Saturday, December 16, 2017

Hawk Rent A Car - My First Car Rental Experience in Malaysia @ Johor Bahru

Now that i no longer own a car, i have been wanting to rent a car and drive around Malaysia as there are so many places to explore and having a car would be so much more convenient! 

I finally rented one online when i visited Kluang a few weekends ago and to be totally honest, i just crawled through a few forums and decided to give Hawk Rent A Car a try. 

We proceeded over to Menara Ansar after breakfast at Hua Mei restaurant and the office was an extremely small outfit in the tower. Registration took a while as they were facing problems with the computer / printer.

Aside from the printout of your online confirmation, do remember to bring along your license. International driving license wasn't required but i did bring along mine (made it when i drove in Hokkaido back in August; just in case. 

Time to inspect the Perodua Bezza 1.3 Auto car! The staff was really nice and pointed out existing damages that had missed my eyes; there were quite a number, including scratches, non-threatening holes on the glass etc. 

To me, it didn't matter to me if the rented car wasn't 'perfect', so long i can still drive it - in my opinion, a less perfect car would be less prone to theft and people who were green eyed.  

Beginning our drive to Kluang! If you are interested to know what we did at Kluang, check out my summarized travelogue here

Forgot to share a full photo of the car we were allocated; VH6791, a brown Perodua Bezza 1.3 Auto. Thankfully, it was a smooth drive throughout the journey and i didn't make the mistakes of pressing the accelerator when i switched to "R", thinking it stands for Ride etc.

After the trip, it's back to Menara Ansar again and this time, i had to park at the underground carpark as the open-air lot, reserved for Hawk Rent A Car was already taken. Left the parking ticket on the dashboard and got one of the staff to come down for another round of check to ensure there was no new damage. p.s. car was extremely dirty though. 

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Location of Office
Lot S17, Podium 1, Menara Ansar, 
65, Jalan Trus, Bandar Johor Bahru, 
80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia

Booking Website

Rental Rate
2 Full Days - RM 281.96 for Perodua Bezza

The amount above already included GST. Do note that that rental is for minimal 24 hours and any extension beyond 5 hours would be a full day; hence, even though i rented the car from 10am on 02 December, we booked two full days as we prefer to have the flexibility when returning the car. 

How to Get Back to City Square from Menara Ansar
Menara Ansar (menara stands for tower in Malay) is actually pretty near to the ever popular City Square shopping centre.

Towards the direction of City Square, you would come to this corridor and wonder if it is safe to walk along and whether it will get us to the shopping mall. A passerby sensed our dilemma and told us to go ahead; so kind right?! 

Once we got out of the corridor, there's City Square right across the road! 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

No Luck with Tong Huat Traditional Confectionery @ Kluang [Johor, Malaysia]

I was wondering if i should come out with a separate post for Tong Huat Traditional Confectionery in Kluang as i technically didn't buy anything there since the key recommendation, tar sau peah, was already sold out for the day! 

Nevertheless, i thought it might be helpful to show you guys and gals what were available in the shop when we arrived at about 4.50pm; an hour plus before they pulled the shutter. 

There were a number of handmade Chinese pastries (like Wife's biscuits) which generally didn't appeal to me; i might be Chinese but my affection is with Peranakan Nyonya kueh! 

Cookies for lunar new year in 2018 were already out for sale! Now that i have an oven; i think it's harder to get me to spend my hard-earned money. Most of the times, i can bake myself unless it's stuff that involved too much work; like cheesecake! 

Frankly, the confectionery felt more like a convenience stall that sells nothing but food. I can find bags of keropok and sweets too! Only issue was that the place was pretty crowded and the items were all over the place. If only they have a concept similar to Biscuit King which would make the experience much more enjoyable.

To their credit, things were priced cheaply; the 70-gram bags of pumpkin chips and fish crackers cost less than S$0.70. I don't think you can find such pricing in expensive Singapore! 


To read more about our short 2-day, 1-night road trip to Kluang, click here!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Star Restaurant (#2 out of 72 Restaurants) in Kluang @ The Heart of Johore [Malaysia]

Star Coffee House & Restaurant - reason for leaving out the words coffee house is because everyone knows it as just the famous Star restaurant that commanded the number 2 ranking for restaurants in Kluang on TripAdvisor! 

Before the self-driven trip, i had already marked out a few establishments to have our meals but Star restaurant was given a higher priority for its largely positive online reviews. A further check on its location revealed that it's just a few doors away from Hotel Anika, our accommodation for the night! 

In spite of the old school, retro facade that likely didn't change much from the year it was established (1979); the interior was surprisingly quite modern and classy. We were one of the first few customers as reservation was full for the later slots; that said a lot about the popularity.

Photos of celebrities visiting the small town restaurant dotted one section of the restaurant but there's no time to check out the details as there's another reservation for our table at 7pm and we had to decide what to order! 

Stir Fried Sweet Potato Leaves - lightly stir fried with the freshness still very much contained within, i liked this even though the sambal version might be more enticing. Both sister and friend found it to be a tad too salty although i was of the opinion that it was just right. 

Star Special Homemade Beancurd - my sister is limiting her intake of carbohydrates while my friend is restricting his meat intake; hence, it made sense to order the signature homemade beancurd which came with strips of meat, black fungus and enoki mushrooms! 

Texture of beancurd wasn't the smooth type i expected although there was a special, addictive flavour that set it apart from commercial brands. I also loved the smaller-cut portions as i absolutely enjoy eating the skin of the beancurd and there's more to chew with the smaller cut! 

Beancurd Skin Rolls - since i like the skin of beancurd so much; i didn't raise any objection when either Joyce or Andrew suggested the beancurd skin rolls. I am secretly overjoyed, to be honest as i know it would be prepared in the form i like best; deep fried. 

You notice any difference from your usual beancurd skin rolls? I did and it's obvious as the shape was somewhat round like a dumpling instead of being flat with just a thin layer of meat filling. 

They were pretty good with a juicy filling that's meaty with a crisp texture. However, after taking a few pieces, the taste of pork can be rather overbearing and i needed to wash it down with a few cups of tea!  

Star Special Crispy Fried Duck - another star recommendation, this was the dish that every blogger was talking about in their review of star restaurant.

You can opt for a full duck but in view of our numbers, there's no way we can manage an entire duck. Not when we were still thinking of supper later in the evening! Hence, a half duck it shall be. 

We were almost about to cut up the duck when the waiter came over to, literally, kill the duck a second time! He was amazingly swift and before we knew it, the meat had been stripped off the bones.

The ready-to-eat version; it looked kind of familiar like the way we eat Peking duck! There were differences of course; the duck was deep fried, not roasted and instead of crepe-like pancake, we had buns!

Buns were really soft with a subtle sweetness that made them so delicious. Add in the sprinkling of sesame seeds and you can so imagine the aroma! p.s. do eat them fast while they are still hot. 

On its own, the duck meat was already palatable without being overly dry or oily. But add in the fresh cucumber, the sweet sauce and the soft bun and you get bites of contrasting textures that were so, so good! 

Can't remember how much i had but i think i easily cleaned up half the buns even though my tummy was almost exploding! To be frank, all three of us were super full when we stepped out of the restaurant! 

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We had a great dinner and when handed the receipt, my eyes almost popped out as the meal with its luxurious offerings cost less than RM 90! In comparison, half a duck in a quality restaurant at Singapore would have cost us almost RM 60.

Location
10 & 12 Jalan Sultanah, 
Kluang 86000, Malaysia

Reservation
+60 7-772 3288

Operating Hours
11.30 am to 3.30 pm
5.30 pm to 10.30 pm

Pricing
Stir Fried Sweet Potato Leaves (S) - RM 8
Star Special Homemade Beancurd (M) - RM 16
Beancurd Skin Rolls (S) - RM 14 
Star Special Crispy Fried Duck (Half) - RM 35
(Subject to Prevailing GST)


To read more about our short 2-day, 1-night road trip to Kluang, click here!  

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Farm Tomita - The Mother of All Flower Fields @ Hokkaido [Japan] #farmtomita

There's a reason for labeling farm tomita as the mother of all flower fields in Hokkaido although i think you can already guess by me publishing sub postings in the past few weeks; namely, the Tomita Lavender Museum, the Greenhouse, the Furano Melon and the beautiful Irodori & Forest Fields!

So why did i share with you such a boring picture (above)? Because that was the exact scene that greeted us after we parked our car; the weather was dreary and there was still a very light drizzle. 

