Sunday, 3 May 2015

Angkor What? (1)

My sister and I were looking to go on an easy vacation for a few days. Easy meaning no visa application required, and no sitting nearby smelly people for more than 3 hours on an airplane.

So Cambodia it is. 

We figured that Vietnam would take more than a week to enjoy, so would Thailand and the Philippines. Myanmar seemed to be going through political upheaval at the time, so Cambodia seemed to be the best bet.

We were aiming for a five day trip, so we're only going to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. There's a lot of other tourist attractions in Cambodia, such as Sihanoukville and a lake-thingy in the middle of the country. But Sihanoukville seemed dangerous, from what I read on the internet, and so not worth the trip (in my opinion) and the lake-thingy was apparently dry when we were planning to go (we could've travelled PP-SR or SR-PP through the lake, on a boat, except it's only filled on monsoon season, and the journey can be pretty rough especially if you get seasick easy).

So we flew to Phnom Penh, and booked a room in this wonderful hotel near the Royal Palace. If only we could've pass immigration quickly and continue to our pick-up...

After getting off the airplane, we walked into the terminal (yes, it was that kind of airport), and were given a form to fill in. It was a custom declaration form, which we filled out, and passed to some airport officers. Next we were given a yellow form, stating whether or not we've been sick or feeling sick (this was in the middle of an Ebola outbreak), which we also filled out and passed to another officer. Then we were given the arrival card. If only these were given to us in the plane, so we don't have to fill them standing up, like errant school children who are trying to race against time and finish their homework.

Okay, I'll stop with the complaints and segue (not so) smoothly into our hotel room. Nice, eh?
A balcony that would've been perfect if not for the heat and the mosquitoes =D
Breakfast spread was nice; they have a wide range of options from bacon and omelet... fruit platter (of course we didn't eat breakfast until the next morning).

On our first day, we spent half the day on airports and planes and car transfer to hotel, so it was already 3 PM when we were finally ready for sightseeing. We decided to visit the Central Market, where we were supposed to be able to buy great stuff at low, low prices. Meh. Underwhelmed doesn't begin to describe how I felt. A usual tourist trap, and it closes at 5 PM.

Central Market entrance

We took a tuk-tuk from the hotel, one with the hotel banner at the back of the vehicle. The hotel staff told the driver our destination, and told us what we are to pay him. It all worked out great. When we got off of the tuk-tuk, the driver told us thank you, and "Good luck to you, lady."

Okay, will we be needing luck?
Which reminds me.. everything we read online, and even at the hotel, suggests that we need to be extra vigilant in Cambodia. There's a sign at the hotel room imploring us to leave our jewelry and valuables at home. So anyway...

We bought some fridge magnets for a dollar each at the market, and some place-mats, but the other offerings were quite uninteresting. I'd stay away from the jewelry, if I were you.

I think the building is beautiful architecturally, but it's shrouded by peddlers showcasing their items
Inside the market
They seem to have everything
It's hot here even at 5 PM
We went to have dinner at a place recommended by our in-flight magazine: Frizz Restaurant, House 67, Oknha Chhun, Phnom Penh; phone: +855 (12) 524 801;
We're supposed to try its fish amok, described as "creamy, smooth, and extremely more-ish" (whatever that means).
It's a signature dish in Cambodian cuisine, varies slightly depending on where you have it, but it usually involves marinated fish and a kroeung (?) paste made with lemongrass and coconut milk, lime leaf, sweet basil, ginger and chilli, all cooked in banana leaf.

We are a sucker for advertisement

We had fish amok, green mango salad, and umm.. something, I forgot, for dinner
After dinner we went back to our hotel and stay there like a couple of delicate ladies who are afraid of robbers and who are too defenseless to roam about a strange, supposedly unsafe city late at night.

Stay tuned for day 2.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

My (Brief) Adventure in Vegetarianism

One of my friends suddenly and irrevocably turned to the other side. You know, the side that does not eat meat. Not only that, said friend started posting videos and photos of animal abuse on facebook, most of which are cases that happened in animal farms. There's some about chick sexing, where boy-chick and girl-chick are separated and most of the boy-chicks are killed because they won't produce eggs when they grow up, and uhm.. oh look, a fried chicken wing.

There's all kinds of abuse that I can't remember, because I think my brain receives feedback from my body and realizes that I would be half the person I am without regular intake of grilled salmon and pork ribs and korean barbecue and fried chicken and cheeseburgers so on, so my brain processed these memories and deleted them.

Good job, brain.

Not that these issues aren't serious. I just think there are other solutions that doesn't involve everyone not eating meat, because then, for instance, cows would be mass-slaughtered for no other reason than without them producing meat (and leather, milk, etc, if you're for veganism) they're only contributing to global warming without much benefit. How many of you would like a pet cow?

