I never thought that this year will be my year of travel. After Cebu, Singapore and Malaysia, I'm quite pleased that the visa applications we applied for Dubai and South Korea have been finally approved!
It's been exactly a week since I lost one of my favorite puppies. Well, all my pets are my favorites equally, if there is such a thing.
You know which among the liter is the perfect puppy by judging the size. Biscuit, before I called him that, was the fattest and unarguably the cutest puppy in the pile.
I told myself not to get a puppy; just give them all away and find them homes since the 3 adult dogs at home were already a handful. But I knew in my heart that I have to make Biscuit an exception. I cannot possibly give away a perfect puppy even to someone I trust.
He was the most skilled in terms of sucking out milk from his mom, Cutie. He gets his way around successfully finding a nipple even if his other siblings have already started the milk party without him. The way his flappy ears fly in the air whenever he runs and plays with his other siblings is too cute for words. He takes his long extremities from Cutie, who breezes beautifully like a horse when running after a cat. Or a cockroach.
It pains me to mentally relive that day last week when he was accidentally ran over by ate's car. Everything happened so fast. One moment seemed like there was still hope. Next thing I knew, he was no longer breathing. Tears are all I have when I think about Biscuit and a smile on my face when I think about the happy times, his naughty antics and his perfect black coat. It's so dramatic, but who can forget such a beautiful puppy?
Missing you everyday, Biscuit. Happy is how I will always remember you.
The first stop in my Malaysia itinerary 2 weeks ago was Legoland. I like how it is strategically located in Johor Bahru, which rests between Singapore and Malaysia. It was an ideal spot to visit since my friend and I came from the Singaporean border via bus.
An Instax Inception
Legoland is incomparable to other theme parks I visited. Disneyland in Hong Kong, Ocean Park (also still) in Hong Kong and Universal Studios in Singapore are different stories.
We visited Legoland on a Monday afternoon. It was quite a dreary visit since it's not as packed and congested as what I would expect from a theme park designed for kids. Maybe because it was a weekday, kids are off to school and their parents are out working. We got tickets to the park, but not the water park, which I think Legoland is more invested on. I think that's where everyone was when we visited. Hehe
As one would expect from a theme park, everything is pricey. And I kind of regret buying a tumbler for 20 Malaysian ringgits that comes with refillable coke. Hehe but I still use my tumbler at work. It serves as a good reminder that I was able to visit Legoland.
I had a swell time touring Legoland. Popular Asia Pacific monuments found in the park were all created using Lego pieces. Anyone who sees these Lego creations will definitely be amazed. I was even if I am not exactly a huge Lego fan.
Can you guess the names of these Asia Pacific monuments? Be reminded that these are all made of actual Lego pieces. The attention to detail is uncanny. Aaaaaaamaziiiiiiiiing.
Below are more photos that I took. If you are visiting Legoland anytime soon, wear your sunglasses, apply sunblock and have an umbrella ready for the erratic weather changes. When we got there, the weather was really hot, then 2 hours into strolling, it rained hard. Legoland is not a covered park so the sun and the rain will get to you at some point.
How I got to Legoland from Singapore can be read by clicking on this link. Although there is a far more easier way to get to Legoland from Singapore from the Singapore Flyer via their Legoland-bound shuttle), going through customs and the immigrations is definitely part of a great travel experience.
I have to say that if you are headed to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore, there is always that sense of culture shock. Singapore is more organized than Kuala Lumpur, but it is a different kind of spectacle altogether. Visiting Kuala Lumpur for the first time will definitely be one of my life's highlights when 2014 ends.
The Singapore Flyer at night
What makes my Kuala Lumpur visit special is the fact that I arrived in Nasi Lemak soil by crossing its border from Singapore. Travelling by bus is tiring, but worth the experience nonetheless. Since we were crossing the border, we decided to drop by Legoland since it's between the 2 islands.
7:01 PM at Chinatown Downtown Line
Here's how we ended up at Kuala Lumpur from Singapore by bus.
We thought we would be able to catch the shuttle bus from The Singapore Flyer to Legoland. We missed it by 2 hours lol. Fortunately, someone nice from The Singapore Flyer helped us get to Legoland on an alternate route.
From the flyer, we hailed a taxi to take us to Queens Street where 170 buses going to Larkin station in Malaysia are located. This 170 bus bound for Larkin will drop you off at the Singapore-Malaysia checkpoint. Prepare your travel documents - passport and the portion of your arrival card which was given to you at the Singapore immigrations in any Changi terminal - so you can breeze through immigrations.
