Domestic Travel Is Allowed Again in Malaysia

Late last year, Malaysia announced this huge Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign, aimed at drawing international and regional tourists to the country. This had to take a backseat due to the coronavirus pandemic, which decimated the tourism industry. Empty hotel rooms and high costs resulted in the closure of several prominent hotels, including Four Points Sandakan, G Tower Kuala Lumpur, Parkroyal KL and Ramada Plaza Melaka.

While I laud the efforts of the Tourism Ministry, the tagline is just plain stupid. Sorry. lol.

Our Prime Minister recently announced that Malaysia is ready to go into the ‘recovery’ phase, and a lot of rules have been relaxed – chief among them that interstate travel is finally allowed (it was previously banned during the Movement Control Order, which started on March 18). While international travel is still off-limits, domestic tourism is encouraged to help revive the economy.

While domestic travel to revive the economy is a good measure (the number of unemployed has already reached 600,000, and the rate is expected to go up to 5.5 pc – the highest in a decade) I do hope that people realise that this coronavirus thing isn’t going away anytime soon, so they should still practice caution even if they’re on a holiday, because we don’t want another wave of infections. Personally, I’m waiting until I feel safer to do so.

In line with the government’s call to promote domestic tourism, Tourism Malaysia released a promotional video on their Youtube channel, which I think was originally slotted for earlier but they can only do it now after the PM’s announcement. Kudos to the team as well as their creative agency, as I think it is really cool and highlights the amazing things that our country has to offer.

Dubbed ‘Discover Breathtaking Malaysia’, the video has a fun and engaging vibe that is aimed at the younger Insta-travel generation, so it’s quite different from the usual promo vids that we’ve been getting for decades, lol. It also won Silver at the Telly Awards 2020 for the Travel/Tourism category, beating 12,000 other entries. Some have been hating on the vid saying that it doesn’t embody the essence of Malaysia due to the K-pop-esque music, but I think it works for the audience it is intended for, and you can’t be a dinosaur yelling ‘tradition!’ all the time when the world is leaving you behind.

Are you ready to travel again? Which place are you intending to travel to once travel restrictions are lifted? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below! 🙂

How A Malaysian Resort Company Is Weathering The Coronavirus Pandemic

What with travel and movement restrictions worldwide by the coronavirus pandemic, the hospitality and travel industry is undoubtedly one of the most impacted. But while many hotels struggle to stay afloat and running despite empty rooms and cancelled reservations, one company in Sabah is proving that it pays to diversify.

Formed in 2007 in Kota Kinabalu, Echo Resorts – a family business which owns Gayana Marine Resort, Bunga Raya Island Resort and Borneo Eagle Resort –  is keeping busy amidst the worldwide pandemic. Founded on the principles of family and community values, it has a wide range of interests covering hospitality, environmental conservation and wellness – and while its hotel division is not operating due to global travel restrictions and the Movement Control Order in Malaysia, it’s business as usual for the other divisions.

Organic Food Supply

Its Borneo Eco Fish Farm by Bayu Aquaculture Sdn Bhd and Green-Os organic vegetable farm has seen a rise in orders from consumers and restaurants since the pandemic began. The fish farm rears an assortment of fish and prawns, including the Backcross Grouper Fish and the Echo Grouper, a hybrid produced by back-cross of a male giant grouper and a female hybrid grouper. The farm adopts environmentally friendly practices, including chemical and antibiotic-free organic feed, to ensure product quality and safety.

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Green-Os organic vegetables, locally farmed without the use of pesticides or chemicals, is popular for its variety of organic vegetables grown in healthy, fertile soil created by quality compost and organic fertilizer.

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“As a result of the Movement Control Order and a conscious desire to adopt a healthier lifestyle in the midst of this pandemic, we are seeing increasing delivery orders from the public. We are pleased that the public are recognizing the benefits of consuming natural, wholesome produce,” says Gillian Tan, Echo Resorts’ owner representative.

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The supplies are also delivered to Alu Alu Kitchen, the group’s restaurant located in the city, which was opened with a mission to serve fresh, organic seafood and vegetables from the farms. Its talented Head Chef Ah Keong creates nourishing menus inspired by Chinese and Malaysian influences to bring out the fresh tastiness of the produce untainted by chemical fertilizers and obtained from sustainable sources. According to Tan, home orders placed at Alu Alu Kitchen has also increased significantly since February, with some families placing orders for the whole lockdown period.

Alu Alu-Fresh Prawn & Vegetable dish

Marine Ecology Research Centre – Corals, clams and seahorses

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In the absence of visitors, the group’s environmental conservation arm, the award-winning Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC) attached to Gayana Marine Resort, is devoting more time to research and development of its reef regeneration and giant clam propagation programmes, including caring for the Baby Giant Clam nursery. MERC’s successful efforts in the propagation of seven of the world’s giant clams found in Malaysian waters were recognized by the Malaysia Book of Records. The team has also expanded their R&D to include seahorses which have been overly harvested for supposed medicinal values. The recent births from two male seahorses have provided much excitement and encouragement into the behaviour of seahorses with the hope of increasing the seahorse population in the foreseeable future.

