Sunday, August 21, 2011

Favorite memories of Malaysia

Two of Travelife Magazine's editors
in the library of The Majestic Malacca
in Malacca last night

Today we reluctantly checked out of the The Majestic Malacca in Malacca, our home for the past four days, to head back to Kuala Lumpur for lunch and a bit of shopping; and then it was onwards to KL's international airport to catch the evening flight back to Manila.

"Back to reality," Carlo, our managing editor, said to me, as we headed out. "But for you, the airport is home. When's your next flight?"

Actually, it's in a couple of days. Manila is basically a stopover for a few meetings, a lunch with a hotel general manager, dinner with an ambassador, and a cultural performance sponsored by another Asian country. And then it's off to another exotic destination for a week or so.


I hadn't been to Malaysia in over a year. Last time I was here, I really enjoyed my stay, and we'd visited Kuala Lumpur and Penang. And 18 months ago, I'd taken the Eastern & Oriental Express -- one of the most luxurious trains in the world -- from Bangkok to Singapore, and it had journeyed literally all across Malaysia.

So I got to see everything from the rubber plantations up near the Thai border to the agricultural fields nearer Singapore, and we'd stopped off at Penang for a visit in special Orient-Express trishaws that took us all around the old part of town.

But for some reason, this trip was particularly enjoyable. We had over ten days which we spread out in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Malacca; and we'd brought almost our entire production team with us, including our hardworking team assistants, June & Bernice, who made life so much easier for us as we worked hard, explored much and had lots of fun.

I was lucky to have a great Travelife team on this trip. Everyone was very professional and thorough, and also lots of fun; but when the camera lights went out and the computers were closed, they also knew how to party.

When I do a ten-day business trip, I'm really careful about my time and my sleep because so much energy is needed every single day; but the younger people on the staff had boundless energy, and after work they hit the bars and the night markets until dawn. Last night, I'd heard some of them had stumbled back to the hotel way past 3 am and a couple had even spent a few hours at a reggae bar, while others had hung out at The Majestic Malacca bar, which has a very Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca feel. Impressively, they were all up and on time everyday, including today.


We all had our favorite places and favorite moments during the trip. It was a hard call for everyone to decide which city fascinated them most -- Penang or Malacca, two UNESCO World Heritage sites. Each has its own charm and we were fortunate to stay in the best hotels in these cities -- the Eastern & Oriental Hotel in Penang and The Majestic Malacca -- and this heightened the travel experience for all of us. Both hotels were full of old world flavor and history, and they helped us literally step back in time. It helped too that they were old-fashioned and elegant, but they were five-star as far as service and amenities were concerned.


Many of my favorite moments of this trip revolve around food. And perhaps the most memorable was a dinner at the restaurant 1885 of the Eastern & Oriental Hotel in Penang, Penang's most elegant dinner venue. I put on a beautiful long Malaysian dress and we had a nice and incredibly delicious dinner that recreated the food of the British Malaya community in this lovely restaurant that has been serving diners for over 125 years. I never realized they ate so well!

The Eastern & Oriental Hotel, by the way, is one of the longest continuously-run hotels in the world, and it also has one of the widest beach frontages of any hotel in the world.


I also enjoyed a very Malay dinner of curries and rendang that I had at the Bijan restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, which is a trendy and very well-regarded restaurant in KL's expatriate hangout district. We were in KL right smack in the middle of Ramadan, and the restaurant prepared all the Ramadan special foods for us. Dinners are big during Ramadan in Islamic countries because everyone fasts from sunrise to sundown; so when the sun disappears, they all take have wonderful dinners, and almost every restaurant and hotel catering to an Islamic clientele will have a Ramadan dinner or buffet special.


And today, just before flying out of KL, we had lunch at Top Hat, a very pretty restaurant operating out of a rambling old house in KL's central business district. It's been awarded as one of KL's best restaurants for several years in a row now, and their food is a combination of Malay food and continental cuisine. This is where I had the best laksa (which is a flavorful bowl of spicy noodles) ever -- with tender strips of chicken and pieces of lemongrass for taste.

As for enjoyable memories, there were so many during this trip. We all worked very hard and when we were working, there wasn't much time for laughter; but whenever we took a break, we were always happy, upbeat and laughing. We had so many spoof moments while making our television show, and these were the greatest times for me.

Join us in Italy this September 8.
Travelife Italy Night
with Margarita Fores

with Margarita Fores
and the Embassy of Italy & Bacchus Epicerie
September 8 at Whitespace

Please call TRAVELIFE at 8138400/ 8922620
to reserve a limited seat

For reservations and information, please contact:
Bernice or Rachel at TRAVELIFE
813-8400/ 892-2620


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