Exploring Himachal Pradesh: Our toughest trip yet.

It was about 4 years ago when I saw an ads at the back of some airline’s seats, it was a picture of a dreamy winter wonderland, called Himachal Pradesh, situated in the north India, just at the foot of the Himalayan mountains.

You know sometimes we see a beautiful place in a picture and decided to put in in out list? This is one of those moments.

Bandi and I spared 2 weeks to explore Himachal Pradesh, the longest trip we have this year! We initially planned to fly in to New Delhi, but the price was just ridiculous; so thankfully we have our beloved Scoot, which offers flights to Amritsar for only $300 return! Off we went!

Himachal Pradesh is unquestionably beautiful, with snowy mountains surrounding you, everything was magical there. But, this trip is exhausting, it will drain you like no other trip! Oxygen level was thinner, roads are tough (I’m talking about car sick, like serious car sick), and if you go during winter, weather can be harsh. Bandi and I crown this trip as our toughest trip yet. It’s not about the temperature degree per se, we’ve been to sub-zero places before but this gotta be the harshest because most of Indian houses were not built for winter, it was cold in and out of the house.

If you decided to go, let’s talk about some planning. I chose to talk about technical part of the trip because I reaaaaally think it’s the most important part for this one. Well, not so many people know Himachal Pradesh and want to go there. Even when I was planning for it, I couldn’t find a decent amount of blog posts about it, most of the tourists are local tourists so very limited source of ideas from a foreigner perspective.

i) Plan your route and budget

Your first priority should be your route, so you can book hotels/airbnb and then look for driver. Since I planned to spend time in New Delhi and Agra the first 2 days in India, my route is from New Delhi and back to Amritsar. So here’s my route:

New Delhi to Kalka – by Train (2,380 rupees / 4 hours)

Kalka to Shimla – by heritage Train, The Himalayan Queen (520 rupees / 5 hours)

Shimla to Manali – by car (we started to hire driver at our last day in Shimla) (7 hours)

Manali to Dharamsala – by car (7 hours)

Dharamsala to Dalhousie – by car (4 hours)

Dalhousie to Amrtisar – by car (4 hours) (Total cost for 9 days booking a driver and car is 16,000 rupees)

Once you have your route fixed, book your driver (I book it from here, they’re very helpful and the service is good. Email address is: himachaltaxitours@gmail.com) and book your accommodation.

I did a lot of research on our drivers, compared quotation prices and asked my Indian friend to call them asking about the company; and I didn’t regret my decision making. Another point to highlight is to get a local Himachal drivers who knows their way to drive in Himachal (t’s a different world out there) and this company is based in Shimla.

ii) Hire a driver

Himachal Pradesh is hilly region, and the only way you can explore from one town to the other is by car. But remember this, no matter how good your driving skill is, DO NOT SELF DRIVE. Just book a driver + car, it’s not worth the risk and the energy; the region is a totally different world for a driver, even if you’re used to driving in mountainous area, in India, people drive like they’re inside Fast and Furious movie all the time. Indian drivers are crazy awesome, man!

Bandi and I love to do road trips, we mostly drive anywhere we go if possible, and this time we skip it because of advices from locals. Now that we have gone there, we are giving the same advice.

iii) Apply a visa

One of the annoying about holding third-world passport is getting visa to go almost everywhere, including India. To give you contacts, Indonesian used to have a visa-on-arrival scheme, but not anymore. :(

Please be patience with the visa website because it will crash a couple of times, and after talking with friends who went to India with visa as well, this happened to them too. And oh boy, did they ask you soooo many questions, including your grandpa’s name. I hope you do remember your granpa and give him a call today! :D

You can click here to apply for India visa.

iv) Pre-purchase Indian Sim Card in your home country

I don’t know if this option is available in all countries, but I know this is available in Singapore. At first we didn’t understand why Changi airport offered this, why don’t we just but it in India? It’s gonna be cheaper, isn’t it?

It turns out, you can’t just buy a sim card in India. We got rejected so many times because they needed local guarantor to sign up for a sim card. Of all the countries we have travelled to, this is the first time we couldn’t get a sim card. In India, everything is based on relationship, this is indeed true.

The other option is to buy it in Airport, however again, we couldn’t get the sim card because the seller told us it’s sold out. Really?

v) Understanding India

If this is your first time going to India, I suggest to read up some cultural information about India so you won’t do something funny there. Cows are sacred, don’t ask for a beef burger in their McDonalds, that would be ridiculous. Minimize PDA (public display affection), tipping anybody that serves you; these are some of the key points that I remember. Just be as mindful and respectful as possible. Bandi told me India is the one country where he felt the most un-describeable energy. You’ll understand when you’re there. India is indeed magical.

If you still have some questions about your planning, you may leave a comment below of message me via facebook. I hope I can help. :)

And now, here are some interesting points from our trip that hopefully can give you ideas:

