Trip to Oriental Paris – Part 6


I almost forgot about this and thought of doing a closure post but then I just realised that there are still plenty of photos of food in my collection. So, let’s do probably another 1-2 posts on food (this included) before we “head back” home.

One of the juicy advertisement as we head towards our ride at one of the underground trains – the famed Peking Duck. When we were in Shanghai, we did not really had this dish for lunch or dinner but then we decided not to look for the place that serve the dish as well. But a friend of us who went to Beijing for a short trip had the Peking Duck packed and brought it back home.

That small logo at the top of the menu almost caught us – at we thought it was KFC‘s menu for their local dish but then we took a closer look at realised that it is not Colonel Sanders and it is just a logo that was used by one of the smaller restaurants near to our workplace. After all if you can get a crystal clear “imitation” of the Rolls Royce in China, what more of well known international brands and well known fast food dishes.

Don’t be mistaken – they also have the real KFC restaurants in the city but despite it being cheap and easy, we decided not to go for it – a quick look in the inside and things was not looking too good. The queue was long (mostly with over-excited youngsters) and there were very limited tables and chairs inside the restaurant for those who wish to dine in (the area looked small and stuffy too) and with some of us with handful of shopping bags, we decided not to take the risk either.

There is also a Chinese (albeit cheaper) version of Subway in the city. It is known as Starway and they operate in the same manner as the real Subway with the same types of bread with the same options of filing and with the almost identical modus operandi as Subway (the founder must have been an ex-Subway staff). The people behind the counter speak fluent English too so ordering was a breeze. And we often opt for this simple dish of bread with “halal” fillings (halal since they don’t serve beef, surprisingly) instead of walking out far in the cold and get ourselves the more complex noodles for dinner.

Starway bread of the day packed and filled – it’s cheap (less than RMB20), cleaner and surprising very tasty and more than enough to cover our hunger when we end up working late. Unfortunately they don’t provide delivery service though but thankfully the restaurant was not far away from our workplace (it is not crowded too – the locals have not caught on the idea of having bread for lunch or dinner) and we had caring colleagues who were wiling to “ta-pau” for the rest of us who were busy working to resolve the issues so that we all can go back and have a good night sleep (after a couple bottles of beers, of course).

Here’s something I gotten fond of when I order my bread from Starway – cold fresh vegetarian drink and often, 1 bottle is not enough (it never was) and somehow I often felt more healthy drinking this than the hot plain Chinese tea but then again it could be just my imagination because I also had plenty of tea and beer during my stay in Shanghai and I never fell sick (even after I walked in the rain on several occasions)

Thankfully the sense of imitation did not extend to other kind of restaurants. The Korean fast food restaurant was pretty authentic with proper Korean dishes with Korean restaurant setting. Prices ranges from RMB40 to RMB120 and it was not so bad considering the portions was sufficient enough – it was heavy but was not overwhelming to our taste. The only complaint was the entrance to this restaurant – we had to go through a small lift and there was only one that was working, so we were praying for the lift not to breakdown when were inside the lift.

The good old “nasi goreng” – you can get them hot and tasty no matter where you go. This one was not that bad (I had better ones when I was in Ghana – the spicy scrimp fried rice was really, really good) but at least it was rather safe to eat – you know what is in it. I wished they had a good sambal to go with that.

Here’s another dish from the Korean restaurant that we went – more meat than the rest and gravy too. Ha, I already missing the home cooked chicken curry.

We also found a small Thai restaurant just behind the place we were staying – we almost missed it as there was no big sign-board on the front but it only realised that it is a Thai restaurant after we had checked inside (it looked like a bar from the outside). They had the usual Thai wish-list food on the menu but it was quite pricey and thus we decided to go safe by ordering fried rice. It was good but it was no where near to the usual fried rice that we often get at Thai restaurants – it was not spicy enough for our standards.

The Tom Yam that we had was not that good as the Tom Yam we get in Malaysia – it was more watery but it was slightly spicier than the other dishes. It was also missing some Thai ingredients but that is understandable – it may not be easy to get the right stuff in the city. But at least we got something closer to home than the usual noodles and soups. We also found Malaysian restaurant from the net but it was a bit from where we were staying and further since we are going back home soon, we decided to wait out and get real, cheaper Malaysian food once we are back.

