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As someone who's waiting for her HDB BTO flat to be built, I can honestly tell you, the most frustrating question that I've gotten i...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Budgeting for Krabi 101

Hello. When it comes to holidays I'm a very simple person.

1) I like a comfortable bed to sleep in.
2) I like friendly locals who are willing to help me and not steal my money.
3) I like the beach.

I've just about narrowed down several beach destinations in Asia, but my favourite - for the time being - is Krabi. I love their little resort town, Ao Nang.

Island off Krabi! One of those Phi Phi Islands I think.
The sleepy little town is about a 2 hour drive from Phuket, and a 1 hour 45 minute plane ride from Singapore. Perfect for a quick getaway. Also perfect for my virgin holiday with my best friend of over 14 years, Jihan.

See the thing about Krabi is that it's such a relaxed, easy holiday destination, you can definitely use it to test waters the waters of your friendship/ new relationship/ work-team relationship while not having to invest too much into it! (It was also the first holiday destination for my fiance and I. Made me realise that I could put up with his nonsense for the next xx years of my life, and I guess.. made him realise that he could put up with me too! hahaha)

Before I get into the details of what there is to do, here is how much I spent:


Disclaimer: I didn't go completely budget because I like my luxuries, like not having to squeeze with 13 sweaty people in a back of a shelter-less speedboat, quality steak, and a sun bed to tan on. Considering this is pretty atas, I think what I spent on was way decent.



Hotel: Red Ginger Chic Resort Price: $56.80 per person for two nights. Booked on Agoda.

Thanks Trip Advisor! It led me far from the Groupon crap. Always be sure to check Trip Advisor before you choose a holiday destination from Groupon. Most of the hotels on the site have been given really low ratings. So don't go there! My advice to always check trip advisor before choosing a hotel. My hotel was given great reviews, looked great in pictures, and was conveniently located close to a tuk tuk stand with plenty of convenience stores and street food around. Especially a fantastic prata pancake stalls - yum.

It was sunny most of the days we went, and the beautiful pool was so inviting! Doesn't it look amazing! We spent plenty of time lounging by the pool or out on our balcony relaxing.
The room, which had no bathtub (no problems there) was humongous with an equally large balcony. It overlooked the beautiful pool and was extremely comfortable. The room was also wi-fi enabled... in certain corners of the room... But it was enough for Jihan and I. 

How to get there:
Airport transfer is provided, do remember to email the hotel a week in advance so that they can prepare your transport for you! Here's our lovely cab driver who was dressed so fabulously and had an Usher song as his ringtone:

He spoke little English but played good English music and helped us with our bags. 













































Remember, don't be a dick and forget to tip! - Thank you for pointing that out and being the better of both of us Jihan. - 50BHT is good enough! 100BHT if you feel generous.

What to do in Krabi: Join tours. Go for massages.
As I mentioned, Ao Nang is really a sleepy resort town. Everything there is catered for tourists at good prices. There's all your Starbucks and several fast food joints (yuck. don't know why they bother.) tattoo parlours which double as fish spas/ cafes/ shoe shops etc, countless souvenir stores that sell the same thing, cheap alcohol, and plenty of good live music. If you're going to experience local culture, I suggest going to Bangkok or Phuket instead. Ao Nang is truly for lazy tourists. Like me.

Just one of the many places you can find tours if you don't want to ask your hotel for help. Practically every two minutes you come across a tour agency, a restaurant selling Western, Thai, Italian and Indian food and a money changer. Very convenient, but definitely not for people looking for the "authentic" Thai experience.
There are a ton of tours to join when you head to Ao Nang, I'd suggest booking through your hotel if you're looking for a generic tour and you're too lazy to email folks before hand. You can go trekking to the hot springs, visit Krabi Town, leisurely strolls through temples, night market shopping and my favourite, snorkeling.

Ao Nang, while it's advertised as a beach destination, actually has an awful beach. Pebbles instead of sand, and light brown sea water like Singapore's giant longkang river. 

I don't know how the two ang mors can sit there and be so chill. It actually HURTS to sit on that sand. And the water.. Meh. But it was very breezy on the coastline. Jihan couldn'g get a light hahaha!


