational Leg – some options:

  1. Malaysia Airlines (MAS) have direct flights to Manila and connecting flights to Cebu (via Kota Kinabalu), but these routes are normally expensive. RM1500 up for a round trip.
  2. Cebu Pacific has one daily flight plying Kuala Lumpur/Manial route, but it flies on odd hour.

    Odd hour flight for Kuala Lumpur -> Manila route

  3. Budget airline Airasia flies to Clark Airfield (formally known as Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, DMIA), about 2 hours from Manila’s main airport Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), where most of the domestic flights are taking off.

I ended up use option #3 above, and paid RM800 round-trip 2 weeks before the departure date. Should be able to get cheaper price if book in advanced.

Domestic

DMIA is airport-of-call for a handful of Asia’s budget airlines, and thus attracted a few bus liners plying DMIA <-> Manila route. Both Parkas and Philtranco bus liners are having terminal at Pasay City along EDSA. It took 2.5 hours for me to reach Pasay from DMIA (350 Ps one-way) during mid day – EDSA’s traffic can be very bad. From Pasay terminal, NAIA is just ~15mins away by taxi. Insist on meter-taxi, < 150 Ps.

There are many domestic airlines to choose from in order to reach Boracay Island. The nearest airport is Caticlan (airport code: MPH)

The domestic flight that I booked is Air Philippines Express, which operates from Terminal 3 (same goes to Cebu Pacific, while Philippines Airline operates from T2). Security is tight even though this is domestic terminal, requires to take off shoes when going through the security gate.

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Serendipity: Truong Tien Bridge, Hue, Vietnam

August 1st, 2010 6 comments

We kinda bump into this bridge. Hard to imagine this, but we really didn’t know about the existence of this bridge before we literally walked on it – we suck in planning our travels. It was the evening of 17th July 2010, we had the cab dropped us near a supermarket at the imperial city side of the Hue City after our dinner. Afterwards, we decided to walk back to our hotel, which is not that far away based on the simple map that we’ve got from the hotel’s uber-cheerful receptionist Tú.

Truong Tien Bridge, Hue, central Vietnam. Majestic at night when the ever-changing lights give a new lease of life to the cold metal structure.

Then we meet. Us and the Truong Tien Bridge. It is a 2-lane, 6-span metal bridge with narrow pedestrian walkway at both side, over the Huong River (a.k.a. Perfume River). It is painted colorfully by the ever-changing lights, from white to red, green, blue, yellow, all in different hue (no pun intended). The bridge is grand by its own, but with the lights giving it a different color & personality every few seconds, it is just majestic. We were busy taking photos while crossing it and before we reached the other side (< 500m I’d say), Ben’s camera battery ran flat. While he was running back to the hotel to have the battery charged for a short-while and then come back for more, I have the whole bridge for myself. (Well, not really. Like with few hundreds of the locals).

This was the only night that we overnight in Hue. If we didn’t happen to be here now, we are going to miss it like forever.

In life, some great things just come to you without you asking for it. You are so ecstatically happy that you wish the time can freeze at this moment eternally for you to to own it forever. But it is not to be. You let go reluctantly. And look forward for the next serendipity.

More photos after the fold – my futile effort trying to capture the moment as present, but then, it has been past.

Read more…

GSM Roaming onboard Airasia – Mobile OnAir service is already available!

July 28th, 2010 1 comment

I haven’t learned about the GSM roaming availability onboard Airasia until I overheard the conversation between a cabin crew telling a passenger so. That was during my recent flight back from Ho Chi Minh City to Kuala Lumpur on 21 July 2010 evening. Curious (and bored), I switched my Nokia 5800 out of its offline mode (i.e. flight mode), and not before long, it connects to OnAir:

GSM Roaming in Airasia flight via OnAir service. It is total coincidence that the song I was listening to at that time was "Fly me to the moon". I was flying back to KL. 🙂

Tried sent a couple of sms’es and able to deliver, and able to receive incoming sms’es too. Did not have any noticeable lag. Did not try to call out though – pretty sure it will work, and more sure that it will cost me a bomb. No idea how much the outgoing sms will cost me, but there will be no charges for the incoming sms. No related mobile roaming information is found in the seat pocket.

