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Sightseeing in Moscow

Russia has been grabbing eyeballs like a behemoth of late. Now, what could the reason be for its sudden popularity? The country has been making it to the headlines for a number of reasons in the last couple of years. In fact, Russia would be hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2018, notwithstanding its clout in the Syrian War and its skirmishes with the Trump government.  While there would be 32 teams from different nations participating in this grand event, a great influx of spectators and tourists would be there to watch the tournament and indulge in sightseeing as well. Since this happens to be the right opportunity for you to visit Russia, do start planning right away! While doing so, keep Moscow on your cards. This is because the majestic Russian capital with cosmopolitan and dynamic spirit has a rich history etched in the architecture everywhere- from the Kremlin to the Red Square.  Here are the places which should form your itinerary while you go for sightseeing in Moscow: Red Square - As the name suggests, the Red Square leaves every visitor stupefied, since the majestic place unravels incredible richness. The vast stretch, which had been structured with cobblestones is surrounded by architectural splendours, and hence, invokes an awe-inspiring sight. The Red Square unfolds a vast medley of tales, some of which are sybaritic, whereas the others speak of untold bloodshed. This placed used to host a huge market in the earlier days, which the erstwhile Kremlin rulers chose for congregations, celebrations and spine-chilling executions for all to see. This first gateway had been destroyed at the behest of Stalin, since it impeded the mass demonstrations. It was rebuilt in 1995, and the new structure is a replica of the previous structure. The place also witnessed cavalcades of military men marching across the street, thereby intimidating the west with the Soviet might during the Cold War years. These days, a potpourri of tourists, wedding parties and business parties jostle here, and relentless photo sessions capture the grandeur of this place. The night time at the Red Square is peaceful with floodlights, which is panoramically spectacular. Saint Basil’s Cathedral - Located close to the Red square, this massive structure is also known as the Cathedral of the Intercession. The popular tales hold that the present structure was built in the memory of Basil the Blessed, or the “holy fool’ who had been buried at the Trinity Cathedral. Legends also state that the Saint Basil’s Cathedral had been built during the regime of Ivan the Terrible to commemorate the capture of Kazan from the Mongols. Also, there are dubious tales about the builders who were blinded by Ivan’s men so that they could not produce a replica of the structure elsewhere. The magnificent architecture symbolizes the medieval concept of the eight-pointed star, since there are eight churches encompassing the central ninth. The original Cathedral of the Intercession seems to be concealed by the new stylistic churches. A vaulted roof covers the gallery and flights of staircases. Intricately carved domes loom with pride, while the complex and integrated designs of the walls corroborate the rich Russian art. Also, there is a staircase hidden inside a wall. The white colored cathedral is in sync with the Kremlin. Moscow Kremlin - Located at the heart of Moscow, the fortified structure symbolizes the suzerainty of the erstwhile Russian empire. It is flanked by the Red Square and the Saint Basil’s cathedral in the east, while the sprawling Alexander Garden marks its vast ambit towards the west. The red walls and red towers with red stars at the helm endorse the menacing communist past of the Soviets. A Russian military squad which guards the entrance is unique in every respect. Among the famous monuments showcased across the Kremlin territory, the Tsar Cannon is the largest of its kind in the world. Also, the Tsar Bell which stands in accompaniment with the mighty artillery is the largest in the world. Besides, there are museums, the Grand Kremlin Palace and the State Kremlin Palace, which attract hordes of tourists everyday. The Presidential Palace and the administrative buildings are, however, not open for public visits. Alexander Garden - Located in close proximity to the Kremlin, the beautiful flower beds in this garden attract hosts of tourists who love to take strolls here after their visit to the Kremlin.  Lenin’s Mausoleum - The onion-colored pyramid was built as a tomb for Lenin, the pioneer of the Russian Revolution. The impressive structure was built in layers of grey, red and black granite, and hence, synchronizes with the Kremlin at the back.  

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

Security Overview of FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia

Russia has been making it to the headlines of late. This is due to the fact that the iconic country would be hosting the FIFA World Cup this year. This is the first time that the great tournament would be held in Eastern Europe, in which 32 member teams would be jousting for the trophy. Also, it is expected that there would be millions of spectators who would be travelling to Russia to watch the grand FIFA World Cup 2018, which would be held between June 14 and July 15. When global events such as the Olympics, the Grand Slams or the FIFA are on the calendar, however, security issue becomes ubiquitous. This is because the top profile bureaucrats, politicians, chiefs of states and world renowned players conglomerate in such iconic events, apart from the teeming local and international civilian spectators. The presence of the global leaders and millions of civilians causes security concerns among the local authorities. While the elites and commoners have a great time watching the grand events, the security personnel are at the helm of a great degree of planning and responsibilities, in order to ensure that mishaps do not happen. Else, the slightest security lapse could lead to unexpected catastrophic mayhem. When it comes to the domestic and global state of affairs, it has been lately observed that Russia has become an eye-catcher for all due to the persistent turbulence, which have hit the nation. Political and Diplomatic Issues Vladimir Putin’s reelection as the president of Russia by nearly 77 percent of the population in March 2018 has evoked restive surges among the different political groups nationwide. There are a number of hostile factions and groups, which are keen about undermining his reputation in the global arena. When the political atmosphere reeks of possible strife and unrest, there are chances that certain rival groups might conspire to do something, which would inevitably tarnish Putin’s reputation. These factions are capable of such notoriety, which might jeopardise security in the host cities, hotels, public places and venues. For instance, if an undetected bomb detonates somewhere, it would lead to irretrievable losses of lives and property. In fact, Putin’s reelection has sparked divided reactions from the various nations worldwide. While some countries have been eschewing the possibility of forging alliances with Russia, the rest have sharply argued and condemned the fact that Putin is set against the western liberal ideas. Countries like Iran, China, Venezuela and Japan have speedily congratulated the president, and have mooted their support for him. Under such mixed reactions from the nations worldwide there could be chances of spurts of violence and skirmishes in the host cities and public places. This is because people from these countries would be thronging here to watch the matches, and miscreants could use this opportunity to sabotage the grand event. As far as international politics is concerned, Russia has earned a controversial reputation through its alleged involvement and interference in the 2016 US elections. It is believed that the Russian hackers had been hired for sourcing out clandestine data and sensitive information, which turned the tables against the Democrats. This resulted in great tribulations among Hillary Clinton’s party members, and sparked heady criticism worldwide. Also, tensions mounted between Russia and Great Britain over the murder of a Russian spy in the British territory. This resulted in a stiff face off between the two nations, while the other countries jumped into the bandwagon to voice their protests against the misdeed. The Trump administration dented the schism further by expelling the Russian diplomats from America, and the US allies followed suit as a mark of condemnation against Russia’s profligate action on the British soil. The Russian government retaliated by expelling equal number of diplomats from the United States and its allies from its own territory.   These political upheavals, however, should not impinge security during the World Cup tournament, since Russia has welcomed visitors from the different nations to partake in the grand event.  Terrorism The intelligence forces have issued red alert regarding possible “lone jihadi” attacks during the summer World Cup. The Russian Islamist militants who have been returning to the country from the war ravaged zones in the Middle East post as alarming threats to the country’s security personnel. These terrorists intend to take revenge against the Russian involvement in Syria and Iraq. Since Sunni militancy failed in both the countries, the ISIS has been fanning hatred via online propaganda and encrypted messages to provoke “lone wolf” attacks during the tournament. This would certainly revive the group’s popularity among its erstwhile followers, which went crashing due to Russia’s clout in both the countries. Besides, the Caucasian rebels who suffered indiscriminate sufferings due to the ongoing wars would take this opportunity to tarnish Russia’s image on the global front.  

