Monday, December 31, 2018

Thank You 2018, Next!

Day after day. Time after time. In the blink of an eye, today is the last day of 2018 and tomorrow we're going to step into another brand new year of 2019. Sometimes I really wish I have the ability to freeze the time cause time flies when you're having fun. 2018 might not be the very best year but still, I'm grateful and cherish everything I've been through this year. Count more of my blessings, but not the problems I encountered - this is what I always remind myself.

Like I always did for the past years since 2011, now let's take a quick flashback on the past 12 months of where I went and visited in summary:

2018 DT Travel
  • January - Da Nang, Hoi An & Hue, Vietnam. Kicked off my year 2018 by sponsoring my mom another trip to Vietnam. Besides just the two of us, my very best travel buddy also tagged along for this trip together with her friend. A new friend who I never met before but she made us laugh non-stop throughout the trip. I'm glad that my mom really enjoy this trip and she even proposed for another trip with my friend and our new friend found. 
  • February - Kuching for Chinese New Year. The month of festive season where all family members reunite and gather together for a big and important celebration. Since my dad bought houses in Kuching, so he suggested this year we celebrated Chinese New Year in Kuching instead of Kota Kinabalu. I even drove a nearly 6 hours car-ride back to my maternal grandparents' kampung. 
  • March - Tokyo, Japan. Revisit Tokyo for the 5th time and for this round, it's for my birthday celebration. Besides Tokyo, my boyfriend and I visited less touristy and off the beaten path such as Kinugawa, Nikko, Gala Yuzawa and more. 
  • March - Singapore. This is one adhoc trip with my mom. Why? To welcoming the newest member of our family - my newborn baby nephew, my parents' firstborn grandchild. That's mean now I'm officially become an aunty to my sister's son. 
  • April - Iran. A birthday gift from the boyfriend and it's an impromptu trip before AirAsia X decided to cease this route permanently. It's my first visit to the Middle East country and I was truly amazed with how beautiful and stunning the country is. Iran is indeed an eye-opening trip to me and not like what many people expected it to be.  
  • May - Istanbul, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia. Another of my solo trip to Europe, except for the Croatia part where I met and traveled with fellow Malaysian travel blogger, Jeff Chuah. I really love Balkans so much and now I'm planning for the next Balkans trip. 
  • July - Perlis for Girl Guides Conference and Annual General Meeting National Level
  • September - Taipei (Taiwan) & Kyushu Island (Japan). Two trips at a time. I took a flight to Taipei first, and then joined my friends for a self-drive trip around Fukuoka, Beppu, Kumamoto and Nagasaki.  
  • October - London, Portugal, Spain & Milan. Another trip with my mom and tagged my cousin along. We got aweseome deal from Oman Air where the all-in inclusive return fare for RM1,800 only. 
  • November - Wuhan and Wudang Mountain, China. A trip to celebrate the boyfriend's birthday. This is when both couples who love to travel, I bet airtickets and trips are the best birthday gift ever. 
  • December - Kuching & Singapore. Weekend getaway to spend quality time with my two younger brothers in Kuching and also celebrate Christmas with my sister and baby nephew in Singapore.  
Exploring 6 new countries (Iran, Turkey, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Portugal and Spain), wandering more than 20 new cities and experience 9 different airlines - that's pretty sum up my travel adventures throughout the year of 2018. 

Apart from my life in relation to travel, how about my own personal life? Oh well, I have been moving out for exactly a year now. Yes, I'm currently living and staying alone, no longer with my parents anymore. Of course I gained more in terms of freedom and become more independent, but on the other hand thinking of the monthly commitments especially the utilities bill, groceries and also the housecores, the cooking and etc, living alone is not as easy as I thought sometimes! This consider to be one of the biggest decision I made in my life but then, I never regret with my own choices. Luckily my parent's home is only 5-8 minutes drive away from where I'm staying now, hence I'm frequently going back to have dinner with them on weekday and breakfast on weekend. 

