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Friday, August 18, 2017

Getting there by Trains


Getting to China by plane is really common. I was considering other options boat/cruise or even on land by car/train, I am not even going to contemplate bus. When I read this tripzilla article on how a bunch of girls managed to travel from Singapore to Europe over land in 7 weeks for S$3,000 (per person) I was simply amazed! There are more such adventures on blogs and travel sites.


Personally, I think I might make it if it were all luxury, maybe Oriental Express might consider planning one such journey from Singapore through China to Europe. For now, the luxury train Eastern-Oriental Express runs from Singapore to Bangkok Thailand over 3 days and the nearest departure dates are 14 Sept 2017 (usd $4,262) or 24 Sept 2017 (usd $6,250). 

 

Alternatively, you can get from Singapore to Bangkok via local trains that have at least 1 run a day. Travelling Gold Class on KTM ETS from Singapore to Bangkok will take 3 or 4 days and cost less than S$100, not including lodging and customs fees. Of course you will have to change trains and book overnight stays in a B&B on the way there. Or try and catch an overnight sleeper train (pic below). Firstly, you have to travel across the border from Singapore to JB Sentral by bus in order to catch a train to KL. The stations are KL to Penang to Padang Besar (border) to Bangkok.


From Bangkok you can take a train to Nong Khai station and onto Thanaleng Laos (1hr outside Vientiane Laos). This part of the journey will cost less than S$100, not including lodging and customs fees. Therafter, all land travel in Laos is by bus. You can travel to Luang Prabang by boat or bus for another S$50 or so, 10 to 12 hours. From Luang Prabang to Hanoi by bus for under S$100, not including lodging and customs fees. 


From Hanoi to Shanghai, you have to stopover at Nanning. So its 12 hours from Hanoi to Nanning for under S$100 and another 12 hours from Nanning to Shanghai for under S$200, prices do not include lodging or customs fees. The alternate route is Hanoi to Lao Cai - Hekou (border checkpoint) to Shanghai.

$650 for transportation
$250 fees and taxes
$350 for lodging
$350 for food
Total cost $1600
Total journey time is 8 or 9 days at least

Compare that to a direct flight from Singapore to Shanghai on Singapore Airlines economy class. The journey will take 5 hrs 20 mins, no stopovers, one-way and cost S$1,306 including taxes.



Friday, August 11, 2017

Getting a Ride...


Everyone has heard about how expensive cars cost in Singapore and the registration, road tax, COE just kills it. I was considering alternatives and the first thing I thought of was second hand cars. Not those sitting in the used car lots for years but rather those with a few years remaining on the COE. That way I can save money & effort to still get a pretty decent ride. Used cars are old enough so I won't cringe if I dent it and new enough to not worry about car servicing, although everyone warns you about that.


Looking at sgcarmart, I found a Chevrolet Aveo 5 with 3 months on the COE for just S$2,900. It was registered in 2007 so its 10 years old. Back then, the retail price would have been around $80,000 and COE $40,000, plus another $20,000 for registration, road tax etc. So this price is just ridiculous to me. For under $10,000 category, this was the only new-ish car I could find, all the other vehicles are kinda vintage-y. 


I am also really impartial to this Renault Kangoo, also made in 2007 and has about 4 months left on its COE. Selling for S$5,000. The original retail price of this car is around $60,000 plus another $60,000 for the other stuff. You can load a bunch of things into the back. For example, goods to sell or buy, groceries for your eatery or yourself, all your worldly possessions.


If you have more people to transport, the Mercedes Benz Sprinter seems fairly popular @ $17,000 with a year left on its COE. Sits 14 people including driver.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Getting into China



I've taken vacations in China before and never had to worry about it, it seems Singaporeans too require visas to enter China if planning to stay more than 15 days. Entry visas are also required for Hong Kong and Macao through a different application process. The visa application costs under $200 each and allow stays from 3 months (the most common) to 5 years.   


China doesn't recognize international driver licence and in addition to that, tourists are not allowed to drive vehicles. Foreigners with a valid residence visa (PR or Citizen) can apply for a China driving licence. If they already have a driver's licence in their home country, they just need to pass a theory test. As for right-hand drive or left-hand drive, it depends on the location you are in (state specific). 


To apply for PR in China you need to be directly related to a Chinese Resident/Citizen, make a minimum investment of USD $100,000 in China, have a job in China guaranteed by your company or have made an important contribution to the country. Previously, the temporary residence permit allowed over 60 year old retirees to purchase a landed home in China in order to get a residence permit. Not sure if that is still valid today.


