Saturday, September 23, 2017

Six Must Visit Places along New MRT Line in Kuala Lumpur

New Mass Rapid Transit System from Kajang to Sungai Buloh was opened on 17 July 2017. We took a ride on the new transit system middle of August. We would like to highlight 6 interesting places along the MRT line for both local and international visitors- Medan Sate Kajang at Stadium Kajang Station, Central Market and Petaling Street at Pasar Seni Station, National Museum at Museum Negara Station, Bukit Bintang Shopping hub and Alor Road Food street at Bukit Bintang Station. We can visit all these places in one or two days.

1. Medan Sate Haji Samuri, Stadium Kajang Station 

Kajang Satay, or Sate Kajang is famous, and deems to be the best in Malaysia. Want to take a bite on the original Kajang Satay? Then Medan Sate Kajang Haji Samuri is the place for you! The location- second last station before Kajang Terminal, if you are travelling from Kuala Lumpur. 

Medan Sate Kajang Haji Samuri is located around 100 meters away from the station (on the right side of the stadium, with a big yellow signage). The surrounding area used to be the busiest area in Kajang and finding a parking space was a big headache. Now, not anymore. With MRT, we can eat Kajang Satay hassle free. 

Medan Sate Kajang Haji Samuri offers several types of satay, such as chicken, beef, fish, mutton, and chicken liver. Chicken, beef, and fish are our favorite (upper left). The satay eatery is big (upper right). Air conditioned hall is provided without extra charge. There are some antiques displayed in the air conditioned room, including old irons, utensils, pottery, music instruments, and historical photo replicas.

2. Bukit Bintang Shopping Hub, Bukit Bintang Station

Bukit Bintang is a shopping heaven. It is the largest and busiest shopping hub in Kuala Lumpur area. Bukit Bintang Station has several exits, linking it to Pavilion KL, Fahrenheit 88, Sungei Wang Plaza, Starhill Gallery, Lot 10, Berjaya Time Square and several other shopping malls. Shopping is not our favorite, but we do visit Bukit Bintang once in a while. 

If you are fancy about luxury products, Starhill Gallery and Pavilion KL are the places for you. If you are a strong supporter of "the cheaper the better", then you can go to Sungei Wang, Fahrenheit 88, and Berjaya Time Square. You can find many nice eateries in Lot 10 and Pavilion KL.

The big cube-shaped digital screen in front of Lot 10 is an icon of Bukit Bintang (upper left). Fahrenheit 88 (upper right), Starhill Gallery (lower right), and Pavilion KL are located a few steps away from each other.

Mall hooping can easily take a whole day, or even two.

3. Jalan Alor (Alor Road), Bukit Bintang Station

Jalan Alor is quiet during daytime and turns into a busy food street in the evening. Restaurants and hawkers start their business around 5 - 6 pm till midnight, serving mostly local Chinese food. Limited Vietnamese, Thai, and Cambodian food are available as well. 

Some special Malaysian food can be found there, such as bat kut teh (pork rib with Chinese herbal soup), satay, Hainan chicken rice, fried oyster omelette, char siew pork, Hokkien fried noodle, and, a lot of durian (a bit expensive though, according to season). The overall taste of the food, above average.

If you don't really like the hot and sweaty weather in Malaysia, then you can opt for the air-conditioned restaurants. MRT Bukit Bintang Station Exit A is right beside Jalan Alor.  

5:30 pm, people start gathering at Jalan Alor. The street is closed to traffic. Somehow, there might be one or two cars coming in occasionally.

Customers can choose to sit outside of the restaurants, right on the road. However, for us, we always opt to sit inside air-conditioned room.

Fried chicken drumette or more popularly referred as boxing chicken in Malaysia (upper left), fried oyster omelette (upper right), grilled fish (lower right), and fried durian are some food that we like in Jalan Alor.

4. Central Market, Pasar Seni Station

Pasar Seni Station is located at the convergent point of two rivers- Klang River and Gombak River. Attractions nearby- Central Market and Petaling Street. Central Market was built by Chinese Capitan (leader) Yap Ah Loy in 1883. It served as wet market for the locals until it was transformed into local handicraft and art center in 1986. This award winning market is one of the most visited place in Kuala Lumpur. We strolled in Central Market for almost one hour before proceeding to Petaling Street. 

 The outlook of the market is well-conserved. Take a look at these old photos of Central Market.

Fully air conditioned building makes Central Market a cozy shopping mall for visitors. The shops were nicely decorated, selling various types of local and international products. 

Chinese-themed walkway in Central Market.

