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Contents ISSUE 13.2
Cover Illustration by Emila Yusof
w w w. iss uu. co m /gayatrave l
014. Editorial Jottings
Gaya Special Feature 016. Langkawi
Gaya Special Report
022. Germany Increases Tourism Marketing Activities in South East Asia for 2018
Gaya Interview 012
024. Datuk Rashidi Hasbullah Cementing Malaysiaâ€™s Position as a Tourism Powerhouse
027. M is for Morocco
036. Pekan Sojourn 040. #TerengganuMolekDoh Fam Trip to Kuala Terengganu 046. This is Kuala Lumpur, Lah! 054. Keep on Eating, Playing & Staying in Perak 062. Jeju Shinhwa World: The New Beacon from the Land of Morning Calm 068. Experiencing Hokkaido in Winter 084. Into the Wild Jolobu 086. Becoming Bilbo Baggins - Part II 096. Embracing the Wonderful South Sumatra 102. A Passage to Jaipur
Hotels & Resorts 113 . 116. 118. 124. 128.
Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort: Bastion of Beachfront Indulgence Tribeca Serviced Suites Bukit Bintang: A Home Away from Home Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel #TravelBrilliantly The Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur: The Epitome of Personalisation and Timeless Elegance Andaz Singapore: A Temple of Design and Practicality
Travel Anecdotes 131. Kerol Izuan
(page 35), which offers its own brand of charm; Kuala Terengganu and Besut (page 40) via #TerengganuMolekDoh programme, in conjunction with Terengganu Expo 2018; Kuala Lumpur’s hidden gems (page 46); Ipoh, Kampar and Taiping (page 54) experienced by our writer during #Road2SUKMA familiarisation trip to give travellers ideas on what to see and do when they come to Perak during Malaysia’s biannual inter-state games called SUKMA, which is hosted by the state in August 2018; and ecotourism attractions within Jelebu district in Negeri Sembilan (page 84).
By the time I am writing this, it is already the second quarter of 2018. Our team’s schedule for the first three months of 2018 has been hectic, filled with travels to various destinations within and outside Malaysia. Meanwhile, the Malaysian travel and tourism industry seems to be cautiously upbeat about 2018, forecasting that business growth for the first quarter might be better than the year before. Confidence among the public to travel domestically and regionally also seems to be higher than before, probably due to the stronger performing Ringgit of late. Such trends bode well for the industry and travelling public as a whole - hopefully they continue throughout the rest of the year. In this issue, Gaya Travel Magazine brings you Malaysian destinations that travellers might find rewarding: Pekan, the royal town of Pahang
As for the destinations outside Malaysia, be sure to follow GayaTraveller’s experience in Morocco (page 34); a new urban integrated resort on Jeju island called Jeju Shinhwa World (page 62); Hokkaido during winter (page 68) to witness the popular Sapporo Snow Festival; the second part of Shahida’s New Zealand story (page 86), this time focussing on filming locations; South Sumatra (page 96); and Jaipur (page 102), which is now directly served by AirAsia X from Kuala Lumpur. May all of you find this issue enriching and inspirational. See you in the next issue, and happy travels! JUHAN KAMARUDDIN@JEREMY KHALIL
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Gaya Special Feature: Langkawi
KILIM K A RST GE OF O R EST PA R K L A N G K AW I PARADISE OF ECOTOURISM
#SayangMalaysia team checked out Kilim Karst Geoforest Park in Langkawi, recognised as a Geopark site since 2007 and the first Geopark site in Southeast Asia!
Kilim Karst Geoforest Park is home to a landscape of unique and natural mix of forest, limestone rocks, caves, and dramatic coastline. The most common way to explore the park is by boat. This 100-kilometre squared area in Langkawi is a nature reserve and a collection of geo-sites full of amazing plants and wildlife, stunning geological formations like mammoth limestone rocks, fossils, caves, lagoons, beaches and seascapes. Formed from seven reserved forests including mangrove, the rocks in this geoforest park are formed from limestones aged between 350 and 490 million years old. The Kilim Geopark area comprises Kilim, Kisap and Air Hangat river basins, including Langgun and Tanjung Dendang islands. Opens daily from 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., Kilim Karst Geoforest Park is situated 20 minutes from Kuah. After arriving at 9:00 a.m., we were greeted by our friendly local tour guide who briefed us about the park and ushered us to our motor boat, which is moored at the Kilim Jetty on the northeastern end of Langkawi. A guided boat tour is ideal to appreciate Kilim Geopark’s attraction. Another place to start to tour is from Tanjung Rhu. 016
The boat ride took us along the Kilim river with dense mangroves (also known as wetland mangroves) on one side and gigantic limestone rocks on the other rising from the river bed. Some of these limestone rocks look like mountains and was formed some 500 million years back. The mangroves form a natural barricade that protect the shoreline from the sea and prevent soil erosion. The mangroves’ muddy flats teem with life such as squirrels, mud crabs, monkeys, and monitor lizards that can easily dive and stay underwater for a long time. These lizards are harmless though. Sometimes traveller could also see crocodiles. In the waters there are many varieties of fish (some 40 species), including a dolphin that can be spotted once a month if travellers are lucky. The first stop along the way is Gua Kelawar (Bat Cave). This cave derived its name from the hundreds of insect-eating bats that inhabit the cave, which can be divided into three different species: Kelawar
Ladam Bulat Terbesar (Hipposideros armiger),Kelawar Ladam Bulat Besar (Hipposideros larvatus) and Kelawar Jari Panjang (Miniopterus medius). Shells and oysters could also be seen stuck on the walls of the cave, which is believed to be at least 500 years old. The shells are used as markers for ancient sea levels. The position of the shells proves that the sea level used to be 2 metres higher than the current level. Having spent some 15 minutes at Gua Kelawar, the boat driver took us on a fast ride towards the open sea. Along the way, travellers could see a small island that looks like a shoe, which the locals call Shoe Island. As the boat zoomed towards the open sea, we clearly saw the words “Kilim Geoforest Park” in large white metallic letters visible on the cliffs. We were then taken brought to another spot for eagle-watching. The boatman stopped the engine and the guide threw pieces of raw chicken skin into the water. In no time, the eagles started swooping in from the sky, grabbed the food and take off, allowing us the chance to capture photos of these amazing creatures. Our next stop was Pulau Anak Tikus also known as Fossil Island. We climbed the narrow stairs to witness several fossils on the rocks dating 480 million years old, and continued trudging the concrete footbridge until we get to the other side of the island where our boat readily waited for us. We then proceeded to a Floating Fish Farm, which was 10 minutes’ ride away. This is the place where travellers can handfeed a stingray and even interact with the shooting archer fishes that jump out of the water to bite away pieces of bread from travellers’ fingers. Finally, when we returned to Kilim Jetty, it was already 1:30 p.m., which meant that we’ve spent around four hours! We truly lost track of the time because we were totally immersed with Kilim Karst Geoforest Park’s awe-inspiring beauty majesty, which makes it a mustvisit when travellers are in Langkawi.
PA N O R A M A L A N G K AW I
EVERYTHING IS AWESOME HERE -
During our three-day visit to Langkawi, #SayangMalaysia team experienced Panorama Langkawi, which consists of the longest free-span mono-cable car called Langkawi SkyCab, including several fun-filled attractions. Arriving at around 4:00 p.m. on one clear day, our team first headed to SkyRex, an immersive dynamic motion base ride that seats up to 30 passengers and bring them in a simulated three-dimensional (3D) environment created by five 3D projectors projected onto curved surround-screen combined with a range of four-dimensional effects, resulting in an exciting life-like adventure. Throughout the five-minute ride, we experienced physical platform drops, dynamic motion, blasts of air, water spray, vibrations, dramatic lighting, surround sound and convincing 3D projection that had our adrenaline pumping. Additional notes: Entrance fee for SkyRex is inclusive with every purchase of SkyCab ticket. We then proceeded to next attraction: 3D Art Langkawi, set within a 21,000 square feet indoor space. Located within Oriental Village, which is close to the Langkawi SkyCab entrance, it features more than one hundred 3D interactive paintings that were artistically painted by a group of talented international artists, all divided into nine different theme zones: Aquarium Zone, Safari Zone, Fantasy Zone, Optic Illusion Zone, Malaysia Zone, Classic Zone, Main Hall Zone, Interactive Zone 1 and Interactive Zone 2. We’ve been told that this is the Largest 3D Interactive Art Museum in Malaysia, making it another signature product by Langkawi SkyCab in collaboration with Art In Paradise Langkawi. The highlight here is the 3D Mapping showcase, where we felt like transported on a magic carpet to Niagara Falls, Castle Age, Mystical Pyramids and Ancient Egypt3D Art Langkawi is awarded and recognised by the Malaysia Book of Records (MBR) with for being ‘The Biggest 3D Mural Painting in Malaysia’ and ‘The Biggest Indoor Projection Mapping in Malaysia’. Don’t forget to interact with the characters and become the subject of the artwork on display. This surreal gallery is a must on all travellers’ list.
Our last attraction is 6D Cinemotion, which is a 3D show with special effects such as moving seat, bubbles, flash, leg sweeping and water spray. As the first outdoor entertainment 6D Cinemotion in Asia and also the first 6D Cinemotion in Langkawi, 6D Cinemotion takes 3D movie viewing pleasure to entirely new level! There are 20 shows available at 6D Cinemotion. During our visit, they’re showing the ‘Horrible Mine’, which comes with special effects, similar to what the onscreen characters are experiencing – all while watching a 3D stereoscopic movie and seated on a 5D special effect seats. With that, we’ve completed the first part (Part I) of our visit in Panorama Langkawi. Stay tuned with us in next edition (Part II) to hear more attractions about Panorama Langkawi, yet to be discovered! **We would like to thank our kind-hearted guide, Madam Liza, who patiently attended to us during our visit.
S KY T R E X L A N G K AW I
A MUST DO ADVENTURE IN MAGICAL ISLAND, LANGKAWI “Skytrex Langkawi offers unique excitement and physical challenge for those who are active, especially the Island Extreme course with its 34 various aerial obstacles that are suspended above lush tropical rainforest.” Located within the pristine Burau Bay that is 30 minutes from Kuah, Skytrex Langkawi offers brand-new tree top obstacles for those seeking heart-pumping canopy adventures. Arguably, this adventure park tops all travellers’ must-do list in the magical island of Langkawi.
The #SayangMalaysia team members recently had the privilege of experiencing these tree top obstacles for the first time in our lives. We arrived at 9:00 a.m. and were welcomed by the friendly Skytrex Langkawi team. Before we began the activity, we were briefed on the safety equipment used throughout the course, which is based on French technology. Since safety is Skytrex’s priority, travellers need not worry about it. On the same note, it is crucial for all travellers to pay attention to the safety briefings so that they will remain safe the whole time! There are also instructors stationed at certain platforms on each circuit who keep a watchful eye on travellers’ progress when they attempt to complete their activities. Skytrex Langkawi boasts three courses that test travellers’ balancing skills, strength and mental confidence. The obstacles found along the three courses require travellers to stand, climb, swing and zip along from as high as 30 metres off the ground! Along the course, there are several exit points called ‘chicken run’ that travellers could use if they find the challenges too much to handle, or if there’s an emergency that requires them to evacuate immediately. The first course is Little Legend Adventure designed for beginners comprising 22 obstacles at the height between 3 and 5 metres from the ground, suitable not only for children and teenagers but also adults. Eagle Thrill is the intermediate level, consisting of 26 obstacles that are rugged and more challenging than the first. The largest course, consisting 34 obstacles, is Island Extreme, designed for those who crave for adrenaline rush. There are three ladders that travellers need to climb to access the course, and two of them are quite high. Though we were first-timers, we straight away opted for the Island Extreme course. Wow, brave enough, huh? Every Skytrex Adventure park has its own special obstacle. For the one in Langkawi, it is called ‘sailor board’, which is a combination of surfing and flying fox, making it the most interesting obstacle at the park. On top of that, ziplining from tree to tree is remarkably exciting! The course also consists of 15 ‘flying fox’ obstacles that are long enough to surge our adrenaline to the level that makes us grin. The most challenging obstacle in the whole course is ‘X-bridge’ because when we stepped onto it, the X swivels on its axis, thus testing our balance and coordination. We took about two hours and a half to complete the course – though some of us have the fear of heights, they managed to overcome it. It was indeed thrilling and rewarding at the same time, giving us the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. As such, we intend to visit Skytrex’s two other locations – Melaka and Shah Alam – to fully complete the circuit. So when travellers are in Langkawi, they should come to Skytrex Langkawi and have a great time conquering their inner fears and improve their confidence after completing the courses! Tip: Tickets can be booked online and it is cheaper than walk-in price. Travellers can find out more on www.skytrex-adventure.org. **Thanks to Skytrex Langkawi team for giving us the cooperation when we were there.
Gaya Special Report
Tourism Marketing Activities in
SOUTH EAST ASIA for 2018 Germany has an outstanding reputation as a country, economic power and of course, travel destination. Since the country’s reunification in 1989/1990, it has recorded a robust growth in terms of the number of overnight stays by international visitors, including those from the Association of the South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region particularly Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
“In 2015, more than 2.8 million trips to Europe were made from these four important high-growth markets, and more than 478,000 of these were to Germany,” says Petra Hedorfer, Chief Executive Officer of the German National Tourist Board (GNTB). Hence, to intensify the marketing efforts in this region, a Germany National Tourism Office (GNTO) – (ASEAN) office has been inaugurated in Singapore last January 2017. It operates under the auspices of the German Chamber of Commerce in Singapore and collaborates with the South East Asia-based travel agencies, airlines and media in developing and communicating strategies and products to promote Germany as an ultimate travel destination for the growing ASEAN markets. Trade and sightseeing are the top reasons why South East Asians visit Germany. The country remains a popular business and leisure destination with its great accessibility, world class facilities such as the Elbphilharmonie, fairy tale castles like the Neuschwanstein Castle, picturesque landscapes such as the Black Forest, and cutting-edge art culture such as in Berlin. The board has also introduced 10 Magic Cities that are popular among travellers, including: 1. Hamburg: the “Maritime City”. 2. Düsseldorf: the “City of Fashion”. 3. Dresden: the “City of Culture”.
4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
Hannover: the “City of Innovation”. Nürnberg: the “City of History”. Leipzig: the “City of Music”. Munich: the “City of Lifestyle”. Frankfurt: the “City of Art”. Stuttgart: the “City of Cars”. Cologne: the “City of Exuberance”.
In 2018, GNTB promotes a new year-long culinary campaign called #EnjoyGermanFood featuring local cuisines from each of the country’s 16 states. “The many different regional cooking styles and specialities, including the broad range of places to eat are among the strengths of Destination Germany, and we want to highlight this in our campaign,” adds Petra Hedorfer. “By emphasising regional and seasonal produce, we are supporting Germany’s position as a sustainable travel destination and promoting tourism in rural areas.” Chun Hoy Yuen, the Director of Marketing & Sales for Germany National Tourism Office (GNTO) – Singapore (ASEAN) also believes that the country’s effort in making Germany a barrier-free destination with improved facilities for the disabled at tourism hotspots would also boost tourist arrivals. Due to the said efforts, GNTB has predicted that overnight stays by visitors from Asia would double, from 1.6 million to 3.2 million by 2030. For more information, visit www.germany.travel.
â€œIn our effort to make Malaysia a leading tourism nation, letâ€™s not forget about two important elements: sustainability and inclusiveness... We also need to make it possible for everyone regardless of race, gender, religion and mobility to conveniently experience Malaysia.â€? Datuk Rashidi Hasbullah
Datuk Rashidi Hasbullah
C e m e n t i n g M a l a y s i a ’ s P o s i t i o n a s a T o u r i s m P o w e r h o u s e Te x t b y S H A H I DA S A KERI Images by MOHAMAD NABIL FIKRY MOHD ZAINUDIN
Gaya Travel Magazine sits with the ever dashing YBhg. Datuk Rashidi bin Hasbullah, the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MOTAC) Malaysia, as he shares his memorable moments at work, challenges that Malaysia is currently facing in terms of tourism and how the country is preparing for Visit Malaysia 2020. Datuk Rashidi is certainly not an unfamiliar face in the tourism industry, having frequented various meetings, conferences and programmes over the years to help position Malaysia as a leading tourism destination. His career in MOTAC began as Assistant Secretary after completing his Diploma in Public Management Programme from the National Institute of Public Administration (INTAN) in 1996. When asked why he chose tourism, he says it was not planned but instead fortuitous. “I believe in the simple concept that one should love what he or she does and delivers (the job).” Holding on to that philosophy, he expanded his knowledge by pursuing Master’s degree in Tourism at the Central Michigan University, United States of America in 2004 to enhance his knowledge about the industry, and then enrolled in the Oxford Advanced Leadership Course at Oxford University, United Kingdom in 2012 to further enhance his credibility, which eventually led him to holding the position as the ministry’s current Secretary-General. Besides his official duty as a government servant, Datuk Rashidi is also a current board member of Kuala Lumpur Tourism Bureau, Hotel Seri Malaysia chain, Putrajaya International Convention Centre, Marina Putrajaya Pte. Ltd. and Penang Hill Corporation.
Datuk Rashidi states that the tourism landscape in Malaysia today has changed tremendously compared to 20 years ago. “Back then, the numbers of tourist arrivals were small. But now, we receive more. In fact, Malaysia’s second-tier cities like Ipoh and Alor Setar are starting to also draw attention now. There is also a growing number of international big chain hotels opening in Malaysia and investments from multi-national corporations, as well as improved infrastructure – these positive changes show how progressive our tourism industry is,” he explains. When Gaya Travel team enquires about his personal proudest achievement while working in the Ministry, Datuk Rashidi considers his brainchild – the homestay programme – brings the best memory. Malaysia Homestay Experience Programme garnered the UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation in Public Policy and Governance, which later became the benchmark homestay standards for ASEAN countries. Moreover, the government has developed the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme that allows other countries to come to Malaysia and learn about the homestay programme. Currently, Malaysia has 311 villages participating in this homestay programme.
Datuk Rashidi emphasises on the importance of working in a team. “It is impossible to work alone in any ministry. You need to work with your team to ensure that every programme or project becomes successful. When I was the Deputy Secretary-General, I worked with my team together with consultants, stakeholders and industry players to introduce beneficial policies for the country such as the National Eco Tourism Plan 20162025, the Malaysian Transformation Plan and the National Culture Policy. We also came up with Malaysia Tourism Quality Assurance (MTQA) in 2013 to make sure that the tourism products in Malaysia reach maximum standards. The main goal here is to work together and make tourism (one of ) the main driver of economic growth in Malaysia,” he elaborates. However, 2017 saw a 3% decline in terms of tourist arrivals into Malaysia compared to the year before. Datuk Rashidi believes that the profile of Malaysia as a tourist destination is affected by various factors including the shortage of direct routes, strong competition from neighbouring countries and the higher cost of publicity overseas due to the weakening Ringgit.
MOTAC responded to the said challenges by easing visa rules; engaging in smart partnerships with airlines; working with the private sector and Malaysian agencies under the National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS) to efficiently execute initiatives in cost effective ways; and maximising the use of digital marketing. The ministry also has formulated the 2018-2020 Integrated Promotion Plan to further tackle those challenges. Besides, the Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign is also believed to help boost Malaysia’s tourism industry. Malaysia has organised a total of four editions of Visit Malaysia Year campaigns in the past (1990, 1994, 2007 and 2014), each recorded impressive number of tourist arrivals and receipts. The highest achievement ever recorded was in 2014 when Malaysia received 27.7 million tourist arrivals with a total receipt of RM72 billion. Visit Malaysia 2020 – with the theme ‘Travel, Enjoy and Respect’ and formulated as part of Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan – is targeted to bring in 36 million tourist arrivals with RM168 billion tourist receipts in 2020. During that landmark year, Malaysia will hold a series of international large-scale and high-level events such as Asia Pacific Economic Corporation (APEC), World Congress of Information Technology (WCIT) and Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Datuk Rashidi adds that Malaysia intends to take full advantage as the country partner for the Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB) Berlin in 2019 to enhance Malaysia’s visibility internationally. He also encourages the Malaysian tourism industry players to utilise the incentives provided by the government such as the MYR2 billion tourism loan disseminated through SME Bank and another MYR2 billion with Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Berhad. In terms of promotions, the ministry is not putting all eggs in one basket. China and India are just two of the geographical markets that the ministry is focussing on due to the size of their respective populations. However, the ministry assures that it also continues to target other countries, for instance Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines for the short haul market; Japan, Korea and Taiwan for the medium haul market; and the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Iran for the long-haul market. The ministry also reaches into niche segments by presenting Malaysia as the ideal destination for film-making, medical treatment, education and lung-washing, including weddings and honeymoon. “In our effort to make Malaysia a leading tourism nation, let’s not forget about two important elements: sustainability and inclusiveness,” reminds Datuk Rashidi. All parties involved in the tourism industry need to practice responsible actions – whether environmentally, economically and socio-culturally – to ensure positive future for the next generation. “We also need to make it possible for everyone regardless of race, gender, religion and mobility to conveniently experience Malaysia,” says Datuk Rashidi in concluding the session. Based on the interview, it is apparent that Datuk Rashidi’s vast knowledge, experience and acumen in tourism makes him undoubtedly the perfect person to helm the ministry.
ESCAPE + EXPLORE + EXPERIENCE
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M is for Morocco M is for mesmerising, memorable, magical, mellow â€“ all of these attributes definitely befit Morocco. The country has a lot to offer travellers: beautiful scenery, delicious food, hospitable people, and simplicity of life that is becoming increasingly rare these days. Morocco is definitely one of a kind travel experience. What makes the North African country unique is its beautiful mix of Middle Eastern magic, Berber tradition and European flair. Our eight-day Moroccan journey began as soon as we boarded the early morning ferry in Algeciras, Spain. The three-hour and a half ride was pleasant and immigration clearance was done onboard. By the way, Malaysians no longer require visa to enter Morocco beginning 27 December 2017.
MUST SEE In Chefchaouen Located in the Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen is perhaps the most identifiable city in Morocco, thanks to its buildings in the old medina that are uniquely painted in blue. Be sure to walk around the picturesque and photogenic old medina and witness the local way of life. However, be warned that the locals are quite apprehensive in having their picture taken. We took a hike up the mountains to see a stunning view of the blue city, and what a fantastic view it was.
In Meknes Meknes is enchanting; with winding narrow streets, classic medina and grand buildings that hark back to its heyday as the imperial capital of Morocco.
» Al-Quaraouiyine University This was considered as the world’s first university, founded by a lady, Fatima Al-Fihri, and remained so until 1963. Now, it is no longer a university but a mosque.
» Bab el-Mansour One of the most beautiful monumental gates we have ever seen, Bab el-Mansour is adorned with striking tile work and decorative calligraphy. Built in the 1730s, it was the main gateway between the city’s old medina and the former royal capital.
» Chaouwara Tanneries Colourful, active, atmospheric, and headily pungent, the tanneries of Fes let visitors see part of the ancient leatherwork processes. There are several viewing areas, accessed through leather shops.
» Old Medina Step into Meknes’ old medina and you will be greeted with mountains and mountains of multi-coloured olives and spices. Spice lovers are in for a treat!
In Rabat We have found that Morocco’s political and administrative capital charming. The palm-flanked boulevards of this Ville Nouvelle are clean, well kept and relatively free of traffic, making it a big contrast to the chaotic Casablanca.