Googling the OnAir service brings me to their homepage FAQ: http://www.onair.aero/faqs, which is an interesting read. Airasia is listed as one of its customers using the Mobile OnAir GSM roaming technology, where there is a picocell installed onboard for mobile phones’ radio interfacing, and then signals are routed to ground servers via satellite. There is also an onboard channel selector to prevent the mobile phones from connecting to the ground mobile networks directly. The Mobile OnAir supports only GSM/GPRS but not 3G – good enough for calls and sms’es, as well as basic internet browsing.

Cabin crew reminds that the mobile phones need to be turned off during take off and landing, so other than these periods, the mobile phones can be switched on and connected – as long as your mobile service operator has roaming deal with OnAir. Mine, Maxis, does.

The problem that might arise from this is the ignorant phone users that always speak loudly when on mobile phone, think China passengers, for example. That will be really irritating.

The OnAir has another service too: Internet OnAir – that works via RJ45 connection or Wifi. I didn’t try out the Wifi connectivity (because I didn’t even think about it at all then) but this just-posted Bernama article confirms that Airasia signs up only the Mobile OnAir service from OnAir. So probably no high speed internet browsing for now onboard Airasia, but I will find out soon enough during my next trip in August!

Y Thao Garden – what USD10 can buy you in Hue City?

July 25th, 2010 2 comments

Highly recommended by 2 travel guide books (Lonely Planet & Hong Kong published 长空旅游系列 021 - 越南食玩买终极天书本2010˜˜2011 全新Update版), we dropped in Y Thao Garden for our first dinner in Hue, Vietnam. We’ve had a long day – woke up at 4am, flew from HCMC to Hue at 6am flight, and then just in time to sign up last-minute on the 8am Perfume River Cruise day tour upon checking into Binh Minh Sunrise Hotel – and now just couldn’t wait to have a good dinner and unwind.

It was July 17th 2010, a Saturday. Far away from home.

  • Restaurant Name: Y Thao Garden
  • Location: 3 Thach Han, the Citadel, Hue, Vietnam
  • GPS: 16.468009,107.567117 (click for Google Map location)

It is just a 10-minute cab ride from the hotel. The restaurant is set in a mansion surrounded by tropical garden with lush of green, which is welcoming. Walking straight in, no one was there at the reception to greet us. We walked around and took some photos of the tropical garden, and after like forever (well, 2 minutes but felt like forever) the waitress showed up and lead us to one of the 2 main dining halls, which were both without any diners at that time (~6pm).

The restaurant runs set menu, and there is only one lone set – take it or leave it – that costs USD10 (not inclusive of beverages). No À la carte whatsoever. Ordered 2 sets and a couple of local bottled Huda Beer, we set off to take more photos of the beautiful garden. More after the fold.

Read more…

Categories: Travel - Beyond Malaysia Tags: ,

Airasia Cancels Direct Flight to Manado Starting 25 Feb 2010

February 17th, 2010 No comments

Airasia.com low-keyed the cancellations of a few routes recently, with just a memo up on their website – see below the screen-shot.

Airasia – Manado Flight Cancellation

I don’t care about the other routes, but Manado direct flight from Kuala Lumpur will be dearly missed. After all, we have some great divings there last August, and fell in love at first sight – or more appropriately at first dive – with the critter-ladden Lembeh Strait. Bunaken disappoints us due to rather bad visibility, and to be fair, we might have too high of an expectation of Bunaken from the many dive magazines that hailed about it. However, both Lembeh Strait and La Rascasse house reef are great as we discovered many new species (to us). We were able to stay longer underwater too due to shallower and more relaxed divings here.

Of course, the first thing that popped into my mind after reading about the Manado flight cancellation news is none other than to create a Facebook group! But to my utter dismay, someone has managed to leapfrog me to do just that – check it out here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/AirAsia-Bring-back-KUL-Manado-Direct-Flight/320280200189. After my initial disappointment subdued a little, I thought posting some of the Manado & Lembeh underwater photos might be a good alternative for remembrance. It is ashamed that I haven’t really checked out those photos since back from the trip last August, and they are still sitting inside my Lightroom waiting to be processed. 🙂

And here you go:

Sometimes, some things are just too hard to swallow…

September 14th, 2009 3 comments

… like this little seahorse to a slightly bigger frogfish.

