Thursday, July 25, 2013

Malaysia or Korea as tourist destination?

LOL.. why Malaysia is a better tourist destination than Korea?
1) Not one Malaysian has asked me about Malaysian disputes with Indonesia
2) Not one Malaysian has asked me if I "know" any indigenous food
3) When I order something spicy they give it to me without asking "If I can eat spicy food?"
4) They don't care where I come from, if I'm married, or if my wife is Malaysian>
5) AWESOME beaches.?

Malaysia Day Four

On the Pier

In the Family Quay

House on the Quay

Toilet for Tourists
Tuesday morning was for exploring.. which for Yvonne, means finding bookstores. The internet connection continued to be chancy, but we finally got a good Google map of where the bookstores were. By luck, our hotel was less than five minutes walk away from a cluster of bookstores, and we checked out about four of them.

Seoul taxi drivers are well known for their devil-may-care attitude about things that include speed limits, lane markings, zebra-crossings, and the law of physics that demands that two objects cannot simultaneously inhabit the same space. In Penang, however, Seoul taxi drivers would seem like little old ladies – tremulous, careful, and ridiculously conservative. Scooters, cars and buses ricochet around the city, and walking the streets becomes something like living inside of a pinball machine, and you’re the money ball.

In Little India I had some kind of delicious street-food – a kind of potato and corn tart with a lot of some kind of red spice. This would later come back to haunt me.

Then it was a walk down to the quays, which were quaint and antiquated, not too mention thoroughly commercialized. My favorite thing, I think, was the “bathroom” for tourists.. a rectangular hole in a slab of concrete, a hole that opened directly to the bay below, and beneath which swam hordes of little fishies, all looking to get “lucky” when someone had to use the bathroom. I think that tells you all you need to know about how horrible it is to be a fish, and if I ever am to be reincarnated on the wheel of life, I know have a pretty good idea of where I’ll end up.^^

Then, as we walked to Fort Cornwall, we noticed the “hop and stop” free bus for tourists and with that devil-may-care attitude that makes us popular among test pilots, extreme adventurers, bareback gays, and heterosexual priests, we hopped onboard.  The bus runs from the ferry to the tallest building in Georgetown, in a tight loop that is occasionally the same roads, and the bus, mercifully, is air-conditioned.

We ran the loop until it passed Fort Cornwall again, where we decamped. The fort wasn’t all that, but at 2 Ringgit it didn’t have to be, and it did allow me to take this picture of Yvonne, nobly defending the Empire against the wogs what begins at Calais.

Defender of Empire
And, then imprisoned for her imperial excesses:

Jailhouse Rock

Somewhere along the sweaty way Yvonne left her sweater (Yes Virginia, 32 degrees and Yvonne wore a sweater) behind, and I gallantly stayed put under the shade of some trees while she had to go back and retrieve it.

Then a walk to the hotel, where we luxuriated in the Air-con for a bit, before heading out for a late afternoon bit of Indian food. Yvonne headed off to do some shopping at the bookstores, while I headed back to the hotel to face Buttocalypse from my morning’s food. The less said, the better.^^

When Yvonne returned we headed back to the Red Food Court, had some light snacks, and chilled.
Back to the hotel, watched some ridiculous TV (ridiculous, but after three years of not having a TV I find most anything on it intriguing) and another night of air-conditioned slumber.

“It’s just the same thing, the same way, every day: Stupefaction!”

Malaysia Day Three

Day Three was supposed to only be a transit day, but it turned into a little more than that.

Our plan didn’t leave KL until 8, so we had a lot of waste-time to fill up.

At checkout at noon we left our bags at the front of the hotel and went across the freeway to “KLIA Airport Town,” Which was three dusty rows of businesses backed by housing. It was primarily restaurants, a couple of stores, and the odd automobile related business. It took us about 15 minutes to canvas the whole thing, and we were back to the Hotel, and off to KLIA. We stayed at KLIA for an hour or two, had lunch, and I struggled with the internet connectivity, which was incredibly crappy. 

