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THE GRAND HYATT, KUALA LUMPUR

Recently we were invited to spend a weekend at The Grand Hyatt, Kuala Lumpur. If you’ve ever been to KL, specifically anywhere near the Petronas Towers, you’ll know that the Grand Hyatt enjoys some of the most magnificent views of them and we were beyond excited to see them from a brand new, up close and luxurious angle.

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

Aside from the promise of new vistas, the invitation provided the opportunity to spend a weekend in the epicenter of Kuala Lumpur which meant that we would be able to happily abandon our car and walk around carefree to all our favourite coffee-shop spots that we’ve come to love when visiting the big city.

ARRIVAL

We arrived at the front entrance in our Ford Fiesta sedan and at first the doormen didn’t seem to understand that we were there to check in. Perhaps a Ford Fiesta isn’t the type of car they are used to receiving – I can’t be sure – but it was only after I had unpacked our bags and sent Lauren in to check-in did they come running to help.

Check-in was slightly underwhelming as a few front of house staff didn’t look up from their computers when we arrived. We had to approach them first, initiate greeting and basically clear our throats before they would assist us. There were no other guests in sight so either there was something extremely interesting on all three of their pc’s or this is an area that needs to be addressed.

Thankfully this turned out to be a one-time occasion and all other encounters with staff were really very good.

THE ROOM

We spent our weekend in the “Twin Towers View” king room on the 24th floor with a view of the Petronas Towers that was utterly magnificent. You’re so close to the towers that you actually have to tilt your head up to take them all in.

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

Thank goodness for a wide-angle lens which makes it possible to get better shots of them even though the lens makes them appear much further away.

 

The room was very plush and luxurious with all the bit’s and bobs you are used to when staying at a five star hotel. Things that really stood out to me was the fact that the TV was not front and centre of our room – which we really enjoyed. Nothing detracted from the views of the city and the towers in front of us and I don’t think we even thought about turing the TV on once.

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

Another thing I appreciated was the fast Internet – as bloggers we are always working so it was great to be able to access and download without a single hassle.

The room had a walk-in closet, which Lauren loved, and there was ample space for clothes to hang neatly. The bed was a dream to sleep in and so were the pillows. In case you aren’t happy with your pillows however, there is a large selection you can choose from.

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

Professional Image by The Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

 

I cannot fault anything about the room. From the air-con to the smallest detail – everything was great. Just the right balance of business and elegance.

THE POOL AND SPA

Can you believe we forgot to bring our costumes? It was a perfect weekend in Kuala Lumpur – we woke up on Saturday morning to blue skies and kicked ourselves for not remembering them. We did however go have a look at the pool area and found it to exquisite. This is the second Hyatt we’ve stayed at now and let me tell you – Hyatt does swimming pools very well. This one had a cafe, bar and plenty of deck chairs, sun-beds and loungers to go around. It looked so good we couldn’t stand to watch it anymore so we got out of there before the temptation to tear off our clothes drowned out all other reason.

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

Professional Image by The Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

 

THE HYATT CLUB

We were treated with access to the Hyatt Club – an exclusive dining area that we could access round the clock for coffee, snacks, drinks, WiFi and even a boardroom – should you need one. We ate breakfast here on both the mornings we spent at the hotel and encountered exceptionally friendly staff that went out of their way to get to know us.

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

The Club, just as with Thirty-Eight (the general breakfast area) enjoys grand views from the very top floors of the Hyatt. The food was great and I’m pleased to say that so was the coffee! Coffee is essential to us in the mornings and believe it or not there are a lot of high-end hotels that just get it completely wrong. The Grand Hyatt got it very right!

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

Professional Image by The Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

 

Thirty-Eight, the other restaurant and breakfast area, also offers exceptional evening dining and on both evenings we witnessed wonderful live music.

LOCATION

I’ve already mentioned the location but I’ll just state again that the Hyatt enjoys some of the most sought after estate in Kuala Lumpur. At the ground floor it’s a short walk into the park and then on into the many shopping malls of KLCC. Overall it’s a very central location and getting anywhere from here via cab or public transport isn’t a hassle at all.

I really enjoyed going to sit beside the lake at Suria Mall in the late evenings and watching the colourful rhythmic fountains dance to the music. KLCC is really cosmopolitan so it’s also a wonderful place to just hang out and “people watch.”