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

What You Need to Know before Travelling to Russia

The much-awaited FIFA World Cup 2018 is about to start within a few days time in Russia. The entire world has been waiting with baited breath for the tournament, in which 32 teams would battle for the coveted trophy. While hosts of people from different nations would be travelling to Russia to watch the matches which would be held between June 14 and July 15, they need to heed the official briefings issued by their governments back at home. Though Russia welcomes visitors with alacrity, there have been numerous instances when people have had unsavory experiences. So, here is a list of certain aspects which everyone ought to keep in mind before travelling to Moscow at this time of the year: Red Tapism: Make sure that your passport is valid for a minimum period of 6 months after the expiry of your visa. The Russian police have the authority to intercept the foreign tourists at any point during their stay in that country. So, if there are any discrepancies related to your travel documents, then you might land into a mire of tribulations including a speedy deportation. It is mandatory for all to have a Fan ID, which would serve as a special permit for the spectators of the tournament. Also, it would allow multiple entries and exits for all the visitors between June 14 and July 15. All the Fan IDs would lose their validity post July 24. Tourists are debarred from entry to Russia via Belarus. Moreover, if you intend to travel to Russia by road, then plan your route through some other country. Make sure you sign your passport before starting your journey. Otherwise, the chances of immediate deportation are imminent. Also, it is mandatory to register in every host city within 24 hours after arrival. Things to Declare: The Russian authorities do not impede any visitor from carrying his or her laptop into the country. It is, however, mandatory for the tourists to get their electronic devices checked during departure. The Russian officials leave no stones unturned, and they even inspect the installed software in every laptop or smartphone with impunity. In case, you are on a particular medication, then carry a doctor’s letter with yourself. Also, a notary’s translated letter in the Russian language is imperative to testify your physician’s letter. In case, you plan to collect antiques, samovars, medals, rugs or artwork, then make sure to buy such items from authorized dealers’ shops. All the same, the Russian authorities would insist on reviewing certificates, which would endorse the fact that the goods you intend to carry out of the country are not of any historical or cultural value. Racism: Though Russia is a friendly country, there has been a spate of violent outbursts against people from different ethnic groups of late. Groups of ultra-nationalists and Neo-Nazis occasionally organize rallies and demonstrations, in order to fan hatred against the Asians, Africans and Caucasians. Planned and vituperative assaults against foreigners have been reported a number of times, and in certain cases the victims have succumbed to their injuries. Match Report: It is mandatory to buy the tickets through authorized sources. Besides, your ticket needs to be linked with a Fan ID. Otherwise, you would be banned from entering the stadium. Also, you need to carry your passport along with your Fan ID and ticket. Keep them safe with yourself. Bottles and cans are strictly prohibited. Do not risk carrying a large amount of loose cash. If the Russian police happen to confiscate your money, then chances of retrieving the same are dim. Accessibility Issues: People with physical disabilities have harrowing experiences while commuting from one place to another. The narrow sidewalks alongside the roads impede smooth movement for everyone, and there are practically no elevators for the old and disabled. One has to use the steep ramps and staircases as pedestrian underpasses to cross the roads. Though mobility is comparatively feasible in the big cities like St. Petersburg and Moscow, the metro services are not accessible to the disabled. Even the buses do not have facilities to accommodate, and facilitate such people. Safety: While taking guided tours through the iconic Red Square, the Kremlin, people need to be wary of the local pickpockets. Ensure that your passport or valuables do not get targeted by larceny. Curbs on Liquor: Alcohol consumption is banned in the stadiums. Besides, the sale of alcohol is restricted between 11 am and 8 pm.  Drinking while driving results in legal confinement. Climate: There are occasional heat waves during the months of June and July. Hence, people ought to carry a number of light clothes at this time of the year. Also, it is advisable to carry plenty of water before going outdoors.

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

How to Travel Cheap

Every human being has an innate desire to visit new places. Some people feel content after visiting easily approachable places, while the rest have penchant for travelling to distant, and yet, exotic destinations. Also, people with reclusive mind set plan for sequestered holidaying, whereas adventure lovers crave for some real roller-coaster fun! Whatever the case might be, people cannot travel unless they are really ready to shell out some dollar bills. So, here comes the crunch- Can I afford to travel? What's second best to a free holiday? A cheap holiday. Well, this is a question which keeps popping up in everybody’s mind. Now, one could travel and to his or her dream destinations without actually splurging. So, if you intend to travel cheap, just take a few things into a careful consideration: Plan carefully in advance: This is the prime, and yet, the most imperative aspect of travelling cheap. As a matter of fact, everybody can travel, and you too could do so with alacrity! All you need to do is to plan out your travel somewhat carefully and in advance. Lay out a plan for your expenses. Draw a line beyond which you don’t intend to spend. Then, look surf through the net, and look for the affordable destinations. Also, look for low airfare deals, which you need to do in advance, especially if you are planning to travel abroad. As a matter of fact, you could travel the entire world within an affordable budget. There could be alluring click-baits with enticing travel plans drawing your attention all the while. These lucrative offers, could, however, exceed your budget. Hence, look out for negotiable deals. Stay away from any kind of slapdash planning so as to avoid getting a dent in your pocket! Decide your priorities and do away with excesses: You could be having a plethora of plans while traveling to your dream destination, which could, however, lead to superfluous expenses. In order to avoid such a situation and its compelling implications, you need to prioritize your needs. List your requirement. See what things you cannot do without, and what you could avoid. For instance, if you have plans for hiking and climbing hills, then you would require an outfit and accessories suiting your needs. Buy these items when they are available on clearance sales. Avoid spending on branded stuffs. Also, you need not buy things, which could be absolutely done without! Also, think about using buses, trains or cabs for travelling, in order to avoid booking expensive flights. This could be done, especially if your travel destination is within your own country. For example, travelling across Europe by trains turns out to be really economic, and hence, most of the visitors prefer that option. Look for off season deals: In case, you are besotted about visiting surreal places like Switzerland, then look out for off season airfare offers. Besides, you would also be in position to bag discount offers during your stay in a hotel. In fact, you could extend your stay, and spend quality time by visiting all your coveted sightseeing spots. You could also indulge in numerous adventures, or languish at your favorite spots for days. The choice is ultimately yours! Look for a free place to stay: In case, you are planning to visit a city or a country where you have friends or relatives stationed, then count yourself as being lucky! You could request them for a small place in their accommodations for yourself during your visit. In this way, you could avoid spending on hotels during your stay. Besides, your acquaintances would lend you free advice regarding a number of aspects. For instance, they would advise you about the cheap ways of hopping around and visiting places during your stay. Also, you would get a list of affordable eateries and shopping hubs. Live in a tent: Well, you cannot be lucky every time, since your acquaintances wouldn’t be spread across the globe. Yet, you could look for cheap options to stay while travelling. Pitch a tent for yourself at a convenient place, cook your own food, and stretch out on a sleeping bag at night. Befriend the locals, so that they would guide you about buying drinks and necessities at the local shops. In fact, you could indulge in a bonfire or a barbecue at nights and make your stay really worthwhile.

