asia, food, Malaysia, travel

1 Day in Kuala Lumpur

As I had 3 days in Singapore, I took one to do a quick day trip to Kuala Lumpur. It was an admittedly rushed trip packed with catching flights, trains, and buses, but I did manage to check off a few things. Here’s what you can do over a short layover.

1) Explore Batu Caves (and climb its 272 steps). May not sound like much of a challenge at first, but their giant size and the scorching KL heat sure made it difficult. After the feat, however, you can reward yourself with a coconut. Note for girls: Remember to bring a cover-up of sorts as shorts are not allowed for entry.

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2) Shop at Central Market. Skipped this due to public transportation detours and delays, but supposedly is a great spot for souvenir shopping.

3) Feast at Lot 10 Food Court. There are lots of street food in the Bukit Bintang area but if you want to stay indoors Lot 10 has many vendors for you to pick and choose from. We created our own 3 course meal by food stall hopping – Chili Crab ($20 CAD), Duck Egg Kway Teow ($4 CAD), and Mango Shaved Ice ($2 CAD) Delicious! And not to mention cheap.

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Chili Crab

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Char Kway Teow

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Mango and Lychee Shaved Ice

4) Catch a glimpse of the famous Petronas Twin Towers – just to say you’ve seen it.

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My favourite part of Kuala Lumpur has got to be the Lot 10 Food Court. It was a bit of a struggle to do all the activities under 10 hours and the public transportation issues and hot weather did not help one bit!  I do think it is definitely doable within a day, but a full day and night would probably do it more justice.

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asia, fashion, food, Singapore, travel

2 Days in Singapore

Singapore is both a country and a city-state which is small enough in size to be easily be explored within 1 or 2 days. Here’s my schedule with the goal to see the most that I could within 2 days. Unfortunately, as I got sick partway during the trip, I was not able to complete it myself, but happy to share it nonetheless.

1) See its most iconic symbols – Merlion and Marina Bay Sands.

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2) Dine at a Hawker Center. Maxwell, Chinatown Complex and Telok Ayer were my top picks but we ended up only going to Satay by the Bay (near Gardens by the Bay), Albert Centre, and Bugis Food Street.74185f61-4fda-4170-ac2d-2cbacbaee4f0

3) Hang out at Haji Lane. So many chic cafes, restaurants, shops and of course, graffiti.

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4) Enjoy the history at Clarke Quay. Missed this activity and the secret bar we had in mind nearby – 28 Hong Kong Street Bar.

5) Take a breather at Gardens by the Bay. Admire the Supertree Grove both in the day and at night. They have a light show every evening.IMG_1982

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6) Try one of the cheapest Michelin starred restaurants.We went to Hawker Chan in Chinatown opened by one-Michelin starred Laio Fan Soya Sauce Chicken. Quite overrated in my opinion.

7) Admire the Singapore skyline from above. Bars of choice were Ce La Vi (at Marina Bay Sands) and 1-Altitude. But as it was a rainy night, rooftop bars were out of the picture. Our Singapore expat friend brought us to Club Street instead where we got to try a Singapore Sling.IMG_3203

8) If I had a 3rd day, I would go to Sentosa!

The weather in Singapore is very hot and humid. Sunscreen, water, and electrolytes highly recommended! Public transit is quite easy to get around, and not to mention inexpensive, we used one of their ez link cards to commute on the MRT easily. It even connects directly to the airport for a cheap fare.

Let me know what you enjoyed in Singapore, and if you haven’t been – please enjoy!

 

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Tanzania, travel

Safari in Tanzania

Back in August 2017, I took on the challenge to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with my friend Alicia. And our adventure did NOT just end there! We spent another week in Tanzania visiting a local town to see their various co-operatives, a Maasai village, and the most anticipated of all for me – SAFARI.

If you’re interested in such an adventure, here’s some information on my experience which was one in a small group and living at the safari park campsites. Experience will be vastly different if you have either a private guide, or you live in the resorts.

The Tour Company: Gadventures

The Tour Package: Kilimanjaro РLemosho Route & Serengeti Adventure  (Safari only options are available on the website)

The Duration: 3 half day game drives, and 1 full day game drive (spanned over 4 days)

The Group Size: 14 people split 7 per car (honestly not the most ideal as we had to take turns with the back middle seat which would have no window access)

The Parks:
1) Lake Manyara NP
2) Serengeti  NP
3) Ngorongoro Conservation Area

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The Animals: All of the African Big 5 are in Tanzania Рlion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and cape buffalo. These species made the Big 5 list based on the level of difficulty that would be required to hunt them and also based on the degree of danger that would be involved Рnot based on their size.  I got to see all except for the rhino which are extremely rare due to all the poaching.

