5-Minute Review: The Haven by Jet Quay

Have you ever experienced a product or service so good that you want to come back for more? About one and half years back, I stayed in The Haven prior to my flight, and I was very impressed with their service. Even though I wanted to return for a second round, The Haven is after all a niche service that’s hard to justify spending moolahs for. Therefore, when I found the chance to stay in it one and a half years later, I jumped at the chance to go through the experience again.

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What Is The Haven?

The Haven, managed by Jet Quay, functions very much like the paid airline lounges travellers go to rest when they are in the transit area of the airports, except that The Haven is in the public area, situated at the Arrival Hall of Terminal 3, Changi Airport.

The purpose of The Haven is for passengers to tidy themselves up, after a red-eye flight, before rushing for their meetings in town (which explained why it is situated at the Arrival Hall). However, there are also people like me who use it before going on their flights, especially when the flight is in the early morning and they wanted to catch more sleep. The Haven even provides a wake-up call, which ensures that you will be able to catch the flight no matter the time of the day.

The Haven segregates its services into Lounge, Shower, Meeting Rooms and Nap Rooms, targeting at travellers with different needs. The Nap Room package (which I’ve always used) includes usage of the lounge and shower facilities, with a minimum block usage of 3 hours that can be extended hourly.

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The Room

Small and functional, the room has TV, storage space for luggage (that goes up to a standard 75″ size), lockable drawer, study desk, telephone and WiFi – basically everything you can find in a budget hotel room minus the space (plus a pair of bedroom slippers). Some might call it claustrophobic, but if you can stay in a hotel room in Tokyo, you can stay in The Haven.

The single bed is reasonably comfortable and the room is well insulated from the noise outside. The rest of the amenities, like WiFi and TV, are decent/standard, though I believe most travellers using this space will only be interested in catching those precious 40 winks. The only thing to pick on would be the inability to control the room’s air-conditioning.

p/s: There is no ensuite bathrooms, but as I mentioned, this is most likely not of top concern for users.

 

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The Shower

Much like the shower rooms you find in lounge, the shower rooms in The Haven is pretty much self-sufficient (perhaps the only thing you need to bring is your very personal toiletries like facial cleanser). If you take the Nap Room package, you will have to retrieve the key to a shower room separately (it’s included in the package, but made available on a need-to basis). The plus of the shower rooms here as compared to those you find in the transit area, like the Dnata or SATS lounge is that the floor is dry (it’s hard to elaborate, but frequent flyers should understand how wet floors in and around the shower facilities can be a hassle).

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The Restroom

The restroom is in a separate area from the shower facilities, but it is unlike the public toilets or the toilets in the transit lounges. Here, the restroom is a standalone room, complete with WC, sink and plenty of space to change your clothes etc. In other words, you can choose to take the lounge package for an hour, and still use the restroom to change into your business attire for the upcoming meeting; there is no need to book a 3-hour Nap Room that costs at least $75!

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This was taken 1.5 years ago, and I am surprised to find out that they have not changed the food options!

The Lounge

Interestingly, the lounge is quiet; perhaps The Haven is really providing a niche service. The “refreshment” they provide is bread, some pastry and biscuits, instant noodles, soft drinks, juices and coffee and making facilities.

There’s a “Cash Bar” which provides alcoholic beverages, but I never saw anyone man the bar before.

For those who took the Nap Room package, you can also order a hot meal, to be served at a time you choose (usually at the start or the end of your stay).

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The Service

For many businesses, it is easy to invest in high quality infrastructure, and the defining feature of the business will be in its services. When I first visited The Haven, I was impressed by the concierge (for the lack of better word, since I don’t really know their designation!). Not only was the concierge at the reception polite, he took care of everything without needing me to ask for more!

My most recent stay was very unlike my first experience, though.

First, there was no record of my booking, so I checked in half an hour later than planned, and the concierge spoke to me like it was my fault that the booking was not found.

When I went to have my hot meal, I realised it was spicy – I admit I just saw the first line stating the dish was “Wanton Noodles”, but overlooked the 2nd line that said it was in Tom Yum soup – however, there was zero attempt at service recovery to turn that experience into a positive one. Yes, the server just said “Orh” and left the noodles on the table. I ended up making my own instant noodles and left the Wanton Noodles to whichever hungry ghost who was desperate enough to eat it.

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I wasn’t interested to eat this early in the morning!

The most appalling aspect was when I found out, while making coffee, that the coffee cups were all stained with coffee. By then, I was so disappointed with the service (I had feedback my Wanton Noodles experience to the concierge, only to be met with a curt “you can have the light refreshment in the lounge”) that I did not even bother to tell them about my latest observation.

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In both my visits, the infrastructure remained largely the same (except for some signs of wear and tear), so I had nothing much to complain about. The most defining aspect was the drop in service; by inference, if the staff had not bothered to clean their cups properly, I wonder if the sheets were changed or cleaned to the same standards?

Like I mentioned, The Haven provides a niche service that only a few selected travellers will really need. However, considering that this lounge is spearheaded by Changi Airport to differentiate itself from other airports, the experience provided by The Haven in my most recent visit did not add value to the branding of the airport.

