Best Places to Visit for Street Art

Seeing masterpieces by Rembrandt, Monet, van Gogh, Picasso et al can be a once in a lifetime experience for many. But going to museums usually take a big chunk off a traveler’s budget.

Today, art is no longer confined in the four corners of a building. More and more formal and freestyle artists take their art to the streets so that more people can appreciate them.

With the help of my friends, I compiled a list of best places to visit for street art.

Penang, Malaysia

wrought iron art penang

This UNESCO World Heritage town have quirky yet functional wrought iron street markers. If you take the time to read the text on the caricatures, you’ll find that they’re both informative and entertaining.

Next, head on to Armenian Street to check out murals by Ernest Zacharevic. He often marries his murals with real-life objects, and the results are larger than life.

penang street art
“Litte Girl in Blue”

Photo credit: Echoserang Lakwatsera.

Continue reading “Best Places to Visit for Street Art”

5 Itineraries to Help Kickstart Your Southeast Asian Adventure

Ever since I got back from my month-long Southeast Asian trip last August 2014, some friends have expressed their interest of doing the same, but don’t know exactly where to start.  

The thing is, when people ask me for my itinerary, I’m a bit hesitant to just give them what I used because it is customized according to MY traveling style. 
I found that it has changed over the years. I no longer feel the need to pack as many attractions as I can in day, and would prefer to pay more for convenience rather than sacrifice comfort for the sake of sticking to my budget. 

I also traveled solo, so my expenses were inevitably bigger than usual. And the only tickets I had pre-booked on sale were my Manila to Bangkok, Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and Bali to Manila flights. The rest of the flights, I booked when I was already on the road.

I actually traveled for 32 days

Continue reading “5 Itineraries to Help Kickstart Your Southeast Asian Adventure”

Review: Traders Hotel, KL

Before heading to Indonesia, I had the privilege of staying at Traders Hotel in KL, Malaysia.
 

Located in the heart of the city, Traders is the ideal base for business travelers and families, especially those traveling with kids, because KL’s attractions are easily accessible from the hotel.

photo courtesy of Traders Hotel KL

When I entered the ground lobby and asked to be checked in, the staff courteously told me that the main lobby is actually at the 5th floor. Another staff immediately escorted me to the main lobby and offered to help with my bags.

The main lobby was not as flamboyant as one would expect from a Shangri-la brand, but the moment the receptionist asked me to complete the check-in by signing on the tablet, I knew I was in for a different experience.

Main lobby at the 5th floor

 

I was then handed my room keycard.

No WiFi login details were provided because FREE WiFi is accessible throughout the hotel premises.

My Tower View room
The earth colors give the room a homey feel.
 
The room was modest in size, but space was utilized well and all the amenities you would expect of a 5-star hotel are there.
 
The bed was just the right size and firmness. There’s also a small sofa, and a lazy chair with foot stool near the window where I sat to gaze at the twin towers…while munching on my cupcakes. 

My room was on the 31st floor with a view of the Petronas Twin Towers and KLCC Park! There were mini cupcakes, a bowl of fruits, and chocolates from Gobo when I arrived. Sweet!

To avoid looking cluttered, they used sliding doors for the cabinet and bathroom. The mini bar, and coffee and tea making facilities, are ‘hidden’ under the writing desk.

Other room amenities include LED TV with satellite cable, electronic safe, umbrella, plenty of power outlets with built-in international adapters, iron and ironing board, and hair dryer.

The room may be simple, but the bathroom is definitely luxurious.

The amber glow makes the counter look ethereal, no?

Can you spot the lollipop? 😉

 

It has Johnson Suisse fittings, and TOTO toilet bowl with eco-washer (that automatic water spray that washes away the dirty stuff :p).

There’s also a generous supply of premium toiletries and complete grooming kit.

Another thing that really caught my attention was the tiny dial on the bathroom wall which I discovered to be a volume control, so you can still listen to whatever program/movie is on the TV while you’re taking a bath! I find it really cool.

