Daisypath Anniversary tickers

Daisypath - Personal pictureDaisypath Anniversary tickers

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 - Travel for the year in pictures

Unlike 2009 where I was flying constantly for work, there was absolutely no work-related travel in 2010. So with the support of my boss without whom all this would not be possible, I had my own little escapes out of the country with family, friends and my CEB. The photos are in the hundreds per trip so I decided to pick 1 of the ones that I like best for each trip.

31 Dec 2009 to 4 January 2010 (Kota Kinabalu) - Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (The marine park is an experience not to be missed indeed if one goes to KK. And so is feasting on seafood at Sedco Square - this trip was memorable because of the New Year fireworks at Jesselton Square, and the fishing competition I almost won. Not too shabby a start for 2010)

16 to 17 January 2010 (Ho Chi Minh) - Greyhound racing track @ Vung Tau
( Again, an experience that should not be missed, esp if one loves punting. This trip was slightly different from the norm F&E trips because I was with 1 of my closest friends, The Slug, whose family (well half of) resides in Vietnam - From Hyatt to Hovel indeed! Thank u!)

5 to 8 February 2010 (Langkawi) - 1st grouper on lure @ Datai Bay
(After the numerous fishless sessions with my fishing shifu, I finally caught my first fish on lure, this grouper is the 2nd/3rd fish caught on lure but at least I broke the fishing curse! I also fell in love with the island of Langkawi after this trip which was probably 1 of the best ones I had - renting a car, feasting on fish that we had caught from the ocean, perfecting my casting skills (lures), being amazed by the beauty of the Andaman Sea from the sky cable car)
6 to 7 March 2010 (Kuching) - Cat Museum
(This trip was 1 of the worst - it sucked eggs so big time and probably marked the beginning of the end of whatever that might have been with this travel companion. What was supposed to be a fun weekend getaway turned out to be a nightmare from the moment we landed. "Men" who shout and sulk ought to be shot.)

27 t0 30 May 2010 (Bali) - Family @ Besakih Temple
(This was the first holiday where I was running a fever all of the trip and also lost my voice. Which was terrible because it was one of the few F&E family trips (my mum tends to favor the package tours) and one which I had pre-booked...nothing. This trip didnt turn out too badly though because my little sister stepped up and made sure all went well with all the day tours I booked the moment we landed (b4 I lost my voice). Packed everything worth seeing in this trip - dinner at Jimbaran Bay, Tanah Lot, Kintamani volcano, Fire Dance etc)

2 to 7 July 2010 (Shenzhen and Hongkong) - Hyatt Hotel @ ShaTin
(This was the trip where it all begun for my CEB and me - that's our room at Hyatt Hotel on the top floor which we had a free upgrade to (and as my friend The Slug will verify, when Hyatt gives a man and woman travelling together an upgrade, the bed is as such). If you asked my CEB which hotel room is his favourite after all the hotels we've stayed, he would swear it is this one - me thinks it is because of the memories we have here.)

5 to 10 August 2010 (Cambodia) -Family @ Angkor Wat
(This was a great F&E trip where with the help of the great hotel we stayed in - The Kool Hotel - we went on customised day trips to all the sights (many temples!) worth seeing. We also went to the museum and shook those fortune telling sticks. My sis's lot was the best (not just literally) but mine was pretty decent too. It was a fantastic family bonding trip with lots of beautiful pictures and memories - I miss the amok fish from The Kool Hotel now!)

21 to 23 August 2010 (Ho Chi Minh) - My birthday @ New York Steakhouse
(Another holiday when I was sick! And so was my poor CEB whom I must have passed my cough to. We both were so sick the first and second nights that we couldn't enjoy the fab hotel I'd booked to celebrate my birthday in - Majestic Hotel. I broke a glass in the toilet the first night in my fevered haze and despite me wanting to keep my CEB out, he insisted on helping me clear the mess. And he was the one who got up to boil some drinks for two of us sick pp. :P By the third day we were better and had overpriced steak followed by his lucky streak at the hotel's casino where he won $ with my $.)

8 to 12 September 2010 (Australia) - Family rafting down Barron River @ Cairns
(This was the yearly "big" trip for the family. In 2008 we did USA (the Grand Canyon), in 2009, Central Europe and UK and in 2010, I decided that I had to see the Great Barrier Reef and so off we went to sunny Cairns. We went to the Kuranda Rainforest which was truely majestic, snorkelling over the Great Barrier Reef and then white water rafting as a family. We also did loads of shopping for macademia nuts and gifts for the folks back home - and Cairns Central is where my current sleeping companion hails from - my nua nua buaya toy!)

2 to 3 October 2010 (KL) - Weekend escape @ Sheraton Imperial Hotel's clubroom
(This trip was the 1 where my tiger airways flight was cancelled the night b4 and I flew silkair instead in the morning bcos the room and my CEB's coach ride up were already paid for. My CEB booked Jogoya for Sun lunch and I outate him at what must be 1 of the largest buffet spreads in KL. Hah. We were upgraded to a clubroom at the hotel which mean a really lovely and spacious hotel room which we both thoroughly enjoyed. That's my CEB taking a photo of us in the room's mirror and though it is erm, slanted and all, I like this pic because it shows the level of casual comfort we have reached by our 3rd month as a couple.)

