Day 4 in Bangkok: Makro Sathorn, King Power Rangnam, Don Mueang International Airport

Around this time last week, I was in Bangkok. And, for a change, I’m going to blog about the last day in BKK first. 😀 So this post is about Day 4, as the title suggests. Breakfast was pretty amazing, as you can tell from the picture above. In fact, I was the one who made the waffle ‘cos the guy who was supposed to do it was nowhere to be found. He was the one who helped divide it up later on though. I love the pork porridge, fruits and the fried potato chunks. If it’s not so troublesome to prepare, I’d probably have breakfast like this every single day. 😀

We did not use the pool at Le Tada Residences during our stay though, ‘cos (1) it was located right next to the dining area so there will be many eyes watching us, and (2) staff had told us there were people from Wuhan staying in the same hotel so we tried to avoid the common areas as much as possible.

Our flight was right after lunch so we decided to do some shopping before heading to the airport. We paid 160baht for a Grab ride (+50baht for the toll) to get to Makro Sathorn, which is like our Giant hypermart in an IKEA warehouse layout. You’ll see what I mean in the picture below. Instead of going to another Big C outlet, I thought we might as well visit something new to us…

Keep track of the amount you are spending and you can possibly get a tax refund at the exit. Interestingly, our ride back to the hotel cost us 165baht via Grab but the vehicle’s meter (it was a taxi) showed just 127baht as the fare. So if you want to save a little, you can try flagging down a cab. 

After our shopping, my darling goes for a massage opposite King Power Rangnam, which cost 250 baht for 1 hour while I chill over at KOI cafe in King Power.

90baht for my golden bubble milk tea:

Our Grab ride from the Le Tada Residences to Don Mueang International Airport cost us 316baht, which I believe was money well spent since there was no way we could comfortably get our bulging luggage to the airport via train and bus. 😀

And after days of tom yum, my meal of choice at the airport was McDonald’s!

And like everywhere else, there’s a sign showing their support and encouragement for Wuhan. It does surprise me that the Thai people love and support the Chinese so much, that there are similar signs in supermarkets, malls, restaurants elsewhere. 

And if you’re wondering whether you can purchase masks in Thailand to bring back to Singapore, well, there’s a limit on the number of pieces you can take home. It’s usually 30 pieces per traveler, unless you have a doctor’s letter to prove you are ill and need the additional masks then you can have 50 pieces in your luggage. In fact, we saw a large transparent case at Immigration, which you’ll usually find contraband in, and it was filled with packets of surgical face masks! (@_@)

In any case, masks are also either out-of-stock in most stores we visited in Bangkok, or the prices are ridiculous just like in Singapore. For a box of surgical face masks, I was quoted between 1,700 and 1,900baht, which is about S$77 – S$86. If you’re going to BKK to get masks, my advice is ‘don’t bother’. It’s actually cheaper in Singapore.

Why I DON’T Recommend Staying At The Puteri Pacific Johor Bahru

The Puteri Pacific Johor Bahru is a hotel with a fantastic location – near JB’s CIQ and City Square shopping mall – but there are a few reasons why I won’t want to return to this hotel again. The bed’s comfy and the view is decent yet the downside to staying here makes me want to never return again. One night is more than enough. So, if you’re heading to Johor Bahru for a vacation, or you’re just horrified at the queue at Immigration (so many people wanting to return to SG) and therefore you’re staying in JB overnight, try not to find a hotel near CIQ. Instead, look for (perhaps) a boutique hotel some distance away. Here’s why…

The room looks decent in the picture above, ya? The beds were comfortable enough and the sheets looked clean. But that’s about it. The carpet’s old and so are the rest of the furniture. And when we entered the room (1011, if you’re wondering), there was a strong musty smell. But there’s a notice saying we should not open the windows. And it looked like we won’t be able to, unless we tried breaking it. (@_@)

The view’s nice though…

I’ll usually take some shots of the hotel room before we get ourselves settled in. At first glance, the toilet looked OK.

Nothing seemed to raise eyebrows…

Then when I wanted to take a shower… I found that the bathtub looked either old or stained. In any case, it appeared dirty…

And once the shower curtain is drawn… it looks like a scene in some horror movie. The shower curtain is horribly gross. So disgusting I felt like throwing up.

All you need is someone to lie here with fake blood and you’ve got yourself a perfect horror movie scene…

I can accept horribly old carpets and sofas because I won’t walk around barefooted nor will I sit in those chairs but if there’s a bathtub and no separate standing shower, then the bathtub (AND curtain) should be spotless. It must look clean! Not like this disgusting… argh… I have no words. The curtain is obviously stained and there was lots of black mould on it. Anyway, I wrote them an email last night after discovering the horror and I haven’t heard back yet.

Thankfully, the rest of the hotel seems decent enough. Here’s a view of the pool from the lift we were in…

I didn’t sleep well though. At about 6.20am, there was a shrill alarm which went off. Sounded like a fire alarm to me. It rang for a few seconds, stopped, then rang for a few more seconds. Just enough to wake me up. Then, around 6.25am, the alarm went off again for a good 10 to 15 seconds. We got out of bed – he went to pee while I phoned the reception. The lady who answered my call said she’d check with Security and let me know (but she didn’t). I told him that he should have saved the pee – if there’s a real fire, it might come in handy. Hahaa! Anyhow… disrupted sleep is the worst!

