Review: Rest.Pause Rainforest Retreat @ Janda Baik, Pahang

Happy CNY, everyone! The Chinese New Year lasts for 15 days, so I’m not too late with my wishes! 😛

This year’s celebration was a little different. Instead of the usual balik kampung to Ipoh, the fam rented a bungalow in Janda Baik, Pahang for a 3D2N stay. Tucked among hills and greenery about an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur, the area is a popular tourist spot for those who like relaxation and nature.

Our accommodation was called Rest.Pause Rainforest Retreat – and it did not disappoint.

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Built on a hill slope, the house was spacious and beautifully designed, with all the comforts of a modern home, surrounded by lush greenery. There was a nicely kept garden at the back with its own fish pond, as well as a natural stream. There was also a caretaker on hand to take care of all our needs during our stay. He lived in a small but immaculately kept house just next to the main building, and kept the fattest chickens I had ever seen.

(Above) Spacious living room, complete with comfy couches, a large-screen TV and a selection of DVDS to watch. Tall wooden sliding doors opened up to the verandah, allowing for plenty of sunlight to filter in. The place was airy and bright.

 

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The dining area where we had most of our meals was outside on the verandah, affording us scenic views of the garden and surrounding jungle. It was lovely especially in the morning when a mist shrouded the trees and there was a cacophony of chirruping crickets and birds.

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Insert obligatory vain photo here.

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Our welcome drinks of sweet and fragrant pandan water.

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They also prepared a gift basket of snacks; peanuts, instant noodles and Mamee.

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There were four rooms in the bungalow – two on the ground floor, and two upstairs. Ideally, the house should fit a maximum of 15 people – we had 25 ._. They were still really accommodating and even prepared extra mattresses and pillows. Some of us slept in hallways and living rooms.

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View of garden from staircase window.

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One of the rooms upstairs. The setup was basic but comfy. The springy mattress wasn’t good but I slept on a thin one on the floor. Super comfy and cooling!

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Room shared with Moo, Pops and the Bro. I like small spaces and tight corners so you can guess which bed I ‘booked’ immediately upon entering the room. 😀

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The thing I liked most ? THEY HAD A MINI LIBRARY!!!! The bookworm in me shrieked with pleasure when I saw the cupboard of volumes just waiting to be flipped and caressed and devoured (figuratively speaking, of course). There were also some board games on the shelves underneath: UNO blocks, congkak, poker cards, Monopoly, chess.

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Picked up a gem of a book called Shantaram; but it was a long novel so I couldn’t finish it within 3 days. 😦

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Venturing out to explore the garden. Caretaker’s house (right).

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View of the bungalow from the garden.

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Bougainvilleas in bloom.

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Dinner on the first night was hotpot. The place had all the facilities we needed, included cutlery and pots – all we had to do was bring the food. It felt really warm and comforting to enjoy hotpot in the cooling weather!

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Breakfast the next morning was prepared by the caretaker and his wife – simple but tasty fare of fried eggs, sausages, toast and beans.

Janda Baik is close to many tourist spots, including Genting Highlands, Bukit Tinggi, Bentong and a couple of waterfalls. I wanted to stay in and read but the fam was bored so we drove up to Genting Highlands. It was my first time playing slot machines at the casin; it might have been beginner’s luck but I won some money – enough to treat the fam to a good lunch.

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Dinner on our second night was BBQ – the caretaker set up the charcoal and stoves for us on the front porch. The aunties also made a killer lap mei farn (rice with waxed meats).

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Breakfast on our final day was fluffy pancakes with honey and butter – washed down with steaming mugs of coffee and refreshing glasses of orange juice.

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I’d highly recommend Rest.Pause to those who love nature, and those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city without driving too far. The Wifi is pretty wonky, which prompts you to tear your eyes away from the screen for awhile, and reconnect with nature, family and friends (in my case, I still had my nose in a book so, shrug). Everything was provided for – kitchen facilities, entertainment such as books / TV, even mosquito repellents and insect cream – so all you have to bring is yourself and the food. Travel is best by car as there is no public transport in the area. Cycling seems popular but I don’t recommend it as the roads are windy and narrow.

A stay at Rest.Pause costs approximately RM1,000 per night.

Bookings: rest-pause.com

REST.PAUSE RAINFOREST RETREAT 

Lot A293, Sum Sum, Jalan Tanarimba Pine, Tanarimba, 27540 Kampung Janda Baik, Pahang

 

Things To Do At Qing Xing Ling Leisure & Cultural Village, Ipoh : Tickets, Info And More

Hey guys! With the Christmas and New Year holidays approaching, I’m sure everyone’s feeling a little lazy (yours truly included). Just gotta kick my ass into gear and finish all these posts that have piled up 🙂

With that out of the way… here’s a blog on when we went to the Qing Xing Ling Cultural Village in Ipoh!

