What comes to mind when you think of Putrajaya? Probably “impressive government buildings“, “beautiful architecture“, “wide roads“, and such. While Putrajaya, as the country’s administrative capital, definitely has these things, it also has alot to offer in terms of tourist attractions.
One such place that recently opened to the public is the Putrajaya “Secret” Garden, located within Taman Putra Perdana in Precinct 1. The park itself is not new: perched atop the hill that makes up the Putrajaya Roundabout (fun tidbit: this is the largest roundabout in the world!), it was inaugurated in 1995 and spans some 154 acres. Putrajaya Corporation, the government body that manages Putrajaya City, decided to spruce up a portion of the park with colourful neon lights and decorative fixtures – and voila! A romantic spot to take the significant other on a stroll after sundown.
We initially came here on a weekend after seeing viral posts online. But of course, having gone viral, everyone else was also thronging the place – the queue of vehicles going up was so long it stretched all the way to the foot of the hill. We ended up leaving and returning on a weekday evening, when it was less crowded. It was worth the trip, though. The park is already beautifully landscaped and well maintained, and the addition of colourful lights lends it a magical, fantasy-like feel. Photo enthusiasts will love the place!
Glow-in-the-dark dino sculpture. This was a hit with kids, who all wanted to take photos with it.
This is not the first place in Malaysia with such a concept – there’s an Avatar Secret Garden in Penang that went viral a couple of years ago – but that one requires an entry fee, while you get to enjoy the Putrajaya version for free!
Malaysian weather can be crazy hot during the day, so I think it’s a brilliant idea to light up the park at night. Not only is the weather cooler, making it more pleasant to stroll around, it also gives visitors a different experience.
We decided to walk down the wide avenue leading from the Secret Garden’s main section to Plaza Mercu Tanda (literally, Putrajaya Landmark). Along the way are water fountains that bubble gently, their streams lit up by changing coloured lights.
Plaza Mercu Tanda is the first landmark in Putrajaya, established in 1995, and symbolizes the beginnings of Putrajaya as Malaysia’s administrative capital. The landmark combines futuristic elements with traditional motifs and is meant to look like a time capsule, although personally, it’s pyramid-like shape looks to me more like a tengkolok, the traditional headgear worn by Malay men. The landmark is located at the highest point of Precinct 1; if you walk a bit further past it, you’ll come to a platform where you can enjoy panoramic views of Putrajaya.
We made our way back to the entrance to continue our stroll. More pretty photos!
My favourite light feature here has to be this “Avatar” tree, with tendrils of lights hanging down in curtains of bioluminscent blue.
All that walking around might leave you feeling hungry or thirsty, but fret not! Right in front of the Secret Garden is Pulse Grande Hotel, a luxury five-star hotel, where they’ve set up booths selling snacks, meals, and drinks. While the prices are slightly above average, I don’t think they’re unreasonable. During our visit, they had Meatballs with Mashed Potatoes, Mihun Goreng with Fried Chicken, Thai Fried Rice with Pandan Chicken, as well as stuff like hot dogs.
The Hubs and I thoroughly enjoyed our short excursion to the Putrajaya Secret Garden – the lights are beautiful, and it’s nice to walk around in a park, listen to the chirruping of crickets, and breathe in cool night air instead of being in the stale, air-conditioned confines of a mall. And best of all – it’s FREE. What more could one ask for?
PUTRAJAYA SECRET GARDEN @ TAMAN PUTRA PERDANA
In front of Pulse Grande Hotel, Taman Putra Perdana, Jalan Putra Perdana, Presint 1, 62000, Putrajaya.
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With leisure travel picking up again across the globe, now is the best time to pack your suitcases and check in for a stay at these luxury hotels in Asia — where a relaxing vacation and the best gastronomic experiences the region has to offer, await.
Alma Resort Pays Tribute to Vietnam’s Sidewalk Culture
In homage to the Vietnamese pastime of sipping-brews-on-pavement, Almahas launched Cam Ranh’s most happening venue, Chill’s Snack & Bar. Open 5pm-10pm daily, the street-style venue is anchored by two American-style food trucks near the resort’s vast amphitheater. The menu features popular street beverages such as Vietnamese coffee, fresh fruit juice, and milk tea. Signature coffees are coconut coffee and coffee with fresh milk and tapioca pearls.
Chill’s serves cocktails such as ‘Amphitheater Sunset’ with tequila, orange, grenadine, crème de cassis and lime. The likes of seafood pizza, fruit, shrimp salad, meat sandwiches, cheese sticks and lemongrass chicken feet are written up on the menu board daily. Entertainment includes nightly movies screened under the stars, live music, fire twirlers and flair bartenders.
Meliá Chiang Mai Offers an Array of Exciting Dining Offerings
A Sunday brunch with fresh seafood on ice, buffet dinner replete with a paella cooking station, and mojito menu with a Spanish and Thai spin are amongMeliá Chiang Mai’s new dining offerings from 1 July to 30 September. Staged on the first and last Sunday of the month, ‘Brunch del Domingo’ features Spanish, Mediterranean and Thai offerings including charcuterie, chilled prawns, Mediterranean salads and a live cooking station.
Highlights of “¡Es viernes!” international dinner buffet, held on the first and last Friday night of the month, include tapas and pinchos, and live cooking of gambas al ajillo and grilled river prawns. The mojito menu adds wild berries, passionfruit, pineapple, watermelon and lemongrass to the cocktail’s traditional ingredients.
Immerse in the Local Culture at Azerai Resorts
Azerai has launched a new experiences menu with a strong culinary focus to help immerse guests in the local culture at the brand’s three resorts in Vietnam: Azerai La Residence, Hue in the former imperial capital, Azerai Can Tho in the Mekong Delta, and the beachfront Azerai Ke Ga Bay.
At Azerai La Residence, Hue, the resort’s new Perfume River boat offers a “Private Dinner Cruise” featuring fine Vietnamese and Western cuisine. At Azerai Can Tho, “Romance Under the Banyan Tree” features a lantern-lit, five-course meal for two. And at Azerai Ke Ga Bay, the “Monastery and Iconic Fruit of Binh Thuan” includes stops at an exotic dragon fruit farm, Ta Cu Mountain, and local salt fields.
