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30

Aug
2014

2 Comments

In Indonesia
Malaysia
Travel

By kanannie

How to Get a 60-day Indonesian Tourist Visa

On 30, Aug 2014 | 2 Comments | In Indonesia, Malaysia, Travel | By kanannie

indo consulate

There really is an Indonesian Consulate in Penang! (467 Jalan Burma, Georgetown, Penang)

Trying to find information on obtaining a 60-day Indonesian tourist visa in Penang is like trying to find the Holy Grail. We couldn’t find any legitimate source, like a consulate website or working email address, and the only application form that we found online was for the embassy in KL. There were conflicting accounts about the visa requirements such as whether or not we needed to present an onward ticket and the background color of our photos (they used to require red background visa photos).

Here's an example of a red background passport photo. Must be some kind of communist thing.

Here’s an example of a red background passport photo. Must be some kind of communist thing.

After scouring the interwebs for hours and not being able to find any solid information I walked over to Chulia Street to inquire with a travel agent. The woman said we didn’t need an onward ticket but we definitely needed a red background visa photo. She only served to confuse me more because this was the complete opposite of what I found on the interwebs!

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Who decided to make only the top and the bottom in English? At least you know it’s closed on Saturday.

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25

Aug
2014

No Comments

In Food
Malaysia

By kanannie

Piggies in Penang: The Best Things We Ate in Malaysia’s Food Capital

On 25, Aug 2014 | No Comments | In Food, Malaysia | By kanannie

Colorful buildings

Colorful buildings in the Georgetown district of Penang

This may sound crazy, but we almost skipped Penang, the food capital of Malaysia! Sometimes our travel plans make no sense. There are so many places to visit that we get overwhelmed and end up sticking with the more popular destinations. This was the mistake we made when we left Thailand and flew straight to Kuala Lumpur. We were in the southern part of Thailand already and could’ve entered Malaysia by train, hitting up Penang first. Instead, we flew directly to KL and plunked ourselves smack dab in the middle of a loud, polluted, and way-too-busy city. To escape the insanity of the Islamic New Year in KL, we headed towards the Cameron Highlands and if you read my post (you best have read my post!) you’d know it wasn’t the peaceful, quiet haven that we were seeking. After paying higher prices for crappier amenities and dealing with too many crowds we were ready to leave Malaysia altogether.

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Opticals for Orientals because Orientals need opticals

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The bread man. It’s like the ice cream truck in the US, but with bread and spread.

But, we decided that our bellies would be very disappointed with us if we didn’t check out Penang. It didn’t hurt that its airport was the closest and cheapest option to our first destination in Indonesia. Our decision to go to Penang was the best choice we made during our entire Malaysia trip. Besides the fascinating historical architecture in the UNESCO-preserved Georgetown district, the impressive street art, and the exceptionally friendly people, Penang absolutely lived up to our expectations for excellent food.

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Even Mcdonald’s serves durian-flavored food. I didn’t try this so I can’t tell you if it’s good.

If you have any doubt about the great food that Penang has to offer, just ask a local. They will wax poetic about their city’s incomparable dishes and insist that the Penang version is unlike the ones you’ve had anywhere else in Malaysia. We had the good luck of talking to a couple of the locals during our stay because the communal eating style makes it quite easy to strike up conversation with unexpected dining companions. The first person we chatted with was an older man who left Penang to go to New Zealand when he was younger and after spending a year there he realized that he desperately missed the food and lifestyle in Penang so he came back. He also told us that an old acquaintance of his owns a successful Malaysian restaurant in NYC, but he doesn’t know the name. That was very helpful of him!

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It’s not hard to make friends when you sit at these round, communal tables for a meal.

Another guy we met was much younger and moments after asking him about a tofu dessert that he was eating he began to spew a whole list of food in Penang that we must try. He offered to take us to a local food night market, but we already had dinner and dessert so we politely declined. (We also have a rule of not getting into cars with strangers at night. Unless they have candy.) His passion for popular local dishes, however, motivated us to eat a lot more over the course of our stay. That’s a lie. We don’t need any encouragement to eat, but it’s always nice to hear a local get excited about his city’s food.

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I don’t know if these teas are really medicated or if they’re just packed with enough sugar to make you feel “better” for few hours.

Tofu

A tasty almond tofu dessert.

