Greetings from Guilin!

hotel

I have arrived in Guilin and checked into this dodgy hotel smack dab in the middle of town. The cheapest room costs RMB 150 (about RM 75) for a night and if you add RMB 20 (RM 10) more you get a room with a computer and Internet! =D

slums

I wanted to stay at Flowers Youth Hostel (RMB 55 per night for a single room – get to save RM 150!) but they were fully booked. :( Thus, I went to this dubious Guilin Swan Hotel. I can’t say the view is excellant, but you get what you pay for and it’s a pretty decent hotel.

stuff

Anyway, the reason the words “dodgy” and “dubious” is being thrown around is not just from the vibe but the ancillaries in the room itself. You have to pay for EVERYTHING – only the soap is free (and even I’m not sure of that since there is a Chinese sign above it and I can’t read Chinese).

condom

There’s also a pack of condoms (RMB 10) right by the bed within easy reach but that’s not my primary concern…

genital wash

…it’s the toiletries for sale in the bathroom which prominently displays two sachets of Mei Fu Antibacterial Lotion. That in itself is not worrying, the description of said lotion is more disturbing – “Specially designed for the health of men’s genitals. Used for relieving the itching, killing germs and usual nursing of the private parts. Please apply to genital area gently. Rinse well with water“. There is a female version too, which makes me wonder what sort of clientèle this hotel attracts.

*double checks bedsheets for stains*

Posted: 1:06 PM China time (which is the same as Malaysia for Guilin)

Tanjung Rhu Resort, Langkawi

tanjung rhu dawn

I was in Langkawi over the weekend for a dose of sun, sea and surf (not forgetting the other s – spirits ;)). It’s about a 1 hour flight from KL and as soon as I exited the airport, there was a sign with “Poh Huai Bin” waiting for me.

tanjung rhu ambience

It was the concierge from Tanjung Rhu Resort and I was pleased with the luxurious van that provided airport transfer to the resort (complete with the driver offering you a wet towel as soon as you make yourself comfortable).

lobby

Tanjung Rhu resort is one of the best resorts in Langkawi, or so I hear. I was there to check it out for myself. The lobby is built according to an open concept with various water features (of the natural kind), a nice cool sea breeze and birds chirping.

hornbill

There’s even a real, live hornbill (and a six foot monitor lizard they call Jack). The check-in is very hassle free – it’s done in your room! This brings personalized check in to a whole new level. Heh!

check in

Your luggage is dropped in the lobby to be ferried to your room later while a nice lady shows you your room, offers you a wet towel (everyone needs a towel), takes out some ice cubes and pours a drink for you.

fruit basket

She fills in all your details too! I think every hotel should offer this service. In-room check-in FTW!

tanjung rhu room

The room is large and spacious – it has a huge tub and a gigantic bed which was rather wasted on one person. :)

It’s the small touches that makes Tanjung Rhu such a luxurious place – Time magazine on a practical shelf beside the bed, a balcony overlooking one of the pools, and chocolates at night in a proper wooden box instead of paper.

tanjung rhu beach

There is a reason Tanjung Rhu is the hotel/resort with the 3rd highest spend in Malaysia – they treat their guests really well, with an amazing memory prowess which enables them to remember your name and greet you when you walk past them! MENSA grade, seriously.

tanjung rhu pool

Oh, and another reason could be the RM 155 champagne cocktail flutes, of which I had a few. ;)

mangrove adventure

There’s no lack of activities to do in Tanjung Rhu – we went for a Mangrove Tour (RM 220) which brings you to:

monkey

Monkeys – Langkawi is INFESTED with primates, we even saw a family on the way to the airport

The mangrove swamp

mangrove tour

This reminds me of a certain scene in Apocalypse Now

This one brings back memories of The Two Towers

bats

Bat caves

me louise

Cute!

Eagles and kites

horseshoe crab

A fishing village…featuring the amazing spitting fish!

