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Malaysia and Cambodia


This is about my upcoming trip to Malaysia and Cambodia. The first part is pre-trip - information about flights, itineraries, accommodation and all the things that you need to do to plan an overseas holiday. This is my first trip to Asia and I hope it may help others. Comments are very welcome and anyone who has travelled to Malaysia and/or Cambodia, please feel free to comment and offer any advice or tips that you think would be helpful. As of today ( 28th February) , in exactly 11 days (minus 30 minutes) I will be in Kuala Lumpur.

I had the most amazing time and hope you enjoy reading about my trip. Each post is numbered and I'm doing them in order from start to finish - a little like a diary.



32. Scenes around Kuala Lumpur

The following photos were taken from the Tourist bus. I have done some as a collage rather than post too many individual ones - somehow it seems more interesting this way.

Above: KL Tower
Sitting in the bus I could see this tall striking looking tower looming up on the left hand side of the bus (lucky for me I was sitting on the left side wasn't it?) and thought how simply wonderful it looked with dark green foliage around it.

Above: Tower close-up
If you enlarge the photo you can see the detail in the underneath part of the pod. The tower (officially known as Menara Kuala Lumpur, but everybody refers to it as the KL Tower) was built in 1994 and it is used for telecommunication.

There's stairs and lifts to the top where you can enjoy a meal in the revolving restaurant. Each year so a lcoal told me, there's a race to see who can run up the stairs and get to the top first. You'd have to be very fit - it's like, 420 metres of stairs to run up!

Above: Coffee shops and strange shapes
Had I not been pushed for time, I'd really like to have stopped and had a coffee at this place, then taken a stroll around the Honolulu Club - I wondered why there was a the Totem Pole there. The three strange looking bark things made me think of the three wise monkeys for some reason. Taking a closer look they could be huts.

Above: Petronas Towers
I was really disappointed at not being able to spend time here or at least stand outside these magnificant towers and get a really good photo. Alas, I have to content myself with a silver coloured fridge magnet! (The magnet looks good I might add and each time I go to the fridge I am reminded of the great trip I had.)

You could say that the Petronas Twin Towers are to Malaysia what the Eiffel Tower is to France - an instantly recongisable symbol. They're one of the world's tallest buildings.

At a cost of $1.6 billion that's a lot of tower! They were designed by César Pelli and Djay Cerico, have 88 floors and are the tallest twin towers in the world.

Above: Fountain and foliage
Some more scenes of KL I saw from the bus window. The fountain is outside Pusat Konvensyen where major events are held. The bridge in the lower right hand side is an elevated viaduct for the KL Monorail while the Romanesque stone object on the middle right is.... an ashtray for smokers! I stood here later and thought how ingenius were the architects of this - so much nicer than a plain public rubbish bin.

31. KL Hop on bus

Above: Double Decker Tourist Bus
Coming out from the Tourism Centre there is a stop for the KL Hop-on/Hop-off Tourist bus just to the right of the entrance gate. The fares is MYR38 (approx AUD$12.50) I didn't have time to do a circuit so alightred at stop 6 as suggested by the ladies at the Info centre. The bus is comfortable and you climb up this narrow stairway to the top. There are headphones for translation, but I didn't use them I couldn't hear anything and it didn't bother me.

Above: Bus Route
This is the route for the Hop-on/Hop -off bus. Don't be fooled and think you'd be quicker than walking - it isn't true. It is a long way between stops. My stop was Number 6.

30. Malaysia Tourist Information

Walking a short way to the Information Centre I was struck by the lovely trees.

Above: Entrance Gate
The Information Centre was pretty and the entrance was welcoming. There were lovely plants and nice gardens.

Malaysia Tourism Centre
The building was white with columns and colonial type windows at the end of a path flanked by sculpted trees and timber seating. And was deliciously cool inside after the heat of the day. I asked the ladies there for advise on where to get a fish pedicure. Fish Spa is the correct name and they directed me to Berjaya Times Square. I did ask were there any others (I remember people back home had mentioned a few in and around Chinatown). Their response was yes, there were others, but the one in Berjaya was the one they would recommend - it was a big Spa and very clean.

Above: Tourist Gardens
This is just a small section of the beautifully laid gardens that surround the Info Centre.

Above: Water Fountain
This fountain was to the right in the building towards the front and you could hear the tinkling of water as it gently flowed.

Above: Bullock Cart/Kereta Lambu
The sign nest to the cart reads - The bullock cart which at one time was the main mode of transportation for the rich in Malacca, is unlike those found elsewhere. The carts are beautifully decorated, with bright colours and trappings and have the shape of a pointed roof, similar to the horn of a bull. The bullock carts are believed to have been introduced by the Indian merchants in Malacca Sultanate around the 15th century.

