Europe Trip 2012

Honeymoon, Babymoon, Getaway, Summer holiday, etc …
This trip had many names but what’s most important was that Fionna & I had a great time in Europe, travelling through London, Paris and Switzerland. It was my first holiday trip to Europe and our first long vacation together. To top it all, Fionna was also expecting our first baby while we travelled through the cities.
In later posts, I will furnish more details of our trip, the purpose of this post is to outline our travel plan and itinerary.
21 Days in Europe
Flight: Shanghai to London (Return) via British Airways
Pleasant upgrade on the outbound leg of the trip from Economy to Premium Economy seats at a discounted price of CNY 2,500 for 2 pax (1-for-1)
London – 6 days 5 nights
Stay: AirBnB
Visited: Buckingham Palace, Westminister Abbey, Green Park, Fortnum & Masons, Stone Henge, Afternoon Tea & The Ritz, Burberry, Billy Elliot the Musical, Les Miserable the Musical, Notting Hill, Romford, Oxford University Town, Tower Bridge, Pret-A-Manger
Paris –  6 days 5 nights
Stay: AirBnB – with a parisan mum
Visited: Notre Dame, St Paul’s Cathedral, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Les Cocottes by Christian Constant, Rue Lepic and Mont Cler, Moulin Rouge, Musee D’Orsay, Arc De Triumph, Champ Elysees, Champagne, Mumm, Moet & Chandon
Switzerland – 6 days 5 nights
Stay: Hotel Continental (Bern), Hotel Derby (Interlaken), The Pizs (St Moritz), AirBnB (Zurich)
Visited: Beautiful scenery, including the Alps
London, again – 3 days 2 nights
Stay: Thistle at Trafalgar
Laze and Daze …
Will be back with more details of the trip.

New Zealand with Tourism

6 days in NZ for a work trip with TNZ has completed, and I am on the flight back to Shanghai on Air New Zealand flight. The flight is pleasantly (for me) but unpleasantly (for AIRNZ) empty for the flight back to Shanghai, with only about 8 people in Premium Economy.
Food was great and I must comment that the food out of Auckland was so much better than that out of Shanghai. I guess it is hard to maintain quality of food at different airports, being catered by different companies.
Couple of things about my trip to this country:
New Zealand is a beautiful country with stunning landscapes.
NZ 2012 - 44
The Kiwis are a warm, heartfelt group of people who extends great hospitality to tourist to their country. They are also very knowledgable about the culture and history of their country.
Seafood is really fresh in New Zealand, and eating there had been a great treat!
Most souvenir shops in New Zealand are operated by Chinese nationals. Most Kiwis or other Chinese treat me and talk to me as a Chinese national. Unless you are distinctly Japanese or Korean, most would treat you as Chinese. Which is good as Chinese increasingly becomes more intentional, but bad because I speak better in English.
There is no such thing as true Wifi connection in New Zealand. Cafes and fast food restaurant marketing free Internet connection only provides limited excess to the Internet, typically 30 mins usage or up to 30 mb data limit. That is pathetic, of course, considering the large amounts of data that gets loaded when you merely load Facebook. 3G data connection is fairly easy to get via the local telecom provider. 100 mb for NZD 10 or 300mb plan for NZD 19. That’s expensive! Compare that with Shanghai’s 300mb plan at RMB 66 (NZD 12) or with Singapore’s 12GB plan for SGD 30 (NZD 30).
There is a difference in service quality when the flight is full vs an empty flight. Staff become more attentive to you and besides the chairs, you almost feel like you are in Business Premier, although you are only taking Premium Economy.
My final conclusion is that I miss my wife, and it’s been a long time, the longest period of time in fact that I have. Ren away from her. Miss her much and look forward to seek her in Shanghai again after this 12 hour flight.

Shanghai to Auckland

On the flight heading to Auckland, New Zealand, sitting in Air New Zealand Premium Economy flight … The flight so far has been very smooth. The service crew has been very friendly, though they did mistook me to be from China, since they kept speaking mandarin to me.
5.5 hrs into the flight, 3 movies later – Contraband, Big Miracle, some magic show from HK, I still can’t seem to fall asleep. Seems there really is a difference in having a flat bed for sleeping vs just a slightly more inclined chair. Or, it could be the time difference too, since it’s only like 9.30 pm back in Shanghai.
Nonetheless, I shall attempt to catch some sleep … Hopefully before we land in Auckland.

