mosquitoes

A few miscellaneous matters in late August

HAZE

Overall this year it’s been cooler than usual with many more rainy days.   Thus the haze has mostly not been in evidence. However, these last couple of days the haze has been terrible – and the plants are suffering too. It hasn’t rained now for a few days, and so nothing is clearing the air. Best to stay indoors as much as possible.

MOSQUITOES

For the last couple of weeks I have noticed mosquitos have been bad, not only at home, but even where it is really built up, like at Gurney Plaza Al Fresco area, in Tesco, etc.

NEW PRODUCTS

Today in Tesco we found a couple of new products – at least, new to us:

fermented durian paste

fermented durian paste

Fermented durian paste: To put into sambal, add into stews or other dishes.

rice cracker chocolate

rice cracker chocolate

Rice cracker chocolate – unfortunately not so fresh, although not past its expiry date, but still nice.

AUBERGINE

I found several varieties.  Must explore the difference sometime.

so many varieties

so many varieties

BIRDS

Many birds are visiting the mango trees and eating the mangos.

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Bangladesh travel preparation – notes from research 2/2

Following on from the Bangladesh travel preparation blog, here are the notes I made from what I read before the trip, and some comments I made in italics from after the trip if applicable.  Most points I researched were accurate, although prices were often higher. After this is my initial plan, which I didn’t completely follow, as I just did as I thought best at the time.

Seat 61

  • Consider 2nd class trains for daytime as view is better. True, the window can be opened, and thus you can take much better photos than through the smeared and dirty first class sealed windows.  But insects and dust come in, too. In the air-con carriage it is less noisy (although one could hardly say quiet) and you can listen to your music or podcasts, but with the windows open in second class it is too noisy to listen to anything. 
  • Either class, the toilets are disgusting. I would drink as little as possible before riding the train, and drink a lot after disembarking to make up.

