Trip Report to Kuala Lumpur (KL)

Our driver from Genting to KL hotel, who was very chatty and helpful, provided us with information of the area and pointed out several aboriginal (BhoomiPutra) dwellings. Upon learning Taman Nagara and Kota Kinabalu were our initial destination choices for the Malaysia trip, he recommended FRIM (Forest Research Institute Malaysia) located on the outskirts of KL. It is a 486-ha site located 16 KM northwest of KL surrounded by the Bukit Lagong Forest Reserve and popular with campers, bird watchers, jungle trekkers, and nature photographers (commercial photography involves charges). The area features a canopy walkway, picnic area, botanical gardens and arboreta, wetland area, Malay traditional houses, camping site, nature trails, and silicified wood displays. Accommodation other than camping is not available and so day-trips are the best option, for those not into camping. Batu caves did not happen during this transfer either as we were well past closing times.

Mandarin Court Hotel check-in went smoothly although the facility itself was nothing special. We relied on room service for dinner. The food though comforting did not justify the price – three basic conji’s and one satay chicken for around 70 ringgits. The breakfast at the hotel the next morning had limited selection – one kind of pastry, one variety of juice, noodles, fried rice, bread, sausage, eggs, etc.

Our itinerary for the day included the half-day city tour with pickup scheduled for 8:45 AM. First stop was at the National Craft Center – a meeting point. After a half hour wait amid some confusion about the three tour buses and who is going where in which bus, the tour started around 10 AM. The tour stops were at: Petronas twin-tower photo stop, visits to the national museum and the national monument, and a photo stop at the national palace. The national museum (Muzium Negara) is a huge structure that features traditional Malay and modern features. It is three-storied and houses four main galleries along with a central hall with intricate carved panels on the ceiling. The ground floor has the geographic and natural history of Malay Peninsula from the Stone Age to the Iron Age. The second floor features colonial history up to independence. The central hall houses temporary exhibitions and it had exhibits in the transportation theme during our visit. The museum grounds feature a couple of additional galleries: National Sports Gallery and the Natural History Gallery. Other attractions on the museum grounds include several transportation themed historic items such as the Melaka Bullock Cart, Kitson & Co Steam Locomotive, and a Tin Dredge along with Istana Satu, an original-size old Terengganu timber palace. The national monument is a stunning sculpture representing those who died in Malaysia’s struggle for freedom and is the world’s tallest bronze freestanding sculpture grouping. The monument replaced the original national monument, which was a cenotaph, in 1966. Currently, the cenotaph is located at the entrance to the national monument. The tour finished around 12:30 PM and we were dropped off near the national monument.

We did a walking tour of Little India and Chinatown in the afternoon. Little India, which has nothing in common with the present-day India, is a huge let-down while Chinatown is definitely worth a visit. Little India has on offer very poor quality Indian restaurants and street vendors representative of 60s India. Our plan for lunch was to try an Indian restaurant in Little India but instead we chose an Indonesian place in the Chinatown area. Food and pricing was OK – Nasi Goreng Ayam, Nasi Uduk Komplit, Mie Ayam, Mie Goreng, and The Muk. A friend invited us to a Chinese restaurant at the Hilton for the evening dinner – excellent food and selections. Desserts were especially yummy – Ice Kachi Air-Batu-Campur – condensed milk, palm sugar syrup, roasted peanuts, red beans, corn, cubes of cincau, jelly made from black grass herb, mixed with shaved ice.

The next morning was free for us to explore as the scheduled pickup was only at 11:30 AM. We walked to Chinatown and shopped for some Malaysian themed T-shirts (kids’ sizes under 10 Ringgits each). We returned to the hotel and walked in the opposite direction to Time Square – about 20 minutes on foot from our hotel. The kids cooled off with Slurpee at the 7-11 nearby. The driver for the transfer to airport was again half hour late – had to call the emergency contact number one last time.  We were dropped off at the airport (about an hour drive) by around 12:30 PM for the 3PM flight. Lunch was at the local pizzeria just outside the entrance to the terminal – very average pizza. The departure lounge at the LCCT terminal is pretty good and has several shopping options. We did minor chocolate shopping at the lounge – American and other foreign branded chocolates appeared pricey compared to local brands.

Air Asia food options were again very limited. But, they were very good with on time departure and arrival of their flights. We had opted for carry-on baggage only which was a blessing as we were spared the waiting for the baggage to arrive – amazingly, we were out of the airport in less than half hour once we arrived in Nedumbassery International airport. Air Asia flights brought back memories of our trips in the USA on Southwest Airlines – no frills but very efficient operation with economical pricing – just the way we like it.





