24 Oct - 25 Oct 2012 Kuala Lumpur

Southeast Asia
Flawed-Democratic Federation of Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur
Tune Hotel +60379625888 enquiry@tunehotels.com
Small and overpriced standard double room for a stiff MYR 103.24 or US$ 32.80 per night (booked over the internet, long ago); very bad value, but this is the only budget hotel near the airport’s LCCT. Friendly enough staff.
Beer: 320-ml cans of cold and non-halal but smooth Anchor Strong Beer (c. 8.8 % alc./vol.) for MYR 7.40 or US$ 2.45 from the 7-Eleven convenience store in front of the Tune Hotel.

Click below for an interactive road map of this Tune Hotel at Kuala Lumpur's Low-cost Carrier Terminal, and for directions:

Enduring our seventh overnight stay between connecting flights within the last three years in the airport’s loved/hated but very conveniently located Tune Hotel, comparing this stay with our previous six overnighters ([1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6]), which were all triggered by the Kuala-Lumpur based airline Air Asia ("Now Everyone Can Fly"), the continent’s largest low-fare/no-frills airline and a pioneer of low-cost travel in Asia, and preparing our upcoming tours to Yunnan, Hong Kong and Macau, via North Vietnam, the land of world-famous coffee and elaborate travel scams.

“All things are ready, if our mind be so.”

Flying with Air Asia (“Now Everyone Can Fly”) in a well-worn Airbus A 320-200 without incident from Kuala Lumpur’s KLIA-LCCT (Low-Cost Carrier Terminal), incredibly busy and bursting at the seams, to Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport for only US$ 30.80 per person, one way and all inclusive, being issued, uneventfully and within 30 minutes after touch-down, with a one-month single-entry “pre-approved tourist visa on arrival” (arranged through Vietnam Visa Pro for the agent fee of US$ 9.-, paid with our credit card over the internet, plus the actual Vietnamese visa fee aka “stamp fee” of US$ 25.- per person, payable in cash with crisp greenbacks to the airport's immigration guys) and taking thereafter the almost empty red-yellow-white Hanoibus no. 17 (c. 35 km, 1 hour, VND 7,000.- or US$ 0.35 per person, including luggage) from the airport’s convenient bus stop through Hanoi’s compelling blend of Parisian grace and Asian pace straight to Long Bien’s bus terminus near Hanoi’s Old Quarter, a centuries-old commercial chaos, only a short walk away from our hotel.


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Facing Vietnam
© Konni & Matt

26 Sep - 24 Oct 2012 Tanjung Karang

Southeast Asia
Republic of Indonesia
Central Sulawesi
Tanjung Karang
Comfortable and clean, somewhat rickety stilt bungalow no. 15 (see detailed price list), with a spacious private verandah and a spotless, convenient Indonesian bak mandi plus Western toilet, all this in an unbeatable location overlooking the dive-resort’s pristine coral reefs; wifi provided.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Prince John Dive Resort in Tanjung Karang, which we would recommend, and for directions:

Arriving safely at the unspoilt, almost postcard-perfect idyll of Tanjung Karang with its blue velvety sky (with only a few clouds), its powder-white sand beach (with only a few pebbles) and its crystal-clear sea (with only a few plastic bags) and being surprised by the many positive changes which took place at Prince John Dive Resort +6281210444162 kontakt@prince-john-dive-resort.com since our last visit only one year ago: (i) Alex’s resourceful brother Markus has joined the efficient German management team, (ii) five stylish bungalows have been rebuilt and extended (e.g. Western shower instead of Eastern bak mandi), and (iii) a chic tropical beach bar has become the 24/7 meeting place amongst the snorkellers, scuba-divers and other travellers (620-ml bottles of ice-cold Bintang Pilsner still for INR 35,000.- or US$ 3.70 per bottle).

Re-enacting last year’s fantastic beach holiday: (i) chillaxing at Prince John Dive Resort’s wonderful beach (cleaned up daily, but lekker durian are verboten), (ii) being pampered by the most attentive and helpful service team (many thanks to Evi, Arnati, Novi, Ahso, Ari and all the others), (iii) writing travel blog about our recent trips to Beijing and Taipei, (iv) socialising with people from far and wide, and (v) agreeing with Dagobert D. Runes that “…many people travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home...” - jawohl so ist das, nicht wahr.

"What do you call a pissed off German?"

Snorkelling extensively the nearby pristine house reef, a mere 100 metres away from the idyllic resort beach, and both enjoying as well as photographing an incredible u/w seascape of great beauty and stunning diversity packed with huge fan corals, massive black corals, beautiful gorgonians, colourful sponges and impressive soft/hard corals and teaming with gaudy reef fish, napoleons and shoals of goat fish, mixed with graceful sweetlips.

DM Konni: Scuba-diving repeatedly Prince John Dive Resort’s spectacular dive sites, enjoying the wonderful camaraderie of top-notch PADI IDC Staff Instructor Alex as well as his highly experienced dive guides IGede, Nasrun, Maming, Gunawan and Dedi (all reliable professionals with far more than 1,000 dives under their belts) and taking refuge at her favourite dive spots: (i) South Atoll, meeting there a few quite impressive whitetip reef sharks (Triaenodon obesus) as well as being accompanied by smaller blacktips (Carcharhinus melanopterus), (ii) Enu Wall, a massive seamount with an extensive pristine and beautiful soft coral garden, (iii)  Batu Suya, a phenomenal drop-off with lots of cracks, beautiful soft and hard corals, whip corals, big gorgonian fans, black corals, huge sponges, and many slug species, (iv) Gili Raja, an always exciting deep dive to this beautifully overgrown wreck in more than 50 m of depths (home for giant morays, scorpionfish and shoals of fusiliers), with pleasurable decompression over the fringing reef, and (v) Anchor Reef with the resident blacktip reef sharks and their babies underneath huge table corals.

