Gaharu Tea Valley Agarwood Plantation, Gopeng

How well do you know your own country and its hidden gems? 

At times I feel like I’ve already seen it all. But then I stumble across places that make me question that belief – like the Gaharu Tea Valley Agarwood plantation. I never knew this place existed, and the funny thing is, it was the supposedly less tech-savvy people (ie parents) who suggested the trip after Googling it.

Well done, mom and dad. xD

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Tucked within the sleepy town of Gopeng in Perak, the Gaharu Tea Valley was started in 1992 – which means that the place has been around for more than 24 years! One wonders why they aren’t more popular as a tourist attraction among the public (they probably need more marketing!), but the place has had many celebrity guest visits, including from HK stars and local ministers/politicians. Spread across 300 acres, the plantation has over 200,000 agarwood (Gaharu) trees, which are prized for their medicinal and aesthetic properties.

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Since the plantation is huge, vans will shuttle visitors back and forth from various checkpoints. While waiting for our ride, we stopped by at the ‘base’ where they have a shop selling all sorts of Gaharu products, most notably tea. The brand is called HOGA, which is short for Holistic, Original, Genuine, Authentic tea.

Unlike conventional tea leaves, gaharu tea is made from different parts of the tree, which gives it a woody,fruity taste with herbal overtones. It’s meant to be drunk in the form it is served, without added sugar. The cold samples they provided were very refreshing and cooling on the throat – perfect for a hot summer’s day.

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The tea is said to have various health benefits, such as detoxification, strengthening the kidney and liver, reducing insomnia and stabilising blood pressure. It can be pricey though (upwards of RM200+ for a medium-sized box). They also have other products like flavoured ramen and recipe sachets (bak kut teh, herbal soup).

20161001_102201 Our comfy air conditioned van arrived and took us up to the first checkpoint – a small building/gazebo perched on top of a hill. The vantage point offered us a beautiful view of the valley below, covered in gaharu trees for miles as far as the eye can see,  with deep rolling green hills beyond the horizon.

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Interesting fact about gaharu trees: in its natural state, it’s just a random light and pale-coloured tree – but once it gets infected by a type of mould, it turns into a very dense, dark and resin-embedded heartwood with a distinct fragrance often used for incense and perfumes. At the plantation, according to the guides, they have to go about ‘injuring’ the trees so they can be exposed to the mould.

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Moving on to the next checkpoint, we came to a small garden lined with gaharu trees, painted over with animal murals. Good for selfie enthusiasts out there. There was also a murky pond with stingrays (but we couldn’t see anything coz it was too dirty), an enclosure with a few tortoises, and a flower patch.

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The last checkpoint is a quaint garden with a pond. To get to it, visitors pass through a staircase overhung with colourful painted bottles. Another great selfie spot! 20161001_110248-tile

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Statues of the 12 Chinese animal zodiac.

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And a huge old tree in the middle of the courtyard.

Gaharu Tea Valley is a great place to visit if you’re doing a tour of Gopeng/Ipoh and its vicinity. The tour shouldn’t take more than 1h30m, since there isn’t much to do other than take pictures, look at the scenery and learn a little about the gaharu plant. Entry is free, but the guided van tour is RM10 for adults and RM5 per child, which is reasonable + you get to see a side of Perak beyond the usual touristy spots. However, bear in mind that it isn’t very Westerner-friendly since the guides speak mostly Chinese/Malay and there aren’t many English signs.

GAHARU TEA VALLEY 

Mukim Teja, Kampung Sungai Itek
9840 Jalan Gopeng,
31600 Gopeng, Malaysia
Phone: +6053511999
Open: 9am – 6pm

 

Light Sensation @ MAEPS Serdang – 30,000 LED Roses

 

So yesterday, Evelyn and I were on our way home after food/movie/shopping at IOI City Mall in Putrajaya when we saw a big Ferris wheel on a dark field, peppered with sparkling lights. Thinking it was a fun fair, we randomly decided to make a U-turn and go check it out. Turns out it was the Light Sensation event happening at MAEPS Serdang, which has been extended to Oct 1 from its initial run of Sept 7 – 17. On the first day, they broke a Guinness World Record of ‘Most LED Lights lit in a Relay’, totalling 30,000 LED white ‘roses’, done in the shape of a hibiscus.

