Review: Pacific Express Hotel Central Market (Kuala Lumpur)

My bus turned slowly into the driveway and finally came to a haul. The time was 1 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. I grabbed my bag and walked briskly towards KLCC LRT Station. From there, I took the LRT and alighted at Pasar Seni LRT Station. Walking past the Central Market, I reached Pacific Express Hotel.

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Designed for the modern travellers, “express hotels” like this are the new focused-service model, providing crisp service for both business and leisure tourists while ensuring the core product – the guestrooms – is comfortable and affordable. Ideally located in the heart of downtown Kuala Lumpur, at the crossroad of Chinatown district and the historic district, Pacific Express Hotel is within walking distance from landmarks such as Central Market, Petaling Street, Masjid Jamek, Masjid India Bazaar, Merdeka Square, National Mosque and many more interesting building and attractions.

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The 207-room hotel was converted from a former banking building, making it the perfect location for business travellers with banks and many corporations surrounding it. Pacific Express Hotel features contemporary designs with modern stylish furnishings with 4 types of guestrooms to choose from: Standard, Superior, Deluxe, Pacific Room.

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Standard (19-22 sqm) – No window

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Superior (19-20 sqm) and Deluxe (22-25 sqm) – similar layout

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Pacific Room (30 sqm) – suite style

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Pacific Room comes with lounge area that is partitioned from the bed and it is the only room type with bath tub.

Regarding facilities, besides the regular room amenities (mini fridge, bottled water, coffee/tea making, LED TV, hair dryer, etc), what I am impressed with and enjoyed the most is the fact that all bathrooms have deluge rain shower in their standing bathroom. I also enjoyed the view from the rooftop swimming pool and the workout from the gym.

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For the business-centric travellers, there are two meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 30 persons each, with flexible option of combining the two meetings rooms to host up to 60 persons. Half day meeting package starts from RM50++ per person and full day meeting package is from RM85++ per person. There is also a small business centre available for guests who require secretarial assistance.

I spent the whole afternoon walking around the historic districts and went into Kuala Lumpur City Gallery. Admission fee for KL City Gallery is RM5 per person, but you also given a voucher worth RM5 which can be used to offset for the food or drink you order at the cafe. KL City Gallery reminds me very much of the Singapore City Gallery at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). There are mini models of the Greater KL Region as well as exhibition on the different historical buildings surround the hotel.

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A trip to KL is not completed with catching up with my friends. I was lucky to squeeze in 4 appointments within my 2D1N trip, including a durian session with my mates. Considering that it was the durian season, it was definitely fun for us to pick up Mao Shan Wang (Cat Mountain King) and Ang Hay / Hong Xia (Red Prawn) from one of the ad hoc durian vendors and bringing them back to my friend’s apartment for a feast.

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I had my breakfast the lobby cafe. The food was alright but choices were limited to nasi lemak. But do bear in mind that it is an express hotel so the breakfast is mostly catered for those who just want to fill their stomach and get on with their day. What they lack of in food variety, they make up in service. When I arrived for breakfast, the attentive staff would ask me for my drink order and serve to my table. When the fried egg at the buffet corner ran out, they automatically serve me a portion without me asking for it.

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I heard from the staff that the cafe is a popular place for lunch and afternoon tea among the office workers among the hotel. The items on the lunch menu range from RM8-14 for a main course, very economic in my opinion.

Alternatively, my suggestion is to take a walk around Chinatown / Petaling Street and let your nose do the deciding for you. There are two popular place for congee and chee chong fun (rice noodle roll).  Since I already had breakfast at the hotel cafe, I decided to buy muah chee from the old lady street vendor. There are several different flavours and I bought the mixed package at RM5.

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All in all, it was a good trip for me. Although my friends were concern about me staying at Chinatown and reminding me to be careful with my belongings as it’s not a very safe area. I didn’t experience any potential crime but it always helps to be caution.

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Tip: There are graffiti along the canal right next to Pasar Seni LRT Station. It’s very popular with youngsters to pose with selfie sticks there.

Pacific Express Hotel is managed by Pacific Regency Hotel Group. Five minutes walk away from Pasar Seni LRT or Majib Jamek LRT station.

Address: Jalan Hang Kasturi, 50050 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia

Tel: +603 2022 6888    Fax: +603 2022 6868

Email: info@pacific-express.com.my

Website: www.pacific-express.com.my

Must-go Places to Eat in KL – Recommended by a Smart Local

Singaporeans are no stranger to Malaysia’s capital city. From hi-tea to buffet, gourmet burger joint to street food, Kuala Lumpur (or KL as it’s commonly called) has it all. On my recent trips to visit a friend who stays in Jalan Ampang, I’m rediscovering the city through my stomach and beginning to fall in love with it once again. Here are some of our favorite food places to visit in KL.

