TRAVELOGUES: 5 THINGS ABOUT SHANGHAI

While Beijing is the capital of China, full of culture and wonderful history, Shanghai is the modern, cosmopolitan and progressive counterpart.

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At Shanghai Railway Station: Arrived in Shanghai by train from Beijing – fresh and rested.

Being the most populous city in the WORLD, before coming I had a few ideas on what it can be like – a big, sprawling metropolis with a lot of people.

Being there however, I realise how exciting a city Shanghai is, how promising a life there can be and how lucky are the people ensconced in its embrace.

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TRAVELOGUES: 5 THINGS ABOUT BEIJING

During my recent China trip, aside from traveling to Shanghai, we also had a little side trip to the capital of China, Beijing. I have to say, Beijing that I visited is not like the one I envisioned at all.

Read on to see 5 things I learned about Beijing, and hey, a little bonus when you’re done, I’ve put together my Ultimate Winter Checklist available for FREE download to help you pack for your own winter getaway!

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Snow in Shanghai & Beijing under BND1000

Travelling during winter has its pros and cons.

Yes it is cold, and yes it does mean sometimes you can’t feel your fingers. You need to buy winter clothes that you will never ever use again in Brunei and I’ve even heard of people experiencing skincare freezing on their faces.

But, if you are lucky, you get to experience: SNOW.

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Coming from Brunei, snow to me is romantic and magical. It’s a weather phenomenon that brings with it notions of softness, delicateness and all around siukness. You get to build a snowman (cue Frozen’s snowman song) and make snowballs!

Most people think that you need to go to  travel far and wide to Europe to see snow but as it turns out, there is a surprisingly affordable snow destination only 4 hours away from Brunei.

Shanghai.

To be honest, China was never on my “list”. Yes, I have dreams of traversing through the Great Wall of China but I’ve always thought China would be a crowded mess, difficult, and noisy. Unfortunately, the Chinese that I come across during my travels are not great ambassadors of their country.

I would like to admit what a gross misjudgment that was.

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Both Shanghai and Beijing were amazing cities! People were so friendly and kind to us, it’s so lovely to walk around in, amenities are clean and conveniently placed, plus they have the MOST AWESOME PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM IN THE WORLD. Best of all, it did not feel crowded at all!

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MIND. BLOWN.

Over the month of February, I’d be posting about my trip, plus tips to get around the Shanghai and Beijing, apps you can download, how to communicate, how to keep in touch with people back home, and the halal food situation.

For now, check out our budget and itinerary for the whole trip below!

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Passport, Bag & No Idea Where I was Going

Would you go to a destination you know nothing about?

Few months ago, Emma Good Egg forwarded us a link to a website that organises “surprise trips”. I thought: wow!

How can I travel and not know where I’m going? Well, it involves a secret destination, all accommodation arranged for you as well as airfares.

All you need is a date.

That scares me to no end! What if I dont like the destination they chose? What if they put me up in a yucky hotel? What if my roommate is a cockroach? What if there’s no halal food? What am I going to eat?

I followed them on Instagram.

I thought it was crazy scary, and yet, genius.

Stalked them obsessively, kept on talking about it at the office and asking everyone would they do it?

Eventually I had enough: I had to try it.

“Ching wanna go on a trip with me next month?” I asked my colleague, sitting next to my table. She was typing furiously on her computer, chasing a deadline.

“Huh? Erm ok I guess?” She said absentmindedly.

“Ok u owe me $300. We’ll find out where we are going by mail.”

Bewildered, and feeling conned (again) my colleague agreed.

Few days later, received this:

Omg sport shoes 😧

What is “thin long pants”???

Are we going to climb Mount Rinjani???

Scarier and scarier!!!

Date loomed closer and fear turned to worry when the mail did not arrive. WHERE ARE WE GOING????

2 days before the trip I emailed the Anywhr team and they promptly emailed us our tickets and itinerary.

I now know where we were going,

But guess who printed everything out and recreated the Anywhr envelope?

Me.

And guess where we were going?

Mui Ne, Vietnam.

Where?!

Check out my journey here:

So would you go travel to somewhere you know nothing about?

YES.

Did I enjoy it?

IMMENSELY.

Will I do it again?

ABSOLUTELY.

