A Travellerspoint blog


Penang / Georgetown - Fancy old Chinese clan houses

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Georgetown is another Unesco world heritage city, a combination of colonial-era buildings and much older clan houses from the original chinese settler families. The clan houses are being restored to their former glory, with a century of improvements and renovations (new paint, new floors, etc - none as nice as the originals) being undone and artisans restoring the buildings. The first in particular had a series of vignettes posted explaining what was undone and restored, though there were unfortunately no before and after pictures.

The clan houses are historically a combination of temple, social club government building, where people from the extended family would join together for gatherings, where the clan leaders would act as judge (in the absence of a functioning legal system), and where resources would be pooled together to help members of the clan who needed assistence.

Badminton at a clan house/temple courtyard

Outside of the clan houses George Town is a very nice waterfront town boasting some very nice buildings, and apparently also has some good night markets.

This dilapidated building hosts the Ho Auction Room, presumably where ho's go to the highest bidder. Nice having a competitive process rather than having pimps acting as middle men.

Temples in town have great reliefs sculpted into the front walls and pillars.

Not the world's most welcoming church: sign reads "No Trespassers Private Property For Members Only By Order". No wonder membership is declining.

The night markets are said to be very good, but they are very elusive - we took 3 trips in search of night markets full of food stands that were recommended by either tourist information or our guide book, we only found anything at one place. There, there was a show by a minor Taiwanese celebrity who had a couple songs 20 years ago and since then stayed in the tabloids by being vulgur and having cosmetic surgery. She spent the first 15 minutes convincing the crowds she's rich and famous, the next 15 singing, and the next half hour selling products like boxes of tea for $6.

There are a few amazing temples in George Town, farther from city center. Near the Thai consulate (where we had to get visas) are two of the finest. One has a 10m standing buddha, thousands of small buddhas on the wall, and reproductions of standing buddhas from all buddhist countries showing the variations in position and dress, while the other has a 30m reclining Buddha.

Some of the roadside food stands use extreme heat. This place makes pretty good soup. This is the closest I could get without the heat pushing me away.

Posted by chrisvasil 21:23 Archived in Malaysia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Genting Highlands - Casino / The house always wins

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Someone we had met in our hostel in Kuala Lumpur gave us the following advice: Go to Genting Highlands casino. Buy a stack of chips. Stand by the poker table, spend an hour there looking as if you're watching and waiting for an opening to play. Cash your chips. Someone there will offer you a free hotel room. Stay for free as long as you want.

The actual version (in theory) is this: Get chips and a membership card. Go to a poker or roulette table, give your card to the dealer, and you'll get points for as long as the dealer doesn't sign you out (so you should look like you'll play). You'll get about 2 points per hour. In the low season, rooms start at 12 points. In the high season rooms start at 35 points. It took us a couple hours to figure out that this is how it works; before that we were walking around trying to find someone to offer us a room. Since the guy said it's low season, we kept our cards at roulette tables and collected enough points by midnight for a low-season room. I then found out that it's high season. So we stayed through the night, shifting our chips around the roulette table. There was also an Asian dice game where different combinations of the 3 dice had different payouts - I spent about an hour with a pencil and paper to see what the expectation is on each (similar to dice games that were talked about a lot when I was interviewing with banks), and found that for most the house had about a 30% edge (compared with 3% in roulette - their wheel had a 0 but no 00). In mid-morning we were getting very close to the cheapest room, and I asked and the desk said that room is sold out - the next cheapest is 20 points more. We calculated that would make it evening before we get a room, and decided to leave the casino, defeated. Also, in the initial few hours we actually played a table here and there of roulette, losing a total of about 70 ringitt ($25). I guess that teaches us for trying to beat the house. You can't beat the house. On the upside, tea was free and points could be used for meals and gifts so we could use our points and not come up completely emptyhanded.

