Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Just a quick update

Things haven't been easy for me for the past months. I have a load of blog entries yet to be posted. I hope I will make the time to sit down and finish these entries since they are interesting travel stories to be shared. Maybe writing will help my mind get off the crazy stuff that's happening in my life right now.

Quarter-life crisis, I sooooo feel you!

  



Sunday, October 21, 2012

A weekend in Kuala Lumpur

If there’s one thing I love about being a bum, aside from waking up late, it would be gettingto travel to interesting places close to Singapore. Three weeks ago, we booked flights for Kuala Lumpur since it was a long weekend here because of their celebration of the National Day Parade. 

On our way 

We got flight via Tiger Airways from SG-KL for SGD 100 for two persons. For our return flight, we booked AirAsia tickets for SGD 109. These are the cheapest flights we got given that is another last minute travel plans like four days before the trip.

We took an 8PM Tiger Airways flightfrom Changi Airport Budget Terminal and arrived in Kuala Lumpur’s Low CostCarrier Terminal (LCCT) almost 9PM. After going through immigration,exchanging a few Singapore dollars to Malaysian ringgits, we took the Aerobusgoing to KL Sentral for RM 8. Their airport is far from the city approximately a 1-hrdrive. You won’t miss the booths selling bus tickets because they are right outside once you get out the arrival hall. There are other bus routes but since our hotel is in KL Sentral we took Aerobus which offered that route.

We reached KLSentral almost 12MN. Our hotel is just a walking distance from KL Sentral whichis Malaysia’s largest transit hub. It is connected to the six railsystems in Kuala Lumpur. There are also taxi and car rentals here, and businessestablishments like fastfoods, stores, money exchange, etc. 

MyHotel

We kinda gotlost on our way to MyHotel @ Sentral. There are no signs leading you to whichdirection. We just relied on KL Streetdirectory map we downloaded. There was anongoing construction at KL Sentral which made it a bit difficult to find ourway. Good thing, there was a security personnel and we just asked directions.

We arrived inMyHotel and checked in. We paid RM 110 for the room for our first night staysince it was required. We’ve stayed in MyHotel Bangkok before and we likedit. So we opted to try another MyHotel, this time in KL. The moment we got intoour room, we noticed that it was noisy. And we wondered why, we looked into ourwindow and found that our room is situated in a side street where there is a bardownstairs. Ugh. I was looking for a quiet night to sleep. There was no fridgeand our cable only had five channels  -all of them were about the Olympics. 

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De Luxe Room
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other side of the room
I got bit disappointed. And yeah, nowarm water in the shower although it says its hot. Oh wells. The roomwasn’t so bad except I just thought. Fresh and clean sheets, firm bed, spacious and clean room..moved on!

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the hotel entrance
Since we wereon a limited time, we carefully chose what we wanted to see in Kuala Lumpur. Wedid Genting Highlands, Petronas Towers, Batu Caves, streetfood dinner at JalanAlor, Bukit Bintang, and food adventure.

Petronas Towers

It’s best tosee Petronas Towers at night. The lights are all out and night shots are justglorious. You see all the lights illuminating from the towers and it’s a sightto behold.
We did all theshots we can think of.  Good thing webrought a mini tripod. 

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streetsmartgirl @ Petronas
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lovers in Petronas
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just another Petronas shot
Jalan Alor 

Jalan Alor islocated in Bukit Bintang which is the main shopping and entertainment area in KL. You will findan array of food stalls in both side of the streets. You may get overwhelmed atfirst because of the peddlers urging you to eat in their restaurants. We toohad a hard time deciding where to have our dinner. 

But as they say, eat wherethe crowd is and so we did.

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food coma :)
Jalan Alor istruly a foodie paradise where you can sample authentic Malaysian cuisine.We had chili crab, cereal prawns, and chicken fried rice. Fantastic street food!

Bukit Bintang

Bukit Bintangor BB is known as the shopping and entertainment center of KL. You will findhere a number of shopping malls. And when you say mall, I’d say BUY! We strolledaround some malls in the area like Lot 10, Fahrenheit 88, Pavilion KL, BB Plaza(like Greenhills), Sungei Wang Plaza, and Low Yat Plaza which is the one-stopshop for gadgets.

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Pavilion KL - high end shopping mall
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Lot 10 - nearest mall to Bukit Bintang monoral station

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Fahrenheit 88
I was able tobuy three pairs of shoes from Vincci or VNC as popularly known in Manila.

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shoe shopping at Vincci
Batu Caves

The Batu Cavesis in Erick’s must-go places ever since we planned to visit KL in 2010. But itdidn’t push through. So he was delighted that finally we will able to go andsee Batu Caves. 

Batu Caves is a sacred place for the Hindus in Malaysia. Itconsisted of three big caves and smaller ones. We went there by taking the KTMtrain in KL Sentral bound for Batu Caves. You won't get lost because the laststation is Batu Caves and from there the site is a walking distance.

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Batu Caves
We alsoascended the 272 steps; these steps are kinda steep so be careful.

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On the way up
There arealso monkeys along the way chancing uponyour belongings especially if you are carrying plastic bag with food inside.  

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monkeys are usual sight in batu caves
I was amazedby the structure of the Batu Caves. It was huge inside and there are many temples full of devotees.

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One of the many temples
At the end of the biggest cave which is named Cathedral Cave you will see a large opening when you look above. 

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big opening at the end of the cave
Foodtrip

Any trip would not be complete without trying the local cuisine. We would not miss trying authentic Malaysian food. Here are some of the yummiest food we had while in Malaysia.

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Penang Fried Kway Teow
This dish is made from flat rice noodles and stir-fried in soy sauce, chili, prawns, squid, mussels, bean sprouts, and chives.

