21 Oct - 24 Oct 2011 Alor Setar

Kedah Darul Aman
Jl. Kanchut 429
Grand Jubilee Hotel +6047330055
Spacious and clean air-con family room, with wifi, for MYR 56.- or US$ 17.80 per night.
Quote from the displayed regulations of the hotel: “… no gambling or opium smoking are permitted as well as to bring ammunition, weapons, prohibited articles, bad character persons, etc. …”

Click below for an interactive road map of the Grand Jubilee Hotel in Alor Setar and for directions:

Strolling through Alor Setar’s neat city centre, a time capsule of everything traditional about Malay life and culture, and visiting its diversity of grand historic buildings: (i) the 1898 CE open-sided Royal Audience Hall aka balai besar which is still used by the Sultan of Kedah for royal ceremonies, (ii) the State Mosque aka Masjid Zahir, one of the largest mosques in Malaysia, which looks like a vision from The Arabian Nights and (iii) the Thai-Buddhist Wat Siam Telok Wanjah which was built mostly by donations from the local Chinese community, the politically marginalised movers and shakers of the country’s seemingly healthy economy.

Enjoying great views over Kedah from the 88-m high observation area of the Menara Alor Setar +6047202901, the world’s 19th tallest telecommunication tower and also the 2nd tallest in Malaysia (height of 165 m, entrance for foreigners: MYR 10.- per orang putih).
"Getting the operational plan properly worked out by reconnaissance in advance is crucial to the subsequent success of any operation, which is why we were spending so much time looking at the options before the final decisions were made."

Gazing at the rather tame and politically/religiously very correct paintings, graphics, installations, wood carvings and calligraphic works in the Kedah State Art Gallery aka Balai Seni Negeri, housed in a lovingly renovated 1893 CE colonial building which had been originally planned as a two-storey building but Sultan Abdul Hamid ruled that it was to be confined to a single-storey building to prevent aerial views of the bridal palace nearby.

Watching how the European debt crisis gains momentum, similar to the crash of any pyramid scheme, with the two principle nations that began Western civilisation being the first two to go down (the Italian spendthrift bureaucrats are in the red with an officially admitted US$ 2,223,000,000 and their Greek brethren with only US$ 533,000,000), and, as the modern global economy begins to collapse, concluding that it is the time to get out of the euro and any government bonds in order to buy real estate, food, firearms with ammo, clothing, camping supplies and auto/rocket fuel (... having another country/planet to which one can escape might be a wise move).
"At the outset of the creation of the euro in 1999, it was expected that the southern eurozone economies would behave like those in the north; the Italians would behave like Germans. They didn't. Instead, northern Europe fell into subsidizing southern Europe's excess consumption, that is, its current account deficits." 

Jumping onto a city bus from Alor Setar’s central bus stop to Kuala Kedah (12 km, ½ hour, MYR 1.50 per person), the southern gateway to Pulau Langkawi, and catching the “Express Bahagia 88” ferry (Ferry Line +6047626295; 25 nm, 1 ½ hours, MYR 23.- per person) from Kuala Kedah to beautiful Langkawi, touted as the Jewel of Kedah, an archipelago of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea, and (i) a relaxed duty-free island with myriads of tempting bottle stores, (ii) an international safe and protected yottie haven with jungle-clad hills and stunning beaches, and (iii) Dr M’s des res (… and agreeing with him that the so-called democratic welfare states of the West are an economic failure).

Click below for a summary of this year's travels
2011 Map Konni & Matt

Visit the Konni & Matt Online Albums and order high-res travel photos
Konni & Matt Travel Photos

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15 Oct - 21 Oct 2011 Ipoh

Perak Darul Ridzuan
Jalan Che Tak 1 - 5
Ipoh Sakura Hotel +6052439254 babygurl82@live.com
Clean and adequate air-con double room with shared bathroom for only MYR 45.- or US$ 14.10 per night. Brilliant, sexy and very helpful staff.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Sakura Hotel in Ipoh, which we would recommend, and for directions:

Exploring the colonial heart and the historic quarter of Ipoh, Malaysia’s fourth-largest city, affectionately known as the City of Bougainvilleas, learning how tin enriched this mainly Malaysian Chinese city around the turn of the 19th century CE and time-travelling back into the good old days when the Chinese towkays, who ran gambling hells and opium dens, invested their money in rows over rows of multifunctional shophouses with narrow fronts and deep rears, e.g. for rattan weavers, tin smiths and signboard engravers; recharging afterwards our batteries with (i) excellent low she fun (leech-shaped rice noodles with plump and crunchy bean sprouts) and vegetarian yong tau foo (soybean-based mock dishes, made from stuffed tofu) at the clean and friendly vegetarian Soon Xin Stall in Ipoh’s New City and (ii) fresh and soft bao (steamed big black-bean buns) at the great Lim Ko Pi restaurant +6052532898 in Ipoh’s Old City.

Trying Ipoh’s famous signature dishes: (i) drinking the creamy-fatty Ipoh White Coffee (Cantonese: bak kopi), which is specially roasted with palm-oil margarine and has a colour similar to that of cappuccino when served with milk, at the excellent Old Town White Coffee restaurant +60165368308, (ii) spooning fresh, sweet and smooth tau foo fah, soybean pudding, at the clean and friendly Lay Kee Shop in Ipoh’s New City and (iii) munching juicy, XXXL-size pomelos, Perak’s most famous fruit.

Sampling Ipoh’s noodle diversity in the city’s countless Malaysian-Chinese slurperies, washing them down with plenty of Tigers (large bottle for MYR 12.50 or US$ 3.90), Carlsbergs (large bottle for MYR 12.30 or US$ 3.85) and Anchors (large bottle for MYR 11.- or US$ 3.45), becoming highly trained and almost civilised noodologists, sadly suffering a pescetarian relapse from our vegetarian resolutions and learning to differentiate (i) fishy hor hee noodles, very delicious kuey teow noodles with fish balls, fish paste and hand-made fish wan tan, (ii) delicious Hakka noodles with yong tau foo (our fave eatery: Yin Yau Kui at the Restaurant Paris) and (iii) slimy chow hor fun noodles (our fave eatery: Sun Tuck Kee), which are silky smooth flat rice noodles fried in such a way that they are a little wet with dark gravy (as opposed to the Penang char kueh teow noodles which have no gravy but are fried with egg, prawns or cockles and the Cantonese-style wat tan hor noodles, which are completely immersed in a clear egg gravy).

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”

Visiting two Chinese-Buddhist temples in Ipoh’s environs, (i) the busy 1926 CE Perak Tong cave temple, situated at Gunung Tasek, north of Ipoh (any bus bound for Kuala Kangsar: 6 km, 20 min, MYR 1.50 or US$ 0.45 per person), counting more than 40 Buddha statues and enjoying stunning views of Ipoh and its surroundings from the top of the karst hill, and (ii) the kitschy 1970 CE Sam Poh Tong temple, south-southeast of Ipoh (any bus bound for Kampar: 5 km, 10 min, MYR 1.50 or US$ 0.45 per person), an obvious cash cow for its private owner; later, descending from heaven back down to earth and discovering Madame Oh’s delicious lay fun laksa (rice noodles in a rich and spicy fish gravy with shredded cucumber, pineapple and bean sprouts) at her clean Hore Lok Cafe +60125231498 (MYR 2.50 or US$ 0.80 per large bowl).

Reading in the funny and politically always correct newspaper “The Star” from 15 Oct 2011 about “imported beggars from China … who had to beg for more than 19 hours a day in markets, temples and hawker centres and earned an average of MYR 1,000.- or US$ 320 per day” and wondering whether Ipoh’s sometimes pestering beggars were the local or international representatives of their guild.

“They are but beggars that can count their worth.”

Taking the comfortable Ekspres Kesatuan bus (with business-class like “snoozer seats”, +6053188750) from Ipoh’s Medan Gopeng Bus Terminal to Alor Setar (260 km, 3 ¾ hours, MYR 23.- or US$ 7.20 per person) thus driving for miles on end through flat rice-paddy plains and entering the conservative, strongly Islamic state of Kedah, the rice bowl of Malaysia.

