Monday, October 4, 2010

Malaysia 2011?

For those who keep finding this blog from our original trip, we're now planning a trip back in March 2011! We're planning a northern trip to Kota Bharu and Penang, among other places. So, yes, Malaysia did make as much of an impression as we said it did.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The trip home and epilogue

By Jim

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The trip home was uneventful, a flight to Seoul, then around an hour to change to the 747 that would make the 14 hour flight to Washington Dulles. If you fly Korean Air, make sure you try the Korean dishes they offer, like bibimbap.

I took off from Kuala Lumpur around 1:00 AM, and landed at 11:00 AM the same day at Dulles. Not bad for a 24 hour flight. I made it through immigration and customs quickly, and then caught a cab to home. The driver, a very proud Parsi from India, was a pleasant, chatty fellow, glad to tell me about his home and eager to hear about my trip. He helped me get my large suitcases to my door, earning his tip.

I opened up the house, found no disasters, then headed out immediately to get the dog from the kennel. She was very glad to see me after being in the doggie health spa for 2 1/2 weeks, and wallered in the back seat of our Subaru as we headed home. I crashed out and napped for a few hours, then headed back to Dulles to pick up Barbara who had a six hour layover in Doha. We were glad to see each other again, and very glad to be home. I had been away for 3 1/2 weeks, the longest time I had been out of the country since my semester abroad in college.

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I gave up cigarettes again as soon as I got back home. It may be fun to smoke on vacation, but Barbara would kill me before the cigarettes if I kept smoking. (Sometime this summer, I even gave up smoking cigars. They're expensive, and just not that much fun anymore.)

Barbara and I recall our trip fondly. We've had a heck of a summer and fall with a lot of chaos in our lives. So, we find ourselves thinking "I'd rather be back in Kuching," or "These orchids aren't as pretty as Singapore," and sigh to ourselves.

I do know that we will go back. Barbara forgot to change her ringgits back into dollars, so I've got close to $70 worth of them in my desk, and I need to spend them. We've got two trips in mind. One would fly into KL, and travel up through the northern parts of the Malay peninsula, hit some of the islands off the east coast, visit some of the more traditional Malay areas, and go to Penang, which has beautiful beaches and possibly the best food in Malaysia.

Another idea for a trip will be going in through Kota Kinabalu and traveling through Borneo, visiting orangutans, snorkeling off the coast there, maybe climbing Mt. Kinabalu (OK, that will be me while Barbara visits some museums), traveling through the Sultanate of Brunei and going back to Sarawak and Kuching. Oh, and then we'll bring back some Sarawak laksa paste.

One thing that will be included will be beach time. We stayed so busy on this trip, we didn't really take much time to relax. Our time in Melaka was relaxing for me because I had been there for a week already, but Barbara was still coming down from jet lag and dealing with a bit of culture shock. Then we started the whirlwind tour and neither of us took much time for ourselves.

The only thing that keeps us from doing this sooner is the length of time it takes to get there (24 hours plus getting over jet lag), and the cost of the airplane ticket.

Malaysia and Singapore were beautiful countries. There is a lot of history, both Asian and European, and beautiful scenery. The people were the best, though. They were very kind to the traveler from halfway around the world. Especially in Melaka and Kuching, people would stop on the street and say "Hello, welcome to Malaysia!" usually followed by "Is this your first trip here?" Or "You're looking very smart today, sir." Wow.

And don't forget the food. The merging of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and other cuisines turns this into a wonderfully tasty place. There were many favories: the fresh fish in Kuching, the Peranakan food in Melaka, the food hawker centers of Singapore, and the availability of all kinds of food in Kuala Lumpur.

So, keep an eye out for Malaysia Trip 2010(?). Until then, thanks for reading and I hope you all enjoyed it. To the folks who search Google and find this, I hope it helps your travel planning.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Day 13 - Kuala Lumpur - Bus Tour, Mousedeer, Menara KL

By Jim
(or: "Why stop and relax on vacation? We're on a roll!")

Friday, March 14, 2008

We packed up and got ready to check out of the Renaissance. The lovely, lovely Renaissance. Barbara took breakfast there in the hotel, while I headed back to the row of street vendors behind the Concorde Hotel. We got back together after breakfast, and left our bags with the concierge.

