Friday, November 17, 2017

Amari Hotel Staycation at Johor Bahru

Staycation period : 17 Nov - 19 Nov 17

Hello readers! Jeremy and I went for a recent staycation at Amari Hotel Johor Bahru. I have exhausted my annual leave before this year even ends so we couldn't travel anywhere far. Anyway, that's what typical Singaporean do when we can't travel overseas, staycation is another form of our recreation.

For us, we decided to go in JB for our staycation mainly because of the high exchange rate : 1 is to 3 ringgit, for the same price we paid in Singapore will probably get us a deluxe room but executive club room in JB. Thus i started doing my research and decided to choose Amari Hotel as our choice for our staycation. It was a 3d2n stay. The hotel has just opened its door to the guests in May 17 this year so there wasn't much reviews online yet however, i have researched before this hotel brand in Bangkok, Amari watergate and that was going to be my next ideal hotel to stay if i visit Bangkok again so i thought maybe we could give it a try the one in JB. There was a promotion going on when we booked the room for complimentary upgrade if you stay with them for minimum of 2 nights for this month + late check out till 3pm!

Learning from our previous staycation experience in JB during our stay in Double tree Hilton hotel when we booked the one bedroom suite but there were no bathtub. This time round, i email the hotel staff directly to enquire first before booking whether their complimentary upgrade is still available and check with them if there is bathtub for their executive club room. So the staff told us complimentary upgrade is still available but bathtub is only available for their junior suite and one bedroom suite.

So we booked the executive club room because i can be assured that we will be upgraded to the junior suite. On that day, i remember taking half day off from work because we have to run some errands before heading in. However, we only managed to went in during the evening because it was a last min packing of our luggage as i was too busy. Even though we had the MACs lane pass, but the bus queue was terrible and we waited for more than 1 hour to take the bus to the Malaysia customs.

After we have cleared the Malaysia customs, i was pretty mad when Jeremy top priority was to get a sim card for mobile data, we were standing near the Malaysia customs conveyor belt as he simply handed me the heavy luggage before he walk ahead first to buy the card (I don't understand why he couldn't take it along with him)

I was going to walk out when the officer stopped me to get my bag scanned. This idiot didn't even looked back when i tried to call him after being stopped because this happen in just a spilt few seconds! The luggage is pretty heavy, i was carrying my own bag and i was holding his stupid blazer and pants in the dry cleaning bag and now i have to carry the luggage up the conveyor belt for scanning. Imagine the anger building up in me after i cleared the scanning and walked towards the shop that were just few hundred metre away that he was purchasing his mobile data card. We usually converse in mandarin so it was something like, '
你一定要现在买?没有data 会死是吗? Which literally mean if i translate to singlish , 'do you have to buy it right now? You will die if you don't have data huh?' I was even angrier when he give me that kind of attitude and gesture asking me to leave him alone and just go. So i did.

I walked off immediately without even turning back, while still holding everything with me. I didn't have any mobile data with me, but walked to the section to take cab. So i took the cab and reached the hotel entrance even though the hotel is located at the back of the komtar mall only. I was not going to carry all these heavy stuff to walk to the hotel! Anyway it's not my ringgit that i am spending.

I was greeted by the friendly staffs and they offered to help me with the luggage but i declined politely because i wasn't sure if i can check in first. So the staff was guiding me to take the lift to their main hotel lobby at level 6. This was taken when we were returning back to the hotel in the middle of the night like 3am++? Hahaha

Even though i book the room reservation, but i was using Jeremy's creditcard so I wasn't sure if i can check in if they require me to sign the pre-authorisation form even though i had his cc card with me. So, eventually I approached one of the staff at the concierge counter for the wifi password. But after i connected to the wifi password, i didn't contact him but went to the front desk to try and see if i can check in first, while informing them that my husband is on the way. So, they checked my reservation and told me that i can actually wait for him and check in at their executive lounge. So, eventually that Jeremy text me and he came over to find me before we went up to the exec lounge to complete the check in process.

