10 Reasons to Visit Malaysia

10 Reasons to Visit Malaysia

Imagine rich cultural traditions, amazing food, and picturesque beaches. Thinking of Spain, France or Thailand? Think Malaysia! It’s a rich melting pot of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures in a modern country with that special something that only South-East Asia can provide.

If you’ve never thought of visiting Malaysia, here are 10 hot reasons why you absolutely should!

Beaches

Maybe you never associated Malaysia with tropical beaches, but then again maybe you have never visited Langkawi or the Perhentian Islands before! Whether you are after beaches for water sports, black sand beaches, white sand beaches or your very own piece of paradise, Malaysia has you covered.

Pantai Cenang, Langkawi, Malaysia

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10 reasons to visit Malaysia
10 Reasons to visit Malaysia

Food

We are all friends here, so I’m going to be honest. Malaysia has the best food that we have had in all of South-East Asia. There, I said it. Seriously, it’s that good! From the delicious Malay roti, murtabak and teh tarik, to the delights of Chinese Hokkienese cooking (curry mee, laksa, har mee, and ais kechang for dessert) and the spice and flavour of Indian cuisine, you just can’t go wrong. If you need more convincing, check out the Penang food tour we did!

Malaysia has no shortage of good food

How to get there: various airlines will fly to Kuala Lumpur or other regional capitals. Having flown with Malaysia Airlines (MAS) before, I can recommend them and of course, it is Malaysia’s national carrier so you will get maximum reach to visit cool places such as Penang, Sarawak or the beautiful Sabah. What’s more, you can easily get favorable MAS online booking deals!

Street Art

If you love street art and street food, Penang is the destination for you. This little island off the coast of Malaysia has a plethora of amazing street art and delicious food for the foodie and art lover alike. In fact, I spent a whole weekend navigating my way around Penang’s capital, George Town from artwork to artwork (and street stall to street stall). As a massive fan of street art, it was the best way to explore the city.

Interactive Street Art in Penang, Malaysia

Want to see more Street Art? Check out our post on the amazing street art in Penang!

Most of my favourite murals in George Town were done by Lithuanian artist, Ernest “Zach” Zacharevic, called Malaysia’s answer to Banksy, who is a master of all artistic disciplines; be it installations, oil paintings, stencilling and sculptures.

Ernest Zacharevic Street Art, Penang, Malaysia

Shopping

Kuala Lumpur is a shopaholic’s dream. For the high-end lovers, you’ve got plenty of opportunities to burn a hole in your pocket at the likes of Starhill Gallery, The Garden or Suria KLCC, located at the iconic Petronas Twin Towers. If you prefer to buy more and spend less, then you’ve got shopping centres like Berjaya Times Square that offer pop-up style stores that sell clothes at wholesale prices. Just be warned, these cheaper stores don’t offer many sizes, but if that’s not an issue, shop until your heart’s content. For the electronic lovers, Low Yat Plaza is where it’s at, and if shopping isn’t your thing, some of these mega malls even have ice-skating rinks, karaoke lounges, theatres and games arcades to fill your time.

Shopping at KLCC, Malaysia

Cultural attractions

Malaysia has a rich cultural tradition and it can seem like there is a Malay, Chinese or Indian festival or celebration occurring every weekend throughout the year. The best ones to catch are the Hari Raya Aidilfitri which follows Ramadan, Chinese New Year, Christmas and Thaipusam, a Hindu festival held at the Batu caves.

Chinese New Year in Malaysia is a special time of year

Nature

It’s hard to imagine that you can find serene rainforests and inviting waterfalls only 30 minutes from bustling Kuala Lumpur, but it’s true. One of the great things about Malaysia, as a whole, is that nature is within a short drive from major cities. If you like seeing monkeys, then a visit to Batu Caves won’t disappoint. Just make sure you hang onto all of your belongings, as these critters are the best (and cheekiest) thieves around!

