July 2013 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dagmay Beach: Undiscovered Solitude in Northern Palawan, Philippines

Thinking of pristine beaches and great warm waters for swimming. Lots of sunshine to bask in. But, you don’t want large crowds, other tourists and the industry of travel that survives on these tourists. Well, in that case you should look at Dagmay beach, an off beat destination about 40 kilometers north of El Nido. A dirt bike or a 4x4 vehicle should be able to take you here over mountains and very bad roads and through remote villages, paddy fields and tropical forests.

Lunch at the serene and pristine Dagmay Beach, El Nido, Philippines
Even the remote and insanely beautiful Duli beach is close by, but infrastructure is pretty limited here. There is only one place to stay here and then there are the houses of a few villagers. If you just want a good day trip, grab a dirt bike, fill it with lots of fuel and ride through the mountains to this beautiful stretch of yellow sand and spend the entire day here. If you wish to spend a longer time here, then you can stay overnight at the Verde Safari, a place run by an American who settled here a couple of years ago. They have rooms and tents for those who wish to spend nights here. They cook good food and have an adequately stocked kitchen. They have running water, electricity and some of the basic luxuries that are hard to come by in this part of the world.

The Dagmay view from up its mountain dirt road tracks
According to me, this place is ideal to read a book, get a tan, laze around and be one with the nature. If you feel like doing more, you can go on a fishing trip or explore the hills nearby. Verde Safari also has a rock climbing wall for those who have that extra bit of adrenalin pumping in them. This is the place you want to be if you want some quality alone time. There is nobody to bother you here. To reach here from El Nido drive north towards Nacpan and Duli and then toward Dagmay. There are sign boards most of the way. The roads are bad and if you do get lost, ask the locals who are very helpful

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Asia Adventure Lodge: Homely Budget Hostel in Kota Kinabalu Downtown

Jalan Gaya in the downtown area of Kota Kinabalu is the area where most hotels and backpacker hostels are located and I stayed at the Asia Adventure Lodge located in this area. The below review is based on my recent experience of staying here for 3 days and 3 nights.

1) The hostel is run by a local family who tries and makes your stay as good as possible. This really made my stay special for me.

2) The place has got great location with the Sunday market, the restaurants, the travel agencies, the souvenir shops, the super marts, the ferry service and most of the sights all in close proximity.

3) For 25 RM, one can get a bed in an air-conditioned dormitory. You can get discounts if you stay for longer durations. Free breakfast is included in this stay.

4) The place comes with free wi-fi (that has good speeds), a television and an open sit out.

5) Free breakfast (from 7 AM to 10:30 AM) includes toast, butter, jam and coffee/tea. Water is served free of cost all through the day.

6) Apart from dormitories, this lodge also has rooms.

7) The beds in the hostel may be a bit old, but they are devoid of any smell or insects.

8) The best thing about the lodge is that they want it to be clean always.

9) The family running the place are more eager to guide you properly than sell their own tours to you.

I really like this simple homely place. I would recommend it to all backpackers and budget travelers.

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

25 Random things about Singapore

During this Asia backpacking trip of mine, I ended up spending 10 days in Singapore. While I was ill for the first couple of these 10 days, I got to explore, see a lot of places and meet a lot of my friends during the next 8 days. During this brief stint of 10 days, I noticed many interesting things about Singapore, which I have noted below for your reading.

1) Singapore has so many rules and fines for not following them that it is popularly referred to as the ‘fine city’ or ‘city of fines’.

2) Most of Singapore is sparkling clean, but when you go to Little India, you find it dirty. May be, the Indian effect cannot be rubbed off even in Singapore.

3) Singapore feels like a city in Tamil Nadu, South India with so many Indian people and especially Tamils.

4) Singapore does not have its own culture. It is just a mish-mash of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Filipino and Arab cultures.

5) People of all religions are allowed to enter a Hindu temple in Singapore.

6) Smoking and drinking is a very expensive affair in Singapore.

7) Contrary to beliefs, purchasing electronic goods is not cheaper in Singapore. Hong Kong would be a better bet in Asia.

8) The MRT rail system in Singapore closes before midnight. For a city that is supposed to be global, I think they should let the public transport system run for a couple of hours more.

9) Little India feels like one of the areas in Mylapore, Chennai without the noise levels and excessive traffic.

10) Accommodation (for a local) in Singapore is very expensive.

11) Every male Singapore citizen has to compulsorily serve time in the Singapore army.

12) There is never a paucity of places to eat in Singapore. It is one of the few things that this city is passionate about and is a great place for the true foodie.

13) Singapore’s Changi airport feels like an extension of the Orchard road shopping experience.

14) Tap water is safe to drink in Singapore.

15) Singapore follows the British style of driving and drives on the left side of the road.

16) A lot of Thai and Indonesian tourists like to visit Singapore over the weekends.

17) The hospitals of Singapore are very particular about cleanliness and germ control and set very high standards.

18) Cost of living in Singapore is slightly on the higher side in South East Asia.

19) Singapore is looking to increase its population multi fold, especially with the influx of low skilled workers.

20) From a traffic perspective, Singapore does not feel like an Asian city, but an American city with vast open spaces and minimal traffic.

21) Pedestrians get right of way in Singapore.

22) State Bank of India has a huge office in Singapore.

23) Singapore is a great place for artists to show their skills and talents and the city allows them to harness their skills.

24) Singapore is a very small city and most of its areas can be easily walked. The only issue is the humid weather.

25) The fashion sense of Singapore as an overall city lacks in terms of other large Asian cities like Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo.

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

25 Random Things about Philippines

I was there for 18 days in Philippines across Manila, Banaue, Batad, Puerto Princesa, Sabang and El Nido. During this time, I noticed many things about this beautiful archipelago country (7,107 islands) and I have noted them down to make an interesting read for you.

1) Most of the people of Philippines have an American accent when they speak English. No wonder their call center industry is doing real well.

2) Manila feels like most of the Indian cities with open garbage dumps, pot holes, smiling people, too much of honking, bad traffic and high decibel levels. I felt right at home.

3) Filipinos don’t understand the concept of vegetarianism as they love their pork and beef. True vegetarians have a tough time in Philippines. I just about managed.

4) Most of the country is Catholic or follow other forms of Christianity. Catholics are a majority.

5) If you tell a Filipino restaurant that you don’t eat meat, they think that you are Muslim.

6) The people of Philippines pronounce India as “Injaa”.

7) There are more women than men in the Philippines. Hence, don’t be surprised if you are a man and if many Filipinas come to you asking you if you are interested in marrying a girl from the Philippines.

8) McDonald’s is not the number one fast food chain in the Philippines. It is the local champion Jolibee.

9) In most of the world, it is the younger generation and the working population who frequent fast food joints. In Philippines, even elderly people and the entire family eat at fast food restaurants.

10) Jeepneys (elongated jeeps) are the most popular source of public transport across the Philippines.

11) Even for basic calculations, the people of Philippines use a calculator.

12) The people of Philippines are really chilled out and are always eager to help.