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Chicken satay
How could anyone miss chicken satay while in KL? It's one of the most popular dishes in Malaysia. The barbecued chicken is best served with rice but you can also eat it on its own.

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Chicken fried rice
We also tried chili crab when we had dinner at Jalan Alor. The crab is stir-fried in semi-thick, sweet and spicy-based sauce. The crab that we ate was actually sweet and spicy.

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Chili crab
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Cereal prawn
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Fried chicken with fries and salad

This is it for now. I'll post our Resorts World Genting experience in my next entry :D

PS: Sorry for uber late posts. Work has been crazy lately :P

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Great Bintan Escape


A month ago, we made a short trip to Bintan, Indonesia for a quick getaway. Bintan Island is part of the Riau archipelago of Indonesia and can be traveled by a 1-hr ferry ride from Singapore. The island is a popular beach destination for Singaporeans who wanted to get away from the city for the weekend.

Since this was a spontaneous trip, we booked last minute just the day before our actual trip. Good thing we were able to find a Bintan weekend package which included ferry transfers, hotel transfers, and accommodation. I called the travel agencies in Lucky Plaza and the most reasonable package I got was  from Fil Air Travel & Tours. I was able to find the cheapest last-minute package at SGD207/pax. This already included SGD 22/pax for the ferry taxes.

The trip 

Fast forward to the day of our Bintan trip..

Since, we booked the trip late, the only available seats for the ferry is at 12:10PM. We were at the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal 1 ½ hour before our departure. We waited in the Emerald Class Lounge since we got Emerald Class Tickets. The  lounge offers free drinks and cookies, and internet/wi-fi. It’s a comfortable place to wait for your departure since the area is exclusive to Emerald Class passengers. Also, passengers are given priority in boarding the ferry. 

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While waiting for our departure
The travel to Bintan took an hour but Indonesia is an hour behind Singapore. We still arrived at 12:10PM in Bandar Bentan Telani Ferry Terminal (Bintan). We were picked up by the hotel bus along with other tourists. The travel from the ferry terminal to our hotel, Bintan Lagoon Resort, was more or less 20 minutes.

Bintan Lagoon Resort 

We finally arrived in the hotel and we were greeted with a traditional Indonesian dance by locals. Check-in was slow due to the influx of tourist arrivals. Anyway, we still managed to check-in before 1PM. 

Bintan Lagoon Resort is a sprawling beach property. There are several hotel buildings, a good number of restaurants to choose from, nice pool area, and a scenic beach area. The resort also have a golf course. We also saw an immigration building near the beach; it's close to getting finished. I guess, they will soon open this so tourists could arrive in the resort directly rather than from passing through the ferry terminal.

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Hotel facade
Our room is located in the first floor of the west wing of the hotel. The hotel room included amenities like cable TV, fridge, hair dryer, aircon, safety deposit box, and a mini-bar. The only thing I didn't like is that our backdoor opens to small road where vehicles would pass by from time to time. And yeah, I must mention that I lost my Billabong maillot here when we left it there to hang dry in our balcony. Oh wells.

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Garden View De Luxe Room
Moving on, here are some more pictures during our stay at Bintan Lagoon Resort.

The hotel property is really huge. You can go around it by driving the golf cart or you can just walk while enjoying the scenery.

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At the swimming pool
I give two thumbs-up to the resort for keeping the pool well-maintained and clean. Not only the pool is big enough to accommodate big crowds on weekends but there are also plenty of pool beds. There's also a bar where you can order coolers while you are lounging by the pool.

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Big pool

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After swimming
On our first day, the weather was kinda gloomy so we opted to just stay in the pool area.

The beach 

The beach in the resort was also good with fine whitish sand and long beach stretch. I didn't have high expectations of Bintan beaches reading from travel blogs. But I think Bintan Lagoon's beach is also pleasing and scenic in its  own way. This was my second trip to Bintan and the first one was in a resort in Tanjung Pinang which is the city/capital of Bintan. We had to ride a boat to get into another private island just to be able to swim and enjoy the sea because the beach in the resort is always low tide. But in Bintan Lagoon, the beach is accessible and clean. The water is shallow and cool.

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Towards the beach
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beachfront
By the time we decided to hit the beach, it was already sunny outside which was good since it was raining when we first arrived in the resort. Other tourists also flocked in the beach. 

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Beach beds near the bar
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Good day at Bintan

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Flyfish, anyone?

The food

There are several restaurants in the hotel like around 4-5. We ate at two of them. Hotel food is expensive. For this trip, we spent like SGD 200 for food just for an overnight stay. There was no choice to eat somewhere since the resort is far from the town.

It was good that the food we had were enjoyable and appetizing. Never mind the price, the food was pleasant anyway. There was always complimentary bread for every meal ordered which was also freshly-heated.

We ate at two of the hotel’s restaurants for our lunches and dinner – Kopi O  which is the main resto and Orzo which serves Italian cuisine.

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Kopi-O clubhouse sandwich
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One of the best-tasting quesadillas. Yum :P
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Salmon skewer. it did not disappoint.
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Enjoying my seafood marinara
Buffet breakfast was served as well but the choices were limited. It was good enough though for a morning meal.

Bye Bintan

Our weekend stay was soon over. Time flies when you're having fun. We checked out 12NN but stayed until 4PM in the hotel because the only ticket we got going back to Singapore is at 5PM.

Overall, we had an enjoyable stay. The whole Bintan experience from hotel, food, and the beach exceeded our expectations. This is my second trip to Bintan and this was a whole new experience for me.

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Relaxed after the trip
In its truest sense, this was an escape for me.. to get away from all stress and worries I've felt in the past weeks. So it was good choice that we chose Bintan as the perfect escape :)

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En route to Singapore