Category / Travel
Whenever we think of vacations, we often think about sandy white sand, far-away foreign cities, beautiful old temples, or at a waterfall nested within a pristine jungle. Those are “traditional” and in a sense, more ideal vacations, but at the same time they also require a lot more planning, time, and often incur higher expenses.
Enter the recent trend of “staycation”, pick a nice hotel somewhere not far away and spend a couple nights enjoying the facilities, good food, while having someone else make sure everything is clean and tidy.
We spent an awesome 3 day 2 night stay at Aloft Kuala Lumpur doing just that a couple weeks ago for a much welcomed de-stressing session. At the end of this post, you’ll find out how to win the same 3D2N de-stress getaway (for 3 winners.)
Aloft KL, lobby and quirky art
The decoration within Aloft KL is one that is pretty atypical. Lobby is a mixture of industrial presence dotted with quirky art works everywhere.
Right behind the check-in counter is a re:fuel counter that offers ready-to-eat foods such as sandwiches, salads, drinks, coffee, instant noodles, and many other snacks. If you want to have a quick bite, this is a good one-stop center.
To the far right of the lobby, you’ll find the W XYZ bar that offers a selection of draught beer, cocktails, juices, and more. There’re also live bands performing at the area. Have a drink, shoot some pools, enjoy the music.
Mai Bar and Re:Charge gym
On the top floor there’s a more “serious” bar with a great view of the city.
At night, MAI Bar is lit up by colorful LED lights and offers a full range of drinks and great live performances as well as DJs spinning latest tunes. This is a place to go to shake your booty.
For those who loves to sweat, Re:Charge gymnasium is well-stock with modern equipment. While isn’t exactly big gym by any stretch of imagination, it is well sufficient.
infinity pool on the top floor
Then there’s my favorite part of the hotel – the infinity pool on the top floor, right next to Mai Bar.
The pool is some 25-30 meters in length and sufficiently wide enough to accomodate some 8-10 swimmers at the same time if they’re all doing laps. Furthermore, opening my eyes underwater did not sting, I suspect that this is probably due to the fact that they might be using salt water treatment instead of the more traditional chlorine.
In either case, this is a great place to chill.
our room for the weekends at Aloft KL
All guest rooms are equipped with comfortable platform beds, iron, ironing board, bathrobes, coffee maker, 42″ flat screen TV, a sofa, mini fridge, safe, oversized shower, and a workstation. I also particularly like the floor to ceiling windows that takes up the entire wall for an uninterrupted view of the city.
Since we have Haze’s siblings staying with us over one of the nights, we also got the hotel to provide us with extra beds that came in a form of cute little tent thing and a bed with cute bed sheet.
On top of every headboard is also a piece of quirky art work, another nice touch.
breakfast buffet spread at Nook
The big restaurant at Aloft KL is Nook, and this is where most foods are served.
Breakfast comes in the form of buffet with pretty decent spread (complimentary for room guests). There’s salad, cold cuts, juices, cereal, espresso coffee, and many local dishes. My favorite was the laksa Sarawak, which had the same soup base with the high end version that was offered during MIGF at Nook.
evening buffet spread at Nook
At night, the buffet spread at Nook gets an upgrade. There’s good selection of seafood such as mussels, prawns, smokes almon, and even scallops. There’s also roast chicken, delicious salted beef that is served with kimchi, salad, soup, cheese, desserts, and many other local and Western dishes.
Nook provides a good selection of ala carte menu too
Apart from buffet, there is a pretty decent selection on the ala carte menu as well, though you might have to wait a little bit before the food is served.
There’s mushroom soup, steak, cod fish, sandwiches, spaghetti, yee mee with tiger prawns, and many more dishes. These were mostly pretty delicious, though our experience with the steak wasn’t as good as other choices.
kids at play, Aloft KL
Over all, it was a very nice and relaxing stay over at Aloft KL. This whole “staycation” thing is something I can get used to, and hopefully will be doing more.