13) The MRTs and LRTs of Manila are so packed during rush hour that you will forced to kiss many people in the crowd.

14) Alcohol is very cheap in the Philippines and has to the cheapest in Asia by a long way.

15) Some beers are sold by the liter in the Philippines. They are called ‘litros’.

16) A lot of people in the Philippines and even those living in the countryside understand Spanish.

17) Except Manila, the rest of the country feels laidback, slow and retro style.

18) The Asian Institute of Management campus hardly feels like an university. It is such a small campus.

19) The Greenbelt area of Makati is so different from the rest of Manila and feels like a farce in a city that is meant to be different.

20) After the jeepney, the tri cycle (motored and un-motored in some places) is the most popular public transport.

21) The Manila immigration office does not allow you inside if you are not wearing trousers and shoes.

22) The bulk of the people in the Philippines are really poor.

23) The Philippine government does not like its citizens traveling to other countries and impose a high departure tax on them at the airport.

24) The Philippine government allows its tourists to extend their visa for up to 12 months.

25) Philippines looks like it wants to be like the United States of America. You will see that in its driving style, the brands in the country and their lifestyle.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Favorite Evening Snack of Singapore’s Arab Quarter

When anyone visualizes the Arab quarter of Singapore, they think of flowing robes, Persian/Turkish carpets, kebabs and veiled women. But, the irony is that its favorite evening snack has nothing to do with the Middle East. In fact, it is a drink originally from India (but given a Malaysian flavor) and a bite that belongs to South India.

Teh Aliyah and Masala Vadai at Singapore's Arab quarter
The drink is called The Aliyah (Strong Ginger Tea with condensed milk) and Masala Vadai (Deep fried lentil pancake with spices). And this is offered at a small shop run by two very elderly Malaysia gentlemen. The place is so popular with the locals that one needs to wait in a long queue to get their evening drinks and snacks. The icing on the cake is that the snack is very cheap when compared to Singapore prices.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Visas for South East Asia on an Indian Passport

There is hardly an information store on the web that caters to the tourist visa needs of an Indian passport holder traveling to South East Asia. Since, I got all my SE Asian tourist visas stamped on my Indian passport recently, I thought I should create one for the sake of all the Indian travelers out there. I have provided quick snippets of information for each of the 10 South East Asian countries to help you gain insights into the tourist visa needs for that country. For details and for documentation requirements, do look up the embassy of that country.

Visas for South East Asia on an Indian Passport

Thailand Visa Required: Yes

Visa on Arrival:
Yes. A fee of 1000 THB is charged. Visa on arrival grants you 14 days to stay in Thailand. This visa is not extensible and to avail this visa one needs to have a return ticket out of Thailand within 14 days from day of landing. Valid only if you fly into Thailand and entry from some of the land borders in Laos.

Can Visa on Arrival be extended: No

Regular Visa Fee: 1000 Thai Baht or equivalent

Regular Visa Duration: 2 months

Can Regular Visa be extended: No

Can visa be applied from a 3rd country: No, visa can only be applied from India

Is e-Visa possible: No

Cambodia Visa Required: Yes

Visa on Arrival:
Yes. Available at both land and air immigration checkpoints. Cost is USD 20 for a 1 month visa.

Can Visa on Arrival be extended: No

Regular Visa Fee: USD 20

Regular Visa Duration: 1 month

Can Regular Visa be extended: No

Can visa be applied from a 3rd country: Yes

Is e-Visa possible: Yes. Cost is USD 25. 

Vietnam Visa Required: Yes

Visa on Arrival:
Yes, only if you already hold a visa authorization form. You will still end up paying the visa stamping fee of USD 65 for a single entry 1 month visa. 

Can Visa on Arrival be extended: No

Regular Visa Fee: USD 65 for single entry 1 month and USD 105 for multiple entry 3 months.

Regular Visa Duration: 1 or 3 months

Can Regular Visa be extended: No

Can visa be applied from a 3rd country: Yes

Is e-Visa possible: No

Laos Visa Required: Yes

Visa on Arrival:
Yes. USD 40 is the fee for Indian nationals. Visa allows you to stay in Laos for 30 days. 

Can Visa on Arrival be extended: No

Regular Visa Fee: USD 40 

Regular Visa Duration: 1 month

Can Regular Visa be extended: No

Can visa be applied from a 3rd country: Yes

Is e-Visa possible: Yes

Myanmar (Burma) Visa Required: Yes

Visa on Arrival:

Can Visa on Arrival be extended: Not applicable 

Regular Visa Fee: USD 20 

Regular Visa Duration: 28 days

Can Regular Visa be extended: No

Can visa be applied from a 3rd country: Yes

Is e-Visa possible: No

Indonesia Visa Required: Yes

Visa on Arrival:
Yes. USD 25 is the fee. Visa allows you to stay in Indonesia for 1 month. Sometimes, immigration officials have been known to ask for a return ticket.

Can Visa on Arrival be extended: Yes, visa on arrival can be extended once at any of the immigration offices in Indonesia. Cost is USD 25 and allows you to stay for one more month.

Regular Visa Fee: USD 25 

Regular Visa Duration: 2 months

Can Regular Visa be extended: No

Can visa be applied from a 3rd country: Yes

Is e-Visa possible: No

Singapore Visa Required: Yes

Visa on Arrival:

Can Visa on Arrival be extended: Not applicable

Regular Visa Fee: SGD 40

Regular Visa Duration: 1 month (sometimes with multiple entry)

Can Regular Visa be extended: Yes 

Can visa be applied from a 3rd country: Yes

Is e-Visa possible: Yes

Malaysia Visa Required: Yes

Visa on Arrival:

Can Visa on Arrival be extended: Not applicable 

Regular Visa Fee: 10 pounds for a single entry and 20 pounds for a multiple entry 

Regular Visa Duration: 1 year multiple entry with each entry allowing a maximum stay of 30 days. 

Can Regular Visa be extended: No

Can visa be applied from a 3rd country: Single entry visa can be applied from some countries, but multiple entry visa can only be applied from home country. 

Is e-Visa possible: No

Philippines Visa Required: Yes, unless you have a valid USA, UK, Singapore or Japan visa on your passport. This will allow you free 14 days stay in the Philippines

Visa on Arrival:

Can Visa on Arrival be extended: Not applicable 

Regular Visa Fee: USD 40 

Regular Visa Duration: 1 month

Can Regular Visa be extended: Yes. Visas can be extended up to 12 months from entry date. Different costs apply for different time periods.

Can visa be applied from a 3rd country: Yes

Is e-Visa possible: No

Brunei Visa Required: Yes

Visa on Arrival:

Can Visa on Arrival be extended: Not applicable 

Regular Visa Fee: USD 35 

Regular Visa Duration: 1 month

Can Regular Visa be extended: No

Can visa be applied from a 3rd country: Yes

Is e-Visa possible: No

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Kape Pukkas Pension House: Budget Cottages in El Nido, Philippines

El Nido, the hotspot of Palawan island has a lot of accommodation options to help travelers with all kinds of budgets. As is the norm, beach facing fronts quote the highest prices while the budget ones are slightly away from the beach. While I was at El Nido, I stayed at the Kape Pukkas Pension House, which is located on the street parallel to the main beach stretch. The below review is based on my experience of staying 8 nights and 8 days here.

