Getting to know… Keith Jenkins, Velvet Escape

I was like, wow, who’s this boy with the sparkling eyes, glowing skin and infectious smile?

“Oh, that’s Keith!” said my friend Nigel. “Velvet Escape, you know…”

I was like, ahhh…that’s the face behind the famous blog…

Keith Jenkins, 38 years of age but not looking a day over 21. Fresh faced, friendly, and oh-so-fun to be with. Of Eurasian heritage and Malaysian by birth, Keith has been residing in Amsterdam, Netherlands for a good 20 years. Being a full time travel blogger doesn’t always allow you the luxury of holidays (note the irony in that) and he was delighted to be back in KL to reunite with friends and family.


Although his tastebuds may crave beef carpaccio on a bed of rocket salad in restaurants, the Malaysian in him is still strong and he enjoys tucking into a bowl of Maggi Mee at home.

The reason I decided to ‘Get to know’ Keith a little better, and to share that with you, is because I find his journey to where he is today so interesting. After a decade a successful career as a relationship management specialist in corporate banking; as an analyst in investment banking; and an investment specialist in the asset management world, he found he needed more.  A little time off turned into the end of his chosen career, as the financial world collapsed around him.

“Not one to allow circumstances to get me down for long, I have created an entirely new career for myself, following my passions for travel and writing in a way that I’d never realised was possible before. ‘Velvet’ is the context I’ve chosen for my new ventures:  soft, plush, rich …some would say sexy.  When you run your hand over velvet you know there is a certain depth and richness to it; you know you are alive.”

Well, he does radiate a passion for life and adventure, and that truly is evident in his very successful blog.

Let’s get to know Keith better, shall we?

ME: How long have you been a ‘blogger’?

I launched my Velvet Escape travel blog on 30th December 2008 but I started blogging frequently from around March 2009.

ME: What made you switch to full time blogging?

I negotiated a deal to leave the bank in the summer of 2008. The first thing I did was plan something I’d always wanted to do: a round-the-world trip. I bought a business class RTW ticket (a little indulgence to celebrate my new ‘freedom’), packed my bags and left for a 5-month trip. Headhunters were contacting me every other day with jobs so I figured I would just go enjoy myself, then return to Europe and choose one of the offers.

However, everything changed when Lehman Brothers fell in September 2008. The calls with job offers literally stopped overnight. By the time I returned home in December, the world was in crisis and there were no jobs.

I decided to ride out the storm by doing something close to my heart: writing about my travels. I already had my dotcom website but I wanted a more dynamic platform. That’s when I got the idea to start blogging. I added a blog to my dotcom website and started writing about anything that took my fancy.

The blog took off within several months after various high-profile names in travel such as Lonely Planet, Brilliant Tips, Where I’ve Been and NatGeo Traveler discovered and started promoting my blog via Twitter.

By the time the job offers in banking started trickling in in September 2009, I was a full-time blogger and I wasn’t looking back!

ME: Tell me about your blog… what are the topics you focus on?

In an interview with Evelyn a.k.a Journeywoman, I defined a ‘Velvet Escape’ as getting away from our daily routines & exploring, being adventurous, reflecting & doing it in style. Evelyn asked me why I chose ‘velvet’. My reply: “Because of its texture: soft, plush… some would say sexy. You run your hand over it & you know there’s depth/richness to it”.

In a nutshell, a Velvet Escape is more than a luxury escape or a getaway. It’s about using our five senses to enrich our travel experiences, and the impact of the experiences on our personal development. It’s about using travel as a learning tool to become well-rounded, more balanced individuals.

I specialise in highlighting destinations but I regularly cover topics such as food, solo travel and inspirational stories. I also love taking photos and use pictures profusely throughout my blog. I have many photo essay series; one of my favourites is the very popular Plane Views series – these are basically photos I’ve taken from planes on my flights around the world. My readers love it!

ME: How do you choose your ‘holiday’ destinations?

I have a list. When I go depends on many factors like the time of year, expense, my schedule, etc… As a travel blogger, I’m often invited to visit countries around the world and write about my experiences. I must add that these aren’t ‘holidays’; it’s work. For a real holiday, I stick to places I’m very familiar with, like KL or Bali. J

ME: How many countries have you visited to date? Which was the most memorable, and why?

I’ve been to 66 countries and territories. I must say that Chile has been the most memorable. The extremes were amazing: from the dry, inhospitable Atacama desert in the north to the verdant hills in the centre and the barren iciness of Patagonia in the south. The nature and landscapes were truly spectacular. Add to that some of the most divine wines in the Southern Hemisphere and amazing food, and you have the perfect ingredients for a typical Velvet Escape!

