Saturday, January 14, 2017

Going for a working holiday- yay or nay?

I have received a few question about working holiday recently. Instead of answering the same question and telling the same stories over and over again, I guess it's time to write an article about it and just tell people to read the blog instead. :P

If your idea of going on a working holiday is all about fun and earning heaps of money, then I will show you the not-so-nice side of working holiday.

Fact 01: It's not always easy to secure a job
Arriving at the right timing of the year and being not picky is very crucial. You must stay humble and don't be afraid to ask question if you don't understand. After all, to your boss or your contractor, you are just you with a working holiday visa. They don't really care if you were a manager or an engineer in your home country. To them, you must be able to do the job because they are paying you for it.

Moreover, there is a huge chance that you are working for someone who has lower education level than you and you really need to keep away your ego and stay humble. I have met some unreasonable people before and what I learned best is that it's wise to keep quiet and just focus on my work instead. Saying 'sorry' even when you are not wrong might be the most effective way to avoid problems.

Fact 02- Jobs are not fancy at all
It is so easy to get a blue collar job than a white collar job in NZ. But hey, who cares if the job is blue collar or not when you get paid $16.25 per hour. So, if you are afraid of working under the sun, you should really start worrying by now. And also, it is unavoidable that you will be working under the big NZ sun (Put on some sunscreen!) if you really want the 3 months visa extension. Furthermore, you might develop stiff neck, shoulders or legs as your job might require you to stay in the same position for 8-10hrs/day. The moral of the story is bring oilment such as yoko-yoko or counter pain.
However, I took it as an opportunity to role-play different character. Trust me, it is more fun when you think that way.

Fact 03- It's not about earning money
People do asked me if it's easy to earn money in NZ. Well, if you have a job with fixed working hours, you do get paid very well. However, the living expenses here is very expensive! As I'm not a person who can survive on instant noodles, bread and pasta everyday, I spent averagely $60 on groceries every week. Not forgetting about the rents. Hence, my average spending per week can be up to $160-200 and that doesn't include going out for coffee/outings/fuel/car maintenance.

I have friends who chose to work in factories as operators because they have fixed working hours (40-54 hours per week) and hence, it's easier to save up. I chose not to work in the factory because I hate routine and I don't want to spend my working holiday working like a robot (no offence- It is my personal preference anyway). Instead, I worked in a coffee shop but my shift is very dependent. I get 20-35 hours weekly and that did not significantly contribute to the growth of my savings. However, I really like my routine there. It allows me to do a lot more things and it's fun!

I had a talk with a friend the other day on how we managed to find so many new ways to earn money in order to pay for our bills in this expensive country. I was playing at least 3 roles to earn money.

Fact 04- You will get lonely
The 5 hours timezone can be quite torturing. I often text my friends in the morning and I won't be receiving any response from them till afternoon. I don't get to talk properly with my friends and family. If you are the type of person who will get homesick easily, you might want to consider this whv. I have heard about people who flew home after 2 months because they miss their friends and family back home. Hence, your friends and 'family' in NZ plays a very important role in your 6 months to 1 year journey. Just make more friends while you are there!

Fact 05- People are not always nice even if they are on working holiday
It's normal to live in a backpacker or a homestay when you are NZ for working holiday. Hence, be prepared to live with people who has different lifestyle and behavior from you. I have heard stories of having roommate who doesn't shower everyday or the housemate who never clean up after they use the toilet or kitchen. I used to live with some very young backpackers for a few weeks and it was so tiring as I have to help clean up the mess which they have created during the day. Other than that, I'm glad that I got nice housemates most of the time when I was staying in a homestay.

Fact 06- There's always uncertainties
It applies on everything! We honestly can't tell what will happen tomorrow. It's normal  to receive a text message which say 'It's raining now, we will wait till 12pm and see if we will work today' for those who work outdoor. Or the text message which say 'get ready and we will resume working in 1.5 hr'. My housemates have to be on standby for the whole day because their contractor refused to call it a day off.

