My date with an angel called Los Angeles

30 08 2012

I am an angel, so are you! Oh I know you are going to say that this sounds lame, but the City of Angels is what Los Angeles is also called :p

My trip to Los Angeles aka LA was sort of unplanned for. To be frank, I was really planning for Vegas. Since there is no direct flight from Singapore to Vegas, my original intention was to treat LA as more of a stopover. However, I was really glad¬†for this stopover due to flight connection timing and the chance to date the “angel”~ the city does have quite a fair bit to offer.

Batman, Spiderman, Terminator, Simpsons, Michael Jackson, Desperate Housewives are names of movies, shows and famous singers whom many around of the world are pretty familiar with. Indeed, Hollywood has a far reaching influence and a clear product of globalisation. From here, many great movies were born and aspiring actors, actress and singers began their road to stardom. It’s true that Hollywood really doesn’t disappoint, to those seeking the road to stardom and tourists alike.

Apart from Hollywood, the “atas” (singlish for upmarket) Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, Universal Studio, Disneyland (even though technically it’s in Anaheim and not LA) are also popular touristy spot to “check-the-box” ūüôā

Ok, if there’s one thing I dislike about LA, it will be the irritating LAX airport. Security clearance at the airport was slow. There are not many shops in the airport (which is really surprising since it’s an international transportation hub). The worst part is that post immigration, there are only 2 small cafes serving limited selection of food! So an advice to all is to grab some food before you clear immigration at LAX airport else for foodies like me, LAX will surely make you feel miserable. As the saying goes “a hungry person is an angry person.”
Tips on getting around LA:
– It’s possible to get around LA with public transport BUT that means spending 4 times longer than if you are taking a car. So net, I highly recommend that you drive since attractions are all disperse over LA.
– If you are not driving, use the shuttlebus to go to your hotel (and ask your hotels for tours to Universal and Disney). Hollywood can be reached via Metro to Hollywood Highland Station and downtown LA can be reached via Metro to Union or Civic Station. Taxis are the most expensive transport but of course the most convenient.
– Driving in LA is easy but I noticed that the drivers are pretty impatient and love to horn. But just keep to what you are doing and IGNORE them.
Sightseeing tips:
– The famous Hollywood sign can be seen at Hollywood Highland which is easily accessible via Metro. If you have a car, you may want to drive to N Beachwood Drive where you can see a bigger Hollywood sign. If you are really keen to see an even bigger sign, you can drive further up the hill to 3000 Canyon Lake Drive. However, the roads there are extremely narrow and windy so be prepared for that.

– For a visit to Rodeo Drive, there are certain free parking along the roads opposite Two Rodeo Drive (the most famous photographed spot) in the residential area. Do read the signs to ensure that you are not parking at the “No parking” stretch. If you can’t find a place, don’t worry and drive around and you should see meter parking available which is not expensive. It accepts quarters and credit card.

– Try going to Disneyland early and the first thing you should do when entering it the park is to run to all the rides that have fast passes and grab the fast passes so that you can skip the line. If somehow you are arriving late, then forget about the fast pass as the rides timing that you are likely to get will be really late in the afternoon or evening so you may be better off queuing.
– Universal Studio Hollywood is not big but it’s divided into the upper and lower park. Rush down to the lower park first to do the rides that you want then come up to the upper park. One highly recommended ride that you will only get in Universal Hollywood is the studios tour (at upper park) so don’t miss that.
– LA is known for its beaches. There are many beaches in the city but the most popular ones are the Santa Monica Beach and Venice Beach. Do head down to these 2 beaches even though you may not be a beach person to experience a little part of LA. As the beaches are¬†just side by side, you may want to¬†drive to one, park your car¬†and then¬†walk from one beach to the other. You do need a car to visit (though there are buses but it requires a few transfers and at least twice the travel time). On the parking, there are lots of free parking along the roads to the beaches so try seeing if you can get a space to park before heading to the paid carpark. I was quite lucky to be able to find one that is within 3 minutes walk to¬†Venice beach ūüôā

Food & shopping:
1)¬†I don’t think you will need help to find food and shopping in this city as there are just plentiful and really depending on what you looking for and your budget. Hollywood Highland area has lots of shops¬†and restaurants.¬†However, for¬†souvenirs. I will recommend that you make a trip to Farmers’ market where you can get those souvenirs at a cheaper price.
2) Farmers’ market is also a great place to find nice food from all over the world. By the way, Singapore food is one of the top list of¬†recommended food to try!

3) If you are craving for Japanese meal, head to Japan Town where you can get nice and very affordable Japanese cuisine. Likewise, for Korean food, head to Korea Town, Chinese food to Chinatown. Yes, it’s that simple ūüôā The “not so simple” task will be getting there which shouldn’t be an issue if you have a car. Otherwise, you can try the local transport system (which I¬†took the metro to Japan town and Chinatown, but Koreatown I drove though :p)

Antelope Canyon, you are indeed beautiful!

