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Lake Toya, Japan

Spot of Tranquility.

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Little India, Singapore

Spices, gold and splashes of colour!

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Singapore Flyer, Gardens by the Bay

Garden City, City in a Garden.

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Bryce Canyon, USA

Thor's Hammer

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Chocolate Test, Singapore

"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." -Charles M Schulz

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

KL Tower (Kuala Lumpur)

We went to the Menara Kuala Lumpur Tower (KL Tower) only because the Twin Towers were undergoing renovation. I should have known better than to go to KL Tower. The thing is that there is a temptation to go up to these towers, pay some entrance fee that you'd be better off not paying and then end up feeling like you just contributed to another country's economy for nothing. That was how I felt when I went to the Willis Tower in Chicago. To put in in local parlance, it's go up see see look look then come down. It's even worse if the weather is bad and all you see is clouds.

Well, KL Tower opened to the public in 1996. So that makes the tower 15 years old this year. It's a telecommunication tower for Malaysia.

The basic package (the cheapest) is 45 Ringgit for adults and 30 Ringgit for children/senior citizens. This includes entry into the observation deck, MP5 (whatever that means), Forest in the City (what's that), F1 simulator/pony ride/KL Tower Animal Zone. Evidently, I just realised when typing this post that we probably didn't go to some places that our ticket entitled us to go.

So, here's a view you can get if you're at the top. By the way, just another useful tip. If you want to take pictures with you in the picture with the scenery as background, figure out how to change your camera settings or you will appear very dark against the picture. (assuming you go in the day)

Besides the observatory, we chose the F1 simulator as part of the package. You know in arcades where there will be rows of those driving stuff and people start competing against each other? This is the worse version of the arcade. I've no idea why the place smelled so much like pee. Anyway, so why is it worse than in an arcade? In an arcade, you throw in a coin and it will start operating. Here, you have someone manually pressing on a keyboard for you to start and stop. Imagine you are halfway through a race, and suddenly she comes next to you, key in something, and tells you, "Here's your timing." Thank you very much.

(by the way, this is NEARLY RIDICULOUS. I was googling for pictures of these arcade machines when I realised that the so called F1 simulators were in the shape of cars, and not those arcade machines that we played on. DID WE JUST GET CONNED (again)?!) The below is the only thing that we saw that remotely looks like a car- do you see the simulator machines behind?

As for the pony ride, we didn't opt for that. But what happens for the pony ride, is that you have a stable with two ponies. And then someone will put you on the pony, and bring you and the pony three rounds around a stable.

All in all, KL Tower is a place you might want to go if you really want to see a good view of KL. But I have to say this place looks pretty worn out after 15 years, compared to other observatory decks that I've gone to, including the Shanghai and Chicago one. And be careful to check what you're entitled to! Plus there are two places where you can get taxis from- one cheaper than the other, although the other is probably safer.

Menara Kuala Lumpur No. 2
Jalan Punchak Off Jalan P.Ramlee
Kuala Lumpur

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kiki Taiwan Cuisine (Kuala Lumpur)

When we passed by Ki Ki Taiwan Cuisine, it was crowded. Singaporean mentality- If it's crowded, must be good! We waited around 15 minutes for a table and decided what we wanted to eat. 

It was a sweet and sour prawn combo plus some seafood steamboat where the seafood has already been cooked. The prawns for the sweet and sour prawns were not fresh, what a pity. I know the prawns look like pork, but no, this restaurant is apparently pork free.

We also ordered another seafood steamboat to share. As you can tell, there are prawns, chicken, crab stick, fishcake, sotong ball, dong fen, clams etc. The soup base was pretty good- especially after all the ingredients were thrown into the steamboat. But it got increasingly salty as the soup dried up towards the end.

Overall, this place is decently priced (80 Ringgit in total) and the staff are pretty courteous as well. It's normal steamboat so you might want to hop in on a chilly day (I know there's no such thing called chilly day in KL but there are rainy days!) 

