East Indies Mansion – Heritage home stay, George Town, Malaysia

Home stays are my all time preferred stay options. I love the idea of home setting, cozy rooms, warm bed and off-course little corner table with chai kettle. Well these things are something you get in hotel too but lacks personal touch. On the contrary, home stays are run by warm home owners and local people working in there. They aren’t taught by professionals to smile and hence, that piece sets the experience apart for me. A warm chat with them over the chai, just adds the zinc to the chai flavor.

When we booked this place during our visit to Malaysia, we didn’t exactly read its history. We just happen to book them on Agoda since it had high ratings. When we reached there, from outside the house looks like any normal house in George Town. Situated in the Little India street, in the heart of UNESCO Heritage

Zone of George Town, the charming East Indies Mansion, also known as the house of Koh Lay Huan, is a delightful place to stay that you will love. Spacious, quiet and breezy verandas; they all speak of the long history that breathes through the house. A little part of me just dream’t of owning a house like that some day.

This gorgeous historic mansion first built in 1793, is now a restoration result of three original Chinese houses. By looking at the East Indies Mansion from the street, we never imagined how immense the interior could be. A spacious entrance hall with a reception that opens into quiet veranda adorned with a plants and flowers everywhere and a lounge area that urges you to read a book or just relax and enjoy the silence. The veranda leads to various rooms and common dinning area and some more verandas. Every corner of the house is blooming with plants and flowers.

The architecture of the house is built on the principle of 5 elements – a common phenomena in Indian and Chinese architecture. The open veranda invites fresh flow of air and rain water that cleanses the house on all sides symbolising prosperity to seep into the house and into the lives of the people. The original frame of the house, walls, floors and most of the relics of the various house owners have been preserved which are on display at every corner. The house is a visual treat and one could spend hours adoring the heritage relics and details sprinkled all over the house.

East Indies Mansion features three spacious rooms (Standard Suites – Nutmeg), two large apartments (Deluxe Suite and Duplex Quadruple Room – Cinnamon), two family apartments on first floor (Family Suite – Anistar and King Suite – Clove) with each room serving a special feast to the eyes. We livid in Nutmeg which was a perfect place for 2 people on budget. 1 of the Nutmeg rooms has an tiny attic with a single bed and just perfect if you have toddler or 3rd person along. The staff is warm and attentive. The common dinning area has a well equipped kitchen which guests can use to cook some breakfast or coffee.

This mansion is also close to all stunning Chinese temples, amazing restaurants and other attractions of George Town making it a perfect choice to stay when in George Town. I would definitely love to visit them again someday and experience this house once again.

(Read my entire Malaysia tour with a tour to Kuala Lampur, Taman Negara, Cameroon Highlands, and George Town. Read about our other unique stays and cafes.)

Here is a visual tour of this gorgeous 230 years old mansion:

Dinning area with this beautiful window panes

The owner seems to be obsessed with rattan furniture and it just goes perfect with the mansion’s vibes

Gold lettered house name is gorgeous

One of the lounging areas. I just wanna live here forever

Akhil and his coffee

Nutmeg room where we stayed

I almost wanted to flick that porcelain kettle on the left. In my defense its insanely adorable ūüėõ

Lounging area outside Cinnamon room

These pastel metal chairs for tiny tots is just too cute

Such bohemian vibes

They have these windows installed in so many areas. Such cool tip to keep the house cool and airy

They haven’t missed any details in this home

The intricate carvings of this wooden support is utility with beauty

Etched mirror

They have lotus growing in many such pots

Here’s a happy soul with her cuppa

Advertisements

Taman Negara | Travel Guide

‘Taman Negara’ which lietrally means National Park in Malay. It has flourished since the land rose from the sea during the Jurassic era, around 130 million years ago and even ice ages haven’t affected the forest. The oldness of the area is due to its southerly location which left it untouched by the ice ages and glaciers.

Within the park boundaries there are tigers, Malayan tapirs, elephants, wild boar, various species of deer, leopards, sun bears, civets and wild ox, to name just a few.

Add to this between 200-300 species of birds and thousands of insects making their lives on the jungle floor. Taman Negara has one of the richest ecologies on earth, protected both by its impenetrability and Malaysian law. Prior to the Jurassic period, the entire Malay peninsula was submerged underwater. As a result, sedimentary rock and limestone make up the fertile base of Taman Negara and its interesting cave system. Most of Malaysia’s fossils have also been discovered within the limestone of this national park.

