Myanmar Travel Budget Tips (Yangon-Bagan-Mandalay)

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Myanmar is once known as the Golden Land. They were once the largest  empire in the Southeast Asia. Now, they are boasting numerous pagodas, temples and stupas as leftovers of their greatness. In case you plan to backpack this golden country, here are some budget tips that I hope would help you plan ahead.

  1. Budget flights – We travelled from Bangkok and the budget carriers are AirAsia, NokAir and Thai Lion. Always check skyscanner.com to check which airline has the lowest cost. Book your flight direct with the airline not with the booking site.
  2. Yangon International Airport to city center/bus terminal – Taxi cost is 8,000 kyat or $6. There were five of us so this is a deal.
  3. Yangon Airport to Bus terminal is about 40 mins (no traffic, allow 1 hr drive).
  4. Yangon city center (Shwedagon pagoda) to Yangon bus terminal is only 11 mins (no traffic).
  5. Yangon to Bagan via sleeper’s bus – the cheapest way is via bus. The cheapest booking site (reliable) is http://www.starticket.com.mm/ . This is cheaper than Myanmar bus ticket site I suggest you book early because the seats could be filled out easily.
  6. Buses are comfortable but don’t expect much. There is a blanket, free water, toothbrush and wet wipes.

    Irrawaddy river – one of Telegraph’s 17 most beautiful rivers in the world

  7. Tour in Bagan whole day– We paid 110,000 Kyat for 5 people ($81 or $16 each).
  8. There is an entrance fee for Bagan but you may negotiate with your driver to arrange and include it in your tour. We did.
  9. Balloon season over Bagan runs from October to March only.
  10. Food is crazy cheap! $1.5 for a good meal! Coffee is crazier! 200 – 300 kyat (15 to 20 pence of a dollar).
  11. Bagan to Mandalay – You can book for $6 sleeper’s bus with the starticket site.

    Fermented palm wine

  12. We book a van from Bagan to Mandalay inclusive of a half-day tour in Mandalay (sunrise in Ubein bridge, Mahamuni, Kuthodaw etc) and ends in Mandalay airport for only $30 each. You may tell the driver whatever suits you.. This is expensive compared with the bus but we paid for convenience. Contact Fatty -Koh khinmgoo.mdy2013@gmail.com / (09403727817)(09798932655)

    Kuthodaw – Largest book in the world

  13. You’ll be overwhelmed with Burmeses kindness and amiability. They are very accommodating and helpful.
  14. Total cost ex flights for 3 days is $74.
  15. Burmese puts thanaka (powder) on their faces for beauty purposes. It’s a little bit weird because it’s just on their cheeks and not all over the face. Still, they’ve been using it for more than 2000 years. Fascinating.
  16. Burmese men and women wear skirts! I bet it’s airy and fresh. It’s not just the Scots, now we have Burmese to uncover.
  17. I recommend watching the film The Lady about Aung San Suu Kyi (the current leader of Myanmar).
  18. Watch documentaries in youtube to better appreciate their culture.

People Photography – South Korea

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Overdue photos of people I took last year in South Korea – Jeju Island, Busan and Seoul. I finally have the time to post some of it. My two-months backpacking photos all over Europe were deleted when I reformatted my macbook. So, I decided to post my other photos in case something similar happens. My blog is a back-up copy of my memories.

By the way, we are backpacking Myanmar tomorrow (Friday) until Sunday (3 days). Do you know where to spend 4-5 hours (1am to 5am) while waiting for Ubein’s sunrise? We’re thinking of booking a hostel but I don’t think it’s worth it. We will arrive in Mandalay from Bagan at 1 am. Either we stay at the bus station (Is it safe?) or go somewhere. We are a group of five so just need a safe place to chill out.

Sports Photography – AFS Bangkok Football Game

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Check Ryan Reece website  – http://www.reecefootball.com/

Thank you for the food and beers.

Budget Travel Tips for Hong Kong

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Hong Kong can be an expensive city to travel so knowing some budget tips would help you plan ahead. Here are some information that I hope could help you to get around.

