Tagged: city

Cebu City, Philippines

  I landed in Cebu airport and took a white meter taxi to Tune Hotel near the Ayala Mall. I had a cold and needed to get some real R & R outside of a hostel. Tune is a budget hotel at $40 a night but it’s modern and clean.  

I mostly stayed in the room watching tv, sleeping and doing errands online, but I did venture out during my one full day there. Cebu looks a lot like Spanish Harlem in NYC. There are fried chicken joints, Spanish music playing, and NY references all around. 


I went out to find a post office and ended up on a four hour wild goose chase. On Google it says there’s a post office near the Capitol. I walked the thirty minutes there and was told by a police officer that it no longer exists. He sent me 2km away and when I got there nothing existed. I asked a shop and they sent me to San Carlos University post office. When I got there I was told they don’t have one. The security officer there sent me nearby to Cebu Normal University and across the street I found a post office that doesn’t ship boxes to the U.S. I then walked towards home and went into Robinson Mall where there was a local shipping carrier, the only one around. It would cost me over $100 to send a small package home so I skipped it.  

I went to the grocery store in the mall and bought veggie snacks. I then took a cab to Ayala mall where I spent an hour walking around the insanity looking for a camera shop. I found three and none of them carried the GoPro red filter. I doubt I’ll ever find one in Asia.
For lunch/dinner I bought a pepper roasted chicken from Metro Supermarket then headed back to the hotel. 


The next morning I headed to Pier 1 for a ferry to Bohol at 10:40am with OceanJet. I was encountered with the most crowded and unorganized terminal I’ve ever seen. The ride was 2 hours and cost 550 pesos. 


Singapore, Singapore


I was told that Singapore lacked soul and I can’t say that I completely disagree, but the modern city is only 50 years old. As a visitor it feels like it’s trying too hard to be a cultural hub without developing naturally over time. The city is diverse- Chinese, Muslims, Indians, westerners and Singaporeans all mix together; however, right now none of the cultures shine. Minus a few streets the buildings are uniform and overall the city is too clean. Crazy example: no store in the country sells gum for the fear that people will spit it on the street.

The city is also incredibly expensive. Approximately $7 for a small black iced coffee, $16 for a pint of beer, $20 for a basic cocktail, $10 for an egg sandwich, etc. Hawker food stalls are cheap in comparison and a great way to save money. The cost of the city was well worth it for me as I wanted to experience everything the city has to offer; however, if I had budgeted myself as a backpacker I couldn’t imagine the city being a fun place to be.

I arrived in Singapore by bus on Thursday afternoon. I stayed at a friends apartment in Ja Bahru near Chinatown which was great because I wanted to see the city from a residential point of view rather than a tourists. Plus, it’s always nice to take a break from hostel-life.

That night he took me to a Hawker in the downtown financial district. It had just been redone but was similar to what I expected. It was a one square block clean outdoor food court with local food stalls. One side was a satay area lined with grills and tables. We sat here and ordered a satay set with chicken, beef, mutton and shrimp skewers. We also got a plate of Chinese greens, Hong Kong noodles (not available in HK,) sting ray, and pitches of beer. The satay was incredible, definitely the best I’ve ever had.


After dinner he brought me to Lantern, a hotel rooftop bar on the bay with a view facing the famous Marina Bay Sands hotel. The bar was very nice, and the view of Singapore lite up at night was amazing; however, the drinks were terrible. Our first drink was an old fashioned which tasted extra sweet and was served in a plastic cup with weird ice. We attempted to let them redeem themselves and ordered whiskey straight. It came in a plastic shot glass. Double fail.

Friday morning I met up with a girl from London who I had met in Melaka two nights before. We started our day at Gardens by the Bay- gardens across from the Marina Bay Sands hotel. The gardens consist of two indoor sections which you must pay for, a sky walk, and a large free area consisting of lakes, and different gardens. The garden is famous for having these massive vase-like sculptures all around which light up at night. They are colorful and covered in plants so even during the day they look spectacular, especially with the daily blue skies. We only did the sky walk and free section but were satisfied with the views of the city with the gardens in the foreground.



Next we went to Ku De Ta, the rooftop bar on top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel. I sipped on a $12 coconut while taking in the view of the city and watching the hotel guests lounge in the famous infinity pool.



We walked around the bay past the F1 bleachers, which are now decked out to celebrate Singapore’s 50th anniversary. On the bay in front of downtown sits a Merlion, the symbol of Singapore, a fountain of a lion head with a mermaid tail.