15 to 18 October 2010 (Phuket) - His Birthday @ Maya Beach
(There was a jetstar promotion in July and since the price was right (SGD70 for a return ticket per pax), we spent his birthday in Phuket. We rented a car and spent some time at Patong Beach where we stayed at Millenium Hotel. On the day of his birthday, we booked a day trip to Maya Beach and Khai Noi. The weather was perfect that day when the day b4 it was raining non-stop. We did some shopping arnd the hotel, followed by a day of beach-hopping where we drove to Karon Beach, Kata Beach, Mai Khao etc. We also visited the Great Buddha statue at Chalong Bay and the Promthep Cape which was where the motorcycle accident happened. Waiting for the ambulance, directing traffic down the bend in the rain, gg to the police station - an unforgettable experience that we shared as a couple.)

27 to 31 October 2010 (Bangkok) - The 12th barra on lure @ Boon Mar Lake
(A "mother-daughter" time trip where mum and I enjoyed not just some pampering moments together - spa, facial, shopping, eating - but also where I brought mum fishing! Like the year before when I brought her to BSR, she had a swell time breathing in the country air, taking in the sights so different from that in Singapore, and taking photos of me and the catch.)

3 to 8 November 2010 (Penang & Langkawi) - Kek Lok Si Temple @ Penang
(I've never been to Penang before - 1 of the few states in Msia that I haven't visted - and managed to persuade my CEB to go along with me although he had been there b4. The first time where we both were told there were no rooms at the hotel despite our reservation. We stayed in Cheong Fatt Sze Mansion instead which I enjoyed but not my CEB. My friend from Penang met us there and was kind enough to drive us around. And not only that, she introduced us to the best salt-baked prawns and crabs we ever had. We also gorged on Penang Laksa and chendol as well as visited the famous Kek Lok Si Temple.)
3 to 8 November 2010 (Penang & Langkawi) - Eagle Square @ Langkawi
(The idea was to go to just Penang but my CEB had seen a pic of Dataran Lang on the back of a bus and he suggested going to Langkawi for a couple of days which turned out to be the best travel idea he had- we stayed at The Datai - 1 of the best (and most exp) hotels there andwe also rented a car to drive around - we ended up at the largest man-made waterfall, eating power laksa at the roadside, waking up early to stroll along Pantai Cenang, dining at The Loaf and taking the Langkawi Cable Car ride. We even went to Eagle Sq per the pic below which was afterall, the inspiration for us being here)
And so that was all the flight-related travel I had for 2010 - many short and enjoyable trips to countries not too far away. What a difference from 2009 where we went on a 18 day tour of Europe and UK and 2008 where we spent 14 days at USA's West Coast. I wonder what sorta travel 2011 will bring!

The Tourist (2010) Movie

I am a die-hard Angelina Jolie fan and instead of catching Gulliver's Travel this evening, I bought tickets for The Tourist instead. A not very detailed summary of the plot can be found here but why read it if you are going to watch the movie which has just opened in Singapore. The twist is right at the very end, but I'd guessed who Pierce was when the Inspector revealed that Jolie was a secret agent to him. Jolie is more lovely and stunning than ever - the epitome of classy chic and sexy with her slender shapely legs, tiny waist, womanly hips and oh so damn seductive walk. Her glorious mane, full luscious lips, clear wide eyes and high cheekbones are testimony to God's work.

Oh wait, I was suppose to be reviewing the movie and not the woman. The Slog Reviews: 8/10. No heavy stuff in this movie which is a really light-hearted and entertaining watch for a couple of hours. Jolie is beautiful in every single outfit she dons in this movie and....okay, I better stop here before I go off on her again. :P

2010 - Looking back

I love inspirational quotes and 1 of my all-time favorite is the simple four words "Look forward, not back". However, look back (with frank and brutal honesty) on 2010 I will in this post before we move into the brand new year 2011.

On 29 December 2010, a year ago, I wrote out my resolutions for the year (click here) so I will review the success/failure of each of them before writing out my resolutions for 2011 in the next entry tomorrow (the 250th entry).

(1) The new body - While I did not keep to any of the action steps for any sustained period this year, I've lost 8 - 10kg in the past year. So I guess that's a Pass for this resolution.

(2) Take up a masters - Nope, I'm afraid I didn't do that. Been a tardy lazy ass this year and not taken any courses at all despite having loads of spare time which I squandered on self-indulgent activities. Procrastination and sloth have been my bosom companions instead. Fail.

(3) Improve my finances - Again, did not carry out any of the action steps. Then again, although I haven't had time to trade given the sheer volume of work @ the office, from Sept 09 to Aug 09, my monthly pay has improved 30%. Borderline fail.

(4) Improve my EQ and IQ - Yup, been reading loads of non-fiction books esp self-improvement books. Also, been updating this blog and made friends out of colleagues. Pass.

(5) Mastering various fishing techniques - Yup, the first 3/4 of the year has been all about fishing. Fishing in KK, Langkawi, Bkk, offshore, onshore...it has been A-fantastic. :) However, I have yet to learnt how to effectively connect my leader to the main line using the FG knot (or an improvisation of the same). Pass with room for improvement.

There certainly were many things I didn't count on happening in 2010. In fact, as the saying "Pride comes before a fall" goes, there were times this year when I felt on top of this world, when I felt as if I had everything I could ever ask for and more.

