Sunday 22 September 2013
It has been quite a while since the last blog and people have started to remark that we seem to have been staying put for an unusually long time. A most enjoyable stint back at work cetainly contributed to the lack of travel but we are back on the trail once again, headed to Thailand for a three week jaunt.
With an early morning flight scheduled , we got up at 2:30 to find Perth once again being battered by a fierce front. A quick check of the radar showed that an intense band of storms would cross Kingsley just around 3:15, to coincide with our taxi booking. It was pretty wild lugging backpacks and making our way to the front gate. Even the taxi driver was a bit shaken by the weather, having avoided downed trees and flying rubbish en-route to pick us up.
Thankfully, the drive to the airport was without incident and we completed check-in smoothly. Flying with Air Asia to KL, we’d applied for upgrade options to Premium Seats or Empty seats. Unfortunately, we missed out on Premium but did bag four empty seats, giving us the luxury of a run of three seats each, easily enough room to stretch out. This set us back 100 Malaysian Ringhit, or about $33 all up and on an otherwise nearly full plane, was absolute luxury.
With room to stretch out, we enjoyed a comfortable 5 hour flight to KL, dozing, watching movies, reading and listening to music. For future reference, we noted that the row of exit seats immediately over the wing on an Air Asia A300 is really spacious and has a wonderful big box arrangement that the window passenger can reach with their legs and stretch out wth feet up. These appear to be the best seats on the plane outside of Premium.
Once on the ground in KL, we bought tickets for a bus to Malacca and only had 10 minutes to wait. The trip seemed longer than we have experienced previously at around 90 minutes but perhaps that was because we were straight off an air flight. Even so, the bus was comfortable enough and the driver occasionally put his phone down and his hands on the wheel so all was good. Arriving at Malacca Central Bus Station, we pre-purchased a ticket to KL for two days time and taxied to the Halmark Leisure Hotel, a budget job that is reasonably comfortable but very well located.
Once settled in (after rejecting one room), we unpacked a few basics and set out to the nearby Jonker Walk, the famous old Chinese Quarter. On Sunday nights it comes alive with street stalls and markets. Wandering up and down sampling the incredible variety of street foods is a great way to go and the sort of thing we come to Malacca for. We had gorgeous little dumplings in a variety of flavours, some chicken samosa style things, a wonderful curly potato deep fried on a stick and delicious platefuls of oyster omlette and fried kweay teow. To get a plate of kweay teow with squid and oysters cooked in front of your eyes and served up for $1 is amazing. Another delicacy was called a Taiwanese Burger which consisted of an egg fired in a deep egg-ring, with other ingriedients embedded and fried to a point where it could be consumed as a hand-held snack. Even more interesting, was a stall selling quail eggs, each one cracked into a shallow semi-cicular depression on a hotplate. Other things were added then a bamboo skewer laid across a run of six eggs, flipped and fried until crisp on the outside. A whole stick cost $1. Apparently, there is not a lot of money to be made from quail farming.
Despite the wonderful street life, the stamina just wasn’t there and by 8pm we were back in the hotel ready to collapse. Age must be catching up with us.
Monday 23 September
Despite an early night, we slept late, a sure sign of needing it. After breakfast we lazed around and read until around 11am then headed out to walk to the main shopping area. The Jonker Walk at this hour was empty and quiet, a far cry from last night’s market bustle. It was a real pleasure to be able to saunter slowly on empty sidewalks and cross streets with ease.
In the central part of old Malacca, things have changed little since our last visit, with the exception of the old Dutch administration building, which was encased in tarpaulins as part of some renovations. In the Civic Square, the cyclos, brightly adorned with flowers and fluffy animals, still worked hard to carry us around on a tour but, as usual, we resisted. The general tourist population is on the low side at present and many businesses seem to be taking the down time to take a break. Malaysia has only recently celebrated its Independence Day, with flags still hanging from every vantage point. Perhaps the big period of celebration was a signal for many to ease off a bit.
