Friday, March 31, 2017

Twenty Something Travel to [Where to stay in New York Edition]

When it comes to travel planning, choosing the right accommodation, to me, is one of the most time-consuming thing to do. It's not helping when you haven't been to the country/city and you have no idea which area is the most convenient place to stay. Not mentioning that the research part can be very tedious when you want a place that suits your needs.

When I choose my accommodation, there are the "rule of 3 Cs" which I need to adhere to - basically, it must be Clean, Convenient and Cheap. Places which fall short of any these criteria will be thrown out of my list of consideration straight away.

Why it needs to be clean and aesthetically pleasing:

I'm quite a fussy customer when it comes to hotel rooms. Imagine coming back to mouldy carpet, dirty toilet, faulty air-conditioner, cold shower etc after a long day outside. That's just disastrous. I want to have a good night sleep every day so that I can re-charge and enjoy exploring every day. It doesn't need to be spotlessly clean, just clean and well-maintained.

Why it needs to be convenient:

You want to save your time on transport. Imagine taking the train for almost an hour to reach tourist attractions or spend an exorbitant amount on cab fares...that's just...unwise.

Why it needs to be relatively cheap (or affordable):

Unless you like staying in the hotel rather than heading out, you don't want to spend too much just to pay for a place where you will only spend your night time sleeping. It needs to be cheap or at least affordable so that you can spend more on makeup, food, museum tickets, clothes and more clothes.

Who says clean hotels are not cheap, cheap hotels are not convenient?

Disclaimer: Hotels that fit exactly all these criteria are hard to find. But I will give you my recommendations which come close to fit all these criteria based on my research.

Here are my top picks in New York! (1 being highly recommended, * for hotels which I have stayed before)

Click on the hotel names to be directed to their official website!

1. Citizen M New York Times Square Hotel 

For fussy customers. Top-notch hotel services. Superb location. Extremely clean. No complaints.




2. Yotel*

As good as #1. Only difference is that the location of this hotel is not as central (near to everywhere) as #1...and the streets to the hotel get a bit dark and quiet at night.



3. Element New York Times Square West

You get a mini kitchen and even a washing machine in some room types. Clean. Location is not as central compared to #1 and #2.




4. Nylo Hotel NYC

Location is not as central as #1, #2 and #3. Near central park. Generally clean. Price is cheaper and more affordable than #1, #2 and #3.





5. Row NYC

Location is superb. Price is cheapest among all. Other than that, rooms are extremely small, not for fussy customers, not as clean as #1 - #4. You are paying for the location, and only that.


Note: All hotel pictures are taken from Booking.com. Comments are made based on Tripadvisor's reviews except those with *, those are made based on personal experience.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Twenty Something Travel to [Hong Kong]

As promised, here's my Hong Kong travel post!

I love Hong Kong, it's a vibrant and densely populated city, just like Singapore. I always wanted to visit Hong Kong Disneyland and the highly raved Ocean Park during summer but people were complaining about the frequent drizzles throughout the days in summer. Weird enough, summer is the dampest period whereas winter is the driest period. We visited Hong Kong in the first week of January during our semester break. The weather was perfect, it was around 18 to 20 degrees Celcius, mostly sunny.  

Victoria Habour

Telecommunication

As usual, we wanted to get an unlimited data SIM card at the airport. Something to note: When we got out of the arrival hall, we spot this phone operator which was selling unlimited data SIM card at a price (if I remember correctly, it was HKD 688) and there was a queue at the store. While queuing, my sister and I were converting the amount and realised it was pretty expensive for a 7-day SIM (with a limit of 4GB of data). We decided to get out of the queue and walk around to see if there were cheaper deals. We saw a 7-eleven and we stepped into the shop to ask. Guess what we was offered? HKD 118 for a 7-day SIM with unlimited data!

Ngong Ping

Transportation

The taxi fare was pretty expensive because the starting fare was HKD 22 (SGD 4) and it skipped like lightning! We were staying near Prince Edward Station so we took a taxi there. It took us around 45 minutes and the fare was around HKD 300 (SGD 55). There were alternatives available too, like the Airport to City Express Train, buses and the MTR. However, it was actually cheaper to take the taxi considering there were four of us.

