Friday, January 29, 2016

Asia Travel Expenses 2015-2016 South East Asia Trip Report


Here is a chart of how much I spent to travel to four countries: Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and Japan.

Rough Calculation of Travel Expenses 2015-2016 South East Asia Trip

PhilippinesTitleCost ($)
US ATM Withdrawal200
Plane Ticket to PhilippinesUSA-->JPN-->PHP938.42
Cebu ATM withdrawal173.99
ATM Withdrawl fees1.71
ATM Withdrawl fees1.75
Plane Ticket Manila to Cebu72.91
Plane Ticket Cebu to Palawan99.62
Plane Ticket Palawan to Manila67.26
Plane Ticket Manila to Singapore148.8
ATM Withdrawal110.82
Total1815.28


SingaporeTitleCost ($)
US ATM Withdrawal100
Singapore ATM Withdrawal141.81
Singapore ATM Withdrawal141.81
ATM Withdrawl fees3.5
Plane Ticket Singapore to Indonesia159.6
Total546.72


IndonesiaTitleCost ($)
Indonesia ATM withdrawal145.14
ATM Withdrawl fees1.45
ATM Withdrawl fees1.75
Indonesia ATM withdrawal72.04
ATM Withdrawl fees1.75
Indonesia ATM withdrawal107.95
ATM Withdrawl fees0.72
ATM Withdrawl fees1.75
Planet Ticket Yogjakarta to Jakarta29.99
Plane Ticket Jakarta to Bangkok73.41
Total435.95


ThailandTitleCost ($)
Thai ATM withdrawal171.4
ATM Withdrawl fees1.75
Thai ATM withdrawal171.4
ATM Withdrawl fees1.75
Plane Ticket Bangkok to Japan to USA650
Total996.3


JapanTitleCost ($)
Japan ATM withdrawal85.16
ATM Withdrawl fees1.71
Japan ATM withdrawal85.16
ATM Withdrawl fees1.71
Total173.74


Misc.TitleCost ($)
Hostelworld deposit/fee10
Hostelworld deposit/fee2.38
Hostelworld deposit/fee1.02
Hostelworld deposit/fee4.59
Hostelworld deposit/fee1.38
Hostelworld deposit/fee4.99
Total24.36


Total CostsTitleCost ($)
Trip Total3992.35
Credit Card Signup Bonus-650
Credit Card Points-624.92
Credit Card Points-92.98
Credit Card Points-31.45
Credit Card Points-31.45
Total Cost Planet Tickets2240.01
Money spent on Non-plane items1752.34
% Trip total is from Planet Tickets56.11
Adjusted total minus credit2561.55

So to recap, in total I spent nearly 4000 dollars for this trip (3992.35). After applying credit card credits and promotions however, that total comes down to 2561.55 dollars, which just goes to show you how wonderful credit cards can be when you choose wisely.

It should be assumed that ATM withdrawals went towards paying for lodging, food, and entertainment.

56% of trip total was just on flying from country to country or occasionally, island to island (2240.01).

The remainder of my costs went to eating whatever I wanted, lodgings, entertainment...etc.

I think, I could have saved maybe at best an additional 500.00 had I considered alternative travel methods.
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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

End of Asia Trip Thoughts


Now that I've had a week to decompress and mull over my experiences, the two countries I would like to visit again would be the Philippines and Indonesia, and I would like to devote a month to both.

With Indonesia, I felt as if I had only scratched the surface of what the country had to offer. I only stayed on the main island and only for a week. I didn't even go south or north to Bali or Sumatra. So definitely worth visiting again.

With the Philippines, I felt as if I saw enough to get a good idea of what the country was about, I simply want more time to immerse myself in those features. That said, I feel as though the Philippines is very similar to Thailand in what it has to offer.

At the end of the day, despite traveling for only a short while, I still enjoyed myself immensely on this trip.

Fingers crossed for more adventures in the near future.
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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Genentech 2016


As the new year rolls around, I feel it is relevant to update the blog on what I've been doing and what I plan to do with my life as a chemist.

Boldly declaring that I would only stay at Genentech for only a year and no more, I enter my second year and inch towards my third as a contract research associate/scientific researcher/chemist/blah blah blah.

At the moment, I have sent out applications to various MBA programs on the west coast. There is no other place domestically I would like to go to for school. I won't even consider the east.

There are times when I ask myself whether pursuing an MBA is really the right thing for me to do. The idea definitely interests me and the career possibilities are tantalizing, but I'm plagued with uncertainty. Uncertainties that I imagine normally arise when you're about to commit such a substantial financial and time investment.

But perhaps that is how life is for most young individuals. I think a lot of people don't really know what they are doing or what they want to do until they actually do it. All that is driving them are their interests. I'm sure some individuals go into their careers and lives with clarity, but at least for me, I seem to learn what I want, as I go, which makes the often-asked question, "How do you know you want to do XYZ," a difficult question.

In terms of my Chemistry career development, I am doing quite well in my position at Genentech. Although every now and then you are reminded why it sucks to be a contractor; overall, the experience has been extremely positive.