ME: What are the 3 things (and why) that you never leave home without on your travels?

  1. My iPod Touch – for my music and easy internet access.
  2. My phone – ok my next phone will be an iPhone so I can combine 1 & 2!
  3. My camera – to take tonnes of pictures!

ME: What’s the scariest experience you’ve had on your travels?

I had a pretty harrowing experience driving up through the Swartberg Pass in South Africa several years ago. I was very careful as the road was quite uneven and the steep drop of several hundred meters on my right wasn’t exactly comforting. I slowed down to take in the view and my friend and I had our windows open. I stayed close to the cliff wall on the left which meant the car often brushed up against the prickly bushes which grew along the roadside. I was driving at a snail’s pace so I could enjoy the view when I suddenly noticed something move in a bush we were about to pass. The bush was about to brush up against my door when I realised what it was: a snake curled up in the bush. The last thing I wanted was for a snake to drop into my lap so I made a quick swerve to the right. My friend, who was in the passenger seat, started yelling as I swerved. The car jerked to the right as I tried desperately to get the car back onto the middle of the road. With a bit of luck, we were back on the road a few seconds later. I hit the brake and broke out into a cold sweat. I’d been inches away from running the car off the cliff!!

ME: What is the most interesting dish you’ve tried/and where?

It wasn’t really a dish but it was a quirky experience. I was on a short trek around Whitsunday island (Australia) when our guide stopped at a tree. He picked up a little green ant and started to explain the medicinal qualities of the ant’s butt. The Aboriginals use it, amongst others, as an aphrodisiac. The guide asked if anyone wanted to give the ant’s butt a lick and everyone took a step back.

I guess I was in an adventurous mood and volunteered. The concentrated lime taste was quite extraordinary. And, no, that quick lick did not do any wonders to my libido!

ME: What is the most disgusting dish you’ve tried/and where?

Bulls testicles. I saw them for the first time at a grill house or churrascaria in Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil). I steered clear of them and chose the tenderloins. When I returned to my table, a gentleman in my group had a testicle on his plate. He saw me eying it and asked me if I’d ever tried it. I shook my head.

He then smiled, said I should, cut a portion of the testicle and handed it to me.

ME: Ewwwww!

I didn’t have the time to say ‘no thanks’! The sight of his knife slicing through the testicle made me squirm very uncomfortably in my chair. I looked at it on my plate and tried to convince myself it was a meatball. I put my fork into it (ouch!) and raised it to my mouth. I munched on it twice and swallowed it quickly. The only thing I remember was a salty juice, which I swiftly washed down with a big gulp of cerveja!

ME: How long do you see yourself doing this for?

Good question. For as long as it continues to fascinate me, I guess.

ME: Do you ever have days when you just don’t want to travel/write?

Absolutely! If I don’t feel like writing, I focus on other things, like marketing the blog or I go for a walk (that always helps!). I don’t think I’ve experienced a day when I didn’t feel like travelling! J

ME: Why do you think people should read your blog?

The Velvet Escape blog aspires to take its readers on a journey to some of the most magical places around the world, introduce them to extraordinary cuisines and bring them face-to-face with people and places that truly inspire. Brilliant Tips, one of the largest travel blogs in the US, once featured the Velvet Escape blog and had this to say:

“Velvet Escape. To me, these words evoke a feeling of liberating oneself from the usual routine and venturing off to a calmer place. You could be on the harrowing streets of Hong Kong and still feel this sense of peace simply because you are leaping out of the daily grind.

Reading the Velvet Escape Blog transports the reader to unique places and inspires the travel bug.

…as you read through the blog posts, you get to know the type of person and traveler that Keith is and, as a result, you feel like this well written online guide has been tailored just for you.”

ME: Tell me about your e-book, Travelations – the trip that opened my eyes.

My ebook ‘Travelations – The Trip That Opened My Eyes’ is about the things I learned during my round-the-world trip in 2008 and how I used the opportunities presented by this unique journey to grow as a person. My purpose with this ebook is to inspire people to experience travel as a means to challenge and discover ourselves, as well as to build confidence.

ME: Cool! How can we get a hold of it?

My free Travelations ebook can be accessed via this link.

ME:  What are your plans for the next year?

There’ll definitely be more travel involved. Canada and Alaska are on the cards. I’m planning a book(s), speaking engagements and some exciting new stuff for the Velvet Escape blog. J I’ll keep you posted via my Velvet Escape FB page!

