Review: Alila Bangsar – A Zen-Like Oasis in The Heart Of The City

Tucked in a quiet corner of the Brickfields neighbourhood in Kuala Lumpur, Alila Bangsar is a relatively new boutique hotel by Singapore-based luxury hotel and resort chain Alila; the brand’s first in Malaysia. The hotel has been gaining a steady clientele, mainly business folks and couples looking for a chill place to relax within the city, but still close enough to business and entertainment hubs.

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N and I checked in for a weekend staycation, and I was very impressed by the hotel’s distinctive look and design. Modern and zen-like, the lobby on Level 41 was decorated with lots of greenery, and there were floor to ceiling windows which allowed for plenty of sunlight to filter in + offered great views of the surrounding skyline.

We checked into a King Bed Studio Room with Balcony, which was extremely spacious at 38 square metres. The design followed the same vein as the rest of the hotel spaces, with lots of wood, as well as calming, subtle white and beige tones with darker accents.

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Among all the places I’ve stayed at, I think this has got to be my favourite hotel room by far! I’d be happy to come home to a studio apartment like this, to be honest. 🙂

I liked how areas such as the bathroom and the ‘balcony’ (essentially a small living room/work space) were partitioned, but still very open so as to give a sense of added space. Everything was also neatly tucked away, like the fridge and tea/coffee making facilities in the cupboard next to the TV. The warm, ambient lighting added to the overall cosiness.

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A very Instagrammable workspace

 

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Large bathroom with not one but two lighted mirrors!

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I liked the fact that the rain shower and the toilet were separate. No bathtubs since they’re big on being sustainable/environmentally-conscious here. Which means you don’t get the tiny bottles of shampoo and whatnot, but instead refillable pump bottles. They also don’t use plastic bottles, so you pour water from a glass bottle when needed.

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The King-sized bed was so massive I think four thin people could have fit on it! Pillows were soft and fluffy, as was the duvet although it was a tad too warm even when the room temperature was set to 20 degrees. In-room facilities were good too, with many channels to choose from and plenty of plug points for charging, ironing board, weighing scale, laundry bag, bathrobes, etc.

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Guests will find an Alila bag in the room. If you have any items you’d like to leave behind such as clothes, you can put it in the bag and place it into a receptacle/bin on the ground floor. The clothes will then be recycled or donated. The bag can also be purchased for RM35.

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After checking out our room, we made a beeline for the pool, which is located on the 40th floor surrounded by a stunning three-storey atrium. This is one of the hotel’s prettiest spaces, surrounded by loungers and decorative plants to evoke a resort-like vibe, with sky-high views of the neighbourhood. The pool is not covered so you will not be able to swim when it rains (exactly what happened to us after about half an hour in the water).

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Night view.

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Dinner that night was at Botanica + Co, the restaurant downstairs which serves Western and Asian fare. Our order of a seafood pizza was ginormous:  loaded with shrimp, mussel, squid and cheese. Quite tasty.

Unfortunately we did not manage to visit the bars. For those who would like a sip or two, Alila Bangsar has two very nice bars; Pacific Standard on Level 41, and Lido on the rooftop.

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Woke up early the next morning refreshed after a good night’s sleep. Time to hit the gym! The hotel has a small gym. Not exactly state-of-the-art, but adequate, with mostly cardio equipment.

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Okay, we know the real reason we worked out was so we could eat more at breakfast! Morning meals are served at Entier, which doubles as a French semi-fine dining restaurant for lunch and dinner. The chef used to work at a 2-star Michelin restaurant under world-renowned celebrity chef Joel Robuchon, so he has some serious chops.

Entier offers breakfast set meals and a small buffet selection; which I think is great as it reduces wastage.

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Buffet consists of typical breakfast items: cold cuts, pastries and breads with jams, cereal, cookie, salad and fresh fruits.

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Loved the cold cuts ! Especially the smoked duck and the salami.

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N had the Western / Continental set which consisted of scrambled eggs, chicken sausage, beef bacon and potatoes with mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, baked beans and a pancake with strawberry jam. I had the Asian set of congee with fried crullers, mihun goreng, soft boiled egg and chicken dumplings. Tastewise, not particularly impressive but pretty tasty.

All in all, there are a couple of things that I think they could improve on, but it was still a very enjoyable stay. If you’re looking for a calming, resort-like setting that is still close to the city, then Alila Bangsar ticks all the boxes.