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This is not my first time here, but on my last visit the place was closed (apparently because of complaints from residents on tourist buses).  These days, there is a limit to the number of visitors allowed per day, and tickets are not sold on the spot (you have to buy them from a shop and collect them before you come), so crowd control measures are in place.

Where To Buy Qing Xing Ling Tickets 

Tickets are sold at a furniture shop called Syarikat Perabot Kota (Address: 164-166, Jalan Sultan Nazrin shah, Taman Sri Rokam, 31350 Ipoh, Perak). The shop is just a few minutes away from the attraction. While you can do walk-ins, it is best to call them in advance (Phone: +605-312 4140) to avoid disappointment. The ticket is priced at RM10.

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The ‘village’ itself is tucked deep within the hills, so you have to go through a housing area to get to the place. Entry is through a small side door where they have living quarters (they even had laundry hanging out to dry, and a pet baby goat in a paddock), but once you emerge, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful sight: a lake and quaint, colourful buildings amidst a backdrop of Ipoh’s emerald green limestone hills. There are also bicycles / tandem bikes / quadricycles that you can rent and ride around the grounds.

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The buildings at the village follow a vintage theme and are designed to look like houses of old, filled with nostalgic paraphernalia. Close to the entrance, we popped into one of these wooden ‘homes’, complete with a living space, bedrooms and a kitchen. Black and white photographs adorn the walls, and there was also a wooden balcony overlooking the lake. You can buy fish food to feed the fish in the pond.

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At the centre of the main courtyard is a God of Prosperity and a Wishing Tree, its branches weighed down by hundreds (if not thousands) of wishes written on red cloth.

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I forgot to mention that N and I were here to take our pre-wedding photos! (coz we couldn’t afford a photographer lol we were hoping to save on some money). We both agreed that it would be more of a fun-day-out-and-good-memories kinda thing, rather than having to dress up, sweat and be cranky and uncomfortable in the sweltering Malaysian heat.

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More vintage setups made to look like old-school photo studios, trinket shops, etc., filled with old machinery and items such as radios and TVs. They even have a (functioning) juke box!

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Climb up the hill to an area called Memory Lane, a whole ‘street’ lined with ‘shops’ that harken back to a nostalgic past. Sandwiched between a natural gorge with limestone cliffs on both sides, this a great place for photos. When we went there was barely anyone so we could take as much time as we wanted. There are lots of mosquitoes though, so if you’re a mozzie-magnet like me, bring some repellent.

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Makeshift cart peddling desserts. These were common in the 1960s to 70s. Note that the cart has wheels, which would have made it easy for the seller to pack up and move it when it was closing time.

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The tranquil lake at Qing Xing Ling exuding Guilin vibes.

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A resident drake preening its feathers under the shadow of an alcove. They also have a couple of geese and turkeys as well.

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Guanyin and other deity statues inside a cave with a natural spring.

 

The weather was muggy but we thoroughly enjoyed our time at Qing Xing Ling – more so because there weren’t that many people, so kudos to the management for good crowd control. The last thing you’d want is for screaming, uncontrollable kids to hog every spot.

QING XING LING LEISURE & CULTURAL VILLAGE

22A, Persiaran Pinggir Rapat 5a, Taman Saikat, 31350 Ipoh, Negeri Perak

Opening hours: 9.30AM – 5PM (Mon – Sat. Closed on Sundays)

FOLLOW ME ON SOCIAL MEDIA 

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Spotting Wild Koalas (And An Emu!) @ Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, Australia

Sitting within the grounds of a 30,000-year-old extinct volcano the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve is home to some of Australia’s most iconic creatures endemic to the region – namely koalas, emus, kangaroos, echidnas, wallabies and more. It was a shame we had to rush our visit to less than 30 minutes (coz we had to arrive back in Melbourne to send off some members of the media to the airport), but even then we were lucky enough to spot not one but TWO types of the unique fauna that roam the reserve.

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Unfortunately the short time we had meant I didn’t manage to get too many pictures. 😦

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As we drove slowly past a section of bush, an eagle-eyed member of the group called out to everyone in the van. “Look, in the bushes.” We craned our necks forward and there, sleeping peacefully on the branch, was our first koala. It looked sooooo fluffy! But while they seem all cute and cuddly, koalas are known to have sharp claws (for climbing trees) and teeth. Another fun fact: koalas are not the brightest; their brains making up just 0.2% of the weight of their body.

