6 things we did during our Raya staycation

1. Had dinner at one of the best restaurants in KL

Sage KL

My better half surprised me with this treat. It’s actually the second most expensive meal we’ve ever had in KL (the first being the Michelin star Le Gavroche chef who came to town) but I thought it was worth it. Delicious appetizers and mains – thanks for booking us dinner at Sage dear.

2. Watched Ant-Man

Ant-Man

I’ve been wanting to watch Ant-Man for a long time. We even had passes to the premiere screening but missed it coz I thought it was the next day. Thus, I got ourselves Premier Class tickets (RM 63) at The Gardens to go watch the movie. I had actually wanted Gold Class but my dear thought it was too expensive. It used to cost RM 40 per pax but that’s the price of Premier Class now – Gold Class is double.

GSC Premier Class

It’s still quite an exclusive viewing experience though – the seats are all couple seats, which you can remove the middle partition so you can snuggle up together. That’s actually a *necessity* since the air-conditioning was so cold everyone in the Premier Class cinema was shivering. It’s still better than watching it in their regular cinemas though, this is a more intimate environment where no one talks loudly or uses their mobile phones – the higher ticket prices weeds out most badly behaved cinema goers. Ant-Man was awesome, a nice conclusion to Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

3. Ate escargots and drank Valrhona hot chocolate

Yeast Mid-Valley

We had lunch at a Parisian style bistro/bakery which also serves wine. I had Escargots a la Bourguignonne while my dear had a ham and cheese croissant (Croissant au Jambon et au Fromage). This was our lunch the day we checked in, she also had a Valrhona hot chocolate – we bought a lot of the famous French chocolate a while back, it’s not for kids, their single origin stuff is utterly bitter, in a good way.

4. Walked around the mall

Lifejuice Gardens

We loaded up with fresh cold pressed juice before spending most of the day walking around the mall. My dear wanted to get a clutch bag and we went to most of the stores in The Gardens and Mid-Valley but couldn’t find one that she wanted. I was secretly observing at what kind of bags she was looking at so I could KIV for our anniversary. smirk

Lifejuice

The Sun Kissed Stress Reliever (RM 13) is a mixture of ginger, red apple, pineapple, orange, carrot and grapefruit in a glass bottle. I liked the Nutty Professor Energy Booster (hazelnut, almond, cashew, soy milk, raw cacao, Medjool dates) and 50 Shades of Grey Stamina Booster (Earl Grey team hazelnut, Himalayan salt, coconut, agave necter) too.

5. Chilled in our hotel room

St Giles Gardens

I booked a room as St Giles The Gardens, the best hotel among the 3 at Mid-Valley. I also considered Pullman Bangsar (which has a shuttle service to Mid-Valley) but ultimately wanted to stay at Mid-Valley itself since we were out almost the entire day!

6. Had a hearty breakfast

Antipodean

This was at Antipodean, which my better half wanted to try. It was decent and cheap (relatively) fare but not as good as their original Bangsar Telawi II outlet, probably due to the huge crowd here. We had to wait five (5) minutes in queue while we got seated and that’s considered a very quick seating. The service was good though and I quite liked my order of Eggs Marlborough with Salmon.

I think we spent only 10 hours or so total in our room but it was fun and we got to spend the time with each other during our staycation. :)

Our Hari Raya Aidilfitri Staycation @ St Giles The Gardens

The Gardens Hotel

I decided to surprise my better half with a night at a local hotel during the long holiday weekend. Yup, it’s our biannual staycation, where we spend a night (or two) at a KL or PJ hotel and chill, eat and shop. My better half suggested Mid Valley this time but I don’t really like Cititel Hotel (although it’s the cheapest option, the rooms reek of cigarette smoke).

MidValley Gardens

Thus, it’s down to St Giles Boulevard or St Giles The Gardens. The latter is slightly more grand, a step up in both standards and price so I splurged a little and went for that. The rooms are significantly larger than St Giles Boulevard (27 sq m) and make the ones at Cititel Mid Valley (18 sq m) look almost like closets. smirk

St Giles The Gardens

All three hotels are managed by the same people – it’s supposed to be for different segments of the market with St Giles The Gardens as the premier choice, with larger rooms (38 sq m). I paid USD 116.26 (RM 442.35 per night) for our room and thought I overpaid coz I forgot to switch the currency to MYR. It turns out that MYR was even more expensive at RM 452 so it’s a good thing I have a PayPal account with USD inside.

