Hong Kong
Commercialisation

After 2 weeks in Hong Kong, I began to see the major similarities between Singapore and here. It’s hard not to compare. It’s busy, commercial, noisy, bustling, slightly chaotic, crowded, etc. All the aspects you associate with a huge city. I noted a few things that someone who has never been to an Asian country before would be freaked out about.
Hong Kong is a rather expensive country to visit, even when comparing to Singapore. When I was there, I was appalled by how expensive drinking and eating were. So naturally I searched for the cheap options and compiled a list for you.

For more detailed information visit LaughTravelEat’s post about Hong Kong. 

Hong Kong
My first time ordering food from a local hawker place. Definitely an experience.

Ordering food

Ordering food in restaurants is daunting to say the least. It’s really scary when you are in a place where the wait staff shouts incoherent noises at you, as they usher you to sit down sharing tables and knocking knees with strangers, looking at a menu full of symbols that makes no sense and pressure to order something builds. All you can do is point at pictures (if there are any) or at what everyone else is eating around you and hope for the best.

They hand you a piece of paper with a couple of numbers on it, but as you take out your wallet to pay, they point to a counter and speak a few more incoherent sentences to you. Confused you sit back down , put your wallet away and observe how things worked around here. By the time you figure it out, your food comes and there are no forks, so it’s time to put on your best chopstick skills so that you don’t embarrass yourself in front of these strangers.

This is the likely story of your first experience in a local eatery or a cooked food place. Fear not, I’m here to help you. From my years of traveling, learning to speak the language is not only easy, but it’s also not enough. Learning to read and recognise some of the most basic of words will help you. The easiest way to go about these is to download Google Translate and use the camera function to decipher the words. However if you want to seem like a pro, here are some of the most common ones that you will need to survive one of these ordeals.

Chicken
Noodles
Pork
Rice
BeefCongee
FishTea
SoupCoffee 咖啡

Cheap transportation

The local light rail tram system is the cheapest transportation anywhere in Hong Kong island, though only serving the north. For 2.20HKD, you can go from the Eastern end to the Western end. Although it’s the slowest transportation option, due to subsceptibility to traffic, it’s one of the prettier ways to travel within the island. So if you have time to spare and not in a hurry, try the tram.
The Bus is the next cheapest option. From 4HKD to 20 HKD, the bus can take you anywhere in Kowloon and the island. The worse part about it is that you pay a one time fee, not according to how far you are traveling. So if you are traveling long distances, it’s a good option. A note of advice, traveling by bus along Nathan Rd in Kowloon is the worse idea ever if it’s during the weekends and peak hours. It’s much faster walking.
The ferry system is also relatively cheap. If you are in Tsim Sha Tsui, the best and prettiest way to get to the island is using the ferry. At 2HKD a person, it’s definitely the cheapest way to go between these two places. From there it’s a 10min walk to Central and 5 min walk to the tram system.

Hong Kong
The ferries are a great way to view both the island and the kowloon at the same time.

Cheap Alcohol/food

Mr Wong’s – This corner shop has become one of the most talked about establishment in all of Hong Kong by the backpackers and expat community. Every night, after 7pm, this restaurant offers a $60HKD all you can eat and drink beer offer. That’s right, all the beer you can drink and so much food you don’t know what to do with for only 60HKD or $7.70USD. The man himself is extremely friendly and accomodating. If he likes your group enough, he will either give you whiskey or give you a birthday present on your day. How you ask he could do this? Firstly, you probably shouldn’t know, but you really wanted to there are rumours that it’s a front for him selling cocaine upstairs. It’s a hearsay thing so don’t quote me, just enjoy it blissfully and ignorantly.

711 – This convenient store by far sells the cheapest alcohol I could find anywhere. For $25HKD you can buy a 4pack of Skol and if you top up any more, Heikenen, Carlsberg, etc. While here, you can top up on your drunchies (and maybe munchies).

Hong Kong
You can buy anything you want for cheap at these shops, if you can find anything.

Local eateries – Many say that Hong Kong is a very expensive place visit. While it’s mostly true, you can still find relatively cheap meals amongst the local places. Places where they probably don’t speak english and nothing on the menu is english. The most you should even pay for a meal is 40HKD. The lowest I’ve paid for is 23HKD. It’s afforable, better than the 200HKD westerns and 150HKD ramen.