Careerwise, I'd been promoted again this year, was again part of the co's talent pool and had the absolutely best boss in the world. A boss that was a worthy role model for me in every single way (professionally and, as a wife and mother) and to whom I had pledged my undying loyalty to - the kind of loyalty that replies "How High" when she says "Jump". I was also on gd terms with all of my other colleagues and had my good colleague (who shares the room) to provide guidance and give positive encouragement. Also, the company I work for is rock stable with strong fundamentals and has a high level of corporate social responsibility.

Finance-wise, I was unencumbered in every sense of the word. I had the necessary buffer of savings, my precious car had been fully paid for within a year of its purchase and my pay had increased 30% within the year given the promotion and market adjustment. Freedom was mine (more on that later) and I could travel at whim (thanks to my beloved boss), buy whatever little fancies I wanted and do as I please within my little means. Because of my relatively few needs (no, don't scoff here - I really have few needs), I would say tt I was content.

Relationship-wise, I had friendships that stood the test of time and distance, I was making friends out of colleagues and even finding new friends to enjoy my new hobby (fishing) with. I'd finally moved on successfully from the failure of that ten-year relationship with Mr Womaniser and also saw the true colors of the obese obnoxious prick whose arms I'd rebounded into, putting an effective end to any regrets I might once have had hurting him. I'd also been lucky enough for the first half of the year to dabble in a variety of distractions given my swinging single status and to find a companion in someone who gave me a lot of loving support and acts of love. The second half brought an unexpected surprise which is of course, the relationship with my CEB who had all along been nothing more but a platonic friend to shoot the breeze with.

However, as with all good things, a twist of fate in early November abruptly changed the course of my life and brought me to my knees just as I was counting my blessings as stated above. I can pin down the day I was thinking I was so blessed ("what more could I want?") - that was the day I received the blackberry from my beloved boss. And I can pin the day about 13 days later when everything that I've held dear the past 4yrs odd fell apart and nothing mattered.

It is now the second last day of December 2010 and following the 2 biggest life-changing decisions which I made in the past 3 months of the year, I'll still say that 2010 has been one of the best years of my life and I am truely grateful and thankful to the good Lord and to everyone who has been in my life someway or other for making it so.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fishing - Mersing Tragedy and Nenasi Fishing on 14 Aug 2010

I've stopped fishing offshore since the middle of August last year - we couldn't make it for the last offshore trip for the year which was scheduled on my CEB's birthday in October because we were in Phuket holidaying. And then there were no further offshore fishing trips arranged because most of the weekend slots in Nov had been booked by others targeting sailfish and it was also the monsoon season (late Nov to Feb).

I have had fishing trips cancelled because the boatman refused to go out to sea due to the choppy weather, and that wasn't even during the monsoon season. So it was with great sadness that I read about the deaths of 4 Singaporeans who drowned when the boat they were in capsized off Mersing where they had gone for a fishing trip this month. To compound matters, there were insufficient life jackets on board and the boat was loaded past capacity. Talk about sheer irresponsibility on the part of the boatman. May their souls rest in peace. The sea is an unforgiving master, and seeks to exact its toll on those who take from it.

And that is what I intend to do in a couple of days time. Like the past 2 years where I welcome the new year abroad, this year I will not be in Singapore again. Well, at least not on the island. We are going fishing (Singapore waters) and will be on a boat to catch the fireworks before heading for the wreck to get some monster groupers ("gaos"). More fun, chicken wings and beer than serious fishing, according to my fishing kaki who was the organiser of my last offshore fishing trip of 2010 in Nenasi. Yup, the picture below shows my first catch on that fishing trip. A bright chermin. Caught it on the bradmis which has brought me incredible luck this year and a wide variety of fishes. The fight was thrilling but too short - I wasn't targetting chermins this size but GTs so this fish was no match at all for my 40lbs leader.

I caught a couple of greasy groupers but they were only 2kg+ each which meant no one scrambled to take any photos at all. And I left my trusty Sony Ericsson behind which was a huge mistake because to get photos from pp generally is a tough process. The rest of the fishing trip was rather quiet for those who were doing bottom fishing so I switched to jigging for squids. It was sotong season besides. With the triangle technique I'd learnt from my fishing shifu, I landed about 7 sotongs in all - the first one fell off the barbed end of the cheap jig while waiting for my CEB to go get the camera. So i changed jig and after 3 casts, I landed this decent sized sotong which ended up as bait for those bottom fishing.

So although I don't eat sotongs and one doesn't really pay good money to go squidding on an offshore trip, I spent about 2 hours jigging for squids - cast retrieve in triangle fashion until one feels a tug, then the dead weight at the end of the line which means either a catch or....a lost jig (sungkot)...nothing beats the thrill of fishing and wondering what the hell is on the other end.

Well anyway, after realising that most of my sotongs had been butchered by the anglers on board to be used as bait (their prawns weren't working), I decided to go after my dream catch. Yeah, it's nothing much - a parrot fish. It helps that the meat of a parrot fish is even more tender/delicious than a normal greasy grouper of course, but no, I chase the parrot fish not for its meat but because I've never had the luck to land one.

