Is Living in Malaysia an Alternative to Thailand?

I had to go to Malaysia for a visa run – Kuala Lumpur, to be exact. I was interested in going since I’d not been yet, and I heard they had better prices than Thailand for electronics. Here is what I liked and didn’t like about KL, Malaysia.

What I Liked about Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:

  • more people spoke English than in Thailand
  • Indian / Paki food everywhere you turn
  • walking around the streets, the sidewalks, crossing roads – seems much safer in Kuala Lumpur than Bangkok or anywhere in Thailand
  • prices were cheaper for Nikons – and they even had the as yet to be released underwater Nikon AW100 I’ve been frothing at the mouth over
  • I met some amazing people that were great conversationalists…. in English
  • wasn’t as hard to find my way around as I thought it might be

 

What I didn’t Like about Kuala Lumpur:

  • though more people spoke English – there’s still a LOT that didn’t at all
  • Indian / Paki people everywhere you turn. Out of all the people of the world that I’ve met – these guys rub me the wrong way – often.
  • most restaurants – the ones I found anyway, didn’t serve alcohol – nor did most stores except 7-11
  • the sidewalks had many uneven spots and strange pieces of metal sticking up to catch your foot – just like Thailand
  • though Nikon prices were cheaper, my “Visa” and “MC” debit cards from Siam Commercial bank were virtually worthless
  • it’s an entirely new language to get over
  • hotels are more expensive – for less value
  • some sections ONLY had Indian / Paki food, that’s it – nothing else for an alternative (I ate a lot of Indian food in 3 days due to the location of my hotel.)
  • local Malay food doesn’t compare to Thai food
  • picking up Western Union money takes an act of god – Mohammed – whoever is on duty – it’s a nightmare compared to doing it in Thailand
  • locals told me the corruption in Malaysia makes Thailand look like it’s well-run
  • the same caveman-like business mentality exists in Malaysia as it does in Thailand (see below for more on this…)
  • the coffee sucked just like in Thailand – I tried Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks and some other place in the KLCC – the shopping place at the giant twin towers

 

Will we be moving to Malaysia anytime soon?

No, I just crossed if off the list during and after this trip. Though there were some positives, there were too many negatives and I just couldn’t see it as a place that I could spend any length of time. Maybe in the smaller areas – possible. However, all I’ve been to is Penang, and Kota Baru… neither of which were appealing either. Another thing… having great food – is necessary. I don’t want to go searching for great food – I just want to walk out the door – and it’s there in my face. Malay food is OK, and I could live on it if I had to, but I’m not really a fan.

One thing that irked me, because I was hoping it would be different from Thailand was how things are run in a business… One thing that got me… I walked into a hotel, there was a gay kid with a bright pink blazer on flirting with me as I tried to book into the hotel. He worked there, and was booking me in. They had 2 rooms – one 7 feet by 7 feet + a restroom – for 75 RM (about 750 THB). It was ridiculous… and so I took the other room – about 5 times that size for 1,250 THB – which was still 500 too much, but whatever, I was only staying a couple days.

They showed me room 214. I said I’ll take it. He puts me in 414. There was maintenance going on on 4th floor and the smell of glue permeated everything, but I didn’t notice until well after I’d destroyed the room with a shower and returned from dinner. Before I get in the door to 414 I tried the lock. It’s like a camera battery – round – on the end of a plastic keyholder type deal. It doesn’t work. I try 8 times. Doesn’t work. I go down the lift to the front desk. I tell him. He puts the battery thing on a charger and takes it off – says – it’s charged. WTF?

I go back up – it doesn’t work. I try many times. I go back down and tell him – fix it. He sends a maintenance guy up with me who uses his card to get me in my room, and takes my other card. I get in the room – the sheets are dirty – I’ve got Mohammed’s pubic hair on my sheets and there are dark stains on the white sheets. I call the front desk – can you send someone up to change the sheets – they’re dirty.

“Yes, sure,” they say.

I don’t see the guy with my key again, nor do they come to change my sheets.

I leave to go eat – they ask for my room key. I told him the maintenance guy has it. He didn’t give it to them. I don’t care I told them – go find it – and fix my key so I can get in.

I return from dinner. They give me a new key. I go upstairs – try it – broken.

I go downstairs… “Listen, fix this key, I’m tired of not getting into my room.” They fudge with it and try 5 different things. They give me the key and send a maid up with me. The key doesn’t work. Maid uses hers to let me in the room. I take the key for the room and keep it. My sheets are still not changed. I call them on the phone – “Listen, I told the girl 4 hours ago – my sheets need changed, can you send someone to change them?”

“Yes, sure!” The guy comes to change them in 2.5 hours.

