Thursday, 16 February 2017

Travelogue 12: Bukit Gambang Resort City

Bukit Gambang Resort City is in the district of Pahang on the Eastern side of Malaysia. 2 hours drive from Kuala Lumpur, it has so much potential to boost Pahang tourism industry. There are two apartment hotels on site, Caribbean Bay Resort and Arabian Bay Resort, which offers a basic kind of apartment and given that the location of hotel is inside the theme park, the price for the accommodation is on the higher side. 

We booked one apartment at Arabian Bay Resort for one night at RM409.50 (2 rooms apartment) via booking.com. It was during a peak season i.e. Christmas Holiday cum School Holiday, the resort were pack with people. Between mid-October and the end of March, especially December the climate at the eastern side of the peninsula is affected by the rainy season or monsoon season. Weather usually is very rough in these months, for this reason it is not the best time to visit these parts of Malaysia. During the monsoon period it can sometimes rain for days. But we just try our luck.

Instead of wooden chair, they should replace with couch


Day #1: 25th December 2016
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The ticket price for 2 parks
Arrived around 10am, bought the ticket via goticket.my and we started our fun journey with the Safari Park. To be honest, I'm quite skeptical when it comes to Malaysia hosting an animal farm, zoo or safari.  However it turns out, Bukit Gambang Safari park exceed my expectation. Claimed that they are the largest Zoo Safari Park in Malaysia (138 acres), the main attraction in the safari is the white lions that await the visitor at the main entrance of safari park.There are two park zones i.e. walking zone and Wild Savannah tram drive-through zone. The safari also offers a night park district to showcase the nocturnal animal. Given the huge areas of safari park to cover and mainly focusing on children education, it is a children friendly park and stroller friendly place. Most of the walkway are covered in case of raining. We were in the safari from 10 am until 9pm as there are so many exciting things to see.

Started with the walking zone, we passed thru various types of animal among others are Wallaby, Bear, Reptiles and Farm Animals which are place in a huge concrete block with animal enclosures around. 
From Australia with love
The bears

Walking into the Wonderful Birds and Eagle show, it was very lively and engaging show. The speaker's English is good and acceptable.

We had our lunch at Simba Hill Gourmet Restaurant. It was awesome as we were like dining with the white lion i.e. the white lion watch you eating. Given the awesome ambiance, the price of the food was not that pricey.

Dining with the lion

The next show was the Predators show. The kids enjoyed watching the tiger, lion and hyenas eating and walking around the enclosures. Camel and pony are available for ride with additional fee.

The ultimate experience in the safari that should not be missed is the Wild Savannah-Tram Drive Thru. Only accessible via the fully air conditioning tram (converted lorry with beautiful cheetah and zebra prints), we were driven through the rain forest by their park ranger and guided by their English speaking park guide to be up close with  free-roaming animals (including PREDATOR animals) in their naturalistic habitats. These areas are fenced with double electric gates. The tram stopped from time to time at various zones to let us enjoy watching these animals up close. 

Cheetah - view from the tram

Zebra

Walked through the night safari zone and watched the African Yabara Fire, we ended our day with my personal favorite show in this Safari Park which was the Tarzan Adventure Shows. It was a really an excellent theatrical show with some cooperation from the bear, monkey and few other animals. 

  What should be better?
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1. Sad and dying look of the enclosures i.e. lack of grass and greenies
2. Long queue at the tram station i.e. The station should be bigger to accommodate groups of people especially during peak season
3. A lot of empty cages
4. Provision of water cooler machine in the park as the walking zone is really huge and quite hot.
5. Prayer Room is too small, smelly and the 'telekung' is dirty
6. Expansion of night safari

What is good?
************
1. Acceptable English utilization during the show and by the park guide in the tram. 
2. Dining with white lion is a great idea
3. Almost fully covered area at the walking zone
4. Credit to the actors for Tarzan Adventure Show and African Yabara Fire. Hit the spot!

Day #2: 26th December 2016
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It's water park day..the kids especially were so excited. After quick breakfast, we straight away headed to the water park. The water park open at 10 am. Though you are the hotel guest or you buy online ticket, you still need to queue at the lobby to exchange your paper ticket with wrist band. 

