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Lessons Learnt from Three Months in South East Asia

July 3, 2018

Three months in South East Asia whizzed by in a hot, sweaty, spicy blur. The days started to run into each other, we lost track of time and often got lost ourselves, but each day felt like an adventure. As you would expect from long-term travel, there were plenty of ups and a few downs, thrills and spills along the way. There was a missed flight on day one (Wellington weather really hates us), many incredible meals down dingy alleys, a fine balance of luxurious and not quite five star places to rest our weary heads, and a plethora of sights taken in… all rolled into some of the most exciting and exhausting months of our lives.

We left with only a rough outline of which countries we would visit, and set about filling in the gaps and details as we went along. Neither of us get particularly enthused about the planning part of travel so we mostly took each day as it came which seemed to work out just fine. A certain someone and I have travelled together for close to six years now so we’re well versed in each other’s travel styles and moods. I can sense when he needs a tea top up, he can spot the symptoms of a hanger meltdown, and our spats are usually about embarrassingly trivial matters. But this trip still taught us so much, mainly about our approach to travel; some of our actions have changed, some of our views strengthened. These are the lessons I learnt from three months in South East Asia…

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Asia/Pacific Eating Abroad Hotel Reviews Malaysia

G Hotel Kelawai – A Stylish New Icon in Penang

April 5, 2018
G Hotel Kelawai Penang Hotel Review

When you are living in hotels for months on end, the last thing you want to do is stay in more than one in the same city. I have to pack my bag enough times already, thank you very much. So you can imagine the amount of convincing it took for us to leave our sleek haven at G Hotel Gurney to spend the rest of our time in Penang at their sister hotel, G Hotel Kelawai. It was just a short buggy ride round the corner, but I didn’t see much point… surely they would be the same? They’re similar but definitely not the same. As an elder sister, it’s not really in my nature to admit this but sometimes our younger sisters are much cooler than we are. It is true for me, and it seems, for G Hotel Gurney too. At Kelawai, there is a distinctly different atmosphere – the focus is less about business and more about leisure!

G Hotel Kelawai opened its glossy doors  only a couple of years ago and brought another level of style to the Gurney area. Its location is just as good as its sister property, with easy access to popular malls and food outlets, however it is far more intimate with fewer rooms and cosier spaces. The team said we would like it better and while it initially felt disloyal to G Hotel Gurney to admit it, we did… the more relaxed atmosphere and laid back vibe at Kelawai was more in line with our travel style, and as a result we felt more at home here!

G Hotel Kelawai Penang Hotel Review

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Asia/Pacific Eating Abroad Featured Malaysia

Dining Room at Macalister Mansion, Penang – A Menu of Discovery

March 29, 2018

After weeks of eating solely out of melanine plates and bowls, usually perched on stools at a wobbly plastic table, the sight of a well set table at Macalister Mansion was a welcomed one. Hawker centres hold a special place in my heart but there are also times when one wants to have a meal they can linger over. Preferably without the soundtrack of woks being fired up and pots clanging, and away from the glare of other hungry diners eyeing up your seat. The Dining Room at Macalister Mansion provided this brief oasis; you won’t find any of Penang’s famed street food here but you will find a fine-dining experience good enough to make you think you’re sitting in London’s Mayfair. In a country like Malaysia where hawkers reign supreme, this is a rare find indeed!

Macalister Mansion is named after Sir Norman Macalister, one of the first Governors of Penang. I’m not sure what he would have made of the transformation, but personally I think they have done a marvellous job restoring this colonial mansion into an exclusive eight bedroom boutique hotel in the heart of Georgetown. While each of the unique rooms has a luxurious but sleek approach to their design, the common spaces are where the artistic flair truly shines. We spent our first few moments at Macalister Mansion in their delightful Cellar, sinking into the oversized leather couches, eyes darting around taking in the trinkets carefully placed across the room. Before we got too comfortable, we moved into the Dining Room, another stunning space with tables set around a striking white tree centrepiece. The Penang we already knew felt like a world away…

Dining Room at Macalister Mansion Review of Discovery Menu

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Asia/Pacific Eating Abroad Hotel Reviews Malaysia

G Hotel Gurney – A Savvy Stay in Penang’s Gurney Drive

March 26, 2018

I love Georgetown as much as the next street-art-obsessed slave to the ‘gram, but I also love getting away from it at the end of the day. The excitement of navigating its narrow streets in search of quirky street art, colourful colonial gems, and insanely great food in this UNESCO World Heritage site is probably what entices people to Penang in the first place, but it does not mean you have to spend every moment of your trip in the thick of it. We like to stay somewhere that’s close enough to the action to let you experience the essence of a city, but just far enough way to have an oasis to escape to. So we ruled out staying in Georgetown, considered Batu Ferringhi but remembered that it was just a tad too far for our liking the last time we were in Penang, which left us with that sweet spot right in the middle – Gurney Drive. Once that was settled, G Hotel Gurney was the obvious choice.