See this beauty I'm holding? It isn't mine. There I was using the same bait (prawns) as the guy on the other side of the boat who was using a handline and this 4kg+ parrot fish took his bait and not mine. He let me pose with a picture of his fish (which he packed back to HKG) - only the borga used to grip its mouth, and the bradmis behind in the picture belong to me. And that is the thing about fishing - it reminds me that as in life, there are many things beyond our control and sheer will (or force of will) is insufficient - there are many times when we have to surrender to a higher power/forces greater than us. May the good Lord deem it fit to bless me with a parrot fish and many other fishes in the coming 2011!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury

I picked this book up by chance at the National Library and it is one of the best books that I've ever had the good fortune to stumble upon. This book has made a difference to my life, and came in extremely handy, especially over the past few weeks. The Slog Reviews: Off the charts. Anyone, everyone, should pick a copy up and start reading! As always, I'll set out below the parts I would like to share and, well, remember:

1. The game of negotiation takes place at 2 levels. At 1 level, negotiation addresses the substance, at another, it focuses on the procedure for dealing with the substance. Instead of positional bargaining (taking positions), an alternative would be principled negotiations. This can be boiled down to 4 basic points:
People: Separate the people from the problem. Be soft on the people, hard on the problem. Proceed independent of trust.
Interests: Focus on the interests, not positions. Avoid having a bottom line
Options: Generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do - before trying to reach agreement, invent options for mutual gain.
Criteria: Insist that the result be based on some objective standard. Try to reach a result based on standards independent of will. Reason and be open to reason; Yield to principle, not pressure.

2. Failing to deal with others sensitively as human beings prone to human reactions can be disastrous for a negotiation. Always ask "Am I paying enough attention to the people problem?" It is useful to think in terms of 3 basic categories: perception, emotion and communication.
Perception - The other side's thinking is the problem. Put yourselves in their shoes. The ability to see the situation as the other side sees it, as difficult as it may be, is one of the most important skills that a negotiator can possess. You should withhold judgment for a while as you "try on" their views. Don't blame them for your problem - separate the symptoms from the person with whom you are talking. Discuss perceptions in a frank honest manner and look for opportunities to act inconsistently with their perception. Also, give them a stake in the outcome by making sure they participate in the process - agreement becomes much easier if both parties feel ownership of the ideas. Get the other side involved early, ask their advice, give credit generously for ideas wherever possible, don't take credit for yourself. Make your proposals consistent with their values - if the substance can be phrased or conceptualized differently so that it seems a fair outcome, they will then accept it. Face-saving involves reconciling an agreement with principle and with the self-image of the negotiators.
Emotion - Talk with the people on the other side about their emotions. Talk about your own. Allow the other side to let off steam. Listen quietly without responding to their attacks and occasionally to ask the speaker to continue until he has spoken his last word. Use symbolic gesture - often an apology can defuse emotions effectively even when you do not acknowledge personal responsibility for the action or admit an intention to harm.
Communication - Listen actively and acknowledge what is being said. If you pay attention and interrupt occasionally to say "Did I understand correctly that you are saying that...?" Make it your task not to phrase a response but to understand them as they see themselves. As you repeat what you have understood them to have said, phrase it positively from their point of view, making the strength of their case clear. understanding is not agreeing. Speak to be understood - It is clearly unpersuasive to blame the other party for the problem, to engage in name-calling or to raise your voice. It is more persuasive to describe a problem in terms of its impact on you than in terms of what they did or why. Before making a significant statement, know what ou want to communicate or find out and know what purpose this information will serve.

3. Prevention works best - build a working relationship. The time to develop this is before the negotiations starts. Face the problem, not the people. A more effective way for the parties to think of themselves is as partners in a hardheaded side by side search for a fair agreement advantageous to each. To help the other side change from a face to face orientation to side by side, you might raise the issue with them explicitly "Look, we are both lawyers. Unless we try to satisfy your interests, we are hardly likely to reach an agreement that satisfies mine and vice versa. Let's look together at the problem of how to satisfy our collective interests." It helps to sit side by side on the same side of a table and to have in fron to you the contract or whatever else depicts the problem.

4. The basic problem in a negotiation lies not in conflicting positions, but in the conflict between each side's needs, desires, concerns and fears. To find out their interests is as important as figuring out yours - one basic technique is to put yourself in their shoes and ask "Why?" If you do, make clear you are asking not for justification of the position but for an understanding of the needs, hopes, fears or desires it serves. Ask "Why Not?" Identify the basic decision that those on the other side probably see you asking them for and then to ask yourself why they have not made that decision. If you are trying to change their minds, the starting point is to figure out where their minds are not. Realize each side will have multiple interests. Do not assume each person on the other side has the same interests. The most powerful interests are basic human needs - eg security, economic well-being, a sense of belonging, recognition and control over one's life. To sort out the interests of each side, it helps to write them down as they occur to you. This will not only help you remember them but also enable you to improve the quality of your assessment as you learn new info and place interests in their estimated order of importance. Be specific about your interests. Concrete details make your description credible but also add impact. If you want the other side to appreciate your interests, demonstrate you appreciate theirs. Put the problem before the answer. If you want someone to listen and understand your reasoning, give your interests and reasoning first and your conclusions or proposals later. Look forward, not back. You will satisfy your interests better if you talk about where you would like to go rather than about where you have come from. Be concrete but flexible - to convert your interests to concrete options - ask yourself, if tomorrow the other side agrees to go along with me, what do I now think I would like them to go along with?" Go into a meeting with 1 or more specific options that would meet your legitimate interests but with an open mind. An open mind is not an empty one. Give positive support to the human beings on the other side equal in strength and vigor with which you emphasize the problem.