St Giles The Gardens Rooms

I almost went for the 72 sq m 1 bedroom suite which is about RM 80 more but I ended up going for a deluxe room instead and the extra cash went towards a single glass of wine (more on that later).

St Giles The Gardens Us

It was a lot of fun, we crammed all the things couples do into a 24 hour period – ate at a restaurant rated as one of the best in KL, watched a movie we’ve missed and enjoyed each other’s company. It was a great and relaxing staycation, plus we managed to stay within the budget of RM 1,500 for everything – can’t wait to do it again! :)

I’ll write more soon.

LEGO Friends LIVE @ Legoland Malaysia

LEGO Friends Concert

LEGO Friends LIVE is actually products and cartoons turned into real people for a musical. These are the little one’s favorite characters in LEGO! She watches the cartoons religiously and knows all about Andrea, Mia, Emma, Olivia and Stephanie. Her bigger sister is more into Chima nowadays.

LEGO Friends Dancing

Little E was looking forward to seeing the LEGO Friends characters in real life! smirk

LEGO Friends Stephanie

We were at Legoland over the weekend and we actually spotted the characters of Lego Friends twice – once when we were having breakfast in Legoland Hotel on the first day and the second time just as we were entering the park on the second day.

LEGO Friends Legoland Malaysia

Unfortunately, we were in the midst of eating the first time so we didn’t go out to take photos with the girls of Lego Friends and we wanted to get a family photo with a LEGO character the second time and by the time we were done the cast had finished their photo session and walked past us to get ready for their first show.

Real Life LEGO Friends

We could actually enter the Legoland Theme Park at 9:30 am since we were staying at the hotel (a full 30 minutes before everyone) and I’ll write about both the Legoland Water Park and the Legoland Theme Park separately.

LEGO Friends Cast

I just wanted to talk about us experiencing the first ever LEGO Friends musical performance in Asia!

Giant Balloons

There’s giant balloons which they threw to us and we bounced around back to them – a nice interactive touch!

LEGO Friends LIVE

It was quite a surreal experience – having watched the cartoons from the little one’s iPad, it took a bit of processing to see real life people looking and dressed up like LEGO Friends characters and *acting* like them too! They each have different personalities which are amped up in the musical performance.

I filmed a video of the sound check, skit, interaction between the real life LEGO Friends and a bit of the start of the concert. I loved how they really got into character – the kids enjoyed it, and so did we! I got the little one a nice purple t-shirt of LEGO Friends too (the bigger one wanted a LEGO Chima one).

LEGO Friends Real Life

We had an awesome time, it’s a good thing we made the time to drop by LEGO City Stage to see this musical. More about our family Legoland trip soon! :)

Greetings from Legoland Malaysia!

Greetings from Legoland Malaysia

We’re here on a 3D/2N adventure with the kids before school starts! We were at the Legoland Water Park for the whole day yesterday and we’re going to the Legoland Theme Park today. It’s a good thing we’re staying at the Legoland Hotel coz guests can enter the park earlier at 9:30 am before it opens to the general public.

The rooms are gorgeous, will write more about it when I come back. It’s time to go get some breakfast – we had room service last night coz the kids were tired and it wasn’t good at all. Unfortunately, most of the items were cold and one dish was inedible (stringy, dry chicken) but otherwise the experience here is great. The service and attentiveness of the staff is awesome!

*cue Everything is AWESOME!!!!* smirk

Our biannual staycation in KL!

Hotel Royal

We have made a tradition of taking time out to do a staycation (which refers to staying at a local hotel, not staying at home) twice a year in addition to our yearly overseas trips (Melbourne last year and Frankfurt and Paris this year) and our shorter trips like to Hat Yai about a month ago.

Pavilion KL

You could say that travelling is our passion in life. :)

Timelapse Hotel

It’s actually a lot of fun and you get to experience the city where you live from a visitor’s perspective!