I guess the ambience and pleasant experience with all their friendly staff when i first reached the hotel helps that somehow my anger towards Jeremy was appeased as we went up to the exec lounge to check in. Welcome drink were served to us as the staff explained to us their facilities, and the staff helped us to book the spa reservation for the next day at their Breeze Spa. 

I like that the guests who stay in executive club room onwards are able to check in comfortably at their exec lounge, i mean even though this is the norm for the hotels that i stayed in Singapore, but Hilton hotel in JB didn't quite meet this standard when we actually paid more than what we paid in Amari back then.

However, I find it strange that Amari hotel junior suite is located at level 8, our room was upgraded but now we are staying lower floor which i was telling Jeremy, how come it feels like a downgrade  when our original room type should be on the high floor. 

Executive club room were located at the highest floor though i couldn't recall the total number of levels in this hotel. Based on my experience, suite floors should always be located at higher floor than exec club floor, but Amari hotel does not appear to be the same. However level 8 is the same level to visit the gym and the swimming pool so i wonder if they were trying to create more convenience and easier access to all their suites guests instead. Our room was located at the end, nearing the corner unit.
I like that they have this full length mirror upon entering our room.

But since only their junior suite room onwards has the bathtub, so i was pretty ok even if we don't stay at high floor. Haha, the rainshower and bathtub!

In terms of rooms, i thought their junior suite is pretty small if i compare it with the one bedroom suite of Doubletree Hilton hotel. The lighting is not enough in this room and look dim because their lights is all located at the side or corner of the room. So i thought it could be good if they could improve the lighting in their rooms. But overall Amari hotel still wins my heart because we were really impressed with their service. Throughout our stay, we were always greeted with a smile by their service staff. Their warm hospitality and initiative to ask and render assistance was very rare in Malaysia hospitality industry.

If you would like to read on my blog post on Doubletree Hilton hotel staycation, click HERE 
Basically i like to check out the amenities a hotel provide in their rooms whenever i stay in one. I thought it was a smart move for them to embrace technology through the function of the tv to introduce their services and recommending a few nearby cafes or tourist attractions to explore for their guests instead of the typical hardcopy printed handbook that you will find in at least 4-5 star hotel at their working desk.

From the tv, we were able to check out the different type of spa treatments. I don't do massage in Singapore so i didn't know it was considered expensive when my friends were checking with me their pricing in this hotel as they told me it was way cheaper if you do elsewhere in Malaysia. 

When they were asking me for the room rates before saying that i am crazy to book at such an expensive room rates to them. I think when it comes to price, this is subjective.

For eg: if your main purpose is to shop till you drop in Malaysia and dread having to squeeze with others to queue and clear customs to get back to Singapore after a tiring day and wish to get a place to stay for the night before returning the next day. You could be willing to pay anything less than $50-$100 for a night and a $200 might sound ridiculously expensive to pay for a night.

On the other hand, if you are looking beyond just a room to settle for the night, but going more for the experience, you wouldn't mind paying for high room charges if the hotel is able to provide an impressive or memorable experience for you. I think everyone need to understand there is a reason for different type of hotels such as budget hotel versus reputable luxury hotels because they simply have different type of target market having different needs. 

A guest that is on budget will tell you that it's ridiculously expensive to pay just $200 for a night but a guest that pays more than just the product knews they are not just paying for the room. I am not saying it's wrong to stay in a budget hotel if you prefer to do so but to reiterate that the impression of room charges is subjective for everybody. 

There is no way a budget hotel is able to provide the same offerings compared to a luxury hotel because they doesn't charge the same rate as a luxury hotel do. Anyway we paid about $200+ per night for our stay in Amari and getting upgraded to the junior suite. I thought this was pretty affordable.

We check out their pool and their gym before heading out for dinner!

Komtar mall has a lesser selection of restaurants compared to city square so we went to city square for chinese food in Dragon-I restaurant.

