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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

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Finally on BlogLovin!

Hey guys!

So I'm finally on Bloglovin'! I'd heard about it before of course, but only just decided to sign up and see what it is. If you're also a member of Bloglovin', do follow me on there, or if you like reading my blog, you can Follow my blog with Bloglovin for all the latest updates! =)

See you there,
Calista xx

PS: You can also find me here on -

Snapchat: @CalistaLeahLiew
17: @CalistaLeahLiew

For sponsorships/advertorials, please email me at CalistaLeahLiew@gmail.com

Monday, 10 August 2015

Reshape That Body at ISKIN New York Aesthetics Centre

If you're on my Facebook, you probably would've seen a rant about how I had completed a blog post to almost 95%, only to revisit another day to find barely 1% left. Yep, my draft had corrupted, and I wanted to cry.
This is that post. After losing the draft, it took a lot of energy to try and rewrite it again, as I had left the draft for a couple of weeks while I was working, and completely forgot what my angle was; also, I don't let go very easily. Rawr! =(

But anyway, let's try this again shall we?

I was invited to try out a tummy slimming session at Iskin New York Aesthetics Centre because they saw my photos and thought I needed it called the Foto RF Body Reshape, which aims to easily and effectively tone the targeted area. Obviously, I jumped at the offer because I'm fat.


Easily accessible in the centre of town, you can find Iskin at Api-Api Centre. They're easy to spot because I've always been intrigued by their signboard even before they invited me over; it's clean, professional and welcoming. This beauty centre offers much more than just your regular body slimming. Facials, permanent hair removal, and functional cosmetics such as lash growth serum mascara and lip plumping lipstick are also available. With 10 years experience, Iskin only uses state-of-the-art machines for better results, and all therapists are well-trained; many of whom used to be dermatologists or nurses!
Barley yum yum~
Upon arrival, I was greeted by the very friendly receptionist, who served some yummy tea while I filled out the form. Then, I was taken into the treatment room to be weighed and analysed via a special weighing machine by my therapist (who I was later informed was Iskin's most experienced), Irene. Irene explained that the Foto RF Body Reshape treatment would help reshape the most stubborn tummy fats, as well as reduce cellulite, increase good circulation and stimulate lymphatic drainage, so your body will naturally be ridding itself of toxins, even after the treatment, which only takes around 30 minutes. 

After I'd stripped (they provide disposable underwear and a robe to cover your jiggly bits!) and laid down on the treatment bed, Irene came back in and guided me step by step as to what was happening. The Foto RF machine (you can also opt for Foto RF Face Reshaping for that small, V-shaped face you've always wanted!) is much like a little fat-sucking vacuum. It was a very soothing experience to have a little warm vacuum being run over your tummy - I almost fell asleep twice in 30 minutes! 
The RF Foto Body process is very much heat based, and your therapist will use a special meter to check the temperature is at its most suitable for your needs throughout the treatment. Also, if you take a look at my stomach, one side is definitely more defined than the other after one-side treatment.
When I was done, I sneaked a look in the mirror when Irene left to let me get changed. Could definitely see the difference! She'd also shown me the difference after only reshaping one half of my tummy, and of course that was so obvious! Being a lazy bum and a foodie has stopped me from having a slim body, and I'm sure most of you will agree that the tummy bulge is the hardest to budge even when you do try to lose weight. A few sessions of the Foto RF treatment should help kickstart the process, I'm hoping so anyway!

Wanna give it a go? Iskin Aesthetics Centre is offering a special discounted price of RM99 (Regular Price: RM800) for your first trial of Foto RF Body Reshape Treatment if you mention the exclusive promo code CALISTA when you make your appointment! This promo is only valid for 2 weeks from the date of this post, so don't miss out!
With the Iskin team! My therapist, Irene, is 2nd from right.
Drop me a comment below to let me know what you think after your treatment - I'm thinking of trying out the facial or functioning cosmetics next!

