Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Strand, Galveston, Texas

The Strand in Galveston, Texas, can get to be a really exciting place. Especially around Mardi Gras and Christmas times, the Strand really livens up and provides a great place to walk. While Mardi Gras offers all of the sorts of entertainment you'd typically expect of such a celebration, Christmas has a special flavor in Galveston. Each year there is a "Dickens on the Strand" celebration, where costumes and entertainment bring out a Dickensian feel to the place.

Any time of year, though, the Strand makes an enjoyable place to walk. Lined with shops on either side of the road, music floating out from the many establishments set up for entertainment, it all creates and environment of relaxation and play. It's a great place for any visitor to Galveston to take a stroll and soak up the sites.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007


I've yet to make my first trip to Spain, but after having recently done some writing about Barcelona hotels, I've grown rather eager to travel there. I don't think my earnings from the writing project will quite make the cut for the airfare, but I did learn that there are plenty of cheap hotels that I think I could cover with the funds I received for that particular job.

Spain is on my mind these days, ever since I finished writing about it. I've asked around amongst friends who have been, and it seems it's as exotically wonderful as all of the copy I helped write indicates. The coastal regions, the rich history, the bright flavor of the culture... it is all so inviting. I never really thought much about travel to Spain before, but in the past several weeks, that's changed. Indeed, it seems I've thought of nothing else.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Bintan Beach Resort, Indonesia

It has been some years now since I first went to Bintan Beach Resort. It was newly opened then, and a favorite spot for groups from Singapore to travel for retreats, workshops, team building weekends, and so forth. It is still a popular destination for such activities for many Singaporean groups.

The year it first opened, my church held a retreat there. In the middle of the afternoon, the tide was out... far out. There was a large stretch of muddy beach, and the locals were out collecting shellfish. It looked like a fun place to go, so two friends and I stepped out onto the beach. And promptly sank knee-deep into the mud. What we didn't realize was that the locals who seemed to be walking atop the beach had made their way out to a firmer sandbar, and that was where they were collecting their prizes.

As we'd already made a mess of it all, we tried to make our way out to the sandbar. We weren't too successful, but had fun nonetheless. The rest of our church group enjoyed watching us almost as much as we enjoyed the little venture.

Now, more than 10 years later, those two friends who went into the mud with me are married (to each other, I mean). Their children are my godchildren. We've come across the photo of our three pairs of muddy legs several times since then, much to the delight of the kids.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Malacca, Malaysia

My goddaughter (age 7) went to Malacca, in Malaysia, during the December school holidays with her family. She wrote this travelogue of her journey, and has given me permission to post it on my blog.

On Wednesday my family and I went to A Famosa Resort in Malacca. We checked into our hotel. Then, my mother, Samuel and I went for a swim in the swimming pool. We swam there for an hour and had so much fun. Then, we went back to our hotel. After that, we went for dinner and went back to our hotel. When we reached back to the hotel, we went to bed. The next morning when we woke up, we went to cowboy town for breakfast. Then we went back to the hotel, and took a rest and went to the chicken rice ball shop to eat lunch. After we had lunch we went to a shopping mall to have ice-cream while my mother had coffee. Then we went to the arcade to play games. We played with the racing cars and my father won. He was the first. My mother was second and I was last. It was very fun. We also played with the motorbikes. After that, we went to McDonald's to buy things for dinner. Then, we went back to the hotel for dinner and went to bed. The next morning, we went for a swim again. After that, we went to the Animal Safari to see Animal Shows. We also rode on a pony. Then we went back to the hotel and went home.

[on a separate page]

I like the animal musical parade in A Famosa because there are many animals like the white birds flying, chickens running in the road, horses pulling carriages, a tiger, a lion, and lots of animals. And at the end of the parade there were fireworks. It was very beautiful. The big fireworks were very nice.

Website Review: Tripadvisor at Typepad

At, hotels are reviewed and selected for the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice based on the unbiased reviews of millions of travelers at the site. One of the most entertaining entries i've seen at can be found here.

