Business Travels: Thistle Johor Bahru Hotel

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Due to the fact that I have a particular client in Johor, I travel down quite often and i’ve always stayed at the same place as I love the rooms and service provided (the door man recognises my face by now). The hotel is about 30mins away from Senai Airport on days without traffic. There’s a KFC just across the street and a McDonalds down the road. So location-wise, it’s pretty strategic. It’s also just a 5-10mins drive to the Immigration Checkpoint where you can cross over to Singapore which is also adjacent to two large shopping malls, Johor Bahru City Square and Komtar JBCC (home to brands such as H&M, Uniqlo, Padini, Vinci, Daiso, and many others). Continue reading

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Business Travels: Park Regis Hotel Singapore

I checked in to Park Regis on Saturday afternoon. Original check in time is 3pm but the front desk was kind enough to check me in earlier and I managed to get my room almost immediately (kudos to them for the flexibility).

My room is on the 2nd floor which is also the same floor as the pool. The room itself is cozy with the soft lighting and I love the large window with the natural sunlight flowing into the room. It also makes a nice spot for reading a book or simply relaxing by the window. It has all the basic needs expected from a 4 star hotel. However an extra touch was the complimentary mobile phone with data. You can freely use it outside of the hotel. But of course you’re expected to take care of it well as there are charges for damaged/lost phone. They also have complimentary wifi in the room as well.

The queen size bed was super comfy and gave me a good night rest after a whole day of walking. One feature of the room that you would have noticed is the unique position of the wash basin and vanity area right there in the room itself. The actual shower and toilet are in separate cubicles behind frosted glass.

My room also included complimentary breakfast at the cafe situated on the 3rd floor. It has the basic toast, omelette station, yoghurt, juices and some mix of local (porridge, rice, etc) and international menu (sausages, baked beans, etc). The spread isn’t very big and could use a little more variety. But it was alright for a quick bite.

The hotel is situated in a strategic spot near the Central Business District (CBD) where my office is situated and also walking distance to the lively tourist spot of Clarke Quay. In fact the nearest MRT station is the Clarke Quay MRT station (purple line) which is just less than 5mins walk from the hotel. You can easily access the entrance to the station via overhead bridge right next to the hotel upon exiting the concierge area.

Through the MRT station underpass, you can also easily access The Central mall which is just directly above via escalator. You can find lots of good Japanese restaurants and other eateries here. There’s a food court downstairs where you can find food on the cheaper side. As you walk outside of the mall, you’ll see the riverside itself which is a great place for a relaxing stroll in the evening.

Overall it was an enjoyable stay here and being centrally located, it made a great spot to set as my base ground.

Lombok: Day 1 – Waterfalls & Ayam Taliwang

Once again, this post has been way overdue. I had the trip way back in February and so I may not remember all the details. But i’ll try and capture as much as I remember anyway.

My friends and I managed to get cheap return tickets from KL to Lombok via AirAsia (RM300+) which is about 75 USD. So we immediately booked our tickets there and then. Our flight was in the evening and by the time we reached Lombok it was already around 9pm+. Getting through immigration was a really long process. The airport was fairly small with very few counters which is to be expected. So do expect to wait for some time to clear through that. They do have free airport wifi, but the connection was quite unstable but good enough to get a few whatsapp messages through.

By the time we collected our bags, it was already 10pm++. So we decided to stock up on some snacks at the convenience store in the airport before heading off to our hotel. Do try out their instant noodles (Pop Mie) which is fairly cheap and really nice for snacking. Getting a taxi at this hour was really easy as a bunch of Taxi’s were readily waiting for customers outside the airport. So don’t be shy to haggle as there are many options around. We were staying at Living Asia Resort & Spa which is located around Senggigi (roughly 57KM north from the airport and about 1.5 hours journey). The taxi ride came up to IDR285,000 (~USD22).

We took the partial sea view room and booked via Agoda. The room was on offer at that time so we managed to get it for a total of RM450 for 3 nights (~USD112). To be honest we didn’t really see the partial sea view from our room, but we assume it was named so due to the fact that the room is closer to the sea. The rooms are arranged in a double-storey concept with one room on top and one room at the bottom. If you manage to get the room on the top floor, then perhaps you will get the partial sea view. But since our rooms were on the bottom floor we didn’t get the view. Not a big issue though because as soon as we stepped out of our rooms we had a clear view of the infinity pool and the beautiful sea view. From the pictures above, you could see that the room was quite spacious and the bathroom in particular was huge with an open roof concept.

