10 Islands You Want to Visit in Malaysia

I love island life. I love the sea, the sand and the sun. Ironically, I live in Singapore (which is technically an island) but I just don’t get the satisfaction of what I expect from an island escapade/adventure. I always dream of island hopping in the Caribbean and I absolutely miss my time in Greece 2 summers back. Out of desperation, I sought out islands next door (Malaysia). I’ve been to some on the list and there are others that I’m dying to visit
Continue reading 10 Islands You Want to Visit in Malaysia

Accommodation Guide in Sri Lanka

I visited Sri Lanka last December, and due to popular demand from my accommodation guide, I’ve written one for Sri Lanka as well (check out what I wrote about South Africa here).

Sri Lanka was quite a challenge as I had started my research late and the ones that I was interested in were fully booked out! Most of the places were either too expensive or slightly dingy. I’m not particularly picky with my accommodations but I do appreciate good lodging that are also value for money. Nonetheless, I was pretty satisfied with the finds given the little time I had. Hope whoever reading this will find this useful.

Oh by the way, most of the prices quoted in this list is inclusive of breakfast, some even dinner.

The same disclaimer applies: the prices I quote in SGD are what I paid for during my trip, per person, per night. Prices for accommodation are seasonal (and there might be promotions to take into account as well) and hence you should not rely entirely on my quotation. Please check with the respective hosts for their most current rates if you are planning a stay with them.

Anuradhapura

London Palace

Anuradhapura is a good place to begin if you want to visit the UNESCO sites in Sri Lanka but there isn’t much lodging options available. My travel buddy stumbled upon London Palace, showed me the price and pictures and I was sold. Indeed the place was as good as it had looked on picture. After a long drive from Colombo to the accommodation, I was ready to plop on the comfy bed they prepped for us with blankets and cloth twirled into creative shapes. The place  is tucked away in a secluded corner of Anuradhapura. They serve pretty decent Sri Lanka dinner and they were very generous with the sides.

How much I paid: SGD 21

(Rs 4500/$34 per room)

London Palace 1

London Palace 2
photo credits: London Palace

Dambulla

Sundaras Resort

One great thing about Sundaras Resort is the location. It’s literally walking distance from the Golden Rock Temple. Plus, they are known to serve really good food. Out of the 3 nights, we had our dinner there twice. The room we stayed in was really big. we EACH had a double bed. The owner of the Resort, Damien, is a pretty cool dude too. Have a chat with him when you’re there!

How much I paid: SGD 34

(Rs 7,000/$54 per room)

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Sun 2

photo credits: Sundaras Resort and Tripadvisor

Kandy

Elegant Hotel

It is the consensus of both my travel buddy and I that Elegant Hotel was our favourite accom in Sri Lanka in terms of budget, room, service, view and food. YOU WAKE UP AND HAVE BREAKFAST WITH THE MOUNTAINOUS VIEW. It is slightly out of the way but well worth the extra distance from Kandy Town. The hotel staff will be more than happy to call a tuk tuk for you anyway if you need one. Read my guide for tuk tuks here.

How much I paid: SGD 25

(Rs 5,300/$40 per room)

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photo credits: Tripadvisor

Nuwara Eliya

Unique Cottages

We paid slightly more for this place because it was a treat for my birthday. The staff were very warm, I even had a cake delivered to my room! For the price we paid, they have rooms with a nice balcony, and some others with a jacuzzi – obviously I picked the latter.

How much I paid: SGD 78

(Rs 16,300/$125 per room)

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photo credits: Unique Cottages and my camera

Adam’s Peak

Punsisi Rest

We did not realise we had to climb up to our accommodation even before we climbed Adam’s Peak. However, we did have a preview of the landscape when we managed our way up before the actual climb. The staff were really friendly and they even lent me their walking stick for the actual climb. Other than the stairs that were uncalled for, it is a good chill place to just relax before or after the climb.

How much I paid: SGD 33 including DINNER AND BREAKFAST.

(Rs 6,800/$52 per room)

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photo credits: Tripadvisor

Mirissa

Palm Villa

There are accommodations stretching along the Mirissa Beach but Palm Villa was hands down our best pick. Hidden away from the crowd, Palm Villa offers you the privacy and the serene beach life you desire. After our climb at Adam’s Peak, it was the perfect place for us to unwind. The food’s also really good and we have a sumptuous seafood bbq on our first night. The only setback was that we didn’t stay longer!

