Staycation in Chinatown, Singapore

Everyone needs pampering once in a while. Since I started my new job last month, I had been working till late almost every day and was really looking forward to the SG50 National Day long weekend. Since I was unable to fly off for a short getaway, the next best thing was to do what Singaporeans love best – staycation.
The lovely thing about a staycation is learning how to be a tourist in your own backyard and rediscovering your own city. For these reasons, we decided to check out the newly opened Thai restaurant in Telok Ayer Street followed by an overnight stay at Hotel 1929.
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Recently opened in late July 2015, Cha Thai is the second concept restaurant by Loaves Me Group. Cha Thai simply means Thai tea, you know, the popular sweetened iced tea (teh peng) that we would usually buy from a cafe or street vendor in Bangkok. I don’t know why the owners named the restaurant as such but I am guessing they want to introduce a fusion concept of toast & tea to us. Think of it as Toast Box, or Ya Kun but Thai style – the take-away counter forms only one part of the restaurant.
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But today I want to share more about it’s main restaurant and it’s menu. Before I continue further, I have to remind you that this blog post is about pampering myself. So Cha Thai is considered expensive if you are comparing to Thai restaurants in Golden Mile but it definitely gives Thai Express a run for their money, cos Cha Thai offers premium Thai cuisine at an affordable price in a casual, relaxing setting.
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Creamy Crab Roll ($15) – Deep fried spring roll sticks served with crab cream sauce

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[Front] Tom Yum Soup (Thick) $28 -Thick soup base created with variety of herbs with tiger prawns, mussels, fish balls and mushrooms. [Back] Tom Yum Soup (Clear) $28 – Clear soup base herbs and basil leaves with tiger prawns, mussels, fish balls and mushroom.

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Baked Pineapple Rice ($18) – Curry spiced baked rice with chicken, pineapples, cashew nuts, sweet pepper bells, and raisins

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[Left] Steam Giant Sea Bass Fillet ($35) – Ocean seabass fillet boneless steamed with chili, garlic, herbs and lime sauce. [Drinks] Butterfly Pea Juice and Lemongrass Tea (both at $3.90 each)

What makes me love Cha Thai is that they use premium ingredients. For our appetizer, the spring roll sticks, it is served with real crab meat inside the cream sauce. For soup, I recommend the Clear Tom Yum Soup as it is lighter in content comparing to the Thick Soup, but equally spicy. Chopped Chinese sausage was topped onto the Pineapple rice, making it an perfect fragrant combination. The steamed Sea Bass was fresh and without the ‘fishy smell’. To round it off, we ordered the toast cubes. Try the Cha Thai version of kaya (coco jam), a refreshing taste to pair with the golden brown toast cubes.

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Cha Thai Toast ($8) – Golden brown toasted cubes with choice of pandan or Cha Thai (Thai tea) flavor

After our meal, we took a 10-minute walk from Telok Ayer Street to Hotel 1929 in Keong Saik Road via New Bridge Road. The walk was also a good way for us to burn off some fats and digest our food. It’s been a while since I stayed at a boutique hotel, the last time was in Malacca.
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Hotel 1929 is a boutique hotel in Singapore’s Chinatown. Hotel 1929 beckons with a whimsical mix of old world architecture and a chic interior. The boutique hotel consists of five conservation shop-houses built in 1929, and features 32 individually designed rooms decked in a mix of classic designer and retro vintage furniture. 1929 is conveniently located along the fringe of Chinatown, a 5 minute walk from Outram Park MRT Station.

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After check-in, we proceed to head up to the top floor. We walked past through the narrow corridor along the 4th storey  and were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by our small suite. At the first glance, it looked like a pigeon hole and reminded me of some hotels in Hong Kong that I had stayed at before. After the rain had stopped, we discovered the roof top terrace that was part of the Terrace Suite, it provided a great hang out spot for four of us.
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The indoor blue mosaic-tiled shower room is fairly small too. There is no partition between shower area and toilet bowl so be careful not to wet your toilet seat. But what the guestrooms lack in size, they make up for in amenities. There is premium coffee-making machine with Nespresso capsules, handy smartphone (I didn’t get a chance to test it out), outdoor bath tub, mini bar with coke and juices. If you consider the terrace area, it’s really comfortable initmate retreat.
We spent a lot time and fun, taking turns on the rocking chair. Overall Hotell 1929 is a designer concept with artsy decor centered around different types of chairs. For example, there were various vintage barber chairs in the lobby, and special theme for every room.
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For dinner, we went for the set dinner at Restaurant Ember. Priced at $88++ per person, it might seemed expensive but the 4-course dinner was definitely worth every dollar for the experience. I chose to add on the wine pairing at $30++ for delightful dinner.
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The bread is freshly baked. It’s so delicious that we asked for a second helping.

