26 Jun - 27 Jun 2013 Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur
Jl. Tuanku Abdul Rahman 316
Fully renovated and tremendously improved, rather stylish and clean double room (no. 539), located in the hotel’s new extension, with fan, private bathroom and power shower, for MYR 68.- or US$ 22.- per night, booked on the internet long ago.
Helpful, friendly and competent staff; very good English.

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


Matt: Overnighting in Kuala Lumpur, thus braving the incredibly thick haze, triggered by forest fires on Sumatra, of a quite hazardous API above 500 (which means that a state of emergency has been declared: all non-essential government services [a pleonasm] were suspended, schools were closed and protective face masks were strongly recommended) and later on, undisguised, having interesting and thought-provoking encounters (i) with attractive service personnel of every age and gender in the skid row behind my hotel, and (ii) with chubby chowhounds of every age and gender at the hawker stalls in nearby Kampung Baru, the ground-zero for the plainly visible XXXL-isation of 1Malaysia, where their patrons, often with a BMI far above 30, guzzled perfectly happy their high-calorie, oily and over-sugared Malay food, praised smackingly their unhealthy grub and, at the same time, complained bitterly about their diabetic symptoms, their hypertension and their heart diseases (... and didn't have the slightest idea about the additional greenhouse gas emission caused by fat people on our 1Earth).

“According to the surgeon general, obesity today is officially an epidemic; it is arguably the most pressing public health problem we face, costing the health care system an estimated $90 billion a year. Three of every five Americans are overweight; one of every five is obese. The disease formerly known as adult-onset diabetes has had to be renamed Type II diabetes since it now occurs so frequently in children. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association predicts that a child born in 2000 has a one-in-three chance of developing diabetes. (An African American child's chances are two in five.) Because of diabetes and all the other health problems that accompany obesity, today's children may turn out to be the first generation of Americans whose life expectancy will actually be shorter than that of their parents. The problem is not limited to America: The United Nations reported that in 2000 the number of people suffering from overnutrition - a billion - had officially surpassed the number suffering from malnutrition - 800 million.”

Matt: Taking the monorail and hereafter the yellow Aerobus shuttle (Wawasan Sutera Travel & Tours +60361892711) from KL Sentral, the main railway station, back to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA-LCCT) at Sepang (c. 70 km, 1 ½ hours, MYR 8.- or US$ 2.50 per person), flying uneventfully with Air Asia (“Now Everyone Can Fly”) in an indefatigable and sturdy red Airbus A 320-200 from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu International, the second busiest airport in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur, for just MYR 98.- or US$ 32.- per person, one way, all inclusive, and taking eventually the free shuttle bus from Warisan Square to the tried and tested Tune Hotel at 1Borneo Hypermall, only a few clicks north of Kota Kinabalu - back to fascinating and rewarding Borneo, a place of ancient rainforests, jungle wildlife and cultural riches, which we explored intensively from July 2009 through October 2009.

2013 Map Konni & Matt

Recommended books - click below for your Amazon order from Canada:
For Amazon schnaeppchens from Germany, please click here
For Amazon bargains from the United States, please click here
For Amazon bargains from the United Kingdom, please click here

From the 2013 Moral Travel Compass for our Grand Children's Journey of Life:
It’s bad to follow a map;
It’s good to create your own atlas.
Keep your bearings!

23 Jun - 26 Jun 2013 Nara

East Asia
State of Japan aka Land of the Rising Sun
Suruga-machi 41-2
Guesthouse Nara Komachi +81742870556 guesthouse@wave.plala.or.jp
Brand-new, comfortable and very clean dorm bed with large locker and curtains for a stiff JPY 2,400.- or US$ 23.75 per night.
Private bathroom with very, very clean Japanese high-tech toilet (control panel with eight different buttons and proximity sensor), free wifi inside the room and the toilet; fully-equipped, very, very, very clean communal kitchen with big fridge, but rather small and uncomfortable lounge.
Polite, cordial and very helpful staff; excellent English.
Beer: 500-ml cans of ice-cold and drinkable Japanese Santory Rich Malt Beer (c. 5 % alc./vol., “Enjoy Rich Taste in Relaxing Time”), with stamped Braille patterns of raised dots on top of the cans (saying: “alcohol”), in order to avoid getting blind drunk, for JPY 160.- or US$ 1.65 per can from the nearby AEON TopValu supermarket +81742255040. Alternative: Reasonably priced, full-bodied Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon (JPY 498.- or US$ 5.10 per bottle) from the same AEON TopValu supermarket; kanpai!

