Archive for the ‘Accommodation’ Category

Excuse me, does my room come with a rockstar?

January 26, 2010

Also guest blogging at Backseat Radio:
1. A review: ‘Alter the Ending’ by Dashboard Confessional
2. A new moon is rising
3. Editors who kick like a sleep twitch
4. Row, row, row that rocking boat
5. A Brand New sound to cure the broken soul

It has been a while since I last went back to Penang, and while I was away, a band of rock stars decided to wash up ashore and got the whole island in an uproar again with their latest edition of Hard Rock Hotel and Hard Rock Cafe.

So, once I have settled my leaves for my homecoming, calls were made and a room was set up for me at the hotel. I landed in Penang in the evening, and after seeing my parents at home for dinner, I loaded my bags into the car and headed halfway across the island towards my rockstar experience to see what the fuss was all about.

As the doors of the lift opened up, and I shuffled out with weary feet dragging my luggage, I was immersed immediately at the setting of the dimly lit hallway. Apparently, at each level of Hard Rock Hotel Penang, they have a different theme going on at the foyer, as well as different genres of music playing in the background.

Gazing down the wide corridor with striped wallpapers, I half expected some drunken rockstar to stumble out of his room with a groupie in each arm. I could so see the hallways filled with behind-the-music people – the band members, the fans and the journos, kicking back after an awesome concert in a venue nearby (but in Batu Ferringhi’s case, there is no such venue nearby), drinking expensive liquor and smoking up.

It was a nice image in my head.

Too bad all we have here are families with too noisy kids, and housekeepers with their large trolleys of dirty laundry and spare toiletries. Heh.

I fucking loved my room. The inviting bed – which itched me to go jump on it, which I did, heh. The 32” LCD television – can’t throw this TV out the balcony though. The Wi-Fi and broadband Internet – which was not a plus point in this hotel because I could not for the life of me stay connected for more than 15 minutes straight.

And this.

Call me ulu, but that was the first time I stayed in a hotel with an iPod docking stereo system. And I just loved the idea that someone put my beloved iPod into consideration. Almost immediately (after I got off from jumping on the bed), I plugged in my iPod, and blasted myself some Dashboard Confessional (OK, fine, not exactly a very hard rock music, but what can you do?).

The bathroom is lovely. Although a tad crammed, the decor was top for me. And I realised that Hard Rock Hotel Penang is a very narcissistic hotel, because wherever I turn to, there will be a reflection of me in the mirror staring back. I guess that is what rockstars love seeing – themselves. Heh.

From the bathroom, you can sort of see right through into the bedroom. If you are staying alone, it might not be much of a problem for you. But if you are not, it is OK. You can always slide open the mirrors.

But I would not advise that, because that would mean a very big Ray Charles staring at you while you are taking a shower or a dump. So what, he is blind; it is still creepy to have an old man in the bathroom with you.

With such a confined space, the Seaview Deluxe (approx. RM490++*) does not come with a bathtub. But it does come with a rain showerhead and one that looks like a microphone – for the bathroom singers. Heh.

Also, a digital weighing scale. Rockstars do need to keep check of their weight, you know. But if you cannot see the numbers past your jutting belly, it is suffice to say you need to cut down on the alcohol and free food.

Having a music-themed hotel is also a perfect reason to have memorable lyrics littered in any place you can find. Things like Signed, Sealed, Delivered… I’m Yours by Stevie Wonder on letterheads, or some welcoming quote at the hotel front entrance. But it is a good thing they did not get carried away with it. It would have been an overkill.

After a nice hot shower, I slid open the balcony doors and kicked back on the sofa with a book, while enjoying the languid laps of the ocean just outside of my door. Then, it was straight to the beckoning bed, in which I slept like a log within seconds.

Cheap thrill to-do #1: Ask the room service if they can send up a rockstar to your room, and see how they response.

My sleep was interrupted the next morning by some overexcitedly loud kids by the pool. Meh.

But it was still nice to see the view of the beach from my balcony.

Rockstar or not, you cannot dive straight into the pool from your balcony. Safety first.

You can, however, from these rooms. They are the Lagoon Deluxe (approx. RM600++*) rooms, one of the most hot selling rooms in Hard Rock Hotel Penang. You can rise and shine in the morning and jump straight into the swimming pool from your deck.

For the not-so-rockstar guests, other room types you can consider on include: Hillview Deluxe (approx. RM380++*) – something similar to the Seaview Deluxe, only with an unparalleled scenic view of the hills; and Family Room (approx. RM580++*) – for those travelling in family packs. A non-smoking room, with a kids’ playground to keep your little rock stars entertained.