DT Home Sweet Home1
Every room inside is filled with things from far away (A Million Dreams lyric from The Greatest Showman)

I believe almost everyone's life is like one roller coaster ride - there will always be ups and downs. And so as mine too. Almost towards the end of the year, I lost one of the most important thing in my life - my beloved Guci, a pure Shih Tzu dog breed which had been with us for more than 10 years passed away. Oh boy, losing a dog is equally as painful and heartbreaking as losing a family member. For us, she's not just a dog but as part of our family member. I really do missing the welcome back greet where she wiggle her tail when I reach home, the patiently wait near the staircases when everytime she heard me opening of my bedroom door in the morning, the constantly request to rub her fat belly and etc. Until now I still miss her so much and sometimes I do cry at night when seeing her photos and videos. It's so hard to let go and move on especially when she always by my side, my best companion, cheering me up when I was down for more than a decade.

IMG_4925
Goodbye Guci! You are always and forever in my heart. (May 2008 to 3 October 2018)

I guess, these are the few things I like to highlight for the year 2018. Nothing much, nothing less. Sometimes it's best to expect less, so that you won't end up with higher disappointment. Like they said, the best thing comes when you're least expected. And because of that, I don't have any resolution for the year of 2019 and let my life goes on with the flow. Just let it come what may. At least the best I can do right now is to love myself more as I once battling with depression and anxiety before which causing me to lost my passion and interest in travelling dating back two years ago. Unexpected right? Like I said before, life ain't always sunshine and rainbow, there would be storm and thunder in between. But thankfully, I gradually recovered, bounced back and as you can see, I travel extensively and even updated my blog more often than I used to be (although sometimes I was being too lazy to blog).

Before I end this post, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to those who constantly read my blog and some even become my loyal blog readers. And also not forgetting to those who left countless of comments in my blog, sent messages with positive vibes in my other social media networks which giving me the motivation and encouragement to continue to write and update my blog. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for supporting this humble travel blog of mine. Good news to those who never stop leaving comments on my blog - I have a surprise for you guys as a token of appreciation. Here are the Top 5 Commentators for this year:

Top 5 Commentators for Year 2018
Top Commentators For The Year 2015
1) Twilight Man from Twilight Zone
2) J-Mei from Interesting Corner of Me 
3) Rose from Rose World
4) Mas Light from The Live of A Psychotic Weirdo
5) Small Kucing & Mamarazzi from Small Kucing

So for the five readers I mentioned as above, kindly please comment below as acknowledgement. Plus, remember to leave your name, mailing address and contact number to my email address: dianateodt@gmail.com within 14 days from the date of this blogpost posted.


With this, wishing each and everyone of you have a blissful, awesome, magnificent, cheerful and rocking year ahead. Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Post-2
For your information, this is actually a scheduled post cause I'm currently away again to celebrate New Year Eve. Yes, it's my first time to celebrate New Year eve abroad. Guess where I'm heading to and you might get souvenirs from me (Contest end at 1pm)

READ ALSO:

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Relax & Laid-Back Trip in Kenting, Taiwan

After spending two nights in Kaohsiung, we then moved on to Kenting, the southern point of Taiwan. Since Kenting is conveniently accessible under HSR Zuoying, hence we decided to kill two birds with one stone by covering both Kaohsiung and Kenting. 

Taiwan Kenting 02
#1

HOW TO GET TO KENTING FROM KAOHSIUNG
If you are travelling from Taoyuan or Taipei, take a ride on Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR) to Zuoying Station first. From there, take Kuo Kang or Kenting Express bus heading to Kenting. The journey takes approximately of 2 hours for the price of NT$407 for a single trip and NT$600 for roundtrip.

Another second option is by sharing cab, like what we did. If you are traveling in a group of 4, probably this option is cheaper than taking the bus. 

It is possible to do day trip to Kenting from Kaohsiung but for me, I prefer to stay for a night just to experience the night market there. 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

3D2N Itinerary in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Located in the southern island of Taiwan, Kaohsiung is the second largest city of the nation after Taipei. Despite being less popular and always overlook by most of the visitors, but its all year-round fine weather and the low cost of living making you no excuse to visit Kaohsiung. To date, I've been to Kaohsiung twice and hence, I would like to share information based on my personal experience and my handpicked list of Kaohsiung's attractions to see and do.