  • India is now joining Bandi and May’s list of “Country where we never had bad food at”; following Thailand and Japan. We love spices and India didn’t fail us on spicing up our palette, we were looking forward for every meal, whether it’s street food or buffet in the hotel, every meal is delicious! We had the best home cooked meal during our airbnb stay in Dalhousie and Bandi couldn’t help but finishing everything!
  • Indian people put Masala on all food and drinks; seriously you name it. They put Masala on hash brown, sausage, french fries, Lays, tea, coffee, candy, everything! So if you don’t like spices, probably a bad idea to visit India.
  • People are generally nice. I know there are a lot of bad media about traveling to India, but we’ve met a lot of good people and people asked to take pictures with us just because we look different; which I found innocently funny at first (but more irritated with the stares.) Keep your scepticism whenever you travel, but be open with kindness. We’ve troubled a lot of people during our runaway to Banikhet and we were so grateful to meet good people.
  • Animals are even nicer! This is the thing I love the most about India!!! I looooovveeee animals, and in India, you find them EVERYWHERE. Dogs, monkeys, cows, horses, donkeys, yaks, sheeps, they’re roaming around the street; and the best we’ve ever encountered is… wait for it… ELEPHANT! Yes, a f***ing elephant walking in the busy road of New Delhi. I’m serious. People will just nonchalantly avoiding the animals but everyone and everything are living together in harmony.
  • I’m disappointed that the real romance in India doesn’t involve dancing and singing in the rain. Growing up watching dancing scene of Sharukh Khan, I thought people in India literally dance on the road when they’re in love. But not even once we witness this in our 2 weeks life in India, not even one flashmob.
  • The only negative part: India is filthy and messy; and this is coming from an Indonesian. And it’s not “organized messy” like in Hanoi, it’s chaotic messy! It’s messy and filthy. You won’t know the real filth til you see slums in India. We passed by slums in the outskirt of Agra and they have tough life, seriously. Rubbish are everywhere; even in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, you still see piles of rubbish. I had to google about waste management problem in India because it really bothered me, and can you believe most of big cities in India had up to 2000% of waste increase in the last 15 years and the infrastructure couldn’t catch up with that. The good thing is: we never receive plastic bag in India. Starting this year it has been banned (at least in the north?) and we only received either paper bags or cloth bags.
  • I need to highlight Taj Mahal. Taj Mahal is REMARKABLE. I seriously thought it’s gonna be overrated, but holy cow… it’s one magnificent well-thought building full of details!!!IMG_8860
  • Shimla has one of the best sunset view in the world. Hands down.IMG_7363
  • Dharamshala is a must visit, learn about Dalai Lama’s flee from Tibet, it’s very intriguing! #freetibet
  • Amritsar is just 45 minutes away from Lahore, Pakistan. If you intended to visit Amritsar, might as well as apply for Pakistani visa and visit Lahore. We regret we didn’t plan it well and have visa beforehand, otherwise it would be another amazing experience. You’re welcome.
  • And since you’re in Amritsar, you would want to visit the Golden Temple, it’s the pilgrimage place for Sikhsm. To be honest, I didn’t even know about Sikhsm at all until I came to visit and it was very interesting. They are welcoming people to understand their religion, you can see how people travel so far to visit he holy tree and to bathe in the holy water.IMG_7703

Like always, I hope my travel post can inspire you to… GO. :)

I know traveling is not always fun, sometimes we suffer during our trip, but everything is part of the experiences, part of learning, part of growing up to be a better and wiser person.

Cheers,

May, coming back stronger.

The beautiful doors of Bodrum

Strolling in a beautiful seaside town of Bodrum, I couldn’t help but adoring the beautiful doors of Bodrum. Yes, aside of its beautiful landscape of hilly town, view of amazing Aegean sea, white houses and colorful flowers, Bodrum has beautiful doors. This town is like the more creative and less pretentious cousin of Santorini; it is in fact only apart by Aegean sea to Santorini. You may sail there and combine Turkey trip with Greece trip! :)

There is nothing specific to do in Bodrum for me rather than chilling and relaxing. In the summer, people probably flock the town, but since it was Autumn when I visited, with not so many beach activity available, the town was sleepy and calm. I was really surprised by how empty Bodrum was, and it was not even cold! Seriously, I personally think it was the best time to visit!

Although I personally enjoy Bodrum, I realized that Bodrum is much more expensive comparing to other Turkish cities. This is probably because Bodrum caters for European market and is a perfect summer holiday. Just like Bali is waaay more expensive than the other Indonesian cities now and some places even have USD in the price-list.

Apart from that, it’s totally a perfect place for holiday, to just chill and drink wine by the sea. Bodrum city centre is full of so many restaurants and bars, but we found a gem, which is a burger house called mEAT. The price is not expensive and the burger is honestly one of the best burgers we’ve ever had! Pay a visit if you’re there and say hi to the cats and dogs! :D

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Bodrum also will always be a place I remember because it was where I first learned how to drive a car! Yaiy! I felt bad because Bandi has always been the one who drive during our road trips, and we LOVE road trip. Seriously, we REALLY LOVE road trip; the only thing we love more is cheap flight tickets. :D

And since we’re planning for our epic road trip, I’m starting to learn how to drive a car, so I could help Bandi. :)

I took some pictures of the beautiful doors of Bodrum hoping it could inspire you to visit this lovely town, because it is indeed worth detouring.

Bonus: Side trip to Ephesus

If you’re into archeological site, this place is A MUST! Ephesus is a huge ancient city in Turkey, the only place that can top this is probably Rome. You may visit Ephesus from Bodrum, which is 2 and half hour drive, or from Izmir, which is 1 hour drive, if you rent a car. If you don’t have your own car, you may follow day tour from either cities.

To sum up the series of Turkey posts, I would like to highlight how underrated Turkey is. Turkey is usually overshadowed by the other European countries, but I personally feel Turkey offers so much more! Turkey is much cheaper comparing to the other European countries, and for Indonesian (and assuming other countries too), you don’t need to apply visa to visit, e-visa is done within 5 minutes! People are friendly in Turkey, food is delicious (especially their breakfast, oh god), and their stray dogs are fluffy and friendly! :D

So? GO!

Cheers,

Mei, plotting the next trip.

The magical Cappadocia

When my Egypt trip was cancelled and Qatar was no longer flying there, Bandi and I looked for alternative only to find much more expensive tickets to Cairo, so we ended up googling other destinations, cheaper ones. We found Cappadocia as very attractive from the photos, but we were a bit skeptic coz sometimes people enhance the photos so extremely it became unreal. However, we decided to book tickets to Istanbul kinda last minute (because of the cancelled trip). Our main destination was Cappadocia, we even thought to skip Istanbul so we spend much more time in Cappadocia, thank god we didn’t do that.

Cappadocia is small! 4 days 3 nights is a perfect length for Cappadocia, seriously. We did everything we could do! We went on hot air balloon ride (the one that everyone said is a must), we did horseback riding for 2.5 hours chasing for sunset, we went for hiking and we even slept in 2 different towns, Goreme and Ortahisar.

I wouldn’t repeat talking about Cappadocia in this blog post because I created a vlog for it in my youtube channel. If you’re interested to visit Cappadocia, it’s very essential and informative to watch!

Even if you’re not, please subscribe to Bay Travels! I will try my best to create more videos on my travel. Sometimes I’m just sooo lazy, but I’ll try to be better. :)

Cheers,

May, missing the magic already.

A love story about Western Australia and Bandi

Here comes another long post full of love.

