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Friday, October 29, 2010

The Cell (2000) movie

Last night, we went back to ou hotel rather early and I caught The Cell on HBO. I wanted to catch The Cell 2 also (which was scheduled to show right after The Cell) but my eyes just wouldn;t stay open. I suppose it was because I was too wiped out because I woke up at 7am for fishing.

The Slog Reviews: 8.5/10. I absolutely loved this movie - the stunning visual effects are will etch themselves in your memory for some time to come, esp the 1 of which showed a horse being bisected vertically into many sections. The plot is about the exploration of the mind of a twisted serial killer, where he is both the evil king and an innocent abused young boy in his mind's realm. If you have watched the movie silent hill, the surrealism of this movie is comparable. And oh yes, the make up for lopez was incredible. The way her face was made up when she was playing different roles made her look like two diff pp. Esp when she played the evil persona. A good movie all in all

1 of the best hairstylist /hairdreser in Bangkok

must be, IMHO, Khun Phonatip (Nickname: Neang) And his number is +66894292257.

Although he has a website, all the info there is highly inaccurate save for his contact number(s). Neang is highly mobile and when I sms-ed him this trip to confirm the appointment, he had moved from Cut and Curl (where he was last Nov) to Salon & Spa at Ruem Rudee Road (near Conrad Hotel).

Be warned though that you need to pay the price if you want the Monkey (and not peanuts), and Neang not only does not come cheap,but he also doesn't lower the price he quotes. He might throw in a free trim (not a haircut) and that's about all. The prices in short, are comparable, if not at best 10% cheaper than that of Monsoons in Singapore.

However, if one is in Bangkok and in need of some hair therapy, do look for Neang. His ability to converse in English, suggest haircuts and do a most satisfactory job of one's crowning glory/mane more than justify his fees.


Agony is when you are on a plane running a flu. And your ears are threatening to explode because of the pressure. The pain is so intense tt you can only pray for the plane to quickly descend while pressing your fingers against your ears to try to alleviate, to numb the agony. And the built up of the pressure on the ears is so bad tt it triggers a stabbing headache too. And that was the state I was in when I landed in Bangkok last evening. My head throbbing and half deaf.

This is the second holiday this year I have travelled when I was sick. But then again as most people who know me would say,I go on a heck lot of holidays. They would even jokingly wonder if I even work at all. What they dont know is the price I have to pay for these holidays. Work pays for these holidays and my health pays for work(&the accompanying stress). But the absolute worst bit about this bangkok holiday isnt the physical agony, it is how my travelling companion this time reminds me at every turn, of my CEB. I really miss him now. :-(

Monday, October 25, 2010

Jonah Hex (2010) Movie

Another movie that my CEB and I caught at Philea Resort on his netbook was Jonah Hex. My CEB fell asleep on my shoulder 15 mins into the movie but one shouldn't read too much into that given that my CEB was driving this road trip (for a change) and he had been up since 7am.

I managed to complete at least 67% of the movie on my own before the netbook's battery went flat and the movie was good enough that after we got back from dinner, I asked to borrow the netbook to watch the ending. However, my CEB fell asleep (yes, yet again!!!!) and his deep, regular breathing against my shoulder made watching the movie to the end a struggle. But I am glad I did because who doesn't like to see the good guys triumph, an occurence which sadly doesn't happen very often in real life.

The Slog Reviews: 7/10. I can't do any better than the summary written on Wikipedia on this movie. The movie isn't a must-watch, the movie isn't outstanding but it is enjoyable as an action film and one gets to feast one's eyes on the delectable Megan Fox. And as I said, the good guys win in the end and save the world. What's there to hate about the movie? :)

The Last AirBender (2010)

I'm seriously short of this commodity called time. I haven't had time to watch a movie or a DVD the past few weeks and I only managed to get The Last AirBender on my CEB's netbook on Saturday afternoon when we were at Philea Resort while he was napping.

The Slog Reviews: 6/10. The movie is obviously part of a series, given its ending but I wouldn't be in too quick a hurry to catch the sequels if those are anything like this movie. The actors and actresses are mostly unknowns (actresses and actors) and there is nothing novel or deep about the storyline or plot. While the graphics may be mildly interesting, one can enjoy the graphics on a TV screen just as well.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hotel Courtyard@heeren

This Sat we'll be going to Melaka again and I haven't had the chance to write about the last trip there save for this entry here. Come to think of it, that was from 25th to 26th September and I remember thinking then, that our next trip to Melaka would be one full month away, but as usual, time has flown by and we will be leaving tomorrow for Melaka yet again. So I thought I should write about the last hotel we stayed in at Melaka before our next stay at a Melaka hotel.

The last 2 times I've been to Melaka the past 2 years, I stayed at Hotel Equatorial and Majestic Hotel. I was so impressed by Majestic Hotel that I went to look it up on TripAdvisor. And it was ranked #2 of all the hotels in Melaka. So that got me curious about the #1 hotel, Courtyard @ Heeren. My CEB was quite agreeable to spend a weekend in Melaka to find out so I proceeded to make the booking for the hotel which was, quite a hassle because I didn't want to give the hotel my credit card's confi details and therefore had to open a paypal account to pay the deposit. However, that being said, I must commend Amar from the hotel for his prompt and helpful email replies throughout the reservation process. The hotel apparently, only allows reservations through its website.

Above is a pic of the front porch of the hotel which is situated along Tan Cheng Lock Road. We used the GPS to get to the road but once there, we had to slow to a crawl so as to be able to find the hotel which is one of the many joined shophouses on the left side of the one-way road. When we found the hotel, we thought we could park at the parallel parking lot in front of the hotel but one of their staff got into the car and directed us to the parking area behind the hotel. If we had just turned left earlier along Tan Cheng Lock Road (at the place with a signboard that says parking area) instead of driving all the way to the front of the hotel, we would have been able to find the parking area ourselves. I guess this is something that the hotel needs to mention to guests who are driving there.