Happy Hour – Hong Kong has some of the longest happy hour I’ve ever come across in the world. Most places go from 2pm to 9pm, some even 12pm to 10pm. Regardless, bars are always open to having deals to attract the tourists and after work crowds alike. The best value and variety that I went was Hong Kong Brew House. At 50HKD from 4pm to 9pm, you can choose from 10 different draught beers including La Chouffe Belgian. If not for another 10 to300HKD you can choose from 100s of bottled beers from various countries. Otherwise, 70HKD for a Carlsberg pint is pretty normal.

Free Wifi

There are dozens of places to get free wifi. All McDonald’s and 711 have free wifi. There is a free public wifi at popular places, called freegovwifi and freegovwifi-e. The e requires you to register but comes with a better security and encryption which I prefer using. Everytime you come across it you just have to accept their terms and condition. Easy.

Hong Kong
The insanity of air con units that plague the city. Free water drippings for all.

Other advices

One of the things that annoys me the most when in Hong Kong is the water drippings from the air conditioning units at the side of the buildings. Everywhere you go and i mean everywhere, there will always be water dripping. My advice is to wear a hat to prevent that and since the sun is out, it’s multi purpose. If you think this is silly, wait till you experience it yourself.

One of the hidden expenses when traveling is the purchase of bottled water. In most tourist places, a large bottle of water (because that’s the only kind you should be buying) will set you back anywhere from 11-13 HKD. However, if you wonder into the less known places, the cheapest bottle I’ve ever bought was 5.50HKD, though 8HKD is a little more common.

“Free” Attractions to escape from the city

The Peak – Probably the most popular “outer-city” nature escape. At the view-point, the skyline and cityscape of Hong Kong can be enjoyed. There are many restaurants and tourist shops nearby as well. Though the view is good, especially the night lights, this is my least favourite “escape”.
Sai Kung – The largest national park in Hong Kong. Located in the New Territory, this area takes a while to get to but that also means way less tourists and people in general. There are many activities for people of all ages
Dragon’s back and Shek O Bay – This is a popular hiking trail among locals and tourists alike. Located in the southeastern corner of the island, the trail takes you up a ridge overlooking the bay on one side and the sea on the other. It’s a relatively short hike of an hour and another hour to get to Big Wave Beach where surfers congregate.
Kowloon Park – This little paradise is located smack in the middle of the busy and touristy Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok. Once you pass the entrance, the hustle and bustle gets drowned out and your eyes adjust to the change of scenery. It’s nice to take a breather here in the middle of the day from walking around the city. The Hong Kong Heritage Centre is a nice, free and relaxing educational tour of Hong Kong.

 

Hong Kong
Try and catch the local demonstration while there! Be part of the umbrella movement

Do you have anything to add to this Hong Kong guide?

 

For more detailed information visit LaughTravelEat’s post about Hong Kong. 

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Singapore
The famous Gardens by the Bay.

Inspired by LaughTravelEat’s blog post, I have decide to post one for my country. Many people who come to South East Asia have skipped past Singapore as they have heard how expensive and westernised it is. It’s hard to compare Singapore to the rest of South East Asia; politically and economically, we are at different levels and therefore can not have the same price range.
For those who has never been to Asia, I also tell them Singapore is the best place to start as it wouldn’t be much of a culture shock. Singapore is still as asian, the people, culture, food, etc. However, everyone speaks English, there are many restaurants that would remind you of home, and everything is clean and organised. From here, the rest of Asia is at your fingertips. Planes fly from the world’s best airport to anywhere you want for a cheap fare.
So give Singapore a chance, either at the start of your South East Asia trip or at the end of it, or even on your stopover to head to the down under. All you need is 3-4 days.

Now that I’ve convinced you to stop by, here are some useful information for you while in Singapore.

Singapore
Singapore Transportation Photo Courtesy of theonlinecitizen.com

Transportation

In Singapore, we have arguably one of the best transportation system in the world. It’s fast, efficient and very well connected. Here we use a NFC card Tap-n-Go system, called EZ link. As tourist you can get one from the airport or various locations. Since most tourists are only here for 3 days, they offer unlimited rides for 1,2 or 3 days. Plus you can refund your card deposit at the end of your trip. If you are here for more than 5 days, you can purchase a card from any 711 or Passenger Service counter at any train station.
The price difference between having a card and paying up front is a significant one. With your EZ link card, you can purchase items from any convenient stores, vending machines and many many or stores.

