Blog, Travel

Dawn to Dusk: All Around Penang

Our spontaneous trip to Froghill was memorable to say the least. Since then, my friends and I had been talking about exploring more of the island, we just didn’t know where to start – there is so much to see! I’ve been living here for over a decade and during this time I’ve done plenty of touristy adventures, but it’s never quite felt like enough. I was going to write this article about how we’re being tourists in our own home, but I realised most of our stops would not be on the standard ‘Penang Must Visit’ lists that you find on popular tourism sites. Several of these were just places we’d discovered through word-of-mouth, which makes this all the more interesting!

Sunrise at Queensbay

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I can feel a tradition forming in this, once again we met at sunrise. I still don’t know why we are continuously doing this to ourselves, not one of us actually enjoys waking up early. Our sunrise spot this time was the sea side opposite Queensbay Mall, overlooking Pulau Jerejak. As much as we wanted to catch this sun peeking out, the sun did not seem to want to see us (hence the lack of colour in the photo). Our hopes of capturing picturesque insta-worthy shots were crushed because the weather was too cloudy (should have taken this as a warning for what happened later in the day). Nevertheless, we managed to entertain ourselves through early morning chatter and skipping rocks along the water. Is it too cheesy to say nothing’s boring with the right company?

Penang Hill

Another small (and unhealthy) tradition is to get McDonlds breakfast, so that’s what we did before making our way to Penang Hill. I know I mentioned this as being a ‘typical’ spot in my other post, but I haven’t been there in a while and I have heard of the many changes they have made to this attraction. The most impressive has to be the train itself. In the past it used to be an open air train which VERY slowly rode up the hill and took ages to reach the top. Now it basically glides up, seems a lot cleaner and bonus- it has aircon!

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It was a weekend, so the hill was bustling with locals and tourists. Side note for foreigners, the ticket price is RM30 as opposed to the RM10 for Malaysians, so please note this when you visit. You will also need to provide some sort of identification, I used my driving license for this. It is well worth it though, so don’t worry about wasting your budget. I am very glad to have visited Penang Hill again and captured these breathtaking views. As someone who spends a lot of time driving around (due to working and living on two opposite ends), looking down at the island was fascinating. Weird how easy it is to forget the beauty of something when you see it every day.

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Side note about this love lock bridge, we noticed couples have also used keys to carve their names into the railings. My friend and I decided to carve out our Instagram IDs for our art accounts – you can see where our priorities lie.

 

Penang Avatar Garden 

After this we headed up to our next destination, the Penang Avatar Garden. Pictures of it had gone viral among Penangites and it had become rather popular since it opened. A lot of my friends had already checked it out, and although they didn’t say it was anything amazing, I was really curious to see for myself. But things started to go wrong at this point. All the movies have taught me one thing – no road trip is complete without some bad decisions made along the way. Well this was ours.

Remember when I said the weather was cloudy? We forgot to take that into account at our next destination because when we were at Penang Hill, it was rather perfect and sunny. We squeezed the car into a tiny spot on the open land outside the garden. Before heading in we saw this rocky path and of course, we wanted to get up on it and walk towards the sea (to get those insta-worthy shots – again, notice the priorities here?). We were so excited, happily (and very carefully) skipping from one rock to another until we were half way in. I’m not sure if it shows in the photos, but this path was quite long and took a while to even go half the distance. We managed to take some photos before things got complicated.

It started raining HEAVILY. It wasn’t a gradual increase, one second it was drizzling and the next it’s pouring down on us. So there we were: panicking, trying to walk back steadily and quickly without slipping, getting drenched, and laughing. It was a bizarre sight. We could see people on the land looking at us, probably wondering who are these idiots as we stepped off the rocks and ran along the beach towards the shelter of the car.

The rain continued as we made our way to the closest restaurant we could think of, Sri Ananda Bahwan, to dry off. As we sat there eating out butter chicken, we knew there was a decision to be made. Here we were on a sight seeing road trip and there was a rain storm outside. Should we ditch the trip, or should we continue? It took us a while, but as soon as we noticed the rain had slowed down a bit, we decided to continue on our journey.