In Fes Fes was Morocco’s capital for more than 400 years and it is still an important religious and cultural centre today.
» Oudaias Kasbah Built by the Almohads in the 12th century, this cliff-top kasbah (fort) is only 150 metres long from one end to the other, and a delight to explore. Standing sentry over the mouth of the Bou Regreg river, today it is a quaint village-like quarter, crammed with rows of whitewashed houses with brightly coloured doors. Walk along Rue Jemaa and you will end up at a wide-open area called Le Plateforme du Semaphore that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and Sale.
» Fes El Bali Fes El Bali was founded in the ninth century. It is filled with elaborate architecture and best explored on foot. This fascinating medina can be likened to a labyrinth consisting of 9,400 alleys that often finish with dead ends. This being said, do be mindful when wandering about this medieval marketplace. There are two very interesting places located within Fes el Bali: Al-Quaraouiyine University and Chaouwara Tanneries.
» Hassan Tower and Mausoleum of King Mohammed V Guarded at all times by elaborately dressed royal guards and fez-topped security personnel, Rabat’s two most visited sites stand opposite each other along Bou Regreg river. Hassan Tower would have been the minaret of a grand mosque as envisioned by ruler Yacoub al-Mansour; whereas the Mausoleum of Mohammed V stands as a masterpiece of modern Moroccan architecture, holding inside the grand tombs of past kings.
» Volubilis This UNESCO-listed ancient Roman site is located not too far from Meknes. The ruins include soaring columns, foundations, well preserved mosaics, tall archways, steps, and stone blocks.
In Casablanca Casablanca is the largest and most chaotic city in Morocco. Casablanca serves as the economic and business centre of Morocco, probably why the city is very busy and dense. » Hassan II Mosque Completed in the early 1990s, Hassan II Mosque showcases the finest examples of Moroccan craftsmanship. A beautiful place of worship, the mosque sits next to the Atlantic Ocean. It is the largest in Morocco and the third largest in the world. Tour of the mosque is available. In Essaouira Located on the windy Atlantic coast, this seaside town combines some of the best of what Morocco has to offer — excellent beaches, great food and vibrant culture — with a chill out atmosphere that is not as prominent as in other parts of the country. In the 1960s, this seaside town was a popular beach hangout for icons like Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. Do not miss the opportunity to visit the fish market near the ramparts, as well as the seafood stalls to savour grilled fresh seafood. Like other cities we have visited, the medina has many beautiful selections of practical souvenirs (especially home accessories) for you to bring home. Essaouira is home of the Argan Oil. Argan trees only thrive in Essaouira, therefore be sure to buy some in Essaouira. Keep a lookout for goats standing on the Argan tree branches, definitely not a sight you get to see everyday!
Top: Rabat’s Hassan Tower and Mausoleum of King Mohamed V stand opposite each other. Bottom: Casablanca’s Hassan II Mosque, located by the Atlantic Ocean, is the world’s third largest mosque.
Top: Witness ancient leatherwork processes at the Chouwara Tanneries located inside Fes El Bali. Bottom: The well preser ved mosaics at Volubilis, UNESCO-listed ancient Roman site. Right: Koutoubia Mosqueâ€™s tall minaret as seen from its beautiful cour tyard.
In Marrakech Marrakech is a perfect combination of old and new Morocco. Plan to spend at least a few days wandering the huge maze of souks and ruins in the medina. » Djemaa el-Fna This main square in Marrakech is known for its carnival-like ambiance. The great plaza of Djemma el-Fna is especially lively in the evenings; fortune tellers, musicians, henna artists, dancers and people wearing traditional outfits are among the sights to see. The smells of cooking waft through the air and visitors can try an array of Moroccan street food. During the day, highlights include market stalls with a colourful array of wares, snake charmers and monkeys. » Koutoubia Mosque Koutoubia Mosque is the symbol of Marrakech, an impressive jewel in an already spectacular crown. Although non-Muslims are not allowed inside the building, they can admire the tall minaret from the outside, feast their eyes on the ornate decorative details, and stroll through the leafy gardens. » Bahia Palace This stunning palace in Marrakesh is sprawled on an eight-hectare land and was built in the late 19th century. The large complex has many rooms, including gardens and courtyards; all with intricate decorative details on the walls, ceilings, floors and doors. Moroccan architectural details are impressive and Bahia Palace is an excellently showcase them. » Jardin Majorelle In the midst of hectic Marrakech, there is an Eden-like garden restored by Yves Saint Laurent. There are 300 plant species from five continents at this stunning garden. A fabulous ensemble of plants, colours and materials, this fascinating oasis will enchant travellers as a great place to relax.
Pottery – tajine, plates, fountains, etc. Leather goods – babouche (slippers), jackets, pouffes, bags Argan oil and Argan nut spread Spices Olives Lamps / Lanterns Colourful glasses & tableware Djellaba (traditional loose-fitting unisex hooded cloaks or robes)
Couscous Tagine – Beef & Prune especially! M’ssemen (flatbread similar like the Malaysian Roti Canai or the Indian paratha) Mint Tea
Where to Stay
For a truly Moroccan experience, we recommend travellers to stay in dars or riads, which are old houses or residences that are converted into boutique hotels or bed & breakfast. These are often small (about six rooms or less), clean and charming. Some are in former merchant houses or palaces and may even have large opulent rooms and gardens. These are ideal places to stay in Morocco, and can range in price from budget to luxury depending on size and amenities. For more info, check out http://www.visitmorocco.com/en
Top: Beautiful Moroccan potteries make excellent souvenirs. Below Left: Delicious Beef and Prune Tajine travellers should not miss. Below Right: A typical breakfast ser ved in the riad where we stayed: M’ssemen, freshly squeezed orange juice and bread.
Te x t b y N U R S YA Z WA N I R O S L A N I m a g e s b y TO U RI S M M A LAY S I A & G AYA T RAV EL M AG A Z I N E P H O TO G RA P H Y U N I T
From 6 until 8 March 2018, Tourism Malaysia organised a familiarisation trip to the district of Pekan in Pahang with the theme Revisit Pahang to help promote the various tourism products available there, including ecotourism attractions, to the general public. This trip was joined by selected travel agencies, members of the media and a blogger. Note: Pahang is the biggest state in Peninsular Malaysia containing many districts, and the third biggest state in Malaysia after Sabah and Sarawak. 035
The name Pekan was derived from a type of flower that was once found along the banks of the Pahang River. The Pekan flower, which is believed to be already extinct, is said to be similar to jasmine. This district is also home to the state’s royal family headed by Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah, thus earning Pekan the title as the royal town of Pahang. Other than that, this small town is also the hometown of Malaysia’s second Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak and the current Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Najib Razak. What to see Pahang State Museum (Sultan Abu Bakar Museum) If you’re interested in Pahang’s royal history, a visit to this museum is a must. The Pahang State Museum, commonly known as Sultan Abu Bakar Museum, was built back in 1929 and originally served as the residence for the British Resident, and thereafter became Sultan Abu Bakar’s official palace. This historical building now contains various archaeological and indigenous artefacts, including personal collection belonging to the members of the Pahang royal family. Even if you’re not a history enthusiast, this place is attractively Instagrammable, allowing travellers to take nice photos on its grounds
dominated by trees sculpted into shape of animals, including a helicopter and an ancient cannon. Tip: Don’t miss witnessing the rare Kutani porcelain displayed here, one of the only two in the world; the other one is in Japan. Operating hours: Tuesday - Sunday | 9: 00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Friday | 9:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. | 2:45 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Entrance Fee: RM5 Closed every Monday, the first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Aidiladha
Sultan Abdullah Mosque Museum This so-called Taj Mahal of Malaysia does resemble its nickname. As you walk along the pathway from the Pahang State Museum, you’ll see a water fountain right in front of the entrance, similar to Taj Mahal. The mosque is painted in crisp white and shines radiantly under scorching sunlight. The mosque officially opened in 1932 and was used for religious activities back then, including Friday prayers.
In the year 1977, Pahang State Museum Board took over the management of the mosque after it was no longer utilised and left to deteriorate. The building now has become the Islamic Intellectual and Art Museum due to its strategic location and favourable potential as an exhibition gallery. The museum is filled with Islamic artefacts and interactive LCD screens that feature verses from the Noble Quran for visitors to explore the collections in depth. Operating hours: Tuesday – Sunday | 9:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Pahang State Museum Board, Jalan Sultan Ahmad, 26600 Pekan, Pahang T: +6 09 422 1642
I m a g e f r o m M U R TA B A K M E N G K A S A R S D N B H D F A C E B O O K
Black Water Jewel If you love cruising along the river then you will surely enjoy exploring Pekan’s very own peat swamp called the Black Water Jewel river, so named due to the river’s blackish waters, though in reality the water is actually colourless, similar to any other normal river. The soil in the area is high in humic substances (humus and humic acids), causing the water to look black. This peat swamp forest is not just thickly foliaged and water-logged, but also has a unique ecosystem and home to wildlife such as white throated kingfisher, stock billed kingfisher, spectacled leaf monkey, black hornbill, great hornbill, and egret. The locals are trying to conserve the area and utilise it to improve the living standards of the area’s 2,000 residents. This peat swamp allows these residents to source for forestry and fishery prod-
ucts, including water from underground. The peat swamp also protects the area from floods. Agropolitan Runchang This sheep livestock hub is being cared by 102 aboriginal people since 2009 in the hope that by the year 2020, it will become the biggest Dorper sheep livestock hub in Asia, producing over 25,000 sheep. This livestock hub is part of the government’s agropolitan programme to eradicate poverty through agriculture. Besides assisting the poor with employment, personal development and income, this initiative also accelerates the growth and development in rural East Coast Economic Region (ECER) in Malaysia. What makes this project distinctive compared to the other ECER projects is because it is involved entirely by the members of Peninsular Malaysia’s aboriginal community. Murtabak Mengkasar Besides puding raja (a dessert that means ‘Royal Pudding’, made up of prunes, cherries, cashew nuts and fried bananas smothered by creamy gravy made from milk and custard flour, often chilled before served), another delicacy that Pekan is well known for is Murtabak Mengkasar (stuffed pan-fried bread filled with minced beef or chicken, eggs, onions and spices, to be dipped with pinkish vinegar sauce). This murtabak is usually eaten during tea time and popular during Ramadhan (Muslim fasting month). What makes Murtabak Mengkasar special is its thickness, which consists of three layers of minced beef or
chicken marinated with 21 types of aromatic spices, rendering the meat flavourful. Ths murtabak has been around for 40 years and is favoured by many Malaysians from all walks of life, including His Royal Highness the Sultan of Pahang Sultan Ahmad Shah and the Prime Minister of Malaysia Datoâ€™ Seri Najib Tun Razak. People keep on coming to savour the murtabak because the quality of the murtabak has never changed since it was first sold; its price ranges from RM8 to RM20. This establishment also sells other unique murtabak fillings such as lamb and cheese. Operating hours: Opens from 3:00 p.m. until 12:00 midnight - Closes once a month Murtabak Mengkasar , 253 Kampung Mengkasar, 26600 Pekan, Pahang T: +6 012 951 4668 / +6 017 901 4668 (Ms. Suziey)
Kompleks Budaya Kampung Sungai Keladi Since Pahang is renowned for its Songket Tenun Pahang DiRaja (hand-woven silk or cotton fabric with golden- or silver-threaded motifs), we visited the Royal Pahang Hand-woven Silk Centre. The purpose of this visit is to create awareness towards Pahang songket-weaving tradition, as well as increasing songketâ€™s commercial viability of the. Depending on workmanship, material, complexity and rarity, Pahang songket could reach thousands of ringgit. At the centre, travellers are able to witness how students and budding songket-weavers learn to master the craft. We were told that it normally takes up to two full years to skilfully weave the songket. On top of that, not all
students would make it until the end because it requires hard work and full dedication to complete the whole process. There are also many exclusively-designed songket developed by Her Royal Highness Tengku Puan Pahang Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah (the wife to His Royal Highness The Crown Prince of Pahang Tengku Abdullah) being showcased at the centre. Travellers are bound to be fascinated by the detailing on the songket, which is then applied onto various accessories such as bags, shoes, pillowcases and more. Where to stay AnCasa Royale Pekan Those who seek laidback lifestyle would find Pekan ideal. The befitting accommodation for such travellers would be AnCasa Royale Pekan, a four-star hotel opened four years ago that offers 133 rooms comprising Deluxe Rooms, Junior and Family Suite rooms, Executive Suite and a Premier Suite Room. There are also meeting rooms, conference room, business centre, karaoke room, large swimming pool, a spa, and fitness centre, among others. Since this property is adjacent to the Pahang River, it also offers a signature experience that travellers should consider experiencing: The River Cruise @ Sungai Pahang. No. 2670, Jalan Pekan-Kuantan, 26600, Pekan, Pahang T: +6 09 424 6700 www.ancasahotels.com
Clockwise from Left to Right: Magnificent view of the wistful Pahang State Museum; One of the only two Kutani porcelains in the world that can be witnessed at Pahang State Museum; The iconic Sultan Abdullah Mosque Museum; Checking out the Black Water Jewel from the boat; Dorper sheep shed in Agropolitan Runchang; Inside the Royal Premier Suite at AnCasa Royale Pekan; A product made from Royal Pahang Songket on display; A student weaving a songket at Royal Pahang Handwoven Silk Centre; Freshly made thick and mouth-watering Murtabak Mengkasar.
The magnificent structure of the Terengganu State Museum
Fam Trip to
K U A L A T E R E N G G A N U Te x t b y N U R S YA Z WA N I R O S L A N Images by MOHAMAD NABIL FIKRY MOHD ZAINUDIN
In conjunction with Beautiful Terengganu Malaysia promotional campaign, Tourism Terengganu, in collaboration with Gaya Travel Magazine, organised a familiarisation trip to Kuala Terengganu to promote the destination. The trip was participated by 17 social media influencers, bloggers and members of the media.
Where to Visit? Terengganu State Museum museum.terengganu.gov.my The Terengganu State Museum consists of five massive structures modelled after the distinctive traditional Terengganu houses. Travellers will definitely be in awe of the museum, which houses information, exhibits, dioramas and valuable artefacts relating to Terengganu. It is being said that the tall pillars used as the base of the museum to replicate the traditional houses in Terengganu considering these houses were generally built along the riverbanks as the means to protect the museumâ€™s structure and contents from perennial flooding during the annual monsoon season that hits Peninsular Malaysiaâ€™s east coast from November until March.
Travellers are invited to walk around the museum’s nine main galleries that are interestingly educational: Islamic Gallery; Textile Gallery; Royal Gallery; Historic Gallery; Craft Gallery; Petroleum Gallery; and Natural History Gallery. As travellers step into the main entrance, they should not miss checking out the iconic and original Inscribed Stone of Terengganu (Batu Bersurat) that has been in existence since 1303 A.D., proving that Islam had arrived in the state in early 13th century, earlier than the Melaka Sultanate. Terengganu State Museum also organises the annual ‘Night at the Museum’. If you’re the kind of person who love to spend a night at the museum, be sure to be on the lookout for the date!
Operation hours: Saturday to Thursday: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Friday: 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Admission Fee: Malaysian: Adult RM2 | Child RM1 Non-Malaysian: Adult RM5 | Child RM2
The museum is open all year round and closed during Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Hari Raya Aidil Adha. Kampung Cina (Chinatown) Believe it or not, Kuala Terengganu also has its own Chinatown, which looks lovely with lanterns hung between old shop houses, alleyways decorated with pictures of scholars, aesthetically pleasing decor, love locks and murals. If you’re looking for an Instagram-worthy spot in Kuala Terengganu, then this is the place. It is also worth travellers’ time to learn that the Chinese community in Terengganu has been around for centuries and their forefathers had intermarried with locals, giving rise to a breed of Chinese called the Peranakans who were raised in a predominantly Malay culture and adopted local customs and lifestyle. Pasar Payang Located just a stone’s throw away from Chinatown is Pasar Payang (Payang Market), a must for travellers to
experience when being in Terengganu. This is the place to get local delicacies, goods, produce and household items, including souvenirs and various handicrafts such as batik, songket (fabric woven in golden and silver thread), and silk. Most of the things sold are handmade. Be sure to taste some of the traditional kuih muih (cakes) when travellers come here. Taman Tamadun Islam (Islamic Civilisation Park) www.tti.com.my Want to see the famous symbol of love in India, the Taj Mahal, but can’t afford to travel there? Fret not, for the Islamic Civilisation Park can make your dreams come true. This is the place where travellers can find the replicas of the 22 iconic Islamic monuments from 21 different countries across Asia, Europe and Africa. Each monument – which is represented as a replica scaled between 1:1.7 and 1:22 from the original – holds its own wondrous history. Among the famous Islamic monuments here are the Taj Mahal, Masjidil Haram, and Al-Hambra Citadel. The replicas themselves are exact copies of the original monuments. The park also provides interactive edutainment whereby travellers can learn more about the monuments, watch educational videos, solve quizzes, play games and go on treasure hunts. The park spans 10 hectares, thus travellers are recommended to use the bicycles and trams when exploring the monuments. Information regarding the monuments are in Malay, English and Arabic. Though the concept of the park is Islamic, nonMuslims are definitely welcomed. Tip: Do visit the famous Crystal Mosque made from steel, glass and crystals, which is a component of the Islamic Civilisation Park.
Terradala www.terradala.com Terradala (which means ‘Land of the Dala flower’) is a cafe, mini museum,
crafts and souvenir store rolled into one. We get to know about Terradala after spending a night at the beautiful Terrapuri resort. Some of the items used for decorating each villa at Terrapuri is available at Terradala for sale. At Terradala, travellers are also invited to savour the drinks and delicacies available at affordable prices. The café also encompasses an outdoor garden that features a wooden gazebo made from chengal. Terradala souvenir items come in the form of exclusively designed batik sarong, artworks, t-shirts, pants, and pareu, including coffee-table books and products made from woven leaves of the pandanus plant.
What to Eat? Sudut Selera Kak Pah When in Terengganu, travellers must eat nasi dagang at Sudut Selera Kak Pah, a stall located in a food court in Batu Buruk! If you ask locals what is Kuala Terengganu’s specialty, they are bound to say ‘nasi dagang’, which is a dish comprising a special rice steamed with coconut milk, shallots, ginger and fenugreek. When eaten, the rice is accompanied with flavourful tuna fish curry and pickled cucumbers and carrots. Travellers should take bits of everything in a bite and taste the goodness of each component. Expect a long queue at Sudut Selera Kak Pah every morning because locals and tourists swarm the place. The stall opens at 8:00 a.m.; whatever is on sale would be sold out by 10:30 a.m. Z&S Selera Kampung Lunchtime in Terengganu is the time when travellers savour local specialties eaten with rice. Yes, rice, AGAIN! Locals love to eat nasi campur or mixed rice where steaming hot fluffy white rice is served with various types of protein and vegetable dishes of choice. At Z&S Selera Kampung in Kuala Nerus, Terengganu, there are various choices of fish, chicken, beef and vegetable dishes cooked in different ways. Foodies will love this place for its affordable dishes.
Clockwise from Top Left: Pictures of scholars hanging on the walls of an alley in Chinatown; Assor tment of flowers sold at the Payang Market used for Malay traditional floral bath; The miniature replica of Istanbulâ€™s Blue Mosque at the Islamic Civilisation Park; Traditional aesthetics decorate the walls of Terradala.
B’Beteng Restaurant www.tti.com.my/bbeteng-restaurant After touring around the Islamic Civilisation Park, the participants of the familiarisation trip replenished their energy by enjoying the packed lunch prepared by B’Beteng Restaurant while taking the TTI River Cruise, allowing participants to enjoy the scenic view of the Terengganu River. Keda Dapo Barokah facebook.com/kedadapobarokah Still feeling hungry after walking and sightseeing? Then head to Keda Dapo Barokah in Kuala Terengganu that serves roti Kullahuk (Kullahuk bread), which is soft bread grilled on charcoal eaten with lamb curry. Another dish that travellers should try is the Mongolian grilled lamb, which is grilled to perfection, succulent and tender, served with homemade black pepper sauce and salad and French fries on the side. This eatery is open every day from 5:30 p.m. until late night.
Uptown Kontena facebook.com/UptownKontena Uptown Kontena (Container at Uptown) in Kuala Nerus is a place built using old containers that were repainted and decorated. It is a hipster concept eatery where each container is a restaurant selling different kinds of food and snacks for people to eat and hang out whilst enjoying the cool sea breeze in the evening. Warong Satay Chikeng Mamamia www.facebook.com/Kedai-Satey-Chikeng-Mamamia At Warong Satay Chikeng Mamamia in Kuala Terengganu, travellers get the priority to be served like a king at breakfast with choices ranging from roti bollok, satay, nasi kuning (yellow rice), roti gedik (quivering soft-boiled eggs on toast), nasi lemak hijau (rice cooked in coconut milk with pandan leaf), keropok lekor (fish fritters) and more. Don’t miss indulging on the eatery’s famous roti bollok (toasted white bread with half-boiled eggs, baked beans and beef bolognaise sauce) and roti gedik when being here. Mr Celup Tepung Station facebook.com/celuptepungstation Since travellers should never expect anything less than fresh seafood when being in Terengganu, they should stop by at a seafood restaurant called Mr Celup Tepung Station in Pantai Penarik, which serves mainly batter-coated seafood like crab, fish, prawn, shrimp and squid. Since this place is open in the afternoons, it becomes the best place to take in the breeze and the view of the Penarik beach while enjoying fresh deep-fried seafood. Dynar Lekor Keropok Lekor BTB 2209 www.dynarlekor.com Before heading back, stop by Dynar Lekor-Keropok Lekor BTB 2209. BTB stands for ‘Bukit Tok Beng’, where the shop is
located. Terengganu is famous for its keropok lekor (fish fritters) in its authentic form because the fitters would normally contain more fish than sago flour. Travellers can enjoy keropok lekor at the place or having it vacuum packed to bring home. The keropok lekor is eaten dipped into Dynar’s special homemade sauce, which is different than any other sauces. Travellers can also buy the special sauce, which comes in bottles.
Where to Stay? Primula Beach Hotel www.primulahotels.com As guests step into the lobby of this landmark property, they will be mesmerised by the resort’s clean lines, Terengganuinspired décor and picturesque view of the beach and the sea. This international class, business-friendly 248-room property has been opened since 1984, located close to Kuala Terengganu’s business hub and attractions. Besides wellappointed rooms, Primula Beach Hotel is also ideal for business meetings, seminars, conferences, conventions and wedding receptions. Terrapuri Heritage Village www.terrapuri.com Terrapuri (which means ‘Land of Palaces’) is a charming resort made up of 20 exclusive heritage villas collected elsewhere in Terengganu and reassembled on the grounds. It is a restoration and conservation project of Terengganu Malay classic houses. Each of them had different owners and has its own story. Some of these houses once belonged to religious scholars, Chinese Peranakan family, and even fishermen. Each house was originally constructed to suit the requirements of the former owner. When staying at this resort, travellers can indulge in various activities such as cycling around the surrounding villages, visiting firefly sanctuary, reading books at the atmospheric reading room, having meetings at the classic-looking meeting room, getting pampered at the resort’s spa, enjoying kayaking and more. Travellers should just ask the tour desk at the resort what is being offered during their stay. Terrapuri is also able to hold private functions such as intimate wedding receptions and events for small groups.
