Friday, August 17, 2007

Malaysia, Germany and Austria

When I was a student in Europe 30 years ago, I had the good fortune to travel to Frankfurt and Cologne. We travelled in a car then. I was in Belgium then. Germany and Belgium are neighbours, and the expressways were good. My memory is a bit hazy now, but I remember most, if not all, were one day trip.

The place I remembered most is the historical Cologne Cathedral with its remarkable Gothic architecture and which I understand has now been bestowed the honor of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don't remember much of my visit to Frankfurt except that it seemed to be a very modern city. I remembered Oktoberfest, the crowd on the street, the free flowing beer (didn't touch it myself though), the frankfurters and the sauerkraut.
My family visited Fantasialand (Phantasialand) in Bruhl. I think we went in a guided tour this time. This must be Germany's answer to Disneyland. I remembered taking my young daughter on a roller-coaster ride. It was only after the ride started that I started fearing for her, but it was too late to turn back then.

When Malaysia (then Malaya) gained its independence from United Kingdom in 1957, Germany quickly established formal diplomatic relations with the federation. There are now over 400 German companies in Malaysia while several Malaysian companies have been investing in interesting projects in Germany. My former classmate Au Fook Yew (Colin Au) bought over a a huge disused former Zeppelin warehouse in Brand, a hamlet about 35 miles south-east of Berlin, for what he called a bargain price of 14 million Euro, intending to turn it into an indoor 'tropical island paradise' to be called the 'Tropical Islands Congress Centre'. I understand that unfortunately, his bold venture is failing and he is no longer actively involved in its management, though still retaining his 25% stake in the venture. Although it may be failing, the project have created more than 600 jobs for the locals and gave dozens of firms in the region work contracts, plus the warehouse would probably have remained idle, and taxpayers would be saddled with the maintenance costs.

Germany is one of the biggest foreign investor in Malaysia. The two-way trade in goods between and in 2005 came to 7 billion Euro, which makes Germany the biggest European trading partner of Malaysia. Among the ASEAN countries, Malaysia, just behind Singapore, has for many years been Germany's principal trading partner.

If you do visit Germany for business or leisure, do visit its neighbour, Austria, too. The connections between the two country is good. Germany's national airlines, Lufthansa fly direct to Vienna from Berlin, the capital cities of the two countries. Lufthansa frequently have special online only deals plus a 'happy hour' page where visitors can bid for flights) you would be wise to check online for Lufthansa's latest prices. Unless you are a multi-millionaire like Colin Au who probably will stick to business class full service Lufthansa, you may also want to consider the many budget no-frills airlines flying between Germany and Austria. Air Berlin, for example offer flights to Vienna from Dortmund, Hamburg and Duesseldorf, Germanwings also fly to the Austrian capital, Vienna, from Cologne-Bonn and Sky Europe have a very special deal for flight from Stuttgart to Vienna via Bratislava which is just 50km from Vienna. From Bratislava you can ride a SkyShuttle bus to Vienna for an extra 10 Euro.

In your travel, you probably wouldn't want to be faced with the prospect of having to sleep in places like the railway station if on arrival, all hotels happened to be fully booked. To ensure that unpleasant situations like that don't happen to you, do book you accommodation ahead of your arrival. You can do that conveniently online via Billige Hotels in Deutschland Unterkunft (Approved German Hotels). If you are going to stay in Berlin, go to Hotels in Berlin. If you can't handle German, go to Hotels in Berlin. For Vienna, try Hotels in Vienna and Hotels in Vienna for the English version. With hotel rooms booked well ahead of arrival, you can then travel assured that you will not be caught with the prospect of hunting for accommodation in a strange land, and perhaps be faced with the possibility of finding no suitable accommodation.

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