The lobby of the hotel, as seen from the pic above is very diff from any other hotel's lobby I've seen. Guests are served with drinks upon registration at the front desk. As we were early, (12.30pm), we asked if we could check into the room earlier but were told that the room wasn't ready. So we walked to Nancy's Kitchen which is just a stone's throw away from the hotel and had lunch there first. :) The pic below shows the central courtyard at the hotel which seems to be a really peaceful place to have a game of chess or meditate.

Based on the feedback I'd read on TripAdvisor, I specifically requested for a deluxe room on the 2nd floor of the hotel. Apparently it can get quite noisy on the first floor. There are no lifts in the hotel (which has only a first and second floor) but the stairwell and the corridors smelt of lemongrass which was rather pleasant and showed the thought put by the mangement of the hotel. Below is a pic of the room we were given...we peaked into other rooms along the corridor which had their doors opened and it seems that the decor varies from room to room. Ours is quite clearly, bamboo-themed.

A heating flask was provided on the dresser per the pic below but other than that, there were no other in-room facilities like a mini-fridge/bar or a safe.

I didn't really like the design of the bathroom but my CEB thought it was just great. The sliding doors and the bamboos concept = an utter lack of privacy and that, is not always a good thing. My CEB was most miffed at being banished to the lobby everytime I wanted to use the bathroom. Oh, and there is also no lock at all to the bathroom for some strange reason.

The last pic below is of the other end of the bathroom area. The standing shower (there is no bathtub) is built with a glass ceiling and I didn't really like that either but privacy is assured (unless from within the room).

The Slog Reviews:9/10. The location of the hotel is brilliant right at the heart of the action in Jonker Street (and near all the swell eating places at Jonker), the staff service is fantastic and the rooms are spacious, clean, decently priced and a haven from the heat and bustle of Jonker Melaka. Highly recommended to all who visit Melaka. However, if one doth has a bit more to spare and has a car (so as to get back from Jonker Street in the night), the Majestic hotel is still THE best.

Fair Fighting Rules for Couples by Nathan Cobb, Ph.D

Fair Fighting Rules for Couples by Nathan Cobb, Ph.D

Avoid name-calling, insults, put-downs or swearing. Putting your partner down or criticizing your partner’s character shows disrespect for his or her dignity. In sports there are many rules that prevent one player from intentionally injuring another. In marriage and relationships, similar rules must apply. When you intentionally injure your partner, it’s like saying, “You are not safe with me. I will do whatever it takes to protect myself or to win.”

It’s pointless to blame each other. Blaming your spouse distracts you from solving the problem at hand. It invites your spouse to be defensive and it escalates the argument.For example, if you leave a visa bill lying on the table for your spouse to see, and the bill later goes missing, you might be tempted to blame each other. You might insist that your spouse is disorganized, must have picked it up and put it somewhere else. Your spouse, in turn, might accuse you of being absent-minded and insist that you just don't remember where you put it. But blaming each other will not accomplish anything. It won't help either of you feel any better. It won't strengthen your relationship at all. And it won't help you find the bill.
In situations like this, make a conscious decision that your relationship is too important to undermine it with blame and judgment. Focus on keeping your goodwill for each other intact and finding solutions to the problem instead of blaming.

Yelling only escalates things. Chances are nothing will get resolved when your emotions are running so high. If you’re mad and feel like yelling, then it’s time to step away and cool down (see rule #8).Keep in mind that yelling can be subjective. What is yelling to your spouse may not be yelling to you. Perhaps you are not tuned in to how you sound. Or you may have grown up in a home where family members were loud and passionate, and talking loud when you are upset seems normal.Your spouse's experience is the one that counts here, however. If it feels like yelling to your spouse, then you are at least raising your voice, if not yelling. Make a conscious effort to lower your voice. The meaning of your communication lies in how your message is actually landing with others. If you can’t tone it down because you are too upset, then it is probably best to take a time-out.

Using physical force or threatening to use force (i.e. a raised fist or a verbal threat) in any way is unacceptable. Develop the self-discipline to set limits on your anger and your behavior before you reach this level. If either of you resort to physical force and violence in your relationship, seek professional help.Use of force includes pushing, shoving, grabbing, hitting, punching, slapping or restraining. It includes punching a hole in a wall, throwing things or breaking something in anger. Acting out your anger in these ways violates the other person’s boundaries and sense of safety. Each of us has a right to be safe and free of abuse or physical danger in our relationships.

In the heat of an argument, threatening to leave the relationship is manipulative and hurtful. It creates anxiety about being abandoned and undermines your ability to resolve your issues. It quickly erodes your partner’s confidence in your commitment to the relationship. Trust is not easily restored once it is broken in this way. It makes the problems in your relationship seem much bigger than they need to be.

This rule is about being the expert of your own world, not your spouse’s world. Use words that describe how you feel, and what you want and need, not what your partner feels, wants, or believes. It may seem easier to analyze your partner than to analyze yourself, but interpreting your partner’s thoughts, feelings and motives will distract you from identifying your own underlying issues, and will likely invite defensiveness from your spouse. More importantly, telling your spouse what he or she thinks or believes or wants is controlling and presumptuous. It is saying that you know your spouse’s inner world better than your spouse does.
Instead, work on identifying your own unmet needs, feelings, and ways of thinking and describe these needs and feelings to your spouse.

Stay in the present and resist the temptation to use the situation as an occasion to bring up other issues from the past. It’s discouraging to keep bringing up the past. You can’t change the past. You can only change today. You can look forward to a better future. Try to keep your focus on what can be done today to resolve the issue at hand and go forward from there. If you get off-topic, on to other issues, stop yourselves and agree to get back on track. You can always come back to other issues later.If you do find yourself bringing up issues from the past it is likely because those issues were never resolved in the first place. Things may have happened that you and your spouse never really talked about. Or you may have tried to talk about it in the past but without fighting fair. This rule will be easier to follow, going forward, if you both make a commitment to discuss issues as they happen rather than letting them fester.

