New York City

New York City – Things to Do

New York City

New York City, big apple, the city that never sleeps. According to Wikipedia NYC is the most densely populated city in United States. Home to the United Nations, center for international diplomacy and where Statue of Liberty is. It is also the home to 2 of the world largest stock exchange. A very diverse and vibrant metropolitan city.

Below are a couple of activities I did while I was in the city.

1. M&M’s World

M&M’s World is located in Times Square. The store front is decorated with huge billboard and brightly coloured “chocolates”. A all-time favourite candy store to all children and children-alike. A must go-to place when visiting Times Square.

You will be greeted with a gigantic M&M character once you stepped in. Consistent with its chocolate colour theme the store was decorated in rainbow colours. A feel good, happy place. Mural on the wall depicts the humble beginning of the cartoon characters and how the characters evolved.

If you looking for souvenirs you will not be disappointed in M&M’s World. The store is packed with merchandise and memorabilia like magnets, keychains, t-shirts and plushies.

Here’s a quick tour of the store.

The coolest thing and the best souvenir in my opinion is to personalise your M&M’s chocolates.

The final product, a bag of  M&M’s chocolates with customised text and designs printed on it.

2. Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market

Treasure hunting when i’m in overseas is always fun. I enjoy browsing and going through items from the by-gone era, clothes worn by the military personnel, 70s and 80s shoes and bags which make a come back.

3. High Line

An former railway track which has been given a new lease of life – greenway which cuts through the downtown district spanning some 2.33 kilometers in the city center. A innovative way to bring greenery and parks in an urban city.

4. Chelsea Market

And you can pop-by the Chelsea Market to check out the fresh produce as you walk along the High Line.

5. Top of the Rock 

A place you must go! The view is spectacular. Day view of the city is very different from the nights. As you can see buildings are brightly lighted with neocolours and from the digital screens in Times Square.

Do note, you have to book a time slot after buying the tickets. Don’t expect to see sunset when you buy your tickets at 5pm, the earliest time for you to get up might be 10pm.

It has been a fun 2 days exploring NYC and to do some shoppings. I would have to say the weather in the city is crazy! It was clear night sky when i went up to the Rockefeller Center and snowing the next morning.

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MRT to Chatuchak Weekend Market – Bangkok

MRT to Chatuchak, weekend market

In my previous blog I documented the steps to get to Chatuchak by BTS, which is a quicker route to get there. Though MRT is longer route, it has some advantages over BTS. I will explain them here.

BTS map

The station to get off which brings you right into the heart of the market is not Chatuchak Park, it is the station after that, Kamphaeng Phet. If you alight at Chatuchak Park station it will bring you to the park as shown in my video in the previous blog.

MRT to Chatuchak

After you alighted from the train look for exit 2 in the station.

Once you exited from the station you will be right smack in the clothings section. In here you’ll find many local designers and many quirky stalls all nicely decorated.

Exit 2

In addition, there are self service storage area next to the exit of the MRT station which is ideal if you plan to shop a lot and not wanting to bring your nick-nacks along with you when you continue to shop. There is even a courier service located here for all the bulky items planning to ship home.

As mentioned, exit from the MRT station will lead you to the clothing stalls and many installed air-conditioning which brings some relieve from the sweltering heat. Overall, this area has a nice artsy vibe. Loved it.

 

If you want to know how to get to Chatuchak by BTS click here. Happy shopping!

BTS to Chatuchak, Weekend Market – Bangkok

BTS to Chatuchak, weekend market

Chatuchak, or the weekend market, occupies a massive 36 acre of land which is approximately 88 football fields! And there are about 3000 stalls in this compound ranging from clothes, pet animal, food stalls, household items to oil paintings.

This area comes to live every weekend where throngs of visitors both local and tourists would visit to get the best bargains.

Other than taking a taxi there are 2 options to get there, MRT (blue line) or BTS (light green line). Comparing both BTS is a quicker option to get there as it cuts through all the landmarks.

BTS to Chatuchak

The closest station to the market is Mochit. From the station it is a 5 minutes walk to the market.

Once you get off from the station platform look for the sign which directs you to Chatuchak and it should take you to exit 1.

Exit 1 to Chatuchak market

Once you take exit 1 you will see the steps which brings you to the ground level.

At the bottom of the steps there is an opening to a park, walk right in because it is a less crowded route to the market.

Once you step into the compound you’ll be greeted with rows and rows of stalls selling nick-nacks. I’ll leave you with pictures of what you can expect. If you interested to get there by MRT click on this link.

Entrance of Versailles

Guide to Palace of Versailles

Guide to Palace of Versailles

Paris Metro

Guide to Palace of Versailles, starting from the metro map and then pictures of landmarks to lead you to the entrance of the Palace.