And when we were ready to head down for breakfast, we found a note had been slipped under our door (and all the other doors too) to tell us to check out “before or at 12.00 noon” as “the hotel is expecting a large number of arrivals”. (@_@) Not a note to say “We hope you have enjoyed your stay and please let us know if we may be of further assistance” but to tell us to hurry up and checkout. Well done. We feel so welcome. It’s like you can’t wait to kick us out. And oh, around 11am, staff actually came to ring the doorbell to double confirm that we’re checking out. Gosh. I really hate staying here.

Lobby area which perpetually smells of cigarette smoke:

The saving grace might be the hotel breakfast. I’ve read reviews that hotel guests have to queue to enter the cafe when there are many guests and staff can’t clear the tables fast enough. However, we faced no such problem. We got ourselves promptly seated and while I didn’t exactly appreciate every single breakfast item, there were some which were to my liking.

There’s a Roti Canai station where Singaporeans can get roti prata. 😀 Pair this with curry and I think you’ll be quite happy. The omelette is also good, the scrambled eggs less so but still decent. I took the sambal chili from the buffet table and found it paired well with the omelette. 😀

Unfortunately, my “red bean pau” turned out to be lotus seed pau instead.

There’s also fruit (watermelon and orange), salad, pastries, fried mee, fishball noodles, cereal, etc. Seems to cater to an international (business traveler) audience but there were many locals staying here when I visited. Breakfast is only served till 10.30am so no chance of sleeping in, ya!

And after breakfast, I asked the dude at Reception if he had a plaster as I was getting a blister on my left foot from all the walking yesterday. He went into a room at the back to check then returned to say they don’t have any (OMG no first aid box?!) and that I could buy some from the kiosk at the lobby (OK, that works too, I guess). Turned out to be 50sen a piece, which was fine. But still… this isn’t a hotel that exceeds expectations.

I’m not sure if I should blame them or not. This isn’t a 5-star establishment, for sure. I just checked, and the Princess Deluxe room we stayed in will cost just S$38 on agoda.com with the new promotion. You get what you pay for, I guess.

It’s walking distance from City Square, yes, but do note that ground level is level 1A of the carpark. The lobby is at level 4A. Don’t walk. We had to get to the staircase in the middle of the carpark at the ground floor, find the lift and take it up to 4A. But 4A of the carpark lift translates to level 1 of the hotel lifts later on. Might be a bit confusing. But that’ll only be if you decide to disregard my review and stay here. Stubborn eh? 😛

*Oh, another good thing is the hotel wifi has no password. So when we had to book a Grab ride to a mall, it could easily be done at the entrance to the lobby.

Hotel Review: Suite @ Bliss Boutique Hotel in Johor Bahru

bliss boutique hotel

Our recent mantra has been to “Earn in SG, Spend in JB” because of the attractive exchange rate plus prices are generally a lot lower across the Causeway. Pineapple tarts manufactured in Malaysia, for instance, sell at a premium once they get to Singapore. So you might as well head over to the country of origin to purchase them. And whenever there’s a traffic jam with a long line of vehicles heading back to Woodlands, we can’t help but feel it’s a good idea to stay in one of the hotels located near CIQ / the checkpoint. Bliss Boutique Hotel is one of them, and it’s also near to Plaza Pelangi and KSL. It has an eye-catching facade – you must have spotted it at some point when driving into or out of JB and the lobby is also beautifully decorated.

Looks like it has lots of windows but there are quite a number of rooms w/o windows:

bliss boutique hotel jb

Over the weekend, we stayed in the Suite at Bliss Boutique Hotel and the ‘highlight’ has to be that bathtub though there’s a King-sized bed(!) in the room too. *I do wish they provided more pillows as I like to sleep amidst a ‘fort’ of pillows. Just one pillow per person (I’m not counting the decorative cushion) seems a little stingy. 😀 What’s great though is that the toilet and the shower stall (with a rainshower!) are located at opposite ends of the bathtub. And you’ll have to go check out the room yourself: the TV is visible from every corner; whether you’re sitting on the toilet bowl or whether you’re brushing your teeth! Probably tells you something about the person who designed this room. 😉

bliss boutique hotel review

My favorite part of the room has to be the chair with an Ogawa neck and back massager though. I do wish they’ll get an actual massage chair ‘cos while my neck and back got a really good kneading, my legs were feeling sore from the 10KM run on Saturday and the subsequent shopping in JB. 😀 If the hotel would like guests to consider longer stays, then an actual massage chair might be a draw.

massage chair suite bliss boutique hotel

Overall, the decor within the rooms pale in comparison with that of the lobby area.

We stayed at Bliss Boutique Hotel previously when there was still the Christmas decor and we were pleasantly surprised to see they’d done up the lobby / lounge area with a CNY theme this time…

bliss boutique hotel christmas decor

bliss boutique hotel chinese new year decor

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There’s also a beverage dispenser near the entrance where you can help yourself to a ‘Welcome Drink’. It’s the best thing ever when you’ve just stepped out of the mid-day heat and need a drink to cool down while you fish your passport out of your bag and proceed with check-in.

In the Suite, there’s coffee, tea bags and also capsules for the Nescafe Dolce Gusto machine. 😉

bliss boutique hotel in room drinks

Have your tea or coffee and enjoy this view. Instead of skyscrapers, most of the buildings in the area consist of just two storeys…

bliss boutique hotel suite view

As for breakfast, the spread is pretty limited. There’s lots of carbo in the form of bread, prata and noodles… and they even provide bananas! But what I found missing was vegetables, which I really love to have.

bliss boutique hotel breakfast

Prata is delivered around 8am by a vendor nearby so if you want to have it warm, be at the breakfast area by 8. If you’re lucky, the hotel will be serving curry with potatoes (!) too. We weren’t so lucky during the second stay. Just some watery curry with lentils?

