Massage at Cozy Spa & Dinner at Echo Beach in Bali

Since our last trip two years ago to Bali, my wife and I have decided that we should visit to Bali every year for our holidays. However, it did not happened last year as I travelled twice to Bali for conferences and hence skipped promised holidays with her.

This year was a busy year as well and we are both overwhelmed by the workload and the holidays had slipped through our minds. Coincidentally, one of wife’s friends has open a fashion boutique shop in Ubud and we decided to tag along for a four-person trip.

We booked the tickets via Air Asia just one week before flying and the thought of traveling to Bali for holidays just kept both of us excited for the entire week ! (finally away from calls and emails…)

View taken from the Air Asia plane
Landing soon ! Wondering what was the small island there..

Touched down ! The euphoric feel of having a holiday threw all thoughts on works and emails right into the back of my brain. The immigration hall is filled with tourists whom are as excited as we are and it does take a while if you were to queue for custom clearance. Luckily, I was holding a APEC travel card which we both managed to skip the queue.

Getting a Local Sim Card and Finding a Taxi

There are two things we need to accomplish:
1. Getting a local sim to stay in contact with our friends.
2. Finding a taxi to go to the spa that we have booked earlier in the week.
Like many countries (except in China), you can get a local sim card at the Denpasar airport easily. Once you stepped out of the arrival hall, there is an eye catching red booth on the left that sell simPATI sim cards. You can approached them and they can help to setup your phone with local sim card in four simple steps:

1. Choose a plan (various plan available, depending on duration of stay)
2. Give them your phone and they will change the sim card for you.
3. Activation will be done by them.
4. Pay them the money. (I have chose a 4 day plan with 8GB of data usage at Rp 350,000 (est. S$35))

Note: There are neither need to register nor showing of any IDs. 

First thing completed, next will be calling a taxi. As advised from my Indonesian friend, it would be better to get taxi from a local taxi company, Blue Bird than finding unlicensed “taxi” which may end up more expensive. (Note that those unlicensed taxi drivers are lining up along the arrival hall trying to get customers.)
We saw a booth on the right side of the arrival hall with a Blue Bird signboard and booked a taxi promptly. It cost about Rp 215,000 (est. S$22). They politely ushered us to a waiting area before a driver came and show us to the car. Then, we realised we had booked the wrong type of taxi.
We have actually booked the Golden Blue Bird (which is still under the same group but more expensive) instead of the conventional Bird Blue taxi which you can flag down if you walk further out to the car waiting area. Nevertheless, they are using SUVs for the premium service and definitely more comfortable.

Two Hours Massage at Cozy Spa

As our friends will only land in Bali two hours later, we have booked for a massage at Cozy Spa recommended by them as well. Though it should only a 15 minutes ride to the spa, the chatty driver was hard selling his car rental services in his simple english and ended up getting lost in his way. Luckily, we still managed to reach the spa in time.

Once stepping into the spa, the staff greeted politely before explaining the procedures of the spa and making payment before commencement of the spa. It cost about Rp 290,000 (est. S$29) for 2 hours massage per person which can be paid either in cash or credit card.

They does not have individual or couple private rooms like those in the hotels, but they provides a partition room with curtains. Though it may not be fully sound proof, but the staff have gently reminds the guest to switch off or turn the phone to silent mode and observe silence during the course of massage.

Before commencement, the masseur would politely whisper in your ears that they are starting the massage. Laying a silky white cloth over your body, he slowly kneads with adequate strength slowly from neck downward before apply essential oil onto the body, focusing and working on each and every meridian points on the back. While enjoying and relieving myself from the aching back from sitting on a plane, I slipped into sleep in the tranquil ambience.

Reception and waiting area of Cozy Spa
Reception and waiting area of Cozy Spa.

Before I knew it, the masseur tapped on my shoulders and the session has ended. I dressed up with the robe provided and he ushered me to the bathroom for shower. One of the unique thing was they are using they own in-house shampoo and bath foam. There was this shampoo with olive oil and bath foam with ginger and peppermint. You will definitely feel much refresh after the bath and covered yourself with the sweet scent of these natural ingredients.

Last but not the least, we are offered a cup of ginger tea which ended the session entirely.

You may find information about the spa below:

Cozy Spa
Address: Jalan Sunset Road No. 66, Kuta, Bali
Phone: +62-812-38506611

Seafood Dinner at Echo Beach

directional signboard on echo board
I like the slogan.

