Saturday, August 25, 2018
Sunday was a busy day for me because there was a pre-sales presentation that I had to prepare for a potential client in the Philippines. And my CEO kept rearranging things, so I had a fun time reworking the slide deck. Had a quick lunch at Coffee Sprex after mass. The guy sitting at the far end of the restaurant was pretty attractive, but I couldn't capture it well with my spy photography (especially with my mum sitting next to me). Wolfed down the food, and then rushed over to Semenyih (sooooooo far) to see my brand new nephew on my mother's side. The kid was pretty cute. Looks much like his father. While at my cousin's place, I still had to fire up my laptop for work. Ugh. Luckily we did not have to stay for long, and the changes I made were accepted. Managed to salvage whatever was left of my Sunday with a hearty dinner.
Thursday, August 23, 2018
The celebration continued the next day Xenri, near the Elken HQ at Old Klang Road. Can't remember the last time I dined there. But I do remember that I had a birthday bash there with the BFF. We were brought to a section of the restaurant that had a no-shoe policy. Lockers were prepared, but no indoor slippers. I disliked it because it required sitting on the floor. Leceh. And it had a water feature with no barriers whatsoever. A mystery as to why they seat so many families with children there. Many a kid must have swam with the koi.
For after-dinner cake and coffee, we made a move to the nearby Le Pont. Little Monster made the selection, so it was all chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. Big Monster bumped into several of his schoolmates, and judging from their behaviour, Big Monster didn't deserve the title 'Monster'. His friends were more qualified. Got a shock of my life when they started crawling under the bread cabinets in the bakery, and a waitress even came down to complain that they started a rubber band war upstairs where several customers were caught in the cross-fire! Their parents couldn't be bothered. The real monsters!
Monday, August 20, 2018
I was kinda stumped about the venue to celebrate Little Monster and mum's birthday. When it came to the kid, Western is a de facto choice. The go-to-person for Western food is definitely Janvier. From the several choices that he gave me, I chose Checkers at Bukit Damansara because they serve pork. Oink oink! Dinner was arranged on Friday night. Very casual restaurant hidden in a residential area. Most of the customers seem to be regulars with wine on their tables.
The menu wasn't big, but the owner Mr. Tan curated it well. The grilled pork belly slices with chutney was delicious and oh-so-sinful. Big Monster ordered the pasta with meat sauce and he wasn't disappointed. The waitress also convinced us to order a special, the Lord of the Ribs, a full rack of pork ribs. Perfect for carnivores. Felt that we had too much pork, so we also got the Jamaican jerk chicken with grilled plantain (pisang tanduk for the uninitiated, and it was great!). Kids also loved the pizza. Most of the sides included a kerabu salad that we all really liked. The kids on the other hand polished off all the mash. If you're not into too much meat, you can also go for their mussels in white wine which goes really well with bread.
To close, we had a cake with lots of strawberries and cream (to appease Little Monster), and opened the presents. One reviewer in Google Maps actually described Mr. Tan as eccentric, but whether that was true or not, he definitely liked children. Before we left, he gave the kids a box of Pocky each as birthday presents which was very nice of him.
Saturday, August 18, 2018
A new shop opened right opposite my church on the LDP-- Restoran SK Sabah Pork Noodles. The shop specializes in sang nyuk noodles like the shop I visited in Kuchai Lama. First things first, I dislike the cramped interior of the shop where there's no proper space to manoeuver between the tables. Secondly, it's reall stuffy in there. And most importantly, the taste is average at best.
Made a trip to Jalan Jalan Japan again. Mum wanted to see if they had any 'new' stock. For me, the only interesting thing there was the fact that it was the last day of the DKSH warehouse sale. Great deals on Old Town White Coffee and toilet paper. There were also some freebies because they wanted to clear as much of their stock as possible. KH also turned up at Subang SkyPark to have coffee with me at Old Town White Coffee. Normally it's quite difficult to catch up with him.
Election fever had finally reached my neighbourhood with a Pakatan Harapan ceramah at the commercial center. Recently, most of Taman Puncak Jalil was redelineated into the Subang (104) parliamentary seat. We used to be part of Seri Serdang. For GE14, we had Wong Chen and Ng Sze Han for the parliamentary and state legislative council seat respectively. The political rally was held at a field near the shop lots. Food vendors anticipating a good turnout came out in force to sell drinks and snacks. Actually, there were plenty of good seats available. Most of the people who came preferred to stand around at the back. Other speakers who came to lend a hand were Gobind Singh from Puchong, Thomas Su from Kampar, Siti Maria Mahmud of Seri Serdang, and Teng Chang Kim from Bandar Baru Klang. A Punjabi supporter came dressed like a Chinese opera general with the Amanah, PKR, and DAP flags on his back! Went home feeling confident about election in my area, but I never did prepare me for Malaysia Baru.