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You would’ve known by now how much I love Australia from this legendary road trip post. I never stop thinking to come back to Australia ever since, so when Jetstar teased us with another cheap Australia fare, we didn’t think twice. This time, we chose the west coast. We bought the ticket in 2016 (I know, we planned waaaay too ahead), just because. Come to think of it, I’ve never been itinerary-less in the past 9 years… We always have planned ticket somewhere. We knew we were going to have another road trip, so we extended the party to Bandi’s mom, because she has been wanting to visit Australia. The party then grew bigger when my bestie, Angel and her mom joined the trip. Given the condition, of course I will plan the trip, because… it’s me. =p

Fast forward to June 2017, Bandi discussed with me if he should go for the short assignment to Australia that’s offered by the company’s counterpart in Australia. I knew he wanted the chance, but he didn’t want to leave me. I mean, 3 months is not a long time (compared to the 2 years of Long Distance Relationship between Singapore and US for god’s sake) but we have grown to be so dependent to each other, we can’t imagine living apart anymore. I swear this will sound cheesy, but I seriously think I will live each of my every day with Bandi and never get tired of it. He is literally the best part of my every day.

Well, Bandi and I went for business trips once in a while, but never more than 5 days, and usually we miss each other so much. So, would we take this chance/challenge? We ended up saying yes to the chance, because… when opportunity knocks, you answer, no matter what the situations are, you’ll make it work.

So, I said goodbye to him in Changi Airport on 3rd July 2017. :(

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This cheeky guy whom I miss so much

The Western Australia trip fell in between of Bandi’s assignment, so at least, I got to see him for a while. I must say… it was one of the best trip I’ve ever had. Australia is BEAUTIFUL. I say this again and I will keep saying this.

We drove total of 2,485 km in 8 days

It was by far our longest road trip ever, probably because we do a return journey, and thankfully Bandi could switch driving with Angel so each of them would get a rest. Me? Oh, I can’t drive. :p

I loved every places we visited and let me go through each of them below:

#1 Margaret River

Wine region southern from Perth that happens to have the BEST bakery in the world. I might sound exaggerating, but it was seriously the best coconut cake, sourdough bread, pies ever! Which bakery, you ask? You will find it. It’s literally called “Margaret River Bakery” and everyone knows where it is, it’s in the main road, you will find it, I swear. Our host recommended it to us, and when I brought it up to the Jane Brook Vineyard’s owner (which happens in Swan Valley, hundreds km away), he knew this place too!

We didn’t do a lot of things here, mostly just walk around town, go to grocery store and ended up cooking most of the time coz our airbnb house was just sooooo comfy! We also didn’t do any wine tasting in Margaret River because it was raining all the time so we escaped from Margaret River to Busselton, which is about 40 minutes driving from.

Well also drove to Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin, both are beautiful, but it was a very windy day, thus I felt so cold all the time!

#2 Busselton

It was one sunny day in Busselton on the second day when we wanted to walk along the longest Jetty on earth. It was getting windy when we walked half way though, but the view was remarkable.

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Busselton is a charming little town with a rich history, it reminds me of Stars Hollow, a fictional town in Gilmore Girls, especially the part where I saw the Repertory club, which is totally similar with Miss Patty’s Dance School!

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#3 Fremantle

Another town full of history, but the highlight of Fremantle of course, the famous Fremantle Market! Oh my god, I love this market! I know we loved Asian market (like the ones in Taipei), but this one is just topping every markets we visited. The things they sell are just so high quality and full of variety. You have to try the HONEY CAKETry the cocoa one! I loved it so much, I bought 1 box back to Singapore and my colleagues finished it in minutes.

We also bought tea from Roogenic, which is amazing! We also ate the Poke Bowl at Ipoke Bar, which was sooo delicious and the ramen (didn’t remember the name but so yum!).

#4 Kalbarri

If I had to single out the best part of our trip, it is definitely Kalbarri! We started the awesomeness by passing by the Pink lake of Hutt Lagoon, which fascinated me so much, because it was really pink. I was in awe for a minute there, like… is this serious? How could this be so beautiful and so real? I thought those pictures in the internet was edited… It wasn’t… The pink lake is real!

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And Kalbarri National Park was…….. I’m lost for words. It’s beyond beautiful! Beautiful would be an understatement.

I finally come to a realisation that of all the places I’ve travelled to, I’ve always enjoyed landscapes the most. I don’t fancy visiting city, I love beaches (but not a fan of stickiness feeling), I love mountains but scared of cold, but landscapes are just the perfect match for me. I love standing in high places looking out to vast oceans or greens or rocks. I love hiking in national park!

Recommended tracks that we did:

Track 1: Natural Window (Skill level: Easy)

The track to Natural Window was short and easy, so everyone was able to do it. You can extend the track to the loop track from and to Natural window, which I would looooovveee to do it because it’s a rocky track and from high places. I love rocky tracks and I love looking out from high places! But sadly we couldn’t do it that time because we choose to go to other tracks, and it was an 8 km tracks, will need half day to finish. (I swear I’ll be back and do it.)

Track 2: Z-Bend (difficulty level: Easy)

The first ending of the track is a platform where you can look out to the Gorge River. The walk from the carpark to here was easy and pretty near.

Track 3: Z-Bend Extended to the river (difficulty level: Hard)

From the platform, you can choose to continue the bushwalking (how Aussies call trekking :p) to the river below. It requires some serious physical fitness because you need to climb up and down the rocks and stairs. Some parts were pretty scary and dangerous too, but it was FUN and the view was AWESOME. Only Angel and I did this track because of the difficulty level, and Bandi was waiting in the cars with the Moms. When Angel and I walked back up, we were so heated up that we took off our clothes in a winter weather! Felt like an accomplishment to beat up winter. XD

Track 4: Coastal Cliffs Walk (difficulty level: Pretty easy)

The walk is easy because it’s pretty much just the same level walk throughout, by the cliff. Can you imagine the view?!

You can choose how long you want to walk, there are a couple of points with car-park. Angel, her mom and I decided to walk from Natural Bridge to Grandstand (2.6 km walk if I’m not mistaken). We did it during the sunset time and the view was breathtaking. I LOVED IT.

