Kate Durack


The Hilton Kuala Lumpur was an exclusive experience, especially leading up to the Christmas season with beautiful decorations adorning the hotel.

There was an impressive Christmas set-up in the lobby, featuring a large Christmas tree, a Santa sleigh, and a gingerbread house.

My two children and I met with delightful staff who escorted us to our suite where we discovered desserts, fresh fruits, and a box each filled with treats for my children, with their names created on chocolate plaques.

A generous welcome at Hilton KL with treats, fruits & gifts

The staff presented us with delicious Hilton Kuala Lumpur signature cocktail and mocktails, as well as a personalised Welcome greeting on the king-size bed, made of palm fronds, fresh flowers, and animal towel creations.

We stayed in a Grand Executive Suite which was ideal for a family! It was large (89 sqm) and spacious with a separate living/dining room, an interconnecting king-sized bedroom, a private dressing room, a study nook, and a luxurious marble-finished bathroom that included a separate bathtub and shower, where we were pleased to discover luxurious Crabtree & Evelyn bath amenities.

The suite also offered remarkable floor-to-ceiling views over the urban metropolis.

We arrived back to our room to find the bath had been run with rose petals and a bath bomb – a perfect gesture to help us relax before heading out to a spectacular dining experience at the Banquet of Hoshena at Hilton Graze restaurant, where we had the entire restaurant to ourselves.

The evening at Graze restaurant was a mystical experience in a virtual reality fairyland where gastronomy was elegantly paired with the storyline. It is the first of its kind dining experience in the Asia-Pacific. My kids and I have never experienced anything so enchanting – we were transported to a magical fairyland!

It was a fairytale brought to life where kings, queens, fairies, and volcanoes came alive with images, lighting, sound, and music creating a 3D virtual magical experience. Projectors from above displayed faces and nature to our table, plates, and props, creating a surreal encounter.

The tale was inspired by the story of Hoshena, a brave and bold woman who led her people on a captivating journey, symbolising the emotions and flavours of the dishes served through a fascinating narrative. It was so exciting, wondering what was coming next over the intriguing storyline and sumptuous eight course meal.

We enjoyed a menu of cured watermelon with spiced feta cheese; ox cheek arborio arancini, gruyere and pickled cucumber; Tiger prawn citrus sphere; cauliflower & leek soup; Australian Black Angus medallion with carrots and mash potato; pan-seared Cod with highland heirloom vegetables and calamansi broth; and Espresso, mascarpone and Savioradi to finish off a fine evening.

As a Hilton KL Executive Suite Guest, we were granted access to the Executive Lounge which provided amazing views of the city and complimentary afternoon tea with tea, coffee, and soft drinks. We ventured back there for the cocktail session where delicious complimentary canapes, soft drinks, wine, and cocktails were offered by helpful waitstaff.

Complimentary afternoon tea, canapes & cocktails in the Executive Lounge

The Hilton KL’s swimming pool was under refurbishment (but is newly opened again now) but we were able to swim in their sister hotel’s pool, Le Meridian, which was open air and overlooked the bustling KL city life and had a pool-side bar. It was accessible from the Hilton hotel via an interesting rock and water feature-lined path. The pool was large, windy and interesting, with waterfalls we could swim under and a water slide, contributing to the tropical zest.

The hotel has first-class facilities including nine restaurants, a full-service spa with a sauna and a steam room, a gym, conference rooms, and wedding venues.

The staff at Hilton KL were fantastic. They arranged a wake-up call and delicious breakfast prepared for our early departure comprising a Western breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausages, tomatoes, freshly squeezed orange juice, pastries and hot coffee. We enjoyed these on the plane ride home, easily favoured over the airline food.

Beautiful Hilton KL staff

I had a problem with the Grab app hailing service as I was frantically trying to book a service for our dawn flight back home to Australia, and a kind staff member came to the rescue, using his personal account to book the ride for me (for which I will be forever grateful); such was the personalised service at the Hilton Kuala Lumpur.

Hilton KL is exceptionally located in the heart of the business district and within walking distance to the monorail and shopping regions.

Mid Valley Megamall, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, Central Market, Petronas Twin Tower, KL Tower, KL Bird Park, and Chinatown are about a 10-minute drive.

The Hilton Kuala Lumpur offered impeccable service, class and facilities and I recommend them for any family visiting Malaysia.

I recently had the privilege of experiencing the St Regis KL’s newly-introduced Christmas Staycation with my 15yo daughter and 12yo son. I highly recommend this for families. It was so exciting for both me and my kids and is suitable for all ages of children.

This Christmas Staycation in Malaysia was whimsical and packed with fun and engaging Christmas activities including painting Christmas decorations and nutcrackers; writing a letter to Santa, wax sealing it and posting it in a special letter box; decorating a Christmas tree in our suite; icing decorating gingerbread men and Christmas story time.

These activities were all conducted with my children with our own butler, Alice, who is a gorgeous young woman who relates to kids very well.

A favourite activity was decorating gingerbread houses with a large assortment of lollies in a personal session with a highly-acclaimed pastry chef.

This talented chef also created a high tea for us, where we were each treated to a stand of carefully-curated petite sweet and savoury Christmas-themed delicacies including edible baubles, gift boxes, snowmen and Santas, as well as crab sandwiches, smoked salmon, and caviar.

Christmas afternoon tea

We had so many special treats delivered to our room, including delicious cups made of cookies to which we added milk.

So many Christmas treats!