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If you don’t mind some minor inconveniences, Bliss Boutique Hotel’s good for a night’s stay:

  1. The first time we stayed there, the aircon stopped working near midnight (room 2-158) and we had to pack our bags, make our way to the lobby and get a change of room.
  2. The next room (1-158) had mosquitoes and we didn’t have repellent with us. Now I bring repellent when I visit JB, on top of tissue paper as most public toilets don’t provide toilet paper (which you’ll know if you’ve been to JB before)
  3. There’s free transport to CIQ, courtesy of Bliss Boutique Hotel but it’s not quite reliable. We ‘booked’ it once and it didn’t materialize. Was told the driver went missing. (@_@) But a Grab ride costs under RM10 I think, so that’s fine.
  4. There’s tourism tax of RM10 per room which you have to pay upon check-in. For our 2nd stay, the lady at the reception forgot to collect it from us, and so put a call through to our room at 10.14pm… about the 10 ringgit. Not sure why she felt it necessary to call so late at night but staff have to do what they have to do, I guess. (*Note to self: first thing to do upon entering the hotel room is to hang up the phone)
  5. Watch out for bugs. We found some in the water tank of the Nescafe Dolce Gusto coffee machine in the Suite. I guess it’s generally a good practice to replace the water in the tank before making coffee. And another one came to say ‘Hi’ during breakfast…bliss boutique hotel breakfast buffetThere’s this little cockroach right there on the table where the breakfast spread is. While it is disgusting, I guess we can’t stop creatures with wings and legs from going wherever they wish. The food’s only uncovered when the guests come in for breakfast so I’m glad that little fellow wasn’t in the food, but was simply strolling past.

*I’ve already sent my feedback for both stays to Bliss Boutique Hotel so I’m hopeful that you won’t have to come across any little critters during your stay. That said, keep repellent close by. Prices for the rooms here are pretty affordable and for the convenience, I’m sure many Singaporeans will continue to be guests here.

What’s New At Resorts World Genting

Resorts World Genting Tower 3

Before our recent trip to Resorts World Genting, our very last visit was a number of years ago. And when we went back this time, there was a new hotel tower at First World Hotel (bringing its total number of rooms to 7,351) and a new cable car system, among other updates! Though I detest long bus rides, I can easily be tempted to make another trip to Genting again as it’s now an even cooler place to be at… even if you do not gamble.

We stayed in room 28868 (how auspicious?) on the highest floor and found the room in Tower 3 to be very new and clean. That said, the pillows leave more to be desired but I guess it won’t matter to most folk, anyway. I was the only one sleeping in the room at night; my darling was busy earning some moolah in the casinos. 😀 I also love that you can order Motorino pizzas, meatballs, chicken wings, etc, with room service!

I’ve previously blogged about some new restaurants & cafes you need to visit. If you haven’t read the posts yet, click on the links below:

#1: Burger & Lobster

#2: Cafés Richard

#3: Motorino

This isn’t the best photo of their new cable car system, but I actually enjoyed the ride in the Glass Floor Gondola. A ride in one of the special gondolas with glass flooring will cost RM 50. The regular ones cost just RM 8. End to end, the 2.8km journey takes just 10 minutes, half of what the older cable car system took.

Resorts World Genting cable car

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At Sky Avenue, there’s so much food to indulge in. If I had to start (small) somewhere, I’m going back for more of Tokyo Secret’s cheese tarts. Freshly baked (and HOT), these yummy tarts will leave you craving for more…

Resorts World Genting Tokyo Secret

And oh… cheap(er) GongCha bubble tea too! 😀

Aside from eating and visiting the casino, there are more family-friendly games for those who are young and young-at-heart. We went to the arcade to play basketball and I also wanted to try my hand at fishing for a prize at the ‘duck pond’

I won’t play this game again… ever:

Resorts World Genting arcade

You pay RM 23.20 to get an arcade card with 20 credits. For this duck ‘fishing’ game, you’ll spend 4 credits, and get to fish out 2 ducks. I thought I’ll be sure to get at least one tiny, consolation prize with 2 tries. I got nothing. I’d rather have spent the credits on the basketball machines – each game there costs just 3 credits. 😦

Don’t want to spend any money? There’s always the lovely view to admire at the hotel. You’ll have to do that at the lobby though. The opaque hotel room windows cannot be opened more than, say, 4 inches.

Resorts World Genting review

For breakfast, there’s A LOT to choose from at Resorts World Genting. There are so many restaurants, eateries, cafes, etc. And of course, there’s The Food Factory for a buffet spread.

The Food Factory:

Resorts World Genting Food Factory

(above) The chef is cooking some carrot cake for our breakfast. Yum! The food factory can seat some 1,600 guests. Don’t expect gourmet meals, of course. Just eat for the purpose of satiety. When we were having our breakfast, we enjoyed items like scrambled egg, niang doufu (to pair with porridge), mini pancakes (plus a chocolate fountain), bread, pastries, etc. I love fruit so I was surprised to find that there was just one kind of fruit: yellow watermelon.

On the way home to Singapore, our coach stopped at the Awana rest stop. It’s not as busy as the one at Yong Peng, so the food at the canteen has been sitting around for a while, if you know what I mean. We happily stocked up on snacks at the store though.

Resorts World Genting bus rest stop

If you aren’t heading back to Singapore, but prefer to visit KL instead, you can take a bus to KL Sentral then a train to Pasar Seni to go to Chinatown. 🙂

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From Singapore to Genting, we took a coach from Golden Mile Complex. For reasons unknown to us, the coach from ‘The One’ was an hour late and the seats weren’t too comfortable either; you cannot have it recline much without ending up lying on someone’s lap. 😛

*Watch out for the Twentieth Century Fox World Theme Park that is slated to open later this year.

