Maldives Tips & Tricks

Okay, this post has been delayed for two years – I was scrolling through my iPhotos and came across photos from our 2016 Maldives trip and decided to finally share our experiences. I wrote a post from the plane and said I would update, and never did #liar

Disclaimer: Most of the photos are of Ashraf because I am more click-happy than he is, and he didn’t complete his insta-husband training yet at that point.

Almost two years ago I was bored at work and started browsing AirAsia, just mengada to see what deals they had and to daydream about taking time off. For some reason, 45 minutes later I found myself whipping out my credit card and paying around RM1,500 for two round trip tickets to Male, Maldives for Ashraf and I.

He was due to start working at KNB in 3 weeks and I thought it would be nice for us to have a nice holiday before he started on his new adventure. Two weeks later we found ourselves at KLIA 2 boarding a red plane to Male.

I had done all the bookings (as most wives do!) and found Kaani Beach Hotel on Maafushi Island on Agoda. I also read them up on Have Halal Will Travel where they made the ‘Top 6 Budget Hotels’ list. Now though we did decide to do this trip on a whim, I was very much aware that this would be a budget trip, and we didn’t mind. It’s no underwater Muraka USD 50K per night hotel room, but for me what matters is having Ashraf there with me as we explore budget, bizarre, or wallet-breaking trips #semut

Very similar to our Hong Kong Trip, here are some tips and tricks I’d love to pass on to those who want to see Maldives with slightly less cash.

1. Know What Time You Are Arriving Male

If you are flying on a budget airline like AirAsia as we did, you will probably won’t have much choice on timing options as they have a few flights in and out each week from Kuala Lumpur to Male. We arrived Male (the capital of Maldives) roughly around 8PM. Unbeknownst to us, our hotel was on a little island 45 minutes and there was NO WAY we could get there at night because there are no more speedboat or ferry services after 7PM.

I really didn’t know what to do. Ashraf and I stood in the middle of the airport arrival hall arguing on what to do while other passengers got picked up by their fancy Hilton, Shangri-la and Club Med vans. We had already paid for the night at Kaani Beach Hotel, they were expecting us – how do we get there?! I found a free phone and called the hotel. They told us they would arrange someone from their ‘sister hotel’ in Male to pick us up from the ferry and we would stay at this sister hotel for the night and they’ll arrange a boat for us the next day.

Ashraf and I were still fuming with each other because I felt he always left decisions up to me, and he was mad that I was mad #typical. We paid USD 1 (each) for the ferry and apologised to each other on the 2 minute boat ride from the airport to Male’s main island.

We were picked up by a sketchy man who made us walk quite a distance via back alleyways and shortcuts till we reached an extremely dodgy hotel located in a back street. Ashraf and I looked at each other in disbelief as to how our holiday in beach paradise ended up with us bunking in a rundown in the sketchiest part of Male. Oh well, we wanted an adventure!

We slept fully clothed on a very questionable bed (I didn’t even dare touch the blanket) and counted down the hours to daylight! We finally made it to Kaani Beach the next morning after walking 20 minutes to another ferry dock where we paid USD 50 for safe passage via speedboat to Maafushi island!

Lesson: if you are too late to catch a speedboat or ferry upon arrival in Male, book an ACCEPTABLE hotel in Male ahead of time. The perk was we got to see a little bit of Male when we took a stroll at night after “checking in” to the dodgy sister hotel.

Though the islands and beaches are what Maldives is famous for, it was nice to see the rooftops of Male for a bit of authentic experience. These photos were taken the morning after we arrived while we had breakfast on the rooftop of the dodgy sister hotel.

2. Bring USD and Not Maldivian Rufiyaa

We  spent several days scouring the many money changers in KL and none of them had Maldivian Ruifyaa – apparently it’s not a currency people typically look for. After doing some research, we decided to bring USD instead and that served us quite well.

You can use USD almost anywhere in Male and most of the prices in restaurants, hotels, etc are shown in USD too. We brought about USD 500 and that was enough for the two of us for five days.

We mostly spent it on food and activities, and even splurged on Burger King at the airport before our flight back to KL (we couldn’t wait to taste real food again!). I think our Burger King meal cost us about RM 200 – prices are quite inflated at tourist places, so don’t be fooled!

