Saturday, May 23, 2009

Two Birthday Parties in a Day

M. is having his birthday party at Cabarita. WHQ prepared some salads, and we bought a Chocolate Gateau from Michel's on our way there. Weather's very good, considering it was raining buckets the past few days. Started raining again in the afternoon. By then everyone had their fill, so we reconvened at his house. By 5:30pm, we went to Ashfield for M.'s 40th birthday party at the Crocodile Farm Hotel. Haven't been to Ashfield for a while. Surprised to see the Crocodile Farm Hotel looking better. And there's a new Chinese restaurant beside it. As usual, we got there early, so as usual we helped out with the balloons. Gotta work for you meal, you know.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Third Time Unlucky

Another case of dinner disaster. Went to Samudra Shark's Fin Restaurant to try its Crispy Duck with Lemon Sauce. Just from the name, I'm sure it's yummy. The dish costs 70k. I reckon with the 25k rice and 22k Aqua bottled water, I should still be ok. The waitress brings out a hot pot with duck, eggplant and sauce. The duck isn't really roasted and the sauce doesn't taste like lemon. After a few more bites, I'm pretty sure that's not what I ordered. After my meal, I verified with the waitress. After some checks, she confirmed they gave me the wrong order. Bad, bad, bad. Anyway, the good thing is that the dish costs only 45k, plus the rice and water and tax, the dinner amounted to only 90k+. Turns out I still need to pay 23k because the voucher covers only food. What?!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Training and Shopping and Dining

More on the latter two. After the training course, I went straight to Plaza Senayan. Taxi fare is only IDR 10,000. Lots of botique stores, but I'm only interested in Sogo and Metro (on either end of the mall). Shoes on sale, shirts on sale, pants on sale, even luggages on sale. At Senayan City across the street, it's Debenhams. On an impulse, I bought an IDF150,000 shirt and a Delsey cabin-size expandable trolley bag at 60% off. I've done this before. Pulling two trolley bags across airport terminals is not easy, but can be done.

Back at the hotel, I decided to go to Samudra Shark's Fin Restuarant for dinner. Too bad it's blocked off for tonight and closing at 9pm. Went to Orient8 instead. The lady at the door mentioned that they're having a special event and it's buffet night tonight. I asked her if my IDR100,000 meal voucher is gonna cover the buffet. YES, she says. (Orient8 currently has award-winning chef David Thompson to cook some Thai dishes.) So I had steamed tofu, chilled spicy minced chicken, fried chicken, grilled scallops, stir fry beef, deep fried prawns, grilled chicken with lemongrass, battered mushroom, chicken spring rolls. Dessert is Vietnamese coffee ice cream. Everything is very nice, except for the bill. It came up to IDR193,600. Just the buffet is already IDR136,000. Ah, went over the limit again. I wish the lady would've told me earlier.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Edogin Dinner

With the IDR100,000 voucher in hand, I head to the Edogin Japanese restaurant. I reckon if I order something simple like, say, chicken teriyaki, then I'm not gonna go overboard. The waitress asked if I wanted something to drink. A bottle of water sounds safe enough. And a bowl of steamed rice to go with the dish. The chicken teriyaki is the best I've tried so far. The chicken pieces are thin and crispy, but still juicy. And the accompanying sauce is quite flavourful, not sweet. Then came the bill - IDR152,000! Thanks to GST and service charges and 22,000 for the water; 25,000 for the rice. Oh well, you get what you pay for anyway.

My Kind of Hotel

This is my second time to stay at Hotel Mulia Senayan, but I've already forgotten how nice it is. Buffet breakfast is served at The Cafe, and the food selection is very impressive. There's a section for fruit juices, Japanese cuisine, Chinese dimsum and dishes, breads, cakes and pastries, and fruits. All noodles are prepared on-demand, and so are the eggs and omelettes.

The hotel also provides complimentary taxi ride to the office. Not sure if they provide this for all corporate clients or not. I just need to tell the hotel staff my destination, and they'll write a voucher to the taxi driver. All expenses paid, no questions asked. Or maybe they're footing the bill because the office only 10 minutes away, which amounts to about 20,000 rupiah.

