15 Cities, 6 Countries, 20 Days: The Ultimate Itinerary for a Austria, Balkans, & Italy road trip

15 Cities, 6 Countries, 20 Days: The Ultimate Itinerary for an Austria, Balkans, & Italy road trip


20 days of summer. 6 European countries. 15 cities and towns (19 if I visit all 5 towns in Cinque Terre)Inspired by this month's travel linkup - in which we writing wanderlusters discuss destinations as a starter (short haul), mains (a looong trip) and pudding (a destination that leaves a lasting impression) - today I share the itinerary for my upcoming trip: My 15-Course Travel ‘Tasting Menu’ across Austria, the Balkans, and Italy. 

Ya'll should know by now that I am super extra. Like, "consolidate my 'save for later' online shopping purchases into a master Excel spreadsheet and picture collage" extra. Extra, extra! Read all about it! So when I picked up the updated edition of Tim Marshall's Prisoners of Geography I naturally devoured the book in 4 days. Then I re-read the Joe Sacco graphic novel The Fixer: A Story From Sarajevo. Curious to fill in the hole that is my lack of understanding on world history (thanks a lot, Malaysian Sejarah syllabus. What were we taught about WWII? Literally only: the Japanese f*cked up our sh*t and then the Americans f*cked up their sh*t. The end. Whut) I did what any lazy person would - learn about it on YouTube. So after watching Feature History - Fall of Yugoslavia, I wound the clock back a World War and discovered that Franz Ferdinand is more than just an excellent rock band from Glasgow.
   
Thanks to this information black hole I've now got the Balkans on my mind. How does one go forward? The only way is Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Oh, and throw in a bit of Austria and Italy too for good measure, why not? This summer I'm spending just under 3 weeks touring *deep breath* Vienna, Maribor, Ljubljana, Zagreb, Plitvice, Trogir, Split, Sarajevo, Mostar, Kotor, Budva, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Pisa. Here is the Itinerary for My Balkans 'Tasting Menu' ft. Austria and Italy.

May 01, 2017

15 Cities, 6 Countries, 20 Days: The Ultimate Itinerary for a Austria, Balkans, & Italy road trip

20 days of summer. 6 European countries. 15 cities and towns (19 if I visit all 5 towns in Cinque Terre) .  Inspired by this m...

Sydney, Australia: 10 Things To Do In Sydney

Sydney, Australia: 10 Things To Do In Sydney

Australia is a country I'm familiar with. It's basically Little Malaysia, the "foreign enough to be considered worldly but somewhat nearby" choice for the college-considering Asian Tiger parent who think they're liberal, but God forbid you suggest to them that you don't move back home with them after you graduate. More than having a thousand acquaintances and friends who've studied in Australia (and a few who've stay on) I also have family there; so I've spent my childhood all over Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne. I'm thrilled to make my return Down Under (my last visit was a decade ago) with a trip to 2 of its biggest cities. Here are 10 things I did during my short stay in Sydney.




Sydney, Australia: 10 Things To Do In Sydney
Sydney, Australia: 10 Things To Do In Sydney
Sydney, Australia: 10 Things To Do In Sydney
1. BONDI TO BRONTE COASTAL WALK
&
2. ICEBERGS DINING ROOM AND BAR 

No trip to Sydney is complete without visiting the famous Bondi Beach, no matter what the season. Take your cue from the hardy Icebergs who train; come rain, shine, or snow in Australia's most photographed ocean pool of Bondi Icebergs Club - the world's only licensed winter swimming pool, and dive in as a visitor: "Everyone is Welcome". The more horizontally-inclined among us are happy enough to just sunbath on the famously topless beach. My ideal middle-ground between indulgence and activity is fine-dining on exquisitely fresh seafood and Italian dishes at the award-winning Icebergs Dining Room and Bar then burning the calories after with the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk 



Sydney, Australia: 10 Things To Do In Sydney


3. CONSIDERED CLIMBING THE SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE, AND RIDING THE SYDNEY SEAPLANE


You know I'd go to great lengths to procure the perfect shot, me being part of that delightfully odd (and rather neurotic) #TravelBlogger tribe. Heck, adverse as I am to physical labour I'd even climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge for the perfect Instagram post - fear of heights be damned. Unfortunately the BridgeClimb doesn't allow you to bring your own camera (for safety reasons, I'm sure). I'm out. For an even more stunning view and more thrill without any of the exertions, I'd go with the Sydney Seaplane Scenic Flight - that is, I would have if I could've found a willing partner (packages start from 2 people or more). 