We were treated to a mouth-water in-suite Christmas feast of Winter Truffle, Oscietra Caviar, Loch Duart Smoked Salmon, and Surf & Turf, which featured Boston Lobster, Black Angus tenderloin – the thickest, juiciest steak – potato terrine, violet artichoke and truffle jus. My 12yo son selected fish and chips from the children’s menu.

Christmas dinner delivered to our suite

The assortment of festive petite desserts included Madagascan vanilla ice cream and cheesecakes, chocolate brownies, red velvet cakes, and chocolates that looked too good to eat.

Arriving at our amazing St Regis Suite we were excited to find a Christmas tree made entirely of chocolate, as well as fresh fruit and a special St Regis gift box filled with activities to keep the kids entertained including a kaleidoscope, pencils, colouring-in activities, bath products, toys, and postcards.

Christmas delivery from Santa hanging outside our suite

My son was excited to discover a delivery from Santa hanging from a hook outside our suite – a Christmas stocking filled with lollies and quality St Regis teddy bears.

The entire hotel embraced the Christmas spirit with gorgeous decorations throughout, including a Santa-elf-type store with beautiful gift boxes.

Christmas gift display

St Regis Kuala Lumpur is suited to both the professional and family demographics with a brand-new Kids Club developed near the large rooftop swimming pool.

St Regis new Kids Club

This pool was a magical sight in the evenings with fairy lights and sweeping views of the KL city landscape. There was also a massive TV screen in the pool televising live sporting events to entertain the men.

The Crystal restaurant opened up onto the pool area, aptly named for its stunning chandeliers and lighting. We enjoyed a three-course dinner here specially prepared by the exclusive chef, the food was sensational.

Crystal Restaurant

We enjoyed an extensive, delicious breakfast buffet at the Michelin-selected The Brasserie restaurant. This included fruits, cheeses, cured meats, handmade pastries and cakes, eggs cooked on demand, Asian curries, dumplings, roast meats and the most delectable duck I’ve ever tasted. A la carte was also available which served steak, grilled Turkish sausages, pancakes with berry compote and Nutella and eggs benedict.

The Michelin-selected The Brasserie

There was a juice bar with staff creating personal juice combinations on demand.

The service was top-notch. Staff unpacked our suitcases in the massive dressing room (this was the most spacious I’ve ever seen) and offered to pack our belongings before departure. There was also a complimentary ironing service.

St Regis Suite

Our St Regis Suite was gigantic and opulent, with classy attention to detail. Christmas-themed balloons were arranged on the king-size bed.

It had a large entry, a powder room and toilet, a large study, dining, and living area with full-length windows that presented majestic views over the city.

There was a separate massage room set up for guests to indulge in private.

The bathroom was stunning – glamorous décor and lighting with a large bathtub that overlooked the city.

The toilet was interesting – a heated seat and digital settings for personal choice in ways to cleanse the backside!

There was 24-hour butler service too.

St Regis is an iconic hotel brand, first developed in New York by stock market mogul John Jacob Astor IV. The historic influence of 1920s New York was infused through the classy décor throughout the premises with black and white images, chandeliers, and old-style glamour throughout.

St Regis has a large art collection by renowned artists

A penchant for art pervaded the hotel with a large collection of celebrated artists including Andy Warhol, Fernando Botero, and Terry O’Neill.

The hotel included the Astor Bar, an old-school whisky and cigar lounge, which evoked images of 1920s glamour. There was a private circular room in which scenes from the recent popular movie Crazy Rich Asians were filmed.

I had an amazing massage at the Iridium Spa with a very experienced masseuse who incorporated traditional Malay and Chinese acupuncture. She also offered me helpful health advice based on what she could detect was stored in my body.

St Regis is ideally located in the heart of the business district of KL. Access to the monorail was a short walk.

The service provided by this hotel was standout; we were offered local advice for places to visit and shop, and transfers were complimentary.

The Westin Langkawi Resort and Spa was a favourite destination of mine, this place is amazing!

From our gorgeous One-Bedroom Villa to the expansive tropical grounds set on the soft powdery sands overlooking the Ardaman Sea, the exquisite fresh seafood and the extensive range of recreational activities, this resort has so much on offer, including great-value Family Packages.

After a simple and personalised check-in and a refreshing greeting fruit drink via a VIP separate lounge and buggy ride to our exclusive villa accommodation, I met the lovely Cluster Director of Marketing Communications, Pugeneswary, who treated me to the Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa’s signature cocktail Pandan Pine, comprising Pandan Gin, Triple Sec, coconut liqueur, pineapple juice, coconut water and pandan syrup.

Pandan is a local Malay herb used in many foods, beverages and massage oils, for its health benefits including relaxation and easing inflammation.

The Westin Langkawi Resort and Spa is very family friendly but also has an ethos of Wellness which underpins its intention for each guest to leave feeling better than when they arrived. The Westin has six pillars of well-being – Sleep Well, Eat Well, Move Well, Feel Well, Work Well, and Play Well.

Testimony to this was a special spa experience in their Heavenly Spa where I received a refreshing therapeutic beverage and was asked to select a stone with which the therapist would infuse these qualities during the massage. I chose Love – Hope and Gratitude were also on offer – I joked I’d like to be greedy and have all three!

The therapist included a traditional Malay ritual before washing and scrubbing my feet with lime and natural salts, giving me a 10-minute head massage and then a full body massage which was a powerful blend of traditional Indian and Malaysian techniques, and Chinese acupressure. It was heaven. I felt light and floaty afterwards, more relaxed than I could previously recall.