OK now here’s a few steps you can do to stand a chance to win a 3D2N stay at Aloft Kuala Lumpur
- like MyStarJob Facebook page www.facebook.com/MyStarJob
- go to MyStarJob Facebook app Ultimate De-stress Getaway Contest
- take a photo of how you de-stress in the office
- Fill in your details and upload your own Ultimate De-stress Photo in office
- Share and get your friends and family to vote for your photo
- Vote for your photo. Participants can vote once per photo per day
how do you de-stress at work?
3 pictures with highest votes will win a 3-days-2-nights stay at Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral, so start doing it and hopefully you’ll be the one who wins this “staycation” package! Contest ends on 15th January 2014, be quick!
Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral,
5, Jalan Stesen Sentral,
50470 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2723 1188
GPS: 3.13295, 101.68619
While most of us love to travel to exotic places and faraway land, those are nice and dandy, but also cost a lot of time and money. But if you look a options closer to home, there are actually a lot of hidden gems all within a couple hours’ drive from Klang Vally that makes for great day trips.
A couple months ago, we went to one of such places for a bit of eco-tourism at Perting Falls (also known as Lata Hammers), near Bentong. It was organized by Suan with Yen (who took us to Chilling Fall back in 2007) as our guide.
we started our journey, walking past rubber estate
Take the Bukit Tinggi exit on Karak Highway and get on Route 68, the old road to Bentong. Follow that scenic route for about 16 km and try not to hit any of the many bicyclists typically found on this beautiful swerving road in the morning.
You will pass a hot spring right before the turning to Perting Valley training resort, take this exit and drive about 2.5-3 km inwards, or as much as your car can take. The road condition isn’t great, a 4×4 would be most awesome.
along the way we had to pass Sungai Perting Pandak
Since we drove normal sedans and did not want end up buying new wheels, we parked conservatively at about 2 km or so before the actual trek begins. The trail itself is almost 3 km, and reasonably easy to trek bar some overgrowth that might scratch your legs just a bit.
after 5km of trekking, the final steep descent to the waterfall
In total we trekked just over 5 km each way, which takes about 1.5 to 2 hours if you do it leisurely. The jungle trail itself should take only an hour if you manage to drive closer. While there are a few steeper areas, the walk isn’t a particularly challenging one, Ahfa’s retired mom had no problem keeping up, in fact, she was better than half of the youngsters. (ok maybe not youngsters anymore if you’re over 30.)
Check out the embedded endomondo trail at the bottom after the map.
Jaime had a zen moment
Perting Fall has a beautiful pond with chilling cold water. A few of us took a swim in it, it was fantastic. The closer you swim towards the waterfall, the more it pushes you back, kinda like swimming on treadmill.
Like most waterfalls, there are sometimes whirlpools which present a danger. Always exercise caution and not do anything stupid. It is also advisable to bring along a small box of first aid kit with you.
Yen had a small gas stove and made tea, we tapao some nasi lemak too
Due to the distance one has to trek, this waterfall isn’t particularly crowded. Other than our group, there were perhaps maybe around 10 other people, including a few who camped overnight.
Our well prepared guide also brought along a small gas stove and made us some 3 in 1 coffee & milo, together with some nasi lemak we packed earlier in the morning, we refueled.
We started our journey back at around 1:30 pm after spending 2-3 hours at the waterfall. Another 1 hour 40 minutes and plenty of sweat later, we got back to the parking lot and made our way back to KL, but not before having an awesome late lunch at Bukit Tinggi (it’ll be on another post).
Eco-tourism spots is aplenty in Malaysia, and something that we should treasure and enjoy. Check out waterfallsofmalaysia.com if you’re interested in trying out something like this, there are easier trails and more accessible waterfalls too.
Travelling can be cheap and fun while being healthy all at the same time!
This is a follow up post to the 2013 Maldives trip, while the previous post detailed the liveaboard trip in its entirety, I want to share the dive log and some underwater photos in this post.
Photos are taken with Olympus E-PL3 & PT-EP05L underwater housing, I use an Inon UWL 100 & dome port for wide angle shots, and the Inon UCL 165 close up lens for the few macro photos.