Phi Phi islands is where the water gets awesome!  So be sure to take a boat out to one of the other islands if you want clean clear water  and soft white sand.
So pretty right! One of the places we stopped at!
Generic snorkeling tours where a local guide brings you and 100 other tourists on a shiny speed boat costs about $65 per person. It's very easy to find such tours, but I've tried those and I didn't like it. So I went for something a little more private. Thalassa Tour

I was so impressed by this bloke Jorge (Hor-hey). Jorge's a Spanish dude who quit his job back in Spain and has been in Thailand for over two years leading snorkeling tours because - as he says in his sexy Spanish accent - "he likes the water and the people." Swoon. Here's his picture, and another one he took with us. What a friendly guy!
Our super wonderful guides.
He works in partnership with local guides too so you don't have to worry about him getting you lost. His tours are private, so 10,000BHT should get you a one on one with him for you and your folks. But because my best friend and I are pretty broke we asked if he had any tours we could join. Luckily enough, he had! So it was 2,000BHT each and we joined a lovely couple for a private late afternoon to night snorkeling tour! We whizzed past tour groups of about 20pax on long boats and had the whole boat to ourselves. The tour was so flexible too because it was so personalised.

I just thought the trip was fantastic and the people so friendly.

The little private tour! The couple's from Singapore too, so lots to talk about!
Here's what we did. Snorkeling somewhere off Chicken Island where there were NO tourists at all. As usual, I threw up after I snorkeled and got back on the boat. Throwing up's not gonna stop me from viewing the depths of the sea!!
Such an enchanting dive spot! The sea urchins were aplenty and the fish, swimming with us in droves. Wish I had brought my gopro with me!

45 minutes of chillout time along a beautiful beach! 
Just gorgeous!

I exfoliated. And then I tanned and squinted into the sun.
Like a little private, deserted island. That hut apparently USED to sell cans of soft drinks.
Private picnic with chillout jazz music and great conversation by the beach. We watched the sunset and waved as the tourists left us all on our wonderful lonesomes. We shared a few anecdotes about our lives and I was strongly attracted to our candid tour guide. (Shout-out to fiance: Sorry hon! I love you very much! hahaha)

Our Thai guide setting up the picnic for us and cutting little heart-shaped watermelons. We stayed till the sun set on us and all the tourist left.
Very friendly and chatty guide! You can find out tons of info on Krabi from him. He knows the best places to go.

He even invited Jihan and I to go drinking and party with other foreigners who live in Krabi. It was to celebrate someone's birthday and was on a separate island further out from Ao Nang. But because the island was so far out, no boats would return that night, which meant we had to stay overnight and might have to miss our flight :( We just went back to the hotel and got drunk instead.

WE SWAM WITH BIO-LUMINESCENT PLANKTON
I wish I had pictures to show you. But it was impossible to take images! If you search youtube for bioluminscent plankton in krabi, you just come across a black screen. Sad.

It was terrifyingly beautiful. You jump into pitch black waters, put on your snorkel, dunk your head into the water and flounder while waving your arms like a mad person. The more you wave your arms, the more the plankton glow and surround you like underwater fireflies. Absolutely stunning.

Also, life jackets are a bitch. But as mama always tells us, be safe, not sorry. Use protection.

Here's a picture of the beautiful sunset though:


Massages
As with all lazy tourists, I love me some massages. My go-to place at Krabi is definitely a little pricier than the many other massage palours in Krabi, but I go for service. And I like the service I get at Atta Rak Let's Sea, Let's Relax.


This is the entrance, look for this as you walk along the road, it should be somewhere opposite Starbucks or Macdonalds.



It's about 300BHT for a 60 minute Thai massage but 250BHT for the same thing at other places. But the service is well worth the extra 50BHT.

Beautiful interiors with a treatment written on the wall.
I also had a manicure, where, after inspecting my fingers and giving me pastel pretty nails, my sweet manicurist said in her strong Thai accent, "Your finger, like baby." What? "So small. Like baby. Smooth." Alright. Thanks I think? And I looked sadly at my stubby nails. But she was sweet. So extra BHT for you! Bwahaha. Tipping is so hard. When do you know how much to give right?

Food in Krabi
Everywhere you go, and your resort too, you'll find that all restaurants serve the same thing. Thai food, Indian food, Italian food and good ol' Western food. If you're looking for quick nourishment, head to any one. They're literally all the same. Worst that could happen would be that the food is mediocre at best so it doesn't matter.