The Malaysia Tourism Centre [Note-I wish I had known that they had internet, craft demonstrations, and other things. Next time I'll take advantage of that.] was just down the street, so we headed there to get the Hop-on Hop-off bus to ride around KL and take in the sights. There were souvenier shops there, and so we did some shopping while we waited for the bus.

The bus took us through town, past shopping areas, and into Chinatown. We jumped off in Chinatown, and took lunch back at the same food court where we had lunch on Wednesday.
Then we found out that the next bus wouldn't come until later in the afternoon, because of afternoon prayers. Oops. We had coffee and doughnuts in a coffeeshop to kill some time, then split up and one of us shopped while one waited for the bus. We hopped back on, and headed back out on the route. We passed the National Museum (I took a picture of the locomotive out front), and headed up into the lake gardens.

At the Bird Park stop, Barbara and I split up. She stayed on the bus, while I hopped off. I had checked the times on the gate to the mousedeer park , and knew I had a little time to kill. I went up into the orchid and hibiscus gardens for some pictures. The orchids were nice, and the hibiscus is the national flower of Malaysia.
While I was there, the skies opened up and we had a big downpour. I found a place to sit under cover with a couple of Canadians. After it quit raining, I headed over to the gate to the mousedeer park. But the gate was still locked! I asked in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Memorial, and they directed me to a path to the other entrance to the mousedeer park.

On the way there, I slipped on a metal grate and fell. Ow. I managed to protect my camera with my body. The lens hood broke, but the lens and camera were intact. This was much better than my knees which had blood pouring down them. I hobbled on over to the mousedeer park, but there were no attendants there. Since I was there, and couldn't do anything about my knees, I kept walking around and seeing the mousedeers and other animals.
Finally, another person walked into the park. He was Chinese, and I asked him as politely as I could if he had a tissue. "Sure, take some," he said with an American accent. Turned out he was from New Jersey. At that distance, we were practically neighbors. I stanched the flow of blood and cleaned up a bit. I was able to repay him the favor by pointing out a monitor lizard in the upper area of the park. I never got his name, but thanks to him for being able to help me in my time of need.

I made my way back to the Bird Park stop, and took the bus back around the rest of the route.
I hopped off back at the Tourism Centre, and walked back to the Renaissance to meet Barbara. We had drinks by the swimming pool and hung out for a couple of hours.



I thought we might enjoy happy hour at one of the nearby watering holes on Jalan P. Ramlee, but Barbara's asthma decided to kick up. So, I had a beer at one place and a beer at another. After dark, we headed toward the Menara KL to go up in it and enjoy the night view. But Barbara was tired, grumpy, suffering a bit from her asthma, and anxious about getting to the airport, even though we had 7 or 8 hours left. So, she headed to the hotel and I headed to the tower. The view was spectacular, but was soon wiped out by a downpour.
Our hotel is on the left
The Petronas towers from the Menara KL

The rain cleared, and I headed back to the Renaissance to meet Barbara. We shared a hamburger in the bar there and at 9 PM decided to go ahead and take the taxi to KLIA for our flights home.

At the airport, we had a lot of time to hang out before my 1:00 AM flight back to Korea and on to Dulles, and her 3:30 AM flight to Doha and back to Dulles. She spent a lot of time using up our phone minutes, first on her card and then on my card. I headed back to my flight around 11:30 PM, changed all of my ringgits back into dollars, and went to the boarding lounge for my flight.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Day 12 - Dinner -KL - Restaurant Seafood Paradise

By Jim

Thursday, March 13, 2008

We had planned to go out to Eden Restaurant for dinner in KL, to get some good seafood. But the taxi driver suggested another place, Restaurant Seafood Paradise. He said it was all halal, very fresh seafood. So, we decided to take a chance on it. We got there around 7:00PM, and it was fairly empty. Empty, except for the wall of aquariums full of fish. We were quickly seated, and offered menus and asked to pick out our dinner.

I should say that I'm not too squeamish. I can catch my own dinner, fillet it, and cook it up. This bothered me, though. One, because I wasn't sure how to pick a good fish out of the tanks. I'll tell you the other trouble at the end.