My favorite mealtime in Penang was breakfast. We stumbled upon this traditional coffee shop set up in an alley near our hotel where we met a friendly lesbian couple (we are everywhere!) who invited us to sit with them. They helped us order amazing hot coffee, tasty nasi lemak wrapped in brown paper, and my new favorite breakfast dish: soft-boiled egg on thick-cut Hainan toast with soy sauce and white pepper. I absolutely love it when I find a dish that is so simple yet so perfect and the best part is that I can easily replicate it at home. And, the coffee is the best we’ve had since we had to leave our beloved Vietnamese iced coffees behind.

Toh Soon Cafe
Location: Alley way on Lebuh Campbell not too far from Jalan Penang

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My favorite breakfast place and it was only two minutes from our hotel. Lucky me! Lucky me!

Kopi at Toh Soon

Malaysian kopi is so thick and rich that you need a soup spoon to drink it.

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At Toh Soon they toast the thick-cut Hainan bread over an open fire. It’s perfect.

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So simple, yet so perfect.

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Nasi lemak in brown paper for breakfast.

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Random Encounters in Artsy Penang

On 18, Aug 2014 | No Comments | In Activities, Art & Design, Culture, LGBT, Malaysia, Travel | By kanannie

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Hanging out in Penang.

I love it when we get to a place and find so much more than we expected. In this case, we came to Penang for only food based on a recommendation by my college friend Jia-yi, and arrived in an unexpectedly cute little city chock full of fantastic food, beautiful old buildings, interactive street art and friendly people. An added plus was that the Georgetown Festival — the annual arts and culture event — was going on when we arrived.

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Penang is a unique and photogenic city.

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Some of the Art Deco buildings.

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The Old Heritage area of Penang, with waiting rickshaw drivers.

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A cute little shop with art, books and locally-made products.

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A gallery space upstairs showcased art books curated by artists.

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A shuttered storefront.

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A lantern outside of the Campbell House.

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A painter on Armenian Street.

In 2012, a Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned to paint interactive wall murals in the Old Heritage district of Penang. Tourists flock to these murals — along with others painted by other artists — and wait patiently to pose creatively in front of the street art. We made our way around from one mural to another while consulting a wall mural map we found online, and eventually found ourselves at the Clan Jetty.

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A huge wall mural by Ernest Zacharevic.

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13

Aug
2014

One Comment

In Malaysia

By kanannie

Two Things To Do in The Cameron Highlands

On 13, Aug 2014 | One Comment | In Malaysia | By kanannie

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Time to pick the tea leaves! Someone’s gotta make money for our travels.

We went to the Cameron Highlands in search of clean, fresh mountain air. Instead what we got was overpriced lodging, a relatively tiny selection of food options including a ridiculously first-world priced Starbucks, too many tourists, price-gouging taxis, and gimmicky tourist attractions. If you can’t tell already, we weren’t crazy about Cameron Highlands.

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The Lavender Garden costs less than $2 USD to enter and it’s worth about $1 USD.

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A mushroom shaped building at the Lavender Garden that is failing to impress anyone.

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Pick-your-own strawberries is a big thing here, but it was out of season so we stared longingly at the ripe strawberries that we couldn’t pick.

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This is how we entertain ourselves when there’s nothing else to do.

We saw a lot of foreigners including the typical backpackers, but more interestingly we saw a ton of Middle East Arabs. We know they were from Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq because we overheard some of them talking to hotel staff or wait staff about where they were from and we soon learned that it’s holiday time in the Middle East. Their holiday lasts for two months and I assume they come to Malaysia because it’s cheap, different, and they don’t get discriminated against for their conspicuous religious attire. Islam is the federally recognized religion of Malaysia. It’s also the most practiced religion here, over 60% of the population is Muslim. I haven’t seen this many Muslims since we were in Turkey last year and I have rarely seen Muslim women fully covered in black with only a slit for their eyes. Sure, I’ve seen a few here and there in Brooklyn, but not this many. They seemed to be having a blast in Cameron Highlands.

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The absolute worst bee farm I have ever visited. I’m not sure there were any bees there and it was just an excuse to sell honey sticks.

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The only bee at the bee farm. He’s smiling but he’ll stab you with that sharp spear if you don’t buy some honey sticks.

The backpackers like us, on the other hand, didn’t seem to enjoy it as much. They all had the same bored look on their faces as they walked up and down the one small street in Tanah Rata trying to decide if they want to eat at the only decent Indian restaurant again or go to Marrybrown for fried chicken. Like us, they probably found a brief description about the beautiful tea plantations and decided to come here since it’s only a bus ride from KL and on the way to the beaches on the east coast. By the looks of it, they were just as unimpressed as we were with the place.