What I Liked: Amazing design, contemporary spaces, the whole ‘sustainable’ vibe, very comfortable bed

What I think they can improve on: Service; staff are eager to please but seem a little inexperienced. Also I don’t think this is something they can ‘improve’ on but the lifts are pretty troublesome. There is a lift from the carpark to the ground floor, then one from there to the lobby, and then guests have to take another lift from the lobby to their rooms. So a total of 3 lifts just to get to my car or out of the hotel to the nearby LRT station.

Shuttle services are available to places such as Mid Valley and KL Sentral.

Rooms start from RM430++ per night.

ALILA BANGSAR 

58, Jalan Ang Seng, Brickfields, 50470 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur

Reservations: alilahotels.com/bangsar

 

 

Hotel Review: Staycation @ Sunway Putra Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

I remember Moo scoffing when she first heard of ‘staycations’, saying: “Why stay in a hotel (read: spend money) when you’re like 30 minutes from home?”

But that’s exactly it. Staycations are perfect for when you don’t want to travel too far or jostle with crowds at popular tourist spots, but still want to unwind and get some well-deserved R&R. With the hectic lifestyles we have in the city, god knows we need a bit of TLC.

Since working in the media and bringing the Moo for a couple of these because I’m a sad and lonely person who has no friends , I think she has warmed up to the idea of staycations. So here’s one we went on recently at Sunway Putra Hotel, located within the Sunway Putra integrated development in Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur.

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Moo and I checked into our Club Suite, which was massive. If I had an apartment this large in the city, I can die happy. The living room had a cosy couch and a swivelling chair, while the space between that and the TV was large enough to do a couple of cartwheels in. The interior was modern and contemporary but cosy, with lots of nude shads and warm wood accents. There are two TVS – one in the living room and one in the bedroom, but the former was busted. They did change it once we gave a call to the concierge though.

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For families, there’s a kitchenette and dining area, with a mini fridge stocked with soft drinks (included with the room).

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An equally spacious room. Beds were firm, which I like because it’s better for the back (don’t like those super soft ones that just beg for you to wake up with a sore back and neck), although the sheets weren’t super clean and had some stains.

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Marble bathroom had a shower and amenities, but lacked a tub. The shower area had a bench-like design which is a good feature for the elderly.

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In-room dining menu.

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View from our room, with the Y-shaped confluence being part of the Gombak River.

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The hotel has a well equipped gym as well as an outdoor pool / kids pool with a nice view of the Kuala Lumpur Twin Towers in the distance. Didn’t get to try the pool as it was quite crowded in the evening, but got some workout done in the air conditioned gym.

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Dinner was at the hotel’s all-day dining Coffee House Restaurant, which serves both Western and local fare. Meals are ordered ala-carte and they have some pretty value-for-money sets that aren’t much more expensive than dining at a regular cafe. Moo opted for the grilled salmon which came with a buttercream sauce and vegetables on a bed of potatoes. Portions were a bit small but just right for a small eater.

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I had the soft shell crab carbonara. The soft shell crab was just a tiny sliver lol. Taste wise, tasty but the cream got cloying after awhile. I did like that they had arugula to cut through the creaminess, and the garlic bread was pretty good.

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Since we had the set, it came with dessert – butter cake, fruits and a chocolate tart.

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Breakfast was a busier affair, and there was a large crowd at the buffet. The selection isn’t great but the food is tasty enough. There was the usual breakfast staples like cereals and salad, but do check out their Middle Eastern fare such as hummus, as well as the excellent bread pudding.

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While it’s not located smack in the city centre, Sunway Putra is still a convenient place for travelers, and the price per night is fairly reasonable. The monorail and MRT is within walking distance so you can get to KLCC/Bukit Bintang quickly, and there’s also Sunway Putra Mall which is just downstairs from the hotel.

Rooms start from RM188++.

SUNWAY PUTRA HOTEL 

100, Jalan Putra, Chow Kit, 50350 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur

Reservations: +603 4040 9888

putra.sunwayhotels.com

Disclaimer: I was invited to as a guest to write a review for work. Views here are entirely my own.

Hotel Review: Movenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach Phuket, Thailand

Hey, guys!

