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asia malaysia sport travel

Kuala Lumpur and Asian 5 Nations

Petaling Jaya Stadium

After a very long time, I finally had a chance to travel again. This time, was for Kuala Lumpur. My brother had the privilege to be the captain for Indonesia’s rugby team participating in HSBC Asian 5 Nations Rugby tournament. My dad was very excited to watch him playing, so he asked me and my wife to accompany him on this trip.

The three of us started our journey on Tuesday morning from Soekarno Hatta’s (CGK) Terminal 3. It was my first time flying from Terminal 3, and I had to admit that it was very well designed, despite its status as a budget terminal. Probably also because it was the youngest compared to Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. After two hour flight, we arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT), a terminal built mostly for Air Asia flights only. This time, the phrase “low cost” really made sense. From the aircraft we had to walk to the terminal building for a few hundreds meter, and one can easily gets mixed up with domestic passengers or even those who were about to board the aircraft. Later I found out that this terminal was formerly a cargo terminal and used temporarily while they are building the new KLIA2 budget terminal.

A taxi ride from the airport to our hotel at Petaling Jaya cost around MYR 100 (SGD 40). At first I was surprised by the expensive fare for such ride, but even more surprised with distance when we started riding the cab. Spanning more than 50 km, it’s more than the length of Singapore from west to east! After almost one hour journey, we checked in at Eastin Hotel and looked for something to eat for our lunch.We found a small malay food stall amidst the commercial building. It reminded me of the food I used to eat in Singapore: relatively bland taste with some extra spices to replace chemical taste enhancer.

Pascal & Gorilla DollAfter lunch, we took the hotel’s free shuttle bus that brought us to Tropicana City Mall, where we bought some snacks and bottled mineral waters for our stock at the hotel. I didn’t miss the chance to buy some packs of Old Town brand coffee. Thanks to my former colleague Ronald, I became obsessed with this brand since I left Singapore. It is very expensive to buy in Indonesia, and it’s just half price when I bought it there. We wanted to buy a local mobile number for MYR 10, but I forgot to bring our passport with us, so the seller didn’t allow us to get one. We spent the evening by visiting another shopping mall, The Curve. It is adjacent to Ikea furniture shop, but we had only energy left to had our dinner there. I had the infamous Swedish meatballs dish, but unlike in Singapore the meatballs were made from lamb instead of pork, as the majority of Malaysians are moslems. We went back to the hotel at 9 PM, with another free shuttle bus provided by the shopping mall.

The next day, was the day of my brother’s match. It would start at 3 PM, so we had some time in the morning to explore Kuala Lumpur. We took a cab to KL Sentral, the hub for various transportation modes. From there, we took the Kuala Lumpur’s Hop-On Hop-Off bus. For about MYR 35 per person ticket, we could take a double decker bus ride to 23 destinations around Kuala Lumpur. As we didn’t have the whole day, we planned for two destinations to visit: the infamous Petronas Twin Tower and Chinatown. The rest, we would just take a good look from inside the bus.

Istana NegaraWe passed about 11 stops before the Petronas Twin Tower. At some stops, the bus waited for 5-10 minutes to maintain the 30 minutes interval, as well as giving the passenger a chance to take a quick look on the tourist spot. One of the interesting spots is the Istana Negara (national palace), where visitors can take picture with one of the two guards on a horse in front of the gate. Somehow I pity them, having all those military trainings just to be the object of tourist photography.

At around 10.30 PM, we arrived at the Twin Tower. The towers were as tall as advertised, but entry ticket cost a whopping MYR 80 (SGD 32) per person. We were not sure what we could get by paying that much, but didn’t want to take the risk of disappointment. We then just wandered around the shopping mall that is located just under the tower, but had to wait until 11.30 PM for the next bus to come. We continued our bus trip, but had been exhausted thanks to our earlier activities and the heat that started to come nearing noon.

What’s left from us were regained when we arrived at Chinatown. My dad liked my idea of having a bak kut teh (sorry, it’s not halal – but turned out there’s a halal version as explained here) for lunch, so we started looking for one. After few minutes of desperate attempt to find one, I finally went to a dessert stall to ask the seller for a good bak kut teh restaurant around, in exchange for two cold puddings purchase. The bak kut teh restaurant, is called “Big Mouth”, and located in a small alley not far from the dessert stall. The delicious bak kut teh plus the surrounding made me feel like inside a Hong Kong gangster movie somehow, which was a good experience.