I specially made vlog for our Kalbarri trip, you can watch it on our youtube channel, Bay Travels. :)

#5 Swan Valley

Whoever said Disneyland is the happiest on earth obviously never visited Swan Valley. Well, this might be bias because I was high most of the times in Swan Valley. We went to so many vineyards to taste wines, so let me try to remember each of them and write the story.

Once we reached Swan Valley, we saw polices doing blow checks to car-drivers, to know their alcohol level, to avoid drunk driving. I right away knew it was a perfect place. Good news is… I don’t drive, I have unlimited threshold of alcohol. LOL

The first place we visited was Swan Valley Visitor Centre, which I recommend everyone to do because the visitor centre officer is just so friendly and knowledgeable about the town! They know literally every vineyard existed in Swan Valley. I told them what I like, which is sparkling wine and asked them which route should I take and some recommendation for food.

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What does people do in Swan Valley actually? We visit the vineyard/winery, ask them nicely if they do wine tasting, if yes, they would pour the wine and you drink, if you love it, you buy it. You will get bonus of some interesting stories from the owner! Fun huh?

Taste #1: Pinelli

I love all of the wines they poured for us, especially their white rosé!

Taste #2: Funk Cidery

This one was not a free tasting, we paid AU$15 for 6 different 30 ml ciders, they have around 20-ish and we could choose which one we wanted. All of them are bombs! Love love love!!!

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Taste #3: Jane Brook’s Vineyard

Oh how I enjoyed our time there. We had nice and friendly conversation with the owner and tasted a lot of their wine. I settled with opening 1 bottle of their most amazing sparkling wine and had brunch there, beside a creek, in an amazing sunny winter day. Oh I hope I live like that every day. What a wonderful day.

Taste #4: Tyler’s Vineyard

We were actually recommended to visit Tyler’s vineyard by the Ugg Boots’ merchant that we met the first day of exploring Perth. Angel and I were chatting with the merchant that we would visit Swan Valley the day after and she right away recommended this place which could personalise your wine label with your photo, to make it even more fun, Tyler’s vineyard has animals with Happy the dog as our greeter!

Happy the dog was named happy for a reason indeed! I also made acquaintances with Digby and Gizmo, the sheep.

Taste #5 Mann Vineyard

This is A MUST VISIT! They have Cygne grapes that they patented, which made awesome sparking wine! They are specialised in sparkling wine and they still handmade them! Please pay them a visit, but I believe they only open when their wines are still in stock, August onwards. You need to visit the visitor centre and ask them first.

#6 Perth, Kingspark, the Pinnacle

Driving from Kalbarri back to Perth, we aimed to reach Pinnacle dessert just in time to view the sunset, enjoy it and continue to Perth for dinner. We reached Pinnacle dessert just right about 5 minutes before the sun swallowed by the horizon, we even still witnessed the amazing view from the car while we drove deeper into the dessert. I ran right from the car and climbed up onto the sand hill without my shoes, sadly, I didn’t get to see the sun anymore once I reached the top of the hill.

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The dusk was serene from top. A brief magical moment of how wonderful the world is. Bandi and I promised that we will come back to this place, bringing a slide, so we can sand slide in the sand dunes the whole day. :)

The rocks in Pinnacle is one of a kind, if you’re into geological formation, you should spend more time exploring this national park.

In Perth itself, nothing much to do except chilling in the cafe, shop around and visit parks. The must-visit of course is the gigantic Kings Park which has some awesome views.

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We travel for food

And of course, we will list down the unforgettable food we encountered during this trip, and here are the best ones which we recommend you to try if you happen to be around!

#1 Alfred’s Kitchen – Swan Valley

This road side’s simple sandwich shops served us the best sandwich we ever had in our life! A local recommended this place because it was mentioned in Australia’s master chef and the review popped up in the national newspaper, all for one reason only: it’s freaking delicious!

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#2 The Bakery – Margaret River

I mentioned this on top, and highlighting this again. All of their pastries are freshly baked and yummy! We also had breakfast on our last day in Margaret River there. :)

I really enjoyed my time in West Australia, it was just a tiny piece of WA that we explored and I was already so amazed by how beautiful it was. And again… that thought revisited, what if we lived here, this amazing part of the world, far from the buzzing cities, just us.

We don’t have a privilege to just drop everything and go, our passport doesn’t allow that, our bank account won’t survive that and we don’t only live for ourselves (at least for now). We have to make a plan.

But we’ll do anything for love. It’s undeniable. You can’t just fall in love and forget about it. You can’t just give up without fighting for your love, can you?

So… wish us luck! :)

Cheers,

May, loving the world more and more

Chasing Waterfalls

I experienced something new again last weekend! I went canyoneering for the first time in Moalboal, Cebu, Philippines! The trek was 10.5 kilometres full of walking, swimming, jumping, and hiking ended with this beautiful Kawasan waterfalls.

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Unfortunately I didn’t take so many pictures that day because I was too busy surviving not to die (am not a daredevil like so many people think I am), so I hope the story of Kawasan Falls will still convince you to go despite lack of pretty photos. So here we go…

We arrived at Cebu last weekend and we hired a local transport to bring us to Moalboal. The trip took about 3 hours because of the bad road and traffic. We stayed in Parrot Resort and we asked the receptionist about what activities to do (we didn’t do any homework about Cebu obviously) and was recommended to do full day canyoneering with an adventure tour called Cyan Adventure, which turned to be a very good idea. Shout out to Mark, our friendly guide!

We paid for 3,450 pesos (equivalent to S$100) for the full gear (wet suit, boots, life vest, helmet), transport from and to our resort, and meal. There were 10 other guests going with us that day, which ended up becoming our friends, what a wonderful gift of travel, making new friends.

The adventure started around 9 am with one hour rough and bumpy road trip to Badian Canyon area. After parking the multi cab (van that’s used for public transport in Philippines), the guides paid our entrance fee and then we started hiking for good 20 minutes then we were approaching the forestry and starting going down to our first water dip, ahhhh it felt so good, the water was cold!

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Riding the multi cab

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The start of the trek

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The first dip felt so good after long sunny hike!

It was pure awesomeness from there, 3 hours full of walking, swim, slide with streams, jump off from edge, pretty much what an adventure should be.

There was this time when they jumped off from an 8 meters high rock to the lagoon (I skipped it anyway and walked down the slippery rock but Bandi had the best time of his life boohoo-ing all the way) and once you reached the water, there was a vast stream of water and you had to jump again and let your body moved by the stream down the limestone cave. Oh MY GOD… It was really really beautiful, I was again amazed by how amazing our mother earth is. I don’t have the photo but you really have to experience it at least once in your life.

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Bandi was loving it!

The jump became higher and higher and if you love heights, you’re gonna enjoy every second of it. The high jumps are optional, of course, because there is no way I’m gonna do that. Bandi, on the other hand, enjoyed the feeling. I love every second of the adventures except this part, just because I hate the feeling of falling.

The last jump was 12.5 meters and look at Bandi doing it happily, while I had to climbed down on the edge of the waterfall… :(

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So, that last jump wrapped up the whole adventure, but sadly we had to walk another 30 minutes hungry and tired. When we finally reached the end of the trek, we were served (super late) lunch and beer!

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Cheers to great adventure and new friendship!

Life is formed by amazing moments like this. I’m truly grateful with all the wonderful people we’ve crossed path with and the breathtaking places we’ve seen. I hope I’ll live my life like this forever, the only way I want it to be.

So, if you have plans to go to Cebu, don’t skip Kawasan Falls! Go canyoneering and meet new people, life’s good! And if you don’t have plans to visit Cebu or Philippines in general, start planning it, the beer is freaking $1 for god’s sake! Our next target for Philippines is Palawan! We love the Philippines!

Cheers,

May, sore from the hike.

 

 

 

Hiking Lion Rock at Hong Kong

If you’re googling about what to do in Hong Kong as a tourist, you will be served with list of shopping places, sinful eateries and Disneyland.

Little did I know, Hong Kong has huge area of greenery and reservoir, which pleasantly surprised me. Hong Kong gained more respect from me because I’ve always adored big bustling city that can reserve nature, it’s important to boost the economy, but green is not less important. We all know how expensive Hong Kong land per meter square is. If you know about Singapore’s expensive land, Hong Kong is even more ridiculous, so reserving the green is admirable act. Kudos, Hong Kong!

I had 48 hours in Hong Kong with my three girlfriends, Angel, Tannia and Renny. Since we live in different countries, we always make effort to meet once in a while. So we all book tickets to Hong Kong, where Tannia lives. She knows great places to hike in Hong Kong. We planned to hike to 2 places, but if you know me in person, you know that’s not gonna happen to me. *Grin*

Where is Lion Rock and how to get there?

Lion Rock lays in Kowloon Island. If you decided to go there by MTR, I’m wishing you luck because the walk is crazy far from MTR (Wong Tai Sin) to the beginning of the trail. If you stopped at Wong Tai Sin MTR, please hail a cab and go to Fat Jong Temple. We took cab from central area to the trail entrance (going up from Fat Jong Temple). The cab driver refused to drive up at first but we assured him that there’s motor road all the way up (which is true), so he drove all the way up to the trail entrance.

Here’s the entrance of the trail! Angel, Olive, Tannia, Me and Renny!

How long is the hike and is it difficult?

The hike started with a very boring stairs surrounded by trees for about 15 minutes, and then the view turned to be nicer when we reached higher altitude. We stopped a lot of times of pictures and idiotic video making.

I had great times and I believe my friends did as well because they loved making fun of how ‘weak’ I am. I complain a lot when I hike. I hate the burning feeling on my chest and throat whenever I climb up (probably the abnormal ECG test thingy) but I love views from above (not from the edge), so I guess I have to suck it up.

The difficult part started from here, look at the photo below. When you see that, behold your guts, it’s all burning thighs from there.

Get ready!

It took about solid 20 minutes full of heavy breath and burning quads oil we reach the top. The view was awesome, it’s a view of Hong Kong. You can see the old airport which runway turned into a park from the top. Move to another rock formation, you will see the pretty bridge that links Kowloon Island to Tsing Yi. Pretty amazing.

My favorite shot!

If you like looking out to cities, this is a must!

If you’re wondering why it’s named Lion Rock, it’s named that way because of the rock formation that actually looks like a head of a lion. Use some imagination now!

The lion head is the rock behind us, imagine the eye of the lion is the deep line above my head.

The descent trail was more fun than the ascend, there were more variety of rocks and paths which made it less boring. It took us about 2 hours up and down the Lion Rock, including photo taking time, and believe me, we did a looof of that. Personally I don’t think Lion Rock is a difficult trail, however it could be very exhausting if you’re unfit. And get ready to be sore the next day. Oh I love the sore feeling, judge me.

So what did we do at night after hiking? Guess what? We partied till morning! Haha! We celebrated Renny’s birthday with an amazing Thai meal and continued to dance the night away. After all, we didn’t meet very often, so we wanted to make every moments count.

If you’re visiting Hong Kong and looking for an outdoor activity, I really recommend hiking to Lion Rock, of course it would be more fun doing it with friends. :) Good luck and have fun!

Cheers,

May, finally free from work deadline and up for more adventures.

Seoul in the eyes of a non K-pop fan

This is the first time I’m travelling during festive season (Christmas and New Year) so this is also the first time I paid expensive ticket to go somewhere. I usually go to random destinations depends on the ticket price, so I would start a blog post bragging about how cheap my flight ticket is. Not this time. :(

We got a free one-way ticket to Bangkok to start holiday with and I didn’t want to be stuck in Bangkok for so long, so we decided to fly to Seoul, South Korea. We knew nothing about South Korea or Seoul in particular. There are only 2 things people tell me from their Seoul Trip:

One is everything related to K-Pop or K-drama. Two is how cheap their cosmetics are.

Both turned out to be the highlights of Seoul. I’m not a fan of K-Pop, I know nothing about K-pop and K-drama, so point number one is invalid for me; but point number two… oh boy, are they right about it.

Looking at Seoul from a non Kpop fan perspective, I must say that Seoul is interesting, Seoul is hip, Seoul is loud, but it is lack of personality. City is not an ideal destination for me, so I have certain expectation when I visit cities. I don’t say I’m disappointed with Seoul, no. Seoul has so many things to offer. I visited Seoul in winter, the most harsh weather of all, and I still enjoyed it. But if you want to talk about soul of the city, Seoul doesn’t have it. It’s not like London or Tokyo who will give you goosebumps when you explore them. Oh I really love London, London left such an impression for me. You don’t have to like a city to know its personality. Hong Kong for example, has a personality. Not the personality that I love though. I don’t fancy Hong Kong, I visited once and had returned yet. I will probably will return because my best friend lives there, not because I like it. But anyway, there is a possibility I found Seoul a bit boring because I visited during winter, it was super cold. Maybe I’ll visit again someday when the weather is warmer.

