Thursday, 26 September 2013

Travel: China Part 2: Shanghai Part 1

For the first length of our stay in Shanghai, we stayed at Chateau Star River in New Pudong.
Folks, this hotel is ridiculous.

Ridiculously big, ridiculously unnecessarily big...

Did I mention big?

The hotel is kind of renaissance styled, with dominance of gold colors, marble tiles, and carvings throughout. It is located in New Pudong, a relatively newer area in Shanghai. Perhaps the architect/designer intended this to be renaissance/european, but somehow I came to think of this hotel as very grandiose chinese - with unnecessarily big spaces, big corridors and aisles to anywhere, and just very huge-huge-and-huge. The hotel was almost empty, if not for the corporate travelers (including us).

Ok, well, you have had enough of me blabbering about the size.

Although it is definitely a 5 star hotel and also geared towards business travelers, hardly any of the staff - apart from the concierge/reception - could speak English. We did not have any trouble communicating with the receptionist. But what if you need to ask your cleaning lady for an extra towel? Or if you need to ask that lovely elevator wait-staff which way to go to the gym? Or when suddenly the room internet crapped out and you needed help from their IT guys to provide assistance (in fact, it happened during our stay, which is a shame for a so called 5 star hotel)? Forget it.

Room is large. Larger than your usual 5 star hotel rooms - especially for Asian countries' standards. The bed is huuugeee... . They actually combined two double beds into one massive King bed. Heck, I don't know if the bed should be called King size anymore. It is humongous.

Amenities a-plenty, you get everything from sewing kits, toothbrush & toothpaste, and loofah. There is also a small Nespresso machine complete with daily replenishment of Nespresso coffee capsules for you to enjoy your coffee in-room.

Big bath overlooking the room, and there is a small TV mounted behind the bathroom mirror - so you can enjoy your bath while watching TV.

Despite a bit of communication problem, service is faultless. We received a small box of white chocolate everyday, as well as personal cards with lovely daily messages from the room housekeeper (that also contains weather forecast for the next day).

There was still work undergoing outside our rooms though, and the workers kept working until late (7 p.m.-ish). If I did not have to go outside the room for work purpose, I think I would have gone nuts from the noise.

Over with the room, we are onto the facilities in the hotel. Outdoor pool and indoor pool, and lovely koi fish pond just located across the outdoor pool.

(Fish is a very essential part in Chinese culture. It symbolizes abundance and luck)

Then the usual gym, which is considered mandatory for hotels with at least 4 stars and above I guess...

Then billiard rooms, table tennis rooms, and mini golf rooms... (yep, plural... There are a few of those for each type).

And then yoga room and dancing room.... . Okaaay... . a bit unusual but I guess not unheard of for a 5 star hotel... .

Then we have indoor squash rooms (again, plural)... . which at this point I was already having a hard time picking up my jaw off the floor.

And then they also have indoor (yes, indoor!) badminton courts and tennis courts.

I guess because the hotel is located fairly away from Shanghai's CBD or tourist area, the management tries to provide as much facilities as possible for their guests to use so they don't feel bored? Not sure, but when we stayed there, we have not seen anyone using any of those rooms (apart from the gym and the indoor pool).

It is still a very good hotel, despite the slightly pretentious feel and depressing emptiness during our stay. There are a lot more to improve if they are going to boast this as an international hotel.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

travel: China Part 1: China Southern Business Class

I recently did another trip, but this time for work purpose and had the opportunity to experience business class by China Southern.
In fact, I now have enough mileages and points to obtain another business class trip in the near future (trip to Singapore booked for next month. Woohoo)

Instead of the usual per day post, I will post the travelogue in parts. This was a business trip, so I did not do the usual sightseeing. I just snapped what pictures I could take. And of course I just took the pictures with my phone as there is no way I would bring my OM-D to a business trip 0_0.

This was my first trip in business class. I was excited to use the fast check-in lane for first class/business class use at Sydney Airport check in counter. There was some kind of excitement in me when I could just waltz in and was prioritized to get their service, while the economy lane was piling up. But then again, if this was not a reward/special flight (yep, not ashamed to admit it), I would not dare to pay the exorbitantly priced business class ticket to travel.

As China Southern does not have their own lounge at Sydney International Airport, we (a colleague of mine and I) were directed to Qantas business lounge.

Nice funky simple decor and seating, their business lounge also have own shower rooms (which I did not use). Food are readily available, on the night it was self served buffets of various salads. Nothing fancy about the food though. Various types of alcoholic drinks are also complimentary. We spent the time until boarding at the lounge.

As soon as we boarded the plane, the flight attendants promptly offered some drinks and provided a pair of slippers to use whilst on board. The flight attendants were very young, and somehow I got the impression that they were not used to serve foreigners, as they jumbled through their english. Nevertheless, they were very courteous and pleasant throughout the journey (and very pretty too <3).
The business class seat can turn into a flat bed with a touch of a control button. I desperately needed that and really appreciated a few hours of good shut eye during the night time flight (which I think would be impossible in economy seats without a powerful dose of stilknox. Especially when it would be full on work the day after.

