An insider's guide to Sarawak
Strap on your trekking boots and get ready to answer the call of the jungle! Located on the island of Borneo, Sarawak is still shrouded in mystery with an interior that’s still relatively untouched and a lush 130-million-year-old rainforest teeming with wildlife. Journey deep into the heart of Borneo and experience the unique culture and the warmth of its people. Made up of over 40 sub-ethnic groups, planning a stay in a longhouse (communal house) offers a rare insight into how indigenous communities live in this beautiful part of Malaysia. The longhouse A dwelling place of the Dayaks (a generic term for the main tribes of Borneo) in Sarawak, the longhouse – as its name suggests – is a long wooden structure that’s built above ground on stilts. Featuring a tanju (long veranda), a typical longhouse can easily house more than 20 families living in separate bilek or private rooms. No two longhouses are alike as they vary in size and design according to the tribes. However, most will provide basic accommodation that may include running water, simple mattresses, mosquito nets and electricity supplied by a generator – basics that will suffice a comfortable stay. While the facilities may be slightly lacking, the warm hospitality more than makes up for it! From Kuching to the interior A four-hour drive from the state’s capital of Kuching lies Batang Ai, a remote area that is part of a large national park covering 24,040 hectares and is a biodiversity haven that houses i
Best boutique hotels in Melaka
Melaka’s remarkable past is what makes this town an interesting stop on your travels through Malaysia. From a sleepy fishing village in the 14th century, its place in world history was sealed when Parameswara, a Hindu prince from Sumatra made it his domain. Admiral Cheng Ho also made his mark when he came bearing gifts and offers of protection from the Ming Emperor. Subsequent colonial powers – Portuguese, Dutch and British – all vied for power over this important trading post and eventually, Melaka became one of the three Straits Settlements that included Penang and Singapore. These days, Melaka is a bustling little town filled with heritage and boutique hotels and is a well-deserved inclusion on your Malaysian travels.
Hotel reviews and new openings
Hilton Garden Inn Kuala Lumpur
Chow Kit is going through a facelift – think places like the Chow Kit market and nearby areas surrounding Jalan Haji Hussein undergoing redevelopment; but despite the changes, much of Chow Kit’s chaotic charm still remains. Located between Chow Kit market and Bazaar Baru Chow Kit, Hilton Garden Inn Kuala Lumpur is great for travellers who want a high-end accommodation option while still being able to experience this old KL neighbourhood, whose character once inspired Sudirman Arshad to pen the ‘80s pop hit ‘Chow Kit Road’. Opened in December 2017, the 16-storey hotel houses 265 rooms and boasts a clean décor – think a brightly-lit lobby with wooden accents as well as a vertical garden in the waiting area. The hectic streets of Chow Kit, especially along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, may be overbearing for the uninitiated but in the hotel, the friendly staff and cosy rooms should make you feel right at home. Also a plus point is the nearby Chow Kit Monorail station, only a four-minute walk away. We stayed at the cosy 250-sq ft Queen Guest Room (RM200++ per night), which comes with a view of the Petronas Twin Towers and is equipped with the standard set of amenities which all rooms in Hilton Garden Inn get – 40-inch HDTV, Slumberland bed, a walk-in bathroom, mini refrigerator, iron and ironing board, and complimentary WiFi. The Garden Grille is the hotel’s only restaurant – the breakfast spread is your usual Western-meets-Asian fare, while an à la carte menu is offered during l
Sofitel Kuala Lumpur Damansara
Even within the confines of Damansara City’s high-rise residential condos and office blocks, Malaysia’s first five-star Sofitel offers a luxury of space that not many city hotels can boast. That much is evident from the moment you step into the room; while other hotels struggle to fit as many amenities as possible within a small space, each of the 312 rooms here – starting from the 43-sqm Luxury Room to the 105-sqm Opera Suite – come with a walk-in closet, large work desk, and a bathroom large enough to have separate showers, toilet and bathtub. As with everything luxurious, the subtle details matter – and there’s plenty to admire. For starters, there are the soft leather-stitched cabinets, drawers and desks that add a touch of class, while a Nespresso machine, Lanvin-branded toiletries and bathtub tray make you want to soak in the tub, read a book and never leave till check out. And if you do head out, you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied: on the third floor are poolside cabanas, steam rooms and a Technogym-equipped gym where you can sweat it out while watching YouTube videos. Despite being surrounded by creature comforts, it’s easy to get work done while staying in. A large part of it is helped by the spacious 4ft-long work desk equipped with drawers and universal power-points, as well as an ergonomic chair that makes you feel like a boss. Throw in about RM400 more and you’ll gain access to the 23rd floor Club Millesime, which includes breakfast, le gôuter (French tea-
Sunway Putra Hotel, Kuala Lumpur
So the idea of a no-frills weekend getaway – we’re talking about one without the pressure of posting envy-inducing social media updates so you can actually relax during your stay – is one you'd like to try. We wanted a slice of that pie too, which is why we checked in to Sunway Putra Hotel when we were invited for a stay-in review. Comfort is the operative word here: the hotel's Chow Kit postcode doesn't scream 'swanky' and the ochre-beige colour palette with old-school décor and swirly motifs aren’t the trendiest (you probably won’t bother whipping out your phone for the ‘gram). But the 650-unit property with friendly staff, impressive suites, contemporary club rooms and cosy deluxe rooms are warm and welcoming, making for very pleasant, almost homey stays. It doesn't hurt that the hotel is within easy reach of the Twin Towers and directly linked to Sunway Putra Mall, with the PWTC LRT and Putra KTM stations just a few minutes' walk away for seamless commutes. We stayed in the sprawling 114 sqm two-bedroom classic suite, which incorporates both a master bedroom, a second bedroom as well as a separate living room area with access to an external balcony. From this balcony, we had a smashing view of both the KL Tower and Twin Towers piercing the sky – pretty neat, we must say. Add the suite’s plush beds, en-suite bathrooms, three(!) 42-inch flat screen TVs and well-prepared amenities to the equation, we knew we were in for the relaxing stay we wanted. Okay, so the suite was a
Anantara Siam Bangkok
Anantara Siam Bangkok may look like an unassuming city hotel from the outside (what with its low-rise structure), but inside it has all the trappings of a resort, from the overall spaciousness to the abundance of greenery and open spaces. The rooms are distributed around alfresco courtyards that are more like verdant parks than manicured gardens: The trees are mature, there are water features of ponds and streams teeming with colourful koi, and you’ll find a smattering of park benches here and there under the shade of lush foliage. This will come as a much welcomed retreat after a day out exploring the bustling city. The rooms and suites are equally luxurious. Design-wise, they lean more towards the classic, so expect contemporary furnishings that nod at traditional Thai aesthetics of teak, silk and vintage artefacts; the good thing is, they’re huge by Bangkok standards. And as a guest, you’re very well taken care of: The marble bathroom features both a tub and a walk-in shower; you’re provided with a handy smartphone equipped with free local and international calls plus 4G data connectivity; and there are more modern comforts to complete your stay. Also, you have to admire a hotel with a strong artistic heritage. As you step into the lobby, you’ll be greeted by the opulent wall-to-wall mural framing the grand staircase. Look up and you’ll find that the ceilings on the ground and mezzanine floors are covered with enormous Mandala-type paintings. These watercolour and raw si
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