It's normal to change your travel plans everyday. I don't have a fixed plan since I arrived. I guess nobody can ever have a fixed plan as things might go in a completely direction from what you have planned. It is best to just keep calm and see what's next. Trust me, your heart muscle will become much stronger after the working holiday.

Fact 07- You might need to compromise if you want a work visa
A lot of whv came with the idea of staying with a work visa after their whv. If you are lucky enough, you might be offered the same job which you are doing back home. Otherwise, there is people who compromise and stayed as a factory operator although they have a pretty decent career back home.

To me,  working holiday is something which I really want to do since long time ago. The motivation to apply for the visa hit me when  I really want to leave my comfort zone and expose myself to new things/excitement. To me, starting over in a new city is like having the rights to paint a white canvas with any color or pattern. To be frank, it wasn't easy to build a new social circle here but it' is actually easier than doing it in Malaysia.

Therefore, in order to prepare yourself for the ultimate experience, I urge you to try travelling solo first. Try to deal with uncertainties and see if you are able to cope with it.  If you are not here with a friend/partner, you will find yourself doing a lot of things alone for a start. So, it is important that you are comfortable enough to talk to strangers and make friends because they will be your friends or source of information in this foreign country. Think (Your current job and your financial commitments) before you apply for the visa as there's limited space and you might waste other's opportunity to enjoy this ultimate journey!

Friday, January 13, 2017

NZ South Island Itinerary for 20 days on budget


Since AirAsia started the KUL-AKL route, I think the number of Malaysian going to NZ increased tremendously. I guess this will be a very helpful post to help you answer the following questions:
1. How long do I need to travel around South Island?
Ideally, you will need at least two weeks to have a decent trip. Honestly, you will need more time if you are into hiking. We did one hike (short/long) every two days and I have to admit that our east coast trip was pretty intense. We tried to fit everything into one week in order to make it to Milford Sound before the stormy week.

2. How much do I need for travelling in New Zealand?
It really depends on what you want to do. Accommodation is the most expensive cost for our trip. We stayed in hostel every day because I insisted on showering everyday. LOL
Use Wikicamps, and YHA website to look for deals. A YHA/BBH card would be very useful. For Malaysians, I would suggest you to apply for YHA card in Malaysia.

To save even more, you should try to cook everyday especially when you travel in groups. One carbonara dish (~$2/pax) with heaps of bacons can last you for two meals. Besides that, you have to exercise perfect self-control (I'm so bad at this) at the supermarket. My travel mate spent $885 for 16 days vs me who spent $1137 for 20 days because I couldn't say no to ice-cream or chocolates.

3. Should I use bus pass (Kiwi Experience/Stray) or drive?
If you are travelling alone/you don't want to drive, you can stick with the bus pass. If you have one friend with you, you can consider renting a car. However, the road can be pretty narrow and winding. We planned our trip in a way that we don't exceed 5 hours of driving every day.

So, to help you plan your trip better, I'm going to share my 20 days itinerary, hostels, things-to-do and expenses breakdown for the trip. This will be a very simple post as I will go into the details later.

First, let me run through the itinerary with you.
Day 1 to 4 - Christchurch and Springfield
Christchurch CBD, Botanical Garden, Museum, Art Gallery, Mount Pleasant

YHA Christchurch

Day 5 - Christchurch-Lake Tekapo-Omarama
Lake Pukaki & Good Shepherd Church

Omarama Buscot Station BBH

Day 6  - Hooker Valley Track-Lake Benmore-Oamaru
Hooker Valley Track Hike (3 hrs return), Lake Benmore, Blue penguin watching (FREE)

YHA Red Kettle, Oamaru

Day 7 - Oamaru-Moeraki Boulders- Dunedin
Oamaru Art Gallery
Oamaru self-guided walking tour
Moeraki Boulders (check for tide times- only go during low tides)
Dunedin (Baldwin Street & self-guided walking tour)

Manor Backpackers Place

Day 8 - The Catlins- Bluff- Invercargill
McLean Falls
Nugget Point Lighthouse
Cathedral Cave (check for tide times- only go during low tides)
The Lost Gypsy Caravan (It was closed during winter season)
P/s: I would recommend a minimum of two days for this route but we were in a rush as we wanted to be at Milford Sound for the good weather.

