Month: September 2012

Oktoberfest in Penang is coming – Oktoberfest kommt!

2014 UPDATE:

I notice this page is currently quite popular – but it is from two years ago. Please see Penang MGS Oktoberfest 2014

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Germans are so keen to get started with Oktoberfest they celebrate in September. Which is good business for the German bands and girls in dirndl, because after they can come to places like Penang so we can celebrate Oktoberfest in October, with some authenticity.

Every year Oktoberfest becomes more popular in Penang – at least with restaurants and bars, because it gives a good excuse to try to attract patrons. But the patrons seem to like it too, and it is indeed more popular.

In my area of Penang the Oktoberfests I am aware of are – and with photos from previous years:

E & O Hotel –  October 25th from 7PM.  Details. Last year I went and it was great fun, with a German band and tasty food and German and local beer, and wine.  The price was RM120 last year, RM148 per person this year.

Malaysian German Society (MGS) – October 26th & 27th  from 7PM. It is probably the original Oktoberfest in Penang as it’s been celebrating for 40 years. Very popular and lots of fun. I have been for several years and always enjoy it.  There is a Bavarian band, lots of German food etc. RM30 at door to enter, cheaper for pre-purchase.  You pay separately for drinks and food.

ladies drinking competition

And Gurney Paragon has an advertisement on Facebook. As Facebook is often unreachable (at least using Telekom Malaysia’s Internet connection, I have copied it here.

Morganfields there at Paragon, from 24th September to 24th October have a promotion they call PORK*TOBERFEST.  Ugh. They also have beer deals, such as 5 pints for RM110 nett; 3 pints of Carlsberg for RM50 nett etc.

I am planning on attending the first two, the E&O followed by the MGS – which will keep me busy for three nights running.  I may even look in at paragon on October 4th.

And any new information I get will be added.

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Malaysia’s Jungle Line – (Malacca to) Gemas to Kota Baru by train – AKA Circling Malaysia by rail (mostly) 3/4

Malaysian rail network

Update February, 2017

It has been raining a lot and there has been much flooding and thus disruption in these areas.  The text immediately below I copied from…http://www.travel-penang-malaysia.com/ktmb-train-schedule.html

Jungle Line Intercity Trains

Unfortunately the scenic “Jungle Railway Line” in Malaysia has had a lot of disruption over the last year or so.

Firstly, all daytime trains were stopped while much needed maintenance was carried out.

Then massive flooding in the north-east of Malaysia caused major damage to railway tracks and railway bridges.

This repair work is still ongoing, so very few trains are running and none are running all the way.

From the south there is just one train a day that travels as far as Gua Musang.

From the north there are just shuttle trains as far south as Kemubu.

For the latest information we suggest you contact the KTMB call centre on 1-300-88-5862.

End of update.

Planning:

The plan was to catch a taxi from Malacca to Gemas, have breakfast if time, and then board the train for Wakaf Baru, the station near Kota Baru, where we would spend the night.  There is only one day time train a day, and so if you wish to see the scenery you have no choice but to take it. It only has second class carriages. They are in worse condition than the west coast trains.

Malacca to Gemas.

As there is no train line to Malacca, the branch line having been destroyed during World War 2, and having had no desire to spend the night in Gemas, we found ourselves having to catch a taxi early in the morning to Gemas Station.  There may be a bus, but I wouldn’t reply on being able to get to Gemas on time for the train. And as the train comes from Singapore there is no good train connection from Kuala Lumpur to meet this train.

Google Maps showed the following about the route by road from Malacca to Gemas:

  • Route 1 91.4 km, 1 hour 32 mins
  • Lebuh Amj and Route 1 89.2 km, 1 hour 36 mins N15

The taxi stand in Melaka Sentral quoted us RM140 to Gemas, and a driving time of up to two hours.

The Jungle Line – Gemas to Kota Baru:

Train 14 to Kota Baru [Wakaf Baru] (EKSPRES SINARAN TIMUR  17-Sep-2012 09:38 17-Sep-2012 18:52) is scheduled to depart at 9.38 from Gemas.