29. Kuala Lumpur - Getting Lost

Wasn't overly fond of KL, to me it was just a big, sprawling city. Then again, had I spent say four or five nights there, it may have been different. Arrived at KL Sentral on the bus from the airport and got lost finding the train I'd been advised to catch, finally found it - I had to travel four stops. And promptly became hopelessly lost again. So I legged it to a bus stop and ended up back where I was before. (KL Sentral)

Had I just caught the tourist hop-on/hop-off bus at Sentral, I'd have had more time, and I'd recommend for anyone who hasn't been there before, to get that bus and do the full circuit before getting off at any stops. I didn't have time for that. The driver told me the ticket was valid for the next day as well, but as I was flying out the next morning was unable to make use of that.

You see, one of the problems with KL Sentral is the roads are on different levels. The bus lets you off at one level, then you have to go up (or was it down) to the next level to catch the Tourist bus. Same with the trains, they aren't on the same level either. Very confusing, a little like Alice in Wonderland.☺

Anyway, on with my travels...

After becoming hopelessly lost for the second time, I found myself in a h u g e shopping complex - I declare there is nothing back home here in Oz that is anywhere near as big.

Above: Where Am I?
I almost had a crick in my neck as I gawped at the beautiful lines and floors above. What I thought amusing - here was I, an Australian from Australia, with New Zealand our nearest neighbour, thousands of miles away in Malaysia and there, right in front of me was... the New Zealand Natural shop! It is a small world isn't it?

Above: Suria KLCC
Finally, after exiting thie shopaholics delight and wondering where on earth I was, as I turned around, there right in front of me was the name - Suria KLCC.

I still had no idea where I was. I had wanted to see the Petronas Towers and get a pass to go to the bridge for the 360º view and was told you need to get there early for a pass and catching the train from Sentral would be far quicker than catching the Tourist Hop-on/Hop-off Bus. What with all the time I spent in limbo (read being lost) it was too late for that. So I abandoned that idea and decided to go to the Tourist Information Centre. Easier said than done. Here I was in a strange country, in a place I'd never been before with no knowledge of where I was or how to get to where I wanted to go. (Hence me saying earlier it's wiser to get the Tourist bus.)

Finding a bus stop and asking how to get to the Info Centre and being told to wait at bus stop number two, I did just that. The third bus that came along went there so I hopped on, and found they didn't have change so ended up getting a free ride! I asked the lady if she could let me know which was my stop. She did. I was relieved I had finally found where I needed to be.


28. Kuala Lumpur Airport

Thursday 11th March

Above: Our plane
Our flight arrived on time at LCCT airport in Kuala Lumpur at 6.35am and I had my first taste of Asia, and my first sight of Malaysia. I can tell you it was a most thrilling moment. Many passengers were taking photographs and we slowly made our way across the tarmac. Going through customs it was exciting to see my passport finally had a stamp on it. Surprisingly, the luggage didn't take very long to start coming down the baggage collection area.

Above: Sunrise Skies
A most beautiful sky tinged with salmon pink and orange filled the early morning as the sun was about to rise. Even though it was very early I could feel the heat and humidity and being unnacustomed realised the importance of drinking water - and plenty of it. The only downside given the copious amount of water was the need to find the loo!

Above: Early morning breakfast
I went to a cafe which had eggs on toast on their menu only to find after a goodly wait that eggs on toast were "not on today" and neither was anything else on that page.

So I made my way to the Oldtown White Coffee place and ordered a coffee. A helpful gent explained the different types of coffee and recommended I try "this one" - the one listed at the top.

Above: Malaysian Police
On my way to catch the free shuttle bus to the Tunes Hotel, I asked these two policemen if I could take a photo. The chap on the left seemed very happy and stuck out his chest, cradled his weapon and smiled winningly.

A few tips
a) For those who haven't travelled to Malaysia before, make sure you have plenty of cash. Credit cards may be good for hotel bills and car hire, but you cannot use a credit card at the airport - everyone wants cash only. In most shops and businesses they do not take credit cards either, although one of the larger supermarket type places would take a credit card provided the amount was over MYR 10. Also, the duty free shop at LCCT airport will accept credit cards only if the amount is over MYR 50. The advice I had been given back home to take cash and pay for everything by credit card proved not to be very good advice at all.

b) Buy a large bottle of water, it works out far more cost effective. I had two or three smaller sized bottle (around 500 - 600 ml) and tipped water from the larger one into these.

c) Free shuttle buses are advertised as taking you to/from LCCT to Tunes Hotel, but the driver of the free shuttle (there was a large sign in the front window) refused to take me. I found this very annoying and waited for the next shuttle - the same thing happened. In the end I had to get on the non free bus and pay my fare to the hotel.

d) After depositing luggage at the hotel, you then need to catch a bus back to LCCT in order to get a bus to Kuala Lumpur.

During the flight, Air Asia crew sell bus tickets to Kuala Lumpur (from memory it was either MYR9 or MYR 13. Their buses are red and have Air Asia written on the side. Their employees wear red T shirts.

