Saturday, December 26, 2015

KL - SG. Home!

26 Dec 2015 Sat

Hotel Transit breakfast has a better spread today but we made a dash for the food, then for the bus 690 leaving Ancasa hotel at 8am.

We left earlier than expected,  this time standing all the 15 minutes ride. KL is still in a slumber and we got there in no time.

We spent 2 hours over coffee and cakes before getting onto the SG bound Causeway link.

Though the bus left TBS on time, the journey though smooth was interrupted by lots of pickups along the expressway. Off Kulai toll plaza, in JB, at Yong Peng etc. We even made a stop for fuel at Tampoi. I was fuming made at the express service! We have no problems with the driver moonlighting but not on my parade – hello!

We made it to Jurong East, almost 5.5 hours after we boarded the bus. Tired and grouchy, we made the last leg back by way of mrt and bus. It will be a while before we contemplate going into Msia by bus. Or perhaps never. That much I know about myself – I am not good in waiting and traveling off my plans. Esp when the driver isn’t me.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas in KL

25th Dec 2015 Fri

We woke up, too late for any Christmas service. Regretfully, we had to give the 9 am service at Methodist Church a miss.

Breakfast at Hotel Transit was especially unremarkable. Is it always like this just because the hotel stay is cheap ? I have no idea!

We headed to Bkt Bintang, shopping district just less than 2 km off our hotel. I have decided to make a killing at the mall! But it was slow mo for both of us – the heat was starting to build up and so was the rain clouds. We darted in and out of sheltered walkways when the sun eluded us.

All of KL descended upon Pavilion mall, it seems. The Malaysians are really early risers! After many leisurely rounds, I got an Esprit handbag for RM 500, with tourist discount. It was lovely and I am happy with the buy.

Lunch was at TWD, simply because it was dollar to dollar compared to SG. Located at the most posh sector of the mall with an excluded premises, it serves very nice food too. We supped from noon to 2 pm , aided by the leisurely pace at which our food were served. I loved every morsel except the cakes. By that time, we were so stuffed our taste buds could not feel a single thing! For RM 99 per person for a 3 course meal, I am sure this cannot be repeated in SG. Food, service, experience – they were impeccable.

We dithered whether to watch Ip Man at the cinemas but it was sold out by the time we made a decision. I am not for fighting shows, but the immense crowd in Pavilion made the cinema a nice retreat. Which was not to be.

Pavilion did not yield any buys, and neither did our snooping at Farenheit and Berjaya Times. The malls looked puny in KL and I believe we missed the best because we were reluctant to venture out of KL.

Time crawled and even our slow steps couldn’t make the clock tick faster. We went back to Hotel Transit for a siesta and rest our poor legs.

Evening time, it was back to Jln Alor, this time for Chinese Zi Char. The skies opened and in our haste to get out of the rain, went into the imitation Dragon View Restaurant. It was déjà vu, like in Hanoi with the fake Cha Ca La Vong.

Dinner was anticlimax, because I have been expecting a gastronomic experience. Bakuteh, rice, clams, veg and satay were the most unremarkable and puts shame to chinese cooking in a non halal place. I have tasted better in SG where half baked chefs make their killing. It was not the money wasted that was lamented but the waste of stomach space on our last day  in KL.

So far, of the many meals, 2 were memorable and those in western resstaurants. Malaysian food has lost its shine!

Then it is back to the hotel for a final packing. Tomorrow we head back to SG, back to home where food is predictably nice/yucks and things are within expectations.

SG, here I come!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve in KL

24 Dec 2015 Thursday

11am was the time of departure from Cameron Highlands to KL. We took the bus from CS Travel from Tanah Rata which cost RM40, a tad more expensive than the rest but it promises to drop us off at Puduraya, where our next hotel is.

Imagine to our surprise when the driver announced that with no negotiations, it will be KL Sentral for all of us. What! It is almost a scam. Most of us were at a loss and 2 foreign workers were talked down by the driver. Seems like he is asking them to catch a taxi to Puduraya etc. What a scam!

We were on the road for 5 hours , with a 20 minutes break just before we got onto the highway. Traffic was terrible. The holiday crush has begun; Christmas being a public holiday.

The driver deposited everyone at KL Sentral, bypassing TBS which we requested. By now, CS travels is condemned. We had no manifest, no seat numbers, our online agreed destination and the final one doesn’t match despite me confirming twice with the staff at TR with my online booking forms, there was no place to put our bags overhead and the bus driver drove like he had a death wish.

From KL Sentral, we took the LRT to the now familiar Plaza  Rakyat, where Hotel Transit is a stone’s throw away.

What can I say about this hotel that most TA reviewers are praising ? Absolutely nice place to sleep. Room 812 looks into an empty land and the telcom tower, was clean, modern, comes with wifi and spacious toilet cum shower ( with doors ) , was bright and every works. I even love the many TV Channels. My only grouse ? Remnant cigarette smoke that irritated me. Slightly more expensive than Ancasa, I can come here again anytime!

Cafe Transit
We had a cuppa at Transit café to make up for the lack of proper lunch. The coffee was fantastic and even more so , the croissant. Things are looking up!

We walked over to Changkat Bkt Bintang where I earlier made a booking with Drift dining and pub. It was at the fringe of Bkt Bintang. We did a little window shopping at Pavilion before hurrying to Drift because the sky wasn’t holding up and neither were our stomachs.

Drift is nice as reviewed. 2 wines, 2 starts ( school prawns, ravioli ), pork ribs and lamb went for RM 290 – a decent price where it is impossible in Singapore. Plus, the food was great and service cheerful. Almost half who occupied the packed restaurant were foreigners. Discerning taste, I must say.

On the way back, we passed by Jln Alor and sniffed out the Chinese Zi Char stores. It was like Chinatown on steroids! That will be our next dinner option, I promised Pat.

We had a very long skype with Hopey and the Kingstons ( LL mainly ) on the wonderful broadband before ushering in the new year KL time.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cameron Highlands

23 Dec 2015 Wed

It is a cold start despite having no AC in the room. Brrr. Hope it is another florious day of sunshine!

CS travels came 15 minutes late to Century Pines. Along the way, it picked up some more tourists at Brinchang and Copthorne Kea Farm.

1st stop – Beefarm. It was OK, more of  a sales stop with time to roam the garden where bees are kept.  It was not pretty and the place was not well kept and definitely not for the old and very young.

2nd stop – Butterfly farm.  RM 5 entry. We made a short stop to oogle at the butterflies – which were pretty. The back garden was rows and rows of potted plants. The floor was soggy and difficult to walk around. I liked the fluttering creatures best.

3rd stop – tea plantation. It was the best stop because Pat and I got to roam the tea place after a ‘compulsory’  tour. It was another place that tried to be educational but wasn’t doing it too well. The food place was bursting to the seams with people eating and photo taking, it was insane. Pat and I walked a bit among the tea bushes and looted back a couple of tins of tea. It was my favorite stop because of the space the plantation offered.

4th stop – strawberry farm. Ever fancy a tour to a strawberry farm that has no strawberries for eating, buying or harvesting. There we have it – no thanks to CS Travels. What a lousy partner they have. All of us were unhappy.

5th stop – Rose Garden. RM 5. Again, we were made to donate RM5 for a rose garden that was not at all educational or entertaining. It was smart of CS Travel to exclude the entry of the butterfly and rose places. It appeared cheaper but what a waste of time. 45 minutes in the middle of nowhere without a guide and a market place that had already closed for the day. What market place tour are they talking about ? By this time, I was getting impatient with the quality of the tour, never mind that it was cheap.

There was a jam on the way to Brinchang and Tanah Rata. We looked longingly at the bustling market place outside the bus, trapped with a tour that was a waste of time.

Back at TR, we ‘feasted’ at Sri Brinchang, a nasi goreng place. 2 rice, 2 drinks at RM 18. It was not great and better than Kougen but it still disappoints.  It looks like we are not having much luck with food in CH so far.

Totally exhausted by the heat and the knee busted by climbing up and down the steep bus steps. We rested in the hotel watching Kdramas that Pat tried to download. It was a good 2 hours of video binging until the sun sets. Only when the air cooled down did we venture out to forage for food.

Sheng Li restoran at the main street is the penultimate moms-and-pops eating place that folks love because it brings back nostalgia and old school cooking. At least the slowness serving the food was old school, with the efficiency of my mum!

Food tasted healty , almost home cooked. It we have to taste it blindfolded, I will award it a decent 70marks. 2 rice, 1 sweet sour pork, 1 plate of watercress sambal,  1 bowl of bittergourd soup for RM35 is really cheap. It wasn’t delicious nor was it awesome. Like I said, it tasted like what mum used to cook.

8.30 pm. We were being naughty, buying snacks immediately after dinner. There was a long queue at MaryBrown Chicken and by the end when Pat placed his orders, it was really time for supper! ( 5 pieces of chicken, coleslaw – RM 25 ).

Cameron Highlands is slow moving with our type of program, but we liked the speed of things. Any faster would have negated the health benefits of that holiday!