04 Dec - 31 Dec 2008 Kuala Lumpur

28 Tengkat Tong Shin
Mutiara Villa Condos
Fully-furnished one-bedroom 700-sqft apartment (no. A-25-F) on 25th floor for MYR 1,750.- or US$ 483.- per month, with balcony and including free access to gym and swimming pool with Jacuzzi. Stunning views over the city.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Mutiara Villa Condos in Kuala Lumpur and for directions:

Turning into newly minted city slickers, exploring the multi-cultural big-city neighbourhood (the relaxed Malaysian Malay, the political power holders - being committed to the tolerant principle of Islam Hadhari, which enshrines the right to freedom of religion, and having no alcohol problems at all; the determined Malaysian Chinese, the movers and shakers of the economy - wearing talismans, buying lottery tickets, going to races, playing the tables, consulting geomancers in order to arrange the contents of their homes in accordance with the principles of feng shui, gorging fortune cookies, driving cars with 8008 number plates, making regular offerings to the money gods in their temples, but still mostly dying poor; the flexible Malaysian Indians, the eternal opportunists - being hierarchically divided into many castes with all of them being more or less united by their warm-heartedness and nosiness) of our new apartment in the Golden Triangle of Kuala Lumpur (near the trendy Bintang Walk, a half kilometre stretch offering over 3,500 shops) and discovering that the numbers which indicate the floors inside our lift follow a truly multi-cultural logic with floor no. 13 being officially replaced by no. 12A (for the superstitious Westerners, if there are any) and floor no. 14 being officially replaced by no. 12B (for the superstitious Chinese, a tautology anyway).

Enjoying from our 25th-floor balcony the most fantastic views over Cooler Lumpur's skyline (which extends from the world’s fourth-highest telecommunications tower, the 421-m high Menara Kuala Lumpur, on the far left, via the iconic 452-m high Petronas Twin Towers, less than 1 nm dead ahead of us, to the high-rising rectangular towers [with a helipad high on top] of the Berjaya Times Square, on the far right), whilst reading and getting used to Malaysia's nationwide English-language newspapers (The Star - “The People’s Paper”, The New Straits Times - “Established 1845”, The Malay Mail - “Your Voice For 112 Years”), albeit only with the little help of regular non-halal G&T sun-downers from the nearest Giant hypermarket, located in the basement of the Sungei Wang Plaza shopping mall (750-ml bottles of Kavarchi Dry Gin for MYR 19.80 per bottle, cautiously diluted with genuine Schweppes tonic water, both made in Malaysia).

Panem et circenses I: Savouring mouth-watering nasi padang/kandar (white rice served with a selection of curried fish, seafood and vegetables) and snacking on Malaysia's high-calorie signature food in-between our meals, thus putting on some weight: (i) nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut cream, wrapped in banana leaves in a pyramid-shaped bundle, eaten with dried anchovies [ikan bilis], spicy sambal gravy, fried peanuts, topped with boiled egg and slices of cucumber), (ii) roti canai (flaky unleavened bread griddled with ghee until crisp and eaten with curry and dhal) and (iii) mee/nasi goreng (fried noodles/rice with veggies and prawns, topped with a fried egg).

Panem et circenses II: Window-shopping without dropping in the many city-size malls of Kuala Lumpur - the Sungei Wang Plaza (the most popular city shopping, with many Manglish speaking Ah Lians), the Berjaya Times Square (with a looping in-door roller-coaster), the Suria KLCC Shopping Centre (which boasts some of the world’s most exclusive brands and attracts many buysexual Arabs who seek retail therapy), the Lot 10 Shopping Centre (offering upmarket styles and a wide selection of world-renowned designer labels), the Plaza Low Yat (a techno-lifestyle centre where we upgraded the memory of our laptop computer), the Mid Valley Megamall (one of Asia’s largest malls), The Gardens (a high and avant-garde shopping gallery where we listened to excellent Chinese Christmas Carollers) and the Pavilion (Kuala Lumpur’s newest shopping and lifestyle mall) - and realising the holistic brave-new-world functions of these malls: selling, buying, learning, entertaining, clubbing, socialising, educating, bonding, communicating, integrating, pampering and many more (... we loved them all).

