October, 2010

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Putrajaya, Malaysia’s proud future today

Monday, October 25th, 2010

© 2010 Frank P. Schneidewind

Putrajaya can be accessed by the famed Seri Wawasan Bridge, a steel structure with an innovative design, linking the residential area of Putrajaya with the administrative part. Putrajaya was built shortly before the Millennium to replace Kuala Lumpur as the federal capital of Malaysia. It is a projected city. which was completely built from scratch just between Kuala Lumpur and the KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport). Neighboring Cyberjaya, the Hi-Tech City with the best and most modern infrastructure on innovative technologies, was designed on the architect’s drawing boards too.

The bridge spans a massive man made lake, that was included in the plans to irrigate the enormous gardens and parks within Putrajaya. Putrajaya Lake is 650 hectares large and sported the F 1 Powerboat World Championships in the past. This city with only about 30.000 inhabitants appears empty on the weekends, but has seen plenty of events and venues already.

Visible in below picture on the right is Putra Mosque, a center for religious activities in this country. It is also located next to the Prime Minister’s office Perdana Putra. Malaysia has a predominantly Muslim population, but Christian churches and Hindu temples are as well in existence across the nation. Buddhist temples can be found along the Thai border, Malaysia’s northern neighbor.

The Perdana Putra is the working quarter for the respective Prime Minister, and so considered the actual seat of the government. It appears very roomy and quite stylish. It sits atop a small hill, overlooking the main road in Putrajaya from the north. All ministries of significance are built along this road.

The Seri Gemilang bridge with the PICC marks the southern end of this road. The buildings left and right are the various authorities and ministries. In the far left of below picture, you can spot residential towers and areas, this picture is taken from atop the PICC (Putrajaya International Convention Center).

PICC is a state of the art facility for conventions and congresses. It has room to host and cater for 10.000 visitors at the same time, providing the highest possible levels of security for VIPs and state guests. We also had the privilege to watch the fireworks championships from this area, when Malaysia celebrated its 50th anniversary on Merdeka Day in 2007. A malfunction in our digital camera back then, prevented us from showing you pictures from the most amazing fireworks display, this continent has ever witnessed.

Located smack in the Malaysian Multimedia Super Corridor, this area was amongst the first with a working 3G option for smart phones many years ago! Users can enjoy internet speeds here for years already, that causes other Asian nations to bow their head in shame. Free superfast WiFi can be had at each and every airport in peninsular Malaysia for instance, but also island-wide in Penang or inside public buses and certain rail-based methods of transport!

Innovative communication technologies never seem to wait long in Malaysia, until the Malaysians can use them widely.

The government buildings along the main road here, are all located in accordance to their tasks and importance. Short ways to walk or drive for any issues, businesses or citizens may have, when dealing with their government. A big step in the right direction, but only a country like Malaysia could fork over 8.1 billion US-$ to have their government relocated in style with added conveniences to the citizens.:D

Great walkways and manicured decorations flank the massive buildings. Trees have been planted to produce shady areas, but they haven’t grown much yet.

Only the cruise-boats on the lake may charge a small fee for a round, unless you have a free ticket for it.

Putrajava is surely a must-see for any Malaysia traveler. It is a planned community with the needs of the government and the state servants in mind, huge gardens flank parts of the lake and there are nice trails for strolling or jogging everywhere. Recreational facilities are added, as more residents relocate into the area.

The Millennium Monument is a gigantic metal needle, which points into the sky. It’s base hosts an outdoor museum with a hidden light show for a nightly illumination entertainment here. The natural light-show on any clear day is attractive too. A walkway spirals around the base and huge glass panes have all relevant historical happenings engraved or laserd into them. Everything is free of any charges here, no admission is being requested to see the wonderful parks and outdoor exhibits.

Tents and pavillions host state exhibitions and other venues. This city does live up on the weekends, when thousands of Selangor citizens flock to the parks and lake. Selangor is the Malaysian state that incorporates 2 federal territories. Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur.

At nighttime, most objects and buildings are floodlit. We sure hope to come back here in the foreseeable future with our new camera gear and a tripod. Many motives to film and photograph are in Putrajaya.

We conclude this little picture report on a fascinating city in Southeast Asia, that is not even marked on older maps. Malaysia’s progress to develop into a 21st century country is taking further steps continuously. Their wealth enables other breathtaking projects as well and a trip to Malaysia is a very rewarding one!

