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Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 - Travel for the year in pictures

I was looking at the post I wrote on 30 Dec 2010 about the travel I'd done that year (click here). And it was all good. However this year, the places I have journeyed to are truly awesome and I have to thank my new company, my new boss(es), my mum and my CEB for making all that happen.

There are just too many photos from each trip and although I initially wanted to post 2 for each trip, I decided that this post would wind up too long so 1 pic it has to be.

15 to 18 January 2011 (Penang) - A weekend getaway with my dear ole mama to Penang where we had so much fun at Golden Sands Resort (dining at Sigi's there is a must!), and where we pigged out at Jalan Penang and Gurney Drive.

22 to 24 January 2011 (Krabi) - We rented a Honda City to get around (and got lost trying to find our hotel because the maps given were so useless). And on the first day, I dropped on the ground (from shoulder level), my shock-proof Panasonic Lumix camera that my CEB had bought for me just 6 months earlier. We had to rely on my blackberry and trusty Sony Ericsson W995i for the rest of our holiday! We went to the famous turquoise pool, tried to climb to the top of Tiger Cave (but gave up after 100 steps!), ate at various famous awesome restaurants, walked along the beaches, and of course, dropped by the Ao Nang beach for photos and all.

8 to 11 February 2011 (Melbourne) - The lady who hired me (the one in the middle) flew me over to Melbourne where she was based with the other corporate counsel for Asia Pacific. The days were filled with meeting folks, visiting the various offices and understanding the business. And in the evenings, she brought me to nice places to dine such as Riva at St Kilda's. This is one trip where I regret bitterly not extending my trip over the weekend. Oh well.

March 2011 (Midwest USA) - The lady who hired me resigned due to a fantastic job opportunity that came her way. I was happy for her of course, but I'd accepted the job primarily because she was much like my beloved ex-boss. My new boss flew me over to where he was based in the USA - the second time in my (yes, insert the word sad here) life that I flew business class. The trip took more than 23hours. Singapore to LA, LA to Chicago, Chicago to final town in Mid-west. When I finally arrived, all the excitement about travelling had been replaced by exhaustion and jet-lag. However, my mood was restored by the great dining experience I had at Hard Rock on this trip, and this was where my HRC magnet collecting craze started.

After 4 days of meeting more new folks (this time at the highest level of the company), I extended the work trip to go to New York for 4 days on my own (4 days because the hotel room rates there are astronomical and I didn't dare to book somewhere cheap and less safe!). I bought the New York Pass, and had 1 of the best ever trips by myself Phantom on Broadway, shopping at Macy's, going to Rockefeller's Centre, Times Square, Century 21, Empire State Building (including the ride), Madame Tussard's and of course, shopping at the famous Woodbury Common Premium Outlets (1 day isn't enough!). I also went on the cruise to see the famous Statue of Liberty (how can one go to New York and not see the iconic statue!)

May 2011 (Bangkok) - The first time for my CEB in Bangkok! I couldn't believe he'd never been there before. And he loved everything about Bangkok, especially the hotel I'd booked (Four Points) and when we got back, he kept bugging me to book tickets to go back :D We ate at Fiji, MK, took the public transport about, shopped at MBK, Central, Paragon etc, and even squeezed a trip to Chinatown and to the weekend market, Chatuchak.

May 2011 (Bintan) - The week after the wedding, we spent the weekend at a sea-view villa at Banyan Tree Bintan, courtesy of my CEB and his Maybankard. We had really high expectations (Banyan Tree!) but unfortunately, it failed to thrill.

3 to 9 July 2011 (South Africa) - We had a regional attorney's meeting in South Africa and after 3 long days of training and lots of work, we had an afternoon off to enjoy a cultural village in South Africa. I also had a half day city tour to Soweto with the other corporate counsel for Asia Pacific the day before the week of work. I wanted to extend my trip to go on a safari but thankfully I didn't because it was winter. And all I could think of was how to keep warm. Anyway, I've been on a safari before in South Africa with my family and, my CEB and my mum could not go along with me on this trip so a short work trip it was.

July 2011 (KL) - The second time this year going up to KL for work (the first time in April, I didn't take any pics because I was worked so hard by my project manager that I barely had time to enjoy the club room in the five star hotel!). This time I extended the trip over the weekend my CEB took a plane up to join me and we met up with mutual friends for dinner! And they brought along their 7 month old daughter who was so adorable!