1. Airport to the city. The cheapest means to reach the city center is via bus. From HK Airport Terminal 2 to City Center, take A21 flyer bus (approximately 40-50 mins) for 33HKD or 4USD. It’s easy to find the bus station, just follow the signs inside the airport. Buy the ticket on the left side of the bus station entrance.  Do not board the bus unless you have the bus ticket. They will only accept cash in fixed amount and will not give you any change. They will let you go off the bus if you insist in asking for the change. The bus routes are flashed on the top and on the sides near the handle bars. 

2.  Free wifi. HK airport has complimentary wifi so does the buses. (A21 bus has free wifi).

3. Try budget airlines – Vanilla Air, HK Express, Peach Aviation and Air Asia. Sometimes, big airlines offer sale. I got Emirates for 200$ two way! 
4. Not everyone can speak English so download a translator app or offline map (maps.me). Saving photos/screenshots of hostels/places I want to go had worked for me every time. Just show it to the locals. 
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5. I recommend staying in Kowloon Island especially if short stay because of accessibility to tourist areas and station points (like going to Macau or Disney).  
6.  If you’re going to prepay your hotel, price is better via agoda.com. Always check the hotel’s website for deals. There are complimentary buses for big hotels to pick up guests. 
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7. If prefer to pay on arrival, use booking.com but the same hostel may cost a little than using agoda. Still, you pay for convenience of pay on arrival.
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8. If you stay in one of the good hotels, they may ask you for security deposit. Negotiate to lower the amount. I advice to use cash as deposit rather than credit card (they don’t accept debit). Last May, I stayed in Regal Hotel for a week and they upgraded my room to the top floor’s Executive suite $250/night. Try negotiating. 
9. If you stay in a budget hostel, most of them are ‘sharks’. Be cautious. Be smart. They might give you a room which is different from what you booked. Or increase the price so you don’t have any choice. I tried Gold Star Guesthouse for 4 days 15$, private double room with bathroom inside but that’s 4 years ago. Lee Garden Guesthouse and Star Guesthouse are same owners. The conditions of the rooms may not be as good as before. I also tried hostel for 1 night in Chungking Mansion dormitory type after coming from Japan and it’s worst, the only good thing is it’s walking distance to Victoria harbour. Well, what do you expect with 11$ per night. 
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10. Macau. If you plan to take a day trip to Macau, walk to Macau Ferry Terminal (164 HKD). There is free bus from Macau Terminal to the casinos or airport. From casinos to airport/terminal too. So, it’s good to just spend time in Macau.
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11. Macau vs HK. Compare the cost of flying in/out from HK versus out in/from Macau. Sometimes, it’s cheaper to fly from Macau (add the ferry cost) to your destination/home country. Note that bus from terminal to Macau airport is free but do this if you only have spare time. Air Asia offers low cost of flying in/out from Macau. 
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12. Food is higher priced than other Asian countries but try convenience stores and supermarkets. 
13. Perfumes are inexpensive in Hong Kong. Aside from delicacies, these are perfect for gifts. 
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14. Giordano, Bossini, G2000, Baleno and Esprit are HK brands. Try shopping at their flagship stores. 
 

Taiwan (Photography and Travel Tips)

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Taipei is nothing but a shopping district. A Japanese we met in China described it as a big night market and found out to be true. If you really wanted to experience Taiwan, go outside Taipei. There are too many places to visit. We were supposed to go to Taroko but instead stayed in Hualien. 

There is no train directly from Taipei Airport to the City center so take the bus 1841 (83NTD, 50 minutes). We stayed in Ximen Duckstay Hostel for 2 nights and it’s one of the best hostel (awarded) in the city (cleanliness, price, activities like free music jam) however, its location is not that good. For one, it’s hard to find it from the MRT. Use maps.me offline map, it’s really useful.

From Taipei, we opted to go South. Hualien faces the Pacific Ocean on the east with the Central Mountains on the west. It offers natural sceneries perfect for biking and hiking. Take the Taroko Express from Taipei for 440NTD / $14 (2 hours) but if you plan for just a day trip, take a return ticket for a much cheaper price (780NTD actual vs 880NTD budget). 