[Read on till the end or scroll down all the way to read about my misadventure in KL and learn how to avoid tourist trap at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT).]

1. My Burger Lab 

I confess that I am not a burger person. In my 20-plus years of memory, burgers are junk food to me. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the goodness of premium ground beef patty sandwiched between two slices of charcoal bun. My Burger Lab is the latest craze in KL’s gourmet burger industry. In my friend’s words, “If you haven’t been to My Burger Lab, you haven’t been to KL. It’s beter than the burger I had at Four Seasons Hotel in New York!”

Started in 2012, My Burger Lab currently has two outlets. When we arrived at the newer outlet at Taman OUG around 8pm, it was almost full house. My friend waited in line for 15-20 minutes before they could take our orders. While he was waiting, my eyes were scouting for a table for us. The interior decoration was minimalist with Ikea-style lighting hanging from the ceiling, but everyone seemed to be having a good time digging in and busy eating. Sometimes, this place sold out their patties by 9pm.

We had The Hulk burger – ground beef patty, fried avocado, green salsa sauce, fried egg at RM18.50 each. The Hulk set meal with fries and a drink is at Rm24.50. I couldn’t believe my friend upsized my big burger meal by ordering an extra beef patty (RM5.50) for me. According to my friend, the fries are hand-cut and fried in olive oil. The dinner crowd usually starts from 5pm onwards till closing. The other outlet at Petaling Jaya is much more crowded than this OUG outlet.

I stared hard at the strange combination of seaweed sauce, fried cheddar cheese, fried avocado with the ground beef patty. I shut my eyes and sank my teeth into the charcoal burger. Without a doubt, it was one of the best I had ever tried, probably better than Fergburger in Queenstown, New Zealand. But you really have to be a burger lover to soak in all the extra calories. Sign up for their VIP card and enjoy 15% discount on purchases. Burgers starts from RM 11 onwards, chicken and vegetarian opinion are available. And yes, they are Muslim-friendly too.

My Burger Lab (OUG Lab) is located at 8, Jalan Awan Hijau, 58200, Kuala Lumpur. The other outlet (Seapark Lab) is located 4, Jalan 21/22, 46300, Petaling Jaya. Visit their Facebook or website MyBurgerLab.com for more information. You can also spy cam and check the crowd-situation before heading down.

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2. Pasar Baru Bukit Bintang (Imbi Market) Dewan Bandaeaya Kuala Lumpur 

In my humble opinion, the best things to eat in KL is not just colonial style western burger but the open-air hawker places in town. A short drive from Jalan Ampang is the popular place in town for lunch among the locals.

Unfortunately, like the Lavender Food Court in Singapore, this heritage hawker place is making way for commercial development. In its place, Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) will take over. I always think that only in a land scare country like Singapore will face such problem, but looks like our neighbour up north is also losing food heritage thanks to modernisation.

That afternoon, I slurped up the Wanton Mee with much gusto. They used cabbage instead of spinach. And the char siew was done just right – tender yet tasty. As usual, my friend loved to put extra meat in my order. I also tried the Curry Laksa Noodle from the same stall while he ate his special order of Veg & Chicken Kway Teow. Ah Weng Koh’s Hainan Tea is highly recommended to complement the meal, it’s blended with coffee power, and tastes like Yuanyang (mixture of coffee & tea).

 Pasar Bukit Bintang, otherwise known as Imbi Market is located at Jalan Melati, 55100 Kuala Lumpur. Here is a Google Map of its location. Hurry and go before the rustic place is demolished!

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3. Restoran Bak Kut Teh Yik See Ho

En route to Changi Airport, when the taxi driver found out that I was going to KL, he said to me, “When you are in KL, remember to eat their Bak Kut Teh, they are the best in Malaysia. Very famous, every time uncle goes there, sure will eat one.” Thanks to his heads up, I asked my friend to bring me to his favorite venue for the regular meat-bone-tea (Bak Kut Teh) fix.

Our big bowl of Bak Kut Teh came in a clay pot, topped with fried beancurd skin, vegetables and tender pork. I scooped a mouthful of soup and savored the awesomeness. It tasted almost as good as the famous Yu Kee Bak Kut Teh I had in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah many years ago.

A bowl of Bak Kut Teh starts from RM8.00. We had the Bak Kut Teh in Claypot at RM18.oo, and ordered various side dishes to complement it. One of my favorite ways of eating Bak Kut Teh is to drink the soup, bite off the meat, dip and soak Youtiao (You Zha Gui) into the soup to finish off the broth.

Restoran Bak Kut Teh Yik See Ho is located at No. 20, Jalan Landak, off Jalan Pasar, Kuala Lumpur. For enquiries, please call Calvin Wong at +601 2789 2293. Opening hours from 12pm to 1am, closed on Monday. 