3D2N at 1000 Island Lake 千岛湖, Hangzhou

Took the Qingming holidays (清明节) to go out for a short trip to getaway to a quiet, peaceful and tranquil place for fresh air and relaxation. Stayed at the InterContinental Hotel, which was located in a secluded area of the lake (RMB 35 by taxi from the bus station). It was a hassle to get in/out, but the location made the hotel a quiet and nice place to relax.
To get here, we had to take the long-distance bus from Shanghai South Bus Station (石龙路666号) to Chun An County (淳安县千岛湖), which took 4.5 hours and cost RMB 125/pax. The ride was decent but since it was quite a ride, we had our Yamasaki muffins to sustain us.
Had lunch at 鱼味馆 a local restaurant, which was a tad pricey. We had the famous local fish head dish (the soup base tasted good, but the fish meat tasted like gelatin which we were not accustom to), a local tofu (good!) and a bamboo with salted veg dish. Everything else was reasonably priced, except for the fish head which cost RMB 388!
Finally made it to the hotel; the check in-process was fast, but the staff was really not friendly at all. Great hardware at InterContinental but software is so lacking! Had a great shower and nap at the room, before heading out for dinner at the All-day dining restaurant. Also, managed to celebrate Earth Hour at the comfort of the hotel.
Day 2 of our trip, we started with the tourist-y things of visiting the islands. We headed to the 旅游南码头 (South Pier) and took a boat ride which would last 4.5 hours, from 10 am to 2.30 pm. (Entrance was RMB 150, boat ride was RMB 45 + RMB 30 (upgrade to rear-view VIP room, you should see the state of the “normal” seats!)
3 islands – 密山,天池,黄山 – it involved quite a bit of climbing of stairs, so be prepared. A tiring trip, but the air was fresh … something you do not get in Shanghai.
After the boat trip, we headed to the city square (千岛湖广场) for food. The restaurant we wanted to eat at 秀水人家 was not opened till 4.30 pm, and since we were starving, we ended up at KFC for a meal instead. Then back to the hotel we came to shower and just relax and have a call in dinner.
Final day of our trip, we just hung around in the hotel, had breakfast, watch TV and read a book till it was time to head off back to Shanghai.
Photos from the trip on Flickr

Relax in Komenaka, Bisma @ Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

The Komaneka, Bisma, has to be the best hotel we stayed at in Bali. It was modern, contemporary, peaceful, classy, artistic, and detailed in many things that is setup in the hotel. (There is also an Apple TV pre-loaded with stuff to watch and listen.) Unexpectedly, they also had many activities that are provided FOC within the hotel compound and we were slightly overwhelmed by what to do in Ubud.
Anyway, after spending an hour checking out our room, finally decided to head out in search of food.
1st stop was at Murni’s Warung, just at the end of the bridge into Ubud Center. They served local food which was affordable and good. The Nasi Campur and Gado gado was good and lived up to expectations. Then we decided to walk around the town for a little while. The HEAT was very much on and we did not last too long, after roaming around the town for about an hour, we made our way back to Komaneka to rest before we headed out for dinner.
Dinner was at a restaurant, Swept Away (TripAdvisor link), at The Samaya Resort & Spa, all across the other side of town. We got a drive to drive us back and forth for about IDR 70K. The place was beautiful, overlooking the river bend. The food was excellent too. The chef was great at blending the texture of the food. the Wagyu beef was delicious, though a tad small in portions. Yum!!! After dinner, we had a great laugh with the very cute survey form – “Give the chef a pay raise” was one of the options for food quality. Now that is creativity
Day 2 in Ubud, we had our good breakfast in the resort before heading out to walk around. Lunch stop was at Bebek Bengil (The original dirty duck since 1995). Food again was great! The duck was crisp and full of flavour. Apparently, the duck was seasoned, steamed and then deep fried. The Gado gado was also delicious, with a very good peanut sauce complementing the plate of vegetables and tofu.
Then we went to Monkey Forest, though dear Fionna was not too excited about going … recalling Zilin’s encounter with Monkey’s in Bali a year ago. (Zilin had her Gucci sunglasses snatched by a monkey and chewed upon before eventually getting it back from the offensive monkey. Well, we did not stay too long in the forest.
Dinner that night was at the famous Moziac, a french chef who opened a restaurant 10 years ago. They serve set menu with a choice of local infused cuisine, french cuisine, or a surprise me menu (serving whatever the chef conjure up). Food was great, though it was too filling. I extremely loved the bread – the olive bread and the black rice bread!!! Yummy!!!
Day 3 – Relax with a SPA at Komaneka … We had booked a 2.5 hour, massage, scrub and bath treatment at the resort. After breakfast, we headed done for our indulgence. The massage was with a lovely Ylang Ylang scent, the scrub was with a local spice mixture and it ended off in a bath of local spices. (Edwin’s soup) It was relaxing bliss!
In the evening, we went to watch a local performance – Legong dance – it was said that the dance was only for the eyes of the emperor. It was very acoustic and repetitive with movements that were similar to Thai dancing. 15 mins into the dance, I was getting lost with what was happening as there was no “subtitles” and they did not follow the story line in the programme. One of the most memorable dance was by the boy who waved his flag and played acoustic instrument. He had very good facial expression, emphasizing the movements of his eyes and lips. Brilliant.
After the performance, we headed off to our dinner venue – Bridges. It was opposite the bridge and a pretty, very british place. The food was good. Appetizers were good, but our mains were not exciting … did not quite like the crusted chicken. The boss was a Canadian who lived in bali for over 18 years. He was the only one over our entire trip there for a Honeymoon to really offer us something because we were on a honeymoon. A simple dessert which tasted very delicious!
Finally, it was the last day of our trip. We headed to the market early in the morning, to buy souvenirs and fruits (passion fruit, all 3.5 kg of it!!!) and headed back to the resort to pack up. Lunch was at Bebek Begil to eat our favourite Duck and Gado gado again. Then it was a 1.5 hour ride back to Denpasar to take our flight back to Singapore.
It was a great honeymoon, especially with the love of my life, Fionna Lee. Her companionship throughout the trip was most enjoyable and we definitely enjoyed ourselves. Bali, we will be back!!!

