Kuantan to Penang – Food, Fun, Good Walking and Thoughts on Social Media

I flew up to Penang which is my last stop here in Malaysia. Penang is a really interesting city with so much to see. The food is incredible as is the case with all of Malaysia. You can find just about any kind of food and the local specialties are amazing. I sampled Nyonya Cuisine again last night for dinner with Laksa. Very excellent! They also have one of my favorites which is Beef Randang. The fun part is seeing the city, its architecture and just walking the city with no real regard for direction or things to see. Having a month here to experience the city means I can take my time with doing things like bus tours. I can also slow down with the touring and enjoy the mornings in my airbnb.

Today will do another walking tour in a different direction just to get a sense of the city. First off is coffee at a different place along with some breakfast. I also started a new photo album which is always fun. I upload the photographs to Google Photos but if you want to see a recap or a distilled selection, I also place a few on Mastodon’s Social Photography instance and on Instagram. Here are the links just in case you want to watch along:

Mastodon – I am a user on the Social Photography instance. If you are not familiar with what Mastodon is, here’s a bit of a primer for you. You can search for an instance close to what your needs are and likely will find one. Since its federated, you can find and follow users on other instances and they can reach to you on your instance. I’ve all but given up on twitter because its not this way. Twitter is a massive single application no matter what you do. Imagine instead if twitter were federated and instances existed that could be inter-woven with others and users were visible across the different instances. You could see posts from your local space along with the federated space. I think that this empowers social media to be more. Here is a nice review of what it offers. My user is @mpmilestogo@social.photog if you are interested. You don’t have to be on my instance to find and follow me. Since this is open source expect a higher degree of privacy with no ads. I post single and multiple photographs on Mastodon. There are a whole host of mobile and desktop apps for Mastodon. With Twitter you get one large interface with so-called hashtags to search on. With Mastodon you get a world of instances across a federated landscape.

Instagram – I also have started using Instagram again with a few ground rules. I am not interested in any business or networking goals with instagram. My only interest is in sharing photographs of where I travel. I appreciate any that follow but its not necessary. I like simply posting my travel photographs on instagram and sharing the places I’ve been. I’m not interested in making money, seeing my account reach some zenith of followers, but I do like seeing other’s photographs of their travels. If you want to see my instagram space here’s my account there.  Photographs there are just a sampling or a piece of things which I find interesting and wish to share. I am not after instagram moments or raising my followers to some threshold. The only thing on instagram which interests me is sharing the travels and adventures. I personally think Instagram is just as broken as twitter is in its use cases. Why cannot one post an image in a comment on instagram? Why are there not more rich conversation tools? Why is there no official desktop client? Many of the people whose work I see and appreciate use Fuji, Nikon, Canon, or Sony cameras amongst others. Why must we be relegated to a smart phone interface for official applications support? I do use the Mac desktop application called Flume which I find very nice. Its what a desktop application “could be”. All in all, instagram is disappointing to me but I choose to use it because I enjoy sharing photographs of my travels with no strings attached.

If you tune in on Mastodon, its my preferred network for things like microblogging and content sharing. Instagram I keep because I like to share to the community there. If given a choice or only one of the available social media outlets, I would delete my twitter account in a moment. Its a mess of hashtags and finding and losing things and posturing. Instagram is not much better in my book. Mastodon offers a solution which is more scalable and private while still offering social media sharing and a good desktop and mobile experience. Finally, you can see the start of my Penang photo album here. I will now stop slamming Twitter and Instagram for what they might have been and never will be. Its an incredible disappointment to me that we have such a set of social media applications that are the preferred ones while there are better choices out there which embrace privacy, responsible sharing, and preserve what I consider to be the future of many platforms which is embracing open source.

