Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jellyfish Problem in Langkawi

I came across this article in "The Star" 1/9/10
I've never really rated Langkawi as to me it symbolises just about everything wrong with Malaysian beach holidays and the poor planning and the abandoned developments make the place look ugly and most of the resorts are either miles from anywhere self-contained upmarket "let's charge whatever we can get away with now that they're here" type places-or "lets build an A-frame chalet,throw in some red or white plastic chairs and call it a resort" type place...The beaches are not great and the water quality is poor...
On the plus side,beer is duty-free and some people who go there fall in love with the place.

Last year there was a report in the foreign press that a Swedish tourist died after being stung by a box-jellyfish whilst skinny-dipping at night.
This was never reported by the local media as it might be "bad' for the image.
A few people commented on the story and didn't disagree with the author....and the local medics on the island were not surprised....
Now,I'm not saying that the current Jellyfish plague is caused by the same species but perhaps it highlights a bigger problem...
Anyway,the report is quoted in full below:  

LANGKAWI: Improper dumping of sewage and the disappearance of turtles has caused an explosion in the jellyfish population which is threatening tourism here.

In the first 21 days of July alone, 185 cases of jellyfish attacks on tourists and residents including fishermen were recorded and this is becoming a cause of concern to the Langkawi Development Authority (Lada).
The authority is seeking Malaysia Nature Society’s help to reduce the number of jellyfish.
Lada’s economic affairs assistant officer Shajiddeen Shaari said the best way to curb the number of jellyfish would be to prevent marine pollution.
However, he said they faced problems in increasing the number of turtles, which feed on jellyfish, because of pollution along the beaches.
“Turtles mistake plastic bags for food as to they look like floating jellyfish to the turtles,” said Shajiddeen.
He said jellyfish are also reducing the fish population as they eat fish eggs.
Veteran nature guide Othman Ayeb said rising water temperatures due to pollution also contributed to the jellyfish boom.
He said that in the past, the jellyfish were usually found some 5km to 10km away from the shoreline.
“However, due to the improper management of sewage from resorts and hotels, the jellyfish started to breed along the shore,” he said.
Othman added that Pantai Cenang has the highest number of jellyfish because of the bad water quality.
“However, we have yet to ascertain the jellyfish species,” he said, adding that samples will be sent to Universiti Sains Malaysia for proper identification.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hiking The Crystal Ridge/Bukit Tabur,Taman Melawati, Kuala Lumpur

Another amazing adventure just half an hour drive from KLCC.
The Crystal Ridge of Bukit Tabur is a massive quartz ridge that stretches for miles around the north west of Kuala Lumpur.You can't miss it as it's about a 1.000 feet high cliff-face.
Bukit Tabur is located about 20km from the city centre. There is no public transport to the starting point so you need  your own transport or a friendly taxi driver who will not only take you there but collect you four hours later-so swap Handphone numbers! (and yes,there is reception at the summit)
Follow the main road to the Zoo and take the exit after to Taman Melawati
- next round-about 9 o'clock
- next round-about 12 o'clock
- at T-junction turn right and follow the road along the hill until you get to the Water treatment plant..
The trail starts just after a small concrete wall just before the  gate to the water treatment plant and is a hard-uphill slog.
There are no facilities.
And no safety ropes or equipment of any kind...You're on your own and if you get into any difficulty only you and your hiking buddies can get you out of it.
The trail is marked quite well.
Once you make it up to the Ridge you can see the spectacular Klang Gates reservoir and have a good view of KL.
But make no mistake,it's hard going.
Probably the most demanding and exhausting thing I've done since climbing Mount Kinabalu years ago-and that was when it was much taller!
It's dangerous.
People have died on this ridge-so be aware and take care.
The rocks are sharp and unforgiving and would be treacherous when wet.
The climb itself involves some scrambling over sharp, jagged rocks at times at an 80 degree angle for 20 feet or so at a time.
There are also some areas where the trail is on a knife-edge with a vertical drop of about 500 feet straight down.
My biggest fear was falling off the damn thing,my second fear was falling down the damn thing and bouncing all the way to the bottom.Third fear was getting caught in a thunderstorm.
You may be able to tell I didn''t really enjoy it that much but that's probably more a reflection of my own lack of fitness-I was puffing and gasping after the first 5 minutes....
The hike took us about 4 hours in total, 2 hours up and 2 hours to get back down.
We halted just before the highest point which is marked by a red-flag in the trees.To go on from here  involves descent and ascent of a couple of ropes on sheer vertical stretches of rock face and I didn't think I had the strength to continue.
Most accidents happen at these ropes when you're tired.
We went down the same way we came which is the safest way to go.
But-going down was even more taxing and exhausting than going up.
It's easier to stumble and miss your footholds.
Finally we made it down in one piece-but as I said,bloody hard work.