Relaxing with the help of seasoned Chinese and Thai beauties who practice genuine Thai foot reflexology (60 min for MYR 28.- or US$ 7.80) and Thai body massage (60 min for MYR 60.- or US$ 16.40) in Kuala Lumpur at the Only One massage parlour +60143382498 right on our doorstep.

Exploring Kuala Lumpur's vibrant Chinatown with (i) fascinating Petaling Street, packed with about 800 hawker stalls, (ii) the many Chinese hole-in-the-wall shops which sell joss sticks and chop sticks, spirit money and old coins, traditional Chinese medicine and fresh Korean ginseng, ordinary and exotic teas, feng shui products and natural crystals as well as all kind of Chinese delicacies such as dried mushrooms, shredded shark fins, pickled abalones, crispy-skinned roast pork aka char yoke and canned sea cucumbers, (iii) the multitude of cheap and excellent Chinese eateries (our favourites: Restoran Zhing KongKedai Kopi Lai Foong and the many Chinese hawker stalls), (iv) the atmospheric, smoke-filled Taoist temples with their professional fortune-tellers and (v) the traditional clan houses of the Chinese secret societies, the forerunners of the modern-day sanhehui or Chinese Triads, referring to the trinity between Heaven, Earth and Man.

Visiting the National Museum of Malaysia +60322671111 (housed in a striking 1960s building styled after a Sarawak longhouse), watching Malaysian-Chinese wushu and Malaysian-Indian silambam performances by some youngsters from the Chinese and the Indian community of Malaysia and learning about the cultural meaning of the keris, the dagger (with its wavy blade and intricately designed handle and sheath) unique to the Malay world.

Appreciating the phenomenal growth of Kuala Lumpur from the 276-m high observation deck of the Menara Kuala Lumpur (the telecommunications tower of Kuala Lumpur) and spotting on the horizon some challenging travel goals for the New Year 2009: Peninsular Malaysia, Saigon, Singapore, Borneo, Brunei and Bali.

Click below and see more Konni & Matt Pictures
Photos 2008-09 Kuala Lumpur II

Recommended books - click below for your order from Germany

For your order from the United States click here
For your order from Canada click here
For your order from the United Kingdom click here

24 Oct - 04 Dec 2008 Khao Pilai

Kingdom of Thailand aka The Land of Conditional Smiles 
Phang Nga Province
Ban Khao Pilai
Khao Pilai Bungalows +6676434274 saijaithai2@hotmail.com
Private holiday villa with Jacuzzi and swimming pool for THB 12,000.- or US$ 345.- per month; service, electricity and internet included.
Car (Toyota Hilux for THB 800.- per day) and scooter (THB 200.- per day) hire available.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Khao Pilai Bungalows, which we would recommend, and for directions:

Exploring the rural neighbourhood of our village Ban Khao Pilai, making friends with our Muslim and Buddhist neighbours and discovering the unspoilt Natai Beach of the Northern Andaman Coast.

Konni: Enhancing my cookery and learning from our landlady Saijai how to prepare/cook delicious Thai dishes, such as kaeng phet (spicy red curry with coconut milk), various types of phat thai (stir fried yellow noodles with prawns and veggies) and “flied lice” (fried rice with seafood, always served with naam phrik plaa on the side [fish sauce with sliced chillies, the quintessential Thai condiment]).

Visiting the many Buddhist village wats (temple compounds where men or women can be ordained as monks or nuns) between Ban Khao Pilai and Phang Nga town and admiring the steeply pitched roof systems tiled in green, gold and red, and constructed in tiered series of three levels, representing the triple gems of Buddhism: (i) the Buddha, (ii) the Dhamma (the teachings) and (iii) the Sangha (the Buddhist community).

Cruising (i) the mangrove swamps (learning that a quarter of the destruction of mangrove forests stems from shrimp farming), (II) the verdant limestone cliffs (most famous: Ko Phing Kan aka James Bond Island) and (iii) hongs (submerged karst caves) in the northern part of scenic Phang Nga Bay by means of a reua hǎang yao (long-tail boat) and visiting Ko Panyi, a Muslim fishing village (descendents of two seafaring Muslim families that arrived here from Java 200 years ago), built entirely on stilts.

