Monday, 30 July 2007

Last Minute Changes

Sometimes the way administration or higher levels work frustrate me. After I got my ticket issued, I was asked to delay my return for a day or two. Luckily I decided to check in my evening flight at KL Sentral and saw a MAS office next to it. Popping into it, I managed to change my ticket to return on the next day and managed to secure the last seat on the flight! Imagine if I had done it a little later or waited till I'd arrived to request for a change! I probably would have been stuck there all weekend when all I wanted to really do was just to come home.

In fact, when I was in the queue to check in and thoughts of what I'll do if the flight was overbooked and I was offered some compensation to stay back and take the next flight home, I wasn't sure if I would be willing to agree. That was rather odd as I used to think I'll definitely do so at the drop of a hat! I guess emotions run differently when you're in a foreign country and just looking forward to coming home.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Airebus to Singapore

This trip down to Singapore, I took the Airebus down. It was my first time taking a luxury coach as I normally opt for the cheaper First Coach or transnational buses that depart from Pudu. Was it worth the additional price we paid?

Firstly you can't beat it for convenience. It departs from Midvalley and arrives smack in Orchard which is so easy if you're staying on Orchard or even to take connections to other parts of Singapore. Plus it takes the second link which has a much faster and more pleasant immigration check-in compared to the Woodlands one which never fails to be terribly jammed, especially on Friday nights!

It serves a meal, supposedly hot but when we ate it, it was cold! But at least you don't have to worry of hunger pangs on the bus. The meal going down was pretty crappy but the one they had on the way up was quite palatable. Plus they give you a little bottle of water which First Coach does too.

Their seats are big but you usually get that with all VIP coaches that go down to Singapore. My grouse, though, was how cramped the aisle was upstairs. It hardly allowed you to walk through it if you had bags or luggage you wish to carry with you onboard.

And my biggest grouse was that they didn't have any blankets unlike their competitor, Aeroline. We were neck to neck with another Aeroline bus and when we were at the immigration checkpoint, I noticed the Aeroline stewardess clearing away blankets from the individual seats. My request for one on the Airebus was met with a "We don't have any blankets". Thumbs down for that.

We also noticed that Airebus does a turnaround with the exact same bus! So that bus that comes up from Singapore will go back down again with less than a half hour break! How scary! I hope for the sake of their passengers' safety they change drivers and regularly maintain their buses!

So, is it worth taking the luxury coach down? It really depends on what your most important wants are!

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Crazy Schedule

I came to work yesterday and was told about 5 in the evening that I was to follow a team over to London tonight at midnight. It was initially a crazy schedule as we were supposed to arrive there in the early morning, attend a meeting and catch the afternoon flight out to Beijing! That would mean not even a night in London and just a turnaround! Gosh! Not even pilots do this!

Luckily last night, some plans got changed and Beijing got pushed off to next week so we're looking at spending a night in London now which, at least, gives me a bit of a breather!

Monday, 23 July 2007

Back from Singapore

I made it down to Singapore and was the GSS good?

Hmm...honestly I was a little disappointed with it. There wasn't much to buy and everything I saw looked either really strange (what has happened to the fashionable Singaporeans?!) or I could have bought it for a cheaper price back home here. It was quite surprising to see that their prices this round were higher than previous years and although we were there for the tail end of the sale, there wasn't any specials like how they used to have.

It made me wonder though whether they have become too used to thousands thronging their shores for the annual GSS or whether the very affluent Middle Eastern tourists who come every summer have spoilt the market for us poorer Malaysians?

Whatever it is, Hong Kong's annual summer sale is looking much better than the GSS.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Traveling to Singapore

When I was planning my trip down to Singapore, I was surprised to see so many luxury coaches available nowadays. Previously, the only way down was by the transnational coaches plying the KL-Singapore route, some in buses that had seen better days. Of course having to take them from dirty and grubby Pudu Bus Station was another big turnoff. Not only did you have to battle your way into town but you had to put up with the filth and danger of pick-pockets there.

Now, with new luxury coaches such as Aeroline, Airebus and First Coach, travelers are indeed spoilt for choice. For a small premium, Aeroline and Airebus leave from swanky city hotels or convenient locations like the mall while First Coach leaves from its Bangsar office which is a mere walk from the LRT station. These buses have big comfortable business class type seats like how airlines do and provide refreshments on the 5 hour trip down. With the time to go down and the lack of hassle, taking the bus now is definitely a much better idea than flying! And that premium is a small price to pay for the comfort that is enjoyed.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Singapore Sling!

I'm going to Singapore tomorrow evening! Hurrah! :)

Things were rather uncertain initially as I wasn't sure if I wanted to go down due to unavailability of hotels and the expensive prices. After a while, I figured, what the heck and so I'm going down to enjoy the last weekend of the Great Singapore Sale! I got my bus ticket from Airebus for RM160 return.

I was originally going to buy a ticket down via First Coach which was only RM40 and a ticket back with Airebus. However, I found out that a one way ticket from Singapore was going to cost me RM125 which in total would work out more than a return ticket from Airebus! So I'll go down on the later Airebus and should arrive there by midnight tomorrow night.

Singapore shopping and Singapore Sling, here I come!

Lost in Penang

I used to go to Penang with my family as a child, mainly on a gastronomic adventure as Penang was so famous for their food! We used to make annual trips up there simply to feast on their delicious specialties from morning to night! We knew where the famous char kuey teow was, where one of the best island's lor mee could be found and where to find my absolute favourite, Penang rojak!

However, when I recently went to Penang last weekend, I realised that it has been many years since I've been back. We stopped going up when the distance got too far and we realised that most of the food could be found in KL. I wanted very badly to bring J to try one of the best mee goreng mamak but we got hopelessly lost as I couldn't find my bearings. Luckily a quick call to his friend and many directions from locals got us back on the right track and soon we were tucking into freshly fried noodles, hot from the wok!

Penang might be an island but it isn't that tiny an island!

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Off to Visit Family in NZ!

My relatives migrated to New Zealand, together with my grandmother, several years ago. My parents have been planning a trip there to visit them for some time already and since I’m the family travel agent, my dad asked for me to help them plan a good itinerary and to help him look for Cheap Hotels in Auckland since my relatives are staying in Auckland. His plan was to tour the South Island before heading up to the North Island to spend some family time with the relatives.

I’ve heard that there are heaps to do in New Zealand and the scenery there is simply amazing. I told my dad I’ll help him look for reasonable Hotels in Christchurch as a visit there is a must to see the lovely little town that so resembles a part of England. I’ve also been told that a visit to Wellington should not be missed and so I’ll be looking for Hotels in Wellington too. I do hope they manage to fit in a glacier walk too in South Island before heading up north to Auckland which is fondly called as the City of Sails. My cousins have told me that there’s lots to see in Auckland and the Auckland Harbour is one of the nicest parts of the city. I’m sure my parents will have a fantastic trip there, driving around the countryside!

Penang Quickie

Last weekend I took a quick trip to Penang as J had some stuff to attend to. Before we started, I didn't realise that his car was having some problems with the radiator until we were on the highway. Halfway through, the car temperature started shooting up and we had to pull over to let it cool. Luckily our highways have professional help in the form of PLUS Ronda who answered our distress call and came to our rescue in approximately half an hour. They came in a truck with lights and cones but unfortunately weren't very sure what the problem was. However, a trick which I learnt from a previous mechanic was to leave the radiator cap off and to drive like that with stops to top up the water.

Thank goodness for this trick which brought us to Penang and back again safely! So, now you know what to do when your radiator overheats!

Monday, 16 July 2007

Off to London to Visit The Queen

I just heard that I might be going to London for a business conference. When I heard the news, I quickly went online to research for suitable Hotels in London. However, knowing my company, travel plans are usually made very last minute. Hence, I wouldn’t be able to do any bookings yet till the last minute. Luckily, I found lots of London Hotels that had last minute bookings and some which gave even very good rates despite booking them on very short notice.