The other question is where to alight the train. There is no actual station at Kota Baru. This is what The man in Seat 61 says:

“Which station for Khota Bharu?  The closest station to Khota Bahru is Wakaf Bharu, about 5 km (3 miles) away.  A taxi from Wakaf Bharu to Khota Bharu costs around 12 Ringgits.  However, if you want to travel more cheaply by bus, there’s a better and more frequent bus service from Pasir Mas, 19km from Khota Bharu.  Buses run from Pasir Mas to Khota Bahru every 15-20 minutes from 06:45 to 19:00 from a bus station just 100 metres from Pasir Mas railway station.  If you want to complete the whole train journey to Tumpat, no problem, buses also link Tumpat with Khota Bharu every 45 minutes 06:45-19:30.  Bus information for all these routes is at www.cityliner.com.my, select ‘Kelantan’ then ‘Khota Bharu’ as your location.
Heading into Thailand?  Bus 29 runs every half hour from Khota Bahru bus station near the central market via Pasir Mas to the Thai/Malay border point at Rantau Panjang, fare 5 ringgits (£1), distance 45 km, journey time about 1 hour.  A taxi will cost about 17 ringgits.  Walk across the border from Rantau Panjang (Malay side) to Sungai Kolok (Thai side) and keep walking straight on for 800m to Sungai Kolok Railway station for trains to Hat Yai, Surat Thani & Bangkok. “
As most Malaysian trains do not have a dining car or even trolley service, we brought some food and water which we’d bought in Malacca the night before.
We booked a hotel in Kota Baru in advance as the train was scheduled to arrive around 7PM, which was a little late to be hunting around for a hotel.

The Trip:

We had  a taxi booked for 7AM, as we were told it could take up to two hours.  We were told the going rate was RM140, but were charged RM120 as the hotel managed a discount for us. As the traffic was light, it being a holiday, it took only one hour 20 minutes.

So we had over an hour to explore Gemas and the station, and to breakfast.  Most of Gemas was still closed at 8.20, and there did not appear to be so much to see anyway, but The Curry Point was open, and busy.

a great place for breakfast

We asked for Dosa,and a cup of coffee each, and the dosa was delicious. Cost for both of us, RM5.80.

dosa

Gemas station also has a cafe, but we were too full to even properly look in. It was open by 9AM, though.

Gemas station has a new platform, but all prospective passengers waited on the old platform until the train was shunted in to the new one, and then the way was opened for us to enter the new platform and board the train.

old platform

The main rail line is electrified, but the Jungle line uses diesel locomotives, so changing locomotives took time.  The train was only three carriages long, and they were all second class. Not long after boarding the train it departed, at about 9.45AM.

new platform and train

The point of this trip is to see the wonderful scenery. There is a report by a traveller on the The man in Seat 61 web page, which is what enticed me to make the trip in the first place. But as we continued to travel along the line, what we saw was mainly palm oil plantations, or land that was cleared, presumably for more palm oil plantations.

By 15.00 this had not changed, and we were still passing by the palm oil plantations or the devastated cleared land. This was disappointing.

There was a trolley on the train with snacks and sweet drinks, but no actual food.  It was wheeled through the train a couple of times, but was kept in the last carriage. We were happy we’d brought our own supplies.

At around 15.15 we arrived at Chegar Perah, little suspecting that we would spend the next 2 1/2 hours there. Of course, it was not announced, and even if you ask the conductor you don’t get much of an answer.  Apparently there was some breakdown somewhere up the line, and we were kept in a siding until other trains had passed. It is only a single line, with some sidings along the way for passing.

We amused ourselves watching the cows, goats and hens with their chicks wander past the train. The goats could actually walk on the rails without falling off.

goats walking along the rails at Chegar Perah

We walked around the train. Looked at the cows.

cows crossing the lines to where the grass is greener

There was a shop we found, by watching other people go there, but it wasn’t selling any food or drinks we were interested in.

the siding on the left, and the main line on the right

We got too hot outside and sat in our seats, as the air conditioning was still on.  A couple of trains went past in the opposite direction. We tried to sleep. Eventually around 17.40 the train moved off.

we finally move off

And from now the scenery improved.

At 18.45 we arrived in Gua Musang, and the train shunted into a siding again, and we waited for perhaps 30 minutes while trains passed by going  in the other direction.

