Our Baby Moon

Some of you may already have known this – the reason that I have been blogging a lot less for the past few months is that I was pregnant. Yes, I used the past tense, because I have recently given birth to a beautiful baby boy. :) The feeling is indescribable to say the least. I am currently still under the Asian practice of confinement for a month, and at the same time getting used to waking up every 3 hours to feed the baby. It’s definitely not easy and it’s taking a toll on me by making me a constant zombie. But I’m sure things will only get better. :) In the mean time, I would like to just quickly blog about our mini baby moon that we had about 2 months before baby was due. We went for a weekend trip to Tea Gardens near Port Stephens, about 3 hours from Sydney.

Pregnancy-40

About 36 weeks 

Port Stephens is known for its many gorgeous beaches, but the ones we were closest to were located at Hawks Nest. During our visit, the weather was mostly windy and cloudy, making it extremely cold to stay out for long. The good thing about it was that the beaches were deserted and it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.

Tea Gardens

Beach at Hawks Nest

Before heading out to the beach, we checked in to our accommodation at Tea Gardens Club Inn Motel. We paid for a double room but found out that there was an extra bed given on the side. I thought this was convenient for families.

Tea Gardens

Our beds

Tea Gardens

Queen size bed

Tea Gardens

Sliding door entrance

The room was nothing to shout about – everything provided was basic and practical. There was complimentary breakfast provided but only in the form of cereals, milk, some bread and jam.

Tea Gardens

Complimentary breakfast

The bathroom was huge, with a spa bath included! We didn’t use the spa bath though, since we thought it would waste quite a lot of hot water. Such environmental-friendly of us. *LOL* The toiletries provided were very basic, there wasn’t even toothbrush or toothpaste in the set.

Tea Gardens

Bathroom with spa bath

Tea Gardens

Basic toiletries

Once we checked ourselves in and freshened up, we headed to the nearest beach which was about 5 minutes drive away – Bennett’s Beach. Due to the cloudy and windy weather, the pictures did not turn up to be as nice as they should be. Also, it was so windy and cold that we only managed to stay there for around half an hour before we decided to head back.

Tea Gardens

Bennett’s Beach

Tea Gardens

We had the whole beach to ourselves!

Tea Gardens

A beer in hand to keep Saucer warm :)

Tea Gardens

Us at Bennett’s Beach

Couldn’t even keep my hair in place for a picture! :) Despite the cold weather and the wind, standing there facing the deserted beach listening to the sound of strong waves lapping did make us forget the world. It was a nice ending to whatever was left of the short daylight time that we had. Tea Gardens is such a small and quaint town that it took barely a couple of minutes to finish exploring the town centre. It was also filled with friendly people with smiles, so we felt right at ease. Our next task was to find a place for dinner!

Tea Gardens

Bennett’s Beach in the evening

Tea Gardens Club Inn Motel
2 Yalinbah Street
Tea Gardens, NSW Australia.
Phone: 02 4997 0911
Email: clubinn@bigpond.com.au
Website: www.teagardensclubinn.com.au

Heavenly Bed at Westin

During our short trip to Malaysia last month, we managed to squeeze out a night to stay at the Westin Kuala Lumpur Hotel, courtesy of our Starwood Privilege card. Since we could choose out of 3 different hotels, namely Le Meridien, Sheraton Imperial or Westin, we decided to go with Westin because of the famed Heavenly Bed. Booking was a breeze through our Starwood agent and we reached at around 12pm and were surprisingly granted check-in earlier than usual. Staying in Westin also meant easy access to various malls in KL such as Pavilion, Starhill and Fahrenheit88, all within walking distance!

Heavenly bed

Our room

Heavenly bed

Heavenly Bed

The first thing I did, after taking pictures, was to check out the Heavenly Bed. According to the information booklet, there are 10 layers on the bed, including a custom-designed pillowtop mattress, three 400 thread count sheets and a down blanket, a comforter, white duvet, five pillows, two king sized goose feather pillows, two standard non-allergenic pillows and a decorative boudoir pillow. Interestingly, you can also buy the said mattress at abour RM4k+ for king size. With all these layers, I have to admit I found it quite inconvenient to pull up the various sheets for cover at night. I had to make sure I got everything – the down blanket, the top sheet, the comforter and the duvet in one go. Of course, it helped that the bed was indeed plush and luxurious, and the goose feather pillows allowed me to sink into my sweet dreams at night. Once I was tucked in, I didn’t want to leave the bed! It was heavenly!

Day bed

The couch by the window

Flat screen LCD TV

Flat screen LCD TV and DVD player

The room was also fitted with a 40 inch TV with cable, so we were able to keep ourselves entertained in the evening while lazing back on the comfortable bed.