Thursday, August 16, 2018
Our flight out was in the afternoon, so we had some time in the morning to do some sightseeing. A local partner mentioned that we can catch the tail-end of Sakura season in Qingdao, so we decided to make a trip to Zhongshan Park although it was drizzling. So different from the several days we spent cooped up indoors. The irony of it. From the hotel we walked to Renminhuitang Metro Station. The Metro staff actually stand at the entrance yelling warnings about the wet floor, and hand out plastic bags for umbrellas. Down in the station, passengers and bags need to go through security screening. Interesting to note that their restrooms are actually on the platform! The park was just a short walk away from Zhongshangongyuan Metro Station, but when we arrived, the drizzle had intensified.
Much to our disappointment, the cherry blossoms along the so-called Sakura Road had mostly ended up on the ground. The rain had killed whatever was leftover. Many a plan was dashed by the sudden downpour, but some were undeterred. Elderly folk who were there to dance, just danced. And some continued to play the harmonica under whatever shelter they could find. The park was actually pretty big, but we weren't interested on getting soaked, so we just quickly left.
A driver picked us before noon, and we gave him a little errand before sending us to the airport. We wanted to try the famous Laoshan Cola that our host told us about. Rumour has it that Coca-Cola bought over the brand, and restricted its sale to Qingdao. The local cola looks like Coke in terms of colour and packaging, but taste quite different. Laoshan Cola is actually a carbonated Chinese herbal drink! Very interesting.
Our local partner made sure that we left China with plenty of souvenirs. Each of us were given several big packs of jumbo red dates, and two cans of famous Laoshan green tea! That surprise gift made us scramble to repack our luggage. Luckily we had an extra hour to clear the check-in and immigration. Security was extremely tight with extra attention on power banks. And the pat down was pretty thorough. Too bad I got a woman at the checkpoint.
At Chek Lap Kok, I had a satisfying dinner of beef noodles from Chee Kei. Would gladly pay HKD100 for that dinner set compared to something from Old Town just next door.
Arrived in KL after 1:00 AM where I was kinda surprised to see the famous celebrity Cheng Pei Pei at the baggage belt. For some reason, 72-year-old Taiwanese actress was in a wheelchair and unaccompanied. The airport had arranged a member of the ground staff to assist her. An interesting ending to my China trip.
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
On the last day of the conference, my GM did his presentation. Pretty interesting because it was the first time I ever heard him do a business pitch in putonghua, and I must say that its better than his English! Everything was wrapped up, and they closed with a dialogue with the customers regarding products that had caught their interest. So that was it. My only purpose there was to smile, nod my head, and 'look pretty'. Zzz.
We had some time to kill before dinner, so we had a little walk outside. Walked along Taiping Road, going as close as possible to the Chinese Naval Museum to get a better look at the submarine. Walked past some heritage houses and the Tianhou Temple which had a giant sculpture of Chinese cabbage at the entrance. Also had a look at the People's Hall which tries to emulate its grander twin in Beijing. There was also a small park with some colourful blossoms, and vendors selling seashell crafts, and roasted sweet potatoes. On our way back, we stuck close to the beach before hitting back to the hotel.
Buses were chartered to ferry the lot of us to a celebratory dinner in the city. The journey took around half an hour. We were ushered to a private room on the upper floor of a seafood restaurant where we had another intense round of food and booze. More hong shou fish, scallops, prawns, clams, sea snails, agar jelly, pan-fried buns, meatball soup, powdered vegetables (weird!), etc. Too many to count. And our partners really went all out with the booze. One lady from Xian got so drunk that started hugging everyone and talked about connections from the past life! And another guy's face was so red that they had to drag him up the bus. Our journey back to the hotel was a visual treat with buildings that looked like giant lava lamps with psychedelic colours flashing across their facades. In KL, you get the DBKL building flashing election propaganda. Haha.
Saturday, August 11, 2018
Finally it was showtime. The event was held at the function hall in the basement of the hotel. The tables were arranged in a very "meeting style". The hosts sat at one end, while we sat with their customers at the other end, facing each other. In the middle (at the far end) were the senior management of our hosts. Very surprised that the CTO is actually a woman. Something rare. The whole event was set up purely for the benefit of their customers who numbered less than 8 persons. One by one our local partners got up to give very impressive presentations. I noticed that they could really weave stories naturally and talk and talk and talk non-stop. All in putonghua of course. These were the same people who worked late setting up the venue, managing the logistics, and entertaining the guests. Talk about efficient multitasking. Hot tea was served along the course of the day. One Singaporean colleague was Indian, so he needed a translator to assist him. Whereas the other Singaporean did quite well by himself.