After our dinner, we went shopping as it has been long since i came in J. It was too late for us to go KSL so we were hanging around city square. I was at the Sasa store when Jeremy told me he saw Brian & Ashley shopping at the Bata store a few door away. Haha, i thought this was too coincidence because i was asking Brian that afternoon if he want to join us in JB, but he was saying he cannot join, need to work so i was okay lor. So i was pretty surprised to see them in city square mall. 

We went to have some yogurt, wanted to watch a movie but no any particular good movie worth to watch, so someone suggested KTV, since Brian drive so we went to KSL and was trying to find the entrance to enter the mall but all their entrance were locked. The only way to get in was through their carpark entrance as we walked down the slope before taking the lift up to the KTV.

Initially we only plan to sing one hour, but we ended up extending again and again until it was due for closing. Hahaha. This was our first hang out recreation activity, also the first time I went KTV with Jeremy because he don't really sing. When we returned back to our hotel, it was already 3am++, bathed etc before getting in bed. I remember setting the alarm clock but i didn't hear the alarm going off and we missed our breakfast.

18th Nov 17

The next day, since we missed our breakfast, we decided to check out the exec lounge first.
This hotel has one of the best location if you are looking to stay within the range of city square and Komtar JBCC mall. We could see the cars coming in Malaysia checkpoint from the executive lounge view. The staff at the exec lounge impressed us with their impeccable service as they greeted us warmly, and being attentive in serving us.
Their executive lounge was pretty empty and we were the only guests hanging around at the lounge. Super exclusive. Haha

They have rooms that has direct access to the pool from their room, but i wouldn't be interested because i saw there were many kids swimming in the pool the next day and i thought it could be quite

Anyway, i took some pictures for their Breeze spa various massage treatment & pricing, do google again if you are interested to book their spa in case there is adjustment of their pricing.

This is our view from our room. Previously i didn't see there was a pedestrian crossing, but i am glad they have it now so that we can have easy access to the mall. This is how near it is, read the end of this post for more guide to getting to the hotel.
 The other side of the balcony, not much view because we were staying at lvl 8, which i mentioned earlier that it was strange to have suite floor located at low levels.

We went down to the hotel lobby to confirm our spa treatment, and i saw this signage outside one of their function room. I thought it was pretty cool they have movie screening for anyone that would like to enjoy a movie. So far the only hotel that i been to that offered movie screening was the Quincy Hotel in Singapore, they had it at night beside the pool side.

So, i was surprised that Amari hotel here also provide movie screening even though i think it catered more for the kids. They had this signage on the next day as well.
Out of curiosity, i entered the function room, because the whole place looks very spacious and i spotted this pool table that anyone can play for free! 

 There were plenty of seats and coffee are also provided at the back if you need it.
Inside the function room, there is another door that leads you to another room, and this is where the movie screening takes place! 

The three rooms are interlinked, right side will lead you to the movie screening room and left side to the hotel library for their hotel guests to borrow books or to surf the net and there were plenty of computers for guests to use too.

We went to the Breeze Spa to select our spa treatment! The walkway leading to the Breeze spa.

As our appointment is booked for 3pm slot, we went out for lunch first before returning back to the hotel. We decided to visit this cafe that was introduced to one of the service staff, i think he should be one of the manager but i didn't get his name because it was pretty random as we were taking the lift and he entered as well and greeted us before asking us our stay with them so far and he was being very sincere and enthusiastic about introducing us several cafes that we can check out so one of it that he thought was good was the 'Flowers in the window' It was walking distance from the hotel, this was also the first time i explore the stretch of cafes outside the mall and there is this 'little india' area that you will definitely pass by to get to this cafe. 

This cafe is located at Jalan Dhoby, near the Hiap Joo bakery that sells the popular banana cakes.
This two storey cafe has a plethora of different vibes, carpentry cum verdant style, it has a very homely ambience and good food.

We went back to the Breeze Spa later, ready to start our spa treatment! We were served with this purple color drink and towels to freshen up before the session. Later, i was told this is the butterfly pea flower tea, it can be served hot and cold. Usually once brewed, it is in blue but they added lemon so the color changed to purple. Similar to green tea, this blue pea tea is full of potent antioxidants, has been studied for it's ability to fight against premature aging.

