Prepaid SIM in China

Choosing a prepaid SIM card provider is rather straight-foward in China. That's because there is only one choice which is compatible for phones outside of China and that is China Unicom. The easiest way to get the SIM card is to purchase it in the airport. Otherwise, you have to try your luck finding it in random shops since they don't seem to be commonly available in convenience stores. Reload vouchers can be purchased in convenience stores though.

Do remember to clarify that bundled data for internet usage is included during the purchase though. One point to note is that the subscription plan (for bundled calls/SMS/data) is pro-rated, i.e. if you start on the 14th of the month, you pay for a fraction of the subscription fee from 14th to end of the month. That also means your bundled calls/SMS/data is also pro-rated. So, you do have to track your data usage very closely so as not to exceed the bundled data allowance. Also note that the self-help instructions via SMS are mostly in Chinese only, but it shouldn't be hard to access  the common instructions by following my guide below. The last point to note is that reload vouchers are strictly for use if the prepaid SIM card is purchased from the same state, i.e. you cannot use a reload voucher bought in Guangdong if the prepaid SIM card is purchased in Zhejiang.

Day 5 [19th Dec]: Chimelong Safari Park

For my last full day, I was panning to visit Chimelong Safari Park in the morning and then go to Baiyun mountain in the late afternoon. When I reached Chimelong Safari Park, I was enticed to purchase the combo ticket which includes Chimelong Crocodile Park at just ¥30 extra. That obviously means that I had to give up the plan of visiting Baiyun mountain.


Day 4 [18th Dec]: Chimelong Resort

It's finally a full day of clear skies, so I headed my way to Chimelong Paradise as planned. After travelling on the metro for almost an hour, I reached Chimelong Resort area and walked to Chimelong Paradise, which is less than 200m away from the metro station.


Day 3 [17th Dec]: Guangzhou

According to the weather forecast, the rain will stop somewhere in the afternoon. So, I planned my day such that I will be least affected by the rain. I started by visiting 中山纪念堂. While it was quite a good photo spot from the outside, I wasn't that excited about the visit inside. It's more of a photo gallery with story-telling.


Guangzhou Trip

Due to some issues with my cancelled AirAsia flight to Penang for Chinese New year, I ended up using the credit for a flight to Guangzhou instead. I was actually contemplating between many destinations, e.g. Thailand or Chengdu. Eventually, I decided upon Guangzhou as the weather was less cold compared to most other parts of China and transport in Bangkok may be slightly affected by the demonstrations.


My first leg of the flight was to fly from Singapore to KL with a 3 hour buffer to the next flight. Fortunately, I had a comfortable buffer otherwise the long immigration queues might have given me some problems. From KL, I flew to Guangzhou and reached at 8pm+. After exploring around the airport a little, I bought a prepaid SIM card for ¥100 and took the metro to the city. From 公园前地铁站, it was very easy to find my hotel after about 5 to 10 minutes of walk. In fact, I found the hotel before I was even seriously looking at the address. After checking in and settling down, I prepared my day pack for the next day before I took my rest.


Prepaid SIM for Singapore

I guess it would make sense for me to include a prepaid SIM guide for my home country to help out visitors to our sunny island. I will only focus on the prepaid SIM plans that have more affordable data access rates in this post. There are 3 network operators in Singapore. At a glance, it seems that SingTel has the most value-for-money data plans, but I'll list down the information for all 3 operators in this post anyway.

Day 7 [25th Nov]: Shanghai and back to SG

For the last day of our China trip, we went to Nanjing Road in the morning to have our breakfast and walk around. We settled for our brunch in 南翔馒头店 and ordered some other dimsum dishes that we did not try the day before. The 大馄饨 sure tasted fantastic and so is the chicken served in wine sauce.


Day 6 [24th Nov]: Shanghai

The day started with a slight drizzle and we were thinking of visiting 老城隍庙 before heading to Shanghai Happy Valley. We went to 老城隍庙广场 to have our breakfast and it was quite a feast.

