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Saturday, 19 December 2015

Planning A Last Minute Trip Away This New Year?

The holidays are here, and it's the happiest time of year! I love that a week after Christmas, it's the new year, so there is so much celebrating, good food and parties. I would love to celebrate the new year in a different country, but I'm just not sure it will happen this time. If you are lucky enough to go on a last minute trip, here are the best tips for planning one. If you can go, why not?

Look for a Hotel Online

There are a variety of websites such as Agoda or booking.com that do last minute hotel deals. Often there are a certain number of rooms in big hotels, which are reserved for these kinds of sites. The hotels would rather have the room be used so if it is close enough to the time, you can grab a great deal. Hotels will usually be cheaper if you look slightly further out of the city or popular destinations. It often just means sitting on the train for a few more stops, but that can save you a great deal.

If this isn’t particularly your thing, though, maybe look at a house swap website. These tend to be quite cheap, or even free! A lot of people do travel during the holidays so there are likely to be a lot of vacancies. Try out couchsurfing, or AirBnB.

Research Your Destination

There may be one specific place that you have in mind, there may not. In December and January, you should consider the climate of the place you are visiting. Would you mind getting all wrapped up to spend time in Times Square in New York? Or would you rather party in warmer climates at a festival like Sunburn Goa? As you can tell by the name, it is going to be warm there!

You'll want to choose a destination that will have a lot going on, to make it a new year to remember. This does tend to be big cities. You could go for more unusual options, though, like choosing Chicago over New York, or Madrid instead of Paris.

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Fly Off-Peak

Unless you want to be at your destination a few days before new year’s eve, consider flying on the actual new year’s eve or even new year’s day. As with flying on Christmas day, it is not the most popular time, so you can usually get a pretty good deal on a flight. You’d be amazed at the difference flying on 1st January compared to 2nd January can make.

Pack Light

As with any last minute trip, it is best to pack light. Sometimes the best thing to do is just go and see what happens. If you find that hard to do, then make a small list of what you think you’ll need to take. Just take the essentials, though. Remember to account for things like travel insurance. Something like that is a must!

Sometimes it is nice to avoid all of the crowds during a busy time like new year’s eve. It can make for a pretty memorable occasion though, if you spent it in Vegas or London. Sometimes I think if you can’t beat them, join them! 

Good luck and enjoy your trip,
Calista xx

*This post was contributed by a guest blogger

Thursday, 17 December 2015

What You Wish You Knew Before Visiting France

There is no doubt about it – France is amazing! For anyone that wants to experience a country that is full of unique attractions and glamor, France is the place. From the hotels and food to the sights and sounds, there are not too many countries that can boast a resume like France. Visiting the country should be on everyone’s bucket list, but before you book the plane tickets, there are a few things to consider first. Travelling is not easy, which is why you should take a look at the tips below.

Learn The Language

Okay, so maybe you won’t be able to learn the language before you jet off, but it is important that you learn a few words and phrases. The French are not enamoured with people who turn up and only speak English, so you might annoy a few people if you don’t put in the effort. There are even accounts of French people who speak English refusing because they think everyone should speak French! Whether that is true or not is not the point, the point is that they appreciate the effort, which will make your life a lot easier when you land.

There Is More To See Than Paris!

Yes, Paris is amazing, and yes you should head to Paris as soon as possible. Still, it is important to remember there is more than one city in the whole of France. In fact, there are a variety of cities and regions that are just as amazing. For example, there is the infamous Provence region that is home to Cannes and Nice. Or, there is the Pays-de-la-Loire region that boasts places such as Vendee and neighbouring Nantes. The best resorts in Vendee and Provence are among the highlights of the entire trip, so make sure you don’t miss out.


Rent A Car

If you are travelling around the entirety of the country, you should consider alternative forms of transport. The public transport facilities are good, and the trains will get you from one end of the country to the other. Plus, when you are there, the buses and the metro system will get you around town, too. However, driving a car is much more comfortable, for lots of reasons. For starters, you get to decide when you want to travel and don’t have to wait for a lift. Plus, you get lots more room, and you don’t have to share the car with one hundred strangers! Yes, driving in Paris and the bigger cities is frightening, but on the whole, it is quite easy and a much better option.

Hold Onto Your Personal Items

Unfortunately, there is a darker side of France that you need to be aware of before you start your journey. As it is a big place with lots of visitors each year, there are thieves that will target tourists. One light-fingered crook could ruin your entire holiday by clearing out your bank account and leaving you with no money. To prevent this from happening, always be aware of your personal items such as your wallet, credit cards and cash. If you have to, take a travel bag with locks and zips.