20 07 2012

Britney fans ~ I am sure her MTV “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman” should not be alien to you. When I first saw the MTV, I was thinking “wow the place where she shot the MTV is nice! Where is that place?” I later found out that it was shot at Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell near Page Arizona and it is one of the favourite shooting spots found in many photography competitions. Just by looking at the MTV and photos, I told myself that I MUST make a trip there. I am so glad I did. The highlight of my whole US trip this around which really makes me go wow wow wow is really Antelope Canyon. So despite it being a distance from Vegas, the whole journey was all worth it. The canyon is just awesome and its beauty is really beyond words. It is so beautiful that I felt it warants a separate posting ūüôā


– What you can do (which is what I did) was combining the visit with Zion and Bryce Canyon. You can go to Zion (3 hours from Vegas), then Bryce (another 3 hours from Zion) and from Bryce it’s another 3 hours to Page. Stay overnight in Page and visit Antelope Canyon the next morning. You will need to get on a jeep operated by the Red Indians as this is a protected land of the Red Indians. After the tour of Antelope Canyon, you can get on to a cruise of Lake Powell. In the afternoon, you can make the way back to Vegas (which is a 5 hours straight drive). For those who does not want to drive, there’s a tour from Vegas operated by Lassen Tours with the exact itinerary as above.

– There are many hotels in Page. However, if you want to have a “special stay”, you can try one of the boathouse accomodation on Lake Powell. I didn’t manage to do that due to time constraint but I heard that it is quite nice.

It’s Vegas Baby! Zion, Bryce and Antelope Canyons are amazing too!

18 07 2012

I recalled some while ago, there was a breast cancer awareness campaign whereby based on your birthday, you will be given a “destination” and how long you will be there. Over the campaign period, I have seen many friends posting that they will be going to places like Munich, New York, Moscow, etc for XX months or years. The “curious me” took part as well and guess what, my “vacation” is supposed to be Vegas! Somehow (God knows why) it sort of gave me an “inspiration” to launch “Project Vegas 2012”. I know this sounds silly but indeed, just some stupid campaign like this got me to start planning for a trip to Vegas. Oh well, there’s always lots of good reasons (no matter how silly they can be) to get oneself out for a vacation right? Hahahha =) So Vegas here I come!!!

What seems like a silly campaign turns out to be not that silly after all. I had a great blast in Vegas and now screaming “I love Vegas and want to go back!!!” Vegas is indeed amazing and i have fallen in love with the city, actually it’s love at first sight. It amused me that in the middle of nowhere (Vegas is in the middle of the wild desert if you don’t already know), there exists such an amusing city. Eiffel Tower, Statute of Liberty, Pyramids, Venice, Rome, Bellajio, etc can be found in this amazing land (or what used to be wilderness). Of course, for those who want to try their luck, there’s no where in the world like Vegas (I was not asked for my ID when I played but when I. ordered alcohol, I had to show my ID lol). Not just that, great food and shopping, great place to catch great shows, a “hip” place well known for its great party venues (of course the Vegas code of “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas help), how can anyone not love Vegas? Now I understand why I friends have claimed that they can visit Vegas yearly without getting bored!

Braving the desert heat in the middle of summer (all because I wanted to be there for the Independence Day fireworks and sale :p), I spent eight nights in Vegas. Yes EIGHT nights! But I still felt it was not enough. Vegas has just way too much to offer. No don’t be mistaken, I am not a gambling addict that stick myself to the casinos day and night. No no no…In fact, I don’t play at all (apart from the free $10 credit which Wynn gave away). But Vegas is not all about its casinos. During the day, I was so preoccupied with hotels hopping (going from one theme hotel to another and posing for photo shots) and of course, indulging in the great food (lots of nice dinner buffets and fine fining) and shopping the city has to offer. When night falls, there are so many great shows to watch (and so little time). I managed to catch Celine Dion which received many standing ovations during the hour and a half concert, Viva Elvis Cirque du Soleil and of course, the free shows at various hotels along the Strip. I was also lucky enough to be in Vegas during the Independence Day week and was treated to a nice fireworks show at Caesar Palace (ok as a matter of fact, I planned my trip to coincide with Independence Day). With so many happening stuff, it is little wonder why eight nights still left me feeling that I haven’t had enough of Vegas and can’t wait for my next visit.

Apart from just wandering in the city, the “explorer” in me decided to venture out to sights in nearby Arizona and Utah for a little sightseeing. So I made a day trip to the famous Grand Canyon South Rim in Grand Canyon National Park to see one of the wonders of the world. As it is quite a distance from Vegas (around 4 to 6 hours drive depending on traffic), I decided not to take the wheels but rather “donald trump” (aka fly) into Grand Canyon. Yes, I LOVE to fly and I won’t be shy to acknowledge this. Flying saves a hell lot of time and I just LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT lol. In fact, I highly recommend flying into Grand Canyon if you can stretch your budget a little (ok it’s more than a little). It saves a lot of time, is less tiring thus ensuring that you will be in the best shape to enjoy the canyon, and the aerial view of Hoover Dam and the Canyon from high up provides an even more majestic and magnificient view of the canyon. Being a lover of flying, I also took the helicopter ride at the South Rim to get me up close to the canyon and also fly to the North Rim and the whole helicopter ride is indeed amazing! Note that tours (both bus and flight tours) offer the option of either the West Rim or the South Rim. For West Rim, there are helicopter tours directly from Vegas or you can choose to drive or take the bus to the West Rim (around 3 hours drive) and take the helicopter from there. For the South Rim, there is no helicopter directly from Vegas. You will need to take a plane to Grand Canyon Airport in the South Rim (or take the bus which typically takes 4-6 hours) and take the helicopter ride from there. The West Rim has a skywalk which allows visitors to walk on the glass panels to see the canyon below your feet. But even though the West Rim is part of the Grand Canyon, it is NOT part of the Grand Canyon National Park (which includes only the South and North Rim). Most photos that you see on Grand Canyon are taken from the South Rim. So personally, I will recommend the South Rim for first time visitors as it provides a more classic view of the canyon and is much more majestic. But if you choose the nearer West Rim, you will still find it nice as well ūüôā For flight/helicopter tour operator, I really like Maverick and find their service really good and professional. But the downside is that they are more expensive so if you want a cheaper option, you can try out Pavilion or Grand Canyon flight/helicopter.