You can choose if you share to whatever platform to follow who you want. Twitter and Instagram are dead ends though until they make inroads to how users connect. Twitter to me especially is a garbage truck of an operation. You get the good and bad all mixed in. Instagram while oriented toward sharing photography suffers like facebook and how it actually embraces photography sharing by not having desktop clients that are official. Give Mastodon a chance if you want to see what a potential future of social media could look like.

Today’s Walk to the Beach and Park in Kuantan

Today is the last day for walking the city and parks and shoreline and river of Kuantan. I’ve walked for 4 days here sampling all different directions each day with no real goal in mind. I set no milestones to see the city but only wished to walk a different way each day to get a sense of what the people see when they live here, shop here, eat here, and in a lot of cases smile here. Each of the things I got to see many times over. The living here is quieter, not so manic and rushed as the bigger cities but with a urban makeup and residential districts that blossom out in most directions. The smaller shops downtown are fun little places with souvenirs, clothing, food, coffee. The last two things I think are the loves of all of Malaysia. I genuinely believe people here love to eat and drink coffee and tea. Of course, in each direction you can go you find unique things that perhaps the hop on/off bus would miss if there were one here. Truth is I did not see another western tourist, backpacker, or resident at the hotel I am staying at. And it was nice! The final thing were the smiles and these are a universal here. Last night for dinner I was asked a number of times where I was from, what brought me to Kuantan, if I liked it. Its one of the things I have truly loved about the countries I visit. 

So now back in the room at 130pm in the afternoon. I got done what I wanted and I sweated a bit walking. I stopped at a 7/11 and got some cold water bottles and chips and I’ll relax rest of the day until 5 or 6pm when its dinner time. Tonight is it for me here. Tomorrow I get up and finish whatever packing is there to do and then by 9am I will leave for nice little Kuantan Airport via Grab. Should get there an hour early so probably just in time for some Kopi there.

I’ll also publish my photo album later and you can check out from the earlier post when I shared it my photographic impressions of Kuantan and its neighborhoods, some people, buildings, shapes, colors, sizes, and unusual little things I like to capture. Its also a year since I was in Hanoi Vietnam when I first started out. Many things are the state of the art when you leave forever. Visiting cities and see them moving toward night-time. Watching the Vietnamese people want their picture taken at all costs. Smiles, hello’s, greetings by everyone as I walked through Hanoi. I will say again that if you only visit Hanoi to see things like the Old Quarter and the Mausoleum you are missing out but I will leave you with a picture of a place there which struck as simply beautiful one evening I strolled around. Catch you when I get to Penang tomorrow evening. 

Hoan kiem lake hanoi

Four Days to Penang, Three Days left in Kuantan

The countdown! Four days until my last stop in Malaysia. I will be spending a month in beautiful Penang. A fellow retiree had written me email while I was in Kuala Lumpur telling me that Penang is a great city for food and sightseeing. Free city buses will take tourists all around the city. With a month to spend in a Airbnb, I feel pretty good with my last stop in Malaysia and my ability to be able to walk the city, see the sights but most of all relax at night in a comfortable and accessible place. The island looks like a blast to go investigate! I could see taking a bus tour all around the island.

Map of penang

It is also my second walking day here in Kuantan and today will start the day with coffee and breakfast down the street. Will try to get there by 1030 this morning after relaxing in my hotel room and enjoying the times here. I saw a bit of the street I will walk down today and it looks like a busier city street with a lot of shops and restaurants. Sometimes the day walks yield a place to eat not on Google Maps or TripAdvisor so I will make a note on OneNote to stop and eat there.

Another beautiful day here. Sun shining out the hotel window. No hint of rain. When I was reading about Kuantan, it does get more rain but I have been lucky for the last day or so and rain has not come. In KL it would often rain in the evenings and you could set your day by evening thunder showers. It would often rain there for 30 minutes and then the evening or night would be beautiful.

Shift to Afternoon!

