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Dear Readers, Happy New Year !

Continuing with our first post of 2016, this post takes a look back at the places we visited in the first half of last year. In 2015, there were 94 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 650 posts. The post that had the highest number of views in 2015 was about our visit to a durian stand in a night market in Malaysia.

Click on links, where provided to read more about the places of interest. There are usually a series of related posts per location, you can discover them easily in the calendar at the bottom of the post.

In reverse chronological order from June:

Berlin, Germany in June to see the Champions League final – a part of the wall

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München, Germany in April for work, Asam’s church

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Catania, Sicily, Italy during Easter – Teatro Bellini

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Taormina, Sicily

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Siracusa and Ortigia, Sicily

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Half way up Mount Etna and Meditterranean sea, Sicily

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Langkawi, Malaysia in January

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Hong Kong

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Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia

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Penang, Malaysia in January

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Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016.

 

 

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Back in Georgetown, Penang, among many of the heritage buildings, the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (張弼士故居) is one of the most celebrated example. UNESCO recognized it with an award in Heritage conservation in 2000.

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We were treated to a glimpse of how a Chinese tycoon lived at the turn of the century (19th-20th).

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The mansion is now a boutique hotel as well as a restored cultural landmark. It served as a back drop for the French movie – Indochine, which won the Academy award in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

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It can only be visited by appointment in a daily tour, unless you reserve a room under its Homestay program.

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The property has a 38 rooms and is available for themed functions like weddings.

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Compared to where we were staying –  Seven Terraces – which is also a restored heritage property –  the architecture of the place appears much more authentic. Seven Terraces is more a product of the restorer’s imagination and potentially made more dazzling. Click the link to see our pictures of Seven Terraces parts 1 and 2.

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The tour of the mansion must be a very popular item on the tourists’ map as more than 50 people showed up.

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Our tour guide is a member of the group who bought the property from the original family owners and restored it to its current state. She seemed slightly offended when someone asked if the government or a charity rescued and restored the property.

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A lot of research as well as money was expanded on restoring the property accurately.

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She also seemed knowledgeable about characters in the original Cheong family. Apparently, there were some restrictions (we forgot the details) on the disposition of the property which prevented it from being transferred until recently (somebody in the Cheong family died), and as a result, the property fell into disrepair and was for years occupied by squatters (laundry hanging from ropes draped all over the central courtyard, etc).

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The story of Cheong Fatt Tze (1840-1916) is fascinating and we are surprised that not more stories based on him are made into TV dramas or movies. He was known as a financier, tycoon, diplomat, philanthropist and minister living in splendid mansions dotted around southeast Asia with 8 wives and 14 children.

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There is a lot of information on both the architecture and history of the house as well as the life of Cheong Fatt Tze on the official website – go explore here.

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This is part 2 of our post on Langkawi’s Kilim Geoforest Park. Part 1 is here.

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We made a few stops along the boat trip. The first is a short walk through a tropical jungle and a bat cave on a paved path. The bat was very hard to see from a distance as they were tiny and hanging on the side and roof of the cave in the dark. The only thing we saw was this rattlesnake, probably venomous given the triangular shape of its head. Mind you, this snake was not caged but just coiled up on a tree trunk.

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The next notable animal we saw is this swimming reptile. It was at least 4-5 feet long.

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Moving up the evolutionary scale, after the reptiles, we saw birds of prey.

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These birds are accustomed to being “fed” by tourists and “trained” to fly and dive into the river for handouts (thrown into the water).

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Not sure what type of  birds we were seeing, they have orange wings and black “fingers” and a white body.

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At a couple of places, the boat slowed to a crawl where we can “interact” with the monkeys onshore. The guide gave us bags of peanuts.

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Sue did not want any of the attention we were receiving from the simian mob.

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This monkey boarded our boat and it was obviously very familiar with tourists and felt entitled to whatever that was onboard.

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Neither shy nor aggressive. After some peanuts, it pooped on our boat, then disembarked by hopping into the water and swam ashore as our boat pulled away from its gang.

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All in all an interesting day.

While in Langkawi, the last stop of our Malaysian trip, we wanted to see a bit of nature (after KL and Penang). So we just signed up for a boat tour of the mangroves around the island. It was all very touristy but convenient.