Bathroom

Towards the bathroom

The bathroom and toilet were spacious and clean, with a bathtub and a shower stall to boot. I also liked that their toiletries by White Tea smelled really pleasant and comforting. We were provided with 4 bottles of complimentary Spritzer mineral water, which I thought was a nice gesture. Most hotels usually provide just 2 bottles of their house-brand drinking water.

Bathtub

Bathtub

Bathroom

Bathroom sink and toiletries

Complimentary water

Complimentary Spritzer mineral water

Bathrobes and slippers were provided, together with ironing board, an iron and an electronic safe. The slippers were handy especially at night because part of the room was made from floor boards, which could get chilly to the feet.

Bathrobe

Bathrobe and slippers

Coffee and tea

Coffee and tea making facilities

The minibar was well stocked but they were, as with all hotels, charged with an exorbitant price. There really was no need to use anything from the bar because Pavilion is just right opposite the hotel, and you could get basically any drinks you want there.

Westin Minibar

Minibar

Snacks

Snacks

In the morning, we were greeted with a gorgeous view of clear and blue sky surrounding the KL city from our room. We could see the huge swimming pool at the Pavilion Residences, as well as the KL Tower in the distance.

Pavilion Residence

View of Pavilion Residences from the room

KL Tower

View of KL Tower from the room

What can I say? I could only wish I was staying there a few more nights longer. But I did have one gripe though, there was no free internet in the room! At this day and age, I didn’t expect hotels to still charge (a high price too) for internet access. I wish this would be changed in the future, or there will always be something not quite perfect with the hotel.

King bed

Westin Heavenly Bed in our Deluxe City View room

The Westin Kuala Lumpur Hotel
199, Jalan Bukit Bintang
Kuala Lumpur 55100
Malaysia
Phone: (60)(3) 2731 833
Website: www.thewestinkualalumpur.com

Escape to the Mountains

Last week, Saucer and I had the chance to go for a little escape to the Blue Mountains for the weekend. We were there with several of his colleagues, and we stayed at the Fairmont Resort in Leura. Arriving there on a Friday afternoon, we were greeted with a blanket of white fog surrounding the resort, not to mention the freezing cold temperature. It certainly didn’t look like a good start to our getaway. Brr..

Fairmont

Fairmont Room

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Lobby area

The Fairmont Resort lobby was huge and inviting, with solid timber floors and comfortable leather couches. The first thing I wanted to do was to sink myself into the couches! But we had more important stuffs to do – checking in!

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Newly refurbished recently

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Lobby couches

Apparently the resort was recently refurbished, which revitalized the over-sized rooms and suites with a contemporary makeover that pairs distinctive pitched ceilings, designer armchairs, distinctive hound cushions, luxurious woolen throw rugs, gourmet mini bars, and high-end amenities from the Gardenia and De Luxe Spa ranges, with large, modern ensuites, flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi internet access in all rooms.

Fairmont

Spacious room with King size bed

Fairmont

Plush and comfortable couch

Indeed, Fairmont kept its promise of spacious rooms and refurbished furniture, because we were really pleased with how new everything was. The bed was big and comfortable, the couches were new and spotless and the toilet was generously sized. I loved that they provided hair dryer in every room, because it is a big concern for us girls with long hair, especially in cold climate places like the Blue Mountains. The availability of an iron is useful for those attending conferences and meetings too, so that they could still look smart with nicely pressed shirts.

Fairmont

Toilet and sink

Fairmont

Bathtub

Fairmont

Toilet amenities

Fairmont

Digital safe, iron, kettle and hair dryer

Fairmont

Comfortable living area

If there was one thing that I could pick on, it was the fact that we found the pillows provided too high and firm for us. We had a hard time adjusting our heads comfortably for a good night’s sleep at first, but later on got used to it. There were some alternative pillows available in the cabinet as well, so we found those to be slightly better than the ones on the bed.

Fairmont

Generous amount of pillows

Fairmont

Coffee and tea

Fairmont

Mini bar

As usual, the coffee and tea area were well-stocked, so was the mini bar. But it goes without saying that items in the mini bar are usually sold at a premium. After checking in, we got around to explore the hotel facilities. There was an outdoor pool and jacuzzi available but they were off limits during that weekend due to maintenance. Fortunately, they have a similar pool and jacuzzi indoors, with heated water. So that was perfect! We spent quite some time swimming in the indoor heated pool and jacuzzi, perfect in the cold weather.

