August 30, 2011

Train Travels from Malaysia

When I’ve first set foot in SINGAPORE back in 2008, I knew this is one place that Kim would appreciate. The architecture, the abundance of different cultures co existing in one small area, and the topnotch cleanliness and orderliness of the place. So unlike any other place in Southeast Asia, and this statement is not meant to be offensive in anyway and to any party.

So we’ve finally booked our train tickets from KUALA LUMPUR to Singapore and back. The booking was done online through Malaysian Railway or KTMB’s network HERE. E-booking is fairly straightforward and reservations open 30 days before departure.

At the 30-day mark of our trip though, we still can’t book our ticket since we have to wait for our return dates to open up

Here’s why.

KTMB tickets bought or picked up in Singapore will be charged in Singaporean dollars, while those bought in Malaysia will be charged in Malaysian ringgit at a 1:1 rate. For example, a ticket that costs RM10 in Malaysia will now cost S$10 if bought in Singapore. This also applies to tickets booked from their online ticketing facility or their call centre for trips starting in Singapore. (WIKITRAVEL) So we must book the full round trip starting from KL to avoid paying more than we have to.

SEAT61 has more tips and all the info you need to know about train travels and more.

It’s not really that hard to figure out but our attempt to go around not paying double resulted a bit in jittery nerves. It’s quite nerve racking to be checking the number of available berths for our departure from time to time and see it go down right before our eyes that it’s a relief to have finally secured ours.

Taking the train is quite a non-negotiable deal for me although there are several ways to cross to Singapore from Malaysia. There’s a 5-hour bus ride and a 1-hour plane ride. Traveling on a sleeper train will also get to maximize our days since the transit will be done at night and thus will save us a night’s hotel accommodation.

I have done the 20-hour journey via International Ekspress from Butterworth in Malaysia to Bangkok, THAILAND in 2008 and loved every minute of it. 20 hours on the road may sound hardcore but it was actually a very pleasant and comfortable ride. The trains although rated as second class are safe, clean and air-conditioned. A restroom can be found at the end of each car. A restaurant is also added at some part of the trip.

We left the Butterworth station at 2 PM and arrived in Bangkok at noon the next day. During daytime, I had the spacious seat all to my self beside wide windows where I could watch urban scenes disappear from view and be replaced with expansive rice field paddies that sometimes give way to tall mountains. At night, a steward efficiently turned the seat into sleeping cabins that it’s a full meter wide enclosed in curtains for privacy. I was also provided a pillow and a blanket, both freshly laundered.

I have this rose colored hindsight of that lovely blur of a journey and can't wait to do it again. Let's see how THE 8 HOUR CROSSING TO SINGAPORE WILL COMPARE.

August 24, 2011


I worry about my foot more while on the road rather than the train/bus schedules, budgets and accommodations, I got MJ for that already.

People don’t usually pay attention to their feet unless it’s in pain (or unless your shoe doesn’t match the clothes you are wearing). Well I’m in pain and it’s becoming a problem and it’s called Plantar Fasciitis, an inflammation of the tissue that connects the heel to the toes. Basically, it’s that stubborn heel pain that refuses to go away. It’s excruciating during the first steps in the morning or after walking or standing for a long time.

Plantar Fasciitis is common among people who are always on their feet like athletes, hikers/trekkers and travelers because of the amount of weight that the heel absorbs.

Heel pain is also most likely to occur when you are flat footed and have high arches and walk with excessive/over pronation, are overweight and wear shoes that don't fit well.

But when you’re a lakwatsera like me, you tend to do a lot of walking because that’s what you do when you travel, you walk and walk and you walk some more and it doesn’t help that I was born with a flat foot either. And I admit I’m a bit over weight (diet is not an option) and used to wear slightly bigger shoes so now I suffer a great deal of pain.

There’s only so much you can do to ease the pain, pain relievers and anti inflammatory to reduce swelling, mom’s old method of applying ice also works. Heel cups and shoe inserts designed to cushion the heel helps lessen the pain, foot splints are also effective but are very hard to find.

 left: FUTURO NIGHT SPLINT holds foot at recommended therapeutic angle throughout the night
right: PEDIFIX ARCH BANDAGE gives lift to fallen arches or flat feet and ease heel pain
HEEL CUPS provide cushion and reduce heel pain

The number 1 treatment of course is rest. Cut back on the activities that make my foot hurt, sadly it also means cutting sightseeing short. But there are times that shortening the trip is out of the question, so now I’m always on the lookout for better shoes. It’s become an absolute importance to pick a shoe with good arch support and a cushioned sole.