Natural beauty of Malaysia
Plenty of monkey sightings in Malaysia

Breathtaking views

Get to top of Kuala Lumpur’s high rises to get the most amazing views of the city at night. I mean, where else can you find a converted helicopter pad turned rooftop bar! At the Heli Lounge Bar, set on the 34th floor of the Menara KH building, of course. A few options: Marini’s on 57 sits right next to the Petronas Towers and consequently has dazzling views to offer. If a western style hotel bar on the 33rd floor is more your style, then SkyBar at the Trader’s Hotel may be more to your liking.

And if you are more of a nature lover, the views from the Langkawi SkyCab will definitely take your breath away. If you aren’t afraid of heights, take a walk along the SkyBridge – the longest free span and curved bridge in the world and enjoy the views from 100m off the ground.

Amazing views from Langkawi's SkyBridge, Malaysia

Architecture

The variety of architecture in Malaysia is bound to keep you interested. The dazzling, modernist glory of the Petronas Towers are merely the tip of the iceberg for what you can find in Malaysia. The stunning architecture of the Federal Territory mosque (Selamat Datang Ke Masjid Wilayah) is a stand out, as are the archways of the Masjid Jamek. The Kuala Lumpur town hall, with its unique colonialist/Islamic architecture and Georgetown’s historic British buildings are taken right from the 19th century and give the town a laid back feel.

Federal Territory Mosque, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Friendly locals

You will find so many fun and generous people in Malaysia. Like the tuk-tuk driver that showed us around Penang and imitated the art for us above – a regular Bruce Lee! The people are friendly, kind and generous and we got by in English just fine as well.

Friendly locals in Malaysia

Multiculturalism

Malaysia’s cultural diversity is its strength and Indian, Chinese and Malay cultures mix into one of the most interesting societies in South-East Asia. This multiculturalism bleeds into everything – food, traditions, architecture, etc and makes it that much better. Essentially you will get the best of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures all in one society!

We hope that we have convinced you on why you should visit Malaysia. From the food, to the architecture, to the culture – how could you say no? Where would you go? What are you waiting for, use Traveloka and start planning your trip to Malaysia with ease now!

Beaches of Malaysia

Have you been to Malaysia? Have we left anything off the list? Let us know below!

Robot Restaurant Review

Robot Restaurant Review

If you didn’t think the neon lights of Tokyo could shine any brighter, then you haven’t been to Robot Restaurant. You can see the neon signs, wrapped around the building from a block away. Like a magnet, Robot Restaurant draws all the curious explorers in, with its catchy theme song (that’s right, there’s a theme song and it WILL get stuck in your head!) blaring from the speakers, colourful lights flashing and lighting up the street, oh and the huge fembots proudly displayed at the front.

Nightlife in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
What to see in Tokyo

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Robot Restaurant Tokyo review
Fembots at Robot Restaurant

What is Robot Restaurant?

If you are in Shinjuku, it’s hard to miss Robot Restaurant. The best way to describe Robot Restaurant is a cabaret show on LSD; 90 minutes (including intervals) of short 5-minute acts filled with dancing, singing, theatrics, laser lights and pyrotechnics.

Singing, dancing and theatrics at Robot Restaurant

Prefer to watch a video of the craziness that is Robot Restaurant? Check out our video on YouTube! Don’t forget to like the video and subscribe to our channel for more travel inspiration!

Opened in 2012, Robot Restaurant was originally created as a fun show for where locals can let down their hair. It didn’t take long to become a popular tourist attraction, and now attracts foreign visitors every night. Apparently the owner spent US$100 million on fit out, which is hard to put into words (nevertheless, money well spent, judging by the sell-out crowds!). The stairwells and “waiting room” are a spectacle in their own right and will intrigue all who enter. I’m talking over-the-top bling with futuristic elements and crazy pyschodelic stairwells that entice the audience to the stage underground. I felt like we had stepped into some crazy world of Willy Wonka, but with robots instead of candy.