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As expected, we were picked up by the tour operator at the hotel in a mini van, delivered to a pier where the boat operators received us (and guests from other hotels and resorts).

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The tourism industry has organized itself into efficient segments, the tour operators who sell the tour and transport the tourists to the boat operators who provide the tour guide and the boat, and deliver us to the fisherman (part time cook) who provided us with lunch.

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The tour started with our boat speeding through open water in the Anderman sea, very reminiscent of our trip to the islands from Ko Samui in the Gulf of Thailand. See our earlier post here.

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Many hidden beaches and odd-looking rocky islets with dramatic cliffs.

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This park is made of several elongated hills and islands with narrow limestone karst valleys in between, and these valleys are home to a unique mangrove forest.

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We entered a river mouth where the mangroves are located.

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Our boat went through some narrow gaps including the one below with an unbelievably low ceiling.

kilim-8One-way traffic only.

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We studied mangroves in geography class but never saw one until now. The word “mangroves” refers to the trees and shrubs that grow in intertidal saline water and evolved roots systems to deal with the salt and wave action.

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The mangroove forest is considered a distinct biome as we saw here.

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We made several stops including a couple at aquaculture stations. These are floating platforms under which where fishes are kept and sold to passing tourists.

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These are mom-n-pop operations catering to tourists. But aquaculture is a major industry in this part of Asia, providing the world with affordable and sustainable shrimp and tilapia (for example). But we did not see any commercial fish farm here.

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We saw various kinds of fishes, including tuna and eel. They are all on the menu.

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The tuna was swimming fast in circles. It could put up quite a fight when a net is lowered … however we did not get to see it.

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More photos of the wild life in our next post …

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While we were in KL, our friend J took us to Lima Blas which means 15 as the restaurant is at 15 Jalan Mesui, Bukit Bintang – an area full of bars and restaurants.

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It was raining lightly that night, thankfully the restaurant was practically just downhill from our rented apartment (click here to see Lanson Place).

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The place is decorated like it is a grocery store (?) from the 50’s or earlier. It is packed with vintage signs and posters, jars, rice sacks (framed) …

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 … old telephones, gum ball machine, assorted period pieces.

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J brought us there for both the decor as well as their menu of Nyonya favorites.

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The place was packed when we arrived which was a bit late, and some dishes are already sold out ! That was a bit of surprising given that the restaurant is located in an area of full of night life and one of the biggest night market is only steps away.

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J somehow talked the staff to give us portions of the sold-out items which they had saved for themselves. Cendol.

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We read in Time Out that the Nyonya laksa, “a bowlful of coconut, spice and laborious boiling”, is only served at lunchtime and limited to 15 bowls every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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The interiors did suggest (or copy) a tiny bit of Wong Kar Wai’s “In the mood for love” style.

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Overall, authentic flavors and interesting (but less authentic) decor.  Well worth a visit.

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While in Kuala Lumpur, we took a day trip to Melacca 馬六甲 – a historic town that is about 2 hours by car in the southerly direction on the Malaysian peninsula.

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The main street was really crowded with tourists. It took us almost an hour standing in line to get a table at one of the better known Hainanese chicken rice ball shop.

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While we all swore we’ll never wait in line for such a long time for lunch, the chicken was one of the most tender we have had. The rice balls were just a curiosity.

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One of the cultural sights of Melacca is the Zheng He cultural museum which houses a collection of artifacts relating to this famous Chinese sea captain who visited between 1405-1407.

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Zheng He (鄭和, 1371–1433) was an eunuch, mariner, explorer, diplomat, and fleet admiral during China’s early Ming Dynasty.

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The museum is a bit old and many of the displays are chessey.

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We saw a fiberglass model of a giraffe of the Sultan of Bengal, brought from Medieval Somalia, and later taken to China on Zheng He’s ship.

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Connected to the museum is a teahouse which has its own entrance on another street.

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The teahouse is decorated in traditional Chinese style, neat but a bit contrived – it has a theme-park look. We noticed installations of disco lighting suggesting that this venue has been used to host touristy dinner and dance party.

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The owner (?) and his friends were really friendly and we had a nice chat.

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The teahouse has a small open courtyard.

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Zheng He commanded expeditionary voyages from China to Southeast Asia, Middle East and as far as East Africa.

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Over three decades he conducted seven voyages on behalf of the emperor, trading and collecting tribute in the eastern Pacific and Indian Oceans.

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A closeup of one of the admiral’s nautical map recreated with pebbles.

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According to Wikipedia, Zheng He’s first voyage departed 11 July 1405, from Suzhou and consisted of a fleet of 317 ships holding almost 28,000 crewmen. He is believed to have contributed to the spread of Chinese culture along with islam in South East Asia.

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We could not stay for tea because our driver was waiting to take us back to KL.

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Overall, our impression of Melacca is that it is a very historic town but its tourism infrastructure looks underdeveloped given the amount of visitors it is receiving.

Continuing our exploration of this great hangout place in Georgetown …

ChinaHouse is a combination of 3 heritage buildings, linked by an open air courtyard and converted into 14 spaces comprising shops, cafes, restaurant, galleries, live music and bakery. Part 1 showed the Canteen from which we entered the ChinaHouse complex from Victoria Street.

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In the middle of the complex, a moon gate leads one into a courtyard of shady trees and a rectangular pond. The mood is so very different from the Canteen we just exited.

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One can order a hotdog and burger here in the courtyard. Different areas of the complex have different menus and price points for the food.

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Individual visitor is invited to sit next to and at the lower left corner of the graphic to form a vertical stroke, thus completing the Chinese character for “fortune” –

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Passed the courtyard, walking indoors again, one enters a cafe.

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With bookshelves, long communal tables …

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… aspirations and attitudes …

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The cafe features a cake shop – the Beach Street Bakery – that serves home-made baked products in seemingly huge portions.

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Off to one side of the cafe is an event room – suitable for meetings

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There is even a bar for wine and whisky tasting.

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Next to the cafe is a restaurant with an imaginative fusion menu. IT and I had dinner here one night.

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Sharing the storefront on Beach Street with the cafe is a small shop that sells handicrafts.

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All in all, ChinaHouse succeeds in offering something for every one … what a great place to meet people and hang out.

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Wish there are more places like this.

 

While we were wandering around in Georgetown, this pink tank attracted our attention. It was sitting outside a gallery called “179 – The Place” which sells a range of artwork, from painting to textile, and antiques as well as modern artisan-made furniture.

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We talked to the gallery person for a while as IT was really interested in some funky chairs and an antique wooden box for carrying business paperwork.

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The gallery is one long, narrow space lined with furniture and artwork. None had price tags.

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He told us that the gallery belongs to a complex of shops, restaurants and bars, and is owned by an Australian lady.

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We looked her up – Narelle McMurtie, who started with the authentic Malay style Bon Ton Resort 20 years ago in Langkawi, and now owns also the Temple Tree Resort.

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The style of this painting on wood panel resembles those of the famous street art around Penang. See earlier posts about street art in Georgetown here.

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Apparently, some profits of the businesses are directed to support the Langkawi Animal Shelter & Sanctuary Foundation –  LASSie, a passion of the owner.

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The gallery is part of the complex – ChinaHouse – which has its entrance two doors down the same street. The bar is called Canteen. The entrance is 25 feet wide, typical of the traditional shophouses of Penang.

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There was a live band practicing for the evening’s performance. It was 2014 New Year Eve and they were preparing for an event.

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The bar was empty as it was in the middle of the afternoon but we could imagine the place filling up with people.

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A door at the back leads to the next area of the ChinaHouse – an open courtyard and burger bar.

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Here is a plan of the ChinaHouse cut from their web site.

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A photo walkthrough of this complex to be continued in our next post.

The Heavenly Spa is located adjacent to the Westin resort with its own beachfront. One could walk over from the resort lobby in about 10 minutes or hail a golf buggy.
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Upon arrival, after passing through the entrance gate, there is a small courtyard where one faces a row of trees, the beach and the sea.
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On the left are a series of discreet treatment rooms in a bungalow and a small swimming pool.
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 In the courtyard, new Age music is piped in through hidden speakers.  Although it is probably the same type of music we hear in elevators, it did blend in very well with the ambiance here. This was my favorite space.
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A gentle breeze caused some leaves to fall and row gently down the sloping roof of the bungalows. Dried leaves rustled on the ground. Birds chirped occasionally nearby. One can become relaxed simply by being there, even without any treatment.
 On the right is the air-conditioned reception.
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There is a wading pool with platforms and beds where treatments are administered.
In a lot of places, privacy is a concern with this set up. But here, there was hardly anyone.
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Before the treatment, the staff asked guests to select a thought and to focus on it during the treatment. A bit cliché in my opinion.
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At breakfast, two different healthful smoothies-juice drinks everyday.
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 It claims to be the best spa in Malaysia several years in a row.
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We want to go back as soon as possible.

