Monday 27 April 2015

Batu, Indonesia: Gone Paragliding!

Indonesia has become my favourite South East Asia country after several trips there recently. It's so close to Singapore and so diverse! Mountains, beaches, volcanoes, history, city life... you name it, Indonesia has it!

On my first trip to Indonesia, we touched down in Surabaya but instead of staying in Surabaya, we headed straight to Batu. We had to take a bus to the bus station from the airport then a bus to Malang before a taxi to our accommodation in Batu. So we basically spent the whole day travelling. Batu is a small town located to the South of Surabaya. It's known as a vacation city and it reminded us a lot of Genting. We decided to stay in Batu instead of Surabaya was because we wanted to get away from the big city and also because there's paragliding there!

We checked into our dorm in a villa, our jaws dropped at how beautiful our accommodation was given that it was really cheap. It looked more like a villa than a dorm. After a good night's sleep and a hilarious conversation with the hotel staff using Google Translate, we were off for paragliding!

We were drive up a winding road until we reached the top of a hill. We got our gears and waited for our turn. There was nothing that I had to do, I just had to sit back and let the instructor do all the work. It was SUPER fun and not scary at all! There's no sudden drop but you'll experience a lift when you 'jump' off the cliff. Then you float all the way down with a gorgeous view right in front of you.

Batu is also famous for her apples so we visited an apple and guava farm. We picked our own fruits and had apple fried rice at the farm. The apples were organically grown so they weren't too big. We also visited a pasar malam (night market) where there were a lot of roadside game stalls, ate some food at an organic farm fair and popped by a small amusement park.

The next day, we took the local van-bus back to Malang. We had to change a grand total of 4 different coloured van-buses before we reached the Malang bus interchange where we took the taxi the day before. The colours represent different routes so we asked around for directions using our trusty Google Translate again. :D Then we took a super long bus ride to Probolinggo where we hired a taxi/van up to our accommodation near Mount Bromo. I'll save that for another post. Till then!

Sunday 12 April 2015

Koh Samui, Thailand II: 6 things to do in Koh Samui

1) Visit Hin Yai and Hin Ta

Translated to grandmother and grandfather rocks.The story was that grandfather was a fisherman and one day he went out to fish but never returned, so grandmother sat on the rocks and waited for him. With such a touching story behind, I thought the rocks were going to be shaped like an old couple or something. But... it was a lot more erm graphic.


I didn't take photos of the grandmother rock so I will leave that to your imagination hahaha. Or you can see it for yourself when you're there! The view on the other side was really nice though. The water was really clear and I could even see fishes swimming in the water. It's a pity the sky was a bit overcast so the photos didn't turn out as pretty.

2) Visit Na Muang Waterfall

Or ‘Purple Waterfalls’ which are so named because of the striking purple shade of their rock faces. There are other waterfalls to visit on Koh Samui, but these are considered to be among the most scenic. You can swim in the pool underneath the waterfall and there's an elephant safari nearby where you can get a ride through the jungle.

3) Grab lunch at THINK retro cafe

THINK retro cafe is made up of metal containers, old tires and other recycled materials. I LOVE the concept and it just makes all the sense in the world to locate it next to the beach somehow. The food there is fantastic too! Everything was fresh and delectable. You can go for a swim while waiting for your food to arrive. If I ever opens a restaurant, I want to set up one like this!

4) Visit a coconut farm

Koh Samui is synonymous with coconut trees - there are literally plantations all over the island. Locals have trained monkeys to climb up coconut trees to pick the coconuts. These monkeys are like their pets so just like you train your dog to fetch the newspaper, they train monkeys to pick coconuts. This baby monkey in the picture below is super naughty! It leapt up and kicked my friend's butt! The owner demonstrated how they train the youngsters, they hold on to a coconut and the monkeys will climb up and twist and turn the coconut until it falls to the ground. I gave it a try holding the coconut! First time having a dangling monkey on my arm haha.

5) Go shopping at Fisherman's Village

The Fisherman’s Village is located near a tranquil beach with cosy restaurants and quaint little shops. It's like a beautiful little town in a Disney movie, very adorable. We enjoyed its quietness in the late afternoon and then settled for a drink at an Irish Pub while looking out into the sea.