On the train station is an Information Center, few steps from the train tracks. It’s best to stop over, ask for a free map and advice. They’re friendly and can speak good English. Taiwanese people speak better English than those from Mainland but they have a stronger accent easily discernible.  

Food and accommodation are higher priced than Thailand and China. I was expecting it to be cheap. We hang around convenience stores and street stalls but still, it costs more. Someone told me (unverified), Mainland China is putting pressures on Taiwan so cost of living is high.

In case, you plan to travel further to Taroko, you can book a cab from the Information Center or hire bikes. It’s just 25 kms away.

Hiroshima, Japan (Photography)

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Hiroshima is the first city to experience a nuclear attack. It’s worth visiting to connect yourself with the city and their experiences. There is a free bus around the city so you can just hop on and off. Further read my post Budget Tips when travelling around Japan to get tips and tricks. One day is enough, you can go to Miyajima Island to see the famous Itsukushima shrine after.

Atomic Bomb Dome

This is one of the few buildings that remain standing after the 1945 bombing. The bomb was codenamed ‘Little Boy’.

Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims

The shape is to shield the victims from the rain. Directly behind it is a Peace Flame lit until the day that all nuclear weapons are destroyed (53 years and still going).

Hiroshima Castle

The castle was used as a war headquarter. It was also destroyed during the bombing  but a replica was built serving as a present museum of Hiroshima’s history.

Torii gate near Hiroshima Castle

Shinto shrines are gated with a Torii to symbolizes one’s step to sanctity.

The rightmost boy gave me a paper crane and I just found out that it is a popular gift to bestow a thousand years of happiness and prosperity.

As opposed to my unfriendly expectation, the people are actually nice (and helpful with directions).

Downtown Hiroshima

First Pre-Wedding Photography

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Taken in Wat Saket, Bangkok, Thailand

Marble City, Bangkok, Thailand

Old Railway, Chonburi, Thailand

Grand Canyon, Chonburi, Thailand

Grand Canyon, Chonburi, Thailand

Grand Canyon, Chonburi, Thailand

Chonburi, Thailand

Chonburi Field

Snow Mountain, Chonburi


Thinking of offering free photography services around Bangkok just to practice more and improve my skills.

Budget Travel Tips for Sydney, Australia

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The Opera House

Budget Travel Tips:

  1. Buy Opal card to pay for local transport. This will save you a lot of time (avoid lines) and money. It is available in convenience stores for a minimum $10 top up, all consumables. No need to refund, just plan well how much to top up.
  2. From Sydney airport to the City – Take Bus 400 going to Bondi Junction and alight at the first stopover Mascot Station in 8- 10 mins (cost: $2.6). The bus stop Mascot is on Bourke Road, walk on your left to the intersection, turn right to Coward street and you’ll see Mascot train station. Take the train to your destination i.e. Central Station ($4.1). This will save you 10-15$.
  3. From City to Sydney Airport – take the train to Mascot station. Go up / Exit to Coward Street, walk on your left to Bourke Road. Turn left and on your right is the bus stop for 400 to Burwood going to Terminal 1 and 3 Airports. This will save you 10-15$.
  4. Avail of the free guided walking tour. Just go to George Street behind St. Andrews Cathedral and Town Hall. It’s free and full of info / tips not available in the internet. They will take you around Sydney, good for 1 day!
  5. Download an offline map. There is no public wifi on most areas. Ever reliable is maps.me offline map.
  6. Book hostel near the opera house for $20-25 a night via booking.com. Only choose pay on arrival. When in the airport, browse booking.com in any case there are cheaper rooms. Some hotels/hostels lower their price a night before or during the day to avoid vacant rooms.
  7. Every Saturday at 8pm, there is a fireworks display in the opera house.
  8. Use skyscanner.com to look for cheap flights but don’t book via skyscanner, go to the airline’s main website.
  9. There are free water stations installed on the streets (i.e along the Macquarie road to the Opera house).
  10. Australians are very friendly. Ask directions.
  11. Always check the weather forecast to avoid booking on rainy days.

