Monday, January 31, 2011

{Team Somerville Travel} Langkawi - our little slice of heaven!

A quick 55 minute flight from KL and we were in Langkawi. Stepping off the plane we were greeted by sunshine and blue skies - hurray!

We got sidetracked at the airport haggling with a car rental company, only to find when we got to the car park that the 2010 model car we had signed up for looked like it was 10 years old!

Thankfully we hadn't paid the money (they wanted cash!) so we told them to rip up the invoice and booked an airport taxi to the resort instead (60 MYR).

It was a 25 minute drive to The Andaman Langkawi. Winding our way up the mountain surrounded by rainforest we entertained the girls by playing spot the monkey.

The resort is set amongst the rainforest, cradled between the Mat Chincang Mountains and the Andaman Sea. As we drove down the long driveway towards the hotel it was easy to see straight away why this place gets so many rave reviews on Trip Advisor. Absolutely stunning!

Walking into the massive open air lobby set amongst the jungle, the concierge staff beat a traditional wooden drum four times to announce our arrival (a cute touch!)

We were offered welcome drinks, cold towels and lunch in the lobby lounge while we waited for our room.

Georgia...relaxing in the lobby lounge
Rob...lunch in the lobby lounge
We checked into our room, quickly unpacked and dressed for the pool. The girls could see the ocean from our balcony and were keen to get down to the sand.

The room was great. A decent size, with the sofa made into 2 single beds for the girls (here's hoping they sleep there and not with us in the big bed!).

We booked a room on the ground level of the hotel which has an extended balcony. A great spot for viewing the wildlife. 

We had a giggle at the sign stuck to the balcony door warning us about the monkeys, but having met some guests this evening who have experineced the monkeys breaking into their room...apparently it's not so funny!

Beware the monkeys!
The resort is just gorgeous. The girls loved the pool, especially the waterslide. We had a pizza dinner at the Beach Bar and despite promising ourselves an early night we didn't manage to get to bed until after 9pm.

The original plan was to hire a car so we could explore the island. I am starting to wonder whether we'll bother leaving the resort at all this week! I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...

Our home in the jungle!

Through the rainforest...
... and onto The Andaman's private beach

The pool was a huge hit...
... as was the waterslide!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

{Team Somerville Travel} KL Day 2

We woke to miserable weather this morning and it continued all day!

The best thing to do with kids in KL when it's raining ... shopping! (oh yes, and a visit to the aquarium - but more on that later).

Sadly our planned visit to the KL Bird Park was abandoned due to the bad weather, so after a leisurely breakfast we hit the shops ... again!

Before we left the hotel we checked out the infamous Sky Bar on level 33 - an indoor/outdoor pool area that turns into one of KL's funkiest bars in the evening i.e. kids, casual dress and flip flops are discouraged after 7pm!
SkyBar pool and cabanas
SkyBar view

Mackenzie and Georgia - Traders Hotel SkyBar

In wet weather Traders Hotel is the perfect base to reach the Twin Towers shopping mall. There is an underground walkway linking the KL Convention Centre (next to the hotel) to the Suria Shopping Cenre at the base of the Towers.

The shopping highlight for Georgia and Mackenzie was the visit to Toys R Us in the basement and the Video Ezy store selling dvds (i.e. "real" ones!) for $8 each. They stocked up on Dibo the Gift Dragon, Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears!

Suria Shopping Centre - at the base of the Petronas Twin Towers
Back into the KLCC tunnel, Rob and the girls stopped at the Aquarium while I went back to the hotel for some "quiet time!"

Unfortunately I don't have photos of the Aquarium to post as Rob says it was too dark inside (hmmm, I think it was the photographer's fault!), but the girls had fun in the underwater aquarium tunnel.

At 35 MYR for kids over 3 years and 45 MYR for adults (i.e. around $40 for an adult and 2 kids), it was a relatively inexpensive way to entertain Georgia and Mackenzie for a couple of hours!