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Honest opinion? The whole event is a tourist trap, lol. But since we were already there, we thought to hell with it and paid the parking fee of RM5 and RM20 (!) for the ticket. You can’t drive your car all the way to the venue because MAEPS is pretty big, so there are shuttle buses to ferry visitors from the carpark. I think visitor count has dropped drastically from its early run, but it was still pretty packed on the bus (which came on time and were fairly regular).

Once at the fest site, there were ushers to guide us where to go. You can also get pre-sale tickets at 7-11 for RM16. 

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It was a short walk to the field of roses, and the view was quite lovely. Organizers said they chose all white to symbolize ‘purity’, ‘love’ and ‘hope’.

I got a lot of grass blades on my leggings and they itched like mad lol.

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The night wasn’t that hot but I was sweating profusely by the time we made our way around the field. Because it was dark, it was hard to take pictures without flash. Observing the visitors, I noticed that there was always a designated ‘lighting’ person to provide flash from their smartphones so that the pix would turn out nicer, haha! :p The place was also popular with couples who sat on the grass admiring the views.

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My phone cam was pretty shit, so.. sorry. Pix weren’t that nice. Also we were running low on batt after a long day out.

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Best place for lighting was actually near the Ferris Wheel. You have to pay a separate fee to get on the ride.

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There are tents overlooking the field where you can buy food/drinks and chill around. Over the hill is an observation tower, a couple of other props for taking pictures (a wall with ‘I Love You’ in different languages), as well as food trucks selling extremely overpriced snacks.

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Is Light Sensation worth the entry price? Not really, but if you like this sort of thing, then by all means. It’s a nice place for couples to paktor, definitely.

http://www.lightsensation.com.my

 

6 Things to Do at Pulau Ketam, Malaysia

Just off the coast of Port Klang in Selangor lies a fishing village called Pulau Ketam, or Crab Island. It was founded by Chinese fishermen of the Teochew and Hokkien clans, who settled in the area as far back as the 1880s. Today,visitors to Pulau Ketam will find a thriving community of floating villages, with well-paved roads and houses on stilts, community centers, hotels, restaurants and more.

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Fishing was, and still is, a major source of income for the fishermen of Pulau Ketam – but they also supplement it with tourist dollars. Locals flock to the place for day tours and to tuck into fresh seafood.

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Visitors depart from the Port Klang jetty via ferry, which costs RM7 per pax. The ferries are small and air-conditioned, though it can get stuffy in there after some time. The ride takes less than an hour.

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Things To Do

1 ) Crab spotting 

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Once on the island, visitors are greeted by….you guessed it – tiny crabs! They crawl by the hundreds across the muddy ground, which is exposed during low tide. Houses and walkways are built on stilts so that water does not reach them in high tide.

A good spot to watch these little critters scurry about is from the pier. Sometimes the local dogs will climb down into the mud, frolicking about in packs as they hunt for crabs. The crabs are non-edible for humans though.

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2) Tuck into scrumptious seafood 

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One does not simply come to Pulau Ketam and miss out on a seafood lunch! Upon exiting from the pier, visitors tend to flock to the main restaurant facing the waterfront. When you’re disembarking with dozens of other hungry passengers, this can turn into a battle to get your orders in first; so we decided to walk a bit further in to a less crowded place called Restoran Po Seng.

Here, the friendly lady boss introduced some of their signature dishes, which included fried squid with and flower crabs. The squid did not disappoint – crunchy and well-seasoned, fresh and great with the chilli dip.

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Being used to eating mud crabs, we were initially skeptical about ordering flower crabs, because they have less ‘meat’ (flower crabs die once they leave the water, unlike mud crabs) – but the lady boss said these were special ones reared in tanks. So we got a plate: 1kg yields about 3-4 medium sized crabs – and were pleasantly surprised at how meaty they were.

