Monday, December 30, 2013

Hotel Review: The Gardens Hotels and Residences (Premier Deluxe Room)

By a stroke of luck, I ended up in the Premier Deluxe Room of The Gardens Hotels and Residences once, and I must say it was another enriching experience for me, to enjoy one of my last stay (before changing to a different hotel) on one of their finest rooms.
(Read about my earlier experience here)
Already, the Deluxe Room have made me feel at home, the Premier Deluxe Room, at a higher rate (of course) promised much more space and a devoted living area space and a larger bathroom, with of course, a dressing table by the side.

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Besides the larger space which is already a perk in itself, the other perk is the exclusive option of tea breaks on the 26th floor which only permits access to their club members or those residing in the premier deluxe rooms, or perhaps the suites.
Guests can also opt to check in or out at this level rather than the usual lobby reception located on the ground floor.
Such was the privileges offered to the guests, and breakfast can also be taken either on this floor with more exclusivity or indulge in the international spread on the 6th floor.

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It was a memorable experience, and I did think that the exclusivity and the comfort did come well with the tag. Whether it was for business or for pleasure, I would have enjoyed my stay very much either way.
The Gardens Hotels and Residences, though more intended for the business travelers, have also offered domestic conveniences in the design and the location next to Asia's premier and one of the largest shopping malls do well for the families accompanying the businessmen.
Besides Gardens Hotel, the other two in the CHM group of hotels are the Cititel Mid Valley and the Boulevard Hotel which I have not tried before.

The Gardens Hotels and Residences was the only one I have stayed in, and have proved to be one of the most memorable stays I have had in a hotel while on a business trip.

Hotel Review: The Gardens Hotels and Residences

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The Gardens Hotels and Residences is part of the CHM hotels group; and is part of the trilogy hotels under the group located in the strategic location of the Mid Valley City.
A luxury hotel located right next to the elegant settings of new and exclusive Gardens Mall, this hotel is a favorite among the business travelers and also the enthusiastic tourists looking for a good location in the midst of the hectic metropolitan city of Kuala Lumpur.
There is plenty to offer from this hotel; from the strategic location to the 5-star ranking and the comfortable environment within the premises, one can only enter and leave without feeling like they have left home at all.

This became my second resident when I was taking short business trips to the city; and though I was a local myself, the hotel made it all welcoming and with the comforts (or luxuries) of home, sometimes I wished I did not have to rush off to meetings or back to the other site for work.
The Deluxe rooms were just welcoming, with the neatly made king-sized bed plopped in front of the flat screen television perched on top of a long and wide working table with drawers and a swivel chair, it was a combination of business and a little peek of leisure all in one.

Mainly serving business travelers, the design of the hotel rooms were more suited for work yet at the same time not compromising the comforts of home in that little aspect.

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The design was well thought of; with ample space for moving around and there were sufficient lighting in the room; and there were side tables next to the bed with most of the switches available should one make themselves comfortable in bed.
There is also a telephone beside the bed, with a notepad and a pen, while on the other side of the bed is a digital alarm clock to serve its purpose of waking the busy workers to get to their business destinations on time after a long day at work.

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Interior design was simple and kept to a minimum; which was good, for me, as I prefer minimalist style which makes it easier to unwind and relax, or get quickly down to business.

The bathrooms were also designed to be spacious; though it may not be the same depending on the type of rooms or the location of the rooms due to the building space itself. However, in general, I can say, based on my personal experiences after being a regular here, that most of the bathrooms will make even the claustrophobic happy with the amount of space and contemporary design.

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One of the key criteria to rating a hotel's rank is the facilities and of course, the availability of the amenities for the comforts of the guests.

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While some hotels have failed to live up to their expectations, I was impressed at the details which ran through the thoughtful minds of this hotel where they have provided almost everything to make the guests feel at home.
Shaving kit, toothbrush kit, vanity kit with cotton buds, shower caps, lotion, shampoo, bath gel, hand soap, face soap, hand towels, floor mats, face towels, bath towels, hair dryer, weighing scale, sewing kit, tissue box are all available in the room without having to call for housekeeping or paying anything extra.
This truly captured my heart, and I must say it was a job well done by the team at this hotel.

In some of the rooms, there are even dedicated dressing tables within the bathroom or next to the bathroom itself. I loved the thought of a dressing table as it was more convenient for me to make myself up on a proper dressing table rather than standing inside the bathroom (well, that's the conventional me!)