An Omakase Dining Experience at Tanah Gajah, a Resort By Hadiprana in Bali
With any meal the conversation can be just as important as the culinary offering – especially when Chef Dean’s involved. The seasoned Singaporean chef, who has been guiding Tanah Gajah’s culinary direction for over a decade, infuses his personality into all his delectable dishes. With his Omakase Dining Experience at The Tempayan, guests get to see more of the chef than just the magic he creates on each plate.
Omakase, which translates as a meal of dishes selected by the chef, ensures that the five-course menu he offers uses only the freshest seasonal ingredients, while also giving guests the opportunity to learn about local produce and dishes. The experience also includes a guided tour of Chef Dean’s passion project, the resort’s expansive organic garden. The cost is IDR 750,000 ++ (USD50) per person.
French Fine Dining at Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi
Le Beaulieu, the award-winning modern French fine dining restaurant at Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, and its refined al fresco extension La Terrasse have celebrated their reopening following an extensive seven-month refurbishment. With an elegant and sophisticated new design, alongside renowned French gastronomy and a wide selection of wines, the signature restaurant at Metropole Hanoi ties together the hotel’s 120-year-old storied past with a contemporary new look that manages to meld the opulent, the classical and the modern in a single scheme that’s long on white, gold and heathery blue-grays. Operating in its current space since 1901, Le Beaulieu is believed to be the oldest continually operating restaurant in Vietnam. And now, after this renovation, the newest.
Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh unveils its latest menus
Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital’s newest international branded hotel, is leading the charge as the city’s culinary scene picks up pace following the pandemic. Opened in 2021, the property has gained an exalted reputation for dining through its range of exciting outlets. Two of these — all-day-dining outlet The Market Cafe Restaurant and Lounge and signature venue FiveFive Rooftop — have recently unveiled new menus.
FiveFive focuses on fresh, sustainable seafood and local produce. Highlights of its new menu include a delectable set dinner featuring dishes like Kampot crab on toast and seared Hokkaido scallops. The Market Cafe Restaurant and Lounge, meanwhile, is reupping courtesy of items such as sustainably sourced Dover sole with brown butter and capers and a selection of plant-based dishes.
Banyan Tree Samui Welcomes Aficionados of Thai Cuisine
Banyan Tree’s signature restaurant, Saffron, has initiated a Thai Tasting Menu, ideal for those on the island who wish to introduce friends and family to Thai classic cuisine in a luxurious ambience. Overlooking the sapphire sea from an exquisite venue above the resort, Saffron’s newest menu features an array of favorites: from appetizers of por pai pho (crabmeat spring rolls in a mango salad) and mieng som-o (pomelo, cashews, coconut & ginger wrapped in betel leaves and topped with a tamarind sauce) to entreés of grilled salmon in galangal and lemongrass or a sizzling plate of roasted peppered pork spare ribs. Dessert is the ever-popular dish of mango in sticky rice and coconut. Price is 1,800 THB (USD50) nett per person. Open daily 6pm – 11pm. For reservations, call +66 077 915 333 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A New Chef and New Menu at SOL By Meliá Phu Quoc in Vietnam
SOL By Meliã Phu Quoc is embracing new beginnings with Spanish chef, Sergio Nieto Garces, joining as executive chef. Garces will bring more Spanish flair to the oceanfront resort elevating OLA Beach Club to the pinnacle of Spanish gastronomy on the island. In July OLA Beach Club will launch a new menu, inspired by Garces’ own fascinating culinary journey.
The talented chef trained under some of Spain’s foremost culinary experts, including Martin Berasategui, who holds 12 Michelin stars – the most of any Spanish chef. In Madrid, he worked as executive chef of Jose Luis group, opening branches in Marrakech and Tokyo. At SOL’s OLA Beach Club Garces will serve up contemporary Spanish cuisine. Highlights from the new menu include Andalusian style marinated chicken paella and creative vegan fare like almond soup with smoked beetroot tartare.
Palace Hotel Tokyo Blooms for Tenth Anniversary
To celebrate Palace Hotel Tokyo’s tenth anniversary this year the Forbes Five Star property is going back to its roots. For the summer the hotel’s popular bars will be serving up “Blooming,” a new cocktail inspired by its original Triple One (1-1-1) cocktail, which first debuted in the hotel’s opening year.
The new blend mixes Palace Hotel Tokyo’s signature 1-1-1 sake by Hakkaisan, Yuzu liqueur, Lillet Blanc, and Sakura liqueur to deliver a clear, sharp taste with a flowery Japanese aroma. The limited-time cocktail will be on offer at Palace Hotel Tokyo’s Royal Bar, an old world-style cigar bar with the most comprehensive Japanese whiskey selection in the city, and the chic Lounge Bar Prive, where guests can take in views of the Imperial Palace gardens by day and the surrounding city skyline by night.
I’ve always had a fascination with temples—and being raised a Buddhist (the faith of which a majority of Malaysian Chinese people profess to), I’ve been to my fair share of unique places of worship in Malaysia. Among them are:
But just when I think I’ve seen it all, my backyard surprises me with a hidden gem — Tian Hock Kung, also dubbed the “Snake Temple of Klang”. I chanced upon some pictures online while doing research; there wasn’t a lot of info available in English, but it was enough to pique my inner travel journalist. So I decided to drag the Hubs, a fellow person of culture, on an impromptu adventure to seek out the place.
Once the capital of Selangor, Klang is one of the region’s oldest cities, known for its colonial buildings and rich heritage sites. It has a huge Hokkien Chinese population, and as such, there are dozens of beautiful Chinese temples within the city, some of which are over a hundred years old.
Tian Hock Kung is tucked in a quiet locality next to the Klang River, a few minutes drive from the city centre. There are no signs along the way pointing to the temple and the building is hidden from the main road by foliage, but it’s not that difficult to find (you can Waze there, or look out for Klinik Kesihatan Sungai Berthek, which is just next to it).
Even though it was a weekend, and most temples would have seen at least some visitors, it was so quiet that we thought the place was not open to visitors. But since the gate was open, we ventured in cautiously. No caretaker was present; we were greeted only by a skinny black and white dog, ie the informal temple guardian.
