Friday, October 22, 2010

What's new in Krabi town

There's something new in Krabi. The crabs. I don't know if the word krabi means crabs, I always thought it was just a corruption of the name when spoken in English. However there are a lot of fiddler crabs along the river bank. Update - the word krabi means a single edged sword, and the name of the town probably comes from the limestone tower along the river which locals think looks like a sword. So it has nothing to do with crabs.

I've been to Krabi at least 8 times, maybe more, and that's not including the times I've just passed through when going north or south. My first visit was 1988, and needless to say it's changed. 2008 view -
2010 new naga stairs
naga head
2008 view

There are big changes at the beach areas such as Ao Nang and Rai Lay. That's one reason I usually stay in the town. Ao Nang is becoming more like Phuket, and has most of the big American fast food chains - burgers, pizzas, ice cream and coffee. I can't believe how many pizza places there are. But they do good business, I guess cos many Westerners can't eat rice more than once or twice a week, and like the comforts of familiar food. That's another reason I stay in Krabi town, becuase apart from the Muslim foods stalls on the road leading into Ao Nang, there are no cheap local eating places. And in town, all the cheap eating places give free drinking water with a meal.

I know there are quite a few Muslims in Krabi, but this time the Muslim influence seems stronger. More women wearing headscarves, more halal eating places, and even Walls ice cream is now halal -
The night food market in town seems to have a lot more Muslim food stalls. On the way to Krabi at the large eating place where the buses stop (Nayong) there is a separate room for halal dining. However in Krabi town the Muslims and non Muslim food stalls mix side by side, without any problem of pork products being next to a Muslim stall.

Guest houses are certainly cheap, with rooms available from 120 Bt (RM12). Normally I stay at the City Hotel, but this time I thought I would try a new guest house which has been getting lots of good reviews on Lonely Planet thorntree, and has hot water and importantly, has free wifi. They have 2 guest houses (Good Dream 1 & 2) in Krabi town. When I arrived both were full, the only room was a double which they offered for 200 Bt from 250. But the room was tiny and basic, no bigger than the 2 beds, no furniture, and was noisy from the loud music downstairs in reception. The shared bathroom was a "cupboard" under the stairs. I decided I need more comfort and went back to the City, where for 400 Bt I get a double fan room, TV with English channels, bathroom and good sized towels. Only drawback is no hot water. It now has wifi, though I couldn't get a good signal in my room and had to sit in the reception area.
It seems that many of the hotels and guest houses are empty, it's now the very end of the low season, high season starts next week, Nov-May. The 2 hotels along by the river both looked deserted. There is a brand new hotel right opposite the pier, Marina Seaview, and I was offered a room for 600 Bt (immediate drop from 800) for aircon room with hot water, TV and fridge and balcony. Only problem is the balcony faces the road and pier and night market, so I can imagine it is noisy. I like the City cos there is no traffic or street noise in the rooms.
buy your zebras here

I always overeat when I come to Thailand as I love the food, and at night I love the sticky cakes on the street stalls. Also the ice creams such as Magnum are much nicer than in Malaysia. Unfortunately just round the corner from the hotel is the Sinocha Bakery and it's so tempting to go in for a coffee and cake. An iced coffee and cake cost 50 Bt, a fraction of the price of Starbucks! Although Krabi town has lots of fast food place, there are no Western chain coffee shops.
ooks good enough to eat
coffee and cake 50 Bt

Pancake stalls have always been popular in tourist areas in Thailand. Now in Krabi the locals are really enjoying these, and many of them are Muslim stalls. The one by the City Hotel is an absolute goldmine, it only opens in the evenings and is constantly packed.
Their crispy pancakes are great, and the portions are much bigger than at all the other pancake stalls. It is basically a roti canai mix, but it is absolutely paper thin and fried really crispy then covered in condensed milk. Bad for the waistline, but who cares. I'm surprised this idea hasn't reached Malaysia.

There's a new 'walking street" on Fri-Sun evenings, where the square is closed off and there are lots of stalls surrounding a central eating area.
walking street
nice Thai girl!!
nice mosaic
The new Krabi Night Plaza isn't fully open yet -
I also noticed a few swiftlet houses in the town - would be so annoying to live next to one wth the constant sound of electronic bird calls! This is a swiflet house -
another swiftlet house

The Krabi white breasted eagle by day and by night

river view, but I don't know what this is

I've posted albums of previous visits, Manus Borarn, and Phra Nang cave, and written about Krabi cleaned up and Krabi rock climbing.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Electric Train Service KL to Ipoh

It is many years since I have been on a Malaysian train. I am not a fan of train travel anywhere. In England trains are too expensive. In Asia, where I have done many train rides, I have not really enjoyed them. Some journeys have been horrendous, such as in China, India, Pakistan.

In Malaysia in my backpacking days, I often took trains, mostly from KL to Singapore. I remember a 1st class sleeper cost about RM60. I also did many journeys to Had Yai. The journey used to take about 11 hours and was relatively OK in an overnight 2nd class sleeper. Then I didn't do this journey for some years, and when I next took this train end 2000, it was during the double tracking work. The journey time had increased to 14 hours, and was awful as the bright lights were left on all night and the ride was really rough, bumpy and jerky. After that journey, I simply stopped using Malaysian trains. The North-South highway had been built and buses were cheaper, faster and more frequent. But normally I prefer to drive.

In Aug 2010 the Electric Train Service (ETS) started operations from KL to Ipoh. It was priced at RM30 one way, which seemed expensive compared to the bus which is about RM17. And this was a promotion price, it would increase to RM45.40 in Feb 2011.

There are 2 services, transit and express. The transit makes 9 stops and the express 5, taking 2 hr 17 mins and 2 hs 5 mins.

I needed to go to Ipoh and didn't need to go by car. Normally I would go by bus, but as Pudu Raya bus station is still closed for renovation and I was too lazy to trek out to Bukit Jalil, I decided to take the train.

I thought I would use the ordinary KTM train as it was cheaper. But I found their website very hard to use, as they changed their timetable in Aug 2010, and from my searchings, they seemed to have left all the old times on the www as well as the new ones. And the link to the fares wasn't working. I was thoroughly confused, so went down to KL Sentral to do the booking.
Easy to find, follow the arrows -

The first thing that struck me was that the ticket office for the ETS is in a completely separate part of Sentral from KTM. I had assumed ETS is part of KTM. [I still don't know, as some people say it is privatised]

At least the KTM booking area had the new timetables displayed and they were quite clear to read, unlike the www. I asked at the info desk and was told the Ipoh fare was RM22. As there were queues for booking, I decided to splash out and take the ETS at an extra RM8 one way. It didn't seem to be much faster than the KTM express however. But it would probably be the only occasion I use this service, as no way would I use it when priced RM45. But I was annoyed when I found out after I had bought my tickets that the economy fare on KTM is only RM12.

6 carriages, A-F
It was quite exciting to be using the train again. I got to Sentral early and found a lot of people waiting, probably as it was a Friday afternoon. I had booked a week early and found my seat was in the first carriage at the far end. I also noticed that many of the seats were facing one way, and my section of the carriage was facing the other way - luckily my seat was facing forward.
these seats are facing backwards
My seating area

The train is brand new, made by Hyundai. We left dead on time, but it was a very slow journey out of KL, with several stops and just crawling along. Further down the line the regular KTM train overtook us.

Throughout the journey flat screen monitor showed a short film of tourist sites in Perak which was repeated over and over again. Luckily there was no sound. The lights were on in the carriage even though it was bright daylight.

As we left the welcoming message said "KTM welcomes aboard all dear passengers". They seem to be randomly using the word 'dear' in a similiar way to MAS. But this message also suggests the ETS is under KTM.

The ride was a bit bumpy out of KL, probably due to the tracks and not the train. It was frustrating stopping at so many stations, where no one seemed to get off and on. We only reached the highest speeds towards the end of the journey - I noticed 148 kph on the monitor.

There is a small cafe in the centre of the train, and toilets are located in 2 out of the 6 carriages.
At Ipoh -

Quite empty on the return

Verdict - nice clean train, comfortable ride (although on my outward journey the driver was a bit hard on the brakes at times). But it hasn't converted me to liking train travel. In my view and that of friends I spoke to in Ipoh, it is a waste having a train that can go fast and not utilise this. It would be far better to have less stops and leave those stops to the regular trains, and to use the ETS for a direct express service. ETS website.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Yap Ah Loy in Kwong Tong cemetery

I went back to the Kwong Tong cemetery to find Yap Ah Loy's grave, as Papanjones had pinpointed it for me on the Chinese map.
And during my drive round I explored a part of the cemetery which is new to me. This is an area of new graves, all of the same design and colour and arranged in neat rows. Modern section, 2005 -
Right by these are some apartment blocks -
living & dead side by side
Further over is an area of relatively new graves that are rather overgrown.

Yap Ah Loy is known as being the founder of Kuala Lumpur. He was born in China in 1837, arrived in Malacca in 1854, and moved to Selangor in the 1860s. At that time lots of Chinese had arrived to seek their fortune in the tin mines. The local sultan needed a 'Kapitan China' to control these Chinese, and Yap Ah Loy was appointed and did such a good job that he became the founder of KL. He died of illness in 1885.

Sometimes it is hard to imagine that KL is only about 150 years old. Yap Ah Loy was the 3rd kapitan China, and has a road named after him, located in Chinatown off Jalan Tun Perak.

I wasn't very sure of the exact location of Yap Ah Loy's grave (section C2) and saw a large plot with a freshly painted yellow surround and wondered if it was that, but it wasn't. Then I spotted some workmen and a new marker stone indicating the memorial site.
There is a new plaque in 3 languages, but nothing in English to indicate which was the actual grave.
A Chinese worker showed me which is Yap Ah Loy's grave,
and said the neighbouring ones belong to his wife, son and father. I don't know if this is correct, anyone know if Yap's father came to Malaya?
wife's grave
father's grave
son's grave
by the family plot

Overgrown neighbouring grave
view of family plot
not sure about this one
If someone can read Chinese please correct me if I have the wrong captions.
Don't know who is buried here -
died 1926 aged 100
don't know what this is, all in Chinese
nice colour frangipani
the signs are good as they accurately tell you where you are, and are easy to follow. Just wish they were in English!
Back in the old part -
I've been told by Cheah via Papanjones that this is Zhao Yu, who built the railways Kuala Lumpur to Klang, Kuala Lumpur to Ampang.
rubbish dump
lorries must dump large items
What an eyesore.

Now I have to look for Yap Kwan Sen's grave.


Found this piece of history on the internet :

Over the past 100 years, the relationship between the Selangor and Federal Territory Kwong Siew Association and Kwong Tong Cemetery had been very close indeed. In the initial stages when the association for the cemetery was formed, Yap Kuan Seng, Zhao Yu, and Loke Yew, spared no effort in planning and building the cemetery.

The temple in Jalan Lapangan Terbang Lama, Kwong Tong Temple, was completed in 1909. In 1925, the management of the cemetery built 10 pavilions, so that the people who paid respects to the dead could take a short rest.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission