05 May 2010

Closing down

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Well in my case, it's not a road to hell that's stopping me from continuing this blog, but rather the road to Europe.  Work is transferring me and as a result, I won't be traveling much around Asia, and hopefully much anywhere!

Thank you for following me and for reading my random posts and hopefully in the not-too-distant future, I'll be able to start blogging details of a hobby rather than salvaged moments from work trips.  If anyone tells you that they enjoy traveling for their job, they have lovely colleagues and great deal of luck.  Most trips see you inside a foreign airport, a chain hotel and the inside of an office and away from loved ones.

I hope your trips are like mine--the former rather than the latter.

And the reason for leaving?  I'm back off home to Blighty!  Wish me luck.

Au revoir!

P.S. For some unknown reason, I still keep getting visitors to this site.  Thank you Sweets!  So in an attempt to stay in touch with you all, please see my blog Entertain Easily.  It's quite different, but shows the change in my life from traveling constantly to being closer to my family, old friends (tenure over age) and buying a house in which I can host happily!

20 April 2010

Ash clouds and chaos

As reports that the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption is strengthening and throwing more ash into the air, I wondered what travel tips have been published to help troubled travelers.

In doing so, I came across the Wikipedia page about the air travel disruption that is looking to summarize what's happening where. V. useful. I did find it worrying though that the page had the year in its title. When World War I was taking place, it was called The Great War to End All Wars. Patently the original page developer believes that this scene is all set to be reenacted sometime in the future...

I also came across the Lonely Planet article that gives tongue in cheek advice to those in one of three situations: stuck in Europe, stuck at home waiting to go to (or through) Europe or (worst of all) stuck in an airport/transit hub.

The sad thing out of all of this have been the hotel chains that are taking advantage of people's plights...

Quelle Mauvais Voyage!

Travel Tip: Car pooling has suddenly become popular and sites like Hitchhikers, LiftShare, RoadSharing and Sharling have all taken off as flights haven't. And if you need a room? Try CouchSurfing or The Hospitality Club. Good luck!

19 April 2010

Tailored for Trendy Travel

It must be difficult for blokes. For those not of Italian or DACH* extraction, a man-bag just looks odd. But what do you do with all that paraphernalia pertaining to plane journeys?

Shanghai Tang has finally come out with what I think IS a cool solution. Though I had to check it out in the store given the teenage model they chose for the picture does NOT make it look cool.

Bon Voyage!

Travel Tip: I always have US$100 in my travel wallet, with half of it in ten and five dollar bills. While I hate to admit it, the currency is recognized instantly and has gotten me out of a couple of tricky situations.

* Germany, Austria & Switzerland

15 April 2010

Sydney's Surry Hills

It was actually a nasty second week in April weather-wise, but Sydney was still such a lovely city to visit.

So much more laid-back than pretty much all of Asia, it was a welcome relief to my stressed soul. And while work occupied my days, I was able to catch up with a couple of mates for dinner and enjoy some luscious, modern Ozzie fusion food while the rain came down. With work over, I headed over to Surry Hills for some retail therapy!

Located to the south-east of the CBD*, the inner-city suburb is a mixture of residential, commercial and light industrial areas. However, as it remains Sydney's main centre for fashion wholesale, it also attracts a number of boutiques that sell unique homeware.

My favourite shops were Planet Commonwealth (who gave me the map/address sheet below to help me navigate around the area), Koskela and Shelf/Life.

click here to open a larger versionclick here to open a larger version
One of the gorgeous goodies I picked up was a Tara Badcock purse with a metallic green leather backing and an embroidered Red Necked Stint on the silk cover.

Like it? If yes, drool over more of her work on her blog and flickr photostream.

I also bought a cool pair of linen teatowels by Me and Amber.

But my cutest purchase (which I'm gifting) was a rabbit vase by Perch.

Not on the map, but definitely worth a visit, is Object on Bourke Street, the next street up Albion Street from Crown Street.

Bon Voyage!

Travel Tip: When applying for a visa for Australia, simply log on to the Government website to apply for an electronic visa. Their AU$20 free will be much cheaper than any you'll pay your travel agent.

* central business district

12 April 2010

Caring for Cufflinks & Earrings

If you only buy one of my Monday Must-Haves, it should be this week's recommendation.

Not much survives living in the bottom of my handbag pretty much permanently. But the Giorgio Fedon 1919 Patent Eco-leather Mini Case has!