We took turns to operate the boat too – I think I freaked out the tour guide when I put it on full throttle. ;)

boat

I have to reiterate that it is of utmost importance to wear flip flops on this tour since you’re on a boat.

mangrove fruit

Leave your mosquito repellent at home since the bats here eats all of them so there’s none! :)

I also went for a swim in one of their pools – they have several, with one reserved for adults only. One interesting thing about Tanjung Rhu is that they limit the amount of children in the resort to about 5 and of the restaurants – The Rhu – does not allow kids inside.

sunset

However, one of the best features in Tanjung Rhu is the remarkable sandbar which makes it possible for you to actually WALK to the Turtle Islands over yonder. They have an awesome spa and massage too!

room service

Tanjung Rhu Resort room rates ranges from RM 1,850 to RM 3,250 per night. I recommend going for the all inclusive package where all food and drinks are free, no matter how much you eat. It also includes room service, but unfortunately not alcohol.

sunbathing

Sunbathing naked is officially prohibited by the resort though.

chill

It’s still a very chill and relaxing resort if for a nice beach holiday.

tanjung rhu end

Heck, with room rates starting from RM 1,850 per night, it better be good! ;)

Budget inns in KL costs RM 60

lcct lounge

I flew in to KL on the last flight out of Sibu and arrived exhausted, hoping to stay at the executive lounge for the night. Unfortunately, the LCC-T premium lounge experience charges a not-so-low-cost of RM 80 for 3 hours (!). Thus, I took the SkyBus down to KL Central and looked for a budget inn to stay.

hotel de sentral

There is one right opposite the station, called De Sentral Hotel. The front glass façade is grilled and padlocked from the inside to prevent untoward incidents. I’ve never thought of KL Central as a crime prone area but the person of Indian nationality clutching a can of Guinness Stout and drinking out of it from a straw (?) while occasionally throwing up foam into the gutter seem to intimidate quite a few passerby’s. ;)

hotel de sentral montage

De Sentral Hotel isn’t anything to write home about – the “hotel” is actually a converted shoplot, as can be seen by the maze-like interconnections between the rooms. It is relatively clean, with shared bathrooms and a room that has a sink and a single bed. It costs RM 60 nett per night and even comes with a small TV to boot.

hotel de sentral room

Much to my dismay though, the rooms are freshly painted. The entire area insults the olfactory senses with the miasma of fresh paint, which never fails to give me migraines. It’s a good thing I’m still down with the flu so my desensitized sinuses were a blessing in disguise.

hotel de sentral light

There is a small window inside every room, which unfortunately has the side effect of causing the hallway light to shine right into your eyes – not exactly ideal sleeping conditions. Oh well. I was just there for the night before picking up the keys to the condo the next morning.

Anyway, I’ve moved into the new condo and am in the process of getting a TM Homeline and Streamyx. I don’t have net access at home so I have been relegated to updating at either Starbucks or McDonald’s. I have been busy moving house during the weekend, but I promise there will be daily updates from now on.

Cheers!

My sister’s wedding @ Grand Jasmine Ballroom, RH Hotel

wedding sibu

My sister just had her second wedding reception last night at the Grand Jasmine Ballroom in RH Hotel, Sibu. The KL wedding reception was held exactly one week ago and last night’s festivities were for the bride’s family and friends.

main table

The Grand Jasmine Ballroom was used since we had 40 tables seating 10 people each. Both Jasmine 1 and Jasmine 2 were used to accommodate for the wedding. I just found out that each table costs over RM 450 so that’s about RM 18,000 for the wedding reception alone.

montage sibu

Gifts were respectfully declined and my parents did not accept any ang pows at all. My parents wanted this to be a casual get-together for friends and family without the traditional trappings of Chinese wedding banquets. It’s giving back magnanimously to the Sibu community to commemorate the wedding of their daughter.

The sales personnel of the local newspapers were politely kept away from the ballroom area to prevent their hard sell advertisements from bothering the guests and we roped in relatives to do the seating arrangements and ushering duties.

montage crowd

It was a huge task since there were 400 guests from various groups (church, organizations, corporations, family, schools and friends) to be seated at their designated tables.

