Tag Archives: travel

Street Art, Large Mural on Jalan Tan Hiok Nee in Johor Bahru

Large view of the mural including door

September 2013

A large mural has been taking shape on Jalan Tan Hiok Nee for over a year. The first photo shows it near the beginning, September 2013.

photo of large mural street art

March 2014

Large paintings have also been added along Jalan Tan Hiok Nee near the mural. It is quite a nice addition of street art to the historical JB walk. A new post with photos of those will be added soon. (Update: In turns out it was a temporary display, the paintings are not there now).

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Classic Inn Premium Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Classic Inn Premium offers a very good location, in Bukit Bintang KL, with clean and quiet rooms and good wifi. There is a large mall right across the street with plenty of places to eat (along with some places to eat on right next to the hotel).

photo of bed Classic Inn Premium

Rooms are a bit small, but fine. The things they could do to improve the rooms are to put more small tables in to put things on, there is space for them and almost no other space to put things on. The showers are nice (good water pressure, hot water and high – 8+ feet, which is nice when you have some places you have to duck to get your head in). The bathrooms are the normal budget SE Asia toilet/shower combo which might seem odd to some but these are above average.

photo of signs for what you can't do

Signs with character for what is not allowed.

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Luxury and Budget Option for Kuala Lumpur Hotel Stay

View from room at The Prince Hotel and Residence

View from room at The Prince Hotel and Residence, KL

Prince Hotel & Residence Kuala Lumpur is a luxury hotel in downtown KL. I don’t stay in such places often but I splurged (and also had a big, well over 50%, discount through Agoda – the links here go to Agoda which provides a big discount and I am given a reward for bookings that come from links on my site) and it was very nice. It is very close to Petronas towers, KLCC park and the convention center.

view out room window at prince hotel and residence kl

The check in is a bit chaotic (they have a very sloppy process, no queing strategy…) but the location and rooms are fantastic. Grand Deluxe rooms are significantly better in my opinion (more room and fantastic huge windows and views); if you want that view it is easily worth $30 more a night.

The other option I have used in KL is The Bodhi Lodge, which is very inexpensive. The rooms are small (maybe 10 feet by 8 feet?) and clean with a mattress on the ground and a small table and chair (wifi is available in the room). The person that checked me in was wonderful and has great ideas for tourists in KL. The common areas are very nice (TV and computers and wifi).

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Penang Clan Jetties – World Heritage Site

enterance to jetty with hand painted World Heritage sign

There are 6 clan jetties in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia. The historic sites include housing built over the water, which continue to be lived in today. Old town Georgetown, including the clan jetties was designated an UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008 (along with Melacca).

When the jetties were established in the mid-19th century everybody who lived on the same jetty had the same surname because they all came from the same fishing village in China’s Fujian Province. When they arrived they did not have money to buy land and so decided to build their own villages: the jetties. The families were used to living close to the water and most men who lived on the jetties worked as fishermen or as coolies in the port.

The UNESCO World Heritage status saved the jetties from planned demolition. The fact that the jetties now have heritage status guarantees that they will stay.

– Francine Linssen, Passage magazine, Friends of the Museums of Singapore, Jan/Feb 2012

View from Penang Clan Jetty with modern highrises in the background

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Online Plane Reservations

I made some plane reservations online with Tiger Airways. First the web forms failed, and contacting by Twitter and the online form them provided (which in a very bad design required 12 fields to be completed) didn’t result in a reply. So I called them. They answered in less than 5 seconds with a person that was polite and knowledgeable (airlines can’t come close to meeting this standard).

On the phone, I was told with Firefox you need to clear your browser history. As a software developer, I have to say you are feeble if you deploy production code that fails to accept customer money because you can’t deal with the cookie you created for the user.

I don’t like all the ways many of the airlines now try to take your money. Just charge honest fares don’t have all sorts of hidden fees :-( That is bad customer service. I do like being able to book my seats in advance and am fine being charged for that option. And providing seats with more room at a higher price is a good economic tool.

It is interesting to me how far advanced the credit card security is in Asia. The USA is way behind in several things (cell phone technology in general – due to monopolistic cell phone providers without effective over-site – also internet access in the USA is pitiful). The banking system in the USA (including credit cards) is highly corrupt with too big too fail institutions holding back innovation to an alarming degree in the USA. So it isn’t really Asia being ahead as much as the USA being behind everywhere else (Europe, like Asia is far ahead in credit card and cell phone systems).

Placing the credit card order with my Malaysian credit card required 2 factor authentication (which is a wise security practice) – they sent a one use code to my phone. If you haven’t setup 2-factor authentication for your email account you really should. Internet security is becoming a much bigger problem, being paranoid online now makes sense.

The airline web site (as nearly every site does) failed basic usability guidelines by masking the one time use approval code for that specific purchase. Even if they posted that code on the bill board on times square in New York City (or along the news crawl on Channel NewsAsia) it would have no negative consequence. But by masking it you greatly increase input errors as the user can’t verify they typed in correctly. This is basic stuff that is really pitiful that huge corporations still routinely mess up (masking one time use codes).