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Near the visitor’s centre, there were several more up in the trees – a smaller one, presumably female, and a larger one at the bottom. They weren’t doing much; just lazing up in the trees, but I guess there isn’t much to do except eat, sleep and watch tourists gawk at you all day.

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After a quick sojourn to the souvenir shop, we were all ready to leave – but not before one more surprise. As we drove to the exit, the van slowed down and we saw this guy (or gal?). Emus are the second largest living birds after the ostrich, and like their cousins, can run very fast and have large claws on their feet (I always think of them as modern dinosaurs). We quickly whipped out our phones for a picture, the emu leisurely strolling along the tarmac before ducking out of sight into one of the bushes.

Fun fact: Emus cannot walk backwards.

If you’re planning a visit to the Great Ocean Road, I highly suggest spending more time than we did so you can explore the place more fully. There are various picnic spots and facilities scattered around the park, as well as guided walking tours. Of course, as with any wildlife reserve, observe the rules when interacting with any animals you may encounter.

towerhill.org.au

 

The Secret Garden @ 1 Utama – The Botanical Garden On The Rooftop Of A Mall

It’s been years since they built The Secret Garden – a huge botanical garden on the rooftop of 1 Utama Shopping Centre – and while many are aware of this not-so-hidden secret, there aren’t many people visiting the place. WHY? 

My hypothesis is that our hot and humid Malaysian weather makes it uncomfortable to walk around in, since you start sweating the moment you leave any air-conditioned space. It’s such a shame, when you compare it to the experience of walking through parks overseas in spring or mild summers. But you gotta work with the cards you’re dealt with, I suppose. lol.

That being said, if you’re planning to visit The Secret Garden, try to go up in the evenings when it’s cooler; like how CH and I did when we were at the mall recently:

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Touted to be the largest rooftop garden in Southeast Asia, the garden covers over 2,700 sq metres of space and is home to about 500 species of plants, mostly tropical and cool climate. If you like plants, this is a great place to enjoy the greenery and take photos of beautiful flowers.

  • PS: If you’re a mozzie-attracting person like me, be prepared for bites.
  • PS 2: Not a botanist or avid gardener of any sort, so I won’t be identifying every single plant in this post lol. Enjoy the photos!

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Bunga raya aka the hibiscus, Malaysia’s national flower. Commonly found in red but also in other variants such as the above. Long stem, large petals. The red colour is supposed to symbolise courage, while the five petals represent the Rukun Negara (National Principles) of Belief in God, Loyalty to King & Country, The Supremacy of the Constitution, The Rule of Law, and Courtesy & Morality.

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Dancing-lady orchids, so called because they resemble the figure of women in large flowing gowns. NOW YOU CANT UNSEE IT

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??

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?? 2

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Bougainvillea flowers are known as bunga kertas (paper flowers) in Malay.

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I think this was an English rose. Love the vibrant hue!

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The garden boasts nicely landscaped areas, with shady gazebos and tunnels covered in plants.

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More pretty but unidentified flowers lol

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Look at that breathtaking colour combo. Wow.

So the next time you want to take a break from the shopping at 1 Utama, spend a moment or two at The Secret Garden. Entry is free.

Secret Garden

7th Floor,
1 Utama Shopping Centre
1 Lebuh Bandar Utama
Bandar Utama City Centre
Petaling Jaya
47800, Selangor, Malaysia.

ADMISSION: FREE

Opening hours: 10AM – 10PM, daily

Morning Walk @ Bandar Seri Botani ECO Park, Ipoh

The first night we were in Ipoh for the Chinese New Year, I barely got any sleep. The fam and I were sharing a room and the Pops was performing a solo symphony (of snores). That, and I’m the type that can’t fall asleep easily when it’s not my own bed (no matter how comfy it is).

At 4AM, I finally gave up and tried to catch some shut eye on the couch in the living room. My aunt and uncle got up at 6AM so I had a good hour or so of sleep. Not a good start to the new year lmao.

The plus side? I got this incredible view of the sun rising from behind the limestone hills.

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Since I was up early, the cous asked if I’d like to go for a jog at the nearby Bandar Seri Botani Ecopark. Sun was fully up by the time we got to the place, and despite being a public holiday, there were quite a lot of joggers around. Now that’s dedication to the fitness routine!

The park is managed by the property developer of the residences, but open to the public. I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful and well maintained it was – clean jogging paths, beautiful trees, adequate shade and a lake. They even had a couple of lanterns decorating the trees for CNY.