The Lighthouse @ Fullerton Hotel: Menu, Prices, Dress Code

The Lighthouse Fullerton

I had a most enjoyable dinner this week at The Lighthouse at Fullerton Hotel, with the Leks. Steven blogs at retiredowhat.com and he’s my blogging-student-turned-pal. When not traveling the world with his lovely wife Mel, he’s introducing me to the world of good food. LOL! Anyway, I like this picture because it shows you what we ate, part of the view we were treated to, and also how I got this loving couple to smile till their eyes almost disappeared. As there were 4 plates of food in front of them, I said something like “Wow! It looks like you guys are eating A LOT of food” – to which they smiled and I captured this almost-candid shot. 😀

The food in the picture above shows our mains for the evening: pasta, lamb, tuna and cod. I’ve developed a liking for cod fish recently and if I’m not eating salmon, I’m having cod.

And here’s the bread basket before our appetizers were served. I think the bread is REALLY important when you are eating at some fancy restaurant where serving portions are very small so your mains don’t fill you up. Thankfully, while the bread here is soft and fluffy, the food portions are decent too, so all of us walked out with bulging full bellies.

The Lighthouse at Fullerton Hotel

Appetizers:

The Lighthouse appetizer 1

The Lighthouse appetizer 2

The food here at The Lighthouse is just really good! And we even managed to meet the chef – Chef Carlo – who came out to greet diners after all the food had been served. Hmm… how would I describe him… well, he looks like someone who enjoys food, and yet is a little bit shy (so cute). He’s not the kind of Italian who would take your hand and smother it in kisses, unlike some other Italian men I’ve met at events in the past. *And oh, the appetizers are really good. Especially the seafood that comes with an AMAZING and very addictive sauce. The anchovies(?) are surprisingly delicious too!

And here’s my cod fish.

The Lighthouse Cod Fish

The highlight of the meal has to be the dessert, of course. One thing they really get right here at The Lighthouse is their chocolate! And I LOVE chocolate, so trust me when I say it’s good.

This first one is the Warm Lava Chocolate Cake with ‘Bronte’ Pistachio Gelato ($24). It looks pretty unassuming from the outside, but cut it open and the chocolate oozes out (*yay*) and it is SO tasty!

The Lighthouse warm lava chocolate cake

Let the restaurant know if you’re having a celebration and they might just serve you this amazing cake. Chocolate once again and it’s so yummy. I don’t think it’s even on the menu.

The Lighthouse complimentary cake

Will include pictures of their menu in my next blogpost. Mains are priced between $28 and $88, with sides at $15 each. For dessert, there are just 6 choices, priced between $18 and $36.

As for the dress code, The Lighthouse probably states ‘smart casual’ on its website but I don’t think there are strict restrictions though it’s probably best if you don’t show up in shorts and slippers. I did panic a bit trying to figure out what I should wear to the restaurant. Settled on a sleeveless top and pants with slip-on loafers. Spotted another diner wearing a breezy knee-length cotton dress that could easily be worn to the beach over a bikini. As The Lighthouse is not a snobbish “fine dining” sort of restaurant, you don’t really need to get a headache over deciding on what to wear. Just something decent; like what one would wear to church.

How to get to The Lighthouse at Fullerton Hotel: Make your way to the hotel and take the lift up to the 8th floor. Follow the signage and take the spiral staircase up to the restaurant. You can also continue up the stairs to the rooftop bar. <- Not such a good idea if it’s raining as the staircase isn’t sheltered.

*If you’re celebrating a wedding anniversary, or a happy occasion of some soft, then this restaurant is really great for a memorable evening. There’s a beautiful view of the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Flyer, etc. The tables with the best views probably get reserved weeks in advance, so don’t forget to call and book first! 🙂

7 Best Hotels In Kuala Lumpur Every Singaporean Should Visit

2016 is shaping up to be a very busy year, and much as I’d love to fly to some place far away for a long holiday, I guess I will have to make do with a short getaway closer to home. This post is about the 7 hotels in Kuala Lumpur that I have either stayed at, or am planning to stay at in the near future. I’m using the tentative dates of 8 – 10 April (*do note that weekend rates are usually higher than weekday ones) and I’ve taken the screenshots off Traveloka, which is an awesome site for booking hotels and/or flights because they provide the total fee (inclusive of taxes) upfront, so you don’t get a shock at the final checkout page. Psst… there are some cool discounts to be enjoyed too! 🙂

When booking hotels, I usually take note of a couple of things: user reviews, whether there is a decent-size swimming pool or not, and whether the hotel is in a convenient location. I’ve hand-picked 7 hotels in Kuala Lumpur that will cost between S$117 and S$329 per night. See if you like any one of them too! 🙂

In no particular order of merit…

1) Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

I simply LOVE that view of the Twin Towers. I’ve stayed in Hyatt hotel in Kota Kinabalu before, and I love the Hyatt experience. So this one is definitely on my to-visit list. The most affordable room rate is for the Grand Twin Room (for 2), without breakfast, at S$286.07. Sometimes there are even limited-time sales on Traveloka, so book as quickly as you can using the TravelokaQuick function. As long as your credit card details are saved in the system, the transaction can be done within a minute so you can secure your booking at a great price.

