5 Things to do in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Kanchanaburi is more well known with our local boys as an army training site and thus not very ideal for a holiday spot. But it’s actually surprisingly idyllic!

If you’re planning a trip to Kanchanaburi, the first thing you need to do is to really plan properly. It’s definitely much easier to rent a car – each attraction is quite a distance from the next, and you wouldn’t be at the mercy of public transport or a big group of tourists. Apparently you can also catch a taxi from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi for the day for about 2000 baht (about 80 SGD).

Bob and I drove about 2 hours from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Town (for lunch), and another 1 hour from Kanchanaburi Town to Sai Yok. Wikitravel and TripAdvisor would suggest visiting a Tiger Temple and Elephant Camp but I’m really not a fan of seeing animals in captivity (although, apparently they have good intentions) and we didn’t exactly have the luxury of time after spending half a day at the Erawan Falls (which I would totally recommend visiting). As mentioned, we were there with a car and navigated with Google Maps, so I don’t really have the exact addresses or directions to things. (Google Maps will suffice, but remember to get a local SIM card before hand)

  1. Hike and swim at the Erawan Falls
    20130806_093940There are seven levels of waterfalls at Erawan, which are all pretty spectacular. Something about the minerals in the water make it seem really blue with sunlight hits. I’d suggest going early, about 9 or 10 in the morning if you’re planning to complete the hike (about 2km up), because we started down at about noon and it was teeming with tourists! Also, wear good hiking shoes that have good grip and you’re willing to get dirty / wet. Oh yes a bathing suit and a small towel too, because you can swim wherever you fancy! Continue reading

Casa Lapin x49 – Bangkok

Because we love cafes, Bob and I couldn’t miss out on visiting at least one in Bangkok. Of all the cafes we looked to visit, this one was really hard to find! It didn’t help that it was set in a little unnamed road across from Samitivej Hospital, somewhere near Sukhumvit Soi 49. Try looking for these signs:

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Casa Lapin x49’s is the wooden one. Walk right in and you’d find yourself in a residential looking area, that houses an eclectic mix of a tapas bar and an upmarket pet accessories store. This is Casa Lapin x49. Complete with a hipster foldie bike.

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This is the 2nd cafe set up by owner Surapan Tanta (an architect turned barista) – the first being Casa Lapin, which can also be found a little nook at Thonglor Art Village. It’s very tastefully done, I’ll let pictures do the talking. Reminds me of a greenhouse, and even has a little attic like space on the 2nd floor.

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There’s a huge shelf of some of my favourite magazines – like Smith, Kinfolk and even our very own Encounters.

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It was a tad too hot to sit outside, but the external seating area is also lovely. To the left of the photo you can see that there are little tables perfect for an intimate conversation between two, or if someone might prefer to have more privacy to read / do work.

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More one seaters, with little metallic drawers that double up as tables. (we found some stickers from Papa Palheta in one of those drawers!)

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Go upstairs if you’re coming in a bigger group of 4-5

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Plants everywhere! Lends the cafe a very nice touch.

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Even the toilet is brilliantly done up.

Coffee was not bad – I didn’t really study the menu, but they serve cakes and pasta too.

Oh there are power plugs everywhere + WIFI, so I think it’s a perfect place just to sit around, chillax, check your emails or get some work done. Wish we had more pretty little enclaves like this in Singapore!

Casa Lapin x49
Sukhumvit 49, across from Samitivej Hospital, between Thonglor 13 and Sukhumvit 49/7

Opening hours:
Mon-Fri.: 7:30am – 8:30pm
Sat-Sun.: 10:30am – 8:30pm

Bandung Trip: Brunch at Hummingbird Cafe

This is gonna be a pic dump because… I was on holiday, and I didn’t note down the prices of stuff.

Sarah mentioned that Hummingbird was a must-visit in Bandung, so… we visited! I love the branding, the vibe, the attention to detail with the interior (it feels like someone’s living room) and the non-pretentious food. Brunch was waaay more affordable than what you can get here in SingSing, so Alexis and I just went ahead and ordered everything that we wanted to try! 3 drinks and 3 mains totalled up to about SGD$20+++. They have an extensive selection of brunch items and CAKES! (Check out the ombre & rainbow cake.)

