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.

I hope you make a whole lotta money

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.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/8444610176/” title=”all the gods. by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8098/8444610176_de776dff37.jpg” width=”500″ height=”500″ alt=”all the gods.”></a>

Jakarta – the rest of it.


The main thing I have to report is that I was pick-pocketed on the Transjakarta busway and they got my phone. That was Monday so I’ve had time to get over it, but it’s a bummer and leaves the net result of the Indonesia experience in the minuses.
It’s tempting to say, “I guess it was my fault”, due to the circumstances but that’s a cop-out. It’d never have happened in korea. I got back to Seoul yesterday morning and I’m appreciating it a bit more than I did before I left.
The circumstances were I was stuck in a little crowded cluster of people around the doors on the bus heading south for ‘Blok M’. I was holding onto a bar above for balance and my shirt hem was raised enough that the top of the phone was exposed in my pocket. I’m out of touch with being wary of things like that because as I said, you could be stuck in the middle of a pressed up and clammy clusterfuck on the rush-hour subway here and even have your phone fall out of your pocket and someone would still return it to you.
Anyway that happened Monday mid-morning. I got back to the hotel, cancelled the phone serviced and scrambled around changing all the passwords to the open apps on it, then didn’t feel like going out for the rest of the day.
The next day I used Blue Bird taxis to get around and for the most part found them really good. Due to the constant traffic jams I don’t think it’s worth their while for the drivers to take indirect routes to jack up the fair.
But I did notice people here and there charging that bit more where they could, which is disappointing. It’s not a huge amount but it’s the principle.
On tuesday I did get down to Blok M and found that where the action is. The suburban shopping mall & mall rats action, that is.

The gap between ultra-rich and ultra-poor is a whole lot more apparent in indo than Korea. On the bus to the airport you can see huge swaths of tin-shed shanty shacks. On the Sunday I bumped across a high-class shopping mall with outlets for brands like Gucci etc. and in the valet parking (read: park wherever you want incl right outside the front doors) section I saw a Lamborghini murcielago (like <a href=”http://www.sunnybreaks.org/2010/12/30/gran-turismo-5/”>this</a> but in green) and a Mercedes SLS; the first time I’d seen either of those in real life. I know there’s ultra-rich people in Korea but they tend to be more low-key about it.
On the whole I’d say that Jakarta just isn’t a tourist city. I’ve never been into seeing the touristy things, and I do like to watch people in their natural settings but considering that Jakarta is the capital of the fourth most populace country on the planet, I can safely say that Jakarta is a business city and the Indos do their leisure in other parts of the nation, and they expect us foreigners to as well. The most common signs I saw on the largest buildings were those of banks. There’s no real defining features in the city that I could see.

Djakarta pt 1

Jakarta view

I’m having a few days checking out Jakarta on the way back to Korea. It’s 4 hours behind Melbourne so it made the plane flight easy to do in one day but it was a long day. The bus into the city from the airport was easy enough and I thought I might be able to walk and wheel the suitcase thru to the hotel but it turned out to be a bit too far so I got a tuk-tuk, which was kind of fun after getting over the CO2 poisoning. The concept of the tuk-tuk is great but unfortunately it’s them and the old buses that seem to be disproportionately contributing to the pollution problem in the city. Little tree wheeled vehicles that don’t need high acceleration and have short spells of idle time between uses (recharging) are perfect candidates for electric motors.
There’s a lot of little, new toyotas on the roads too. I saw this awesome Torana parked outside the hotel yesterday evening.

Because of the time shift I woke up at 5 this morning but it felt too weird to get up then. I should have though because it was hella hot by midday.
The people seem quite friendly. All the motorcycle traffic reminds me a bit of Hanoi but the people here are more smiley. And surprisingly chilled re hawking their wares — there’s almost none of it. But also, after a whole day of walking around, with a pocket of walkin around money, I didn’t find anything really worth buying. The most interesting thing I saw was this poster of Benito n’ Adolf, and I am looking for stuff to decorate the new apartment with, but I let it slide.
What I’m really after is some good coffee beans but I haven’t seen any of them either.

There these scrawny little cats here and there too. They’re all really short-haired, as I guess you’d want to be in weather like this. Being scrawny makes their balls really conspicuous. It’d be hard work finding enough foodscraps to get by in a city like this but the consolation is that no govt agency is going to cut off your balls. Here: I saw this one in the gutter of the bus lane taking a shit!