The last stop on our Malaysian trip is Langkawi (浮羅交怡), an archipelago of 104 islands in the Anderman Sea. Situated in the North West corner of the Malay peninsula, it is very close to the Thai border. The Westin resort is located on the main island – Pulau Langkawi, and just about 10 minutes away from the main town named Kuah (瓜鎮), “melon” if literally translated.

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We got to the resort a few days later than the booked arrival date, after an unexpected detour to Hong Kong. We called ahead to make sure they did not resell our room.

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The resort is somewhat commercial as it has been here for a while. Apparently, it has recently been renovated and is in the process of expanding into a convention center which is under construction behind the resort.

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In addition to hotel rooms, they have free-standing villas along the beach front.

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The resort did a reasonably good job blending natural beauty with man-made amenities.

westinresort-9Predictable but not obtrusive.

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One major feature is the jetty. Hotel guests can reserve it for a romantic dinner or social function. A wedding ceremony was about to be held there on our last day.

westinresort-4Big change in water level due to tides.

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The lights were pretty at night.

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But the jetty was a bit spooky.

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When we saw this notice on our balcony, there was not any sign of the animal.

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On our last day, when we opened the curtains, there was a troop of 10 or so monkeys just outside our window.

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We have no idea what kind of monkey it was. They are of a different species from the ones we saw in Kuala Lumpur, inside the Batu cave and temple.

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They hung around for about 10 minutes and one by one wandered off in different directions.

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A mother brought along a baby which was bright orange – there is no way one can miss that baby in a forest of dark green and brown.

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So how does the bright color confer a survival advantage to the baby ?

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The resort has a spa which is about 10-15 minutes walk away – the subject of our next post.

On our way to Petaling Jaya (aka PJ, see earlier posts here, here and here), we discussed eating durian, the king of fruits, at length in the car. Neither one of us find the smell of the fruit as offensive or revolting as many people do.  I(Chris) had it before and recognized (but cannot say appreciate) its peculiar and strong aroma. Nor are we fans of this fruit since it is hard to find it in North America and even harder now in Europe. So as dessert, J suggested that we try some durian at one of the stands on a nearby street.

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This is how Wikipedia describes the aroma of durian:

The edible flesh emits a distinctive odour that is strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the durian as having a pleasantly sweet fragrance; others find the aroma overpowering and revolting. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as rotten onions, turpentine, and raw sewage. The persistence of its odour has led to the fruit’s banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in Southeast Asia.

One of our hotels prohibit durian on its premises.

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The durian stands are located on Jalan SS2/65 and at the corner with Jalan SS2/24, behind the police station, just down the street from the night market.  Apparently, they are really famous within Malaysia and possibly internationally, as we found numerous references to the stands online.

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One of the stands started the concept of all-you-can-eat durian buffet charging around RM15 per person. Our friend J who once lived on a farm and knows quite a bit about durian suggested that we forgo the buffet option as we should try the good stuff. The name durian comes from the Malay word duri (thorn).

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We had no idea (although it is not surprising) that durian comes in so many different varieties.  And this is the first time where we saw different varieties being sold separately and at vastly different prices.  The varieties have names like Musang King, XO, Thracka, Jan Tong, red prawn, and various D numbers. The fruits are sold by weight and the rate for each variety changes daily depending on supply and season. The vendors have really done a good job in properly differentiating their products and generating a demand that can command a higher price.

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We sat down at one of the tables of “King of the King”, Ah Chun was the manager. On the table were gloves and tissues, and the stand provides water since the flavor is so intense. We do not know of any fruit which requires water to wash it down.

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J chatted with the vendors and selected a variety – D24 – for the four of us. Supposedly, each variety has a characteristic taste and regular eaters have their preferred varieties. Our fruit was about 2 kg and the assistant opened it for us in less than 20 seconds.