Wikitravel

  • Climate: There are six seasons in a year: Winter (Dec-Jan), Spring (Feb-Mar), Summer (Apr-May), …
  • 5* hotels only 3*. No star filthy – where I travelled there were mostly no 5 star hotels.  Hotels are generally more expensive for the quality than south-east Asia, but five-star very expensive and poor value.  I basically tried to get a room which is as clean as possible, with 1. air-con (sure, to keep cool, but also so the room was sealed so that mosquitoes were not a problem, and also dehumidified so that my washing would dry) 2. Western-style toilet 3. Hot water  4. WiFi  Hot water was sometimes impossible to get, but the others I could, with the exception of no WiFi in Srimangal. In Srimangal I used the mobile Internet on the phone SIM I’d got from Grameenphone (see below).
  • Visa on arrival USD$50 – but confirm beforehand – Actually $51
    High Commission For The People Republic of Bangladesh
    Block 1, Lorong Damai 7, Jalan Damai,
    55000, Kuala Lumpur.
    Tel: 03 2148 7490
    Fax: 03 2141 3381 E-mail: bddoot@pc.jaring.my  I don’t think this email worked. Anyway, they didn’t reply to email. Penang has an office, but they can’t help with visa information. The only way that worked was to phone: Mr Shahin, High Commission KL- direct- 0342510146 – for visa questions. (See also my note below on what actually happens when you arrive.)
  • Don’t catch buses, rickshaws etc. Maybe you can avoid buses and just catch trains and boats – it depends on where you go.  Unless you fly in and out of Cox’s Bazar you are going to have to catch a bus.  Green Line seems the best.  A coach rather than a bus.  The vehicle is still a bit dodgy, but in better condition and with a lot more legroom. Our driver was mostly sane, and much more so than many bus drivers I saw.  And well, you have to catch rickshaws if you want to get around. Or spend double on CNG’s. Driving dangerous – and never at night.  Having said which, walking is not good either. I would only catch a bus if no train is available, and certainly not at night. As for walking, yes, you have to be careful.
  • Train: – Trains are generally comfortable, with more leg room than buses. Not much more leg room – my coach was a lot better in this respect.  Though the carriages are generally not very clean, the AC and 1st class seats are manageable. Sulob class is the highest 2nd class ticket, with reserved seating and not much different from 1st class (except in price). Kamlapur Rail Station in Dhaka is large and modern. It serves all major cities but due to the existence of broad gauge and meter gauge tracks around the country it may be required to change trains en route.  Almost all signs are in Bengali – the only way I could get any information was to ask a station employee – they were helpful and knew what to do, what was happening etc. Keep your train ticket as they check them on board, and collect them when you leave the station.
  • Boat:There are over 230 mighty and small rivers throughout the country, and boats and ferries are an integral part of travel for locals and tourists alike. A journey along the river in any mode is probably the best way to see Bangladesh. There are a number of private tour operators offering river sightseeing trips of various lengths, or using the ferries to get between cities is a great way to see the country at a moderate pace. The Rocket Steamer service connects Dhaka and Khulna via Barisal, and is a fantastic way to enjoy riverine Bangladesh, for those who prefer the scenic route. The 4 ferries are operated by BIWTC [41] and run several times per week in each direction. It’s advisable to book several days in advance if possible. While there are several different classes it’s unlikely that you will end up in anything but 1st or 2nd class.
  • Tipping 7% in upscale places – I think tipping is more expected even in less salubrious hotels, restaurants etc.now.
  • Mosquitos can be a problem – I sprayed the hotel room early evening and again later in the evening – hotels have the spray – and then tried to squash any remaining mosquitos that appeared. Otherwise I put on repellant when I thought it advisable.
  • Mobile phones are a better bet and widely available. In most towns they’ll be your only option, and many shop owners let theirs double as PCO’s / ISD’s. Banglalink [53] and Grameenphone [54] are the most widely available, followed by Citycell [55], Robi [56], Teletalk [57] and Airtel [58]. Except Citycell all work on the GSM network and offer prepaid packages at reasonable prices – usually about Tk 140 ($2) to get started. International calls are possible, and often more reasonably priced than you would expect if you’re calling the US or major European countries although prices can rise drastically as you get more off the beaten path. E-ISD facility offered by different mobile phone service providers can reduce the cost significantly. For the E-ISD service dial 012 instead of 00/+. I got a SIM card and Internet (called Flexiload) from Grameenphone at Dhaka Airport on arrival, and the coverage even in the middle of nowhere was between OK to excellent. Their desk is just outside the Immigration counters (and before you go through Customs) and near ATM’s so you can first get cash, and next your SIM. They speak English well. For 1GB of Internet and the SIM and airtime I paid TK1065. I had plenty left over after one week of use. To check your phone balance dial *566# To check your Internet balance dial 121 and follow the instructions. I think you choose option 2, then 2, then 1.  I was very happy with Grameenphone.
  • Clothing. Shorts are only for boys. Trousers and shirt for men.  So that is what I wore.  Some young men wore jeans, and occasionally t-shirts, though.
  • Coffee is — like the rest of the world, a perennial middle-class ‘Adda’ (gossip) accompaniment in this city. In most places instant coffee will be the best you can find. I never came across good coffee. Best stick to tea.
  • Tea is everywhere. Ask for red tea if you do not want milk. True.
  • Fruit juices are plentiful, varied and delicious, though be wary of watered down or icy drinks and dirty blenders. Raw sugarcane juice is widely available during the hot season, and usually a safe, sanitary bet. Other safe bets are coconuts, popular in the southeast tourists spots like Cox’s Bazar and Saint Martins Island. I stuck to tea and bottled water as I didn’t want to risk local water.  I had no stomach problems for the whole trip.
  • Internet is available in most of the larger towns, with prices hovering around Tk 15-20/hour. Most are on broadband connections, but speed does not meet international standards. WiMAX service is now available from some internet service providers. You can also find Wi-Fi connectivity in some places around the big cities.  I generally found the hotels had WiFi.
  • Internet calls may be possible, though the Information Ministry has outlawed them. I used both Skype and Viber over hotel WiFi with no problem.
  • Eating: Bangladesh is a fish lover’s paradise. The Hilsa has a nice flavour but some may find the many fine bones difficult to manage; Mutton is also popular, as in most Muslim countries, as is decidedly lean or hard chicken. Rice is almost always the staple side dish.
  • Mixed vegetable curries are plentiful – potato, eggplant, squash and tomatoes are the staple ingredients. Gourds, tubers and certain root vegetables are common. In the major cities (Dhaka, Chittagong, etc.), you will find a larger variety of vegetables than in rural areas.
  • Dal is usually a given side dish or meal course for all households- whereas most Indian dal is more like thick stew, most Bangladeshi dal is more like light soup or broth. Dal recipes vary regionally in Bangladesh, so be careful not to over-generalize after a brief experience.
  • Boiled eggs (dhim) are a popular snack (Tk 3-5), and fresh fruit is abundant, such as bananas (Tk 2/ea), apples (Chinese, Tk 80-100/kg), oranges, grapes, pomegranates and papayas. Delicious and diverse, mangos (Tk 50-150/kg) are a very popular fruit throughout Bangladesh.
  • Fast food restaurants and bakeries serving burgers, kababs, spring rolls, vegetable patties and just about anything else you can throw in a deep fryer are dotted around most cities. Most items will run around Tk 10/each.Bangladesh also has international fast food chains like Pizza Hut, KFC, A&W, Nando’s, Tekiya.
  • To enjoy the tastes of Dhaka one needs to go to old Dhaka. The Haji biriyani, Nanna biriyani are a must. Also Al Razzak restaurant is famous for its Shahi food. To savour local food one must go to Korai Gost at Dhanmondi Satmosjid road, Kasturi restaurant at Gulshan & Purana Paltan area. No one should leave Bangladesh without tasting the Phuchka and Chatpati available in the streets of Dhaka,Chittagong. Also there are loads of Chinese and Thai restaurants in Bangladesh which serve localized chinese and thai dishes.Bailey road in Dhaka is the unofficial food street of the nation followed by Satmoshjid Road.Dhaka also has Japanese, Korean and Indian restaurants located mostly in Gulshan area. For world class Ice creams do visit Moven pick, Club gelato in Gulshan. To taste Kebab, Barbecue tonight in Dhanmondi is the best followed by Koyla in Gulshan.
  • Most Bangladeshis eat with their right hand as in neighboring countries. Never use your left hand to bring food to your mouth, though it’s ok to use it for bringing a glass to your mouth or to serve food from a common dish with a spoon. Every restaurant will have a handwashing station (sometimes just a pitcher of water and a bowl if they don’t have running water), and you should use this before and after the meal. To eat with your hand, rake in a little portion of the rice and a bit of the curry to an open space on your plate (usually create a bit of space on the side of the plate closest to you, sufficiently inward from the rim but NOT in the centre of the plate), and mix the rice and curry with your fingers. Then, create a little ball or mound (it should be compact and modestly sized, but does not need to be perfectly shaped or anything–function over form!) of the mixture and pick it up with all your fingers, and scoop in into your mouth. Your fingers should not enter your mouth in the process, and your upper fingers and palms should not get dirty either. Only toddlers and foreigners/tourists are exempted from these rules. It doesn’t matter a whole lot if you don’t get it all exactly right, but know that the entire restaurant is watching and waiting to see if you do. Attempting to eat with your hands and failing miserably will raise many a smile. The use of cutlery (except serving spoons for common dishes) is lacking in rural areas and poorer households, and only basic cutlery of spoons, or sometimes a fork is sometimes available in urban restaurants and more Westernised, urban households. However, the use of hands is a more humble and culturally respectful gesture, especially from a tourist.  Food was delicious and cheap.  I drank only tea or bottled water, and avoided uncooked vegetables and cut fruit. All restaurants had utensils and paper napkins, and a washing station with running water – but often no soap, so take your own. I ate only fruit I could peel myself, having washed my hands first.
  • Table-sharing is acceptable and even expected in most establishments, with the exception of nicer urban restaurants. Many places have separate curtained-off booths for women and families, a nice reprieve from prying eyes.
  • HSBC ATMs are located at most hotels but accept only Visa debit/credit cards and HSBC GlobalAccess™ cards (no MasterCard). I am not sure if this was correct.
  • Shopping:Bangladesh is one of the largest ready-made garment manufacturers in the world, exporting clothing for famous brands such as Nike, Adidas and Levis. Though these products are usually not meant for sale in the local markets, they can be found in abundance in famous shopping areas such as Banga Bazaar and Dhaka College. In most stores, prices are not fixed. Even most stores that display ‘fixed-price’ label tolerate bargaining. Prices can thus be lowered quite considerably. If bargaining is not your strong point ask a local in the vicinity politely what they think you should pay. Besides there are loads of handicraft, boutique shops. There are lots of shopping malls in and around Dhaka and Chittagong. Foreigners will usually be changed a higher cost, however you will not usually be priced gouged, with what you are changed usually being only slightly more than what the locals would pay, with the difference for small items often being only a matter of a few US cents.
  • Aarong is one of the largest and most popular handicraft and clothing outlets with stores in Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet and Khulna. It’s a great place for souvenirs or to pick up a stylish kurta or salwar kameez at fixed prices.

