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Expat Tips on traveling
Query: Has anyone been to Pulau Ubin recently? How did you get there? What is there to see and do and what are the facilites like, especially food outlets?
Tip #2: Pulau Ubin is probably Singapore's most established off-road cycle area. The island is about 1km from Changi Village and can be reached by ferry. Mountain bikes can be hired for as little as S$5 (US$3) an hour, though the island deserves more time to do it justice. Ubin is comparatively undeveloped, with just a few homesteads, a spectacular disused quarry and some orchid gardens and fish farms. The real attraction however, is riding beneath the jungle canopy trying to avoid the minefields of fallen coconuts on your way to the refreshment stall which sells hot, sweet malay-style coffee.The cycle tracks are not very well marked, though a rudimentary system of roads will get you to the major points of interest. You can find a map of Pulau Ubin here:
Query: I am planning a vacation to Bali. Could someone give me input on: 1. Availability of ATM's 2. Hotels (Budget acco) 3. Is it advisable to book a package tour? 4. Is it best to stay Denpasar, Ubud, Sanur Beach or Nusa Dua Beach? 5. Are cabs easily available and reliable?
Tip: I have been to Bali many times and can probably answer most of your questions. ATM's are widely avaiable in the Kuta/Legian/Nusa Dua/Denpasar area as well as in Ubud. But it is sometimes hard to find one that is working and actually still has money in it. Taxis are no problem, just make sure they use the meter or agree on a price before hand. Whether you need a package and the cost of accomodation depends on your real wanderlust or better still, Abenteuerlust. The 5-Star Hotels in Denpasar and Ubud are incredible but of course expensive (check out the Four Seasons, Chedi Ubud, Banyan Tree, Hyatt) and they pick you up from the Airport in a limo. And then there is the other version: Rent a car and drive to Ubud, on to Lovina, east to Amed (The Good Karma is the place to stay in Amed) and then go to the west of Tanah Lot, to the Surfer Beaches and away from any tourists. On this route you will see the real Bali, beautiful rice terraces and spend the night for around $20 in charming bamboo cottages as compared to the 5-Stars which are at least $300. Have fun! Bali is a great place.
Tip: Just got back from Bail, ATM's are wide spread. But if you can't find one, Bank Danamon will take Visa and Mastercard over the counter.
Query: We have two boys, ages 3 and 5, and I love to Scuba. Where should we stay on Tioman to keep everybody happy? And where and with whom should I dive?
Tip #1: The best variety of diving schools and trip organizers is definitely from Salang Bay at ther north-western end of the island. Any ferry from Mersing will get you there as well or you can take one of the isalnd taxi-boats that go round the island about twice a day. They do good two-dive trips to the small islands off coast and arrange for night dives, deep dives etc. when there is enough people interested and usually there will be enough as the bay is very popular with small budget tourists. Yet the style of accommodation is rather basic. Only some of the huts the various chalet operators offer will have aircon.
There is also very little to do for your family except for joining you on the dive trips, trying to climb over jungle-covered hills to other beaches and sunbathing. Beware of the sandlfies (very tiny insects in the sand, almost like fruit-flies which leave incredibly itchy bites for weeks - and they appear only a couple of hours after you've been bitten: I had several dozens of bites on my legs and back after lying on a towel for some hours and I wished I could have chopped my leg off the week after - which of course would not have been possible with the back!!!). When you go diving from Salang Bay, look carefully into the qualification of the divemaster and the equipment. I found the people and stuff from the Fishermen Dive Center to be adequate compared to Ben's Diving who seemed to be a little too well known amongst backpackers so that he didin't care about the equipment any more!
As you're going with family, maybe the Berjaya is really the best choice: Clearly more expensive but definitley with more offerings for non-divers as well. For sure, they have the better accommodation and if they have wooden Deck-Chairs you're a little safer from the sandflies!
Tip #2: I stayed at the Berjaya Tioman Resort over Chinese New Year. It's I guess, a four star hotel with mostly Chalet type accommodation. I think it was MYR260 a night for a single bed chalet. Quite basic, but not too bad. The diving outfit there is very good. If you have not dived for a while, they will make you do a 'check' dive (10 minutes) to check you out before taking you anywhere. The diving was very good, although the water not crystal clear due to the monsoon. The diving is also quite reasonably priced. Next time I go, I will be doing the 'Advanced' course - it's all practical (5 dives ?), little theory and it gives a bit of an achievement. The Berjaya is a 'padi' centre. Their gear seems in pretty good condition.
The Berjaya probably has the best beach on Tioman. Although there's a better one, deserted, about 20 minutes walk south of the resort (go past the Tioman Suites (more upmarket unit style accommodation). Take note, there is very very little on Tioman. There's the Berjaya hotel, the airport and about 4 villages.
Be warned that if you're taking the ferry from Mersing, the ride can be very very rough. The plan trip's a bit of a hairy landing too, but fun
I did not particularly notice activities for kids, apart from the beach & pool, I think Berjaya have horse riding and bicycles for hire. There're a few restaurants in the hotel, but you might do better in one of the villages. They were all closed when I was there during the Chinese New Year. The walk across the island is a hard one up and over the mountain. Very nice, but it's a lot longer than they say. It is a beautiful place to chill out.
Editor's Note: Check out this website for more information on Tioman: http://ecotel.com.my/hotnet/hotels/pahang/tioman.htm
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