So pack your bags, get your camera ready, and set off to the City of Love!

Eiffel tower a-calling,
Calista xx

Friday, 27 November 2015

Unique Holiday Activities in Florida, USA

I'm always thinking of places I want to go and what would be the best things to do there. I think for a lot of people, America is at the top of the list for "dream holidays". Florida is a household name for people who have yet to step foot in America, so here are some tips on what to do if you're one of the lucky ones heading there soon!



Florida is a fabulous tourist destination with countless things to see and do. There is something for everyone, from world famous theme parks to white sandy beaches. But what if you want to experience something different that lets you see Florida from a new perspective? Again you’re spoilt for choice. Here are some of the best alternative holiday activities you can try out on your next adventure to Florida.

Head to an event

Florida is a hub of both large ans small scale events that are held throughout the year. These range from local Thanksgiving parades to huge sporting events. These events give you the chance to mingle with the locals and experience something new and exciting. Why not attend a gaming event held at Florida’s Magic the gathering stores? Or get closer to nature at Florida’s annual Manatee Festival? Check out the Amway centre's website to see if you can catch a live music show during your trip. There are so many possibilities and with so many options to choose from, you’re bound to find something you’ll enjoy!
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See a Space Launch

For an incredible one-off experience to make your trip extra special, witness a space launch. Florida’s Cape Canaveral have planned rocket launches for you to attend. You will probably have to get up super early for this showcase, but it will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. This is an activity that is truly unique and it will fill you with wonder and amazement. Take a packed lunch and grab a great spot to see the main event. After the launch, take a look at the other facilities available at Cape Canaveral. This activity gives an inspiring and eye-opening insight into the world of space travel.

Snorkelling

Snorkelling may not seem like a unique holiday activity, but Florida has some of the best snorkelling sites in the whole of North America. If you enjoy water sports, this is an opportunity you shouldn’t miss out on. Visit the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and take a snorkelling boat to visit different coral reef sites. These will be full of beautiful marine life that you won't see anywhere else in the world! If you would to prefer to remain on dry land, you also have the option of a glass bottom boat cruise. That way, you can still marvel at the wonders beneath the waves and enjoy a glass of champagne at the same time.

Take an airboat ride

These excursions are a great way of seeing Florida’s wildlife up close and in their natural habitats. The airboats can take you on an adventure to see alligators, eagles, manatees and so much more! These day trips will also give you the opportunity to see Florida’s astonishing wetlands. The guides will explain how the animals adapt to the extreme weather conditions, and some tours even offer you the chance to hold a real alligator for a souvenir photograph. If you’re an adventure seeker, this is the activity for you.

These activities and more are guaranteed to make your trip to Florida unique and truly memorable. Always remember to stay safe and have plenty of fun no matter what you choose to do with your time!

Planning my next trip,
Calista xx

*This post was contributed by a guest blogger.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Vanessa Hudgens Eat Your Heart Out: Create the Perfect Boho Look with these Tips

Image Source
The boho look is a great look for women who want to look pretty and cool, while staying comfortable and casual. It’s the perfect look for a festival or holiday, but you can make it work all year round too! These tips will help you to create the boho look yourself:

Invest in Different Pieces of Headgear

The boho look nearly always has something interesting going on head-wise, whether this is in the form of a flower crown, head chain, bandana, or something else entirely. Having different pieces of headgear to reach for will allow you to keep your looks varied and interesting. You don’t always need to wear something on your head, but it can make a boho look even better. It’s also a great idea for a special occasion!

Use Different Materials and Textures

Different materials and textures will make your look more three-dimensional. Play around with a handful of different fabrics, and use textures like fringing to add more oomph. The boho look is all about creating interest with materials and textures. By doing your clothes shopping online, you’ll find a ton of different textures that work for this look.

Channel a 60s/70s Vibe

Although not always essential, the boho look can sometimes be a great way to throwback to the 60s and 70s. Wear flared trousers, bell sleeves, and anything else that screams ‘boho!’ to you from these decades. Channel your inner hippy chick by looking at pictures and taking inspiration! You can even wear vintage pieces to help you channel the look you want. Just don’t dress head to toe in vintage, as you might end up looking a little fancy dress!

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Stick to Earthy Tones

The best boho looks are pretty much always created using earthy, natural tones. You should look for pieces in shades like blue, red, green, yellow, brown, and beige. Anything that has a really natural feel to it, and nothing bright or neon.