So after writing the beginning of this blog I went to a Malaysian restaurant for some breakfast and coffee. Had some spicy rice and a nice local coffee and sat for awhile reading some things about Penang and also considering my walking today in Kuantan. I worked a bit on my personal diary and I also added some more content to a article or short story I am writing. Then after about an hour relaxing over the coffee I took off walking. It was a very pleasant day out today. Not so hot as the previous day or as humid I think. Walking seemed pretty easy.

I got to see the state mosque which is just a beautiful building here. I also captured a few little things I like around downtown. Signs and small buildings and different shapes and sizes of things.I found a road which I wanted to walk on which took me back in a general direction to the hotel and let me see a restaurant I want for dinner. I then got back after the walk and my room is all made up with and the AC is on and I’m lazy. A good day walking and I got to see yet another direction here.Today marks the halfway time for my visit here. I have two more directions to go here walking and two more days so it all evens out in the end :-).

My photos will be sync’ed up to the shared album I posted earlier after the iPhone gets done moving them over to google photo’s.

Tonight it will be Thai food for dinner I think. I saw a nice Thai food restaurant about 10 minutes walk from the hotel so will walk over that way tonight for dinner and check it out.

Sometimes its Nice to Spend More on a Hotel…

My first day here in Kuantan. I’m in my hotel room. I opted for a very nice hotel here which cost what a few weeks cost in other places. I did this because I wanted to. I wanted something nice here for a few days and the room here for me is wonderful. Its spacious, the bed is softer than normal in Malaysia and I am on the 10th floor! I can look out over the city and also plan a day of walking to wherever I end up. Not a lot of planning in that actually. I may continue enjoying and have the more expensive breakfast here this morning in the hotel. There is always time to spend less but I have to admit that my next place is nice too. I have an entire condo on Airbnb for a month in Penang. Luxury! I decided on this trip to not just get hotels and to also explore Airbnb and get entire condos when I could for basically the same price if not a bit more. I just found that I get a English language newspaper every morning. I shall carry the newspaper down to breakfast much like a person of leisure does. I wonder if the restaurant serves waffles here. Waffles are a big deal in Malaysia BTW :-).

Just a beautiful morning here folks. Sun is shining with little cloud things moving around. Kuantan requires lots of investigation! I only have 4 more days here and then fly back to KL and then later in the day to Penang for a month. I think I will really be enjoying Penang. But now its only 8am and the softer bed feels really good and this old retired body likes the comfort. Its quiet here in the morning and its the best feeling to know I really have no place to go and all day to get there. I remember back on all the business travel I did to Singapore, Japan, India. It was always a rush or justifying why I should stop in Singapore for a day. It was flying sometimes back to back international flights from SFO to Korea or Hong Kong and then just continuing on to Singapore and once two hours later to India when the company got the dates mixed up. It was six hour layovers but then I would check bags and all my stuff was checked through. No changes of clothing. No comfort items. Not a damned thing. I don’t miss business travel. I watch a friend that works for Oracle travel and I cannot help but think that is not travel. Company required travel is them telling you where to be, when to be there, and when to go. There is nothing that cries out freedom with company travel. I feel sorry for him because he goes to so many places yet sees actually so little. Faced with this, I knew when I re-invented travel for retirement, I would never want to be locked in or limited. Now I go as I please. The sun is shining. The moments are good!

I’ll leave this as a draft post and then pick up my afternoon and evening thoughts when I get back from a day of wandering this city.

After a Nice Day Wandering!

I wandered around the riverfront area today and got to see the downtown blocks, the riverfront and government buildings. I have the start of a photo album for Kuantan which is here. Kuantan is a pretty cool city but there does not seem to be too many backpacker type people anywhere that I could see. I like the downtown parts a lot. I guess because I like older architecture where city blocks and buildings have the historic look but are still cared for and used. At the government buildings, the architecture is completely different which is cool. Very modern looking which I captured in black and white photographs.