Apart from Grand Canyon, I also made a separate trip to Zion National Park in Utah which is a 3 hours drive from Vegas. Coloured with reddish and tan-colored sandstone with soaring cliffs and great basins, Zion National Park is rather scenic as well.

Bryce Canyon (also in Utah) is also another nice national park to visit and is another 3 hours drive from Zion. Bryce is not really a true canyon but an amphitheater of magnificent red rock formations created by erosion in the high Colorado Plateau (called hoodoos). In fact, I love Bryce more than Grand Canyon as I find the colouts at Bryce much more vibrant (apart from the flying and helicopter ride in Grand Canyon which is the highlight to me).

But all said, the highlight of my whole US trip this around which really makes me go wow wow wow is really Antelope Canyon near Page in Arizona. The canyon is so beautiful that it made me wonder for a second whether it is real, so much so that I feel it warrants a separate post so visit



1) Visit Walgreen where you can get water, food and souvenirs. There are a couple of them along the strip such as at planet Hollywood & Venetian. Don’t get souvenirs at souvenir shops without checking out Walgreen first as the price difference can be huge.

2) Get show tickets from Half-tix which has a few booths located along the strip (eg outside Treasure Island, in Fashion Show Mall). Don’t be bothered with the dining vouchers as they are not really good deals so why lock yourself on what you can eat?

3) Do catch the free shows especially the Bellagio fountain show (after 7pm is once every quarter) and Treasure Island show (one at 8.30pm and another at 10pm). What you can do is to start with the Treasure Island show at 8.30pm and then walk over to Mirage volcano show at 9pm followed by the Atlantis show at Caesar Palace at 9.30pm before moving to Bellagio for the fountain show. With this, you will be able to cover the free shows in 1 night.

4) If you are thinking of watching Celine Dion (which I will highly recommend), make sure you book the tickets early as they sell pretty quickly. For other shows, there’s no need to book upfront as you can get cheaper tickets from Half-tix.

5) It is possible to walk from one end of the Strip to another. However, given the heat (don’t forget that Vegas is in the desert), it may be advisable to take the bus (the Deduce and Express bus). A 2 hours ticket cost $5 and the 24 hours ticket cost $7. You need to buy the ticket from the ticket machine at the bus stop before you board the bus.



1) There are many shopping malls linked to the Casinos eg in Venetian, Forum Shopping Mall (beside Caesar Palace), Miracle Mile Mall (beside Planet Hollywood), Crystals shopping mall (beside Cosmopolitan). The Fashion Show Mall opposite Venetian is a great place to shop and has a Macy’s there. Do go to the visitors’ centre in Macy’s to get the discount card which gives you an additional 10% discount.

2) For outlet shopping, there are 2 outlet malls in Vegas – one in the South and the other in the North. The South outlet is nearer to the Strip and is indoor hence may be great if you have limited time and prefers to be in the shade. The North outlet has much more stores so if you are fine to brave the heat and travel just a little further, this will be a better place to shop. Both outlets are reachable via the Express bus from the Strip. Make sure you go to the Premium Outlet Mall online website to register and print out the coupons to get the VIP booklet and extra coupons for additional discount.

3) Get the free cards from the various casinos for dining privileges.


Nice food to try:

1) The Wicked Spoon Buffet at Cosmopolitan has quite a good international spread and good quality food and is my favourite buffet so far. Do go early as there will be a long queue at later timing.

2) The Buffet at Bellajio has a great spread and really popular as well (but quality wise I think Wicked Spoon is slightly better). Do go early to avoid the long queue.

3) The Cut at Palatio (beside Venetian) serves nice steak and is much cheaper than those in other places/countries.

4) For cakes or pastries (or a nice breakfast), head to Jean Philippe at Aria.

5) Pizza Place in Wynn has nice breakfast and pizzas.

6) Lobster Me in the Miracle Mile Mall has really yummy (and pretty cheap) lobster roll.

7) Serenpidity at Caesar Palace serves nice burgers and it’s Frozen Hot Chocolate is superb!

8) There are lots of good and affordable food in Vegas so just try them out ūüôā



I stayed at Bellajio which is in the middle of the Strip and highly recommend this hotel. Do book the fountain view room if you can avoid it. I can say that the musical fountain show is one of the nicest that I have seen around the world and it is really awesome to see it from your windows. For those with big families, Venetian may be a good choice with its suites but really, I may be bias and will go for Bellajio any time ūüôā

Big Apple New York ~ Sex and the City

11 12 2011

Big apple New York, the city that never sleeps. As a die-hard fan of sex and the city, I can’t wait to visit the city which Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda roamed. Therefore, I made special plans to fly out of Americas via New York, which gave me the chance to explore the hometown of sex and the city.