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We wanted to try a sweet one but the first one was according to J not sweet enough. So she returned it and complained, and the assistant opened another one for us.

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The taste was indeed intense, onion-like, nutty, slightly sweet, becoming alcoholic towards the seed, moist, soft and velvety. We think the foul smell appears only if the fruit is opened and have been left lying around.

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The most popular and thus expensive variety is the Musang King (貓山皇) which had an asking price of RM60 per kg that night. This variety is recognizable by, among other special features, a characteristic star-shaped pattern at the bottom of the fruit. This practice encourages connoisseurship and is a great way to market this fruit and benefits the entire industry !

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A popular drink is fresh coconut juice – it supposedly counters the heat (traditional Chinese medicine concept) of the durian.

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What a great evening of adventurous eating !

 

Fried Kuey Teow is a classic Malaysian dish – stir-fried rice noodles with bean sprouts, prawns, eggs, chives and thin slices of preserved Chinese sausages. The Penang style is the most highly regarded version of this dish.  We had this at the open-air food court at the night market, SS2, Petaling Jaya. Click here to see the food court.

We ordered a dish of it from the No.15 stall but we had to wait in line for our order. So I snapped away while the chef prepared our dish.

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This is how one can make the dish. Fry the prawns first in oil, quite a bit of oil apparently.

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Then add an egg.

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Park the cooked prawns on the side of the wok, you don’t want them overcooked or deep fried. Scramble the egg while it is being fried.

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Throw in the rice noodles.

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Soy sauce, etc.

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Then drop in the house-made, magic chili sauce.

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Wok action !!!  Keep stirring.

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Mix in some chives and bean sprouts, and let the whole lot be cooked.

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Done !

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It was served on a banana leaf and topped with a couple of slices of dried Chinese sausage.

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Using the time data on the photographs, from beginning to end, it took roughly three minutes. It tasted goooood.

Continuing with our tour of the most interesting hotel on this Malaysian trip …  part 1 is here.

The hotel – Seven Terraces – has a second entrance which passes through the restaurant.

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The hotel’s restaurant, Kebaya, serves classically prepared Straits Chinese style dishes. We did not have a chance to try it.

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Bababar – the hotel’s lounge and bar – antique bar and drink cabinets

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Piano at the Bababar.

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The suites are all on the upper level and there are wooden stairs at either end of the courtyard.

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A walkway circles the courtyard.

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Old-style furniture in the living room, except flat-screen TV. Some of the smaller ceramic decorations on the sideboard are glued onto the surface. I guess it is too tempting for some.

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They served us tea upon arrival.

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The shower/toilet is remarkably installed in a converted veranda which runs the entire width of the suite. In addition to the handheld shower head, there is a rain-style shower head above. No bathtub.

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The entire floor is beautifully tiled. This is the biggest shower we have ever had.

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The converted space has windows with frosted glass on one side and traditional dark wood doors on the other side which lead into the living room.

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The bedroom is upstairs in a loft-style space.

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The four poster bed occupies more than half of the floor space.

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Here’s another example of a nice mix of the traditional and modern.

Old carved wood decoration on top of the bed, framed embroidery (possibly an antique), and sleek LED bedside lamps.

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A balcony is provided where one can relax under the sun (or in the shade).

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The balcony overlooks the historical Anglican church of Georgetown.

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The ambiance of Seven Terraces is truly unique.

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Love the courtyard.

After a series of posts on Malaysian street food, let’s see the most interesting hotel on this trip.

Seven Terraces is a spectacularly reimagined heritage hotel in Penang.  Located at the UNESCO World Heritage site, in the heart of Georgetown, the hotel is a conversion of a row of seven 19th century Anglo-Chinese terraces.

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Around the Love Lane area in Georgetown, there are several other restored heritage hotels but 7 terraces on Lorong Stewart is the most decadently restored. A 80’s-ish Rolls Royce was parked outside the entire time while we were there.

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The reception area was airy and richly decorated; instead of sofas, installed around the “lobby” area are several antique opium den beds. Each bed accommodates two who share a little table in the middle.

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The beds are made with dark hard wood inlaid with marble and mother of pearl. The marble was cool to the touch, perfect for hot weather.

