Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Langkawi, the island of legends (5D4N)

DAY 1: Settle down first
After checking into our resort in Pantai Cenang, we took a slow drive to Kuah town.
Decided to kick off our holiday with lavish dinner at Fish Farm Restaurant & Resort. The owner took care to decorate the surroundings with plants, woods, porcelains, boat and many other peculiarities. 

Lot 1986, Jalan Pantai Penarak, Mukim Kuah, Langkawi 07000, Malaysia (Formerly Langkawi Fish Farm Restaurant)
 The restaurant has a bridge that goes out to the sea. 
In the middle is another seating area for guests to enjoy the food with beautiful sunset.

 You can choose live seafood from the various fish tanks. Price is definitely more expensive than the average restaurant. But the overall package is acceptable. Fresh seafood and relaxing environment.

About the food:
I only managed to take 2 picture of the food we ordered. The shellfish ie lobsters and crabs were well done. Not over or under cooked.

We purposely ordered sea crab or literally translated as flower crab for its sweet taste. But these crabs need to be fresh or the meet will become disintegrated.

The giant grouper was a bit over cooked.
DAY 2: Time for some action in the sea
We took a day tour package to Pulau Payar Marine Park. It cost about RM120 per head.
The shuttle bus will collect participants along Pantai Cenang main road.
Then we board the ferry at Kuah Jetty. About an hour boat ride into the open sea.
Once we reach Pulau Payar, we will have to take another transit boat to the island.
If you are lucky, you get to board a transit boat that has glass bottom for you to get a teaser of what to expect in Pulau Payar.
The water is really clear and shallow. Good for kids.
The main attraction for me is swimming with the sharks. Don't worry, these are small sized reef sharks. Very friendly. I sat in the water quietly and they would swam by nonchalantly.
 The less attractive part: 
The place is too packed. 
There are no clean water other than sea water and rain water. 
The tour operator do not care about the environment. The signboards on dos and don'ts were left unheeded. The tourists feed the fishes with all kinds of food that I wonder if the fishes might get diarhea later.

  1. Bring plenty of water. The drinking water there is expensive.
  2. Be wary of jellyfish. They are small in size but sting just as bad. 
  3. Bring clothes and towel to change. 
  4. Food included in the tour package is pretty bland. Bring backups if you have fussy eaters.

DAY 3: It's time to go up the Cable Car way
The cable car station is like a carnival. There are museums, arcades, rides and shops. To take the cable car, you have to buy tickets and entry to ride the cable cars are scheduled based on specific time.
NOTE: As you enter for the cable car ride, you can rent a pair of binoculars for RM10. Can be quite fun for the kids.
 The scenery and photography opportunities are ample along the way.
 The views either upwards or downwards are just as impressive.

Now about this sky bridge. When we were there, the proposed lift is not completed yet. So we have to pay to hike some very steep and narrow forest path to reach the bridge. My advise, those with bad knee, elders and children, may have to reconsider.

 NOTE: There are no shade on the bridge. Apply plenty of sun block and bring cap/umbrella. We got toasted bad. Even the top of our head (and we are not bald).

After coming down from the hill, we visited the 3D Art Museum. It was fun posing and taking crazy pictures with family.

 Walking around, there are also places kids can feed the fishes. I'd say, plan to spend a whole day here. There are plenty to do.

DAY 4: Must Not Miss the Kilim Karst Geoforest Park (Unesco Geopark)
We engaged a tour guide, which was worth it as he took care to explain many of the natural plants and wildlife in the area. As he is a local, he shared many of the plants uses and identification of good seafood (slurp)

The tour guide fetched us from our place of stay along the main road of Pantai Chenang. We were driven to the Kilim Jetty. We took a private boat since there were 6 of us.

We were brought to visit bat cave. The tour guide took the effort to explain the mangrove eco system to us. Introduced us to some of the mangrove trees and its uses.

The end of the trip we were brought to a floating restaurant. There were few sea creatures kept there where tourist can feed them. 

The highlight for me was feeding the stingray. They were huge. 

The kids get to touch them when they climbed up for feeding.

Note: Bring along hats, jackets and raincoat. It rained on the way back and it was cold.