The next day we had an early start and made our way to the hotel restaurant for our breakfast by the sea. The breakfast buffet spread was just nice with a mixture of local and western selections. One thing I loved in particular were the freshly baked bread section. The croissants are really lovely! I literally had it everyday.

After our breakfast we asked the hotel to help find us a driver to take us around. We managed to get a friendly uncle who was very obliging and took us around during our entire stay. It’s common to hire drivers here and again, you can negotiate for the best price. I can’t remember how much we paid for the entire trip, but it was definitely a reasonable amount and I would highly recommend it. We spent our first day visiting the waterfalls near the foot of Mount Rinjani. There are two famous waterfalls here. The closer and smaller one is called Sendang Gile while the further and more majestic one is called Tiu Kelep. Both waterfalls require a hike through the forest, so we hired a guide just to be safe. You can hire one at the starting point of the hike where there’s also a small local restaurant for you to grab a bite or stock up on mineral water bottles.

The hike to the first waterfall was fairly easy. Just 10 mins hike with proper pavements. While the 2nd one was an additional 30mins hike through hills and small rivers. The path to the 2nd waterfall didn’t have proper pavement, so be prepared with proper shoes. I would advise something light and quick to dry as you will be passing through water at various points. Do be careful during raining season as the water levels may pose as a danger and guides would advise against it. However luckily for us, we managed to complete our hike right before the rain started pouring in.

Later that evening our driver took us to Mataram for the special local delicacy called Ayam Taliwang (spicy grilled chicken). Probably the best meal we had throughout our entire trip!

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That’s all for day 1! I’ll continue the rest in my next post (soon!)

 

Bangkok – Shopping

My friend and I planned a random getaway one day and decided on Bangkok. We found a really chic hotel in the Sukhumvit area called Salil Hotel. It’s not a flashy luxurious place. But they sure have great room deco and also really convenient location which is just like a 5mins walk from the Nana BTS train station.

Bangkok is known as the shopping paradise. So of course shopping was one of our main agenda for the trip. Among the places we visited were Chatuchak Market, Terminal 21, Siam Paragon, Asiatique and also Central World.

Chatuchak Market:

Opening hours: Saturday/Sunday 9am – 6pm
How to get there: Hop on the skytrain (BTS) to Mo Chit station, take exit no. 1

Before venturing into this huge place, I downloaded a map of the entire market. It’s pretty useful to plan your time there as the place is simply far to big to cover in one day. My main target was clothes and shoes so I stuck around the bottom left side of the map. I ended up buying t-shirts, souvenirs (soaps shaped like fruits), sunglasses, a dress and lots of local snacks at the cheapest price around Bangkok. Also do try the coconut ice-cream there. So smooth and good!

Terminal 21

Opening hours: 10.00am – 10.00pm daily
How to get there: Take BTS to Asok Station

My friend and I loved the fact that this mall was just one stop away from our hotel and conveniently linked to the BTS station. The unique thing about this mall was the fact that each level is themed after different countries. Even the toilets are fancily decorated. Good spot for shopping too as I bought a top, shoes, handmade bracelet and earrings for around 300 baht each. You just need to find the right shops and hunt for good bargains.

Siam Paragon

Opening hours: 10.00am – 10.00pm daily
How to get there: Take BTS to Siam Station

This shopping mall is more for the luxury brands and high end shopping. I didn’t spend too much time here but worth a look too.

Asiatique

Opening hours: 5pm – 12am daily
How to get there: Take BTS to Saphan Taksin station. Then take the free shuttle boat to Asiatique.

This place is like a warehouse with a bunch of shop stalls within it. Something like a mini Chatuchak but with a more polished and organised look. Things aren’t as cheap as Chatuchak but it’s fairly cheap as well. I bought earrings for like 150baht, a lovely lace blouse for 200baht and customised lanyard card holder for 50baht. There’s also a shop selling cheap food items which make perfect souvenirs. I got various flavoured nuts, and seaweed for around 200 baht a packet. Getting here was pretty fun too as we took a free shuttle boat which was next to the Saphan Taksin BTS. It’s around a 10min boat ride over the Chao Phraya river. While you’re there it’s also worth a visit to the Mango dessert shop called Mango Tango. The mango sticky rice was so worth it!