Even using the points was quite difficult though, as there are countless information desks and each one only knows about what their desk handles. It took us 2 hours of asking around before we found out how to use a voucher to get a gift in exchange for points. Especially annoying was when they said "you just print the voucher" or "go to the gift shop" while the gift shop said "go to the information counter", having us go in circles without reaching the right person.

The only real highlight (apart from getting a story to tell) was the transport. To get from the bus terminal to the point on the highlands where the casino is, we took a cable car with some pretty spectacular views.

Posted by chrisvasil 21:22 Archived in Malaysia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Kuala Lumpur - Tribal wedding show

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We went back to Kuala Lumpur to get our Vietnam visas, and on the days we were back the city was hosting a traditional wedding show, with mock weddings of many ethnic groups, and some musical performances. At points Sue and I were each invited onstage to play some music. The whole thing was pretty exciting. We even got to see a Punjab wedding, with bollywood-style dancing.
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Tae kwon do demonstrations were also on offer at the festival, though it was choreographed so the 4-on-1 fighting and even some of the flips looked pretty fake.

Posted by chrisvasil 21:21 Archived in Malaysia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Melaka - Colonial town steeped in history Unes

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Unesco World Heritage City Melake is teeming with historical structures, the most famous of which is A'Fomosa, at the foot of an old Portugese (I think; maybe Spanish) fort. A'Fomosa is a lot less impressive than the photos make it look, being a small 2-story building with a grand-looking facade.

We went to the museum of enduring beauty, which had pictures and displays of different cultures' ways of mutilating themselves to their society's ideal of beauty. This encompasses foot binding, tattoos, cosmetic scarring (similar to tattoo, but with scars from cutting or burning instead of ink) and devices to change the size or shape of facial features (including elongating lips and ears). We don't have many pictures, as the museum was less interesting than the content: many displays are simply photocopies of National Geographic pictures. Here are the foot shape and shoes associated with foot-binding.

The main market is Jonker Street in Chinatown, and we tried some Durian (rotting garbage-smelling fruit) Cendol (ice cream dish). Sue liked it and has taken a shining to durian; I didn't enjoy it as much.

The Christmas building (actually no idea what it is)

While walking along the riverside we randomly saw a couple kimodo dragons, 2 alive, 1 dead.

Most of the old houses are in good shape, but some are just being let go - here's one with no roof, and trees growing on the second floor.

Back near A'Fomosa there are a slew of pink buildings that used to function as the local government buildings.

Just outside of town is a district with tons of attractions clustered together: the zoo, botanical garden, a few museums, amusement park, and this: Mini Malaysia and Mini ASEAN, which has furnished model traditional houses from each of Malaysia's provinces and each Southeast Asian country. Unfortunately they are mostly built in the same style (raised on stilts; thached walls and banana leaf roof), so we lost most of our enthusiasm after Mini Malaysia.

After Mini Malaysia we went to the botanical garden, which had far more trees than and went on for a few kilometers and was full of mosquitoes

Posted by chrisvasil 21:21 Archived in Malaysia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Kuala Lumpur - Ultramodern Asian metropolis

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Kuala Lumpur is what I was expecting to see when I first went to Shanghai, or in Delhi or Mumbai: a shiny new city expressing the continent's incredibly quick progression into a world-class financial and commercial locale. Everything is new, buildings are tall and and well-planned, the subway system is effecient, and the city fits together as a whole.

The main attraction architecturally are the twin Petronas towers, which at the time of construction was the tallest building in the world.


There are some food and tea stands in Chinatown (Jetan Petaling), but relatively expensive and the food simply can't compare to what we grow accustomed to in Thailand.

A sign saying to beware of snatch thief, where the thief is appears to be snatching a bag from an otherwise unclothed lady.

I found Malaysia generally to be a country of compromises between East and West: old colonial buildings alongside some built with Chinese influence, Asian food that is very tame, and reasonably polite people who speak English (though with an accent that I really like when they get excited). It might make a good first stop in Asia to ease into the continent, but once settled into the continent it simply feels less authentic than other areas.

Posted by chrisvasil 21:19 Archived in Malaysia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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