New York Itinerary planning has begun

Last week I borrowed a couple of travel books for both Morocco and New York. Last weekend however, I had some time to go through those books, especially the New York one and started taking down some notes and places of interested that I must visit on my upcoming vacation to New York.

Things are looking pretty exciting the more I read about New York. I have covered reading the basics on must see locations in Lower Manhattan, Lower East Side, Chinatown, Little Italy, SoHo and Tribeca. I stopped at Greenwich Village. Perhaps this coming weekend, I’ll spend one entire day just covering all the different districts and neighbourhoods New York City has to offer, all the way to Harlem.

I have 10 days, with my parents and aunts in tow for this trip. They aren’t exactly superwalkers given their age, so when planning for this trip, I need to be mindful of that. But they doesn’t mean I couldn’t encourage them to do a little exercise to increase some stamina for this trip, so that they can brave the outdoors and do a whole lot of walking while we are there in the days leading up to the trip.

The trip is still 3 months away, so I have plenty of times to plan the itinerary.

At the very least, coming up the top destinations and locations to visit New York City is a good starting point. I can always add little details like what to eat, and where to shop later as the date approaches.

I am still eyeing that Coach briefcase by the way.

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London bound!

Our trip to Morocco (three of my colleagues and good friends, including myself) is starting to take shape. We have started to enquirer about desert tours and started finding cheap tickets to Morocco. Past couple of weeks, we have been trying to find out what is the cheapest (but not necessarily the slowest or most inconvenient) way to reach Morocco by air.

There aren’t any direct flights from Singapore to Morocco. There are connecting flights served by Etihad, Turkish Airlines, Emirates, British Airways, but most of them were quite pricey, although they can be convenient.

So today we managed to snag a great deal (what I think is a great deal) which coincided with Singles Day. 11.11 Sale is everywhere and Malaysia Airlines was one of those airlines offering air tickets with an additional 11% on certain routes. Singapore to London was one of them. Previously, we were eying their flights as it was the cheapest for London bound flights. It was around S$900 all in return flight from Singapore to London. Now with the 11.11 Sale, it was offering tickets for S$795. That is super cheap. So cheap, that I immediately coordinated with all of my colleagues to get the tickets before 11.11 sale is over. It’s not a direct flight, but one of the fastest. Singapore to KL, with a short stopover, and then on to London direct from KL. And all for S$795!!

Now that we have our outbound and inbound flights settle, we still need to book the tickets from London to Morocco and back before heading back to Singapore.

This is my second major holiday after booking my NYC trip in March 2019!

Getting pretty excited over this trip!

November 7. Thesis submission. The end.

November 7. The date of my thesis submission. November 8, the final assignment due. November 16. Presentation. Then, the end. The end of my 2-year journey as a postgraduate Masters student. It’s been a harrowing journey. Working and studying at the same is a huge challenge. A challenge that I have overcome. A challenge that I took head on from day 1, when I decided to sign up for the course. After November 16. I will officially graduate. So surreal, to have a Masters degree. I would never have expected to go so far in my education. I have been working for five years and I decided to go back school on my third. What was I thinking back then? Now, looking back, all the friends I have made, the knowledge I have gained and the skills I have acquired, it was all worth it.

After November, I deserve a break. Big time. I am going all out travelling. And I can’t wait.

First holiday of 2019! More to come!​

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Going to New York in 2019 wasn’t exactly planned. But when a credit card promotion offers an all-in return ticket on a non-stop flight from Singapore to New York City on a premium economy seat, you cannot walk away from such a deal. SGD1425 for a premium economy ticket, on the world’s longest flight, non-stop from Singapore to New York. LETS GOOOOOO!

 

 

Itinerary almost done

Took me weeks to come up with the itinerary but the research definitely helps. I am looking forward to my trip to Vancouver in a little over a month’s time. As I was doing my research, I discovered some pretty interesting hiking trails that I want to explore. This itinerary is more outdoors that I previously imagined, due to the discovery of new day hikes and trails around Vancouver. There is actually a lot more to discover, but I don’t think I have the time, considering that I would only be spending about a week there. Besides, it would be unrealistic for me to do them every single day I am there; my legs will go jelly! And Vancouver isn’t all about hiking. There’s quite a bit to see in and around Vancouver downtown itself.

