Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Batu Caves, Malaysia

The Batu Caves are about 13 km (8 miles) from Kuala Lumpur.  It's basically a limestone hill with caves and temples inside.  The caves are one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India.

It is home to the world's tallest statue of the Hindu deity Mungan.
The statue is 42,7 metres (140 feet) tall.

The limestone forming the caves is supposed to be around 400 million years old.

Besides the caves, the other popular attraction are the monkeys.  Long-tailed Macaques hang out along the steps leading up to the caves.  Everyone wants a selfie with the monkeys.

It's a hike up the stairs to the caves but it's worth it.  The caves and temples are interesting.  This is an easy half-day trip from the city.

Plus...there are monkeys.  Here's me and the monkey.  Sounds like the best cop-buddy-mystery-crime-solving TV show ever!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Putrajaya, Malaysia

Putrajaya, officially the Federal Territory of Putrajaya, is about 35 km (22 miles) from Kuala Lumpur.  It's near Cyberjaya which is the Malaysian version of Silicon Valley where most of the IT companies are.

Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia but Putrajaya is the seat of the government with most federal ministries located here.

Putrajaya was established in 1995 and it became a federal territory in 2001.

It was a planned city with lots of parks and eight bridges.  Putrajaya is home to almost 92.000 people.  I believe that federal employees receive free housing here.  If I'm not mistaken they have to leave when they retire but I never got a straight answer on this one.

The Putrajaya International Convention Centre overlooks the city.  Construction was completed in 2003.

The Perdana Putra is the Prime Minister's office complex.

The Putra Mosque, next to Putrajaya Lake, was completed in 1999.  It can accommodate up to 15.000 worshipers.

The Seri Gemilang Bridge is the ceremonial bridge.

The Seri Saujana Bridge is a futuristic cable stayed Arch bridge.

The Wawasan Bridge is the other main futuristic bridge made to resemble the sails of schooner.

At night the bridges are lit up in different colours which makes for a nice sightseeing trek around the city.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur is officially the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur and it's the capital of Malaysia.  KL is in the west-central Peninsular part of the country.  It's the country's biggest city with around 1,7 million people.  The greater metro area is home to 7,2 million.

KL was established is 1859.  It received city status in 1972 and it became a federal territory in 1974.  It is among the top ten most visited cities in the world.  It might have something to do with also having three of the top ten biggest shopping malls in the world.

The Sultan Abdul Samad Jamek Mosque is at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak Rivers.  The mosque was built in 1909 and is one of the oldest in the city.

The Exchange 106 is the city's newest skyscraper.  Construction began in 2016 and finished this year.  The 95-floor building is topped with a 12-story crown making it come in at 445 metres (1460 feet) tall.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church was consecrated in 1902.  The "Scottish Church" was built during the British occupation.

Petaling Street is home to the main Chinatown.  Lots of restaurants and food stalls serving Chinese and Malay food.

Stadium Negara, built in 1962, was the country's first indoor stadium.  The 10.000 seat stadium was renovated in 2015.

The Central Market was founded in 1888 by the British.  The Art Deco building was completed in 1937.

The KL Tower opened in 1996.  At 421 metres (1.381 feet) tall it is the world's seventh tallest telecommunications tower.  At night it is lit up in different colours.

The Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre was built in 2005 for the 11th ASEAN Summit.

The Upside Down House opened in 2016.  Everything in the 2-story house is upside down with the furniture arranged on the ceiling.

TV Al-Hijrah began operating in 2010.  It was the country's first free-to-air Islamic TV broadcast.

The National Textile Museum opened in 2010.  The building was completed in 1905 as the headquarters fo the Federal Malay States Railways.

The Telecommunications Museum opened in 2005.  The 1928 building used to be the old exchange building.

The National Museum opened in 1963.

The Petronas Towers is the city's main landmark.  The 88-floor towers were completed in 1996 at a cost of $1,6 billion.

At 451,9 metres (1.483 feet), it was the tallest building in the world until 2004 when Taipei 101 opened.
Today it's 19th tallest in the world but it is still the world's largest twin tower.

The National Palace opened in 2011.  It is the Malaysian monarch's official residence.

The National Mosque of Malaysia was completed in 1965.  It can accommodate  15.000 people.

Little India is cool little area with Hindu temples and delicious Indian food.

The food courts throughout the city are the best places to eat.  Delicious and cheap eats.

Putrajaya is the federal administrative centre of the capital.  The planned city was established in 1995 and is home to about 92.000 people.

The Batu Caves are about 13 km (8 miles) from the city.  It is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India and is home to the world's tallest Murugan statue.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Finally in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I finally made it to Malaysia.  Finally as in I've been wanting to go to Kuala Lumpur for about 20 years now.  Finally also as in it was a 13 hour flight from London Heathrow on British Airways.

