A couple of weeks ago, we went to JB for the weekend again. In fact, we have been going to JB rather often for the past couple of months for family reasons, and as a result, we became more familiar with the place.
So we were wondering if we should stay at Double Tree Hilton like before, or if we should check out another hotel. My husband wasn’t very keen on the Hilton because of the increased room rate in the weekend, which is S$145 for a King room without breakfast. (FYI, the Johor state in Malaysia follows the Middle Eastern countries’practice of having weekend on Friday and Saturday. This was a decree passed down by the state sultan a couple of years ago, and it is the only state to have this wierd arrangement. It is especially puzzling since the Sultan recently stated that the people should not blindly follow ME practices. What gives, man?)
We had previously tried Tropical Inn, which is across the street from the Hilton, because we wanted an accommodation within the same vicinity. I can tell you, this hotel sucks big time! The website claims there is in-room wifi, but it turns out to be a scam. We couldn’t even find the network inside the room. Not only that, the room has a musty smell and not soundproofed (I could hear the highway traffic the whole day.) Looking back, perhaps we should have realized that the rate, being less than half that of the Hilton’s, should be an indicator that you truly get what you paid for. But we are still peeved that there was no wifi as claimed.
Here are some pictures of the superior triple room: a double queen bed and a single bed. It is seriously basic despite the “superior” name. Look at the TV! Thank God it was only for a night.
After the experience at Tropical Inn, I told my husband to check out the top five rated hotels in JB on TripAdvisor. One hotel that caught our attention is KSL Hotel & Resort which is above a mall. The reviews are mostly positive; there is parking available, good accessibility to retail stores and eateries, and it even has a dinosaur-theme pool for the kids and a gym. The rates are priced between Hilton and Tropical Inn; for a King room, at about S$105 after tax. We decided to give it a try, though we were mindful that it might be too good to be true.
I made prepayment online (for pretty good rates), which wasn’t difficult to do. But I don’t like the fact that there is no explanation online to guide hotel guests on the parking. (We had been to the mall during a previous trip and parked at the basement carpark, which is quite rundown). Luckily there was an online chat facility available with the customer service agents. It turns out that there are parkings available on multiple high levels, with entrance next to the hotel, and guests can park on level 3-6. Best of all, it is complimentary for guests.
There were a number of Singapore cars in the parking lots and my husband suspects KSL might be a popular hangout for the Singaporeans. The carpark is enclosed and stifling hot (God knows why the management did not allow air flow). It was a relieved to finally get into the building.
The lobby looks pretty presentable. There is even a Starbucks at a corner. Check-in was a breeze and the staff is well trained and friendly. He even helped us to log into the wifi network in the lobby.
Upon entering the room, we liked what we saw. It looked pretty comfy and clean, and turned out to be so. Check out the flat screen TV, that is an indication of keeping up with the time!
Granted it appears a tad less fancy as the one at Hilton, but that is really unnecessary. It has almost all the things I want in a hotel room: slippers, wifi, toiletries, sufficient towels, mini fridge, kettle, and even ironing board and dryer. The only thing missing is a shower cap.
Instead of a shower cubicle, there is a bath tub with both a flexible shower head as well as a rain shower head on the ceiling. But the tub is not suitable for a rain shower, it causes a mini flood since the shower curtain is not able to keep the water inside the tub. It should be used inside a bath cubicle instead, which is how the Hilton bathroom is designed. So, if you do stay at this hotel, don’t use the rain shower.
Other than the minor inconveniences, we actually like this hotel better than Hilton. In fact, we found the best bed here, or to be more specific, the best mattress. It is even better than what we have at home! It is firm but not overly hard. We literally fell into a deep comfortable slumber. I have to ask the hotel for the mattress brand.
We went to check out the hotel pool, but Buddy didn’t go into the water as I forgot to pack his swimsuit, and besides we didn’t really have time for a dip. My husband went to the gym, and he discovered the equipment were like brand new. It’s likely that you could count on one hand the number of people who had used them.
For the rate of S$105, KSL is really best value for money! The hotel also offers tickets and transport to Lego land, which, I must admit, is rather appealing. I have not considered going to Lego land until I stayed at KSL.
Adding to the convenience of staying here is the easy access to KSL mall, where there is a hyper mart, various dining options (most of which are not appealing to us) and retail stores. (The convenience is absent for the Hilton.) However we found Souper Tang restaurant (汤师父), which is located within the hotel premise, next to the lobby. We were introduced to the chain restaurant many years back, but because we didn’t go to JB often, we had never been back until now.