It was almost 2 PM after lunch, which means we had to quickly find a cab to bring us to the rugby game venue in Petaling Jaya stadium. Unfortunately, I didn’t know the exact postal address. One taxi driver refused to take us, but another one boldly accept the challenge with only the fact that we should exit from highway at SS7, and a point in low resolution Google Map, thanks to the unavailability of data plan. After about half an hour journey, we arrived at a stadium in a middle of nowhere. The taxi driver insisted that that’s the stadium we were looking for, based on the fact that’s the only stadium around. But there was no signs of a match going to happen, so I insisted him to wait while I double checked with an officer on duty there. It turned out to be true, we came to the wrong stadium. Luckily the office gladly told me and the driver how to go to the correct stadium. He even rushed us after knowing that the kick off will commence in a few minutes left.

We finally arrived at Petaling Jaya stadium. But there was another problem, we alighted at the opposite side of the stadium entrance, it was raining, and the cab had already left us. That means we had to walk half the circumference of the stadium to get inside without cover. Luckily, there was another cab and the driver was taking a break inside. Not wanting my dad and wife to get sick, I asked him for his service.

“Where?”

“That side!”, I told him while pointing my finger to the opposite side of the stadium.

Confused at first, he finally accepted the ride for a token of MYR 3 (the official minimum taxi fare).

MBPJ StadiumWe spent the first half of the game trying to find where was my brother. We then found out he was wearing shirt #7, after asking another viewer who turned out to be a Malaysian studying in Jakarta, having played for Indonesia’s Banteng rugby club. Sadly, it was an uneven match for Indonesia, as Guam beaten them 38-17. Understandable, considering short training time for Indonesia, and the captain’s injury just a day before the match. However, we heard the good news days after we went back, that Indonesia beaten China for 37-13 on the final, securing the place in division 3.

Our return to the hotel was quite challenging, as the stadium was out of nowhere. After wandering about half an hour, we finally found a cab that could take us to the hotel area. However, we decided to go back to Tropicana City Mall instead, to get some consolation ice creams and stock up our bottled water for the night. Then we took another cab to the hotel. We were quite exhausted that evening, but still had the energy to wander around the hotel area for another local food dinner. We finally picked an Malay-Indian restaurant. It was almost closing, so the menu was limited. We ordered fried rices for our dinner, and got back to the hotel to rest.

The next day, we just laid down at the hotel, waiting for our flight back to Jakarta at 3PM in the afternoon. The three of us had to finish off about ten valencia oranges my dad had bought earlier due to extreme discount at the shopping mall, an offer he couldn’t refuse. After a desperate attempt to eat one by one, I squeezed the rest of oranges to make an orange juice, with help of a clean plastic bag. It didn’t taste so bad after all, but my dad refused to drink it after he knew where I got the plastic bag from (guess yourself). I spent the rest of the morning swimming with my dad, followed by preparing our stuffs for checkout.

KLIAThe hotel’s taxi ride to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) cost almost MYR 150, but luckily I asked for another option. A regular cab cost only MYR 100. Still more expensive than taking a SkyBus from KL Sentral, but we didn’t have the luxury of time anymore. We wandered around at KLIA main building for a moment, had lunch there, and took a shuttle bus to the LCCT, as our flight would took off from there. The journey lasted for half an hour, a long trip considering both are in the same area. The check in experience in LCCT was no better than the arrival. We had to walk quite a distance from entrance to the check in counter, immigration and the boarding gate. There were limited signages, and one can easily mixed up too, when walking from the boarding gate to the aircraft. On the bright side, the airport was generally clean and well-ordered.

Our flight take off at 3 PM closed our journey to Kuala Lumpur, with most of us sleeping in the plane.

YunnieBy the way, it’s my wife birthday today; somehow coincide with the hotel birthday. Check out also my brother’s game and winning speech here.

Categories
malaysia outside singapore places

Malacca Trip

It will take sometime until I can post a nice article, if any. The quality of mobile internet connection is Indonesia is not as good as in Singapore, and I am practically a nomad for a few moment now. I really want to tell some interesting stories about my adaptation to the new life, but let’s see. For the moment, I have a story about my trip to Malacca, just days before I left Singapore for good. Here it is.

My landlord gave me a very nice suggestion to spend sometime around Singapore before I left it for good. Therefore, Malacca it was. Malacca is a 4-hour journey from Singapore, depending on the traffic and immigration. As it is a small town and I didn’t have too much time to spend, I only spent a night there along with my friend Handy.

