family travel


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.

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.

Vietnam is a fantastic place for families to visit! It is exciting, exotic, inexpensive, and offers a rich tapestry of history, culture, food, adventure, and fun.

I recently spent three weeks exploring this vibrant country with my 15-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son. I felt it was largely an undiscovered destination for Australian families. We generally tend to visit Bali and Thailand, yet Vietnam is so accessible, cheap, and very interesting.

I spontaneously bought tickets on a whim one evening – $1500 for three of us including travel insurance to fly with Scoot Airlines via Singapore. What a great decision that was!

I wasn’t familiar with Scoot, Singapore Airlines’ budget carrier, but it was adequate, despite ingratiating reviews. It was, however, delayed several times and we were compensated with a $90 meal voucher at the airport. The flight was comfortable, professional, and drama-free.

We spent five days in Singapore en route to Ho Chi Minh City.

Downtown Ho Chi Minh City

There is so much to explore in Ho Chi Minh! After complications with my initial accommodation booking, we ended up in the backpacking District 1 – this in itself was an adventure, exploring the nightlife of discos and pole dancers, as we sauntered through the zesty, lit streets filled with music and action. The energy was high and colourful.

Shops and street food fare were open until the wee hours as a mix of tourists, backpackers, and locals took to their delights along the streets, dodging the motorcycles.

The biggest challenge I found in Vietnam was the traffic mayhem and the absence of English-speaking people. A translating app was a Godsend; and crossing the streets was a feat!

After a quick Google phone search, I found a local hotel that had a roof-top pool – this was a priority as the humidity was sweltering.

Cityscape from rooftop pool of Prague Hotel, Ho Chi Minh City
Cityscape from rooftop pool of Prague Hotel, Ho Chi Minh City

We stayed at Prague, which was a budget hotel situated in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, within short walking distance to the nightlife, restaurants, and bars. It only cost $60 a night for the three of us and included a nice breakfast of fresh fruit, toast, cereal, and hot Vietnamese dishes. Fresh spring rolls to start the day were delicious! The rooftop pool was small but clean, and comfortably warm, and offered interesting views of the motley Ho Chi Minh cityscape.

Rip-off designer sunnies from Ben Thang markets and acrylic nails from street salon
Rip-off designer sunnies from Ben Thang markets and acrylic nails from a street salon.

I enjoyed having an assortment of cheap massage and nail salons on our doorstep. $18 for a terrific Vietnamese full body massage, compared with the $85 I pay in Perth, was a treat. We walked to the Ben Thanh markets and purchased impressive replica Prada handbags, Converse and Nike shoes, a North Face jacket, designer T-shirts, activewear, and Ray Ban sunnies.

We had a short-hour flight to Nha Trang for around $70 per head, where we soaked up the quintessential tropical palm-lined, enduring soft sand beaches.

The waves were abundant, and the water was warm. Nha Trang is an interesting centre – many Russian tourists and menus are written in Vietnamese, Russian and French. English speaking was sparse.

Nha Trang beach
Nha Trang beach

We stayed at Novotel, which was ideally situated beachfront in the town centre, so within walking distance to the markets where we bought $9 bikinis and $18 pearl necklaces. The food was exotic and experimental as we deciphered the local menus through a translation app. It was so cheap. Our first night, I had two large cocktails, the kids each had a mocktail and we shared three large main dishes for $20. The service was great despite communication challenges.

Peppered with bars and eateries on the sand, the beachfront in Nha Trang is terrific with bay views of the islands.

It is a resort town popular with the Vietnamese for holidays and international travelers. We were there in May during the Independence Day celebrations so accommodation was scant and travel services such as trains and buses were booked out. (It is advisable to reserve travel plans well ahead if travelling at this time, a rookie mistake I made.) We were unable to get a train or bus on our preferred dates and last-minute accommodation options were limited. We stayed at The Ibis, which was clean, modern and adequate, although not luxury.

Island views from Nha Trang beach

As such, instead of road or rail transport, we flew to the popular beachside resort city of Danang, Vietnam’s third largest city, where we stayed at a basic hotel, A25, for only $40. It was clean, included robes and tea and coffee facilities, an ensuite and breakfast.

I lost my credit card at an ATM in Danang and amazingly someone found it and tracked me down through the company details on my card. This was a great testament to the honesty and kindness I experienced throughout Vietnam.

I hired a private driver to take us from Danang to our next destination, Hoi An, which was an hour away and cost $20.

Hoi An night artisans

Hoi An is a magical city, rich in culture, the arts, and history. It is renowned for tailor-made clothing services. I could have a dress made to measure within 24 hours for under $20! The old town centre lights up at night with a buzzing nightlife, markets and artisans selling their wares. Iconic French-Vietnamese restaurants and music-filled bars are plentiful.

