Friday, March 25, 2016

Twenty Something Travel to [Paris]

I told myself I needed to clear the backlog since last year and apparently it didn't materialise. Hence, the late travel post on my trip to Paris! My Paris trip took place in Summer 2015, right after London. So here I will tell you how to get from London to Paris without taking the plane (of course you can't walk there but...). I mean it is a good idea to visit London then Paris or vice versa because it's very convenient.

Champ de Mars Garden near Eiffel Tower

Seine River
The most visited monument in the world is the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I didn't know the tower was named after the architect who built it until I saw the description in the brochure. Prior to visiting Paris, I thought Eiffel Tower was just another overrated monument but I took back my words when I saw it in Paris. I was utterly amazed by how beautiful Eiffel Tower was. There was this magical emission of beauty, love and something really Parisian which was inexplicable.

How did I get to Paris from London


Self-check in counter which was very convenient

St Pancras Railway Station

In the Eurostar
Sister left us to study for IB after London, so here's a wefie of the two of us!
My mum and I took Eurostar (something like an express train) from the St Pancras Railway Station (London) to Gare du Nord (Paris). We bought the tickets online and printed the barcode out. Check in was easy and convenient because there were signs in English to direct you everywhere. The standard ticket for Eurostar will be comfortable enough for you to sit through a 4-hour train ride so upgrade will not be necessary.

Telecommunication


Galeries Lafayette -a luxurious shopping mall with branded goods
Some people told me France used a different operator therefore SIM from London could not be used in Paris. I was about the discard my 30 days unlimited SIM card I bought from London, read about it here. Surprisingly, my SIM worked in Paris! So we saved a bit there! (Readers, to play safe, choose my line operator so that you don't have to buy a SIM twice!)

Transportation


Another department store Printemps
We took the metro (Paris's MRT) from Gau du Nord to the station near our hotel. We didn't stay at the central so it took some time. I learnt one precious lesson here: TAKE THE CAB FROM THE AIRPORT! (But choose the cab driver wisely) We abandoned the idea of taking the cab because it looked very unsystematic there. Drivers were everywhere to solicit their service to you and to be honest, some of them looked quite creepy which gave me that eerie feeling. So we took the metro because we thought it was safer. But we only realised there were no lift and escalator at almost every metro station. What was worse was they had flights and flights of staircases. My mum and I carried our luggage up and down and down and up again because we needed to transit at two stations before reaching our hotel.

For the rest of the days, we travelled by metro because it's cheaper and more convenient. It took me quite a while to figure out how the metro tickets work because they sell them by single trip and in bundles. So we just planned where we wanted to go on one day, took the metro to the nearest station, toured the place by foot, from one place to another, and then hop on to any metro at the end of the day to head back to our hotel. The best way to explore Paris is by foot and we did it for the entire trip.

Honestly, I felt uneasy because of all those negative reviews about Paris online I read beforehand (I will talk about it later) . But I told myself I just needed to be aware of the surroundings and be brave. Something I thought scary happened: We had three luggage in total and my mum couldn't carry hers by herself (she had two). So I had to help her by bringing them up together. There was no other way. We had to leave our luggage right at the end of the staircase and go all the way down to take the next one. A couple, I believe were Parisan, were checking our luggage out. I saw them doing that (they were maneuvering it with smirky face) when I was carrying the second luggage and I quickly went up and held the luggage with a smile. They left after that. I felt so terrible after that. I guess it wasn't that easy to be in an unfamiliar country where you didn't know the language, the place and the people.

Accommodation

There are hotels to hostels for you to choose from. I would say choose somewhere safe, not so far from the places that you intend to visit, like a hotel where there will be access card and security guards. Read the reviews beforehand and make sure you stay in the safe zone (I used the Be Safe! app to check).

Food

The food we tried here was as good if not better than that in London. I fell in love with their steak after trying a few, and wine too! If you can't read French, it will be a good idea to eat near tourist attractions because they will normally provide you with an English menu. If not, you can simply ask 'parley oo anglay' to inquire if any of the waiter speaks English. It is good to know basic French so that people will entertain you if you have problem (especially for those which you can use to ask for directions for essentials like toilet/food place).

As our accommodation did not include breakfast, we went to a nearby supermarket to buy breakfast for ourselves. We tried their milk, biscuit, bread and cup noodles. Nothing fancy but it was different from those that I have tasted in my life. Scroll down to read about them!

Steak and pasta at Le Buron

Mussels and beer at Leon de Bruxelles
Beautiful Eclairs

Entrecote at Zimmer (must try restaurant)

Foie Gras de Canard at Zimmer


Creme Brulee
Financiers - my favourite snack! Dip it into milk and eat...you will love it!
Escargot at Avenue (must try restaurant) - a bit pricey though

Prawn Risotto at Avenue

Cote de Veau Limousin - Veal Chop at Avenue (This was DAMN GOOD!) 
Rosy Cheeks after drinking champagne and some white wine
Amorino Rose Ice-cream

Places

We agreed to go back to the hotel before sunset as it would be safer. Anyway it did not affect our travel plan much because the night came around 10pm. That means 9pm there looked like 4pm in Singapore. That weather was too good to travel. The weather was slightly colder as compared to London, around 15-18 degrees Celcius.