Balik Pulau Paddy Fields

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We drove all the way up the hillside to Balik Pulau, stopping in between at this sight seeing spot for the stunning view. By this time the weather was still a bit dark but at least it wasn’t pouring, so we had high hopes for the rest of the trip.

We went on to see check out the paddy field. I’ve never been to one before so it was pretty cool. I have to admit though, all we did here was take dramatic photos in the middle of the path.

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We didn’t want to leave this place but we had to drive a long way to get to our next destination.

Gertak Sanggul 

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Approximately half an hour later we managed to find this spot, the Gertak Sanggul sea side. It’s more quiet and secluded as compared to other beaches in Penang – you won’t find a string of tourists or large families here! This was the perfect spot to end our day on. Once again, the sunset itself wasn’t so spectacular. The weather was still very cloudy so we couldn’t see much. But nevertheless, it was a very pleasant way to conclude this trip- in such a serene and peaceful environment.

Lastly, here’s a map of the places we went to. You can see how much of the island we covered. I would definitely encourage people to try this out, steer away from the general tourist adventures and try something like this instead!

Map

Blog, Travel

Phuket Sight-Seeing Tour

Let’s start off by being honest: we just booked this because it was crazy cheap and we had a free day between our various island hopping tours. How cheap exactly? THB 312, which is only approximately RM 39 (USD 10). Needless to say I wasn’t expecting much, but the 4 hour city tour turned out to be surprisingly pleasant!

Driving around in a van was a welcome change after spending hours riding the waves on a speedboat the day before. We stopped at two viewing points, both allowing us to see Phuket on a larger scale. There were stunning views and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I could sit up there for hours looking down at the ocean’s beauty. The temple we stopped represented a different sort of beauty, with its intricate architecture and vibrant colours.

1. Karon Viewpoint

 

2. Wat Chalong Temple

 

3. Windmill Viewpoint

 

CASHEW NUT FACTORY

4. Cashew Nut Factory

I didn’t manage to get more photos of the factory, but here this lady was demonstrating the fascinating process of peeling cashews. Our tour guide thoroughly explained the procedure and answered any questions we had.

I think sight-seeing tours are way better if you have a good tour guide, and we had the best! He was very engaging, telling us personal stories constantly and even showing photos to go with the tales from his past. This completely transformed our experience, as it gave the tour a personal touch which was much appreciated.

 

Going into this I didn’t have any expectations, but I’m glad we went for it. I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone looking to get a feel of the city of Phuket – good company, great architecture and stunning views – what more could you ask for?

Make a booking by clicking here. 

Blog, Eat

Harvest In Cafe, Penang – Review

I often saw my classmates going to this cafe back when I was in college, but never had the chance to go try it out. Even on this day, I ended up here because the cafe I originally planned to go to was closed, and this was the only other place nearby. Certainly not the best reason to go somewhere but I can’t say that I regretted it.

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Harvest In is situated at Jalan Irrawaddy and it was quite easy to find parking there. It’s a simple looking building and nothing about the interior or exterior stands out, so I was wondering how it has managed to become such a popular spot. I got my answer as I gazed through the menu: there is a variety of choices but not so many that it’s overwhelming. Most importantly, the prices are very affordable. The reason people shy away from frequenting cafes is because even though they may have fancy food and insta-worthy settings, it’s often too expensive. But Harvest In is unique in that way, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was actually very reasonably priced.

 

Harvest In Cafe Menu – Click images to enlarge

This is going to sound like a dumb complaint, but one thing that did bother me is that the tables were too high for the low chairs. As a short person, that was a little annoying. Also, even though we chose to sit at a slightly more secluded area, the restaurant was rather noisy. The background music playing was gloomy and didn’t set the mood. So imagine a lot of cutlery sounds, a baby crying in the back, and lots of chatter… and then the gloomy music to top it all off. But to be honest, I can’t criticize the noise as it was only due to the busy crowd and the ongoing flow of customers.