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1st Appetizer – Carpaccio of Hokkaido Scallops, Daikon, Arugula, Ginger & Rice Water Vinaigrette

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2nd Course – Pan-seared Foie Gras, Slow-cooked Eggs, Unagi & Truffle Sauce

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Main Course – 60-hour Slow-cooked Angus Short Ribs, Burnt Onion Puree, Tomato Confit & Beef jus

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Dessert – Champagne Jelly, Macerated Stawberries & Yogurt Sorbet

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Complimentary dessert from Restaurant Ember

After dinner, we took a walk around the neighbourhood. Located at the uptown part of Chinatown, the hotel is away from the usual crowd. During the day it is an area where small business and offices are located. When night falls, the mixture of cafes and eateries come to live.

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In the morning, I tried bathing at the outdoor shower. Honestly, it can be a very liberating experience, something for you to check off your bucket list. But the weather was not in my favour, the sky soon turned dark and there was light rain. The curtains kept flying – either sticking onto my soapy back or semi-exposed my naked butt. I really won’t recommend to use it during a windy day but people with outdoorsy fetish or exhibitionist will definitely enjoy it.
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After showering, we went downstairs for breakfast. For breakfast, Restaurant Ember serves breakfast set with choice of scramble, soft/hard boiled or sunny side up eggs. Every set comes with baked potato, beans, bacon and sausage. We help ourselves to the table of toasts, croissants, fruits, cereal and porridge. The croissants were very yummy even though we didn’t toast it. After we were done with our meal, the staff served us yogurt while we were enjoying some fruits.
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Overall, Hotel 1929 is an awesome experience for a 1 or 2 nights stay. I wish we have more time to enjoy the alfresco area as it was raining when we were staying there. I would definitely recommended it for tourists and local staycations. One thing to note is that there is no swimming pool and gym at Hotel 1929 but hotel guests can use the facilities at New Majestic Hotel at Bukit Pasoh Road just further down.
Hotel 1929 is located at 50 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089154 (nearest MRT station: Outram Park – NE3/EW16). Visit their website for more information and reservation.
Cha Thai is located at 80 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 048466 (nearest MRT station: Downtown – DT17). Visit their Facebook page for more information or call 6636 3696 to make a reservation. Open daily from 8am to 10pm.
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Answer this simple question: What is the name of the Thai Restaurant mentioned in this article?
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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

Hotel Review: Park Avenue Changi

Managed by UE Park Avenue International, Park Avenue Changi is a 251-room business hotel built within an integrated development in the heart of Changi Business Park. Situated within walking distance to Expo MRT station, Changi City Point shopping centre, Singapore Expo exhibiton & convention hall, and UE Convention Centre, this hotel is a gem within the eastern business district.

The hotel is a good choice if you have business dealing in Changi North, Changi South, Loyang, Tampines, Bedok or Chai Chee TechnoPark. It’s right next to Singapore Expo and UE Convention Centre, super ideal if you are coming for seminars or trade shows in these places.

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Bird’s eye view of UE Convention Centre from the rooftop deck

Another plus point is that the nearby Changi City Point is known for its outlet shops. The shopping mall has a lot of sports and apparel brands there.  Singapore Expo is regular venue for consumer fairs that offer fantastic discounts on electronic, beauty products, etc so if you stay here, make sure you check out the sales there.

Though it’s quite a distance from the city, Park Avenue Changi is just next to Expo MRT station, which is only one station away from Singapore Changi Airport, hence it’s very good for those on layovers, without the hassle of traveling to city. It’s also a wonderful place for local couples looking for a quiet staycation. There are restaurants, cafes and even a NTUC FairPrice supermarket next to the hotel.