Batik painting in the Kids Club

While I was being indulged and pampered, my kids created Batik paintings in the Kids Club. The Club provides fun and interesting daily activities including sand art, mug painting, nail decorating, Master Chef and T-shirt painting.

The hotel supports local industry by sourcing nearby foods and ingredients, employing Langkawi artisans and recycling its linen, some of which is used in Batik and T-Shirt painting activities.

There were so many complimentary facilities and activities available including four swimming pools, a huge, modern gym and a jacuzzi and sauna separate for men and women.

We played table tennis, squash, basketball, pool and rode bikes; there was also netball and cricket available, all-inclusive for guests. Kayaking, SUP and the use of a catamaran were available for hire.

The grounds were lush, leafy and expansive. Two species of monkeys roamed the premises which were cute to observe.

We had a delicious seafood platter with fresh-from-the-ocean fish, lobster, prawns, octopus and soft-shelled crab at the Tide restaurant, from which we soaked in the fresh sea breeze and views.

This meal also included an assortment of dips and breads, salad and fries.

The buffet breakfast at Seasonal Tastes was immense – an extensive range of fresh fruits, a bar offering juices freshly made to order; a Western kitchen preparing food hot for the plate; oriental sections including spicy Malay fish, chicken and beef curries; Japanese sushi; pancakes and waffles; yoghurts; salads; cured meats; a cheese board; and even an ice-cream selection including purple popcorn-flavoured ice-cream which my kids thought was magical!

A favourite part of the Westin Langkawi experience was our gorgeous villa. It was up with the top places I’ve stayed worldwide. It was enormous and glamorous, offering stunning beach views. Style and class were infused throughout, from the fluffy towels to the chandelier in the living area and the decadent Welcome arrangement of fresh fruits, desserts and lollies in the dining area.

There was a full self-serviced kitchen including a stove, microwave, coffee machine and standard-size fridge with freezer.

A separate dressing room led from the main king-size bedroom, which flowed into the largest bathroom I’ve ever stayed in a resort. It featured a large bathtub, a huge shower with multiple showerhead options, a separate toilet and double sinks.

There was also a separate shower, toilet and powder room so we didn’t have to fight over who could use the shower first!

But the best part was the outdoor area. It was stunning with a sizeable private sparkling sapphire swimming pool, sun beds, a table and chairs and a cabana with a large daybed; all from which we could overlook the tranquil sea, and step out onto the white sands of the palm-lined beach easily through our private gate.

We had a BBQ outdoors in our villa on the first night which was magnificent – the flavours, freshness and quality were first-class. A chef and waiter transformed the space to decorate the outdoor table with matching serviettes, cutlery and candles, and cooked for us freshly caught lobster and king prawns, juicy steak and succulent lamb. They also barbecued vegetable skewers and provided three salads and an assortment of breads and dips.

The dessert comprised fresh fruit, apple strudel, chocolate brownies and vanilla sauce.

There was a wedding on the beach that evening – a perfect wedding and honeymoon destination.

As a Villa guest privilege, we were invited to the hotel’s premium lounge at the Langkawi Airport which was very comfortable and included TV screens, a private bathroom and tea, coffee, soft drinks, sandwiches and biscuits.

The resort also offers transfer services with a private driver to and from the hotel.

We were fortunate to stay at the Rebak Island Resort & Marina, a peaceful sanctuary set in the native rainforest off Langkawi Island.  

The resort provides complimentary speedboat rides to and from Cenang Jetty, Langkawi, 12 times daily from 6am to midnight. It is a comfortable and short 7-minute ride.

Rebak Island is an extremely serene, quiet environment surrounded by tropical jungle and walking trails from which to explore the native flora and fauna.

There is a swim-up pool bar and the Beach Bar which is an entertaining evening hub where guests gather at sunset to enjoy a cocktail or pre-dinner snacks. A talented musician sang old classics which added to the fun, holiday vibe.   

Guests are provided with a complimentary buffet breakfast at the Senari Sea View Restaurant, which includes an assortment of dishes ranging from exotic Malay to Western-cooked breakfast. This restaurant offers all-day dining including an interesting variety of local and international cuisine.

We stayed in a Studio Sea View Suite which was a spacious 76sqm and included a king-size bed, roller bed, Nespresso machine, and large balcony overlooking the pool and sea, while offering views of Langkawi Island. There were also pool views.

We were delighted to be welcomed to our room with a bottle of red wine, snacks and fresh fruit.

Rebak Island Resort & Marina offers plenty of activities including complimentary tennis, volleyball, bike riding, billiards, chess and fuse ball. Water activities are on offer including kayaking and SUP, and cruise and boat tours can be arranged through the hotel’s tour desk.

There are also free scheduled activities including yoga, nature walks and movies under the stars.

There is 24-hour complimentary access to the gym, a reading room and a kids playroom.

The island also has a marina which is a favourite dock for yachties, who also have access to the resort’s facilities.

We enjoyed a relaxing stay at Pelangi Beach Resort & Spa in Cenang, Langkawi. The resort is exceptionally tranquil and relaxing, encompassing traditional Malaysian island style and culture.

This was a gorgeous beachfront resort comprising chalets in traditional Malay architecture style merged with modern commodities including a flat-screen TV, Wi-Fi, a clean modern bathroom with a separate shower and bath, robes, and slippers.

There are 51 individual wooden chalets comprising 355 rooms, which have their own verandahs facing the beach.