ME: And lastly, what is your motto/mantra that you live and breathe by?

Stay true to yourself.

ME: Thanks Keith! You’re a supa-star! Hope to see you back in KL soon. Any last words?

In addition to being a full-time travel blogger, I also co-founded the Global Bloggers Network, a community that helps individual and corporate travel bloggers grow and monetize their blogs.

Join me on my Velvet Escapes on:

Check out my new travel photoblog on The Happy Explorer:

Follow me on Twitter:

One Gorgeous Kaftan, two ways of wearing!

This Raya, I was scratching my head what to wear. I don’t really own anything traditional, or decent for a Raya open house, for that matter! Lo and behold, my saviour came in the post a couple of days later, from a brand new online shopping site,

The idea for a site FOR WOMEN ONLY is the brainchild of 3 gorgeous ladies, who want to offer you everything from clothes to beauty products to makeup and wedding photography. Genius!

It was my first Kaftan, and it was love at first sight. And it’s true what they say, it is “One Gorgeous Kaftan, two ways of wearing!” Perfect for Raya…

On the first day of Raya, I went to Hazim’s (Red Weekends) house for some yummy Rendang. I wore the Kaftan in the more traditional way, and everyone loved it, even Terry!

I had to shoot off for a birthday dinner soon after, and I wiggled it round to the more ‘modern’ look.

Two outfits from one piece. Who could ask for more?

Check out the latest collections at

Mooncake Madness!

The Mid-Autumn festival is upon us, and yesterday Terry and I got a very nice surprise delivery from Hilton KL!

A jewellery box? A mini stationary cupboard? What was it?

It was a box of mooncakes! I love the the kitsch purple and yellow frame and cute drawers. For someone Terry’s size, it could almost double up as a wardrobe!

We opened each drawer one by one to discover an array of colours and tastes. Chynna at Hilton KL has really outdone itself!

With so many unusual flavours to choose from, we decided to choose by colour. Terry chose the blue one, because blue is manly.

I chose the pink one, well, because it’s pink!

We shared out the rest of the flavours…

They disappeared in minutes, and let me tell you, it wasn’t easy to fight Terry for the box. There was a bit of a struggle, but I won in the end. Thanks Bel and Jean for the delicious surprise!

*Hilton KL’s mooncakes are Non-Halal, and you can get them at the lobby of the hotel or at Chynna Restaurant.


Chynna Restaurant
Hilton Kuala Lumpur
3 Jalan Stesen Sentral
Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2264 2264

Buka Puasa at Melting Pot Café, Concorde Hotel KL

Oh, these last few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of tasting several buffets around town, in line with the fasting month of Ramadhan. I found one that looks quite interesting.

A typical kampung scene. A nostalgic atmosphere…

Feast on whole lamb with briyani rice, ikan merah panggang percik madu, kari kepala ikan with roti Benggali and sup gearbox…

Hang on. Where are we? I hear you ask.

At Melting Pot Café, Concorde Hotel KL!

Hang on. What’s a sup gearbox? I hear you ask. I didn’t know either! But apparently it’s not to be missed!

What’s on offer?

Salads –  kerabu and an assortment of Thai salads like kerabu pucuk ubi, Thai papaya salad, Thai mango salad and paru goreng sambal.

Choice of 2 soups – Tasty sweet corn and crabmeat soup, flavourful bubur lambuk, sup ayam berempah, tom yam talay are served piping hot at one corner.

Main courses –  kampung style dishes include ayam kerisik daun limau, pucuk manis lemak keledek, ayam rendang pucuk ubi, udang sambal petai, siput sedut masak pedas and lots more…

Kari kepala ikan

Ikan Masin Masak Lemak

Kepah masak tiga rasa

Live cooking stations – roast leg of lamb, mee soto,  laksa Penang, popiah basah and even ice kacang.

Western, Japanese and Chinese – Atlantic cod with spicy Thai sauce and green mango, barbecue beef ribs, broccoli with black mushroom and pacific clam, butter prawns, beef masamman and braised Japanese beancurd.

With 4 different menu’s on rotation specially designed by Chef Abbas Ali, this buffet is next on my list!

Buka Puasa buffet is priced at RM89.00++ per person. Melting Pot is offering a 20% discount during the first week and the last three days.