Lonely Planet (2012 edition) –

  • https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forums/asia-indian-subcontinent/bangladesh/bangladesh-trip-report-february-2015
  • MAR – NOV = GO TO Sylhet – tea picking – Tanguar Haor = birds – cycling in this division
  • Taxi from airport Tk500 – fixed rate booth to Banani, North Dhaka, CNG 150
  • Take – hat, sunglasses, torch, sleeping sheet, mosquito repellant, emergency USD, toilet paper, passport photo & passport copy for SIM purchase, antibiotics? p 593
  • can buy internet usuage = 1GB = Tk350. top up = flexi-load.  Grameenphone photocopied my passport, so I didn’t need a copy, but I did need the photo.
  • Rocket – boat. Go to main ghat – Sadarghat – in DAC early-mid afternoon to bag a cabin on an evening boat. If overcrowded don’t board.
  • Tour operators – p101
  • Dhaka  = good biryani & kebabs. I saw them in most places.
  • Old Dhaka. Hotels  – p139
  • lal cha (no milk) chini na (no sugar) – for tea.  Often they didn’t understand my pronunciation.
  • Can buy sim when exit customs at airport – grameenphone.com – pay so as to get change.  As mentioned above, the desk is after Immigration but before Customs.
  • ATM’s – HSBC, Standard Chartered – I didn’t see them, but I found ATM that worked anyway.  I saw plenty of ATM’s around the country where I went.
  • United is best airline 8854769.  Still pretty shabby, though. I caught it to Cox’s Bazar.
  • (From a Japanese blog) Train station at airport – have to walk along tracks to get there – have to find ticket booth – and they have no change
  • ATM at airport – so then buy stuff to get change.  Buying the SIM gave me change.
  • White House Hotel in DAC OK. (From Lonely Planet & a Japanese blog)
  • p427 Train from Dhaka to Sylhet goes thru Srimangel – which is the best spot for cycling, tea plantations etc. I spent a couple of nights here and rented a bicycle.
  • Tour companies p542
  • “bus Stand” = bus station.  Say destination name and bus stand to rickshaw driver
  • Rickshaw – Tk10 per KM More like the price is more than a local and as much as they can get from you. First you ask at hotel or shop what a fare should be.  Then check that with driver. He will first ignore the question and ask you to get on.  When you insist, if he speaks some English you can say the amount.  If not, show him the notes.  Then bargain. He will almost never accept the local fare.   So it will still cost more than you’re told.  When you arrive and give the agreed amount he’ll look aggrieved and moan for more.  Easiest is just to hand him the money without looking at him and stride off giving him little time to react – and then ignore it if he calls out. Just don’t forget anything on the seat. An example, the hotel in Chittagong told me it would cost Tk50 to get to a restaurant I named. none would do it for less than Tk 100.  A rickshaw agreed finally to Tk 40, but even when I gave him Tk50 he moaned and graoned for more. And for the return journey it was even harder…
  • http://www.railway.gov.bd/ p573 on train classes
  • www.grameenphone.com on MobiCash section shows how to buy train tkts using mobile – must have mobile balance to cover fare.  (E-ISD facility offered by different mobile phone service providers can reduce the cost significantly. For the E-ISD service dial 012 instead of 00/+.)  I didn’t try this.
  • p583 – meds to take – include hand wipesbut I really didn’t bother, except for antibiotics – which I diodn’t need.
  • Water – check bottle sealed and marked arsenic free. No tap water or ice. Or fresh juice – may have been watered down. I never saw anything marked “arsenic free”.
  • take long sleeved shirt – in light colour – because of mosquitoes
  • Eat only freshly cooked food, avoid shellfish, salads and buffets. Peel all fruit, cook veges.
  • Eat in busy restaurants with high turnover of customers.  Don’t have ice.
  • Don’t take salt tablets, but eat salty food
  • Wash any cuts with clean water and apply antiseptic
  • p515 – language – need to print & learn on plane – and carry with me – or check online. I put my list at the end of this blog.

