Posts by Maurina

I am a blogger from the sleepy and peaceful Brunei where nothing ever happens. Or so u think... The fundamental thing about Brunei is the fact that it is full of unexpected treasures. So while you are here, live by it. Expect the unexpected. :)

Penang I Love You: Two Nights, Delicious (Halal) Food and The Most Beautiful Hotel Ever

 

Penang is one of my most favourite destinations.

Before, when I visited for the very first time, I keep on telling my husband that he would love it there. I’m so happy that finally he is here and I was right – he absolutely finds Penang so wonderful!

From all the vintage finds, the restored buildings, the delicious RICE (he is a big fan of rice), and zipping around the city to see Penang’s sights and sounds, he declared – “Sayang, I love Penang.”

As two people who most of the time don’t see eye to eye (we generally clash opinions on pretty much everything) – we recognise how rare this is  that we actually agree on this hahaha.

As we came here to chillax, we have the most relaxed itinerary ever!

DAY 1

Took the ETS from KL Sentral to Butterworth. ETS is the new electronic train system that is supposedly the fastest in South East Asia. From KL Sentral to Penang, it took us 4 hours.

I bought our train tickets here at BusOnlineTicket for RM79 (BND25). What a deal!

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I love train travel. As much as possible, whenever there’s a train option, I’d always opt for it. They are cheap, very comfortable, and always comes with food! Hehe.

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However, it was SO COLD. Prepare to bring a jacket hahaha.

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Arrived in Butterworth! This is also called “mainland” for the locals. From Butterworth you take a ferry or drive up the Penang Bridge to get to Georgetown.

So we walked to the Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal, located right next to the Butterworth Train Station. Ask around if you are not sure. 🙂 People around this area is super friendly!

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It’s a short walk to the right, after you exit the train station.

The ferry ride costs RM1.20 (BND0.40) which is like SO MURAH hahah.

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Recommended! Scenic and beautiful – not the fastest way to get from Butterworth to Georgetown but certainly one of the more interesting.

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Upon arrival, we planned to get a taxi to our hotel. But guess what? No taxis wanted to take us! We said Love Lane and they all were like mehhhh… How rude!

So I opened my phone and tried checking where it was – 10 minute walk away. Is that why the taxis didn’t want to take us? I don’t really know till this day. Haha.

So we just walked!

Good thing we did too. Eventhough the weather was blisteringly hot (it was noon afterall with not a cloud in sight!), the walk took longer than 10 minutes because we keep on stopping for pictures!

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Checked into the most BEAUTIFUL hotel ever! Everything from the layout, to the hotel staff, to they way they talk to us – made us feel the Penang magic!

Highly recommend this hotel to everyone! It’s called 23 Love Lane and it is a bit on the lux side but completely worth it.

The hotel is a refurbished home, and as I entered in for the first time, they greeted us and served us with an icy drink and helped us with our luggage and I felt really at home!

After checking in, we decided it was too hot outside to explore. I had the most delicious cold shower and actually NAPPED!!!!!!!! We switched the aircond off and with the Adabi style windows open and the wind blowing in…. WOW!

You all know I never nap in the afternoons, but that was so fabulous! ❤

Later, after my shower, and nap. I put on my face again and we enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea at the Lobby.

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I tell you this hotel is so intuitive heheh.

After, we sort of set out to explore the neighbourhood on foot and see see. We saw a couple of local tourists (Malaysians but not from Penang) negotiating and then riding scooters. We realised that the scooters were for rent.

Curious, we asked how much. RM40 (BND12) per day.

YES PLEASE!

 

We were sold!

All we had to do was leave 1 passport and payment upfront.

5 minutes later we zipped along Penang towards Penang Hill. Well actually we didn;t have plans so we didnt really know where to go so I just randomly chose Penang Hill – which coincidentally the Scooter Guy mentioned during his “safety briefing” haha.

Funny bit was since this was a split second decision made when we were already on the bike, it was not communicated to Marul.. So while I navigated with Waze – he just followed us  for 20 minutes trying to figure out where we were going HAHAHAHAHA.

SO FUNNY! So much trust he puts in us hahahahahaha.

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So Penang Hill we ended up and I realised Penang has definitely invested to upgrade their tourism infrastructure!

We rode the funicular – which was not like how I remembered it – the wait was very cooling so I was not tired – plus there were seats provided!  Last time, it was a slow train – with a very uncomfortably balmy wait, now it went up so fast and there was aircond and fans provided.

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Siuk jua tu!

On top of Penang Hill, there is a fabulous panoramic view of Georgetown. We gazed jealously as we saw a drone zipping around on the hill, imagining what fabulous videos the owner must have.

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Penang Hill is a must go if only for the view!

Then, I was sort of wandering around… as I usually do (I always end up separated from the group when I travel somehow – hahah I guess I’m a wanderer) – I saw some poorly written ad. Flying video.

I realised the drone we saw earlier was for rent!

I quickly went to find Marul and told him! We were so excited hahahahaha – and guess how much it was? An affordable RM80 only and we even get to keep the pendrive it came in haha.

Check out our video below.

When we finally came down it was dark.

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We met up with Amir – my family in Penang!

It was so FUN! Why? Because he was also on his scooter so we did a scooter convoy and he brought us for NASI KANDAR!

Nasi kandar is my ultimate favourite in Penang. SERIOUSLY I can eat it morning nooand night all day everyday hahaa. I dont know what it is about Penang nasi kandar that makes it so NYAMAN?????? Sedappppppppp….. It really is the water I think.