3. Snacks, snacks, snacks!

Be wary that you are not going to be staying at a 5-star hotel where they have Michelin chefs cooking for you in their seaside restaurants. Most budget hotels are on inhabited islands and their meal forte is probably an off-brand breakfast buffet. You’re going to be lucky if you get real Koko Krunch, if you know what I mean. I ate a lot of boiled eggs during those five days!

Some budget hotels do have restaurants that you can order meals from but Maldives isn’t really known for their food. You will probably have many western choices, and even then it won’t be the best. Islands usually have tuck shops around where you can buy snacks but they won’t be extremely well stocked and you may be paying a premium for them.

Just remember that you’re there to enjoy the beach and serenity of Maldives, not their food – so make sure you pack yourself food and snacks from home and you won’t have to live on chips, skittles and ginger ale like Ashraf and I did for 5 days.

4. Discover The Island

RESORTS are basically when an entire island is taken up by a hotel chain and made up to be almost like paradise on earth. This is where most of the Instagram people go. All those huts-on-stilts-over-the-water type resorts, you know, these ones: The 10 Best Maldives Resorts, Trip Advisor. The whole island is dedicated to your leisure and pleasure.

BUDGET HOTELS are smaller hotels or guesthouses, usually only 3-4 storeys high located on an island where local Maldivians live.We paid about RM 250 per night at Kaani Beach Hotel, which is really affordable! The perk of staying on a ‘real’ island is that you will probably see young children playing around in the water, a primary and high school, many houses and possibly even a prison. Yes, there was a prison on the same 1.2KM island where we stayed. Talk about adventure!

We really enjoyed the opportunity to stay within the local community, even though there were guesthouses and hotels littered everywhere. We took bike rides in the evenings and explored the entire island several times over. We saw young boys play football/soccer, little girls getting their hair braided at the entrance of their houses and women cooking dinner. It’s definitely something you wouldn’t see at a full fledged resort.

A part of me really appreciated the authentic experience. Maldives is an Islamic country, so there were many mosques on Maafushi too. You can hear the Azan loud and clear, and all the stores closed during prayers. The public beaches have strict rules and you are not allowed to be ‘immodest’. All tourists who want to wear their bikinis, swimsuits, tan in the nude, etc, are confined to the slice of beach owned by their hotel clearly marked by bamboo fences.


5. Explore The Ocean and It’s Okay To Get Sunburnt

We are more ‘city’ people when it comes to travel – I love exploring new places and doing tons of tours and activities. I do enjoy a rare beach holiday once in a while but laying but the pool or sea gets a bit boring after one day.

I highly recommend that you carve out one day for pure laziness by the ocean – swimming, reading, napping, reading a good book, etc, but then the rest of the time to load up on some really fun activities. This is what we did:

5a. Hop On An Island Excursion

Most hotels and guesthouses offer a one-day trip which includes snorkelling, lunch on a sandbank, a boat ride around the islands and a dolphin/turtle viewing. We signed up for a one of these trips and it cost us about USD 75 per person. Ashraf isn’t a swimmer so I was a bit nervous about chucking him in the ocean but I had nothing to worry about. He did great and snorkelled longer than I did. I just had a procedure done to my ear and couldn’t handle the pressure underwater so I didn’t last very long. But it was amazing to view all the fish and coral! 

Lunch on the sandbank was also fun – it’s literally a 500M block of sand in the middle of the ocean with the clearest water you will ever see. We were given about an hour to eat and laze in the sun till we left to do another bout of snorkelling. The boat’s captain tried to look for dolphins but after 30 mins of searching we had to conclude the trip and I didn’t get the chance to see any dolphins – no rezeki. 

Please note that you’re going to get super sunburnt! No amount of sunscreen (please bring sunscreen!) is going to help you. I am naturally quite tan, so I got even tanner, and my poor pale husband had the worst case of sunburn he had ever experienced. I really felt bad for him, but it was also quite cute seeing him all red – as if he was blushing profusely around me. Haha! Also bring soothing aloe vera gel, it’ll really help with cooling down your skin after a day out in the sun. We got through a whole tub for Ashraf, so kesian.

A huge waterproof beach bag is also useful for just throwing in your things after activities and a day out on the boat.

5b. Catch Fish At Night

I know that sounds kind of lame, but it’s honestly really fun. The captain took us and a Russian couple out on his boat about an hour before sunset and we got to enjoy watching the sun go down from a cute little boat in the middle of the sea.

We were also given “fishing wheel” – a plastic ring which act as a fishing rod, attached to an entire spool of fishing wire. I wasn’t too sure what to do with it but just did monkey see monkey do with the captain and I managed to catch five huge fish! I was pretty proud of myself, especially since Ashraf only caught three puny ones #anaknelayan

After some time out at sea, we rode back to Maafushi and were taken to a rooftop terrace where the kitchen staff took our (extremely) fresh fish and grilled it for us. They slathered on barbecue sauce, which really killed the taste ( plus I don’t really like BBQ sauce) but it was an experience nonetheless.

5c. Do Water Sports

On our second last day on Maafushi we decided to go all out and try out the water activities which were tempting us from Day One. There were so many kids playing around in the water, riding along on jet skis, and do tricks while wake boarding – we did not want to pass up on that sort of fun.

We walked 5 minutes away from our hotel to a little independent water sports hut that had a sign saying “Let’s Have Fun” on it – we were sold. We paid USD 100 for the two of us to ride jet skis and have some time knee boarding for a few hours. Our guide was Riya, an awesome Maldivian who lived on Maafushi with this five kids. He had these crazy cool blond dreadlocks and showed Ashraf how to ride the jet ski like a pro.

We had the best time on the water and really enjoyed playing around with the kids too because they helped Riya with the jet ski every time we came back to shore. I really recommend checking out ‘Active Watersports Maafushi‘ if you’re looking for some fun on the island. They can also take you out sailing, diving and on excursions.

5d. Make Time For Sunrises and Sunsets

You’re not supposed to sleep after Subuh anyway right?

The sunrises are slow and spectacular, just as they are in all the different parts of the world, but it’s extra special on Maafushi. We woke up extra early to find a spot on the beach and sit there quietly till we saw the sun on the horizon. The streaks of pink and white take my breath away every time.

Just as stunning are its sunsets. Kaani was located right on the beach so we had a perfect view of the sunset from our room, but it’s always nicer to sit in the sand and let it playfully sift through your hands as you watched the sun turn the sky orange.

We made sure to never miss a sunset and it was by far one of the best decisions we made during the trip. It sounds so simple, but you don’t realise how easy it is to have dusk slip by without you noticing!

6. Rest, Relax, Rejoice Life

Beach holidays are meant to be relaxing, so do exactly that. Don’t stress yourself out over getting Insta-worthy photos because having a cute ‘gram shouldn’t affect the level of happiness on your holiday – you’re on a freaking holiday! Enjoy it.

If you’re in Maldives with your partner, then I suggest you truly take the time to enjoy each other. Lock your phones away (not like Ashraf in this photo!), have meaningful conversations with each other, spend time doing things you like (bring a board game or cards! We really wished we did), take long walks on the beach.

Ashraf and I had the best time just reconnecting and laughing with each other. Yes, we’re married and we see each other everyday, but how much of that day is actually spent doing quality things to build our relationship stronger? That’s why we love taking time away together to explore, learn about new places (and each other) and go through a new experience with each other.

If you’re a newly married couple and you’re looking for a fun stress-free holiday on a budget, I really recommend Maldives. All in all we spent under RM 5,000 in total for the two of us. People think it has to be done the “right” way on a fancy 5-star resort, but who’s to say that that’s the right way? Any way is the right way as long as you have your partner with you and you’re willing to do and see something new together.

I hope you get to see Maldives soon. Inshallah I hope we can go back some time soon too. Maybe we’ll bump into you at the airport and we can share a speedboat together.

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Hitting the Reset Button

How strange is this?

It’s been over a year and to be honest I think I’ve only peeked back at this page a few times over the last few months and every time I see it I feel guilt. Like this overbearing weight of “you’re such an abandon-er” (I doubt that’s a real word).