Related Posts:

  1. Trip Report to Genting
  2. Trip Report to Kuala Lumpur (KL)
  3. Thai-Malaysia Trip - Gotchas to Avoid

Last Updated: 10/2012. 

Stock Portfolio and Watch List Update for July 2012


Following are the activity from the previous month:

a)      Closed the following longs: Sold CPFL Energia (CPL), Citigroup (C), and Walmart (WMT) at profits of 4.92%, 7.21%, and 34.94% respectively. The sales had a combined portfolio impact of 0.86%.
b)      Increased/Added the following longs: Added one-third more to our holdings in Nokia (NOK) on 07/19/2012 at $1.82.
c)      Long Calls: None.
d)     Long Puts: None.
e)      Shorts: None.
f)       Short Calls: Closed short calls on Quality Systems (Sep 2012 45), Gold Miners ETF (GDX Jan 2013 59), Alcoa (AA Jan 2013 12.5), Nucor (NUE July 2012 43), Intel Corp (Oct 2012 27), and Microsoft (Aug 2012 31) for modest gains for a combined portfolio impact was 0.65%. We also established short calls against our entire Nucor long pong position (NUE Oct 2012 40 @ $1.1).
g)      Short Puts: Closed short puts on Apple (Sep 2012 550), CVI Energy (CVI Dec 2012 25), and Procter & Gamble (PG Jan 2013 57.5) for modest gains for a combined portfolio impact of 0.27%. We still have the CVI Energy 25 long calls open. So, the net effect of that transaction was conversion of the synthetic long position to a long call position. We also established short puts on Apple (Oct 2012 560 @ $22.60) on 7/3/2012 and Nucor (Jan 2013 34 @ $2.20) on 7/12/2012.
h)      Synthetic Longs: The Corning long calls (Jan 2014 12) were converted to synthetic longs by establishing short puts with the same expiry & strike price. The net cash outlay of the transactions stand at ~0.1% of portfolio.
i)        Synthetic Shorts: None.

The cash position in our portfolio is at about 36%.

Long/Short Portfolio Update:



The overall portfolio is 4.34% down compared to our cost-basis.

2012 Transactions Summary:



Excluding dividends, we have a realized gain of 11.01% in the portfolio YTD.

Option Position Updates:

Short Puts: Apple (AAPL Oct 2012 560 @ 22.60), ABB Ltd (ABB Dec 2012 15 @ 0.65), Quality Systems (QSII Dec 2012 30 @ 2.15), and Nucor (NUE Jan 2013 34 @ 2.20). The short puts together have a cash coverage requirement of about 40.5% of our cash position.

Short Calls: Itron (ITRI Aug 2012 40 at $4.20), Alcoa (AA Jan 2013 12.5 at $0.64), Dryships (DRYS Jan 2013 2.5 at $0.65), Clearwire (CLWR Jan 2013 1.5 at 0.35), and Nucor (NUE Oct 2012 40 at $1.10). The short call exposure is ~5% of the portfolio.

Long Calls: CVI Energy (CVI Dec 2012 25 @ 2.10).

Synthetic Longs: JC Penney (JCP Jan 2014 25) and Corning (GLW Jan 2014 12) with a net exposure of ~4% of portfolio and ~10% of cash.

Watch List: Assured Guaranty Limited (AGO), Air Products & Chemicals (APD), Bemis Company (BMS), Canon (CAJ), Dell Inc (DELL), Diageo (DEO), Emerson Electric (EMR), Forest Laboratories (FRX), Gafisa SA (GFA), Bank of Ireland (IRE), Jefferies Group (JEF), McGraw Hill (MHP), 3M Company (MMM), NovaGold (NG), Nestle (NSRGY), PepsiCo (PEP), State Auto Financial (STFC), Teva Pharmaceuticals (TEVA), Vivendi (VIVHY), and Whirlpool (WHR).

Trip Report to Genting


Of all the immigration lines at the airports we have been to, KUL was the worst. Getting through their immigration was a nightmare – huge lines with absolutely no discipline – cutting lines were rampant - security personnel added to the chaos by creating new lines impromptu. We landed around 4PM and it took us more than two hours to get past immigration. Asia Famous Tours and Travels representative was at the airport. As the following day was a holiday (Malaysia Day September 16, 2011), traffic was heavy all the way to Genting. All said and done, it was past 9PM by the time we reached our hotel in Genting. We checked out the convenience store at the gas-station we stopped en route – it was well stocked but unlike Thailand, liquor including beer and wine are not available at general grocery stores. The driver also stopped at the cable car ticket counter (Genting Skyway Complex at Gohtong Jaya) to purchase tickets – he was unsure whether the tickets could be used the next day but it said on the tickets they were valid for three days. The package only promised one-way tickets but we were able to use the round-trip tickets both ways – our guess is that although the agency purchases two-way tickets, they are unaware of the three-day window – pretty lame but good for their clients! The itinerary also had a photo stop for Batu caves on the way to Genting – we mentioned that to the driver who said we were too late and asked us to contact the emergency contact number from Genting.