Victoria Building

Sydney Harbour

Luna Park

Terminal

It’s autumn but still hot!

Photo shared by Mary. Behind us is the Harbour Bridge & Opera House.

Thank you ate Cheryl for lunch, dessert and free room (Photo shared by Mary)

Thanks to Manong Arnold for serving dinner and taking me to Featherdale! To Keith, for letting me teach him about basic photography. Thanks to April & hubby too for meeting me for dinner! So much gratitude.

Budget Travel Tips for Uluru or Ayers Rock (Outback Australia)

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The Uluru or Ayers Rock is the world’s largest monolith created over 600 million years ago. It is considered the “heart” of the Red Centre or the Southern Australian outback desert. It attained its World Heritage Site position on both cultural and geological categories, among few sites with two listings. (I have a habit of visiting World Heritage sites whenever I travel).

I was determined to visit the area because of the many stories about the place. I was so curious as to why it seems this arid desert resembles the red planet Mars. I’m fascinated with the mythical stories of the aborigines and on cosmic conspiracy theories (Uluru is cited as one of the places in the world with strongest energy fields). You see, too many stories to be immersed, too many interesting facts, myths or fictions to uncover. It’s a gold mine for stories whether cultural, historical or out of this world.

The rock is considered sacred by the Anangu (aboriginal tribe) because they believe that some of their ancients are living in the rock and some of them (during the creation) even became part of the rock. Thus, each boulder, crack or formation has a story. It has no plant growing on it unlike other rock formations. Its color changes from sunset to sunrise from luminous red to purplish maroon. These are just some of the fascinating facts to wonder! Some parts are forbidden to be photographed and out of respect, they ask tourists not to climb, litter or vandalize.

We opted for the 10.1 km full base walk with the sun on its full glory. It was hot (but windy) so bring lots of water and some food. The distances of the water stations are too far so always ensure to fill it up before proceeding. By the way, I don’t know what’s with the desert but there are too many flies! And they are very annoying.

When I first set foot on the National Park, I was already captivated but I became more enthralled as we walked nearer. I saw rock caves, small waterholes and ancient prints! We even met two Anangu ladies asking for water. Some of these tribe folks (dating back 10,000 years) are working in the Ayers Resort and you’ll meet/see them everywhere.

Some Tips for your Travels

  1. Don’t book via Agoda or Booking.com for your accommodation. It’s cheaper via voyages (https://www.ayersrockresort.com.au/)
  2. It’s much cheaper to rent a car than pay the bus $49 back and forth if you want to see / touch the rock.
  3. There is free hostel pick-up from the Uluru Airport. Just go outside the gates/entrance doors and the names of the hotels/hostels are printed as bus stations. Board the bus and it will take you to your new home hassle-free.
  4. Avail of all the free activities – painting, 3D cinema, astronomy, aboriginal dances etc. but check the schedule (date/time).
  5. We arrived via Jetstar from Melbourne. Book your flights early because prices can dramatically go up!
  6. There is a supermarket so don’t worry much living on this desert. Prices are same with other cities/places of Australia (I compared it with Port Campbell, Sydney and Melbourne).
  7. At the back of the Outback Pioneer Lodge (hostel) is a sunset Uluru look-out. You can see the rock at this area.
  8. There is free shuttle bus around the resort (does not include going near the Rock). If you want to see the Camel farm, ask the driver. Sometimes, their route does not include it.
  9. Touch the rock. They say, it brings good fortune because it connects you to the ancients.

Two photos must be credited to my travel companion Mary – the one with our faces and the IG shoes. haha

 

 

 

Kyoto – City of Solitude

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Kyoto is Japan’s City of Solitude where old traditions heavily cling on to the unstoppable blocks of modernity. It gives you both the best of the past and present worlds, a testament that there is no need to sacrifice art and culture in order to embrace modern society. You’ll find that the past and present exist with ease and harmony.

Summer in Ginza, Kyoto

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Even with the thrive of technology and concentration of crowd, the city’s urban landscape has not abandon the beauty of and benefits from mother nature. Parks, gardens, clean waters and forests are in sync with the shrines, temples and old houses creating a beautiful façade for the city. These should be replicated to urban cities – to have green spaces while allowing arts and culture to flourish with modernity.