I’ve come to find over the last little bit that I would like to (for now) only do things for myself. After so long of living, doing and having a purpose for others, I’ve decided to be a bit selfish and do things when I want to, the way I want to, and to not do them if I didn’t feel like it. I hope you don’t mind. This basically means weeks of lounging on our couch and vegging out on movies, re-watching FRIENDS, spending a lot of time with random ED/JK/JF videos (my fave host trio: Ellen, Jimmy and Jimmy) and finally doing those long overdue brunch dates with people who I wanted to reconnect with. And spending time with my mom, there has been a lot of that.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been pretty awesome. The Tai-Tai Life (As per Urban Dictionary: Tai tai (太太) is a Chinese colloquial term for a wealthy married woman who does not work) is pretty much just like how I imagined it to be.

I would like to clarify though: “wealthy married woman who does not work“. I definitely am 2) married, yes very much a 3) woman and 4) currently “working” for herself but not really because I want a break – but Mashallah we are a bit further from 1) wealthy. Comfortable (with help #thankyouparentals) yes – but “wealthy” is a bit stretching it. Just so we are clear k? #evileye

I also decided to be a creep on social media and just peek into what other people were up to and not post much myself because to be honest, I have nothing interesting going on. The life of Tai-Tai’s consists of a lot of sleeping in and laundry. No one needs/wants to see that. I’ve also decided to be more intentional in my contributions to what people see on social media – there is so much to filter through these days, why would I want you to spend your valuable time going through some un-needed content from me.

I will share things, thoughts, photos, snippets of when I feel like opening up, and when I believe it might be of value to someone. Yes, sometimes I know my Instastories are pointless fun, but I guess that’s just my way of trying to be friends with you? Haha #lame

Something I’ve also realised to STOP doing is to make overarching and broad declarations. Circumstances, thoughts, perspectives change and though I know I can share my opinion, I should always be humble enough to know that I may not always feel that way about certain things. So yes, adding to my to-do list: Stop Saying Definitive Statements.

So I guess I’m just here to clear the air between us (when I say us, I mean my best friend Kate who is subscribed to this blog and the 3 other people who are too sweet to even care that I still write, haha!) and hope that shifting these gears allows me to mentally come back to this space and write, share and discuss in a judgement free, two-way friendship between us.

Because words and thoughts have been bubbling up in my mind for months now but I suppose wanting to keep things slightly private have led me to the other end of spectrum and have made me scared to write, even in my own space. But we cannot be scared friends, we must do what we feel, and let our fingers type out the words which fill our mind. And to be honest, mine is quite full to the brim!

Also, in regards to the Imandatory Read, I’ve been meaning to get that going again in the NST (I’m pretty sure the editorial team may have forgotten about me because I’ve been MIA for so long #myfault!) and I promise you that I will. I have a few article ideas written down, and the first sentence of my “comeback article” (chewahhh!) swirling around in my head. It’s just about beating the procrastinator within me and getting the sentences out.

But hey, this post is a great first step isn’t it? I am resetting everything and ready to run free forward.

It’s just about lunch time so I’m going to go pop something in the microwave, but before that: thank you for sticking around, for your many kind messages (especially the silent ones), thank you for even thinking of me. It means the world.

Sending you lots of love from my mom’s kitchen table.

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The Advice I Needed To Hear

I’m in bed, about to turn my computer off and go to bed, but before I do, I just want to remember today.

Imandatory Read #16 was published today (sixteen already!? Oh my goodness, I’m going to run out of things to write about soon!) and I’ve received an endless loving stream of messages and comments about today’s column. I wrote about what it felt like to be a boy-crazy girl in a world where no boys loved me back, haha.

I texted my editor last week and asked her feedback on #ImandatoryRead – what could I do better? How can I improve my writing? Is there anything I can do to make the column more interesting?

She told me to “talk more about the general implications [of my stories], it would be more about the readers, and less about me”. That was earth shattering advice. No one is that interested to read stories that are point blank just about me every two weeks, it gets boring.

But if I could share about how my story relates to the readers, that would definitely be more hard hitting.

I faced a wall when I sat down to write #16 – I tried to churn something out for days but everything didn’t come out right. I always try to come out with a ten-word sentence that is the ‘purpose’ of my article, and in the middle of watching Last Chance U (on Netflix – highly recommend!) I typed out “Don’t look for the guy, let him come to you”.

The words just flowed.

I wasn’t always the person I am now and definitely had challenges in finding a partner. For many years I doubted my self worth and felt shitty for being single. I decided to shift the narrative to myself and focused solely on being better for “me’, and not for a guy’s attention.