If the MBA does not turn out for me and I stay within the realm of Chemistry, I would like to explore the job market again. Not a complete shift away from medicinal chemistry, but rather, a temporary departure to explore what else is out there. A journey to gain perspective, if you will. Medicinal chemistry is definitely where I want to end as an organic chemist, but life is about the experiences you fill it with and I want to see what other jobs exists out there.
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Monday, January 11, 2016

Tokyo, Japan


Landed in Tokyo, Japan around 9am and made my way into the city. My layover was 13 hours.



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Bangkok, Thailand part 3

In the morning I decided to visit the weekend market. Aaron wanted to visit a market so I took him with me. Zlatko tagged along.

My time in Bangkok has essentially become an exact mirror of my visit to the city four years ago, only this time I'm privy to all its secrets and tricks and getting around has become extremely efficient.

We spent almost the entire day at the market. I had to buy clothes and Aaron had to get gifts. It took us awhile to maneuver through the maze of stores.


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Bangkok, Thailand part 2


Woke up in the morning with no plans at all. Went downstairs to the bar and started talking to some travelers. One guy, Aaron was attempting a walking tour of Bangkok so I decided to join him. Our two-some ended up growing into a group of eight: two Dutch, four Americans, one Brit, and one German.



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Bangkok, Thailand part 1


My flight to Thailand this morning was on Tigerair.

The flight experience was a joke in many ways. We got there in one piece but nobody listened to the air attendants. As the plane was pitched and still ascending into the sky, people started standing and walking around while the attendants meekly looked on. At some point, one of the attendants made an announcement on the speakers but that did nothing.

Then, people started switching seats.

About five people started shifting between three rows, back and forth, back and forth, trying to find the perfect seat, like a game of musical chairs while the plane remained slightly pitched.

Once again, the attendants did nothing.

So, not too impressed with the Tigerair staff on my flight.

I landed in Bangkok and easily found my way to the hostel, Bodega Hostel. Bodega Hostel was the same hostel I stayed in 4 years ago and getting there was almost muscle memory. I unpacked, unwound, and hung out with some Brits that were in the same room as me and that was it for the night.
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Thursday, January 07, 2016

Jakarta, Indonesia


Left the hotel at 10am and got on a flight to Jakarta.

To get from the airport to the city center you have a few options, the two basic ones being: taxi or bus. If you choose taxi you can expect to pay anywhere from 100,000-150,000 rupees which is just about 10 bucks.  I would suggest blue bird for their reputation on being on the level. If you choose bus, it will only cost around 30,000-50,000 depending on your destination.

If you're not in any rush, I would suggest the bus. Cheaper and comfortable. Simple find the bus booth, buy a ticket, and wait for your bus. The destinations are labeled clearly in front. All terminals should have a bus stop.

Got to hostel at around 3pm. Surprised to find that it was a capsule bed, similar to the one I stayed at in Japan. The name of my hostel is called The Packers Lodge. Packers being short for backpackers I suppose. The quality of the hostel is good. Just kind of quiet. Real artsy.



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Yogjakarta Indonesia part 4


The following day I had my clothes cleaned for a dollar. Everything smelled great, looked great, and was neatly sealed in a bag when done.

Walked around with Wee to look for lighter and shorter shorts. The pair of shorts that I had brought on the trip felt too heavy and long in the heat. Wasn't successful in finding any but I bought a tank top instead which felt like a godsend in the humidity.


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Hiking Mt. Merapi, Yogjakarta, Indonesia part 3


At 10pm, a van picked me and Whee up at our hotel and briskly shuttled us off towards the volcano Mt. Merapi.

We stayed at a house near the trail head for an hour to acclimate and met the other hikers.

There were three Germans and two Dutch women. The Germans were Benjamin, Thy, and Robert. The Dutch women were Lisa and Chris.



At 12:00am, we were given headlamps and then we set out on our hike.




Just shy of 10,000 feet, Mt. Merapi is an active volcano located on the border between Central Java and Yogyakarta, Indonesia. It is the most active volcano in Indonesia.

The hike for the most part is steep incline the entire way up and seldomly do you have flat paths to grant you reprieve from the strenuous journey.





The view from the top is spectacular. The journey was interesting.





Back home, me, Wee, and Sara decide to get massages after lunch. Almost fated to do so, as soon as we walked into the massage parlor, heavy rain fell from the sky essentially forcing us to either stay or commit to our massages.

For 50,000 rupees or roughly 4-5 American dollars, I got a 30 minute back massage with oil. An old woman did my back and despite her frail frame, years of expertise allowed her to still do a great job on my back.

Later that night, we had a reunion with the people who hiked the mountain and drank at bars around the hostel. Gisele is the new addition to the group. An Australian girl there to learn the language.





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Borobudur and Prambanan Temple, Yogjakarta, Indonesia part 2


In the morning at 3am I left for Borobudur to catch the sunrise. Exhausted from the night before, I slept every chance I had in the van.

To get to the temples, you have various options. Either you can rent motorcycles for cheap and drive there yourself, you can take public transportation which is cheaper but slower, or you can sign up for a tour and a van will pick you up. The temple destination is so popular that you should be able to find a tour ANYWHERE. You should be able to sign up at your hotel or hostel's front desk or any of the various travel agencies along the street. Heck, even the motorcycle drivers will offer to take you.