How much I paid: SGD 47

(Rs 9,900/$75 per room)

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If you draw that curtain in the morning, you will see the ocean. Who doesn’t want to wake up to that view?!
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photo credits: Palm Villa and my camera and myself as the model

Galle Fort

Seagreen Guesthouse

There were plenty of boutique accommodation to choose from in Galle Fort and we settled for Seagreen accommodation. Not only were we not disappointed, we were also pleasantly surprised. The best was comfy, the room was clean and Seagreen Guesthouse came with a really nice roof terrace where you get a clear view of the sunset. 

How much I paid: SGD 29

(Rs 6000/$46 per room)

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photo credit: Seagreen and my camera

Hikkaduwa

Tandem Guesthouse

It was only when we got to Hikkaduwa that we realised the number of BnBs and guesthouses available (It didn’t seem that much when we researched online). Nonetheless, we were happy with Tandem Guesthouse. It was the right location for the places we wanted to go to (in between Hug Inn where they dish up really awesome food, and International Dive Centre, the main purpose for visit Hikkaduwa). The rooms were clean as well and the staff were really helpful.

How much I paid: SGD 32

(Rs 6,540/$50 per room)

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photo credit: Tandem Guesthouse and my camera

Colombo

Airbnb Host: Div

Colombo is sprawling with luxurious hotels and with the name they carry, it’s not doubt that they are out of my budget. Because we were going to stay in Colombo for 4 days, we decided to rent an apartment instead. I used my all time favourite accommodation hosting site Airbnb, and found Div who rented us his lovely apartment. We even have the chance to chat over lunch. There is a roof terrace that comes with the apartment where you get a perfect view of the city and the Indian Ocean. Would definitely recommend his place as an alternative to travellers on a smaller budget.

How much I paid: SGD 43

(Rs 8,970/$69 per apartment)

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photo credits: my camera and Airbnb

The accommodations for this post may not be as “wow” as those I found in South Africa, but the staff and people I met were kind and friendly and they made my stay very enjoyable. Most of the options are pocket-friendly for travellers who seek decent accommodation on a smaller budget. If you’re visiting Sri Lanka, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. If you aren’t, consider visiting won’t you? The people will welcome you with open arms.

Peace & Love,

Eileen x

5 Places That Define My Childhood (but have now closed down)

Feeling a bit nostalgic so I’ve decided to do up a post that takes me down memory lane! Here are 5 places that defined my childhood but are sadly shut now. If you’re from the same era as me, hopefully these places remind you of your good times in the past as well!

1. FunDazzle

I was sourcing all over the internet but I couldn’t find a picture of the old Fun Dazzle in Singapore! Shame. Fun Dazzle was the closest place to heaven for kids in my era. Looking back now, the ball pits were probably super unhygienic. But as a child, swinging from bar to bar, cruising down a zip line and jumping into a pool of colourful balls, is probably the best feeling ever.

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photo credit: S n o R k e l via photopin cc

2. Curly Fries and Root Beer Float from A&W

Remember the brown bear in the orange shirt? Remember their curly fries, their root beer float, their corny dogs? Remember A&W? I speak for the majority “A&W, PLEASE COME BACK TO SINGAPORE!!”.

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photo credits: A&W Facebook SG

3. THE Char Siew Bread from Red House Bakery

Not sure if many of you know this place but I used to patronise it a lot as a child. I would go there after tuition class on Saturdays and indulge in the freshly baked Char Siew (“honey roasted pork”) bread. Oh, and I will never forget the slanted floor. The Red House Bakery indeed has it’s own charm.

red house bakery

photo credits: stproperty

4. Day Outs at Escape Theme Park

Many complain that this was small, and crappy and obviously not as exciting as theme parks overseas. However, I really REALLY enjoyed it. There were the go-karts, the flipper ride and the panasonic alpha 8 ride. Did you know that the log flume at Escape Theme Park was the highest in Asia? It was 5 storeys high consisting of not one but TWO drops.

Escape theme park

photo credits: panoramio

5. Tanjong Pagar Railway Station

My grandmother and I use to take the train in and out of Singapore so this a memorable location for me. The place is rich with heritage and the architecture is one that signifies the relationship between Singapore and Malaysia. Following an agreement between Singapore and Malaysia, the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station ceased its operation (emotional moment).

For those who want to know more about this place, I’ve included an interesting short documentary on Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.

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Even though these places no longer exist (or operate) in Singapore now, there are so many new establishments that bring equally exciting experiences. Guess we should be more appreciative of them in case they disappear in years to come!

