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Malaysian Food Blog, Travel, Diving & More

Tag / holiday

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

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.

map of Maldives

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 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
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
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
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
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.

we parked near Machchafushi island on the 4th night
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?

on the ocean, you get beautiful sunset everyday
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
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 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
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
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, 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.

Following the previous post about diving at Tioman, I thought I’d share what are some of the choices of food available at Salang Bay (since food is mostly an ala carte affair here)

There are probably a dozen or so food and drinks outlets along Salang Bay, two duty free shop (one only sells alcohol to-go), and a partially stocked convenient store. In another word, everything essential is available.

Salang Indah Restaurant, tomyam, traditional Malay food, and more
Salang Indah Restaurant, tomyam, traditional Malay food, and more

One of the biggest restaurants here is Salang Indah Restaurant (yah these guys aren’t very creative with naming business establishments), located just a 100 meter north of jetty. They are one of the very few that open for business throughout the day. There’s plenty of tables and you get seated right next to the beach, sea breeze and holiday mood, very nice.

Here you can find Thai food, sandwiches, toast, pancakes, porridge, and even roti canai. The tomyam, kailan ikan masin, and omelet we had was pretty decent. At 6-8 ringgit per dish it wasn’t expensive either.

However, don’t ever eat here if you’re in a hurry. Service is super slow and ultra terrible. We asked a server to expedite our order on second visit as we had to dive within 25 minutes, she acknowledged and then sat down on and started playing with her phone, we ended up canceling the order 25 minutes later as they haven’t started cooking yet. No apologies given either.

Salang Beach Restaurant - Chinese food (pork free though)
Salang Beach Restaurant – Chinese food (pork free though)

The lone Chinese restaurant at Salang Bay is another super creatively named place called Salang Beach Restaurant. This place is perhaps a 8-10 minute walk north of the jetty.

We had clay pot mutton (RM 16), bean curd (Rm 13), and cabbage soup (RM 8) to go with some steamed rice. The mutton was tender and rather tasty, but the other two dishes were quite bland. We had to ask for soya sauce and chili. They weren’t bad, just .. tasteless.

Oh yeah, service is very slow here too, I guess it’s just the laid back island life.

Though this is a Chinese restaurant, they are pork free. In fact, the whole Salang Bay is pork free.

food court, on the left once you get off the jetty at Salang Bay
food court, on the left once you get off the jetty at Salang Bay

Just to the right of the jetty is a food court that usually has at least a couple shops open for business. We caught the national double’s pair playing on TV while enjoying some fried rice from the last stall to the right.

It was a meal that was forgettable, but the operators were very friendly, and we spent another half an hour chatting with them and a local dive master. It turned out to be a decent experience.

Haze & KY
Haze & KY at Salang Beach, Tioman 2012

These are just the place we ate, I was told that you get very good ikan bakar to the left of jetty at night, and there were many drinking place serving cold beer at RM 5 a can and other alcoholic drinks at RM 10-12 per glass.

Even though food wasn’t exactly anywhere near good, they were edible and priced pretty decent for a holiday destination. I wanna go back to Tioman!

It is always a mystery to me as to why there are so many people who insists on eating the things they are used to eating at home while traveling to another country. The phenomenon must be very prevalent, so much so that at most touristy places, there are more Western restaurants than there are local Thai places.

Khao Lak is more of the same, the small resort town (approximately 100 km north of Phuket) where we spent the day after liveaboard to Similan islands for degassing purposes. For us, that was of course a perfect opportunity to eat everything Thai.

Fire in the hole!

motorbike is the best way to get around
motorbike is the best way to get around

While Khao Lak is relatively small and there are cabs available pretty much everywhere, the best mode of transportation is a scooter. You probably don’t even need a license to rent one, but do make sure you know what you’re doing.

Our scooter cost 200 baht per day, and you can refuel from plenty of places by buying bottled gasoline for 40 baht per liter. If you value your life, ask for helmets, they provide them without extra charge.

som tam by the roadside, I had it last year too
som tam by the roadside, I had it last year too

If you love sour & spicy stuff, som tam is a must try. Made of unripe papaya or green mango, bean sprout, peanut, chili, dried shrimps and more. Comes with a kick, we paid 40 bath, would be cheaper if this stall wasn’t parked right outside hot tourist spots.

breakfast was this rice/noodle with extremely spicy broths
breakfast was this rice/noodle with extremely spicy broths

On the day of departure, we decided to forgo hotel breakfast and try something a Thai would have. After riding around a bit we arrived at this kopitiam with a couple Thai ladies operating a stall that offers rice or noodle with a selection of dishes with broth.

Thai: spicy haa!
Me: we kon Malay, spicy no problem!

I was mistaken. These shit was tasty, and really, really hot. Lucky for us there were fresh cucumbers & a variety of vegetables on the table to cool things down. It was a good meal, what do you call them anyway?

noodle soup is the yums, choices of beef, chicken, or pork
noodle soup is the yums, choices of beef, chicken, or pork

A day prior to departure, just before dinner, we stopped by one of the road side stalls right on the main street at Khao Lak for some “snacks” that turned out to be really delicious noodle soup.

