Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I really don't like snow. Sorry guys.

This is why I hate snow. Snow ups the chances of train delays which consequently ups the chances of you missing your connection and/or freezing your a$$ off on the platform. You say it doesn't make sense that you could miss your train if the connecting train is later than scheduled?

Logically that may be so but in reality a delayed train means disruption to the whole system they have going at the station which in this case means a possibility of a change of platform for where you embark. In most stations in Europe, minus all the major ones, announcements are still only made in the native language which could be a problem. To find out more information on this delay or change of platform, you would have to walk all the way back to the main entrance or wherever the information board is.

Now, what if while you're strolling to find out what's going on, your train arrives somewhere not where you are? Exactly. You miss it!

I just had to wait for over 30 minutes on pictured platform above because my train was supposedly 15 minutes delayed. Of course it was a lie because I ended up on that platform way longer. They also decided to change platforms at the last minute but I was lucky enough that it was just to the next one.

Anyhow, before making your trip on a snowy day, make sure to always check with the station/airport of departure on arrival and departure status but also be prepared to find out that the situation may not be as predictable as you wish it to be.

Now, I'm going to pray that they don't take forever to de-ice the wings on my connecting flight to Budapest.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winter Photography Tips

What's interesting about planning this trip is just how helpful friends are (and not to mention how excited they are with our 'little' adventure)... Friends has been contributing traveling tips, whether it be the cheapest way to get around Europe (thanks to Jamie for the Eurail passes), places to eat or shop... heck, even my boss joined in the 'fun' by looking for cheap (but awesome, nonetheless) accommodations in Prague.

With so many things to cover before we go to Europe, having people point us in the right direction (so to speak) really saves us a lot of time.

This evening I had a pretty interesting conversation with my photog friend about taking photos during winter. Being in a tropical country, I never would had thought how much the weather would affect my camera.

Batteries Drain Faster in Cold Weather
My camera uses 4 units of AA batteries. To make sure that my camera doesn't run out of power when I'm out taking pics, I will be carrying another set of AA batteries with me as back up. And yes, they are rechargeable :) So the tip here is to bring extra sets of rechargeable batteries :)

Condensation is the Camera's Worst Enemy
Unfortunately, this was something that happened to my photog friend. He had packed his equipment in the hotel room (which was nice and warm). He was doing an outdoor photoshoot. And the moment he took his camera out from the bag, he could see that his camera lenses fogging up. His biggest concern was the possibility of condensation inside the camera.

So to avoid this problem, he gave me this tip: Place the camera first inside a plastic bag containing air the same temperature as the camera. This is so that when you take the camera out into an extremely cold environment, the condensation forms on the plastic bag instead of on the camera. By doing so, you are also giving the camera some time to get use to the cold climate.

Of course there is this other issue when taking photos in winter, such as frostbite. So remember to keep warm at all times and if you need to remove your gloves when taking photos, remember to not expose your skin for long periods of time... unless of course if you don't care much for your fingers ;)

Things you should never forget to take along Part 3 (optional)

I should change the title of this post but I thought it should still fall under the same topic. This time it's not about what you MUST bring along, but some things you may want to consider doing or taking along with you.

1) Travel Insurance
While most of us are insured medically and also for life, some policies may or may not cover for damages while abroad and especially for things that are directly related to your travel like lost or damaged luggage, flight delays and cancellations, missed connections and the unlikely fortune of sitting in on a hijack ^_^;;

The easiest way to get travel insurance is usually through your travel agent or through the website you purchased your flight ticket. Not all airlines offer this and you usually want to stick to a policy that is from your home country.

As my ticket was purchased abroad this time, I have opted for Travel Safe from HSBC. This insurance is especially easy to obtain as you can apply for it online. All you have to do is to log in to your HSBC online banking website and send in a request for a quote. If you are happy, you pay! And voila, you are covered for the whole duration of your stay overseas. I am very sure other banks in Malaysia also offer similar insurances online, so make sure to check.

As a last resort, you could also get your travel insurance at the airport, no worries!

