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Accompanied by blogger friend Flora, I finally ate at the popular Taiwanese chain Din Tai Fung – famous for its xiaolongbao (small steamed soup dumplings). While the dumplings were indeed delicious–especially the pork dumplings and red bean dumplings–the highlight of the menu was dessert: the double-boiled papaya and snow fungus soup with rock sugar.

Clearly such an item merits a try, right? Well, apart from the fact that I blurted aloud that it looked like a venereal disease in a pot (more inappropriate jokes followed), we still ate it and survived to tell the tale. In fact, it was rather bland and anti-climactic but the dumplings and appetizers were wonderful enough that I plan on returning here soon.

Pictures: (1) Shrimp & Pork steamed dumplings and Pork steamed dumplings, (2) seaweed peanuts, drunken chicken and hot & sour soup; (3) the infamous dessert.


Step 1: Book a flight to Bali. This should be sufficient. If not, continue to step 2.

Step 2: Find a villa in Seminyak. Ideally it will have a private pool and someone will come to make you breakfast in the morning. It will be cheap because you will have followed my advice on how to book a trip in SE Asia (see here).

Step 3: Capture your joy on film. If you need to pinch yourself, it’s okay.

Step 4: Rent a moto in Candidasa and start driving in the direction of nowhere. When you stop for gas and a Balinese man asks you if you are going to White Sand Beach, just tell him yes.

Step 5: Then figure out how to get to White Sand Beach. You’ll probably drive around lost for a few hours, and local ladies will point and laugh at you, but it’s worth it because the beach looks something like this:

Step 6: Find a little shack where someone will grill you fresh fish in spicy Balinese sauce. Eat it all and wash down with Pineapple juice.

Step 7: Afterwards take a walk in the sunset to digest the fish. This will all feel surreal, but that’s okay -just embrace it. You’ve now achieved happiness.

[If you’ve followed each step as directed, you might be SO happy that you’ll be able to walk on water (see above)].

What should we really take away from this latest and greatest in public health posters?

Clearly the construction worker should not be sitting next to a man with his head on fire. And if you have a saw and/or flower pot spliting your brain open, it might not be the best time to read a first aid pamphlet.

 

A fascinating look at Singapore, Crossroads of the East, in 1938:

and then 2 decades later, Singapore, The Lion City in 1957:

I’ve done a fair share of traveling these past 2 years, and in the course of planning those fabulous trips I’ve come across a number of resources to facilitate my vacations – some resources great, others totally useless (yeah, I’m talking to you expedia).

Since my time in Singapore is winding down (only 2 more months?!) and I’ve been planning a series of final trips in the region, I’ve been having a lot of travel conversations with friends lately.  I was shocked to find out that some of them had never used/heard of my go-to travel sites, and pleasantly surprised to discover new ones.

So, here is my gift to you all: a compilation of the travel sites I found most relevant for planning vacations in Southeast Asia. If you have any other suggestions, please send them my way!

1. Agoda


Without a doubt, the best website to book a hotel in Asia. I’ve found 5-star hotel rooms for less than $100 a night, prices that are nearly 75% less than published internet rates on hotel websites, and crazy deals on packages for multiple night stays. If you find a deal for a hotel on another website, definitely check it against agoda to make sure you are getting the best price.

2. Wego


Sort of like cheaptickets.com or expedia.com, except this travel search engine includes many of the local budget carriers like JetStar and Tiger Air that don’t get picked up on other websites.  You won’t always find cheaper tickets using this website, but it’s great if you want to compare regional flight schedules and prices in one interface – especially if you’re flying to remote destinations with irregular flight service.

Note: Zuji.com is another similar site. I just happen to use wego.

3. Wikitravel


An open source travel guide to basically anywhere in the world. Articles are written and edited by travelers with practical tips. I find it especially helpful for figuring out how to arrive at your destination. For example, if you’ve decided to go to Railay Bay (you should, by the way) and don’t know that you need to take a flight to Krabi, a cab from the airport to Ao Nang beach, hire a longtail boat to take you 15 minutes to the bay before the sun sets, and carry your luggage over your head the entire time, then this website will give you all the pertinent info. Think of it as the online equivalent of asking your friend for the real-skinny.

4. Lonely Planet


I use the Lonely Planet website for travel inspiration when I know I want to get away but I’m not sure where to go. LP is prone to lofty and romantic descriptions (i.e., I translate “Phnom Penh is a city of charm and chaos” to “Phnom Penh is a hot mess“) but when you’re heading to the capital of a developing country recovering from a major genocide, ‘s it’s nice to have someone to point out the exotic silver lining to what could easily be perceived as a very unglamorous, poor destination.

5. Travelfish.org

I have to credit fellow blogger friend Flora for sending me this website.  It’s full of great, practical information for Southeast Asia for travelers. I’ve only been using it for a few days now, but it’s been pretty helpful for finding neat ideas for my upcoming trip to Bali!

Amazing. Singlish is Amazing.

 
Clockwise from top left: (1) Street lamp, (2) Galleries, (3) with M in front of the Opera, (4) blanquette de veau, (5) Hotel de Ville, (6) cafe au lait, chocolate and croissants, (7) bonbons, (8) with C at Le Pain Quotidien, (9) Notre Dame.
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