If this is your first time coming to Singapore for sightseeing, it’s a bit far from the rest of the tourist attractions. But don’t worry, it’s easy to travel since the MRT station is just next to the hotel. Bear in mind that they are constructing the Downtown Line (to be completed in 2016), so you have to walk a slightly further distance.

PAC Deluxe King

Deluxe Room

PAC Executive Deluxe (2)

Executive Deluxe Room (One-Bedroom Suite)

PAC 2-Bedroom (1)

Two-Bedroom Suite

Room-wise, my favorite has to be the Two-Bedroom Suite. Previously, Malaysian blogger Emily2U had written about the Executive Deluxe Suit of their sister property, Park Avenue Rochester. The experience is similar. All Park Avenue’s suites come equipped with washing machine, dryer and kitchenette with stove and microwave oven. In fact, the most unique thing about this hotel is that it has an large number of suites (80 out of 251 rooms) and the Executive Deluxe is their signature room. Another special feature of their rooms is that their Deluxe Room has a see-through shower room, which I think some couples will love. 😉

PAC gym

Decent-size fitness centre with Technogym equipments

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Rooftop lap pool with sunny loungers

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The rooftop deck offers an overview of Changi City

It’s an interesting integrated development concept, with the level 10 lap pool and gym located at the same floor as the serviced offices. I find the rooftop pool is small but it offers a view and good for cooling off after using the gym. The gym is fairly decent in size, equipped with trackmill, spin machines and weights station.

Another important thing to note is that there is no in-house restaurant but the hotel partners with nearby food providers. Weekday breakfast comes with a choice at Yum Cha Restaurant or Muthiah Restaurant. Weekend breakfast are served at Muthiah. In-room dining service is done by Slackers Bar and Cafe.

Overall, I will give it a 3 stars rating (for leisure travel) and 4 stars rating (for business travel). The rooms are really comfortable and basic necessities are within convenient reach. Being close to the MRT station is a big plus otherwise this property will be too isolated.

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Park Avenue Changi is currently running a weekend staycation promo from S$168++ for Deluxe Room with free unlimited WiFi, local calls and complimentary parking for one car. Offer valid until 31 December 2015, other terms & conditions apply.

Address: Park Avenue Changi, 2 Changi Business Park Avenue 1, Singapore 486015

Website: www.parkavenuechangi.com

Central reservations: +65 6830 8360 (hotline), pareservations@uel.sg (email)

Romantic Weekend with Horizon Bistronomy at Punggol Settlement

Mention Punggol and the immediate association is with the new residential estate of mostly young couples. Punggol may still be a new town in development and lacking in some facilities. But with the new publicity about Punggol Waterway Park, the town has come under the radar with many interesting places to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

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Located at the tail end of Punggol Road, The Punggol Settlement sits directly at Punggol Promenade. Just imagine a waterfront dining experience similar to Kallang Wave or East Coast Park, but with more privacy and serenity. The Punggol Settlement is a specialised food and beverage development concept envisioned aim to revive old Punggol back to its former glory as the dining destination of north-eastern Singapore.

With a total of more than 14 retail and restaurants nestled within The Punggol Settlement, you can have your choice from seafood, Thai, western, or even a Peranakan restaurant. It’s a great for a weekend family outing. For a quiet, romantic dinner with a view, my recommendation is Horizon Bistronomy located at level 2 of The Punggol Settlement. It’s a fantastic place to bring your date and enjoy a good French cuisine without burning a hole in your pocket.

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Horizon Bistronomy is a French restaurant that aims to deliver fine and quality French food to the mass market , in a casual and affordable setting. Head by Chef Chris Fong, the owner of Horizon Bistronomy, the bistro serves fine French delights in a casual setting. Chef Chris started his own restaurant because he wanted to introduce fine food to the masses without compromising quality.

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It was my pleasure to be invited by Horizon Bistronomy for their food tasting event two weeks ago. Here’s the list of the recommended menu and food description. I have also added my own comments as well as my ideal wine-pairing with the dishes. All wines mentioned are available at Horizon Bistronomy, by glass or bottle.