I ate so much. We also just realised it’s our first real meal of the day. HAHA.

After all that food, u would think we would waddle home.

We didnt.

It’s called SSEAYP revenge. You feed your guests until they wanna pengsan hahahahahah. Amir brought us for rojak at the Esplanade!

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Both kinds were so SEDAPPPPPP.

THEN barutah balik hahahahahahahahah.

DAY 2

Day 2 in Penang began with breakfast. At 23 Love Lane, the breakfast icomes complimentary with the room. You order off a menu and there’s a bread, fruit, jam and cereal buffet as well.

Here are my Eggs Benedict and here is the most beautiful photo di dunia. Hahahah! Kabus!

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After, we decided to go konon mural hunting. For some reason, GD and Marul think we shouldn’t use the scooter, and rent a bicycle instead – cause supposedly it’s “easier” to manoevre.

I don’t know why they have such high regard of my cycling skills. They just want to torture me.

Anyway so we set about looking for bicycle for rent (dan mesti yang lawa).

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We found this one place that has bicycles but actually not for rent hahaa. Also not for sale. Saja collection!!! The owner we spoke to said they used to rent bicycles out but the cost of maintenance was too high so they don’t do it anymore. Now he reproduces his father’s beautiful paintings of Penang onto magnets and sells those for RM5 each.

SO interesting people’s stories are I feel.

Anyway, finally managed to rent a bike for RM10 (BND3) for 24 hours (seriously!?) and off we went for mural hunting.

SO FUN! FYI, all the murals are also Pokestops haha. Also, you tend to bump into the sme people also doing the same as you so u end up making friends too! #siukbekenalandanmencarijodoh

Some information about these murals, they’re created by Ernest Zacharevic

Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned in 2012 by the Penang Municipal Council to create a street art project in Georgetown called ‘Mirrors George Town‘ which consisted of painting several large scale murals in different location of the old town.

(Source)

I find it so fascinating since Penang is a UNESCO Heritage Site so Zacharevic must have needed to create artworks that enhances that the local culture and lifestyle sama semuanya ani inda boleh di padam! Must have been so challenging!

Mural hunting somehow brought us to the Chew Jetty.

Isn’t it so reminiscent of old school Kampong Ayer? GD said it really reminded him of his childhood when he went to Kedai Anak Yatim to buy tikam tikaman, and keropok!

For me I find it so quaint!

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Also here we had the most fabulous Durian Icecream, with real durian! A MUST HAVE on a hot day such as this.

We were feeling a bit FRIED also from the sun so we decided to take a breather. Back to the hotel we went! Unfortunately Penang is not suitable to explore during noon lest you get sunstroke!

I’ve never taken so many showers in a day hahaha.

Anyway, once refreshed, we emerged from the airconditioning HUNGRY!

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Sheesh I never learn. Kabus!

Hungry means HAMEEDIYAH RESTAURANT!!!!! This is one of the must go restaurants in Penang, even locals say so!

Off we went on our scooter.

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And the place is just 10 minutes away. FYI I am the navigator as I’m the only one not driving and able to hold a phone.

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Macam makan 10 orang.

After a big meal, what does one do? DESSERT OF COURSE!!!!

The quintessential dessert in Penang is the Penang Road Teo Chew Chendol. NYAMAN BERABIS DI DUNIA.

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I still have intense cravings for this chendol to this day.

Also, how crazy fast are those aunties making the chendol!?????

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Nyaman berabis!

Next activity of the day involves going to the highest building in Penang – KOMTAR!

KOMTAR building actually had a super epic glass bottomed rainbow skywalk  at the 68th Floor which public can go up to see. You buy tickets at the Level 5 (I think) and you get to choose if you want to just go up there or want to go up, and have dinner at the restaurant also.

It is open from 10am-6pm but after 6pm you have the following options:

  1. Diners – RM138 / RM168 /RM198 (each tier pricing with an option for main course top-up)
  2. Diners Child – RM98
  3. Non-Diners – RM118 (inclusive of a glass beer, house pouring red or white, soft drinks or chilled juices + 2 sticks of satay with peanut sauce, onion, cucumber & nasi impit)

We chose the most expensive option cause WHY NOT? RM198 (BND66) comes with an 8 course degustation menu and we haven’t had fine dining yet this trip! 🙂

But first, it was a sunset that we were after – on the skywalk.

Here are the boys.

And here is me.

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SO SCARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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But my appetite remained intact.

Semua nyaman!

Another night of waddling home!

DAY 3

This morning we woke up FULL OF PURPOSE.

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We had a few goals in mind and the all involve FOOD!!!!

1. ROTI BAKAR HUTTON LANE

That runny egg, the charcoal toast. NYAMAN.

2. PENANG CHAR KWAY TEOW

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This is like…. omg how can we go to Penang without having Char Kway Teow???? We had this at Bee Hwa Cafe, located not far from the Roti Bakar place.

After that we went to tapau more chendol at Penang Road and set back to the hotel for check out uwaaaaaaa…

We grabbed a cab to drop us off at the Ferry Terminal. As we were waiting we were wondering where to pay for ferry and rupanya free! Guys they don’t charge money for all rides from Georgetown back to Butterworth but there is a wait hehe.

Like I said earlier ferries are not the fastest way to get in and out of Penang.