Let one person speak at a time. When one speaks, the other should be listening—really listening, not just planning their rebuttal. Take turns speaking and listening so that you both have a chance to say what you need. This goes back to the rules we were taught as kids about respectful playground behavior. Have you ever tried to work through a difficult issue when your spouse was talking over top of you and interrupting you? How did you feel? Consciously remind yourself about this when you feel an overwhelming urge to interrupt or speak your mind.

Violating these fair fighting rules is typically a sign that you have already crossed a threshold physiologically, in which signals from the more primitive, emotional centers of your brain have begun to drown out the signals from the more rational parts of your brain. Stress hormones flood your body at this stage. Self-preservation becomes the focus. In this fight-or-flight state, creative problem-solving and mutual cooperation are unlikely. You end up in an escalating argument that becomes more and more hostile and defensive. In fact, it is impossible to have a rational discussion in a climate of hostility and disrespect. This is when its time for rule #8: call a time-out. A time-out is a short break to cool off, calm down and get perspective. Think of it like pushing the pause button on a video. It’s an opportunity to restore calm and be more reflective instead of reactive. Use the time-out to reflect on why you feel the way you do. Think about how to express yourself in a positive way. Try to think about the other person’s feelings and point of view. Think things through before you speak. Then “push play” again and return to each other to resolve the issues calmly.A time-out should be at least a half-hour long (but no longer than twenty-four hours). It takes at least a half-hour for your body’s physiology to return to a normal resting state and for your thoughts to become less hostile or defensive. It’s surprising how different a person’s outlook can be after they’ve had a chance to calm down.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


For those of you who have asked and are wondering, what CEB means/stands for,
C = Cheese
E = Eating
B = Buaya (Malay word for "crocodile", but is used (locally) to refer to men who tend to leer at the fairer sex).

Why Cheese Eating?
Before I came to the recent realisation (in Phuket 3 days ago) that my boyfriend eats almost any kind of snack (read, unhealthy/fattening/no nutrients type of food), from our past travel experiences, I've noticed that at all meals (even breakfast!) he has a fondness for cheese (as in those really smelly ones too!) and all things with cheese (pizzas, fondues etc).

Why Buaya?

I don't like crocs, but in Cairns last month, I saw the above croc stuffed toy sitting on a shelf in the Australian Geographic Shop at Cairns Central Mall and even though (i) it was priced at AUD 50 and (ii) the first number of my age is no longer 1 or 2, I just had to have this. Not only because it was a croc stuffed toy (I'd already started tagging my boyfriend on facebook to pics of real crocs that I have on facebook way before I had this buaya toy), but also because it reminded me so much of my boyfriend - the gently rounded belly and the long gangly legs :D

My CEB was sweet enough to buy me the croc stuffed toy. And here below is a pic of my beloved buaya toy seated on my room table with just some of the cheese-related products that I'd bought back for my CEB from Cairns (my CEB had managed to make away with the big pack of kraft cheese stiks before the pic was taken!)

I love both my CEB and the buaya toy very much indeed.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Motorcycle accident in Phuket

Remember my last post about having a bad dream about dead people? I guess it must have been an omen of the accident in Phuket on our second last day there.

We had checked out of our hotel at Patong and were driving in the direction of Chalong after a photo stop at Karon Beach. I was driving because of my inability to read maps accurately and my CEB who was sprawled next to me in the passenger seat, map in hand, told me to be careful of "that motorcyclist" as we were driving down a steep bend. I glanced to my left and saw abt 3 motorcyclists on the lane next to my lane, 1 of which was rather close to my car so I kept to the extreme right of my lane to give the motorcyclist a wide berth and slowed down my car.

And then I heard this screeching sound from somewhere behind the car and my CEB saying "the motorcyclist fell over, stop!". I remember stopping immediately (jam brakes) and then telling him "Ok, let me move the car to somewhere safe, we can't stop in the middle of this lane there is traffic behind us", and then starting to move the car to the other lane, intending to park at the road shoulder next to that lane. But my CEB yelled at me frantically not to move the car at all, and I couldn't understand why. I looked up in the rear mirror expecting to see the fallen bike there but it wasn't there. My mind went into autopilot, and I switched on the hazard lights, put the car to park, pulled up the handbrake and told my CEB that I was going to get out to help the motorcyclist. Mind still a blank, I got out of the rented car, walked to the back and saw the road was clear. Mouth fell open still unable to comprehend the motorcyclist's disappearance. Walked around the other side of the car and then my heart stopped.

Next to the car was a motorbike sprawled on its side, and the motorcyclist lying face down and unmoving with the bike pinned across his legs. I was gaping like a right fool, not sure what to do, but by then 2 locals who had probably witnessed the scene joined me, 1 of them had a whistle and went further up the bend to direct traffic away from the lane my rented car and the bike were in. The other felt for a pulse, called the ambulance and traffic police. Then I realised my CEB was next to me, he said he couldn't open his door and had to clamber out through the driver side. And indeed the front wheel of the fallen bike had pinned his door shut. We didn't dare to move or touch the fallen rider in case he had some spinal injury, but when one of the locals started lifting the bike off the rider, I went to help him lift up the bike. Someone else dragged the rider slightly forward and left the rider face down still on the road but at least the bike wasn't pressing on his legs.

I asked the local who had lifted the bike, if the ambulance was coming, he said it was. I think I lost track of time standing there with the cars and vans all going by the other lane, pp gaping at us standing next to the fallen rider and bike. I remember gg frantic that the wheels of one of the large trucks coming down the slope passed within a hair's breath of the fallen rider's head and praying that the ambulance and police would come soon. And they did come, I dun know how long after the accident - I lost track of time. I also remember snapping lots of photos cos our rented car was "in the picture", and remember worrying that we would be the next victims because of the many vehicles coming around the sharp bend - read somewhere of the risk of pp at an accident scene being involved in a second accident. The greatest fear though was the fallen rider was dead and if not dead, would be run over by an oncoming vehicle.