I’ll walk over to the MegaMall today and go through it and then find this Arabic restaurant for tonight that is just really across the block from the hotel. With three days left to wander the city, I came up with a rough plan of places I would like to see. Tomorrow I go in a different direction after breakfast down the street at a Malaysian restaurant I found. Sometimes I divide the city into quarters and plan a breakfast in the general direction I’m going and just leave later in the day and then continue on after my coffee and food. Other times, I come back to the room for awhile and then go. The last few places have been shorter stay places compared to Melaka and KL. I spent two weeks in Melaka and three weeks in KL. I guess it all evens out somewhere. My last month is all spent in Penang at a nice Airbnb place I found downtown. I’ll have the entire condo. 

Anyways, the city here is interesting and I am glad I came. The round trip flight only cost about $78 and I really did it at the last moment when I wanted to change parts of the travel.

Transit times – Petaling Jaya to Kuantan

Today a bit later in the day I fly the 40 minute flight from KL International Airport to Kuantan. Kuantan is on the eastern side of Malaysia. There is a lot to see there. One of the chief business areas there is tourism. I will spend 5 days there touring around to wherever my feet are gonna take me. On the 20th of March, its my last stop in Malaysia for this trip up to Penang. I had decided to spend a month in Penang because its what I do. I don’t like being in a place for a week or 3 days. Penang then leads to Bangkok for two months just about but I’m getting ahead of myself :-).

I’m looking forward to seeing the differences in yet another city but this time on the eastern side of Malaysia. I’m sure restaurants are gonna be the main thing there since food and the enjoyment of food is a big deal here. Nothing like the aspects of food in Malaysia when you can have Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, western or just about whatever you want. I think about food a lot! Not that its one of my indicators of choosing a place but lets face it. The majority of places I have been are foodie places. If I wrote a link bait post on my favorite places for foodie exploration, they would have to be (and not in descending order):

  1. Cambodia. Whether you are in Phnom Penh, Kampot, Battambang, or Siem Reap the food choices are superb. Siem Reap particularly stands out to me given one of my favorite restaurants in Cambodia is the breakfast and coffee place Sister Srey right along the river. But Kampot is no slouch either. Its a smaller city but the food choices go in all different directions. I had a really good hamburger there cooked by an ex-pat American that told me stories of Kampot ten years before. Then there is Phnom Penh. Eating in Phnom Penh is an adventure not only in food but in getting there sometimes. The tuk tuks weave this way and that to make your place for you and I have eaten really nice Khmer foods for cheap within walking distance but in the tuk tuks to such a variety of western, Indian, Mexican, and Vietnamese foods. One that stands out for me in Phnom Penh is where my friend Katy and I go. Its called Magnolia and it does both Khmer and Vietnamese foods.
  2. Vietnam. You could never go to Vietnam and not hear about the signature Bun Cha or Pho but there is so much more. There are also the geographic specialities like around Hue where Bun Bo Hue comes from. My favorite place in Vietnam for eating, fun, strolling, and picture taking is Da Nang. I can take or leave Hoi An. I think its vastly over-rated and expensive but you can get there easily from Da Nang. Along the Han River there you can find all kinds of restaurants but most are tailored to tourists. I did find one of the best Banh Mi Sandwich places right off the riverfront avenue. Packed all the time for breakfast and brunch, they served some really good sandwiches and coffees. Then there are the coffee houses. Lets just face it; coffee is supreme in Vietnam. Whether you are in Hanoi for some egg coffee or Da Lat where they grow the stuff, you will find some of the best coffee choices in the world. Ho Chi Minh City is wonderful for just about everything from craft beer pubs to little local places where the food is cheap, the waitstaff want to ask about America, and the beer flows pretty freely.
  3. Malaysia. There is so much to be said about food here. Indian, Malaysian, Chinese, western, pizza. Whatever you want. I found an excellent Mexican burrito shop right in KL Sentral but the local choices rule. Down every street you will find restaurants worthy of your stop. You can expect to pay from about $1.50 to $2.50 at local places for plates full of food. There is even more though. When you travel to Melaka you get to their local food choices which is a fusion of Dutch, Portuguese and Malaysian. The Nyonya food is a spicy and rich choice and my favorite is the pineapple prawns with the rich curry gravy and steamed rice but the beef rendang is good there too. To go to Malaysia and not eat is a crime. You must get Nasi and all the different varieties You must try the breakfast meals in a local Chinese coffee shop. The half-boiled eggs, toast bread, and coffee will get you going in the morning!
  4. Singapore. It would be hard not to include Singapore! The people that say its all expensive there are wrong folks. Its not just the food stalls but its the neighborhoods. I stayed in Geylang District and other than being known as a red light district its also a cheap place to live for awhile and eat. The local food centers are almost hawker stands but often only have a stand or two for food. You can find curry noodles with pork for cheaper so I always would eat dinners by the hotel. For lunch I would find myself in Little India or downtown core area and would eat at places I found there. You can see just about every kind of food you could imagine in Singapore. One thing in common with Malaysia is that while the food can be cheaper, the beer is not. I would spend more for a bottle of tiger beer than the meal. Go figure.