1) The cottages are small, but come with the modern facilities like a fan, mosquito net and a small light. Each cottage has a small balcony. And all of this costs 350 PHP per room.

2) Bathroom and toilets are shared. Bathrooms are bucket and pail technique and toilets are western styled, but without the toilet seat and flushes.

3) The reception at the pension house mentions about free wi-fi, but the wi-fi was never there during my entire stay.

4) The cottages are close to the beach (2 minute walk away) and is in close proximity to all the local restaurants, tour companies, grocery stores and more.

5) Electricity is there every day from 2 pm to 6 AM. Sometimes when all the cottages are full or when running water stops, the pension house runs a backup generator.

6) Some nights can be a bit warm, but mornings are always pleasant.

7) The owner of the pension house runs the happening Pukkas bar on the beach. 

The place is simple and works for backpackers and for those on a tight budget. Apart from the place lacking modern amenities, there should be no other complaints.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tropical Horse Shoe Bend

When one thinks of the horse shoe bend or searches horse shoe bend on the web, it is is the famous horse shoe bend in the Grand Canyon of the United States that comes up. But, there are other horse shoe bends too, which I figured out when I was trekking through northern Philippines.

A Horse shoe bend in the tropical forests of Batad, Philippines
I was on my way to Tappiyah waterfalls from the village of Batad when at a very steep and rocky stretch, I saw this amazing horse shoe bend in the river that was flowing through dense tropical vegetation. This is the same river that has the Tappiyah falls a little upstream. I am sure that the view would have been better at a higher vantage point, but this is the best that I could manage and am happy with the results.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Featured as a Top India Blog

It gives me a lot of pleasure to say that my blog has been voted as one of the top blogs in the Indian blogosphere across all categories. India Travel Blog put me on their platinum list last year too, but this year, the list has shrunk and now I am one of the top 37 platinum bloggers across diverse categories. These kind of features egg me on to write more. Again and as always, thank you for all your support. You have made it happen.

Featured as a top India blog

Featured as a Top India Blog
I will aim to create more immersive content for all you travelers out there and hopefully the blog will see a higher ranking.

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Ima’s Vegetarian: Only Vegetarian Restaurant in Puerto Princesa

Being a vegetarian is tough life in the Philippines as beef and pork are so much a part of the local staple diet. True vegetarian food is so hard to come by. You can just about manage if you eat eggs. Else, you will have to end up eating at one of the more expensive restaurants who will have some basic vegetarian fare in their menu. Thankfully, when I was walking the streets of Puerto Princesa, I found this vegetarian restaurant called Ima’s Vegetarian. Initially, I was surprised that I found a vegetarian restaurant in Philippines, but when I entered inside I was very happy as there were banners of
‘Go Vegetarian’ and ‘Save Animals’ and all that.

This place is located on Fernandez street, which runs perpendicular to the Rizal Avenue and is located in the downtown area of Puerto Princesa. They are open every day from 11 AM to 9 PM, except for Friday (11 AM to 2 PM) and Saturday (6 PM to 10 PM). Their food is vegetarian with an European and Mexican twist. Their prime offerings are burgers, burritos and pizzas, but they also dish out some vegetarian foods with rice as the base. Their food is not extraordinary, but is simple and a savior for vegetarians in Puerto Princesa. Each dish should be about 100 to 200 PHP. Service is a bit slow when the restaurant is full. The place also comes with free wi-fi, so one can browse the internet while they wait for their food.

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Robert’s Resort and Restaurant: Simple Beach Front Cottages in Sabang, Philippines

Sabang is the destination to go to if you are looking to explore the Puerto Princesa subterranean river national park. While most of the tourists do day trips to the national park, I decided to stay at Sabang, from where the underground river boat trips start. While I was at Sabang, I stayed at Robert’s resort and restaurant for just one night and this review is based on that experience.

1) Robert’s resort and restaurant is situated right on the beach and is very close to the office of the underground river at Sabang.

2) It has beach facing cottages, which are simple, fan cooled rooms with an attached bathroom (cold shower). The beds come with mosquito nets and the room comes with a balcony. The price for their cheapest room is 400 PHP.

3) Electricity is available in the town of Sabang only from 6 PM to 6 AM and during the other hours the resort does not run a backup generator.

4) They do not have wi-fi in this resort. So does the most of Sabang with the exception of some expensive hotels.

5) They have an in-house restaurant, but they only serve certain items on the menu. The rest is always out of stock. May be, it was because I visited in the low season.

6) The other restaurants, bars, supermarts, souvenir shops and the bus/van booking office is just a short walk away.

The hotel is decent for budget travelers and for those who just wish to spend the night here. You might need to look elsewhere if you wish for a little bit luxury.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Lunch with a view

I had just finished this tough climb back from Tapiyah waterfalls and reached the restaurant where we had ordered food. I had been seeing rice terraces and tropical forests all day. In fact, most of my trek and steep climbs were through the amphitheater style stone walled terraces of Batad in Northern Philippines, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the 8th wonders of the world.

Wholesome lunch with a great view - at Batad Rice Terraces, Philippines
When you are trekking and your heart rate is racing, you see all natural beauty around you, but you have to focus on the mission in hand, which is to watch your footing else you will be one with the rice fields about 15 feet below. But, thankfully for me, I got a relaxed view when I had a simple and wholesome lunch at a place that overlooked these rice terraces. My heart had stopped pumping and I was able to enjoy my lunch with a 8th wonder of a view. I hope you enjoy it too.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Guest Post: My Five Favourite Things to Do in Perth, Western Australia

I’ve been in Perth for around three months and have managed to tick off several of the “must see” things to do based on Trip Advisor and other travel guides and blogs. Everyone enjoys doing different types of activities; I’m more of an activities type of person rather than a museum fan. If that’s you I’d recommend these five popular things to do in Perth.

Cottesloe Beach Cottesloe is only a 15 minute train ride from Perth’s central business district. It’s the perfect place to see the sun set over the Indian Ocean, I’ve never seen such a beautiful sunset.

Stunning sunset at Cottesloe Beach, Perth
It also offers great waves so is popular for swimming and amongst surfers.

Enjoy some delicious fish and chips at the nearby cafes and make sure you go here for a Sunday Session. The locals love going to the pubs along the beachfront to enjoy a drink and watch the sun go down, I was very impressed with Cottesloe Beach Hotel, bit more expensive but a beautiful pub and great atmosphere.

Fremantle Markets Further down the same train line as Cottesloe is Fremantle. A seaside port, the main one in Western Australia, there are many things to see here. One of my favourites is going to the Fremantle Markets at the weekends.

Cooking Paella at the busy Fremantle Markets
Great for picking up the freshest fruit and veg, quirky little stalls and a great selection of dishes such as paella and gozleme and treats including chocolate doughnuts, strawberries covered in chocolate and homemade macaroons. Yum Yum! I had an awesome chorizo gozleme. Markets are open Fridays to Sunday and on bank holiday Mondays.