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The Ride: A land cruiser type car which has a pop-up roof so you can take pictures from the windows or in the space given when the roof is up.  Probably only meant to be used for us when the car is stopped, but there are handles to hang on to that we managed to stand and look out while the car was on the move. Quite windy and dusty though.

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The Day: The main times for game rides are at dawn and at dusk when animals are most active. As such the morning game ride would start around 7am (wake up would be 6am) and end around lunch, and then an afternoon game ride around 3/4pm until dinner time. Game rides are about 3-4 hours long so it’s quite a long day as it surprisingly takes a lot of energy to try to spot animals (usually the guide finds its first) and then photograph them well. We even got up at around 5am once to photograph the sunrise – worth it!

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The Guide: Our driver was great – very knowledgeable and talkative (Sampson from Gadventures). He was also basically our tour guide and animal expert too. We were lucky he was extremely patient and always stopped for us each time we saw something interesting. He also tried his best to bring us to the best spots or to wherever he hears information that there is a more ‘rare’ animal from other drivers (ex. cheetahs, leopards, lion prides on the move).

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The Living Accommodations: Something in between glamping and camping. The tents itself were huge for just 2 people like a small room, we had mattresses, a pillow, and even a fleece blanket on the colder night to go along with our sleeping bag. But the shower facilities were not the best as you would need to bring your own toilet paper and sometimes the showers did not work, or the water was cold. As I spent 7 days hiking where the washroom situation was worse, it was a major improvement and I couldn’t ask for anything more.

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The Food: Food was always delicious and plentiful. They always ensured we had a balanced meal consisting of soup, rice or pasta with some sort of protein, vegetables, and fruits. Hot drinks were always provided as well as popcorn as a snack.

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The Camera: Canon Powershot G3X. I had an iPhone 5S at the time which was definitely not the best camera out there, but overall I believe having an actual camera would be best for the optical zoom. I picked this camera specifically for this trip and it worked well for me as I was able to zoom quite in (further than most in the group) and it being digital made it easy as I did not have to change lenses. The downside, however, would be the weight of the camera as the superzoom lens is attached. I did use a polarizing filter and a hood to help counter the strong sunlight.

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The Feedback: For me, 4 days was a bit too much since game rides last about 3-4 hours each. I was getting quite tired on the last day from the early mornings, long hours in the car and late nights (I slept at 7 or 8pm the entire week prior during the Kilimanjaro hike). As the days went by seeing the animals became more lackluster unless it was a new species we did not come across before, and there were only so many photographs you can take of a lion. On our last game ride where we tried to search for a rhino, I even fell asleep!

Overall though I thoroughly enjoyed being able to witness animals in their natural habitat and much more up close than at any zoo. It was a great feeling to be able to enjoy them without being too involved and affecting their environment. However truth be told, with the number of safari vehicles going through each day, especially at popular parks like Serengeti, we are definitely still making an impact on their lives. At more special sightings such as a pride of lions attempting to catch prey, there would be about 30 cars parked along the road to catch a glimpse. But still, a bit better than them being held captive I suppose?

Advice on if you are unsure if this trip is right for you: As most of the trip is literally sitting in a car trying to scout for animals, and then spending a lot of time taking photos of the animals from inside the car, I would say you have to be either really interested in animals or really interested in (animal) photography. At times we spent up to 30 minutes to an hour at one spot as we wait for something interesting to happen (ex. pride lions going after prey)  which can end very anticlimactically, or simply because we are waiting around to get the ideal spot amongst other safari vehicles. If that is not really what you are interested in, I would definitely suggest a more private tour so you have more control of how your day goes, or just 1 game ride.

Every Sunday I share an image from my safari adventure on my Instagram – check it out!