3D2N Itinerary Kaohsiung Taiwan

Monday, December 17, 2018

Hotel Review: Sato Castle Motel, Taipei

The most typical things to do when comes to Taiwan are generally hitting the bustling and hustling night markets and stuffed with yummylicious street food. But then do you know Taiwan is also well-known for "minshu" - a type of accommodation equivalent to homestay, guesthouse, bed & breakfast and sometimes known as farmstay if there are animals within the property. The experiences of staying in minshu are completely different and unique comparing staying in a conventional hotel. So whenever I visit Taiwan, I will choose to book minshu instead of normal hotel. Mainly because I love the way how majority of these minshu are beautifully-decorated in interesting and fascinating layout. 

One of the unforgettable experiences for my Taiwan trip is staying in Sato Castle Motel of Taipei. By just looking the photos from the net, it immediately caught my attention and I booked without second thought. 

Taipei - Sato Castle Hotel
#1: Overview of Sato Castle Motel

Sato Castle is popular for offering different type of themed room and to date, there are more than 50 rooms with diversified style and unique theme. There are four categories of room to choose from; King, Queen, Castle and Knight. What distinguish four of them are obviously the size of the room and the room rate. The King is the largest one in term of size and so for its price too. 

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Thailand: 1 Day Chiang Rai and Golden Triangle Tour

*This is super long overdue post!*

Chiang Rai is a small city in the most northern province of Thailand situated approximately three hours away from the most popular sister city of Chiang Mai. Of course if I had the chance, I would love to stay at least for a night here rather than taking an excursion tour but unfortunately due to time constraint, that's my last resort. I booked this tour from the hostel I stayed in Chiang Mai - So Hostel a day before it start for the priced of  800 baht (approx. to RM84).

1 Day Chiang Rai & Golden Triangle Tour Cover

The tour began as early as 7 am in order for the driver to pick up each and every guest from their hotel/hostels...

Thursday, December 13, 2018

5 Reasons Why You Should Apply BigPay Card

*This is not a sponsored post, neither an advertorial.*

But since I received quite a number of queries regarding this, hence I decided to blog and share based on my own experience. 

BigPay Card Cover

I've been traveling for more than 10 years and throughout my travel record, the number of times using credit or debit card when travel abroad can be calculated using all my 10 fingers, or even lesser. Except for the part where I need to do all the bookings like hotel/hostels, transportation and even entrance tickets prior to my trip, I would try my best not to use both credit and debit cards due to its unflavourable exchange rates. Not until I was introduced with BigPay card.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Summary of My 17D Balkans Travelogue (2018) Covering Istanbul, Bosnia & Herzegovina & Croatia

And here comes the end of another travelogue of mine - like, finally! This year I managed to complete at least 5 travelogues before year-end; Solo Trip To Europe (2017), 9D8N Australia Melbourne & Sydney (2017), 6D5N Central Vietnam (2018), 6D5N Kyushu Japan (2018) and now this one - 17D of my Balkans trip covering Turkey, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia. Feeling accomplished cause my motivation for blogging is finally back on track! I almost lost my interest and passion not just in blogging, but in travelling too dating back 2 years ago.

2018 Balkans Travelogue Cover-1

SUMMARY OF MY 17D BALKANS TRIP COVERING ISTANBUL, BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA AND CROATIA
Here is the compilation of my Balkans travelogue at a glance (obviously I'm lazy to summarise everything 😜):
2018 DT Balkans Itinerary
(Just click each of them and it will link you to the individual blogpost)

For this post also, I would like to share not comprehensive one but a brief and basic travel guide based my own first hand experience to Turkey (Istanbul), Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia.

