Tuesday, April 17, 2018

[JB] Menara Hartamas Homestay @ Taman Mount Austin Johor Bahru

It has been awhile since we explored new places to stay in Johor Bahru and opportunity arose when we were caught off guard learning that the hotel we used to stay has increased pricing. With last minute planning, we decided to look out for other alternatives for our staycation. After frantically searching online, we finally found a Homestay in Mount Austin via Airbnb.

This is the first time I tried to book an apartment via Airbnb and picking a superhost is extremely assuring. Response was quick and we booked the 'room' successfully within the night! Instructions provided by the host was clear and we got into the apartment and parked our car seamlessly.

Let's see what Menara Hartamas (Manhattan SOVO), an iconic landmark in Austin Heights has to offer!

Initially the children were disappointed learning that the unit has no wifi. Upon entering the apartment, they were pretty impressed by the neat and bright space that welcome them.

Living Room - Simple and sleek. Comfortable for families and group of friends to sit by and catch a TV drama together.

Our unit is a 1 bedroom apartment, and it comes with a Queen size bed. There are wardrobe at the side and the room is air-conditioned. You also enjoy an unblock view of Mount Austin just standing by the balcony. (PS: Keep the windows closed/locked if you have young children as I also felt a little jittery standing on the balcony).

This is the children's and my favourite spot as this is not only our sleeping zone, but also our play and study zone. While it was fun to climb up and down and we enjoyed the comfort of the raised platform, the only down-side of this loft bed design is the cool air from the air-condition could not really reach the bed on the upper deck.

Thankfully, our superhost provided a standing fan! For those who dislike the chill from the air-condition, the natural cool air from the fan does the trick to keep you cool through the night as well.

Our girl had the other queen size bed all by herself.... till I invaded her space in the middle of the night. :p I would actually love the bed to be at the lower deck so that it will spare us from climbing down the stairs in the middle of the night. Also, it will be much cooler to rest below than on the upper deck. 

Kitchen & Dining - Dining space for families to have meals together and I really like the availability of the fridge to keep our drinks chill.

While we may not use the space to cook, its always good to know that there are means to heat up the food if needed. Cutlery and utensils are also provided.

Toilet/Shower area is clean and neat. The basin is located outside of the toilet which is convenient and flexible as we can still wash our hands/brush their teeth while someone is using the toilet.

Front load washing machine and soap powder provided as well! This is very helpful as we do wash our clothing whenever we travel to minimise the amount of dirty laundry to bring home.

Little pots of plants/flowers touched up and soften the space. I also appreciate the host placing some interesting titles for those who may want to read.

Even though the unit has no wifi, that does not mean we have no entertainment. Boardgames are provided and we actually put our phones aside and spent some time playing together! I can imagine how fun it will be if we have a bigger group!

We really enjoyed staying at Menara Homestay. Location is great as its in the heart of Austin Heights where there are lots of eateries and shops in the surrounding (within walking distance). Austin Heights Water & Adventure Park is about 10 minutes walk away and a couple of minutes drive away to Aeon Tebrau and IKEA.

I actually enjoyed the bigger space where we can move about more freely. We are not restricted to our beds unlike in the hotel room. The apartment can also accommodate more people though we may have to squeeze a little when it comes to sleeping but somehow we managed.

Another great place to consider if you are planning for staycation in Johor Bahru (especially if you have bigger groups). Note: There are also other units available for booking via Airbnb which comes with wifi or more beds.

Summary Notes:
Apartment (1 Bedroom, Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, 1 Toilet & Shower, 1 Washing area)
- Wifi (depends on unit)
- Air-condition + Fan
- Window view
- Flooring - Tiles
- Water Flask - available
- Safety Box - not available
- Phone - not available
- Fridge - available

- Bath towels are provided
- Combined Toilet and Shower room
- Water Heater available.
- Disposable toothbrush/toothpaste - not provided

Parking & Security
- Security (Access to building/lift lobby via key card)
- Security guard on duty round the clock
- Parking lot at multi-storey carpark - reserved for guests

Menara Hartamas Homestay
Address: Menara Hartamas, Jalan Austin Heights 8/4 Johor Bahru
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MenaraHartamasHomestay/

Monday, March 26, 2018

Taiwan 8D7N Free & Easy Tour - Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf (渔人码头) & Tamsui Old Street (淡水老街)

It has been more than 10 years since our last visit to Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf. Back then, Denver was only 3 years old then and together we toured Taiwan as he was strapped onto the stroller. 11 years later, we took the same route back, only this time, no more strollers and Gladys is here with us too.

From Taipei Station, we took the MRT (red line) down to Tamsui Station (淡水).  The old street of Tamsui is walking distance to the train station. Since it was still early, we took bus 26 to Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf for a scenic walk by the waterfront.

It was great to be able to bring our girl with us on this trip to revisit the memories and leave our footprints together on this journey. The surroundings did not seem to have undergone major changes and the view of the setting sun is just as gorgeous.