The coolest waiting room you'll ever visit - Robot Restaurant
Even the walls are funky at Robot Restaurant, Tokyo
Dancers at Robot Restaurant, Japan

The craziest concert you will ever see

As soon as we booked our tickets to Japan, I knew we HAD to go see Robot Restaurant – and I wasn’t disappointed. Robot Restaurant is unlike any other show we’ve ever seen. It’s all the crazy stuff I love about Japan, wrapped into one colourful and eccentric package. The audience is seated in three tiers on two sides of a narrow room. It’s great, as no matter what row you are in, you will have a great view of the action. The seats are set in twos, joined by a small table, where you can store your drinks, popcorn and bento boxes (all at an extra cost).

Robots and lasers at Robot Restaurant, Japan
Robot Restaurant review - Tokyo, Japan

The performances range from mini rock concerts to theatrical robot wars. The singers and dancers have so much energy (I want whatever they’re having!) and the costumes are something out of a teenage boy’s manga dream. You can expect to see impressive robotic floats of sharks, dinosaurs, snakes and futuristic unicorns. Pyrotechnics and laser beams light up the space, and there’s even a dance number that I’m sure was inspired by Daft Punk.

It's all fun and games until someone is eaten by a Robot

Want to do other crazy things in Tokyo? Why not Fight a Sumo? Read about it here!

Crazy things to see in Tokyo, Japan
Electric performances at Robot Restaurant, Tokyo

It’s a Restaurant, so what about the food?

To be honest, people don’t generally come here for the food. Considering there are so many amazing foods on offer nearby, we decided to skip the food and just indulged in some show drinks and popcorn instead. I think I spotted one couple with the bento box, but it’s quite hard to truly enjoy the food, when you are distracted by the awesome spectacle going on right in front of you.

Robot Restaurant Review, Tokyo, Japan

Speaking of food, why not try making your own Udon Noodles? Read our recipe here!

The dancers at Robot Restaurant are full of energy

Why go?

Unlike many of the themed cafes and restaurants in Japan, Robot Restaurant stood out as a ‘must-do’ for us. Granted, the tickets aren’t as cheap as many of the entry fees for other themed places, but you get 90-minutes of an exhilarating, well-produced show. It’s over the top, tourisy and a little cheesy at times, but that’s part of its charm! It combines all the craziness you expect from Japan, right in the centre of Tokyo electrifying nightlife.

Taiko performances at Robot Restaurant

The details

Robot Restaurant is located in Shinjuku: 1-7-1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo,Japan. It’s pretty hard to miss, with the bright neon signage out the front (you will likely hear it before you see it too!).

There are up to four shows per day at 4PM, 5:55pm, 7:50pm and 9:45pm. See the website for up-to-date times. Note that you have to be there 40 minutes before the show to pick up the tickets (and there’s normally a decent line).

Tickets are ¥8,000 per person, however we’ve teamed up with G’Day Japan to offer all of our readers discounted tickets here!  We recommend booking in advance, as the shows often sell out.

Colourful performances at Robot Restaurant
Robot Restaurant is a must-see in Tokyo, Japan
Robot Restaurant performances, Tokyo, Japan

Have you been to Robot Restaurant? What did you think? Is this the kind of crazy thing you’d love to see in Japan? Comment below!

A huge thanks to Robot Restaurant and G’Day Japan for an awesome night! As always, our opinions are our own.

The Ultimate way to explore Kyoto… in a Kimono

The Ultimate way to explore Kyoto… in a Kimono

Couples who kimono together, stay together, right?

Kyoto is known for its exquisite temples and beautifully adorned geishas, dressed in colourful kimonos and yukatas (a lighter and cooler version of the kimono for summer). It also happens to be somewhere where it’s completely normal for tourists to dress up in said kimonos and yukatas and wander the city. Not one to ever turn down an opportunity to play dress up, I was excited to be made over by Kyoto Kimono Wargo in a yukata and walk the walk, clogs and all!