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The combinations of these attractions make it one of the most photographed city in the world. It is cloaked with a sublime but not necessarily melancholic feeling. This is possible because the city is the emperor’s residence for more than 1,000 years. You can really feel the serenity and simplicity of their living.

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Visit  Gion district to spot some geishas and hike all the way to Kiyomizu-dera temple. Be prepared to walk a lot to be immersed with their art, culture and way of living. The golden Kinkakuji temple is not to be missed. The entrance fee is worth it. Arashiyama bamboo grove is a little bit out of the way so make the most of it by visiting the Hozu river and the shrines surrounding the grove. One of my favorites is the Fushimi-Inari temple because it is a 2-hour hike from the base all the way to the top and back! We were fortunate to witness the sunset descending upon the whitish landscape of the city.

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The Great Wall of China, Badaling

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Rock solid walls that stretches beyond what the eyes can see

Rock solid walls that stretches beyond what the eyes can see

Steep steps to climb over

Steep steps to climb over

A peek in one of the holes

A peek in one of the holes

View in one of the tower stations

View in one of the tower stations

My 2016 in Photos and What I learned throughout the Year

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1.Treasure life. Value each and every moment you have. For you’ll never know when it’s going to stop. Look deeper and be thankful of what you have and what you had become.

New Year 2016 in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia

New Year 2016 in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia

Christmas 2016 in Sichuan, China

Christmas 2016 in Sichuan, China

2. Life is never a straight course. It has kinks and spins. But, it’ll never stop you to choose happiness or the desire to live with courage and kindness. Choose to stand up and never to stand down.

Petchaburi, Thailand [Nov'16]

Petchaburi, Thailand [Nov’16]

3. If things are not going great, remember you’re tougher than what you think. Wallow in sadness but help yourself out. Slowly, start all over again.

Himeji, Japan [Oct '2016] then headed to HK and Macau

Himeji, Japan [Oct ‘2016] then headed to HK and Macau

Hong Kong [Oct'2016]

Hong Kong [Oct’2016]

4.Only you can define your limit. Or the things you are capable of. You can do anything if you have the will to want it. Badly.

Thailand [Sep'2016]

Thailand [Sep’2016]

Grand Canyon [Sep'16]

Grand Canyon [Sep’16]

 5. Generally, you always have the choice. No one can intimidate you unless you let them to. No one can make you miserable unless you let yourself be. Don’t let someone make you feel inferior or unappealing.

Pangsida, Thailand [Jul'2016]

Pangsida, Thailand [Jul’2016]

6. Never let the not-so-good things get the best of you. No matter what the world says to you or how the world sees you, be the person you want to be. With conscience, dignity and human decency.

Jeju Island [Apr 2016]

Jeju Island [Apr 2016]

Busan [Apr'16]

Busan [Apr’16]

Seoul [April 2016]

Seoul [April 2016]

7. If you think you’ll never be able to move on, push through beyond the memories. Heal and create new ones.

Halong Bay, Vietnam [Feb'2016]

Halong Bay, Vietnam [Feb’2016]

Luang Prabang, Laos [Feb'16]

Luang Prabang, Laos [Feb’16]

8. Learn to laugh again. Genuinely. Smile, not the fake ones but the real deal. Do this for yourself. You don’t need to have it all figured out. Just live. Enjoy.

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9. Put yourself first but be considerate of the struggles around you. Close your doors to negativities. Appreciate the people around you.

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10. Cherish the good times. Be grateful and let this new year be your year. 

Beijing, China

Beijing, China

Thank you to everyone that became part of my 2016. Cheers to more travels. Cheers to life.

 

 

Travel Tips for Jiuzhaigou National Park, Sichuan, China

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Jiuzhaigou National Park is a testament to Mother Nature’s work of wonder. It gives you a serene feeling, that surge of happiness and the answer to why keep travelling. It is China’s beautiful surprise to travellers. I was surprised! Especially with all the negative travel publicities in my twitter news feed. I was awed that they’re able to maintain the unspoiled look of the landscapes.