Love always,


Calista xx

PS: This final draft corrupted as well, luckily I had saved a draft in Word this time. Now I'm gonna be worried every time I save something in Blogger! =(

Sunday, 28 June 2015

AirAsia Free Seats - 2016 Wanderlust Now


2015 has been a pretty good year for my wanderlust so far: Singapore in March, Terengganu that same month, Chiangmai for Songkran with AABC, and now I'm writing this from Bangkok, with a trip to Hong Kong in the wings next month - phew!
Songkran: This. Over and over. All day long.
Not that I'm complaining of course - there are so many more places to explore! After experiencing Songkran (Thailand's annual water festival and a constant feature on most must-do festival bucket lists worldwide), I'm obsessed with wanting to tick off all the other festivals, and I'm not talking about the music ones (although those too please! =P)
Source: news.com.au
There are so many to choose from: Lantern Festival in Pingxi, Taiwan, Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea, Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan, Sinology Festival in Philippines, Hue Festival in Vietnam  etc. However, after Songkran, my wish for 2016 would be to take it up a notch, and be splashed with colour.. Where else but India?


Yes, the Holi Festival, also known as the Festival of Colours. Celebrated by Hindus in the Spring, It is basically Songkran Extreme - and if you've experienced Songkran, you know how crazy it is. Also revolving around a water fight, Holi throws in dry coloured powder, a bonfire, music and dancing; creating a festive atmosphere like no other.

After a quick internet search on India, it doesn't even seem to matter which part of India you go to celebrate - they all go full out! And with beautiful places in every location, such as:
Ulsoor Lake in Bengaluru
The beaches of Goa
The Old City of Hyderabad
Dakshineswar Kali Temple in Kolkata
...and of course, just to immerse yourself in the culture and oft-heard-of Indian everyday life!


So, if you could go to any festival you want, which would be your first choice? Check out Air Asia Free Seats asap, and you could very well be on your way there this time next year!

Love always,
Calista xx

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Songkran in Chiangmai: Nothing But Water, Water Everywhere!

The beauty of Chiangmai from way up high.
Green curry. Temples. The adrenaline rush of exploring a new city. 
Friends. Shopping. Experiencing a festival unlike any other.

These were all things that were going through my head when I was first invited on the #AABCSongkranAdventure last month. What I didn't expect, was to spend half of the trip dripping with water, while having even more ice water thrown at me - and loving every minute of it!

Confused? Well, every story must start from the beginning I guess:
First dinner in Chiangmai - straight to the point!

Once upon a time (aka April 2015), I was flown to Chiang Mai, Thailand by Air Asia, with my fellow Air Asia Blogger's Community friends, Charlotte, Joel, and Henry. Leading the pack, the toughest of the tough, bravest of the brave, craziest of the crazy:
KA MEI!! Look at her chugging that tom yam! 
Upon landing on the 11th of April, we were pretty confident we had time to get ourselves prepared before joining in the "fun" of Songkran, aka Thailand's biggest annual celebration, the water festival. Until, that is, we reached our hotel. Through the safety of our hotel transfer's windows, we watched as kids popped out from behind corners, shooting poor tourists with water guns. "What is this?!", we exclaimed. "Songkran isn't until the 13th!"
Our hotel room at Duangtawan Hotel
We figured it was probably just a few kids starting the fun early. Nope. Joining us in the elevator: two completely soaked girls, obviously tourists too, warning us to be prepared for an ambush if we were planning to leave the hotel. Oh no.
The way the windows to our hotel rooms were designed, the sunset actually reflects off a different window facing another direction (smaller photo).. So beautiful!
Before this trip, I'd always heard that Songkran is basically the world's biggest water fight. But, signifying the new year for Thais, getting splashed with water is synonymous with being blessed, as it symbolises washing away your bad luck from the previous year. How sweet right? Can you picture it in your head? Being gently flicked with water by pretty Thai girls and guys dressed in traditional costume..
Source
In reality, it's more like this:
The optimistic bunch...
You will not get "sprinkled" with water. I am not kidding when I say you'll be dripping as if you just climbed out of a swimming pool fully-clothed!
Super happening Air Asia water station - non-stop water, rave music, and throngs of people!