PRICE

At the time of writing rooms are priced from a very reasonable $160 per night. There are often promotional offers on their website  – http://kualalumpur.grand.hyatt.com

CONCLUSION

It’s difficult to draw accurate conclusions about a hotel visit while you are there, either the smallest thing can cast the whole stay in a negative light or, on the flip-side, you can easily be overwhelmed by a new city, bright lights and all the trimmings – turning you a little giddy with delight (admittedly, not a bad thing.)

However, It’s been nearly four weeks since we’ve stayed at the Hyatt and because we go to KL very often I think our insights are slightly more accurate than someone who has just been there once.

Yes there are things that are interesting about the hotel such as the lift system, which is a bit of a conundrum as you can’t use one lift to access to your room. Instead, every time you leave or enter the hotel you have to use two, and if you are using your car – three.

But in conclusion we really can’t think of any reason that would stop us from going there. We really enjoyed it and, ultimately, would recommend it. I’ll always remember the views of the city and the towers. Day and night – those were my highlights.

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

Professional Image by The Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE – BULUNGULA

The warm glow danced on our faces to the rhythmic beat of the bongos. My wife Lauren and I sat beneath the star- laden skies, listening to tales in the familiar but foreign language of Xhosa. We hadn’t left our country and yet here we were, finally, in Africa. Campfires have a way of drawing all sorts together: the young English couple to our left, the deep-thinking American researcher to our right with a hunger for knowledge, the Dutch lady, a dredger by trade, and, sitting across the flames, a diviner who always managed to speak with a certain mystery in her voice.

Our adventure began at the turn-off near Umtata where the Eastern Cape roads began to deteriorate with impressive speed. Potholes were grouped in clusters, almost mocking our lack of extra tyre insurance as we passed by. Slowly, the roads wound us in. The hills are endless here and captivating, too; buildings and shop fronts are replaced by cows, goats, sheep and turquoise-coloured mud huts.

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Nqileni Village

Eventually the tarmac became nothing but a distant memory and my smartphone’s Google Maps failed me for the first time. Lauren sat in wonder, clutching our printed map in one hand and camera in the other, uttering directions like “in 5.4km at the wide tree take a left…”

These words guided us over the roads, which had reached the bedrock in several places. The journey had the feeling of a treasure hunt. Along the way we witnessed men thatching the roofs of rondavels and young children on adventures of their own. Through it all we only got lost once, corrected by a friendly woman carrying a large bundle of wood on her head.

COMMUNICATING WITHOUT WORDS

When we first laid eyes on the winding rivers I knew we were close. The hill troughs began to explode in lush green thickets of grass and trees. Barely 10 minutes and a rather intimidating descent later, we were perched at the crest of a hill looking out over an enchanted scene.

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first sight of the Bulungula River and Nqileni Village;

Rivers found their ends in the ocean, brightly coloured huts were dotted over the landscape, Xhosa people went about their daily lives, cows grazed on sloping hills and young boys tended to unconcerned sheep. As we began the slow descent to our accommodation at Bulungula Lodge in Nqileni Village, it felt like we had arrived in paradise.

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Three young boys, no older than four years of age, met us quite by accident where we parked our tiny vehicle. Practising the few phrases of Xhosa we knew, they responded with a flourish of words we couldn’t understand but smiles and laughter concealed the language barrier.

Two of them wanted to carry our bags, heavier than they were. This was our first taste of the friendliness of the Nqileni people, the village based between the Xhora and Bulungula Rivers.

ON CAMERAS AND MAKESHIFT RUNWAYS

The 80km drive from Coffee Bay had taken us three hours and had left us ravenous. After checking in and whisking our luggage into our traditional mud hut, we made our way to the kitchen for chicken mayo sandwiches toasted on traditional Xhosa bread. One slice is quite possibly equivalent to a quarter of a loaf at home and I began to wonder, with a smile, if this delicacy was not perhaps the reason behind the voluptuous frames of so many Xhosa women.

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After lunch we sat on the green slopes overlooking the river mouth and relaxed with not a soul in sight. To the left were an abundant community of homes, crops and livestock, to the right an unspoilt stretch of coast. Bizarrely, three light aircraft appeared out of nowhere and flew low over the ground just metres from where we were.

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Local villagers thatching a rondavel.

Eventually I gave in and made my way to the water’s edge, my toes feeling the bite of the cool water first. I lay on my back and floated as far as I could into the mouth. By the time I returned, a group of girls from the village were huddled around Lauren. She looked up at me from the game of Scrabble, which she had been sharing with them, and directed me with her eyes to look at a group of older girls who had got hold of the camera. They were instantly transformed into runway models, posing with sunglasses and cellphones. Some other young villagers had started playing bongo drums with a youthful blend of energy and skill.