I could include Japan and Hong Kong but truth be told, food costs too much and I always ate on the cheap. $20 for a burger in Hong Kong just about did it for me last year. I love Japanese food but I am not willing to spend the money on the big places so I would opt for bento lunch or the cheap noodle or udon places I would find hiking around. Hong Kong has so much to offer with food but it all costs besides the almost hidden street food stands. I could not find much in the way of coffee there either where the other places all offered some coffee culture. Nothing though like Vietnam and Cambodia. Those two places are the royalty of coffee in my book although the rich Malaccan coffee is something to try and Kopi is good too!

Anyways, its almost noon here and I bought a few extra hours at the hotel so I could enjoy the AC and wifi. I have to pack a bit more and relax because being retired is very stressful 🙂 Catch you all later in my next places.

The story of Terence, Kuala Lumpur and Mike

A long time ago in a large IT and services company named IBM, Terence and Mike worked together. The two never met face to face but shared almost two years of work on very significant IT projects for large clients in the industrial sector. We all worked at our homes then. Terence and Mike would never meet face to face but yet forged a friendship that I think remote workers can really get. The ties that bind are so different when you are work at home workers.

Finally today we remedied that. It took years and changes and Mike leaving the US forever and Terence on vacation with his family in Kuala Lumpur. Today we did lunch, talked work and life and changes over significant amounts of chicken rice. And it was so damned good. Thanks to the travel and vagabond Gods for letting us meet on my last day here and on the Thursday before he flies back home.

Not the best iPhone selfie picture but I will treasure it forever.

A small hotel room, a thought, email and memories

Sometimes the moments are rich with memories. I’m sitting in my small hotel room in Petaling Jaya thinking about going out for a walk today and got some email on LinkedIn from a previous work colleague. Since its been a year plus now, not many in that community offer me work any longer but some still catch up. The recruiters have thankfully stopped offering connection requests and consulting positions that are

Just right for me

Of course they are not. None besides the last one was just right. If you have done IT and consulting you know how the drill is. You can read a thousand recruiters pitches and find elements in each one that will work. Sometimes more than one element. You can reflect that you know that thing but then there are second, third, fourth things which are not known. You know you will get asked during the phone screen about them. If you are or were a Project Manager, its always the mixture of things. I graduated from doing projects to managing large and intricate programs that were high risk, with short fuses, and with difficult vendors, never tried hardware in data centers, and cloud environments which had hidden risks and limitations and even advantages that we did not really know until we were well on the way. But be that as it may, I received more than my fair share of positions from recruiters that had two pages of things. I read one that was the kitchen sink of requirements to which I responded,

How many project managers you looking for to fill this thing?