If you are a rockstar with platinum/gold/diamond-selling albums, you might want to consider these options: Kings Club Seaview Deluxe (approx. RM625++*) – only 10 units of these at Level 6, where you can enjoy a vantage point view of the ocean from your balcony; Seaview Studio Suite (approx. RM680++*) – for those who are enthused by space and comfort; Rock Star Suite – one and only suite with a connecting private living space for you to entertain your VIP guests, and a one bedroom that gives you the first class retreat you deserve; and Kings Suite – the next Graceland or Neverland Ranch for the next Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson in you.

Doesn’t that make you want to moonwalk your way to Hard Rock Hotel Penang now?

Guests from the latter four rooms get to enjoy access to Hard Rock Hotel Penang’s Kings Club Lounge, located on Level 6. It is a private area, where you can retreat to for a little privacy away from the ‘commoners’.

The theme on this level is, of course, all about the King of Rock himself – Elvis Presley. From the foyer, to the collage collection on the wall, to his very own green coat with golden emblazons in the casing – which is one of the more expensive memorabilias available at Hard Rock Hotel Penang.

You can have your breakfast at their dining area, because trust me, you do not want to get caught in the breakfast crowd, especially during peak season.

After that, you can kick back at the living area donned with memorabilia of the Kings from all music genres, perhaps even try to channel one of them to get your groove on.

The very first things you would notice upon stepping into Hard Rock Hotel Penang are none other than their memorabilia littered all over the place – from the glass display spread at the lobby, to the many hallways leading to your rooms, to the restaurants, and even as you exit out of the washrooms. So much so that everyone is snapping pictures everywhere they go – from posing with the Beatles’ head statues by the entrance, to posing with the guitar-shaped door knobs of the washrooms. Meh.

And most definitely, you would notice the 18-foot tall guitar placed right smack outside of Hard Rock Hotel Penang, which, by the way, is a replica of Chuck Berry’s guitar, also stored as a memorabilia in the hotel itself.

There are more than 500 pieces of unparalleled rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia collection from both local and international artists in the hotel. Spot for Madonna’s famous Vogue corset, or Richie Sambora’s tailor-made 12-string guitar, or Tom Petersson’s (of Cheap Trick) silk suit in the premise.

Memorabilia tours are available at 11AM and 3PM daily.

Other than that, there are many facilities at your disposal during your stay at the hotel.

Think your little one is the next Miley Cyrus or Jonas Brothers? You might want to kick things off early for them by ‘enrolling’ them to the Lil’ Rock Kids Club and Teens Club.

There are babysitters to look after them at Lil’ Rock – instilling rock music in them while they are at it, who knows? At the Teens Club, a pool table, foosball table and PlayStation to keep them entertained. There is even a drum kit in case inspiration hits and they need to bang out a tune.

Body Rock. Hard Rock’s very own gym with state-of-the art equipments for you to work those guns, especially for guitarists who are required to do those guitar goreng solos.

Rock Spa. Hard Rock Hotel’s spa outlet for you to retreat to for a relaxing massage to loosen up the muscles.

And of course the swimming pool, currently the largest swimming pool available in Penang, measuring at a magnificent 26,000 sq ft – that’s 3 Olympic-sized swimming pools, thank you very much.

Not forgetting the Rock Shop, where you go to get the ever-popular Hard Rock T-shirts. There are three Rock Shops available at Hard Rock Hotel Penang: the main one in a building on its own, another in Hard Rock Hotel Penang and the third in Hard Rock Cafe. But no, you cannot purchase any of the displaying memorabilia here.

I did wanted to get one for myself, but seeing that they did not have my size – and also the fact that everyone and their grandmas are wearing the T-shirts around the hotel, I decided to get this charity bracelet instead.

The Imagine There’s No Hunger campaign is a Hard Rock International initiative to help WHY, a non-profit organisation striving to fight against hunger and poverty around the world. The name, of course, stems from John Lennon’s legendary song Imagine.

So far, Hard Rock Hotel Penang only carries the charity bracelets (for RM5, whereby all proceeds go to WHY), and the pins will be arriving pretty soon. No sign of the merchandising Serve4 CDs though.

Hard Rock Hotel Penang has five F&B outlets where you can go fill your hungry tummies.