It seemed to us that the train controllers had decided our train’s punctuality was a total lost cause, so they might as well make us even later, and keep the trains going south on time. Of course, there was still absolutely no information from the conductor, the driver, or the train company as to what was happening. By now it was almost dark, so we knew we were not going to see the scenery we had ridden the train to see.

Once we finally moved off it was dark and we couldn’t see anything. We stopped at Bukit Abu around 21.04 for about 10 minutes, and then at Kuala Krai at about 22.00, where we shunted again and went backwards and waited for a while. At last, around 23.50 we pulled into Wakaf Baru, five hours late, and with no apology or explanation from any of the train staff.

The locals get picked up by their friends, but there were quite a lot of foreigners, who no doubt wanted taxis, and not many taxis, so we had to hurriedly agree to a fare of RM35 (which probably should have been RM20), for the 10 minute ride to our hotel, or wait perhaps half an hour until the taxis returned and try for a cheaper fare. It was the only time we were cheated on our trip.

Hotels:

Malacca: River Song Residence, 100 Lorong Hang Jebat, Jonkers Street. This hotel/residence is inexpensive, new, clean, and has terraces right on the river, but the best thing is how friendly and helpful the management/staff are. We made a couple of requests, and they were 100% reliable.  In the past I have usually stayed in the Equatorial, which is exponentially more expensive, and a totally different atmosphere, but nice.

view from rear terrace of Melaka River

Kota Baru: Tune Hotel. I wanted to stay in one to see how it was. The staff were very friendly and helpful, and the rooms were surprisingly large for the image of the hotel.

Tune Hotel room is quite spacey

Conclusion:

It appears the best scenery is probably from Chegar Perah to about Kuala Krai.  As I missed seeing this due to it being dark I am thinking of taking the day train from Kota Baru next time, and then turning around and catching the train back to Kota Baru once I have seen the best part, or perhaps catching the 17.16 evening Intercity train and seeing most of it before it gets dark. There are other possibilities, too.

Gurney Plaza Beer Watch – 28th September, 2012 – drink beer more cheaply

Feel like a couple of drinks? In the Al Fresco area between Gurney Plaza and the G Hotel one finds bars, restaurants, coffee shops and other food and beverage establishments.  In the evening, and especially on weekend evenings, it is very busy here, but weekdays it is quiet.  Of course, you are more likely to get a better deal at quiet times.

The price of beer is quite high, but several bars have a better deal for some brands of beer, which is available “all day” in some cases – I will check for next time exactly what that means, and the times that these deals apply.  For now, this is a rough guide to what is available at this moment, at least when the establishments aren’t busy.

And please note government tax of 6%, and service charge of 10% will be added to these prices on payment – otherwise known in Malaysia as ++ (pronounced “plus plus”, unsurprisingly).

Euro-Deli:

Buy 1 get 2 free – RM36 pint – Carlsberg

Buy 1 get 1 free – RM36 pint – Asahi Dry

Buy 1 get 1 free – RM30 pint – O’Conners

Buy 1 get 1 free – RM42 pint – Franziskaner; Erdinger; Konig Ludwig

* The Carlsberg here appears to be the best deal of all the establishments

Chicago:

RM9.90 a mug of about 330ml Carlsberg

Buy 1 get 1 free – RM39.90 pint – Hoegaarden; Franziskaner

Michelangelo’s:

Buy 1 get 1 free – RM15 a mug of about 330ml Tiger

Buy 2 get 1 free – RM34 1/2 pint Guinness

Buy 2 get 1 free – RM54 pint Guinness
17 Saloon:

They have an incomprehensible deal on buckets of beer. If you can’t tell at a glance, it’s pretty poor marketing, so I gave up.

Deals come and go, and I know I’ll have to check sometimes, and be as bit less lazy about it and ensure I understand which hours these prices apply. Next time.

Gurney Paragon:

A few minutes walk down Gurney Drive is Gurney Paragon – where Morganfield’s must get a mention for the worst pun I’ve heard in a while – from 24th September to 24th October they have a promotion they call PORK*TOBERFEST.  Ugh. They also have beer deals, such as 5 pints for RM110 nett; 3 pints of Carlsberg for RM50 nett etc.