Finally, also as in, I'm actually here.  I used to have a project management team located in Cyberjava and I was supposed to visit them five different times.  But something always came up.  Usually it made more sense to either send someone else or to bring some of them over to Brno instead of me going there.

The team was disbanded in 2016 but I still miss working with this group.  Jessica was waiting for me at my hotel when I arrived.  I checked in, dropped off my bags, and we headed out to meet some of the gang for dinner.  It was so nice catching up with everyone.

What made this really special is that Kartik is the only one who still works at IBM.  Everyone else has moved on to other companies but they still came out tonight.  Dolika is now living in Europe but she joined on FaceTime long enough to be in the selfie.  What an incredible start to my KL adventure.  Now to get some sleep and hope that there's not too much rain tomorrow.

Dharma, Lik Min, Kartik, Jessica, and Dolika on video.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Officially a Decade

Saturday was the party but today is the day.  Officially ten years in the Czech Republic.  Who would have thought that I would have lasted ten years?

Some colleagues back in Atlanta thought that I was absolutely mad to pick up and move to a country that I'd never even visited before and where I couldn't speak the language.

Moving to Czechland is one of the best things that I've ever done.

The 10th most peaceful country, 7th least miserable economy, and with record-low unemployment...there are for sure worse places to be.  And right in the middle of Europe is perfect for travelling.  I for sure made a good choice.

The location is awesome; right in the middle of Europe.  It took me seven years but I'm the only person I know that's been to every country in Europe at least once.  All 50, plus several others.

I definitely can't leave out how great the healthcare is.  I never thought that I might end up in the hospital over here.  I made it through the tonsillectomy fine and it's now been 2,5 years since I finished my radiation treatment.  It was just good fortune that when I moved to my new flat that it just happened to be only 600 metres (0,4 mile) from one of the best oncology centres in Central Europe.  So on top of everything, Czechland saved my life.

It's not just Czechland.  I'm very happy that I ended up in Brno.  Prague is beautiful but after three days I'm happy to be back home in Brno.  I think that if I had lived in Prague then I would have ended up in the usual Expat trap and I would have missed out on getting to know Czech life.  I know that I would not speak as much Czech as I do had I been in Prague.

Brno is absolutely brilliant.  With so many students here there is a youthful energy and there's always something going on here.  Na Brno dobrý means "it's good for Brno."  It's a self-deprecating jab here because Czechs outside of Brno love to tease the city.

This is the best place though.  I used to tease that Brno was a nice village but people get passionate that it's a city and not a village.  True but Atlanta is 5,4 million people which is ½ of the population here.  Brno is big enough that everything I need is here.  There's fantastic public transportation and if I don't want to wait for a tram, trolley, or bus then you can walk from one side of the city to the other in maybe 1,5 hours.  The theatre scene here is amazing.  It's incredibly safe and it has a low-cost of living.

I was eligible to apply for permanent residency after five years here which was July 2014.  I wanted extra time to prep for the A1 language exam so I ended up losing five months.  I need five years as a permanent resident in order to apply for Czech citizenship so even though I've been here for 10 years, the earliest that I can apply is February 2020.  Provided that I pass the B1 language test.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

10th Year in Czechland Party

Tomorrow is officially my 10th anniversary here but yesterday was the Decade in Czechland fiesta / early birthday party.  There were over 50 people and it was a lot of fun with people coming from Prague, Berlin, Bratislava and the Canary Islands for the festivities.

The biggest challenge was finding a suitable venue for the number of people, reachable via public transportation, and somewhat kid friendly.  It took a while to find the right place because most places are booked out for weddings.  Fortunately, one of my mates recommended Žebětínský dvůr.

It turned out to be the perfect place.  Plus they have hotel rooms for the people who travelled.  The hotel took care of the catering and there was so much great food.  The room was adjacent to a patio so people got to hang outside and there was even a pool which the kids enjoyed given that it has been so hot lately.

I got both the English and Czech Happy Birthday songs.  It was interesting to hear people sing out all three versions of my name - Christopher (my preferred name). CJ (my preferred short name), and Chris (the short name my family and closest friends use).

Now that I've been here a decade I'm officially "Czech Lite."  I guess until I hopefully get Czech citizenship next year.  I came to Brno with the intention of being here for only two, maybe three, years and then I was supposed to go back to Atlanta.  Instead tomorrow will be my official ten years in Czech Republic and it's been seven years since I even visited the ATL.

I told everyone "no gifts" but people don't listen.  It looks like I'll be making some trips to Prague because I received tickets to a couple of different performances at the National Theatre.  I have to say though I absolutely love the Czech hockey jersey with the captain's C on the chest and my name on the back.

Now that I'm almost Czech, maybe even Moravian, it was decided that I need to be like all Czechs and have a bicycle.  I was absolutely gobsmacked when it was rolled out.  I'm completely humbled to have such good friends in my life.