The food we ordered was very satisfying, nothing much to it. Both the chickens were perfectly cooked and tasty in their own way. The side salad and mashed potato complimented the dishes very well and we both left the cafe feeling full. Here is what we ordered:

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Honey Oat Chicken – RM 14
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Asian Basil Pesto Chicken – RM 14

I can see why this is a popular spot among students, very filling food at good prices- it’s definitely worth a try!

  • Rating: 3.5/ 5
  • Halal

 

Blog, Travel

Spontaneous Road Trip to Frog Hill at Tasek Gelugor, Penang

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Sunrise at Karpal Singh Drive

Imagine gathering at sunrise with absolutely no plans for the rest of the day, what would happen then? Well, you’ll either have a lazy and boring time without much going on, or your it may go a little something like this. I met up with friends early in the morning at Karpal Singh Drive. Our plan was that we had no plan – just catch the sunrise and then see where the day leads us. Little did I know this would make it on my list of life’s favourite days (no I don’t keep an actual list – but now I’m thinking I should).

I first came across Frog Hill (also known as Guar Petai) from a Facebook post that was going viral among Penangites. Since then I’ve been asking several different groups of people to come along, but it never turned into a concrete plan. I have no idea how we ended up there that day. I had already put this place to the back of my mind, but one of my friends recalled that we talked about it. So instead of going somewhere standard like Penang Hill, within a minute of discussion we decided to head towards the mainland to find this place.

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Hence started our adventure with Waze to guide us there, with a few hiccups along the way. Unsurprisingly, we got lost several times. At one point we even realised were going in circles because we were too busy talking and telling stories. It’s hard to come across people who are on the same wavelength as you. The people who are always up for anything and never put your ideas down. This was a place I was so eager to check out, so having friends who will follow along and will be just as excited while doing it, is an amazing feeling.

IMG_20171205_101004.jpgFrog Hill is located at an abandoned mine site and you can find it using Waze or Google Maps. However, the GPS won’t lead you right to the hill. We stopped our car at one point and traveled towards the hill by foot on the red muddy road. Even walking there was a task because it had been raining the night before, so there were big patches of slipperly mud everywhere (not to mention the occasional cow/horse poop – as spotted in the photo). Since this wasn’t planned, I was wearing flip flops which turned out to be very inconvenient, specially once we actually had to climb up the rocks of the hill to get to the viewing point. It was totally worth it though, because the view was absolutely breath-taking!

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Some things I learned from this, which may help those of you planning to visit Frog Hill:

  • Wear proper sports attire – specially shoes!
  • Bring along a bottle of water, there are no stores at the site.
  • Sunblock – the only thing that can protect you from the heat here.
  • Better yet, go on a day when it’s not so sunny.
  • But also don’t go on a rainy or post-rainy day.
  • Travel there in a group, don’t go alone as accidents could happen and it’s a very isolated place.
  • Be very careful when driving along the muddy path, suggest not to drive cars which are very low.

Just to prove my point, this is how our car looked like by the end of it!

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This day will stay with me for a while – stunning view, great spontaneity and the best company. I definitely recommend checking out Frog Hill if you’re a Penangite or simply passing by. It can be a little tricky getting there, but once you do, you’ll forget all the struggles!

 

 

Blog, Travel

Modern Living Hotel at Patong Beach, Phuket

My first trip ever to Thailand and I was landing in Phuket at 8 in the morning – 4 hours before the hotel check-in time. My travel buddy and I had already prepared ourselves for a chill morning at the beach once we drop off our luggage at the hotel lobby. Little did we know that it was just the beginning of a very NOT chill morning.

The first mishap occurred when our pre-booked airport taxi was nowhere in sight. Right outside the arrivals gate, there was an array of drivers holding boards with people’s names on them. We were actually excited to see someone waiting with our name – I know it sounds a little pathetic, but this was going to be a first for both of us! You’ve probably already guessed this – there was no one waiting for us. We waited and looked several times to no avail. After a lot of confusion and questions, the travel company sent us another taxi and we finally got to our hotel.