Cranky me, kept asking to go inside because it was super cold.

Cranky me, kept asking to go inside because it was super cold.

I don’t know if this makes sense. So to cut it short, Seoul has lack of personality. Contrasting to its name, Seoul is soulless. I just felt some of the part of it is artificial. It doesn’t make this statement true. It’s just my opinion.

I took a stroll at MyeongDong and totally understood why beauty products competition in Korea is very steep. There are millions of different products, you will get lost following the trends.

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Then I went to Hongdae, which is my favourite spot in Seoul, it’s full of hype and so alive. Youngsters perform in the street, clubs are loud during Friday night, Food is cheaper than the other hip neighbourhoods, beer is cheap and stores are full of promotion and discounts. Hongdae is the little sister of Orchard Road who is in meth.

But it is in Bukchon Hanook Village, I found a gem in this busy and loud city. This small village full of traditional hanook houses is just so beautiful and picturesque. It’s an Oasis in this newly developed country’s capital city. While walking around, I imagined how people lived there a thousand years ago, during spring when the flowers bloomed, must be a luxury.

Picturesque view. You have no idea the struggle I had to take this angle.

Picturesque view. You have no idea the struggle I had to take this angle.

A sticky tripod and an effort to get a good angle. Voila!

A sticky tripod and an effort to get a good angle. Voila!

We planned to visit Nami Island cause the place popped up repeatedly in everyone’s blog, so it seemed like a must-visit place. However after further reading about the small island which rocketed to fame out of a K-Drama and the fact that I couldn’t survive more than 15 minutes in the outdoor winter wind, we decided not to go.

The thing that I adore the most from Seoul as a visitor is their superb transportation system. One card for everything, just like in Singapore. Their MRT is clean, fast, reliable, just awesome. We took the bus 1 time and had the same good experience. While the best thing about Seoul is… THE FOOD, the spicy food to be precise. Just like so many Indonesians, Bandi and I love spicy food and Koreans mean it when they say it’s spicy. Their spicy is not a gimmick, it really is! If you know the famous Samyang spicy ramen noodle, there are a lot of Samyang’s spiciness equivalent in Seoul.

Dry trees during winter can be a nice prop too. The gloominess creates such drama.

Dry trees during winter can be a nice prop too. The gloominess creates such dramatic effect.

The only good thing about visiting Seoul during winter is the fact that you can go skiing, which we did. It was our first time skiing so we bought a package from Expedia for a day trip to Elysian Ski Resort which includes English speaking beginner’s ski lesson. The journey from Seoul to Elysian Resort took about one and a half hour, providing no traffic jam. Sadly we were stuck in the traffic when we returned to Seoul. It’s a big city after all, traffic jam is part of it.

This is so heavy, ugh! I was sweating inside.

This is so heavy, ugh! I was sweating inside.

Selfie in goggles!

Selfie in goggles!

Overall, I enjoyed Seoul. I probably would love enjoy it more if I visited during spring because it was so cold when I visited (-5 degrees for the love of god, I thought I would die) and most of the trees were dead. I don’t usually go shopping when I travel, but there is no way you visit Seoul without buying their skincare products. And surprisingly it was fun to shop skincare. I am vain too afterall. Judge me.

Check my vlog about Seoul here:

Bandi and traveled to East Java during the Chinese new year break, together with Bandi’s family. It was one hell of journey. I hope I’ll have time to write it and edit the blog because Q1 is the busiest time of my work. For now until April, I will take a travel-off period because I really need to work. Help me god, I will have some time off here and there so I can do some simple blogging.

Talk to you guys next time!

Cheers,

May, literally typing this while sitting on the toilet bowl.

Personal: We’re gonna keep going.

I wanna travel for the rest of my life. I hope this is not a phase. I hope this is not “travel as much as you want before you have kids because once you do, then it’s over” kind of thing. Bandi shares the same vision with me and I know that’s what’s important.

Family means no harm, we know that. We fully understand that as Asian kids, we have to take our family as consideration in our decision, no matter how liberal our thinkings are. Trust me, we could’ve just gone, resign from our jobs, withdraw our investment and just go. But we don’t do that, do we? we balance our love to travel with being good asian kids. Working, have stable income, sending money home and make our parents proud. That’s the only way to make Asian parents proud. Oh and yeah, to have baby, which is a little overdue now.

I was not that kid of person, I do care about my mom, but I used to not care about what she thinks of me, but Bandi has thought me that you can have strong character and still make other people happy, that I should not be extremely stubborn, that idealism can be flexible.

Bandi made me a better person, I’m still selfish, I’m just less selfish. And together, we are good. I feel it. With him, I feel good. I feel that we can actually go around the world, with our own timeline, with our own ways.

And we never think to actually stop having income and travel around the world like hippies, because everyone has different way to travel. We’re just taking our time, one city at a time. We still want to travel comfortably, but still on budget though. We don’t spend much money on other things, really. I don’t have any other hobbies that cost a lot of money. I borrow books from library, I stop buying them, and I write. Bandi plays football with his friends, which doesn’t cost anything, really. So, how come we have so much money for traveling? Because we don’t spend money for other stuffs.

I wanna travel for the rest of my life. There are so many things in this world I wanna see, there are so many places in this world I wanna visit. I don’t wanna stop now, I don’t wanna stop when we have kids, I don’t wanna stop when we get old. I don’t wanna stop ever. I wanna keep living life like this. This is not a phase, this is not a “hobby before kids”, this is our life. When we stop travel, we stop living.

And when we have kids, we will still travel. How? I don’t know, we’ll figure it out. There were so many things happened in my life which I didn’t know how to handle, but I figured it out. Now with Bandi, I’m sure we can do it. We have figured out so many odd things. We survived freaking long distance relationship, so I guess we could always try, as long as we’re together.

