Casa del Mar @ Langkawi

Having been to Malacca and Penang for my last two short-haul breaks, I opted for Langkawi as my next Malaysian holiday destination as (1) friends who’d been there liked it, and (2) it was also where a few key scenes of the global hit, Crazy Rich Asians, were shot. That’s how I ended up at the lovely Mediterranean-style boutique hotel, Casa del Mar Langkawi.

All I wanted was a cosy beach resort with a nice pool, scenic beachfront views, and good grub and grog. A pal hence suggested Casa del Mar and what a good recommendation it was. It was strategically located in the popular Pantai Cenang beach town, right on the edge of the white sands of Cenang beach.

Cab from Langkawi airport to the hotel (MYR30/SGD10) took only 15 minutes and as I was a tad early for check-in, the front desk staff ensured that I was comfortable with a chilled welcome drink and towel. I even had the opportunity to see them celebrating the birthday of another guest who was also checking in that afternoon.

For a 4-star hotel, Casa del Mar projects all the traits expected of a 5-star establishment. Staff was chirpy and helpful, and I always love hotels that make the effort to remember your name. I was given a tour of the facilities close to the lobby before being taken to my room, and even there, Enlyn patiently went through practically every amenity in the room with me.

THE ROOM

My seaview room was on the second floor of the main building, which includes a balcony with deck chairs, beach umbrella and drying rack. Pleasantly decorated, the spacious room was fully-furnished with all the necessaries such as free Wi-Fi, safe, bathrobes, slippers, and TV (with movie DVDs available at front desk). Extra perks—which are very much appreciated—include a coffee machine, complimentary fruits/ biscuits/ peanuts, and even bath salts. The king-sized bed was super comfy with four pillows at your disposal.

THE POOL

There are actually tons of things one can do in Langkawi and the hotel actually provides guests upon arrival with an extensive list of payable activities available ranging from island hopping to jungle trekking, jet skiing to yacht dinner cruises. Alas, I was only there to chill and the Casa del Mar pool already had me at hello.

With beach towels readily available in your room, the captivating pool was where I spent most of my time and, more often than not, I had it all to myself including the jacuzzi. (Which is why it is always good to travel during off-peak periods and during weekdays!) Pool service was also quite exquisite – as long as you are on a sun lounger, staff will periodically serve you iced water or fruits. A really lovely touch.

THE BEACH AND OCEAN VIEWS

A big draw of Casa del Mar is the fact that it is located right on the popular Pantai Cenang beach, which is the longest and most popular beach in Langkawi. The beachfront views here are breathtaking – picturesque clean white sands, clear blue skies, and warm blue seas. It was also cool that the area facing the resort is considered private and hardly crowded with people though there are still some activities as the beach is a watersports haven.

The sandy stretch on the right of Casa del Mar’s beachfront is also considered private, so really, if you laze at the hotel’s sun lounges, what you get is beautifully unblocked scenic views with cool breezes keeping you cool even when under a blazing hot sun. If I was not at the pool, I would just park myself for a good long time on a sun lounger that faces the amazing beach expanse.

BREAKFAST

My friend told me that the food at Casa del Mar was good and she wasn’t wrong. Complimentary breakfast came with the room and though the buffet selection wasn’t extensive—understandably as the hotel only has 34 guestrooms—it has the usual suspects of breads, cereals, sandwiches, cheeses, and a local favorite that is nasi lemak (Malay fragrant rice dish). Add to that, each guest can choose an item from the a la carte menu such as omelette or pancakes and it will be served a la minute to you. Cool, that.

Breakfast and lunch, provided by the hotel’s La Sal Restaurant, are served outdoors albeit under shade. Luckily, the heat during my stay was bearable and it’s tad cooler if you chose a table along the wall-length water feature. The restaurant prides itself in producing “homemade” items including a variety of breads, pastries, and an incredible range of jams including pineapple, watermelon and chocolate hazel! And yes, I tried all the jams as you can see in the previous photo. 🙂

LUNCH

On arrival, I was in time for lunch but as I browsed the menu, an afternoon tea for two caught my eye. When I asked if I can have just a set for a single person, the waitress Adila said certainly and it was charged at half the price of the original set. Which was simply brilliant, as you can see above. Love it when establishments are willing to be flexible.