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

How to Stay and Dine at a Hotel for Free

If you want to travel and dine for free, the best way is to start a travel blog. Obviously the more professional and the bigger your blog is, the better hotels you will get. You can get a few free options such as hosted WordPress or if you invest a little bit, a self hosted WordPress site which would look more professional. Traveh.com offers a professional free travel blog that you can also use. 1. Be a Travel Blogger Hotels are suckers for good reviews. Most hotels would do almost anything to get people to talk about them, if you take nice photos, that's an even bigger plus point. Photography is an expensive project and you would be surprised to know, most hotels do not refresh their photography often enough. In reality you are not getting the room for free. You will need to do a review of the hotel and it's facilities and because it's free, you are obligated to say only the nice things. Depending on how well you negotiate, you can probably get 2 nights for free and a couple of free meals at the hotel. I've witnessed how stupid some hotels are by giving a full board experience for free to TripAdvisor reviewers because he / she was a Senior Contributor. This is not allowed under TripAdvisor's traveler review guidelines. Bloggers get away with it because of what little knowledge hoteliers know about digital. No offense to the conventional marketing guys, but they shouldn't be doing anything with a dot com. Here's a pro tip for hoteliers: When using a blogger, make sure you get proper keyword back-links to your website and that photos are tagged correctly. This ensures that not only do you get eyeballs from the blog site, you get some SEO points on search engines as well. 2. Be an Asshole of a Guest This is exactly what you need to be, an asshole. Complain about anything and everything. The first time around you will probably get compensated with a free stay, free dining and a free and fast airport transfer because the hotel couldn't wait to get rid of you. This method isn't without its risks. You would have to pay for the rooms first, then risk the hotel not giving you anything for free. You also run the risk of getting blacklisted from certain hotels.

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

List of Hotel Chains Best Price Guarantee Benefits

Based on the World Travel and Trade Council report dated March 2018, travel and tourism contributed 8.2 trillion to GDP in 2017. By 2028, that figure is forecasted to rise by 3.8% per annum to 12.45 trillion. Looking at those numbers, tour and travel is a huge industry and it will continue to grow. It is only expected that competition is stiff, especially in the rooms segment. Hotels not only compete amongst themselves, they also compete against traditional hotel room wholesalers, bed banks and online travel agents. It also more profitable if a guest books via a hotels website or direct channel because of two main reasons. The first reason is, bookings via direct channels do not cost as much as bookings via online travel agents where there is the room rate is commission-able. The second reason is, locking a guest in a loyalty program opens the possibility of repeat stays. Most major hotel chains ensure the room rates that are sold on third party websites, are either the same or higher than their own websites. To give their guests the confidence that they will always be getting the best room rate through the hotel's website, Best Price Guarantee was devised. Below is a list of hotel chains and Best Price Guarantee benefits. Hilton Hotels and Resorts Match the lowest rate with an extra 25% off. Hilton's Best Price Guarantee terms and conditions. Marriot International Match the lowest rate with an extra 25% off or 5,000 Marriot Rewards points. Marriot's Best Price Guarantee terms and conditions. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) Match the lower rate and 5 times IHG Rewards Club points up to 40,000 points.  IHG's Best Price Guarantee terms and conditions. Hyatt Hotels Match the lower rate and $50 credit for your next stay. Hyatt's Best Price Guarantee terms and conditions. Wyndham Hotel Group Match the lower rate and 3,000 Wyndham Rewards bonus points. Wyndham's Best Price Guarantee terms and conditions. Choice Hotels Match the lower rate and U.S citizens get $50 Reward Card. International guests get one night free. Choice Hotel's Best Price Guarantee terms and conditions. Accor Hotels Match the lower rate with an extra 10% off. Accor's Best Price Guarantee terms and conditions. Radisson Hotel Group Match the lower rate with an extra 25% off. Radission's Best Price Guarantee terms and conditions.

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

Kim Lian Kee

The original Kim Lian Kee Hokkien Mee is located in Petaling Street and if you have been there, the roads are congested and it's a nightmare to get in and out. The original is great, but you have your food on the streets, could be uncomfortable for some. The good news is, Kim Lian Kee is capitalizing on their brand name and they have a few outlets open in shopping malls. I normally go to the one in Mid Valley, a little too small for my liking and it's always packed. Taste wise is not really compromised because they do use fire wood to prepare the noodles and you get that slight hint of firewood-wok-burn taste, a must for really good wok fried noodles. The secret ingredient to making fantastic Hokkien Mee and Cantonese Style Kuey Teow Bee Hon is firewood and pork lard. Kim Lian Kee ticks both boxes. Personally, I think the Cantonese Style Kuey Teow Bee Hon is better than their Hokkien Mee. Did not enjoy the Loh Mee at all, it tasted bland, but maybe it was Loh Mee's off day.
Cantonese Style Kuey Teow Bee Hon
Loh Mee
Fried Crispy Dumpling
Fried Crispy Wan Ton