Health and Wellness

Reflecting the increasing current global awareness for health, Klinik Gayana and Gayana Pharma from Echo Resorts’ health and wellness division, are registering a higher demand for its supplements and medical services.

Employee Welfare

To keep employees safe and productive in this difficult time, the company has taken concerted action by providing training programmes, educational courses and encouraging voluntary work.

Tan says, “We understand it may take time for travel to return to a semi-normal state and we have decided that this is the perfect time to go back to basics and reinvest in education and training. It has always been our ethos to give back to the local staff, and this is a wonderful opportunity to take them back to school.”

With the temporary closure of Gayana Marine Resort, Bunga Raya Island Resort and Borneo Eagle Resort, 50 hotel employees are deployed to render support to Green-Os (organic vegetable farm), Borneo Eco Fish Farm by Bayu Aquaculture Sdn and Alu Alu Kitchen – aimed at helping them gain a deeper insight into different areas within the group’s approach.

Besides volunteering to man the three resorts during this lockdown period which meant sacrificing time away from their families, employees are also putting their time to good use by making 800 reusable masks for all ECHO staff.

Tan adds,” Employee welfare and wellbeing remain the very core of our business. No employee has been made redundant. These may be trying times, but it has also revealed the tenacity of our people and it has been beautiful seeing everyone rally together to weather this storm.”

As part of its community outreach during this time, Echo Resorts has also contributed towards 2,000 food packs to affected families in need on Pulau Gaya.

 

 

Review: Trader’s Hotel, Kuala Lumpur City Centre

Whether for business or leisure, it doesn’t get any more convenient than a stay at Trader’s Hotel. The luxury five-star hotel boasts stunning views of the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, and is located literally steps away from the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and KLCC Park.

Checked in for a short staycation in one of the hotel’s Executive Twin Towers Rooms. The room was spacious and cosy, with a warm colour scheme of beige and muted gold, and amenities geared towards business travellers such as a large work desk and multiple plug points and sockets. There was also a sofa, large flatscreen TV, mini bar, closet and safe, and a large marble bathroom complete with bathtub.

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We went when the haze was still plaguing Malaysia, so the skies were a bit grey. Still a gorgeous view though – imagine if the background was blue sky!

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The initial plan was to head up to Sky Bar on Level 43, where they have the bar right next to the pool, but they were closed for a private function. We ended up working out at the gym, which was well equipped with various state-of-the-art machines.

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A yoga studio. They also have yoga mats and medicine balls.

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Then it was up to the Executive Lounge for Cocktail Hour! The right side of the lounge, which offered a view of the Twin Towers, was fully occupied, so we settled into a couch in the corner.

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Free flow of beers, wines and mocktails.

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There was a buffet of finger food and light canapes, with items such as fried wantons, cheese / crackers, salad, bread rolls, lamb satay with mint sauce, baked potatoes and chicken shawarma, as well as pastries and cakes. The food was tasty, and we were so full by the end of it we ended up saving our dinner!

 

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The Black Forest cake was awesome – surprisingly light, the cake had a light, airy texture and was not too sweet.

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Walked around Suria KLCC to burn off some calories, but the haze was so bad we decided to just go back to the hotel and stay in. (Above) View from our room at night.

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Breakfast was at the all-day dining restaurant downstairs. The design somehow reminded me of an airport lounge. The space can easily fit a few hundred people. There were different stations offering a variety of cuisine, from Japanese (sushi and miso soup) to Western fare (turkey bacon, beef sausages, ham, hash brown) and Asian food (dimsum, porridge, noodles, etc.)

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Got a sweet tooth? You’ll be delighted with these freshly baked pastries, muffins and sweetmeats!

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Pancakes, waffles and French toast.

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The omelette station produced two beautiful sunny side-ups.

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Food was tasty, but not outstanding.

All in all, a great staycation! If you like convenience, Traders will make a good base for exploring the city. Rooms start from RM480++ per night.

Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50088 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Phone: +603- 2332 9888

 

 

Love Pink? Check Out W Hong Kong’s New Pink Bling Makeover

Fun fact: As a child, I never liked pink because it was always seen as such a ‘girly’ colour and I’ve never been a girly girl lol.

20 years later, still not a girly girl – but I’ve changed my opinion about pink. I see now the appeal – the rosy hue, the soft, pastel-like hue which exudes feelings of fun, coquettishness, warmth and playfulness.