A SOUL-MOVING EXPERIENCE

That evening, the sunset seemed to paint the sky with orange shades of smudgy pastels. As the fiery orb completed its descent out of sight, it cast the hilltops into a stark silhouette. On them, we made out the cylindrical huts, a pair of horses and a woman carrying a basket on her head.

There is no electricity at Bulungula Lodge other than the solar-powered system to run the essentials. Between bouts of conversation around the campfire, I looked up towards the sky in search of shooting stars. Rumour has it that if you don’t see one within 30 minutes here, you get an extra night free.

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enjoying a sunrise pancake

The days that followed were some of the most relaxing I’ve experienced, exploring the deserted coastline with its pure white sand (thrown into contrast by the green hills and grazing cows alongside it). We were led on foot through the village down to the Xhora River, spending a day paddling canoes. Along the steep rocky banks we encountered goats that had somehow made their way down the cliffs to the river’s edge. Further down, we found youths fishing for a bite to eat and, on the way back, we stopped for lunch at Ilanga Fire Restaurant, a community-run business that serves pancakes made on paraffin stoves.

Our time here was undoubtedly too short (is it ever long enough?). Yet, as we packed our bags, said our goodbyes and made our way back to our car, this time without the help of our young friends, our souls were moved, stirred and possibly changed forever.

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Ilanga Fire Restaurant staff;

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playing the bongos with the local kids.

CROUCH, TOUCH, JOHANNESBURG.

If you’ve been following social media over the last couple of years, you’re bound to have heard a lot about the new things going down in Johannesburg town. People are coming together, new cultural hubs are emerging and, as a result, the social landscape of the big city has undergone a massive transformation.

South African travel bloggers are even making a noise about it.

Suddenly going to Jozi, without having (to have) an alternate agenda, is beginning to sound like an okay thing to do. Perhaps even more than okay, perhaps an actual thing.

Even Johannesburg’s prolific hijackers seem to have been swept up in the craze and crime levels are levelling out, if not in fact, dropping*.

Lists are being written, not just about “which suit to wear”, “the best places to get a facelift” and “how to talk like a yuppie,” but things like the “top 37 things to do in Johannesburg.” Thirty seven! If that doesn’t begin swinging the pendulum, nothing will.

THIS JOZI THING IS A GOOD THING. 

Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg

Image Courtesy of Henk Coetzee

 

Joburg isn’t a wasteland, it never has been (Cape Town, i’m talking to you.) It just needs a new image. Like a beard, and possibly a top-knot.

The city’s colourful landscape has always been one-upped by it’s “We are the financial capital” /  “look at all our money” egotistical big brother. Nobody wants to visit a financial capital. N.O.B.O.D.Y.

So this rebranding is long overdue. And it is good. But it’s not all rebranding, that’s the wrong word. It’s more like a “revealing” of what’s already been there for so long, hidden from view by the blankets of Table Mountain.

I’m tired of hearing travellers pipe and and say “oh yes I went to South Africa once!” and then in very a hushed, sheepish sort of a manner “but only Johannesburg.” As if we are about to judge them. Johannesburg is South Africa and it’s about time we started showing everybody.

JOHANNESBURG IS ALIVE AND VIBRANT. 

There is so much on offer here that I feel cheated for not having heard about all the awesome things to do sooner. And I’m not the only one.

With segregation falling by the way side and a new, common, enemy rising from the cooling towers (Eskom) we are finally starting to get involved with each other.  Just take a look at some of the things going on here.

MABONENG PRECINCT

Johannesburg

Image courtesy of AEC – INTERESNI KAZKI

 

Maboneng has been described by BBC Travel as “one of South Africa’s hippest urban enclaves and an incredible example of urban regeneration.

Read all about it in the link or simply Google it. There is a ton of awesome content on Maboneng. You can also check out http://www.mabonengprecinct.com for all things Maboneng.

BRAAMFONTEIN

Braamfontein, Johannesburg

Image courtesy of Marthinus Duckitt of www.streetphotography.co.za

 

Another hot urban regeneration area, Braamfontein is all about boutique clothing stores, trendy markets and public art spaces.

Travel & Leisure Blog mention Braamfontein and say “..inner-city crime rates are dropping and young urbanites are moving in.” and they encourage tourists to “Walk down lively Juta Street in gritty-but-safe Braamfontein” to get all kinds awesome crafty things.

FOLLOW THESE PEOPLE FOR THE BEST THINGS GOING DOWN IN JOHANNESBURG.