Click below for an interactive road map of the Guesthouse Nara Komachi in Nara City, which we would highly recommend, and for directions:


Matt: Visiting the ultimate tourist highlights of bambitous Nara City, all of them distinctive UNESCO World Heritage Sites: (i) the 8th-century CE Todaijo Temple (entrance: JPY 600.- per tourist), the largest wooden structure in the world, (ii) the 7th-century CE Kofukuji Temple (entrance: JPY 300.- per tourist) with its signature five-storey pagoda, one of Nara’s landmarks, and (iii) the vermilion coloured Kasuga Taisha Shrine (entrance: JPY 500.- per tourist) with its cypress-bark roofs and hundreds of stone lanterns, built in perfect Japanese harmony with its natural environment.

Matt: Listening to a lovely concert of traditional Japanese gagaku music, which has been performed at the Imperial Court in Kyoto for several centuries, at the Sangatsudo Temple, played by a trio of young musicians who played in wonderful harmony and who excelled on the koto, the shō and the ryūteki.

Matt: Learning about the subtleties of highly abstract and stylised Japanese garden design at the Yoshikien Garden +81742225911 (free entrance for foreigners), consisting of (i) a charming tea-ceremony flower garden, (ii) a sloped and curved pond garden and (iii) a serene moss garden, the latter perfectly suited for godly meditation about the future of the NIKKEI-225 index.

Matt: Taking an active part, for the sake of completeness before leaving Japan, in an extended sake degustation (contribution: JPY 400.- for the almost bottomless afternoon session) at the Harushika Sake Brewery (+81742232255, company slogan: “Polish the rice, polish the water, polish the technique and polish the mind.”), which produces a light, mellow-tasting high-quality sake with a flowery yet sharp flavour, kanpai!

"The Japanese have perfected good manners
and made them indistinguishable from rudeness.” 

Matt: Struggling through the Japanese operating instructions and managing to launder safely a 5-kg load of my dirty linen at a nearby coin laundry (washing for JPY 300.- and drying for JPY 100.-).

Matt: Leaving the land of the rising sun, one of the friendliest, funniest and silliest countries where I have ever been (a country where taxi drivers are clad in an admiral’s full-dress uniform with white gloves, where bank managers in stylish business suits overnight happily in capsule hotels and where young girls wear outfits which resemble living dolls who seem to wait for the doll repairer), thus taking the Kate Airport Limousine Bus (driven by a slightly underdressed driver: clad only in an brigadier-general’s mess uniform) from Bus Stop No. 9 in front of Nara’s JR Station straight to Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, Terminal 1 (1 ½ hours, JPY 2,000.- or US$ 20.50 per person), flying with Air Asia X (“Now Everyone Can Fly Xtra Long”) in an arctic Airbus A 330-300 from Osaka non-stop back to Kuala Lumpur’s International Airport Sepang (KLIA-LCCT), for JPY 12,150.- or US$ 155.-, one way and all inclusive, changing in mid-air my watch from Japan Standard Time (GMT/UTC + 9:00 hours) to Malaysia Standard Time (GMT/UTC + 8:00 hours) and smelling the heavily polluted Malaysian air, caused by forest fires on Sumatra, during the landing approach inside the cabin, being issued with another 90-day-visit pass for a “social visit” to Malaysia on arrival, free of charge, taking a yellow Aerobus shuttle (c. 70 km, 1 ½ hours, MYR 8.- per person, no spitting) through thick and heavy smog, much worse than last year in Beijing, straight to KL Sentral and hereafter the reliable monorail train (MYR 2.50 per person, from KL Sentral to Medan Tuanku Station) straight to my pre-booked Tune Hotel in downtown.

Click below for a summary of this year's travels
Facing Japan
© Konni & Matt

Recommended books - click below for your Amazon order from Germany:
For Amazon schnaeppchens from the United States, please click here
For Amazon bargains from Canada, please click here
For Amazon bargains from the United Kingdom, please click here

From the 2013 Moral Travel Compass for Our Grand Children's Journey of Life:
It’s bad to believe your government;
It’s good to count on your grandparents.
Keep your bearings!

18 Jun - 23 Jun 2013 Kyoto

East Asia
State of Japan aka Land of the Rising Sun
Nakanocyo 568, Bukkoji agaru, Termachi dori
Comfortable and clean dorm bed with large locker and curtains for JPY 1,800.- or US$ 17.80 per night. Shared bathroom with very clean Japanese high-tech toilets (proximity sensor and control panel with 12 different, very bewildering buttons, e.g. for sphincter-relaxation music, seat warming, anus/vulva washing, blow dryer and air deodorisation); free wifi everywhere; fully-equipped communal kitchen; large and cosy, Japanese-style lounge and all the amenities of a modern and well-run backpacker hostel.
Enthusiastic, knowledgeable and helpful international and Japanese and staff.
Beer: 500-ml cans of ice-cold but awful Japanese Kirin Beer (c. 5 % alc./vol., no flavour) for JPY 172.- or US$ 1.75 per big can from the nearby Fresco supermarket; the alternative: reasonably priced, full-bodied Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon (JPY 498.- or US$ 5.10 per bottle) from the same Fresco supermarket; kanpai!

