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I have a confession to make. I’m the world’s slowest travel blogger.

I set sail on my backpacking adventure late 2014, covering South East Asia (excluding Thailand), Singapore and New Zealand. When my journey of cosmic wanderlust ended in 2015, I quickly ran into full-time work and found it impossible to publish every incredible place I visited. Well, better late than never. As a newbie freelancer, who has more time to dedicate to a little space on the net, I will finalise my ‘ProjectM’ series which will start in Australia and end in Thailand.

Err, Mon, what is this ‘ProjectM’? Good question. I like you already.

In 2014, I decided to quit my job to live my dream of travelling around the world, which I can wholeheartedly say was the best decision of my life. Subsequently, throughout my blog, I encourage you to run for your dreams. My blog originally launched as a style diary. During my backpacking adventure, I released a travel category. I named my experience ‘ProjectM’. In 2016, I changed my blog name to The Wong Blog, but I kept the name of my travels.

I want you guys to be able to have travel guides ready for when you visit, so I have added sub-tabs to my travel section. It’s at the top of this page, is super swishy and looks like this:

the-wong-blog-travel-travel-guides

Each country will have a digestible travel guide. The cities within those countries will have my more detailed experience.

Oh, and if you’re on Instagram, my backpacking adventures are tagged: #ProjectMCambodia, #ProjectMThailand, #ProjectMLaos, #ProjectMVietnam, #ProjectMSingapore, #ProjectMNewZealand & #ProjectMOZ.

I’m looking forward to being with you throughout our travels. If you have any questions or need recommendations, you can comment on my blog below, Instagram or Tweet me.

Location: Zi world

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Why New Zealand Is The Most Beautiful Place On Earth

In recent years, I’ve been fortunate; I quit my job to live the dream of travelling the world.

For my last stop, I couldn’t have wandered further from home, but I have zero regrets: New Zealand is without a doubt, the most beautiful country I have ever visited.

You’ll want to spend every second outdoors. Spend Summer soaking in the white sands and crystal clear waters. Winter is for skiing down mountains, which tower over still lakes.

By the way, doesn’t this image remind you of a Microsoft desktop wallpaper?

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Anyway, New Zealand has two parts: North and South. In this post, I’ll split them up into two.

North

My top three must-see places are: Waikato, Rotorua and Wellington. (Bay of Islands looks beautiful if you want to venture further North).

Auckland?

I didn’t feel that Auckland was the best city to visit in New Zealand (unless you go further out into the countryside). I felt it was gloomy and rundown. It’s more of a transfer stop. If you do visit, climb under, around or above the Auckland Bridge. The town centre is decent & I heard the nightlife is good too.

Maori Experience

Learn about Maori history because it’s important and fascinating. Explore the culture & traditions of the Native population. Maoris are friendly and proud people, and I was lucky to of met one person of Maori origin. The most recommended experiences are in Rotorua.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Excuse the pun, but this was a trip highLIGHT. Explore these caves in darkness with nothing but the illumination of glowworms as a guide. The ‘starry sky’ is a serene experience; I highly recommend a visit. You can book it here.

Polynesian Spa

I didn’t make it to any of the spas as I was too busy patting sheep and alpacas, but one of the travellers in my group highly recommended it. There are a few hot baths in the North, but the Polynesian Spa is the most popular one. What better way to relax than inside a sulphurous spring?

Hobbiton

If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, oh little one, you must not skip this one. It’s magical. The film set is huge; I loved hovering around the miniature hobbit-sized door. Don’t miss out on the faux tree! The day I arrived, the staff were ready to quit as I took a picture of everything. Prepare your best Hobbit impression and book here.

Why-New-Zealand-Is-The-Most-Beautiful-Place-On-Earth-The-Monica-Wong Blog-TravelWhy-New-Zealand-Is-The-Most-Beautiful-Place-On-Earth-The-Monica-Wong Blog-TravelWhy-New-Zealand-Is-The-Most-Beautiful-Place-On-Earth-The-Monica-Wong Blog-Travel

South

My top three must-see places are: Queenstown, Wanaka & Nelson.

Queenstown

If you plan on visiting New Zealand, please, pretty please go to Queenstown (and surrounding areas). Everyone loves Queenstown. Everyone. It’s the most beautiful city I’ve ever visited. I can’t you how amazing it is to wake up to the view of mountains, lakes, great food and friendly people in one town.

Wanaka

My best friend took me here because it rhymes with my name. True story. If you love Queenstown, you’ll fall in love with Wanaka. Expect wilderness of glaciers, crystal clear waters, beech forests and alpine lakes. There’s loads to do: hiking, skiing, wine tasting and golfing.

Arrowtown

The well-preserved Arrowtown is a former gold-mining town which historically attracted miners from around the world in pursuit of their fortune. Charming in character; it looks like an old American cowboy town. Go, if you fancy a day out of food, shopping and attractions.