Giorgio Fedon started his company making his now-world-renowned glasses cases near Treviso in 1919, and today the company is a leading brand with some truly beautiful travel accessories. Not only do these marvelous little boxes have an exterior that seems to shrug off dirt and stay looking lovely (well it did before one of my kitties savagely clawed it), the strong hinges keep all the contents inside the case too.

These fab. little cases come in a huge range of colours and now patterned ones are starting to appear.

Bon Voyage!

Travel Tip: I have a really small felt pouch into which I slip my pearl earrings before I put them in the case. While they won't get crushed because the cases are hard, it does provide peace of mind that over time something won't gouge a chunk out of them.

05 April 2010

Macanese Meals

Three meals in the ex-colony of Macau at three of my favourite haunts.

Friday night saw us meet up with friends (who were also over for the weekend) and a trip to Fernando's.

A very chilled, relaxing evening was had by all before we rolled out of there stuffed full from BBQ meats, prawns and sangria. Their basic salad and roast chicken in particular are so good.

Next day and the next meal was lunch at the Pousada de Sao Tiago.

Before its renovation, the Pousada de Sao Tiago was a bit run-down. Now, with a designer decorated interior, it's definitely high-up on my list of places to visit, though be warned that the service can be a bit hit-and-miss. The menu's also been updated to include a couple of nice salads, perfect for lunch as a side to their Caldo Verde (cabbage and potato soup), which just tastes better and better every time I go!

But if you don't want to eat there, it's still worth a visit even if it's just for a drink on the terrace as the hotel is an old garrison that is cut into the hillside and has 200 year old trees twisting around the old fortifications. It also has a v. pretty little chapel dedicated to St. James.

Last but not least was dinner at the Clube Militar. This officers' dining club was established in 1870 and remains a private members' club today. However, several years ago now, the club opened the doors of its dining room to the general public.

While there's a strict dress code (no shorts/sneakers/thongs etc.), it's not stuffy and the hard wood floor, palms, tall windows and gently whirling ceiling fans hark back to an era long gone. Top of the menu for me are the clams, steak with Roquefort sauce and (of course) the Caldo Verde. Just don't choose the garlic mushrooms as they're made with Chinese mushrooms and really aren't good!

The addresses are:

Restaurante Fernando
9 Praia de Hac Sa
Coloane Island, Macau
T +853 2888 2264

Pousada de Sao Tiago (also listed as the Sao Tiago de Barra)
Avenida Da Republica
Fortaleza De Sao Tiago Da Barra
T +853 2837 8111

Clube Militar de Macau
975 Avenida da Praia Grande
T +853 2871 4000

Bon Voyage!

Travel Tip: Maps of Macau are available from any hotel concierge, but make sure that you get one with a list of the restaurants in English and Chinese. Most taxi drivers don't speak a lot of English and (as with much of Asia), do not show them the map itself. Much easier!

04 April 2010

Easter Break

Hong Kongers enjoy a curious mix of public holidays and this last weekend was a prime example. Good Friday and Easter Monday were both public holidays, with Easter Monday this year clashing with Ching Ming (one of the two grave-sweeping days for the Chinese), which meant Tuesday is a day off!

Not really wanting to get on a plane, my hubby and I headed to Macau, the ex-Portuguese territory on the other side of the Pearl River Delta from Hong Kong and just one hour away by hovercraft.

Taking advantage of a great package, which included the room at the Venetian, breakfast, ferry tickets, MOP500 worth of vouchers, a 45min spa treatment, a welcome drink at Boca, and a VIP shopping card, we had a really great three day break.

While hotels on top of casinos in general are not fabulous, I do like The Venetian given it's just so gloriously tacky! Very large rooms, a huge range of dining options, shows and a good number of shops in the canal labyrinth. What more could a girl ask for?

Bon Voyage!

Travel Tip: Hong Kong permanent residents have always only needed to use their HK identity cards to get into Macau. Now we don't even need to fill in an immigration form! The officer just swipes your card and hands you a printed slip that summarizes the details of your tourist visa.

24 March 2010

Travel Apps

I am a big Apple fan and have proudly been part of a Mac family for five years now.

However, bewildered by the plethora of applications (apps) for my iPhone, I'd only downloaded a couple. But then I came across the site AppShopper and I haven't looked back! As a result, I have now been very happily downloaded a whole load of travel-related apps all designed to make my trips easier or just more pleasurable!

