Showing posts with label Malaysia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Malaysia. Show all posts

Friday, June 14, 2013

Book now for Penang, Malaysia tour with Old Manila Walks!

Penang Malaysia tour
From Manila to Malaysia! Experience culture, architecture and traditional multi-ethnic dining in Georgetown, Malaysia from July 4-8, 2013 with Ivan Man Dy. We’re in love with this northern city on Penang Island. And we like it so much that we are sharing what we love about this place to you.

Old Manila Walks and EEI Global Holidays Corporation bring you our favorites in the UNESCO World Heritage City of Georgetown, especially its food! Best of all, our visit is timed on the weekend of the Georgetown Festival when the city's multi-ethnic communities: Chinese, Malay, Indian, Peranakan and more come out in full force to celebrate Penang's multicultural mix through the arts and performances. It's one big cultural fiesta!

Join us as we immerse ourselves and eat our way to Malaysia's Pearl of the Orient!

July 04, 2013 (Thursday): Manila - Singapore - Penang
Meet and greet by local guide at Penang International Airport. After check-in, pick-up at hotel lobby for
Penang Night Tour with dinner. First things first, chow time! Our tour begins by visiting the famous Gurney Drive Hawker Food Center to try some of the famous local Penang delicacies.

July 05, 2013 (Friday)
To burn off last night’s calories, we take a guided walk and ride tour of Old Georgetown: Khoo Kongsi Temple, Peranakan Heritage Mansion, Chew Clan Jetty, Penang Art Gallery and State Museum as well as many other historical and architectural treasures (time permitting) that make Penang special. Lunch at one of Penang’s most historical sites before taking the afternoon break to recharge your battery in time for a walk-eat-trishaw experience at night to experience more of Penang’s culinary offerings. Free time afterwards to catch the festivities of the Georgetown Festival. Trishaws will be provided but participant pays for the meals to allow you to choose and try what from the selection

July 06, 2013 (Saturday)
The tour is more interesting as it falls during the July month fruit season. We’ll make stop at a durian stall in Balik Pulau, for a typical local fruit tasting stop then visit the Kek Lok Si Buddhist- the largest in SEAsia. For lunch, we’ll stop by a traditional Malay Kampung and try out the local laksa dish! Free time afterwards to catch the festivities of the Georgetown Festival and dinner (own expense)

July 07, 2013 (Sunday): Penang - Singapore
We say farewell to Georgetown by taking a funicular and going up cool Penang hill for a
lovely view of the city. Lunch then off to the airport.

July 08, 2013 (Monday): Singapore - Manila

Tour cost is US$435.00/head (based on twin-sharing) inclusive of transport within Geogetown, guided tour, site entrances, and meals (as stated). E-mail ASAP to book your slots!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Malaysia: Melaka overnight

After visiting Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia, Ivan Man Dy explores Melaka, both of which are included in the UNESCO World Heritage inscription. Text and photos by Ivan Man Dy.

Melaka (Malacca), they say, is where Malaysia began. Founded in the 1400s this city can certainly claim historical pedigree more than any other in Malaysia. Its long list of narratives include Malay sultanates, Chinese migration, Portuguese, Dutch, British and Japanese occupations.

Similar to its northern sister city, Georgetown, Melaka boast of a multicultural legacy brought about by these currents of history. However, unlike the former, Melaka's historic center is noticeably smaller and in fact, may well just be zipped through for the obligatory photo opportunity as I noticed with a lot of day tour packages.

Not for me though. As a heritage junkie, historic towns like this appeal to me a lot and I opted to stay overnight.

The thing with Melaka is that the historic center is actually small enough and everything can be covered by foot. At the center of it is the red-colored Dutch Square whose landmarks include Christ Church (1753), the oldest Protestant church in Malaysia, and the Stadthuys, former residence and headquarters of the colonial Dutch governors, which today houses the Museum of History and Ethnography. This is where the trigger happy tourists let loose and it's interesting that just a few steps up (and RM10 entrance fee) will lead you to a fascinating and quiet crash course on the city's rich narrative.

At the back of the the Stadhuys is St. Paul's Hill where stands the ruins of Portuguese-built St. Paul's Church (1521). Inside are some old European tombstones as well as the temporary burial spot of the Catholic Jesuit St. Francis Xavier before his remains was transferred to Goa.

