Wednesday, December 24, 2008

First Christmas

Season's Greetings to all....

It will be our first Christmas in our new house. I had such big ideas on having a Christmas tree, fancy decorations down the staircase, lights on our back porch, Christmas lights out front and so on.

Time and budget constraints however, would not allow me to do all of the above! Need to re-negotiate with my CFO for next year.

Nonetheless, we were able to come to an agreement over a Christmas corner next to our tv. The corner is a hit with my nieces and nephew only because their presents are there. They need to constantly check to make sure that they are still there and that Santa has not taken them back because they've been naughty. They really believe that Santa and the tooth fairy are my buddies and that we often talk on the phone!

As I'm blogging, I'm waiting for cable guys, roof guys and pipe guys to do their work. This is my Christmas Eve.... this and Christmas eve dinner at grandma's followed by Christmas Eve Caroling service at BCCM Kolombong later this evening. Yeah.....

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Shenzhen, China: Night 4

It's time to get ready to go again - this time home!

It's quite easy for us to do packing this time round as we didn't shop very much (only my parents did major shopping!). However, whatever we bought was kind of bulky ie my santa, a chinese painting by some renowned artist. Plus the fact that we have thick winter clothings with us as well. Hmmmm.

Looking at our stuff, I decided to put off packing until after we had dinner. When I invited my parents for dinner, they said "Tapau noopo" ie "pls just take away food" - they were tired and my dad wanted to watch soccer on tv. I know the absolute relaxing feeling that he must be enjoying now. Earlier on we were watching this in our room:

Yes, you guessed it: Coneheads!

So, dearest and I went out to have dinner on our own. However, our first stop was at the local pharmacy to buy a pair of reflexology slippers for Janet and another pair for us.

For dinner this time, we tried out one of the many halal restaurants outside the hotel. The food was simple but really nice. What did I have? Here it is:
Beef noodle.

Having eaten, we "tapau" dinner for my parents and delivered the food to them. Then we headed out again to the shops. We bought... NOTHING. I can't believe it, after walking around for 2 hours and a half, we couldn't find a thing to buy. Except for another pair of reflexology slippers for our friend, the other Fred.

Oh well, we'll just shop at the airport (so we thought). Back to the hotel now to pack....

Oh Santa, how am I going to bring you back?

Shenzhen, China: Day 4

It was a hectic day today as we needed to find a place to shop for Christmas gifts for my nieces and nephews, pick up my cheongsam, shop for some of our stuff (if any) plus try as much as we can enjoy the Shenzhen way of life. Phew! Where do we start?

It was decided that we should head out for the Huaqiang Bei area, the Electronic & Women's World. At 10.00am we took a taxi from our hotel to get to Children's World in Huaqiang Bei as we really wanted to get this done and over with.

Children's World is located at the end of Huaqiang Road, just next to Gome. It is made up of 3 floors altogether: Children's clothings on the first floor, Maternity clothes and kid's shoes on the second floor, Toys, strationeries, books, beddings etc on the third floor. Open from 9.30am - 10.00am, shoppers can take delight in bargaining with the stall owners and have their pick.
As mum and dad were busy shopping for "grandkids" stuff, we headed for McD's for a belated breakfast.

After Children's World, we walked around a bit along Huaqiang Rd looking at clothing stores and electrical goods. Then we went inside MOI Shopping Centre to find our look for our Samsonite suitcase which we found to be a lot cheaper than 1Borneo at only RMB1500 (that's around RM750 -RM800). So what the heck, we also bought a matching overnight bag for RMB880 to go with the luggage. Still the total amount we paid is at least HALF the price here compare to 1Borneo. As we still had a lot of other shopping to do, so we decided to leave the luggage set at MOI and return there on our way back to the hotel to pick up our luggage set.

While waiting for the rest, I sat on the staircase and watched a shop assistant chat with a homeless man as he took pleasure in being entertained by a couple of cute puppies along Huaqiang Road

Visiting the various "markets" were really tiring but a worthwhile experience. I'd recommend bargain hunters to Women's World, Nico's Women's Fashion Plaza (some people confuse between these two thinking they're the same. They are not. The former sells low to middle class fashion things while the latter sells mid to high quality clothing and fashion accessories), and The Foreign Trade Clothing Market @ U.S. Market. The Foreign Trade Clothing Market reminds me of WuFenPu in Taipei.