Queue for wrist band (pre paid online/hotel guest)
We managed to get our wrist band after two hours queuing. The lobby was so stuffy and people were cutting queue. 

Gambang Water Park is a cashless themepark. Therefore you need to top up your wrist band with cash to purchase food in the theme park, rental of tubes, towels, cabana etc. And you can claim back your cash in the wrist band if it still got balance upon check out from the theme park. More than 20 cabanas available for rental but of course it is based on first come first serve. 

The theme park is quite small but just nice for the kids to have fun with the water. Coco Beach - the wave ocean like pool is full of people with their big tubes. Penguin Island is where you will get a bucket of water fall onto you, getting splash will lots of water, watery slides and the kids love it! Family river raft rides was what mommy like the most!





What should be better?
*******************
1. Wrist band for hotel guests should be given/collected at the hotel lobby
2.  Provision of water cooooler
3. Add more food station
4. More cabana for rental

What is good?
************
1. E-value wrist band - no need to worry about wallet etc
2. Functioning life guard
3. River raft rides

Conclusion: Pahang state government/ Pahang Tourism/Sentoria management should boost promotion for this place as Bukit Gambang Resort City got lot of potential should they consider the improvement highlighted above.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Travelogue 11: We Repeat Krabi!

My post in 2014:http://zuldiya.blogspot.my/2014/09/travelogue-4-amazing-krabi.html and we repeat this trip after 2 years. Number of people remain the same so does the number of baggage and strollers. We chose the same villa i.e. Baan Santhiya in Ao Nang to reminisce our memories in 2013.

It was Malaysia Day and we celebrated the establishment of Malaysian federation in Thailand. Browsing through tripadvisor.com and few other sites, we got the head up that the weather will not be as good as the one we had in April 2014 and September is the wettest month which should be avoided by tourists. But we had our Plan B which was eating and 'spa'ing.

Day #1, 15 September 2016

The 'Twins" in front of the villa
Baan Santhiya

Arrival at Krabi Airport, checked in at Baan Santhiya, settling down and we had dinner at a very humble stall at Ao Nang Mosque area. Baan Santhiya provided free tuk tuk which can cover Ao Nang area and it's chargeable at THB200 per trip after 6pm. Ordered food were the usual suspect i.e. Tom Yum, Steamed Fish, Squid with Salted Egg, Thai Basil Chicken and for the dessert, we had nutella pancake. We were then went to Boss Tailor to make custom blouses, suits and pants.



Day #2, 16 September 2016

Departed from the villa at 730am, we chose to go to the Emerald Pool on Friday after reading through the net, almost everybody experience the same problem, too many people in the small pool. So we decided to arrive early in the morning on weekdays. It took around 1 hour ( normal walking pace) to reach there. 


Only us at the Emerald Pool
We were the first group to arrive and there is National Park fee charged at THB 200/head. Walking for about 2km on a wooden boardwalk and concrete walkways. As we were the early birds, our group was accompanied by 3-4 stray dogs which personally, for the fee that has been charged (Tourist pay 90% higher than local people; Thai people charge at THB 20 only), Tourism Ministry of Thailand..please do something about the dogs.. They have their rangers inside the national park but they did nothing about it. Other than the dogs, we got a first class view and experience as nobody were there in the pool for about one hour. We had the pool for ourselves. And the other lagoon which only for sighting known as blue lagoon is really blue.  The water in the pool come through porous rock layers and contain a high amount of calcium carbonate making it unsuitable for drinking. The changes in colour depend on the algae and temperature of the water. Therefore different time and temperature will give you different shades of blue.

Next stop was the Hotspring. Unfortunately we were informed that it is under maintenance. There were still people swimming in the Hotspring but the color of water was like Thai Iced Tea, so we ended up taking picture with the signage.

Lunch was superb at Pak Nam Krabi Seafood. The restaurant is located beside the river.



Menu: among others, Green Curry Beef, Tom Yum, Soft Shell Crab with Salted Egg, Steamed Fish, Tod Man Pla, Prawn with Tamarind sauce

Next activity was 'spa'ing while the 'twins', fathers and uncle shopped at Tesco. We chose Kantawan Spa which is located nearby the restaurant as it offers Onsen and Salt Sauna other than typical Thai Massage. Worth every single penny!