Lighting is supplemented with a couple Sea & Sea YS-D1 from my buddy Terence, control wasn’t the best since I’m still getting used to the set up. I gotta be more patient in trying out different settings, but alas, when the underwater world is so beautiful, sometimes you just want to enjoy the moment.
Joshua, Aileen & Cherish, posing with a turtle at Fish Head
We logged 17 dives over 6 days of diving, and got to see basically everything except manta rays at cleaning stations, but the sharks, tuna, whale shark, marble rays, beautiful seascape, and wonderful company more than made up for it.
Here’s hoping we will visit this paradise of a country again in not so distant future.
guitar shark found at 38 meters at “Fish Head”
Check out dive.
One diver shot up from 20m with mask and regulator off, luckily proper CESA observed
Saw two black tip around 5-6′
Titan trigger non aggressive
School red tooth trigger fish
A very big morey eel
Night dive 9pm+
Site: fesdu lagoon
Set up lights on boat and dhony to attract mantas.
Went down and visibility was not too great due to sand kick up
Manta came close few times, magical
During safety stop Manta feeding under lights. Shot a short video
The same diver cut the dive short, still recovering from first dive’s emergency ascent
school of fish at Lily’s Manta Point
a customary picture of nemo
played with the cleaner wrasses a little at Broken Rock, day 4
Site: fish head
Guitar shark at 38.5 meter.
Saw some 6 footer gray sharks
Giant morey eel swimming out of hiding place too
Plenty of fish, coral
Medium current, maybe a tad too deep at guitar shark area, luckily monitored and did not go into deco
Alan and Nicole came up late due to deco
The diver who had problem on the first day had a good dive, that’s great
Second dive at Lily’s Manta point
Didn’t manage to spot any Manta this time
Close to 20m and we found a spot on Sandy bottom waiting for Manta, did not happen
Ended up playing a bit and taking pics at the nearby reefs
Same site at Lily’s Manta point
No Manta this dive either, nice leisure dive
Puffer fish, coral fish, played with the sand and fishes taking advantage pecking the debris
day 3 – swimming with whale shark
Kudimaa wreck, I always love the ambiance of a wreck dive
Plenty of reef fish, huge garupa too
Nice seascape, Nemo too
Saw a Manta while on Dhoni
South of ali atoll
Trying to spot whale shark
We Snorkeled with the baby wheel shark first, was fun at first then it got too crowded
Some other group didn’t play nice and cut through front, blah
Still the whale shark was majestic!
Diving later was non eventful except the whale shark for the first minute.
Too much current swaying us left and right so we went up after about 40m
Third dive of the day
Beautiful wreck, we went inside a little bit too
Didn’t put my flash trigger securely so no flash available
Big school of bat fish, very bold and curious
Night time Manta! Two came to the boat and we snorkel with them, took some pics. Very graceful and magical, better than whale shark I think
manta visited us again on the 3rd night, majestic creature
a moray eel scheming something against Caely, at Broken Rock
caught Nicole framing these pair of butterfly fish
Site: broken rock
Nice leisure dive, Joshua having a bit of problem descending, tried helping but didn’t manage cos I didn’t carry weight
Saw a pair of yellow batfish, nice pic opportunity
Morey swimming outside too
Site: vashu giri kandu
Deep and with quite a bit of current
Saw napoleon wrasse, sharks, and eagle ray
Hanging on the side wall to fight off current
Almost deco at 3-4 mins for a while
One of the more challenging dive sites
One of the more exciting dives
We had some sardin in a milo tin and lots of nurse sharks came
Got very close to them too
A few knocked me and the camera pretty solid
Giant trivoli were huge, almost 2 feet in length and very bold
Huge marble Rays too
Haze was petrified underwater, didn’t know nurse sharks don’t bite
Awesome dive even tho it was very shallow at about 5-8 meters only
diving with nurse sharks at Alimatha Jetty, thrilling experience
huge marble ray among the sharks
Site: miyaru kandu (means channel)
Black tip, napoleon wrasse and a honeycomb eel.