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Chilled Crab Meat Angel Hair (S$11.90) – Truffle angel hair topped with jumbo crabmeat infused with chorizo oil finished off with salmon roe. 

The first dish of the evening was the truffle oil-infused pasta pair with scrumptious crabmeat. For this appetizer, my recommendation is to pair with Waipara West Sauvigon Blanc 2013 from New Zealand. New Zealand is famous for their “crisp, elegant, and fresh” Sauvigon Blanc. It’s one of the few wines that goes really well with seafood.

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Assorted Tomato Salad (S$12.90) – Medley of fresh tomatoes  with home made red pesto and burrata cheese.

A refreshing salad with different types of tomatoes from Japanese, US and local. Although I like this appetizer for its freshness, but comparing the two dishes, I would order the Chilled Crab Meat Angel Hair if I can only choose it. The former is good for its value-for-money quality.

For this dish, I’ve selected Louis Latour Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2012 from Burgundy, France. Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2012 reveals an intense red color, with flecks of rubis color. Ample and powerful on tasting, this wine expresses an interesting aromatic complexity, coated in soft tannins. Perfect with grilled meat or cheese.

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Horizon Pork 2 Way (S$25.00)- 24-hour slow braised pork belly & Kurobuta pork tenderloin served with roasted cauliflower puree, vegetables, grape mustard and black pepper sauce.

The braised pork belly remains me of a Chinese dish – Dongpo Pork. In the classic French style of cooking, the braised pork is fat but well-balanced with the light cauliflower puree, and touch of grape mustard.

I would suggest ordering a bottle of Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2012 to go with the tomato salad and Pork 2 Way. Alternatively, try this with a glass of Cheval Noir Bordeaux 2010 or Famille Perrin “Perrin Reserve” Cotes du Rhone, both from France.

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King of the Sea (S$22.00) – Miso infused torched king salmon & king prawn on a bed of assorted vegetables ragout.

I like the freshness and sweetness of the prawn is fresh & sweet. Chef added foam mustard to balance acidity of the seafood. Maybe I expected too much, but I was hoping that the salmon would have an X-factor but unfortunately it grilled salmon tastes fairly in comparison. Perhaps the chef’s idea was to lock it in its freshness.

Try pairing this main course with Simonnet-Febvre Chablis 2012 from Chablis, France. The cool climate of this region produces wines with more acidity and flavors less fruity than Chardonnay wines grown in warmer climate.

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Citrus White Chocolate Mousse (S$12.00) – Short crusted pastry layer with Valrhona white chocolate mousse, lemon curd, orange creme anglaise, sprinkled with white chocolate soil.

Onward to the desserts… The lemon curd is refreshing and able to balance off the sweetness of white chocolate. If you are planning to order a bottle of white, both the Sauvigon Blanc from New Zealand or Chablis blend are good to last the whole night. If you are ordering by glass, try tasting this dessert with  Paolo Saracco Moscato d’asti from Pietmont, Italy if you have a sweet tooth.

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Fig & Bacon Sabayon (S$9.80) – A unique combination of candied bacon and fig compote, with fresh berries and a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream, resting on a bed of champagne sabayon

How many times have you had sweet bacon as a dessert item? Well, if you are a lover of bak kwa then this special combination of sweetness, saltiness, sourness, cold, crisp with a touch of champagne is the perfect way to finish off the meal. Try pairing it with Joostenberg Little J Cinsault Rose 2011 from Paarl, South Africa.

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Garden by the Bay ($14.00) – Fresh strawberry, kiwi and apple bits layered by vanilla mousse, topped with dark chocolate soil resting on apple compote infused with cranberry.

The dessert gets better as it goes down the list. With a cute name like Garden by the Bay, this dessert consists of hazelnut & chocolate soil layered by vanilla cream with a touch of sea salt. The bits of strawberry, apple and kiwi help to balance of the rich vanilla mousse. Try the dry Pares Balta Cava Brut NV from Penedes, Spain to balance the sweetness of this dessert.

