30 June 2007

Durian Feast at Segamat, Malaysia

DURIAN season is here! Talk about durians, most people would think of Segamat durians. Hubby's colleague M's hometown happens to be Segamat and she extended invitation to us to have a durian feast at her place. So we decided to venture to the origins to seek the long awaited King of Fruits.

We set off at 8+am (waking up early on a Saturday morning, the motivation of durians!) and went into Johor via the 2nd link. Had planned to go Machap, our usual pit stop for breakfast (about 90km from 2nd link, 30-40mins) but it was under renovation.

M proposed going to Yong Peng for Yong Tao Fu breakfast since Yong Peng is the exit to Segamat as well. Yong Peng is just another 15mins away from Machap.

There are quite a number of Yong Tau Fu eateries at Yong Peng, all claiming to be The authentic one. Fret not, because we have a local guide with us :) and she brought us to the eatery frequented by her family. Thumbs up! The fishballs were bouncy and kway teow very smooth. It was certainly a great way to start our quest for durians.

After an hour's drive from Yong Peng, we reached Segamat, hometown of durians.

M ordered 45kg of durians for us (4 people, 2 of us + another of hubby's colleague and spouse) and the durians cost only RM3 per kg. Upon reaching her place, we spared no time in opening the durians and devoured almost 20kg! Not that we finished all 20kg, we adopted the local's way of eating durians. If it ain't good, throw! No point wasting calories on lousy durians. Kind of extravagant way of eating huh?

The Segamat durians is unlike those D2, D24 and XO type of durians that tend to be very rich. These are more down-to-earth and "kampung" with a nostalgic taste; and you won't feel sick after eating too much.

After the durian feast, time for mahjong! Hadn't play since Chinese New Year and my fingers are already itching. We played for around 2hrs; as hubby's colleague had to return to Singapore by evening, we divided the balance of the durians and headed back.

Before leaving Segamat, M brought us to a coffee shop which serves excellent coffee and tea with toasted kaya and butter bread. A must-try for all who visit Segamat.

The traditional type of bread is used; sliced into halfs, toasted to perfect crispiness and spreaded generously with homemade kaya and butter. Don't think Ya Kun can compare to this.
The Kopi (coffee with milk) and Teh (tea with milk) are also famous here; brewed to just the right taste and aroma.

We also tried a packet of Nasi Lemak. This is the very humble traditional type wrapped in banana leaf (ermm, or is it another type of leaf?). The chilli is sedap!

With that, we headed back to Singapore. Well, all in 10hrs' "work". Fruitful indeed!

24 June 2007

Pranali Wellness Spa, Bangkok

Pranali Wellness Spa was the 2nd spa I visited during the Bangkok vacation. Honestly, it was not my intention to do spa treatments 2 day in a row. Sinful wasn't it?
But while shopping at Siam Paragon, I chanced upon Pranali. Well, after some intensive shopping, no harm pampering myself a bit right :p
In fact was deciding between Harnn and Thann Spa and Pranali Wellness Spa. Chose the latter all because of the spa deco and ambience. Not that Harnn and Thann is no good, just that the overall packaging of Pranali appeals to me more at that time.

I really like how the retail space is decorated, modern and sleek with fine touches of green and nature.
Spa treatment room is also nicely decorated with blends of nature. I took a 70min full body massage. Massage therapist was professional and skillful with exertion of just the right amount of pressure.
After the treatment, I was served a soothing herbal tea and some fruits. The spa owner happened to be in the shop. She was really friendly and when I sought permission to take some photos, she even led me to other treatment areas of the spa so that I could take more.
The Thai people are really very hospitable and sincere in providing service to their customers and this is one reason why I enjoy going to Bangkok.
I guess I would be visiting Pranali again next time, definitely a good idea to go for spa treatments after intensive shopping!
pranali wellness spa
Siam Paragon Branch
Unit 334, 3rd Floor, Siam Paragon Shopping Centre
991 Rama I Rd, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330
Tel: +66(0) 2610 9596-7 Fax: +66(0) 2610 9598
Website: http://www.pranaliwellness.com/
Email: pranali@pranaliwellness.com