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The National Park transports you somewhere in countryside Europe. The bus ride reminds me of Isle of Skye, the glassy waters bring back Interlaken, Switzerland and the sceneries are cut-outs from Bavaria, Germany. It’s more than beautiful. More than amazing.

The Park is part of the Tibetan plains occupying 700 hectares. It became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1992 and home to some Tibetan Villages. Don’t be surprised if some of the names are in Tibetan language and not the standard Chinese. Tibet border is only 2 hours away.

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They say winter is not the best time to visit but I disagree. The whiteness of the snowy winter was in contrast with the glorious loud colours of the blue mountains, mirror green lakes, cascading waterfalls and the autumn leftover colors of the trees. Some of the lakes and waterfalls were frozen and you can visibly see what was trapped inside.

Panda Waterfalls

Panda Waterfalls

Based on my research (I researched a lot before any travel!), there is only one route to Jiuzhaigou – the bus – and nope, it’s not a sleeper’s bus. You have to sit for seven to nine hours from Chengdu. The endless view, though, compensates for your aching ass and stiff back. I think they’re already constructing a train but no one knows when.

  • The nearest airport is in Chengdu.
  • Book a flight via Spring Airlines. It is cheap.
  • We took a taxi from Lazybones Hostel in Chengdu for CNY11 /US1.6 (if we took the subway, cost would be CNY3 per person or total CNY9).
  • Buy your bus ticket (2F) in Xinnanmen Bus Station for CNY154 /US$22 per person.
  • There is no overnight bus during winter. Only day trips. 

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I have low expectations of our China backpacking leg. I was looking forward to Mongolia but China came as an amazing addition to my travel stories. We never encountered rude stories or unfortunate acts from the locals. We were safe and had really fun. We met a family from Hong Kong with their two little kids following us everywhere. The nine-year-old boy wanted to be in our EVERY photo! What’s best, he became our tour guide! He was part of a tour group and could speak English well. We nicknamed him the  TNB (Tunay na Boss) or little boss.

Nourilang Waterfalls

Nourilang Waterfalls

On our way to the park, we met a Dutch couple and they told us to show any kind of ID to the inspector to avail of student discount. Sorry but we obliged. We saved from CNY180 to CNY120 that includes entrance fee and the bus (back and forth) to the top. No worries, the money went to a good cause – tasting their local beers. Tsingtao beer is totally recommended! We met the couple again in the restaurant for dinner with my friend feeling embarrassed to take out our left-overs (she got a little crush on him).

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By the way, we recommend our hostel YHA! The owner-receptionist upgraded us from a dormitory to a double room. He doesn’t speak/understand English but he would always find/call someone from his guests to help translate for us. He was very accommodating considering that we paid $5 each (105CNY) only (3 girls). Great location with 10-mins walk to the park and a neighbor to restaurants and convenience stores. Great value for your money.

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Cheers from us! if you have questions, ask away!

Travel Tips for Mongolia

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Five days in the Land of Genghis Khan and I’m already planning of visiting it again. Its capital, Ulaan Baatar, is the coldest city in the world so our winter travel itinerary is actually a box of insanity. We bravely embraced the negative 30C temperature (swings to -50 at night) with thermal suits and layered coats. Still, what’s better time than the winter time. Imagine white snow draped over endless landscapes of green or brown ridges with cloudless blue sky or moonless starry night. Picture wild horses and camels traversing along the Gobi sands. Think of a city full of solitude with friendly smiles and tomato cheeks! A country rich with history. Freezing but fascinating.

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From Beijing, we took the cheapest but the hardest route of land border travel. We hopped on a sleeper’s bus in Muxiyuan Bus Station (180CNY) and arrived in Erlian (inner Mongolia) the next day. We then took a pick up to Zamyn Udd (75CNY) and crossed over the border (1hr). Here we got on the famous Trans-Mongolian train (22,850 MNT) to the capital for 14 hours. It looks simple but actually not.