Kiwi Birdlife Park

Being a nature and conservation enthusiast, it was a tweet (ha, I mean treat) that my friend worked at a wildlife sanctuary at the time of visit; I couldn’t leave New Zealand without meeting a Kiwi bird. There are different species of native flora and fauna in this park. Don’t miss feeding time. Book it here.

Fergburger

It’s Queenstown tradition to eat a Fergburger. Now, I’ve eaten a lot of burgers in my time, and we have a great range in London. But I can see why tourists and locals go crazy for it. It’s gigantic, juicy & delicious. There’s always a queue, but it’s worth it. There’s a vegan burger too for those of you who don’t eat meat.

Helicopter flight

I didn’t opt for this one as I’m saving this experience for the Grand Canyon. Though, Queenstown is against a backdrop of The Remarkables mountain range; so there’s no reason not to enjoy the view from above over secluded alpine lakes and active green rainforest. Book here.

Jump

The following activities that I’m going to list are not for the faint-hearted. The first being a Skydive – it’s the experience of a lifetime. I’ve never been so scared in my life, but honestly, as soon as you start flying, it’s not scary at all. Take a leap of faith with a Bungy Jump; New Zealand is the home of Bungy. For the view, I would recommend the top of the Nevis. Or, if you’re a proper Daredevil, fly through the air on a thrilling Cayon Swing.

Why-New-Zealand-Is-The-Most-Beautiful-Place-On-Earth-The-Monica-Wong Blog-Travel

New Zealand is far from every other country, but it’s difficult not to fall in love with its natural beauty.

If you have a bucket list of filled with adrenaline, then tick it off in New Zealand. Skydiving, caving, bungy-jumping, skiing — it’s the adventure capital of the world.

New Zealand is worth any journey. This list above only scratches the surface of what there is to see and do in New Zealand. In a country filled with adventure and wildlife, everyone will find something to do.

Location: New Zealand
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#ProjectMSingapore – Singapore on a shoestring?

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

Location: Singapore

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Image credit: Singapore Airport

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#ProjectMVietnam | Ho Chi Minh

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

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#ProjectMVietnam – Hanoi

My parents were Made In C̶h̶i̶n̶a̶ Hanoi, so I knew I would remember this trip forever.

If you can, visit the destinations of where your parents lived, everything about your upbringing will unravel during your journey.

My background originates in China; both sets of my grandparents packed up their bags (and their kids) to begin a new chapter in Vietnam.

Okay, Hanoi, the first thing I recommend to you: Eat. Bun Cha. Immediately.

Chargrilled pork & lettuce on a bed of rice noodles splashed with fish sauce. Mouthwatering and gratifying, there’s also a spring rolls version (Bun Chao Gio), sometimes I can’t decide between which I like best.

Head to a street-side cafe, go for the sort of establishment which has makeshift tables & plastic chairs. It’s fast food at its best.

The first place we explored around was Hoan Kiem Lake, located right in the centre of the capital. Look out for the Tortoise Pagoda, the shrine to giant turtles.

The lake calms the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s the only place where you can escape the noise. It reminds me of Central Park in NYC. If you go early in the morning, you can go and watch the locals perform Tai Chi.

Since having my first sip of Vietnamese iced coffee on the Mekong River, I had to grab one of my own.

We discovered a cute French-like riverside cafe. I opted for a chocolate iced coffee; I always have time for chocolate.

There’re lots of things to do in the capital.

One must bargain their ass off at The Old Quarter. Head to Dong Xuan Market. You’ll spot a lot of naughty fake goods like (Mulberry & Burberry) and ‘Folex’ (Fendi and Rolex). I think we can all agree that they’re novelties and that we prefer the real deal so put your feet up, I’ve added a cheeky widget below for you to shop in your PJ’s.

ShopStyle


 

Head to the temples to imitate a magpie and admire all the shiny things.

I would recommend a visit to the Women’s History Museum; learn about the daily lives of struggling women in Vietnam.

We went to watch a Water Puppet show; the puppets are carved from wood and performed in a waist-deep pool. Mind the loud opera singing, it’s all in Vietnamese, so if you don’t know the language, you won’t have a clue what they’re chanting. It was probably one of the most bizarre shows I’ve seen, but it’s a unique experience.

For our last night in Hanoi, we treated ourselves in a rooftop restaurant which overlooked the lake.

The sights are incredible.

Escaping the crowds + eating your weight in food = bliss.

I had the seafood fried rice, fragrant & hearty rice with squishy yet crunchy seafood married in a tangy sauce.


Hanoi, I’ll never forget you.

If you’re ever in my parent’s hood, remember to eat the Bun Cha.

Location: Vietnam – Hanoi

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