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They have even laid out antique opium paraphernalia to complete the picture.

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We cannot remember her name, the girl at the concierge desk was super efficient and very helpful (she helped us tracked down someone at Booking.com when we had to postpone our trip to Langkawi).

Also on display is an antique Chinese bridal head dress. We’ve only seen them on TV in period drama or Chinese opera. The real thing looked enormous and must weigh a ton.

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The hotel has 18 suites which overlook a Chinese courtyard. I(Chris) love courtyard, any style, it’s like sunshine and nature captured for one’s private enjoyment.

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We suspect the courtyard was created by knocking down the walls that separated the seven smaller yards of the original terrace houses.

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We applaud the combining of traditional Asian architectural elements and modernism harmoniously in this hotel.

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Behind the reception is a lounge area and a lap pool. On a hot day, the water is simply irresistible.

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Swam a little bit and ate some cakes, which were served during afternoon tea time.

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As all the suites are on the upper level, a bit of 20th century convenience is provided.

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We are not sure what this metal fan was used for. It says Singapore grocery corporation. Since there were a pair of them, each with a long handle, they were likely used in a parade.

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Breakfast was served on the other side of the reception.

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This combination of papaya, passion fruit, water melon and banana was simple but surprisingly tasty.

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Check out their website here. We will post some pictures of our room in the next post.

After walking around for about 20 or so minutes in the street market, we came to the center where the food court is located. The food court is a bright and airy plaza which is covered (we can’t imagine what the night market would be like in a monsoon downpour which we experienced the day before in Melacca). But it was a fine evening when we were there.

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There were almost 100 stalls or counters on either side of the plaza. Each are numbered clearly.

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We guessed that these stalls are licensed by the local authorities. They do not want any unlicensed merchants to open business inside, otherwise, it will be just like the market outside.

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Fixed tables are also numbered and installed in the middle. We were at No. 33A.

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When patrons place an order, they mention their table number.  When the food is ready, the stall owner brings it to the table and collect the money. For one of our dishes, the stall owner’s children brought the food – helping out the family after school.

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For this stall, one has to pay first. The live crabs and snails must be worth a bit.

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For dinner, we ordered only classic Malaysian dishes – starting with fruit rojack. The term “rojak” is Malay for mixture. According to Wikipedia, fruit rojak consists typically of cucumber, pineapple, benkoang (jicama), bean sprouts, taupok (puffy, deep-fried tofu) and youtiao (cut-up Chinese-style fritters). The thick dressing is made up of water, belacan (shrimp paste), sugar, chili, and lime juice.

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We ordered bak kut teh 肉骨茶. Wikipedia says: the name literally translates as “meat bone tea”, and at its simplest, consists of meaty pork ribs simmered in a complex broth of herbs and spices (including star anise, cinnamon, cloves, dang gui, fennel seeds and garlic) for hours. Despite its name, there is in fact no tea in the dish itself; the name refers to a strong oolong Chinese tea which is usually served alongside the soup in the belief that it dilutes or dissolves the copious amount of fat consumed in this pork-laden dish. We had fried tofu puff, enoki and dried black shitake mushrooms in our pot.

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The dish on the bottom-right with three small dishes of spicy sauces was our charcoal-grilled stingray, IT had it before and wanted to try again.

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Back at stall no. 55 where we ordered it, the stingray portions were sold by weight – the grey wedges with white spots. It tasted like normal fish despite its appearance.

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The stirred fried clams in a black bean, chili-based sauce was fantastic. We all loved it so much that we almost ordered a second plate.

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We also ordered fried rice and the famous fried kuey teow which will be the subject of our next post.

This stall sold desserts. We had the classic cendol. Wikipedia says: the dessert’s basic ingredients are coconut milk, jelly noodles made from rice flour with green food coloring (usually derived from the pandan leaf), shaved ice and palm sugar (the brown substance). Other ingredients such as red beans, glutinous rice, grass jelly, creamed corn, might also be included.

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Well, we did not get too many green jelly noodles here. Instead of noodles in solid pastel green (the traditional kind), we got some brighter green transparent chunks.

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It was a fun and tasty dinner – we could have eaten more there – but we saved ourselves for the king of fruits – durian. J took us to a special place for durian … the post is coming up.