Family Photo @ Lover's Bridge (淡水情人桥)

The Lover's Bridge represent the mast and rigging of a sailing ship and is beautifully illuminated at night. Many couples and families like to take pictures by the white-coloured cable-stayed bridge and it is a significant tourist spot in Tamsui.

Before the sun set, we took Bus 26 back to the train station and strolled along the old streets of Tamsui. 

You can find many good eats at Tamsui and one of the must eat is the old school sponge cake. The shop is easily spotted by the long line of customers queuing for the fluffy sponge cakes. You can choose to go for the original or the cheese flavour. I guess we were lucky to queue for about 30 minutes only as many said it usually takes about 1 hour. 

Patience is the key and its an art to see them overturn the sponge cake, slice the cake into large pieces and package them into boxes while waiting. We bought 2 boxes of each flavour and finished 1 box on the spot. It was truly delicious and always best to eat it when it was fresh out from the oven.

Further ahead, its another shop selling Shrimp Rolls. I do not fancy fried food but this is something interesting to try just by it's looks. 

If you are in Tamsui, do try their fish balls which are stuffed with minced pork within. The fish balls are very chewy and delicious which is a good food to share among adults and children.

Whether it is Grandma Steel Egg or Grandpa Steel Egg, this is a famous eat in Tamsui. We bought a packet to try and honestly, I am not too accustom to its' taste and texture.

Setting sun at Tamsui

Apart from the scenic view and great eats, you can also find assorted museum like this at Tamsui - 搜奇博物館. This museum showcase unbelievable collections of mutated animals specimen and other odd displays. We gave it a miss as the children are not that keen to enter (entrance fee applies) and we head on to our next destination.

Tamsui MRT Station

Check out our Taiwan 8D7N itinerary.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Taiwan 8D7N Free & Easy Tour - Taipei M Hotel (台北門精品旅店)

Day 5 - From CingJing, we booked a transport to take us to Taichung High Speed Rail (HSR) station. We are taking the HSR train to our next destination - Taipei! 

Prior to travelling, we checked the timing and bought the same day tickets upon reaching the station. (NT670 for adult, NT350 for children). Though the HSR train tickets are more expensive, we saved  travelling time as it only takes about 1 hour from Taichung to Taipei. 

Seating are rather comfortable as everyone still managed to have some leg space even after putting our bags/luggage.

Alighting at Taipei HSR station, we walked for about 15 minutes (with our luggage) before reaching our resting place for the next 3 nights ; Taipei M Hotel - Main Station (台北門精品旅店). It wasn't too hard to locate with Google Map and we also managed to explore the area on our way there. 

Taipei M Hotel Lobby

While waiting for Hubby to check-in, the children spotted drink dispenser stations providing refreshing beverages for their guests. This is definitely very welcoming for us especially after taking a long walk to reach the hotel.

Even though Taoyuan International Airport is not very far from Taipei M Hotel, we decided to book the airport transfer service (NT1000) for our peace of mind.

Check-in complete! We took the lift up to the 7th floor and looking at floor plan, there are more than 50 rooms on a single floor!

We booked a Fashion Family Room for NT 9890 (3 nights stay - inclusive of tax). This is the 'smallest' size room we have stayed throughout our trip to Taiwan but the room is clean and comfortable. 

There is walking space after placing our luggage. 

Toiletries and basic amenities are provided (including hair dryer, towels etc).

Toilet and shower room is of reasonable size. 

One of the main reason for picking Taipei M hotel, apart from its location, is the availability of washing machine and dryer. As we are on a 8D7N trip, we planned to wash our clothing and bring minimum dirty laundry back home.

Washing machines and dryers are available on the 11th floor of the hotel but to our surprise, all of them were occupied (even at 11pm) and there was a long waiting line to use the machines. To our dismay, we have to forgo our plans and look out for laundromat near the hotel. (Thankfully, we managed to find one that is about 10 minutes walk away and still got our laundry washed!)

Gym Room on 11th floor

Taipei M Hotel's rooftop garden is pretty neat and relaxing especially for those who wants to have some quiet time and fresh air. 

I must say M hotel has a lot of drink stations, and guests do not have to worry about feeling thirsty! 

Our room rate is inclusive of breakfast and hence we had a hearty and filling breakfast before we head out for the day.

While we were disappointed not being able to have our laundry washed within the comfort of the hotel, we had a rather comfortable stay at Taipei M Hotel. It is within walking distance to Taipei HSR station and there are a few eateries nearby.

Check out our Taiwan 8D7N itinerary.

Summary Notes:
- Free Wifi
- Air-condition
- Window view - None
(depends on room type)
- Flooring - Carpeted
- Water Flask - available
- Hair Dryer - available
- Phone - available
- Mini Fridge - not available

- Bath towels are provided
- Combined Toilet and Shower room
- Water Heater available.
- Disposable toothbrush/toothpaste provided

Taipei M Hotel (台北門精品旅店)
Address: No. 64, Section 1, Hankou St, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100


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