The sure hit is the Hard Rock Cafe Penang, with live bands rocking it out at the Cafe every night. Penang own’s rock band, Ocean of Fire, launched their latest album, Destination, to a full house here last year .

Try naming all the stars on the mural there.

Here, you can also find the Mapex drum set used by Matt Sorum of Guns ‘N’ Roses, which was torn apart to be plastered on the ceiling wall. I thought that was kind of a waste.

Also, the authentic American cuisine food made famous by Hard Rock Cafes across the globe.

The juicy and succulent Black pepper steak.

And the Chocolate brownie. They were yum.

Also the al-fresco Pizzeria, the perfect location for a lazy holiday meal with a great choice of pizzas and pasta dishes as you watch the sun set in the horizon.

Some Carbonara fettucini.

And the recommended Tandoori chicken pizza.

Other outlets include Starz Diner, an all-day dining restaurant featuring Asian and International cuisine; The Shack, a pool bar, where you can sub-emerged from your laps around the pool to a nice cooling glass of cocktail; and the Lobby Lounge, where drinks are served to you from the bar as you enjoy – surprise, surprise – more live music from performing bands.

Cheap thrill to-do #2: Ring up their hotline and note how they would greet you with a chirpy “how may I rock your world today?”

Truthfully, I am wary as to how long Hard Rock Hotel Penang will survive on the island. Granted, it is a wonderful to have something as renowned as Hard Rock Hotel here. It is cool (I think) to be in the same room with Vince Neil’s (of Motley Crue) and Phil Collin’s suits. (Yeah, they once sweated in them but whatever).

Currently, it is still a fairly new establishment, so everyone would still want to book a room there, and take pictures with the memorabilia. Not to jinx things or anything, but a few years down the road, when the room pricing suddenly becomes a problem to everyone, and the memorabilias are still the same as they were since day one, Penangites might just pull up their pants and go shit in some new toilets elsewhere on the island if nothing new swings by.

So, we will just have to wait and see how the hotel turns out in five years’ time.

Till then. Whether you like hard rock or soft rock, or even blues, pop or R&B, there is definitely a room for you here at Hard Rock Hotel Penang. Just make sure to arrive in a rockin’ style, and blow everyone away.

* Prices stated are correct during the point of reference.

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Hard Rock Hotel Penang
Batu Ferringhi Beach
11100 Penang
Malaysia
T: +6 04 881 1711
F: +6 04 881 2155
E: reservations.penang@hardrockhotels.net
W: http://penang.hardrockhotels.net

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A pearl in the jungle.

December 4, 2008

I am a city girl, who likes occasional escapades into the outskirts of nature. However, no matter how much I enjoy treading through muddy jungles and getting wet drenched in river water, it is always a comfort to know you have a well-maintained and comfortable accommodation to go back to after all the strenuous activities. A room with a working toilet and – bless their soul – hot water, as well as a primped room in which the housekeepers tend to every day at least once. And perhaps edible food that you can stomach to refill your energy.

I guess I will always be skeptical of accommodations amidst the greater nature until I have gone into the room and done the inspections myself. I suppose a part of me was kind of bracing for the worst just in case, as I have had my fair share of crappy accommodations along the way. My mind was still a blur after disembarking from the five-hour bus ride to Taman Negara National Park. We had lunch at their restaurant, which by the way serves wonderful food surprisingly. Not some sous chef gourmania, but at least good food that could make you believe that you never left the city at all.

Then, we dispersed to our individual rooms to freshen up. Pity me, as I had a room probably like 5 minutes away from the meeting point. Mutiara Taman Negara was built to expand horizontally, you see. But I was quite relieved with what Mutiara Taman Negara had in store for us when I opened the door.

I was given a chalet constructed in delightful Malay-timber, as were the other kinds of rooms available in Mutiara Taman Negara. A chalet with its own little porch to read, smoke and sip tea at while watching the rain fall outside. Inside was a quaint room with two singles, quiet to the core without any televisions or radio – Mutiara Taman Negara’s philosophy in keeping visitors comfortable yet in tune with the natural setting around.

Call me silly, but the first thing I checked out was the bathroom. Flushing toilet? Check. Hot water? Check. Working shower? Check. Toilet paper? Check and folded. Who cares if there is no TV? Who cares if there is nothing in the mini fridge? As long as I can get myself clean from all the gruesome adventure, I am a happy camper.

I guess Taman Negara is not called the world’s oldest and best preserved rainforest for nothing. They have quite a tight system on who enters the jungle and doing what, and also activities that are quite organised for us to choose from too.