27. Flying Out - My Journey Begins

Wednesday 10th March

Above: Tullamarine Airport Melbourne
My journey begins and I arrived at Tullamarine (colloquially called "Tulla" by us locals) in time, saw my baggage through, showed my boarding pass and received my ticket. Airports are busy places even though it was around 10.30pm it was alive with the hustle and bustle of a busy shopping centre with people milling about pushing luggage trolleys, saying farewells and buying last minute items.

Above: The cabin crew
As I waited in the lounge near the boarding gate, I met the cabin crew, who kindly posed with me for photos. They were a lovely, friendly group and the chap in the left hand side of the photo was a real trooper - his name is Achilles and he wrote down some Malay phrases with the English equivalent. Words/phrases like
Terima kasih - Thank you
Selamat pagi - Good morning
Selamat malam - Good night
Sama sama - You're welcome

He explained if someone says "Terima kasih", you reply "Sama sama"

Above: The "Pointy End" of the plane
I was seated in the "economy" section - there were three seats on the left, three in the middle and three on the right. I was in an aisle seat in the middle on the right side and could see ahead into the "pointy end" - where the toffs and well to do folk sit. They have wider seats - two on the left, three in the middle and two on the right. But for all that they get treated the same as us "poor plebs" behind!

Above: Nap Time...zzz zz
After everybody had been fed and watered (read meals and drinks) it was time to sleep. The seats don't recline (although Air Asia are going to change this some time in 2010) but they were not uncomfortable. I noticed the chap in the seat on the right had moved and his girlfriend was lying down across three seats. Asking a crew member if I could do this and being told "Yes" I walked down the plane only to find I had left it too late. There were many bodies lying across three seats. (Obviously there were many empty seats).

Above: Comfort Kit
I bought one of these on the plane. It costs MYR 35.00 (approx AUD$11.60) which is far cheaper than purchasing a similar item in Australia. I didn't use the eye mask, but the cushion and blanket came in very handy. Weighing a mere 510 grams the three items roll up and fit into the red bag which has two drawstings "handles"

Above: Where we are
On the back of each seat is a screen - you can pay MYR30 to be entertained...movies, television shows, play games, listen to music, go shopping etc. I didn't see anyone use this service. Just the normal screen which shows announcements and also where on the globe the plane is. It was actually exciting to see how close we were to our destination and made the trip seem more "real"


26. 12 Hours To Go

Well, the time is slowly drawing ever closer. It's 12.05pm here in Melbourne and early today I checked in online and printed my boarding pass. I tried to buy a meal for one of my other flights but Air Asia's website is up the creek - I keep getting a page saying, "Oops the page you were loooking for has taken flight" and to please check their new web page. It would be good if I actually was taken to their new web page, but it doesn't happen.

Ringing Air Asia didn't help either - the nice gentleman said I couldn't book a meal because my flight was less than 24 hours away. Fine! I tried again, this time for my KL>Siem Reap flight which is on Friday (12 March) but no salada - same thing "Oops the page has taken flight" etc. etc. etc.

The inflateable pillow they sell which I tried to buy is "Currently out of stock" as is the Air Asia suitcase tags, the travel pack (pillow, blanket and mask), and travel pouch. When I mentioned this to the Air Asia representative, he informed me although the website says they're out of stock, when I go to the checkin counter I can buy it from them. I hope this is correct - and that it's the same price as online.

Did the cash passport thingy today - $15 charge, it turns out the lady down the road (different company) charges less - $3 or $4 less. Anyway, asked for US$200 - that'll be AUD$246 please. What? I checked it online and the AUD amount is
$218.567 - 1 US dollar is 1.09283 AUD. She told me the exchange rate was 86 cents - big difference. I must look into this later and see why.

My suitcase is almost packed, just a few bits and pieces to go in. After that it's off to pay a bill, buy another SD memory card for my camera, then hair cut at the hairdressers, go to work, come home, check that I haven't forgotten anything and cook a "nice dinner please mum" for Junior. I hope he'll be satisfied with pasta, although I would have prefferd meat and vegies though.

One thing I did do and I'm quite proud of myself - I finally did my room - folded all the clothes I'd left scattered everywhere, picked up the bits and pieces, threw out the papers I didn't need, sorted other papers into a nice, neat pile and placed it on the bedside table. And plonked the red teddy bear on top of it. All ready to be sorted and filed when I come home. But...and thsi is very important, at least my bedroom looks like a "normal" room again. I even made the bed, and best of all, now when I stand in the doorway, I see - carpet.

Time is now 10.07pm - 3 hours to go
The suitcase is all packed, all I need to do is get changed - I'm leaving this to the last minute as it's cold here and I'll be wearing very light clothing. Son is on his way to pick me up and take me to the airport. I'm looking forward to this trip, but I fell very nervous at the same time.


25. Luggage

Back in 2004, I started off with the biggest suitcase - a 71cm bright blue one from the Reject shop. Didn't cost all that much and it lasted. I thought being large, instead of each of us having a suitcase we could share. I learnt though that that is not the brightest of ideas. Much better to have something smaller for each of us.

