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LEGOLAND® Malaysia Resort Reopens On October 14, 2021

After ten months, Malaysia finally lifted its interstate travel ban yesterday (11 October). The decision was made in light of the country achieving a 90 pc vaccination rate for its adult population. 

Many are understandably excited at being able to see their families; while others are keen to travel again, even domestically. The recent Langkawi travel bubble — a pilot project for fully vaccinated travellers to visit the island for tourism — was seen as a success, generating some RM24.9 million for the local economy. 

Personally, I’m still a bit cautious about travelling for leisure, because as much as I want to be out and about, I live with my parents and they’re in the vulnerable category. But I understand that achieving COVID-zero is now almost impossible — so the next best thing is to learn to live with the virus. For those who want to travel, I think the best that you can do is to use common sense (which seems to be severely lacking these days!). Wear a mask, sanitise and avoid crowded areas (if you see that a place is crowded, don’t lah go and berpusu-pusu there with no social distancing wtf). 

LEGOLAND Malaysia Resort has SOP signages throughout the theme park to remind guests to stay safe.

Anyway, now that the PSA is over and done with: for those who are headed south, LEGOLAND® Malaysia Resort is slated to reopen on October 14. Legoland Malaysia is the only one of its kind in Asia — so families and fans will be able to enjoy a complete experience encompassing the LEGOLAND Theme Park, Water Park, hotel and SEA LIFE Malaysia once the resort resumes its operations. And even though they haven’t been able to operate for months at a time due to the pandemic, the resort has not been idle: there’s going to be a brand new attraction, called Planet LEGOLAND®. This immersive build experience encourages children and parents alike to unleash their imagination by building, unbuilding and rebuilding the world of their dreams with LEGO® bricks. 

LEGOLAND Malaysia Resort Team member preparing their stations in anticipation of reopening.

As guests arrive at PLANET LEGOLAND®, they will be greeted by a six-foot-wide LEGO globe built out of more than 200,000 bricks. The idea behind it is to envision a future filled with positivity and joy, something that the world needs to ‘rebuild’ following the aftermath of the pandemic. From there, guests are welcome to select one of four different themed stations to create their masterpieces: whether they prefer dragons, princesses, knights, vehicles, animals and creatures, or ninjas. Younger guests with smaller hands are not left out, as there is also a DUPLO® station. Once you’ve got your masterpiece built, snap a selfie with the model and share it using the #RebuildtheWorld, then place your individual models onto the globe! 

LEGOLAND Malaysia Resort team members are trained to sanitize rides between guests.

Returning to Play With Safety in Mind

Like any responsible entity, the resort has health and safety measures in place. At PLANET LEGOLAND, there is a 2-metre distance rule, and the usual safety guidelines apply, such as face masks, the use of hand sanitiser and reduced capacity are enforced. All bricks in the space are also ‘quarantined’ for 72 hours after sanitisation, while build stations are cleaned several times daily. *Of course, PERSONAL responsibility is very important too, so do your part to be a responsible guest!

LEGOLAND Malaysia Resort team members are trained to sanitize rides between guests

Reopening Deals 

Welcoming guests back to the resort are a series of sweet deals. Purchase 4 Triple Park passes and you can get a 2D1N stay at LEGOLAND Hotel for free. The passes will also be eligible for upgrade to an annual pass. Meanwhile, those who already have annual passes can renew them at a 25% discount, so if you’re a family of five, you stand to save up to RM350. 

For more details, visit legoland.com.my. 

Happy travels, and stay safe! 

PS: Like my content? Buy me a cup of coffee on Patreon, or support my Youtube channel. 

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Experience A Hong Kong Christmas, No Matter Where You Are in The World

A couple of weeks ago, the highly anticipated Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble (initially set for November 22) was shelved after a surge of cases in the region – much to the disappointment of many. Some hotels and shopping centres, had, in fact, tailored special holiday experiences – ready to welcome their first leisure travellers after over a year of travel restrictions. 

While that obviously hasn’t worked out, that doesn’t mean Christmas has to be canceled. Hong Kong retailers, businesses and artists alike have banded together to bring an immersive and innovative festive season to people all over the world – using the power of technology.

Take a 360-degree virtual tour of Hong Kong’s festive Central Business District 

Hong Kong’s Christmas celebrations are widely considered to be some of the best in the region, with vibrant Christmas markets, stunning displays, fun activities and more. The Hong Kong WinterFest, an annual fixture organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, has been a major tourist draw each year – and although visitors might not be able to attend physically this year, they can still expect a veritable wonderland through their screens. 