MRT

The train system connects most of the island together conveniently. It stops at all the major attractions and important regions of the island. It’s incredibly intuitive and easy to navigate thanks to its coloured-coded lines and aptly names, such as East-West and North-South.

Buses

These are slightly more difficult to navigate, though most bus stops in the city centre would have maps of attractions listed and which buses to take.
Hired Charters – From Singapore, many people head up to Malaysia. Though you could take the public buses, it only takes you up to Johor and the bus station. The most convenient and not so expensive way is to get a chartered bus. These wait for you at the customs and take you to your destination. The best website to buy it from is easybook.com.

Ferries

You could go North towards Malaysia or South towards Indonesia. From Singapore, you can fly but taking the ferry is much cooler. Either go to Bintan or Batam for less than 20SGD each way, cheaper if round trip. Use Easybook.com or Mozaic Ferry for the schedules and fares. Definitely check if you need Visa On Arrival (VOA).
The best part is that there are duty free shops in the terminals of ferry so you can stock up on cheap booze! (especially on the Singaporean side).

Singapore
The crazy hustle and bustle of rush hour.
Photo Courtesy of singapore.coconuts.co

Communication

In Singapore, there are 3 major telecom companies to provide you with communication options.
At the airport, you can choose between M1 , Starhub  or Singtel to get a local number.
One of my new favourite reason for people to make Singapore their first stop is that the telecom companies have stepped up and provide overseas roaming for no extra cost. For M1, you can travel to Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong, and roam for free! Yes that’s right, you can use data roaming for no extra cost, just ensure you have a prepaid data package purchased ($10 for 1GB, 30days).  If you want coverage in more countries, Singtel offers 1GB, 30 days, 11 destinations, for $20. 

Free Wifi 

There are free wifi all through the island. Every fastfood chains (McD, KFC, Starbucks, etc), shopping malls, museums, many MRT stations and airport would have it. There is a government provided one called Wireless@SG. You can either download the app, which allows you locate nearby hotspots, or simply log in everytime you log on to it. Having a pre-paid sim card and a local number makes it much easier sign on for one.

Climate

Singapore lies very close to the Equator, therefore the climate here is extremely temperate. Almost every day of the year, the temperature is about 31-34C and the nights are typically 26-29C. However, because it’s also between 60-90% humidity, those temperatures feel much higher. It’s highly adviceable to put on sunblock and drink lots of liquids.
Temperate climates also mean that there are practically no 4 seasons. Instead, we have 2 monsoon seasons when it would be summer and winter, June to September and November to March. During these periods it rains significantly more and the winds are stronger.

Singapore
Backpacker Hostels of Singapore.
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

Accomodation

Most of the hostels are located in Chinatown or Little India region. They should range from S$17 upwards for a dorm. Personally I can’t recommend any because I’ve never stayed in any before. Regardless, they are all centrally located and very accessible to public transportation. The dorms are all clean as they must meet a health code. Most of them have a special happy hour deal for their patrons. Be sure to ask for it!

If you need some thing with more comfort after spending all your time in grimmy hostels and dirty countries, here are some suggestions for boutique hotels. They are not your conventional white sheets, white walls kind of hotel. Many of them are themed and very unique. They will set you back from $100 upwards.  However, there are countless of hotel options in Singapore to meet the needs of anyone!

Singapore
The Crazy Rules of Singapore.
Photo Courtersy of businesstalk.sg

 

Rules

Singapore is notorious for its rules. The most famous one would be the “no chewing gum” law. To clarify this, chewing gum is allowed in Singapore as long as it’s in personal consumption amounts and that you don’t litter. Here are some of the more relevant laws for you!
Smoking: Over the last 5 years or so, Singapore has been restricting public smoking areas. The common ones are a few metres from bus stops, MRT stations, sheltered areas and shopping centres. The safest thing to do is to find locals smoking and join them.
Drinking in Public: In general being in public with an open container is allowed in Singapore. Though since 2015, they have put in a curfew from 10.30pm to 7am. Therefore, retail stores such as 711 stops selling alcohol after 10.30pm.
Drugs: This is extremely prohibited. On the plane they even tell you that any possession of drugs will result in deportation or capital punishment. Pretty conservative country =/.
Littering: This rule is the same anywhere in the world. Singapore prides itself to be the cleanest country in the world and it would like to keep it that way.

