Sparkly, clean and fiercely organised. Singapore has always been in my travel bucket.

For a backpacker, Singapore is expensive by South-East Asian standards. If you’re landing from destinations like Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, please be aware that most costs will be double in price.

Regardless, I highly recommend a visit for a few days. If you learn one thing from a visit to the city-state, it would be that the Singaporeans live in ethnic harmony. They practice diversity to their advantage and respect each other’s beliefs and religions. They’ve nailed it. You rarely hear about racial tensions in Singapore right?

So, how to do Singapore on the cheap? Write down my recommendations and thank me later.

Food

If you’re a foodie, please eat at any Hawker Centre. You won’t want to eat anywhere else. They’re big communal food courts where the locals eat. If you’re looking for fine-dining, this is not the place. Loud and busy with a school canteen atmosphere, the food is authentic, cheap and delicious. It houses a mixed bag of Singaporean, Chinese, Malaysian and Indian dishes. The easiest ones to get to are Maxwell Food Centre, Gluttons Bay and Newton Circus Food Centre. Go to the places with the biggest queue, and you won’t regret it.

Chinatown/Smith Street is worth a visit; you don’t need to go into any of the restaurants as the street food is incredible. I had platefuls of dishes there for $1-$5 (SGD).

Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to go, but a birdy recommended Little India for the vegetables and unusual snacks.

Singaporean Foods to try:
Hainese Chicken Rice
Mee Goreng, Chilli Crab
Fish Head Curry
Fried Carrot Cake
Hokkien Prawn Mee
Kaya Toast
Laksa, Rojak
Roti Prata
Any Noodle Soup

Couchsurfing?

Ok, disclaimer, I have to admit that as a backpacker, I slept in a fancypants hostel. I know, I’m a traitor. The original plan was to stay at a budget one, but I had food poisoning the week before, and I wanted to treat myself to a nice bed. I wasn’t disappointed; I opted for a custom-made cabin with silky bedding and satin blackout curtains. I highly recommend Alder Hostel if you’re looking for comfort. For budget options, try couch surfing at the link in the title (please be cautious and always check reviews!), or there’s plenty of good hostels on this site.

Travel & Free Attractions – the free stuff

Singapore is tiny, and the central attractions are close-knit, so get ready to walk. Take this route: Chinatown – Kompong Glam – Little India. FYI the MRT train is approx 10 SGD per day.

You’ll come across lots of temples which you can visit for free like the Buddha Tooth Relic and Thian Hock Keng Temple.

Check out the Singapore Symphony Orchestra; they host free concerts in throughout the year.

If you love nature, take a treetop hike and see the old bridge at the MacRitchie Reservoir Park. If you’re not into hiking and prefer to relax, then go and see the waterfalls at Singapore Botanic Gardens — don’t forget to see the ginger garden.

Don’t laugh at me, but the airport is AMAZING. Honestly, Changi Airport is my favourite airport. If you’re easily pleased (like me), arrive early for your departure flight and sit on the free massage chairs, admire the Kinetic Rain sculptures or go on the nature trail. I didn’t ever think that I would ever write a list of things to do in an airport.

Going on holiday or business trip?

Not everybody who will be reading this post will be a budget backpacker, so this is a list of where to splash if you’ve got the cash:

Marina Bay Sands – How can you not tick this one off? The Infinity Pool is totes’ Instagramable.
Visit Singapore Zoo – get up close and personal with the nocturnal animals at the night safari
Eat at the Boat Quay – if you like food with a view, there’s lots of alfresco pubs and restaurants here
Make a day trip to Sentosa – this island is packed with touristy things to do, it houses the Tiger Sky Tower, Underwater World aquarium, Circus Shows and Universal Studios.
Explore Bukit Timah Naturae Reserve – if you’re a wildlife lover go and see how many birds, macaques, squirrels and flying lemurs you can spot
Take a trip to Pulau Ubin – are you a history geek? Learn about the locals living in traditional villages known as “kampongs.” in the 1960s

If I’ve missed a must-see, let me know, and I’ll add it.

Please let me know if you’ve been or planning to go, I’ll love to hear from you.

Monica x

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Location: Singapore

Olay BB Cream | Nivea Suncream | YSL Waterproof Mascara | Carmex Lipbalm |
Image credit: Singapore Airport

It’s nearly August.