New York is indeed the type of city that I loved. Strolling down New York‚Äôs famous Fifth Avenue, I felt like I was in the Sex and the City show watching people walked pass, window shop, and the places where the 4 ladies met for the catch-ups and gossips.¬†I also visited¬†Onieal’s Speakeasy¬†(which the popular bar Scout which the 4 ladies love to frequent),¬†Magnolia Bakery (where Carrie and Miranda devoured cupcakes), the¬†Plaza Hotel¬†(where Carrie bid Mr Big goodbye and also the place where Mr Big hosted his engagement party with another girl), Louis K. Meisel Gallery at 141 Prince Street (where Charlotte works) and many more of the filming locations in Big Apple. Of course, I did other touristy stuff such as¬†having a nice walk in Central Park, visiting the superb Metropolitian Musuem (I love this!),walking to the Wall Street (and seeing the “Occupy Wall Street” protest),¬†strolling along Brooklyn Bridge, and took the cruise to see¬†the famous Statute of Liberty and Ellis Island. As night falls, Times Square and Broadway is so vibrant with the beautiful lightnings and of course, the broadway shows!

New York is the city that will never bore anyone. But one thing though, like most cities, New York is not all the glamous as what Sex and the City portrays. It does have the not so nice sight (like the city may not be that clean, etc) so don’t be disappointed by what you see. Overall, New York is a city that will blast your head off. Have lots of fun shopping and¬†partying!


РMake sure you reserve a day to visit the Statute of Liberty and Ellis Island (which has the museum showcasting the history of immigration into the US). You can book the tickets for the cruise online. If you want to visit the inside of the Stature of Liberty (the Crown or the Pedestal), you HAVE to pre-book. Especially for the Crown access, booking is generally required 6 months in advance to secure the ticket to the Crown.

– Do plan to watch at least 1 broadway show. It is really great!

– Metropolitan Museum (otherwise known as the MET museum) is a MUST to visit (it’s one of the world’s top 4 museums). The entrance fee is only a “recommended” fee so you need not pay the full fee (you can pay any amount you like to get in). However, since the museum relies on the fees to maintain its exhibits, I suggest that if you pay as much as you can afford it. By the way, you need at least 1 full day to see the whole muesum so if you are a museum go-er, make sure you factor in the time needed.

– Do visit the M&M store. You will be lost in the happy wonderland of M&Ms.

– Hotels in New York is never cheap. The further you get from Broadway/Times Square, the cheaper the price will be. If you are on a budget, just pick any hotel near to the Metro. The New York transport system is pretty efficient and you will reach your destination in no time. However, I prefer to stay in the centre of the city and hence paid a bomb for the accomodation.

– Navigating a foreign transport system can be a bit overwhelming the 1st time. But once you understand how the system works, it is really easy. The routes of the Metros are named by numbers. So just take note of the train number (ie 1, 2, 3, 4, etc) and note the direction that you are travelling to. For certain routes, it may be served by a few numbers but not all the train numbers which run on the route will stop at all stations (some train number is express and limited stops only). So take note what train number stops at the station that you are located (or want to visit). It is all written on the Metro map so just look carefully and all will be well.


– We¬†often call cheesecake as “New York Cheesecake” right? So make sure you eat the New York Cheesecake in New York! I recommend Junior’s Cheesecake (the Strawberry ones) which is really yummy. You‚Äôll feel as though you‚Äôve stepped into an episode of Sex¬†and the City.

– Carneige Deli located at 854 7th Aveunue (55th street) is one of my favourite. They are famous for their pastrami and cheesecake. Note that the portion is really huge so you may want to share. There’s a surcharge to share (an additional amount you need to pay to share) but it works out to be much cheaper than buying 2 sets. Anyway, 1 set is good enough for 2 (and for small eaters, it may be good enough for 3!).

– Pizzas are cheap, really cheap. 1 big piece only cost US$1 at most pizza shops so if you are on a tight budget, it’s a good choice.

– Do note that the food price recorded on the board generally¬†exclude taxes (eg in Starbucks) so don’t get a shock when you are asked to pay more than the price you see.


– Century 21 near to the World Trade Center is a departmental store that sells many branded goods at huge discount.

РWoodbury Premium Outlet (an hour from New York) is THE PLACE to go for 1 day shopping trip. You can take a coach from Port Authority (a return ticket cost US$42). Tickets can be purchased on the spot. For details, refer to

– For higher end shopping, Macy’s (near Broadway) is a good start. I love Bloomindale’s (at 1000 3rd Avenue) too.

– For ladies, do head to the Victoria’s Secrets store for your inner beauty.

– Basically most things are cheaper in the US so make sure you bring a big luggage (or buy one there since Samsonite and Victorix are much cheaper in US).

Toronto and the amazing Niagara Falls

21 11 2011

Since young, I have always been attracted to the amazing pictures of the majestic Niagara Falls and was hoping that one fine day, I will be able to take in its beauty with my eyes and experience the wonderful work of God. However, the thought of flying so long to “the other end of the world” puts me off. After so many years of procrastination, fate has brought me to the wonderful city of Toronto, all thanks to¬†the need to attend to some personal matters.

The western side of Canada which includes Vancouver and the Rockies have always been the more popular destination amongst people in Asia. Rarely do Asians visit the east coast for vacation. Even if they do, most people primarily are looking at Quebec city and Montreal, and often see Toronto as a transportation hub, quite similar to how people view Frankfurt in their Europe trip. So I was quite thankful that personal matters have forced me to be grounded to Toronto for quite some time, giving me ample opportunitites to explore the city and appreciate the nice city.