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4. Restoran Win Heng Seng (Hokkien Mee)

I used to patronize Jalan Alor for hawker food when I stayed around Jalan Bukit Bintang area. But recently I discovered this coffeeshop that served yummy zhi char near the shopping belt of KL. I love it so much that I requested for my friend to bring me there again on another evening before watching movie at Berjaya Times Square.

We ate the Hokkien Mee and shared a plate of Braised Yee Mee together with two other friends. 1 person serving is priced at only RM8.50 and two-person sharing portion starts from RM16.00. We also ordered the barbecued chicken wings from across the street to complement our dinner. Do come early to secure a seat for dinner. I also heard that their fish-skin wonton noodle soup and egg tarts are very popular items for breakfast and lunch.

Restoran Win Heng Seng is located at 183 Jalan Imbi, 55100 Kuala Lumpur. It is at the cross-road corner of Jalan Barat and Jalan Imbi, opposite Honda showroom, right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Walking distance from Pavilion shopping mall and Berjaya Times Square.

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5. Alexis Bistro & Wine Bar

Looking for a place to chill or a dessert venue? Alexis Bistro & Wine Bar (Ampang) located at Great Eastern Mall is my recommendation. Known for their popular weekend lunches, firewood oven pizza, weekend jazz performances showcasing local and international talents every Friday and Saturday. We headed over to Alexis Ampang on a weekday evening after our dinner to enjoy their dessert with a pot of hot tea. There’re 5 outlets (including Sino – The Bar Upstairs) spread across Kuala Lumpur. Alexis Gardens at Mid Valley City has always been the post-work out temptation for my friend.

As a dessert connoisseur, the no. 1 recommendation I have for you will be their Tiramisu – the best in town. Cognac and coffee soaked layers with the fluffiest cream topped with sweet, crunchy, caramelised pecans, served with a “bloody” puddle of strawberry sauce by the side. I kissed my diet plan good-bye as I sinked my teeth into this sinful-icious treat. Served best with a pot of lemon grass tea or a glass of dry white wine to accompany Jazz performance on a Friday or Saturday night. May it be a sweet dream for you tonight.

Alexis Ampang is located at Lot 10 & 11 Great Eastern Mall, 303 Jalan Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur. Call them at +603 4260 2288 to make a reservation. Visit their website www.alexis.com.my to find out the locations of their other outlets or to view the schedule of the upcoming live performances.

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6. NOOK’s Buffet Dinner at Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral

KL Sentral is indeed the main transport hub of Kuala Lumpur. As a leisure traveller, I prefer to arrive early at KL Sentral to avoid the evening rush hour jam and to enjoy a scrumptious spread of delicacies before embarking on my way to the airport. Walking into Nook at Aloft KL Sentral Hotel, I felt that I was transported to the future with its futuristic white pods and the green and white interior decoration. It was minimalistic yet chic. The green decoration reminded me of pandan leaves and kaffir lime.

Nook’s menu is created by Executive Chef Steven Seow and his team. It is a combination of local flavours and international delights, mixed with texture and freshness. Among the buffet favourites are smoked salmon, fresh prawns and mussels, charcoal-grilled satays, and the wide smorgasbord of colourful desserts made for a happy ending.

Nook at Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral is located at No 5 Jalan Stesen Sentral, Kuala Lumpur 50470. Call them at +603 2723 1188 for reservation, or visit their website and Facebook for more details. Buffet dinner is from 6.30pm to 10.30pm at RM70.00 nett per adult.

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Tourist Trap Alert – Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT)

Unfortunately it’s not always a happy ending. I love KL for most of its glory but there are always people out there who are dishonest to tourists. During one of my recent visit, I was traveling back from Penang to LCCT by AirAsia. Normally I would take the shuttle bus from LCCT to KL Sentral, which cost less than RM10.

But being a late night flight, my friend and I decided to hop on to the taxi. First, there wasn’t any clear signage. When we reached the taxi queue, we were told to purchase a ticket from the counter. I searched the arrival hall, only to realise the small counter was tucked inside the arrival gate. Hence I had to run back to get my passport and back to the arrival hall to explain to the custom officer to allow me back to the arrival gate.

It didn’t help that the custom officer was showing attitude when I mentioned why couldn’t the taxi counter be outside the arrival gate. She stared at me and shouted, “What’s your problem?” Besides her horrible service attitude, the bus counter lady charged me more than RM120 for a trip for two adults with one luggage from LCCT to Jalan Ampang. According to my friend, he usually pays around RM70-80 when he takes a cab from KLIA. He told me that Jalan Ampang was a long road and the counter lady should have asked exactly where I was going, instead of charging us the maximum rate.