We went there during a week-day and we were the only ones there!
I hear that on weekends it can be a bit of a mad scramble and there will always be faster climbers behind you and slower climbers ahead of you so you may be constantly making-way for people or trying to pass them-and on a narrow ridge that can be disastrous.
The ridge is quite exposed so you'll be at the mercy of the elements.Take a hat, wear sturdy shoes pack some mosquito repellent and a whole lot of water.And a bit more.
Some food would also be a good idea-but try and get someone else to carry it as you don't want to be weighed down too much.
I would also recommend going with a couple of fit women who can offer encouragement and carry your backpack when you no longer can.
And,when you really need to stop and take a breather it's a good idea to pretend you're admiring the view instead of just catching your breath.

You know that sense of achievement you get when you reach a summit or attain a goal?
Well, I'm still waiting for mine.
I must have drank at least a litre of water but was so dehydrated that it took me a day to fully recover.
My pee was the same colour as a WAG's fake tan.
And my arms and legs were a bit sore for a couple of days.
So,was it worth it? Yeah probably....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Great Banana Leaf Indian Food at Nirwana Magic Restoren,Jalan Telawi 3 Bangsar,Kuala Lumpur

I'm not quite sure where heaven is but there's a little bit of it hovering around Nirwana Magic Restoren on Jalan Telawi 3 in Bangsar.
Banana Leaf cuisine means that instead of a plate,you eat from a Banana Leaf-and it's without a  doubt gorgeous and one of the best things you will ever eat.
It's mainly vegetarian but meat/fish dishes are available.
Perfect for a huge lunch-time blow-out,The Nirwana is always packed and you'll have to wait maybe 10 minutes for a table.
Sitting inside has the benefit of being a little cooler but it's a bit noisier whilst outside is pleasant but can get a bit too hot.
The waiter starts by serving you with 2 or 3 gigantic scoops of rice and then you're served some veggie dishes including a nice and crunchy deep-fried bitter gourd (that has thankfully lost it's bitterness) and some sweet-corn,melon,green bean mix and some chopped-up fruity things.
Add some chilli's, lime pickles and a poppadom and then pour either dhall,fish or chicken gravy on your rice.
Then,you may add other dishes depending on how hungry you are.
Personal favourites are the Potato Massalla,Fried Squid and Mutton Massalla.
If your eyes are bigger than your stomach you'll struggle to finish.
Price wise,add in a drink and all the above should cost no more than about RM 12.
Service is always pretty good.

There are other Banana Leaf restaurants in Kuala Lumpur but frankly this is the best.
It's situated along the same road that has "The Social" and is opposite the new wing of Bangsar Shopping Village.

As I said,perfect for a truly big feed.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Day Trip To Taman Rimba Ampang

It never ceases to amaze me that if you head west from Kuala Lumpur within half-an-hour or so,you're almost in the middle-of-nowhere....surrounded by secondary jungle and clear rivers.