Then it was a bus to LCCT where I huddled in the Starbucks (again, crappy internet) while Yvonne shopped for an hour in the bookstore. Then it was off to the McDonalds, where we could sit outside with just a bag of fries, and wait. Finally, into the waiting room, where the LCCT internet was crappy UNTIL I tried to hook the iPhone up to it and then use the iPhone as an anchor. The minute I did this, however, it knocked some kind of sense into the wireless router, and the laptop worked. Twice the laptop went offline and couldn’t re-connect, but the minute I fired up the iPhone, the same miracle occurred.

 I have no idea why. 

The trip to Penang was about 40 minutes and we were picked up from the airport. Because it was still before 10:00, we decided to go out and check out the neighborhood. Turns out, we’re in party central. We walked past one place that was.. well.. the loudest in the world, but I can’t get the sound clip to work.^^

 I tried to get killed at an intersection when I looked at the street light and it was counting down from 30 seconds. I interpreted this to mean that I had 30 seconds to cross the street, and started across, only to have a small car whiz by right in front of me. Self-righteously I flipped the car off, only to hear Yvonne yell, “Charlie, what are you doing?” I said I was crossing the street and Yvonne then told me that wasn’t a good thing to do when the cross traffic had a green light. Ooops… the red (Yeah.. RED!) numbers were counting down UNTIL the light turned green and I was an idiot.

I survived, however, and we continued to walk around and look for a place to have a quick seat/bite. Finally, we settled on the Red Garden, which is hard to explain, so here is a movie of it in which you can see what it contains..

 And here is what is sounds like in full fury And when it is fully rocking

 I had beer, Yvonne had a Pepsi, and we split a few pieces of salmon sushi. Just before midnight, we headed across the street to the motel, and passed out in untidy heaps.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Malaysian Art and Birds....

First order of business… On day two we saw this street-sign:

What is it? Answer revealed below!

Day two was spent lolling in the hotel room for a bit… we had noodles and super-strong black coffee from the in-room coffee-maker and headed off to downtown. A bit pricey at 70 Ringgit each way for the two of us, but the fastest way to get into town. We landed at KL Sentral and one short hop on the Komuter Expres and we were at Kuala Lumpur Station, which has a really cool decayed Victorian vibe. I guess it used to be the main train station, but it has been surpassed by KL Sentral and KL City Center.

We walked over to the National Mosque, taking a bizarre route through a rundown car park with no cars in it and a tired-looking man slumped in chair watching for the onslaught of cars that was obviously never to come. We took this route as Yvonne completely refused to believe the signs that directed us to go to the front door of the Mosque. Instead, we approached to the side and Yvonne noticed that you had to take your shoes off well before you entered. For some reason this gave Y the heebie-jeebies and she started keening (Hi Katie!) in that high-pitched voice she has when she gets nervous about how we "shouldn’t go near the place." As she continued keening, butterflies dropped, stunned from the air, tropical plants wilted, and paint began flaking from the minarets. Fortunately, a security guard waved us towards the front, which was where tourists enter.

Unfortunately, we arrived at a time that the mosque was closed to tourists, so we wandered about the outside, snapped photos, and sweated like crazy.

Mosque Exterior (All we really got to see^^)

A few questions revealed that the National Islamic Art Museum was right around the corner.. so we headed off there and it was rather awesome.  For about 20 Ringgit for the two of us, it was one of the best deals we’ve had in Malaysia.  The Museum has three floors and it collects Islamic art from all over the world. This was super cool, because you got a chance to see how different countries had internalized Islam and turned it into art.  Persia (we think?) had all kinds of cool calligraphy, including some calligraphy written into leaves.


Also cool, but not pictured, what China did, which was to used it’s traditional brush-calligraphy and draw what, from far away, looks like traditional Chinese art, but upon closer inspection is made up of calligraphed passages from the Quran and Islamic scholars. Looked totally cool.

And two random snaps I took from behind protective glass:

A Pistol Grip, Actually


Afterwards, we headed to the Butterfly Museum, but missed it totally, and  ended up super-sweaty in front of the Bird Museum, the so-called “largest free-flight aviary” in the world. From the outside you couldn’t see any birds, and when we got to the front we saw the most dispirited looking topiary in, perhaps, the history of topiary.

That's Supposed to be a Bird!