2) Laundry matters
Laundry is probably the last thing on your mind when preparing for a trip abroad for FUN! Who cares about washing right? Yes, that may be true, until you start to stink ;-P

There are 2 ways to deal with this,
i. Bring enough clothes and underwear to last your whole trip so you don't have to worry about laundry, or
ii. Not bring too much clothes as to not burden yourself with a heavy suitcase and be prepared for laundry!

If you are going to go economy, make sure to bring along some hand wash detergent, like above. I prefer to not carry too much liquids in my suitcase so I would go for something like "Handy Detergent" which is a concentrated cream detergent. It won't spill, and that is important.

If you are going to opt for using coin laundries, then I suggest you bring along a net for your delicates, it won't take up space in your suitcase and can in fact act as a laundry bag!

3) Bathroom & Indoor slippers
If you cherish your feet and is icky about going bare feet in a tub or shower that has been used by many others before you, this is not optional, bring your own bathroom slippers!!
When indoors if you like to let your feet breathe after a long day of walking, slippers will help. As you know, in the west most are accustomed to wearing shoes indoors and carpeted rooms are places where you especially do not want to go shoeless.

Until I think of more, it is adios for now!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Things you should never forget to take along Part 2

Plenty of moisturizer and anti-dehydration creams or lotion! This is especially important for those of us who come from the tropics and not used to wintery climates. This is probably that only time you wish the oil glands in your skin will NOT stop secreting. I know, I know, it sounds gross and disgusting but that is the truth.

When back home you may be keeping your T-zone oil-free, you probably wouldn't want that to be the case when traveling away from the hot sticky climate we know. The air in Europe is very much drier and less humid than what we are used to, so be prepared with lots of lubricants for the face, hands and legs! I often find myself experiencing extreme dryness in the face for the first week before the body adapts to your new surrounding.

As we are embarking on this journey in winter, (due to work schedule conflicts) take heed my friends!
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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Invite Us For Drinks if You See Us in Europe!

Gosh, I am getting more and more excited by the minute about our Europe trip.

It's easy to feel so overwhelmed by just the planning part of the trip. But once you've covered your flight & the how-to-get-there part, the rest just falls into place pretty easily.

For the curious, here's our travel itenary in Europe:
10 Feb - Lydd & Hanie depart KLIA to Frankfurt, Germany
11 Feb - Arrive in Frankfurt, where we will meet up with Nora.
12 Feb - Leave for Paris, France
13 Feb - 17 Feb - Exploring Paris (we will also get to meet my friends, Lyana and Sean, while in Paris. Yay!)
17 Feb - Leave for Vienna on the overnight train (I'm so excited about going on the overnight train :D)
18 Feb - Arrive in Vienna in the morning
20 Feb - Leave Vienna for Prague (for some reason, I'm most excited about Prague. I find it to be the most intriguing part of our trip)
23 Feb - Leave for Berlin in the morning
25 Feb - Back to Frankfurt
26 Feb - Depart Frankfurt for Malaysia :(

Anyways, if you guys happen to spot us in these places, do come over and say hi. Even better, invite us over for drinks! :)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Counting days...

Wow, I never thought planning for a trip could be this FUN!!!!

I spend my days at work with my heart beating so fast because I am sneaking around on my computer reading up on historical places and figures when I'm supposed to be doing accounts! A little research here and there will definitely help you appreciate the places you will eventually step foot on.

A few of my favourite places to look up on famous or just interesting dead people has been the Wiki. No trivia there, I know, but the amount of things I have learned just preparing for this trip has been pretty MUCH! Even as I type this all out I feel my heart pumping a little too fast for my own comfort, but it's thrilling. YeeeeeHaaaaw!!

Most of the time when you are visiting a new place, you have no clue what else would be cool to explore other than the major tourist sights. Take Paris for example, everyone knows to go visit the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, or to climb up the Eifel Tower or walk by the Moulin Rouge, but did you know about these other places??

The grave of one Victor Noir
This poor journalist was shot at point blank by the great-nephew of Napolean Bonaparte. His grave marking as seen in the picture above is now a fertility symbol, thanks to a certain bulge, as you can see is discolored through time due to heavy errm touching by superstitious women. His grave is among other famous graves in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, among some are the graves of Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Peter Abelard and his lover Heloise and more.