5. Broaden the options available instead of narrowing the gap between positions, Do not engage in premature judgment, searching for the single answer, assumption of a fixed pie and thinking that solving their problem is their problem. To invent creative options, you will need to separate the act of inventing options from the act of judging them, broaden the options on the table rather than look for a single answer, search for mutual gains and invent ways of making their decisions easier. Change the scope of a proposed agreement -and ask how the subject matter may be enlarged so as to sweeten the pot and make agreement more attractive. Look for mutual gain and identify shared interests. Dovetail differing interests - invent several options all equally acceptable to you and ask the other side what they prefer. You want to know what is preferred and not acceptable. Take that option and work with it some more to come up with 2 or more variants - look for items which are low cost to you and high benefit to them. Few things facilitate a decision as much as precedent. Search for it. Look for a decision or statement that the other side may have made in a similar situation. Instead of threats, concentrate both on making them aware of the consequences they can expect if they do decide as you wish and on improving those consequences from their point of view. A final test of an option is to write it out in the form of a yesable proposition - try to draft a proposal to which their responding with the single word yes would be sufficient realistic and operational.

6. Insist on using objective criteria. Depending on the issue, you may wish to propose that an agreement be based on market value, precedent, scientific judgment, professional standards, efficiency, costs, what a court would decide, moral standards, equal treatment, tradition, reciprocity. Fair procedures - to produce an outcome independent of will, use fair standards for the substantive question or fair procedures for resolving the conflicting interests - eg dividing a cake between 2 children - one cuts and one chooses - neither can complain about an unfair division. A variation is for parties to negotiate what they think is a fair arrangement before they go on to decide their respective roles in it. Other basic means of settling differences - taking turns, drawing lots, letting someone else decide and so on. 3 basic points - 1. frame each issue as a joint search for objective criteria, 2. reason and be open to reason as to which standards are most appropriate and how they should be applied 3. never yield to pressure only to principle. Ask What's your theory, agree first on principles - each standard the other side proposes becomes a lever you can then use to persuade them. In a given case there may be 2 standards which produce different results, but which both parties agree seem equally legitimate - in that case, splitting the difference is perfectly legitimate as the outcome is independent of the will of the parties. Pressure can take many forms - if the other side will not budge and will not advance a persuasive basis for their position, then there is no further negotiation. Take it or leave it. Before you leave it, look to see if you have overlooked some objective standard which makes their offer a fair one.

7. No method can guarantee success if all the leverage lies on the other side. In response to power, the most any method of negotiation can do is to meet 2 objectives: 1st to protect you against making any agreement you should reject and second, to help you make the most of the assets you do have so that any agreement you reach will satisfy your interests as well. Instead of having a bottom line, have a BATNA - Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement. If you have not thought carefully about what you will do if you fail to reach an agreement, you are negotiating with your eyes closed. Although your BATNA is the true measure by which you should judge any proposed agreement, you should have a trip wire which should provide you with something in reserve. The better your BATNA, the greater your power. Spend time developing your BATNA.

Tron: Legacy (2010) Movie

I'd no intention to catch Tron given the extremely stressful past 3 weeks but my CEB had a couple of free tickets to the movie so catch the movie we did last Tuesday.

I've no intention to reproduce a synopsis of the movie here because a most detailed one can be found here. The Slog Reviews: 7.5/10. The graphics of the Light Cycle match make this movie a must-watch on the big screen or a large high quality television set. There isn't much substance or memorable quotes in the movie which is set in a dimension and time that has yet to exist. However, it is note-worthy that despite all that and the fancy futuristic feel of the movie, basic human themes like betrayal, ambition and sacrifice are explored.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

SkyPark at Marina Bay Sands

I know I seldom blog about places in Singapore although I am a true "born and bred" S'porean. However, I could not NOT share about SkyPark on the 58th floor (highest floor) of Marina Bay Sands and its simply awesome infinity pool.

Now, although one can always purchase a ticket to go to the SkyPark and snap some lovely pictures of Singapore's majestic skyline, the only way to get a picture like the one I took above and below is to go for a swim in the infinity pool (which is open only to hotel guests).

As my CEB and I were there on the day after Xmas which was a Sunday to boot, the pool was horrifyingly crowded with loads of tourists as seen from the picture below. We had quite a tough time finding some deck chairs to put our towels on despite the generous number of deck chairs. Some tourists were suntanning, some were reading, some were using their iPads but almost all of them were taking lots of photographs of the amazing skyline. And yup, that is my CEB heading back for the safety of the deckchairs after I splashed him - buaya in the water! :P

After our swim, we lazed for a bit on the deck chairs - I almost fell asleep because of the cooling breeze (the pool is on the 58th floor) and the balmy weather. My CEB on the other hand was engrossed playing some racing game on his iPhone and sipping the complimentary drinks (for hotel guests). Talk about living the good life :D

The Slog Reviews: 9/10. A definite must visit and must do when in Singapore would be staying at MBS and going to the SkyPark for a swim. It is terribly hard not to be most impressed and times like this makes me feel just a wee bit guilty about spending so much time going to Malaysia instead of appreciating all my own country can offer.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Blessed Christmas 2010

The past 2 months have been really tough but God has heard and answered my prayers. Whether what I have prayed for and received turns out well or otherwise in the end remains a great mystery but His Words, "Seek & you shall find, Ask & you shall receive, Knock & the door will be opened" has never been truer for me this Christmas season.