With good bargaining tactics practised, buyer and seller are happy with their transaction. My parents at the Foreign Trade Clothing Market

After spending nearly the whole day in Huaqiang Bei area, fatigue really started to kick us hard. What with us dragging our shopping bags, bargaining with the sellers, blocking our ears to their callings, guarding our valuables from pickpockets, keeping track of where everyone else were, etc etc., how could we not feel tired? We sat my parents at Starbucks and went to shop for their digital camera (my parents have been using my old manual camera all this while and my mum wanted to keep up with the digital era) and pick up our luggage set.

Finally, after spending most of our RMBs, we returned to our hotel for some rest before going out again for dinner.

Ooops... my cheongsam!!!!! We sent my parents and shopping bags back to the hotel then went to Luohu to pick up the dress. Having picked up my cheongsam, we did what we'd normally do whenever and wherever possible: took a ride on the MRT.

This time however, we were a bit daring as we did not bring any map with us. Hence, we had to rely on our gut feeling to find our way back to the hotel. We nearly gave up and wanted to just take a taxi at one point. But then... Surprise, surprise: WE SUCCEEDED in finding our way back to our hotel on foot!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Shenzhen, China: Night 3

Day 3 in Shenzhen was really tiring with us visiting Luohu Commercial City (LCC) once again for my cheongsam fitting and then to Dongmen Shopping District to check out the crowd there.

One thing about Joey the tailor I'm engaged with at LCC is that her timing is really horrible. During our initial appointment, she promised me 11am today for the fitting. However, she only arrived at 12.30pm. Aaargh!

While waiting for her to show up, my parents went shopping (again) at LCC. This time, they bought a luggage, 3 sets of the traditional sunction cups thingy, and presents for their friends among other things. There goes our plan to try out the MRT to go to Dongmen. With so much shopping done, we had to return back to the hotel via taxi, and then take another cab to Dongmen.

Dongmen is a really busy area with people literally fighting for space. We did not shop much here except for fabrics at the fabric market. Though the textiles at Luohu is cheaper compared to Malaysia, here at the Dongmen fabric market you can get them even cheaper. I bought really good lycra fabric (the type that I could make a really elegant evening/cocktail dress) for only RMB12 per meter ie RM6 per meter.

When we returned back to the hotel, we were so exhausted that we slept till 7.30pm and (lucky for us) woke up in time to take my parents out for dinner.

We walked around our hotel area and found a neat little restaurant where they specialised in fish. Everything from the staff uniform to the hangings on the wall and the wallpaper depicted some form of fish connotations.

Dinner time! Finally a non-pork meal. I forgot the name of this fresh water fish. Though it's a bit pricey, the taste and texture were superb... Just need to watch out on the bones a bit. The waitress serving us that evening brought the "live" fish to show to us as we were wondering what fish they used.

Shenzhen, China: Day 3

Today was all about shopping. We started from Luohu Commercial City (LCC) to the busy area of Dongmen. When travelling in a group of 4, it's best to travel in a metered taxi. The traffic may be a head ache, but at least it's more comfortable and everyone's are sure to be together.

While we wait for Joey to show up, my parents went shopping to buy those traditional suction cup therapy thingy again. Now, did they buy another 3 or 4?! I can't seem to remember....

Ha, this is it: The 1st McDonald's restaurant ever opened in China located in the Dongmen area. This is a VERY busy area. People were coming in from all directions and the queues at McDonald's are VERY long.

We were just mesmerized by the huge number of people walking (rather pushing) around Dongmen. This is the first time that we saw crowds fighting to buy food from the various stalls in the pedestrian area.

At one point, we were desperate to get away from all this craziness so we stepped away from the streets and into a restaurant. Food never tasted so great!

After our lunch, we explored Dongmen further and found ourselves inside the Fabric Market.

Great stuff can be found here! My mum really enjoyed this place and bought quite a lot of fabric. As for me, hmmm yes. I did buy some fabrics as well. They're so cheap man ie from as low as RM6 per meter for silk material (of course some bargaining is expected to get low prices).