In other words? Skip this unless you really need to find a place to wash up.

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I regretted not ordering the same dish I had previously; at least this was tried and tasted good 🙂

The Haven By JetQuay

65 Airport Boulevard
#01-18
Changi Airport Terminal 3
Singapore 819663
thehaven.com.sg
6543 9464

Superb Hideout in KL: Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur [Review]

In outright honesty, I would not visit Kuala Lumpur for leisure; food in Singapore is much better than Kuala Lumpur, and the stuff there is not much cheaper, when you factor in the travelling and accommodation cost. The cultural value of the city is low, as compared to many other Southeast Asian countries.

Therefore, the only reason I was at Kuala Lumpur was for work; and I found that Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur fit the bill for a short business travel.

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Location

The hotel is located in the business district of Bukit Bintang. If that does not ring a bell, think Petronas Towers.

Yes, the hotel is so near KLCC (a.k.a Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre) of Petronas Towers (and the Suria Mall), that the hotel offers a buggy service to ferry guests across the park in between the 2 places.

Convenience

This meant that it would be very easy for one to do a quick shopping, either to top up on mineral water (like me), or to buy something back for family and friends. For me, I knew the stuff at Uniqlo would be dirt cheap due to the prevailing exchange rate, so it was one of the places I made sure I visited when I was there.

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Room

I stayed in a typical Deluxe room with a double bed, and that was sufficient for me! The room was spacious, and even had 2 reclining chairs for lounging (unfortunately, I did not have time to do that). The bed was comfortable and large, and I had a great, even though short sleep.

 

The work desk had plenty of space (even though the TV was placed there too) and if you opened up the power socket panel, you would find plenty of power points and USB ports to charge your devices. On the flip side, there were no sockets at the bed side, so if you needed to charge your devices overnight, it would be very inconvenient to check for urgent messages from work.

There were also sufficient closet space for hanging clothes and wet towels. The best was the suitcase corner; many hotels have relegated that to an expandable rack, but Traders Hotel has maintained the good old sturdy counter, which is also good for when you want to rest on it to wear shoes. There was also a coat hanger here, by the way, in addition to the usual ironing facilities, safe, bathrobes and slippers.

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Bathroom

The bathroom was incredible, if I could say. The lighting was warm, and the décor was well done. There was plenty of space, in terms of moving around, and placing my toiletries. It was so spacious that the shower and bath tub were separate. The bathroom was well stocked with common toiletries (which was also pleasant-smelling), so one only needs to bring very personal stuff like contact lens solution and facial cleanser along.

Security

Malaysia is not known for being a safe city to wander around at night, so it was commendable that Traders Hotel was sufficiently staffed to take care of that. And with the buggy service provided, one need not walk through the dark, secluded pathways of the park.

Service

The hotel reception was on the 2nd floor, which provided a very cosy and intimate environment. They had a very modern design for the reception, with the guys (yes, I only saw guys at the reception, which was a very marked departure from typical hotel receptions) were behind kiosks very much like that of a restaurant reception. The check in and check out process was smooth and the guys were actually very well-spoken (no “Malaysian” accent in their spoken English!).

Unfortunately, due to my short stay, I did not call for room service or dine in their in-house restaurants, so I could not comment on the other aspects of their service.

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Gym

Being a full-fledged hotel, Traders Hotel has a pool, a rooftop bar and of course a gym. I did not have time and energy to use any of them, but I made sure I toured the gym, also known as Health Club.

I was not sure if it was because of the very deceptive name, or because it was late at night, the gym was empty, which was sad because it was a YUGE gym. It was so huge that there were different sections, a ‘resting area’ (not simply a corner equipped with a water cooler) and even a studio for gym classes!

If I were to stay in Traders Hotel again, I’d make sure I have enough time to use the gym!
Other than the spaciousness, the gym looked out to the Petronas Towers, which will make a very motivating night workout.

Verdict

The Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur may not rank top in terms of technical hotel rankings, but the combination of convenient access to shopping malls (that takes care of food and necessities), proximity to the offices (that takes care of the travel to work) as well as the provision of amenities (allows one to pack light) makes the hotel a very value-for-money place to stay for a night or two for business.

How to Get There

In KL, take Uber. The express train is too slow and infrequent, and Traders Hotel is too far from the nearest LRT station. And yes, take Uber instead of the conventional taxis, because Malaysia’s taxis are notorious for over charging and refusing to use the meter.

Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur City Centre,
50088 Kuala Lumpur,
Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
traderskl.fortecrestgroup.com
+60 3-2332 9888

traders-hotel-kl-infogram

Like My Review

If you find the tips helpful in deciding whether to stay at this hotel, or what to do when you stay here, do go to Tripadvisor, search for “Zenov” and like my review. Thank yoU!

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[No Bear Talk] Chick-A-Mooo Snacks

XX and I tried some Japanese snacks our friend bought from Narita Airport! Just how kawaii can these snacks get?

Shot with Olympus TG870
Edited with Viva Video
Sponsored by Friend of Nomini

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ERL Sports Earbuds

Following the failed purchase of Treblab X11 wireless earphones, I decided I deserved a better pair and clicked on the suggested ad on FB for a new pair of buds. Apparently, “once bitten, twice shy” does not apply to me, as this was also a pair of buds launched using crowdfunding.