If you care more about the experience and don't mind basically spending money to sweat, definitely consider the BridgeClimb; or if you're feeling more indulgent customise a Sydney Seaplane experience - you can charter flights to anywhere within reason.
4. MANLY FAST FERRY


...instead, I got on the Manly Fast Ferry for an alternative view of the Sydney Harbour. The Manly Fast Ferry is a commuter service joining the Sydney suburb of Manly with Circular Quay in the CBD, covering a journey of seven nautical miles in a quick time of 17 minutes. 

Honestly, I got on the ferry just for a literal breath of fresh air - I can't describe how freeing it felt to speed away from Sydney Harbour and leave the chaos of the CBD behind, just letting my mind wander with the waves. But if you have more time, a visit to the beachside suburb of Manly came highly recommended. Manly is enjoying a renaissance with its hot bar scene and exciting dining options, but for an old-school treat it's all about the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary.

A round trip from Circular Quay Wharf 6 in Sydney CBD to Manly is $15.60 - $17.40, depending on the hours.


Sydney, Australia: 10 Things To Do In Sydney

Sydney, Australia: 10 Things To Do In Sydney
5. DAY DRINKING AT THE OPERA BAR

I tried, I really did, to appreciate the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I even watched the episode of Modern Family that was basically a huge 'sponsored by Qantas!' montage. But not even Phil "Crocodile" Dunphy's adorkable and infectious enthusiasm could colour me impressed. Andrea clearly felt the same way: without even missing a beat, she steered me to the Opera Bar where we could best enjoy the city's landmarks - seen through a glass of something alcoholic. Hic.


6. CAUGHT UP WITH A GOOD FRIEND
&
 7. MADE A NEW ONE

I finally met Andrea (right), the bridge-indifferent-kindred blogging spirit of Andrea's Passions, because of - of all things - a cyclone. Debbie was tearing up a storm so Andrea had to make a diversion from the Whitsundays to Sydney, where she too was staying with Luxy (below). And this is how the three of us came to be sitting in the living room of Luxy's townhouse in fashionable Paddington, at the dining table, with me hoisting up my shirt to show the girls my, well, girls. Cue Luxy covering her eyes and shrieking with horror, and Andrea nodding and making unflinching observations. Hahaha, talk about Yin and Yang.

Sydney, Australia: 10 Things To Do In Sydney
Sydney, Australia: 10 Things To Do In Sydney
Sydney, Australia: 10 Things To Do In Sydney
8. SHOP UNTIL YOU DROP 

Fun fact about Sydney - the shops and stores close at 5pm on weekdays (except for "Thursday lates"). FIVE PEE EM. I asked Luxy, "...but how do you pop in, after work, for a quick makeover, a new dress, or some last-minute champagne before heading out for a party?" Her bemused response: "I don't. It's either shopping on the weekends or during my lunch hour." Oh the inhumanity. 

Local brands to pick up when in Australia include Ecoya soy wax candles, Aesop toiletries, Lucas' Papaw ointment, Becca Cosmetics (give me that Champagne Pop!), classic tailoring by Camilla and Marc, Bailey Nelson eyewear, and gorgeous swimwear by Zimmermann. 

The Strand and Westfield in the CBD is worth a look into, but the best finds are always the unexpected ones. I stumbled upon a bijou pop up shop in fashionable Paddington called Love Story selling high end and designer vintage fashion. I only just managed to resist the heaving rails of CHANEL and adorable leather handbags but ended up with a pair of vintage Hermes flip flops because...I'm in Australia, I needed flip flops. Thongs. Jandals. 

Like its London counterpart, Sydney's Oxford Street - running from Darlinghurst to Paddington - is a diverse mix of edgy boutiques, high-end labels, vintage, and indie designers. Definitely worth devoting an afternoon to.