Of course the answer is only one. Therein lies the problem with doing IT Projects and Programs. Throughout my 20 years of doing the work up until my last contract and then full time gig, we were the first to blame. I was yelled at, screamed at, threatened, insulted, demeaned and belittled and those were the good days. I was also told that it was our job to take notes, manage the calendar, and setup the WebEx meetings. What about the projects I always silently wondered? Well, I did not really do many of those until the end. My last two projects my manager and the executive leadership let me go. I just took the two multi-million dollar programs they handed over and delivered on them. They were full of intricacies and complexities, the schedules were wrong. They had to be done in 3 months and not 7 months. The schedule had gotten strange and I had to whack it back in shape. The vendors and subcontractors were concerned because none of our solutions had ever been used before. They basically added time to the schedule to account for discovery and issues. Well, all that had to go so I instructed them to trim it all out and only believe it could be done. Not that it would have issues. This resulted in shaving months off the schedule. But our vendors and partners were unhappy and told my management. My group VP just laughed when he told me about the phone calls from the client executive management team. He told them,

You will have to take the schedule, risks, and issues up with Mike. He owns all that.

Of course, that left IBM flabbergasted. When I worked for IBM previously, rarely were the project and program managers left to manage the programs or projects. We were bean counters to the 9th degree.

Why all this now?

Good question. Because of an email from a work colleague who I particularly enjoyed working (and drinking beer) with.It reminded me of how IT is broken in a few ways and how we do it anyways. I have so many friends that project and program managers who really hate it. They feel deceived and lied to. Perhaps played. But then it comes time to get the next gig. Up goes the attitude and “can and will do” feelings. I did the same for 20 years. It was all a facade, a fake, a story. For the first 18 years plus or minus a few startup things I did, I was just a bean counter and explainer to CIOs of other companies why a thing could not get done.

Now I’m retired…

And I have the right and privilege to complain even for things in the past about how IT Project and Program Managers are treated. We are the least appreciated and most blamed people on a project. Retiring has meant that the lens and mirror has shattered and I can look at the email my friend sent and realize how truly great retirement is from that world. I have a simpler life. I don’t do tasks and milestones and schedules and accomplishments. Or blame. I don’t like responsibilities either and shy away from them. 

All of this came tumbling through from a single email from a LinkedIn connection and friend. Now the whole previous life has unraveled and become something that is in the past. Yet I remember. And I’m glad to not be there any more. So that’s a reflection and perhaps a damning one on certain recruitment practices and certain beliefs by previous managers, CIOs, CEOs and others of our value. I can easily say now that if you don’t like it too bad. You ain’t paying me any longer.

And that Is such a good thing.

Walking in a Park in Petaling Jaya

I had looked yesterday for a different place to walk and found a nice park right across the street from my hotel and in-between a few malls and shopping centers. The park has a few lakes for fishing and recreation and a lot of walking trails. There is also a playground and sports stadium right next door. It was really nice to find a place that was not concrete and sidewalks where I could walk for some hours. The park area is nice and you can wander around between different lakes and see some nice open spaces. Urban green spaces are really nice no matter where they’re found. Its easy to find a place to stop at a park bench, take in the blue skies and the differences of the skyscrapers and malls and then the beautiful trees and grassy areas right there too. Here’s the pictures from today. Hope you like them.

Petaling Jaya by my hotel is not very touristy but that’s not to say there are not nice places to go walking. I liked walked yesterday in the rural areas and seeing how people live, hear their dogs barking, and winding around back to the main highway by my hotel. Much like Port Dickson I am not after big tourist things to do. I like just picking directions and walking that way. If I find a thing I like, the camera can capture it.

I only have Wednesday and Thursday left now and will be taking off from KL International Airport to fly to Kuantan Malaysia. I will spend 5 days there walking that city and seeing the parks, mosques, riverfront areas, and other stuff.Then its off to Penang for a month and a nice AirBnb.

Tonight will be some Malaysian food for dinner down the street and then a few beers in the room.