Kiki Taiwan Cuisine
Suria KLCC
Fourth Floor
Kuala Lumpur

十号胡同 Lot 10 (Kuala Lumpur)

To continue on my blog post spree, this is the last for today. There's a limit to how much you can write in a day and I feel like the capacity is reaching soon.

We went to 十号胡同 at Lot 10. It's a food court, with apparently the best food in KL (the branches) congregated here. 

We ordered a few plates to share so that we would know whether they really lived up to their name. We ordered a bowl of pork ribs noodles. The noodles are from 何禁记. Now, I'm not really sure whether it was called 何禁记 because when I tried googling it, Google churned out a list of unrelated stuff. In any case, the noodles was a little salty although they were springy. The pork ribs were quite good- not too dry and tender.

The bak kut teh was pretty ridiculous. It was 17 Ringgit for this small bowl of bak kut teh which wasn't bak kut to begin with. It was more like the pork belly. Plus the soup wasn't fragrant and you couldn't really taste the pepper so commonly associated with bak kut teh. For 17 Ringgit, this is totally not worth it.

There was also the very famous Malaysian Hokkien mee. I prefer the ones at Singapore better. It tastes like there's a lot of sauce dumped onto it, and is rather dry. It's interesting to try another take on the Hokkien Mee, but at the same time, this got a little boring after a while. It has plenty of the charred taste though, so if you like it fried this way, you should have a try.

The star find of the day was this meatball noodles, where the meatballs are flat and not shaped in balls. The meatballs are really chewy and taste great. The soup is not oily and it feels like a good stomach cleanser after all that oil laden food above. It was flavourful as well. (hopefully not due to excessive MSG)

The "ambassador" of this place is 蔡澜 who is a very famous food critic. Well, if he says this place is good, it must be good right? I beg to differ. Sometimes when a shop expands too much, the quality fluctuates. If there is no quality control, what you eat from one store differs from how it's supposed to taste.

Nonetheless, this is a good place for foreigners to go because it houses all the famous Malaysian dishes under one roof. Furthermore, you can't go too wrong with these dishes, even if they lack a particular something which may only be found from their original stores.

Lot 10
Kuala Lumpur

Restoran Hakka 客家饭店 (Kuala Lumpur)

As our last meal in KL, we decided to go to the Hakka Restaurant to try... what else? Hakka food! Let me set out something first- I didn't think this place was fantastic even though the reviews made it sound like there's nothing on earth that can compare to it. I think this is because the food ordered by other reviewers were typical Malaysian Chinese food like sambal kangkong or crab and the likes, and not true Hakka food. So my review stands in relation to Hakka food only and not in relation to the rest of the Chinese food offered. To know what Hakka cuisine entails, click on this link

Because we don't really eat Hakka food in Singapore, we decided to order only Hakka food. 

This is 梅菜扣肉 which is thick slices of pork belly with mustard green, cooked with soy sauce and sugar. The marinate was pretty good and the mustard green was salty and a good pairing with rice. I guess this is enough for my dinner. But note, there's PLENTY of fats, enough for the fats to swim in your body a 400m lap. I removed all the fats and ate the meat only. If this isn't your form of food enjoyment, by all means, eat up all the fats. Just remember the swimming process!

We also ordered a 豆腐羹 which is basically like toufu with lots of minced meat. Nothing interesting.

This is the 盐焗 鸡 which according to Wikipedia was originally baked in a heap of sea salt but nowadays cooked in a brine. It wasn't too salty and the texture was smooth.

This is 算盘子 which I think happens to be the epitome of Hakka food. It's made of tapioca/yam and made into the shape of abacus beads. It is soft on the outside and chewy in the inside. I don't eat this but my mum does. Her verdict about it? There are better ones around.