Day 9 - Invercargill- Te Anau
Te Anau & Manapouri Lake
P/s: Best place to do Kepler Track day hike but we didn't have enough time

Manapouri Freestone Backpacker

Day 10 - Milford Sound
Milford Sound Cruise by Go Orange! ($45)
Key Summit Track, The Divide
Mirror Lake

Manapouri Freestone Backpacker

Day 11 - Queenstown-Wanaka-Lake Hawea
Lunch at Fergburger and dessert at Mrs. Ferg
QT Sunday Market & Botanical Garden
Lake Wanaka for Wanaka Tree
P/s: Would do Rob Roy Glacier & Black Diamond Lake Track if we had sufficient time. Check out Roy's Peak's lambing season

Lake Hawea Hostel

Day 12 - Isthmus Peak Hike
Isthmus Peak Track (6 hrs return)
P/s: Did this instead of Roy's Peak because Roy's Peak was closed for lambing season. You can see both Lake Wanaka & Lake Hawea from Isthmus Peak. Bring gloves to keep warm!

Lake Hawea Hostel

Day 13 - Fox Glacier-Hokitika
Fox Glacier Walk (2 hrs return - FREE)
Drove past westcoast due to bad weather
P/s: Fox Glacier walk was not worth it IMHO. Too much effort needed for the view. LOL

Mountain Jade Backpackers Hokitika

Day 14 - Hokitika -Westport
Hokitika Beach

Hokitika Gorge
Punaikaki Pancake Rocks

The Arthouse Hostel Westport

Day 15 - Westport-Nelson
Nelson Lake National Park
P/s: The I-site recommended us Buller Gorge but we found out that the place is a bit run down and poorly managed. And also, it was raining when we were there and we decided to skip it.

The Bug Backpackers, Nelson

Day 16 - Abel Tasman
Abel Tasman Hike (Torrent Bay- Marahau)
P/s: I would suggest you to take the watertaxi from Marahau instead. We used Aquataxi for the trip.

Annies Nirvana Lodge, YHA

Day 17 - Golden Bay
Wairariki Beach
Cape Farewell
Te Waikoropupu Spring
Grove Scenic Reserve

The Bug Backpackers, Nelson

Day 18 - Picton
Shelly Bay Track
Bob's Bay Track
Picton Waterfront

Pacific Coast Lodge, YHA/BBH

Day 19 - Picton-Christchurch
Kaikoura for Fish and Chips

Kiwi House Hostel

Day 20 - Castle Hill
Castle Hill (Filming place for Narnia)

YHA Rolleston House

As you can see from the itinerary, my friends and I weren't into any touristy activities. Oh well,  except for Fergburger and Milford Sound Cruise but we wanted them badly. 
Hence, if you are into Skydiving or glacier tour, you will need to add that expenses onto the budget. :)

As mentioned earlier, I have spent $1137 or RM 3,500 (RM3.07= 1$ as per Dec 2016) for this 20 days trip. Whee!

As shown by the pie chart above, accommodation and fuel are the most expensive cost for this trip.
Car Rental & Fuel - We rented a Fiat Punto for 16 days from Jucy and the rental (including full insurance) were shared among 3 people. Fuel price was around $1.76/L-$2.08/L.
Groceries - Daily meal & dine-out. We cooked most of our nutritious meals.
Activities - Milford Sound Cruise and Aqua Taxi ride for Abel Tasman.
Personal Spending -  Snacks, chocolates and postcards

I guess that's about it and I hope that it is a helpful post for all of you. =)

Feel free to leave a comment or email us if you need any clarification from me.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Arashiyama 嵐山

Sorry for the lack of update.

I believe you have read my KTP guide and Arashiyama was my first destination! 
Arashiyama is definitely one of my favourite spot in Japan. I went there early because I wanted to take good pictures and also to avoid the rain. You can get a walking map from the railway station. I decided to skip all the temples in Arashiyama because it was too early for foliage during that time.