Hotel Royal KL

This time around, we stayed at Hotel Royal in Kuala Lumpur and basically:

Staycation Food

1. Ate a lot of food

Mamma Mia Musical KL

2. Caught a musical

Blurry Photo

3. Enjoyed each other’s company.

Staycation 2014

I’ll write more tomorrow, part of the purpose of having a staycation is to get away from the daily things you do and not do anything remotely work related. smirk

Posted: 10:38 pm Kuala Lumpur time

8 photos from our road trip to Sarikei

1. Big Sarikei Pineapple

new sarikei pineapple statue

There’s a new twin statue of the iconic Sarikei pineapple in the older part of town! This is the “unripe” version, it’s green instead of yellow. smirk Technically, it’s not a statue since it’s not an effigy of a figure, person, or animal but a fruit – pineapples are the primary export of Sarikei and they’re famous for producing these prickly fruits.

2. The Journey from Sibu

sarikei 2014

My better half flew down with me from KL to visit my dad over the weekend. I decided to drive down to Sarikei since she’s never been there before so the three of us packed into a car and headed down to the small town. It’s roughly an hour’s drive from Sibu on a two lane road.

3. Entering Sarikei

red bridge

A beautiful red curving bridge is located at the border between Sibu and Sarikei. You can also reach there by a ferry service across the river but we took the route that takes us through Bintangor (another rural town).

4. Sarikei Clock Tower

sarikei clock tower

This is another famous landmark in town – erected in 1973, it’s been around for a while and recently the town seems to have found some funds to refurbish it. Yes, this is NOT the original clock tower – I have a photo of the earlier tower with a hollow center during my Sarikei trip in 2008.

5. Pasar Sungai Rejang

sungai rejang market

This roughly translates to “Rejang River Market”. Rajang River is the longest river in Malaysia and connects much of Sarawak. This building houses the old wet market in town and there’s lots of interesting stuff in there!

6. Scenes from Sarikei Wet Market

sarikei market

There is a stall here that sells authentic home made Sarawak laksa paste but unfortunately it was closed by the time we arrived.

7. Salted Fish

salted-fish

Salted fish is a much beloved food item here. There are many different kinds of fish being dried, salted and sometimes fermented – everything from whitebait to local species to imported cod.

8. The Original Sarikei Pineapple Statue
(accept no substitutes)

sarikei pineapple statue

This is the original (bigger and ripe) Sarikei pineapple! It’s located by the waterfront and it’s almost bleached white from the constant cleaning. Contrast the Sarikei pineapple statue with a post I wrote when I went on a trip with a couple of friends during my winter holidays back from university in Melbourne – this is Sarikei back in 2002 where it’s a much dirtier but vibrant shade.

10 things we did during our weekend staycation

staycation

I’ll like to think that I’ve been pioneering the concept of a staycation before the term even came into existence. It was more out of necessity (a friend of mine described my apartment at that time as “having it’s own ecosystem with new and constantly evolving species of fungi” smirk) and an excess of funds from legally questionable endeavors that prompted me to live primarily in hotels and serviced apartments like Somerset Gateway in Kuching during the weekends back then.

staycation room

However, I’ve gotten all those wild days of drugs, sex and rock and roll out of my system and prefer a quiet weekend spent with my loved one nowadays. My dad happened to have excess points from a vacation rewards system that he couldn’t use so he asked me if I wanted it coz it’ll go to waste otherwise.

the atrium

I jumped at the idea and booked a nice room at Pyramid Tower Hotel at Sunway Lagoon.

staycation hotel

The room cost RM 340/night but it was deducted from 11,551 points in Club Asia International so it didn’t really cost us anything. It’s next to Sunway Pyramid so that was pretty convenient. We checked in at 2 pm and dumped our bags before heading to the mall to get some lunch.

1. Had a fun lunch

coffee milk

We went to the food court and ate local food together. We acted like we were in a foreign country (Dubai was the place we decided on – inside joke) so it was a lot of fun and very different from the stress of finding an empty bay in the carpark, braving the thongs of people, and getting stuck in traffic.

2. Chilled out in the room

chill hotel

This is one of the most appealing things about a staycation! Since you’re at your very own hometown (it was just 15 minutes away) there’s not much to see, so you can really relax and enjoy the hotel amenities – the tub, the pool, the cable TV and plush bed!

3. Snacked on takoyaki

making takoyaki

The hotel is right next to the mall with a connected walkway that takes all of 3 minutes to traverse. We decided to eat regular baby octopus takoyaki (delicious) and also sampled some salmon takoyaki (not very nice). The place also serves okonomiyaki.

takoyaki

We ordered so much that we had to take some of it back to the hotel room to eat!