The ERL Wireless Sports Earbuds (ERL being the acronym for Electronic Research Lab) touts technology derived from “top audio and antenna engineers from MIT” that provides good quality at a price similar to my previous failed purchase (self-rubbing salt into self-wound…).

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Long story short, I didn’t want to spend SGD300 plus on a pair of branded wireless earbuds lol

Delivery took slightly more than a month, including the time for the funding campaign to end. I thought the delivery time frame was too long.

The buds came in an unassuming package, consisting of the buds, 3 pairs of rubber ear tips and a charging/carrying case (yes, there was no charging cable). One basically just places the buds in the case and plug the case to any micro-USB charger.

I wasn’t sure how long the first charge should take; the info online said about 2 hours, but just about half an hour in, the buds were glowing green and the four LED lights in the case were lit up.

That brought me to my first listening experience the next day.

The buds didn’t last for more than 1 hour the first time I listened to music on it, on Spotify, on my Google Pixel XL phone. My subsequent listening times were much shorter, as my daily commute didn’t take more than an hour each way (giving me time to charge the buds in between). All in all, between the first and second charges on the cable, the charging case lasted another 6 times of charging.

From the time of receiving the buds to the time of writing, my longest use was 1.5 hours, which was far lower than the 3.5hrs touted on the advtertisement.

The sound, on the other hand, was far better than Treblab’s. The music sounded fuller and I detected no noise. In addition, the ear tips that came with the buds fit snugly in my ear, so there was no “leakage” of sound from the outside, which made it even more enjoyable to listen to music using the buds.

However, when using it for phone calls, my peer on the other end complained that he could not hear me; he said I sounded too soft (not muffled).  Granted, I was in a café in a mall, but it was off-peak hour then and the cafe was empty, so the noise from external environment should not have too much an interfering effect.

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Setting up the buds was simple enough, which made me wonder how they could screw that up on the instruction sheet that accompanied the package. The steps are as below:

  1. Turn on your device’s Bluetooth
  2. Long-press your left earbud, till you hear “Power On” and “Pairing”. It should take about 5 seconds before your release your finger
  3. Wait for your phone to detect and pair the device, or you could go into the phone’s Bluetooth settings to pair it manually. Your cue would be when you hear “Connected”
  4. Once paired, long press the right earbud until you hear “Power On” and a “Beep”

For subsequent listening on a paired device, the same chronology of “Turn device Bluetooth on” > “Turn Left earbud on” > “Turn Right earbud on” applies.

Another difficulty for first-time users lies in the fact that there was no labelling of left and right on the earbuds. For the record, when the buds are in the case, with the power button of the case towards you (or below the LED lights), the bud on the left goes to the left ear and vice versa.

The last, but super buggy issue was the Bluetooth connection. The signals got lost for the silliest reason, like when I placed my phone in my jeans pocket, in the right back pants pocket (I assume the main antenna is on the left earbud, because if I were wearing pants and I placed my phone in my left back pocket, no interference was experienced), when I turned my head too fast too suddenly, when I swung my hands while walking… The worst case (that happened only once) was when I was chewing on my sweet and the song began to sound like a broken record.

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Again, this failure was stark when considering that they were touting this in a big way on their advertisement.

That being said, I think I’ll hold on to this pair of buds for the time being. The reasons were simple: sub-SGD100 (including shipping) + decent sound quality + good soundproofing. Since I seldom listened to music while walking, the Bluetooth issues that occurred due to movement did not really affect me that much.

In fact, I liked it so much I bought another pair for N! This time around, delivery took 2 weeks only. Seems like they made some improvements!

Convinced? Follow this  LINK to buy it now!

[No Bear Talk] Start The Year with Ume Potato Chips!

It’s the start of the year! So join XK and me to try out the ume-flavoured potato chips!

Shot with Olympus TG870
Edited with Viva Video
Sponsored by Nomini (a.k.a self-sponsored lah…)

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Pay For 3-Star, Get 5 Stars: Holiday Inn Express Munich City West [Review]

When one is at a city like Munich with city attractions beckoning at us to explore them, the least we expect of our accommodation in the city is for it to be stay-able. As long as it meets the criteria of convenience, cleanliness and safety, the trip will be made up by the offerings the city has.

That was why N and I would agree to book a 3-star hotel at the city fringe.

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When we returned from our Hallstatt trip, we were still star-struck and reeling from the magical wonder of the Austrian snowscape. And of course, we wanted to recover from the long journey from the alps.

When we pulled in to the Hirschgarten train station at Munich city west, a light drizzle greeted us. Even though the hotel was right beside the train station, the short journey was exposed to long fetch (the railroad stretched from either side of the road) and that short walk was both cold and wet. Add on to an ongoing construction at the pedestrian walk, pushing luggage on the stone-strewn pavement became an arduous task too.

Therefore, even though the crisp architecture lines of the hotel was right before us, it seemed dreary against the grey sky.

Once we stepped into the lobby, the mood changed.