We could find some exquisite local products, including Luwak Coffee (upper left), Chinese artworks (upper right), wood crafts (lower right), and Malaysian batik. Other souvenirs such as fridge magnets, key chains, simple wood and bronze sculptures, t-shirt, rings, wrist bands, and snacks were available as well. 

5. Petaling Street, Pasar Seni Station

Petaling Street is no doubt another big tourist attraction in Kuala Lumpur. It is located around 150 meters from Central Market. Many tourism websites referred Petaling Street as China Town. Well, we don't really agree with that, as most of the shops there are neither owned nor currently operated by Chinese. Nevertheless, it is still a big tourist magnet, selling cheap items like souvenirs, watches, clothes, electronic gadgets, bags, and spectacles. Many of these items carries famous brands. Are these genuine products? That is the question that we need to answer with our wisdom. 

We can find some nice food at Petaling Street. Kim Lian Kee Restaurant provides special char-cook food. The restaurant was painted with catchy red colour, located at the junction in the middle of Petaling Street (upper left). The restaurant is nicely decorated (upper right). We took Hokkien fried noodle and roasted pork at the restaurant. The taste was not excellent, but good enough for us to come back again in future.

We would like to recommend some of the very old stalls at Petaling Street. First one is Kim Soya Bean (upper left), selling soy milk and douhua (soybean pudding) (upper left). The soy milk tasted nice and concentrated. The douhua was not fine and smooth enough, but tasty (upper right). Next, Air Mata Kucing (lower right). The drink was made by the mixture of long ngan fruit, winter melon, monk fruit, and sugar- a good thirst quencher at the middle of warm sunny day. The stall has been in operation since our first visit to Petaling Street more than 15 years ago. Last but not least, dried meat. Oloiya and Loong Kee are two old shops selling nice dried meat. We like Oloiya more, personally.

There are an Indian Temple- Sri Maha Mariamman and a Chinese Temple- Guan Di Temple nearby Pasar Seni Station. These temples are not very attractive for us. Nevertheless, you may consider visit them if you have never being to any of Chinese or Indian temple before.

6. National Museum, Muzium Negara Station

Another station for tourists- Muzium Negara or National Museum. Muzium Negara Station is connected to KL Central as well. National Museum is a good place for us the learn about the history of Malaysia through artifacts. We could walk to the museum from KL Central, but with the new MRT station, the museum is just steps away from the exit.

Our personal opinion- although National Museum is not the best museum in Malaysia, it is still a good one around greater Kuala Lumpur, which worth to spend one hour or two. 

Travelling with MRT is convenient, cheap, faster, and safer. With all together 31 stations along the line, the MRT connects towns around Kuala Lumpur to the cosmopolitan. As the MRT is designed mainly for the usage of the locals, many of the stations are built at the residential or local shopping  areas with low tourist interest (especially for international visitors). 

Nevertheless, with effective ticketing system, clean environment, high frequency of train (7 - 8 minutes interval), ample parking car park, feeder bus and taxi connections, and strategically designed walkways, the new MRT system will definitely increase the mobility of the people around greater Kuala Lumpur.

We started our trip from Kajang Terminal. We can buy the ticket from the counter (upper left) or via ticketing machines (upper right), or we can use "Touch & Go" card to pay at the auto gate (lower right). The platform was clean and the arrival of the train was clearly stated.

We found useful map in the station (upper left). These maps show the exits and the direction to the places of interest nearby. Some places of interest are connected to the stations by sky-bridge or covered walkway (upper right). Taxi station (lower right) and feeder bus stations are available for some stations.

A train can accommodate up to 1200 passengers. 

We can see the town and residential areas from the MRT.

Several MRT stations are connected to shopping malls by covered pedestrian walkway, including Taman Connought Station to Cheras Central Mall, Taman Mutiara Station to Leisure Mall, and Maluri Station to Velocity Mall. Bandar Utama Station is connected to One Utama Mall via feeder bus. These shopping malls are good places for locals to spend our boring afternoon. But if you have traveled thousand miles to Malaysia, we don't really recommend these shopping malls to you.

With new MRT line, we don't have to worry about traffic jam or parking problem anymore when we go for shopping. 

1-Utama Shopping Mall from the feeder bus station.

More information on stations, fare, ticketing, and travel information, please visit the official website of KL MRT. Ready to take a ride? Don't forget to wear comfortable shoes and bring along your umbrella. 

More about our experience in Kuala Lumpur:

Monday, July 24, 2017

Food, Shopping and Moving around in Melbourne

Melbourne is a huge food-junction. We can get food from all around the world in the city. We can choose to step into worldwide franchises such as McD, KFC, or Hungry Jack (Burger King in Malaysia) with more or less standardized food and taste (but with cheaper prices),  or we can just step into any eatery of your choice along the street.

Eateries with nice environment are scattered around Melbourne. We can choose either to take a seat or take away.

For McD, the burgers served in Australia had more or less the same taste with burgers served in Malaysia.

If you are staying somewhere around the city center, the arcades, Southbank and Yarra Promenade along Yarra River are the places that we can hunt for nice food. Food courts can be found in Crown Towers, Melbourne Central and other major shopping malls. In Melbourne, the food, especially seafood were fresh, and the taste was good. The price wise was fair, as long as we didn't convert it back to Malaysian Ringgit (especially to Malaysians). Well, we would like to share some photos of the food in Melbourne. We were lucky to have Uncle Tony bringing around to get nice food in Melbourne.

We tried a few dishes at the alley leading to Block Arcade- paella (upper left), chicken risotto with cheese (upper right), cheese cake (lower right), and smoked tuna pizza. The food looked tempting and tasted nice. In Melbourne, dessert is always served together with ice-cream.

Malaysian Kitchen served food in Malaysian style... certified by both of us. The restaurant is located at Doncaster Road (upper left). We tried several dishes, including lady's finger (upper right), fried squid (lower right) and beef served on hot plate. The portion was not big, but the taste was nice and really exquisite. If you wish to get some Malaysian food in Melbourne and you don't mind to drive far away from Melbourne city, you should go to Malaysian Kitchen. However, it's always good if you could book the seats for any restaurant at Melbourne to avoid disappointment. At Melbourne, the restaurants don't open everyday.

Malaya Inn is located at Village Ave, Doncaster, was another Chinese restaurant we visited in Melbourne. The restaurant was big (upper left), and we tried a few dishes including pork (upper right), tofu (lower right), and fried chicken. The taste was good, but we prefer the Chinese food at Malaysian Kitchen.

We had Australian style breakfast everyday, prepared by our aunt- fresh eggs, bread, bacon, pasta, together with fresh milk, baked bean, pan fry sliced pork, and coffee. The food was really nice, and tasted great! The food was prepared exclusively for us, with a lot of love. :)

Shopping malls are scattered all around Melbourne city. Melbourne Central is a hub for mass-transit system and shopping center. There is a well preserved shot tower located at the center of the mall. Hundreds of shops, selling clothes, food, skin care products, books, sport equipment, and many more. 

Some huge shopping malls are located in residential area, far from city area, such as Coles and Chemist Warehouse might be available in these shopping malls. We bought chocolates, fruits, and beverages from Coles, and skincare and health products from Chemist Warehouse. We found that the items with special promotion like chocolates were quite cheap.

When we were walking down the street, we can look for the promotional billboards (upper left), or take a look on the products or the show by street artists (upper right), or at the booths along the street (lower right). Don't forget to slow down the pace and take a look at the statues along the street as well.

The best way to go around Melbourne City area is by following the free tram service. Bus and taxi are available too. When we travel out of the city, mrt, transit bus, and taxi can be used. We travelled around with our uncle's car most of the time. However, we did grab the chance to try the mrt and taxi when we were going to Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary. 

For mrt, the fare could be paid only by MyKi card only. The card had to be scanned at the departure and arrival stations. So please make sure you have the card ready before you go for mrt. The fare and information about the mrt line and destinations can be obtained from the official website of  Public Transport Victoria.

For taxi, the fare can be estimated by the Victoria Taxi Fare Estimator. From our experience, the estimator has an error of plus minus ASD 5. All the taxi should charge according to the meter in Victoria. Please do not use any taxi service without meter.

Intracity tram service is perhaps, the cheapest way to move around Melbourne city area (upper left). What we need to do is, get a map, find a station (upper right), and hoop into one of this electricity powered tram. We saw a few bicycle-for-rent booths around, but we didn't really know how it worked (lower right). Anyway, walking around Melbourne City is convenient. The street is safe, drivers are obedient and polite, and people are moving in a relaxing manner.  

There are several mrt lines in Melbourne, which a few of them extends far beyond the city. So we need to get familiar with the system to avoid confusion. Beware that not all mrt stop at every station. It's better to ask the officer-on-duty or locals before hop on to any mrt. The mrt stations are basically easy to access, clean, and safe. The stations are less crowded after peak hours (upper left). The mrt is convenient for us to travel in group (upper right). Taxi and transit bus were available at some of the stations, such as Lilydale (lower row), but might not available at some stations at residential areas. If you are stuck at the station with no taxi or transit bus, try to ask the officer-on-duty on how to call up one.