Renewing our Thai visit permits for another 30 days and joining the fast and efficient one-day visa run organised by Phuket Legal Services +6676202244 to Ranong and Kawthoung for THB 1,700.- or US$ 50.- per person - all inclusive.

Noticing the many elderly Western expats with their often much younger Thai (contract) wives or girl-friends and remembering the joke about the old duffer who says he has sex 50 weeks a year with his young Thai wife: ‘Amazing,’ says a youngster, ‘but what about the other two weeks?’ The old duffer says, ‘Oh, that’s when the feller that lifts me on and off goes on vacation.

Entertaining our number-one daughter Ulrike (pregnant with our number-two grandson) and our 2;4-year young number-one grandson Raoni from Toronto who travelled 24 hours by plane and spent a three-week holiday together with us: (i) turning over the previously unspoilt beaches near Ban Khao Pilai, hunting jing-joks (geckos or house lizards; onomatopoeically called jing-jok because of the sound they make: “ching-chok”) and replacing the spent calories with delicious Thai food at the numerous nearby eateries, (ii) cooling off in the swimming pool of our villa and in the natural pools and waterfalls of the junglebook-like tropical Sa Nang Manora and Raman forest parks, abundant with lianas, moss-encrusted roots and rocks, (iii) being amazed by the popart-like interior and exterior paintings of the many renovated Buddhist temples alongside the road to Phang Nga und exploring the beautiful and lush countryside around Phang Nga Bay by hired scooter, car and boat.

Konni's treatment: Undergoing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome release surgery on my both hands (THB 7,000.- or US$ 200.- for each hand) as an out-patient at Phuket International Hospital +6676249400 info@phuket-inter-hospital.co.th; many thanks Dr. Chansak, for your expertise und skills.
Matt’s treatment: Learning that a genuine Thai foot massage (THB 200.- or US$ 5.70, one hour) can include the whole body from little toe to pinkie; thanks ladies, for your expertise, for your skills and for your great sense of humour (sign on the door of the massage parlour: “Our customers always come first”, yes indeed).

Shopping for fruits at the local village market at Khao Pilai and indulging in the incredible diversity of Thai fruits: kaeo mangkon (dragon fruit), farang (guava), khanun (jackfruit), lum-yai (longan or dragon-eyes), lin-chi (lychee), ma-muang (mango), mang-khut (mangosteen), som khiao wan (orange), malako (papaya), sapparot (pineapple), som-oh (pomelo), ngaw (rambutan), noi-naa (soursop), sala (salak), la-mut (sapodilla), taeng-mo (watermelon), kjluai (banana), chiku (chiku), chomphu (java apple), noina (sugar apple), saowarot (passion fruit), longkong (langsat), thapthim (pomegranate), maphrao (coconut), makhaam (tamarind) and the infamous and stinking thurian (durian), dubbed the king of fruits by most Thais yet despised by many foreigners.

Flying with the queen of budget carriers, Air Asia (“Now Everyone Can Fly”) +6625159999, in an Airbus A 320-200 from Phuket International Airport to Kuala Lumpur's KLIA-LCCT at Sepang for all inclusive THB 2,035.- or US$ 58.-, one way, per person and being issued with a 90-day visit pass for a “social visit” to Malaysia on arrival - free of charge, including the small print: “Be forewarned: death for drug traffickers under Malaysian law.”; selamat pagi, Malaysia.

Click below for more blog entries about southern Thailand 
29 Apr - 05 May 2013 Ko Chang
26 Apr - 29 Apr 2013 Prachuap Khiri Khan 
22 Apr - 26 Apr 2013 Hua Hin 
29 Jan - 01 Feb 2013 Songkhla 
22 Jan - 25 Jan 2013 Nakhon Si Thammarat 

Click below for a summary of this year's travels
2008 Map Konni & Matt 

Click below and see more Konni & Matt Pictures 
Photos 2008-09 Kuala Lumpur II
Photos 2008-08 Kuala Lumpur I

Recommended books - click below for your order from the United Kingdom

For your order from Germany click here
For your order from the United States click here
For your order from Canada click here