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

Greenhouse by Muir a Total Disappointment

Greenhouse by Muir is basically five dining experiences in one building on three floors. Last night I went for a farewell at BRYCG, one of the five dining experiences at Greenhouse by Muir. BRYCG, pronounced as "Bridge", is marketed as authentic American Southern cuisine. I didn't really care what cuisine we were having, I just wanted a few drinks. When making the reservation, we were told alcohol is not served in BRYCG, alcohol is only served at The Deck, the rooftop bar. What restaurant serves steak and not serve wine? Sounds, ridiculous but that's just me. After a few calls, they agreed to serve us dinner at The Deck so I can get smashed. It started to sound like it was going to be a good night. When we get to Greenhouse, the first thing we do is get the drinks menu. Long Island Tea by the glass is RM32 and by the jug is RM95. The conversation that I had: DDC: How many glasses can I get from a jug?
Waiter 1: I don't know.
DDC: You don't know?
Waiter 1: Maybe 4 or 5 glasses... let me ask someone that knows.
Waiter 2: You can get 5 or 6 glasses.
DDC: How big are your glasses?
Waiter 2: Not very big, that's why you can get 4 or 5 glasses.
DDC: Would it make more sense to get glasses of Long Islands or a jug?
Waiter 2: I'm not sure. Their product knowledge is piss poor. How the fuck does the bartender not know how many glasses you can get from a jug? I went with a jug of Long Island and spicy chicken cheese Nachos. The Long Island came in a cute little jug. Did not have a banana for scale, so I used an iPhone 6. Let's get what was good out of the way. The soggy nachos was shit but the spicy chicken cheese topping was fantastic. That's about the only good thing about BRYCG. The Long Island was watered down Pepsi. I am fuming. I call the waiter. DDC: What is this shit? Get a glass and try it.
Waiter: I did it according to the recipe.
DDC: You what? Take a glass and try it.
Waiter: I don't drink. Clearly noticing I was pissed, he told me he would get the manager. That's fantastic, a bartender that doesn't drink, tries to dig his way out of a situation by calling the manager. While waiting for the manager that never came, the watered down Pepsi was getting even more watered down because the ice was melting. Sensing they weren't going to do jack about the jug of watered piss, I finished the Long Island, partly because I was thirsty from all that bitching. For my main, I ordered a rib-eye, medium rare at RM59. I was a bit wary about the price. It did not mention where the steak came from, RM59 is not expensive so I didn't really care. If it was beef from Klang, they would tenderize it by punching it eighty million times and splash some black pepper sauce on it. I also ordered a glass of house red, waiter takes my order and walks away, to where I assume, the house red wine is kept. A few moments later, instead of being served a glass of red wine, a slightly more senior looking waiter tells me they are out of house red. By this stage I am going batshit crazy. My steak comes, grilled to perfection, tasted like a piece of rubber. I was probably right, the beef probably come from Klang, authentic American cuisine my ass. Eventually they did replace my Long Island tea. They just upped the alcohol and it tasted rancid. I wanted to get smashed but not at all cost. I returned the jug of pirate piss. They were nice enough to remove the Long Island from my bill, but I insisted on paying for it as a matter of principle because I did finish my jug. I would not return to BRYCG. Price is above average but food quality and service is below terrible.

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

Tonle Sap Lake Floating Village Scam

Tonle Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, it is so large that you cannot see the other side of the lake. All you see is an endless horizon. One of the "highlights" of Tonle Sap Lake is the river cruise on a rickety boat. Once you get on the boat, you're basically at the mercy of these scammers. I heard there are two piers, one operated by the government which is supposedly cheaper. Unfortunately for me, I had a scammer tour guide. I read later, that the normal price would be about $30 for an entire boat but my then future spouse, mother and I were charged $90 for the boat. The boat was in such a shit ass condition that when my mother stepped onto the boat, the planks gave way and my mom fell through. She was alright, so it's pretty hilarious now that I think about it. I'm a bad child. The guide that came with the boat was quite chatty in the beginning, telling us stories about the Vietnamese war and the culture. That was obviously his set up to the scam. When he got our attention, he started on some sob story about orphaned kids that lost their parents to drowning. If you spent your entire life on water, you would imagine they are pretty good swimmers or at least learned the ability to walk on water. We were told there were two orphanages, a Christian orphanage and a Buddhist orphanage. I have to hand it to this guy, he was smart. My mom and then future spouse is Chinese, if we weren't atheists, high chance we would either be Buddhist or Christian. If we wanted to help these poor kids, we would stop at a supplies store and buy rice. My mom who is a devout Catholic decided that we need to help these poor kids. Seriously mom? The guy waving in that photo is the shop owner, I don't know his name so let's call him Wanker 2. The white bags you see in the photo is the rice. It's $90 per bag. I don't know what sort of rice they eat, but I have never had 90 dollar rice before. They asked us to buy two bags because there are a lot of kids. My mom is all up for it. What the fuck, mom? After much negotiating with my mom, we agreed on one bag of rice. When we got to the orphanage, I swear Wanker 1, who is our guide, jumped out of the boat and flipped a hanging photo of Buddha to a picture of Jesus. They basically brought us to a school, the kids were in uniform. I'm pretty sure they returned the rice to the shop owner, or they brought it home for their own consumption. As expected, after he got his pay day, Wanker 1 retreated into silent mode. When at Tonle Sap, be extra careful. Once you get on the boat and on the lake, you're at their mercy. If you asked me, I would recommend you skip Tonle Sap altogether. There is really nothing to see, a bunch of boat houses and polluted water. You would have more fun watching Kevin Costner in Waterworld.

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

Beware of Scammers in Siem Reap

Siem Reap is a great place to visit because of the history and culture and of course it's main attraction, the Angkor temples. When I traveled to Siem Reap, I was scammed the moment I got out of the airport. I've spoken to friends and colleagues that have traveled to Siem Reap and some had a better experience. I concluded that if you get the right tour guide, you'll be in safe hands. For the entire duration of my journey from Siem Reap International Airport to the Park Hyatt Siem Reap where I stayed, the taxi driver was convincing us to hire him as our tour guide and driver. Being 2 minutes in the country, he seemed like a jovial guy, had a proper car, spoke good English, I was sold. Never have I been so wrong. The next day when he picked us up from the hotel in the morning, he was the same person physically, but completely different personality. He didn't speak and only answered when spoken to. This was the beginning of a disaster holiday where he set us up for con every step of the way including the infamous Tonle Sap Lake cruise scam. If you managed to get a proper tour guide then some of the Angkor temples to visit when in Siem Reap would be the world famous Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm where they shot Tomb Raider. Apart from the breath taking sight of the Angkor temples, there is not much else to do in Siem Reap.  

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

Sae Ma Eul Korean BBQ

If you head down to Solaris Mont Kiara you will probably find dozens of Korean restaurants and quite a few of them are BBQ restaurants. While I've not tried any other Korean BBQ place other than Sae Ma Eul, I've tried Hanwoori in Ampang which is super pricey as compared to Sae Ma Eul. Of the two, I prefer Sae Ma Eul. There's not too many options on the menu which is perfect because what they do have, they do it very well. There's always a line at Sae Ma Eul, so it's best to reach early or late, they open from 3pm until 1am. Sae  Ma Eul serves the standard stuff that you find at most Korean BBQ outlets; iced water, kimchi and sides but they set themselves apart from the competition by going with charcoal. I'm not a charcoal of BBQ expert, but I imagine barbecue with charcoal taste better. When I went this time I did not order the Prime Sirloin which goes for RM75 for a plate of 2 pieces. I went for two pieces of grilled spicy chicken and pork ribs marinated in special soy sauce. The marinated pork ribs is a must, if you don't eat pork then you shouldn't be going to Sae Ma Eul. The chicken and pork ribs is RM30 for a plate of 2 pieces. Word of advice; try and sit outside. It's a barbecue place, while they have the vacuum tube thingy, it doesn't do a good job at sucking up the smoke. The caveat of using charcoal I guess? Sae Ma Eul also serves an assortment of Korean beers, Makkeoli and Soju. Priced reasonably from RM10 - RM25, knock yourself out.