August 2011 (Shah Alam) - Another work trip which spanned the weekend and of course, with a coach service that runs right to the hotel's doorstep, my CEB was more than glad to come join me for the weekend where we bought tickets to Sunway Lagoon and had a great time on all the rides there, the pool and eating at the many different restaurants.

End August 2011 (Bali) - Bali, the land of love, what more can I say? :D We stayed at The Westin and it was without a doubt, one of the best hotels we've ever stayed in, in terms of room design and service. We only left the hotel to go to Bali Collection which wasn't very much, and to join a 1 day tour to visit Kuta Beach, GWK and Uluwatu (temple and kecak dance).

September 2011 (Brazil (Sao Paolo, Rio, Foz Igauzu) & Argentina) - Rio! I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to fly to Brazil for work. The trip took 26 hours on SQ, and another 4 more hours to get from Sao Paolo to my hotel in Rio. But it was worth all the time and money (Air ticket to Rio and back to Sao Paolo, Rio's accommodation and tours were at my own expense since I was flying in early to holiday before work in Sao Paolo) to go to and be at Rio! I joined day tours - the city day tour on the first day to go to Christo, Sugar Loaf Mountain, eat a Brazilian Churrascaria lunch, visit some football stadiums, a day tour on the second day to go to Petropolis and to just chill at Copacabana on the third day.

And at the end of my work trip, my CEB came over to join me for our honeymoon in Brazil, Argentina and Peru! :) Like me, he was thrilled flying business class on SQ for a 26hr flight home from Sao Puolo - man, I used all (and I mean ALL) my krisflyer miles to get his flight ticket upgraded. It was absolutely worth it given how happy he was, or rather, he was was absolutely worth it :D

We spent 3 days touring 1 of the new 7 wonders of the world - Foz Iguasu. The falls were absolutely magnificent, and we both were awestruck by nature's beauty. We had a private tour on the first day for the Brazilian side of the falls, and we went on the boat ride to go under the falls which was an experience in itself. On the third day, we returned again in the morning on our own before the flight out in the evening to Juliaca, Peru.

On the second day, again we had a private tour and crossed over to the Argentinean side by car. We viewed the famous part of the falls called the Devil's Throat there, and dropped by the duty-free on the border of Argentina and Peru.

After Brazil and Argentina, we took a flight to Juliaca in Peru via Lima (1 night stay there). I remember that the airport security had us open our one big bag which were about to check in and confiscated my aerosol-like mosquito spray which really upset me. I mean, that was a check-in bag, and I had no problems carrying the spray from Singapore to South America! Ah well. In Juliaca airport, we were picked up by our private tour guide from Condor Travel and taken to the first attraction - the Sillustani Graves.

After the Graves, we were driven through Puno where we checked into a really beautiful hotel called Casa Andina. The next day, we joined a cruise on Lake Titicaca which is the highest navigable lake on earth. The first stop after 4 hours on the boat was Tarquile Island which is a UNESCO site where the men there knit. Tourism, crafts and terrace farming on Tarquile is what sustains livelihood on the island.

We also stopped by Uros Island, which is one of those places on earth that is just...unforgettable. While the view of Lake Titicaca (sparkling and blue) from Tarquile Island is breathtaking, it is the entire structure of Uros Island which one remembers - it is made entirely of reed and the people use the reed for everything they need - food, houses, boats.

From Juliaca, we flew to Cusco, and spent a day touring Cusco city, before travelling 3 hours by car to Ollantaytambo where we stayed a night ebefore taking the Peru Rail to the town of Aguas Calientes where we stayed for 2 nights to visit the world-famous Machu Picchu. Getting to Machu Picchu was easy - a bus takes one up a treacherous road carved out of the mountain side from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu's doorstep. Alternatively one can choose to hike by taking a 3-4 days walk following the Inca trail. Machu Picchu is just amazing - to walk in buildings occupied by a civilization long past, built when during a time before wheels were invented. And to be surrounded by the huge and majestic mountains of the Andes...I feel just humbled.