I found out that my conference would likely be at the Queen Elizabeth 2 Conference Centre so I will probably be looking for a Hotel in London around that area. I love London and can’t wait to be back there! I hope to fit in some shopping down Oxford Street, to eat my favourite roast duck in Bayswater and to simply soak up the vibrant air the city has. Hopefully my conference does come through otherwise I’ll be sorely disappointed!

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Johannesburg Jaunt

I used to have a friend who was crazy about travel. He was a lot more passionate about travel than I was and would go on an overseas holiday at least 3 to 4 times a year. One of his favourite destinations was always Johannesburg and he would always tell me his travel adventure stories of how much fun it was riding in the safari. I was curious to know where he used to stay as we weren’t earning that much then and I found out that he used to get very reasonably priced Sandton Hotels to put up in. It was merely a short drive from Johannesburg and they didn’t mind the drive as there was always lots to look out for along the way.

Sandton City boasts of the largest non-metropolitan shopping centres in the Southern Hemisphere and has an eclectic mix of formal stores alongside the local crafts and works of the local artists. There are lots of Hotels in Sandton that are dotted around the shopping centre but if you prefer something a little quieter, you have lots of choices too from 5 star luxury accommodation to budget hotels which are really quite affordable! Maybe it’s time I consider a holiday there too to see what beauty Johannesburg has to offer!

Taking the Bus in KL

I've taken the bus down to Singapore on several occasions before. Most times it involved me having to take the bus from Pudu which, I have to admit, is a terrible experience.

Previously, as I took the midnight bus with J, we ended up having to go to Pudu late at night which made me rather worried as there are always a lot of riff-raff hanging around there. Inside Pudu, it's quite safe, I guess, as it's sufficiently lit although you should always be aware of pickpockets and thieves waiting for the perfect opportunity to make a quick buck. What I can't stand about Pudu is the dirt and grime all around. I think that place has never been cleaned since it was built!

From the main station, you have to make your way down a rickety iron stairs to where the buses are to board them. That place is another grime-infested place from the bus exhausts and filled with fumes as the buses arrive and depart. The stairs is a hazard as they are rather narrow and not very stable. I don't know how old people manage their way up and down those steps.

I wonder why we can't have a better bus station! It's quite a shame to have something like Pudu in the middle of our so-called swanky city with its Twin Towers and all. What an impression we must be giving tourists for Visit Malaysia Year 2007! We should try to cater not only for the rich tourists but for the backpackers as well. After all, if traveling in some of their countries are such a breeze, why not ours?

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Singapore's Off

We've had to cancel our Singapore trip after all! :( Boohoo...there are only 2 weekends left to the Great Singapore Sale and this weekend we're going for a warehouse sale while my parents will be here the next weekend. I was really looking forward to this trip as I've never quite been for a Great Singapore Sale before and heard that the bargains are pretty good. Oh well, I guess there'll always be next year!

Monday, 9 July 2007

A Spanish Daydream

I’ve been feeling stuck in a bit of a rut at the moment. Work sucks and life’s been feeling rather boring. So when I browsed through the papers this morning, the huge words screaming Cheap Hotels in Mallorca leapt out at me! Mallorca - one of the most beautiful beaches of Spain where the rich and famous frolic and sun themselves under the Spanish sun. Spain, what wouldn’t I give to have a chance to go to Spain! The Cheap Mallorca Hotels offered were really quite reasonable although the Euro is rather strong at the moment. If I could only find a cheap plane ticket to boot, I’ll definitely be catching the next flight out to Mallorca! The advertisement even offered reasonable Hotels in Palma, another great beach off Mallorca Island that promises sun, surf, sangria and funky nightlife. Sigh…what wouldn’t I give to be sipping sangria and serenaded by a gorgeous senor on Mallorca Island right now!

Singapore, here I come!

I'm finally, finally making my way down to Singapore for the Great Singapore Sale! Oh boy, I simply can't wait! I've waited for ages for this trip but had to postpone it was my shopping buddy was busy in June.