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Glimpse of a room in a corner location

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After a few visits, I was starting to be a regular at this hotel and I was surprised by the warm greetings by the hotel staff who could remember me.
I was even treated to goodies as part of the returning guests/loyalty rewards programme, and a special and kind gesture was the surprise goodies box I received in my room :-)

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Thank you, I enjoyed my stay.

For more information, you can check out their website.
While the hotel rooms were comfortable, the breakfast buffet at The Spread, located on the 6th Floor of the hotel, serving international style buffet every morning from as early as 6.00am until 10.00am.

Security was also well-maintained, with the installation of CCTVs around the premises, and the controlled entries to the hotel rooms via access cards at the elevators.
Everything is automated and the design of the hotel is conceptualized to ensure the comfort and ease of mind of their guests, while keeping up with the modern technology.

I will share another post to review their other type of room soon...

The Gardens Residences, Lingkaran Syed Putra, Mid Valley City, 59200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +603-2268 1188

Oahu in a Nutshell

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 The name Hawaii is sure to send shivers of excitement down anyone's spine as it has been known for decades (centuries, even) as one of the most coveted travel destinations and with the silhouettes of swaying leaves from the tall coconut trees and the picture of feet buried in the sand or deckchairs with a drink in bikini clad women's hands, the place is just synonymous and one step away from the paradise on earth.

An earlier civilization and later coined as part of the huge continent of the United States of America, Hawaii has maintained much of her nativity and secrets in the many islands of the Hawaiian family.
Polynesian culture, taboos, food, and lifestyle are all that defines the Hawaiian neighborhood, and they are guarded with such sacred sanctity that it is respectable and honorable, to see such a close community amidst the strong waves of development and modernization.
I count my blessing to be able to enjoy the first phase of my new marriage as we celebrate our honeymoon on the well-known and all time romantic destination; gracing the beautiful moments of being called husband and wife as we take our strolls down the beach during sunset and enjoying the cultural dances and performances in the villages.

While Hawaii is made up of many islands, my first stop was at O'ahu, which is home to the capital city of Hawaii; Honolulu. If you hail from the city like myself, you will enjoy O'ahu to bits, as there is almost everything under the skies of this popular and well-developed island.
City life is not uncommon here, and while it is not hustling bustling like New York or any other megapolitan cities around the world, Honolulu is nothing short of the daily brisk and modern living you witness every day in your own city back home.
Most of the actions are in downtown Honolulu; where most of the city skyscrapers are lined by the mega corporations establishing their offices in this booming yet charming city made popular by the countless calls of tourism every year. While you may think you have left the sights of traffic jams back at home, you may be surprised by the peak hour traffic in Honolulu throughout your day.

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Shopping malls, premier outlets, arcades, towns, museums, harbors are all part of the city's offerings and there is no short of attractions to keep the city lovers within the district itself. It is the island's way of saying that "We have more to offer than just sun, sand and surf" and I can definitely attest to that as I enjoyed the whole island as a package; the beach lovers' paradise while keeping in touch with my city genes at the same time.
There is no worry if you have left anything at home, especially if you are staying right smack in the middle of the city as convenience stores are everywhere and some of the stores are even open until 10pm, or some are even 24 hours. The city doesn't seem to really sleep, or perhaps, not that early, as there are always people enjoying the walks on the streets in the cities and I am one of them, especially with the lovely cool wind from their early winter season blowing their kisses on my cheeks).

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If you are tired of the city, take a drive or road trip to the northern part of the island to enjoy the breathtaking views of sky-high waves, or even try your luck at whale watching (usually recommended during the winter season as the whales are migrating in schools). Enjoy the many activities for the beach lover in you; from surfing the high waves to swimming in the freezing cold water under the warmth of the sun, or snorkelling to enjoy the protected corals at the famous Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve Park.
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing Be warned, however, for the waves can be dangerous at times and it is best to maintain a certain distance from the shores especially along the coasts of those notoriously known for their rough waves.
Northern O'ahu shores are where you can watch these scary waves, which makes one shudder at the sight of the overpowering white rage rolling in large movements, one after another.