Steamed with ginger and red chillies, the clear broth was packed with the flavour of crab, albeit a little spicy. Crab itself was fresh, and because they were small, the shell was easier to crack open for easy eating.

My favourite part of the crab is the head. The creamy roe is heavenly. brainnns.

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There was a tiny mistake with my order of bamboo clams. Wanted them curried but they came in a Kam Heong style. The resto changed it for me, but it was obvious they re-used the kam heong instead of recooking it – so the result was a kamheong with curry flavour lol. Taste was decent, and the clams were humongous.

Meals can be pricey since it is a tourist place after all, but the lunch was below RM100 which was reasonable for us.

3) Rent a bike 

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Now that we’re all fed and watered, time to go explore! Visitors can rent a bike, which is the main mode of transport around the village – either electric or the regular pedal-types. Roads are narrow so be careful not to bump into anyone or fall off the walkway!

4) Visit landmarks 

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The island is made up of some 1,000 houses with 6,000 villagers, and features a few landmarks. For Pokemon Go hunters, most of these spots are Pokestops and gyms, so you can kill two birds with one stone – sightsee and catch Pokemons at the same time. Yes, I am part of the zombie-clan currently playing Pokemon. 

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An archway, commemorating the birthday of the Selangor Sultan.

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Pulau Ketam has its own small but quaint looking police station.

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The main area houses a Taoist temple with a grand-looking archway topped with lotus flowers.

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5) Snack and souvenir hunt 

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As you explore the ‘commercial’ area, you’ll be beset by shops selling snacks and souvenirs on both sides. The smell of seafood-related snacks (oyster pancakes, fried prawn crullers, etc) wafted to our nostrils, stirring our appetites (nevermind that we just had lunch!). One can also find loads of snacks and souvenirs to take home.

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Dried fish, crunchy snacks, pickled items, etc.

6) Explore the streets 

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It is refreshing to see the laid-back pace of life and neighbourly spirit in small communities.Unlike in cities where we’d never imagine not locking our apartments, almost every house here had their doors wide open. And while some homes had small compounds, none had the tall steel gates characteristic of city terrace homes.

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Most homes are made from wood, or a combination of concrete and wood.

One thing to note though – Pulau Ketam has no plumbing system, so waste goes straight into the water. While the roads are clean and well-paved, the same can’t be said of the area underneath, which is often clogged with garbage and waste. If you’re easily grossed out, don’t look down.

Getting There 

From the Port Klang Southport jetty, take a ferry which departs roughly every 30 minutes. Last ferry is at 5.30pm on weekdays and 6pm on weekends.

**Bring some sunscreen + a hat because it gets crazy hot.

 

 

Genting Strawberry Leisure Farm, Malaysia – Pluck Your Own Strawberries !

It has been a chill and relaxing weekend at Genting Highlands – time to head home! Our last stop was Strawberry Leisure Farm, located at Gohtong Jaya at the foot of the hills. The weather is not as cooling as up in the mountains, but flowers and strawberries still thrive in this spacious garden.

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Entrance to the gardens is RM8 for adults.

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We were greeted by rows upon rows of strawberry plants. Unlike the commercial farms in Cameron Highlands, which have been swarmed with tourists and plucked to death, the plants here are healthy with a good amount of juicy strawberries. Course, you have to pay extra to go in and pluck them. They did allow me to take some pictures from the side though.

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Random: did you know that there are ‘Ichigo’ or white strawberries in Japan? They are completely white as they don’t get sunlight, and are said to be very sweet and juicy. One piece can cost over 1,000 Yen (USD10)  and upwards per piece! The priciest strawberry is the Bijen Hime (Beautiful Princess), costing a whopping 500USD and weighing up to 100gms.

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If you’re not into pickin your own fruits, the place sells them nicely packaged in plastic boxes. They do look tantalizing..