Amazing Pad Thai from the hotel. So full of flavour. Cheap and good.

But if you're looking for something special, I highly recommend Carnivore.


It's this little hole in the wall up a hill. You have to walk past a convenience store and a tailor, walk past an empty field and suddenly you see a ton of motorbikes and BAM! You're at Carnivore.

Run by a foreigner (I have this idea he's French... But then again I'm not sure. He could be Aussie too?) the food comes in American-sized portions and the food so sinfully delightful.


I started with a lobster bisque and ordered a steak, which is what everyone should order when they're here. Come on people! Make use of the good prices!

My steak came with a gigantic salad:

A delicious side of a baked potato:
Which was so mindblowing because they basically scooped out the insides, mashed it and mixed it with milk, cheese and bacon, stuffed it back into the potato, covered it in cheese, baked it in the oven and then used a flame torch to scorch the cheese.
Jihan loved it so much she ate my leftovers:
Please blame shitty camera for ugly photo.
The main show:
Sadly my picture isn't great because the lighting at the restaurant was very dim, and I have horrible shaky hands. But my steak, sprinkled with mushrooms was cooked to pink perfection.

The place mostly hosts foreigners because by Krabi standard's it's pretty pricy. But tell me where you can get a 200g tenderloin steak with all the sides for $34.55?! So amazed.

The restaurant ends the night with a shot of Sambuca with two coffee beans to chew on and ice cold towels to refresh you for the warm, humid evenings.


Street food is equally delicious:



But by far, my favourite of the street foods is the prata pancake.


It differs with every stall you go to. Some offer thick, chewy prata pancakes, others, like this one, offer thin, crispy pancakes. But I love the same toppings on all my pancakes: nutella mixed with peanut butter and topped with bananas. It is, as with all holiday foods, sinfully delicious. The savoury prata together with the sweet nutella and bananas are amazing!

As for drinks, I only drink one thing when I go to Krabi, Watermelon juice.


It's a world of difference from the awful mashed up pulp you get back in Singapore. Ice blended, sweet and fresh, the taste is perfect for any hot summer day. I've had watermelon juice at three different places in Krabi but they always taste the same and always taste as good. You should really try some!
Oh, I also drank a lot of alcohol because the prices can drop to about 100BHT per cocktail.
We drank nearly five cocktails in two hours at the hotel bar.
Unnecessary things
You really shouldn't shop in Krabi. There's nothing you can't buy in Singapore and the souvenir shops are literally the same, it's just how far you are willing to bargain.
Shit you can buy from any souvenir shop in krabi. Yes. Those are wooden dicks next to the fake lizards. Why would they place lizards next to dicks? Hmm..
The only think I bought were boxing shorts for the fiance if not he so poor thing stay at home and slog while I tan in the sun.

Shampoo, conditioner, suntun lotion are easily available at all convenient stores, so don't worry about those. Speaking of convenience... There are tattoo parlours everywhere, they usually double as a separate shop AND a tattoo parlour like this:


Jihan was contemplating getting a new one, but then she didn't know what to get.

It's also a fish spa.

HORRORS! I will NEVER put my feet in that. Ever.
!!!!!
You'll find palours like these everywhere. It's really an analogy for Krabi. A mixture of everything, with no real identity, and a deep need to attract tourists.

Well. Hoped you enjoyed my little Krabi budget plan! If you do go and you have questions, drop me a mail and tell me how much you love it!


Ahh.. Beautiful Krabi. How I miss you already.

I love holidays with my best friend!

The truth about working in a brothel

In my second year of Uni I was feeling adventurous, and also slightly desperate because there simply were no jobs for me. So I decided to try the one industry that ALWAYS had work available.


Everything in this story is true. Yes, I really did meet this people and have these conversations. While not exact to the words of the people mentioned, it's close enough. Also, names, except for one (which was too adorable not to use) were changed to protect the identity of everyone. Also, I just wanted to share this experience, I'm not condemning anyone nor am I advocating anything. I'm just a girl who believes in trying everything at least once.

Read on!
 
It was cold, the wind was freezing and I had just walked 20 minutes from a bus stop into an industrial park lined with car workshops and a few nondescript buildings. I was late.

