Category Archives: Travel

Best Sunset Spots In Blue Mountains

6 Great Sunset Spots in the Blue Mountains

With the massive uptick in Instagram usage, the need for new Instagram spots is unrelenting. Luckily, I’ve already visited a bunch of sunsets spots in the Blue Mountains which are perfect for your Instagram feed. These are my favourite sunset locations in the Blue Mountains.

Cahill’s Lookout

Cahill's Lookout Sunset Blue MountainsNot long ago Cahill’s Lookout used to be just a dirt track on the side of a suburban road with very few visitors. But it was improved a couple of years back to include a reasonable car park and a nice concrete path. And now it’s often packed with sunset hunters including the odd small tour bus. But it’s worth it.

With sunsets like this, how can you not be tempted?!

And besides, it’s really close to Katoomba.

Lincoln Rock (AKA Flat Rock)

Flat Rock At Lincoln RockLincoln Rock is a booming place mainly because it looks a bit like Wedding Cake Rock in the royal national park. Well, sort of. It’s flat… and you can get photos at it. And lots of people go there. So yeah, you can too.

At sunset, it’s really cool with the sun setting in the background. Be sure to check out the nearby cave where you can get a classic Instagram shot of the sun setting through the opening of the cave.

It’s in the Wentworth Falls area and you’ll need a car to get out there. Definitely worth a look, but not my favourite spot despite it being a hit with Instagrammers.

Blackheath Lookout

Blackheath LookoutIf you’re further up the mountains than Katoomba, there are a couple of good spots in Blackheath for sunset. The first one is Blackheath Lookout.

This is the spot that hang gliders take off from and it has a great view over the Megalong Valley. The sunset from here is bang on. Also a good spot to capture the milky way.Blackheath Lookout SunsetJust head over the railway tracks from Blackheath and follow the signs. If not, this map will help.

Hargraves Lookout

Hargreaves Lookout Blue MountainsHargraves is one of my favourite spots for sunset in the Blue Mountains primarily because it has such a massive area where you can set up your rig, take in the peace and quiet and basically avoid other humans.

The best spots are right down the end of the ridge amongst the trees. It’s also possible to get the Milky Way from here, but it can be crazy cold in winter. Think of 0ºC with 50km/h winds. Nasty.

It’s also an easy place to get to with a car, but forget about it if you’re on foot.

Sunset Rock

Sunset Rock Mt VictoriaSunset Rock is famous for sunsets, funnily enough. And it’s very unpopular. That is, I’ve never seen another person there. Maybe that’s because it’s high up in the Blue Mountains at Mt Victoria, away from public transport. Also, I’ve only ever been there in winter.

The good thing about this view point is that there are plenty of great foreground objects and well as some interesting undulating landscapes.

This is another favourite of mine because of the lack of other humans.

Hassan’s Walls

Hassan’s Walls is not a tourist destination. But plenty of locals like to come up here for sunset. They’re smart. Because Hassan’s Walls is my favourite spot for sunset in the whole of the Blue Mountains (even though it’s just outside of the Blue Mountains in Lithgow – I can still do that, right?).

Hassan’s Walls has been up(down)graded over the years to include a massive metal boardwalk with fencing. So you’re going to need to jump that to get any good photos, just like any instagrammer worth his or her salt is prone to do.

My favourite spot at Hassan’s Walls is to the right near the cave. Jump the fence before entering the cave and there are lots of great sunset spots. Just don’t fall off the edge or death is a near certainty.

These are my favourite sunset spots in the Blue Mountains! Share your favourite spots in the comments and I’ll try and get out there and update this post.

BA34 787 9 Economy Cabin

Review: BA34 from Kuala Lumpur to London

I recently was really lucky to get a great deal on flights to Madrid via an odd route. Basically, you had to book through an OTA such as Expedia or last minute and select a European destination and a different return city from you departure city. I chose KUL-MAD-SIN and ended up on BA34 to London as this is where is transited.