MY INITIAL PLAN – – Train, cycle, boat, rickshaw

* Try 21/04 MH1133, MH 102 out /  28/04 MH113, MH1134   inbound
* Cabin baggage policy is ‘one passenger, one baggage’, must not weigh more than 5 kgs/11lbs
*MAS is 1300 88 3000 (within Malaysia) and +603-7843 3000 (outside Malaysia). I called MAS in Dhaka and they messed things up, so better to make an international call to MAS in KL.
* On arrival use ATM & get TK20,000
* Near Baggage claim buy SIM at Grameenphone and Internet charge 1GB, & try to get small change.
* See if travel agent to talk to see if I can fly that afternoon to Sylhet – and thus avoid Dhaka. Also later boat tour.
* If fly, then fly to Sylhet and stay one night.  Book train for next afternoon to Srimangel, and to Dhaka for 25th. Sightsee in morning, then train.  21Tu night Sylhet, 22We – 24Fr  Srimangel, 25Sa train to DAC & then boat at night & 26Su back, 27Mo in DAC
* If can’t fly, then train to Srimangel,  book train also for return to Dhaka for 25th.   22We – 24Fr  Srimangel, 25Sa train to DAC & then boat (go to Sadarghat mid-late arvo to book that night) at night & 26Su back & 26su night, 27Mo night in DAC, 28 got to Airport for evening flight
* Tu 21 – Sylhet or en route by train to Srimangal
* We 22 – Sylhet – Srimangel / Srimangel if arrived from Dhaka by train
* Th 23 – Srimangel
* Fri 24 – Srimangel
* Sa 25 – Srimangel – Dhaka THEN go to Sadarghat & book day tour for next day or to tour office or ring
* Su 26 – day boat tour
* Mo 27 – day looking at old Dhaka.  Out to airport in evening

My actual route was  quite different aa I made it up as I went along – as per my usual style.

HOTELS – ask for a-c, hot water, Western toilet, window, WiFi if poss; check for bugs and mosquitos…

SYLHET HOTELS & RESTAURANTS LP p 422

* Hotel Golden City $$ – 0821726379, 0821726957 / Cell :: 01712063152, 01714674738 – http://www.hotelgoldencitybd.com East Zindabazar, Sylhet, sales@hotelgoldencitybd.com, with a-c 750+
* Hotel Gulshan $ – 717263, a-c 900, Taltala Road
* Woondaal Restaurant – East Zindabazar
* Pritiraj East Zindabazar Rd
* See Kean Bridge, drink tea, clock tower
* Ahana Cyber cafe East Zindabazar Rd
* HSBC – Zindabazar Rd
* CNG from airport 30 mins Tk100, taxi 300

SRIMANGAL HOTELS & RESTAURANTS LP p 441

* Tea Town Rest House 71065, Dhaka-Sylhet Road,  a-c 1000
* Green View Rest House – newer – a-c? – 01719 896788, 01711 447757, ask for windowed room. Request hot water bucket
* Kutum Bari Restaurant, Railway Station Road
* Shah Hotel and restaurant
* Bicycle Tk200pd – arrange thru hotel or Anam Cycle Store, Railway Station Road – 8am – 10pm
* cycling p439
* Best closest tea estates Zareen and Findlays – polite to ask at management office if OK to look around
* Seven Layer Tea – Nilkantha Tea Cabin – Ramnagar village
* AB Bank ATM – Railway Station Road
* E-Zone Cyber Cafe –

DHAKA HOTELS & RESTAURANTS LP p

* Holiday Express across the street from the Dhaka airport ($31), which was walking distance from the airport and in a cute neighborhood. – (Sheryl on Thornbird)  Email: info@holidayxpress.asia Infront of Haji Camp (Askuna Road), Uttara, Dhaka-1230, +88-02-8957232, Cell: +88-01779869290
* Old Dhaka p137 – Hotel Al-Razzaque International – 956 6408 29/1 North South Road – a-c Tk550 – sheets not so clean
* Central Dhaka – Hotel Pacific – http://www.hotelpacificdhaka.net/  120/B Motijheel Commercial Area –  (880-2) 958 7671 to 80 (10 Lines) – wi-fi in lobby a-c rooms etc. Tour desk.  reservation@hotelpacificdhaka.net
* White House Hotel http://www.whitehousehotelbd.com/ – wifi –  155, Shantinagar,Dhaka-1217, 8322973-6, 8314601, 8314020, 8317579   info@whitehousehotelbd.com seems to have a-c