This evening we weren't organised enough to arrange a hotel babysitter in time (for future reference Traders Hotel charges 50MYR per hour for a minimum of 3 hours) so we bravely dragged the girls to the fine dining restaurant on level 6 of the hotel.

Gobo Upstairs - Lounge & Grill serves up imported steaks and sides, at pretty reasonable prices. It is also the choice of venue for many loved up couples, so we took a risk taking our room-service fed, tired toddlers there to watch us eat dinner!

Thankfully we had a window spot, so we settled the girls on the floor (hidden from view under the table!) with dessert and the laptop so they could watch Strawberry Shortcake while we ate in peace!

Rob - Gobo Upstairs

Me at Gobo Upstairs

As I post, it is almost 10pm, the weather is still crap and Rob is out at the shops buying Georgia and Mackenzie's birthday presents at Toys R Us.

Tomorrow we're flying to Langkawi for a 7 night stay at a resort on the beach. We're keeping our fingers crossed for sunny weather!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

{Team Somerville Travel} Kuala Lumpur

I woke with a start this morning at 6am (that's 5am Vietnam time!) to the sound of the morning call to prayer echoing around the city from a nearby mosque.

The fact that the sound of a morning prayer startled me to the point of wondering for at least 60 seconds what the heck was happening, led me to the sleepy realisation that this was actually a new experience for me.

I took my first international flight at the age of 21 (yes, I was a late starter!) and with all the places I have travelled to since, I realised as I lay listening to the prayers that Malaysia is the first country I've visited that has Islam as its predominant religion.

Despite the early call to prayer, the girls slept in so we had a late start to our KL shopping day.

Even without the lights, the morning view from our room was still pretty spectacular.

Twin Towers by day
Unfortunately Georgia and Mackenzie spotted the massive playground/park in front of the Towers from our hotel suite, so we left for breakfast with a promise to go there in the afternoon.

Georgia...breakfast at Traders
Our main destination for the day was the shopping area of Bukit Bintang. The strip has a number of malls catering to both high end and high street shoppers.

We took a taxi from the hotel to Pavillion - a sprawling 6 storey mall with far too many shops for us to visit with the toddlers in tow.

The girls did well, helped along by the numerous Chinese New Year displays to divert their attention when they got tired of shopping.

Chinese New Year dragons - Pavillion shopping mall

With everything from Malay to western food, and some random items in between, the Pavillion food court was also a welcome diversion.

The girls and Rob ate Malaysian food, while I got enticed by the Subway outlet. A bad call...Halal salami does not taste so good!

What the?
We shopped until we dropped (almost) and kept good on the promise to take the girls to the park, despite a few spots of rain.

While Rob and the girls spent the afternoon at the park...

... I indulged in additional retail therapy at the Suria Shopping Centre at the base of the Petronas Twin Towers. A lot of the same shops as the Pavillion and then some. Definitely need to spend a few more hours there tomorrow!

Friday, January 28, 2011

{Team Somerville Travel} Malaysia here we come!

Our view from the Traders Hotel, Kuala Lumpur
As Vietnam winds down for Tet (aka Chinese New Year), most expats in the know either escape the big cities, and head to Vietnam's beach resorts, or leave the country altogether. 

As we did last Tet, we are heading overseas. Destination...Malaysia!

After rushing the girls out of the classroom on the final day of school (they missed the Tet afternoon tea so they were not happy!) we had a 1.5 hour flight to reach KL. 

Unfortunately it is a 45 minute journey from the airport to the city (not to mention the 5 minute bus journey from the arrival terminal to the baggage/immigration terminal...what the?), but it's a comfortable journey on the clean, wide freeways where the drivers seem to abide by the road rules (unlike crazy Ho Chi Minh!).

Arriving at the Traders Hotel, it was just as the Trip Advisor reviews had described. A classy hotel with numerous staff to help you out of the car and on your way to check in.

