Category Archives: Travel

Sichuan 四川!

Went to visit SY in Hangzhou in June (she was on her uni exchange programme), and then hopped over to Sichuan with the spouse for another 10 days to take in the wonderful scenery in Sichuan and other experiences (panda conservatory, Sichuan opera, etc) … here are some photo highlights …

  • Hangzhou 杭州
  • Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong 九寨沟 / 黄龙
    (photos below are of Huanglong)

(continues on new blog While I Learn I Live …)
(this is the final post on this blog 1 July 2016)


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KTKLN Card (KPIS card updated May 2017)

Update: 30 May 2017

Well, it seems the KTKLN card is no longer needed (called an agency today and the person confirmed this with me). However, there is still some work to do when your helper goes for home leave (so it seems, based on what my helper says).

And that is to get a KPIS card (an Indonesia worker in Singapore kind of ID card, see the details in the brochure below).

IMG-20170530-WA0002 (1)

And to get this KPIS card, bring along

  • work permit,
  • passport (and photocopy), and
  • employment contract (note: this contract is the one issued from the Indonesian embassy side when you accompany your helper there, and do an interview with the embassy officials (I guess to ascertain that they are paid the minimum sum, have off days, have no issues to report about working for you, … etc).

Note: not sure how all this works out, if you get an maid agency to do it for you, but the price is $150 – $180 as I found out.

========END of UPDATE 30 May 2017 ======

KTKLN Card – what on earth is that?? (this post from 2016, no longer relevant..see update above)

Well, it is for Indonesian workers who go to work overseas and seems to serve as a form of “compulsory” registration/insurance for them to do in Indonesia, before they can depart for their country of employment. In case anyone has to get it done (e.g. for their Indonesian helper), strongly recommend to look at this blog (published 2014) for details of what to do: Apply KTKLN for Foreign Domestic Worker in Batam

We took our domestic helper to to get her KTKLN card renewed recently in Batam too (using info from the blog above), and this post is mostly an update on the information contained there. Most of the points are still valid, but I will add on some of our own “tips”/experiences …

  1. There is a one hour time difference between Batam and Singapore (we are ahead), so do take that into account when booking the ferry. We booked the 9:30 ferry from Harbourfront (to Batam International Ferry Centre) but almost missed the boat!The gate closes (15 min before departure) at 9:15 and for some strange reason, very likely due to the other person’s blog (she took the 9:50 ferry) which made me think I was also taking the 9:50!!, we only arrived at the gate at 9:17, but luckily the security man allowed us to still go in, but we had to rush like crazy to clear immigration etc, and the PA system announced our names to board IMMEDIATELY, haha 🙂
  2. Buy an open return ticket so that you have some flexibility in terms of which ferry to take to return to Singapore … because there may be delays in processing the card, or you may be distracted by the shopping at the MegaMall opposite the Batam International Ferry Terminal (link by overhead bridge).Ferry ticket costs $48 return, per pax and can be bought online (google Singapore Batam Ferry)
  3. Taxi to P4TKI which is the office where the KTKLN card is done still costs IDR50 000 for the 5 min trip (tell the man at the taxi counter your destination, and he will issue you a slip of your destination to give to the taxi driver; you pay to driver on arrival). Below is what the office looks like from outside (the glass doors beside the camouflage building).