Too much still? Another site to try is the App of the Day one. Simply type in your email address and have them email you their choice on a daily basis.

Bon Voyage!

Travel Tip: My favourite app at the moment is the CX one. Okay, so it's not everyone's airline of choice, but the city guides are great and they even feature suggestions from Luxe!

17 March 2010

17 things that niggle

While the article's a bit old now, the 17 worst indignities that you suffer on a plane listed by CNNGo are still very valid. Love the graphic from the article!

Bon Voyage!

Travel Tip: If you are stuck next to someone that is seriously overweight, complain to the stewardess after the airplane has taken off and away from your seat. Be polite and apologetic to the woman, and you may even get an upgrade if the flight's relatively full. Resist the urge to make loud comments about some people being forced to buy two seats.

15 March 2010

Crazy About My Kindle

I read a lot. My hubby says that I don't read, I skim. But either way I get through a lot of books. Typically I can get through up to four books on a five-day business trip. Together with a couple of my favourite magazines, the weight all adds up.

After a trek through Bangkok airport while in transit a couple of weeks ago, I decided that the welt in my shoulder was telling me something. So I weighed the books when I got home.

The stack came in at 7 lbs, 14½ ounces!!

I'd heard a lot about the Kindle, but was unsure whether to buy one. But this experience encouraged me to take the plunge and order one online.

When I got it, I loved it immediately. And encourage everyone who reads a lot to get one. It's so easy to read (have tested it in direct sunlight too), but best of all because it stores up to 1,500 books, you can keep all your old favourites with you. I immediately downloaded a book that includes some poetry I like, some Jane Austen and a couple of my other 'comfort reads'. The chance to download books on-the-go too is great. Instant access to new books when you read that rave review.

My only disappointments are that Katherine by Anya Seton isn't available (at all) and that Georgette Heyer's Regency romances are only available to U.S. residents. Amazon's advice? Write to the author to encourage her to speak to her publisher about publication rights. I didn't get a reply when I pointed out she's dead. Grrrr...

But these are only minor niggles given the access and ability to store all those books via a cool gadget that slots easily into my handbag, and weighs in at only 10.2 ounces.

Bon Voyage!

Travel Tip: Before setting out, download some of your favourite books from some of the freebie sites that have e-books, such as manybooks,net or freekindlebooks.org.

06 March 2010

Up in the Air

Finally got around to seeing this. And there were more than a couple of moments (e.g. the quip about the HiltonHonors priority line) that resonated. Loved the film, but am so so grateful that I have my hubby and am not walking into a shell of a home à la Ryan Bingham.

Bon Voyage!

Travel Tip: Click through to RyansRulesofTravel.com to see the tips imparted in the film and add your own. A lot of the ones added by the general public are rubbish, but some are quite useful. My fav. was that at the TSA line, you should put your belongings on the conveyor belt in the following order: jacket, shoes, laptop, purse, carry on bag. You can put your jacket and shoes on while your purse and bag are being scanned (and rescanned). Now why didn't I think of that before?

03 March 2010

No cool colleagues?

This week's web recommendation is not really Asia-friendly given that none of the cities covered by the online guides are those in my part of the world. Also, the selection is rather limited with just Amsterdam, Antwerp (Belgium), Valencia (Spain), Vienna and Zurich featured.

However, as I was going to be in Amsterdam for a conference, I logged-on to the Cool Capitals site to get some tips ahead of my trip.

While the site is nicely designed, it needs more content beyond the headline attractions of the city such as the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum, and while I've been told that I've only scratched the surface of the city's culture, my own knowledge over-and-above the site through the help of cool colleagues means it definitely needs to be beefed up.

However in the absence of cool colleagues, it did has some nice suggestions.

For instance, it included details of one of my favourite areas in Amsterdam: ‘De negen Straatjes’ (or the Nine Little Streets). Located between the Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht, the area is full of one-of-a-kind shops, tea rooms and galleries, and is great place to start to search for unique gifts and products.

And you have to go there yourself as no one ever seems to know which of the nine streets (Reestraat, Hartenstraat, Gast-Huismolensteeg, Berenstraat, Wolvenstraat, Oude Spiegelstraat, Runstraat, Huidenstraat and Wijde Heisteeg) is home to their favourite shop!

Bon Voyage!