Day 5 [23rd Nov]: Hangzhou to Shanghai

We started the day by checking out of hotel and taking a public bus to the railway station. After collecting our train tickets, we walked in the district in search of breakfast. We settled for some noodles in a muslim halal restaurant called 兰州老字号正宗牛肉拉面. The beef noodles and the dumpling soup sure tasted great.


Day 4 [22nd Nov]: Hangzhou

We started day 4 later as we had a late night the day before. For breakfast, we settled for some 粽子, 馄饨 and 粉丝 at 五芳斋.


Day 3 [21st Nov]: Wuzhen

We booked a guided tour package to Wuzhen from our hotel the night before and started our day really early. From Hangzhou, it was about 1.5 hours of bus ride to the tourist attractions in the water town Wuzhen (乌镇).


Jiangnan Trip 2013

I was thinking of visiting China this autumn and I asked a friend along. We settled for a direct flight via Jetstar from Singapore to Hangzhou and paid just $247 for airfare after including taxes, admin fees and baggage fees. After our early dinner, we took off from Changi Airport in the evening and reached Hangzhou Xiaoshan airport at 11pm+. We were greeted by the cold winds on a Tuesday night. After about half an hour of taxi ride, we reached city centre and found our way to Ibis Hotel in Song Dynasty Street. We were pleasantly surprised that the twin room was pretty decent and costs only S$32 per night.


Prepaid SIM in Taiwan

Prepaid SIM seems to be one of the most straight-forward in Taiwan. However, you have to note that you SHOULD purchase your prepaid SIM over in the airport as it will not be so straight-forward anywhere else. Upon landing in Taoyuan Airport, I headed to the counter where the network operators are selling the prepaid SIMs for tourists. To my surprise, all the operators are offering exactly the same packages and prices. The pricing structure was also very clearly spelt out in the posters.

Short Trip to Melaka

I made a short and impromptu trip to Melaka for 3D2N after buying the bus tickets on Saturday. I departed on Sunday afternoon and arrived in Melaka somewhere after 6pm. From Melaka Sentral, I tried to ask how much it would cost for a taxi to my hotel and was a little annoyed with their rip-off price of RM25. Upon advice of a fellow bus passenger, I took the domestic bus to Chinatown.

3-Day Sale to Bali by KLM

KLM is having a 3-day sale for tickets to Bali where the air fare can cost as little as $188.60. That makes it very attractive as a full-fledge airline compared to budget airlines. The low fares are for travel in Nov/Dec 2013 though.

China: 3D2N Stay at Beijing

Spotted a travel deal for Beijing that is not too bad but it seems too rush for just 3D2N. If you want a quick trip to Beijing for $578 inclusive of SIA flight, taxes and hotel stay, check it out here.

Hanoi: 4D3N Stay at An Hung Hotel

Here's yet another travel deal for Vietnam and it seems to be slightly cheaper than the earlier one I posted. The package is $248 and taxes are $170 and travel period is within this year. However, this package does not include Halong Bay tour. Check it out here.

China: 3D2N Stay at Guangzhou

Here's a 3D2N deal for Guangzhou at $588 inclusive of SIA flight, hotel and all taxes. Travel period is more flexible till 27th May 2014. Check out the offer here.

Hanoi: $185 per pax for 3D2N

Spotted another nice travel deal for Vietnam including flight. Taxes are $180 so it totals up to $365 for 3D2N. There is also another 4D3N option including trip to Halong Bay for $335 before taxes. Check out the offer here.

AirAsiaGo Offers for China

AirAsiaGo is currently running a promotion for several destinations in China for booking till 15th Dec and travel within this year from KL. The rates go from RM799 for Shanghai/Hangzhou/Beijing. Check them out here.

Scoot's Halloween Sale

Scoot is having a promotion for flights from Singapore to China (Tianjin, Nanjing, Shenyang and Qingdao) and Australia now where the fares can be discounted by up to 33%. Sale is only on for today and travel period is for Nov 2013. Do book your tickets here now using promition code "SPOOK33" if you are interested to visit any of those places next month.

