Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Black Friday (24 November 2017) is considered to be the beginning of the year-end Christmas shopping season. On this day, the promotions are usually the most attractive. Many shops are open earlier than usual to accommodate early birds. It is not unusual to see people camping outside shops in order to grab limited-quantity items as soon as the doors are opened.

Not everyone can queue up overnight. Even if one does, one is not guaranteed to get all items on the wish list. In some cases, pushing and shoving can lead to unpleasant experiences. Therefore, more retailers are migrating their Black Friday offers to online platforms. This is where ShopBack comes in.

ShopBack has partnered with popular shopping portals like Lazada, Zalora, Taobao, Asos and Stylebop.com to stretch your money even further. Holidaymakers can also take advantage of discounted prices on travel websites like Hotels.com, Agoda and Expedia. On top of ridiculously low prices that these online retailers are already offering, this cashback loyalty platform allows its members to get up to 10% cash rewards on their purchases. Where else can you find discounts like these?

While the hottest items during Black Friday are electronics and home appliances, Cyber Monday (27 November 2017) focuses on primarily on clothing and fashion. Most people choose to shop online because it is a work day. With plenty of sale items going at massive discounts, shoppers can easily navigate through various websites to get the best bang for their buck.

As part of my expanding portfolio as a Foodveler, I will be traveling more extensively in Malaysia and abroad next year. Therefore, I will be using travel websites like Agoda, Expedia, Hotels.com and Booking.com to find affordable accommodation wherever I go. As for airline tickets, I am looking forward to grabbing bargain prices from premium airlines like Emirates and Qatar Airways. These are some of the many partners that ShopBack has recruited under its umbrella.

Another important date to look out for is 12 December 2017. On this day, the "1212" sales has attracted significant attention from online retailers due to overwhelming response from online shoppers in China. A substantial number of shopping portals have pledged to slash their prices even further. This is on top of cash rebates that ShopBack is already giving.

In case you missed out on the Black Friday Cyber Monday discounts, Lazada 1212 sales is one way to redeem yourself. And in case you were wondering, membership is absolutely FREE! So what do you really have to lose here? :-)

Swallow

Special thanks to Swallow for extending this food review invitation.

The Saw Emporium is a historical building at the Seven Streets Precinct of George Town. Adjacent to Macallum Connoisseurs, this building was formerly a sawmill - the first of its kind in Penang. To keep up with the times, the owner is repurposing this prime piece of real estate in several phases.
A year of planning and preparation culminated in Swallow - A Pecking Paradise. This novel dining concept will be held for around 6 months; future development depends on the public's response. The management has handpicked several intriguing eateries to be hosted under one roof. Swallow's concept revolves around casual dining with emphasis on finger foods that can be easily shared around the table.
For its inauguration, Swallow is housed in the warehouse across the main building. This rectangular structure has been refurbished to accommodate the new dining concept while still preserving its original character. At each of its four corners is a resident eatery with its respective kitchen. The center of the dining hall is where drinks are sold. In the evening, a live band performs to keep the ambience lively.
Weather permitting, diners may opt for al fresco dining in the evening. A long wooden table, 5 meters in length, forms the focal point of the courtyard. The table is constructed from two pieces of timber that were formerly workbenches in the sawmill. While taking advantage of the soothing breeze, diners are also mesmerized by the alluring lighting overhead.
Most tables and chairs at the courtyard are sponsored by Kian, a contract furniture designer which specializes in residential and commercial settings. Some of Kian's furniture products are intelligent. An example is the solar-powered picnic table. Solar cells on its umbrella are used to generate power for LED lighting and USB charging ports.
One of the eateries at Swallow is Teppei Syokudo (哲平食堂), which literally means "Teppei's cafeteria". The menu is crafted by Chef Yamashita Teppei who owns several Japanese eateries in Singapore such as Man Man (鰻満). Chef Teppei specializes in omakase (お任せ) dinners and rice bowls (ちらし寿司).
Popular dishes on Teppei Syokudo's menu are Ten Don (天丼, RM28.00), Chicken Nanban (チキン南蛮, RM16.00), Salmon Teriyaki (鮭照り焼き, RM24.00), Japanese Pork Curry (カツカレー, RM20.00) and Edamame (枝豆, RM6.00).