If you enjoy dinner by the seaside, Jimbaran Beach is not the only place in Bali you can do that. Echo Beach also offers great seafood at your own selection as well. The restaurant is huge with indoors and outdoors sitting. My suggestion – if you like a quiet ambience, take indoor. If you would like to enjoy the sea breeze, definitely outdoor.

Benches under the tent of echo beach.
Sitting on the benches in a open tent while enjoying the sea breeze.

Without any hesitation, we walked to the outdoor area. Hey, we are facing walls so much in Singapore, it is time to take a real good look at the sea. The place is literally scattered with benches and you can sit anywhere, as long as there is no one sitting on it.

the display fridge with fresh seafood for selection
What is everyone looking at ?

So how do you order the food ? Simple.

Instead of having a conventional menu (which they do have), you can go over to the counter where there is a row of fridges with fresh seafood. You can select your favourite seafood, and they will grill it for you. The price goes according to the portion that you are ordering so I thought it was quite fair and reasonable.

Beside that, they also have free flow of rice, bread and salad at the side which you can go with your seafood. That will just make a perfect meal !

five dishes of grilled seafood
Some of the seafood that we have ordered. Yummy ~~

Look at these gorgeous seafood. Nicely char grilled and covered with a thin layer of BBQ sauce. One thing about having seafood in Bali is to taste the natural sweetness of the meat than focusing on the sauce itself. I personally liked the prawns and squid, the sweetness and texture is fantastic.

How I wish I could take some photos of the strong waves which lined along the tent, but as it was already dark in the night, it was almost impossible to see it through photos.

Echo Beach
Jl. Pura Batu Mejan, Canggu, Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung,
Bali 80361, Indonesia
Tel: +62 812 3978466

Push Cart Grilled Sweet Corn

holding a grilled sweet corn in the hand
Nicely grilled corn with spicy sauce. 

It really has been a fulfilling dinner for everyone of us. While we were walking back to our car, along the way there was a push cart selling grilled sweet corn. Before I could try finding more space in my stomach, we have already ordered two corns – one original and one spicy. I brought it back to my friend’s villa before gobbling down the corn. It was the best corn I had since childhood (remembering I always had steam sweet corn at City Plaza) and after tasting this delicacy, I have totally lose faith in cup corn.

That all for the night and we will move off to Ubud tomorrow !

A Lively and Colourful Shanghai Bund in a Night + Deep into history

The night scene of Shanghai Bund

Buried in the list of folders was one which has photos taken during my trip to Shanghai almost three years ago. Back then, I was using my new Blackberry Z10 and thought the photos are not as good as the current Samsung S4 or Apple iPhone 6, but I hope to share these pictures.

“Ye Shanghai, ye Shanghai” (夜上海,夜上海) while the songs goes on. This was the first thought that came to my mind while penning down this blog. In the memory of mine, Shanghai was a flourishing city that has undergo transformation on revolutionary modernization to became what they are today. Shanghai Bund will be then a good example to start with.

The Bund or Waitan (外滩) literally means “outer beach”, referring to the waterfront area in central Shanghai. It lies north of the old, walled city of Shanghai and also run along the western bank of the Huangpu River. Now, a row of commercialized historical building still remains as one of the signature street in Shanghai.

Related: The Giant Buddha in a Mountain – Chengdu’s Le Shan Grand Buddha

Shanghai Bund No. 6 Building
Bund No. 6 – Housed the first modernized bank in China.

There was a great history to be told on this four-storey Romanesque-styled building that was designed by British architects Morrison & Gratton. It backdated more than a century in 1881 which it was built as the headquarters for the powerful American traders, Russell & Co. They are one of the earliest and famous “Shanghai-landers” on the Bund, trading tea, silk, porcelain, opium and other commodities. However, it soon meet its downfall and announced bankrupt in 1891.

Later in 1897, China’s first modern bank, Imperial Bank of China (Commercial Bank of China) was established here. It was spearheaded by Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) minister Sheng Xuanhuai, who famously advocated use of western banking system to modelled the bank. He adapted the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank Corp (HSBC) and even hired Englishman A.M. Maitland, a former HSBC employee as a manager. (Ironically, it currently housed a HSBC branch office at The Bund No. 6) After the Revolution of 1911, it was renamed as the Commercial Bank of China.

It has undergoes two major renovation in 1919 and 1937, but there were renovations done in recent years to reinforce the facade, building’s foundation and reinforcement. The building was also used by international brand Dolce and Gabana that has moved away and now house HSBC branch offices was well as some fine restaurants at the Bund.