I recently had the pleasure of staying at Movenpick Resort and Spa Karon Beach, a leading luxury resort in Phuket, ie Thailand’s largest island. They were kind enough to host me for several nights in exchange for a review (while I ran around the island sniffing out stories for work), so a big thank you, especially to the marcomms team!

PS: Since I’ve already published the hotel review for my magazine, this will be an honest review of my experience in my own style of blog writing + unfettered by print limitations like word count or whatnot. Let’s hop into it! 🙂 

CHECK-IN 

1 Hotel Lobby

Checking in at the lobby, N and I were welcomed by a warm and inviting space – modern with an open layout but with Thai touches. As most of you might already know, Movenpick is a Swiss brand, and the Karon Beach resort prides itself in “Swiss efficiency, with Thai hospitality”. Check in was seamless, and we were given welcome drinks to cool off from the sweltering Thai heat, then shown to our room, which was a short walk away from the lobby.

ROOMS & AMENITIES

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There are various configurations to suit different budgets and needs, from Family Suites to Deluxe and Superior rooms, all furnished in a modern, contemporary style. Despite it being high tourist season, they managed to get us a Plunge Pool Villa (thank you, Ryatt!), which was extremely spacious and cosy.

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I loved that they used lots of wood, from the lanterns to the work desk, walk-in wardrobe and furniture, which really added to the tropical resort vibe. Do note that because there are so many trees and plants within the resort grounds, there are also lots of mosquitoes (!) An electric mozzie repellent device is provided, but I recommend closing the blinds and doors when you’re in the room. The bathroom features a window that you can open and close for privacy, making it perfect for couples and honeymooners (winkwink).

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A bathroom that’s larger than my bedroom at home, lol. Shower aside, there was an extremely large stone/marble tub that could easily fit two people in it, and a closet on the right.

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Luxury shower amenities.

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We also got a welcome basket of tropical fruits, and Movenpick’s signature chocolate cake. PS: If you don’t already know, Movenpick started off as a chocolate company, and they are world renowned for their exquisite chocolates!

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And then of course I made a beeline for the outdoor plunge pool. This became my go-to place throughout the stay – whenever I wasn’t exploring the island, I’d go back and take a dip with a book (yes I brought a book with me into the pool). I think N got tired of having to call me to get out so we can have lunch/dinner or whatever, lol.

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Is this not the life?

DINNER AT ORIENTASIA

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Food options aplenty at Movenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach, most of them facing the beautiful Karon beach front. On our first night, we dined at OrientAsia, which serves authentic Thai and Indian cuisine. Warm shades of red and beige, coupled with low ambient lighting made for an elegant and intimate setup.

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Maybe I’m not looking in the right places, but it’s hard to find good shrimp pakora back in Malaysia. The version here was nicely battered and seasoned, with large, juicy and sizable chunks of fresh shrimp which went well with the mint dip. Despite being deep fried, it was not greasy at all – perfect appetiser!

 

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Stuffed crab shells with a sweet and sour dip was excellent as well.

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Chicken Vindaloo was a tad too oily for my liking.

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The star of the night was the Tom Kha Gai, ie chicken in coconut milk soup. Milky and savoury with a spicy kick, the flavourful broth paired really well with rice. The lemongrass flavour stood out to give it a sour note which was very appetising. The fact that N and I finished it to the last drop is testament as to how delicious it was. 11/10!

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Finishing off the meal on a sweet note, we tucked into a scoop of Movenpick’s signature chocolate ice cream. Just the right amount of sweetness and creaminess to end the night.

BREAKFAST AT EL GAUCHO 

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By night, El Gaucho serves up hearty cuts of steak and grilled items, but they also serve buffet breakfast for resort guests during the day. The restaurant’s outdoor seating offers beautiful views of the beach front, so you can dine with a view.

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Sandy white beaches and swaying palm trees – a scene straight out of a postcard.

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A respectable selection of breakfast items, with local and intercontinental dishes: Salads, fresh fruits, cereal and juices, cold cuts, pastries, and Asian staples of rice and noodles.

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Cheeses and cold cuts.