The flight departed on time and although it was a full flight, the departure lounge felt half empty. I’m guessing that’s due to the configuration of the cabin on this 787-9 which has a tiny economy section and quite spacious premium sections.BA34 787 9 Seat Back EntertainmentIf you’ve flown on a 787 in economy before, you know what the deal is. Narrow seats, large overhead storage bins, nifty tinted windows.

As soon as the plane took off, drinks were served and there was loads of alcohol. One of the things with airlines such as Qatar is that they’re sometimes a bit stingy on alcohol. British Airways were not.

After drinks dinner was served. The choice was between chicken satay and meat and potatoes. The dessert was some sort of cake which was enjoyable. Even though the dishes were ugly, they tasted quite good and so much better than I was expecting. Better than my previous flight with Qatar I think.BA34 FoodI find sleeping on a 787 really difficult. It’s all the more difficult when there is a metal entertainment unit under the seat in front like there was for me. If you have big feet and long legs, you can’t fully stretch out both legs under the seat in front of you and it greatly disturbs your sleep. How on earth I can buy an iPad with 256gb of memory that’s as 1cm thick and yet we still have entertainment units the size of a 1990s PC is beyond me. It needs to be fixed.BA34 787 9 Entertainment Unit Under SeatAfter many hours of trying to get comfortable, I was finally able to sleep. I think I got close to 6 hours of on and off sleep which is the minimum I was aiming for on this 12.5 hour flight.

Breakfast sounded disgusting. Vegetarian omelette or omelette and steak. Of course no one wants a steak for breakfast, so by the time the meal service came to me, all the vegetarian options were taken. Needless to say, the steak was really nice! I’m glad I got it in the end. Of course the omelette was like a piece of rubber, but it was edible. A standard airline omelette.BA34 MealsThe staff. I haven’t flown on Western airlines much over the past decade so I’ve gotten used to Asian and Middle Eastern service. And I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how friendly the BA crew. Not that over the top sickly sweet thing you can sometimes get, but a genuine pleasantness that is sometimes missing from the Asian airlines. And they felt much more professional than some of the Asian airlines as well. If there was an emergency, you felt that they had things under control.

The flight arrived into London slightly early without any hiccups whatsoever. A perfectly uneventful flight with pleasant staff and decent food. The $350 for the return journey was money well spent and I can highly recommend BA on the KUL-LON route.

Secret tip: pick an aisle seat on a window block of 3 to avoid getting an entertainment unit under your seat.

Chocha Foodstore KL

Chocha Foodstore, Kuala Lumpur: Incredible Modern Asian Food

Located in a newly gentrified area of Chinatown in a shop which not long ago was the bedroom for homeless people, Chocha Foodstore is the very epitomy of modern Chinatown.

The building is a stunner. An old shophouse with original tiles throughout and even much of the original paintwork. This combined with an architect’s eye transforms this once rundown shop into one of the trendiest cafes in Malaysia.In Front Chocha FoodstoreWe ordered the Biang Biang Inspired Noodles, Duck Confit Rice Bowl and a couple of drinks. We loved it all.Duck Confit Biang Biang NoodlesThe Biang Biang Noodles were thick & wide sheets of pasta topped with crushed peanuts and chilli oil. For me, the noodles were slightly too thick and wide, but you do sort of need something big for all the saucy goodness to rest on.

The duck confit was great and the mix of barley and rice was enjoyable. The asian style salad was a beauty and its sharpness cut through the fattiness of the duck just perfectly.Drinks Chocha FoodstoreThe drinks were a fermented ginger drink and a sour plum thing. Both were delightful and something quite different from typical cafe drinks.Patio ChochaOne thing to note is that coffee is not available here. And usually for me that’s a cardinal sin. But I agree with the owners that coffee just doesn’t fit in this cafe. And that’s kind of refreshing.Inside Chocha FoodstoreInternet here is very fast at 30mbps down and 20mbps up and there is plenty of space for opening a laptop if you need to get a few bits and pieces done.

Lastly, we need to talk about price. I’ve read a few reviews saying this place is over priced. This place is expensive by Malaysian standards, but it’s definitely not overpriced. You get handmade noodles, house made drinks from fresh ingredients and perhaps the best looking cafe in Malaysia. For that, you have to pay above average prices. And here you do. But the prices are so reasonable by world standards that it’s just not worth commenting on.Chocha Foodstore Kuala LumpurIf you’ve got no cash, don’t come here.