Location: Lembeh Strait, North Sulawesi
Date/Time: 1st Sept 2009, 15:30

This orange brownish juvenile frogfish, measuring less than 5cm in length, has been eyeballing the pity little seahorse for quite some time. It probably ponders whether to go for something prettier for a quick snack – it is teatime now anyway – or just take the black seahorse for a quick chow since it is easy – the seahorse didn’t intend to move out from the frogfish’s stare at all. My dive buddy Bill and myself swam around these 2 little creatures for a while but nothing happened. They kept staring at each other, like stone statues, not moving a muscle, and only few centimeters apart.

Then, in the blink of an eye, the frogfish opens its huge mouth and had the whole of the seahorse’s head and some of its body swallowed. It is kinda bizarre to witness such a killing, though I’d prefer real horse meat over seahorse’s meat anyday.

For the next 3 minutes or so, the below pose maintained:

Frogfish tries to swallow a seahorse

Frogfish tries to swallow a seahorse

But then, probably feeling remorse to kill a seahorse, or maybe the seahorse is just too hard to swallow, the frogfish releases it out from his mouth, and slowly retreated. The seahorse is alive – for now.

erm.. the frogfish didn't really like the horse meat...

erm.. the frogfish didn't really like the horse meat...

Boracay May’2009 Trip Photos are Up!

May 25th, 2009 5 comments
Sand Castle @ Boracay Long Beach

Sand Castle @ Boracay Long Beach

Finally uploaded some photos from my recent short trip to Boracay, the Philippines:

http://travelgaia.com/gallery/Boracay_May2009/

More trip details to follow. 🙂

Bali Trip Planning – 7 ~12 Apr 2009

April 5th, 2009 3 comments

Bali Dive Map:

Dive The World – scuba diving travel, holidays and vacations

Vacation diving and holiday packages in dive resorts, on liveaboards, PADI courses, and scuba travel, tours and trips worldwide.

7th Apr – Arriving Denpasar airport ~7pm. Too late for Tanah Lot. Eat etc. Drive to Gilimanuk (110km, ~3hours). Stay @ Gilimanuk. The car better be prepared there!

8th Apr – Dive Secret Bay at Gilimanuk. Departs afternoon, heading to Labuhan Lalang (jetty to Manjangan). It is quite near Gilimanuk from the map, maybe 45mins or so. Stay.

9th Apr – Dive Menjangan. This should be one of the highlights of the trip. Top dive sites are:

  • the Anker Wreck (40+ meters),

  • Eel Garden

  • Pos II.

Depends on how it goes, maybe stay extra night here, or heads to Tulamben after the dives. The road is straight forward, moving across the north of Bali, maybe 2-3 hours. Stay at Tulamben.

10th Apr – Dive Tulamben + Amed. Maybe not enought time for Amed.

  • Liberty Wreack
  • Drop Off
  • Batu Kelebit

Heads back to Kuta afternoon. Stay at Kuta. If time allows, go straight to Uluwatu before dask.

11th ~ 12th Apr: standard thingy. Short trip to Ubud? Pantai Kuta, Uluwatu or Tanah Lot, souvenir.

Categories: Travel - Beyond Malaysia Tags:

Love Is In The Air

March 4th, 2009 3 comments
Romance

Romance

Date: Late Dec 2008

Location: Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Bangkok

My third time visiting Bangkok’s famous floating market. Was walking alone having lost both of my travel buddies in this busy place. The hoards of wooden boats were causing a really bad traffic jam on the canal.

I was just going to capture a few more boat photos at the sidewalk while a pair of Caucasian couple strolled in front of me and slowed down. Holding hands, he turned around, whispered to her, and touched his nose to her face, like forever. Right here at the busy floating market.

Love is in the air.

Angkor Wat… At Last!

February 28th, 2009 No comments
Leading To Angkor Wat

Leading To Angkor Wat

Date: 24th Feb, 2005, 7:45am

Location: Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Finally! After 3 weeks’ tiring travel linking us from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok, to Chiang Mai, to Huai Xuey, Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Pakse, Veun Kham, Phnom Penh, we reached the climax of the trip – at Angkor Wat.

This is my favorite photo of the Angkor trip. Not one of those must-have-sunrise-over-Angkor Wat photos – I have those too, but to me, the photo above has something special that I can’t describe. At least it is not one of those.

We made it, finally. Save the best for last.