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While the colour has always been associated with something soft and romantic, W Hong Kong is turning that definition on its head – by taking it on with a fresh new interpretation that blends sophistication with style. Collaborating with multi-brand fashion house i.t, the five-star luxury hotel will see its elegantly designed and exquisitely furnished Extreme WOW Suite get a pink bling makeover – courtesy of Korean women’s fashion and beauty brand STYLENANDA! 

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Established in 2004, STYLENANDA has become a household name in Korea. Their collections are recognised for combining feminine styles with eye-striking silhouettes; with a full range of modern chic and edgy apparel, as well as their own cosmetics line.

Instagrammers and pink lovers will absolutely adore the new pop-up theme of the Extreme WOW suite, which has been transformed to include vivid pink hues spanning over the suite’s 2,000 square feet of floor space with double-height ceilings, all frosted with an ultra-chic pink breeze. 

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Be amazed by all the stylized pink embellishments, pose in front of the bombshell all-pink closet, jump into our W signature bed with pink makeover, toast with your besties in the living room filled with our decadent photogenic décor, pamper yourself with beauty treats in the out-of-this-world bathroom with views of the Hong Kong harbor and enjoy the “STYLENANDA PINK HOTEL” guests only amenities.

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Luxuriate in the spacious bathroom that offers panoramic views of the harbour.

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The pink suite will only be available from September 3 to November 30, at HK$38,000 plus 10% service charge per night.

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For enquiries and reservations, call +852 3717 2992, email wreservations.hk@whotels.com or book online for an unforgettable stay.

Located conveniently in the buzzing West Kowloon district, W Hong Kong brings its signature Whatever/Whenever® service philosophy and whimsical sensory experience, with 393 rooms and a stunning view of West Kowloon Harbor, an award winning bliss® spa, cutting edge business facilities and function space, superior recreation facilities, two signature restaurants Sing Yin Cantonese Dining and KITCHEN with an eventful WOOBAR that are all set to tempt the city’s chic set. With the highest outdoor poolside bar in Hong Kong, WET DECK on the 76th floor provides the perfect venue to have corporate assemblies with fellows or clients. More information at https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/hkgwh-w-hong-kong/.

 

Review: Double Tree by Hilton Penang / Exploring Batu Feringghi

Hey guys! DoubleTree by Hilton Penang, the brand’s first DoubleTree resort on the island, has finally opened, and I was privileged to be invited for a media review of the place! 🙂

We took a bus from Hilton KL which departed an hour late because some members of the media had no respect for other people’s time, so it was well in the evening when we finally pulled into the resort’s courtyard.

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Located on the northern shores of Penang near Batu Ferringhi, DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Penang sits on what was once the Hydro Hotel, but has been completely revamped and refurbished. The lobby was wide and spacious, with rattan chairs and cushions to lounge on, Peranakan-inspired tiles and a gorgeous view of the sea. We were then welcomed with their freshly baked, signature warm cookie.

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Adjourning to the Axis Lounge for tea.

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Evening view from lounge balcony. Guests can walk over to a small beach via pedestrian bridge. They do have warning signs about jellyfish though so swim at your own risk.

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Was super tired after the long bus ride and gladly went to freshen up in my room, where I’d be staying for two nights. It was nice, cosy and pretty spacious, with all the amenities you’d expect from a DoubleTree: comfy, fluffy bed, plenty of soft pillows, warm duvet, TV channels aplenty, coffee and tea making facilities, and bathrobes (!)

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I liked the decor of the room which had lots of Peranakan-inspired details – harkening to Penang’s rich culture and heritage, like this tiled wall decoration.

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Welcome chocolates and cookies.

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View from balcony, which faced a housing area and some condos, with a sliver of sea visible on the right.

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Chairs to chill out on. Not in the daytime though as the room seemed to be facing the sun directly during the evening and it was super hot.

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Toilet was clean, although I was expecting a bathtub.

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Crabtree and Evelyn bath products.

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Room 712.

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(Above) children’s pool

When it was dinnertime, we made our way downstairs to the resort’s restaurant, Makan Kitchen.

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Another tribute to Penang’s colourful art and culture scene: street murals.

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Dinner was an interesting showcase of local flavours with a twist. Our starter consisted of lobster bergedil with acar nanas, duck pie tee cup and tandoori salmon roulade on masala kulcha with Indian chutney. My favourite was the duck pie tee, which had a crunchy and crisp pastry skin coupled with succulent, slightly gamey duck on the inside.

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Also enjoyed my oxtail terrine Infused with Chinese Herbal Soup. The rich flavour of the oxtail terrine contrasted nicely with the light, savoury broth.

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For mains, Briyani flavoured polenta cake with Kadai Lamb Shank, Steam Cod fish with signature nyonya turmeric gravy and authentic roasted percik quail with white percik sauce. The percik had a strong gamey taste which I think some people would find unpleasant. The lamb and polenta cake was rich and a little overwhelming, but the fish was nice, tangy and appetising.