Dinner were served, degustation style. Somehow the meals were served kind of in a hectic manner (they don't really follow a set timing? The food came straight away one after another. At one time, my fold table was full of plates. Or maybe I ate too slow?), but they were tasty. I missed a few salad and side dishes as I was already completely stuffed.
Appetizers & hors d'oeuvres were Grilled vegetable on a stick and Grilled beef on crackers, as well as Duck and Scallop salad. Various type of bread rolls were also offered. Then came Pumpkin Soup and some other salad which I did not get to take a picture (and did not consume). I chose my main course to be Lamb Chops, then followed by Cheese Platter and Chocolate Profiteroles.

Entertainment system was adequate with a lot of new movies available (did not even get to watch one full movie, too tired -_-)
For breakfast before arriving in Guangzhou, there were a few options as well; and I chose to have Beef Noodle Soup with its condiments. Tasty & refreshing.

When we arrived in Guangzhou International airport, it was already morning. The airport is massive and it was confusing for us - especially when we were still drowsy - trying to make our way to the domestic area (we were transported on a buggy in the end).

We stayed at the China Southern lounge while waiting for our domestic flight to Shanghai. They served breakfast (which included some dim sum and paos that did not taste nice at all).

Then off we went to the boarding area, admiring the new 787 fleet - and one on which we would be boarding soon *_*.

Again, once on board, drinks, slippers, toiletries were served. And as it was still considered morning flight from Guangzhou to Shanghai, another breakfast was served.
By this time I must have gained at least one kilo.

Part 1 over and will try to edit the other pictures for next parts as soon as I can.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

NomNom: Sedap, Regent Place; Sydney CBD

Regent Place on George St, Sydney CBD has a new addition: a Malaysian Kopitiam style restaurant called Sedap (their other shop is located in Westfield Chatswood).

It is a very small and cramped space - I think they try to fit too many tables. Service was a bit meh... some waitresses looked like they did not want to be there. And when we dined there, there were too many staffs, making the already small place looked even more cramped.
And you sit almost back to back with other patrons.
So despite our initial doubts, we went ahead and sat uncomfortably on mismatched chairs and at tables with different heights, making sharing dishes somewhat difficult.

Some dish (and drinks) are presented in enamel coated tablewares - a reminiscence of old Malay days. Very innovative and great concept. Though  their laksa dishes or noodle soups are also served in somewhat smallish enamel container... not sure if this is enough portion to feed a person. I may have to order one to find out next time...

So far I was not impressed with the place.
Until the food came. Then everything was forgotten.
The coffee pork ribs (A$14.80 I think... or A$16.80... -_-) were sweet and flavorsome, and had very subtle coffee taste. 1/2heart and I devoured it between the two of us with no problem at all.
Sambal KangKong (water spinach, A$12.80) was awesomely fragrant (much better than the one we had at Senyai on the lower level). They used fermented beans to add to the taste as well, the way I prefer a sambal dish to be.
Curry puffs was crispy and buttery with filings nicely marinated with curry paste. (I still prefer Albee's Kitchen's version though). The chicken rice (only the rice at A$3) was decent, with enough chicken stock taste (Although I prefer my chicken rice to have more ginger taste than what was served).

Other various small dishes - including satay, fish balls, and fried chicken - can be ordered from the counter. They also sell traditional nonya cakes.

I will definitely patronize this place more in the future. Despite my initial dislike of the place layout, their food is more than enough to convince me to come back.
Sedap indeed.

Regent Place, 501 George St, Sydney CBD

*pictures taken with iphone

NomNom: Tokkuri, Cammeray

Over the Harbour Bridge, we ventured a bit out of our usual hang-out places, to head to Cammeray - a suburb north of Sydney CBD.
Tokkuri is a funky Japanese restaurant with a great selection of sake and wine, located in the vicinity of an apartment complex (Stockland). We would not even have heard of this place if not for the latest Groupon deal we had ($49 dine in for 2 people).

We arrived at precisely 12.30 p.m., the start of their lunch hour. Decor is very nice, with color scheme of black and brown and funky ceiling lights. Shelves at the bar display bottles of wine and Japanese liquor and sake.

The deal includes a choice of house sake, beer, or white wine. We had the house sake, which was served as soon as we were seated. It was served warm and tasted slightly on the sweeter side.

Fresh sashimi, miso soup (picture not taken), and a small serving of soft shell crab salad were served as appetizers. Sashimi were fresh, the fish pieces had that fresh crunch.

Sushi roll (choice of salmon avocado or spicy tuna) was OK, nothing fancy as they are just normal rolls. The popcorn prawns (battered in light tempura batter and drizzled with mayo) were nice and light (despite the mayo -_-).
The wagyu beef (choice of wagyu beef or grilled salmon), although had a nice flavor, I must say did not have the melt-in-the-mouth texture wagyu meat should have. We ordered it to be done medium, perhaps should have chosen medium rare.
Tempura were decent and crispy. At least for a voucher deal, they did not skimp on the prawns (we had two nicely sized tempura prawns and some other vegetables)

I think for the voucher price, it is certainly a pleasant experience and quite a good deal. But when the deal said the original value would be $150,.... urm... I don't think so. I certainly would not have paid $150 for the meal. Then again, these vouchers tend to overrate their descriptions.

Worth another try the next time we are on the northern shores.

Tokkuri Sake and Wine Bar
Stockland Cammeray
Shop 16, 450 Miller St
ph 02 9922 2288

*pictures taken with iphone