Do not panic if you miss the 170 bus that dropped you off at the checkpoint's entrance. Just as unloading happens fast, so is loading passengers back inside the bus going to Larkin station. It's a common scenario apparently.
Just make sure to board the same bus company so your ticket remains valid. This bus, while directly headed to Larkin station initially, will drop you off at JB CIQ (Johor Bahru Custom, Immigration and Quarantine Complex) or JB Sentral. It's a short ride from the Singapore checkpoint.
Do not take pictures of the JB CIQ or JB Sentral. I found the interiors so pretty that I decided to take some shots. Someone from immigrations approached me and asked me to delete the photos on the spot. Whew! You have been warned.
At the JB CIQ / JB Sentral, you will pass through immigration officers as this is your official entry to Malaysian soil and official exit from Singapore. From the JB CIQ / JB Sentral, we decided to exchange our Singaporean dollars and a few thousand pesos to ringgit. From there, we hailed a cab to take us to Larkin station to secure bus tickets headed for Kuala Lumpur.
It pays to be extra careful and sensitive to your belongings once you arrive at Larkin station. Indians will barge in on you, call your attention to ride their buses and persistently ask where you are headed. We had no choice at that point and sought this one particular Indian who motioned us to book a 6:30 bus for Kuala Lumpur. We initially took the 8:30 bus to Kuala Lumpur, paid for the tickets and hailed a cab again to take us to Legoland. Of course, Legoland deserves a separate post.
Since we already got to tour Legoland in less than 3 hours, we decided to arrive early at Larkin station hoping to catch the 6:30 bus instead since the travel from Larkin to Kuala Lumpur will be long. Thankfully, the Indian agreed and by 6:45, we were on our way to Kuala Lumpur.
After 5 hours, we were dropped off at Putrajaya. It's scary to be dropped off at midnight at Putrajaya since it's chaotic. With just a few ringgits left and with a dash of luck, we found a cab who agreed to take us to our hotel, Container Hotel, at Jalan Delima for only 15 ringgits. Whew!
Tip: Most cab drivers do not use their meters when it's already midnight. They would offer a fixed rate depending probably on how desperate you look or how lost you look. Haha! So look confident still and say no if they are charging you 50 ringgits. Or more.
*JB CIQ and JB Sentral are different places, but are located in almost the same location. JB CIQ is technically Malaysian customs, immigrations and quarantine point; JB Sentral is a train station in the JB CIQ. There's a footbridge that links JB Sentral station to Johor Bahru City Square shopping mall. It has very limited trips at 8:28 AM, 2:49 PM and 11:08 PM. It passes Tampin (for Melaka), Seremban, KL Sentral, Tapah Rd (for Cameron Highlands), Ipoh, Taiping and Butterworth.
I've been obsessing about Book Actually 2 months ago when I learned that I would be able to finally push through with my plans of visiting Singapore again and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the first time.
This may be a blog about food, but I want to share how my backpacking trip went and how I prepared for it. But then I would have to gather my thoughts first and write about it well since I'm still on a high 2 weeks past my trip. I'd like to share the cute and quirky hostels I checked in, the great sights I saw and everything in between. Ahhh, travelling definitely puts you on a different high.
Yey I made it!
Going to Yong Siak Street where Books Actually is located (to be honest) was very difficult. Yong Siak is a literally a hidden gem and for a tourist like me who does not know how to read a map well (yes, it's not my strength unfortunately), you will easily get lost finding it by foot. It's always so tempting to hop inside a cab, but as they say, it's only by getting lost that you learn.
From Chinatown where we stayed, we boarded the Harbour Front MRT and alighted at Outram Park.
I have to say that if you are visiting Singapore, stay within the Chinatown area. Aside from the culture, Chinatown is well-connected. It is a hop a skip away from rare Singapore finds and the travel must-sees like the Marina Bay Sands, the Marina Bay Gardens, etc. This fact about Chinatown is often neglected, and hopefully not anymore.
At Outram Park, we boarded the train going to Joo Koon and alighted at Tiong Bahru. It's nice that there's a mall just outside Tiong Bahru station that houses Sephora among many lovely stores.
My friend and I decided to walk our way from Tiong Bahru station to Books Actually since the map said that we are no longer than 2 kilometers away from Yong Siak Street. To cut the story short, after almost 20 minutes of walking under the intense heat (it was a dry spell when we visited Singapore), we ended up hailing a cab to get us to where we need to.
Yong Siak Street is beautiful. And just like what I said in one of my recent Instagram posts, it is the Cubao X of Singapore minus the shoe stores. Lakas maka-hipster actually. See the pun right there? ;)
Yes you can!