In all, I didn't really like this place much. For one, I really don't like the service here. For this, I probably differ from a lot of other reviewers where they enjoyed good service. Nobody bothered about us when we started walking into this place. The lady captain (I suppose) looked as we walked closer and closer to the air-con room and didn't say a word. And suddenly she finally said, "You all have to sit outside". Fine, I'll sit outside, along with all that smoking in the open air. I appreciate you killing my lungs.

They weren't very friendly overall. Food wise, not the best around I think- at least for Hakka food. For this, we paid around 120 Ringgit (around $48). Would probably be better eating some other thing! Oh and try to refuse the wet towels they give you after the meal if your hands are not dirty- they charge for it without telling you. Also, if you don't eat the nuts, return it to them! All the deceptive charging policies- Don't get tricked!

Restoran Hakka 客家饭店
90 Jalan Rajah Chulan
Kuala Lumpur

Restoran Oversea 海外天 (Kuala Lumpur)

I'm clearly on a roll today with the number of blog posts today. But for people who enjoy writing, I think they understand what a writing addiction means. And the only reason why I have been so short of blog posts for the past month is due to an evil thing (not necessarily a necessary evil) called exams. Now that exams have ended, it's time for some play and some serious (?) writing.

Several people have recommended this place called 海外天 for some good chinese food. The servers in the restaurant are all slightly old. I suspect they must have been here since the establishment of the restaurant.

This restaurant is well known for its BBQ pork. So good that people go to KL just to eat the BBQ pork. It doesn't come cheap either. The plate that you see below costs 20 ringgit (around $8) when you probably can get it cheaper at other char siew stalls. So does the char siew really live up to its name?

You see, the thing is that my eating philosophy is that I should eat good food only and eat good food for as long as I live. Therefore, I normally remove excessively fatty parts because I don't want my arteries to clog up. I also remove charred stuff because I don't want to eat carcinogenic stuff. Call me kiasi (check the singlish dictionary if you don't understand what it means) for all you want. But I think I would rather eat a little more healthily and enjoy good food for the rest of my life than to have a few good moments now and regret it for the rest of my life.

Anyway, so the char siew here was both of the above traits mentioned- fatty and charred. I think people who enjoy eating the char siew here enjoy it precisely for the fats. The marinate was pretty good, but think clearly whether you are/are not a fat eater. That should be your sole determination as to whether you'd like to come here to have a meal. The 烧肉 here was VERY crispy. and i do mean VERY. So it crunches in your mouth and go KIAK KIAK KIAK. A little salty though, that's the trade off for crispy skin. But not bad overall.

We also ordered a plate of tofu which was nothing spectacular.

This was macadamia nuts with some unknown vegetable that I don't eat, so I shall not comment further.

Overall, this place is decently priced. We spent around 80 ringgit ($32) in total for three dishes. Apparently there is good coconut pudding as well but it was not available the day we were there. If you like good fatty BBQ pork, you should come here! But this is an obligatory reminder- eat the fats in moderation or health problems might plague you later on! I know I'm being a wet blanket, but better be safe than sorry! 

Restoran Oversea 海外天
84-88 Jalan Imbi
Bukit Bintang
Kuala Lumpur

糖百府 Tong Pak Fu (Kuala Lumpur)

The thing is, I really have a thing for pun-ish names. I love it when names of anything are clearly thought through and are creative. And this is a typical example. Tong Pak Fu is actually the Cantonese pronunciation of 唐伯虎, who is a painter and poet. (click on the link if you are interested in Chinese history) Now here's where the pun comes in. Tang means sugar (ie their desserts), bai refers to the variety of desserts they have and fu refers to the shop. So it's like a shop with many varieties of desserts. This brilliant name is a prelude as to what we should be expecting (or rather, did not expect). 

This place is apparently best selling in Hong Kong and was opened by two brothers. When we entered, it was crowded and had only enough space to seat us. By the time we finished, it was nearly empty!