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Here’s a better pic of their facade from their website. As you can see, like most eateries / outlets in Bandung, it’s set in a residential space – complete with a “greenhouse” exterior area.

They offer accommodation too. And free wifi. And power outlets to charge your stuff. I love this place.

Hummingbird Eatery
Official Website | Facebook page
JL. Progo, No. 14, Bandung Indonesia
+62 22 4212582
Breakfast is served from 7am – 11am

Psst. Wondering how to get from SG to Bandung? AirAsia has direct flights, from $45.

[AD] Outlet Shopping in Bandung

If you’re a Singaporean thinking about Bandung,

I bet you’re thinking about that pink, syrupy drink. Rose syrup + milk.

Delicious.

That was exactly what came to my mind when I first heard that I would be going to Bandung! Then I had this idea that Bandung was a little sleepy town with a volcano somewhere in its proximity.

Then I head it was a shopper’s paradise. Honestly, I was skeptical. Someone had told me Sri Lanka had factory outlets and I was sorely disappointed. I kinda thought Bandung’s outlet shopping would be on the same par. I’d only changed SGD $200 for 3 days. In the end? It was NOT ENOUGH.

Yes, shopping in Bandung is no joke – and it’s not just for the girls, there’s an equal amount of stuff for the guys and the kids, too!

Here are some of my favourite buys –

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It’s common to find brands like MANGO, F21, H&M and Zara in the factory outlets. Prices aren’t exactly dirt cheap – a little more expensive than Bangkok, but the material and workmanship is definitely way better and it comes in sizes… good news to everyone that doesn’t fit into the stick-thin asian female stereotype that a lot of Thai wholesalers fashion cater to. “Free size”, they say.

Don’t expect Woodbury / American style outlets. The outlets in Bandung are actually quite “capalang” – you’ll find everything randomly arranged in one residential-like building, and it’s up to you to do the digging!

Key Areas:

There are basically 3 areas where all the factory outlets are:

1. Jalan Setiabudhi – Rumah Mode, Mode Plus, Fashion World
2. Jalan Dago – Level, Polo, Nike, Grande, Marc & Stuart, Uptown, Carla, Glow, Donatello
3. Jalan Riau – Summit, Heritage, Cascade, Secret

AS YOU CAN SEE, there are MANY outlets!! It’s shopping heaven!

Getting Around:

If you’re staying at a hotel that’s relatively central (we stayed at Gino Feruci Bandung), it’s pretty cheap to just cab around – the fare should just go up to about less than $5. Many of the cabs have a minimum fee of IDR20,000 – but that’s just about SGD$3.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try taking the angkot (a public minibus). We couldnt get a cab along the busy road of Setiabudhi so Alexis and I walked down the hill and took an angkot to Dago. Angkot drivers will slow down when they see pedestrians. Ask “pergi Dago tak?” (do you go to Dago?) when he winds down the window, and if he says yes, just hop on. The ride will cost you IDR2,000 per person… SGD$0.30 or so!

Once you reach a certain road, individual outlets are within walking distances from each other. Continue reading

[AD] Flying’s a breeze with AirAsia

Thanks to omy.sg and AirAsia, Alexis and I managed to escape the haze for 3 days and find some respite in Bandung, Indonesia. We even met (a cardboard version of) Tony Fernandes!

Did you know… that AirAsia has clinched the award for the world’s best low-cost carrier, 5 years in a row? In my own personal experience, I’ve always managed to book the cheapest flights with AirAsia – and they’re usually on time, fuss-free, no hiccups, and provide good service. Plus their website is super easy to use and the booking process is always smooth.

Did a little more research into AirAsia…here’s some useful info that you may not know!

DESTINATIONS

There are some interesting nearby places AirAsia flies to, besides hot favourites like Bali and Bangkok, that I would totally consider planning for short holidays. For example:

Singapore >> Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Where you can trek Mt Kinabalu

and visit Manukan Island, a ten minute boat trip from Kota Kinabalu City, where the waters look amazingly clear.

Singapore >> Jakarta

Where you can spend a few days touring the city, or if you’re a beach lover like me, enjoy some sun, sand and sea at Kepulauan Seribu – a beautiful chain of islands about 30 min – 2hrs from Jakarta (depending on which island you go to / which boat you choose to take).

(Psst… here’s a free travel guide to islands and beaches that AirAsia flies to.) You can even fly to Australia, China, Japan and South Korea on AirAsia as well!

SERVICES

Wanted to highlight this service because I didn’t know about it prior to this! With just a $55 top up when you book online, you get to enjoy a dedicated counter check in, 2hr access to the Skyview Premium lounge at T1 (buffet!), priority boarding as well as priority check-in baggage and tagging.

Think it’s perfect for families traveling with kids or elderly; super convenient and hassle free.

IN-FLIGHT Food:

For us, we had pre-booked meals which were really satisfying! And I like that they cater to Asian tastes as well… you can even get bubble tea on board with some flights!

For our trip to Bandung: Asian Fried Rice with Satay.

THE SATAY WAS DELICIOUS!!

and Nasi Padang our trip back! Which came with very addictive keropok.

Inflight meals are about 39,000 IDR which is about SGD$5 – very, very affordable, and better than starving on a plane trip.

Shopping:

AirAsia also has very interesting duty free catalogue where they sell very useful things like a shower bag and toothbrush set (approx SGD$15) which can be used to hang your toiletries in the shower (hey, it’s a very useful function okay! I always get annoyed when i don’t have a place to put my toiletries esp in hostel toilets.)

And this foldable duffel bag (approx SGD$22.65) – great for manic shoppers that could do with the extra space… basically any girl that’s going to Bandung lah. lol!

 

Hope you learnt a little more about what AirAsia has to offer! More about shopping in Bandung in my next post – you won’t believe it. Alexis and I spent about SGD$700 in total. Not kidding.

P.S. AirAsia always has promos!

Field notes from S21 Prison, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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S21 Prison. Not sure what to make of it.

For something so rich in history, nothing has been documented well. The exhibition doesn’t do much justice to painting the real scenes of torture and pain prisoners here had to go through. It definitely doesn’t do their bravery justice.

There’s a wall where you have tonnes of photos of anonymous faces staring back at you. There are empty cells of wood and brick and vacant, rusty bed frames. The only stories presented are factual records from prisoners who wouldn’t have dared to speak the truth about injustice.

Don’t think we will every know what exactly happened here or why. I don’t think any of them understood either. All we know is people were treated with cruelty, suffered a lot, and many died for no apparent reason.

The Khmer Rouge needed confessions, took innocent people, and tortured them to force them to “confess” – even if they weren’t guilty at all.

Standing in one of those cells, I thought, if I were one of them, I’d probably given up on life and on hope.

The atmosphere is somewhat peaceful though.

Cambodia: 24 hours in Kampot

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I’d like to share this little gem of a place called Kampot – a tiny town by a river in Cambodia, about 3hrs away from Phnom Penh (a lot of Jetstar deals – SG to PP!).

It’s not where someone would typically go to in Cambodia but it’s a good place to just relax. There’s nothing much going on there, but you get your fair share of really fresh seafood at a good price.

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Important tip: use the Giant Ibis bus to get from Phnom Penh to Kampot or vice versa! We took Hua Lin and the journey was 5hrs long – it just kept stopping everywhere to drop people or pick people up. Giant Ibis provides a relatively smaller bus but you get a bottle of water, a wet towel, movies to watch and mobile wifi. Plus, it doesn’t make any stops except toilet stops. Worth the USD$8.

Another tip is that I realize Cambodia’s service industry is rather rigid – not a bad thing, but like if they’re told to do something a certain way, they won’t stray from it. As a result, we had to pay for 2 nights of stay at Moliden even though we just stayed a day because we didn’t notify them that we’ll be checking out at 2pm. They refused to budge thought it was apparent we were two of four or so guests. Though Moliden has a really good location I’d advise giving it a miss because we had such a nasty experience with the service staff there. He kept insisting that it was not his fault but ours – when nobody had told us about the checkout time.