We checked in on the Club level and got an upgrade from a city view suite to the twin towers view suite guaranteed as part of an online package deal.

The suite is goregous, with a living room separated from the bedroom and a huge bathroom...not to mention the view!

The downside...we walked inside the room to find that the sofa bed we had booked was indeed just a sofa with bedding, not the pull out kind I had imagined Georgia and Mackenzie sharing!

A quick trip back to the Club Lounge check in and I was placated with a rollaway bed free of charge.

On tomorrow's, shopping and more shopping!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

{Saigon Snaps} Celebrating Australia

Loads of Aussies came together today for Auscham's Australia Day celebration at the RMIT University in District 7. Good Aussie food and music.

A picnic dinner, ice cream, puppies to play with (yes, some expats like their dogs to join the celebrations!) and plenty of grass to run around on...Georgia and Mackenzie were in heaven!

Mackenzie...the cheeky Aussie
Georgia...eating NZ icecream - very unpatriotic!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

{Team Somerville Travel} Post holiday blues!

Halfway through the post holiday working week and I have the blues. Wish I could be on a permanent holiday!

Cheered myself up tonight looking through photos of our two week holiday in south Vietnam and Hong Kong.

Here's some funny footage of Team Somerville on the Mad Hatter's Tea Cup ride at Disneyland Hong Kong (lots of giggles from Georgia and Mackenzie, a lot of screaming/wailing from moi!).

Enjoy x

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hong Kong Disneyland

A big day out at HK Disneyland today to celebrate Marek's 11th birthday.

Unlike our visit last March, today's weather was fabulous. Cold, a little overcast at times, but only a few spots of rain first thing this morning which didn't impact on our day of fun.

Through the gates and the first stop was a quick photo shoot with Goofy...

Team Somerville with Goofy
Next was a visit to "Tomorrowland" promising visitors thrills and laughs in space...

Jade and Marek...Tomorrowland

Mackenzie and Marek..set to ride the Orbitron

Everyone's favourite...Buzz Lightyear!

Mackenzie on the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster ride...turned out to be the favourite ride at Disneyland. We went on it again and again and again!

We finally dragged the kids away from Tomorrowland through the Disneyland Sleeping Beauty castle to "Fantasyland".

Sleeping Beauty Castle...Georgia and Tash

Team Fraser
Through the castle tunnel we headed straught to the hot dog stand near the Dumbo ride (the girls remembered it from our last visit - delicious!) then a stop at Fantasy Gardens to meet the characters - Minnie, Winnie the Pooh. Mickey, Pluto and Goofy.

Mackenzie (l) and Georgia with Winnie
Marek and Jade with Minnie

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hong Kong holiday - Day 1

Team Fraser's last day in Vietnam today. But the holiday doesn't end here ... we're off to Hong Kong for 4 days.

Our last trip to HK was almost a year ago and the weather was cold, wet and miserable. Here's hoping the weather fairies will bring us some sunshine over the next few days so we can see the sights!

We arrived in HK this afternoon at 2pm. After a 2.5 hour flight from Saigon, with two cranky toddlers in tow, we checked into the Hotel Panorama in Kowloon. 

When I booked the Panorama a few months back the only rooms available were on the Club level (oh well!) so we were immediately whisked up to the 39th floor for the VIP check in. Not a bad start to 2011!

As with most hotels in HK, the rooms are small but the view ain't too shabby...

We wasted an hour trying to get Georgia and Mackenzie to have a late afternoon nap. Gave up and headed out to explore the local area of Kowloon. It was freezing!

The girls were very excited to see the Macdonalds sign...civilsation at last!

Being a mean Mummy I said "no" to dining at Macdonalds. I can't stand eating that boiled beef crap more than once a year!

But after a spot of Croc shopping...

... we chose the "sane parent" option and took the crabby kids for a dinner at Burger King! (much to my disgust although I must admit the first few bites of my Whopper Jnr were delicious!)

Finished off the early evening with happy hour at the hotel.