Heated environment aside, the modern decor was filled with fun, popping colours that vowed to spruce up our moods. The decor theme extended into the room and was essential in refreshing every tired traveler’s mind!

Service

The lady at the reception was well-trained and friendly. She addressed N (who booked the room) by name, and actually remembered his name and greeted him when we passed by the lobby several times later that day! She was also helpful in giving us directions to the supermarket hub that was within the building cluster, but did not have a direct / obvious access from the hotel (I’ll explain that later).

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Room

The room was as spacious as the one in Hallstatt, though not as big as Aloft Munich. In fact, when compared with a traditional room, this room was much smaller. Instead of a full working desk, we had a couch that was accompanied with a side table good for working on a laptop. In replacement of a TV console (the flat screen TV was mounted on the wall), there was a cantilever where all the coffee-making amenities could be found; this would also be where travellers can find space to place their personal belongings after a day of exploration.

Similarly, instead of a wardrobe, there was a small closet (with an in-room safe at the bottom) as well as some big knobs on the wall for hanging coats. Here and there, there was space to open up our 27-inch suitcases without hindering our access to the door (recall the room at London’s hub by Premier Inn Tower Bridge). However, they made up for the lack of space with innovative and thoughtful design elements; I could also find places to store my day’s shopping at the bay window!

Speaking of the window, the room we stayed in had a superb view of the city. Being the only skyscraper in the area, Holiday Inn Express’ rooms provided great views, especially with the railway tracks extending into the horizon. The only downside though, is that there was a concert venue just across the street. Luckily for us, there was only an event on one of the nights we stayed there!

Of course, on the more technical side, the hotel is new, so it was designed for the new-age travellers, who require power sockets by the bedside and strong wifi! Yes, after my description of the room, this hotel is actually very good for one to just hole up in there for the whole day! 😀

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Bathroom

The bathroom, though incomparable to Aloft, is large in hotel standards.

The area around the sink can hold all our toileteries and more. Within the shower, there is a good-sized receptacle for your own shower foam, shampoo and facial cleanser combined.

The shower itself was also a joy. Other than responsive taps that churns out water at the temperature you want (on a cold winter’s night), the jets pelt out like little hands massaging your back, without feeling like being run over by a stampede.

Post-shower, the towels were thick and soft, and there was hairdryer, so you won’t feel cold and miserable stepping out of the shower!

We noticed at the onset there was no toothbrush/toothpaste at the sink; but fret not! Because customers are free to claim them from the reception! Well, considering such complete set of bathroom amenities, Holiday Inn Express is your answer to all the LAGs ban on flights that make travelling unpleasant!

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Om Nom Nomzzz

The hotel, though lacking in gym and pool, had a functioning cafe and business centre. The breakfast included in the package was at the cafe, and considering the 3-star status, the spread was very good indeed.

There was the usual spread of bread and pastry, the latter of which were yummy, crispy yet soft inside. They even provided a range of spreads, unlike many established hotels that only provided 2 or 3 options. There was also coffee machines (in fact, 2 of them). No… Not those that provides filtered coffee, but those that spouts coffee in the likes of Espresso, and Cappuccino!

The highlight was none other than the pancake-making machine. Yes, with a press of a button, your pancake would be made, from scratch before your eyes! It was a very interesting device, which unfortunately, my video of the machine in action was a total failure…

Seating wise, the cafe was more like, well, a cafe, rather than a hotel restaurant. The chairs were also in the theme of funky colours that contoured around our sleepy butts and the tables were in arty-farty glossy white.

The only downside was that they also catered to tour groups from a certain country. On our last morning, our breakfast timing coincided with theirs, and not only did we have difficulties getting seats, we also had to queue up for food and the coffee machine was also damaged by them (because they tried to handle the machine even though they had no idea how it worked). The whole place was also became very noisy (I wondered why they would shout at each other during conversations so early in the morning). It was not a beautiful end to our stay in Holiday Inn Express, but the other aspects of the hotel more than made up for that unpleasant episode.

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Convenience

And what would my review be, if there was no mention of how-to-find-supermarkets? 😛

In short, the hotel is located in a building cluster that also housed 3 hypermarts. The buildings were arranged to surround a plaza, and the hotel’s main entrance faced the main road, so we were wondering how best to access the marts.

The staff on duty told us to go down to basement carpark, exit the carpark, cross the service road, and we would be there. To be frank, I disliked that suggestion; for one, we had to return to the reception to confirm the instruction, because when we were in the carpark, there was zero signs to the supermarkets (and the carpark was cavernous).

When we finally got our stuff, we actually found an easier way between the hotel and the supermarkets.

Exit the hotel’s main entrance, turn left, take a public elevator (it was just by the roadside) to the plaza below, walk straight after exiting the elevator, and once you reach the main plaza, you will see the supermarkets. The total walking distance was about 5 minutes.

As mentioned, there was a cluster of 3 marts, so there was no shortage of shopping needs. The difficulty was then, which one to shop in? There was the one with cheaper items, but at packaged at family sizes, and the other one with a wider variety at a higher cost.