The second day, we climbed Huayna Picchu which is the mountain overlooking Macchu Picchu. It was a very dangerous hike and took us almost one and a half hours to climb up. There were parts that required us to slither along on our butts, to squeeze through narrow openings no fat person could ever hope to pass (that is to get to the peak), and to really cling on to whatever handhold we could find. But we made it up to the peak of Huayna Picchu. And from there, the view of Macchu Picchu down below us (the right of the picture which is the shape of a condor - amazing huh) was priceless, just priceless. It took some time for the fog to clear but we finally had a clear view of the ruins, and even of the bus route (left side of the picture) from Aguas Calientes up to Macchu Picchu. Only 400 pp are allowed to climb Huayna Picchu per day so we feel extremely blessed to have this opportunity to do this together.

End October 2011 (Bangkok) - Well, what can I say? My CEB wanted to go back to BKK so we found ourselves back in BKK again this year, and this time we had a free upgrade to the Terrace Suite at Four Points. The suite was really lovely although we didn't use the garden at all, and we spent a lot of time just soaking in the jacuzzi which was in the room! We had MK steamboat, Fiji, and walked around the new shopping centre at Asoke Station. It was fun and we are going back again soon!

November 2011 (Philippines, Manila) - I was there for work, and flew in one day earlier so I could join a tour of the city, just to see how much had changed in 4 years. I really enjoyed my day tour which covered Jose Rizal's execution ground (pic below), the Walled City and even the Philippines Museum. Dining at Makati was great and it helped that I had been booked into a hotel which was right across a small street to the famous greenbelt shopping area in Makati. It was a good trip but I am not in a rush to return to Philippines. :D

November 2011 (Negri Sembilan, Port Dickson) - My CEB had heard from his friend how enjoyable PD was, so the day after I got back from Manila, a Friday, we drove up the very next day to Port Dickson. My CEB was not impressed by the dull and polluted beaches and sea at PD, and preferred instead our experience driving up to KL, and stopping by Melaka and Seremban for the food.

End November 2011 (Ho Chi Minh) - I had travel for work to HCM so despite my swearing never to return (which I do each time I go to Vietnam), I found myself in HCM this year. My mum was free to join me so I extended over the weekend at my own expense, and took her to places I'd been before like Cu Chi Tunnels, the Cao Dai Temple, the War Remmants Museum and of course, a city tour. We had a good time together, but I do hope I don't have to go back to this country any time soon!

Early December 2011 (Hanoi) - I called Hanoi, Hell on Earth when I holidayed there with my good friend in September 2009. It was blazing hot then. This time, the weather was awful in another way - it was chilly and raining on the time. Dragging 2 big bags in the rain on the road to the bloody junk where we could do nothing but sit indoors cos of the rain, was just awful. And the junk (Imperial Junk) was really junk. Even my dear old mama said so. Not a good time to visit Hanoi but I had to visit Hanoi for work after Ho Chi Minh, so I figured I might as well just go all the way with dear old mama who had never been to Vietnam. After Halong Bay, we joined the City Tour where we got to see Ho Chi Minh's preserved body and the Temple of Literature, attractions I'd missed on my last trip there. I don't want to go back to Hanoi ever please.
And finally. I must thank my CEB, my friend and my love, for taking my hand and leading me on 1 of the most wonderful journeys of all, a journey I could never have taken on my own, a journey of committed love on the road of "Married Life" on 26 May 2011.

2011 - Looking back

2011 just flew by...it didn't seem all too long ago when I wrote an entry on looking back at this time of the year in 2010.

So with just one hour to 2012, I thought I'll reflect on what 2011 has been for me.

Career-wise, I have absolutely no complaints about this new job I started in early Feb this year. I now have legal responsibility for a region (NE/SE Asia) and I report directly into the US. My job allows me a decent amount of travelling globally which I love, and in this one year, I have done resume-building work like the transfer of business from 1 of our co to another co locally, an acquisition of a foreign company and an overseas joint venture. I also have made friends out of colleagues in this new company, both locally and overseas, and the job environment is just right for setting up a new family. The only thing is that I miss my ex-boss terribly still - not that I do not have a terrific new boss now but he who is in the US, is not her.

Finance-wise, I would like very much to buy the Honda CRZ. However, logic dictates that I should stick with my precious because my CEB and I need to buy insurance policies for each other as a form of responsibility, and we need to buy our own home next year.

Marriage-wise, I'm very content with my marriage and my CEB. My CEB is a good man whom I have grown to love and be proud of, during the time we have been together as a couple, and even more so after we tied the knot in May this year. I am happy waking up to him in the mornings, and happy having him to cuddle up to/cuddling up to me in the nights. There are so many joyous moments because of, and with him, and believe me when I say that I am so grateful to God for blessing me with him and blessing our marriage so abundantly. I am also grateful to my in-laws for being so supportive of our marriage, and to my own family too for everything they have done for us.