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Kimono love in Kyoto
What to do in Kyoto

Seeing the sights and being the sights in Kyoto

Although somewhat gimmicky, renting a kimono, or in our case a yukata, and doing sightseeing is a fun way to explore Kyoto. It gave us the opportunity to really embrace a part of Japanese culture. There is something undeniably romantic about wandering through picturesque streets, lined with traditional wooden merchant houses in full Japanese dress-up. It’s a perfect way to immersive yourself and find a connection to the place. And before you know it, you are part of the sights, and for many passers by, the perfect feature in their keepsake Kyoto photos.

Kyoto kimono photos

Heading to Japan soon?

Check out our checklist of things to do before you go!

Where to hire a Kimono / Yukata

Kyoto Kimono Wargo conveniently have nine stores spotted around Kyoto, and also stores in Tokyo, Osaka, Kanagawa and Kanazawa. We visited the Gion store in Kyoto, as it was only a 5-minute walk from where we were staying. It also happens to be located near Hanamikoji Dori, one of the prettiest streets in Kyoto (and Geisha central).

Colourful yukatas in Kyoto

Kyoto Kimono Wargo

Walking inside, we are greeted by very friendly staff and shown to the racks of colourful yukatas. Suddenly I was engulfed in a textile rainbow of colour and floral patterns. After choosing a yukata, we are presented with an array of bright obi (the fabric belt) and accessories before being taken to our change rooms to be dressed.

Kyoto Kimono Wargo Gion
Hiring kimonos and accessories in Kyoto
Kimono packages in Kyoto, Japan
Renting a yukata in Kyoto, Japan

Wearing the Yukata

There’s actually quite a bit to wearing a kimono or yukata, with layers of undergarments and special ways of tying everything together. I was wrapped with padding around my stomach (like I needed more!) and a frame before the yukata was added and the obi was meticulously tied in a way to look like a work of art. It felt like I was being wrapped up as a present with the bow on top!

Dressing up in Kyoto

Hair Styling

Then comes the hair styling. You can opt for a hairstyle as an extra, and if you want the full experience, it’s worth it. There are plenty of intricate styles to choose from, and the stylist whipped up something gorgeous in a matter of minutes!

Hairstyle options in kimono rental
Yukata and Kimono packages, Kyoto

Package options

Kyoto Kimono Wargo provide a variety of options to cater to different budgets and tastes, starting from only ¥2,500 (online price). We opted for the Couples Premium Yukata (with the Premium Hairdo as an extra) and really enjoyed the experience. Each yukata plan includes the Yukata, Obi (belt), Kincyaku (bag) and Geta (thongs/clogs).

Rental packages for yukata and kimono
Step out in style in a yukata
The thing I loved about Kyoto Kimono Wargo is that you can return the clothes at any time before the store closes, so you can really make the most of wearing the yukatas around town… which we did…
Riding pubic transport in a yukata be like...
Where to visit in Kyoto
Sightseeing in Kyoto in kimonos
Dressing up in Kyoto
We caught a bus out to Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion) and walked through the beautiful grounds before heading back to Nishiki Market for lunch. Then we spent the rest of the day wandering through the picturesque streets of Gion at leisure, but not before taking some fun photos…
Who else loves Kyoto?
Sightseeing in Gion, Kyoto
Exploring the Gion district, Kyoto

Is it comfy?

Honestly, it was comfier than I expected. It was a steamy summer day in Kyoto and the yukatas were light and breathable. We also did A LOT of walking, so our feet were sore by the end of the day (but whether or not it was from wearing the Geta, or just the 24,000 steps we did, I can’t say).

 

Japan has some of THE tastiest food!

Here’s what to eat when you are there!

We saw so many tourists dress up in kimonos and yukatas when we were in Kyoto, almost to the point that tourists stood out more if they weren’t dressed up! It’s especially fun to do as a couple or group of friends. I mean, nothing says ‘I love you’ more than dressing up in couples kimonos and spending a day exploring Kyoto’s beautiful sites and having a bit of fun along the way. If you are in Kyoto and want to really treat yourself to a cultural experience, check out Kyoto Kimono Wargo.

The ultimate way to explore Kyoto
Kimono rental in Kyoto, Japan
Exploring Kyoto in a kimono

Would you dress up in traditional costume and explore a city? Tell us below!