Unlike the other Canadian cities or towns which I have visited over the past 2 weeks, Toronto is much more vibrant. As a girl who is so used to the city life, I was very much attracted by the “happening” Toronto, with a good mix of sightseeing, scenery, culture, fun and shopping!¬†The modern CN Tower allows me to have a great view of the city and its famous skywalk, the majestic and romantic Casa Loma castle, the famous AGO museum, the and of course the busy Eaton Centre provided me with countless hours of great shopping, and many more.

What’s more, the amazing Niagara Falls is just a hour plus drive away from Toronto city centre. When I saw the falls, I was overwhelmed by its majesticity. The beautiful horseshoe falls and the pretty American Falls are both amazing and left me speechless except for the occasional “wows wows”. To experience the power of Mother Nature and wanting as near to the falls as possible, I took the Maid of the Mist which brings me to the base of both the American Falls and Horseshoe Falls. What I can say is that the experience is WONDERFUL! I enjoyed the whole ferry ride, getting really up close to the 2 falls and seeing the beautiful rainbows across the falls. After spending time walking around the falls, I headed back to the little town of Niagara near the falls, which¬†looks like the Universal Studio themepark, with¬†eclectic restaurants, contemporary hotels, veritable theme park with the Skylon Tower, Ferris wheels.

I was also quite lucky that my stay in Toronto coincides with the annual Nuit Blanche¬†festival (literally means “white night”). This is an annual all-night arts festival where¬†many museums, private and public art galleries and¬†cultural institutions are opened to all free of charge, with free¬†music/dance/film performances¬†and¬†many interesting¬†activities. I had a great time hanging out with friends the whole night, going from one museum to another art gallery, partying, cycling and really having a night full of fun, fun and more fun!!!

After having so much fun in Toronto, it was finally time to say goodbye. It was an emotional farewell and I do hope that I will return again to the wonderful city of Toronto real soon.


РIf you have the time, make a trip to the Distillery District which has many vibrantly restored Victorian Industrial buildings. It’s one of Ontario’s hottest tourist attractions and home to live theatres, galleries, fashion, design and jewelry boutiques, unique cafes and award-winning restaurants.

– At dusk, Niagara Falls are¬†lit in the colours of the rainbow so try to schedule your trip around later part of the afternoon. Start with the Maid of the Midst ride as it closes at around 5 plus. After the ride, you can spend time at the falls for photos and then head to the town for dinner. As night falls, come back to the falls again for the night show. On Fridays, there is fireworks so it’s best you schedule your visit on Fridays.

– The Niagara Peninsula is a great blessing to wine lovers. The freezing winter enables the grapes to freeze naturally, enabling the region to¬†produce one of the world’s¬†best Icewine. You can take a tour of the vineyards. For Icewine, make sure you buy Inniskillin which is the best Icewine in Canada (but more expensive though).

– From CN Tower, walk to Rogers Centre and the train museum opposite. Then walk towards the waterfront. There’s a man-made beach there overseeing Lake Ontario and Toronto Island Airport. If you are lucky, you will be able to spot some swans swimming gracefully in the lake.

– Toronto has this vast underground shopping and pathways (called The Path) linking each buildings in the city and the Skywalk (linking the city to CN tower). I love this as it shelters me from the sun and the rain (and in winter the cold). For the map, go to the metro station and ask for a metro map (which will include the map of the Path ~ the best Toronto map that I have seen so far).

– For those wanting to see the rainbow flags, head to Church Street.

– Prices that is shown generally exclude taxes so don’t get a shock when you are asked to pay more than what you see.


– For dessert lovers, head down to Dufflet (the downtown shop is at 787 Queen Street West, west of Bathurst). You will not regret the additional calories.

– For morning tea (Dim Sum) by the lake, try Pearl Harbourfront at 207 Queens Quay West. However, be forewarn that it is extremely crowded during weekends and reservations are required (if you don’t reserve, you are unlikely to get a seat).

– There are 2 chinatowns in Toronto (the Old Chinatown and the East Chinatown), so if people tell you Chinatown, make sure you check out which particular Chinatown they are referring to. The Old Chinatown is the famous one though (the one along Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street), and I love all the nice Chinese food there. I have tried a couple of restaurants there and they are pretty good.

– Toronto has a good community of Jewish. Try the Jewish bagel. I am not a bagel fan but I love these.


– For shopping, walk along Yonge Street to Dundas Square (at the junction is Eaton Centre). It’s like the Fifth Avenue in New York. Champ Elysees in Paris, Oxford Street in London, George Street in Sydney and Orchard Road in Singapore. Eaton Centre itself is a shopping wonderland.

– If you are looking for outdoor shopping, head to Dons Mills’ which is Toronto’s first open air mall. It has many branded stores and is a nice place to walk around during the summer and autumn time. As it is slightly away from the city centre, it is also less crowded. For details of how to get there, see the website.¬†

РThere are also a couple of outlet shopping in Toronto (the largest being Dixie Outlet Mall). Of course, outlet shopping is always best in US.

Ottawa ~ Capital of Canada

20 11 2011

Departing Montreal for Toronto via train, I made a stopover at Ottawa, the capital of Canada. From the main train station, there’s a bus that goes to the city centre (around 25 minutes ride).