TRAVEL
Dhaka to Sylhet

709 Parabat Express  Dhaka 0640 Sylhet 1310 Tues off
717 Joyntika Express/  no off day / Dhaka 12:00 Sylhet 20:00
773  Kalani Express / Friday /  Dhaka 16:00 Sylhet 2245
739 Upaban Express / Wednesday off / Dhaka 21.50 Sylhet 05.30

Sylhet – Srimangal (to Dhaka) – about 2 hours and a bit – Tk90 Fcl
710 Parabat Express /Tuesday off / Sylhet 3:00:00 PM /Dhaka 10:10:00 PM

Srimangel to Dhaka

710 Parabat Express / Tuesday off / Srimangal 1708 Dhaka 2210
718 Jayantika Express / Thursday / Srimangal 1031 Dhaka 1620
740 Upaban Express / no off / Srimangal 0018 Dhaka 0525

774
Kalani Express / Friday off / Srimangal 8:40:00 AM / Dhaka 1:40:00 PM

TOUR OPERATORS
http://www.guidetoursbd.com/
http://bengaltours.com/ also jese tours House 45,Road 27, Block-A Banani Dhaka 1213 Tel: (880-2), 8857424 /9857424, 9858134 Email: info@bengaltours.com

In the end I decided to fly straight out of Dhaka airport to either Sylhet or Cox’s Bazar, whichever had the sooner flight, and on whichever airline I could. Biman is cheaper, but fuller. I flew on United, which cost Tk5,000 one way to Cox’s Bazar. Locals paid the same fare. I checked.

NOTE ON VISAS

  • After you enter the terminal building and go through into the Immigation area, it seems you join a queue on the right for visas on arrival. Only one person is at the desk and about 25 people were in the queue when I was there.  10 other staff are hovering around but they don’t do anything much.  It was very slow.  About an hour.  If you pay $10 you can jump the queue.
  • The visa official was  no problem – I just gave my passport & landing card and ensured he gave me enough days. Initially he was only giving me 7 days, but I asked for 15, just in case.
  • There is a duty free store with prices seemingly similar to Malaysia between there and the queue for the Immigation counters.
  • At Immigration there is a short queue for visa on arrival, another bit longer queue for foreigners, First Class and Business class passengers and the crew line was very short and quicker, and then a huge queues for others.
  • The Immigration guy takes 5+ minutes per person – but friendly.  Wants contact address and telephone number. They don’t check or even ask about it, so any hotel details will be fine.
  • So a Visa on arrival wastes one hour if you queue, or 10 minutes and $10 if you pay the queue jumping bribe.  Either way is better and wastes less time than getting a visa beforehand.

MY LANGUAGE LIST

Pronunciation

a: as in ‘cat’
aa: as in ‘father’
i: as in the ‘i’ in police
j: as in ‘jet’
o: as in ‘hot’
v & w: both a cross between a ‘v’ and ‘w’

Basics

Hello (Muslim): asalaam alaykum
Hello (Hindu): nomaashkaar
Good bye: khudaa hafiz
See you later: pore dakhaa hobe
Excuse me: maaf korun
Yes: ji
No: naa
No problem: tik aache
What’s your name?: aapnaar naam ki?
I don’t understand: aami bujhi naa
Sorry – Maaf ko-roon/Khoma ko-roon
Please – Please
Thank You – Dhonno-baad
Ok – Theek achhey
What? – Kee?
Where – Koth-aye?
How? – Kemon korey?
When? – Kobey?
Who? – Kay? (‘kay’ rhymes with the English word say)
Why? – Kano?
What is your name? – Tomar naam kee? (Used when talking to children or youngsters only)
What is your name? – Apnar naam kee?
My name is … – Amar naam …
I am from London – Aa-mee London thek-ey ae-shay-chhi
What time is it? – Coy-ta baa-jay?
I don’t know Bengali – Aa-mee Bangla ja-nee-na
I don’t understand – Buj-tey paarchhi na

 

Transport

I want to go to..: aami. jaabo
When does the . leave/arrive?: kokhon . chaarbe/pochaabeh?
Boat: noukaa/launch
Bus: baas
Train: tren
Care: gaari
Tell me the way please – Ekto rastata bolben?
Is this very far? – Eta kee khoob doo-rey?
I want a ticket – Aa-mee ek-ta ticket chai

 

Directions

Where is.?: . kotaai?
How far is.?: . koto dur?
Left: baame
Right: daane
Here: ekhaane
There: okhaane

 

Around Town

Bank: bank
Hospital: haashpaataal
Market: baajaar
Mosque: moshjid
Temple: mondir
Chemist: oshuder dokaan

 

Food

Breakfast: naashtaa
Lunch: dupurer khaabaar
Dinner: raater khaabaar
Beef: goru
Bread: ruti
Chicken: murgi
Egg: dim
Fish: maach
Fruit: p’hol
Milk: dudh
Rice: bhaat
Sugar: chini
Water: paani
Tea – Cha
Mango – Aam
Orange – Komola
Banana – Kaw-la
Salt – Lobon
Sweet – Mish-tee
Hot – Jhaal (spicy) Hot – Gorom (Used when the weather, the water
Cold – Thun-da

 

Numbers

1: ek
2: dui
3: tin
4: chaar
5: paach
6: ch-hoy
7: shaat
8: aat
9: noy
10: dosh
100 – Ek show (‘show’ is pronounced like the English word show)
200 – Dui show (‘show’ is pronounced like the English word show)
1000 – Ek haa-jar
2000 – Dui haa-jar

 

How much is it? – Eta koto daam?
This is too expensive – Eta khub bay-she daam
Reduce this price – Etar daam komiye rakhen

unfinished blogs – no. 14 – Dissatisfaction with life in Malaysia and how to improve things

I’ve been writing this blog for three years this month, and have accumulated many partially written blogs that remain unpublished. I may as well just publish them as is, and if I ever feel inspired to finish any, do so later.