We departed from a bus terminal in Bugis, about 8 AM in the morning; thanks to my Malaccan colleague Jia Hwang who bought the ticket for me. The bus was quite nice, and we were lucky to sit in the back. About 1 hour before we reached our destination, the bus’ air conditioner system seemed had overheated, spilling fresh water every now and then in the middle seat area. On the bright side, it made people laugh of the silliness.

Chicken Rice BallWe reached the “Malaka Sentral” terminal about noon, but we had to take a cab to the main tourist area, about 15 minutes journey for MYR 20. We alighted near the end of Jonker Street and quickly queued up for the chicken rice ball restaurant there. It seemed quite famous among tourists, but after all it was just a chicken rice with the rice rolled into few balls.

We continued by walking along the Jonker Street (a.k.a. Jalan Hang Jebat, Chinatown), which was very interesting. Walking along that street felt like going back in time. All buildings were decorated in a Chinese 50’s era style. Being a tourist attraction street, it was quite amazing to see some unpopular buildings like a newspaper office or a mortuary over there.

We then checked in at our hotel, Baba House, located not far from the Jonker Street. Exactly as described in a Lonely Planet book, the lobby decoration was very interesting and classic, but the rooms were quite bland. However, it’s not bad at all for a MYR 145 per night rate.

Outside the Jonker Street, the town was influenced by Portuguese culture. There were classic buildings like churches and fort remains. The well-known Stadyhus is the central of the surrounding buildings: Christ Church, Windmill, etc… We climbed up the hill a bit to see the St. Paul Church. Plenty of tombstones were planted there, remembering the names of several Portuguese lived in the past. Just nearby, there were some Malay Sultanate museums and the Cheng Ho museum.

An uncle selling fried potato at Jonker Street
An uncle selling fried potato at Jonker Street

The sun was almost set when we went back to Jonker Street. Interestingly, that street was closed for vehicles and transformed into a night market, similar to those in Lau Pa Sat. We rested a while in our hotel, and out again, this time to the infamous satay celup restaurant, Capitol Satay, about 15 minutes walking from the Jonker Street. We were a bit late, so we had to queue for more than an hour for a seat. On the same street with the Capitol, there were 2 more satay celup restaurant with almost no visitors. They were selling alternative value propositions, like “Why pay 90 cents in Capitol, while our satay is 60 cents only” or “We have 40 years experience!”.

The queue was paid off when we started to dine there. The menu was simple: you pick several uncooked meats or vegetables in wooden sticks, then you cook it yourself in a bowl of peanut sauce. However, it was somehow very interesting and quite delicious, too. While we were eating, we heard all staffs were talking in Javanese. It turned out that the owner of the stall was from Java and had become a Malaysian resident.

After dinner, we headed to the Maritime Museum, not far from Jonker Street. Unfortunately it only opens during the day, so we only spent the time outside, taking pictures of the massive ship that acts as the museum.

Goodbye!
Goodbye!

On the next day, we spent morning time by walking to the Fort Santiago, which is well known for photo taking spot. It is the remains of a fort that was built also by the Portuguese. The place was nice but not exceptional, perhaps because we had seen St. Paul Church the day before.

Before going back to the hotel I stopped by a shop selling cendol. The interesting thing about this chendol is the cup. It was made of thick paper, and equipped with the handle; also made with paper. The patented paper handle was made strong enough to hold a full cup of the drink.

For lunch, my friend Handy had the infamous peranakan laksa, while I chose the safer side by ordering a normal noodle (I had bad experiences with spicy food).

It was then time to go home. We had to go back to Malaka Sentral to take the bus back to Singapore. We would like to try the public bus there, but it was too crowded hence too risky for my weak knee. We then decided to just take another cab anyway. Few minutes before 2 PM, we were already in the bus heading for Singapore; ending our short journey to Malaka.

Categories
asia malaysia outside singapore places

Johor Trip 2009: The Zon

The clock showed 10.40 am, and I was sitting inside the examination room at NUS. I was doing the last exam of this semester, for the subject “Network Security and Management”. I saw several people had come out, it seemed easy. Myself, I’ve answered all questions, but was not having 100% assurance they would satisfy the professor. Ah the heck, if I stayed there 5 more minutes, I would be forced to wait until 11 sharp, as the rule says nobody can go out of the room in the last 15 minutes, even if he has finished the exam.

Then I made up my mind, I called the professor and asked his permission to go out, and start the getaway journey to Johor Bahru! Call me lousy, but I prefer Johor to other fancy destinations in Malaysia for its proximity to Singapore as well as cheap prices.