Love this place.

Chocha Foodstore
156 Jalan Petaling, Kuala Lumpur
Instagram: @chochafoodstore
Opening Hours: 11:00 – 23:00 (closed Monday)
Biang Biang Noodles: Rm18
Duck Confit Rice Bowl: Rm26
Ginger & Sour Plum Drinks: Rm18 each

Scenery In Liechtenstein During Day Trip

Day Trip to Liechtenstein from Zurich: How to Get There, What to See, Where to Stay

On my recent visit to Switzerland, I was so close to the tiny country of Liechtenstein that I just had to go. It’s one of those countries that you go to just because you can. And that’s what I did.

How to Get to Liechtenstein from Zurich

Liechtenstein is much easier to get to than I had anticipated. You’re basically going to choose between train or rental car.

Car

I hired a car for my quick trip through Switzerland and I think hiring a car is the best way to get to Liechtenstein and also the best way to explore this tiny country. I got a great deal on holidayautos.co.uk out of Zurich Airport (only US$37 per day!), so check them out. The drive is about 1 hour 30 minutes on a motorway from the airport or downtown Zurich.Liechtenstein In Day From Zurich

Train

But if you don’t want to drive, the next best option is to catch a train. It’s possible to catch a train from Zurich Airport to Zurich Main Station and then onto Sargans. This trip will take about 1 hour 20 minutes depending on connection times and time of day (check https://www.sbb.ch/en/ for details). Sargans is really close to the border of Liechtenstein and from there it’s a 15 minute bus ride to the town of Balzers (just book your ticket on the SBB site to Balzers and the bus will be included in the price). There’s a couple of things to see in Balzers: Gutenberg Castle and Jubiläumskirche (a picturesque church).

The best part about catching the train and bus to Liechtenstein is that it’s included as part of the Swiss Travel Pass (a pass giving you unlimited train travel in Switzerland)! Even travel on the bus within Liechtenstein is included in the Swiss Travel Pass (you can buy them here).Interesting Church In Liechtenstein

Bus

Once inside Liechtenstein, there’s a really good bus network that can carry you around most of the country. While driving around, I even saw buses going right up above the snow line and into the mountains, so you should be able to get everywhere you want (using your Swiss Travel Pass again – you can buy them here).

Where to Stay in Liechtenstein

Accommodation in Liechtenstein is expensive. If you have a car, you can choose to stay anywhere really, including Switzerland. But I chose to stay in Liechtenstein itself and got a really fantastic hotel with the BEST breakfast called Hotel Kommod (check the current price). It was expensive (US$130/night), but the quality was far above what I expected and it was very modern and also sound-proofed to the max. It’s located in an industrial area which is odd, but if you have a car, that’s irrelevant. The bus also stops out the front of this hotel.Vaduz Castle LiechtensteinYour other options are going to be spread throughout the country and there doesn’t appear to be any one large concentration of hotels. During my research Hotel Restaurant Kulm looked like a good option especially because it has fantastic views and only cost $110 per night (booking.com price is here).

What to Do in Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein is small and you really don’t need to spend much time there. In fact, I spent one night and about 6 hours the next day driving around. The main spots are Vaduz Castle, Gutenburg Castle, Jubiläumskirche and the awesome mountain road via Triesenburg to Malbun ski region.Snowy Liechtenstein On The Road To MalbunThe mountain road is worth going up whether you’re catching the bus or driving your own car because the views are phenomenal especially as you go up through the residential area of Triesenberg. You can even stop here and grab a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants, but be warned that they can be very expensive (think US$50 per person or more).

At the top of the mountain, the road proceeds through a tunnel to a valley at the back of the mountain and then on to the town of Malbun.

Here you’ll find ski fields and LOTS of snow, even in early November mainly because the altitude is 1600m above sea level compared to 450m in Vaduz. So awesome.