DM Konni: Teaming up with seasoned dive guide Nasrun, a passionate u/w photographer and excellent dive buddy, and together stalking up on the colourful and mysterious creatures of the depth, again and again.

Slowing our pulse by relaxing in the hammocks on our bungalow’s verandah, feeding overripe bananas and durians to our cute and portly pet cuscus (Ailurops ursinus), indulging in undisclosed quantities of Cap Tikus, literally Rat Brand, a potion with an average content of 40 % alcohol which is obtained through processing saguer (a local, potent palm wine), INR 30,000.- or US$ 3.50 for one litre, home-delivered to us in unmarked plastic bags by undisclosed not-so-fundamentalist suppliers from nearby Donggala, and still being able to watch the air traffic over the dive resort, thus spotting (i) an inseparable pair of yellow-billed malkohas (Phaenicophaeus calyorhynchus) feeding on the surrounding trees, (ii) the resident white-bellied fish eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) returning from hours of hunting high above the surface of the sea and (iii) both the light and dark morph of the eastern reef heron (Egretta sacra) looking for crustaceans, molluscs and small fish in the shallow water.

Having exactly 25 different (!) mouth-watering and spicy Buginese dinners at Ika’s unpretentious but superb Warung Andika +6282193712014, in the same quality and for the same price as last year: e.g. (i) barbecued red snapper (ikan bakar) with cooked jackfruit, sambal and white rice for INR 20,000.- or US$ 2.10 per portion, (ii) smoked tuna steaks (ikan tuna goreng) with a variety of cooked veggies in coconut cream, hot and fresh sambal, fried tempe and tofu and white rice for INR 17,500.- or US$ 1.80 per portion and (iii) sumptuous veggie platters with omelettes and gogos (sticky rice filled with spicy minced fish, cooked inside a banana-leaf package) for INR 15,000.- per portion, yummy again; many thanks to Ika & Cecep for your lasting and reliable hospitality, and to Risman and Anto for your help with the logistics.

Leaving the Teutonic dive resort every now and again, getting a breath of uncompressed Indonesian air in the nearby country town Donggala (30 min walk, or INR 3,000.- per person for the short ride on an ojek’s pillion), buying fresh veggies from the market, having tons of fun together with old and new local friends, and realising that almost all Indonesians are in agreement about the unquestionable fact that the harga turis ("Touristenpreis") for anything, always stated in a very friendly way and with the great Indonesian smile, equals the local harga biasa ("ortsueblicher Preis") multiplied by at least a factor of two, if not three...

Being charmed by the bucolic scenery and friendly residents at the village of Salubomba, located c. 20 km southwest of Donggala (ojek from Donggala for INR 12,000.- or US$ 1.25), thus meeting (i) the local women weaving the unique Donggala silk on simple hand looms (dobel-ikat weaving technique where the woven cloth is made by tying the vertical warp and horizontal weft threads in individual blocks of colour, furthermore gold-threaded songket supplementary weft technique) and (ii) their menfolk catching protein (e.g. ikan teri aka rono) from their traditional bamboo fishing rafts aka bagang where the rectangular fishing net is placed on the sea bottom, light is used to attract the fish gathering above the net and when it looks promising the net is lifted to collect the catch trapped inside.

Applying on-line at Vietnam Visa Pro, a mobbed-up private agent with government connections, for two one-month single-entry, “pre-approved” tourist visas for Vietnam (agent fee of US$ 9.- per person with credit card; added to this the actual visa fee aka “stamp fee” of US$ 25.- per person, payable on arrival in crisp greenbacks to immigration at the airport in Hanoi) and, after only two days, receiving per email the photocopy of a rubber-stamped and officially signed approval letter from the Immigration Department of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi (“… the people on the attached list are permitted to enter and exit Viet Nam and to pick up their visa upon arrival at international airports…”) - all this despite the sincere warnings on the Vietnamese embassies’ websites about these private visa agents, but capitalism rules, and the socialist freeloaders in the embassies are only crying because they lose a lot of money in visa fees.

Getting the funny feeling that the time has arrived to move on, taking Junaidi’s +6285399105113 reliable Kijang taxi from the dive resort to Palu’s somewhat agricultural Mutiara Airport (c. 35 km, ¾ hour, a steep harga turis of IDR 150,000.- or US$ 15.60 for the ride), flying with low-cost carrier Lion Air (“We Make People Fly”) in a clean Boeing B 737-900ER to Makassar for a pre-booked IDR 511,000.- or US$ 53.- (one way, all inclusive) plus IDR 15,000.- or US$ 1.60 airport tax for domestic departures per person, having lunch (nasi campur telur for just IDR 8,000.- or US$ US$ 0.80 per plate) at Hj. Nur Halimah’s excellent warung makan Banyuwangi (free shuttle bus from the airport) thus metamorphosing back from tamed package tourists to independent travellers and, eventually, connecting uneventfully with Air Asia (“Now Everyone Can Fly”) in an Airbus A 320-200 from Makassar’s modern Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport back to Kuala Lumpur’s KLIA-LCCT at Sepang for only US$ 36.- per person, one way, all inclusive, and being issued with another 90-day-visit pass for a “social visit” to Malaysia (in our case: a short stopover of less than 8 hours) on arrival, free of charge.

Click below for more blog posts about Tanjung Karang
05 Sep - 15 Sep 2011 Tanjung Karang
04 Sep - 05 Sep 2011 Lebo Beach
16 Aug - 04 Sep 2011 Tanjung Karang
13 Aug - 16 Aug 2011 Tanjung Karang

Click below for a summary of this year's travels

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