And then after what seemed like not too long a time but not too short either, the police and the ambulance came. The ambulance came from the opposite direction (Chalong) and had to do a three point turn so that its back would face the front of our car. The ambulance driver got out and rolled out a stretcher. And they flipped the fallen rider over. His eyes were large and staring, I thought he was dead and I felt so sick with dread at the sight of his eyes. And there was this cut right across his forehead which was bleeding bright red blood. But he could sit up and talk. I dun know if his legs were okay though cos we told him not to move. The police took some photos of the scenes, got the bike into the back of the police truck and asked us who the driver of the rented car was. I said I was driving and he asked for my license. He kept it and told us to follow him in our car to the station.

My CEB asked if I could still drive. And I said I was fine. We got into the car and it was silence in there again. We didn't know what to say when standing out there at the accident scene and it was no different in the car. I think both of us were in shock. I asked him if he had taken any photos and he said no, he left the camera at the passenger side's dashboard and he couldn't open the passenger side door. I remember wondering why he couldn't have taken it out with him when he clambered out my side. I think he reached for my hand at one stage and held it for a time before letting it go. Both of us were locked in prayer to our own Gods, all the way to the police station. There was no discussion of who was going to say what, or what was to be said. It was just praying and more praying.

When we got to the police station, the policeman pointed us to this room marked as "Interrogation Room". We sat side by side at a table there facing the police man who made a copy of my driving license using the printer on the desk. He returned my license to me and asked me for the rental agreement for the car which I gave to him. And then he called the rental company. I didn't know what he said, it was all in Thai, but I heard the letters TP said at one stage. I thought the police man would ask for a translator so we could tell him what had happened but he didn't. And that really worried me. He asked us to show him what happened by drawing a picture of the road on a page in a large notebook. My CEB indicated the positions of the vehicles on the road, and told the police man that he was the passenger and saw how the whole accident happened ie that the motorcyclist was trying to cut out of the lane next to us, riding closer and closer, and then, the motorcyclist wobbled and fell over. The police man didn't look like he understood what my CEB was saying in rapid English.

So, I told him, Car and motorcycle, no touch. Shook my head to indicate no and used both hands to represent both vehicles going side by side, my right hand pulling slightly ahead, and then flipping my left hand to show the motorcycle fliipping and then slidding down to impact the car. He repeated, no touch no touch. and I said no touch no touch, looking at him in the eye, using my hands to show again how both vehicles never had any contact prior to the rider falling, and how I kept to my lane the whole time (ie I didnt cut into the motorbike's path thereby causing him to fall) and the only time the vehicles contacted was when the bike slid all the way to hit the car. He appeared satisfied, and asked me where we would stay, when we would leave phuket and for a contact number. I told him I didn't buy a Thai Sim card and gave him my local mobile number. He told us we could leave by standing up. I asked him, using hands too to motion writing, no need to give statement, he just smiled and shook his head. I showed him the photos on my mobile phone (this photo above included) and asked him if I could give it to him, he also shook his head. We didn't know what to do and left the station.

My CEB asked me if I could drive and I said no problem. In the car, I told him , rather harshly I am afraid, to keep to the facts and not give the police information his views like he thought the rider was intending to cut out. That is an assumption, a presumption, his view, not a fact. My CEB was quiet for a time and I realised he was still shaken and upset. I asked him if he had ever been in accident before and he said yes, but not where an ambulance was involved. I reassured my CEB that he had still handled this accident very well, which indeed he had, by not falling apart and staying calm the whole time. If he had fallen apart, I am afraid I would have to shake him very hard indeed. I guess I knew what should be said because I had spent one invaluable year of my life doing personal injury cases. And as with all things, KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid, stick to facts, not views, speculations, assumptions.

When we reached our intended destination at Promthep Point, there was a statue of Buddha there and my CEB said he needed to pray to Buddha. So I waited under a tree some distance away and took the chance to pray to God that the rider would be fine, that we would not have any trouble leaving Thailand (like being hauled back to the station) the next day, and that the car rental company would not give us any problems at all when we returned the car. I also thanked God for keeping us safe throughout - when we were standing out there at the accident scene with the cars coming around the bend, and that our car was not hit hard enough by the bike to be pushed out to the opposite lane in the path of oncoming traffic. And thanked God further that the police was not corrupt here (they could have threatened to blame us for the accident unless we paid them) , and that our car was not damaged, and that I had insisted on full insurance coverage when renting the car.

We both felt really bad for the injured rider but we both knew that even if we had not been at the scene, the accident might have happened anyway, a case of a old motorbike going down a steep wet (it had been raining earlier) slope and the rider probably breaking suddenly (when he realised how far out of his own lane he was) and then losing control. I was also inmeasurably grateful to God that my CEB had been my point man then...I dread thinking of what would have happened if he wasn't with me to tell me to stop immediately and I had kept on moving to get to the road shoulder. I might have gone over the rider sprawled at the passenger side of my car because I couldn't see him.

Anyway, when we returned the rented car, the rental company's owner asked us what had happened and I showed him the pics on my hp and offered to email to him. He said it was not necessary and asked if any insurance pp showed up at the accident scene and I said none. Initially when we rented the car he was all jovial and even offered to fetch us to the airport free of charge. But when we returned the car, even though he shook both our hands, he refused to meet our eyes and we didn't want to remind him of his offer to give us a ride the airport. We figured that even though we didn't cause or contribute to the accident, we might have given him some extra trouble which he could have done well without.