HKTB_2020 Hong Kong WinterFest-medium

Go on a tour of Christmas Town – a snow-kissed virtual CBD based on Hong Kong’s very own Central Business District – which ‘starts’ off at Statue Square, a historic public space in the heart of Central. From there, visitors are free to choose their own adventure: you can learn how to make festive DIY crafts such as aromatic wreaths, ornaments, pop-up holiday cards or candle holders via video tutorials, download holiday-themed Whatsapp stickers designed by famous Hong Kong illustrator like Din Dong, Dustykid and Messy Deck, or tune in to beautiful Christmas carols. If you prefer to just soak in the sights of the CBD’s iconic skyscrapers (which will be all decked out for the holidays), a towering tree and festive Christmas lodges, let Uncle Siu – a popular English educator known for his charming voice – lead you through the innovative 360-degree experience, and make fun, interactive stops along the way. 

The virtual tour of Christmas Town is part of the 2020 Hong Kong Winterfest, which will run until 3 January 2021. 

The world’s first “AI Butterflies Illuminating Interactive Art”

Enter a playground of light at Lee Tung Avenue in Wan Chai, where a seven-metre-tall, stained-glass butterfly and over 350 little LED butterflies have taken up residence. Dubbed “Butterflies of Hope,” it is the world’s first AI-powered butterfly art installation,  created to inspire, uplift and remind visitors of the hope, love, beauty and positivity we have in this world.

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If you are in Hong Kong, afternoon is the best time to visit, as the glass installation refracts natural light onto the ground, painting the boulevard in a myriad of colours. Evenings are a magical affair, with a music-and-light symphony that sees the butterflies taking flight as they ‘dance’ to the sound of music using artificial intelligence.

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The Lee Tung Avenue atrium is also home to a stunning, 12-metre-tall Christmas tree, with some powerful special effects. Combining touchless interactive technology and a special shadow projection technique, the tree projects butterflies onto the clothes of visitors – a feat of art and technology. 

Enjoy the festivities at Lee Tung Avenue until 10 January 2021.

Get lost in the Asia debut of Globoscope, a light showcase from France

K11 MUSEA, a new cultural-retail destination and arts hub on the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade, has turned up the Christmas spirit this year with A Very MUSEA Christmas Village. The village spreads joy and wonderment with a roster of artistic cultural experiences, including the Asia debut of Globoscope.

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Globoscope debuts in Asia at K11 Musea

Created by Collectif Coin, a renowned French art lab, the site-specific immersive light show stretches across the Bohemian Garden, a roof-top open space. A 20-minute private experience can be reserved to enjoy the surreal, sensory light exhibit with family or friends. It’s a sight to behold: Glowing spheres dance and swirl in choreographed light movements, while the dramatic Hong Kong skyline shines in the distance.

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Adding to the festive vibes is K11 MUSEA’s gorgeous Christmas Forest, featuring glistening golden trees in the mall’s atrium. Also not to be missed is a special Santa Muse Parade and a Christmas Market.

Experience A Very MUSEA Christmas Village through 3 January 2021. 

“Christmas Every Day” goes high tech with virtual Santa Meet & Greets

For the past 50 years, Harbour City has marked the holiday seasons with larger-than-life Christmas installations and festive surprises. This year is no different: it’s “Christmas Every Day” celebration once again promises unforgettable holiday memories, complemented by a roster of online experiences. 

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Take a virtual tour of the incredible decorations throughout the mall and “check-in” on social media or share your Christmas wish list with Santa during a virtual Meet & Greet. For the little ones, Harbour City has created an interactive online colouring game, where children can dress up their “Monster Friends” – adorable 3D cartoon characters illustrated by Dutch artist Eva Cremers – and then watch their masterpiece come to life!

The holiday extravaganza continues in person. At the “Christmas Lighting Garden” on the Ocean Terminal Deck, you can wade through a sea of illuminated LED clovers and dandelions and enjoy the “Christmas Lighting & Music Show” every evening with the stunning Hong Kong skyline as a backdrop.

Enjoy Harbour City’s “Christmas Every Day” online and offline experiences until 3 January 2021.

*Photos courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board.

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7 Off-The-Beaten Path Experiences in Selangor

The Malaysian government recently announced that interstate travel is allowed again. After months of isolation, many of us are understandably excited to finally be able to be out and about for leisure. Even so, we should still be vigilant – so here are seven off-the-beaten path experiences you can get in Selangor that are away from the crowds.

LEMON MYRTLE TEA PLANTATION, SEKINCHAN

TEA GARDEN SEKINCHAN 2 by @narztraveldiary
@Narztraveldiary

Lemon myrtle is a flowering plant endemic to Australia, where it is grown in abundance and used to make essential oils and tea. What you probably didn’t know, however, is that Malaysia has its own lemon myrtle plantation. Organic Lemon Myrtle Plantations has been around since 2010, and is touted as the first of its kind outside Australia. It has several nurseries, including one in Sekinchan.