Divana Nurture Spa, Bangkok

Before setting off for the Bangkok vacation, I already decided that I want to try spa treatments at one of the full-fledge spas there. Have heard much about quaint boutique spas around the Bangkok city but never had the chance in the past.
Searched the net for reviews and dvn international was one of the recommendations. Decided to check it out for this trip. Anyway, if it is not appealing, I can always go for Banyan Tree Spa at Banyan Tree Hotel or Devarana Spa at Dusit Thani Hotel (these 2 are on my someday-to-visit list).
So happened that one of the brands, the Divana Nurture Spa was just across the road from our apartment.
The entrance to the spa is a cosy tea room selling bakery items. The host led us through a lush garden to a two storey contemporary Thai house. The Western-style interior furnishings has an old-world charm which made visitors feel at home right away.

Our intention was actually to check out the place and spa menu first. If satisfied, would make appointment for the spa treatment at a later time. But we were drawn into the warm hospitality of the spa host and decided to do the spa treatment there and then.

Hubby took the Siamese Scent treatment which included a Pepper Berries Foot Soak followed by Siamese Massage for 90mins. Mine was Moonlight Anti-Stress which included a Pepper Berries Foot Soak, Head, Shoulders & Back Massage and Warm Herbal Compress for 120mins.

The massage therapists were quite skillful and our muscles got kneaded with the right amount of pressure. With soothing music, we soon drifted off and woke up feeling much relaxed.

Both treatments were relatively cheaper (as compared to Singapore) and given the ambience , treatment and service quality, I would certainly recommend this spa.

divana nurture spa is one of the brands under dvn international; would probably check out the other brands next time I visit Bangkok.

divana nurture spa
8 Sukhumvit 35, North Klongton, Wattana, Bangkok 10110, THAILAND
Tel. +66 (0) 2261 4818-9 Office +66 (0) 2261 4817 Fax. +66 (0) 2261 4814
Website : http://www.dvn-wellbeing.com/ / www.divana-dvn.com
Email: contact@dvn-wellbeing.com

18 June 2007

Diving in Pulau Dayang - June 2007

Made a last minute (and rather "rash") decision to go diving at Pulau Dayang, Malaysia over the weekend. Could have spent the weekend idling but the dive bugs in us urged us to go on a diving trip before launching into the busy July/August work period. Not that we had anything to complain about diving, just that the journey to and fro took its toll and we were pretty knocked out by the time we reached home.

Dived with Mako Sub-Aquatics this time round. Set off at around 8.30pm in 2 vans, by the time we cleared Woodlands Customs and reached the usual 'divers and anglers' pit stop at Kota Tinggi, it was already 10.30pm. After supper and fruits shopping, took off and reached Mersing Jetty at around 12.30am. As it was low tide, had to take turns to transfer by one smaller boat to the big dive boat waiting at deeper waters. There must be some 60 to 80 divers waiting for the transfer.

Interesting encounter... it was super low tide with water level at only 0.3m at some points on our journey out, our boat got stuck at the sandy bottom not far away from the dive boat. Talk about so near yet so far. Boatmen had to jump into the shallow waters to steer the boat.

Anyway, by the time we managed to board the boat, it was already 2am! We were totally exhausted but couldn't really sleep well due to the freezing air-con and uncomfortable seats. After 3hrs45 mins of back-breaking boat journey, we reached Dayang at 5.30am! Couldn't care less about the surroundings and headed straight for bed; had only less than 3 hrs sleep before the morning dive.
Woke up feeling slightly dazed but nevertheless refreshed. Had a recce of Dayang island. The island is separated from Pulau Aur by a channel; an idyllic and rustic island with a very laid back atmosphere. No mobile phone signal, no TV, no internet...
The chalets are mostly quad or triple sharing, ours was the twin-sharing "Villa-on-the-rocks". Toilets and bathrooms are for common use. There is a central dining area that has free flow of beverages all day long and serves 5 meals a day. So basically divers here just eat, sleep and dive!