One of them would be the Canopy Walkway, a must-do at Taman Negara. Built in 1992, it is known to be the longest canopy walkway in the world, stretching as long as 530 meters on 10 bridges and hovering 50 meters above the forest ground.

I could say it feels like walking on clouds, but that is hard to seep in when it feels like you are about to be thrown off the bridge whenever it sways the slightest. Especially during the third bridge that is 70 meters long, I thought it was going to give way and I was going to fall down into the greeny abyss. But it was not so bad once you have done it and thought about it. All you have to do is hold onto both railings and just walk as naturally as you can.

Another fun one could get into is rapids shooting. Say what, you say? Well, basically, it is something like a Grade 2 or, at best, a Grade 3 whitewater rafting. Only, instead of going with the current, you go against it so you have a higher chance of being capsised and getting wet.

Frankly, I had no idea what the hell it was until I was sitting on the boat floating languidly before hitting a rapid, which instantly made me wet and go, “Fuck, that was awesome.” Heh. The rapids shooting goes along the Tembeling River, and there are 7 major rapids to conquer: Nusa, Dua, Abai, Teras, Panjang and Terenggan. Unfortunately, the weather was bad that day and before we could experience all seven of the rapids, we had to turn around  to go back to the resort.

Along Tembeling River is a Orang Asli tribe called Batek. Currently, there are less than 3,000 of them left and the ones we visited by the river was only 20% of the population. The rest remain residing in the depths of the rainforest. We learned quite a lot about the Batek tribe during the short tour: how they make fire, how they make blowpipes and darts, what kind of food they eat and what are their traditions and beliefs for a funeral… It was quite interesting.

But I just could not get over the fact of how they just sat around and let us photograph them, as if they were some animal in display in the zoo. It kind of bothered me until I found out that they make money from these tours. Apparently, each of them get paid RM5 every time a group of tourists stop by. So, I suppose it is not that bad, seeing that it is a win-win situation. Besides, the village we visited, they were quite well-off for an aboriginal tribe, what with the shirts on their backs and some even owning cell phones. Well, now we know where all the RM5 goes to. Heh.

Our cave exploration was not really fun, and it was quite strenuous for someone like me. Just before we got to Gua Telinga, we had to go through a 1KM jungle trekking, in which for most parts were muddy from the rain the previous night. There were a few times I walked myself into a sticky dead end, and was close to asphyxia by the time we reached the cave.

And it did not really get any better when we went down into the wet and slippery cavern. We had to maneouvre through claustrophobic corners, careful not to slip amongst the rock and break your neck or limbs. The challenge was to find the right point to step on to move forward, and it took a while for me to arrange my limbs correctly so I could move on without twisting myself into a knot. I think for at least twice during the journey, I had huffed and questioned myself why am I putting myself through this torture.

When we emerged, ah, how the fresh air and bright green grass and chirping birds sounded so wonderful. But then of course, that only lasted for a few minutes, because we had to backtracked the 1KM to the jetty. Meh.

Now you know why a good conditioned accommodation is a must?

As the name suggested, Mutiara Taman Negara is truly a pearl hidden in the folds of Mother Nature’s arms. Not only do you get to share space with the abundant flora and fauna, you are also guaranteed a good resting spot by the end of your adventure. All the more reason to put Taman Negara in your next to-do list, don’t you think?

* By the way, ‘mutiara’ means ‘pearl’ in the Malay Language.

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Mutiara Taman Negara Resort
Kuala Tahan
27000 Jerantut
Pahang Darul Makmur
Malaysia
T: +6 09 266 3500 / +6 09 266 2200
E: cro@mutiarahotels.com
W: http://www.mutiarahotels.com

Sunsets at five.

September 14, 2008

It felt like a heavy burden was lifted off my chest the moment the plane landed in the tiny airstrip of the Pangkor Island Airport. It was one thing taking off from the Subang Airport, where it was noisy as hell what with the place being under construction, and we had to wait for an hour or so for the plane to arrive. It was another thing taking off with a propeller airplane.

Yes, it was my first time hopping on such a plane, and as I took the seat in the 48-seater, I could not help thinking of that flipped and moss-grown yellow propeller plane in Lost, the one that got Boone killed off the show. It did no good to my senses too when I took my seat, and saw that the wall was agap and I could actually see the outside through the little crack. Scared the crap out of me too when the co-pilot pressed the wrong button and we were shooting down head first to the ground for like 3 seconds.