On the outside, Tian Hock Kung looks like an ordinary Chinese temple, with all the elements — curved orange roofs, lots of red, typical Chinese motifs. But as you walk closer, you’ll see why they call it Snake Temple.
In place of dragons or phoenixes, which are common motifs that represent auspiciousness and prosperity, you’ll find dozens of life-like snake statues and carvings; coiled around pillars in menacing poses and perched atop roofs.
Even for someone without ophidophobia (fear of snakes), looking at the figures can trigger a feeling of uneasiness — even though they are clearly not alive. I think it stems from a primal sort of fear : a NatGeo article suggests that fear of snakes may be hardwired, a remnant from a time when being wary of dangerous animals gave humans an evolutionary advantage. Even though only one in five snakes are venomous (a smaller number are fatal to humans), and snakes are generally shy creatures that would run away from people rather than attack them, I think the natural reaction for many of us towards snakes is to get the hell away from them, lol.
There is also, perhaps, another reason why we fear snakes. Their appearance and slithering movements seem cold and alien; far removed from mammals like ourselves, and so unlike cuddly, furry animals such as dogs and cats.
PS: For those unaware, a majority of the Malaysian Chinese population subscribe to an amalgamation of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, the latter two which incorporates many elements of traditional Chinese folklore and pagan practices ofancestor worship. Tian Hock Kung is primarily a Taoist temple, but it has a Guanyin statue as well, which is worshipped in both Buddhism as a bodhisattva, and Taoism as a deity/god.
So why does this temple have so many representations of snakes?
Since I couldn’t find a caretaker to answer my questions, I can only rely on info I found online (most of these are written in Mandarin, which I can’t read lol and had to Google translate— so excuse me if I get some things wrong in translation).
The deities worshipped here are three sworn brothers, and like many Taoist deities, they are based on real historical figures. They are Zhang Gong Sheng Jun, Xiao Gong Sheng Jun, and Hong Gong Sheng Jun. You will find their statues inside the temple, with the main deity sporting a green face.
I’m not 100% sure which brother it is (I think it’s Zhang Gong Sheng Jun) but the god has an affinity for snakes and was known for defeating a thousand-year old snake demon. He also carries a magical weapon that used to be a snake which he subdued. You can read about the legend here.
The interior of the temple is quite spacious, and the ceiling features an octagonal window with a Yin Yang motif — the primary symbol of Taoism — surrounded by other Taoist symbols that represent the different Immortals, such as the fan, gourd, iron crutch, and flute. In the centre of the room are several small but intricately carved wooden shrines with wooden seats on them (I’ve seen this before and I think they’re used to carry the deity statues out on religious parades). During our visit, there were also large stacks of paper offerings, sorted into neat bundles.
Of course, it won’t be a Snake Temple without at least one resident snake — a huge albino python in a cage in the corner. Apparently snakes used to come here from time to time (on their own). According to a China Press article, in 2011, a six-foot-long python climbed into the temple and made a cozy nook for itself behind the altar, just before the deity’s birthday celebration. However, the snakes don’t come anymore, likely due to the surrounding neighbourhood’s development.
PS2: The northern state of Penang, another Chinese majority place, also has a snake temple, but instead of being in cages, the snakes roam freely around the temple. The history behind that temple is super interesting too, but I haven’t visited, and that would be a story for another time.
The main altar has been designed to look like a cave, complete with stalactites and outcroppings. There are three nooks, each housing one deity. The main one, as mentioned, has a green face, with a dragon on its back, and many smaller deities at the base. There are also large snakes with glowing LED eyes on each side of the central altar.
Unlike Buddhist statues, which often have serene, calm expressions, Taoist gods can appear quite….intimidating. In Cantonese, we call it having a strong sat hei, or ‘killing’ aura — ie a fierce disposition which is meant to scare away evil. You need not fear if you’re not an evil-doer, but those with evil in their hearts, beware.
The entire time we were roaming around and taking photos, there was not a soul in sight. I would have liked to speak to the caretaker to understand more about the place, but it was also a positive experience in a way, as I could take my time exploring without having to worry about bothering anyone.
While on my way to the toilet, I chanced upon an area that was almost hidden from sight, adjacent to the main building. Peeking in, I saw that it was a shrine to the Taoist god of the underworld, Yanluo Wang. The entrance was designed to look like the gates of Hell, flanked by Hell’s guardians in Chinese mythology, Ox-Head and Horse-Face. As the name suggests, they have the bodies of men, but the head of an ox and the face of a horse. They are believed to escort newly deceased souls to face Yan Wang’s judgement, where they will subsequently be sent to the different levels of hell for punishment, based on their earthly crimes, or sent on to heavenly realms if they’ve been good people. Trivia: Japanese mythology has similar beliefs, where they are known as Gozu and Mezu.
If what the temple committee wanted to achieve was to evoke a sense of fear and apprehension, then they certainly succeeded. The shrine was located lower than ground level, so visitors would have to descend steps to get closer (I did not because no way, Jose), and it was also bathed in an eerie blue light.
Instead, I respectfully (call me superstitious if you like, better safe than sorry!) asked for permission to take photos (the husband, a Christian, looked at me with a funny expression at what must seem to him absurd; ie me talking to the air, lol).
There were baskets of paper offerings lined up on one side of the shrine, a small table and chair on the other with some teapots (for mediums to channel the gods, perhaps?) on the other. Like at the main shrine, Yanluo Wang’s shrine was made to look like a cave, with the deity elevated on an outcropping, flanked by his assistants, the Black and White Guards (Heibai Wuchang). Taoism is heavy on balance, and like the concept of Yin and Yang, the Hei Bai Wuchang represent rewarding the good, and punishing the evil.
Before leaving, I paid a visit to the Na Tuk Kong shrine within the temple’s compound. You might be wondering why there’s a dome resembling a mosque, and why the deity within seems to be wearing traditional Malay clothes. Well, when the Chinese migrated to Malaya centuries ago, they brought their folk worship beliefs with them; that is, paying respects to the local guardians and spirits they may encounter in this new land. Malays probably have another word for it — penunggu.