Travel Tip: Arrive on time for your flight out of Amsterdam's Schiphol airport and visit the Rijksmuseum annex in the terminal after customs. Open from 7 a.m. till 8 p.m., admission is free and it's well worth a visit.

27 February 2010

Finally...for females

Just read the news that The Imperial Hotel in Delhi has launched its Eliza programme with rooms designed especially for the “single lady traveller”.

Apparently there are 12 rooms all located off one corridor of the hotel that are equipped with CCTV and room door cameras.

In-room facilities have been tailored as well to include a manicure set, women’s magazines, floral arrangements and some “special linen” (is this a euphemism for sanitary towels?). But, best of all, it promises female staff assistance and a screening process for all telephone calls. While I'm not so struck by the manicure set, mags and flowers, the last two mean I don't have to worry about calling for a late night snack when I finally reach my destination.

The Imperial dates back to 1931 and really is a lovely hotel given its wealth of art and artefacts and its cool, colonial-style interior. More importantly, it's right next to the fab Cottage Industries Emporium, where you can shop to your heart's content for everything Indian. Government-controlled, you don't get ripped off as you pay for what you get through the fair pricing structure and the jewelry is genuine.

My favourites are the juttis (the Indian bejewelled shoes) which are great for wearing on planes as your feet swell up, and beautiful mango boxes (which if filled with mini eggs and tied together with ribbon make v. sophisticated Easter gifts).

Unfortunately I'll never get to try the Eliza rooms as the hotel's not on our corporate list and if I therefore do stay, it'll be with my hubby! Perhaps though this will set the trend and other hotels will realise that there is a real demand for this option and follow suit.

Bon Voyage!

Travel Tip: If the hotel check-in clerk says your room number out loud when handing over your key and you're a "single female traveller", ask for another room and tartly tell the staff not to announce to everyone in the lobby where you'll be on your own overnight.

22 February 2010

Portable Photos

On every trip, the first thing I make sure is in my bag is my travel photo frame, which has a picture of me and my hubby together, and one just of him. They sit by my bed in every hotel room in which I stay and it's the last thing I look at as I turn out the lights on a night.

To buy the frame pictured here, visit the Shanghai Tang online store.

Bon Voyage!

Travel Tip: The next thing in my bag is a little dish which I use to keep safe my earrings and rings as I sleep. Make sure it's an unusual one as otherwise you'll find that an overzealous maid will remove it when cleaning your room!

17 February 2010

Booking a Seat

With the ability to check in online now available, the site SeatGuru has become a valuable tool for me to make sure that I (a) have enough room to stow my hand carry and (b) am not going to be sitting by the toilet and hearing flushing noises every minute throughout the flight.

Using the left-hand-side navigation, simply go to the airline with whom you're traveling, select the plane layout that matches the one on your online check-in site and select the best seat you can, by matching the seat colour with the legend.

The site also tells you if the airplane has in-seat power sockets and when there will be limited seat recline.

Bon Voyage!

Travel Tip: Take an empty water bottle with you through security and fill it up on the other side either by asking nicely at one of the food and beverage outlets or in the lounge to take onboard and to ensure you stay hydrated throughout the flight.

15 February 2010

Travel & Toiletries

Okay so not everyone can get to the States, but if you do then make your way to a Crate & Barrel store and pick up a couple of their travel cases.

Apologies for the picture, but these sturdy, transparent plastic cases will carry all your airline-approved-sized containers in hand carry without them falling out or splitting the pathetic plastic bags now provided at airports.

And they have a cute airplane zipper too. Available in orange, turquoise and yellow.

Bon Voyage!

Travel Tip: In Hong Kong and Singapore, you still have to remove your laptops and put them in a separate tray as you go through the hand luggage screening, but you can leave your plastic toiletry bag in your hand carry.

03 February 2010

Wednesday's Websites

Yep. You've guessed it! In another attempt to retain some rigidity to my ramblings, I'm introducing another column alongside Monday's Must-Haves. I hope these Wednesday offerings will help the tourist/traveller successfully navigate the web for useful information and travel-related tools.

My first site is World Taximeter which helps the cost conscious among us ensure we don't get ripped off! In any case, at least it means we should have roughly enough cash to pay for our taxi fares.

The information can also accessed on the go via their mobile site.

Cities covered as of writing this are Aberdeen, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Dublin, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Manchester, Melbourne, New Delhi, New York, Paris, Prague, Richmond (VA), Rome, San Francisco, Seattle, Singapore, Sydney, Toronto, Vancouver and Zurich.