I know accidents are part and parcel of life. Those parts where we have no control over, despite our best efforts. I know I didn't do harm/cause hurt to anyone in this accident. But neither my CEB and I could get the accident out of our minds throughout the rest of the trip, and I needed my CEB to hold me tight most of the night before I could fall asleep because everytime I shut my eyes, I could see the wide staring eyes of the fallen rider.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A bad dream

What does it mean to dream of dead people? I have never had such a dream like I had last night. I can't recall who I was with, but we were travelling in a bus, seated near the front just behind the driver and we could see out through the crystal clear wide windows next to us and in front of us. Passed by an accident scene we did, the carnage was spread across a wide stretch of road (as wide as 3 lanes in the CTE) and there was a truck that was over-turned, the sort of truck used to ferry foreign workers in the back. Bodies all over the place, bloodied, mangled, twisted. And 1 that was contorted so much that it was lying 90 degrees twisted on its side above the ground (propped up with one arm and bent leg). Dead bodies. Some were covered up beneath old sarong-like clothes, some just grotesquely dismembered. Didn't recognise any of those with faces, the blank unseeing faces of the dead foreign workers. Most clearly too do I remember how the bus driver carefully navigated his/her way through the carnage scene, in some places, driving past two dead bodies, the wheels of the bus barely narrow enough to avoid crushing the bodies. Wait, no, I was wrong...not all dead bodies. I remember now how staring through the front glass of the bus as it inched its way slowly forward, how there were the injured too trying to drag themselves out of the way of the bus. Literally dragging, their crushed or half severed legs flopping limply behind them. Crawling out of harms' way. There was no fear of the dead/injured touching/hurting us, we were seated too high up. Oh but the horror of it all.

Most of the bad dreams I remember always take me back to a place where I spent 11 years of my life. The old building no longer exists, and the place where I saw what I thought I saw no longer exists. In this dream last night, the bus took us slowly pass the carnage scene back to that building. And it was like those yester-years once more with the tables and chairs in the classroom. The rest of the dream I can only vague recall but not enough to write about. Disjointed scenes.

I hope this isn't a bad omen. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Thistle Hotel in JB

Following my earlier entry about Tune Hotel in JB, I would recommend anyone who has to spend a night in JB, to stay in Thistle Hotel instead. The hotel building used to be under the Hyatt group until a couple of years ago when Thistle took over. So, while the building and rooms are not spanking new, the hotel makes a really affordable AND more importantly, comfortable weekend getaway.

I would add though that there is a rather large difference between the superior rooms and deluxe rooms at Thistle, having stayed at both in the past few months. The price difference though is marginal (SGD 20 max) and one should therefore book the deluxe room (see pic below) where the bathtub is far cleaner (the superior's tub was so grotty we didn't use it) and situated where one can soak and watch TV at the same time. For the superior room, the bathroom is located at a corner of the room instead (ie one cannot see into the bathroom from the bedroom.)

Although the bed looks rather large and provided a really comfy night sleep, we discovered that it comprises of 2 super single beds pushed together which means therefore that the bed sheets must have been custom-made.

The toilet is rather simple but pure luxury compared to Tune Hotel's. Ample clean towels nicely rolled and conveniently placed, tissue paper and toiletries (shower cap, ear buds, toothbrush etc) all provided. Like the toilet I do :)

The best bit about the toilet however is that there is a separate area for showering and a bath tub for soaking and watching TV from the tub. My CEB, as you will note from the picture below, is all about enjoying the view from the hotel room while eating chocolate cake. The Deluxe rooms at Thistle faces Danga Bay, quite unlike the Superior rooms which faces the carpark.

From the hotel room, we could also look down and get a view of the entire swimming pool. Towels are provided at the Hatch Fitness Centre located near the pool and hotel guests can use the facilities at the Fitness Centre which includes a sauna (separate ones for male and females).

The package we had purchased came with breakfast and the buffet breakfast while nothing impressive, was pretty decent (though not decent enough for one to pay the full price seperately for the same if it doesnt come in the package) - Western food (Cereal and the hot items like sausages etc), Malay food (nasi lemak), Chinese food (prawn noodles etc) and the mandatory egg station. The view at the dining area was pretty nice with the full length glass windows overlooking the pool area.

As usual, my CEB, who knows how I like my eggs (sunny sides up!) did his trademark face thingy with the eggs. :) I guess in the end, it is the small things that does matter... :)

The Slog Reviews: 9/10. Thistle Hotel's deluxe room is the best place to stay in JB thus far. Value for money, and not that kind of Tune Hotel's value for money.

Tune Hotel at Danga Bay, JB

This weekend was meant to be one of the few "Stay in Singapore and get things done" weekends but my CEB wanted some quality time together so we reached a compromise. On Sat morn, we stayed in Singapore doing what we had to do till 3pm and then drove in to JB until Sunday afternoon 12.30pm when we made our way back to Singapore to do the rest of the stuff.

Given the short period of time we would be in JB, we decided to try out the budget hotel, Tune Hotel at Danga Bay. This is the second time I've stayed at a Tune hotel, the first being the Tune hotel at Kota Kinabalu where I was pretty fine with the place other than than the fact that the hotel room had no windows, and the corridors were narrow like a prison.

