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Earlier this month, I decided to bring Haze to somewhere quiet and relaxing for a short birthday holiday after a super busy end of 2013.

After a bit of research, I chose picked The Dusun for a night stay, recalling the blogpost kinkybluefairy wrote about the place a couple years ago.

vacation in the rainforest, The Dusun
vacation in the rainforest, The Dusun

Dusun translates to plantation in Malay, and this is precisely what this place was, and still is, a small family run resort situated within a durian and other tropical fruits plantation about an hour away from KL city.

Started in 1984 as a private family retreat, the couple turned it into a nature resort in 2009. It started out with two houses, and since expanded to five unique houses  that fits 2-5 adults each.

our room at the Berembun House, with a bathroom and kitchen
our room at the Berembun House, with a bathroom and kitchen

Each houses come with bathroom, a private kitchen, BBQ set, and are situated apart from each other. We chose Berembun House for the night as it is closest to one of the two infinity pools at the resort, with an expansive view over the Berembun forrest reserve.

lovely infinity swimming pool
lovely infinity swimming pool

While the chalet style room is only big enough to house a queen size bed and a small furniture somewhat resembling a closet, there’s a huge deck and a big outdoor carved bench to laze about.

There isn’t air condition units nor you really need one at this resort. The Dusun is located about 250 meters above sea level, making it a few Celsius below average and rather windy and comfortable at night.

took a well deserved afternoon swim
took a well deserved afternoon swim

The swimming pool too was gorgeous, it isn’t much for swimming laps, but that’s not what we went there for anyway.

After a dipping session while admiring the nature, we also spent some time playing boardgames that’s available with the room. It was a bliss staying away from all that city noise.

dinner was a self-cooked BBQ affair
dinner was a self-cooked BBQ affair

Being a small resort, The Dusun doesn’t have an in-house restaurant, what they provide tho is a private kitchen at every house and a BBQ pit with charcoal. So for dinner, I marinated some chicken chops and bought along a fish and a couple sweet potato for grilling. We also ended up buying some brinjal and sambal at the local grocery store 5 minutes away.

We had a great dinner under the stars that night, it was awesome.

breakfast and a walk around the fruit plantation
breakfast and a walk around the fruit plantation

Fortunately, breakfast is included, and we were served coffee, fresh juice, toast, and scrambled eggs the next morning right at the table on our balcony.

We then spent some time walking about the surrounding area before heading back to the reality of city life.

Other activities provided at the resort includes jungle trekking to a nearby waterfall, bird watching, massage, and even fishing trip. For a longer stay, those distractions will be quite welcomed.

I can get used to holidays like this.

map to The Dusun, Negeri Sembilan

Address:
The Dusun
Pantai New Village
Negeri Sembilan
GPS: 2.8018, 102.0151
Web: thedusun.com.my
Email: hello@thedusun.com.my

The first time I heard about 1926 Heritage Hotel was back in 1999 or 2000, when my late dad actually worked on the refurbishing project as a backhoe loader operator. I remember that back then that it was going to be a quaint little place, a hotel that is not built from ground up, but one that’s converted from real heritage building that makes Penang one of UNESCO’s historic city.

1926 Heritage Hotel, Burma Road, Penang
1926 Heritage Hotel, Burma Road, Penang

Originally built in 1926 as a  British colonial immigration officers and local administrators of Penang, the 24 linked houses are restored and linked together via long corridors to make up a 90+ rooms hotel.

The building is owned by the Penang state government, and now run by one of my friends, WenQi’s dad, who originally started to get involved with the hotel by operating the Hainanese Delights restaurant within the premise.

the long hallway and the room with parquet flooring
the long hallway and the room with parquet flooring

The room I spent a night over was a Heritage Balcony King that comes with a balcony overlooking the pool, parquet flooring, LCD TV, air conditioning, hot shower, and a mini fridge.

Other types of room includes family cottage that houses up to 6 pax and VIP rooms with pool access.

While the rooms and furniture are a bit dated (it’s a heritage hotel anyway), they are clean, comfortable, and quite charming.

the wall at 1926 Heritage Hotel
the wall at 1926 Heritage Hotel

One of chilling areas at the 1926 Heritage Hotel is the blackboard wall just a stone’s throw away from the front desk where guests can hang out and if you’re up to it, leave some memories on the wall like many does.

swimming pool and surrounding
swimming pool and surrounding

Other facilities of the hotel includes garden, a pretty good size swimming pool, WiFi, and free parking for guests. Private functions can also be had at the pool area.

Location wise, 1926 Heritage Hotel sits between Gurney Drive and the Penang downtown area. The hotel is accessible by public bus, and there are quite a few pretty good kopitiam nearby (Old Green House is next to it).

map to 1926 Heritage Hotel, Penang

Rates start at just above RM 110++ (promotional), a pretty good bargain for hotel at this class. Check it out if you’re heading to Penang.

Address:
1926 Heritage Hotel
227 Jalan Burma,
10050 Georgetown, Penang
GPS5.42415, 100.32063
Web1926heritagehotel.com
Tel04-228 1926

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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.

the ultimate de-stress gataway

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?
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!

Adress:
Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral, 
5, Jalan Stesen Sentral, 
50470 Kuala Lumpur. 
Tel03-2723 1188
GPS3.13295, 101.68619
Emailaloft.kualalumpur@alofthotels.com
Website: www.starwoodhotels.com/aloft
Facebookfb.com/AloftKualaLumpurSentral

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
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
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
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.

Jamie had a zen moment
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 "penunu bunsen" and made tea, we tapao some nasi lemak too
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.

map to Perting Fall

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!

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
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
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 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
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
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
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 Thai Pavilion
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?

Address:
The Datai Langkawi
Jalan Datai, Teluk Datai, 
07000 Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia
Tel:+60 4-959 2500
Webwww.dataihotels.com
FBThe Datai Langkawi
Reservationreservationsdatailangkawi@dataihotels.com