Click below for an interactive road map of the Backpacker's Hostel Khaosan in Kyoto, which we would highly recommend, and for directions:


Matt: Drowning in the heavy downpours of the beginning southwest monsoon, which arrived at full throttle and much earlier than usual, and exploring the indoor attractions in my new neighbourhood, the covered (up-)markets on historical Teramachi Street between Shijō Street to somewhat above Sanjō Street, an arcade containing an assortment of shops and services, both traditional and modern, with a large number of temples and shrines thrown in for good measure.

Matt: Spying on the ingenious Japanese and gathering valuable intel about their high-tech ways of taking a leak (after all the sake) or having bowel movements (after all the rice) but still wondering which one of the two directional buttons a transgendered person would have to press whilst/after using one of those space-age washlets aka woshuretto.

Matt: Having a look at the atmospheric and well-frequented 656 CE Shinto Yasaka Shrine +81755616155, once called Gion Shrine, cleansing my mouth and my hands at the purification fountain, listening to the monks’ otherworldly chanting, batting around the surrounding park dotted with holy sites of all sizes and learning about the distinction between a shrine and a temple: two primary religions are practiced in Japan, Shinto (the religion of earthly matters) which is practiced at a shrine, and Buddhism (the religion of spiritual matters), which is practiced at a temple.

Matt: Prowling through the parks north-east of Gion at the foot of the Higashiyama mountains and checking on my heretical must-see list: (i) the 1234 CE Chion-in Temple, the headquarters of the Pure Land Sect aka Jōdo-shū founded by Hōnen (1133–1212 CE, obviously a trailblazer of modern brain-washing and ahead of his time since he proclaimed that sentient beings are reborn in Amida Buddha's Western Paradise by continually reciting the nembutsu, Amida Buddha's name), (ii) the 12th-century CE Shoren-in Temple, which is one of Kyoto’s monzeki temples, which are temples whose head priests were traditionally members of the imperial family and a symbol for the sleaze of secular and spiritual power, and (iii) the famous Heian Shrine, ranked by the Association of Shinto Shrines as a beppyou jinja, the top rank for shrines, and consequently being heavily commercialised and monetised (e.g. entrance to the gardens: JPY 600.- or US$ 6.10 per person).

Matt: Test-walking the Nightingale floor (as in Gilian Rubinstein’s Across the Nightingale Floor) aka uguisubari, a means of defence against ninja at Nijo castle +81758410096 (entrance: JPY 600.- per person), another one of Kyoto’s stunning UNESCO World Heritage Sites, listening to the floor boards' treacherously chirping sound when walked upon and studying the floor's design where the flooring nails rubbed against a jacket, causing chirping noises and assuring that none could sneak through the corridors undetected.

Matt: Applauding the young warriors who practise traditional Japanese martial arts at the Kyoto Budo Centre +81757511255 which thrives as a practice area for archery aka kyudo, karate, sword practice aka kenjutsu, kendo, naginata, aikido, judo, sumo, shorinji kempo and the Chinese tai chi chuan, and wondering about the question who their real role model might be: some famous samurai or perhaps Jackie Chan from Hong Kong?

Matt: Recuperating from my extensive walking tours through Kyoto City and visiting the out-of-this-world gourmet wonderlands in the basements of the nearby Takashimaya and Daimaru department stores which offer freely and generously samples of their international and Japanese delicacies: (i) from Norwegian smoked salmon to Japanese caviar, (ii) from German sauerkraut in Franconian white wine to Japanese radish pickled in sake lees aka  kasuzuke (the yeast mash that is left over after filtering sake), (iii) from heavy Austrian sachertorte cake to the finest and lightest Japanese pastries aka wagashi, (iv) from a diversity of Scotch single malts to multiply distilled Japanese shōchū, (v) from Sumatran civet-shit coffee to oh-so-subtly aromatic Japanese green teas and hundreds more – another tough day in Japan!

Matt: Picking up quite a few silly similarities between France and Japan, especially in their peoples' attitudes and values who both seem to have a nationalistic chip on their shoulders, a xenophobic inferiority complex which they try to over-compensate with the help of (i) a constrained make-up of their paraded cultures (…of ossified hierarchies), (ii) hyped-up cuisines (…based on animal cruelty) and (iii) dubious political traditions (…both were reborn after WWII and have been stagnating after the fall of the Berlin Wall).

Matt: Taking the comfortable city bus no. 5 straight to Kyoto Station (JPY 220.- or US$ 2.25 per person for the short ride) and thereafter the even more comfortable JR (“Japan Railway”) Nara Line from Kyoto to Nara City (c. 45 min, JPY 690.- or US$ 6.75 per person), the capital of Japan from 710 to 784 CE and a treasure house of ancient history and culture set in a beautiful natural environment with free roaming deer.