For me, the mountain road is actually the highlight of Liechtenstein. To get there, follow the signs to Triesenberg on the main 28 road south of Vaduz. The road to Triesenberg from Vaduz Castle was closed when I visited in November, but you might have better luck.

Where to Eat in Liechtenstein

Where you eat in Liechtenstein really depends on your budget and how much you care about your time in Liechtenstein. If money isn’t the number one factor for you, I highly recommend choosing one of the restaurants with a view in Triesenberg. Honestly, the views paired with good local food would be amazing.View From Triesenberg LiechtensteinBut if you’re on a budget, there are plenty of cheap options. Liechtenstein like any other country has fast food options such as McDonalds as well as supermarkets where you can buy pre-made sandwiches. It just depends on your travel style.

Liechtenstein is an easy country to visit if you’re already in Switzerland, particularly Zurich.  Just allocate a day to go there and you will have visited one of the smallest countries in the world!

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about how to get to Liechtenstein.

 

Lokl Coffee KL Inside

Lokl Coffee Co., Kuala Lumpur: Modern Cafe with Good Food

I remember when Lokl was being built when I was staying at BackHome Hostel which is next door. That was about 5 years ago now and it’s still going strong today.

I recently had breakfast here while staying at Big M Hotel (highly recommended) and it was really good.

I ordered a cappuccino which had great flavour and had beautifully silky milk on top. A really good cappuccino.

I also ordered a granola bowl. And let’s just say it took way too long to arrive at the table. Over half an hour. But when it did arrive, I was very pleased.Lokl Coffee Kuala Lumpur GranolaThe cafe itself has a great fitout and is frequented mainly by foreigners. I’m not sure why. Maybe because it’s next door to the hostel or maybe just because it’s the best cafe in the area. Whatever the case, don’t expect to see many (any) Malaysian faces.

This also seems to be an excellent place to work with the odd power point and nice tables. But when I was there, the wifi was dead. Not working even a single bit. Which is sad because when I last stayed at BackHome Hostel about 4 years ago, their wifi was great and it’s the BackHome wifi which you’re trying to plug into.

This is a great little cafe, but the two things that really bugged me were how long that granola took to arrive (30min!!!) and the wifi not working. Still, worth a visit for the coffee.

Lokl Coffee Co.
30, Jalan Tun H S Lee, Kuala Lumpur
+60 3 2072 1188
Instagram: @loklcoffee
Opening Hours: 08:00 – 18:00
Granola: RM20
Cappuccino: RM12

Big M Hotel Kuala Lumpur Masjid Jamek

Big M Hotel, Masjid Jamek: My Favourite Budget Hotel in Kuala Lumpur

I had high hopes for Big M Hotel because of all the good reviews I had read. And as it turns out, Big M really did live up to expectations.

The hotel is a tall, slim thing sandwiched next to McDonalds near Masjid Jamek. From the outside it’s easy to miss, but once inside, the skinniness of the place isn’t really that noticeable.Big M Hotel Kuala Lumpur BedThis is one of those hotels that asks for a RM50 deposit on arrival and the person at the counter couldn’t speak English so was asking the security guard to translate.

The rooms are small, but bigger than any other hotel I’ve been in in Kuala Lumpur at this price. It’s an extremely modern room which is also unusual for Kuala Lumpur at this price. So the combination of price, modernity and size really is fantastic.Big M Hotel Kuala Lumpur BathroomRooms come equipped with small flat screen TVs, but the channels aren’t good. The wifi took me ages to get working on my iPhone, but once it started working, it was fast and didn’t disconnect me once. I clocked it at 20mbps down and 15mbps up.

The room also comes with a safe, truly icy cold air conditioning, a place to hang your clothes, coffee making facilities and a modern bathroom.Big M Hotel Kuala Lumpur InsideThere’s a rooftop area which is great for hanging out in and it has a great view of the nearby Masjid Jamek.

I think this is the best value budget hotel I’ve stayed in in Kuala Lumpur and I think it’s going to be hard to beat at this price. Mainly because other hotels at this price have a much more budget feel to them.

Check the current price on booking.com here.