We sought some relief from the heat (not used to it coming from Perth) in a big modern shopping centre and browsed the stores in a very relaxed fashion. A small cafe attracted us with the lure of lime juice and ice crush mango, both local favourites and ridiculously cheap.
For lunch we headed next door to a favourite haunt from previous trips and stuffed oursleves with local food. We each had a piece of tumeric coated chicken to accompany a plate of Kampong Rojak. Rojak is a Straits variation of an Indian salad, consisting of various cubed pieces of cucumber, pineapple, yam, bean curd etc and covered in a sweet sticky sauce with a tamarind base. It is delicious but very filling. A Tiger Beer always helps food go down in this part of the World.
On the walk back home along the Jonker Walk, we passed one of the many Durian Ball stalls. These small cream puff type creations look absolutely delicious and usually attract a big crowd of buyers but with the crowds absent, we had no trouble buying a bag.
“Put the whole thing in your mouth”, advised the girl, “Eat in one bite.”
We followed instructions, the ball making a definite mouth full. Great texture! Bite down. Wonderful cool liquid spills out of the soft outer coating and floods the mouth. Sweet, smooth and DISGUSTING. We both wandered away with mouths full of awful durian fruit. Even worse, we had five more of the horrid things.
Fortunately, we managed to off-load the bag of durian puffs at the hotel front desk but the taste of the one each we had consumed remained with us for the afternoon. We can strike that experience off the bucket list.
After wasting the afternoon watching a movie and dozing, we headed out again to seek out an Indian-Malay local restaurant called the Persatuan Pengunaha Restoran. The only one who we can understand in Momma so we always just put oursleves in her hands. She manages to supply us with local foods served up on a banana leaf. All other patrons eat with their hands, and we have been shown how by Momma, but the strain of only using the right hand (the left is a no no) proves too much and we resort to forks and spoons. We had a delicious Murtabak and a not so delicious Indian Pancake with coconut sauce. Two big bottles of Carlseburg blew the budget out to around $10. Ouch!
Tuesday 24 September
Today was a bus travel day. We needed to get back to the KL Airport but decided to spend a night in KL itself before flying to Krabi, in Thailand. The bus trip from Malacca to KL took an hour and a half, all along motorways. For some reason, we always seem to travel Transnational but there are plenty of buses to choose from and everything looks to be the same high standard. However, we did get a bit of a shock when the bus stopped at the new bus station called Terminal Bersepadu Seletan (TBS)instead of the old Pudu Sentral near the end of Bukit Bintang. This is a beautiful, well organised and clean facility that bears no resemblence to the hot, dirty and chaotic place that we last used when bussing out of KL.
However, being at the TBS did mean that we had no idea where abouts in KL we were and so had to grab a cab. Catching taxis in KL is something to be avoided at all costs. The motorways consist of numerous twisting and turning overpasses, resembling a giant rollercoaster, and the drivers seem to delight in negotiating these in the minimum amount of time. Ours was no exception and his motto was “Give no quarter!” Still, we arrived in the Jalan Bukit Bintang unscathed. The main tourist drag of KL is in a state of confusion, having been dug up while a new underground MRT is constructed. Some of our old familiar haunts have disappeared but the stretch that houses our hotel is still untouched so all was good.
The Malaysia Hotel looks like a house of ill repute from the outside, is grubby and dirty in the lobby, yet is staffed with friendly helpful people and has spacious clean rooms with good facilities. Best of all, it is cheap, something that one has to search for in Kuala Lumpur.
Our main reason for coming to KL was to go to Restoran Venny, a wonderful street-side establishment that sells a wonderful array of Straits food and Chinese-Malay dishes. We always get a great reception and never cease to be amazed at the quality and low price of the food here. Christine is so predictable I think they have her duck ready as we round the corner.
We explored the delights of Restoran Venny and wandered around the local shops. We watched movies on HBO and slept. We now feel revitalised and ready to explore new fields. Tomorrow we head to Krabi in Thailand.