Getting around Hong Kong is easy. We got ourselves the Octopus card and navigated the city by the MTR for the rest of the days. I must say the cost of living in Hong Kong is indeed higher than that in Singapore. Everything is expensive except for their food.

Victoria Peak

Accommodation

Victoria Harbour
If you are planning to visit the tourist attractions all around Hong Kong, I would recommend staying near Mongkok and Prince Edward MTR station. This is because Mongkok located strategically in the middle of the MTR map, so it will never be too far to anywhere. We stayed near the Prince Edward MTR station which was very convenient. There were food stalls, grocery shops, malls etc within walking distance!

Food

Dimsum at Yi Dian Xin (一点心)

DIMSUM! People say Hong Kong has the best dimsum in the world. I second that! We tried Dimsum as well as other famous dishes/beverage/food there! The food prices in malls were slightly on the expensive spectrum.

If you don't mind crowded places, I suggest you can just randomly walk into any shop on the streets that looks packed (it's crowded for a reason). Most of the time, the food is good, if not, brilliant! That was what we did because we didn't have any specific list of food places that we intended to try.

Random Cocktail Bun 鸡尾包

More Dimsum at 一点心

菠萝包 (Bo Luo Bao) 

虾饺 (Ha Gao) 

More 烧卖 (Siu Mai)
 牛筋面 (Niu Jin Mian)at 好旺角

Places

Gold Fish Market

We basically toured the whole of Hong Kong. We went to Ngong Ping to visit the Great Buddha, Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island, Hong Kong Disneyland, Ocean Park, Flower Market, Gold Fish Market, Pets Market, MOKO, Ladies Market, Victoria Harbour, Victoria Peak, Clock Tower, Central etc.

The Great Buddha

Flower Market

Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens
All tourist attractions are pretty accessible.

Few tips for travelling to these places:

1. For Ngong Ping, you can choose to take the bus up instead of the cable car. If you will feel queasy on long and rough bus rides, I will recommend taking the cable car. The latter is of course more expensive than the bus but I guess you can enjoy a smoother ride and better scenery on a cable car.

2. For Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park, you can pre-book your tickets in advance online. It will be around SGD 10 cheaper per person. Oh yeah, buy the meal voucher online too (it's few dollars cheaper). Bii booked our tickets here.

Hong Kong Disneyland
For Disneyland, I think one day is enough to tour everything. For Ocean Park, you may be on a very tight schedule if you intend to visit every single attraction in a day. What I suggest is take the themepark map and plan your visit systematically to ensure you have time to cover the interesting places (at least the major ones). Note that for Ocean Park, most of the attractions close at 6pm although the official closing time is 7pm. So we left out boring rides and lame shows to make time for the amusing ones. The map and showtimes guide are essentials for the visit so that you won't miss out their light parade, special shows and fireworks. Be sure to catch the fireworks at both Disneyland and Ocean Park at night!


Winnie the Pooh Fan

Hong Kong Disneyland 

I personally prefer Ocean Park over Disneyland. The former is more educational (they have a giant aquarium, penguins, white fox, panda and sharks to watch) whereas the latter is more kids-friendly. Ocean Park has more adult-friendly thrilling rides too!

Ocean Park
Real Dolphins at Ocean Park
1 out of the 100 rides there 
They have lockers in the park for you to place your belongings. Use them if you don't feel like carrying your bulky bags!

3. Basic bargain etiquette applies at Ladies Market (don't bother bargaining if you don't intend to buy).

4. Visit the Victoria Peak at night to enjoy the night view and lighting. We bought our tickets at around 7pm and when we got up, we saw nothing but fog. The fog was so thick and we could not see anything, literally. It was also freezing cold up there. We stayed for a while and went down disappointingly. My mum brought us to a restaurant at the mall right below the Victoria Peak and we went for small bites and drinks. After 30 minutes or so, I was surprised to see buildings and lightings from the full-length window in the restaurant. I happily told my mum then the fog had cleared! We tried our luck to talk to the officer to let us go up again (it was a one-time entry ticket). And...she gracefully allowed! We were all in ecstasy when we saw the breathtaking night view!

Victoria Peak

5. Plan a hiking trip to Lantau Peak! Read more about it here.

Lantau Peak
So that sums up my trip to Hong Kong! Food is the thing I miss most in Hong Kong!

At the airport!
Till next time! We'll see you again, HK!