Here’s my screenshot of one such flash sale for Hilton, which is #2 on my list:

Traveloka Flash Sales

2) Hilton Kuala Lumpur

Hilton Kuala Lumpur

I like to compare prices between various sites and I found that Traveloka has a Twin Deluxe Plus promotion for Hilton Kuala Lumpur – for 2 pax, it’s S$196.19. A similar room cost S$206.48 on Agoda, when I checked on 30th March 2016. It’s just a few dollars, I know, but it all adds up in the end, no?

3) Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur

Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur

I need to be at that pool NOW! 😀 I think hotels should have great pools because they offer not just a workout, but also a place for relaxation. Another reason why I’d choose to book via Traveloka is because they do offer more choices for certain hotels. For instance, for Ritz-Carlton, there are 6 room types available on Traveloka (the cheapest costs S$329.08 a night), but only 1 room type available on Agoda (the Premier Suite at S$370 before tax).

4) Berjaya Times Square Hotel

Berjaya Times Square Hotel

Once again, I LOVE that view. I can never stand hotel rooms without windows, and those which frustrate me most are windows which overlook, say, someone’s backyard, or an abandoned building, etc. A nice view of the city or a lake never hurts! 😀 I stayed at the Berjaya Times Square Hotel last year and enjoyed the hotel’s proximity to the shopping mall which is huge, and I think I’ll be back again soon. The price is pretty reasonable – starting from S$117.66 on Traveloka’s website.

5) Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel

Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel

Once again, that pool looks irresistible. And as you can see from the screenshot above, room rates at Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur start from just S$124.60. You can also download the Traveloka app (both Apple and Android versions are available) and enjoy paperless check-in when you reach the hotel. No time should be wasted so you can head to the pool as quickly as possible! 😀

6) JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur

JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur

Room rates at JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur start from S$225.79. I’ve stayed at the Marriott hotel in Singapore, but I’ve yet to stay at JW Marriott’s hotels. So I look forward to checking out this one in Kuala Lumpur! 😀

7) Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur

Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur

Le Meridien totally has a resort feel to it. I think sunsets by the pool, with a cocktail in hand, would be near perfection. Prices are not exactly cheap but I guess you just have to pay more for quality. If you are looking for hotel rooms that will fit nicely into your holiday budget, then go check out hotel booking sites like Traveloka, compare prices and find the best fit. For me, I think sites with clean layouts and which are user-friendly always get my vote. I really do not like hidden fees!

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 Just a quick 5-step process to book your hotel. It’ll be even faster once you’ve saved your details as a member!Traveloka booking

If you have any other hotels in Kuala Lumpur that you’d like to recommend, or have me review them, please feel free to write in to me. 🙂

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This post is brought to you by Traveloka, the largest and leading flight/hotel booking platform in Indonesia. Also, do note that the prices stated in this post are based on my own pre-selected dates for check-in and -out.

Things To Do In Singapore In 1-Day: My Indonesian Friend’s Visit :D

I’ve been SO BUSY recently. Among the many things I’ve been doing is taking my pals around Singapore. Previously, my Vietnamese friends came by (read the blogpost here), then a Cambodian (*no time to blog about his trip yet*) and my Indonesian pal just left Singapore today. One day is definitely NOT SUFFICIENT for visiting Singapore, as it will be a crazy rush from attraction to attraction, so please do not attempt this unless you have absolutely no choice. In any case, here are some suggestions for things to do in Singapore. Whether you are a tourist planning a trip to Singapore, or a Singaporean wondering where you should take your pals to when they come here to visit you, I hope this blogpost is useful to you. 🙂

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I met my pal at the airport in the morning around 8am, and we popped by Tampines Swimming Complex thereafter (it opens at 8am). A shower plus swim would be a delight for most tourists, I guess. In fact, I want nothing more than a hot shower after a flight to get rid of tiredness and to feel refreshed. 🙂 Tampines Swimming Complex on a Friday morning is not very crowded at all, and we sure did enjoy the swim.

Then it was a quick (and light) brunch at Century Square before we headed to Hotel Grand Pacific for a buffet lunch. At Tampines Mall, my pal also bought a tin of cookies from Bengawan Solo. When I’d visited him in Surabaya previously, I brought him a gift of cookies from Bengawan Solo, and he and his family liked the cookies so much that he (also) came here for more. 😀

The dessert corner at Sun’s Cafe in Hotel Grand Pacific:

Hotel Grand Pacific Sun's Cafe lunch buffet

I’ll do a more detailed post regarding the buffet later. Suffice to say now that it’s good value for money if you’ve bought a Groupon voucher. The staff are pretty friendly too.

The view from level 10 of the National Library:

Singapore National Library

After lunch, we visited the National Library which was around the corner, and we also went to Bugis+, Bugis Junction, Bugis Street, etc.

Maple Lodge (hostel) is right outside Exit A of Chinatown MRT station (on the left) –

Singapore Chinatown Maple Lodge

Then we went to his hostel at Chinatown – Maple Lodge – which is SO conveniently located just a few steps away from Exit A of Chinatown MRT station. If you’re a ‘backpacker’ visiting Singapore, here’s a good place to stay for just S$15 a night. Check-in time is at 3pm, or so I was told.

With check-in completed, and luggage deposited, we headed to Merlion Park, which is like the MUST-VISIT place for most tourists who want to get that obligatory photo with one of the merlions. We spotted a couple in full wedding attire getting their photoshoot done. The weather was SO hot then! Bless their souls. The bride did not seem to mind at all – no complaints heard – so I guess the groom made a fantastic choice. Hehe! Happy marriage, y’all!