Here you get to choose any combination of 3 ingredients: pork, chicken, and beef. I had mine with chicken & beef while Haze opted for pork and beef. This reminded me of Vietnamese pho, and had the same basil/bean sprout on the side too, but as with anything Thai, the flavors were stronger. Yums.

50 baht for each, water was free. 100 baht well spent.

pad thai was not bad, but the fried oyster was a disappointment
pad thai wasn’t bad, the fried oyster tho, disappointing

Our last meal there was at this little restaurant a couple kilometers away from Khao Lak (scooter brings you places!). We had pad thai with prawns & squid, and another plate of fried oyster to share.

The pad thai was rather average, and the fried oyster.. well, after the experience at Penang’s version, this was a complete disappointment. Each plate was 50 baht, with 15 baht each for coca-cola t hat comes in those classic glass bottle.

Yes, my stomach is still recovering from all those chili overload, but of course it was worth it. :D

It’s time to continue documenting the remainder of my Bali trip while the memory is still somewhat fresh.

After spending a night at Kuta and two more nights at Sanur, we moved to Ubud.

Located at central Bali, Ubud is about one and a half hours away from Kuta on a cab, which in Balinese traffic, only covers around 35-40 kilometers.

Night at Jalan Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali
Night at Jalan Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

The most happening place in Ubud must be Jalan Monkey Forest, a street filled with many hotel/hostel/home stays, restaurants, art galleries, and touristy shops. It is a (mostly) narrow one way street with cars that travels no faster than you could jog.

The relatively higher elevation of 200+ meters above sea level and the abundance of greenery at Ubud gave the place a slightly cooler and more pleasant temperature and than the coast.

Sri Bungalows with lush green padi field at the back
Sri Bungalows with lush green padi field at the back

We checked into Sri Bungalows located on Jalan Monkey Forest and paid US $60 via agoda.com for the room that had a King size and another Twin bed. The wifi only works for one device at a time, but it won’t be a holiday if you constantly have to be on the internet, right?

At the back of the hotel (which was a series of “bungalows” with 4 rooms each, 2 on ground & 2 on 1st floor) is a swimming pool, and next to the swimming pool are lush green paddy fields. I’m not sure if these are real farmer’s paddy fields or they’re there only for the hotel guests, but they’re sure beautiful and very relaxing just to stare at.

artsy stuff all over Ubud
artsy stuff all over Ubud, all for sale

All along Jalan Monkey Forest and a few streets around it, there are art shops. Many many art shops. Ubud is the art and crafts hub of Bali, and it may as well be the art & crafts hub of South East Asia. Throw a stone in any direction at this place and chances are you’ll hit a painting.

You can find art pieces from from 100,000 IDR cheap paintings to works done by famous Indonesian artists that fetches a small fortune.

monkey forest at Ubud, the prime tourist attraction
monkey forest at Ubud, the prime tourist attraction

Monkey Forest (naturally located at Jalan Monkey Forest), also known as the Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal, is a sanctuary with over 500 long-tailed macaques roaming about in the forest among the trees and temples.

mom, elder sibling, and baby monkeys
mom, elder sibling, and baby monkeys

Entrance to Monkey Forest is 20,000 IDR (exchange rate was at 10,000 IDR to 3.40 MYR at time of travel). You get a small guide map and plenty of advertisements. There are 2-3 entrances into the sanctuary, and ticket counters are right next to each of them.

There are villagers selling bananas, peanuts, and other fruits you can purchase to feed the primates.

obviously these westerners were braver than me with the monkeys
obviously these Australians were braver than me with the monkeys

It doesn’t take more than an hour or so to explore the entire Monkey Forest. There were certainly a lot of monkeys, and some of them quite daring too if food is presence. Fortunately, the monkeys are non aggressive for the most part.

I didn’t dare letting these tailed cousins sit on my lap or climb on me, but some of these Aussie tourists were more daring. (I still remember how hard the monkey bit me while filming for Project Alpha at Tambun, luckily its teeth were filed)

and I tried the famous cafe Lewak, Haze thought it was gross
and I tried the famous cafe Luwak, Haze thought it was gross

We also stopped by a Bali Pesto Cafe along Jalan Monkey Forest cos they serve Kopi Luwak. For those who are not familiar with this special type of coffee, do read:

Kopi luwak, or civet coffee, is one of the world’s most expensive and low-production varieties of coffee. It is made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) and other related civets, then passed through its digestive tract.

More about that in the wiki entry of Kopi Lewak.

This cup of kopi luwak cost me 46,000 IDR including tax, which translate to something like 1.5 cups of Starbucks.

I had it black and did not add any sugar, and true to its reputation, the coffee wasn’t very bitter and carry a pleasant aroma. It pretty nice coffee, but I don’t see the what the hype is about though.

Then again, I couldn’t be 100% sure that the coffee they served me was in fact, kopi luwak. Will try it again next time. :D

how you transport chicken in Bali
this is how you transport chicken in Bali

And after that 3 dogs on motorcycle photo in the last picture of Kuta post, I shall end this post with a photo of this chicken transporter Haze managed to shoot while we were riding on the rental motorbike around Ubud.