Thursday, January 27, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year!

According to most Chinese astrologers The Year of the Rabbit is going to be peaceful and prosperous for all of us. This is in direct contradiction to most world economists who are all talking doom-and-gloom and strife.
So,lets hope  the astrologers and 1.3 Billion Chinese are correct.

As usual the Shopping Malls in KL are full of CNY decorations-and as usual Pavilion is the most over-the-top and combines classy with tacky.....combining plastic rabbits (or are they fat rats?) with some interesting Lion Heads and Drums.
The lanterns also add a nice touch.
All the other malls use the same theme of a slightly comical looking plastic rabbit and a host of red lanterns.
Mid Valley also has a "Chinese Village" with all sorts of handicrafts on display and even DBKL (City Hall) has taken the opportunity to string-up some red lanterns along Jalan Bukit Bintang and Jalan Alor.
Although they do look a bit half-hearted.
Most Shopping Malls are playing slightly likable but at the same time slightly annoying Chinese New Year music...there only seem to be two slow one and one slightly faster.
And the Lion Dances have already started.
And yet..and yet...somehow it all seems to lack a bit of atmosphere and seems a bit "flat"-and that's according to my Chinese friends.
Maybe we've had one holiday too many...or they're just too close to each other....Christmas rapidly followed by New Year and then Thaipusum. And there is a holiday in KL for Federal Territory Day next Tuesday and then we get a 15 day Chinese New Year (admittedly only Chinese New Year Eve and Days 1,2 and 15 are really celebrated) but we may be suffering from "Holiday Fatigue" ....
Still,better make the most of it as after Feb 15th the next Public Holiday is 1st May.... So Gong Xi Fat Chai,as they say!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Quiz Nights and Price Increases along Changkat Bukit Bintang

I mentioned here about the Quiz Night held in Healy Mac's on a Monday night...well,it seems to be growing in popularity as last week there were about 20 teams...that's about 100 people so you can imagine it was pretty busy...and a little claustrophobic.
And there are some very clever buggers/walking encyclopedias taking part.
I also mentioned that Healy Macs offered some fairly good promotions on their beer....well,this all seems to have stopped.
This might be something to do with the time of year but it just might be a little un-sporting.
A mug of Tiger is unchanged at  RM13.50. but there is  no longer any "buy one get one free pint promotion"....and worse of all,they have re-introduced that dreadful "Happy-Hour" order your beer before 10pm.
A pint is RM 21...RM 24.50 with all the taxes.
I have no idea how much it is after Happy Hour as I refuse to pay it,just out of principle.
(Yikes! someone just told me it was RM 16 for a mug after 10pm!)
A bucket of Tiger Crystal is RM70 all night,which works out to RM14 per bottle.
It's still a great night-out....but I'm a little upset over the pricing.
And,just to prove that "anything you can do I can do better" Gypsy Bar now also hold a quiz night (Wednesdays) but sadly increased their prices on Dec 31st.last year.
I thought that this was just a "one-off" to capitalize on New Year's Eve but it's here to stay.
A mug of Tiger is now RM11 whilst a bucket of Crystal in now RM65 for 5 bottles. (RM13 each)
If you go to Beach Club you can still get a bucket of 6 Carlsberg for RM69 for 6 (RM11.50 each) as long as you order before 9pm.
Now all this may make me sound a little stingy,well I guess I am and I know that just about everything else is going up in price as well.
But I want Value for Money.
I don't think that the cost from the Brewery to the Bar has they are just profiteering.
Anyway,I still like both Bars and if I really wanted cheap(er) beer I could buy it at a supermarket and sit at home drinking it.
But where's the fun in that?
I believe that Ceylon Bar now offers the best deal along the street with a Tiger at just over RM10.
but as they're going to be refurbished soon...maybe their prices will change.
Incidentally,there are a few places on Tengkat Tong Shin that seem  less expensive but are totally devoid of atmosphere.
The massage place/Bali Restaurant is offering 3 jugs at RM100..which probably works out to RM8 per glass but unless you become your own entertainment you'll be bored as there is nothing to look at.
A bucket of 4 goes for RM 38.
Anyway,back to the Quiz night at Gypsy.It was a little less serious and a bit more light-hearted than Healy Macs,maybe because it was the first one...and it's a good opportunity to try and win some free beer/cash.
I've been told that The Social  has a quiz night on Tuesday's...and maybe Finnegan's does something as well.
So,If you've got the brain cells(and you're willing to sacrifice them)...Monday at Healy Macs,Tuesday at Social and Wednesday at Gypsy...oh and maybe even Spritz on a Thursday night.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Little India...aka Brickfields.

