Friday, 30 November 2012

Four Points By Sheraton, a New Destination in Sandakan, Malaysia

Four Points By Sheraton, Sandakan, Sabah
by Kristin Cosgrove

Situated on the Eastern tip of Malaysian Borneo, Sandakan is quickly gaining a reputation for being the gateway to Borneo’s abundant wildlife.  While its neighbor to the west, Kota Kinabalu, may have more notoriety, Sandakan’s tourism board is hard at work raising awareness of the city’s nearby gems, among them historical landmarks, the orangutan and sun bear sanctuaries and the spectacular rainforest experience.  (See my upcoming post on Things To See Around Sandakan.)  

Needless to say, when the opportunity came for me to venture to Borneo, I was thrilled.  But as much as I fancy myself the outdoor, backpacking type, in actuality I find great comfort in knowing that after a long day of adventure-seeking, I can retire to a nice hotel room where the wi-fi is fast, the water is hot, the food is good, and I can find some fun without going far. In that order.  Especially when traveling with my kids! 

Rooms and outside view, Four Points by Sheraton, Sandakan, Malaysia
Homey but upscale, Four Points by Sheraton is all about simple comforts
Four Points by Sheraton provided all this and then some, a great place to recoup and unwind after a long, hot day in the jungle.  It is the only international hotel brand in the city, elevating the hospitality industry in Sandakan, both metaphorically and literally - the hotel stands as the tallest building in the city at 27 floors.

Upon check-in, I find the hotel immediately warm and welcoming, its small lobbies and friendly service hospitable and comforting.
Comfortable lobbies make for nice places to relax and hang out with friends
The dusty blue carpet with white accents and brown waves mimics the sea that lies just outside and the purple and orange chairs give the lobby lounge a playful punch. If we weren’t in the tropics, a fireplace would fit in perfectly with the coziness.  I feel right at home. 

Four Points in Sandakan is comprised of 300 rooms, most of them with a gorgeous view of the Sulu Sea and nearby islands. The large picture window in the bathroom room really opens up the space and though I was afraid I might be seen, I liked the idea that I could even shower with a spectacular sea view!

The rooms contain all the amenities one would expect in a four star hotel, plush bathrobes, a good iron, plus a really nice hair dryer. I only mention the hair dryer because it’s a pet peeve of mine when hotels only provide the cheap and flimsy hair dryers mounted on the walls. I mean, why bother? Those things take forever! But I digress… It also has really fast wi-fi with a no-fuss log in. Just click and surf!

Gorgeous sunsets from the infinity pool
Four Points Sandakan boasts a simple yet beautiful infinity pool on the 13th floor. Situated very near the elevators and just down the hall from the Eatery, it is a conveniently located area in which to cool off and enjoy the sunset. An open-air, covered lounge area sits adjacent, and comfortable lounge chairs are a welcome place to enjoy a good book or watch the kids splash around.

Four Points by Sheraton Swimming Pool
Four Points' infinity pool is the perfect place to cool off 
Look over the edge at dusk and, thirteen floors below, one sees the locals and a few tourists lining the scenic waterfront promenade, also enjoying the sunset.This new central business district is actually built up on reclaimed land and is part of the Sandakan Harbour Square development, which includes the Harbour Mall Sandakan shopping center (the only lifestyle mall in Sandakan), and the largest convention center, both with direct access from the hotel.


The area around the hotel is coming into its own, so don’t expect clean perfection, but don’t let it deter you either. The water and promenade does contain debris, but with the gorgeous views and elevated pools and rooms, it’s easy enough to overlook and ignore.

As a brand, Four Points by Sheraton prides itself on uncomplicated accommodation at reasonable prices. If you’ve stayed at one before, you know what to expect; they are all meant to feel the same, no matter where you are. For me, I’d rather save my surprises for my walks in the jungle, and know I’m coming “home” to familiar simplicity where my family I can relax and be ourselves, a place like Four Points Sandakan. 

View from Four Points by Sheraton Pool at Sunset, Sandakan, Malaysia
Sunset view from the pool deck, Four Points by Sheraton  [Photo by Jack Tong Photography]
Speaking of adventures, the hotel is happy to make arrangements for site-seeing and I’m told can often get better deals than if you go it alone. Make it easy on yourself and just drop them a line, tell them what you want to do, and let them arrange it for you. Happy eco-travels!

Reason To Visit: Simple pleasures, great views and a convenient place to call home base while seeing the nearby eco and historic sites.

Four Points by Sheraton
Sandakan Harbour Square
Sandakan, 90000 Malaysia
Phone: (60)(89) 244 888
Website: Click Here

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Gokuraku Ramen, Mid Valley Mega Mall, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Gokuraku Ramen by Sam Gibbs

Raman guru
 Teruhisa Shimizu
To be honest I have never had any real passion or inclination to venture into the world of Ramen or the multitude of outlets one finds in the malls these days. However the opportunity to sample this evidently popular treat at Gokuraku Ramen situated in the second floor of Mid Valley shopping centre offered an opportunity to try something different and break my hiatus on the Ramen issue.

I was soon to discover Gokuraku Ramen is not just your average Ramen noodle joint. Whilst it operates as a franchise with 3 outlets in Kuala Lumpur, and numerous outlets in Japan, one should not be fooled into thinking that their efforts at globalization have given authorization to lowering the standards of what was unquestionably a very satisfying dining experience.

During this review we were lucky to have the opportunity to meet with Ramen celebrity guru Mr Teruhisa Shimizu. Teruhisa has introduced the "Horikiri Style" Ramen to Malaysia that originates in the south of Japan. This style is notable mainly due to the length of time it takes to prepare the broth that is served with the Ramen. The Ultimate Ramen signature dish is derived from a Pork broth that takes no less than 36 hours to prepare. The result is a rich velvety soup that 'lives' comfortably with the freshly, in house prepared, Ramen noodles. 

The signature 'Ultimate Ramen' 
The 'winged' Annin Tofu 
We were fortunate to have the opportunity to learn the deeper secrets of the Ramen tradition with Teruhisa before embarking on a very memorable dining experience sampling a beautifully prepared array of treats on offer at Gokuraku Ramen. 
Gokuraku Ramen offers a cosy relaxed ambience
Gokuraku Ramen takes particular pride in the preparation of all its dishes and there is no question as to the care and attention to that goes into their cuisine. Additionally the ambience and setting make for a pleasant casual style dining experience. One may also watch the process of dishes being prepared as the kitchen is integrated into the dining area with large windows that reveal all the activities right down to the creation of the noodles. 
Ramen Noodles are prepared daily
and shipped to all  outlets.

One fact that became apparent to me is that the tradition of Ramen is deeply instilled in Japanese culture. This has been the case for centuries. They have developed a special sense of taste that is pursued in different outlets across Japan. The delicate nuance of the Ramen experience at different localities has become a celebrated obsession that has still to make its full presence known in SE Asia. 


Gokuraku Ramen under the expert guidance of Ramen connoisseur Mr. Teruhisa Shimizu offers a unique opportunity for the Ramen lover to get to the heart of the Ramen experience and savour, in every respect,  the Japanese traditions of this unique food style at very affordable prices.

Delicious Gyoza beef 

Gokuraku Ramen also offers a range of other delicious dishes that compliment the Ramen experience. My personal favourite was the beautifully presented Gyoza beef and its accompanying  sauce. 

Do not miss the cheesecake as this is with out question a total dazzler and one may find a second serving is required to assuage your taste buds fully. 
The Rare Cheesecake is a must try dessert

I personally am a total convert to Ramen and make no mistake about my intention to go back soon for a second round. Make the effort to visit one of Gokuraku Ramen's three outlets. I promise you wont be disappointed. 

Reasons to visit: The relaxed and cosy ambience, the specially prepared noodles and Ultimate Ramen that literally lives up to its name. 

  1. Mid Valley – 2nd June 2011, business hours 10.00 am– 10.00 pm, Tel : 03 - 2282 3924
  2. Gurney Paragon – 24th Dec 2011, business hours 11.00 am – 10.00 pm (Sunday to Thursday); 11.00 am – 11.00 pm (Friday, Saturday Public Holiday Eve), Tel: 604-226 0961
  3. Paradigm Mall – 23rd March 2012, business hours 10.00 am – 10 pm. Tel: 03-78865774
Gokuraku Ramen website: http://www.gokuraku-ramen.com
Gokuraku Ramen facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GokurakuRamen

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Bubbles and Bites, Genting Hotel, Genting Highlands, Malaysia

Bubbles and Bites, Genting Hotel, restaurants in Genting Highlands
Bubbles and Bites, Genting Hotel
Bubbles and Bites, Genting Hotel, Genting Highlands
Simply Fresh Hamburger RM20
Bubbles and Bites, Genting Hotel, Genting Highlands
Lam Lee Burger - a cheeky play on the Chinese pronunciation of , Ramly Burger RM20
Bubbles and Bites, Genting Hotel, Genting Highlands
Peri Peri Chicken Wings RM16
Bubbles and Bites, Genting Hotel, Genting Highlands
EIght Hour Slow Braised Lamb Shank RM23
Bubbles and Bites, Genting Hotel, Genting Highlands
Carnivore Pizza RM21
Bubbles and Bites, Genting Hotel, Genting Highlands
Greek Salad and Four Bean Salad RM12 each
Bubbles and Bites, Genting Hotel, Genting Highlands
Squid Ink Pasta with Seafood Sauce RM19
Bubbles and Bites, Genting Hotel, Genting Highlands
Cheesecake RM7
Bubbles and Bites, Genting Hotel, Genting Highlands
Bottles of Bubbles starting at RM19 per individual serve bottle
Bubbles and Bites, Genting Hotel, Genting Highlands
Signature Hot Chocolate RM10

Bubbles and Bites, Genting Hotel, Genting Highlands, Malaysia

Bubbles and Bites, Genting Hotel, Genting Highlands
Bottles of Bubbles in Every Form
Bubbles and Bites is Genting Hotel’s latest baby and is fast becoming a popular place for diversion on the mountain top. Purple hues, staff attired in funky designer shirts and classic Levi 501’s, simple tables with sturdy aluminium chairs and a relaxed easy going ambience create a diner style restaurant that might have been taken straight out of the USA. Absence of a staff with an American drawl is no distractor as the look is further formed with sports screens, giant burgers and rolls of paper towel on every table.

Fun is the primary goal of Bubbles and Bites, proven with an enormous selection of bubbles in bottles. From soft drink, to beer, to mixed cocktails to champagne, just about every form of a carbonated drink can be found in individual servings. The Bottega sparkling range is a definite highlight and starting at RM19 per bottle everyone can add a little fizz to their meal. The swanky looking Bottega Gold is a must try. Those with a sweeter tooth will enjoy the Moscato variety, while folks looking for a touch of dryness should order Bottega’s Prosecco D.O.C.

Bubbles and Bites, Genting Hotel, Genting Highlands
Tiramisu RM7
A menu dominated by pasta, pizza, burgers and salads proudly offers generous portions for reasonable prices making it ideal for a group of friends to watch a game or just hang out over some filling bites and effervescent beverages. Chef Abdul Rashid, sous chef, has been with Genting since the opening of Bubbles and Bites and reports that his kitchen holds premium produce and home made dishes in high esteem. From pasta to cheesecake, all are made in house from scratch. Living by the motto of ‘serving food from the heart’, it’s good to know much of their menu is heart healthy too, using no MSG and limited salt.

Bubbles and Bites, Genting Hotel, Genting Highlands
17.7 Degrees!
But it’s not just bubbles and burgers that attract. A chilly 17.7 degrees Celsius makes the perfect environment for a thick, velvety smooth hot chocolate. Clouds billow in as you’re snugly seated and the hot beverage provides a contrast to the brisk hill air. Choc-issimo by Musetti is used to create their Signature Chocolate, which comes hot or cold. Besides a regular size, it’s also available in small espresso cups, which will leave you sweetly satisfied but not guilty over excess calories.

Reason to visit: sharing size portions at reasonable prices, velvety smooth hot chocolate, bottles of bubbles in many forms

Bubbles and Bites
Genting Hotel, Genting Highlands Resort, 69000 Genting Highlands, Pahang Darul Makmur,Malaysia
+6 03 6105 2906, www.rwgenting.com
Bubbles and Bites, Genting Hotel, Genting Highlands
More Bubbles!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia

Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
Lazy spot by the beach
Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
Junior Suite
Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
Bedroom in Junior Suite
Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
Outdoor Bathtub in Junior Suite
Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
Gymnasium
Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
Pool
Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
Sunchairs by the main pool
Tanjong Jara Resort, Malaysia
Tree Swing
Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
Outdoor Cinema
Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
Adult's only pool
Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
Lobby
Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
Rooms built in traditional Malay style
Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
King and Queen Procession - saved for couples (especially newlyweds) as a ritual for opening the spa each day
Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
Kampong Activities
Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
The beach facing the South China Sea

Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu Malaysia
Unmistakably Malay

Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
The Welcome Gong
signifies your arrival
Based on the architecture of the 17th century Istanas, Tanjong Jara Resort is elegantly crafted to replicate the wooden palaces of the Malay sultans. Occupying a 17 hectare site, the property faces the South China Sea and while gardens are clearly landscaped, there remains a tropical rusticity about them enhancing guests' connection with nature.

Even when the resort is full, you feel as though you have this tropical paradise to yourself. Spread across lush gardens with lawns sprouting coconut palms leading out to the wild blue sea there are plenty of private nooks for you to immerse yourself in. Tanjong Jara Resort is a sun seeker’s paradise in the dry season or a cultural getaway in the wet. You don’t have to have sunny days to enjoy the sea. The ungovernable monsoon waters are a sight to be viewed from the wall to ceiling windows of Nelayan restaurant or your room’s balcony, while the calmer hum of the sea gently rocks you to sleep in the sunny season.

Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
Bathroom Junior Suite

Rooms are huge with comfy bedding and luxurious amenities. Places to sleep, sit and spread are a plenty with every room offering a day bed and balcony to enjoy the scenery. TV, mini fridge etc are the standard provisions of every 5 star resort. Our Junior Suite had the added luxury of an outdoor tub. A call to room service saw it filled and sprinkled with bath salts ready to ease our weary bodies after a day full of sun and sand. Turn down services saw our curtains drawn, mosquito coiled plugged, water and slippers by our beds and aromatherapy oils burned.

Two restaurants give a taste of western and local cuisines. Nelayan sets you up with contemporary beachside dining, offering sumptuous seafood either in the chilled indoors or al fresco seating on the patio. A light airy atmosphere during the day is transformed into a romantic ambience after sunset with the assistance of lanterns, a bonfire and the moon. Di Atas Sungei gives a village feel with its dark timber and Malay structure overlooking a stream. A semi-buffet breakfast provides staples such as breads, cereals, fruits and noodles on a smorgasbord, while a limited menu of mains can be ordered a la carte. Dinner proposes an exciting culinary journey, without menu, shaped instead by the Resort’s Menu Masters. Based on the catch of the day and seasonal ingredients purchased at the morning market, tell your master what you feel like and they will prepare the high quality produce of the day in the style that you desire. A third outlet, Teratai Terrace serves evening cocktails poolside and steamboat upon request.

Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
Bridge over creek running to the sea

An adults only pool with a depth of three metres and bordered by lush gardens is a quiet location to relax. The shared infinity pool is stylishly adorned with white umbrellas and blue cushioned deck chairs. A gymnasium, tennis courts and water sports centre encourages the active. A host of activities such as cooking classes, water and land excursions, cultural activities and entertainment allow you to connect with the local heritage through hands on experiences with local customs and traditions. Not to be missed is a cooking class with Chef Ann, the outdoor cinema and the Kampong Sucimurni Lifestyle activities.

A stage of lawn, coconut trees and blue ocean set the scene for the Saturday evening activities. Local townspeople come to the resort to demonstrate kampong life through their hobbies, food and music. Pancakes, fried fish sausages and roselle juice feed the hungry. A celebrity monkey, Jara, picks coconuts from the palms, which are then skillfully dehusked and handed to guests with straws for refreshment. Watch ladies paint batik, join in a local board game or be more active with a local version of football or masterful stick jumping.

Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
Kampong Activities

The Spa Village is reason alone to visit Tanjong Jara Resort. Hours can be whiled away in the peaceful surrounds. As is the theme with Spa Villages around Malaysia, each location is distinctly different, basing treatments on local resources and traditions.

Accessible by car, approximately five hours from KL, or by a one hour flight followed by another hour’s car journey, Tanjong Jara Resort is located on the East Coast in the state of Terangganu. Special monsoon packages are available with a host of experiences included such as spa treatments and cooking classes. At any time of year, the residents’ packages are excellent value for Malaysian and Singaporean residents including full board with accommodation. Call the YTL Travel Centre for the best deals.

Tanjong Jara Resort, Terangganu, Malaysia
Creek leading out to the sea

Reason to visit: a charming escape far from the worries of the city, landscaped tropical gardens, sounds of the sea, magical Spa Village

Tanjong Jara Resort
Batu 8 off Jalan Dungun
23000 Dungun
Terangganu, Malaysia

YTL Travel Centre
+6 03 2783 1000
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