Klang’s Snake Temple is an interesting look into the Malaysian Chinese community’s way of life, culture, and beliefs. It’s a unique mixture of adherence to long held traditions passed down through hundreds, perhaps thousands of years – combined with new influences shaped by centuries of migration and assimilation. Definitely one of the more unique temples around!
TIAN HOCK KUNG (KLANG SNAKE TEMPLE 巴生天福宫)
Lot 3115 & 3116, Jalan Siakap, Jln Tepi Sungai, Taman Teluk Pulai, 41100 Klang, Selangor
Opening hours: 9AM – 11PM (daily)
PS: I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto
If a foreign friend was traveling to Malaysia for the first time, where would you recommend they visit?
Perhaps Melaka for its rich history, Penang for its art and food, Langkawi for its gorgeous beaches, or Sabah andSarawak for beautiful nature. Not forgetting Kuala Lumpur—the bustling metropolis and the heart of the Malaysian economy—with its eclectic mix of skyscrapers, glitzy malls, colonial shophouses, and chic cafes; a true melting pot of the region’s culture and influences.
Pulau Ketam, however, is probably not the first place that comes to mind. That should change — because it’s an excellent spot for visitors seeking something truly immersive and local. Doubly so for the Malaysians who have yet to pay this place a visit! You might be surprised at the unique experiences you can find in your own backyard.
Located off the coast of Port Klang in Selangor, Pulau Ketam (or Crab Island) is a fishing village established in the 1880s by Teochew and Hokkien Chinese immigrants. The settlement, built on mudflats surrounded by mangroves, is known for its quaint homes and elevated pathways built over stilts, which gives them the appearance of floating over water during high tide. What started as a small fishing village soon grew; today, the island hosts some 1,000 homes.
In the past, the main industry in Pulau Ketam was fishing, but tourism now contributes a major part to the local economy as well. Visitors to the place are mostly Malaysians; the few times I have been here, I have not seen many foreign tourists. All the more reason to put it on your itinerary !
Since there are no roads connecting the island to the mainland, villagers have their own boats in lieu of cars whenever they need to travel for supplies. As for visitors, the only way to access Pulau Ketam is via ferry from the South Port Terminal in Port Klang. If you’re driving, you can park your car at the Asa Niaga Habour City compound, next to the terminal.
The terminal can be quite warm, and crowded on busy days, but there is a canteen where you can order drinks and finger food, as well as stalls selling snacks. There are several ferry operators here, so once you step into the terminal you’ll be greeted by touts yelling out prices.
We went for the Alibaba Cruise (RM20 – return tickets, RM12 – one way) which is slightly cheaper than a speedboat. Regretted this decision, as even though they have scheduled departure times, they still waited for the boat to be full before they left the port. We waited more than 45 minutes on the boat, which was supposed to leave at 11.30AM, but only left around 12.15PM. -_-
Either way, off to Pulau Ketam we go!
The ride takes about 30 to 40 minutes. If your boat has a deck on top, I suggest sitting there so you get a nice view of the mangroves. But maybe not in the afternoon because the weather can get extremely hot.
WHAT TO DO ON PULAU KETAM
I last came here in 2016 and made a blog post about my trip (read it here) – so you can check the post out if you want a gist. This time around, I’m going to share more photos and commentary, because on my previous trip I didn’t really get to explore as much as I wanted to.
Walk along the pier and enjoy the breeze. If you come in the afternoon, when the tide is low, you’ll see hundreds of tiny crabs and mudskippers crawling around in the mud (hence the name Crab Island).
A new addition since my visit in 2016 – colourful signage and some nautical/ocean-inspired art installations. You’ll also find some interesting murals scattered around the island.
Houses on Pulau Ketam are built on stilts measuring around 1 to 10 metres above the water. Most of the structures are made of either wood or concrete, as are the walkways that form an intricate maze connecting the many different parts of the village. Because of how narrow the streets are, there are no large vehicles, only motorbikes and bicycles. You can rent a bike to get around the island, but I prefer exploring on foot, since you can really take your time to soak in the sights.
Take note that most of the bikes are electric. Since they don’t produce a lot of noise, you have to be aware of your surroundings while making your way through the alleyways!
Despite it’s remote location, Pulau Ketam is well equipped with all sorts of facilities. They have their own police station and volunteer fire brigade, 3 primary schools and a secondary school, a post office, and even a Maybank (so don’t worry if you’re strapped for cash – there’s an ATM machine within).
The internet and call quality is probably better than what I get at home (thanks for the ‘coverage’, Digi!), and they also have a constant supply of electricity and water from the mainland. You might still find a couple of homes with a rainwater harvesting system, which is what they used before a direct water supply was installed in 1991.
Pulau Ketam’s Jalan Besar (main street) bustles with activity, flanked by seafood restaurants, snack stalls and souvenir shops. It was high time for lunch, so we popped into one called Restoran Kim Hoe.
It was just the Hubs and me and we didn’t want to overstuff ourselves, so we went for fried squid and kam heong style bamboo clams to go with our rice. The squid was fresh and springy, the batter deep fried to crunchy perfection. There was some seasoning in the batter so it wasn’t bland, and the chilli sauce complemented it well too.
Bamboo clams get their name from their long, cylindrical shells. I think they taste like a meatier cross between oysters and Live Venus clams (what we call in Malaysia and Singapore as ‘lala’).
Because shellfish tends to have a briny, ‘fishy’ smell, they are usually cooked with strong spices such as curry and kam heong. FYI, kam heong is Cantonese for ‘golden and fragrant’ – a fitting name for an aromatic, rich sauce made from dried shrimps, curry powder, shallots, and garlic. Here’s another fun tidbit: kamheong is a Malaysian Chinese creation! Chinese immigrants here took influences from their Malay and Indian neighbours (hence the curry powder, dried shrimps, and other spices), added it into their own cooking, and voila.
The version at Restoran Kim Hoe is tasty. The clams were not cleaned thoroughy so there was a bit of sand left in them, but I understand that it’s difficult to get the sand out entirely sometimes. Otherwise, an excellent dish!