The Slog Reviews: 7/10. We had no problems with the check in and check out. A deposit of RM5 was required for the room key card at check in and refunded promptly during our check out. The counter staff was polite, fluent in English and rather helpful. He gave us a useful $ saving tip which is that we should have bought the aircon svc for 12 hours instead of 24 hours because everytime one leaves the room, the aircon is switched off when you remove the room key card. And there is no way to replace the room key card with another hotel's room key card. I had bought 24hrs cos I figured if we checked in at 4pm, the aircon would be switched off at 4am the next morning but nah, in the end, when we went out for dinner etc, we had more than enough spare aircon time. Anyway, if one runs out of the 12 hours aircon time and requires more, one can purchase the same from the hotel later. As for internet service, there are about 4 computers provided at the lobby for guests' usage free of charge. I wasn't sure how safe the computers were so I didnt go to any sites which required passwords. As for the room itself, I didn't think the room was too small - certainly no smaller than the master bedrooms of the new condos these days. There was a rain shower with hot water. No toiletries at all, no towels, no hot water facilities in the room, no clothes cupboard but hey, there was a window this time. I am not sure why the hotel claims to have a 5 star bed but this is the first hotel where I've stayed at with my CEB where I woke up almost every 2 hours (and woke him up too) ie I had a really bad night sleep unlike the other hotels I've stayed at. It was really bad - I'll check my hp and it would be 2am, then 4.20am then 540am then 7am then 830am...I don't think I'll be going back to Tune Hotel at JB any time soon. There are plenty of hotels in JB which are just as reasonably priced and worth trying out I think.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Yut Kee in Kuala Lumpur

So in my earlier post about Sheraton Imperial KL hotel, I said I would write about Yut Kee, a gem that I stumbled upon while in search for lunch. According to some websites and the owner, this coffeeshop has been around for more than 80 years and was handed down through the generations. The signboard in the pic below is of the menu and prices of the items displayed prominently on one of the coffeeshop's wall, and below the menu are framed newspaper articles about the place.
Yut Kee caught my attention because of the small crowd of people standing outside the coffeeshop waiting for a seat at about 1.30pm that Sat afternoon. Curious, I joined in the crowd and was most pleased when the owner's son, the chap in blue on the extreme right of the pic below, called out to me and asked me how many pp I had in my party. Well, I told him that there was just me, and he alloted me a seat immediately at a table with 2 other couples. Thumbs up for a great first impression! Unlike some owners of other famous/popular eating places (eg this Bak Kut Teh place in KK called Yu Kee), Yut Kee's owners make an effort to take care of their customers' primary need - securing a seat/table at their popular coffeeshop based on a first come first serve/no of pp in the party system.

Now, I had no clue what to order and asked one of the servers for recommendations. He suggested having the slices of the roast pork roll with apple sauce which apparently is available only on certain days of the week. Below is a pic of the table where the pork roll was placed, sliced and either served on the green plates or packed for customers in the white styrofoam boxes.

This is how my meal of roast pork looked like. The Slog Reviews: 8.5/10. The skin of the pork roll was extremely crunchy (but not burnt at all) and contrasted nicely with the soft tender mix of meat and fats. The potatos were rather unremarkable and so was the veg. If one must try the pork roll, just order the pork roll slices on its own without the sides. I didnt like the apple sauce though which was rather too cold and sweet for my liking. That being said, I liked the roast pork enough to order a helping for takeaway for my CEB (who hadn't arrived in KL yet). My CEB who ate the roast pork about 2hrs later (which meant that it was cold), didn't rave about it so I guess this is one of those dishes which should be eaten at the restaurant instead of packed home.

The server also recommended to me, the Roti Babi dish which cost RM7.50. (The restaurant forgot my order so I had to remind them...or they probably thought a gal shouldn't be eating two main courses. Hah). This is how it looked like when served - very unimpressive.

But my oh my, the roti babi tasted freaking fantastic, even when eaten 2 hours later according to my CEB. The Slog Reviews: 10/10. I've never eaten a roti babi before but the incredible light soft fluffiness of the bread totally blew me away - from the moment I sliced in to when I put it in my mouth where it blended and melted away...totally heavenly! The stuffing which comprised of sliced sausages, minced crab meat etc was a delicious mix which proved neither too salty, or hard but was a perfect complement to the bread. Definitely a must-have!

I noticed many people had ordered this dish below which looks like fried noodles in dark sauce, including both couples at my table. The owner's son told me that the shop would be open for breakfast as early as 7.30am on Sun and I said I would drop by for breakfast to order this dish but unfortunately, because of Jogoya, my CEB vetoed the idea. I guess I will just have to wait for the next time I get to KL then :)

Here are the necessary details to help you get to Yut Kee

33, Jalan Dang Wangi
Tel: 03-2698 8108
Opens from 8am – 5pm daily
Closed on Mondays and last Sunday of each month

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Jogoya Buffet in KL

After Jogoya, I swore I wouldn't have another buffet meal. However, this vow was not meant to last as my friends wanted to have a dinner buffet at Suki Coca Restaurant on Fri night.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Sheraton Imperial KL Hotel

Following my last post abt how Tiger Airways and before I leave for my next weekend jaunt tomorrow, I thought I'll write a bit about KL. There are so many food places and hotels that I've been meaning to write about but never had the time/mood to. So the entries are all haphazard and not in chronologically order, which bugs me some but not enough for me to redo. :D

So, KL. I'd bought my plane ticket some months before when my CEB and I were just friends. I initially thought of not going to KL altogether or going alone but my CEB was all game to go up so we did. Because I was 1 stay away from being a gold SPG member, we decided to stay at 1 of the Starwood group of hotels in KL. It was a toss up between Sheraton Imperial and The Westin but in the end we chose Sheraton after reading some net reviews.

So, because of Tiger's cancellation of my flight, I reached KL on silkair b4 my CEB. From the airport, I followed the signboards that said "Coach/Buses" and got on one of those coaches heading to KL Sentral. Cost was RM10 compared to the cost of RM70 taking a taxi and the ride was pretty comfortable and not too long - about an hour without any traffic jams. (Not too sure why the buses/coaches bay is located some distance away at the corner of the basement level of the airport.

When I got to KL Sentral, I had no idea how to get to the KL Monorail so I took the lift up to the shopping centre level only to be told that I had to take the lift back down to the same level as the bus bay, cross the road and follow the sheltered walkway all the way to the KL Monorail Station which is about a 8min walk away and on the other side of the road. I am not sure why KL Monorail does not have any ticketing machines so I had to queue up at the counter to purchase a ticket to get to Medan Tuanku Station. The journey was rather short from KL Sentral - about 15mins max but of course, being a monorail, the no of seats was minimal. Below is a pic of Medan Tuanku Station which is just a very short 2 mins walk away from Sheraton Imperial KL Hotel.