Little Creatures Brewery - Fremantle Head to the Brewhouse Bar first for a free sample of any of the beer and ciders or like me try all six Little Creatures drinks on offer to find your favourite/s. I’ve never been a fan of dark ale but I thought their White Rabbit Dark Ale was phenomenal and the Pipsqueak Apple Cider was very light and sweet without being too sweet. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Beer and Cider Samples at Little Creatures
I found the atmosphere to be very warm and welcoming at Little Creatures. Head to the main bar to enjoy a full pint, have a meal or try Creatures Next Door and sit back and relax in one of their big comfy lounge chairs while taking in the waterfront views.

Swan River A better way to Fremantle is to take a relaxing river cruise down the Swan River. Look back and soak up the fantastic city skyline, get envious at the expensive homes and wave as you pass the many sailing boats. Fairly inexpensive trip at $27 per person one way, or $37 for a return.

Perth Mint I’m not a fan of traditional museums, just doesn’t do it for me. However I went to the Perth Mint for the gold pouring demonstration. It was fascinating to watch the process and see how quickly the liquid gold turned into a gold bar.

I was pleasantly surprised by the rest of the Perth Mint; the tour was very informative, interesting history and I had the chance to pick up a $200,000 gold bar.

Perth Mint tour guide
Guide showing off replicas of the biggest ever pieces found in Western Australia.
They are upgrading part of the facilities so it costs just $10 at the moment, bargain.

Kings Park If you wake up feeling like exploring the great outdoors, get your walking boots on and head to Kings Park, the world’s largest inner city park at 1,003 acres. To get to Kings Park you can drive, take the bus up, jump on the free blue CAT bus to take you nearby or my preferred option, a short walk from the city and up the very steep Jacobs Ladder, which is popular with joggers.

There is lots to explore, my highlights were relaxing and enjoying the magnificent views over the Swan River and the city’s business district from the grassy area off of Frasers Avenue, a great spot for enjoying a picnic. Come back or stay to see the fantastic views of the city by night.

View of the City from Kings Park
Explore The Park’s Botanic Gardens to discover many species of plants which represent plants found all over Western Australia. Then there is the impressive 750 year old Boab tree which has been transported over 3,000km from the Kimberly Region.

Boab Tree - Kings Park
Also worth doing is the Tree Top Walk along the Federation Walkway, great views of the trees around you and the Swan River. Try to fit in the Indigenous walking tour to learn more about the fascinating history of the aboriginal people and how Kings Park is viewed as a sacred place.

This guest post was written by Chris M and all the photographs in this post belong to him. Follow Chris’s adventure via his blog - My 30s Travel Blog, on Facebook or his Twitter.

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Where to Find an Adrenaline Rush in Las Vegas

Betting it all on a card game is not the only way to make your heart beat faster in Las Vegas — this city also has a number of great extreme sport opportunities including skydiving (indoor and outdoor), kayaking, shooting and much more. Perhaps you aren’t into gambling, or you want to take a break from the casino floor? You can head out into the Las Vegas sunshine and get a thrill from one of these fun activities.

Here are a few of the most exciting extreme sport adventures that you’ll find when you search for Las Vegas vacation ideas.

Throwing yourself out of a plane seems absolutely crazy, but those who have done it say that it’s as good as it gets when you’re seeking a rush. If you feel like taking the plunge while in Vegas, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do just that. Las Vegas Extreme Sky Diving offers tours that will take you up high above Red Rock National Park, Mount Charleston and the Las Vegas Strip, and then let you jump with qualified tandem instructors.

If you want to experience the thrilling weightlessness of skydiving without actually having to jump out of a plane, why not try simulated indoor sky diving? You can do this in Las Vegas Too, at Vegas Indoor Sky Diving. The simulator has foam padded walls, a trampoline floor and a vertical wind tunnel which produces enough wind to support the average adult.

Rock Climbing
Red Rock Canyon is a well-known climbing area located west of the Las Vegas city limits. Climbers have been coming here since the 1970s and more than 2,000 rock climbing routes have been established here. More than 100,000 people come from all over to climb at Red Rock Canyon every year.

The interesting rock formations of the region, such as enormous petrified sand dunes, layers of sedimentary rock and much more make it a unique and fascinating place to climb. You can rock climb here all year round, but spring and fall are the best times to visit. There are several different companies that offer guided rock climbing trips, including Jackson Hole Mountain guides, the National Outdoor Leadership School and Mountain Skills Rock Climbing Adventures.

Have you ever been kayaking? It’s something you should try at least once in your life and once you get a hang of the rhythm of paddling, you will love the adventure.

There are many different tour companies offering kayaking trips from Las Vegas. Most of these trips take place on the Colorado River from the base of Hoover Dam to Willow Beach. Some tour packages will also include a hike to the nearby hot springs from the river. Other more relaxing trips might include a gentle paddle to the island beaches of Lake Mead for swimming and sunbathing.

Do you want to experience the thrill of shooting a big gun? It can be quite an adrenaline rush to hold a powerful weapon and shoot at a target.

There are six different Las Vegas shooting ranges that have opened up recently, where you can experience the thrill of shooting large weapons. For example, the Strip Gun Club on Las Vegas Boulevard offers packages including a t-shirt, rifle, pistol, target and all of the required ear and eye protection.

Some ranges will have age restrictions on how old you have be to shoot, while others will offer packages for teenagers and children. Make sure that you bring your Photo ID and remember that many of these places will have very long lines, so expect to wait a while or avoid going on a weekend.

Roller Coasters
Las Vegas has a great selection of roller coasters that will give you butterflies in your stomach! The Roller Coaster at the New York New York Hotel drops you down 144 feet and performs a jet-fighter-style barrel roll, and Insanity at the Stratosphere Hotel spins you at a force of 3 gs. Hold on tight!

These are just a few of the thrilling adrenaline rush activities that you can enjoy while you are in Las Vegas, so have fun on your exciting adventure!

About the Author: Mark Clarkson is a freelance travel writer and blogger. He loves to visit Las Vegas and has been skydiving, rock climbing and kayaking at this great destination.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Duchess Pension: A Good Budget Hotel in Puerto Princesa

Puerto Princesa is the largest town on Palawan island, but that itself is so small that I ended up walking the entire town in search of a place to stay and that is how I ended up at Duchess Pension, a newly renovated hotel in a quiet part of the city. I stayed here for a couple of nights and the below review is based on my recent experience of staying here.

1) The place offers great variety in its towns, from fully loaded air conditioned rooms to very basic and small fan cooled rooms with shared bathrooms.

2) This hotel should be the cheapest in town with a single room for 250 PHP and a double room for 350 PHP. These are basic fan cooled rooms with shared bathrooms. The beds are thin, but work well for the tropical weather.

3) The place comes with wi-fi (good speeds), but one needs to pay a one time charge of 50 PHP to use the internet. The wi-fi is accessible only in their restaurant area.