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Some parts of the garden are closed to the public, presumably to allow the strawberries time to grow / for their own harvesting purposes.

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Strawberries aren’t the only thing you’ll find here – they also have flower gardens housing roses, lavenders, and many more. We head through a shady tunnel draped in tendrils and pretty shrubbery.

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The upper deck was filled with these purple dandelion-like blooms. Unfortunately, there were no labels and being a city girl, I wasn’t familiar with many of these flowers lol. I’ll regale you with some pictures instead ! 🙂

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Purple lavender patches

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Nicely landscaped. The purple + white and green contrasted really nicely.

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Roses. The weather was warm though so they looked kind of wilted.

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We weren’t expecting the gardens to be so big. Spent an hour or more exploring the place. Lots of nice flowers everywhere – great for pictures!

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A very odd piece of furniture, but I’d totally have this in my garden just for a laugh.

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These orchids are called ‘dancing ladies’. Do you see the resemblance? Apparently they look like women in a dress with flaring sleeves, like a traditional Spanish flamenco costume.

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Large white orchids. They looked healthy and well-cared for.

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The Strawberry Farm is well-worth the RM8 we paid. From the outside it looks small but there is more than meets the eye. They also have souvenir shops, cafes where you can enjoy strawberry-based products such as tea/jam/ice-cream (albeit overpriced) and more.

GENTING STRAWBERRY FARM 

No. 1, Lot 3707, Jalan Jati 2, Bandar Gohtong Jaya,
Genting Highlands, 69000 Genting Highlands, Pahang, Malaysia
Business hours: 9AM – 6.30PM (Daily)

8th Putrajaya Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

 

Every year around March, the skies of the Malaysian administrative capital Putrajaya lights up with colourful sights as visitors usher in the Putrajaya Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. Held for the 8th year running, the festival has more than just balloons  – turning the city into a three-day long festival hub with loads of activities, food stalls, bazaars, performances and more. This year, they had 20 balloons, including quirky ones like Mr Zee the Zebra, Bobo the Happy Lobster and the Yellow Jacket Bee, flown by 14 pilots from all over the world.

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I covered the event as a member of the media on the last day of the festival. The place was already packed by 10am, despite the sweltering heat. It’s been really hot in Peninsula Malaysia these past few days due to a heat wave.

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Our booth was at the Red Zone, smack in the middle of everything. There was a section called Wonderful Indonesia: Pop of Paradise which showcased all things Indonesian, from dance to cultural performances, Indonesian food like Ayam Penyet (fried chicken), bakmie (chicken noodles) and more.

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Since it was afternoon, most of the balloons had been let down (they float them up twice a day: early morning and late evening), but there were still a few on for show. Visitors can also go on tethered rides for a fee.

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I received a complimentary pass into the Cold Inflation area, where visitors can walk inside an inflated balloon. We had to take off our shoes, but the ground underneath the thin balloon was gravelly and full of pebbles, so it hurt my feet ._. The balloon looked old and faded.. not as pretty as they put in promotional materials. Still, a nice place for selfies and whatnot.

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There were many activities for the kids, whether fun or more adventurous – like rock climbing, archery, plastic rodeo, and zorbing.

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Inflatable playgrounds. If only the weather wasn’t so hot…

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Over at the bazaar area, stalls sold everything from dreamcatchers to toys, fabric, clothing, accessories and more.

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Of course, no festival would be complete without food, and there were loads of them at the PHABF. The smell of some just had me salivating.

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Roast meats fresh off the charcoal grill.

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A pirated version of Starbucks. They’re even called Pirate Coffee 😛

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A visitor playing with bubbles. She looks so happy 🙂

The fiesta was fun, but I wish the weather had been better because it was really hot – can’t be good for the kids.  Now that it’s over, we’ll have to wait a whole year for the next installment, but hopefully it will be bigger and better.

Lost World of Tambun Hot Springs & Spa by Night

My parents hail from the state of Perak in Malaysia, which is famous for its beautiful limestone hills. Every year while driving back, I’d marvel at the sight of these majestic wonders, shaped over millions and millions of years. Some of the oldest are around 400mil years old (!!!).