Soi 55 Modern Thai Food offers contemporary interpretations of Thai cuisine by incorporating modern elements into traditional Thai recipes. Its signature fusion dishes include Garlic-Scented Fried Chicken Wings (RM15.50), Sesame Prawn Toast (RM15.50) and Crispy Thai Mango Salad (ตำมะม่วง, RM15.50).
Meanwhile, Embers is a Western steakhouse that uses Asian-style marinades and condiments. The gas-fired barbecue grill supplies a steady flow of roasted meats. A carnivore's favorite is Grilled Aussie Beef Bavette (RM28.00). Inspired by a similar Chinese dish of ginger and scallion, the beef is grilled instead of being stir-fried.
Slow Braised Pork Belly (RM21.00) is a sound choice too. The juicy slices of pork belly are glazed with thick soy sauce, presenting a combination of salty and savory flavors. The dish is sprinkled with crushed peanuts, and then garnished with coriander.
Charred Prawns (RM28.00) is renowned for its buttery aroma especially while the dish is hot from the grill. The plump shrimps are roasted with their shells intact, allowing the flesh underneath to be cooked by indirect heat. Lemon juice and kimchi butter contribute in the taste department.
Moving on to beverages, Taps Beer Bar is the largest craft beer distributor in Malaysia. There are 47 different labels on display this evening - probably the largest collection in Penang yet. In lieu of commercial beer, craft beers provide alternative choices to beer enthusiasts who appreciate unconventional brewing techniques and complexity of flavors.
Taps sources its beers from microbreweries in many countries such as the United Kingdom, Denmark, United States, Australia and Japan. Besides operating several stores in Klang Valley, Taps also supplies craft beer to other restaurants, cafés and bars. Shown here is a bottle of Harviestoun's Bitter & Twisted Golden Ale. Brewed in Scotland, this refreshing beer carries a hint of zesty citrus.
If beer is not your cup of tea, Qwenchers Beverage Bar offers non-alcoholic options such as fresh juices, milkshakes and soda drinks. Selected drinks from the juice bar are Ron Weasley (RM13.00), Grapefruit Greatness (RM10.00) and Lemon Lime Fizz (RM10.00).
Moving on to desserts, Utterly Ice Cream specializes in homemade ice cream, cakes and cookies. Its biggest hit is the D24 Durian with an actual piece of Musang King durian on top. This premium delicacy gives the ultimate gratification that any durian lover can ask for. Meanwhile, 62% Dark Chocolate is suitable for people who love the bitterness of rich cocoa. Besides this store in Swallow, Utterly Ice Cream also operates a kiosk in Gurney Paragon Mall.
In summary, Swallow offers a unique dining experience that is unheard of in Penang. The place is currently open every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday (4 days a week). The management is constantly seeking new restaurants to work with, so expect to see new additions from time to time.
Name: Swallow - A Pecking Paradise
Address: 1, Gat Lebuh Macallum, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-388-9877
Business hours: 10:00am-12:00am, closed on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Website: https://www.facebook.com/TheSawEmporium
Coordinates: 5.40823 N, 100.33146 E
Directions: Swallow is located along Macallum Street Ghaut (Gat Lebuh Macallum), adjacent to Macallum Connoisseurs and directly opposite of T+ Hotel. Customers can park their vehicles at the private parking lot next to Jalan C.Y. Choy.

Tiffin Cottage

Special thanks to Tiffin Cottage Taste Of Home for extending this food review invitation.

