elb's hovel of thoughts

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

5 million cheap tickets won't prevent me from saying goodbye to MAS

Just a day after Malaysia Airlines announced the 5 million cheap seats (which if you ask me, is a good marketing strategy against AirAsia/ FAX disguised as a Visit Malaysia Year 2007 excuse), I received a certain mail.

It opens to reveal:

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My flying reward card, and accompanying luggage tags. No, not with Malaysia Airlines. Malaysia Airlines never sent me mine since I asked for it a good couple of years ago, nor did they bother to attend to my complaints. This belongs to Emirates.

Yes, I have decided to ditch Malaysia Airlines. This despite actually liking the flight schedule; I could get a solid 8 hour sleep while on the night flight departing London, arriving in the afternoon in KL with no jet lag whatsoever. Same with the flight back.

Why, then? I basically wanted a change, and the cheaper tickets helped.
1) One could easily save a couple hundred pounds flying Emirates as compared with Malaysia Airlines. Couple hundred pounds = a trip down to Armani / a massive boost to the camera fund bank savings.

2) The ability to take a few days break at Dubai is immensely appealing, and as future posts will show, I did take full advantage of that facility. And the ability to purchase Middle Eastern and duty free goods!

3) Newer planes! Boeing 777s versus ageing 747-400s. More comfortable seats (the bottom of the seats actually move forward as you recline for a more natural posture), and a fantastic range of entertainment (oh dear, that's exactly the opposite of the idea of sleeping the distance, but yeah, some of the biggest movie hits, on demand!). So what if Malaysia Airlines is going to buy some Airbus A380s? Emirates is buying more!

4) Online check in from 12 hours before the actual flight. Want that coveted window seat? Or perhaps you fancy the seat near to the emergency exits? Its possible (subject to availability, of course)! And the check in line at the airports are so much shorter if you had completed the on line check in.

5) Better food than Malaysia Airlines, believe it or not. And we actually get menus (Malaysia Airlines stopped giving out menus a few years ago)!

6) The my-reward-card-never-showed-up reason. Enough said, I don't even want to think about it.

7) Bla bla bla....

p.s. Although to be fair, my first flight on Emirates on the LHR <-> KUL in a few years (I did it once a long, long time ago) was not without incident. Those of you who know me will recall that I fell sick a couple of days before the flight as well as the most miserable of coughs that kept me awake for the vast majority of the journey back to KL. Needless to say, this coupled with the resultant lack of sleep, resulted in a couple of incidents. You know who you are; you were busy so I didn't want to reschedule and inconvinience you. I'm sorry.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Home made tapai made easy

Here's how to make tapai in several easy steps.

1. Cook rice as you normally would
2. Switch rice cooker off to prevent drying and to eliminate the chances of a fire
3. Leave for three days
4. Open, scoop up and eat*

* I bear no responsibility should any harm to your health come about as a result of this.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Kampachi @ Equatorial

The following review concerns the Japanese restaurant Kampachi, located at Hotel Equatorial, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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The little decoration in the middle of the table.

We went there for lunch and managed to get a quiet corner before the main working lunching crowd came out. The menu was decent, and soon enough our food came:

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Mixed tempura. The selection provided here is intriguing: we even had a shiso leaf served as a tempura! The batter could have been lighter, on the other hand. 7/10

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Salt grilled saba (mackerel). This was very well done and comes highly recommended. 8/10.

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The sukiyaki. This was not bad, as always I could do with more noodles and beef. 7/10.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Culture Shock & Observations II

This post documents the reverse culture shock that I have experienced during my trip back home to Malaysia.

In the UK, I would be doing the speed limit (70 miles an hour, roughly 112 km an hour) on the motorway, and I would be one of the slowest cars; elderly gentlemen would be overtaking with ease. In Malaysia, if I did the speed limit on the highway, I would be one of the fastest cars on the road. If there is something that MUST be done and hasn’t been implemented yet, it has to be a minimum speed limit for every driver. When I took my UK driving lessons, my instructor told me that anyone driving too slowly would be failed.

I’m sick and tired of roadblocks. I got caught in no less than 5 roadblocks during my brief trip home; one of them had the policeman stick his head in front of my face and engaging me in conversation in his vain attempt to smell the alcohol from my cocktail. The worst was around USJ where you had RELA members pretending to be cool and hiding behind trees. What did they catch there? Two secondary school students, who had changed their motorcycle cosmetically. All the roadblocks are useless and a waste of time and taxpayer money; they should be patrolling the streets instead.

To the ah beng who so casually crossed the road in front of my car, coolly sticking your hand out with your palm open, it was a pity you didn’t see me giving you the finger, or hear the Aussie at the back give a snigger. If I wasn’t feeling so benevolent, I would have stuck the pedal to the floor.

