Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Street Below Us

One of the neat things about living in a high-rise building is the balcony and window views we get of the neighborhood.  We live in one of the two "downtown" areas that bracket the Taman Tun Dr. Ismail residential area of Kuala Lumpur.  Almost 30 years ago, when Pat was lecturing at the University of Malaya and our son Justin was born in a hospital here, Taman Tun was a brand-new suburb, much of it still under construction.  Now it's one of the most established and desirable living areas in town!

 From our balcony, gazing in one direction, we can see the site of the condominium complex that we've bought into.  Toward the left of the photo, you can see a tall building with the pyramid-shaped something on top.  That's Armanee I, the tower that's already complete.  Behind it, not quite visible yet, is our complex, Armanee II, that's under construction.

 Gazing in another direction, on a not-so-hazy day, we can see the skyline of downtown Kuala Lumpur (KL).  At the left is the KL Petronas Twin Towers, once the tallest buildings in the world.  At the center is the KL Tower.  It's a trick of topography and perspective that the tower looks taller, but the Twin Towers are much higher.

The same view at night.  I wish I had my tripod handy with my DSLR.  These photos were taken by (shaky) hand on my trusty, almost-as-good-as-a-DSLR, Canon S90 point-and-shoot camera.

Just below us spreads out the suburb of Taman Tun Dr. Ismail (hereinafter referred to as "Taman Tun" or just "TTDI").  In the foreground are shophouses, with shops and/or restaurants on the ground floor and residential or office space upstairs.
 This is the view of part of the commercial downtown area adjacent to our Sinaran Condo.  The building on the lower right houses a junior college and, on the ground floor (yellow band), our bank.  This area comprises about three blocks of establishments.  At the other end of Taman Tun, there is a somewhat larger commercial area which we have yet to explore.

The same view at night.  Considerably fewer parked cars, but the restaurants and pubs do a booming business.  It's as if Malaysia has never heard of the global recession that's held the US and Europe in thrall for the past few years!

Down at ground level, our downtown and the shophouses above look like this during the day.  The parking spaces along the road fill up early in the morning as commuters and shoppers arrive early to beat the rush.

The first stop for any motorist parking here is the automatic parking coupon dispenser.  You enter the license plate number of your car, enter your payment, and it spits out a coupon that you place on the dash.  An army of "meter maids" maintain a constant vigilance throughout the day.  Parking space is at a premium in KL!
 A short distance away, also in the neighborhood, is our local post office.  This post office is part of a complex that houses a KFC, a Subway, and a Petronas gas station.  Besides mail, we can pay all our utility bills here if we so choose.

Like at home, fast food outlets have colonized the gas stations!

Amidst the neighborhood shophouses is yet another KFC outlet in this country of fine Malay, Chinese, and Indian cuisine!  (This is a different one from the post office KFC.)

We'll show you some unique (and yummy) SE Asian adaptations of KFC's core menu in a subsequent post.
Another familiar US brand set up shop in our neighborhood just last week!  Seattle's Best, The Coffee Bean, and others have also set up shop in Malaysia and SE Asia.

These newcomers challenge the SE Asian tradition of the "coffee shop" (kopitiam). <-- Read the Wiki link about Malaysian kopitiams, please!
Inside the Starbuck's, the decor and menu are what you'd expect anywhere in the world, complete with friendly, enthusiastic crew.  They have some Asian specialties like the "green tea latte," which are also served in Starbucks in Japan and east Asia.

What also doesn't change, though, is the sticker shock after every visit!
Local kopitiams have fought back by creating franchises and individual shops that feature traditional decor, local coffee, and yummy local light cuisine, all served the traditional way.

Our favorite is the Olden Days Ipoh White Coffee shop, where we've spent hours using their wi-fi before we got our internet.
They have one manager, one waiter, one waitress, and an older lady that makes the food.  Here our friendly waitress  poses with the local coffee (I take it black, no sugar) and the nasi lemak breakfast.

Note my trusty laptop and paraphernalia on the table.

Places like this don't need to worry about a Starbucks setting up shop a few doors away!

Next:  Our local Sunday pasar malam (night market).

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Our New Home (for now) in Kuala Lumpur

Patricia and I have finally finished the first phase of settling into our small apartment (in the Sinaran TTDI complex) in Kuala Lumpur.  We're here to apply for the "Malaysia My Second Home" visa that will let us visit and winter in Malaysia for up to ten years.  And we're also here to start our new lives as snowbirds, escaping the Michigan winter and renewing our acquaintance with old friends (and new) in Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere in Malaysia.

This is a shot of our new home, the Sinaran TTDI condo complex.  (You should be able to click on it to view a larger version of the photo.)  We have a one-year lease, staying in a small unit while we wait for the completion of a nearby condo complex.  It's so new that it's only 30% filled, with more people moving in every day.

The flat belongs to Faridah Begum, a good friend of Mary Cardosa, an old friend of ours.  Faridah bought it as a "downsizing unit" for her elderly mother, who, in the event, decided not to move.  (Sounds like my mother!)  Faridah had just decided to put it up for rent, when we showed up in Kuala Lumpur!

So where is Kuala Lumpur?  Where's Malaysia, for that matter?

Take a look at the Google satellite imagery below.  It shows the Sinaran complex under construction in the Taman Tun Dr. Ismail (TTDI) section of Kuala Lumpur.  Use the "zoom out" (minus) key to zoom out until Kuala Lumpur starts to take shape against the rest of Peninsular Malaysia.  Keep zooming out until you see Malaysia against the rest of Southeast Asia and the world:

View Sinaran Condominium in a larger map

As you walk up to the Sinaran condominium in one of the two downtown areas of TTDI, you have to go into the building via this entranceway, using a key card to open the door.  One of the friendly security guards, if available, might spot you walking and let you in!

We have to use the keycard to take the elevators up to our floor (they won't take us to any other floor).  We use normal keys for our apartment entrance.

It's a small apartment, about 1,150 square feet in all: a master bedroom with attached bathroom, a small second bedroom, a second bathroom, a kitchenette, a laundry area, living room (left), and balcony.

The flat came furnished with most major pieces of furniture.  We had to buy smaller items like bedside tables, some kitchen appliances, the TV, and so on and so forth.  The stuff we buy will be moved, when the time (ever) comes, to the condo that's under construction.

Here you see the dining table and the kitchenette behind it.  The open door to the right is the second bathroom.

This is the kitchenette.  The fridge, the oven, and microwave, with some storage space, face the stove and sink.   You can also see our washer-dryer unit in the laundry utility area.

Struggling to use this space-challenged kitchenette is a good lesson for us in designing such spaces for our downsizing plans!

The second bedroom has become the computer room/office for Pat and me.  We just subscribed to a high-speed VDSL broadband service from the phone company.  To our surprise, we also get some hi-definition and regular TV channels along with the package, and a land-line phone!  Modern technology indeed!

One of the great perks living in this complex is the well-equipped gym facilities they have for the condo residents.   Pat and I start the day at the gym, she on her treadmill, and me with my physical therapy exercises for my shoulder.

Pat and I need this gym ---You'll discover through this blog that this country is a foodie paradise!

And the crowning glory for would-be jocks like me is the 25+ meter lap pool just outside the gym!

I can't swim laps like I used to any more because of the tendonitis in my shoulder.  But I AM gingerly testing the waters again by attempting a few breast stroke laps every day after gym ...

This concludes my tour of the Sinaran complex.  Next posting:  our neighborhood as seen from our balcony!