04 May - 05 May 2012 Kuala Lumpur

KLIA-LCCT Airport Sepang
Small and overpriced double room for a stiff MYR 103.80 or US$ 34.20 per night (booked over the internet, long ago); bad value, but this is the only budget hotel near the airport’s low-cost carriers terminal (LCCT).
Beer: 320-ml cans of non-halal, smooth Anchor Strong Beer (8.8 % alc./vol.) for MYR 7.40 or US$ 2.45 per regular can from the 7-Eleven convenience store in front of the Tune Hotel.

Click below for an interactive road map of this Tune Hotel at KLIA-LCCT and for directions:

Using the convenient facilities in the immediate vicinity of the Tune Hotel (e.g. the airport’s friendly staff canteen Food Garden with its delicious and cheap but over-cooked and fattening Malay food and with free access to wifi for three hours within 24 hours) and planning our upcoming first tour to Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan aka Republic of China aka Formosa (from the Portuguese Ilha Formosa for "beautiful island"), one of the most densely populated places in the world, home to more than 23 million industrious people and an undisclosed number of 7-Elevens and Taiwanese FamilyMarts.
"Even if I were knocked down by a gunshot it wouldn't affect our democracy and I wasn't knocked down and I have great confidence in our democracy and in Taiwan and in the people of Taiwan."

Flying uneventfully with Air Asia X (“Now Everyone Can Fly Xtra Long”) in a clean Airbus A 330-300 from Kuala Lumpur’s KLIA-LCCT Sepang to Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport, formerly Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport, for US$ 147.90 per person, one way, all inclusive, without changing our watches from Malaysia Standard Time (GMT/UTC + 8:00 hours) to Taiwan’s National Standard Time (GMT/UTC + 8:00 hours), being issued with a 90-day-visit permit to the Republic of China on arrival (visa exemption without any red tape), free of charge, and taking thereafter an efficient Kuo Guang bus +886800010138 (25 km, ¾ hours, TWD 230.- per person, return) straight into the city centre of Taipei and to our old friend John’s comfy and cheap Happy Family Hostel with the best hostel atmosphere in downtown Taipei: “Ni hao!”

Click below for more blog posts about our short stopovers in Kuala Lumpur
04 Jan - 06 Jan 2012 Kuala Lumpur

Click below for a summary of this year's travels

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03 May - 04 May 2012 Padang

Republic of Indonesia
Jalan Veteran 33
Hotel Tiga Tiga +6275122173
Large but still overpriced twin room (no. 307) with air-con, slimmer’s breakfast for two and the usual Islamic noise pollution from the encircling mosques as early as about 04.30 a.m., all inclusive for IDR 160,000.- or US$ 17.30 per night. Indifferent staff.
Beer: Dry Muslim hotel; 620-ml bottles of ice-cold Bintang Beer (c. 4.7 % alc./vol.) available, from the icebox under the table, for a proud IDR 28,000.- or US$ 3.- per large bottle, from the ever-reliable Chinese street vendor c. 30 m south of the hotel entrance (no GPS necessary), cheers aka pro!

Click below for an interactive road map of the Hotel Tiga Tiga in Padang and for directions:

Imbibing the essence of West Sumatra and feasting on the pescetarian/vegetarian components of the mouthwatering but mostly fleishig and LDL-cholesterol boosting Padang Cuisine, which is extremely popular across the island and the archipelago, and having a taste of (i) telor balado (hard-boiled eggs dusted with red chilli), (ii) the Padang version of ikan panggang (fish baked in coconut and fiery chilli sauce) and (iii) a variety of deliciously cooked, non-artery clogging local veggies (e.g. jackfruit, beans, spinach, kangkong, cabbage, potatoes, bean sprouts) with fried coconut shavings, tempe and sambal, all accompanied by a load of steamed rice aka nasi putih, traditionally eaten with the fingers (of the right hand) and washed down with a glass of warm and reasonably halal water aka air putih panas; bluebottles flies freely available as additional but non-vegetarian protein, add to taste...