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Malaysian hotels have to adhere to halal standards, so whenever I’m travelling overseas, I load up on the bacon! PS: I like mine soft rather than crispy. 😛

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FACILITIES

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Movenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach spans a hefty 9 acres, with beautifully landscaped grounds that take luxury resort living to heart. Tropical palm trees line the paved avenues, and there are lovely gardens at every corner, interspersed with buildings featuring traditional thatched roof designs. In total, the resort boasts 362 rooms, suites and villas. It’s also kid-friendly, with facilities such as a Little Birds Club that has a large play area and a range of programmes and recreational activities to keep the little ones entertained.

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The grounds are so massive it takes a good 15 minutes to walk from the lobby to the beach front! Fret not though – they’ve got buggies at the ready to take you where you need to go.

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For those who want to go swimming, the resort has three pools. The main one is near the lobby and comes with a waterslide for the kids and a swim-up poolside bar. The Coconut Grove Pool (pictured above) is exclusively for Villa guests, but it’s also super deep and does not have lifeguards on duty so I’d suggest going only if you’re a strong swimmer (I’m not. lol). Alternatively, you can work out at the well equipped fitness centre next to the lobby, where there is also an area with a pool table.

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Garden Villas. 

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For an indulging experience, head on to their spa for top-to-toe pampering. N and I were ushered into a couple villa for our one-hour full body massage. The couple villa was beautifully furnished, and our skilful and professional therapists were so good at kneading out our tired muscles that we both fell asleep during the treatment.

MOVENPICK CHOCOLATE HOUR! 

 

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A fun signature activity at all of Movenpick’s hotels and resorts is the Movenpick Chocolate Hour, where guests are invited to indulge in a free flow of snacks and chocolates at the lobby. It was just what we needed after our massage. It’s a small gesture, but such a significant one as it shows their brand of warm hospitality.

LIVE MUSIC, DRINKS AND FOOD AT MINT 

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There is no shortage of things to do at night in Phuket, but if you’re not looking to explore, you can wile the night away at MINT, which serves drinks and dishes such as pizza, pasta and snacks. The atmosphere is relaxing, as the resto is located just steps away from the beach and they have a live band playing music.

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One does not simply say no to wood-fired pizza, and they had my favourite – parma ham with arugula. 

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The buffalo wings were nice, but the scallops were overcooked and rubbery.

All in all, we had an awesome time at Movenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach – at times, we didn’t even feel like leaving the resort at all! Ideal for families and leisure travelers alike, it’s a great place to unwind and conveniently located just across the street from one of Phuket’s most beautiful beaches. Service is warm, friendly and personalised, the food is good and there are plenty of top notch facilities to enjoy.

MOVENPICK RESORT & SPA KARON BEACH 

509 Patak Rd, Tambon Karon, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuket 83100, Thailand

Reservations: Website or call +66 76 683 350. 

Prices start at RM440 (USD100) per night.

 

 

 

Hotel Review: Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur

With its grand, sweeping staircases and elegant interiors, Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur has long been considered the grand dame of five star luxury hotels in the city. Having been around for a number of years, the decor was getting dated – so the hotel underwent a multimillion-dollar facelift, with refreshed dining concepts and more rooms.

Weekend getaway, here I come!

The first thing that greets guests upon entering is the grand lobby, complete with sparkling multi-tiered chandeliers, tall cavernous ceilings and elegant decor. The hotel is best known for its wide, sweeping staircases that lead from the ground floor up to the ballrooms, making it a popular venue for weddings and photoshoots.

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N and I checked in to our Club King room, which was not only spacious but offered a beautiful view of the city. Boasting 42 square metres of space and a comfy king-sized bed, the room’s modern interior was well furnished, with hues of beige, gold and grey. There was a small work table and sofa bed by the floor-to-ceiling window, as well as the usual amenities: large-screen TV, tea and coffee making facilities, Wifi, etc.

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A thoughtful little welcome gift that was much appreciated 🙂

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Luxurious bathroom with bathtub and separate shower, lighted makeup mirror, all the works.

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Lunch was at the cheerful all-day dining Essence, which features a good selection of local and international fare. Aside from a cold cuts counter, sushi island and dessert island, the space also hosts a noodle bar where you can customise your own noodles to your liking. Not to be missed is their signature curry laksa, which has a rich, savoury broth with just the right amount of kick to get you sweating, and the chicken satay.

After lunch, you can opt to explore the city, or make use of the myriad of facilities available at the hotel, such as the 24-hour fitness centre, the spa (book in advance to avoid any disappointment, as they tend to be quite full), or the swimming pool with its daybeds, cabanas and gorgeous view of the Kuala Lumpur Tower nearby.