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This child is having a good time with that 8″ chef’s knife.

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An old Land Rover used to transport people and produce around the mountain.

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An old Volvo. Classic.

There were only two attractions that we found worthwhile in Cameron Highlands — The Boh Tea Plantation and Cactus Point. The Boh Tea Plantation is the largest in Malaysia and it’s probably the main reason most people visit the Highlands. We were lucky enough to have a driver who had a fascinating background in the Highlands and he told us about his time as a tea picker and how he used to make about .23 cents per kilo and now most of it is picked by machine except for really hard-to-reach plants. The plantation has little cabins around the perimeter for the workers and he lived there with his young family while working as a tea picker and even though they were poor, he said it was the happiest time of his life. Now he’s a taxi driver who works 10-hour days and has to eat his meals in the car while waiting for clueless tourists to wander around the plantation. He drove us to the plantation and pointed us in the direction of the tea factory before going back to wait for us in his navy blue Mercedes.

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Most of the taxis in Cameron Highlands are vintage Mercedes-Benz cars ranging from the 1960’s to the 1980’s.


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05

Aug
2014

No Comments

In Malaysia

By kanannie

Scenes from Kuala Lumpur

On 05, Aug 2014 | No Comments | In Malaysia | By kanannie

A photo essay is what lazy bloggers do when they’re behind on their posts but want you to see some cool pictures of a recent destination. So, here ya go!

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Lanterns over Petaling Street

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A dreary day in Chinatown

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Making keys the old school way

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Raw chicken on top of live chickens. Seems a little cruel, don’t you think?

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Outdoor pork butcher off of Petaling Street

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Sri Mahamariamman Temple – The oldest and richest Hindu temple in KL.

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Figurines inside Sri Mahamariamman Temple

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Call that number for a good time with this clean fella.

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Street art murals along the river in KL

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More street art

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Old school Indian barbershop. Traditionally they only serviced male customers, but they’ve expanded their horizons to girls with short hair.

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04

Aug
2014

No Comments

In Food
Malaysia

By kanannie

What Our Bellies Did in Kuala Lumpur

On 04, Aug 2014 | No Comments | In Food, Malaysia | By kanannie

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Dinner time on Jalan Alor!

After spending two weeks with a total of 3 dining options in Tanote Bay we, and our bellies, were very excited to get to Kuala Lumpur. KL is the federal capital of Malaysia and one of the more diverse cities we’ve visited in Southeast Asia. The three main ethnic groups are Malay, Chinese, and Indian which is only important to me becaue it means I can get deliciously diverse food. If you’re interested in the cultural, social, or political dynamics of these peoples living together go read another blog because I can only tell you about how these three cuisines intermingled in my belly.

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A typical food court with hawker stalls around the perimeter. Some of the best food comes from these stalls.

You’re probably familiar with Indian and Chinese food, but Malay food isn’t as common. At least not in the U.S. Malay food is like a marriage of Indian and Chinese cuisines, but I’d say it’s an unequal marriage because you can really see the Indian influence in the strong spices used in most dishes. If you didn’t know Malay food, you could easily mistake it for Indian. Popular Malay dishes include nasi lemak, satay, and nasi goreng. Just to name a few. Another popular cuisine in Malaysia is Nyonya food which came from the literal marriage between the early Chinese migrants and the local Malays parts of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. If you’re like me you’ll call it “Malaysian” food, but technically it’s a distinct cuisine with it’s own history and signature dishes. KL isn’t known for Nyonya food so if you want the best of this cuisine you will have to go to Penang or Melaka.

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Just in case your food isn’t spicy enough.

I love Indian food. I love it so much that if I couldn’t marry ice cream and cake I would marry Indian cuisine. Wait, who says I can’t marry ice cream and cake? I figured since same-sex marriage is legal food marrying should be too. Damn these religious zealots and their lies!

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Vegetarian thali lunch at Sangeetha in Little India which is not to be confused with “big India” at Brickfields.

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Is that a giant dosa on the table or are you just happy to see me? (Sangeetha)

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A fantastic “not spicy” but damn spicy rogan josh with freshly baked plain naan and garlic naan. (Betel Leaf)

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Eating on banana leaves like real Indians who eat on banana leaves.

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Roti with various side dishes. (Chapati House Restoran Santa)

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You know what they say: When in Malaysia, do like the Indians.

I’m less enthusiastic about Chinese food, but there are some great dishes in KL that you should try while you’re there. We were lucky enough to have a local introduce us to some of the best Chinese chow in KL.