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

Best Spicy Pan Mee

Unless you stay beside this pan mee stall, you will probably never know it existed. The only reason how I know about this stall is because I used to work with someone that actually stayed beside the stall. I've been coming to this stall for more than 15 years, in the same period, I have not found a spicy pan mee that comes close. This stall operates out of the owner's home and I don't even think they have a name for the stall. 800 is actually the name of the house the stall operates out of. When I started coming here, the stall was operated by an old lady and her son, over weekends helped out by her grand daughter who was about twelve then. Today, the grand daughter runs the show, she does the cooking and all. The base pan mee is basic, just noodles and soup. You have the option to add fuchok (bean curd skin), prawns, fishballs, pork, eggs etc. I normally go with egg, prawns and fuchok. There's a few ways you can eat this, my partner prefers to not to mix the chili paste with the broth. I'm a person that likes getting punished, I'll mix the chili paste in the broth and have more chili with every mouth. That's the recipe for a fiery butt hole, I'll deal with the butt whooping consequences the following day. You have been warned. Nothing beats having some lime juice and asam drink to go with spicy soup pan mee, it helps amplify the arse destruction process. Pro tip: get the owner to make the drink, anyone else that makes it, it will be too diluted. The lime juice comes in a glass normally, but true to Malaysian style, I take mine in a packet tied with a raffia string. The logic behind this is, you pack more ice, making the drink colder.

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

Getting to Mount Kinabalu

To get to Mount Kinabalu, you will need to get to Kundasang. From Kundasang town, you can get a spectacular view of Mount Kinabalu if the weather permits. When I was there the weather was cloudy and the view was partially obstructed. I drove down from KK town and it was quite an interesting drive. The journey took about two and a half hours. When renting a car in KK, you may be tempted to rent from one of the many uni students there because it tends to be cheaper. That's perfectly fine, but check the car before driving off with it. The car that I rented had shoddy brakes, which is acceptable when driving around KK town, but to tackling the journey to Kundasang and back, you'd need good brakes. The first 40 kilometers towards Kundasang, you'll get a nice four lane highway that's riddled with potholes. When you reach Tamparuli Bridge, that's when everything goes to shit. After the bridge you'll have 60 kilometers of trunk road ahead, one lane going up and one lane going down. The road is winding while you go up the mountain. If that wasn't challenging enough, there are about a million potholes for you to avoid and road works taking place at certain parts. On my drive, there were a total of four areas being worked on. What goes up, must come down. With shitty brakes, the drive down was especially challenging. Thanks to God's good graces, Google Maps was accurate, that helped me in deciding how much brakes to apply while driving down the mountain at 90 kilometers per hour. If you're looking to drive up to Kundasang, I would suggest you get a four wheel drive SUV or a crossover, then potholes become less of a problem and you'll get round the bends better. When you arrive at Kundasang, the view is pretty spectacular and the air is cold and fresh. You may want to bring a jacket along if you're afraid of the cold, it can get quite chilly. Depending on who you ask, they may suggest you go to Desa Cattle Dairy Farm. Personally I thought it was a waste of time and money. They charged RM5 per entry. Considering there were only cows to see, I'm not sure what I was being charged for. At Desa Cattle Dairy Farm you get to see some grass, cows and a strong smell of cow shit. When you're done walking around smelling cow shit, you can visit their empty store. You'll only find some ice cream here. Nothing great about it. You get a pretty good view of grass and Mount Kinabalu. I went during the raining season so it was cloudy and I got a bunch of photos which I think is half of Mount Kinabalu, I could have been just taking photo of a hill. You will probably spend a total of two hours at Kundasang. There's really nothing to do here. Again, if you're planning to drive up and back, get a good car.

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

Malaysian MotoGP

Over weekend I went for the Malaysian MotoGP and sat at the Marquez Tribune courtesy of the super nice people at Repsol. The first thing I noticed when I got there was the crowd, it was easily three times more than the Formula 1 crowd. It is no wonder why Malaysia decided to stop having F1. In typical Malaysian weather and traffic, the day started very hot and super congested. I took 3 hours to get to the circuit when on normal days it would take about an hour. During the Formula 1, it took me about an hour and a half. As expected, there were many girls and bikes on display, I was not disappointed. True to Malaysian weather, the blazing sun turned to cloudy skies in a matter of minutes and twenty minutes before the MotoGP race, it started to pour. So if you're planning to go next year, do come prepared with a cap and a raincoat.  

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

Gayang Seafood Restaurant

After have a bad terrible experience at Welcome Seafood Restaurant, I decided to visit Salut Seafood Restaurant because I have eaten here before some six years ago and I remembered having a good time. Unfortunately, Salut Seafood is closed on Mondays so I was recommended Gayang Seafood instead which is five minutes away from Salut Seafood by car. The first thing I looked for when ordering was the big mud crabs, unfortunately they only had the flower crabs. This wasn't a good sign. Flower crabs are small and skinny. We ordered a steam fish and it tasted alright, except they over cooked the fish and the meat was tough. The fish also looks super skinny for RM35. They could have done better with the fish. The clam with ginger and spring onion soup is a solid ten. It wasn't exceptional but at least it was cooked perfectly. Unlike the issue of empty shells like we experienced at Welcome Seafood, the clams at Gayang Seafood were big and succulent. The soft shell crab was basically just deep fried. They could have done a lot better by adding some flavor like salted egg or something. It didn't taste good as it just tasted like fried flour. For comparison purposes, we also ordered, Welcome Seafood takes this one. The Mee Tuaran was better at Welcome Seafood but not as good as the Mee Tuaran at Kedai Kopi Seng Hing. Again, for comparison purposes, we ordered prawns. This time I made sure they fished the prawns out of the tank fresh. As expected, the prawns were fresh and easily the best dish of the night. If you're in Kota Kinabalu and craving for mantis prawns, Gayang is a lot cheaper than Welcome Seafood at RM160 per kilo as compared to Welcome Seafood's RM260 per kilo. In total we spend RM124 which is still cheap in comparison to Kuala Lumpur. Whilst the seafood in Gayang was fresh and prepared reasonbly well, the condition of the restaurant was less than desirable.