My two-cent worth, if possible, hop on to the shuttle bus (traveling to KL Sentral) to save some cash, then take a taxi or train from KL Sentral and transfer to your hotel. Otherwise, be clear to mention where you are going, cos there are always dishonest people in this world who are out there to cheat tourists. Stay smart!

Penang Food Trail: Best Places to Eat as Recommended by Locals

I’m proud to be a Singaporean and I hate to admit defeated to our cousin from The Straits Settlement – Penang has once again been voted as the no. 1 haven for street food in Asia. Lonely Planet names Penang the top culinary spot for 2014. Fellow foodies embarked on this gastronomical journey with me as I explore Pulau Pinang with my tummy.

This blog post will be a recollection of my recent trip to the island, covering the popular Penang street food – Chicken Rice, Char Kway Teow, Assam Laksa, Chee Cheong Fun, Hokkien Mee, as well as cool cafes and restaurants around Georgetown and near Gurney Drive.

I was with my friend, a Malaysian who grew up in Penang. He had spent years working overseas and we’re on this trip to visit his parents and to re-discover Penang. The best way to travel Penang is self-drive. We got our car from Big Thumb car rental. The next best option would be to rent bicycles. But Penang, being much bigger than Malacca, means that you can only cover limited places on two wheels. 

1. Fatty Loh Chicken Rice (21 Jalan Fettes, opposite Kuil Sri Sakthi Vinayagar Hindu temple)

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It was lunch time and we’re on the hunt for food when we came across Fatty Loh’s  chicken rice shop. My friend recommended it since it was a famous spot for tourist. To be honest, I never thought that Penang could be famous for chicken rice. And I wasn’t too wrong about it. We ordered a plate of Steamed Chicken (for 2 pax), BBQ Pork  (char siew as commonly called in Singapore), a bowl of Peanut & Pork Soup and 2 cups of Longgan Tangkuah (longan & winter melon) drink for RM22. We were also served a complimentary small plate of fried pork chop.

The food was good but not excellent. I was reading this Time Out review and realised that if I would have ordered their roasted chicken with rice, I would probably have given them more points. What I loved was the feeling of dining in a museum at Fatty Loh’s. The place was like a warehouse of antiques and artifacts.

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2. Kedai Kopi Sin Hwa (opposite Pulau Tikus police station in Burma Road)

This was my 3rd trip to Penang, and it turned out to be a food hunt every time. After our meal at Fatty Loh’s, my friend drove us to his favorite Assam Laksa stall. Guess what, this coffeeshop even have their own Facebook page! As we had just finished eating at Fatty Loh’s, we ordered the Assam Laksa without noodles. According to a Malaysia food website, this Assam Laksa is somewhat different in taste as it’s cooked with tamarind juice instead of tamarind peels. We ordered one large bowl and one small bowl and it costed RM8.50. This coffeeshop is also well-known for their Char Kway Teow.

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3. Kafe Goodall (opposite Penang Chinese Girls’ School)

We headed back to our hotel for a short rest before driving to Kafe Goodall for dinner. There are a few Goodall Food Court, we went to the one opposite the famous Penang Chinese Girls’ School. What is highly recommend is the Chicken Satay. Unlike the ones I tried in Singapore, this one was specially tender and the chicken bits were chunkier. We also had Char Kway Teow, Hokkien Mee and Char Hor Fun to share among four of us. Something unique about the Hokkien Mee and Char Hor Fun (we simply called it Hor Fun in Singapore) is that they mixed bee hoon (rice vermicelli) with the noodles. Naturally the bee hoon would soaked up the gravy making the taste more wholesome.

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4. Taman Emas Kopitiam (opposite Penang Chinese Girls’ School)

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Here’s a secret you need to know – Penangites don’t eat lunch. Most street food places are open for business only at night. And you can also find a lot of good places for breakfast. But when it comes to noon, a lot of food places are closed. A stone throw away from Kafe Goodall is Taman Emas Kopitiam, this place closes on Monday so please plan your itinerary properly. The Assam Laksa here is famous and extremely popular on weekends. It has also won northern Malaysia best hawker award in 2011.

The broth is made from fresh fish meat blended into the assam soup. Remember to order the popiah to complement the broth. The locals will dip the popiah into the broth. In my opinion, this is the best Assam Laksa I had tried in Penang, it was better than the famous Assam Laksa at the foothill of Kek Lok Si temple. We also managed to try the Char Kway Teow and Chee Cheong Fun there. The Chee Cheong Fun was really soft and it simply melted in my mouth. I gave a double thumbs up for this.