First World Hotel is the world’s largest hotel with 6118 rooms in two 28 floor towers (Tower 1 and Tower 2). Understanding the lay-of-the-land can help immensely for everything can be a bit chaotic: The First World Hotel complex consists of two other large facilities - the First World Plaza which hosts the indoor theme park, casinos, restaurants, and a huge shopping mall and the Genting International Convention Center with a walkway connecting them with the First World Hotel main towers and other hotels (Genting Hotel, Highlands Hotel, and Resort Hotel). Across from the Resort Hotel are two other hotels: Theme Park Hotel and Theme Park Hotel – Valley Wing. At the front of the First World Complex is the Outdoor Theme Park with a lake. Casinos at the Genting First World Hotel are open through the night and so it was easy to exchange money inside the casino (2.99 to a dollar - Mayband counter) – the conversion rate was OK but not outstanding. The huge food court at the indoor theme park in the First World Plaza is open only till 10 PM. The few other restaurants that were open were all in winding-down mode. We headed to the McDonald's, across the street (use the indoor walkway as opposed to walking across the main street). There are no general stores inside the facility although there is a Watson’s pharmacy store that stocks basic stuff. Rooms in the First World Hotel are fairly basic, typical of standard rooms in other large casino towns such as Las Vegas and Reno.

Breakfast for First World Hotel clients is served at the restaurant in Level 8 (Tower 2). It is more like a huge college cafeteria. We were there early (around 7AM) but it was already packed – choices were aplenty and we went with Malaysian specialties mostly – variety dumplings, pad Thai, etc. The vegetarian restaurant on the other side was practically empty. The bell counter was fairly busy around 8AM taking us about 20 minutes to check-in baggage. Checking out using the check-out kiosk was a breeze, though. Our pickup from the hotel was for 5:30 PM and so we had the whole day in front of us. Below are the highlights of our day at Genting Highlands:

  1. Genting Sky Train cable car ride (5 Ringgits one-way): The Sky Train is at the Highlands hotel building, which is a bit of a walk (indoors through elevators in the walkway). Each car accommodates 3-4 people on both sides. Cars go by continuously and visitors hop-on as soon as they reach the front of the line. The ride is ~15 minutes one way with great views of the canopy of the rainforest below. Apparently the area is devoid of animals because of the electric fencing around the private acreage.
  2. Indoor-Outdoor theme park (56 Ringgits for Adults online – counter pricing higher): The tour company supplied us full-day tickets for the indoor-outdoor theme park. We exchanged them for wrist bands at the ticket counter in the indoor theme park. We did a train roller coaster ride in the indoor theme park and also checked out the Robots-Mars 4D show – both are suitable for children below 10 although adults can accompany. In the outdoor theme park, we went for a rollercoaster ride and pedal boating. Lines at the park were generally OK – never had to wait for more than 15 minutes. The outdoor theme park rides close when there is rain and reopen 15-30 minutes after the rain stops.
  3. Awana Skyway (3 Ringgits one-way) and Chin Swee Temple: Awana Skyway has a larger cable car that comes around once every 15 minutes or so and goes to the Chin Swee Temple complex. There is also a free shuttle roughly every half hour from the Highlands hotel and we availed of that option on our return trip. Chin Swee Temple complex is impressive with thirteen levels. The 10th level has a hotel lobby and the deity is at level 7. There are several Buddha statues and smaller temples around the area. The main structure visible from the Highlands hotel is what is called the Million Buddha Tower (pagoda) with ten levels.
  4. Lunch and Snacks: Lunch was at the Pizza hut at the First World Plaza – large pepperoni and water for around 40 Ringgits. We also tried several local snacks later in the day at the food court – fried durian (three for 5 Ringgits), manjo pastry, taro grass jelly, etc. The kids went for ice-cream at Baskin Robbins and we went with coffee to wind-up our day.

Asia Famous Tours and Travels service was the only disappointment for the day as our driver showed up 90 minutes late after a few phone calls to their emergency number. Their services were generally unprofessional, making us wait for long periods throughout our three days in Malaysia. Even with that, the trip was thoroughly enjoyable.