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The dessert of Peranakan Cha Cha cheesecake was beautifully presented like a work of art. The cake was not too dense and paired well with all the other elements like candied fruit, white chocolate and spun sugar on the plate.

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I felt like I could walk off the calories after the meal, so a bunch of us went to Batu Feringghi market, about a five minute drive away.

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There’s nothing much to see at the market, unless you’re keen on shopping for knock off goods, bags, cheap clothes, shoes and souvenirs. It reminded me a lot of Petaling Street, down to the foreign vendors.

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A reflexology center called Desire. Not dodgy at all, nope.

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Well at least there were some Instagram-able places to take pictures at 😀

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We ended up sitting at the Starbucks for an hour (drinking coffee… ie more calories lol) before heading back to the resort.

More in the next post! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Won’t Believe This Is A Three Star Hotel – Zabeel House Mini, Dubai

Think 3-star hotel, think basic: a place to lay your head down for the night.

Well, think again.

Newly open in the neighbourhood of Al-Seef on the South bank of Dubai Creek, Zabeel House MINI, Jumeirah seeks to redefine the 3-star hotel experience with its chic design, comfortable lodging and experiences that can rival even more expensive hotels.

Zabeel House Mini exterior

Located close to the charming, historic Dubai Creek, the Al Seef district is the brainchild of Meraas, creators of family, couple and tourist-friendly neighbourhoods across the city, such as Kite Beach, City Walk and BoxPark. That means lots of shops, cafes and pop-ups on the doorstep, blending into the city’s past.

Hop in a taxi at Dubai International Airport and be checking-in 15 minutes later – leaving plenty of time to explore.

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Guests who wish to do so can opt for self check-in, or ask for help from the staffed front desk. While there are no valets or bellboys, there is an underground car park directly beneath the hotel, as well as a large artwork on the ceiling of the lobby spelling out ‘You are welcome’ in Arabic.

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Instead of the dark, hushed tones of some hotel lobbies, Zabeel House is designed with cheerfulness in mind. Like the rest of the hotel, it is quirky, stylish and made for Instagram, with a different story to discover in every corner. Furniture and airy partitions replace walls to delineate spaces that are washed with light.

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When you’re ready to head out, look for bikes at the entrance and take one for a ride around the neighbourhood – for free. Al Fahidi and the Textile Souk – two of Dubai’s historic attractions – are only a short trip away. The nearby Burjuman Metro station means it is an easy ride to other attractions around the city. Alternatively, take an abra across the creek to the Gold Souk. You can also loan instant cameras and return the resulting snaps to a staff member – it might just make the ever-growing display at the lobby.

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For a perfect perk-you-up before heading out, catch the roaming barista serving a special Ethiopian Boon coffee blend.

Zabeel House Mini interiors

The young and young at heart will love the menagerie of arty animals around the hotel. Giraffes remind guests to look at the world from a different perspective, flamingoes to relax in style, and the monkey climbing around the swings that hang from the lobby ceiling are there to encourage guests to embrace their inner child and enjoy the hotel as they wish.

Zabeel House Mini Pocket room bed

After a long day out exploring, retire to one of the hotel’s 150 Pocket Rooms, decked out in soothing white linens and interspersed with bright splashes of fun colours. Every inch of the 23-square meter space has been engineered to ensure a light, roomy experience, reminiscent of a hip city apartment.

The pop-art map of Dubai on the ceiling is perfect for planning your adventures as you lay in bed, while the the ‘suite-pad’ iPad that controls the flatscreen TV and provides an A-Z of Dubai’s attractions. There is a bright red SMEG mini fridge and Nespresso machine in every room.

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Zabeel House Mini Pocket room interiors

An open rail instead of bulky wardrobes, a full length mirror on the back of the sliding bathroom door – everything is space saving and makes the room appear much larger. The towel rail is made from a faceplate of a 1970s amplifier, while the light is held up by a fish hook and hemp rope.

When it comes to food, dining options aplenty. Restaurants C.U offers a mix of Pan Asian and Middle Eastern dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Across the lobby, MishMash offers elevated street food from around the world, and for those who want to get out and explore the neighbourhood, there’s a Grab-N-Go for picking up a perfectly packaged meal.

Zabeel House Mini pool

Relax at the Courtyard, a vast outdoor space where you can lounge with a laptop, coffee or book. The plunge pool is up on the roof with a sunbathing area, bean bags and hanging chairs. There is also a small gym that is open 24-hours a day.

Zabeel House MINI by Jumeirah is the first hotel to open in the Zabeel House by Jumeirah collection. Labelled ‘upscale casual’, the hotel features sharp design and smart service, and are informal in approach with a moderate price point.

Book by 14 June for stays until the end of September at a special rate of AED 280.

zabeelhouse.com