Sunday, August 5, 2007

Backpack essentials

Prepping your backpack, I always say, is an art. When you consider that your backpack is your entire home (somewhat like a tortoise shell!), it truly is an art.
Like a tortoise’s shell, the backpack holds everything you might need for your weeks on the road. That’s right, everything has got to fit into the 40-litre space of a standard backpack and still be light enough for you to lug around.
I’ve prepped my backpack a hundred times, and yet I’m always finding new ways to utilise space. The trick is mostly to double up the purpose of the items that you bring and to leave everything unnecessary at home.
In preparing for my trek across mainland Indochina, I spent an afternoon with Wong Wye Yim from Nomad Adventures at the Summit USJ, and discovered some nifty ways to save on storage space.
1: Clothes
When deciding what kind of clothes to bring, consider micro-fibres. Micro-fibres are not only strong and durable, but also dry really quickly. They are also light and comfortable. What makes micro-fibre particularly outstanding is that it remains virtually wrinkle-free despite everything.
Bring a light jacket, which can double up as a raincoat. Look out for jackets with a polyurethane coating (waterproof). Consider also drawstring pants and trousers that can be converted into shorts when you need to.
Remember the Rule of Half: Take everything that you plan on bringing with you and lay them out on your bed. Now pack just half of the items.
2: Copy of travel documents
Carry a photocopy of your most important travel documents with you. This should include the details page of your passport, travel insurance and credit cards. Ensuing that these documents are kept neatly is tricky. There are a number of document holders in the market that can do this.
A homemade remedy, on the other hand, is to seal the documents in a kitchen zip lock bag. Flatten and roll this package up and pop it into a diploma scroll holder. This method prevents the documents from being crumpled and is easy to store.
3: First aid kit
A first-aid kit is worthless unless you know how to use it, so get to know your kit. A standard first-aid kit can be purchased at any pharmacy. Be sure to understand how everything works.
If you have any doubt at all, get your doctor or pharmacist to go through the items with you. The contents should include plasters, bandages, gauzes (get to know the difference!), paracetamol, iodine and antiseptic.
I personally find it useful to add to the kit according to my paranoia. Always carry some Vitamin C and a few slabs of lozenges. Bring along some dehydration salts and indigestion salts. And, of course, being Malaysian, you’ll need Minyak Cap Kapak and Tiger Balm.
If you suffer from any sort of allergies, be sure to bring your medication and a prescription from your physician.
4: Food
You can usually tell if you meet a Malaysian on the trail. The Malaysian will be the one carrying 12 packs of instant noodles, a tub of sambal ikan bilis, and a bucket of dodol in a very big backpack.
Is it advisable to bring perishables with you?
The answer is yes and no. Rule of thumb here: less is more. What is the point of travelling to a foreign country if you are not going to try their food? You will discover on the road that the flavours of the world lie not just in the food but in the dining experience as well.
If you absolutely must, then carry instant noodles that are pre-packed in a cup or a bowl. Leave the sambal and dodol at home, substituting perhaps with small, individually packed biscuits and a bar of chocolate (or two).
5: Footwear
Footwear is one of the most overlooked aspects of packing, sometimes to one’s detriment. Your feet are supposed to carry you on your journey, so they deserve attention.
Contrary to popular belief, the best way to get around most of South-East Asia is on flat sandals. Bring also a pair of worn-out running shoes, as you may engage in some sports activities.