***
That night, I went to check out Traders Hotel’s famous SkyBar where you can enjoy a drink or two while chilling out to music spun by guest DJs.

“SkyBar offers guests the ultimate in refreshing drinks and intoxicating views all in a chic and cosmopolitan ambiance.”

The pool and the twin towers are beautifully lit up at night.
You can also watch KLCC’s dancing fountain show from here.

 My only concern was because my room was just two floors below SkyBar, I can somehow hear the music in my room. While it didn’t bother me that much, this might be a problem for light sleepers.

***

Breakfast is served both at Gobo Chit Chat and at the Traders Lounge.

If you want to try everything at the buffet breakfast spread, go to Gobo Chit Chat. If you want more privacy and less foot traffic, you can have your breakfast at the Lounge. However, breakfast choices in the latter is not as extensive as Gobo’s.

The buffet breakfast serves deli, homemade yogurt, cereals, pancakes and waffles, omelette, noodles, Japanese, Western, Chinese, Malaysian, and Indian cuisines, fresh bread (they have gluten free ones, too) and pastries, variety of cheese, cakes, fruits, and juices.

The gym, business center, and meeting facilities all have unobstructed view of the twin towers.
Traders Hotel is not about space, flashy furniture or fancy equipment. They put more attention into comfort and quality of service.

 

K

~~ I was hosted by Traders Hotel KL for a night, but all opinions in this review are my own. ~~

Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 5088 Malaysia
Tel: +60 (3) 2332 9888
Twitter: @TradersHotelKL
Instagram: @tradershotelkl

Review: Best Western Premier Dua Sentral, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It had been raining daily ever since I arrived in Laos, so most of my planned activities went out the window. The internet connection was abysmal, too, so I wasn’t able to work on my deliverables the whole time I was there, so I’ve made the decision to fly to KL two days earlier than my intended travel date.
 
Thankfully, the guys at Best Western Premier Dua Sentral (now Ramada Plaza Dua Sentral) were able to accommodate my request to change dates on such short notice – even during peak season.
 
I arrived at the new and massive KLIA2 half past one, and took my sweet time wandering around the airport. And because I was so used to arriving at LCCT and taking the bus to KL Sentral, it didn’t occur to me that I could have taken the KLIA Ekspress located within the complex.
 
Well, at least now I know what to do next time I’m in KL.
photo from Best Western Premier Dua Sentral’s Facebook page

Embarrassingly, I arrived a couple of hours late than the official check-in time, and found out that the front desk actually called AirAsia to check if my flight got delayed.

So to avoid the same mistake I did (or if you’re arriving early and are not in a hurry), here are a couple of options of getting to the hotel from KLIA/KLIA2:

  • Take a cab – obviously expensive, but is the most convenient way;
  • Take the KLIA Ekspress (33 minutes, RM35.00) OR the Skybus (1 hour, RM10.00) then take the free hotel shuttle (depends on the schedule) at KL Sentral. If you miss the shuttle, you can hail a cab in front of Nu Sentral mall.

The Assistant Front Office Manager, Maggie, immediately ushered me to my 1-bedroom Club Suite upon arrival.

Meanwhile, the bellhop took care of my luggage.
I was pleasantly surprised with the welcome gift: an assortment of sweets like pralines, macarons, and petit cakes – all of which I really, really loved! 

My suite has a separate lounge equipped with flat screen TV – which you can control with your smartphone, by the way – a DVD player, and comfy couch.

There’s also a writing desk complete with stationery supplies, and has plenty of power outlets. This, combined with the fast and complimentary WiFi will definitely make any business traveler happy.
The writing desk faces the window with a view of KL’s skyline. Immediately noticeable is the beautiful Moorish-style KL Railway Station and Menara KL. 

The suite is equipped with a kitchenette (sans cookware), and coffee and tea making facility. It even has a CBTL machine.