Don’t get me wrong. I do like flying and it was an experience flying in these old skool planes. My first experience just was not really smooth flowing. Heh.

The last time I was in Pangkor Island, I was cooped up in a resort I could not remember the name of for a church retreat. So that did not really count as being to Pangkor Island before, thus it was nice to finally get to go back there again and reset my holiday experience there. And boy, was it resetted.

A chartered bus – or truck, more like it – rolled up to the so-called airport and loaded us all up to bring us to Pangkor Island Beach Resort, which was a short journey because it was after all a small island and the resort was just practically at the backyard of the airport. On board, we were entertained for a while by the resident performers of the resort with Paris Hilton’s Stars. Meh.

Upon arriving at the resort, we were greeted by a band of kompang players and presentation of leis to each of us. I thought it was quite a nice touch to things. It almost felt like the plane had landed us in Hawaii instead, if not for the kompang band. Yet, the resort made an effort during our stay there to convince us that being in Pangkor Island is definitely a nice and quiet place for an island retreat.

We each had a room to ourselves, and all of the rooms – and I mean all – face the ocean. So, if you leave the balcony door open, you could hear the waves lapping against the shores. It was the best thing to hear at night.

However, beware of leaving your balcony doors opened for too long because Pangkor has got the meanest and cheekiest monkeys. Apon arriving into his room, my photographer, Yusman, opened his balcony door and immediately a whole family of monkeys rushed in and helped themselves to the complimentary food basket. One of them saw the shock on Yusman’s face that he even threw a banana back at him to cheer him up. That was the joke for the entire trip, but I bet none of us would like to be in Yusman’s shoes then when the monkeys attacked. So yes, keep balcony door opened with care.

Take it from me that Pangkor Island is a quiet island, literally, because there is not much life outslde of the resorts, especially at night. So, it was a perfect time for me to retreat back to my room after a sumptuous dinner and leave the TV off for the night. There was a sitting area by the balcony door, where I could hear the oceans on full blast as the fan spun quietly overhead while I caught up on lost chapters of Stephen King’s The Talisman.

It felt really serene. Like the world just fell apart somewhere out there, and I was in a refuge where nothing could touch me.

Every day, around 6.30PM without fail, a school of hornbills will start appearing around the premises. The resort has set up a hornbill feeding station for them, so they would just stop by and hang around the guests like they are part of the species. I have not actually seen anyone going up to them and patting them, so I do not know just exactly how friendly they are. But usually, I guess they are just there for seeing and snapping pictures. I do not get to see them everyday in the city, you see, so it was still a nice feeling being so close to their kind.

Asides from the hornbills and good food, and perhaps the notorious monkeys residing at the jungle next to the resort, one thing Mother Nature has blessed the resort – and the island – with is this.

Sunsets.

What more can I say but that it takes my breath away every dusk watching the sky leaks a fiery orange and red as it sets at the horizon. Holding a house-brewed cocktail in hand as you sat on the beach chair with a front row seat to such a panaromic show. As you breathed out, it felt like the troubles you have your back to means nothing more than blurry shadows. And that exhalation will take away your problems to the sinking sun, where they will disappear along with the sun as it sets.

It was a pity I had to leave the island and go back to work after two blissful nights of nothingness. It would be nice to stay there for a few more days and enjoy every inch of it. The people were nice there and they made you feel like you are at home. And the atmosphere made it feel like it is home. It could be the perfect place to be when one decides to drop out the face of the earth for a little while.

Also seen on VM @ Travel Talk.

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Pangkor Island Beach Resort
Teluk Belanga
32300 Pangkor Island
Perak Daruk Ridzuan
Malaysia
T: +6 05 685 1091 / 1800 88 7777
E: reserve@pangkorislandbeach.com
W:  http://www.pangkorislandbeach.com

Moh, balik kampung!

August 27, 2008

It was like going back to a place I used to call home in the rural kampung area during Hari Raya, where my grandparents still reside in, waiting for my family and my cousins’ family. Well, if ever I was a Malay to begin with, that is. But I suppose I might as well be, what with the places I have been to. I wouldn’t be surprised if I rock up my parents’ door one day announcing my marriage to a Malay. Hah. Actually, I was kidding there.

What with the traditional Malay houses serving as chalets of sorts, I thought Warisan Pahlawan Resort was quite a quaint place to be in. It was a small compound, seeing that they had just started business not too long ago, and we were the first bunch of people to stay there then. There were only about five houses there, each with four rooms or so to their own. You won’t expect air-conditioned rooms, or romantic orange light at this part of town. It was practically like someone’s house, with typical bedsheets and blankets you usually find cheap at the night market. I had to ask for a mosquito repellent because they were already starting to get to me.