4) They have an in-house restaurant, but service can be a bit slow and the menu options are limited.

5) The front desk was very helpful in guiding me to the immigration office, the underground river booking office and many other directions that I needed.

6) The hotel is a bit inside from the main Rizal Avenue road and is quieter during the night, but one needs to walk at least 10 minutes to reach all the restaurants, ATMs and supermarts.

7) They offer laundry services, but the prices are a bit high. There is a laundry store about a couple of minutes down the road that offers their services at reasonable prices.

8) A short walk from the hotel is the jeepney and tri cycle stand and hence one can easily commute to far away places.

The place is ideal for solo travelers and travelers on a budget. The place is clean, even though basic and very helpful.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

How to extend your Philippine visa in Puerto Princesa?

A lot of people on the internet mentioned that the immigration office at Manila is one of the toughest places to extend your visa, but I still went ahead and visited them while I was exploring the Intra Muros area of Manila. I did not even get through their front door as I was wearing a pair of shorts. Who carries pants while traveling tropical Asia. I know some of you do, but for me, I had to find another immigration office and thankfully for me, I found one at Puerto Princesa that allowed me in shorts and helped me extend my visa in less than 15 minutes. The below account is how I extended my visa today.

Visa extension at Puerto Princesa, Philippines

The immigration office at Puerto Princesa is located near the airport and on Rizal Avenue. It is situated on the 2nd floor of a green building that is next to the EdGuardo’s restaurant. The office is open Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 4:30 pm, excluding public holidays. It is a short 15 minute walk from most of the hotels in down town Puerto Princesa. All you need to extend your visa is your passport and photocopies of your passport front photo page and the Philippine entry stamp.

The cost for a normal 38 day extension is 3,030 PHP, but in my case, since I am on an Indian passport and can get extension of only 7 additional days, I ended up paying 2,330 pisos. The lady at the immigration counter gave me a form to fill and once I had filled the form, she went up printing the receipt, put a new immigration stamp on my passport with the extended date and boom everything was over in less than 15 minutes. This is the easiest visa extension I have ever had, but the cost is a bit on the higher side. But, upon evaluating my other travel costs and the cost of coming to Palawan and not staying long, I decided to pay and get the extension done. If you are looking for a place to do your extension, I would recommend that you look at Puerto Princesa as the immigration formalities is a breeze here.

p.s. while I was getting my visa extended, an Australian enquired about the penalty of leaving a day late. The immigration officer told that generally this depends on the officer on duty at your airport, but generally they charge the visa extension fees of 3,030 PHP and 1,000 PHP as penalty for not extending on time.

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How to get your permits done for the Puerto Princesa Underground River?

The Puerto Princesa Underground river national park houses the world’s longest subterranean river along with great wildlife and natural beauty. This place is considered a natural wonder of the world and is also a UNESCO World heritage site. However, one cannot simply walk in and enter this national park as only a maximum of 900 people are allowed to enter the national park every day. The requirements are that one needs to get a permit done in advance to visit the national park. Either you can go through a travel agent or if you arrive via Puerto Princesa and have enough time in hand, you can walk in to the Puerto Princesa Underground river office and get it done.

The Puerto Princesa underground river office is located in the San Miguel area of Puerto Princesa and is located on the ground floor of the city colosseum building. One can either hire a tricycle or walk 25 minutes from the down town area to reach the office. The office personnel are very professional in providing you all the details regarding costs, list of activities, directions, logistics, stay and more.

As soon as you walk in, you go to the walk in counter where you can get your permit and book your date and time slot. In line with the permit, you get one hour of run time in the underground river. All you need to show is your passport or valid identity card for them to give you the permit. The cost of this permit is 250 PHP, which you are supposed to pay at the cashier counter and then the final sign is provided for at the next counter.

The walk-in counter is also the place where you can find jeepney and van running schedule and costs, maps of the underground river and the Palawan island (Puerto Princesa, El Nido and Coron) and logistic options and schedule from Sabang (where the entry to the underground river is) to El Nido.

The entire process is a breeze and I ended up booking my permit in less than 20 minutes, which was because of all my questions. The office is open from 9 AM to 3 PM from Monday through Friday. In case the trip gets cancelled due to heavy current in the river, you can either change your permit’s schedule or get your money refunded at either Sabang or Puerto Princesa.

Note: One needs to be at the boat counter one hour before the actual time with the permit in original and your passport/valid identity.There are additional costs involved: 40 PHP/person towards an environmental fee and 700 PHP for a boat that can be shared by 6 people.

It was very easy to get my permits done. Now, I am very eagerly looking forward to seeing this natural wonder up live.

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sanafe Lodge and Restaurant: Great place to stay in Banaue, Philippines

Banaue is the entrance to the famous rice terraces of northern Philippines and to the 8th wonder of the world, which is situated about an hour away from there. Either one can tour all the places around by doing day trips from Banaue or stay at the smaller villages. I preferred to stay at Banaue at the Sanafe Lodge and Restaurant. Below review is based on my recent experience of staying 2 nights and 3 days here.

1) The place is one of the oldest hotels in Banaue and has great location. It is situated right on the main market road and offers great views of the Banaue rice terraces and the river that flows through Banaue.

2) The lodge offers rooms that cater to various budgets from 200 PHP for a bed in a dormitory to 1,600 PHP for a deluxe room with a rice terrace view.

3) They have free wi-fi, though wi-fi tends to be painfully slow during the day and decent speed during the nights.

4) They have an in-house restaurant too, though prices can be a bit on the higher side, but if location and view is important for you, then this is the place for a meal.

5) It has got great proximity to the tourist information center, the jeepney and pedi cab stands, hawker shops, grocery shops, bus station and restaurants.

6) The owner, a Filipina lady is very helpful and guides you in the right direction even though it leads to lower revenue for her. For example, she pointed me in the right direction for cheap food and restaurants.

7) The dormitory does not come with hot shower and if you like hot showers on a cold morning, then the dormitory is not for you.

8) Except the deluxe rooms, none of the rooms come with charging points. Hence, you will have to charge your gadgets in the restaurant area.

9) The lodge also helps in arranging tours to all the popular sightseeing places.

10) If you are staying longer or if you are on a tight budget, you should ask the owner for a budget. In all probability, she will give you a discount.

The place has a great feel and comes with a great  view. The 200 PHP dormitory makes it a steal and perfect for backpackers and solo travelers. A lot of tourists like their double rooms too. As a overall package, I would definitely return to this place, though I will always eat outside to save on the costs.

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Street Photo: Pedi Cab of Manila

Pedi Cabs can be seen almost everywhere in the Philippines. In fact, it is one of the more preferred and cheaper forms of public transport in this archipelago nation. It’s short wheels and low ground clearance give a different perspective to the passengers. I took a ride in one when I was exploring the Intra Muros area of Manila, which is also referred to as the walled city.

