Alang’s Rawa Resort, Malaysia

Right after my first overseas holiday since the pandemic, I contracted Covid. The irony is not lost on me, but this is why I finally have so much time (and no excuses) to log onto my WordPress to update this blog.

Maintaining a travel blog during the pandemic, when most travels were not allowed, was challenging. But that is merely an excuse, because I had stopped writing regularly since 2017. I was jaded from all the moving across continents and travelling, and simply did not have anything to say about my trips anymore.

On hindsight, I realised it was probably because I took travelling for granted. It somehow lost its charm and excitement after so many years and because back then, it was so easy. After all, I could always hop on a plane whenever I wanted right? And in the second half of 2019, I was flying almost every other week for work. It was exhausting, and I started to hate travelling.

It took two years of not being able to cross the borders, of missing my family and friends abroad and being stuck in a small island, that I swore to myself, that I would never take travelling for granted anymore.

So for my first overseas holiday since the pandemic, I intended to make the most out of it. Sure, it was just driving across the straits to Malaysia, and sure it was only for a long weekend, but hey, all the better to ease myself in to travelling again, right?

Our destination was Rawa, an island just 20 minutes by ferry (or rather, speed boat) from Mersing. It’s very accessible from Singapore, and I’m really surprised that not many people have heard of the place.

And if you haven’t been to Rawa, it is a dream for beach lovers. Especially after you have been deprived of pristine beaches for two years. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I’m not even a beach person.

The first impression I got upon seeing the island from our speed boat was how idyllic it was. Beach huts lined along white sands and sea water so clear you could see through to the corals and the small fish. It was exactly how Disney would picture such a place in its movies.

Cue Moana song starting (picture credit: my travel mate)

There are only two resorts on the island (it is very small) – the more upscale Rawa Island Resort and the more budget Alang’s Rawa. We stayed at the latter.

Alang’s Rawa exceeded all my expectations. To be fair, I expected very little – no air conditioning in the room, no clean water and mediocre food. While the no-clean-water portion was unfortunately true, they apparently upgraded the rooms during the pandemic and installed AC, which is a very welcome addition.

And the food was delicious. I had been disappointed with resort food previously (I’m looking at you, a certain resort in Bintan!) because some resorts thought they could get away with serving non tasty food and charging exorbitant prices since their guests are practically stuck inside.

But Alang’s Rawa saw it differently. Meals are included in the price when you book the room, and boy they did not disappoint. Every meal, we were served with a generous spread of dishes. It’s nothing fancy, but it had some local dish, potatoes (in many different forms, and all were excellent), seafood, pasta, rice, bread with delicious garlic butter… Alang’s Rawa certainly won in the little details and their earnestness to serve their guests.

Oh and they had a barbecue one of the nights too!

Apart from eating (which is important), you can expect to do what you can do on a beach holiday – lounging on bean bags for many hours of the day, hiking, doing water sports, and watching the sunset while having Pina Colada.

I tried paddleboarding for the first time!
The view from our hut and the hammock where I probably occupied many hours a day.

It definitely was a holiday to remember, not only because it was my first real holiday outside Singapore, but also for my travel company, the beautiful island and the resort.

The view during our mini hike

Prior to this trip, I was nervous to travel again. In a world where, just not too long ago, it was dangerous to step outside our house, the idea of travelling and all of its uncertainties were unnerving. It was as if I had forgotten having those muscles that I used to think on my feet and just enjoy the misadventures that come with travelling.

But after this small trip, I’m ready. Heck, I even contracted Covid right after, which was probably the worst case scenario all things considered. Just like paddleboarding, when I needed to fall into the water to feel brave enough to stand up, perhaps this was what I needed. A small taste of what could happen, to realise that braving through it is so, so worth it. Travelling, is so worth it.

—-

Things to note about Alang’s Rawa Resort:

  1. It is a budget resort, so don’t expect luxury. Room is basic but decent with air conditioning.
  2. Bring ear plugs. It is a party resort. When we stayed there, there was loud music playing well into early hours of the morning.
  3. Drinks are charged to your room number. Do check the bill at the end since they don’t have a sophisticated system to record the orders, and there are often errors. Also, just brace yourself when finding out how much you spend.
  4. Bring a supply of fresh water (we just bought big bottles from the petrol station in Mersing).
  5. The resort prices cover the ferry to and from Mersing and meals (not snacks).

The Singapore Night Festival 2017.

I just gave myself a new project.

Tentatively it’s being called Project I-should-stop-sulking-just-because-I’m-not-in-London. Sometimes I also refer to it as Project Self-reminder-that-Singapore-is-actually-an-awesome-place. (If anyone can come up with a better name, I welcome any suggestions).

Perhaps I also secretly/not-so-secretly want to lure some people into visiting me from the other side of the world. Hence, I have decided that I will blog more about my life in Singapore and what this tiny island has to offer.

(Also, I have a spare bedroom at my flat at the moment, and the public transportation here is a quarter of the price in Denmark, the UK and the US. AND, we have some awesome food in this side of the world. Practically a dream for travellers on a budget. Just saying.)