We stayed in an Island View Family room which offered stunning sunset views including a King Bed, King king-sized single and an extra roller bed was available on request. The beds were extremely comfortable with nice linen and a patio overlooking the calm beachside and local Langkawi islands.

The lobby was grand and authentically Malay décor and included the Pelangi Lounge which served light meals and a Happy Hour with discounted drinks between 8 pm and 11 pm.

Water features and leafy tropical foliage created a gorgeous island feel and promoted relaxation. The resort encompasses the native environment and is home to much local birdlife, fruits, and plants.

There were two exquisite restaurants – the Spice Market restaurant which served traditional Malaysian cuisine and Pelangi Grill set beachfront which offered Western fare and is set beachfront.

Pelangi Grill
Pelangi Grill

Guests were offered free buffet breakfast at both restaurants, and the food was exceptional.

Pelangi Grill offered fruits, juices, pancakes, waffles, hot-cooked breakfast, cheese, salad and Mimosas while a large range of traditional Malay food was offered at the Spice Market.

The spa was idyllic with open-air space and traditional Malay architecture.

The swimming pool area was exceptional! It was a stunning setting overlooking the beach with interesting rock and waterfall features, and a children’s water playground with several slides.

Pelangi Beach Resort & Spa caters well to families with a petting farmyard and a brand-new Kids’ Club.

There is also a modern, new gym which overlooks the sea and islands.

The hotel is very well located in Pantai Cenang and is a 10-minute walk to the nearby shopping and restaurant region.

The Shangri-La Rasa Sayang in Penang lived up to the glamour of the hotel brand with luxury, open tropical gardens over 12 hectares, its grounds extending onto the soft white sands of Batu Feringgi Beach.

Attention to detail can be observed throughout the resort, in the exclusive Rasa Wing as well as the Garden Wing with classic Minangkabau style and elegance throughout. The pleasant staff were always available to address our every need.

The Shangri-La Sayang was the original Malaysian Shangri-La property, created in 1973 and was refurbished in 2005 to become an iconic Penang resort.

Shangri-La Sayang, Penang's tropical gardens which roll onto the beach
Shangri-La Sayang, Penang’s tropical gardens which roll onto the beach.

It had a great location, set on the edge of Feringgi township, a hub for tourists with a large offering of restaurants and shopping.

The resort included two parts of the hotel – the general Garden Wing and the Rasa Wing.

We had the honour of staying in the exclusive Rasa Wing which was a luxurious experience, offering exclusive privileges including access to the Club Lounge where afternoon tea comprising delectable savoury and sweet dishes was complimentary, as well as a complimentary cocktail session with a brilliant pianist, a plentiful range of hot and cold canapes, and various drinks available to order gratis, including cocktails, wines and non-alcoholic beverages.

Rasa Wing complimentary daily canapes and cocktails evenings.

The Rasa Wing included VIP privileges including a separate lobby and check-in area, a private swimming pool and Club Lounge access. Upon entry, we were warmly greeted by the General Manager, who kindly welcomed us to one of the three distinguished restaurants, where we were equipped with a menu housing a variety of delicious Western and Asian dishes.

In addition to access to an inclusive breakfast buffet at the main hotel’s Pinang Restaurant & Bar, Rasa Wing guests had the option of buffet and a la carte breakfast at the Ferringhi Grill, which was also a popular evening restaurant for non-resident guests.

Complimentary High Tea in the Rasa Wing Club Lounge.

The complex included two pools – an adults-only pool exclusively available to Rasa Wing guests and a huge winding lagoon pool in the Garden Wing, the main part of the hotel, which was set in leafy gardens with majestic ancient trees lining the perimeter.

Shangri-La Sayang Garden Wing lagoon pool
Garden Wing lagoon pool

In the stunning Shangri-La gardens, a massive 150-year-old tree stands, and vines from its giant branches, creating a magical fairyland when alit in the evenings with dangling lights.

We had the honour of staying in Rasa Junior Suite King, in which a gift box awaited us with an assortment of exotic, local, dried fruits.

The room took on a luxurious resort feel, with a constant theme of dark wood branching through the magnificent room. The spacious accommodation included a king-size bed, a large dressing area, a lounge setting where a roller bed was set up to allow for the three of us, and an incredible balcony with a table and chairs, a daybed and a huge marble bathtub, from which to relax and look over the lush, tropic gardens.

Shangri-La Sayang Rasa Junior Suite King
Shangri-La Sayang Rasa Junior Suite King

The large bathroom was glamorous with ambient lighting, double sinks, a massive shower and a separate toilet.

The linen was luxurious – thick, fluffy robes, soft toweling slippers and high threat-count, silky sheets.

Adjacent to Shangri-La Sayang was its sister hotel, Shangri-La Golden Sands, which accommodates families extraordinarily well with a great children’s swimming playground featuring a water slide and splash areas, a Kids Club, mini golf, and Adventure Zone Entertainment Centre.

Shangri-La's sister hotel Golden Sands children's swimming and splash areas.
Shangri-La’s sister hotel Golden Sands children’s swimming and splash areas.

Residents of the Shangri-La had access to this family wonderland also, with easy access via a natural stroll through the extensive plush Shangri-La grounds.

Shangri-La Sayang also included a comprehensive photo gallery illustrating its history and memorable events and an aromatic Spice Market showcasing the wide variety of flavours which make Penang so renowned for its delicious cuisine.

Majestic 150-year-old trees at Shangri-La Sayang, Penang.
Majestic 150-year-old trees at Shangri-La Sayang, Penang.