The farm is usually open to the public, but is now indefinitely closed to visitors pending further updates from local tourism bodies and the government. That doesn’t mean you can’t make plans in advance, though: and visitors can expect experiences such a relaxing nap in hammocks, shopping for products made from myrtle tea at their on-site stall, and more, when the plantation reopens to the public.


PS: Prior to closure, the entrance fee was RM3 for adults and RM1 for children below 7 years of age. The plantation is usually open on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from 9am to 5pm. Stay tuned to their social media for more updates.

Address: Lot 16281, Jalan Tali Air 6 Sekinchan,Selangor Darul Ehsan

SEKINCHAN

SEKINCHAN by @marioncaunter
@marioncaunter

Paddy fields are not something city folk get to see very often, which is what makes a visit to Sekinchan a must for day trippers from Kuala Lumpur. Come during the September to November months to admire vast blankets of green as far as the eye can see, or in December for a sea of rippling gold. Learn more about how paddy is planted, harvested and processed at the Paddy Gallery, where you can also buy sacks of rice (pearl, basmathi, brown, you name it, they got it!)

SEKINCHAN PADDY 2 by @Narztraveldiary
@Narztraveldiary

Aside from paddy fields, the enterprising folk of this small agricultural and fishing town have also turned their traditional livelihoods into tourist draws. Stop by Ah Ma House, a quaint wooden shop at the edge of the fields which sells traditional Chinese snacks like biscuits, crackers, snacks and baked goodies the likes of pineapple tarts, kuih kapit and kuih bangkit.

For a detailed guide, check out my blog post on 7 things to do in Sekinchan.

Address: Sekinchan Paddy Fields, Sekinchan, Sabak Bernam, Selangor

THE NATIONAL BOTANIC GARDENS, SHAH ALAM

TAMAN BOTANI NEGARA by @littlemisshappyfeet

You don’t have to travel far for a quick, green respite: just head to Taman Botani Negara Shah Alam (The National Botanic Gardens), a green lung located in the middle of Selangor’s bustling capital. The agro tourism park covers an area of over 817 hectares, part of it designated for leisure, the rest for research.

TAMAN BOTANI NEGARA by @maya_jaafar
@maya_jaafar

Go for a spot of forest bathing underneath the Seraya and Meranti trees which are found in abundance within the reserve, or go hiking along the paved trail to reach Bukit Sapu Tangan(200 metres above sea level), which offers panoramic views of Shah Alam. There are also cactus, orchid and spice gardens to explore, as well as an animal park and fruit gardens. The park’s famous attraction, the four season house, where visitors can experience spring, summer, autumn and winter,is currently closed and will reopen in early 2021.

The entrance fee is RM3 for adults,and RM1 for children (6 to 11 years old) and seniors above 55. Disabled visitors enter for free. Opening hours are from 7.30AM – 4.30PM, Tuesdays to Sundays.

Address: Taman Botani Negara, Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam, 40000 Shah Alam, Selangor

SELANGOR RIVER DAM, HULU SELANGOR

SUNGAI SELANGOR DAM by @ekstagram
@ekstagram

A dam might seem like an unlikely place to visit, but the Sungai Selangor Dam makes for an interesting destination, especially for nature lovers and photographers. The crystal-clear man-made lake is surrounded by picturesque hills, and visitors can also take part in fishing and cycling activities along the way. Night time sees a sky filled with stars, as the area is far from city lights and pollution.

SUNGAI SELANGOR DAM by @ekstagram
@ekstagram

Address: Lookout Point Sungai Selangor Dam, 55, 44000 Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor

PAYA INDAH DISCOVERY WETLANDS, KUALA LANGAT

Paya Indah 4

For those who like peace and quiet, Paya Indah Discovery Wetlands in Kuala Langat makes for the perfect retreat. Filled with trees, large fields and natural plants such as waterlilies, the wetlands are home to over 300 species of animals, and is also a great spot for bird watching.

Paya Indah 3

Family-friendly fun awaits, with various activities such as feeding rhinos, crocodiles and fish in their enclosures, as well as fishing, kayaking, jungle trekking and more. There’s also a Safari Insta Tour: a 45-minute ride on a truck to three scenic locations within the Wetlands, namely the Bamboo Trail, Lake Sendayan and Rumah Melayu, a traditional kampung(village) house on stilts.

Entrance fee is RM35 on weekdays and RM45 on weekends. MyKad holders enjoy a 20% discount. The Paya Indah Discovery Wetlands is open daily from 8.30am – 4.30pm.

Address: KM 4, Jalan Dengkil, Banting, 43800 Dengkil, Selangor

SELANGOR FRUIT VALLEY, KUALA SELANGOR

Selangor Fruits Valley

If you like local fruits, then a trip to Selangor Fruit Valley should be on your list. The agricultural attraction offers many types of local fruits such as rambutan, papaya, starfruit and guava, which you can enjoy for free (it’s included in your entrance fee!). Aside from the fruit orchards, there are also other attractions such as a mini petting zoo, agricultural centre, traditional houses, and deer and kelulut honey farms.

