March 29, 2011

Quirky Citizen M Hotel

I was on a working trip to Prague and Amsterdam recently and during the nine nights there, I stayed at four different hotels! The first three were the run-of-the-mills international hotel chains, but I was totally awed by this last hotel.

Beneath the unassuming façade lies a gem of a hotel.

Instead of the usual check-in counters, guests perform self check-in, check-out and bill payment at these computer terminals, and the 2-3 hotel ambassadors will be ever ready to offer any assistance.

And instead of the usual hotel lobby, you get exquisitely furnished and comfy lounges with sofa, magazines and flat screen TV – they are so comfortable you can practically just laze around the hotel.

And if you need to work, or some space for a brief meeting, you can always use one of these long tables.

Mind you, you can even surf for free with these ultra cool Apple Macbook. And if you have your own laptop or portable devices, wifi is free anywhere in the hotel.

If you are feeling peckish, you can always drop by the food outlet for a quick bite, which also doubles up as a bar for the evening.

Throughout the hotel, you get interesting, witty and quirky quips such as these:

Once you get past the excitement at the ground level, get ready for the visual attack of contrasting stark white walls and bright red carpet leading to your room.

As you unlock the door to your room, an inviting super sized bed awaits you – this can easily sleep two adults and two young children. The bed occupies the full width of the room. A pull out drawer under the bed is large enough to store your belongings.

Next to the table lamp on the right is the Philips moodpad, a all-in-one device to control the lighting, air-conditioner, alarm clock, window blinds and TV. Besides the usual TV channels, there’s a HUGE selection of movies (and they are FREE!). And this being Amsterdam, there’s also two channels which offers adult entertainment (FREE as well). But if you are travelling with children, don’t worry. You can lock the adult channels with the moodpad.

The circular full glass shower booth with both hand-held and rain shower. The shower will only operate when the door of the booth is tightly shut. Smart eh? And the circular light on the ceiling of the booth changes colour throughout my shower :-) And if you are not staying alone, fret not, you can cover the booth with the curtain for modesty.

The toilet booth with frosted glass, and next to it is a panel with face mirror and shelves holding a hair dryer. There’s also a UK plug point besides the usual European plug point. Turn the panel around and you get a full length mirror.

The wash basin with a cabinet to store an extra roll of toilet paper, tissues and dustbin. There’s even a safe cleverly built into the wall just beside the door, underneath the clothes rack (there’s no cupboard by the way).

Even the toiletries are not spared from artistic expressions of the hotel owner. The shower gel/shampoo comes in two variants – Darjeeling tea for morning, and evening talc for evening.

All this for Euro 107.10, inclusive of tax and credit card administration fees. Even the receipt comes with a witty quip!

And when the email for feedback came, it started with, “We apologise if you find your bed too small after you’ve tried ours” – can’t help but laugh at it!

A hotel with full facilities, Citizen M is certainly not. But for independent travelers looking for an affordable luxury accommodation, you can’t go wrong with Citizen M. I am so in love with this hotel – can’t wait for them to spread their wings further and wider.

March 18, 2011

Tastes of Jakarta

Now on to the foods…

On the first night, we went to Bunga Rampai Restaurant, an Indonesian fine dining restaurant operating from an old Dutch colonial house. The name Bunga Rampai is taken from the Indonesian term of assorted flowers such as the arrangements of jasmine, rose and frangipani commonly used for special occasions. The restaurant is luxuriously furnished with Dutch colonial style with six rooms, and each room having different types settings and fine china crockeries. Suffice to say it was a terribly expensive dinner.

The next day, the organizer arranged dinner at XXI Ballroom, an elegant ballroom that’s the venue for numerous events in Jakarta. We again had fine Indonesian cuisine, accompanied by some traditional performances.

Our final dinner in Jakarta was at The Apartment Bistro, a modern restaurant modeled after, well, an apartment. Patrons can dine in the cozy dining room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, living room or the library.

March 16, 2011

Sights of Jakarta

My previous company is an American company, which has a strict policy with regards to suitable locations for regional/global meetings. As Indonesia is deemed as a high risk country, in all my years there, I’ve never travelled to Indonesia for business meetings. Two weeks was my first, to Jakarta.

There isn’t much to see in Jakarta – I visited Taman Fatahillah, the town square surrounded by several museums, the old harbor of Sunda Kelapa, and the National Monument.

