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Tag: Family-friendly

Family Beach Getaway at Nexus Karambunai

The Karambunai coast in Malaysia’s eastern state, Sabah is rich in history with strong ties from her neighbour Brunei. History tells of an ill-fated journey along the coast of Karambunai…

The Karambunai coast in Malaysia’s eastern state, Sabah is rich in history with strong ties from her neighbour Brunei. History tells of an ill-fated journey along the coast of Karambunai resulting in a ship wreck and later an unrecovered ship at the bed of the sea, hence its name ‘Karam’ which means sinking ship and ‘Bunai’ referring to Brunei.

nexus karambunai 1Today Karambunai is home to two local villages and a few notable island resorts, one of which is the massive Nexus Karambunai with an 18-hole perfectly manicured golf course. Situated 45 minutes from Kota Kinabalu’s (KK) airport, the resort has a range of accommodation options suitable for honeymooners, families, groups of friends and even big corporate groups. Away from the KK buzz, Nexus offers the idyllic snappy beach holiday with loads to do around the resort such as water skiing, kayaking and trekking or simply settle into one of the many beach chairs and laze the day away. The beach is private for the resort’s guests’ and my 18-month old son absolutely enjoyed sinking into the sand while the waves lapped on him. Private beaches are quite a luxury for resorts nowadays, especially when it is somewhat of a quiet coast with a backdrop of palm forest and rolling hills.

nexus karambunainexus karambunai 2The hotel’s nature guide, Leroy tells us that there used to be a trail at the end of the beach climbing up the hill, swinging round the jagged cliffs leading up to a vantage point with unobstructed views of the great South China Sea. However, for safety reasons, the trail is no longer accessible. Instead we headed off on another trail into the palm forest just behind the resort. As we entered in, Leroy warned us of mosquitoes. Those blood suckers came in all directions, and the warning was a good caution for preparation. We went in covered with a layer of repellent and was mosquito free. The quiet under grove had plenty of diversity from pitcher plants to the local traditional aphrodisiac, tongkat ali. The trail continued to climb up until we reached Pangiran lookout point. The view was spectacular with nothing but ocean and forest to behold. We descended after 40-mins and returned to the resort by van.

nature trail nexus karambunai nexus karambunai

Arriving back at the entrance of Nexus, I get a sense that the resort’s interior is a reflection of the Malay traditional kampong grandeur. Furnished with dark wood, the high A-framed entrance etched with floral carvings opens to a spacious lobby with a spiral staircase at the end leading to the pool and beach. The rooms have the same rustic Malay traditional design with a minimalist approach.

nexus karambunai  entrance

Imprinted with the 80’s glory days of big resorts, the Nexus Karambunai has a choice of eight eateries to choose from. Unfortunately, during my visit, two of the main restaurants were closed for refurbishment. Noble House, the resort’s only Chinese restaurant is as Chinese as you can get, with its interiors lined with intricate embroidered-designed wallpaper, hanging lanterns and tall slender wooden furniture with circular marble top tables. Food at the Noble House is uncompromised, with the freshest seafood coming from the coasts, the menu offers a range of famous Chinese dishes such as herbal soups accompanied with fresh seafood, Peking Duck wrapped in rice paper rolls and dim sum.

Perhaps what I appreciated most about the resort was the friendly staff. They were at our service anytime of the day with a big smile and a hand across their chest as a gesture of welcome and respect. Stepping into Nexie Club, their indoor kids recreation area, I get a sense that many little people have stepped into the room busying their hands with arts and craft, watching cartoons and listening to stories. The murals on the wall suggests that the resort has had at least two decades of visitors streaming in – donald duck, lion king and mickey mouse.

nexus karambunai 3

Back in the room, our retreat continued. Our Ocean View Room boasts of spanning sea views along the coast lined with swaying pine and coconut trees. The spacious room with wood panelled flooring has undergone some maintenance but still manage to maintain its simplistic charm with every bit of modern facility needed for a comfortable stay. Vacationing at the Nexus reminded me of days when my family retreated on beach holidays to Penang and Port Dickson, the kind of family friendly resort with expansive ground to explore.