I was terrified that I might be penalised for being late, so I called the lady boss, whom I was meeting for an interview, and she answered in two rings, "You're lost aren't you? No worries hun, take your time." She hung up and after a few more minutes of wandering around I found the place.

It wasn't because of a sign (there wasn't one), or that she was standing outside waiting for me (who'd be crazy enough to be out in this freezing cold beside me?) It was because it was the only building among the other short stacks to be decorated with flashing green and red twinkle lights like it was Christmas Day, have two white cars up front and two very obvious cameras at its front door.

So I psyched myself up a bit and walked through the dark passageway, past an ATM and through to a lounge. It was dark, two televisions playing old 90s music videos, 98 Degrees, Backstreet Boys and N*Sync were running at the back. The lounge had a few couches, cocktail tables and was filled with girls in bustiers and tiny skirts chatting on chairs. On the walls hung lingerie that looked pricy, but aged, as though they had been there for quite a while. There were no men, except for one, who quickly went into a separate room with another girl. The room was smoky with the scent of stale cigarette smoke in the air. But before I stepped in any further, A chirpy girl at the counter greeted me. "Hey there! How can I help you?"


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Staycation at Dorsett Hotel: Tourist at Keong Saik Road

Last weekend had to be one of the best weekends I had in a long time. See, Abel and I took a staycation at Dorsett Hotel.

It was a pretty rocking stay, the rooms are in beautiful condition (well it is only a year old), the location is utterly fantastic, and the staff are lovely and helpful. Loved it. Best part of it all, the location! Tourist time!
We had the absolute privilege of a night at Dorsett Hotel, a business-boutique residence at Outram MRT.
Pearls Centre is just opposite it!
I'm not kidding, the one year old hotel was right next to MRT. I think they even shared some parts of the same building! 

Plus the hotel sat right in front of one of my favourite roads in Singapore. Keong Saik Road. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Here's the truth about being fat in Singapore

I'm DONE being not okay with being chubby. Or okay, let's call it like it is. Fat. I'm done being upset about being a fat Asian girl.

It took me a while, plenty of emotional bashings, tears on my pillow and  plenty of insecure moments that frustrate myself, my boyfriend and my friends. Family not so much, cause their usual reaction is, "just go run."

In fact I remember one year in Secondary Three, at the height of the teenage emotional tornado that was puberty, my Dad forced me to head to the gym where all the cute guys and hot girls were working out and run my flabby self for 30 minutes while standing there and watching me like a hawk. I was dying of shame as I noticed the looks of amusement I got from everyone in the small sweaty room and my dad's authoritarian voice yelled in exasperation, "just run! You have 20 more minutes left!" The tears started welling up and I told him I didn't want to run anymore, in disgust he stopped the machine and said we could go.

Left: 13 years old. Right: 24 years old. Thanks puberty.
 I hated myself. There were many more moments, including one where I participated in a fire drill skit as a comatose patient that had to be carried out on a stretcher. The two "paramedics", both boys, both 15 - I was 14 - they whispered to my dead-weight body, "wah you really very fat. So heavy." I turned bright red and I, with fruitless abandon, attempted to support my whole body weight on my toes and head. Didn't work. Also really made me hate being carried or having to go through trust falls.

School was a cruel place mostly.

I remember a day I had to stand in front of the school hall and sing, I was laughed at heartily. I had to put on a brave face, but once I was done I left and I told myself I would never do it again.

A year later I tried again and joined the drama club. Our first SYF play was Lord of the Flies. Where a group of boys take over the island and a hunger-games sort of ideal played out. I was casted as Piggy. The teacher told me, "we're not picking you because of the way you look.. We believe you would really be able to portray the character!" If you read the book, you'd know that that wasn't a good thing. And the fact they had to open their mouths and tell me they didn't type-cast me because of my size already spoke volumes. I felt humiliated. But I sucked it up and I continued on. 

I hated every minute of it.

During cross-country, a friend jumped on my back and poked it saying, "wah Manda, so soft! Like a cushion."
Secondary Three. I can honestly say everyone in this picture looks better than they used to. Expect Amandis Choy, cause she's ageless and wonderfully youthful. I'm the dumpy one on the left in purple.
Needless to say my teenage years were not the best, but I'm done with hating myself.