Best Places to Visit for Street Art

Seeing masterpieces by Rembrandt, Monet, van Gogh, Picasso et al can be a once in a lifetime experience for many. But going to museums usually take a big chunk off a traveler’s budget.

Today, art is no longer confined in the four corners of a building. More and more formal and freestyle artists take their art to the streets so that more people can appreciate them.

With the help of my friends, I compiled a list of best places to visit for street art.

Penang, Malaysia

wrought iron art penang

This UNESCO World Heritage town have quirky yet functional wrought iron street markers. If you take the time to read the text on the caricatures, you’ll find that they’re both informative and entertaining.

Next, head on to Armenian Street to check out murals by Ernest Zacharevic. He often marries his murals with real-life objects, and the results are larger than life.

penang street art
“Litte Girl in Blue”

Photo credit: Echoserang Lakwatsera.

Continue reading “Best Places to Visit for Street Art”

5 Itineraries to Help Kickstart Your Southeast Asian Adventure

Ever since I got back from my month-long Southeast Asian trip last August 2014, some friends have expressed their interest of doing the same, but don’t know exactly where to start.  

The thing is, when people ask me for my itinerary, I’m a bit hesitant to just give them what I used because it is customized according to MY traveling style. 
I found that it has changed over the years. I no longer feel the need to pack as many attractions as I can in day, and would prefer to pay more for convenience rather than sacrifice comfort for the sake of sticking to my budget. 

I also traveled solo, so my expenses were inevitably bigger than usual. And the only tickets I had pre-booked on sale were my Manila to Bangkok, Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and Bali to Manila flights. The rest of the flights, I booked when I was already on the road.

I actually traveled for 32 days

Continue reading “5 Itineraries to Help Kickstart Your Southeast Asian Adventure”

5 Reasons Why You Should Consider a Vacation Rental

While planning for our week-long Hong Kong trip earlier this year, I was once again faced with the challenge of looking for lodging options that can accommodate our small group, and more importantly, will fit our budget. 
I’ve searched high and low for family rooms, but guesthouses were either already fully booked, rooms were not available for consecutive nights on our travel dates, hotel rates were waaay beyond our budget or the rooms available were not in accessible locations. 

I decided to check any available vacation rental instead and that’s how I discovered travelmob – an online marketplace where you can find and rent unique homes from local hosts across Asia Pacific.

After hours of going through their listings, here’s 5 reasons why I think you should consider booking a vacation rental on your next trip:
1.  Perfect for families or groups of friends 

Over a year ago, I went to Singapore with 6 other people, 3 senior citizens included. The country is already expensive to begin with so we ended up bunking in a backpackers’ hostel. 

It would’ve been okay, but because we were 7 in a 6-bedroom dorm, my mom and I had to share a single bed. While we saved on lodging cost, the setup wasn’t very comfortable. We had to use a communal bathroom, too.

Pictured above are Hong Kong apartments with at least 2 rooms that can comfortably fit 6 or more people. I found several Hong Kong apartments that has a room with at least one bunk bed and with a sleeper sofa/sofa bed in the living room, too. 

2.  Has amenities not available in most hotels

Most vacation rentals listed are equipped with a WiFi router, kitchen(ette) and/or laundry facilities – amenities that are either not offered or something that you need to pay for extra when staying in a hotel. 
I think it’s very practical if you’re staying for more than a week (or two) because you can cook your own food instead of eating out. You can also travel light and save on baggage fees because you can do the laundry anytime. 😉
3.  More space, privacy & personality

In first world, read relatively expensive, Asian countries where space is at a premium, it’s inevitable that you will find yourselves in matchbox-like rooms. I once saw a Hong Kong guesthouse offering a single room that literally looked like a toilet – with tiled walls and exhaust fan – only with a bed instead of a toilet bowl. And don’t get me started on the clinical-looking rooms.

Sure, you’ll be out most of the day and working on a budget, but it wouldn’t hurt to get yourself a decent place to sleep in after a long day. 

For the same price as a hotel, booking a vacation rental actually gives you more space, therefore, giving you better value for your money.
4.  Discover unique accommodations – boats, cottages, cabins, even treehouses!

Whether you’re an intrepid traveler who wants to sleep under the stars while perched 23 feet up in the air in Bangkok or just want to spend some quality time with your significant other away from the tourist crowd of Bali, you can find awesome and unique vacation rentals that’ll make your trip more memorable. 

5.  Get to know your host and live like a local!

Traveling solo? Aside from apartment rentals, you can also book shared or private rooms.
A shared room means you’ll be sharing space with other travelers while a private is a room of your own. In some cases, the host will also be at the location while you’re there. 

In travelmob, you can check the property owner’s profile, read previous guests’ reviews and/or references and contact him/her directly if you need more information about their listing. Through a few message exchanges, you can then gauge if he/she will be a good host.
The host can offer invaluable insider tips on where to find the best places to eat, best bargains and off-the-beaten sites. In some cases, hosts also offer more personal service like free use of their bicycle or a local SIM card – things you’ll never be able to experience in a hotel.
Remember, there’s really no better way to learn about a new culture and gain a richer travel experience than from living with a local.  
And there you have it. I hope I’ve given you enough reasons to consider booking a vacation rental on your next trip. 

iPhone/iPad user? travelmob listings can be right at your fingertips. Click the image below to download their mobile app.