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Outdoor pool and jacuzzi

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 Billiards room

During our first evening, we spent most of our time indoors since the weather was not very accommodating outside. Most of the guys had some beer while enjoying a game of pool or snooker in the Billiards room. There was also a mini library next to the Billiards room, if you prefer some quiet time to yourself. Overall, I would say that Fairmont Resort met most of our expectations and even surpassed some of them, for a great resort located in a great location. We would be happy to recommend this to any travelers interested to visit the Blue Mountains in the future.

Fairmont

Fairmont Resort, Leura Blue Mountains

Fairmont Resort Blue Mountains
1 Sublime Point Road,
Leura NSW 2780
Australia
Tel: +61 2 4785 0000
Fax: +61 2 4785 0001
Email: reservations@fairmontresort.com.au
Website: www.fairmontresort.com.au

Escapade to Hunter Valley Wine Region

Moving to Australia was a big change for us, and one that did not come cheap too. Apart from the clear blue skies, we have to, unfortunately, live with the high cost of living here. Food costs 2 to 3 times more than back home, even before conversion. And for us new starters, we have to be even more prudent with our spending, at least for now. Therefore, traveling overseas is a luxury that we have to postpone, and cheap holidays are be our alternative. Thankfully, within New South Wales alone, there are tonnes of interesting places to visit. Aside from the many beaches within 30 minutes from the city, there are also plenty of farms, lakes and wineries within hours from the city.

Hunter Valley vineyard

Hunter Valley wine region

After our brief stay at Lake Macquarie, we drove further up north towards the world reknowned Hunter Valley in search of good wines and gorgeous scenery. First things first though, since we were planning on drinking, we had to make sure we’d have a place to bunk overnight.

Wine Country Motor Inn Queen bed

Queen Deluxe room

Finding a room in the middle of a long weekend is never an easy task, so I was pleasantly surprised when I managed to book a Deluxe Queen room at the 4-star rated Best Western Wine Country Motor Inn in Cessnock, just 10-15 minutes drive from the wineries.

Wine Country Motor Inn Queen bed

Queen size bed

Wine Country Motor Inn room

Dining table and LCD TV

The inn looked well-maintained and conveniently located, which was perfect for travellers. Woolworths and Coles supermarkets are literally steps away from the hotel, as well as some restaurants and fast food joints. We loved the idea of walking to Woolworths in the evening to get cheap and nice roast chicken for our dinner.

Wine Country Motor Inn bathroom

Shower stall

Wine Country Motor Inn toiletries

Towels and toiletries

Aside from the location of the hotel which we can’t stop raving about, it also had a big and comfortable queen size bed. There was a flat panel LCD TV in front, with a small dining table and chairs beside. The dining table proved to be extremely useful for our little meals during dinner and breakfast. There were also coffee/tea making facilities available next to the mini bar. Needless to say, that mini bar was filled with our bottles of wine by the end of the day! :)

Wine Country Motor Inn coffee making facilities

Coffee/Tea-making facilities and mini bar

Wine Country Motor Inn standard room

Looking from the entrance of the room

The toilet was spacious and clean with a decent shower stall. Toiletries were basic, which only included shower gel, shampoo, soap and shower cap without toothbrush or paste. Overall, we were pretty satisfied with our stay at Wine Country Motor Inn. For the price of $130, we had a clean and comfortable room with central location, not to mention during a long weekend. I’d say it’s a pretty good deal.

Wine Country Motor Inn Queen bed

Comfortable bed

Wine Country Motor Inn Cessnock

Best Western Wine Country Motor Inn, Cessnock Hunter Valley

Wine Country Motor Inn
5 Darwin Street
Cessnock NSW 2325 Australia
Tel No.: +61 (02) 4993 2999
Fax: +61 (02) 4993 2998
Email: stay@winecountrymotorinn.com.au
Website: www.winecountrymotorinn.com.au

Hidden Retreat at Lake Macquarie

Public holidays are hard to come by in Sydney, and when they do, especially on a weekend, they’re highly treasured. So when we had a 3-day long weekend a couple of weeks back, I took matters into my own hands and planned a little getaway of our own up north. My first plan was to visit the vineyards and wineries in Hunter Valley for 2 nights, but it proved to be impossible to book a room for both nights. I must had been too late. After much pondering, I decided to stop by Lake Macquarie on the first night, since it’s halfway between Sydney to Hunter Valley.