Do I recommend it to u?

YES YES YES!

When Girls Travel: 5 Things about Hua Hin

During the fasting month, I travelled with my bestfriends to Hua Hin, a fancy schmancy getaway town frequented by Bangkokians and the Royal Thai family.

It’s just a quick drive away, you can just rent a super comfy van or simply buy a train ticket from Bangkok all the way to Hua Hin.

Usually I’d go through the trouble of going via train, but hey it’s the fasting month so I arranged everything to be as easy as possible – HAHA. The van picked us up at the hotel and we zoomed to Hua Hin.

FYI I booked a van from 12goasia, which basically is a booking engine for vans, taxis, busses, ferries, trains. First time trying them and we were quite pleased!

Anyway, here are 5 things about Hua Hin!

1. It is a beautiful and quiet beach town!

Me and my girlfriends spend whole days just hanging out at the beach!

2. So many affordable beachfront resorts and gentle waves!

This was very evident in the booking process! There were so many good deals around and we were super spoilt for choice!

We love the resort we were staying at, but it was just the tip of the iceberg! There were so many to fit your budget, your group, or your requirements!

All resorts were designed to be super private, safe, and surrounded with security (humans and strategic foliage) to ensure that we don’t have to worry about a thing!

Our resort, The Crest Santora, was located I suppose on the main resort belt, and was a beachfront property. The room can comfortably fit us 5, and as u can see, more!

The area is so beautiful and tastefully designed too!

3. People come here to play pretend!

Hua Hin is full of themed malls, parks and gardens and it is such a joy to take photos in! In fact, we took so many pictures! Until I wanted to pass out from the heat!

See below!

Pretend you’re in Santorini

Pretend you’re in Venice

Pretend you’re a mermaid

Pretend you’re in Holland? Swiss farm? (This one a bit confusing)

Pretend you’re upside down

The above all taken at the:

The Venezia Hua Hin

Santorini Park

Swiss Sheep Farm

4. They preserve their heritage in new and interesting ways!

I love the way they try to incorporate the old and the new – like the beautiful Plearn Wan an open air mall/shopping village, which was actually like a living museum.

Then there’s the railway station which I think is the most beautiful train station I’ve ever seen in my life! It is maintained so well and is extremely clean. Some railway staff were even wearing old vintage uniforms and really brought in an awesome vibe.

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5. Delicious seafood!

The thing about travelling while fasting is u really only have 1 meal at sunset and plenty of snacks only at night.

Also, you are super hungry so you cant really judge if the food is genuinely delicious or you’re just super hungry 😂

However i reaaaaaaaaaally enjoyed the meals we had! It could be the fasting, it could be the food or it could just be the company! I love all the meals we had and i love that Hua Hin is halal friendly with an abundance of seafood! Have fish will eat!

Here we are at a seaside restaurant recommended by our taxi driver ❤️

And here’s one meal we had at the night market before shopping!

I recommend Hua Hin to people of all ages and highly recommend it for best friend trips, couple trips, family trips and especially if you are the type who looooooooves to take photos! 😂

However, I don’t really recommend this place for fasting month hahahahah. Theres so much delicious food and outdoor activities that you don’t wanna miss! For us we were too exhausted and thirsty to do anything! 😂

Hua Hin is easily accessible from Bangkok. Royal Brunei flies to Bangkok daily.

The end!

Penang I Love You: Two Nights, Delicious (Halal) Food and The Most Beautiful Hotel Ever

 

Penang is one of my most favourite destinations.

Before, when I visited for the very first time, I keep on telling my husband that he would love it there. I’m so happy that finally he is here and I was right – he absolutely finds Penang so wonderful!

From all the vintage finds, the restored buildings, the delicious RICE (he is a big fan of rice), and zipping around the city to see Penang’s sights and sounds, he declared – “Sayang, I love Penang.”

As two people who most of the time don’t see eye to eye (we generally clash opinions on pretty much everything) – we recognise how rare this is  that we actually agree on this hahaha.

As we came here to chillax, we have the most relaxed itinerary ever!

DAY 1

Took the ETS from KL Sentral to Butterworth. ETS is the new electronic train system that is supposedly the fastest in South East Asia. From KL Sentral to Penang, it took us 4 hours.

