The fabulous thing about living in Germany is that I get to experience nature changing with every season. Summers in Germany are the best. There’s always so much going on here. Summer brings out the best in Germans. With more sunshine and warmth, they are cheerier and in a better mood. They spend more time outdoors. In towns and cities everywhere, you’ll see people sitting in ice-cream cafes or in parks, licking colourful ice-cream cones. It’s not just the Instagram generation doing it, it’s literally everyone.
In the age of travel blogs, Tripadvisor and budget airlines, solo travel has never been easier. Advice on how to take your first trip abroad is now just a mouse or a swipe away. You no longer have to spend time in bookstores trying to memorize pages from the Lonely Planet guidebooks or hunt down that elusive family member for a chat, just because that uncle or aunt once backpacked Europe in the 70’s. Traveling tips and hacks are longer rare. Brick-and-mortar travel agencies are slowly becoming irrelevant in the digital age.
Our little rented Suzuki struggled to overcome the uneven dirt track that was supposedly to lead us to the secret beach: Mega Portokali. There weren’t any signs on the main road that led us to this path so we weren’t hundred percent sure if we were on the right one. But we liked to think that Google Maps could do no wrong. The path became narrower but we pushed on till we reached a clearing. There was another car parked haphazardly next to a tent. A gut feeling told us we were close by so we parked our car and got out.
This was it: a speck of blue appeared between the pine trees. We followed the smell of salt. Within minutes, we were standing at edge of the precipice, admiring the big blue sweeping below. The Aegean sea sparkled under the midday sun. It was absolutely stunning. Apart from another girl who was clambering down the rocks with her DLSR camera slung around her neck, there was no one else. The only sounds we heard were seagulls, rustling trees and the gentle lapping of the sea. We stood there mesmerised by the sheer beauty of it all for a while, before realising that we needed get back to the car for our beach gear.
When one thinks of a beach holiday in Southeast Asia, the usual suspects come to mind: Phuket, Bali, Koh Samui, or for those who stick to the regular backpacking circuit, Koh Phangan. Beaches in Malaysia usually come as an afterthought.
And when one finally does think about Malaysia, just about every other tourist ends up in Perhentian Islands, Langkawi or Sipadan in East Malaysia. As a local, I knew better but despite that fact, and having escaped to many islands on the east of Malaysia (not just the ones mentioned), Pulau Kapas was strangely never on my radar.
Day 3-5: Penang
My mother-in-law looked pale as she made her way to the arrival hall of Penang International Airport. She still didn’t feel very well but decided that she couldn’t bear to stay another day in bed. Also she didn’t like the idea of us leaving them alone in Singapore, so she mustered all the strength she had to journey on with us.
Sometime last year….
“The dinner at the restaurant was phwoar…horrible!” I shuddered at the thought of our dinner last night with some friends at an Asian restaurant nearby. “Don’t know how people can stomach that junk,” I said when my in-laws asked us how our dinner went over our weekly Sunday lunch.
“Really? But people like going there,” said my mother-in-law looking surprised. My in-laws’ idea of Asian food is limited to sushi, fried noodles and fried crispy duck over a steaming plate of rice with mixed vegetables on the side. “Can the food really be so bad?”
“Na klar. Wait till you come to Malaysia and I’ll show you the REAL deal,” I promised.
Yes, I loved my time as an expat in Singapore. Didn’t expect to like it but I did. There, I said it.
Such a statement of affection coming from a Malaysian who’d spent most of her twenties exploring obscure nooks around the world might elicit some shocked gasps and widened eyes from some of you. You loved it? How? Wasn’t it boring and a little too orderly? Turns out Singapore can be exciting, if only we dig a little deeper.
Just the other day in Kuala Lumpur, amidst the noise and delicious smells of tandoori chicken, I suggested to a friend who was looking for potential places to move to, “What about Singapore?” She made a face and said, “No freaking way.”
I’ve already explained most of it in detail in the initial post that I’ve written up here: An Epic Guide to German Language Visa Application. However, some of you still have questions so it’s probably time to update the FAQ. I’ve put together the questions that I’ve been getting below and have answered them in-depth.
The first thing that came to mind, when we first caught a glimpse of the Adriatic Sea, was “Wow!” As the car turned at the bend of the road and trundled down the snaking mountainous roads of the Croatian coastline, we’d watched the glinting blue and emerald come into view.
Croatia, the country famed for its Game of Throne filming locations, is speckled with islands along the coastline. If you’re one of those who fantasize balmy days, stunning sunsets against sapphire waters and ancient walled towns, this country will make your fantasies a reality.
I’ve always left Gili Islands out of my to-go places in Indonesia simply because it hadn’t appealed to me as a solo backpacker. It had sounded very much like another fun Thai island like Ko Phangan or the sort of place that you’d prefer to take romantic sunset walks with a loved one. However, when it came to planning our honeymoon, Chris and I had thought it sounded perfect: neither of us had been there and we needed something nice and relaxing to cap off our Indonesian trip.
We had our first run-in with bad luck on Hatta island. But before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you a little about Hatta island–the jewel of Banda Islands.
We’ve loved the looks on people’s faces when we tell them that we were going to the Banda Islands for our honeymoon.
Eyebrows furrow and blank looks all around. One was even suspicious that I was actually pulling his leg.
No one has heard of the Banda Islands before. I don’t blame them. I didn’t too–until I ran a deep search about Indonesia’s lesser-known islands, especially the small ones that deliver huge rewards.