Big M Hotel
38, Jalan Tun Perak, Kuala Lumpur
Standard (w/o window): US$23.50
Superior (w/o window): US$25.50
Superior (w/ window): US$27

VCR Cafe Kuala Lumpur

Review: VCR Cafe — Is This The Best Cafe in Kuala Lumpur?

I’ve been visiting cafes in Kuala Lumpur for as long as I can remember and to be honest, they’ve largely been mediocre. Crass copies of things that were going on in Australia a decade earlier — they felt old and nasty.

But I really should have been coming to this place all along because it’s now my favourite cafe in Kuala Lumpur. I might even go so far as to say it’s the best cafe in Kuala Lumpur. It’s been around a few years now and I just never got around to trying it.VCR Best Cafe in Kuala LumpurLocated on a small road off Jalan Pudu, VCR is in an inconvenient and odd location. You have to go out of your way to visit it. And that’s why it wasn’t that busy when I visited. I mean, most tables were filled, but there was no waiting list or anything. And I’d kind of expect a waiting list at a place this good.

To get here, your best bet is to get off the monorail or train at Hang Tuah and then walking a couple of hundred metres or so.Coffee at VCR Cafe Kuala LumpurThe coffees I had here were excellent (RM11). Silky smooth milk, a strong coffee flavour, great temperature.

I also had a bowl of granola with yoghurt, milk and fruit which was awesome (RM19). A little small for my liking, but actually a really good size for a normal meal. I probably just usually overeat when at cafes.Breakfast Granola at VCR Kuala LumpurThe fitout is a good one with plenty of tables for singles and couples meaning you can easily set up a laptop here without feeling guilty. And the wifi is good!

I’m a big fan of VCR and I think most people will be too. Highly recommended if you’re into coffee and are in KL.

VCR
2 Jalan Galloway, Kuala Lumpur
+60 3 2110 2330
Opening Hours: 08:30 – 23:00
Coffee: RM11
Granola: RM19

Cathay Pacific A350

Flight Review: Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class – Is this the New Standard in Business Class?

We recently flew from Jakarta to Nagoya via Hong Kong and Nagoya to Bangkok via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific business class and it really was excellent. But one of these 4 legs was on an Airbus A350 and we think it deserves its own review.

Route

Hong Kong to Bangkok – CX701Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Cabin 1-2-1

Flight Time

2h 37m

Seating Configuration

1-2-1 with lay flat beds – every seat has aisle access

Boarding

Boarding was quick due to the dedicated business class boarding lane. Staff were courteous and we were seated very quickly.

Food

Food in Cathay Pacific Business Class is predictably good and plentiful. When you compare it to economy, you just never want to eat economy food again.

I started with a salad, Thai Green Chicken Curry and finished with blueberry Haagen-Daaz ice cream. I’d been stuffing my face in the business class lounge immediately prior to boarding, so this was more than enough food. Especially because it’s just supposed to be a refreshment rather than a full meal.

Seat

The seat in the Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class is excellent. Because the business class cabin only has 4 seats across, each seat has so so much room. The seats lie flat and I easily don’t touch the end of the bed and I’m about 182cm tall. Even tall people will be comfortable.Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Lie Flat Bed

There are lots of different storage lockers in the seat for storage of hand bags and gadgets. I didn’t realise how convenient this would be until I start stashing all my junk in the empty cabinets everywhere.

Entertainment

The TV is MASSIVE. It has a large range of channels, music and games as well as 3 live TV channels. I really loved being able to watch BBC world and CNN live on board the flight.Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Seat

The controller for the TV is excellent and has its very own ultra sharp LCD screen on it which is useful if you like playing games on the controller rather than the TV.Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Controls

Connectivity

One of the great things about this aircraft is its connectivity. There is wifi available at a very reasonable price and it is fast. Most of the time it was as fast as 4G for me, so I could use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with no problem whatsoever.

Prices are quite reasonable compared what we’ve seen on some other carriers:

1h – $9.95

Entire flight – $12.95

$12.95 for an entire flight is an incredible deal especially because data usage seems to be unlimited.

