Another South East Asian sojourn.

Old Apr 14th, 2016, 07:56 PM
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Another South East Asian sojourn.

We're 50 something Aussies who have developed an enduring fascination with South East Asia. It's relatively close and always interesting for us - the people, food, architecture, culture, art, street life and many other aspects.

Travel dates are 15 April - 18 May 2016. Yes, it will be hot everywhere.
This trip will include some new places, and some previously visited favourites.

The destinations are:
1. Malaysia - George Town (4N) and Ipoh (1N).
2. Vietnam - Hanoi (2N), then a customised trek through the Mai Chau Valley, designed to catch the Sunday morning market at Pa Co (3N). Hanoi again (3N). We spent two weeks in Hanoi in 2009, and hope to see some change and some same-same. I've booked a date with Hanoi kids.

We fly early morning Hanoi - Da Nang and will see the Marble Mountains before catching a mid afternoon train to Hue (4N).

We fly Hue to KUL via Saigon with a 3 hour connection.
DH goes home on an overnight AirAsia flight to resume house and dog duties from our sitter. I stay one night at Tune Hotel KLIA2.

Then, I continue solo to -

3. Myanmar - Mandalay (and hopefully Hsipaw) plus Yangon, (13N yet to be split).

This will be my fourth visit to Myanmar, so I know to expect the unexpected.
I will catch up with teacher friends in Mandalay and hope to travel to Hsipaw with them. I'll spend time in/around Yangon with another teacher friend.
I've learnt that making advance arrangements with Myanmar people is not so easy, they're used to last minute. I've built in flexibility, we'll see what happens.

I'll be on the hunt for amazing street food in George Town, the secret to making pho (yes, it's all in the stock) in Hanoi, and the best of Myanmars amazing salads.

Our flight leaves at 22.10 tonight. We're in economy on AirAsia for an 8 hour flight to KUL. I put in a bid for an extra seat and won ! This time I won't forget the neck pillows. I have sleeping pills, and I am prepared to use them, although I don't expect to get any real sleep.

We have a short connecting flight to Penang, and will take a taxi to our hotel in George Town. Assuming the room is ready, we'll collapse...or maybe not.
TBC.
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Old Apr 14th, 2016, 08:46 PM
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Hope you have a great trip.
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Old Apr 14th, 2016, 09:04 PM
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Have a wonderful trip - and do tell us all about it.
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Old Apr 14th, 2016, 09:17 PM
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Thanks @thursdaysd and @Kathie. I will definitely be telling all, I enjoy writing on the road - picture a person on knees with piece of chalk, ha ha.

I'd welcome recommendations for restaurants/food stalls, or other things in the places we're visiting from anyone out there in Fodarland.
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Old Apr 15th, 2016, 12:04 AM
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Have a fantastic trip Sartoric. Looking forward to reading all about. I will try and dig out some of the restaurants we visited in those places.
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Old Apr 15th, 2016, 04:34 AM
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Hope your new journey to Southeast Asia is as fun and fulfilling as your previous ones. Cannot wait to hear about it.
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Old Apr 15th, 2016, 05:19 AM
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A few of our favourite eating palaces.
Hue

Lac Thien - possibly my favourite eating place in Vietnam. Run by a deaf mute guy who is a real character. Superb food! Great for lunch . Across the river from the main town, near the citadel and main market.Order a couple of beers and he will usually give you on of his signature bottle openers.

Than Na is great place fo BBQ and very cold beer

Shiva Shakti has good, modern Indian food.

Hanoi

Pho Gia Truyen - served THE best pho bo. Only open for breakfast and a again dinner at around 5.30 pm . Usually a queue but well worth waiting.

Banh Cahn Ghe - a block from St Joseph's. The eponymous speciality is a sort of crab/noodle soup dish and is superb, as are the fresh Spring rolls.

Dac Kim - does the best bun chia we could find in the city ( and we did look very hard!)

Moos and Roo Pub and grill is good if you have a yearning for western food.

Hoi An is awash with tourist orientated restaurants, some are v.good some not so good. Some great banh mi stalls around if ounjust want a snack. If you want to eat at one of the more famous places like Miss Lys or Morning Glory, book in advance.
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Old Apr 15th, 2016, 08:24 AM
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See Crellston's recommendation above for the Lac Thien in hue...