A lot of people would normally just go to LCC for material. I think one could get better deal at Dongmen Fabric Market though. Furthermore, this fabric market somehow has a more relaxed atmosphere.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Shenzhen, China: Night 2

We had rabbit for dinner! That barbequed rabbit up there is being warmed up for us.

Poof! Chopped rabbit on our table. Nice though, tasted like chicken+lamb. Maybe it's the herbs and spices brushed on the rabbit meat.

As usual, we ordered a lot. My father end up packing the rabbit meat back to the hotel for "pusas" later on.

And we thought my parents had enough to eat at dinner.... As we walked the streets near our hotel, we found a hawker selling steamed sticky corn on the cob. Another take away for "pusas" in the hotel......

Shenzhen, China: Day 2

Today is all about sightseeing the wonders of China: it's culture, people and monuments. We spent the whole day today at Splendid China and the Cultural Folk Villages. Both are located in the one huge area. The place is quite a distance from our hotel and taxi fare was just under RMB50. The entrance fee was RMB120 per person.

Mum and Dad waited at the dragon staircase as we went to purchase the tickets.

Riding on Mongolian horses with costumes. From RMB20, they ended up paying RMB280 for costume hire, horse ride, photos! But good souvenirs though.

Mum the school teacher, sitting in front of the class with Chinese writing on the board.

This pretty tribal lady can play the flute. She was playing the song "the moon represents my heart" or something like that.

We stopped a bit to eat satay kambing, sitting in front of the toilet.

I squatted in the middle of a vegetable patch hoping that I can develop my much needed "green fingers" or "green thumb" or whatever it is.

Mum and dad has this thing about waterfalls.... Everytime they see one they'd want to stand a take a photo in front of it!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Shenzhen, China: Night 1

Just a short walk from our hotel is a street with so many little restaurants, some pharmacies, bakery, florist etc.

We started our evening walk at 6.30pm and found ourselves walking into a pharmacy where mum bought herself a pair of red reflexology sandals @ RMB65.

Soon, it was time to eat. Looking for a little street shop selling dishes with rice in our area here proved to be a little bit of challenge as most were selling noodles.

Nonetheless, we did manage to squeeze ourselves into 1 shop to sit down for dinner. While looking through their menu, the staff there brought us our plates, cups and bowls: each sanitised and wrapped with plastic. And they say that it's dirty in China!

We ordered pork leg, pork belly, green vege and pork soup. The food was yummy even though a bit spicy. As you can see, we did it again - ordered much more than what we could finish. At least we've learnt the portions that they serve here. All in all, the total bill came up to RMB80.

As we were sitting in the shop relaxing our full bellies, we watched this young male staff packing food for take-away orders. The container used is designed very well: the bottom part holding the food is a bowl, while the top which forms the lid can be a plate.

Before we left the shop, dad bought himself a big bottle of Chinese beer. Price RMB4: cheap!

Buying some duck organs for snacking @ the hotel.

My source of fibre: huge bananas!

Shenzhen, China: Day 1

We arrived in Shenzhen at around 12.30pm. It was cold (around 18 degrees centigrade). We were surprised to see quite a number of people whom we know: from the mee seller in Donggongon to my parents' friend/relation, Auntie Theresa from Kg Hubah, Penampang.

Taxi driver from airport to town is safe from with all these grills!

We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel. Shenzehn though not considered a major city in China, is huge. It took us more than half an hour to reach our hotel at the Express by Holiday Inn, Luohu. The hotel is nice, new and not too pricey (around RM180 per night).

Our pillows: Excuse me, would you like it soft or firm?!

After settling in, we went to Luohu Commercial City, which is the haunt of many Hong Kong people as its only a train ride away from Hong Kong. LCC - 5 floors of fashion at a much cheaper price than Hong Kong, is practically attached to the rail station.

Getting from our hotel to LCC cost us about RMB19. That translates to RM10, cheap. After doing my necessary ie get a cheong sam tailored on the 5th floor (with help from mum and dad on the material selection), we browsed each of the 5 floors. Dad bought a belt for his friend, and mum bought the latest Chloe bag. As we were about to leave LCC, we found the I don't know what you call it, Chinese therapy set which uses suction cups.