Two hours west of the city, the temple was quite nice and the sunrise was beautiful. Built on a mound, Borobudur is a collection of religious stories etched into its walls.







After Borobudur, the van drove back to the city and then an additional hour east towards Prambanan. Had I known that the temples were in opposite directions, I would have opted to see them on separate days. Too much time was spent traveling between the two.

Whereas Borobudur was centered, Prambanan was spread out. Essentially a giant park, Prambanan consisted of many temples sprinkled throughout the park. To be frank, on the first temple was of any interest. When I went, the others were being renovated or fixed, and the ones that weren't were mere shadows of what they were.







Of the two, I enjoy Borobudur more but that's merely my preference.

Upon returning home, I took a break, cleaned up, and later met up with Wee, Ana, and Sara for dinner. Sara is a new addition to the hostel. She is also from the Netherlands.

Dinner was at Via via, a restaurant next door that serves western and classic Indonesian. Not quite a hole in a wall place but the quality of food there is great.
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Yogjakarta, Indonesia part 1


Upon landing in Yogjakarta I was immediately swarmed by taxi drivers. As always, I simply waved them off and went somewhere quiet to decompress and take in my new environment.

I purchased a prepaid data card for 7 dollars which was good for one month of 3G internet. The Internet was surprisingly fast. As fast as Singapore I would say.

I asked around the airport for an idea of how much a trip into town would be and once I had a range, bought a ticket in.

The hotel I am staying at is called Adhisthana. I booked the place using my go-to website, Hostelworld.com.

The place is beautiful, however, it is not a hostel; It's a hotel.





The room I am staying in is a shared room which is similar to a hostel in that regard, but the ambiance is completely missing.

So in terms of a place to stay, Adhisthana is great because of its location and quality of facilities, but be prepared to potentially not meet as many people as you would in a hostel.

In my case though, I was fortunate. As soon as I arrived to check in, two other travelers returned and I struck up a conversation with them. Their names were Anna and Wee. Anna is Dutch while Wee is Malaysian, living mostly in Singapore. We got along fine and decided to grab lunch and a drink.





Later that night we met up with two Americans.



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Singapore part 3

In the morning I made my way to MacRitchie Reservoir park.





The highlight of the park was the hike behind the park entrance that goes above the tropical forest and to the tree walk bridge.

In all, the hike was about 10-12 km round trip. I was surprised to see monkeys running about.





Halfway through the hike it started raining really hard. Fortunately for me, I brought an umbrella and wore swim trunks. A lot of people on the hike did not have umbrellas so they were simply caught in the rain and were stuck under a tree.

When I returned back to the hostel, I quickly showered, cleaned up my motorcycle burn, and headed back out to meet with Fang.

Fang was someone I contacted on CS to show me around town. I think the thing that surprised me the most about her initially was how fast she walked. I'm normally a fast walker so when I found myself trailing behind her as we walked through the Botanical Gardens, I was surprised.

The speed of her walking aside, she was nice to spend an afternoon with and you can tell that meeting visitors is something she enjoys doing. She was very flexible with what I wanted to do and easy to have a conversation with as well. Very articulate. One of the places that she took me to that really blew my mind was Orchard Row. Orchard Row is where the shopping district lies and man were the malls impressive looking from the outside.



Around 7pm we parted ways and I headed back to Bugis station where I met up with another local named Boon.

Boon is a geography teacher in Singapore and he took me around Bugis to explore. Despite living there for the past three days, I actually never spent much time in the area, so walking around with Boon allowed me that opportunity. For dinner we ate at this really tasty restaurant. After we just walked around and talked.



When I got back to the hostel I prepared for my trip to Indonesia.
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Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Singapore part 2


In the morning I went to Chinatown with a Chinese traveler named Tenzin that I met in my room before falling asleep the night before.

I kept trying to sleep and he kept talking to me because I think he was desperate for some company on his travels. With very limited English, his only source of companionship tended to be others who spoke Chinese. However, thanks to him, I was able to experience my first food court in Singapore and had a blast eating whatever caught my eye.







After lunch, we went to the Botanical Gardens, something I had written down that I wanted to see. Less a garden but more a park, The Botanic Gardens is this huge piece of land with various gardens, hiking trails, orchards, and places to have lunch. The size alone allows anyone to spend an entire day here.

To get to the Botanic Gardens is quite simple. It has its own MRT stop. Just enter any station and look for it on a MRT map.







We walked halfway into the park before we got tired and made our way back to the hostel.

In the afternoon, I met up with Ming whom I met years ago in Japan. Born in Singapore, he now resides in Australia studying for school and is back in the country because of break.

Together, me and Ming burned some time at the food courts until Hakim eventually joined us. Hakim was another Singaporean that I met in Japan during my stay in Nagano. In fact, Hakim and Ming were part of the same group of friends traveling.

For the rest of the day, Hakim and Ming took me all around town, and although I was able to cross off many things that I wanted to see, I mostly enjoyed their company.








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