Singapore
Hawker Centers. The local life of Singapore.
Photo Courtesy of northsights.net

Food Culture

Hawker Centers

This is by far the most local you can eat while in Singapore. It’s the cheapest and most authentic option. There are an incredible variety of options and the best part is that every stall has pictures and English names that you can point at and order. The only thing you have to look out for is whether the store is “self-service”, pay and collect at the stall; or “table-service”, inform table number, they will bring food to you and collect the money then. If you can’t forgo a little hygenie, there are many food courts in shopping malls that serve the same purpose. Just expect to pay a couple of dollars more.

Restaurants 

If you crave food from home, there are many restaurants in Singapore that can serve your needs. You can find anything from Thai to Nepalese to French to Argentinean. They range anywhere from $20 a person to $XXX. If you are reading this, you probably won’t want to spend more than that. 

Mamak Restaurants 

These are an entity of their own. Popular in Malaysia and Singapore, this Indian Muslim restaurants serve both the late night crowds and those who want some incredibly good Halal indian food. Most of the signs are neon green in colour and serve the likes of prata, fried noodles, rice and curry. Definitely a must try.

If you are looking for suggestion to eat or just want to learn more about Singapore Cuisine, come through here

Singapore
Mamak Stalls. Good Anytime of the day.
Photo Courtesy of Capucine Dousse

ATMs

In every corner, shopping malls, big hawker centres and major areas, there is bound to be ATM kiosks. The most common ones are OCBC, HSBC, Citibank and DBS. The less common ones are Standard Chartered, Maybank, ANZ and the specific country banks. All of which are international and will accept any international cards for withdrawal of money. Most of the banks in Singapore do not charge a withdrawal fee but it depends on your bank.

Emergency Numbers

Police – 999
Fire & Ambulance – 995
Non-Emergency Ambulance – 1777
Police Hotline – 1800 255 0000

Singapore
The great shopping malls of Singapore.

Culture

Shopping Malls – Retail Therapy
One of the biggest industries and pastimes is shopping. The number of shopping malls in Singapore is staggering and honestly a little frightening. The famous Orchard Road is where the bulk concentration of malls are. In the summer is when the Great Singapore Sale happens and every store in town is at its cheapest.

Friendly – Singaporeans are generally very friendly. If you ask them for directions or recommendations, they will stop and help you without a doubt.
Fast Paced – Singapore is still a Metropolitan city. People have places to go and things to do almost every hour of their day. This is especially evident during rush hour as most Singaporeans take the public transportation. However, at the end of the day, some still go out for drinks to unwind.

Singapore
Drinking in Singapore.

Advice

Expensive Drinking 

Singapore is by far one of the most expensive cities I’ve been to for drinking due to its high taxation. In the bar centric areas, expect a pint to be upwards of S$16. Many times there will be happy hour deals, 1-for-1 or dinner deals. Drinking at the hawker centres are much cheaper. A bottle of 750ml beer will cost abour S$7. There is a wine store called Wine Connections that sells cheap bottles of wine. And of course, 7-11 sells cheaper booze.

There is a place near Chinatown and Clarke Quay that has amazing deals for drinks. Stickies Bar charges according to the time. Example: If it’s 3pm, it’s S$3 for a pint or a shot. If it’s 4pm, it’s S$4, and so on. Definitely the place for day drinking! After that you can stumble to Chinatown for some food or Clarke Quay for more drinks! There are many special deals every day of the week. The cheapest place to drink in town.

Clean Water 

Singapore is one of the very few countries around the region to provide clean water for everyone to drink. Most of our water comes from reservoirs and recycled water that has been treated 6 times over. So fill them up before you leave your hostel!

Singapore
Gardens by the Bay at night.

Do you have anything to add to this list that everyone should know about Singapore?

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Travel Blogging
Let’s get down to business

For the last couple of months I’ve struggled to upkeep my website. Recently, I talked to a WordPress/website marketer and designer about the ins and outs, and found out that I’ve been doing many things wrong. I had to go back through all of my posts and adjust everything. It caused me so much headache which led me to writing this post for all those who are thinking about travel blogging in the future.