But we definitely had tons of fun!
Yes. If World War 3 started with water instead of bullets, water instead of grenades, water instead of - you get the point - it would look like Thailand, mid-April every year.

It. Is. Madness.

Children, adults, locals, tourists, shop owners, staff members - the streets are lined with people armed with huge water guns, with big pails filled with water and blocks of ice to pour onto passersby. No one is safe, except for the elderly and monks. Even toddlers sit inside buckets or little inflatable swimming pools to join in the fun.
No one is safe..
If you're riding in a tuk-tuk, you are a moving target which doesn't move very fast, and if you're in a songthaew, you're basically sitting ducks. No water is spared during Songkran, and you'll be hit by bucket after bucket of water if you are on any kind of vehicle, even motorbikes and bicycles! One thing that really impressed me though, was that although everywhere was wet as far as the eye can see, no water ever splashed into shops or onto the elderly. They really do have it down to a science!
Air Asia Water Station, and Miss Songkran beauty pageant
Stages are put up in various places and play music (think music festival without bands) to add to the atmosphere. There are also food stalls nearby, but we were having so much fun we didn't try any of the street food. This doesnt mean the roads were closed, oh no: between the mass of people, was a little road left for cars to pass through. They were really patient when they were blocked by over-zealous people in the road though, like this aunty dancing:
Strange creatures come out to play..
Restaurants also welcome soaking, hungry customers with open arms. I felt horrible looking at the small swimming pools we left at our tables, but the ever-friendly Thais just happily waved us in, while the owner of the restaurant was waging his own war just outside.
Super yummy and cheap Thai food at Blue Mango near Tha Pae Gate!

Here's a checklist of the essentials of Songkran:

  1. Slippers / flip-flops - the less slippery the better, and remember, they will get soaked through so sneakers not advisable. I bought mine for 160 baht.
  2. Comfortable clothes - Shorts for both guys and girls, bikinis under a comfortable top seem your best bet. My bikini cost 350 baht.
  3. Sunblock - April is the hottest month of the year in Thailand
  4. Transparent waterproof bag for your handphone - you'll wanna take pix! 45 baht.
  5. Waterproof bag - for other belongings, but you don't wanna take too much to war! 60 baht.
  6. Water guns - you can buy these in Thailand, our big ones cost about 300baht each
  7. Plastic goggles - optional, but I did get shot in the eye once, and it hurt like hell
  8. Your fun side - as long as your ready for a few days of fun, you're set!

Nothing can prepare you for the amount of water you will encounter, nor the amount of fun you will have until you experience it yourself. When they say you must try Songkran before you die, they really mean it! So if anything else is on your bucket list, put it on hold and go to Thailand next April for the biggest Ice Bucket Challenge cum Water Rave Party you will ever see! I'm definitely planning to go again - maybe I'll see you there!
Reload.
Oh, and if you are no longer young at heart for whatever reason you are still not sure about visiting Thailand, all I can say is, MANGO STICKY RICE. If that doesn't make your mind up, I have nothing more to say.
Can you tell I'm obsessed?

Essential Info:
Currency: Thai Baht (current exchange rate 11.35 for 100 baht)
Weather: April & May are the hottest months of the year - best time to get wet!
Time Zone: GMT +7 (aka one hour behind Malaysia)
Language: Thai (some English)
Electricity: 220V, 2 pin plug
Tip: The more sour-faced you look during Songkran, the more you will get splashed.

How To Get There:
Air Asia flies 2 x daily from KL to Chiang Mai, and 12x daily from Bangkok
Flight duration from KL - Chiangmai: 2 hours 35 minutes

For more photos, check out my Instagram @CalistaLeahLiew, or the hashtag #AABCSongkranAdventure, or even my Facebook page!

Love of a Mermaid,
Calista xx