You can’t go too far off with this combination. If you’re travelling long distance overland, wear shoes with comfortable socks. Consider choosing technical socks over ordinary cotton socks. Technical socks, found at most pro-shops, are specially designed to wick moisture, keeping your feet dry and preventing them from smelling.
Leave the heels at home, ladies.
6: A sarong
Travellers, women and men, from all around the world vouch for the usefulness of the sarong. It is light, hardly takes up any space, and is extremely useful. Besides defining you as an Asian, it doubles up as funky beachwear, towel and blanket. Travellers have used them as curtains on trains and mats for picnics. too.
I have used my sarong as a sheet to sleep on more than once.
7: Toiletries
I have met some backpackers for whom toiletries take up half the baggage. Because of the personal nature of toiletries, I am inclined to say that you really are the best judge of how much supplies you will need. But the two most essential items that you should bring are the toothbrush and comb. Next, get a tube of toothpaste.
Soap is debatable. If you are staying at a nice hotel, soap will be provided. Carrying a melting bar in your pack can be disgusting. The solution is to carry a bottle of body wash that can also double up as shampoo.
Throw in a bottle of talcum and shaver, and you will have the barest toiletry kit for the hardcore backpacker. For a bit of luxury, throw in a small bottle of moisturiser.
8: Maps
If you know where you are going, it would be great to have maps of your destinations. If you are traversing several countries, it is important that you know where your border crossings are and the visa requirements.
Travel guidebooks are a useful investment if you plan to visit more than one city in your destination country. As a safety precaution, take note of the address and telephone number of the Malaysian embassy, as well as its location on the map.
9: Camera
This seems to be the generation where EVERYONE has a digital camera, doesn’t it? I am often asked if one should bring a DSLR or just a simple point-and-shoot camera on travels. The answer is simple: it depends on how rough you plan on travelling.
If you plan on hopping from train to bus to tuk-tuk, the risk of damaging the DSLR is greater. If you do decide to bring your DSLR, remember to bring padding for it.
One tip that I’ve learnt from travelling photographers is to use black electrical tape to cover the brand name to discourage thefts. If you do not mind the bulk, WXTEX makes incredible camera drybags that are suitable for DSLRs.
The last thing you want to do is be at the mercy of your camera and worry about it being damaged or stolen. Travelling is supposed to be fun.
10: Others
All of these should fit in your very small ice cream tub: a flashlight, extra batteries and a nail clipper.
Make sure you have a rain-cover for your backpack. Also carry about 1m of 3mm climbing cord. You can find this at most adventure gear shops. The cord comes in handy when you need to fix things like a broken shoelace, or when you need to attach things to the outside of your backpack.
Wide-mouth polycarbonate water bottles have found their way into just about every backpacker’s list of essential items. Besides holding drinks, the bottle also doubles up as a container for first-aid material and food items that you want to keep dry.
Ladies may want to consider carrying pepper spray as precaution. Personally, I find it relatively safe to backpack within South-East Asia as long as you keep your dressing modest and stay away from dark alleys.
Responsible tourism
Do your homework. Read up on the countries you will be visiting and understand a little about their culture before visiting.
Generally, you should not visit places of worship in shorts, short skirts and sleeveless shirts. Respect local customs and keep in mind that you are the outsider and this is their way of life.
Wherever you can, support local communities by buying souvenirs straight from the locals instead of second parties.
Photographers should keep in mind that people are not museum exhibits. ALWAYS ASK before taking photos of people and their property, and respect their wishes if they decline to be photographed.