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05 Oct - 15 Oct 2011 Kuala Lumpur

Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman 316
Adequate and clean double room for a pre-booked MYR 38.- or US$ 12.30 per night. Crappy wifi (provided by Colubris Networks) as add-on for MYR 12.- per 24 hours; if you need a smooth internet connectivity, you better avoid this Tune Hotel in downtown KL...

Click below for an interactive road map of the Tune Hotel in downtown Kuala Lumpur and for directions:

Re-adjusting to Cooler Lumpur’s vibrant big-city life (after we had spent a few weeks off the beaten track on remote Sulawesi [1], [2], [3]), catching up on long overdue admin chores, meeting up with our close friends Christina & Liau, Tilo & Herry and Sophie from Red Palm Lodge, scrutinising the maps for our upcoming tour to India and satisfying our carnevoyeuristic needs at some newly discovered and highly recommendable food joints for vegans and vegetarians: (i) Mr. Khorana’s Sentral Chappati House +60322604210 with most delicious Punjabi veggie curries, (ii) the Al-Zahir Food Court with very cheap and tasty meatless versions of nasi kandar and (iii) Mr. Low’s fantastic mock-meat Le Tian Vegetarian Restaurant (sign: “Makanan Sayur Sayuran”) +60162777515 in the 4th-floor-hawker centre at Sungei Wang Plaza in Bukit Bintang (noticing the many overweight and pear-shaped patrons in the non-veg sections of these eateries and coming to the conclusion: eating meat is probably just a clumsy, expensive and not-so-creative way of committing suicide).
“If only we correct our eating habits than not only we would have perfect body weight but also we can get rid of most of the diseases."

Applying for Indian tourist visas at the brave new Indian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur (via the Grand Lotus India Visa Centre +60326922692), already only half-assed and with mixed feelings about India (earlier this year, during our first tour to the world's biggest democrazy, we had witnessed at three different occasions how members of the Indian police used their batons on innocent citizens: (i) during a minor traffic incident in Srinagar/Kashmir when the cops molested our bus driver, (ii) during a religious rally in Madurai/Tamilnadu when the cops socked, for no visible reason, well-behaving youngsters during a religious parade, and (iii) during a sports contest in Leh/Ladakh when the cops used their batons haphazardly against the spectators in order to direct them into the right direction), learning from the visa centre's bobblehead in charge five days later that our visa applications were declined due to the fact that they wanted us to apply from our country of birth, and deciding to change our travel plans: bye-bye and may you do well “Incredible India”, a cocky, failing but still big-talking nuclear-weapons state which appears to be in the greedy hands of a bureaucratic and corrupt political class who is unable to provide clean drinking water and uninterrupted electrical power for millions of oppressed people, and thank you very much Air Asia (“Now Everyone Can Fly”) for converting our pre-paid air fares in a flexible credit shell.
Five surgeons from five big Indian cities are discussing who makes the best patients to operate on.
The first surgeon, from Mumbai, says:
"I like to see accountants on my table because when you open them up, everything inside is only numbered." The second, from Chennai, wobbles: "But you should try electricians; everything inside them is colour coded." The third surgeon, from Bangalore, bobbles: "No, I really think librarians are the best, everything inside them is in alphabetical order." The fourth surgeon, from Kolkata bubbles: "You know, I like assembly-line workers. Those guys always understand when you have a few parts left over."
The fifth surgeon, from Delhi, shut them all up when he shakes his head: "You're all wrong. Indian civil servants are the easiest to operate on. They have no guts, no heart, no balls, no brains, and no spine. Plus, the head and the arse are fully interchangeable..."

Being interviewed by Backpacking Malaysia, an excellent internet resource for the independent traveller and one of the best web sites about travelling both Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia aka Borneo (Sarawak and Sabah), and sharing our experience of ten plus years of perpetual travelling with their more than 50,000 readers per month.

Taking the comfortable Konsortium Bas Express bus +60320264088 from Kuala Lumpur’s Puduraya Bus Terminal to Ipoh (210 km, 3 hours, MYR 17.40 per person) thus travelling throughout on the smooth and well-maintained six-lane North-South Expressway aka Lebuhraya through a mixed landscape of impenetrable secondary rainforest and vast palm-oil plantations.

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Facing Malaysia
© Konni & Matt

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