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Security and Safety

Other than being in a much safer neighbourhood than Aloft Munich, the hotel was guarded with a security officer, and requires card access to the residential floors. When you are at the supermarket area, you will realise this was more of a residential neighbourhood, and the residents were all well-groomed and less gruff than the variety of people seen at the hauptbahnhof. There were no strange people knocking on our doors early in the morning (or at night for that matter), so all in all, I thought this was a rather safe place to be in.

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Why Stay at Holiday Inn Express Munich City West?

The combination of cheap room with superb room quality made this a supervalue-for-money option. Although the hotel is on the city-fringe, it was just a stone’s throw from the train station (Hirschgarten), which was in itself just 3 stops from hauptbahnhof, so it was not all that bad in terms of accessibility.

Also, it was near supermarkets, in a safe neighbourhood and had friendly staff and good food to top the experience off!

p/s: Even if the food in the hotel was not to your liking, good food in the city centre was just 3 stops away 🙂

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How to Get There

Holiday Inn Express Munich City West

Friedenheimer Brücke 15, 80639 München, Germany
+49 89 4438880
ihg.com

Holiday Inn Express Munich City West Infogram

Value on City Fringe: Hotel ibis Nuremberg Hauptbahnhof [Review]

Nuremberg was meant to be a night stop, so that we could visit the Christmas market till late, and not worry about returning to Munich at ungodly hours. Therefore, the aim was to look for a budget hotel that allow us to recharge, especially when we had to make a 7-hour journey to Hallstatt the following day.

Hotel ibis became the top choice in preliminary search. The struggle was whether to pay SGD 20 more for the version of the hotel that is a few blocks closer to the old town (in fact, it was inside the old town).

I chose the latter.

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Location

If compared apple to apple, the Hauptbahnhof ibis is definitely better than the old town’s version. The former is slightly nearer to the Hauptbahnhof, which itself has a myriad of eating and shopping places that checks off my need for convenience.

Moreover, consider that once you enter the old town, you are faced with uneven walkways, which may pose a headache especially for visitors lugging suitcases (bad for the wheels!!).

Service

When one decides to stay in a budget hotel, he must constantly sees everything in context. When it comes to service in a budget hotel, I don’t expect the staff to know my name or to put on smiles whenever they see me.

Therefore, this hotel makes the mark, as the staff was pleasant and greets us in the morning, etc. The only thing lacking is of course the lengthy check-in. It took so long that I began to wonder if I made a mistake in my reservations, or they were deciding if I was a terrorist…

All in all, the service is good for a budget hotel, but this is all everything good about the hotel.

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Room

In the context of budget hotels, yes, this fits everything of a budget hotel. However, even in the class of budgets, there are those that scores the higher band, and those that… were the pioneers of budget hotels.

Space in Hotel ibis is very limited. Granted, there was space in the room itself to open up 2 suitcases, but that is at the expense of moving around the room. Most of the time, the suitcases had to be kept and stowed under the desk.

The other amenities just made the mark: TV, small couch, study desk, a small wardrobe to hang clothes (and wet towels!), complete with racks to put other knick-knacks.

There were power points hidden beneath a panel in the study desk, and but the crevice made it not that suitable for plugs that had wire jutting out in a particular direction (depending on how your plug is designed and where the wire juts out). The design is very space-savingly thoughtful, but lacked thorough thinking for users.

There was also no room safe (either lock your passports in your suitcases, or bring them out… I don’t know which one is more dangerous!), though the hotel provides safe in the reception. Again, I’m not sure if I want to entrust such an important document with a stranger. hmmm…

Of course, don’t expect slippers or bathrobes. This is a no-frills hotel!

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Bathroom

The bathroom is the one that got to me.

I was quite surprised that they managed to make their rooms designed to be exactly the same, be it in France or in Germany (the design is unique, because they had weird corners, unlike the typical rectangular designs of hotel rooms). This also meant the same inconvenience is cut and paste into Nuremberg.

I’m big for an Asian, but by international standards, I’m a small-sized guy. Yet I knock into something at every turn. That was not a very good experience.

A head-to-toe shower foam was provided (a hanging squeeze-to-dispense container), so they saw no need to provide space for guests to put their own facial cleansers. Even then, the shower gel had a weird smell, so I also used my own shower foam. And that meant there was a struggle to access my toiletries, which had to be put at the sink, separated from the shower area with a door.

Imagine: Open door, squeeze facial cleanser, close door, rub-a-dub, rinse, open door, squeeze shower foam, close door, rub-a-dub, oh, not enough shower foam, open door, squeeze…. You get the drift.

Even then, there was no proper place at the sink to place toiletries, which will be a headache if you are like me, who had contact lens case, solution, shaver etc. There was a ledge above the toilet bowl that had plenty of space, but… it was a bit of a stretch and hey… imagine you have to put your shower foam there, and then the shower is 3 steps away from the shower area (think of the open-door-close-door scenario again).

What really irked me was that due to the lack of space, the bath towels were hung below the sink, where all the disease-causing moulds and bacteria in a toilet is most likely thriving.

Hygiene-sacrificed-in-name-of-space-saving aside, there was hairdryer, hand soap, glasses, heated water (and heater to heat the toilet), but no toothbrush/toothpaste, no hand towels and no shavers.