Others saw a school of black tip at deeper end too
Quite deep, less exciting dive especially after last night
Pretty deep dive, hit deco for about a minute strong current and we just hang on the rocks, looking at quite a few gray reef sharks just chilling at the channel, kinda like f1 car in wind tunnel
A few Napoleon wrasse too
Site: vilivaru giri
Lots of reef fish, a few types of trigger
Trying to take a photo of a pair of pipe fish but an unsuspecting morey bit attacked the strobe
Saw a turtle too
Quite a lot of clown fish too
Beautiful corals, including table coral
Brown ribbon eel
Others saw octopus too
spotted this beautiful jellyfish at “Sunlight” dive site, day 5
beautiful seascape at “Sunlight”
plenty of these small critters at Miyaru Kandu, day 4
say cheese, Mr. Turtle of Miyaru Kandu dive site
Played with sand again
Saw a tiny little flounder which was very cute
The two coral blocks had some jewel garupa, Nemo etc
Saw a pretty good size jelly fish on the way up too
Dive site: Lankan reef
Saw a tuna for the first time. A bit far away so can’t get any pics.
It was some 10-20m from a shark that everyone was checking out
No Manta sightings tho
Reef fish aplenty, pipe fish too
Dive site: Lankan reef
Another try for Manta but yet again no luck
Saw a shark, turtle, yellow pipe fish and other reef fish
A more relaxing end as the last dive of our trip
It was well worth it, we got to see eventing we could hope for. Not seeing Manta at cleaning station is alright.
Haze & yours truly, signing off
We went to Maldives for a holiday of sun, sea, and plenty of fun in the beginning of October 2013. This was the second dive trip of the year, the first was Anilao at the Philippines in January.
Two international trips in the same year, I can’t really ask for more. Anilao was mainly for macro (small creatures), while Maldives is famous for its’ awesome big marine animals. Perfect.
This post is about being on the cruise and the entire trip, there will be other entries with underwater photos detailing the dive sites and diving experiences.
For those who aren’t familiar with this paradise of a country, Maldives is located in the Indian ocean, about 400 kilometers south-west of India.
We took the Malaysian Airline flight that goes straight from KLIA to MLE. The airfare cost a little over RM 1,000 all inclusive. This was a promotional price, usual fare goes for around RM 1.6k.
Luggage weight limit is 30kg, but showing your dive card gets you another 10kg if you’re traveling to a dive destination. Air Asia also flies to Maldives now (via Columbo).
the airport at Male, Maldives
The flight to MALE took about 4 hours and we touched down just passed 10pm.
The airport is built on Hulhulé Island and while you can see the capital of Maldives – Male, the two islands are not connected to each other.
crystal clear water right outside the airport
Hence, instead of lines of buses and cabs, you have ferries and plenty of private boats picking up travellers.
Right from the get go, we were already impressed. By the airport there were crystal clear water, coconut trees, and gentle cool breeze. We knew that it was going to be a good holiday.
Before getting off the airport, we bought a local SIM card for data services. 22 USD gets you the “unlimited” data package that lasts a month, though unlimited really means 5 gigabytes worth of data before you get throttled.
Data coverage is surprisingly good, albeit the relatively slow speed.
plenty of liveaboard cruise ships parked near Male
We were transferred to Handy Cruise via a Dhoni, a multipurpose sailboat that’s equipped with a motor used in Maldvies. The Dhoni also serves as the boat that we used for diving, as well as a rescue boat in emergency situations.
Having a separate boat for diving ensures that the main boat that we spend most of our time in is always dry and clean.
aboard on Handy Cruise, where we spent the next 6 nights
The Handy Cruise is a pretty fine liveaboard boat, there’s a sun deck on top, followed by 5 cabins on first floor (two of which has built in jacuzzi), with access to front and rear of the boat. The entertainment area (with TV and sound system), dining room, kitchen, and the bar is on the main deck. There are five more cabins on the lower deck as well.
There’s a charging station for cameras & phones on the common area, and each room is also equipped with air conditioning with attached bathroom and hot shower. I’d say it is equivalent to a 3-4 star hotel.
light attracts planktons, which attract the beautiful manta rays
We logged 17 dives in 6 days, with the seventh day spent clearing nitrogen out of our body before flying home. As mentioned earlier, posts on diving will follow.
