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Michael Aquino

Southeast Asia Travel Blog

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Spring has sprung: Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort slashes rates for early birds by up to 30 percent.

Wednesday April 9, 2014

sheraton bali kuta pool indonesia

Infinity Pool with Sunset View; image courtesy of Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort, used with permission.

Book your stay at the Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort (buy direct) at least 30 days in advance, and you'll enjoy access to the resort, its facilities and its excellent location in Kuta with slashed rates and free additional perks.

The special promotional rate available to early birds slashes 30 percent off all available rooms, and includes a welcome drink upon arrival and access to free WiFi throughout the resort.

"We welcome guests to come experience Bali in a unique, new way," explains Dario Orsini, General Manager of Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort. "Created expressly for Sheraton guests, our new resort, dining and spa offers celebrate our cherished traditions and international influences with unique experiences in a welcoming and beautiful setting."

Bookings start at US$140 USD plus tax and service charge, and promo rates apply for stays booked from now till December 29, 2014, for reservations made 30 days in advance. Blackout dates and other restrictions apply. For more details, visit their site: sheratonbalikuta.com.

For other accommodation options, consult our list of Bali hotels. For tips on how to maximize your cash while visiting the island, read our overview of Money and Money Changers in Bali.

Sunda Kelapa Wharf in Jakarta, Indonesia to benefit from Kota Tua revitalization program.

Tuesday April 8, 2014

sunda kelapa jakarta indonesia

Image Mike Aquino, licensed to About.com.

If Jakarta in Indonesia isn't on your next-to-visit bucket list, maybe it should - a more conscientious local government is planning to revitalize its old town, beginning with the Fatahillah Square, and soon, the Sunda Kelapa Wharf where the city first came to be. As the Jakarta Post reports:

The Jakarta Old Town Revitalization Corporation (JOTRC), a consortium of private and state-owned enterprises including state port operator Pelindo II, has agreed to make the trading port a proper tourism site. [...]
[JOTRC chairman Lin Che Wei] said that initially, the consortium would renovate three old warehouses near the entrance to the port. [...] Lin said it was also important to enliven the commercial activities around the port, like building seafood restaurants, souvenir centers and spaces for meeting, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) activities.
The analyst said the port was currently ill-maintained and in a state of disrepair, thus, much work was needed, especially if the purpose was for tourism.

Read the complete article here. Find out more about Visiting Sunda Kelapa Wharf, Jakarta, Indonesia.

Vietnamese cellphone provider gives tourists two choices in one SIM card.

Tuesday April 8, 2014

vietnam_selfie.jpg

Image courtesy of Getty Images.

Tourists beginning their Vietnam itinerary don't have to leave their cellphones at home, provided that their cellphones work on the local GSM network; they can just buy a prepaid SIM card from local service provider Mobifone, which offers a prepaid Happy Tourist package worth VND250,000 (about US$12.50). As TuoiTreNews.vn reports:

Subscribers will be provided with two options: Happy Tourist Data offering data and SMS services or Happy Tourist Voice & Data offering calls, SMS, and data services.
According to MobiFone, the Happy Tourist Data offers 3GB of high-quality 3G data services. With this tariff plan, subscribers can send intra-network, trans-network, and international text messages for VND290, 350, and 2,500 respectively while its data service will cost VND9.77 per 50 kilobytes.
Meanwhile, users of Happy Tourist Voice & Data pay VND1,580, 1,780, and 3,960 per minute respectively for intra-network, trans-network, and international calls. It charges VND100, 250, and 2,500 per SMS and offers data at VND25 per 50 kilobytes.

Read the complete news article here. Find out more about Cellphone Roaming in Southeast Asia, or read our Vietnam Travel Guide.

Kuala Lumpur's Low Cost Carrier Terminal to close on May 9 - so why isn't AirAsia budging?

Friday April 4, 2014

lcct kuala lumpur malaysia

Image Mike Aquino, licensed to About.com.

With the new KLIA2 budget terminal in Kuala Lumpur about to open, the Low Cost Carrier Terminal, or LCCT, is quickly becoming redundant. Malaysia's deputy transport minister, Abdul Aziz Kaprawi, has declared as much, stating that operations at the LCCT will end a week after KLIA2 opens its doors on May 2.

