13 February, 2009

Valentine's Day for Nurse Sharks




Valentine's Day is over. This was what I got from Petty. It looked more like a wedding bouquet than flowers for Valentine's Day. Bearbear said it well," Auntie Cherry's boyfriend gave her red roses. How come papa gave you white tulips?"

My presents for Petty were Belgian chocolate truffles and a pair of Italian shoes. He loves Italian shoes and Swiss chocolates but too bad I couldn't get hold of Swiss chocolates at the last hour. But Godiva is not bad, right?

Thanks everyone for commenting here. And a big thank you to Uncle Lee who was kind enough to shower me with lots and lots of expensive gifts on Valentine's Day.


09 February, 2009

Good Bye, Chinese New Year!

Today is the final day of Chinese new year celebration. Before it officially ends, I'd like to share with you some pics taken right before the new year in Singapore's China Town.

Dried meat - a must for Chinese new year dinner. But my Swiss mom in law finds the taste unpalatable. Well, my mom thinks the same about her cheeses.

A nation with a penchant for celebration of all sorts, Singapore is unique in that it embraces celebrations of all races.

Chinese shoppers hunting for pre-new year bargains.

For those of you who miss out the Indian's Thaipusam Festival, do head over to
Eastcoastlife. ECL has brilliantly covered this colourful event at Little India here in Singapore.

Let's now catch the last ray of Chinese new year before it fades away.

I wonder why they bother to buy plastic flowers for Chinese new year....?

New year decoration in front of a shop house.

New year ornaments - The Chinese adores red which is seen as a colour of good fortune.

Greedy kids are sampling all kinds of seeds - a must for Chinese new year.
No, you're wrong. These are not for birds.

Taiwanese goodies sold here. Mark my word, the taste is damned disgusting.

Tea house and restaurant.

Fruits, fruits and more fruits. But no durians. Bearbear was extremely disappointed.

Dear money god, I'm praying hard to you to bring good fortune to the whole wide world!

07 February, 2009

Hotel Review: Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa Bali

If you want a romantic holiday, go to Bali. There were good reasons why once upon a time Mike Jagger and Jerry Hall chose to tie the knot on this tropical paradise.

Romantic seafront dining on Nusa Dua Beach - example no 1

Romantic seafront dining on Nusa Dua Beach - example no 2

Bali is one of Indonesia's 17,000 islands. It is located east of Java Island and west of Lombok. Though Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world, interestingly the majority of the 3 million inhabitants in Bali are Hindu.

You don't have to do much here. Just lie down and relax.

Nusa Dua Beach 8 o'clock in the morning. Not a soul in sight.

The white sand and shallow water make Nusa Dua Beach an ideal place for children

If you want to stay in a hotel with pure Balinese flavour,
Nusa Dua Beach Hotel and Spa ("Nusa Dua Hotel") is the place to be. Let's take a tour of the hotel premises.

This is the magnificent Candi Bentar entrance gate to the hotel. Can you guess what awaits you behind it?

Located in the renowned Nusa Dua resort area, Nusa Dua Hotel is by far the most established hotel on the laguna strip sitting side by side with the Roll Royce of hotel industry - Melia Bali Sol, Bali Hilton International, Sheraton Laguna and The Grand Hyatt just to name a few.

Angry looking Balinese statue guarding the hotel main entrance

Jogging track that leads you to other hotels on Nusa Dua Beach

There's no barrier between hotels. So you can just go 'hotel hopping' to try out different restaurants and clubs available at each hotel.

Bearbear imitating the moody face of a stone statue

Hotel main lobby by night

Hotel main lobby during the day

Raja's Balinese Restaurant - a must try during you stay at Nusa Dua Hotel

If you come here for dinner, you will be entertained by a group of musicians playing traditional Balinese instruments and serenading you with soothing Indonesian songs.

Bengawan Solo, riwayat mu ini
Sedari dulu, jadi perhatian dewi Sari
Music kemarau, tak berapa airmu
Di musim hujan air meluap sampai jauh

Budaya Cultural Theatre on the hotel compound

However, of all the hotels that lie on the same beach adjacent to Nusa Dua Hotel, Nusa Dua Hotel is the one that retains the ultimate Balinese charms in terms of culture and architecture. There's small wonder that it is a member of The Leading Hotels of The World.

Balinese artistic expression is evidenced through out the hotel premises. Here, an over sized frog! I wish I could bring it home!

The lagoon pool is not your ordinary swimming pool. The shallow part of the pool is covered with sand.

When Petty asked me to book a hotel room for us for the long weekend getaway, I had Hyatt in mind. Then I checked on the net and found that Nusa Dua Hotel offered a last minute deal on their Palace Club Room at a very competitive price of USD170 per room per night.

Seeing this, I decided to push the boat out and book a Palace Club Room. This review, therefore, is based entirely on my Palace Club experience.

Entrance to the Palace Club Lounge which is available to members only. Palace Club guests get to enjoy the privileged Palace Club services.