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Horizon Bistronomy is definitely a good place to chill out with your friends or an ideal date by the bay. The price is very reasonable and it has an great ambiance with sea view. Food is of good quality but don’t expect fast service. Quality French cuisine takes time to prepare so be ready to wait for 15-20 minutes between dishes.

The Punggol Promenade area, thought isolated, offers other activities to do around Punggol Road End…

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Gallop Stable and Punggol Ranch Resort

A laid back leisure park where you can try riding a horse at Gallop Stable, enjoy a drink or meal or even a staycation in one of the stable chalet at Punggol Ranch Resort. It’s just located right next to The Punggol Settlement. Scroll down to the end for directions on getting there.

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Cycling or taking a walk along Punggol Point Park or Punggol Promenade 

Want to feel like guilty before you pig out at The Punggol Settlement? Why not try renting a bicycle and go for a leisure ride along the serene Punggol Promenade? Or you can take a stroll along Punggol Point Park watch ships docking between the Straits of Johor after dinner.

Address: 3 Punggol Point Road, Singapore 828694

Reservation hotline: +65 6702 2855 (Closed on Mondays)

Getting there

If you are not driving, going to The Punggol Settlement and the other above mentioned places is not difficult. Just take bus 84 from Punggol MRT Station and alight at Punggol Road End.

Do you know of other places worth visiting in Singapore? Please comment below.

Best Budget-friendly Staycation Chalet – Treehouse Villas @ Changi

It’s been a long time since I attended a birthday party at a chalet, and due to my hectic work I was in a desperate need of a cheap and good staycation in Singapore. Through my BFF’s recommendation, I chose to spend my 30th birthday at Treehouse Villas @ Changi for a relaxing weekend with a few friends.

Treehouse Villas @ Changi, managed by MINDEF/SAF as part of their staff welfare, is the perfect place to unwind without the usual skyscrapers, shopping malls or HDB apartments. To complement the lazy weekend, we ordered sushi platter and Japanese pizza through Foodpanda for dinner. My friends are too shy to be in this blog so bear with my narcissistic photographs as I introduce this budget-friendly resort to you. (Read on till the end and find out how you can win $15 Foodpanda vouchers.)

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A stone throw away from Changi beach and 5-10 minutes walk to Changi Village, Treehouse Villa @ Changi is the perfect location for weekend stay. I love that it’s away from city, and if you’re craving for adventure, hop on the bumboat to Pulau Ubin or soak in the sunset at Changi Point Costal Boardwalk.

Once you stepped inside Treehouse Villa resort, you will experience its Balinese-inspired ambiance and greeted by its cow mascot as the chalet ground. Surround by trees, you can hear birds chirping in the morning. Each chalet unit is of either a 2-bedroom or 3-bedroom and can accommodate a big party, especially good for birthday party, family with kids or Christmas celebration. The 2-bedroom chalet I booked has a king-sized bed and a fold-away mattress in the master bedroom; the other guest room consists of a queen-size bed and single bed – which can allow up to 6 people to stay overnight.

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Each unit has two shared bathrooms, cable TV, free WiFi, barbecue pit, smoking corner, refrigerator, freezer, microwave oven and various utensils and cutlery to support your cooking needs . My favorite area is the bathroom on ground level because it has a sheltered outdoor bathtub. The resort also provides every unit with complimentary tibits & bottled drinking water, free barbecue supply, and mahjong table. Additional charcoal and BBQ accessories can be purchased from the clubhouse.

You can order BBQ packages from the clubhouse directly but one day advance order is required. Alternatively you can call for your own catering. For us, we booked our food delivery via Foodpanda, to me that’s the best for small groups. Our sushi platter and pizza from Nihon Mura was delivered within 1.5 hours.

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Only one parking lot is allocated to each villa, but there is alternative public car park near Changi Village. This area is usually quiet but it can get really packed on Saturday evening, so arrive early or you will face parking problems. There isn’t a swimming pool but sports facilities are available at the nearby clubs. You can rent a bicycle at Changi Cycling Service Pte Ltd located at Changi Village, produce your Villa card key and get special rate.