But while my trips to Perak have always been to visit relatives, I’ve rarely gone on a holiday there: simply because not much has been done to promote its tourism until recently. Recently on a media tour, I got to experience one of these hidden gems – The Lost World of Tambun, a 10-minute drive from Perak’s administrative/city center, Ipoh.

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A theme park cum night spa/hot spring by night, Lost World is surrounded by ancient hills and lush greenery. Done to resemble ruins of an old temple, the place was officially opened in 2004 and is the only theme park in Southeast Asia that also has hot springs.

Our visit this time was to cover the launching of new additions to the lineup: the second phase of their hot spring and spa facilities.

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A 2 1/2 hour ride from Kuala Lumpur later, we checked in to our hotel. The room (Exotic) was spacious, with two fluffy beds and basic amenities such as Wifi, coffee and tea making facilities, TV, desk, dryer, safe, etc. The TV only had like five channels, but I don’t think anyone would wanna stay in the room when there’s a whole lot of fun to be had at the theme park, right? The shower’s heater wasn’t working, but since we had already settled in we didn’t want to change rooms.

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After a quick rest, we walked across from our hotel to the theme park. Guests were given special wristbands for entry.

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An invited Indonesian band serenaded visitors with chill tunes, amidst a backdrop of the hills and the park’s manmade beach. A pretty picture, to say the least.

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Just next to the entrance is ‘Ipoh Street’, a row of food stalls done to look like Ipoh’s colonial shophouses. Ipoh was a former mining town which grew into a city, and is now the hub of Perak state. During British occupation of Malaya in the 1800s to 1900s, many Chinese immigrants settled here and took up jobs tin mining, opening up businesses and rubber tapping. This culture and history is reflected in the Ipoh of today.

We were given free reign to grab food at the stalls, since the place had been closed for invited guests only. Yay!

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We found a seat under a gazebo in a shallow pool. It felt like a pool bar. Interesting experience, to eat while soaking your feet 😛

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Dinner – chicken siewmai (dumplings), which was freshly steamed and super yummy, but we kept having to go back to the stall coz the lady refused to give us more than two each time >->. Also had rojak, a mixed fruit and vege salad in thick shrimp paste, and curry mee. There was a long line for noodles as that was the only ‘main’ meal, all the others were snacks. Malaysians being Malaysians, we have to get our carbs in.

My favourite was the mutton soup, which was peppery and filled with chunks of fatty mutton.

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The launch gambit included a fire breathing show by the resident theme park performers, Flaming Percussions. To the beat of tribal drums, the two fire breathers had us gasping in awe as they sprayed fire from their lips and even swallowed flaming sticks!

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And then it was on to try out the hot springs! 😀 Both H and I were happy kids.

With a total of 15 attractions (13 pools, three private huts and a Crystal Spa), the place generates a whopping 3.3mil litres of natural geothermal water everyday. The springs are scattered across the area and some are hidden so be sure to check them all out (we missed a few :(…) 

(Above) Saphira’s Lair is a family-friendly, shallow spring with beautiful coloured lights, giving it an appearance of a disco-esque pool. The effect was lovely. Temperature here was about 40, which was just right to soak, while all around the pool were high powered jets of water for a massaging effect.

The last time I was at a hot springs was when I was a kid, and I didn’t even get to go in.. so I guess this was my ‘first time’. Easing myself into the hot water and feeling it wash over my body, I could literally FEEL my tired muscles un-knotting themselves. Wow. Should really go for a soak more often!

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The new phase of the hot springs was unveiled to be a 25ft waterfall which seemed to cascade from the mountains itself. At the foot of this fall were smaller Jacuzzi pools with gemstone names like Amethyst and Sapphire. Lights changed colour, lighting up the pools from below to create a relaxing glow.