Friday, June 22, 2007

New and improved Holiday Villa Beach Resort

The Holiday Villa Beach Resort in Cherating is a pleasant weekend getaway for the weary city dweller. By REVATHI MURUGAPPAN
CHERATING beach has always been a haven for backpackers and surfers, especially during the monsoon months of November and December. It has the perfect combination of great waves, a wide stretch of white 0sandy beach, a plethora of dining choices and a happening nightlife.

Since Club Med opened its first Asian venture here back in the 70s, other hotels have quickly followed suit and visitors have a wealth of accommodation to choose from, catering for all budgets. One such lodging is the recently refurbished Holiday Villa Beach Resort, a Malaysian hotel chain founded in 1987.

Dinner under the stars was a pleasant change though. Tables and speakers were set up outdoors and thankfully, the night was breezy and beautiful. The flies miraculously disappeared and we had the likes of Lionel Richie crooning his best numbers to provide the entertainment.

The first night saw us having a barbecue – fresh fish, squid and prawns never tasted better! The next day, a heavenly meal of steamboat awaited diners. Then it was time for some karaoke at the Fun Pub.

With all those pounds you might have put on from the chow, it’s advisable to work off the calories. For recreation, you can always jump into the two swimming pools or the open air Jacuzzi. Or enjoy a game of tennis, basketball or volleyball.

While the hotel does offer water sports like water scooters, sailing and kayaking, sadly during our visit, the recreation centre was closed. Since the guest count was minimal, the water sports operator decided to take the day off. It was a pity as the weather was sunny so we chose to sit on the sundeck and bask in the serenity of the South China Sea before dozing off.
Room rates begin from RM280.

School holiday packages are available until June 10. Call for details.

Holiday Villa Beach ResortLot 1303, Mukim Sg KarangCherating, PahangTel: (09) 581 9500E-mail:

source from:

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Safe travel

Nairobbery” is what they call the otherwise traveller-friendly little capital of Kenya and for very good reason.
Downtown Lima: emerge with pockets unpicked and you’ve earned your first survival stripe.
The backblocks of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: intrude with camera round your neck and you’ll re-emerge without it.
An unfortunate incident in places such as these can seriously dissuade even the hardiest of travellers from venturing there, or anywhere, again. I have spent time in all three of the above, and am pleased to report that I have only lost one ten dollar watch, a traveller’s cheque (redeemable) and a shirt.
Experience has taught me to take certain precautions, and not just on the street.

Luggage & hotels
I have been accused of being old-fashioned, but I always travel with a suitcase. Backpacks are great for treks and getting around town but they are easy prey for a knife-bearing thief. They can be slashed open in luggage racks, and easily ripped into in hotel rooms. They can also be slashed from behind while being worn.
I rarely use hotel safety deposit boxes, preferring to lock my valuables in my suitcase. In 10 years of travel, I have never once had my suitcase broken into or removed. It also means your stuff is more accessible. The suitcase must be the hard shell type, and have both a key and combination lock.

On the street
Many travellers choose to carry their valuables in a highly visible money belt. This is begging for trouble.
Firstly, it advertises the fact that you’re a tourist. Concealed money belts are a much better bet. But you still have to access them in public – not such a good idea – and they can be wretchedly uncomfortable in the tropics.
It’s best to go out with just enough cash for the day. Leave passports, traveller’s cheques and credit cards back at the hotel unless you need them.

Getting around
As much as possible go by taxi, especially at night. Taxis, of course, are not always safe themselves. Locals can usually let you know which taxi company is the best to use.
When out walking, try not to linger, especially near corners. I was guilty of this in Nairobi, unsure which road to take. I ended up getting the top pocket of my shirt ripped off, happily losing nothing in the process. I have also learnt not to walk on the built-up side of pavements. Muggers often lurk in doorways.
Don’t be afraid to run. If some fishy-looking dude approaches, it’s best to simply bolt. Uncool, yes, but who can stay cool at the wrong end of a blade?
Also, get into the habit of occasionally glancing back to see if you’re being followed. If you think you are, then cross the street. If your shadow follows, cross back again. One time in Rio de Janeiro I had to do this three times. Then I doubled back and simply ran!

It’s worth bearing in mind that most robbers have your goodies, not your bodily demise, as their target. Many are happy just to get something – anything. Don’t argue with a weapon. Hand something over, and hope no more is asked for.