In the evening, we went to the Underwater World. There was an Earthquake and Typhoon Pavillion. We paid about RM18-RM20 per person, we went into a standing platform and got ourselves shaken, blown and wet. What just happened? Was it worth it? Well, it is something we could laugh about now? Everyone came out wet, some part or another.

That was our holiday. The last day was spent eating, packing and flying home. Are there anything else to do? Yes. Till the next time we are there...

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Our version of Tadau Ka'amatan 2015 Celebration @ Sabah

Going to Sabah is our family's way of winding down . Just like the meaning of Tadau Ka'amatan (Harvest Festival) , it is the time we reap the rewards of a year's hard work .
We always commence our ritual with a hearty bowl of beef noodles at Kah Hiong Ngiu Chap . It is located at the corner Block A of Kolam Centre Phase 2 . The exact address is :
2-0-10 , Block A , Ground Floor , Kolam Centre Phase 2 , Jalan Lintas , Hilltop , Kota Kinabalu
What's good : Beef Tendon , 3 Colour Milk Tea , Mixed Beef Noodles Soup
Then we would continue our journey to Kinabalu Park , Kundasang . The drive would take about 2 hours to reach . Just enjoy the view .

On the way up , you will find 3 to 4 huts that stationed interspersely along the road with the sign "Sinalau Bakas" . These are non-halal (not for Muslim) . 

For souvenir hunters, you can stop by Pekan Nabalu . There are rows of shops selling all sorts of souvenirs . We do not usually buy toys for the kids . For this holiday , we let them choose musical instruments for entertainment . 

When we reached Kinabalu Park , I realised I made a mistake in the reservation . I had booked my stay a day later . Lucky for us there is still 1 last room left despite it being a public holiday . We stayed in Liwagu Suite for 1 night .
The suite comes with a king bed at the 2nd floor , while the lower floor is the living room and a balcony facing the botanical garden .

Many people asked us, what do you do there ? There is really not a lot to do . You can stop by the rows of stalls along the Kundasang main road to buy vegetables , fruits and flowers .
We found uncut cinnamon for sale . 

You can also go to the Kundasang War Memorial Park that commemorates the British and Australian soldiers who died during the "death march" from Sandakan to Ranau . We didn't go this time as I did not find the right mood in my kids . I had dreamt of bringing along painting kits for them to paint flowers in there . But the kids were too engrossed in doing their painting at the new lodging - Peak Lodge in Kinabalu Park .

 I personally prefer the lodges in Kinabalu Park . Reason:
1. All the balconies faces Mount Kinabalu
2. They come with chimney/fireplace that you can get the staff to light up for you at night
3. They come with kitchen where you can cook the veges bought from Kundasang stalls
Our beloved relative helped us bought some really fresh prawns from the market, 
which we brought up to Kundasang, 
especially to go with the sweet sweet vegetables bought there.

Our mornings were spent walking about Kinabalu Park , stopping ever so often to look at the plants . We took the kids to walk around the Botanical Garden . Very interesting plants and explanation provided with signboards everywhere . 

  1. Do you know there is a fruit called "Buah Minyak Tanah" (Kerosene Fruit) because the fruit can be used to start fire?
  2. Do you know figs grow at the root of the trees and not at the top?
If you have kids , they might enjoy Desa Dairy Farm which is 10-20 minutes uphill from Kundasang town . The place has been been expanded to accommodate the increasing number of visitors . You can go there to take some "oversea-like-highland-field" photos .  
 The kids love to feed the calf and goats milk and grass.
 You can buy fresh milk , yogurts or eat gelato . Kids love them all .
I personally like the windows where they showed how the cows are milked and packed .

Going back to Kota Kinabalu , we checked in to Sutera Harbour Magellan Resort . 
From then onwards we did nothing other than relaxing in the resort and let the kids rule .