I later found out that Internet access is actually free. Normally, it's 140,000 rupiah for 24 hours, but as part of my packages, they're waiving the fee for me. Seems to be capped at 1Mbps. Use of the gym facilities is not complimentary though. The hotel did give me four 100,000-rupiah meal vouchers for use within the hotel.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Only in Jakarta

During my stopover at Changi, I quickly called the concierge at Hotel Mulia to arrange for airport pickup. The guy on the other line took my hotel and flight details and gave me some specific instructions. After immigration and customs, go straight to the Golden Bird kiosk. Do not go anywhere else. Lots of people will try to talk to you, but ignore them. If I can't find the kiosk, I am to look for their airport representative, wearing a suit and a green(?) tie. Make sure he shows me his airport ID because there will be impostors wearing the same and pretend to be from Hotel Mulia. And if I go with them, they'll do bad things to me. Okay.

Upon touchdown, there's a mad rush for the immigration queues. Good thing I remembered that I'm supposed to get my visa-on-arrival first. Last time I was here, I was already lining up at immigration when somebody mentioned I need a visa. I had to go back and buy me a visa. So the guy at the visa counter asks me how long I'm here for. Five days. Doing what? I'm seriously tempted to say for holidays. My colleague mentioned that if you say you're on a business trip, they'll ask for company referral letters, you'll have to get a business visa, etc. But then, I don't look like a tourist. And I've seen enough Border Security and Border Patrol to be afraid of being sent back if I am caught lying. So I said I'm here for a training course. What training course, he persisted? I don't think he'll understand "FI Service Awareness", so I just gave him a vague answer. Back at the immigration, I had the same dilemma. But this time I have to lie because I've already put in holiday on the arrival card as reason for travel. Good thing the guy didn't ask. Whew!

So I go straight for the Golden Bird kiosk, and this guy guides me outside to the taxi queue. True enough, a guy followed us shoving a business card with the Chinese words for "Miss" printed in bold. No thanks, dude. My fiance reads this blog. Halfway through my taxi ride, I noticed that the meter is active and running. 100,000 rupiah already! I thought the pickup service is complimentary? By the time we got through the security bomb checks and into the hotel foyer, the meter's reading 200,000+ rupiah! Good thing the driver didn't ask me to pay. Whew!

Because I wouldn't be able to pay him. I'm only left with 10,000 rupiah from my previous trip. And how much is 10,000 rupiah? A$1.24! And I was just wondering beforehand if I should bring AUD because 10,000 rupiah seems a lot already. Hah! So I needed to get some money and quick. Concierge tells me that the nearest mall is Plaza Senayan, which is a few blocks away from the hotel. There's buses, but he recommends the taxi for foreigners like me. I have no money to pay for taxi, so I asked him how long to walk. 15 minutes. Let me tell you, the time or distance is not the problem. The problem is you're walking along a busy thoroughfare with no pedestrian lanes on the sides! I managed fine at first, then the cars keep edging closer and closer. I rushed over to the middle island where there's a patch of grass (and rubble) to walk on. Finally got to the section of Plaza Senayan, but I had to wait for about 5 minutes before I was able to make a mad dash to cross the road. The road was that busy.

First task at hand it to change some money. Normally, I would've checked out the rates of the money changers, but at this time of night, there's only one open. The quoted exchange rate is 10,275 rupiah to one USD. Fine. The guy looks at my $100 bill and says the rate is now 10,075 rupiah because my bill is from the old series and there's a small marking on the bill. Uh-huh, ok. I got him to change $50 only because this guy could be pulling my leg. Later, I went to Senayan City across the street to try my luck. Only one money changer open and it's the same one as in Plaza Senayan. Their rates are also the same. When I tried to change my new-series $50 bill, they gave me the same excuse. The guy explained that because my bill has some markings, it's considered flawed, and they have to give me a lower rate. Uh-huh, ok.

KrisWorld Movies

Set Off
Not worth the time to watch. This is getting typical of Chinese mainland movies. Weak male roles, strong streetsmart women, guy meets girl and they get to know each other better while trying to resolve a situation. Happy ending.
In this case we have this guy whose wife dumped him for his friend. His associate back in Cyprus is selling off the restaurant without his permission so he needs to rush back. On his way to the airport, this girl commandeers his taxi and his luggage and passport ends up locked away in her apartment unit. Meanwhile, some shady characters are after the girl because her no-good boyfriend stole a huge stash of dollar bills from his gangster pal. Turns out the bills are counterfeit. The bills, when arranged properly, actually contains a map of a secret tunnel underneath a museum. In the end, the bad guys are after the museum treasures. Confused yet? All you need to know is that the guy solves all of the girl's troubles, and they later became a couple.

