Mar 12, 2017

Step-by-step How to create your travel itinerary

Building your own travel itinerary can be overwhelming when you don't know where to start and it's even more difficult if you've never been to the place before. I have a fool-proved step-by-step guide that you can follow to build your own itinerary.

Step 1: List down the places you want to visit

This includes the places of interest, restaurants, pubs, shopping areas, etc. The list length should be 5 places per day.

Step 2: Mark the places on the map

Many years ago, I would download the city map, print it out and put my mark on the map. But now, things are are easier now. You can use online map to do so. My favourite website is ZeeMaps. It is totally free and you don't have to register to use the service.
Step 3: Divide the map into the number of days

After you mark all the places, you can separate the map into the number of days. Distribute the number of places evenly - if you have more markings, divide the days based on the reasonable number of places you can visit per day.

Step 4: Determine your starting point

Your starting point is where you should stay. I will mark a radius of 5km on the middle line to determine where I should book my hotel. That way I can maximize my time and don't need to spend a lot of time to travel.

Step 5: Mode of transport

You can stop at Step 4, but I will go on further to decide which mode of transport to take. Sometimes I will start my day visiting the furthest point by taking Uber or train. If the locations are close by, I will be working from point to point and slowly make my way to the hotel at the end of the day. There are times that I will start from the nearest point first and at the end of the day, I will take Uber or train back to the hotel. It saves me a lot of money on transport with that method.

Step 6: Write down your itinerary

After all the plan, write it down in your notebook. You can keep it in your email or make a softcopy file, but I personally like to write it down. When traveling there's always tendencies that your phone run out of battery, or getting snatched by thieves. You shouldn't risk it by storing your information in your phone.

By the way, I have this super cool travelogue journal to introduce to you. It is a planner and also a documentation journal for traveling. There are few sections on the journal such as Itinerary, Checklist, Budget, etc. that helps organize your trip.

My favourite part of the journal is the mini scratch map where you can literally scratch off the map to reveal the countries you've been to. It is a new take on ticking off your bucket list.

You can purchase this travelogue journal on my little shop Wanderlust Things. It is a project that I am working on with Constance. Wanderlust Things is a trend label store that is inspired by travel and adventures. If you love to travel, there are some really good stuff which you can use. I hope you can click the link and go over to our humble e-store. Let me know what you think about the products and what you wish to see more on our store.

Travel safe. Go and see the world. 

Mar 10, 2017

Book Haul from Europe

Besides beauty products, I'm extremely excited over books shopping as well when I travel. I will scout for books that I can hardly get here (Malaysia book scene is pretty disappointing). One problem with buying books while traveling is the weight. Sometimes I have a lot interesting books that I want to buy, but I am limited to how heavy I can carry. Anyway....

On the previous trip, I limit myself to 5 books, but in the end, I managed to pick up 4 books that I really wanted to read.

#1 London's Strangest Tales by Tom Quinn

I read a book from the same series before - Law Strangest Cases. This book is informative, funny and entertaining at the same time. If you think you know London inside out, you need to read this book. I manage to know a lot of new facts and unpublished histories in between the pages. Each story is only one or two pages long which pack in about 50 short stories. My favourite story is A Mistress's Revenge. Let me attempt to type it out for you:

Disputes between lovers always involve emotional excesses and when lovers fall out it adds a new twist to the old saying: all's fair in love and war.

Salisbury Square, just off Fleet Street, once witnessed the conclusion to one of the strangest emotional disputes in the history of England. The problem began when Frederick, Duke of York (the second son of mad George III), began to lose interest in one of his mistresses, one Mrs Mary Anne Clarke. Mrs Clarke was his favourite mistress from 1803 until 1809 but then his enthusiasm began to wane. In short he completely lost interest in her. Mrs Clarke was furious at being unceremoniously dumped, but she would have accepted this meekly enough if the Duke had given her the pension she felt she deserved, together with a house in a fashionable part of London. The Duke for his part thought that he could completely discard her and that would be the end of it, but he had reckoned without the fury of a woman scorned. 

When the Duke refused to see her or give her any money Mrs Clarke sat down and wrote her memoirs, in particular her memories of her relationship with the Duke. The notoriety of Mrs Clarke and the public's appetite for scandal meant the publisher was convinced he would have a huge sale and make his fortune, so he printed 10,000 copies - an enormous number for any book at the time. Mrs Clarke then let the Duke know that the books was about to come out. In earlier times he'd have her head cut off, but even in Georgian England such an idea was unthinkable. The Duke knew when he was beaten. He immediately paid her a pension, bought her a house and bought up all 10,000 copies of the book - these were piled up in Salisbury Square and burned. If one copy survived and were to turn up now it would be worth a fortune! 

I cannot suggest if the facts are proven to be historically accurate, but it is entertaining and in fact, if you ever read it, you should take it in a pinch of salt. If you would like to know London from a different dimension, pick this book up.

I bought this book at Harrods for GBP7.99. Worth every quid.

#2 Lonely Planet's Travel Writing

I am not a good writer. But I'm a good traveler. You know what they say, "when you travel, you are speechless until you write it down". In order for me to share my travel experiences, I need to learn some writing techniques. My vocabularies are limited, I am grammatically insensitive, I don't have my own writing flare and I am not a good story teller. This book would be a great help.