Peace & Love,
Eileen x

Guide to Tuk-tuks in Sri Lanka

The Tuk-tuk is my favourite form of transportation in Sri Lanka, and the easiest. Nothing beats cruising in between traffic and getting a good view with wind (and smog) in your face. Despite the pros, riding the tuk-tuk is also the easiest way to get conned – pun intended. After traveling around Sri Lanka, I noticed some trends that could come in handy when avoiding your chances of getting ripped off.

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(In the tuk-tuk from Galle Fort to Hikkaduwa)

1. KNOW THE MARKET RATE

Sadly, only tuk-tuks in Colombo offer metered rates. If you’re traveling about in other parts of Sri Lanka, you just have to bargain for a good price. It is good to ask the locals what the market rate is going from one place to another before negotiating with the tuk-tuk driver. Take advantage of the fact that tuk-tuks are everywhere and ask them as you walk along (even if you don’t intend to go on them).

2. CHECK THE METER

If you are lucky and get a ride with a metered tuk-tuk, check the meter. The standard rate (December 2013) in Colombo starts off at 50 Rupees for the first kilometre. Subsequently, it should increase 1.50 Rupees per minute waiting time and/or 30 Rupees for the next kilometre. So if you see the meter running unusually fast, that should be a warning sign to get off and flag another!

3. FLAG IT DOWN

There is usually a bunch tuk-tuks waiting outside malls or famous tourist attractions. 80% of my experience involved a dodgy driver. I much prefer flagging down random tuk-tuks as it avoids the situation of being hoarded by a pack of tuk-tuk drivers aiming to pick up the tourists. Most of them will approach you and give you their “best rate” and believe me, they are very persuasive. Again, always insist on using the meter (but check that it’s working and not tampered with!)

4. MAKE SURE THEY KNOW THE WAY

On so many occasions, I got into a tuk-tuk where the driver told me they know  where they are going but they actually don’t. It is very frustrating as they will drive around, ask other drivers the way, take you in circles while the meter keeps on jumping. I’ve seen drivers asking the other locals for directions and getting a different answer each time. If you happen to be as unlucky as me, get off, pay the driver a minimal sum and get someone else.

Bonus tip: Have a map on you so that you have a rough idea where the driver is taking you. Some take longer routes in order to bump up the fares so beware!

5. USE THE SAME GOOD DRIVER

If you find a good and honest driver within the city/town you’re at, take down his number! Most of the time, they will be more than happy to offer their services again. Some might ask you for a small tip, but I much prefer paying slightly more knowing I’m in good hands.

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(My friend and our reliable tuk-tuk driver who drove us from Mirissa to Galle)

I certainly hope these tips are helpful. I had so many dodgy experiences. Apart from being driven around town by a clueless driver, I had some who tried to charge extra halfway through the journey saying “it’s further than expected” and another telling us his meter worked but stopped working the minute we got in.

At the end of the day, I still enjoy riding the tuk-tuk. If you’re up for an adventure, you also have the option of renting your own tuk-tuk and exploring the country with it! I was reading about Marc and Carina’s experience here and I wish I had given it a shot! In the interview they even mentioned that they gave some school children free rides. Such kind hearted people!

Tuk-Tuk-Travels

photo credits via srilanka.for91days.com

Maybe you can give it a thought as well and tell me how it goes!

Peace & Love,

Eileen x

5 Reasons You Need to Visit Sri Lanka

Situated South of India, Sri Lanka is an island on its own. It is a charming tropical country with endless stories to share and beauty to uncover. Before my visit to Sri Lanka, my most distinct impression of Sri Lanka was the long civil war I read in my social studies textbook back in school. I never would have envisioned the Sri Lanka I saw on my 17 days of adventure if I hadn’t experienced it first hand. If you followed my travelogue, you would have read the things I rave on about in Sri Lanka. If that isn’t enough, I’m spelling out 5 reasons you need to visit Sri Lanka:

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photo credit: robysaltori via photopin cc

1. Cultural Triangle and its Endless Tales

I heard a new story everyday in Sri Lanka, either of a prince or a princess or a village hero. Stories are endless in Sri Lanka and the locals can go on and on about it (even if their English is limited). I kick started my trip in the Ancient City of Anuradhapura, the first capital of Sri Lanka. Honestly, I hadn’t done my research very well prior to my visit and I was so overwhelmed by the ruins and ancient temples. Thank goodness I had an awesome driver who became our mini tour guide.