The official check-in time was 3pm so when I reached the hotel at 12noon, the hotel staff told me that I could not check in yet. As my plan was to go to their award-winning (the award was won in 2006 hah) spa anyway after having lunch, I was fine with that. The entire row of restaurant cum pubs along the left side of the restaurant near the monorial station was closed for lunch so I ended up walking all the way to the end of the street and making a fortituous left turn to chance upon Yut Kee (which I shall write about in the next post).

After lunch, I tried my luck once more with the reception at Sheraton Imperial and was told that they had a room ready for me at 1pm! The counter staff told me, as I was taking the 2 room keys, that the room was on the 4th highest floor and I was wondering why he'd told me that until I got to the lift. I'd to use the room key to access the floor my room was at and next to the button was a little plague that said "Club Room". However, when I tried to access the club lounge, access was denied :P No club lounge benefits despite the complimentary upgrade.

Anyway, a pic of Sheraton's club room taken from the foyer area.

And another picture of the room taken from behind the couch.

The Slog Reviews: 8.5/10. Sheraton Imperial KL's club room certainly is generous in size as most club rooms would be, provides a seperate room (behind the pic on the wall) for hanging clothes and luggage bags (there is also a weighing scale and ironing board with an iron in the room), but what I really dig about this room is the bath tub which is considerably deep and large for two. Nothing remarkable about the toiletries provided except that there was a mouth wash and a body loofah. The only thing I didn't really like was that the size of the LCD TV, and I think this is the first hotel I've stayed where the marble floor was so cold I had to use the bedroom slippers, something which I never had to do. No alcohol provided in the fridge of course (this is a Muslim country mind!) but there was an ice bucket for us to chill the drinks we bought. Given its proximity to the monorial, unless one is a late night party-goer, Sheraton Imperial provides more than decent enough digs if one is in KL

Thursday, October 07, 2010

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

I reserved this book weeks ago and almost forgot about it until I received a reminder from NLB that the book was ready for collection. It really has been quite some time since I've read a fiction book - backlog of Time magazines on my room's table is the primary reason. It doesn't help too that my "reading" taste has changed considerably over time from fiction to non-fiction.

That being said, I got home about 11 last night and despite my resolve to put down the book at an appropriate time and have an early night, I found myself reading till 3-4am this morning until I got to the end of the book. I don't think I could write a synopsis of the book as well as this one found here by the author herself. There are also extracts of the book found on that webpage.

The Slog Reviews: 8/10. Most of JP's books are tearjerkers on its own but not this one, well, not unless one relates to the subject matter of "autism". Even so, this book has a happy ending, unlike the last book "Handle with Care" which had a most tragic unexpected ending. I've never met anyone or known anyone personally who is autistic but after reading House Rules, I am filled with even more respect and admiration for someone I know whose child is autistic. Given what a wonderful person she is intrinsically, indeed I see why God would chose to give a child with special needs to her to love and take care of. The challenges that a mother faces with an autistic child is depicted in a realistic yet heartbreaking manner in House Rules. And because of that, it dawns upon me after reading this book, how this woman I know of, is able to do what she does and be someone I can only hope to be someday, some time.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Tiger Airways really sucks

Remember my last rant (a mini-rant) against Tiger Airways in Feb 2010?

Well, I had a flight to KL on 2 Oct @ 9.30am booked with Tiger and I received an SMS at 9.33pm on 1 Oct to inform me that my flight had been cancelled. As I was out and for once without my HP, I only saw the msg at 10.30pm

I tried to call Tiger's hotline as set out in the SMS but was informed that the office was closed from 10pm and would only open at 9am the next day. I was all of ?!$*&!* So I checked the timings for all the coaches and other flights out and ended up purchasing the 4th last seat on a Silkair flight departing at 9.10am. On board the flight, I read in The Straits Times that Tiger had cancelled 40 flights in the past 4 days. The article ended with a quote from a reader, who had her flight delayed to HKG, "This is the second and last time I will fly with Tiger".

I get flight cancellations. What I don't get is why:
1) Tiger doesn't have a 24hr helpline/svc centre'
2) Tiger doesn't send any emails informing passengers of flight cancellations;
3) Tiger sends an SMS only 12 hours beforehand to tell passengers tt their flight has been cancelled;
4) When I check Tiger's website, there is no notice/bulletin posted to let passengers know which flights have been cancelled (not even under the Flight Disruption section!)
5) Unlike Jetstar's webpage, Tiger doesn't have an option allowing passengers to check the flight schedule/status on their webpage - in fact when I looked at the outgoing flights on 2 Oct on Tiger, the 9.20am flight was still freaking listed there, and listed as Sold Out, not Cancelled;
6) Unlike Air Asia, Tiger doesn't have its reps calling affected passengers way beforehand to inform them of flight cancellations/changes and offering viable options;
7) Tiger requires 4-6 weeks to refund the fare paid; and to add salt to the wound,
8) Tiger requires me to fax in a request to their service centre to ASK for an email confirmation that they have cancelled my flight so I can (try to) claim travel insurance.

I rest my case.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Perle Noire Oyster & Grill Bar

If one is ever in the East and in search of fine grub in a really nice setting, one should most certainly drop by Perle Noire. The restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating and while the outdoor section is good for having a beer or some other type of poison (the restaurant has a pretty good wine list and serves cocktails too), the indoor seating area as per the pic I took below, is great for a romantic dinner or a cosy get together with friends. I'm not into music so I didn't really mind the background music being played but we heard a patron asking the staff for some variety to the music which was admittedly, the sort which would appeal to those into a certain genre of music only.