If you’re like myself not joining any local tour group visiting Versailles, here’s how to get there by public transport.

Paris Metro Map
Paris Metro Map
  1. Determine which RER C station is closest to your hotel/hostel. My hotel was just 5 min away from Saint-Michel Notre-Dame which is very convenient. Click here for more information on the metro maps
Route to Versailles
Route to Versailles

2. Once you’re in the metro station look for sign which directs you to Versailles – Rive Gauche. That’s that station where you want to get off

3. Every metro station has a TV monitor which indicates the arrival time of the next train and its destination. Make sure you hop on to the one which says “VICK”

Versailles Chateau Rive Gauche station Exit
Versailles Chateau Rive Gauche station Exit

Palace of Versailles

Way to Versailles
Way to Versailles

4. Once you exit from the fare gate at Versailles Chateau Rive Gauche station take the left exit of the station. Take the pedestrian crossing and walk towards the Information pavillon.

Walk through the space between pavilion and cafe
Walk through the space between pavilion and cafe
Path leads to Palace
Path leads to Palace

5. Take the walkway that is between the Information pavilion and the cafe (with a green roof) that is located next to it and you’ll see a pedestrian-cyclist pavement. Walk towards your right and you’ll see the Palace

Entrance of Palace of Versailles
Entrance of Palace of Versailles

6. Cut across the carpark and walk towards the right where you’ll come to the main entrance of the Palace. If you have the Museum Pass or bought the ticket online you can start joining the queue to get into the Palace premises, else you’ll need to head to the ticketing office which is located on the left side of the entrance before joining the main queue

And if you are looking to do some shoppings do consider La Vallee Village, read here for steps by steps guide to get to the outlet mall.

Wanderlust – Budget Traveler Tips

As a solo backpacker I am always on a lookout for the best travel deals, and i am constantly looking at ways how i can stretch my dollar or… looking for ways to channel my daily spendings to get airline miles.

Cheap air-tickets

1. Sign-up with the major airlines to get updates and promotional mails from them. Firstly, they are free (if you don’t mind receiving junk emails). And you get enrolled to their frequent flyer programme. Typically, at the beginning of each year airlines will blast out promotional flights to the major cities. The rationale for having such promotional deal is to up their passenger load factor, to gage how efficient they are to fill up seats and generate fare revenue. In short, it is a win-win situation. Passenger gets a cheaper rate and airline gets to make a better fare revenue forecast for the next coming months.

2. Skyscanner. A must have tool or pit-stop for every traveler when doing their travel plan. What this site/mobile app does is it searches all the available airline schedules according to the search criteria you key-in, and returns you the cheapest flight it could find. However, the cheapest available flight might not be the quickest way to get to your destination. I do use Skyscanner to help me narrow down my search for the airline which i am interested, but i do not make my reservations with Skyscanner. Why? That leads me to my next point.

 

Cashback Website

In where i’m from we have cashback website. What it does is the website i subscribed to pays a percentage of money earned when i purchase goods or services it affiliates to. With the help of Skyscanner that helps me to identify those airlines which the cashback website affiliates to and that translate a further savings! I also use the same method to make hostel bookings. First, using Expedia/Hotels.com/Bookings.com to do my search. Subsequently, go to Expedia/Hotels.com/Bookings.com (depending which is affiliated) via the cashback website to make my hostel bookings. Do not underestimate such chores, from the past experiences savings could come up in a couple of hundreds for a 10-15 days trip.

 

Free Guided Tour or Planned Itinerary?

Try Rick Steves’ Audio Europe (apple / android). It’s a free self-guided audio tour for most European cities. For other continent you might need to do a search. I’m sure there are similar free audio guide in the mobile apps space.

Alternatively, you can try Google Trips (apple / android) which covers the major cities. It provides a sample itinerary of sights or activities which you could do.

 

Google Map

 

Do you know you can download an offline copy of the google map to your phone? An offline copy comes in very handy when you arrived your holiday destination and the telco booth is not open for business. Click here for instructions to download. You should download and save all locations you plan to visit including your hotel/hostel location in your home country via wifi. That will save you all the hassle to search hostel/hotel location.

 

Google Drive

Save your travel itinerary online and you’ll never need a hardcopy. If you have a Gmail account, like me, it comes with a suite of Google services including Google drive. Google drive is a cloud services which you can save, upload and store your documents and photos online. And retrieve them as long you have access to internet and a computing device. Do consider to use Google drive when working on your travel itinerary it will save you a lot of hassle.

Planning for Amsterdam

 

Amsterdam, 3rd to 8th May. Just in time to visit the Tulip fields in Keukenhof Gardens! Woohoo~ That’s one of my travel goals in 2017. Hotel rate at this time of the year is also higher, finding a cheap and yet decent accommodation is tough.