Anyway, a quick search and you will learn that there are so many Cultural UNESCO sites worth visiting in Sri Lanka (and of course sites that aren’t UNESCO but play a crucial role in shaping the heritage of Sri Lanka). My personal favourite is the Ancient City of Pollonawura (SL #4) and I recall standing under the hot scorching sun in the middle of what was once a royal palace and feeling absolutely surreal. I will also most definitely remember my experience climbing up Sigiriya and the Rock Temple in one day (SL #3).

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2. Stroll along Sandy Beaches and Dive amongst Vibrant Marine Life

Sri Lanka is where you will see the most number of blue whales in one sighting. There are endless beautiful beaches that contour the island and a rich marine life out in the Indian Ocean.

Snorkel (SL #11), dive (SL#13, SL #14), or take a boat out, I guarantee that Sri Lanka is a great destination for a beach getaway.

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3. View from the Highlands and the Sea of Tea Plantations

On my drive up to the highlands, the view was simply spectacular. Everyone knows that Sri Lanka is a land of tea and you wouldn’t miss the tea plantations on your left and right as you cruise along the winding roads. Having said that the view from up in the highland is even better. Plunging waterfalls, dramatic waves of mountain peaks in between valleys and blanket of forests. It is indeed picturesque. If you’re up for the challenge, hike up Adam’s peak. What you see after 7000 steps is a priceless reward for your struggle to the top (SL #10).

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4. Take a Trip to World’s End (Literally) and Horton Plains

Spent my birthday here (SL #8) and it was well worth it. One minute it feels like you’re in New Zealand. Another minute you feel like you’re in Africa. Woke up super early in the morning to make it there as the view disappears in the clouds after 9.30am. Apart from the greenery, you can choose to take an alternative route to see some wildlife in the National Park.

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5. Experience World-Class Driving First Hand

So I mentioned in my travelogue that Sri Lankans are mad drivers. Towards the end of my trip, I concluded that they are world-class drivers. Whether it is a car, a bus, a tuk tuk or a motorcyclist, they can amazingly weave through the traffic without a scratch. Somehow, there is this automatic road system amongst the drivers and they are able to manoeuvre their way around each other. Having said that, traffic accidents contribute as one of the highest death tolls in Sri Lanka and pedestrians are at the bottom of the food chain. So it is wise to still take caution when you’re walking along the road in Sri Lanka.

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photo credit: Tashiya via photopin cc

As always, the list is non-exhaustive. Sri Lanka has so much to offer and it is only right that you give it a shot. On top of everything mentioned above, Sri Lanka is so blessed with bio diversity you don’t even have to travel to Africa to chance upon an elephant crossing the road, or head to a zoo to see monkeys at every corner.

It is so near to Singapore (Well, close enough).

For Singaporeans, it is nearer than a flight to Hong Kong, almost as close to Bali and sometimes cheaper than Thailand. To give you a better idea, a general and quick summary of what Sri Lanka has to offer would be the consolidation of the beaches in Bali, the ancient ruins similar to Cambodia, the tea estates in Cameron Highlands and the hustle and bustle of Bangkok city.

Please don’t overlook this country. The people are so friendly and they will welcome you with open arms.

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photo credit: Photosightfaces via photopin cc

TIPS:

1. The most efficient and comfortable way to visit the cultural triangle is to hire a driver (which I did). If you need recommendation, I am more than happy to give you the contact of the driver I engaged with, Ranjith. He is the most honest, genuine, and reliable person I know (Even though he doesn’t earn a lot himself, he bought gifts along the way for the poorer children in the villages!) I met his family and they are so sweet (His daughter even called to send me her well wishes on my birthday). If you need a driver in Sri Lanka, I will 100%, without a doubt recommend Ranjith. Email me at peregrinatewithme@gmail.com and I will send you his details!

2. Consider taking the bus from one town to another especially during peak period. The train gets crazy packed (I nearly died on Xmas eve from claustrophobia). The buses are much more frequent than the trains and buses allocate specific seats for female commuters. Having said that, the road network isn’t the best in Sri Lanka so the journey may be longer and a lot bumpier than the trains. Weigh your pros and cons!

3. Tickets for the attractions can be rather extortionate. If you’re tight on cash, you might want to pick the sites that you want to go most. It is also important to note that several locals at the attractions will approach you and offer their services as a tour guide and they will expect you to pay them at the end of the “tour”. Much of the information can be found on the net and in travel guide books – I relied on rough guides. If you don’t want to get ripped off, say no them.

That’s all that I have to offer for now on my Sri Lanka trip.

Peace & Love,

Eileen x