Jun 25, 2017

JB Weekend Food Trip

Johor Bahru has been popping into my radar lately because my cousin staying there. Before this, I have not been to JB other than swift through the check-point to go to Singapore. It's a short trip, we're there for a night and I have packed in all the good food on my trip to ensure my tummy is happy. Here are some of the places I've been:

IT Roo

This place is famous for its chicken chop. You have choices of mushroom or black pepper sauce and also an option whether you want your chicken to be grilled or fried. The restaurant reminiscing the 1970's or the 1980's Western cafe style. It brings back old memories of the past - I have a glance back when my grandfather used to bring me to cafe like this. Back in reality, the food is good. The succulent chicken goes really well with the sauce. In my case, I had the fried chicken chop with mushroom sauce.

Location: No.17, Jalan Dhoby, Johor Bahru
Price range: RM15+
Business hour: 10am - 9:30pm 

Hiap Joo Bakery & Biscuit Factory

A few blocks from IT Roo, there a classic bakery that serves the crowd since . I got half banana cake to try. It is by far the best banana cake baked in the classic way. It has fluffy texture, not so sweet and you can taste the actual banana (instead of those instant banana essence taste). It is a grab-and-go bakery, there's no seating, so you have to pack your order and savor the cakes at a nearby cafe. Since it is an old establishment in the neighborhood, I don't think the cafe owners mind that you have your cake there. The queue is long, but you don't have to wait long since everyone is just taking away.

Location: 13, Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Bandar Johor Bahru
Price range: RM5

Flowers in the Window Cafe

In between lunch and dinner, we had a stopover in one of the beautiful cafe in JB. The Flowers by the Window (as the name suggested) is nature inspired and all the foods and drinks are infused with flowers, herbs, fruits or veggies. We recommend you to try the cakes. Can't go wrong with the moist chocolate cake. For a more adventurous try-out, pick the rosemary, chili & lemon drink. Who could have guessed, these food ingredients can be so refreshing as a drink?

Location: 9, Jalan Dhoby, Bandar Johor Bahru
Business hour: 10AM - 9PM
Price range: RM10 - RM20

Carabao Restaurant

Carabao is one of the famous Thai restaurants in JB. One good thing is, it is halal since we notice a lot of Muslims waiting to breakfast when we were ordering our dinner. The menu is what you have in a classic Thai restaurant. We settled for pineapple fried rice to share out among three of us. Also, there's clear Tom yum soup so we went for it, instead of the usual red Tom yum. The chicken green curry quickly become my favourite because of the rich coconut milk and fragrant spices. Mango kerabu is a must because it made up a portion of the veggie to balance out the diet. You can taste how fresh the ingredients are and the dishes brings up the authentic taste of Thai meals. A fresh young coconut drink goes really well with the spicy meal. As a bonus, the dining area is decorated like an upscaled Thai restaurant in Thailand. I would say, don't just come for the food. Come for the experience as well. Table booking on the weekend is recommended. There is plenty of parking space right outside the restaurant, so it is elder-friendly.

Location: 16, Jalan Dato Abdullah Tahir, Johor Bahru
Opening hours: 5PM - 11PM
Price range: RM20 - RM100

Faculty of Caffeine Cafe

The next morning before we departed to Johor Premium Outlet, we had a quick brunch at the Faculty of Caffeine Cafe. The coffee was really good and smooth. We had our usual flat white and latte. The seafood pasta comes with generous portion of seafood. And the big breakfast is a nice twist of the usual big breakfast. It comes with a waffle (instead of toast), sweet chickpeas (instead of red beans), poached eggs (instead of scrambled), a hashbrown, sauteed mushroom, sausage and ham. I admit I was totally addicted to the chickpeas. However, the bill came up to RM77. It was quite a shock but I guess the price is worth paying for the good food.

Location: 106, Jalan Trus, Bandar Johor Bahru
Business hours: 9AM - 5:30PM
Price range: RM12 for a coffee, RM20-RM30 for a meal 

Parit Jawa Asam Pedas

While on the way back to Melaka, we took the offroad to go to Parit Jawa, where the best asam pedas fish is. The humble Parit Jawa Roast Fish restaurant serves the best asam pedas according to many foodies and even the local themselves. We went for the recommended BBQ chicken wing, which is honey coated roasted chicken wing with sesame. It's a great starter for the meal. Meanwhile, the star of the show, the asam pedas fish is savory. The sweet, sour and spicy combination is appetizing. You can even drink the curry broth itself. The best fish to go with the asam pedas is the stingray. If you fancy other fishes, they do have siakap, kembung and other fishes depending on the time of your visit. Take note that this is non-halal compared to the food I've mentioned above.

Location: 161, Jalan Jabar, Parit Jawa, Muar
Price range: RM20-RM30

I'm totally new in the JB scene. If you have any food that you want to recommend to me, do leave a comment below. I will check it out on my next visit. Til then... Jya. 