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5. Chinahouse (153 & 155 Beach Street and 183B Victoria Street)

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Enter from Beach St and gain immediate access to The Canteen – an inviting artsy warehouse that holds live music from indie stars from Thursday to Sunday

I wonder why I haven’t been to this place earlier. Chinahouse is one of those places whose charms captivate you to keep beckoning back for more. Lonely Planet said it’s Penang’s best.. Cake-tastic cafe, restaurant and bar complex spanning a whole block. Chinahouse is a mammoth of 3 heritage buildings situated right in the middle of the core zone of Georgetown. Enter from either Beach Street or Victoria Street and you will be greeted with 14 unique spaces comprising of souvenir shop, cafe, restaurant, art gallery, live music and bakery all round into one.

This longest cafe in Penang is the perfect example of how Georgetown has moved on with time. Chinahouse is modeled on a lane way concept with one path from Beach Street to Victoria Street, while some outlets go off this lane, the lane passes through others. This juxtaposed cafe provided free wifi and paper with crayons for you to doodle on the table tops. Some of the artworks by patrons turn into display in their street gallery.

We’re there the after diner night before and we love it so much that we returned the next day for afternoon. I had a pot of Lemon Ginger Mint tea (RM12) and my friend tried their Blueberry Mango Coconut Smoothies. The place gets crowded every night, so for better service, come when there’s daylight.

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By day, The Canteen serves the best Bento Box, a mix of Western and Asian flavours – a rice-based menu with tasty mains and morsels. Don’t miss out on Comedy Night every first Thursday night of the month!

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On Saturday, the bakery (on the left) sells an average of 450 slices of cake. The bakery is 10 chefs-strong, and they have to try out 10 new recipes a week (if they don’t try new recipes a week, they get fired).

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Pardon my ridiculous expression as I’m mesmerized by this poolside dining concept of the Courtyard Cafe. Order and pay from the different cafes / restaurants inside and bring your food out to enjoy the breeze under these lucky trees.

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Vine and Single offers a tasting of 8 different red wines by the glass. The best cocktails in town at Mr. B’s Martini Bar – the popular choices are mojitos, margaritas and long island teas.

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Reading Room offers a space for talk-fest with friends. Or simply grab the books from the shelves for a quiet afternoon. The owners also encourage you to “accidentally-on-purpose” leave your books behind to become inspiration for others.

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Chinahouse aims to be an arts platform supported by interesting other concepts. Besides Art Spaces in 153 & 155 Beach Street, and performance at The Canteen, feel free to art-jam on their table tops.

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Baked fresh daily – Chef Jo Jie and her team of 10 talented bakers serve up delicious cakes, brownies, tortes, slices, biscuits, breads and pies to suit any craving.

6. Macalister Mansion (228 Macalister Road)

Located along the historic Macalister Road and designed around the idea of an old English Mansion, this beautifully restored boutique hotel offers 8 unique rooms for comfort accommodation. Even if you’re not staying there, Macalister Mansion offers 5 venues to relax and unwind. We checked-in to The Living Room for afternoon tea. The afternoon tea set for 2 with TWG tea costs only RM69, available from 3-6pm.

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7. Gurney Paragon & Plaza Gurney (along Persiaran Gurney / Gurney Drive)

Built around and inspired by the former St. Joseph’s Novitiate, the relatively new mall along the promenade features stylish restaurants and cafes, and a good place for shopping.  We spent our afternoon indulging sinful sweets like the Famous French Toast (RM16.80), Vanilla Souffle (RM16.80), Matcha Parfait (RM16.80) with Matcha Latte (RM10.80) and hot tea at Miam Miam. It’s a good dessert place but if you prefer coffee, then head over to Ben’s which in also located within St Jo’s.

I was craving for contemporary Peranakan food and my friend suggested heading over to Plaza Gurney’s Basement 1 for The Little Nyonya Cuisine. Previously I had been to The Little Nyonya restaurant located at Queensbay Mall, and being rushed for time, we ordered two sets of Nasi Lemak Special (RM17.60 each) and Nyanya Curry Chicken (RM15) for sharing. The food is good if you’re not a fussy eater who likes home-cooked style Peranakan food.

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8. Auntie Gaik Lean’s (No. 1 Bishop Street, Georgetown)

For dinner, my friend brought us to Auntie Gaik Lean’s old school eatery. This quintessential decorated restaurant is the best kept foodie secret for Peranakan cuisine. It’s a pity that Auntie Gaik Lean is too busy stirring the woks in the kitchen and there was no official website or Facebook. This place relies on the age old word-of-mouth marketing and the various media exposures to spread the word, but it is always full house on weekends.

Located right in the core zone of Georgetown, Auntie Gaik Lean explained to us that Penang’s Peranakan food is very different from Malacca, as the latter is influenced heavily by the Portuguese culture. Having been to Nancy’s Kitchen in Melaka, I would definitely give Auntie Gaik Lean double thumbs up.

