7 June 2013

Road rules of Malaysia

by S Kuta Rider

  1. Those dotted white lines down the middle of roads are scooter lanes. No cars can cross them at any point. If cars do cross them, even with plenty of forewarning, we will beep and glare at you
  2. The hard shoulder is also a lane for scooters.
  3. If we cannot get down a road, we will go on the pavement. Pavements are primarily for scooters, and pedestrians need to ensure they get out of our way.
  4. We can travel whichever way we like down a road - just because everyone else is going in one direction, doesn't mean we have to.
  5. Cars and vans need to drive in straight lines. Scooters can weave around as much as we like.
  6. If we drive past you when the traffic is slow, we can then slow down when the traffic speeds up, and stay in the centre of your lane so you cannot get past us. 
  7. At traffic lights, we may gather in a huge group at the stop line - once we have gone past you in our scooter lane, of course.
  8. At traffic lights, the lane we are in is not indicative of the direction we are going in.
  9. A red traffic light only means stop if you are not a scooter rider. We can go through them whenever we like.
  10. A scooter is an appropriate vehicle for any number of people from one to four.
  11. Indicators on scooters are purely for special occasions eg Chinese New Year and Hari Raya.
  12. Jackets worn backwards are extremely stylish.
  13. If we knock your car mirror when going past you, it is your fault.
  14. If we crash into you it is your fault.
  15. In fact, anything that happens on the road is your fault, not ours.

20 May 2013

Falling victim to progress?

Most of the time, I'm all for progress.  We have to move forward, or else we stagnate.  But sometimes progress is not a good thing.

You may remember me writing about the Coliseum Cafe about 18 months ago - the original post is here.

It's a KL institution, and used to have a real old-fashioned feel about it. Now, sadly, not so much - progress has stepped in and is stripping it of its character.

When I first visited, I was told the place had new owners, but at that time they certainly hadn't made any visible impact on the old place.  The paintwork was tired at best.  The tables and chairs didn't match.  You used to have to switch the chairs around to find one that you could feel reasonably confident would hold your weight for the entire meal, or at least one that was relatively comfy.  If you were really lucky, you'd find one that met these criteria, and didn't have foam spilling drunkenly out of a slit in the faux-leather seats.

Now, you might think that, in this case, a bit of progress would be a good thing.  But it hasn't been.  Presumably under the new ownership, the place has been re-decorated - well, painted in the same shades of hint-of-nicotine and cover-all-stains mud brown - but the paint is no longer chipped or going ombre-style from light to dark as it goes from floor to ceiling.

The tables and chairs have been replaced.  They're still not going to fit in at the Savoy, but they all match.  And so the place just doesn't look the same.

The tables also have a very modern addition - a CIMB (a local bank) promotion, looking really quite incongruous in this setting, but also bringing it firmly into this century.

Perhaps saddest of all, the food has gone from good to average.  The spring rolls used to have their own unique taste.  I was told this was the white radish they used, I actually think it had more to do with old cooking oil!  Whatever - that taste has now gone.  

And so this Saturday we departed sadly from the Coliseum, feeling that, in many ways, it was the beginning of the end of an era for the cafe.  If much more progress is imposed on it, it will simply become just another cafe, rather than the KL institution it has been for over 90 years.

4 March 2013

Apologies, royals and orangutans

I've had two complaints about my blog - or rather lack of it - in the last week, so I suppose I had better put fingers to keyboard and create another post! Sorry for the lack of them recently - it was much easier when I had just arrived and everything was new and exciting!

Chinese New Year has been and gone now. Last year we spent it in a spookily quiet KL, this year we decided to go away, leaving early on a Friday afternoon to avoid the inevitable public holiday traffic jams.

We flew to Kota Kinabalu which is the state capital of Sabah, one of two Malaysian states that nestle on the island of Borneo.

We splashed out on the hotel, staying at the Shangri-la, and booked a suite for the three of us as they tend to be cheaper than two separate rooms. We were asked on arrival if we would like to pay about £400 for an upgrade to the presidential suite, and politely declined - only to be told a few minutes later that we could have it for free. Turns out it was the same suite that Will and Kate stayed in when they visited Borneo! Caitie was most impressed! I loved the huge wrap-around balcony it had, with five different seating areas - perfect for sipping a drink while taking in the sea view, including some rather impressive sunsets.

On our first full day there, we took a taxi to the city outskirts, and wandered around. The waterfront was suitably picturesque - brightly coloured fishing boats, blue seas and tropical islands dotted around. 

We stumbled upon a craft market and took a look round some of the stalls - plenty of keyrings, cheap bags and pearl jewellery on offer. We also strolled around the city streets for a while, and discovered they were pretty much like most other city streets in Malaysia - a mix of shops, shops and more shops, interspersed with food stalls, food stalls and - you've got it - more food stalls.

The following day we took a bumpy ride to the hotel's sister resort further north along the coast, where they have an orangutan reserve. Walking with a guide and a good few dozen other people, we followed an upwards path through the jungle, stopping after about ten minutes at a wooden platform viewing area. The guide went a little further, to another, smaller platform, put fruit out, and called to the orangutans. Sure enough, after a few minutes one appeared, swinging through the trees, and started tucking into its breakfast.

Before long it was joined by another, but this one seemed to take his time to get through the trees, almost showing off, it seemed, as he swung from one branch to another, sometimes upside down, sometimes the right way up, sometimes spread completely between branches creating an X shape with his limbs!

He posed for a moment on the platform, ate a bit of fruit, and then grabbed a banana and zipped off into the trees to eat it in peace.


The experience probably only lasted about 20-30 minutes, but it was a good one, and another to tick off the "must see/do" list. The orangutans were more limber than we had thought - photos always seem to portray them as being somewhat portly and sedentary, but these ones were definitely pretty nimble.

The rest of our time was spent just chilling out - reading, eating, snoozing, the usual holiday activities!

Our verdict - it was worth going, we would have regretted it had we not, but we probably won't return. Too many other places to explore, and a few that we want to see again :-)