Layer Your Accessories

Layer your accessories to create an even better boho look. You should wear multiple necklaces and bangles, maybe even rings. The boho look always includes lots of different jewellery pieces layered in just the right way. Make sure you mix metals and materials here too, so that you create an even cooler look! Just don’t over accessorize, as you can look like you’re trying too hard.

Gladiator Sandals or Boots

Have you ever spotted a boho chick wearing trainers? I doubt it! Gladiator sandals or boots are the usual footwear for the boho style, so make sure you find some that you really like. Gladiator sandals are perfect for summer, and boots are great for other times of year. I just love incorporating cool items like gladiator sandals into my looks!

The more you put these tips into practice, the better you’ll get at channeling the perfect boho look. Vanessa Hudgens will have competition with you in town! Leave any of your own tips and thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you. Come back soon!

Live. Laugh. Love.
Calista xx

*This post was contributed by a guest blogger.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Staycation in the City - Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu


Do you ever feel like you need a break, but can't afford to go abroad, or even have the time to waste on a plane flying somewhere exotic? Well, staycations are becoming really popular right now, and they're the perfect solution for a relaxing weekend right in your own city!

Club Suite
The good people at Le Meridien recently arranged a little weekend getaway for me to get to know the newly renovated hotel, and also my own city just a little better! Nestled right in the heart of KK city, Le Meridien is perfect for both business and pleasure, as well as locals and tourists alike. You may have seen my room review vlog, but if you haven't, here it is:

Be sure to hit subscribe on Youtube

Of course, as a KKian on a staycation, I definitely took full advantage of the 5 star hotel facilities.
The rooms were cosy
The gym was fully equipped with a sauna, steam room and jacuzzi
The pool was gorgeous; there's an outdoor jacuzzi
And the sunset view? Breathtaking.
Le Meridien made sure we were happily fed as well, and the new restaurants feature a taste of Sabah, with their Tampatan "stall" in Latest Recipe, and the best Italian food in town at Favola.
Latest Recipe
Tampatan stall at Latest Recipe: Authentic Kadazandusun cuisine.
L-R: Prawn Hinava (also made with fish), Bambangan, Tuhau (wild ginger).
Favola interior and sample of dishes
Here's some tips to make your stay a great one:

Big points for tourists: Le Meridien is within walking distance from so many of our local
                                        attractions, such as the Sunday Market on Gaya Street, the jetty where you
                                        get the boats to the nearby islands (they're only a 15-minute boat ride from
                                        the city!), not to mention the hotel is directly across from the Filipino
                                        handicraft market, and the Waterfront where the night comes alive.

Big points for locals: It's in the middle of town! Looking for trinkets? Centrepoint is right next door.
                                     Prefer a more branded mall? Imago and Suria are practically the same distance
                                     away from each other, in opposite directions, not to mention everyone's
                                     favourite Saturday night hangout: the Waterfront.

Food:
Breakfast - Non-halal: Right next door to Le Meridien is Sinsuran, where the famed Sinsuran Sang
                                        Nyuk Mee originated, a must try as this is a Sabahan favourite! No pork
                                        noodles anywhere else are quite the same.

Breakfast - Halal: Le Meridien Signature Breakfasts. Fusion food with a local twist, with dishes
                                such as Omelette Roulade stuffed with Black Glutinous Rice & Sambal, and
                                Sweet Potato Muffin with Chocolate-coated Tempe & Caramelised Mango,
                                they're definitely something different!
We got to try out copying the food design:
Mom made Poached Egg with Pan Fried Sweet Potato Cake & Lemongrass Hollandaise Sauce,
I made Toasted Layer Brioche with Coconut Jam & Honey Caramelised Banana
Lunch: Laksa/Curry Mee at Seng Hing, Sinsuran; Five Star Chicken Rice at Palm Square in
              Centerpoint

Coffee: Starbucks is right across the road! If you prefer Coffee Bean, you can find both in Palm
              Square, Centerpoint.