Tiffin Cottage Taste Of Home is a small eatery next to Restoran Seafood MYS. The restaurant used to focus on Nyonya cuisine. But after some renovation work earlier this year, Tiffin Cottage has revised its menu to cover Western dishes and mini steamboat.
The dining section of this restaurant is relatively small, yet its homely ambience presents a cozy setting for casual dining. Operated daily by the proprietor and her family, Tiffin Cottage emphasizes on family-style cooking. Most dishes are prepared fresh in the kitchen and do not contain added MSG.
The merit of home-cooked food is reflected in how Creamy Mushroom Soup (RM10.00) is prepared: from actual mushrooms. Indeed, one can feel the chunky bits of mushroom in this appetizing soup. Chopped parsley is sprinkled on the soup for aesthetic appeal.
The Creamy Mushroom Soup comes with two slices of matcha-flavored garlic bread. Although garlic butter still takes precedence in the overall taste, I appreciate the novelty that this unique bread presents. Garlic bread is also available in the à la carte menu for RM7.00 per serving.
BBQ Chicken (RM16.00) is dressed in savory barbecue sauce, but I feel that the sauce overpowers the natural sweetness of chicken. As for texture, the deboned chicken thigh is tender and juicy to my satisfaction. Side dishes are crinkle-cut fries and salad with mayonnaise dressing.
Tiffin Cottage's menu also includes several rice dishes in line with the local palate. One of the more popular choices is Chicken Havenland (RM13.00): pan-fried chicken chop with Asian-style dressing. Loaded with strong taste of onions, garlic and bird's eye chili (cili padi), the gravy makes the chicken succulent indeed.
Taocheow Prawn (RM15.00) is another rice dish that resonates well with locals. The bowl of shrimps is flavored with salty gravy made from doubanjiang (豆瓣酱). Made from fermented bean paste, doubanjiang is typically used to season tofu and vegetables. But this is truly the first time that I encounter doubanjiang with shrimps.
Milk Tomyum (牛奶东炎, RM11.00) is easily one of my favorite dishes today. The creamy soup is prepared from milk as opposed to coconut milk. Although tom yum (ต้มยำ) is often too spicy for me, the presence of milk seems to tone down the soup's sharp taste. Besides instant noodle, the pot of Milk Tomyum also contains minced pork, crab sticks (蟹柳), fish balls, shiitake mushrooms (黑菇) and enoki mushrooms (金针菇).
Each of the main dishes comes with a free drink such as Iced Lemon Tea. Meanwhile, customers who prefer fizzy drinks can check out the Tiffin Soda series. Apple Passion (RM8.00) and Blue Lagoon Soda (RM8.00) are both made from soda pop but contain different types of fruit-flavored syrup.
Tiffin Cottage also serves homemade ice cream that is supplied by a home-based producer. A different set of flavors is featured each month. Ice cream is sold at RM7.90 for a single scoop and RM14.90 for two scoops.
I enjoy the Brown Rice flavor very much thanks to its unique aroma reminiscent of rice husk. Meanwhile, Charcoal Cheese ice cream is prepared from charcoal powder. Last but not least, Banana Walnut is popular among children due to the ice cream's pleasurable sweetness.
Tiffin Cottage has several sets of tiffin carriers on sale. With 3 or 4 bowls stacked on top one another, tiffin carrier is a popular form of lunch box in Asia because it keeps different dishes in separate compartments during transportation.
Finally, Tiffin Cottage also accepts orders for homemade chilled cheesecakes and 3D jelly cakes. The cakes are not stocked upfront, so customers are advised to place their orders 2 days in advance.

Name: Tiffin Cottage Taste Of Home
Address: 6, Lorong Mesra Permai 4, Taman Mesra Permai, 13400 Butterworth, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 012-645-1512
Business hours: 12:00pm-3:00pm, 6:30pm-10:30pm, closed on Thursdays
Website: https://www.facebook.com/tiffincottage
Coordinates: 5.430504, 100.393248
Directions: Tiffin Cottage is located in Taman Mesra Permai, Butterworth. The restaurant is adjacent to Restoran Seafood MYS and faces Jalan Ong Yi How. Street parking is available in front of the restaurant.

Mr & Mrs Fruit

Special thanks to Mr & Mrs Fruit Natural's Candy for extending this food review invitation.

Mr & Mrs Fruit Natural's Candy is a fruit store at i-Avenue. The shop occupies the former location of Happy Meal and is sandwiched between 7-Eleven and Shen Food & Beverages (陞卤味专卖店).
Mr & Mrs Fruit supplies local and imported fruits at the retail level. Unlike most fruit stores, Mr & Mrs Fruit also specializes in bringing in exotic fruits that are not commonly stocked elsewhere. Some of these fruits are seasonal, so customers can expect to see different varieties every month.
Examples of fruits sold here are pineapples, mango, banana, papaya, watermelon, guava, plum and peach. More exotic fruits include kiwifruit (green, red and golden), pitaya (dragon fruit), avocado, persimmon, hami melon and sugar-apple.
Mr & Mrs Fruit also sells fresh palm dates from Egypt and China. Sweet in nature, these dates produce sappy sensation in the mouth. It is uncommon to see fresh palm dates in retail stores. Usually the dried version, called kurma in Malay, is sold instead.
Another attraction at Mr & Mrs Fruit are its blended juices and cold-pressed juices. Taken directly from the shelves, actual fruits are used to produce pure fruit juices.