Friday, July 28, 2017

Crossing Vietnam Borders



Singaporeans can stay in Vietnam for up to 30 days without a visa. Similar to Cambodia, international drivers licence is not valid and has to be converted to a Vietnam driving licence in advance. Applications have to be mailed in to Department of Transportation in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh and there is a processing fee of VND 30,000 to 70,000 (under S$5).


Knowing which borders to cross in Vietnam is important. You don't want to make a detour that will land you in the middle of nowhere.


Cambodia x Vietnam Borders

International border checkpoint @ Ha Tien a charming & sleepy seaside town with some nice hotels, shops, markets, eateries, just don't expect everything to be open all the time.

Immigration Checkpoint @ Tan Chau is on the Mekong river and a passport office for immigrants. It looks like a jetty, do people really still come in by boat. Maybe the Vietnam citizenship services are still located here.

Cambodia Vietnam Border @ Binh Hiep is the main gateway. It looks like the suburbs with a grocery store, a petrol station. It's more for tour buses with large groups of people.

Border checkpoint @ Moc Bai that is a built up area with backpacker hostels, eateries and even a duty free at the border. Do stop by the duty free if it is open as I hear the liquor is cheap. Dirt road is big enough for a car or motorbike, I don't think tour buses can come through here.


Laos x Vietnam Borders
There are numerous borders each identified by a number. However, you really only need to know 2, one on the southern part of Laos and one on the northern part of Laos.

Laos Vietnam Border 605 @ Lao Bao is the main gateway and leads on to a sprawling border town. Located on the southern part of Laos. Checkout the picture of the gateway above.

Border Crossing 113 @ Tay Trang a picturesque hillside highway. Located on the northern part of Laos.


China x Vietnam Borders
There are many smaller borders not mentioned here. These are just the main ones of interest to me.

Located on the western part of Vietnam there is hekouzhen @ Lao Cai. Lao Cai is a big border town with public buses, community market and tourist spots for sightseeing.

Located on the eastern part of Vietnam is dongxingzhen @ Mong Cai. Another big border town with 4* hotels and service apartments in addition to regular homestays and backpacker inns.

Also located on the eastern part of Vietnam, next to Hanoi is Vietnam citizenship services @ Dong Dang.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Crossing Indochine Borders



Laos is relatively fuss-free, Singaporeans can travel visa-free to Laos for 30 days or less and international drivers licence is valid there for 1 year. No car permit documents are required and car insurance costs 300 baht a week (under S$13).


Singaporeans can travel visa-free in Myammar for up to 30 days. However, foreign vehicles require MTT permission or authorized Travel Agent registration 4 weeks prior to arrival at the border. International Drivers Licence need to be converted to a local Myammar Driving Licence prior to arrival as well, apply via mail to Road Transport Department in Yangon or Naypyitaw, it costs USD$20 and is valid for 5 years.

Vehicle Permit (this one is for bicycles) from moz.travel

Singaporeans visiting Cambodia for less than 30 days do not require a visa. It sounds hassle free especially if you are travelling across the border by bus, motorcycle or tuktuk. However, if you are driving a car, you will need to purchase car permit and insurance to the tune of over a hundred US dollars at the border and it's only valid for one week, have your car related documents ready.


Not only that, international drivers licence is not recognized in Cambodia, you will have to apply for a licence conversion that will cost you something like usd$35 and take minimum 1 month to process. Luckily, online applications are now available so you can apply for a licence conversion before arriving at the border. Cambodian driving licences have a validity of 1 year or 3 year period, it's quite troublesome to keep track of the various validity periods.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Crossing Thailand's Borders



Singaporeans entering Thailand for less than 30 days do not need a visa. If you are driving in via border checkpoints, you are only allowed to enter Thailand twice in one calendar year. International driver's licence is recognized in Thailand. However, insurance requires a Thai drivers licence for stays longer than 3 months, so if you are staying for more than 3 months in Thailand, you should get a Thai drivers licence.

 Car Permit in Thailand from ExpatGo.com

Car insurance and Temporary Car Permit have to be applied for and purchased at the border. It's a minimum amount requirement, I am told most people pay for more coverage and I will probably do so as well. Total costs less than $100.


Thailand x Malaysia Borders
There is a duty free shop on the Malaysia side of the border, it's by no means cheap but its a great place to stretch your legs and take a break.

On the eastern part of Malaysia is the Rantau Panjang - Sungai Golok border checkpoint.  

On the western part of Malaysia is the Wang Kelian - Wang Prachan border checkpoint. There are some markets and its in the middle of a nature reserve so nobody lives here. This place also offers Malaysian citizenship services.