I was nervous about how this piece was going to come out, but the response proved my nerves had nothing to worry about. I am so so so happy my message resonated with so many people, that they took something away from my thoughts and how I could’ve possibly helped in shifting some people’s views about how they’re feeling about their relationship status.

I mean every single word I shared in this week’s article (and every week!), and I feel extremely grateful airing out my insecurities has made this kind of impact. I promise I’ll try to keep producing pieces like this and to never stop sharing my truth with you. If you’re reading this, thank you for your support and love – it means the world to me.

 

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16) What Was Wrong With Me 1

August 2nd 2017: What Was Wrong With Me?

16) What Was Wrong With Me 2

August 2nd 2017: What Was Wrong With Me?

Posted in Imandatory Read, Self Development | 4 Comments

Imagining The Worst Car Accidents

I have been fearful of car rides ever since my accident last year. I want to cry every time Ashraf gets to close to the car in front of us or when he has to brake really hard. My heart goes into my stomach and get extra anxious.

I think it’s because I’ve heard the “crunch” sound two cars make when they collide, and the feeling of losing control. These are some of the worst things in the world.

I always (regretfully) imagine what it would be like to fall off a flyover and on to oncoming traffic, or flipping over after being hit and landing on your roof. I don’t know why I picture these horrible situations in my head, but I do!

In a way I am thankful that my first accident happened the way it did – no one got hurt, our cars were in repairable condition and I am not too badly scarred (emotionally). I share a bit more about it in this week’s #imandatoryread – I hope you like it!

PS: How gorgeous is the model on the front cover of Flair this week?! #girlcrush

15) Getting Back Up 115) Getting Back Up 2

Posted in Malaysia, Self Development | 1 Comment

Why I Don’t Take Photos

This is somewhat a very awkward thing to write about.

So we’re just going to talk about and if it comes across weird, then I’ll just have hit the ‘edit’ button several times until it comes off right.

I take my job very seriously. It is something I love to do and I always want to give it my 110%. However I do understand how the concept of being a Personal Assistant may be lost on some people – what exactly is it that we do? When are we officially working? What are the boundaries?

Our job scopes are not written in stone and honestly my work is something I have had to learn as we go for the last two years.

I suppose being a PA to a typical (but this I mean non-“celebrity”; ugh, I feel very uncomfortable using that word!) boss or manager is fairly straightforward, but my work is personally a bit more complex than that.

I understand that girlboss is extremely popular and very much loved by her readers and followers. I mean who can blame them, she’s fantastic! So I understand their excitement when they meet her, want to speak to her and take photos with her.

And I am more than happy to take their photos, videos, boomerangs, etc – it’s so nice to feel like I was a part of making their day (also I feel like I know girlboss’ angles best so I prefer to take the photo myself, haha!)

However I personally feel uncomfortable when people ask me for photos when I am working. Ugh, again, I feel so weird saying this because I don’t really get it. I do think I am just ‘me’ and nothing close to the mega-charm that is girlboss. It boggles me as to why some people would feel nervous or excited to see me, because I’m just Iman. The same old Iman who does boring things and has a normal job (okay fine, maybe not too normal, but still, you know what I mean!)

In the beginning, I obliged because I didn’t want to seem rude, but it came to a point where taking photos with others affected my quality of work, e.g: girlboss had to wait for me to finish taking a selfie with someone (that’s so not cool), I couldn’t be there for her when she needed me because someone pulled me aside for a picture, etc.

So I decided to be firm and politely decline when people ask me for photos at events, or when they see me working. It does get pretty awkward, when they ask and I answer “I’m so sorry, but no thank you,” or “I’m sorry, but I don’t take photos while I’m working” but I truly feel that it’s my right to decline while I’m working because it affects my job.

I mean, you wouldn’t ask a surgeon for a selfie while she’s in the middle of a heart surgery would you?

I know that’s a very extreme comparison, but like I said, I take my job very seriously #workaholic

Sometimes people understand, smile and say “okay”. But other times they can get quite aggressive and forceful which in turn makes me feel bad because I don’t want to negatively impact their day however I feel PAs need to be firm and consistent otherwise it’s easy for people to walk all over us and not take us seriously.