The main sights in Ottawa city centre are all within walking distance.¬†Dragging my luggage with me, I strolled along the streets of Ottawa, visiting the beautiful Parliment¬†Hill, the Supreme¬†Court, Notre Dame Basilica, Rideau Hall, the Canadian Aviation Museum, Byward Market, Veterans Memorial Buildings, Rideau Canal, etc. I particularly like the Parliment Hill, with the lush green in the foreground,¬†the nice majestic buildings in the background,¬†and the famous Centennial Flame at the centre of a fountain located symmetrically in the walkway between the Queen’s Gates and the Peace Tower.


РSightseeing places in Ottawa are mostly concentrated in the city centre. Hence, most of them are accessible by foot. If you are not looking at spending time in the muesums, a half day stoppver in Ottawa will be more than sufficient. I will think that Ottawa is always a good stopover when travelling between Toronto to Montreal/Quebec, providing a good rest spot.

– If you are visting Ottawa during winter, the Rideau Canal will be a good place for ice skating. Note that Canadian winter is very harsh though so be very prepared!

– Prices that is shown generally exclude taxes so don’t get a shock when you are asked to pay more than what you see.


20 11 2011

From Quebec City, I took a 3 hours train to Montreal. Downtown Montreal is a bustling city in constrast to the quaint Quebec City. I like Montreal more than Quebec city, maybe because it has a good mix of constrast, with the modern skyscrapers to the neo-Gothic churches and cobbled streets. Similar to Quebec city, the primarily language in Montreal is also French. In fact, Montreal is the second largest primarily French-speaking city in the world, after Paris.

I find the town really pretty with its old buildings and picturesque streets. Maybe it’s also because of the season that I am here ~ it’s mid autumn and the maple trees have all turned colours. I enjoyed walking¬†down Avenue Du Mont-Royal, a lively street¬†with little cafes lined up with¬†people, to nice boutique shops.¬†Constrasting to¬†the downtown Montreal, old Montreal has a romantic¬†charm¬†with its narrow¬†cobbled streets, giving an European town feel. This is the historic area of downtown with¬†main attractions such as the famous Notre-Dame de Montreal basilica, the Old Port,¬†Place d’Armes, Marche Bonsecours, etc. Art galleries, cafes, terraces, artisans’ boutiques lined up the narrow cobbled streets with gracious 18th and 19th century buildings. At dusk, the old town light up, giving the town a romantic vibe. There’s also a light show in the evening at Notre-Dame which is really nice and a way to spend an evening (there’s no shopping in the evening so it’s a good activity).

The north of Montreal city has also quite a lot to offer. Little Italy (Jean-Talon metro station) has nice churches, shops and cafes and Montreal residential architecture of the early 20th centyry, wih exteria wrought iron winding staircase. The Marche Jean-Talon in Little Italy is a nice market to visit.

Montreal is quite similar to Quebec City except that it has much more live (and more city-like). But similar to Quebec City, it is like a replica of a European town, and as always, nothing can beat the real thing. Nonetheless, I still like Montreal, especially walking in the old town along Rue Saint-Paul and Rue-Notre-Dame. Of course, autumn is best spent in Canada with its red maple leaves.


РDowntown Montreal has this vast underground pedestrina walkways with shops and restaurants, provding a sheltered link to various buildings and attractions.

РTo save, buy a day pass (or the 3 days pass) which allows you unlimited access to the public transport system.

– Take a walk to the clock tower along St Lawrence River. It may be a little way out but it is a nice relaxing and lovely walk. I love this walk with colourful maple trees lining the¬†path¬†(yes it’s autumn and the maple trees have turned colour).

– For a nice view of the whole Montreal, go to the lookout place at Mount Royal Park (Parc du Mont-Royal).¬†This place is accessible by public transport even if you are not driving (there’s a bus going there from Mont-Royal metro station).

– Some museums in Montreal are free after 6pm so you may want to check out the details at the Information centres and plan your trips to the muesum accordingly.

– The botanical gardens is beautiful. If you¬†enter before 8am, it’s free entrance!

– Prices that is shown generally exclude taxes so don’t get a shock when you are asked to pay more than what you see.

Quebec City

20 11 2011

As the saying goes, the end of a journey is a start of a new journey. I have ended my memorable western Canada trip, leaving me with fond memories of the Canadian Rockies. With this, I embarked on exploring the eastern side of Canada, flying from Toronto to Quebec City.

Quebec City is a small little city, lying on the Saint Lawrence River. The city is the second oldest exisiting European settlement in Canada and is divided into the upper town (which include the old quarter) and the lower town. Most of the major sights all within walking distance. The old quarter (old town) is the only walled city in North America and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with main sights such as the Chateau Frontenac, Citadel, Quebec Parliament, Plains of Abraham, etc.

When I first step foot in the old town of Quebec city, I thought I was in Europe. Indeed, this place with the narrow streets, the European houses and the French speaking community makes me feel as if I was back to France. For those who have not visited Europe before, you will find Quebec city a nice place, very different from what you will see anywhere in the Americas. However, for those who have been to Europe, you may feel that Quebec city will be just a replica of Europe (but a smaller and more condensed version). To me, the real one is always better.


– From airport, the only way to get to the city is via the taxi (a flat rate of CAD 25).

– French is the main language used here, not English. But people do understand English though if you speak French, they will be more helpful.

РIf you can, stay in Chateau Frontenac itself. It feels like you are staying in a castle and worth paying the extra.

РRegardless of whether you are staying in Chateau Frontenac, I will recommend that you take the tour of the hotel, with guides dressed in the old Victorian costumes bringing you round the hotel and into some special rooms that are not opened to public and guests and explaining to you all the history (and gossips) surrounding the hotel.

