Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Group country-hopping the more beneficial and practical way

 This post is a travel guide for those who have been asking about a fun but economical tour to the countries they wish to visit - Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
The first time I had the chance to go to one of the greenest and cleanest countries in the world, Singapore,  was 5 years ago. That was when I and my dear hubby had to get a visa for our work permit here in Bangkok. We traveled first class that time as we had the opportunity to try one of the world's best airlines, Asia's best - the luxurious Singapore Airlines. My second time was in the summer of 2008 and it was with our two kids, a former student and with my sister-in-law whom I advised to get her visa in Singapore as visa processing is very convenient  there although it's more expensive. As it's a whole family traveling together, it involves big budget so we planned our trip in a more practical way but more rewarding as we all got the chance to see more places with beautiful sights and meet new faces along the way which can be hardly achieved by flying.

On the VIP bus with headrest and blanket
Our long trip started off from Bangkok. We went to Sai Tai Mai Bus Terminal to take a VIP bus to Hatyai for only 850 baht including dinner, evening snacks and bottled water. VIP buses are usually 24 or 36 seaters so they're very convenient. Our bus hit the road at 7:00 PM and got to Hatyai before 5:00 AM.

We still had much time to eat our breakfast in the progressive but quiet city of Hatyai before we got on the bus to Kuala Lumpur. Travel time from Hatyai to KL including border cross in Sadao was about 14 hours so we got to KL just before midnight. We spent the remaining sleeping hours at Corona Inn in Bukit Bintang, right at the heart of KL, overlooking the famous Menara Tower and very close to a metro train station. The other benefit of traveling by land from Thailand to KL is that we don't have to take a taxi anymore from the airport as it's quite far from the city. Tourists should be aware that most taxis in KL don't charge you by the meter but by fixed price as they please.

(This photo was taken during our previous trip in 2006 when we checked in at Allson Genesis Hotel, now Alpha Genesis, overlooking one of Malaysia's symbols - Menara Tower.This hotel offers a great breakfast included in the room charge. My kids compared their breakfast with that in Corona Inn as much better, which I agree as Genesis has the variety of fruits, pastries and other breakfast stuff that will make you "eat like a king in the morning". )
nole in KLThen the whole day, we had the chance to look around at this one of the favorite destinations of tourists and shoppers. It's a great place to shop for signature bags at reasonable prices. I bought my first Gianni Versace leather bag there at 50% on sale for only MR300. six years back and is still in good shape. Of course, before we went shopping at KLCC  we took photos at the foot of the legendary Petronas  Twin Towers, the symbol of Malaysia.

Although it's the third time of my kids to visit KL (prior trips by plane), they never got tired of the long trip as the country offers a very unique magnificent  landscape from Thailand's Sadao border all the way to KL. We also got the chance to dine at an Indian-Malaysian restaurant where our Malaysian friend brought us before he took us back to the train bound to Singapore. We got so surprised with the very low price we were charged for such a great complete meal. Coming from Thailand where everything is cheap especially foodstuff, I could not believe we all dined at a fine place like that for only less than MR40. How I miss the rare well-blended Ceylon tea with goat milk I first tasted there! I had to order three times, some for take-away I enjoyed sipping on the train. I didn't find one like  that when I and my hubby attended an international conference in KL last December. My kids also bought some entertaining English books from the shops at KL Sentral station for low prices and all of us did enjoy reading them on the train.
After our KL tour, we had to catch the train bound to Singapore that leaves at 6:00 PM. As we booked on the same day, it was no longer easy for us to get sleepers close to each other. So instead, we booked for first class seaters. It's fully reclined, anyway, and the cost is only MR19.80. So cheap, isn't it? We got to the border (between Malaysia and Singapore) at about 6:00 AM and still travelled for about 2 hours from the border to the final station. We're so lucky to catch up the cut-off time for the submission of documents  for  my sister-in-law's visa processing at the Thai Embassy on Orchard Road. After the submission at noon, we had to proceed to Fragrance Hotel-Crystal which we had booked online prior to our trip. It's then time to rest. We then toured around the city and had our dinner. Compared to Malaysia, food in Singapore is rather costly wherever you go.  Transportation is very convenient though especially going to Sentosa as there's a sky train from our hotel to the tourist-laden island. We  did enjoy a sumptuous lunch at a posh restaurant just an escalator-ride up from the merlion, Singapore's symbol.  We took photo with the albino snake for SD5.0. Riding the cable car was fantastic although it's a bit scary.nole in singapore