The was also a jewelry shop, a nail and hair salon, a substantial, well-serviced gym and the Chi spa where a range of massage, reflexology and beauty services were on offer.

The Double-Tree by Hilton was a fabulous hotel to spend time with my children on Penang Island. It was an hour car ride which cost about $30 using Grab, the Asian hail ride service.

Showcasing spectacular views of the glistening Malacca Strait, the hotel is adjacent to Miami Beach, to which it is connected by a footbridge.

Miami Beach

The luscious rainforest surrounds the premises, holding native wildlife, such as monkeys, birds and towering palm trees.

Entering the premises took us to a calm, open-air, beachside scene with an airy, modern, relaxing vibe in the lobby. Resort vibes took us immediately into vacation mode.

We were greeted with a refreshing drink of local nutmeg fruit and enjoyed far-reaching views of the ocean.

The hotel was large featuring 316 rooms and suites and exceptionally well facilitated, offering children’s parties, a well-serviced gym, a spa, a kids club, a conference area, and a ballroom for events such as weddings.

The Kids Club offers a variety of daily activities such as movie night with free popcorn and cotton candy.

There was a lot to do onsite including a large pool, children’s water play area, and a separate shallow pool. Pool tables, fuse ball, book games and complimentary books were on offer. There was also a fitness centre and spa. And there is TeddyVille – Malaysia’s first teddy bear museum which was very cute and interesting. It detailed a history of teddy bears, showcasing various styles of teddy bears, such as ones used in old photos, tea party teddy bears, and even an Elvis teddy bear!

The hotel also includes a very talented, four-piece modern band on Friday and Saturday evenings which plays modern, popular music in the Axis Lounge, where drinks and food are available to order.

There is also a café on site – The Food Store – which offers light meals, pastries, sandwiches and drinks.

We had wide views of the magnificent ocean, littered with islands, from our One Bedroom Sea View suite, which was ideal for a family as it was very spacious with a lounge living area and a separate room with a king-size bed, dressing area, and a modern bathroom with a separate shower and bath.

The toiletry products were beautiful Crabbe Tree and Evelyn. There were flatscreen TVs in each room and a Nespresso machine with lovely teas.

We were delighted to return to our room mid-afternoon and discover complimentary afternoon tea which consisted of beautifully cultivated cakes and fruit.

There was also a turn-down service. One evening we returned to our room to discover a bath had been run with rose petals and a bath bomb, and interesting animal towel creations appeared daily on our bed.

The staff were great to deal with as they were relaxed, supremely helpful and English speaking.

The hotel offered a natural feeling where little small finches chirped and fluttered through on occasion.

The Makan Kitchen restaurant offered all-day dining with an abundant range of Asian and Western fare.

The breakfast buffet featured a range of Asian foods, offering a delicious experience of Malaysian cuisine, for which Penang is famous.

There were hot food sections for Malay, Chinese, Indian, and Western cuisine. Pastries, fruit, yogurt, and cereals were also on offer.

The hotel is a 20-minute drive to UNESCO World Heritage Site of George Town and a 7-minute hail ride from the tourist centre of Batu Ferringhi, which houses a fantastic array of restaurants, including street food to high-end dining across many international flavours including Malaysian, Japanese, Lebanese, and Arabic. Some restaurants are beachside where we enjoyed the feel of the beach sand on our feet as we had a sunset cocktail and dinner.

Double-Tree by Hilton in Penang is an ideal family destination with top-quality service, style and many facilities available to entertain children, as well as parents!

My children and I spent a couple of fun nights at the trendy MOV Hotel, located downtown, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. The location was fabulous – set amid bars, restaurants, street vendors, and KL’s largest Hawker food markets between Jalan Alor and Changkat, Bukit Bintang’s nightlife hotspot.

It is a designer boutique hotel with clean, funky rooms and minimalistic style with monochrome white décor.

MOV Hotel has a rooftop pool with comfortable, lounging options which overlook the bustling, vibrant metropolis of KL. From the terrace, lights and music can be heard from the array of nearby bars and restaurants.

MOV Hotel rooftop pool and lounge
MOV Hotel rooftop pool and lounge

The rooftop also featured a Sky Lounge for entertaining or relaxing with sweeping views of the KL cityscape.

We stayed in the Entourage Loft room which is great for families, accommodating up to five people. It included a king-sized bed, TV and an open, modern bathroom with double sinks, toiletry products, a separate toilet, and a separate rainfall shower. The upstairs loft featured twin beds where the kids slept.

There was a fun touch to our room with pink and red balloons covering the king-size bed with a love heart towel creation.

MOV Hotel Entourage Loft room

Amenities in the room included robes, slippers, a hair dryer, a flat-screen TV, Wi-Fi, and tea and coffee-making facilities.

We had great views from our room of the city, showcasing the motley combination of older, rustic buildings juxtaposed with upmarket, contemporary buildings all mixed within the same landscape, creating an interesting scene.

The hotel was a 15-minute walk to Times Square, which featured high-end shopping malls including the Pavilion, a massive seven-story shopping centre showcasing top international brands and a huge range of eateries and cosmopolitan cuisine.

It is a three-minute walk from the Bukit Bintang MRT station. The train also connects to the International KL airport. Petronus Twin Towers and Central Market are only 2km away.

We caught the underground metro to Chinatown which was amassed with markets selling counterfeit items including clothes, designer handbags, sunglasses, shoes and watches.