Related: A Walk Though the Ancient World of Geisha at Kyoto’s Gion

Former Great Northern Telegraph Building (left) and China Merchants Steam Navigation Company (right)
Former Great Northern Telegraph Building (left) and China Merchants Steam Navigation Company (right)

The Bund No. 7 was formerly owned by the Russell and Co. whom has rented the 724 sqm to Danish Great North Telegraph Company (current GN Store Nord) in 15 August 1881. The company then set up the first telephone switch in Shanghai within the building a year later. With the original building condition deteriorating, they decided to build a new one, designed by architectural firm Atkinson & Dallas. However, a large fire in October 1905 delayed the construction which only opening in January 1908. It then housed the offices of the British-owned Eastern Extension and the American-owned Commercial Cable telegraph companies.

At the end of 1921, the telegraph offices moved into a new building in East Yan’an Road, behind The Bund No. 1. The following year, the Commercial Bank of China moved its business into the building from No.6 The Bund. In 1995, Bangkok Bank took over part of the premises in 1995 till now while numerous consulates also occupied the building. That included the Royal Thai Consulate-General which moved out in 2008.

The Bund No. 9 in the past. Image: CM Energy Shipping

After the American Russell & Co. bankrupted in the 1860s, the China Merchants Steam Navigation Company (轮船招商局) bought over the land and constructed the current building at The Bund No. 9 in 1901. The building stands as one of China’s symbolic examples of the nation’s early modernisation process. The company was “official supervised” by Qing dynasty official, Minister of Beiyang, Li Hongzhang while being managed by various merchants.

Li Hongzhang established the company in 1872 to reclaim China’s share of profits from steam shipping in Chinese waters that has been enjoyed by foreign shipping firms since the early 1860s. It currently house the China Merchants Energy Shipping Co., Ltd, under China Merchants Group.

Related: Au Revoir Paris and 5 Thing I Dislike About You

Current Shanghai Pudong Development House (left) & The Customs House (right)
Current Shanghai Pudong Development House (left) & The Customs House (right)

When HSBC first opened its Shanghai branch on the ground floor of the Central Hotel (current Peace Hotel) in 4th March 1865, they did not expect business to expand so quickly that is outgrown its existing premises. Subsequently in 1874, they purchased the Foreign Club at The Bund No. 12 for 60,000 taels of silver (US$ 1,329,120 based on current silver spot price) and build a three-storey building in the same year.

In 1912, in order to further expand the business, HSBC purchased two pieces of land No. 11 (Kelly & Walsh Ltd) and No. 12 (Andrew & George Building) at a price of 4000 taels of silver per mu (667 sqm), equivalent to US$ 132 per sqm in current silver price. They tore down the old buildings and started construction of the new seven storey building in 5th May 1921, designed by architect firm, Palmer and Turner. After undergoing 25 months of construction, the building was finally completed in 23rd June 1923. The entire building sits on 1.3 hectares of land and total constructed area of 23,415 sqm. At the time it was the largest bank building in the Far East and second largest in the world, after the Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh.

During the Second World War, it was occupied by the Japanese Yokohama Specie Bank and in 1955, the political situation led to a down scale of their operation and the building was handed over to the government. Later the year Shanghai Municipal Government moved into the building and the subsidary building house the Municipal Archives from 1956. In 1990, Municipal Government planned to move government buildings along The Bund to make way for commercial use, HSBC negotiation with the government fell through after not able to agree to the price. In 1995, the Municipal Government moved out and Shanghai Pudong Development bank has been leasing the building since then.

Beside it was The Custom House located on The Bund No. 13. History backdated to the late 17th century when Qing dynasty Kangxi Emperor set up customs houses in the four coastal provinces to facilitate trading along the east coast of China which the Jiangnan Customs House was one of them. However, due to its inconvenient, the custom houses have moved twice from outside the east gate of the walled city of Shanghai to the south end of the Bund and lastly into the current site, after insistence by the British consul to move the customs house inside the British concession. It was then called the North Customs House.

Throughout the century, the custom house has been demolished and re-built four time from traditional Chinese Yamen style to Gothic design before the current building was built – again by architects Palmer and Turner. Construction started in 15 December 1925 and completed in two year time in 19 December 1927. It has a reinforced concrete core while the exterior follows a Greek-revival and Neo-Classicist design. The building was in two section; eastern section being eight storeys tall and western section five storeys tall. It has became the tallest building in Shanghai Bund in 1920s.

Close view of the clock. Image Smith of Derby

While it has been exquisitely tiled with marbles and mosaics, the most notable feature is the clock tower at the easter section. Standing at 90 metres tall and offers views over the entire Bund and Shanghai city centre. It has four faces, each with a diameter of 5.3 metres that are made up of more than 100 pieces of glass between 0.3 and 1 metres in size. It also comes with 72 automatic lamps.

The clock and bell mechanism built according to the design of Big Ben at the Palace of Westminster. The clock mechanism was built by JB Joyce & Co while the bells were casted by John Taylor Bellfounders in England. The clock will sound every 15 minutes, playing traditional tune the “Westminster Quarters”, but during the Cultural Revolution, the music was changed to “The East is Red”. Though the tune was restored in 1980s, Communist Party ordered the music to be change again to “The East is Red”. Today, the clock tower remains the largest clock in Asia, third largest in the world

Some knowledge to share
Silver are used as a means of currency in the China’s history and 1 tael of silver translate to 1.3 ounces of silver.

Related: Romantic Seaside Candlelight Dinner at Bali’s Jimbaran Beach Restaurant

The Waibaidu bridge, also called the Garden Bridge. It was the fourth western-designed bridge built at its location since 1856. It is in the downstream of the estuary of the Suzhou creek, near it confluence with the Huangpu River and adjacent to the Bund. It is the first all-steel bridge and only surviving example of a camelback truss bridge in China.

The present bridge was opened in 20 January 1908 and has been declared as a Heritage Architecture by Shanghai Municipal Government on 15 February 1994 as it symbolise Shanghai’s modern and industrial image with its rich history and unique design.

In April 2008, the bridge was removed for extensive repair and restoration and was installed back one year later on the 8 April 2009. An LED lighting system was installed on the bridge which cycles through different colours with reduced electricity consumption and to make the bridge look more attractive at night.

Related: A Glimpse of Kuching in East Malaysia – A City of Relaxation

Right across the Huangpu river, the peninsula are dotted with many modern skyscrapers, lead by the iconic Oriental Pearl TV Tower. This area is known as Lujiazui, a specifically developed are as a new financial district of Shanghai since early 1990s.

Looking at both sides of the Huangpu river, it can’t help to put one into thoughts of the country’s rise and fall in the past throughout the centuries yet awed by it rapid progress to be one of the most powerful country in the world. Moreover, The Bund has also displayed its rich historic background with the ongoing changing culture, technology and scenery.

Related: Two Days Trip in Jakarta – Masssage Spa in Kempinski Hotel (Day 1)

Romantic Seaside Candle Light Dinner at Jimbaran Beach Restaurant

After two hours of rejuvenating spa treatment at Dewi Fortuna Spa, it was almost seven thirty in the evening and our stomach was rumbling. It’s time for dinner ! However, we does not know any good restaurants in this area, we asked for recommendation from the driver since he did brought us to a good restaurant for our lunch at Warung d’Sawah. Without further delay, he took us for a thirty minutes journey before reaching Jimbaran Bay.

Even before entering the restaurant, the smell of charred grilled food creeped into our noses and on the left side of the entrance was a few men grilling busily to serve the food on the tables. A receptionist welcomed us with a smile and showed us to our table. We was sat down and order our drinks, Mango Juice for me (Rp 40,000) and Tumeric Honey Lemon (Rp 80,000) for my girl friend while we enjoyed the sound of gentle waves splashing against the seashore and an occasion sea breeze.

We ordered a Seafood Basket (Rp, 500,000) which should be one person portion since my girl friend wasn’t a big eater and it proven to be a right choice. The basket include a lobster, a crab, two fish and three prawns. It was also being served with soup and Bali’s signature vegetables. The seafood was grilled with perfect timing and without much seasoning, we could taste the original freshness of the seafood. However, it actually took them some time before serving to us. While we looked around, most of the patrons was not being served as well. But the wait is worthwhile.

During our course of meal, there was a random tourist that bought some fireworks from a lady and discharging it into the dark skies and brightening the skies with an array of bright colours. There was also a live band that walks to our table and sang us a slow jazz song while we dined and enjoyed the twinkling stars up high in the skies.

Oh, by the way, did I mentioned that we did not have the candle on our table while we was eating ? The waiter actually came with one after we are done with our food. Humorous ! Time to go back to the villa for an early rest…

Government Tax and 15% service charge applicable.

The ambience was good but it would be even more beautiful if we could have reached earlier to catch a glimpse of the sunset. Food was pretty decent but the only damaging factor was the long waiting time.

Bawang Merah Bar & Bistro
Kelan, Jimbaran Bay, Bali 80361
Reservation: +62-36-770210 / +62 -36-2168521 / +62-36-2168525
Opening Hours: 12pm to 11pm daily
Direction to the restaurant: Bypass Jimbaran No. 96 Mumbiu Nusa Dua. 2. Jimbaran Bay, Kelan Beach, Tuban – Kuta
FREE pick up available.

A Glimpse of Kuching in East Malaysia – A City of Relaxation

Kuching is the last station for my overseas trip in Borneo before returning to Singapore. We arrived at Kuching International Airport from Bintulu in the late evening and one of our friends picked up us and send us to Pullman Kuching Hotel which was estimated 30-minutes journey away from the airport. Despite being the third largest city in Sarawak, the traffic flow was smooth with minimal vehicles traveling on the road.

We went to Top Spot Food Court which was 5-minutes drive located near Pullman Hotel. It is a seafood centre that is located above a 6-storey carpark with magnificent view. Seafood stalls are neatly arranged in an L-shaped and hundred of tables and chairs filled up the enormous land space for selection of your own. Fresh vegetables and seafood are lined up on stall front and customer are free to select their favourite food and request for any cooking method to the waitress. The food was good and reasonably priced. Three of us ate a fish, clams, soft shell crab, noodle and vegetables that cost only RM 66 / S$ 25. After a fruitful dinner, it is time to return to the hotel for a good night rest.

Bukit Mata Seafood 25 Sdn. Bhd (猫眼嶺海鲜25有限公司)
Taman Kereta Top Spot Food Court
Kuching, Sarawak
Tel: +60 (12) 8099522 / +60 (19) 8899838 / +60 (19) 8891266

It was a  hectic second day while we visit few clients in Kuching around the industrial before coming back to the city centre. Even so, due to the smooth traffic in Kuching, we waste no time getting caught in traffic jams which we often have in Singapore, but managed to spend more time with the customer. One noticeable thing about Kuching was the human and vehicle crowd during the noon. It is amazing that you hardly see anyone walking on the streets ! You can see from the photos I have taken when I returned to our hotel in the noon, the streets are empty.

One of the scenery I loved is the Sungai Santubong river that runs through and meanders around the city. It is especially beautiful during the night.

Kuching has not undergone major development in recent years while the overall population is only around 325,000 people. Though it resemblance Singapore in the early 1950s-1960s, the slow-paced city is a good location for retirement. Time to packed my stuff and back to Singapore, the bustling city.

My girlfriend has mentioned before that Borneo is one of the top places she yearns to pay a visit and hopefully she settle down as a property agent and the dream will be realized soon. 

Two Days Trip in Jakarta – Massage Spa in Kempinski Hotel (Day 1)

couple body massage at kempinski the spa

One of our agenda for this trip is to get a soothing massage. When we first tried booking at Kempinski’s Spa, it was only available at 11pm and thus we tried checking other spa locations. Not wanting to be going to far away from the hotel, we called in Grand Hyatt Hotel right opposite and query for couple massage slots. However, as indicated by the telephone receptionist, they were fully booked and it was only available for their own hotel guests. Our reaction ? We quickly called back Kempinski’s Spa to lock in our reservations.

View across the Jakarta central at the smoking area.
View across the Jakarta central at the smoking area.

After our dinner at Sun Tiang, we strolled slowly back to the hotel and went to the top level where the spa was located. Greeted politely by the receptionist, she asked for our reservation and told that we have to wait a while. Looking at our watch, we was fifteen minutes earlier and waited at the smoking area. We finished our stick of cigarette and walked back to the counter and the receptionist again politely told us that we are still ahead of schedule. It will be one hour later before our massage session. Suddenly, it strike us that we did not adjust our watches and that we are one hour behind Singapore time. Thus, we used this time to explore the entire spa area.

Resting area for the guests.
Resting area for the guests.
Another side of the resting area.
You can also choose to nap a while on bed at resting area.
You can also choose to nap a while on bed at resting area.
Jacuzzi and Swimming Pool at the back of the spa.
Jacuzzi and Swimming Pool at the back of the spa.

Exploring towards the back of the spa area, it is a tranquil area where you can enjoy the Jacuzzi and have a slip of your favourite drinks or just sit down at the comfy chairs along the swimming pools to have a heart to heart chat. I would not expect it to have much privacy because the next building is in fact quite close. (See the building with white horizontal line behind the swimming pool).

Views of the city at the back of the spa.
Views of the city at the back of the spa.

Sorry for the blur image, I just managed to adjust and took the best photo with my iPhone 6 plus. The night life of Jakarta certainly looks vibrate just like Singapore. I believe that this scene will change dramatically after Indonesia advance into the next stage of economy.

Our Couple Room

We walked back to the resting area while the receptionist served us tea before the commencement of our massage session. The masseurs came by shortly and ushered us to our couple room.
Massage beds are clean and tidy.
Massage beds are clean and tidy.
Comes with a bath tub and two basins.
Comes with a bath tub and two basins.
Basins with mirrors.
Basins with mirrors.

It looks like a traditional Indonesia-theme that emphasise heavily on using of wood. The room’s serenity and ambience let us feel calm and relaxed. Apart from that, the room is also neatly tidied to its every little details. There are a bath tub which we can choose to wash up before and / or after the massage and amenities around two basins – reduce the need to fight for a mirror.

We changed into disposable underwear provided by them and lay down comfortably on the beds while waiting for the masseurs to enter the room. We did not start immediately, the masseurs had to do some preparation to make sure all are in good order. They lit a candle burner for the aromatic essential oil, play some soothing music and dim the lights.

The body massage started from the backs and while they skilfully rub with adequate strength, my whole body relax further more before resting my mind and falls asleep. However, throughout the session, I could still feel the masseur’s experienced hands going through those intense knots in my body using smooth strokes.

Unknowingly, the massage session has ended. Unfortunately, we only managed to book an hour’s body massage. We laid lazily on the bed, take a short rest and trying to regain to our full consciousness before dressing up and walked back to the resting area for a hot tea.

Considering it is only USD 50 for a 60 minutes body massage, we find it totally worthwhile. In additional, we tipped the masseurs as well for their good service. Back to the hotel room…

Its SUPPER time ! Room service please !
Its SUPPER time ! Room service please !

I always have the tendency to have some snacks before I go to sleep. I wasn’t seriously hungry but just need some good food to go with a good sleep. We called in the room service for some fried calamari, nuggets and coroke. Yummy and sleepy !

Two Days Trip in Jakarta – Dinner at Suntiang in Grand Indonesia (Day 1)

Interior of Suntiang

Exploration of our room took quite a while before finally settling down on the sofa for a short rest. One of our objectives for this trip was to enjoy one good massage and we started flipping through the directory in the hotel room. We booked a couple massage at 10pm which gives us ample time for dinner and strolling around the neighbouring complex.

Exhaustedly, we rested on the bed and unnoticeably, we had fallen asleep… The journey to our hotel has worn us out a little due to the bad traffic. We woke up in time just to catch a glimpse of the sun setting beautifully upon the central square. We pulled ourselves out from the bed to wash up a bit before going down in search for a place for our dinner.

From the hotel’s lobby, we can access to the Grand Indonesia’s West Mall without leaving the main building. The shopping centre is spacious and I would say “uniquely” designed that it becomes slightly complicated to explore. We had to go all the way to level 3 before going through the connecting mall to access the restaurants.

street-like restaurant on the dining level of Grand Indonesia Mall.

Be amazed by the interior design of the dining level as they have decorated to be like walking along an outdoor street – the entire stretch of it. Definitely much better feel compared to those Japan street or Hong Kong streets we have in Singapore’s shopping mall. I believe you can see that they really put in many efforts into designing the restaurants as well. Below are a few creative designs.

Fook Yew restaurant at Grand Indonesia Mall

Cafe at Grand Indonesia Mall

While we have wandered in the mall for so long and unable to decide which restaurant for our dinner (almost all looks appealing), we ended up at Suntiang. What is so special about them ? They are the first restaurant (maybe in Indonesia) to combine authentic West Sumatran recipes in Japanese style. They even had a conveyor belt for the food ! Below are some of the dish that we have tried.

Suntiang's Brocolli AgedashiBroccoli Agedashi – Japanese-styled tofu in miso soup with Broccoli.

Suntiang's Ayam PopAyam Pop – One of my favourite West Sumatran dish which can also be found in Nasi Padang. A Minang cooking style that involved marinating the chicken with ingredients and spices before boiling or at times fried. The chilli sauce helps to bring out the sweetness of the meat while the spiciness mingle with your tongue. A must try dish.

Suntiang's Sayur NangkaSayur Nangka – At its first sight, I was wondering if this is chunks of meat or bones. In fact, this is young jackfruit simmered with various spices. The sauce is nice but I could not accept the taste of jackfruit cooked with spices. I only managed to take a small bite out of it before giving up.

Suntiang's Gindara BakarGindara Bakar – Char-grilling the Gindara traditional Indonesian-style and set aside was a special mix chilli sauce to go with. The fish alone is flavourful. Try it with the chopped chilli and garlic sauce to enhance the taste.

Soon after dinner, we have to rush back to the hotel for our massage appointment at 10pm.

Two Days Trip in Jakarta – Checking in Kempinski Hotel (Day 1)

My client has invited me over for his daughter’s wedding dinner on a Sunday evening and I thought this could be a good opportunity to take a break away from work for a day or two and enjoy the weekend with my girl friend.

It wasn’t my first time in Jakarta yet the only places I have visited was only the factories and industrial area. Thus, I have make a point to find a hotel that is near the city centre to enjoy the views and maybe some shopping at the same time. There was ample good hotels around the vicinity but eventually we have chosen Hotel Indonesia Kempinski Jakarta since it looks like a decent hotel which is linked to the shopping malls.

We arrived Jakarta in the late morning and was greeted by the hot weather. As usual, the places is packed with people and taxis (legal and illegal) trying to get some customers for taxi hire. Fortunately, my client has arranged to pick us up from the airport to his factory. It was just a short two hours meeting before we requested to be send back to our hotel.

During the factory visit, my girl friend actually hit off went with my client and while they was chatting happily about plants and fruits, my client stopped by one of the supermarkets along the road which my girl friend could shop for some fruits. Before our eyes were rows and rows of fresh fruits like mangoes, pineapples and even durians of many different varieties – an uncommon sight in Singapore. It took us almost an hour before we could finish shopping just on the fruits section alone – so just imagine !

 Talking about fruits, did we missed our lunch ? Apparently, we was so busy buying fruits that we had totally forget about our lunch. My client has offered us for lunch which though we have politely reject but his persistency paid off and we agreed to have a light meal at a local restaurant – Sari Minang, a Nasi Padang restaurant.

As usual, hotels in Jakarta are often with security and Kempinski wasn’t exceptional. It was a quick check before we drove to the front porch. The moment the vehicle stopped, a porter immediately opens our door while the bell boy is standing right beside him waiting for our luggages. A female staff politely greeted and ushered us to the reception counter for our check-in which took less than ten minutes before accompanying to the lift. What a service !

Kempinski Jakarta Hotel
This is our room ! We have booked for an deluxe room but maybe they does not have sufficient room and upgraded us to grand deluxe room instead ! Comfy !

Kempinski Jakarta Hotel
Comes with a sofa set where you can sit down to watch TV and enjoy our fruits from supermarket.

Kempinski Jakarta Hotel
A stylish glass-made table top for all your business discussion and writings.

Kempinski Jakarta Hotel
A chair by the window facing the parade square where you can sit down with a nice cup of coffee with watching the busy streets and central square

Complete view of the central square from the hotel’s window.

Two basins – full with amenities. You does not need to wait for your spouse to finish her make-up to brush your teeth.

Last but not the least, a bath tub. It has a TV at the side which you can watch your favourite shows or simply relax with an overview of the central square – with a glass of wine.

Details of the hotel can be found below

Hotel Indonesia Kempinski Jakarta
Jalan M.H. Thamrin No. 1
10310 Jakarta, Indonesia
Tel: + 62 21 2358 3800

The Giant Buddha in a Mountain – Chengdu’s Le Shan Grand Buddha

le shan grand buddhaAwed by the majestic view of the Grand Buddha right at the foot of the statue.

The Leshan Giant Buddha statue is located at the Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area an has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. Standing at 71 meters in height and shoulder width of 28 meters wide, it is the largest stone Buddha in the world as well as by far the tallest pre-modern statue in the world. The statue depicts a seated Maitreya Buddha with his hands resting on his knees, meaning stability. One of the local saying that “The mountain is a Buddha and the Buddha is a mountain”. It oversees the the Minjian, Dadu and Qingyi rivers in the southern part of Sichuan province, though the water looks calms on top, there are turbulence current beneath that claims many lives while people tries to swim in it.

le shan ling yun si 乐山凌云寺
le shan ling yun si 乐山凌云寺
le shan ling yun si 乐山凌云寺

le shan hai shi tong

My Short Trip to Istanbul Turkey – Renaissance Polat Istanbul Hotel (Day 1)

It was a last minute decision for the business trip, I could not get a direct flight from Singapore to Istanbul which is available on Singapore Airlines, I had to transit via Doha before reaching Istanbul. We arrived almost 5am in the morning and there wasn’t much crowd and the weather was freaking cold !