At the end of the first day, we had a dinner with our local partner (my GM went to a posh dinner with the senior management). Their get together seem to be a perfect excuse to drink. They would go table to table toasting each other. The junior would toast lower than the senior as a sign of respect. And if you're too far away, you just tap your glass on the table. As guests, we too were a target for toasts. All that happened even before the food was served. Once again, they ordered more than was necessary. I got full just from eating the starters-- jellied pig feet, fish skin salad (yummy!), seaweed salad, tofu salad, etc. I can't even remember the mains ! Way too much food. As the night wore on, they went crazier with the booze.
To our surprise, one Chinese guy at our table was allergic to alcohol and there was a Taiwanese lady who didn't care for drink, so they rescued us. We went back up to our rooms to grab warmer clothes before going out for a night walk. They wanted to visit the famous Zhanqiao Pier. The wind was howling and it was dark, and yet there were plenty of local tourists out and about. Newlyweds actually brave the cold to take wedding photographs there. Can't say that I was very impressed with the Zhanqiao Pier and the Huilan Pavilion at its terminus, but I guess it's a matter of local pride. Long walks do help with digestion of heavy meals, so for that I was pretty thankful.
Thursday, August 09, 2018
The room they gave me had a pretty decent ocean view. From the window, I could see tourists thronging the rocky beach right in front of my hotel. Further out was Xiao Qiangdao island, a restricted military area until 1987. On the left, I could see a decommissioned nuclear submarine that's a part of the Qingdao Naval Museum. On the right was Zhanqiao Pier, an unofficial symbol of the city. The pavilion at the end of Zhanqiao pier is featured on the logo of the famous Tsingtao Beer. The room was spacious, with a work table that came with the most complete set of stationery that I ever saw. Which hotel provides scissors, ruler, gel pen, magnifying glass, and paper clips? On the coffee table was a teapot with a jar of tea leaves and chrysanthemum flowers.
The breakfast spread at the hotel was pretty decent. A whole lot of porridge -- some like it white, some like it black, some like millet, some like barley. Also some Western choices for the angmoh. No activity was planned for the day, so we hung out at the beach front, enjoying the sea breeze and good weather for a while.
At noon, our local partner brought us out to lunch at ChuanGe YuShui Jiao, a famous place for seafood dumplings. A general manager and sales manager from Beijing were very gracious hosts (I would guess the usual China style). Pretty interesting presentation because the dumplings were actually colour-coded. White, green, yellow, and black dumplings made an appearance on the table. Of course there were more dishes like blanched prawns, grilled lamb, hong shou fish (Qingdao's popular style of braising), cold agar (a popular summer dish), and several other dishes that the waiters eventually had to stack up on the lazy susan. And you couldn't entertain guests in China without beer-- Qingdao's famous Tsingtao Beer. Being in Qingdao has its perks because one can taste the beer from their flagship brewery which is called the First Brewery. Tsingtao beer was actually founded by German settlers in 1903.
After such a heavy meal, it was hard to work in the hotel. But I had to support my GM to make sure that everything was ready for the presentations in the coming days. The wonderful view of the Yellow Sea from my window did make things more bearable. Things were settled by 5:00 PM, and there was still enough daylight for me to go out to explore my surroundings.
In 2016, Qingdao emerged as the most livable city in China based on a survey by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. China's City of Sailing came out tops in terms of city safety, public service facilities, natural environment, cultural environment, transportation, and pollution level. One of our local partners actually raises his family in Qingdao, but he works in Beijing. The weekly commute does not faze him. For 16 years (1898–1914), Qingdao was a German colony, and that gave rise to a large number of German style buildings in the old town. The mixture of European and Chinese architecture gives Qingdao a distinct flavour. The Bavarian influence is well-preserved making it a pleasure to stroll the hilly, tree-lined streets. To match the old style, granite is still used to maintain the pavements and buildings. I walked a few blocks around my hotel, then turned over to Zhanqiao Pier, and back. Many tourists were out and about at the time.
Dinner was with our hosts again, this time at the hotel restaurant. The buffet spread had a nice selection of grilled meat skewers, and seafood. Predictably, they plied us with more beer (Laoshan Beer pulak), but this time they brought along Chinese white wine that was 71 proof! The wine had an explosive flavour that was revealed in successive layers as it burned down my throat. One shot of that was enough. Thankfully they weren't pushy. Their target was my GM. He seemed to take it well. Went to bed that night sleeping like a baby.