Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sandy's Ultimate Guide to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
A definite must-see to understand Cambodia's not-so-distant horrific past. Warning though - some of my friends found all the death too confronting. Not a place for the faint-hearted.

Chul Sek Killing Fields
Same as above. This place is especially great because the entrance ticket comes with an audio guide to help you understand your surroundings. It's about 30-60 mins south west of PP so it's best if you call a tuk-tuk driver beforehand. There's also a shooting range nearby, if you want to shoot a gun (from $50).

Central Market
The place to go for cheap and delicious street food and cheap touristy items. I absolutely loved eating the Vietnamese spring roll noodles, rice paper rolls and various deep fried goods (you can be full off $2-3). Remember - if it's been cooked, it should be safe. As for touristy items - make sure you bargain. I wouldn't pay more than $2 for a T-shirt or $3.50 for some baggy Cambodian pants.

Royal Palace (at sunset)
Make sure you check out the entrance towards sunset.

Riverside (at sunrise)
Do it.

Olympic Stadium (at around 6-7pm)
You might be able to watch a game of soccer. But that's not the real highlight. You must experience the Cambodian pop fitness revolution.

Phnom Penh Night Market
Shopping at the front, food at the back. I would go mostly for the cheap and delicious street food. Grab what you want and take a seat on the rugs in the middle. Note: it's only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

Next to Sorya Shopping Center (near Central Market), there is a really cheap and good karaoke place. It's about $2.50 per person for a room - unlimited time. It's also super clean and there's even a toilet inside the room!

Viva Restaurant
Quite possibly the Mexican food I've ever had - and it's only ~$7 for a main! You must have the chimichanga. I probably ate here around 4 times when I was in Cambodia - not enough!! Located by the Riverside so it's a nice location too.

Ngon Restaurant
$3 pho - who could say no! Their grilled pork noodles, coconut shake and pineapple fried rice (fried rice in a pineapple!) you must also try. Located right next to the Independence Monument.

Samba Brazilian Steakhouse
Brazilian all-you-can-eat churrasco... By far the most expensive meal I've had in Cambodia (including taxes and service fees, it's about $20 for lunch and $35 for dinner) but also by far the most satisfying. Such juicy meat. And the best pineapple I've ever had! Going for lunch is good if you want to be cheap, but there's a wider selection at dinner. It's located right next to Ngon and Independent Monument.

Amok Fish
I don't even like fish but this is one dish you must try! It's a Khmer cream coconut-y dish served with rice. I don't know where's the best place to have this but a lot of touristy restaurants by the riverside have it.

Burger King
There is no McDonalds in Cambodia, so Burger King will have to do if you have a burger craving (KFC isn't that great). They're not very common though. I think besides the store at the airport, there's only one more in Cambodia. If not, Lucky Burger isn't too bad.

Coconut Jelly from Lucky Supermarket
Go to the refrigerated area in the fruit section and get yourself some coconut jelly - straight from a coconut. So good to have in the hot Cambodian afternoons. Only about $1.

Eclipse Sky Bar (at sunset or night time)
Rooftop bar on Phnom Penh's highest building. Enough said. Cocktails are about $6 each.


Extra Tips:

  • When catching a tuk tuk, I would pay about $2 for a short distance, $2.50 for a medium distance, $3 to go to the other side of town. Unless going somewhere a bit out of PP, I wouldn't pay more than $3 for a tuktuk.
  • Be prepared for lots of street kids begging you for money.
  • Cambodians will always try to rip you off because you're a foreigner.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Sihanoukville was definitely one of my favourite weekends in Cambodia. We left early Thursday morning and in 4.5 hours, we were in beach paradise.

We had no plans for the weekend except to just laze on the beach and do a boat tour.

To be honest, it's not the most amazing beach in the world and the town is a bit of a sleazy party town. However, it's a great beach to enjoy if travelling on a budget (like us). For 15USD we got to enjoy a whole day boat tour, breakfast, lunch and snorkelling. And $3 cocktails on the beach - who can say no to that?

