Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Too slow to the game, maybe?


I have heard of Goodreads many years ago but I haven't registered an account there because I just didn't find the need to. Few months ago, I checked the website out again and created an account which I left idle for quite some time before deciding to be active on it again. The reason was simple: I needed recommendations on good books to read. And the website was perfect for that. There is something inexplicable about Goodreads community that I really love. Like the feeling you get when you share your favourite teddy bear with your favourite friend and your favourite friend reciprocates by sharing her favourite doll with you? 

I will still be writing my reviews/reflections on the books I have read here. My Goodreads account is there to keep track on the books I have read and the books that I want to read. If you have good recommendations, please do share with me.

Goodreads users, you must be thinking: this girl is just too slow to the game.

Better be late than never, right?


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Twenty Something Travel to [Vancouver - Downtown Edition]


I have always heard of people wanting to migrate to Canada. Being the second largest country in the world (after Russia), and a country known for its untouched natural landscape, beautiful national parks, interesting food and friendly people, I can see why it's so well-liked. This travel series on Canada is going to be a long one because my family and I travelled to several places in Canada, all within a month.

Our Canada trip would not be possible without the help of Litong! (If you are reading this, Hello!) Thank you for all the recommendations!

Our first stop was Vancouver (7/6-18/6).


Vancouver is a city located in the province of British Columbia. Although it's known as the most populous city in the said province, it's one of the most peaceful and cleanest cities that we have been to. However, the downside is that Vancouver's property prices are the highest among all cities in Canada. A small flat for 2 can go as high as a million.

Telecommunication

There was a telecommunication booth located right outside the arrival hall. We approached the officer there and he kindly told us that there were cheaper options at shopping malls. The booth was there because they were working with the airport to promote their brand and they were obviously not the only telecommunication operator in Canada. So we visited CF Pacific Centre (a huge shopping mall located in downtown) to get our SIM. We were pretty surprised to find out that all of the available operators didn't offer any unlimited data package and the general package for tourists was 2GB data with free local calls and SMS for 30 days. The price was kind of standard, maybe just a difference of CAD 10 (approx. SGD 10). So we settled on Chatr mobile and it costed us CAD 70 (approx. SGD 75). On one of the days, we saw another operator, Freedom mobile, offering a much cheaper price for similar service but online reviews revealed that the connection offered by the operator could be quite problematic and poor. We didn't encounter any problems with Chatr so I would recommend Chatr if you do visit Canada! 


CF Pacific Centre
Note: if you are travelling to the U.S. after, you could get a SIM which has coverage in the U.S. so that you don't have to get another SIM and pay extra. We didn't get ours because our trip to the U.S. after Canada was outside the 30 days period. 

Accommodation + Transportation

View from our Airbnb

We wanted to stay somewhere near downtown so it's not too far off from the places we planned to visit, and of course, somewhere affordable (and clean and safe). The attractions in Vancouver were located quite close to one another and all were accessible from downtown. There was no reason why to stay elsewhere, so downtown it was! Note that the prices of Airbnb (property in general) in Vancouver are slightly higher than other cities so don't be surprised if a 1-night stay here costs more than your 2-night stay in Toronto! 

We chose Airbnb because we wanted a place that was affordable and a place which we could do our laundry since we were going to travel for a month. I plan to write about my Airbnb booking experience in a separate blog post, so if you are interested, look out for it!

Since we stayed in downtown, we travelled to places by foot. Vancouver also offers free shuttle bus to many tourist attractions from downtown so you don't really need to take a public bus or the metro. Everything is within reach by foot if you stay in downtown. 

A cab ride (most convenient since there were 4 of us) from the airport to our Airbnb apartment costed CAD 35 (approx. SGD 37). The rate is standard, depending on the zone you are heading to. REMEMBER TO TIP THE DRIVER. Like in the U.S., tipping is customary in Canada. You tip 15%-20% of the total bill before tax, and less for poor service. The reason behind this is that in Canada, workers like the waiters are not well-paid and they earn based on the tips they get at the end of each day.  

Food 

I LOVE THEIR FOOD. Vancouver is a coastal seaport in Canada so you get really fresh oysters, lobsters etc. Out of 10 food places, 9 of them were good! Everything was so fresh, brilliantly prepared, and awfully delicious too! I'll do a separate food guide because this post is going to run many pages if I include it here!

Just gonna leave this here. 