We stayed at Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort and Spa which was a perfect blend of traditional Vietnamese architecture, style, and sophisticated elegance. Nestled between the beach and lagoon, with water winding through the hotel grounds, and a sparkling swimming pool, there was a peaceful naturalistic ambiance that created a feeling of harmony and peace.

Poolside Victoria Hoi An Resort & Spa

We then had a fun train ride of 3.5 hours to Hue. I booked a second-class sleeper berth which was comfortable with six beds, which we shared with several local women.

The views were magnificent – high cliffs over the ocean, dense valleys and hilltops, and small villages amidst emerald fields and jungles, were the scenic entertainment.

Scenic views from the train

Food trolleys rolled outside our cabin and there was a small food service area that offered basic refreshments. I wasn’t game to try the local warm Vietnamese street food on offer but we enjoyed packets of nuts and popcorn.

2nd class 6 berth train carriage

Hue is unique – the Imperial city – abundant in culture and history. We visited the Citadel and took a tour of the old palace which had been home to 13 Emperors and maintained an aura of majesty and regal tradition. The tour was fascinating, learning about the old ways of Vietnamese royalty where one such Emperor had 400 wives and 142 children. I found the history of eunuchs disturbing, learning that adolescent boys born of servants were selected, and had their testicles removed without anesthetic medicine. Many other truths were shared including how the ancient civilization was destroyed by French colonialization, and again by US bombings during the Vietnam War.

Street food in Hue

Aside from the Imperial history, Hue is a rich hub of the Arts. The riverside markets display the artisanship embedded in this city – painting, jewellery, music, and fantastical food creations stream the walkway.

Azerai La Residence

We stayed at the majestic Azerai La Residence, which was the French Governor’s residence and then an embassy, and has since become a luxury resort offering 122 elegant rooms and suites. It offers views over the Perfume River and Citadel and is in close proximity to the downtown shopping and entertainment region.

Azerai Ke Ga Bay
Azerai Ke Ga Bay

We flew back to Ho Chi Minh City and drove out to Ke Ga Bay to the newly opened Azerai resort hotel. It is an oceanside sanctuary of peace and luxury, with a private beach and expansive ocean views. Set on 4.5 hectares of unspoiled landscape, this white stone resort has clean air, open space, and serenity. It has three swimming pools including an infinity pool overlooking the ocean.

After a few relaxing days at the peaceful coastal resort, we headed back to Ho Chi Minh City where we stayed in a modern two-bedroom suite at the Residences, Intercontinental Saigon. This is an exclusive luxury hotel with stylish décor, furnishings and modern facilities. The Residences are ideal for families due to their spaciousness and privacy.

Residences Intercontinental Saigon

We visited the War Museum which was a highly educational but very confronting account of the Vietnam War. It challenged my thinking on the allied forces’ (USA, Australia etc) involvement in the war. The atrocities were illustrated graphically – soldiers’ brutality, Napalm bombings, and Agent Orange – sights that sear the mind. My son didn’t fare well, he chose to sit outside through most parts, my daughter was silent but intrigued and I sobbed through the whole experience.

War Museum, Ho Chi Minh City

I met a local Vietnamese-Australian man, Linh Le, who is the owner of Luxperia, a bespoke travel company that specialises in tailoring travel packages to suit the individual. He was very helpful with our travel arrangements, including a fantastic tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels and a magnificent stay at Mia Saigon.

Cu Chi Tunnels

We took a speedboat tour down the Mekong River to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, which illustrated how Viet Kong conducted warfare from beneath the earth’s surface during the Vietnam War. It was incredible, eye-opening, and worthwhile.

Mia Saigon

We spent two delightful nights in the Presidential Suite at the superb Mia Saigon, a refined boutique hotel situated on the Saigon River. This was a luxurious treat to complete our wonderful trip through Vietnam.









My children and I recently had the pleasure of staying at the luxurious Residences at the Intercontinental Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. We were met with a personalised greeting amid fresh fruit, sweets, and delicacies upon entering the magnificent, opulent suite. This IHG resort is modern and sleek – a favourite for discerning travellers as it is regarded as one of the city’s finest hotels.

Treats prepared in our apartment at Residences Intercontinental Saigon

The Intercontinental Saigon has two aspects – the regular hotel and the Residences, which are popular for medium to long-term residents as well as short-term stays. The Residences are ideal for families due to their spaciousness and self-contained facilities.

The Residences include luxury privileges such as private access, 24-room service, a laundry service, a private pool and fitness centre, and very spacious, self-serviced rooms.

We stayed in a two-bedroom suite, which was a massive 129-square-metre luxury apartment. It had a spacious living area, a fully self-contained kitchen and a separate laundry cavity, two bathrooms, and two massive bedrooms with large twin beds and the king suite included a lavish ensuite bathroom with a standalone bath, separate shower, and separate toilet.