Don’t feel like walking? Hop on a tram service which takes you around the park, no hassle. When you’re thirsty, drop by the coconut stall to quench your thirst with fresh coconut water. Entrance is RM15 for adults and RM10 for seniors (above 60), children (4 – 12 years old) and the disabled.

Address: Selangor Fruits Valley SFV, Rawang, Berjuntai Bestari, Selangor, Malaysia

PULAU KETAM, KLANG

Pulau Ketam 3

Although the name means ‘crab island’, Pulau Ketam is not an actual island; more an amalgamation of homes and buildings built over water. Located off the coast of Port Klang, the place was originally founded by Chinese fishermen in the 1880s and has since become a thriving community. To reach Pulau Ketam, visitors take a ferry (RM14, two-way) or speed boat (RM20 two-way).

Pulau Ketam 1

While the ‘island’ itself is not very big, there are plenty of things to do. Being a fishing village, there are many seafood restaurant where you can take your pick of freshly caught seafood prepared in a variety of ways (salted egg, chilli, kam heong, etc.). Another popular activity is to rent a bike and cycle around the village, which has roads just wide enough for bikes and scooters (there are no cars in the settlement). Aside from colourful murals (a rather recent addition to attract tourists), visitors will also find small but beautiful old Chinese temples and quaint self-built homes made from wood and concrete.

For a more detailed guide, check out my blog post about Things To Do in Pulau Ketam.

Address: Jalan Foreshore, Kawasan 20, 42000 Pelabuhan Klang, Selangor

So there you have it! Which place in Selangor are you looking to travel to next? Remember to always maintain social distancing and adhere to standard operating procedures during your visit.

More information at selangor.travel.

**Photos courtesy of Tourism Selangor.

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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! 🙂

Rosewood Yangon Opens as a Centre of Culture and Style in Myanmar

Since the country’s military rule ended in 2011, Myanmar has seen an unprecedented boom in tourism. Places like Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay are now popular tourist hotspots, and businesses – whether high-end restaurants or luxury hotels – are following suit.

The latest addition to the landscape is Rosewood Yangon, which opened its doors recently in the bustling city of Yangon. Showcasing a fusion of contemporary Burmese style and old-world grandeur, it is housed in one of the grandest and most expansive buildings from the colonial era: the former New Law Courts that were built in 1927. The hotel’s location in the heart of the historic district by the banks of the Irrawaddy River make it the perfect base for traveller’s looking to explore the heritage side of things that the city has to offer.

Rosewood Yangon - Building Exterior Bank Street

Guests arrive at the hotel’s majestic portico, lit by three immense 1920s chandeliers, before stepping through two sets of grand iron-framed doors into the lobby. Above the reception desk, a stunning mural by famed local artist Than Kyaw Htay immediately evokes the charm of Myanmar with sunset-bathed pagodas atop peaks floating over a rugged landscape. Every step throughout the hotel showcases the hotel’s transformation – one that preserves the architectural past while offering the ultimate in contemporary comfort.

A wide range of facilities available under one roof includes five distinctive dining venues; recreational options including a spa, a rooftop infinity pool and a fitness studio; extensive meeting facilities featuring a grand ballroom, bridal suite, event studio, Heritage Salon and three meeting rooms; and a sophisticated retail gallery and barber shop.

Unparalleled Stays

Rosewood Yangon - Rosewood Suite_03

The hotel’s 205 stylishly designed rooms and suites are carefully crafted to highlight the architectural beauty of the building. Along with high ceilings and abundant natural light, most guest rooms feature patios and balconies with view overlooking the city or beautifully landscaped internal courtyards.

The refined Executive Rooms, starting at 45 square meters, are thoughtfully conceived to create comfortable, residential-style living spaces that are equally suited to business and leisure stays. The property’s suite collection boasts the 90-square-meter Rosewood Suite, which includes a separate enclosed bedroom and a spacious terrace that is ideal for afternoon tea or in-room dining experiences.

Rosewood Yangon - Rosewood Suite_01

The Suites have been tastefully decorated using a combination of the old world and the new. Dazzling lacquerware and papier-mâché objets d’art from upcountry Bagan, along with handwoven bed-throws and cushions created by artisans from non-profit Turquoise Mountain, evoke a sense of place. Paintings by Nyein Chan Su lend a contemporary ambience to the elegant guest suites with his bold use of color in semi-abstract compositions. Meanwhile, Pyayt Phyo Aung’s stylized portraits of young Myanmar women wearing traditional thanaka paste on their faces, displayed at guestroom entryways, create a warm and welcoming touch.

High-Concept Dining and Entertainment Experiences

Each of Rosewood Yangon’s five dining venues possesses a distinctive character, with an accent on local producers and seasonality.

