All posts by curiouscat

Cheng Ho Cultural Museum, Malacca

Cheng Ho Cultural Museum is a small museum in Malacca dedicated to the memory of Cheng Ho (the more modern conversion to an English name calls him Zheng He). It is believed that the present Museum is situated on the original site of Guan Chang built by Cheng Ho, the Ming Grand eunuch, about 600 years ago. His fleet of several hundred ships sailed 7 times to the Western Ocean from China between 1405 and 1433.

Historic Timeline  of Melaka

Historic timeline of Malacca

Historical records reveal that Ming Dynasty’s Admiral Cheng Ho (Zheng He) visited Melaka at least five times during his famous seven voyages to the Western Ocean (Southeast Asia, Indian Ocean, Middle East and Africa).

Map of Cheng Ho's voyages

Map of Cheng Ho’s voyages

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Making the Streetscape Walkable

Response to Let’s do more for tourism in JB

I agree, JB has much to offer tourists and room to improve. Making locations like Jalan Tan Hiok Nee attractive to tourists is important. That location can provide a distinctive JB feel (not just one of 1,000+ malls all over SE Asia that really are all basically the same). Peppering it with small shops and art galleries and food and museum and street art is great.

And obviously what is desired is a nice walkable place that has history. JB is trying to do the same with the new “riverwalk.” But if you then allow people to park cars and motorcycles and vendors to block the sidewalk you severely degrade the user experience. You can retain those that hate malls and will put up with anything to avoid malls. But if people can’t walk without dodging all sorts of obstacles they will just go to malls and go to other cities. They won’t tell their friends about this nice old town they should visit.

Building up tourism often doesn’t take very brilliant ideas. What it does take is attention to detail; and continued effort to create a great experience. You see wonderful drawing of what new developments will be they always have people walking on clear sidewalks. Then go walk around downtown JB and you will find sidewalks are often blocked. Still JB is much better in this aspect than Penang. A big reason I decided not to live in Penang is you couldn’t walk around with ease.

Patience and a desire to make an effort to follow up and keep streets walkable is something most locations don’t have. And it is one big reason malls do well, they make it easy for people to walk around (though actually KSL mall has jammed in so many vendors in some narrow locations they even mess up walking inside a mall which is not easy to mess up). But if JB (or other locations) pay attention to making the experience enjoyable for tourists they will benefit.

The current economic conditions make tourism even more important for Malaysia. Tourists bring in foreign currency, buying the Malaysian Ringitt (and thus supporting the currency which has been getting crushed).

Related: The Present and Future of IskandarSalahuddin Bakery on Jalan Tan Hiok NeeUrban planning for walkable communitiesElevated Bicycle Circle: Innovation in Urban Transportation

2014 Make Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) Statistics

Make Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) is the program started by Malaysia in 2002 to encourage expats to stay in Malaysia by offering a long term (10 year) visa. The MM2H program is a very good idea to aid economic development in my opinion. It brings in foreign currency which is very useful: both from fixed deposits and spending by expats.

The currency help is especially helpful right now. The Malaysian Ringitt has collapsed in the last few months to just 3.57 MYR to the US $ now. It was stable at about 3 a couple years ago and slowly declined to 3.3 over a couple years before the recent collapse. The collapse is due to high government and consumer debt in Malaysia and the recent collapse of oil prices. Malaysia was running up large debts even when oil prices were high and the danger of doing so has come home to roost.

The MM2H program targets retirees and future retires and provides a relatively small but still consistent and useful inflow of hard currency which helps support the Ringitt (the recent collapse would be even worse without this support).

Since the program was started in 2002, 27,000 expats have been approved.

country 2014 total
China 1,294 6,219
Japan 362 3,546
Bangladesh 252 3,007
UK 93 2,169
Iran 23 1,312
Singapore 77 1,109
Taiwan 83 1,043
Pakistan 63 919
Korea 114 911
India 46 774

*data for 2014 is for 11 months, through November 2014.

China participation has exploded to 40% of the total in the last 2 years. From 2002 through 2012 China was granted 18% of MM2H visas.

It appears likely 2014 will finish with the 3rd largest number of MM2H visa granted just behind 2013 and 2012.

North America had 75 in 2014 and 1,017 total. South America has just 24 total. Africa had 31 in 2014 and 318 total while Oceana (which includes Australia and New Zealand) had 52 in 2014 and 743 total. Europe overall had 194 in 2014 and 3,553 total while Asia had 2,500 in 2014 and 21,212 total (which is 79% of all MM2H visas).