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canada, food, montreal, travel

5 Days in Montreal

Montreal is a popular long weekend destination for us in Toronto since it’s only a 6 – 7 hour drive away. I visited Montreal for the first time as an adult over the Canadian Thanksgiving holidays. Here are some of the¬†cool things I did during the 5 days.¬†

  1. Live in an awesome Airbnb. Although your stay indoors might be short, a great accommodation does make a difference.¬†¬†LeQube was chosen for its reasonable price, walking distance to a subway station, beautiful interiors, and let’s not forget to mention a rooftop jacuzzi.IMG_0432
  2. Indulge even at brunch. At Le Passe Compose they serve foie gras eggs benedict Рwhere else can you get that? And it is as delicious as it sounds. From this trip, it was hands down my favourite meal. Be prepared to spend over 30 minutes in line though.IMG_0442
  3. Take in the beauty of Montreal Botanical Garden. I was lucky enough that my visit coincided with their annual Lantern Festival and it was definitely magical!IMG_0380
  4. Dine at the famous Au Pied de Cochon. 4 words: Duck in a Can. As cliche as this restaurant may be as a Montreal staple, it lives up to its name and hype. Remember to make a reservation as they get fully booked fast!

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    Definitely not the most photogenic, but that doesn’t affect the taste!

  5. Squeeze some sort of exercise in by hiking up Mont Royal.  Quite an easy hike as the trail is a slow gradual uphill. Since it was fall, a beautiful view of the city and the changing colours of leaves could be seen.IMG_0507
  6. Discover a secret bar. Atwater Cocktail Club Рswanky interior, interesting drinks, and as a bonus you can order snacks from the restaurant Foiegwa that it shares a kitchen with.IMG_0497
  7. Have a semi-romantic date on The Montreal Observation Wheel. A giant Ferris wheel that gives a panoramic view of Old Montreal and St. Lawrence River. My experience was semi-romantic because we had to share the car with others.IMG_0492
  8. And most importantly, do what must be done in Montreal – poutine¬†at La Banquise.¬†It’s open 24 hours so there is no excuse.IMG_0501.JPG

It was interesting to re-visit Montreal as an adult to appreciate the sights of its landscape and architecture. And of course being able to choose where to dine was a definite plus. Whether you will be in Montreal for a weekend or even just a day, these are some locations that I would recommend to consider for your next trip!

 

Bonus of places I also dined at but did not make the “favourites” cut:¬† L’avenue, Ganadara, Bar Darling, Farberge, Cafe Falco, La Diperie, and Nos Thes.¬† I also ate at MAIS which was delicious and quite reminiscent of La Carnita in Toronto.¬† However, I didn’t have any photographs of the food and as the meal was treated by the owner/chef¬† I am admittedly biased. Do check it out though if you are at Mile End doing some shopping!

 

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Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, travel

Kilimanjaro – The Summit

A lengthy description of my personal experience on summiting Kilimanjaro. It definitely varies by the individual as some group mates had it worse, while others had it better that night. For basic trip details and suggested packing list, see my introductory post on the ascent.

Summit night begins at midnight sharp as we roll into our 7th day of the hike on Lemosho route. However for us, the summit really began on day 6, as most of it was scheduled around preparing us for it.

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This was our Day 6:
8 AM – 12 PM (or so) – Hiking to base camp at Barafu Camp
1 PM – 2 PM – Lunch
2 PM – 5 PM – Afternoon nap
5 PM – 6:30 PM – Dinner and prep talk on what to wear, what gear to bring, etc
7 PM – 10:30 PM – Evening nap
10:30 – 11 PM – Get fully dressed and ready to hike
11 PM – 12 AM – Late night snack and drinks, washroom break, last minute pep talk

Summit night is short distance wise, but long in duration.

  • Barafu Camp (elevation 4,600m) to Stella Point (elevation (5,756m) – distance 5km, duration 4 hours
  • Stella Point to Uhuru Peak (5,895m) – distance 1km, duration 1 hour

Can you believe that just 1km could take a full hour?!

I did not research on how summit night was supposed to be like in detail other than long and cold, but was told that some people need porters to help carry their daypacks partway, some people were so tired they were basically sleep walking, and how it could even take a few minutes just to take one single step. I decided to heed the advice of our tour guides to ignore what other people’s experiences were and just focus on doing my best.

I remember starting the hike in decent shape, but it became progressively cold and I was frustrated that I was unable to keep my hands warm. My hand warmers were unexpectedly not working (apparently there was not enough oxygen at that altitude for it to activate). My other pain point was my shoulders being weighed down by my daypack.

At a quick rest stop about 2 – 3 hours in, a guide asked me if I wanted help on carrying anything, and I eagerly suggested my thermos. As I opened my bag, he then suggested he would take my whole bag. During the trip, our porters often offered the same assistance at the end of each hiking day; initially I was very against it since I wanted to take pride in accomplishing the hike on my own. I mean they were already carrying everything except for my backpack. However as the hike progressed and I reached a day where I did not feel well at all, I began to accept their help – as I really did need to save all the strength I could.

