Ice, ice, baby: Reykjavik Day 1

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Haven’t had much time or energy to post anything in the past few months. As usual , work overtook any effort to write. But it’s quite amazing how “inspirational” being away from work can be.

So I’m halfway through my first day in Iceland. I saw halfway through but I’m actually waiting for my dinner.

Tonight will be my first attempt at chasing the aurora borealis. I have my fingers crossed because I haven’t seen the sky all day. I did, however, spend a wonderful 3 hours at the Blue Lagoon submerged in hot thermal waters while my ears almost froze over.

The winds were realky blustering and it was freezing once you got out of the water. I didn’t get a pair of slippers and, at one point, i swear I couldn’t feel my toes anymore as I was making my way to the massage area.

But the massage was well worth the close shave with frostbite. Done while you are lying half submerged in the warm waters, it unkinked all the right knots.

Other than the food, I”m more than in love with Iceland right now. The people have been helpful and friendly. And the internet oh the internet! Free wifi on the tour buses, free wifi in the room. Hong Kong should take its cue from Iceland, instead peeing its pants about breaking that idiot Richard Li’s monopoly!


Malaysia, Truly, in Hong Kong

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What char kway is supposed to look like

What char kway is supposed to look like

WTH char kway teow from Fatty Crab

WTH char kway teow from Fatty Crab

In the past two months, I’ve had a good deal of Malaysian food, having gorged myself over a four-day weekend in Kuala Lumpur and also trying two “Malaysian” restaurants in Hong Kong. The reason I put Malaysian in quote marks is that while one of them has turned out to be the best in HK, the other fell short by a long way.

It’s always been notoriously difficult to find good Malaysian (all right, or Singaporean) food in Hong Kong. It makes sense if you think about it. In Malaysia, food hawkers can put a couple of generations through university in England just making one kind of noodles. They can take years perfecting just the soup stock.

There, “coffee shops” or eateries survive by renting out stall space to several such chefs; the owner normally sells the drinks and each of the stall owners take care of their own business so the restaurant can offer some variety. Often times, there will be one star of the show while the others are just supporting cast.

Which is why when tourists go to KL, it’s often they don’t get to taste the best because the best prawn noodle may be at one end of town and the best char kway teow at the other.

Having said that, however, the food court Hutong in Lot 10 in Bukit Bintang seems to have worked out a good way to centre some of the best by inviting them to open stalls within the food court – and also exists as the only mall in the whole country allowed to serve pork, which helps preserve authenticity. The fact that the mall sits smack in the middle of the busiest of the city only adds to its appeal.

Over a three-day weekend, you can probably just taste some of the best the city can offer just by eating here. Hence my tip: a lot of people tend to be drawn to hotels near the twin towers. If you’re a foodie, the Bukit Bintang area – in particular, around Grand Millenium and Pavilion mall ,is where you should be. My favourite is a decent little place called Piccolo that offers really decent rates.

OK, back to Hong Kong. On the recommendation of friends, i had discovered Cafe Malacca tucked away inside Trader’s Hotel in Western a few months ago. However, it seems that recently word has spread about this Malaysian/Singaporean hotel coffee shop that seems to be drawing larger crowds each time I go.

Some dishes chef Sunny Tse hasn’t quite mastered. The mee goreng, for instance, was too sweet and the Hainanese chicken rice isn’t spectacular. But what he has got right far surpasses the above. His rojak is a refreshing reminder of Malaysia. I wish he would use the real prawn fritters instead of the dough sticks but I’m willing to forgive him anything for a plate of his char kway teow!

It’s as close as it can get without the cockles and miraculously retains the authentic smoky taste that normally comes with the charcoal stoves. He’s even managed to source plumper bean sprouts than the usual stringy Hong Kong stuff. And the hidden dessert (you have to ask for it), the durian pudding is simply to die for!

Now the other place, Fatty Crab, I went to full of hope. I should have known better the minute i read “Malaysian-inspired” and that it had its roots in NYC even though the founder did spend time in Malaysia.

Nothing was memorable but the noise and the cramped space. Even the much touted curry crab was a disappointment with the curry sauce being too sour.

No prizes for guessing which place i will be going to the next time I crave Malaysian. Incidentally, Cafe Malacca’s curry crab is quite lusciously saucy but you have to order in advance!