The combination of humid heat-haze and smog must be pretty strong because I hardly got burnt at all eventhough I was out there for a long time.

dirty weekend in chungju

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/6271732155/” title=”HIP_340965286.158787 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6042/6271732155_2b6734db36.jpg” width=”500″ height=”500″ alt=”HIP_340965286.158787″></a>

It was J-e’s birthday last week, and so, seemed like a good enough reason to go away for the weekend. The main idea was to catch the ferry across the Chungju lake, see the autumn foliage and stay in Danyang, a small town on the other side. We took the bus to Chungju. There’s not too much to say about Chungju. If there is something to be said, someone else can say it.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/6272251648/” title=”Chungju bus terminal tourist information office by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6237/6272251648_2e775a6687_m.jpg” width=”240″ height=”240″ alt=”Chungju bus terminal tourist information office”></a>

The tourist information office was unfortunately closed when we needed it the most, around the middle of the day. We had a quick lunch while waiting, returned to find it open this time and got the information we needed, which was: which bus to get to get to the Chungju ferry terminal. While there, J-e helped a German couple who were after similar information, since she could speak both korean and english, and it seemed that the tourist info person could not.

The local bus wound its way through the Chungju industrial estate and as it turned out, this was the part of the town we spent quite a bit of time in due to taking that bus ride 3 times. We got off at the wrong place (a little too soon). The ferry terminal is at the end of the line, and we got off at the Chungju dam wall. We probably could’ve walked the rest of the way but we’d already been pushing to make the last ferry.

There were a couple of nice areas around the dam. We sat and decided what to do. Staying in Chungju and leaving early the next morning seemed like the best idea.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/6272257672/” title=”HIP_340956066.701928 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6226/6272257672_e24ce1fa25.jpg” width=”500″ height=”500″ alt=”HIP_340956066.701928″></a>

I would say that over the last 7 years my tolerance (as in attitude) of cigarette smoke has dropped almost zero. I must confess that I was planning on murdering my upstairs neighbour in the near future for this reason, connected to the fact that the apartments are very much connected via the kitchen exhaust fans. I found a very neat way to completely cap off the fan pipe and uncork it when I need to use it for cooking, thus avoiding messy homicide inquiries.

If there was one message I could send to the Korean accommodation sector, it would be to start offering non-smoking rooms. It’s difficult to find a hotel room in Chungju (or most cities) that doesn’t reek of smoke or (at the low end of the scale) have a subtle inbuilt presence of nicotine. Even the newest places have it. We found a place that wasn’t too bad but when walking out the next morning I still felt like I’d smoked a pack.

The ferry trip and surrounding environs are a big hit with the middle-aged hiking and hiking-clothing wearing crowds, especially at this time of year. Around the far side of the lake we bumped into the German couple again. They were having trouble figuring the bus timetable. They’d caught the train from Chungju to Danyang and stayed there the night. In hindsight that seemed like a better plan because once we got to Danyang it was easily a nicer looking place than Chungju, being situated along a large river. We were there only a few hours for lunch and then a 3.5hr bus trip around the lake and back to cheongju.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/6275040125/” title=”IMG_0717 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6112/6275040125_2fcb92aeaa.jpg” width=”500″ height=”374″ alt=”IMG_0717″></a><em>best view out of a bus terminal I’ve seen anywhere in korea.</em>

kids can’t climb trees like they used to

Heading back to s.korea in a day or so. It’s been nice in Melbs but long enough. Saw _True Grit_ yesterday. Another quite nice story told by the Cohen bros. Had a look at ‘In Press’ one of the local, free music magazines and found that I recognise less than 30% of the names of bands now. A little bummed to see I’m missing Swervedriver’s visit by less than a week.

It was fun doing things with my girl, J-e for the week and a half she was here. She ate steak everyday, made herself bacon and eggs in the mornings, was amazed and scared by seagulls and turned on by horses in the passing paddocks. Even Colac was bearable when she was here. After departure the rose-tinted hue faded and all I could see were the freaks and bogans again.

However, the Trocadero, a longtime-running eatery in Colac has changed hands and menus. Good mid-eastern style food available there now — things like felafel. And according to mum they’re doing very well.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/5452157713/” title=”Trocadero, Colac by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5171/5452157713_31dbf95fc4.jpg” width=”500″ height=”500″ alt=”Trocadero, Colac” /></a>

I always like getting to the vic markets for a borek and a bee-sting. It’s great that those things don’t change.Not so great that this hasn’t changed.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/5452158621/” title=”IMG_0167 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5053/5452158621_98df6237a9.jpg” width=”500″ height=”374″ alt=”IMG_0167″ /></a>

This blind, or partially blind guitar busker has been frequenting the main sit/eat spot forever. He plays billy joel and rubbish like that. Today he was just standing there, occupying the spot but not performing = squatting. He held out an empty juice bottle and loudly announced “can someone put this in the bin”, minutes after he’d walked inside and bought it without assistance. Being blind or partially blind is tough luck but it’s no excuse for being a talentless arsehole.