I was slated to be the MC of the night and there were two main events that I had to coordinate – the entrance of the bride and groom from the flower arch down the red carpet lined with flowers and all the way through the second wedding arch before being seated.

entrance

The night’s festivities began with the bride and groom walking in before being seated at the main table.

montage main

There are ten seats on the main table:
1. Alvin Ng (groom)
2. Poh Yih Jia (bride – my sister)
3, 4: Mr & Mrs Poh (parents of the bride)
5, 6: Mr & Mrs Ng (parents of the groom)
7: Paternal grandmother (of bride)
8: Maternal grandmother (of bride)
9, 10: Poh Huai Bin & Doris (brother of the bride and girlfriend)

montage speach

I started off with a short welcome speech before showing a presentation of my sister’s progress throughout the years. The bride and groom came on stage to acknowledge the efforts that went into the events management aspects. My sister did a great speech thanking my parents for her upbringing, waxing nostalgic and generally trying to be a tearjerker. It’s a good thing some sand got into my eyes. ;)

first dish

The good Reverent said grace before dinner and the first dish was served.

The interesting bit and the flagship feature of weddings at The Grand Jasmine Ballroom is the presentation of the first dish. The lights went dark and music started playing as a parade of waiters and waitresses choreographed a candlelit performance while carrying the first dish before serving the dishes. It’s quite unique and novel.

montage festivities 

There was the time-honored cake cutting ceremony by the bride and the groom after that, followed by the champagne pouring ceremony, some kissing action from the newly weds and a toast led by me where everyone raised their glasses to bless the holy matrimony of the bride and groom.

main group

This is a group photo of the immediate family at the main table. You’ll notice that there are only eight of us – my paternal grandmother went to the washroom and there was an empty seat meant for my maternal grandmother. Unfortunately, she had a bad Alzheimer’s attack before the wedding and couldn’t join us. Both my grandfathers are deceased, both coincidentally from lung cancer.

food 1

The food on the main table is served individually for some reason, instead of being a communal dish.

food 2

I have yet to figure out the reasoning behind this.

I went up and sang The Wedding a.k.a the “Ave Maria” song with my mom before the end of the night.

I actually sang it twice, the first one was dedicated to my girlfriend and I did a solo on that. My apologies for subjecting everyone to the auditory assault – I don’t sing well, but I sing with my heart. :p

doris

The wedding reception ended at 9:30 pm and our relatives stayed back and helped clean up the place. Doris is seen here feeding me fake champagne – it’s a actually a prop that expels confetti when pulled.

cake

There was just one major blunder at the wedding – the three-tiered wedding cake was not sliced and distributed by the RH Hotel staff after the cake cutting ceremony, which they were supposed to do. We all forgot about that since we were busy with other stuff and only realized it when it was still on stage when I thanked the guests for coming. Oh well, at least it was all packed up and given to relatives so it’s not that bad.

wedding end

Congratulations to Alvin Ng and Yih Jia on their wedding. I guess I’ll have to start to call my sister Mrs. Ng now.

Hmm…

Coffee Garden @ Garden Hotel review

coffee garden

Coffee Garden is the anchor restaurant of Garden Hotel and is a successful F&B establishment in it’s own right. Although Coffee Garden doesn’t draw the local crowd to the extent of the wildly successful Peppers Cafe (Tanahmas Hotel), it does have its regulars and it’s a nice and (relatively) private place for lunch and dinner.

ambience

The interior of Coffee Garden has been given a major overhaul, with glass facades and mood lighting, creating a very pleasing ambiance. The post-modern architecture (actually, I don’t even know what post-modern architecture means, I just wrote it to make myself look more intelligent ;)) with reflective wall length mirrors looks amazing.

mirror

There are LCD screens placed strategically around the restaurant and an al fresco seating area outside for the nicotine brigade. Coffee Garden serves surprisingly good food, perhaps even better than Peppers Cafe. The measure of a successful hotel F&B outlet is the amount of locals patronizing the restaurant, and Coffee Garden has a loyal following.

garlic bread

The dinner menu at Garden Cafe is very comprehensive and covers Chinese and Western cuisine. There is complimentary garlic bread with every meal and the prices for most dishes are very reasonable.

seafood platter

This is the Seafood Gala (RM 16 ++) which is similar to the Manhattan Seafood Platter at Manhattan Fish Market. It consists of baked mussels, pan fried fish fillet, deep fried calamari rings and grilled shrimp served with garlic butter rice (Mmm…) and lemon butter sauce. The only thing missing is an MFM waitress going all Firebat on the platter (StarCraft reference here). ;)

mixed grill

The Garden Mixed Grill (RM 17 ++) has grilled lamb chop, grilled beef (otherwise known as steak), grilled chicken, sausages and beef bacon. There is a great portfolio of edible mammals represented in this dish and it’s perfect as a sample of everything they offer.

stout

Coffee Garden also serves a wide variety of beer and alcopops at hotel prices. Their Guinness Stout goes for RM 10 ++ per mug and RM 40 ++ for a jug but regular beers goes for RM 30 ++ per jug, which is pretty much the price you’ll expect to pay at other watering holes.