Choosing Tour agency:

Easy way to experience this beautiful forest is to book a tour with agencies. The package can be chosen depending on appetite for adventure. There are various agencies and they keep cropping up. However, its best to stick to more reviewed and visited agent. Adventoro, Taman Negara Travels, NKS, Taman Negara Asia, and Tour HQ to name a few. We chose NKS as they had most number of reviews and looked decent with quiet some felxibility (will talk about it in package section).

The catch is, that there are multiple websites offering tours, however, there are only 4 agencies who will officially take you inside the forest. I am guessing these are the only government certified agencies and hence most of the website that we see are like agents who make a commission on tourists brought the key agencies.

Package:

Variety of packages differs basis level of adventure, number of days and type of stay. Most packages have easy activities that most people to perform. For extreme adventure of trek in deep forest, there are specific local guides whom you can connect with through tour operator when you reach to Jerantut before confirming package and collecting travel voucher. Unfortunately i found very little information about such guides and hence I did’nt take any chance as there were no reviews.

We choose 3 days 2 night package which was perfect amount of time to be spent in the forest since we are easy going on adventure front.

DO

Canopy walking: This is almost an hour long walk and real fun way to see depth and height of the forest. This was quiet fascinating adventure and ideal for most age group. However, people with acrophobia need to be cautious. But its definitely a once in lifetime experience.

Jungle night walk: This was most exciting thing to do in this package. You are armed with just a guide and each person with torch light. The guide will take you on a pathway so the walk is bit easy but be ready to see insects and mammals which you would only see in wildlife books. We spotted antilope, jungle spider, scorpion, varieties of snakes, wild bore, exotic leopard cat, etc.

Next day, we took a night walk by ourselves and we happen to spot deers and leopards (leap). It was the best thing to do with bunch of travelers from across globe.

Meet Buket Tribe: Perhaps the most notable aspect of¬†visiting Taman Negara is visiting the Orang Asli, or ‚Äúoriginal people.‚ÄĚ The indigenous people¬†of this area actually refer to themselves as the¬†Batek. Although their population numbers are low‚Äď just a few thousand‚Äď they are very much present along the banks of Tremeling River.¬†The Batek are a nomadic tribe who still largely survive by hunting and gathering. Their diet consists of fruits from the jungle, yams, fish and small animals such as¬†monkeys and squirrels, which they hunt with blowpipes and poison darts.¬†The Batek¬†are a peaceful people. Their palm-thatch hut villages are arranged both roughshod (reflecting their nomadic nature) and communally (with a shelter and table to share whatever food is foraged). Food is distributed equally, with portions reflecting the numbers of each household.

The freshness in the air was unmatched to the purest place I have experienced till date.

Rapid Shooting: The highlight of the tour came when we were allowed to attempt using the blowpipe, which they use to hunt monkeys and other small animals. The Batek are skilled enough to take down moving animals from 50 yards away. But of course everyone in our group struggled to get a dart to stick into a stationary target just a few feet away.

Cave Tour: There are many interesting caves in the park other than Gua Telinga. These have mostly been scupltured by underground rivers flowing through limestone outcrops. The caves are located in isolated area of the park, 2.5 hours boat ride form Kuala Tahan then proceed for 3-5 hours trekking. Among the popular caves are Gua Telinga, Gua Kepayang Kecil, Kepayang Besar, Gua Luas, Gua Landak, Gua Tumpat, Gua Siput, Gua Cemara, and Gua Peningat. Unfortunately during our visit the caves were shut by government for preservation.

Flora & Fauna: Being one of the oldest forest, the flora & fauna has a unique charm. Most of the trees are extremely tall and some of them are so huge that humans are tiny speck standing in front of these gigantic beauties. To put things into perspective, this national park boasts 10,000 species of plants; an astounding 150,000 varieties of insects; 100 types of slithering serpents; 1,000 types of butterflies; and hundreds of other animals including tapirs, elephants, rhinoceros, pigs, leopards and more!

Undoubtedly a treasure trove of flora and fauna, the National Park also has an abundance of epiphytes; more than 3,000 over plant species as well as 246 species of ferns found across the land. There are also numerous endemic plants such as the Tahan Serdang Palms and Tahan Bertam, to name a few. Intriguingly, there are also wild grapes and rare species of orchids just waiting for you to discover. However, the jewel in Taman Negara’s crown is definitely the notorious Rafflesia flower, said to be the largest in the world! The flower is rare; it takes six to nine months to bloom but only lasts three to four days.

EAT

Floating Boat Restaurant: They are really good to eat local cuisines served in the simplest plastic bowl and smile and warmth. I loved the prawn soup and ate them many times. You get amazing malay meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We stuck to local malay cuisines and that happened to be the best bet. There are couple of cafes for some coffee.