Caution: The water here is friggin hot. Like, cook-an-egg kinda hot. The highest was 45C and both H&I only succeeded in getting it up to our knees.. and we saw this Auntie just plunge into it like nothing .__.”

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The Emerald Lagoon area was my favourite. The water temperature is similar to what you get in a hot bath – not scorching, but very soothing/relaxing. The tiles were teal blue, creating a beautiful visual as different coloured lights sparkled around the place. There were private huts surrounding the pool, which you can rent for a fee. I think we soaked in this for well over 40mins!

We also tried Saphira’s Twister, a slide which goes right into a pool of cool water surrounded by a hot spring. Other attractions include a foot reflexology pool, Crystal Pool, Infinity Pool, and more. We missed the Crystal Spa D: where guests can enjoy aromatherapy and traditional massages. Maybe next time.

All in all, I enjoyed my visit to the Hot Springs and Spa tremendously. The springs are beautiful and clean, everything is well kept and maintained, and there’s nothing more relaxing than soaking in a hot jacuzzi after a long day travelling.

Entry is RM22.08, available walk-in and online.

More details at: http://sunwaylostworldoftambun.com/product/lost-world-hot-springs-spa-by-night/

Operating hours: 6pm – 11pm (closedo on Tuesdays)

LOST WORLD OF TAMBUN HOT SPRINGS AND SPA BY NIGHT

No.1, Persiaran Lagun Sunway 1, Sunway City Ipoh,
31150 Ipoh, Perak Darul Ridzuan,
Malaysia

Theme park tel: +605 542 8888
Hotel tel: +605- 540 8888
Email: lostworldoftambun@sunway.com.my

 

 

 

Picnic Grove, Tagaytay, Philippines

After the heat, dust and pollution of Manila, Tagaytay was a nice (and much needed!) change of weather and scenery. Located high up in the mountains with cool and breezy weather, this beautiful mountain town in Cavite is a popular getaway for tourists.

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We visited Picnic Grove, a park-like area which is perfect for – what else – picnics! It’s also a good vantage point to catch magnificent views of the Taal Lake and Volcano. We decided to explore the place in the morning, since it was just across the road from our hotel. Entry was PHP50.

Surrounded by lush green, the air was crisp and fresh, and I breathed in deeply to my heart’s content. After the smog and smoke in Manila, this was heaven-sent.

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The observation platform, lined with fir trees.

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Taal Lake from the viewing deck. The lake is the third largest in the Philippines and is home to the Taal Volcano, an active volcano with a record of 33 eruptions. Although picturesque, it is one of the deadlier volcanoes in the region due to its activity and proximity to inhabited areas. Tourists can take a boat ride to visit it but the areas near the volcano are fenced off, since the waters are boiling hot and have high sulfur content.

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I think the volcano looks like a donut, since it has a lake inside it. It’s height is a mere 310m above water, making it one of the lowest in the world.

One of its worst eruptions was recorded in 1911, which claimed over a thousand lives. Looking at how peaceful and calm it was, I thought about how Mother Nature could be both breathtakingly beautiful and mercilessly cruel at the same time. Makes you wonder about how small mankind is against such immense power. 20160208_082402-tile

The Grove is divided into two sections; one where the observation deck is and the other where the actual picnic grove with huts and facilities are located. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can take the zipline or cable car! 🙂

 

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The cable car looked pretty unsafe though. It was just a metal cage with benches and it swayed from side to side in the wind. Scary! We decided to walk using the wooden walkway instead.

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Grabbing some strawberry flavoured taho (sweet tofu). It was cold and sweet.

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Some of the facilities were totally rundown, like this hut which has probably seen better days. There was also a lot of garbage strewn all over the place. It’s sad, because this place has so much potential to be a top tourist destination and it’s ruined by bad management and tourists with zero civic consciousness.

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Petting the resident pregnant miming.

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Crossing a rickety wooden bridge.

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We finally got to the Grove area where there were dozens of ‘huts’ and benches where people can rest and eat. Possibly due to a lack of bins and poor garbage collection, rubbish was everywhere. The grass here was also trampled to thin, bald patches. Tourists and families here mostly ignored the litter around them and happily had their snacks and drinks while admiring the far off view.