Set to move to KLIA2 are current LCCT tenants Malindo Air, TigerAir and Cebu Pacific. Still not completely on board: the LCCT's biggest tenant, AirAsia.

In response to the announcement [...] AirAsia said that "all AirAsia and AirAsia X operations will still be based at the current LCC Terminal even after 9th May due to a number of unresolved pressing issues that still need to be addressed".
It highlighted problems with KLIA 2, including depressions on the taxiways, aprons and runways, which were mentioned in a recent report into the airport's readiness.
"This will prove to be operationally disruptive to a hub airline such as AirAsia Group which has about 400 aircraft movements in a day and at least 70 aircraft in its fleet in LCCT," the LCC said. "We believe it is crucial to ensure that whole remedial steps are undertaken prior to a transfer, which will mitigate risks relating to any potential aviation incidents."

Read the complete news article at Traveldailymedia.com. For more on AirAsia's bone of contention, read our overview of Malaysia's Low Cost Carrier Terminal.

Yes We Makan: a Penang Foodie Names His Top Three Favorite Local Eats.

Monday March 31, 2014

sri weld nasi lemak

Image of Sri Weld Food Court Mike Aquino, licensed to About.com

When visiting a food-crazy city like Penang in Malaysia, don't count on third-hand intel from travel sites or brochures. Instead, get a local to show you the lay of the land.

Mark Ng is literally in the business of introducing Penang's crazy-good food scene to visitors. As co-founder and partner of food touring enterprise Simply Enak, he's in charge of organizing an upcoming food tour of the city, projected to launch by the end of 2014. (Simply Enak already has a popular Kuala Lumpur street food tour in place; check out our experience of their Petaling Street food tour.)

So what's on Mark's top-three list for must-eat dishes in Penang? Read More...

What Went Down at Last Weekend's Intramuros Pasyal Sunday, Manila, Philippines.

Monday March 17, 2014

All images Mike Aquino, licensed to About.com.

The soul of old Manila, Filipino cultural activist and tour guide Carlos Celdran often says, died when Intramuros went up in flames during the Battle of Manila (Wikipedia). The old walled city, which was largely obliterated by American bombs in 1945, is only just getting its groove back, with reconstruction occurring in fits and starts over the past 60 years. (Read more: Travel Guide to Intramuros, Manila, Philippines.)

The task is hard going; the rest of Metro Manila has moved on. The city's shopping, dining, entertainment, and worship has largely relocated outside old Manila to the hipper outposts of Makati and Ortigas. But that hasn't stopped forward-thinking Pinoys into working to make Intramuros cool again. Read More...

New Name for Luxury: Orient-Express Hotels Launches Belmond Hospitality Brand.

Tuesday March 11, 2014

Image courtesy of Orient-Express Hotels, used with permission.

Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. launches its new brand identity, Belmond, this week. In one stroke, the company unifies its diverse collection of 45 luxury hotels and travel adventures, launches a stylish new site (belmond.com) and updates its social media presence to reflect the new brand across multiple channels, down to the new @Belmond profile and the hashtag #DiscoverBelmond on Twitter.

The brand itself is no newbie to the luxury travel world: Read More...

Baby Crazy: Bali Safari & Marine Park Announces Successful Giraffe, Elephant & Lion Births.

Friday March 7, 2014

Images courtesy of Bali Safari & Marine Park, used with permission.

The Bali Safari & Marine Park (www.balisafarimarinepark.com) isn't just a sprawling zoological garden for the tourists; its active breeding program has chalked up a few successes over the years, with three successes within the past few weeks: a baby giraffe, an elephant calf and two lion cubs have just joined the family.

The first of his kind to be born in Bali, the park's giraffe baby came into the world on January 2, 2014, weighing in at 65 kilograms and standing two meters in height. Its mother gave birth after a 15-month gestation period - as is typical of giraffes, the baby was capable of standing up on its own within an hour of its birth. "We've named the baby giraffe Kuqala, which means 'first born' in Zulu," comments William Santoso, General Manager of Bali Safari & Marine Park. Read More...