My itinerary is almost 30 pages long. Packed full of info from my flight details to my Visa application, insurance information. It’s just so that I can placate my parent’s worry about this trip since I am doing solo. Seriously, I am approaching 30 and they are still worried.

Seattle is a bit thin. I only managed to come up an itinerary that I just mostly sightseeing in Seattle downtown. Maybe some cafe hopping and visiting touristy areas like the Seattle Space Needle. It’s a little bit more relaxed in Seattle.

So recently I have been thinking about this question lately; why do I want to do this solo trip? I guess there are a number of reasons for doing so. Perhaps it’s because I am approaching 30 and I want to do this and tell myself that I can do this? Or maybe I just want to get away from it all back at home; away from work, school, family, friends and just be myself. Doing the things I want to do, how I want to do and when I want to do. The thought of it is quite liberating.

Going to Vancouver and Seattle all by myself will accomplish a great number of firsts for me. This trip will definitely check a few things off my bucket list.

Iceland Adventure Day 3

It was time to drive.

After collecting our white Ford Edge AWD car from Thrifty, a car rental company, we checked out from our hotel, loaded all our stuff, got ourselves comfortable and drove on Route 1, Iceland’s Ring Road. The car was just nice for a group of four and the boot could easily accommodate four large luggage. Everything in the car can be adjusted electronically using the touchscreen interface and the car even adopts a keyless system to start the engine. It has heated seats, which were godsend especially in Iceland. Overall, a pretty solid car for road trips. We drove in a counter-clockwise direction. heading east and south. In the beginning it was challenging navigating the streets of Reykjavik. The locals drive on the opposite side of the road, so everything you knew about driving back home had to be reversed, something that takes time getting used to. But thanks to Google maps and the timely prompts, we managed to navigate our way out safely. I was the driver of the day and I drove with a sense of both trepidation and excitement. We have officially started our road trip. We needed to cover about 200km today.

Introducing the Ford Edge.

Today’s route.
We headed east to the famous Golden Circle route covering locations such as Thingvellir National Park, Geyser, Gullfoss and Kerio. It was a pretty easy drive for the first couple of hours. But soon gale force winds started whipping up along certain parts of the route that we were driving. The windy weather were the remnants of last night’s storm and it continued around Reykjavik and south of Iceland the next morning. On certain sections of the road along Route 1, soft snow and ice crystals from the surrounding landscape got whipped up, carried by the strong wind, blanketing the entire area, making visibility very poor. Driving soon became difficult as snow and ice started accumulating on the road, becoming really thick in some areas. Patches of ice on the road made manoeuvring and controlling the car challenging. It was my first time driving on such road conditions and none of us knew what to expect or how to react to the difficult drive. At one point, visibility became so poor that we completely lost sight of a car just ahead of us. The entire view in front of us became totally white. We could barely see the road itself, everywhere else was just thick snow. That was when we got our car stuck for the first time.