Getting the right shoe can reduce the amount of stress that is placed on my foot. My doctor strongly recommended Crocs but I went against pulling off Mario Batalli’s look and decided to go get Nikes instead. (No this is not a sponsor post but Nike you're welcome to pay for this space.)

Nike has done comfort down to science. It doesn’t matter if the shoe is intended for running, training, tennis, outdoor - they all have been engineered to be very light and flexible but still have enough cushioning and support, exactly what the doctor prescribed! Plus it comes in cool colors with stylish and slick designs. Gotta love them Nikes.

Nike's footwear finder will help you determine what type of foot arch you have 
and will recommend the right shoe for you:

DISCLAIMER: This post is not meant for you to self medicate.  It is best to consult a physician if you are having problems with your foot.


August 17, 2011

MY PHILIPPINES: Panglao Impressions, Bohol

Panglao Island in Bohol is one of the top tourist destination in the Philippines with its landscape of dramatic cliffs and stretches of white sand beaches set against a crystal clear sea in exhilarating varying shades of blue.

Southwest of it is the well developed Alona Beach. The one and a half kilometer stretch of white sand coast is mushroomed with spas, resorts and dive shops that cater to every budget and more frequented by tourists. Water activities like snorkeling, dolphin watching and island hopping can easily be arranged anywhere in Alona. Just approach any of the multitudes of parked bancas lined on the shore and negotiate on the rates, but chances are, they will approach you first. This is also the jump off point to the Virgin Island and Balicasag Island well known for its marine sanctuary.

Balicasag only has Balicasag Island Dive Resort at the moment if you decide to stay overnight. Swimming in the island can get quite challenging though as the beach has a lot of big and sometimes sharp rocks. Virgin Island on the other hand is perfect for swimming with its flat water and a long stretch of powdery white sand bar.

 arriving at the Virgin Island

 Balicasag Island

The Bohol Bee Farm can also be found on this islanc located in Brgy. Dauis, just a good 20 to 30 minutes from Tagbilaran. Of course the farm houses thousand of bees but it’s not all about honey. The farm resort also offer modestly priced accommodations and several themed restaurants that serve fresh and organic ingredients (cave resto with a swimming pool, bamboo resto and honeycomb resto). And although I’m not a big fan of organic foods I must say I enjoyed sampling their malunggay (Moringa) and ginger flavored ice cream.

To read about Tagbilaran, CLICK HERE

August 11, 2011

Investing on a Good Backpack, TNF Terra 30

Wheeled suitcases can sometimes be a pain in the neck (figuratively and literally). Sure it works great on airports and flat even surfaces but wait till you hit an unpaved road; the wheels start to choke on cracked cement, broken stones and pebbles and it starts to feel like a tug of war between you and your suitcase.  And don’t even try rolling it on sand, it’s just impossible. So good-luck carrying that suitcase with one arm.

Backpacks on the other hand even when full and heavy, once thrown in your back with its proper support straps and pads can easily get comfortable and feel light. It’s also much more convenient when you’re on a constant move or always in transit, plus of course its nice to have both your hands free. You just have to invest in a good one, and that’s exactly what I did.

I’ve been advised by Mj that my backpack should only be about 25% of my body weight. Now I’m not about to tell you how much I weigh but I did get The North Face Terra 30, the smallest of the Terra series. I’m thinking small bag equals lesser weight plus it’s the cheapest among the bunch so picking it was a no brainer.

The North Face Terra 30 is a top-loading pack and is made of a rip-stop nylon - meaning, its supposed to be technically reinforced to withstand tearing and ripping. What I love about this pack is that the shoulder and waist straps are well padded; the adjustable waist straps in particular are thickly padded at the same time soft making it comfortable. Comfort means padding!

The pack also has an adjustable sternum strap, stretch woven side pockets, side compression straps, gear/tool loops, a sleeping bag compartment with a trampoline divider which can also double as a shoe compartment and it is hydration compatible. It doesn’t come with a rain cover but the inner material seems to be water repellent.