But I guess I liked it because you get to experience what it is like cooped up in a typical Malay kampung. The environment. The atmosphere. The culture. It was drizzling the day we checked into the resort, and we had  nothing to do – literally, and everyone was just sitting around, waiting for something to happen. Guys had chit chats at the patio while munching on bananas, while girls did their own girl talks outside their rooms. Time just stood still for us city folks for one day, and we were stripped down to our basics. And I thought that was kind of nice.

It was not exactly the best buffet spread out there when meal times came around. There was a nice little sheltered area just underside of the guys’ house, where we had our meals. (Sometimes, we could even hear the guys moving about upstairs). The makcik who owns the resort would cook up something nice for us, one of those typical Malay dishes fit for any Malay kind of dinners, lunches and breakfasts, which were all kind of the same, if you ask the Chinese part of me. But hey, I am not one to complain. I have had so much Malay food that I am kind of used to it already. Besides, I am not one to “live to eat”, as long as it fills the tummy, I look forward to another day.

But one thing you don’t have to worry about is getting hungry, because the hosts were so good to us that they seem to be feeding us every hour of the hour! That night, we had just had our dinner, but probably an hour or two later, they were pulling out their barbecue pits and roasting buttered corns and salted peanuts.

Alia, one of us bunch, was holding her piece of corn, waiting for it to cool when she turned to us and said, “Cam balik kampung Alia bile Hari Raya, kan?” (“Feels like I’m back in my own hometown during Hari Raya.”) I looked around me: there were kids running around, while fathers stood by the pit watching the corns and peanuts cook, with mothers and sisters sitting on swings hung from the underside of the house chattering away. It was pitch black beyond the perimeter of the resort. If there were fireworks going off nearby, it could have fooled me that it was the festive season indeed.

The next day, before we were treated with some household “performances”.  There came a house of old ladies out of nowhere (they just suddenly appeared off the road along the resort), dressed in uniformed red and blue baju kurungs. After breakfast, they set up station at the empty compound outside of the resort for their tumbuk lesong performance.

Tumbuk Lesong is actually a kind of job the villagers used to do back in the older days. Not many people know how to do that now, and the only ones left were these old ladies. And as modernisation took over, all they were left making money out of this, is making a performance of it.

The procedure is like this. The rice grains are picked from the field and they will be soaked in a bucket of water for a day. Then, the grains will be cooked in a frying pan oiled with a thin layer of cooking oil. When the grains started dancing and popping on the wok, it is time to move them over to a bowl (of sorts), where the grains will be hammered down flat. These flattened grains are like oatmeals, and they are usually consumed with shredded coconut. Now, it may seem easy when the three elderly did the hammering, but when it was our turn to try it out, we were so out of rhythm I think the makciks would have died of heart attack sooner then waiting for her turn to hit the grain.

While waiting for the next performance to set up, we even managed to squeeze in a durian eating session, what with the durian season around the corner and all. Heh. Besides, the resort has an orchard of their own, so why not? Like I said, you will never go hungry in a Malay kampung.

Next, was the silat kura-kura performance, which is only available in Kampung Menerung of Hulu Terengganu. As suggested by the name itself, the silat takes in the form of movements of a tortoise – shrugging shoulders, craned necks, hesitant sliding steps, half-balled fists, half-closed eyes and hissing sounds. Amusing, but entertaining all the same.

Although we have only stayed there for one night, but it felt like we have stayed there for much longer. I thought it was quite an original tactic to have cultural performances during your stay at the resort. I mean, sure there will always be plenty Malay cultural dances to go around, but it was interesting to see something different like tumbuk lesong and silat kura-kura. Something that is only available in Terengganu and nowhere else.

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Warisan Pahlawan Resort
22 Kampung Pauh
21700 Kuala Berang
Hulu Terengganu
Terengganu
Malaysia
T: +6 09 612 0751
E: ej_tourism@yahoo.com

Miss Busybody, can I pencil you in?

August 21, 2008

For any kind of traveller – big or small – there will always come a time when travelling just gets too much for us. And all you want is to just have the best hotel to go back to and sleep the hours away.