Taman Rimba Ampang is a small park at the end of Jalan Ampang heading away from the city.
and,OK so it's not really a 'day-trip' as you can get there in about half-an-hour but it's a pleasant enough place to go to for an hour or so-maybe even longer if you take a picnic and/or some kids along(always ask first)
The journey there takes you from the gleaming city-centre, flashy condos and embassies,past the Malls of Great Eastern,Ampang Point and into the suburban ugliness of Ampang Jaya,past the cement factory and quarry and then into the small,picturesque Kampung Lembah Jaya Utara where Jalan Ampang becomes Jalan Bukit Belacan and then you arrive at the archway to mark small park itself.
Just keep going straight on Jalan Ampang-and when the road ends,you're there.
The park itself consists of a tarmaced road following a small,clean river up to the water-treatment facility.
There are various spots along the way to stop and picnic,rest,enjoy the view or even cool your heels in the river.
There is a really pathetic looking kids playground that has seen better days and spoils it a bit.. but it's a pleasant walk of about 30 minutes up to the water-works.
Amazingly,for a park in Malaysia-it's clean.Virtually no litter and no nasi-lemak stalls with red-plastic chairs!
So it makes a refreshing change...although I don't know what it's like on a weekend or public holidays.
A great escape from construction noise and traffic,you can even get there by bus as Rapid KL use it as the end of the line,or if you were even more energetic-you could walk from Amapng Jaya LRT station.
You'll see lots of macaques, most of whom will not be scared of you and a few birds and butterflies fluttering about....quite pleasant.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Looking for Somewhere to go in Kuala Lumpur?

I came across this story in "The Star" recently.....

"Lack of maintenance has resulted in more than half of the 19 automated toilets, each costing RM400,000, in Kuala Lumpur being damaged and one is not operational.

The toilets were launched in 2006 by then Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak who also said that foreigners could tell about a country’s culture and civilisation from the condition of its public lavatories.
The Automatic Street Toilets (AST) are located at strategic points in the city that are mostly frequented by tourists.
Fully automated including the cleaning of the toilet bowls, it only costs RM1 to use the air-conditioned AST which comes in two cubicles per location.
Good maintenance needed: Each AST costs RM400,000 and is fully automated from the RM1 fee collection to the toilet bowl.
Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng and Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun highlighted the issue and said it was Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) responsibility to maintain these toilets.
“According to the status report of the AST we received from DBKL, four of the toilets are not operational while three have only one operational cubicle. Out of the 19, 12 have been damaged,” Lim said.
According to the report, the problems include leaking air-conditioning, damaged automatic door motors and lack of water supply since June 1.
Lim also claimed that the contract for the AST maintenance was not done via open tender which could have lessened inefficiency.
“We welcome high-tech toilets as a means to attract tourists but since the ASTs are not taken care of properly, it has most likely caused the opposite result,” Lim said.
Lim also highlighted the matter of Najib saying back in 2006 that there would be a total of 23 toilets in place by 2007.
“According to the AST status report there are only 19 toilets and one is being build at Pasarama Kota. What happened to the other three?” he said, adding that somebody has to take responsibility of the matter."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Fire at Reggae Bar Changkat Bukit Bintang Kuala Lumpur

A fire broke out at Reggae Bar,Changkat Bukit Bintang early Saturday morning 7th August.
I understand that it started behind the bar due to an electrical wiring problem and spread rapidly,destroying the bar counter,most of the ceiling and the upstairs dining area.
No one was injured.
Rumours that they were playing Bob Marley's "Catch-a-Fire" are unfounded.
Seriously though,although the bar isn't one of my favourites,you gotta feel sorry for them and for the staff.
It is expected to re-open in about 2 weeks-so that probably means about a month.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bakita Jalan Berangan Kuala Lumpur

I'm not sure what to make of this place...yet.
Located just behind Weners at the bottom of Changkat Bukit Bintang in what was La Terrace,
Bakita (very loosely translates to "Our Bar") opened just in time to get a bit of trade during the World Cup.
It's just around the corner from Albion and Bar Italia.
Bakita looks a bit industrial and sterile.
The courtyard seems like a nice place for a couple of chilled-out beers but the ever-present traffic and high walls mean that you can't really watch the world go by.
The inside bar seems to be OK but even in the early evening the music is a bit too loud for an old git like me when you're not quite in the mood for it-and it was 90's house music if I remember correctly.
Which sounds dreadful at 8.30pm when you're sober.
Upstairs is more of a cocktail-lounge/clubby type place.
It's the sort of place that when it's empty there seems absolutely no reason whatsoever to go in and later at night when it's (presumably) busier it's deafeningly loud music and expensive drinks.
Predictably they offer free selected drinks for anyone wearing a skirt on Thursdays.
Probably not my thing at all-but good luck to them-They sell Carlsberg and I may actually have one there one evening, but then again I don't like the small glasses that Carlsberg now comes in.
Two or three gulps and it's gone..and a Pint gets too warm,too soon.