The other highlight would be this new beef noodle shop at Kolombong . The twist here is the curry laksa version of beef noodle . I love the rich and sour flavour of the curry laksa , which goes just as well with the beef .
(Address: 36, Ground Floor, Block C, Nountun Industrial, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia)

There are other eateries that we would go back again:

  1. Fish head noodles @ Fatt Kee (Address: Taman Hilltop, Lintas, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia)
  2. Har Kaw Wong and Char Siew Pow @ Foo Phing Dim Sum (Address: Kolam Centre Phase II, Taman Hilltop, Lintas, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia)
  3. Kaya Butter Bread & Milk Tea @ Fook Yuen (Address: Jalan Damai, Luyang, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia)


for 2015, in Sabah

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Penang Kek Lok Si Temple - 2015 Chinese New Year Light Decorations (An outdated update)

Whenever we talk about going to Kek Lok Si Temple to view the Chinese New Year Lighting Decorations, Ben would flail in protest. He can't stand the crowd, the jam and goodness knows what. So the last time we came, was at least 10 years ago.
Then out of the blue, this year he is willing to go. I quickly grab the chance and didn't give him time to re-think his decision.
There were indeed many people. and cars. We slowly drive our way into Air Itam market area, and slowly jam our way up to the highest end of the temple. We then have to walk down from the carpark to reach the first stop, where the gigantic Guan Yin Pavillion is situated. The official name is called "The Kuan Yin Bodhimandala".
Even at this level, we have plenty to see. Lines and lines of lanterns with auspicious greetings written on them.
There were plenty of buddha statues and there were also statues of the 12 zodiac signs. The trees and pavillion around the areas were decorated with lights. Many families were busy taking photos with their loved ones. 
We walked up to the shrine. There were many activities the kids enjoyed e.g. putting coins into the buddhist alms lined around the foot of the Guan Yin's statue, hanging up wishes on top of tree branches, etc. 
 I caught a glimpse of the moon at the far end of the shrine. Given the less popular seasons, this place has the potential to exude calm, serene and peace.
There is actually a gondola system to take you a level down to the main temple area. But the queue was just unbearable. We thought we should just leave. But as we descend, I manage to convince Ben to turn into the main temple carpark, to just give it a try. What luck, we found an empty lot almost in front of the entrance to the "Tortoise Liberation Pond".
The festive lightings were everywhere.
The intriguing "Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas / Rama Pagoda" is highly ornamented with lights. It would be interesting if they could use relevant colour schemes to reflect the 3 different architectural designs of Burmese dome (top part), Thai roofing details (middle part) and Chinese octagonal base (bottom part).
I wonder how much electricity they use per night. But the effects are really alleviating.
We walk up the stairs towards the main temple. The perspective upwards and downwards were just too enticing.

Loving the upward view of the lanterns with the pattern of the roof as background. The order is attractive to me (must be my inner OCD).

We came to the original Kek Lok Si Temple building. It was the grandeur of this temple that so impress Qing Emperor GuangXu that volumes of sacred sutras were bestowed to be kept here.
The golden colours does not go well with my personal taste of Buddhism. But this is just my personal view.
Like the balance (argh... inner OCD again)
My favourite part of the temple is the floor. 
2nd favourites are the bronze like statues of Golden Youth (Cantonese: Gam Thung) and Jade Maiden (Cantonese: Yuk Lui) and cranes.
Bronze-like crane
Bronze-like Golden Youth

I am also fan of ceilings. Old buildings have great elaborated ceilings. It reminded me of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Building at The Bund, Shanghai, China. Similar great details of artwork depicted at the ceiling. Respect the masters who does these.

Leaving the original temple behind, we walked to the open area. The open garden were laid with flower beds. The originality and choice of flowers were commendable.
In fact, you will find edible plants placed with labels as exhibit.
Sprout from Arrowhead Tubers
Ginger torch flower (Malay: Bunga Kantan)

The only place we did not visit that night was the current main temple where we have to pay entrance fee. The price is reasonable, given that much effort they put through to decorate the entire place. But we just do not have enough time. By the time we reach the entrance for the main temple, it was nearing 12am. Unknowingly, we had spent 4 hours around Kek Lok Si.

So we say bye bye and good night to the Pagoda.

Took one last panorama shot of the place and go home.

Q: When?
A: Starts from Chinese Lunar New Year and last for a month.

Q: Is the trip worth the trouble?
A: Yes. The scale of lightings and decorations was impressive.

Q: What to take note of?
A: Wear good walking shoes. You'll be walking a lot.
    Wear light clothing. It's Malaysian CNY weather. Hot and humid.

Q: Parking?
A: You can park at the bottom, or every level of the area. There will be signs and temple members to direct you.

Q: Are there food and beverage?
A: Only stalls selling drinks and snacks. Eat before you go up.