So, then I "downsized" to a 64cm one. This was better, but it's amazing how heavy they are to lug around - I speak from experience. Ever pulled a hefty 64cm tractor on rollers around New Zealand? The weight of it empty was 4.3 kg. Decided for my FNQ trip to "downsize" further - this time I bought a duffle bag on wheels. The sales lady assured me yes it would stand up and no it would not fall over.

Sadly to say, she lied. The damned thing toppled over and wouldn't stand up no matter what I did. Admittedly it was lighter than my 64cm job, but it was a real Pain having to hold onto the stupid thing. Ever been waiting in line to check in or sitting waiting for the bus but not being able to sit comfortable because you have this duffle bag falling over like a drunken sailor?

It was one thing to be having a duffel that wouldn't stand by itself, and I realise there was no way I could hack carting the thing around Malaysia and Cambodia in all that heat! It'd be unbearable. Well at least to me.☺

The Great Search
So - then began the "great search". I'd seen fellow travellers with 55cm suitcases and this was what I was aiming for. The only problem was, in the past luggage companies made them in four sizes - 71cm, 64cm, 55cm, and 46cm. Now I find that Antler (no doubt to cut costs) have "downsized" themselves - they no longer make a 55cm and 46cm. Most of their new range is 71cm, 64cm and 51cm. The 51cm size is just too small (I have their 46cm one) and this holds buggerall. Get a toiletries bag, a pair of thongs and a couple of tshirts and it's full. For the benifit of the reader, in Australia thongs re worn on the feet. What some people call flipflops, or jandals if you're from NZ.

I'd have liked to get Antler's new Aeon Air which weighed only 3.6kg but it didn't come in 55cm.

Trolley Suitcase 55cm
I did find the Litestream II still came in the full range, so it was off we go - went from shop to shop and store to store. Seems like it's a popular size and many luggage shops had sold out of it. But I was in luck eventually and found one.

Then I decided to get a proper piece of luggage for "carry on". In the past, I've had an assortment of different things, usually I wear a lightweight backpack on the plane, but of course every time you want something, it's undo the straps take it off, unzip, rezip put it back on etc. etc.

Hand Luggage
This is what I was looking for. Myer has 40% off at the time which was a bonus, and this was the last one left. Lucky me! I was thrilled to finally have something I really liked. The bag is actually the beauty case - the flight bag was similar, but a little larger with only one zip and didn't have the compartments of the beauty case. The only downside (for me) I would've preferred the openings to have two zips that meet in the middle whereas zips go all the way around and open/close at the bottom of the bag. It's probably been designed this say for security as you can lock the zips.

Still, I am very pleased with both my purchases, and when I was packing the "flight" bag at the weekend and deciding where to place things, I felt like a proper tourist/traveller - all because I had the "right" luggage! Isn't that silly eh? I used to see other passengers at airports and noticed the luggage they carried on board and always wished I had something like that.

Luggage Set
I like how the little bag goes over the handle and both can be wheeled together as one item.

Lightweight Backpack
The flight bag is for travel but after arriving and checking into accommodation, I'll be taking a backpack. This one is very lightweight and has a waist strap which is very good because it takes the weight off your shoulders. I bought this one when I was in Cairns in 2008 and it's fantastic for travelling around.

A Word of Warning
People have advised me not to wear a backpack as you can get your stuff stolen. People come behind and slit the bottom of your back and then whoosh! everything falls out and by the time you're aware if it, it's too late. Somebody suggested to me to place a piece of cardboard on the bottom of the bag so if someone did open it with a knife, the cardboard would help stop things from falling out.

Have also been advised - don't keep in your backpack anything you can't afford to lose. So - no passport, camera, keys, money, credit cards, etc in there. (That's why you have a money belt) Camera has a long strap and can be worn around the neck or thread your belt through the belt loop on the case.

Drink bottle, maps, tourist brochures, smokes, sunscreen insect repellent etc can all go in the backpack.


24. Cash Monies & Emergencies

The following advice was given to me, otherwise I wouldn't have been aware of this.

ATM's in Cambodia dispense USD cash
ATM's in Cambodia dispense USD cash and Cambodian currency is the Riel, but most Cambodians use US dollars as well as their own currency. You'll probably find that even the small shops quote prices in US dollars. For a conversion, 1 US dollar is equal to approx. 4,000 Riels. Although you may pay in US money, you may find you are given Riels in change.
Remember this - it is illegal to take Riels out of the country so try to use them up before you leave. It wouldn't be much fun being stopped at the airport and hauled back cos you "forgot" about the half dozen Riels in your pocket! Having to provide an explanation which may or may not be believed isn't my idea of a fun thing and I don't relish the thought of languishing in a Cambodian gaol while they decide whether I made an honest mistake!