A warm thank you to Kyoto Kimono Wargo for dressing us up for the day. As always, our opinions and cheesy photos are our own.

3 Things You Never Have to Worry About on a Cruise Holiday

3 Things You Never Have to Worry About on a Cruise Holiday

That’s right, you can sale off into the sunset without a care in the world…

When you book a holiday somewhere new there’s always a few standard hesitations and doubts you may have before jetting off. For first time cruisers, these can be even worse. To put your mind at ease, here’s 3 of the top things you most definitely don’t need to worry about before your cruising holiday:

Great Food

Sometimes when you book a holiday to a new country, the quality of the food can be a bit of a concern. Whether it’s a new type of cuisine you haven’t sampled before or a hotel you’ve never been to, food makes a holiday for many of us. A bonus with a cruising holiday is that the food is always top quality and with so many options to choose from every day, there’s certain to be something you love. I will never forget the delicious food I had on my last cruise. From dining in the speciality restaurants on board to the amazing local food you’ll be able to sample off the ship when you explore the different countries.

What to eat on a cruise - Meg Jerrard
Cruise Dining by Meg Jerrard

Running out of Money (almost)

Whilst running out of money would be problematic on any holiday, the ways cruises work is by pre-ordering a certain food or drinks package that you require on board so that you don’t need cash whilst on the ship. You simply settle up for any extras at the end of the holiday meaning that you don’t need to carry wads of cash around with you whilst you’re on the ship, just pay for everything on a special credit card provided by your cruise liner, simple!

Cruise comfort - Meg Jerrard

Being Bored

No one has ever complained of being bored on a cruise holiday. From catching a movie at the on-board cinema to heading to the spa for a relaxing massage, or even trying your hand at surfing over at the surf simulator, cruises are now packed out with so any different entertainment facilities that getting board is a thing of the past. Whether you choose to sign up for the endless excursions off ship each day that take you to some of the world’s most famous landmarks and incredible sites or to take advantage of the on-board activities that are available, one things for sure there’s always something exciting to do on a cruise holiday.

Magical sunsets Raja Ampat

So, despite all the other hesitations you might have about your first cruise, at least there are 3 major holiday worries cancelled out to put your mind at rest. Take a look at all of the amazing cruises at Bolsover Cruise Club and book your first adventure at sea today.  

Photos of food, restaurant, cabin and ice cruise provided by Mapping Megan

Buddha Bellies Cooking School – Stomping on Udon

Buddha Bellies Cooking School – Stomping on Udon

“Alright everyone, the timer has been set to 5 minutes. Time to start stomping!”

I never thought I’d be making udon noodles with our feet, and yet there we were, at Buddha Bellies Cooking School in Tokyo, on our first 5 minute round (of 3 rounds total) stomping away on our clear plastic bags filled with dough. It certainly is an unforgettable way to learn how to cook. Because sharing is caring, we’re going to share with you what it’s like to do a cooking class at Buddha Bellies and give you the most outstanding Udon noodle recipe as well!

Back to the noodles. As we did our best Flashdance moves on our little bags of dough, our patient teacher Ayuko gave us the history of Udon noodles. Unlike pasta, udon does not contain eggs, and grew in popularity from one of Japan’s southern islands where they couldn’t grow rice, so they grew wheat and created noodles instead.

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Pinterest Udon Noodles
Buddha Bellies Cooking School, Tokyo

Buddha Bellies Cooking School

Ayuko is the founder and chef of Buddha Bellies Cooking School. As a teenager, she studied in the UK and speaks excellent English. She was a teacher, but her love for food and cooking took her on a different path, where she studied to become a professional sushi instructor, Sake sommelier and professional cook. But rather than open up a restaurant, her love of teaching and meeting people lead her to open Buddha Bellies Cooking School, and how lucky for us she did!