I spent about 30 minutes in Clementi before going to Johor to open a new bank account (yet it’s out of the scope of this story ;P). Therefore I started going about half past eleven. Because the day before was a public holiday, and the next day was Sunday, I was hoping it wouldn’t be crowded in the immigration. It was true that on the Singapore part, it was a breeze. In Kranji MRT station, the SBS bus even had to wait a few minutes to wait until the bus is full. Yet in the Johor side, the road to immigration was slightly jammed by private cars. The immigration clearance was smooth, though.

(Psst, here’s a dirty little secret: my birthday was coming up, and rather than spending more money to treat my friends in Singapore, I’d rather spend more on my time to take them to Johor for half-priced food. But that’s what I call sacrifice! Oh yes, so for that reason, I would like to survey the place I have found at the internet: The Zon, a duty-free shopping mall). Therefore, when I arrived there at 1.15PM, I started to look for a transport to the Zon, which (according to the map) is close to Ferry terminal to Batam/Bintan.

At first I tried to go there by bus, as I’ve researched the numbers of buses going towards Zon. Alas, I couldn’t find where those buses stop. With my belly already screaming for calories, I finally decided to take a cab anyway. There was a taxi counter, where for each trip the passenger is required to buy a certain printed ticket, mostly to prevent the driver from overcharging the passengers. The trip was a breeze 10 minutes, but just enough time for me to chat with the driver, a guy in his 50s. I couldn’t speak Chinese, and he couldn’t speak English. So we tried to speak with Malay/Bahasa and he started to blame me that I couldn’t speak Chinese although I’m a Indonesian-born Chinese. And as usual, I played it safe by blaming Mr. Soeharto.

About 13.30, I reached Zon, but sad to say that it was below my expectation. There are only few shops, mostly selling liquors or pubs that open at night. There was no food court and the McDonald’s stall only sells ice cream (but there was a Starbucks stall, though – weird!). Then I just went into a pub-style pizza restaurant, with most of the people inside were smoking. D’oh! Luckily I could find a seat that was far from them. I ordered a smoked salmon and an orange juice. After wandering around for an hour, I came into conclusion that the place is not worthy enough to spend time with my friends. Then I decided to go back to civilization: The City Square, another shopping mall near the immigration.

I started walking outside to find some mode of transportation. Don’t want to give up the experience of taking a bus, I tried to search for a bus stop outside the shopping mall. It was interesting to see around, where there are traditional markets, hawker-style food stalls and the beach. Across the strait you could see Singapore main island, specially the Senoko power plant. After a few more meters of walking, I heard a loud noise of drums being played. It turned out to be a traditional Chinese drum practice by high school students in a Chinese school named “Foon Yew”. And where there is school, there should be delicious-yet-high-in-additives food! So I stopped by a rujak stall to taste some. I also bought a drink named “special teh-c”, which basically is a mix of tea, condensed milk and cendols. And yes, it is good, better than the Singapore ones.

I spent a few minutes sitting in a bus stop before giving up as for almost half an hour, only one bus passed, and it didn’t seem to stop at a place I know. In the end, I decided to take a cab instead to go back to City Square mall. I spent few hours in the City Square, and another few in Kotaraya Plaza, hoping to be able to wait until 6 pm, since I wanted to try riding the Malaysian train back to Singapore. Based on the schedule, the train departs from Johor Baru at 7 pm, and tickets are sold only one hour before departure. The last time I tried to take the same train, it was delayed by one hour, forcing me to take the bus instead. I was hoping the train wouldn’t delayed again this time.

So I spent another few hours wandering around in City Square, since it is just across the station. I wanted to have dinner there, but since I was still full from the rujak and teh-c, I decided to buy a take away food instead. Only few minutes before six, I bought a grilled chicken rice pack, and rushed to the station to buy the ticket; hoping that I could eat my dinner at the station’s waiting room. Unfortunately, this time again, the tickets were sold out. Disappointed, I got out of the station and find a place to eat my dinner. I couldn’t bring it back to Singapore since there is a restriction on importing poultry products.

The trip back to Singapore was not so interesting, may be because I’ve lost interest on the trip due to the train delay. However, I am still grateful for the mini-backpacker experience, and some half-priced music CDs and food I bought from a local store!

To go to Johor Bahru, you can take train to Kranji MRT, followed by SBS bus 160 or 170 bus from there. If you go from the west side, there will be announcements to take bus from Woodlands instead, but I wouldn’t recommend it since there are less buses departing from Woodlands.

You can see few pictures at http://picasaweb.google.com/pascalalfadian/JohorTrip2009