Brussels Beer Cafe can also be found here – but they don’t have an outrageous pun to prompt me to investigate their latest deals, and I am not really covering Paragon in this blog, anyway.

Coming soon

Coffee Watch (for the day after you’ve visited the above) – but I suspect the cheapest are McDonalds ( ground floor near the above establishments / behind the G Hotel) and Old Town White Coffee (6th floor, under the cinema floor).

Kuala Lumpur Sentral Train Station to Malacca by bus – AKA Circling Malaysia by rail (mostly) 2/4

Having caught the night train to Kuala Lumpur, and arrived early in the morning, next I want to move on to Malacca.

Part 1 relates the trip from Penang to KL Sentral Station.

There is no train line to Malacca, although if you wish you can catch a train to Tampin from KL, and then get a taxi to Malacca. I chose to catch a bus, saving money and time.  Unfortunately they have made it difficult, and even the naming is difficult, and the bus departs from the southern bus terminal, known as Terminal Bersepadu Selatan at Bandar Tasik Selatan station. (TBSBTS).  In other words you have to go to Bandar Tasik Selatan station on the KTM Komuter – or take some other more complicated or expensive ways.

KTM Komuter network

After arrival at KL Sentral Station, you catch the escalator up one level from the platform to the exit, and then proceed down one or two levels (I have forgotten how many), following the signs to KTM Komuter.

You can buy a RM1 ticket to Bandar Tasik Selatan from the ticket window or vending machine.

KTM Komuter ticket

Then proceed to Platform 6.

There are also female only carriages, clearly marked.

ladies only

Catch the train and alight at the fourth stop, Bandar Tasik Selatan.

inside the carriage

Alight here

the station

Walk upstairs from the platform to the ticket barrier,and turn left and follow the signs to TBS – just cross the pedestrian bridge following many others also going to TBS,

pedestrian bridge to TBS

and you will see the big TBS building in the distance on the way.

TBS

After crossing the pedestrian bridge you will enter the terminal on Level 3, and see  the ticket booths on the right.

entering TBS

ticket booths (taken from escalator)

A big electronic board shows departure (and arrival) times of buses.

Departure and arrival information

The bus ticket to Malacca  cost me RM9. I was travelling during a festive period and may have been subject to a 10% surcharge, but I didn’t quibble.

PIC

One level up  from the ticket booths, on Level 4, a hawker centre and various coffee shops and restaurants, and toilets can be found.

the outlets on Level 4

too early for most outlets to be open

The departure level is one level below the ticket booth level.  A few minutes before departure you simply need to be at the gate printed on your ticket to board the bus.

Departure Level

Departure Gate

my bus

My bus departed on time at 9AM, and arrived at Melaka Sentral Bus Station at 10.40AM.

Melaka Sentral bus station

The roads were quite quiet, it might take you longer. I was told two hours was normal.  The scenery on the way was nothing special, but central Malacca is very nice.

Melaka Sentral Bus Station is where you can catch a bus from to other parts of Malaysia, but it is not central to Malacca. You could catch a bus to the centre, but a taxi costs RM20 (to Jonkers Street), and you can pick one up from the taxi booth which is clearly signposted.

Melaka Sentral Bus Station is a bus and taxi terminal, a market and a bazaar.  A big Tesco is nearby, with a pedestrian bridge from Melaka Sentral Bus Station to it.

The next part, from Malacca to  Kota Baru by (mostly) train, coming soon.

Penang to Kuala Lumpur by night train – AKA Circling Malaysia by rail (mostly) 1/4

Malaysian rail network

After a full Saturday, it was time to start the adventure.  A 9 PM taxi to the ferry terminal, and then the short ferry ride over to Butterworth, and short stroll to the station  meant I was over an hour too early for the 11PM train to Kuala Lumpur.  I love the romance of night trains, the sound of the train on the tracks, the dimly lit stations one passes through…

But this is supposed to be a “how to” blog, so some information… The ferries run until about 12.30 am, and at 9.20 PM the ferry was crowded, which was reassuring, as the Internet was correct about the ferries still running at this time. Of course, you could get a taxi over to Butterworth over the bridge, but I believe it costs about RM90, and takes about the same time as the ferry, which is free – in this direction. ( It is RM1.20 from Butterworth back to George Town on the ferry. )

ferry is quite crowded

From the Butterworth Ferry Terminal it is only a few minutes walk to the train station – but there are a lot of stairs and no lift, so if you have a wheely bag, you are going to have to carry it up and down.

do young people actually understand the symbol for the train?