And fuck you to the asshole who was trying to cut into my lane at the traffic light. I realized that I should be heading on straight along the main road instead of waiting at the traffic light trying to turn right. So, when I tried to turn, I realized that you had conveniently parked your car to my side, trying to get in. I gave you a honk, and gestured at you to please move forward a little and cut in at the car in front. But you wouldn’t budge. So for 15 minutes I was there, pressing the horn for the majority of the time, but no, you were too brainless to move just a couple of meters in front so that my car could get on its way. You have no idea how much restraint I put myself into limiting my pissed-off-ness into just a barely-satisfying honk as I overtook your car when the traffic policeman finally allowed the cars to enter the turning. Ah, fuck you and your tudung buddies. Actually, fuck all of you who on purpose try to cut lanes at the last second.

And to the old Chinese uncle who conveniently climbed down from your lorry without looking back at the incoming traffic (i.e. my car, accelerating as it was squeezing between a parked car and said lorry, which was being unloaded, and almost hitting you as you climbed down), sigh. I was going to say something (more of letting off steam thanks to the queue-cutting idiots) as I lowered the window. But somehow I found myself at loss for words, and I merely shook my head and closed the window and moved on.

I still cannot fathom why people insist on wearing fading clothes (say, old Mickey Mouse t-shirt and shorts probably bought five years ago in some night market) in public. If that really is all you have to spare, fine. But, looking at the way they are groomed, it is obvious that many could (and definitely have) better clothes in the cupboard, but for some reason are not wearing them. Please, just dress a bit more better. And presentably, too. I would never ever dream of stepping into the streets of London wearing what you wear, and I bet you wouldn't either.

And please, please dress for the occasion. If it’s fine dining, then please at least go dressed in casual formal clothes. It should be made compulsory; well-used golf shirts don’t seem to quite fit in the bill. No, you don’t have to be decked in the latest Armani or Prada. There are many nice clothes available for much cheaper.

Speaking of designer goods, it seems that at every turn, I would inevitably spot a lady clutching either a LV or Gucci bag. God knows why anyone would choose either of those hideous bags, and it is probably beyond God himself as to why anyone would even bother to buy fakes of those eyesores. If you can’t afford it, get something cheaper, and nicer, instead of cheapening, and cheating, yourself. If you can, please go and choose something better. Don’t even get me started on the ah bengs and ah lians.

End of part 2. We’ll see if I can remember enough incidents to warrant a part 3....

Part 1 is here.

Update: I have appeared to ruffled the feathers of some anonymous people. Well, just for the record, there are still many things that I do miss about Malaysia. I just haven't blogged about them yet. Tsk tsk, jumping ahead of yourselves, aren't you. And rest assured, there are many things that I do not like about the UK, namely yob & hoodie culture, the perennial gloom that is the sky, the overcrowded trains/ Underground, etc etc. I will talk about them another day.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Back in London/ Wishlist

Am back in London, for those of you who didn't already know beforehand. It was like a hurricane out there for the better part of the day; I decided to confine myself at home rather than risk having something fall onto me, as what happened at the West India Quay and London Bridge stations...

I finally got down to updating my wishlist after a very long time. Its not too late to contribute! Unlike some people, I am not superstitous when it comes to receiving gifts late, so feel free to bless me with your generosity...


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Upcoming Food & Travel Posts

A sneak preview of things to come:

I shall review the food at the Japanese establishment of Kampachi, located at the Hotel Equatorial, Kuala Lumpur.

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Not to mention sampling Tai Thong's latest offering, the Imperial China @ Subang.

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It is not all expensive food though; I also sample various spots around the Klang Valley:

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Also covered under travel will be:

The completion of the very brief travel logs in Bangkok.

Commencement of the Dubai travel entries. What would it entail? If all goes well:

I will take you to explore the world of Ski Dubai, perhaps the only place where skiing is a feasibility in the Middle East, as well as the Mall of the Emirates which is the biggest shopping mall outside of the US of A.

We will take a look at the Dubai Shopping Festival, where daily raffles of gold bars, Lexus luxury cars, private jets and the like are being held. Not to mention a sneak preview of Quidam, Cirque du Soleil's 6 week tour of Dubai being held at the Ibn Battuta mall.

Not all the sights and shopping are modern. We will visit the markets (or souks, as they call them) and haggle in the old district of Deira, go drifting in the dunes of the desert, buggy riding in the desert, and watching some belly dancing in the middle of the desert.

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Quad-biking, anyone?

I also visit the Burj al-Arab, the so-called 7-star hotel (in reality it is really just a 5-star hotel). Does it live up to its hype? Review of this hotel, and more, to come. Stay tuned!