The taste is pretty good. 
After that, we were brought into the changing room, and simply to ring the bell once we have changed out. 

This was the spa changing room. 

That's the bell that i was saying on top of the drawer to ring it when we are ready. Haha

The changing room were spacious, and it was exclusive just for us because we booked the couple room for the spa. After we have changed, this is the room for the massage. Before we started, we were told to fill up a form and to indicate the force level that we would like for the massage. It was pretty comfortable that i think i actually dozed off. I know Jeremy dozed off too because i could hear the snoring that comes from him. 
In this room, this is the jacuzzi, but we didn't use it as apparently that is another kind of spa package.
It was raining heavily outside and we were glad to stay indoors without getting drenched. After the relaxing spa session, it was almost time for our cocktail reception at the executive lounge. I was excited to try it because we missed the one on the day of our check in. The cocktail session start from 5 to 7pm. I was hoping the food don't taste terrible like the one we had at Double tree hilton exec lounge.

Amari hotel in JB doesn't disappoint! We went to the lounge, after settling down and immediately the staff handed us the menu of the cocktails that we could request! This was what i was expecting back during our staycation in Doubletree Hilton JB, but they had nothing like this! They only had one corner with some red wines, hard liquor for self service. pffsh. 

Another plus point for staying with Amari hotel JB. We ordered our drinks and went to check out the foods!

Not too bad for cocktail reception. There were more variety comparing to the one we had in Doubletree hilton.

I love the desserts and especially the salmon bruschetta that i took a few more!

We try to take a grab after the cocktail session but it was in high demand which i guess the heavy rain contribute to the price hike. Did i mention that Grab can be used in Malaysia too? Hahaha, I hope more country can implement this Grab function. Especially Japan. As of now, i know that Grab can be used in Thailand and now Malaysia has grab services too! In fact, i think many told me most use Uber in malaysia but i prefer grab. Since we were not in a rush, we decided to wait and managed to book Grab to KSL mall and it cost only sgd $2! It was super cheap. Casual shopping but ended up with many stuffs back to our room. I set my alarm clock so that i can get out of my bed to try their breakfast the next day!

19 Nov 17
We managed to try their breakfast this time round. Verdict : Their breakfast was not bad too! This is rare and I hope they can maintain their level of this food quality if not even better. Previously, i always had this idea that Malaysia hotel breakfast sucks. This is not without experiencing similar encounters after staying in two hotels in Malaysia. We were not even staying in budget hotels. We stayed in Capri hotel back in KL, the breakfast was the same everyday, offering the same food everyday but the quality still sucks, same goes for the one at double tree hilton hotel. I have give up to include breakfast now whenever i book our room for staycation in Malaysia. 

For our case in Amari hotel, as our room was junior suite so breakfast and cocktail reception is included. But i was glad that the food was not too disappointing after comparing with the past two hotels. 

As we had a late checkout at 3pm, there were more time for us as we went down to play the pool after breakfast before going back our room to rest and i could have a second soak in their big bathtub.

We were packing before preparing to head out for our lunch, i will be using the pictures that we were leaving from the hotel to get to the Komtar JBCC, so follow the exact guide and you can reach the Amari hotel which isn't that difficult. It takes only a 5min walk.

As we walked out of amari hotel, walk to your right and enter the building, you will see the 7-eleven store. If you walk to the left, basically it will be the route to explore the cafes as you follow the GPS. On the other hand, if you are coming to check in to Amari hotel, once you have spot this convenience store, simply turn to your left.
It's impossible to miss this store if you follow this guide. You will be able to see a chinese restaurant on the same floor. 
Go down this escalator
Once you go down the escalator, walk straight out and you will be able to see the Morganfield restaurant on your right side, walk towards that side to take the pedestrain crossing and you will reach the Komtar JBCC.

It's pretty straightforward i guess. Overall, i enjoy my stay with Amari hotel and is planning to visit again next year with my bff. Amari hotel could be your next hotel to try if you love staycations like i do.
I shall end this post for now.
Till then!