Category Archives: Travels

. Jalan Kajeng, UBUD: Hollywood Stars Ave .

Do you know that Bali also has its very own version of the famed Hollywood’s Stars Avenue? Tucked in a hidden corner of Ubud town lies the unique street of Jalan Kajeng, where its cement tiles are inscribed with messages and artworks of all sorts! I took a lovely stroll along the ‘Signature’ street one evening as I explored the surrounding quaint shops and home-stays (planning to stay here the next time!) and kept a lookout for interesting or funny stone messages to share with friends!

Want to have your very own name and personal message  imprinted in the street of Ubud? Head down to either Luxe Cafe or Samara Villas (both located along Kajeng Road) and purchase a stone tile for only 25USD. All you have to do is to provide your message, drawing/ design (on paper) and leave the rest to the local artisans to create an engraved memory for you! 🙂

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Time for both locals and tourists to unleash their creative juices and get imaginative with their artworks!
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It’s also for the romance at heart – A celebration of the Jubilee Anniversary! How sweet!  ❤
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I love scouting the street, looking for inspirational and uplifting messages.  Having experienced several tumultuous periods in my life, I’m now a firm believer in the power and strength of positive affirmations and I hope these messages help cheer you on, in a way or two. 
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My personal favourite! A tongue-in-cheek message with reference to the best selling book, “Eat, Pray, Love”. Only this time, instead of one woman’s search for everything, it is one man’s quest for fulfillment!
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. Explore: Campuhan Ridge, Ubud .

 One of my favourite thing to do during a vacation is to sneak in some sort of adrenaline-pumping activity as I’m addicted to the thrill of an adrenaline rush. There were originally plans for me to embark on a white water rafting adventure down the mighty Telaga Waja River; however, at the last minute, I decided to eschew any forms of adventure and simply enjoy Bali in peace and solitude. A quick search on the internet brought my attention to the breath-taking Campuhan Ridge, which takes one into the beautiful and unspoiled rice fields of Ubud. I was sold. There is no better way to enjoy Ubud other than to take in the idyllic sights of its countryside that is still relatively undisturbed by tourism.

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The hike to Campuhan Ridge begins at the entrance of the Warwick Ibah Luxury Villas & Spa, where you should spot a sign stating that it takes 2km to trek up to the famous Karsa Kafe (a restaurant that overlooks a beautiful rice field, also known as the pitstop for most hikers).
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The trail will also take you past the historical Gunung Lebah Temple, which was constructed in the 8th century by Danghyang Markandya, the man who was believed to have introduced Hinduism to the island of Bali. PhotoGrid_1424570121758

The spectacular view that greets me on New Year’s Day 🙂 The hike was pretty easy and leisure (not much of a challenge for those who are looking for a workout), and I would highly recommend anyone to do it early morning before the afternoon sun comes out. Plus, if you are lucky, you might just get parts of the trail all to yourself! 
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artist at workAlong the way, I also met a female painter, Wayan, who brought me on a mini tour to her family’s art studio and introduced me to the miniature painting techniques that are required for egg painting. I might be no professional painter but I do enjoy dabbling in arts & craft during my leisure time, so it was such a privilege for me to be able to observe an artist at work. In fact, I have crazy dreams of taking a mini sabbatical to head to Bali and pick up a painting/ art course. Just for the fun of it. Call me a professional dreamer!

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magical tree house
Haven’t your parents often tell you not to enter into a stranger’s house? Well, I guess I broke the rule. It was along the rocky path beyond Karsa Kafe that I suddenly caught a glimpse of a “hanging” wooden bridge in the midst of the green foliage. Curious, I decided to peep around when an elderly man shouted to invite me to his humble abode. Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to venture beyond the bridge and was surprised to be greeted by the sight of a wooden tree-house! I ❤ tree-houses!

Despite the language barrier, the elderly man tried his best in making me feel at home by sharing with me pictures of his family and playing musical tunes on the traditional Balinese instrument (I think it was the gamelan). The house was built single-handedly by him and it provides a great respite for anyone who wanted to escape from the hustle and bustle of main street Ubud.

This serendipitous encounter is just one of the many that I had during my first solo trip in Bali and I know that such personal experiences would not have been possible, had I been travelling with others (especially with cautious friends)! I guess that’s the reason why so many people have opted to travel solo once they caught the bug … You end up making more friends and creating authentic experiences! 🙂 

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. the independent traveler: flying solo for the first time .

WOW. Where do I even begin?

