Hotel & Flight Reviews, Travel

Weekend Staycation: Review of The Boulevard Hotel Kuala Lumpur


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Our recent road trip up north to Malaysia brought us to Kuala Lumpur after a food-tastic night in Malacca. It was our first time driving outside of Johor Bahru from Singapore. We stayed two nights at The Boulevard Hotel in Kuala Kumpur. It is directly connected to Mid Valley Megamall – an excellent choice to get your shopping fix. We decided to hang out around the hotel area due to the heavy traffic going into the city center and it certainly kept us busy with retail therapy throughout our stay.

The Boulevard Hotel’s lobby can be accessed through the main entrance or a walkway that links directly to Mid Valley Megamall. If you are driving, the parking space is shared with the mall and you can get your parking validated at the hotel for RM5 before checking out. The restaurant, gym, swimming pool and the private spa facilities are located on the ninth floor of the hotel section. I would highly recommend Danai Spa, not only because it is one of the top ten spas in Malaysia, but the quality service is not to be missed!

The room we stayed in is a studio suite located at a cosy corner, mid-floor. It is wonderfully spacious (suitable for couples on their honeymoon or with a kid) and despite showing some age, it is tastefully decorated and has evergreen luxurious fixtures especially in the bathroom. Unfortunately we were not able to relax and soak in our bathtub due to the water running brown, which could have been due to the hotel  undergoing renovation works to upgrade all the rooms. We personally think this is a great management decision given the prime location of the hotel.

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The breakfast spread was good, with an international selection of bread and pastries. There was also your typical Malaysian-Singaporean breakfast options such as nasi lemak and fried noodles. Our stay was in December and we were lucky that we didn’t have to wait for a table amidst the peak-hour breakfast traffic.

Overall, we really enjoyed the location of the hotel and the amenities it provided. We would definitely stay here again for our next retail therapy trip.

This trip was made possible thanks to the wonderful hospitality provided by the Boulevard Hotel KL. We appreciate all the staff who were working with smiles on their faces throughout the festive Christmas season. 

Hotel & Flight Reviews, New Zealand, Travel

Review of Valley Views Glamping in New Zealand – Glamourous Camping


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Glamping is a concept becoming increasingly popular in many parts of the world as travellers are looking for something a little more comfortable than camping; in other words “Glamorous camping”. Having experienced the rugged outdoor camping in Yellowstone National Park, luxurious campervan-ing through New Zealand, and also seeing the dancing auroras above our heads living in Finnish igloos, none of them are quite like the glamping experience we had with Valley Views Glamping.

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As travel trends become more experience-based, creating that unique experience becomes immensely important so as to cater to the new generation of travellers. We drove into the mid-section of South Island – Otago to check this wonderful place out. 

Patrick and Amber greeted us personally at the wooden house on top of the hill. It is decked out with a fully-equipped kitchen and dining area as well as shared bathroom facilities. This house turns out to be the main area for lounging, cooking and having a cuppa next to the fireplace. There is a lovely swing where you can sit and simply relax and zone out with a beautiful view right before your eyes. Not forgetting there is a secluded area behind the trees where you can soak in bathtubs after a long day of travel. The tents are carefully and thoughtfully designed to have an unblocked view of the valley – hence the apt name “Valley Views”. Occasionally, we could hear the moo-ing of cattle in the valley. I thought to myself that sunrise and sunset would be absolutely breathtaking from our lodge – and so it was.

Inside the dome tent, it was hot in the day due to the summer sun. It would be perfect for non-summer season. The bed was super comfortable and would guarantee almost everyone with a luxury hotel feel. A porch area is available right outside to sip on tea under the sun. There was also an outdoor tub area to soak up the views while you enjoy the tub with a glass of wine.

There are plenty of hiking and outdoor trails around the area. Waitake river is nice and famous for salmon and trout fishing. Check out Benmore peninsula track for a magnificient view of the surrounding and it is one of the best hiking trail around Waitake valley.

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If you are looking to experience glamping in New Zealand, I would definitely recommend a stay with Valley Views during your road trip around South Island.

This trip is made possible with the hospitality of Valley Views Glamping, special thanks goes to Amber and Patrick for hosting us for this experience. All opinions and contents remain our own.

 

South Africa, Travel

A 3-Day Self-Drive Itinerary in Kruger National Park


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South Africa is known for diverse wildlife and the magnificent coastline with world class wines. That being said, I love the idea of being driven in game drives with open-top jeeps as much as I love to drive it myself. The wildlife photos that I have shared on social media, most people assumed that they were taken during a guided safari drive. In my recent trip to South Africa, I spent 3 days and 2 nights in the magnificent Kruger National Park. We entered the park apprehensive and excited, but left like kids that just visited Disneyland.

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The difference between guided safari game drives and self-driving is literally being driven and driving yourself respectively. There are two kinds of guided game drives, either with Sans Park or the privately owned ones. The one conducted by Sans Park has the privilege of going out earlier (before the gates open at rest camps and the Kruger main gates) and coming back later. There are also night drive options. You should always try to book in advance and experience one of these guided drive once. Private ones are usually pricier depending on the operator. Nothing is like self driving because you can drive wherever and stop whenever you like. A sense of satisfaction is achieved and greatly memorable when you spot the rarer animals like lions, leopards, cheetahs and rhinos. The kind of satisfaction achieved is like chasing the northern lights in Lapland, similar yet different.

When to go?

Avoid the wet season because of the risk of malaria, do take malaria pills and cover yourself up as precautions if you travel during this period. We went during September which is spring time in South Africa and decided not to take the pills. It is also the dry season and animals are out hunting more often, so that increases your chances of game viewing.

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How to go?

Most people fly into Johannesburg because it serves most major airlines. From the airport, it takes about 4 hours of driving to the main gate of Kruger National Park. Malelane gate is the nearest main gate if you are heading directly from Johannesburg area. But I recommend to spend the night outside Kruger and head in earliest the next day. The queue to enter the park usually starts 30 minutes before the park gate opens. Panorama route is highly recommended to be bundled into the journey before or after Kruger. Hazyview is a great town to stay over and you can enter through Phabeni gate early next day.

A coffee cart goes around early in the morning to those cars in the queue

How much to pay?

Sans park charges R372/person/day for conservation fees in Kruger National Park, this is even if you travel in the same car. For accommodations, bungalow style huts cost about R1500 and bigger family options starts from R2000.

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Gas Stations

My rule of thumb is to fill up whenever you see a gas station and the car is below half tank. There is usually a filling station in rest camps so the chances of running out of fuel is minimal when you are in Kruger.

Where to go?

This is critical because it will decide which rest camp you stay in Kruger National Park. Since booking availability in rest camp is much more difficult to obtain, I recommend to do it months in advance so that you get a good selection to match your route. With the rest camps booked, plan your drives according to the rest camp location. Different areas of Kruger are good for particular animals due to the terrain. Take note that the speed limit in the park is 50km/hr. This is not only for your safety but also for the wildlife.

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We entered from Hazy View and went up north before coming back down south.

Day 1

The night before was spent at Hazyview so it took about 15 minutes to join the gate queue at Phabeni. We entered the gate at 6am. It was a slow drive to Skukuza because it was our first time in the park and we stopped at every sighting. We saw baboons, zebras, impalas, hippos and eagles. Lunch at Skukuza has plenty of options, we loved the view of the Sabie river at Cattle Baron Grill and Bistro. We spent the first night in Satara rest camp. Taking the H1-2 and H1-3 is the direct route from Skukuza to Satara and they offer good chances of spotting lions and cheetahs because of the terrain changes to typical African savannah. We saw numerous sightings of elephants and giraffes along this route. We wanted to book an evening game drive at Satara but it was fully booked. Game drives with Sans Park can be booked and prepaid in advance together with accommodation. It was only near Satara that we spotted a cheetah at dusk when we went along the H7.

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Water buffalo with zebras in the backdrop

Lunch at Cattle Baron Grill and Bistro

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Cheetah spotted about 200m away from H7 tar road

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Zebra at sunset

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Lovely african sunset

Day 2

We woke up early to leave Satara but had to wait for the gate to open at 6am. Then, I had a little chat with the rest camp guard on duty. He mentioned that out of his five years working in Kruger, he had only experienced less than five leopard sightings. S100 is famous for the pride of lions that lives around but we did not see any during our drive. Instead, we caught two different prides around the H1-3. Yay! lion checked off the list! Another highlight was the family of hyenas that was lazing around their nest early in the morning. We continue south back towards Skukuza for lunch and then towards Lower Sabie via H4-1. We chanced upon 2 leopard sightings, WOW. Someone else spotted it both times and we happened to be there at the right time. We also spotted a pride of fifteen lions going on a hunting spree! We ended the day by heading to Berg-en-dal rest camp. We chose it because Lower Sabie and Crocrodile rest camps were full and this was the next best option.

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Mom and her two cubs

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This bigger brother came right under our car just to drink the condensation water from the AC

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Look at the size differential between a small car and an adult elephant!

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Another family crossing!

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Can you spot the leopard?

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Another one here

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This lion pride has about fifteen of them that crossed within a meter of our car door!

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Hundreds of water buffalos could be seen at the watering hole near Lower Sabie rest camp

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Ground Hornbill that is only found in Africa continent

Day 3

You can take another drive around if you have not seen all the animals on your check list! Exit Kruger either through Malelane gate or Crocodile Bridge gate.

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A pregnant hyena with her older cub spotted right before we exited via Malelane gate

The trip can done in reverse format, that means entering from the southern gates and leaving from Phabeni. It is also extendable by driving north to Olifants and beyond.

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Would you do a self-drive in Kruger National Park?