We found ourselves walking through the financial district at lunchtime and realized this is not where we wanted to be. Like any major city the area was full of overpriced restaurants and cafes. We decided to grab a cab and headed to Arab street. Here we stopped and snacked on hummus and iced teas. It was some of the worst tasting hummus I’ve ever had- it didn’t even taste like chick peas. Arab street was clean and lacked character, but then we walked one block over to Haji lane and found it. This thin pedestrian street is lined with small bars and shops with street art and colorful shutters. It’s the type of shopping I love but cannot afford right now.



On the other side of Arab street is Kampong Glam, a middle eastern themed pedestrian street with overpriced restaurants. On the top of the street sits a famous mosque which is currently being renovated. The street is nice; however, it’s very touristy and feels like Miami. We wanted to sit here and smoke a shisha but for $30 we skipped it.


We went back to Arab street and walked along until we were in Little India. Here we really got confused. It’s supposed to be a place to see, but all the buildings are uniform and white. There’s no music playing in the streets or colorful fabrics in the windows. I honestly wouldn’t have realized it was a Little India if I didn’t have a tourist map. The Little India’s in Penang and Kuala Lumpur were much better.



We got on the metro and headed to Chinatown. Again the streets here are too clean and the buildings are white and uniform, but at least the streets were busy. We found a tourist street and then bumped into a Hawker. We sat at a cafe and drank beers, then ate at one of the Hawker stands. I had shrimp wonton soup which was delicious. Honestly the best shrimp dumplings I’ve had on this trip.

I headed home to change then met London at the Clarke Quay metro station. We walked to Boat Quay from there. Boat Quay is along the river right after the technicolor rainbow bridge. Restaurants and bars line the street with seating on the river front. We walked all the way down to Penny Black pub to meet up with my roommate. I made the mistake of ordering a dirty gin martini and I believe got a sweet gimlet instead. After the martini I opted for cider, another thing I miss and never want to splurge for.

After the pub a bunch of us loaded into a taxi van and went to Bang Bang club at the Pan Pacific Hotel. In the middle of the dance floor is a cage where this night Papa Smurf was dancing- I was told Hello Kitty and Ted have made appearances before. Like every other club I’ve been to on this trip the music was old, but the club was modern and new.

The next morning I went to brunch with one of my roommates girlfriends, a local Singaporean. We went to Forty Hands in the neighborhood. It was a western coffee shop/ cafe with regular brunch food, aka it was perfect. I had sautéed portobello mushrooms and spinach with truffle oil, topped with 2 poached eggs and toast.

(Singapore and Singapore (another girl friend from the night before) invited me to a bar grand opening on Club Street, Bumbo Rum Club. Club street ended up being another cute pedestrian street lined with restaurants and bars; this is apparently where locals usually end up at night. Bumbo Rum is a new Caribbean themed restaurant and bar. The beginning of the evening was a private event with hired salsa dancers. We were served unlimited rum punch and hor d’oeuvres. I snacked on meat quesadillas, snapper tartar spoons, jumbo shrimp in peanut sauce, and their original coconut shrimp- shrimp in a coconut cream sauce topped with a fried banana slice.



Later on they opened up the bar and it quickly filled up. We moved to a table outside on the sidewalk and continued to sip on rum drinks. Just as we were gearing up to leave Singapore somehow won a huge bottle of champagne. The owner (a larger western man with a cigar) brought it over. Definitely no complaints from us. We drank the whole thing minus one glass which we shared with a bachelorette.

We left Club Street and shared a party van (smoke and strobe lights) to Clarke Quay. I had no idea what to expect but it was a large open area with one large bar/club after another. Incredibly touristy although locals come here too. We went to Pump Room Brewery and danced the night away. And of course got shawarma on the way home.

I woke up and went to The Orange Thimble cafe in the neighborhood. I had a smoked salmon salad to get my Sunday Jewish lox fix, then headed to the airport. I flew to Bali and stayed at Airport Kuta Hotel and Residences which I could walk to. I picked up fried rice with rotisserie chicken and an egg for $1.50 next door- happy to have cheap food again! In the morning I flew with Lion Air to Maumere on Flores Island.