To be continued…

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Expensive Pandas & Pretty Girls


Read this first:-

(RM20 million for a couple of pandas – are you sure we are not getting the real-life Kung Fu Pandas for a kill? Only in Malaysia you can get this kind of crap from those entrusted to manage and safe-guard tax-payers money. Image source: http://deseretnews.blogspot.com/)

I guess it will get crazier as we get nearer to the general election…

RM20 million Pandas

Damn, are these jokers serious…are they really serious?

Animal conservation groups just don’t understand why the government is spending RM20 million on two pandas from China when some of our own species are facing extinction. They say the RM20 million would go a long way to save our species.

“This is a case of [Malay proverb) kera di hutan disusukan anak di rumah mati kelaparan [Importance is given to outsiders rather than own family],” said Professor Dr Maketab Mohamed, president of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS).

He stressed that local species such as the Sumatran rhinoceros, the Malayan tiger, the tapir, pangolin and elephants to a certain extent face extinction. “The budget allocated to Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (Perhilitan) for its conservation efforts is hardly sufficient. For enforcement effort itself, the budget will usually run out in three months,” he said. The pandas are on a 10-year loan from China and will be housed in special air-conditioned enclosures in Putrajaya wetlands.

(Source)

And before you think that we have plenty of spare change for the 2 pandas, air-conditioned enclosures, specially imported bamboos and related unnecessary expenses, this was reported on the same day:-

The Finance Ministry has tabled the Supplementary Supply 2012 Bill for RM13.79bil to meet additional expenses on services and specific purposes not provided for under the Supply Act 2012. The Bill was tabled by Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussein for first reading with allocation for 14 ministries including the Prime Minister’s Department and the Election Commission.

(Source)

The RM20 millions on the panda may not cover the shortfall of RM13.79 billion (with subsidies taking a big chunk of it) but RM20 million (rest assured in a couple of years, this is going to balloon to another couple more of millions due to rising air-conditioning electricity bill, high price of imported bamboos, etc) is still a lot of money and these jokers have the cheek to spend it on some pandas from China? Who is going to pay for this and who is going to get a chunk of the tax-payers money – the Chinese Government or some politician linked cronies? What else this RM20 million suppose to cover – just the loan and maintenance of the pandas in the country or it is just a tip of the iceberg – we are going to get the other nonsense like an undisclosed supply and support contract coming up soon)?

And this nonsense with public funds should just stop – why we always seems to have the village idiots at the pilot seat whenever it comes to allocation of public funds for more crucial development expenses like educations (PTPTN seems to be short of money) or healthcare (remember the 1Care nonsense?) or at least on the conservation of threatened local wildlife. It is either this or having politicians and their families using public funds for their own private expenses

As I have said in the past, it has been sometime since we got someone who is bent on maximizing the income for the Government (by closing the loop-holes for corruption, tax-evasion, etc) whilst at the same time, slashing down unnecessary expenses and then with the funds available, prioritizing the spending of the limited resources for the right, non-political biased purposes (or perhaps repay some of the ever growing foreign debts)

And I don’t see why we should provide these people who abuse the public funds another lease of life in the next general elections (not that it will be easy to do considering that there are people out there who are more worried on other things but remain silent on other major issues like the RM20 million for the 2 pandas. What next? The price or the brand of underpants that the politician wears? Sigh)

(Women all around the world have fought for equal rights which includes the right to vote. The last thing they need is for some politician to come along to say that pretty girls would not vote if they have to put a mark on their finger. Image source: http://www.rense.com/general83/whywomen.htm)

Pretty Girls Logic

It has been some time since we heard something from Kayveas (ever since he lost the Taiping seat and PPP took a heavy beating in the last general elections) and unfortunately when he did, it simply sounded too stupid:-

Pretty girls would hate to have their beauty marred by indelible ink when casting their ballots during the upcoming 13th general election, said People’s Progressive Party (PPP) president Datuk Seri M. Kayveas. Addressing the Federal Territories (FT) PPP convention here yesterday, he said that beautiful young women might not want to cast their votes because of the indelible ink.

