Saturday, August 31, 2013

South East Asia Cruise in December 2012 (Part 5)

On December 7, we returned to Singapore in the morning and departed from the cruise around 8 am. We spent about 4 hours in Singapore before we took our flight back to Hong Kong.

We met our taxi driver on December 3 who drove us from the airport to Marina Bay Cruise Centre. He offered to drive us around for sightseeing on December 7 before we went to the airport. He was friendly and talkative with Singapore-style Cantonese, telling us which part of Singapore was from reclamation, Marina Bay would look much better when all the constructions are done in 2015, and how people competed in building high rises. He also told us a bit about how Singapore was affected in WWII, originally Singapore was safe and undiscovered until Malaysia informed Japan the location of Singapore which was the cause of massacre. Even babies were killed by putting poison to their mouths.

As recommended by the taxi driver, we first visited a very new park called Gardens by the Bay (濱海灣花園). It was constructed on the reclaimed land. I found this garden very spacious and modern-designed.

I really like the photo on the left since somehow I feel it looks like the aboriginal design in North America!

I think this is Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay where special plants and waterfall can be viewed. Since admission wasn’t free and due to time constraint, I only took some photos from outside.

On the way to next destination, I saw this elegant hotel which was built in 1887.

Since merlion is the icon of Singapore, I was very excited to see the real merlion statues 魚尾獅 in Merlion Park 魚尾獅公園!

left photo – baby merlion, right photo – mother merlion

What a nice weather, but very hot though! Let’s make a pose beside the big alphabets (擺番個靚pose先) J

We would like to try the famous Hainanese chicken (海南雞飯) in Singpore so our driver dropped us off at Boon Tong Kee (文東記), one of the famous restaurants for Hainanese chicken with reasonable price. The dish tasted quite good except that they didn’t give us the boneless chicken as requested since we were foreign visitor. Overall, food was good J but service was bad L

After lunch we headed to the airport. I saw many interesting architectures on the way and this was one of them –historical style with doors on second floor facing the street. If I’m not mistaken, the doors were for the purpose of delivering furniture in the old days since I have seen a building with this kind of structure in Vancouver Chinatown.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

South East Asia Cruise in December 2012 (Part 4)

We arrived at Phuket, Thailand (泰國普吉島) in the afternoon of December 5. There were 13 excursions available for sightseeing or adventure tours. This time we picked a more fun activity and left our 3 seniors on the cruise … haha! My brother and I had elephant riding adventure, yeah!

Price was around CAD 55.00 – 60.00 per adult. First we had to land on the shore. How did we do that since our cruise was stopped in the middle of the sea? By swim??? (唔通要游上岸?)

They provided a small boat (艇仔) for us to get to the beach.

Here’s the elephant camp … god of elephant? I don’t think they treat elephants like god. I hope the elephants and monkeys (they do have monkeys there) are treated fairly and ethically.

Even though I like nature, I have to admit that I’m a city person … I really couldn’t stand the animal poopoo smell in this remote village. Anyway, let’s start with elephant riding!

Our guide was a young man in early 20s, I guess. He liked to do something more adventurous than the others by getting the elephant to walk (swim?) in the lake! Then he would say in Chinese (I forgot in Cantonese or Mandarin) … 救命啊! 救命啊! (Help! Help!) 真係俾佢嚇死.

They said it’s safe to ride on the elephant. I doubted it since only the bar we hold in front of our bodies was considered a seat belt. Sometimes we slid to different directions on the chair during the ride. But some families managed to do that with their babies, maybe because infant got free ride.

Can you see? One of the elephants was eating grasses

Let’s have a group picture! Elephants group picture … haha! After the ride, each elephant guide would expect to receive tip. Good that we got some money, USD $$$. Again my co-worker told me South East Asian like US money (ex. 1 dollar bill) but when we gave money to our guide, he wasn’t as excited as the others. I think he loved to receive Thai baht 泰銖 more.

After elephant riding, we watched monkey show and elephant show. Monkey performances included monkey taxi (biking), monkey NBA (basketball) and monkey fashion show (sexy pose with an umbrella on a steel wire). Baby elephant show included soccer play and balloon dart game. They even grabbed some kids to try baby elephant massage. I’m not sure if the kid enjoyed the massage or just no eye see (到底個細路係享受定冇眼睇?).

Now to the next attraction – Wat Chalong. On the way I saw a Buddha statue on the mountain.

Here’s Wat Chalong (วัดฉลอง) - Phuket's largest and most sacred temple. I think it’s a very typical Thai temple in red, white and gold colour. Normally I love to visit and pray at Buddhist temples but this one scared me off since I heard several firecrackers and I’m very sensitive to loud sounds.

Next we visited a cashew factory which I should have bought more cashews since my co-workers really liked their huge cashews, especially in wasabi favour. This shop accepted US money.

On the small boat returning to our cruise, I took a photo of its charming sunset J

Monday, August 19, 2013

South East Asia Cruise in December 2012 (Part 3)

On December 4, our cruise docked in Port Klang (Kuala Lumpur 吉隆坡), the capital of Malaysia. There were 6 shore excursions to choose from with price range CAD 35.00 – 90.00 per person. Luckily CAD currency was stronger than USD currency at that time so everything was a bit cheaper. Since our group had 3 seniors, we just picked to visit Mid Valley Megamall which didn’t require lots of exercise or walking J

According to Royal Caribbean website, the Mid Valley Megamall is one of Asia's largest retail, food and entertainment centers . Covering more than 1.7 million sq.ft of lettable space spread over five floors. Our tour guide said it is a middle to high-end shopping centre and we were allowed to spend almost 4 hours there.

Just outside Mid Valley Megamall we saw this little restaurant. We always use “café” in Canada while “kafe” is more commonly used in Malaysia, I think.

I was impressed by the Christmas decorations once I entered into the mall. Its decorations were just as attractive and gorgeous as those in Hong Kong! And the mall itself was quite big and spacious too!

Like a typical shopping centre, this mall has all kinds of stores including cosmetic, jewelleries, fashion, medical and dental care, pharmacy, computer, cell phones, bakery, food court, fast food, restaurants, department stores and banking services. It has both local and international shops such as Crabtree & Evelyn, Esprit, G2000, Giordano, Guess, Hush Puppies, LeSportsac, MUJI 無印良品, Levi’s, Rockport, Swarovski, The Body Shop …

Everything was so amazing as described above until I visited its restroom. … 50% seated toilets (good!), 50% squat toilets 蹲廁 (still acceptable) … what I couldn’t accept was the low standard of cleanliness and people just rushed to the vacant toilet without a proper line-up L

Time for lunch! So many options here … what to pick? MacDonald, Burger King, Pizza Hut … they even had Nando’s … no no no, too common! Chinese restaurant? How about halal (Muslim)/pork free restaurant for Malaysian or Indonesian cuisine? Finally my mom made the decision since she has gout, let’s all go to Sushi King!

My friend told me US dollars are widely accepted in South East Asia but Sushi King didn’t take US money. That’s okay since currency exchange store could be found in the mall. I had a lunch combo of sashimi and tempura which was quite good! I still remember the waiter with funny smile could speak fluent Malaysian-style Cantonese 馬來亞式廣東話 J

I wanted to find some dessert after lunch. I never had durian pancake before and I saw a customer buying 4 pieces from Durian-Durian kiosk. So I bought one to try … looks like I enjoyed it in the photo, right? Actually I didn’t like it at all … tasted awful to me L

4 hours passed fast, time to return to the cruise. Here are the photos taken on the way back to Port Klang. What’s special about its views? Maybe the tropical trees and some Muslim architectures.

Friday, August 16, 2013

South East Asia Cruise in December 2012 (Part 2)

Food was definitely not a concern on the cruise as complimentary cuisines were available most of the time throughout the day. The two main restaurants serving cuisines with no extra charges were Windjammer Café and Romeo & Juliet. 

Our breakfasts were usually taken at Windjammer café which was a buffet. The best time to go for breakfast was 7:00 am when it just opened since all trays were full of food and lots of vacant tables and seats that were clean. Here were my breakfasts on 2 different days. Food selection and satisfaction were okay but I enjoyed the ocean view more.

Getting up at 6:30 am for early breakfast wasn’t easy but I could manage to do that every other day. See! The sky was still not completely bright at 7:00 am.

As I mentioned, food was always available even after dinner time such as this poolside buffet on Wednesday (December 5) from 10:30 pm – 11:30 pm.

Only on the 4th day (December 6) we realized that besides buffet lunch at Windjammer Café, we could also enjoy Royal Brasserie 30 lunch at Romeo & Juliet Restaurant with better ambience and food.

Like majorities, we had dinner at Romeo & Juliet Restaurant every night. There were two seatings available – first seating @ 6:00 pm or second seating @ 7:30 pm. We picked the first seating and we were assigned to sit close to the central atrium, where the professional pianist would play wonderful, romantic songs such as “Fly me to the moon” and "月亮代表我的心" during supper.

Let’s have a family picture before dinner! From left to right: my brother, mom, uncle (mom’s brother), auntie (mom’s sister) and me.

Romeo & Juliet offered fine dining with 3 course menu – appetizer, main course and dessert. Each course had 5-6 dishes to choose from. As there was no limitation for each course, guests could order all the appetizers, main courses and desserts on the menu (I don’t think anyone was crazy enough to try that so far). Here are some examples of what we had as appetizers (1st three photos), main courses (2nd row right photo and 3rd row photos), desserts (4th row photos and 5th row left photo). Don’t they look delicious?

The most difficult task was to translate the menu from English to Chinese to my mom and aunt/uncle. Since my mom had gout, we needed to select the menu carefully for her. This special task became easier when we found out there was menu written in Chinese on the 3rd night … haha!

Each waiter and assistant waiter served 4 to 5 tables. I forgot the names already, I only recall that our waiter was from Indonesia and assistant waiter was from Philippines. Both of them were nice and professional. Since there were more than a hundred tables, you can imagine how many chefs and restaurant attendants were there. Last supper was on Thursday (December 6) with all the chefs and restaurant attendants singing on the central atrium. They started with an Italian song first then a Chinese song called 月亮代表我的心. If I’m not mistaken with my own observation and listening, there were about 150 staffs from 26 different countries!