Luckily, for the many business executives in the heart of KL, there is the Parkroyal KL’s brand new Orchid Club wing to kick back and relax. And lucky for me, I got to play pretend for one night, as if I am some big shot CEO coming into town for some business meeting, lugging my little carry-on and suit to the hotel ready for a good night’s rest.

For some reason, their check-in reception is not only away from the general check-in counters, but way up on the top floor of the Orchid Club wing. As I made my way to my room, I passed by the Zen Atrium, which is quite cool in some sense, but I thought to be quite pointless in another. Maybe if you stare at the changing lights long enough, you would actually feel zen. I don’t know. Heh. But I guess, I could not imagine anything else filling up that space either.

When I got into my room, I just loved every corner of it. A very inviting king-sized bed with plush pillows and the thickest comforter I would ever dream of having. Compared to my tiny single bed still left on the floor because I have not gotten around to buy a bed frame yet, this is like Heaven. So, yes, there is a big LCD TV screen, where more important people can watch CNN and NBC and ABC. But what pleased me that day more than the bigass TV and an emperor’s bed, was something as simple as having free Net access in the hotel room. Ah yes, I am indeed a geek. Heh.

However, I would not recommend looking out the windows. I bet the hotel staffs are aware of that too, because the blinds are always tightly shut. Now, if you must know, Parkroyal KL is situated along Jalan Sultan Ismail, one of the bustling streets at the heart of KL. And if you are familiar with the beat of this city, it is not healthy and has been diagnosed with all sorts of heart problems available to a metropolis.

When I looked out my window, it was like hell on the other side. A bumper-to-bumper gridlock, and a monorail squeaking past overhead. I had a chance to peak out the windows of their Executive Suite, and I found myself face-to-face with a demolished building across the street. Yes, windows closed please.

But, you have to give them credit for creating such an euphoric atmosphere in the midst of such havoc. Besides, which businessmen would like to stare out the windows of a city-based hotel anyway?

After checking in to my room and settling my stuffs down, I got an appointment at the St Gregory Spa. The last time I had a spa treatment was years ago, and it was wonderful to be welcomed back to the aromatic rooms. All I remembered of that session, was the masseuse running her thumb up my spine, and cracking it on the way. After that, I was slowly drifting off to sleep, hearing the faint traffic buzz outside the thick walls.

When I got back to my room, I realised that someone had came in and flipped my bedsheets for me. That was the first for me. Because throughout my life of staying in hotels, I have never had an invisible butler flipping my bedsheets before I go to bed. I would not be surprised if he happened to stand next to my bed when I wake up the next morning. Or pop out from the wardrobe when I ring a bell.

The bathroom was awesome in some sense. For one, it has a rain showerhead. And. That is about it, really. But yes, a rain showerhead. First encounter in my life.

I parked myself at the desk to use the free Net access before bed. The air-conditioning was cold as hell as it was directing right at me. Got myself logged in to chit chat with my friends online and had the TV tuned in to So You Think You Can Dance – not because I watch it because the Malaysian candidate sucks compared to the Americans, but because there is nothing else on TV. After that, I looked so defeated lying there on my new king-sized bed. But contented, nonetheless.

I would have slept till the following afternoon, but alas, I had an appointment to go to. And it was with a heavy heart as I packed my bags and left the room. But, as always, the fun part of being in a hotel stay, is the complimentary breakfast the next morning. I love myself some variety of cereal and eggs and buttered toast with a glass of orange juice.

The last highlight of my stay was when the waiter came up to me and asked how would I like my eggs. Scrambled, please.

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Parkroyal Kuala Lumpur
Jalan Sultan Ismail
50250 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia
T: +6 03 2147 0088
W: http://www.parkroyalhotels.com

A writer’s kind of dream retreat.

July 16, 2008

I remember the chalet we stayed in during our stop at Airlie Beach on our Cairns summer road trip. The beach was not the prettiest compared to the others we saw, but the moon was out that night and we had a simple pasta outside our unit and played a few rounds of mahjong. I remember turning to Jacqui and said, “Wow, this could just be the perfect retreat for us writers to come and write our book.”

I will never forget.

Ye Olde Smokehouse @ Frasers Hill.

Imagine this.

You finish up the very last of your assignments that have not stopped coming in since three years ago. You pack up your laptop and leave the office in a jiffy before your boss exits from his room and calls for more tasks to be done. You get into the car, look over at the backseat and smile down at the duffel bag packed with a week’s worth of clothes, toiletries, your favourite book, and a set of white paper. You avoid the heavy traffic that usually leads you home, and set out for the Fraser’s Hill highlands.

You reach Ye Olde Smokehouse on the steep slope and check in to the room you have booked a few months back. The Guenevere Suite, a name worthy in the beauty of a valiant queen. You drop your bag and survey the room as the bell boy bid you a good night’s sleep and leave you be.

It has been a long day, and finally you are where you are supposed to be. You take a bath that seems to last a lifetime, change into the Peter Alexander flannels you bought a few weeks ago, perhaps reserved just for this occasion. You don’t need any air-conditioning, though the place has none to offer either. You don’t need any electrical fan, though it is there in case it gets too warm. All you need is to open your window to let in the cool breeze of a higher ground. Switch off your cell phone, you don’t need that anymore. Nevermind music to go to sleep to, listen to the loudest silence you have almost forgotten. You snuggle into the depths of the flowery linens, and the moment your head hits the pillow, all you remember is darkness.

Wake up to the whiffs of home cooked breakfast from the kitchen below. And you ask yourself, when was the last time you actually wake up at your own time, and cook up a breakfast that lasts you till tea time? So, you savour it and take the biggest inhale. The juiciest sausages, the runniest eggs, and the freshest orange juice.

You have the choice. Perhaps to have breakfast in your very own dining room. Or to the dining area downstairs, bid your neighbouring escapees a very good morning – and actually mean it – and read your favourite book instead of the everyday newspaper.

Maybe for the first few days, you take a stroll in the courtyard, listen to the conversational birds and string words together for your empty pages. Then, when it is more than enough, you find a nice spot you can be in, take a moment to take in the quietness and tranquility, and start the writing you have been putting off forever.

For lunch, head into the dining area to get away from the midday sun. Sink your teeth in some afternoon delight that the chefs have meticulously prepared for you. Have a chit chat with the staffs or the guests, exchange life stories, find out the seemingly poor looking bald man actually owns a rich box company across shores, or that the young waiter serving your coffee is actually saving up money to sail around the world for 80 days. You never know which storyteller may be your next Eskimo friend.

You find it easier to smile up at the approaching old couple, and you feel nice enough to offer them the closes seats in the living room. Strange, really. Because it suddenly strikes you that you have not been smiling – willingly – for a very long time, and that you would rather turn the other cheek than acknowledge frail old people.

Perhaps you can strike up a conversation with them. Start the smallest of talks, and ask the most random questions, like “what is your favourite TV show of all time?” or “if the Earth turns backwards, will we be walking backwards too?” Or maybe you would like some time alone. So, you make our way up to your room for a few more chapters of your writing. You can choose to write three words for the day, or three lines, or three pages, or none at all. You are in control, and you smile. You have never felt so liberated.

Come tea time, take a break. Step out into the warm courtyard for the freshly baked English scones and apple pie and freshly brewed coffee and tea. Find a little corner for yourself under the tree with your favourite book. Spread a layer of butter, another of whipped cream, and another of strawberry jam. Brush the tiniest crumbs onto the saucer and be prepare for the most sense imploding taste you have ever tasted. Be ready to hold back your moan as the moist texture brush against your salivating tongue and wash down past your throat as smooth as silk.

Take it. Take it all in. The lingering taste in your mouth. The calmness that surrounds you. As you watch the failing dusk in front of your eyes. Empty your mind as red turns to blue, and the inviting smell of dinner lures you back into the house.

As you sit in the warm bath again tonight, you feel a little down because the day seemed to have passed by so quickly. Suddenly, you grow afraid that the seventh day will arrive too soon, and then, you are back to the claustrophobic cube of your office and this time, your boss will corner you and dump a week’s worth of task on you that make you wish you have never taken the holiday in the first place. You sigh.

But then. You shake yourself awake. You are not going to spend the rest of your day-offs dreading of when it is over. So, you put on a smile and head to bed for another night. As you lay awake staring at the curtained ceiling, you thought what a wonderful day it has been. Nothing to worry about but the next line in your book. And the best thing is, you get to do it all over again tomorrow. Rinse and repeat.

There was no beach, nor immaculate moonlight, nor friends to play mahjong with. But I have England and a piece of its countryside. It is a good enough place for the writer to roll up her sleeves and learn to write for herself again.

++
Ye Olde Smokehouse Hotel & Restaurant
Jalan Jeriau
49000 Fraser’s Hill
Pahang Darul Makmur
Malaysia
T: +6 09 362 2226
E: frasers@thesmokehouse.com.my
W: http://www.thesmokehouse.com.my