6) Get a gorgeous tan or enjoy a massage or do both!

Since the sun was playing hide and seek behind the clouds, we treated ourselves to a massage at Renaissance Koh Samui which we desperately needed. It felt really good to feel the tension in your body leave you. I can do this everyday!


The above itinerary was decided for us by the Renaissance Navigator which is a customizable service by Renaissance for its guests. They have itineraries for families, couples, you name it, they plan it! You get a private van (up to 5 people) and WiFi on the go. It's extremely convenient and flexible since you can stop anywhere you wish to and it's cheaper than if you book with outside tours.

And if you're all itching to go but want to monitor the prices first, the best way to do this is to sign up for the Price Alert on skyscanner. That's what I do for trips I plan a few months ahead. You'll get an email notification telling you if the price went up or down so you can decide when to purchase your ticket. Little tricks like this help you to save money for well, more trips! ;)

This trip was made possible by the lovely people of skyscanner, Koh Samui Renaissance and Bangkok Airways.  

Saturday 4 April 2015

Koh Samui, Thailand I: Weekends should all be like this

I rarely do short weekend trips but I had an amazing one recently thanks to skyscanner, Koh Samui Renaissance and Bangkok Airways. Rushed to the airport one Friday evening to catch my 8.10 p.m. flight. I fell asleep almost immediately after we took off. I remember hearing the air steward going "Chicken or fish?" while I was in a deep slumber. It helped that I had the whole row to myself. :p The air stewardess covered me with a blanket halfway through my sleep and I woke up long enough to smile and say thank you. When I arrived at Koh Samui airport, I was pleasantly surprised by how adorable the airport looked! We took a tram to the arrival gate that was shaped like a hut. I felt as if I've landed directly in a resort! After clearing the customs, I panicked when I couldn't find my pickup. There are TWO pickup points at the airport. One nearer to the gate with the hotel counters and another which is further away, follow the "limousine" sign to get there. After a 20 minutes drive, I arrived at Koh Samui Renaissance.

We were warmly received by the staff and shown to our rooms. My fatigue was immediately blown away by the splendour of my room.

Yes the room came with a balcony and a jacuzzi. ;D

We had breakfast, lunch and dinner at the hotel and the food was amazing. We were so well fed that our tummies did not have a chance to rest. There was fresh juice available upon request and we tried this mix of carrot and ginger that the chef recommended.

We had lunch at Banana Leaf restaurant again where we had breakfast. We shared a seared tuna salad which was wonderfully done. My mushroom soup was delicious as well, I love a good soup. I had salmon for my main course, I was torn between this and Ravioli. Jaclynn got the latter and I took a bite, it was super good too. Highly recommended. Renewed love for Italian food!

We had lobster with cheese for dinner at TawaNN restaurant and it was so fresh and juicy! We were so happily stuffed. The calamari and crab cakes were fantastic too, in fact we had two servings of calamari. :p I must say the food at Renaissance was absolutely perfect, there was nothing I could pick on.


Don't you wish your weekend was relaxing like mine? Well, you can do the same! Koh Samui is less than 2 hours away by direct flight and with Bangkok Airways' frequent direct flights there, you have lots of chance to escape to this beautiful island. You don't even have to apply for leave. The departure on Friday night (8.10 p.m.) and return on Sunday afternoon (4.10 p.m.) is perfect for a weekend getaway.

With so many (long) weekends to choose from, how do you decide which weekend is the best to jet off? You can use skyscanner to help you. Enter Koh Samui in the search bar and instead of entering specific dates, select 'whole month' or 'in a week' or even 'in a year'. Skyscanner will help you scan through all the available flights and you can see which days are cheaper for flying. What's best is that you don't have to pay anything for this awesome service! Skyscanner is entirely free. It finds you all the options based on your search at no extra cost, you are directly linked to the airline or travel agent so you get the cheapest flights on offer. This is yet another reason why I always use skyscanner to help me save bucks while travelling.

All ready for a weekend in Koh Samui? Look out for the next post on what to do on this beautiful island. :)

This trip was made possible by the lovely people of skyscanner, Koh Samui Renaissance and Bangkok Airways