There are times when I relent, when I read that the situation will only keep persisting with “no lah, come lah, please please please” or when girlboss asks me to enter the frame.

I suppose it’s also because they maybe don’t understand that I am there to assist girlboss, and not as a secondary ‘persona’. Once at an event, when I declined a photo by saying that I don’t take photos while working, the person responded “What? You’re working?”

Hahaha, I guess that’s the misconception, but if you see a PA and he or she is with their boss, it doesn’t matter where we are – in the office, at an event, in a grocery store, having a meal – we are working. Our jobs are to accompany, assist and be there for our people and as long as we’re together (and sometimes even when we’re not!), PAs are on duty.

It’s not that I don’t want to say hi, be friendly or have a chat with you – but perhaps it’s better for when I am not working! For me, when I’m on the job, that comes first and I thank you for understanding my position and circumstances.

So I’d truly like to say a big fat warm sorry to any of the girls reading this who I might have unintentionally offended by declining a photo or selfie. I think you’re beautiful and anyone would be lucky to have a picture with you ❤

Happy Sunday, friends!

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Posted in Self Development, Work | 7 Comments

Hong Kong Tips & Tricks

It’s been almost a week since we got back from Hong Kong, and boy, what a difference a week makes. Two Mondays ago, I was probably just getting on my third rollercoaster ride. Now I’m currently upstairs writing as everyone else is having lunch #gantipuasa

We’ve been very very blessed to be able to go on a trip abroad every year since we got married. Bali in 2015, Maldives in 2016 (I never got around to that blogpost huh?) and Hong Kong in 2017. Mashallah, we’re so grateful #thankyoupaycheckandsmartsaving

A big reason on how we chose Hong Kong was because it was the cheapest flight out of KL on the dates I was looking at. It was simply that! I’ve been to Hong Kong (from now on shortened to HK) before when I was in high school with my family. We did a four-day trip to Disney and I remember loving everything about it.

Ashraf has never been to a Disney park so I was determined to make his first trip one that we would remember! We learned a lot about HK, each other and our travel habits during this trip. I’ve listed a few things I thought would be great to share with you:

1. Use the Airport Transfer

Once you land you should buy a ticket from the Hong Kong Airport Express. A round trip ticket is obviously cheaper than a one-way ticket. They also provide a free shuttle to your hotel. Inform the salesperson which hotel you’ll be staying at and they will tell you which stop you should get off at, which shuttle you should take and which stop your hotel will be.

We stayed at Ibis Hotel in Central and Sheung Wan, so we got off the Airport Express at Hong Kong Station, boarded the H2 bus and our hotel was the fourth stop. It was extremely convenient and we didn’t have to worry about getting lost!

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2. Invest in an Octopus Card

We decided to use the MTR to get ourselves around town and it was the fastest and relatively ‘cheap’ way to get around. Ashraf used the Citymapper app which he highly recommends. You can buy an Octopus card at any MTR station from the customer service booth. It’ll cost you HK$ 150 and the card will have HK$ 100 preloaded into it for you to use right away. So the card itself will essentially cost you HK$ 50.

Trams are the best way to move around the city if you’re not in a rush because they are a bit slower. But as a tourist it’s a great way to watch the city go by and admire it! One ride will cost you HK$ 2.30. Remember, board through the back, alight at the front.

The MTR will be a bit more costly. A way one trip to Disneyland from Sheung Wan station (which is a pretty central location) cost us HK$ 25 per person.

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We had to top up our cards a few times during our 6 day trip. All in all, I think we loaded about HK$ 300 onto our cards, each (this is including the initial HK$ 150 we paid). The cards are also great because you can use them to purchase things at stores! Kind of like an all-in-one card – you can use them at most restaurants, 7-11, other convenience stores, grocery stores, almost everything!

3. Don’t rush Disney

If you’re deciding between a one or two day ticket to Disney, trust me when I say go for the two-day ticket. The price difference is not much: HK$589 for a one-day ticket VS HK$629 for a two-day ticket. It’s just a bit over HK$40 for a whole extra day. This is a no brainer.

This also allows you to be calm throughout your time in the park so that you do not feel pressured to squeeze everything in one day!