VISA
For Malaysian, visa is NOT required to enter into these three countries. Therefore don't have to worry about applying any visa at all. That's show how powerful our Malaysian passport are, right? However if you are intended to stay more than 90 days for each respective country, then you have to go and apply for the visa. I don't have experience for this cause normally, I only stay one or two weeks for each country. 

CURRENCY EXCHANGE
Before embarking for this trip, I exchanged Euros and some Turkish lira (I changed in KL Nu Sentral). You can bring along US dollar, British Pound or even Singapore Dollar cause these currencies are also widely accepted in most of the European countries.
  • Turkey's national currency is Turkish lira. It can be found in Malaysia. But in case you don't have the time to change, no worries cause you can exchange in Istanbul. TRY100 = RM102
  • Convertible mark (KM/BAM) is the only legal tender in Bosnia & Herzegovina. I exchanged in Sarajevo International Airport - the first Bosnia's airport I landed. €1.00 = 1.95KM on average*. But because there is 1% commission being charged, hence I got €1.00 = 1.93KM
  • The official currency for Croatia is Croatian kuna. €1.00 = HRK7.13 on average*
*The rate I exchanged in May 2018
Huawei P2013
Top: Bosnia & Herzegovina's convertible mark
Bottom: Croatian kuna 

PURCHASING TRANSPORTATION TICKET
The most frequently asked travel questions - where to buy all these transportation tickets and when? Being "kiasu" in me, I always prefer to buy all my buses and trains ticket prior to my trip in order to secure the seats, especially when the bus and train schedules are quite limited. Except for my train ticket from Sarajevo to Mostar and a-return day trip between Split and Sibenik, I booked all my bus tickets from GetByBus (click here). It's a legit and reliable website, so don't have to worry cause it's really pretty save and secure buying bus tickets from this website. 

GetByBus Website

The only downside of this website is that you have to print out your tickets. They don't accept mobile ticket. And another thing you have to take note is that for all intercity buses, there is an extra fee of €1-2 charge for luggage fee. Remember to keep some small change.

SIM CARD
Because I was travelling alone, hence it's freaking costly to rent a pocket WiFi by my own. Besides that, for your information Bosnia & Herzegovina is actually doesn't consider to be part of European coverage even for both pocket WiFi and travel sim card. What I did is I bought my travel sim card from Hello1010 (click here) and purchased another one for Bosnia & Herzegovina in Sarajevo Airport. 

2018 Day 3 Bosnia 02 Sim Card

There you go! Hopefully I don't miss out any important travel tips and info relating my trip to these Balkans countries. In case you have any queries or doubt, feel free to leave a comment or email me. 

TOTAL SPENDING
As usual, I simplify everything for easy reference - which include means of transportation, hostels, entrance fees, food but excluding my shopping spending throughout my trip around 17 days. 
PARTICULARS
AMOUNT
€/KM/CZK
RM
Air Fares
Singapore Airlines (Return fare Kota Kinabalu to Istanbul)
Pegasus Airlines (One-way Istanbul to Sarajevo)
Turkish Airways (One-way Zagreb to Istanbul)

Cities
Sarajevo – 2 days
Mostar – 2 days
Dubrovnik – 2days
Split – 2 days
A Day Trip to Split
Zadar – 1 day
Plitvice Lakes National Park – 1 day
Zagreb – 2 days
Istanbul – 2 days

Ground Tour
Herzegovina Tour

Others
4GB Travel Prepaid Sim Card - Bought from Hello1010

-
-
-


-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-


60KM


-

2,190
293
955


301
188
782
419
149
289
300
363
250


150


103

TOTAL:
6,732
Exchange rate  €1.00 = RM4.84 as at May 2018

Curious about my souvenir travel haul? There are two items I die-die must buy whenever I visit different country or city which are the fridge magnet and postcard. Besides these two, another one would be the stamps. Sometimes I would spend up to RM100 by just buying these three things. As for this trip, my total spending for souvenir and shopping is RM1,026 including numerous of fridge magnets, postcards, stamps, a T-shirt, a skirt and a dress when I was in Croatia. 