    Complex Ruko Greenland Blok E No. 3A


  4. There is no need to get the taxi driver to wait for you. The officer doing the card for us helped us call a BlueBird Taxi when we were ready to leave, and it only cost IDR30 000 to get to MegaMall, for the return trip.
    (btw, we were quoted a rate of IDR90 000 for waiting for 2 hours, which is about the time needed to get the card and other things done)!
  5. After submitting our documents (original and photocopies), we were asked to go to a clinic (see picture below) a few blocks away (block A? or B? the officer will tell your helper where, and give a slip with address) for our helper to do her health check: this is a simple height and weight and BP measurement, and you pay IDR40 000 for it. A slip of paper is then given for your helper to hand back to the office.Remember to have some ID with you (e.g. an extra photocopy of helper’s passport/work permit will do)  … the clinic will ask for it, and your originals are no longer with you when you go to the clinic (the photocopies, 2 sets each of work permit, work contract, and passport are also not with you; they were also handed to the office upon arrival, together with originals)
  6. Back at the office after the “health” check, your helper will fill up some forms and you’ll be asked to pay for the insurance (IDR170000 or IDR290000 for 1 or 2 years).A man will then take the money and leave the office on his motorbike to somewhere else, to process the insurance (this is where the longest wait time happens …)After your helper has completed the forms, you will need to buy this “stamp” from the corner shop three shops away, to stick onto the form:


    says 6000 but shopkeeper asks for 8000 … just pay lah!

  7. In the meantime, you can wait at the office but much better to go to the modern Morning Bakery nearby for “kopi”:

Me and spouse waited at the bakery, and got our helper to go back to the office to await the collection of her card and insurance. Soon, and after almost 2 hours (10 am to 12 noon) from when we first arrived, she was back with us and with the documents!

The KTKLN “card” is now no longer a nice plastic card (like our NRIC), but two copies of A4 size sheets of paper with her photo. One copy is for keeping in the passport, while the other is for laminating …

and after getting help to call for a taxi from the office, we were back at MegaMall, took our lunch (many options), and then caught the 2:10 pm ferry back to Harbourfront.

Allocate one whole day if you ever have to do this! And treat it as a little travel/adventure to Batam  … 🙂


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Mt Rinjani – to do or not to do …?

Just completed a 4D3N trek to Mt Rinjani (3726m) in Lombok with D and it was simply awesome!! For me, the amazing scenery and being in nature was certainly worth the challenge of the long hikes up and down the slopes over the 4 days.

If you are thinking of it, do read on…There are many options besides going for the summit especially if you don’t have a lot of training time to put in!!  You do NOT need to be a marathon runner to do it either, haha, but TRAIN, YOU MUST.


6:34 am. Still heading up to summit on the difficult “Part 3” of the summit climb. Shadow of Mt Rinjani is the clearly seen triangle shape on top left, while in the centre, in the far distance, Mt Agung (3031m), tallest mountain in Bali is visible. The baby volcano in the crater lake can be seen “smoking” and last erupted in Oct2015.

After this rather complete experience of the 4D3N trek up from the Sembalun route (from the East), up to the summit, down to the lake, and up again to the Senaru rim, and back to Senaru village (the Northern route), (see route map below, and distance/elevations covered on right),

I would say that here are the main things to consider when deciding whether to “do” Mt Rinjani …

A)  Fitness level and number of days to trek – yup, it is a tough trek for sure, and no descriptions can get you to imagine how challenging it would be (especially to the summit, but the route down to the lake is also challenging!). However, …

  • you can always do a shorter trek (many people do 2D1N, just to see the crater lake only from the rim and for this, moderately fit people can do it), choose to see more or see less (2D1N with summit is even possible for the very fit, but need to cover a lot of distance). 3D2N summit and lake is only for the really super fit types! whilst 3D2N summit (no lake) is possibly quite “relaxing”..
  • The bottom line is that the more days spent enables you to do/see more as you go up and down by the different routes (e.g up from Sembalun and down from Senaru, or vice versa) and include the lake and the hot springs there …

Whatever it is, the scenery is beautiful and amazing even without going all the way up to the summit.

(BUT note that the weather/cloud cover is something that is hard to predict, especially later in the day. Early morning starts are essential to ensure getting nice views!!)

B)  Is staying in a tent, going without shower, using a toilet in the field (you will be well shielded, no worries, as toilet tent is provided) etc… fine with you? In other words, can you do without the comforts of home for a few days while being out there in/with nature?

C) Do you have knee problems? The steep down parts are best avoided (down to the lake, down from summit in the first and last part, … ) but the down part either to Sembalun or Senaru village are not so bad (they do still take many hours; see the elevation/distance photo earlier! so a longer duration would be good).

