Saturday, May 01, 2010

Planning for Penang with Google Maps


View Penang Trip 2010 in a larger map

I been dying to go on a holiday ever since our last holiday to Japan (Osaka/Tokyo) in 2008 when Lilian was about 4-5 months pregnant. We been toying with plans to go USA (just can't forget the awesome outlet shopping especially with USD so low now), Japan (I love Japan, period), nearby Clubmed resorts with childcare services and Australia.

However, Finance Minister (aka Lilian) rejected the proposals mainly due to financial priorities needed for Xavier. Anyway will do another post later on our cost of bringing up Xavier. Back to today's topic, so I proposed Penang. Its a short low cost flight, somewhere we haven't been to as a couple, has lots of yummy food and the total cost is manageable.

Having booked the flights and hotel, I'm now gathering information on where to go in Penang and what to do. I like planning for my own trips as I have the flexibility of going where I want to, seeing what I like to and eating what I love to. And given today's abundance of information on the Net (sometimes too much), its not hard. However, this time, I found a great tool, Google Maps.

I was looking for information on yummy Penang food when I came upon this Penang food blog call What2See by CK Lam. This site is very informative on Penang food and I got most of my leads from her blog posts. Besides great food photos and reviews, she also gives the map location via Google Maps.

Upon exploring the functions with Google Maps, I realise I can actually create my own map, eg a map for my Penang trip, and put in places I want to go on this map. And when sites like What2See has a map location link, I can easily add that yummy food locations onto my own Penang map. This makes trip planning easy and fun.

So how do you use it? Firstly, create a Google account if you do not already have one (if you already have a Gmail account, the login is the same). Next, search for the area you want your map are to be, in my case Penang. I then zoom into the area (my scroll button work wonders with the zoom function). You can also click and hold while dragging the map around to cover the area you want to.

Next, click my "My Maps" on the left and "Create new map". I name my map Penang 2010 in my case as I'm using it for our trip to Penang this year. Done? So now you have your own map of the area you want to. You can now either place your own "placemarks" or use placemarks set up by others.

For example, I like to try the grill chicken wings on What2See's "Which is your favourite Hawker Food stall in New Lane, Penang?" post. Right at the bottom of the post before the last photo she put a "map location" link. If you click on it, it will bring you to Google Maps where CK Lam has placed a placemark on the map. So what you could do if just click on the placemark and click on "Save to...". You can then select your map you have created earlier and it will be added there. Easy right?

So let's say you want to put your own placemarks, how to? At your map page, click the "Edit" button on the left column. You will then see three icons appear on the top left of the map, the second being "Add a placemark". Click that and you can now drop the placemark anywhere on the map. After that, you can name the placemark, change the icon if you want and add a description to it. After adding all the placemarks you want, just the "Done" button on the left column and that's it.

And before your trip, just click the "Print" button on the top right and it will print the map area you have selected and at the bottom list all the placemarks and the description you have put in. You might need to use different placemarks to differentiate the different places or just number them after printing out.

I wish we could have the map and details on my iPhone so it will be more convenient but seem like Google Maps run the mobile version with no function of "My Maps" and we will probably incur high internet cost overseas. The next best thing would probably a function to save a scrollable and zoom-able version on the iPhone.

If anyone has great must-go Penang places or must-do activities to suggest, please let me know. I still doing my planning for the June trip. Thanks.

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