photo slideshow

Friday, 30 October 2015

Discovering Penang, Malaysia with Air Asia

When someone mentions "travel", our minds usually automatically jump to other countries.

"I want to visit the old towns in Vietnam!"
"Thailand has such beautiful temples."
"The food in the Philippines is supposed to be awesome!"


But what about our own country, which is also a big part of the much-loved touristy part of the world called South East Asia?

Well, I got the chance to explore Penang with Air Asia Bloggers Community (AABC), and although I've been there twice before, there was so much more to discover, especially since we were assigned a Penang blogger as a "guide" for every group!
Jian, an aunty who showed us the way, Ana, Ken (our Penang blogger), Diana and me!
There's so much to do and see and experience in Penang, so to break it down, let's use the #AABCPenangTakeover Instagram challenge as a guide:

1. Best breakfast in Penang

According to Ken, Penangites have a lot of choice when it comes to breakfast. Some like roti bakar (toast, usually with kaya and butter), some prefer char key teow, others prefer chee cheong fun Penang style, but whatever you choose, there's one thing everyone can agree on, and that is that they're all YUMMY! We opted to go to MacAlistar Road as a lot of the other groups headed for roti bakar.

2. Penangness
One of the many street art pieces around Georgetown
Apparently, when people think of Penang, they think of the Komtar building. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea what the Komtar building was, and was slightly disappointed to find out it was just where the bus station was haha. When I think of Penang, I think of food, the Penang bridge, and the heritage buildings, not to mention the well-known love for art!

3. Penang Essentials
Options: You can take the bus, rent a bicycle, hop on a ferry, or just get around on your trusty two feet!
As a tourist, the most essential thing anywhere is: good public transport! And that's what we found! The ferry ride was especially enjoyable, and it links the island side of Penang to the mainland.

4. Heritage Trail
Old buildings are kept almost pristine..
We spent quite a while trying to figure out what we could do for this one. It wasn't until we stopped focusing on the word 'trail' that we realised: Penang is a heritage city, i.e., everything we saw was part of the so-called heritage trail!

5. Eat Penang Style

Yep, the last challenge was food again. If you're Malaysian, you'd definitely know that Penang is known as the food capital of Malaysia. All kinds of dishes still cooked the traditional way (a lot of street hawkers still operate there), at a significantly lower price than other places in Malaysia, with no compromise on taste. Voila! A table-full of nyonya cuisine was a no-brainer!

Looking for a getaway? Air Asia flies to Penang from Kota Kinabalu twice daily, so no pesky transits to get in the way of you and a great time!

Much Love,
Calista xx

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Africa Travel Tips You Need to Know

Africa has been at the top of my bucket list since I can even remember. These tips definitely make me want to get on a plane and fly there now! 

Africa can be a wonderful place to visit, but you need to be prepared before you arrive. You can’t head over there without doing a lot of research first - it’ll be a totally different world compared to what you’re used to. These tips will keep you safe and comfortable so you can have the best time wherever you are in Africa!

Leave Your Nice Jewellery at Home

You take risks when you visit any country, so don’t let this put you off. There have been incidents where nice jewellery has been stolen from visitors, so make sure you leave your nice jewellery at home. There’s no need to wear it here anyway. Try to get back to nature and embrace the culture - nobody else will be wearing expensive Rolexes or diamond rings, so leave it at home. You would be devastated if anything happened, so don’t risk it.

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Pack Much Less

Pack much less than you think you need. Africa is a hot place and you’ll more than likely get there to realise you need half the stuff you brought. Even though Malaysia is hot all year round too, you don’t need to worry about packing for every single circumstance that could occur, so try to keep it to one small bag.

Carry a Snack With You

Carry a snack with you, such as a cereal bar or something that will give you energy. Nothing that can melt, ideally! This is a great trick for when you’re exploring and become hungry with no food nearby. Also a great tip if for whatever reason you don’t want to get any street food that day.

Buy a Cheap Phone

Maybe you lose your phones a lot or you’re worried about having it stolen. It’s simple: get a cheap phone before you leave or buy one when you get there. This way you can still stay in touch with people you’re travelling with and contact home if you need to. It won’t cost you much to replace if you lose it, and there won’t be anything sentimental on there. It’s a no brainer!

Haggle a Lot

When you’re scouring the markets and other places to buy, haggle a lot. Practicing your haggling skills is a norm being from South East Asia. Don’t feel like you have to pay full price for anything - usually paying even 50% of the full price is too much! They expect you to haggle here so make sure you do it. You can usually get stuff for very, very low prices.

Do Try the Local Food

Trying the local food is a must here. The street food is seriously cheap and you can save a fortune on your budget from eating there. Just be sure the vendors are in an area of a lot of people, as this means the food will be fresher and hygiene taken more seriously. Choose some exciting restaurants too - avoid westernised restaurants if possible. Buzz Kenya stories can reveal more about the best food and what to try!

Insect Repellent is a Must

Mosquitos over here are demons, so insect repellent is a must. You might even want to take a mosquito killing device with you, so you’re well prepared if anything tries to attack.

Drink a Lot of Water

One of the worst things that can happen on a trip like this is becoming dehydrated, so make sure you drink a lot of water.

Above all else, have a great time and don’t forget to make some local friends!

Sien jou gou,
Calista xx

(Apparently that's "see you soon" in Afrikaans! =P)

*This post was contributed by a guest blogger.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

6 Ways to Find New Places to Eat

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It's no secret: I love food. The good thing is, I think everyone else does too! Even if you're very careful about what you eat, you should enjoy every mouthful you take. Although I like cooking at home, going out to eat is even better. I can have what I want, I don't have to cook it, and there's no washing up for me to do either! I love to try new places, but sometimes I can get stuck in a rut. Finding somewhere new to taste-test isn't always easy. I know you have to take a risk sometimes, but I don't want the risk of a bad meal to be high. Disappointing meals make me cry! So I have a few things I can do to find the best restaurants to try out, whether I'm travelling or at home.