Hardly encouraging for a visit to the flower fields and we decided to hide under the protection of the wooden hut to wait out the rain. p.s. it's also a good opportunity to check out what's for sale in the store. 

I took the excuse to gobble down my breakfast; a burger from the 7-11 convenience stall near our airbnb in Furano. Not fantastic but the patty was thick. 

With a takeaway counter for lavender ice cream right in front of me, i was deliberating if i should have dessert so early in the morning given my stomach sensitivity and that we were only in day two of our trip.

Opted against ice cream although i should have gone with the lavender tea; at the very least, it can help to wash down the oil. 

The rain stopped and we excitedly crossed the road to arrive officially at the flower field; it's an instant change in mood with the cool summer climate and the relaxing rows of lavender flowers! 

Here's the Greenhouse again. 

Sakiwai Field with the backdrop of the Tokachi Volcanic Mountain Range. At first look, Sakiwai Field appeared boring for the layman with mostly shades of purple. The experts would tell you there are four varieties of lavender there; Okamurasaki, Yotei, Hanamoiwa and the Noshi Hayazaki. Obviously i am no expert; those information was taken from the Farm Tomita website

I returned back to the car to take something and right at the carpark was another plot of Lavender Forest Field. Just like Shikisai-No-Oka (四季彩の丘), the lavender wasn't as purplish as i expected them to be. 

Before i joined up with my mates, i chanced upon this little store that's on an elevated platform; meaning i would likely find a few great spots to take photos! 

For those with sufficient time, this would be the perfect place to have a hot cup of lavender tea while marveling at the spectacular sight ahead of you.

An open air platform was built for those who preferred to make use of the natural sunlight for photo taking. I counted another lone ranger in the vicinity; guess this place was still pretty hidden from most coach-arrived tourists.

On a clear day, this spot would be THE spot to have your picture taken against the various peaks along the Tokachi Volcanic Mountain Range in the background. 

Panorama! The fields ahead were Autumn Field and Spring Field.

Merchandise in the store; purple is the corporate colour for Farm Tomita and lavender was everywhere! Can't blame the farm from benefiting from the flower as it was in the lavender business for the past few decades! 

Even their motorbike was in purple! 

Back on the ground level and I was drawn to the artwork featuring mini humans playing an orchestra. 

I can't hear the music even though a bit of imagination told me it would be nice to have some music in the air, like the melody from the accordion musician at Singapore's Lower Pierce Reservoir Park.

Publicity for the Furano Melon; i have heard so much about the hokkaido melon and thought they were all the same. Apparently, the crème de la crème is the Yubari Melon.

Random photos.

There's a photo spot that i thought should be indicated on the map; the impressive row of Austrian pines flanking both sides of the path. From a certain angle, it felt as if the trees were fused together in the end. 

Can be a challenge to take selfies though. 

Wooden signposts bearing the big name of Farm Tomita were everywhere for you to take picture with. Hence, don't freak out when a group is taking too long with their poses. 

Maybe because we were too early; the crowd had yet to descend and there were plenty of space for us to take photo after photo! I have so many and that explained the delay in posting this as there were still about 200 after QC.

As mentioned before in Shikisai-No-Oka; the flower fields looked better from far away. Up close, they were just separate plots of flowers. 

Barren plot; remember, the farm needs maintenance too and in my blog, i try to show photographs from numerous angles and of various states. Nothing's ever perfect and if it does, it's only for a short period of time; maybe even just a moment.

Coaches started streaming in via the main entrance! 

Photo of the Greenhouse from Hanabito House; a cluster of wooden huts that consisted of commercial sections and the Tomita Lavender Museum! Click here for more information on the museum. 

Even though there's a separate post on Tomita Lavender Museum, i didn't share much about the commercial sections; which consisted of a dry / fake flowers area and the more conventional one selling memorabilia.

More pictures for your viewing pleasure.

You can even find lavender wreaths that can be used as decoration on the walls! Colour was a bit dark though and might be mistaken as a wreath for bad occasions (i.e. funeral).

The other section was comparatively interesting even though the pricing was way beyond my budget. What if i bought something and the receiver doesn't like it? 

Lavender potpourri was likely a favourite among visitors; however, lavender essential oil has a stronger aroma and in Singapore, the high humidity may not be suitable for potpourri.

