Dingle Speaks

Endless Mindnumbing Prattle

Some more bits and bobs from my brief stay in Penang

Toilet signs, men have to urinate while peeping at the ladies over a wall in Penang, it’s the law.

The guys we were with kept talking about “local delights” the whole morning, a Malay English saying apparently. Anyway, when it comes to local delights the 7 Village Noodle House is apparently the BIZNIZ, we popped there for lunch.

"Local delights" lobak (pork sausage) and kwan jiang (deep fried sticky rice), proper good they were too, the dips are soy with green chillis and a salty red pepper paste

Soup noodles, this is what it's famous for, the noodles are a bit different, very light and they come with fish balls, pork and meat balls

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Penang

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Arrived in Penang late last night (nearly midnight) without a clue what Penang was all about (I only found out it was an island about an hour before we arrived).

Anyway, I opened my hotel curtains this morning and it’s not looking too bad at all!

Only here for one more night unfortunately, then back to KL first thing tomorrow, so no time to enjoy..

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While I was waiting at the airport the other day I noticed a nun sitting opposite me.

I was just starting to think about how easy it must be to travel as a nun, no worldly posessions, only the clothes on your back and maybe a change of habit, when I noticed her digging around the inside of her habit for something, “ah, she’s probably digging around for her prayer beads I thought”.

No, I couldn’t have been wronger:

Yes, that’s an iPhone4 which she started clicking away on (presumably the VirtuaPrayer-Bead app, I mean nobody wants to carry ACTUAL prayer beads in 2011 do they..).

Or did I understand it wrong? Are nuns allowed worldly possessions these days?

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That was the headline in the Malaysian New Sunday Times paper which most caught my eye as I sat down to eat breakfast at 7am on Sunday (having just finished my 2 hour workout – I follow the 5BX Canadian airforce regimen for reference).

It’s a splendid article and I wasted no time in tearing it out to share with H, much to the annoyance of the owner of the paper sitting at the next table who had been trying to snatch it back from me for the last minute or so.

The article goes on to say “A man married to a woman who is as good as or better than a prostitute in bed has no reason to stray. A man’s appetite, which is greater than women’s, cannot be denied. And rather than allowing him to sin, a woman must do all she can to ensure his desires are met.”

Well, they’re preaching to the converted here, I’m all for it, H is going to be thrilled when I show her the article. However, I’m not in a position to properly rate her performance as I’ve never solicited the services of a first-class prostitute, they’re.. well… too expensive!

It turns out it was written by a lady called Dr Rohaya Mohamed, the vice-president of the “Obedient Wives Club” (H’s application form is already in the post), the club promotes female obedience as the solution to social problems such as infidelity, prostitution, domestic violence and abandoned babies which apparently stem from a lack of belief in god and the failure of women to keep their husbands content”

So there you have it women, it’s all your fault, everything! EVERYTHING!!!

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Well, it’s been a busy few weeks, firstly my family came to visit for a couple of weeks and we went touring round China, taking in Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou and H’s hometown. Then the day after my family left I flew down to Kuala Lumpur for an exhibition and customer meetings, I’m here until next weekend (with Singapore and Penang squeezed in the middle somewhere).

Anyway, it’s been a while since I posted anything, let’s see what I’ve got for you.

Ok, I’ll skip my family trip, birthday, wedding lunch etc until later and post about KL. It’s actually something like my 4th trip to KL  but this is the first time I’ve stopped in the city centre. Normally our distributors here put us out in the Sunway Pyramid (15km outside KL) for convenience in visiting customers etc. we’ve never actually ventured into KL itself as it’s not convenient and my only glimpse of the Petronas towers was on a free afternoon I once had in which I visited a friend in Bangsar for a late lunch before my evening flight.

So, despite my previous trips I can happily say this is my first trip to KL proper.

I’m stopping at Fraser Place which I can thoroughly recommend, for around 100 USD per night I’ve basically got a very clean and well equipped studio apartment with free internet, a kitchen (no use to me..), very comfy bed, music system with ipod dock, LCD screen with DVD player etc, all within 5 mins walking distance from KLCC, one of the best places I’ve stayed in a long time!

Anyway, here’s some random photos from my first few days here:

The first night I ate street food at Changkat Bukit Bintang, decent food, cheap, but waaaaay too hot and sweaty outside, made worse by the spicy food, when I moved on after around an hour I was drenched.

Axe Brand Medicated Oil, the tagline says “You never know when you’ll need it”, I have to agree completely, I have no idea why I would ever need this oil

The glove for handling the bread while cutting in my hotel, it's a little known fact that Malaysians are born with only two fingers and a thumb

I met up with John on Friday night (you may remember him from old Shanghai days), he took me to the originally named “Skybar” (doesn’t every city have one of these??) on the top of the Traders hotel for views of the Petronas Towers at night.

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Ah it’s been a while since I posted something about toilets….

I hate it when traveling in Asia and find that the toilets don’t have clear signs for which door is for who, they just write the word “female” or “male” in the local language and I have to take a guess (yes I should try to learn the language, but hey, guess what, i’m lazy).