There’s no end to the ingenuity of thieves. In Buenos Aires, in particular, you may be approached and told you have some muck – usually mustard – on the back of your shirt. Such a fuss is made of it, you’re apt to forget about your valuables, which are deftly removed by someone creeping up behind, or in my case, crawling between my legs. I saw him just in time.
Kids will sometimes mill around you, do the distract-and-hassle thing, and take what they can in the process. When this happens, you really need to lash out physically, as I did one time in London and screamed blue murder. This can be enough to frighten them off. It worked for me.
Don’t respond to overtures of friendship on the street: “Hey, haven’t we met before?’’
And don’t accept an invitation to visit a private home. Solo travellers are the main targets for this one. An innocent-looking party will befriend you, and suggest you meet their family. You can find yourself in deep strife. You’ll usually be offered a spiked drink.
This happened to me in Manila. Once I realised my predicament, I acted super naive, telling some dumb story while I edged innocently over to the door, then bolted. Wow, that was a close one!
Yes, I have managed to survive. Many of these safeguards have now become second nature, and I hope they stay that way.


What to buy as souvenir in South East Asia?

Thailand: Thai silk and cotton are well known. Thailand is famous for good buys in precious and semi-precious stones, sapphires, rubies, zircons, pearls, & leather products.

Malaysia: Beautiful batiks, one-of-a-kind kites and precious pewter goods are among the treasures you'll find in Malaysia.

Indonesia: Favorite buys are batik cloth, woodcarvings and sculpture, silverwork, woven baskets and hats, bamboo articles, krises (small daggers), paintings and woven cloth. At small shops, bartering might be necessary. Shopping hours generally run Mon-Sun 1000-2100. Most local markets open either very early in the morning or at dusk.

Singapore: In culturally diverse Singapore, you can explore a variety of street bazaars or find bargains on crystal and perfume in the shopping malls.

Vietnam: Locally created lacquer-ware and religious carvings are fun to shop for in Vietnam. Bargaining is encouraged.

Cambodia: The Wat Thanh Gift Shop in Phnom Penh offers crafts, silks and handmade artifacts. The Central Market and Russian Market are also worth a visit.

Laos: Laos is famous for silk and cotton woven products which can be found in abundance at the Morning Market in Vientiane.

Myanmar: The best buys in Myanmar are lacquer-ware, silver, wood and stone carvings, hand-woven silks, embroidered tapestries and traditional folk puppets. Haggling is encouraged.

Friday, May 4, 2007

A travel blog to Asia

A travel blog by Yoke Ming
Location: Kuala Lumpur, MY

I like travel very much। However, the farthest that I have been is Nepal, the sixth foreign countries that I've visited beside Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia। Due to tight budget, I usually travel by backpacking. I have the habit to write down my experience for each trips. Read More

HCMC-Cambodia-Bangkok [15 ~ 27 November 2005]
I was waiting for Airasia to fly to Cambodia, after reading the article from newspaper regarding the announcement of landing permit obtained by the airlines recently, so that it could cut down my budget। However, after few weeks of waiting and it was getting closer to our travel schedule, a colleague of mine advised me to look for other airlines, such as Tiger Airways. Luckily I managed to book the seats and the air fare was within our budget in such a short notice, however, we must travel to Singapore to board the flight and reach Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. One of our team members has friends staying in Singapore, and we could put up a night there before the departure. After a week of our booking, Airasia then only announced their flight to Phnom Penh and Seam Reap. What a miss!

Read more about this blog here

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

Tips for shopping in duty free shop

Let's face it there is not much else to do at most airports than wander around looking at the shops and occasionally getting the wallet out. Most of us tend to know exactly what we need to get, whether it be some aftershave, perfume, bottle of whatever or perhaps some cigarettes, but for these more regular items where is the best place to buy them ?

After all any traveller on an International flight will generally have three choices when purchasing his/her's duty free. There is the airport of departure, the plane and then the airport of arrival. Logically some may think that the prices would be similar, not worth bothering about comparing, but how wrong they could be. Sometimes the price difference for exactly the same size, brand and product can be quite large and it is definitely worth doing some homework before you spend your hard earned cash.