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q...AE92&FORM=VIRE
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Old Apr 16th, 2016, 12:46 AM
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Excellent clip LL - thanks for linking.
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Old Apr 16th, 2016, 05:11 AM
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Along for the ride! Sounds great! Bookmarking all the wonderful restaurant suggestions as well!
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Old Apr 16th, 2016, 07:30 AM
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Thanks Crellston for those restaurant recommendations, that's just what I was looking for.
Funny, when I mentioned your comment about the "signature bottle opener" to DH, he immediately replied, "bet it's a piece of wood with a nail" . Thanks LL for providing the video which confirms that.

TP - thanks for your well wishes, I continue to enjoy your SA report too.

After two uneventful flights (the best kind) we arrived in Penang at 8 am this morning. I don't think I've ever yawned so much as on that second flight. We were determined to push on, and we did, until that inevitable wall hit us mid afternoon.

George Town on Penang Island is now linked to the mainland by a bridge. It was a 30 minute and MYR 45 taxi ride to Ren I Tang hotel. Our room wasn't ready, so we left the bags and went for a wander to the waterfront. Even at 9am, it was steamy hot and we felt even hotter while watching many elderly men shuffling/running around the park. This hotel is located in the area known as "little India", it's brimming with gold shops, sari shops, tailors and Indian restaurants. The hotel is a converted Chinese medicine hall built in the later part of the 19th century. It's quirky, with the steepest staircase, many air shafts complete with baskets and pulleys, and books everywhere, that's a good sign I reckon.

We settled in for a late lunch at Chettiars Tiffin Cafe, where the specialty is claypot biriyani. It was delicious, and combined with Manchurian chicken the meal was a real winner.

We've found a very welcoming culture here so far.
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Old Apr 16th, 2016, 12:57 PM
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The food in Georgetown is superb. Go to some of the hawker centers in town (we found the hawker centre on Guerney Drive were not as good).

A Fodors friend of ours recommended Hamedia, a Muslim Indian restaurant which specializes in Tandoori. It was excellent and cheap. It may be quite close to where you are staying as it is in "little India."
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Old Apr 16th, 2016, 09:42 PM
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"bet it's a piece of wood with a nail" Wrong! This is the high tech version - a nut and bolt has replaced the nail.

When you get to Ipoh:
Try Dim Sum at the Mong Court Hong Kong Tim Sum Restaurant (opposite the Foh San Restaurant) for breakfast. Manically busy but great fun and great dim sum.

Ipoh is famous for its chicken and beansprouts - Lou Wong Restaurant is close to the night market and is the most famous - we met people who had come from Singapore for the weekend just to eat here.
https://accidentalnomads.com/2014/11...ticks-in-ipoh/

If you have time get out to the temple caves outside of the town and seek out the street art - done by the same artist as the more famous graffiti trail in Georgetown.
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Old Apr 17th, 2016, 12:18 AM
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Ha ha, that's funny Crellston, I know a guy at home who has false teeth because that's what he used to open beer bottles (way before twist tops).

Today there's a flea market (Sundays only) on Lebuh Pantai. The street is closed to traffic, and various stalls are set up. We watched an energetic dance performance by 5 young people, and got even hotter just watching. I patted a Burmese Python, he was lovely. There were many kittens and puppies available for free adoption. We could only donate to their food appeal, it's a bit hard to adopt a pet while travelling. There were clowns and amusements for kids, plus handcrafts and lots of coconut ice creams. I was struck again by the outright friendliness of complete strangers who would say good morning, hello, or can I help, while we were looking at a map.

Later we took a self guided heritage walk called the Journey of Harmony which links water, light, moon and flora. It encompasses 4 areas along Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, being the Malay settlement, the Indian settlement, the Chinese settlement and the European settlement. The Chinese sure know how to do bling, their temples were a riot of colour, carving and atmosphere. Most attractions were free, although the Khoo Kongsi temple charges a 10 MYR entry fee. I thought it worthwhile, lots of signage in English explained the restoration project and the history of the temple.

Again, it was so easy to strike up a conversation with almost anyone. I admired the trousers of a young woman who then offered to take me to the shop where she bought them. Yes, I did buy a pair.

We made it back to our hotel literally 5 minutes before a tropical rain storm started. Timing is everything, and we don't always get it right, lucky day.
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Old Apr 17th, 2016, 10:34 AM
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It sounds like a wonderful adventure!
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Old Apr 18th, 2016, 12:33 AM
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Thanks for reading along Lolazahra and Songdoc !

