On Packing Light…

14 October 2009

Whenever I wander around, there is dire need to pack lightly as I don’t usually buy any airline entitlement to bring any check-in baggage. Don’t blame me guys; not getting this will save me around 30 SGD on a roundtrip journey. My trusty 30L backpack is sufficient for me during most trips I went to.

this is traveling light - taken at the Thai border enroute to Siem Reap, Cambodia

this is traveling light - taken at the Thai border enroute to Siem Reap, Cambodia

Now let us all be honest and assess ourselves; some of us really don’t try to travel light and take far more than what we really need on our travels. I will try to share some insights I have regarding the topic on packing light.

The Bag:
  • If you are traveling in a budget airline, try to limit yourself to bringing only one piece of bag. Ensure that it is not too large so you can just carry it onboard – you can save on your trip from this!
  • If you really need to carry more than your hand carry allowance, try to avoid taking in a heavy luggage.

The Items:

  • Try to ask yourself on each item you can packing whether you really are going to use it. The key here is to bring the essential items only. As for me, I use to bring a book or two but I later realized that I never get the chance to read them anyway.
  • Leave some items that can be bought abroad (and sometimes this will even be cheaper) – case in point, we bought a 150 ml bottle of sunscreen here in Singapore for our trip to Phuket, Thailand only to find out that it cost around 30% less in our destination.
  • The bulk of your items will be on clothing; try to minimize what you bring by selecting clothes made of lightweight materials. If you need to warm yourself up, do so by layering your clothes. No need to bring bulky heavyweight items.
  • Some attractions require travelers to maintain modest dress requirements, particularly for women. A sarong should do for this, keep it handy if ever there is a need for you to enter a temple.
  • No need to bring 3 pairs of shorts! Believe me, one will do.
  • No need to bring lots of footwear. The important thing here is to bring the more comfortable pair. If you need to really bring two pairs, wear the heavier item and pack-in the lighter one.
  • Leave electronics such as hairdryers at home as these are available if you are booked in a hotel.
  • Gadget chargers – in this digital age, certain items are essential such as mobile phone, digicam and even laptop computer. If there is a need for you to bring charger for these, make sure you research beforehand the electric plug in your destination and get an adaptor if necessary. It is a bummer to bring these bulky chargers only to find out, you cannot use it because of plug incompatibility. CLICK HERE for an idea on what outlet plug to expect in your next destination.
  • Bring along a handy and light bag for use during the daytime. Use it to store items such as the guidebook, snacks and souvenir items.
  • Well if you really insist in bringing a book, try not to bring a volume of the Twilight Series… 🙂

It takes a while to master the art of packing light but it is not that hard really. As with most things in this world, it just takes practice, practice and more practice…

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In the past, I have often ranted as to why I need a visa to countries such as Germany, USA, Canada, etc. There is a very high probability that if you are holding a travel document from the Philippines then you definitely need to apply for visa in these first world countries a few weeks prior to the actual trip. Even when then if you decide to apply, getting a visa is still dependent on the decision (or probably mood) of the consul of that particular country.

417px-Philippine_Machine_Readable_Passport_(maroon)

The current maroon Philippine machine-readable passport

The past few years though, I have come to appreciate my passport as it gives me visa-free access to countries in the region. Clearing immigration during past trips to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos was a breeze; I just simply line up and answer a few questions and most importantly I didn’t have to pay for anything.

I have stumbled upon this page from Wikipedia, which outlined the countries, and territories in which a Filipino can have visa-free access or at the very least can apply for visa upon arrival. According to the article “it is estimated that 62 countries and territories (highlighted in blue and green patches in the map) granted visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to Philippine passport holders, while 41 countries and territories are visa free accessible.” All the areas in grey requires pre-arrival visa while the lone red patch is Iraq, a country in which Filipinos are prohibited from traveling. Click on the image below to be redirected into the webpage which outlined the complete list of these countries.

800px-PhilippineVisaFree

To my fellow Filipino readers, if you are planning a trip next time somewhere, do go back to the Wikipedia link above to find out whether or not you will be needing a visa beforehand.

If your passport is expiring soon, Nina of Just Wandering posted an article several weeks back on how to renew your Philippine passport in 30 minutes

Oh yeah, anyone planning on going to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro? Better start saving up as there is a free 90-day access for all of us… 😉

Pinoy Lah!

21 September 2009

Any plans of visiting us here in Singapore soon? Look no further and check Pinoy Lah – a new online project by the Singapore Tourism Board, which was launched yesterday at the Podium Mall in Mandaluyong.

click here to visit the website!

click here to visit the website!

Although this new website does not provide yet a very comprehensive list of what to do here in Singapore, the basic travel essentials as well as some travel stories should give every Filipinos an idea of what to expect in this small island state.

From a page in Pinoy Lah:

What’s LAH got to do with it?