I bought our train tickets here at BusOnlineTicket for RM79 (BND25). What a deal!

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I love train travel. As much as possible, whenever there’s a train option, I’d always opt for it. They are cheap, very comfortable, and always comes with food! Hehe.

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However, it was SO COLD. Prepare to bring a jacket hahaha.

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Arrived in Butterworth! This is also called “mainland” for the locals. From Butterworth you take a ferry or drive up the Penang Bridge to get to Georgetown.

So we walked to the Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal, located right next to the Butterworth Train Station. Ask around if you are not sure. 🙂 People around this area is super friendly!

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It’s a short walk to the right, after you exit the train station.

The ferry ride costs RM1.20 (BND0.40) which is like SO MURAH hahah.

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Recommended! Scenic and beautiful – not the fastest way to get from Butterworth to Georgetown but certainly one of the more interesting.

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Upon arrival, we planned to get a taxi to our hotel. But guess what? No taxis wanted to take us! We said Love Lane and they all were like mehhhh… How rude!

So I opened my phone and tried checking where it was – 10 minute walk away. Is that why the taxis didn’t want to take us? I don’t really know till this day. Haha.

So we just walked!

Good thing we did too. Eventhough the weather was blisteringly hot (it was noon afterall with not a cloud in sight!), the walk took longer than 10 minutes because we keep on stopping for pictures!

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Checked into the most BEAUTIFUL hotel ever! Everything from the layout, to the hotel staff, to they way they talk to us – made us feel the Penang magic!

Highly recommend this hotel to everyone! It’s called 23 Love Lane and it is a bit on the lux side but completely worth it.

The hotel is a refurbished home, and as I entered in for the first time, they greeted us and served us with an icy drink and helped us with our luggage and I felt really at home!

After checking in, we decided it was too hot outside to explore. I had the most delicious cold shower and actually NAPPED!!!!!!!! We switched the aircond off and with the Adabi style windows open and the wind blowing in…. WOW!

You all know I never nap in the afternoons, but that was so fabulous! ❤

Later, after my shower, and nap. I put on my face again and we enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea at the Lobby.

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I tell you this hotel is so intuitive heheh.

After, we sort of set out to explore the neighbourhood on foot and see see. We saw a couple of local tourists (Malaysians but not from Penang) negotiating and then riding scooters. We realised that the scooters were for rent.

Curious, we asked how much. RM40 (BND12) per day.

YES PLEASE!

 

We were sold!

All we had to do was leave 1 passport and payment upfront.

5 minutes later we zipped along Penang towards Penang Hill. Well actually we didn;t have plans so we didnt really know where to go so I just randomly chose Penang Hill – which coincidentally the Scooter Guy mentioned during his “safety briefing” haha.

Funny bit was since this was a split second decision made when we were already on the bike, it was not communicated to Marul.. So while I navigated with Waze – he just followed us  for 20 minutes trying to figure out where we were going HAHAHAHAHA.

SO FUNNY! So much trust he puts in us hahahahahaha.

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So Penang Hill we ended up and I realised Penang has definitely invested to upgrade their tourism infrastructure!

We rode the funicular – which was not like how I remembered it – the wait was very cooling so I was not tired – plus there were seats provided!  Last time, it was a slow train – with a very uncomfortably balmy wait, now it went up so fast and there was aircond and fans provided.

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Siuk jua tu!

On top of Penang Hill, there is a fabulous panoramic view of Georgetown. We gazed jealously as we saw a drone zipping around on the hill, imagining what fabulous videos the owner must have.

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Penang Hill is a must go if only for the view!

Then, I was sort of wandering around… as I usually do (I always end up separated from the group when I travel somehow – hahah I guess I’m a wanderer) – I saw some poorly written ad. Flying video.

I realised the drone we saw earlier was for rent!

I quickly went to find Marul and told him! We were so excited hahahahaha – and guess how much it was? An affordable RM80 only and we even get to keep the pendrive it came in haha.

Check out our video below.

When we finally came down it was dark.

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We met up with Amir – my family in Penang!

It was so FUN! Why? Because he was also on his scooter so we did a scooter convoy and he brought us for NASI KANDAR!