Singapore Merlion Park

Thankfully, I’d thought of buying ice cream when we exited Raffles Place MRT station. If you’re walking towards Exit H, you’ll see a Mr Bean outlet. I bought ice cream for all 3 of us (me, my Indonesian pal, and another Malaysian pal currently studying in Singapore). Thus, there were few complaints about the weather when we stepped out of the air-conditioned premises to make our way to Merlion Park. We were too busy enjoying the ice cream. Haha!

A few quick snaps of the Merlion and we were off to MBS:

Singapore Marina Bay Sands

* I love those clouds *

We took a really long walk to get to Marina Bay Sands. For your information, visiting the Observation Deck of MBS requires a fee of S$23 for adults and S$17 for children (between 2 and 12 years old). Find out more about the fees here: http://www.marinabaysands.com/sands-skypark/observation-deck.html

*The Infinity Pool at MBS is reserved for hotel guests*

We had dinner at the foodcourt at Marina Bay Sands. The prices are much higher than in many other places in Singapore.

Post-dinner snack and chit-chat time:

DC Comics Super Heroes Cafe

We also visited the DC Comics Super Heroes themed cafe at MBS (level 1). I ordered some nuggets & fries, plus a yuzu drink (which was SO sweet). The chirpy waiter gave us some water served in the cutest caped super hero mugs. Service was excellent, despite what some reviewers said on the cafe’s facebook page. The decor of the place is simply awesome. You can find Batman, Catwoman, and many other super heroes. And there’s the Batmobile, the fancy bike (I don’t know what it’s called) and so many photo-worthy spots. Of course, the food’s also superhero-themed so snap away if you’re ordering the burgers, lattes or desserts, etc.

After an enjoyable chat, I sent him back to his hostel. He told me that he fell asleep very quickly because he was so tired. And it’s no wonder too. I clocked over 20,000 steps yesterday, just touring Singapore with him! LOL.

~

Nana’s Green Tea at Plaza Singapura. Lunch sets (inc. of a drink) are at S$13.90.

Nana's Green Tea Plaza Singapura

ION Orchard:

Singapore ION Orchard

As for today, we had lunch at Nana’s Green Tea at Plaza Singapura before popping by Orchard Road. We went to ION, Ngee Ann City, Kinokuniya, etc. 🙂 Then we were off to Woodlands where we bought sushi from my favorite sushi takeaway place. He also bought Old Chang Kee’s curry puffs and other snacks.

And then he’s off to Malaysia. 🙂

I’m gonna miss him. He’s a really fun guy to chat with and hang out with. And he also brought me presents… AWWW…

~

Gifts from Surabaya

My generous pal from Surabaya brought me some goodies. There’s Kue Blinjo (which I assume is some kind of cookie), (the famous) Livana’s Lapis Surabaya (which I’ve tried previously during my trip to Surabaya) and Bandeng Asap (Smoked Milkfish).

I do wish I’d thought of bringing him to visit a cat cafe earlier. Will certainly include that in the itinerary the next time he visits. Till then!~ 🙂

Heritage@25: The Most Luxurious Staycation in Singapore

*Update 14 Aug 2016: UNFORTUNATELY, Heritage @25 is NO LONGER AVAILABLE for stays / events. Should there be any change to this status in future, I’ll update this post. But for now, there are only these pictures to enjoy.

Heritage@25

I had the privilege of being hosted at Heritage@25 last month. It was a staycation that blew me away! And frankly, I was really reluctant to leave. 2D1N was just too short a stay. I could live in this bungalow with such rich heritage forever, really. Guess what, you can even book a stay here too, via airbnb! 😀

I was truly being a nag when I told my fiancé, as we strolled around the sprawling compound, that he should (please) make more money so we can buy a huge house like this one. In short, I love it.

[ And yes, there are too many perks to being a blogger. If you don’t have an interest in writing though, just date a blogger. LOL. ]

* A black-and-white picture seems fit for a house that’s over 100 years old *

Heritage@25

And this is what it’s like in the morning, when you prepare to slide into the lap pool:

Heritage@25

Heritage@25, located at 25 Chapel Road, is in a quiet neighborhood. And outside its gates, you’ll never guess that it’s so BIG within. One portion is designated as the venue for events, while the other portion is the residential side.

During our stay, we were the only ones in the huge bungalow, and we relished the experience of walking around the place and pretending we owned it. Hehe!

In fact, it’s quite a walk to get from the Presidential Suite upstairs, to the kitchen downstairs. An intercom system would be necessary if you’d like to tell someone in the bedroom to please bring something down to you. Hollering without the intercom does not help. And it’s good exercise just going upstairs and coming back down. I got quite a workout!

History buffs and those who are interested in places with rich heritage and cultural influences will most certainly love Heritage@25. If you’ve noticed the staircase in the picture above, it actually has Peranakan-design staircase tiles, which are not newly affixed, by the way.

I’ve also been told that in the past, this bungalow was actually near the beach but now the surrounding area has all been ‘built-up’ for land for more properties to be built. Despite the rapid changes, this bungalow is beautifully preserved and while it’s all about preserving heritage, the furniture within is new and stylish!

~

The Rucksack Group was indeed very kind to me. They let me have their Presidential Suite! The bed was SO comfortable. But I didn’t allow myself to sleep in the next morning, cos it was a must for us to check out the pool! 🙂

* the bed *

Heritage@25 Presidential Suite

And here’s the walk-in wardrobe with everything else you could possibly need: iron, safe, etc…

Heritage@25 walk in wardrobe

And the best part of the room has to be the bathroom: toilet on the right, bathtub in the middle and a standing shower on the left:

Heritage@25 bathroom

* well-stocked with toiletries *

Heritage@25 toiletries

And I am convinced this is the BEST rainshower experience I’ve ever had. Yes, even better than the ones at 5* hotels. I’ve never stood under a waterfall before, but it must feel something like that. It simply helps wash away the weariness of the day, and prepare you for a good night’s rest! I need to buy this shower head for my new home! And hope the water bill won’t be too steep!