Sydney, Australia: 10 Things To Do In Sydney


9. ART ATTACK

Sydney has a wealth of museums and art galleries (some of them are even free) - from the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in the heart of the CBD to industrial-scale art centre Casula Powerhouse in the outer suburbs of Liverpool. The establishment that made the greatest impression on me was the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It began with a walk on a scorching autumn's day, away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre and toward increasingly verdant tranquility as I cut across Hyde Park. 

I was lucky enough to catch The National 2017 - a large scale exhibit focused solely on contemporary Australian art. The National 2017 runs till June and is free to enter. Just as, or even more so important is the collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. These two areas of interest, combined with the collection of Australian art make for an interesting and visual lesson of history and culture. I highly recommend all 3 in one long afternoon, then a brisk walk through the adjacent Royal Botanic Garden to cool down.

Sydney, Australia: 10 Things To Do In Sydney

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: BLACKSMITH SURRY HILLS, SKITTLE LANE COFFEE, MR WONG 




10. SYDN-EAT, EAT, EAT
The quickest way to the heart of a city is through your stomach...or something. Just know that it wouldn't be a real trip for me if I didn't sample at least some of the local favourites; be it the dim sum platters at the hottest new Cantonese joint in town or a big hearty brunch heaped with smashed avo. Further reading: Sydney, Australia: 5 Restaurants, Cafes, and Bars I Loved


Sydney, Australia: 10 Things To Do In Sydney
GETTING THERE: I flew direct from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney on Air Asia, a low-cost carrier that is to South East Asia what Ryanair/Easyjet is to Europe. Even though I paid "budget" prices I flew Business Class, on a flat bed, for an additional nominal fee. Find out how with this travel hack and never again will you compromise comfort for cost.

...next stop, Melbourne! 
April 28, 2017

Sydney, Australia: 10 Things To Do In Sydney

Australia is a country I'm familiar with. It's basically Little Malaysia, the "foreign enough to be considered worldly b...

Sydney, Australia: 5 Restaurants, Bars, and Cafes I Loved

Sydney, Australia: 5 Restaurants, Bars, and Cafes I Loved - Skittle Lane Coffee, Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, Mr Wong, Establishment, and Blacksmith Surry Hills.

Coffee, cafés, cocktails, Chinese... despite a brief time in Sydney I seemed to have managed to sample a lil' bit of everything. This culinary accomplishment has nothing to do with my being intrepid (unless we're talking about how I collected 9 Kangaskhan in three days) nor there being sweet nothing else to do (quite the contrary - despite Sydney's lockdown laws there is a wealth of arvo activites for the eager visitor) but rather the diversity of offerings in the city and its suburbs. From fine dining by the beach to a classic brunch fry up, here are the 5 eateries that stood out the most in my short but sweet stay in Sydney.
April 26, 2017

Sydney, Australia: 5 Restaurants, Bars, and Cafes I Loved

Coffee, cafés, cocktails, Chinese...  despite a brief time in Sydney I seemed to have managed to sample a lil' bit of ev...

Sydney, Australia: Bondi Beach, fine dining at Bondi Icebergs Club, and Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk

Sydney, Australia: Bondi Beach, fine dining at Bondi Icebergs Club, and Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk

Lunch at the award-winning Dining Room of the exalted Bondi Icebergs Club with a view of Australia's most photographed pool and Sydney's most famous beach on an unseasonably sunny Autumn afternoon - my day out in Bondi was one of superlatives.
April 24, 2017

Sydney, Australia: Bondi Beach, fine dining at Bondi Icebergs Club, and Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk

Lunch at the award-winning  Dining Room of the exalted Bondi Icebergs Club with a view of Australia's most photographed pool ...

Chiang Mai, Thailand: The Dhara Dhevi

Chiang Mai, Thailand: The Dhara Dhevi





PEACE, QUIET, & PADDY FIELDS AT THE DHARA DHEVI CHIANG MAI

April 10, 2017

Chiang Mai, Thailand: The Dhara Dhevi

PEACE, QUIET, & PADDY FIELDS AT THE DHARA DHEVI CHIANG MAI

Beijing, China: The 6 Must-Visit Places That Inspired Me

The 6 Must Visit Places in Beijing, China

"Where are you from? No, where are you really from?" 