Nothing is being on hold because we still want to travel. we are not “still want to travel”, we are traveling for life, not still, not then. We’re gonna keep going, because we love it.

Malang, East Java, Indonesia, 31 January 2017.

May.

Serendipity called Jeju

Don’t you just love it when you have a fortunate accident, an unexpected wonder, a serendipity? That’s Jeju Island for me. I almost skipped this small island, but thankfully a friend of mine insisted I had to visit it because I would love it.  He persistently asked me to go. And yes, he’s right. I LOVED IT. I FELL IN LOVE WITH IT. I left a piece of my heart there. Yes, to that extent.

To be fair, I always love island destination and I love road-tripping, so going around an island in a car usually ends wonderfully for me. We rented a car in Jeju and grabbed a local map, the rest was history. We got to see so many wonderful things in Jeju and oh boy, this island is a gem!

The first thing across my mind whenever I found an awesome destination is to share it with the world and to tell everyone to come. So, here are the things in Jeju that I absolutely love and would experience again when I come back and hopefully inspire you to visit:

1. Staying in this cute and humble airbnb called “Sun Story”

I’m so thankful we stayed in this airbnb. The place was just so comfy and unique, and oh the owners are a happy couple who were so kind and welcoming. I happened to break their shower head and they did not fine me -ha! They also recommended us to hike Oreums, which brings us to the next reason why I will definitely come back to Jeju for more!

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The off-path humble bed and breakfast.

Surviving winter

Surviving winter

Imagine chilling during summer on that hammock.

Imagine chilling during summer on that hammock.

2. Hiking the Oreums

Oreums are like hills, big vast hills. Hiking the oreums is like bushwalking in Australia. One of my favourite thing to do while traveling. Yongnuni Oreum means dragon hill, and if we could take a look from the top, the oreum looks like a sleeping dragon. The track was easy and good to walk on with family. Bandi and I had a very good time hiking this Oreoum during winter, it was a wonderful weather and wonderful view from the top! Definitely something to do if you’re in Jeju!

Let's go!

Let’s go!

What an incredible start of the year!

What an incredible start of the year!

3. Eating Black Pork BBQ in this Ajumma’s Restaurant

We didn’t know the name of the restaurant, but Bandi read in someone’s blog that Running Man had an episode there. Eating black pork BBQ with Kimchi Soup and purple rice, surrounded by ten side dishes is one of the best meal I’ve ever had in my life. Each of them create such a beautiful symphony in my mouth and everything they say about Korean BBQ made sense. (P.s I didn’t fancy Korean BBQ until that meal in that Ajumma’s restaurant) Turned out you just need to go to the right place. If you want to visit this place by public transport, I cannot help you because I don’t know how to type the name, but if you’re driving a car, just key in this phone number (784-1007) to your GPS. Just park on the road side, the store looks like this. You’re welcome.

I don’t know what’s its name or write it in alphabets, but this is how the restaurant looks like!

A wonderful meal experience and one of the best dishes we've ever had in our life!

A wonderful meal experience and one of the best dishes we’ve ever had in our life!

4. Play on the beach and in the clear turquoise water

We did not get to do this because it was winter when we visited. Even though in the picture it looked sunny and warm, it was 7 degrees. The closest we got to the water was this boat canoeing in the bay. We didn’t so much cash left but when we were driving around and saw people canoeing happily in this sunny winter weather, I wanted too, so we stopped over, parked the car and asked how much it was. It was 10,000 won for 30 minutes per person and they accepted credit card, yay! They have credit card machine everywhere, so we could be conveniently over-budget.

Row row row your boat!

Row row row your boat!

I think it's safe for Brownie to plan in the water during winter because of those layer of fats. LOL

I think it’s safe for Brownie to plan in the water during winter because of those layer of fats. LOL

5. Chill in the café watching the sun sets in the blue sea.

Bonmal Cafe. Remember this name and visit when you’re in Jeju. It was a shame that we didn’t get to spend longer time chilling here because we got to go to the airport.

A very instagrammable cafe

A very instagrammable cafe

Great coffee too!

Great coffee too!

Great place to chill!

Great place to chill!

6. Drive around the island

Hands down, my most favourite thing in life is road-tripping (so ironic because I can’t drive –  so I’m stuck with Bandi for the rest of my life), and it’s even more fun road-tripping in an island, because you’ve got to go back in the circle to the place where you started, just like coldplay song, “Oh let’s go back to the start…” Yeah, I’m dramatic that way.

7. OSULLOC Green Tea Museum (and Green Tea Ice Cream FTW)

This place is not overrated! You must have heard about this place somewhere or someone must have mentioned it before because this place is famous, and it is famous with good reasons! Yes the green tea museum is not so big, but I could still get to learn some stuffs about tea culture in Korea and do you know that green tea and black tea are from the same plants, the difference is the process of roasting! Well, I didn’t know that, I always thought they were from different plants! I also got to see the beautiful tea plantation (just like the one we have in Bogor, East Java, Indonesia). They sell high quality teas too, just like TWG, but much cheaper. I don’t understand why people have to choose to be a coffee person or a tea person, why can’t I just be both? I love both teas and coffees! I want to be both! Aaaaakkkk! So yeah, their tea is amazing. I bought some for my mom and mother in law because… who doesn’t love a good cup of tea, right?

The small but informative green tea museum!

The small but informative green tea museum!

Tea plantation!

Tea plantation!

None of these are overrated. Truly delicious products of the humble green tea.

None of these are overrated. Truly delicious products of the humble green tea.

8. Hiking Mt Hallasan!

Okay, we did not get to do this because it was winter and I would die going up to a mountain while winter. I was dying climbing in summer, how do you think I would survive winter climbing? But the next time I visit Jeju, I will conquer Mt. Halia! This is a promise!

9. Watching sunrise in Seongsan summit.

Climbing up to the Seongsan Summit (or most of people call sunrise peak) is not difficult and it’s one of the must-to-do things in Jeju. We woke up very early to watch the first sunrise in Seongsan, but little did we know, thousands of people wanted the same thing, so the hiking trails were packed with people and we were not allowed to continue to the peak and were redirected to another peak. We stayed for 15 minutes only to realise how chaotic it would be once the sun rose and everyone would leave on the same time and the road would be jammed. So we left early and watched the sunrise on some random people’s ranch, together with this horsey. :p

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10. Visiting all the wacky but informative themed museums

From Hello Kitty land to Sex Museums, Jeju offers all kind of different and unique themed exhibitions. The most famous would be the Teddy Bear museums, which we didn’t go because we chose to go to the Love Land, which is a park that celebrates all things sexual. Oh la la! Yes, I ditched the huggable Ted for some dick sculptures. Judge me.