2018 Travel Haul 4
A hardcore collector for fridge magnets.

2018 Travel Haul 3
Souvenirs from Croatia including tea towels, liquid soap dispense and a T-shirt for my nephew.

Istanbul Shopping Haul 1
Pouch and fridge magnets from Istanbul.

Istanbul Shopping Haul 2
Turkish ceramic bowls in various sizes.

AIRLINES EXPERIENCE & THEIR IN-FLIGHT MEALS
For this trip, I flew and experienced 4 different type of airlines:
1) Silk Air for my journey between Kota Kinabalu to Singapore. I even blogged about this airline before (click here).

2018 Silk Air BKI-SIN-BKI
In-flight meal for Silk Air. I like their fresh fruits but not their main meal. Feel like eating thick flour instead of fish meats.

2) Singapore Airlines for the trip from Singapore to Istanbul as well as for the return. Finally I got to fly with the World's Best Airline. However, I'm quite disappointed with the fleet for the flight to Istanbul cause it's one old aircraft being used. The in-flight entertainment wasn't fascinating and not many options were given. Even for the in-flight meals, I found out it's just so-so and nothing to shout. 

2018 Singapore Airlines In-Flight Meal
For the route Singapore to Istanbul, their meals are quite acceptable. 

2018 Singapore Airlines In-Flight Meal Istanbul to Singapore
But for the route from Istanbul to Singapore, the meals look kinda sad and unappetising. Luckily there's an ice-cream to cheer me up

3) Pegasus Airlines for one-way journey from Istanbul to Sarajevo. Pegasus Airlines is a Turkish low-cost airlines with no-frills, similar to AirAsia where the fare doesn't include free baggage allowance, in-flight meal and entertainment. 

2018 Pegasus Airlines Istanbul to Sarajevo

4) Turkish Airlines for a trip from Zagreb to Istanbul. Turkish Airlines is a national carrier airline of Turkey and it's full-fledged airlines. This is one of the most expensive fares I ever bought in my life just for a single trip. 

2018 Turkish Airlines Zagreb to Istanbul In-Flight Meal

Never thought this is going to be a lengthy post but I'm glad that finally this is the end. Now I'm going to have a cup of nice hot coffee and at same time, thinking which travelogue should I blog next.

DT Backpacking in Croatia

Friday, December 7, 2018

Foodie Friday: Nakiryu - Tokyo's Second Michelin Starred Ramen Restaurant

#nonhalalpost

So for my trip to Tokyo this year, not just one but then, I managed to experience two distinctive ramen restaurants that are awarded with a prestigious Michelin Star. The first one is Tsuta (click here) and the second one is this one - Nakiryu, which I am going to elaborate further in this post. 

Nakiryu Tokyo Michelin Ramen 01
#1: Nakiryu - World's Second Michelin Starred Ramen Restaurant

Frankly speaking, I know nothing about Nakiryu until my travel partner brought me here. He does the planning, and I just follow cause I'm not the type of traveler that will roaming further just for the sake of food adventures, unless I happen to be in the nearby neighbourhood. And because of its location sat on the non-touristic area, no surprise I wasn't aware of this ramen restaurant at all.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Balkans (2018): Istanbul, Turkey - My Starting & Ending Point of My Balkans Trip

Selam Istanbul!

2018 Turkey Istanbul 01

Frankly speaking, I never imagine that I will visit Turkey by my own someday. My friends and I have been discussed about our trip to Turkey for the past few years but then, we never materialise it to date. One of the main reasons is due to the airfares - most of the times the price of the airtickets to Istanbul from Kuala Lumpur were over our budget. Not until (again!) my friend who manages the Mytravelmatez FB Page shared with me about Singapore Airlines promo. All-in return fares from Kota Kinabalu to Istanbul for as low as RM2,100 which I personally think it's a great bargain. Informed my friends about this but because each of them are committed to their worklife, at the end I decided to go ahead to travel by my own. It's not like I had never experienced travel alone before, right? So without thinking any longer, instantly booked the ticket before the price increase. My motto, "Book first, think later"