A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about tourist sites

Luang Prabang - More temples and another colonial town

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The food in Laos generally is sticky rice along with a vegetable mush that is mildly bitter, and either salty grilled fish or unknown parts from pork or beef.

Luang Prebang is supposed to be this incredibly charming old French town, but we simply didn't feel it. The main market is nice but extremely tourist-oriented with foreigner-priced souvenirs, and the town seems not too much different from most small cities. It is a bit special that the town is situated at the junction of the Mekong and another river, but with it being dry season at the time we were there the rivers had very little water or current in them.

We saw monks slowly making buddha statues by hand out of cement at one of the temples.

Posted by chrisvasil 07:13 Archived in Laos Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Chiang Khong - Isolated border town, great tribal markets

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One of the more interesting stops on our trip, unexpectedly, was the border stop on the way to Northern Laos. It's just a regular town, not foreigner-oriented at all, and seems to be a meeting place for trade and sales between different tribes.

From there we took a speedboat across the Mekong, arriving in Laos.

Posted by chrisvasil 21:26 Archived in Thailand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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)

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