There is almost something for everyone; and the list of things to do is just endless -
~ Enjoy ogling and getting acquainted with the friendly sea creatures at the huge Sea Life Park
~ Get adventurous and revel in the famous movie locations at the homey Kualoa Ranch: here, here, and here
~ Enjoy walks at the Diamond Head, or the less touristy parks or crater parks such as this
~  Take in the various angles of O'ahu island at all these lookout points; or you may have chanced upon more while driving along the coast. Check out this, this and this
~ Take a tour around the city to understand the brief history of Hawaii or O'ahu herself through the various musuems such as this and the memorials in the famous Iolani Palace and the King Kamehameha I statue
~ For a 360 degrees view of the city, Aloha Tower Marketplace is your best bet
~ Cultural insights can be experienced at the local Chinatown (found in almost every country in the world), and the famous replica from Japan built here amidst the backdrop of the towering mountains of O'ahu

Polynesian culture lends its exotic touch to making up the unique part of Hawaii, and understanding the culture is essential to enjoying what the Hawaiian islands have to offer. It is interesting to take in the cultural sharing through the shows, live performances, meals and the tours offered on site to see for ourselves the way of living, beliefs and the beauty of the nativity of these unique population, still inhabiting most of the precious parts on the map.
O'ahu has the answer to it all, through their large Polynesian Cultural Center, set to mark that part in your memory and knowledge bank about the exotic and enviable lifestyle which has attracted many to their islands for years.

Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing From culture to history to sands and sea, and breathtaking views, and also the hustle and bustle of the city, there is no end to O'ahu's offerings and time and a passion for enjoyment is all you need while keeping an open mind on this mystical island.
Be mindful and respect the local taboos and lifestyle practised by the locals here, and you will find that you will be enlightened along the way.
Food is never a problem here, as being part of the United States continent means food is just in abundance and is a haven for travellers who have no idea on what to eat, as one might just be spoilt for choices with the varieties available here. From burgers and fries to meatballs and sauce, there are even noodles and stir fries from the East to please every palate in the world.
Be even prepared or be surprised by the large food trucks by the sides of the road; particularly popular along the coastal lines and they serve good and filling meals at affordable prices.Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

You will be also mindblown and surprised with the exotic tastes of the wild fruits and local tastes here; as I did when we were introduced to this unique fruit which was a cross breed of a cherry and a berry, or a citrus fruit. The taste took me by surprise, yet it left that lingering taste on my mind till this very day.
(Normally I won't take something which is unusual to me, but hey, an open mind during travel really did wonders for me!)

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I enjoyed my trip thoroughly and I look forward to returning again, definitely, as there is so much to look forward to and the Hawaiian hospitality was nothing short of warm as I have met and shared banters with many who were just so generous with their versions of the tales and taboos of Hawaiians and also the local attractions; particularly those off-the-beaten-paths.
While O'ahu may be associated with all the fun under the sun, this is also the site which holds one of America's most tragic and darkest history in the world war, in Pearl Harbor. Pay your respects to the courageous soldiers and you will find that you walk away, not feeling the same after learning of the sentiments and setting foot on one of the most historical and memorable places in the world.

From the mystical and sacred secrets guarded by the volcanic mountains to the beckoning sea and waterfronts, I could not stop singing my praises for this island and it is no wonder its allure still continues to woo visitors from all part around the world to the wonders of the island which has it all; surrounded by the beautiful waters and under the lovely sun, and the beachfront city.
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Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing O'ahu is not a mirage, but it is also just like any other neighborhood we know, peaceful and serene. Of course, while this may be a tourists' and lovers' paradise, that does not mean safety should take a backseat as is always better to take precaution wherever we are - be it home or on the road.

Walk by the beach at sunrise/sunset, shop at the marketplaces or the local farmers market, or the streets, and if you are a major shopaholic, there are even luxury retail shops for you to indulge in.
Enjoy the cultural relics and sights at the various historical sites and take in the Hawaiian touch to the local Chinatown; and enjoy the stories told of the native forefathers who earlier founded and resided on the island.
Surf the waves, watch the whales, and enjoy the gorgeous views from almost everywhere on the island, and if you have done everything else, just sit back and enjoy the tropical weather which feels just like home

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It is O'ahu in a nutshell...

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ALOHA....and I will see you SOON~

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Remembering Pearl Harbor

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 I had meant to write this post earlier; in conjunction with the actual date in history; which was just a few days ago.