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The 240, Phnom Penh: A Break From The Countryside

The trip from Battambang to Phnom Penh is a long one. Five hours on a bumpy road passing by seemingly unchanging landscapes of paddy fields. The occasional houses dotted along…

The trip from Battambang to Phnom Penh is a long one. Five hours on a bumpy road passing by seemingly unchanging landscapes of paddy fields. The occasional houses dotted along the dusty highway and massive tractors and lorries zooming by breaks the mundane scene. To help ease the monotonous ride, our taxi was packed with five adults and three children.

There are no restrictions on number of passengers or the fact that children need to be car seats. In Cambodia, as long as you hang on tight and reach your destination, any vehicle works – this includes three-wheelers, tuk-tuks, motorbikes with wooden plank extensions as seats, open roof lorries and bullock carts. So we found ourselves (me, my hubby and toddler son) sharing the taxi with another couple, their toddler and a baby. We were entertained the whole way with baby gurgles and toddler chatter.

Countryside, Cambodia

Having spent two months living in Battambang’s countryside, arriving in Phnom Penh was a breath of fresh air. A sense of excitement bubbled at the sight of sky scrapers, a MacDonald’s delivery van and the red Illy coffee sign. I was relieved to be back in the city, albeit for a few days.

We checked into an artisty boutique hotel, The 240. Its entrance fresh and welcoming with colourful paintings of animated depictions of Cambodian life hung on the walls and the ceiling. The kind of small boutique hotels that take on the character and charm of the neighbourhood. Apparently, the 240 Street where the hotel is located, has developed into a hip and happening go to offering a selection of fine restaurants, dainty cafes, boutiques and quite a number of small hotels. Old shophouses have been refurbished into nice meeting places. Over the next few days, I spent my afternoons walking the street and making beelines into secondhand bookshops, fairtrade boutiques, jewelry shops and a really good bakery.

The 240_Phnom Penh_1

The 240’s hotel room although a little small had all the necessary fittings including a small study table and a cozy balcony with deck chairs. The room opens out to a balcony curtained with plants making it a quiet recluse from the heavy Phnom Penh traffic.

The 240_Phnom Penh

Just below the hotel is the 240’s cafe, a healthy and wholesome restaurant serving organic delights. Fresh juices, salads and sandwiches. The cafe takes on the same fresh ambience with natural colours on the walls, planters of grass and fresh flowers as table decor, and furniture made with local rattan and wood. The cafe also carried a fine selection of organic goodies from baby food to handmade soaps. Constantly buzzing with customers, I got a sense that the cafe is a local favourite.

The 240 Cafe_Phnom PenhThe 240 Cafe_Phnom Penh_1

Although the hotel did not have a pool, we were given access to their sister hotel’s pools just a stones throw away. The Kabiki is a family friendly hotel set in a colonial building within a lush green compound. The pool is surrounded by native kabiki trees providing just enough shade for the comfy lounge chairs and cabanas. The Kabiki is situated just 250 metres from The 240 and we enjoyed a quick evening swim with our little one there.

Kabiki_Phnom Penh

I also visited The Pavilion after reading about it in the hotel’s compendium. Located near the Royal Palace and about 150 metres from The 240, this property is catered for the seasoned traveler looking for a bit of luxury. Its white walls provide recluse for the guests and one would easily walk pass the unassuming heavy wooden door leading into the compound.

A perfectly palm shaded walkway led me into an open courtyard with a beautiful aqua blue pool facing the entrance of what looks like a heritage building. The beautifully refurbished villa was reportedly the Cambodian royal family’s home in the mid-twenties. I was treated to a massage at the Pavilion’s Spa, a small intimate spa with signature massages. After the blissful massage, I lazed around in the daybed while enjoying a steaming hot cup of ginger tea while the sun rays danced on the pool.

The Pavillion_Phnom Penh

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