And on this summit night, I was far too fatigued for pride. Without my bag, I was physically well again – but very tired and drained.

The remaining 3-4 hours of the hike to Stella Point and ultimately to Uhuru Peak was a blur; I was mentally not fully there either from exhaustion or the altitude.¬†It took my full concentration to focus on walking. To myself I would repeat,¬†“just keep walking, just keep walking, just place one foot in front of the other”.

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With Saddam, would not have made it to the peak without him.

The best way for me to explain how spaced out I was then was how I did not even know Alicia sat beside me or was even in our G Adventures group photo until later that night. While I was aware that some of my own groupmates were in the photo (I had seen them as I lined up behind them for photos) but I genuinely thought other G Adventures hikers just crashed our photograph. Turns out it was just ourselves and we all made it!

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G! Adventures! One team! One dream!

At the peak, there was a beautiful view of Kibo, the largest volcanic crater of Kilimanjaro (did not manage to photograph) and beautiful glaciers. I struggled to make some effort to capture the glaciers but was quickly rushed to descend from the summit as it is dangerous to stay at high altitude long.

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The descent in contrast was actually most difficult for me as going downhill has always been my weakness. For most of the descent it was going down a steep sandy slope which the guides jokingly call “sand skiing”. I was okay with that, but afterwards was going down rocky steps which pained my knees and toes immensely. The journey down was struggle for us as a group too as we had many roadblocks such as various group mates feeling unwell and needed a personal helper to assist in walking, and the worst was when one of our summit helpers suffered from acute mountain sickness where the emergency oxygen mask was administered (and he was someone who had summited numerous times). It was quite shocking and none of us knew what to do as many of the other helpers had to carry HIM down instead of guiding us. On day 8 when we continued the final descent, he unfortunately had to get rushed down in a stretcher (metal wheelbarrow of sorts) as he was still unwell despite the drop in altitude.

Day 8’s 10km descent down to the bottom of the mountain was by far the most challenging of the entire hike for me. I had several bruised toenails from my shoe so the pressure of each step was excruciating – and there were a lot of steps. While I never once thought of giving up during summit night, it did cross my mind on this day. I was (shockingly to myself even) on the verge of tears from the pain, when thankfully our main guide saw me struggling and offered to carry my backpack to reduce the weight on my feet.

When I reunited with the group at the bottom of the mountain, they were in discussion on how their summit experience was and whether or not they cried (out of happiness) at the peak. When asked, I was quite confused since I usually do not cry in public and I also did not expect to be particularly emotional at summit since I tend to enjoy the journey more than the destination. ¬†In fact, I was disappointed because I felt like I cheated my way up by not carrying my own daypack. Thus to me, it was not a successful summit.¬†I felt embarrassed to admit that outright after hearing others’ emotional retellings of how much the summit meant to them. ¬†For some it has been their lifelong dream. I realized after that I am very lucky to have been able to reach Uhuru Peak as it is a rare experience that not many can even dream of.

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Looking forward to what new adventures await!

Looking back, I am very proud of myself for completing this journey, and I do not regret taking on this immense challenge for one second. It was an amazing adventure where I got to visit a new continent, experience a new culture, and make lovely new friends. Most importantly, I believe I experienced my most challenging test to date. This journey made me realize “If I could conquer this, what couldn’t I do?” Kilimanjaro will definitely be one to remember.

 

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Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, travel

Kilimanjaro – The Ascent

A summary of several important conditions for those considering climbing Kilimanjaro. Detailed packing list at the end and separate post on The Summit to follow.

Please note that this is based on my individual experience which can vary depending on the operating company chosen, the route, the weather and of course your personal preferences.

The operating company: G Adventures

The time period: August 4 – 11, 2017

The route: Lemosho route, a 7 night, 8 day hike where summit is starting at midnight of day 7 (effectively nighttime of day 6). This route was chosen because it was the longest and provides the most time to acclimatize, which helps increase the chance of a successful summit. Continue reading

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desserts, food, toronto

DOMA Toronto Tasting Menu

Doma a French inspired Korean restaurant is the first-time endeavor of Chef Paul Kim from Seoul, Korea. Their menu changes slightly each month by incorporating new items and rolling forward a few popular items from the previous menu.

For $65 per person, you can experience their 9-course tasting menu which is effectively also their entire monthly offerings. Great deal!

I went in the month of May and some of their popular entree type items are still currently available on their menu this month. Continue reading

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