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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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 Chinaโ€™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 ๐Ÿ™ 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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