We ended our day at Krabi Night Market which open from 5pm onwards. Plenty of halal Thai street food available and it's delicious especially the coconut ice cream (known as sangkaya in Malaysia) and fried ice cream (milk is fried on the frozen pan and taddaa it become ice cream). It's a tourist market so it's crowded with people and quite pricey.

Day #3, 17 September 2016

It's island hoping day. We totally aware that the weather was not that good. It's raining heavily at night before until dawn. But the agent said it is safe to go for island hoping. With the hope that everything will be just fine, ended up it became the most horrible island hoping experience that we ever had. The sea was very super duper rough. Never experience that before. Even the boatmen said that day was among the worst along the year. We even thought that all of us will be dead in the sea. My kids were crying and being a mama, i also cried with them (not helpful huh!). My mom, hubby and brother in law had a sea sick and vomit in the boat. We did not enjoy the boat ride and scenary at all.

We took Phi Phi Island Package via speedboat which cost us THB1,350 per adult. It took 2 hours for the boat to reach the first attraction famously known as Bamboo Island. Too exhausted, we only let the kids play with the sand at Bamboo Island. After an hour, we need to embark on the speedboat again. Everybody was traumatized but no other option we have to proceed with the next attraction which is Monkey Bay. We insisted of not going because monkey is so common in Malaysia, but given that there were tourists from US, Israel and Europe, monkey is really an excitement for them.

Next, Phi Phi Don. It was crowded with people and boat. I would say Phi Phi Island is over rated as compared to Hong Island. There were so many speedboats we couldn’t even see the beach. In fact there was no physical space to park the boat so we had to force our way between two other boats. The smell of diesel didn’t help. Not a promising start.After a tasteless lunch buffet next to the beach with thousands of people, we got to explore the surroundings a bit and try to take in the scenery past the touristy stuff. Phi Phi Don has one of the more intense vibes supposedly based on my search from google. Maybe my experience could have been better if it wasn't a rough boat ride or maybe being an introvert person, it’s not just my kind of place. But I’m afraid what I saw didn’t exactly got me craving for more.
It's windy that a bunch of sand gets blown all over
Next, as it was a bad day for the boat ride, Maya Bay which apparently the most wonderful beach in Thailand at least, is not accessible. The speedboat brought us to Loh Samah Bay for snorkeling. And every other boats were heading to the same snorkeling spot which make the scenery less attractive. Girls stay in the boat, men including the boys went down for snorkeling surrounded by the boats. According to them, the coral at Hong Island was much better and as there were too many boats around them, the diesel smell and maybe taste were too overwhelmed. But at least the kids really enjoyed the experience of swimming with the fish.

Heading back to Ao Nang at last, the boat ride was as rough as the morning ride. Traumatized with this experience, we will put a halt for boat ride until further notice.

As planned, next agenda - self BBQ'ed dinner at Baan Santhiya with raw seafood bought from the local market.
                                                         The price of seafood at the local market in Krabi almost half than price of seafood in Kuala Lumpur. We bought the paste and spicy dip at the local market as well. 




















Day #4, 18 September 2016


Last minute shopping, eating and spa'ing at Ao Nang while catching pokemon. Overall, other than the rough sea ride, we had a blast! 

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Travelogue 10: Fantastic Four in Melbourne and Victoria!

At last the countdown ended on 19th May 2016. Kimi and Hafiey were sooooo look forward for the trip. And honestly they were great travelling companion. Me and my other half, 5-1/2 years old Kimi, not yet 3 years old Hafiey, 2 large baggage, 2 strollers, 1 handbag and 1 knapsack, Alhamdulillah we managed to handle it very well. 

We took midnight flight via Air Asia to save the accommodation cost and of course to make sure the kids doze off easily.
Holding his plane and the safety pamphlet throughout 8 hours flying
Arrived at Tullamarine Airport at 7am, we rented a car together with 2 car seats for the boys (booked online) and headed to the first destination.

20th May 2016


The details journey looks like
It was so frustrating that few checkpoints have to be eliminated as the sun set as early as 6pm. The road along Great Ocean Road is not that bad but wait until you start the journey from Apollo Bay until 12 Apostles. It was a challenging and narrow road. But it was all worth it for the breathtaking scenery as a reward. 

The Great Ocean Road is an Australian National Heritage listed 243 kilometres (151 mi) stretch of road along the south-eastern coast of Australia between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Allansford. Built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932 and dedicated to soldiers killed during World War I, the road is the world's largest war memorial, it's winding through varying terrain along the coast.

From Teddy's look out
Apollo Bay

Gibson Step and 12 Apostles' panoramic view
We were so unlucky that we reached 12 Apostles during sunset and not able to capture the scenic ocean view. We continued the journey on the Great Ocean Road on the next day.

The cabin though small, it is so convenient for a short stay. Fully equipped with kitchen utensils, microwave oven, stove, toaster and even rice cooker. There is 1 queen bed for us and the bunker bed for the boys. For RM100 nett, it's worth it. Not so surprise, we had a baked curry salmon with rice for dinner made with love..The fresh salmon was from Apollo Bay Fisheries Co Op..

Great Ocean Road Tourist Park



21st May 2016


It is so damn crucial for you to wake up very early each morning during travelling and be punctual as per your itinerary or else the journey will not be according to plan. We  included London Bridge as part of our itinerary to cover the previous day's itinerary and afterwards proceed as per planned journey.

Eliminated lunch part, we had big breakfast at the cabin of course made with love..

 London Brigde
It was freezing cold and windy that morning at the London Bridge, and yet that guy only wear a green shirt with shades..I always wonder how much fat he has in the body to keep him that warm...muahahha

Our next destination, the ARHS Newport Railway Museum which only open on Saturday every week.  The museum contains the largest existing collection of Victorian Railways steam locomotives, a wide range of other Victorian Railways rolling stock, and numerous Victorian Railways artifacts.
The place looks well maintained though it is run by the volunteers.

I was so glad that I was able to bring the boys to the museum especially Kimi as he is really into trains' stuff. For a 6 years old boy, he has a deep knowledge in technical parts of the train as well as the rail road crossing. This place is like heaven to Kimi. We spent 3 hours to accommodate the kids interests. 




After checked in at Best Western Melbourne's Princess Park Motor Inn, we strolled along the road to buy some fresh food to cook in Melbourne CBD. Coles, Kmart and Woolworth are just walking distance from the lodging, it was very easy for us to do quick shop. And we had salmon again for dinner.
Salmon Curry with white rice
Cozy  apartment fully equip with kitchen

22nd May 2016

It's a tram day! The boys really look forward to ride on the tram. They keep on watching the tram passed by from the apartment's balcony.


We rode on tram Route 19 (North Coburg)  from Brunswick Road to Stop 7, Queen Victoria Market. It was easy to use the tram and there is free tram zone as well. You just need myki card which easily available at 711 and few other stores. This link can be used for everybody's reference: http://www.yarratrams.com.au/

It was just a walk around at the Queen Victoria Market..little bit of shopping for souvenirs and can't resist to buy the fruits and mushrooms!!!



The market is super dry though it sells fisheries. A superb example to be adopted in Malaysia.

Stopped by for lunch at one of the kiosk in QVM as Kimi cannot resist the smell of their home made pizza. Luckily it's halal or else I need to explain to him why we cannot eat meat here and tonnes of questions will come out from his mouth. Super delicious latte for the parents.

Back to the hotel for prayers and after that we let the boys run freely at the park in front of the hotel.
In front of Best Western Melbourne's Princess Park Motor Inn

Next agenda , the famous colorful box at Brighton Beach. Superb scenery but cranky Hafiey refused to wear sweater and insisted to wear shirt with tram's picture on it (just bought at QVM). To cool him down, I give him the chips! Bad parenting huh..!

23rd May 2016



What a super duper cold day. Saying goodbye to Melbourne, we headed to the most awaited moment for the kids...the Puffing Billy!! I bought the ticket online and our train was the first train in the morning left at 1030am. We arrived at Belgrave around 10am to secure the parking. It's free!