Jun 24, 2017

HerTravelogue's Travel Financial Plan (Part 1)

Being someone who isn't rich, traveling is a huge luxury for me. A lot of people ask me how I manage to go so many places, my answer is always "plan it". I know it is easier to say that you need a proper planning, especially on the finance topic. I never really show anyone how I plan it and how it really works. So here it is.

Some people take the effort to save up RM10,000 for a trip. That is totally fine if you have lots of disposable income to put aside for a trip. As for me, putting that RM10k away is pretty hard because there's always emergency happen in between that I needed sort out first. So I keep the idea of sikit-sikit, lama-lama jadi bukit to plan out my trip.

In this post, I'm going to show you my ultimate travel financial plan. In summary, it is a holiday plan that:

  • Takes 9 months to realize.
  • A travel plan that comes with zero debt although some credit cards reservation is involved.
  • Takes a lot of discipline. 
  • You need a consistent income to follow this plan because you have to put your money aside every month.

Let's dive in!

This is the overview of the plan. It looks pretty easy, and the truth is... IT IS EASY! The hardest part of it is the determination to put your money aside. I would leave that to you on how to keep yourself motivated. I spread out the plan to a 9-month period. 9 months is the right length to keep your excitement and interest alive while you are saving money for the trip.

Read also: 7 Travel Tips That You Probably Never Heard Before

Here, I'm going to put my Tokyo plan in action and at the same time show you guys how it works. Notice the "Part 1" on the title? More to come as we move into the new month. So stay tuned. Now scroll down to see how we initiate the plan.

  1. First, you have to evaluate what are the necessities when it comes to travel. This is where you need to put your money on first. I figure out that plane tickets aren't cheap and it won't get any cheaper by day. If you're going to drag your time getting that plane ticket, you might never go on your trip because the price will just go up and up. By deleting your cookies and rebook again won't work like how so many travel tips have claimed. It might work in between the few hours of your research. However, if you space it out for a few days the price of tickets will go up drastically, no matter how many times you delete your cookies. For the Tokyo trip, I am digging out RM3000 for my tickets. I am hoping to score JAL, MAS, Emirates or Qatar. This is also the reason why I manage to book premium airlines - book way ahead!
  2. For the next three months, I will plan on the accommodation. What I will do is to book as much hotels as I can via Bookings.com, Agoda, Trivago or Traveloka. At the end of the third month, I will pick the one closest to all the places I'm planning to go or the one with the lowest price. You will need to take note of the date your credit card is going to be charged on. Also, only book those with zero booking charge and free cancellation. Getting penalized will cost you a lot of money which you can use for shopping. I will show that to you in the month of Sep/Oct/Nov. The RM500 per month saving is going to be the payment for the hotel. Once my credit card is billed, I will pay it. Don't leave your payment at the end of your trip because it will burden you financially with late charges and interest.
  3. For the next 5 months, I will put aside RM1000 into my saving account (untouched) for the trip. RM5000 for a one-week trip in Tokyo would be enough for me. For the Europe trip, I put aside RM1500 because I was there for a longer period and also the currency is heftier. 

Also, check out how to build your own itinerary on my old post: Step-by-step How to Create Your Travel Itinerary. 

Some of my financial planning involves during the trip itself. For example, I focus on free visiting sites to fill up my day. If the ticket is too expensive, I will find promo price or I ditch it instead. I will keep my shopping and souvenirs on the last day of the trip, so that I have plenty of cash to go about town. Besides that, I do a lot of walking on foot to save on transportation. You can check out how I build my travel itinerary to increase my walking.

For a nearer or cheaper trip, I will reduce the time to 6 months or 3 months, it depends. 9 months works out really good for me because I get to save up my annual leave at the same time. For those of you who are tied to a full-time job, this plan rocks. If you have more money to splurge on traveling, you can also use this plan for a shorter time frame.

I never believe in owing money for travel. It's ok to owe money to help others in need or to treat your own health. But not for traveling. That is why I make the plan spread out nicely for the 9-months to get me sort out everything. 

What do you think of the plan? Will you follow it? Or do you think it is too hassle to follow? Let me know in the comment.

Jun 23, 2017

Travel Book: An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington

Some of you might be familiar with Karl Pilkington - the reluctant traveler of An Idiot Abroad. You might have seen one or two episodes from his TV show on TLC Channel. Karl was thrown with a challenge to do a 7-wonders of the world - Chichen Itza (Mexico), Christ the Redeemer (Brazil), Great Wall (China), Machu Picchu (Peru), Taj Mahal (India), Petra (Jordan) and Collosseum (Italy). The show is documented in an award winning travel series, An Idiot Abroad.

Unlike other travel shows with a happy host that recommend you the things to do, Karl is the completely opposite. His complaints, moans and nags are hilariously funny and entertaining. No travel host would have done it the way he did.

If you have watched An Idiot Abroad, this book is a complementary to what's behind the scene. Bits and pieces of the events that not on camera are pen down in a diary which later produced as this book. Random opinions and ramblings of Karl are also written in it, perhaps the selling point of this book is his potty humour.