Tigerair Promotion

Tigerair is running a promotion just for today for several destinations. A round trip to Langkawi/Penang costs below $120. Do check it out here.

Zhuhai and Macau: $38 per pax for 5D4N Guided Tour

Here's a nice land tour package for Zhuhai+Macau. As usual, it requires 2 to go and air tickets to be purchased via the tour agency. Click here for more info on the deal.

Hanoi: $126 for 3D2N Old Town Hotel Stay + Halong Bay Tour

Spotted this land tour package which seems quite reasonably (attractively) priced. You will have to purchase the air tickets via the tour agency though. More info on the deal here.

Shanghai & Jiangnan Deluxe Guided Tour

Spotted another Shanghai tour that is attractively priced. Here's a brief:
  • Shanghai & Jiangnan Deluxe Guided Tour (Nett Price): 7D6N or 5D4N Stay at 5-Star Hotel - Includes 2-Way Air Ticket by Singapore Airlines + 2-Way Land Transfer + Meals + Tour (Min 2 Pax)
  • 5D4N Stay - Only $448 per pax instead of $888
  • 7D6N Stay - Only $458 per pax instead of $999
  • Package includes airport taxes and airline charges!
  • More info here.
The price is more or less close to the earlier deal I posted, but I think it would be more cool to add Jiangnan to the tour.

Hong Kong Super Saver with HSBC Cards

HSBC has tied up with Cathay Pacific to offer some really irresitible offers for flights from Singapore to Hong Kong. The cheapest fare goes at $278.70 inclusive of taxes! Here are the conditions...

Travel ex-SIN during the following periods:
- 28 October - 15 December 2013
- 01 - 23 January 2014
- 10 February - 31 March 2014

Check out the offer here!

Shanghai: $55 per pax for 7D6N Guided Tour

I spotted a very attractive travel deal over at Groupon (I'm subscribed to their newsletters). Here's a brief of the travel deal:
  • Shanghai: $55 per pax for 7D6N Guided Tour with 5-Star Hotel Stays + SQ Flight + Meals + Tour (Worth $1288)
  • Travel every Tues, Thurs, Fri or Sun till 24 Jan 2014
  • Book by 15 Nov 2013 or at least 7 days prior to arrival, whichever is earlier
  • Min. 2 to go (or pay extra $250 for solo traveler)
  • Min. 10 pax to form a group and depart (can join other travelers) 
  • Tipping applies at $6 per pax per day (I'm guessing it means $6 x 2 x 7)
  • Tour is complusory
  • Airport taxes apply at $380 per pax
  • More info here.
With those details, it would mean $519 for the trip inclusive of hotel stay, flight, taxes & tips. That's really very very very attractive! I'm so tempted already.

Day 4 [30th Oct]: Taiwan back to SG

Day 4 is a simple and short day as it was check-out day and my flight was at 3pm+. I had breakfast in the hostel and chatted with some newly found friends from Czech Republic and U.K before doing my final packing (squeezing) and heading to the Taipei Main Station to take the bus to the airport. I also managed to take several photos of the humble and budget-friendly hostel before I left. I will definitely stay here again if I visit Taipei in future.

Day 3 [29th Oct]: Taiwan

I started the day by heading to the breakfast place near C.K.S Memorial Hall MRT station that I visited the day before because I wanted to try my luck to see if the shop owners picked my spectacles. Amazingly, it was really there! The friendly auntie chatted with me a little and then I ordered a simple breakfast from her.

Day 2 [28th Oct]: Taipei

I started my second day proper by heading to the MRT station and purchasing a 2-day tourist pass for NT$310. The tourist pass allows unlimited travel on MRT and also selected buses and the pass ends on 23:59 of the second day rather than 48 hours from purchase time. Still, it's really worth it if you intend to take lots of MRT rides in 2 days.