STAY

The stay will always be part of the tour package so we don’t need to go there and search for one. There are variety of options to select from. There are lush resorts, homestays and hostels. We chose a homestay called Rainbow and it was a clean and hygienic place. The tour agents tie up with local people who let out their homes for tourists and it works perfect. Our room had a lovely river view (we had insisted the tour agent when we started our journey) and equipped with air-conditioner (which we didn’t need at all). They had lovely lounging area outside the room with decent book collection left by travelers.

Tip: We created our Malaysia itinerary in such a way that after Taman Negara we had to visit Cameron Highland. The tour agents usually provide a pick up and drop from hotel for some extra cost which is perfect and ended up being cheaper.

Here’s a little virtual tour of our trip:

Canopy walking

Such pretty ferns

View from our room

Akhil enjoying some alone time

 

 

Was talking to an older buddy

Ratan tree (our beloved ratan furniture is made from this)

Just to give a perspective of how tall the trees are at this forest

Thatched roof house of Batek tribe

Humble life of the tribe

I love this capture. Those eyes, the frail body, beautiful curly hair and our peek-a-boo

Batek tribe

Beautiful hand carved box of poisonous darts used for hunting. Collectible items

This was definitely one of the most memorable trip

Check out Malaysia trip post for complete itinerary.

Year of 2018

Like every year end, 2017 ended with fun, friends and food. Followed by guilt and self question on where am I on the goals set for myself.

Today morning, while doing my weekend-random-facebook-scrolling-ritual, I bumped onto this amazing video by John Assaraf. In this video he very well states the problem of setting goals and not following them. And also how people just dont end up achieving them because they aren’t ‘committed’ to them. (we all know we gave reasons and a ton of them)

In the video John asks to list down the goals, the timelines and 3 things required to achieve that goal. And i think its a fabulous way to be committed. However, in the long run, i have come to detest big goals with no pathway. I have realised that goals need to have clear breakdown of month by month and day by day. I immediately got down to designing my own calendar for the year for 2018. Wherein on each day I can plan what i want to and track it with a simple check-box next to it. I am going to put this calendar to try for myself. So here I am sharing the calendar design for free for all guys who wish to use it – Goal Calendar 2018. I am sharing the excel file for you guys to create your very own customised goals calendar.

If you do download and use the 2happysouls calendar, please do let us know how did you use the calendar? Did you achieve anything with its usage? If you made any of your own little change which is effective in usage/ measurement? Or if you have a completely different way of tracking and measuring your goals, we would love to know.

Lets get the 2018 started on a freaking awesome note!

Travel guide for Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

 

Cameron Highland is a high estate located just about 200 km from Kuala Lumpur. Being one of the highest region in Malaysia, this place has cool weather and charming tea estates. The bungalows, gardens, and golf course are the reminiscence of the British colonisers who would come to the highland for relaxation. Check further post for things to do in Cameron Highlands which can be wrapped up in about 2-3 days if you are on a roll.

SEE

Gunung Brinchang: Ideal way to start morning at Cameron is with hike to Gunung Brinchang, which is mainly a road walk and is not very tiring due to the lovely weather. The panoramic view at the peak which is at 6666ft and is worth every step. I had the opportunity to be among the clouds and aah that feeling of mist on my cheeks. You may hike up on your own or opt for an guide which is more recommendable.

Mossy Forest: After the hike at Gunung Brinchang, Mossy forest was our next destination.  Every plant and branch is covered with moss. The forest gives us the feeling of jungles from King Kong movie Рdense, mossy all over and creepers everywhere. But there were no reptiles or insects and I presume its mainly because of the therapeutic plants which grow in abundance here (the Cajeput tree from which famous Tiger balm is made, grows here).  One can also spot Pitcher plants in abundance here, but do not touch them as some variety of this plant are carnivorous. You will be lucky to spot Giant Rafflesia, an endangered flower which claims to be the largest flower in world, in this forest. Make sure to go only with a local guide or you may get lost in the forest.

Tea Plantation: Cameron highland has excellent weather for tea plantations here and ‘Boh‘ at Sungai Palas is an ideal estate to breathe in some tea vibes here (also it is the biggest). I find tea estates very romantic as there is vastness of the estate which is so green and the chill in the air makes my bare shoulder tinkle. At Boh tea plantation we took a tour of the tea factory and then got ourselves comfortable ¬†to sip some lovely tea with sumptuous little cakes. Make sure to buy little tea boxes for yourself and friends and family.