Some tips for your future travel:

  1. I recommend asking the local passengers if you can tag along. They’ll look after you until the end.
  2. Use booking.com for your hotels (pay on arrival only). Check every once in a while if there’s a cheaper hostel and cancel/rebook your stay. Be smart. We stayed in a 3-star hotel for only 5$ per person. Yes, it’s good with a perfect view!
  3. In the train, linens/beddings are part of your train fee. Don’t let them bully you to pay for it.
  4. Don’t just accept anything they serve! Everything has a price. Once you use/drink/eat it, that’s the time they will ask for payment.
  5. Look for a driver who can speak English or tag with someone who can.
Three crazy girls spending the new year in Ulaan Baatar Square

Three crazy girls spending the new year in Ulaan Baatar Square

Chinggis Square

Chinggis Square

It was in this journey that we met some interesting people with overwhelming kindness to strangers – Tsuyoshi from Japan and the locals Tsengel, Altaa, Ugna (+boyfriend) and Gaya. Mongolia has one of the biggest black markets in the world so one has to be extra careful. Tsuyoshi who goes by his last name Abe never left us from Beijing to Mongolia and back to China even though we are 3 crazy girls with imposing attitudes. Tsengel, a Mongolian postgraduate student in Beijing, went home to his family only after he walked us to our hotel, exchange currency and settled to a local buffet. All through the night aboard the Trans-Mongolian train, he only slept after looking over us. Altaa, Ugna and boyfriend also helped us crossed the border and mind you, it’s not a friendly place for female travellers. This border is identified as a human trafficking hotspot. Many women disappeared and never resurfaced. So, I was really relieved and thankful that we made it smoothly.

Erdene Zuu Monastery

Erdene Zuu Monastery

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Erdene Zuu

From Ulaan Baatar, we moved to the 13th century capital of the Great Mongol Empire, Karakorum/Kharkhorin, to experience living in a traditional ger camp. The temperature was supposed to be a bit friendlier because it’s down south but we ended in a blistering cold (I was swearing at some point during the night even after chugging on some vodka). Still, the ger experience is one of kind. It offers a slice of the traditional lives of the Mongols. If you plan to visit it, pls contact Gaya and she will arrange everything for you. She has a magic wand to whip whatever you need! Her website is http://gayas-guesthouse.strikingly.com/ or send an email to gayas.guesthouse@gmail.com. She opened the Erdene Zuu Monastery for us!

Gaya's Ger Camp

Gaya’s Ger Camp

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On our last day, we had an unfortunate event. My friend’s wallet was stolen by a pickpocket in the bus station. Fortunately, her passport, phones and other valuables were not taken. Nevertheless, this incident can never eclipsed our amazing Mongolian experience. It was too short but fun – trekking the old silk road in Karakorum, seeing the Gobi desert, appreciating their culture and cuisine, walking on the paths previously walked on by the Great Mongol Empire and being at the receiving end of the local’s hospitality. It was actually an epic adventure, one for the books.

Happy Gaya

Happy Gaya

With our guide Gaya

With our guide Gaya

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I think you’ll appreciate Mongolia if you have knowledge of its rich history (Genghis and Kublai Khans, Marco Polo, Manchurias, Yuan dynasty, Silk road etc.). Else, you’ll find it as just one exotic country. By far, this is my coldest travel experience.

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Road to Kharkhorin

Road to Kharkhorin


[Unedited version] Written aboard the plane yesterday from Taipei to Bangkok. My 1st journal for 2017.

Every person has its own story. Every story has its own ending. Every ending leads to a new beginning. Cheers to 2017.

Budget Travel Tips (and Tricks) When Visiting Japan

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Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower

This Samurai Country of Contrasts offers endless sceneries, adventures and stories. We backpacked 13 cities from urban to remote areas – from snowy-frosty places to summer-feel prefectures. Autumn is beautiful and so is the fall of snow. October is definitely the best time to visit.

Chitose, Hokkaido

Chitose, Hokkaido

I’m an introvert but when it comes to travel, you’ll see me pushing for things / experiences bordering to being an extrovert. Yes to exhaustion until you no longer feel your legs. Yes to meeting strangers and chatting with them until dawn. Yes to both quantity and quality of fun travel escapades!