We did a total of 5 dives for this trip, 1 dive on Saturday morning, 2 dives Saturday afternoon and 2 dives on Sunday morning, skipping the night dive. Dive sites visited were Kador Bay, Pulau Lang, Batu Kutik, Pulau Pinang and Captain's Point.
Visibility was not as good as Tioman and marine life was also not as abundant. But we were glad to see some new species of nudibranchs and marine fish.

After the dives, it was another arduous journey back home, this time having to beat the notorious Sunday night jam at JB-Woodlands checkpoint.
Well, the dives were not fantastic for this trip but at least it satisfied my craving somewhat. All dives are good, some are just better. But I would seriously re-consider about such Friday-Sunday trips again. Maybe... until the dive bugs start stirring again.

12 June 2007

Dine, Shop & Spa Indulgence in Bangkok - May/Jun 07

Gosh! I have totally neglected my blog for 2 weeks! So sad -_-
Have been busy with work and chores since I came back from my 4D3N Bangkok Extravaganza over the Vesak Day holiday. To begin with, it wasn’t an easily conceived holiday, took quite a while to plan. I knew that I wanted to get out of Singapore (for the sake of it) but was procrastinating and couldn’t decide where to go. By the time I made up my mind, lots of destinations were fully booked. Didn’t want to spend too much as we are saving for our dive equipment and Sipadan trip. Was contemplating diving at Phuket, Bali, Koh Samui, Krabi … or what about Cambodia…Bintan...I digress.
Well, ended up choosing Bangkok. Boring? Yes. Good choice? Definitely. I call it the 'Eat, Shop & Spa Indulgence Vacation'.
30 May, Wed
Took an afternoon flight on Thai Airways, was quite surprised that there isn’t any personal inflight entertainment system. What, no movie after paying so much for a ticket? (relatively higher ticket price as the cheaper options were sold out and this is not a budget airline). I think I must be too pampered? Anyway, fell asleep out of sheer boredom.
Reached Bangkok in the evening and took a cab to our chosen accommodation – Emporium Suites, located at Sukhumvit Road, adjacent to Emporium Shopping Mall and BTS Phrom Phong BTS Skytrain station. Quite a good location although it is 4 or 5 BTS stops from Siam Square area.
Emporium Suites is actually more of a service apartment but it is not much different from the regular business hotels. In fact, the elegant decoration, contemporary style and professional service is rather impressive. And I definitely like the way the lobby smells; care is taken to burn aromatherapy oil in the main lobby areas everyday. I felt relaxed already!
We've got a Studio Suite on the 35th level which offered a stunning view of the city area. Room was really spacious and even came with a kitchenette (not that we have much use for it). Hubby was impressed with the Sony flat screen TV. For me, I was happy to get free broadband access. Goodness gracious, I certainly am obsessed with the internet and email!

Decided to check out Emporium next door and hopped into Park Food Hall at Level 5 for dinner. We were given a card for placing orders, concept similar to Marche except that the individual stalls offered different cuisines; some of which are relatively big names like Whittard of Chelsea and Crystal Jade. Ordered some Vietnamese snacks and ice-blended drinks. Ambience was nice; food was passable. The food hall had a similar concept to Siam Paragon but on a smaller scale.
I was more than eager to start shopping. Emporium Department Store is quite similar to Central Chitlom but again on the smaller scale. The cinema - Emporium SFX looked quite impressive, so we decided to catch Pirates of The Caribbean 3 in English but with Thai sub-titles and in digital. Each ticket was 160 baht (around S$7) and seats were more spacious and comfortable (slightly reclined) than those in Singapore. Not bad at all. Movie ended nearly 3am and we hit the bed the moment we got back to our room.
31 May, Thu
Woke up quite late. (We were on holiday and had a late night!) Decided to check out one of the spas I had my eye on - Divana nurture spa, located in one of the soi opposite Emporium Suites. Shall blog about it in another entry.
After a rejuvenating massage therapy, we strolled along Sukhumvit Road looking for lunch place and came across this quaint eatery that sells authentic hawker fare. The food displayed at shopfront certainly looked tantalising enough to lure us into the shop. Ordered a thai noodle soup which came with a chicken drumstick and coagulated pig's blood and a braised pig hind rice. These were yummy! I miss coagulated pig's blood as it is no longer available in Singapore. Remember the fond old days where it was found in Pig Innards Soup 猪什汤. These 2 dishes, 1 mineral water and 1 ice-blended lime juice cost only 100 baht (S$4.40).