Also in the area is the A Famosa, the only remant of Melaka's original Portuguese fortifications. To further highlight this 130 odd years of Portuguese occupation, parts of the original city walls have been excavated and rebuilt. Think a super mini version of Manila's Intramuros walls.

End your walk of the area at English-colonial style Proclamation of Independence Memorial Hall, where the first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman announced the country's independence from Britain in 1957.

The history of Melaka has always been tied up with trading and the Melaka River certainly played a very big part in it. Take a stroll at the refurbished river promenade before heading on Chinatown across the river. Located on the three major streets (which are all parallel each other) very close the Dutch Square, this is perhaps the liveliest part of the old town. Lined with traditional shop houses that still function in their original purpose, they range from simple to really ornate.

Jalan Tokong is home to three places of worship: the Taoist Cheng Hoon Teng Temple (1645),the Hindu Sri Poyyatha Vinayagar Moorthi Temple (1785) and Islamic Kampong Kling Mosque (1868). The former two lay claim to the oldest in the country. And of course, a cliche we often heard in Malaysia, Jalan Tokong is a known as the 'Street of Harmony'.

Over at Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, don't miss the charming Baba Nyonya Museum for an insight on the lives of the culturally-rich Peranakan Cina (Chinese-Malay) community. And if you are so really historically-inclined, walk about 25 minutes from the Dutch Square to Bukit Cina (Chinese Hill), supposedly the largest Chinese cemetery outside China. Huff and puff your way up to view the burial mounds or light an incense at Sam Poh Kong. This temple is said to have links with the legendary Ming Dynasty explorer Cheng Ho, another of Melaka's great touchstones in her fabled history.

So much history, all captured within one overnight stay. Definitely worth the sleep.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Malaysia: My Penang top 10

It's Ivan Man Dy's turn to revisit Penang, Malaysia. Here's what he has to say about the UNESCO World Heritage Site:

During my first visit in 1999, Penang Island in Malaysia was love at first sight. Fast forward to 2012, we're even more in love the second time around! In particular, we're pertaining to the island's historic capital Georgetown. Established in 1786 as a trading port, over the next 200 years, this city attracted various nationalities that included, among others, various Chinese and Indian language groups, British colonials and even Armenian immigrants.

Today, the city is heir to this amazing cultural legacy and it really does justice to Malaysia's tourism slogan Truly Asia. Get yourself a map (there's lot's of them and mostly free) and explore the old quarters on foot. Here are our top 10 favorites:

1. Shop house architecture
And lots of it! Georgetown has the biggest collection of these unique dwellings, some of them more beautiful and ornate than the other. Our hotel was located in one and the experience was a throwback.

2. Chinese clan temples
Home to a huge ethnic Chinese community, Georgetown has a wide collection of family clan temples (built to help early immigrants settle in) the grandest of which is Khoo Kong Si on Canon Square. The craftmanship, carvings and detail will make you knees shake with their beauty. Don't miss the other ones like the clan houses of Cheah, Yap and Lim. Most are a stone throw away from each other.

3. Penang State Musuem
You have to visit this first to understand the city. Cheap too at RM1!

4. Historic mansions
If you have 2 days like we did, spread it out to the two best ones: the blue Cheong Fatt Tze on Leith Street and the green Pinang Peranakan Mansion on Church Street. Both have fabulous rooms, furniture and a fascinating glimpse of 19th century Chinese immigrant rags-to-riches stories. Look for the Filipino guide in the latter to regale you with insider stories!

5. Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera)
At 833 meters above sea level, it's cool, breezy and has a great view of of the city. Take the 45 minute bus at Komtar (transport hub) then up by a funicular (RM30). We also had the best Nasi Goreng in recent memory at the Owl Museum food court!

6. Mesjid Kapitan Keling
Penang's oldest mosque (1801). Charming Anglo-Mughal architecture and a better undestanding of the Islamic faith.

7. Clan jetties
These are seaside ethnic Chinese communities (similar to Badjaos). A living heritage of Penang that gives you an insight of a modern life in a traditional albeit unorthodox setting. It's perfect too to catch the afternoon breeze.

8. Little India
Colorful, atmospheric and loud with Bollywood music. For some peace and quiet, head off to the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple on Queen street. Lots of eateries in the area serving traditional specialties like Roti Canai, Naan or Nasi Kandar.