We visited the Eiffel Tower, the Lourve, Notre Dame de Paris, Arc de Triomphe, Musee d Orsay, Champs-Elysees, Sainte-Chappelle, Jardin du Luxembourg, Palais Garnier, Jardin de Tuileries, Galleries Lafayette etc. Their architectural styles were fascinating and the art pieces displayed in museums were astonishing. Now I know why some people love Paris so much.

Some pictures to share:

Palais Garnier


Seine River

La Madeleine (a Roman Catholic Church)

Galleries Lafayette
The Place de la Concorde
Paris Opera

Arc de Triomphe

Champs-Elysees
Jardin du Luxembourg
Chillin' here
Pont des Arts

Notre Dame
Sainte-Chapelle
Entrance of Musee du Louvre


Musee du Louvre (standard tourist shot)

Musee du Louvre (standard tourist shot 2)
Musee du Louvre (standard tourist shot 3)

Eh...wait! Where are pictures of the Eiffel Tower?

Dear readers, I will be collating the pictures we took at the Eiffel Tower and post them in a separate blog post! Reason: the Eiffel Tower is too magical and the author feels that it deserves a separate post! Look forward to it okay!

Scam?

Before heading to Paris, I actually read a lot of reviews on travelling in this city itself. A lot of reviews online were about tourists getting scammed near tourist attractions. I was kind of worried before heading to Paris and even while we were there, we made sure we headed home before dawn. Actually it wasn't really that scary or bad as described online.

There was this lady who approached us when we were resting near the Eiffel Tower to sell us some bracelet. She kept pushing and asked what language do we speak (so that she could sell us the stuff). We said no by waving our hands, stood up and walked away.

I think when you travel, especially to a place where you don't speak their language, you just have to be aware of your surroundings and be careful. Be sensitive. If people approach you and start getting pushy, just waved to show you are not interested and walk away. If you are unsure if they really need help or they are just real scammers, just walk away. If in doubt, walk away. I'm not asking you to be selfish but it's really not safe to talk to strangers when you are overseas. You don't know their language, you don't know what they want from you and you can't get help immediately if something really happen to you. So why risk it right?

Also, don't walk in dark alleys or go to places like clubs when you are travelling alone or in small groups. I'm not saying things will happen when you do, but just be extra careful when you are out there. Another safety tip is to get the number of your country's embassy if there is one in the country you are travelling in. It's always good to have it. Lastly, always keep your purse inside your jacket or coat where it's not easily accessible.

As usual, if you have any questions, feel free to drop them in the comment box below. I will reply them if there is any! Have fun travelling people :)

p/s: OMG I have exactly a month to my finals. Can't believe time passes so fast, especially when you are in university. A small note to myself to study hard and never give up. It's never too late because the time to start is always NOW. Don't get distracted by the surroundings. Focus and work hard towards your goal. Till next time peeps :)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Artsy Date @ Arteastiq

A different kind of date.

It was a sunny Saturday. Bii and I were discussing what could we do. We decided to go for a study date in the library. As usual, we packed our things: laptop, charger, books, jackets etc. We headed out to have lunch. After lunch, we discussed and came to a consensus - let's just do away with the mundane study date thing and try something new. We dropped our bags at home, went to catch Zootopia (I'm not a fan of cartoons but I must say it's a great movie indeed) and headed to Arteastique for an artsy date. (the degree of spontaneity: 99.99%)

Arteastique is a social painting studio that serves food right next to it. We made a booking before heading to the studio, just in case we could not get a place by walking-in. For painting sessions on weekdays, if you are a student, you get to enjoy a session for just SGD 28 as compared to the usual SGD 48! So, you know what to do if you are still studying! 

Source: Google 
One session includes free flow of acrylic paint, a canvas, an apron, set of brushes and paint pallete. That means you do not have to bring anything else other than yourself. If you don't have any idea on what to draw, they also have catalogues for the uninspired. Once you have an idea of what to draw, you can start drawing! Each session is 3 hours and if you can't complete your drawing, you can always top up SGD 5 for a one hour extension. 

Source: Google
The atmosphere was very inspiring due to the air-conditioned interior and quiet surroundings with soothing music playing softly in the background. It was a good three hours of just focusing on drawing and painting. It unleashed the artsy fartsy part of me. I couldn't even remember when was the last time I painted on a blank canvas. Maybe 12 years ago? Painting is one of my childhood hobbies that I miss until today. 




Something funny happened while we started painting:-

B: Shit, how come they don't have orange paint? I need it for the body of charizard. Now I have to use red. 
Me: B, you are supposed to mix red and yellow together to get the colour.
B: What?! How come nobody tell me one. (while trying to get orange by mixing red and yellow)

A while later...

B: Babie, how come it becomes bright red rather than orange?
Me: Because you mixed too much red. Proportion is 2:1, 2 being yellow. 
B: Walao, nobody tell me. Can help me mix? (smirk*)

When he finished using up his orange, I saw a hand with a brush stretched across my palette and picked up orange from it. 

Me: Ehhhhh...why you steal my orange. (whiny face*)
B: Don't be selfish, share colour leh. 

That moment, I felt like I was a kid and kindergarten started all over again.







Three hours later...we are done with our creations!




It was a great day spent.

Let your creativity out now at Arteastique!

Address: 333A Orchard Road, #04-14/15, Mandarin Gallery, 238867
Call them to secure your slot: 6235 8370

Postscript: Zootopia was a great movie as it conveyed a very important lesson - do not give up chasing your dreams and never let the social norm define what you can and cannot do. It is very relevant especially in societies where discrimination issues are prominent or where there are social stigmas on people with particular type of skin colour, family background etc. Go watch it if you haven't! (btw the theme song sang by Shakira was really catchy, motivating and nice too)

Side note: Sometimes I wonder if I'm doing what I really love. I was not born to be creative but I feel happiness whenever I draw and paint. If I were to do painting as a living, it definitely won't feel like work. I'm unsure, grass is always greener on the other side. I think I should just continue what I'm doing and see how it goes. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

How will I spend my 30 days in Bangkok?

Hello everyone! I'm back with a "how will I spend my 30 days in Bangkok" post to share more about travelling in Bangkok. If you follow my blog, I have blogged about my trip to Bangkok with my family here. I must say I still miss Bangkok very much and wouldn't mind visiting there again and again! Work has been piling up lately and sometimes travelling with my loved ones serves as a respite for me. What's more important than spending time with people that you love in a lovely city like Bangkok right?

What if...I say what if...I can spend 30 days in Bangkok during my semester break? Here's what I will do!

1. Eat all I can!

Sometimes a 5-6 days trip overseas is not enough for you to explore local food entirely. It may be due to time constraints or maybe the food place is just out of your way or far from the city. If I have 30 days in Bangkok, I will make sure I explore more local food stalls and hipster cafes around Bangkok!











2. Visit places around Bangkok like a local! 

Bangkok is really a vibrant city. The last time and the only time we visited Bangkok, we managed to cover a few tourist attractions which were popular among tourists but not so much for the "hidden gems". We didn't manage to cover some of the temples, any of the museums, parks, floating markets or zoos in Bangkok. If I have 30 days in Bangkok, I will visit Bangkok National Museum, Safari World, Dusit Zoo, Dusit Palace, Bank of Thailand Museum, Samutprakarn Crocodile Farm (Bii loves crocodiles for some reason), Royal Thai Air Force Museum, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Chinatown and many more! We missed the night view at Wat Arun too :( I heard that it's really pretty at night! Speaking about market, we missed the busy Chatuchak Weekend Market because we went there on a weekday as our trip did not stretch over any Saturdays or Sundays. I would say almost 50%-60% of the shops were closed. Can't wait to see how it's like on a weekday!


















3. Shop till I drop!

Okay, our last trip to Bangkok was kinda short. Honestly, I did not get to shop much. In fact I only bought an orange clutch (which I'm still using it until today), fairy lights (to decorate my room) and two yoga pants. You didn't hear me wrong, only two yoga pants! How's that enough right? I mean places like Platinum Mall, Siam Square, MBK and Pratunam have so beautiful clothes and accessories at very affordable prices, how did I even miss out good deals like these? If I have 30 days in Bangkok, I will go full fledged on shopping! I will probably get some basic school and work outfits. 

















4. Relax at Klapsons The River Residences Bangkok!

I have read about very positive reviews about Klapsons The River Residences in Bangkok. If I can stay in for 30 days and enjoy their room service as well as facilities like the pools and gym, it will be the best 30 days of my life!

Imagine this:

10 a.m. Wake up on a hotel bed
11 a.m. Wash up and have brunch
12 a.m. Chill by the pool/go for a swim/have a good tan
2 p.m.   Shower and visit places in Bangkok
6 p.m.   Dinner
7 p.m.   Enjoy night view at the hotel
8 p.m.   Read a book
9 p.m.   Go to the gym
10 p.m. Shower/Soak myself with hot water in the bath tub (with some candles and wine maybe)


Source: Agoda

Source: Agoda

Source: Agoda

Source: Agoda
Looking at the plan I have in mind already make me feel like planning for another trip to Bangkok soon! Please let my dream come true! :)


#klapsonsbangkok #klapsonsflexistaycontest