MyKi card can be purchased from the shop with myki signage.

We stayed comfortably with our uncle and aunt in Bulleen area, which by car, could reach city center within 30 minutes. If you don't plan to drive by yourself, you should stay somewhere nearby the mrt stations, or within the city. With the mass transportation system within your reach, you can access to other places without much problem.

Staying in central business district, such as hotels along Flinders Street keep us close to the places of interest and activities in Melbourne. Homestays with easy access to public transportation, especially mrt can be a good choice as well. 

We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Uncle Tony, Aunt Mee Ing, and our cousin Harn-Yih for their hospitality, advice, and assistance. 

We will visit Luang Prabang in Laos soon. You can follow us by following our blog or our Facebook page now.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance and Royal Botanic Garden (Day 4 in Victoria)

Day 4, we went back to Melbourne City again to visit Shrine of Remembrance and Royal Botanic Garden. Shrine of Remembrance is located at Birdwood Avenue, opposite of Royal Botanic Garden Melbourne, around 1.2 kms south of Flinders Street Railway Station and Federation Square.

Shrine of Remembrance was built as a monument to commemorate the Australians who participated in the war, armed conflicts, or peacekeeping operations. The shrine was completed in 1934, served as a memorial to those who died in World War 1. The shrine was designed by two local Australians, with the inspiration from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, and built with the fund raised from the public. Since then, more memorials were added to the shrine. The shrine opens 9 am - 5 pm daily (closes on Good Friday and Christmas). The admission is free.

We arrived at the shrine at noon. We strolled around the compound of the shrine first, before we entered the main hall. The main hall houses 40 Books of Remembrance- a list of the soldiers participated in World War 1, and a plaque states "Greater Love Hath No Men" (a part of John 15 verse 13). From the main hall, we climbed up to the observatory platform to see the beautiful scenery around the shrine. We went down to the lower level to see the crypt and the exhibition hall after that. We left the shrine at around 1:15 pm and continued our trip to the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria at Melbourne Gardens (or Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne).

There are numerous sculptures erected around the shrine, including The Man with The Donkey which depicting the real story of a stretcher John Simpson Krikpatrick who used his donkey to carry the wounded from the front line in World War 1 (upper left), the Driver and Wiper commemorating the war fought at Ypres (upper right), and the angelic sculptures (lower right). We could see some school children having their activities at the shrine.
There are several paths lead to the main hall of the shrine.

The staircase to the main hall.

School children were gathering at the center of the main hall with the plaque "Greater Love Hath No Men". Sunlight will shine directly on the plaque at certain time of a day. Photography is allowed in the shrine (with no flash). Out of respect, we decided not to post more photos we took in the shrine.

Scenery of Melbourne city center from the shrine.

Another part of Melbourne city.

Medals with each of them representing 100 Victorians who lost their life in military operations since World War 1. These medals are exhibited at the medal gallery at the exit of the shrine.

Royal Botanic Gardens at Melbourne is located opposite of the shrine. We just need to cross the Birdwood Avenue to reach the main gate of the gardens. As the name suggests, the site is a collection of several types of gardens, including the Australian native forest walk, roses, cacti, succulent gardens, and the collections from different countries. Visiting hours of the gardens are from 7:30 am until sunset daily.

Well, one can stay in the gardens for whole day. For us, strolling around center lawn alone took us around 1 hour 15 minutes. Then, we left due to the falling rain. There was only one cafe in the gardens (another one was located at the main entrance), so it will be good to bring our own drinks and maybe, some snacks. Good walking shoes and umbrella are required too. The visitor transportation is provided (garden explorer) with extra fee and prior booking.

The Royal Botanic Garden Victoria at Melbourne is located opposite of the Shrine of Remembrance. 

We can see visitors gathering and enjoying the cooling weather and colours of autumn.

There are several cottages around the area. The one in this photo was built in 1886.

View by the lake with water birds walking around the beautiful lawn.

The scenery of central lawn, with "overgrown" sky scrappers. 

Nice walking path.

Plants available around the gardens.

For us, both Shrine of Remembrance and Botanic Gardens are must visit places in Melbourne. For better experience, a more relaxing and slower pace is recommended. And, we would suggest to visit the shrine first before the botanic garden. 

2:30 pm, we left the botanic garden and continue our trip to shop for souvenirs. We will share our experience about food and shopping in Melbourne in our next post.