D) Age alone should not deter you … both young and old have done it (youngest was like 8 while oldest was 80)! My friend D is a great example as well, being a grandpa of two and in his early 60s! 🙂

And if you need to see more images to get a better sense of the trek, do check out this link – 30 images of our Rinjani trek.

I was initially thinking immediately after the end of the trek that it would be a once in a lifetime adventure, but after looking back at the photos, perhaps I might do it again!! ;P




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Random nature shots …

Doing my training for Rinjani and marathon around different parks and taking random photos this week with phone camera (first two shots) ..

DSC_0078 copy

Bishan Park II (the one nearer to Upper Thomson Rd) – nice symmetry and greenery!


Bishan Park II – pink and white flower carpet  🙂

Also have been carrying my backpack, with DSLR to train for Rinjani, at Gardens by the Bay area ..


Lilies, always a wonderful sight at the pond by the Art Science Museum!!

and Macritchie ..


Very exciting week ahead as D and me head to Rinjani this week!! 🙂

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4 days in Krabi

A short getaway for beach bums, only 1 hr 30 min flight from Singapore! First time to Krabi (Thailand), and first time ever we did not even bring a “proper” camera while on holiday. Mobile phone camera used for these shots (including underwater ones during snorkelling and island hopping)!

So, why go to Krabi? Well, …

we saw lovely sunsets everyday …


 Sunset from Ao Nang Beach 13 March

became sun worshippers,

enjoyed all forms of marine life,

saw great scenery,

and for activities, went island hopping (took the 4 Island tour by speedboat), went to a beach in Railay  by longtail boat (was recommended to go to Phra Nang by the boatman; this overlaps with one of the places visited in the 4 Island tour),  visited a night market on the first night (in Krabi Town) and had relaxing massage (200 – 450 Baht/hr depending on location and type)

Overall, a beach holiday is still the way to go for a very nice relaxing holiday  🙂

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How we got our Mt. Fuji views

One of the highlights of our trip to Japan in December last year was seeing Mt Fuji “up close” … (see the end for some tips if you also plan to do this route!)

Initially, we thought that our stay at Kawaguchiko (the biggest lake in the “Five Lakes area”) near the base of Mt Fuji would be “wasted” as we arrived on a day when it was totally overcast and drizzling, and the next morning looked very much the same; in other words, no chance of seeing Mt Fuji  😦


No Mt Fuji view on the day we arrived (Lake Kawaguchiko, from Mt Kachi Kachi, access by ropeway or hiking)

The next morning, we decided not to go for the skiing at the base of Mt Fuji (as weather forecast was not good) and to make an earlier start to Hakone, which was our next destination. So, we thought this was going to be the best view that we could see of Mt Fuji at the Five Lakes area  🙂


Mt Fuji (cookie) from our room 🙂


So, after checking out, our hotel provided a free shuttle bus to Kawaguchiko station, and lo and behold, this was what greeted us when we arrived!! The skies were totally clear and Mt Fuji was just … THERE!!

We happily snapped away, while waiting for the bus that would bring us to Gotemba station, where we would then change to another that goes to Togendai (a pier on Lake Ashi, in Hakone). We would then finally end up in Motohakone by taking a cruise from Togendai.

kawa to motohakone

Kawaguchiko – Gotemba – Togendai – Motohakone (the last leg is by “pirate ship” across Lake Ashi)

When you see the map above, it is easy to see why this route has such great views of Mt Fuji (and also how Lake Yamanakako is also good for Fuji views)… but remember to sit on the “correct” side of the bus depending on the direction you are travelling in!!

Here are some shots of Mt Fuji that we got on the bus ride … (the roller coaster is near Kawaguchiko station, but definitely not for the faint hearted!!)

While on the boat across Lake Ashi, it is possible to see Mt Fuji on a clear day, and using the map, you can have a sense of where to look (i.e. if travelling from Togendai towards Motohakone, it is “behind” you!! see photo below, left, where the clouds almost block Fuji completely).