Starwberry farm:¬†Raju’s strawberry farm seems to be pretty famous as it was confirmed by a local person and various portals in my research – and since its strawberries it couldn’t go wrong for us in anyway. Go around and pick strawberries with your lovelies and then enjoy the joys of your pluck. Though I found this to be a bit expensive activity which costed 35RMs (for 1/2kg I guess). But I think the price is more for the experience than for the strawberries. You can find quite some local fresh fruits and vegetables shops very close to Raju’s strawberry farm.

Bee farm/ reptile farm: There are many farms that breed bees and other reptiles as well. Its a good place to look at gorgeous butterflies and vibrant snakes and hedgehogs at such farms. Its a fun activity for a reptile lover or to show the kids around.

Cactus Valley: Walk along the lovely terraces to see the varieties of flowers and vegetables and off course cactus. They are all in abundance and will stimulate all your sensory organs. I went little crazy at the site of cactus varieties.

Robinson Waterfalls: Jungle trail number 9 leads to Robinson Waterfalls – a serene place to relax and soak in the air. These are impressive falls especially in rain time (September to January) and its an off beat trail as well.

Kea Farm Market: Take a walk at this farmer’s market and buy yourself some fresh fruits. If you are in strawberry season, then you’ll find them everywhere while they will be cheaper at such farmer’s market.

Tip: For about 40RMs/ 8 hours there are motorcycles available to go around the city and relax at our own pace. Though I wouldn’t recommend taking them when going to any uphill areas. The engines might not be powerful enough to take you through high elevations.

EAT

Steamboat cuisine: Best way to enjoy this dish would be to go brunching with friends and family – because its like potluck. You wont regret trying this dish. This dish has variations in various Asian countries such as Hot Pot in China. You may try this at Cameron Organic Produce Steamboat Restaurant and Ok Tuck Restaurant.

Steamed corns and sweet potatoes: How awesome are these to just keep nibbling while roaming in streets of Cameron and that chilly weather. I was amazed to see the amount of sweet potatoes sold and consumed here.

Ye Olde Smokehouse: If you are craving for some smoked food, then this place is right for you as it serves some good meat.

Curry House: Malaysia is a home to many Indians (mainly Tamilians) hence Indian Masala Chai was need of the hour to let my taste buds feels closer to home. This is also a good place to try some kebabs and other nibblers.

Uncle Chow’s Kopitam: Cool hangout place to snack and sip coffee among the locals visiting this place.

Fruits: I love trying local fruits while I am visiting the country. It gives me good insight of the vegetation and natures’ delight in form of fruits. Must try fruits at Cameron highlands are strawberries, langsat, red and white guavas (jambu batu), rose apple (jambu merah), and love fruit which I shopped at the Kea farm market

SLEEP

There are tons of budget hotels and BnBs in Tanha Rata, Cameron Highlands. Just take a walk in the area and try your luck at multiple inexpensive stays. As most of these places either shut or change names so its difficult to keep track of them by their names. For stay options on a little expensive side (which isn’t really very expensive either) try Copthorne Hotel, Century Pines Resort, and Lakehouse Hotel. I really liked some Airbnb options such as this, this, and this.

We stayed in Farm View apartment which is hosted by Dennis Hong and I must say it was a delight staying at this Airbnb. The house is really amazing with lovely farm view. The house had all possible things available for tourist to live in comfortably. Dennis has a really interesting way of handing over the keys to its customer and I stop at that for you to experience it yourself, if you happen to stay here.

Tip: While selecting the stay options you either choose hotels in Tanha rata area which is like the main area to hang out and spend evenings or hotels in Brinchang area which is closer to tea estates and peaks and really quiet area. As the distance between the two is almost about 5kms, both areas give a little different feel.

Best season: Since Cameron Highlands is mountainous, its really cool for most of the season. To enjoy cool breezy weather January to April is a good time and to enjoy sunny weather May to July is a good time. Spetember onwards there are heavy rainfall making the temperature dip even below 10C during night Рhaving said that flora and fauna is at its best during this time.

Here’s a little virtual tour of our trip along with the tourist map:

Hat, simple sandal and map is all I need

Elevated roads and green all around

Beautiful cacti

Akhil being silly at the cactus farm

A table for two

Lavender farm

View of Boh Tea Plantation – till your eyes can see

Vibrant butterfly

View from Gunung Brinchang peak at 6666ft – those are clouds

Waiting for clouds to touch my face

Mossy forest

Enjoying footpath golf outside a cafe

Street food at Kea farm market

Strawberry farm just took it all literally

Check out other posts on our Malaysia tour.