Di Brown, The Roaming Giraffe

Not actually from Jozi but check out Di’s latest blog post “Cape Town, it’s time to meet Joburg” – her opening paragraph says it all.

“Surely this was a mistake. A nine day trip and three whole days were allocated for Joburg. What on earth were we going to do there?”

[Valid question for people living outside of Jozi.]

Di’s listed some really cool places there that Lauren and I have already added to our “next time we’re back home” check list. She’s also a passionate Instagrammer and travel ninja so check her out on Instagram andTwitter.

Heather Mason

Check out Heather’s blog, 2Summers for anything and everything Johannesburg related. Heather is an American living in Jozi and not only has heaps of awesome information on her blog, but also a unique insight into daily life that South African’s often miss. Heather’s been here for 5 years already so, in fact, a fully fledged local. :)

Check here out on Instagram and Twitter too.

Merushka Govender

Merushka is a South African travel blogger / enthusiast with a passion for Jozi like you’ve never seen. She finds interesting little cultural hotspots just about everywhere and shares them with us. Check this article “Johannesburg in 48 seconds” that she posted on her blog.

Merushka is also very active on Instagram and Twitter so go follow her there for updates about what she’s up to.

Kate Els

Kate is another dynamite Johannesburg based blogger and shares her stories over at http://indikate.net. More than an independent travel advocate, Kate rocks out daily life in Jozi with the best of them.

Go check her out for updates out of Joburg on Instagram and Twitter.

Hasmita Nair

Until June this year Hasmita will be based in the South of France (jealous) but her blog is a Jozi treasure chest. Check it out at http://www.joziliciousblog.co.za and also follow her on Instagram and Twitter where she fills your day with quirky updates. Hasmita is awesome.

That’s all for now. I’m pretty excited to get back to South Africa and check out all of this for myself, we were last in Johannesburg in October 2013 just before our huge South African road trip (actually it was one of our destinations,) but we didn’t get much time there. So we are keen to check it out.

Are there any places you can recommend us to check out or would like to see included in a future post? Please let us know in the comments.

5 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER VISIT MALAYSIA.

So you want to visit Malaysia?  Somehow the Southeast Asian country has popped up on your radar, or you’re just in the neighbourhood and think it’s worth a stamp in your passport do you?  Well thank your lucky stars because i’m here to tell you all the reasons why you should NEVER visit Malaysia.

Can you trust our opinion?  Well, we’ve only spent the last 13 months living in this veritable hell hole and we’ve travelled all over it, going up and down desperately searching for places worthy of writing about. So decide for yourself.  We’re still living here in fact, barely scraping out a living and being martyrs, for your sake.

I feel that best way to show you why you should NEVER visit Malaysia is to recruit my Instagram feed, but at the end of the day you’ll need to judge for yourself.

So, without further adieu…

1. MALAYSIA HAS THE WORST BEACHES. EVER.

Why you should Never visit Malaysia

This beach is obviously not where you want to spend your vacation. Pulau Besar, Mersing.

Why you should Never visit Malaysia

An unhappy scene, also Pulau Besar, Mersing.

Why you should Never visit Malaysia

Disappointing shades of blue. Salang, Tioman Island.

2. MALAYSIAN PEOPLE ARE LAZY.

Why you should Never visit Malaysia

A elderly man would rather play with boxes than work. Malacca.

Fisherman, Malaysia

Providing fish for his family and teaching his younger children his trade…Supposedly. Endau, Johor.

3. MALAYSIA HAS THE WORST SUNSETS.

Why you should Never visit Malaysia

I mean, these holidaymakers aren’t even taking sunset selfies. Tekek, Tioman Island.

sunset rice field malaysia

Where is the beauty? Rice paddies in Air Papan, Johor.

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Just an ordinary sunset from Salang, Tioman Island.

4. AND DON’T GET ME STARTED ON THE SUNRISE’S. 

Why you should Never visit Malaysia

A sad and lonely girl in Juara, Tioman Island.

kuantan pahang sunrise TC beach

At least the water is warm enough for morning swims. Teluk Cempendak Beach, Kuantan, Pahang.

Why you should Never visit Malaysia

All alone on TC Beach, Kuantan from the Hyatt Regency.

5. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO CULTURE / HISTORY IN MALAYSIA.

malacca chinese temple

Morbid scenes from the oldest Chinese temple in Malacca.

 

WE WON “BEST TRAVEL BLOG IN AFRICA” 2015!

