Tuesday, December 26, 2017

ITINERARY | 10 Days in Tokyo [Child Friendly]

I wasn't planning to blog about the trip but due to popular demand, I've decided to share my Tokyo itinerary with the world so you can have as much fun as we did.

FYI, we're pretty chill travelers. As in, we don't like filling every second with activities. There are a few things on our daily agenda, but we prefer to explore for ourselves (or drink, a lot). So if you're hoping to hit all the hot spots, this itinerary is NOT FOR YOU. But if you're hoping for a nice, relaxing holiday with your buddies, read on!

We landed in Tokyo really late, like 10:30PM and from there we got a pocket wifi from the airport and one of the pink metro cards each before beginning our vacay. First stop, Shibuya.

One thing you gotta know is that the moment we opened the doors to our airbnb, we. were. shook. The place was teeny tiny and while it could fit all 8 of us (including a 4 year old) it was not the most spacious. If you get claustrophobic, maybe don't try to squeeze in with all your friends or family and get two airbnbs instead because the spaces in Tokyo itself is pretty limited.

The next day, we headed to Tsukiji Fish market and while I don't eat shashimi, I had the best ice cream of my life! It's about RM25. But it's so worth it.

Then, it's off to Sensoji temple since it's pretty nearby. To get to the temple, you have to cut through a street of vendors selling food and fashion. You can probably pick up a couple of things here or put on a yukata for an inSTARworthy shot.

We wandered around for a bit and ended up at this very cosy Japanese restaurant (featured in the first video) where we had pancakes. It was super tasteless, but only because we didn't realize we had to season it. One of the ladies saw our epic fail, came over and taught us how to do it with loud choruses of "holy shit we're dumb".

After that, we went back to Shibuya and after paying respects to Hachiko, it was time to party at Hooters! If pretty girls and alcohol are your thing, I must insist: put it on your list of things to do in Tokyo.

At night we visited a pachinko parlor (trust me, they aren't hard to find - just follow the brightest lights) and upon losing everything, called it a day. But since we were all quite hammered, we wanted some food and chanced upon THE BEST RAMEN (click for the coordinates). Honestly, if I ever go back to Tokyo, it will be for that bowl of deliciousness.

The next day, we checked out and went window shopping at Shibuya 109 before realizing everything was so friggin expensive! After dilly dallying for a little bit, we took the train to Chiba Prefecture. Home to Disney.

We absolutely adored this airbnb. Spacious, homey and it had those sliding doors! There was a departmental store down the road which was open till late so we made use of that and bought up a storm. The next day, Disneyland. And the next, DisneySEA!

After experiencing the magic, we picked up our bags from the lockers at the train station and shuffled off to Shinjuku. Again, the place was cramped and not incredibly comfortable for 8. Imagine a row of bodies sleeping against the wall and the luggage taking up the rest of the space.

We basically wandered around, shopped and drank until it was time for our skii trip! We took the bus to Kawaguchiko late afternoon and arrived at night but I wished I could have had more time here! It's a peaceful little town and we booked the coolest airbnb!

After spending a day at Fujiten Snow Resort, it was time to unwind with a nice onsen. Yunessun at Hakone was next and also one of the few places that allows you to cover up your tattoos so you may enter. Japan really needs to remove that stick regarding tattoos! Especially since tourism is booming and people wanna experience onsens. I snuck into the naked one though ahaha using my friend's gf as a body shield. So kids, if you wanna go to Japanese onsens, do not get a tattoo. Hopefully they get rid of this archaic law but anyway...

It was pretty cool. There were fun slides, underground hot springs, and wine baths, etc. The only downside was that it's smack in the middle of nowhere so you need to stay at the super expensive hotel. We booked two rooms for 7 adults and a child and it was a total of RM3k plus! And it wasn't even all that nice! Except for the open air onsen which I was not allowed to enter due to my body ink. But there's a new hotel opening up that looks promising; maybe you can give that a go instead.

We ended our trip at Yokohama, which is basically China Town. The airbnb was so-so, but honestly all we wanted was a place to crash anyway and it's still an upgrade from the ones in central Tokyo.

So that was my super chill trip to Tokyo with my buddies. Next target? Korea in March 2018. I'll be sharing the itinerary after the trip - and I promise it would have more pictures and be more detailed than this one - so make sure you follow me: fb | ig | youtube

TIP: Sumimasen is a very useful word, use it to get someone's attention, to say sorry, to thank someone, to say excuse me. It is like milo 3 in one, but better.

TIP 2: Sign up with this link and get RM105 off your AirBnB bill!

TIP 3: Do not get conned into going down to one of those underground pubs in Shinjuku. As you can see from the last video... It was nothing special. Plus, you have to pay first before going in.

If you have any questions or you need help, just fire away or use the form on the right ;)

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Review: Cha Cha Moon ★

Kuchingites have been clamouring over themselves for a spot at the new restaurant in Roxy hotel and I'm here to tell you if it's worth the hype.

It is a kind of fusion restaurant, with a quirky menu served on unusual crockeries (literally had spaghetti served in half a vase in an attempt to be unique with no rhyme or reason). Being up on the 7th floor, it gives us a new perspective to view the city from. It is a perfect venue for an intimate dinner or a party.

However, I'm sure you've noticed the one star rating I gave this promising new establishment. It is simply because the service was incredibly off putting. The waitstaff needs to undergo strenuous retraining or be replaced. 

Case number one: We double confirmed our booking to include a baby chair but upon arrival, there wasn't one at the table. No big deal. We'll just inform them we need one. Unfortunately, some guy came to explain the situation to us - without an introduction to tell us who he is, no smiles or apologies - telling us that the one they had reserved for us was "taken by another customer" and "we only have four baby chairs" and "there is nothing we can do". I told him off by saying we double confirmed the booking and dismissed him with some sarcasm. I'm not proud of the way I handled it but the baby chair wasn't for me and I get very protective over the people I care about. If you need someone to step up for you, I'll be front and centre and ten times as pissed.

Case number two: Our grilled ribeye showed up less than rare. I'll let the photo speak for itself below but you know, I don't expect some obscure restaurant to show up with Masterchef skills but at least don't take the returned steak back to the kitchen, slice it open and try to convince us that, "the middle is cooked". No. You do not handle a customer's food in that manner. Furthermore, the waitress who took our order never even asked us how we would like the steak.

Having a successful restaurant relies heavily on two things: food is king but service matters. If your food is magnificent, your service can be shit because there'll still be people who will put up with your attitude for an awesome meal. If your food is sub par and your service is great, you might get a few returning customers because hey your food ain't half bad, and the warmth is a plus! However, if your food is shit and you have the best service in the world, sorry my friend but nobody can save you.

In this instance though, the food ranged from awful to not bad, but the service was so horrendous I wouldn't even recommend the place to someone I disliked. Bye, bye then. You've lost not only a customer, but the patronage of my friends and our families. What I kinda feel bad about is that my father is a friend to the founder but he has a background in food and beverage, so...

Now that I've gotten my gripes with the place out of the way, on to the food! Shall we?

After more than an hour of waiting, we got our first pasta: Mushroom Aglio Olio @ RM23
It was surprisingly tasty but I thought aglio olio is supposed to be served warm, if not hot? Because this tasted as though it's been sitting out for an hour!

The next dish was: Cured Salmon & Poached Egg Pasta @ RM35
This was hot and yummy! But... It kinda tasted similar to the dish before, except this has runny egg yolk all over it.

The Teriyaki Chicken came at @ RM28, served with a side of bland quinoa.
What is it with pretentious fine dining establishments and their tendency to undercook their chicken? It tasted alright, but quite frankly I'd rather go to Chef At Home for some chicken chop instead.

We thoroughly enjoyed the Red Chilli Crab Pasta @ RM34
Finally a pasta that doesn't taste pretty much the same. It's an interesting flavour, but if you're not keen on new tastes, you should definitely steer clear.

The next pasta to follow through was the Sichuan Spicy Chicken Pasta @ RM26
We were pretty sick of the same tasting pasta by this point, and the sichuan pasta was no different from the mushroom aglio or the one served with the cured salmon. To top it off, the chicken tasted of Maggi sauce and was hard as a rock.

The last two that arrived were disasters: Grilled Ribeye @ RM70 and Margherita Pizza @ RM31
The margherita pizza was... A fail. The base was so soft there is no chance of you picking it up and eating like an actual slice of pizza... It was more like a thin sheet of lagsana skin smothered in cheese and served on a block of wood.

The ribeye was even worse, as mentioned above. And! It was served with a dollop of ICE CREAM. We made them take it back for being pretty much raw and it's a relief they had the foresight to cancel it from the bill.

Guys, a little humility would work wonders for your poor food or inexperienced waitstaff... In light of the rudeness, I have no choice but to chalk it up as careless management.

Now, they say pictures speak a thousand words, but what about a video?

We ended the night on a good note though, drinks at Barber coupled with Junk's delicious cheese pizza.

Friday, December 1, 2017

10 unique and scenic stays in Kuching!

We have a wonderful city in Borneo, bordered by rainforests and beaches. If it weren't so tropical and hot, it'd be paradise. But sometimes we want a reprieve from the mundane; even a breathtaking view will turn boring if you look at it everyday. 

So, for a change of scenery, check out these top 10 luxurious stays not too far from home...

You'll be surprised to find a mini-Santorini in Santubong called COVE55
Pristine, serene and classy. It is a place with minimalist but bold decor that will impress even the pickiest. 

When I was there back in 2015, we got a personal tour from the hotelier and it looked like the dreamiest place to have a wedding in this sleepy city. 

At that time, the beach was off limits but it's had a major renovation and is set to reopen on the 28th of Dec with a new infinity pool, restaurant and bar. According to a representative, the rates start from RM560 for rooms overlooking the South China Sea.  

Some prefer something more basic and native, there's THE VILLAGE HOUSE 
Also located in Santubong, the pool is a hotspot for photographs, not to mention it does look like a homelier version of the most instagrammed pool in the world.
It is also for the more zen folk as children under 12 are not permitted onto the premise, and neither is rowdiness allowed after 10PM. 

According to Booking, rates start from RM334 for Village Double Room, featuring a four poster bed! If you don't mind sleeping in a dorm, you can have a bed for RM123 per night. 

For a little in between, there's the new and elusive BASAGA HOLIDAY RESORT LUNDU
Opened 3 months ago, it's been packed almost every weekend. It will be well worth it when you finally grab a room at this resort!

Not only does it have panoramic ocean views, it is part of a wildlife conservation organization so you'll be raising funds for wildlife while enjoying a private outdoor bath or a soak in the salt water pool.

Rates are RM229 for the villas, but add just RM50 to make it a family villa! Check Airbnb for the listings. 

What you need when city lights get too loud is... MENDUNG ESCAPE
You can't get closer to nature than this. Truly an escape from the humidity, being so far up amongst the clouds. The best bed is on the balcony, with the stars for a ceiling and the cool air instead of a whirring airconditioner.

Be warned that it is a 700 meter hike up to the place. According to Airbnb, rates are RM201 per night for couples but groups start at RM250.

If you prefer falling asleep to the sound of running water and waking up to a fresh water river, check out their new cabin, Pinggir Siak

Want the mountains and a pool? Greedy you, say hello to BOYAN HIGHTS
Tucked away in Kampung Git Borneo Heights, this little-known gem also boasts a salt water pool with a scenic view. A great spot for large groups and BBQ!

But the more adventurous might want to look into canoeing and hiking or exploring the nearby caves.

They have three rooms, all listed on Airbnb for RM201 per night.

A place that doesn't get enough love is BORNEO HIGHLANDS RESORT 
For the golfing couple or one that appreciates a good hike and a good view. It has a lovely little waterfall halfway up and the grounds are beautiful for exploring and photoshoots.

Prices start at RM340 on Expedia for a Standard Double but follow their Facebook page for promotions! 

If you're not willing to go that far and is happy to just hideaway whilst still being in Kuching, here are some other options! 

Situated just a stone's throw away from civilization, we have SECRET SANCTUARY 
As the name suggests, the place is like a rustic secret sanctuary, filled with interesting nooks and crannies.

It is a nice little place to chill with friends or a loved one, for extra quality time. The hammocks that line the walkways are wonderful for alone time too!

According to Cyril on Airbnb, where it's known as Bohemian Paradise Holistic Retreat, it's RM80 per person a night for large groups up to 30 pax. For couples, feel free to take on his RM139 suite

There's a place taking Kuching by storm as a whimsical wedding venue: UCSI HOTEL 
Sunsets over carefully decorated rooftops go together like peanut butter and jelly. Batman and Robin. Bonnie and Clyde. You get the idea. 

That's why this spot is gaining popularity, and fast! Weddings, fashion shows and such events have made their mark at this lovely hotel. 

Rates start at RM203 per night, according to their website.

Disappear right into the heart of shopping and entertainment under your feet at LOFT @ VIVACITY
Personally, I like how the pool and gardens are hidden from view by hulking apartments on either side. It feels like a secret Eden, built atop the largest mall in Sarawak!

After a day of activities, it's nice to retire from the hustle and bustle by just taking an elevator up.

The host has two rooms, so you might want to check them both out before deciding on one because they have a different feel to them. Loft is RM188 and Loft II is RM176!

Here's one you probably haven't heard of yet... DE'LOFT KUCHING @ GREENWICH
Situated in a deceivingly quiet housing area with greens all around, this place is not too far from town and within walking distance to Sunny Hill Ice Cream which is an old favorite that locals love.

Designed by an architect, you'll definitely enjoy the tasteful aesthetic. It's RM237 per night for the entire place.

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Which is your favorite? Leave a comment below! If you run a sweet staycation spot, use the form on the right to get in touch!