Dinner & Sunset Watch

If you are into sunsets, La Sal at Casa del Mar is actually one of the best places in Langkawi to catch one. For dinner, the restaurant set up their tables right up to the edge of the beach and guests will have a bird-eye’s view of the sun setting. Early reservations have to be made though, even for live-in guests, as tables are limited. (Walk-ins are welcome only if seating permits.)

So, even though one can find cheaper food fare elsewhere in Pantai Cenang—and there are loads of alternatives from burger joints to Chinese-style seafood restaurants throughout the town as well as along the beach—I opted to have dinner at La Sal on both the nights I was there as it provided me not only with a great view of the sun setting over the horizon, but also of people having fun either on the beach or paragliding in the air as dusk falls. And oh yes, the food was good too. As was the grog from the pool bar (especially the free beer courtesy of the management on Tuesday nights!)

The Spa

Almost forgot: If you are on a chill trip, not only the resort should have a good pool, it also should have a good spa. Housed on the second floor in a secluded wing of Casa del Mar (in the midst of guestrooms), Satkara Spa may be small, but it nonetheless offers a good range of treatments and therapies. I chose a massage-and-facial combo which they kindly allowed me to split into two one-hour sessions on separate days (as I rather spent most of daylight time at the pool). The treatment rooms were cosy and relaxing, and the therapists top-notch. Best to make reservations early if you plan to spend time here.

HOME BY THE SEA, GREAT PLACE TO CHILL

The unique “Clean My Room” door sign at Casa del Mar.
The eyes are closed for “Do Not Disturb”.

All in all, I had an absolute great time at Casa del Mar. Kinda regretted not staying longer. For its brilliant service, facilities and location, it was definitely worth the price. Would definitely patronise it again if finances permit!

Casa del Mar Langkawi is at Jalan Pantai Cenang, Mukim Kedawang, 07000 Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia.

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Langkawi: Sun, Sand & Sea @ Pantai Cenang

All Photos by Marguerita Tan

When in Langkawi: If you are into sun, sand and sea, the offshore island(s) district of Kedah, Malaysia will be right up your alley. Located off the northwestern coast of West Malaysia, the 99-island archipelago is well known for its many great beaches, of which Pantai Cenang is one of the most popular especially for swimming and water sports.

I personally am a lounge-by-the-pool lizard myself but if a holiday resort has great access to a nice beach, I’m all for it. It was thus why I opted for Casa del Mar which is strategically located at a relatively quiet section of the 2km-long Pantai Cenang, said to be the longest beach in Langkawi.

One of things I loved doing during my stay was walking up and down the pristine beach via a cosy boardwalk that seemingly starts from Casa del Mar, all the way southwards to a spot where you will find the rainbow-colored “Pantai Chenang” sign (see main picture) and where the beach is arguably at its most crowded.

Views From A Boardwalk

Clean white sands, clear blue sky, warm sea, and idyllic islands on the horizon – that will be the first things that take your breath away on Pantai Cenang. Even if not on the private beaches of the fancier resorts, the elements are still wonderful sights to behold.

Walking along the stretch also allows you to check out the other beach accommodations available, many of which are rustic chalets such as this…

…and there were even beachfront tree houses such as this cool one here! There are also resorts which have swimming pools right alongside the beach.

Food and drink outlets are in abundance in Pantai Cenang too – along the beach, such as the popular Kalut Bar, and especially along the main road of Jalan Pantai Cenang.

Needless to say, al fresco wining and dining is very popular on the beach (as long as you don’t dirty the surroundings)…

Water sports is also very big here – you can go jet skiing, paragliding, kayaking, sailing on a banana or longboat, or even parasailing on a “flying machine”. It’s fun just to watch brave souls taking to the skies in various contraptions.

Colorful jet skis of various shapes and sizes can be seen parked, as well as in action, up and down the beach.