white line, white line, yellow line

When I was 7 my family went on a driving holiday to Sydney. When we got to Albury the lines on the road were yellow and not white like in Victoria. For me travelling is about finding out how things there are different to things here. It seems like a kind of reductionist way of thinking about things, but whatever. I still really enjoy it. Heading back to Victoria, HOJU tomorrow for a few weeks and I’ll be getting my kick vicariously because J-e is coming — the first time she’s visited a western country.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/4364535739/” title=”IMG_4929 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4007/4364535739_17fa7f67bd.jpg” width=”500″ height=”375″ alt=”IMG_4929″ /></a>

How’s this for a lunch?  The Indian food here has been totally sweet, and by sweet I mean excellent, and not necessarily sweet. Although one side-dish I had yesterday of, I think pumpkin was sweet. It was sweet~!

What I’ve liked is the staff being totally unphased by tourist of the year walking in with no idea of what the normal way of ordering is. Have I mentioned that basically no-one I’ve talked to in service positions (including checkout-chicks) have had any trouble being understood in English?
Anyway, the Indian people have been totally cool, and obviously word hasn’t got out to the malay-indian community about how terribly racist australians are, because they’ve been totally nice.
Featured in the foot above was some mammoth calamari rings, and one killer-sized prawn. I don’t know what the accepted way is for tackling a prawn like that, but no-one stared when I mostered it with bare hands. Actually, the prawn was a bit mushy. Probably it was supposed to be like that, but the rest was ace. For 18.5 ringgits = 6k KRW = 6 bucks aus. = 5 and a half US.

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I was going to launch in a couple of days ago and say I wasn’t going to watch the winter olympics on principle. Principle being that it’s just a bunch of yuppie-vacation pastimes dressed up as ‘sports’. Having a go at curling is like shooting fish in a barrel though. And I have been watching it because there’s only about two tv channels in the room I’m staying in and one of them is espn honk-kong. winter olds is still rubbish though. The real sports are ones that can be done by people living in any part of the world, and that have a minimal amount of money needed for equipment, like marathon running.
Luge. What’s that all about? How is that related to anything in the real world? You know what the real story is, don’t ay? Worldwide luge is financially backed by the military industrial complex in order to advance the technologies needed to shoot men into outer-space. Human missiles to combat the impending Plutonian invasion.
And I find it amusing that it’s the world’s strongest economic and military powers who are the only ones competing in the couples figure-skating. Russia, Japan, China, USA, and Germany. IN fact, Russia poached one of Japan’s skaters.

Following are some size-minimal fotos (w/catchy captions) to assuage the abuse of bandwidths.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/4364531957/” title=”rumours by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2799/4364531957_09affdf976.jpg” width=”311″ height=”233″ alt=”rumours” /></a>
_Don’t believe the rumours_

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/4365275142/” title=”maos by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4046/4365275142_0ef3e34763.jpg” width=”311″ height=”233″ alt=”maos” /></a>

_Mickey Maos_

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/4364532681/” title=”long-grain by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4007/4364532681_440683ca6c.jpg” width=”311″ height=”233″ alt=”long-grain” /></a>

_Persian food_

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/4365275642/” title=”prayer by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2788/4365275642_cf5708a1c6.jpg” width=”311″ height=”233″ alt=”prayer” /></a>

_Could hear the call to prayer common from here_

abdomen and some dried fish

I was intending to post something yesterday, since, apparently a decade clicked over. But I was busy packing and now today I’m waiting for a transfer at KLIA which stands for kuala lumpa international airport.
Honestly I wouldn’t mind if it was karachi intl it’s just nice to get out of the insane cold. This morning in seoul while waiting for the bus it was -15 dges centigrade.
Heading back to HOJU, Melbourne for a good 6 week break. Good to be at a job that’ll give that kind of break, again. Then, back here to check out KL for a week.
Anyway, apart from the cold, the solar year started auspiciously in that I got _bumped up_ to bidness class on the plane. Sweet! First time that’s ever happened, and I’m keen to know what the formula is. Was it just that it was a low booked flight — most likely. I’ve been feeling edgy about plane travel — not because of what might be done by insurgents upon me, but what might be done by the authorities to me. I’m anxious to avoid the grilling I received at tullamarine a couple of years back, all because I was wearing an adidas hooded top. So I decided to wear one of my white work shirts, the rest casual. But did this make me look that little bit respectable, and enough to be chosen for bidness? Or was of that I brought the charming, gorgeous J-e with me to the airport? The food is pretty lush in bidness.
Still got a headache though. Probably had the headphones on too long. Been listening to this ‘hardcore history’ series of podcasts on the eastern front of ww2. Google ‘dan carlin’. Fucking horrifying but astounding at the same time. will write more about that later.