It was such fun to sit on our balcony and watch the rain bucketing down.
We soon had clear skies again, and ventured out to the Pinang Peranaken Mansion (Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum). The entrance fee of MYR 20 pp saw us with a group of about 10 other visitors and a very engaging tour guide. This was the mansion of Kapitan Cina Chung Keng Kwee, built at the end of the nineteenth century, and restored lovingly by its current owner who is an avid collector of antiques. Amazingly, one in our party (a man from Hong Kong) is a direct descendant of the original owner. Perhaps it's not so amazing, as good old Chung had several wives, and even more concubines.

Earlier we tried the fried noodles of a popular street vendor who's been cooking the same dish, on the same corner for 20 years....he cooks each dish separately, unlike some who will do a batch for say six serves. We were told by a group from Singapore that the flavours can get lost in a large batch.

Kathie, we stumbled across Hamideeyah, it's in Campbell St and although we'd just had breakfast we did have a look and might go back there tonight.

It is way too hot to be walking around much, so currently watching the Asia Food channel in the aircon, while working up an appetite.
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Old Apr 18th, 2016, 08:06 AM
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It's amazing, isn't it how long many of the vendors at the hawker centers have been cooking the same specialities for decades? I swear, best street food ever!

You have found some things we didn't see - means we have to return! We won't be back in SE Asia until next year (2017) and we've talked about making a stop in Georgetown.

The rain can be incredibly heavy there - when we were there we had torrential rains every afternoon about the same time. It was great - we could plan ur outings around the storms.

I'm glad you are enjoying yourselves. Do let me know if you get to Hamideeyah.
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Old Apr 20th, 2016, 03:16 AM
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" I patted a Burmese Python, he was lovely. "

sartoric, you are the master of understatement! A classic line, this!

Following along and enjoying the report -- the food sounds amazing! Another "someday" added to the list!
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Old Apr 20th, 2016, 05:47 PM
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Thanks Paule, he was a young snake only about 2 meters, and I did decline the opportunity to have him wrapped around my neck for a photo !

This morning we walked down to Fort Cornwallis, the entrance fee was MYR 20 pp, and my advice would be don't bother. I've seen more interesting colonial era forts in Myanmar. The signage and displays were dismal and the English translations on the signs were poorly done. We found that strange for a country that overall has a very good grasp of the language. Have a look from the outside, and read about it on Wiki instead.

After, we walked along the waterfront to the Eastern and Oriental Hotel built by the Sarkie brothers and opened in 1895. It's a beautiful example of colonial architecture with an amazing circular lobby and lots of interesting pieces of antique Chinese furniture.

We took a cyclo to our favourite cafe Downtown Art Heritage Cafe for a refreshing beer, and felt a little more able to tackle the "Marking George Town" self guided street art tour. There's a free brochure at the TI centre which explains the significance of the various works, both painted and cast iron. It also has a trail to follow, but given the heat, we didn't see all 52. There's one dedicated to Jimmy Choo for all you followers of fashion, it's where he started his apprenticeship.

There's also a free brochure "Penang Street Food" which identifies various specialty items, and where to find them. So much delicious food, too little time. We will have to return. If anyone is interested in the food aspect, I post under the same user name on eGullet, which allows photos.
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Old Apr 21st, 2016, 10:02 AM
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The M Boutique Hotel is newish, interestingly decorated in a kind of African colonial style and houses a shop and two cafes. It's located in an industrial wasteland of used car lots and auto parts retailers about 10 minutes walk to the old town. You'd think 10 minutes walk would be a doddle, but when it's 38 C with 80% humidity and no shade, it feels more like 10 kilometres.

I paid MYR 250 for this room via booking.com a few days ago. The owner of our hotel in George Town warned me it was a bit out of town. That's not necessarily a bad thing, however in this case it was. We checked in, were given a key card and pointed to the elevator. Our room 201 was well appointed, although filthy non opening windows with a brick lattice wall about 30 cm beyond them were certainly not attractive.

Our room safe didn't work. A call to reception resulted in two men coming to sort this out. They sent out for batteries, changed them, it still didn't work. The hotel offered to move us to a different room, so we duly packed up our stuff and were shown to room 205. This room was tiny, with the TV positioned at a 45 degree angle to the bed. I could envision two crook necks coming up, as we've become rather fond of the Asian Food channel. By now I'm pretty hot under the collar, we haven't eaten, were stuffed around at the train station, and any grace I have is long gone.

The hotel refused any reduction in price for the tiny room, and also refused to hold our valuables at reception pending changing of the safe. Seriously ?? Their reception is not safe, you've got to be kidding. Err, no. We ended up in room 101 as a compromise, not as nicely furnished as 201, but the same size with a watchable TV.

I now need a thesaurus to look up scathing for my upcoming booking.com review.
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