This review awards the dirtiest hotels, unlike the usual most romantic award, or best luxury hotel, that sort of thing. No, this post is entitled Great Hotels for People You Hate, and is targeted at pointing you to the worst possible places to stay. It is a fun read-through, and offers good, er... recommendations? Well, recommendations of places to avoid, at least!

Take a look at the site. It is amusing, and might save you some headaches before your next trip.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

After a Long Day of Travel

I've been thinking about flying nearly all day, today. Mostly because I spent a good part of the day flying, or waiting in customs lines... all that sort of good stuff.

Over here in Asia, it used to be that we could get cheap flights to nearby destinations easily. With the rising taxes and all, I have begun to think that those cheap flights are a thing of the past. I did manage to get a reasonable deal on this flight I took today, particularly when considering that I booked it rather last minute. But it seems that every time I fly (which is often), the prices are rising.

It makes me wonder what people do in other places where the cost of living is high. I have noticed that in Europe it is possible to get cheap flights on by flying Monarch, and I've flown many a budget airline in the US. I am pleased to see more budget airlines coming up in Asia too, and hope that this will make a dent in the upward trend I seem to see in flights these days. When my regular Shanghai-Singapore route is affected by prices like what Monarch offers, I will be very pleased.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Language Problems

A funny thing happened when we were in Sichuan, China about 10 years ago. The accent in Sichuan, influenced by their own dialect, makes the Mandarin spoken there different than what we speak in Singapore - understandable, but different. One of the girls in the group got herself into a funny situation because of this difference.

We were stopped at a rest stop somewhere along our journey from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou. My friend wanted a bottle of water. She asked the drinks-seller how much, and the stall keeper said, "Four dollars." In the Sichuan dialect, the number 4 is said in a tone very similar to the second/rising tone in Mandarin. To make matters worse, in Singapore, we tend to pronounce the "sh" sound as an "s" sound when we speak Chinese. The combination of these two different accents made my friend misunderstand what the drinks-seller had said. She heard the number 4 (in Mandarin, "si" with a falling tone) as the number 10 ("shi," in Mandarin, with a rising tone). Her very quick response was, "Ten dollars for two bottles." The stall keeper gladly agreed to this "special bargain," having a great time... at our expense.

Language learning has cost me a lot of money over the years, but none of the money spent hurt as much as my friend's 2 yuan that she lost that day.

FSI Language Courses has an excellent offer for cheap digital courses right now. For the same course for which the materials alone would normally cost a small fortune, FSI is offering a special price at US$29.99 - and that is for the whole course. Check out the link for FSI's offer.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Site to Visit

There's a very compelling story told on this blog entry, if you haven't alread seen or heard it on the news. And an opportunity for us to help.

Take a look. Give some thought to what we can do. At the very least, add your name to the list. Perhaps even send a letter to your congressperson (or whatever government official you might have some leverage with). Let's make a difference.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

It has been many years since I visited Trafalgar Falls, on the island of Dominica, but I remember it very clearly. The hike up through the jungle, the towering falls, and the cold water in which we swam. It was gorgeous, that huge, powerful waterfall nestled in the quiet of the jungle.

I've heard that it is less untouched now, with more signs of human traffic. I hate to think of that beautiful jungle magic interfered with, but I treasure the pictures of it still held so clearly in my mind. To me, Trafalgar Falls is still an untouched region, with only a slippery path up the slopes to reach it.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Fancy Dress Travels

I don't often travel in fancy dress myself. Indeed, most of the places I go will even let you in to very nice restaurants, or even a night at the symphony, in jeans. That's pretty much my speed. But some people really enjoy getting all made up in fancy dress, and Red Seven Leisure has just the packages for such travellers.

Red Seven Leisure specializes in stag and hen parties, and they will plan all sorts of tailor-made packages for groups or individuals. They have things lined up all over th UK, Europe, and the world. The pictures at the site are a lot of fun to browse through, and it looks like they've got something for everyone.

If fancy dress travel is the thing for you, then Red Seven Leisure might just be the tour agent you're looking for.

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