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Sticky wings grilled over hot charcoal. A misleading blog said this place is only open until 4pm, but we went around 7pm and it was in full swing. (Wong Ah Wah)

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If chickens had four wings then we could have four times as many sticky wings! I’m a genius. (Wong Ah Wah)

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Malaysian Mickey wants you to eat chicken wings at Wong Ah Wah.

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01

Aug
2014

No Comments

In Food
Malaysia
Travel

By kanannie

Petaling Jaya and the Best Durian in the World

On 01, Aug 2014 | No Comments | In Food, Malaysia, Travel | By kanannie

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A heavenly world of durians.

Our arrival in Kuala Lumpur just happened to coincide with Eid, the Muslim New Year. Having done no research prior to arriving in Malaysia and underestimating just how Muslim this country actually is, we were thoroughly punished with the unbelievably insane crowds converging on the nation’s capital for the holiday.

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Insanity at the Suria KLCC Mall.

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Six levels of humans.

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A view of the Petronas Towers.

Compared to the craziness of Kuala Lumpur (or “KL”, as the locals call it), neighboring Petaling Jaya (or “PJ”) was sounding very pleasant, and we heard that excellent food could be had there. We decided to hop on a bus and visit Grace, a Malaysian local we had met three months back on a tour bus in Vietnam. Upon getting to her quiet neighborhood, we immediately sensed that this was more our style. She walked us to her house to relax before tackling the night market.

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On the bus to PJ, with the bus lady yelling out to people waiting for buses.

Grace and I had met briefly on a tour bus and talked for maybe ten minutes. After that we kept in touch through Facebook, but in reality we were strangers to each other. I was touched that despite this fact, Grace took on the role of hostess since we landed in KL.

So there we were in PJ, sipping on soy milk and chatting with Grace, Goh and their surprisingly tall daughter Pei Ji. Soon, we were walking down the narrow streets towards PJ’s smaller Thursday night market, checking out the various fruit, candies, electronic accessories, and of course, the food stalls. Grace had warned us not to eat too much because we were having durian for dinner, so we just drooled our way past the deep-fried fruit, satay, dofu fa, and other delights. After purchasing a salt-encrusted smoked chicken leg and two kilos of mangosteens (they were crazy cheap), we headed to the durian tents.

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Dessert stall at the PJ night market.

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Huge starfruit.

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Popiah!

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Ginormous Chinese buns, a.k.a. Jet Li’s wife’s boobs.

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Parchment-wrapped salted smoked chicken legs.

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Country-Hopping in Shaky Southeast Asia

On 01, Aug 2014 | No Comments | In Culture, Malaysia, Thailand, Travel, Vietnam | By kanannie

My parents have been worrying sick over my well-being for the past few months. While they were mostly fine with us traveling through Europe (except for a brief conversation I had with my father about Russia), they were secretly alarmed when we told them Southeast Asia was next. In true Japanese fashion, they tried to hide their concerns from me.

Demonstrators being sprayed with water cannons. (Cheng Ko/Reuters)

The Taiwanese student demonstrations were on the news every night and they silently beared it until we were a few days away from leaving. My mother asked why we felt the need to go to Taiwan, right now, in the midst of these demonstrations. They got annoyed with me when I responded that I wasn’t planning on participating in the protests.

Student protesters occupying the Taiwanese Legislature. (Ashley Pon/Getty Images)

Protesters during a peaceful demonstration against the trade pact. (Mandy Cheng/AFP/Getty Images)

A protester holding up a sign. (Mandy Cheng/AFP/Getty Images)

A protester scuffles with police. (Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images)

A press conference in the Taiwan Legislature. (Wally Santana/AP)

Two weeks into my gastric issues in Vietnam, China started stirring shit in the South China Sea and bullying Vietnamese boats in Vietnamese waters. My parents were terrified. When I told them that we were watching the developments and we would be careful, they responded with a barrage of angry questions. “Why haven’t you left already? Why do you want to stay in Vietnam so much? Do you understand that Japanese factories were torched? Do you even watch the news? Why aren’t you leaving when the Chinese are escaping through the closest border available?!” I imagined a horde of middle-aged Chinese women with curly perms, colorfully patterned clothes and Louis Vuitton bags on their arms screaming and running along a dusty road towards the Cambodian border while deeply-tanned tuk-tuk drivers waited on the other side to whisk them away to Nowheresville, Cambodia.

Chinese nationals cross the border into Cambodia during the height of the riots. (Reuters)

Chinese nationals arriving in China after leaving Vietnam. (ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

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