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In terms of service, the staff are friendly and helpful in general. Standard check-in is at 3pm and check-out before 10am. Friday was laundry day and we waited till 5pm for fresh towels to be sent to our villa. One important thing to note is that the reception is closed over the weekend so if you need any assistance, do it before they knock off on Friday.

Pricewise, Treehouse Villa @ Changi is unbeatable. The 4 days 3 nights off-peak weekend package costs around only $360. If you are planning for a weekend staycation for a group of six, it’s only $20 per person per night!

Address: Treehouse Villas @ Changi, 326 Sealand Road, Singapore 508252

Getting there:
Nearest MRT stations are Pasir Ris, Tampines, and Tanah Merah. Take Bus 29 from Tampines interchange and alight at Changi Sports Club along Netheravon Road. Alternatively, take Bus 2 from Tanah Merah station and alight at Changi Village terminal. I took a taxi from Tanah Merah and the 15-minutes journey costs less than $9 on a Friday afternoon. If you’re driving, take TPE and exit Loyang Ave, or drive along ECP and exit Changi Coast Road.

Booking tips:
Unfortunately, this good deal is only available for SAF regulars, i.e. full time staff in Navy, Army, or Air force. If you are a NSF or NSman, you can get your friends working in SAF to book for you. This is how I get my booking now. If it’s the non-peak season, they will allow you as proxy and your friend doesn’t need to check-in for you.  Remember to book in advance, as it is subjected to balloting, hence it’s best to avoid school holiday season and public holiday to increase your chance. And since there are more 2-bedroom than 3-bedroom villa, it’s easier to ballot for the 2-bedroom chalet.

*Thanks for all your comments and emails but I’m unable to assist with booking the rooms as I’m not a staff of SAF.

Win Foodpanda Vouchers!

In celebration of my 30th birthday, Foodpanda is giving away 3 x vouchers of $15 (min. spending $30) to my blog readers. Foodpanda is the most convenient tool for food delivery in Singapore with the widest gastronomic range. Ordering food is now easy, fast and fun, simply choose your favorite meal via their website or mobile app, and the restaurant delivers it directly to your doorstep.

To win the Foodpanda voucher, simply answer this question: How old is Malcolm Sunny this year? Reply in the comment below, make sure I can contact you via email.

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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!

Hostel Review: 5footway.inn – Project Boat Quay

I hate to begin my blog post on a negative note, but Singapore IS getting more expensive. These days most hotels have increased their room rates by more than 20%, some even doubled the price compared to few years ago. With real estate price continuing to climb, most tourist class hotels are offering rooms at min. $200 per room per night.

As a member on Couchsurfing.org, I often get requests from overseas visitors asking if they can do a home-stay with me. But as I’m living still sponging under the roof of my folks, often I have to reject them and recommend some nice hostel choices for them.

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Located in the heart of downtown Singapore, Project Boat Quay is one of 5footway.inn‘s latest hostel. It’s only 5 minutes walk away to Raffles MRT station or 8 minutes walk to Clarke Quay MRT station. Neko no Niwa Cat CafeLONDON Bar, seafood restaurants, cafes, pubs, massage parlour, 24-hour convenient store, board games cafe and coffeeshops are all within 5 minutes radius.  From its balcony, I can have a good view of Marina Bay Sands!

Passing through the front door, Tiffany Yong and I are pleasantly surprised to find out that 5footway.inn Project Boat Quay is more than just a hostel. It is also an art gallery. The team has collaborated with award-winning Singaporean photographer, Edwin Koo to install Gallery 76 into the common spaces of the hostel.

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The layout feels like a maze but there are proper signages to guide us. At the 3rd floor of this restored shophouse is The Terrace, a common area where there is a cosy TV lounge, alfresco dining area, pantry with refrigerator, water dispenser  and microwave oven. There is even a hot beverage dispenser machine which you can make a cup of milo or teh tarik (hot tea) and enjoy a decent conversation. Breakfast is provided. Free flow toast and cereal are available for breakfast.

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Upon check-in, the staff leads us to our room. For this review, we are staying at a standard double room. We are given bath towels and a security card which allows as to access the main door, our room and also the lockers in the room. The whitewashed room is small but comfortable. Besides the bed, there is a side table, two lockers and a mirror. There are no TV or attached bathroom. For guys, the shared bathroom is located at level 3, and Ladies is located at level 2. Shower gel and shampoo are provided in the shared bathroom. I’m glad that the cleaner takes pride in ensuring cleanliness of the toilets.