The Terra 30 utilizes a Verti-cool back panel system; there’s a mesh panel in between the 2 back pads allowing better air circulation so that you don’t sweat as much. I also like how they covered the haul handle with rubber, it doesn’t hurt that much anymore when you have to pull your pack from the airports baggage conveyor belt using the handle.

verti-cool back panel
rubber coated handle
My only problem with the pack is there is no locking mechanism, you can’t put a padlock on the main compartment because it doesn’t have any zippers at all, it only has a drawstring that keeps your stuff from falling out and a top cover with a plastic buckle. Basically a sack with a lid. So what I do is I secure it using a nylon wire strap, tie it in between those little holes in the plastic buckle thus preventing the buckle from being opened. You can also use cable ties from Samsonite or Pacsafe as long as it fits in those tiny little holes.

main compartment draw string cover
used a nylon wire strap for the main compartment's lid to keep it closed, you can also use cable wires from pacsafe
The Terra 30 proved to be a good investment (so far, as far as Cebu-Moalboal and Iloilo-Guimaras-Iloilo- Boracay goes). It just takes time getting used to a top-loading pack.  Or maybe I should also consider getting a panel-loading backpack like the Solaris 40 (if only it weren't too darn expensive).


August 9, 2011

MY PHILIPPINES: Kadayawan Fiesta at the Apo View 2011

Now on its 4th year, the Apo View Hotel celebrates the Kadayawan Fiesta 2011. Topping their last year’s one week celebration, they now extended it into 2 full weeks to fully showcase Davao and its neighboring regions rich and diverse culture.

From August 8-21, you can catch exhibits by no less than the award winning T’boli artist Ronald Tamfalan, Davao’s homegrown fashion designers with their ethnic inspired fashion creations, spectacular fire dancing from the Apo Duwaling group and dance and enjoy the music of the Kaagan Dance Theatre Collective Inc. showcasing the ritual dances of the Davao tribe.

Feast on Davao’s indigenous tribe’s as well as international cuisine at the Entree Restaurant while enjoying an hour of cultural presentations or subdued piano accompanied muisc. Tasty and delightful delicacies can be had at the hotels Kadayawan Garden Bazaar.

You can also shop for tribal products and locally designed but with world class quality jewelries.

The best part about Kadayawan Fiesta at the Apo View is, it's open to all and is not exclusive to hotel guests. 

August 3, 2011

MY PHILIPPINES: Zoobic Safari, Subic

Zoobic Safari probably is the closest thing I could ever get to wildlife photography. And although it doesn’t nearly count as “wildlife” because most wild animals are already either tamed or caged, one can’t help but feel a little Nat Geo-ish.

Visitors are assigned a tour guide per group which will accompany you all throughout the safari. First stop is the Zoobic Park - a petting zoo and observation area where some animals are caged and chained while other more domesticated species roam freely among the guests.

There’s also the Rodent World, Croco Loco, the Serpentarium where they keep all the cold-blooded animals and the Aetas' Trail where they get to show off their hunting and monkey dancing skills which I have to admit, is quite entertaining.

The tour includes a tram ride that will take you to the Animal Moozeum and the Tiger Safari where you can have close encounter with fully grown Siberian Tigers as you transfer into a reinforced wire meshed- jeep while the safari guide feeds the over grown cats with chicken.

Also part of the tour is a drive to the Savannah, a sanctuary for exotic animals like wild boars, potbelly pigs and wild ostriches, these ostriches even run along your car or cross the road as you drive by.

TIP: The tour takes 4 long hours so be sure to wear comfortable breathable clothes. Tickets are at Php449/adult.

HOW TO GET THERE: Zoobic Safari is located in Subic Bay Freeport Zone, if travelling via private car, take the NLEX and take the exit after DAU going to SCTEX then take the Tipo-Subic Expressway to go to Subic Bay Freeport Zone, when you get there, ask for a map of the Freeport Zone, the park shouldn’t be difficult to find. If travelling by bus, take Victory Liner, they have terminals in Pasay, Caloocan, Sampaloc and Cubao, get off at the Olongapo Terminal and take the jeepney to SBMA, from there hire a cab to the park, cab fares are a bit expensive in Subic so don’t be surprised.

ADDRESS: Zoobic Safari, Tiger Amusement Park
Wildlife adventure park – Group 1, Ilanin Forest
Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Zambales, Philippines 222

Subic Office:
Telefax: (+6347) 252-2272; (+63) 929-7072222

Makati Office
Tel: (+632) 895-7142; 898-3695; 899-9824; 899-9595
Mobile: (+63) 917-8351111
Fax: (+632) 899-9829

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