As its name implies, the restaurant is famous for its double-boiled soup. But the main dishes turned out to be pretty good as well. We wanted a simple lunch, and ordered a steamed chicken with sesame oil and shredded ginger as well as Chinese spinach cooked in a broth. My husband ordered a soup but not me. The sesame oil in the chicken dish gave it an appetising smell and a nutty flavor, and the ginger added a little heat, which makes it especially tasty. The vegetable dish is pretty good too. In fact, I love Chinese spinach (苋菜), and this is cooked perfectly in the vegetable broth.
We were told by a family friend, who live in JB, that across the street from the hotel is a row of famous eateries like Soon Soon Heng Bak Ku Teh (pork ribs soup) and Eastern Dragon restaurant, etc. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to check them out.
Before I forget, there is something for travellers to consider before choosing KSL hotel. As it is located in the city center, with a popular mall and a stone’s throw from a food row, traffic can be rather busy near the hotel.
Another eatery that we checked out was Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul at City Square, another mall that is popular with Singaporeans. The find was discovered by my husband’s brothers when they were walking around the mall.
There are the usual fares like curry noodle, Chee Cheong Fun (rice crepes with sweet black sauce and Chili), Penang Laksa and Penang Rojak, as well as local desserts like ice kachang (known as ABC in Malaysia) and chendol. All of which are also very popular in Singapore, though there are different versions of the food. (In fact, variants of Laksa and Rojak are also available in Indonesia and parts of Southern Thailand).In Singapore, the laksa tends to be the curry version, rice noodle soup cooked in rich and savory coconut milk with sliced fish cake, shrimps and cockles and topped with coriander. On the other hand, the Penang version, also known as Assam Laksa, is a spicy and tangy noodle soup cooked in a tamarind-based broth, with shredded fish, shallots, mint, chopped pineapples and shredded cucumber. Both have totally different flavors, and they have their own fans. I, for one, prefer the curry laksa whereas my husband prefers the assam taste. There are also different versions of the Rojak (which means mixture in Malay), in the Southeast Asian countries of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. It is basically a salad of local fruits and vegetables, like cucumber, pineapples, bean sprouts, jicama (benkoang), and fried dough fritters. The Penang version has more fruits added to it, like Jambu (rose Apple) and guava etc.
The cheong fun with the fried onion strips and sweet sauce and chilli was a hit with the guys, though I didn’t find it particularly special.This shaved ice dessert is known as ABC, which stands for Air Batu Campur, in Malyasia, and Ice Kachang in Singapore. Like many food, there is a slight variation between the different locales, like the Malaysian version has chopped peanuts. The shaved ice is done well here, unlike some others eateries
where the ice is a little coarse.The chendol, another shaved ice dessert with thick coconut milk, gula Melaka, and jelly noodles (made from rice flour), is the signature dish here.Among all the food, I only tried the chendol, ice kachang, rojak and the nasi lemak (which unfortunately I forgot to take a picture). In general, I find the food above average but not very memorable. There is no “wow, this is fabulous” moment. It might be because the shop tries to offer too many food options instead of focusing on serving certain top-notch dishes.
In my previous post on JB “The JB trip” dated 31 March, I mentioned the amazing food at New Lucky Restaurant. Well, we had been back every time we stayed overnight at JB. Finally, during one trip, I remembered to take photos. By the way, the restaurant is rather close to KSL hotel.
Live tanks are part and parcel of any Chinese seafood restaurant.
One of the signature dishes at New Lucky is the salt baked steamed chicken, which is fabulous! The chicken is cooked to perfect tenderness, and the saltiness makes it ultra tasty.
Below picture shows my favorite Chinese spinach, this time stir-fried with garlic. In the background, is a large pot of pig stomach pepper soup, which is a major hit with my husband and his brothers. There was non-stop ravings of it being the best pig stomach soup they ever had. And it is true. The pig stomach is double boiled in chicken stock, complete with a big chunk of chicken in it. It should be renamed as “pig stomach chicken soup” because the chicken stock adds much flavor and sweetness. Coupled with the white pepper powder which added heat, you can’t stop having it.
New Lucky is the best Chinese restaurant we have been to in JB so far, not that we have been to many. But the food is generally exceptional, and I strongly recommend to everyone. Only problem is parking can be a bloody pain in the ass. So you have to be there early, by 6.30pm.
I will check out other good eats and post my reviews.