 

—————-

March 21st, 2014

Generally I try to be positive, but there is nowhere perfect, and one should be aware of drawbacks, and evaluate if one’s choices are still the best. Many things are getting better, such as the cleanliness and state of repair of George Town, the English ability of Malaysians – even the standard of driving. But some things are disappointing, so here are some dissatisfactions…

Recently the rapidly rising prices concern me. These are both from governments increasing taxes and charges, and from companies doing likewise. With the government acting as it is it is no longer possible to plan your housing or local investments as they increase taxes whenever they feel like it.

The Internet speed is still as slow as years ago, and you are still paying the same amount – it is not getting cheaper as in most countries – for the same slow Internet. I pay RM 140 per month for 4mbps speed. I note in the UK with TalkTalk you pay £2.50 (RM12.50) per month for 16mbps, with unlimited allowance. Four times the speed, 1/11th the price of Malaysia.

A great many Internet services are available in other countries, but Malaysia is way behind. Not only in Internet shopping, but in other innovative services.

It is still hard to get many things that are slightly less common.

This last problem is compounded by the total lack of knowledge about anything by almost anyone in retail and services. And their lack of interest in actually finding out for next time a customer asks.

Dengue seems to be an increasing problem.  Try as you might you can’t avoid all mosquito bites, only decrease the possibility of getting bitten.

A whole lot of spraying going on

Fogging – spraying to kill (disease bearing) mosquitos is now an almost daily occurrence.  Yesterday a small vehicle drove down the street spraying.  This is quite ineffective.

small vehicle fogging yesterday

small (yellow) vehicle fogging yesterday

But this evening was the biggest operation I’ve ever seen.  They sprayed huge amounts at the condo construction sites.

construction site

construction site

construction site

construction site

And then they came down streets in front and behind spraying, and entering properties which had open gates.

spraying the whole street

spraying the whole street

spraying the whole street

spraying the whole street

spraying the whole street

spraying the whole street

Fogging and dengue in Pulau Tikus?

The local council, MPPP, is fogging (spraying for mosquitos) every few days now.  It used to be once every few months.   Inspectors came around this morning to ensure there was no standing water in pots or buckets in  which mosquitos could breed. I am told that quite a few people in Tanjung Bungah have contracted dengue. It would seem there is a problem at the moment.

It has rained almost every day for the past two months, and the mosquitos are probably happy about that.

So it would appear to be a good time to take extra precautions against getting bitten.  And not to have any open containers outside that could be good for mosquitos.

A trip from Penang to Siem Reap, Cambodia

Tropical Expat is just back from Siem Reap in Cambodia, the aim being mainly to see Angkor Wat.

From Penang we flew on Malaysian Airlines to Kuala Lumpur – around 40 minutes by air, spent about three hours there in transit, comfortably ensconced in a lounge, and then another two and a half hours on Malaysian Airlines to Siem Reap.

The worst experience of the trip was simply arriving – Immigration is very unfriendly, and then they fingerprint and thumbprint you. There goes your privacy for the rest of your life. I wasn’t aware of this beforehand. Er, excuse the pun.

The government gouges you, with a $20 visa. And charges for non-locals to visit the museum or the temples are quite high, and many times the charges for locals. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation sent my wife a birthday email, as her birthday was a day after we returned from our trip. That was a nice thought.

From the airport to town is about 20 minutes. You can travel by tuk-tuk for about $5, or car for about $7.

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a tuk-tuk

They all drive very slowly, so even if there is no seat belt it’s not particularly worrying. Thereafter, a tuk-tuk to anywhere in town would be $1. They may ask for $2, but most will settle for $1. And if they don’t, there are plenty of others. Oh yes, they drive on the right side of the road – like the French.  But it’s easy to get by with the English language.

Basically you use USD as the currency, but if anything is not a whole dollar, you will get change in Riel.  Conversely, if you are paying a fraction of a dollar, you too can pay in Riel. 1,000 Riel are about 25c. So don’t worry if you are given some, they are easy to use.

Much has been written online about visiting the temples, so there is little point me repeating it. And there is plenty of accommodation, from very cheap to expensive, and it is easily researched, and details changing, so I won’t cover this either. There are free maps and booklets on Siem Reap you can pick up at the tourist office or many cafes or restaurants.

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free maps and booklets from tourist office or cafes and restaurants

There is Pub Street in the centre of town…

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er – street with lots of pubs etc.

– actually not one pub street but a  few streets with lots of restaurants and they are really jumping – restaurants are quite full, but you’ll still get a table, everyone is happy, beer is cheaper than water (sometimes beer 50c, water $1), food is lovely, portions are big; and there are no prohibitive taxes on alcohol, so cocktails and spirits are cheap. Wine is not so cheap, however. In the few days we were there we lived on either Cambodian food, or Mexican food. But there are many ethnic restaurants.  And a great many have Wi-Fi.