Chinese immigrant communities back in the day were deeply religious and had strong beliefs in gods and the supernatural. More so for a fishing village, as they were dependent on the sea and nature for a living. As such, you’ll still find many temples scattered across the settlement. The one right after main street is probably the most photographed/popular, but if you wander deeper, you’ll find other temples too. Although small in size, the temples are colourful and richly adorned – great for photography.
Since most of the villagers built their own homes, no two houses on Pulau Ketam are the same and each boasts unique features. They’re mostly single storey, but there are some grander double storey homes as well. They’re also painted in various colourful shades. No two homes next to each other have the same colour – I wonder if they discussed beforehand like “Hey, I’m going to paint my house yellow, so maybe you can take blue instead?” xD
Keep your eyes peeled for interesting murals. I like this creative piece – if you look more closely, you’ll find that the yellow guy on the left has an Ultraman tattoo on his belly drawn in the style of a Chinese deity!
Many homes on Pulau Ketam leave their doors unlocked during the day – something almost impossible to see in the big city. But I guess if you’re stuck on an island (with their own police station to boot), it’s going to be pretty hard to run anywhere unless you have your own boat…
A local Datuk Gong shrine.
Fun fact: a lot of people don’t know this, but the deity/spirit that the Malaysian Chinese here worship as Datuk Gong is actually – wait for it – Malay! That’s why you’ll often see the figure within these shrines dressed in traditional Malay clothing, such as a songkok and sarong.
The story goes that when Chinese immigrants came to Malaya, they brought their folk worship beliefs with them (specifically the worship of Tudi, or the god of the earth/the local deity of whatever land they’ve settled in). It was believed that the Chinese back then blended it with the animisme that some Malays practiced in ancient times, before they embraced Islam – hence why Datuk Gong has the appearance of a Malay personage.
This belief is also prevalent in other Nusantara Chinese communities, such as in Indonesia and Singapore.
A clan association building.
Clan associations were the OGsocial networks – a place where people could mingle, and where they could go to for support, especially financially. In the 1800s, when many Chinese emigrated overseas in search for a better life, they often travelled long distances and arrived on distant shores with nothing but the clothes on their back. Clan associations were founded as a way to offer a support network for its members, and to build camaraderie and a spirit of kinship in a place far from home.
The associations would pool together resources to help solve problems that their members might face, such as securing a loan so start a business, buying land for burial, or building temples. They also facilitated personal and business introductions, and acted as important links to their homelands back in China. Some of these clan associations became very wealthy and powerful, such as the Khoo clan in Penang.
Today, clan associations are dying off because the roles they used to fulfill have been taken over by modern institutions such as banks or business associations. Also, many Malaysian Chinese communities no longer have any links to China. Their role, if any, has evolved to focus more on culture, education, and social service.
Pulau Ketam is not very big, and you can probably explore everything within the day. We were done by 3.30PM, caught the next ferry back, and reached Port Klang by 5PM.
To be honest, nothing much has changed (aside from the addition of a couple more homestays?) – but that’s the beauty of living in a village like this. Seasons change, but the essence of the place – it’s quaint charm, the friendliness of the locals – remain constant. Personally, I love the story behind how Pulau Ketam came to be, as it’s a testament to the resilience of the Chinese immigrant community in Malaysia, most of whom came to Malaya with nothing, and built a life for themselves here.
There are a couple of things to remember while planning a trip here:
Bring a hat or sunscreen, as the weather gets super hot. Maybe because they don’t really have trees to shade the place, or because they’re located in an intertidal zone.
Most places operate with cash, but some have upgraded to accept e-wallets too.
Please remember these are actual homes and that there are people living in them, so be respectful.
The last ferry from Pulau Ketam leaves at 6PM on weekends, and 5PM on weekdays. While chatting with a local, she told me that some tourists forget this, miss the last boat, and are forced to spend the night on the island lol. Be mindful of the time!
PS: I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto
Can you believe it has been four years since my last trip to Genting Highlands (excluding visits for work)? But then again, the last two years since the pandemic started have felt like a waking dream, so…yeah.
With that said, I think it’s high time for an update! A lot has changed in Genting since my 2018 visit (read my first 2D1N Itinerary post here), most notably the opening of SkyWorlds, a new outdoor amusement park, as well as dozens of cool restaurants and entertainment centres.
Buttttt we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, so let’s rewind a little bit.
It was a long weekend and I got a free room at First World Hotel, courtesy of a relative. It’s been ages since I’ve had a vacation (since before the pandemic, actually) – so even though it was ‘just’ Genting, I was super excited for the trip. The last time I went to Genting it was via bus from KL Sentral, but I’m officially too old for that these days (by that I mean travelling in public transport lol), so we rented a cab instead. Our cab for four cost us about RM30 each.
You can choose to have the cab ferry you straight up to the resort, but I wanted to visit the Chin Swee Cave Temples which is mid-way up the mountain, so I told the driver to drop the Hubs and I off at Genting Highlands Premium Outlet instead. If you’re keen on buying branded goods from names like Coach, Armani, Burberry, and Michael Kors at discounted prices, then you might want to spend some time here.
We made a beeline for the cable car station. Tickets are priced at RM10 for a one way trip.
We made a pitstop at the Chin Swee Cave Temples, where you can stop to explore the temple at no additional cost. Opened in 1994, the temple sits on forested land donated by the founder of Resorts World Genting, Lim Goh Tong. Combining Chinese Buddhist and Taoist beliefs, the temple is dedicated to Qingshui (Chin Swee in Hokkien), a deity in China’s Fujian province, Lim’s hometown. If you’re here on a sunny day, the temple affords panoramic views of the surrounding mountains as well as the base of Genting. To be perfectly candid, the sight of the towering skyscrapers (read: luxury holiday ‘condos’) mars the beauty of the area’s natural surroundings. But I guess that’s development for you.
The temple is great for photo enthusiasts, thanks to its vibrant colours and beautiful architecture. Look out for the giant stone Buddha which sits against a backdrop of lush greenery.
Another interesting highlight here is the ‘Journey to Enlightenment’ section, which is not quite accurately named as it’s more a journey through hell lolol. It basically depicts the various hells in Chinese/Taoist belief, and features some pretty gruesome statues ala Singapore’s Haw Par Villa.