4. Posed for funny photos

funny pose

This is one of the things you do when you have too much time on your hands and have put the daily worries and work out of your mind for the entire staycation. :)

5. Went out for bubble tea

georgpeck

We were both craving for bubble tea and I noticed this new place called GeorgPeck. We shared a bubble milk tea with aloe vera jelly, which was really good.

bubble tea

It seems that everything tastes better when your mind think it’s on vacation!

6. Walked around the mall

ice skating

…and watched people falling down at the ice skating ring. Haha!

7. Took a long afternoon nap

sunway tower hotel

That’s the beauty of a staycation! You don’t feel the urge to get up early in the morning less you miss out on precious time which you can use to visit all the attractions in a foreign country. There’s a lot more time for real R&R during a staycation.

8. Nice dinner for two

poison dinner

We dressed up and went out for dinner at night again! It was at O’Viet by Du Viet and I had a funny incident that entails a close call with a near poisoning. Heh.

9. Ate Red Velvet Cake in bed

coffee bean

My dear bought this from the Coffee Bean outlet before we went back to the hotel room for the night. She opted for Red Velvet Cake and since we were still full from dinner, we had it to go so we can eat it later at night, since we had planned to stay up late and sleep in the next day.

red velvet cake

We ate this while watching movies in bed! Simple pleasures in life are the best…

10. Pigged out at the hotel buffet breakfast

buffet breakfast

I set the alarm just before the hotel buffet breakfast ended and totally pigged out with a full plate of food, and cereal, and yoghurt, and some croissants with maple syrup…

breakfast pigout

…before heading back to the room to hibernate.

cereal

We had asked for late check-out and left at 1:30 pm.

hotel

It was a fun staycation and it’s also an early celebration for our 1st anniversary together as a couple. We had our first vacation together in Melbourne, where I stayed for over 4 years and we’re looking to go abroad again soon!

staycation us

However, a staycation when you don’t have a lot of time and holiday leave to burn is an awesome option. :D

Durian white coffee, Musang King Tambun biscuits and other oddities

musang king tambun biscuit

This is probably one of the most interesting coffee I’ve ever had. It’s durian coffee and my dear got it for me on our trip to Penang last weekend. I’ve had kopi luwak (civet cat coffee) twice in Indonesia before but this 4-in-1 (the other being powdered durian) instant coffee appeals to me coz I love durians.

durian white coffee

It comes in gold foil packaging and has a wonderful nose. It’s like nothing I’ve ever had. The durian taste and flavor is so intense you can practically taste it. I guess that’s the point, eh? Haha! I can easily drink two cups of this, a wonderful find by my better half.

tau sar pneah

We also got lots of Tambun biscuits (heong pneah) and tau sar pneah for relatives and friends and one of the more interesting finds was one filled with Musang King durians.

musang king biscuits

It comes in a pack of 12 and retails for RM 7.20. This is supposed to be the first ever in Malaysia – Tambun biscuits double filled with Musang King durian pulp. It tastes really good, if you like durians.

white coffee biscuits

There’s also different flavored tau sar pneah (which I guess doesn’t make it tau sar pneah anymore, since “tau sar” translates to red bean). Coffee is one of my favorites. There’s a lot of manufacturers in Penang nowadays, the old school ones made with lard and the newer ones that’s halal to appeal to a broader market.

durian tambun biscuits

We made several trips to buy these and I pronounce them good! It’s been a while since we’ve had these! :)

5 things we ate at hawker stalls in Penang

1. Lorong Selamat Char Kueh Tiaw

lorong selamat

I had wanted my better half to try this, since she’s never had it before. It’s legendary for its 1 hour wait and when we were there the crowds were out in force!

crowd

There were no empty spots on tables and people had to stand in clumps beside diners to wait their turn.

plates queue

I was told that it’ll take longer than 1 hour based on the plates and there’s a rule about having to sit down before you can order. The price now has sky-rocketed to RM 10 per plate too! My dear didn’t want to wait and we went opposite the road to eat…

2. Curry Mee

curry mee

It’s RM 7 per plate and the guy told us he has run out of prawns so I think we paid RM 5. It’s still not too bad, loaded with pig’s coagulated blood and the broth is delicious! I wanted to go to the Lorong Seratus Tahun one but I couldn’t find it.