The only problem about staying in Singapore is the cost of the hotels there. I did a quick search online yesterday and found that most hotels near Orchard are all in the region of $200 which translates close to RM500 here! That could buy me a swanky 5-star room here as opposed to a crappy 3-star one in Singapore! Otherwise I guess we'll just have to stay further from the shopping areas and pay less.

Anyone got any good hotels to recommend?

Sunny Sydney

A few years ago I took my family to Sydney for our annual vacation. I used to study in Australia and wanted to show them the beauty of the country and city I had fallen in love with. As we wanted a hotel in a central location and close to the attractions, Darling Harbour Hotels was our first choice. We found a really great deal on a hotel apartment that fitted our family of 5 perfectly and came with all the additional facilities such as laundry and a kitchen. My dad loved the fact that it was so near Chinatown and he could walk there every morning to pick up breakfast. We, on the other hand, loved the proximity to the fantastic attractions on Darling Harbour such as the exhibition centre, maritime museum and of course, the delicious restaurants lining the Harbour.

The next time I went to Sydney again with J, we opted for a different location and chose from a list of Central Sydney Hotels. That put us still close enough to Darling Harbour but also close to the City Centre which was wonderful as everything was within walking distance. I truly love the vibrant, multicultural feel Sydney has and would visit it again if I could. Of course I’ll need to wisely choose the location of my Sydney Accommodation. However, Darling Harbour continues to remain a huge favourite of mine!

Sunday, 8 July 2007

My African Adventure

I once went to Mali in West Africa for work and although I didn’t quite enjoy the hours that I went through, I was captivated by the beauty and exoticness of Africa. What I loved most about the trip was our stopover in Johannesburg. As part of our air ticket, we were given an option of really swanky Hotels near Johannesburg Airport to rest during our long 18 hour transit. The hotels were really luxurious and I truly enjoyed the 18 hours that we had to rest.

Ever since that trip, I’ve always wanted to return someday to experience the thrill of seeing wild animals close up in a safari and to see again the exotic beauty of the Dark Continent. Recently, a travel fair was in town and they were having great promotions on flights to South Africa! My friend from UK, SL, truly loves Johannesburg and has been there several times already so he was the first person I consulted for affordable Hotels in Johannesburg. He had lots of great recommendations and advised me to visit Cheaper Than Hotels to look for great deals on Johannesburg Hotels. They even have special hotels and lodges located within the safaris where you can really get up close and personal with the wild animals! Now I’m really tempted to go to South Africa! I just need to check my finances!

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Off to Penang

I've been asked to trot along to Penang this weekend with a friend who needs to get some stuff done. It's been ages since I've last been there! I recall going there at least once every year with my family just for a gastronomic holiday! My mom used to study in Penang so she was pretty familiar with the good places to eat and where to go for the best food. However, I've heard that many stalls seem to have disappeared and good places keep changing all the time. I think it's been more than a year since my last trip there.

I can't wait! Miss my absolute favourite Penang rojak! *drools*

Any tips on where's good to eat is definitely welcome :) For now, all I know is that I should avoid the Lorong Selamat char kuey teow like the plague :P

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Naughty, naughty!

When the sun (or lack of sun) has set on Patong Beach and when the sun-burnt, red angmohs have hauled themselves up from the deckchairs on the beach, a certain road on Patong Beach starts to come alive!

Bangla Road (no, it has nothing to do with Banglas!) magically transforms from a busy and nondescript street into a hedonistic playground for naughty boys and girls, whichever your preference!

The lights slowly start to come on as the open bars start filling up quickly. Neon lights, bring them on! See that bell in the picture? A man feeling rich or some poor unfortunate drunk man can ring it to buy drinks for all the bar girls on the floor! And those poles? They're the perfect thing for the pole-dancers to snake their lithe bodies around!