The modern, funky vibe of the hotel and its excellent location for entertainment and shopping make it attractive to a wide demographic of local and international travellers. We met lots of interesting people from around the world of various ages and ethnicities.

The hotel doesn’t have a restaurant but offers a simple breakfast service for a small fee to a contracted hospitality company that offers local Malaysian cuisine and pastries, and complimentary tea and coffee.

The hotel also includes a gym. The hotel staff were friendly and helpful in providing directions of nearby attractions and assisting with transfers and transportation. English speaking was ubiquitous.

I had an exciting, action-packed whirlwind trip through Malaysia with my 15-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son recently where we had five flights and stayed in eight hotels in 14 days.

Malaysia is a wonderful place for Australian families to visit as it’s a doable five-hour flight, very affordable, hospitable and English speaking is ubiquitous.

The food is delectable throughout Malaysia. From the hawker street fare of Kuala Lumpur to the world-recognised traditional Malay cuisine in Penang, and the fresh seafood and Muslim-influenced food on Langkawi Island.

MOV Hotel, KL
Bustling KL from MOV rooftop

I loved the variety of the travel experience, from the exciting hustle and bustle of the KL metropolis, the culture-infused traditions of Penang, and then the relaxing, undeveloped island experience of Langkawi. It felt like visiting three different countries within one!

Return flights with Air Asia from Perth to Kuala Lumpur for the three of us were only $1240. We also had three domestic flights within Malaysia with Air Asia for less than $100 each, however, I was disappointed with the lack of customer service available and for this reason would think twice about flying with this airline again.

There were complications with every flight, and no one was available to address queries either by phone or email and the bot chat service didn’t address any problems. One flight was delayed five hours and we were only compensated with a cheeseburger and most flights I was separated from my children, despite booking tickets early. This was the only downside of our trip, Malaysia itself was fabulous and all of the hotels were exceptional in their service and quality.

MOV Hotel, KL

We arrived in KL at midnight and caught a $40, one-hour, Grab ride (popular Asian hail riding service) to our first destination – the fun, trendy boutique MOV Hotel, situated downtown in the heart of the city. We loved the modern, sleek room and were keen to explore the bustling nightlife we witnessed lit up from our windows and pool terrace. It was an exciting, colourful party vibe with bright lights and pumping music.

We wandered through KL’s largest hawker street food market, absorbing the intoxicating sights and aromas of fruits, seafood and kebabs. The pungent smell of durian – the cherished Asian fruit delicacy was omnipresent – which to our Western senses, smelt like dirty laundry and rotten meat. The collage of colours, smells, lights, and sounds was enthralling, sparking our curiosity and stimulating our senses; why we love traveling to exotic places.

Hawker street food in KL

The streets were busy but organised. Crossing the roads was easy with efficient traffic systems and safe crossings.

We rolled back to our hotel in the early hours of the morning, observing a mix of partying westerners, local hospitality workers, and some street workers, including quite a few ladyboys. The kids experienced the big, wide cosmopolitan world.

MOV Hotel is a fabulous place to stay in KL, to experience the exciting nightspots and shopping during the day. We visited the high-end fashion of the Pavilion shopping mall which featured more than 700 stores, showcasing Cartier, Gucci, Prada, Tiffany, and an exhaustive range of designer brands over nine storeys.

We had lunch at an American-style diner in the Pavilion, where we feasted on nachos and milkshakes for about $30. The choice of eateries was immense, with a massive range of international cuisine on offer.

Chinatown, KL
Chinatown, KL

As much as I enjoyed window shopping through the high-end brands, Chinatown was a more realistic option, it was fun to rummage through rows of markets offering counterfeit designer shoes, handbags, perfume and sunglasses. The kids loved it! My daughter bought a large bottle of J’Adore perfume for $20, my son a pair of Nike Jordans for $40 and I bartered a stylish navy-blue Prada handbag for $30, as well as a couple of Ray Ban sunnies for $20. I could not tell the difference between the original and the imitation products – the quality was impressive!

Chinatown was interesting – old, dilapidated buildings fused with traditional colonial architecture. I didn’t see too much poverty, only encountering one beggar to whom I felt compelled to donate some Malaysian Ringgit.

Downtown KL

We sat on a classy restaurant patio that evening absorbing the bustling KL entertainment over a delicious meal which comprised money bags, a crab salad, duck curry, several wines and fruity mocktails for around $60.

Given our short trip to Malaysia, I booked a 40-minute flight to Penang for around $200 for the three of us, instead of a six-hour train or bus journey.  

We took an hour Grab ride from the airport to Double-Tree by Hilton, situated on the north of the island set in a tropical, resort setting, where we were greeted with a Nutmeg Mocktail, garnished with nutmeg fruit.

Beach at Double-Tree by Hilton, Penang
Beach at Double-Tree by Hilton, Penang

The service and facilities at Double-Tree Hilton, Penang were first-class. The staff was lovely and helpful, and the hotel had so much on offer – a Kids’ Club, spa, fitness centre, Teddy Bear Museum, pool, fuse ball, a large pool with a relaxed resort setting, a kids’ splash pool, a conference centre, a ballroom which facilitated a wedding, and a band played on Friday and Saturday nights.

The hotel was situated across from the beach, offering sweeping views of the tranquil sea dotted with islands.

Double-Tree by Hilton, Penang
Double-Tree by Hilton, Penang

We stayed in a One-Bedroom Sea View Suite that was spacious with a lounge area, separate bedroom, and a separate lavish bathroom. Their toiletry products were Crabtree Evelyn, which was nice since we didn’t take toiletries with us, allowing for space given we only took carry-on luggage, to ease traveling.