The airline travel system is much better in SE Asia than the USA. The airlines are decent at customer service, which given how atrocious the service in the USA is puts them far ahead. Prices are also good. Airports are much better. Huge security theater waste is missing (there is still a fair amount of security of course, due to the risks).

Related: Paying Bills Using Online Banking in MalaysiaTips for using your credit cardSE Asia Travel: Siem Reap, Cambodia

SE Asia Travel: Siem Reap, Cambodia

One of the many advantages of living in Malaysia is the number of great tourist destinations that are fairly easy to travel to. The plane trips are so much better than the horrible system now in place in the USA (much better service, no TSA security theater, many fewer delays…). Prices are reasonable also. I will gladly pay $50 US to fly on the airlines like Malaysia Airlines (which I flew this time) and Singapore Airlines over some of the budget airlines. I just don’t want to deal with companies that are going to try to rip you off any chance they get and have much less reliable flights (cancelling them more often, etc.). I will fly Firefly.

The flights from Johor Bahru are not very good, pretty much you have to go through Kuala Lumpor, which is fine, but you can be stuck with long waits which I don’t like. Still often it is preferable to flying out of Singapore (though not always). On this trip, to avoid that long delay I was able to fly JB to KL to Siem Reap and then on the way back fly Phnom Penh to KL to JB. These both had short layovers but Siem Reap to KL to JB had over 4 hours wait. I took the bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh.

photo of the outside of the airport at Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap, Cambodia Airport

The Siem Reap airport is nice, new and small. You need a passport photo for your visa (which I just happen to carry with me from my memories as a child of needed them, but I hadn’t read anything about needing them). Those with passports from many countries you can get a visa at the airport (you don’t need one in advance) but you should make sure this is true for your country in advance. The cost was $20 US. I would imagine that you can get the photo there (for a high price, I would guess) but even more annoying is probably the delay it would add of waiting in another line).

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Arulmigu Sri Raja Kallamman Indian Hindu Glass Temple in Johor Bahru

The Arulmigu Sri Raja Kallamman temple in Johor Bahru (CBD) is an Indian temple with walls covered in glass tiles. This Hindu temple is located in the Central Business District of Johor Bahru. It is a very interesting and beautiful temple. The temple actually was first established in 1922 but the current glass temple was completed in 2009.

Arulmigu Sri Raja Kallamman Hindu Temple

Arulmigu Sri Raja Kallamman Temple, Johor Bahru

Over 95% of the temple is embellished by a mosaic of 300,000 pieces of red, blue, yellow, green, purple and white glass. The centrepiece in the Athma Lingam sanctuary is a lotus for Lord Shiva, on which devotees can pour rose water and perform their prayers.

Johor Bahru is not well known as a tourist spot. I think this temple is a great idea for tourists looking for something to visit in Johor Bahru. It likely won’t take more than 30 minutes, but it is quite captivating and offers something to remember for Johor Bahru.

Arulmigu Sri Raja Kallamman Indian Glass Temple

Arulmigu Sri Raja Kallamman Indian Glass Temple

Village Briyani Indian Restaurant and Danga City Mall are quite close. If you time your visit close to lunch time I recommend eating lunch at Village Briyani (it is walking distance, but a bit confusing to find so make sure you have a clear idea on your map of where it is located – you can call and get directions I would think).

Related: Johor Bahru ZooTourist Stuff in Kuala LumpurBig Lizards in Johor Bahru CBD

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Johor Bahru Zoo

Photo of Kuching batu

Kuching Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis borneoensis). There are 12 species of leopard cat, one is found on Borneo and another on peninsular Malaysia.

The Johor Bahru Zoo offers the chance to see quite a few animals but has an obvious problem with funding. In the last couple of decades small zoos are losing out as the costs increase and people’s expectation for the treatment of animals has been raised. Even very expensive zoos with lots of money and relatively nice enclosures have serious questions to answer about whether locking up animals for our recreation is acceptable. Small zoos have been closing and zoos that remain open have been increasing the quality of spaces for animals and funding research as a way to feel better about what we do.

photo of the chimpanzee Enclosure at the JB Zoo

Chimpanzee enclosure at the Johor Bahru Zoo. The Grand Palace is visible in the background.

The Johor Bahru Zoo is still small and obviously not very well funded. The enclosures are small. I talked to several of the people that work there and they were very nice and well intentioned, it seemed to me. But there is no denying the zoo has too little funding to provide what is expected in many places today (I didn’t talk to the people that work there about funding I just observed the conditions – also the entrance fee is only RM 3. The Singapore Zoo is hailed as a wonder and the entrance cost is about 40 times as much (and I wouldn’t be surprised if the attendance was 40 times as high). You can certainly make things look nice for 1,600 times (40 * 40) as much money (plus I would imagine corporate sponsorship, members… give the Singapore zoo even more).

photo of a lion cub at the Johor Bahru Zoo

Lion cub, Johor Bahru Zoo. The lion enclosure is the similar to the one for chimpanzees. All the photos are by John Hunter.