Loads of boats too… including signs to please “keep clean our island”. And I have to say, Pantai Cenang is one of the cleanest beaches I’ve ever been to in all my travels.

As mentioned, you will find food and drink options aplenty up and down the beach, with signs to direct you if you aren’t quite sure of where to go…

Random beach bars and “discos” do pop up on the sands which is really cool…

There is even an artistic compound, complete with cool graffiti art and tree swing…

Last but by no means least, Pantai Cenang is a great place to catch sunsets. Many people would gather around the Pantai Chenang sign—it’s directly opposite Cenang Mal—and just catch the sunset every evening (usually between 7.15-7.40pm). Or you can watch it while having dinner at any of the eateries or bars along the stretch.

There are actually lots more things one can do in Langkawi, but if you are happy with just sun, sand and sea, Pantai Cenang is one beach worth visiting once in your lifetime.

Langkawi: Sunset Over Pantai Cenang Beach

Photo by Marguerita Tan

When in Langkawi: Sunsets in the Malaysian 99-island archipelago are usually between 7.20pm and 7.45pm. In end July, it’s roughly 7.35-7.40pm and if you are on the western shoreline of the island district of Kedah, the best spot to catch one in full glory is to seat yourself anywhere along the 2km pristine white sands of Pantai Cenang beach.

I knew staying at the Casa del Mar Langkawi resort would plonk me right in the midst of the popular beach, but I didn’t realised that the hotel restaurant La Sal actually placed their al fresco dinner tables right by the edge of the sands so that guests—if they are seated at the right time⁠—will be able to enjoy the full course of the sun setting over one of Langkawi’s mini islands on the horizon.

So, as I sipped my chilled pre-dinner beer, it was blissfully joyful to watch the sun lighting the clear blue sky, from glaring whitish gold to a lovely golden-orange yellow hue, as it slowly disappeared behind the island on the horizon.

Definitely one of my favorite sunset watch in recent times…

Photo by Marguerita Tan

Tasmania’s Finest @ SKIRT at W SG

Tasmania’s finest produce will be showcased in a seasonal menu takeover at
SKIRT @ W Singapore from now till 21 April.

Besides lush World heritage wilderness and stunning coastlines, Tasmania is renowned for their fine grub and grog. This ranges from grass-fed beef to quality cheeses, from prized black truffles to award-winning whiskeys.

It was thus with glee that Musings on the M49 accepted an invite to savor some of the Australian island-state’s finest produce at an UnDiscover Tasmania event held at SKIRT @ W Singapore last week. In conjunction with Tourism Tasmania, SKIRT will host an exclusive Tasmania’s Finest seasonal menu takeover from now till 21 April 2019.

Besides food, the event also showcased a range of Tasmania’s finest wines, whiskey, champagnes, gin and beer. I started with a Josef Chromy Pinot Noir 2016, a medium-bodied red wine, with notes of berries and spice. It complimented the slice of goat cheese cake I had very well!

Next, I tried the Elderflower Gin and Tonic, comprising Van Diemen’s Gin from Lawrenny Estate (located in Tasmania’s Central Highlands) and Ashbolt Elderflower Concentrate. It was light, breezy and refreshing, just apt for the blazing hot weather we’ve been having of late!

First on the list of the Tasmania’s Finest Grazing Menu is Lentara Groves Olives. Lentara Grove is one of the oldest olive groves in Tasmania and produces quality products such as extra virgin olive oil.

Next up was the Cape Grim Beef Tartar. Located along north-western Tasmania, Cape Grim reportedly has the cleanest air in the world. Not sure how much it affects the cattle raised there but this beef tartar was tender and its taste enhanced by the well-made crispy egg yolk.

Spring Bay, located on the eastern coast of Tasmania, is famous for its fresh seafood and this Spring Bay Mussels Pot was simply the bomb! Stewed in a tomato broth, the mussels were small but oh so tender and juicy. Easily one of the best dishes of the night!

I popped the next item, the TAS-SAFF Saffron Arancini with truffle aioli, into my mouth before taking a decent picture of it. So all I could tell you is that it was really good – crunchy and flavorful, just like this lovely foccacia bread which, alas, is not on the grazing menu.