The mini bar was well-stocked, too.
***
The bedroom is separated from the lounge by a wooden sliding door.

My bed was just the right size and firmness, and I love the fresh and fluffy sheets.

 They were generous with the pillows, and even have a Pillow Menu so you can have it changed according to your preference.

The en suite bath is in an ‘open concept’ fashion with only a frosted glass separating the tub from the room.

There’s a separate shower stall with rainshower head, too.

I also appreciate that they have a retractable clothes line in the shower stall because where else would you hang your wet swimsuit, right? Other hotels with pools haven’t even thought about that.

Plus points for the toilet with hand held bidet with adjustable pressure.

Clean and simple, but classy bathroom

Hairdryer: check! Dual sided swivel vanity mirror: check! Premier toiletries and grooming kit: double check!

Their toiletries are some of the best I’ve used among all the hotels I’ve stayed at!

Bathrobes, plenty of plush towels, and slippers are provided.

Inside the closet are plenty of hangers, iron and ironing board, and electronic safe.

But what I appreciate most are the small details – things I don’t often see in other hotels like bath salt, sewing kit, shoehorn, and the potpourri in the lounge.

***

In terms of food, there are plenty of dining options within the hotel.

TOP: Apple Quencher mocktail, teh tarik, stawberries & cream

BOTTOM: smoked salmon bruschetta, parfait, scones, and petit cakes (not pictured)

On my first night, I went to Punch Bar & Lounge, and tried their Apple Quencher mocktail. I rarely drink alcohol, so their mocktail selections were just perfect for me. I enjoyed it while chilling at one of their colorful art deco chairs.

The following day, I also got the chance to try their English Afternoon Tea (only offered on weekends). I didn’t know that the set was good for two people, so I had a hard time finishing it off. In fact, I was so full after that I had to skip dinner.
Also on my first night, I had dinner at Hugo’s on 6 which is located at the pool area.
 
The theme was BBQ Sensation so I gorged on chicken and beef satay, grilled lamb, shawarma, grilled corn on the cob, among others.
Fresh salads, seafood, paella, fruits, desserts etc. were also served.
There was even a saxophone player who performed that night, so guests enjoyed dinner while simultaneously entertained by the music and the view.
A quiet Kembali Kitchen at noon. Guests have either checked out or already wandering about in KL at this time.

 

Now, let’s talk about one of my favorite hotel breakfasts ever served at Kembali Kitchen!
Kembali Kitchen pays homage to Malaysia’s multicultural society by highlighting Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian dishes. Western, and even Mediterranean fare are available as well. Additionally, there’s live omelet, pancake and waffle, and noodle stations.  

 

I’ll tell you a little secret: I pigged out on roti canai paired with either hummus or baba ganoush every breakfast. :p

My stay coincided with Hari Raya so you can just imagine how busy it was at the buffet breakfast, but the staff tried their best to manage the queue. They were also quick to ‘bus out’ tables, and food warmers were constantly replenished.

 

I also had the privilege of trying out Bhuvana Spa Luxe. It was a real treat for my weary body. Imagine the torture my back and shoulders suffered after lugging my bags for 2 weeks through Thailand and Laos.

I had a one-hour aromatherapy massage which started with gentle stroking, kneading and rubbing of tight muscles using essential oils to release tension.

My therapist, Yana, was really really good. Even without telling her, she started with my back, and I think I actually heard my spine pop as if it was suddenly properly aligned. haha I immediately felt the tension went away and my muscles started to relax.
It was a really blissful experience.

***

 

Everyone at Best Western Premier Dua Sentral was really nice, courteous, attentive, and were dedicated in ensuring that guests have a pleasurable stay that I didn’t go out the whole time I was there.