Places

If you are only going to Vancouver and not taking the tour to the Rockies Mountain, then you should visit these places: the famous Capilano suspension bridge, Grouse Mountain, Stanley Park, Sunset Beach and Granville Island Public Market. But if you are going to the Rockies Mountain, I would suggest striking the first two off the list. We went to the suspension bridge and it was too crowded so I didn't like it. For Grouse Mountain, we decided not to head there because we surmised it would be a toned-down version of the mountains we visited during our Rockies Mountain tour after looking at their website. 

1. Capilano Suspension Bridge 

There is a free shuttle bus available if you stay within the downtown area. Check out their website here for more. Oh yeah, one more thing, if you are a student, don't forget to bring your student ID along so you get about CAD 9 (approx. SGD 9) discount!


Tried to get a clean shot of the suspension bridge but it's impossible.
Edge Walk through the canopy

Look at the crowd
Hanging 70m above the Capilano River
Tall Trees
Mini Waterfall

Now I know how does it feel like to be at the bottom of the totem pole. 


2. Sunset Beach

Great place to chill after dinner. The sun sets at around 8pm during summer. 



3. Stanley Park

It's a 30-minute walk from downtown. 



Spot the Lions Gate Bridge behind me! (The cold is real if someone wears gloves in summer)


Spot the Girl in Wet Suit statue. It represents Vancouver's dependence on the sea. 

Hobbit Hut?! It's just a restaurant in the middle of nowhere. Closest I can get to the movie scene. 




4. Granville Island Public Market

You can pay a small fee and take a ferry to Granville Island or do what we did, talk a walk via the Granville Street Bridge. It was a long walk (about 45 minutes) but the view was worth it!

Granville Street Bridge (Experience walking on a highway) 






5. Gastown

Just a place famous for its iconic steam clock...and...great cafes. 



Weather

The best time to visit Canada is definitely summer (although their summer felt like winter). Winter will be too cold (I heard that the temperature can drop all the way to minus 40 degrees Celcius) unless you are looking at doing winter activities and chasing the aurora. Some places still snow during summer time (which you will see in my Rockies Mountain blog post) so you get the best of both worlds during summertime!

The temperature in downtown Vancouver was about 15-20 degrees Celcius, with some rain. We swear, it was the perfect weather for anything!  

That's all for our visit to downtown Vancouver, next stop, to the Rockies Mountain!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Twenty Something Travel to [The Taaras Beach and Spa Resort at Redang Island]


Rise and shine from my favourite beach vacation spot - Redang Island! 

The previous post on Redang Island is rather visual-heavy so here's a post with detailed information about the resort we stayed, how to get there, best time to visit etc.

Taaras' beachfront

How to get there

View from the airplane window

The most convenient way of getting there is by taking a domestic flight from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Kuala Terengganu. The airlines which you may check for available flights are Air Asia, Firefly, Malindo Air and Malaysia Airlines

After reaching the Kuala Terengganu Airport, also known as the Sultan Mahmud Airport, you need to take a taxi to Shahbandar Jetty. From there, there are two ways in which you can get to your resort: 

1. By public ferry

There is a public ferry departing from Shahbandar Jetty and will arrive at Redang Jetty. From there, most resorts will offer a complimentary ride on a shuttle bus/van to the resort. The public ferry transfer rate is about SGD 18 per person per way and will take approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to reach Redang Jetty. You can purchase the ferry ticket at the Shahbandar Ferry counter. 

The ferry departure time are as follows:

Shahbandar Jetty to Redang Jetty: 1030hrs or 1500hrs

Redang Jetty to Shahbandar Jetty: 0700hrs or 1300hrs

2. By the resort's speedboat

Taaras' Speedboat
Some resorts do offer their own transport for transfer the minute you touch down for a fee. This is a more convenient and easier way to arrive at your resort because everything will be arranged and you do not need to worry about missing the shuttle bus/van or not being able to hitch a taxi on time to catch the public ferry at the jetty. 

Additional Costs (subject to change)


To enter Redang Island, all guests will have to pay a Marine Park Conservation Fee and a Jetty Fee. The costs can vary depending on your nationality, 

Marine Park Conservation Fee


Malaysian: approx. SGD 1.60
Other Nationalities: approx. SGD 9.70

Jetty Fee 

Standard for all: SGD 0.32

Best Time to Visit


The best time to visit Redang is between April to July because the weather is clear and the water is peaceful and calm. In September, the weather starts to be slightly gloomy with occasional sea storms so traveling to Redang may not be very ideal. Most resorts close between November to end of February because Redang is affected by the Northteast Monsoon. So during this period, the sea will be in a raging mess, with strong waves, high tides, and stormy weather.