A pedi cab driver in the intra muros area of Manila, Philippines
It is here that I took this photo of this pedi cab driver relaxing in his pedi cab along with other pedi cabs. Initially, he was unhappy that I took his photo. I apologized. He said he is unhappy because he did not get a chance to pose for his photo. I smiled. The people of Philippines have a good sense of humor and they seem to be smiling even in hardship.

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Featured as one of the top 51 travel blogs and magazines in India

I am happy to inform you all that ‘BE ON THE ROAD’ has been featured as one of the top 51 travel blogs and magazines in India by Why.Travel, an upcoming online travel platform. The list features many names who I have known personally in the last 5 years. It feels like a family when I see my name in this list. Also, feel proud to get featured as one of the top names in the travel blogging industry in India and this list includes magazines too, which makes it even sweeter.

Why.Travel features me

Featured as one of the top 51 travel blogs and magazines in India
I thank all you readers and followers for making this possible and I will try to improve my ranking for the next feature!!

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Friday, July 12, 2013

How to get free entry into Philippines on an Indian Passport?

A lot of countries get free 21 days entry into the Philippines. But, these are European countries, ASEAN countries, Japan and/or United States of America/Canada. If you traveling on an Indian passport, you do not get these free 21 days entry into Philippines. Instead, you have to apply for a tourist visa from a Philippine embassy while following all the protocol, which would include documentation, travel bookings, 2-3 days of waiting and a visa fee.

However, even the Indian passport gets free entry into the Philippines. Though, this has a caveat. The catch is that you should have a valid USA, Canada, Singapore, UK and/or Japan visa stamped on your passport. This does not work if you have a visa stamp of any of these countries on your passport, but they were single entry and have expired. If you pass this condition and only if you fly into Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International airport, you will get free 14 days entry into the Philippines. This free entry can also be extended for a further 7 days, making it a 21 day stay in total. But, you need to pay for the visa extension. And like all free entries in the Philippines, you have to have a return ticket out of Philippines. In all probability, if you do not have a return ticket out of Philippines, they will let you board the aircraft. And the Philippines immigration officers are pretty strict about this one requirement.

I got such a free entry when I flew into Manila 5 days back. I have a valid United States and Singapore visa on my passport. Even though, I have both visas on my passport, they mentioned US Visa on the stamp they put on my passport. I had a ticket out of Philippines on day 19, but the immigration officer said that he can give me only 14 days free entry, but I could extend it in Manila or at any of the immigration offices in the country. Overall, this is a great bonus to have if you want to plan a last minute short holiday to the Philippines. The hassle of applying for a visa is nullified, which in itself is great. Paying no fee for entry is an added bonus.

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Travel Photo: Speed Chess from Manila

I had just gotten out of the Manila MRT train after an interesting rush hour experience where I had to push my way out. It was stifling and I was glad to be out of the crowd. As I made my way out of the Guadalupe MRT, I saw a mall and decided to see if I could get any dinner there. While I was searching for dinner, I saw this large group of people standing around people who were playing speed chess.

Speed Chess - a popular Filipino Indoor Sport
There were about 6 tables and each had two participants who were playing speed chess and timing their moves. I am not sure if it was a competition or it is a regular pastime. But, whatever it was, it was very interesting and the locals seemed to enjoy it as they seemed to crane their necks to see the latest moves.

Speed Chess being played at a mall near Gualalupe MRT Station, Manila
While some of them played speed chess where they had to check mate the other person within 3 minutes, some others played a sub 2 minute game where the player with the most coins on the board wins. I love playing chess, but play it the traditional way. Even though, I have never really indulged in playing speed chess, I really liked watching these Filipinos play. In spite of being hungry, I ended up watching them for a good 30 minutes. That is how interesting it was!

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

1 River Central Hostel: Good Budget Hostel in Manila

There are three broad pockets to stay in Manila. One is near the airport, one is in and around the walled city of Intra Muros and the last is the central Makati area, which is close to all the shopping malls and right in the heart of the city. During my stay here in Manila, I opted to stay in the Makati area at the 1 River Central Hostel on JP Rizal St, Guadalupe Viejo. The below review is based on my recent experience of staying 2 nights and 2 days here.

1) For 450 pesos or USD 10.5 per night (I was lucky to get it at $8 a night through Agoda), you get a bed in an air-conditioned 4-bed dormitory. They have safety lockers and shared bathrooms. They even offer free wi-fi and free breakfast.

2) The hostel is situated next to the main road, so noise levels are pretty high till midnight from early in the morning. The sounds don’t affect me as I am a heavy sleeper, but if you need a sound proof place, then this is not for you.

3) The place, the rooms, the walkways, they are all small, but they are very functional and clean.

4) The people running the place are also helpful in guiding you to the places and helping you with logistics.

5) Breakfast is free and served on their roof top restaurant. Breakfast includes toast, eggs and coffee. Their roof top restaurant also provides a good view of the city landscape.

6) Wifi is free and of decent speeds. I have been able to make skype calls without any trouble.

7) Except for a burger shop next door, there are hardly any restaurants close by. For food, the nearest location is the Guadulupe MRT, which is a 10 minute walk away. The same thing applies to grocery stores and super marts.

8) The closest MRT is Guadalupe station, which is a 10 minute walk away.

9) The place is about 30 minutes from the airport. It is also a short 20 minute drive to the greenbelt area. Intra Muros, the walled city of Manila is about 1 hour away.

The hostel is good for budget travelers looking for short term stays in Manila. For longer stays, you should look for a different place.

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Royal Hostel: Excellent Budget Option in Singapore’s Chinatown

Finding good budget accommodation is always tough. Thankfully, I found mine on my second attempt in Singapore when I booked myself at the Royal Hostel on Chinatown’s Smith Street. The below review is based on my recent experience of staying 4 nights and 5 days here.

1) The Royal Hostel feels like home since the folks there treat you like family and make you feel welcomed. I have been to hostels in many countries and this is one of those places where I liked from the 1st hour.

2) For S$22 per day, you get an air-conditioned bed in a 16-bed dormitory, a safety locker (you bring your own padlocks), free breakfast, free wi-fi and a private light. Towels are not included, but can be bought for S$4.

3) Bathrooms and toilets are shared. They are small, but very functional and clean.

4) The wi-fi is free and is lightning quick. It is more in line with Singapore speeds unlike some other hostels which give you very low speeds.

5) Most of the people staying in this hostel are long term in mates and it is fun hanging out with them. I was lucky to get singers, dancers, parkour artists and regular tourists for company.

6) The reception staff are very kind and always looking to help you as a friend than as a customer. The personal touch makes it a great experience.

7) The hostel is just a couple of lanes from the Chinatown MRT, close to all the tourist hot spots, a short walk away from the malls and shopping areas of Chinatown and a short walk to the restaurants and the various food centers. Basically, it has great location.

8) Air-conditioning is switched off daily from 10 AM to 4 pm during room cleaning hours. But, if the room cleaning is complete and if you request the front desk, they would happily turn on the AC for you.

9) Free breakfast is provided every morning from 7 AM to 10:30 PM. Breakfast is simple toast, butter, jam and tea/coffee.

10) A communal fridge is available in case you wish to store your food and drinks.