Crisp Notes in Small Denominations
Also, with US Dollars, take some from home from a bank and make sure most of it is in small denominations - $1, $5, and $10 notes. Another thing to be careful of make sure the notes you have are crisp and clean - there are plenty of places who'll reject notes for the slightest mar yet give you the dirtiest, tattiest local notes in return.

Malaysian Currency
You won't need US dollars in Malaysia - if I happen to have any left over from Cambodia, I'll have to exchange them.
Tip - If you're YHA member change your money at Travelex - members don't pay commission.

The Malysian currency is the Ringitt, and 3 MYR is around AUD$1. So all I need to remember to calculate the price of something is to divide the MYR (Malaysian Ringitt) price by 3. For example, a meal is 10 MYR - that's around $3.30 in Aussie currency. Here is a useful Currency Converter.

Alternative Credit Card
If you are going to use a credit card you can get another card issued, with a different 16 digit account number, to the one you use at home and have a smaller credit limit on it, say $2,000. This has the advantage that if your credit card should get lost or stolen, there is less to lose in money terms, plus you will have your "usual" credit card to fall back on. The only problem with this is it takes at least 12 to 14 days before you receive the card and I was only given this advice two days ago. Had I known earlier, I would have organised it.

Keep Cash In Different Locations
With cash money, it is wise not to have it all in the one spot. Keep it in different places - some in your money belt, some in your pocket and some in your suitcase. That way if one lot gets stolen, you still have cash at your disposal.

What To Do In Case Of Theft
You should report the theft asap at least within 24 hours, to the nearest police station and get a written report - this is important. Contact your travel insurance company and report it within 24 hours. You will need the written report to make a claim. This applies to any item that is lost or stolen, regardless of what it is.

Telephone Numbers
Have the telephone numbers of the police/tourist police, hospital, emergency, travel insurance numbers with you of the places you will be travelling to, this way you have them on hand in the event that something should happen and you need to make contact in a hurry. It is also a good idea to add the public transport numbers (bus/train) as well.

NOTE - I have just discovered there are no Travelex locations in Malaysian or Cambodia at present.


23. Documents, Passports and Personal Effects

Make Copies of All Your Documents

Advice given is make two copies of everything, but I would go one step further and say make three copies of everything. Leave one copy at home with family and take two copies with you. Keep them in a place separate to each other and the originals - that way if you lose one copy you still have another.

Keep Your Passport Safe
Passports are a very valuable commodity - and the last thing you want is to end up in a foreign country only to find it has been stolen. Keep your passport with you at all times (in your money belt) or, if your accommodation has a safe, keep it in there.

In your money belt
Keep your passport, credit cards, drivers licence, eftpos/Visa cards, and cash. Also keep some cash elsewhere - in a pocket and in your suitcase. If one lot of cash goes "missing" you will still have cash elsewhere.

Money, Credit Cards and Other Forms of Currency

I have chosen not to have travellers cheques. The forms of currency I will have are -
Credit Card,
Eftpos cards (2)
Cash Passport
Cash (US dollars)

With credit cards, although they are handy, each time you make a purchase, be it a meal, transport, hotel bed or souvenir, it will attract fees. These fees are
a) Currency Conversion Assessment Fee - 0.2% of transaction
b) Cross Border Assessment Fee - 0.8% of transaction
c) International Transaction Fee - 1.5% of transaction.

All this means for each and every transaction, in other words every time you use your card you will have a fee of 2.5% added. For example, you buy an item at 150MYR (Malaysian Ringitts) it is converted to your local currency, in this case Aussie dollars which is (roughly) AUD$50, 2.5% of that $50 is $1.25, so you pay not $50, but $51.25. This may not seem like a lot, but when you total all the things you have used your credit card for it does. Let's say you spent $2,000 whilst on your trip - add $50.00 for the "fees."

Cash Passport
With a Cash Passport you can either have it as an eftpos card and will be charged $3.75 each time you withdraw cash. You can also have it as an eftpos card and a credit card. When you have the credit card facility, you do not get charged any fees for making transactions - only if you withdraw cash. To my way of thinking, that's a better deal.
There is a fee when you put money onto the cash passport - 1.1%.

Initially, I wasn't going to get the cash passport, but after ringing Mastercard, I was told if my credit card was lost or stolen it would take at least 5 - 7 working days minimum to replace it. Pretty bad if you hadn't any cash. With the cash passport you get two cards and should one get stolen, they will close the account and either send you new cards (5 - 7 days) or express post you cash, which takes around 4 hours.

22. Six Days To Go

I don't seemed to have accomplished much more since writing here on Wednesday. Most of the morning saw me at a shopping complex doing last minute things like returning something that didn't fit and searching for a long sleeved light cotton blouse. I didn't find the blouse but - I did find two great little sleeveless tops reduced to $13. They are perfect for what I need - loose and cool.

Although I did buy the flight socks, I didn't buy the headbands or the inflateable pillow - the pillows are sold on the aircraft, albiet maybe not the same quality but they'll probably do the job just as well.