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Met some doggos. They didn’t have leashes on their collars, so the masters were probably jogging. The dogs were very friendly and a sweet black one even let me pet her.

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GOOD GIRL SILKY COAT SOFT AND FLUFFY

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The jogging path runs around a nice lake with a mirror-like effect. There are fishes that you can feed in it. Fishing, though, is not allowed.

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As we passed by a bridge crossing the lake, I spotted this beautiful tree with pink blooms that looked almost like clusters of sakura. That + the lake view made it look like it was somewhere in Japan or Taiwan.

I waited years for the guy in the red to leave so I could get a clear shot but he wouldn’t so yeah.

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The jogging path covers some 1.5 kilometres. There are also small outdoor gym facilities and playgrounds for the kids.

 

 

Travelogue Yogyakarta: Experiencing the Merapi Lava Jeep Tour

Mother Nature can be both a beautiful and terrible thing – as we witnessed during a recent trip to Mount Merapi, on the borders of Central Java and Yogyakarta in Indonesia. Towering at over 2,930 metres above sea level, it is the most active volcano in Indonesia, and has erupted consistently every few years since the 1500s.

Mount Merapi in 2014
Image via Wikimedia Commons by Crisco 1492
Like most mountains and volcanoes, Merapi is shrouded in legends and mystery, and plays a big part in Javanese mythology. The name is believed to be derived from Javanese Meru – after the mythical mountain of gods in Hinduism, and Api (fire). It holds special significance in the Yogyakartan royal family, with the belief being that there is a spirit world within the mountain ruled by spirit rulers, with a setup that is a direct reflection of the (mortal) royal court.

The volcano, in fact, lies along an axis that runs through Yogyakarta city via the Kraton (sultan’s palace) until it reaches the Southern Ocean. It is therefore seen as sacred, with the spirits of the mountain at Merapi, the Sultan of Yogyakarta as the ruler of the Javanese kingdom, and Nyi Roro Kidul (a sea goddess/deity) as the queen of the Southern Ocean.

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Despite the volcano’s active status, there are many villages scattered on the slopes of the mountain, with settlements as high up as 1,700 metres. Agriculture is a mainstay owing to the rich volcanic soil, but other prominent industries include tourism and the mining of volcanic rocks.

The Merapi Lava Jeep Tour offers visitors an insight into life on Merapi’s slopes. There are several routes to choose from, lasting from an hour to three or more. Tours are conducted on an open top jeep. During our visit, we were a little pressed for time so we opted for the shortest (90 minutes). Before setting off, your driver will hand out masks to protect from the dust and ash along the route. Roads are not paved so expect a bumpy ride!

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The last major eruption on Mount Merapi was in 2010, which claimed hundreds of lives. As we headed to our first stop, our guide pointed out homes that were destroyed and had been left abandoned, reclaimed by nature. It was haunting, and eerie, to say the least.

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The Sisa Hartaku Mini Museum (literally “the remains of my belongings”) has exhibits detailing the destructive power of the volcano. Formerly a home, it was destroyed during the 2010 eruption, and the owner, Riyanto (who managed to escape with his family) , decided to convert the place into a museum.

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The rather macabre exterior features skulls of livestock that were killed during the eruption.

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The ‘living room’ area with a wall clock that was said to have stopped at the moment of the eruption – a reminder of a disaster, frozen in time.

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Cutlery and other household items such as calculators, some of which are partially melted, all covered in a layer of dust and ash.

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Casettes, books, electronics.

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Remains of a melted radio.

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A section of the wall with skulls of small wildlife and photos of the volcano before, during and after the eruption.

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There’s something extremely haunting about seeing the remains in the museum, and the huge impact natural disasters can have on ordinary lives. That being said, I admire the resilient spirit of the people who live on Merapi’s slopes – they accept that this is part and parcel of life on the mountain, and carry on as best as they can. Because for better or worse, this, to them, is home.

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“Disaster is not the end of everything”  

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“Merapi has never broken its promise” – a graffiti showcasing the resilient spirit of people who live here, knowing that it’s not a matter of if, but when. 

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We next made our way to a vantage point, but it was a cloudy day and the volcano was hidden behind thick clouds. We could only see the outline of an imposing, conical shape in the distance.

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From the vantage point, a lava channel that had cut into the earth from the eruption’s flow, forming a deep ravine where no grass grows.