Ahem, but I digress.

When I returned to Singapore after my two-year stint all over the place, I was swept by a weird sensation of being back at a place that is both familiar and strange. I felt disoriented – small things that I had taken for granted would simply work did not. My transportation card that had never failed me for the past seven years didn’t work because it had expired. My mobile phone data did not work properly. I forgot that thunderstorms are permanently imminent and did not have my umbrella with me on my first night – I got caught in the rain as I was stepping out of my flat for dinner. I behaved like an awkward tourist while trying to order some food. And I got some stares when I ate by myself – I forgot how much of a taboo it is here to be seen having a meal on your own in public.

But as time goes on, I’m slowly tracing my old steps and a sense of familiarity starts to take over. After all, I still live in the same flat, and I am working in the same business district as I was before I left. It is taking a while but at least I can feel some progress in fitting back in.

The first time I felt that I found some of my footing was when I went to the Singapore Night Festival with these two friends who have not changed a single bit since I first knew them a few years ago.

nightfestival7

The Singapore Night Festival dates back a decade to the time when I was studying for my Bachelor’s in SMU. Being a student at a university with a campus smacked right at the city centre meant that we were at the heart of the festival that lit up the whole Bras Basah area. Visiting the festival also brought back memories from my Singapore university days which had ended, ahem, seven years ago.

The festival’s flagship display has always been the light show at the facade of the National Museum. This year’s performance boasted a fascinating 3D effect that certainly felt a notch above the previous editions’.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Continue reading “The Singapore Night Festival 2017.”

10 photos from Marina Bay, Singapore.

Sometimes you wander all over the world and forget what you have at your doorstep.

Almost two months ago, I came back to Singapore (not for good) after living abroad for over 10 months. Over that period of time, I saw many sights that left me in awe and took countless pictures of landscape and architecture in other countries.

I was so absorbed by the beauty of faraway land that I almost forgot the breathtaking views that Singapore has to offer. One of Singapore’s most prided sights is Marina Bay, a waterfront enclave made of reclaimed land and surrounded by an impressive line of skyscrapers. And honestly, it is way up there among the world’s most beautiful.

It of course took two friends visiting Singapore for me to remember and appreciate what I used to have literally at my doorstep for the three years I was working at Marina Bay. While showing them around Singapore, I took the opportunity to retrace the steps that I took hundreds of times previously, sometimes walking on my own, sometimes jogging or sometimes strolling around the Bay while chatting for hours with a friend.

And of course, this time round, I brought my camera with me to try and capture the lovely walk we had. The weather was great that day, albeit very warm and stuffy, with clear night sky and the moon shining brightly.

So here are 10 photos from that evening.

We started with the Gardens by the Bay in the late afternoon.

marinabay1

And I was quite taken by these heart-shaped leaves.

marinabay2

Continue reading “10 photos from Marina Bay, Singapore.”

Avocado coffee float by Macehat in Medan.

No offence to the creator of guacamole, but when it comes to creating an excellent culinary out of avocado, Indonesians win hands down.

Whenever I went out to eat at an Indonesian restaurant as a child, there was a default drink that I, and many other people who shared the same happy childhood as I did, always ordered: avocado juice (or jus alpukat in Indonesian).

Avocado juice sounds healthy and odd to those who have never tried it before, but it is seriously anything but. A juice may be a misnomer – it is after all more of a smoothie made out of the fruit mixed with milk and sugar. And no jus alpukat in Indonesia is ever complete without a generous dollop of chocolate condensed milk.

I know, avocado + chocolate, who would ever think that the equation = heavenly?

I don’t know when I stopped drinking jus alpukat, but I suspect it was around the time when I started not being able to fit into most of my clothes. So enjoying the drink was only reserved for special occasions in a bid to stop myself from expanding too quickly.

A visit to Medan, my parents’ hometown, after more than fifteen years certainly qualifies as a special occasion. This was why I was looking forward to visiting Macehat, a coffee joint at Jalan Karo no. 20, that was famous for its coffee based drinks as well as avocado coffee float – the Indonesian jus alpukat with a scoop of chocolate ice cream, a big spoon of Milo powder and a single espresso shot, a modern twist to the classic jus alpukat that Indonesians love so much.

macehat1
The interior of the ‘cafe’.

One thing that you have to know about me: I hate coffee. It makes me dizzy and sleepy. People have served me different types of coffee drinks, but all they got from me was a disgusted look after one sip.

Continue reading “Avocado coffee float by Macehat in Medan.”

Kuala Lumpur, this time.

Kuala Lumpur, we often rubbed each other the wrong way.

Five years ago, we met after a very long time and I was frustrated by the chaos of your traffic and the craziness of your city. Which was ironic because I came from the city with probably the worst traffic condition in the world. Needless to say, it was partly my fault – I was too pampered after living in the orderly Singapore for a year, where everything works the way it should.