My first stop was the town. It looks pretty good without the crowd. I should show you some pictures before the crowd flood the area.
The famous Togetsukyo Bridge from the Hankyu Arashiyama Station.
Togetsukyo Bridge before the crowd floods the bridge. 

Without wasting time,  I walked to the bamboo forest as it is the must see place in Arashiyama! 
Le bear happily took a picture at the bamboo forest. 
I was alone at the forest until this couple walk into my picture. 
I've tried asking them to take a picture of me at the bamboo forest but they commented that it is a difficult task after trying a few shots. I think that's when I miss travelling with another human. 

After exiting Bamboo Forest, I took the Sagano Scenic Train(only available in Autumn & Spring) from Arashiyama Station. I strongly suggest that you should ride the train from this station as you can rarely see tourist here and it will be easier to get a seat at the 5th cubicle. Ticket can be purchased at 600Y (~$6). 
So, what's so special about the 5th cubicle? It's a fully open carriage, which means you can take very good pictures!

You might want to refer to the timetable so that you can arrange your time.

While waiting for the magical ride at the station. 

The train have arrived! 

It was really nice seeing scenery from the train. I wished the the momiji was more scenic during that time. It will be really nice to see the momiji from the train. 

There is another option which is to take the boat tour which is more expensive (3800 Yen ~$38). I would like to try that when I return to Arashiyama one day :D

The train will stop at Komeoka Torokko Station and there were so many people waiting to board the scenic train to Arashiyama. I was glad that I took the train from the other station. Hence, if you are using Kansai Thru Pass, you might want to consider the same route as me unless you are using JR pass. 

Then, I took the JR train from JR Umahori back to JR Saga-Arashiyama. Umahori station is only 10 mins walk away from Komeoka Torokko Station. 

Once I'm back in the town, the crowd have started to fill the town. I bought the matcha soy ice-cream at 400Yen and croquette at 200Yen. I think I had the best croquette in Aarashiyama. :P

Unfortunately, it rained before I get to explore the town. I ran to the nearby Randen station and depart for Takao instead of spending more time in Arashiyama. I will definitely go back again for the temples and scenery next time. I hope you don't have to wait too long for the next Japan post! :P

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Vietnam Travel Guide

I have been to the north and south of Vietnam but not the middle part. Hence, this is not the complete guide.
If you have been to the Vietnam, you will agree with me that the north and south are very different people. However, they are still the same nice people.

Taxi: It is wise to use Mai Linh (Green/White) and Vinasun taxi service when you are in Vietnam. There are three types of car: the small one (where you practically have no space for luggage), the sedan and a bigger car. The smaller it is, the cheaper the fare is for per kilometre. I realize that a lot of people are not aware of this but I always choose the smallest car as it is cheaper than the rest.

Motortaxi: Travelling alone but you couldn't ride a motorbike? I think this is the best tool invented for tourist. For me, hire a taxi is too expensive but I don't know how to ride a bike. The easiest solution is to hire a motortaxi! If you are lucky, you might be able to find someone who can speak English and able to story you about the place. A one day tour will cost 150k-200k VND per day. At places like Dalat, a one day tour can cost around 20 USD per day. It will be better for you to have an idea of where you want to go so that you can negotiate with the driver. 

For public bus, they do announce the name of the stations but in Vietnamese language. Taking public transport is the cheapest transportation in Vietnam. You should really use the public bus in Saigon as the bus fare is as low as 0.20-0.30 USD per trip for intercity bus. 

If you want to travel out of the city, you can either book a seat at the local travel agency or take the local bus. I recommend Sinh Tourist for local tour as they are very reliable. If you are feeling adventurous, you can try their local bus company. I used Phuong Trang (pronounced as Fong Jang) to travel from Saigon to Mui Ne last December and it was really good. They have buses scheduled every hour which is good as tour agency have limited choices for the time slot. Phuong Trang is the biggest bus company in the South and their buses and van are all in good condition. I find the quality is way better than the buses you booked from hostel/guesthouse. Furthermore, they stop at proper rest area for toilet breaks.