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Pulling into Kuala Lumpur gave me the same thrill of crossing the GW Bridge and rushing down the west side highway watching the skyline from the passenger window knowing that I am home. I didn’t expect to like this city as much as I did. It’s the first Asian city I’ve been in that’s been truly multicultural. The three main groups that you see are Chinese, Islamics and whites. I had two different “trips” in the city. My first three days I was a backpacker and stayed at Birdnest 2 Hostel in Chinatown. The hostel was on the second floor of a walk-up but was designed to look like houses outdoors. Sweden and I shared a double room with a fan. There was no window and with temperatures in the 90s everyday we felt like we were being tortured.

Our first night we went to Nando’s, a UK chicken restaurant chain that basically everyone I’ve met raves about. I had the butterfly chicken breast extra hot. To be honest I don’t understand the hype. The sauce was creamy, not that spicy, and not that exciting.

After we went to Betraya Times Square, one of the many massive malls in the city, to catch a movie. All the movies we wanted to see (and that the theater website said it was playing) were not actually in theaters here. We ended up seeing The Wedding Ringer. I had never seen a preview but it was stupid funny, and perfect for our mood.

The mall had a roller coaster inside, like the mall or America. I got a euro-tart fro yo nearby. It also had a grocery store downstairs where I went bonanza.

The next day we got on the free public bus intending to take it all around the city. We ended up getting off to transfer and never got back on. We stopped at Dunkin and Starbucks for coffee (I miss regular black ice coffee) and then went to Forever 21 in the mall across the street. The Pavillion ended up being a massive middle/upper class mall. We got stuck enjoying the air conditioning and the western lifestyle. After shopping we grabbed a late lunch at Michaelango’s. I had the antipasto and a glass of white wine- my first glass of wine since Laos.


That night we went to Mansion Rooftop, the bar on top of Reggae Mansion. There was a great view of the KL Tower from the roof. We played pool and didn’t drink beer (I can’t keep drinking only beer.) We thought there might be fireworks that night because it was the eve of Chinese New Year but there was nothing. It did start to rain though and we had a dance party outside.


The next day was our official tourist day. We woke up and walked over a graffitied railway tunnel to the Islamic Arts Museum. I wasn’t sure what Islamic art meant but in this case it was mini replicas of the worlds most famous Mosques, old books, jewelry, clothes, weapons, etc. The museum architecture was modern and there was a nice view, but to be honest the museum wasn’t that great even though it’s rated #1 on trip advisor.



Next we went to Masjid Negara, the National Mosque of Malaysia. We had to wear traditional Islamic robes and hijab’s. It was fun to see both girls and boys walking around the mosque in purple robes- this mosque’s color choice. The mosque wasn’t impressive; especially not after seeing the mosque in Abu Dhabi. There was a lot of open walking space and there was the prayer room, which was only open to Muslims. Other than that there was nothing to see and the artictecturhe was boxy modern. Nothing about it felt old or religious.



From there we walked through the Hibiscus and Orchid Park. The national flower of Malaysia is the hibiscus. The flowers were mostly pinks which reminded me of my tattoo. I splashed myself in the fountain which felt incredible- it was over 90 degrees out. We went to the Butterfly park and I found the most entertaining long neck water turtle. He followed my GoPro around even when I forced him into the bubbles jet stream.




We headed back home and stopped for dinner in Chinatown. We had figured since it was the new year that there would be celebrations but instead most of Chinatown for closed. I did managed to find shrimp with broccoli though so I was happy.

We went to Sky Bar that night at Traders Hotel. It’s a rooftop club directly in front of the KLCC towers so it provided the best view for photos. I got a Manhattan (because it was the only bourbon cocktail) and we sipped our drinks next to to pool staring at the view. A local invited us to his table where we sat for the rest of our time there. We danced to old music and sipped on Johnnie Walker Black on the rocks.

At 1am-ish our new friend drove us to Changkat, the bar street. I was expecting a backpacker street like in every other city I’d been so far, but instead it was a clean street packed with big bars. Very western but not backpacker. It was a real going out scene which thankfully we were dressed appropriately for. We went to one bar that was having a ladies night and had two free cocktails.

At 3pm-ish we headed back to Mansion Rooftop. Right away a guy from Dubai started buying me drinks and I my own personal grape/mint shisha. He was flaunting his money (literally wads of cash) in an obnoxious way so I had no problem taking advantage. All in all it was a great night- from high roller rooftop tables all the way back to the backpacker rooftop bar.