Norfolk

Beautiful Lake Macquarie from the room

 Norfolk

Welcoming us to Norfolk Pine Retreat

Norfolk

Comfortable Queen-size bed

Finding a room at Lake Macquarie one week in advance was no easy feat too. I almost had to lay that plan to rest, until a kind lady recommended a hidden gem to me – Norfolk Pine Retreat. It was, literally, a hidden gem, because this retreat was not advertised on any of the hotel or Lake Macquarie websites. I told myself, this was it. If I still couldn’t get a room, I’d give up the idea completely. And as luck would have it, Carol, the person in charge for Norfolk Pine Retreat, confirmed that the room was available! I was just overjoyed.

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Studio room at Norfolk Pine Retreat

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Combined lounge and bedroom area of the Studio

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Lounge and TV area

Come Saturday morning, Saucer and I packed our bags in the car and began our journey up north. Weather was fabulous and sun was shining unto us like a happy, laughing kid. We cruised up effortlessly and with the help of the GPS, found the place located in Wangi Wangi. Wangi Wangi (pronouned as wan-ji) is, coincidentally, the home to the Australian Olympic gold-medal sailors who just returned from London a few months back. It was an amazing little town, surrounded on almost all sides by the beautiful Lake Macquarie.

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View of Lake Macquarie from the balcony

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Spacious balcony

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Sundeck and dining table on the balcony

Upon parking our car, Carol greeted us warmly and brought us to her home to fill up some paperwork. And then, we were shown to our studio. With a lovely view of the lake, the studio had everything that we wanted! It was spacious, cosy and had a really huge balcony. The whole place had a constant scent of flowers, partly from the newly bloomed spring flowers, I’m sure. It was also the one and only studio available for rent, which guaranteed privacy and exclusivity.

 Norfolk

Entrance to the Studio

Norfolk

The little touch that mattered

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Shower

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Washroom

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Quality toiletries

Everything about the studio screamed home – the plush pillows, the soft bed, the comfortable couch, the candles, right up to the soothing CDs that accompanied us at night after dinner. At some point, I almost wished I was going to stay there for the whole 2 nights instead of just one.

 Norfolk

Norfolk Pine Retreat

The next morning, we awoke to a simple but healthy breakfast that was included with our room – freshly baked croissants, milk, juice, cereal, bread and jam, yogurt and coffee. We certainly had a memorable and enjoyable stay at Norfolk Pine Retreat, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a getaway at beautiful Lake Macquarie.

For more information on Norfolk Pine Retreat: norfolkpineretreat.com.au

Grand Hyatt Hotel Taipei

After our long journey back from Sun Moon Lake, we only had one night left in Taipei. Our final hotel stay was at Grand Hyatt Taipei, by way of redeeming points. We managed to book the Grand King room that came with a huge and comfortable king size bed in a spacious room. Checking in was a breeze because we had already made our reservation beforehand and only had to hand in our passports for registration. Located just next to the majestic Taipei 101, the only complaint that we had was the distance from the nearest City Hall MRT station. Even though it’s stated as a 10-minute walk, it took us much longer than that and it didn’t help that it was raining that evening.

GrandHyatt

Flowers at the lobby

GrandHyatt

Grand Hyatt hotel lobby

The lobby was grand and tastefully designed with soft and warm lights. Our room had a gorgeous view of the Taipei 101, which looked prettier at night. The king size bed was comfortable and plush, so were the down feather pillows! There was a decent LCD TV provided and complimentary wi-fi access too.

GrandHyatt

King size bed and LCD TV

GrandHyatt

Taipei 101 view from the room

My favourite part of the room was the large bathroom! Not only was it equipped with a huge marble bath tub, it also had a spacious walk-in shower for those on-the-go. I also loved the giant mirror plastered on the whole of one side of the walls, giving an illusion of a much bigger bathroom. One thing I wondered though, was that only one bathrobe was provided instead of 2. I suppose that could easily be corrected with a call to housekeeping.

GrandHyatt

Bathroom with marble bath tub on the left

GrandHyatt

Walk-in shower

GrandHyatt

Spacious bathroom

GrandHyatt

Toiletries

GrandHyatt

 Bathrobe

Since we used points to redeem the room, we did not get any complimentary breakfast the next morning. We did, however, make use of its near distance to Taipei 101 to shop and dine there. You’d be surprised to find that there was pretty cheap food available there! Stay tuned for my next and final blog post on Taipei. :)

GrandHyatt

Entrance to Grand Hyatt Hotel Taipei

GrandHyatt

Grand Hyatt Taipei Hotel

Grand Hyatt Taipei Hotel
2, SongShou Road,
Taipei, Taiwan 11051
Tel No.: +886 2 2720 1234
Fax: +886 2 2720 1111
Website: taipei.grand.hyatt.com

*Note: Read the rest of my Taiwan Escapade here!