Clockwise from Top Left: Soft and warm roti kullahuk with fragrant lamb curry, served only at Keda Dapo Barokah; The vibrant Uptown Kontena, a place to chill out and dine; A hear ty breakfast, roti bollok (toasted white bread with half-boiled eggs, baked beans and beef bolognaise sauce); Mr Celup Tepung Station’s fresh battered fried seafood; Sumptuously inviting bed at Primula Beach Hotel; The view of Terrapuri’s pool that fronts one of the traditional Terengganu houses now conver ted into stylish accommodation.
Lah! Te x t b y N U R S YA Z WA N I R O S L A N
Images by MOHAMAD NABIL FIKRY MOHD ZAINUDIN
Want to sound like a local Malaysian? Just add the word LAH to your sentences, for example ‘makanlah’ which means ‘please eat’, have ‘funlah’ means to ‘have fun’. Thus, Kuala Lumpur Tourism Bureau and Kuala Lumpur City Council, together with the Gaya Travel Magazine, organised a familiarisation trip called ‘Kuala Lumpur, LAH!’ for members of the media, bloggers and social media influencers to discover the city of Kuala Lumpur like real tourists! During the four-day trip, the participants were brought to some of the best attractions in Kuala Lumpur such as the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, the fascinating Aquaria KLCC, the whimsical Blue Dancing Fountain located next to the historic Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Royal Selangor Pewter and Cartoon House, including cycling around KL’s hidden-and-yet-to-be-discovered spots and savouring memorable dining experiences. Being born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, I often take for granted what this city has to offer. However, during this trip, I discovered that there are more to this city that I call home. Be sure to read along the pages to find out Kuala Lumpur’s amazing gems that even jaded travellers might not have experienced yet…
Top: Cycling around the heart of Kuala Lumpur guided by Bike with Elenaâ€™s team Bottom left and right: One of the workers is hammering a pewter mug for detailing
Where to see and experience?
Bike with Elena bikewithelena.wordpress.com Have you ever wanted to cycle in the heart of Kuala Lumpur? If the answer is ‘yes’, then you should opt for the bicycle tour called ‘Bike with Elena’, which brings you to selected spots that are still undiscovered and hidden. This supposedly four-hour tour brought the us to the famous Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square), which Elena revealed to us that the place was formerly a vegetable farm. Then we proceeded to Kampung Baru, one of the valuable tracts of land in the capital city popular with foodies. Though Kampung Baru is unofficially considered as the vanguard of traditional Malay heritage in the heart of the city, nowadays there are only nine traditional houses left in the area; the participants were brought to see one of them, which is popular as film location since the contrasting PETRONAS Twin Towers can be seen directly at the background of the house. The tour opened the participants’ eyes on the need to conserve such valuable heritage. We then proceeded to Chow Kit Market, which is bustling with people and brimming with various kinds of fruits, spices, fresh vegetables, fish, meat and more. Prices are also cheaper here than the other markets or grocery stores in the city. Though there were nerve-wrecking moments when cycling through heaving traffic, the guides from Bike with Elena made us feel safe throughout the journey. Royal Selangor my.royalselangor.com I always pass by Royal Selangor on my way to work, but never knew what the place is all about. Little did I know that Royal Selangor is actually one of the world’s leading brand in quality pewter. We toured the site and learnt a great deal about tin-mining and pewter back in the old days, when tin was the backbone of Kuala Lumpur. The participants and I also witnessed the factory workers making quality pewterware and crafts. Then we eventually had the chance to make our own souvenirs from pewter!
Because fashioning the material is hard work, I only managed to produce a bracelet during the given time. We then went to the School of Hard Knocks, where each of us was given a pewter plate to carve our name and then form it into a bowl, which was fun! Operating hours: Opens daily from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
Carcosa Seri Negara This venue is a combination of two British colonial mansions: Carcosa, completed in 1897 as the official residence for the first British ResidentGeneral of the Federated Malay States, Sir Frank Swettenham; and Seri Negara, which served as the official guest house for the Governor of the Straits Settlement, opened in 1913. From 1989 until 2016, it was converted into one of Kuala Lumpur’s finest grand hotels that hosted Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip during the 1989 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Now designated as one of Malaysia’s heritage sites, Kuala Lumpur City Hall has turned Carcosa Seri Negara into an interesting museum that showcases artefacts like original photographs and documents relating to Malaysia’s history during British rule up until independence. This place is a definite must-visit to understand the history of modern Malaysia. Lovers of nostalgia will surely fall for this place. Contact KK Tan: +6 012 275 1079
River of Life, Blue Pool One of the newest attractions in Kuala Lumpur is the blue water pool with a dancing fountain accompanied by music and lights up, located where the two rivers, Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang, meet. The beautification effort of both rivers by Kuala Lumpur City Council, which is currently under way, is called the River of Life project, which intends to clean up the river and turn it into one of Kuala Lumpur’s tourist attractions. The project also intends to educate the city residents on the need to keep the rivers clean and conserve them.
Malaysia Cartoon and Comic House @ Botanical Garden www.facebook.com/Malaysia-CartoonComic-House Normally, when being at the Botanical Garden in Kuala Lumpur, people normally go for their morning or evening jogs, picnics, cycling and other types of recreational activities. But do you know that you could also learn about the evolution of Malaysian-made cartoons at the Botanical Garden too? As travellers enter the garden, they will be able to notice life-size caricature cut-outs that indicate that travellers are in the right direction to get to Malaysia Cartoon and Comic House, with its walls covered in many Malaysian cartoon and comic prints. Travellers can read the comic strips from the original Malaysian comics like ‘Apo?’, ‘Gila-gila’, ‘Kampung Boy’ and more. There are also posters of the popular cartoon characters as well. The house is actually the cartoonists’ workplace, whereby travellers get to see them doing their artworks live. Travellers can also draw their own cartoons at a workshop taught by an experienced cartoonist. On the way out, travellers can purchase merchandises such as T-shirts, woven bags, comics, key chains with cartoon comic characters as souvenirs. KLCC Bridge Walk www.petronastwintowers.com.my They say that travellers have not been to Kuala Lumpur if they have not gone up the iconic 88-storey PETRONAS Twin Towers, which has a bridge in between connecting both of them. Travellers get the chance to see observe Kuala Lumpur from two venues: the said connecting bridge on Level 42, as well as Level 86 in Tower 2. From this view you can almost see the entire Kuala Lumpur skyline the surrounding landscapes. Being a Malaysian, it is a truly heartfelt to realise how developed my beloved city has become over the years. Operating hours: 9:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. (closed from 1:00 p.m. until 2:30 pm on Fridays) Last admission: 8.30pm Visiting Days: Tuesday to Sunday Entrance Fee: Adult RM85; Child RM35
Aquaria KLCC aquariaklcc.com Ever since the Aquaria KLCC first opened in 2004, I have been meaning to visit this largest aquarium in South East Asia but never got the chance. Thus, I was so excited when the trip brought us all to this attraction. I had the opportunity to pet small bamboo sharks and starfish at the ‘touch pool’. As travellers walk further into the place, you’ll be surrounded by various types of fish and over 150 species of marine life. There’s also a jellyfish and seahorse lab where travellers get to learn about the life cycle and breeding process of these two creatures – only now I knew that it is the male seahorse that gestates the tiny baby seahorses, not the female. Be sure to visit Aquaria when you’re in Kuala Lumpur because it is an experience not to be missed. Operating hours: Opens daily | 10.00 a.m. till 8.00p.m. Entrance Fee: Adult RM69; Child RM59
Where to eat? Cakeliciousmy x Chi Fan KL www.facebook.com/CakeliciousMY | www.facebook.com/chifankl Later that day we went to a cupcake piping class at a café called Chi Fan KL with Instagram-famous personality Cakeliciousmy, whose real name is Syahir. We learnt a few piping skills from him and piped our cupcakes according to the theme ‘succulent cactus’. Then we got to eat our cupcakes and had tea time at Chi Fan KL, which is a small but aesthetically pleasing establishment run by a loving family in Taman Melawati. The café has Baba Nyonya-inspired décor and the menu ranges from mee calong served with homemade fish balls, to nasi kerabu goreng and a wide selection of desserts comprising traditional cakes and pastries. Since the food is delicious, eating here is comforting and feels like home.
Clockwise from Top Left: Life-sized cartoon cutouts in front of Malaysia Cartoon and Comic House; The iconic Carcosa Seri Negara: Malaysia’s Heritage Mansion; View from the KLCC SkyBridge on 86th floor; One out of 150 weird yet unique marinelife species at Aquaria KLCC; A participant forming a cactus on her cupcake using icing at Chi Fan KL; Some of the cakes at Suka Sucre.
Sweet Table Demo by Suka Sucre www.instagram.com/sukasucrebistro After winning the title as the Malaysian Celebrity Masterchef, Dato’ Fazley Yaakob opened his own bistro called ‘Suka Sucre’ with the concept ‘from Rembau to Paris’ since he hails from Rembau in Negeri Sembilan and polished his culinary skills in Paris. Thus, the menu consists the fusion of dishes from Negeri Sembilan and French. I really enjoyed Rembau traditional dish daging masak lemak cili api (smoked beef cooked in coconut milk laced with turmeric and chillis) and infused with spaghetti, a dish of European influence. Besides mouth-watering dishes and desserts, the participants of ‘Kuala Lumpur, LAH!’ trip was treated to a ‘Sweet Table’ demonstration by none other than Dato’ Fazley Yaakob himself, who skilfully put together an impressive and edible artwork consisting of various desserts on an open table. After he completed the artwork and the participants finished taking photos of it, everybody dug into the artwork with their bare hands and began wolfing it down! It was indeed a fun-filled moment that should be experienced with friends and family.
Operating hours: Tuesday till Thursday – 12:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. Friday till Sunday – 12:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.
Tapak Urban Street Dining www.ilovetapak.com Eating at a place with live music, lively ambience and good company is always nice and Tapak Urban Street Dining, located just a walking distance from Kuala Lumpur City Centre, serves that up in spades! The spot is where travellers can find a variety of food trucks selling various choices of Western and Asian fare, including arrays of beverages such as mojitos, fruit smoothies and unicorn drink. Travellers will never run out of ideas on what to eat for dinner here, as well as being entertained by live music performances and convivial atmosphere.
Rebung Restaurant www.restoranrebungdatochefismail.com When in Kuala Lumpur, tasting the local dishes is a must! The best place to savour a buffet spread of well-loved authentic traditional Malay dishes for lunch and dinner is Rebung Restaurant, owned by the bubbly celebrity chef Dato’ Chef Ismail. Rebung, which means bamboo shoot, is well known for its thick gravy- and curry-based dishes. When dining here, it is advised to eat less rice so that travellers will have enough space to savour the various dishes, which is an experience like no other. Foodies will be spoilt for choice because the restaurant offers the likes of Penang laksa (thick noodles with sour and spicy gravy), nasi kerabu goreng (fried rice that is bluish in colour cooked with herbs and salad), different types of kerabu (raw mixed salad), popiah (spring roll), air batu campur (shaved ice filled with syrup, condensed milk and myriad of sweet condiments), dodol (sticky sweet toffee-like sugar palmbased confection), among others. Sunway Putra KL Fish Head Curry putra.sunwayhotels.com/dining/coffee-house To experience one of Malaysia’s iconic dishes, the fish head curry, make your way to the Coffee House on Level 9 of Sunway Putra Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. Though I am not the type who eats fish head and it was my first time trying it, the dish prepared by the hotel is surprisingly delicious and fulfilling! The head of a red snapper is cooked in curry to perfection together with okra, fried tofu, eggplant, tomato and even fish roe – all of the ingredients, including the curry, complements the fish head beautifully. The curry is also thick and creamy with a touch of spiciness but not overwhelming at all, to be eaten with rice, poppadum and sour yoghurt on the side. Based on my experience, this is definitely one of the most interesting dining experiences for anybody who is not yet initiated to eating fish head curry dish.
Where to stay? Hilton Garden Inn hiltongardeninn3.hilton.com The Hilton Garden Inn, strategically located on the north part of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman in Kuala Lumpur, was just launched in early 2018. This 265-room hotel offers the view of the iconic PETRONAS Twin Towers and merely a stone’s throw from the iconic Chow Kit Market and Kuala Lumpur City Centre area, where the twin towers are situated. The Chow Kit MRT station is also just a five-minute, offering wider access to all travellers staying at the hotel, which boasts reliable modern facilities, 24-hour Pavilion pantry and breakfast buffet. Address: 449 Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Kuala Lumpur, 50100 Malaysia | +6 03 2778 8888
For more info kindly visit www.visitkl.gov.my #SeeTheWorld with #GayaTravel #VisitKL #kltb #sayangmalaysia
Fragrant and delicious Fish Head Curry at Sunway Putra KL.
PERAK Keep on Eating, Playing & Staying in the Silver State! Te x t b y S H A H I DA S A KERI Images by ED JUNAIDI & MOHAMAD NABIL FIKRY MOHD ZAINUDIN
As the second largest state in Peninsular Malaysia, Perak is filled with myriad of interesting attractions well distributed throughout the state. Travellers tend to repeat their visit to Perak due to the state’s diversity in tourism products that offers travellers the chance to enjoy various experiences, making the whole state an exciting place to visit. In conjunction with the ‘Perak Wonderfood’ programme organised by Tourism Perak, in collaboration with Gaya Travel Magazine, a group of 25 media and social media influencers have embarked on a journey to explore three popular districts of the state: Ipoh, Kampar and Taiping. Read on to find out some of the best places that travellers can visit in this Silver State. EAT Nasi Bamboo Sungai Klah, Sungkai Facebook Page: Nasi Bamboo Sg. Klah This is the restaurant that will satisfy one’s craving for authentic traditional Malay cuisine. Offering almost 50 different types of dishes on weekdays and additional 50 on weekends, Nasi Bamboo Sungai Klah has been a hit among locals including celebrities and VIPs. Among the popular dishes here are of course bamboo rice (steamed rice wrapped in kalatia leaf and bamboo), free-range chicken dishes including ayam kampung bunian that is inspired from an age-old Indonesian recipe, over 15 types of kerabu (salad), and daging gulai kawah batang pisang (beef and banana stem curry cooked in large wok). It is also worth noting that the beef used in the cooking is smoked for over 15 hours in a special smoke room – diners are sure to fall in love with the smokiness and tenderness of the meat from the very first bite! The
restaurant is located near Sungkai toll exit and is open every day except Fridays from 10:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Big Bowl Ramen, Ipoh Facebook Page: Big Bowl Ramen Big Bowl Ramen is a small café located at the quaint Ipoh Old Town that goes big on serving, literally. There are four delicious flavours of ramen available here: curry; Japanese miso; Signature Assam Laksa; and Japanese udon, all served in ultra-huge ceramic Chinese bowls enough to nourish two to six persons per serving. The prices range from RM35.90 to RM75.90 each. Goreng-goreng Café & Barber, Ipoh Facebook Page: Goreng-goreng Café Started with only a food truck in 2016, the business has now grown into a full-fledged cafe that serves delightful Malay and Western fare such as fish head curry, fried flat noodle with seafood, fried rice with tenderloin beef and pastas, with the addition of a barber shop right next to it. Since its opening, the café has received many notable figures including His Royal Highness Sultan Nazrin Shah and our very own Hollywood sensation, Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Michelle Yeoh. Also, Goreng-goreng Café provides live band performances on weekend nights to keep guests entertained.
Miker Food, Ipoh Facebook Page: Miker Food A popular hangout spot among locals especially at night, Miker Food boasts a wide range of menu from handmade stone oven pizza, otak-otak (grilled fish cake) to gourmet burgers and Malaysian delights such as fried rice with spicy beef lung, and sweet and sour barramundi. Besides, Thai food lovers should taste the establishment’s signature Tom Yam Nyor, which uses coconut water in its cooking and served inside an actual coconut! The café sits next to Ipoh Field and opens every day except Mondays from 5:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. Beauty & The Beast University Square, Kampar Facebook Page: The University Square at Kampar Behind colourful walls of the newly developed township by AgaciaLand, sit a number of Disney-themed shops selling various products such as food, crafts, accessories and clothes. One in particular is Beauty & The Beast Café, which serves light snacks and flavoured shaved ice, perfect for braving the hot weather while taking favourite #OOTD shots in this fairy-tale-themed town.
Mee Udang Mak Jah, Kuala Sepetang No visit to Kuala Sepetang is complete without trying the signature dish of the area: mee udang or prawn noodles. It is said that the prawns from the waters of Kuala Sepetang are fresher and firmer, and do not exude fishy smell when cooked in broth. Mak Jah’s mee udang stall has been a hit among locals and travellers alike since 2009, due to her generous portions and reasonable prices. Each bowl of mee udang costs around RM9 to RM15 depending on the size. The stall opens every day except on Wednesdays from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. FMS Station, Taiping Facebook Page: Station FMS – Selera Taiping Operating as a food court serving an array of Malaysian and Western delicacies, FMS Station often becomes a quick stop for those visiting the nearby Taiping Lake to fuel their empty stomachs. Popular snacks include the cheesy banana fritters, the chocolate fondue and beef nachos. The operational hours are from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. every day except Wednesdays. PLAY Gunung Lang Recreational Park, Ipoh With the glorious limestone hills of Gunung Lang and Gunung Bilike as the backdrop, this beautiful recreational park is ideal place for travellers to find solitude – it is quiet and pleasing to the eyes with colourful frangipani and bougainvillea trees adorning the entire garden. There are also traditional houses where travellers can take shelter from the scorching hot sun. The park covers an area of 30.35 hectares comprising a mini zoo, a two-kilometre walkway, children’s playground, a campsite and a 14.16-hectare lake that
separates the park and parking lots. To reach the park, visitors are required to board a boat from the jetty near the parking space that costs RM3 per person for a return transfer. Funtasy House Trick Art, Ipoh funtasyhouse.com Housed within a beautifully restored heritage shophouse at the Old Town area, Funtasy House Trick Art invites travellers to get creative and channel their inner supermodel. Nine local artists came up with over 20 immersive 3D mural paintings that represent the theme of fun and fantasy, including an upside-down kitchen and hot air balloon ride. This trick art centre is operated by Arts & Wonder Museum Sdn. Bhd, who promises to change the murals from time to time to keep the place fresh. Entrance fee: MYR15 (Adults with MyKad), MYR19 (Adults without MyKad) and MYR10 (Children, senior citizens and students)
Movie Animation Park Studios (MAPS), Ipoh www.mapsperak.com The latest addition to the theme park offerings in Malaysia, Movie Animation Park Studios (MAPS), located in Bandar Meru Raya, features over 40 attractions in six-themed zones. This is where children and adults alike can come and spark their imagination and meet their favourite animated characters such as Boboiboy and the Smurfs. BoBoiBoy Hero Academy is a walk though interactive experience where little superheroes (and superheroines) go on a training programme under the supervision of Papa Zola while the Smurfs Theatre is a story telling show complete with audio and special visual effects featuring none other than Papa Smurf. For those in need of a shot of adrenaline rush, there are also thrilling rides such as the Space X-plorers, the Hyperspin and the Asteroid Attack. Motorsport enthusiasts, moreover, should not skip South-East Asia’s first thrilling car and bike live stunt show at the Live Action Zone, where they can listen to the engines roar and witness two stunt teams battling each other. In the second half of 2018, it is expected that the park’s Dream Zone will also open, which features DreamWorks characters such as the Megamind, The Croods, Casper the Friendly Ghost and Mr. Peabody & Sherman. Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge No. 5 (TT5 Tin Dredge), Kinta Facebook Page: Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge No. 5 – TT5 The TT5 Tin Dredge is an industrial heritage that serves as a reminder of the glorious tin-mining days in Kinta Valley back in the late 19th century. Looking like a floating factory, the TT5 weighs 4,500 tons and was built in England in 1938 by F.W. Payne & Son for the Southern Malayan Tin Dredging Ltd, which operated five dredges in the Batu Gajah and Tanjung Tualang area. This dredge was operational for 44 years until 1982, then it was moved to its present location in Batu Gajah.
Today, TT5 has been rehabilitated by the Menteri Besar Incorporated (MB Inc) as a latest tourism offering in Perak, while retaining as much of the rustic feel as possible. Travellers who join the guided tour would be able to learn about the workings and features of the dredge, including the scooping up of bucketloads of tin-bearing soil, the extracting process, and spewing out waste material. In the pipeline, the surrounding area of TT5 would be developed further into an integrated tourism area that includes food and beverage outlets, a flea market, a garden, a petting zoo, an adventure park and a floating villa resort. For now, TT5 is open for tours daily from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Entrance fees: MYR15 per adult and MYR8 per child.
Kampar Refarm, Kampar refarm.com.my Ever imagine how it feels like to live in a farm? Travellers now can experience it at Kampar Refarm that operates as a recreational agriculture business. It spans over 26 acres of land comprising vegetable gardens, a fish pond, swimming pools, a paddling pool, a time tunnel gallery, a mini zoo, a ‘farm-to-table’ restaurant and accommodations, all fit perfectly within the beautifully landscaped surroundings. The farm also offers plenty of activities such as jungle-trekking, cycling, fishing, boat-paddling and of course, farming. Besides, the big swimming pool here obtains its water directly pouring from a waterfall, giving guests to experience nature as much as possible. Kampar Refarm slower pace of life and close proximity to nature of is definitely healthy and offer the chance for travellers to restore their balance. Entrance fees: MYR10 per adult and MYR5 per child.
Gua Tempurung, Gopeng I personally have entered the cave for a number of times in the past, yet its beauty never fails to amaze me. Each visit brings new knowledge,
discovery, and thrill due to the different formations of stalagmites and stalactites. The cave is also considered as one of the largest limestone caves in Peninsula Malaysia, which is made up of five unique domes; one of them looks like a coconut shell (tempurung in Malay language), which gives the cave its name. During the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), the communist guerrillas used the cave for hideout. But today, it is developed into a popular tourism attraction with strict safety measures in place. The first stages of the cave tour allows travellers to explore its beauty on concrete and stable platforms. But those seeking more adventure should join the Wet Tour 3 or Wet Tour 4, which bring them to the east end of the cave through an underground river. Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve, Matang Mangrove forests play the crucial role as an important habitat for many terrestrial and aquatic animals such as birds and fish. They also reduce the impact of tsunami by creating buffer zones from heavy waves due to their dense roots and branch networks. Fortunately, there are still many mangrove forests to be found in Malaysia, including the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve, which is widely regarded as one of the best managed mangrove forest ecosystems in the world. The forest spans over 43,000 hectares and is said to have at least 41 species of mangroves and 19 species of mammals such as long-tail macaques and Malayan pangolins. It is also a popular spot for bird-watching among both locals and international bird enthusiasts especially during the migration season between August and April. Travellers can spend some time learning about everything that make up the forest at the centre or take a stroll on the wooden walkways to enjoy fresh air and admire the untouched beauty of the mangroves. There is also a cruise service available here that takes travellers cruising along the Reba River – on lucky days, pink river dolphins
could also be spotted here! These dolphins (Sousa Chinensis) are the South Asian humpback river dolphins. Dapur Kayu Arang (Charcoal Factory) Kuala Sepetang, Matang Facebook Page: Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory (Mr. Chuah) Contrary to popular belief, wood is not burned directly to produce charcoals. Instead, they are heated up in a kiln with fire set only at its entrance to burn off volatile compounds within it such as water, methane, hydrogen, and tar. The process takes up more than 32 days to complete, and once they are ready, the charcoals will then be delivered to distributors who will cut and pack them according to market demands. Mr. Chuah’s Charcoal Factory is one of the many factories that produce charcoal in Kuala Sepetang for generations. In fact, his factory has been around for the past 50 years and is still using the old kilns and traditional methods developed before the Second World War. Those who are interested in learning about the process of charcoal should visit Mr. Chuah, who is also known as a great storyteller – he’ll be happy to welcome anyone, but an advance notice is required. The tour costs RM5 per person. Kota Ngah Ibrahim Historical Complex (Matang Museum), Matang www.jmm.gov.my/ms/muzium/ muzium-matang Also known as Ngah Ibrahim’s Fort, this iconic building was once the residence of Ngah Ibrahim, the ‘Orang Kaya Mantri’ (Statesman) of Larut. He was the son of Che Long Jaafar, who discovered tin in Larut and was also the one who brought Chinese miners in the first place to work on the tin fields that eventually led to the establishment of the town Taiping. Ngah Ibrahim was also one of the Malay nationalists involved in the murder of the first British Resident of Perak, J. W. W. Birch, in Pasir Salak, together with Dato’ Maharaja Lela and Kulub Ali. They were held in this residenceturned-prison while waiting for their case to be heard in court.
In 1913, the residence was turned into the first Teachers’ Training College for Malay teachers, or also known as the Matang College, which was eventually relocated to Tanjung Malim and renamed as Sultan Idris Training College (now upgraded into Sultan Idris University of Education), leaving the old residence to serve as a primary school for the local community. However, during Japanese occupation, it was used as the headquarters of the Japanese army. Today, the Department of Museums Malaysia took over the building and converted it into a museum to exhibit the area’s rich history, including the infamous Larut War.
Taiping Heritage Trail, Taiping Contact Person: Mr. Zul (Tour Guide) +6016 451 4858 Launched since April 2015, this heritage trail brings travellers to discover the colonial beauties that make Taiping an ideal historical town. In fact, the town experienced many firsts as it was once the capital of the
Federated Malay States of Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang, before the administration was moved to Kuala Lumpur. Some of the many first infrastructures in the country including the first railway line, government hospital, girls’ school, telegraph office and prison were built in Taiping itself. There are 40 historical places featured along this heritage trail, covering almost 11.5 kilometres around the town of Taiping. Travellers should expect to spend a day if they intend to cover all 40 spots. However, travellers who do not have the luxury of time should stick to the must-visits such as the Perak Museum, which exhibits extensive cultural and archaeological collections; the Taiping War Cemetery; and the oldest public park in Malaysia, Taiping Lake Gardens. Hop on the Jejak Warisan Loop bus service (www. rapidpg.com.my/rapid-services/aboutrapid-kamunting) for easier way to cover the spots along the trail.
Another example of outstanding heritage in Taiping is the Taiping Zoo, which is the oldest zoo in Malaysia, established since 1961. The purposes of this zoo are to conserve, educate, conduct research and offer recreation. Located close to the foot of Bukit Larut (Maxwell Hill), this zoo employs open-air enclosures that mimics the habitats of over 180 species of animals including tigers, lions, elephants, giraffes, orang utans and more. At night, nocturnal animals become the stars when travellers can spot the species that usually sleep during the day become active. There are also many successful breeding stories here, whereby the zoo’s management intends to reintroduce some of these endangered species back into the wild.
Taiping Zoo Night Safari, Taiping www.zootaiping.gov.my
M Boutique Hotels www.mboutiquehotels.com Spotting an urban vintage look, M Boutique Hotels are definitely photofriendly establishments that allude to the heritage of their surroundings. The interior design is carefully curated, and the hotels also aim to create a rather cosier and intimate ambience than the cookie-cutter spaces often found in business hotels. Rooms are slightly in the small side, yet comfortable enough for guests travelling in groups. There is also a self-service laundry on site for the convenience of the guests.
Entrance fee: MYR21.20 per adult and MYR10.60 per child.
M Roof Hotel & Residences www.mboutiquehotels.com Less eclectic yet still chic nonetheless, this younger sister of the M Boutique Hotel brand offers more room in terms of size and situated in a strategic location close to many places of interest.
J E J U
S H I N H W A
W O R L D :
New Beacon from Land of Morning Calm
Te x t b y LI LY R I A N I I m a g e s b y L A N D I N G I N T E R N AT I O N A L D E V E L O P M E N T L I M I T E D & LI LY R I A N I
Also known as the ‘Land of Morning Calm’ due to its mesmerising natural beauty comprising scenic high mountains and spectacular ocean views that welcome sunrise from the Pacific Ocean, South Korea is the quite literally the lamp of the east, as mentioned by the great Indian poet and Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore. With the explosion of K-Pop and various successful global Korean brands such as Samsung and Hyundai, Korea definitely brings more light to the East in terms of global soft power and technological leadership. Adding further to that light is the new architectural icon, Jeju Shinhwa World, a new urban integrated resort on Jeju island launched in April 2018. This resort – built in collaboration with TUBAn, Korea’s hugely influential animation studio that has produced critically acclaimed cartoons such as Larva, Wingcle Bear, Buck, and Oscar – brings new excitement to Jeju island, famous for its atmospheric volcanic lava tubes (conduits formed by flowing lava that moves beneath the hardened surface of lava flow). Set amidst Jeju’s rugged beauty, this contemporary integrated resort offers simple but essential escapade yearned by weary urbanites. “Jeju Shinhwa World is an integrated resort enveloped by pristine beaches and centred by Mount Halla, containing a theme park catering for the young and thrill seekers, an array of shopping outlets, streets of great food wonders and married with excellent hotels designed for rest and relaxation,” shares Senior Vice President of Landing International Mr David Hoon. This integrated resort offers an impressively diverse selection of accommodations consisting of Landing Resort for convention attendees, Marriott Resort World for business travellers, Somerset Serviced Residence for family vacationers and Four Seasons Resort & Spa for well-heeled holiday-makers. Travellers are bound to find the choice of accommodation that is right for them when they come to Jeju and stay at Jeju Shinhwa World.
Top: Jeju Shinhwa World Marriott Resort Bottom: Untitled, 2017. A cafĂŠ designed by G-Dragon
Clockwise from Top Left: Shinhwa Theme Park, Jejuâ€™s latest attraction; Hawker style eater y at Asian Food Street; Green tea-infused desser ts and drinks in Oâ€™sulloc Tea Museum; Yeomiji Botanical Garden, one of best botanical gardens in Asia; Landing Casino, Jeju luxurious gaming experience.
Embracing cutting edge technology and state-of-the-art architecture, Jeju Shinhwa World co-exists in perfect harmony with the island’s natural wonders through the balance of modern day construction with the preservation of local culture and heritage. Surrounded by culture, heritage, and natural wonders, Jeju Shinhwa World’s presence complements Jeju island’s tourism offerings. Travellers to Jeju now have a wider option in terms of accommodation and activities, especially with the opening of the exciting Jeju Shinhwa World Theme Park and YG Republique, which are the icing on the cake. YG Republique A Unique Space that Incorporates YG and GD’s Styles Featuring G-Dragon’s café ‘Untitled, 2017’ and a lounge pub bowling club “AC. III.T” where G-Dragon was involved in planning and designing via his brand ‘Peaceminusone’,YG Republique offers the latest K-fashion to its fans.This complex also contains three restaurants: a meat place called ‘Three-Way Butcher’ that specialises in grilled Jeju black pork, the ‘3 Fisherman’s Wharf’ serving Jeju’s freshest seafood, and ‘3 Birds’, a café popular for its delicious desserts and European-style brunch menus. On top of that, a souvenir store called ‘All That YG’ retails various merchandise related to YG artists catered for K-pop fans worldwide (YG is a famous South Korean record label, by the way). Jeju Shinhwa World Theme Park An Endlessly Captivating World of Attractions Comprising 15 rides and attractions, themed exhibits and spectacular live performances make Jeju Shinhwa World Theme Park a huge highlight when visiting Jeju.To top it off, it will also be launching the Shinhwa Water Park soon, which will be the largest water park in Jeju, equipped with an infinity pool, a wave pool, water slides and kids pool. This park also has plans to include the Lionsgate Movie World – the world’s first Lionsgate outdoor theme park – scheduled for 2020, consisting of 30 exciting rides and attractions in
six immersive sections where one get to experience Lionsgate’s blockbuster movies that includes The Hunger Games, The Twilight Saga, Now You See Me,The Divergent Series, Cabin In The Woods, and Saw. Casino Luxurious Gaming Experience Ensconced within Jeju Shinhwa World, Landing Casino offers a diverse selection of electronic table games and slots, besides the usual favourites such as roulette, blackjack, baccarat and tai sai. For the avid poker fan, a dedicated poker area is provided. At the same time, baccarat enthusiasts can revel in private rooms at the opulent and grandiose D’Solitaire Club that proves fitting for a king. Dining Splendour An Epicurean Paradise Foodies will surely be delighted to know that Jeju Shinhwa World property is dotted with various food and beverage outlets. One place that they should head to is a restaurant that is simply called ‘The Place’, which serves Bomb Pizza and everything Italian, while another outlet called ‘Crab Tong’ prepares a variety of crab, lobster and seafood dishes sourced from the island for diners at affordable prices. To sample local delicacies – including a selection of Asia’s most vibrant cuisines presented in a sumptuous spread to suit all palates – travellers should head to the Asian Food Street, where they will be able to experience food from Thailand such as tom yum goong to pho from Vietnam, nasi lemak from Malaysia and Hainan chicken rice from Singapore. Yeomiji Botanical Garden The Beautiful Land Yeomiji means ‘beautiful land’, and Yeomiji Botanical Garden, considered as the best botanical garden in Asia, is made up of approximately 2,000 rare tropical and subtropical plants with both indoor and outdoor attractions.The outdoor gardens are segmented into Jeju Native Garden; Korean Garden; Japanese Garden; Italian Garden and French Folk Garden where
a tram service travels between Indoor and Outdoor Garden; Jungmun Tourist Complex; and Cheonjeyeon Falls. As for the indoor gardens, they are divided into five sections. Some of them such as Cactus and Succulent Garden, including Flower Garden, are by far the most popular ones.There is also an Observation Platform located within the indoor complex affording wondrous views of the outdoor gardens, Mount Hallasan, and Marado Island. O’sulloc Tea Museum Where modernity and tradition coexist in harmony O’sulloc Tea Museum was the first tea museum to open in Jeju island back in 2001 aimed at educating and preserving age-old Korean tea culture and tradition. Located at Seokwang tea fields – one of Korea’s largest growers of nokcha (green tea) – the museum’s Tea Stone Gallery demonstrates the art of Korean tea culture to travellers. Do not miss visiting the Tea Cups of the World gallery that showcases tea wares and utensils from the Three Kingdoms and the rest of the world, including history, culture, customs and traditions relating to tea-drinking. It also offers all sorts of green tea-infused desserts and drinks. Innisfree Jeju House Naturalism-oriented cosmetics brand from Jeju Innisfree is South Korea’s first eco-friendly cosmetics brand created by Amorepacific using quality natural ingredients harvested in Jeju. What makes Innisfree Jeju House unique and is the fact that it organises interesting activities such as making paper and natural soap using Jeju tangerine peel, green tea and volcanic clay, including the chance for travellers to learn how to make their own masks that suit their own skin types from 12 different local ingredients. Besides, Organic Green at Café Innisfree serves scrumptious organic food and beverages made from fresh ingredients sourced from Jeju such as Jeju Pink Lemonade, Hallabong (Jeju tangerine) Blender, Green Tea Roll, Citrus Sudashi Cake and more.
Jeongbang Falls Where the falls meet the ocean
Jeju’s X Factors
Jeongbang Falls is one of the top three waterfalls in Jeju and it is said that it is the only waterfall in Asia to fall directly into the ocean. Among the famous attractions here are the haenyeos or lady divers who do freediving to collect seaweed, sea cucumber and abalone. Due to their excellent freediving skills, haenyeos are recognised as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2016. These super ladies would then sell the fresh seafood collected to the members of the public for them to eat as snacks with garlic and gochu-jang (red chili paste) for dipping while lazing by the falls. The snacks are also typically washed down with bottles of cold soju.
1. UNESCO sites Mount Hallasan Natural Reserve, Geomunoreum Lava Tube System, Seongsan Ilchulbong Tuff Cone for its bio-reserve, basaltic lava that flows underneath the earth, underwater volcanoes and breathtaking beauty warrant recognition from UNESCO. Not forgetting Jeju’s haenyeo (lady divers), which fall under Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity category. 2. Pride of Jeju AmorePacific preserves Jeju’s heritage and knowledge on beauty through two of its products: O’sulloc Tea for cultural preservation; and Innisfree, a popular Jeju cosmetics brand that is now available in Hong Kong, China, Japan, Taiwan, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. 3. Balance between Tradition and Modernity Jeju Shinhwa World complements Jeju island’s tourism offerings by balancing nature and heritage with modern day conveniences via a contemporary integrated resort as the means for travellers to enjoy Jeju’s rugged beauty in contemporary comfort.
Jusangjeolli Cliff The cultural monument of Jeju Island
Jusangjeolli Cliffs formed between 250,000 and 140,000 years ago when the lava from Mount Hallasan erupted into the sea of Jungmun. Referred to as ‘Jisatgae Rocks’ by the locals, these rock pillars shaped like cubes or hexagons of various sizes run for two kilometres along the coast of Daepo. Jusangjeolli Cliffs is a popular spot for sea angling. The municipal council has erected a park parallel to the cliffs, allowing travellers to view the Jusangjeolli Cliffs from several angles. This same park is connected to Olle walking trail route 8, ideal for travellers who wish to explore Jeju’s natural wonder on foot.
Gaya Travel Magazine thanks the developer of Jeju Shinhwa World, Landing International Development Limited, for making the writer’s trip to Jeju possible.
Left: Innisfree Jeju House, which carries cosmetics made only in Jeju Right: Jeongbang Falls, the only waterfall in Asia to fall directly into the ocean
The Aurora Icebreaker Ship sailing through drifting ice blocks over the quiet Okhotsk Sea
Hokkaido W inter! in
Te x t b y ED J U NA I D I Images by ED JUNAIDI & NUAR MD DIAH
Blessed with breath-taking nature, picturesque landscape, picture-perfect settings and lovely powder snow make Hokkaido ideal for travellers to experience during winter. The destination offers many unique experiences to be enjoyed not just by the Japanese but also people from other parts of the world. Hokkaido truly offers an unforgettable Japanese white season that all travellers must experience at least once in their lives! Courtesy of Hokkaido Tourism Organisation, Gaya Travel Magazine team was able to personally witness the spectacular Sapporo Snow Festival for the first time! Though we have covered Hokkaido before, our trip this time was more special because we were taken to different places and experienced new things that are bound to amaze travellers. What is also special about this trip is the fact that the organiser highlighted on the facilities and conveniences available in the destination that meet the needs of the modern Muslim travellers such as prayer rooms and halal meals. Gaya Travel Magazine truly appreciates and salutes the pain-staking efforts taken by the Japanese tourism players, especially Hokkaido Tourism Organisation, in making the destination as friendly as
possible to Muslims. Come and follow us as we explore Hokkaido’s winter wonderland… ABASHIRI Day 1 We arrived early morning at New Chitose Airport, where we were required to take a domestic flight to another. As soon as we arrived at Memanbetsu Airport, we were immediately taken to a small fishing town of Abashiri, where the ice-breaker ship, Aurora is docked. Tip: Before proceeding with their onward journey, Muslim travellers can perform their mandatory prayers at the New Chitose Airport’s multi-faith prayer room located on the second floor of the International Terminal Building.
Aurora Ice-breaker Ship Tour (www.ms-aurora.com/abashiri/en/) The Aurora Icebreaker Ship that we boarded in Abashiri, Hokkaido, offers a unique experience. It takes passengers slowly sailing through drifting ice blocks over Okhotsk Sea. Abashiri Drift Ice Sightseeing Tour on Aurora Icebreaker Ship operates only between 20 January and 2 April every year; the best time to actually see these drifting ice blocks is in February.
Various wild animals can be seen during this tour such as naked sea butterfly (sea angel; a type of sea slug), seal, Steller’s sea-eagle, swan and occasionally red fox and deer along the coastline. Drifting through the sea covered with blocks of ice was memorably surreal and a sight to behold. Fare: Adult: ¥3,300 per pax; Child: ¥1,650 per pax
It is important to note that travellers need to make a prior reservation to join this tour.
Our accommodation for the first night was the ryokan-style Abashirikoso Hotel (www.abashirikoso.com/), located right beside Lake Abashiri. It has a nice onsen with outdoor spring water pool. First-timers should really experience hadaka no tsukiai (socialising in the nude), an interesting Japanese culture where you get to soak in a public pool filled with natural spring water to relax and refresh your body and mind. However, we recommend that first-timers read the Japanese Public Bath Etiquette first. Day 2 Smelt Fishing at Lake Abashiri (abashiri.jp/tabinavi/en/tourist/activity. html) At first, I felt uneasy walking on the frozen Abashiri Lake. However, I was assured by Miss Sumie from Hokkaido Tourism Organisation that the surface of the lake forms a layer of ice about a metre thick when frozen. The lake’s frozen surface turns the lake into a large white field that is safe to walk upon and even set up tent. For us Malaysians, fishing on a frozen lake is undeniably an extraordinary experience. Apparently, this is a popular winter activity amongst the people in Hokkaido. There are many frozen lakes throughout the island and Lake Abashiri is one of them. The operator at Lake Abashiri offers friendly English-speaking staff, which is definitely a plus. The best time to experience this activity is from mid-January, when the winter is not too
harsh, up until early April. Tents are set up in the middle of the frozen lake. Heater is also provided for those who couldn’t stand long hours being outdoors during winter. Cooking utensils are provided to cook the fishes caught, which are usually 10 centimetres in length, suitable to be prepared as tempura. Enjoying the taste of smelt fish tempura with a glass of hot green tea on the frozen lake is definitely an unforgettable experience. Fee/Fishing Fees: Adult: ¥800; Child: ¥400 Rentals: Pole: ¥150; Chair: ¥100; Hook weight: ¥250 Others: Bait: ¥200 / Hole Drill: ¥300
Tentozan Observatory and Okhotsk Ryuhyo Museum (www.ryuhyokan. com/guide/en/home.html) After lunch, we had visited Okhotsk Ryuhyo Museum, located on top of Mount Tento. It was only about 10 minutes’ drive away from Lake Abashiri. What makes the visit memorable was the fact that we enjoyed an amazing 360-degree panoramic view comprising Lake Abashiri, the surrounding mountains all the way to the Okhotsk Sea from the Tentozan Observatory located on the museum’s rooftop. The fishing town of Abashiri looked stunning when covered in white snow, similar to being blanketed by cotton candy. The view of the nearby mountain range that seems to dissolve into the coastline of Shiretoko Peninsula is equally breathtaking. Opening Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (May to October) / 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m (November to April) Entrance Fees: Adult: ¥750; Student: ¥640; Child: ¥540 per pax
KUSHIRO Later that day, we headed straight away to Lake Akan, about two hours’ drive from Abashiri. Akan is surrounded by majestic mountains and primaeval forest.
Lake Akan Ice Aisu Festival (en.kushiro-lakeakan.com/things_to_do/1899/) We were lucky that we arrived just in time for the fireworks display on top of the frozen Lake Akan. In February, there are winter festivals almost everywhere and Lake Akan, located in Kushiro, is one of them. There were many activities being done on the frozen Lake Akan including snowmobile-riding, ice-sliding, igloo-making, concerts and even smelt-fishing. However, the most exhilarating experience is the fireworks displays showcased for several nights during the festival. Travellers need to check on the exact date and time on when the next Lake Akan Ice Aisu Festival is held. Time: Fireworks begin at 7:30 p.m. Date: Usually from the first week of February until the first week of March Entrance Fees: Free. However, do take note that travellers need to pay for some of the activities.
Ainu Folklore Museum (www. ainu-museum.or.jp/en/study/eng01.html) Later that night after having a wholesome dinner, we took a walk along the small town of Akan. After 10 minutes of walking, we arrived at Ainu Folklore Museum, a small house transformed into a small museum to showcase tools, furnishings, clothing and how the Ainu tribe (the aboriginal community of Hokkaido) lived in the past. For a country that is so developed and rich in modern technology, it was heartwarming to see how local culture, traditions and customs of the native tribe is being preserved and appreciated. Ainu is an indigenous community believed to have migrated from Rusia through China and Mongolia and eventually settled in Hokkaido since the 13th century. It is a community of farmers, hunters and fishermen. These days, the tribe has now fully assimilated into Japanese society. Sadly, many from the current generation are not even aware of their Ainu ancestry. More info: en.kushiro-lakeakan.com/ things_to_do/2946/
Clockwise from Top Left: Our guide showing us how to do smelt fishing; Panoramic view from the Tentozan Observatory; The entrance to Ainu Folklore Museum; Nightly fireworks during Lake Akan Ice Aisu Festival.
Topt: Horses at Tokachi Ranch doing their morning exercise routine during winter to maintain their health and fitness Bottom: Snow-rafting at Tokachigawa Onsen Aqua Park
TOKACHI Day 3 Early next morning, we arrived in Otofuke Town in Obihiro after driving for about two hours from Lake Akan. I love Otofuke Town at first sight! It is a smallish quaint town surrounded by mountains blanketed in snow with patches of white vastness that seemed like football fields, presumably farms covered in snow. Along the way, we realised that there were hardly any cars on the road; once in a while, we would encounter pedestrians along the walkway. Being devoid of bustle and traffic, Tokachi is calm and organised. I have a feeling that I might be happy living here. Tokachi Ranch (www.tokachigawa.net/english/) It was a great morning for a walk around Tokachi Ranch. It was not as cold as the day before and I remembered the temperature was around -5° Celsius. Because this place is not big enough to accommodate tourists coming in big groups, the ranch remains peaceful, allowing travellers to enjoy tranquil moments while witnessing the ranch horses doing their routine morning exercise, which I was told crucial in maintaining their health. If travellers are interested to catch these horses exercising, they should arrive at the ranch by 9:30 a.m. on weekdays. The exercise routine takes about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the weather and horses’ condition. Leaving the ranch, we drove along a beautiful road flanked on both sides by tall Japanese white birch trees, creating an utterly picturesque and Instagrammable scenery. We stopped for a few minutes, of course, to make sure that we have some shots to upload on Instagram. Tokachigawa Onsen Aqua Park (www.nature-tokachi.co.jp/ Japanese language only) Winter in Hokkaido is all about having outdoor fun in the powdery white snow, thus Tokachigawa Nature Centre offers activities for travellers to do so. During winter, it offers sports and outdoor activities such as snowshoeing, snowmobile-riding, dog-sledging, skiing, trekking, snow-rafting and even banana boat-riding. Here, we learned how to ride snowmobiles and ended snow-rafting, which was as much fun as rafting over water, except that we landed on ice rather than water everytime we flew up in the air. The centre also offers different activities during other seasons. Opening Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m Fees: Banana Boat: Adult: ¥600; Child: ¥500 Snow Rafting: Adult: ¥600; Child: ¥500 Snow Mobile (short tour): ¥3,780 per person (Not suitable for children)
Snow Mobile (open ride): ¥11,000 per pax (Not suitable for children) Snow Mobile (20KM cross country): ¥8,640 per pax (Not suitable for children)
Garden Spa Tokachigawa Onsen (www.tokachigawa.net/english/) Tokachi is mainly famous for moor hot springs, famously known as ‘the hot springs for beauty’. Moor hot spring is goldish in colour and people love it because of its moisturising effect on the skin. Unlike the other spring water in Japan, the water at moor hot springs in Tokachi is not volcanic but alkaline and welled from deep underneath depositional plains. Garden Spa Tokachigawa Onsen is one of Hokkaido’s heritage institutions. Opened in the year 1900, this unique garden spa allows travellers to enjoy the hot spring while clothed in bathing suits. Muslim travellers, particularly ladies, will find this comforting and enjoyable. Those who are pressed for time can instead opt for the foot spa, located outdoors, allowing travellers to admire the magical Hokkaido winter scenery while dipping their feet in the moor hot spring. SAPPORO Day 4 We arrived at Sapporo the next morning after a two-hour drive from Hotel Mount Racey (www.yubari-resort.com/en/) in Yubari, where we spent the night before to rest. Mount Racey is a great destination for those who love skiing or wanting to learn the sport. Lessons here are provided for both adults and children. In Sapporo (www.sapporo.travel/?lang=en), we visited several icons such as Daimaru Sapporo Store, Sapporo Clock Tower, Red Brick Building (formerly Hokkaido Government Office) and Sapporo Factory. For Muslims, Daimaru Sapporo Store offers a proper praying room so that Muslims can perform their prayers in comfort. Though it is actually a multi-faith prayer room, it is readily separated into a male and female section with carpeted flooring and proper place for taking ablution. There’s a multi-faith prayer room at Sapporo Factory too, but not the same as the one in Daimaru Sapporo Store. Like every other city in Japan, Sapporo is well planned, clean and organised. Although it is the fifth most populated city in Japan, it still maintains its charm with well-preserved nature and local culture. The people are also generally kind and friendly. Though blanketed in thick snow, Sapporo seems to be more cheerful and warm compared to Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto – so I guess it must be due to the legendary Hokkaido hospitality!
Mount Moiwa Ropeway (moiwa.sapporo-dc.co.jp/) Back in 2015, Sapporo was chosen as one of the Three Most Beautiful Nightscapes of Japan, along with Nagasaki and Kobe. The perfect place to witness this beautiful nightscape is from the altitude of 531 metres on Mount Moiwa, which offers a 360-degree panoramic view of Sapporo from the mountain ranges towards the city and then it vanishes in the horizon. Mount Moiwa is also perfect for a romantic getaway. Its restaurant, The Jewels, is designed with glass walls, offering a breathtaking 270° panoramic view of the city. The Lover’s Sanctuary at its summit invites lovers to write their love messages on padlocks and then ring the “Bell of Happiness” to celebrate their mutual feelings. The ropeway is equipped with features to fully assist disabled people. Opening Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Return Ropeway Fees: Adult: ¥1,700; Child: ¥850
SAPPORO SNOW FESTIVAL 2018 (www.snowfes.com/english/) Sapporo Snow Festival typically takes place 12 days within the first week of February every year. There are so many sparkling ice sculptures from the size of a football to giant walls as tall as a four-storey building being displayed along the Odori Park, stretching as far as one kilometre and a half. The festival began in the 1950s when a bunch of high school students built a few snow statues in Odori Park. Over the years, the activity became commercialised and turned into a spectacular event. In 2018, it attracted over two million visitors from Japan and all over the world, making Sapporo a must-visit destination during winter. This festival also sees the participation from all over the world, including countries that never see snow, which showcase fascinating ice sculptures. One that attracted our attention was this giant Final Fantasy XIV Online wall sculpture. Besides Odori Park, the festival also takes place at Tsudome and Susukino Ice World. At the Community Dome, Tsudome, large snow slides and snow rafting areas are open for children and adults to enjoy the exhilarating recreational activities. If you plan to visit Sapporo during this festival, we totally recommend that you make sure your trip is well-planned, especially when it comes to your transport and accommodations. Last time we checked, almost all hotels are fully booked during the festival. Sapporo Snow Festival 2019 will take place from 4 February until 11 February 2019. Gaya Travel Magazine deeply thanks Hokkaido Tourism Organisation for making our writers’ memorable trip to Hokkaido during winter a reality.
Clockwise from Top Left: Sapporo Clock Tower; Red Brick Building (formerly Hokkaido Government Office); Sapporo at dusk; Ski Jumping, which has become one of the annual attractions during Sapporo Snow Festival; A glistening giant snow sculpture of Final Fantasy XIV: Arctic Armageddon by Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.
a MICE hub
Located 35km south of Kuala Lumpur (KL), Putrajaya is the federal administrative centre of the Malaysian Government. As KL was getting overcrowded, the administration of Malaysia was shifted to Putrajaya in 1999. The city is well planned and boasts of artistically designed bridges, public parks, malls and monuments.
Putrajaya may seem like a typical quiet administrative city to some, but this city is actually more than that as it is constantly buzzing with big events. Therefore, we can see that tourism in Putrajaya is on the rise as various travel agencies around Klang Valley now have dedicated tour packages for Putrajaya. Not just that, when it comes to MICE venues (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) Putrajaya has well and truly come of age in as many MICE-centric events happening
around the area. This shows MICE venues in Putrajaya are as unique as the area itself and know how to mix business with pleasure, with state-ofthe-art conference facilities. So, here we would like to highlight the top MICE venues if you go for bleisure trip to Putrajaya. Each is nominated among Putrajayaâ€™s best for the quality of its service, the superiority of its tech, the ease of its location and that indefinable something that makes a delegate feel that anything is possible.
Putrajaya International Conv Centre (PICC)
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Taman Ekuestrian Putrajaya
The 70-acre equestrian park was inspired by Putrajaya’s garden city concept and it is located at Prec inct 5 and flanked by the beautif ul Putrajaya’s manmade lake. Tam an Ekuestrian Putrajaya (TEP) offe rs a line-up of top notch equestrian facilities and services on par with other renowned equestrian park s. Apart from our equestrian facilitie s, TEP also has various type of spaces like lounges, meeting roo ms and field for business/corpo rate events, small gathering, wedding and social function. Our profess ionally staffs will tailor your event exp ectations according to your bud get. Browse through our special pac kages to see which fits you best . Taman Ekuestrian Putrajaya Precinct 5, 62200 Putrajaya, Mal aysia Phone: +603 8888 8902 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.tep.my
PULSE GRANDE Hotel (PGH) Strategically located at the heart of Mala ysia’s federal administrative centre, PULSE GRANDE Hotel (PGH ) is well known in Putrajaya as “Hotel in a Park and a Park in a Hotel”. This deluxe premium hotel boast an impressive line of fine products and services. One of the best services that we provide in PGH is renting out variety of spaces from halls to meeting rooms for any type of events. Our biggest hall, Putra Perdana Hall features 272 square meters of banqueting space for large gatherings. The hall can be divided into three separate rooms, each with its own private entrance. Apart from that, PGH also offer a few number of meeting rooms that equipped with high speed wireless internet and amenities. Whether you are hosting a conference, board meeting, presentation, wedding or social gathering, PULSE GRA NDE Hotel dedicated team will assist you to organize them successfu lly. PULSE GRANDE Hotel Precinct 1, Putrajaya, Taman Putra Perd ana, 62000 Putrajaya, Malaysia Phone: +603 8887 8888 Email: email@example.com y Website: www.pulsegrande.com.my
Cruise Tasik P
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Putrajaya Internationa Convention Centre (PICCl )
PULSE GRANDE Hotel (PGH)
Marina Putrajaya Sdn Bhd 00 Putrajaya, Malaysia No. 1, Jalan P5/5, Persint 5, 622 3 8889 3526 +60 : Fax | 7 Phone: +603 8888 031 m a.co ajay putr rina .ma Website: www
Anjung Floria Putrajaya Operated by Putrajaya Floria Sdn Bhd, Anjung Floria is a flower and garden park located in Precinct 4 and home to the annual Royal Floria Putrajaya event. This park features different themes of gardens, international flower pavilions and other attractions which turns the venue as the location of choice for vario us types of events like corporate events, family gatherings, dinner func tions, filming location and especially garden wedding party.
Taman Ekuestrian Putrajaya (TEP)
Cruise Tasik Putrajaya (CT
Putrajaya Floria Sdn Bhd Unit No. 1.1C & 1.1D, Level 1 Block A Chancery Place Building Precinct 15, 62050 Putrajaya, Malaysia Phone: +603 8893 1967 Website: www.floriaputrajaya.com
Taman Warisan Pertanian Taman Warisan Pertanian is Managed by Putrajaya Floria Sdn Bhd, e you can see a wide variety of wher place located at Precinct 16. It is a er, palm oil, tea, coffee and tropical fruit trees, herbs and spices, rubb s and demonstrations can other commercial crops. Educational tour ents if arranged in advance. stud and be provided to groups of children ah” (Live Kitchen) where However, there is a space called “Penangg Hj. Samuri located, for the food court and branch of Sate Kajang . tour visitors to take a break after the hilly
Anjung Floria Putrajaya
space called “Medan Tani” Apart from that, there’s an open covered ings from time to time. wedd or where people hold exhibitions, shows ings/seminar, there meet For . time a at It is able to fit up to 280-pax rent. are a few number of rooms available for Taman Warisan Pertanian , Malaysia 7, Jalan P16, Presint 16, 62150 Putrajaya 5038 887 03-8 Fax: | 7772 887 Tel: 03-8
Taman Warisan Pertanian
w i l d J O LO B U Te x t & I m a g e s b y MOHAMAD NABIL FIKRY MOHD ZAINUDIN
A familiarisation programme called ‘Wild Jolobu’ was organised by Tourism Malaysia Central Region Office together with Negeri Sembilan Forestry Department from 21 until 22 February 2018 for the media and tourism fraternity to introduce Kenaboi Forest Reserve, located within the district of Jelebu in Negeri Sembilan. The purpose of the programme was to promote eco-tourism attractions within Jelebu, which locals affectionately pronounce as “Jolobu” according to Negeri Sembilan dialect. Kenaboi Forest Reserve, formerly known as Taman Alam Liar (State Wildlife Nature Park), is Negeri Sembilan’s recently gazetted forest state park that offers pristine natural environment characterised by tilt stand upland tropical and bamboo rainforest setting, making it an ideal getaway destination for nature enthusiasts, including outdoor and adventure lovers. This 9,450-hectare forest reserve is actually a valley that serves as a crucial water catchment area for the settlements located downstream, in which the majority are inhabited by indigenous communities. The best way to explore Kenaboi Forest Reserve is by using four-wheel drive (4-by-4). The trails are too arduous for normal cars and require vehicles that possess engines that can be pushed to the limit. Though
there are attempts for the trails to be upgraded, they always tend to be consumed by the rainforest, rendering the journey unsuitable for sedan cars. Getting to the attractions within the Kenaboi Forest Reserve such as Lata Kijang and Jeram Berungut using 4-by-4 is thrilling! If you are a person who enjoys participating in expeditions into the wild using fourwheel drive, the experience to Kenaboi Forest Reserve is definitely for you. From your base at Kenaboi Forest Reserve camping site, you will be taken to different areas of the forest reserve using 4-by-4. Lata Kijang (Deer Waterfall) This waterfall offers a panoramic view that is bound to amaze adventure and thrill seekers, popular among the members of 4-by-4 club members. There are two ways to get to Lata Kijang from the base: either you trek to the place for an hour (which we truly recommend so as to reduce your footprint and carbon emission, as well as to give your body a good exercise), or you ride on 4-by-4, taking you 30 minutes to get there. The captivating sight of the 300-foot waterfall in front of you will take your breath away, presenting ample opportunity for you to take attractive selfies with the waterfall at the background. There is also a compound next to the river at the foot of the waterfall where travellers can park their 4-by-4. However, besides taking pictures of the waterfall, there is nothing much to do here. For picnicking or dipping spots, you need to head downstream because at the waterfall, you can’t do anything much but to take in the gorgeous scenery. Jeram Berungut (Grumbling Rapids) For a refreshing dip and picnic by the waters, you need to get to trek to Jeram Berungut for about an hour from the base. Along the way, you need to traverse through the rainforest for about 10 minutes. For the rest of the journey, you will then need to follow along the Jemaloi River but heading upstream. Along the way, you will encounter fascinating rocky cliffs covered in green moss that exude surreal atmosphere. Foreign tourists tend to call the trek ‘The Malaysian Lord of the Rings’ because of the beautiful and fairy tale-like surroundings you need to pass to get there, just like in the movie. But we must warn you: due to the rapids being located an hour away from the base, you might end up grumbling to get there if you find the journey challenging, hence the name ‘Jeram Berungut’ (‘Grumbling Rapids’).
After an hour of trekking with your body tired and covered in sweat, the reward that comes in the form of the chance to dip in the refreshing waters of the rapids is totally invigorating, making the whole trek worthwhile. Tip: Start your trek to Jeram Berungut in the morning because it is cooler.
Water-tubing At Kenaboi Forest Reserve base camp, there are several activities that you can participate. One of them is water-tubing along the Jemaloi River for about an hour, covering almost one kilometre to reach the end point. Using a buoy made from rubber tube, water-tubing along the river offers a different way for travellers to appreciate the destination’s natural environment and ecosystem. The river’s flow is also neither too calm nor too heavy, unless it rained beforehand. The rocks within the river help to divert water and create steady current, making it conducive for tubing. However, do bear in mind that at some parts of the river, negotiating the water using the tube may become unfeasible, requiring you to get off from it and wade through the water on foot while holding the tube. For more information on how to explore and experience the wild side of Jelebu at Kenaboi Forest Reserve, please refer to http://forestry.ns.gov.my/ index.php/my/ or call Negeri Sembilan Forestry Department +6 06 765 9849. Gaya Travel Magazine would like to say thank you to Tourism Malaysia Central Region Office for making the writer’s trip to the destination a reality.
From Left to Right: The amazing Lata Kijang; Taking a refreshing dip at Jeram Berungut; Enjoying water-tubing along Jemaloi River.
Te x t b y S H A H I DA S A KERI I m a g e s b y S H A H I D A S A K E R I , D E S T I N AT I O N Q U E E N S T O W N , W E TA W O R K S H O P LT D & T O U R I S M N E W Z E A L A N D
“If more of us cared about food and home above gold, this world would be a merrier place.” - Except from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
The charms of New Zealand are plenty: stunning views from every angle with wonderful mystical quality, great accessibility, abundant wildlife, pristine environment, amazing people and simplicity of life – enough to fuel one’s daydreaming. Add world class expertise and impactful government incentives to support the film industry, the country also serves as the perfect location to create cinematic masterpieces. Countless movie and TV show creators have come to this land to capture its natural splendour. It also goes without saying that the most iconic universe ever created in New Zealand is the Middle Earth in Peter Jackson’s adaptations of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit fantasies. Similar to Hogwarts of Harry Potter’s fame, the Middle Earth is a dreamland that draws people in, which fortunately is within reach. Excited to witness the magical land with my very own eyes, I packed my bag, prepped the Hobbit side of myself and embarked on a journey a la Bilbo Baggins – discovering a new thing one step at a time. QUEENSTOWN Lord of the Rings Glacier Explorer Flight 107 (www.glaciersouthernlakes.co.nz) Queenstown is sorcerous. Nothing in the guidebooks, travel photos or videos can prepare you for the astonishing beauty of this land. Surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountains on the shores of its glittering Wakatipu basin, it is a town that has always been popular among honeymooners and winter sports lovers. Besides these, there is another segment that finds Queenstown equally captivating: movie makers. Every year, it seems like the town never stops receiving production teams from around the world that aspire to capture the town’s gorgeous landscapes in their films. In fact, when I arrived, I heard that the team from ‘Mission Impossible 6: Fallout’ just wrapped up their shooting here. Though I missed the opportunity to meet Tom Cruise, I was still excited because I had the opportunity to meet Alfie Speight, one of the most important personalities in the film industry, who is an incredibly sought-after aerial filming pilots in New Zealand. Some of the blockbuster projects under his belt include The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Wolverine, King Kong and The Chronicles of Narnia. You see, his highly-praised skill allows movie directors and camera operators to film precise shots from the air, resulting in incredible cinematography that elevates cinema-goers’ experience.
TSS Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu in winter
Flying with Alfie on the helicopter felt easy, as he was a natural in the air. He skilfully manoeuvred through the crisp cold air with such prowess to show me the unique angles of the landscape similar to how audiences would see them on screen – but I was seeing them live! Slowly, I could feel my chest rose at the inexpressible excitement of the experience; there’s really nothing like seeing the majestic mountainous landscape being swept under your feet with your own eyes. Every now and then, Alfie pointed out at some of the notable filming locations in the past. “That was Isengard,” he said, referring to the fortress in the fictional universe of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium. And just when I thought nothing else could beat this, Alfie suddenly announced that he would make an alpine landing on one of the snow-covered peaks, I squeaked cheerfully because I was eventually taken to my real element: the beautiful and dreamlike snow field, my favourite playground. Skippers Canyon Jet When being in Queenstown, travellers are recommended to do something extreme. The town is an absolute paradise for daredevils that even people over 75 years old can bungy jump for free! We opted for the Skippers Canyon Jet, which brought us on a thrill-seeking adventure from the moment we entered OKA, an off-road truck. Dave, our guide for the day who is also an incredible driver I must add, drove us on one of New Zealand’s most notorious roads, Skippers Road, which is narrow and windy with some hair rising corners. He shared interesting gold mining history of the town along the way. My poor travel companion was already suffering a mild vertigo but oh little did she know that what awaited us at the end of this old skimpy road was more hair-raising. We boarded a jet boat that traversed through the narrow-
est canyons of the Shotover River, also known as the river Anduin among the Lord of the Rings fans. We stopped a couple of times at certain spots where the movies were filmed including the memorable scene when Arwen defended Frodo Baggins from the Witch-king and the rest of the Nazguls. Lord of the Rings Wakatipu Basin Tour Another day, another adventure awaited. This time, I got to be the sidekick to David Gatward-Ferguson, who played an Uruk-hai in ‘The Lord the Rings: The Two Towers’, together with his staff, Santiago. Today, David owns a tour company called Nomad Safaris, which brings travellers to the filming locations of Peter Jackson’s most iconic work, The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy, in the exact four-wheel drive (4WD) that the cast of ‘Mission Impossible 6: Fallout’ used in the movie recently. The first stop was Queenstown hill viewpoint overlooking Deer Park Heights, which became the background for various blockbusters like 1988 movie called The Rescue; X-Men Origins: Wolverine; Pete’s Dragon; and of course the LOTR trilogy. From the hill, I could see how the area’s vast and dramatic landscapes with mountains piercing the clouds could pass as Middle Earth! I learned that Peter Jackson spent 18 months filming in and around Queenstown during all seasons to create various environments of the Middle Earth universe, while taking advantage of the area’s accessibility and facilities. We then proceeded to several other locations including the ‘Ford of Bruinen’ and outskirts of Arrowtown, to a place Tolkien called ‘Gladden Field’, the location where King Isildur was assassinated and lost The One Ring that belonged to Sauron. I definitely recommend this tour to Ringers or Tolkienheads (fans of The Lord of the Rings) due to the immense satisfaction that they would
get when visiting these places, further firing up their imagination. Fergburger In the words of Ed Sheeran: “there’s no point of going to Queenstown if you don’t do anything extreme; unless you have a Fergburger which is pretty awesome.” And he’s not lying. It has becoming such a rare thing to find negative reviews about this world-recognised burger outlet, as it does serve some of the best gourmet burgers in the market. Each bite of deliciousness come from perfectly-seasoned and juicy patties, homemade buns and lip-smacking sauces – ah, it’s so simple yet so satisfying! There is a wide range of burgers available such as beef, lamb, venison, fish, chicken and vegetarian. Due to its massive popularity, expect long queues and full tables. The best option is to order takeaway and find a spot at a nearby beach or any of the empty benches around the beautiful town. PIOPIO Hairy Feet Guided Tour (www. hairyfeetwaitomo.co.nz) I remember the day as we drove near towards the farm owned by the Denize family, located in a town called Piopio, another landscape that came closest to what I imagine Middle Earth would look like. At the top of my view were dramatic limestone cliffs. Below these were verdant fields and strikingly rugged rock formations – for a few moments, I was silenced by the beauty laid out before me. Such is the bewitching power that the place has; I assumed that was also how Jared Connon, the Location Scout for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” felt when he first discovered the place. The fact that Peter Jackson himself also visited the farm made it official as the movie location of choice.
Top: Alfie Speight, the aerial film extraordinaire. Bottom: Jet boating experience through the narrowest canyons of the Shotover River with Skippers Canyon Jet.
Clockwise from Top Left: Chanelling my Hobbit side during Nomad Safarisâ€™s LOTR tour; Fergburger, the best gourmet burger from Queenstown; The soaring limestone cliffs known as Mangaotaki Rocks at the Denizeâ€™s farm.
Because of its impressively diverse landscapes, the farm scored the most screen time in the movie. The lovely co-owner of the farm, Suzy Denize, said it was one of the most exciting things ever to happen at their small town when movie stars, crews, and big cameras were everywhere! In fact, some of the locals were willing to move out of their homes for a week for the cast and crew to live temporarily since there were limited accommodation in town. Nowadays, the farm is open to the public, especially movie fans who want to relive the scenes such as when Gandalf bestowed the sword called ‘Sting’ upon Bilbo, the attack of the Wargs and Orcs, and the arrival of the Fellowship of the Ring at Staddle Farm. However, for those who are not familiar with the scenes, the place it still breathtakingly gorgeous nonetheless, offering plenty photo opportunities for amazing Instagram feeds. WELLINGTON Weta Workshop (wetaworkshop.com) Dubbed as ‘Wellywood’, Wellington plays significant role in the development of New Zealand film industry, drawing more international movie directors to use the facilities and services of local talents. One such service is in the provision of special effects and props, offered by the internationally-acclaimed Weta Workshop. It is truly remarkable to witness Weta Workshop artists at work; they simply breathe passion for creativity and films. “Every day of every year in the workshop, our teams are focused on doing their absolute best, and there is no compromise. We will deliver the same level of importance for each project regardless of the budget,” said Richard Taylor, the founder of Weta Workshop, who is also a multiple Academy Awards and BAFTA winner for his work in the Lord of the Rings and King Kong. This tall, observant and genuinely kind man is indeed one of Wellington’s proudest gem. Richard Taylor was doing puppets for a satirical New Zealand TV show, Public Eye, when he was discovered by Peter Jackson. They first collaborated in 1989 for Meet the Feebles movie, and continued to create together until the golden opportunity to turn Tolkien’s fictional universe into reality came knocking on their door. Both of them share similar vision and drive, which are beautifully translated in the movies. But Tolkien’s Middle Earth was not the only universe that Weta Workshop has helped to realise. The beautiful Pandora in James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ also received touches by the artists of Weta who worked on the design, tech, armour and weapon. Other major projects are too many to include, but I personally surprised to discover that they also did the makeup effects and creature works for my childhood favourite, ‘Xena: Warrior Princess’.
I truly recommend movie buffs to visit Weta Workshop and see how these makeup and special effects artists dedicate their skill and hard work to make the movies or television shows more beautiful and believable. The visit allows travellers to learn about the creative process, from designing, manufacturing and painting to using three-dimensional painting and animatronics. Honestly, I left the workshop with a greater appreciation towards these artists and their significant contribution towards the making of pleasurable movies that become part of popular culture and visual heritage. The Roxy (www.roxycinema.co.nz) I personally enjoy watching movies that are set in the 1920s and 1930s such as The Great Gatsby and Woody Allen’s Cafe Society because they never fail to feature glitzy fashion, music and architecture. In fact, Hollywood entered its golden age during this time because people turned to cinemas to escape from the severe worldwide economic depression. The Roxy in Wellington celebrates just that: the ultimate cinematic experience. Founded by award-winning film editor Jaime Selkirk and Weta Workshop co-founder Tania Rodger, The Roxy is a classic cinema built in glorious 1930s style yet equipped with state-of-the-art screen and sound systems that are so good that filmmakers working at Park Road Post (a film post-production facility founded by Peter Jackson) up the road sometimes use the cinema’s screens to assess how their movies would look like. The grand lobby-cum-gallery upstairs features artworks by local artists, including a Sistine Chapel-like ceiling painting by celebrated Weta artist, Greg Broadmore. There’s also an outstanding restaurant, CoCo, on site spearheaded by Chef Nic Spicer who creates tasteful dishes inspired from flavours around the globe. ** While in Wellington... Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (www.tepapa.govt.nz) In order to truly understand a destination, one must learn its origin, and there’s no better place to learn about New Zealand than the country’s national museum called Te Papa in short. It is a one stop centre packed with inspiring stories where visitors could discover every facet of the country, from its rich Maori history, geology and natural environment to immigration that makes New Zealand the country it is today. Exhibitions are curated in immersive ways, including the current highlight (during the time of writing), which is the ground-breaking Gallipoli exhibition chronicling the story of the campaign through impressive life-like figures crafted by the artisans of Weta Workshop. The Gallipoli exhibition continues until April 2019.
Zealandia (www.visitzealandia.com) Offering a break from movie locations, or the busy world in general, Zealandia is one peaceful haven where one can find solitude amidst unspoiled nature without having to leave the city since it is located merely 10 minutes’ drive from the city centre. More interestingly, the centre is committed in doing a great conservation project to restore the ecosystems to its original state before the arrival of humans. Back then, New Zealand is free from mammalian predators; however, after the arrival of the Polynesians, the Europeans and plenty of introduced predators that came with them, the wildlife species started to drop. Over the course of 800 years, New Zealand has lost over 50 native species of both flora and fauna. To prevent further extinction, Zealandia develops a world-class 225 hectare fully-fenced ecosanctuary with 500-year masterplan to revive the ecosystems. So far, they have successfully reintroduced 18 species of native wildlife back into the area. WHERE TO STAY St. Moritz Queenstown (www. accorhotels.com) The plump pillows in its rooms and the elegant air of its timeless design make St. Moritz the best stay in town. The view of Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables mountain range from the restaurant with the accompanying log fire at the lobby promises travellers an unrivalled stay experienced.
QT Museum Wellington (www. qthotelsandresorts.com/wellington) Punched with the quirkiest, colourful and contemporary design, QT Museum Wellington is definitely an aesthetically pleasing accommodation. Art pieces are curated in the most tasteful way that is neither too ostentatious nor suffocating to the guests. The hotel’s flagship restaurant – Hippopotamus – is also a hit among locals, serving a delightful mix of comfort food and fine dining. TRAVELLING BETWEEN THE ISLANDS Air New Zealand There are two options available for visitors interested in travelling from North Island to South Island or vice versa, which is either by ferry or domestic flight. The former is more popular among campervan travellers, requiring approximately three hours to traverse the Cook Strait from Wellington (North Island) to Picton (South Island) or vice versa. It is also said to be one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world and definitely cheaper than flying. However, in the event of bad weather, be mindful that the open waters can be rough at times and the journey will take more time than usual. Thus, travelling by air is the best option should you have a tight schedule. The main providers are Air New Zealand and Jetstar New Zealand – I have flown with the first one and found the seats comfortable and their cabin crew
friendly and attentive. And oh, they also serve CookieTime biscuits in flight which is an added bonus for those who has sweet tooth, like me! * * * As an avid movie fan, I must say that the whole trip has been a special treat. I’ve discovered paradise on earth, learned about tips and tricks of filmmaking, and most importantly, met incredible and exceptional pool of New Zealand’s talents that have been contributing to the global movie industry either creatively or technically. Just like Bilbo Baggins who found amazing discoveries in his journey, I too have found mine during this trip. I therefore extend my heartfelt gratitude to Tourism New Zealand for making my journey such an unforgettable and eye-opening experience. All travellers should embark on this journey too to see the locations for themselves, because seeing is believing. And believe me, no matter how many times you must have been visiting those locations, you are bound to fall head over heels for New Zealand as if you have just visited the country for the very first time… Part 1 of this story is in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 13.1. For information on filming locations in New Zealand, please browse www. newzealand.com/int/.
Clockwise from Top Left: Richard Taylor, the inspiring mastermind of Weta Workshop; The 1930s style cinema, The Roxy.; Zealandia, the urban wildlife sanctuary; Larger than life figure of Percival Fenwick of the Gallipoli Campaign at Te Papa. (Photograph by Norm Heke).
DoubleTree by Hilton Kuala Lumpur
DoubleTree by Hilton Melaka
DoubleTree Hilton Johor Bahru
DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Penang
D o ubleTree by Hilton in Mal aysia Always looking for a new place to discover or somewhere new and exciting to go on a holiday? Then why not experience what Malaysia has to offer by staying at DoubleTree by Hilton & DoubleTree Resort by Hilton properties in the country? DoubleTree by Hilton Kuala Lumpur the first DoubleTree hotel in the glitzy city of Kuala Lumpur promises to welcome you with its signature warm cookie and exceptional Malaysian warmth, including the amazing view of the Kuala Lumpur city centre skyline anchored by the tallest twin buildings in the world, Petronas Twin Towers. Connected to The Intermark office and shopping development, the hotel is within a mere 10 minutes’ walk away to Suria KLCC shopping centre and Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. Ampang Park LRT station is also only 5 minutes away via covered walkway. The hotel offers five food and beverage outlets that serves a wide selection of dining options, from local cuisine to home-style Italian fare. The hotel’s signature restaurant, Makan Kitchen, provides authentic Malaysian dining experience. The truly fitness minded should make use of the hotel’s facilities like taking long swim laps in the outdoor saltwater pool and stay fit in the 24-hour fitness centre fully equipped with cardio and free weight equipment.
its irresistible offerings in many aspects, from delicious food and rich culture to friendly people. When being in Melaka, do stay at DoubleTree by Hilton Melaka, which boasts 273 stylish and spacious guestrooms, including 27 suites and a Presidential Suite. Located in the heart of Hatten City, approximately 3.6 kilometres (10-minute drive) from the core area of UNESCO World Heritage Site in Melaka, the hotel is an ideal launch pad for leisure seekers wanting to experience Melaka’s delicacies and heritage, as well as visiting famous spots like Jonker Street, Dutch heritage buildings at the Red Square and St. Paul’s Hill. Designed to appeal to families, the hotel provides the option to connect up to four guestrooms, which features a shared private hallway, as well as a Kid’s Club. Other recreational options include an outdoor infinity pool and a fitness centre. The hotel has three restaurants that serve local and international fare: Makan Kitchen, Italian cuisine at Tosca, and Axis Lounge for drinks and light snacks.
Last but not least, everyone who comes to Malaysia would know that Penang is THE state that offers an amazing concoction of culture, lip-smacking street food, and remarkable colonial architecture. Known as The Pearl of the Orient, this state always has something to suit any kind of traveller. DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Penang with its 316 guestrooms is the island’s first DoubleTree Resort cum Hilton-branded property. Conveniently set in the dynamic northern beach area of Penang, the resort is approximately 15 kilometres from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of George Town that is renowned for its old-world charm that dates back to the British colonial days of the 18th century. The hotel provides complimentary shuttle service to George Town, including other popular localities like Gurney Drive and Batu Ferringhi. With an open concept lobby, this picturesque resort makes for the perfect getaway for anyone visiting Penang. The resort is a great choice for families because situated within its premises is the TeddyVille Museum, Malaysia’s first and largest teddy bear museum. Guests of DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Penang may also choose to connect up to two rooms and enjoy the privacy of a shared hallway. Other facilities in the hotel include a Kid’s Club, an outdoor pool, a spa and a fitness centre. Guests to the resort also have three restaurants to choose: Makan Kitchen for local Peranakan cuisine and international favourites; The Food Store that serves quick bites; and Axis Lounge for casual drinks and light snacks.
Ideally located in the Central Business District, within walking distance of the Persada Convention Center, the contemporary DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Bahru overlooks the city and the Straits of Johor. When staying at this hotel, you can enjoy easy access to KOMTAR JBCC shopping mall and Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque, the state mosque of Johor, which is influenced by Victorian and Moorish design. The hotel is also minutes from the Singapore Causeway and within walking distance to attractions such as the Johor Zoo and City Square shopping precinct, home to an extensive array of stores, boutiques, eateries and cinema. DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Bahru is accessible from Changi Airport in Singapore and Senai International Airport in Kulai district, Johor. Holidaying with kids? Then treat your kids to a day out at The Little Big Club or LEGOLAND® Malaysia - which features over 40 interactive rides, shows and attractions. Another hour’s drive will take you to the picturesque Kota Tinggi Waterfall, while keen golfers will appreciate the hotel’s proximity to the Daiman 18 Golf Club. *** Those seeking more historical experience should head to the city of Melaka, which has been granted UNESCO World Heritage Status in 2008. This city has already established itself as a tourism hotspot due to
For more information, visit w w w.h ilton.com.
From what I gather, Indonesia never disappoints. Most of my travel destinations in 2017 are located in this great country, yet it seemed like I still do not have enough of Indonesia. From the first time I set my foot here, I couldnâ€™t stop myself admiring its natural beauty over and over again. And South Sumatra is definitely one of the strong reasons why I think Indonesia is rightfully so...
A lady worker demonstrating how tea leaves are plucked at Gunung Dempo, with the majestic background of Pagar Alam
Embracing the Wonderful
South Sumatra Text & Images by MUHAMMAD HASIF MOHD JELANI
South Sumatra abounds with plenty of natural wonders and amazing historical background thanks to its geographical features. It is situated on the eastern side of Bukit Barisan mountain range, southern-most rim of the South China Sea, close to the shipping lanes linking the Far East with Europe, said to be one of the world’s busiest. Though it is not as popular as some major destinations, South Sumatra offers travellers a less crowded travel and tourism destination through its own charms. Follow us as we share with you the selected attractions to be enjoyed when being in South Sumatra. Lubuk Linggau
Gubug Makan Mang Engking Sebroyot After an hour flight from SoekarnoHatta International Airport to Silampari Airport, my travel companions, who were also from the media, and I went here for lunch. More than merely serving traditional Sundanese foods like sambal udang (spicy shrimp paste), gurami (grilled gourami fish) and kerupuk (Indonesian crackers) which were all agreeable, I was surprised to find out that we could also soak our feet in a large pool inside the restaurant and get them ‘massaged’ by a school of fish while we dined. The tickling sensation from that so-called fish spa felt even better with es jeruk murni (orange juice) in my hand together while taking in the view of restaurant’s soothingly rustic surroundings. Pagar Alam Villa Gunung Gare We arrived at Villa Gunung Gare quite late from Lubuk Linggau after a fivehour van ride. Since it was already dark, I did not get to do much except resting because we needed to wake up early the next morning to view the sunrise. Come morning, I started to realise that the villa is surrounded by a magnificently lush green tea plantation and the majestic panorama of Gunung Dempo. Having the opportunity to
wake up to such a view made me miss the place so much! Villa Gunung Gare also has interesting spaces such as Tangga 2001, where local youngsters can gather around for a chill-out session with good music, local snacks and refreshing breeze. Tugu Rimau Catching the sunrise was not easy; we had to wake up as early as 3:30 a.m. and climb up to the sunrise viewing point called Tugu Rimau, which is 1,820 metres above sea level, for 45 minutes. The journey to Tugu Rimau was literally winding and bumpy, no joke. At 18° Celsius (sometimes it could even go as low as 16° Celsius), travellers need to be prepared to endure the cold. When the sun started to show, we began to realise that we were surrounded by a bewitching panorama of the seemingly endless sea of surrounding tea plantation and the city of Pagar Alam from afar. The name Tugu Rimau refers to a tiger statue that wears a traditional attire while holding a torch – it was the mascot for the National Athletics Event hosted in South Sumatra back in 2014. The viewing point was where the parasailing and mountain biking competitions took place. Satisfied with the shots taken, we went downhill for another photo opportunity where we met friendly local workers showing us how tea leaves are plucked. Air Terjun Tujuh Kenangan Situated in Talang Tinggi, which is 15 minutes’ drive from Pagar Alam city, Air Terjun Tujuh Kenangan (literally means ‘seven memories waterfall’) is another natural wonder of South Sumatra. To reach this 40-metre waterfall, travellers need to trek uphill for about 500 metres, passing by a private coffee plantation, garden and forest. For those seeking a good place to swim, this is absolutely one of the best options.
Tip: Travellers are advised to hire a guide and wear proper sports attire to avoid mishap.
Tegur Wangi Archaeological Site This site is intriguing for history aficionados. I learned that Tegur Wangi Archaeological Site was once inhabited by an ancient community whose members used the site as their place of worship. With archaeological remains still can be found in the forms of statues, stone cists, menhir (upright stone), dolmen (a huge stone supported by smaller ones), monolith and carving stone, folklore has it that this place is sacred. These remains are believed to have been in existence since A.D. 100. Among the well-known statues is Batu Beghibu, which means a statue with earrings. Lesehan Lembur Kuring Karjak We had lunch at Lesehan Lembur Kuring Karjak, one of the more famous restaurants in Pagar Alam. The restaurant stands above fish ponds, overlooking the pastoral view of a typically local house with a range of mountains looming in the distance as background. Among the must-savour menus are gurami asam manis (sweet sour tilapia), gurami bakar (grilled tilapia), ikan mas masak kuning (goldfish in yellow gravy) and tahu sumedang (Sundanese deep-fried tofu). Kebun Jeruk Gergah Sirdahan Besides coffee and tea plantation, little did I know that Pagar Alam also has its own jeruk (mandarin orange) plantations and this farm is one of them. There are 460 trees in this two-hectare farm. Do not be surprised because if you were to combine all jeruk farms that are run by the locals here, it could take up to 80 hectares! There are three types of jeruk planted in this farm: Batu 555; Siam Puntianak; and RGL. The sweetest is said to be Batu 555. Travellers are not allowed to pick the fruit themselves but they are welcome to buy them at only IDR30,000 per kilogram.
Clockwise from Top Left: A giant mural art near Tangga 2001 at Villa Gunung Gare; A stupendous view of Air Terjun Tujuh Kenangan; Our delicious lunch with local menu at Lesehan Lembur Kuring Karjak; One of over 460 jeruk trees at Kebun Jeruk Gergah Sirdahan.
PALEMBANG With the ticket costing IDR130,000 per person one way, we headed to Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra, using the night train from Lahat to Kertapati. Though the journey took eight hours, it was a smooth ride and an interestingly new experience for me. Tip: Even though blanket is provided, it is best to bring your own jacket to withstand the cabin’s air-conditioning.
Top: The iconic Rumah Limas that is depicted on IDR10,000 old currency note, which can also be found at Balaputra Dewa Museum Bottom: One of the impressive parts of Al-Quran Al-Akbar Museum, which showcases the giant Quran manuscripts
Balaputra Dewa Museum The experience of exploring a land of great history would be incomplete without the trip to the museum that chronicles the land’s significant through valuable records, documents and artefacts. In Palembang, Balaputra Dewa Museum is a must-visit for those seeking to understand more about the destination’s formative history and the psyche of the local people. There are around 3,800 objects displayed in this museum, all categorised under 10 different sections such as geology, biology, philology, numismatics, and ceramics, among others. The exhibit that strongly caught my eye is the almost twocentury-old Rumah Limas (local traditional house), which is also depicted on Indonesia’s IDR10,000 old currency note. Palembang also bears relevance to Malaysians because the founder of the Melaka Sultanate back in the 1400s, Parameswara (who later assumed the title as Sultan Iskandar Syah after reverting to Islam) was born in Palembang. The museum also specifically dedicated one exhibition space as a tribute to Parameswara. We were told that the space is mutually managed by the museum and the State Government of Melaka in Malaysia due to the strong historical ties. Al-Quran Al-Akbar Museum Al-Quran Al-Akbar literally means ‘the giant Quran (Holy Book of Islam)’. As the name suggests, travellers are able to find the world’s largest Quran with 630 pages that contain verses painstakingly carved in tembesu (Fagraea fragrans tree) wood by 35 carvers in a span of seven years, from 2002 until 2009! Even more inspiring, the creation of this religious attraction was achieved solely from public and private donations. During my visit, some renovation was still taking place. The plan is to enlarge the museum complex further so that eventually it could exhibit all of the Quran’s enormous pages at one go. Currently, the complex could only exhibit half of the Holy Book due to space constraint. If the plan runs smoothly, the enlargement of the complex will be completed in early 2018.
Rumah Makan Pindang Musi Rawas This humble restaurant is smallish in size and has no air-conditioning units installed. However, Rumah Makan Pindang Musi Rawas is well-known among locals for serving authentically delicious local dishes at affordable prices. Among the highlights that travellers should try are pindang ikan patin (traditional silver catfish stew), udang sambal pete (prawns cooked with chili paste and stink beans) and brengkes ikan patin tempoyak (silver catfish with yellow, thick gravy made from fermented durian). Pondok Tince Palembang is famous for the traditional cake called pempek, thus travellers should savour it at Pondok Tince, one of the best places in town that serves up many types of pempek that come in various forms and flavours such as lenjer, kapal selam, adaan, keriting and pistel; each pempek is prepared differently and has its own flavour. Pempek serves well as a tasty souvenir. Kampung Kapitan Around 300 years ago, after the collapse of Sriwijaya Kingdom, the Chinese community during the Ming period led by Captain Tjoa Ham Hin settled in Palembang. The Dutch, who colonised Palembang at that time, appointed him as the leader called Kapitan, hence the name of the village. More than just traditional limas house with heavily Chinese-influenced interior, travellers can expect to encounter friendly locals who are noticeably slit-eyed, claimed to be the 13th generation of the said Chinese community. Kampung Al-Munawwar Locally known as ‘Kampung Arab’ (Arab Village), this settlement is home to Arab descendants in Palembang. There are a few traditional houses that sport heavy Arab influences to be found here. Just like Kampung Kapitan, the place is now touted as a tourism attraction due to its historical features and significance. These villages attest to Palembang’s diverse and harmonious society that continues to this day. International Musi Triboatton Considered as a warm-up event for the 2018 Asian Games in Palembang, this yearly event is a rowing competition where participants pass through Palembang rivers, including the iconic Musi River. Already in its 6th series, the event attracted participants not only domestically but also from China, Singapore, Brunei, Philippines and Malaysia. Gaya Travel Magazine expresses our heartfelt gratitude to the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia for making the writer’s trip to South Sumatra possible. For more information about South Sumatra, please browse www.indonesia.travel.
Top: Keriting, a type of pempek that travellers can savour at Pondok Tince Bottom: The famous Kapitan House, which portrays the mix of Chinese and local cultural influences through its architecture
A Pa s s a g e t o
J a i p u r
Recreating a Bollywood scene in front of the Madhavendra Bhawan - a beautiful specimen of Indo-European architecture.
Te x t b y S H A H I DA S A KERI Images by AIRASIA SDN BHD, RAJASTHAN TOURISM & SHAHIDA SAKERI
I blame it on the movies – having watched so many films with incredible Rajasthani settings (‘The Darjeeling Limited’ and ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ to name a few), the state is painted in beautifully striking colours on the canvas of my mind. The image of its opulent palaces and historic hill-forts, together with extravagant wedding celebrations, moves me each time the word ‘Rajasthan’ drops in a conversation, prompting me to fantasise endlessly about visiting this land of Maharajas. One day, that golden opportunity came straight from AirAsia X office, offering me a jaunt to the capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur, in conjunction with its inaugural direct route from Kuala Lumpur to the destination. You can only imagine the kind of elation I experienced! Thus, with Bollywood anthems playlist ready on my Spotify and an overflowing excitement of ticking off the destination on my dream list, I finally set foot in the Pink City. Jaipur is the biggest city of the Rajasthan state, and is a part of India’s Golden Triangle together with Delhi and Agra. It is renowned for its aristocratic roots, majestic architecture and handmade crafts such as delicate textiles and dazzling gems – in fact, I heard that the city is the go-to place for most brides-tobe in India to shop for their wedding. Read on as I dip into the tales of this remarkable city and experience its most-celebrated places that should be in your next travel itinerary should you plan to visit Jaipur in the future.
Amber Fort: The Door to Rajput History Also known as the Amer Fort, this once grand home of the Rajput royalties could probably be one of the most popular sites for filming Bollywood period movies such as Deepika Padukone’s Bajirao Mastani, and Jodhaa Akbar starring the dashing Hrithik Roshan. It boasts a timeless grand allure of Hindu and Mughal architectures that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also attest to the glories of the Rajput kingdom. Raja Man Singh began the construction of the fort in the 16th century and it was fully completed only two centuries later under the reign of Sawai Jai Singh II. For ages, the fort functioned as the capital of the kingdom before Sawai Jai Singh II relocated it to where the present Jaipur city is located due to acute water crisis and overpopulation. Like many other ancient forts, Amber is huge in size, thus travellers should expect to spend at least two to three hours here. Get ready to time travel as travellers admire the architectural marvels that sit within the vicinity including Ganesh Pol, Man Singh Palace, Diwan-E-Aam, Shila Dewi Temple and my personal favourite, the glitzy mirror palace called Sheesh Mahal. Now, it is also important to note that Amber Fort is a popular tourist site in Jaipur. During the day, travellers can take advantage of the natural sunlight for amazing photography shots, but they need to brave through large crowds. Conversely, travellers can visit the fort at night and skip the noise and heat altogether; the fort gleams in different hues under the stars and if you allow for a little imagination, it does make you feel that you are transported back to the era when the fort was at its heyday, especially when there are no annoying tourists around with their selfie sticks to knock you back into reality. There is also light and sound show that takes place at the bottom of the fort near Maota Lake at night, which unfolds the historical tales and legends of the 28 kings of the Kachwaha (Rajput)
Entrance fees: INR200 for foreign travellers and INR25 for Indian nationals. The Light and Sound Show in English costs an additional INR200 per person.
City Palace: The Royal Residence The proto-modernist City Palace served as the capital after the relocation made by Sawai Jai Singh II from Amber Fort. Being the modern and well-travelled gentleman as he was, the king instructed the palace and its structures to be designed with Mughal, European and the Shilpa Shastra (the Indian ancient science of arts and crafts) architectural influences. The complex spreads over several acres and was in fact, the first planned city of medieval India. Today, the royal family still lives in the private section of the palace, while the rest of the complex is open to the public such as throne room, Diwan-I-Khas (a private audience pavilion), museum and special gallery for crafts produced by artisans of Jaipur that travellers can purchase as souvenirs. Do consider joining the private tour of the Chandra Mahal building where I believe the true gems are hidden: Sukh Niwas Blue Room and the golden room of Shobha Niwas with their elaborate interiors and ornate archways. All gates within the premises are also incredibly gorgeous and make stunning backdrops for Instagram posts. Entrance fees: INR500 for foreign travellers and INR190 for Indian nationals. The Chandra Mahal private tour costs an additional INR2,500 per person.
Hawa Mahal: The Architectural Gem Probably the most photographed architecture in Jaipur, Hawa Mahal is the city’s icon built in 1799 by Sawai Pratap Singh, who was the grandson of Sawai Jai Singh II. Built as an extension of the City Palace leading to the zenana or the ladies’ chambers, there were many claims regarding the inspiration behind the architecture’s beehive design. The popular belief is that the architect, Lal Chand Ustad,
was inspired by the crown of Krishna, the Hindu God. Hawa Mahal was initially constructed to allow women back then to witness the day-to-day events and royal processions happening on the streets through jhakoras or windows without appearing in public. These jhakoras, moreover – all 953 of them – are carefully positioned for proper ventilation, especially during hot summers, giving Hawa Mahal the moniker ‘Palace of the Winds’. Entrance fees: INR50 for foreign travellers and INR10 for Indian nationals.
Jantar Mantar: The Intellectual Legacy King Sawai Jai Singh II was a man of many expertise, including astronomy. Since ancient times, Indians have been referring to astronomy calculations prior to holding auspicious events. During the reign of Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah, the sharp-witted King Sawai Jai Singh II was commissioned to revise the astronomy calculations of Ulugh Beg’s tables, which he did by gathering data and assembling a group of great astronomers from east to west. He then built five astronomical observatories in India, with the largest one being in Jaipur that is in fact, still functions until today. There is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments built on site that can be used to estimate local time and locate celestial objects. The world’s largest sun clock can also be found here, which is said to be accurate up to 20 seconds. Since 2010, Jantar Mantar enjoys World Heritage status by UNESCO and considered as one of Jaipur’s greatest assets. Travellers should consider visiting the site at mid-day, when the sun is right above the head, to understand how the readings are taken. Guides and audio guides are also available upon request at the ticket counter. The site is only a stone’s throw away from the City Palace, so it would be a great idea for travellers to visit these two sites at one go. Entrance fees: INR200 for foreign travellers and INR50 for Indian nationals.
Nahargarh Fort: The Specimen of Indo-European Architecture Along with Amer Fort and Jaigarh Fort, the Nahargarh Fort forms a strong ring of defence for Jaipur city. It was built by Sawai Jai Singh II in 1734 in one of the oldest mountain ranges of the world, the Aravalli Hills. The story goes that the initial construction of the fort was hampered by the unsettling spirit of a Rathore prince, Nahar Singh Bhomia, thus a temple specially dedicated to him was built inside the fort to pacify the spirit, consequently lending the fort its name. Another version of the story, which is more popular, says that the fort received its name from the mighty tigers that used to frequent the site, hence the name nahargarh, which means ‘abode of tigers’. A popular attraction of this fort complex is the two-storey building called Madhavendra Bhawan built by Sawai Madho Singh as a royal pleasure retreat for him and his 12 queens. All the opulent suites are meticulously adorned with delicate floral motifs and designed in a manner that allows brilliant natural light to flood in. Today, the government of Rajasthan has collaborated with Saat Saath Arts in bringing spectacular art pieces by top Indian and international artists to be displayed within the building, turning it into a heritage art gallery. The Jaipur Wax Museum is the newest attraction in the Nahargarh fort complex where it houses lifelike wax statues of prolific Indian icons such as Mahatma Ghandi, Sachin Tendulkar and Amitabh Bachchan. Also, be sure to visit the first glass palace museum in India, Sheesh Mahal, located near the entrance of the fort that honours Mughal and Rajput architecture, displaying approximately 2.5 million glass pieces that create a magical kaleidoscopic effect. Give me some good Bollywood beats and I swear I could go into full dancing mode a la ‘Deewani Mastani’ in this particular room because the space is so dreamlike! Entrance fees: INR200 for foreign travellers and INR50 for Indian nationals. Entrance to the Wax Museum and Sheesh Mahal costs an additional INR700 per person.
Chokhi Dhani: The Heritage Haven Stepping into Chokhi Dhani is like entering a world frozen in time, a dreamscape where history and traditions are treasures to be honoured. This is the place where travellers get to be part of the unique Rajasthani culture on a splendid evening sparked by the vibrant spirit of its people. There are plenty of fun activities available here including camel rides, cultural folk dances, puppet show, magic show, acrobatics, and fire performances. Travellers can also get their photo taken in ethnic costumes for a lasting memory. The nights conclude
with a feast of traditional Rajasthani dining amidst open-air setting. To take the experience a notch higher, there is a resort on site offering incredibly gorgeous rooms that pay tribute to Rajasthani’s ancient splendour. The rates at Chokhi Dhani cultural village start at INR700 per person.
Chand Baori Stepwell: The Underrated Treasure Baori or stepwells are the unique way of collecting and providing water all year round during medieval India. Chand Baori, in particular, was built in the Abhaneri village between the 8th and 9th century by King Chand who gave the stepwell its name. It is considered to be India’s largest and deepest stepwells with 13 storeys of 3,500 narrow steps arranged in perfect symmetry on three sides of the walls. Besides functioning as a water storage system, the baori also served as gathering place for nearby villagers to cool off during hot summer days. The remarkable geometric complexity of the stairs truly makes for a wondrous sight, remaining as a truly significant Rajasthani architectural legacy considering it was built over a thousand years ago – just imagine the precision that the ancient workers possessed back then! If the baori looks familiar, you might have seen it on ‘The Fall’ and Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ movies. Entrance is free, but take note that it takes approximately two hours to reach Chand Baori Stepwell from Jaipur city.
Clockwise from Top Left: The grand facade of Amber Fort; Chandra Mahal, the residence of the descendants of the former rulers of Jaipur inside City Palace; the icon of Pink City: Hawa Mahal; one of the astronomical instruments at Jantar Mantar; a fire show at Chokhi Dhani; 13 storeys of symmetrical narrow steps of Chand Baori Stepwell.
Skywaltz Balloon Safari: The Memorable Hot Air Balloon Ride There’s no more thrilling way to see Jaipur’s heavenly sights than from a hot air balloon. With Skywaltz Balloon Safari, a hot air balloon ride is never boring. I was up before dawn because I had to be driven about an hour or so from Jaipur to Samode, where I was treated with hot masala tea and crunchy biscuits in darkness while the balloons were prepared on a field. Usually, the trip departs between 5:45 a.m. and 6:45 a.m., when the light is at its most beautiful. Before long, my group and I got into the basket, received safety instructions and were lifted off with our pilot of the day, Francisco. The best thing about flying over the rural Samode valley is that the ride does not only give travellers a bird’s eye view of the beautiful countryside, but also the glimpse into local daily life as it hovers quietly and closely above the villages. Be ready to be wowed by Rajasthan’s scenic rural landscapes! Price: USD265 per person. The price includes free pick-up and drop to and from the hotel.
Shop Due to its rich history and vibrant culture, one should expect no less than beautiful and colourful crafts when it comes to finding traditional goods of Jaipur. For years, the old city has been the world’s gemstone capital, plying priceless items such as the dazzling kundan (age-old form of jewellery believed to have originated from the royal courts of Rajasthan) sets and lac bangles, which are sought-after souvenirs. Other memorable mementos to bring home include traditional Rajasthani textiles (sarees, lehengas and embroidered bed sheets), handcrafted camel leather products, and handmade paper diaries. On top of these, I personally love the local blue pottery collectibles that definitely bring cheer to the dining table. For places to shop, Sireh Deori Bazaar – located opposite of Hawa Mahal – makes a good one-stop place as it has everything that Jaipur is famous for. Johari Bazaar, Chandpole Bazaar and Nehru Bazaar also offer more options. Stay & Dine
Mandawa Haveli: A former residence for the 15th ruler of Mandawa in the heart of Jaipur that has been transformed into a dreamlike fantasy land of majestic grandeur and timeless Rajput architecture. During certain nights, there are special folk dance and puppet shows are performed at its courtyard. Narain Niwas: An actual palace turned into heritage hotel that celebrates the glorious past of Rajput royalty. Expect to see elaborate Italian-Mughal interiors of colourful walls and decorated ceilings. It also houses Bar Palladio – arguably the most popular and exquisitely styled bar in Jaipur. Hotel Grand Uniara: A former historical palace neither suffocatingly traditional nor drearily contemporary that is fitting for a modern-day king. Hotel Rockwell: Convenient hotel that is strategically located near to iconic points of interest such as City Palace and Jantar Mantar.
From Left to Right: Heavenly sights of the rural side of Jaipur at the crack of dawn from a hot air balloon; the colourful items sold at the shopping streets in Jaipur.
Hotel Ashok: Located in the heart of Jaipur city, Ashok is a decent lodging that captures the charm of the princely city. Rates are affordable and employees are friendly. The Fern Hotel: One of the great examples of ecotels in Jaipur that remains modern yet mindful towards environment and society. Its world cuisine Restobar is also one of Jaipur’s most popular restaurants. Spice Court: A restaurant showcasing hearty Rajasthani cuisine that melds flavours and traditions of Jaipur with finest ingredients and techniques. While dining, enjoy the vibrant ambience with live music and puppet show in the evening. Reaching Jaipur AirAsia X is the only low-cost carrier that offer direct connection between Kuala Lumpur and Jaipur. The airline operates four times weekly on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Guests should opt for the Hot Seats that provide extra legroom for extra comfort, while the Quiet Zone promises a peaceful journey with minimal noise throughout the five-hour and a half flight. I have flown in the aforementioned categories and found the seats spacious and comfortable enough to endure the journey (take note that I am 5’5”). For travellers who don’t mind splurging a little, they should opt for the airline’s award-winning flatbed for optimum experience. Note: Jaipur has three distinct seasons: summer, monsoon and winter. It is best to plan your visit carefully. Winter months, which are from October to March, are generally pleasant and ideal. July to September is hot and humid. Summer in Jaipur, which is from April to June, can be brutal with temperatures going up to 45° Celsius.
Philea Mines Beach Resort Nestled amidst the concrete jungle of Kuala Lumpur, Philea Mines Beach Resort is an unexpected haven offering a full experience of sophisticated style, privacy, and tranquility. Renowned as the property with the ‘beach in the city’, the resort is specially designed for meeting, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE). Various functions like seminars and corporate events, including garden weddings and beach barbeques, can be held at this resort. Unique team-building activities such as telematches and beach games can also be held at the resort’s man-made beach and lagoon pool. As guests step into the resort’s scenic lobby, they will be amazed by the view of the North Lake, which was once was the site of the world’s largest open cast tin mine with a gaping hole of two kilometres long, one kilometre wide and 200 metres deep, now covered in water and turns into one of the two great lakes that surround the resort. Philea Mines Beach Resort offers a total of 174 rooms comprising 126 beach- and lake-facing rooms plus 48 chalet units that face the beautiful lagoon. Decorated in natural soothing tones, each unit is equipped with 24-hour room service, working desk, flat screen television with in-house movie channels, an electronic in-room safe, wireless internet service and balcony. Guests can also access the resort’s facilities such as the man-made lagoon pool, children’s camp, and gym that come with a unique scenic view of the North Lake and MINES Resort City. The resort also has two food and beverage outlets: a coffeehouse serving Malaysian cuisine with a kampung twist called Abdul & Charlie’s where guests can dine al fresco or indoors; and Cheng Ho Court, a Chinese restaurant that serves delectable dim sum and Chinese-style cooking. Guests are also invited to just sit back and take in the leafy surroundings at Philea Café, which is perfect place to unwind while enjoying the calming and soothing breeze. Guests are also able to traverse the lake using of the resort’s cruise packages such as Water Taxi, Minangkabau Cruise, North Lake Cruise and Dining Cruise to enjoy the tranquility of the lake and the view of the surrounding forested banks. There is also a service that is able to bring guests to Mines Shopping Mall, including the iconic Sapura Group’s headquarters, by boat. Philea Mines Beach Resort is just 15 minutes south of Kuala Lumpur City Centre and a 30-minute drive from Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Cyberjaya. It is also a convenient walk to Mines Golf Resort, Mines International Exhibition & Convention Center (MIECC) and Mines Shopping Mall. For more information, refer to www.phileahotel.com.my/selangor/
Hotels & Resorts
SHERATON BALI KUTA RESORT
Bastion of Beachfront Indulgence Te x t b y J U H A N KA M A R U D D I N
I m a g e s b y S H E R A T O N B A L I K U TA R E S O R T, M U H A M M A D H A S I F M O H D J E L A N I & J U H A N K A M A R U D D I N
Gaya Travel Magazine team recently experienced Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort, an urbane and family-friendly property that is efficient and on-point. During our stay, we found that the property is exclusive and intimate, sporting an architectural style that attempts to bring as much natural light in as possible, making it brighter than many other places we have stayed in Bali. The resort promises a contemporary vision of a tropical beachfront destination that has been developed specifically to elevate travellers’ experience when staying in Kuta. Owned by PT. Indonesian Paradise Island, Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort is the only five-star beachfront resort in Kuta, conveniently attached to an upscale open-air style Beachwalk shopping mall that has over 200 retail outlets. Set on a total area of 5.2 hectares of development, the resort is located directly at the heart of Kuta Beach and only five kilometres away from Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar. We have come up with seven factors why we love Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort: » The resort’s rooms, especially the Ocean Front Suite, is homely, bright, airy, fuss-free and comes with uninterrupted views of the Indian
Ocean or the resort’s signature social courtyard. Guests are also given access to the resort’s highly reliable and speedy Wi-Fi connectivity throughout the resort. All of Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort’s 203 rooms – ranging between 46 and 265 metres squared – have spacious private balcony. » The rejuvenating spa treatments – especially its pampering and uplifting Balinese massage – that are dispensed by experienced and highly trained therapists of Shine Spa by Sheraton, a winner of The World Luxury Spa Awards 2016. The spa is indeed a sanctuary for travellers to revitalise and indulge in signature treatments from the East to the West, blended with local Balinese touches.
» The chance to take in the breathtaking sunset view from the terrace of the resort’s light-hearted Italian restaurant called Bene, which happens to be one of the best places to enjoy sunset in Kuta and a great spot for chilling before dinner. Guests should take note that sunset in Bali is usually between 6:25 and 6:45 p.m. Another spot where guests could conveniently enjoy gorgeous sunset view is from The Lounge, located on the same level as the resort’s lobby, where guests are welcome to laze on the loungers and imbibe locally-inspired cocktail at the space’s open-air balcony facing the resort’s pool below and Kuta Beach ahead. » Flavourful cuisines served at the vibrant open-kitchen all-day dining restaurant, Feast, located alongside Beachwalk’s patio overlooking Kuta Beach. It has outdoor lounges that create an invitingly informal and relaxed atmosphere. Diners should taste the resort’s Ikan Bakar Jimbaran, Iga Rendang and Ayam Bakar Singaraja, to name a few. » The resort’s well-equipped fitness centre that guests should utilise by following its lifestyle designed training programmes to keep fit. For children 12 years old and below, the resort offers Play@Sheraton Kids Club, the space where children can play and be entertained yet at the same time learn and explore Balinese culture, community and people. » The resort’s kidney-shaped pool that is open to the breathtaking panoramic views of Kuta Beach and the Indian Ocean is simply perfect for guests to lounge and read a book or ogle at people or do nothing or take a dip, especially when the weather swelters. » Bene’s authentic Italian fare that is accompanied by a vast selection of world-class wines, which guests can indulge while taking in the mesmerising views of the surrounding skyline, Kuta Beach and the oceanic backdrop of Bali Strait, especially when they dine on the rooftop deck level. Browse www.sheratonbalikuta.com for more information about Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort. Also check out Gaya Travel Magazine team’s posts about the resort on Instagram via #spglife, #spgmoments #SeeTheWorld with #GayaTravel, @sheratonkuta and @gayatravel.
Hotels & Resorts
Tribeca Serviced Suites B u k i t
B i n t a n g :
A Home Away from Home Te x t b y S H A H I DA S A KERI I m a g e s b y T R I B E C A S E R V I C E D S U I T E S B U K I T B I N TA N G
Conveniently located at Kuala Lumpur’s most coveted address in the heart of the city centre, Tribeca Serviced Suites Bukit Bintang could just be the kind of accommodation that international business travellers or long staying guests seek. The property – which is a project by Low Yat Group and managed by FLH Hospitality Management – offers a safe and value-added convenient lifestyle with commodious comfort likened to a private home. With extra security measure, most of the floors are only accessible by key card-operated elevators. I stayed in The Duo fully-furnished suite, featuring two bedrooms containing king-sized and single beds respectively with luxurious and comfortable linens. The suite’s design emphasises on simplicity with clean lines and white walls with laminated wood panels for interesting contrast in texture. It also has a fully equipped kitchen suitable for preparing simple tasks like cup noodles up to an elaborate meal. Other services include laundry and ironing facilities, hair dryer, flat screen satellite/cable tv, high speed internet, IDD telephones with data port and voice mail, electronic safe, universal charger, choice of pillow, tea- and coffee-making facilities and coffee machine (only on premier floors). The availability of extra amenities helps to shave off costs compared to other pay-per-use services offered in
other luxury hotels. Tribeca Serviced Suites Bukit Bintang also offers various signature amenities and services, including a five-star concierge with friendly bilingual staff who stand ready to answer guests’ queries at any time of the day, be it during the wee hours of the night or at the first ray of morning light. Other facilities include five iconic pods: the zen pod features a multipurpose space for wellness classes; the social pod is the space to watch television, indulge in games and socialise; the business pod encompasses a variety of meeting rooms and work spaces; the gym pod consists of state-of-theart fitness equipment; and the jungle pod is where children can stir their imagination by conquering the jungle-like playground or other fun-filled activities. For adults, the hotel also offers their guests special tours and classes such as yoga.
When it comes to dining, guests can expect to be treated with one of the finest dining establishments in Klang Valley. Brought by the team behind the award-winning Yellow Brick Road Café on Jalan Batai and Red Bean Bag in Publika, the stylish Wizards is the epitome of a great café, located on the ground floor of Tribeca Serviced Suites Bukit Bintang. Its interior is tastefully designed and the geniuses behind the kitchen have come up with madly diverse range of brews and well thought out menu. I personally love the Goodness Grains set for breakfast, comprising muesli, granola, chia seeds and stone fruit with warm soy milk that are so simple yet brought sunshine to my early morning. Other favourites include Japanese Soy Glazed Halibut and the beautifully presented Deconstructed Tiramisu. If these are not enough, guests may simply embark on their own epicurean adventure at the nearby food spots like Jalan Alor and Jalan Mesui. Fashionistas staying at Tribeca Serviced Suites Bukit Bintang can go on a shopping spree at Starhill Gallery, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, Fahrenheit 88 and even Suria KLCC, all located merely 10 minutes’ walk away. At the same time, technology geeks can do their pilgrimage to Low Yat Plaza nearby. The property also proves to be an ideal base due to it being accessible by roads and public transport. What I love most about its location is that despite its centrality, Tribeca Serviced Suites Bukit Bintang somehow manages to shield itself from the city’s cacophony. So, if you are looking for an accommodation in Kuala Lumpur that delivers the Malaysian hospitality with convenient access to important landmarks, Tribeca Serviced Suites Bukit Bintang is definitely worth considering… www.flh-tribeca.com
Hotels & Resorts
Y o g y a k a r
#TravelBrilliantly Te x t b y J U H A N KA M A R U D D I N I m a g e s b y M A R R I O T T I N T E R N AT I O N A L
The launch of the 347-room Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel last October 2017 marks Marriott flagship premium brand’s first hotel in Indonesia. Though having been opened for only a few months, the property has constantly been attracting business travellers on weekdays and leisure travellers, especially families, on weekends in droves. The hotel is also connected to Hartono Lifestyle Mall, the biggest shopping mall in Yogyakarta and even in Central Java, which proves convenient just in case travellers need to do some shopping.
It is understood Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel’s timely opening is to prepare for the completion of Yogyakarta’s new international airport, located in Kulon Progo Regency, 70 kilometres south from the city centre, which might be operational by 2021 to replace the already overcrowded Adisucipto International Airport. The new airport - expected to serve up to 15 million passengers annually – will be directly connected to the city via toll road and dedicated railway line. To readily receive higher number of travellers over the next few years, Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel has set up the largest pillarless ballroom in the province totalling 1,870 metres squared. Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel Director of Sales
and Marketing Mr Denny Ristyanto shares that the hotel’s capability in handling large number of travellers and groups coming in for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) is in tandem with Indonesian government’s plan to further position Yogyakarta as one of the country’s ten leading destinations for MICE. The mentioned ballroom – including eight meeting rooms and several pre-function areas for guests to host business rendezvous or intimate functions – enables the hotel to further tap into Yogyakarta’s growing MICE market. Topping it all off is the hotel’s premium Wi-Fi service that guests can rely on to continuously remain connected.
Having said that, it is believed that the increasing investments flowing into Yogyakarta would not adversely affect the destination’s splendorous Javanese court culture, traditions and history, which are all strong factors that lure travellers to Yogyakarta in the first place. As a matter of fact, its is even viewed that these investments would spur further efforts towards conserving local culture and heritage because those factors boost tourism, resulting in more employment opportunities for the locals, particularly the grassroots. “Despite its economic progress, Yogyakarta manages to preserve its heritage and culture, (the people) remaining true to themselves and their identity,” explains Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel General Manager Mr Alain Rigodin. “We see all this boom because modern Yogyakarta now has come of age in terms of tourism,” he adds. Tip: Due to Yogyakarta’s increasing popularity as a tourism destination, travellers need to take note that Yogyakarta is busy during weekends, including public and school holidays. It would be wise for vacationers to visit Yogyakarta outside of those periods to avoid the crowd.