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Tuck into a scrumptious, full-course dinner at Sheraton KL’s Chinese restaurant, the aptly named Celestial Court. The restaurant is currently having a promotion called The Fabulous Big Feast, which offers all-you-can-eat ala carte dining for RM148nett per pax, with a minimum of two persons.

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If you still have space, adjourn to the lounge near the lobby for some drinks and music.

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Night view of the city from our window.

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Morning saw us back at Essence for breakfast, with a slightly different line up which included breakfast fare such as pancakes, sausages and ham, porridge, noodles, pastries and cakes, and roti canai.

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After another dip in the pool and some lazing around in the room, it was time for lunch again (seemed like we were just eating the entire time of our stay, lol) at Villa Danieli, the hotel’s Italian restaurant, which was in a standalone building on its own. I wrote a separate review of the place, so check it out here !

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Ending with a nice warm cup of tea at the Club Lounge before our late check out, we were treated to a beautiful day view of the KL Tower atop Bukit Nanas.

It was certainly a relaxing weekend, filled with lots of delicious food! The service was impeccable and we were left wanting for nothing throughout our stay. Best of all, it’s located in a more quiet part of town, but still offers easy access to the bustling Golden Triangle area via the monorail which is just steps away from the lobby.

SHERATON IMPERIAL KUALA LUMPUR

Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur

Reservations: +603 2717 9900

Website

Review: Hotel Stripes Kuala Lumpur

Tucked along a quiet stretch of Jalan Kamunting and surrounded by heritage buildings, Hotel Stripes Kuala Lumpur is a luxury boutique hotel – ideal for business people and couples who enjoy the convenience of being close to the city centre, minus the chaotic hustle and bustle. I’ve been eyeing to stay there for some time now, and Mother’s Day felt like the perfect reason to splurge on a treat for the Moomins! 🙂

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Parking is limited, but guests can opt for valet parking service for a flat rate of RM10 per night. The hotel’s unique facade features brick fixtures, paired with a classic colonial-style frontage. Wood, as well as a black and gold colour scheme, are dominant themes throughout the hotel, giving guests a sense of warmth and modern elegance.

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Our Deluxe Room came with a comfortable king-sized bed, fluffy pillows and duvet, a sofa and a cosy worktable. There was a large black and white photo of Jalan Kamunting in the 1940s hanging over the bed. I felt it offset the otherwise modern furnishings quite well and lent the space a sense of nostalgia.

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The workstation had a Bible in the drawer, and there was a glass jar with complimentary candy. The candy was the kind one would be familiar with from one’s childhood – traditional suan mei tang (sour plum), coconut sweets in colourful clear plastic wraps, hawthorne flakes – so it was a nice surprise.

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Floor to ceiling windows meant the room was well lit with lots of natural light. I liked how the sink was designed to be outside of the bathroom, which made it more convenient for us to wash up, in addition to saving space.

Shower was pretty spacious, and there was a bench where you can sit – good for the elderly like the Moomins who can’t stand for long periods of time. Rather than shower amenities in tiny plastic bottles, the bathroom had a wall mounted dispenser, which is better for the environment and reduces wastage.

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The TV had a good selection of channels, and there were also a few in-house magazines showcasing the YTL brand of hotels around the world.

Guests will also find must-have amenities that you’d expect from a five-star luxury hotel, such as a safe, bathrobe and slippers and tea and coffee making facilities. The canned drinks in the mini bar are included with your stay, rather than chargeable as it usually is in other hotels.

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Went up to the rooftop to take a dip in the small but beautiful pool, which offers gorgeous views of the Kuala Lumpur Tower. Its a saltwater pool, which is better than chlorine and is purported to have stress-relieving properties. The deck chairs are limited, so I suggest coming in the late afternoon (if it’s not too sunny) to avoid the crowd.

The rooftop also houses a bar called Man Tou (their specialty is – you guessed it – mantou buns) which is open during the night. The Moo wasn’t feeling well in the evening so we decided to just stay in.

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On the same floor is a small but well equipped 24-hour gym accessible by your room card key.

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Chillin’ in my comfy bathrobe

BREAKFAST 

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The next morning, we headed down to breakfast at Brasserie 25, the hotel’s French-style restaurant. The breakfast selection was not extensive, but what they had was fresh and tasty.