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Amenities

I did not include breakfast in my price package, which provided me flexibility to have breakfast at my own time, and at wherever takes my fancy.

However, the hotel still provides breakfast at its cafe on ground floor for 11 Euros. There was also a business centre at the ground floor, in case you need to print a reservation voucher at the last minute.

Location

Just outside the old city centre. The walk from the train station to the hotel may be confusing.

Head to the East Hall, exit, look for Le Meridien Grand Hotel to orientate yourself. Directly opposite the hotel, there’s a underground entrance. Go down, walk straight and get up the escalator. Half of the journey is completed. Cross the remaining road to reach Le Meridien. Once reach LM, continue down the less busy road. After Fitness Star, it’s Hotel ibis.

Safety

OK, even though the hotel is beside a casino. In general, gang members moving in a group could be seen moving in and around hauptbahnhof.

How To Get There

When I did my research, I foresee that there would be difficulties reaching the hotel from the station, just by looking at the layout of the junction along the way. I even used Google satellite to do a research — which also proved not very useful. We were lost the moment we stepped off the train.

First, go all the way up to the ground level. Wayfinding is bad in the station, but keep a look out for Subway, KFC or Brezen Kolb (bakery).

Following that, go towards East Hall. Once you reach the vicinity, turn left, and you should be heading to the exit that is directly opposite Le Meridien, which was beside HiNH. At the exit, you should see an underground passage stairway.

Technically, all you have to do is to go down the steps, walk straight and walk up the steps and you will be on the other side of the road, which is sort of a road island in between the station and Le Meridien. Just make your way towards Le Meridien.

The catch is that if you are lugging suitcases, then this option is not suitable, as the crossing towards Le Meridien involved crossing several tram railways without the aid of traffic lights.

The alternative is to abandon the underground passage, turn right and head towards the nearest traffic light. It will not seem intuitive as you would be moving away from the direction of Le Meridien, but once you cross the road, you will be on the same side of the road as Le Meridien.

Once on the side of Le Meridien, walk towards the junction and turn the corner. Le Meridien should be on your right, and the old tower on your left. Walk straight for a block, you will see a blue facade on ground floor and the entrance to HiNH is only a few steps away.

Hotel ibis Nuernberg Hauptbahnhof

Königstorgraben 9,

90402 Nürnberg, Germany

+49 911 24090

accorhotels.com

Like My Review

If you find the tips helpful in deciding whether to stay at this hotel, or what to do when you come here, do go to Tripadvisor, search for “Zenov” and like my review.

Or, if you are planning for a trip to Bavaria this coming winter, follow my blog, as I will post more about my adventures in Bavaria, and tips on getting the best out of your vacation!

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Sound of Schnitzel: Steinheil 16 [Review]

N and I had just completed our day trip to Salzburg, and we were contemplating on the train what to have for dinner.

The original plan was actually to have dinner at Salzburg itself, before returning. Salzburg turned out to be a bore, and we actually left the city before sunset.

Reviewing our itinerary, we found one restaurant that we were supposed to go for our first lunch at Munich, but forgot (we were still overwhelmed with excitement that we didn’t check out itinerary properly). Since we meant to walk from our hotel to that restaurant initially, and we are now transiting from Munich Main Station, we thought: Might as well.

So off to Steinheil 16 it was.

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Location

Steinheil 16 is a few blocks away from Munich Hauptbahnhof, which according to Google Maps, is 1.2km away. Since there was no subway stops in its immediate surroundings, and we were not confident of taking trams, we thought we would walk our way there.

To be honest, walking around the city is one of the best ways to know the city. In this part of Munich north of the main station, which was supposed to be less sleazy than the southern area that we also walked through, the neighbourhood was still dimly lit and interestingly was very quiet.

The walk there should not be much of an issue, had I not already walked so much in Salzburg. So a short 15-minute walk ended up as a 30-minute walk.

Since the street layout of Munich was near a grid-style, it was not difficult to reach Steinheil 16; one just need to know to turn at the correct junction.

I don’t really know why Steinheil 16 was named as such, but I assumed it was because the street name was Steinheilstraße, which I infer that the restaurant takes its name from its address. This also meant that, once we’re on the right street, we only needed to turn when we saw Steinheilstraße.

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Munich at night is too quiet for comfort.

Ambience

When we reached, it was almost 7pm. We were worried, because when we reached our dinner place (Schneider Bräuhaus München) the day before, we had to queue for another half an hour, so we thought we would end up in the same fate.

Lucky for us, we were still considered early and most of the people who made reservations had not turned up. We were given a table that we must give up by 9pm (easy-pizzy). Half an hour into our stay, the place was already filled up and people were already queuing up for a table, so I must say that being early and being in small groups when eating at this restaurant is still essential!

It was not a large place per se; it could at most take 60 pax including counter seats. Like many other restaurants we visited, Steinheil 16 was also wooden-themed in interior and had a bar in the centre of it. The lighting was warm, and when it was crowded, it was not noisy. Good acoustics, I would say.

Service

The lady who served us was nice, considering that it was our 2nd day in Germany and we were still apprehensive speaking English in a predominantly German place. She also bothered to let us have a reserved table, and offered us the English menu.

