Cyberjaya isn’t the Destination to Die For when it comes to vacations. But I was sold on Cyberview Resort & Spa when I saw gorgeous photos of their gardens and swimming pools. I was also won over by the fact that it’ll only take me a half an hour drive to get there.Read More
So last month, I took four days off to have a much longed-for vacation in an award-winning resort: Avilion Port Dickson. More specifically, I had a reading vacation - yes, a holiday where my goal was to read in beautiful surroundings. (And eat, and exercise too, of course.)
At fist, I wondered what the hell was I doing, parting with nearly RM800 for a 2N3D vacation, but my concern morphed into delight when I stepped into the resort's grounds. For one, it's absolutely gorgeous! Two: The front desk gave me a free upgrade to a fancier, and arguably, the best chalet type of the resort: The Premium Water chalet! (You'll find out why it's amazing below.)
Avilion Port Dickson is just stunning. Beautiful. My camera just cannot capture how beautiful the grounds are.
Photo 1: I love the garden chalets. You may think that since they don't have sea views they aren't worth it, but the chalets are surrounded by gorgeous greenery and is supposedly bigger than the water chalets.
Photo 2: There are lookout sitting areas around the chalets, so if your chalet doesn't have seaviews, you can still indulge.
Photo 3: A petting zoo - I found out that the peacocks have a habit of perching high above, looking down at us imperiously. Also, the roosters and chickens tend to fly the coop and wander happily around the resort compound.
Photo 4: If only I could live in a place this beautiful!
Welcome to the Premium Water chalet! The best thing about the chalet is the fantastic view from the patio - an unhindered view of the sea! On my first night there, there was a heavy wind and rain and it was absolutely awesome to listen to the sea roar. On my second night, I ordered room service and ate on the patio - how I ate by the beach! Only, I literally ate above the sea. I spent sunset throwing longan seeds into the ocean. Bliss!
Needless to say, with a room this gorgeous, I never wanted to leave it.
Photo 1: The room has an all encompassing view of the sea.
Photo 2: The open-air bathroom is a delight, and it rained when I was there and I thought it was so nice to have a shower from nature and a pipe at the same time!
Photo 3: Seriously, this King sized bed was super comfy.
Photo 4: My favourite spot in my chalet. I spent many hours reading books on his daybed. I opened the windows and let the cool sea air in (it was raining). Gosh, must I leave?
I loved almost everything about the resort. Sure, the furniture seemed a wee dated, and the buffet spread simple compared to KL hotel buffet standards, but I still had an awesome time. I, unfortunately, didn't indulge in spa time (the prices!), but I hear it's awesome.
Would I return? You bet. I count myself really blessed to have experienced Avilion, even if it's just for a few days.
I've heard so much about Sekeping Kong Heng, a "hotel" designed by the architect Seksan. So, when I decided to have a short vacation in Ipoh last week, I made a point to book a room for myself there.
Located in Ipoh old town, Sekeping Kong Heng is a unique, one-of-a-kind lodging that you've got to experience at least once. It's made from of the bones of an old building, and Seksan has done it so well and so carefully that it's no wonder it's one of the most photographed buildings in Ipoh. Just look at the photos below (clicking on them will bring up a bigger picture.)
Personally, I don't think Sekeping Kong Heng is a hotel per se, and those going there expecting it to be so would be disappointed. You'd have an easier time of it if you think of it as a high-end, avant garde guest house.
I decided to book the Annex C5 room, the smallest and cheapest at RM80. The room, however, doesn't come with its own bathroom, which I'm fine with. I've backpacked a lot and do not need much beyond a good bed, and frankly RM80 for a private little room is luxury!
I took a 2.5-hour train ride from KL Sentral to Ipoh. And from the train station, it was a short 900m walk to Sekeping Kong Heng. It can be a challenge to find the place, but I was well prepared, having read oodles of blog posts about it.
First, find the iconic Kong Heng restaurant:
Then, walk in the lane between Kong Keng restaurant and Plan B, which is next to it. After the black gate, there's the reception on your left. It's literally a hole in the wall.
The man there took my bag up for me to the Kong Heng Annex, which is not in the same building as the other rooms. I rather like the Annex as it's not right next to Plan B - for reasons I will make clear below. Anyhow, we got to my room.
My room is the cutest thing ever! i loved it for its simplicity and minimalism. The bathroom was a walk away, past the pool. All in all, I do love the serenity of the surroundings.
Still, there are pros and cons about staying at Sekeping Kong Heng. In fact, its website makes it clear that the place isn't for everyone.
The industrial chic design is beautiful, and there's much to admire in the careful reuse of old materials and the careful preservation of the old building.
It's walking distance to Ipoh old town's famous eateries.
Walking distance to the train station.
If you stay in the Annex, you'd be right next to the pool, though I'm not sure if it's a swimming pool or a decorative pool. Still, a nice place to relax. I didn't get to, however, cos the first two days I was there, construction workers were sitting there. ;(
Dear Lord in Heaven, it was NOISY. Plan B plays muzak from morning till midnight. I have no idea how the guests in the Family Room sleep because not only are there no walls in the room (just grilles), there's a speaker blaring loud music right outside their room. Fortunately, my room is possibly the quietest room in the Annex. One of its walls is solid brick and the room next door had been converted into a pantry. And I suspect I was the only one living in the Annex during those days as I didn't see anyone else. At night, the music was a tinny whine.
Not for children or the elderly as there are far too many opportunities for people to fall, trip etc. For one, I was really nervous walking on the grates that was the floor around the swimming pool, and there were no waist-high barriers between the second floor and the ground floor around the swimming pool.
Inconvenient security system: I had to struggle with the sticky lock to get in and out of the annex. And I had to do it while perched on narrow stairs. Not exactly the safest thing.
Not very disabled-friendly; no elevators if you need to take bags up to your room, and with the stairs being the way they are, they are a trip hazard.
It was a unique experience, however, staying there for two days, and I did enjoy my room a lot. But the noise made it tough to sleep and I wasn't exactly restful there, alas. If, however, you sleep like a log and would like to experience something novel and unique, Sekeping Kong Heng is for you. Just take note of the pros and cons :)
I love Airbnb. It gives me an affordable way to go on writing retreats every month without burning a hole in my pocket. And it is also super convenient to spend a vacation in an apartment with a kitchen and washing machine at hand.
What I didn't realise was that some folks hate Airbnb.
The lovely red sign you see above is what greeted my friends and I when we "checked in" to our Airbnb unit in Penang recently.
The guy who rented us the place explained that just a few months ago, the management committee decided to ban AirBnb guests from using the gym and very gorgeous swimming pool.
Our spirits fell when we were told that we weren't allowed to use the pool. A huge bummer because that's why I booked this apartment. I didn't read the fine print that the owner had put into his ad that the pool was not available. My bad.
To ensure absolute compliance, the management actually grilled up the pool area. One would have to swipe security cards just to enter the area.
He had to give his apartment number to the management, and was summarily banned. Even if he tried to sneak in, the security guards at the pool area (yes, you read that right) would stop him because his apartment has been blacklisted.
"It isn't fair," he said. "After all, I pay for management fees too. Why should I and my guests be banned from using facilities that we paid for?"
The whole place felt like a detention centre, not a swanky condo, and the screaming red signs placed around the lobby made us feel like fugitives. Each time we walked past one of those posters, we felt like we were wearing a scarlet letter A!
My friends, possibly unused to the unpredictability and hiccups of travel, did not know how to react to the red-hot "unwelcome". They believe that as it was bad form and bad for Malaysian tourism.
Well, I think Malaysian tourism will be doing fine as there are many Airbnb units that are far more welcoming. I also don't think the apartment committee is responsible for good Malaysian tourism neither should they be, because this is their home after all.
Yes, believe it or not, I am sympathetic to the management of this condo.
AirBnb like Uber is disrupting the way of life as it is. Hoteliers complain that AirBnbers get to avoid hotel tax and that their burgeoning presence is eating into their profits.
I suppose most of us would shrug and say, "Well, too bad. You're a business so you should adapt to new threats to your business."
But what happens if you own a unit next to an Airbnb unit and you sometimes get guests that walk around naked, get drunk or play loud death metal music until the wee hours of the morning, waking up your baby which you took hours to rock to sleep and thus, sacrificing not just your little darling's sleep but yours as well?
You get the picture. (Read Airbnb Hell just to see how bad it could get!)
So I can understand this condo management's desperation and fury, and who knows what horror stories they had to endure before taking this drastic step, but I still don't agree with how they went about doing it.
The loud red signs create a bad vibe for not just Airbnb guests but also residents. Imagine coming from a hard day's work to see the furious, red poster spewing such negativity?
Also, the policy creates resentment because apartment owners are being separated into two camps and one is being treated like pariahs.
And our apartment owner had a point: Why should he be barred using the facilities that he paid for?
I think, in the end, it would be inevitable that some kind of tension would brew between these two factions.
Wow, talk about a bad situation!
As far as I can see, there isn't really an easy solution to this. Apartment owners do have the right to rent out their properties for as long (or short) as they want, and people who live in condos have the right to a peaceful place to live.
It makes me wonder: Will Airbnb go the way of Napster?
I love staycations. My friends find it weird that I'd check into a hotel at least once a month ... in the same city. But by staying somewhere new every month, not only does it feed that wanderlust beast in me, it feels like a relaxing day at the spa!
But hotel prices have been astronomical lately, and I've been getting more and more curious about the Internet phenom that is AirBnB. Since it was my first time, I made sure I booked with a host that has gotten a few good reviews. Here's the studio unit in Petaling Jaya I got in April:
So, this is what happens after you book your AirBnB unit (you have to pay up front): Your host would usually contact you - at least Vanessa did, and very promptly. In that email she detailed how I was to get the key. And we discussed, also via email, what time I was to "check in".
On the day: Finding Vanessa's unit was a little challenging, and on top of that I was desperately late because a lorry overturned on the highway. Luckily, the host was willing to wait an extra two hours for me. I fell in love with the apartment immediately. It was in a cosy green corner of Damansara Perdana and very near the shops. I could picture myself living here.
I've always been fascinated with living in a studio, so Vanessa's studio in Damansara Perdana scratched that itch.
Yup, I loved it! The minimalist in me really loved the simplicity and cosiness of studio living. The only thing stopping me for making studio living a permanent arrangement, however, is that the kitchen is often in the same room. That's a thing with me. I can't bear the thought of smelling bacon on my sheets - so perhaps a one-room apartment is better for me.
But I digress. Here's the best part about Vanessa's studio:
Watching TV with a glass of cold lemonade with that gorgeous view? Man!
I wasn't lucky enough to buy an apartment with a killer view, but now a view like this is just an AirBnB reservation away. Who needs mortgages anyway?
So my first experience was a great one! I've already booked my second.
How about you? What's your experience with AirBnb?