I have been going there regularly for lunch with Autumn to eat through their entire set lunch menu. The lunch menu is limited and priced at RM 8++ inclusive of a drink and soup.

chicken

Fried Chicken With Peanut Soup

first

Autumn had this during our first lunch date there. I’ve had it as well, it’s pretty good but a little on the bland side. It should be noted that some of the waiters and waitresses are not very good photographers so you may have to get them to take several shots. ;)

bbq

Fried Fish Fillet with BBQ Sauce

first lovebite

This was also on our first attempt to eat through the set lunch menu. This is the best dish in the set lunch menu in our opinion. It’s the BBQ sauce…it tastes great. Notice the similar office wear but please do not comment on the lovebite. ;)

squid

Fried Squid in Celery

second shared

I shared this dish with Autumn coz we were not both not really hungry that day. I think this was a couple of days after the first visit since I was wearing a tie to cover up the still visible hickey. The squid is probably the other dish I would eat, the others are pretty bland.

beef

Fried Beef with Garlic

third time

I had this during the third trip to Coffee Garden. It’s nothing to write home about. Astute readers will notice a new hickey on my neck. I swear, it’s not due to Autumn. I don’t know how it got there. ;)

duck

Fried Duck with Black Pepper

third

Autumn had the duck during the third trip. It’s alright, but again, Coffee Garden’s lunch menu isn’t really as good as the dinner menu.

chiew fong

It took us about two weeks to get through the five (5) set lunch menu coz you don’t want to eat the same food everyday. It’s still one of our regular hangouts though due to the privacy of the place.

coffee garden end

Coffee Garden is a great place for lunch and dinner. The set lunch menu is cheap considering the air-conditioned comfort and privacy of the establishment and it manages to attract quite a few of the lucrative 9-5 crowd during lunchtime. Their dinner menu is excellent – it’s much better than their set lunch menu, which is mass produced. I give Coffee Garden two thumbs up.

Transit Point

transit point night

Transit Point is a budget accommodation facility located in the heart of Kuching. It has just been recently completed and features WiFi in every room. The rates start at RM 35 nett which is slightly more expensive than the RM 30 nett charged by it’s main competitor – Singgahsana Lodge. However, the two places are different in many ways.

transit point reception

Transit Point provides a more private environment with a room consisting of a double bed and air conditioning (and television and WiFi to boot) while Singgahsana provides dormitory style accommodations sleeping 10 in a room (without WiFi). Transit Point provides towels for free too, which is chargeable (RM 2) in Singgahsana Lodge.

transit point shower

Transit Point also features shared toilets and shower units but the place is very clean and there’s a soap/shampoo dispenser in the cubicles. Smoking is not allowed in both places (except outdoors).

transit point room

I would recommend Transit Point if  you want the privacy of your own room and a larger bed with an air conditioned room. Singgahsana Lodge would be more suitable for people who wants interaction (and doesn’t mind leaving their notebook filled with incriminating photos and videos in a room with 9 other strangers). ;)

transit point irene

Transit Point just costs RM 35 nett per night. I stayed there during my recent trip to Kuching (the 12 hour grueling trip where I nearly missed my express boat back) and was happy with the place. I’ll definitely do a return visit when I’m on a shoestring budget.

Special Mother’s Day buffet dinner @ RH Hotel

rh hotel

RH Hotel is having a special Mother’s Day buffet dinner promotion at Oriental Bistro with a door gift and a free ticket for every five tickets purchased.

mothers buffet

It is priced at RM 44 ++ per person and there’s a 50% discount for children below 12 and senior citizens above 55 years old.

rh inside

I went there with Faye and KJ since my parents had a church function they had to go to.

rh steak stand

The highlight of the Mother’s Day buffet dinner is a kebab/steak stand where the chefs cook the cuts of meat you want.

rh steak

There are also various types of sausages…

rh slice

…and they even slice it up nicely for you at your request.