If you are pursuing travel writing, I urge you to pick up this book. It is overwhelmed with tips and tricks. Plus, there's also writing exercises. The book also includes a comparison of layman writing vs. professional writing and how to get from layman to professional standard.

This is not a leisure reading. It is resembles a textbook.

#3 The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum - Dry Store Room No.1 by Richard Fortey

Richard Fortey is a British paleontologist at the Natural History Museum. One of the highlight of my London trip is the Natural History Museum, in fact that's the place I was so looking forward to visit and I didn't mind the super long queue at all. I didn't manage to go through all of the museum exhibitions. My only focus was the dinosaur (Night in a museum, does it ring a bell?). I bought this book at the Natural History Museum gift shop - I thought it was a souvenir apt for myself. I have not read the book yet, but I believe this is going to be one of my favourite book soon. The book tells the tale behind the scene of the museum - what the public get to see, what are the things filed under high confidential, and other day to day operation at the museum.

#4 The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I mentioned a little bit of this book being one of my February favourites. This book is about getting your life into place and feel content of what you have. The book is separated by month - basically it is a book for a year project. Each month is focus on a topic. The first topic (January) is about clearing your clutter. That part was relevant. On the second chapter, it is about marriage, which I cannot relate to. Hence I am slowing down on the book and may skip a few chapters which are irrelevant at this junction of my life. The chapters on children and spouse aren't my cup of tea. Otherwise, this book is pretty helpful and insightful to keep my messy life in place. Putting the book in practice is really a tough one to follow.

I think this is a good book to have as bedside table book.

Anyway, how's your reading going for 2017? What book will you pick up this weekend? I'm still digging into The Happiness Project at the moment.

Mar 8, 2017

5 Ways How You Will Get Cheated in Bali

On TV channels, magazine write-ups, blog features and Instagram photos, the Wonderful Indonesia campaign can be seen as one of the successful local tourism ad. The Wonderful Indonesia wins the best use of social media influencers and hence attracted many of us social media addicts (including me) to yearn for a visit to Indonesia.

When we mention Indonesia, the first place that would pop-up on our mind is Bali (thanks to the feature in Eat Pray Love). Bali is a place that I have a strong love-hate relationship with. I love the places in general. They are really beautiful and as picturesque in real life as it is on photos. 

At the same time, I really hate the people. On the surface, they're no doubt friendly and put on those toothpaste ad worth of smiles wherever you go. Behind the scene, they're cunning people. I won't generalize everyone in this situation. When I mention 'they', I really mean those people who are in the tourism industry. I'm sure there are a lot of other good locals that I didn't manage to meet in person. 

A lot of people say to me that Bali is a nice place and they're very nice people. To be honest, I wouldn't go there if I am traveling alone. I've been there twice and I've encountered numerous times of getting cheated. Probably a lot more if you count those times when I'm not aware I've been cheated. Hmph. 

If I ever going to go there again, I would remind myself that these are some of the ways those people in service line are trying to get my money without me knowing consciously:

#1 - No disclosing the full charges
If you opt for private transportation, be sure to ask about the charges thoroughly. We booked a car and the price mentioned was fixed on the board. Nothing happened, until when we about to get down the car, and the driver asked for his OT payment. Apparently, there is an OT charges which they failed to disclose to us when we did our booking. It got me so mad because they don't factor in the time when the driver took a 15 mins stop for prayer and another 15 mins stop for a cigarette break. We were actually paying for his break in between and we weren't aware of it until the end of the trip.

Lesson learned: Question every charges before you commit into paying for something.

#2 - Hidden charges
The second time when I aware I was being cheated is at a restaurant. The receipt shows funny description such as "tsunami donation". When we questioned the owner, she told us it is optional donation. It doesn't look like optional to me if they pre-charge us without letting us know.

Lesson learned: Always ask for the itemized bill and question any item which you are in doubt of.

#3 - Not as advertised
If you are booking a non-commercialized hotel, be sure to check the reviews from previous guests. Or only book the place if someone recommended you to do so. The photos are often deceiving. I have a friend who suspected her Airbnb pat was not fully cleaned. There were stains of poo on the toilet bowl and strains of pubic hair on the bed. Will it get any worse than that? And they don't do any refund. She ended up paying for the 1 week at the Airbnb which she did not stay and 1 week for hotel.

Lesson learned: Stay in commercialized hotel or check out independent reviews of the place.

#4 - Not able to give small change
Beware of small stalls. If you have big notes, they always tell you that they don't have change and push you into buying more stuff. Or they will get a very small change from you. For example, not giving you back your change in coins. Normally we will ignore it. But if it happens to every customer, we are encouraging them to cheat more people. In the end it will become a norm.

Lesson learned: Keep small change and pay exact amount.

#5 - Money changer
In every country, the small money changers are always the biggest cheater of tourist. They will take a small fee like commission (which if you agree, it would be OK). But sometimes they change the rates on the board and tricking you to think that it is the actual rate.

Lesson learned: Change the money before arriving, at the airport or at the bank.

I don't mean to scare you with these horror stories. But you should be extra careful with your money in Bali. The positive way to see it, they don't mean harm. They just want to earn some extra cash. As a tourist, it is really annoying. 

As always, travel safe. Go and see the world!