Related: Make Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) Statistics (2012)Looking at the Malaysian Economy (2013)Iskandar Housing, Real Estate Investment Considerations

Rhinoceros Hornbills on Mount Santubong

My single most amazing experience during several years in Malaysia was watching Rhinoceros Hornbills fly around on my hike on Mount Santubong on Borneo in Malaysia. I stayed in a treehouse cabin at treehouse cabin, Permai Rainforest Resort (in Damai about 45 minutes from Kuching). From there it was a 15 minute ride to the trailhead.

3 Hornbill birds perched on tree branches

The hike of Mount Santubong was amazing itself, and I will post more about it later. It was the longest most vertical hike I have been on. At what I think was the first overlook I stopped and ate a snack and drank some water. And during my stop hornbills started flying around.

Close up of a Hornbill bird on Mount Santubong

I didn’t remember that Bornean Hornbills (Rhinoceros Hornbills) were huge and it was quite surprising how large they were. The Rhinoceros Hornbill grows to 90–120 cm long and weighing 2–3 kg. In captivity it can live for up to 90 years. It is the state bird of Sarawak and the National bird of Malaysia.

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White Box and Black Box @ Danga City Mall

During 11th Annual JB Arts Festival I stopped by the White Box which is on the top floor of Danga City Mall in downtown Johor Bahru. A few weeks later I listened to a talk on backpacking around South America and Europe at the Black Box.

JB sketchers display with drawings

JB sketchers display with some of the participants work. Join in their monthly outings and more activities.

These have become permanent spaces (for the time being anyway). Since the mall has many unrented spots this is a very wise idea; making use of otherwise wasted space and also brining in potential customers for businesses at the mall.

painting of a girl floating in space

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Hiking in the Forest Research Institute Malaysia – in KL

Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) in Kuala Lumpur offers a nice location for a hike. I took the train to Kepong and then a taxi to the park. There is then a fairly long walk to the trail (from the entrance) but past interesting sites, so I found it worthwhile. You could probably get driven in further but you have to pay at the gate, so I think the taxi was reluctant to enter.

hiking trail

My guess is this isn’t high on tourists list of attractions in KL (more an education and research center and resource for those living in KL). But for people that like hiking (such as me) it is a nice location. And for those living in KL it is a great hike (those I saw hiking seemed like locals to me).

forest stream

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Umatei Sushi Restaurant, Permas Jaya

The Umatei Sushi Restaurant in Permas Jaya is another nice Japanese restaurant in Johor Bahru.

Umatei Restaurant - interior view

I imagine many diners are from Straits View Condo and the Renaissance hotel. It is also right next store to my favorite books store (in fact I am on my way there an hour after I post this): Treasures and Books Store, Used English Language Books (though the bookstore is moving next month).

Bento Box lunch and custard

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If You Visit Kuching Eat at Tribal Stove

Tribal Stove is absolutely wonderful

Yes it has great food, which thankfully there is a a great deal of in many place. What makes Tribal Stove someplace not to miss is it is the rare combination of great and generally inaccessible food.

I often find great restaurants in tourist destinations. And sometimes it is even local in a sense – but nearly always (not all, but almost) I can get very similar good dishes in any large city across the globe.

Tribal Stove had truly distinctive dishes that were also great. They have quite a few dishes, some of my favorite are wild jungle salad and tapioca leaves. The restaurant serves cuisine from Kelabit Highlands in Sarawak.

photo of great Kelabit Highlands food

Maybe my all time favorite meal. The 3 sample items were great.

The set menu (photo above) of tea, a meat dish with 2 vegetable sides, soup and rice that was US$5 (15 MYR). It was amazing. It would be great at $20. I happened to be lucky enough to get my favorite vegetable there with my first order.

The meet dish in the triple was very good, the rice I didn’t care for. But the two vegetable dishes were amazing – truly great. One the right is Lamud Busaq Keluduh (Bario Wild Flower Salad) – wild ginger flower, petai and wild chives flavored with Bario Higland salt. I believe the dish on the left was Udung Ubih (Wild Tapioca Leaf) – cassava or tapioca leaf pounded and shredded and cooked to perfection over a slow heat. The middle dish was, I believe, beef with crisp vegetables.

Menu - Tribal Stove, Kuching

I have been trying other dishes which are also great but those 2 are not to be missed (you can get “small” dishes of those for $3, see photo below – two pretty easily make a meal in my opinion). If the prices triple this place is still not to be missed.

There is no restaurant I recommend to travels more strongly than I recommend Tribal Stove. If I could have one restaurant transplanted to my location so I could eat their in my home town it would be Tribal Stove. There is nothing remotely close.

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