I had already booked my berth online at the KTM web site. Ensure you book at least two days in advance if you wish to use the web site, as the day before you cannot.

clean, modern waiting room at Butterworth Station

The train was already in the station when I arrived around 9.45 PM, so you could already board and settle down if you wished.

train to KL

The train has first class sleeper compartments that sleep two people on either an upper or lower bunk – the lower bunk is slightly more expensive, supposedly because there is a little more room, but I think that is dubious.  However the lower bunk does mean you have a window to look out. You have a private bathroom, which is very clean. Currently RM138 for lower and RM117 for upper berths.

First Class carriage corridor

First Class compartment

First Class compartment storage and TV

First Class compartment bathroom

There are also first class seats, being a 1 seat, aisle, 2 seat configuration. RM67 to KL.

First Class seats

And second class sleeper carriages, with an aisle with upper and lower bunks on either side of it, with curtains for privacy. These cost RM46 for a lower berth and RM40 for an upper.  These are more fun than first class sleepers as you can chat with others before sleeping.

Second Class sleeper carriage

Second Class bunk

And finally, second class seats, with  a 2 seat, aisle, 2 seat configuration. These are charged at RM34 to KL.

Second Class seats

There is no dining car. Please see The man in Seat 61 for the best information on trains.

As the train starts from Butterworth, it departs on time, it seems. Departure time is 11PM, and arrival is scheduled for 6.40 AM.

As I can’t guarantee my experience is typical, I will simply recount my experience.

The train departed on time at 11PM. The ticket inspector checked the tickets just after departure, and later the steward supplied a rice dish and a 500ml bottle of water.

evening meal

The train  continued for about half an hour to Bukit Merkajam, where it then waited in the station for half an hour.

Around midnight the train left BM and continued on during the night, stopping at some stations, and about 4AM arrived in Ipoh, where it remained for 15 minutes. I believe the train has a diesel locomotive until Ipoh, and that the line is electrified thereafter. Once it left Ipoh the train ran much faster.

At 6.10 the steward delivered banana cake and hot chocolate, which were quite nice.

breakfast

Then I freshened up with a shower and a change of clothes before our arrival, which was actually 40 minutes late, at about 7.20 AM.

KL

As for the actual journey, the bunks are OK, but not all that comfortable. And the sheets are synthetic, so clammy. The compartment was cool to start with, but became hot during the night, as I suppose they turned off the air conditioning. There are no cooling controls in the compartment.  And a mosquito found me during the night, which was annoying. As it was hot during the night it was easy for the mosquito to find exposed skin to bite.  It became cool again before arrival, so they must have turned the air con on again. Another thing is that, as usual for Malaysia, there is no information given, so you have no idea if the train is on time or late, or if the latter, why, and an ETA.  The conductor does tell you a little before your station that you are about to arrive, though.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience, and next time I will take precautions against mosquitoes, and ask for the air con to stay on.

Sauerkraut – How to Make Sauerkraut with sea salt

I haven’t found where I can buy sauerkraut in Penang, although some restaurants do serve it. So I make it myself.

Ingredients:

ingredients

Cabbage – 2KG

Sea Salt, or at least natural salt – 2 tablespoons, heaped

Optional Ingredients:

Carrot

Red chilli – 1 (for colour, mainly)

Bay leaves – 2

Fennel, caraway seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorns – all, any or none – they are for extra flavour

Equipment

Large mixing bowls x 2

Cutting board and knife

Glass storage jars x 2 or 3

Optional cabbage or vegetable slicer

Method

  • Sterilise equipment a little with colloidal silver, food grade peroxide – or just make sure it is very clean
  • Slice carrot and red chilli and put aside