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

Hyatt Regency Kota Kinabalu

I have always enjoy staying at Hyatt hotels and the Hyatt Regency Kota Kinabalu is no different. While the building looks a bit tired, it is well maintained. The room we were assigned was spacious and clean. On the first day we had breakfast at the club lounge where I had a basic breakfast of cheese omelette, sausages and a tomato. At the Regency Club you'll find the usual bread, cheese, butter, fruits, cereal and yogurt. I was busy working on my laptop so I didn't really check out the spread unfortunately. Breakfast starts at 6.30 until 10.30am. Evening cocktail consists of a generous amount of food. I imagine if you wanted to save some money you could have dinner there with two meat dishes, rice, sushi and soup. As for alcohol, a couple of red and white wines, Bacardi, Smirnoff Vodka and Gin. For those that don't take alcohol, there is soft drinks, juice and sparkling and still water. On the second day we decided to have breakfast at Tanjung Ria Kitchen. They have an enormous spread here from Western to Asian and local dishes. I decided to be boring and went for nasi lemak. The pool is located on the lobby level and is decently sized. The pool also overlooks the ocean. I would have liked to try their much raved about Japanese restaurant, Nagisa. It was not surprising when we tried to make reservations for the Japanese buffet on the day itself, it was fully booked. On the last day of my trip I was unwell from something I ate the night before so I decided not to go for breakfast. When my partner showed up at the restaurant without me and the hostess heard about my restless tummy, they offered to send breakfast to my room. It was a nice gesture and a true reflection of what to expect when staying with Hyatt.

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

Welcome Seafood Restaurant

Welcome Seafood Restaurant has two branches, one located at Asia City and the other in Bundusan. The first day we went to the Asia City branch because it was the easiest to get to, just a couple of minutes from our hotel. When we arrived at about 8, it was already packed and the was only three large mud crabs left, I grabbed all three! Side note; take a piss before coming to Welcome Seafood Restaurant, the quality of the bathroom here is atrocious. If I hadn't banged eighteen Gin and Tonic's at the Regency Club thirty minutes before, I would have held it in. We ordered the fried fish noodle - RM9, two salted egg crabs (RM30 per crab), one kam heong crab and three mantis prawns which cost us RM168 as it was RM260 per kilogram. I'll start with the worst dish, the salted egg crab crap. When it was served, I couldn't believe it was salted egg and I wanted to return it, only to be told it was indeed salted egg crab. It looked nothing salted egg crab that I have had before, and it sure as hell didn't taste like salted egg. They cooked it with sesame oil making the crabs sweet and tasting like shit. Be warned, avoid at all cost. Next up, the fish fried noodle, beautifully done and tasted wonderful. For a table of three, we ordered the noodle for one person and it was enough to go around. You'll get two pieces of prawns and bits of broken fish. The sweet and sour crab was good, nothing special about it. After having two perfectly good crabs destroyed by someone that I can only imagine have never had salted egg anything. You'll read at the bottom how inconsistent the cooking style is with the other Welcome Seafood Restaurant which is supposedly the main branch. The highlight of the night was probably the mantis prawn which cost me an arm and both my legs. The mantis prawns were cooked with salt and pepper, nothing complicated and cooked perfectly albeit a bit oily which I didn't mind. When I ordered it I honestly thought the waiter said RM68 for two pieces. Mantis prawns are pretty skinny, I'm not sure that three pieces equals 600 grams. Anyway, it was nice but very expensive. After speaking to a few local Grab drivers, they recommended that we try the main Welcome Seafood Restaurant, supposedly the 'sifu' chef is there. I don't know if it's because I like getting punished or because I'm such a generous person that I allow people redeem themselves, I suspect it's the former. Welcome Seafood Restaurant, the original, is located at some industrial area. The restaurant is noticeably much smaller than the restaurant that's located in Asia City. They also only had small crabs at RM9 per crab, medium sized crabs at RM15 was sold out at 7.30pm on a Sunday. My guess is they send the good stuff to where the money is. Much less tourist here, more locals, normally that's a good sign. I had less Gin and Tonic's tonight but I still had to use the bathroom, much cleaner here. I was pretty disappointed that there were no large crabs here so I went for a fried fish, I'll eat fried fish anytime of the week. The fish sauce was thicker and sweeter than I'm used to, but it was pleasantly nice. The highlight of my dinner. The fish cost about RM35. I'll do a direct comparison where I can so we'll start with fish fried noodles. Prawns, check, pieces of smashed fish, check, spring onions, check, egg, check. At the first restaurant they fried the noodles with cut chili, not available in the second restaurant. It tasted similar so I suppose it doesn't matter. Fish noodle cost RM18. The salted egg crab was terrible so I didn't want to take the chance, furthermore the crabs were small so I didn't feel like having any crabs. My partner went for the kam heong and it was solidly normal, how you'd expect kam heong to taste like. You can't, and should not go wrong with kam heong, it's probably tied with sweet and sour crabs as the most widely cooked style in Malaysia. From here on, things just fell apart really fast. The first of five horrible dishes in chronological order starting with ginger and spring onions lala (clams). This dish was actually pretty good, if the clams weren't empty. I had to retake the photos a couple of times because it showed a lot of empty shells. I'm a lazy person, I don't like using too much effort to take photos. Some would argue that the clam fell out of the shell during cooking, that may be quite true, but these were pretty big clams and a lot of them were stuck to the shell pretty good, I had to use significant force to evict them from their shell house. Ok, maybe I'm being a bit unfair, the clams tasted really good. Next up is a local favorite, kang kung (morning glory) with belacan. I have no idea how they overcooked this. Kang kung is supposed to be crunchy. They really dropped the ball on this, if you can't do kang kung belacan right, you should stop being a chef in Malaysia. Since the sweet and sour crabs from the first night was good, my better half decided to go for the sweet and sour again. Always best to stick to what you know right? How wrong we were. What was served was extremely disappointing and embarrassing. You can see that in the photo below it was cooked with spring onions and the photo above, no spring onions. The sauce was so light, it tasted like cornstarch and ketchup. It was so bad, we struggled to eat it. Last on the list are the prawns. What I hate more than shitty tasting food is food that is not fresh. In a city like Kota Kinabalu where it's located right next to the sea, there's really no excuse to serve bad prawns. Welcome Seafood Restaurant has tanks full of live prawns and they served us some frozen prawns or dead prawns or some sort. Like the dry butter prawns above, the wet butter prawns were not fresh as well. It's not hard to tell if prawns aren't fresh, the shell sticks to the body. Normally if the cooking style requires frying the prawn, that's when they serve you frozen prawns. Utterly disappointing. The second night without the mantis prawns we paid RM140. It's scary the amount of people that actually eat at Welcome Seafood considering the quality of the food they serve. Never again.

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

Kedai Kopi Seng Hing

Following my disappointment with the Yee Fung laksa, we made our way to Kedai Kopi Seng Hing for some mee Tuaran. Tuaran is a name of a town in Sabah, about 28 kilometers away. Don't ask me why I'm having mee Tuaran in KK and not in Tuaran. All I know is, Kedai Kopi Seng Hing serves delicious mee Tuaran, without the crowd and burnt sambal. Seng Hing serves its mee Tuaran with roasted pork and that gives it an additional flavor. There are restaurants that serve mee Tuaran without pork and you won't really get the full experience. I chanced upon this restaurant the last time I was in KK six years ago when I stayed at Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu. Kedai Kopi Seng Hing is located just behind of Le Meridien KK.