Food Variety

Shall I say, all restaurants in Munich are simply franchises of each other? They basically served the same food and beverage, the difference being the way the food is cooked and presented. Just like how every tze-char in Singapore are similar, yet different from each other?

Schnitzel is the restaurant’s mainstay and what it’s famous for. However, they also served bratwurst. These are the 2 basic options, and customers could choose the variant style of cooking. For me, I took its classic Schnitzel (that was what I walked 30-minutes for!) and N chose Curry Bratwurst.

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Salad

Since my Schnitzel came in a set with salad, I got to satiate my hunger with some greens beforehand. N had earlier noted that we had not eaten vegetable since we reached Munich, though I begged to defer, because my Pulled Pork Sandwich in Hotel Müller had cabbage and saurkraut.

Oh well.

My salad looked like the classic greens served in Singapore’s Western restaurant -> Cabbage, cucumbers, carrots and corn, drizzled with thousand island.

I was OK with all, except the cucumbers. Some how, the cucumbers lacked the lightness that cucumbers in Singapore had (a characteristic that made cucumbers good for eliminating heatiness after eating satay or BBQ food). Instead, as I described to N, it had a heavy ‘soil’ taste.

This is a good point to note, because one might argue this could be due to the improper handling (i.e. washing) of the cucumbers at the restaurant. However, I later attested that all cucumbers in Munich / Austria had the ‘soil’ taste, so if anything, be aware of this change in taste when in Germany.

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Schnitzel!

My Schitzel came looking as plain as it could be. It was not huge like that of Andy’s Krablergarten, nor was it thick like that of Schneider Bräuhaus München. It just looked like plain old breaded pork cutlet.

But looks can be deceiving.

Although it was thin, whatever in it was mainly pork. Yes, in Singapore, be it a thick or thin cutlet, the thickness of the meat is always 1mm. In this case, the meat-to-batter portion was 3:1. It was so sufficient that I could taste the meat, and also conclude that the meat did not have the ‘pork smell’ that most pork sold in Singapore had!

Speaking of the batter, I quite liked it, for a unique butter-y taste I would say was very satisfying. It added another dimension to the taste rather than overpower it.

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Curry Bratwurst

Before I went to Munich, I only knew to eat bratwurst and Schnitzel. I didn’t know Germans were so into curry too.

That was the first time I had curry bratwurst and the explosion of sour/salty/spicy was interesting to say the least. Mind-boggling could be the better word.

Verdict

I must say I have a hard time deciding whether to recommend this place.

The 1hr trip to and from Steinheil 16 really makes it a hard sell, especially someone like me who don’t like to walk long distances just to eat something. However, this place offers schnitzels that are not of commonplace recipes. So, unless you decide to take a cab there, perhaps you can leave your calories for other schnitzel places.

How To Get There

Steinheilstraße 16
90459 Nürnberg
Germany

steinheil16.de

+49 89 527488

Like My Review

If you find the tips helpful in deciding whether to visit this restaurant, or what to do when you come here, do go to Tripadvisor, search for “Zenov” and like my review.

Or, if you are planning for a trip to Bavaria this coming winter, follow my blog, as I will post more about my adventures in Bavaria, and tips on getting the best out of your vacation!

Cam-ception: Olympus TG870 [Review]

When I planned for my year-end trip to tour Christmas markets, I was concerned about 2 things: Capturing the beauty of the Christmas markets in low light, and having a camera that would work in the cold.

My first instinct turned to the Olympus Tough series.

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I had used point-and-shoot digital cameras, mostly hand-me-downs. My first and only purchase was Olympus Tough, which I brought it to my training in Nepal, so that I could record my journey through the wet and wild terrain up in the mountains. I even once dropped it in the sea at Bali, and the guide managed to fish it out of the ocean safe and sound!

Almost 7 years later, I reviewed the photos taken back then, and was satisfied at how well those photos were taken, even with today’s standards. That made me think that I should buy the tough series again for my long-planned Munich trip.

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I took this with my older, but now-defunct Olympus Tough camera

My objectives were as such:

  • Be able to capture the beauty of the Christmas markets, especially when they were illuminated at night
  • Make sure the camera would survive the wintry cold

The 2nd objective sounded lame, since most point-and-shoot cameras were supposed to be mainstream, and that meant it was also designed for people staying in winter countries in mind. However, I really did not want to take things to chances, and since I had such a good experience with the predecessor of Olympus TG870, I saw no other reason to deny TG870 from coming into my possession.

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Purchasing Process

I made my purchase over iShop Changi, which itself has various promotions over the year (for mine, it was the Pikachu promotion), on top of the very attractive promotion of no GST for the products. This benefits both outgoing and incoming visitors, both of whom can pick up their purchases, free of GST, before the start of their holiday.

Just pop over to the website (LINK) and make the purchase, indicating the location and date of pick up in the transit area of Changi Airport. On the day itself, present the invoice at the counter to redeem the purchase and you will be good to go!

I believe one can find out in details the features of TG870 on the official Olympus website (LINK). I shall just highlight some of the features that appealed (and distracted) to me.