Summer in Ginza, Kyoto

Summer-feel in Ginza, Kyoto

I don’t pay for travel just to sit on a fine restaurant or chill on a park. I pay to learn about myself, people around me and the places I’ve never been to. I can always sit, sleep and chill back home. I want everything when I travel and this is what I got in Japan… Everything.

Lake Shikotse

Autumn in Lake Shikotsu

Here are few tips and tricks for those traveling for the first time.

  • Japan is perceived as expensive but actually, costs are manageable.
  • Eat in local places (i.e. Dotonbori market in Osaka) and convenience stores (Family mart and 7-11).
  • Sleep in hostels or guesthouses (I recommend booking.com). We booked a 3-star hotel in Asahikawa for only $2 per person. Of course, if you know someone, free accommodation will always be the best! Thanks to Don for Kyoto and Eileen for Tokyo.
  • Avail of JR pass. It lets you travel on trains and buses for unlimited time. This is very convenient and economical. Use this JR pass website link because it’s cheaper than the others.
  • For Kansai areas (Kyoto, Himeji, Nara, Kobe, Osaka) use Kansai-thru pass. It has better coverages than the other passes.
  • Stay on the left of the train when your travel route is from south of Japan to north. For example, from Kansai to Tokyo, sit on the left to view Mt. Fuji.
  • No overnight sleeper trains from Hakodate to Sapporo! This is disappointing.
  • Free wifi places are scarce. No public wifi in most areas. No wifi in bullet Shinkansen trains.
  • Costs indicated in google map are precise. Directions are accurate.
  • Ask people if you need help. Japanese are generally friendly and you’d be surprised how organized, helpful and prepared they are! When we were in Sapporo, we asked for the directions to Guesthouse Waya in the subway station and surprise!!! They had a ready print-out for it! Same thing happened in Asahikawa.
  • Learn / ask about their culture. Be curious. Be observant. You’d be amazed how varied, unconventional and interesting their culture/history/stories are. I’m still amazed (lifetime employment, reserved/polite attitudes, eyebrows culture etc).
Hakone

Hakone

Gion, Kyoto

Gion, Kyoto

Kobe Port

Kobe Port

I wasn’t a fan of Japan before. I thought it was overrated but after spending more than 2 weeks from north to south, I can say, it’s worth visiting it. Next time, I’d love to go back to Totori and Nagasaki! And maybe, Wakkanai (can you really see Russia from here???) That would be another great travel to add in my list.


This is a long overdue post. We visited Japan last October covering Hiroshima, Miyajima, Kobe, Himeji, Nara, Osaka, Kyoto, Hakone, Tokyo, Hakodate, Chitose, Sapporo, and Asahikawa).

Chonburi’s Grand Canyon and Snow Mountain

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I’ve been away from blogging for almost two months now. I got a bit busy with some personal things. Also, I only have 2% remaining space with this blog site and I’m still thinking whether to register it at $18/year or time to stop and move on.

Anyway, I just have to share you my travel photos of the so-called Thailand’s Grand Canyon and Snow Mountain. I don’t usually post photos with people’s faces (friends and travel companions) but I am making this an exception. This could be my last blog post so why not. [After this post, it’s 0% space! haha]

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The so-called Grand Canyon in Chonburi, Thailand offers a good view of the surrounding mountains and of the man-made lake below the view-point. It’s actually a remnant of an excavation years ago then eventually shaped by nature to become what it is today. The place is not accessible by public transportation so you have to drive over or hire a cab.

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Train tracks

Train tracks

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The Snow Mountain is not really full of snow but of white rocks. It’s fascinating and offers a beautiful backdrop for a photo shoot. It’s great for a prenup concept!

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Side note: I and Dessa will be flying to Japan for 2 weeks in October (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Miyaji Island, Sapporo & Hakodate in Hokkaido, Fuji, and Nara). Our budget is only $1,300 (hopefully, we can make it alive!). Can anyone recommend a budget hostel and/or some tips how to survive in Japan? I’ll gladly appreciate it. Thanks in advance.

[Friends, if you want your photos to be deleted, send me a message.]