I tried to be a vegetarian for a week. Not even vegan; baby steps, I thought. The first two days are fine. I had bread for breakfast, Malay food (rice + veggie + perkedel a.k.a. potato cake + eggs) for lunch, then oatmeal for dinner. There is also a vegetarian stall in my department that serves decent food, so I had that for lunch for a few days. I was feeling great. In fact, bowel movements were better than ever. I also had a sense of achievement ("Hey, I'm not eating meat! For the first time in twenty... one years!") and I was feeling super healthy.

The fourth day, though, my teeth started feeling all weird after I had vegetables. I was tired of oatmeal, and was eating it with potato chips. Technically vegetarian, but not exactly healthy.
Then, by the fifth day, I broke down and got fried chicken.

Well, I mean, technically, I did eat vegetarian for a week. A 5-day working week.
I'd probably do better next time. Like, in a year? Two?

Thursday, 5 February 2015

An Ode to Flying Blue

I flew to Europe at the end of 2013. (Posts coming up)
I happened to book flights on AirFrance to Paris, and KLM from Amsterdam back to Singapore. I didn't know at the time that these were two airlines partners of Flying Blue, a miles reward program. It was free to join Flying Blue, and since I already got the miles, why not join the program and collect them miles. So, like the sensible person I was raised to be, I did. I filled up some form, I imagine. This was in early 2014 (the deadline at which I and claim my miles. I think they gave you like three months). Apparently at that time I answered one of those security questions, and the question I picked was "What is your favorite book". Which is stupid. Only an idiot who never reads has ONE favorite book. But I digress.

So I kept my miles, I wasn't planning on any long distance trips. First of all, long distance trips are not only expensive because of the tickets. The trains, hotels, meals, are also expensive unless the long distance trips you have in mind is to Ethiopia, in which case, are you an aid worker? Why are reading a blog? Go help people.

KLM and AirFrance doesn't fly to other Asian destinations except for Bali and Jakarta, as far as I know, and there is only so many times I want to go to Bali. There's still a whole Earth to see, I'm not gonna go to see a dirty beach/expensive resort/drunk white people three times.

Second of all... Wait, I only have one reason: I'm broke and unemployed.

I kind of know that air miles can expire, so I wasn't surprised when I received an email last week reminding me that my miles are expiring. I only have 3,298 miles, which can get me a nice plastic luggage tag, or ebooks, which pffft.

How can anyone resist this piece of shit beauty? But I shall.
Still I was curious as to how much 3,298 miles would save me in a flight somewhere, so I tried to log in to Flying Blue. Thing is, I did the registration a year ago, which in modern times is ages ago. A new generation of iPhone has been released, one with a larger screen and looked very much like a Samsung Galaxy. In this period of time, I've forgotten what PIN I used. So naturally, I tried my normal PIN, which is ******
When it didn't work, I tried my usual password. When it didn't work, I tried my old password.

Then I was blocked.

I clicked on the "Forgot your PIN/password?" button and was directed to my security question. It is case sensitive. What the fuck. If I'd written "To Kill a Mockingbird." when I registered and then I typed in "To kill a mockingbird." or "To Kill A Mockingbird." or even "To Kill a Mockingbird", it would be the wrong answer. Can't see the difference? The fucking computer can.
I can't remember my PIN number, what makes you think I'm gonna remember the security question I answered months or years ago?

Hence,I was blocked again.

I resorted to the second most desperate attempt a person can do at this situation: write an email. The last ditch attempt would be to call the call center, but I try to avoid talking to strangers as much as I can. Apparently, you need to log in to write them an email.

At this point, I felt like a vein is about to pop in my head, I'd have brain hemorrhage and then I'd die, right here on my desk, with my computer open to a Flying Blue web page. The autopsy will reveal that I've had an aneurysm, and that the area of my brain where a blood vessel had ruptured is blue.

But I didn't die, so I took out my phone and dialed the call center. An automatic voice asked me to press 1 for English, and 2 for... I didn't wait that long, I only have minutes to live of patience. Then the same voice asked me to enter my 10 digit Flying Blue number, at which point I had to rummage in my bag for my wallet, and then sift through useless member cards for a particular useless member card. Then I entered the number: let's say it's 1234567890. 1.. 2.. 3.. 4.. so far so good. Then I press 6.

I looked for a delete, but in this wonderful universe, there is no such thing. I pressed a bunch of ##### in hope that the voice would reprimand me for keying in the wrong number, and would I please, key in the correct number this time, like a functional adult. But no. The fucking voice said something about if I wanted information I can visit the website, any information I needed would be on the website.

At which point I just went, "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA~~~~~"

And "Motherf#&$*@(!!"

I redid the whole thing, and this time my set of thumbs managed to key in the correct number. Then the voice said, "To confirm your identity, we'd need you to key in the answer to the security question." (I'm paraphrasing, I don't remember the exact sentence she used).

At which point, I swear to all that is holy, if they ask me what my favorite book is, I will hurl my phone.

Luckily, no. I was asked to key in my birthdate. Of course I know my birthdate. It's the most awesome date of the year. I did, and they emailed me a temporary pin number. 