The main bathroom was down the hall. Storage was plentiful. The décor was modern and sleek with up-to-the-minute mod cons, including a large TV and excellent sound system. The apartment felt very private and offered towering views over the bustling Ho Chi Minh City. Some rooms offered river or cathedral views.

Set in the bustling business centre or District 1, the location was ideal. We had a 7-minute taxi ride to the War Museum, which is a confronting but highly informative depiction of the Vietnam War. The Cathedral and Reunification Palace are also within close proximity.

Basilico Italian Restaurant

The hotel houses three restaurants. Basilico is an Italian restaurant that serves an extensive menu of authentic, Italian food (the fettuccine con fungi e pancetta was delectable). Yu Chu is the hotel’s signature Chinese restaurant which serves Cantonese and Peking cuisine and buffet dim sum. Market 39 is the hotel’s buffet restaurant. The breakfast buffet could satisfy any palate with pancakes, waffles and omelettes created on demand, fresh fruit and a multitude of fresh juices, and a delicious variety of Asian and Western hot dishes.

The Intercontinental Saigon Hotel can meet travellers’ needs and budgets through a variety of accommodation options including the Classic range, Club Intercontinental rooms, and the Suites Collection. While the suites are extremely luxurious, all of the room types are immaculate, spacious, modern, tastefully decorated, and very suitable for families.

The Intercontinental Saigon is a favourite choice for all types of travellers due to its style, luxury, elegant style, excellent location and top-notch facilities. It has two pools – one for the general hotel and an exclusive pool for the Residences. There are multiple function rooms, meeting spaces, a library, a media room and a Club Lounge that offers exclusive access to a genteel space with complimentary tea, coffee, juices soft drinks, afternoon tea, and alcoholic beverages and canapes during Cocktail Hour.

Intercontinental Saigon Club Lounge
Intercontinental Saigon Club Lounge

There is also a fitness centre and spa which offers facials, body scrubs and massages.

I had the privilege of visiting Azerai La Residence in Hue, Vietnam with my two children. The hotel is a majestic, colonial resort set on the iconic Perfume River, named by the scent of flowers falling into the water from local orchards.

Azerai is specially located on the French side of the Perfume River opposite the ancient Vietnamese palace which housed the last emperor. A tour of this ancient citadel was informative and worthwhile and easily accessible from the hotel.

The Imperial city of Hue
The Imperial city of Hue

The original art deco mansion was built in the 1930s and was home to the French Governor of Indochina. It was a popular centre for political and social events before being converted into a resort.

Azerai is a stately, charming residence insinuating royalty, and has been accommodated by many dignitaries including the Princess of Sweden and the Japanese emperor and his wife.

Entering the majestic driveway set the tone for early last century opulence.

High ceilings, native timber wooden floors, ambient lighting, colonial furniture and regal décor created an experience of stepping back in time to aristocratic lavishness.

There were many regions to explore – a lounge area providing complimentary all-day tea, coffee, juices, cakes and fresh fruits; a bar area; a gallery featuring paintings of each Vietnamese emperor; and a classy restaurant that served delicious meals, including a buffet breakfast of fresh pastries, fruits, and international and local cuisine.

The hotel grounds are expansive, encompassing 2.5 hectares of natural vegetation surrounding manicured, tropical gardens.

Overlooking the Perfume River, the saltwater swimming pool was magnificent and the deepest in Vietnam, offering red sunsets through the riverside palm trees.

The hotel was expanded in 2005 to include two additional wings housing 122 rooms and suites.

We stayed in a Deluxe River View room which featured a large private balcony overlooking the lush grounds, swimming pool and river.

It was spacious and the tasteful art deco furnishings were in keeping with the exquisiteness of the hotel. The main bedroom area comprised twin beds, a large TV and adequate wardrobe space including luxurious robes and slippers. There was a separate sitting area with a coffee machine, high-quality teas, fresh fruits and a minibar. A single bed was provided for my son in place of the couch.

The hotel felt very serene and private, a peaceful sanctuary away from the active city, yet was in close proximity to the lively nightlife and local tourist attractions.

The former, imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue is a special place to visit, rich with Vietnamese history and French influence. The French colonial architecture throughout the city provided a romantic backdrop to modern, bustling contemporary living.

The restaurants were amazing, offering a fusion of Vietnamese and French cuisine.

The city has a thriving artistic community, with museums, historical tours and artisans showcasing their music and wares at evening markets. There were great opportunities to purchase original paintings, crafts and jewellery. The street food at the markets was sensational! Everything was on offer from frog legs to prawn and chicken kebabs freshly cooked on demand before our eyes, as well as the infamous Vietnamese rolled ice cream.

The hotel staff was amazing and very helpful. They arranged for a locum doctor to visit my room to inspect a wound and remove stitches I encountered while traveling.

I was also accompanied by the hotel accountant to the local bank where she helped translate and arrange funds transfer after I’d lost my credit card.

Azerai La Residence is a unique representation of the richness of the colonial and imperial history of Hue.