Don't believe us? Well let us give you an idea of what you could save on a trip from Hong Kong to Bangkok. We have listed a few regular items with the prices at Hong Kong International Airport, China Airlines inflight Duty Free and the arrival Duty Free at Bangkok International Airport.


Hong Kong Airport

China Airlines

Bangkok Airport

Mild Seven (200 x cigarettes)

HK$ 100

US$ 11

THB 480

Dunhill Top Leaf (200 x cigarettes)

HK$ 200

US$ 20

THB 980

Marlboro (200 x cigarettes)

HK$ 110

US$ 11

THB 480

Davidoff Magnum (200 x cigarettes)

HK$ 225

US$ 27


Black Label Whisky (1 litre)

HK$ 198

US$ 22

THB 850

Macallan Whisky 12yo (1 litre)

HK$ 288


THB 1,620

Chivas Regal Royal Salute (75cl)

HK$ 800

US$ 62

THB 5,320

See the differences? Of course with the cheaper items such as the cigarettes the differences are quite small but still worth thinking about. Take the Mild Seven cigarettes as an example inflight they are only US$ 10 at HKIA they cost HK$ 100 which is roughly US$ 12.8 and at BIA they are THB 480 which is roughly US$ 12.2. By purchasing them online you save yourself over US$ 2 per carton of 200.

If we then compare the more expensive item such as the Chivas Regal Royal Salute bottle inflight it costs US$ 62, at HKIA HK$ 800 (roughly US$ 103), and at BIA THB 5,320 (roughly US$ 136 !!!). This really is staggering as you could buy two bottles inflight for less than one bottle at the Bangkok International Airport.

Now we hope you understand why you need to check out your options before you buy your duty free next time. This section of our site will be devoted to bringing you as many airport and airlines comparisons as possible to ensure that you know of the best place to buy. We will offer charts, and show you what allowances you are legally allowed for each country to ensure that you get the most out of your trip.

It must be understood that buying duty free inflight does pose one small risk and that is that the airline may not have the item you want in stock, which would leave you with no other option than buying on arrival.

All our extensive reviews and analysis will be added here shortly so do check back and save yourself some cash!!

Please note that due to much tighter restrictions and laws in Thailand very few cigarettes are available on arrival. We would advise you to buy them on the plane or in the Duty Free shops on departure. Cigarettes are widely available however on departure from Thailand's International airport.

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Free Long Distance Call when you abroad

Whether you travel for business or leisure staying in touch with the office, friends and family can often mean having to make long distance telephone calls. In some countries this may not be overly expensive but in others it can be prohibitively expensive, and even if reasonably priced the total bill of making long distance calls quickly adds up.

Thankfully, more and more hotels around the world are offering free or very reasonably priced broadband internet access. Many of the best hotels even offer free wireless broadband access in most public areas of the hotel. If you choose a hotel which offers such a service then you can say goodbye to long distance telephone charges for good, thanks to a free service which is becoming more and more popular - Skype.

Skype offers two types of service. One is completely free and as long as the people you want to talk to have Skype downloaded and installed on their computer then you can chat for as long as you want completely free of charge. This service could not be simpler to use, you can see when your 'contacts' are online and simply call them. The person you are calling then has the option of picking up the call or refusing it. Once connected the sound clarity is, 90% of the time, excellent, perhaps even better than a good quality IDD line.

The other service Skype offers, SkypeOut, allows anyone with Skype installed on their computer to call any regular telephone anywhere in the world at very reasonable rates. The sound quality when using this service is not as consistently good as when using the free service outlined above but is normally acceptable. Skype have said that they are working on this technology in an aim to making it as good and reliable as the free version.

If the idea of free long distance calls is not enough to persuade you to sign up, Skype has a whole load of new innovations waiting to be launched. One of which allows you to buy a telephone number in a country you do not live. This will allow non Skype users to call a local number in that country and you can receive the call anywhere in the world.