After a couple of search i found CLinkNoord, a backpacker hostel close to the central station. From the reviews and pictures gathered seems like a cool place to stay and to get to meet fellow travelers.

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With my accommodation settled next is to plan my stay. Few things to take in considerations, 4th May is a remembrance day and 5th is Liberation. According to the official Amsterdam tourism site. There will be series of activities and concerts held in the city. It will be interesting to attend in addition to the museums and places of interest which i have in mind.

Places which i have in mind are…

Anna Frank, Henikein, Van Gogh, Canal House museum, Rijksmuseum, Zaanse schans, Volendam, street art Amsterdam, local goods market Amsterdam, locals.

I am planning to join a day tour to Zaanse Schans and Volendam to see the windmills and fishing village. Yes, they are setup for tourists but i would like to witness the bygone era and handcrafts.

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I will take the 7-hour tour instead of the 5. I want to spend more time in each location to explore.

Now, back to Keukenhof Gardens how to get there. Follow the instructions given by Mike and the video clip to get to Keukenhof Gardens.

 

 

Reset 2017

Planning for my 2017 trips and i’m putting my research and thoughts together.

First trip, Phuket in March. From past experience, it will be dry, hot and lots of sunshine. Great time to work on that tan. This is going to be a cheap getaway but not willing to compromise quality especially when it comes to accommodation.

Flight: cheap budget promo flight bought 6 months ago  – checked

Hotel: i want to stay in Patong area. Initial booking (with free cancellation), Aspery. Cheap, very cheap… located at one end of the Patong beach. Walking distance to the shops, restaurants and mall for food and simple grocery shopping. 5 min away from the beach. However, decided to go with Hyatt Place. A new brand under the group of Hyatt Hotels catering for budget traveler.

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From the photos and reviews it fits in my budget and criteria – simple, modern contemporary hotel with a pool. Hyatt Place comes with basic gym setup which is a bonus for me. Downside with Hyatt Place is its location, it’s 20 min walk from all the shops and restaurant though they provide a bus shuttle.

Hotel – checked

Activities? Been to Phi Phi island hop and Phang Nga bay & Koh Panyee. Wanted to travel out to Similan island but after reading the reviews i have second thoughts. The effort, time and money spend might not worth the trip. Found this site (https://www.phuket101.net/) on a bunch of stuff you can do in Phuket other than the usual island hop. I might plan an activity or 2 as suggested. If not, chill by the pool or beach with books.

I have been a book by Ajahn Brahm, “Opening the door of your hearts” about seeking happiness in life and what it means.

http://www.awarenessplace.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/600×600/5c1f1b66c565ae11252eeceb32a1e97b/o/p/opening_the_door_of_your_heart_0000000113__1.jpg

I have been really slow with my reading. It has been taking me months to finish this book. Not that i am in any hurry to finish it, i would like to take time out to read and ponder upon the stories/teachings in each of the stories. It helps me to reflect and understand myself what i want in life and seeking to achieve.

As i was buying a book as a farewell gift to my friend i chanced upon a book by Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Brahm’s teacher – “Everything arises, everything falls away”.

http://www1.alibris-static.com/everything-arises-everything-falls-away-teachings-on-impermanence-and-the-end-of-suffering/isbn/9781590302170_l.jpg

I have yet to start on this book and i am planning to do that when i am in Phuket.

2016 whizzed by too fast and now i’m already in the first quarter of 2017. Few things on my mind lately – career, travel, finances and fitness. Need to take time out to give some serious thoughts and planning.

 

 

Solo Traveler Survival Kit

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Eating #mercedesbenz #vroomvroom

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Travel Insurance

One must not forget when traveling alone is to get yourself insured. I would go budget with my accommodations and food, but never save on a travel insurance. A comprehensive coverage is essential before embarking on the journey.

With everything online these days and age getting one is only a click away. The best part is you can get yourself instantly covered at click of a button.

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#waitingforflight #parisairport

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Mobile Wifi

Planning to get a local data plan when traveling? Hate the hassle of switching the SIM card and lose your home country SIM card? Yep, i’ve been there done that. Hate it.

Get a mobile wifi device. Depending on the number of travellers you have on the trip, a high-end mobile wifi allows up to 4-6 persons connect to the device at 4G speed. An entry level device is good for a solo traveler with 3G connection.

One thing to note, battery life span is short if you plan to use it constantly. Do get a power bank to power up the device on the go.

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#cloud #watching

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Money money money…

I avoided changing a lot of foreign currency – used them for food and transport. I use credit card in malls and big ticket items. If you use contactless feature in your credit card be careful… Thieves are able to “steal”or “make transaction” within a close proximity. Watch the clip below

 

Get a RFID blocking bag/wallet which blocks out receiving radio frequency from any device.

 

The above advices may sound logical and simple but they usually overlooked. A note to myself.