Our server, I think a manager there, could tell I didn't know what to get, so she made a few suggestions. We selected a parrotfish for two as the main course, steamed, then went to the shellfish table for some emperor clams for an appetizer, and the prized water spinach as a side dish. Soon I saw a guy walking up to get something out of the aquarium. It was our parrotfish.
First up, our clams, topped with garlic, green onion, and cilantro. They were tasty, and Barbara ate one or two even. She's not a big mollusk fan, but liked these.
Next were the parrotfish and the water spinach in spicy sauce. They were both very tasty. The fish was very good, and enough for two.
It was a very nice dinner, and a nice way to end the day. We decided that this was the way to celebrate my birthday. I had my birthday back in February, but I was so busy preparing for the seminar that we didn't do anything to celebrate it.
It was pricey. Just the fish was RM180, about $60US. This was at RM120 per kilo, so he was about 3 lbs. With the clams and spinach and beer, we ended up spending $100US. It was good, though.

I had one problem, though. I like eating fish, and I like fishing, and I am willing to kill my own catch. I felt a bit bad for our parrotfish, though. He had been caught on a reef somewhere in the ocean. Instead of a quick, relatively painless death on ice, he was put into a tank to swim around until someone like me picked him out. Who knows how many days or weeks he was in there. I prefer places like Top Spot in Kuching, where the catch was on ice, and already dead quickly, rather than the life in the tank.

We had heard that the Trader's Hotel SkyBar had a great view of the Petronas Towers. We started walking in that direction, hoping to get a cab. We didn't get one, but found that we weren't that far away and ended up walking there.
We got this great picture of the most iconic image of Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia. We then walked over to the mall and the Cold Storage market for some souveniers, kaya and tea to take home, cigarettes for me, and another great picture.
I loved having my wide angle lens for pictures like this. After this, a quick walk back to the hotel and crash out for the evening.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Day 12 - Kuala Lumpur - Bird Park

by Jim

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I got up a little early this morning, and headed out for a walk and to find a place to take breakfast. We had gotten lucky with so many of the little local kopitiams and hawker stands for breakfast, and I hoped my luck would hold up. I found a place behind the Concorde Hotel where there were a long line of hawker stands, and went back to the Renaissance to get Barbara. We walked the row of stalls until we found one that was crowded and making roti, Barbara's favorite.

They offered us a variety of fillings. Before, we had only had it with egg, so we decided to try it with the chicken. It turned out to be a chicken patty, minced chicken with onion and other spices. It was tasty but greasy. We had noticed that the chef was pretty heavy with the ghee (clarified butter). And the usual coffee zero for me, coffee with milk for Barbara.
Afterwards, we headed out to the KL Bird Park. This is a 20 acre park, with much of it covered so the birds can fly around freely. There were some cages, and there were some open areas where, in addition to the birds, local monkeys ran around.

The first area was where you could feed the lovebirds. (There we met a couple from Iran. It was a little awkward, I think we were both a little embarrassed at how our national governments were behaving. But we were both able to smile at the birds, and laugh at the sounds the peacocks made. Those commonalities are a good thing for us all.)
Then from there you went into the main attraction, the hornbill. Barbara's already shown you the video of the rhinocerous hornbill at the beginning of the blog. There were several other species there: black hornbill, white-crowned hornbill, great hornbill , and Oriental pied hornbill.
Rhinoceros HornbillOriental Pied Hornbill
video
Great hornbill preening
Nesting storks
Oriental Pied Hornbill at feeding time

After the hornbills, there were parrots. Some were in an open aviary, some were in smaller cages.
Hawks and eagles were in individual small aviaries. Toucans were there as well. They are all from Central and South America, but the similarity of the bill lead to them being called New-World hornbills.

Everyone who has read our blogs knows Barbara's love of getting her picture taken holding or getting kissed by exotic animals. At the Feathered Friends Photo Booth, she got to hold a female wreathed hornbill and an owl. She thought this was really cool.
We stopped for a soda and a break after that. Right about that time, the macaques came through.
The attendants at the snack bar started pulling all of the candy displays inside the kiosk, because the monkeys would steal them if they didn't. As it was, they raided the garbage cans.
video
We also saw monkeys getting it on, making little monkeys. Unfortunately, Barbara wasn't quick enough with the camera, and they were quicker than she was.

We fed ostriches there too. They're aggressive.

video
Then we went into another aviary with more water areas for birds like flamingos and Milky Storks. I got lucky with a picture and got one in flight carrying a big stick to make a nest.
I also got a great picture of a Southern Ground Hornbill from Africa.