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Flipping Screen

The screen that can be flipped over was touted to be very good for taking selfies or for photos at a weird angle. For the former, there is even a front button (in red) that allows more convenience in pressing the shutter during selfies.

I find that very useful, except it required quite a while to get used to.

Anyone used to taking selfies on phones will instinctively look at the camera aperture when taking selfies. I eventually found out that for TG870, one should not look at the aperture, not at the screen, bit somewhere in between, so that the selfies will look natural. Don’t ask me why, I just knew this should be the case.

Another benefit of the flipping screen was to be able to take photos at weird angles. I only thought of using it near the end of my holiday (see example below), but I am so impressed with the ability that I made a conscious effort to take photos from weird angles, making use of the flipping screen!

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This is not an especially difficult photo to capture, but hey, at least I don’t need to prone on the icy cold ground!

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Scenes

There were pre-set scenes that allowed one to quickly take a picture for an adequate environment, without fumbling through various settings. That was convenient, and as a whole, I found that rather useful and good to use.

I used the “Landscape” and “Snow and Beach” interchangeably during my stay in Hallstatt. The area was covered in frost (hence the use of the latter scene), while the steep slopes of the surrounding mountains have yet to be covered in snow. Before that, I had just used a generic setting for every environment, and I must say the outcome for using these 2 scenes were satisfying.

There was also the scene for taking scenes under low light, one for with and one for without a tripod.

The scene setting to be used with tripod (or a stationary stand) was rather good, when I took a photo of the evening view of Lake Hallstatt, at the balcony of my room.

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For the other setting, I used it around Hallstatt, as well as when I was walking through the Christmas markets of Munich. Both worked rather well, except that the one for tripods produced (expectedly) better photos.

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The scene for portrait, however, was not as good, even though it was meant for selfies. Most of my selfies taken in this scene (with hand and with tripod) turned out to have fuzzy outlines and were either over or under-exposed.

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Double-locking Mechanism

To ensure that the camera body is in a snug, water-tight state, the opening to the battery / SD card compartment is double-locked. Yes, double-locked!

This double-locking is not a nuisance, since… who opens the battery compartment often (since we can also charge the camera like a handphone), and I quite liked the idea of it, though I haven’t encountered a situation that proved its usefulness (Hallelujah!!). But well, this is one of the features that gives me some assurance that my purchase is gonna last as long as I hope it will 🙂

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Flash

There were 2 sources of light from the camera, the normal flash and LED light. I haven’t really tried them (I am rather against the use of flash) to be able to make a qualitative comment on the feature.

However, one aspect of the flash did get onto my nerves.

When in Scene mode, one must remember to turn off Auto Flash before snapping away, every time the camera is started up. For me, I have the tendency to take photos at a whim, and the last I wanted was to have the flash destroy my photo and I missed the opportunity for the perfect scene.

When in the generic setting, my option to deactivate the flash was remembered, which was the reason why I tend to stick to that setting most of the time. But I must say that setting does not produce the best pictures all the time, because, well, it was not optimised for all environments.

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GPS and Wifi

The camera is inbuilt with GPS, so when activated, the camera can tag every photo with the location where the photo was taken. This was good, for uploading onto Instagram (no need to search through the locations) or just simply for reviewing in the future.

Honey, do you remember where we took this picture 20 years back? Oh, TG870 tagged it for me!

An even more advanced setting allows one to show the pictures taken on a map, mapping the journey of a holiday. I wasn’t quite attracted to that feature, so I did not make use of it at all.

The wifi was supposed to be another deciding factor for me when purchasing TG870. It allows one to transfer the photos to one’s smartphone, meaning sharing of photos is convenient.

That required installing Olympus’ app on the smartphone, and taking photo of the QR code shown on the camera screen when the wifi feature was activated.

Except that this did not work for me, on Samsung Note 3 or Note 5.

I have not successfully connected my phones to the camera till date, so I must say this is one major disappointment for me!

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Buttons and Dials

The dial to scroll through various pre-set settings is unique to Olympus. I can’t say I am a fan of that feature, since my fat fingers don’t really get along well with the dial to make the turning a pleasant experience. This was made worse during winter in Munich: Imagine my fingers feeling numb from the cold, so I could not really control the dial as well as when I do in warmer environment.

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However, that huge shutter button, on top as well as in front, was simple but well-designed. My frozen fingers need not search frantically for the shutter during selfies (in the cold, one can only force a smile for 3 seconds) and the image stabiliser meant that I could just whack the button and still generate rather clear photos.

Not very classy, but when one needs to get things done, things have to be done! 😛

Verdict

Olympus TG870 is a rather expensive point-and-shoot purchase for me. I used non-tough digital cameras before, and I must say those cameras were soooo fragile even under normal use (scratches on the body after a simple knock, exposed to rain etc). Although I am not sure if I will take my TG870 to rough conditions like I did for my old Tough camera, I though the added cost was a good form of insurance for me.

I am rather pleased with the quality of the photos, save the wifi feature that failed me even 2 months after I own the camera.

Other than that, if you can afford to buy this camera, buy it!

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Fantastic reproduction of red and greens, eh?
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Final add on! This is actually taken under water, because this camera can!