Overnight stay in Waka Gangga @ Tanah Lot, Bali, Indonesia

After bidding farewell the the hustle and bustle of Seminyak, we embarked on our 1.5 hour drive to Tanah Lot. The hotel pick up came on time at 12 noon and in the light rain, we made our way through the busy roads.
Our stay was by the beach at Waka Gangga Hotel (link), which was a Balinese inspired hotel (8 Oct). Very peaceful and serene place by the beach … waves periodically crashing on the beach, the wind blowing against the rice padi fields, lotus and water lilies swaying with the breeze. Being secluded (it was a long drive into the venue), it was a perfect place to relax and reflect on life.
Initially, we were supposed to be at Tanah Lot to view the Temple at the sea and watch the sunset. We decided against it as it was too much a hassle to drive out again and we just wanted to sit back and relax with a glass of wine and a book. The sunset … well … it was cloudy that evening and we only caught a tiny bit of the sunset as it very quickly slipped away for the day.
Lunch, dinner and the next morning’s breakfast was all at the restaurant there which we were very impressed with the quality of the food, though the variety was a limited.
The villa-rooms itself was a very rustic and back to nature setup. Toilets was open air and the tub was right beside a garden and there was even a shower in the open. Villa was glassed all around and had a great view to the ocean and the paid fields right in front of the villas.
Overall, it was a great experience but I was also eager to get back to contemporary and modern surroundings of a city hotel.

Seminyak @ Bali, Indonesia

We breezed through the 3 days at Seminyak (5 – 7 Oct), lazing by the beach/pool, shopping along the fashion streets, and dining/chilling at classy & laid back restaurants. It was a great start to our mini-honeymoon in Bali.
We stayed at The Seminyak Resort & Spa (link). The resort soft launched only since June and was a new property and everything was clean and in good condition. Stayed 2 nights at the Deluxe Room followed by 1 night in the Villa by the sea. The experience was great and we enjoyed the food (morning buffet breakfast), the pool (and it’s proximity to the beach), the room/villa for the modern facilities (bath tub that fits 2, JBL iPod dock, large 42″ LG LCD TV, free WIFI, etc …) and the great and friendly service staff.
Our first lunch in Bali was at Made’s Warung, for traditional Balinese food of Nasi Campur and Tahu Telor. Food was good, though the place felt quite commercialized with many foreignors. It is nonetheless a great place to eat, and clean too.
Jalan Kayu Aya was also a great place for shopping with many local shops that sold beach & linen wear. Most were very high-end and were a tad expensive. Quiksilver was a fav place, as they had locally influenced Batik version shirts which were unique to Bali.
Too much shopping also calls for relaxation and we chanced upon the “Best Massage in Bali” –  Jari Menari Massage (link), which I strongly recommend. Design of the space is very ZEN like, mostly open-air concept, with water features to give a relaxed feeling with water flowing. All therapist were male and all had very good technique. They call their technique the “Dancing fingers”! 1.5 hrs of bliss was at IDR 350,000 (B4 11% government tax).
Ku De Ta (link), was recommended by my brother, and it was located right beside The Seminyak on Jalan Kayu Aya. Make a reservation early as the place gets quite packed in the evening. The excellent beach front dining and bar is laid back and sophisticated and appeals greatly to a wide group of foreign tourists. The sunset there was absolutely pretty too.
After a morning laying on the beach and sun bathing, we went off for a massage/facial at eSpace Massage. Another popular place we chanced upon the 1st day. The overall experience was good, but not as great as Jari Menari.
After our massage, we headed in search for food but could not find a local joint so ended up at Cafe Seminyak (link), which was truly a bad choice. Having decided to give the place a try we ordered the local food (which we thought would not go that wrong), and it turned out to be really bad. Nasi Goreng was bland. Mee Goreng was cold. Sighs! so much for being the heart of the community …
Our final dinner on the 3rd evening was SOS Supper Club (Link), Anantara Resort & Spa (link). It was featured on TripAdvisor and we decided to try the dinner at their lovely rooftop dining area. The sunset that evening was also very pretty, and it felt very different the night before at Ku De Ta. This venue was more contemporary and high-end. It was still comfortable and relaxing, but there were very much lesser people, especially since it was on a Friday night. I guess they needed to market themselves much more.
We finally bid farewell to Seminyak and drove off to Tanah Lot, in search of Waka Gangga, beautiful sunset and peace and tranquility.