We are stoked to announce that we were chosen by the African Blogger Awards as the “Best Travel Blog in Africa!” well actually they phrased it “Best blog about Travel” but it’s the same thing (right?) Either way, we’re pumped.

2015 is the second edition of the refreshingly different African Blogger Awards. Refreshing because rather than a competition based on votes from your peers, parents, dogs, cats and neighbours pet seahorse, their results are determined from an algorithm based on stats. There is no begging for votes on Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp and all that other drivel.

At the end of the day we are all tired of seeing those carefully worded “please vote for me” tweets.

Before anyone gets negative and judgy about stats though, let me be the first to say that stats are not the be-all and the end-all of what a website / blog is about and algorithms aren’t perfect either, in fact Google & Facebook both own the most hated algo’s out there.

That said, in my opinion they do a much better job in determining the success of a blog than votes, which is ultimately just a popularity contest aimed at gaining exposure for the company running the contest and not the actual entrants.

SO WHAT DOES “BEST TRAVEL BLOG IN AFRICA” MEAN?

Awards and the title’s that go along with them should always be taken with a pinch of salt because ultimately the question asked is “who gives the organisers the right to declare that?” and it is a good question because there are a lot of incredible African travel blogs and bloggers out there (and we count ourselves lucky to know many of them personally.) Furthermore, the travel niche is a large one with many players participating.

There are also huge, much bigger African travel blogs with lots of writers, contributors and even staff, blogs likeTravelstart, SA-Venues, Getaway and Travel Ground, who are all excellent.

So what it really means then, is “best of those that entered”, and even then people will debate, roll their eyes etc.

But we’ll take it…along with the awesome little trophy. Because who doesn’t like a trophy?

At the end of the day we are two travel bloggers from South Africa that focus on the destinations where we are. We don’t solely write about South Africa or even Africa for that matter, though they are our first loves, the world is a lot bigger than that, and we’d like to experience / write about as much of it as possible.

That said, from December this year we’ll be back at home (dare I say) for good and we’ll be focusing more on Mzansi and Southern Africa…Fo Sho. 😉

A lot of hard work and behind the scenes stuff goes into this little blog of ours and it’s great to see our work being recognised and rewarded.

THE THANKS.

Ultimately the thanks goes to our readers and all the people that have surprised us by clicking on our links. Thank you. Both Lauren and I are working hard everyday to improve the quality of our story-telling, our photography and our blog and we hope that in year from now we’ll be serving up even better travel tales and destinations to you.

Thanks too, to all our blogging friends and family that have inspired us and helped us to do better. You guys rock the socks.

And finally, a big thanks to everyone at Webfluential for your platform and this competition.

You can go check out the rest of the category winners and runners-up here.

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Use Car Services in Boston and Make Your Travel Plans Effortless and Ahead of Time

Car services are convenient when you want to effortlessly get around in Boston without worrying about driving your own car. With a car service, you can rent a chauffeured vehicle for just about any purpose, such as airport pick-up and drop-off, an anniversary date, a concert, a party, or a business meeting. Car services are popular with different clients because they are cost effective and reliable when making travel plans. You can book a car service in Boston ahead of time for a proper way to plan your trip.

You can reserve a car service to and from various Boston health facilities, like health clinics, rehabilitation centers, doctor’s offices, and hospitals for a non-emergency medical appointment. This way, you will have an experienced driver to pick you up at your desired location and take you to your medical appointment on time. You can schedule the driver in advance to return to pick you up after the appointment or to wait for you outside the medical facility, whichever is more convenient.

Car services are convenient for hospital pickups. You can entrust your safety to the driver, who will take you home after your stay in the hospital. If you are bringing home a newborn, the car service company can provide a suitable infant car seat upon your request. You can make special arrangements if you require equipment to be picked up or prescriptions to be filled.

Points to point transfers are one of the reasons for booking a car service in Boston. You can reserve a chauffeured car service for an entire day of shopping or for business meetings. Car services can be handy when you want to have dinner with friends or with someone special and take them around Boston more conveniently. Boston car services are ideal for special occasions and groups of all sizes, so you and your friends, colleagues, or family no longer have to worry about carpooling or assigning a driver.

Companies that offer car services in Boston provide 24/7 customer service and accept online reservations. This way, you can reserve a chauffeured car or an SUV even at the last minute. The chauffeurs are professionally trained and can be booked for a meet and greet service, too. The best car services in Boston can track flights live to determine any delays or cancellations. They use the latest fleet of cars to ensure safety, a stylish vehicle, fuel economy, and a competitively priced service.