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

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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.

Quick trip to Delhi

Breath taking view of Humayun’s Tomb

While there are many things on my must do list in Delhi, I highly recommend attending a wedding in Delhi. Its a-mazing. The energy, colors, ceremonies, madness and parties are highly recommended for anybody who likes to be high on life. I recently had one such opportunity, and I had gala time. But this post is totally about what you were expecting – things to do while in Delhi.

Being in Delhi is a different feeling altogether. Its a mix of culture, tradition, old roads, old bazaars, heritage monuments blending with big lanes, high end stores, and huge ‘kothis’. I recently did a trip to Delhi and had a beautiful day to spend there. And I did what any art lover would do, open the map (ahem phone map) and just stretched my hand to hire rickshaw to take me places.

Being at¬†historical places, is like being in candy land for me. Beautiful edifice that has¬†been constructed for eternity. But to complete the crazy historical journey in one and half day I had to pick and choose places to visit. Here’s my list:

1. Humayun’s Tomb: This is a edifice that was built for burial of the Indian Mughal Emporer Humayun after his death in 1572 AD is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The complex encompasses the main tomb of the Emperor Humayun, which houses the graves of his wife, son, and also his great-great-grandson as well as numerous other subsequent Mughals. The complex also has¬†beautiful gardens that¬†are perfect place to bask in light sun. I would love to cherish some mangoes and goose while marveling at this beauty. Note-if you are a history lover, hire a guide as the stories about the place are worth listening to.

2. Red Fort: The magnificent fort was once a residence for an Indian Mughal ruler which also served as capital for the Mughal empire in India. Fort, built in 1648, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Red Fort Delhi is a mesmerizing piece of architecture, lying on the banks of Yamuna River, whose water was used for the moat that surround the wall. Every independence day, the Prime minister of the country hoist the national flag at the Red Fort and the national parade is performed.

3. Jama Masjid: The name literally translates to ‘the world reflecting mosque’ and it indeed it reflects a world in itself. Any day a tour to Jama Masjid will make you witness thousands of people from different parts of world. Its a huge mosque with capacity to accomodate nearly 25,000 people in its courtyard¬†itself. The brilliant use of red sandstones and white marbles in the entire masjid’ s architecture and generous spread of floral motifs, wines and inlay work makes it very attractive. It also reminds of the regal time of Mughal dynasty while they ruled in India. This mosque is also very similar to Jama Masjid mosque in Agra.

4. India Gate:¬†The India Gate was part of the work of the Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC), which came into existence in December 1917 for building war graves and memorials to soldiers killed in the First World War. Under the India Gate ‘Amar Jyot Jawan’, which literally means immortal flame of soldiers, is erected with four urns on side.

5. Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s House): This is an iconic structure located on ‘Rajpath’, which is one of the most filmed road in the capital city. The Rajpath is a wide long road with India Gate standing tall at one end and Rashtrapati Bhavan¬†on the other. So carry your high resolution camera to capture the other monument from one at a distance of 4 kms. Rashtrapati Bhavan is India’s President’s House spread across 320 acres with 340 rooms in it. Mighty right! The awesome thing visitors are allowed to the see some parts of the House and the Mughal garden. However, one needs to apply¬†for it in advance. This is something I found out much late in my tour. But make sure you read their guidelines carefully and don’t miss it.

6. Lotus temple: This is Bahai’s house of worship¬†located in Delhi, being one of the eight such houses around the world (9th in Turkmenistan has been destroyed). The temple is a true piece of art as the structure has been built in shape of a lotus with 27¬†free-standing marble-clad “petals” arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides. About 2,500 people can sit and pray inside this lotus at the same time. It has beautiful landscaping around the temple and nice place to relax and soak up the day.

7. Akshardham (Swaminarayan temple): I always make a point to visit Swaminarayan Temples wherever they are for they, I believe, are the only temples to be constructed in most recent century but has art and architecture detailing that was done centuries ago in India. And Akshardham is no exception to that. Brilliant structure and unique detailing signified from Indian mythology. The material used in the structure is so logical. For example, brown stone is layed out as flooring outside the temple with motifs made of white stones. However, apart from the artistic approach of colors, the white stones are good to walk on during the crazy summers as they absorb less heat. Apart from the structure, the story narrated about Shri Swaminarayan is really something to ponder upon.

There are many places in this city worth visiting and I am sure I will be blessed with many opportunities to visit this place again and again.

Lets take a visual tour together of my trip:

Enjoying blissfulness

Me looking petite at one of the four gates of Humayun’s Tomb¬†spread out in four directions¬†

Nai-ka Tomb which literally means barber’s tomb. Notice little blue cap on right is part of restoration work going on at the moment. Waiting to see this place restored in all its glory. I will come soon.

Octagonal shaped Isa Khan’s Tomb surrounded by beautiful octagonal shaped garden

Peeking in the glorious past

Indian flag hoisted on Red Fort

Majestic walls of Red Fort with moat around it

Sun set view from Jama Masjid

While we spent time at Jama Masjid experience the glory of past

Standing tall – India Gate

India Gate canopy lit up at night

Grandeur President’s home

India Gate’s view when standing outside President’s home with a distance of 4km in between

India’s Prime Miniter’s office #namo

Beautiful structures and skylines

Akshardham in its complete glory

Marvelous work of architecture at Lotus Temple

One of the lotus petal facades

Green gardens spread around Lotus temple

The food out here is so orgasmic that it deserves a dedicated post and if you are in Delhi there are few must visit places for shopoholics. So watch this space for more.