Confidence not much built, we sat down for a bottle of water, and Yvonne wanted to go in so badly that she offered to pay (butterflies flew again, tropical plant sprang back to full height, and flaked paint returned to minarets!).  So, since she wanted in so badly, I got a couple of tickets, and in we went.
At first it was motley profusion of peacocks, doves, pheasants, storks, and a few other birds.  Section 1 was pretty much just that, wherever you walked, though they were remarkably unafraid of humans, so you could walk directly up to them.

Of course there was the splendor of the ostrich who posed:

Looks Edible!

Around section 2 things began to perk up, and as we walked through we saw a cool variety of birds in a cool variety of settings, including some in cages.  By the end of our walk, I was pretty sure it had been worth it, and if we had my godson and god-daughter with us, it would have been completely awesome.

There's Always One Idiot Trying to Break Back IN!

Final thrill, and a great example of vendors adapting to the modern world, for 10 Ringgit you could get two birds perched on you, and then a friend could take a picture of your bird covered self with your own camera. They were rolling people in every 45 seconds or so,  which would mean a rather nice hourly wage.^^

Yvonne, Uncertain or Happy?

Then it was back towards downtown, where we took a very short break for a drink behind the Petronas Towers, an awesome plaza with dancing fountains and a variety of cafes facing out to it.

Finally, dinner with Chocoballnoona and her best friend. As it is Ramadan, we set this up for 7pm, and waited a bit for it to be “safe” to eat. I passed along some books I had brought, and they were saints and paid for dinner. Yvonne and the two women chuckled regularly at jokes I didn’t get^^ and a great time was had by all.

Then, back about an hour to the hotel, and sweet, sweet bed.

Today, we are in transit to Penang.

Oh, yeah, this is what the sign meant:

Shelter From the Storm

Sunday, July 21, 2013

To Malaysia!

The first step of our plan for world domination is successful. We have reached Malaysia. 

The trip was relatively uneventful, if you are me. If you are Yvonne it was the most dangerous ride at the carnie on bad acid. When we hit turbulence that wouldn’t even rock the gin in my gin and tonic, she drew her coat up over her lip because she was, “trying not to scream.”  I’ve seen tougher 2 year olds.
The night before, of course, she played her traditional game when we have to take a plane-trip – the let us not sleep or prepare game, for it is always better to wake up exhausted, with things left to do (or undone, to be fair), and haul ass to the airport.

Yvonne Hides in Jackets

Selfie and Yvonne hides in Jacket

Which was remarkably crowded. We spent about 40 minutes in line at Asia Air and then longer than usual through security and customs. But we got there about 20 minutes before boarding, which is good enough, and we were in a row of three seats with one seat empty, which is always good.  Air Asia has attempted to monetize pretty much everything imaginable and I was amused to see, later as I thumbed through their “air catalog” that if there are two empty seats next to you, for only 20 Ringgit (a local currency based on mussel-shells, and the overseas funds that Malaysians accrue by selling their less attractive children into slavery), on is allowed to ‘buy’ those seats. LOL… I wonder how they enforce that one.

I slept on and off for the first three hours of the flight as I was tir… did I mention that at some point in the night I woke up and Yvonne was applying hot compresses to me? Because in summer in Korea that’s what a fellow needs? I thought it might have been a fever dream, yet there, in the morning, was a large yellow bowl full of water and a compress. It would take three psychiatrists, a forensic scientist and three sticks of dynamite to figure out what switch flips in Yvonne’s brain on the night before we travel, but that switch, it is a dire one.

I got through Korean customs without getting my all-important “blank” passport page stamped. It turns out that if we are to go to Jakarta I have to have one blank page in my passport (and it can’t, for some obscure reason, be any of the last four pages in the passport). As it happens, my career as a world famous expert on Korean literature, in concert with my unspoken job of international playboy, means that I only do have that one page. So at each stop here I will have to stop the nice person at the immigration desk and ask them to NOT stamp page 24 of my passport.

One down, two to go.

Except of course we got to Kuala Lumpur and discovered we had misplaced a decimal when converting IDR to dollars, so won't be going to Jakarta at all. Instead, we are booked for Penang, which looks old school and lovely, and is MUCH cheaper.

Tomorrow we meet an old friend in Kuala Lumpur.