This is part 2 of our post on the night market at SS2. Part one is here.  To recap, our friend J who grew up locally showed us the sights around KL. She suggested the night market at SS2 since it is “open” only on Monday night.

Street food is so much a part of Southeast Asian culture and it is an essential element of a night market. Click here to see our post on street food at Hong Kong’s Lunar New Year flower market.

Food truck at the night market.

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Satay !  Quintessential.

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Hand-plucked corn, steamed and then roasted.

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An interesting way to prepare corn. See the corn the lady is spooning into the styrofoam cup.

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Hakka-style Yong Tau Foo – 釀豆腐 – the main ingredient is tofu – mostly deep-fied, various shapes with meat stuffed into it, and it may include various vegetables, either stuffed or just by itself, and fish balls – all cooked briefly in a broth and eaten with a dipping sauce. I(Chris) had eaten some form of Yong Tau Foo growing up in Hong Kong but not at a scale like this.

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People were just standing around and eating, a bit like a steamboat (hotpot) meal without a table. Notice the sticks of deep-fried tofu and fish balls were held in slots that had been cut into a big block of ice which acted as a bench and cold storage.

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J bought us these crispy pancakes. The filling was a thin layer of dry brown fine powdery substance – sugary and nutty.

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This guy was making a gigantic version of the pancake – “PJ pan cake”. The base is paper thin and crispy.

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Body parts of some animals made even more scary-looking inside a glass container without description or price.

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Another cake stand with English Earl Grey red bean cake (a new item apparently), white coffee hazelnut cake, black sesame layered cake, mango apricot layered cake and choc blackcurrant cake – that’s what the little flags said.

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So we wandered around the night market until we got hungry, then we headed into the open-air food court. Next post …

 

The next few posts are dedicated to the very lively, popular, and wonderfully diverse night market (Pasar Malam) at SS2, Petaling Jaya – one of the largest in the area. The market sells various types of goods (clothes, toys, electronics, etc.) but the main reason to come is the street food.

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Monday night is market night ! We were there early-ish and the parking area was filling up quickly. There were hundreds of stalls just setting up when we arrived.

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We have never heard of this market, let alone finding it which lies just outside Kuala Lumpur.  So thanks to our local friend J who drove us to SS2 and showed us the place.

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Petaling Jaya (known locally as PJ) was a satellite town set up in the 50’s to deal with the overpopulation of Kuala Lumpur. It was granted its city status in 2006. SS2 is one of its districts.

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The Chinese word means “explode” – it comes in cheese or wasabi flavor.

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Deep-dried jackfruit – we had some – nothing special – I (Chris) don’t see the point of deep-frying it.

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J bought us some otak-otak. We have no idea what is sandwiched between the two blades of leaves.

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It was toasted on a strip of hot metal. The inside is mystery meat – similar to the material used to make fish ball. An interesting way (and certainly ecologically-conscious) to cook and serve food.

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This contraption is (I believe) for making salt-baked chicken. Please insert a comment if I got this wrong.

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Salt-baked chicken (I think) looked delish … but since we were going to have a sit-down dinner at the open-air food court, we were deterred from trying this out.

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At the open-air market and food court, there were more Chinese food here than Malay or Indian dishes. Wikipedia says the demographic of PJ is more than 50% Chinese.

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Other than cooked food, there were many fruit and vegetable stands.

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As much as the food was not covered, nobody seems to be worried about hygiene or spoilage due to weather – there were no flies – this is partly because the food was freshly made and sold immediately.

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We saw many cake stands too –  on the left is vanilla milky cranberry cake, yam cake in the middle and green tea-red bean cake on the right.

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More street food stands to come in the next post. Click here to see our post of a market on the other side of the world, in Vienna, Austria.

We visited the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (Muzlum Kesenlan Islam Malaysia, IAMM) while in Kuala Lumpur. See our earlier post on the museum here.

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It is the first and largest museum of its kind in South-East Asia and among its collection of artifacts, it owns a number of architecturally accurate models of famous mosques around the world.