Amongst the best gifts I've received this year is the relationship with my CEB. And just like our relationship was unexpected, he gave me a most unexpected gift for Christmas this year. Honestly, I wasn't expecting anything much, maybe a token like Godiva or Royce chocolate since he had already bought me the iPod touch in November and which I had treated as my Xmas gift from him this year.

So, when I was opening the gift above and he said that he hoped it brought me good luck, I figured it was some lucky charm. I was totally floored to find that out of all the items in Lee Hwa, he had actually picked out a crucifix to buy for me this Christmas. It would have been nice if there was a chain too but I myself have bought a pendant for someone and then realized I was missing a chain.

I guess my stunned silent surprise worried him because he asked anxiously if I liked it and offered to change to it to something else if I didn't. When I remained silent, he explained he bought it because he thought it would go perfectly with the wedding dress that I'd tried on and he had heartily approved of the evening before Xmas eve.

When I could speak, I replied him simply that I wouldn't change this gift for anything else in the world. Which I really wouldn't. To set the context in case you haven't figured - we both are from very different religions, which was one of the primary reasons we had stayed as close friends and nothing more the past 3 years. The depth and degree of our faith in our respective religions is deeper than the cursory or obligatory and just as recent as a couple of weeks back, we had a disagreement that arose from this difference. So the issue of religion was, is and is probably likely to be always, a very sensitive topic for us.

I am very impressed with my CEB and truly admire him for buying me a crucifix to put on. It is the clearest proclamation of true love, a love that shows respect for the other person's beliefs, different as it may be. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world this Christmas to have my CEB.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

First Anniversary of The Slog Reviews

Exactly one year ago to this date, I started this blog - The Slog Reviews, that is. Prior to that, this blog was known by another name and contained the type of entries that I never thought I would write again - the writings of a girl very much in love and looking forward to a happy ever after with the first man she had given her heart to.

When that relationship of 10 years ended in a sad bitter mess (the mess being 2 other women whose existence I had been blissfully unaware of came to light one fateful day before the happy ever after event was to happen), I deleted every single entry I had painstakingly written over the years. It was 1 of the most difficult things I had to do and I could only find the strength to erase all the memories more than one year after that relationship had ended. I did not save or print anything I'd written in any format - and it took me less than 15mins to extinguish our story together from the virtual world. Amazingly, I didn't shed a tear throughout the process - or maybe it wasn't that amazing because I must have used up my quota of tears long before the day I put all my hopes of a happy ever after with him behind a locked door.

So, this blog and my heart was left empty for a time. Not my life though - I was fortunate enough to have God, my sister, my beloved boss, my good colleague, my friends (which included my CEB and the Slug) and sufficient, shall we say, "distractions" to sustain me through the valley of darkness where all I wanted to do was wallow, where my prayer each night was not to awake to another pointless day, where I questioned the purpose of not just my life but that of the people on the street. I could not understand why they wanted to live, esp when they had so little materially and not much likelihood of improving their current state of affairs. And my laugh was mirthless when someone told me that it was relationships, love, hope and faith that kept them going. I had all of that before, did I not, and see where it had gotten me - and that was when I swore never ever again would I commit the same mistake I'd made when I was 18.

However, I see now that these very same elements which caused my downfall then are the very same as those which sustained and then strengthened me - faith, love and relationships. All the entries that I have written this past one year would not have been possible without the gift of these. In fact, there wouldn't be The Slog, this Slog today if not for all these wonderful pp who have blessed my life just by being in it.

So on this note, I thank all of you who have each in one way, directly or indirectly contributed to The Slog's life - although life is a series of meetings and partings, I want you to remember that if you ever felt your life was pointless - it isn't. Because in your lifetime, there is someone whose life you have made a difference to and who is most grateful to you - the Slog here :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader

The Slog Reviews: 10/10. An epic story with layers of meaning about life, choices and temptations that was wonderfully protrayed and packaged in a well-paced entertaining movie with great graphics and 3D effects. A must-watch and I have my CEB to thank for making the wise choice of picking this movie despite my lack of interest.

The last 15mins of this movie was particularly hard for me - because it was about endings and choices. And the thing about some choices is that when you make it, you don't get a second chance. Yes, I do know that life is all about choices, accidents, endings and beginnings but knowing doesn't ease the pain within. Try as I might to compartmentalise and rationalise, try as I might to adopt a half-full positive attitude instead of seeing myself as a victim of circumstances, I still hurt, still mourn and still ache when I think about the endings that await me in 2011.

I suck at goodbyes. I don't think there is a word more dreadful in the English language than this simple word. I know, oh don't I know oh-so-well, that no one can stay with us forever. At the end of the day, at the end of this life on earth, we have just ourselves and our maker. But even that faith doesn't stop me from waking up crying, with my face streaked in tears.The second time in my entire life when this has happened. I'm not ashamed of my feelings, nor ashamed of my having chosen to love . The intensity of the loss is the price I pay for this choice, and hard as it is to bear, I would suffer this again twice over, no thrice over, in order that the person I love might be happy. It isn't about being heroic, it isn't about being noble, it is about loving - and part of loving is respecting the choices that the person you love make, esp where that choice means a parting of ways, an ending of yout time together.