– Prices that is shown generally exclude taxes so don’t get a shock when you are asked to pay more than what you see.

Beautiful Canadian Rockies and Vancouver

19 11 2011

My second stop on my round the world trip is Vancouver. Actually, the main reason why this “round the world” idea came about is really because I wanted very badly to see the Rockies. I have some private matters to attend to in eastern Canada but didn’t want to travel all the way to this part of the world without seeing the Rockies. Since young, I have been hearing so much about how scenic the Rockies are and hence I decided to visit it notwithstanding that the east and west are quite a distance apart.

I flew super early in the morning from San Francisco to Vancouver (it’s a huge challenge for me as I am so not an early bird but somehow I wasn’t tired that I need to wake up at 4am). Vancouver is a nice coastal city, with its beautiful Vancouver Island. But this trip has confirmed the fact that I am really a very city person. Coming from San Francisco with the nice trams and yet bustling city, Vancouver seems to be too quiet and laid back. Even the Chinatown which is usually the most crowded place in most cities pales in comparison to San Francisco’s. Personally, I think that Vancouver is an oversell. Nothing much really except for its famous steam clock, the Sun Yat Sen garden, Capilano suspension bridge and the nice garden in Vancouver Island.

From Vancouver, I took the Rockies Mountaineer to the Rockies. It’s one of the 10 best train rides that’s highly recommended to take so I decided to try it even though the price is rather steep. There are 2 popular routes – one to Jasper and the other to Banff. As I wanted to visit Jasper, I chose the one that goes to Jasper, where I can then visit and drive down to Banff. The train ride was amazing. It started with a nice welcome at the check-in counter at Vancouver Rockies mountaineer station with the staff warm welcome (and Scottish bagpipes performance). On board the train, delicious free food, snacks & drinks were served almost non-stop! One thing about the rocky mountaineer is that trains only travel during the day (a night stopover in Kamloops) so you get to see the nice scenery.

After 2 days, I reached Jasper. Jasper is a small tranquil town in the Rockies, with the backdrop showing nice mountains with ice cap and glaciers. I visited the Jasper National Park, which include the Maligne Canyon, etc.

After a night in Jasper, I travelled on one of the world’s most scenic road – the Icefield Pathway, which links Jasper to Banff. Enroute, I stopped by the beautiful Athabasca falls before reaching Columbia Icefield where I took the Icefield explorer to go on the glacier. It’s definitely worth the CAD 50 to do this as I really enjoyed learning much more about the glaciers (bringing back memories of the Geography lessons) & standing on one of the famous glacier in the world. That night, I stopped by Lake Louise, which is the most photographed place in the Rockies. Before reaching Lake Louise, I made another stop at Peyto Lake (really beautiful with the dark blue water).

After spending time in the scenic Lake Louise and the nearby Moraine Lake, I moved on to Banff, driving along Bow Valley Parkway to see Johnston Canyon and Castle mountain.

Banff has a slightly different feel than Jasper. It is more vibrant with more visitors. Main sights in Banff include the Bow Falls, Sulphur Mountain via the Banff Gondola (CAD 30), Lake Minnewanka, etc.

From Banff, I headed off to Calgary for my flight to the east, ending my good 1 week in the Rockies.

On a side note, many people have always like to compare which is¬†most beautiful¬†~¬†Switzerland, Canada¬†or New Zealand. I haven’t been to New Zealand yet so I can’t compare that. But comparing Switzerland and Canada, I will say that the Swiss Alps is like a beautiful lady whilst the Canadian Rockies is like a handsome young man. Both are nice, beautiful in different sense¬†and worth the visit.

– Most attractions in Vancouver city are within walking distance. However, Capilano suspension bridge and Vancouver Island are far away. If you are not driving, I suggest that you join a day tour to Capilano suspension bridge. For Vancouver Island, it is possible to take public transport there (but quite cumbersome so I will suggest joining a day tour as well).

– Rockies Mountaineer has 2 classes – Gold Leaf and Red Leaf. The price difference between these 2 are huge but Gold leaf serve hot food while Red leaf doesn’t. If you can afford it, go for Gold leaf. Otherwise, Red leaf service is also pretty good. You will not regret taking the Rockies mountaineer, any class.

– At Lake Louise, do try to stay at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. It has scenic view of the lake (make sure you book the lake view). There’s a fine dining restaurant on ground floor overseeing the lake which serves 2-3 courses dinner. Make sure you try that as it is really yummy! If you have craving for pizza, take the shuttle to Lake Louise Inn. There’s a restaurant on level 2 that serves nice pizza.

– Moraine Lake which is around 25 minutes drive from Lake Louise is a very scenic place to visit (different from Lake Louise so worth the drive). Be careful driving on the winding roads though.

– There’re 2 routes from Lake Louise to Banff, one is via the old route (scenic drive) while the other is via the expressway. I will suggest that you drive via the old road at least till Johnston Canyon where you can stop for a hike. Afterwhich, you can then continue your journey to Banff via the expressway (just need to turn back slightly before you will see the sigb to the expressway) Johnston Canyon has 2 waterfalls (lower an upper). The walk to the lower fall takes around 40 minutes to and fro. Upper fall is a bit of hike and you need an additional 1.5 hours if you want to cover it. If you have time constraint, just do the lower fall will do.

– At Banff, I will recommend the Banff spring hotel. This hotel looks like a castle and is one of the best in Banff. However, its location is slightly out from the town centre but there are good transport to the town centre so no worries.