Tea: TWG Teas at Latitude 05, Le Meridien Hotel. Make sure to try the Silver Moon Tea - yum!
TWG Teas & sweets to complement!
Juices/ Desserts: Fruto in Oceanus sells great fresh & cold-pressed juices, while Just Berries has the
                              best desserts - try the mango little balls!
Fruto's Breakfast Bowls - Goodness with a view!
Dinner: Welcome Seafood is cheap, and located not far away in Asia City. For better quality
               seafood, which of course comes with a "better" price, Seremban Seafood in Segama is
               definitely a fave if you have cash to spend. For an all-out tourist experience, try the seafood
               at the Filipino market, right opposite Le Meridien!
Seremban Seafood: Just look at that crab claw! =O
Drinks: Waterfront is the it place for both tourists and locals alike. If you're into clubbing, B.E.D.
               lives up to its name as Best Entertainment Destination. For a Somersby and good pizza,
               Lush is where you wanna be, while if you like playing darts, check out Beer Nest Mixo. If
               you prefer a more relaxing evening, the jazz band and comfy sofas at Latitude 05 are your
               best friends!
Latitude 05 @ Le Meridien
The Good: Both hard and soft pillows provided (have you ever slept in a comfortable bed with a
                    pillow that was way too hard or soft for your liking? Le Meridien fixes that problem!),
                    the decor (loving the lobby now, and the Table of Curiosity is genius!), the service
                    (everyone is super friendly, and genuinely so!), the facilities (pool, sauna, jacuzzi, steam
                    room), the food (great variety, and I love that they have hard-to-find local food!)

The Could-Be-Better: The TV in room (too small for such a big bed! But I did hear that the rooms
                                       will all be renovated come next year), housekeeping (didn't replenish face
                                       towels/all toiletries, left dirty face towel in corner), food (while variety is
                                       amazing, quality control needs to be observed such as satay too hard, and I
                                       feel there is definitely room for more desserts choices! =P)

Overall it was a great stay and would definitely go back for more! For those of you who are thinking of taking a family vacation, Le Meridien has also teamed up with Lego, and every child under 12 will receive a free Lego pack upon check-in!
Free Lego upon check-in! =D
Dreaming of my next staycation,
Calista xx

Saturday, 7 November 2015

GIVEAWAY: All Day Dining at Avangio Hotel, Metrotown

By now, Metrotown is a normal part of Kota Kinabalu. Well-known for the eateries and beauty salons, the area is set to get busier with the introduction of the new Jesselton Medical Centre and the elegant Avangio Hotel, managed by Accor.
Night view by the pool
Avangio's all-day dining restaurant Mercato has just revealed their all new a la carte menu, and what better way to introduce these dishes than by pictures:
Appetisers L-R: Sun-dried Tomato & Basil Cake, Hinava, Nicoise Salad
Main CourseClockwise from Left: Ultimate Burger, Salmon Quiche, Spaghetti Bolognese, Fish & Chips
And of course no dinner is complete with a little sugar at the end:
Dessert
L-R: Sago Gula Melaka, Creme Brulee, Mango Panna Cotta
Stomach growling already? Well have I got a treat for you! In collaboration with Avangio Hotel, I'll be giving away dinner for 2 at Mercato restaurant, and if you're reading this, you're already halfway there! All you have to do to win is:

1. Share this blog post on Facebook
2. Follow me on Instagram @CalistaLeahLiew 
3. Drop me a comment below with the Facebook link and tell me which dish is tantalising your taste buds. Don't forget to leave your email address so I can contact you if you win!
OR
Tag the person you'll take for dinner on my Instagram post (spot the Creme Brûlée!) with the caption FEED ME!

Good luck!

If you don't win, it's ok, because for the whole month of November, all you have to do is mention #MERCATONEWMENU and you will get 10% off your food bill (excluding drinks). So it's the best time to try somewhere new! For reservations, call Mercato at 088-536888.

***This giveaway will end at 10pm on 15th November 2015. Winners will be announced via Twitter @CalistaLeahLiew, so make sure you're following us on Twitter! Winners will be chosen by www.random.org.

Happy Dining!
Calista xx

*This post is sponsored by Mercato @ Avangio Hotel, Metrotown

Friday, 30 October 2015

Discovering Penang, Malaysia with Air Asia

When someone mentions "travel", our minds usually automatically jump to other countries.

"I want to visit the old towns in Vietnam!"
"Thailand has such beautiful temples."
"The food in the Philippines is supposed to be awesome!"


But what about our own country, which is also a big part of the much-loved touristy part of the world called South East Asia?

Well, I got the chance to explore Penang with Air Asia Bloggers Community (AABC), and although I've been there twice before, there was so much more to discover, especially since we were assigned a Penang blogger as a "guide" for every group!
Jian, an aunty who showed us the way, Ana, Ken (our Penang blogger), Diana and me!
There's so much to do and see and experience in Penang, so to break it down, let's use the #AABCPenangTakeover Instagram challenge as a guide:

1. Best breakfast in Penang

According to Ken, Penangites have a lot of choice when it comes to breakfast. Some like roti bakar (toast, usually with kaya and butter), some prefer char key teow, others prefer chee cheong fun Penang style, but whatever you choose, there's one thing everyone can agree on, and that is that they're all YUMMY! We opted to go to MacAlistar Road as a lot of the other groups headed for roti bakar.