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A crystal scale model of the Burj.

p.s. I reiterate: that's the plan, anyway. The usual posts about everyday life will still occur, at any rate.


Bangkok food, condensed 1

Some random food pictures around Bangkok, part 1.

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Random stall at the Suan Lum night bazaar.

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Another stall at the same bazaar, where we ordered holy basil fried rice with beef. Very delicious, but we were full...

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Stall in Chinatown

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Another stall in Chinatown

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A monk having his fill of food.

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Economy rice.

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(Raw!)crab salad

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Deep-fried fish maw (I think) mango salad.


Tony Roma's review

The following review concerns the Tony Roma's outlet located in Sunway Pyramid, Malaysia.

One of the 'things-to-do' on my list during the vacation back in Malaysia, most notably due to fond memories of enjoying the baby back pork ribs in Los Angeles once upon a time, I soon found my way there.

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Mango and Strawberry Romarita. A frozen margarita made with mixing Jose Cuervo gold, Cointreau, mango and strawberries. 7/10.

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Onion loaf. Really just a stack of onion rings, with dip in the middle. Very oily and soggy. A disappointing 3/10.

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The burger. Don't know how it turned out (I'm not an authority on burgers), but I've seen bigger.

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The supposed big selling point of this place - the ribs. Full rack of barbequed beef ribs, these were tender and came with four different types of barbeque sauces. RM6x. However, we felt that the ribs at Uncle Chilli's is better value. 7/10.

Overall verdict? Disappointing. Perhaps it was my fault of having a high expectation. I will not return unless I have to, or perhaps to another branch where I can actually find my baby back pork ribs. 5/10.

p.s. I also saw at least two Tony Roma's outlets in Dubai. No idea whether it is halal there or not, but knowing Dubai, I wouldn't be surprised if one could find pork ribs there.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Le Francais @ One Bangsar

One Bangsar appears to be a row of restaurants (and bars), specialising in various cuisines, such as Japanese, Thai, French et al. This review concerns the French restaurant, called Le Francais, where E and I celebrated our upcoming birthdays.

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The exterior of the restaurant.

A picture of the interior. The restaurant is able to hold 50 people. The menu should change every now and then, just as an upmarket restaurant should.

A bottle of Evian mineral water in fancy glass container (1.5L if I am not mistaken) goes for RM35. At right is the strawberry and mango tea (RM8), with the honey separate.

Here is the lime juice (RM8), with sugar water on the side, with the buns. May I say at this point that the butter is absolutely fantastic!!
Raw scallops with black truffle and some other stuff (RM52). This was a very light and delicate dish.

Roast lamb shank with roasted vegetables on top of a bed of pasta. (RM78)

Pan-fried rouget fillet coated with black olive paste on a bed of mashed potatoes, served with vegetables. The fish was too dry, but I found the olive paste intriguing. (RM72)

And oh, dessert! RM28. Steamed meringue floating on a sweet 'soup' (I can't remember what it was), with walnuts and caramel. I found this to be the most unique dish that we had that day; however the meringue on its own was pretty bland.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Pavilion KL - Better than Siam Paragon?

Siam Paragon is perhaps the swankiest and most upmarket shopping mall in Bangkok. This is NOT the place to grab cheap bargains and imitation goods, for those please head to Chaktuchak or Suan Lum night bazaar.

The interior

Near the area where the more expensive eateries can be found (including a dedicated Chinese delicacy restaurant, Tony Romas (with pork ribs!!!), etc. Note that there is plenty of water flowing about.

A grand piano sits there as well.
Just two of the many. many designer names available. Definitely not the place to be if you are on a tight budget. Perhaps the cheapest you can get is Zara or MNG.

An aquarium in the food court! There is also a proper aquarium in the basement (ala Aquaria). The food court is also where 95% of the crowd was, no surprises there.

It was Christmas, obviously.

Will the soon-to-be-completed Pavilion KL be able to rival this place (and in so doing, trouncing KLCC, Starhill Gallery et al?). Some people certainly think so.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Bangkok condensed

Did nothing much in Bangkok except to shop (i.e. shopping spree @ Zara [the real one, thank you very much]), with bits and pieces of sightseeing thrown in. Here are some random photographs.

Spires of the Emerald Temple, Wat Phra Kaew

Thank you, M, for taking the trouble to bring us around! Wish it could have been longer, but I'm glad that you're safe.

Exterior of the Central World Plaza, near where one of the bombs went off.

Someone please, please show these to Ken Livingstone and TfL. Its easily twice the width of the Underground trains!!!

Of course, a trip to Thailand wouldn't be complete without a massage, would it?

And lastly, one of me and M @ the Emerald temple ;)