There are lots of secondary sites that offer Disneyland tickets, but I always prefer buying from the main park/attraction itself. They also run promotions so it’s good to check out what you can get

4. Sub-tips from Disney

  • Bring an empty water bottle and fill it at the many drinking fountains you’ll find around Disneyland. A soda or bottle of water will cost you roughly HK$38 per bottle #insane
  • Bring snacks to hold you up during the day. Disney is going to offer you many many MANY tempting snacks (I am sure the popcorn killed a part of my soul) but do not give in. A box of crackers from Malaysia will still keep you standing straight (even though it may not taste as good as grilled squid…)
  • There are several Halal restaurants in Disneyland for Muslims to eat at. Yay! A hot and delicious meal will seriously make a difference in the middle of the day. Ashraf and I would play till about 3PM, and then made a pit stop at the Explorer’s Club Restaurant in Mystic Point for lunch. I chose from the Korean and Japanese menu, and Ashraf had the tandoori chicken set from the Indian menu for both days. A meal here will set you back about HK$139 per person, but it’s worth it
  • If you’re looking to pray in Disney, they have a room right behind Explorer’s Club that’s closed off with curtains which you can use to pray. They’ve even installed a ‘Wudhu Mate’. Just bring a pair of socks so you can cover up will you pray (or bring telekung too if you want)Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
  • Make full use of the Fast Pass!
  • If the wait for Winnie the Pooh ride is under 15 minutes, you should wait! This is the only ride we missed because the wait was hours long and we could not justify waiting in line.
  • Rides to NOT miss: The Iron Man Experience, Hyperspace Mountain (we rode this 3 times), It’s A Small World (I might have cried. Might), Mystic Manor (so underrated, but so awesome), RC Racer.Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset
  • Shows to NOT miss: Philharmagic, Lion King, Mickey’s Story Book of Wonder (it was in Cantonese, but they are English subtitles)Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
  • Claim your piece of Main Street sidewalk by 7:10PM. The parade will start at 8PM and you want to make sure you have a front row seat!
  • Stay for the fireworks at 9PM and go as close as you possibly can to the Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. For some reason, the people with us that night didn’t sit down #rude so we all had to stand. Usually in the other Disney parks I’ve been in, everyone is courteous enough to sit down to so everyone can see the castle and fireworks.

5. Eat all the Dim Sum and Roasted Duck you can!

We googled and found amazing recommendations for Wai Kee and Islamic Centre Canteen.

We had lunch on our first day at Wai Kee and had the roasted chicken and duck combo. It’s to die for, you HAVE to eat there. It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing location, but trust me, you’re there for the food. Order a Cream Soda too #omgmymouthiswateringrightnow #sissabar

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The Islamic Centre is also a super place to go to for dim sum. We went there for Sunday lunch and Monday dinner. It was packed on Sunday lunch and completely empty on Monday night. Processed with VSCO with a6 presetHow it works: you walk up to the dim sum table (you’ll know it when you see it) and point to the menu to which dim sum you want (or if you speak Cantonese/Mandarin you don’t have to point) and carry it to your table. If you want heavier things from the menu (meat/beef/seafood dishes, rice, noodles, soup, etc) you call a server over and place an order with them. We stuffed ourselves silly.

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On Monday night though, it was almost empty and they didn’t have any dim sum, so we could only order from the menu. Ashraf recommends the mutton curry!

6. Have cash. LOTS of cash.

HK is a highly expensive city. We ‘sorta’ expected that but we also assumed that they would be a credit card friendly city (y’know, being the centre of Asian commerce and all) but they were surprisingly credit card averse! There were several times where we had to count our dollars to see if we could buy lunch at a restaurant. It boggles my mind how they don’t accept credit card at majority of the stores/restaurants. Our fallback was – McDonalds always accepts credit cards!

So, carry a lot of cash if you don’t want to feel uncomfortable. We had to exchange our money once and withdraw once as well from the hotel.

7. Look into buying an iVenture card

I bought us a 3-day iVenture card. I have used passes like this before in London and New York, where you pay a fixed price and the pass gets you into all the main attractions in that city. I LOVED the London and New York passes because it got me to the front of the line AND it included a transport pass (especially important for London because the pass included attractions that were outside Central London).

