Sunday, August 30, 2009

Event : MATTA Fair, KK

Come to think of it, I don't remember ever visiting a MATTA Fair before.

There's one coming up next weekend, in 1Borneo, from 4th-6th September. I'm thinking I should pay a visit this time to check out what they have to offer; all in the name of travel research. Of course.

Speaking of travel, today MAS starts promoting 'cheap' flights in its Irresistable September Deals. Fly, don't think twice, it said. It's only for very limited travels laden with T&Cs in September so that's rather last minute.

If you feel like travelling domestically in the next two weeks, check out the deals.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

To the Kelabit Highlands

Am making myself a little bit busy by reading up on Bario, where I will head to this November.

Pic Credit : gavngailstrail

Finally I will get to be on another highland in Malaysia apart from our own Kundasang (somehow I feel that Cameron, Genting and Fraser's Hill are not quite the same). Descriptions that I've read so far of Bario are all very positive; not even one site or blog has anything bad to say about their experiences there.

Imagine : in this modern day and age, Bario is not served by any road. You have options of course : if you have the time, stamina and endurance, it will take you two months (!) on foot from Miri. I am not sure whether anyone would do that. A river journey from Marudi will take you a few weeks.

The most popular must be via MASWings from Miri, a 50 minute flight on a Twin Otter that only fits 15-16 passengers. There are 2 flights a day to Bario.

I chose to fly, no surprise there. The air ticket is relatively pricey, on top of the BKI-MYY sector I've booked on Air Asia. This will be my first Twin Otter experience, having tried the other small MASWings plane before (an ATR? I don't know my aircraft) for the flight to Mulu.

Hey, this is Idris Jala's kampung, did you know that? I also read that Bario also produced many other brilliant sons, despite not having a school there until 1945. Now, I am very very sure that has got to do with the quality of life in the highlands. After my trip I'll make sure I write to Mr Jala.

Care to join me for a Kelabit adventure, in the land of Bario rice?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On The Road

I can't help but think that if these roads were in our country, the names would be changed.

I read somewhere that Jalan Pinang in KL was once Jalan Pisang. What's wrong with that? Doesn't look good as an address?

I forgot to take a picture of Kerbau Road.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Book : Anthony Bourdain - No Reservations (2007)

Blurb : What happens when you give a bad-boy chef an open ticket to the world?

I got this book from the library last night and enjoyed what Tony wrote about his travels for this Travel Channel programme. The book however, is not a companion book to the series; it's not wordy at all and you can read it easily in under 2 hours.

Having said that, whatever little he wrote describes his experiences succinctly. Less is definitely more in his case.

With his 'trademark wit and soulful charm', Tony shares his adventures across Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America, soaking in local culture and seeking the culinary delights that each destination offered. A chapter is dedicated to their Beirut ordeal, where Tony and the gang were stuck for 10 days during the Civil War.

Tony also shares some useful tips for the intrepid traveller too : where to eat, bathrooms around the world (the worst was in Uzbekistan, the best in Japan - no surprises there), hazards and equipment.

Loved the colourful candid pictures!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Air Asia - Painting the Skies Red

Despite some shortcomings, I think overall Air Asia is doing a good job in ensuring 'everyone can fly'.

I've had a few poor experiences too, however so far nothing major that really upset me. Oh, except the delayed flight in Kuching last month, when the ground staff failed to communicate this to the passengers. Everyone was upset because it was really late. I am sure everyone has their own Air Asia horror story :). I'll save mine for another day.

Anyway, this 'young' airline certainly moves fast compared to MAS. I like it that they are forward-looking and responsive to the market and are always offering something new, be it destinations, flight frequency or sale prices.

Their website is better and more user friendly. Their aircraft are newer and more comfortable. MAS still has this dirty green or stripey multi-colour seat covers that look like they're from the 80's.

They monitor their On Time Performance monthly : July was 83%. Does MAS monitor theirs?

3Sixty is a good inflight magazine, can't say the same for Going Places, which is staid and boring most of the time. It reads like it's been written by, well, staid and boring people.

They are already issuing numbered seats on their flights, with the 'hot seats' offered online when you are making your booking. Standard seats are at RM5, while hot seats are at RM25, inclusive of Xpress boarding.

They've also introduced web check-in and kiosk check-in, both facility which I find are very convenient for the guest.

My feedback on the web check-in is that it is very hard to print out the boarding pass, I only managed to align the page correctly once. Thing is, you can try once and that's it. So, anyway I still had to present myself at the check-in counter and ask the airline staff to print my boarding pass, which on all occasions they happily did with smiling faces.