This hotel was in the corner of a small secluded street, it had the word ‘beachfront’ in its name but there was no beach in sight. We asked to see the room and soon realised booking this hotel was a bad idea. There was no lift and the stairs were steep, our room was on the 4th floor and we knew we would have to climb up and down several times a day. The room had a weird smell which also put us off.

So here we were completely shelter-less and wheeling around our hand carry luggage along the Patong Beach Street like lost puppies. I’m not even exaggerating, we spent an hour frantically going into hotels, asking the prices, seeing the rooms – and then walking out because they were either too expensive or not appealing.

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Our hunt FINALLY ended when we came across the Modern Living Hotel, it was right by the Tourist Clinic and didn’t stand out much. As soon as we walked in we had the feeling that this was it. Needless to say we were exhausted, and ready to just settle for anything, but this place exceeded our expectations. Yes it was a little more expensive than our original, but it was totally worth it.

One of the most important factors for us was the pricing, as we had a limited budget for our trip. For our stay of 4 nights at Modern Living Hotel, we paid THB 5198 for a twin bed room, which means each of us only had to pay THB 2599 (MYR 321), a total steal.

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Besides the beach front view and the SUPER comfy beds, one of the best things about this hotel was the breakfast. All those plates you see there? No we were not a group of 5. It’s just that there were so many items on the breakfast menu (which is free with the booking) that they had to give us three plates each: eggs plate, bread plate and fruit plate. So there was no room for disappointment at the fact that there was no buffet breakfast. It was like having a buffet served right to your seat!

 

This hotel is highly recommended for those who are on a budget, but still want to have a luxurious place to come back to after those long days of island hopping and sight-seeing! For more, check out their website: http://www.hotelmodernliving.com/

 

 

Blog, Travel

Prudential Marina Bay Carnival, Singapore

Dates: 15 Dec 2017 – 1 Apr 2018
Opening hours: 4 pm – 11 pm

IMG_20180103_184300My cousins told me they wanted to go to this carnival and I agreed to come along because who doesn’t like carnivals? What could go wrong at a carnival? How was this not the best way to spend my time in Singapore? Why did I think it was a good idea to start the article by bombarding you with all these questions?

Anyways, you can probably tell where this is going. The super critical and not-so-easy-going part of me is coming out, so brace yourselves. Before I get to the review itself, let me just get a few details out of the way first (and maybe even point out some good things). This carnival, sponsored by Prudential, was situated at the Bayfront Event Space at Marina Bay Sands. It was certainly not difficult to find and ample parking space was available. We went on a weekday so the crowd wasn’t too crazy, the rides did not have long queues, and we had no trouble moving about. I do have to admit one thing: as we strolled around taking photos, I saw many people holding toys/prizes they won from the games. So it wasn’t one of those ‘rigged’ carnivals where barely anyone wins anything. But still…

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There were 3 main issues I had with the carnival:

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1. Pricing/ Ticketing

Initially it seems attractive because at the entrance it says ‘Free Admission’. So of course we were glad for that, because if we paid entry fees but didn’t actually like any of the games – that would be a complete waste. HOWEVER, what we didn’t realise in the beginning was how sneaky this ‘credits’ system was.

The games were up to SGD 8, and the rides were up to SGD 10. So let’s do the maths here. If a person goes to a carnival, they would want to at least do 3 rides and play 3 games, to feel satisfied with their visit and get the amount of exhilaration they were expecting. So how much could that be? Up to SGD 54! That is insane. I have to admit some of the rides did look very tempting, but was it worth it?

IMG_20180103_184156I went in a group of six, we used SGD 100 and got 100 credits. Guess how long that lasted? 1 roller coaster and a couple of games (bonus disappointment was that none of us won anything – but that’s on us and our lack of coordination skills). We prioritized going on the Euro Coaster because that looked the best and all of us were eager to try it out. It turned out to be 10 credits (SGD 10) – so there went 60 dollars, on this 2 minute roller coaster.

So even though we wanted to go on more rides, we just did not feel like it was worth spending all that money on. Normally carnivals are fun for families with kids, but to me this seems like a bad idea. Imagine if you had 3 kids – how much money would be needed for all of them to enjoy themselves here?

2. Food

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The food available was over-priced (surprise surprise). But our bigger complaint was that there was no variety. We got some beef chili cheese fries and sausages – the taste of both was similar to those instant foods, nothing much to it. If you’ve heard about the controversy regarding the Singapore Ramadan Bazaar, this reminded me of that. There was a lot of this random over-the-top ‘hipster’ food: rainbow burger, unicorn drinks and what not. But what about the local touch? There are so many varieties of Chinese, Indian, Malay or other more diverse food/snacks they could have included. But there was such a lack of the Singaporean vibe that it all felt very fake and unsatisfying.

3. Set-up

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One of my cousins actually called the set up ugly. I don’t know if I would go that far, but I do see the point. If we don’t want to spend so much money on the activities, you would think that at least we can roam around and get some of those insta-worthy shots. Nope. It was tricky to even get a few photos for this blog. There seemed to be unnecessary barriers everywhere, covering all the photo-friendly spots. For safety, some rides do need to have these, but these fences/barriers were literally everywhere.

I would not recommend this place to be honest, but if you are really curious and actually don’t mind all the things I mentioned above, go ahead! Who knows, maybe I’m just picky.

If you’re interested, check out the following links for more information:

 

 

Blog, Eat

Kucina Italian Restaurant, Singapore – Review

davTo commemorate the end of my Singapore family trip, we had a farewell lunch at Kucina. It’s never easy saying goodbye you rarely get to reunite with so we wanted to end our time together with a nice celebration. We heard that Kucina was a halal authentic Italian food (definitely not easy to find) so there was no hesitation about trying it out!

Glancing around the restaurant, you can immediately notice the rustic vibes – from the brick walls to the wooden furniture. The setting has an inviting feel to it.  In fact, it’s not only the decor, but the staff was welcoming as well.

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We ordered two appetizers to share while waiting for the main courses to be served: Bruschetta (SGD 6) and Truffle Fries (SGD 15). Both these dishes had a touch of elegance to them and were thoroughly satisfying.

As there was a group of us, we got to try quite a variety of items on the menu! I got everyone to give a comment on their dishes, even though I did use the blog as an excuse to taste most of them myself.

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Risotto Di Mare – SGD 23.80 : “Looks heavy but actually tastes very fresh and nice. It’s good for people who like the flavour of tomato cream, or just anything that is tomato-based.”
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Tortellini Di Manzo – SGD 23 : “Nice balance of flavours in this one. The meat goes well with the smooth mushroom cream sauce. Looks like a simple dish but it was indeed very satisfying, and filling!
Pizza Al Crudo - SGD 20
Pizza Al Crudo – SGD 20 : “Very tasty, a lot of arugula on it, good for those who want to get in their leafy greens for the day! It also had a generous amount of ham on top of the cheese and delicious tomato sauce underneath . The only slight complaint would be that the ham is a bit salty for my taste.”
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Bisteca – SGD 24.80 : “The steak had perfect seasoning and overall a satisfying meal, I’m very happy with my choice. The only thing I would point out is that they should have rendered the fat more and temperature was not exactly as requested.”

 

Kucina is in the range of high priced restaurants (but if I’m honest – as someone living in Malaysia, everything seems expensive in Singapore) , but I would recommend it for people who are looking for a place to celebrate a special occasion. There were quite a few couples around the restaurant, so it’s definitely the perfect place to bring your date!

  • Rating 9/10
  • Halal
  • Address: 11 Tanjong Katong Rd, #B1-09/10, OneKM Mall, Singapore, Singapore 437157