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

Yee Fung Laksa

When making a list of what to eat in Kota Kinabalu, laksa is one of the must-tries and most of the time you'll be recommended the laksa at Yee Fung Restaurant. Within the hour of reaching KK, we were recommended to have lunch at Yee Fung about 5 times. The restaurant was packed when we got there, the fact that it's ranked 5th on TripAdvisor meant that it's full of tourists. We had to wait about 15 minutes to get a seat, a lot sooner if they actually had a first come first serve system. To get a seat fast, you'd have to be a big enough asshole and jump right in front of the waiters face. Once we got out table, the wait was minimal. It's not that hard to make laksa, scald the noodle and pour the already prepared broth. The laksa tasted alright. The broth is a lot lighter than what we're used to in Kuala Lumpur. The shredded chicken that came with the laksa was fresh and didn't have that left over chicken taste. I like eating laksa with sambal (Malay chili paste). This is where it all went to shit. The sambal was burnt. The fact that they mass produce this meant that this batch of sambal was burnt and the fact that they served burnt sambal meant they couldn't care less about their paying customers, especially the locals. RM8 for a small bowl of laksa with some shredded chicken and 2 pieces of prawns, when prawns cost next to nothing in KK, makes this laksa really expensive. Yee Fung Restaurant and their laksa is overrated, I would not recommend anyone go here unless you like waiting inline to pay for expensive laksa with burnt sambal. In my next few articles on my dining experience in KK, you'll notice that I did not have a good experience in my first trip back to KK in 6 years. My guess is the quality has been compromised as KK gets more commercialized. After my bad experience at Yee Fung, we immediately made our way for some mee Tuaran where I hoped I'll get a good experience, and we weren't disappointed.

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

What You Need to Know about Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah, Malaysia and it's located to the west of peninsula Malaysia. From the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, it is roughly 2 hours by flight. Kota Kinabalu is often referred to as KK by locals and tourists. For a list of places to stay, click here. KK is famous for Gunung Kinabalu or Mount Kinabalu which is the highest mountain in Malaysia with an elevation of 4,095 meters. With it's close proximity to the sea, KK is also a great spot for cheap and fresh seafood. In Kuala Lumpur, for the same quality of food you would easily pay three times the price. Kota Kinabalu town itself is not large and you can easily get around with Uber or Grab, and walking. Off KK, there are a few islands to visit and you get can island hopping services at Jesselton Point. Prices start at about RM30 per island. Best start your island-hopping day early if you want to visit a few islands. When I was here, the weather turned from blazing sun to a storm in a matter of minutes. Normally the raining season is from October to February. Obviously the seafood will be impacted during the raining season as most fishermen would not risk going out at sea.

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

What You Need to Know about Pattaya

Located about 165 Km towards south-east of Bangkok, and on the eastern coast of Gulf of Thailand, Pattaya is one of Thailand’s most prominent tourist spots. It has developed over the years from a small fishing village to one of the most coveted tourist destinations in Thailand. The transformation of Pattaya initiated in 1959 with US soldiers from North-east Thailand going to Pattaya as part of a holiday trip. During the Vietnam War between 1965 and 1972, there was a huge presence of American soldiers in this region, participating in “weekend parties”. This history of development has left its legacy, and the coastal town has quickly evolved to be the sex capital of the world, with thriving go-go bars, beer bars, night clubs and all forms of massages. Northern Pattaya is an up-market area, whereas the southern part of this town is a nightclub hub. Jomtien is a laid back area towards the south of Pattaya with a gay friendly beach, whereas the northern Naklua is peaceful and quiet beach with high end resorts and hotels. The inhabitants are prominently of Thai-Chinese descent, followed by workers from one of the poorest regions – North-east Thailand or Issan. An increasingly large number of foreigners also have settled in this region. U-Tapao is the nearest airport for Pattaya. Tourists however, usually prefer to come to Bangkok airport from where Pattaya is about 1.5 hours by driving. Pattaya is also connected by train and bus from Bangkok.  The climate is warm throughout the year – hot and dry from November to February, very hot and humid during March to May, and hot and rainy from June to October.  The major attractions in Pattaya are the Sanctuary of Truth Monument located at Naklua, the Anek Kusala Sala Museum, Ko-Lan – a beach island located 7 km from the coast of Pattaya, the Khao Phra Tamnak viewpoint on the mountain separating Jomtien from Pattaya, the hilltop Wat Khao Phra Bat temple, the Kromluang Chomphonkhetudomsak monument, Fairtex Sports Club for Thai boxing (Muay Thai), golf courses, go-karts, theme parks, botanical parks and zoological gardens.   The Sanctuary of Truth Monument is a large wooden structure besides the sea, constructed in 1981, and conceived from the concept that philosophical and religious truth is the basis of human civilization. A prominent water park – Cartoon Network Amazone was opened in 2014, and is based on Cartoon Network theme with different zones, water slides, wave pool, surfing simulator and the biggest water playground in south-east Asia. The 18 ha RamaYana is one of Asia’s largest water parks located 20 km south of Pattaya City. The park is close to the Big Buddha Mountain (Khao Chi Chan) beside Silverlake vineyard.  Mini Siam is a model village depicting miniatures of heritages of Thailand, monuments, historical sites, and models of different important bridges and towers of the world such as London Bridge, Eiffel Tower, etc. The Nooch Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden is a 500 acres botanical garden and orchid nursery located about 15 kms south of Pattaya, where cultural shows using elephants and chimpanzees are performed. The garden also houses tigers and an assortment of birds. The Pattaya Walking Street is a destination that tourists usually visit, and is dotted with nightlife spots:  nightclubs, go-go bars, beer bars, restaurants, discos, etc. This is the busiest and the largest nightlife destination of Thailand. During the day, the Walking Street looks completely different with shops selling different things like wood carvings, Buddha figurines, jewellery and antique materials. The largest and the most crowded market of Pattaya is the Thepprasit Market that opens on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings on the Thepprasit Road. This market is known as a pet market, and has many Thai food stalls with local specialties such as fried insects, scorpions, branded shoes, clothes and electronics. Other attractions in Pattaya are the Pattaya Crocodile Park, Underwater World Pattaya ( Aquarium), Silverlak Winery, Million Years Stone Park, Bottle Art Museum, and Ripley’s Believe it or Not. There are several shopping opportunities in Pattaya. A few key shopping locations are the Avenue Pattaya – Second Road, Royal Garden Plaza – South Pattaya, Central Festival Pattaya Beach – Beach Road, the Floating Market in Pattaya – Jomtien, Outlet Mall Pattaya – North Pattaya and Weekend Markets – South Pattaya . The Jomtien area located 3 km south of Pattaya is known for apartment complexes and hotels, and is also a quieter location than Pattaya.  The beach is 6 km long, and is popular among Thai families. The Pattaya Park and Tower are other prominent places in Jomtien. Si Racha is a city, which is a mix between modern industry and a fishing village. The industrial port of Laem Chabang in Si Racha is one of the busiest ports in Thailand. There are a number of car factories in Si Racha and therefore, there are multiple Japanese restaurants in this area. The apartments are very close to the water front in this area. Next to the city located towards the north of Pattaya is the island of Ko Si Chang. This island has about 5000 inhabitants, and was a former holiday destination of royals. San Jao Phaw Khao Yai is a beautiful Chinese temple in Ko Si Chang, and dates back to the first set of Chinese immigrants who visited this island. Hot girls, hot beaches, hot locales and the hot weather – everything seems to be hot in Pattaya!