Cooking classes, Tokyo

The Udon Workout

We started the day with what I now like to refer to as the Udon workout – 3 x 5 minutes of stomping on the spot, mixing and kneading the flour and water into a smooth malleable dough. Then came out the udon machine (similar to a pasta machine) to roll and cut the noodles. We also learnt a bit about simple Japanese ingredients that can transform a dish. The simple sesame paste we made was out of this world and a recipe we will be attempting to recreate when we get home!

How to make Udon Noodles
Cooking udon noodles in Tokyo
Buddha Bellies Cooking Classes

Teriyaki and Udon = The perfect combo

We then whipped together a teriyaki sauce and fried our chicken for what I can confidently say was the best chicken teriyaki we’ve ever tasted. And then came the udon. Boiled in water and then served in a warm, full-flavoured broth with mushrooms and tofu, these udon noodles were as good as any we had tried in a restaurant.

Learning to cook in Tokyo

 

Love Japanese food? Check out our other post on what to eat in Japan.

Ayuko is not only a fantastic teacher, with a wealth of knowledge of Japanese cuisine and flavours, she’s a great host, who made sure we were comfortable throughout the day, topping up our water, answering any questions we had and even serving us beer and wine once our food was ready to be eaten!
Japanese Food, Tokyo

Heading to Japan soon? Make sure you read our Checklist on things to do before you go!

Do homemade udon noodles live up to the hype?

So does the udon live up to the hype? Yes. Yes it does. But don’t take my word for it; you can try it yourself! Ayuko has kindly shared her recipe with all our readers, so have a go and let us know how it turned out! Remember, as Ayuko says, “Fresh is best!”.

If you are in Tokyo and would love to learn how to make delicious Japanese food, book a class with Ayuko at Buddha Bellies Cooking School, Tokyo – your tastebuds will thank you!

Recipe: Udon Noodles

Cooking Udon in Tokyo

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 50g Plain Flour
  • 50g bread flour (this has more gluten, and will provide the right texture)
  • 50g water
  • 1tsp salt
  • Clear cooking bags or freezer bags (you will need multiple, as they often split during the rounds)

Method

  1. In a bowl, sift the flour well. In a separate bowl, stir the salt in the water until completely dissolved. Add water to flour and mix well.
  2. When the flour begins to form pieces of dough, stop mixing. Gather all of the flour and form into a ball.
  3. Place dough into a plastic bag. Put it in an additional bag to avoid mess. Make sure there are no air bubbles before doing your best flashdance routine (continuous stomping) on it for 5 minutes.
  4. After first 5 minutes of stepping, gather the udon dough into a ball again. Repeat steps 2 – 3 two more times (15 minutes of stepping total). If bag has broken, replace bag.
  5. Rest the udon dough ball in cling wrap for 30 minutes
  6. Spread the udon dough with a pasta machine (or rolling pin). Make sure the dough is 5mm thick. Use a little flour, fold and cut the rolled out dough into noodles.
  7. Put the udon in a pot of boiling water and boil for 2 minutes (or until it’s at the texture you like).
  8. Strain the udon and wash well with water to remove starch.

After more fun things to do in Tokyo? Why not Fight a Sumo? Read about that crazy experience on our blog!

Mentsuyu (Broth)

Udon Noodle Recipe

Ingredients

  • 100ml Mirin
  • 100ml Soy Sauce
  • 400ml Water
  • 4cm x 4cm Kombu (dried seaweed)
  • 10g Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)

Method

  1. Bring the mirin to boil in a pot
  2. Add the soy sauce, water and kombu all together and bring to boil again.
  3. Add katsuobushi and reduce heat to low. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Drain the sauce with a strainer.
    NB: If you are using this as a dipping sauce, you can use as is, however if it’s for hot soup udon, add more water to taste (to reduce saltiness)
  4. Add mushrooms, tofu and whatever else you like to the mix.
Delicious food of Japan

And it’s that simple! If you love udon as much as we do, have a go and let us know how yours turned out!

A huge thanks to Ayuko for having us as guests at Buddha Bellies Cooking SchoolAs always, our opinions, terrible jokes and cooking results are our own.

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