Central World

Opening Hours: 10am – 10pm
How to get there:
– Chit Lom BTS exit 9
– Siam BTS exit 6 to skywalk

I didn’t do much shopping here but more of for the food. Had really yummy smooth mango peach gelato at Gelate and there’s a bunch of really great restaurants on the 7th floor. My friend and I had lunch at Mango Tree and ordered this huge grilled fish with dipping sauce while my friend ordered some kinda seafood noodle and the bill came up to about 500baht. After that I had ice cream again but this time at Coldstone for brownie icecream.

Travel Tips:

  • Bring a foldable umbrella – It rains quite a bit here. I was caught in the rain many times and regret not bringing an umbrella with me. Of course you could buy one easily. But I didn’t want the hassle of bringing back another umbrella. I already have far too many at home. Also while you’re at it, do try to wear sandals or shoes that you don’t mind getting wet. I made the mistake of wearing my cloth material flats and had to wash and hair-dry it at the hotel each time.
  • Buy a local sim card – One thing I do as soon as I touch down in another country is to definitely get a local sim. You can get it at the airport or 7/11 shops. It’s always good to stay connected (like for searching info for places to eat, using waze, or maps and contacting your family/friends if you ever get lost while wandering off on your own). There’s 3 different providers to choose from which are True, AIS, and DTAC. I hear that they all have similar coverage and the price are also the same for the traveller sim pack. I got the 299baht plan for 7 days with 1.5GB of data. Definitely more than enough for my 4 day stay.
  • Buy a Rabbit Card (BTS travel card) – I got mines for 550baht (50baht refundable deposit and loaded with 15 trips) at the BTS station. This is really useful if you stay in the central part of the city and plan on using the BTS a lot. Saves the hassle and time from buying tickets each time. I ended up using only 9 trips during my stay. But definitely still worth it and i highly recommend it to those who are staying in central Bangkok for about a week.

Business Travels: Brunei

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It’s been a while since my last post. Been busy with work and all that….particularly in travelling. I had a business trip to Brunei a few weeks back which marked my first maiden voyage to that country. I really didn’t know what to expect since i didn’t know much about the place. But after experiencing it all I noticed that it’s a very quiet and peaceful place. I guess most of the the people who come here are those who want to connect with nature and have a relaxing trip to wind down. But if you’re a shopping kinda person, then there’s not much to do here since they’re not exactly the shopping kinda place. They just have a few shopping malls which are more towards local shops. So don’t expect any Zara, MNG or anything like that.

Now back to the main reason I visited this place is for business. So i’ll talk a little bit more on that. On the business side I see their corporate culture is also very relaxing and not hectic at all. I was in Bandar Seri Begawan itself which is the heart of Brunei, but I rarely see any traffic on the roads even on a weekday and the people also go back on time (typical 9-5 kinda job). So work-life balance is practiced well here. But then again, this might be just my particular client. So i’m not sure about the rest. But on a whole, Brunei gives me the whole quiet and slow-paced kinda life. Which is a pretty good thing if you’ve had enough of the hectic life such as the one back in KL.

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As for the place which I stayed, it was The Brunei Hotel. I stayed in their superior room and was given a queen size bed. The rooms were nice and clean. Though a bit simple, it had all the necessary things you need such as cable tv, hairdryer, toiletries (soap and shampoo), and wireless internet access for up to two devices.

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It’s pretty convenient as it’s within walking distance to my client and also to some food options. It’s also just across from the riverside (Kianggeh River) with the “pasar” (market) situated just across from it.

20150415_183151If you’re ever staying around here, I would recommend the Japanese restaurant by the Brunei River called “Kaizen”. It’s just like a 10mins walk from the hotel and has a nice view overlooking the river and their menu is rather extensive. I would always end up ordering a little too much because everything on the menu looked good!

I was in Brunei for 2 days and was back again the week after that for another 2 days. Both trips for business. So I didn’t get to explore much of Brunei. But looking at the amount of foreigners in the airport (both tourists and businessmen), I would say it has it’s own appeal to certain groups of people.