"Yesterday, December 7th 1941, was a day that will live in infamy..." were the words once uttered by the then US President, Franklin D Roosevelt following the shocking awakening from the sudden attack on the United States' naval base in Hawaii by swooping fighter jet planes from the heights of the skies where lights were just starting to seep in, to call it a brand new day. That day was one which altered the course of the history of the United States as the laughter and peace resonating from naval quarters the night before were loudly and unexpectedly interrupted and in its place, cries of agony and desperation as chaos broke out with the deafening and fiery explosions everywhere; stripping the once glorious base into shards of destruction.
There was no place to hide; as the fighter jets swooshed in and low, dropping bombs and missiles furiously; crashing into the unsuspecting camps and claiming young promising lives of the soldiers, ripping them of their vows to defend their beloved country. There was no mercy, as was in war; and there was no hope to even utter let alone plea for their own lives. The drastic move by the Japanese left the naval base of Pearl Harbor in shatters and unrecognizable as they come aggressively in squadrons of fighter jet planes; one by one; one after another and stopping at nothing until all is gone. The aircraft smartly lined, and the battleships proudly bobbing in the sea - signs of the might of the United States defense were destructed beyond recognition.

The devastating incident was the infamous Pearl Harbor bombing by the Japanese in 1941; which was also the igniting event which sparked off the fury of the United States in stepping up her declaration of war to strike back at the bold Asian country which challenged the authority and pride of a large country known to be the leader of the world.
Pearl Harbor remains a remnant of that painful memory and serves as a reminder to the Americans and the world, of vigilance and patriotism, at a hefty cost.

It matter not if one is an American of birth, as this event is not one which pertains the nationality or patriotism but rather, the cruelty to humanity and compassion as a whole. It was so heart-breaking to be standing on the grounds where once many have lost their lives. Though the place had since been cleared and undergone the process of beautification to restore the glory of its name and purpose in the history of the United States of America, it is still one which brings one to solemnity as one stand on its grounds. It is as if one could still feel the tremors from the bombings of yesteryear, and also the anxiety seems to be creeping in at the thought of the possibility of droppings from the clear skies.
Those were my exact sentiments as I was on the grounds of this historic place - waves of sadness and pain rushed to fill my veins and mind as I walked through the place; imagining the chaotic scenes which once took place on the grounds.

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 I am no psychic, but I am pretty sure most of the visitors find themselves being overwhelmed by that rush of emotion as they look at the memorials erected to remember the fallen soldiers who have fought bravely to defend the country's honor despite their fears and anxieties of not being able to return to their loved ones. They have lost their lives, and they have lost hopes of being reunited with their families, in the most tragic and excruciatingly painful way imaginable.
It would be heartless not to be able to have this sense of emotion as one is reminded of the tragedy on location.

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Although I was on my honeymoon at the point when I was visiting, I was honored to be able to take a walk down the historic grounds and pay my respects to the courageous soldiers who lost their lives in the Pearl Harbor tragedy. Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

The once important naval base of defense for the United States of America is now a memorial museum, inviting visitors to take in that bit of America's past and take during the World War II period. Sequence of events are displayed on marble stones; engraved with the etchings of yesteryear as images of the tragedy flash before visitors' eyes.
Models of the former battleships were also residents; with some being converted into museums Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

A walk down memory lane as one takes each step on the grounds of Pearl Harbor; taking in the memorial stones, the models of the missiles, aircraft, battleships and the engraving of the events on the stones.
While taking in the nostalgic journey, the memorial museums should not be missed  as they have three huge halls for the details on the Pearl Harbor bombings and also the aftermath and the effects on the residents of Oahu. Take in the stories and the painful revelations of the Japanese residents of Oahu at that time and how they were victimized for their fellow countrymen's atrocious attacks on the peaceful neighborhood and provoking the fury of the nation.

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Two main highlights of Pearl Harbor has to be in the screening of a short film detailing the attack on Pearl Harbor in the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theatre, and also the onboard tour of the ill-fated USS Arizona.