Vibrant and fast-paced NOVA European Brasserie features an open kitchen and a huge skylight for natural daylight dining. Seasonal vegetables and herbs are sourced directly from farms in the Shan State of northern Myanmar and fresh seafood comes from the Andaman Sea: at least 70 percent of all ingredients are the bounty from Myanmar’s land and waters.

NOVA Brasserie - Crudo Dessert Bar

The menu boasts European dishes such as Salmon Pastrami and Roasted Porchetta, along with contemporary Burmese fare. A well-balanced wine list with an excellent mix of international labels complements the menu. Conveniently located near the entrance of the restaurant, a crudo bar serves the freshest oysters, seafood and more.

Destined to become a popular Yangon gathering place, Living Room & Patisserie is the perfect venue for a cup of local artisan coffee or premium quality tea paired with chocolates and homemade French desserts, while at CourtRoom Bar, an impressive heritage décor featuring restored dark teak wall paneling creates a luxurious, intimate experience. Here the city’s best whiskey selection takes centre stage, along with bespoke cocktails, a curated selection of fine wines and sophisticated bite-size snacks. The Judge’s Chamber, a separate lounge in CourtRoom Bar, offers a world-class variety of premium cigars amidst faithfully restored wood parquet in a space where the New Law Courts’ judges once deliberated. A large-scale portrait of a cheroot-smoking Pa-O grandmother, painted with acrylic on canvas by Zay Zay Htut, presides over the lounge.

When it opens later this year, the rooftop Y Bar will be the jewel in the crown of the heritage building. The only luxury bar in the city offering a panoramic view over Yangon River, it will undoubtedly become a prestigious evening gathering place for Yangonites, expatriates and international guests – with a live DJ at night and a selection of cocktails inspired by Yangon’s eclectic streets.A Chinese restaurant is also set to open late 2020.

Rich Cultural Experience

To showcase the richness and dynamism of Myanmar culture, Rosewood Yangon has created a suite of bespoke experiences to provide guests with an insider perspective including its “Rosewood Limited Edition” package, available from April 2020.

It consists of a one-of-a-kind arts and history experience in which visitors both preserve and help make history at this turning point of Myanmar opening up to the world. Guests have the exciting opportunity to discuss the Yangon’s preservation efforts with Dr. Thant Myint-U, Myanmar’s leading historian and writer, and founder of the Yangon Heritage Trust, in a rare private audience.

Guests also get a hands-on experience with Delphine de Lorme, artist and co-founder of Yangon Walls, and see how the city’s burgeoning creative community is responding to its modernisation. Together with de Lorne, guests will get the opportunity to rejuvenate Yangon’s back alleys with colourful murals. These and more rich experiences, plus three nights accommodation, are also included.

Relaxation & Recreation

The Fitness Studio offers a complete line of state-of-the-art fitness equipment, available 24 hours a day.  The resident fitness trainer is available for assistance on request. An infinity swimming pool is also located at the rooftop level.

Additional facilities will be opening later this year, including a sophisticated retail gallery offering gifts and collectible souvenir items inspired by the hotel’s rich heritage and the local Burmese culture, while a classic barber shop will offer a premium grooming experience.

When it opens in late 2020, Sense, A Rosewood Spa, Rosewood’s award-wining, signature spa brand, will offer guests a sanctuary of simplicity and purity. Time-honoured Burmese practices will be perceptively customised to guests’ needs, and paired with natural ingredients that are sustainable, carefully cultivated and thoughtfully sourced.

Rosewood Yangon - NOVA Living Room

For Special Occasions

Rosewood Yangon boasts prestigious event spaces, including the Grand Ballroom, the Heritage Salon and the Terrace Suite for hosting exclusive private celebrations. The hotel’s majestic and capacious Grand Ballroom offers one of the most distinguished and elegant event venues in Yangon with its lofty, coffered ceilings and custom-designed crystal chandeliers. A movable partition allows the 1,400-sq.m. ballroom to be divided into two spaces. Meanwhile the Heritage Salon, formerly Parliament’s Chamber of Nationalities (1948-1962), has been meticulously restored and modernized to become, in late 2020, one of the city’s most impressive and unique venues with its double-height ceiling and decorative frieze, renovated to all its past glory.

Introductory offers are available from now until 30 June 2020 and include personal butler services throughout the stay, roundtrip airport transfers and breakfast at NOVA European Brasserie. “Heritage Discovery” with rates starting from USD320, and “Enchanting Yangon” from USD350 for a minimum two-night stay, include selections of hotel signature experiences.