One such example is Shingo pear (신고배), which is a special cultivar of Asian pear from Korea. Taking advantage of the fruit's honey-like sweetness, the drink does not contain any added sugar. Optionally, customers can also sprinkle some chia seeds onto the drink at no extra charge.
The best pomegranates are grown in India, and these are the most suitable ones for juicing. Unlike those from other regions, Indian pomegranates do not taste sour at all. The drink's intrinsic sweetness is soothing as it trickles down the throat. Preparing pomegranate juice is tedious because the seeds have to be plucked by hand. White membrane must be removed as its intense bitterness ruins the overall enjoyment.
Besides fresh fruits, Mr & Mrs Fruit also sells dried fruits, oats, quinoa, nuts and seeds. Employees of large companies like Intel and Motorola enjoy 5% discount on fresh fruits and juices. Despite being small in scale, Mr & Mrs Fruit is able to offer competitive pricing even when compared to large hypermarkets.

Name: Mr & Mrs Fruit Natural's Candy
Address: 1-1-42, Medan Kampung Relau 1, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 017-461-5556
Business hours: 8:00am-7:00pm (Monday-Friday), 9:00am-6:00pm, closed on Sundays
Website: https://www.facebook.com/MrNMrsFruit
Coordinates: 5.33315 N, 100.29329 E
Directions: Mr & Mrs Fruit is located at i-Avenue. The shop is sandwiched between 7-Eleven and Shen Food & Beverages (陞卤味专卖店). Street parking is available in front of the shop.

Vistana

Special thanks to Vistana Penang Bukit Jambul for extending this hotel review invitation.