Thursday saw me making enquiries about cash passports, credit cards and eftpos cards, and buying that sun/rain folding umbrella. I chose the one with the highest UPF (UV Protection Factor) - UPF 30. My suitcase has most of the things I need in it - just need to pack it properly.


21. Eight Days To Go

Yes, there are only eight more days left and I'll be in Malaysia, well..I won't actually be in Malaysia, we'll still be flying over an expanse of ocean or maybe land or something.

Realising I hadn't packed, sorted, shopped or even started, I set myself two goals yesterday - have all my travel documents (including copies) in the wallet and in my flight bag (it isn't really a flight bag, it's a "beauty case" - the flight bag was larger and only had one zip, the "beauty" bag has two zipped sections with pockets including one mesh inside plus another rounded section at the front also zipped. Nice comfortable handle plus a shoulder strap, And best of all, Myer had a sale on - 40% off so that worked out rather well.

Anyway back to my goals - have all my travel documents in the flight bag, and have the toiletries bag packed.

With the first, it was a case of printing out some copies I still hadn't done, then sorting them into three lots. The toiletries bag involved shopping and getting prescriptions filled. I nearly fell over when the chemist lady said, "That'll be $108 please. A hundred and eight dollars? I needed shampoo and conditioner anyway, so there's $32, plus a travel toothbrush - so much smaller than a regular one, toothpaste, 2 lots of lip balm with 30+ sunscreen, tropical strength insect repellent with DEET, sunscreen, little tissue packs, (six for $2.49 - nine in each pack), a brush with mirror (my old one broke yeasr ago), powder, cream for hot weather and that was about it. Oh, and also denture cleaning tablets.

Often when I prepare for a trip, I get mixed up with the three plastic bottles - shampoo, conditioner and hand cream. When I went to Darwin in 2006, I realised I was washing my hair with hand cream and massaging shampoo into my hands. Determined not to make the same mistake again, I washed the remains out, let them drain, then refilled them. And this time there's no getting mixed up - the orange one holds conditioner (there's an 'o' in orange and an 'o' in conditioner, the pink one- there's a 'p' in pink and in shampoo. The white one is for hand cream, because hand cream is usully white. Below is the toiletries bag I have plus the travel brush.

Hanging Toiletries Bag
Although a little on the bulky side, this bag is good for the fact you can hang it up whilst in the shower and the inner section also comes out.

Tavel Hairbrush
These brushes are good - they can be used on wet hair and the whole thing folds down to a more compact size. The mirror comes in handy as well.

I am just adding this to say - thank goodness we can "edit" - on reading what I had typed there were several "typos". I can spell you know, just not all that good at typing!


20. Travel Accessories

There are travel accessories which are essential, depending on your destination and after asking, and receiving advice from others who have travelled to Asia, I knew one of the most important things was a money belt. There are two types - one you wear around your neck, the other around your waist. I preferred the waist one as it's out of sight and more comfortable especially in a hot, humid climate.

Be carfeul of the one you buy - some only have one zip, others have two. One shop had three moneybelts - all in varying prices. The cheapest one was cheap and nasty - one zip, no compartments and no clip to tie the belt. Ditto the second one. The third wasn't much better. Kathmandu carry good quality ones and currently have a 3 for 2 offer - buy three items get one free.

Travel Accessories
These are the items I needed, the money belt comes in two colours - I bought the light tan. Depending on which country you are travelling to, chances are you will need an adaptor as not all countries use the same electrical plugs. The one above is Europe - fortunately both Cambodia and Malaysia use the same. Keyless padlocks are preferable, keys can get lost or stolen.

Other Travel Accessories
Considering the flight to KL is 8 hours, I'm a little concerned about swollen ankles. The longest flight I've taken till now has been 4 hours and I find when I'm sitting for long periods my ankles do swell and become quite puffy. Although I do rotate my feet and do exercises on planes, still 8 hours is a long time. Doc suggested flight socks, which I had been debating about when I was at Kathmandu. The Magic Cool Wrap also interested me - you dip the wrap in water and place it around your head - sort of like a Karate Kid headband. Salesman said they stay cool for a couple of hours. They come in a pack of two and the second one could go around the neck - this might be a good way of combating the humidity. If I buy these (and I'm pretty sure I will) I might just as well choose a third item - buy three pay for two, so the cushion is free.

Travel Expenses
Money Belt - $17.93
Combilock 4 Dial - $14.99
Adaptor Plug Europe -$9.74
Total =

Snooze cushion - $17.24
Magic Cool Wrap - $22.49
Flight Socks - Anti DVT - $17.99

19. Smart Traveller - Travel Advisory and Consular Information Service

When travelling overseas, you should check the government website for travel advice to your chosen destination. In Australia the website is Smart Traveller. There are five levels -
1. Be alert to own security
2. Exercise caution
3. High degree of caution
4. Reconsider your need to travel
5. Do not travel.