7 Things To Do In Sekinchan – The Rice Bowl Of Selangor, Malaysia

Located on the far northwestern reaches of Selangor, Sekinchan is a small fishing and agricultural town that is perfect for daytrippers from KL. Known for its vast paddy fields, it is also called the Rice Bowl of Selangor. For urban folk, the laidback pace here can be a nice change from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The only way to get here is by car, as public transportation is virtually non-existent. From Kuala Lumpur, Sekinchan is approximately a two-hour drive. Part of the trip is through the expressway, but most of it takes you through small towns, scenic kampung roads and even parts of palm oil plantations. Just be ready with Waze!

Here’s a short guide to things you can do / eat / see in town:

Take Lovely Photos of the Paddy Fields (In season: Sept – Nov)

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You’ll know you’re in Sekinchan when the landscape turns into vast swathes of paddy fields, dotted with concrete buildings (these are swiftlet nests; the locals use them to cultivate birds nest for consumption in Chinese herbal medicine), scarecrows and heavy machinery. The fields are green (pre-harvest) from September to October, which is also the perfect time for photos. Some couples come all the way here just to do their pre-wedding photoshoots (getting their gowns dirty in the mud / dirt notwithstanding). December is harvest season, when the fields turn into lush carpets of gold. Make sure you come at the right season to avoid disappointment !

Visit the Paddy Gallery 

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Sitting among the fields is a large paddy processing plant that also has a couple of shops for tourists. If you think rice is just rice, be prepared to have your eyes opened: they sell all kinds, from long grained basmathi to fluffy Jasmine and chewy brown rice (in smaller packs of two kilos up to gargantuan 20 kilo portions). There is a small ‘museum’ upstairs detailing the paddy processing, but entrance is RM5 which isn’t worth it IMO as all you get are static displays. Aside from rice, you can also get other products such as noodles, belacan, snacks, homemade goods, and more.

 

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Offer Prayers at Nan Tian Temple 

Overlooking the paddy fields is an old Chinese temple dedicated to the Nine Emperor Gods, which are nine deities in Taoist belief. Our visit conicided with the Nine Emperor Gods Festival and there were awnings out front, so I couldn’t capture the exterior – but it looks extremely Chinese, down to the bright yellow/red colour scheme and the curved, tiled roofs topped with dragons.

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2-metre high joss sticks, which will be burnt as an offering to the gods

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An intricately decorated paper (?) tower in front of the main altar, with figures of deities and mythical creatures

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The main prayer hall. The wood columns look pretty old.

Even if you’re not a devotee, come and observe the architecture and the going-ons in the temple – it’s a great insight into the local way of life here.

Get A Dose Of Nostalgia At Ah Ma House

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Close to the edge of the fields you will find Ah Ma House, a bakery-cum-tourist attraction. Step into its interior to be greeted by the smell of freshly baked goodies such as their famous kuih kapit and kuih bahulu, and while you’re munching away, browse through the decor which is filled with items from yesteryears. On display here are items such as antique furniture, cabinets, analog telephones, old sewing machines, black and white TVs, vintage radios, suitcases, and even a replica of a traditional wood-fired kitchen.

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I am old enough to remember the days when we had to adjust the antennas on our TV to get better reception. lol

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Ceramic bowls and tiffin carriers were a common sight in kitchens and dining rooms back in the day, and they were often kept on glass/wooden shelves like these.

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Colourful hand made fans – perfect for cooling yourself down in the sweltering Malaysian heat

 

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Shelves lined with local products you can buy, like belacan, sauces, noodles, snacks, and more. We bought a large packet of fried shrimp crackers for RM8 which we finished in a day, lol.

Lunch Break: Tuck Into Fish Noodles At Old Friend Kopitiam

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Since Sekinchan is also a fishing village and part of it is located by the sea, the place is famed for its fresh seafood. The initial plan was to look for a seafood restaurant, but we ended up at a kopitiam called Old Friend, in the centre of town. This turned out to be a pleasant surprise, as a random order from the noodle stall (handmade noodles with fish slices) was delicious, with soft slices of fish in a spicy, peppery broth paired with al dente noodles (only RM6!)

Address: Old Friend Kopitiam, 158, Jalan Radin, Pekan Sekinchan, 45400 Sekinchan, Selangor

Indulge In Fried Goodies

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We noticed many diners with packets of what seemed to be fried goodies and located the source: a street food vendor just across the road. Business was brisk, with workers frying batches of items in a huge, oil-filled wok. There were fried prawn fritters, nian gao with yam (glutinous rice cake – it’s rare to see it outside of festivals!), sesame balls filled with red bean paste, goreng pisang (banana fritters) and more. We got a bit of everything and it did not disappoint; seasoned well, and not the least bit greasy. Should have gotten more!

Make A Wish At The Sekinchan Wishing Tree

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Done with lunch? Drive away from the town and fields to Pantai Redang, the seaside portion of Sekinchan. There stands a picturesque ‘Wishing Tree’, which was popularised by a Hong Kong TVB drama and now attracts tourists and shutter bugs who come to snap photos and make their own wishes. Just next to the old tree is a small temple where visitors can make a small donation and write their wishes on one of the red ribbons, weighted on both ends with holed coins. Once you’re done, sling it up onto the branches!