BEIJING, CHINA - AUTUMN 2008 & WINTER 2011:
 SPURRED BY QUESTIONS ABOUT MY HERITAGE, I TRACED 
MY STEPS BACK IN TIME WITH A VISIT TO MY ANCESTRAL LAND.

April 01, 2017

Beijing, China: The 6 Must-Visit Places That Inspired Me

"Where are you from? No, where are you really from?"  BEIJING, CHINA - AUTUMN 2008 & WINTER 2011 :  SPURRED ...

Cuba, Malaysia, and Montenegro: 4 Hidden Gems in Turquoise Waters

Cuba, Malaysia, and Montenegro: 4 Hidden Gems in Turquoise Waters

An Ode to Time and Travel

March 02, 2017

An Ode to Time and Travel

Life, Lately: The Finale, and an Announcement

I am happy to announce that my application to settle indefinitely in the United Kingdom has been accepted. Read about my immigration process and plans for the future as a British permanent resident.

CHAPTER 5 of LIFE, LATELY: SWIM - IT'S ALL SETTLED
PREVIOUSLY: LIFE, LATELY CHAPTERS 12, & 3, & 4

I am thrilled to announce that my dream, after a decade in the making, has finally come true - my application to settle indefinitely in the United Kingdom has been accepted.

You know the story by now: sheltered girl from the Malaysian suburbs moves across the world to a cosmopolitan city to study at one of the more famous - if not prestigious - art schools; and in the process learns how to fend for herself, parties day and night with the international jet set and somehow manages to graduate with a pointless degree in illustration, then starts a satire blog which evolves into a not-unrespectable lifestyle brand with some influence. It's a character arc as old as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey (just replace jealous deities with bitchy bloggers and unreasonable PR reps).

Much like the siege on the city of Troy, my British invasion spanned ten years, the likes of which saw me staying in the country on four different types of visas. Last September marked the 10th anniversary of my long affair with London, so in November I submitted my case to the Home Office and asked them to consider this humble Anglophile's application for the right to remain in her beloved adopted country...forever.

Traditionally the application for this process - called 'Indefinite Leave To Remain' takes six months for a decision by the Home Office. Which is why I had resigned, with great heavy-heartedness, to be grounded in the country until May 2017. Surely, a small price to pay for my ardent dedication to the British Isles?

Therefore when my application was approved in half the usual time, it came as an enormously gratifying surprise! I found out two weeks ago, funnily enough; just a few hours after I blogged about how I was then bogged down by a sinking feeling: "...In the middle of this whirlwind of activity is the one thing I wish would move along - acting as the eye of the storm, ever still and ever impassive." This was the 'dream coming true at afternoon tea at The Wellesley London' that I alluded to, the big fat cherry on the top of the double scoop sundae that is the encouraging progress my life is making in 2017: one being my detoxing the remnants of my last toxic relationship and donating them to a charitable cause, the other being my moving into an exciting new home in Battersea Power Station...!

FURTHER READING:

"When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are...Anything your heart desires will come to you..."
- THE GREATEST DISNEY ANTHEM EVER, OBVS

Wearing my heart on my sleeve or rather, on my handbag...

Immigration is a hot topic now in the Western world, or at least in that web of nervous anticipation of what the future holds for the globalised, liberal generation of Britain and the USA. I said it in the wake of Brexit and I'll say it again - I would've never imagined that my right to remain in the UK would be more certain than those from the European Union countries. It's no coincidence that some of my friends; both British and EU expats (incidentally, why are white people expatriates but everyone else are immigrants/migrants? Food for thought...) are looking to move beyond the British Isles. Their reasoning was that, aside from the uncertainty of their right to remain when Article 50 is invoked, was that the potential process to apply for immigration status had made them feel unwelcome.