The next morning we checked out of our hostel and our local friend picked us up and brought us to Jump Street, an indoor trampoline park. We had to buy special socks with grips, and we paid for an hour access. We started at the Main area which was a checkerboard of regular trampolines. I haven’t been on one since I was a kid but our local was a pro and Sweden has one at home. We jumped here for a while, then went to the advanced section where the springs are bouncier and you can jump into an air bag. Then there’s the section where you can jump into a foam pit. I preferred this landing because it was softer. However, the advanced area was the most fun because here you can bounce the highest. Trampolines are a serious workout.


After jumping we got dropped of at KL Sentral, the transportation hub. I took the subway back into the city and Sweden headed for the bus station.

The second three days of my trip I lived as a resident. I rented a large modern studio in the central of KL right near KLCC. The studio was Golden Triangle Suites by Mondo, part of Marc Residences. I was on the 26th floor and had a kitchen area (only a stove), large bathroom, washer/dryer, and a bed/ living room area with a large flat screen tv. It was everything I hoped for and needed.


The building facilities included two outdoor pools, a gym and a computer room. One of the pools faced one of the KLCC towers.


After checking in I went straight to KLCC mall to shop. I bought the new season of 24 on DVD, and then headed to Cold Storage grocery store. I went nuts with vegetables, and also bought hummus, brie cheese, seafood, and ice cream. I got other stuff as well but I missed these things the most.


In the next three days I made pan fried dory, sautéed Chinese broccoli, Cajun shrimp, vegetable stir fry, and a lot of eggs and toasted toast using only a frying pan.



I spent daytime in the gym and by the pool, and nighttime cooking and watching tv on the couch. I slept in late everyday and took long hot showers with my waterfall shower head. I jelled out to the max and enjoyed every second of it.


Three days past and I took the sky train to KL Sentral, then the Kommuter train to Bandar Tasik Selatan, the big bus terminal. From there I got a bus to Melaka.

Vientiane, Laos


I did a three night stop in Vientiane, a 4 hour drive south from Vang Vieng. I checked into my first real hotel, which I desperately needed to do after Vang Vieng. I stayed at Vientiane Garden Hotel. I chose it because it has a pool and I wanted to spend the majority of the three days relaxing by a pool and sleeping in my king sized bed in my own room. I lucked out that the hotel is 2 blocks away from the Chinese food street, right next to the 2 popular backpacker hostels, and I had 3 HBO English channels. The guests at the hotel were mostly couples my age and a few older Asian people, which was almost perfect. No new friends to make, a few old friends across the street, and pure relaxation.


I watched a bunch of movies, swam and relaxed by the pool and ate a lot of pho. My first night I did take-out from two different Chinese restaurants. I got steamed pork dumplings from a Hong Kong restaurant, and steamed Chinese broccoli with garlic from a Guandong restaurant. Tasted just like home.



My second day I went to C.O.P.E. while. It’s a hospital/rehabilitation center for Lao people who lose limbs mostly due to unexploded ordnance, but also from everyday accidents, like motorbikes accidents. The organization makes all their own prosthetics. The exhibit itself is not that impressive but what they are doing for the locals is. They’ll accept anyone who comes willingly.

On the way to C.O.P.E., which is outside of the tourist downtown section, I ran into the local fruit/vegetable market. I stopped at a stall and had pho. On the way back I bought a bunch of fruit at the market (a papaya, dragon fruit, and Japanese pears) along with banana chips and a grilled corn. Later that night I had the best noodle soup of the trip. A mix between Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese- broth with ramen, sliced pork, minced pork, pork/veg dumplings, and toppings (lettuce, mint, chilies, lime.) I’m still dreaming about it.

I had signed up for a yoga class but ended up not making it. Both trip advisor and the teacher said it was in town but it turns out it’s not. It’s about 3 miles from where I’m staying, and the downtown is less than a mile wide. Was very disappointed when I learned that. Will need to find one asap in Cambodia.


My last night I went to the night market along the Mekong with my NZ friend from Vang Vieng. The market was huge and along the modern park but it was all clothes, and modern clothes at that. We walked through but ended up grabbing soup on the street nearby. We then went to a Western Heineken bar called Max’s Grill. It’s the first time I had cider since getting here and it tasted amazing and refreshing. At $4 a pop it’s definitely a treat, but when in Rome. The bar was filled with all locals though and there was a local band that sounded great but looked 15 years old. The bar reminded me of Brutopia in Montreal. Liked that.