Ipoh, Merak: What a dump.

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 <a href=”http://users.lmi.net/tcs55/”>bus plunge</a> 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.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/8464954444/” title=”IMG_1165 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8098/8464954444_54046423f0.jpg” width=”374″ height=”500″ alt=”IMG_1165″></a>

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 <a href=”http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Borg_cube”>Borg Cube</a>! 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.

tony fernandes ate my lunch

First thing I have to say is golly it’s nice to be on holiday. It’s been a long 12 months and when I do take the opportunity to visit somewhere different I usually end up having to go by myself, but this time my sweety is with me.

And we tried flying with Air Asia. It’s a different set up they’ve got going. It’s all online booking, and lots of detail to it. You chose where you want to sit, and there’s different areas — like a no kids ‘quiet zone’, “hot seats” ie. the first row of economy/coach class (you know if I owned my own airline, I would call economy class Riff-raff class) and instead of business/1st they have premium. We went for the No kids section and it worked well.

Meals are not standard either. You can order a meal when you’re doing the online thing, and it costs about 7 bucks. There’s a fair few different choices, and in theory it’s a good idea. In reality, the meals we got were really crappy.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/8437394416/” title=”Flight etc by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8051/8437394416_60fb1a32f5_n.jpg” width=”320″ height=”320″ alt=”Flight etc”></a>

This was my green curry. It was mostly rice. When I say crappy, I mean really cheaply put together, and small. Airline food has never been known as being good but this is a new bottom. J/e’s chicken rice was also regrettable.  All part of the learning-curve I guess. The idea is to eat up good before you get to the airport and then bring wholesome munchies for mid-flight — except their rule is you’re not allowed to bring food or beverages (everyone’s saying F&B these days) on board, but how are they going to know if you bend down, stick your head in your backpack and munch away like a horse on chaff. A horse bag.

There’s no screens anywhere, not even a standard one at the front of the section on the wall showing where the plane is in geographical space. I kind of missed that graphic. But really it’s a clever idea. Those back-of-the-headrest things are looking mighty dated now that everyone’s carrying their own tablet/phablet/smartphone around.

There’s no complimentary newspapers, blanket, pillow, there’s no free drinking water (gulp!), the only coffee available is cheap instant stuff – 5 ringgits please, and when we got to KL A.A. have their own budget terminal where the plane just pulls up on the tarmac and you deplane down a set of steps like when the Beatles invaded America. Air Asia’s gone budget in areas that other airline’s wouldn’t think of changing, and it’s working for them. Apparently it’s the fastest growing airline in an era when airlines are going belly-up left, right and centre.