Thursday, August 29, 2013

Kuching Hidden Gems - Wind Caves

Not far from the Fairy Cave is another interesting cave called the Wind Cave. Wind Cave is technically a cave passage, as it has openings at both ends. The entrance to Wind Cave is slightly elevated from ground level and reached through a flight of stairs. Besides the main cave passage - there are 2 other smaller cave passages which lead to different exits. All the passages are provided with timber walkways, but are not lighted and very dark - so you will need to bring your own torch lights.

The main passage is quite large in some locations. The levels go up and down though they are quite gentle. The passage lead all the way to a river which run alongside the mountain. On weekends the river is full of families playing in the water.

Other cave passages lead to different exits.

If you look carefully, you may see tiny fossils embedded in the cave walls.

There are also these interesting formations called bell holes which are formed by the bats roosting on the cave roof. The holes are formed by the moisture and warmth of the bats which slowly erode away the surrounding rock.

Visiting caves somehow bring back some long forgotten memories. It is like a trip back in time. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Kuching Hidden Gems - Fairy Cave

Fairy Cave is one of the natural limestone caves in Bau - a small town about 30 km from Kuching. The Cave is well known among Kuchingites, and I’ve visited it several times - the first time when I was a secondary school boy. Now it has become quite a popular attraction especially on the weekends. Even tourists to Kuching have found their way there.

The entrance to the cave is on the side of a limestone mountain. The authorities have helpfully constructed a staircase to the cave entrance allowing for easier access. Unfortunately it is a very ugly structure. Wish they put more care into these things which can be such an eyesore.

The tunnel after the entrance is quite dark, and torch lights are definitely required. Though timber steps are provided - they are quite steep and narrow and can be slippery due to the dampness in the cave. Trekking shoes with a good grip are best to avoid tripping on the slippery steps.

Once you make your way through the narrow entrance passage, you will be rewarded with the impressive view of the large main cave. You almost feel like you are in the mouth of a large beast, due to the number of stalactites at the cave's mouth which look like a monster's teeth.

The name of the cave - Fairy Cave - I believe originated from the many stalagmites which dot the cave floor. Some of them look eerily like fairies or some sentient creature - don't you think ?

Further in the cave there are a number of passages which the more adventurous can explore. If you decide to do so, make sure you go prepared with proper footwear and plenty of batteries for your torch lights.

Fairy Cave has thankfully been very well preserved over the years. Hopefully as it gets more popular - as it deserves to be, it will remain as well taken care of as it has been so far. A visit is definitely recommended if you have the time.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Eating in Kuala Lumpur 2013 - Nook Cafe at aLoft Hotel

If you like the design of the lobby at aLoft Hotel, you will love the design of the all-day-dining cafe called the Nook. This is probably the most stylish cafe in Kuala Lumpur at the moment. The modern, industrial-chic design makes great use of colours, textures and interesting shapes. It looks and feels like a first class airport lounge, and a Singapore Airlines stewardess wouldn't look out of place here.

I hadn't really planned on dining there, but the interesting and very colourful food display caught my attention so I just had to give it a try. The desserts are especially well presented.

The food here is quite good. Most of the dishes feature just a few ingredients which are prepared with care. Simple, good, uncomplicated food which lets the ingredient speak for itself.

Interestingly the famous Sarawak Laksa has found its way onto the menu here. I have to say their version is better then many other hotel versions I have tried - but still far far from the original.

I would definitely go back to Nook for the great ambiance and the good food that is a refreshing change from over-complicated hotel fare.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Kuala Lumpur 2013 - aLoft Hotel Kuala Lumpur Sentral

KL Sentral is slowly shaping up to be the "Manhattan" quarter of KL - albeit at probably 1/100th the size. The number of highrise towers here is amazing - and their proximity to each other makes one wonder whether they comply to minimum setback standards. This is truly a Concrete Jungle - or more appropriately a Glass Jungle in the making.

One of the new additions at KL Sentral is aLoft Hotel - part of the growing Starwood Hotel Group which already have Sheraton, Le Meridien and Westin Hotel under their belt - and also a W Hotel KL in the works.

The minute you walk into the aLoft lobby you know this is something different. It feels like a baby W - the vibe is decidedly young, trendy and bubbly. This is one seriously stylish hotel lobby.

The first time I've seen channel glass wall used in Malaysia. It looks really beautiful.

aLoft is a great looking hotel, and if you like to be close to transportation KL Sentral can't be beat. I know where I would like to stay on my next KL visit.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Eating in Kuala Lumpur 2013 - Breakfast at Restoran Win Heng Seng Jalan Imbi

I often stay around the Bukit Bintang area in KL during my visits, and there are several places I normally go for a quick and delicious breakfast. One of them is a kopitiam along Jalan Imbi - Restoran Win Heng Seng. This is actually 2 shophouses linked together - and is always packed. The turnover is very quick though, so if you are prepared to wait a few minutes a table would usually clear up. If you are alone and not too shy - you can always share a table with others which is a common thing to do here.

There are quite a lot of stalls here ranging from kuih tiaw soup to yong tau foo to pork soup with mee hoon and char siew rice. I like the pork soup which is always very tasty and the ingredients such as pig's intestine and liver used are usually of very good quality.

The other must have item is the yong tau foo.The average yong tau foo can be bland and unexciting, but here the fish paste is made with very good fish and packed with flavours. Mixed with the slightly sweet and savoury sauce - they are a tasty snack.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Eating in Kuala Lumpur 2013 - Grand Harbour Restaurant at Fahrenheit 88

If you are not a KL local, finding a good place for Dim Sum can be a daunting task. There is a dearth of good Dim Sum restaurants in the city centre - unless you go for the hotel restaurants which can be expensive and disappointing most of the time. When I saw this new Hong Kong style restaurant at Fahrenheit 88, I was quite happy as this is within an easy stroll from the busy Bukit Bintang area.

The restaurant is quite big. Though sparsely decorated - it is modern and clean. The head chef moves around the kitchen and restaurant keeping a close watch on things - always a good sign of a well run restaurant.

While I would not say that the dim sum here is great, they were nevertheless good enough to satisfy my dim sum cravings. I particularly liked the radish cakes which had been cut into smaller pieces and pan fried till golden brown -and the taste of white radish was quite sweet and strong.

The highlight was this "Teng Chai Chook" - literally translated as little boat porridge. This had bits of fish, squid and dried cuttlefish inside - and it was delicious.

I would say that the food and service at Grand Harbour above average for KL standards, and would definitely go back and try other items on the menu.