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Back on the mainlaind we had 10 minutes to spare to go on the train (sikit  lagi nda sampat – we had to run a bit – but we made it and we were sweating buckets hehe!).

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Siuk!

I love Penang.

Thank you to my travel buddies for being so awesome as well. Next post – Kuala Lumpur!

Check out also Marul’s Vlogs below cause sometimes I steal his phone and take videos too hahahahaha:

5 Travel Tips for Choosing and Booking Accommodation

Something I get asked a lot about travel is HOW DO I CHOOSE HOTELS?

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Stargazer Full of Stars Tents at Wadi Rum Night Luxury Camp, Jordan 

A hotel can make or break your holiday. Choose the wrong one and you can end up miserable, unrested or worse, homeless. But when you choose the right one, it can be the hub from where you launch your adventures and recharge after a full day of exploring.

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Beautiful outdoor toilet at my villa in Ketapang Indah Hotel, Banyuwangi

So aside from the obvious: air conditioning, cleanliness, wifi and no shared bathrooms (ew!), below are 5 things I consider when booking holiday accommodation.

1. CONFIRM THE HOTEL BEFORE YOU ARRIVE

There are plenty of search engines for checking out hotels. Some very very common ones are:

I use them all interchangeably  EXCEPT for booking.com. Unfortunately, I have had a few bad experiences with booking.com. Because it’s only a booking engine, they don’t really confirm your booking and the hotel reserves the right to give away your room to other people who walk in – without notice.

This actually happened to me twice – but on the first time I was lucky, the hotel managed to find me another room so crisis was averted. Second time it happened, I just arrived from a delayed flight and it was 11pm at night.

Me and my travel buddies actually had to walk out at that hour, drag our luggages, and find another hotel! I can never forget that night!

Can u imagine doing that if you are travelling with children? Or elder members of your family?

As I also sometimes travel solo, I want to avoid this situation of having to be homeless so I MUST MUST MUST confirm the hotel before I arrive.

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Sheraton Bandung Hotel & Towers – one of the few luxury chain hotels that I’ve stayed in – beautiful and fantastic stay – especially the marshmallow beds ❤

My personal favourite is actually Agoda -reliable and you pay for your room before you arrive so it’s confirmed.

Sometimes, I also use Airbnb. Some lovely apartments available and it’s a plus if they come equipped with a washing machine.

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Successful Airbnb booking – an apartment in MyHabitat, just off KLCC

This however, I use with caution and only if I am confident with the country I am travelling to. Some apartments are near to main attractions but located in ghetto neighbourhoods which may not be suitable for lady travellers.

In this case research is very important. I also always keep comparing Airbnb with a hotel to see if the price is similar, but usually, I almost always prefer staying in a hotel over an Airbnb.

2. CHECK THE REVIEWS

I cannot stress the important of reviews, and plenty of it. I tend to avoid chain hotels to be honest and love to opt for boutique hotels, villas, restored homes. They have more character, value add, and often, the operator of the hotel is the one greeting you at the reception.

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Villa Dreams II in Selcuk, has the most fantabulous host! He is also the restaurateur, the driver, porter, concierge as well as the receptionist. All in one haha. We loved our stay here!

So for me, reviews are super important! The more reviews a location has the better, and the more 5 stars it gets the better.

Pay attention to things that matter to you but rarely gets mentioned under amenities:

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Bedouin Tents equipped with SEVEN layers of blankets ensure we never become cold in the dead of winter at Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp.

If you are like me: I check for reviews on friendly hosts, helpful staff, bum sprays haha, if the hot water is hot enough and if the internet is fast. I used to require elevators, but now since I carry a backpack that doesn’t really matter.

If you are a parent: check for stroller friendly elevators, if they can assist you to store your breast milk.

Also the location – which brings me to the next point.

3. LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION

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Our Airbnb in Rome, was located above an LV boutique and barely 2 minutes walk from the Spanish Steps!

This is so important OMG!

 

Make sure you are in a location where if possible, you are within walking distance to stuff like 7-11, restaurants, malls, and if possible – main attractions! This will ensure the place is siok and you don’t need to travel much to  eat and see the sights and sounds of that destination.

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Flora Hotel Apartments in Dubai, one of the more affordable stays in the city, located smack in the middle of Deira area and 2-3 minute walk to the Baniyas Square Metro Sation.

Aside from landmarks, depending on your travel style, you may want to choose a hotel that is near public transport such as LRT/MRT. Or if the hotel is easily accessible by car so you can easily Grab or Uber.

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The Holiday Inn Express Siam in Bangkok is a short walk away from the BTS Station – National Stadium and you can even see it from the window haha.

Otherwise, choose a hotel that offers value add services like bicycle for rent, or shuttle services to the nearest attraction/mall, or perhaps it just needed to be located nearby a scooter renter.

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Woke up fresh and early at 23 Love Lane (my current favourite hotel EVER) and now off to explore Penang on our scooters! 

4. AMENITIES

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A must in Cappadocia – staying in a cave hotel. In my case, this stay in the Elif Star Cave Hotel was one of my most memorable stays!!!!

Just because you are staying in a cave hotel doesn’t mean you cannot have WIFI. Check the amenities they provide like laundry, hot water (a must for me!), parking (if you have your own vehicle),

Or if you are a parent with small children: maybe a baby cot?

If it’s a country where halal food is not readily available, perhaps a kitchenette is  required?