For two nights, the crews set up strong halogen lights at the rear of the boat. This attracts planktons and small fishes, which in turn attracts manta rays that feeds on planktons.
There was a single manta ray on the 2nd night of the trip, and two more that visited us on the 4th night. These magnificent creatures were some 6-8 feet across their wingspan, gracefully gliding through the water and doing back flips just beneath the surface as they feed.
Beautiful beautiful fish, and no, you can’t have it for ikan bakar.
on the ocean, you get beautiful sunset everyday
The cool thing about living on the ocean, or really anywhere around Maldvies is that you get beautiful sunsets every single day. There are no tall buildings or hills obstructing the view. It was magical.
Of course, if you’re an early riser, there’s sunrise as well, but who can wake up for that?
we parked near Machchafushi island on the 4th night
We cruised passed many small islands with beautiful resorts on them. The views are worthy of wallpapers and postcards. The photo above shows the Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa on the Machchafushi island, South Ari Atoll. Spending a night there cost something like RM 1,700.
We paid less than half of that per day, including, diving, food, board, and tips.
dolphins came by and played a bit in front of our boat
We were also extremely lucky. On the way crossing from South Ari Atoll to Maadhoo, we spotted a pod of dolphins. A few of them actually came and ride the wake of our boat for a couple minutes, it was the closets I’ve been to wild dolphins. You gotta be there to appreciate the moment.
food on board was not bad, we had sashimi for a few days after they caught this sailfish
Food on Handy Cruise is pretty good too.
While we’re diving, the boatmen sometimes go fishing (at non-reserve areas, of course), and they actually managed to net a 7 foot long sailfish on the 4th day of the trip. We dined on delicious sailfish sashimi for the next 3 days, cooked sailfish filet wasn’t nearly as tasty though.
Maldivian food is not very different from Indian cuisine, their dal is creamier, there’s plenty of seafood, and the meat of choice is usually chicken and the occasional beef. Since it is an Islamic country, everything is halal too.
Oh, the papaya from Maldives is also a lot juicier and sweeter than our Malaysian counterpart.
we stopped by Maadhoo island, beautiful place
On the penultimate night of our stay, we stopped by Maadhoo Finolhu, also known as the picnic island.
The long and slender island with white sandy beach on boat sides is used for nothing but to host picnics and bbq parties. This was the first time we got off the ocean after 5 days. You do get a little bit of “land sick” after spending so much time getting used to gently rocking on the boat.
BBQ party at Maadhoo island on the 5th night of the trip
The BBQ party was awesome, instead of a sand castle, we had a sand whale shark. The crew even set up disco lights and sound system. Good food, great company, and we danced through the night.
Stepping on the beach along the water line excites the bio-luminescent creatures to generate lights, it was like tiny dots of stars on the beach. I’ve never seen anything like it.
I think Michael Jackson must have gotten his inspiration for the Billy Jean music video from this.
On the last day, we spent a few hours on Male, the most populated island
On the last day of the trip, we got to spend a few hours on Male, the most populated island in Maldives with some 100k inhabitants.
The island is less than 6 square kilometers, with majority of traffic comprises of motorcycles traveling at maybe 15-20 KM/h. We visited the fish market and witness a master carving up a huge yellow fin tuna in just some 5 minutes, bought some souvenirs from the local gift shops, and spent some time at the fruits and vegetable market too.
By nightfall on the 7th and the last day of the trip, it was time to go. We reluctantly bid goodbye to the excellent crews on the Handy Cruise and left for the airport on the Dhoni.
It was an excellent trip and one that I hope I’ll be able to repeat in due time.
A good restaurant to a resort is like a good sound system to a cinema. While not always the centrepiece of the overall experience, good in-house restaurants often enhance the overall experience during a stay.
For The Datai Langkawi, there are four different on-location restaurants within the confine of the luxury five class establishment – The Beach Club, Gulai House, The Dining Room, and The Thai Pavilion.