The stall owners were really friendly and kept telling us to try the Pad Thai. Looked and smelled good but we were already quite full. Next time!

After the satisfying meal, we went to Erawan Shrine to pray and then to the newly renovated Central World. The mall is huge! But concept similar to that of Siam Paragon and Central Chitlom.
Tired with shopping and the unbearable heat, we checked into Erawan Tea Room for the much raved about Afternoon Tea which is offered daily from 2.30pm to 6pm at 199 baht nett per person. It was really value-for-money and the thai snacks and desserts served were of quality!
  • "Kanom Pang Na Goong" - Deep-fried Shrimp Toast with Cucumber Dip
  • "Woo Ping" - Barbecued Pork Skewers
  • "Chor Muang Sai Poo" - Steamed Flower-shaped Dumpling Filled with Crab Meat
  • "Saikrok Issan" - Deep-fried Sour Sausage
  • "Kari Puff Sai Gai" - Thai Style Chicken Curry Puff
  • "Larb Gai" - Spicy Minced Chicken Salad with Mint Leaves in Cucumber Cup
  • "Polamai Ruam" - Seasonal Fresh Fruit Skewer
  • "Khao Niew Mamuang" - Mango with Sticky Rice
  • "Kanom Pang Sangkaya" - Steamed Bread with Pandan Custard Dip
  • "Kanom Krok" - Crispy Rice Pudding with Taro, Corn, Pumpkin or Spring Onion
  • "Look Chub" - Sweet Bean Paste Fruit Shapes
  • "Thong Muan" - Crispy Sesame Rolls
  • Scones with Chiang Mai Strawberry Jam
  • Mini Soft centred Chocolate Puddings
  • A Fine Selection of Coffee or Tea

After the satisfying afternoon tea, we went back to our studio suite for a short break and quick swim in the swimming pool. Then hopped to Central Chitlom for more shopping. Did I mention that this was an eat-and-shop-all-we-can vacation? For dinner, we had a simple thai noodle soup at Foodloft before heading back to our suite.
1 Jun, FriThe very next day was spent shopping at Siam Paragon. Didn't spend much time at Siam Paragon previously so decided to devote a full day here this time. We started with hotpot lunch at MK Gold Restaurant. Remember we were quite fond of this restaurant the last trip. Ordered the succulent duck meat again, along with many vegetable for the hotpot. And this time, we ordered the green noodles which were indeed springy and yummy. Not to forget the special dipping sauce which I loved to bits!

While I was strolling in the mall, discovered a number of day spas like Harnn & Thann and Pranali Spa. Couldn't resist to try Pranali Spa as I was really attracted to the ambience. Who says I can't have spa therapy 2 days in a roll? Shall blog about it in another entry.
So after all the shopping and spa indulgence, it was time for dinner and we opted for Jap food at Nippon Kai located at the Gourmet Food Hall. Surprisingly the seafood was really fresh. We loved the Ikura! Yet another satisfying meal for our last night in Bangkok.
2 Jun, Sat
Spent my last morning doing last minute shopping at Emporium and Boots! And before long, it was time to check out and to the airport.
Well, story was not over yet. As we had a lot of spare time before boarding the plane, we decided to do a 45min head and shoulder massage at one of the massage salons. Talk about over-indulgence! Other than that, it was an uneventful flight back to Singapore. I always hate the going home part -_-
P.S. Shall blog about my loot in another entry :p