11) Laundry services are provided too for a cost. Everything is self service.

I would happily recommend this place to all backpackers, budget travelers, traveling couples and even folks on short business trips. It makes for a great stay and you meet great people. Great location is a bonus.

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Hotel Losmen Rempen: Threadbare Accommodation in Kuta, Bali

Kuta is the place to be if you are looking at budget accommodation in South Bali. Even though I hate the place for its bad traffic, I still end up going there because it has many budget accommodation options especially around the Poppies 1 and Poppies 2 lanes. During my recent trip to Bali, I stayed at the Hotel Losmen Rempen, situated on a side lane from Poppies 1. I stayed here for 2 nights and the below review is based on my recent experience of staying here.

1) There is board pointing to this hotel saying ‘We sell magic mushroom here’. Well, they do sell magic mushroom, but there is nothing else magic about this place as they are very basic. For 100,000 rupiah, you will get a double room (fan cooled) with an attached bathroom (cold shower only) and a balcony. Everything else is supremely basic or threadbare.

2) The place is actually an old Balinese house managed by a local Balinese family. The place needs maintenance, but I guess the family needs funds too.

3) The place comes with free wi-fi, which is slow at times.

4) Breakfast is not provided, but most of the eating joints are just a short walk away.

5) The best attribute about this place is its proximity to the happening areas. It is a 5 minute walk to the beach, a similar walk to all the small shopping areas, a 5-10 minute walk to all the different restaurants and a 5 minute walk to the Hard Rock Café and bar.

6) Jalan Legian or the drinking street is also just a short walk away.

7) The rooms come with a sit-out too, but again like the room, they are basic. The lights in the room are also very dim.

8) There were no bed bugs, less number of mosquitoes in the night time and overall the place was very safe and quiet.

The place is got for really budget travelers, especially students, surfers and the likes. I would not recommend this place for couples, even though hardened couples would be comfortable here.

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Guest Post: Things To Do And See In Vienna

The last time I took a trip to Vienna was when I was 13. It was on a school trip and to be honest, I remember little of what we saw. Thankfully I was given the chance to re-explore this magnificent city a few days ago.

I originally planned to fly out for the weekend for a friend’s wedding, yet after researching the many attractions available, I decided to spend the week in this highly photogenic land. Before I was due to leave, I spent a few days in the library. They have a massive selection of travel guides on display, all of which made planning an itinerary that little bit easier.

I discovered Vienna is home to a number of contemporary masterpieces, Art Nouveau and Baroque palaces – no wonder my good friends have chosen it as a wedding destination! Taking a minute to breathe in the sights and sounds of this city is a phenomenal experience in itself and if you want to visit this region, you can book your flights online.

There is a wide variety of plush architecture to discover in Vienna and the Belvedere is one such establishment that is renowned for its exquisite ornamental detail. On the inside, theatrical hallways, picturesque gardens and memorable museums can be found. The Botanical Garden of the University of Vienna is another building to showcase a variety of quality architecture. The University gardens are said to be some of the most impressive in Europe.

The Kunsthistoriches Museum welcomes over 600,000 visitors per year but this doesn’t come as much of a surprise when you consider the works displayed here.

Another renowned museum in Vienna is the Leopold, an establishment enjoyed by those that share a love of culture. As well as a stunning collection of Austrian art, works from Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka also feature here.

Vienna’s cityscape is awash with a number of exquisite masterpieces, one of which includes St. Stephen’s Cathedral. This 12th century church boasts a Gothic Romanesque stature and one that adds to the city’s beauty. Due to its status and the fact it has been at the centre of some of Austria’s most important historical events, it’s one of the most visited landmarks in the area.

The city hall, also known as the Rathaus, is another Neo-Gothic wonder and one that boasts both an imposing tower and a stunning interior.

This post has been brought to you in association with Flybe. The author of this post is a travel writer working with Flybe.

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Monday, July 08, 2013

How to get Malaysian Tourist Visa from Singapore?

Most of the world doesn’t need a visa to get into Malaysia, but if you are from one of those countries that need a visa to get into Malaysia and if you want to get this visa from Singapore then read on. Like every visa on this trip, I applied for my Malaysian tourist visa from a 3rd country, this time it happened to be Singapore. I had read online that the Malaysian embassy offered tourist visas from their Singapore office, but there were a lot of disputing claims going around, some of them saying that they offer tourist visas to only those who hold a resident ship in Singapore. 

Malaysia Tourist Visa from Singapore

Well, anyways, the Malaysian embassy doesn’t encourage personal walk-ins and hence I had to go through one of their appointed agents. Since I was staying in Chinatown, I tried applying for with the agents there, but they coaxed me not to apply for my visa in Singapore as they said the rejection rate of visas here was pretty high. I gave it much thought and left. But, I wasn’t convinced. How can an embassy reject all the tourist visa applications. So I went to Mustafa air travels in Little India. They said that 95% of applications do indeed get rejected. But, I was desperate and hence was ready to take the 5% chance. Mustafa travels told me that the total cost would be S$53 and if my visa got rejected, I would be refunded $23.

I was in for it. I asked them what should I do to increase my visa approval chances. They asked me to write a personal covering letter to go with the visa application form. Following are the documents I submitted for the application:

1) Visa application form
2) One passport size colour photograph with white background
3) A copy of my Singapore visa
4) A copy of my Singapore stamp in passport
5) A copy of my ticket out of Singapore
6) Personal covering letter
7) S$53 ($23 for visa, $20 for e-application and $10 is Mustafa’s fee)
8) Visa for next destination (if not going to home country)

This is how I wrote the personal covering letter:

The Malaysian High Commission

Respected Sir/Madam,

SUB: Request for tourist visa to Malaysia

I, Sankara Subramanian C, citizen of India with passport no (#) am a travel writer who has been traveling across Asia for the last 8 months. During these 8 months, I have been applying for my visas from every 3rd country. You can refer my passport for proof of the visas and stamps. As part of this trip, I would like to visit Malaysia too and hence am applying for my visa here in Singapore. I would be very grateful if you could provide me with a tourist visa to enter Malaysia.

Thanking you!

Your sincerely,

P.S. I am headed to Philippines from Singapore before I enter Malaysia. I don’t need a visa to enter Philippines as I have a valid United States of America and Singapore visas on my
passport. These existing visas allow me to get free stay of 21 days in Philippines without a visa.

This is what I did and luckily for me, I got my Malaysian tourist visa stamped on my passport a couple of days later.

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Sunday, July 07, 2013

How did I get into blogging?

How did you get into blogging? Why did you start blogging? What inspired you to blog? Who was your blogging inspiration? A lot of people have asked me many such questions in the 4 years since I started blogging. I have always managed to dodge these questions, but I think that today, I should let you all into some of my secrets. It was a venture capitalist who inspired me to blog. Yes, you heard me right! It was not a travel blogger, but a VC whose blog and whose posts motivated me to start one of my own.