Related Posts:

  1. Trip Report to Genting
  2. Trip Report to Kuala Lumpur (KL)
  3. Thai-Malaysia - Gotchas to Avoid

Last Updated: 10/2012. 


Trip Report to Bangkok

A DS Travel representative picked us at the scheduled pick-up time (4:30 PM) for transfer from Pattaya to the Royal Park Palace Hotel in Bangkok. There was a ten minutes minor delay when our driver was stopped, apparently for some license issue near the airport. Royal Park Palace Hotel is sorely in need of a major renovation - the rooms are infested, the carpets are way too limp, and the furniture needs more than a coat, etc. The indoor pool is 1.5 meters deep throughout. Room service at the hotel was average – it was hard to communicate in English. 

Breakfast was substantial and included Thai specialties, bread, few salads, decent coffee, watered juice, and one cereal option. (Breakfast is served from 6 - 10 AM but that day the place was packed by 8AM.) Our package included a half day temple and city tour of Bangkok and we were picked up for that at 8:10 AM. The tour consisted mainly of short visits to two temples followed by a driving city tour. The first visit was to the golden Buddha temple which hosts the world’s largest solid gold statue. It is located in the district of Samphanthawong in Chinatown. The statue is 3m tall and weighs 5.5 tonnes and is believed to have been made in the Sukhothai period between the 13th century and the early 18th century. At one point it was completely plastered and moved from Ayutthaya to Bangkok for hiding from the Burmese, who were besieging the city. Following that, its true composition was forgotten for almost 200 years. The rediscovery of the statue is truly an amazing story - An old abandoned temple housed a stucco-painted Buddha. Although, the statue did not appear attractive, the decision was to move it to Wat Traimit, a common pagoda in Bangkok. As that temple did not have a building to house the statue, it was stored under a simple tin roof for 20 years. In 1955, a new building was built and while moving it the cable of the crane broke and the statue dropped on to the mud. The wet plaster covering the statue cracked and during its cleaning the solid gold statue underneath was discovered!

The next stop was at the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (aka Wat Pho), located in Rattanakosin district adjacent to the Grand Palace. The complex consists of two walled compounds. The northern compound houses the Reclining Buddha and the Massage School and the southern compound is a working Buddhist Monastery. Apart from the huge reclining Buddha statue, the temple is also popular as the birthplace of traditional Thai massages. The site was the center of education for traditional Thai medicine before the temple was founded in 1781 AD and is recognized as the first public university of Thailand. During King Rama III’s reign (1824 to 1851 AD), plaques inscribed with medical texts were placed around the temple. The reclining Buddha is 50 ft high and 143 feet long with the foot (10’x15’) displaying inlay work in mother-of-pearl. Adjacent to the reclining Buddha building is a small raised garden featuring a bodhi tree which is a cutting of the original tree in India where Buddha sat awaiting enlightenment. The site is huge and home to more than thousand Buddha images – the reclining Buddha is the largest with a length of 160 feet. The grounds outside the temple contain 91 stupas – 71 of the smaller ones contain the ashes of the royal family while the 21 large ones contain the ashes of Buddha. The driving tour included photo opportunities at Emerald Temple, Royal Palace, Lumpini Park, police grounds, and the huge flower market. The tour ended by ~10:30 AM (very short for a half-day tour) with a marketing stop at a Gem Gallery. We were dropped off at at Robinson Plaza upon request. Level 0 of the plaza has a variety food court – it is very popular with the locals – lunch including desserts for four was only 400 Bhats. A McDonalds and a large grocery store are available in Level 1 as well – coffee was about 45 Bhats but ice-cream was only 9 Bhats due to some promotion. Nearby is the intra-market (roadside stalls) where bargaining is the order of the day – T-shirts start around 150 Bhats while regular shirts start around 200 Bhats – both can be easily bargained down although they quote about 50% more initially.

Breakfast at the hotel the next day was a repeat of the previous day. We checked out around 9:45 AM and were transferred to the airport at around 10AM for our afternoon flight to KUL. Document verification in the airport went very smooth. Food options during our Air Asia flight was again very limited – managed to get three tandoori wraps and a Malaysian dish (Nasi Lemak). Overall, we felt a packaged tour is a good option for a first trip but anyone wanting to explore more should allot a week or more to this country. 







Related Posts:
  1. Trip Report to Pattaya
  2. Trip Report to Bangkok
  3. Thai-Malaysia Trip - Gotchas to Avoid
Last Updated: 10/2012.

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