Telecommunication


I'm not sure about other resorts on Redang Island, Taaras offered WIFI in all room types but the connection was as good as non-existent. The connection was "strong" and "fast" enough for Whatsapp and basic Googling only. Luckily we got our SIM from Digi at the airport with 2GB of data + RM10 credit for approx. SGD 11.30, so we could watch some Youtube during our free time at night. So if you are a heavy internet user, get your SIM/pocket WIFI beforehand!

Our Resort: The Taaras Beach and Spa Resort


We chose Taaras because we loved their modern decor and interior! Besides, the fact that they have a private beach is a plus for people like us who do not like crowded places. Our stay with Taaras was pleasant and we really enjoyed every second spent there! Thanks Taaras for the wonderful beach vacation!

p/s: Although Taaras claims that it's a 4.5-star hotel, I would say you get what you pay for. The resort is really not for fussy guests. If you choose Taaras thinking that it is on par with Ritz-Carlton or Marriot or other 5-star Maldives resorts, I would say you should look elsewhere. Taaras is really not for nitpicking guests. 

The Room 

We booked our room few months in advance and opted for the Garden Deluxe, which was the cheapest available room. We were upgraded to Cliff Hill Deluxe and of course, we were elated! The room was really spacious and the sheets were so comfy! It came with a patio with garden view which offered total and complete privacy away from everyone. There was also daily complimentary buffet breakfast that came with every room type so we get to fill our tummy before all the water sports and activities!

The bed with super comfy sheets!

Our bath tub

There were also a walk-in wardrobe, a separate standing shower and toilet which are not featured in the pictures above. 

Tips



The private beach at Taaras is just a swim away from the Turtle Island and there is also a snorkeling spot with beautiful coral reefs right in front of it. You can just swim over to snorkel with the fishes and sea turtles. There is really no need to sign up for their additional snorkeling/turtle viewing day trips. If you do not own a snorkeling gear, you can rent it at the recreation centre for a small fee (I would recommend bringing your own to minimize expenses if you plan to snorkel every day). Life jacket can be rented at no cost. 

I hope the information above is detailed enough for all of you who wish to visit this beautiful island! If you have any further questions, drop them in the comment box below and I'll answer them as soon as I see them!


Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Twenty Something Travel to [Sun, Sea & Sand - Redang Island Edition]


Redang Island is an island in Kuala Nerus District in Terengganu, which is an east coast state of the Peninsular Malaysia. The island is an important conservation site for sea turtles, coral reefs, and terrestrial habitats. It also has one of the clearest waters and finest white sands, which makes it the perfect place for snorkelling and diving! Still one of my favourite beach vacation destinations after so many years!

In this post, I will be sharing some pretty pictures we took during our stay at this breathtaking summer paradise. I will also do a follow-up post to fill all of you in with some information about the resort we stayed, how to get there, best time to visit etc. So stay tuned for that!

View from our beachfront resort 






We did some kayaking on the crystal clear water.




We also went snorkelling with sea turtles and fishes. They were just right in front of us. 



We saw not one but two sea turtles!





I guess everyone looks hideous underwater with their snorkelling mask on. 








We got to hold these little tiny cute baby sea turtles too!



Self-directed + self-timed pictures. *you need an incredibly rugged camera that is sandproof, waterproof, shockproof etc. for this because you need to plant your camera on the wet sand* (that's what you do when you don't have a tripod/cameraman/third party/third wheel/whatever you want to call it)



We decided to visit the beach after 5pm on the second last day to take some pictures before heading home. (That explains why we look really "dry" here)





 Sunset view at the beach and our How-To-Pose-Like-A-Pro (Bikini Edition) Guide.  

Touch your hair and look anywhere except the camera. JUST NOT THE CAMERA.

Show off your burnt ass and just look away from the camera. 

Suck your stomach in, pretend you kicked something, look at the camera, now smile. 

Pop your sunburnt ass out, flip your hair, look in front!

Wait, is that a middle finger? No it's not. It's a failed peace sign that looks like a middle finger. Sometimes, it's all about that angle. 
The sky is turning dark. 


We never get jump shots right. 
I miss Redang so much and I'm still in awe over how stunning this island is as I'm arranging these pictures! I'm definitely coming back here again Redang!

All pictures are taken on Olympus Stylus TG-860.