What to buy?
Vietnam is the best place to purchase Hada Labo skin care and Sunplay sunblock! This is because these products were manufactured in Vietnam and the price is 2-3 times lower than other South East Asia countries. Furthermore, you can find cheap traditional medicinal oil too! If you happen to be at the tribal village, you might want to purchase some handmade souvenir. A handmade clutch will cost around 35k VND (~$1.8 USD). 

What to eat?
The best thing about travelling in Vietnam is their food! It’s very delicious as  they rarely use artificial coloring and flavouring in their cooking. However, it is very difficult to find vegetarian or Halal food in Vietnam as almost every dish involves meat. Like in Thailand, there’s always a bowl of fresh vegetable on the table.

Spring rolls and Pho are the common food in Vietnam. Don’t miss out Banh Xeo when you are in Saigon and Bun Cha when you are in Hanoi! You can't afford to say ‘I will only try this in other region’. The rule of thumb is people from different region eat different food with the exception for Pho and spring rolls.

One good thing about travelling in Vietnam is that you can easily find a decent room with ensuited bathroom at the price of USD 8. However, these guesthouse are located a bit far from the tourist spot. I usually trust Trip Advisor for reviews. However,I will recommend you to check the room before making a decision. This is extremely important as I have seen workers who sleep in the guestroom before the visitors arrived.It will be good to stick with lonely planet if you prefer the staffs to speak good English as the guesthouse recommended by lonely planet can cost a few USD more.

Most young adults speak decent English but they are too shy to speak up. You can’t expect a middle age man/woman to speak with you in English. People at their age only learn English for their living. However, it is wise to use basic English word. Google translate can be quite useful when it comes to communicating with the local.

To buy simcard or not
If you must buy the sim card, please don't buy it at the airport. Frankly speaking, Vietnamese are very generous with their Wifi service. Almost every shop provides free wifi service and some does not require any password! Hence, do think twice when you want to purchase a sim card at VN.


The easiest way to navigate around is by using a map/google map! Trust me, VN is not a place where you can easily catch someone who can speak little/good english on the road. 

Travelling from Airport 
Saigon: Catch a A/C local bus (#152) out of the airport and get off at the last station. You will find yourself at the bus stop located opposite Ben Thanh market. 

Hanoi: There's a few option to the city center. 
a) Minivan 
Once you exit from the arrival hall, turn right and walk to the end. They charged 40k VND per trip and they will drop you off at the city center. They will drop you off at Quang Trung street. 

b) Local Bus (Red & Yellow- #7 & #17)
They charged 7000VND per trip. I would recommend bus #17 as it will stop at Long Bien bus station which is nearer to Old Quarters. 

Disclaimer: The author has been to Vietnam for four times in the past 4 years and most of the information are up-to-date. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How to fully utilize your Kansai Thru Pass 3 Day Pass

Some people commented that it is not worth buying KTP. However, you can save a lot by using the Kansai Thru Pass if you did your research.

It is never wise to use KTP if you plan to travel around Kyoto while staying at Kyoto. You have to travel across the prefecture to make it useful.

I used google map to plan my route as it will tell me how to get to the place using the rail and bus. However, I think physical map is quite useful but you have to know how to read a map well.

The thing about the Kansai Thru Pass is that you can leave as early as possible as the pass worked from 12:01am of the day till 11:59pm of the day. I start my journey quite early every day as I wanted to avoid the crowd at the tourist place.
To make sure that you fully utilize the pass, you have to spend an average of 1670Y per day.
If you follow my itinerary well, you can easily save up to 4560Y (Appx 50 USD).

I paid 5000 Yen for a 3 Days Kansai Thru Pass but I've actually spent at least 9560Yen in total! How awesome is that?

Here’s how I did it.