As one begins to study the hotel’s architectural attributes, it can be said that Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel is one sensuous property that is brilliantly streamlined. It is designed to purposely remove any form of barrier or friction, yet remain respectful towards guests’ need for personal space. I pleasantly find the hotel’s public spaces and rooms to be clutter-free,
fuss-free, free-flowing, bright, airy, Zen-like and downright efficient. The hotel’s spacious public spaces hold several nooks that let guests nestle themselves in. These spaces are also graced by the presence of steel lattice panels that are embellished with patterns alluding to the much-loved Kawung batik design motifs, giving the hotel a sense of place because Yogyakarta is reputed for its distinct batik design and remarkable workmanship. Guests should have fun trying to locate those motifs that discreetly appear throughout the hotel. Such motifs highlight Yogyakarta’s essence, beckoning guests to learn more about the local culture and heritage while at the same time embracing the destination’s relaxed pace of life. Rooms The rooms at Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel employ the ‘Marriott Modern’ style, which balances utility with refinement. With the hotel’s smallest rooms being at least 40 metres squared, Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel might arguably be offering the largest lead-in category rooms in the city. Each of these rooms also receives ample natural light due to the expansive floor-to-ceiling window. International travellers will surely be relieved to know that each room has several multi-standard socket plug points placed at different corners of the room for simultaneous charging of their mobile devices. The furnishings in the guestrooms are well curated and durable for long-lasting maintenance, especially the marble-cladded bathroom wall and flooring. The over-sized bathroom have sliding doors that run perpendicularly on both sides that meet at a corner when closed, allowing guests to easily expose or conceal the bathroom area as much as they want. When guests decide to entirely reveal the bathroom by fully opening the sliding doors, the room is transformed into a more spacious and sexier space. To me, the main highlight of the guestroom is the gloriously sumptuous bed covered in fine linens that offer restful slumber; it is so comfortable that guests might find it difficult to peel themselves away from their beds during their stay. Each room that possesses a king-sized bed also comes with an extra-long daybed – which the hotel humbly calls ‘sofa bed’ – that runs along the width of the room’s floor-to-ceiling window,. The presence of these ‘sofa beds’ represents a strong invitation by Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel for their guests to wind down and kick their feet up, especially workaholic travellers who are bent in trying to be productive at all times. Turndown service is provided to each room every evening, making the stay more personalised, especially when the housekeeping personnel leaves behind two pieces of bitesized chocolates at the bedside table for guests to relish. Guests who prefer to access the smart M Club Lounge during their stay would only need to pay an additional fee of around IDR 400,000. Indeed, the rooms at Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel promise guests a luxuriously memorable yet
affordable staycation. Dining I honestly didn’t realise that the hotel was running on high occupancy until I came down for breakfast at Yogyakarta Kitchen, the hotel’s vibrant all-day dining outlet that sets up an impressive buffet spread prepared with verve by chefs at the appointed live cooking stations and served by cheerful personnel. While having breakfast, guests should order the hearty and oh-so-comforting steak and eggs on skillet, which is the outlet’s signature. I was informed that this dish is only available in Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel and can never be found in any other Marriott property elsewhere. Guests could also request for their breakfast eggs to be prepared in various ways – being an eggs benedict fan, I never fail to order at least two of them at one go. Besides breakfast, Yogyakarta Kitchen’s menu ranges from local to Western-inspired fare. Health-conscious guests may opt for the wholesome pan-seared sea bass, while foodies will surely love the restaurant’s grilled red snapper that accompanies the customary plate of rice and vegetables, regarded as a popular local staple. Yogyakarta Kitchen also offers buffet dinner on daily basis at IDR 140,000++ per person during weekdays and IDR 190,000++ per person during weekends, which is definitely value-for-money. Guests who prefer to elevate their dining experience should make reservations to have dinner at the chic yet casual Taman Sari Bar & Grill restaurant to savour Mediterranean and fusion ala carte menu, particularly prime grilled meat, while taking in the calming view of the shimmering swimming pool in the evening. For the pleasure of imbibing, guests can head to The Lounge, a space that sports a sleek, tony look, located at the lobby just next to the reception. This space is ideal for meetings and discussions because guests can comfortably laze on ergonomically designed chairs with high oversized backs that are great to sit on for hours on end. The Lounge at the lobby is open from 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. daily, serving innovative mocktails and cocktails. Facilities Guests who love taking a dip should head to the hotel’s swimming pool situated on Level 2. From afar, the open-air swimming pool does take in the shape of a long sweeping span, but it actually consists of four different swimming pools all connected to each other but differentiated according to depth. For those who prefer to keep fit while remaining dry can head to the hotel’s fitness centre, also on Level 2, which boasts new equipment. Once guests have enough of swimming or working out, they could then head to Quan Spa, which is a straight-forward, unadulterated, purposeful and therapeutic space that houses four treatment rooms and six female therapists.
Guests are recommended to try the 60-minute Traditional Javanese massage using jasmine-based oils, characterised by long strokes and deep pressure that penetrate deep into the muscles, bones and nerves. The massage can then be followed by a scrub using jasmine-based mousse-like compound that absorbs fast into the skin to efficaciously remove impurities. For a more elaborate Javanese spa immersion, guests may also opt for the 90-minute package called Javanese Herbal Massage that utilises heat, herbs, aromatic scent and massage to reduce muscular tensions. Shiatsu and foot reflexology are also available at Quan Spa. Conclusion After staying at the property for three nights, I realised that Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel is fast becoming popular not only due to it being the ‘newest kid on the block’ with stateof-the-art mod cons, but also due to the hotel’s delightful gastronomic options, including the staff ’s exceptional attentiveness and desire to meet guests’ expectations as much as possible. Based on those reasons, Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel is set to become a prominent institution that helps to propel Yogyakarta into becoming a world class tourism destination, especially when it comes to MICE. To see more of Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel experience on Instagram, visit @marriottyogyakarta, @marriotthotels, #marriottyogyakarta, #marriotthotels, #travelbrilliantly www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/jogmc-yogyakarta-marriott-hotel/
Philea Resort & Spa, Ayer Keroh, Melaka Philea Resort & Spa is located in fast developing Ayer Keroh, Melaka, spanning over 15 acres of beautiful landscape. It offers guests a deluxe natural setting complemented by a rustic architecture with stylish features. This five-star resort conscientiously uses materials sourced from Malaysia, including 8,000 pieces of disused railway sleepers for fencing and staircases, over 6,000 tonnes of marble from Perak as block fencing, and shipwreck items that have been salvaged and converted into lobby furniture. Philea specifically cultivates more than 3,000 trees within the resort to conserve and restore the environment, besides constructing a man-made waterfall for a more refreshing touch. With such care being put into the development the resort, Philea Resort & Spa is now considered as a destination in its own right. Philea Resort & Spa offers three varieties of rooms to suit different tastes: Pavilion Rooms with individual veranda for those at the lower floor, and private balcony with tranquil view of the resort’s landscaped gardens for the rooms on the upper floor; Philea Suites featuring spacious built-up area complete with exquisite bathtub and located in the middle of the valley, offering spectacular views of the landscaped pool and waterfall; and the Royal Villas, which provide royal treatment to those who stay there such as in-villa arrival and departure assistance, entertainment, wellness experience, plunge pool and option to dine in privacy at the villa. Totalling 201 rooms, 180 of them are Pavilion Rooms, while the other 19 units are Philea Suites and another two units are Royal Villas. Each accommodation block is made from pine logs specifically designed to resemble a stunning village that earned it the title as the ‘First Log Resort’ and the ‘Largest Log Resort’ by the Malaysia Book of Records. The rooms comes with luxurious bedding to provide a good night’s sleep, including amenities like flat-screen LCD television set, complimentary tea- and coffee- making facilities, wireless Internet access, in-house movie channels and in-room safe. With a wide range of cuisines offered by the resort’s food and beverage outlets such as Cravo Cravo, Bayu Cabana, ChilOut Bar and Tropics Lounge, guests are spoilt for choice. Cravo Cravo is the premier restaurant in the resort located on the lobby level where one can enjoy the fantastic range of continental and Asian fare in a contemporary and relaxed atmosphere. Located at the scenic riverfront in a casual outdoor setting, Bayu Cabana is the place to sip your favourite cocktail while lazing by the pool; and Tropics Lounge opens up to a vibrant and inviting space that serves a wide range of liquor, coffee specialties, scrumptious snacks and variety of alternative in-house cocktails. Last but not least, guests can head to a lively meeting place in the heart of the resort, the ChillOut Bar, which offers an exclusive selection and colourful cocktails, wide range of wines, liquor and other tempting refreshments. Offering comprehensive meeting facilities amidst soothing greenery, Philea Resort & Spa ensures all meetings and events are memorable. Guests are welcome to utilise the resort’s pillar-less Ballroom that can accommodate up to 600 people, expansive outdoor terrace, team-building course, or any of the resort’s well-appointed meeting rooms that cater to a variety of occasions, all within a marvellous natural setting. The resort’s dedicated team of event planners are able to anticipate guests’ needs and ensure that functions are run smoothly. In terms of recreational facilities, Philea Resort & Spa offers outdoor landscaped swimming pool, spa, gym, game room, and children’s room. There are also three beautiful golf courses within minutes from the resort. For more information, refer to www.phileahotel.com.my/melaka/
Hotels & Resorts
Ritz-Carlton K u a l a L u m p u r The
Pe r s o n a l i s a t i o n Timeless Elegance Te x t b y J U H A N KA M A R U D D I N I m a g e s b y T H E R I T Z C A R LT O N K U A L A L U M P U R & J U H A N K A M A R U D D I N
My first encounter with The Ritz-Carlton brand was way back in 1997 when I attended a class on service marketing as part of my degree programme. Even in those days, The RitzCarlton has already become a household name and one of the most often quoted textbook examples of exceptional customer service. As if by coincidence, The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur also opened in 1997, albeit on 1 December, with much fanfare as it was then hailed as Malaysia’s first truly boutique hotel. Inconspicuously linked to the bedazzlingly high class Starhill Gallery, The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur is strategically located in Bukit Bintang, granting guests convenient access to Malaysia’s foremost shopping hub where they can easily explore on foot. In 2015, this landmark property underwent complete refurbishment by New York-based studio Alexandra Champalimaud and her team of designers. The hotel was then relaunched on 31 March 2016. Elegant and timeless The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur is designed to impress from the start. It embodies the contemporary interpretation of a time-honoured panache - tastefully suave classic look made current - yet remain subtle, understated, and cosy. The interior has a palpable sense of luxury that you could almost sink your teeth into it. Guests are bound to notice that uncompromising quality and attention to detail underpin every aspect of the relaunched design, from furnishing and fabrics, clever lighting, richly detailed screens, luxurious marble to stylish accessories, rendering the hotel’s interior welcoming, plush, and relaxing.
The Ritz-Carlton’s legendary brand ethos upheld by each employee – which begins with ‘We, the ladies and gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton serving ladies and gentlemen’ – signifies strong deference not only towards their guests but also their fellow working colleagues, resulting in an innovative and empowered culture that hinges upon constant dedication towards delighting guests and fostering mutual respect. The brand gives the impression that the ladies and gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton are not only poised to meet the needs of guests who are discerning, but also those who are whimsically demanding. No wonder The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur is recognised as one of the ‘Top Five Butler Hotels in the World’ by The Independent and one of ‘The Greatest Hotels in the World’ by Travel + Leisure. It is also on the prestigious ‘Gold List’ in Condé Nast Traveler. Based on Gaya Travel Magazine’s observation, The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur is one intimate establishment meant for those who enjoy developing positive relationships with the hotel’s efficient, professional and dedicated personnel who take pride in their work and implement world class service standards amidst sumptuous setting. It also seems to be the hotel of choice among guests who value things that are proven, tried and tested; it is the place where they are guaranteed to be well taken care of, which happens to be The Ritz-Carlton’s raison d’être. “Having a good stay is one thing, but having a memorable stay is something else,” claims Niranjni Jayabalan, who is The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur’s Manager of Marketing and Communications. She adds that the hotel has a dedicated Guest Recognition team that is responsible in profiling the needs and wants of its guests because the hotel strives to ensure that guests have memorable stay that make them want to return – and they do. Due to the more personalised service, guests consequently feel extra special. As such, new and returning guests of The Ritz-Carlton,
Kuala Lumpur have come to expect an exemplary level of service that sets new benchmark in the hospitality industry. When staying at The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur, besides customary housekeeping and turndown service, guests can also expect butler service that is available around-the-clock. From unpacking and packing, shoeshine and car transfers, to organising the perfect itinerary for shopping, dining and entertainment, these highly trained butlers add an integral edge to guests’ stay, making it as memorable as possible. Exceptional dining experience Guests should start their day by having breakfast at The Cobalt Room, an expansive space bathed in natural sunlight streaming in from large windows. This restaurant showcases local and international flavours, with diverse food stations offering cooked-to-order preparations from fresh ingredients catering to each guest’s palate. For dinner, guests are recommended to tuck in the expertly crafted fourcourse ‘Menu Du Jour’ at The Library, an utterly handsome, tony and exclusive space with charming ambience, excellent for exquisite dining together with family, friends or business colleagues and counterparts. During my stay, I selected the divine 24-hour braised beef cheek as the main dish, which has an ultra meltin-your-mouth tenderness that wakes me up at night thinking about it up to this day. The other choice of the main dish, which is seared rare tuna with tomato fondue and spaghetti vegetables, is a tantalising explosion of compatible flavours comprising the taste of the sea matched with fulfilling earthy greens. The Library is also the place to head to on late Sunday morning until afternoon for the mouth-watering Sunday Roast brunch spread that includes signature roasts on trolleys, decadent desserts and free flow of premium alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Guests should also never give The Ritz-Carlton’s beloved Afternoon Tea – served at the refined Lobby Lounge – a miss. The Lobby Lounge speaks of
conversations and pure enjoyment with friends and families alongside business meetings through carefully crafted coffees and teas with light fare. A choice of 40 delightful teas from Ronnefeldt accompanies the delectable tea-time delicacies. The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur Blend is exclusively crafted for the hotel, made from a delicately refreshing green Oolong Tie Guan Yin, a tea served to royalty since the Tang dynasty. This unique blend has a subtle flavour, and effectively captures the essence of Eastern and Western tea drinking traditions. Live music enhances the ambience while guests partake of the time-honoured Afternoon Tea ritual. For lighter meals, The Patisserie serves up the offerings and mood of an intimate Viennese patisserie with a modern twist. Guests can relax to soothing afternoon melodies while sampling a perfect assortment of delicious desserts, sweets and light gourmet fare, savoured with a choice of specialty coffees or freshly brewed teas. In short, even the hotel’s food and beverage offerings prove memorable, not just its service. Multiple award-winning world class spa Besides enjoying The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur’s culinary offerings, guests should also pay a visit to the hotel’s Spa Village, which draws upon a rich heritage of ancient remedies, and features modern facilities complemented by steam rooms, outdoor baths and a beautifully landscaped swimming pool. One treatment that is recommended for guests to indulge is ‘Campur-campur’, which is an immersive, rejuvenating and pampering spa journey that transports guests to a realm that holistically soothes their body, mind and soul. During the two-hour treatment session, the masseuse meticulously works on the knots on my back and shoulders using the combination of Thai and Malay techniques, loosening the tensed muscles and promote unfettered blood circulation. Besides deploying invigorating long strokes that relaxes and tones the mus-
cles, the masseuse also methodically rubs soothing heated herbal pouches onto my body, efficaciously applying sensational relief and making it the highlight of my ‘Campur-campur’ experience. Conclusion My stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur might just be one of the most personalised that I have ever encountered. From the round-the-clock butler service and professional staff who are eager to go beyond expectations to make guests stay memorable; to interiors that are efficient, homely, sumptuous and exclusive yet neither pretentious nor over-the-top, including classy dining options; The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur is indeed a bolthole that is legendary, timeless, strategically located and smart all rolled into one. Trust me: you will never go wrong whenever you are ‘putting on the Ritz’, especially The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur... www.ritzcarlton.com
Hotels & Resorts
Singapore: A Temple of Design and Practicality Te x t b y S H A H I DA S A KERI | I m a g e s b y A N DA Z S I N G A P O RE
In an increasingly crowded hospitality market with more and more hip hotels that have popped up in Singapore recently, Andaz Singapore sets itself apart by creating ‘inspiring, indigenous experiences that immerse guests in the local culture’. Now that’s a big promise, but certainly not empty words as I discovered during my brief stay at this highly anticipated boutique property managed by Hyatt Hotels Corporation. The hotel nestles within one of the iconic DUO skyscrapers high above the teeming streets, offering rarefied spaces with cosy, residential quality and refined sense of locale, highly influenced by Singaporean flair. Upon arrival at its lobby on the 25th floor, I immediately fell in love at the first sight of the hotel’s interiors by Hong Kong-based designer André Fu of AFSO, who also gave his ingenious highly acclaimed touch on the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul and The Upper House in Hong Kong. His thoughtful style – combined with a dash of whimsicality yet restraint – works like magic onto the light-filled and understated spaces within Andaz Singapore. The communal space on level 25 that combines the lobby, lounge and bar is welcoming; rather than feeling like checking into a hotel, guest might instead feel like they are putting up at a rich friend’s chic penthouse. The hotel’s members of staff, who are youthful and multinational, are well-dressed in stylish uniforms created by a local label In Good Company. They prove friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. There is also a real sense that guests’ needs are given top priority here. When I checked out the guestrooms, I notice that they follow a muted, brown-and-white colour palette, with furnishings crafted out of natural materials. Brass fixtures and bright leather elements
add a touch of subtle luxury. I stayed in a King View room that allowed me to wake up to striking views of the city through a widescreen window. The bed is firm, which helped my aching back, but my favourite part of the room is definitely the wellstocked minibar that comes with complimentary non-alcoholic drinks and snacks. Mind you, not only the guests of those who stay at the same category as my room get to enjoy the complimentary minibar – this feature, including free strong Wi-Fi and access to the chic Sunroom, is extended to guests of all rooms! Other convenient amenities include well-positioned power outlets, a Nespresso coffee machine, Bose Bluetooth speakers, ironing facility and specially-created toiletries (Singapore Fusion #19) by French perfumer, Christophe Laudamiel. And as with many hotels, the rooms in Andaz Singapore come with a guide, The Andaz Times, which is complete with things to see and do in the area. When it comes to dining options, guests can be rest assured that they will be having plenty of options. Alley on 25 consists of seven individual shophouse-inspired venues — one bar, one lounge and five restaurants – that the hotel uses as opportunity to showcase its creative edge. I particularly love the clever layout of Alley on 25 that is designed almost like an extension of the neighbourhood rather than just giving guests the cookie cutter atmosphere.
Every morning, guests may choose to have breakfast at either The Green Oven, Icehaus or Auntie’s Wok & Steam. The Green Oven offers classics such as eggs en cocotte or threeegg omelette that are served with Tiong Bahru Bakery’s signature sourdough toast. Icehaus, on the other hand, presents light fixes such as cold-pressed juices, fresh fruits and cereals, including the Andaz Pop which is a special collaboration with Neh Neh Pop that is owned by local celebrity Chef Bjorn Shen. Conversely, Auntie’s Wok & Steam serves up steaming Asian specialties with Szechuan influences. For dinner, I tried out The Green Oven again, which practices market-to-table philosophy using fresh, high-quality ingredients that are locally or regionally sourced. Its spring chicken is light, flavourful, and functions as an ideal go-to meal for those who need to watch their weight. But for those who gravitate towards sinful comfort food like me, do try the outlet’s lobster mac and cheese, which is just heavenly genius! Combining the richness of the big lobster chunks and the creaminess of the cheese in one single bite, diners are bound to feel like they are being shot straight to heaven! Then to push the sin a notch further, diners should top it off with the decadent and fulfilling house-baked brownie and ice cream. Smoke & Pepper is the largest dining destination at Alley on 25 that specialises in Asian-inspired barbecue specialities while Plancha’Lah! offers five-course dinner sets, including a vegetarian set menu prepared and served via dramatic culinary theatre from an open hotplate (plancha). On top of these, all in-house guests can also enjoy the all-day complimentary refreshments at Sunroom, plus access to the Andaz Lounge Hour from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. that serves complimentary wines and the signature Andaz Pale Ale. But
should guests prefer to venture out, take a short walk to any of the eateries located within a stone’s throw of the hotel such as the popular Singapore Zam Zam and Victory restaurants, both renowned for their beef and chicken murtabak (pan-fried bread filled with meat) and hearty biryani dishes. When exploring the area, guests could simply enjoy the tourism attractions that can be reached just by walking such as Singapore’s largest mosque called Masjid Sultan and the hipster shops along Haji Lane and Arab Street all the way to Bugis Junction. If guests want to venture further, the DUO building is directly connected to Bugis MRT station via underground pedestrian walkways, providing easy access to all corners of the city. After a long day of shopping, sightseeing or working, guests can decompress at Mr. Stork on level 39, a veritable green oasis boasting ten tepee huts and dramatic views, located above the urban jungle. Those who prefer to remain active can head to the 24-hour fitness centre and outdoor pool, both located on level 38 and 25 respectively, for guests to use at their convenience. In conclusion, I definitely love Andaz Singapore with its unrivalled conveniences, which resonates well among travellers, especially millennials who would not only value the hotel for its function but also for its refined aesthetics. Its strategic location also makes the hotel an ideal base to explore the city centre’s best offerings. singapore.andaz.hyatt.com
Kerol in his own words .... Call me Kerol. I make Musotrees Magazine, a bi-annual publication based in Kuala Lumpur; four issues have been published with different themes. I travel (whenever I can, when the time and money permit), take photos (using only mobile phone) and jot stories from around the world in my notebook. For the past year, I don’t really make travel plans. I could fly tomorrow, if I feel like it. Risky, but exciting. I don’t usually make long term plans, or even itinerary. I love getting lost in the new city because it invigorates my senses - very inspirational I must say. I love to learn foreign languages, and English accents. I think it is amazing how English can be spoken with in various accents from around the world. I also love typography, and calligraphy.Visually, I think every city has its own signature fonts. It could be big, without sans, italic, thin or bold and some of them come with umlaut. Music plays an important role in my travels. It is a must for me to create a Spotify playlist to represent that particular place/city. Each time I listen to it again, it reminds me of where I was when the song is played. I have never been to Africa, but hope to do it soon. Everyone can follow my journeys through the hashtag #kerolrtw on Instagram @kerolizwan.
Te x t & I m a g e s b y KERO L I Z UA N
Kerol on Travels . My favourite destination(s): Berlin & Copenhagen . My dream destination(s): Muscat & Svalbard . My must-have(s) in the carry-on: Notebook, book to read, chapstick, toothbrush . My worst nightmare during travel: Being denied to be on board (either I’m late or extra luggage) . My favourite Malaysian spot(s): #kerolhome #musotreesHQ . My best meal taken in Malaysia: Ayam Penyet (Wong Solo) & occasionally Nasi Kerabu . Malaysia is special because… Having powerful passport with visa free facility to over 100 countries . Solo or group travel? Solo . Aisle or window seat? Window seat for red-eye and aisle seat for day travel . See it all or take it easy? Take it easy. I LOVE getting lost . I travel for…People & knowledge
w w w. m u s o t r e e s . c o m
Kerol in 30 seconds . Night owl or early-riser? Definitely early riser . Back to nature or city slicker? Both in moderation . One book everyone should read? I can’t say. But i’m currently on a last chapter of “Unaccustomed Earth” by Jhumpa Lahiri . What is the last thing you Googled? When is Changi Terminal 4 Opened? (because I was currently in Singapore and about to board from Changi T4 for the first time) . What’s on your playlist right now? Sufjan Stevens, Fink & Roo Panes . What is the moment you’re most proud? To collaborate with VSCO and meet the team in San Francisco for Musotrees Magazine . What’s your biggest pet peeve? Having to empty my water tumbler at the security check point . Whose brain would you like to have had? Nope. I stick with mine . Life is too short to...Worry about tomorrow
FOLLOW THESE THREE SIMPLE STEPS TO WIN EXCLUSIVE VACATION! 1. Choose either one of the two hotels you wish to win and answer all questions correctly. 2. Don’t forget to complete your personal details such as name, identification number (MyKad/Passport), mailing address and phone number. 3. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bukit Gambang Resort City bgrc.com.my
1. What are the name of theme parks inside Bukit Gambang Resort City 2. State the three different resorts available inside Bukit Gambang Resort City. 3. What animals can you see right outside of the glass panels if you dine at the restaurant in Safari Park? 4. I love to stay at Bukit Gambang Resort City because…
Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel
www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/kulrn-renaissancekuala-lumpur-hotel 1. 2. 3. 4.
What is Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel’s star rating? What is the hotel’s all-day dining outlet called? What is the name of the hotel’s spa? I love to stay at the Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel because…
TERMS & CONDITIONS | The reader can only e-mail the answers regarding the hotel of choice in the quiz within the particular issue only once. Competition is open to all readers who are 18 years old and above. The prize is not transferable and can not be exchanged with cash. Judges’ decision is final. The best entrant with the best answer will be deemed winner. Closing date of the competition is 29th June 2018.