After getting the pass, I took the MRT to Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall and had breakfast in the vicinity. Breakfast was simple, but tastes great and costs just NT$45. That's very cheap if you compare to Singapore standards!

 

Day 1 [27th Oct]: SG to Taipei

I spotted a good offer for Scoot flight to Taipei and decided to book it just 2 days before departure. The fare came up to be about $142 inclusive of 15kg check-in baggage allowance. And so I took off to Taipei on an afternoon flight and landed in Taoyuan Airport in the evening.  I managed to purchase a prepaid SIM card with 3 days of unlimited internet usage and NT$100 of credit for just NT300.

 
Shortly after, I took the bus 1819 to Taipei Main Station and it costed NT$130 for 1-way and NT$260 for round trip. After about 40 minutes of bus ride, I reached Taipei Main Station. It took me a while to get my bearings and navigate my way to 阿羅國際旅館(Taipei Traveler Hostel Holo Family Home). I checked in to the hostel quickly and made my move out to meet a friend to visit a night market.


Google Maps: Hopeless Update

If you use Google Maps on your mobile device extensively and your device is running on Android 4.x, I would strongly advise you against updating to the latest version which is v7.x. Several versions ago, they disallowed starred locations from displaying custom names (you can modify the names using Google Bookmarks).

Now, they removed several other important features in version 7.0. Firstly, they hid the offline maps functionality. It appears as if they removed the feature, but it can actually be brought back to life by doing some tricks in it. Secondly, they removed another very vital feature that is the support of custom maps. Custom Maps are no longer accessible in the latest update. That means that there is no way you can save locations which use custom names for easy understanding. That also means version 7.0 is officially useless for planning a trip. Yes, you heard me. Version 7.0 is officially royally hopeless and useless for travels.

If you wish to make your mobile device more helpful in your travels, consider un-installing all updates on your phone (i.e. reverting back to oldest version that came pre-installed) or try installing the APK for version 6.14.4 found here.

Prepaid SIM for Philippines

Prepaid SIM in Philippines is quite straight-forward and it's mainly between choosing SMART or Globe. When I was in Manila, I went for the first prepaid SIM booth I found in the airport and that was SMART. It seems that SMART has several new data plans now that allow unlimited usage. So, it's now a very close competition between the 2 operators.

Highlights of Japan

It's been a long while since I last did any recommendations for a city/country, which can prove to be more useful summaries of my trips. I've created a new tag for trip recommendations and will slowly add more entries to them. I realised I've only done summaries for Seoul and Venice so far, so there's probably alot more work to be done. I will do it in point form like what I did for Venice so that it can be a guide that is easier for reading.

Here are some of my experiences/recommendations in general:
  • It is probably cheaper to go to Hokkaido by flying to Osaka/Tokyo and then flying to Sapporo via Jetstar. Jetstar's domestic flights can cost below ¥8,000 one-way inclusive of taxes!
  • Feast lots! I love sushi, sashimi, crabs, scallops, prawns, ramen, udon, soba, tonkotsu, tempura, shabu shabu, and the list can go on and on. Japan has so much to offer for feasting. Throughout my 19 days in Japan, I hardly get to try all the kinds of food I listed down to try.
  • Visit the public bath houses or hot springs. It's quite an experience.
  • When you take the JR trains, do consider hopping on to the Limited Express trains. The fare is the same as the normal trains. By waiting just a little longer for the Limited Express trains, you might still end up reaching your destination earlier. It's faster because they stop at significantly less stations.
  • If you love seafood, you MUST visit Hokkaido.

Souvenirs from round the world

I've just taken some photos of my souvenirs bought from many places around the world and posted them in a photo gallery here.

Blog entries for Japan trip

I'm backdating the blog entries of my recent Japan trip, so please use this tag and go back to the earliest posts for my trip experiences. At the moment, I've finally completed the blog entry of day 1 of my trip.