My favourite part of the book is Great Wall of China and Brazil. If you have been to these places featured in the book, you can totally relate to those ramblings because it is a true reflections of the place - for example, public spitting in China, cows on the road in India. Karl turned all these bad experiences into funny situations. And it is so well-described that I can imagine being there. All these ramblings didn't give me a bad impression of the place, but it shows the difference of cultures and lifestyles in other countries. In fact, it instigated me visit the place since I have a glance of the place from Karl's point of view.

This is one of those book that you can't put down until you're finished. When you're done, you wish for more. In fact, I immediately purchased the second book from Karl Pilkington right after I finish the last page. It is funny, delightful, and a new take on traveling. I would say, Karl is idiotically amazing.

This book is also a light reading, which you can bring for traveling or for a weekend read. If you are going to hit the bookstore this weekend, be sure to check out this book. I bought it from Kinokuniya (travel guides section) for only RM46.90. I think it is a pretty good price to pay for such entertaining book. 

Jun 5, 2017

First Timer's Guide to Buying Luxury Bag in Europe

My luxury appetite only involves handbags. I do not spend on other expensive stuff than handbags only. My heart tends to go fragile when I see the beautiful structure, materials (I'm more of a leather person), and colors (though I always buy safe colors like black, nude or brown).

If you're traveling to Europe and want to bring back some handbags, here are some info you can use.

#1 - Which is the country that has cheapest bags?

It depends on a lot of factors:

  • Which is the country of origin for the brand? For example, Chanel is cheaper in Paris. Prada is cheaper in Italy. Burberry is cheaper in England. 
  • Also, you have to take into account of currency exchange rate to be sure of your exact spending. 
  • Where do you buy the item also determine the price? The flagship store will put the price at recommended retail price. And the brand village store will have discounted price. 
  • Whether the item is a new season, past season or limited edition plays an important part of pricing. Limited edition items don't normally come with a discount. Past season may be on sale. 

#2 - How cheap is cheap?

Because it is designer goods, the prices are cheaper in Europe. But not cheap. You are saving on the logistic prices where it gets sent to Malaysia and also some import taxes (go to #3). On a one-to-one comparison, it is still expensive, unless there is a sale (go to #4) and additional discounts (go to #5). Take into the factor that MYR is much weaker than the Euros, this is one of the reasons why the prices here are more expensive. That also weakened our spending power in Europe because the exchange rate is not in our favour.

#3 - Claiming VAT

As a tourist, you are not subjected to the VAT tax of the country. Therefore, remember to claim the VAT tax at the airport before leaving. It has to be done on the last outbound country. At the boutique while purchasing, remember to let the sales person know that you intend to claim the VAT. They will issue a form to you. Bring along the form, the receipt, your passport and the item you bought and present it at the VAT counter. You might not receive the refund immediately. However, it will be remitted into your credit card. Do take into account which company is performing the return. The usual main companies are Global Blue or Travelex. 

Some important thing to keep in mind:

  • Get the VAT form from the boutique or retail store. The store has to stamp on the VAT form and calculate the amount of tax for you.
  • Do not check in your purchase in your check in luggage. Make sure you carry it in your hand.
  • Do not check in the documents in your check in luggage.
  • Allocate a minimum of 30 minutes for the procedure. 
  • Present the form at the counter. Make sure you go to the correct counter - if your refund form is from Global Blue, go to the Global Blue counter. If you can't find the counter, or in a rush, you can post the form to the headquarter from anywhere. I did this, and my refund was remitted after 5 months.
  • Ensure that your credit card is active after a month you submit the VAT claim.

#4 - When is the sale?

In Europe, it is a four season country. The sales happen before the new season starts, before Christmas, on Boxing Day, and before Easter. To get the accurate timing, subscribe to the newsletter online. The store will trigger you when the sales happen.

#5 - Additional discount

Many people don't know that in some stores, they do have additional discounts. The condition of the additional discount can be as simple as downloading their app, subscribing to their newsletter or purchase above a certain amount. On default, the sales persons will not notify you of the additional discount. You have to remember to ask. 

#6 - Book your appointment

If you are sure that you are purchasing something from the flagship store, you can book an appointment at the store one day earlier by giving them a call. This allows you to cut the queue, a personal sales representative will be attending you the entire time. And sometimes, you will be served complimentary champagne and chocolates. 

#7 - What is a flagship store?

A flagship store is a store owned by the brand itself. A flagship store is more than just a retail store. Because it is entirely owned by the brand, they will have some limited edition or rare items. If you are buying one of those rare, it is best to check with the flagship store first. The store will also have all the records of the customers, even internationally. Some flagship store has special display items to feed your artistic needs, cafe and atelier. For example, Hermes Paris flagship store is located at 24 rue du Foubourg Saint-Honore, Louis Vuitton Singapore flagship store is at Bayfront Avenue. 

Have you bought any designer bags in Europe before? Is there anything I missed out? 

I specifically writing this for designer bags and not other designer goods is because I don't buy designer goods in general. I am just a crazy bag lady so it is the bag that I go for. My experience is only on buying bags. If you have any questions regarding designer's bags, you can leave a comment below.