Selangor’s new capital is Shah Alam, further down the Klang Valley, Shah Alam sits right between Kuala Lumpur and the mighty port city of Klang on the Melakka Straits. In Shah Alam was our residence back then. A future SIAMPEDIA report on that city will follow soon.

The SIAMPEDIA Expedition to Cambodia – Kep & Kampot

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

© 2010 Frank P. Schneidewind

 

The wonderful time in Tani with our friend Wolfgang and his project came to an end and the furthest point of our journey from Kuala Lumpur was reached, when we went to the Vietnamese border. We had absolutely no desire to pay several monthly salaries to the highly corrupt border folks in bribes and did not continue any further. The Cambodian provinces of Kep and Kampot were well worth our visit. The Vietnamese national game (ripping off the tourists) was not our cup of tea anyhow.

The ocean was a bit muddy, due to sediments in the water from the last rainstorms. The islands in the background are in part Cambodian and in part Vietnamese territory. Some time ago, the entire Mekong Delta of Vietnam and Saigon belonged to Cambodia, but the French colonialists shoved the cards new and made the area known as Kampuchea Krom (Southern Cambodia) a part of Vietnam. I’m sure the Vietnamese didn’t mind to annex 89.000 km² of prime and fertile farmland and oppress the native Cambodians here. Geographically it is Vietnam now, but the Khmer spirit lives on!

Kep is a sleepy coastal town with a sorry excuse of a beach. A monument rests on the shore, showing a nude woman looking in a westerly direction.

She must be here for a while and has probably been photographed by each and every traveler, who came this far. Regular public transport to this neck of the woods are unscheduled shared taxis from Phnom Phen. Back in the years of motorbike rentals, some made it from Sihanoukville on the east coast over here. Sihanoukville has experienced a lock down on private rentals for tourists recently, so we heard. The moto taxis there probably enforced this somehow, because every tourist with a bit of sense rather rented a bike than use their exaggerated services.

To get back to the monument, the nude, white lady peeks into the west. I have seen uglier monuments, especially when those show communist dictators or freaky leaders elsewhere. The white chick surely sports the biggest Cambodian butt, but she fits Kep somehow and is probably one of the most photographed ladies in the country.

Hotels are few along the coast here, but then again their beaches are sorry excuses for such oceanfront.

Barely 10 meters wide and not maintained at all. A lot of dirt litters the sandy part below the concrete wall. Endless rows of food stalls under tents can be found on the upper part of the beach. Most were vacated when we drove by.

A lot of concrete ruins also litter the beach road. They have been stripped of any metal, wood or roofing materials. An eerie sight to see and there were countless of them, all sharing the same feat. Once the may have housed the high society of Phnom Penh for their weekend getaways. After all, the distance can be covered in 2 hours by car.

Projects and such were often featured on roadside billboards, we decided not to stop for another night and head to Sihanoukville right away. Kep did not really tickle our fancy and neither did Kampot.

Funny loads on dirty side roads with the smell of burning plastics everywhere. We did not travel so far for this and most hotels were either overpriced (25 $ and up!) for rather basic rooms with A/C or about half of that for a fan room, thanks – we knew Cambodian prices and had our own transport with us.

As soon as one ventured off the beaten track, the sights were the same everywhere. Dirt roads full of trash and half naked kids roaming the back streets.

My old bike mechanic in Kampot once saved my day, he repaired my dirt bike once, that caused problems after a Bokor Hill climb.

Bokor Hill has drawn my attention on previous trips, when I came here with different traveling companions and different transport options. A full-blown dirt bike was needed in less than perfect weather conditions and a regular motorcycle could cover the distance to the mountaintop in dry season. It was cold up there, much colder than down here at sea-level and we saw the cloud covered Bokor Hill from a close distance. 1.000+ meters high, the abandoned resort and casino offered one of the best views in Cambodia. 900 lives were wasted during the first 9 month of construction here during the French rule. A bad road was leading to the top over 30 km from this gate:

Bokor Hill’s top was enshrouded in clouds, promising rain and a miserable view. We did waste neither time nor money, when we learned that SOKIMEX had leased the park and was ripping visitors big time now. 50 $ to climb up with my own car for a few ruins of a casino?

Sorry, SOKIMEX but my money does not grow on trees for you to harvest. Play your games without us!

The final run to Sihanoukville was on nice roads with ever new sights of funny cargo on mopeds or trucks. Check out this load:

A final episode, handling Sihanoukville and the return trip to the Thai border, will follow soon.