We each had the restaurant's signature black olive roll. Each roll is priced at SGD1 and comes served wrapped individually in a clean cloth. The Slog Reviews: 8/10. The thought given to the presentation of this simple starter is worth commending. The olive dip and creamy butter goes wonderfully with the warm fluffy bread which melts in one's mouth at the first bite.

As we got to the restaurant rather late about 9pm, I ordered the first item on the menu which appealed to me - Sea Scallops Carbonara @ SGD 30. The Slog Reviews: 9/10. This dish is a must try for those who love all warm, creamy and fattening meals. The scallops were cooked to the right degree and remained spongy to the bite. Although the scallops were large and cooked well, I have to say that they lacked the sweetness that smaller scallops have. Still, that aside, I would recommend this dish to all scallop lovers :)

My dinner companion on the other hand opted for the fish of the day. As he didn't offer me a bite (and no, I didn't ask), I am unable to comment whether the seabass below was worth SGD24 (after the 15% discount for the fish of the day). The only observation I have is that the presentation of such a simple food item was done very nicely

The Slog Reviews: The service at Perle Noire is impeccable and the staff here go all out to make your dining experience with the restaurant one a pleasant and memorable one. When I asked one of the staff if they were open for lunch, another staff provided us of her own initiative, the set lunch menus. They were also sought feedback on the food and this, combined with the atmosphere and good food, makes this restaurant a jewel in all sense of the word (Perle Noire - Black Pearl).

The Academy Bistro

I just had a buffet over the first weekend of October, which reminded me of the last buffet I had before that one. We had some credits in our academy of law account and some bright spark decided that we should utilise these at the academy bistro located on the first floor of the Supreme Court. Just to be sure we could, I called the bistro the day of our lunch and was told that we couldn't use these credits. Since we'd made reservations anyway, we decided to still go ahead with our idea of having lunch there.

We were told that only the buffet was available that day and at SGD15+ it didn't seem too awfully steep so we agreed to the buffet without checking out the spread. Well, I guess on hindsight we could have just walked in to look at the food items first before commiting to the reservation but as it was, we didn't and walking out after being seated is such a no-no. So, the next 2 pictures below will reflect what the spread consisted of - yes, there was such variety NOT.

As you would have noted from the pic above and the pic below, the more expensive food items would be the cod fish and the salmon. The Slog Reviews: Thumbs down for variety but the cod fish was cooked rather well in a flavorful gravy and if one loves cod fish, ah, the buffet would be well worth one's money then. If one doesn't eat fish at all, then one must be contented feasting on the rest of the other items which I am afraid, aren't too appetising.

There was a small section of the buffet for pies, cakes and fruits. The pecan pie was barely decent and the fruits were well, just cut fresh fruits. Nothing extraordinary or impressive at all.

The Slog Reviews: 7/10 for the buffet which really could do with more variety for that price. I saw The Rice Table's ad for its buffet which is priced at SGD17 and has a huge spread compared to the Academy Bistro's. And no, academy of law members do not get a discount off the buffet price at all. Given the proximity to Funan, my recommendation would be to give the bistro a miss if one isn't its target customer.

New Ubin Seafood (乌敏海鲜) - THE place for beef steak and crispy pork knuckles!

At our co's cocktail event last week, a group of us, each from a different department, decided to have lunch one weekday at New Ubin Seafood at the recommendation of R, a foodie. Now, I've been to New Ubin Seafood restaurant once before for an uncle's birthday and my impresison of the place was that it was an ordinary zi char restaurant serving good but not impressive dishes.

However, I'm now going to absolutely RAVE about the food this restaurant serves. It is, a bit of a co-incidence that the post before this one was about beef because I might have to switch loyalties between Astons Prime and New Ubin when it comes to decently priced beef steak. My colleague R had placed an order for good beef steak (emphasis is on good) a few days before our lunch date there and New Ubin delivered.

The Slog Reviews: 10/10. All 6 of us were blown away by the absolutely tender and moist medium-rare beef cubes. And the potato chips that came with the beef steak was fried to perfection. And I mean, perfection - the outside was hot, salty and crispy without a single pc which was overcooked (too hard or black) and the inside was light fluffy hot potato...fantastic! The restaurant should really re-name/re-brand itself so that most pp wouldn't think that this restaurant specialises in seafood when it does a beef steak so wonderfully well!

We also shared a place of the traditional Ubin Fried Rice, which as per the pic below, is black and not white rice. According to R, the rice is placed under the beef steak when it is cooked so that the gravy of the beef seeps into the rice as it is cooked. The Slog Reviews: 10/10. With some nice crispy burnt bits mixed with the softness of the rest of the rice, this is a must order dish too, if one goes to New Ubin Seafood. And, the rice isn't the least bit too oily for the stomach!

R claimed that the Crispy Pork Knuckles is better than those served in the more expensive restaurants and I have to say, R is absolutely right. The Slog Reviews: 10/10. The pork knuckles are to die for - I love pork knuckles and the pork knuckles by New Ubin Seafood are the best I've ever tasted. The skin is fried to such exquisite crispiness with the mandatory soft layer of fat on the inside. Unlike other pork knuckles which are just skin and fat, the dish below had lots (chunks of in fact) of tender delicious meat. And if all that isn't good enough, one should have the sauce. Spicy, fiery exquisite sauce - one absolutely CANNOT miss having the sauce. And the restaurant is quite willing to give an extra bowl too. Drench the crispy skin, tender fat and juicy meat in the sauce and put all of that in your mouth....you'll thank God for the little things on your tongue called taste buds!

The group also ordered the famous salted egg squid but as I don't eat sotong/squid/calamari, I didn't have any of that at all. The verdict from those who had the dish was that it was good but not extraordinary ie they had better at other places.

Just a little tip: It is far easier to find parking during dinner hours than lunch hours because all the parking lots are used by the car repair workshops in the area!

Block 27 Sin Ming Road (behind Block 26) #01-174 Sin Ming Industrial Estate Sector A
Tel: 6466 9558
Open Daily 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-10:30pm