We traveled five minutes down the road to the gorgeous Shangri-La Rasa Sayang, Penang which was located in the popular tourist district of Batu Ferringhi. Living up to its classic image of luxury, serenity, and class, this resort was exquisite. 

We were welcomed into the exclusive Rasa Wing which included a Club Lounge that served complimentary all-day tea, coffee and soft drinks, High Tea, and evening cocktails and canapes.

Rasa Wing, Shangri-La Penang
Rasa Wing, Shangri-La Sayang, Penang

The canapes were delectable – mussels, fried fish, chicken pieces, fresh fruit, and mini desserts. It was equivalent to an evening meal with personalised service from our comfortable lounges. The dress code was casual, cocktail – no swimwear, thongs, or singlets allowed. This region housed many discerning international travellers, mostly European.

The Shangri-La Sayang Rasa Wing also granted us access to the main hotel’s extensive breakfast buffet or the Club’s more intimate buffet with an la carte menu, including delicious Eggs Benedict, waffles and fresh fruit juices.

Our accommodation was gorgeous – a spacious Rasa Junior Suite King, which lived up to the lavishness of the brand’s code, with a glamorous bathroom, toiletries, a large bathtub, a separate shower and luxurious robes and linen, and a huge balcony with an enormous bath from which to look over the rainforest grounds and pool.

Malaysia is renowned for the art of reflexology. I had an amazing beach reflexology/massage at Father & Son Reflexology, the oldest beach massage family in Penang. By massaging my feet, the masseuse was able to tell me so many health truths – including I have low blood pressure, wear reading glasses, had a sore right knee from jogging, sore, tight shoulders, strong ovaries, and genetic short-term memory challenges which could be improved by using chopsticks to rewire the brain! I was blown away.

Father & Son Massage & Reflexology, Penang Beach
Father & Son Massage & Reflexology, Penang Beach

Instead of a four hour ferry ride and two-hour journey to the ferry, we flew 40 minutes to Langkawi, from which we took a 30-minute Grab ride to Pelangi Beach Resort & Spa. It is set on the palm-lined white sands of Langkawi island, offering unspoilt sea and island views, including Rebak Island which was our next destination. It is a short walk from the centre of Pantai Cenang, a tourist restaurant and shopping district.

Pelangi Beach Resort & Spa housed waterfront chalets from which to soak in the tranquility of the island. The lobby was stately and expansive, as were the spa and restaurants – characteristic of traditional Malaysian architecture mixed with opulence, where original hotel elements had been reused in the refurbished, renovated complex.

The resort was serene and leafy, with water features throughout, a magnificent winding pool, and sea views omnipresent throughout the hotel.

Our Family Room was comfortable with a king-sized bed, a separate king single, separate bathroom and a private porch that offered majestic sunset views over the water and islands.

Cenang, Langkawi
Cenang, Langkawi

Guests were offered complimentary buffet breakfast at both restaurants – Spice Island offering traditional Malay fare and the Pelangi Grill which served delicious Western cuisine, including mimosas.

Langkawi felt like another country. It is Muslim and the vibe was entirely different from KL or Penang. There is also no tax, making alcohol and chocolates inexpensive.

Telaga Seafood restaurant

We had a delicious seafood meal on the street at Telaga Seafood for $30. My plate was filled with prawns, octopus and fish, all freshly caught from the ocean, and chips and salad. The kids had salmon, salad, fries, and fresh watermelon juice.

We left Pelangi for Rebak Island Resort & Marina, which was a 10-minute speed boat ride. This is a special island resort, so peaceful, immersed in native tropical rainforest.

Our room was large, with fresh fruits and a bottle of wine, and overlooked the ocean and pool.

The pool was a hub and the poolside bar offered evening entertainment with a musician singing old classics.

Activities at Rebak Island Resort & Marina were freely available including kayaking, volleyball, tennis, pool, and bike riding.

Rebak Island Resort & Marina, Langkawi
Rebak Island Resort & Marina, Langkawi

The meals were infused with traditional Malaysian cooking styles and flavours.

We had an amazing experience at the Westin Resort & Spa, Langkawi. We stayed in a luxurious one-bedroom villa which had a large, private pool and front access to the beach through our own gate.

Westin Villa, Langkawi
Westin Villa, Langkawi

We were treated to a private BBQ in our villa the first evening with a personal chef and waiter. This included three salads, an assortment of breads, lobster, steak, lamb, prawns, and three desserts. They set up our outdoor area for the dining experiences with all the cutlery, candles, and environment for five-star dining.

Our accommodation was exceptional! A humungous bathroom, a large bedroom featuring a king-size bed, and a huge living and dining area with a self-contained kitchen. There was also a separate bathroom.

The Westin is fantastic for families with so much on offer – squash, pool, basketball, soccer, netball, bike riding, SUP, kayaking, and a catamaran.

Westin resort, Langkawi
Westin resort, Langkawi

The Kids’ Club offered great daily activities including Batik painting which engaged my children, plus nail painting, Master Chef, T-Shirt painting and sand art.

We flew back to KL to arrive at the luxurious St Regis. Our St Regis Suite was opulent with a large powder room, a huge dining and living space, a large bedroom, the biggest dressing room I’ve seen, a separate bathroom with views from the bathtub overlooking the KL lights, and a technological toilet that was warm to sit on, and included a myriad of buttons and settings to filter the bottom cleansing process!