All four restaurants offer quality food, making travelling out of the resort for food unnecessary. This is especially important for The Datai since the location of the resort is quite far away from Kuah, Langkawi’s main town.
The Beach Club, by the second pool and beach
Our first meal at The Datai was at The Beach Club, appropriately located by the beach and the second swimming pool. On foot it’s about a 10-15 minutes’ scenic walk from the main entrance of the hotel, free buggy service’s available as well.
The Beach Club is a strictly open air restaurant, with most tables and comfortable huge chairs under the roof, with some outside if you prefer a little bit of sun.
pizza, surf & turf, bruschetta with mozzarella, wat tan hor, ice cream
The menu comprises the best from East and West. The four of us shared the following dishes:
- bruschetta topped with buffalo mozzarella, tomato and olives. 46
- langkawi prawn, lemongrass, mushroom, corinader, chili, lime pizza. 65
- surf & turf, black angus strip loin with tiger prawn, vegetable medley, barbeque sauce. 87
- wat tan hor with king prawns and seafood (chef’s special)
- stir fry chicken with thai basil. 56
- home made ice cream. 14
The western affairs were well executed, with the thin crust pizza particularly delicious. Wat tan hor too were surprisingly tasty, benefiting from the fresh seafood in the list of ingredients.
The Dining Room serves lunch and dinner.
The Gulai House, premier restaurant of The Datai Langkawi
The premier restaurant at The Datai Langkawi is Gulai House.
Many luxury five star resorts in Malaysia have premier restaurants serving foreign cuisines such as French, Japanese, Cantonese, Italian, and so forth. So I was more than happy to see that Datai took the initiative to make Malaysia proud by serving something closer to home. A great way to introduce our local cuisine to many visitors from all around the world.
mango salad, sup ayam, soft shell crab, aloo gobi, grilled cuttle fish
The Gulai House is located not far from the Beach Club and best accessed via a buggy. The restaurant has both indoor as well as alfresco dining area, the latter provides great ambiance only unless it’s rainy heavily or if it’s a particularly hot night. Gulai House is only open for dinner.
Our dinner was determined by the chef, a degustation affair if you like. Our menu was written on a piece of huge dried leaf picked from the forest, a unique approach to personalization and one that is tastefully done.
tiger prawns, grilled garupa, lobster, skewered boneless chicken, prata, kuih
We had mango salad, sup ayam (chicken soup), deep fried soft shell crab, aloo gobi (cauliflower & potato with spices), grilled cuttle fish, grilled tiger prawns, grilled fish, skewered boneless chicken, prata bread, nasi briyani (rice), and even lobster that’s prepared with both grilling and frying techniques.
It was an absolute feast and we stuffed ourselves silly. Food was authentic with ingredients of quality, very hard to find any fault.
Prices is seasonal and depends on weight of ingredients. As with every facet of Datai, it is with a bit of a premium, but you do get what you pay for, including excellent service.
champagne breakfast at The Dining Room
Breakfast is usually served at The Dining Room, located by the main swimming pool, just below the resort reception.
Much like most international breakfasts, the menu changes a little bit everyday, but with the core items such as juices, the egg station, fruit & salad bar and such always presence.
I enjoyed the cold cuts, smoked salmon, and noodle soup. Of course, there’s also the free flowing champagne to jump start your day, everyday! The dining room also serves lunch and dinner.
classic Thai cuisine at The Pavilion
During our second and final night at The Datai, we had dinner at The Pavilion, which was also the location where we learned to cook tomyam and drunken prawn dishes.
For dinner, we had crispy soft shell crab with Thai chili oil, green curry chicken, seasonal vegetable with oyster sauce, deep fried snapper with chili and soya sauce, and of course, tomyam prawns. It was a spicy, strong tasting, and very satisfying, like a good Thai dinner is supposed to be.
We also concluded the meal with mango on sticky rice.
The Pavilion is open for dinner only.
I miss this resort already, when we can return?
The Datai Langkawi
Jalan Datai, Teluk Datai,
07000 Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia
Tel:+60 4-959 2500
FB: The Datai Langkawi