Prepaid SIM in Japan

Choosing a prepaid SIM card in Japan is slightly tricky. If you need voice calls and SMS, I guess you don't have much choice except SoftBank. However, SoftBank does not have any data plan, so mobile internet usage can be quite expensive on a per-use basis.

Maps & Fave Places

I've made more of my Google custom maps public to share with everyone and you can check the maps link on the top or on the right side of this blog. I haven't made my Hong Kong custom maps available for public cos it's still kinda messy though. However, I've already made all my Japan maps available for public, but do note that not all the marked locations are places I've been to. Some of them are just results of researches over the web.

Finale of Japan Trip 2013 [12th to 13th June]

It has been a long trip but time sure flies past and my holiday in Japan is coming to an end. It feels as if there are still several more places I want to visit in Japan, e.g. Hokodate, Jozenkei, Furano, Noboribetsu, Himeji and more places in central Japan also. After packing my luggage, I went to the train station and looked for paid lockers to keep my luggage while I go shopping/eating. With 1 suitcase, 1 backpack, 1 more luggage bag and another cloth bag, it sure was a challenge to squeeze everything into the locker.

Day 17 [11th June]: Otaru

Today is my last full day in Hokkaido, but I keep having thoughts of visiting Otaru again instead of hanging around in Sapporo. After struggling through the decision for some time, I went to the train station and hopped on to the train heading for Otaru. When I reached Otaru, I went to Ajidokoro Takeda in Sankaku Fish Market again for my meal. This time round, I ordered chirashi don, which comprises of crab, scallop and prawn. I also ordered grilled scallop amd clam. The clam comes with sauce in it that tastes really sweet. A pair of scissors were also provided for me to handle the big juicy scallop. Eating seafood in Otaru is just such a delight as they are just so fresh, juicy and sweet.


Day 16 [10th June]: Otaru

Part of my itinerary in Hokkaido is to go to Otaru, so I took the train to Otaru at 10am+ hoping to grab my brunch in Otaru. After about 45 minutes of normal train ride and enjoying the nice scenic journey, I reached Otaru Station and collected some brochures at the train station before proceeding to search for food.


Day 15 [9th June]: Sapporo

I started my day by making my way to Nijo Market for my late breakfast. Along the way, I passed by the lovely Tokeidai (aka Sapporo Clock Tower) and also Sapporo TV Tower.

 

Day 14 [8th June]: Tokyo to Sapporo

My flight to Sapporo is at 3:25pm, so I checked out of the hotel at about 11am to make my way to Narita Airport. I took the inexpensive Keisei Limited Express to the airport and it costs ¥1,000. I reached the airport a little earlier than the check-in time, so I had to wait awhile before I could check-in. After checking in, I went to a restaurant to have my lunch.

Day 13 [7th June]: Tokyo

I left the hotel slightly later today to avoid the peak hour train crowd and went to Tsukiji Fish Market again for my breakfast. I decided to buy the 1-day pass for Tokyo metro and Toei subway at ¥1,000 since I figured I will be visiting many places today. When I reached Tsukiji Fish Market, I decided to try the egg omelete which costs ¥100 and the taste was just great! Along the way, I was thinking of trying one of the popular sushi restaurants but the queues still scare me off. So, I ended up trying a random restaurant that had a promotion of ¥2,000 for a sushi set. Unfortunately, they do not allow photo taking so I had to take photos very discretely and secretively using my phone. Compared to Yamazaki, the quality of food here seems very average only. The chef also didn't ask me if I wanted wasabi, so I didn't really enjoy my food as I disliked wasabi.


Day 12 [6th June]: Tokyo Disneysea

With my shocking train experience yesterday, I decided to start my day earlier and reached the train station before 8am. There was still quite a crowd but definitely more breathable space compared to yesterday. From Maihama Station, I had to switch to the monorail on the Disney Resort Line to go to Disneysea. When I reached Disneysea at about 9am, I realised that it was before the opening time of 9:30am and there was a queue outside.