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A room equipped with a kitchenette at the Isabel Garden Hotel in Manila for a short stay in Manila

Perhaps it’s an island getaway so you wanna be sure what sort of facilities they have once the sun sets and you just wanna chill?

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Outdoor movies for nights you don’t want to hang out at the club at Hotel Ombak Sunset, Gili Trawangan.

Perhaps you have plans of monging around at the pool so that’s another thing to consider.

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Pool overlooking the hillside at our honeymoon suite in Sea Pearl Villas, Phuket.

5. DON’T STAY IN ONE PLACE

Who says you have to stay in one place?

Found 2 hotels you like? Stay one day there, and one day another place. Sometimes this method is quite a rewarding way to experience a country.

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The Everly Putrajaya, located right next to Alamanda Shopping Centre, was my hub to exploring the administrative capital on my final day in Malaysia. It was a luxury hotel but extremely affordable. 

Want to stay in a fancy hotel/villa but can’t afford it for the whole duration of your holiday? Then book your final night in a fancy hotel, and stay in a more affordable hotel for the rest of your trip.

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Awesome campsite experience in AZ Back to Nature in Temburong

Or maybe you want to try a homestay or a campsite experience but don’t think you can handle “culture” or nature for more than 1 night? Who says u have to? Hahaha.

Yes it is slightly inconvenient to move hotels but it can be quite fun as well!

For example, during my trip to India, we took the famous Konkani Express  (train) and saved 1 night of hotel by taking the night train.

Furthermore as it was super comfortable, we arrived at our destination fresh as a daisy! ❤

***

That’s the end guys, hope u guys found this guide useful. All in all, don’t rush to book, they require just a little bit of research and reading,  but don’t leave it to the absolute last minute or you will feel anxious about choosing the perfect one.

Remember, it’s all about the journey not the destination! 🙂

48 Hours in Negeri Sembilan, Malacca and Kuala Lumpur

Some people say, in travel, the first 24 hours will mark the tone of how your trip will be.

Is that true?

Day 1

8am

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Breaking into my AWESOME 44L Military Cabinzero. I have to say at first when I received it, I was skeptical. I am used to my Karrimor, with all the compartments, and fancy features. But boy was I wrong!

This bag  was really amazing! It simplified my travel, was sturdy but ultra light, and best of all was cabin sized so I never had to check in any luggage!

I could fit all my clothes, all my toiletries, all my makeup, my brushes, my bag of chargers and everything I need for 7 days of travel (plus extra space for my Uniqlo shopping too!).

930am

Left Brunei via Royal Brunei! I can see my office!IMG_8107.JPG

IMG_8111.JPGI love the timing of this flight. Arrived at 12pm and just in time to explore!

12pm

Or in my case, drive to Melaka!

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Here we are in Dahlia’s car. (WHY DID WE FORGET TO TAKE GROUP PHOTO?)

Dahlia is a friend I met during SSEAYP in 2008. Been to KL many times, but since I always come impromptu or for transits, we never got the chance to do an overnight roadtrip. This is the first time we ever went somewhere really far together and I daresay this won’t be the last!

1pm

Lunchtime!!! On the way to Melaka, we dropped by Negeri Sembilan (N9).

Best part of travelling with a local is that we get to try local haunts! Dropped by Aunty Aini’s Garden Cafe, which is known for their local dishes in the style of Negeri Sembilan.

According to this article, Anthony Bourdain has actually been here! Haha.

Negeri Sembilan’s food is known for being creamy and spicy – one signature dish is the daging salai masak lemak cili api.

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We had: kuih keria, daging salai masak lemak cili api, kailan ikan masin, sotong goreng kunyit, udang masak sambal petai and the telur itik masak lemak cili api.

NYAMAN! All the food were balanced, bursting with flavours, spicy but not overly spicy, and all around very sedap.

For dessert:

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Tapai Pulut with Vanilla Icecream!

OMG.It’s true what people say, keep cool after eating tapai (jangan bejamur karang mabuk)..

I definitely became mabuk cause immediately after, I felt so dizzy and 30 minutes after that dessert, VOMITED IN A PLASTIC BAG INSIDE A MOVING CAR!!! Hahahahahahahahah!!!

Oh dear. Luckilly an R&R was nearby so we stopped to freshen up. Immediately after, I felt well again.

So heed elders advice. LOL.

5pm

Arrived in Melaka! Checked into The Baba House, on Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, just parallel to Jonker Walk. ❤

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I love the vintage, baba nyonya charm of the place.

More importantly we love the location. Definitely a good choice as it was walking distance from all the main attractions in Melaka!

6pm

It’s chendol time.

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This chendol is located near the big tower clock and the fountain. It was ok but very refreshing on a hot day like this!

630pm

Then off we went to explore Jonker Walk.

Things like antiques, food, durian puffs, beca and aunties karaokeing! It’s like… Portobello Road – anything and everything  a chap can unload is sold off a barrow in Portobello Road.

9pm

It’s dinner time. And when in Melaka, you eat ASAM PEDAS.

Highly recommended was this place right in front of Casa Del Rio called Hajjah Mona Asam Pedas. Value eats! For RM5 u get a big plate of rice, ikan kembung asam pedas, telur masin and taugeh!

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Also cause there was a satay cart, we can’t resist!

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Sedap and so cheap!

Dahlia mentioned that her Melaka uncle said here the asam pedas is really close to the authentic Melaka asam pedas.