It all started back in my sales days when I met Brad Feld, VC and managing director of Foundry Group in Boulder, Colorado. The meeting did not have much in for me as a salesperson, but from that day onwards, I started following Feld Thoughts, Brad’s blog regularly. A lot of people out on the internet blog, but I liked the honest, no crap style of this VC. His organization invests in startup technology companies, which is again, an area of interest for me since I was working in the technology industry. This got me thinking about writing and about doing something that I love. And that is how the first ideas of my travel blog originated. I used to follow Brad’s blog for ideas on technology, a feel for writing naturally and basically sharing your thoughts on something you love doing.

Through Brad, I started following another VC, Mark Suster, who writes on his blog called ‘Both Sides of the Table’. This entrepreneur turned venture capitalist is known for his maverick and daredevil ways of writing. This taught me to be brave with my blogging while staying naturally aggressive. Apart from writing ideas, I regularly check Mark’s blog for startup advice, sales and marketing tips and for his random thoughts on the technology industry.

And from a travel perspective, I am a big fan of Gary Arndt, a travel blogger, who has been traveling around the world for the last 7 years. His blog, Everything Everywhere is one of the top travel blogs on the planet, but I like the unique way in which he goes about his traveling and blogging. He is one of those few travel bloggers who looked to create a brand for himself and stayed away from all link selling and advertising that other travel blogs use to make money. Instead, he created a brand that appealed to travel companies who in turn wished to connect with his brand. Gary is my travel motivator!

Personally, I have learnt a lot from these three gentlemen and their blogs. I intend to continue to learn more from them and hopefully, I will be able to use their advice and tips to make a better future for my blog and the startup ideas that I have been putting into motion.

Even if you do not wish to write a blog, I would recommend you looking up the blogs of these two VCs and the world traveler. Their vibrant thoughts are definitely worth a short read, if not a long one!

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Saturday, July 06, 2013

Beary Nice Hostel: Good Budget Hostel in Singapore’s Chinatown

There are four main tourist pockets to stay in Singapore: Chinatown, Little India, Riverside and Orchard Road. Out of these, I personally prefer to stay in the Chinatown area due to good quality at value prices with a colorful atmosphere. During my first part of the Singapore stay, I ended up staying at the Beary Nice Hostel on Smith street in the China town area. The below review is based on my experience of staying 6 nights here.

1) Beary Nice is a good value for money hostel. For $28, you get a bed in an air conditioned room, your private safety locker, free breakfast, hot showers, a television, free local calls and free wi-fi.

2) The hostel is pretty well recommended by all the guide books, online hotel booking sites and tripadvisor. But, for some reason, I felt the crowd to be very indifferent to others staying in the hostel. May be I am wrong, but it was my opinion or may be it was because I met the weekend party crowd.

3) The dormitories are comfortable, but can be a bit small if you are a big guy and love walking space. The bed is also about 6 foot long. So, if you are taller than 6 foot like me, you will have to sleep diagonally.

4) The free breakfast is quite nutritious with cereal, full cream milk, toast, bread, butter and jam. Everything is limitless and self-served.

5) The hostel front desk is generally short on staff. At many times, a lot of customers were waiting to get signed in.

6) Free wi-fi is good, but nowhere in line with Singapore standards. A couple of times I struggled with making skype calls.

7) The reception folks are extremely helpful and ensured that they addressed all my needs. They gave me maps, a Singapore power converter free of cost, directions, tips and many more.

8) The shower rooms are big and the water pressure is ideal.

9) The common TV room is a bit smaller than other hostels that I have been to, but considering that this is Singapore and that we are paying not much, I think it was good enough.

10) The safety lockers don’t come with a lock and one has to bring their own padlock. Most of the hostels in Singapore are like that. But, for those who don’t carry padlocks, they sell locks for $4 a piece.

11) The hostel is located on Chinatown’s food street and next to the main tourist attractions and the MRT. Hence, restaurants, shopping, sightseeing and commute is all very close by.

Even though this hostel has some minor shortcomings, I still think it is a value for money hostel in Chinatown’s heart.

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Thursday, July 04, 2013

Guest Post: Skiing in Lapland – more to northern Scandinavia than Santa

If you’ve ever considered going on a skiing vacation, a small number of locations will have immediately entered your thoughts. In Europe, the Alps, which span south-west France, Switzerland, south Germany, Austria and northern Italy tends to be the most popular mountain range, while the Pyrenees and even the Scottish Highlands feature on many skiers’ radars. While the snow that lies there remains for a few months, it doesn’t last, so perhaps it would make sense to head further north where the weather’s colder to go skiing, right? Lapland, a part of Scandinavia which spans Norway, Sweden and Finland is on the edge of the Arctic Circle, which means that they enjoy a winter which lasts from early December right through till April.

A winter wonderland?
Sokuru Slopes Sokuru Slopes Photo Credit

Even before it became known as an emergent skiing destination, Lapland was already popular with tourists for other reasons, the main one being its strong connections with Christmas. Every year, thousands of families make their way to Finnish Lapland to go and meet Santa Claus in his grotto, get up close to the native reindeer and play in the snow. Another major attraction of Lapland is being able to see the Northern Lights. Astronomers and people who like to take great photos love to head up north once in a while to see the Aurora Borealis in all its glory, and are helped during the summer when the sun stays up until midnight. The long summer days are also great for partying and walking when there’s no snow to trudge through!

Sloping off
When it comes to skiing, a few resorts stand out, especially in the more mountainous areas of Lapland. A couple of years ago, the charming and authentic resort of Pyha was voted the best in whole of Finland. To celebrate its growing reputation, a competition has been announced which sees the winner will get the chance to go there this winter.

As Ian Brittain, Senior Product Manager from Inghams explained: “To celebrate the introduction of the award winning resort of Pyhä (voted Finnish ski resort of the year 2011) to our 2013/14 programme, we’ve decided to launch a Facebook Ski Photo competition to offer a lucky winner and their guest the opportunity to experience the qualities of Lapland for themselves! “There are also more second prizes up for grabs, so submit your skiing photos to win some great ski gear! For more information please visit us on Facebook”, he said.

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Monday, July 01, 2013

Google Authorship approved

Google authorship has been around for more than an year. A lot of SEO sites have been recommending it to all website owners. I have been seeing these tiny people images pop up next to the search results. A lot of sites have been experiencing increase in traffic once they have had their authorship approved. On the flip side, some sites have seen reduction in traffic. Initially, I was apprehensive about connecting my Google Plus authorship with my blog, but up on hearing success stories of other bloggers, I decided to take the plunge and do the connection.

Google Authorship for beontheroad.com
So, now all beontheroad.com search results come with my photo as the author. I have been a bit late to get on this authorship bandwagon, but I want to see if this helps in increasing my website traffic and leads to more clicks from Google search. And I hope it helps in my ranking too. Now, I am getting a bit too greedy. In case you have similar thoughts for your travel blog, I recommend you give it a try and assess the extent of positive or negative influence. The experts say that in the future the google search algorithm will consider the authorship data for ranking.

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Copyright © 2009-2024 Sankara Subramanian C (www.beontheroad.com)
Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited. All Rights Reserved

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