As everyone would have known by now, 2014 has been an extremely dramatic and life-changing year  for me. The perfect life? It was far from it. Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to celebrate the end of the year by doing something courageous that I have always wanted to do for the longest time. Yet, fear has been the one main factor that prevented me from accomplishing that goal.

With a new-found sense of courage, I decided to embark on my first ever solo trip and usher into the new year alone. Like most people, I was afraid of taking that step out of the well-trodden path but once I did, there was no turning back. It is often said that solo travel allows one to enjoy a country on his or her own terms and through that exhilarating journey, they might learn to re-discover parts of themselves that they never knew existed. For me, I went for this solo trip, expecting to spend the bulk of my time alone. Frankly, I was perfectly fine with doing most things alone because I have always had that independent streak in me and my personal belief is that life waits for no one. Waiting might simply translate to missed opportunities. What I found out, at the end of the trip, was that travelling solo brings forth way more interaction and socializing than one could get, if they were to travel with their family or friends.

During my 4 days stay in Bali, I had serendipitous encounters with people from all walks of life – Locals from the tourism industry, artists, medicine woman, primary school kids, and travelers from other parts of the world. Surprisingly, not only did I managed to gain cultural insights from my conversations with them, but I was also very lucky to foster deep and meaningful connections with some of these people. In fact, 2 months down the road, I am still in touch with some of the people whom I have met during my trip.

My first trip might be short but it wasn’t one without an adventure of a lifetime. On the eve of New Year, I drank a little too much (and that’s because I’m a terrible drinker), got drunk and my vision literally went blank while I was dining alone. Horrors of horrors. Had I been in a shady area, I could have been robbed, raped or kidnapped. Lady luck must have been on my side because the drunk episode turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I ended up meeting the Prince of Ubud, spending the rest of the night with the lovely marketing manager (who is now, a friend of mine) before celebrating the NYE countdown in style with the restaurant crew! Serendipity? You bet. Along the way, I also cooked a Balinese meal with a local family in their home compound, met my own version of Ketut Liyer (for those of you who read ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, you would know what I’m talking about) – an old lady who flashed her boobs at me, had an unexpected lunch with an American who turned out to be working in Singapore,  and played ‘Santa’ to a group of kids in a local primary school.

My decision to start 2015 with a solo trip was one of the best choices of my life. All it takes is 1 moment of insane courage. But a lifetime of unforgettable memories and experiences. And trust me, once you start travelling alone, chances are that you will become addicted to it because it is so much more rewarding and enriching. Now, just remember that life waits for no one … So, take that leap of faith and give solo travel a try! 🙂 

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What does solo travel means to me? 

Freedom. Fulfillment. Self-confidence. Excitement. Being in control – not needing to be accountable to others. Spontaneity. Serendipitous experiences. And more important, a journey to explore more about myself and grow in ways that I can never learn from my school or workplace.

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. girls gone wild @ montigo resort .

Girls gone wild? Well, I was lying … Our girly weekend was a lot tamer than the headline but I did catch your attention, didn’t I? Montigo Resort @ Nongsa needs no introduction as it is an extremely popular weekend destination for many Singaporeans from all walks of life. Whether you are looking for a romantic rendezvous with your significant other, a fun-filled staycation with your friends or a relaxing holiday with your family, Montigo Resort offers it all. It prides itself as “the ultimate escape for generations to come”.

After a very tough month at work, I was all ready to kick back and enjoy a respite from the stress and tension happening in the office. A short getaway with my girlfriends (Shermin, Soy, CC) in the comfort of our own pool villa sounded like a fantastic idea, especially when it costs a fraction of the cost as compared to pool villas in Singapore. We booked the seafront & spa villa so that we get to enjoy unobstructed views of the lush greenery and blue sea (but do note that the view is sadly, quite depressing during low tide). I must say that the views were surprisingly spectacular as one would have never expected the island of Batam to boast such scenic sights! There were even times when I tried to make-believe that I was actually vacationing in Greece instead of Batam! Hahaha. Oh, the joy of day-dreaming! 🙂

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Our seafront villa comes with a living room on the ground floor, 2 huge bedrooms with attached bathrooms on the 2nd floor and a sky terrace at the top floor. Think minimalistic concept.
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The main reason why we were at Montigo – Our own private infinity pool that overlooks the pristine South China Sea and offers breathtaking view of coastline. It’s certainly our favourite place as we spent the bulk of our time frolicking and chilling at the pool. Had my ‘girls gone wild’ plan succeeded, I would have gone for skinny dipping … The perfect activity for some sexy fun!
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The spa villa also comes with a private cabana hut and beanbag – Great for the lazy souls to laze around with a book!
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The in-villa BBQ was highly recommended by Shermin’s friend and she was pretty insistent that we had to give it a shot. Thank god for her persistence because it was BBQ at its best – We had our own personal chef and butler, both of whom rendered excellent customer service! Happy tummies, happy souls.

You might like to note that we ordered the BBQ set for 2 pax even though we had 4 pax; The serving portion was sufficient for relatively small-eaters like us. We opted to have the in-villa dining by the poolside although you can always choose to have it at the rooftop to enjoy a 360 degrees view of the surroundings!

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Deal Not To Be Missed – Montigo Spring Celebration!
Enjoy $50 dining/spa cash voucher, on top of 25% off the Best Available Rate when you book a luxurious stay with Montigo Resort from now till 31 March 2015. It’s time to spring into 2015 with a pampering treat for yourself!

For more details, check out http://www.montigoresorts.com/nongsa/! Now, don’t say that I don’t share good deals with you guys! :p 

. water caving at Gua Batu Maloi .

Ever since I had my neck injury, I had many friends and colleagues coming up to me and telling me “not to do anything stupid or adventurous anymore” but I guess the ‘thrill seeker’ spirit is still lurking somewhere within me. I still yearn to expand my horizon and push my boundaries with adventure and extreme outdoor activities. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. I chose to embark on my first adventure, since the injury, with YMCA  Outdoor Adventure group for their water caving expedition at the relatively unknown Gua Batu Maloi. My first ‘caving or black water tubing’ experience in New Zealand was, surprisingly, very challenging and fun and I knew it was just a matter of time that I would get to repeat this extraordinary experience. 🙂

Nested in the midst of the lush rainforest of Mount Tampin Forest Reserve, which is a 3 hours drive from Singapore, Batu Maloi is a nature site made up of stacks of gigantic granite boulders and rocks. It is unlike a real cave, which is essentially an underground space caused usually either by erosion or geological processes. The Batu Maloi cave system is more like a ‘make-shift’ cave, formed beneath the masses of large boulders and it has a stream of water that snakes across the stones and rocks of the floor. Hence, the phrase “water caving” instead of simply “caving”. Water caving is definitely not an activity for the prim and proper because one is certainly expected to climb, squeeze, crawl and even get fully submerged underwater for a few seconds! You have been warned!

And so, my caving adventure begins with 2 of my adventurous girlfriends, JZ and Eileen! 🙂

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Our journey began with a relatively easy trek that took us through the startlingly beautiful foliage and greenery of the rainforest. What a captivating sight!
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Using ropes to traverse along the creek. I would highly recommend you guys to don a pair of gloves as it would help with your grip. 
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A picturesque view – Natural light filtering through the cave openings.
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As we ventured deeper into the caves, we found ourselves at areas where the water level had risen up to our chest. The water levels in the cave have been known to rise extremely fast after heavy downpours (It was a rainy day the day before!) and there were even instances where unwitting explorers were trapped inside the cave for hours. We were fortunate enough to have local guides with us as they would re-direct our paths in areas where the water current was too strong or risky for our safety.

For the bulk of our caving exploration, we had to constantly wriggle our bodies through tiny gaps and crevices, crawl around narrow and winding passages in complete darkness  with hordes of bats flying above us (Thank god for headlamps!) and slide down large rocks to get ground. At times, we even had to hold our breath and crawl underwater (fully submerged!) to make our way through to the next opening.

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Sometimes, there was nowhere else for you to go except to go upwards. So, despite our battered bodies, we had to gather whatever strength left in us to pull ourselves up the 5m high boulders! Another section of the cave also saw us pitting against the strong currents of a waterfall, in order to advance to our final destination. Lose your grip and you might risk getting washed away by the currents!

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Pit stop: Natural jacuzzi for us to soak our tired bodies and over-worked feet!
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I survived!
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We might have gone home, complete with bruises, scratches and aching muscles but these superficial “injuries” were nothing compared to the amazing experience and sheer satisfaction of accomplishing this challenging activity.

Some Tips for those who are planning on a caving expedition:

1. You don’t have to be in a very good shape but be mentally prepared that you will have to rough it out. Some sections of the cave will require you to gather your strength to pull yourself up boulders and rocks, but with a bit of teamwork, it is not as difficult as it might seem.

2. If possible, try to wear a pair of long pants, rash vest (both for protection against rough and sharp surfaces) and water shoes for this expedition. Get a proper headlight because you will find yourself in complete darkness at times and that’s when you will realize just how helpful it is to have a light source while being hands-free.

3. Go for this activity with an open mind and adventurous spirit, and you will find yourself enjoying it even more! 🙂

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Batu Maloi Cave, Mount Tampin Forest Reserve
Tampin, Malaysia

. jumping off the tallest building in NZ .

I ❤ travelling and adventure but I must admit that I’m really bad at documenting my New Zealand and Florida trips on this blog. Too many pictures to sort through as we took thousands of pictures so I shall do it sporadically.

At 192m in height, the Auckland Sky Tower is the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand and taking a giant leap off this building seemed like the most adrenaline-pumping activity that I could do to round up my trip to NZ! 🙂 Contrary to belief, the sky jump is unlike a bungee jump as it is a controlled fall  (travelling at 85km/hr) although it was the closest that I have ever gotten to bungee. The tingly sensation in my stomach started to kick in when I was suited up and on my way towards the top of the building. In comparison to skydiving, the sky jump certainly felt a lot safer and less exciting although it wasn’t without its fair share of thrills. Walking to the edge of the building, with the wind howling loudly in my ears, was petrifying and nerve-wrecking. It took me courage to finally release the hand grips and jump off the platform … The first step was the scariest but the rest of the ride down was, honestly, not as terrifying as it might seem. The fall was over all too soon, as I was done with the descent of a lifetime in 11 seconds but with an experience etched in my memory forever.

My next goal? Since bungee jump is obviously out for me, I’ll be making the Sky Walk and Mast Climb at the Macau Tower on my bucket list. 

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SkyJump
Where? Sky Tower, Auckland
Price? NZD 225
More info? 
skywalk.co.nz/

. trip to southern islands: st john, lazarus, seringat .

For this year’s Singapore Heritage Festival themed “Our Islands, Our Home”, National Heritage Board has organised several island trails, including a half-day trip to the Southern islands – St John, Lazarus and Seringat. As usual, I didn’t want to miss out on the chance to go island-hopping so I went ahead for this excursion, alone (Because no one else was able to get the balloted slots). Due to the rushed itinerary, we were not able to explore much of St John island although the trip brought back many fond memories of my first trip to the island. Lots of exploration of every nook and cranny of the island, it was fascinating. Click here to check it out!

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One of the highlights of this excursion was the visit to the Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI), which is usually out-of-bounds to the public.

As per the website, TMSI is a centre of excellence for research, development and consultancy in tropical marine science as well as environmental science. With its multi-disciplinary research laboratories and active international links, it handles projects relevant to Physical Oceanography, Acoustics, Marine Biology, Marine Mammals, Biofuels, Water Resources and Climate Change.

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Following a short presentation that introduced us to TMSI, we were given a mini-tour of the research facility, including pit stops at the fishery, giant clam aquarium and my personal favourite, the touch pool!

DO YOU KNOW?

Size: These giant clams can grow up to 1.5m in diameter. The ones that we saw at the facility are about 5 years old and measures 30cm. Giant clams need to be about 1m in  diameter before they can be released back into the wild, at the undisturbed Southern shores.

Diet: They feed on the algae that lives in its fleshy body. This is also the reason why the clam will face its shell opening towards the sunlight – To encourage photosynthesis for growth of the algae.

Reproduction: Giant clams have both male and female sexual organs. As such, the clam will release a cloud of sperm into the water first, followed by the eggs for fertilization. Newborn clams are only 0.001 mm in diameter! Invisible to the naked egg!

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Since I was a little girl, I have always been fascinated with touch pools because that meant a chance for me to discover, first hand, how these marine creatures felt like. The touch pool at TMSI isn’t as exciting as those at Underwater World or S.E.A Aquarium but it is unique because all the marine creatures can be found just off our shores. These marine organisms, ranging from soft corals to sea star (or starfish as it’s more commonly known) to sea cucumber, can usually be found nearer to the Southern islands as the water here is less polluted and commercialised as compared to mainland Singapore.

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A picturesque view awaits us as we walked across the “mini causeway” to the neighbouring islands of Lazarus and Seringat. I was hoping that we were able to explore more of these islands but it turned out that the only feature of these island is really the pristine beach and clear blue waters. The exact same spot that my colleagues and I chilled at during our yacht party a couple years ago. Most of my fellow tour-mates exclaimed in awe over the breathtaking sight, as one could hardly expect to discover such a hidden gem in Singapore! It’s no surprise to see the beach, with its turquoise water and powdery white sand, being a hit with many families … Just the perfect spot for a picnic and some fun in the sea for the kiddos! 🙂

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