Last year, I travelled far for you, for a festival that got cancelled the moment I arrived after a six-hour bus ride. Not to mention that my bus broke down for three hours in the middle of nowhere on my way back to Singapore. If not for my company at the time, it was probably my worst trip ever.

So I have to be honest. I was not looking forward to seeing you again last week.

But this time, you surprised me. This time, you were gorgeous.

KL20151

Continue reading “Kuala Lumpur, this time.”

The best food we ate in Taiwan.

I love to eat. A LOT.

So does my friend JY who went to Taiwan together with me (she is slightly taller than me but only half my width which goes to show that the world can be very unfair, but let’s ignore that fact for the purpose of this post).

We also don’t plan a lot when we travel. Hence it is no surprise that we did not have a list of tourist attractions to visit.

But still, we did have a list of food we needed to try. That is simply how much we love to eat.

After eating our way through Cingjing, Sun Moon Lake and Taipei, we had several hits and misses when looking for awesome must-try dishes. So in order to do the world a service and turn the wasted calories into something useful, I have decided to create the list of food we had there that was absolutely worth trying, with occasional notes of which food turned out to be disappointment.

Fried salty mini fish (Cingjing Farm, Cingjing)

taiwanfood1

I honestly did not expect much out of the eatery at Cingjing Farm, but this mini fried fish was a nice surprise! It was served hot and crispy with just the right amount of salt, but be careful of lurking fish bones!

Vanilla Roast Chicken (Lao Ji Po, Cingjing)

taiwanfood2

This fragrant roast chicken was recommended by our driver from Taichung to Cingjing. I was half surprised and half glad that the main dish of the mountain with the famous sheep farm is not, well, sheep meat. (I find it morally wrong to be eating any animals that I have pet previously. I may have deliberately not pet any pigs in my life because pork).

Continue reading “The best food we ate in Taiwan.”

perBED Hostel, Sun Moon Lake.

Before we went for our trip to Taiwan, my friend and I made a pact. We would each pick a city in Taiwan that we were going to visit and book an accommodation there without consulting each other.

Naturally, we both got slightly nervous, mainly because we did not want to disappoint each other with our surprises. To be honest, I am generally pretty easy with where I spend the night while travelling, as long as there are no cockroaches, demons or poltergeist present. But I have to say, not only was I fine with the hostel my friend chose in the end, I was actually very pleased with our accommodation at Sun Moon Lake.

Once she had established that I did not mind staying in dorms, she decided to research into a few places and found this new undiscovered gem called perBED Hostel. It sounded very backpacker-ish, and it did live up to its name, only with an interesting twist. Instead of having the backpackers sleep on normal bunk beds in separate rooms, the hostel has decided to convert cargo boxes and other industrial things into beds and put them all in one big room. perbed1 Continue reading “perBED Hostel, Sun Moon Lake.”

The unforgettable Sun Moon Lake.

I just came back from a trip to Taiwan with a friend, and it was wonderful. Lots of interesting things happened, mainly because of our lack of planning. Most of them were great, and I will have a few accommodation places to recommend if you are looking for something affordable and interesting in different parts of Taiwan.

But before all that, I have to talk about Sun Moon Lake, the main highlight of our trip. Which is ironic because if you have asked me about Sun Moon Lake before this trip, I would have told you that there was nothing too memorable about the place, save for a giant lake and a few temples.

sunmoonlake1
My first visit to Sun Moon Lake in 2011.

But this time round, Sun Moon Lake was determined to make itself memorable. It has definitely surged up to become the highlight of my trip, although not necessarily in a very conventional way.

We arrived at the Shui She Pier, the main pier of Sun Moon Lake, from Puli some time in the late afternoon and realised that our hostel was at the other side of the lake, at a village called Ita Thao, which was away from all the main attractions and the walking trails.

Continue reading “The unforgettable Sun Moon Lake.”

Making the most of Devil’s Tears Bay, Nusa Lembongan.

I have been distracted and somewhat grim, judging from my past few posts (or lack thereof). There was work, my badminton journalism stint, being wheeled around on a hospital bed, a boy, and just lots of things that kept me away most of the time from my laptop to write.

But I just came back from Bali, one of the most amazing places in this region, and it would be a travesty not to at least drop by and say hello at my so-called travel blog. Truth to be told, I have lost a little bit of that overflowing ideas on my writing angle on my travel stories due to lack of practice, which is ironic since I’m about to move myself a few thousand miles north to pursue something writing-related (more about that in the coming weeks :)).

So I looked into one of my main sources of writing inspiration – my travel photos (the other one is my favourite travel blog Everywhereist). Apart from finding lots and lots of pictures of food, one place that really stood out was Devil’s Tears Bay at Nusa Lembongan, an island just one hour ferry ride off the the southeast of main island Bali.

It's looked promising since arriving.
It’s looked promising since arriving.

If you think that the name Devil’s Tears Bay sounds intimidating, wait until you are actually at the place.

Continue reading “Making the most of Devil’s Tears Bay, Nusa Lembongan.”