The best view of Paris is NOT from the Eifel Towel
I have to say I am not a fan of the Eifel Tower. I hate the way it goes bling bling at night, and in multi color too. It's just all too cheap looking for me. What I do love about the Eifel Tower though are the little keychains and the lovely coasters they sell at their souvenir shop ;-)
Anyhow, did you know that the best view of Paris is actually atop the Sacre Couer?

Well now you do! Look, and you can see the Eifel Tower from here better than from under it up-close! Heh.

A really good site to help you look for places to visit that is not as hyped about by the majority of tourists would be http://www.virtualtourist.com/ as it is made up of comments from other travelers like you and I . Check it out, and always check out the links towards the end of the list just for a new look into places you thought you already knew! But nothing works wonders as the Wiki does!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

How to Score Cheap Flight Tickets to Europe

The biggest hurdle that you will probably face when planning your European trip is the flight tickets as they can either make or break your trip budget.

With so many airlines out there in the market, it's really easy to feel overwhelmed by just trying to get the best deal that would fit your budget. Ideally, you should try scoring tickets during travel fairs, such as the MATTA Fair, where you can find dirt cheap tickets.

But if you missed out on those,  don't worry as not all is lost :D

Believe me, at one point, I was beginning to lose hope that this European trip will never materialise as the flight tickets was just so bloody expensive! The average return air fares available were about MYR 4,000 (which is about 822 Euro).

But with a bit of perseverance, patience and some good luck, you may just hit the jackpot (in my case, I was hitting the refresh button several times within the hour... not sure if it's because I really REALLY wanna go to Europe or it's because I'm obsessive-compulsive or maybe a bit of both ;) ).

If you're looking for cheap flights, you may want to try these sites:
- Travelocity
- Zuji Singapore
- Reliance Air
- Yahoo! Singapore

These sites are helpful as they show you a list of airlines available for your intended destination, so you can choose whichever ones that suit you best.

I actually found our MYR 2,708 (about 558 Euro) return flight tickets through Yahoo! Singapore. Yahoo, indeed!! :))

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I'm getting kinda giddy now because I should be sleeping but I can't because...


*FF victory dance*

I wish I can say more but seriously my brain is just too spazzed out. We're now looking into lodgings (or at least Lydia is) and here's hoping that everything'll work out fine!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Things you should never forget to take along Part 1

First of all HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone!! To many it's probably just another day but it's just another day of the beginning of something new. 2010 is going to be a blast, I promise!

Since Lydia started her little section on essentials for traveling, I decided to also share some tips, simply based on experience. Hopefully this will help my partners in crime and others alike!

When traveling, there are the basics you would need, like your passport, sufficient funds in the correct currency (or your plastic) and your own toothbrush. But then there are little things that people tend to forget or not consider. I will try to put this into installments as things pop to mind, but here is my number one favorite, something I would not be able to live without.


The first thing you would probably notice upon entering a hotel and wanting to charge your camera or phone, is that the power points are..., yes, very different. In Europe, they use a 2-round pin socket so you would need to get an adapter like in the picture above. Your best bet is to purchase one of those that comes with all the different pins for use all over the world and bring whatever you need depending on where you are traveling to. Most hotels (not hostels) provide plug adapters but it is always best to carry one if not more of your own. (As you can see in the picture above, I actually travel with 3!) Without the adapter, you would be battery dead and I can guarantee that will not be fun.

Now wait, that is not all .Europe runs on 220V which is good for us traveling from Malaysia as our power supply is at 240V to begin with, so there is no need to worry about step-down transformers and the lot. If you are however coming from Japan or America (100-110V) then you should make sure that your chargers and gadgets are universally adapt, or you would need a step-down transformer which are actually quite a pain to travel with. Most gadgets today are made to take power input from 100-240 so it is usually your power chord or charger that should match the power input of your destination, so just check on that and buy the appropriate chargers before you leave. They usually are pretty cheap.

And with this you are set to get your phone, camera, computer, hair dryer, ipod working throughout your stay away from home!