Day 2 : Seminyak Bali 061011

Our day in Seminyak started with a cloudy morning with drizzle. Seems like the Heaven is crying as he knows today the world is going to grief one of the greatest entrepreneur of our times. I came out from the washroom and Edwin said: “Steve Job is dead. “ He has lost his fight to pancreatic cancer. Edwin and I did our one minute silence to mourn for him .
We had good and sumptuous breakfast at The Seminyak Hotel. I had to try the fruit Esmond recommended the Bali local fruit “salak “ (aka snake fruit ). It has the crunchy bite like an apple but taste “siap” which I didn’t like. I was told to try to sweet salak when I visit Ubud. We particularly enjoyed the passionfruit (very sweet yellow fruit filled with what I think look like frog’s egg before they hatch to become tadpole – a local Bali fruit delight) and mangosteen. After all the eating, we make our way to the beach. I realised why the beach in Bali makes me feel so free. Standing on the beach, you will not be able to see where it begins and where it ends. It opens up with no barriers , only the sky, the sea and the crashing waves. No ships or nearby islands near in sight but the sea which welcomes you with open arms.
After a long walk before we decide to “nuah “ on the hotel poolside to read out book where I got inspired by the article “ Council of Dads” – which shares a story of a dad who is diagnosed with femur cancer , identified 6 friends from his life to share on the different values he sees in each of them to share with his twin daughters. I think in today’s world, people focus more on external scorecard and less on the inner scorecard. It becomes even more important to instil the right fundamental and values. As parents, we might not have all the values in us to instil but I’m sure in our life , we see a particular value highly regarded by a close friend or colleague which we respect them for and hope our children get it. What are the values you hope to instil in your child today? Who can you think of best live this value every day?
Soon our stomach is grumbling hunger and we make our way to the recommended Warung Made – not Made , pronounced as MaDay to try our nasi campur and gado gado. I like the sweet and roasted tempeh. After lunch, we started to do some shopping and search for potential massage venues. We were deciding and the lady sai : You want massage, we have a last minute cancel , 2 person can. IT’s usually full . We decided to give it a try at this Jari Menari – cited as the best massage in Bali. Soon, we found ourselves lying in the room which zen designed, with Buddha statues , pebbles , water lilies, meaningful quote banners . The room faces a water wall ( which is actually a backyard of a small cluster of homes ). It was peaceful, hearing the water sound and the chime before the massage ( reminds me of Spa Botanical which Kennie shared on the chime). Soon we feel the massage taking action and it’s hard trying to stay awake and at the same time wanting to experience the oohhss…and ahhhs as they massage so accurately all the aching points . We left Menari happy and started walking to the recommended Ku De Ta.
Everyone who comes to Bali , staying at Seminyak must come to Kudeta. It’s a to be seen beach front restaurant with modern, sleek and contemporary design. It was already packed with people lying on the sofa fronting the beach, standing around with glasses as they chatted, laughed, kissed and watched the beautify sunset. So romantic. With a good DJ , the music , the ambience , the setsun on the open sea, the champagne, wine glasses and beautiful people…the perfect place to be in Seminyak! We took enough pictures and can’t wait to start on the food. Menu as follows:
• Tuna & Lobster Tartare – Wasabi Flying Fish Roe, crème fraiche, nori , sesame seeds @ 140 K
• Edwin: Grilled Seafood – Barramundi fillet, scallops & baby lobster on lemon grass, octopus and jumbo prawns & Condiments @ 340K
• Fionna : Herb Crusted Coral Trout – Saffron Potatoes, Asparagus, Tomato, Raisins w Champagne Sauce @ 290K
• Dessert : Chocolate Dacadence For 2 – Chocolate, Brulee, Jelly, Mouse, Passionfruit Sorbet @190K
Overall, I would rate the food 3/5. Not extremely heavenly that I must go back but ambience I will give a 5/5. Perfect for the romantic mood for love with the cool, windy and beautiful sunset , the people and the warm service extended by the staff.
I close this Day with a picture of the quote I took in the toilet @ Menari which sums up the Day aptly: