Back (kut teh!) in Malaysia!

I have been to Malaysia countless of times yet the thought of indulging on my favorite local dishes keeps me excited each time. My flight last Wednesday, 15 December was no different. On the plane, though delayed for half an hour, I can’t help to dream of various Malaysian food I have missed for the past 6 months. Bak kut teh, xiao long bao, satay, kuey teow, laksa.. name it! I’ve drooled for it.

Walking at Level 5 View Deck of Kuala Lumpur International Airport

Since I arrived way too early for dinner, I took the time to explore the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). If you’re arriving from the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT), a shuttle bus would take you to KLIA for only RM 2.50 (US $.80). The airport is huge but not as impressive as neighbor Singapore’s Changi International Airport.

Exploring KLIA

Shuttle bus from LCCT to KL Sentral charge RM 8 (US $2.58) while from KLIA, it’s RM 10 (US $3.22).

Bak Kut Teh at Jalan Sultan, KL!

Now the highlight of my first night back in Malaysia.. Bak Kut Teh at Jalan Sultan! The first time I tried BKT was way back in 2002, at the same stall. Never mind the sweaty forehead, nose and upper lip! I just love this piping hot local dish eaten along the busy streets of KL’s Chinatown! Though I have tried excellent BKT at a more comfortable place such as Pao Xiang Restaurant in Pavillion KL Shopping Mall last June 2010, nothing beats the authentic street-side way of how locals enjoy BKT.

Bak Kut Teh is definitely a must-try Malaysia local dish

We ordered the BKT in clay pot which cost RM 9. The serving of meat, mushroom, tofu and various pig organ is a lot. The mix of assorted spices on the soup base is just heavenly. According to the street stall vendor, their specialty is the pig trotter with peanut for RM 7. I’d probably try it the next time I’m back in Kuala Lumpur.  A mental note to also eat at the Kim Lian Kee Hokkien mee which I tried back in 2002 as well.

What else would make Malaysians happily crazy aside from food?

On the way to the Bukit Jalil Bus Terminal to catch a bus back to Batu Pahat, we noticed the National Stadium was well-lit, with hundreds of motorbikes and cars parked outside. Also, loud cheering can be heard that no matter how tired and sleepy I felt that time, I can’t help to suddenly feel energized too!  Well, what else would make Malaysians happily crazy aside from food?

2 - 0 in favor of Malaysia! Woot!

You guessed it right! It’s soccer! The Malaysia – Vietnam AFF Suzuki Match was ongoing so after quickly leaving my heavy backpack at the pay locker, we head to the stadium to catch the last minutes of the game.

The game was won by Malaysia (2-0) so the stadium was full of happy Malaysians! I can’t help to cheer with them too. Good thing it wasn’t a match against the Philippines or else I would really stick out like a sore thumb!

It’s not difficult to love the Malaysian culture, with the great food and awesome people. I’m really glad to be back!

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Happy to be stuck in Hoi An Part 1

The riverside of the ancient town of Hoi An

It was more of a necessity that we have to stay in Hoi An for 13 days. Our passports were sent back to Saigon for the visa extension and we had to wait until it was ready. A quarter of our two month stay in Vietnam was spent in Hoi An and there’s no other place I would be happier to be stuck in.

Lanterns of Hoi An

Beautiful lanterns lit up the ancient town of Hoi An when night falls

Some of the hotels and guest houses within a kilometer walk from the ancient town have swimming pools, free use of internet and are under the US $15 rate. We wanted to stay within our US $10 budget yet lodged near the Old Quarter so we took time in looking for the ideal accommodation. Besides, we knew we have to stay for days so we wanted our lodging to be as cheap as possible. Right in the center of the ancient town, in Le Loi Street, we found Thuy Duong; a double room with fan, cable television and own bathroom for US $10.

One of Hoi An's specialty, the White Rose dumpling

Within an hour after settling in our hotel, we have roamed around the ancient town and have tried Hoi An’s specialty, the White Rose dumpling. Bits of pork, shrimp, herbs and spices are mixed together, wrapped in smooth rice paper shaped like a rose then topped with fried shallots. More than a year now, I can still remember how good it tastes, specifically at Mr Hong’s and at Friendship Cafe.

Cao Lau, another Hoi An specialty. Photo courtesy of http://travelhungrychef.com

Another specialty is the Cao Lau, a noodle dish topped with either pork or chicken, vegetables and herbs. What made the dish unique is that the water used in making the noodles are from the lone Ba Le well of Hoi An. The dish is not one of my favorites though I recommend first time visitors to try it.

Hoi An Chicken Rice. Photo courtesy of littl3monk at Flickr
Chicken rice is a common dish in most Asian countries including Vietnam. In Hoi An, we have discovered that the best tasting chicken rice is being sold in a small dark alley along Le Loi Street. When night falls, we often see the alley crowded with locals dining on small table and chairs so we got curious and tried it. It’s not just good on the palate, it is good on your budget too. 10,000 dong (US $.57) a plate!
A chicken rice alternative for those not brave enough to try street food on a dark alley is Ly’s stall at the open restaurant. For 20,000 dong (US $1.14) a plate, it’s almost as good.

Lanterns in Hoi An

One can never ran out of things to do around Hoi An. Museum and Cultural sites tickets can be bought for 75,000 dong (US $4.28). Each ticket allows one to choose 1 museum out of 4 and 1 cultural site out of 4 listed to visit. If you want to visit all 8, it would cost 300,000 dong (US $17.14). For the budget-conscious traveler, there are several museums which are free of charge. Most of it though are also shop houses but one is not required to purchase anything.
For those who love to drink and party, Hoi An got a lot of bars offering free or discounted priced drinks even beyond happy hour. One place we gave a shot offering free rum coke is the King Kong Bar. The young teens on motorbike giving out the flyers all around Hoi An were successful in promoting the freebie because the place was packed with tourists! Well, it just shows how backpackers love an occassional freebie. We didn’t stay long though as some of the tourists at the place makes us feel uncomfortable. The German couple we were with, Thorsten and Susanna felt the same way so we headed back to the Old Quarters and stayed at the Before and Now bar until 2 in the morning.

Late afternoon in Hoi An

On our 4th day in Hoi An, we were pleasantly surprised to see another German couple, Werner and Ruth, we’ve met in Dalat. We chat, had coffee in one of the riverside cafe then planned to rent our own bikes and drive to the ruins of My Son, one of the tourist attractions just a few kilometers away from the ancient town of Hoi An, the next morning.
More of My Son and Hoi An on my next post!