Change Currency and Purchase Sim Card !

Turkey does not really relies on Euro currency for daily usage and 23 did not managed to find any currency exchange for Turkish Lira while we were in Singapore or Qatar airport. The first thing was to find a currency exchange counter to change my US dollars into Turkish Lira. Internet connection would be the second on my mind. While strolling inside of the departure hall, we managed to purchased a 4GB sim card for 84 Turkish Lira (est. 44 Singapore dollars), sufficient enough for our 3 days in Istanbul. We had to deal though “finger language” as the salesperson only speaks their local language.

Tip: Try downloading World Nomad’s Turkish Language App from iTunes App Store, I believe that will help with better communication in Turkey.

Getting From The Airport To The Hotel

taxi stand outside of Istanbul airportAs we walked through the departure hall, a relentless cold wind blown across our face, sending shivers down to our spines. However,  that didn’t stopped me from lighting a cigarette before pulling out my winter jacket from my luggage. A line of bright orange taxis were waiting for customers, chatting among themselves.

We finished our last puff of cigarette and hopped into the first cab in the queue. The driver was not able to understand english and I had to pulled out my booking confirmation and showing him the address below he drove off. It was an exciting journey to the hotel while the cab driver was speeding and we could hear our luggages rolling for side to side in the car’s boot. It took us less than 10 minutes before reaching our hotel. The driver looked annoyed when I was trying to pay him with a 50 Lira note and rudely demanded that I should change at the hotel’s reception counter. I searched through my pockets and managed to pulled out some small changes to pay for the cab.

Tip: Try to get more small changes at the money exchange counters as it will be much easier to pay for the cab and other stuff. It was understand later from my Turkey’s friend that they does not like to accept large notes.

Our Hotel – Renaissance Polat Istanbul Hotel

We was greeted politely by a intern staff and I tried to check in our rooms but in normal cases, they only allowed us to check in at 2pm in the afternoon. It was only 6am in the morning and there was still a couple of hours to go before our appointment. There was two choices – either we stay at the lobby and check in after our appointment or we pay for another night’s rate. Fortunately, the intern staff tried to consult his manager and they allowed us to have an early check in for an additional 100 euros which we agreed immediately. This allows us to have a good bath and rest, keeping ourselves refresh. Furthermore, they have upgraded us to a sea view room without any additional cost !

Renaissance Polat Istanbul Hotel
Sahilyolu Cad. No: 2 Yesilyurt
34149, Turkey
Tel: + 90 212 414 1800

Will There Be Chances to Go Marienplatz in Munich Again ?

A quiet street in the night near Munich city centre.
I was digging through my photo archive while I found some photos (though poorly using my iPhone 4) while I was at Munich for a tradeshow in 2013. It was early in the evening and we took a cab down the city centre to search for food – something oriental. We ended up in a Japanese restaurant owned by an authentic Japanese that cooks really decent Japanese food, but of course comes at an expensive price tag. Since it was still early after the dinner, we took a stroll along the main street.

Magnificent view of Marienplatz.

The weather was cold but the streets were still filled with people, many sitting outside the bars and pubs, enjoying their beer and chatting away happily. While at the same time, there was many road construction going on and we had to navigate through congested bends and cross roads. Unknowingly, we have landed ourselves at Marienplatz (or Mary’s Square), a central square in the city centre of Munich. Standing in front of the central square was the Neues Rathaus, an majestic historical building that will awed any passerby will the Munich Glockenspiel (above photo) that stood tall along the building horizon will slow down your footsteps to admire the beauty of its details.

We continued our walk along Neuhauser Street and it seems like it is coming to an end of the street, resembling leaving an ancient city through its gothic gate and fortified walls. It really kept in pondering, what was the actual look of this entire place in the past..

We have reached the end of the street and landed again in a large square. After searching through the internet, I get to know it was named Karlsplatz in 1797, after the unpopular Charles Theodore, Elector of Bavaria while many called it Stachus. It really looks like a splendid location to gather with some friends, sitting down and chatting the night away. I just could not imagine how lively this square will be during daytime.

Although I have been used to traveling around, Europe was not my cup of tea as I had to endure long hours of flight, the same experience I had when traveling to Las Vegas last year. Hope perhaps I could be back here for holidays to explore more about this foreign land.