Why I love The Royale Chulan Damansara

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I thanked the friendly cab driver and was promptly welcomed by the hotel doorman who opened the car door for me. Two more doormen greeted me as I entered the The Royale Chulan Damansara (then Royale Bintang Damansara) for the first time. After returning the warmth and courtesy with smiles and ‘thank you’s’ I finally had the chance to take in my surroundings – and I was taken aback.

I had gone to the Klang Valley looking forward to attending a workshop cum brainstorming session on creating flexible work environments – and while I had expected a decent, upmarket venue I wasn’t prepared for the grandness that greeted me at the hotel.

A white and cream colour scheme with occasional strokes of navy blue worked with the lobby’s high ceiling and generous space to result in a setting that was awe inspiring and yet welcoming. The term ‘cheerful cathedral’ came to mind.

And like a royalty who was clearly in a class of their own but would still welcome you to tea anytime, the Royale Chulan Damansara lived up to its name and made anyone stepping into its understated grandeur feel…good.

So when I had to travel to the Klang Valley again this year for a dear friend’s wedding, I happily decided to stay at this beautiful hotel.

20140530-212426.jpgTired after a long day marked by a flight delay and traffic jams, walking into my white and cream colored room was a delightful relief. In the warm yellow lighting, the neutral tones and plush carpet made the entire space so warm and inviting that despite the size of the room it felt like a cocoon. I felt pampered!

20140530-212904.jpgFrom the luxurious bathroom and plush bed and pillows, to the armchair with foot rest by the window and extra touches like the fruit platter in the room, The Royale Chulan Damansara was everything one would expect of a 5-star establishment.

20140530-212614.jpgBreakfast was also a delight – standard hotel buffet fare, but generous in terms of spread and quality. The cafe was bright and airy and I had coffee served to me just because the manager noticed I was looking for it. Royal indeed!

This was definitely one of the best hotel stays I have experienced – because all that was described above was the perfect setting in which the truly meaningful took place. Having the luxurious cocoon to return to after attending Celine’s wedding, during which I had a chance to catch up with Phay Phay and see her children, and then meeting up with Monica for coffee and coming back to the hotel room with her to chat somemore! And on my last day, Sarah dropped by to join me for the buffet breakfast and our usual long chat, then we both went up to my room to nap before I checked out.

It was the simple pleasure of spending time with the important people in my life, and having the luxury to enjoy their company in elegant surroundings makes the experience even more memorable. Perhaps the next time we could plan a backpacking trip together to some remote places in the world for a different kind of bonding experience!

“The Truth Is Out There”

Outside, a new perspective awaits

Outside, a new perspective awaits

So venture out. Take a step. Get uncomfortable. Wade through the mud. Ignore the strange stares. Dismiss the questions, the doubts. Dismiss their questions, their doubts. What’s in here anyway? Futile familiarity. Paralyzing comfort. Age-old perceptions, evolving into truths. Limiting mediocrity, worshipped as contentment. The mere popular, labelled wisdom. So venture out. Embrace the space. There’s enough for uncertainties, even more so for discovery. Get to the truth out there. And return to the freedom inside.

Space. I love mine.

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Idyllic neighbourhood in Tanjung Bunga, Penang

Space – it’s a beautiful thing. With space, we grow. We breathe, and dream, and create. We try and tinker, do and dabble, build, tear down, and rebuild. We stretch, we run, we dance. We imagine, we tweak, we weep, sweep everything away and start over. Or we walk away to just be. Then we return, and the possibilities engulf us all over again. We celebrate, and then we recreate. Within fluid boundaries, we find both freedom and belonging. So I choose space over system, and out of the box, is where I find my Rock.

Bangkok on a whim… Somewhat :)

With the Thai classes I have been taking and the affinity I (and many others I am sure!) have for Thailand, it’s only natural that I would visit the country more than once.

And it turned out that my second trip to Bangkok was rather impromptu – I decided one Monday that I wanted to go and in less than two weeks found myself walking down the colourful streets of Bangkok again.

My roommate from university, Bee Choo was game enough to come along and we both flew over separately – I from Penang and she from Kuala Lumpur – and had our reunion at the Suvarnabhumi Airport that bright, busy Friday morning! Between catching up, luggages in tow we managed to hail a cab and make some rough plans on what to do on our first day, while I practised a bit of my newly acquired Thai with the cabbie on our way to the hotel.

‘Ton née prated Thai politik bpen yang ngai kha?’ How are politics in Thailand now?

The tanned middle-aged man ruefully shook his head but the satisfaction that a native Thai speaker actually understood me was shortlived because right after that he launched into a heartfelt response that I could hardly understand. I made a mental note to catch up with my revision and continue my Thai lessons, and decided that this time around it would be more practical to just focus on our main trip agenda – shopping, food and massage!

20140524-234848.jpgThere was a train station right at the doorstep of the Novotel Bangkok Ploenchit Sukhumvit Hotel where we would stay for our two nights there, but on the first day we explored the area mainly by foot – partly because the hotel staff told us that the Platinum Shopping Mall was ‘walking distance’ from the hotel without specifying that it would take 20 minutes to get there on foot!

20140524-234459.jpgBut get there we did, and thankfully it was fun because along the way we stopped by Amarin Plaza for a pleasant Thai lunch at its bright and spacious food court, and saw a number of interesting street stalls selling fresh orange and promegranate juices, tea and coffee, cut fruits, and snacks like barbecued sausages and meats.

At the end of our trip to the popular fashion mall we were both satisfied shoppers with the tops and dresses we bought. I also found a gorgeous pair of rose gold-coloured sandals and three lovely necklaces. The gold-colored choker was an epiphany discovered on our way back to the hotel, at a roadside jewelry stall! That night, after a short rest and shower we ventured out again and had our dinner at some street stalls near Siam
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Square. I had an entire baked fish by myself with a side of herb and vege salad served with a hot, spicy chilli sauce – no doubt one of the best carb-free meals I’ve ever had! Bee Choo’s pork noodle soup didn’t disappoint either, with the flavourful and richly spiced soup base.