The End.

But seriously, Flying Blue, KLM, AirFrance, your website sucks. Get it together.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Gruesome TV

I am a bit late to The Following, but hey, better late than never, yeah?

Now when I say gruesome, I mean gruesome but good. I'm not sure I've seen any awesomely dark, unapologetically gory television except for Hannibal and The Following.

Hannibal is about, as the title suggested, Hannibal Lecter, whom we all know from Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. And in all three movies, he's played with the right amount of creep by Sir Anthony Hopkins. There's a prequel called Hannibal Rising, and here the young Hannibal was surprisingly good looking. I mean... what, did he become shorter as he become older? Everyone knows aging sucks, but aging doesn't change you from Gaspard Ulliel to Sir Anthony Hopkins (sorry, Sir Anthony Hopkins).

Hannibal, always so well-groomed (Source)

So the television series covers the time before Red Dragon. In Red Dragon, Hannibal is already caught by Will Graham. We know that Hannibal tried to disembowel Will when the arrest happen, and that they were intially quite friendly before that (attempting to disembowel someone will dampen your friendship with said someone, apparently). What we don't know is how their relationship were and how it developed. We also didn't know that Will was troubled even before Hannibal tried to kill him with a ceramic knife.

We will find out. *creepy laugh*

Will (Hugh Dancy) has been called by Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) to the Behavioral Sciences Unit of the FBI, to help catch a serial killer. When the stress and the horror of chasing a serial killer, whom he suspects is a cannibal, get to him, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is brought in to help. He's an expert in the field of psychology. But what the FBI don't know... *creepy laugh*
Ehem. There's a lot of blood, and some scenes can get quite disgusting. Now, I haven't actually seen the Saw series, but I think this series is still less gory than them, but there's more than enough, especially for television.

Also, Jack Crawford is African-American here. In all three movies (not sure if his race is mentioned in the books), he's Caucasian.

Now The Following, is also about a serial killer, but of a different sort. This one is an English professor, and is obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe and death. I'm not familiar with Edgar Allan Poe's works (yet), but apparently there are recurring theme of the death of a beautiful woman. Joe Carroll, (played by James Purefoy), said serial killer, was caught while killing his 15th victim. Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) stopped him, arrested him, and saved Sarah Fuller (Maggie Grace), the almost-victim. 

Nine years later, a month before his execution, he killed several prison guards and escaped. After his escape, the FBI found out that he's been building a cult. This following is devoted to him, and shares his obsession with Edgar Allan Poe. He seems to escape to finish his work (i.e. killing his last victim), and at the end of the pilot, with the help of his following, he did. He was recaptured, but it is just the beginning. With the help of his followers, he kidnapped his son from his previous marriage (she divorced him after he was convicted), and tried to kidnap his ex-wife, Claire (Natalie Zea) as well.

Bacon. Yum. (Source)
Can't wait for the next seasons. Why watch Zooey Deschanel act all sugary and poop glitter when you can watch these series?

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Here's to an Unproductive Year

I know that the year is not over, but it's getting closer and closer.

So, I've had a crappy year in terms of productiveness. I haven't read the books I said I'd read at the beginning of the year. I haven't managed to get any publications. I haven't traveled anywhere this year (except to go home for Chinese New Year and to my sister's wedding, which is not what traveling translates to in my book).

These drawbacks have certainly made me... contemplative.

Is this what life is going to be? Do I really have to work more than 12 hours a day? Am I ever going to graduate? Where is my life headed? Why do Indomie (instant noodle from Indonesia) tastes so good, why is it so hard to find them here, and what on Earth did they put in Indomies that make them taste the way they do, like an angel fell down from the Heavens and pour...

Okay, enough.

I may be experiencing a bit of quarter life crisis. You know, you feel like you're on the brink of doing something absolutely crazy, like quit your job and spend two years traveling around the world and not shaving. Or, slightly less crazy, make an career U-turn, like from an accountant to... a... mechanic. Or buy a chicken farm and grow organic chickens and eggs. Or finally break up with that one girlfriend you've been with since high school. 

Or go to grad school.

Wait... bad example.

Back to the brink. You wanted to do it, but you're wishy-washy about it, because you're, well, 25. It's scary to jump. You're still not sure what you want to do with your life.

And that's another thing, isn't it? I thought I'd get my shit together by the time I'm 25, but I'm still not sure what I wanted to be in life. Well I wanted to be a fairy princess, but apparently that's just not happening. Or, a witch, but I never gotten that letter from Hogwarts. 
Their loss. You know I would've been absolutely proficient with hexes.
(Although some people who know me will swear that I am a witch.
Don't listen to them.)

Other people seems to be doing great. They're working, they're starting businesses, they're getting married, they're getting knocked up. So what am I doing wrong?

I felt like my midlife crisis won't be so pretty nor wishy-washy.
I see... a pet snake, a tattoo or two, some piercings, and a partiality to leopard-print articles of clothing.
One can hope.