“Indelible ink lasts three months. In less developed countries where they do not have a voter registration system based on the identification card, this was used to cast the ballot,” he said. “Here we have identification cards which can be checked against the registration list.

“I don’t think beautiful girls will want the indelible ink to mar their pretty hands or nails. How are they supposed to paint their nails afterwards? They might not even want to meet their boyfriends after voting or they might not even vote. “Women should rise up and protest against the implementation of indelible ink.”

(Source)

Hmm, looks like things have not changed much since 2008.

Ever since the idea of using the indelible ink in the next general elections was mooted, there have been arguments for and against it and for those who had argued against the use of the indelible ink have argued to use biometrics instead. It is a very valid argument – after all, we have one of the best biometric systems already in place. But none of them have argued with the same “level of thinking” as Kayveas did.

Kayveas said that beautiful young women (hmmm, no handsome men?) might not want to cast their votes because of the indelible ink. It seems that being pretty is a curse when it comes to casting of votes, so implies Kayveas. Is this politician saying beautiful young women are dumb and unpatriotic just because of a mark on their fingers? It does not make any sense ( just take a look at the Bollywood actresses including the famed Aishwarya Rai voted and having a mark on their fingers here and here and here) and certainly is not a valid and intelligent reason to opt for biometrics over indelible ink. And even so, the Fatwa Committee have given their blessings and the EC have decided to use indelible ink for the upcoming general elections.

Kayveas should focus more on PPP’s strategy and relevance in the up-coming general elections. As voters, we are indeed interested to know how PPP have made the transition from the time they were “slaughtered” in the last general elections. What is their game plan considering that we had Bersih 3.0 recently and the Pakatan Rakyat have somehow became stronger since 2008? We want to hear something worth listening or is this just another chapter of the circus that we expect to see before the general elections.

Hopefully we wise up when deciding who we will vote in next election – the last we want to do is to vote one that abuse taxpayer’s money on unnecessary expenses or our sense of intelligence.

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Trip to Oriental Paris – Part 5


(Countdown – 322 days to “doomsday”)

Weekends are rest days and it is the best time to catch up on sleep and when that’s done, for the rest of the day, it is time to go around town.

One of the best ways to travel around the city is to use the ever excellent and efficient Metro service and we were just lucky to have a Metro station close to our hotel. Navigating around the station was not that difficult – plenty of large signs in English and color-coded arrows but for those who cannot communicate in Mandarin, you may have some trouble communicating with the Metro staff but then again, you will not have problem communicating with fellow passengers for assistance.

During our time, there were incidents of Metro trains stalling and derailing causing some injuries to some peak-hours passengers. So when some one proposed that we take Metro to go for shopping, we were a bit apprehensive about of safety. But then, we decided to take some chance – we did not think it was that bad. The journey itself was uneventful but it did gave us a good opportunity to see the Shanghai’s young generation in action. They dress well and almost all is playing games on their smartphones or listening to music. The adults on the other hand looks more stressed up. Everyone is rather quiet and minding their own business.

One of the places we decided to go using Metro this time is an old temple in Shanghai. We were hoping to do some shopping along the way as well.

The first place we went was the Jin’an Temple – it was an impressive structure in the middle of the city and next to shopping malls. It is said that it is the oldest temple in the city – built in 247 AD and was the site for China’s first Buddhist organization in 1912, then during the Cultural Revolution, it was converted into a plastics factory. We arrived at the temple early but somehow we decided not to enter inside the temple – the entrance fees or the modern outlook of the temple or maybe the time we arrived may have been the cause – I am not sure. We took some photos outside of the temple and contemplated on what would be the next move.

We then decided to go to another temple – the famed Jade Buddhist Temple that was built in 1882 to place the 2 jade Buddha statues which had been brought from Burma. The temple was crowded with tourists (they were arriving by the busloads which included a couple of Malaysians) and devotees (mostly old people) by the time we arrived. We went there in 2 taxis – it was easy to get a taxi to the temple but it is a different story when you want to leave – there is hardly a taxi on sight and there is a long queue at the taxi stand. We had to pay to enter this temple as well but if I was not wrong, the charges seemed cheaper.