Can you believe it? Life has flown by like a tidal wave lately.

So, I relaunched this blog back in October 2014, which was just before I set sail on my adventures (you can read about that here). I started a blog as a destination where I could log my experiences, create a scrapbook and to look back on my life.

I told myself that I would update my blog regularly.

Did this happen?

In short, the answer is no.

I’m going to have a heart to heart with you, and I’m going be honest. I love blogging — I do. I love creating content, and I enjoy the journey that goes into a blog. The truth is, I work full-time and even though I have a creative idea every day, I haven’t found a chance to put my dream content into reality. When I’m not where I want to be, I’ll stop at nothing.

I’ve always thought that if you love something, you will naturally put your efforts into it. You can achieve anything you want, with hard graft. It turns out that my priorities have had to be reallocated elsewhere. And I hate being behind.

So I wanted to update you guys and keep you in the loop. The good news is that I do have a plan of action, and hopefully, I will be to where I want to be with this blog.

By the way, if you can’t stop staring at my shoes, they’re from the lovely team at Kurt Geiger Beautifully cut black leather, they make me feel like the Black Swan. Every lady needs a pair of tie-ups; they secure your footsies for that after dark event.

If you’re a blogger, I would love to hear your experiences and frustrations. Please do leave me a comment down below and let me know! In the meantime, you can follow my adventures here.

 Location: Mayfair, London

Kurt Geiger Shoes

 MAC Prep and Prime | Nars Foundation | NARS Blush | Urban Decay PaletteClinique Mascara | M.A.C Liquid Liner | The Balm Lipstick |

Credits:

 Photographer: Toya Berry

This is the last post of my #ProjectMVietnam series before you fly over to Singapore, with me, on the blog.

Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City, aka Saigon. The first thing I said when I arrived was, ‘What. The. F**k’.

It’s a city on steroids. Mopeds will drive wherever and whenever they want. The first thing you will need to learn is how to cross the street (it took me a couple of days).


This picture sums the city up.

But you should go.

Why?

You should learn about their fascinating history. Head to the War Remnants Museum to learn about Vietnam’s side of the story.

We climbed inside the famous Cu Chi tunnel, which was a network of sneaky hiding spots for the crafty guerrilla’s soldiers. Built so that only small people could fit inside — it was of great importance to the resistance of the American soldiers.


Next reason to visit is, of course, the food. This is a special post because I celebrated my Birthday with a good ole’ BBQ.

I love the BBQ experience in Saigon. It’s like eating in a nightclub: It’s loud, energetic & everyone has a cracking time feasting together.

The best BBQ spots are:
Lang Nuong Nam Bo (Vietnamese)
Quan Ut Ut (American)
Saffron (Mediterranean)

Ho Chi Minh has some real good food if you know where to go. If you’re looking for places to eat, I’ve got you covered.

If this is your first time to Vietnam and you’re not heading to other parts of the country, then Pho and Bun are the obvious must-eats. Try:

1. Pho Hung – they say it’s the best Pho in town.

2. Bun Bha Ha Noi – Northern Style Bun Cha. It’s good, fresh, clean & cheap.

3. Pho 2000 – made famous by Clinton’s visit. Located in the heart of District 1, It’s easy to find.

A very traditional Vietnamese dish is Banh Cuon (steamed rice rolls). My cousin took me to a restaurant that did a variation.

This is a bite size version — topped with dried pork & shrimp. They taste like little clouds; the crunchy & soft texture takes you to heaven.

If you want, authentic Vietnamese food and you’ve got an iron stomach, head to Oc Dao. Warning, it’s where the locals eat — this isn’t the spot for high-quality service or hygiene. It’s the stuff you want to eat for Bear Grylls adventure training.

You come here for ‘tasty’ snails — this place is for the foodie ambitious. Don’t even think about going if you’re vegetarian.

If you’ve overdosed on the Vietnamese dishes and you’re wanting something different, awesome — the western food is shockingly good.

You don’t need to book another flight for decent gourmet pizza. I went to visit my (British) expat friend at 4ps pizza restaurant. It’s just as good as London pizza.

If you’re looking for a cheap takeout and greasy pizzas are your thing: Espy Pizza is your match. It’s a ‘spot on’ New York pizza. It’s f-ing delicious.