Of course, not being from an EU country I have never enjoyed that privilege of free movement, so I am somewhat accustomed to the strict, demanding, and complex process of immigration. Now, I am no expert on the subject even if my blog post on my understanding on how to gain PR in the UK is one of my most asked about/read (to this day I still get emails and messages about it). But...!

...If you'd like me to share my experience on how I obtained the next best thing to a British passport, let me know in the comments below and I'll blog about my immigration journey.
Ironically, the moment I was granted the right to stay in the UK indefinitely, I booked my flights out of here! Being a travelling blogger and serial wanderluster without a passport for 3.5 months had taken a serious toll on my mental state as well as work. This coming Tuesday, I'll be making up for lost time with two months of travel. My housemate, thrilled about having the place all to herself, has announced that she'll be doing all her work from home and will be turning my empty bedroom into her office (joke's on her, I've ordered about a thousand things for my new flat - including a HUGE sofa that will apparently not fit in my building's lift - to be delivered while I'm away, that she's going to have to sign for in my absence...)

FURTHER READING:
OH, THE PLACES I'LL GO!

Throughout March and April I'll be travelling to Kuala Lumpur, Sabah, Singapore, and Melbourne to see my friends and family, and for work; Sydney to see Luxy, and then we're heading to Hong Kong together before I head back to London in May to take delivery of my spanking new home! And just like that, half of the year will have gone by. It's insane how slowly time seems to drag on when you're waiting on something to happen, but as soon as it does everything seems to move at the speed of light. The saying goes "When it rains it pours" - I don't know about rain, but this turn of events is certainly the windfall of progress, achievement, and excitement I was hoping for. x

How has your 2017 been far? Any proud achievements, exciting plans, and upcoming travels to share? 😘

February 22, 2017

Life, Lately: The Finale, and an Announcement

CHAPTER 5  of  LIFE, LATELY:  SWIM - IT'S ALL SETTLED PREVIOUSLY: LIFE,  LATELY CHAPTERS  1 ,  2 , &  3 , & ...

Afternoon Tea at The Wellesley

Afternoon Tea at The Wellesley London

LIFE, LATELY: SWIM - A PRELUDE 
Read the first chapter Life, lately: That sinking feeling
February 13, 2017

Afternoon Tea at The Wellesley

LIFE, LATELY: SWIM - A PRELUDE   Read the first chapter Life, lately: That sinking feeling

Bucharest, Romania: Lost footage from Caru' Cu Bere




UNEXPECTED HOGWARTS, UNEXPECTED BLOG FODDER
February 03, 2017

Bucharest, Romania: Lost footage from Caru' Cu Bere

UNEXPECTED HOGWARTS, UNEXPECTED BLOG FODDER CARU' CU BERE   •  Strada Stavropoleos 5, București 030081, Romania

Penang, Malaysia: 4 Historical Homes To Visit (and stay in!)

Penang, Malaysia: 4 Historical Homes To Visit (and stay in!)

You guys, I'm chuffed to bits. While looking through my archives for Malaysia-related posts I realised that I've blogged about 9 out of Malaysia's 13 states - no mean feat given that I've been living in London for the past ten years! Add to my 7 Things of 2017 a new resolution: to blog about the remaining 4 states by the end of 2018 - only Perlis, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, and Sarawak left to go! Ambitious much? You know the saying: Penang wasn't built in a day.  I must say that after Kuala Lumpur, Penang is my favourite state. Founded by the British in 1786, its capital Georgetown is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where Chinese clan mansions jostle alongside larger-than-life street art, where the intoxicating aroma of char kuey teow (the best in the country!) rises up to meet the cacophony of Hokkien and English in every accent imaginable, where the relative liberalism of this Northern island state is a breath of fresh air to this wary KL-ite. I hope I'll convince you, dear reader, should you find yourself in Malaysia or even in neighbouring Thailand/Singapore that you find the time for one of my favourite states and visit these 4 Historical Homes in Penang, Malaysia.

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS CREDITS: 7 - 10, 11 - 14
January 16, 2017

Penang, Malaysia: 4 Historical Homes To Visit (and stay in!)

You guys, I'm chuffed to bits.  While looking through my archives for Malaysia-related posts I realised that I've blogged abou...