Health-wise, I've been in the pink of health this year unlike 2010 where I was coughing badly and sick a couple of times. It must be 1 of the psychological benefits of being happily married. The downside is that I've gained weight which needs to be shed in 2012. Bah.

Personal growth-wise, I have learnt to keep a house. I thank my mother for this. I now know how to set a washing machine, hand-wash clothes, hang up clothes, iron clothes, and to mop+vacuum. Domesticated I am. Even to the extent that from not knowing how to cook anything but instant noodles, I can put together an edible home-cooked meal. I have to say I am proud of my personal accomplishments in this area - no one has been "poisoned" by my cooking yet and I keep a clean and neat house for my husband to come back to.

In summary, 2011 has again been one of the best years of my life. and once again, I thank the Good Lord, and everyone (my friends, colleagues, CEB, the folks whose lives have crossed with mine this year) for making it so.

May 2012 bring abundant blessings to one and all!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The hour of one's death

I received an announcement from my HR manager the day after Christmas. My feet started to perspire as I read. And of course I went into denial mode - maybe it was someone else with the same name, some one who was a faceless employee I'd never met working on the shop floor. And the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced it had to be so since most men of that race had that name as a surname.

But when I got to work, I found out that indeed it was my colleague, my "would-be" fishing kaki, one of the few in the office I'd laughed with, shared pictures and stories with and made plans for 2012 with, that had gone to his reward early. :(

An accident according to the police. He had tried to repair his own car at his second home,propped it up and gone under to check, and something went horribly wrong.

His sudden and unexpected demise brought to mind 1 of the bible's stories about the coming of the groom and how one's lamps should always be lit because it is not known when he will arrive. The priest told us that the lesson behind this passage is that we should always be ready for the day that God will call us home to him unexpectedly, ie we should live each day as God has taught us to. Indeed, the hour of our deaths is known to God alone.

I think sometimes we forget how unpredictable life is, and how very real and sudden death can be. There is no certainty or guarantee how much time we have on earth, or how much time the people we love, care about or know have. We can't change that, this cruel reality, but we can be kinder, more thoughtful and forgiving so we have no regrets when the unexpected happens.

Oh Mohd Z, may your soul rest in peace. :( I'm glad our paths crossed, that I took the time on the way to the copier room, to stop by your desk and chat with you the week before you were called. I'm sorry that we missed the chance to fish together this year cos I had to travel and I am even sorrier that all our plans to fish together in 2012 will never materialize. But I know that if there is a fishing paradise, you must be there...and if God is so willing to put us fishing enthusiasts together, I'll see you again one day. Goodbye.

Our first Xmas 2011

Merry Christmas 2011 from Buaticus, Cold-Faced Tiger and the newcomer - Angry Bird!

Because Christmas is a religious holiday that I was raised to observe by going to church and exchanging gifts, I didn't plan any getaways during the Xmas long weekend. Instead, my CEB and I spent Christmas eve shopping for gifts (at the last min, of course), and a Christmas hat for Cold-faced Tiger. That below, is the only token to Christmas we had in our house because neither of us had the time or energy to set up a Christmas tree. Maybe when the family gets larger.

And on Christmas day, after church, my CEB went with my family to my relative's place for Christmas brunch. He pleasantly surprised me on the way there when he said "our family" when referring to my folks instead of "your family". The same way he surprised me again yesterday when he said "our dad" when referring to his father. It makes me very happy that my CEB seems to have truly embraced our marriage in the broader sense.

Below is the Christmas dinner we shared after catching "MI: Ghost Protocol" in the evening. A sushi platter with all the kind of sushi that I really like, starting from the top row down!

Of course, it shouldn't come as a surprise that after all that food, my CEB fell asleep on my lap on the sofa while watching another movie. And looking down at him, both his hands clutching mine as he dozed, I thanked the good Lord for the best present of all - my CEB.

Truly, to have and to hold this buaya, I am content this Christmas day.

Monday, December 26, 2011

7 months of marriage

Incredible. Just incredible how more than half a year has passed since the day we both said "I do" to each other and a lifetime of being together.