On our table top that night was Nyonya Chicken Rendang (RM25) – dry curry chicken with coconut milk, Gulai Tumis (depending on market price) – tamarind fish curry served with ladies fingers, Jiew Hu Char (RM22/32) – traditional nyonya mixed julienne vegetables & shredded dried cuttle fish serve with lettuce. My favorite dish would be Jiew Hu Char. Scoop a spoonful of shredded dried cuttle fish onto the lettuce and wrap it be like a spring roll – it’s crisp, fragrant, and simply delicious.

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What are some of your favorite places for food or afternoon tea in Penang? Please share and comment below to let me know. Follow my Twitter and Instagram @MalcolmSunny for more travel and food reviews. 

“Save time, pay less, travel more – Get cheaper air tickets and hotel rooms with Wego.com“.

Hotels Review: Where to Stay in Johor Bahru

I want to begin this blog post with a beautiful quote from Renaissance Hotel, “No matter where or why you travel, there’s always something wonderfully new to be found”. This sums up my travel experience in Johor recently. Under the invitation by Visit Malaysia 2014 to explore Johor, I’m honoured to experience two different types of accommodation across the causeway.

RENAISSANCE Johor Bahru Hotel

Launched in May 2013, this chic and spacious property boasts of its 345 modern contemporary rooms and 5-star service. Located near the industrial town, Pasir Gudang, RENAISSANCE is the lifestyle brand under Marriot International. When I enter the hotel, I’m greeted by a grand lobby. A short walk up level 2, there are several function rooms for meeting and seminar. The hotel has also set aside a lounge area with a mini bar at level 2 for guests to mingle and network during the seminar breaks.

Our tour continues to the Club Floor, where a lavish display of tapas is on offer. From the Club’s balcony, I can see the Straits of Johor, Senoko Power Station and Woodlands Industrial Park. My Malaysian media friends jokingly said that I’ve not really left my island. We move on to view the Presidential Suite before returning back to our own rooms to freshen up before dinner.

Lobby - the grand entry

Lobby – the grand entrance

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Lobby – the view from level 2

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Seminar Rooms – relax during the break

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Seminar Rooms – mingle and network at the lounge

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Club Floor – I can see Singapore from the balcony

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Club Floor – relax with a cup of tea or coffee

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Club Floor – please help yourself to the tapas on display

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President Suite – bed for the king

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President Suite – the glorious bathroom

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President Suite – lounge and meeting area

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Are you planning for a romantic night with your partner?

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TokyoMilk Toiletries courtesy of Renaissance Hotel

Our comfortable cozy twin-sharing room for the night

Our comfortable cozy twin-sharing room for the night

The hotel is not short of recreational and entertainment facilities. The swimming pool and sauna opens from 6.30am to 9.30pm daily. There’s also 24-hour gym centre at level 6 besides the swimming pool. To encourage healthy living, Renaissance Johor Bahru Hotel offers a gym membership at RM2,1oo nett per year, includes 20% discount on all F&B outlets in the hotel, complimentary car parking, usage of swimming pool & sauna, and access to 24-hour gym.

Need an excuse to exercise?

Need an excuse to exercise?

A fully equipped gym with lots of cardio machines.

A fully equipped gym with lots of cardio machines.

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Come on, work it, work it!

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Bird’s eye view of the swimming pools from clubhouse.

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Sunset by the pool. It was raining heavily when I was there.

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Guests staying at level 6 have the option of a poolside villa

After a quick shower, it’s time to indulge in indigenous dining at Cafe BLD. This all-day dining restaurant of the hotel serves local and fusion cuisine with international live cooking buffet. Breakfast buffet is at RM42++ per person, lunch is between RM55 to RM60++, and dinner at RM68-RM80++.

For those who crave for Chinese food, Wan Li Restaurant is located across the lobby from Cafe BLD. Both common dining area and private rooms are available for reservation. Wan Li Restaurant serves authentic chinese cuisine with assortment of dim sum delights from late morning to afternoon 3-pm. Wedding package from RM1399++ per table onwards.

Tired after a few day of meeting and conference? Rewind at RBar  with RLife Live – live music from the resident DJ. Enjoy intriguing drinks with Happy Hour from 4pm to 8pm. And the best deal? They serve premier wine by glass!

The giant platter of cooked prawn is really fresh

Cafe BLD – The giant platter of cooked prawn is really fresh

I have never seen so much sashimi in my life before!

Cafe BLD – I have never seen so much sashimi in my life before!

All-you-can-eat sushi

Cafe BLD – All-you-can-eat sushi

And their desserts are really good too.

Cafe BLD – And their desserts are really good too.

I wonder if those fishes are edible too?

Wan Li Restaurant – I wonder if those fishes are edible too?

There was a Ultimate Dim Sum Challenge when we were there. Finish 18 baskets of dim sum in 30 minutes and get the meal free.