 

K

 

8 Jalan Tun Sambanthan
50470 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (3) 2272 8888
Twitter: @bwp2sentral
Instagram: @bwpduasentral

 

5 Reasons Why You Should Consider a Vacation Rental

While planning for our week-long Hong Kong trip earlier this year, I was once again faced with the challenge of looking for lodging options that can accommodate our small group, and more importantly, will fit our budget. 
 
I’ve searched high and low for family rooms, but guesthouses were either already fully booked, rooms were not available for consecutive nights on our travel dates, hotel rates were waaay beyond our budget or the rooms available were not in accessible locations. 

I decided to check any available vacation rental instead and that’s how I discovered travelmob – an online marketplace where you can find and rent unique homes from local hosts across Asia Pacific.

After hours of going through their listings, here’s 5 reasons why I think you should consider booking a vacation rental on your next trip:
 
1.  Perfect for families or groups of friends 

 
Over a year ago, I went to Singapore with 6 other people, 3 senior citizens included. The country is already expensive to begin with so we ended up bunking in a backpackers’ hostel. 

It would’ve been okay, but because we were 7 in a 6-bedroom dorm, my mom and I had to share a single bed. While we saved on lodging cost, the setup wasn’t very comfortable. We had to use a communal bathroom, too.


Pictured above are Hong Kong apartments with at least 2 rooms that can comfortably fit 6 or more people. I found several Hong Kong apartments that has a room with at least one bunk bed and with a sleeper sofa/sofa bed in the living room, too. 

 
2.  Has amenities not available in most hotels

 
Most vacation rentals listed are equipped with a WiFi router, kitchen(ette) and/or laundry facilities – amenities that are either not offered or something that you need to pay for extra when staying in a hotel. 
 
I think it’s very practical if you’re staying for more than a week (or two) because you can cook your own food instead of eating out. You can also travel light and save on baggage fees because you can do the laundry anytime. 😉
3.  More space, privacy & personality

 
In first world, read relatively expensive, Asian countries where space is at a premium, it’s inevitable that you will find yourselves in matchbox-like rooms. I once saw a Hong Kong guesthouse offering a single room that literally looked like a toilet – with tiled walls and exhaust fan – only with a bed instead of a toilet bowl. And don’t get me started on the clinical-looking rooms.

Sure, you’ll be out most of the day and working on a budget, but it wouldn’t hurt to get yourself a decent place to sleep in after a long day. 

For the same price as a hotel, booking a vacation rental actually gives you more space, therefore, giving you better value for your money.
 
4.  Discover unique accommodations – boats, cottages, cabins, even treehouses!

 
Whether you’re an intrepid traveler who wants to sleep under the stars while perched 23 feet up in the air in Bangkok or just want to spend some quality time with your significant other away from the tourist crowd of Bali, you can find awesome and unique vacation rentals that’ll make your trip more memorable. 
 

5.  Get to know your host and live like a local!

 
Traveling solo? Aside from apartment rentals, you can also book shared or private rooms.
A shared room means you’ll be sharing space with other travelers while a private is a room of your own. In some cases, the host will also be at the location while you’re there. 

In travelmob, you can check the property owner’s profile, read previous guests’ reviews and/or references and contact him/her directly if you need more information about their listing. Through a few message exchanges, you can then gauge if he/she will be a good host.
The host can offer invaluable insider tips on where to find the best places to eat, best bargains and off-the-beaten sites. In some cases, hosts also offer more personal service like free use of their bicycle or a local SIM card – things you’ll never be able to experience in a hotel.
 
Remember, there’s really no better way to learn about a new culture and gain a richer travel experience than from living with a local.  
 
***
 
And there you have it. I hope I’ve given you enough reasons to consider booking a vacation rental on your next trip. 

iPhone/iPad user? travelmob listings can be right at your fingertips. Click the image below to download their mobile app.

And just for you, my dear readers, for a minimum booking fee of USD150.00, you’ll get a USD35.00 discount by using the promo code below:
Excursionista35
 
Promo is valid until JUNE 15
K
 
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