If not for the ticker on this blog, we both would have forgotten that today is our "Monthiversary" because we'd spent the day spring-cleaning for CNY.

My CEB has done more housework today than he has done in the past 2 months. And even though he goes around moaning "I am a poor poor husband", and flopping about the house (and even on me - shuffling up for a hug and slumping on my shoulder), he really has been a very very good, helpful, and supportive husband - washing both toilets, packing all his stuff, moving furniture about, and throwing away the old and unwanted items in our house.

And at the end of the day, as I am writing this in bed, laptop on my lap, he snuggles up to me and says endearingly
"Dear Dear, Love you love you".

It is really hard not to love this cheese-eating buaya.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ramen Champion at Iluma - Ikkousha

I was in town today for work and met a fellow legal eagle I hadn't met for months (he has a 2 month old daughter now!). Because I wanted ramen, he suggested we go to Ramen Champion, somewhere I'd never heard of before! Ramen Champion is a "Marche-concept" restaurant where there are 6 different ramen stalls in one large restaurant and at the entrance, one is given a card where one's purchase is recorded. Payment is made at the exit based on the card.

At my friend's recommendation, I had Ikkousha's version of Hakata Ajitama Ramen, which he said was the most popular of the 6 ramen stalls here. The lady at the stall persuaded me to opt for the ramen bowl which had 7 slices of fatty pork meat and cost a hefty SGD17+ a bowl (regular version). The Slog Reviews: 6/10. The broth was so darn salty that finishing the soup base was not possible, and I was thankful to have my cup of bubble tea which I'd bought earlier with me to clean out my mouth between each bite. The noodles were firm and springy, no complaints but the meat had loads of fat, and being soaked in salty broth did nothing to improve the taste of the meat. I wouldn't go back to this stall again.

My friend on the other hand chose Bario, because he was starving. I understood what he meant when he carried his bowl of ramen to the table - a veritable mountain of ramen indeed! I think I'll try Bario the next time I go back!


When I complained to him about the saltiness of the Ikkousha ramen, he said I should try the Sappora Ramen because that had corn in it and would be sweeter.

Going to Ramen Champion today makes me wish I still had a job in town - just so I could savor the better fare instead of the stuff that passes for lunch in the boondocks. :D

Address: 201 Victoria Street Bugis Iluma #04-08/09/10 S(188607).
Operating Hours: 11.30am to 10.30pm
Te: +65 6238 1011

Spring Cleaning for the New Year

1 more difference between married life and single-hood, is the amount of spring-cleaning one has to do for Chinese New Year.

Previously, I just had to clean my room. Now, I have to clean the entire house.

After a day of work which consisted of back to back meetings in the office from 2 to 5.30pm, I came home and worked some more on the laptop till 9pm before unpacking my luggage bag from Vietnam which was still lying in the hall after a week, cleaning the bag with a wet wipe and storing it, and then sorting out the food area (because my in-laws had told my CEB that some of the food had expired...and yeah, I wonder too why he had to tell me instead of helping me sort out the food area).

I also washed my CEB's army bag which he had left soaking in a tub of dirty water before he left on Saturday, and hung it up to dry, along with my other travel bag, and then set the laundry for our clothes. After which I took in all the other clothes that I'd hung up to dry since Thursday, and then hung up the washed clothes after washing. I also hand-washed my 2 other silk blouses.

It was 11pm by the time I was done and the only thing I felt at the end was - it's just freaking crazy how much I am juggling .

If my CEB comes back and just bums around or goes out to enjoy himself, I know I'm going to lose it at him in big-time. I'm sorry but much as I love my CEB, he is going to have pull his weight around the house, and that includes cleaning the toilet from the mirrors to the cistern and the tub. I'm not his maid, or his mother. I'm his wife, and if he works and is tired, I work too! Ugh, why didn't someone tell me about this bit of marriage life before I got hitched!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Shopping with my little sister

7 for All Mankind. What kind of brand is that, and one that doesn't carry larger than a size 31 in Singapore? *irritated.

Shopping with my little sister always deals a heavy blow to the wallet, and the self-esteem. Let me elaborate: Firstly, I do not have her size 25-26 waist (on a 170cm frame). Secondly, I do not have the lifestyle that she currently enjoys with her Mister.

I so should not have gone shopping with her last Friday. Now I fully understand why some women hide their purchases in the car trunk. What am I, The Slog, doing with a pair of premium denim jeans with a price tag 4 times that of a decent pair from good old Levis?