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Bearing in mind, it’s a hostel, they try their best to make up for what is lacking. Free high-speed WiFi is available throughout the spaces and I have no problem accessing internet from the comfort of my room or at The Terrace at level 3. There are also 3 sets of Mac desktop available in the reception area. Cheap drinks and beer are available for purchase as well. They also provide laundry service at a small fee.

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At night, there is live music coming from the nearby bar but the sound doesn’t penetrate to my room. However, as there is no attached toilet, I can hear people closing doors and footsteps as people make their way to the washroom to relieve themselves. I am a light sleeper and old shophouses are not built to be soundproofed, hence it was difficult for me to get rest at night. But hostel culture is communal living, so one cannot expect hotel standard and service when one is only paying a fiction of price. Overall, it is good for a roof over your head.

  • Location: 4 / 5
  • Ambience: 4 / 5
  • Facilites: 3 / 5
  • Amenities: 3.5 / 5
  • Price: 4.5 / 5
  • Overall: 4 / 5

Project Boat Quay is located at 76 Boat Quay, Singapore 049864. Price starts from S$28 for mixed dorm. Visit their website or Facebook for more information and booking.

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Started in September 2011, 5footway.inn is currently the largest hostel chain in Singapore with over 700 beds in 4 outlets located at key tourist heritage districts in Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Boat Quay. Opened in May 2013, Project Boat Quay is the newest and largest property. Situated along the Singapore River, facing the Parliament House and Asian Civilization Museum, it is a few minutes walk from the legendary Fullerton Hotel, Lau Pa Sat, Merlion Park, the Esplanade and Chinatown.

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

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“.

Best Moments of 2013

Counting down to the remaining of 2013, I bet your Facebook and Instagram have been generating your best moments of the year. Here are 12 of my best moments in 2013…

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My year started with the continuation of my 2-month backpacking trip across the North and South Island of New Zealand. Here’s me in Waiheke Island, off the coast of Auckland, enjoying a glass of red. Watch out for my travel blog on New Zealand next month!

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Being the student ambassador for SIM University, I appeared on my university’s website, student recruitment video, prospectus and annual report. It actually feels weird seeing photos of myself in school.

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Also, I finally make it to the cover of DUET Magazine (April – June 2013)

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Special thanks to Sentosa for arranging the Run Like Mad challenge which my team fought against the DJs from Power 98FM. (We didn’t win but it was a good experience.)

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Having fun doing yoga at 165m inside Singapore Flyer and appearing in Barita Harian’s story. Thanks Christina for the pic!

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Caught in a scandalous photo with Tiffany Yong by some paparazzi!

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With Tiffany at the top of the canopy in Brunei. It’s such an amazing feeling to be surround by the lush greenery. This picture has the most “likes” on Instagram. Thanks OMY.SG and Royal Brunei Airlines for the trip!

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Once again, thanks to my friend, Daniel. I was able to show my love (once a year) to my country on National Day!

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Meeting the legendary Eric Tsang 曾志偉 in Hong Kong!

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Face to face to one of Japan’s top 5 female competitive eater, Tomoko Miyake when she was in Singapore

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Reuniting with my army buddies from BMT after almost a decade!

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Being one of Domino’s Singapore Top 10 Bloggers!

What is your best moment in 2013?

Also, remember to take part in Marina Bay Countdown 2014 Wishagram contest. Simply share the festive cheer by snapping and posting a photo and stand a chance to win an OSIM product!

Step 1: Using the Instagram App, snap a picture related to the Marina Bay Singapore Countdown 2014.

Step 2: Write a caption for the picture, along with your New Year’s wish and email address, hashtag #mbsc2014, and share.

Your picture will appear as a Wishagram on this page and on Marina Bay Facebook page too.

Five lucky winners will receive an OSIM uVision and uBuzz Latte worth more than $100! One winner will be selected each week between 27 November 2013 and 1 January 2014. Winners will be notified by email.