So we got charged $50 Instead, I’d suggest going budget and staying further out by the river – it’s a very unique experience! A place called Bodhi Villa actually offers floating rooms for about USD$10. Olly’s has bungalows for $5/night and paddleboards for rent. Pay a little more for a good room at Rikitikitavi (from $43) or La Java Bleue. (from $35) that includes airconditioning.

Here’s how we spent a day at Kampot:

2pm – Arrived at Kampot, didn’t make any prior bookings so we just walked around to find a room. Moliden seemed charming and promising, so we settled with that. Picked up 2 bikes for $1 each from a roadside shop opposite Moliden.

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Lunch – headed to Ta Eou Restaurant for lunch – almost every dish is USD$5. Everyone was eating the kampot pepper crab, so we did too. And prawns. And fried rice. And fish. And tom yam soup. And 4 cans of winter melon tea. Nice place by the river! Bill was about $25.

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Cycled down to another shop for ice cream… it’s a cute pop up shop by the road but the ice cream was rather nyahhhh. Cycled around a little more to check out the Durian roundabout and grab some souvenirs.

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Took a sunset river cruise which was nice, but rather painfully long… you could also opt for a slightly more expensive option that includes wine and cheese and occasionally a barbecue dinner!

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Our captain.

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Our company

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Riverside views

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Dusk

Went for a massage by blind masseuses. There are a couple out there and we chose to pay a dollar more ($5? $6?) for the airconditioning. Be warned, it’s pretty funky smelling. I couldn’t even keep my head down in, you know, that hole that you’re supposed to keep your face in because it was suffocating. The massage was really good though.

Refreshed, we had a reasonably priced dinner of barbecued seafood (fresh catch of the day) and ribeye steak – excellently cooked at La Java Bleue. Not the cheapest – cost about $35, but so worth it! The owner Jean Claude was so hospitable – and he has a huge burnese mountain dog that he shipped in from France that stays in an airconditioned room lol?

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BBQ seafood platter

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Ribeye

My pics really don’t do it justice!!

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Doggie that only comes out at night!

Got a few drinks and retired for the night.

The next day, we’d initially wanted to travel up to the Tek Chou waterfalls – but someone mentioned it was the dry season and we’d only face an unimpressive trickle. Anyways, we got up at about 10am and weren’t left with much time before we had to get onto the bus back to Phnom Penh at 2pm.

Got back on our bikes and took another leisurely cycle to explore the other side of the town – beyond Rikitikitavi. Nothing much, actually.

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Headed back to the “heart of town” to grab coffee at Kampoccino.

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Coffee wasn’t great, but they had some really good freshly baked pastry!

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And a cat too.

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Typical sight at Kampot – streets are lined with 2-storey shophouses.

Rode out to another cafe with a good cause – Epic Arts Cafe

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Grabbed a few quick bites. We were like, the only Chinese people there. Scratch that we could’ve been the only chinese people at that time in Kampot lol.

We were quick to learn that there really isn’t much else to do in Kampot but to cycle and eat. We’d initially wanted to check out Ecran Movie Theatre but it wasn’t due to open till 1pm.

So we ate, again, at a bakery beside Ecran called Sister’s

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Beautiful pumpkin spice pancakes with maple syrup.

As stuffed as we were, we finally could take a peek into Ecran – they have a bigger theatre (pictured below) and a smaller one (not pictured, because my battery was too flat). You could rent movies and have a little private screening in a really cosy setting. naaaaise.

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That about marks the end of our time at Kampot! We hastily got back, packed, checked out, got the nasty news that we had to pay for one more night, argued till the bus came, reluctantly handed him $50 and went back to Phnom Penh absolutely broke.

Other things to check out at Kampot:

– Tek Chou waterfalls
– Bokor Mountain
– Kep, about 1/2h away (beach + fresh crabs)
Kampot’s caves, on the way to Kep

Again, nothing extremely exciting and unmissable. But it’s exactly that that makes Kampot so charming. It’s hard to find a place that’s relatively untouched by tourism; still, there are enough enterprising expats who have chosen to settle in Kampot that offer quality food and lodging to cater to travelers who are still looking to be a little spoilt.

Would definitely return to this place. Hoping to stay in a floating hut by the river next time! Will probably give the touristy Sihanoukville a visit too.