Nasi kandar is my ultimate favourite in Penang. SERIOUSLY I can eat it morning nooand night all day everyday hahaa. I dont know what it is about Penang nasi kandar that makes it so NYAMAN?????? Sedappppppppp….. It really is the water I think.

I ate so much. We also just realised it’s our first real meal of the day. HAHA.

After all that food, u would think we would waddle home.

We didnt.

It’s called SSEAYP revenge. You feed your guests until they wanna pengsan hahahahahah. Amir brought us for rojak at the Esplanade!

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Both kinds were so SEDAPPPPPP.

THEN barutah balik hahahahahahahahah.

DAY 2

Day 2 in Penang began with breakfast. At 23 Love Lane, the breakfast icomes complimentary with the room. You order off a menu and there’s a bread, fruit, jam and cereal buffet as well.

Here are my Eggs Benedict and here is the most beautiful photo di dunia. Hahahah! Kabus!

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After, we decided to go konon mural hunting. For some reason, GD and Marul think we shouldn’t use the scooter, and rent a bicycle instead – cause supposedly it’s “easier” to manoevre.

I don’t know why they have such high regard of my cycling skills. They just want to torture me.

Anyway so we set about looking for bicycle for rent (dan mesti yang lawa).

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We found this one place that has bicycles but actually not for rent hahaa. Also not for sale. Saja collection!!! The owner we spoke to said they used to rent bicycles out but the cost of maintenance was too high so they don’t do it anymore. Now he reproduces his father’s beautiful paintings of Penang onto magnets and sells those for RM5 each.

SO interesting people’s stories are I feel.

Anyway, finally managed to rent a bike for RM10 (BND3) for 24 hours (seriously!?) and off we went for mural hunting.

SO FUN! FYI, all the murals are also Pokestops haha. Also, you tend to bump into the sme people also doing the same as you so u end up making friends too! #siukbekenalandanmencarijodoh

Some information about these murals, they’re created by Ernest Zacharevic

Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned in 2012 by the Penang Municipal Council to create a street art project in Georgetown called ‘Mirrors George Town‘ which consisted of painting several large scale murals in different location of the old town.

(Source)

I find it so fascinating since Penang is a UNESCO Heritage Site so Zacharevic must have needed to create artworks that enhances that the local culture and lifestyle sama semuanya ani inda boleh di padam! Must have been so challenging!

Mural hunting somehow brought us to the Chew Jetty.

Isn’t it so reminiscent of old school Kampong Ayer? GD said it really reminded him of his childhood when he went to Kedai Anak Yatim to buy tikam tikaman, and keropok!

For me I find it so quaint!

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Also here we had the most fabulous Durian Icecream, with real durian! A MUST HAVE on a hot day such as this.

We were feeling a bit FRIED also from the sun so we decided to take a breather. Back to the hotel we went! Unfortunately Penang is not suitable to explore during noon lest you get sunstroke!

I’ve never taken so many showers in a day hahaha.

Anyway, once refreshed, we emerged from the airconditioning HUNGRY!

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Sheesh I never learn. Kabus!

Hungry means HAMEEDIYAH RESTAURANT!!!!! This is one of the must go restaurants in Penang, even locals say so!

Off we went on our scooter.

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And the place is just 10 minutes away. FYI I am the navigator as I’m the only one not driving and able to hold a phone.

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Macam makan 10 orang.

After a big meal, what does one do? DESSERT OF COURSE!!!!

The quintessential dessert in Penang is the Penang Road Teo Chew Chendol. NYAMAN BERABIS DI DUNIA.

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I still have intense cravings for this chendol to this day.

Also, how crazy fast are those aunties making the chendol!?????

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Nyaman berabis!

Next activity of the day involves going to the highest building in Penang – KOMTAR!

KOMTAR building actually had a super epic glass bottomed rainbow skywalk  at the 68th Floor which public can go up to see. You buy tickets at the Level 5 (I think) and you get to choose if you want to just go up there or want to go up, and have dinner at the restaurant also.

It is open from 10am-6pm but after 6pm you have the following options:

  1. Diners – RM138 / RM168 /RM198 (each tier pricing with an option for main course top-up)
  2. Diners Child – RM98
  3. Non-Diners – RM118 (inclusive of a glass beer, house pouring red or white, soft drinks or chilled juices + 2 sticks of satay with peanut sauce, onion, cucumber & nasi impit)

We chose the most expensive option cause WHY NOT? RM198 (BND66) comes with an 8 course degustation menu and we haven’t had fine dining yet this trip! 🙂

But first, it was a sunset that we were after – on the skywalk.