Weather was unpredictable.
As we drove in whiteout conditions, the car ahead of us came back into view. It was still a good 50 meters ahead of us. The car slowed considerably and then all of a sudden for no apparent reason, jam on the brakes. Instinctually, I hit the brakes as well. But because the road was extremely slippery, our car continued to skid along the road. As the car skidded along, I suddenly realised we were fast approaching the car that stopped in the middle of the road, closing the gap at an alarming rate . I made a split second decision to prevent crashing onto to the car ahead and swerved to the right onto the road shoulder filled with thick, soft snow. When our car came to a complete stop, I then realise that our car had gotten stuck in snow. I tried moving forward, but the car simply wouldn’t budge. I tried reversing. It was the same outcome. We were officially stuck.
Getting out of the car itself was difficult, due to the storm and the strong wind. We stepped out and assessed the severity of the situation. The car that stopped in the middle of road, started moving again, and drove on, disappearing into the storm, not knowing that our car had gotten stuck just behind him. For a short moment we were all alone. We traced back our steps to find the actual road that we were driving on and realised why the car stopped all of a sudden. There was a huge patch of snow that recently settled on the road. As the storm continued, the strong wind carried tiny ice crystals and soft snow from the surrounding landscapes and deposited them on the road. Like sand dunes ever shifting in the desert during a sandstorm, we were witnessing ‘snow dunes’ forming during a snowstorm. The car probably braked and stopped to find out if he could drive through that section of the road buried in snow. Thinking that he could, he continued on his journey.
Our moment of complete isolation was short lived however. Eventually a few cars arrived and discovered that we had gotten our car stuck. A number of them got out of their cars to see if they could assist us. Soon, we could see more people from the other direction heading towards us to see what the commotion was all about and to check if the road condition was good to drive. Traffic was held up for a brief period from both directions. They were sharing information on the road conditions ahead from both directions. After 15 to 20 minutes of deliberation under the raging storm, a woman approached us and asked if any of us driven on such icy conditions before. We replied that we have not. She then asked if we had a shovel. We replied with an embarrassing no. Fortunately she had one in her car and went back to get it. Two other guys approached us as she returned with the shovel and took turns shovelling snow from underneath our car. After much shovelling in strategic areas around the wheels, one of them gave the orders for everyone to push the car, while I put the car on reverse. After much pushing and heaving, the car had enough traction on the ground and start moving back onto the main road. We were all relieved.
We thanked the men and the rest who ‘rescued’ us profusely and continued on our journey. Slowly but surely, we drove past the patch of road with thick snow without much difficulty and traffic resumed. By then, all of us had one thing in our minds; get a friggin’ shovel. We drove to the nearest petrol station and bought one immediately.
After the ordeal, as we continued on our way to Kerio. The storm had largely abated by then. Strong wind still persists every now and then. There is a famous saying in Iceland; “If you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes.” True enough, the weather can change drastically and without warning in Iceland. Kerio is a volcanic crater with a shallow lake at the bottom. But it was frozen during this period. It is a popular tourist spot because it is one of few calderas that is very recognisable visually and mostly intact, being a young caldera. On one side of the caldera, the slope is gentle enough to walk down and reach the lake.

Kerio.
Gullfoss is an impressive waterfall. It consists of three ‘steps’ that water flows down before plunging in a deep crevice. Because the crevice is obstructed from view, it seemed as if the water plunges down into the crevice and disappears from the face of the Earth.

Gullfoss

Gullfoss
Our final stop was Geyser, home to the famous Strokkur Geysir, known to erupt boiling water high into the air, up to 15 to 20 meters, every 10 minutes or so. It is one of the very few natural geysers to erupt frequently and reliably. In the surrounding land, there are other smaller geysers that heats up pools of water to boiling temperatures, emitting steam and gasses, that rises from the ground to create an out of this world, alien look to the surrounding landscape. The foul smelling gas and hot steam permeate the land, giving off a distinctive sulphurous odour, akin to the smell of rotten eggs. The odour can be so strong, that we tried to avoid the clouds of steam as it get carried away from the prevailing winds.

Strokkur Geysir erupting.

Erupting very violently!

Very smelly location
By the time we reached Geyser, it was approaching dusk, and when we arrived at our accommodation, Efsti-Dalur farm guesthouse, we were famished. The farm guesthouse is also a full fledge farm, with a cowshed just beside the restaurant dining area, where we can admire the cows chomping grass and the cows can admire us feasting on a 3-course meal through a glass window. And no, I did not eat their kind in a form of steak right in front of them, I chose horse steak instead as my main meal in addition to a starter soup and Skyr yogurt as dessert. The entire meal was terrific. Horse steak tasted just like beef, but has a rather fibrous texture. We also tried their homemade ice-cream, straight from the milk of the cows in the cowshed and they were equally terrific despite the cold.
Soon afterwards, we drove for about 30 seconds to a log house where our rooms await (The guesthouse has only 10 rooms in total). The log house is in another part of the property and we began unloading the car to call it a day.