St Regis Suite, Kuala Lumpur
St Regis Suite, Kuala Lumpur

An exciting part of the St Regis experience was their passion for Christmas. Decorations adorned the hotel and their special Christmas Staycation was amazing!! The kids decorated gingerbread houses with a personal chef, painted Nutcrackers, decorated a Christmas tree in our room, gingerbread men, and Christmas decorations which we brought home with us.

We were treated to a mouth-watering Christmas menu in our room of Surf and Turf with the thickest, juiciest steak, fresh king prawns, a smoked salmon salad, and an assortment of desserts. There was also a children’s menu of spaghetti bolognaise or fish and chips for the less adventurous child.

Christmas Staycation, St Regis, KL
Christmas Staycation, St Regis, KL

In the morning, my son discovered a stocking hanging from outside our door with sweet treats and teddy bears.

We then had a magnificent night at the Hilton KL, where we were greeted by beautiful staff, a Jungle Bird cocktail, the Hilton Kuala Lumpur signature cocktail/mocktail, sweet delicacies, a box for each child with their names in chocolate and specially selected treats, and a personalised welcome greeting on the king-size bed made of palm fronds, flowers, and towel art.

Hilton KL warm welcome
Hilton KL warm welcome

That night we had an amazing, unsurpassed virtual reality experience at dinner with eight courses paired with a fantasy story at the Banquet of Hoshena. It was truly magical!

The staff was terrific, arranging a wake-up call and take-away breakfast of coffee, fresh orange juice, pastries, fruit, and a western-cooked breakfast for us to take on the plane ride home.

Beautiful staff at Hilton, KL
Beautiful staff at Hilton, KL

It was a magnificent holiday in Malaysia – accessible and suited to families, with so much to offer. It is very affordable, and luxurious but also infused with traditional Malaysian culture. I’m surprised more Australian families don’t visit Malaysia, it was a beautiful experience for me and my two children.

Azerai Ke Ga Bay, Vietnam, is an oceanside sanctuary of peace and luxury, with a private beach and expansive ocean views. Salt air and a cool coastal breeze permeate the warm, lush tropical setting of the complex. Set on 4.5 hectares, this white stone resort has clean air, open space, and serenity.

We recently attended the resort’s grand opening, where we enjoyed a weekend of exquisite traditional Vietnamese cuisine, delectable canapes, a barbecue that ensued around 14 courses and live entertainment.

This exclusive resort is a peaceful getaway from the hubbub of popular Vietnamese tourist areas; it is largely undeveloped, not yet a fledging hub of commercialism.

A 2.5 hour drive along a newly-built road from Ho Chi Minh City, this is the third Azerai hotel in Vietnam, developed by renowned hotelier, Adrian Zecha. Sister hotels include Azerai La Residence in Hue and Azerai Can Tho, which is set on a private island on the Hau River and in the Mekong Delta.

Ke Ga Bay is an undeveloped, peaceful region

The hotel design is contemporary, spacious, and open. The original establishment has been redeveloped to create a seamless merging of the natural coastal surrounds with modern living. The Ke Ga Bay region feels untouched, and this resort nestles effortlessly within the unspoiled natural landscape.

It creates an ambiance of purity that feels in resonance with the local coastal natural elements. The building structures and furnishings have been sourced locally from native timber and stone.

The estate is expansive. Tropical leafy grounds line winding walkways, creating a maze through the tropical grounds. The tranquillity and quiet are perceptible.

It is a good walk from the spacious, open lobby, along the serene walkways which weave through verdant gardens, past several swimming pools, and into the capacious restaurant and bar area, which formed a backdrop for the two expansive swimming pools that overlook the ocean. This was framed by a five-kilometre stretch of white sandy beach.

The entrance to the restaurant structure is grand, lined with majestic, white alabaster pillars. It is spacious and open with modern, minimalistic furniture made of natural materials.

All of the 46 residential rooms and pool suites are secluded with private entrances and decks. They are light, bright, and airy; the décor is neutral in tone.

The bathroom was impressive with a large standalone bath, a shower, a separate vanity and dressing area with double sinks, and a separate toilet. The large wardrobe included luxury bath robes and slippers, and the towels were thick and fluffy.

Our private porch included a large white sofa from which to lounge and soak in the tranquillity of the green leafy surrounds.

We enjoyed a cocktail evening by the Ginger Pool, set among tropical gardens. Two frangipani pools provided another comfortable area to spend time basking in the sun, surrounded by leafy foliage.

The Oceanside pool offers uninterrupted views of the ocean, from which to take in the magenta, sapphire, and soft rose skies at dusk, which are reflected upon the infinity pool as the moon begins to rise.

The occasional Vietnamese wooden fishing boat can be spotted, as is Vietnam’s oldest lighthouse, situated on nearby Hon Ba Island, which can be visited by the hotel’s private boat tours.

Sunbeds, afternoon tea, and a la carte dining were offered poolside.

We sampled a variety of the menu which was extensive and delicious, including a barbecue of lobster, lamb, prawns, and steak; fresh, tasty salads; and traditional Vietnamese cuisine.

The breakfast buffet featured delicate pastries, fresh, juicy fruit, cheeses, cured meats, yogurts, and an a la carte menu that included perfect eggs benedict and a classic Western-cooked breakfast.

I experienced a delightful full-body massage at the resort’s Wellness Spa, which was rejuvenating – I came out feeling lighter and refreshed. Dawn yoga was also offered.