Wan Li Restaurant – There was a Ultimate Dim Sum Challenge when we were there. Finish 18 baskets of dim sum in 30 minutes and get the meal free.

Chinese restaurant setting in the common area

Wan Li Restaurant – Chinese restaurant setting in the common area

They have private rooms for small wedding reception or better still book the entire restaurant for your wedding.

Wan Li Restaurant – They have private rooms for small wedding reception or better still book the entire restaurant for your wedding.

After a long day's work, it's time to rewind at RLife.

RBar – After a long day’s work, it’s time to rewind at RLife Live

I love the option to purchase premium wine by glass

RBar – I love the option to purchase premium wine by glass

  • Location: 4 / 5
  • Ambience & Service: 5 / 5
  • Facilities & Amenities: 5 / 5
  • Food & Beverage: 4.5 / 5
  • Price: 4 / 5
  • Overall: 4.5 / 5

Perfect for: Business travelers, romantic staycation, leisure travelers who seek comfort

Corporate room rate starts from RM 285 per room per night. Walk-in rate subject to change, please check their website or get more info at Marriott.com.

Renaissance Johor Bahru Hotel is located at No. 2, Jalan Permas 11, Bandar Baru Permas Jaya, 81750, Johor, Malaysia. Visit their Facebook or corporate website www.RenaissanceHotels.com for more information. General line: +607-381-3333

Bayu Marina Resort

Converted from a private property, Bayu Marina Resort is a tourist class service apartment. Located in a quiet neighbourhood, it is “your far away home”. What I love is the free WiFi access, and accessibility to amenities within 8km include food establishments, shopping centre, karaoke lounge, massage centre, cinema and even bowling centre.

The rooms are spacious, decorated in simple home-styling. Those long-term guests will appreciate the pantry area where they can prepare home-cooked meals. The hotel has six large banquet rooms which are ideal for corporate retreats, workshops, church seminars, etc. Breakfast is included in the package. In the morning the cafe serves porridge, dim sum, nasi lemak and other local delights. For relaxation, simply change and jump in to enjoy the swimming pool with a view.

Studio Room - the room I was staying

Studio Room – the room I was staying

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Studio Room – We stayed at a Studio Room, it’s big and spacious.

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Studio Room – Sofa area to chill and watch TV

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The Studio Room also comes with a pantry

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Twin-sharing with double bed. The rooms are similar in design.

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Located in the heart of a local neighbourhood

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Enjoy your dip in the pool with a view of the lake

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Banquet Rooms – 6 different sizes of room to choose from

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Banquet Rooms – Seagull Room can accommodate up to 300 people in the theatre style set up

  • Location: 3 / 5
  • Ambience & Service: 3 / 5
  • Facilities & Amenities: 3 / 5
  • Food & Beverage: 3 / 5
  • Price: 4 / 5
  • Overall: 3 / 5

Perfect for: Self-drive, tour groups, family with young children, large families, church groups, seminar participants, corporate retreats

Room rates start from RM228 per room per night for studio room, includes breakfast for 2.

Bayu Marina Resort is located at No. 1, Jalan Bayu Puteri 2/1, Taman Bayu Puteri, 80150, Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Visit their Facebook or website www.BayuMarinaResort.com for more information. General line: +607-340-5555

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Special thanks to Gaya Travel and Tourism Malaysia for arranging Kembara Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia Johor trip. Go to Visit Malaysia 2014 for more exciting holiday ideas.

“Save time, pay less, travel more – Get cheaper air tickets and hotel rooms with Wego.com“.

Family Fun & Edutainment in Johor

I was delirious when I received the itinerary for the trip. Who wouldn’t be if I told you that I would be sending you LEGOLAND Malaysia? Growing up stacking bricks of colourful LEGO, it was excellent news that I would be one of the first to visit Asia’s first LEGOLAND Resort!

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Since it’s opening on 29 November 2013, LEGOLAND Hotel has transformed the tourist attraction into a unique one-stop holiday destination with more than 70 hands-on rides, slides, shows and attractions under one LEGO brick roof.

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Arriving at LEGOLAND Hotel lobby on Friday morning of a school holiday was a chaotic experience. Greeted by castle guarded by a dragon and ogre, screaming kids were running towards the 32-feet high pirate shipwreck. It’s good to note that the daily hotel check out is 10am and check in time is 4pm. Each of the 249 rooms at LEGOLAND hotel are specially designed for that unique experience for the little ones aged between 2-12 years old.

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Basic rate starts from RM400 and all bedrooms are uniquely themed suites that include a king-size bed for parents, plus a separate sleeping area for up to three children, complete with a bunk bed, pull-out trundle bed and entertainment unit.

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Our inspection tour led us to Adventure and Kingdom Bedrooms. Choose to step into your very own pirate cabin decked out with pirate bedding, curtains, wallpaper and Polly the LEGO parrot; or embark on an adventure and hunt for hidden treasure amongst tarantulas, scorpions, lizards and other LEGO jungle animals.