Bon Voyage!

Travel Tip: If you arrive in either Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur, take the airport express train into the city instead of a taxi. It's cheaper and much much quicker.

02 February 2010

Mutterings about the M Hotel

Okay, so it's supposed to be a basic business hotel and it's not too far from Singapore's central business district, but if you're asked to stay at the M Hotel for work, say no!

My main bone of contention is the laundry service, but which I feel gives an insight into the way they try to make more than a little extra off their guests and keep their room rates low.

I needed a jacket dry-cleaned and immediately called housekeeping as I checked in. However as you can only check in the afternoon and the deadline for dry-cleaning is 11 a.m. you have to pay express to get your clothes back by 6 p.m. the following day. A 22-hour service in Asia is not express!

Unlike in the pictures, I only got one pillow on my bed, the mirrored front to the sink was chipped and they don't provide hair conditioner.

For a hotel that goes after every award up for grabs, they got a zero star rating in my book.

Not such a bon voyage!

Travel Tip: If you're a neat freak like me, resist the urge to throw away the rubbish after making your tea/coffee in the morning. Nine times out of ten, housekeeping won't spot you've actually used anything and so the next morning you'll be left short for your cuppa.

28 January 2010

Singapore Slings & Seafood

We're off for the weekend to Singapore. It's not my favourite location. As an English national, I like to be able bring up the weather when conversation grinds to a halt. But this really isn't an option in Singapore where its proximity to the equator results in little seasonality. As a Hong Konger, meanwhile, I find the place a little slow and lacking in vitality.

However, on the plus side, I can go on a spending spree at some of the English high-street stores who have set up shop in the Lion City State. No doubt the chance to check out Dot P's, Miss Selfridge, Top Shop and Warehouse (all conveniently located at Marina Square) will manage to buoy me up!

One thing I am really looking forward to though is the Pepper Crab!! For over 60 years the best in town has been served up at Long Beach @ Dempsey.

Address & contact details are:
25 Dempsey Road (opposite the Singapore Botanic Gardens)
T +65 6323 2222
Open daily from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. and 5.30 p.m. - 1.30 a.m.

If you fancy a pre-dinner cocktail, head over to the Raffles Hotel to the Long Bar on the first floor for its famous but sickly-sweet Singapore Sling, or better still check out the Red Dot microbrewery next to Long Beach.

Bon Voyage!

Travel Tip: Dress in casuals and book a table outside at Long Beach. Turn up on time (they're quick to pass on your table) and take plenty of packets of tissues with you as eating with your hands gets messy!

18 January 2010

Monday's Must-Haves

In an effort to introduce some structure to my site, any columns published on a Monday will promote a must-have for a girl (or boy) about Asia.

In my introductory session, I urge all of you to ensure that next time you step onto a plane that you have armed yourself with a copy of the Luxe City Guide to that location (if available).

Luxe has now published over 100 guides each packed with entertainment/restaurant/shopping tips, as well as quick tours for the tourist with time.

These sleek, slim-line guides are now also becoming available as mobile versions with editions now ready-to-download for Hong Kong & Macau, London, New York, Paris, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney.

Bon Voyage!

Travel Tip: Although Luxe publishes new editions every year, register on their website, make sure you have the ISBN number of your guide handy and download an update to your hard copy before you set off on your travels.

11 January 2010

Inspired again...

For those of you who frequented my musings before and are slightly confused by the change in content, I would like to explain what happened. I deleted it all. It was sooo liberating!

Originally inspired by style icon Rita Konig's blog, Girl About Town (now extinct), I intended to record some of my favourite places around Asia (and elsewhere) as I travelled.

However as life and the 2008/9 financial crisis intervened, my postings became haphazard in terms of content and timing, and eventually slowed to a standstill. My blog lacked purpose and my resolve to publish regularly eventually vanished.

But I missed the opportunity to write and, as a result, my blog is being reincarnated. While some of my favourite content will be re-published under the new guise, I'm hoping that a new focus on travel (only) and an imparting of some of the words of advice that I've heeded over the years will give my blog a new lease of life and a structure that will appeal.

Bon Voyage!

Travel Tip: Fold jackets for travel by turning one of the shoulders inside out and tucking it into other shoulder. Straighten the sleeves and lapels and fold in half. Place on top of everything else in your case and hang it up as soon as you arrive at your destination.