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These models are not historic artwork, like jewelery, textiles, metalwork, coins and seals, ceramics and manuscripts, which are also on display.  The models serve  primarily an educational purpose.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

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The museum-goers were introduced to the architectural terms – mimbar, dikka, mihrab, …

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Medina Mosque (Al-Masjid al-Nabawī)

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The reflections from the protective case made photographing these models very challenging. For example, I could not manage to take a picture of the blue mosque of Istanbul which was beautifully recreated.

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And in the rush, I did not take a snapshot of the descriptions which is unfortunate, otherwise, this post would be much more interesting to read. So here it is –  a collection of snapshots.

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Djinguereber Mosque in Timbuktu, Mali

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?

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Somewhere in China ?

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?

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Below is not a model but a picture of the actual National Mosque of Malaysia (Masjid Negara) which is located a block downhill from the museum.

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Here are several snapshots of the manuscripts on display, included purely for its attractive info-graphic designs. Love to know know more about them.

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So much to see, so little time.

 

The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (Muzlum Kesenlan Islam Malaysia) in Kuala Lumpur, the first and largest museum of its kind in South-East Asia opened in 1998.

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Occupying 30,000sq m, and housing over 8,000 artefacts, the Museum aims to create a collection truly representative of the Islamic world. See their web site here.

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The museum comprises 12 permanent galleries, each highlighting a different type of Islamic artwork, including Jewellery, Textiles, Metalwork, Coins and Seals, Ceramics and Glassware, Architecture, and Quran and Manuscripts. These also include galleries dedicated to India, China and the Malay world, three of the great centres of Islamic culture in Asia.

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There are multiple elaborately-decorated domes inside and outside the buildings.

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There were multiple domes like this one (below) in the museum. All,except an inverted one, are concave on the inside.

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The Architecture Gallery also features scale models of some of the greatest places in Islamic history, including the cities of Mecca and Medina. I will create a separate post showing these models.

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The museum also features a conservation centre, a restaurant, gift shop, two terraces, a fountain garden, an auditorium, a children’s library and a scholar’s library.

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The restaurant (above) offered a buffet lunch but it was rather quiet.

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KL’s bird park is behind the museum.

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The museum’s interior is designed to maintain a seamless continuity of light and space, which carries through the galleries and into every area of the museum.

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The shades are to protect the exhibits from the strong tropical sunlight – which was absent on the day we were visiting.

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This museum really deserves a second visit. We were a bit rushed and (I) did not looked closely at the exhibits.

 

One of the joys of traveling is to see friends and do things together at a location faraway from where we became friends.

Not having seen our friends S and M for many (five plus) years, we met them for lunch at this South Indian eatery near downtown KL. They have settled in KL a couple of years ago.  Since we said we wanted to try something local, M and S chose Vishal. The place was not easy to find despite we were driven around in a taxi.

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Vishal is located in Brickfields, a small Indian enclave where among the high rise residential towers, there are a couple of small Hindu temple complexes. Vishal serves traditional south Indian food on banana leaves. It is making comfort food for the neighborhood and certainly not a touristy place.

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As soon as we sat down, a server placed a banana leaf in front each of us and a lady following immediately behind plopped down little scoops of starters on our leaf.
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The starters were kept in a set of four industrial stainless-steel cans – they looked like cans that contained paints.

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Before we ordered drinks, men came by and showed us a tray full of small plates, each containing something savory or spicy. Everything was happening around us so quickly. We had no idea of the names of what we ate as there were no time to ask the waiters or decipher the flavor from their answers. There were chicken, lamb and squid as well as a variety of vegetarian dishes.

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Then, another man came around with a tray full of fried fish, whole, halved, or minced and made into cakes. I picked the half fish (with the tail) and a deep-fried fish and potato cake.

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They also gave us papadams – very light and tasty.

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This is what I had on my banana leaf before I piled on stuff from the small plates. Many people were using their hands to eat, as it is the Southern Indian tradition. We asked for knives and forks (shame).

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We finished every thing on our leaves. This is Sue’s leaf at the end.

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We did not have the crab, while it looked tasty, it would have been a mess to eat – but in retrospect, since one can use hands and the “plate” is massive, it would not have mattered really.

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The eatery also sells takeout in small portions, neatly packed in these tiny clear plastic bags.

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The dining room was full when we arrived, and by 2pm, many have left already as it was a weekday.

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S and M – thanks for taking us to this real local place.