We ordered a mango snow ice. That's scoops of little honey dew plus a mountain of mango shaved ice. Now look at those little balls. We initially thought they were sago, but it burst in our mouth and juice came spurting out. You have been warned, close your mouth when eating or the juice will spill onto the person directly opposite you (unless it's intentional). Upon asking the waiter, these are supposedly called magic balls which are meant to imitate salmon roe. How informative. In any case, there is fruit juice in it with different flavours. 

The initial burst was quite fun and novel, but the novelty soon wore down and I was joking saying that the outer layer felt like plastic. No, don't take my word for it. It was not so sweet but perhaps also slightly a downfall because the flavour didn't come through strong enough. 

The lack of flavour similarly applies to the guava shaved ice. The magic balls contained an unidentified juice in this case. The waiter told us that there are five flavours, including strawberry (for the mango shaved ice) and passion fruit. I have no clue what this flavour is although I prefer the strawberry one.

If you are looking for interesting desserts, this is the place to go! They have a newest addition of green tea. Plus, the waiter highly recommended the durian shaved ice, unfortunately only after we had finished eating both bowls!

Tong Pak Fu 
Suria KLCC
Lot C 15F Concourse Floor
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 

Madam Kwan's (Kuala Lumpur)

So we went on a weekend trip to Kuala Lumpur. We haven't really been there to explore despite just staying next door. But this is probably because driving anywhere in Singapore in more than one hour is probably something alarming, something worth posting on facebook. Driving from Singapore to Malaysia in 7 hours seems like a bit of a chore. So we flew there via JetStar and reached in an hour. 

One of the places that everybody seemed to have recommended is Madam Kwan's. You can see Madam Kwan's in the major shopping centres (including Pavilion and Mid Valley), but we had lunch at the branch located at Suria KLCC. You would see Miss Kwan's a few steps away. The waiters said that Miss Kwan was set up by the son-in-law of Madam Kwan. The difference? It's self service and therefore cheaper. 

We had lunch slightly early at 11 something, so there wasn't much of a crowd. But the crowd started streaming in slowly.

Okay, now more about the food. We ordered the nasi lemak which is apparently the best in KL (or is it Malaysia). The price was steep at 17 Ringgit a plate. That's around $6.80 a plate of nasi lemak. For that, you can buy two plates of nasi lemak in Singapore. But then again, considering how you can pay more than $15 for a plate of chicken rice in Singapore at some hotels, maybe it isn't that expensive afterall. 

The nasi lemak was served with curry chicken, not what I would typically order. (DEEP FRIED CHICKEN?? YUM YUM) Nonetheless, I still enjoy curry chicken. The rice was fragrant and moist. But I prefer my nasi lemak rice not to be so moist to border on the edge of being a little too sticky. As for the sambal ikan billis, there was a tinge of lime which accompanied the spice really well. Coupled with the curry chicken (which was really meaty), it could almost be a winning combination. The saltiness and crunchiness of the floss also adds to the overall enjoyment of the plate of nasi lemak. 

Alas, for the price of 17 ringgit, I think trying it once is enough. You don't really see locals in this restaurant- I bet they have their own sources of good nasi lemak which they have stowed away from foreigners' eyes. 

Nonetheless, if you haven't eaten nasi lemak before, or if you would like to succumb to the hype of Madam Kwan's and don't mind paying more, then by all means make a trip here because the nasi lemak is pretty good. But some eavesdropping attempts (unintentional- I can't help it if you want to talk so loudly) tell me that the standards have fallen over the years.

As a parting shot, this is Madam Kwan and her plate of nasi lemak.

Madam Kwan's 
Suria KLCC
Fourth Level
Lot 420/421
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia  

Friday, November 25, 2011

Guide: What to do in Boston in One Day

There's always a problem in deciding how to fully maximise your time in a place- not dwelling too long at a particular place, and yet hoping to see everything interesting there is in a place!

Before I left Boston for Singapore, I decided to do a one last walk around in Boston. While the guide that I'm going to write here won't exactly match it, I think it's to a certain extent what people would probably like to see if they only had one day to spend in Boston!