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Most Singaporeans and residents should be very familiar with LEGOLAND Water Park through it’s prime time TV commercial and pillar wraps at Dhoby Ghaut MRT station. Opened in late October 2013, the largest LEGOLAND Water Park in the world features slides, wave pools, interactive water-play structure and Build-A-Raft River for the young and young at heart.

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LEGOLAND Theme Park is divided into seven themed zones of entertainment. My favorite is the LEGO Miniland where most of Southeast Asia’s representative landscapes and landmarks are recreated using more than 30 million LEGO bricks.

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LEGOLAND Resort is designed for families with children 2-12 years and the Water Park is also recommended for teenage students and young couples to spend a day trip soaking in the sun and fun. Combo 1-Day ticket (with access to both Theme Park & Water Park) for adults is RM150 and for children aged 3-11 years old at RM120. Annual pass is priced at RM395 for all.

For more information, visit: www.legoland.my

A short holiday in Johor is not just about fun for the pre-school and primary school kids. Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) introduces an eco-tourism package with activities such as cycling, fishing, camping, horse riding, etc suitable for school educational trips or free-and-easy family weekend.

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Horse enthusiasts are welcome at UTM Equine Centre to take on fun rides for children. UTM Institute of Bioproduct Development (IBD) offers hands-on opportunity to create your own scent and bring home your own perfume, soap or body shampoo.

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Scholar’s Inn offers 40 fully-furnished air-conditioned apartments for rent. Rental starts from RM180 and each apartment can accommodate up to four persons. Cable network, wi-fi and laundry services are also available with eateries in UTM just a stone throw away.

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For more information, visit www.utm.my/ecotourism

Immerse yourself in Johor’s rich culture and history with a tour to Bangunan Sultan Ismail at Kota Iskandar, Johor State’s administrative centre. Discover the integrated symbolisms within the building and appreciate the distinctive architectural style that merged modernism with Islam.

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Opening hours: Daily except Mondays and public holidays. For guide tours, advance bookings are required. For inquiries, call 607-290-9080. Visitors are advised to dress appropriately – no shorts or slippers allowed.

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Special thanks to Gaya Travel and Tourism Malaysia for arranging for this interesting Kembara Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia Johor trip. Check out Visit Malaysia 2014 website for more exciting holiday ideas.

“Save time, pay less, travel more – Get cheaper air tickets and hotel rooms with Wego.com“.

 

Escapade to KL

With fare as cheap as a bus ticket, a flight on budget airplane takes only 45 minutes to bring us to a rewarding weekend escape to Kuala Lumpur.

I always booked my flights on Tiger Airways half a year in advance to take advantage of their wonderful sales fare.

Touching down at KL’s Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT), I was welcomed by this scenic sunset.

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After a restful sleep at my friend’s place, I was all ready to meet up with Arran Fong. He’s a famous fashion blogger in Malaysia and has done numerous reviews on labels.

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Since I was early, I headed to Starbucks for my breakfast but to my horror, I realised that they do not have Breakfast Pairing at Starbucks Malaysia. I order a yucky multi-grain apple muffin which I didn’t manage to finished.

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While waiting for him to dress up, I grew bored and entertained myself by camwhoring.

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We spent a full day shuttling between KLCC and Pavilion shopping mall. Thank goodness for the newly built link bridge between the two malls, we were sheltered from hot sun at noon and shielded from the heavy downpour in the evening.

We dropped by the “atas” (ah-tahs) fashion mall, Starhill. Arran immediately fell in love with the Alexander McQueen boutique. He spent an entire hour trying and deciding which Kenko loafers to add to his private collection.

 

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After shopping at Starhill, we headed back to Pavilion to have lunch at Wang Kok cafe. It’s a Hong Kong style cafe serving a fusion of Malaysia-Hong Kong dishes.

With a strong currency exchange rate of 1 Singapore dollar to 2.48 Malaysia Ringgit, I was smiling from ear to ear as I order my value lunch meal for only RM9.90. The meal will cost the same in Singapore but it will be in Singapore dollara. How can we not fall in love with KL?

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Feeling full from our lunch, we went to watch The Amazing Spiderman as our stomach took time to digest. The seats in the theatre was really comfy. I felt that I had paid RM9 (student price) for premium GV Gold Class seats.

Dessert followed after. I order a fresh papaya with harsmar and coconut milk while Arran had a Mango Romance.

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We planned to run around KLCC park but it was raining heavily as we exited out from Pavilion.

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Despite a whole day of shopping, my bag was empty. Determined to walk back with new clothing for my wardrode, I pulled Arran into Zara store with me.

I was happy that I bought a sleek shirt for work. 🙂