– Nothing much in Calgary. It’s really a city so if you are not flying out from Calgary, you can give the city a miss. However, I do recommend that either you fly out or take the rockies mountaineer from Banff back to Vancouver (covering a different route from Vancouver to Jasper).

– Prices that is shown generally exclude taxes so don’t get a shock when you are asked to pay more than what you see.

– For those who prefer to join tours, there are a couple of tour agencies that provide Rockies tour (or activities). I recommend Key West Tours (, or Brewster ( The travelling time from Vancouver to Jasper/Banff is pretty long so for those who prefer not to take long distance coach travel, the alternatives will be either (1) you take the Rocky Moutaineer which is really scenic but expensive, or (2) you can choose to fly to Edmonton (near Jasper) or Calgary (near Banff) and starts you tour there.

The Rockies trip has left me with fond memories. As I reflected on my 3 over hours flight to Toronto, I penned down the following:-

On the other end of the horizon far from where I grow, there is the land of mountains, glaciers and snow.
I saw¬†God’s wonderful creation, so majestic and beautiful, the amazing scenery made me cheerful.
The tranquil Jasper, Banff and Lake Louise, all  leave me with fond memories.
The grandeur of the Rockies I love you so, your beauty has seduced me and my soul.  

The city by the sea – San Francisco

28 10 2011

San Francisco is the 1st stop of my “round the world” trip (I mean literally flying 1 round around the world”).

Most people will know of its famous Golden Gate Bridge and cable cars. After being there, I can totally understand why these 2 “sites” become the icons of the city. It is not doubting that the Golden Gate Bridge has often been acclaimed as one of the world’s most beautiful bridges. I actually spent the whole morning strolling along the beach, with the waves brushing my feet while admiring the bright orange bridge suspending across the sea linking San Francisco to the Marin Headlands and thinking “Life is beautiful!”.

After having seen enough of the bridge (ok I was trying very hard to tell myself to move on so that I can cover other places), I took a leisure stroll along the coastline, passed the Palace of Fine Arts, the Golden Gate Park to Fisherman’s wharf. It was a long walk but an enjoyable one and a good preparation for some feasting.

Lunchtime around Fisherman’s wharf is bustling with life and of course, the air is filled with the fragrances of my favourite seafood ~ from clam chowder soup, to crab salad to lobsters to prawns sandwich and so on. I ate to my heart’s content (as I was so
hungry with all the walking plus I LOVE seafood, especially crab and lobsters).

After a heavy lunch, I decided to “burn my calories” and went to the pretty lombard street, one of the most crookedest street in US, but foot up from Fisherman’s wharf up the steep, hilly street. The steep, hilly street was created with sharp curves to switchback down the one-way hill past beautiful Victorian mansions. Locals often joke that if not for the byzantine curves, easing out this treacherous slope, people could be killed rolling down the hill ūüėČ

Back to Fisherman’s wharf, I took the cable car to Union Square, the “city centre” of San Francisco for my favourite exercise – shopping! After hours of satisfying exercise, I felt my stomach groaning yet again and I made my way to Chinatown for a nice afternoon high tea “Dim Sum”, before heading back to Union Square to continue my exercise =)

In the evening, I went back to Fisherman’s wharf via cable car for an relaxing evening with the nice restaurants & pubs lining up the streets.


– For an idea of how steep Lombard street really is, go two blocks up, to Filbert Street and peer down over the ridge. Lombard is even steeper. If you are driving, head West on Lombard Street to take a drive down the curving part of the road.

– If you are looking for 1 way cable car ride, try taking the cable car from Fisherman’s wharf. The queue is much much shorter than at Union Square. There’s this cheaper pass that includes unlimited rides on cable car (it’s a good transport between Fisherman’s wharf and Union Square). It is sold at Union Square (but must go there early as it is sold out super quick).

– Always ask for a transfer ticket when you take the bus/tram (even if you are not going to do a transfer). The ticket will entitle you to another ride (any bus/tram) within the next 90 minutes without having to pay again. Also, make sure that you carry the exact change for the bus/tram ride as no change will be given back to you.

– San Francisco Chinatown is superb. The food is nice and cheap (spend like $6 for 3 courses meal enough to feed 4 people).

– I stayed at Fisherman’s wharf (Argonaut Hotel). It’s quite nice and I will recommend to those wanting to stay at Fisherman’s wharf. For others who prefer more “life”, I will recommend that you stay in Union Square instead.

– 2 days should be sufficient to cover the sightseeing spots in the city. If you have more time to spare, venture out to Napa Valley to see the wineyards and the beautiful Yosemite National Park.

I left the city with fond memories of San Francisco. As the flight took off, I remembered a poem that George Sterling wrote about this city by the sea:-

At the end of our streets is sunrise;
At the end of our streets are spars;
At the end of our streets is sunset;
At the end of our streets the stars.

Ever the winds of morning are cool from the flashing sea–
Flowing swift from our ocean, till the fog-dunes crumble and flee.

Slender spars in the offing, mast and yard in the slips–
How they tell on the azure of the sea-contending ships!

Homeward into the sunset sill unwearied we go,
Till the northern hills are misty with the amber of afterglow.

Stars that sink to our ocean, winds that visit our strand,
The heavens are your pathway, where is a gladder land!

At the end of our streets is sunrise;
At the end of our streets are spars;
At the end of our streets is sunset;
At the end of our streets the stars.