Anyway, thankfully none of those issues at Gimpo airport last Friday, I was left in no doubt whatsoever:

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I went for a walk with H the other day, trying to find a cobbler I’d seen somewhere between Xintiandi and Xujiahui Lu, we found him eventually on fuxing lu, close to xizang lu I think, but I wasn’t convinced, for 550RMB you get some pretty basic looking shoes, I’m going to keep looking  (reason being I’m looking for some Oxford cap toe shoes to go with my new suit, everything I’ve tried off the shelf so far doesn’t fit, I’ve got hobbit feet).

Anyway, while walking round we came across this place (below), which I’m sure I’ve seen before but never really paid any notice, it’s at 76 Fuxing Zhong Lu (near Xizang Lu)

It’s pretty small inside, the “museum” is probably only around 3m x 3m and has a large range of old locks on the wall. Now I’m not the sort of person who gets excited about locks so I didn’t really take a closer look, but maybe you ARE the sort of person who gets off on locks, in which case you might think this is worth checking out (and possibly consider some kind of counselling)

The front wall of the shop is, wait for it, a key cutting service (the excitement never stops at Dingle Speaks!!). Again, if you’re the sort of person who gets off on keys and locks you’ve probably dropped everything at this point and are rushing over to Fuxing Zhong Lu, GET SOME HELP!!

Another TOP NOTCH post from Dingle!

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Spotted at my local Family Mart last night.

I am honestly stuck for words (and not because my mouth is full of them before you start….)

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I’d read about a watertown in Pudong a couple of years back which was pretty much off the tourist radar and worth a visit. But then I completely forgot what it was called and kind of forgot about it.

Anyway, during the mayday weekend we talked about a day out in Hangzhou or Xitang but were worried about the crowds, I remembered the watertown.

So, we spent half an hour on the net and came up with Xinchang, a watertown in Pudong accessible by public transport (a 90 minute bus ride from Longyang Lu metro station). I didn’t fancy spending half the day getting there though so we figured we’d just chance it and take the metro to the last station on line 8 (aerospace museum), which gets us within 15 or 16 km of Xinchang and then figure it out from there.

By the way, here’s Xinchang:


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It wasn’t quite as easy as we thought, we arrived at the aerospace museum to find chaos, scores of people all trying to get away. We stopped a few taxis and nobody had heard of the place, or if they had heard of it they had “issues with the meter” and wanted a fixed price (no Dazhong out here, only orange taxis), normally in the region of 100rmb after sizing me up and making the usual fat=money assumption which is the norm in China. So, I disappeared for a few minutes to let H sort it out.

Sure enough within a minute or so I could hear the negotiations beginning in earnest as H took on a group of agitated illegal taxi drivers who were either giggling or grinding their brows with their palms as H explained exactly what she thought of their prices and what she was prepared to pay, in a voice which I am informed is not “screaming” but “a normal negotiation tone in China” while stabbing at them with her finger. Finally and inevitably they agreed, yes, they’d been wrong, her price was the right one, not theirs, they’d been thinking of another Xinchang which was much further away etc etc.. and so we set off, agreeing on 120rmb for the round trip.

Xinchang it transpires was the location of filming for “Lust Caution”, so my “off the radar” watertown was actually pretty much “on the radar” these days. Still, it’s a few years behind the likes of Xitang and Zhouzhang and instead of shop after shop of cultural artefactsgarbage you can still see local hairdressers and shops selling soy sauce etc.

The commercialised bit is nice but small, nothing compared to Xitang or Zhouzhang, but nice enough. The real gem is the hutong though, there are a large number of well preserved hutong with some splendid looking stone gates (see pics below) and wood carvings. Also, it’s well worth crossing the main road and walking away from the main centre along the canal (South I believe), the further away you get the more you get the sense of a real community rather than tourist hub, walking around the hutong here you see locals doing their washing, cooking and invariably leave their doors wide open allowing sneak peeks into the way they live.

All in all we were really glad we went and would really consider taking guests there as an alternative to Xitang or Zhouzhang, but we really need to figure out a better way to get to it…

Anyway, here’s some pics! continue reading…

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On the second day of our trip to Huangshan we took a taxi out to a local Hui village called Hongcun. Link to Hongcun website

It was a long drive from our hotel and by the time I arrived and saw the mass of buses and queue of cars to see the village I was starting to think we’d made a mistake.

Anyway, we bought tickets, at a ridiculous 80RMB to get in (not including access to any of the houses/temples whatever inside, they’re extra) and walked through the entrance gate.

My first impression was that it was a beautiful village but there were just waay too many people there to really appreciate it, including literally hundreds of art students camped out, attempting to sketch the architecture while blocking narrow passages and paths. We turned away from the main tourist trail and headed out to the outskirts of the village where few tourists ventured, now this was more interesting.

Eventually we headed back to the centre of the village which was built around a large pond called “moon pond”, it really was beautiful, but again the tour groups spoiled it for me and this wasn’t even a public holiday, plus we’d missed the peak weekends (when the fields are in flower) by a week or two, I can’t imagine what this place is like on Mayday or one of the other holidays.

In the end, I was glad we went but I much more enjoyed exploring some of the old villages around Yangshuo like Longtang and Liugong, they weren’t on the tour group circuit and felt more “real” than Hongcun, although I’ll concede that Hongcun was more beautiful!

edit: I just found out that this was where they filmed some scenes from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, that’s why it’s so popular…

Anyway, here are some pics from the day:

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