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Eyesore. There were patches of black, as if someone had decided to burn the garbage to get rid of it quickly.

Sigh, I wish people could be more bloody civic-minded.

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There wasn’t a single hut free from graffiti. E and I played a game of ‘count the penises’.

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A cleaner area.

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Despite the badly maintained facilities, the nature was beautiful and more than made up for it. I leaned against the railing and took in the sights of tall trees and thick jungle amidst a clear sky. And the air – it was as fresh as only mountain air could be.

20160208_084328-tilePicnic Grove is a fab viewing point to enjoy the scenery around Tagaytay, even though upkeep of facilities is poor. Which is a shame, because it could have been a much more enjoyable experience. Still, visitors shouldn’t miss out on this place for its sheer beauty and the clean, refreshing air.

 

Manila – Tagaytay: Bulalo, Fireworks and View Park Hotel

During my stay in the Philippines, E’s mum was pretty insistent that he bring me to Tagaytay – a mountain town about 55kms from Metro Manila (He didn’t want to at first coz expensive to rent car + traffic would take three hours + lazy lol). But since his sister and her bf were headed there, we hopped into their car and proceeded to cramp our asses off since it was a Jeep and didn’t have backseats.

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Leaving Manila and onto the highway.

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I was glad to be out of the city, away from the constant stream of people, noise and activity.

The drive to Tagaytay took three hours even though it was just 55km away, no thanks to one-way roads and trafficus horriblis. I was supposed to meet G there at 4pm but because the driver came to pick us up late, we arrived at 7pm. I was horrified.

Thankfully, he understood and waved it away as ‘Filipino time’ lol.

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Tagaytay is located at a high altitude, hence cool weather and howling winds zomg. I never expected a Southeast Asian country to be so cold, especially when the winds blew! We quickly checked into our hotel then met up with G for dinner. And a trip here wouldn’t be complete without trying the city’s signature dish…

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Bulalo (bone marrow soup)! Made from cooking beef shanks and marrow bones, the light coloured broth is rich in flavour and fat (not for everyday consumption!). The meat was buttery, fall-off-the-bone tender and melted in the mouth, while the soup had a sweet, peppery flavour complemented by boiled corn and cabbage.

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We also got one of my favourite dishes, Sizzling Sisig. The version here was too fatty and oily though.

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Fireworks outside our hotel. They went on for a good 10 minutes! Someone has money to burn..

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We stayed at the View Park Hotel, which is just across the road from Picnic Grove, a major attraction in Tagaytay. The place is fronted by coffee house and lobby, while the rooms are at the back.  Rooms were spacious, cosy and clean. No air conditioning was needed since it was so cold.

The winds howled like crazy at night and kept me awake until the wee hours of the morning.

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Morning! We had a magnificent garden and pool view – but hard to imagine anyone swimming in such cold weather. The yellow building also housed a spa and massage center for guests. 🙂

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Colonial-style architecture.

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The compound was pretty and well kept, done like an English garden with chairs and swings surrounded by beautiful blooms and refreshing plants.

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Breakfast at the coffee house. The staff had asked us our preferences the night before so we just gave our room number and they served food to us 🙂 I had the chicken ham and egg with rice, which came with a small side salad. The garlic rice was fragrant, but the amount was way disproportionate to the side dishes. Wish they gave me an extra slice of ham! 😛

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E had bangus (milkfish) with scrambled eggs.

I really enjoyed our stay at the View Park Hotel, even though it was just one night. The price is reasonable and the location is very convenient since Picnic Grove is literally steps away from the lobby. Service is attentive and friendly. Highly recommend coming here to make your stay at Tagaytay an enjoyable one 🙂

VIEW PARK HOTEL TAGAYTAY

Sungay East, 3500 Tagaytay – Calamba Rd, Tagaytay, 4120 Cavite, Philippines

GETTING THERE 

Useful directions here