10pm

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Back to the hotel to recharge for the next day!

Day 2

9am

Check out from The Baba House and left our stuff at the hotel.

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915am

A hunt for breakfast down on Jonker Walk can turn up so many awesome finds. #distracted

10am

Stop at Mamee Jonker House!

Who doesn’t love Mamee Monster!!!

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We enjoyed our time at the Mamee Museum and to our delight theres also a cafe at the back serving yummy food!

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They serve really nice chendol gula melaka! Nyaman!

So enjoy here!

11am onwards

After breakfast we managed to visit these monuments:

Malacca Port

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Tourists on the loose.

Flor Del Mar

According to Wikipedia:

Flor Del Mar was a Portuguese nau (carrack) of 400 tons, which over nine years participated in decisive events in the Indian Ocean until her sinking in November 1511. Nobleman Afonso de Albuquerque was returning from the conquest of Malacca, bringing with him a large treasure trove for the Portuguese king, when the ship was lost off the coast of Sumatra.

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So interesting! Read here.

Sungai Melaka

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Cruise down Sungai Melaka down the city

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This is when we saw many interesting sights.

A Famosa

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A Famosa was a Portuguese fortress located in Malacca, Malaysia. It is among the oldest surviving European architectural remains in south east Asia. The Porta de Santiago, a small gate house, is the only part of the fortress which still remains today.

(Source)

Independence Memorial

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Ok by this time it was like 1pm and SO FREAKING panas berabis so we decided to go back to the car and leave for KL. But first:

Lunch at Jom Coffee

We badly needed airconditioning so we simply went inside the mall infront of the Independence Memorial and had a meal at Jom Coffee.

2pm

Headed back to KL, but first, we dropped by the Freeport A’Famosa Outlet.

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3pm

Cendol Bakar!

No it’s not burnt cendol but actually Bakar is the name of the person who made the cendol. Haha saspen! All the same we enjoyed lovely R&R here perfect before our trip back to KL.

8pm

Arrived back in Kuala Lumpur at 8pm and believe it or not, after all the food we ate that day, we were famished! So guess what we did. Yes. Dropped by Publika to EAT.

Eat we did at Ben’s General Food Store. So fun! We get to choose our meats from the butcher and the restaurant actually grills them for u. NYAMAN!

Also we saw Mira Filzah shopping for groceries – she must be staying around the area.

10pm

IMG_8530.JPGThe night ended at Dahlia’s house. I slept like a baby after taking this panoramic view outside her apartment window. Haha!

Further reading (HAHA):

Next post: PENANG!!!

Positively Fat

I am size 16 so I am what you call, fat.
I admit it’s completely my fault. Haha. I eat decadent things and find exercise extremely tedious.

However, sometimes people use my size as something to make me feel bad about myself. 

The thing is I was once skinny, but the same people deride me for being short. When I wear heels and look and feel taller, those same people will find offense in my voice, or teeth, or hair.


So as you can see, you cannot please people. 

You see, you can be perfect, and people will still find some way to make you feel bad. 

In fact, you can be perfect and YOU yourself find ways to make YOUR OWN SELF feel bad.

So I’m not entirely sure when, but about 10 years or so ago, I decided, enough. 

I may be fat, but that is not a reflection of my heart, all the good things about myself, or all the awesome things I’ve done and am capable of.


The more I observe the more I realise how people who call u names are more insecure about their looks than u are of yours.

I am what you call, confident. 

Why? Because I am relatively highly educated, laugh wholeheartedly every single day of my life, can eat exclusively delicious things, can travel wherever I want, doing what I love and have awesome friends & families who supports everything I do. 


If I ever have advice for u it is this: SNAP OUT OF IT.

Other people have absolutely NO, NIL, NADA, right to judge u and call you names. They don’t know how hard u work to look and be how u are today.

You don’t need negative voices telling u that you are fat, ugly, dark skinned, short. 

Even if u are all of those combined, remember that is not all you are – who says u can’t be smart, sexy, funny, generous, amazingly awesome and happy?


Trust me when the looks go, guess what – ur smartness, sexiness, generosity, awesomeness —- they’re here to stay!

#Travellogues: 5 Things I Learnt from Travelling in Jordan

THING #1: Jordan is a conservative country.

Before I came to Jordan, I was expecting a very open, modern society  not much different from Turkey. However, I forgot that the main thing about Turkey is that it is mainly secularised.

While Jordan is modernised, I soon came to realise that people here are quite conservative. You will seldom see people revealing legs, or couples showing PDA.

Men and women, generally cover their hair, and wear loose clothing. Seldom you will see a lady wearing short jackets – as there is a preference for longer, knee length jackets.

In the Hammam (Turkish Bath) here, women generally wear bikinis or swimsuits, very unlike the one in Istanbul, where it is considered normal and expected to do hammam in the nude.

Jordan has a long rich history steeped in Judaism, Christianity and Islam and some people consider Jordan as a place of pilgrimage. Plenty of tourists come to see Mount Nebo where Moses (Nabi Musa SAW) looked at the Promised Land, and there’s the Bethany Site, where Christians believe to be the Baptism Site of Jesus.

In Islam, Moses is mentioned more in the Quran than any other individual, and his life is narrated and recounted more than that of any other prophet. Red Sea, on one side of Jordan, is also the body of water that Moses parted to let Muslims escape from the tyrannical Egyptian pharaoh.