Officina Politico

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Hands up those who have felt like doing one/of the below to your colleagues?
A) strangling B) hugging C) smacking D) kicking D) all of the above

Colleagues are the people we spend most of our waking moments with. If we spend between eight to 10 hours working each day, we are giving up up to 40% of our day and almost 30% of our week in the company of our co-workers – good or bad.

Inevitably there will be friction and there will be politics. When I went freelance for several years after working for 12 in an office fraught with office politics whether you wanted to play or not, one of the things that surprised me most was how much more time I had to actually work when I didn’t have to be in the office environment.

Then I did the dastardly stupid thing of going back to the snake pit, for various reasons, personal and professional. So for the past nine years, i have been trying to keep my sanity in an insane world of jealousy, scandal, backbiting but also professionalism. In the past four years, I have had to deal a little more with corporate management politics, which holds its own fascination.

I’m sure every manager will say their methods work best; I’ll try not to be as self-indulgent. I don’t think I am the best manager in the world but I do try to manage the best I can. As I look back on my career, sure, there are plenty of things I would do differently if I had the chance.

However, one of the things that has struck me most is that a lot of senior management people actually have less management skills than we give them credit for – mostly it has to do with not being able to separate personal relationships from work ones. It’s particularly bad when a senior manager starts an office romance with an underling.

I am a little ambivalent about office romances. I mean, people can hardly help it if they fall in love on the job; especially in certain professions where long hours are the norm. But if one of them is in a direct reporting line to the other, then I think the decent thing would be for one of them to ask for a transfer to another supervisor.

Obviously, not many people do that and the result, in one case in my office, is the birth of a pack of bullies who feel that they can intimidate their colleagues simply because they are tight with the [married] guy who is shagging the boss. The result is a fragmented office and good people abandoning ship. Not to mention all that potential for a sexual harrassment suite if it goes bad.

Hi, Tea!

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OMG, the pain! The agony! Wrote this post before and it completely disappeared. So back to the drawing board. I hate you, WP!

Despite Hong Kong’s incessant need to diet, high teas are really popular on this city. And, as far as great teas go, the Grand Hyatt’s Tiffin Lounge used to have the best one in town. That’s right, “used to”.

For some reason best known to themselves, they moved the whole dang tea buffet down to the coffee shop in the form of what can only be described as a pre-dinner dinner buffet.
Replacing it at Tiffin is one of those odious two or three-tray dainty affairs that are completely ho-hum.

I know, I know, buffets can be wasteful but it’s not like they did away with a buffet completely. In fact, they supersized it, I think.

I don’t know about others but I really don’t want a full-blown buffet for tea; nor do I want to have my dinner at 3pm, but I do want a choice of enough sweets and savouries.

That was the great thing about Tiffin; there were enough to keep most people happy. So since then, friends and I have been trying to find a worthy replacement. We went to Island Shang’s Cafe Too, which went a little Too far when they presented us with our bill 20 mins before the buffet ended and suggested we take a hike.

So yesterday, we went to Cafe Grey in Upper House, after reading positive reviews. Well, it’s great for the view but the three-tray set for two was pretty forgettable. If I hadn’t taken a photo, I would have forgotten what I ate: except for the scones! It wasn’t that they were particular scrumptious but that they were big even by normal standards, but really looked incongruously so with the otherwise dainty set.

I’m sure there are places with decent tea buffets and I shall have to make it a point to seek them out. Until then, the tea buffet at Conrad’s Lobby Bar (which also does a great curry lunch buffet) gets my vote. It’s a modest buffet and they don’t put out a huge amount but there’s sushi, samosas, chicken wings, quiches, cakes – and don’t forget the waffles! Just enough to hit the right spot.



Summer kiddie fest

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Summer has officially started for me. Yes, the weather is hot, it’s raining, there are typhoons every week, yadda yadda yadda. That’s not it. For me, THE sign of summer are the many animated features that hit the HK cinemas.

Yes, I am a closet cartoon queen. I love them, well most of them anyway. I can’t profess to having a real strong appetite for Tim Burton’s black and white masterpieces. I like my cartoon characters cure and chubby; not angular. And I love the minions.

Yup,summer opened for me with Despicable Me 2. OK, plotwise (what? Looking for a plot in a cartoon?!!) the first movie was much better. There’s nothing like a villain realising the errors of his way and turning over a new leaf, after all. But this has enough fun and laughs to keep me engaged – and it’s a nice, simple love story. Awwww Gru”s all grown up and has a love interest!

Gru, who’s now working on starting a little business in jams and jellies (I have a few FB friends who can help here), is recruited by the Anti-Villains League to find the serum for a deadly serum that turns animals/people into mindless killing machines and bring the dastardly villain to justice. He’s paired with the quirky Lucy, who’s more effective than she appears to be.

Gru’s gut feeling tells him it is El Macho, who was supposed to have been killed in a volcano explosion years ago. El Macho hires Dr Nefario who’s grown tired of the sickly sweet business of jellies, and kidnaps Gru’s minions to start his army of purple killing machines.

We all know how this will end of course; Gru always gets his man, but this time he also gets his woman! I’m particularly appreciative of how “normally” directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud treats the the gooey-fication of gru without making it manipulatively maudlin – or, in the words of Edith Gru, “let me be the first to say, ‘Ewwww’!”

But I think the best part of Despicable Me 2 is watching the silly minions and they just enjoy the the little things in life no matter how trivial ot stupid: gelato, smacking each other, rolling around in the grass. It’s what childhoods are made of and it’s what some of us could do with a lot more in this stressful world.

Is Despicable Me 2 the most brilliant animated feature ever? No. But it certainly made me happier and a little more stress-free when I left the cinema. For that, thank you, Illumination Entertainment. I’ll be waiting for Part 3!




I was going to post a review of Monsters University after I saw it but it was so disappointing that I can’t work up the energy. It was rather bleahhh actually, nothing much to the story, hardly any laughs and nary a heartstring was tugged.


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Mileage programs… dontcha/just love them? Well, I do! Due to a number/of business trips recently, yours truly was upgraded to the Silver tier of CX’s Marco Polo Club. Compared to my friends who fly at the drop of a hat and are all brandishing gold or diamond, this is pfffftttt nothing but I’m thrilled at the extra privileges it has offered me even befofe i received the actual cards.

There’s the use of the lounge for free for the next year even when I’m travelling super-economy. Of course there’s also the faster check-in, the extra luggage allowance, priority boarding/luggage. But on the recent trip to KL, moi was actually upgraded to business for both legs of the journey! And this was after I was told that my class of ticket wasn’t eligible for mileage upgrade.

Viva la Marco Polo!




Gluttony rules in Kuala Lumpur!

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Too much to choose from

Too much to choose from

Lovely spicy food in KL

Lovely spicy food in KL

Just came back from a long weekend in Kuala Lumpur and it is always so good to be there eating my way through the city. This trip was even better because, having just regained my Silver Marco Polo club status, I was upgraded for both legs of the journey.

As usual, my preferred hotel was Piccolo Hotel smack in the middle of Bukit Bintang. It’s really no frills but clean and comfortable enough. At HK$600+ a night, it’s great value for money. You can walk almost to all the best food places in the area – and there are a lot of them. Piccolo is also next to just the best food court in the whole world: Lot 10 Hutong.

When billionaire Francis Yeoh replanned and upgraded the formerly seedy street, he did the one thing that all Chinese in Malaysia love him for: he managed to get pork into a food court (the only in the country) and then he went round getting famous food stall owners to open a branch in Hutong. This is wonderful news for tourists because not only can they taste the food in all its authenticity (you simply must have pork!), they don’t have to seek out all these places on their own. It’s not easy when you don’t have friends there.

So there’s the superb Malaysian coffee, beef balls, pork noodles, char kway teow, nasi lemak, charcoal fry noodles… you could easily have 10 or more meals there! But it’s not all the Bukit Bintang area offers up of course. Over at Pavilion, the Ipoh curry noodles and the nasi lemak are pretty good.
And, about 10 mins on foor will take you to Medan Imbi where you can have bak kut teh, great fried noodles (at night) and even durians!

This is such a foodie country. On this trip I had a gweilo friend with me and even though he professed to eat like a labrador, I think he secretly stopped eating for a week after we came back. We didn;t venture that far, no Pandamaran seafood this time but we did mosey down to Jalan Alor to have Wong Ah Wah’s grilled stingray and balitong, which my friend actually loved! Decided to give him an extra kick by taking him for banana leaf Indian curry rice in Jalan Gasing. We all ate with our hands and he got into the spirit of things very quickly.

People often ask why i don’t go to Singapore or Bangkok for food. With all this (and cheaper) in Malaysia, are you kidding me?!