Daily buffet breakfast is served at the Palace Club Lounge, away from the crowd.

One corner of the Lounge

The hotel also throws in all day non-alcoholic beverages, served only at the Lounge. For 2 hours in the afternoon, free flow afternoon tea is served with cakes and pastries. For another 2 hours in the evening, pre-dinner cocktails are served with Balinese and Western finger food.

Butler service is available 24 hours.

Another corner of the Lounge

If you like alcohol, the Palace Club deal is a deal made in heaven. But it makes me wonder - how can one consume so much food and drink within a day?

Palace Club guests also get to enjoy the use of a lush and meticulously landscaped tropical garden.

There are ducks and squirrels sharing your private garden with you.

Not to forget, there's even separate check-in/out at the Palace Lounge. It's a good service for men coming here with their mistresses or well-heeled tai tai coming here with their toyboys.

With the hotel property spread over a land area of 8.5 hectares, Nusa Dua Hotel needs huge plant like this to fill up its lush tropical gardens.

Some hotel guests find the large size overwhelming. Some reviews even name this as a disadvantage of the hotel, as one has to walk quite a bit to get from one point to the other within the hotel premises.

I personally like the size very much. It gives me a feeling of being in open space.

The Royal Residence where kings and queens are entertained.

Once available only to Royalty such as Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan, François Mitterrand and the like, today the Royal Residence is open to public.

According to the hotel staff, The Sultan of Brunei is the current owner of the hotel. He stays at the Royal Residence whenever he's in town.

With his petrol money, buying a property like Nusa Dua Hotel must be like us shopping for a modest-looking holiday home. At times I can't help thinking it's great to be rich. In fact The Economist has found out that there's a direct relation between one's level of happiness and the amount of money one has.

Oops, getting out of track here. Let's move on to the hotel room.

Balinese interiors at the Palace Club room.

Rich and delicately carved wooden furniture.

The back door opens up to a private garden.

Balinese artistic touch is evidenced everywhere in the hotel, even in the bathroom. Notice the small bowl of light blue bath salt? What a nice touch.

Shower room where one can have a shower sitting down.

Very good water pressure here. You'll definitely enjoy your bath.

The hotel's spa is spread over 5,000 square meters of lush tropical garden.

Since the hotel is so large, some guests, I believe, do not explore the entire hotel properly during their stay here. That sums up why the spa lap pool was empty on the day I visited while the hotel's main pools were crowded.

Beautiful lap pool at the spa

I swam here ALL ALONE

Entrance to the spa. Bearbear wanted a photo with these lovely frangipani and rose petals.

A corner of the spa lap pool decorated with Balinese stone-carved statues.

Spa villa where additive massages are given. Prices here are quite reasonable as compared to what you usually get in Thailand.

Once inside the Lady Spa Room, you are greeted by a wooden lady.

Hot pool to warm you up. I know what you're thinking - no, that pair of slippers doesn't belong to me.

The cold pool is bloody cold.

A Russian woman jumped inside and she apparently enjoyed it. Perhaps it's considered 'warm' in Russia.

Oh, BTW, that's her pair of slippers in the pic above. She's a funny woman. Very talkative. But I couldn't understand a word! I tried English. She looked at me as if I were alien. Then I tried "Parlez-vous français?" She shook her head. "Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" She still looked blank. Then I thought, wait a minute, we are now in Bali, she's probably picked up some Indonesian language before she comes here.

"Boleh kah awak cakap Bahasa Indonesia?" Oh dear, I gave up and we switched quickly to sign language instead. Perhaps I should start learning Russian.

Bearbear wear flowers behind his ears. When in Bali, do as the Balinese do.

While you're staying at Nusa Dua Hotel, do take a ride to Jimbaran Beach for seafood. The above pic was taken when we were dining on Jimbaran Beach.

It's quite convenient to just get a taxi from the hotel. But some reviews recommend getting the restaurant to send a taxi to your hotel FOR FREE to transport you to and fro. But in return you MUST eat at the particular restaurant.

While in Bali, shopping for Ralph Lauren T-shirts is a must.

There's a factory here in Bali but you have to compromise on the quality. You can't compare it to what you normally get in Europe but prices are much lower here in Bali.

Overall, it's a very satisfying stay at Nusa Dua Hotel. The staff are friendly and courteous. It's a family orientated hotel where kids are entertained by trained staff at the Gecko Kid's Club.

Hotel facilities are good and the room rates are quite reasonable as compared to hotels in the same league.

Any drawbacks? Yes of course. The water level at Nusa Dua Beach can get very low at low tide. If you like to swim in the sea, you have to stick to the low/high tides schedule provided by the hotel.

For some, as I mentioned earlier, the sheer size of the hotel could be off-putting as it makes getting from one point to the other tiring. Other than that, I can't really find fault in this hotel no matter how hard I try. SO PACK YOUR BAG AND ENJOY YOUR HOLIDAY IN BALI!