The temple’s pagoda is great for photography, seemingly ‘floating’ above the mountains and clouds when taken from certain angles.
While the temple has not changed much since my last visit, there are a couple of additions.
There are now a couple of stalls next to the pagoda selling snacks and tidbits; the Hubs and I had some curry fishballs which was perfect in the chilly weather (it was pretty cold, despite the sun). Another fun fact: this temple is home to a Starbucks, which opened in 2019. It’s right underneath the shops near the pagoda, and offers scenic views of the mountains as well as the temple through the cafe’s floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Who says religion, culture, commercialization and capitalism can’t coexist peacefully? (Unfortunately we could not pop into the store as we were pressed for time).
Continuing our cable car journey, we were fortunate to ride on a glass bottom gondola. Typically you’d have to pay RM16 for this, but the guy at the station allowed us to board this, so. Yay! The Hubs wasn’t thrilled though, and clutched me with sweaty hands with an increasingly stronger grip until we arrived at our destination.
Resorts World Genting is a massive labyrinth of buildlings sprawled across a large area; so it was a long walk from the new SkyAvenue Shopping Centre to the First World Hotel Complex, where we were staying for the night. While many parts of the hotel have been renovated, the lobby has been virtually unchanged for decades – I still have photos of me as a kid in this sparkly tree corridor, so it was nostalgic to see it again.
Our room was in the new wing, but we didn’t manage to get mountain views since it was sandwiched between corridors. No photo of the room because it was super ordinary – basically a bed with a TV – but here’s a photo of the exterior.
Now we come to the fun part: what is there to do in Genting?
The main attraction is, of course, the Genting SkyWorlds outdoor theme park, which opened its doors to the public just a few months ago, after a four year delay. The old outdoor theme park closed in 2013 (which means that the outdoor theme park was effectively closed for a decade). There was supposed to be a deal with 20th Century Fox to have a movie inspired theme park with rides from well known films, but they ran into licensing issues. What followed was a pretty nasty spate and several lawsuits, but they eventually settled with Fox granting Genting the rights to use their intellectual property for certain rides and sections. They still couldn’t call it Fox theme park though, so it was renamed SkyWorlds.
The park has nine ‘worlds’, and I can tell from the layout that its similar to the themed areas in places like Universal Studios and Disneyland. If I was a couple of years younger, I think I’d give the place a go, but I’m much older now and my heart can’t suffer from extreme excitement anymore lol. That, and the entry tickets cost close to RM200. But if you’re an adrenaline junkie, I think this would be a great place to spend your day at!
Aside from the outdoor theme park, Resorts World Genting is also home to an indoor amusement park called Skytropolis. The rides are similar to what you might get at a funfair or carnival, albeit bigger and fancier. Unlimited rides cost RM90 per adult, but you can also choose to pay per ride. In total, there are about 20 rides that you can go on, including a rollercoaster, a pirate ship, a tomahawk thing that flips you upside down, a ferris wheel, and more.
I really like the design at Skytropolis, especially the neon pillars and the large digital screen on the ceilling which emulates clouds. It feels like a futuristic, cyberpunk world; like a place you can escape to for a couple of hours, indulge in entertainment, and just forget your worries for abit.
The Hubs does not like fast rides, so I ended up riding the spinny thing on the right. It’s not too crazy, but is just fast enough to get the adrenaline pumping. Excitement in measured doses is the way to go for someone in their 30s, lol.
We spent most of our time at the arcade upstairs, which has a decent selection of shooter games. RM30 netted us a complete playthrough of Jurassic Park. There are classic carnival games to play here too, where you stand a chance to walk away with giant stuffed toys.
Of course, one does not come to Genting and not indulge in their lifestyle offerings, ie food, some of which are only available exclusively. Dinner was at Tampopo, a Japanese restaurant specializing in ramen. The Hubs and I shared a miso ramen, which had al dente noodles swimming in a rich and thick broth, topped with bamboo shoots and a half boiled egg. We also got crispy tempura, lightly battered and fried to golden perfection, and juicy chicken gyozas. If you’re in the mood for Japanese, Tampopo is a good choice. Course, most of everything in Genting is pretty pricey, but that’s to be expected if you’re coming here for a night’s stay – unless you’re okay with eating instant noodles or fast food.
Highline is an area with a bunch of trendy bars and drinking spots. It is extremely lively at night, with each bar blasting live music, DJs spinning turntables and bands performing.
We ended up heading up the escalator at Highline to a viewing platform, which imo, is the best spot in Genting. It’s cold and breezy up there at night, and you can see the entire theme park lit up with lights. It’s too bad they don’t have seats, because I’d bring a cup of Maggi + a packet of chips, and just sit there snacking and chatting with the Hubs.
And finally, before we left Genting the next day, we stopped at the famed Five Guys for lunch. You can read the full review here.
Not pictured: We spent some time at the casino, because the Hubs has never been and he wanted to experience what it was like. It was crowded af on a Friday evening because apparently there was some oldies concert going on, and there were a lot of elderly folk. I think the last time I came here, there was a no smoking rule, but this seems to have gone out the window, as the casino stank to high heaven of cigarettes – pretty unpleasant. We weren’t in there for too long, but I still ended up losing close to 200 bucks on the slot machine. 😦
As they say, house always wins.
And that was our 2D1N itinerary to Genting! As you can probably tell, there’s a lot to do besides gambling – you can eat, shop, watch movies, explore the theme park, play at the arcade, and much, much more. Genting has really invested in making the resort a lifestyle destination, moving away from its ‘gambling’ image (although it’s still an integral part of the money-making machine – judging from the crowds). I think it’s a good place for a day trip or weekend getaway that’s not too far from the city.
The beauty about living in Malaysia is that as a multicultural society, we have loads of holidays for each of the major ethnic groups/religions in Malaysia. So even though I don’t celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid-al-Fitr (or Hari Raya as it’s known colloquially), my office still gave us a three-day break. Plus the weekend, I had five days off – plenty of time for some R&R!
The Hubs and I did not plan to go to the usual tourist places like Penang/Malacca, as the highways were extremely congested – but we did a short day trip to Kuala Selangor, where we got into some… monkey business. Literally.
Located about 70km from Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Selangor, or “Estuary of Selangor”, lies at the point where the Selangor River meets the sea. Surrounded by forest and mangroves, it was once the capital of the Selangor sultanate in the 18th century, thanks to its strategic location. Today, the town oozes a sleepy, laidback vibe, but is well equipped with facillities, including major banks, a school for sciences, a firestation, and places of worship.
We arrived a little after lunch and hopped onto the tram (a modified vehicle with carriages attached to a tractor). For RM5 (locals) and RM10 (foreigners), it ferries you up to the top of Bukit Malawati. Along the way, you’ll pass by large boulders on the hillside – all that remains of the ancient Malawati Fort.
Built during the Malacca Sultanate in the 16th century, the fort offered a strategic vantage point, with its steep hill face and surrounding mangrove swaps acting as natural defensive ramparts. It fell to Dutch invasion in the 18th century, and they renamed it Altingburg, fortifying its walls and strengthening the fort with cannons. They also built a lighthouse on top of the hill. A year later, a surprise attack by Selangor sultanate forces drove the Dutch back to sea. It remained under Malay rule until the late 19th century, when British gunboats pounded the walls to smithereens.
These days, people come for more than just the history: they come to see monkeys! A colony of silverleafed monkeys (and a couple of macaques) call the hill summit home. Because the hill is a tourist attraction, the primates are used to humans, and are reliant on them for their source of food. There are peddlers here selling food like bananas and fruits that you can feed to the animals, but beware because the animals will climb onto you to get your food.
The silverleafed monkey, or silvery lutung, is an Old World ape endemic to the forests of Sumatra, Borneo, and Peninsular Malaysia. They are categorized as vulnerable, with populations declining due to deforestation and loss of habitat. Like their namesake, they have silvery fur, although babies are golden with pale skin.
The summit of the hill is the highest point for miles around, affording visitors panoramic views of the river winding towards the sea. There are a couple of canons here as well, but I’m not sure if they are well preserved originals or just replicas.
Also here you will find the Baitulhilal, a moonsighting pavilion, which I believe our Muslim religious authorities use to sight the moon on the eve of Ramadhan, which would then signify the beginning of the holy month.
Another prominent landmark here is the Altingsburg Lighthouse, built by the Dutch and spruced up by the British almost a century on. Unfortunately you can’t access the buildling, but the views from the outside are still great, and it looks well maintained. Within its grounds is a museum chronicling the history of the fort, but it wasn’t open during our visit.
We spent some time enjoying the sea breeze under the cool shade of the trees while watching the monkeys. It was fascinating to see them interacting with each other; relaxing on the branches, playfully chasing one another, jumping across branches, fighting, grooming – very human interactions.
If you’re up to a walk around the area, there are a couple of interesting historical attractions to see, including a Poisoned Well, where traitors were apparently lowered into a mix of poisonous latex and juice from bamboo shoots, undergoing a slow and painful death. There’s also a large stone slab, where legend has it that a palace maiden was beheaded for adultery.
We spent about an hour on the summit, before returning to town and driving 2 minutes away (the weather was scorching, it wasn’t coz we were lazy lol) to Auntie Foo, a cafe in the middle of town. Only outdoor seating was available as they told us the inside was ‘reserved’ (we came and went, but no one showed up though) – so we had to sit on the verandah. It was still fairly cool, as are most of the old shophouses. Perhaps something to do with the design and materials used in the old days?
Auntie Foo serves mostly Western and Asian fare. We already had lunch, so we got some dessert to quench our thirst and cool down from the sweltering heat. The cendol was nice but the portion was small; the Hubs gulped it down within two mouthfuls. The Ais Kacang, on the other hand, was humongous, topped with a dollop of sweet vanilla ice cream, crushed peanuts, rose syrup, and other goodies.
The cafe also sells souvenirs and handicrafts.
Aside from visiting the hill and its monkeys, there are a lot of other things you can do in Kuala Selangor, namely firefly watching at night on the river, and taking photos at the Sasaran Sky Mirror beach (which is often dubbed the Salar Uyuni of Malaysia, because the beach appears like a mirror at certain hours of the day). You can also go eagle feeding, or take a hike at the Kuala Selangor Nature Park.
As our trip was kinda spontaneous, we were content with just visiting Bukit Malawati and enjoying the relaxing drive. If you like the laidback vibe of small towns, history, and nature, it’s worth the drive for a daytrip, or even an overnight stay as there are plenty of homestays and boutique hotels around.
Kuala Selangor is best accessed by car. Driving along the North-South Highway, exit at Sungai Buloh and follow the signs towards Kuala Selangor. There are buses plying the route as well, but I wasn’t able to find updated information online.
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The Hubs and I were looking for things to do over the weekend that didn’t involve a mall (but would still have air conditioning, lol) so like the true nerds we are, we ended up at the National Planetarium(Planetarium Negara) in Kuala Lumpur. My last visit here was solo, and it was almost seven years ago. How time flies!
Good news? Even after all this time, entrance to the planetarium is still free. Considering how much it would cost to maintain the place and keep it running, I think this is a very generous initiative by our Ministry of Science, Technology, and the Environment.
Video of us mucking about. Subscribe if you haven’t already!
Most of the exhibits are the same from my previous visit, with a couple of additions. Most notable among them is the “Anti-Gravity Room”. It’s not really ‘anti-gravity’ in that you float around or anything like that, but is more an optical illusion that messes with your balance. Because the chamber is tilted, our brains are unable to process if it’s our body or the items that are supposed to be standing straight – creating a sense of imbalance. The deep blue lighting also adds to the illusion.
Malaysia had this whole space fever thing in the late 1990s to early 2000s, the pinnacle of which probably involved sending our first (and to date, only) cosmonaut into space on a Russian space exploration mission.
Sadly, I don’t think there have been many updates in terms of new tech/achievements in space science for the country (or at least, that I am aware of) – and this is reflected in the exhibits at the Planetarium. The takeaway that I would have gotten visiting the planetarium in 2008 would have been exactly the same as what I would get today. In a sense, the museum itself is kind of like a ‘time capsule’, a relic of the massive potential, but unrealized hopes and dreams of a nation.
One thing I do appreciate is that they have Braille for some of the exhibits, so PWDs can enjoy them too.
Not sure if it’s a replica (I’m guessing it is, because guests can touch it), but one of the exhibits features the Campo del Cielo, which is a group of iron meteorites that were found in Argentina, believed to date back 4,200 to 4,700 years ago.
The same periodic table of elements exhibit that was here all those years ago when I first visited: with the addition of some interactive quizzes that you can play on the screens.
Sample of an astronaut suit. There’s a section here dedicated to Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor – the first Malaysian in space. Sheikh apparently brought Sudirman songs to listen to while on board the Soyuz TMA-11 to the International Space Station. Because he’s Muslim, our religious authorities also came up with a handbook on how to pray in space, including how to determine the direction of Mecca.
The Ariadne engine, which was used to propel Malaysia’s first satellite (MEASAT) into space, is the highlight of the Planetarium’s exhibitions.
Space can smell like raspberries. Trivia to tell your friends at your next gathering. But when I do it people stare at me like I have 3 heads, so do so at your own risk.
Another major highlight at the planetarium is the ‘Space Pod’, which is meant to ‘simulate a ride in space’. Personally, I feel that it’s more of a theme park ride, but hey, whatever keeps people interested and coming. PS: This is a paid experience so you have to shell out RM12+ for it. (I think it was RM12, can’t recall the exact price).
I wasn’t looking properly during my last visit, but I just realized the English displays are atrocious.
The Planetarium covers about 11,000 sq feet of space, and there’s an observation tower where you can view the surroundings. Unfortunately this was closed during our visit, so we forked out RM12 per pax to watch a science show in the auditorium instead. This is a theatre with a massive dome-shaped screen, where they play shows in large format. It was a 30-minute presentation on moon, earth and the sun, geared towards families as there were many cartoons and animations incorporated. N and I ended up falling asleep because the dark theatre was like a cozy cocoon and the seats were slightly reclined lol.
All in all, the visit was enjoyable – but I still left slightly disappointed at the quality of the exhibits. There’s potential, but it’s a far cry from a world-class attraction, and if this is meant to stimulate younger children to gain an interest in space science and technology, let’s just say I don’t think there would be any future astronauts saying “I became an astronaut after my interest was piqued from a visit to the Planetarium”.
That isn’t to say that the trip isn’t worth it. Not many countries in ASEAN have their own public facilities dedicated to space science, and although the National Planetarium is a bit dated, it’s still a fun and relatively engaging experience, especially for families with children. Beats going to the mall anyway. Best of all? It’s free.
PLANETARIUM NEGARA (NATIONAL PLANETARIUM)
Jalan Perdana, Tasik Perdana, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Daily 9am – 430pm (closed on Mondays)
Travellers looking to enjoy Vietnam’s beautiful beaches, amazing culture, and mouthwatering cuisine will have something to look forward to come March 152022, as the country is set to reopen its borders to tourists after a nearly two-year travel ban due to the coronavirus pandemic. Full details on quarantine and test requirements have yet to be announced, but the opening seems confirmed–so it might be a good idea to plan in advance if you’re keen on spending the summer in Vietnam.
Still cautious about visiting crowded spots? There’s the coastal town of Quy Nhon, an hour’s flight from Ho Chi Minh City. Like Nha Trang, its sister city to the north, Quy Nhon is blessed with gorgeous sandy-white beaches and a rich history, with 11th-century Cham-era buildings peppered across the city. But unlike Nha Trang, which has seen an explosion in resorts and malls catering to tourists, Quy Nhon is much more low key and relatively untrodden by tourists.
If you’re in town for a laidback, relaxing holiday, consider checking in to Maia Resort Quy Nhon, a 94-villa luxury resort by Fusion Hotel Group, which focuses on gastronomic-driven experiences and wellness. Soft launched in late 2020, the resort only recently celebrated its grand opening in December 2021, as it cut the ribbon on its final villas.
The journey to any traveler’s heart often requires a detour through the stomach, especially in a place like Vietnam, with a rich culinary tradition shaped by diverse influences. Understanding this, Maia guests have the choice of dinner or lunch, in addition to the complimentary breakfast; or an indulgent spa therapy, as part of the nightly rate.
Maia has two restaurants, Vị and ad hoc, along with an open-air pool bar. The casual all-day dining option Vị, can host up to 146 guests, with indoor and outdoor seating, and celebrates the abundant seafood and produce of the region. Take in the sights and smells at the live cooking stations, as you enjoy the view out over Phuong Mai Bay.
ad hoc is a more intimate affair that can host a maximum of 96 diners. Indulge in seasonal menus, prepared with fresh ingredients scoured by the head chef from the local markets daily. The restaurant offers a communal dining experience, akin to gathering for a feast with family.
The resort also offers a range of signature culinary experiences, including Once Upon a Table, a four-course chef’s table style experience at ad hoc; Barefoot DestinationDining overlooking the ocean; a private BBQ with a personal chef served up in the guest’s villa; an in-villa high tea service; and Breakfast by Design, which includes the option of an Insta-worthy floating breakfast tray.
Guests who are more wellness-inclined can opt for a daily spa treatment, instead of half board. Vēla spa is a ten-treatment-room oasis that draws inspiration from the surrounding landscape with natural design elements including granite, teak wood, and flora indigenous to the location. The ecologically-minded spa follows a jungle to jar concept with treatments built around local ingredients. Other facilities include an expansive pool and state-of-the-art fitness centre.
A day out enjoying sun and surf as well as the area’s idyllic charm and culture demand for a restful night’s sleep. Maia’s 94 villas range in size from one and three bedroom villas, most with private plunge pools and gardens. Accommodation options range from 61-square-meters for a semi-detached villa to a palatial 264-square-meters for the Three Bedroom Beachfront Pool Villa. The interiors all follow an earthy color palette, with pops of various ocean hues throughout. The link to the earth continues throughout the property with the use of reclaimed elements such as preserved driftwood, copper, and rattan making up the core materials used for the overall design.
The entry category of room starts at USD 185 nett per night, inclusive of half board or one spa treatment per adult per room.