Aside from books, they have different kinds of rare gift items. CCTV camera alert-worthy though due to all the many trinkets you can put in your bag undetected. Not that I took anything. I think it's just one of many things running inside my Filipino head.
It was love at first sight. Books Actually is small, yet it is beaming with personality and character. The attention to details are incredible. It has so many elements inside. I wonder how they keep the dust off.
It is worth the walk, the sun and the wait. Though I left the store empty handed (the books were too much for my travel budget), my eyes were more than happy at what it saw. So glad to finally cross out Books Actually from my #BakitList. Thank you heavens for making this visit possible.
They have a feline employee too by the aesthetics section!
Yong Siak Street is not only home to Books Actually, but also to different hole-in-the wall eats and boutiques. Plain Vanilla is one. I will try 40 Hands Coffee, Ikyu, Nana & Bird, Open Door Policy, PoTeaTo and SocialHaus. In case you are wondering, I got all of these suggestions from Lady Iron Chef. Hehe
Last year in December, I was particularly smitten by this voucher in Deal Grocer for a brunch and bellinis set for 2 at Sunshine Kitchen. I haven't been to Sunshine Kitchen, and I've seen reviews that the food are not exactly stellar. However, I wanted to find it out for myself and I think my own Sunshine Kitchen experience is not that bad.
I thought we won't be able to use the voucher since weekends are kind precious to me and Jonjie. And with brunch hour limited to 11 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon, it was a gamble whether my 600-peso voucher will be put to use or not.
Thankfully, yesterday, Sunday, we finally did! A brunch with limitless mimosas was the highlight of our Sunday.
The Deal Grocer brunch promo includes 4 brunch mains.
Choose 2 from: Portobello Mushroom Melt, Southern Style Crabcake Benedict or Breakfast Pizza made with bacon and egg.
Choose 2 from: Huevos Rancheros, Truffle Mushroom 2 Egg Omelette or Peach French Toast with Chocolate Caramel Sauce and Creme Anglais.
We chose Portobello Mushroom Melt and the Breakfast Pizza made with bacon and egg plus Truffle Mushroom 2 Egg Omelette and Peach French Toast with Chocolate Caramel Sauce and Creme Anglais. We had the savory and the sweet to fill up our hungry tummies. We also opted for the orange mimosas.
I was surprised at how small the portions were. Well, it was brunch, but Filipino tummies such as ours were definitely not satisfied. But then again, this is one of many food trips that we have charged to experience.
I don't know if this is the case for others, but I always find myself discriminated whenever I use redeem food vouchers. Food vouchers are not exactly cheap, but why I do I get the sense like the quality of the service is brought down a notch lower than usual? Why should the menu be different for customers dining in using their vouchers? Bakit kailangan magiba yung ngiti nung waiter upon learning that I will be redeeming my Deal Grocer voucher instead of ordering regular ala carte dishes from the menu? Am I being too sensitive? Enlighten me :( Philippines is the only country where the use of vouchers and discount coupons is a form of discriminatory act.
Yong Siak Street in Tiong Bahru is like Cubao X in Quezon City minus the shoe stores and the pollution. I made it a point to visit Yong Siak Street for Books Actually (which I am so happy to have seen), and I was quite pleased to see that Yong Siak Street is also home to a lot of awesome finds such as Plain Vanilla, which is 2 stores away from Books Actually.
Plain Vanilla is not like any other bakery concept store in Manila. It's also not just about red velvet cupcakes, but a wide assortment that includes artisan brownies, cookies, cakes and a lot of signature cafe drinks.
The only pastries kept in chilled display are the cupcakes perhaps to prevent the frosting from melting. Other than that, everything else is ready for the taking. You have to pay for what you like of course. I loved the display of the pastries so much that I think I took way too many pictures of the same things. Aaaaah heaven!
I helped myself to a cup of iced latte (I am a fan of iced latte so you will see that I always take that off the menu) and a fat slice of peanut butter brownies. Despite the allergies I got from the peanut butter, I regret settling for just one slice. I should have bought more.
Plain Vanilla is quaint and dainty - exactly my idea of what a pretty cafe looks like. They have wide spaces, which makes it perfect for lounging, studying or working if only I work in Singapore. If I fortunately do, I'll be more than happy to find a place in Tiong Bahru so I'll be an arm away from this lovely Yong Siak Street. This may be an inspiration too should I proceed opening a cafe of my own in the near future. Let's see how that will unfold.