Here are the boys.

And here is me.

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SO SCARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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But my appetite remained intact.

Semua nyaman!

Another night of waddling home!

DAY 3

This morning we woke up FULL OF PURPOSE.

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We had a few goals in mind and the all involve FOOD!!!!

1. ROTI BAKAR HUTTON LANE

That runny egg, the charcoal toast. NYAMAN.

2. PENANG CHAR KWAY TEOW

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This is like…. omg how can we go to Penang without having Char Kway Teow???? We had this at Bee Hwa Cafe, located not far from the Roti Bakar place.

After that we went to tapau more chendol at Penang Road and set back to the hotel for check out uwaaaaaaa…

We grabbed a cab to drop us off at the Ferry Terminal. As we were waiting we were wondering where to pay for ferry and rupanya free! Guys they don’t charge money for all rides from Georgetown back to Butterworth but there is a wait hehe.

Like I said earlier ferries are not the fastest way to get in and out of Penang.

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Back on the mainlaind we had 10 minutes to spare to go on the train (sikit  lagi nda sampat – we had to run a bit – but we made it and we were sweating buckets hehe!).

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Siuk!

I love Penang.

Thank you to my travel buddies for being so awesome as well. Next post – Kuala Lumpur!

Check out also Marul’s Vlogs below cause sometimes I steal his phone and take videos too hahahahaha:

5 Travel Tips for Choosing and Booking Accommodation

Something I get asked a lot about travel is HOW DO I CHOOSE HOTELS?

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Stargazer Full of Stars Tents at Wadi Rum Night Luxury Camp, Jordan 

A hotel can make or break your holiday. Choose the wrong one and you can end up miserable, unrested or worse, homeless. But when you choose the right one, it can be the hub from where you launch your adventures and recharge after a full day of exploring.

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Beautiful outdoor toilet at my villa in Ketapang Indah Hotel, Banyuwangi

So aside from the obvious: air conditioning, cleanliness, wifi and no shared bathrooms (ew!), below are 5 things I consider when booking holiday accommodation.

1. CONFIRM THE HOTEL BEFORE YOU ARRIVE

There are plenty of search engines for checking out hotels. Some very very common ones are:

I use them all interchangeably  EXCEPT for booking.com. Unfortunately, I have had a few bad experiences with booking.com. Because it’s only a booking engine, they don’t really confirm your booking and the hotel reserves the right to give away your room to other people who walk in – without notice.

This actually happened to me twice – but on the first time I was lucky, the hotel managed to find me another room so crisis was averted. Second time it happened, I just arrived from a delayed flight and it was 11pm at night.

Me and my travel buddies actually had to walk out at that hour, drag our luggages, and find another hotel! I can never forget that night!

Can u imagine doing that if you are travelling with children? Or elder members of your family?

As I also sometimes travel solo, I want to avoid this situation of having to be homeless so I MUST MUST MUST confirm the hotel before I arrive.

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Sheraton Bandung Hotel & Towers – one of the few luxury chain hotels that I’ve stayed in – beautiful and fantastic stay – especially the marshmallow beds ❤

My personal favourite is actually Agoda -reliable and you pay for your room before you arrive so it’s confirmed.

Sometimes, I also use Airbnb. Some lovely apartments available and it’s a plus if they come equipped with a washing machine.

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Successful Airbnb booking – an apartment in MyHabitat, just off KLCC

This however, I use with caution and only if I am confident with the country I am travelling to. Some apartments are near to main attractions but located in ghetto neighbourhoods which may not be suitable for lady travellers.

In this case research is very important. I also always keep comparing Airbnb with a hotel to see if the price is similar, but usually, I almost always prefer staying in a hotel over an Airbnb.

2. CHECK THE REVIEWS

I cannot stress the important of reviews, and plenty of it. I tend to avoid chain hotels to be honest and love to opt for boutique hotels, villas, restored homes. They have more character, value add, and often, the operator of the hotel is the one greeting you at the reception.