Heritage@25 shower

And, of course, who can resist the bathtub? My fiancé LOVES bathtubs. I like a good soak in the tub if I have one of those bath bombs or bubble baths. Otherwise, it’s a quick shower and I’m off. Thus, I get to shower first! 😀 And oh, these are the Original Source goodies that I received at the Shopee launch:

Heritage@25 Presidential Suite bathtub

After you’re done with your shower, there are in-room refreshments to enjoy. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, maybe? And check out the aircon remote controller in that very retro-looking cup – I simply love all of these little vintage items around the house:

Heritage@25 refreshments

And in the morning, this view greets you at the living / dining area:

Heritage@25 living room

I love wooden tables that are devoid of clutter (makes them so inviting), and the lush greenery outside and the colorful beanbags at the porch just add such a burst of color to the view you enjoy while eating your breakfast. I really could get used to living here.

For breakfast, there’s bread you can toast, and cereal. There’s no need for a huge spread because Heritage@25 is located in an area which is full of awesome foodie spots – like Katong Laksa, and chicken rice at Katong Shopping Centre.

Heritage@25 breakfast

Inside the fridge you’ll find jams for your bread, milk for your cereal, yoghurt, etc. It really feels just like home.

Heritage@25 fridge

And when your belly is full, it’s a good time to go out and get some sun. 🙂 The lap pool is just outside and I must say that I’ve never had a swim in such serene surroundings! Truth be told, I’m rather intraverted and I can definitely see myself staying here, swimming everyday, reading out on the porch while seated on cushy beanbags, and not even bothering with heading out to the city. Quite the hermit’s life, in fact.

Heritage@25 lap pool

And like I said, 2D1N is simply too short a stay. ‘Forever’ sounds more like it. I’d definitely love to be back here again. 🙂

Heritage@25 exterior

~ Rates ~

Depending on whether it’s the peak period or not, the rate for the Presidential Suite is between S$380 and S$500. The family suite downstairs – that’s adjoining rooms – will cost S$200 + S$200.

As a rough guide, the rates for the colonial suite, junior suite and presidential suite are from S$200 to S$500.

If you’d like to book the event venue, it’s S$1200 (Mon -Thurs) S$2200 (Fri-Sun) for whole day rental. Alternatively, pay S$120 per hour on weekdays and S$220 per hour on weekends (minimum of 3 hours).

The driveway can accommodate 3 cars but when there are events, there will be a designated valet.

The usual events held here are tea ceremonies, afternoon lunches, afternoon party cocktails, evening parties, etc. There is one restriction: that guests must vacate the premises at 10pm, so as not to disturb the neighbors.

Interested? Contact Elina at elina@thhg.sg and tell her you read my blogpost, and get the best rate possible 🙂

~

*Three pictures in this blogpost are courtesy of StarHub. The rest are my own.*

A Traditional Javanese Wedding And My Favorite Hotels In Surabaya

I got to visit Surabaya in November 2015, and I fell in love with this Indonesian city (the second largest city in Indonesia, after Jakarta). I got to attend Ayu’s traditional Javanese wedding – which was an eye-opener – and I also had the privilege of having my pals take us around the beautiful, though very hot, city. 😀

First… the wedding:

traditional javanese wedding

I’m with the gorgeous bride, Ayu, whose name actually means “beautiful”. How apt!

I’ve never attended a wedding that’s not held in Singapore, prior to this, so it was truly a privilege to have been invited to observe the ceremony. I say “observe” because I could hardly understand a word the officer was saying as he rattled on so quickly, though he did crack many jokes and imparted lots of marriage advice to the newly-weds. I was told that one piece of advice to the husband was to not expect/initiate intercourse when one’s wife is menstruating. 😀

* the officer is the one holding the marriage certificate *

Javanese wedding

In the picture above, the bride’s father (seated next to the officer) is holding the hand of the groom, and some sort of vow is taking place. Apparently, there are two parts to the ceremony: to be married under the law, and to be married ‘under religion’ (the bride’s father entrusts his daughter to the groom who promises to take care of her, etc).

Surabaya wedding

The duration of the ceremony depends very much on whether the officer is talkative or not. LOL. This one made us stand around for about 45 minutes before the ceremony was wrapped up.

While Ayu used to be a model, she is now a makeup artist. She didn’t do her own makeup for this ceremony though, as it’s rather elaborate. In her shoes, I wouldn’t either. Not when I have to wake up so early in the morning.

I really adore the headpiece – here’s the view from the back:

Javanese bride

And there’s something awesome about stealing one of these Jasmine flower ends from the headpiece:

javanese wedding culture

Apparently, if you manage to steal one without Ayu noticing (Look over there, Ayu! There’s a bird!), you’ll find your true love very soon! However, as you can already guess, there was no need for me to resort to such thievery. Haha! But it’s pretty cool eh? In other cultures, we toss flower bouquets and force our single and unwed friends to catch them. Here, only those who so desire will go ahead and take the initiative.