With this kind of history, it’s no wonder that Jordan has maintained its conservatism, in the midst of it’s awesome modernity.

THING #2: Bedouins are so chill.

It’s true. If you want to experience true Arab hospitality, hang out with a bunch of bedouins. They will invite you for tea, and you can talk, do shisha 10 times over, chill till the sun goes down and comes back up again!

Jordanians are very family oriented and extremely generous. They stay together, work together, share their earnings, share their food, help each other, and will welcome you into the fold just like that. I’ve read that extending good hospitality is not just something admirable to do but a sacred duty and honor.

Arabs may look super serious sometimes, but know that most are good people. I really am inclined to believe that.

Don’t believe everything you see or hear in the media. We had the best time and people are super friendly!

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See their generousity and kindness from your own eyes.

THING #3: Jordanians eat a LOT but they don’t eat fish!

I loveeeee everything I ate in Jordan. Food is not expensive, but I wouldn’t say it’s cheap. The whole time I was in Jordan, I didn’t even touch a piece of fish.

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Aside from the expected shawarmas, which Jordanians prefer to eat with soury sides like pickles, and salads.

I still see no fish.

It’s no wonder since Jordanian food mostly consists of nuts, and vegetables and meat. Lots and lots of meat – especially lamb. This is not a problem. I LOVE MY MEAT!

A bedouin specialty in Wadi Rum, this was a dish cooked inside the ground called zarb.

“A mix of meat like lamb and chicken, rice, onions and carrots, are placed in a square hole in the ground, which is filled with flaming hot coals. The hole is then covered with a few layers of blankets to hold in the heat and finally sand is covered over the oven.”

From here.

Yummy or not??? We had it at the Wadi Rum Luxury Night Camp we stayed in and it was served on a communal platter, sort of like a mandy. We all helped ourselves to seconds (and thirds!)

So many fresh produce available. Jordan is blessed by an abundant land.

I love baba ghanoush!

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I love the hummus here! It was suuuuuper yummy! Lifelong fan of hummus, I never thought I’d finally have it in the Middle East. Haha.

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Does it matter that there’s no fish? Hehe.

THING #4: The landscape can change dramatically as you drive from one end to the other.

It really is worth it to rent a car and just drive yourself.

From cityscape, to desert as far as your eyes can see, to suddenly seeing amazing rock formations, the landscape dazzles and takes your breath away.

Pine trees dot the journey to the Dead Sea.

Beautiful mountains at the very entrance of Wadi Rum.

Random drive in Petra area.

Wadi Rum as TE Lawrence described it:

“Vast, echoing and god-like”

I was in awe as we drive off road into the Wadi Rum protected area.

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THING#5: You can swim in winter.

During winter, the temperature in Jordan can range from 5 to 10 degrees celcius. But don’t let that stop you from packing swimwear.

The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth and generally very pleasant at about 20-25 degrees celsius when we were there. The water is cool, but still very swimmable (dip-able rather cause it’s super hard to swim due to the saltiness haha).

Salt mixed with sand from the beach. The Dead Sea has the highest salt content in the world and no bacteria or living thing can exist in there. In fact, even us humans cannot stand dipping for more than 5 minutes!

Some facts about the Dead Sea from well, Wikipedia (don’t judge!):

The Dead Sea is bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel and Palestine to the west. Its surface and shores are 430.5 metres (1,412 ft) below sea level,[4][6] Earth’s lowest elevation on land. The Dead Sea is 304 m (997 ft) deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. With 34.2% salinity (in 2011), it is 9.6 times as salty as the ocean, and one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water.

Being in the Dead Sea was definitely of of the highlights of my trip. We went to the Amman Tourist Beach, and entrance costs JD20 (BND40) and you can rent a towel and locker for JD5 (BND10). There are public showers that are quite clean.

IMG_6321.JPGIf I ever come back I would actually go to a hotel and really take my time. I’m definitely a beach bum!

Travelogues: Jordan, Qatar & UAE – 3 Expensive Countries for under BND3000

WHAT AN EPIC TRIP I JUST CAME BACK FROM!

In a nutshell:

  • JORDAN: Amman, Petra, Wadi Rum, Dead Sea
  • QATAR: Doha (Museum of Islamic Arts, Souq Waqif, Villagio Doha)
  • UAE: Dubai (Burj Khalifa, The Dubai Mall, Al Hibab Desert, Naif Souq)

So since a lot of people asked about our itinerary and budget, I’ve decided to publish it here.

FYI, my travel style is usually full of activities and touristy things, but  for this trip, we had 2 big shopaholics so we all must compromise hahaha. Jordan was full on no shopping (didn’t even buy a Pandora charm!) but spent a lot of time in Malls and Souqs at both Doha and Dubai. But actually, in both destinations, there are plenty of things you can do other than retail therapy so I’m also gonna list those down for my next trip there (perhaps!).

We used many different airlines (it’s my thing haha – I love to try different different airlines and airports just to see and compare like the judgy person I am). They are:

Qatar Airways was an interesting ride as it has wifi – free for 15 minutes (or 500mb – I think) – operated by Qatari telco Ooredhoo. However, not as convenient as other airlines cause it leaves from Al Maktoum International Airport which is about 45 minutes – 1 hour from Downtown Dubai.

