Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Impressions of Kuala Lumpur

We decided it was necessary to do a visa run to KL as our latest Thai visas were expiring on the 12th. and 13th. of November. We had some alternatives - we could just leave the country and then get another 30 days on re-entry, or we could go somewhere where there was a Thai diplomatic mission and get 60 + 30 days. Penang or KL would have both answered the latter so, as we hadn't yet been to KL, we opted to go there. It means that now we will be staying in Thai waters for Christmas and beyond and then sailing down to Langkawi after that. However, we will sail for Phuket to get some work done to our awnings for sun protection and then explore the islands.
We flew with Air Asia from Krabi direct to KL on the 12th. and had booked on the internet into the Zon All Suites Residences Hotel. This sounds way grander than it is, but it did have the attribute of offering accommodation at a 50% discount! It's an older hotel but is centrally situated near the KL City Centre and also not too far from the Thai Embassy. We had a separate bedroom and sitting room which, although smallish, meant that the living was comfortable. Free breakfast was thrown in too but the restaurant was well below standard and, although we availed ourselves of the free breakfast, we only ever ate one other meal there.
KL has been entertaining to look around as neither of us had ever been there before, but really it's just another city with not a lot to set it apart. It does have the Petronas Twin Towers which are spectacular to look at but they only allow you about half way up to a skybridge between the two. Then they want 90 Ringitts (NZD34) each for the privilege!! So, we didn't go up there, but did go up the Menara KL Tower to the revolving restaurant which is 280 metres above some high ground on which it is built and at least 100 metres higher than the Twin Towers skybridge. It does a complete revolution every hour and you get the best view (bar a helicopter) possible of KL. The lunch was good too and all for 88 Ringitts each plus 31 Ringitts for a litre bottle of water!! Still, probably much better value than the Twin Towers.
Apart from that and two visits to the Thai Embassy, we have been doing some shopping and a lot of window shopping! And eating out a lot which isn't cheap. An average price for the two of us at an average restaurant is around 175 Ringitts (NZD66). We are not used to such prices after Thailand! But we did find an absolutely superb Italian Restaurant called Porto Romano on the ground floor of the Intermark Building on Jalan Tun Razak. Highly recommended. The last meal we had there was NZ lamb shanks in a red wine sauce and they were wunderbar! Made us very nostalgic!! First lamb shanks since leaving NZ 3 and a half years ago. NZD20 each!! Such extravagance!! We even had a glass of Italian red wine each and after dinner 2 Grappas which were great. For those who don't know, Grappa is mainly distilled in Italy from the leftovers of wine grape pressings. That includes the skins, seeds and some leaves and twigs together with some pressed grape flesh. Doesn't sound very appetising, but is surprisingly and uniquely delicious and the perfect antidote to an Italian meal. On our last night they gave us two Grappas free.
The KLCC shopping mall is nearby and so full of designer names like Louis Vuitton, Armani, Prada, Gucci, Burberry, etc. that it is eye watering. We were there on the weekend and the mall was thronged, but no-one in any of the shops. All staffed to the hilt and looking bored out of their brains. How they stay in business is a mystery to us.
KL is vibrant with new building going on but we were told that there is a large oversupply of commercial space. So just what the outcome of that will be remains to be seen, but we hope that buildings are not simply abandoned as they are all over Malaysia in satellite commercial areas.
The overt preferences given to the Bhumiputra (Moslem Malays) are unsettling and an Indian taxi driver confirmed that. We felt very sorry for him and all non Malays because they are openly discriminated against in all sorts of areas (even preferential duty rates when buying vehicles) and have very little hope of ever getting out from under.
Another matter reported in the local paper (The Star) was particularly horrifying. Apparently there is a very strong move to strengthen Shariah (Islamic) Law in Kelantan State which is in a remote area south of the Thai border on the east coast. They have been dispassionately discussing the best ways in which to amputate hands or limbs as punishment for certain crimes such as robbery. The main stipulation was that, whether machete, sword or mini guillotine was used, the blade should be sharp. And the "offender" should be conscious while the sentence was being carried out so that proper "remorse" could be shown.
A doctor was also required to be present, presumably so that the amputee didn't die from blood loss. There wouldn't be any remorse then!! There was an issue raised concerning the Hippocratic Oath under which a doctor is required to save life, but we suppose that as long as he/she didn't actually cause the amputation, then the oath is complied with.
We find this extreme example of Islamic faith/law to be appalling. It does seem to be slowly gaining influence in Malaysia (particularly on the east coast) and would certainly be a major influence in any decision we might make concerning settling in Malaysia in the future.
Unfortunately there is a certain amount of unrest in the most southerly of Thailand's provinces which adjoins Kelantan. Three women were shot dead there in the last 2-3 days. This province is predominantly Moslem as is much of southern Thailand including Krabi, although there Moslems and Buddhists seem to exist in a great deal of harmony. We hope that this Islamic extremism is contained and does not spread further north, for Thailand's sake.
Jean's hips are continuing to slowly improve, but it's now going to be a slow process compared with the earlier rate of healing. It's now day 64 since the 2nd. hip replacement and, while there was some persistent swelling which was giving rise to some concern, that is abating. Probably at least partially as a result of being back in air con. conditions for a while. However, there is general improvement overall and we are sure that once we get sailing again with swimming etc. the improvement will continue. Jim's knees are not improving however and have been an impediment to walking too far in KL. Hopefully he will not need surgery, but we will see. It's fun getting old and unfortunately will ultimately force us to adopt an alternative lifestyle - maybe sooner rather than later.
Now back on the boat at Krabi Boat Lagoon. We flew back yesterday (18/11) and all is well. Nice to be back and some good Thai food from Garn at the Galley Restaurant. Unfortunately our freezer is still only partially working so we haven't any food in it yet. It is going to necessitate a trip to Phuket to get it sorted - hopefully!! But there's an issue with available marina berths so we might not be able to go for 2 weeks or so. If we can't get a berth in the next 4 days we'll go out and anchor in various places before continuing on to Phuket. One way or another it will get done.
Cheers from us for now and best wishes and love to everyone.
Jim and Jean
s.v. Tiare Taporo III
Krabi Boat lagoon

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Saturday, 1 November 2014

More photos!!!

1) Mahatma Ghandi (Ghandiji) on the waterfront at Pondicherry
2) A view of Chennai Port