From the lake side at Motohakone, where we stayed overnight, there are also excellent views of both the Hakone shrine and Fuji! (early morning is best, before clouds built up) (see the photo above right, and also below) .


Chien, looking out from Motohakone lake side, towards Mt Fuji and Hakone shrine (the orange gate).


early morning view from Hotel Musashiya, MotoHakone … very tranquil scenery

So, in the end, we got our (over)dose of Mt Fuji views after all!! 🙂


  1. the 2 Day Hakone pass is a MUST HAVE, especially if staying overnight in the area, as it covers all the transport arrangements in the Hakone region (includes the bus from Gotemba Station to Togendai, which we did not realise; we only bought the pass at the Togendai pier.  For all our subsequent travel, which includes unlimited boat rides across Lake Ashi, cableway, ropeway, buses, the Tozan “slow” scenic train, the pass really saves you a bomb and any hassle of payment).
  2. Sit on the “correct” side of the bus if you want to take photos/catch the view of Fuji (so, left side if travelling from Hakone to Kawaguchiko, right side if the other way)
  3. Mt Fuji is often covered by clouds, so you have to be on the lookout for breaks in cloud cover (see photos above); early morning seems to be best time to get nice clear skies (and this was our experience too). If unsure of where to look for Mt Fuji, just ask!
  4. Skiing on the (northern) slopes of Mt Fuji base (Fujiten snow resort) – we wanted to do so but skipped as the time we could spare was insufficient (1/2 day), the weather did not appear to be good, the taxi fare to reach the ski resort is very expensive (it may be more worthwhile to rent a car instead; but note that an International Driving License is required).
  5. If staying at Motohakone, be mindful of how to get there! It is easy by bus from Hakone-Yumoto, but not from Togendai. If coming from Togendai, taking the cruise is really the most convenient way. We realised this while looking at the bus schedules and cruise timings (cruise ends earlier in winter) and figured it was best that we skipped the skiing to ensure that we could take the cruise (Togendai to Motohakone), and also get to spend more time in Hakone instead.


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Just One Tip for DisneySea …

We spent one day at DisneySea and took most of the thrill rides (and some “lame” ones) available without spending too much time in queues … how did we do it? 🙂


The Beautiful setting of DisneySea

When you search the internet for tips on how to make the best use of your time at theme parks like Disneyland or DisneySea to minimise queuing times, you will find loads and loads of ideas and these should be considered of course (arrive early, buy tickets online, use fast pass, when to eat etc ). However, I will highlight only one that really helped us to reduce wait time to almost nothing.

The trick is to use the single rider lane!

We had already obtained our fast pass for the Raging Spirits ride, and while waiting for the time to use it, were at the Indiana Jones ride nearby, which had a pretty “long” wait time (about 60 mins). However, we also realised while queuing up in the normal lane that the “single rider” option was available, and we changed to it immediately, bypassing everyone (literally, even those in fast pass lane) to end up right in front! Within less than 5 minutes, all of us had been put onto the ride, and were out again to go for some other ride 🙂

So, we tried this method again for the Raging Spirits ride, ignoring the fact that we had fast pass, and ended up right in front! And we were done with the ride in hardly any queuing time once again!

Of course, good things must come to an end, and this approach seems to be applicable only for the above two rides at DisneySea 😦   as we later realised. Still, we saved more than 2 hours of waiting, compared to if we had just joined in the normal queue, and could then make good use of our fast pass for the other thrill rides (e.g. Tower of Terror and Journey to the Centre of the Earth) and also had time for tamer rides (e.g. Sinbad).

Caveat: this tip will work only when the kids/group are old enough and are willing to split and take the ride with “strangers”, which in itself could be fun to do (haha, like for me, these four Jap girls beside me tried to tell me about how to pose when the camera flashed during the ride, but blur me only realised their message after everything was over!!).

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