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Villa Dreams II in Selcuk, has the most fantabulous host! He is also the restaurateur, the driver, porter, concierge as well as the receptionist. All in one haha. We loved our stay here!

So for me, reviews are super important! The more reviews a location has the better, and the more 5 stars it gets the better.

Pay attention to things that matter to you but rarely gets mentioned under amenities:

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Bedouin Tents equipped with SEVEN layers of blankets ensure we never become cold in the dead of winter at Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp.

If you are like me: I check for reviews on friendly hosts, helpful staff, bum sprays haha, if the hot water is hot enough and if the internet is fast. I used to require elevators, but now since I carry a backpack that doesn’t really matter.

If you are a parent: check for stroller friendly elevators, if they can assist you to store your breast milk.

Also the location – which brings me to the next point.

3. LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION

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Our Airbnb in Rome, was located above an LV boutique and barely 2 minutes walk from the Spanish Steps!

This is so important OMG!

 

Make sure you are in a location where if possible, you are within walking distance to stuff like 7-11, restaurants, malls, and if possible – main attractions! This will ensure the place is siok and you don’t need to travel much to  eat and see the sights and sounds of that destination.

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Flora Hotel Apartments in Dubai, one of the more affordable stays in the city, located smack in the middle of Deira area and 2-3 minute walk to the Baniyas Square Metro Sation.

Aside from landmarks, depending on your travel style, you may want to choose a hotel that is near public transport such as LRT/MRT. Or if the hotel is easily accessible by car so you can easily Grab or Uber.

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The Holiday Inn Express Siam in Bangkok is a short walk away from the BTS Station – National Stadium and you can even see it from the window haha.

Otherwise, choose a hotel that offers value add services like bicycle for rent, or shuttle services to the nearest attraction/mall, or perhaps it just needed to be located nearby a scooter renter.

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Woke up fresh and early at 23 Love Lane (my current favourite hotel EVER) and now off to explore Penang on our scooters! 

4. AMENITIES

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A must in Cappadocia – staying in a cave hotel. In my case, this stay in the Elif Star Cave Hotel was one of my most memorable stays!!!!

Just because you are staying in a cave hotel doesn’t mean you cannot have WIFI. Check the amenities they provide like laundry, hot water (a must for me!), parking (if you have your own vehicle),

Or if you are a parent with small children: maybe a baby cot?

If it’s a country where halal food is not readily available, perhaps a kitchenette is  required?

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A room equipped with a kitchenette at the Isabel Garden Hotel in Manila for a short stay in Manila

Perhaps it’s an island getaway so you wanna be sure what sort of facilities they have once the sun sets and you just wanna chill?

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Outdoor movies for nights you don’t want to hang out at the club at Hotel Ombak Sunset, Gili Trawangan.

Perhaps you have plans of monging around at the pool so that’s another thing to consider.

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Pool overlooking the hillside at our honeymoon suite in Sea Pearl Villas, Phuket.

5. DON’T STAY IN ONE PLACE

Who says you have to stay in one place?

Found 2 hotels you like? Stay one day there, and one day another place. Sometimes this method is quite a rewarding way to experience a country.

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The Everly Putrajaya, located right next to Alamanda Shopping Centre, was my hub to exploring the administrative capital on my final day in Malaysia. It was a luxury hotel but extremely affordable. 

Want to stay in a fancy hotel/villa but can’t afford it for the whole duration of your holiday? Then book your final night in a fancy hotel, and stay in a more affordable hotel for the rest of your trip.

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Awesome campsite experience in AZ Back to Nature in Temburong

Or maybe you want to try a homestay or a campsite experience but don’t think you can handle “culture” or nature for more than 1 night? Who says u have to? Hahaha.

Yes it is slightly inconvenient to move hotels but it can be quite fun as well!

For example, during my trip to India, we took the famous Konkani Express  (train) and saved 1 night of hotel by taking the night train.

Furthermore as it was super comfortable, we arrived at our destination fresh as a daisy! ❤

***

That’s the end guys, hope u guys found this guide useful. All in all, don’t rush to book, they require just a little bit of research and reading,  but don’t leave it to the absolute last minute or you will feel anxious about choosing the perfect one.

Remember, it’s all about the journey not the destination! 🙂