It's an amazing place to visit. A perfect ten. For those who are obsess with train or in Kimi's case, obsess with anything related to train i.e. railroad crossing, signal, coupling rod, derailer, whistle just to name a few..lots of other terms that mama also cannot remember, this is the right place. If your kids so into Thomas and Friends, please visit this place in March as the head of puffing billy will become Thomas head. Hahaha..

The railway was originally one of five narrow gauge lines of the Victorian Railways opened around the beginning of the 20th century. It runs through the southern foothills of the Dandenong Ranges to Gembrook.


Made Egg Sandwich in Puffing Billy but the picture looks like ate sandwich in  Puffing Billy


We only took ride from Belgrave until Lakeside and return to Belgrave. The train stopped for 5-10 minutes at Menzies Creek and Emerald.

The train journey is a 60 minute train ride one way from Belgrave to Lakeside and is a great option for families and couples who wish to take a return trip.  It is recommended to allow a minimum of 3 hours for a return trip to this station, subject to the time table.

BBQ facilities and picnic tables make this an ideal place to relax alongside the lake. Passengers can pack a picnic or purchase lunch from the café. Playground facilities, a wading pool (summer only) and paddle boats (for hire) are available to keep the kids entertained. There is also a miniature train track with a separate fares.

It was freezing cold so we decided not to have any picnic at the park. Therefore, somewhere with a heater such as the miniature train house would be very nice for us to spend our time while waiting for the return train.

After spending 3 hours at Puffing Billy, we proceeded to the next destination which is Phillip Island. The 2 hours journey to Phillip Island was so enjoyable as both kids were sleeping, so no questions need to be entertained especially related to the train.

After checked in at Quay Motel San Remo, we headed to Phillip Island Chocolate Factory just across the bridge from the motel. Literally nobody was there, so we had the factory for us. We had loads of fun playing with the chocolate machine. The chocolate was surprisingly delicious and again surprisingly it's a Malaysian owned place. Just for notes, they also serves halal food but I cannot give any review on the deliciousness of the food as the cafe already close by the time we arrived. But the chocolate is super tasty. The ticket is inclusive of 1 piece of chocolate for everybody and you can collect more chocolate for free if you play the provided games in the chocolate factory. We were in the factory until it closed around 5pm and later headed to the lodging for dinner. It's maggi time!!



We were at Phillip Island but we did not go to the Penguin Parade..why?

  • We have super active Hafiey that might run from the seats and crowds.
  • Kimi being Kimi will ask so many questions loudly that annoy other people (remember, somebody shoosh us and ask us to leave the tour group at Old Traford
  • Penguin Parade starts at 5pm and can end as late as 8pm. It's freezing cold at Phillip Island on that day of 23rd May, and I can imagine it's even colder if you stand up in front of the Antartic Ocean.
  • You are dealing with living thing.. penguin, Kimi and Hafiey..all are uncontrollable. We will not know when is the penguin make the appearance, we will not know when will Hafiey start shouting if he bored and when Kimi will stop asking questions..


So based on the justifications above, we choosed to stay at our motel and enjoy our night by looking at the cloudless sky with tonnes of stars. It's stargazing time! Free of charge..

24th May 2016












The last day at Down Under, we spent our morning at The Nobbies. Facing the Antartic Ocean, we strolled along The Nobbies boardwalk and enjoy spectacular views along Phillip Island’s rugged south coast. Initially we plan to go to the Antartic Journey, but Mama need to go to DFO for shopping.

Last one before we headed to DFO Essendon, we went to Churchill Island Heritage Farm.  Churchill Island sits just of the Phillip Island coast and is accessed by an all vehicle bridge. It offers a range of daily farming activities and walks around the island.

Daily farming activities:

1.00pm                 wagon rides (weekends, school and public holidays only)
2.10pm                 cow milking
2.30pm                 sheep shearing
2.45pm                 whip cracking
3.05pm                 working dogs
3.20pm                 sheep shearing

The best part was, we skipped all the daily farming activities to accommodate Mama's shopping time..



Additional blue bag leaving Australia
The ticket was AUD31.25 for one family and this place will be more interesting if we can attend the farm activities.

No picture at DFO. But definitely, brought back Oroton bags for sale!

We had dinner at the airport. A Malaysian kiosk selling noodles, nasi lemak and teh tarik with a reasonable price.