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Viva Mexican Restaurant

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typical sign board

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one page of a comprehensive drink and food menu

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frozen margarita

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One of the many nice Cambodian restaurants – I loved the curry and spring rolls here

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spring rolls

The Cambodian people are calm and friendly. And time passes very slowly. You look at the time and you think – it’s still early, yet we’ve done so much. Some parts of the town are dusty, but it’s clean, with very little litter.

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The countryside is also clean and nice.

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rice fields

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Ancient Kymer Restaurant

Mrs Tropical Expat noticed a lot of young gay couples around. The town and temple area has a great many tourists from all over the world – I heard Italian, French, German, American, English, New Zealand, Australian, Spanish, Japanese, Russian,  and plenty of languages I couldn’t recognise.

Our basic game plan was to visit the museum on the day we arrived to get an idea of the history. $12 per person, or $3 for locals.

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Angkor National Museum

The museum is an impressive building, but unless you have a photographic memory, after a while all the stories and myths explained get muddled in your mind, and if you are anything like me you give up and just browse thereafter, until you reach the final exhibit. If you can get Brahim, Vishnu, Shiva, Garuda and the snakes sorted, it’s a good start.  It did help visiting the museum before heading off to the temples the next day. I liked the scale model of Angkor wat in the ground floor exhibition room.

It does get hot during the day climbing stairs at the temples, so the earlier in the morning you are able to start, the better.  And I would recommend hiring a car and guide.  It costs more per day, but you can probably see in two days what otherwise would take you three, and actually then not cost you more. And the car has air-conditioning, and the dust will not affect you so much, so your stamina will be so much better. And, by the way, the toilets in the heritage area are very clean and pleasant.

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Angkor Wat

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Bridge over river – lots of statues on either side

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We visited the Butterfly Garden Cafe, and were greatly disappointed.  It had a small, nice garden, but only a few scruffy black butterflies in residence.  We didn’t stay long.

Another popular visit is to the Artisan Centre which gives a free tour, which is quite interesting, if you like arts and crafts.

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The products in the shop are quite expensive, though. They also provide a free tour to their silk farm, which departs currently at 11.30, and returns to town at 1.30; or departs at 1.30 and returns at 3.30.  The actual time of the tour is about 20 minutes, and it is interesting.  It takes 30 minutes by bus each way to the silk farm. The balance of the one hour there is spent in their shop  – which has the same products as the town shop, at probably the same prices. So, for the 20 minutes of interest, do you want to spend two hours? It’s up to you.

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At the silk farm

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The markets are good for Cambodian produce.  For spices, lotus seeds and nuts. Again they are in the centre of town, not far from the restaurants. There are day and night markets.

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Our guide told us they had eliminated mosquitoes, and malaria and dengue fever in this area.  And indeed I had no problems with mosquitoes even walking though the jungle. I did test this to the extreme, by spending dusk at the hotel by the pool in the garden in just my swimming costume – and I got two mosquito bites. Avoid dawn and dusk or cover yourself up, and you are likely to be all right.

Our guide also told us that the police and military have basically locked down the area so there is no crime – and it did feel very safe, although they didn’t seem so much in evidence. And, apparently “Siem” means “Siam” = Thailand, and “Reap” means “defeat” – so the town was named after Thai forces lost the area to Cambodian forces.

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Siem Reap River, near the night market

You might want to read this blog about Cambodia, also: Things to do in Cambodia

Perhentian Islands – Malaysian tropical paradise

The Perhentian Islands are lovely. From Penang you can drive to Kuala Besut and take a 40 minute ride on a speedboat; or take a bus to Kuala Besut; or fly to Kota Baru on Firefly and make your way to Kuala Besut by bus or taxi.

Location of Perhentian Islands

Perhentian Islands

We chose to drive, as detailed in my previous blog – “Road Trip – Penang to the east coast of Malaysia by car” There is a secure parking lot to the left of the Samudera Hotel, and this costs RM7 per day (not per 24 hours or night) – so RM 20 for Monday – Wednesday for us – with RM1 discount.

The story starts on our first morning in Kuala Besut, having endured the night at a local hotel. We had booked a three-day / two-night all-inclusive package at the Bubu Resort. This includes the boat ride to and from the island. Bubu has many packages, which can include a bus from the airport, then the boat, too. Another resort is Shari-la, which we walked past but didn’t enter. However friends of ours stay there and like it. There are many boat companies at the new jetty – which you can’t miss because it is all sparkling new and very orange.

very orange jetty

If you want to go to the islands and have no booking, it is easy enough to book a ride as there are so many agents at the jetty – but you may have to wait until the boat is full until it departs. Bubu has an office at the jetty, and we left our luggage there and it was taken care of until they delivered it to our room at the resort. A few minutes before departure we were ushered to the tax window where we had to pay an “environmental” tax of RM5 per person for up to three days – RM2 for pensioners – which we didn’t bother asking for.

tax details

Then we boarded the boat…

speed boat to island

There were only eight people on our boat, and we were asked to wear life jackets. It wasn’t scary, but the boat ride can be bumpy as they drive quickly,

a bit bumpy

and takes about 35 – 40 minutes to the jetty near the resort.

Bubu Resort from the boat, just before arrival

At the jetty a hotel representative greets you…

view of resort from jetty

and accompanies you to the hotel cafe/restaurant where you are immediately served a welcome drink – non-alcoholic, but nice and not sickly sweet as you often receive in Malaysia and Thailand.

you are presented with a welcome drink

welcome drink and view from cafe / restaurant

The representative then explains about the resort and the activity schedule, and lets you know when your room is ready.