Without further ado the itinerary:

ITINERARY

DAY ACTIVITY ACCOMODATION
DAY 1
Flight: Brunei to Dubai
(Royal Brunei Air)
DAY 2
Flight: Dubai to Amman
Royal Jordanian
Check in Thousand Nights Hotel
Arrange rental car
Explore Amman
Early Dinner
DAY 3
Drive to Petra
Check in Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp
Explore Petra
DAY 4
Check out Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp
Drive to Wadi Rum
4×4 Tour of Wadi Rum
Check in Wadi Rum Luxury Camp
DAY 5
Check out Wadi Rum Luxury Camp
Drive to New Amman Palestinian Refugee Camp
Drive to Dead Sea – Amman Touristic Beach
Check in Capri Suites
DAY 6
Check out Capri Suites
Africana Hotel
Flight: Amman to Dubai
(Royal Jordanian Air)
Check in Africana Hotel Sutchi Hotel
DAY 7
Flight: Dubai to Doha
Qatar Airways
Check in Plaza Inn Doha
Explore Doha – Museum of Islamic Arts, Lagoona Mall
DAY 8 Explore Doha – Souq Waqif, Villagio Doha Plaza Inn Doha
DAY 9
Check out from Plaza Inn Doha
Flight: Doha to Dubai
Qatar Airways
Check in Flora Hotel Apartments
DAY 10
Take Metro to The Dubai Mall
Flora Hotel Apartments
Explore Deira area
DAY 11 Explore Dubai: Desert Safari, Naif Souq Flora Hotel Apartments
DAY 12 Explore Dubai: Burj Khalifa, The Dubai Mall Flora Hotel Apartments
DAY 13
Check out Flora Hotel Apartments
Leave for airport
Flight: Dubai to Brunei
(Royal Brunei Air)

As usual, all accomodation (hotels/camps) are booked from agoda.com, except for one – which I booked on booking.com (btw I highly discourage anyone from booking through here – will talk about my experience in another post!).

Next topic: BUDGET!

Budget for travelling is a highly subjective thing. You can go all out, or u can pick and choose what you like, and are willing to spend. Use mine as a guide: you can follow it, or you can choose to add on more activities. 🙂

FLIGHTS

Return flight from Brunei to Dubai Royal Brunei Air $713.00
Return flight from Dubai to Amman Royal Jordanian Airlines $400.00
Return flight from Dubai to Doha Qatar Airways $237.00
TOTAL $1,350.00

ACCOMODATION

Destination & Hotel Duration Total For 1 pax
Doha: Plaza Inn Doha x 2 nights 2 nights $270.00 $90.00
Dubai: Flora Hotel Apartments, Dubai 4 nights $622.00 $207.00
Dubai: Sutchi Hotel, Dubai 1 night $90.00 $30.00
Jordan: Capri Suites (includes Breakfast) 1 night $100.00 $25.00
Jordan: Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp (includes Breakfast) 1 night $144.00 $36.00
Jordan: Thousand Nights Hotel (includes Breakfast) 1 night $322.00 $80.50
Jordan: Wadi Rum Luxury Camp – Stargazer Tents (includes Breakfast & Dinner) 1 night $640.00 $160.00
TOTAL I PAID $635.50

OTHERS

Visa to enter Qatar QR100 $43.00
Visa to enter Jordan Waived* $0.00
Jordan Pass JD70 $150.00

For Qatar: Something we didn’t realise (forgot to research) upon entering Doha was that Bruneians need a visa to enter. But no worries, upon arrival, the officer will prompt you to pay QR100 (by credit card) and your visa will be ready in like 1 minute. The process is simple and QR100 is only BND40-ish.

For Jordan: As Jordan is near conflict countries, Syria, et al, Jordan understandably experienced a significant dip in the number of tourists coming in. Something that the Tourism Jordan did to promote tourism and combat the dip, was to implement something called a Jordan Pass. With a Jordan Pass, they waive visa fees (which is usually about BND80 for Bruneians) as well as entrance fees for over 40 tourist attractions in Jordan including the valuable 1 day pass for Petra (this usually costs about JD50 or BND100).

TRANSPORTATION

DOHA: Taxi back to Hamad International Airport QR40 $17.00
DOHA: Taxi to Plaza Inn Doha QR40 $17.00
DOHA: Taxis in Doha QR100 $43.00
DUBAI: Taxi to Suutchi Hotel, Dubai AED30 $15.00
DUBAI: Taxi to Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai AED80 $40.00
DUBAI: Taxi from Al Maktoum International Airport to Flora Hotel Apartments* AED80 $40.00
DUBAI: Metro rides AED8 x 5 trips or so = AED40 $20.00
DUBAI: Taxi to Dubai International Airport AED30 $15.00
JORDAN: Taxi to Thousand Nights Hotel JD25 $50.00
JORDAN: Rental car JD30 x 3 days = JD90 $180.00
JORDAN: Fuel (2x Full Tank) JD30 $60.00
JORDAN: Taxi to Queen Alia International Airport JD30 $60.00

Generally we use Taxis when we absolutely need to so u will see plenty of taxis for airport haha. Anyway, everything is split to 3 or 4 so it becomes quite affordable. Anything else we walk or use public transport.

*There is actually a bus service that runs from Al Maktoum International Airport to the City Centre that costs AED9 (BND5) only – they run every 1 hour and is certainly the cheaper option if you don’t have many bags. 🙂

INTERNET

As u all can imagine, having connectivity is very important. We need internet for car navigation, googling, and staying in touch with each other AND people back home – so this is like a MUST have for me.

