@yaksox wow, me. what a great new widget for to be putting the twitter onto the sunny breaks!
I’m officially out of touch with the Australian ethos. People seem really harsh and unable to make a sentence without swearing. :(
Well I’ve been back in Australia a week now and already I’ve found something to complain about! Telstra: it’s so poorly run. Why is there default setting to interfere with your life as much as possible? I got prepaid 30 day things for both the internet and mob. phone but once that 30 days is up I’ll be spending my dolla elsewhere.
This is a bit later than when I’m usually here each summer, but this one seems like a particularly dry one—down here in the south-west of Vic. at least. I am sad to find out that the Poly-Waffle has been discontinued! We went to PakoFesta in geelong west yesterday—first time I’ve been able to go in nearly a decade. Was great to see the parade and interesting to see how the ethnic mix has changed slightly. Sweden, Finland and France used to have contingents but don’t now. And a couple of new African nations were there walking along and getting their groove on—new enough that the organisers haven’t made wooden signs for their countries yet. I am embarrased to say that I couldn’t really pick the flags, although I’m pretty sure one was South Sudan and the other would be geographically close to South Africa because the design was very similar to SA’s flag. Also, as with many areas of life, China was there, making a lot of noise and being over-competitive. I don’t remember them having a contingent in the past. I used the hipstamatic for all the fotos which probably wasn’t such a good choice.
It seems silly to go on holiday and only blog about the bad stuff. So here’s the good bits I haven’t mentioned yet.
Accommodation: In Kuala Lumpur we stayed at the Classic Inn for a total of 6 or 7 nights. I definitely recommend it. The staff really make an effort to see that you’re happy. I actually stayed here two years ago too, but then I was in a single room. There was a slight misunderstanding on the first night when we got put in a musty-smelling twin-room with no window (avoid room 105 if possible) but once I kicked up a bit of a fuss (brought on by a distinct lack of sleep) we moved to a better room = ask for room 107; it’s a twin-room but you’re with your with your sweety you can just push the beds together. It’s got a window, is relatively quiet in that it’s down a separate hallway, but the window opens onto the front common area, so if the Inn is full then there will be people out there talking til late. That’s to be expected I guess, after all, it’s not a monastery. Also, the wireless node is on the ground floor so you get the best reception if you’re in the ground floor rooms (the rooms on the top floor don’t get any waves, I believe).
They give a free breakfast of coffee, (very grateful for that) fresh fruit, toast and Malaysian-style pancakes or cold noodles. They do laundry for a very reasonable rate and they’ll store luggage (again price is very reasonable) if you want to head off to other parts of the country. All the other features are on their website. The best thing about the place, I would say, is it’s location. It’s easy to get off to all the touristy places and all of the domestic stuff you might need (supermarket, reliable eateries) is literally just across the road.
Penang To be honest we really wanted to go to Langkawi Island but it was all booked up. Penang is a bit more urbanised, or to be more exact, suburbanised. There’s a ring road around Georgetown, the capital, that reminded me a bit of Melbourne or Sydney. Things are spread out across the island which mean you’ll be catching a lot of buses or taking taxis or renting a car. We stayed at the Hydro hotel, which, on the whole, was quite good. The room we stayed in was big, had a partial sea view, balcony and was quiet. They have a pool too, which is good because apparently the nearest beach, batu Ferringhi (not Ferengi) was too polluted to swim in.
The best place we went to in Penang was Tropical Spice Garden which had a whole bunch of spice and herb plants spread around some lovely little pathways. If, like me, plants don’t rock your boat then you might be more interested in the … monkeys!
There’s a bunch of little (I don’t know what kind) monkeys up in the trees and if you’re lucky (like if you go in the morning) you’ll see one or two come down out of the canopy to a lower level to eat flowers. It wasn’t crowded at TSG and it’s a good way to get away from the main road and its traffic noise.
Also while there we had the best meal of the whole two weeks, at their connected restaurant, called Monkey Tree. It’s actually Thai food and due to the spice gardens, they use all their own fresh lemongrass etc.
One last little bit of bad news. We’ve been staying near Imbi, Times Square in KL and been eating inside the ginormous Times Square mall often. Tonight we went to a place (I think) called “Shabu-Shabu”, 4th floor West. Shabu-Shabu is my sweety’s favourite. However the place is infested with cockroaches!—No joke. They started crawling all over the table as soon as the pots started to heat up. Normally that would’ve been enough to justify going apeshit for me but I’m trying to take it in an Indian, karma-like way. What happens will happen—most likely the place will get shut down.
You know I have to disagree with the philosophy of the lonely planet books, the way they put a positive spin on everywhere they research. It’d be more honest and better for everyone all around if they told you to just avoid places that had no redeeming qualities.
Anyway, it could be worse. We could’ve been involved in a bus plunge or been taken hostage or something. And it was our own fault for ending up here. We didn’t plan far enough in advance and didn’t realise the lunar new year would have such a huge effect on accommodations in this country.
The only interesting thing about Ipoh is the local buses. They look like they were made by people who’d only heard descriptions of buses and never seen any.
It’s mostly my fault. We had to leave Penang and I was given the task of finding the next place to go. There was still a week or a little less til we were due back in KL for the flight out, so I was looking for somewhere in between Penang and KL. In korea, I always like to see the average cities – to see the real korea. And so I thought Ipoh would be similar in Malaysia’s landscape. Fuck knows why I end up turning every trip into some grim documentary. Aren’t holidays supposed be about escaping reality? In conclusion I will say that there appears to be some sort of electioneering on the streets of Malaysia, and it’s promoting “1 Malaysia” in the sense of three ethnicities, one country but when I look at the differences in wealth between KL and Ipoh, the split isn’t between ethnicities, it’s between the city and the rural areas.