You can really just enjoy the sunshine, water and sand with a peace of mind - there's no fear of breaking the bank!

It was also a special weekend of us as a team because it was early on in our 6 week project, and going away for the weekend was a great bonding experience where we truly became each other's segunda familia (second family). We came back with great stories to tell of a dead black guy, sleeping security guard, getting lost and discovering beautiful beaches, and the list goes on...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

淡水 (Danshui / Tamsui)

Danshui* is a must-see in the Taiwan tourist world. On Danshui Old Street (淡水老街 / Dànshuǐ lǎo jiē), you can find unique and traditional shops and food such as A-Gei (阿給) and Iron Eggs (鐵蛋 / Tiě dàn).  It's nicely situated on a riverside so you can enjoy all this with a nice sunset/nice view.

However, it rains a lot in Danshui, so wait for a clear day in Taipei and then you'll be set for a great day out. As the most north stop on the Taipei Metro, it's only a short 40 minute train ride from Taipei Main Station (that's less than the amount of time it takes me to get to Central station in Sydney...).

After a visiting Danshui countless times over the past few years, I have come up with a few of my favourite things to do/see/eat in Danshui.

My favourite thing to do around the Danshui area is bike riding along the riverside. They have a dedicated bike path making it an easy and scenic bike ride. If catching the MRT, get off a few stops before Danshui at Guandu (關渡). There's a bike rental just outside the station where you can hire a bike for the day from 100 NTD. I would recommend bike riding up the left side of the river to Bali (八里), which is right across the river from Danshui. It should only take about an hour and the left side has less people. If you rent a bike from Guandu, you can return the bike to to their shop in either Bali or Danshui. You can take a ferry from Bali to Danshui (or vice versa) which can be paid for with an EasyCard and you can even take a bike onto the ferry. I personally don't think there's much to see in Bali which you can't see in Danshui, but the ferry ride is quite nice.

However, if you choose to do this bike ride - make sure you keep asking for directions. Even though there's a dedicated bike path, I got lost both times I tried this route. The first time, I ended up with a sprained ankle after dangerously riding on the super busy main road after not being able to find the bike path. The second time, we found the bike path but we rode in the opposite direction for about 20 minutes... So learn from my mistakes - make sure after every turn, you ask someone for directions until you're 100% confident you're going the right way!

For good views of the river, Fort San Domingo (紅毛城 / Hóng máo chéngwould be up there on my list. It's an old Dutch Castle that's open for the public to explore. From the MRT station, you will need to catch shuttle bus red 26 to the castle. You also have the opportunity to get nice and cosy with some hunky men. Who would say no to that?

Besides the traditional food, my favourite thing to eat in Danshui is matcha soft serve. Around the station, you can find lots of vendors selling super long soft serves at ridiculously cheap prices. But in my opinion, that stuff is nasty. If you want a good soft serve, you will need to walk up a bit on the main road (about 10 minutes from the station). Look out for the Ten Ren Tea (天仁茗茶). They have stores all over Taiwan, but as far as I know, this is the only store that sells matcha soft serves. If you're a fan of matcha soft serves, this is the place to go. (Sorry I tried looking for the exact address on Google Maps but I could find it...)

*Danshui is sometimes also romanized as 'Tamsui'. I prefer 'Danshui' because it sounds more like the actual Mandarin.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What is Kaohsiung?

What's there to do in Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest city?

There are warm sunny days (unlike the constant rain in Taipei). You can take a romantic boat ride along the Love River. You can see a couple of the world's most beautiful subway stations. You can shop til you drop at East Asia's largest shopping centre.

But be careful, there's noisy construction work everywhere. One side of the road might be completely new and clean, while the other side is dirty and battered. You might see a gang of 怪叔叔 (lit. 'weird uncles') chilling on some old couches at the park checking you out. 