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Salad counter had a couple of cold cuts and cheeses.

 

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Baked goods section offered a selection of bread and pastries.

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Typical Western fare like sausage links, cherry tomatoes and hash browns.  Next to these were Asian breakfast favourites such as porridge, samosa, spring rolls and fried noodles.

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French toast, waffles and pancakes, which diners can pair with various jams and condiments.

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Cereal station

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I recommend the hash browns, which were super crunchy and addictive! The mee goreng (fried noodles) was good, as was the poached egg in cream and spinach.

Overall, Hotel Stripes impressed with its warm and friendly service, good facilities and nice little touches (like the free mini bar and the complimentary candy)! If you’re looking for somewhere close to town but away from the flurry of activity, this might be a place to consider for your next staycation.

**I paid RM285++ (final total RM330) for the Deluxe Room, inclusive of breakfast for two. This is the Marriott Member price.

HOTEL STRIPES KUALA LUMPUR 

25, Jalan Kamunting, Chow Kit, 50300 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur

Reservations: +603-2038 0000 or visit stripeskl.com.

 

 

Review: Shangri-La Hotel Singapore – A Night’s Stay At One of The Best Hotels In Asia

With its towering skyscrapers and vibrant lifestyle scene, Singapore is a nice place to visit. Now if only their exchange rate vs the Malaysian ringgit wasn’t so high, I’d go every weekend. 😦

As it is, my last visit was in 2016 for a travel assignment – so it was nice to be back again, even if it was just for a short trip. I stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel Singapore, located close to the Orchard Road shopping district. Founded in 1971, it is one of the country’s oldest hotels, but has managed to keep up with the times with splendid yet classic decor and modern-looking rooms. It has also been consistently voted as one of the best hotels in Asia, with the annual Shangri-La Dialogue being hosted here since 2002.

CHECK IN

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The lobby’s high ceiling and towering pillars evoked a sense of space. Check-in was a breeze, as we were given welcome drinks and were attended to by friendly and professional concierge staff.

ROOM FACILITIES

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My Deluxe Room was located in the Tower Wing, which had a nice view of the surrounding skyscrapers, as well as the swimming pool and parts of the garden below. The room itself is spacious and well furnished, with a comfortable king-sized bed, large screen TV and minibar. The fact that they have a large work desk and also plenty of charging ports (both USB and standard) seemed to indicate that they’re geared towards business travelers – but then again we’re so reliant on our gadgets these days that a couple of ports just won’t cut it. I loved that they had a tall window to let in natural light in the day, and warm, ambient lighting when you need to cosy in at night.

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A Nespresso machine, complimentary water and a well-stocked minibar.

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I know alcohol is fairly common in most if not all five star hotels (that’s why they call it a minibar!) but coming from Muslim-majority Malaysia, it’s still interesting for me to see every time I visit a foreign country.

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I was surprised to find a welcome gift on the table, which was a box of delicious chocolates. I might have finished the entire box by myself lol.

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A space saving wooden dressing table, complete with pop up mirror and a compartment for the hairdryer.

I don’t have a picture of the bathroom, but it was very spacious as well, with a bathtub and a rainshower. Guests will also find the usual luxury amenities such as bathrobes, in-room slippers, shaving kit, toothbrush and toiletries.

IN ROOM DINING 

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Hadn’t had anything to eat since the morning, so I ordered room service. They had an extensive menu offering both local and Western dishes, such as nasi lemak, laksa, pizza, fish and chips, salads, pizza and the like. I opted for a Seafood Marinara Tagliatelle, which was delivered promptly (complete with table setting!) in 30 minutes. They also give you a glass of water and bread rolls with butter.

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Presentation was a little messy, as  sauce was splattered on the sides. Taste wise, the pasta was done al dente but the scallops were overcooked and rubbery. Maybe skip the in room dining and dine in at any of the hotel’s 11 restaurants and bars instead.

Didn’t manage to explore much of the hotel as I had an event to attend and left early the next morning, but they offer many other top notch facilities as well, including a pool, health club, spa, meeting rooms and conference halls, ballrooms for events, and a children’s club.

Prices average from RM1,000 onwards.