The best, though, was a peacock showing off for a peahen. And the hen was ignoring him. It was an amazing display.
Barbara tried talking to her, but it was not to be.After all this, it was lunchtime, so we went to the Hornbill Cafe at the park. With our admission to the park, we got a coupon for a free juice there. For lunch, we had chicken wings. Perhaps that was a bad choice. I hope they were chicken. They were tasty. And we had a view of the hornbills in the trees just outside the window. Then we headed back to the hotel, and hung out by the pool. I put on my swim trunks and took a brief swim, then sat with Barbara and enjoyed the afternoon.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Day 11 – Kuching – Kuala Lumpur

By Jim

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

We woke to a gentle rain in Kuching. We had a few errands to run before our flight. One, we needed to go pick up Barbara's shirt from the tailor [This was the ladies' tailor shop next to the men's tailor I went to]. She did a great job on it, and it was cheaper than my shirt. Also I wanted to get some souvenirs for my colleagues. We then headed back, packed up, checked out, and were off to the airport. Once again, I paid overage fees on our baggage (all those sarongs and souvenirs weighed about 7 kilos!), and we were off on AirAsia's 11:55 flight to KL.

The flight was uneventful. We arrived at KLIA and taxied over to the LCC terminal. On the taxiway we saw a Cathay Pacific plane, and wondered if it was our friend Loren's flight back to the US. (We found out later it was.) We collected our bags and got a taxi to the city. At KL International Airport (KLIA), like many other Malaysian airports, they use a taxi coupon system, where you buy a coupon and give it to the driver. For a premier taxi (we needed the space for our luggage) it was RM92.40 (Around US$30).

After about a 45 minute drive, we arrived at the Renaissance Hotel KL. Holy cow, this place is swanky. A 5-star kind of place, for around $100 a night. We were staying in the west tower of the hotel. Barbara has been told that the west tower had a view of the Petronas towers. Unfortunately, this was incorrect. But, it made up for this shortcoming with a spectacular view of the KL Communications Tower (Menara KL).

The small chandelier


Menara KL - Our View

video
Barbara took a video of our doorbell and our bathroom

The room was suitable for a well-heeled potentate, and had all of the features we had come to expect such as a doorbell and a telephone in the bathroom. We got settled in, then headed out to find some lunch and see some sights.

Our hotel was also right next to the Bukit Nanas Monorail Station, so we hopped on it to go down to Chinatown to start seeing the sights. We passed a pretty temple on our way there from the monorail station.

You can see the banner around the temple from the election


The hawkers were out in force, selling fake Rolexes, purses, everything. The crowded walk and the pushiness of some of the hawkers sort of creeped out Barbara, so we worked our way into the Tang City food court for some lunch. Fried noodles, bean sprouts, green onions, and some little bits of shellfish (cockles or the like). This improved our mood, so we strolled back to the monorail and the hotel for a nap.

That evening Sadiyuk, who put the training program together, came and picked us up from the hotel to show us some of the city. We drove around a little, then he took us to the Suria KLCC, which is under the Petronas Towers. This is a six-story shopping center, with everything that you would expect to find in a high-end mall. OK, what you would expect in two or three high-end malls. This place is huge, and you definitely need the map to help you navigate.

Barbara wanted to check out some pewter souvenirs, so we went to Royal Selangor first. The pewter was beautiful but on the pricey side, so we took a pass on that. After that, we wandered around the mall a bit.

We wanted to take Sadiyuk out to dinner to thank him for the drive around and tour, so we went to Madam Kwan's. I've seen it described on-line as hawker fare without having to sit outside, or sort of a safe way to explore Malay cooking. This description may set off alarm bells for those of us in the US, whose idea of mall food is dreary Applebees or TGI Fridays. In this case, don't worry. Like about everything else in Malaysia, this is good food. Really good. I had one of their signature dishes, Nasi Bojari, which is a big mound of tricolored rice with a leg quarter of chicken that has been fried, assam shrimp, and beef rending, served on a banana leaf.
Barbara ordered the beef rendang, and Sadiyuk had the chicken curry.
Prices were higher than at the hawker stalls and kopitiams, but not unreasonable for a sit-down kind of place. Portions were large, and we sent Sadiyuk home with leftovers.

He dropped us off at the hotel, and then headed home as he had things to do the next day. I stopped in the lounge for a smoke and a drink, then we crashed out. Tomorrow would be a busy, interesting day. Which for us was the norm in Malaysia.