9. Street hawker fare
They're quick, tasty and yummy. Eat with locals at night along the corner of Love Lane and Chulia Street. Try Lok Lok the Penang version of tusok-tusok food that comes with choices of squidballs, fishballs, fried wantons, sweet corn, sausages, etc. Choose between the sweet or spicy sauces. Another favorite: Yong Tau Foo, that's tofu with crabsticks and balls (fish, squid, etc.) in a clear soup. Set up begins at 6:30 p.m. so grab a seat!

10. More street hawker fare along Gurney Drive
We had local insider info that is even better place but had no time to check it out due to distance. Well, that's another reason go back Georgetown!

Read more posts on Penang!

Friday, May 04, 2012

Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur for the heritage junkie

Ivan Man Dy of Old Manila Walks goes on a walking tour of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in search of built heritage. Here's what to see and do if you've only got a day!

Twenty-four hours. This was all the time I had on my third trip to the Malaysian capital. Take out 10 hours of rest in between and what can you do in the city with fourteen hours? Quite a lot.

First , an overview of the cityscape. If you're not the type who'd wake up at 5:00 a.m. to queue up for the skybridge at the iconic Petronas Towers, then the next best thing is to head-off to Menara KL or KL Tower for an unobstructed 360 degree view of of the city. Spend an hour or so to admire KL's iconic buildings 421 meters above the street. Looking from above, I realized that Kuala Lumpur is (thankfully) not an oversized megalopolis but rather a small city which dreams big. The views are really inspiring.

Entrance to KL Tower  is RM55 (approximately P760.00) and includes a choice of simulated F1 ride or pony-back (ala Baguio) on the street. I chose the former.

Our bearings in order, we then revisited historic heart of the city in Merdeka Square. This area has been spruced up with most of KL's iconic colonial buildings all looking as stately as the last time we saw them.

Don't miss the area's latest attraction: the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery. This small museum takes you through the history of KL from a state to national capital. You won't miss this as it is housed in a beautifully restored 114-year old buillding (just look for the I heart KL outside). This facility also has information booth with loads of brochures and maps. Be sure to get the Kuala Lumpur Walks and Tours Map (free). Across the street is the National Textile Museum (free admission) that is also housed in another heritage structure.

For more local color, we walked to the city's Chinatown along Jalan Petaling to visit the Sze Yah Temple (Taoist) and Sri Maha Mariaman Temple (Hindu).

And of course, I late lunch at the food court of the famous Central Market which was a welcome break from all the walking.

Here's a tip, if the heat and your legs start taking their toll on you, head for a Hindu temple to get some peace, quiet and maybe a quick nap. These shrines are really a place for religious contemplation as they are sanctuaries the weary body. Remember to take off your shoes!

Capping off, we headed to the Lake Garden district to visit the (25 min walk or a taxi ride) Mesjid Negara (National Mosque) and admire its very bold and modernist 1960s architecture. The compound is very refreshing with fountains around. Visitors are allowed to go in provided there are no services. Nearby, the Islamic Arts Museum is another worthy stop on our cultural circuit. This was actually the reason why we stayed a day in KL and we're glad that the facility was open on the day we visited.

Feet weary and stomach grumbling, we chowed down 10 sticks of satay, a mid-sized oyster omelette, a bowl of fish ball soup and a can of pop at the famous hawker street Jalan Alor.

A day well spent in KL!

P.S. We found out the KL has a similarity with Manila in the way that taxi drivers never use the meter. Take heed and bargain well!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Malaysia: Mount Kinabalu for the non-mountaineer

Last year, I made it up to Low's Peak of Mount Kinabalu, which at 4,095 meters, is called the rooftop of Southeast Asia. This year, Ivan Man Dy joined the Pinoy Mountaineer Mount Kinabalu Expedition 2012. And congratulations are in order because he successfully made the ascent to Low's Peak. Here is his advice to non-mountaineers:

At 4,095 meters, Mount Kinabalu is one of the highest mountains in Southeast Asia. It is not the easiest mountain to climb especially for an urban rat and non-mountaineer like me. And the only reason why I even dared to scale this wonder is because I love highland weather and certainly, this mountain and her scenery did not disappoint. So how did we survive? Here are some tips to conquer Kinabalu if you're not a seasoned mountaineer.