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The Alien Stone was another stop on our Merapi lava tour. The giant chunk of rock was hurled out of the volcano during the 2010 eruption, and the locals believe it bears the features of their late village head, who was also killed in the disaster. The other side of the rock is said to resemble the face of a lion:

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The last stop on our tour was Bunker Kaliaderm, which was built in 2005 as an emergency shelter. The beautiful and calm surroundings is in stark contrast to the terror the place has seen. During a major eruption in 2006, two rescue workers fleeing from the fast-moving pyroclastic flow of ash were trapped within, in up to six feet of boiling hot ash (reaching temperatures of up to 572 degrees Fahrenheit). They suffered horrific deaths; one trapped in a corner, the other in the bathroom was boiled alive, according to our guide.

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Remains of lava that seeped into the bunker.

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Flowers that only grow on Merapi’s slopes.

The Merapi Lava Jeep Tour offers a fascinating insight into the beautiful yet terrible power of mother nature, and I highly suggest going on a more comprehensive tour if time allows.

Jeep rentals start from 350,000 IDR per jeep (RM100 or about USD24).

A guide on how to get to the area here. 

PS: There are not many rest rooms around aside from those at the jeep base camp, so better do all your business before going on the tour!

 

Jogging @ Bukit Jalil Recreational Park, Kuala Lumpur

In a city of asphalt, concrete and steel, it’s always nice to have a green respite.

Lucky for us in the Klang Valley and Kuala Lumpur, we have a number of nice parks to exercise in – like the Bukit Jalil Recreational Park. Located some 20km from the city centre, the 80-hectare park is nicely landscaped, with jogging paths, equipment for exercising, picnic spots and ponds filled with catfish amidst lush greenery. If you’re lucky, you might even run into the small local wildlife, such as monkeys, cranes and monitor lizards!

The Boy and I had been eating like pigs since he arrived in Malaysia, so I thought it would be a good idea to go for a walk at the park one weekend. It was a long holiday so the place was less crowded. The park is huge so there are three different entrances – we parked at the one near the Cavalry Church and Convention Centre.

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There hasn’t been anything new added, although the facilities are still pretty well maintained. Note to first timers – the park is huge and will give you a good work out! Just going up and down the slopes to explore different sections is better than any treadmill lol.

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Pond with some cranes chillin’. The pond is also stocked with catfish, which you can feed with scraps of bread and watch them swarm in a slippery mass ew

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Not to be missed is the Wonders Of The World section, which features mini structures built to look like different parts of the world, such as Holland, UK, Thailand, Iran, China and Japan, to name a few.

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By mid-morning the weather was getting warm so we started our walk back to the car.

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Nice shady avenue of trees. On busier weekends, you can see people playing badminton or practicing sports here.

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Saw some macaques on the bridge while on our way out. Visitors were feeding them, but I wouldn’t recommend this because monkeys are known to be aggressive when they get used to it (Batu Caves is a good example). Also this huge monitor lizard that I almost missed because it was camouflaging well against the dried leaves and branches.

It’s nice that we have such parks to visit and work out in, and it’s free to boot. I should probably come more often 😛

BUKIT JALIL RECREATION PARK 

Jalan 13/155c, Bukit Jalil, 57000 Kuala Lumpur,

Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Open during daylight hours: 7am-8pm

BONUS

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Regained all the calories we burnt by stuffing our faces at the nearby New Chapter by Owl’s Cafe (previous review here). 😀

 

 

Perlis’ Hidden Gem: Jambatan Tuanku Syed Putra, Kuala Perlis

We live in a glorious age, where information is readily available through this thing called Google.

So I was stumped when I couldn’t find ANY info about this place that I went to in Kuala Perlis…apart from a few photos.

No location, no how-to-get-there, no ‘history of bridge’… nothing. That’s when I knew that it’s truly one of those spots that nobody but the locals know about. Ladies and gents: Jambatan Tuanku Syed Putra. 

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Named after the late king (father of the current Raja) the bridge can be accessed via a side road. It spans across the river mouth of Kuala Perlis, connecting one side of the bank to the other.

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First impression: This is a steep-ass bridge.

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You reach the top and there’s a platform where you can chill and take in the sights after the climb.

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Both sides of the river bank were lined with fishing boats. Most were already docked for the night. Our guide mentioned that you can see the hills of Langkawi on one side and Thailand on the other, although I got confused as to which side was which. I think this was the Langkawi side (?)

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Evening is the best time to come: lovely sunset!

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This is a hidden gem that you should try and locate, especially if you’re heading to the Masjid Al Hussain near the seaside area. As mentioned in a previous post, you can’t Google or Waze your way to the exact spot, so the best way to get there is to google Pasaraya Seri Utama Kuala Perlis and ask locals for directions.