SHANGRI-LA HOTEL 

22 Orange Grove Rd,  Singapore 258350

 

Review: Kea Farm Homestay @ Brinchang, Cameron Highlands

N was in town recently, and the fam and I thought it’d be perfect to show him some of our local sights – so we booked a short weekend getaway to Cameron Highlands. It has been five years since my last trip, and boy oh boy has the place changed. Even back then, it was losing its charm because of the huge influx of tourists – but now it’s just super commercialised, the hills have been stripped bare to make way for development (they’ve even got a shopping mall now. Good news for locals, I guess?) and it’s BLOODY HOT IN THE DAYTIME. We talk about going up to CH for some ‘fresh air and greenery’ but it’s no different from being in KL these days. Sigh.

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It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to CH at all – you just have to plan your trip carefully. I suggest going on a weekday to avoid the insane crowds, and you’ll have a lot more time to explore the attractions comfortably. As for accommodation, there are plenty at Ringlet, Tanah Rata and Brinchang, CH’s three main towns. Staples would be Copthorne, Avilion, and if you’ve got money to splurge, one of those fancy English-style cottages – but this time around, we went for an Air BnB; and a pretty unique one at that. It doesn’t even have a proper name other than ‘A Rustic Wooden House on Hillside’ – which is exactly what it is.

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To get to the place, drive through the Kea Farm market and make your way through hilly roads until you reach a cluster of homes at the top of the hill. The rundown-looking wooden house (complete with slanting roof, lol) is situated right at the end of the road, close to the edge of the slope. Don’t be fooled by appearances – despite its deceptively small-looking exterior, the inside is extremely spacious, able to accommodate up to 10 guests at a time.

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We’ve seen pictures of the property from the website, but were still blown away by the interior (the owner, Tony, is an interior designer). Like most traditional village houses, the walls, beams and flooring are all wood, paired with modern touches such as block colour furniture and tasteful paintings. I think a lot of effort has been put into giving the place a ‘vintage’ element, from the display of old household items to the old flip-style light switches.

The living area is also extremely cosy, and the best part for me was the large selection of comics and books stuffed into shelves underneath the seats. Now all I need is a hammock and I won’t even need to go out exploring.

Oh wait, they have one of those too lol.

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The dining area at the front is equally cosy, with a long wooden table and benches to comfortably seat a large party. The glass roof provides plenty of natural light in the day, while at night, a warm glow emanates from the light bulbs, hung from the ceiling in glass jars.

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For those who wish to prep food, the place has a kitchenette with a fridge and microwave, as well as cooking and dining utensils.

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As for rooms, there are three – two on the ground floor and a ‘loft’ accessible via a ladder. The beds are equipped with mosquito netting. You’ll want to use these – I foolishly thought mozzies won’t be active in cold weather, and woke up in the middle of the night itching all over lmao.

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The back room.

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N and I immediately called dibs on the loft, coz it’s something I’ve only seen in Western films and I really wanted to experience sleeping in one. The two queen-sized mattresses up here are soft and comfortable, as are the pillows and comforters which kept us warm and snug throughout the night. There are more books up here if you want to do some bedtime reading.

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Millennials, fret not – the place has WiFi!

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As the sun sets, so does the temperature, plummeting to below 20 degrees. And what better way to warm up than with a hotpot?

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Time to unpack the ingredients we brought up from KL  – simple fare like fried fuchok, noodles, cheese balls and meat balls and pork belly. The veggies and corn we got fresh from the nearby market. Feel free to utilise the portable stove available here to make your hotpot! 🙂

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Evening view from the house.

One thing to note is that sounds carry easily here. Someone talking next door sounds like they’re talking right next to your ear, so you might want to keep it down after dark.

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Before checking out the next morning, we went for a morning walk around the vicinity – only to be greeted by a friendly, enthusiastic doggo. He sprinted up and placed his front paws on my chest, wagging his tail furiously. When I didn’t pet him (didn’t want to wash my hands again) he gave a most heart-wrenching whimper 😦 But then he perked up and decided to give us a ‘tour’ of the village, following us as we made our way around the houses.

The view is beautiful in the morning, especially on one side where you can see a quaint wooden house in the distance which was used as setting in a local film.

Pros

  • Clean, amazing interiors
  • Cosy and spacious
  • Beautiful views
  • Books everywhere
  • WIFI
  • Kitchen facilities

Cons

  • -Far from most attractions, difficult to get to unless you have your own car
  • -Lots of mozzies, make use of mosquito netting
  • -Very poor sound proofing

You can rent Tony’s Kea Farm Homestay for RM300 per night.