rh abc stand

There is also an ABC (a kind of shaved ice dessert) stand for something sweet to finish your dinner with.

rh abc

You can customize the ingredients and toppings you want inside. I had mine with chocolate sprinkles, which is a decidedly unorthodox topping. :)

rh eat

This is what I ended up eating…and this is just for starters coz I was REALLY hungry last night.

rh plate

My plate overfloweth. It contains:

rh scallops

Beef tripe and scallops

rh calamari

Deep fried prawn dumplings, beef rendang, calamari

rh chicken

Prime portions of chicken

rh squid

Deep fried squid and braised duck

rh shrimp

Chicken curry and shrimp with mayonnaise

rh fish

Steamed fish

rh side

There’s even a side dish of various cuts of beef and veal!

rh puffs

I was still feeling a little hungry after all that excess so I attacked the pastries counter for dessert.

rh cream puff

I noticed one of the chefs bringing out a new batch of cream tarts so I got some as well. =D

rh dessert plate

This is the dessert plate that I finished the meal with – I even got four (4) scoops of ice cream to go with it.

rh us

I am a rather fast eater, as Faye has been telling KJ. Faye took a video of me eating the entire plate. This is really the usual speed at which I eat, unless I’m with polite company. :)

Speed eating!

Mandarin Oriental Hotel, KL

mandarin oriental

This is the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. It’s located right in the middle of KL and is considered a 5 star hotel.

rrma invite

I was staying there courtesy of MAC (Malaysian AIDS Council – more
about that later) and when I arrived there, my gf’s brother told me not
to open the car door – someone will do it for me.

mo door.jpg

…and sure enough, someone did. It’s become something of an inside
joke since. ;) The reception was fairly opulent and the receptionist on
duty asked me if I wanted a queen or king sized room and told me it’s
all paid for by MAC.

mo room 1

Thus, I went for the queen sized room (MAC is a charity organization, non-profit).

mo room 2

The queen sized room was nice, with a welcome fruit basket (which I only ate the green apple, as I’m not a big fan of fruits).

mo fruits

The fruit array, with cutlery for the more refined ones amongst us to use.

mo view suria

The view is towards Suria KLCC…and you will notice some suspension
wires in the windows. Management left a note to apologize that they’ll
be doing some window cleaning the next day.

mo bathrobes

Bathrobes! Slippers! Why, I’ve never had these in my life. The luxury! ;)

mo bath

The bathroom seems very nice.

mo wash

There is a shower and a soak tub in there too. I found the porcelain throne to be very pleasant to sit on.

mo toiletries

The toiletries are very complete – sewing kit, razors, toothbrush and I finally got to know what an enamel board is.

mo toothpaste

I was about to think of the questionable logic of providing toothbrushes but no toothpaste, until I found it inside.

mo work desk

This place makes me feel like saying, “Go away, I’m a very busy man!” ;)

mo minibar

Here’s a look at the mini bar – a select range of mini liquor bottles and Mandarin Oriental’s own bottled water.

mo pringles

Heck, they even had an agreement with Pringles to have Mandarin Oriental Pringles.

mo suria link

Mandarin Oriental is also linked to Suria KLCC, the shopping center beneath the tallest twin towers in the world…

suria klcc

…and the shopping opportunities it offers.

Mandarin Oriental is a nice place to stay in…if you don’t have to
pay for it, of course. ;) I’ll write about the Red Ribbon Gala next.

The questionable appeal of hotel washrooms

hilton toilet

I have always wondered about the appeal of hotel washroom
facilities. There seem to be a subculture of people who favors upscale
hotel washroom facilities for their various restroom needs. These are
people who are willing to travel a considerable distance just to use
their favorite hotel’s toilet facilities. There are even people who are
partial to a particular stall.

hilton excursion

I’ve been brought along (not entirely against my consent) many times
along these excursions, both in Sibu and Kuching. Yesterday night, one
of my friends, who is a regular at Hilton, drove quite a distance just
to take a dump there. He’s so well known there that he claims the
people there know him by sight. He goes every morning, without fail, to
sit on Hilton’s porcelain throne. Personally, I don’t see the appeal.
I’ll do it in my own washroom any day.

hilton kuching

Incidentally, I’m going to Hilton later for a meeting (work related, mind).

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