From Sentosa Island, we had to be back to the Thai embassy to pick up Edna's visa. Then from there, we had to rush back to our hotel to pick up our luggage. Taking the metro-train  from the hotel to the  the airport was quite convenient and cheap. At the airport, we got the chance to shop for some souvenirs for presents and good English books and magazines. Then, it was time to fly back to Bangkok via Tiger Airways at a promo price I booked online for only SD79.
Over all, it was a fun-filled experience for a 4-day and 4-night trip at a budget price.

IMPORTANT REMINDER: If you intend to follow this travel plan, beware of scammers in Hatyai at the restaurants in front of the bus terminal. They offer a bus or van ride straight to KL but it will take you only to Butterworth and wait for eternity there to get a seat in a bus to take you to KL. If you're in a real hurry, you will pay again for the earliest bus bound to KL. A lot of passengers complained about it but nothing has been done. It's better to book a ticket for a VIP bus for only ThB1,300 at the booths in Sai Tai Mai (Bangkok) terminal. I and my hubby tried it last December when our ticket with Lufthansa Airlines got canceled due to the closure of Suvarnabhumi Airport here in Bkk brought about by the long protest.

(I'll write a separate post for a practical group tour, which I normally organize for family and friends from Philippines to Thailand - for FREE. Just watch out for it  and look forward to visiting 3 countries at a time.)


Saturday, September 5, 2009

The healing wonders of extra-virgin olive oil

 Lately, I got so bugged by my inflamed big toe which developed ingrown nail. I did everything from removing the ingrown to treating it with antiseptic and even penicillin but nothing worked at all. Our doctor said that if it won't get well in a few more days, I would need surgery. Oh, surgery for such a seemingly minor problem?  But the pain was so sharp and excruciating especially if it bumped even just the bed sheet at night! So I had to check from the Internet for any alternative treatment other than surgery. I came across Wikipedia's article from causes to treatment so I tried everything that is suggested. Although I learned a lot from wiki's well-elaborated explanation about ingrown or onychocryptosis, still my swollen toe bothered me everyday for over two weeks.

While I was applying extra virgin olive oil on my baby's skin after I bathed him to prevent skin rashes, the idea of trying it on my very painful toenail suddenly came to my mind. So I poured a small amount onto my swollen and darkened toe after I removed the pus with a cotton bud and cleaned it with Betadine. I did it again in the evening and Eureka! I woke up in the morning with the swelling, redness and excruciating pain all gone. So I got saved from covering my toes with cellophane when taking a bath or shower from that day on as wetness would make the problem worst.

What's in extra-virgin oil that it's not only good for the heart as it lowers LDL or bad cholesterol but is also good for inflammation and skin problems? According to Mayo Clinic, "all types of olive oil contain monounsaturated fat, but "extra-virgin" or "virgin" olive oils are the least processed forms, so they're the most heart healthy. Those types contain the highest levels of polyphenols, a powerful antioxidant that also can promote heart health." 

No wonder olive oil is used by Greeks not only to anoint their kings but also for bathing. It's also no wonder that my baby's super-sensitive skin filled with rashes since he was born got healed by extra-virgin olive oil. (Read related post.) Its antioxidant property can heal skin problems and even inflammation such as inflamed toe due to ingrown nail or dead skin.