This modern 312-room property has a prime spot on Gurney Drive, making it a firm favourite for both business and leisure travellers. It was always a looker, but since getting a facelift last year it is more popular than ever. The open lobby is huge and airy, the atmosphere is really swish but inviting, and the ever-so-smiley staff lined up behind the desk were friendly and welcoming… G Hotel Gurney sure knows how to make a first impression. As much as I would have enjoyed lingering in lobby which seamlessly flows into the G Lounge, we were whisked up to the Executive Lounge to complete check in formalities. It was a much more intimate space – just where we wanted to be to enjoy our welcome ice creams (can more hotels do this please) after a long, hot journey!

G Hotel Gurney Penang Hotel Review

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Asia/Pacific Eating Abroad Featured Malaysia

Kinabalu Park – A Mountainside Getaway

March 22, 2018
Kinabalu Park Sabah Guide

I winced a little every time a local asked me if we were going to climb Mount Kinabalu. The short answer was no, but their disappointed looks always made me feel the need to explain that on this visit we neither had the time nor adequate preparation for conquering such a momentous experience. Next time, I promised. Sabah has a reputation for its natural beauty, and Mount Kinabalu is definitely the jewel in its crown. The tallest peak in Malaysia and UNESCO World Heritage site has been captivating and challenging visitors for years. The two day hike to the summit is so popular that spaces are limited and often booked out months in advance. Something I will keep in mind for when that next time eventually comes. But for now, we settled for the next best thing – spending a night in Kinabalu Park and taking in all its natural beauty on steadier ground, at a much more leisurely pace…

Kinabalu Park Sabah Guide

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Asia/Pacific Eating Abroad Malaysia

Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Sabah – An Island-Hopping Guide

March 19, 2018
Guide to Island Hopping at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

Our first few days in Sabah had given us plenty of culture, delicious food, and a taste of their lush forests, but what we were craving now was a healthy dose of the sea! Kota Kinabalu itself is set on the coast, but if you’re serious about getting some beach time then you need to head out to Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. This marine park is made up of a cluster of islands, but the most popular ones for beach-goers are Pulau Manukan and Pulau Sapi which were where we headed for the day! From Sutera Harbour we set off to the islands in style on our private speedboat… in just twenty minutes we had gone from city to sea, and moments later we were enjoying the sand between our toes and the soothing sounds of the crashing waves.

Unfortunately, that calm and serenity did not last long. Remember how I mentioned that Pulau Manukan and Pulau Sapi are popular? I hadn’t prepared myself for just how busy they would be; we literally watched boatload after boatload of enthusiastic day-trippers swarm the beach. I quickly came to the conclusion that this is probably not the place to come if you want a relaxing, lazy day of doing not that much on the beach. In fact, all those day-trippers come to these islands because they actually want to do stuff like diving, snorkelling and a couple of other unique activities so we thought if we couldn’t beat them, we’d join them! We packed away the beach towels and any thoughts of sunbathing, and did some more interesting activities instead…

Guide to Island Hopping at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

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Asia/Pacific Eating Abroad Featured Malaysia

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre – A Guide to Visiting the Orangutan

March 15, 2018
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

There are very few things that a certain someone and I would get up at 430am for, but the chance to get up close and personal with some orangutan definitely made the cut. Rightfully so too; these majestic creatures were once found all over South East Asia but in recent years their population has dwindled as a result of illegal logging, deforestation, and poaching. The species is now critically endangered, with as few as 104,700 Bornean orangutan and 14,613 Sumatran orangutan left. Up bright and early that morning, we headed to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre where they have been working tirelessly since 1964 to care for orphaned, injured or displaced orangutan. Sepilok is set on a large chunk of protected land at the edge of the Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve; when we arrived just as the doors were opening to the public, it was calm and serene… if I were an orangutan, I certainly wouldn’t mind hanging out there!

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

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