Welcome to my mum's hometown. Over the past decade, the government have been working hard to transform this city. They've cleaned up the streets, built a subway, built fancy new buildings. I look forward to seeing what they can make out of this city. Just how many of the streets can they clean up? Will it become that cultural and avant-garde mecca which the government so desires?

But still, we can't forget the joy of the simple things such as tea-making on an old Chinese chess board, or wind blowing through your hair as you speed down a highway on a scooter.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Taiwan, my jungle

 Elephant Mountain. The perfect sunset spot in Taipei.

Night view from Yangmingshan.

Taiwan, Taiwan, Taiwan. The country I've been back to countless times yet I still find myself loving new things about it each time. The six weeks I spent in Taiwan during my summer (Taiwan's winter) on a language and culture study program was truly an eye-opening and unforgettable experience. The people I met, the sights I saw, the food I ate, left me amazed at the beauty and intricacy of God's creation.

And here I am to share my experiences with you.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


A mixture of contemporary art, cute cafes, streets of shopping and beautiful scenery. Seoul is my kind of city.

This post is quite delayed, seeing as I went to Seoul at the beginning of December last year. It was the first time I saw snow in a city (I've been to the Snowy Mountains in Australia, but that just doesn't compare with it actually full on snowing while going around shopping and city exploring). To the state the obvious, it was incredibly cold. I packed on as many layers as possible (thank goodness for Uniqlo Heatech). The wind blew around the snow, leaving any exposed area of skin freezing cold. With heaters blasting indoors, going in and out of shops was quite a hassle where layers of clothing had to be constantly taken on and then off.

Nonetheless, my five days in Seoul were still enjoyable. The snow was definitely quite beautiful and exciting to see in real life. It was a short trip, which involved visiting tourist sites such as Gyeongbok Palace, shopping, and going to as many cafes as possibles.

Myeondong was so good for shopping. Streets and streets of massive stores. I started around 6pm and stayed until all the shops closed at around 11pm. However, I was slightly disappointed by shopping in Seoul. I was expecting a shopper's paradise but compared to Taipei, the shopping experience is around the same (and Korean clothes aren't any cheaper in Korea).

Korean cafes are so good. I love their emphasis on interior design and decor. Even the coffee art! Although my coffee was only warm, not hot, when I received it, the coffee art definitely made up for it. However, beware - coffee can be quite pricey. Expect to pay about $5-7 for a cup of coffee.

Samcheondong was probably my most favourite area that I visited. Lots of boutique stores, cafes and contemporary art galleries. If you know me, you would understand that this is perfect for me. It was fun exploring the old style streets decorated with wall art/graffiti. I definitely recommend this place.

I definitely didn't get to see and do everything that I would have liked on my short tour with my mum. Things to do for my next trip to Korea:

  • Go shopping at Dongdaemun during the middle of the night (apparently there's a market that opens at around midnight)
  • Experience Korean nightlife (I definitely didn't want to go to a bar/club with my mum)
  • Travel around to the towns and Jeju Island!
PS: This is the cafe in the photos -

Thursday, February 28, 2013


I recently discovered something called Project Life. It's like scrapbooking but more organised with a combination of digital and paper designing. It seems like an awesome way of recording memories.

As great as the templates you can buy are, something about me just has to make it myself from scratch. It probably won't look as good, but I enjoy the creative process of making everything.

Designing my own photobook from scratch also seems like a fun challenge.

I recently went to Taiwan for 6 weeks and I had so many great memories. I definitely want to make a scrapbook or photobook in order to remember everything!

But I have a confession to make: for the past year I've been trying to make a scrapbook of a trip I did with my friends in November 2011. I'm only halfway through completing it so I guess this means I'm terrible at making scrapbooks. My goal is to finish making scrapbooks for both the trips by the end of the year! Wish me luck!

Do you have any creative projects that you've been working on for a ridiculously long time?