The zoo was built by Sultan Ibrahim in 1928 and was was opened to the public in 1962.

I can understand people feeling bad for the animals at the Johor Zoo. I also can believe kids may well very much enjoy it (many were as I was there). It does seem to me, if they intend to keep the zoo, they really should look at ways to increase funding by a factor of at least 50 – 100. And then look to decrease the number of animals and give those that remain larger and more interesting enclosures. But that is just my opinion, others are welcome to their own opinions. I am sure, some people know they wouldn’t want to see a small, older zoo. But if you don’t feel that way, I think the zoo is one of the more interesting tourist attractions in Johor Bahru and worth a visit.

Related: Tourist Stuff in Kuala LumpurVisiting Lizardphoto of the Johor Bahru Zoo in the 1970sSnow Leopard Playing in the Snow in Ohio Zoo

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Great Cheap Cell Phone Plan

I did a bit of research trying to find the right cell phone plan for myself in Malaysia. I actually was looking at different options. One was for a fancy smart phone (iPhone or Android) largely to use when I travel and to be able to stay up with some business. Both looking at the phone options and the plan options. And the also looking at a cheap phone with a cheap plan. The truth is it was quite hard to get to a decision with so many options. I used the soon to be iPhone 4s as a good enough excuse to wait on the fancy phone option.

I really don’t use a phone much. Frankly the biggest use I have for it is in getting taxis and ordering food – plus other errands but what I can do by email, I do. It is also convenient when you are meeting people somewhere to catch up with each other. Mainly I prefer email and other internet communication and don’t find most cell phone conversation of much value (it just seems like people think they have to talk since they can or some people seem to think they seem important if they ignore whoever they are with to talk on the phone). I would rather take in where I am, talk to who I am with, think, or just relax.

So I keep looking for the best plan for someone that hardly uses a phone at all. It wasn’t easy to find. Partially, I imagine you don’t make much money off such cheapskates so the service providers don’t waste much time marketing to them. Anyway I thought I found something good with Digi. And when I was talking with the person to buy my phone I thought I had it clear I could get the phone and pay some minimal amount and then just top it up and be charged for use.

But once I bought it they seemed to not understand such an option. Oh well, I sometimes seem to not quite communicate perfectly so I guessed I mis-remembered and didn’t understand what they said at first. So then essentially I needed to pay RM 30 a month for service and that amount would be charged against as I talked (or IMed). But I needed to pay RM 1 everyday to maintain the ability to make calls. This was annoying but seemed to be the only option. So I just kept piling on the RM balance since I don’t use close to 1 RM a day on average.

Well I found the offer again earlier this week and it is perfect if you hardly use the phone, like me. You pay just RM 30 for a year. Then you still get charged for all your calls but it isn’t much at all.

So if you want a low use, cheap, cell phone plan option in Malaysia, get the Digi Super Long Life plan: a feature where you can extend your talktime validity to 1 year for just RM30. That means your phone number stays valid, you can make and receive calls and texts (to make outgoing calls and texts you also need a balance, but you can add to your balance whenever you want). Remember the plan name, so when you go to buy your plan you can make sure you can get it setup right from the start. It is really a fantastic option for someone like me, that uses the phone very little. My guess is if you use it less than an hour a week, on average, this is a good option. I am really not sure the exact breakpoint, whatever it is, I am nowhere near it.

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Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur

photo of a beautiful chess set

Beautiful chess set at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia

I visited the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia while staying in Kuala Lumpor a few months back. It is a modern museum with clean lines and lots of open space.

The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia houses more than 7,000 artefacts, as well has an exceptional library of Islamic-art books. The art objects on display range from the tiniest pieces of jewellery to one of the world’s largest scale models of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. The aim is to create a collection that is truly representative of the Islamic world. Instead of concentrating on works from the heartlands of Persia and the Middle East, IAMM also puts the emphasis on Asia. China and Southeast Asia are especially well represented. The third component of the Malaysian melting pot is India, which is also given special status.

View of gallery inside Islamic Arts Museum

The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia has a open and attractive floorplan

I thoroughly enjoyed the visit, it did not seem as large as you might expect. If you are like me and enjoy visiting museums and learning I think it is worth a visit when you are in Kuala Lumpor.

You might also enjoy the bird park (which is nearby). The bird park isn’t really fantastic: in my opinion, it could be skipped without missing too much (but I like seeing animals and did enjoy it though it did seem a bit overpriced and under maintained).

Related: Tourist Stuff in Kuala LumpurDreams and Reality: Museum D’Orsay Exhibit at the National Museum of SingaporeHotels and Accomations for Travelers in Malaysia

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