1. Tone up your leg muscles. We haven't had a major hike for a long time but all our daily steps conducting tours for Old Manila Walks may have made our legs ready for this climb. We asked some first-time Singaporean climbers if this was their initial ascent. They said yes and added it was also to be their last. Do not even attempt this climb if you have never scaled a mountain. Wrong mountain to choose!

2. Join a tour group. It's much more fun especially if the group gets along well (this is a hit or miss). But also, it makes a lot of things easier. Logistics are taken care off, food is prepared, tips shared, camaraderie formed. To the budget traveler, this might be less than ideal (and pricier perhaps). But for any climber, the convenience and security is godsent. There was even a pre-medical check before the ascent (Watch out for Pinoy Mountaineer Mount Kinabalu Expedition 2013).

3. Go 5-star (if budget permits). And by this I mean, splure a bit and make it easy on yourself. Invest on a good pair of shoes. Buy (or rent) a mountain stick or trekking pole. These are things that you'll be glad you have when you start feeling the pressure. And yes, get yourself a porter (RM8 or roughly Php110 for every kg). Even if you are only carrying 5kg to the top, that will feel like 20 as you start your ascent. Pack light to save and leave the weight to your porter guide!

4. Go slow. There are points when you start huffing and puffing and questioning yourself if you can make it. Don't rush, remember, there are probally some people slower than you. Charge up by eating good trail mix (chocolates and peanuts go well with each other). Drink water. Take a few minutes rest or even siesta (I did) in the trail stops. Stop and smell the roses. Just make sure you reach the base camp before dark and be sure to rest really, really well!

5. It's a long way up. And down. Yes, you made it up. Now is equally the challenging part of going down. Essentially, you start your ascent to the summit (approximately another 840 meters up, this like climbing to Tagaytay from the lowlands but higher) at 02:00; then are expected to be back down for breakfast in the base camp by 10:30. Then you begin your descent to the starting point and may reach it at 17:30 hours depending on your speed. So for Day 2, that's more than 12 hours of ascent and descent in one day. Be prepared for this!

All in all, it was very challenging climb. The highland weather was perfect, views were stunning and the buffet-style food, lovely. If you can stand walking 8.7 kilometers up and two days worth of leg muscle pain (don't forget to bring muscle pain killers), then this climb is absolutely worth it, even for an urban rat like me.

To get updates about next year's Mount Kinabalu climb, e-mail Here are photos from last year's Mount Kinabalu climb in the Ivan About Town Facebook page.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book now for the Pinoy Mountaineer Mount Kinabalu Expedition 2012!

Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia is one of the tallest peaks in Southeast Asia, rising at 4,095 meters. It is also considered one of the region's most important natural wonders and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After the success of this year's climb, is pleased to announce its second annual expedition to this premiere hiking destination from April 13 to 16, 2012. In partnership with Ivan About Town, we have forged an agreement with a very reliable adventure company with presence in both the Philippines and Malaysia. This Mt. Kinabalu expedition is designed for participants to truly appreciate Mt. Kinabalu by staying at the park for two nights and experience Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia by staying at a four-star hotel prior to the climb.

Only thirty (30) slots for Laban Rata are available at the moment. Considering the interest in Mt. Kinabalu, these are bound to be taken quickly. So highly-interested parties are enjoined to reserve slots as soon as possible by emailing

Cost and Inclusions
The cost of the Mt. Kinabalu Expedition is Php23,000, which will include: three nights accommodation, airport transfers, all meals as stated in the itinerary, transportation to and from Kinabalu Park HQ, climbing permits, mountain guide, climbing certificate, entrance fees and climb support including orientations in Manila.

Note that air tickets, airport taxes, terminal fees, tips for mountain guides and other gratuities, porter fees, personal expenses, mountain gear and equipment are not included in the package. Blue Cross Climbing Insurance is also available on request.


Day 1
Arrival at Kota Kinabalu. Check-in at Promenade Hotel Kota Kinabalu
Meals on own account

Day 2 (B/L/D)
0600 Breakfast at hotel
0700 Take private transportation from KK to Mt. Kinabalu Park HQ
0800 ETA Park HQ; present booking; secure permit
0830 Take service to Timpohon gate jumpoff (packed lunch)
1400 Arrival at Laban Rata guesthouse; rest
1700 Take buffet dinner
1900 Assault preparations
2000 Sleep early

Day 3 (B/L/D)
0200 Wake up / Early breakfast at Laban Rata
0230 Start summit assault
0600 Arrival at Mt. Kinabalu summit (4095 MASL)
0730 Start descent
0930 Back at Laban Rata;
1300 ETA Kinabalu Park HQ; buffet lunch at Balsam Cafe
1500 Transfer to Mesilau; stay at Bishop's Head Resthouse
1800 Dinner at Bishop's Head Resthouse

Day 4 (B)
Breakfast at Hotel. Transfer to Kota Kinabalu for flight to Manila

Reservations and Inquiries
To receive further details and to place reservations, e-mail Please include the following information:

Contact Number:
Contact Person and Number (in case of emergency):
Passport Number:
Passport Issue and Expiry Dates:
Dietary Restrictions:
Medical Concerns (if any):

Related Entries
Low's Peak of Mount Kinabalu in Sabah (4,095 MASL)
Kinabalu Park & trekking up Mount Kinabalu in Sabah

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Malaysia: Low's Peak of Mount Kinabalu in Sabah (4,095 MASL)

Mount Kinabalu is the rooftop of Borneo and the most prominent peak in Southeast Asia. Words cannot describe how I felt as I stood on Low's Peak, the highest point of Mount Kinabalu at 4,095 meters above sea level. It was a challenge to get up there, an ordeal even. But the view from the top was nothing but breathtaking.

After a previous attempt to reach the summit of Mount Kinabalu last year, I finally conquered the mountain during the Pinoy Mountaineer Mount Kinabalu Expedition 2011. But more than that, I tested my own limits.

This year was extra difficult. Although the weather was expected to be good, the La NiƱa made everything so unpredictable. So on the way up to the Laban Rata Rest House, we had to deal with rain and the resulting slippery and muddy trail. Just like last year, I slowly inched my way up the steep 6-kilometer trail to Laban Rata for 8 grueling hours as we all know I'm not as physically fit as I should be.

That night in Laban Rata, the 30-member expedition was praying for a miracle, that the skies would clear the next day as we made our assault to the summit. Our prayers were answered. We were gifted with a very beautiful morning.

It was another 2.7 kilometers to the summit. Our group left Laban Rata a few minutes before 3 a.m. and nearly missed the cut-off at the Sayat-Sayat Hut. You have to reach the checkpoint at 5 a.m. But thank God we were allowed to continue despite arriving a few minutes late since the weather was relatively good.

Despite feeling weak and having to bear the chilling cold weather, the grandeur of the summit, and a lot of prodding from my friends, helped me inch my way to the top. As promised, I am posting a photo of myself and Gideon Lasco of Pinoy Mountaineer at Low's Peak.

Pinoy Mountaineer has gone a long way since we created it in 2007. It has changed the face and culture of mountaineering in the Philippines and opened the doors even to non-climbers who simply want to have fun and experience our mountains. And we have Gideon to thank for that! The mountains of the Philippines belong to everyone.

I got to enjoy the view from Low's Peak for quite a while. In fact, I had the summit all to myself since me and my guide were the last to make our way down.

As if reminding us that the clear morning was simply a prayer answered, it started to drizzle as we descended from the summit. Then the drizzle turned into a light rain. The rocks started to get really slippery. And there were portions of the trail were I had to hang on to the rope for my dear life as I maneuvered through a steep cliff.

And then, when we thought things were already bad, the sky opened its floodgates and released a torrential downpour that transformed the trail into a cascading stream. So we had to deal with that from the Laban Rata Rest House all the way down to the Timpohon Gate. But no doubt, those few minutes when the heavens opened for us was worth the effort.

Anyway, for more information on Mount Kinabalu, check out Kinabalu Park & trekking up Mount Kinabalu in Sabah. But with the success of this year's climb and to make it easier for everyone who wants to climb Mount Kinabalu, we're organizing the Pinoy Mountaineer Mount Kinabalu Expedition 2012. And as early as now, you can reserve slots by e-mailing

Thank you to all those who joined the Pinoy Mountaineer Mount Kinabalu Expedition 2011! And thanks to Gideon Lasco, Pam Aquino and Jim Mejia for sharing their photos. For more photos, visit the Ivan About Town Mt. Kinabalu 2011 Facebook album.
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