For those of you who know I am talking about, please don't ask me again about showing this entry or the previous entry to that person in question. Please let me give that person a small token, perhaps the only token of value I could ever give - which is to let go gracefully and let the person go forth most happily - my pathetic inability to rein in my feelings must never be a blot on that person's happiness and plans for the future. I alone should and must pay the price for the lack of fortitude, strength, emotional maturity and whatever else that prevents me from not recognising the person staring back in the mirror these days.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Restoran Capitol Satay at Melaka

Everyone knows that this is one of the most popular eating places in Melaka. I'd intended to bring my beloved boss there during our dept trip to Melaka in June this year but am glad that we didn't go because the wait and heat would have been too much for her. My beloved boss is made for the finer things in life and I wouldn't have her endure the long one and a half hour wait standing along the road in front of the restaurant. I say one and a half hour because the second time I went back to this restaurant (with my CEB this time), we waited exactly the same period as I had the last time when I was there with my 3 friends in July this year.

I should mention though that this time in November when I was there, I found a new restaurant just 2 doors down from this one which sells the same satay concept. Some people who grew tired after waiting for more than half an hour or so dropped out of the queue to eat there but for those who had a stouter heart and stronger resolve to have nothing but THE most famous satay in Melaka, we stayed firmly in line until we reached the entrance of the restaurant which looks like this below:

Upon being seated at the first empty available table, one is given a tray and allowed to go forth to the huge array of food laid out in the open refrigerator to heap one's tray with as much as food as one desires. It doesn't matter if there is 2 or 8 of you in a group - the first available table is yours so thumbs up for this equitable practice. We weren't made to share a table (though there were only 2 of us) but at the same time we were not allowed to jump queue ahead of those with much larger groups.

So, after one has chosen one's food - and the spread is wide - crabsticks, prawns, fishballs, meat, century eggs, tau kee, veg, the list just goes on and on - one returns to the table and find a pot of simmering brown curry-like liquid placed right smack in the center of the table.

When the liquid is bubbling, a server then pours in the crushed peanuts into the curry-like sauce and uses the laddle to mix the same to a thick consistency. The service by the servers is rather excellent I must say because every 10-15mins, they would come over and lift up your skewers of food and stir the mix to ensure that it is properly mixed.

And then, the feast begins with one dipping the various skewers of food one has chosen into the bubbling hot peanut sauce. Now, do not for an instance think that the black marks around the pot are just dirt stains. They aren't. We witnessed one table's pot of sauce catching fire literally so be very careful to keep your face away from the pot. It is quite inevitable though to get a few hot drops of sauce on one's hands while one's hand is near the bubbling liquid.

The 4 biggish prawns above are bonus items for each table that the server dishes out along with sotong and cuttlefish (We returned those as we didn't like them) - they aren't available at the open refrigerator and are way better than the prawns laid out there.

The Slog Reviews: 8/10 for the food and experience but be prepared for the long queue and the rather casual atmosphere of the place. No reservations are allowed unfortunately unless one is somebody important (the first time I was there I saw a table reserved and then filled with important rich looking men). Definitely worth at least one visit while at Melaka - the restaurant is a distance away from Jonker 88 and is located at Bukit Cina and only open from 5pm till midnight.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Kedai Kopi Chung Wah

Hoe Kee or Chung Wah for chicken rice in Melaka?

Having had Hoe Kee the last trip because the queue at Chung Wah was too long, I was delighted to find that the queue at Chung Wah at 11am in the morning was not too long on a Sunday morning in September - it isn't the standing that is the killer, it is the standing in the merciless sun. So if one decides to brave the queue, do remember to bring a brolly for shade!

Because of the relatively short queue (See pic above), we managed to get a place at the back of the crowded restaurant, from which angle I could take a picture of the "hallowed" interior of this famed chicken rice stall. It is also clear form the pic below that the sun is so bright that in the background one can barely make out the queue behind the old-fashioned gates waiting to get in.

We ordered 5 chicken rice balls and half a chicken. The Slog Reviews: 9/10 for the chicken rice balls which were soft and fragrant. Because of the oil and fat used to cook the chicken rice, the chicken rice ball kinda melted in my mouth without the least bit of grainy feeling. Definitely much better than Hoe Kee's chicken rice balls.

I am sure we ordered half a chicken but they must have gotten the order wrong because the 2 of us were served THIS amount of chicken and my CEB counted 2 small chicken thighs.
My CEB "This chicken is very special"
Me "Yeah I already know that given the queue to get in just to eat this"
My CEB "No, I mean this chicken we are eating. It is a four legged chicken since we ordered 1/2 a chicken only"
Me "?!%#$@".

Ok, joke aside, the Slog Reviews: 9/10. If one wants to have really tender and fresh chicken (and yes, it was so good that I forgot about my allergy to eating chicken), one should make a beeline for No 18 Jalan Hang Jebat which is right at the start of Jonker Street.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Philea Resort & Spa at Ayer Keroh Melaka

Based on past experience, Jonker 88 is THE place on Jonker Street to go for dessert and all other affordable nyonya food like assam laksa, nyonya nasi lemak with baba chicken, goreng goreng and seafood soup noodles etc. The only draw back is of course the limited number of seats and the long queue - self service means standing in the broiling hot sun waiting to order, and then for your food to be cooked and plunked down on a tray.

And so because I was in charge of ordering (I had a brolly and didn't mind standing in the sun) and I couldn't make up my mind what to have given how delicious each item on the menu seemed, we ended up with more than we could finish - the seafood soup, the baba rendang chicken, and of course the assam laksa and curry laksa. I have reviewed the food before so all I would say is that you can't not try the assam laksa (extreme right). It is fantastic!

So after that heavy lunch, with great anticipation, we made our way to Philea Resort, touted to be Melaka's first six star hotel. We got lost along the way, having gone to Jonker Street first and ended up making several rounds around the Ayer Keroh area, only to find that Philea is situated just 500m after the Ayer Keroh exit from NS Highway (on the left).

The lobby was impressive and matched our expectations of what a 6 star hotel should be like - expansive with high ceilings and neatly-clad, well-spoken help staff ready to help with the check-in process and our luggage.

Because the rooms/villas are a distance away from the reception, it was necessary for us to climb on board one of the buggies which took us on a tour of the hotel's grounds. The staff was very friendly and knowledgeable - we learnt that philea means a type of butterfly in Russian. He also told us that the owner of the resort was buying more land around it to build more facilities.

And I think that is a pretty good idea because other than the spa, the only facility they have is this very non-impressive swimming pool which runs through the resort. It IS nice to look at in the pic above but other than its size/length, there are no slides or anything which distinguishes it from a normal swimming pool. The pic below shows how the villas are like and each villa has four rooms.
Our room was on the first floor of the villa - that's us in the mirror there - I've come to realise that because my CEB is not willing to bring a tripod around, the only way we ever are going to have photos of us together will be through the use of mirrors - but anyway, the point of the picture below is to show how the entire villa is constructed out of logs.

When we opened the door of the villa, we stepped into this below - maybe because I'd stayed in Capella's seaview room before so I had similar expectations of this so-called 6 star hotel. The room while really unique (the logs and all), was unfortunately rather dark and dim within.

As expected, there were no cable channels on the 32inch TV in the room but the hotel had free wifi so my CEB set up his netbook and we spent our time watching movies on the netbook - or rather, I did, because he fell asleep after a while when we were midway through the first one.

Alright, why the pic below? Because that heralds the start of my rant against this so-called 6 star hotel. According to the website, everything in the mini bar was complimentary and, 4 cans of soft drinks was all the mini bar contained. That, and 2 bottles of mineral water. It is such a far cry from The Datai and more so, from Capella which had premium food and drinks stocked in its bars. 4 cans of soft drinks is acceptable for a normal 4-5 star hotel but a 6 star hotel??

The picture below shows the left half of the bathroom. Now, my CEB likes soaking in the tub and all but this tub in Philea was so dirty-looking that he didn't want to use it. So I figured I'll just wash away the black specks by running a bath, and guess what - the water gushing from the tap was cold despite me turning the tap all the way to the max temp. I thought it was a water heater issue but nope, the standing shower on the right half of the bathroom worked just fine with lots of hot water. A 6 star hotel which doesn't even allow you to run a hot bath? Right...

The toiletries were placed on a wooden tray at the bottom of the sink and were the only items which made me feel that I was getting some bang for the buck. However, that feeling didn't last too long because of what happened in the evening - I used the toilet and flushed. And the freaking toilet OVERFLOWED and over my feet! We've stayed in budget hotels before - like Tune but NEVER in my life have I experienced having my feet dirtied with the contents of a used W.C from a hotel. Much less a 6 star hotel! I know shit happens, in this case, not just figuratively but still, to have paid this much for a room in a 6 star hotel and have this happen is just...wrong.

I wanted to raise a stinker (again, not just figuratively) to the hotel mgt but my CEB was there so I merely told them what had happened. They did not offer to have us change rooms which is what a 6 star hotel should do but instead said they would send someone over to fix the problem. We waited a good 15mins but no one came so I called them again and asked them to fix the problem while we went out for dinner. When we came back, guess what - they had fixed the W.C. but not the mess on the ground which was still soaked in W.C. water/contents. And the floor cloth which I had used to sop up some of the mess was still lying there in a crumpled heap. If you know me, you don't need to guess my reaction - but my CEB being the more easy-going of us two, managed to still make his trademark smiley faces with my sunny-side up the next morning at breakfast which brings me to my next grouse.

Below is a pic of the breakfast area of the resort. The selection is...for want of better words, is limited and pathetic. Maybe it has to do with the occupancy - only 1 other table was filled but other than that, there were hardly any items for us to choose from :( It was that lousy.

Yes, lousy is the right word for the breakfast buffet spread at Philea Resort. This was my breakfast. I'm dissing the spread, the food, but not the service at the restaurant. The chef was very friendly and helpful and I could not feel sorry for him that he was responsible for facing guests dissatisfied the selection of food which he had no control over.
To conclude, the Slog Reviews: 1/10 for Philea Resort if one is at Melaka. There are so many other hotels one could stay at while in Melaka and which are even more centrally located than Philea. If one does not have a car, getting to town/Jonker 88 will pose difficulties indeed. And to pay that amount of money for a mediocre room without hot water for the bath, a disgraceful breakfast spread and no facilities but the swimming pool and spa is a sheer waste. And if the W.C. does not overflow over one's feet, one should count oneself fortunate not to share the stomach-churning experience I had. As my CEB said, this so called 6 star hotel is 1 star facility, 1 star breakfast spread and 4 star customer service (the front end staff's service is excellent - can't speak for the repair staff though who left the dirty floor cloth in the toilet after fixing the W.C).