I really need to start spring-cleaning for CNY early so I don't buy any more stuff!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Brunch at Ku De Ta at Marina Bay Sands

Ku De Ta is one of my sister's favorite places to be and to dine (if that word can be used given how very little she eats to preserve that figure which has been on the covers of magazines). So naturally, to celebrate my mother's birthday this year, we found ourselves having Sunday brunch at the restaurant. And at a window table indoors to boot, given how last minute the reservations were. But that's my sister we are talking about - given how she is a frequent diner there, and how last Xmas she and her Mister racked up more than SGD700 on Xmas dinner for the 2 of them alone....

Anyway. Ku De Ta for brunch buffet cost SGD68++ per pax. Which was not overly priced given the view, the ambiance, the "name" of the place, and the quality of the food. This was an ala carate menu buffet which meant that one could order the dishes one wanted of their (somewhat limited) menu. In the mean time, there was a spread laid out for desserts, cold cuts and cheese and bread, as well as mushrooms and soba which one could part-take of freely.

The menu had black angus beef but at 1pm, they had run out of beef which made me most upset. I mean, what kind of buffet runs out of a dish, and they had less than 15 dishes on the brunch menu! So we made do with the oysters, foie gras, chicken teriyaki, yellowfin tuna steak, prawn skewers, tempura, fried rice, all of which were rather limited in portion-size wise. There was also the breakfast menu one could order a chicken steak from, or crumpets even with eggs. Milkshakes like banana something, lychee with coconut milk, coffee (latte, mocha) and tea were also available in unlimited quantities.

I wish I could say it was impressive but it wasn't. The foie gras was of course done well, but how much of the extremely rich tasting liver one can realistically down is limited. The chicken teriyaki was burnt, the oysters took a long time coming although they were fresh (we had to ask 3 times), and my mum thought her fried rice was better than the one at Ku De Ta. The prawn skewers were unimpressive, and so were the eggplant and tempura dishes.

The dessert spread was pretty good and there was a fair selection of unique chocolate desserts all of which tasted delicious, like the balls which had a hint of banana. My mum thought I'd taken this plate below to share with the rest of the table, but no mdm, I finished all of it on my own,

And at the end of 3 hours of eating (the buffet brunch is from 10 to 3pm), I was so stuffed I could not open my eyes. It was raining outside and the aircon was slightly chilly so I took out my burberry cashmere shawl which is as soft, rich and fluffy as, well, I don't know, and wrapped it around myself...and almost dozed off. The rest carried on with their lattes and mocha shakes.

And I resisted going outside to take photos (since I'd been twice already) but my mother was insistent. Since it was her birthday, I had no choice but to walk around with the rest of the tourists and snap pictures which are probably duplicated a million times on facebook. The weather was pretty awful today and we got off the rooftop just before it started pouring really heavily.

The Slog Reviews: Not going back to Ku De Ta anytime soon for the brunch buffet. Although the place was packed (mostly with tourists), and some felt that it was not expensive given the quality of food, I know of an even better place to drop one's dollar and feel satisfied, as one should when going for an all-out-pig-out.

我的心太乱

我想要一个自己的空间
能够好好想想我们之间的明天
如果爱情不如我们想像的甜美
那么所有的最让我来背



Xu in Ho Chi Minh Vietnam - 1 of the best fine dining experience I've ever had

It is 8pm and I am still stuffed from the buffet brunch at Ku De Ta. I'll write about that later but first, let me share this absolutely fabulous dining experience I had in Ho Chi Minh. I'd walked past the restaurant on the way to Hard Rock Cafe for dinner the day before, and the simplicity of the menu outside, the glimpse of the interior, and 2 Japanese girls carrying a map and scurrying in, caught my attention. So, the next night, we were back for dinner at Xu.

The first level is the bar area which appears to be highly popular among the local folks and expats. Men and women can choose to sit at the bar, high bar tables or sprawl in comfy couches. The dining however, is on the second floor which looks like this. We did not have reservations (duh) but the sincerity (and not menace, I hope) written all over our faces got us in. Don't be fooled by the empty tables - the tables filled up really quickly by 7.30pm.

The servers spoke pretty good English and were helpful and friendly. Upon their recommendation, I ordered the fresh spring roll filled with ribeye. Now, my mother dislikes eating beef and when I mentioned that to the server, he was quick to check with the kitchen and offer to have the spring rolls filled with shrimp instead. However, given that the cost was VND200,000 still, I thought we should still stick with the ribeye.