The other thing you are supposed to be able to do is use your normal mobile phone coverage and pay roaming charges through your own provider. I tried to get this to work, but my strong suspicion is that Telkomsel in Indonesia doesn’t have that sort of agreement. If you have a SIM card from a big provider in the US or Europe, I could imagine this working really well. The only problem would be if you have to pay exorbitant roaming charges or not – some people do, some don’t.

Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Cabin
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Cabin

Toilets

This is actually one of my favourite aspects of the plane and I don’t know why. But these toilets are very cool. They come with a window which is great in and of itself. But this window lets in amazing amounts of light. And with this light, it makes the toilet looks bigger, cleaner and just better.

The amenities in the bathroom are all quality and the mirror is huge. Space seems bigger than previous business class toilets, but it could be just the natural light.

Note: this appeared to be in the front of the cabin only as the ones in the middle of business class seemed to have a baby change table instead of window.

Verdict

The business class cabin on the Cathay A350 is excellent. Very comfortable, well-connected and perhaps the new standard for business class cabins. Awesome.

Babi Guling Pak Malen

Babi Guling Pak Malen, Seminyak, Bali: A Great Place for Babi Guling in Seminyak

When in Bali, you absolutely have to try babi guling, the famous Balinese BBQ pork dish. But sometimes it’s difficult to find one close to where you’re staying. Babi Guling Pak Malen is not only close to Seminyak, it’s also super tasty.

I got a standard portion of Babi Guling and a fresh orange juice and the total of the bill came to Rp55.000.

The portion of pork is small. Really small. Especially when you compare it to many other places in Bali. So while the value for money is quite low here, the taste is great.

The crackling was super crispy with just a thin layer of fat, the scratchings were sinful and tasty, the sate spicy and tender and the flesh itself oh so moist.Babi Guling Pak Malen BaliI got my lawar medium spicy, but it nearly blew my head off. Soo spicy, but oh so delicious.

I think the orange juice I got with the babi guling was a perfect accompaniment. Fresh and icy cold, it went down a treat in the hot warung atmosphere.

And that brings us to the next point. The warung itself has no character. It’s hot. It’s often busy. And it’s really just functional. You come here, eat your pork, and leave. That’s it!

I really like this place because it’s well located on Sunset Road, the pork is really tasty and service is quick. The perfect place for babi guling when in Seminyak.

Warung Babi Guling Pak Malen
Jalan Sunset No.5, Seminyak
Babi Guling: Rp40.000
Orange Juice: Rp15.000

Ippolito Specialty Coffee in Bali

Ippolito Specialty Coffee, Seminyak, Bali: Great Coffee and a Free Pool!

We arrived at Ippolito Specialty Coffee expecting the place to be packed like so many other good coffee shops in Seminyak. But what we saw was a place so empty that we thought it was closed when we arrived.

It’s one of the enduring paradoxes of Indonesian cafes. You can be good, but you’re not necessarily going to be popular and I see that a lot in Bandung.Cappuccino at Ippolito Specialty CoffeeA range of food and drinks is served here as well as fantastic coffee. I tried a cappuccino which in my opinion is as good as just about anywhere in Seminyak.

Although we haven’t tried the food, it does come recommended and the menu does look quite tempting.Interior Ippolito CoffeeThe building itself is very instagrammable. Lots of brick, wood, great furniture and walls filled with bottles of wine.

Outside you’ll find the pool area. THE POOL AREA! This area is free for customers of the cafe. So if you want somewhere to swim and eat, but don’t want to pay for a beach club, we think this is the next best thing.Free Swimming Pool at IppolitoThe pool is a thing of beauty and if you don’t get a good instagram shot here, you’re not trying!

We really like this cafe. It does have a bit of a restaurant feel and that’s probably what puts most people off. But don’t be put off. It’s perfectly fine to come here, grab a coffee and set up your laptop. And besides, the wifi is fast!

Ippolito Specialty Coffee
Jalan Lebak Sari, Petitenget, Seminyak
Opening Hours: 07:00 – 23:00
Cappuccino: Rp39.000++
Swimming Pool: FREE