Get All the Apps

There really is an app for everything, so I always make sure I have some restaurant discovery apps on my phone. They can tell me the nearest places to go from where I am, what they're like and how people rate them. They help me find a restaurant when I'm in a hurry and about to starve if I don't eat right now. It's great to have something to help when I'm out and about, and maybe when I'm travelling and don't know the city too well. It's even better if there are offers and discounts available too. I just discovered one for Malaysia, Offpeak.my, which is going to expand into other Southeast Asian cities soon.

Watch Out for New Openings

Sometimes the best time to try a restaurant is when it's just opened up. Although it can also be the worst time, for a few reasons: It might be very busy if there's a buzz surrounding the opening, and you might have the best meal of your life, only to discover that the restaurant didn't last more than a month. But, like I said, you have to take risks sometimes. Visiting a restaurant when they're just finding their feet can give you some great experiences. If you want to hear about new restaurants, it's a good idea to sign up for newsletters for local websites. Look at food bloggers, news sites, and more to hear about Monterey restaurants and other places around the world before anyone else. It's also a great idea to set up a Google alert that sends you results for "(your city) new restaurant".

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Choose at Random

I love a surprise. And the surprise of a great meal you weren't expecting is one of the best things in the world. It's amazing how you can stumble across incredible food in the most unlikely places. You can walk into a café or restaurant thinking it looks a bit ropey, and the food could change your life. Sometimes when I'm travelling and at home too I just pick somewhere at random. It might be a fancy restaurant, or it could be a street food vendor. It might be a bad choice, but usually it's an excellent one.

Do Lots of Research

Using the internet to research can help you to discover lots of incredible restaurants. It's an especially good thing to do before you go on a trip if you don't know what to expect. You can try starting with the top-rated restaurants on TripAdvisor and similar websites to see what everyone loves. There are other ways to find out the best places to go too. If you're looking for somewhere prestigious, look for restaurants that have Michelin stars. Usually, I don't need something that upmarket, though!

Read Reviews

When you're researching online, reviews can be useful. But I don't listen to them all the time since they can sometimes be all over the place. Some people will always find something to complain about, so you have to know when to ignore a bad review. Sometimes it's better to look at average ratings than it is to read individual reviews. Personal opinions might not mean much, unless they're all exceptionally good or awful. They do help you avoid the terrible restaurants that will only give you food poisoning!

Ask the Locals

If you don't know where to go, whether you're at home or travelling, try asking someone. You can start with family or friends who might have experiences. One of the things I like to do is ask someone local who knows the area well. You can talk to the staff at your hotel if you're on a trip or just walk into a shop and get someone's opinion.

Looking for new restaurants to try can sometimes be a pain, but it's definitely worth it when I discover somewhere amazing. How do you find places you love? Drop me some suggestions below! =)

Living to Eat,
Calista xx

*This post was contributed by a guest blogger.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Travel Tips For A Safe Vacation

As you probably all know I love to travel; exploring the world and experiencing new things is very important to me. Whether for work or for pleasure, when it comes to trips away, safety needs to be a priority. You’ve got to be sensible and ensure you’re going to be safe at all times in this strange new place you're visiting to ensure you have an enjoyable and memorable break.
Where to next? - Bangkok 2015
So, I’ve come up with a short list of suggestions that I think you can use. These will help you to work toward having a safer vacation. Try to bear these in mind when you decide to book your trip, as well as when you’re there.
Travel With Friends
Safety in numbers is the phrase that springs to mind. Sure, if you’re a seasoned traveller you’ll have no qualms about travelling on your own. But, if you’re fairly new to the vacation experience abroad I’d advise you go with friends or family. Many of the places will be very different culturally to what you’re used to. As such, you need to make sure you are in a safe environment, and surrounded by people you know. This will help you transition much better.
Find the Essentials as Soon as You Arrive
One of the first things I do when I arrive at my destination is to scope out the essentials. And I suggest you make this a priority for your vacation as well. You need to think about things that will make you feel much safer. Scope out where the nearest police station is, and where the hospital is. These are essential things that you’ll need to know. Find out where they are in relation to your hotel. Knowing where these things are is going to give you a much better sense of safety.
Research Thoroughly Beforehand
You should never go into anything unprepared, and I look at my vacations in much the same way. That’s why I suggest you research thoroughly before you go. You need to find out about areas to avoid, places that are the safest, and become familiar with where you’re going. For instance, you can use this website to do some research about Africa if you're going there. That way you’ll be knowledgeable before you arrive. I should note that a lot of these places are going to be very culturally different than what you're used to. So you need to know about these differences for your own safety.
Always Let Someone Know Where You Are
Of course, the key to safety anywhere is common sense. And when I’m abroad I always make sure I let someone know where I am. I call a friend or family member each day to check in. If you’re worried about roaming charges, you can always use a pay phone. Or try to connect to the Wi-Fi wherever you’re staying and send a message. This is an essential security step, and one that I now do instinctively.

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Okay, guys, you’ve reached the end, and hopefully I’ve given you some useful tips. I love going on vacation, and sometimes I even love to go on my own. But whatever you choose, remember that he point of a vacation is to unwind and have some fun, so you don’t want to be worrying about your safety. Follow these tips, and have the best holiday possible!

Travel safe,
Calista xx

*This post was contributed by a guest blogger