Should've steered away from this comedy film from Russia. Plot sounds interesting enough, but the movie's no good. You have these two childhood sweethearts living in a village where the only source of water is from a pipe running deep inside the mountains. They're now into their teens, and their raging hormones are telling them to do it. For some strange reason, the cute girl is holding back. They consult her astrologer-granny for an auspicious day, and she gives them one - 4 years in the future. According to granny, they're supposed to take a bath together the day before. The day comes and the water pipe has pretty much dried up. Smart guy diverts all remaining water into an improvised bath tank, and they have their bath. Before the guy can take her, she runs off and insists he fix the water problem permanently. Most of the movie shows the women going on strike - refusing to have sex with their husbands until they fix the water problem. The horny guy goes into the mountain caves with a spare pipe and manages to plug the underground reservoir, thus forcing the water upwards to their village. He (and all the other males of the village) are now happy campers.

Okuribito (Departures)
Won the 2009 Oscar award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year. Well-deserved, too. They don't make movies like these anymore. Slow and calm and simple and meaningful. Unemployed cellist Daigo becomes a nokanshi to support his wife. As a nokanshi, his job is to cleanse, dress, and make up corpses before they are finally placed in a coffin. Not a job to be proud off, and his wife leaves him when she found out. He stuck with the job and learns to like it, even if other people look down on him. In the end, his wife understands the value of his work and how it gives happiness to the grieving families.

Off to Jakarta

Happy Mother's Day. Note to self: All moms are the same. Some are passionate, some are cold, but no matter what happens, they always have your interests at heart. you many not know this now, but in time, you will.

WHQ dropped me off at the airport about 1.5 hours before departure. The Internet check-in queue is longer than normal. I guess more people are doing online check-in because it does save you a lot of time. I had the option of printing my own boarding passes, but a check with the lady at the counter confirms that this is not working at the moment. You can print them out, but they won't be accepted.

The trip to Singapore was pretty uneventful. Just a bit miffed that I chose to sit on the right instead of left. A few hours into the flight, the captain announced that to the left of the plane, you can see Ayers Rock. Bah!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Mother's Day Fireworks

Celebrated early Mother's Day at Hurricane's Grill Darling Harbour. We also wanted to watch Harbourlight, so we drove to the city early. Hurricane's Grill found us seats around 6pm, and told us we have to finish around 7pm. The food came to us around 6:30pm. Go figure. Strangely enough, we finished all our food (without hurrying) at 7:10pm. That give us just enough time to head down to Cockle Bay Wharf and find good spots for Harbourlight.

As part of Darling Harbour's 21st birthday celebration, there's fireworks at the wharf every Friday and Saturday night for the month of May. You also have a group of jetskis circling the waters with fireworks spewing at the back. Quite a good show.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Philippine Cultural Day at St. Marys

Never been to St. Marys before. I made it a point to check out the Philippine Cultural Day event because I was having visions a big stage showcasing Philiping song and dance numbers and stalls selling turon and fishball and pork barbeque (a la Aling Nene). Too bad it didn't materialize. There's a mini-park on a street corner, and that's where the even it being held. Got a good-sized crowd though. Had to drive down a block before we found parking space.

There's a couple of stalls promoting Philippine tourism. One stall selling pancit and palabok, another stall offering free Magnolia sorbetes (gold coin donation), and the last stall selling Filipino foodstuffs. On stage we have some folk dances, song numbers, then a fashion show displaying the country's national costume through the years. Strangely enought, we can't find any nearby Filipino restaurants. Drove to Rooty Hill, but can't find the Corregidor Filipino restaurant. We did see Kamayan and Little Quiapo, but they're more like takeaway shops. One of the storeowners was helpful enough to give us directions, so we eventually found ourselves having lunch at The Corregidor Entertainment Centre and Restaurant at 3pm. The place is more like a function hall. All spruced up for a concert dinner later in the evening. We had lechon kawali, sinigang, kaldereta and pancit - all of them very good.