Itinerary for 3 days / 2 nights

As it was about 12:00 noon, we had to wait about an hour before we could take our room, but we just wandered down to the beach.

beach

And then a little later were invited to take possession of our room.

The accommodation block

we were on the third (top) floor

We had requested the top floor as mosquitoes would likely be less of a problem.

room view

The room had a nice view of the resort and beach…

view from room

And what do you know? Lunch was being served, so we wandered down for that.

buffet dinner

You may notice from the time stamp that this photo is actually dinner, and this is because the buffet lunch and buffet dinner on the first day were more or less the same. This is simply what I chose, but of course it is all you wish to eat.  Thereafter we spent some time under the beach umbrellas, and swimming.

beach view

Then it was time for our snorkelling practice near the hotel.  We rented a life jacket, snorkel and mask for RM40 per person (for the duration of our stay), and just wandered down near the jetty to water about neck-deep, and snorkelled with the guide watching over us.

snorkelling near the resort

I found it was not necessary to wear the life jacket – if you just lay in the water you floated anyway, and you could watch the lovely tropical fish on the coral to your heart’s content, just peacefully breathing through the snorkel – you not the fish.  After about 45 minutes we wandered back for afternoon tea – although I was still full from lunch.

Afternoon tea – chocolate pastry, butter biscuits, and some strange fish thing you eat with chilli sauce.

view from restaurant to beach

Then it was back to the deck chairs.  And before you know it is happy hour – cocktails 20% off.  They were pretty popular with the guests.

happy hour cocktails

Some time after this we were escorted to the other side of the island to view the sunset. This was about a 15 minute walk.

walkway across the island

And we viewed the sunset from in front of the Shari-la resort.

sunset walk

almost sunset

The path there is very simple – you’d have to try really hard to get lost. So we walked back before it got dark as there was no lighting.  It was almost dinner time – not that we were really hungry.  As I mentioned, it was pretty much the same as lunch, so see the lunch photo. In case you didn’t buy an all-inclusive deal, there are plenty of eating places in shacks along the beach, and also near Shari-la.  But Bubu was the most upmarket (although Shari-la is similar), and the rest various stages of down-market.  If you eat a-la-carte at Bubu, here is one page of the menu as an idea.

One page of Bubu’s a la carte menu – there are more pages

And this is the restaurant and bar on the beach.

Same place we had welcome drinks, so you can see that photo for the beach view.

Speaking of the bar, the price of drinks  at Bubu was very similar to any other place along the beach, but the atmosphere at Bubu is much nicer.  I saw one kiosk selling beer for RM7, but it had no seating – just the beach. Here is Bubu’s drinks menu…

drinks menu page 1

drinks menu page 2

There is no refrigerator in the room, by the way.

So, that was Day One. Pretty busy, but still plenty of time on the beach and  in the water.

Day Two, I was up before dawn to greet the sun as I usually do anyway.  And to grab the best deck chairs.

sunrise from Bubu’s beach

And then a nice swim.  I discovered that breakfast is probably the best meal – if you like western breakfasts.

my breakfast choice to start – then I went back for more

There were really nice croissants freshly baked, chicken, sausages, bread, jam, fruit and others.  This is the restaurant where all-inclusive patrons eat their meals.

Part of the breakfast buffet, with the egg chef to the left.

Next came the highlight of the holiday – and I have no photos because I was afraid of getting my camera wet, and because I couldn’t photograph underwater anyway. This was a three-hour boat trip to three different points to snorkel and see the sea life. First we were taken near the shore of the other island and snorkelled, and saw many tropical fish – but much of the coral had died.  No currents here, so no life jacket really necessary if you can swim OK, unless you want to play it safe.  Then we were taken to another spot on the coast of the same island, where again we saw fish, and also a shark about four or five feet long. Again no life jacket really necessary for swimmers.  Finally we were taken to a spot between the two islands to see turtles.  Here the current was strong, so wearing a life jacket was advisable. Those turtles sure move fast, but I saw one for a little while.

Back on land, and I was tired, but satisfied. And, it was lunch time.  Lunch was similar to the day before – watermelon, pineapple, chicken, rice, cooked vegetables, salad…  Then back to the deck chairs to relax.

deck chairs and beach umbrellas

Then afternoon tea.

afternoon tea – today cake, samosa and sausage roll

There was another walk to a high spot on the island, but we skipped it in favour of lying on the deck chairs, a bit more snorkelling nearby, and going for a slow walk along the beach and back. Dinner this night was a BBQ, and it was delicious. Fish, prawns, clams, lamb, potato, corn, and skewered vegetables.

delicious BBQ dinner

We opted for a 4PM boat back to the mainland, so as to get an almost full day on the beach, and spent the day swimming, lying on the deck chairs and doing some more snorkelling.

last chance to snorkel

The boat trip back was part of the package, but was a shared boat – which meant the captain picked up people from other places – and involved doing one circuit of the island – which was a bonus. And then back to Kuala Besut and the final adventure – we decided to drive to Kuala Lumpur from there – so took a route we’d never done before from north-east to south-west.

Bubu was great, and the minor complaints patrons had made in the past, such as no soap provided, had been addressed, so management is doing its best to satisfy customers, it seems. Mosquitoes were not much of a problem. The staff were helpful and very friendly. Some of the food was really good. Some was between OK and good. Drink prices were reasonable for Malaysia. Activities were relaxed and fun. We really enjoyed ourselves.