Get more info at

Red FM’s Gone in 60 Seconds

The Final Challenge: Bungy Jump at the Extreme Park, Sunway Lagoon

I really didn’t want to do it. I really didn’t. Walking on the bridge alone made me feel queasy…

We made our way to the middle of the bridge, signed our lives away on the waiver forms and waited to be called. We were a bundle of nerves and a mix of emotions.

Dilly went first. She made it look so easy, I almost felt ashamed for having asked to have Terry by my side…

We inched our way closer to the edge… sweat dripping down our brows and grips tight on the railings…

I screamed! I panicked! I cried! And then…

We jumped!

There was no turning back…

And then, we were falling…

Not for very long though. BOING!

And into the boat we went…

We made it!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of our tandem bungee jump. I couldn’t have done it without Terry, and don’t you worry, I won’t be doing it again! (well, anytime soon anyway!)

Now get yourself down to Sunway Lagoon and throw yourself off a bridge. If I can do it, so can you!

xx aly

The Quest for The Perfect Sang Har Noodles

*Extract from

I was first introduced to Sang Har Noodles at Soo Kee Mee Stall at Imbi. It was love at first sight. Sigh… One look at those luscious Freshwater Prawns, dripping with a thick, eggy sauce, perch atop a mountain of noodles…

I was hooked. I am a lover of prawns anyway, so imagine my delight when I discovered a dish that actually incorporates prawn head into the sauce. I’ve figured out that you can tell a good Sang Har Noodle gravy just by the colour. The roe from the head, when cooked, seeps out and stains the gravy a delicate peachy pink.

I decided to embark on a quest to find ‘The Perfect Sang Har Noodles’, purely for selfish reasons.

Soo Kee is famous for its Sang Har Meen, and Beef Koay Teow. Some even say it’s the best in town, and it has been around for about 60 years. My first experience there was wonderful, but then again I had nothing to compare it to. With every visit, the Prawns remained giant, fresh and succulent, while the noodles always crisp and tasty.

Next on the list, Imbi Road Soo Kee @ Restoran Sun Huat Kee, Lucky Gardens. I dragged Terry (Red FM Drive) with me.

Presentation wise, top marks. The Sang Har Meen was like a work of art. Taste wise, it was good, but not rich  enough.

When I started my quest for the perfect Sang Har Noodles, everybody told me I must go to Restoran Greenview, near the Rothman’s Roundabout. Our Sang Har Meen arrived, and the prawns were small, the sauce bland, and it was definitely missing that oomph!

Then it happened. I could barely breathe for the excitement of finally ending my Quest for the Perfect Sang Har Noodles. We took the drive to Restoran Pan Heong, Medan Batu Caves and the Sang Har Koay Teow exceeded my expectations.

In the words of Johnny Bravo, “Oh, MAMA!” Succulent prawns, drowned in the perfect pink, prawn head flavoured gravy…

Oh yes, the Quest for the Perfect Sang Har Noodles is over… I shall return again soon to satisfy that craving.

Are you hungry now? Hehe.

xx aly

I could be Adam Richman… “WO-MAN VS FOOD”?

Ok, so AFC and Discovery Travel and Living are pretty much staples in my life. Get home, turn on the TV, watch programmes about food. Saturday’s and Sunday’s are the best, when they rerun shows from the week so you can catch up.

One of my favourite shows is Discovery T&L’s Adam Richman, MAN VS FOOD. I mean, it’s amazing. There’s giant sized food, there’s sweat, there’s even more sweat when he takes on chilli challenges, and most importantly, the amazing feats that he can accomplish in a short space of time.

I think I could be Adam Richman. I mean, we’ve got a lot in common!

He grew up in New York City .I’ve been there three times. We’re practically related!

He majored in International Studies, his love of all things edible naturally drew him into the culinary world after graduation. I also majored in something else, am now doing something completely different, and spend more time in restaurants than I do at home.

Though he never trained professionally, Adam was able to gain invaluable on-the-job experience in the various restaurants he worked in. Well, I also have invaluable on-the-job experience in ‘various’ restaurants. Score!

His most difficult challenge was eating spicy ramen in L.A. My most difficult challenge is stopping myself from too many bowls of my mums Melaka Laksa.

He loves eggs. I love eggs. Mmm. Two a day.

He’s got a seemingly bottomless pit, and has eaten enormous amounts of food ranging from a 72-ounce steak to a gigantic pizza to an order of the hottest curry on the planet. I’ve got a seemingly bottomless pit and have been known to consume plates of koay teow, chicken wings and giant prawns all in one go. Not kidding.

And last but not least, we both appear to have very large mouths. What do you think?




xx aly