And just for you, my dear readers, for a minimum booking fee of USD150.00, you’ll get a USD35.00 discount by using the promo code below:
Promo is valid until JUNE 15
For real time travel updates and more photos, please ‘Like’ my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and/or Instagram. Happy travels!
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Eat, Pray, Shop: Malaysia – Kek Lok Si Temple

After our tour of Pinang Peranakan Mansion, we went back to Hutton Lodge to check out. Since our departure is not until 10:30 pm, we left our bags in their office (free of charge) and spent the rest of our time exploring Penang

We took Bus 204 which goes to both Penang Hill and Kek Lok Si Temple. The bus will drop you off at the foot of the hill. There’s a small alley (in between rows of shops) you’ll have to pass through to get to the top. This alley is lined with several vendors (somewhat similar to Mines View in Baguio) so you can squeeze a bit of shopping after visiting the temple. You’ll also pass by a turtle pond which they call ‘Liberation Pond’. 
Pasensiya, walang wide-angle lens bilang point and shoot lang ang gamit ko dito. :p

Our third and final stop for the day before heading to Malacca was Kek Lok Si Temple. I can’t remember when and how my interest with temples and other places of worship began. I guess I’m just fascinated with the architecture and history, so I make it a point to always include at least one temple/place of worship on my trips. 🙂

Kek Lok Si is said to be the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. It has a 7-storey handcrafted “Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas’ that was completed in 1930 and a 30.2 meter bronze statue of Kuan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) completed in 2002. It is also festively decorated with 200,000 lights and lanterns every Chinese New Year.

Anyway, enough of the talking writing. Just check out the pictures below. :p

If you look closely, there are tiny Buddhas inside.
View of the suburb of Air Itam (foreground) and Georgetown (background)
When you reach this temple, you can either go left (to take the inclined lift to the Statue of Kuan Yin) or right (to the Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas)

We went inside the souvenir shop and paid RM4.00 for the inclined lift to get to the Statue of Kuan Yin (Goddess of Mercy). 

Statue of Kuan Yin

There’s also another prayer hall and park within the grounds with some cute marble animal carvings.

Look at ’em cute dogs!
Some animal carvings of the Chinese Zodiac
It was almost 6:00 pm (closing time) so we didn’t get the chance to see the Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas. I just admired it from afar.

And I just had to include this: :p
Suffering from a broken heart? No worries. You will be given priority seat in Penang. LOL
Next post: Melaka series

Eat, Pray, Shop: Malaysia – Pinang Peranakan Mansion

After our instant walking tour of George Town, we finally reached Pinang Peranakan Mansion an hour before noon.

This mansion is a typical home of an affluent Baba (Nyonya or Straits Chinese) — though owned by Kapitan Cina Chung Keng Kwee (who’s not a Baba himself) — recreated to give visitors a glimpse of the opulent lifestyle in those days. Its architecture and design is a hodgepodge of Chinese carved wooden panels, English floor tiles, and Scottish iron works. It’s also a popular filming location for movies and television series.

The mansion’s side profile visible from the street
View of the second floor from the central courtyard with open air well

The first floor consists of the following areas: Central Courtyard, Game/Music Room, Western Dining, Study/Dining, Traditional Main Hall, and Dining Hall (Nyonya Tok Panjang). There’s also an external annex that houses the kitchen, and a secret passage outside that leads to the Chung Ancestral Temple. 
Inside the Study/Dining area
Check out the beautiful glass panels
Impressive marble sculpture in the study/dining area
Unfortunately, there were tour groups at the time of our visit, so to avoid the crowd, we decided to check out the second floor first.
NOTE: You have to take off your footwear before going up.
The second floor consists of the Family Hall where commissioned paintings of Kapitan Chung’s parents and grandparents are displayed; three galleries called bridal chambers from different eras of the 1900s to the 1950s; a gallery dedicated to glass Epergnes; and the Back Hall. Also displayed are the porcelain and jewelry collection.
I played with the 60s filter so I can blend with the setting. :p
The glass Epergne room
Reminds me of the glassware collection in Bangkok’s Vimanmek Mansion.

Bridal Chamber c. 1930 – 1950
Bridal Chamber c. 1900 – 1920
Jawdropping jewelry
View of the Traditional Main Hall from the second floor

Closer view of the Traditional Main Hall

Behind the colorful glass panel is the Western Dining area
At the external annex near the kitchen
From the external annex, we took the secret passage which led us to…
Chung Keng Kwee Ancestral Temple’s courtyard
Chung Keng Kwee Ancestral Temple’s entrance
Collage of my favorite carvings 
(Clockwise) One of the ceramic figurines in the temple depicting dramatic scenes from Chinese legends;  close up shot of the intricate wooden carving on the door above; metallic carving on one of the furniture; wooden carving embellished with gold leaf on the main hall panel. 

It’s quite obvious they really put attention to every single detail in this house. Every nook and cranny is photogenic. It’s definitely a visual feast! Though we had a hard time finding its location, this place is certainly worth visiting.
By the way, six of the staff here are Filipino. 🙂 There’s also a gift shop near the main entrance of the house. 
29 Church Street, 10200 Penang, Malaysia
Visiting hours:
Daily from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm
Adult: RM10.00
Child: RM 5.00 (below 12 y/o)
(Child below 6 y/o – FREE)