JORDAN: Internet Sim Card (Zain Prepaid with 3GB) JD9 $18.00
DUBAI: Sim Card (Etisalat Visitor Line Pack with 1GB) AED100 $42.00
DOHA: Sim Card (Vodafone Prepaid with 1GB) QR80 $40.00

Isn’t Dubai and Doha prepaid sims so expensive compared to Jordan? Plus I cannot share it on my MiFi!

ACTIVITIES

ACTIVITIES PRICE
(in local currency)
PRICE (in BND)
DOHA: Entrance to Museum of Islamic Arts QR0 $0.00
DOHA: Hanging out at Souq Waqif QR0 $0.00
DUBAI: Dubai Desert Safari + BBQ Dinner & Entertainment for 3 people AED250 $110.00
DUBAI: Hanging out at Burj Khalifa AED0 $0.00
JORDAN: Entrance Fee to Petra Waived* $0.00
JORDAN: Guide to bring us around in Petra for 4 people JD50 $100.00
JORDAN: Entrance Fee to Wadi Rum Waived* $0.00
JORDAN: 4×4 Tour of Wadi Rum for 4 people JD90 $180.00
JORDAN: Entrance Fee to Dead Sea – Amman Tourist Beach** JD20 $40.00
JORDAN: Towel & Locker Rental at Amman Tourist Beach (Dead Sea) JD5 $10.00

FOR DOHA:

  • We didn’t have time, but if you do, spend some time to visit the Corniche and go up the traditional Dhow boats for a cruise. Prices are available here.
  • If it was up to me, we should’ve gone to the Katara Cultural Village. (We went to the Villaggio Mall instead hehehe – like I said I was with shopaholics. Compromise! I enjoyed myself there as well!)

FOR DUBAI:

  • We didn’t do this but I think it is worthwhile to spend some time and money to go up to the Burj Khalifa’s 125 floors and see the panoramic view of Dubai from the tallest building in the world.
  • If I had time I would’ve also done a: Palm Jumeirah & Burj Al Arab Boat Tour (around AED200) and a proper city tour!

FOR JORDAN:

  • *Waived because we have the Jordan Pass
  • **The coast of the Dead Sea is dotted with fabulous resorts! If you have time, I recommend staying one night there. For us, we had limited time and we didn’t know it’s actually warm enough to swim there – we opted to go to a public beach aptly called the Amman Tourist Beach. Changing rooms,  (cold) showers are free and lockers and towels are available for rent! 🙂
  • If we had more time: would’ve visited Mount Nebo, Jerash and the Amman Citadel.

Had so much fun during this trip! I hope this guide is useful to u, and as u can see, we didn’t really spend a ton on money. Hahaha. After splitting down to 3 or 4, we pretty much only spent about BND2500. Add on another BND500 for food (cause I’m a big girl who loves her restaurants!).

So there are many many opportunities to save on this itinerary. Accommodation can be cheaper, and we can take less taxis. We also enjoy eating in restaurants – as opposed to cheaper fast food options but that’s preference – and you don’t need to eat at fancy schmancy places like meee!

Hotel reviews, which area to stay, things to do, travel tips and more detailed stories and photos coming in next posts! 🙂 Stay tuned.

 

A Walk around Kampong Ayer

Last week, me and bestie, supremely free and available, decided that we wanted to walkabout Kampong Ayer. 

Parked at Yayasan, and grabbed a water taxi to the other side – this costs 50 cents.


We requested to be dropped off at Kg Bakut Berumput cause that’s where Kunyit7 Lodge is. Alas the place was not open as Kem, the  lovely host, was out for a walking tour with guests.


So what are we to do? Go on a walking tour of our own of course! 


Armed with no bearing and directions, we walked towards the direction of the Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery – hoping that it’s open on a public holiday haha. (It’s not)


Along the way we saw houses ravaged by fire, houses thriving, and houses getting by.


Some houses have their boats parked up front. Some are undergoing renovations.


Life seems simple and very close knit. People sit on the porch of their houses (sometimes smoking) and watch people walking by. 

Shortly we arrived at the housing scheme of Kampung Lorong Sikuna. The houses are fabulous and super modern here and I’ve actually never realised of their existence. These houses, have permanent deeds (bergaran) unlike most houses in Kampong Ayer. 

We also discovered that the Ketua Kampong, Hj Ahmad, operates a homestay from his house…. which has a wedding dais. Also he has wedding costumes. 

Therefore:

So me besanding, with no hubby hahaha. 

He has plenty of trinkets from the past:


A quick glance on the FB page shows he gets plenty of tourists visiting.

The house is modern, but the things inside are uniquely traditional Malay. 

As we walked around we realised people have built their lives around the supposed “modern” houses. 

We can see inside the houses, are not much different than the normal wooden houses on the other parts of Kampong Ayer. Almost like the house is just a shell depicting modernity but hey inside they’re still clutching on to their traditions.

This one runs an interesting business out from the house – renting chairs for weddings and functions. They’re loading the chairs on that boat to be sent off somewhere.

Another operates a cafe.


Interesting glimpse into the lives of people living here. I cannot imagine the daily grind of buying groceries and lugging them from the boat to the kitchen (heavy!), buying gas, and how about going to work? 

Means early morning already need to go on the water taxi, where do they park? Gosh. It feels like so far away yet it’s literally just 1 minute boat ride from the city.


Finally our tour ended at this modern pier where another water taxi picked us up and sent us back to Yayasan.