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Tune Hotel Danga Bay, Johor Bahru

My Singapore trips are kinda like incomplete if I didn't involve Johor Bahru as part of the trip. Fly in Singapore and then fly out Johor Bahru or vice versa is always what I did for the past few years. After staying for a night in a cute and chic hostel with a reasonable price, A Beary Bear Hostel, my friends and I took public bus (CW2) from Queen Street Bus Terminal (Bugis MRT) to Woodlands. It's cheap but then, it wasn't convenient especially when you carry big luggage with you. 

This time around, we booked Tune Hotel in Danga Bay. It was actually suggested by my Johor friend as it was relatively near to her wedding venue.

Tune Hotel Danga Bay, Johor Bahru 01
#1: Overview of Tune Hotel - Danga Bay
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A Beary Good Hostel, Singapore

I always booked budget hotels when visiting Singapore. Here are the list of the hotels I stayed before:
But last year when I went Singapore alone, I decided to try out staying in dorm instead. Cheap, is my main consideration. Plus, there were two of my guy friends joining me, hence staying in mixed dorm would be the suitable option. And this is where I stumbled upon a cute and chic hostel at reasonable price - A Beary Good Hostel.

A Beary Good Hostel 01
#1: A Beary Good Hotel

There are plenty of hostels around Singapore but why I choose this? Mainly because it's so close to the MRT station. The location is exactly tucked right in the center of lively and bustling Singapore's Chinatown - I'm absolutely lovin' it.
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My Virgin Flight With SilkAir

I believe everyone love to try new things, right? So do I. Most of the times I prefer to stick with the airlines I'm comfortable with but then, it's not harm to venture new carrier once in a while.

In order to fly directly from Kota Kinabalu to Singapore, we only have two options; either with AirAsia or SilkAir. Flying with Malaysia Airlines would be time consuming cause it requires a transit in Kuala Lumpur before reach the desired destination. Sounds pretty funny right?

So last year, I decided to book my first ever virgin flight with SilkAir. SilkAir is a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Airlines and serves the short-haul destinations around Southeast Asia, Australia, China and Indian Subcontinent. The fare including 20kg of baggage allowance and complimentary meal and beverage service- obviously, it's not a low-cost carrier.

Silk Air 01
#1: SilkAir Airbus A320 at Kota Kinabalu International Airport (Terminal 1)
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Laos - Brief Travel Guide & Summary of My 8D7N Travelogue

As I got responses from my friends saying that planning a trip to Laos is not as easy as comparing to Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam due to limited of information, hence I would like to share not comprehensive one but brief and basic travel guide based my own first hand experience. 

Flying In Laos
From Malaysia, AirAsia is the only carriers flying directly from Kuala Lumpur to Vientiane, the capital city of Laos three times a week - Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. From Kuala Lumpur, the flight to Vientiane took 1 hour and 45 minutes. Time difference wise, Laos is 1 hour behind Malaysia.

For Malaysian citizens, visa is not required when entering Laos and allow to stay up to 30 days.

Best Time To Visit Laos
This one tend to be very subjective cause as we know, weather is always unpredictable one. November to February is the peak season with cooler temperature. Accommodations tend to be fully book and charge slightly higher compare to off season. We went in end of July and early of August and caught up in the heavy rain throughout the first few days but then, we were rewarded with clear and beautiful blue sky at the end of our trip. Accommodations were incredibly cheaper too. 

Travel Around Laos
Generally, Laos is divided into three distinctive regions and I listed down those popular cities:
  • Northern Laos -  the most popular one is Luang Prabang
  • Central Laos - Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Phonsavan, Plain of Jars
  • Southern Laos - Pakse and Champasak
    Throughout my 8 days visit in Laos, I only managed to cover Northern and Central regions and frankly speaking, it was kinda rush trip. Hence, it is advisable to spend at least two weeks if you plan to cover all three regions.  

    For your information, there are no trains in Laos eventually. So in order to travel from one city to another, the most economical and safest way is by taking minivans and VIP buses.  Minivans are quicker but small leg room which make a long journey less comfortable whereas typical VIP buses have extra leg room but slower compare to minivans. VIP buses also include a bottle of water and a stop for lunch or dinner but one thing I noticed about these VIP buses are often break down. Both types are usually air conditioned. 

    Reminder: As most of the journey are extremely one stomach-churning bus ride and if you have susceptible motion sickness, remember to take motion sickness medication before embarking on the long bus ride. Trust me, you don't want keep throwing up throughout the expedition.

    Official language of Laos is Lao, which I found out it is closely related to Thai language somehow. However no worry about language barrier as nowadays, most younger Lao generally know some basic English as they have the eager to practice and learn English. I still remember vividly when both Jeff and I climbed up Phu Si in Luang Prabang, we were approached by a group of young monks and after they found out I wasn't Thai (not again), we have conversation for almost an hour. Never knew these young monks can speak English so well. Pretty interesting, right?

    Currency Exchange
    Lao currency is known as kip. I'm not pretty sure whether they accept Ringgit Malaysia or not but it's advisable be prepared with US dollar or Thai baht before going to Laos as these two foreign currencies are widely acceptable there. You can change Lao kip in airport upon arrival. Besides airport, both Jeff and I did perform currency exchange in main touristy area of Vientiane and Luang Prabang.

    US$1 (Approx. to RM3.50) = 7,760 kip

    There you go! My brief and basic travel guide about Laos and I hope the above information could literally help you in planning your trip to Laos. 