Travel Guide for Kuala Lumpur

The majestic Petranoas Towers

SEE

1. Sin Sze Si Ya Temple: This is an old Chinese temple built in 1864 located in a small very-easy-to-miss-out bylane of Petalling street. Many people pray here for good luck from Wenchang Dijun, God of knowledge. For good fortune, Chinese practice is to crawl under the table right in front of the statues of Sin Sze ye or even circling the temple’s main alter three times. Fortune-telling is also performed at this temple. The temple people are very warm and lovely. Sin Sze Si Ya Temple is just a 5 min walk from Pasar Seni station or Masjid Jemak station by LRT train.

2. Petronas Towers: The towers are the¬†man-made marvel which were built at a breakneck speed of two & half years.They were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004 and remain the tallest twin towers in the world.¬†There’s a skybridge halfway through the towers where you get to stroll on and take some pictures before you move further up through multiple elevators. Final stop is at an observation deck on 84th floor from where you can see the other tower (2nd of the twin towers). Only putoff for me was the observation deck was quite enclosed making it bit difficult for me to completely capture the gigantism of the tower. Entry fee cost – RM 65 person

Note: They have timing to visit the tower and tickets have to be purchased in advance.

3. KL Tower: Another brilliant tower to marvel at the man-made beauty. Brilliant observation deck to experience. Go and see it. You get a better view of the city from this tower as compared to Petronas.

Note: They have timing to visit the tower and tickets have to be purchased in advance. Ideal time is to catch the sunset. Its just beautiful.

4. Batu Caves: Its a limestone hill adoring the Hindu temple with a tall statue of lord Murugan at the entrance. It is one of the famous Hindu shrines outside India. This place is also famous for the rock climbing with more than 160 climbing routes. So either lord or nature, just pick your calling. There are some hot springs around. Do explore.

There are some more places that I could like to recommend. But we couldn’t cover due to shortage of time.

5. Hike to Bukit Tabur: Read some opinion here.

6. Rice fields and fireflies tour: Read here.

7. Hot air-balloon flight over Putrajaya: Read here

EAT

1. Heli Lounge: This is a working heli pad which is used as so in day time and converted to a lounge by evening. Highly recommended lounging place as it provides a brilliant open panoramic view of the city. Ideal place for couples to enjoy a candle light dinner.

2. China Town: This place is a mini heaven for Asian street food lover and shoppers located at Jalan Petaling. I suggest a day time shopping and night time hogging trip to this place. Try the roasted chestnuts, momos, wanton mee, claypot loh shu fun. There are some night walking tours as well.

3. Town Squares: Some of the areas have town squares with all food options nestled in one place. Some of the best things to try here is Nasi Lemak, Nasi Kerabu, Sarawak Laksa,etc.

Some interesting options that can be tried:

4. Food trail walking tour: Read here.

Know more here and here.

SLEEP

KL has many options to stay in premium, budget and cheap category. Most opted options are the one with Petronas tower view. Check Oasis, Summer Suites, and Pacific Regency for budget options.

Note: most hotels/ hostels in Malaysia have check-in time of 2pm which is unusual and could make a difference in your itinerary. So plan accordingly.

Weather

Average is hot and humid as its closer to equator

October to April ‚Äď warm and sometimes wet

May to September – wet

December to February ‚Äď cool and sometimes wet

Reach to KL

This is an important hub for Malaysia and has great domestic and international flight connectivity. Once you reach KL airport, you may take express train to get in the city costing 55 RM. However, shuttle bus is the cheapest way to travel to city costing 15 RM. Also they have good metro rail connection to travel within city with short walk or short taxi drive distance to famous places. Once here, you may also choose to bike around in the city. Its one of the best and eco-friendly ways to go around the city.

Here’s a little virtual tour.

Wondering in town in my DIY dress

China Town market

Colorful pork momos at China Town

My favourite roasted chestnut stall at China Town market

2 souls in happy state of mind

Hubby negotiating with the temple guard to let us in since we reached after 5 pm. And he was successful ūüėÄ

Temple from inside

One of the doors at Sin Sze Si Ya Temple

look at all those adorable leather purses

Ate Pretzel at this place in Petronas Tower and they were to die for

Water fountain at Petronas Towers

My view from Heli Lounge

Colorful buildings

Beautiful graffiti adorning one of the walls in town

Do you think I missed out anything? Please do share your insights. I will be happy to take another trip to this crazy city that doesn’t sleep.