Little India used to be an area of KL just off Jalan TAR,along Jalan Masjid India,an area crammed with shops selling Saris and loads of  Vegetarian Restaurants...I say "used" to be as sometime late last year it was decided to re-name and re-brand Brickfields as "Little India"
All of this was a cynical political move and culminated in a visit by the President of India to officially open the area.
So,what used to be Brickfields to everyone has undergone somewhat of a "wash-and-brush-up."
At least on the surface...but dig down a bit and move into the side streets and you can still find the original flavour of the place (illegal bottle shops,worn-out hookers and The Best Fried Kway Teow in town)
I like has a more relaxed suburban feel than the city centre...and one of the really good things is that you can find Mosques,Churches,Assrams and Chinese Temples all within very close proximity to each other-and everyone seems to get along just fine in that laid-back "live and let live" kind of way. 
Opposite the huge construction site of KL Sentral,Jalan Tun Sambanthan,the main drag is now a one-way street with crazy paving and wiggly lampposts.
There is an archway at one end saying "Salamat Datang Ke Little India" and a totally over-the-top fountain complete with elephant motifs....a column of arches leads into the distance and lotus blooms mosaics are embedded into the road.
And it looks kinda nice... I believe at night that the fountain is illuminated with a light display.
And there's more to come...more arches and stuff and a food stall/hawker centre...the only sad thing is that what used to be a playing field is now covered in concrete and full of market stalls but other than that it looks allright and sort-of works.
You can now get a free walking tour of the area every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month starting at the YMCA and taking about 2.5 hrs.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day Trip to Bukit Apek, Cheras

Another trip to get out of town away from the concrete jungle and into the real thing.
Bukit Apek is a small but steep hill in Forrest Reserve land on the outskirts of Cheras.
It's only about 15km from KL City Centre but is a whole world away in terms of the environment.
But you have to really* want* to go there as it's quite difficult to find.
Head out of KL towards Cheras on the Grand Saga Expressway and look for the signs for Taman Cuepecs/Taman Awana.It can take a while driving around as some of the roads are so new that they are not yet on the map.
If you can find the big Econsave building and a Shell Petrol Station you're on the right try and find Jalan Awana 23.
The trail itself starts at the end of the residential housing and is marked by a water treatment pond.
There is a lot of new development going on here and the hill is being slowly eaten away to be replaced by suburban housing and the noise from the construction can be heard for the first hour or so of hiking.
The start of the trail is very steep and came as a bit of a shock as I was soon panting and out of breath however after a while it evens out a bit and there are even a few downhill stretches.
But I was still panting and out-of-breath.
It's a steep and strenuous hike-and slippery in places.
Bukit Apek is also known as "Old Man's Hill" and yes,there were lots of older people out for a vigorous walk (some just barefoot) and they all seem a hell of a lot fitter than me....
I believe there is a local volunteers group who have taken on the task of looking after the trail-and they've done a good job.
The paths are clearly marked,there are a few litter bins in strategic places and they have strung-up some ropes to help you navigate the extra steep and slippery bits.
The trail begins by passing through an untidy rubber-tree plantation and the smell of the dripping latex somehow reminded me of primary school art class.
It then descends to a small stream/play area before climbing again towards a Chinese Shrine/Alter that comes complete with psychotic monkeys.
Then it just gets steeper and steeper.
It's hard work.
The trail is divided into 6 stages.
Overhead you're covered by tree branches and leaves so there is little direct sunlight.
Between stage 4 and 5 the path divides with one trail heading towards the summit whilst another heads to a waterfall.
As we were a little bored with the scenery we chose to go the the waterfall.
It begins with a nice level path passing through what looks like an old abandoned oil-palm plantation and then rapidly becomes a very,very steep and rutted trial where you will thank the guys who put the ropes here as without them you would be well and truly struggling.
If you need to hold onto the tree branches for support-take care as some are thorny palm stems that would ruin your day.... and your hands!
There are some truly magnificent tall trees here.
The waterfall itself is OK,a cascade of about 30 feet in total and the water is clear and cold surprises...the amount of litter strewn around the place is truly disgusting...and this is despite the litter bins and signs reminding you not to litter.
I bet the volunteers are tearing their hair out trying to keep this place clean and tidy.
People have erected a tarpaulin cover and placed a few chairs and stuff and it looks like an abandoned refugee camp.
It was quite disappointing.
Needless to say the hike back was truly taxing and draining,going downhill is harder on the legs than going uphill but it was with relief that we got back to the car.
It's a very popular trail and all the fellow walkers we met were very friendly.
Great for a work-out and for some fresh air but not so great for scenery.
All-in-all it took us about 5 hours to get there and back.
You'll need about 2 litres of water-and maybe a hiking stick
And  you wont get any near-death experiences like you will on Bukit Tabur....which you can read here

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Bridge to Nowhere.....

I came across this the other day and thought it so bizarre that I had to write about it.
The road junction of Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Raja Chulan,at Wisma Cosway is one of the busiest in town.
About 9 months ago it was decided to slightly alter the one-way system with the result that one of the traffic islands was made redundant.
So,there was this big triangle of land that no one knew what to do with.
"I know!" said some guy in the local council..."Let's build a bridge!"
I can imagine other people looking at him thinking WTF?....and then a bit later on saying "What a brilliant've earned your promotion!"
"But there is absolutely no need for it" a lone voice of dissent is heard to cry.
"Why don't we concentrate on fixing the uneven pavements around town or even try to unblock the drains"
"You're fired for lack of imagination" says his boss...."Besides,we need to give that grumpy old blogger something to complain about!"