Catching one of Padang’s many cruising angkots (short for angkutan kota [city transport]) from our hotel straight to the airport’s departure hall (20 km, ¾ hour, IDR 25,000.- or US$ 2.70 per person), changing our watches from Western Indonesian Time (GMT/UTC + 7:00 hours) to Malaysia Standard Time (GMT/UTC + 8:00 hours), flying uneventfully with Air Asia Indonesia (“Now Everyone Can Fly”) in a well-worn Airbus A 320-200 from Padang’s modern Minangkabau International Airport (airport tax for international departures: IDR 100,000.- or US$ 10.85 per person) over the Strait of Malacca to Kuala Lumpur’s KLIA-LCCT at Sepang for only US$ 27.60 per person, one way, all inclusive, and being issued with another 90-day-visit pass for a “social visit” to Malaysia on arrival, free of charge, thus leaving Sumatra where we spent the previous two exciting months between (i) the mind-altering depth of 55 m below sea level (DM Konni, diving the wreck of the “Sophie Rickmers) and (ii) the mind-altering altitude of 2,891 m above sea level (Matt, on top of the Gunung Merapi volcano): “Terima kasih banyak. Selamat tinggal, Sumatera!”

Masking Asia
© Konni & Matt

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29 Apr - 03 May 2012 Bukittinggi

Republic of Indonesia
Bukittinggi (c. 930 m above sea level)
Jalan Teuku Umar 11
Orchid Hotel +6275232634 roni_orchid@hotmail.com
Clean and adequate twin room (no. 305) with Asian shower/toilet (this trip’s very last bak mandi, the common and very convenient Indonesian form of a bath, consisting of a large water tank from which the water is ladled over the body), including a slimmer’s breakfast for two, for only IDR 100,000.- or US$ 11.- per night; plenty of tourist information available. Friendly and very helpful staff; good English
Beer: 620-ml bottles of ice-cold Bintang Pilsener with c. 4.7 % alc./vol. for IDR 25,000.- or US$ 2.70 per bottle from the hotel.

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

Exploring the easy-going and friendly hill town of Bukittinggi, which is surrounded by active volcanoes (gunung api or “fire mountain”), scenic lakes and steep canyons, a busy market town and the centre of Minangkabau culture, and discovering its two landmarks: (i) the Minangkabau-style clock tower that overlooks the large market square and (ii) the monkey-infested Taman Panorama Park (admission: IDR 3,000.- per person), on the southern edge of town, that overlooks the deep Sianok Canyon aka Ngarai Sianok.

Diving into the many hundreds of ramshackle stalls and shacks at Pasar Atas, Bukittinggi’s large and colourful market, on a Wednesday when the market is particularly vibrant, and almost suffocating in oodles of both extremely ordinary gear (e.g. genuine Chinese frillies for the devout muslimah) and extremely exotic gear (e.g. genuine French frillies for the devout muslimah) which are ballyhooed at every turn.

“Wearing trousers were nothing compared to reading the history of ideas.”

Matt: Teaming up with the excellent, 25-years old Batak mountain guide Ilham (from Roni’s Adventure Tour & Travel, +628126750688, roni_orchid@hotmail.com, IDR 300,000.- or US$ 32.50 per person for the very professional full-day package, all inclusive) and with fellow travellers Jin from Korea and Amelia & Tomasz from Poland and climbing together the smouldering summit of the 2,891-m high Gunung Merapi, one of Sumatra’s most restless volcanoes: (i) begin of the ascent at the village of Kota Baru at 6.00 a.m. (ii) arrival amid the sulphuric stench of the crater rim (a smell like the outhouse of a Bombay diner after the Sunday Curried Egg Special) at 12.00 a.m. (iii) begin of the descent at 2.00 p.m. (iv) back with aching muscles at Kota Baru at 4.00 p.m. (v) first bottle of ice-cold Bintang beer, back home at the Orchid Hotel in Bukittinggi, at 5.00 p.m. - cheers!

“The real difficulty about volcanism is not to see how it can start,
but how it can stop.”

Taking a convenient hotel-to-hotel minivan (Armada Tours, +627527020730, 90 km, 2 hours, IDR 40,000.- or US$ 4.30 per person) for the short down-hill ride from Bukittinggi to the flat, sprawling city of Padang, located on the narrow coastal plain between the Indian Ocean and the Bukit Barisan Mountains, the last station of our Northwest-Sumatra tour and West Sumatra’s food capital, famous for its spicy but not so vegetarian-friendly Padang Cuisine.

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