I leave the next morning and return just before noon – they give me the same damn key and told me it works. I go upstairs to my room – try it – it doesn’t work. I go back down – they send a maid up with me – who uses her key to let me in.  And finally I checked out and found a different hotel to stay.

Oh, I forgot to mention – the squirter for the toilet had the handle part removed – in both the rooms in that place. The TV had 4 channels. There was NO refrigerator in any of the 3 rooms I stayed in.

So, that was a bit about my adventure in Kuala Lumpur. I think I had a bad experience, it’s probably better than what I saw of it. I did get the visa from the Thai Embassy – so that was cool enough. I did see a camera before it was even released. I did meet some amazing people. I did eat great Indian food.

What about you – ever venture to Malaysia and like it? What did you like or dislike?

Is Japan Just Going to Fall Into the Ocean?

I just got this announcement from the usgs.gov site – the earthquake warning system. Japan had a 7.0 quake off the coast. I think it’s time everyone in the country move into China – and you can all forgive and forget.

*****

7.0 Mw – OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN

Preliminary Earthquake Report
Magnitude 7.0 Mw
Date-Time
  • 10 Jul 2011 00:57:12 UTC
  • 10 Jul 2011 10:57:12 near epicenter
  • 10 Jul 2011 06:57:12 standard time in your timezone
Location 38.040N 143.287E
Depth 34 km
Distances
  • 212 km (131 miles) E (96 degrees) of Sendai, Honshu, Japan
  • 237 km (147 miles) ENE (62 degrees) of Iwaki, Honshu, Japan
  • 250 km (155 miles) E (81 degrees) of Fukushima, Honshu, Japan
  • 411 km (255 miles) NE (49 degrees) of TOKYO, Japan
Location Uncertainty Horizontal: 14.1 km; Vertical 4.2 km
Parameters Nph = 311; Dmin = 441.9 km; Rmss = 0.80 seconds; Gp = 32°
M-type = Mw; Version = 9
Event ID US c0004sg6

I Learned Something About My Burmese Friend Yesterday…

I have a friend from Northern Burma, his mother was from Nepal, his dad, in the military in Burma before he died of drinking too much.

I’ll call him Mick, he seems like a Mick to me as much as he seems like his other name. Mick is 28 and has lived in Thailand for the past 8 years doing various construction jobs when and were he could. He stayed in Bangkok for a while and then moved south for the past couple of years where I’ve been lucky to know him.

He doesn’t work in construction anymore with the other Burmese in the area, he found himself a new job that pays pretty well (9-15,000 THB per month) depending whether it’s Thailand’s tourist ‘high-season’ or not. Mick is a funny guy, he listens well, and more importantly – the guy has hundreds of stories that are just fascinating to me, about his life in Burma before coming to Thailand.

Yesterday we ate apples as he told me about what was going on in the workplace where he works with four Thai guys, three of which he has known for more than 3 years…

One of the guys was new to Mick – but not new to the job. He’d been there years before, and had long since quit and done other jobs. Some weeks ago he returned and wanted to get right back into the job like he was before.

Problem was, Mick was now doing part of this guy’s old job. Let’s call the new Thai guy, Dick, because, as you’ll see in a minute – Dick was a serious dick, and he and Mick were at odds constantly.

Dick wanted Mick out of the business. He wanted his old job back just the way he had it before, and he wanted Mick the hell out. It started with some short disagreements and arguments between the two. Dick would tell Mick things the way Dick wanted them done – which went against how Mick was taught by the owner – uhh, lets call the owner “Mack” as in “Mack Daddy”.

Eventually it became too much and Mick started to directly disagree with Dick and to do it his own way. They had many talks with Mack about it – and Mack didn’t care one way or the other. He told them to just resolve their differences and quit bothering him. Mack loved Dick because Dick could do some crucial parts of the job – and was happy to have him back. Mack loved Mick because Mick worked his ass off and was VERY friendly to customers and other co-workers alike. Mack wanted them both to stay and get over it.

Dick wasn’t OK with that and ramped it up by saying, throughout the day, something like…

“Oh, your wife, she’s not pretty, but I’d give her about 200 baht to fuck her… She’d probably give me change though.”

Mick boiled inside, he told me. But, Mick wanted, more than anything – to continue to work at that job because otherwise he’d be making 3,000 baht per month as a construction worker like the rest of his Burmese friends. Mick realized at the first signs of a problem with Dick that he’d have to keep hold of his emotions for as long as necessary.

After the offer of cash for his wife, Mick told Dick that it wasn’t nice to say such things and that he would never say anything bad about Dick’s wife or family. Mick asked Dick to leave his family out of their discussions.

Now, at this point – I don’t know about you… but, for myself I’d give a warning and make it real clear to Dick that the next time the words “your wife” came out of Dick’s mouth my fingers were going to be wrist deep in his eye sockets.

Dick listened to what Mick told him, then quickly said,

“I’ll give her 250 baht, that’s IT, and she better give it to me 3 times for that much money!”

Mick was able to keep his cool over it – repeatedly. It has happened daily for weeks, and is still going on. Mick told me that he went from fuming, to being able to rationalize that he was winning the game – the more that Dick was a dick to him.

Dick then started, during arguments with Mick to fake like he was going to punch Mick in the face, holding back just inches from connecting. He was trying desperately to get Mick to fight him. This is almost comical, considering Mick fought often back in Burma with police and military from the time he was 15 years old and working in the ruby and gold mines. Someone cheated Mick out of some money in Burma that was worth about 800 Thai baht… for months Mick could do nothing because the guy disappeared. Then Mick saw him at the table after he played soccer with his friends – they were eating and laughing…

Mick walked over calmly, and then grabbed the guy by the throat, pulled him up out of his chair and punched him in the face with his right hand as hard as he could swing for a half-dozen times or so, before anybody at the table even knew what was happening.

Mick fought the other 3 guys as well – and everybody was hurting by the end of it – including Mick of course.

I have no doubt, that Mick could either destroy dick, or just hurt him really bad.

It’s escalating all the time… just yesterday Mick told me that Dick grabbed him by the throat and threatened to punch him – Mick also grabbed the smaller Dick by the throat and squeezed it like he’d pop his head off. The boss saw it – and broke it up. See, Mick isn’t going to get hurt physically over it. If Dick hits him – I think it’s “game-on”.

But, it’s amazing to me that even up until now – Mick has never given in and let his anger get the best of him. He needs the money to support his wife and kids, and mother in Burma. He’ll do almost anything to keep that up – even take abuse from a big dick like Dick.

How many of us could do that?

Count me out.

Thailand Camera – Nikon D7000 – Available in Stores

Nikon D7000 DSLR camera, available in Thailand for under $2K
57,000 THB at Big Camera, Thailand. Worth it if you can't find it anywhere else?

Though you can’t find this Nikon camera at Amazon or anywhere else in the USA that I looked because they are sold-out, you CAN find the Nikon D7000 in “Big Camera” Shops here in Thailand, just sitting there on display.

Of course the price is jacked WAY up, but still – you could buy one if you wanted to. Last price I saw for the Nikon d7000 DSLR with the 18-105 VR kit lens was 57,000 THB. That equates to about $1,900 USD. But, there’s not usually any tax charged – it’s built into the price.

Buying the latest digital camera, phone, or computer technology in Thailand is sometimes difficult, sometimes impossible. Bangkok often has tech gadgets almost as soon as they are released in the USA, Tokyo, Singapore, or wherever they start out… and yet the smaller cities in Thailand don’t get good tech for a long time after that. Recently I saw iPads and Macbook Airs – new and old – in computer shops, and phone shops in smaller Thailand towns.

Big Camera doesn’t carry all the Nikons – just some of them. I haven’t, for instance, seen the D5100 at all yet. The D3100 – they have. The D3 – they have – in their catalog, but not on display.

Big Camera isn’t flexible (from my experience in trying) about selling just the camera body – without the kit lens. If it comes with a kit lens, that’s all they will sell you.

Anybody else find a Nikon d7000 in Thailand for a better price?

Should I Pronounce the First P in Phnom Penh, Cambodia?

Phnom Penh Scene at night in Riverside area.

Answer – yes.

I had always pronounced it using the P in Phnom – and then the other day, here in Thailand I heard it called “Nom Pen”. I thought I remembered from being in Cambodia that they pronounced both of the P’s in Phnom Penh, but couldn’t remember definitively.

I just looked it up – yes, you pronounce the P in Phnom Penh.

Cambodian Space Project Video Trailer

There will be a documentary produced by Marc Eberle, a German residing in Cambodia. Here is the trailer, embedded from Marc’s account on Vimeo’s video site:

Rock Cambodia – the story of Srey Thy, Cambodian singer.

Rock Cambodia! from marc e on Vimeo.

A trailer for the forthcoming feature doc I am shooting on Srey Thy, singer of the CAMBODIAN SPACE PROJECT.

Thaksin Returns

I just cannot see Thaksin Shinawatra disappearing for very long. He has:

1. More money than god.
2. More connections than god.
3. Nobody to compete against.
4. Quite possibly, a genuine concern for Thai people and the country.

I’ll keep my personal views about whether I am/was for or against Thaksin Shinawatra – out of this. I really think foreigners should shut the hell up about the matter – insisting he is this or that. He obviously made mistakes. He obviously did a hell of a lot of good for the country. He obviously made some mistakes.

I predicted years ago that Thaksin would return for a 2nd go at this – and maybe it’s what the country needs. For me, it is taken for granted – the higher levels of government and well, just about every damn thing – is corrupt and it won’t change anytime soon. Is Laos, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, the US, UK, AUS, or anywhere else – any better? We only know what we can see…

Thailand has been like a beached flounder flopping on the hot sand and being scorched by the sun, for years now – unable to do anything great, and yet not falling back into the stone ages. Thailand is a country that wants to do well… that wants to prosper… that has the essentials needed to go forward…

Thailand is lacking a political leader.

I predict again that Thaksin will return to power as Prime Minister. I further predict he will be on the straight and narrow for a long time to prove himself to the country. He’d probably like nothing better than to stay prime minister for the next 10-20 years and do all he can for the country. I’m sure he feels wronged. I’m sure he knows he could have done some things better than he did.

Regardless what I think about what he will do once he’s back in power – he will be back in power. There’s nothing preventing that, is there? In a democracy, the people decide. I think he has the overwhelming backing of the people and will return to being Prime Minister within 2 years, surely, but perhaps before that. If there is a military coup again, of course this could delay his return, but not negate it.

There are many factors at play – but I just have a feeling – he’ll be back in power and after a year or so of that, two years… three… the whole country will “mai bpen rai” what happened in the past and welcome the new age of prosperity.

Sixteen – New Music in Southeast Asia

Great Song – Sixteen.

By Cambodian Space Project.

Am I sick, or is this the greatest thing I’ve heard in Southeast Asia?

My wife asked me if it made my ears hurt. She said it was like cats fighting.

I love it – I don’t know what the hell is wrong with me.

Anybody else besides Clark?

Japan Slammed By 8.9 Magnitude Earthquake – Gets Tsunami

Watching the couple videos out now – the Japan earthquakes are hammering Japan right now – and there is a good sized tsunami destroying boats, buildings, cars, and surely many people are losing their lives at this very moment.

There have been many earthquakes recently – I’m on those email alerts – so I’ve seen about 15 earthquakes in various places roll in over this morning. Sad day in Japan – Best of luck if you are there or have loved ones there!

Is Thailand in danger of a tsunami?

Nope, sure doesn’t look like it. Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam all seem to block it pretty well.

Hostages in Philippines… WTF?

I don’t want to gripe about the lack of training of the SWAT force or police that were attempting to end the standoff with the ex-policeman that took the hostages on the bus. That’s life… Philippines is a country that is much poorer than Thailand. They have a lot of challenges that aren’t going to be met. It’s just a fact of life that not every country in the world has the high level of skill necessary to end a situation like that with only the death of the hostage taker, or some other outcome – maybe even with no death at all. It’s this 2nd possibility that is eating me right now.

People that have done nothing to anyone else and are innocent as they are killed, raped, tortured, or anything along those lines – really affects me. I can’t come to grips with it. My response is always that the perpetrators should be killed. If they are tortured – it’s fine with me – but, we need to eliminate these people as fast as possible from the face of the planet. So my first mental response after reading about this bus hostage drama was that someone needed to shoot this guy immediately – at the very first opportunity. Apparently there were opportunities – but, the way it was playing out – the powers that be figured they’d end it with just talking to the guy. After all, he was a cop – he’s not going to shoot innocent people, is he?

So my first response – hit the guy with a small anti-tank bullet that isn’t deflected by the thick glass of the bus, or even the metal of the bus. Just take his head right the fuck off – you know?

You can see in this video – the police, hell, I COULD HAVE shot this guy with handgun from :23 to :32 and again, with an M-4 from 1:16 to 1:20.

The next thought I had was about why in this technologically advanced age don’t we have some instantaneous ways to stop hostage dramas like this? I came up with two ideas.

1. We have tear gas grenades. Why can’t we have anesthesia grenades? Or something that explodes with a gas that knocks out every living thing on the bus or in the room within seconds? In this case, with the bus running the engine and air conditioning it wouldn’t have been too hard to be pumping something into the engine air intakes that eventually renders people unconscious.

Most hostage takers don’t bring full oxygen gear. This is one area I think we could develop something, or we already HAVE something that can do this. Sure there will be liability for hostages that hurt themselves or have adverse reactions, or death during the use of it – but, when you’re dealing with hostage situations where many innocent people could die I think it’s worth the risk and society would have to accept that as well.

2. Magnets. The guy in this case had a handgun and an M-16. I’m guessing both had a hell of a lot of metal construction to them. Don’t we have magnets that are so strong that, if we put one right up the front window of the bus that EVERYTHING metal will come ripping towards the magnet and stick there, totally immovable? This one would require some thought – because metal things flying through the air in a crowded bus at 100mph could take heads off. But, on the other hand, hostage drama ends instantly unless there are explosives involved!

If you have an idea too – drop it in the comments, I think I’ll get a kick out of some other solutions you might have…