Business Travels: Hong Kong

I’ve been meaning to blog on this LONG ago but never had the time. So here it goes~ Went to Hong Kong for one of my company training a few months ago. One of the perks I get for working in my company (all expense paid trip!). Was there for 4 days and I went there with another colleague where we stayed at 2 different hotels during our stay there. One was Regal Hotel in Causeway Bay and the other was Cosmopolitan Hotel in Wan Chai. You’re probably wondering why we bothered staying at 2 different hotels when they are so close to each other. Well that’s because my company covers my stay during my training sessions only and since I extended my stay there for an extra night for my own leisure, I needed to find a convenient place to stay for the night and that’s how we ended up in Cosmopolitan for a night. I’ll be covering Regal Hotel first. This is a 4 star hotel situated in the centre of the shopping district which is Causeway Bay. LOVE the location!! Being true shopaholics, this was the perfect location for us. There’s a lot of nice shopping places within walking distance such as Times Square, Hysan Place, Sogo, Island Beverly Center and much more. 20140923_212237 20140923_212349 Now talking about the rooms itself, it’s very classy. A lot of golds and mirrors used throughout the room. I was given a queen sized bed all to myself too as we booked separate rooms. Mines had the view overlooking the sea. The room was really clean and well-maintained too. I also kinda liked how they had the ambient music button so if you’re a fan of that you can switch that on and just relax in the room or have a nice long bubble bath in the tub (speakers in the bathroom too). 1

Now onto my next hotel which is Cosmopolitan Hotel in Wan Chai which is also another 4 star hotel but we got cheaper rates here online through Agoda. It was a short 15 min cab ride from our hotel to this one. The rooms are not as flashy as the one in Regal Hotel, but it’s surely nice too. We received a free upgrade to the family suite upon arrival (lucky us!). The suite comprised of two rooms so again we got our own space. Each room has 2 single beds, a flat screen tv and we even had a smartphone provided for us to use freely with no charges! Cool huh? I had the view of the roads below and a slight view of the Happy Valley Racecourse as well. My colleague had the slightly larger attached room with the mini bar. What I like about that is that they gave us a whole variety of mineral water (4 complimentary bottles btw), mints, tea & coffee, and even a microwave too. Convenience-wise, it’s situated along a busy road and you would have to take an underpass to get to the other side towards the shopping district. However they are near one of the tram stops which is just across the road and they also provide free shuttle service to Hong Kong Train station where we took a direct express train to the airport. It was super convenient and far cheaper than taking a cab. The whole journey took about 45mins. Overall I had a great stay at both hotels and would definitely come again when i’m in town. However if I had to choose between the two and if I had a bigger budget, I would say Regal Hotel wins this one because i’m just so in love with the posh room design and easy access to all the shopping areas! 12

Downtown in Johor

Headed down to Johor for the first time in either my entire life or a REALLY long time because I don’t recall ever stepping foot here (have always just flew over it lol). So anyway, I took a trip down here with my family for pure shopping at the one and only Johor Premium Outlet (JPO).

We visited during the first day of CNY itself and didn’t exactly have much time to plan for the trip as it was quite a spontaneous decision (less than a week ago). Unsurprisingly all the good hotels were snapped up and since we didn’t wanna splurge too much on the hotel room anyway, we decided to find an affordable yet good one in Kulai (more money for shopping kay!). After hearing some pretty good reviews from TripAdvisor, we decided on Creator Hotel (previously named Kulai City Inn). It’s a budget hotel but before you imagine tiny dingy shady-looking rooms, it’s actually quite a pleasant place with its little quirky art pieces around the whole place.

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The Lobby Areapic6Check out the cute reindeer :3

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This is an eco-friendly place so there’s like an educational screening on environmental tips and facts at the waiting area. And also check out my environmental-friendly room slippers. So cute!

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I got the deluxe room which was all white and pretty big (And yes those were all the goodies we brought back from JPO). Upon check out they also gave us some souvenirs. I got 3 of these plush bunnies! :3

Only downside is that there’s nothing much to do (within walking distance) from the hotel. But if you have a car and plan to drive out then there’s definitely not a prob. It’s also really close to JPO which is about 15 mins drive. They also offer free shuttle service to JPO or Lego Land (around 30 mins away). So it definitely was really convenient in my case. Overall it was a good stay considering the price we paid for and would definitely consider again if i’m back in town. P.S: I’ll be blogging about my JPO goodies in my next post!