This is an excellent website for it gives current information and advises on any dangers, scams, climate and what to look out for.

They also encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade before travel.

This is a very good website and I registered online at the weekend. Print two copies.

18. Food - Malaysia, Malacca

This will be the last post dedicated to food, at least until I've gone and come back and can write of the wonderful adventures I'm going to have!

Melacca is where I'll be for the last three nights. There are places that serve ethnic Portuguese/Malaysian dishes, although I have an idea Portuguese food may be a little spicy but then again I could be wrong so will have to enquire when I get there. Someone said Melacca is famous for its Hainanese chicken rice - I gather Hainanese is a style/type of cooking and was advised to ask for the real stuff and not Nonya stuff as lots of those things use coconut milk and are hot.

Have also been advised to try the roti canai wherever I am and ask them to put in an egg (tellur) and onions (bawal) - it's a south Indian bread.

Melacca Dining
a) Hainanese chicken rice
b) Roti canai

It seems like a rather short list doesn't it - compared to the other ones. Still, I get a full English breakfast at my accommodation so that's pretty good - at least I'll have a full stomach to start my days adventures.


17. Food - Malaysia, Cameron Highlands (Tanah Rata)

Next stop is Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands. Although small in comparison with KL and Penang, Tanah Rata appears to be the largest of the hill stations/towns in the CH and has quite a number of eating places.

Hot pot Chinese style steamboat (chicken stock) which is served with a wide selection of locally grown vegetables and mushrooms sounds delicious, and there are road side fruit stalls selling local fruits - star fruit (carambolla), guava, tree tomatoes, Malayan apples (jambu ayer), mandarin oranges, pomelo, custard apples, chikus,(sapodillos), pineapples, water melons and mangoes.

When I was in Cape Trib I went to an exotic fruit farm and tasted delicious tropical fruits, and I really liked the pomelos and mangosteens, but I'm not sure if mangosteen will be in season when I'm in Malaysia. I have it on good authority not to try durian - it is, I'm told, an acquired taste and has a unique odour which many find overpowering and offensive. It's been banished from some hotels and public transport in S/E Asia. In other words, if you eat durian, do so at your own peril - if you eat it everyone will know - they'll be able to smell you a mile off!

Strawberries with clotted cream eaten in front of a blazing fire. I'm told there are several places that serve this - Bala Chalet, T Cafe and the Olde Smokehouse Inn Hotel.

To sum up Tanah Rata dining
a) Hot pot Chinese style steamboat
b) Tropical fruit locally grown
c) Strawberries with clotted cream - Balas, T Cafe and the Old Smokehouse.
d) Tea from the local tea plantations.

16. Food - Malaysia, Penang

Now we move onto Penang, the "Pearl of the Orient" - noted for it's wonderful array of foods and said to be the best place in Malaysia for food. There's complexes, street hawkers, shopping malls and a wonderful array of restaurants. Gurney Mall is fancy with many food outlets.
Above: Asam Laksa
This is a Penang speciality

I do intend to go to the E & O Hotel in Georgetown and either have a meal or maybe afternoon tea. The E & O (Eastern and Oriental) is to Penang what Raffles is to Singapore. Raffles may be known for its "gin slings", but the E & O is known for its colonial charm and fine traditions. Someone living in Penang said they do a marvelous buffet lunch with a "dazzleing variety of dishes for a very modest price" - sounds good to me.

I have visions of sitting among the potted palms, beautiful antique dècor, white damask table linen and sparkling crystal and silverware eating from delicate fine bone china and sipping tea from an equally delicate fine bone china teacup! (Well a girl can dream),

Anyway, getting back to the point - in Love Lane where I'm staying, there's a night food market and a "hole in the wall" place that does good noodles.

I've just been checking out the E & O and one of their dining areas is Farquhar’s Bar which according to their website has traditional pub fare with a slice of colonial Malaya - Hearty Pub Grub 11.00am - 11.00pm daily, including Fish & Chips, Bangers & Mash, Steak & Kidney Pie, Ploughman's Lunch and Shepherd's Pie. Yes, I know it's "Western" food, but it sounds lovely and what a story I'll have to recount - how I went to one of the most famous hotels and ate the most deliciously glorious meal, etc. etc. etc. Seems one should make a reservation, so I'd have to call them, 04 - 222 2000 ext. 3177. Will ask at the place I'm staying.

The City Bayview Hotel next door and Cititel Hotel coffee house buffet resturant a couple of kms away also offer great buffet lunches. But I think I'll stick with the E & O. The Salsa Resturant on the second floor of the Continental Hotel have "tim sum" or semi western menu buffet lunch for about US$5.

So, for Penang we have
a) The E & O for buffet lunch
b) Gurney Mall
c) Night Food Market opposite Love Lane
d) Noodles
e) Tim sum at the Continental Hotel.