Does anyone else go on holiday and then for the last night, they go big or go home?

I’ve got yours planned.

Head to San Fu Lou (situated at the heart of District 1) to gobble up Dim Sum. Then pop over to Chill Skybar (next door) for a shiny view of the city. It’s a swanky sorta’ place so dress up. At the time of my visit, David Beckham was launching his new whisky brand.

The city has fantastic nightlife, head to a rooftop bar to look over a very sparkly city.

1. I already mentioned Chill Bar above
2. Glow Skybar
3. Saigon Saigon Bar

For shopping, the only place I recommend Ben Thanh Market – please be careful, the market is crowded and rife with pickpockets, but it’s the place to pick up a bargain.

Ho Chi Minh is a crazy city with everything happening at once, it isn’t for everyone and may take some time for some people to adapt, but it has so much to offer. Any expat or backpacker will tell you their crazy stories.

Enjoy, stay safe and please tell me your stories as I would love to hear them!

Location: Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Olay BB Cream | Nivea Suncream | YSL Waterproof Mascara | Carmex Lipbalm |

As a kid, I wanted to be a superhero that fights bad guys.

Then I grew up to realise that I couldn’t fly. Damn.

So how can we be our childhood heroes & help save zi’ world? I could tell you to volunteer abroad, foster a dog or to give up on civilization altogether and join a hill tribe.

I’m never going to be a barefoot forest dweller called Theresa Green or Ivana Makepeace — and look like this weird chick:

Yeh, she’s weird, isn’t she?

Without coming across like an organic-hipster-vegan-tree-shagger, I (try to) make a conscious effort to be eco-friendly to our world.

But let’s be realistic, most of us have busy lives.

You don’t have to whip your bush out to tap into Mother Earth’s rhythms. There are many micro-activities that you can incorporate into your everyday life.

Here is my lazy and modern guide to saving the world:

Recycle

The amount of waste that currently permeates our planet is a good starting point. Let’s stop throwing reusable things into landfill. And no, I’m not asking you to be a hoarder. It’s the opposite: sell, donate or recycle.

Sell it: eBay and Gumtree are my handy friends, I started selling things online as a young’un and I learnt how to turn it into a good secondary income. It’s a win-win situation: earn pocket money and reduce waste. Before you put it in the bin, ask yourself, would someone buy this?

Can’t sell it? Donate it. Wherever I live, I look out for my nearest clothes bin or charity shop. I usually hand in bits on my way to work or on the way to town at the weekend. You can also pop your items in those clothing bags that you get through the door. Donate barely used makeup to Give and Make Up which helps women escaping domestic violence. Send your used stamps to the Royal Institute of Blind People (they can sell them by the kilo and raise vital cash). Recycle your old ink cartridges to Tommy’s which funds research into miscarriage and premature birth.

Recycle: Freecycle is an amazing recycling site. The best part about it? People will come and collect your items from you. If you have an old wardrobe, desk, blankets, anything, stick it online. You could be helping someone out: whether they’re a DIY Guru, just moved into a new home or are looking for supplies for their business, you’re helping out your community in a cost-effective way. Swish: swishing.com, swishingparties.co.uk, bigwardrobe.com are great sites to find your local clothes swap parties and any clothes that don’t get sold go to charities like Cancer Research UK. Oxfam & Save The Children has some of the best of pre-owned designer fashion, I’m always surprised when I browse their online sites.

Plastic

You may have seen the video of the turtle with the straw up its nose. When you think about it, it’s easy to reduce your packaging intake. Do you need a plastic tea stirrer or plastic knife & fork? And yes, I’m just as perplexed as you are about having to pay 5p for a plastic bag. I’m from an Asian family; we reuse plastic bags for everything. I was outraged because I genuinely do reuse them. But the government does have a point; plastic bags are not biodegradable. We, as a nation have learnt to use them even when we buy a small chocolate bar. By sticking your items in a reusable bag, we will save millions of tons of waste — 32 million tons.

Apps

Download an app which supports causes like the Cancer Research UK Genes in Space app, every time you play; you’re contributing to the development of spotting DNA data which will help scientists in their research.

The Charity Miles app encourages users to raise money for charity every day as part of their usual exercise daily routine like walking, running or cycling.

