29 December 2010

2010 - Keep Traveling

One good thing of updating blog/journal regularly, at least once a month, is I can read and look back on what I've been up to in the past year. This year I was wandering like crazy. Not necessary traveling to oversea, but also to places in Singapore where I haven't been yet (quite difficult tho to find new place in this teeny weeny country).

When nobody wanted to go, I kept going, solo-backpacking it was. When I didn't like my traveling partners, I kept going. When no other girls in the group, I kept going (the Boy was quite angry about this). When the works in the office were hectic, sorry Boss, I kept going. When my Dad didn't approve my next trip plan, what the heck, I kept going.

My family do not like going out that much. Holiday means staying at home lazily, watching tv and sleeping whole day. Sounds 'fun', huh? I could not do much other than obeying this rule since I did not have enough money to go around by myself. The young-me also did not have many friends to go out, so I was left at home. Now I have my own money, I do not live with my parents anymore, I am free, and I have a bunch of friends. Sometimes I did not tell my Dad that I was going somewhere, I was afraid he would be angry and try to stop me, so I always told him after I finished traveling. I think somehow this made him change. He does not forbid me traveling anymore, in that way I won't be afraid to tell him about my upcoming trip.

But I just realized what he was trying to say to me was quite true. He wants me to not travel too much, in order to save money. He wants me to see traveling as learning new things in other countries, not only for having fun nor collecting stamps. Instead of traveling to near countries in 2-3 days every month, he suggested to go to a faraway big country once a year.

Now I start thinking about it.

One of my resolutions this year was traveling around South East Asia. I am really keen about that, and I am quite satisfied with my journeys. I haven't finished them all, like Laos and Philippines (psst I cannot write "Philippines" without checking it to dictionary first), but I feel enough. I set too many small resolutions for this year, but only 5 out of 14 are achieved. So for next year I just want to set one goal, but SUPER BIG. I hope it will determine my future and passion, because I'm tired of feeling "what am I doing in my life?"

Meanwhile, I will be still wandering around. It is not about completing the checklist anymore, it will be more about the journey.
“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”

28 December 2010

Dealing with Visa

Since I only have traveled to neighbor countries, I rarely needed to apply for visa. Except twice, when I went to Australia and Cambodia (I thought we're friends, Cambodia!). But after this agreement with our handsome foreign minister, Indonesia will be exempted from Cambodia Visa, hooray! You may need to check to the embassy for more details.

Cambodia has a system called e-Visa to apply the visa online. I applied it via this website which cost US$25 (US$20 + US$5 processing charge) per person. Not long time after submitting the application, I found this website saying that the site where I applied for visa was a scam. But this one only charges US$10 per person, quite strange because the normal price should be US$20. I didn't know which one was right.

On the next day my visa arrived, less than 12 hours! They sent it via email as JPG file. I had to print 2 copies and bring them for entering and departing Cambodia. No further issue when I arrived there and showed this print-out, so we can conclude that this website is not a scam, right?

E-Visa is only valid at 5 ports of Cambodia entry:
  • Phnom Penh International Airport
  • Siem Reap International Airport
  • Cham Yeam (Koh Kong) - Thailand Border
  • Poi Pet (Banteay Meanchey) - Thailand Border
  • Bavet (Svay Rieng) - Vietnam Border
So when I booked the bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap, I made sure that it passed through Bavet border.

If you don't want to pay extra US$5, you can get the visa by visiting the embassy directly in your country or by visa on arrival. Visa on arrival is a good choice for those who are entering Cambodia via international airports with no limited time (possibly long queue lines). While for land traveling, there are many scam reports upon the borders where the staff asked you for more money (up to US$30), so better to have the visa already before traveling.

Now, my visa to Australia. On my first visit to Australian High Commission in Singapore, I had all the documents but I still got rejected, because my Singapore Employment Pass (EP) would be expired very near to my traveling dates. I traveled on 19-28 November 2010, while my EP expired on 2 December 2010. I said that my company would extent my pass for sure, but the lady who served me did not accept that statement, she wanted me to have my new EP first before applying Australian visa.

I was quite apprehensive. My company HR said we could not renew employee's EP until we got the letter from Ministry of Manpower which usually arrived 1 month before EP expired. After that, there will be few weeks to process the application, how could I get new EP AND Australian visa before November 19th?!

Two days after my first visit, I came back again to Australian High Commission, bringing the same documents. This time I was served by another lady. She scanned through my documents (while I was silently praying hard in my heart), asked me to pay S$142 by credit card (so expensive! Well, everything in Australia is expensive), asked me to sit for a while... 5 minutes later, voila, my passport was stamped with the visa!! Imagine my hands were shaking when I received it. The lady was so generous, she did not question my EP at all. I even got 1 year period for multiple entries, haha I'm happy! So sometimes it can also depend on your luck. And you know what, my new EP was finally issued on November 16th. How troublesome it was if I needed to wait until my new EP came up.

Okay, that was my story in dealing with tourist visa.

16 December 2010

Tinkerbell Wannabe

My company's Dinner and Dance (DnD) this year was held last week in one of ballrooms in Resort World Sentosa. As committee, we chose that place because it was quite new in Singapore therefore could bring more enthusiasm for people to come. DnD is an annual event from companies to unite their employees together and celebrate what has been achieved during a year... in summary: free deluxe dining foods haha! I think it is only common in Singapore. My company's branches in other countries like China and France, do not have this event. Or maybe I just don't know it.

Including this year, I have been attending DnD party 3 times. First time was in December 2008 when I just joined the company. Theme of the party that time was MTV Night, everything about music. But I did not dress up anything since I was newbie and I still had no idea what it was all about. The girls all dressed up so pretty in a night gown, I felt not confident at all! But never mind, I just wanted to enjoy the foods and the show. I was new in town, everything still looked amazing to me.

