Monday, 10 October 2011

Alor Setar

I stayed in Alor Setar for a few days, it's the capital of Kedah. And I've just seen on wikipedia that it was called "Alor Star" for a while, no wonder it sounded like people were saying "Alistar", I thought I had it wrong.

The land here flattens out a bit and most of it is occupied by rice plantations. Makes a change from the Palm Plantations everywhere else (I'm looking at you, Johor). The weather cools off just a little here too, only a little bit, but it's noticeable on the bike. It's still very hot to stop anywhere in the bike jacket and pants.

Alor Setar is a noticeable improvement over the rest of the cities here too. It seems cleaner, like more money has been thrown at it and traffic isn't as nuts as everywhere else and the roads are decent quality. There didn't seem to be much of a Chinese or Indian presence there, I might have been in a mostly Malay area though.

I stayed in the Hotel ASRC which was the cheapest I could find online that also had somewhere to park my bike that was off the street. It turns out, this is the local swimming pool and recreation centre too. They let me park my bike in the locked pool area at night, but they said had also had some trouble in the carpark, but with broken english, so I'm not sure if that's a good thing... Anyway, big motel style room, extra chairs, air conditioned. Only problem was the toilet was running constantly.

Across the road from the Hotel was Spring's Leaf cafe which served some really good food (from what I sampled anyway). Here's what I ate last night:

Butter Chicken Something with special rice. It was very tasty good.  It was more texmex style than Indian butter chicken though, maybe I got the name wrong.
Now! Onto the sites of Alor Setar. First up...

Guning Keriang

Guning Keriang is a limestone hill that sticks out in the middle of all the flat land around it. I'd heard there were caves in there that you could explore, and the reason why I'm in Alor Setar! It took a while to find out where to go once I was there, but there was one sign near the main carpark with a cave looking picture and an arrow. I followed that trail between some houses and a graveyard. And now that I've looked at the site I linked above I see I found the trail to the summit instead. There was another sign in a different area that had a bit more detail, but all the text had faded so who knows what I was looking at. But I didn't find any caves, except to fall in to.

Little baby snail crawling on a rock.

It turns out, it's more of a climb than a walk. This is looking almost straight down.

This is the view from as far up as I got.
I got quite far up the side of the hill but I was still in my motorbike boots and pants, and now what I was wearing looked like I'd been swimming in it. There were steps but it was more of climb than anything. I got up to a point were there was a red X spray painted on a rock, and the trail leading off but down again. I decided I had enough climbing and didn't want to head down only to climb up again.

More of the trail. There were rocks placed over open shafts which you had to step on to get down.

More of the climb. The rocks were slippery too.

I think I got to the center of this photo. I'm not shure how much futher the trail went. So probably just over 100m up.
After that I had a quick look around the stalls selling crystals at the bottom. This place isn't a national park and there's no protection for what's there, so people go in and mine for crystals to sell in the stalls. And now they have apparently have mined almost all of it out. So the idea of owning a bit of rare crystal was appealing, but it's still a crystal of one of the most common elements on earth.

Bike Station

So I left and headed back to the hotel to sit in the air conditioning for a while, but on the way back I remembered I saw a big Suzuki place and needed to get spark plugs for my bike. They didn't have any but directed me to a place that might. I couldn't find the place they mentioned, but I found a place that had a bunch of KTMs sitting out the front, so they could probably help. The place is called Bike Station, and it's handy to know for servicing of your bike instead of going back to KL. The owner of the shop said that the Kuala Lumpur KTM shop gets a heap of overland travelers going through it, but I was the first one to turn up at this shop! And I was on a Suzuki :)

Anyway, inside I mentioned I needed new spark plugs, then they told me to wait for the mechanic, I just wanted to know if they were in stock, but anyway, I'll wait. I saw him head out to my bike after a while so I went out to explain that the fuel tank probably needs to come off to get at them, he ignores me, then I tell him the exact type that I needed, and he's just ignores me again and pulls out one of the plugs and says the same model number I gave him... I'm a bit worried because he's just pulling parts off my bike without telling me what's going on. He wanders off and comes back with a helmet, I asked someone else what was going on and that I just needed to get the spark plugs and I can put them in myself. It takes me about five minutes to explain that I just wanted to know if they had stock, but in the meantime the mechanic has already ridden off somewhere to find new plugs for me. OK, looks like I'm committed to paying you now... Anyway, after about 15 minutes of talking to the owner about where I've been and where I'm going they say the new spark plugs are in. Interesting. In the end it costs me about $13AU, and these are the more expensive iridium types which would have cost closer to $50 in Australia. So it was cheaper, but I think they misinterpreted my original request.

Me, covered in sweat from climbing that hill.  The guy on the left works in the shop. The guy on the right just had his bike stolen and was getting a new motard, he also had lots to say about bikes, I listened for a long time...

Menara Alor Setar

After I got back to the hotel and sat in the air conditioning for a while I wasted time until it was closer to sunset to go to the tower in the middle of town.

Wasting time by investigating the interesting effects with the Variable ND filter. And then cleaning the lens and sensor...
The Menara Alor Setar is the second tallest communications tower in Malaysia at 165m (roughly the height of the observation deck of the Menara Kuala Lumpur). The observation deck in this tower is only at 88m but it only costs $3AU to to up, rather than $13 like in KL.

Looking north.

Rain passing by in the North East
Then I got set up and waited for sunset:

Almost everything, but I didn't bring the external shutter release.
The sun was covered up by clouds. This is the best that I could get.

Looking south.

Looking north, Gunung Keriang on the horizon. The taller building near the center of the photo is across the road from where I was staying.

From the ground, this is what the tower looks like. Although it's not on a lean like it is in this photo.

A few bonus photos from around Alor Setar:
Coffee machine tells the funniest joke ever.

Another desktop background picture for you! For FREE :D
Now I'm in Kuala Perlis for a couple of nights to plan my Thailand attack. I'll visit Langkawi Island while I'm here, the ferry leaves from across the road.

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