The kiosks save you time from queueing up, and are available at LCCT-KLIA, and in Penang Airport; I have not noticed it in other airports. Bear in mind that after you have printed out the boarding pass, you still need to have your travel document verified by presenting yourself (with IC/passport and boarding pass) at the Air Asia counter, No. 67 in LCCT if I remember correctly, and getting the boarding pass rubberstamped. Otherwise the airport police won't let you in the departure lounge. I asked the airline staff once, he told me that 'we try to make it as easy as possible for you, but the airport authority needs this process to be done for security reasons'.

Check-in via either method is quite a breeze especially if you only have hand luggage. I have not tried using it with check-in luggage yet.

I've also noticed that the menu has changed a few times in the past year. Yes, the food onboard is nothing to shout about really, well, at least it's your choice to pay for it or not.

On the whole, Air Asia staff on the ground and aboard the flight are also friendlier compared to the ones on our national carrier. Before the emergence of Air Asia, I remember having to go to the MAS Sales office in Karamunsing to buy tickets only to be served by sullen looking personnel who look like they'd rather be anywhere else but at work; either that or they're sitting on pineapples. The same goes for the ones at the airport. Terrible courtesy and lack of customer service skills is how I remember them, such poor ambassadors for the airline.

If it were not for Air Asia I don't think I would've been able to travel as much as I have and will be, and I'm looking forward to more exciting offers from the Red Airline.

More international destinations from KK would be great, pretty please?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Open Our Minds

Taken last month, at the Singgahsana Lodge, Kuching.

We're so conditioned to look 'outwards', sometimes we need to reverse that.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Relentless Craving

So it has a name that doesn't sound like bugositis, or something like that.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hot in Langkawi

The weekend was spent in Langkawi, the 3rd biggest island in Malaysia after our very own Banggi and the somehow little known Betruit in Sarawak.

I'm afraid I won't be singing praises for the island yet; well at least not after one trip. Maybe after all that I've read about Langkawi perhaps my expectations were higher. Oh, and it was uncomfortably hot and humid, I wilted badly. Melted, more like it.

Anyway, if there is one reason for anyone to come here, it is for the Cable Car ride at the Gunung Mat Chinchang and the Curve (sic) Suspension Bridge.

The mountain's rugged ridges are a sight, it should be the island's icon instead of the eagle.

Looking dizzyly down.

Looking up to the ridges.

I survived the cable car ride, meaning I did not pass out or throw up, although I must admit when the car shook my heart lurched to my mouth. Me in my panic look does not a nice picture make.

There's the bridge.

It was blazing hot, but this would make a cool place for some cocktails.

I amused myself by taking pictures of some of the signages :

Yes, of course I will relax and enjoy the 'sceneries'.

I wish they'd gotten someone to proof-read this first.

Pretty high up I must say.

It says 'emergency assembly point'. Huh? On the platform?

One Fine Day....

The papers inside were yellowing, meaning...

After the ride, I decided to attempt the short trek to Telaga Tujuh, failing not-so-miserably actually as I was beaten by the really hot sun I almost fainted. I guess I was pretty dehydrated due to my excessive perspiration that made me look like I just had a shower with my clothes on. I turned back after deciding that I really did not want to faint alone in the middle of nowhere.

The steps which seemed to go on upwards forever!

This stone is a only mere 550 million years old...

Now this Dropstone is 1 billion years old. I kid you not.

Not wanting to risk a heatstroke, I was not too keen on the island's other listed attractions so the rest of the time I stayed put in the coolness of my room at Geopark Hotel, napping, reading and watching TV :). Bliss. My room overlooked the cable car platform and line, its whirring sound like clockwork every now and then; a kind of weird soothing sound.

A view of the ridge from Geopark compound.

Bored brown selipar in Kuah.

A quick visit to the Dataran Helang. It's bigger than I thought. Look at the kids.

There wasn't much anything to see in Kuah, I think Labuan has much more to offer in terms of duty-free stuff. Pantai Cenang looked like a smaller, milder, wanna-be version of Patong, I thought. On the day I left there was a strike by the taxi drivers. All the kereta sapu must have had a field day with the business of ferrying tourists around.

So Langkawi did not charm me much sadly. Perhaps another time, when it's cooler.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sounds Like A Plan

I have almost finalised my plans for my travels for Jan-July next year, thanks to Air Asia's ongoing sale.

With at most 2 more possible trips, I think I have used up all my available time and resources for the first half of the year.

Which reminds me that I need to renew my passport by November next year. A quick check with the Immigration website stated that a maximum of 6 months remaining validity period can be transferred to the new passport. How do they do that; does it mean your passport will be valid for 5 1/2 years?

I wish they'd make it cheaper to renew your passport. Why do they need to make money out of it? I read one comment once (can't remember by who) which was 'if they can afford to travel, they can afford a passport'. Duh. So smart. Not. Unworthy of a debate.

Anyway, I'm off for the weekend in a short while.

Happy days!

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Rush of Blood

I am scared of heights.

But I think I can manage this:

Picture from Bridge Climb Sydney.

What an adrenaline rush it would be!

The highest point is 134 metres above sea level. Cost : AUD$188-$295, rather pricey. Choice of day, night, twilight or exclusive dawn climbs.

If I ever have the chance to do this, I think it would cure my height vertigo (acrophobia - I wikipedia-ed) for good. Right now, even looking down from three stories up makes me feel queasy.

Either this, or the Macau Skywalk. Or a bungy jump.


Whenever that will be.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Culinary Cravings a.k.a. Makan Travels

There was once this programme called The Woman Who Ate Scotland on Channel 703, where the host goes around the country on her bicycle in search of its culinary delights.

By the way, Scotland is not really that well-known for its cuisine, (I can't name a dish, apart from haggis and .. er, Scotch Whisky?) however there are some interesting hidden treats there. I've tried an authentic haggis before and it was alright. Maybe the texture puts some people off.

Anyway, I only managed to catch bits of the series when it was on air, enough to give me some inspiration on things to do during my travels.

So I'm thinking, in planning for my Tour de Malaise, that I should eat my way through the Peninsular, savouring each state's delights.

This is how it looks like at this moment . (x) denotes have been tried.

Johor : Mee Rebus Johor

Melaka : Chicken Rice Balls(x)

Pahang : Murtabak Mengkasar.

Terengganu : Keropok Lekor, Nasi Dagang.

Kelantan : Nasi Dagang, Nasi Kerabu, Nasi Tumpang.

Perlis : ??

Kedah : ??

Perak : Ipoh Hor Fun.

Penang : Oh, this is very difficult. Although I have been to Penang and enjoyed all its hawker fare, next trip I'm going specifically for these : Char Kuey Teow with duck egg at Ping Hooi Coffeeshop; Nasi Kandar at Kedai Kopi Tai Min; Mummy Otak at Kim Lee Coffeeshop. And many more to be discovered. Soon.

KL : Mee Rebus Rosli at Jalan TAR.

Negeri Sembilan : ??

Sorry I have not found out what some of the states have to offer, hence the question marks. Any other must-eats or must-trys?

I'd like to be The Girl Who Ate Malaysia :P

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Of Buses and Trains

A short trip.

I was in Shah Alam over the weekend for the adidas King of the Road (KOTR) event. Happy to say that I completed the 11 km run after contemplating to just run half way as I was still a bit unwell. Yeay for me!

I have never been to Shah Alam before, so along the run I saw all the main landmarks, the Blue Mosque, the buildings, etc. I thought the landscape was very .. dry, bland; reminds me of cardboard? Vibrant and fresh are words that don't belong here. I felt that there's just something missing. I couldn't quite put a finger on it.

Anyway, the highlight of this trip must be the bus journey from LCCT to Sentral. We boarded the Aerobus (yellow) instead of Skybus (red) as it was about to leave. Approaching KL, around MidValley, the aircon started playing havoc by spewing hot air, and a little while later it gave up completely. The driver tried to get some ventilation by opening up the roof windows but that didn't help much. The situation was further compounded by the extremely slow moving traffic (we found out later about the street demonstrations). Decided to step off, then the driver thankfully had another colleague with an empty bus a short walk away in front of the traffic. We got off and boarded the second bus after making sure the air con was cool and working (it was).

Then the driver slowly inched his way out of the main road and started towards Bangsar. I thought okay, he must know a short cut somewhere. Halfway up Jalan Maarof, he asked whether this was the right road! whaaa..t?

I laughed and thought this cannot get any worse, half expecting someone to jump out and shout to us that we've been punked or something. It could be a chapter in a Lemony Snicket book. We wasted another good 30 minutes getting into Sentral, had a quick lunch and then took the Komuter to Shah Alam. Italic

This trip I made use of the KTM Komuter as well, so saved some money on transport. Taxi fares are sky high now, it really eats up into one's budget. I think I should write on 'KL on a Shoestring' one day.

My next KL trip will be to 'test that shoestring' :)

(Pictures are all in trouble-land. Hopefully I can salvage some later)