I thought I was going to love the iVenture card too, but honestly I’m a bit ‘meh’ about it. We bought the 3-day pass and honestly there are very limited attractions we could choose from. Granted perhaps there aren’t many ‘attraction’ options in HK. These are the ones we went to:

  • Rickshaw bus: It was a good drive around the city. I just wish the bus came with a guide who would tell us more about HK history and significance of the places we were seeing. Getting to the pick up point took us such a long time! It was all the way in Central Pier (number 6) and I think we must have walked for 40 minutes trying to find the booth. We were so sweaty.

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  • Victoria Peak: Hop on to a funicular and ride up the Peak – it is amazing. When we got to the top, I expected just a look out point. But of course there was not one, but TWO malls #Asia. You could go up and spend a day on Victoria Peak if you wanted, but we were just there for the views and hopped back down after a cup of coffee. Processed with VSCO with a6 presetThe iVenture card got us basic tickets to the top, but we had to pay an extra HK$100 (I think) per person to get up to the 360 degree viewing deck – it was worth it! But I wish it was made clear that the viewing deck was not open to the public early on. We also had to wait in line for 1 and 1/2 hours for the funicular ride up. There is a combo ticket you can buy from Victoria Peak + Madame Tussauds + Fast Lane, but we did’t think it was worth it. It’s okay, we played 20 questions while waiting. You can also take a bus or taxi up to the Peak, but trust me when I say you want to experience the funicular.

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  • Ocean Park: This theme park is pretty old but pretty amazing. It had more thrill rides than Disneyland so it’s not a repetitive visit and I definitely recommend. They also have animals that you can visit: penguins, pandas, dolphins, seals, birds, all kinds! Almost like a zoo and an amusement park. I recommend buying their fast pass because it gets you 10 ‘cut the line’ passes which is amazing – saves you SO much time. It was worth the HK$250 (per person) that we paid. I cannot recommend this fast pass more!Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset
  • Ngong Ping Village: Tung Chung Station is even further than Disneyland so be prepared to carve out a chunk of your time to visit Ngong Ping Village. Once you arrive Tung Chung, it’s pretty clear how to walk to the Ngong Ping cable car station. Yes, you read right – cable car! We experienced a 5.6KM cable car ride through the trees and the views were extremely spectacular. When you’re getting on the cable car, make sure you get in one that does not have the frosting on the windows – because you won’t be able to see outside! We got into a clear car on the way there – awesome, and then into a frosted car on the way back – no good. Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset
    Once you’re at Ngong Ping, take it easy and walk through the little village before making your way up to Big Buddha. You might not want to climb up when you see those steps, but the views up there will make it worth it.

Ride this one:

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NOT this one!

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8. Have fun!

Hong Kong is a fabulous city and I wish we were still there. If you’re looking for a city vacation filled with little treasures and many adventures, I recommend Hong Kong. Make sure you bring an umbrella (mucho important!), comfortable walking shoes and cash (I can’t stress this enough, haha)

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Posted in Marriage, Travel | 2 Comments

Colour Confused

I was driving down a long stretch of highway when I noticed the continuous stream of billboards advertising skin whitening products and collagen and all sort of ‘white’ beauty products. Why are Malaysians so obsessed with being fair? I just don’t get it.

I know I also went through life associating being fair as being more beautiful, but how were we fed with this mindset? I am so interested in finding out why we think this way. I suppose it’s in a way the same as equating being tan as “looking healthier” in the West.

It’s just this whole ‘colour’ thing that I don’t get. Sometimes the way people look at me and Ashraf, I feel they think we’re in an interracial marriage, hahaha! Anyway, I digress – this week’s Imandatory Read is below for your reading pleasure.

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FV is finally on our raya break and I spent today doing community service outreach with some of the team, did errands (almost all day) and read the first 15 pages of China Rich Girlfriend in Kinokuniya while I waited for Ashraf to finish work. We’re now rolling around in our RM 150 white Ikea sheets (there is just something about white sheets that make sleeping sooo luxurious!) before bed (I know it’s 9:30PM, we’re old people k)

We have to pack for raya tomorrow – heading to Singapore with the in-laws again this year (it’s supposed to be my side’s turn, but my parents aren’t here #abandoned). I hope you guys have your baju raya all ready!

 

13) Rise Above The Dark Side 113) Rise Above The Dark Side 2

 

Posted in Imandatory Read, Self Development | 1 Comment