Despite the actual age and compared to the Jin’an Temple, this temple looked older and a bit run-down. Whilst others decided to do some prayers – some of us decided to walk to the souvenir shops for some cheap Buddhist relics and other souvenirs for home (they were selling jade here as well). We knew some of the items on sale were priced higher than usual but we decided that the extra money that we paid for the items will probably go in the end, towards the temple and the administration cost which we did not mind.

The temple complex was quite extensive with several smaller buildings and it took a couple of hours to walk around the place. If you really look hard enough, there is plenty of things to see here – including decorative footpaths and a rather ancient looking pictures. We feel really warm in this temple complex – all buildings that we went did not had any air-conditioner and there is very little place you can sit under a shade. This caused us to feel very thirsty – so make sure you have plenty of water with you (we did not see any stall selling water here but I am sure there is one but is likely to be overpriced). I packed about 3 bottles of drinking water in my bag but still it was not enough. It was quite late in the afternoon when we were simply too tired (and hungry & thirsty) to go further. We walked out (not before being bugged by the beggars outside the temple – I became an easy target for them) for the nearest Metro station (it was quite a long walk from the temple to the station) and looked for a place to have lunch.

To be continued…

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Trip to Oriental Paris – Part 4


(Countdown – 345 days to “doomsday”)

Read Part 1 here
Read Part 2 here
Read Part 3 here

Yes, still continuing with food post…

When one is in China and is having his food, one thing seemed certain – there is plenty of non-halal food and Chinese tea (of various grade and quality) to go around (although fast food and other foreign food seemed to be in favor at certain part of the city especially at the financial district). And there were also the highly nutritious mushrooms.

I realized now that at almost every dish we had for dinner, at least one would be mushroom dish and although we were wary of possibility of mushroom poisoning (being in China), it quickly became our must-have dish every time we have dinner.

Out of the many mushroom dishes we had, the above dish is our favorite – good enough to be eaten on its own, we had once ordered 2 plates of it. The dish was really simple but what makes the huge difference is the type of mushroom they used to cook and the way they cook it – a simple frying of the mushroom with sweet sauce and the juicy broccoli. When eaten it is almost crunchy with a smoother texture added to it and it is not that oily too. I am trying to find the same dish back home but have not seen one yet.

The above baby mushrooms dish was also good for our taste but the portions of the baby mushrooms was too small for us. The other things in the dish – vegetables and tofu somehow made up for the lack of portion.

Mixed vegetables (can’t recall what else was in there) – Shanghaian style – most of the bowls served is small sized, so when the waitresses serve our food, it is often served almost overflowing as you can see above and that makes it a bit delicate when one who is used to eat with spoon & fork, is picking the food (which is often made slippery due to the corn flour) with chopsticks.

Larger chunks of mushrooms and light soy sauce – another pure mushroom dish that we had but this time for lunch (we decided to pool our lunch money and go for cooked dishes instead). Interestingly it was not that salty despite it was rather heavy with the soy sauce (maybe because we had other dishes that compensated the taste or was it the tea that we were having, I am not sure).

Having plenty of vegetables seemed to be a better idea than having meat from an unknown source or fat laden meat – it was “light” on the stomach too. I rarely take mushrooms when in Malaysia – there are not many Malaysian dishes that goes heavily with mushrooms. The only time I encountered mushrooms (often button mushrooms) these days is when we go for Chinese food for dinner (or when one cooks soup at home).

To be continued…

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Trip to Oriental Paris – Part 2


Read Part 1 here

(From the airport and towards the city center – it is a long straight road which meant our taxi was “flying” and despite the taxi slowing down at certain places where I saw automated enforcement system, it still felt fast all the way until we reached the city)

I managed to catch “Horrible Bosses” on the on-demand in-flight video and I must say that movie was one the funniest movie I ever seen – the multi-talent and well known cast and well written comedy that is so fluid (but be aware – it is not safe for kids).