Day 1: Osaka-Arashiyama-Takao-Osaka (2340Yen)

Osaka- Arashiyama  
Shinsaibashi station – Umeda Stn                                                               230Y
Umeda Stn (Hankyu) – Interchange at Katsura Station – Arashiyama Stn 390Y
Arashiyama- Takao  
Arashiyama Randen Stn – Randentenjingawa Stn                                      200Y
Randentenjingawa Stn – Takao by Bus #8 at Platform A                            400Y

Takao- Karasuma Stn by bus #8                                                                 500Y
Karasuma Stn –Tengachaya Stn                                                                390Y
Tengachaya Stn-Shinsaibashi Stn                                                              230Y
Subway around Osaka
If you travel from Arashiyama to Takao without KTP, you will need to pay extra for the bus fare as Takao is not included in the route of the 500Yen bus pass.

Day 2: Osaka-Koyasan-Osaka-Kyoto-Osaka (3680 Yen)
If you study the Kansai map, Kyoto is at the north of Osaka while Koyasan (Wakayama) is at the South of Osaka. It wasn’t as rush as I’ve expected but if you want to do this, you have to start the journey around 7am. Journey to Mount Koya will take approximately 2 hrs one way.
The best thing about travelling in Koyasan by using the KTP is that the cable car and bus fare is included in KTP. Hence, basically, you just need to pay for your food. If you are lazy, you can travel from one sight to another sight by bus. But, this is not necessary as Koyasan is quite small and it is very nice to walk around.


Osaka-Nanba                                                                                                                    200Y
Nanba (platform 4) - change train at Hashimoto (platform 5) to Gokurakubashi Stn (platform 4)    850Y
Gokurakubashi Stn – Koyasan Stn                                                                                   380Y
Koyasan Stn – sights at Mount Koya by bus                                                         (200Y per trip)
Koyasan-Osaka 1430Y
(return the same way)

Shinsaibashi Stn-Kyobashi Stn                                                                                    230Y
Kyobashi Stn –Shichijo Stn                                                                                          390Y
Shichijo Stn- Hana Hostel by bus                                                                                 200Y

I used the Keihan Main Line instead of JR. What’s the point of paying extra anyway? 
P/S : JR Osaka-Kyoto cost 540Y one way
Mistake: KTP & Kyoto bus pass can only be used on the green color city bus! You can’t use it on Princess Line or whatsoever. I made this mistake and paid 200Y extra
I stayed at Hana Hostel Kyoto. I did ask the hostel staff if I can get to their hostel by using KTP. They recommended JR Line which cost 600Y for a one way ticket. But, I managed to find out that I can actually get to Kyoto via Keihan Main Line and use the local bus to the Kyoto Station.
You can actually take the city bus from Keihan Main Line Station to Kyoto Station using the city bus!

Day 3: Kyoto-Osaka-Kurama-Kibune-Osaka
Shinsaibashi Stn-Kyobashi Stn                 230Y
Kyobashi Stn –Shichijo Stn                       390Y
Shichijo Stn- Hana Hostel by bus              200Y

Shinsaibashi Stn – Yodoyabashi Stn         200Y
Yodoyabashi Stn –Demachiyanagi Stn     460Y
Demachiyanagi Stn- Kurama Stn              410Y
I wanted to try out the hiking trail from Kurama-> Kibune but the local advise me not to as I was alone. You can either walk from Kurama Station to Kurama Jinja (Steep Slope and stairs) or take the cable car. I choose to walk as I will miss lots of place if I were to use the cable car. I walked up and took the cable car back to Kurama.
From Kurama, I took the train to Kibune Station   200Y
From Kibune, I took the bus to Kibune Jinja         160Y
Well, you can walk if you are not using KTP. It is around 1-2km from the bus station.

Kibune Jinja – Kibune guchi Eki               160Y
Kibuneguchi Eki – Demachiyanagi Stn     410Y
Demachiyanagi Stn –Yodoyabashi Stn     460Y
Yodoyabashi – Shinsaibashi Stn               200Y

Where to buy the pass?

You can get it at Kansai airport or Tourist Information Center. For more information, please click here.