Next to WK-WP is Padang Besar border checkpoint for trains. There is also Bukit Kayu Hitam - Sadao border checkpoint that is completely fenced in and built up, that leads to Hat Yai.

In the middle, between eastern and western Malaysia is Pengkalan Hulu - Betong border checkpoint.


Thailand x Laos Borders 

On the northern part of Thailand, from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai region is Phu Sang National Park border checkpoint.

Heading up north from Bangkok to the city of Vientiane Laos is the Friendship Bridge border checkpoint. There is a duty free shop and cafe on the Laos side.

There is a second friendship bridge border checkpoint at Mukdahan - Savannakhet. Border towns with schools, airport, eateries.

On the eastern part of Thailand is Chong Mek border checkpoint that has a bus terminal, shopping, markets, temporary eateries.


Thailand x Cambodia Borders

Cham Yeam border checkpoint is located at the southernmost part of Thailand. It's a seaside town with a market and some nice hotels.

Poipet International Border is on the eastern part of Thailand at Sa Kaeo going into Krong Siem Reap where Angkor Wat is located, UNESCO World Heritage site. It's also where Thailand citizenship services are located. See picture above.

In between Cham Yeam Border and Poipet International Border is Chantaburi- Phsar Prum Border where Cambodian citizenship services are located.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Crossing the Malaysian Borders




Singaporeans entering Malaysia are allowed to stay 30 days or less visa-free in one calendar year. International drivers licence is valid in Malaysia for 1 year only.


All cars are required to pre-register for Vehicle Entry Permit or VEP, processing fee is $10 and it's valid for 5 years. Thereafter, each time you enter or exit Singapore/Malaysia borders it will cost you $20, payment by cash card only as cash payments are subject to an additional $10 surcharge. When entering Malaysia from Singapore, payment is 20 ringgit and payment is by Touch'n'Go cards that are used on Malaysian roads and toll booths. Coming back from Malaysia to Singapore, ordinary cashcards or CEPAS cards are accepted and its $20 singapore dollars.


Some Singapore car insurance covers Malaysia, you might want to extend coverage for all countries before leaving. If your insurance company cannot do that, than you have to buy car insurance at the border, have your car documents ready. If you are driving a foreign car into Singapore, you can only do so for 15 days. Thereafter, you have to apply for an extension from LTA and the maximum is 90 days. If you wish to keep the car in Singapore past the 90 days, you have to apply for COE etc that is the same as a new car purchase.


One last thing to remember is : Singapore registered vehicles at Malaysia borders need to have a minimum of 3/4 tank of petrol. If not you will be turned away at customs or even prosecuted in court and fined up to $500.


Friday, June 30, 2017

F.O.C.


This batch of sealed pouches came in the mail and are from Sample Store, a Singapore Post Office company. I put in 5 orders, the items are FOC but the shipping & handling costs $5.99 each order. It's a bit expensive I know, I had some paypal credits from my Zalora referral links that I used up here. 


The main items I really wanted are these Korean Face Masks in really cute packaging. Some packets of detergent, facial scrub, moisturizer, serum, CC cream, cream masks, body ache massage gel, anti-odor spray.


This Neutrogena sunblock sample was completely FOC, shipping & handling also FOC. As was the Vivace Facial Mask, sure beats samples handed out at the shopping center.

 

Marigold x Smurfs The Lost Village prize consists of 4 tickets to watch the new Smurfs movie, movie premiums and 3 cartons of milk!


 This one month's supply of milk is more like one year's supply for my family.


Cle de Peau facial cotton, these are 2 sample packets from promo event. Check out the little monogram in the corner. Usually, it sells in a box of 120 sheets for $30.


Laneige Collagen Drinks are fish based and enhanced with orange fruits for faster absorption in the body. Free Gift for the first 10 buyers who make 5 or more paid checkouts on Sample Store. Ordinarily it retails for $52 in stores.



Friday, June 23, 2017

Tiong Bahru Bakery

  

I was at Tangs Orchard and stopped for coffee and one of their famous croissants or even Kouign Amann, there's a sweet version and a savory version.


The croissant sandwich is really good, so much so I bought another sandwich and turned my tea-time snack into a whole meal. The baguette sandwich is really quite tough. Next time I will try the Kouign Amann.


I was at Tangs Orchard for the Guerlain pop-up event.



There's a lucky dip for skincare trial sets, premium samples and this scented candle from their Orchidee Imperiale range of skincare.


Really happy with my gift! The scent is really strong and deep, almost for a guy. I am told most old world perfumes are like that, heavily musky and that's what makes it sexy.