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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Asia/Pacific Eating Abroad Featured Malaysia

Kota Kinabalu – Ten Things to Do For First-Time Visitors

March 12, 2018
Kota Kinabalu Sabah Guide

When I told my Malaysian aunties that we were going to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, they were equal parts curious and perplexed. “But why…”, they trilled. “You’ll be bored…”, they mused. “I don’t think they have any decent malls there…”, they fretted. And then they just laughed and put it down to us being so intrepid and crazy. Well, dear aunties who have never ventured to Sabah, I’m pleased to tell you (and anyone else who cares to listen) that though we didn’t come across many malls, we certainly weren’t bored! Quite the opposite actually… we spent five action-packed days in Kota Kinabalu doing such a mix of activities and experiencing different aspects of the culture, and still… I don’t think we even scratched the surface of what Sabah has to offer!

Sabah felt different to the other parts of Malaysia I have visited; it’s much quieter, greener, and has more of a focus on nature and adventure. If hiking mountains, traipsing through jungles, and diving in the oceans in your thing then Sabah definitely has to be on your bucket list. That said, even city slickers like us fell in love with the culture of the Bornean tribes and the lush surroundings! Here are my top ten things to do for first time visitors to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah; they might just convince you to book that trip now…

Kota Kinabalu Sabah Guide

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Asia/Pacific Australia Eating Abroad Featured

Great Ocean Road – A Three-Day Road Trip Guide

March 8, 2018
Great Ocean Road 3 Day Guide

Each of our road trips start with either blasting out or belting out (depending on whether we’ve been fortunate enough to get the iPod connected or not) a song called Never Tire of the Road by Andy Irvine. I had never heard of the song or singer before I met a certain someone but now it’s sort of become our road trip thing… and one which never seemed more appropriate than when we were speeding out of Melbourne towards the Great Ocean Road. Mr Irvine melodically proclaims that he will “never tire of the road… never tire of the rolling wheels, never tire of the ways of the world, way out yonder is calling me…”, and we always enthusiastically sing along in agreement. Because it’s true: I don’t think we will ever tire of jumping in the car, driving somewhere new, and seeing what we can see!

The Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s most famous road trips, with people travelling far and wide to get a glimpse of Victoria’s rugged coastline, expansive forests and friendly villages. The region has a lot to offer, making it the perfect destination for families, couples, and friends alike, and for those with or without the luxury of time on their hands. We gave ourselves three days for the round trip from Melbourne to cover just the main sights along the coastline; I’ve heard of people doing it in just one or two days but that seemed far too rushed… with three days we were able to see everything we wanted to and do it at a leisurely pace! If you’re looking for some inspiration to take your own Great Ocean Road adventure, perhaps you’d like to follow our route…

Great Ocean Road 3 Day Guide

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