  • Remove and set aside a couple of large outside leaves of cabbage for later use
  • Slice cabbage reasonably thinly (1/2 setting on slicer – ½ of 1)
  • 2 KG of cabbage will fill two large mixing bowls

sliced cabbage

  • Add one heaped tablespoon of salt to each of the two bowls of cabbage

adding salt

  • For each bowl, massage until texture s changes and gets glossy, do for 10 minutes – volume should decrease markedly

volume decreased by massaging

  • Combine contents of both bowls, and then add other ingredients and mix together

combine contents

  • Then in a big glass jar or jars pack the kraut a few inches deep and pack down hard, then put in more, etc.
  • Pack to 2-3” from top of jar.  Push down and ensure all covered by liquid – because otherwise becomes moldy

ready to add leaves on top and weight down to keep under the water

  • Then take outer cabbage leaves and layer on top pushing down so ensures all covered with liquid
  • Then put small rocks in on top to weigh it all down, and push it all down to keep cabbage under the brine
  • Then put lid on jar
  • Could be ready to eat in three to four days
  • Don’t leave it in sunlight
  • Put in fridge and will keep for months or years.

Daytrip from Penang to Taiping zoo

It took us one hour and twenty minutes, from when we left home until we parked at the Taiping Zoo, according to my GPS. (Max speed shown was on a trip on the Autobahn, and didn’t get us to the zoo any faster.)

GPS

So, an easy daytrip, and/or easily combined with other activities.

It’s a quick trip down the E1 motorway to the turnoff, Exit 148.

turnoff to Taiping

And although it is only another 10 KM to the zoo, it is very slow thereafter due to multiple red lights which jam up the traffic, and it took us 20 minutes.

We parked in Parking A, which cost RM2.  Before entry there are toilets, where you have to pay to enter, although once inside toilets are free.  The toilets are the usual poor Malaysian standard. There is also a hawker centre, with quite unappetising looking food.

Zoo Bistro, AKA, hawker centre

There are a few souvenir shops just outside, too.

souvenir shops

The zoo is open 08:30 to 18:00 every day of the year. Entry charges into the (day) zoo are RM12 for adults, RM10 for adults over 55 (just show something with your age on it) and RM8 for children.  You are given a nice colour brochure which mainly explains how to get there – superfluous when you are already there. Feeding time for the animals is 10am to 12 noon.

There is also a Night Safari, which is open 20:00-23:00, and charges differently: RM16 for adults, RM13 for adults over 55, and RM10 for children.

Once inside there is a free “train” to take you around.

“train”

However the drivers prefer to hang around, and tell you to wait for “15” minutes.  They will stop and pick you up anyway as you walk around, so you may as well do just that.  The train drives slowly, but is noisy and bumpy, and you still cannot have a proper look unless you walk.

bumping along

There are paw prints painted on the road surface, so you can just follow them around to see the zoo.

The mesh on many of the cages make it difficult to take good photographs.  There is no charge for photography, but apparently flash photography is forbidden.

animals this way

They have picnic huts around the zoo, and you can buy refreshments and snacks.

picnic hut

Refreshments and souvenirs

Beware of aggressive gangs of monkeys who might try to intimidate you into giving up your food to them.  I was eating an ice cream.  They were not deterred by me shouting, “No, no” at them, but disbanded when I switched to Bahasa Malay and tried, “Tidak, tidak”.  Lucky, because otherwise I could only manage to entertain them by counting to five.  (Note to self: New Year’s Resolution – learn six to ten.)

gang’s lookout monkey

The zoo is not spectacular, and is quite small, and many of the animals were sleeping as it was hot, and they are possibly nocturnal. Nevertheless, it was like a pleasant, easy jungle walk, with, importantly no mosquitoes and no mud.  It is close to Penang, and not expensive to visit. We spent two hours there.

like a jungle walk with animals, but without mosquitoes

I am interested in visiting for the night safari, but do not wish to drive back home at night for safety reasons, and cannot find a nice hotel nearby, nor do I know of anyone who recommends a local hotel.

After the zoo you can visit nearby Taiping, and see the lake which many people recommend. You could drive a further hour or so south to Ipoh, which is a nice city, and have lunch there. My favourite Ipoh Duck restaurant is Sun Yeong Wai

And if you drive to the south of Ipoh you can see the cave temples. The location is

N 04.56619  E 101.11369

cave temples