Singapore declared most expensive city for expats; is it costly for tourists, too?

Wednesday March 5, 2014

artscience museum singapore

Photo courtesy of the Singapore Tourism Board, Photographer: Ong Yi Chao

The tiny but ambitious city-state of Singapore loves collecting "number-one" accolades for itself, but this is one they probably want to keep on the down-low: the Economist Intelligence Unit, in its annual Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, found that Singapore is the world's most expensive city, jumping five spots up and leapfrogging cities like Sydney, Tokyo and Paris.

Before you look at your wallet and cross Singapore off your backpacking itinerary, though, hear me out. The Intelligence Unit's findings are mostly relevant for expats who want to stay medium- to long-term in Singapore, and thus need to spend their Singapore dollars on expenses that no short-term traveler need consider. (Rent. Car. Groceries. Schools.)

Accommodation. Apartment rents in Singapore may be climbing, but that doesn't matter to medium- to low-cost travelers in Singapore; tourists can still take advantage of the low rates offered by Singapore's many budget hotels.

Transportation. Cars are super-expensive in Singapore - locals need to pay a "Certificate of Entitlement" (Wikipedia) on top of the prices of their cars, inflating the cost of buying a car to three times as much as in neighboring Malaysia. But you don't really need to drive a car around Singapore; the public transportation system is one of the most efficient in the region, requiring only the use of an EZ-Link Card that can easily be purchased at any MRT station on the island.

(The transportation thing may have unfairly skewed the EIU findings - as Singapore-based Channel News Asia points out, "the survey does not include public transport, which is most commonly used by Singaporeans.")

Food. Eating out in Singapore is cheap if you know where to go - the island-state's hawker centers and corner kopitiam take care of your meals without taking too much of your cash. And you certainly get far more than what you paid for: Singapore food happens to be the best bang for your buck you can get in the region.

Shopping. Here, I will concede the point... somewhat. Shopping in Singapore may be a nationwide pastime, but the prices aren't exactly cheap. The only exception occurs during the Great Singapore Sale, when the hottest shopping spots in the country extend their shopping hours and drop prices to bargain-basement levels. Great Singapore Sale or no, travelers have the option to buy their goods in Singapore duty-free: find out more in this article on Tax-Free Shopping in Singapore.

So TL;DR - no, Singapore is NOT expensive at all if you're just passing through. The EIU findings present plenty of food for thought for expats, but food, shopping, transportation and accommodations for travelers in Singapore remain pretty cheap if you know where to go.

Read our list of top reasons to visit Singapore, and be secure in the knowledge that it won't cost you an arm and a leg to see them all.

With Political Unrest in Thailand, Where are Tourists Going Instead? Vietnam.

Wednesday March 5, 2014

ha long bay vietnam

Image Mike Aquino, licensed to About.com.

The political uncertainty in Thailand - mostly confined to Bangkok - has only rarely spilled out to where the tourists go, but some travelers are not taking any chances. VietNamNet Bridge is reporting that an increased number of travel firms are receiving inquiries from tourists changing their minds about visiting Thailand; Vietnam, just on the other side of the Indochina peninsula, makes a logical alternative.

Nguyen Minh Quyen, deputy head of Ben Thanh Tourist's travel service center, said the company has recently joined a travel mart in the Netherlands and finds that German and Dutch tourists are now more interested in Vietnam. [...] "The booth of Thailand used to attract a high number of visitors but the number is fewer this year. There are more visitors visiting the booths of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia with more bookings," Quyen said.
Hoang Thi Phong Thu, chairwoman of Anh Duong Co., said that her foreign partner Pegas Touristik normally took around one million Russian tourists to Egypt and some 500,000 tourists to Thailand. When there is instability, it will seek new destinations and Vietnam will benefit, she added.

Read the complete story at VietNamNet Bridge. Read this list of Top 10 Reasons to Visit Vietnam, if you're considering the same jump. For first-time travelers, you'll find our Vietnam Travel Guide, Visa for Vietnam and Vietnam Eight Day Itinerary useful reading.

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