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There are many resident kitties and dogs around the area; some are friendly but always approach with caution.

Protip: Relax on one of the wooden swings under the tree and let the gentle rocking motion lull you into a nap.

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The beach itself isn’t pretty, but there are a couple of elevated huts where you can sit down and enjoy the sea breeze.

 

Review: Pontoon @ St Kilda Beach, Melbourne – Best Eggplant Fries Ever!?

Melbourne is widely touted to be one of the world’s most livable cities – and for good reason. Not only does the city play home to a vibrant arts and culture scene, it also has gorgeous nature and sandy beaches just a stone’s throw away from the city centre.

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One of these beautiful spots – also Melbourne’s most popular beach – is St Kilda. A short tram ride away from the CBD, the beach’s deep blue waters are popular with surfers and swimmers, and the beachfront is lined with trendy eateries and chic restaurants. There is, of course, the beach’s iconic pier, and if you’re lucky, you might spot some of the local wildlife like penguins wading around the water at sunset.

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It was late afternoon by the time my friend Stephen and I got to the beach, and many of the shops were closed after lunch service. We ended up at Pontoon, which has an all-day kitchen. Like its namesake (pontoon is a type of small boat), the restaurant boasts a chill ambience with a nautical theme – wooden tables that look like the decks on a boat, hues of blue and yellow, and an outdoor patio where diners can enjoy their food and drink in the sun. Apparently the building where Pontoon is located, which also includes fine dining resto Stokehouse and casual kiosk Paperfish out front, was razed in a fire in 2014 – so the version we’re seeing today is a refreshed design.

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If you’re into drinks, Pontoon offers a wide selection of wines, beers and cocktails. I believe this was a Negroni of some sort – not a big fan of alcohol tbh gasp.

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Stephen’s order of Lamb sausage with fennel compote, charred capsicum sauce and herb salad. Huge and juicy, with a slight char on the outside – what more can one ask for?

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We were there on Steak Wednesday, so I got the 300gm Porterhouse with Chimichurri sauce (20AUD). Good, affordable steak is hard to find in Malaysia, and its even harder to find a place that does it rare just right (they’re either raw or overcooked), so I was glad to be able to enjoy this in Melbourne!

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Perfect degree of doneness, and the chimichurri’s salty, garlicky flavours really helped to accentuate the taste of the meat.

 

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The highlight of the meal was the Chips De Berenjena – eggplant chips and pomegranate molasses served with aioli dip – which Stephen ordered as a snack. I ended up filching most of it. Eggplant chips are easy to make but notoriously difficult to perfect, as they absorb oil and get soggy, but the ones served here were top notch. Crisp on the outside thanks to the light batter, whilst still being moist and soft on the inside. Possibly the best eggplant chips that I’ve ever tasted anywhere!

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Pontoon is located next to Paper Fish, facing the beach front at St Kilda’s Beach.

PONTOON 

30 Jacka Blvd, St Kilda VIC 3182, Australia

Opening hours: 12 PM – 11PM (Mons – Thurs), 12 PM – 12AM (Fri – Sun)

Reservations can be made on pontoonstkildabeach.com.au

Things To Do in Sungai Pelek & Tanjung Sepat, Selangor

Located far away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the small town of Sungai Pelek, some 20 kilometres from the Sepang International Circuit, seems like an unlikely place for tourists. The town, which grew from a Chinese new village (the Chinese-majority settlements set up by the British during the Malayan Emergency, to combat the spread of communism), is often overlooked in favour of the more popular Tanjung Sepat and Bagan Lalang beach nearby – but it’s sleepy backwater vibe, with vintage shop houses and quaint kopitiams – has its own charm. Not to mention a few gems. Here are a few things you can do in the area:

Tuck Into Scrumptious Seafood

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For its size, Sungai Pelek boasts a good selection of seafood restaurants, thanks to its close proximity to the river and sea. It is also more reasonably priced compared to restaurants in Tanjung Sepat, which have jacked up prices because of tourists.

A good place for seafood in town is Cheng Kee Seafood : review here.

Visit A Dragonfruit Farm

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Sg Pelek is home to a number of dragonfruit farms. Not all are open to the public, but a short distance from town is Multi Rich Pitaya, which has a shop within the farm where you can purchase the fruits and their by-products.

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The shop is divided into an indoor / outdoor area. The setup is simple and laid back, and you might be greeted by the owners’ two pet chihuahuas as you walk in. The indoor part carries a selection of juices, distilled essences and enzymes – primarily from dragonfruit, but also other stuff like passion fruit, herbs + honey, and more.

We bought a bottle of dragonfruit enzyme to try. Because of the fermentation process, it has an alcoholic aftertaste  – kind of like wine, minus the bitterness. The owner recommends to drink a small cup each day, mixed with water, which is supposed to promote better health.

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Outside is where they sell the actual fruits, which come in varying sizes and ‘grades’. This section overlooks the vast dragonfruit farm.

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For those of you who have never seen a dragonfruit tree, here’s what they look like!

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Can’t remember the exact figures, but the fruits were pretty cheap.

Trivia: Did you know? If you drink a lot of dragonfruit juice, your pee becomes pink for a period of time! This is because of its rich content of betalains, a type of pigment that has antioxidant properties.

Buy Fresh Longan

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Also within town is Wan Tee Longan farm, which sells longan. Unfortunately during our visit it was not in season, and the owner doesn’t sell dried ones. Don’t let that deter you though – the shop has lots of other things for sale, such as fruits/vegetables, homemade pastes and cookies, and even some souvenirs.

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Gourd-shaped souvenirs + traditional Chinese remedies for cough

Visit A Mushroom Farm

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Drive 15 to 20 minutes away from Sungai Pelek, and you’ll come to Tanjung Sepat, a predominantly Chinese town famed for its fishing industry. There is a mushroom farm close to the coast, complete with mini museum where you can learn more about mushroom cultivation, as well as a spacious shop selling various fungi-related products.

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Buy Birds Nest 

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In Chinese culture, birds nests created by swiftlets (using solidified saliva) are considered a delicacy, and they are eaten for their purported health and beauty benefits. You can buy quality bird’s nest at Kuan Wellness Eco Park, a swiftlet farm-cum-eco tourism attraction. While you can’t enter the buildings where the birds nest, there is a small but informative visitors centre which details how the birds nest industry works, harvesting techniques, types of birds nest, etc. Next to the visitor’s centre is a mini zoo which charges a RM5 entrance fee. It is quite sad though as the facilities aren’t well maintained and the animals are unkempt (during my visit, at least). There is also a collection of vintage automobiles at the park’s entrance. Read a more detailed review here. 

Take A Walk Down Lover’s Bridge

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One of Tanjung Sepat’s most popular attractions is the “Lover’s Bridge”, which stretches around 100 metres out to sea. Parts of the previous bridge were made from wooden planks and had a quaint, rustic charm to it, but it collapsed several years ago. The new one is made entirely from concrete.

Buy Local Produce

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Right in front of the bridge is the Qingren Qiao (Lover’s Bridge in Mandarin Chinese) Local Produce Store, which sells everything from local and imported snacks to dried seafood goods. A section of the store is plastered with photos of famous local/Hong Kong/Chinese celebrities (Simon Yam included) who have paid a visit. Apparently fish maw (above) is a best seller here.

Take A Trip Down Memory Lane

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Just next to the store is a street-cum-outdoor museum, filled with nostalgic paraphernalia. Expect to find everything from old scooters to traditional Chinese wine jars, a sedan chair, flour grinding tools, rubber tapping equipment, shoulder baskets, and more.

The parents, who grew up in small towns, were more than happy to explain most of the items to this city kid lol.

 

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A mural fashioned after the famous Penang original by Ernest Zacharevic.

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Rubber tapping equipment, which the Dad was familiar with because my paternal grandparents used to work on a rubber estate. They’d leave early in the morning, while it was still dark – and it was dangerous because rubber estates were often close to jungles and there would be wild animals like boars, snakes and even tigers. It was a hard time and looking at these items, I feel thankful for their sacrifices to give the next generation a better life.

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Before plumbing, people used potties for their waste, and a waste collector would come by to pick up and dispose of your pee and poop.

Probably unimaginable to most of us urban folk today, but that was how people in my parents’ time lived, and the sad reality is that many poor people in other parts of the world today don’t enjoy the sanitation and hygiene we tend to take for granted.

Feast Your Way Through Lorong 4, Tanjung Sepat’s ‘Wai Sek Gai’ 

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Wai Sek Gai is a Cantonese term that translates to ‘glutton street’. Lorong 4, located within the Tanjung Sepat new village, certainly fits the bill, as the entire stretch (plus a few adjacent streets) features restaurants, eateries and food kiosks. You will find the Tanjung Sepat Pau (Hai Yew Heng) shop here, which is famous for its fluffy buns with various fillings. The mui choy bao (pork bun with preserved vegetables) is a bestseller and runs out fast. Also on this street is Kwo Zha B, which sells local coffee. A more detailed post on what to eat here

Getting To Sungai Pelek / Tanjung Sepat

Public transport is poor, and its remote location far from major cities means that taxis and Grab will be impossible to find. A useful guide on how to get there here. 

Alternatively, Waze to any of the above locations as they are available as destinations on the app.

Happy travels!

If you find this info useful, please support this website by buying me a cup of coffee! 

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