Mum & Dad at the taxi stand (LCC)

By 5.00pm it was time to go back to the hotel to rest before dinner. Getting a taxi at LCC is so easy. Though the queue may look long initially, their system however made it fast for us all to get our taxi back to the hotel. There was a "pirate" ie un-licenced taxi driver who wanted to take us back to our hotel for RMB80. Hello!!! We queued up anyway and got into our metered taxi in less than 5 minutes. Our fare back to the hotel: RM17.

Are you smarter than a 5th Grader?

They say that the test of a relationship is to travel together on a trip. The start of our holiday to Shenzhen indicated that we would have failed terribly should be appear on the show "Are you smarther than a 5th grader". Though panic and shock attacked us in the beginning, we ended up laughing at each other realising that we only had ourselves to blame.

Having said that, travelling on Air Asia today [Friday 5th Dec 2008, AK522] was quite an annoying experience. It was not so much on Air Asia's crew but more on the travellers and tour leader present on our flight.

At the check-in counter, someone checked in for her group - a big group. She then asked for 1 express boarding sticker. Hmmmm, one could imagine what she's planning.

It was practically a full flight and the queue lining up for the aircraft was so long. Due to our circumstances, my family and I were nearly at the end of the queue.

By the time we boarded the aircraft, there were so many passengers who have reserved seats for their fellow group members. This I can't tolerate. I approached the stewardess and informed her that there are so many people booking seats for their groups by placing their bags on these empty seats. One of the passengers who put bags on 2 seats told us that those seats are for his travelling buddies and that their tour leader told him to book those seats. They need to be close to their tour leader COME ON!

1) This is a free seating flight. You're not supposed to be booking seats.
2) From the moment we take off to the moment we land, we're all in the same single aircraft. How are you going to lose each other?
2) If it was so that they are in a tour group travelling together, why isn't the tour leader providing stickers or badges for her group so that she can find them easily in the aircraft?
3) Isn't there a code of ethics that need to be observed by such tour leaders?
4) Even though it was announced over and over that no such reservation of seats are allowed, no one bothered to adhere to them.
5) The stewardesses were personally telling the ignorant passengers that they cannot book seats, yet these passengers refused to give in. Where is the respect and courtesy?

Such blantant display of selfishness is a damper for other passengers. Not only do we have to walk up and down the aise to plead with each "bookie" to let us sit at the "sat by a bag" seats. Mind you, there were so many passengers who like us had to move up and down that aisle to try and get seats thus creating a traffic jam. This self centred attitude of these "bookies" protecting what they claim to be their rights is utterly NOT RIGHT. It really spoils the mood for what could have been a more pleasant trip for all.

There's a new form of advertising opportunity/revenue on Air Asia flights. Can you spot it?

To all tour or groups leaders taking groups travelling on Air Asia, please be more courteous to others. As a leader, you have a duty to demonstrate leadership qualities of professionalism and care. Efficiency without concern for others around you is nothing to be proud of. We, the ones who earlier failed the 5th Grader test could think of common decency and practice it. For the good of all, could think and act smarter? Please.

And oh yes, my family and I did manage to get seats in the end. Although each of us were staggered around the aircraft, but we didn't lose anyone. Being in the one aeroplane made sure of that.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Getting Ready to GO!

It is that time of year when the holiday mood comes visiting each and everyone of us regardless whether we are celebrating the season or not.

It is also the time of year when like many others, that I go travelling, reviving and e-hem shopping!

As I'm packing for a short holiday with family, I checked my friends' blogs just to see what they've been up to. Horror awaited me ..... I got tagged (again!) by Rosie. But this one's interesting though - it's the "real me" tag.

1) Take a recent picture of yourself or take a picture of yourself right NOW!
[OK, this is me as of today. I've just arrived home from work and am busy packing for our holiday tomorrow. I have to do this now because we need to attend our "marriage course" later tonight.]

2) DON'T change your clothes, DON'T fix your hair...just take a picture.
[This is my "uniform at home": the top, the hairdo, and this is the picture I had to take of myself!]

3) Post that picture with NO editing.
[No editing done. My oily face is as it is, plus my "uneven face surface". Arrrgh, if I could just use sandpaper to make it smooth, now wouldn't that be lovely?!]

4) Post these instruction with your picture.
[Attached herewith in purple]

5) Tag 10 people to do this
[NO! The previous tag was not completed by my tagged friends yet. Ha ha ha!]