When the dish was served, truth be told, I was aghast at the size of the portions. SGD12+ for just one spring roll which was sliced into 4 pieces. Yes yes, I know, fine dining, not pig out session but still. But the moment I bit into the spring roll, and the juices of the perfectly done ribeye flooded my mouth mixed with the accompanying greens within the roll, I was in gastronomy heaven. I kid you not. The right doneness, the right portions in each quarter, the sweetness and succulence of the meat, of the entire roll...even my mother said there wasn't any trace of "beefiness" at all. Yet it was still beef to a beef lover, and 1 of the best I ever had...in a spring roll at that!

The next dish is my mum's favourite out of all we had for dinner. Lemongrass skewered seabass. It sounds deceptively simple, and if it weren't for her, I wouldn't have ordered seabass at all because that is a cheap fish. And one that I have caught so many times, F.O.C. So why would I spend VND300K (SGD 18+) on a fish dish in Vietnam.

But..and I mean a huge but here...thank God I had my mother with me. Because the chef in the kitchen worked a miracle with the fish. No, not the Jesus kind of miracle by multiplying the fish. In fact, the opposite. I thought with the price tag on the dish, we would get a whole fish at the least, even if it was a small one. But wrong. Just 4 portions of fish. No kidding. For SGD20, I could get 4 whole seabasses in the market/fish pond.

The sweet onions, coconut milk and mushrooms accompanying the fish were so delicious that I wiped the plate clean. I don't care if those were there to beautify the dish because...they were so damn delicious. And the fish, when I say the chef worked a miracle, I meant it. He managed to turn this ordinary-tasting fish, into pure chunks of heavenly sweetness and flavor. And I mean flavor, the kind that bursts in your mouth and makes you think that if the world were to end with this fish dish in your mouth, you have absolutely no regrets. It is THAT good.

Out of deference to my mother again, I ordered the chicken roulade. Out of all the meat, chicken is at the bottom of my list but my mother loves chicken so...Anyway, when the dish was served, I was pretty immune now to the appalling portions. Again, for VND250 (SGD15+), the food was beautifully presented but so, so, so, limited in quantity. Esp when viewed by a glutton.

Now, the puree that accompanied the chicken which was more than ordinary slices/cuts of chicken somehow enhanced the experience of eating the chicken meat which appeared to be wrap around some sort of center. I am sorry I can't describe this dish better but believe me when I say the chicken was the most tender I've ever had.

Up next, coconut braised pork belly. Hey, all I am going to say is that...have you watched Masterchef? Because this dining experience made me feel like....wow, so this is what the really good food in life must taste like. I haven't been eating grass my entire life, and had the good fortune to eat at pretty pricey places both in Singapore and overseas (esp when travelling for work with the "Higher Beings"), but nothing I've eaten so far has moved me as much as the food in Xu. So. Order the pork belly (but only after you had the seabass which is still more awesome)

And surprisingly despite the little portions of everything, I was quite full by the end of the main courses. I suspect it has to do with the fact I ordered morning glory to go with the one bowl of rice that we shared. This was the only dish that didn't have me waxing lyricals because the entire dish was all stems. For VND60,000, I think we should have at least some green leaves!

We had room to spare for dessert and thankfully the server warned us the portions would be really small. I had no idea how small till dessert was served. Now, each dessert cost between USD 75cents to USD2, so we figured we could order 4 and share, so that we could try more. The coconut che (in the shotglass at the end) was ordinary, the durian one failed to impress in anyway, and the pandan pannacotta was just passable. The only one slightly more interesting was the sugar and cinnamon soursop parcel which was recommended by the server.

And...after having the 4 desserts, we ordered another 4 because frankly, a teaspoonful for 2 pax isn't quite going to cut it. The chocolate brownie with ice cream was a waste of money, the white chocolate custard was good, chocolate kumquat truffle was boring and I forget what the last one is. But you should get the drift by now - desserts at XU...not fab. Main courses...Fab.

The Slog Reviews: Don't, please don't miss out dining at Xu if you are ever in the bustling city of Ho Chi Minh...and especially if you are staying in District 1! If I ever have to (touch wood) go back to that city, you can be sure that I'll definitely be back for more of the good stuff.