15. Food - Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur

Pondering the question of "What to eat in Malaysia which won't send me running to the nearest water well to rid the burning sensation in my mouth" saw me asking advice on this gastronomic adventure.

Grilled meats and fish was one of the first answers. Evidently Chinatown in KL is good and someone said they had very good Chinese in KL which was very fresh and that it was on a corner in the same block as the Swiss Inn hotel (not the market end), had very cold cheap beer plus a couple of "extrordinarily bad con men". This is good to know - just be on the lookout for the Swiss Inn hotel, people guzzling beer and some dodgy characters hanging around!

Northern Indian food so I've been informed, is less spicy than Southern Indian and Muslim Indian food. Methinks I'll just stay clear of any Indian food - went to a lovely Indian restaurant with friends a couple of years ago, was advised by Frank and Wayne who are great cooks, which dish was the least spicy. Ordered it and found that I still couldn't hack it. Picked out the bits of beef and tried wiping the sauce stuff off with my knife, but the taste - and heat - lingered. I did eat the roti bread though, or mabye it was naan.

So, Chinese cuisine, and if I do eat Malaysian foods stay away from sambals. This is good to know - don't go near the sambal. Hmm..."Don't go near the sambal" sounds like the name of a song.

The food at KL airport is said to be very good, something called Laksa at a noodle place. I'll have to look into this. Also Hainanese chicken.

You may recall I mentioned Ikan bilis - just found out it is dried anchovies.

Eating in Kuala Lumpur
a) Chinatown
b) Near Swiss Inn Hotel for noodles
c) LCCT airport - Hainanese chicken?
d) Buy food staples for emergencies.

14. A Smoker's Conundrum - What Brand ?

Remembering my trip to NZ and finding my brand of cigarettes weren't sold there, and then having to find another brand which I liked, I posed the question, "Is Longbeach available in Malaysia?" to which the reply was no, only the common international US and UK brands and a bunch of local Asian ones. Definitely no popular Aussie brands like Alpine or Longbeach, not even Peter Jacksons. Oh great! That means that I now have to find yet another brand of smokes. Which led me to ask about menthol - can you get menthol over there? A mate sent me two links showing the availability and range, which I made into a collage as shown below.

Oh, and before anyone gets on their soapbox with "smoking is bad for your health" - I don't drink whisky and I don't chase wild men.

Cigarettes in Malaysia
The Alibaba one - 222, is menthol - clove scented. Now way Josè! So let's look at some of the others on offer. Reading from the link provided -

Dunhill is very popular, available in Menthol, Menthol Lights and Lights. Daughter used to smoke these, so perhpas they'll fit the bill.

Then there's Salem. I remember many years ago the ad on television "You can take Salem out of the country, buuuuuuut you can't take the country out of Saaaaaalem"

Salem 1970's Ad

Next up is Marlborough - I remember trying these yonks ago, rough as guts, so they're definitely out!

Mild Seven doesn't appear to come in menthol, but I quite liked the description - "They have this habit of opening up the soft pack, taking one cigarette out, and putting it back in upside down. That cigarette is known as "shu yuen yen" or "wishing cigarette" and it would be the very last one from the pack to be smoked. It is said that making a wish while lighting up that one would fulfill that wish. Smoker's etiquette dictates that you should NEVER smoke the last cigarette in someone else's pack. This applies more strongly for those who keep a "shu yuen yen", you shouldn't ever smoke it. I once accidentally took that one from a half full pack (it's upside down, so it should be clearly visible) and smoked it and was reprimanded for my transgression. That upside down cigarette is meant for the owner of the pack."

Hmm..I must remember that one and try it out.☺

So now we move onto Kent - no menthol.

Pall Mall - Comes in menthol, but only one kind. No lights, extra lights etc.

Perilly's - "To be honest, this tastes disgusting to me. It doesn't sound all that good either. You can't spell "Perilly's" without "Peril". Heh."
Hmmm - enough to put anyone off that would.

Lucky Strike I always think of this as belonging to a time way back before I was born and being smoked by soldiers in England for some reason. Guess I must have been watching too many movies!

Winston Like Pall Mall, only one type of menthol AFAIK.

L.A. Menthol Lights This sounded like it might be just the thing - until I read the description. "It's an ultra slim cigarette, called "geh boh hong ki" (prostitute's cigarettes) over here. The etymology of this word apparently stems from the popularity of this brand amongst working ladies in Miri."
Somehow, I don't think I'll try these.

Gudang Garam and Djarum Clove cigarettes - no, no, and no.

Rave Popular among blue collar workers - it's cheap.

Someone did suggest the "herbal" kind - clove scented cigarettes - no thanks, they're on the "yuk" list. However from what people have said, Air Asia X sells duty free cigarettes and alcohol on board at the same price as in the KLIA LCCT. A carton of duty free smokes 10 packs of 20s cost RM64 duty free - about AUD$22. That's certainly much, much cheaper than over here.

So, from the list provided, it looks like I'll be going for the Dunhill.
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