Kimberly Clark

Kimberly Clark

An Unexpected Company During Dinner

I seldom take pork and even less if dining out for various reasons but one of the few places I would go if I wanted pork ribs would be Morganfield's. As you can see from the photos below, they have a rodent problem. Having rodents in your restaurant by any standard is unacceptable and unsanitary and this outlet was in an upscale shopping mall right in the middle of Kuala Lumpur. You would imagine they had better cleanliness standards. Needless to say I will not be patronizing Morganfield's anytime soon if they allow rodents to roam free in their restaurants. I was having dinner with my partner and suddenly a rodent jumped out from under the seat, took a few nibbles of what looks to be a smashed fry and parkour'ed back up into the seat again. This happened a few times. That is just disturbing. I'm no rodent expert, but that it looks pretty young, I'm wondering if its parents are nearby. I asked to speak to the restaurant manager and I was told he was outside of the restaurant. So I requested that he comes to me, I'm not about to walk outside in the middle of my meal so I can tell him he has a fucking rodent infestation in his restaurant. If he came over, apologized and promised to get his rodent infestation sorted then that would have been the end of it but he never came while the rodent jumped in and out about 20 times more, it was fast, but not faster than my iPhone 7s shutter speed. Talk about bad customer service. After paying for the meal, RM183 in total, not cheap by any means and left the restaurant only to see who I assume was the restaurant manager, some specky guy sitting outside doing nothing but obviously too busy to come speak to me. Easily one of the most uncomfortable dining experiences ever.

Danica Modesta

Danica Modesta

Phuket The Spiritual Quest: Day 1

As you reach the Phuket International Airport, and complete the immigration formalities by 9 am, move to the taxi stand outside the airport.  Phuket Town is about 30 km south of the airport, and the travel time is about 30 to 45 minutes (800 baht). The other options are an hour by shared minibus (600 baht for 2 people, or 150 / 200 baht each), or 1hr 20 minutes by a government bus.  You would reach your hotel in Phuket Town latest by 10.30 am by any of the above options. The old town has a number of options to stay at very reasonable prices. Take a break for about an hour at your hotel, get fresh, and plan to travel to the spiritual sites in Phuket. The first day of travel would be targeted in and around Phuket town with a focus on Chinese shrines. Leave your hotel around 11.30 am.  Phuket is known for the various Buddhist and Chinese (Taoist) shrines. The first point to visit is the Bang Neow shrine. Located at the crossing of Phuket Road with Kra Road, the Bang Neow shrine is also known by a couple of names such as Thep Rasi Foundation and Tao Buang Keng Shrine. Depending on your distance of your hotel you could, either walk, or take a taxi. Nevertheless, since your plan is to visit number of shrines, a car or taxi would be a better option. Bang Neow shrine is one of the beautiful Chinese shrines, and has moved many times because of fire. It also has about ten doors, and has an elegant interior décor with beautiful color paintings that recount stories from the Chinese literature. The image of the Chinese dragon is well represented here in the paintings, or carved on the supporting columns, and the small administrative section in the main building gets converted into a vegetarian canteen and kitchen during the Vegetarian Festival. Leave the Bang Neow shrine at 12 noon, and proceed further down Phuket Road by a car to the Kiew Tien Keng, a stunningly beautiful shrine located in the lovely Sapan Hin Park area near the beach in Phuket Town.  This spot is considered as a departure site for all gods and deities to return to heaven on the end day of the Vegetarian Festival, when the normal diet resumes. There are artistic images of deities on the altar with life-size statues, along with a silver statue of Ji Gong, a non-traditional smiling monk of Chinese folklore, who used to drink, eat meat, wore beggar like clothes, and carry funny stuff (like chicken on one knee as shown on the statue). There are also statues of eight immortals of Taoist tradition on the terrace overlooking the Andaman Sea. Exit from Kiew Tien Keng shrine at 1 pm, and explore the restaurants in the park – Issan-style (North-east Thai food), sea food, and Kanom Jeem (soft noodles) . After having lunch, leave this area at 2 pm, and move back north-west to the next destination the Jui Tui Shrine, which is located on Soi Phuthorn, Ranong Road, and is one of the respected and oldest spiritual . This temple plays a pivotal role during the annual Phuket Vegetarian festival. The principal deity of this temple is the Tean Hu Huan Soy, the god associated with the performing artists and dancers (considered as a patron by the Chinese Opera), has a special place in the hearts of the locals. His image set on the main altar on the highest position is accompanied by a dog and a chicken, his favorite pets on both sides. Besides the main building, there is also an associated fire cracker house for throwing burning crackers, thereby reducing noise and pollution. Take the Yaowarat Road at 3 pm for the next destination towards the north – the Samkong shrine. The shrine has been a part of the Samkong villagers’ lives, especially during their illness. As per locals, the deity was a human being, who used to work in the Chinese Imperial Palace, and the only way the locals used to communicate with the deity was through a spirit medium. Nowadays, people visit this shrine to pray for good health. Leave Samkong shrine by 4 pm for the last destination of the day – the Kathu shrine. The shrine is located in Kathu village, two km from the Kathu – Patong junction on the Samkong Kathu Road. It shares a history with the Phuket Vegetable Festival, and is considered as the festival’s original home.  As per rumors, once, the Chinese Opera from mainland China came to Kathu, and their members started to fall ill without any reason. They soon realized that they had forgotten to carry on with their traditional diet, which was veg. So, they had a vegetarian diet festival at their house in Kathu, and within no time, the sickness and associated problems disappeared. Locals also had participated in this ceremony, and carried on with the same thereafter. Hence, Phuket became known for the annual vegetarian festival thereafter. Guests are allowed to visit this shrine to the extent that they do not venture into the private hall that is the home of the deity, and named as ‘chairman’ of the festival. Leave the Kathu shrine by 5 pm, and return to your hotel by 5.30 pm.
 

Alexandria Faria

Alexandria Faria

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