20140524-235209.jpgOn the second day we were delighted to discover some really quaint shops at Siam Square selling pretty, high-quality tailored and handmade dresses. Before that we were at the Central World Plaza where I succumbed and joined the Fit Flop bandwagon, buying a glittery pair of the famed sandals in a subtle yellow gold that would go with almost any colour. Bee Choo bought some body wash and lotions from a shop next door that sells a homegrown Thai skincare brand – probably Thailand’s answer to the likes of Body Shop, L’Occitane and Skin Food. We also had fun looking at accessories at Accesorize.

A one and a half-hour body massage later was followed by more shopping at Boots Pharmacy, and then we took the tuk tuk to the Pratunam night market. Nothing much appealed to us there but I did come across some really charming tuk tuk key fobs which I bought to bring home as souvenirs – my female colleagues’ squeals of ‘wahh so nice!!’ upon being asked to pick one in the color they liked seemed to confirm that I had made the right choice.

That night we had a simple dinner of takeaway street food from the night market – Bee Choo had her mango sticky rice and I was contented with my fried chicken. My only regret was not to have bought at least two pieces.

Our last day was rather fruitful too as we managed to visit a supermarket, Villa Mart which was just a 5-minute walk from our hotel, where I picked up some chocolate bars and biscuits. We went back to Boots again to buy a few more things and even went for a lovely Thai foot massage near the Siam train station, where we also had lunch before heading back to the hotel to check out and bid goodbye to this vibrant city.

We spent some time window shopping at the airport before hugging each other goodbye and heading to our departure gates.

So looks like this post has turned to be a plain account of what I did in Bangkok – not so much of the introspective piece that I had originally intended to write. Maybe I’ll leave that for another day, and I guess a brief two-night trip with the ‘shallow’ agenda of shopping, eating and massage doesn’t offer much time and opportunity to really observe and absorb the culture and nuances of the life in Bangkok.

But that’s okay, because I will definitely be back again.

Reminiscence: My very first solo holiday

20140516-004148.jpgOn an insomniac night like this, the mobile WordPress app really comes in handy. No hassle turning on the laptop and waiting for it to boot whatsoever.

Perhaps it is rather apt that six hours before my next vacation I reminisce about one special mini getaway I made last year. It was special because it was my first holiday alone, albeit a local one to the nearby Langkawi Island.

20140516-003419.jpgEverything – from the cosy resort, to exploring nearby shops and dining alone, drinking wine in the hotel room, going for a run and workout before the sumptuous buffet breakfast and falling asleep in the gazebo after, lulled by the sound of lapping waves that were just right before my eyes – was just what I had looked forward to having. Oh yes, and the massage, too. And the embarrassment of mistaking a fellow hotel guest for a waiter just because I saw him carrying two laden plates so effortlessly…and the amusement of being chatted up by a young chap in his early twenties.

20140516-004100.jpgI also did a fair bit of thinking and reflection, praying and seeking God for yet another life changing revelation… And it felt like He reminded me, assurely as the waves would come and go, so would challenges bring the ups and downs. But turn your attention away from the challenge itself, and pay attention to the fresh supply of My grace that will ensure you rise above – seemed to be takeaway from my maiden solo getaway.

I love such paradigm shifts – when obvious yet seemingly counterintuitive truths evolve from mere logic into liberating, heart-level revelations – so this was not just my first solo getaway, but the first of many more to come.

Heritage Hotel Stay at 23 Love Lane for Mother’s Day

23 Love Lane Hotel Penang

The hotel courtyard proves a tranquil spot despite the building itself being right smack in the middle of Georgetown City.

When I decided to resume blogging (and try to be consistent this time around), I was rather excited that a blogworthy event would be coming up – my family’s short getaway to this highly acclaimed 5-star heritage hotel at the Penang Heritage area – a treat from me, my brother and sister-in-law to mom to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Just like mom, I love mini getaways even if it’s just to our very own backyard! Around 10.30 am last Saturday, I received a surprise call from the hotel staff telling me that my room was ready for check-in. It turned out that this pleasant gesture was the first of more to come – like offering to make me a cup of coffee when I was sitting at the hall reading and the simple nods and smiles of acknowledgement from the hotel staff.

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No problem dozing off on a strange bed when it is as plush as this one

So I went to the hotel and took a nap on the plush bed in that airy high-ceilinged room, typical of any colonial era building before my parents and sister arrived. I even had time to explore the nearby heritage area briefly on my own when I got hungry and had to go out to look for my lunch because the hotel’s Steak Frites restaurant serves only, well, steak. Shortly after they did, I happily bagged the Crabtree and Evelyn lotion and L’occitane toiletries before leaving to let my parents enjoy the stay on their own, casually asking mom to request another set from the hotel.

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The afternoon tea – an experience enhanced by the warm hospitality of the hotel staff

The hotel serves complimentary afternoon tea to their guests at 4.30 pm everyday, and dad sent me photos of what they had over Whatsapp – which appeared to be a modest and yet pleasant mix of local and western fare.

But the best part of this entire getaway was when I received Whatsapp messages from my mom, and then dad – saying ‘thank you’ for booking the stay for them. It was Mother’s Day, and for all my parents had done for me and my siblings, the least we could do for them in return was to come up with simple gestures like this to put a smile on their faces. Like typical parents they complained that the room rate was too high, but it was still apparent that they enjoyed themselves. And this, to me, is the whole point of it all – and the mini milestone worthy of a blog post.