In Ipoh, we are staying at the Tune Hotel. It’s like staying in a Borg Cube! From the same people who brought you Air Asia, Tune Hotels give you what you pay for and not a jot more. When you pay for the room that’s what you get – the room. You pay extra if you want air conditioning, tv, or even a towel. You can pay some extra for wifi internet but you pay in 24hr blocks, and the password they give you is only valid for one device. That’s probably to stop people setting up server farms during their overnight stays. Just like making bookings with Air Asia, there’s a lot of things that can catch the first-time customer out. Like, if you’re ordering the towel and you’re two people, then you need to enter (and pay for the use of) two towels on the booking page. And if you’re staying for two days and you want a fresh towel for the second day, you need to order that too. I’d be interested in trying the flat-rate room for one night to see what it’d be like with no a/c, which is almost mandatory in this heat. Here’s what you do get : bed, pillow, linen, ceiling fan, coat hanger (or 3), 1 international powerplug, 1 british style powerplug, combination mini-safe, shower, toilet, hair dryer, bin, mirror, and a window. Every room is the same size and has a window—that’s Borg-style democracy for you.
What you don’t get is a mini-fridge, optional breakfast, phone, toiletries of any sort apart from toilet paper, and you don’t get any love neither. But sadly, this is probably the future of hotels. Or business hotels at least. To continue the science fiction analogy, I can remember back to my younger days working as a room cleaner at the Park Royal in Melbourne, and it was always obvious when a business person (let’s face it 90% were businessmen) had occupied the room because I could hardly tell they’d been there. Nothing was touched – not the coffee satchels, not the little bottles of shampoo—nothing. And in a few odd cases the bed hadn’t even been slept in—like they’d just stood in the corner and plugged into a power terminal for the night. Those kind of people would love Tune Hotels.
Two days now gone on the island of Penang. It’s quite nice here though much more built up and populated than I thought it’d be. It was actually the second choice since Langkawi island was all booked up due to the Lunar New Year coming up on the weekend.
I’m sure I mentioned it the last time I was in Malaysia but easily the most interesting thing about it is how the the cultures live together in one country. I don’t want to be some guy making sweeping generalisations about whole nationalities based on a few anecdotal experiences so I won’t say much about it, except that I really quite like the Indian people here.
We went to have a look at this Hindu Temple in KL the other day and after seeing this all-star line up I was sad to realise that I only know one of them by face: Krishna. Vishnu and Shiva are probably in there but I don’t know who’s who. Note to self -> bone up on oriental mythology.
Anyway, so we’ve been pootling around here in Kuala Lumpur for a few days now and generally having a nice time. It’s been warm and humid but not nearly as much as I remember it being last time (2 years ago). On the whole people are really polite and friendly. The kind of polite you just don’t get in korea—like “do you want to go in front of me?” at the checkout counter kind of thing.
I’ve probably been eating too much, but doing plenty of walking too so hopefully it’ll balance out. Food and beverages (everyone’s just saying F&B now) are much cheaper than Korea but the standard of living isn’t any lower. It’s hard to work out but I’m guessing that people here don’t get paid as much. I’m starting to think there’s some kind of global conspiracy where the proletariat get the same kind of income in any country which is set in relation to how much food and various services are. I.e. you could live in Norway where supposedly the standard of living is high, and you get high wages, but then the cost of groceries is ultra-high too. I remember back to when I was travelling through countryside Vietnam and noticing that the price of petrol was hella cheap—like 9cents a litre, but then thinking well, when you think of what the average peasant on a motorbike earns, then that’s not cheap—but then, how do the Vietnamese petro-corporations get the oil to sell at that price…? It’s a mystery.
The Scarlet Ibis – more hardcore than your average Ibis.
We went to the Bird Park today. They say it’s the largest free-flight bird aviary in the world, and that they have 200 different kinds of birds in there but I would say it’s closer to 40. When I really make myself think about it, I don’t really like places like this anyway. Similar to zoos. Invariably the animals don’t look well, or they’re stuck in cages that are way too small. I know it’s nice for the kiddies to be able to see the animals for realz, but mostly when I see the kind of kiddies that get taken to the zoo/bird park, they’re the ones that should be locked up.
I think if there was a worldwide referendum to get rid of all zoos, and even all safari jeep tours, then I would vote YES. If you want to have the experience of seeing those animals in the flesh then you have to go out there by yourself and risk being eaten by them. Same with more normal animals, like the barn owl. If you live out on a farm and walk into the barn one day and see a barn owl then that would be an amazing experience! and one that you would not forget quickly.
The KL City Hop on – Hop off Bus Tour. I guess I would say it was okay in that the bus wasn’t too crowded and it can be a good way of getting to several different tourist areas in one day. However the 24hour pass is not valid for 24 hours. We bought ours one day and they were punched for 10:30am, and then went back the next morning at 10:10am to be told that we couldn’t get on.
I’d say this was one of those situations where, due to a lack of training, the staff (pictured) make bad decisions which eventually come back to bite them on the arse. For the most part the Tourism & Hospitality sector in Malaysia is pretty good, (you’d hope it was, considering it’s something like their 4th largest industry) but I’ve learned from many, many experiences of touring around korea that when you run tourism operations with untrained, low-paid employees, you’re going to lose in the end.