Halfway through I decided it was time for a Tasmanian beer. Moo Brew Pilsner is styled like a German Pilsner, with a good mix of hops and malts, fruity aroma and a slight bitter aftertaste. Light and refreshing, went very well with various food. Brand owned by David Walsh, the man behind the famous MONA (Museum of Old and New Art).

Tasmania though is foremost famous for its whiskey. The Apple Isle is Australia’s biggest whiskey producer and Sullivans Cove is among its best brands. Its Single Cask Malt Whiskey was smooth, rich and full-bodied, great on the rocks and even better if you drink it neat.

The grazing menu has two choices for mains. The Cape Grim Shortribs, grilled with smoked garlic and red wine sauce, was meaty yet tender, and tasted better with the brown gravy it came with and even more so if you drink a good whiskey along with it!

The other main, the Petunia Ocean Trout En Croute with wasabi beurre blanc, was a pure delight. The fish was velvety and favorful, and you won’t stop till you finished every bite. The Josef Chromy Sparkling 2011 champagne, which has strong green apple notes (too fruity for my taste), went well with this dish.

The mains also came with sides including juicy grilled baby carrots, tarragon curd, grilled broccolini and gratin potatoes (left) which was really nice.

Last but by no means least, the dessert came in the form of a Golden Gay Time comprising dark chocolate, Dolce De Leche ice cream, honeycomb and nuts, which offered an explosive burst of sweet flavors that was simply heavenly. Everyone agreed that it was a great sweet way to end the evening.

So if you enjoy great food or have always wanted to check out food produce from Tasmania (especially fresh sustainably sourced meats, seafood and other stuff), do check out SKIRT’s Tasmania’s Finest seasonal menu takeover. The special grazing menu, priced at SGD85+++ per person, will be on till 21 April 2019.

SKIRT is at W Singapore, Sentosa Cove 21 Ocean Way, Singapore 98374. Tel: +6568087278. Opening hours: Sat 12pm-3pm; Sun-Thu 6pm-11.30pm (last food order at 9.30pm); Fri, Sat, Eve of Public Holidays & Public Holidays: 6pm-12am (last food order at 10.30pm).

Yangon: Art in Myanmar

Artist: Aung Kyaw Hein. Photo by Marguerita Tan

When in Yangon: Do check out the local art galleries, either in government-managed museums or privately-owned chains, as there are much beautiful works to be admired by Myanmar artists.

Last November, my travel party and I had plan to do some serious shopping at the popular Bogyoke Aung Sang Market in the city centre during the limited time we had in the Myanmar capital. For the art lovers among us, however, the moment we stepped into Taw Win Art Gallery, it was the only place we wanted to spend time in!

Artist: Ngwe Phyoe, who uses a drip paint technique.
Photo by Marguerita Tan

The two-storey shop showcased some of the most striking paintings I’ve ever seen, majority of which are oil or acrylic on canvas, and primarily by Myanmar artists.

Artist: Moe Myint Zaw. Photo by Marguerita Tan

And for such eye-catching and eye-pleasing original pieces–most have the artist’s signature at the bottom of the paintings–the prices are incredibly affordable: small-sized paintings start from USD60 to large poster-sized pieces which could cost as much as USD4,000 such as the one pictured above by Moe Myint Zaw, renowned for his series of scarf-clad women from the Pa Oh tribe in Shan province.

Artist: Hyat Myint. Photo by Marguerita Tan

It was fascinating, though not surprising, to see that my friends and I are attracted to different looks and styles. A warm-colored painting by Hyat Myint–whose paintings often feature tiny human figures inbetween housing structures on stilts–had me at hello. But knowing that I have limited wall space at home, I somewhat reluctantly settled on a smaller version (pictured above) which has the more or less the same concept but with a stronger mix of cool and warm tones. After bargaining–‘cos we are Singaporeans–I got it for USD90 and it is now sparking much joy off my living room wall.