If you like playing games on your phone like I do, the My Life As Refugee app is an educational download. Based on real-life experiences of families torn apart by conflict; It raises awareness of the plight of the refugees and gives you insight into the work that UNICEF does.

Clicks: For every donation you make online, Google will match it on One Today.

Hungry?

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy eating meat. Meat is (scientifically) nutritious for you. Our species survived by eating it. If you read my blog regularly, you will know how much I love food and ah, burgers. Err sorry, got a bit distracted there. Anyway, in today’s world, we don’t go hunting for our food anymore (looking for the half price in the meat aisle doesn’t count). Today, due to the high demand, we have very advanced industrialised animal agriculture. Meat production has caused the cut down of 260 million acres of forest, and it’s responsible for a high amount of greenhouse gas emissions. These reasons mentioned, are only a few reasons why Veganism is growing. I have realised, I do eat a f**k load of meat, so I’ve cut back. I won’t tell you to be a Veggie or Vegan (unless you want to), not because I’m not — but because it’s your choice. Just be aware of your intake. Fred, the photo bombing deer, (behind me), agrees.

Food waste

Surprisingly, lots of people don’t know the difference in food expiry dates.

Best before: it’s preferable to eat said item before that date, but it won’t kill you.

Use by: throw it out mate, by the stated date. None of that ’30-second rule’, none of that ‘but it looks fine’ biz, no buts, just no.

  • Crush old bananas and make muffins.
  • Didn’t finish that roast chicken? Make a hearty pie or curry.
  • Make a yummy fruity smoothie when you’ve got bits of fruit and veg that are on the verge of going off.
  • Heading off on holiday? Throw all of the remaining veg’ into soup, create stock or cook stir-fry.

Places like The Real Junk Food Project are great; they are ‘pay as you feel’ cafes, this concept is growing in the UK, the money they raise goes to homeless charities, you can volunteer or donate. Check out a spot near you.

When I go for a meal, and I can’t finish it, I always ask for a ‘doggy bag’. Then if I see a homeless person, I leave it beside them. If I don’t see anyone, I put it in my fridge and have it for lunch.

And that’s that!

See? I didn’t even have to tell you to egg a politician.

You’re welcome.

Superheroes, feel free to comment any of your tips to share with my lovely readers, I’d love to hear them. Monica x

 

Location: Zi Planet

Real location: Richmond Park, London

Photographer: Hattie Day at Wild Young Minds (FB here)

Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire Range | La Petite Robe Noire Fragrance | Guerain La Petite Noire Lipstick | Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire Nail Range | Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire in Black Perfecto

You know what? I love a good slick of lipstick and killer swipes of nail polish (insert nail emoji).

The lovely team at Debenhams has introduced me to Guerlain, and I’m addicted.

There’s a new range of lippies and pollies in town: Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire. The lipsticks are light-weight, comfortable, luminous, buildable and delicious. The nail polishes are highly pigmented, ultra-shiny and scented.

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Inspired by signature La Petite Robe Noire fragrance, the delicately flavoured lipstick formula has a surprising taste on your lips. It’s designed to reveal the lips’ natural radiance to keep lips conditioned and kissably soft.

I’m wearing the shade Pink Tie. Over bare lips; this one adds a moisturised and hydrated look while adding a buildable pink tone.

The great thing about these bad boys is that they aren’t sticky or uncomfortable which is ideal for windy days. I topped up throughout the day for a sheer balm finish. The packaging is gorgeous; pop off the heart-shaped handle and twist the bottom to lift. If you wear Dior Addict or Yves Saint Laurent Volupté Sheer, then you’ll love these. The full range of shades suits everyone and should be a ‘go-to’ for a hydrating summer lipstick.
I’m also wearing Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire deliciously shiny nail colour in shade Black Perfecto. There’re two reasons why I’m in love with these polishes, 1. I love the flat brush, all nail varnishes should have one. 2. You end up smelling your hands throughout the day from the floral fruity scent. If you were a kid who had those smelly gel pens, then these will become only the nail polish you’ll ever buy.

Have you tried these yet? Let me know what you think of the scent.

Location: Richmond Park, London
Photographer: Hattie Day at Wild Young Minds (FB here)

Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire Range | La Petite Robe Noire Fragrance | Guerain La Petite Noire Lipstick | Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire Nail Range | Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire in Black Perfecto