The street truly comes alive with booming music and crowds of people around 10pm all the way to 3am. Single guys beware or rejoice! ;) Any guy walking past any bar will be set upon by girls trying to invite them in with their winsome smiles and seductive voices. Tempted, well beer's cheap at only THB100 a bottle and some do tequila shots for THB40 so stumble into every bar if you can and make the girls a very happy bunch!

There's lots to cater for everyone, whatever your preference!

Pretty girl or prettier lady-boy? You decide!

"You want photo? THB100 only!" Sweet or gruff voice?

Peacock Girl: Just at min, let me adjust that $%#? headgear they make us wear!

Turqoise Girl: Meeter, what you want? THB2,000 only, cheap cheap...

Smile and say cheese with some gorgeous ladies...or boys!

And finally, I'll leave you with some pictures of my favourite bar. This is one of the earlier bars you'll see if you come in from Rat-U-Thit Road. You won't miss it, they've got one of the sweetest girls right up front on the table. Yep, that girl in black. What I noticed was that while most of the girls danced with a glazed expression on their faces, she sang along to the songs animatedly as she bopped and gyrated. Truly a crowd-puller!

And just one more cos she was really quite sweet. By the way, I'm sure this was a SHE!

Ah, Phuket Playground Paradise! Enjoy a beer, the show, the entertainment and the experience of something different!

As they say, good boys go to Heaven....bad boys go to Phuket! ;)

Monday, 2 July 2007

Getting to Phuket

Phuket! What does this jewel in the Andaman Sea conjure up? Land of the sun, sand, smiles and some other "s" words that never fails to result in sniggers and raised eyebrows whenever I mention I'm going to Phuket. This, bearing in mind, that I'm a girl! Nevertheless, hairy old angmohs with young nubile Thai girls aside, let Pinkelle show you how to have good, clean and cheap fun in Phuket!

From KL:

Phuket is just a hop, skip and jump away! Only 1 hour 15 mins by flight, I should be headed there a whole lot more often than just once a year! We went by Malaysia Airlines this time, courtesy of someone's airmiles (thank you! ) and for once got served food instead of having to buy overpriced nasi lemak! Hurrah!

I thought I heard some options being offered but by the time it reached me, it was only vegetable fried rice with 2 fishballs and some chicken slices, served with a fruit compote and juice. Not having eaten airline food for a while and starving from having no breakfast, this went down very well indeed!

Note to self: Never take seat 15 on a 737 flight - you get served last while those behind you will get their food first!

Arriving in Phuket:

Phuket International Airport is not a very large airport. When you arrive and exit Customs, you'll find a few booths offering accommodation and transportation services. There are lots of taxis available into town for at least THB500-THB600 (RM50-60) a trip but if you're a bit of a skinflint like me, head for the Limousine Service desk on the right of the exit gates. They do minivan services into Patong, Phuket Town and the various other beaches for a flat fee.

Phuket has 3 main beaches - Patong, Karon and Kata. Patong is the main "happening" beach where most of the tourists head to. Lots of cheap accommodation, bars, entertainment (both good and not-so-good!), name it, they have it all! Karon and Kata are quieter beaches with a smaller town area so you may not have as many choices as Patong. So it's really what you're looking for.

A trip to Patong is THB150 (RM15) per pax and you hop onto a minivan that'll set off once it's full. Lots of tourists and backpackers use this option so you shouldn't have too long a wait. The only downside of using the minivan is that they will stop a short distance away at a tour centre where they will try to sign you up for accommodation, if you don't already have one, and other tours. Wait till you reach the beach, there's a whole lot more competition and better prices there! If you already have your accommodation, just give your hotel name to the tour people and wait a little while.

Once they've sorted out the hotels, you'll be on your way again, trundling over the steep hills and terrifying roads of Phuket Island! The driver will drop you off at the doorstep of your hotel which if you're lucky, you could be the first or if unlucky, the last left on the van! It'll perhaps take you about an hour to transfer from the airport to your hotel this way so if time is essence and you're dying to hit the beach ASAP, opt for the taxis.

A teaser of what's to come....

Stay tuned!