Museum Fatahillah (National History Museum), at Taman Fatahillah

Bicycles for hire at Taman Fatahillah

Old harbour of Sunda Kelapa

Museum Bahari (Maritime Museum), housed in a 17th-century spice warehouse

Jakarta's last remaining Dutch drawbridge

National Monument

At one corner of Taman Fatahillah is Café Batavia, the city's most iconic international restaurant. Set in a 19th-century colonial-era building, it's filled with period antiques, and hundreds of old photos of long-forgotten movie stars, royalty and presidents adorning the walls.

While at Taman Fatahillah, I chanced upon a family of street performers. This child was being tied up by the man, and few other men were whipping the ground with these huge whips. I feared for the worst – I was thinking that their performance was to put the child into a trance and whip him, but luckily it wasn’t. The child was shoved into the tent, and while the man chanted and danced, the child unravel the binding and walked out from the tent. Phew!

(L) The child being tied up (Top R) The child being shoved into the tent, see the huge whip that the man was holding? (Bottom R) The child freed himself and gleefully ran back to his "family"

Another performance from the same group

March 11, 2011

Bento #196 – #200

More outdated bentos...

Blanched noodles in soya and oyster sauce, French beans, broccoli, fish balls and grapes.

Homemade nuggets, steamed broccoli and cauliflower and grapes again.

The four brown pieces look similar but they are actually different types of food – fish nuggets (front) and heart shaped croquettes (back) with her favourite mini Mandarin orange.

Chocolate flavoured mantou, corn on the cob and wedges of rose apple.

Strawberry swiss roll snail, corn on the cob and a tulip rose apple.

March 09, 2011

Of being Star Student of the Year

While helping her with her Chinese homework one day, she told me her Chinese teacher praised her for speaking good Mandarin. Then she said,
Yiu Yiu: Mummy, this year I don’t want to get “Best Handwriting” again.
Mummy (teasing her): Get the “Star Student” lar.
Yiu Yiu: I cannot get the “Star Student” one.
Mummy (puzzled): Why?
Yiu Yiu (smiling cheekily): Because I’m too talkative.
Mummy was ROTFL. Not that mummy doesn’t know, girl!

March 06, 2011

Kids say the darndest thing

We were eating out for dinner one day and when our food arrived, Yiu Yiu gave me half the portion of her rice and said, “Mummy, come I give my rice to you. I don’t want to give to papa because he is very fat already. I don’t want him to eat too much.” Wakakaka..

My niece, Xiaoyu has a tendency to vomit. Whenever she runs around after a meal, or cry (which she always does), more often than not, she’ll vomit. The other day, she vomited again after a crying bout...
WF (my sister): You see, vomit again. Give mummy work to do only. Who asked you to cry?
Xiaoyu: Who asked you to make me sad?
Mummy 0, Xiaoyu 1.

Again with Xiaoyu – I was at my sister’s house one day and chatting with her in her room. Xiaoyu interrupted and said,
Xiaoyu: 二姨姨 there’s so many books in my room.
Me: Why are there so many books in your room?
Xiaoyu: Because, because…there’s not so many books in my mummy’s room.
Makes sense right? :-)

This is 18-SX. Read on only if you are above 18, or under parental supervision :-)

When Yihao pees, especially in the morning, he shoots all over the toilet seat. Sis reprimanded him one day.
WF: Yihao, why can’t you shoot properly?
Yihao: Because my penis is long.
GASP! Shocked? Actually what he meant was that due to the morning erection, he couldn’t help but shoot all over the place. Ha ha!!!

March 04, 2011

Bento #191 – #195

These are some of the bentos Yiu Yiu brought to school so far this year – I haven’t been diligently packing, and if I do pack, it’ll be just simple stuff with no elaborate decorations as I have neither the creativity nor time in the morning.

Panfried chicken drummet, chocolate flavoured mantou, steamed cauliflower and a lone wedge of apple.

Red bean pau, facial fish cake, fishball with cucumber skewers and checkered apple.

Potato wedges with homemade chicken nugget, and grapes.

Heart shape pasta in Bolognese sauce, steamed broccoli and carrot, and skinned grapes.

Homemade banana cake, fishballs on balloon picks, edamame skewers (she doesn’t like this, and left most uneaten) and mini Mandarin orange (she simply loves this!).