Artist: Lu Yaung Saung. Photo by Marguerita Tan

Mindful of not making drastic buys, we actually went off to see the rest of the market first before deciding on making a purchase but every art gallery we saw seem to be part of the same Taw Win chain! It was at a store on the ground level where my friend was keen on this absorbing Renoir-like street scene by Lu Yaung Saung pictured above.

After much deliberation, we went back to the first outlet (which is on the second floor) to make my purchase and the manager kindly brought this painting up for my pal to compare with other variations of the same theme by the artist. And good thing too ‘cos one version that we saw “upstairs” turned out to be more endearing in retrospect and my friend ended up buying that!

Photo by Marguerita Tan.

So, buying my first artpiece was definitely the most memorable moment for me whilst in Yangon, Myanmar for the first time. If you love art, especially Asian art, do eke out some time for visits to art museums and private art galleries in Yangon if you planning a trip to the Land of the Golden Pagodas.

All photos by Marguerita Tan. No text or images from this post are to be used without the blog author’s permission.

Myanmar: Sunset in Lashio

Photo by Marguerita Tan

When in Myanmar: If you are visiting in the later months of November and December, the sunsets are earlier, starting from around 5.15pm. After arriving in Yangon at about noon, we took a 2-hr domestic flight up north to the town of Lashio in Shan province. We then travelled further north by coach where the region lies on the outskirts of a mountainous range. Half an hour in, at the farm beside an acquaintance’s roadside shop and eatery, we observed our first Myanmar sunset which had beautiful golden orange hues that lit up a cloudy blue sky as the sun set behind the tallest mountain peak. We could have stand there for another hour in the midst of planted crops admiring the view but when it gets dark, it gets really dark, so we quickly carried on with our journey, hoping to see more of God’s handiwork in the Land of the Golden Pagodas…

Myanmar: Weekly Market in Nujiang Village

When in Myanmar: A visit to a small town or village miles away from the capital Yangon will give you another look at how Myanmar people go about their daily lives. At Nujiang village, a two-hour drive from northern town Lashio in Shan State—itself a two-hour flight north of Yangon—my pals and I had a chance to check out a colorful weekly market that attracts vendors selling all kinds of wares, especially raw and cooked food items, from within the region.

The market will usually set up shop at an area central to the village and it was a Thursday when we were there. There were vegetable sellers galore – some had proper stalls, some just laid it on a sheet on the ground, and some even sold stuff off their motorbikes. Some, as you can see from the picture above, sell a variety of meats (mostly chicken parts) and vegetables.

Food carts were aplenty and these mostly sell deep fried snacks on sticks which are understandably very popular with kids and anyone who is feeling peckish.

Besides food carts, there were also makeshift stalls selling primarily soup noodles which is a very popular form of food here. Broth can either be plain or spicy. If you do not have a strong stomach, do be careful as some Myanmar noodles can be really spicy without even adding chili to it.

This lady was selling steamed buns not unlike the Chinese steamed bun albeit the Myanmar version is flatter. Some are plain, while others contain tao sar (red bean) paste or chicken meat.

Besides food items, other vendors sell clothes and household necessities, ranging from brooms to watering cans. They even have toiletries so if you are short of these during your travels, the market is a good place to find some.

The Myanmar people love to put much salt in their food which we are aware of. What we weren’t aware of that they are still using Ajinomoto (Mother of all MSG!) in abundance (the white packets with red logo at bottom right). Seriously thought they would be phased out worldwide by now!

There is really a variety of food stuff in the market that you don’t commonly see elsewhere. Even so, it took a local to point out to us that this lady was also selling a local delicacy, next to unusual looking fruits. See that cake-like thing next to her chopper? That’s actually a kind of toffee candy that is made of peanuts stuck together with a malted syrup that has a coffee-like flavor. The nuts were nice but the malted candy took a bit to get used to.

Items that my friends bought home include spicy ginger and green pumpkins which Myanmar is well known for. I wasn’t one for buying vegetables home during a trip but later on, a friend of a friend gave us each a huge orange pumpkin to bring home so I still ended up with a Myanmar homegrown produce. And yes, it was really good!

All photos by Marguerita Tan. No text or images from this post are to be used without the blog author’s permission.