This was nicer yet the pricing of almost S$10 for a tube was just too hard to stomach for a poor man like me. Difference between the 760 yen and 420 yen tubes was that the expensive one contained flower buds whereas the cheaper one held just a few stalks of lavender flowers.

The green belt of just grass separating the prettier flower plots with the drain.

Tourists had started streaming in which means many would be hogging good photo spots! Not an issue for me as i don't mind having photo bombers in my pictures! 

Greenhouse, Hanabito Field and the Austrian pines path! 

Shelter that had plants covering the entire structure! I should have asked for the species and imported some back for one of our buildings which could benefit from having a canopy of natural, fast growing leaves! 

Nice photo right?!

Main building with Tomita Lavender Museum on the second level. As indicated in the post on the museum, do remember to take some photos at the balcony on the second floor! 

Need food? Check out Cafe Rene! For your reference, please refer to the menu as attached above. I am uploading the photo with original resolution; therefore, you can just right click and save it into your drive.


The entrance had quite a number of shops offering food souvenirs and desserts and you can literally go crazy deciding what would be worth the calories! 


First thing for me; the Furano melon! Potato lovers can consider the sweet potatoes with butter. I was inclined to get a boiled corn.....

Eventually settled for a lavender ice cream instead - half expecting it to taste weird like the lavender sweet i got from Nippon Ya at Singapore's ION Orchard but it was, thankfully, pretty light. Of course, the key was to fully enjoy the creaminess of Hokkaido ice cream! 

A friend got this lavender cheese cake - i didn't try but i don't remember that friend raving away; so it might be just okay, i guess. 

Time to wash your hands! 

Lavender soap for visitors to use?! In other countries, the company would likely have to replace it very often as this luxury good would be gone in no time. 

Fresh produce for sale! 

Love lavenders? Grab a pot at only 907 yen and let the aroma naturally scent your bedroom! Okay, i am not familiar with Singapore's regulations for importation of plants but you may click here to read further. 

One slice of Furano melon wasn't sufficient? Get the whole fruit for a fulfilling indulgence! For a moment, i thought one melon cost 9500 yen (more than S$100) although a closer look revealed it's 5 for 9500 yen. 

Dried lavender flowers being segregated and bundled up in a workshop. You wouldn't miss it as the aroma intensified as you walk nearer to the building. 

Back to the flower fields; specifically Hanabito Field.

Alex with the wooden sign; like me, he was literally blown away by Japan and we were planning for another trip to the Land of the Rising Sun next year. Hopefully we can get a good deal in the air fare! 

Narrowleaf Angelon - from far, the flowers looked like lavender flowers and vibrancy wise, it's the same shade we see from professional photographers; the real lavender flowers i saw were very much less vibrant...

Directional signpost. 

For those who just disembarked from the coaches, you would definitely take ton of pictures at this area since it's the nearest to the drop off point. I would have done the same too if i am travelling on a packaged tour. 

Entrance to the Mother's Garden; which was nurtured by the grandmother of current generation of the tomita's family until she passed on. There were about 50 types of plants in this quiet, tiny garden.

Being a less observant person, i only noticed the fountain said to deliver the fresh water from the mountains! You are free to drink from it, if you dare! The fountain seemed like a person savouring the content from its dripping nose. 

Another thing i saw was the tree that bore a lot of fruits! According to the label, it's the European pears! Curious me was so tempted to pluck one just to give it a try. If my elder sister were with me, she might really just pluck one with nil hesitation!

Photo taken from the Greenhouse; among the many photos i shot that day, this photo is my personal favourite! Should this be a retirement home, i would gladly learn Japanese and spend the rest of my life here. 

Photo gallery near the Greenhouse.

Many stunning pictures on the flower fields in Farm Tomita! A friend had asked if i prefer Shikisai-No-Oka or Farm Tomita; my answer is that she should visit both! 

Sky was finally clearing up! 

My visit hasn't ended yet as i followed the crowd to the Irodori Field & Forest Field where the undulating terrain was a literal visual treat! Click here to view more pictures. :) 

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Location
15 Kisenkita, Nakafurano-cho, 
Sorachi-gun 071-0704, 
Hokkaido, Japan

Google Map
Click here

Farm Tomita Map
As above.

Website


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