If you are a frequent traveller, then Skype should be a must have when it comes to connecting to friends, family and the office without the expense of a staggeringly high long distance telephone bill. Skype can be downloaded from

Monday, April 30, 2007

A thrilling time in Terengganu


This east coast state will bring a smile to your face with its endless miles of beaches, laid-back lifestyle and delicious seafood.

Ever wonder what it’s like to swim in a large aquarium teeming with colourful coral fish? Go to the Redang Island Marine Park in Terengganu and you’ll find out.

I found it an awesome experience snorkelling among the multitude of fish in the park’s pristine waters on a recent media trip there.

The fish were in hues of blue, yellow, purple, green, and, sometimes, just black and white. They were not afraid of humans and probably thought we were part of the marine life. Some brought along bread to feed them, and this attracted them in swarms.

The Redang archipelago consists of nine islands, with the marine park centre located on Pulau Pinang (not to be confused with Penang on the West Coast), where we snorkelled. Visitors to the centre have to pay a RM5 conservation fee.

I did not know the names of the different types of fish we saw at Pulau Pinang but I did recognise the white pomfrets. A lifeguard told us a 1.5m long grouper and a 2.4m-long moray eel made their home here too. I did not see them, but a fellow journalist said he saw a giant grouper and three or four big moray eels.

We stayed at the Laguna Redang Island Resort ( at Long Beach on Pulau Redang, the main island. It is about an hour by ferry from Merang on the Terengganu coast. Merang is a 45-minute drive north of Kuala Terengganu.

The girls in our group shrieked in delight when they first saw the white sandy beach and crystal-clear waters at Long Beach. One said she did not realise that there was such a beautiful place in Malaysia. The place was indeed alluring. It made me think of Fantasy Island with its azure sea and fine sand.

I read in the papers that a travel agent even took a bottle of sand from here to the World Travel Fair 2007 in Shanghai in March as a way to introduce our islands to them.

We saw wooden reclining chairs on the beach under umbrellas made of palm leaves. These made a good setting for pictures on the beach.

Do you fancy breakfast by the sea? At the resort, you get breakfast, lunch and dinner with the sea as backdrop. The Sang Suria Restaurant where we had our meals overlooked the beach and sea. Everyday troubles seemed so far away as we sat there enjoying the superb view with the breeze in our faces.

As the sun began to set, the bathers came out in droves. There were also tourists playing beach volleyball and soccer, and others who simply relaxed on the reclining chairs or went for walks on the beach.

Other activities available at the resort include banana boat rides, kayaking, jungle trekking, archery, pool, sunset cruises, karaoke and indoor games. If you are short-sighted, but still wish to go diving or snorkelling, you can rent Laguna Redang’s power masks.

There are other resorts along the 1km long beach. One has a beach discotheque, which seemed popular with guests.

The 1999 Hong Kong movie Summer Holiday starring Sammi Cheng and Richie Ren was partly filmed in Redang. Those who have watched the movie will probably recognise the blue-and-pink building used in the movie. It has now been turned into a souvenir shop and tea inn by Laguna.

For a trip to Redang, it is best that accommodation is pre-arranged. Resorts there have packages that include meals, snorkelling trips and return ferry rides from the mainland.

Besides Merang, travellers can also get to Redang via ferry from Shahbandar Jetty (09-6225 233) in Kuala Terengganu, which takes 90 minutes and costs RM40 one-way. Or they could take a one-hour flight with Berjaya Air from Subang Airport in Kuala Lumpur.

Most, if not all, resorts at Redang are closed from November to February due to the monsoon season.

The trip to Redang was the highlight of the media tour to Terengganu which was hosted by the state government in conjunction with the inaugural Firefly flight from Penang to Kuala Terengganu in April.

For tourism information on Terengganu, visit

28 April 2007

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Travel to Asia is much more easier with Asiarooms

A brief introduction on Asia by


Friday, April 13, 2007

Travel to Asia directory by New York Times