Other themed park/museum that probably suit your fetish-ahem, I mean interest, is Maze Park, Stone parks full of penis-shaped stone, mini land (full of mini size of world’s famous buildings/landscapes), K-Drama museum, Ripley’s believe it or not museum, glass museum or Women’s divers museum.

Guess what?

Guess what?

And…. the greatest reasons of all… Jeju is feminist and environmentalist.

Jeju has long history of strong women. Jeju is well-known for their women’s divers and women from Jeju are strong and independent. My kind of women, wink. This fact just made me fall in love even more with Jeju.

Jeju uses renewable energy! Looking at those pretty windmills when we drove around island made me happy. It’s really the new time, it’s the time of renewable energy!

And of those things I listed still didn’t convince you to pack your bag and go to Jeju, I hope this clip I put up together will. Enjoy!

Cheers,

May, missing Jeju already.

8 Reasons why we love Taipei

Guess how much we spent on air ticket to Taipei? S$24!

You guys know that Bandi has a talent on finding cheap flight ticket, but this is by far Bandi’s greatest achievement in life.

When a friend asked me on how do I choose a travel destination, I answered “sorted by price”, meaning I would go to wherever cheap tickets will bring me. Taipei is one of them.

But Taipei is exceptional because… it exceeds our expectation in so many ways. The last time I created reasons to love a place post was Boracay, you can read it here.

1. THE NIGHT MARKETS – OMAGAH isn’t it obvious?

Taipei is well-known to its vibrant (and cheap) night market. With so many stories in the internet, and so many videos in youtube. the night markets still live up to Bandi’s expectation, even exceeded it! Bandi’s friend who is living in Taipei said that the night market food is somehow touristy thus the price is slightly higher. ARE YOU KIDDING? Bubble tea for 50TWD is considered expensive? Kill me now… Then how cheap can a Taiwanese food be?

Bandi posing in front of Shilin night market sign

Bandi posing in front of Shilin night market sign

2. Friendly people

You know Chinese people is well known of being rude and manner-less, so we were prepared to be ignored for not being able to speak Chinese even though we look Chinese (just like what happened in Hong Kong), but suprisingly, Taiwanese people is nothing like Chinese. And please read history, they are not the same country or related to People’s Republic of China. Taiwan’s official name is Republic of China, and they were a nation first long before PRC. The people is friendly and helpful, I feel they’re more like Japanese people. So don’t worry, they won’t diss you for not being able to speak Chinese.

3. It’s surrounded by mountains – thus hiking friendly!

Do you know that Taiwan is one of the most dense mountainous area? If you look at the map, the whole island is likely covered in mountainous area, that’s why even from Taipei city, you can see a lot of mountains and hills. And it’s just making Taipei beautiful.

Bandi and I at Jiu Fen Old Market

Bandi and I at Jiu Fen Old Market

The terrain also makes Taipei a city that is very near to nature and you can go hiking even from the MRT exit. And to look at Taiwan as a whole, this country is a hiking paradise! Too bad we visited during Typhoon (our first Typhoon!) and 3 days were too short anyway. We’re definitely coming back to Taiwan!

4. Taipei is the capital city of bubble tea

Like I need to explain it.

5. And co-capital city of dessert!

Like I need to explain this one either.

I can eat this as dessert everyday... if only I cannot be fat.

I can eat this as dessert everyday… if only I cannot be fat.

6. The beef noodle.

I know I know, now it seems like I’m just listing down food names. But seriously, the beef noodle is a noodle soup like nothing I’ve ever had before. You know Vietnam has their own version of beef noddle, Chinese Indonesian has their own version of beef noodle, even Japanese, but hereby I validate that… Taiwan has the best version. The soup is not so thick yet very tasty, so it won’t give you sore throat so easily, meaning you can keep eating it again and again. The beef OMG is sooooo tender you don’t even need to chew it, it’d just melt in your mouth together with the soup broth. The noodle is thick and chewy, which is my most favorite kind of noodle! Put these all together and it’s orgasm in your mouth!

Oh look at that sexy beef

Oh look at that sexy beef

I tried beef noodle twice; one was in Kee Lung Market (somewhere inside that market maze) and the other one is in Yong Kang. Both are AH-MAH-ZEEEENG!

7. Great public transportation

Our first plan is to rent a motorbike but because of the forecast typhoon, we thought it would be wise not to ride bike, thus we stuck with public transport and once we got to know it, the MRT and bus system were amazing! It simply worked and got us from point A to point B, and… it’s cheap!

A random photo of Chiang Kai sek memorial park

A random photo of Chiang Kai sek memorial park

8. Variety of Toiletries and Drug Stores

This is my biggest guilty pleasures, to shop for toiletries! So if you’re toiletries addict like me, Taipei is our toiletries paradise! Taipei also sells cheap and colorful contact lens which I regret to only buy 1 pack. I also didn’t buy so much drug store items because we had to fly to Japan after Taipei so we wouldn’t want to shop at that moment. Oh how I so regret that… The next time I’m going to Taiwan, I will buy 20 kg allowance just for my toiletries!

So….. If you happen to stumble into this post and planning your Taipei (or General Taiwan) trip, Oh I envy you. I so want to come back to Taiwan again soon!!! Taiwan has all the good reasons to be a great travel destination: four seasons (you can pick your favorite season to go), good food, CHEAP transport and accommodation (this is important), great scenery and friendly locals.

Bandi and I are planning a 2-weeks of Taiwan road trip to go around the whole island to hike and to eat. Hopefully we will have time to fulfill that. :)

To end this yummy post, here’s a yummy vlog on 101 Million things to eat at Taipei! Please do subscribe to my youtube channel Baytravels. This is something new for me to start building up my youtube portfolio. :) Enjoy!

Cheers,

May, gaining 2 kgs just by watching the video.