Vistana Penang Bukit Jambul is a 4-star business hotel along Jalan Bukit Gambir. This 423-room hotel takes advantage of its close proximity to the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone (FIZ). On weekends, the hotel also enjoys a fair share of casual vacationers.
Arriving guests are greeted by Vistana's spacious lobby with marble flooring. Facing the reception counters are comfortable sofa chairs where early arrival guests can rest while waiting to be checked in. Vistana's official check-in and check-out times are 3:00pm and 12:00pm respectively.
Level 2 is where most of the hotel's amenities are located. A modest-size swimming pool allows guests to wade in its refreshing water - not a bad idea in the morning and the evening. Guests who wish to keep their feet dry can relax on sunloungers next to the pool. There are no lifeguards on duty, so for safety reasons, the pool is closed after 7:00pm.
Vistana's fitness center is located adjacent to the swimming pool. Open around the clock, the gym is surprisingly spacious. There are roughly a dozen pieces of exercise equipment including treadmills in view of the pool. Drinking water and clean towels are provided for guests' convenience.
Vistana does not provide in-room dining service. Instead, guests are welcomed to take advantage of the 24-hour coffee bar at the lobby area. Known as Barista, this eatery offers quick bites such as instant noodles, cookies, pies, sandwiches, pastries and snacks. The drinks menu features a reasonable selection of espresso coffee, tea, juice, smoothie, soda, beer and wine.
Hub 247 is a small business center and communications hub next to Barista. Equipped with two computer terminals (PC and Apple) and a printer, Hub 247 is handy for business travelers who need to get important work done. Guests can also take advantage of this facility to print their boarding passes or check the local weather forecast. By the way, Wi-Fi connection is available throughout the entire hotel.
Vistana's main block, the Hotel Wing, has 19 floors in total. The most common room category is the Executive Deluxe. This standard hotel room comes with either a single king-size bed or two single beds. Meanwhile, Club Deluxe and Club Suite are tailored to guests who appreciate a premium degree of comfort. Club Level guests also enjoy exclusive access to the Executive Lounge.
The Club Suite has the living area and sleeping quarters in separate rooms. There are two bathrooms in the unit - not something that you normally encounter. The living room is furnished with a television, sofa chairs, coffee table, small dining table and coffee counter. Located below the television, the minibar is stocked with carbonated drinks - complimentary for Club Level guests.
In the bedroom, a king-size bed faces the second television set. There are around 20 television channels, covering both local and foreign ones - some with 24-hour programming. The bedroom also leads to a dressing table and a large wardrobe. Inside the wardrobe is an electronic safe for guests to store their valuables.
As for the bathroom, the Club Suite is one of the few units to feature a bathtub. Bath salts are provided to guests who desire to be pampered. Alternatively, there is a segregated shower stall with pressurized heated water. Also included are complimentary toiletries and bathroom essentials from Mangosteen Basics.
Club Level guests enjoy exclusive access to the Executive Lounge. Furnished with comfortable seats, the lounge presents a tranquil ambience for guests to relax and mingle. The Executive Lounge is open from 8:00am to 10:00pm. Throughout the day, Club Level guests can help themselves with espresso coffee, English tea, cookies and fruits.
Evening drinks are served at the Executive Lounge between 5:30pm and 7:30pm. The food counter presents a handful of tapas and pastries that the kitchen has specially prepared for its privileged guests.
Guests who fancy wine can get a glass or two to celebrate the evening. This evening, the hotel has prepared red wine and white wine from Chile. Should guests prefer beer, there is also Carlsberg Draught in the ice tub.
Vistana's hotel rooms are catered for 2 guests each. For larger families, the Suite Wing offers Two Bedroom Suite and Three Bedroom Suite for 4 and 6 guests respectively. Each unit includes a common living area for the family to get together. There is also a small balcony for guests to catch a mesmerizing view at night.
Each hotel room includes breakfast for 2 persons (4 or 6 in the case of suites). Breakfast is served from 6:30am to 10:30am on the Ground Floor. This halal-certified coffeehouse is simply called Cafe. The restaurant is usually closed for other parts of the day unless there are special events.
The most popular section of the buffet line is the action counter. Here, egg dishes such as fried egg, scrambled egg and omelette are prepared. It is advisable to inform the chef if you need have special dietary restrictions like onions or butter.
Meanwhile for English breakfast, the buffet includes familiar comfort foods such as baked beans, sausages and baked tomatoes. Mashed potato, prawn fritters and chicken nuggets are also available on certain days. As for something more local, try some spring rolls, samosa and pandan chicken.
White bread and wholemeal bread are sliced and presented in a basket. There is an electric toaster should guests prefer their bread to be browned. The bread spreads here include butter, jam, orange marmalade, peanut butter and kaya (coconut jam).
French toast is prepared from bread slices that are soaked with beaten eggs, and then fried with butter. Older bread is usually used because it is firmer and does not fall apart so easily.
Moving on to the pastry section, the kitchen has prepared sweet treats such as Danish pastries, croissants, muffins, chiffon cake and marble butter cake. In addition, the counter also presents several types of Malay kuih.
Breakfast cereals are particularly appealing to children. There are three types this morning: Corn Flakes, Koko Krunch and Honey Stars. Fresh milk is provided. Other dairy products are plain yogurt and strawberry yogurt.
Roti canai has become one of Malaysia's favorite breakfast dishes. The dough is stretched beforehand and cooked on a griddle. Once cooked, the flatbread attains buttery fragrance that strikes a chord with most Malaysians. Roti canai can be eaten plain or with dhal (lentil curry).
Next, rice porridge is served with several condiments such as omelette, tofu, boiled peanuts and preserved vegetable. Scallion and soy sauce are provided too.
For something heavier, chicken rice is a sensible choice. The roasted chicken has browned skin which is a delicacy to those who enjoy poultry. Chicken rice is cooked with chicken stock, making the rice quite tasty in its own right. Sweet soy sauce and chili sauce are condiments that go well with this dish.
The breakfast also covers other crowd favorites like nasi lemak (Malay fragrant rice), fried noodle, dim sum (点心), pasta, salad and fruits. As for drinks, there are black coffee, tea and two types of fruit juice.
Vistana's pillar-less Grand Ballroom is sufficiently large to seat 500 people in a banquet setting. This makes Vistana a popular choice for corporate functions and wedding dinners. Tapping into the bridal market, Vistana has several wedding packages that start from RM800.00++ per table.
For smaller events, Vistana has smaller conference rooms to fit seminars and conferences of any size. Priced at RM85.00++ per person per day, a full-day event covers 2 coffee breaks and lunch at the Cafe. Unlike most hotels, Vistana has an overflow parking area to accommodate an increased surge of visitors.
In-house guests enjoy complimentary parking at the basement levels, while event attendees are charged RM3.00 per entry. There are also additional parking spaces along the perimeter of the hotel. For guests who do not have personal transportation, the hotel provides free shuttle services to Queensbay Mall, Bayan Lepas and Seberang Perai.
Hotel rooms can be booked via Vistana's website or through its 24-hour WhatsApp hotline (018-688-0010). Besides this property, Vistana has two more sister hotels in Kuala Lumpur and Kuantan.

Name: Vistana Penang Bukit Jambul
Address: 213, Jalan Bukit Gambir, 11950, Bukit Jambul, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-646-8000
Business hours: 24 hours
Website: http://www.vistanahotels.com/penang
Coordinates: 5.33623 N, 100.29152 E
Directions: Driving southbound on Jalan Bukit Gambir, turn left just before Vistana and drive up to the lobby entrance. Basement parking is available from the back of the hotel. Parking is complimentary for hotel guests.