Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Front View from a Driverless Train in Kuala Lumpur

One day while taking the light rail on Kuala Lumpur's Kelana Jaya Line I boarded the front car. I then discovered its trains are "driverless" and include a front window providing an excellent view. And I have since noticed it is particularly popular with kids.

Father helping his young daughter look out the train's front window

Several of my friends have kids who are fascinated with trains. So that provides me a convenient excuse to share a few photos from a train ride today when the front window was free.

On an elevated portion of the line and about to enter the tunnel near the Masjid Jamek station

underground tunnel for Kuala Lumpur light rail trains
An exciting curve

It appears I had some onlookers

Approaching a station

Off again

The front view definitely makes the train ride a bit more interesting, though not as "interesting" as the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel in Shanghai. Despite (or because of) the Shanghai tunnel being a "trippy" experience and Lonely Planet commenting:
Stepping from the trains at the terminus, visitors are visibly nonplussed, their disbelief surpassed only by those with return tickets.
I typically recommend it to friends visiting Shanghai. As noted on CNN Travel:
But what's not to love about the sudden appearance of blow-up dolls, flashing colored lights and booming, disembodied voices saying vaguely apocalyptic words such as "magma" and "hell." You won't get that on the metro.
You also won't get that on the Kuala Lumpur light rail, which is probably a good thing.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

An Afternoon of Fabric and Stores in Kuala Lumpur

On this first day of 2013, I'll keep it light and share some scenes from my explorations today in Kuala Lumpur. They begin in an area well known for its fabric shops and end at the Sultan Ismail elevated light rail station. Some of the scenes provide a small taste of Kuala Lumpur's mixture of cultures and architectural styles.

A pedestrian street lined with fabric stores

A nearby "food court"

One of many food vendors

Several carpet stores

More stores

A sale section at the Sogo department store

Food court at the Sogo department store

Capturing some "Christmas spirit"

Sultan Ismail Road

Section of the Kuala Lumpur Rail Transit System's Ampang Line

News Year's Kuala Lumpur 2013

If I could sum up my New Year's experience in downtown Kuala Lumpur this 2013 in two words it would be "snow spray". I have now seen enough snow spray to last a lifetime. More of it was sprayed by the thousands of peoples in the streets I visited than... well... it was a lot. Whether it just set back the healing of the Earth's ozone layer or not is a question for scientists to explore.

All I can say is that New Year's in Kuala Lumpur was far more intense than my experience in Phnom Penh several years ago (which was pretty good). At the moment, I am out of words, so I will just share some photos, even if they are a bit fuzzy. For the rest of you still waiting for 2013, I'll just say most seems the same, but you might want to stay clear of any snow spray.

Happy New Year's...

Where I had a late night seafood dinner of sting ray, clams, and assorted veggies

The head chef from Myanmar

The snow spraying fun had already begun before midnight

Snow spray explosions

Nobody was immune

Big crowds


Taking over the streets

Many disposed snow spray cans

Photographic opportunities

Capturing the moment

Walking down the middle of the street

More snow

Still snowing

Never enough snow

Nobody was safe

Plenty to clean up

US $5 per cup for a Carlsberg beer at one bar 

Some Indonesian guys I met

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bazaar Baru Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur

During a long walk today in Kuala Lumpur, I stumbled upon Bazaar Baru Chow Kit. Although several years ago there were hopes this market would become a tourist destination, my experience was similar to another person who shared their experience. I didn't notice any obvious tourists today, and overall the market did not feel touristy.

It might not be the most Malaysian of markets since it is in the midst of a large Indonesian community. But for me, it was still interesting to see how it compared to the wide variety I have seen in China. One of the more noticeable differences could be found in the aromas emanating from the foods and spices. One food stall proved particularly alluring, and I was tempted into enjoying a tasty snack of noodles.

I can't share the nostril-catching smellscape, so I will share a few photos instead. They provide a sense of the diverse visual scenes at a lively market in Kuala Lumpur.

aisle at Bazaar Baru Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

magazines for sale at Bazaar Baru Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

archway at Bazaar Baru Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

people eating at tables at Bazaar Baru Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

spicy peppers at Bazaar Baru Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

man blowtorching cow feet at Bazaar Baru Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

cow and goat heads at Bazaar Baru Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

meat for sale at Bazaar Baru Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

lizard on a wall at Bazaar Baru Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

woman sitting next to vegetables for sale at Bazaar Baru Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

variety of colored crackers for sale at Bazaar Baru Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

sleepy girl being carried at Bazaar Baru Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Monorail and Twin Towers not in China

After seeing my previous post about the vehicles at Xiamen's and Hong Kong's airports, readers familiar with China may have assumed that my ultimate destination was not in mainland China. One reason to make this assumption is that flying from anywhere in mainland China to Hong Kong requires passing through Chinese immigration in the departure city. This is similar to the border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen and the border between Macau and Zhuhai. There are visa-related reasons a foreigner might deliberately do it, but in general Hong Kong is not used as a layover when traveling between two locations in mainland China.

And my case was no different. After departing Hong Kong, I was destined for somewhere warmer to spend the New Year's holiday.

monorail in Kuala Lumpur
Jeep and Sony advertising on the monorail

The above photo I took today provides some clues about my current location. If it is not enough, maybe a pair of iconic buildings will help.

Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The Petronas Towers

In coming days, posts will probably cover a mix of topics. Some will likely be "light", but I'll try to refrain from only commenting on the wonderful food in Kuala Lumpur, the federal capital and largest city of Malaysia.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Comparing Airport Vehicles in Xiamen and Hong Kong

A couple of days ago I made use of various forms of transportation: a taxi from my hotel to the bus station; a bus ride that I expected to take me from Quanzhou to Xiamen's airport; the unlicensed "black" taxi I had to take to get from where the bus actually dropped us off to the airport several miles further away; two flights; an express train; and a monorail.

There's much I could opine about, but I will restrict myself to two scenes from the airports at Xiamen and Hong Kong.

The Dragon Air plane I boarded in Xiamen, Fujian province

The Cathay Pacific plane I boarded in Hong Kong

The smaller vehicles in the two scenes particularly caught my eye. You can click on the photos for larger versions, but I will also share here a cropped version of the photo from Xiamen.

Not cropped to highlight the van

The difference in the smaller vehicles at the airports in Xiamen and Hong Kong reminded me of a comparison James Fallows made in his "illustrated version" of the "Flying Blind Through the Mountains of Hunan" excerpt from his book "China Airborne". In that case, he used his experiences at airports in China and Japan to highlight a broader difference he saw between the two countries. I don't think the same lesson holds in this case, but the vehicles are indicative of other differences between Hong Kong and Chinese cities such as Xiamen in Fujian province. The most obvious is in the typical transportation methods available. Although a variety of three-wheeled vehicles are commonly seen on the streets of several cities I have visited in Fujian, I don't recall having ever seeing similar vehicles in Hong Kong. In later posts I will share scenes of transportation in Quanzhou and Putian--both cities in Fujian province. Plenty of tricycles will be included.

For now, I am just happy that my airport experiences weren't as adventurous as those of Fallows. For a great read with insights about China, check out the links above.