Click below for more blog posts about heads, loos and squatting
18 Mar - 18 Apr 2013 Bangkok
23 Aug - 28 Aug 2012 Pingyao
08 Feb - 06 Mar 2012 Bangkok

Click below for a summary of this year's travels

Facing Japan
© Konni & Matt

Recommended books - click below for your Amazon order from the United Kingdom:
For Amazon schnaeppchens from Germany, please click here
For Amazon deals from the United States, please click here
For Amazon deals from Canada, please click here

From the 2013 Moral Travel Compass for Our Grand Children's Journey of Life:
It’s bad to keep a secret;
It’s good to listen.
Keep your bearings!

16 Jun - 18 Jun 2013 Seoul

East Asia
Republic of Korea aka South Korea
Seodaemun/Mapo District
Mapo-gu, Yeonnam-dong 570-16
Clean and comfortable double room with shared bathroom for KRW 40,000.- or US$ 35.50 per night. Free wifi and fully-equipped communal kitchen/lounge with fridge.
Great international backpacker atmosphere with very helpful and friendly staff, professional management; excellent (Canadian) English.
Beer: 500-ml bottles of ice-cold Korean Hite Dry Finish (c. 4.8 % alc./vol., “Refresh Your Spirits; Break away from the Daily Grind!”) for KRW 1,650.- or US$ 1.45 per bottle from the nearby Emart Everyday +8223360078, “Korea’s No. 1 Discount Store”; or even better: 640-ml bottles of ice-cold Korean Hite Ice Point (c. 4.5 % alc./vol.) for only KRW 1,600.- or US$ 1.40 per large bottle from the family-run KosaMart +8223322275; cheers!

Click below for an interactive road map of the Kimchee Hongdae Guesthouse in Seoul, which we would recommend, and for directions:


Matt: Poking my nose into this, that and the other in trendy Hongdae, known for its urban arts and indie music culture, and bumping into the funny Trickeye Museum (admission: a stiff KRW 13,000.- per adult) where boisterous and resourceful young Koreans experiment with their visual perception, play the familiar game “photographer and model” and experience at first hand that the map is not the territory.

Matt: Consulting the beautiful and caring lady practitioners at Seoul’s Dae-Jang-Geum Traditional Korean Medicine Centre +82234460424, being diagnosed (on pulse, tongue and eyes) as able-bodied and physically fit enough and receiving my personal food recommendations for a potent long life: a bouquet garni of kudzu roots, cassia seeds, chrysanthemum flowers, aloe leaves and bamboo shoots plus some more ordinary stuff like buckwheat, malt and bean sprouts; masitge deuseyo.

Matt: Enjoying delightful and meaningful encounters with a diversity of friendly and energetic Koreans at (i) the Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul’s largest concentration of traditional Korean homes, built from wood, stone and plaster and with window panes made from paper, and at (ii) the Namsangol Hanok Village where young people of both sexes demonstrated their incredible taekwondo techniques and destroyed with their bare hands and feet heaps of bricks, roof tiles and wooden boards.

Matt: Saying goodbye to wonderful and hospitable, traditional and modern Korea (“Annyeong-hi gyeseyo!”), taking the superb AREX train from Hongik University Station straight to Incheon International Airport (46 min, KRW 3,950.- or US$ 3.50 per person; being pretty much sure that God has really intended man to fly, otherwise he’d make it more difficult to get to the airports), taking off with Japanese low-cost carrier Peach Aviation (“Making Air Travel in Asia Closer and More Fun”) in an Airbus A 320-200 for KRW 107,900.- or US$ 95.50, one way and all inclusive, to Osaka’s futuristic Kansai International Airport, Terminal 2, built on an artificial island in Osaka Bay and designed by Italian star architect Renzo Piano, being issued with a Japanese 90-day “landing permission as a temporary visitor” on arrival, free of charge, and travelling on a discounted Peach Kyoto Sightseeing Ticket (already sold in-flight by Peach Aviation's eager flight attendants, JPY 1,500.- or US$ 15.- per person: Nankai Railway from Kansai Airport to Namba, Osaka Municipal Subway from Namba to Yodoyabashi and eventually Keihan Railway from Yodoyabashi to Gionshijo) to my next backpacker hostel, situated in the fascinating neighbourhood of Gion, one of the most exclusive and well-known geisha districts in all of Japan.

Recommended books - click below for your Amazon order from the United States:
For Amazon schnaeppchens from Germany, please click here
For Amazon bargains from Canada, please click here
For Amazon bargains from the United Kingdom, please click here

From the 2013 Moral Travel Compass for Our Grand Children's Journey of Life:
It’s bad to bank on the police;
It’s good to call your friends.
Keep your bearings!