Malaysia holidays at a bargain!

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During the last 12 months the world has seen considerable fluctuations of major currencies. Everybody knows about the newly gained strength of the US Dollar and the Euro weakness. What many people don’t know is that the Malaysian Ringgit has also depreciated in value which means that your Malaysia holiday has just become more affordable. Even travellers from Europe may rejoice because the Ringgit has fallen almost in tandem with the common currency. This means that Europeans won’t feel the pinch when they discover beautiful Malaysia. Enjoy local breakfast at a downtown restaurant for as little as 1 Euro 20 Cents, catch a movie for 3 Euro, use KL’s Monorail for 30-60 Euro Cents or take an air-conditioned coach (incl. infotainment) from KL to Singapore for very affordable 17 Euro. At our guesthouse you get an air-conditioned double room with ensuite bathroom, Wifi, breakfast etc for as little as 22 Euro. On top of that you may enjoy e.g. the super attractive airfares offered by AirAsia in case you want to explore the region. What these examples can’t tell you of course is that to discover Malaysia always means to discover an entire world. This is how diverse and colourful we are 🙂

The sky is the limit – at the 7th Intl Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Putrajaya

P1060082Hot Air Balloons are one of those things that have fascinated us since childhood. In our imagination they are the thing that comes closest to a ride on the magic carpet. And we dream that one day we will cross the Alps and the Pyrenees, fly over the Lake District and Cappadocia. Even though the annual Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Putrajaya does not offer this possibility, nothing could stop us from getting up early, very early, to watch 19 hot air balloons take to the skies.

P1060066Coming from Kuala Lumpur it took us no more than 40 minutes to reach Putrajaya around 7am. With seven years of experience, things here are well organised and convenient. We instantly found parking just across the launch area and were able to identify a spot with great view. While the support crews were busy preparing the balloons for their morning flights (or rides, to be correct), we had our first coffee. Others brought a full breakfast and enjoyed an early picnic in the park. Above us a mini Zeppelin (we termed it “the support ship”) circled in the air. Why don’t we have wings? Finally, around 7.30am it was all “action” and the first hot air balloon took off. Perfect timing, beautiful light and striking colours. Soon all hot air balloons were up in the sky moving gently across Putrajaya lake in north-eastern direction.

We decided it was time for a proper breakfast. So we got into our car and drove over to Cyberjaya for Nasi Lemak and Nescafe Ice. Perfect morning. Mission accomplished. Of course we will be back next year. We still haven’t watched the “Night Glow” of the hot air balloons which is always accompanied by beautiful fireworks. This is an event not to be missed. Just google the Night Glow pictures and you will understand. We can’t wait to take you there 🙂

A road trip to Genting Highlands & Resorts World Genting

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Has it ever happened to you that you miss out on a destination somewhere close by simply because you are telling yourself that you can go there any time anyway? Well, we had this experience before and it looked like eventually we would have to add Genting to our list of blank spots. The fact that things turned out differently is thanks to dear friends who helped us make “Project Genting” come true.

So on a recent Sunday afternoon we finally left Kuala Lumpur in north-eastern direction. Traffic was light and hence the city gave way to the rainforest in no time. A moment of bliss! After passing the “Genting Skyway” station (see TIP) we stopped at the Chin Swee Caves Temple.

The construction of this Taoist temple was initiated by Genting founder Lim Goh Tong who picked the most scenic spot of the Genting Highlands for this place of worship. It took 20 years to complete this project because of the steep and rocky terrain in this area. If you are not in a hurry, a stop is highly recommended. Don’t miss the beautiful view on clear days!

From Chin Swee Caves Temple it is another 10-minute drive before you reach Resorts World Genting. The name, we thought, may easily trigger too high expectations, especially with those who know Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore (both are operated by the Genting Group). Unfortunately, Genting’s age (the first hotel opened in 1971) shows and you wish that somebody came up with the idea to give the entire resort a facelift. We know, people do not come here for architectural beauty but for entertainment. But with big new entertainment resorts being currently developed all over Southeast Asia, an optical upgrade – especially of the facade of most buildings – seems mandatory.

To be fair, we understand that renovation works are on-going. It is also important to mention that Genting is in the process of building the world’s first 20th Century Fox World theme park which is scheduled to open in 2016. Undoubtedly, this new attraction will have a rejuvenating effect on the resort.

Optical aspects apart, Resorts World Genting offers entertainment both for adults and children. It houses Malaysia’s only land-based casino which attracts both a local as well as an international crowd. And for kids and families there are attractions like SnowWorld, a Video Games Park, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and more.

As we are neither into gambling nor able to call ourselves kids any more, we are not in a position to report back to you on these things. But guess what, we still had a great time! There are many restaurants to choose from, it’s fun to just stroll around and watch things happen around you and then there is one thing you won’t find on Sentosa – the fresh, crisp air. When you are used to KL temperatures, 19C just feels sensational! All in all we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, not least because a visit to Genting Highlands means to do something of the extraordinary and to take a break from everyday life. We promise to be back in 2016 once the 20th Century Fox World theme park is open. And just in case, if you have wondered: the Bentley below is not ours. Well, not yet 🙂

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tip drop shadow 2Tip: If you go to Genting Highlands by car, you should calculate roughly one hour for the 55km journey. Alternatively, there is a convenient bus service between downtown KL and the resort. Coaches depart from Puduraya bus terminal. The cheap tickets include a ride on the Genting Skyway cable car. If you decide to go for a ride on the 3.5km long cable car (which is fun), the tradeoff is that you won’t get to visit the Chin Swee temple.

The Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is back!

Image 3From 12-15 March the skies above Malaysia’s administrative capital Putrajaya will once again turn into magic with the return of the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. For already 7 years this annual festival has been bringing together hot air balloon enthusiasts from all over the world. This year’s event promises to be no different: 19 hot air balloons, two daily flight shows, the famous night glow and loads of other activities such as helicopter joy rides or a paramotor exhibition. We will definitely not miss out on this spectacle nor should you, if you happen to be in KL. For more details and information go to http://www.myballoonfiesta.com. See you there!! 🙂

The Nest Road Trip: Melaka (I)

After 4 long years we finally managed to revisit Melaka where we ended up having a great time. Melaka which together with Georgetown (Penang) was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, is conveniently located halfway between Singapore and KL. Its location makes it an ideal destination for travelers who visit the Malaysian Peninsula and who want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of a big city. This leads us already to one of the aspects of Melaka that gives this historic town its unmistakable charm: the pace of everything seems much slower (which does not necessarily mean sleepy), people know each other and above all there is a spirit of genuine friendliness wherever you go. While things have gotten much busier since Melaka reached World Heritage status, the new popularity has not changed the way the city and its inhabitants tick.

Where to stay. Here is the good news. Relative to its small size Melaka has a huge number of B&Bs, guesthouses, boutique hotels etc. So chances are high to find something that suits your pocket and personal preference. We opted for Tripadvisor’s no.1 amongst all B&Bs – Knocknock Home (www.knocknockhome.com). Knocknock Home is different from other places – we are talking about a 1-room establishment here. For RM 400/night (no weekend surcharge) you rent the entire 1st floor of an old Chinese shop house in excellent location (unfortunately we had a little problem with our camera – hence no pictures of the room. But pics on the Knocknock homepage are accurate). The place can fit 4-6 people and has an open space concept which is simple yet very comfortable – ideal for small families or a group of friends. Augustine (friends call him Gus) is a wonderful host who does things with love and passion. And so we felt like we were spending a weekend with an old friend rather than with the owner of a small business. Because of the special care and attention that Augustine offers his guests our weekend in Melaka got an entirely different quality.

Next: things to do in Melaka

The Nest Road Trip: Cameron Highlands (II)

Cameron Highlands is all about relaxing. And that’s what we did. We stayed for 2 nights and thought this was just perfect. After we had dropped off our luggage in the hotel, we drove to Brinchang (the other township in the area) where we had excellent “Steam Boat” dinner at one of the roadside restaurants. Brinchang also has a weekend market where you find honey, strawberries and other local produce.

Speaking of which: strawberries are one of the most important crops in the Camerons. If you have time, visit one of the farms where you can pick your own fruits. We opted for Big Red Strawberry Farm and were amazed by the endless variety of strawberry (derived) products that are sold there. From jam to body lotion, from milk eclairs to shampoo – this is strawberry paradise! After a quick stop at one of the bee farms we moved on to Sungei Palas Tea Plantation which turned out to be the absolute highlight of our trip (more on Sungei Palas and Boh Tea in our next blog entry). Forget about the other tea plantations – this is the place to go – and we are saying this not only because of the great scones and the tea that we enjoyed there.

After we had returned to Tanah Rata we browsed through some of the souvenir shops where we found a most useful Cameron Highlands Discovery Map. It only costs a few Ringgit and gives you a great overview of the area. We also discovered that local tour operators offer a number of day tours which allow even those who travel without car to explore the area. If you have time, sign up for one of the jungle trekking tours to discover the beauty of the mossy highland rainforest – you won’t regret it.

Where to stay: Cameron Highlands has an array of hotels and guesthouses that suit every pocket. For some odd reason, not all of them are listed on tripadvisor. If you travel by bus, we recommend to look for accommodation somewhere in the centre of Tanah Rata. This way you are not only close to the bus station but can also choose from a bigger variety of places to hang out in the evening.

The Nest Road Trip: Cameron Highlands (I)

Recently, we took a break from KL’s vibrant city life and went on a weekend retreat to Cameron Highlands. The Highlands are located some 220km north of Kuala Lumpur in the state of Pahang and deserve their name – after all you find yourself in refreshing 1,500 – 2,000 meters altitude.

The Camerons are named after William Cameron who discovered the area in 1885 during a mapping expedition. But even though the potential of the Highlands was understood early, the actual development of Cameron Highlands as a resort and farming area only started in the 1920s. Today, Cameron Highlands are famous for their extensive tea plantations, fruit and vegetable farms, highland rain forests, scenic nature and mild climate.

The latter is one of the first things you notice when you arrive in Tanah Rata, the administrative centre of the region. With daytime temperatures of around 24C and cooling 15C during the night, the weather is perfect not only for busy urbanites like us but also for visitors of Malaysia who like to take a break from the hot climate of the “Lowlands” (to be continued).

How to get there. Reaching Cameron Highlands is easy. Busses from KL to Tanah Rata leave daily from Pudu Sentral bus terminal. The journey takes 4.5 hours and costs some RM 35 (one way). If you plan to go to Taman Negara or further north to Penang, it is convenient to combine these destinations with a stop-over in the Highlands. Bus companies and tour operators offer transfers in both directions. When you stay with us at The Nest, we will be happy to assist you in planning your trip to Cameron Highlands and Taman Negara.