However, we did manage to find…

3. Sin Kim San banana pancake

banana pancake

I thought this was char kueh kak at first and ordered a plate (RM 6). It turned out that the stall sells banana pancakes.

chinese banana pancake

This was nothing special – just a Chinese interpretation of a pancake with lots of eggs and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. My dear makes *better* banana pancakes.

We did manage to eat CKT at the same place though.

4. Duck Egg Char Kueh Tiaw

I like the one near Pulau Tikus police station but since we’re here, we might as well satisfy the craving for Penang CKT. The duck egg version costs RM 4.50 – half the price of the overrated Lorong Selamat stalls.

duck egg

It was good, but slightly greasy. The prawns were fresh and succulent and there’s a huge helping of lap cheong (Chinese sausage) with it.

We were pretty much full at this point but managed to share a bowl of…

5. Ah Soon Kor Cham Lor

ah soon kor har mee

This is a distinctively Penang dish where you mix Lor Mee with Har Mee. The combination gravy is awesome! Ah Soon Kor is famous for their Har Mee (Prawn Mee) but my dear doesn’t really like it so we ordered the mixture instead.

cham lor

You can see the two different and distinct bases mixing together in the color of the gravy which makes it look like the yin yang symbol (if you squint hard enough ;)). It has lots of interesting goodies like deep fried shrimp and roasted pork belly and I thought it was good. We couldn’t finish it though coz we had so much food.

However, since we didn’t manage to eat the Lorong Selamat CKT I put as #1, here’s a bonus to fulfil the 5 dishes we ate in Penang.

Bonus: New World Ice Kacang Special

new world

I’ve eaten this a lot of times before. I like the tropical fruit mixture compared to the Penang Road cendol. It’s a very popular stall that serves drinks for the New World food court and their flagship costs RM 5.

ice kacang special

There’s atap chee, kidney beans, corn, papaya, bananas and lots of other fruits inside this shaved ice dessert, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

ling hb

It was a good weekend escape to Penang to relax and eat some food. We stayed at Traders Hotel, which cost us RM 800+ (more about that soon – there’s an interesting story behind it) and came back on Sunday rejuvenated.

Scratch that, we actually both caught the flu and fell sick but it’s a good vacation nonetheless! :)

My car ran out of petrol on the Penang Bridge!

out of gas

It happened just slightly after the toll. I felt the car slowly lose power…I had a sinking feeling that something has gone horribly wrong. I managed to cruise from the fast lane (on the right) across 3 lanes to the emergency lane. It felt like driving a car that was just running on momentum alone!

I realized that I had run completely out of gas. The car would not start at all. It just coughs. We had just passed the toll, maybe 500 meters or so and we’re stuck on the Penang Bridge!

stuck penang bridge

We had driven down from KL early in the morning and didn’t take any breaks except for toilet stops. I had stupidly thought that a tank of gas would be enough to get to Penang and I didn’t really look at the gauge so the massive traffic jam before the bridge was the final nail in the coffin.

I called the PLUS Highway emergency number and managed to get them to send a guy to meet us.

refill petrol

It took less than 5 minutes before a fellow on a motorcycle came up to me. He had a bottle of gasoline so he poured the minute amount (less than 500 ml is my guess) into my petrol tank and asked me to start.

I tried the ignition but the car won’t go – it seemed that there’s too little fuel for it to start.

low fuel

My better half intelligently told me to shut off the radio and air conditioning. I managed to start the car – just barely – after that. I know it wouldn’t last long and I’ll need to get to a gas station soon.

The PLUS representative charged me RM 40 for the petrol and after I willingly handed it over, asked for RM 10kang chi” (Hokkien for labor costs) making the total RM 50. What an opportunist!

8684

I didn’t really mind though coz it would have been worse to be stuck for hours on the Penang Bridge. We managed to use the GPS to find a nearby gas station and fill her up.

ron95

The PLUS dude said he’ll trail us. He never did. We were lucky to make it to the station on that little amount of gas. It was a bit of an adventure though, running out of gas. It’s something that we’ll be talking about down the years – “Hey remember the time we drove to Penang and we ran out of gas on the Penang Bridge?”.

It wasn’t the best start to our Penang trip but it sure was funny in hindsight and it’s a memorable start to our weekend holiday! :)

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