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While emotions were already heavily forming inside my heart during my tour on foot around the premises, the short film (approximately 25 minutes, if I remembered correctly) invoked those emotions once again and tugged strongly at my heartstrings and my eyes. I could not hold back my tears as I watched in horror and despair at the blazing tragedy unfolding before my very eyes.
I felt like I was momentarily transported back to the day in 1941, and anguish and overwhelming sadness just came over me that it was almost inexplicable; to describe the effects the short film had on me. As the lights came on, I realized I was not the only one as women around me were also seen leaving the theater teary-eyed.
It was a heart wrecking period to endure the shattering of lives taking form in digital pictures before our eyes, and I must say that it left an everlasting and profound impression in my mind.
It is human compassion to feel for the victims, and I could totally empathize the rage and fury of the citizens following after as they hear of the news that Pearl Harbor had fallen.

The other interesting tour would be the onboard tour of the USS Arizona, the battleship which was destroyed beyond hopes of salvation during the attacks. Parts of the ships were maintained and the remains of the ships are left in its sunken state on the ocean floor; serving as a memorial for the 1,177 crew who sank and perished along with the battleship.

Located across the sea, visitors are to take a short boat trip to be able to visit the memorial and tours are dependent on the weather condition. During winter, boat trips are halted due to the winds and unpredictable conditions which prevail for the safety of the visitors.Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

I have been to many memorials, and each of them has touched me in their tales of their very own past but Pearl Harbor sticks as one which left the most profound impression on me. Perhaps it was due to its widely acclaimed reputation and also the lasting effects of her historical and tragic past. It was after all, one of the prime events which lit that spark to ignite the fury of the United States of America as they declared war and vowed to bring their attackers to justice. It sparked off many more heart wrenching battles over years in many different regions of the world.
Lives were lost, cries of help and agony filled the air as battle after battle was fought around the world in the events of the World War II. Many have lost their loved ones; many have suffered the pain and drastic effects of war then which lasted until this very day.
The pain of the memories of war is not comprehensible to many; though many can say (including myself) that we know the effects of war on people and the nation.
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing As I take the tour around a place which holds so many painstaking and bloodshed memories, I could feel the longing of these forlorn soldiers yearning in anticipation for the day they were to return to be reunited with their loved ones and to the comforts of their homes. Yet, without warning, they were robbed of their lives abruptly in the course of a night.

I could not simply bring myself to think that such a destructive event could take place on a normal morning; or as it was said, slightly after the hours of dusk.
What could one be doing or even thinking at the final hours of their unexpected and untimely deaths?
Perhaps many things could have run through their minds, but definitely not their deaths, or their desperate fights to salvage their lives and their fellow mates nor watching people and things around them go up in flames.
Not a sight to cross anyone's mind upon opening our eyes first thing in the morning, yet, this is the very reality which hit the many people stationed at Pearl Harbor on that fateful morning in 1941.

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It is true that this will be a day, forever etched in many's memories; not just in the families who lost their loved ones but also those who have heard and learnt of this historical event.
Truly, a day in infamy as it goes into part of the world's history, and stands to be a priceless lesson to be learnt and to be reminded of what once was such a world-breaking tragedy.

Letters to the Pearl Harbor survivors, who have lived to share their tragic tales and eyewitness accounts of such atrocity during the attacks.
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To all the brave soldiers who have perished, you will be always be remembered by the world.
Pearl Harbor and the date December 7th will no longer be the same....

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Taking it all in at Waikiki

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While the northern region of Oahu offers waves, sand and culture, the southern side is where most of the urban development is in action.
Waikiki is a showcase of the modern Hawaii; with the co-existence of the relaxation under the sun and sand right in the middle of the city; making this an iconic prominent beachfront neighbourhood.
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This is where all the action are; from the beach to the food and shopping! Yes, be ready to squeal with delight at the luxury brands such as Tiffany, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, etc - all making their marks here with their flagship boutiques along the Waikiki streets.
While you can opt to shop till you drop at these luxury boutiques, there are also souvenir shops and surf wear shops; along with ABC stores (your all convenience stores) and there is even an International Market Place

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There are also buses to hop on and off around town; and some hotels offer shuttles to the beach or along the streets of Waikiki - like what my hotel did. It would be exciting to walk when you are heading out, but at the end of the day you would be exhausted hence this is a welcoming mode of transportation and a great service by the hotels.

Trolleys like these are also found on the streets and there is a minimum fee to board one

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A Memorial for Duke Kahanamoku; a famous surfer

Enjoy the people watching and the scenes unfolding along the streets, with your shopping bags or a drink in your hand
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Now, that's what I call a beach vacation - relaxing by the beach without sacrificing the comforts of civilization~

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