But then something happened, MC called employees who just joined company less than 2 weeks to come upstage. My friends pushed me, so yeah, I went upstage not knowing what would happen to me (actually I hoped I could get some prize). There were about 5 people on stage, our eyes were closed by a cover. DJ was playing some kinds of songs, and we were supposed to dance according to the song: Indian, 80s, Rock, RnB, Dangdut (seriously they played Kopi Dangdut!), Pop, Arabian..... phewww finally the music stopped! MC released my eye-cover and ta da..... I was alone on the stage! Nobody's around anymore, all people were laughing and clapping their hands looking at me, even the VIP guests (directors) sitting in the fronts were giving me standing ovation. Apparently while we're dancing, MC released one by one until the best dancer staying alone! This is a picture of one of my rival dancers.

Last year DnD's theme was 80's and not too memorable. This year we had Movie Star theme! Since 2 months ago I had planned to come as, of courseHermione Granger.

Until 3 days before the day, I changed my mind. I realized the girls would come all pretty, glamorous and sexy, while my costume would be too boring, dark and plain. I doubt people would recognize it as Hermione Granger anyway, they would say: "are you dressed up?"

So 3 days before DnD, I went with some friends walking around Bugis looking for costume rental shop. We found one in Iluma: Otaku House. They have interesting stuff but only related to Japanese characters which are not my cup of tea. On the way home to MRT, I found a simple green dress in a woman clothing shop. The dress made me think of Tinkerbell, so I bought it (SALE anyway!). On the next day after work, I and a friend went to No 1 Costume Costume shop which was not in the middle of city, was located far from my office and home, but was selling fairy wings I needed for Tinkerbell. Blimey, I did not regret at all for going there, they had GREAT collections of costume to rent and buy! I could spend many hours trying the clothes and hats, but they're closed at 8 PM. Quite expensive tho, but it is the most complete costume shop in Singapore. I heard from a friend, there are other good costume shops also in Far East Plaza Orchard which are more convenient to go. Maybe next time.

The next night, I did some preparations for the dress, the wand (I used my Voldemort wand haha, sorry Voldie!) and the whole looks for the next day event. Tadaa... I am Tinkerbell!

There were a lot of people dressed up as well!

I was chosen as 5 best female dresses. Now I am a little bit famous at office. Yesterday when I passed by some guy I didn't know, he said: "hi Tinker!"

15 December 2010

Some Things are Better Unplanned

I really like this traveling article, especially in the part: Most of your best memories will come from unplanned things.

When I and some friends went to Bintan last month for one night, we really had it spontaneously. Accommodation and ferry bookings, even how many exact people coming, were finalized only two days before the trip. And activities to do in Bintan? We asked to the hotel staff once we arrived there! Nonetheless, that was one of the most fun trips I ever had, thanks to the awesome traveling partners!

In other occasions, especially for far and long trips such as Australia, I prefer to plan them carefully and details. So I can be a spontaneous traveler, and also an organized traveler, depends on the needs haha. I used this helpful web-tool to create my itinerary. But... of course, things do not always work as we planned.

We arrived at Melbourne in the afternoon, planning to go directly to Phillip Island to catch little fairy penguins on sunset. But the car we rented did not come along with GPS. The car rental staff said they ran out of GPS for that day, but we could come to the office the next day to get GPS for other 2 days (we rented car for 3 days). No one has been to Melbourne before, we were strangers in a strange place, we drove around based on a confusing map book... and we got lost. From airport to our hotel in St Kilda supposed to be only 30 minutes, but we reached there in 2 hours. Hell yeah! There was not enough time anymore to catch the penguins.

On the first day of our trip we already missed a plan in the itinerary. There was no plan B. Finally we decided to go to St Kilda beach nearby, that was not in our itinerary at all. Since we were not in a rush anymore, so I sat back and enjoyed the view. Oh my, there were no high apartment buildings like here in Singapore, the houses were beautiful and really homey, flowers and trees were blooming nicely, the environment was quiet, safe and friendly. That's when I started to fall in love with Melbourne (see previous post? The picture was taken in St Kilda beach). I do not regret at all for skipping Phillip Island (even though I will visit it if I go to Melbourne again someday) and seeing this beautiful part of Melbourne.

Other unplanned things happened in our last days in Sydney. We had gone to most of places and attractions, until we did not know where to go anymore. Itinerary was finished! But I really enjoyed our spontaneous activities below:
  • On Friday afternoon, Indi (a friend who lives there) told us about The Rock's Market. It's a bazaar of foods, clothes and some stuff. So we went there to catch the crowd. After few days of having unhealthy plain western foods (foods there are so expensive!!), this market with many delicious Japanese and Arabian foods was heaven! There were also some unique desserts
  • On Friday night, we met up and chit-chatted with Indi, who brought us to eat at Harry's, a famous Australian meat pie, and to go around the happening places in town
  • On Saturday night, we met up with new people, a friend's cousin and her friends, who brought us to eat Kangaroo and Emu meat! And then we walked around Sydney Harbour again, and realized we had not taken Opera House picture at night. Yay, and now our journey is complete haha!
  • On Sunday morning, we visited Hogwarts a.k.a Sydney University! This was not in our plan before, but I am sooooo happy we could make it.

So now I have learnt a lot. When things go out of plan, do not feel angry and disappointed, because maybe the journey is about to begin.

04 December 2010

I Left My Heart There

Some places make me want to come back.
Some places are enough to be visited once.
Some places are really not recommended.
But this is the first place I fall in love with.