Hotel Review: Lanjut Beach & Golf Resort, Kuala Rompin, Pahang

Think weekend getaway, think places like Penang, Malacca, Ipoh or Langkawi.

Kuala Rompin probably wouldn’t be on top of the list –  but this laid back town in Pahang is inherently charming and full of hidden gems. Being close to the sea, river and forest, there are loads of activities to enjoy, and the best thing is that the area is not over commercialised (yet) –  so it’s perfect for a quiet, relaxing family getaway or a couple’s retreat.

Tucked by the beach within the idyllic Kampung Lanjut village is Lanjut Beach & Golf Resort, which opened its doors in July 2018. The 196-room resort boasts a contemporary design, with plenty of facilities and its own 3.5 km private stretch of beach where you can – get this – see dolphins (if you’re extremely lucky) !

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Upon entering, visitors are greeted by an expansive double height lobby and tasteful interior deco that blends the contemporary with traditional Malay elements. Just next to the lobby is Cafe Strada, which carries freshly baked pastries, snacks and coffee. 

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Rooms are set surrounding the main courtyard, which boasts two swimming pools – a half Olympic-sized one for the adults and another one for children, with slides and fun water fixtures. There are a variety of rooms to choose from, such as the spacious Junior Suite or the Superior Twin Room, which comes with connectivity options for families.

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My superior triple room with a pool view came with a double bed and a single bed – ideal for small families or a group of friends. The room was cosy and comfortable, with sleek wood furniture, TV, dressing table and cabinet.

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Welcome chocolates and cakes! + tea and coffee making facilities.

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Toiletries. No tub, but there was a nice shower.

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Tea time! The Anjung Brasserie Coffee House offers a mix of mouthwatering local and international favourites. Our tea time spread consisted of various sandwiches, pastries and finger food. 

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The mini mushroom/chicken pies were deliciously addictive! Food was fresh and tasty.

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After the meal, we were taken on a tour of the facilities. Aside from leisure, Lanjut also caters to business travelers, with meeting rooms and spacious ballrooms that can be set up for anything from weddings to corporate events.

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Take a stroll at the resort’s private beach, which features a unique ‘mirror’ phenomenon at certain times of the day. Reminiscent of the Salar Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia, the sand has a reflective quality at low tide, mirroring the blue sky on its surface. The results are mesmerising, to say the least.  

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Although the beach is not suitable for swimming, beach side activities such as volleyball can be arranged. The manager also told us that on certain days and if you’re very very lucky, you might see dolphins frolicking about in the waters around dawn!

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Come evening, tuck into a scrumptious seafood dinner buffet at Anjung Brasserie and have your fill of fish, shellfish, shrimp, squid and more, fresh off the ice, straight onto the grill/into the wok, and onto your plate. The chef will prepare it to order and in a variety of sauces. There is also beef, chicken wings, sausages and other meats.

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Assortment of pate + cold boiled mussels and shrimp/crabs.

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Had my fill of squid and bamboo clams in black pepper sauce. Seafood was fresh and cooked just right. Clams were very meaty as well.

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Range of pastries and desserts.

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Went to bed stuffed and had a good night’s rest listening to the waves lapping on the shore. 😀

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The next morning we were up bright and early for an excursion to the golf course, where we drove ourselves around in buggies. Golfing enthusiasts will be delighted to know that the resort has an 18-hole par-72 golf course located just steps away from the resort’s accommodation. The wide green is well maintained, with different types of terrain. 

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Caddy showing the member of the group how to swing. Needless to say there was a lot of laughter and a whole lot of thwacking the golf club into the ground.

Even without leaving the resort premises, there are loads of activities to do within Lanjut, such as beach sports, swimming and golfing. A spa and gym is slated to open in 2019. Other fun recreational activities, such as fishing, jungle trekking, firefly watching and clam picking can also be arranged at request. 

Rooms start at RM220+ per night.

LANJUT BEACH & GOLF RESORT

Kampung Lanjut, 26800 Kuala Rompin, Pahang, Malaysia

Tel: (+609) 415 8888 or email infolanjut@pnbcommercial.my

lanjut.my 

*I was invited to review the hotel as part of a media trip for work. Views here are entirely my own.