We landed in the morning after a smooth flight – despite reports of cyclones, there were no major turbulence in the way. The flight has been a pleasant one too – all the passengers “behaved” themselves and service was top notch (as usual). A quick stop at the immigration was interesting – unlike the usual tough looking officers, the officers here were young and friendly (and yes, they actually smiled and we felt so welcomed – anyone after more than 5 hours flight would have greatly appreciate it too) and after a quick check (no one stopped us at the customs), we walked along looking for taxi. Language was not an issue at the international airport – there is more than enough airport staff who can speak some basic form of English (“yu wan taxi?” was more than enough for us to understand).

Being so obvious me being a foreigner (imagine an Indian in a sea of Chinese), there were handful of hotel agents trying to get us to book the overpriced limousine to the city center but we kept on walking until we reached the taxi stand. We have been advised to take the public taxi on the outside which was cheap (it cost us only CNY156 compared to CNY500++ for a limo) and as reliable as the expensive hotel limo (but not necessarily be safer). We picked the first taxi at the stand and passed the hotel details to the taxi driver who did not speak a dust of English but it was not a big problem. We had pre-printed the hotel address in Chinese, my colleague spoke fluent Mandarin and as backup, we even had the numbers of our contacts at hand, in case we got lost and we needed someone to communicate the details to the driver.

(The local taxis, Volkswagen Santana Vista kind of reminded me of the early Proton Sagas – boxy, bulky and feels less sturdy)

Sitting in a Volkswagen Santana Vista (the standard model for the taxis here), I looked around but did not feel eased despite it being a Volkswagen (the quality looked too close to some run down Chinese cars than to a brand new, quality built Golf). But I was impressed with how the driver turned on his on-board GPS, punched in the coordinates and starts driving. The taxi may feel cheap but it was high tech. The taxi also had this small touch-screen monitor at the back where you can view the map, ads and other information. The road from airport to the city center was well maintained and had far more lanes than the highways back home.

Since we arrived just after the morning peak hours, the road was almost empty and this only meant one thing – our taxi was “flying” on the highway. We were beginning to have doubts if we were going to make it in one piece. We were literally hanging on to our dear life and wished we could have taken the limousine instead. We were saying silent prayers hoping the “runaway” taxi would slow down.

Thankfully God must have heard our prayers – the taxi driver slowed down as we reached the city centre – there was enough traffic on the road to keep the taxi on a safer driving speed. The roads in the city were very clean and most drivers abide by the traffic rules and I also noticed most of them are driving Audi, Volkswagen and other premium European cars as well – not surprisingly China is one of the richest country in the world and certainly an eye opener for me after all that talk of too many cheap cars in China (the same happened when I went to Chennai).

(Clean and inviting – kudos to the local authority for making sure that all is well maintained and clean and plenty of greenery. The weather was really good at this point of the year, so late afternoon stroll walk in the park was tempting)

We reached the hotel after almost an hour drive from the airport – it is a 4-star hotel, so quality, service and cleanliness is top notch and the room has one spectacular view. The only downside of the hotel is the bathroom – it is glass walled and you can see the bath tub from the bed. Certainly it is a “huge” problem when sharing the room with another colleague. Deciding that it is too late or not possible to change the accommodation arrangements, we decided to work on a solution – we managed to close the glass wall with blinders and with another smaller bathroom inside the main bathroom, privacy was almost assured. But still, it is a bad design on the part of the hotel.

There was no time to take a rest – we had our work cut out for the day. A quick shower and a change of clothes and we were off for our appointment. At first we wanted to walk – our destination was not far from the hotel and since the weather was good, it was perfect for a walk but we then changed our mind. We decided to take a cab (cost us about CNY14) and keep the walking later for the day. This time, there was no “runaway” taxi to contend with.

To be continued…

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Still Here


An interesting email dropped into my inbox today – it is from my weekly Chinese horoscope and interestingly it said “Early November is overflowing with the scribbling of lists and organizing of schedules”. Interesting because I just completed a long checklist and finalize project schedule for the weekend

Sorry for long absence – one was due to work but the other reason is that there is a “great wall” blocking access to Facebook, blogs and Twitter, So, I have do without those for now and update only after I come back.

P.s. photo caption – the view from my room at night – taken with a N8

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