You know how we use ‘Po’ and ‘Opo’ here in the Philippines? Well that’s how Singaporeans use their ‘LAH’. This is the most famous of Singaporean expressions used at the end of sentences for emphasis. “OKAY, lah” or “SORRY, lah” “Very funny, lah”

And yeah, if you register on the website and answer a very short online survey before the deadline on 16 October 2009 you might stand a chance to win one of the 12 MP3 players, which they are giving away. Click HERE for a chance to become one of the winners.

If you have further questions regarding Singapore that is not tackled in the above website, please feel free to direct it to me and I will try my best to answer it. 😉

Weekends in Trikora Beach

13 September 2009

One thing that is missing about living here in Singapore is the absence of a decent beach to swim around. I have always been a fan of the beach ever since I was a kid. I have lots of good memories of my dad taking us, the whole family plus our grandparents, to the beach during special occasions such as birthdays. For me, just being in the beach doing nothing can be very relaxing.

In Singapore, the closest thing to a beach is Sentosa and the one in East Coast Park. Please don’t get me wrong as they are decent beaches; swimming there however is something that I cannot really do as I just don’t feel comfortable in seeing huge ships 200 meters from the shore. And we are talking here about not just a couple of ships but dozens of them, either it passes by or it is docked in the sea. 

What we do usually to have a weekend fix of the sun and the sand is to go out of Singapore and ride a ferry towards this small island in Indonesia called Bintan. Unlike most people from Singapore who would opt to be stay in the area known as Bintan Resorts, we prefer to stay in Trikora Beach – an area famous amongst backpackers.

immigration queue at the Tanah Merah

immigration queue at the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal

Getting to Bintan is easy, as there are several trips coming from the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal in Singapore. We are usually in the terminal before the break of dawn for us to take the first trip to Tanjung Pinang at 8:50. As of our last visit, there were 3 Ferry Operators: WaveMaster, Penguin and Falcon, which provide their service from Singapore to Tanjung Pinang and vice versa. The return ticket is affordable at around 50 SGD inclusive of the terminal fee in Singapore. The ferry ride is approximately two hours.

welcome to Tanjung Pinang, Bintan!

welcome to Tanjung Pinang, Bintan!

our ferry ride to Bintan

our ferry ride to Bintan

The immigration in Bintan can sometimes be a pain as there are only a couple of counters open and all the passengers have to queue around a room with no air-condition. Upon heading out of the terminal area, hordes of touts will offer you either a room or transportation. It is best to just turn all of them down politely with a smile and head towards the exit area. From there you can easily hire a taxi for less than 150,000 IDR for a trip to Trikora Beach.

Getting from Tanjung Pinang to Trikora Beach is not a quick one; it is usually more than an hour drive. There is nothing much to see along the way except the Indonesian countryside.

shorelines of Trikora Beach

shorelines of Trikora Beach

Our destination is Shady Shack, a bunch of rustic beachside cottages in Trikora Beach owned by an Indonesian man named Lobo. It didn’t take much problem pointing out our destination, as most taxi drivers know Lobo. Whenever we are there, we always ask our driver to bring us back to Tanjung Pinang the following day, as there are not much taxis plying around the area.

Shady Shack is an off the beaten path accommodation where you can enjoy a laid back lifestyle and relax at beaches of Bintan. There are eight cottages all in all in Shady Shack, each of them come with your very own toilet and your very own veranda. There are no aircon here; instead what it can offer is a very refreshing wind from the sea. Needless to say, this was really going back to the basics in every sense of the word. The rate here starts at 25 SGD per cottage and comes with breakfast for two persons.

image of us in one of the cottage in Shady Shack

image of us in one of the cottages in Shady Shack

The family of Lobo can take of your food requirements at a very affordable price. If memory serves me right, it was around 2 SGD per meal and 1 SGD for a cold drink or a hot coffee. You definitely cannot eat a meal with drinks with this amount if you prefer to stay in the Bintan Resorts area.

enjoying ayam goreng at the cottage veranda

enjoying ayam goreng at the cottage veranda

One of the things I really appreciate whenever I stay in Shady Shack is the atmosphere wherein you can feel that you are very much relaxed. No one is conscious of the time when you are staying in this place; instead you just lounge around in your idle time perhaps with a good book in your hand and a beer in another, eat whenever you feel like eating, drink whenever you are thirsty or dip in the waters whenever it gets a bit too hot. What I enjoy doing the most though is sleeping by the veranda with the sea breeze humming a lullaby for me.

taken one rainy morning in Shady Shack

one rainy sunday morning

Living in Singapore comes with a lot of perks but sometimes there is definitely a need to just get out and stay out from a fast paced city life. Trikora Beach and the cottages of Mister Lobo has become our decompression chamber wherever we wanted to experience a quick weekend that is definitely back to basic.

Shady Shack
Teluk Bakau Mengkurus,
Pantai Trikora, km 41
Mobile: +62 813 645 15 223