It’s been a year and a bit since I took on this huge project of setting up my website/blog and attempt to make it out on this highly saturated blogging world. Saying that I’ve learned a lot is a massive understatement. I didn’t have any prior knowledge of coding or CMS or website building. That meant that this project would require a lot of determination and willpower.
I will only be reflecting on my personal experience through my time blogging, not giving any advices or tutorials. There are many blogs out there that can do a much better job then I do and have a reputation to back it up.

Travel Blogging
Eating amazing food with friends!

Self Learning

I started by signing up on WIx, a website buiding platform that made setting up a breeze. After a few months at it, I realised that Wix didn’t have a lot of features that I wanted and needed. So I decided to switch to WordPress and self-hosting. A major step forward. Not only did I have to learn what those meant but transferring from Wix to WordPress proved to be a major headache.
Furthermore, I signed up for courses such as the Travel Blog Success and WP BFF, and watched countless hours of video tutorials to get everything set up. It took me a few months to completely set up, redesign and re-concept my entire website.

Travel Blogging
Learning the traditional ways!

Difficulties

Many bloggers out there make it look so easy to run a website and very few talk about the difficulties that come with it all. I came across many obstacles, such as plugins issues, unresponsiveness, hosting troubles, etc. I spent many hours consulting forums and troubleshooting, additionally being on the road didn’t help the time needed.
Having the time to write, edit pictures and structure posts is the biggest problems I face while on the road. As I couchsurf and hitch hike, a lot of my time is taken up entertaining and connecting with new friends and random people. When I’m not with them, I’m exploring the city or place. By the end of the day, I am exhausted and just want to rest and switch off. The last thing on my mind is sit down and write. 

Travel Blogging
I got places to go!

Change of Travel and Life Styles

Before traveling for me was mostly a way to escape from the realities of life. Upon considering a life of long-term traveling, I knew that everything was going to change big time. Traveling was going to be more educational and with more purpose than before.
After setting up the website I realised that I was getting more dependent on Internet. I felt like I needed to be online constantly to check social media or post something on Instagram. It not only meant more expenses, but also spending more time on my phone and less on my travels. I loved the times when I was off grid but now I feel a slight anxiety that I’m not posting anything.
In the blogging world, stats is everything. It slowly took over my life. I was obsessed with the number of likes I would get on my instagram posts, how many people liked my facebook page, how many visited my website, etc. I was stressing out and constantly figuring out what I can do instead of enjoying my time traveling.

Travel Blogging
Making new friends around the world!

The Dream Life

Many bloggers out there put up pictures of them “working” by the beach or at a resort living a dream life. However, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine and rarely see many bloggers talking about it. After a year or so at it and not gaining much traction, I’m feeling unmotivated, undriven and undetermined. I had an intention of monetizing this blog when i started but that seems to get slimmer each passing day.
If I knew what I was getting myself into in the beginning, I would change many things. On top of it all, I would focus on writing what I started the blog on instead of worrying about journaling my travels or social media. However, with all that being said, I do not regret taking on this huge project. I learned a lot and gave me a purpose to my travels. But maybe, just maybe, travel blogging isn’t for me.

If you ever think about challenging yourself, I would recommend trying this out. Who knows, you might be the next big blogger earning big bucks for traveling.

 

What has been your experience with Travel Blogging?

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Shepherd
On the way to the French Alps!

The Unexpected Surprise

The last 3 weeks here in Nimes has been magical, rejuvenating and very eventful. My good friend has gone above and beyond to make sure I had a good time and have the best experience he can give me. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better than what he has already shown me, he pulled something even wilder out. My plan was to head to Switzerland from Nimes and he wanted to visit his shepherd friend in the French Alps. Since it was “on the way”, he really wanted me to meet him and check out what he was doing.

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Nimes
Jardins des Fontaines

In my earlier posts, I mentioned that when in Europe, most of my travels were to visit friends. Now that I’m here in France, this was no different, in fact, this one was about to take the cake for it all. Back when I was working in Napa Valley for wine harvest, I met an intern from Montpellier/Nimes. 2 years later, here I am visiting him.

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