2. Penangness
One of the many street art pieces around Georgetown
Apparently, when people think of Penang, they think of the Komtar building. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea what the Komtar building was, and was slightly disappointed to find out it was just where the bus station was haha. When I think of Penang, I think of food, the Penang bridge, and the heritage buildings, not to mention the well-known love for art!

3. Penang Essentials
Options: You can take the bus, rent a bicycle, hop on a ferry, or just get around on your trusty two feet!
As a tourist, the most essential thing anywhere is: good public transport! And that's what we found! The ferry ride was especially enjoyable, and it links the island side of Penang to the mainland.

4. Heritage Trail
Old buildings are kept almost pristine..
We spent quite a while trying to figure out what we could do for this one. It wasn't until we stopped focusing on the word 'trail' that we realised: Penang is a heritage city, i.e., everything we saw was part of the so-called heritage trail!

5. Eat Penang Style

Yep, the last challenge was food again. If you're Malaysian, you'd definitely know that Penang is known as the food capital of Malaysia. All kinds of dishes still cooked the traditional way (a lot of street hawkers still operate there), at a significantly lower price than other places in Malaysia, with no compromise on taste. Voila! A table-full of nyonya cuisine was a no-brainer!

Looking for a getaway? Air Asia flies to Penang from Kota Kinabalu twice daily, so no pesky transits to get in the way of you and a great time!

Much Love,
Calista xx

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Africa Travel Tips You Need to Know

Africa has been at the top of my bucket list since I can even remember. These tips definitely make me want to get on a plane and fly there now! 

Africa can be a wonderful place to visit, but you need to be prepared before you arrive. You can’t head over there without doing a lot of research first - it’ll be a totally different world compared to what you’re used to. These tips will keep you safe and comfortable so you can have the best time wherever you are in Africa!

Leave Your Nice Jewellery at Home

You take risks when you visit any country, so don’t let this put you off. There have been incidents where nice jewellery has been stolen from visitors, so make sure you leave your nice jewellery at home. There’s no need to wear it here anyway. Try to get back to nature and embrace the culture - nobody else will be wearing expensive Rolexes or diamond rings, so leave it at home. You would be devastated if anything happened, so don’t risk it.

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Pack Much Less

Pack much less than you think you need. Africa is a hot place and you’ll more than likely get there to realise you need half the stuff you brought. Even though Malaysia is hot all year round too, you don’t need to worry about packing for every single circumstance that could occur, so try to keep it to one small bag.

Carry a Snack With You

Carry a snack with you, such as a cereal bar or something that will give you energy. Nothing that can melt, ideally! This is a great trick for when you’re exploring and become hungry with no food nearby. Also a great tip if for whatever reason you don’t want to get any street food that day.

Buy a Cheap Phone

Maybe you lose your phones a lot or you’re worried about having it stolen. It’s simple: get a cheap phone before you leave or buy one when you get there. This way you can still stay in touch with people you’re travelling with and contact home if you need to. It won’t cost you much to replace if you lose it, and there won’t be anything sentimental on there. It’s a no brainer!

Haggle a Lot

When you’re scouring the markets and other places to buy, haggle a lot. Practicing your haggling skills is a norm being from South East Asia. Don’t feel like you have to pay full price for anything - usually paying even 50% of the full price is too much! They expect you to haggle here so make sure you do it. You can usually get stuff for very, very low prices.

Do Try the Local Food

Trying the local food is a must here. The street food is seriously cheap and you can save a fortune on your budget from eating there. Just be sure the vendors are in an area of a lot of people, as this means the food will be fresher and hygiene taken more seriously. Choose some exciting restaurants too - avoid westernised restaurants if possible. Buzz Kenya stories can reveal more about the best food and what to try!

Insect Repellent is a Must

Mosquitos over here are demons, so insect repellent is a must. You might even want to take a mosquito killing device with you, so you’re well prepared if anything tries to attack.

Drink a Lot of Water

One of the worst things that can happen on a trip like this is becoming dehydrated, so make sure you drink a lot of water.

Above all else, have a great time and don’t forget to make some local friends!

Sien jou gou,
Calista xx

(Apparently that's "see you soon" in Afrikaans! =P)

*This post was contributed by a guest blogger.