    And the following is my simple travel guides of the cities I've been in Laos - Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Phonsavan, Plain of Jars and Luang Prabang which I include essential info such as accommodation, how to travel from one city to antoher, the ideal way of getting around, things to do and see and etc. Not forgetting too, as usual I do share the details of my travel expenses of what I spent throughout my 8D7N trip in Laos at the end of this post.

    Vientiane & Surrounding Area (click here)
     Laos 08

    Vang Vieng, A Laid Back Riverside Town (click here)
    Vang Vieng 03

    Phonsavan & Mysterious Plain of Jars (click here)
    Laos - Phonsavan 07

    The Ancient City of Luang Prabang (click here)
    Laos - Luang Prabang 08

    Travel Expenses for 8D7N in Laos
    Laos Travel Expenses
    1. Thanks to Jeff Chuah, a humble and friendly travel blogger for helping me to buy the airticket cause I was in Hong Kong at that particular moment.
    2. Stayed for a night before depart to Vang Vieng. A three stars hotel which includes breakfast as well.
    3. Stayed for a night. A twin bed room attached with private bathroom but without air-conditioned and breakfast.
    4. Stayed for two nights. A twin bed room attached with private bathroom but without air-conditioned and breakfast.
    5. Stayed for a night. An air-conditioned twin bed room attached with private bathroom. 
    6. Stayed for a night. A fan twin room only. Shared bathroom. Not recommended.
    7. Including English speaking tour guide, entrance fees and pick-up and drop-off from where we stayed. Lunch is not included.
    8. Prepaid data sim card but then, it was only worked on the first day. 
    9. Souvenirs such as T-shirt, fridge magnets, photo frame, two pairs of cushion covers and local handmade Tote bag.
    Travel Haul

    And that's concludes my Laos travelogues.
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    The Ancient City of Luang Prabang

    Date Visited: 31st July - 1st August 2013

    Landed in the capital city of Vientiane, stopby at a laid back riverside town by the named of Vang Vieng, then to Phonsavan for Plain of Jars, the most mysterious prehistoric place and finally Luang Prabang, a city which formerly was the capital of a kingdom. I totally lost count of how many hours bus ride I took but this is absolutely fun-filled adventures. 

    Laos - Luang Prabang 07

    Luang Prabang is a city situated in north central of Laos. It was once a formal capital of Laos and now, this old town centre is the first city in Laos to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage city. When I arrived this enchanting town, I have to admit that I was instantly fall in love with it - it's like love at the first sight. The fusion of colonial European architecture and ancient Lao structure combination is what I admired of. According to Jeff, this city is similar to Hoi An but unfortunately I haven't been there yet. Hopefully someday. 
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    Laos: Phonsavan & Mysterious Plain of Jars

    Date Visited: 29th - 31st July 2013 

    After stayed for a day in Vang Vieng, we then packed our bag and proceed to the next destination, Phonsavan, the capital of Xieng Khouang province in Central Laos. The bus ride took almost 7 hours with one toilet break and trust me, sometimes you wish you will never have ride on it. Although the road are paved perfectly with amazing scenery but it was one extremely stomach-churning bus ride. Except for both Jeff and I, all the passengers inside the bus were local and almost all of them vomited non-stop throughout the ride. Luckily I got the seat nearby the window, opened it and got instant fresh air or else, I will non-stop vomiting too.

    Air-con minivans from Vang Vieng leave to Phonsavan at 9:00am with the cost of 110,000 kip (approx. to US$14 or RM50). We reserved and booked directly from the guesthouse we stayed in Vang Vieng.

    Laos - Phonsavan 02
    #1: Phonsavan, the capital of Xieng Khouang province in Central Laos

    Generally, Phonsavan is well-known for two reasons; claimed to be one of the most heavily bombed places in the world and secondly, for its mysterious Plain of Jars, which believed to be funeral urns dating back to the Stone Age. Phonsavan is a very small, quiet and dusty little old town with somekind of unfinished feel. Phonsavan is less popular among Vang Vieng and Pakse, hence there are only few visitors here.
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    #aabc Penang Takeover

    Thanks to AirAsia and Penang Global Tourism, I was in Penang last weekend for an adventure to experience and explore Penang cuisine, heritage, culture and more. 

    #aabcPenangTakeOver 01
    #1: Welcome To Pearl of the Orient! 

    My last visit to Penang was like two years ago for my very best friend's wedding and I'm barely remember whether this is my 4th or 5th trip to this food paradise city but then, I still love to return again for more.
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    Vang Vieng, A Laid Back Riverside Town of Laos

    Date Visited: 28th July 2013

    Vang Vieng is a small tourist-oriented town in Laos which is about four hours bus ride north of the Vientiane city. It is a riverside town in Central Laos offering stunning scenery of river and rock formations. After staying for a night in Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, we packed our bag and moved on to Vang Vieng.

    Travel To Vang Vieng From Vientiane
    For budget traveller like us, we prefer to take the cheapest option such as taking buses. Tickets for tourist buses and minivans can be purchased at almost every guesthouse, hostels and hotels and this include pick-up services from your lodge to the bus station. But I personally would recommend to buy directly from local tour company along Rue Setthathirat or Rue Samsenthai as it would be slightly cheaper than buying from your lodge. 

    Laos 15 - Backpacker Ticketing
    #1: Price list for buses/minivans from Vientiane

    Minivans with air conditioning leave Vientiane all day and it cost about 35,000 kip (approx. to US$5 or RM16) for four hours journey. A minivan which I think can fit up to 10 people at least might be slightly uncomfortable for those who is tall with long leg as the seat is kinda cramped and wondering where they placed our baggage, it's on the top of the minivans by the way. The road from Vientiane to Vang Vieng is fairly in good condition with few bumps and there is one stop for the passengers for toilet break and grab quick bites. 

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