And oh! I was rather amazed at the bananas outside the wedding venue too. Lots and lots of bananas, which symbolize fertility for the newly-weds:

Javanese wedding custom

There was also an exchange of gifts during the ceremony. In transparent-top boxes were a handbag, shoes, toiletries, a red bra(!), the Qur’an etc. These items signify the groom’s commitment to providing for his bride’s every need. I nearly got teary-eyed hearing this part explained to me, only to get a bit giggly again at the sight of the box containing the fiery red bra being passed from relative to relative in order to reach the front of the room. 😀

It was definitely an eye-opening experience I won’t forget 🙂

And I do wish the couple decades of wedded bliss, filial children and successful careers!

~

If you’d like to head to Surabaya, here are some nuggets of information that might interest you:

The time in Surabaya is 1 hour behind Singapore’s. The currency exchange rate in November 2015 was S$1 : 9660 Rupiah.

While the taxi we took to the airport (on the way back) cost 64,000rp, it cost us 145,000rp from the airport to the city via airport taxi (Bukti Sewa Taxi – Rahayu Transport). Choose Blue Bird taxis if you’re out and do keep small change in your wallet as taxi drivers in this country tend to keep the change without you asking them to, no matter the amount. It was quite a culture shock for me, especially when I visited Jakarta. The driver pocketed some S$20+ in change.

We flew to Surabaya by tigerair – no hiccups, and it costs just S$257.56 for return tickets for 2! Juanda Intl Airport T2 (which is new) has very clean toilets. However, the city has lots of mosquitoes, especially in vehicles like taxis!

[ I love the wide open space in the airport ]

Surabaya Juanda Airport

[ Was shocked to see a horse go past our taxi ]

Surabaya roads

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Surabaya Hotels We Stayed In

Surabaya is one of those places where you can get a stay at a luxury hotel without paying exorbitant prices. We stayed in three different hotels over 4 nights, and here’s the pricing (all inclusive of breakfast)…

[ Sheraton $112, Crown Prince $77, ibis styles $49 ]

SHERATON

It’s interesting how taxi drivers pronounce the word ‘Sheraton’ as ‘Share-rah-thorn’. If you have trouble communicating with your driver that you want to go to Sheraton Hotel, just tell them to take you to Tunjungan Plaza which is linked to the hotel.

Sheraton in Surabaya has all the prestige but doesn’t quite live up to all my expectations. For one, the armchair in the room was old and worn. And after we had checked in, we received a call up to the room asking for my handphone number, email and home address. Not cool. They had also initially wanted a deposit of some 500USD. We gave them 500,000rp.

What’s good though is the provision of 4 x 330ml bottles of water within the room.

Sheraton Hotel is pretty close to Pasar Genteng. It costs 12K by taxi, while the return trip cost just 7K. The market is HOT HOT HOT though – bring a handheld fan or a towel if you must. The place is good for purchasing local snacks. [ The taxi base fare is 7K ]

  * award-winning hotel *

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers awards

* the room *

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers

* the bathtub in the pretty big bathroom *

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers bathtub

* toiletries and 2 of the 4 water bottles *

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers toiletries

[ Their rather large gym ]

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers gym

[ Pool Bar ]

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers poolbar

[ Pool – quite deserted, just the way I like it ]

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers pool

CROWN PRINCE

In terms of cleanliness, this hotel needs to work on their pillowcases and bedsheets, really. But what is really awesome here is the breakfast spread! OMG! Share some pictures with you in a bit.

Crown Prince took just a 200K deposit. And if you book a club room, you get free afternoon tea from 530pm to 730pm – it’s a really limited selection so I wouldn’t bother again next time. And there are only 3 drinks in the free minibar: coke, pocari sweat and Vit C. We did have 2 free in-room snacks though.

[ I really prefer clean and spotless sheets and pillowcases! ]

crown prince surabaya

crown prince surabaya minibar

Breakfast: The banana cake in the top left corner is AMAZING!!! I had more than 3 servings, I think 😀 😀

crown prince surabaya breakfast

I love the fruit, porridge, veggies. OMG.

crown prince surabaya breakfast

There’s an egg station too! So, because the food is great, I can forgive all else.

IBIS STYLES

My one biggest regret on this trip is not staying a couple more nights at ibis styles. It’s so clean and colorful (so me!) and the bed is super comfortable! Too bad we had an early flight out. Love love love that the hotel prepared a breakfast takeout for us: Choose from noodles, rice and bread.

* Yup, surprised by breakfast takeout! *

ibis styles packed breakfast to airport

[ The quirky and colorful reception area ]

ibis styles surabaya reception

[ The room with the super comfy beds ]

ibis styles surabaya

[ Everything is colorful. Everything! ]

ibis styles refreshment

ibis styles bathroom

ibis styles surabaya washbasin

I’m definitely returning to ibis styles again the next time I visit Surabaya. Apparently, there are many ibis hotels there, but this one is pretty new. I highly recommend it!

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It’s pretty weird how 3 people from Surabaya (they now reside in SG) have spoken to me, and 2 are SHOCKED (frankly, appalled) that I like their city. Their complaints: “It’s so hot! There’s nothing to do in Surabaya! It’s boring!” Only 1 person agreed with me that the food is fantastic – the sole Indonesian language tutor at Indo Slang. I guess we sometimes have to see our own city with new (tourist) eyes, and then we begin to appreciate it more. After all, Singapore can be said to be pretty boring too. Malls tend to shut by 10pm… or rather, sales assistants lock up the cash registers around 9.45pm, and there’s not much of a ‘nightlife’ to speak of, right? But there’s so much to love too.

I really do like this Indonesian city. It also does not have traffic jams a la Jakarta. So what’s there to dislike about it? 🙂 Go check it out soon! 🙂

And in upcoming blogposts, I’ll share about the food places my Indonesian pals took us to, and the malls we visited, etc. Stay tuned!