PEr FYI

January 7, 2017

Premium outlet Cha-Am, Hua Hin…..a ghost town disguised as an outlet mall

If you are a seasoned shopper, you would probably love to shop in outlet malls.

There is not enough big names to pull the shoppers into this premium outlet. Although it has names like GEOX, Billabong, ECCO, Triumph, Samsonite, Lacoste, everything isn’t a bargain, finding a deal in here requires a little work – and it sorely lacks the appeal of outlet malls. It’s simply just dull and very quiet. Practically deserted.The staff standing by idly while they wait for something to do. Very dull with no atmosphere. Zero, ziltch, nil, nothing, nada.

It’s just a vast expanse of brick and mortar emporiums that many Thai and tourists no longer visit. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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September 25, 2016

Temple of heaven, Beijing…A haven for the lazy art of people watching

Located south of the Forbidden City, the original Altar of Heaven and Earth was completed together with the Forbidden City, which was later renamed the Temple of Heaven in the reign of Emperor Jiajing. It was here that the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties offered sacrifice to heaven and prayed for bumper harvests. Tiantan Park as it is otherwise known, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Unlike the Forbidden City with its majestic awe, if I had to name one thing I love about Temple of Heaven, it would be the unique Chinese park life. It is hard to think of better scenes to partake in people watching. Silver-haired citizens doing line dancing and tai chi or squaring off on chinese chess.There’s the impromptu performances of Chinese opera and jam sessions with traditional chinese instruments like the pipa and erhu. Then there’s my old childhood game “chapteh” ( Jianzi) played by senior folks. During this game, these silent generation players keep the shuttlecock (with a rubber sole/plastic disk) off the ground using their feet and other body parts, but not their hands. There was around 70 people patting their thighs 30 times, then their knees, shoulders, backs and heads to allow their Qi to flow freely. There were a few who were shouting, almost yodelling: “voice exercises”. Several people appear to be wrestling with trees, gripping trunks and pushing against them.

I love this lazy art of observing and admiring unique cultures and happenings of day-to-day park life in China. Next to no skills needed, other than some discreet positioning. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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September 4, 2016

Shilin Market, Taipei…bring an appetite

Taiwanese night markets are a not-to-be-missed experience. Flying the flag for night markets is Shilin – perhaps the most famous and biggest Taiwanese night market.

Crowded and squeezy, the maze of alleyways is filled with clusters of hundreds of small stalls and street vendors selling a variety of local delicacies. Try everything  from skewered cuttlefish to fresh fruit to Taiwanese sausages to two of the market’s most iconic dishes: pan-fried buns and slabs of fried chicken cutlets. To decide what to eat, wander around and let your eyes and nose make the selection for you. This vibrant and colourful market blends street food with local souvenirs, designers, textiles, homeware and jewellery for a well-rounded market experience.

If you’re food-obsessed but don’t have the disposable income for Taipei’s best restaurants, Shilin is your saviour. Entry is free. The food, of course, is not. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

shilin taipei

August 27, 2016

Jiu Fen Old Street, Taipei…winning combination of crazy good food vendors and a bustling stretch of shopping

Jiufen is a great mini-trip out of Taipei, less than an hour away. With gorgeous views of the ocean, quaint streets and beautiful tea houses, Jiufen thrives as a trousit spot for a taste of Taiwan culture and history. When it first formed, there were only nine families, so the city would always request “nine portions” when shipments came in, hence the name.

Jiu Fen Old Street is series of narrow alleys which feature stand after stand of local snacks and handmade souvenirs. Be prepared to shove past throngs of tourists crammed into the narrow alleys. The offer samples of ginger tea which brings with it a host of powerful health benefits. Another popular food item is the mochi – glutinous rice balls which are as soft as marshmallows.

Don’t worry, there alleys are all covered by awning should the heavens open. It’s worth planning an adventure to Jiufen as well as an obligatory stroll down Old Street. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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August 14, 2016

Le Scossa, Paris…makes you go ooh la la

Set on the corner of the busy Victor Hugo Place, Le Scossa is in almost every way an unexpected find. A particularly cosy and beautiful restaurant full of French charm, good food, friendly service, it is also great for people watching.

For starters, I had escargot – they call it Snails XXL on the menu – which was the best I had in Paris on my most recent trip. That and “the real pepper steak, 200gr beef filet” are high points. Both were masterpieces of seething, aggressive flavor. The steak cut was tender, well-marbled and oozed blood-tinted jus. The finesses of the cooking here are shining examples of why the French have for so long led the world when it comes to gastronomy.

A dignified gem, Le Scossa couldn’t feel much more Parisian. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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July 6, 2016

The Harry Potter Shop at Platform 9 3/4, London…a Potter fan’s paradise

Harry Potter’s Platform 9 and three quarters is real and it’s at London’s Kings Cross Station.

The store packs a large variety of different merchandise – wands, clothing, snowglobe, plush white owls, unique art, sweets, and recreations of artifacts from the books – into a very small space. This looks like a cheap disney store (I do love Disney stores). No magic, just a display of merchandising to capitalise on some of the best books and movies out there. It is small and does get quite overcrowded and quite hard to navigate through.

One very good thing is that outside, there’s the cart filled with suitcases and an owl cage halfway through the wall. There’s a snaking queue to pose for a photo opportunity: while you’re holding on to the cart, a member of staff gives you a scarf and swings the scarf up to make you look like you were really flying through the platform, while another takes a picture.

Be ready to get really uber-nerdy here but you’ll be surrounded by the equally nerdy, so no worries. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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934 lhr2

January 9, 2016

Somboon Seafood, Bangkok…fried curry crab is heaven on a plate

One of Bangkok’s utterly superb and most delicious restaurants, Somboon is a classy place with outstanding Thai seafood with Chinese influences. Some mighty fine exhilarating Thai flavors, excellent service, pleasant setting and the price is right.

So, what’s to love?

As a matter of fact, every dish is rich in flavour. Coconut, lemon grass, basil and chiles are employed to magical effect.

The innocuous-sounding, obsession-worthy fried curry crab (Pu Pad Pong Gari) , cooked in a fragrant medley of spices and aromatics is gloriously unique. It’s a curry that hums with the power of a jet turbine and the finesse of an Apple Watch, fueled by radioactive levels of heat and subtle layers of sweet, salty and sour that creep down the back of the throat…its spicy punch set off deliciously by the fat, sweet crab meat. It’s definitely not what you sometimes get at other crab restaurants. Next time I’m here, I also really want to try fried curry crab meat where the meat is separated from the bisected crab body.

More intricate is the steamed fresh water prawns with garlic. No section of the tongue was left unstimulated. The stir fried baby cabbage with crispy pork is a textural delight and one of the best I have ever had. This is one of my benchmark dishes for most Chinese restaurants.

Run, don’t walk to this critically praised and nationally recognized Thai seafood restaurant. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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November 22, 2015

Premium outlet Phuket…I was uber-disappointed!

I write a lot of lists telling shoppers the best outlet malls to visit around the world. But how about where not to go?

Premium Outlet Phuket is supposed to be THE premium outlet mall in Phuket with outlet stores from 300 brand names, Lacoste, Guy Laroche, Hush Puppies, Warner Bros, Levi’s, Nautica, Adidas, Nike and Thai brands, so I was all psyched about what I might find there. I was disappointed with the lack of selection and deals. It was one let down after another. Many of the stores caused me to walk in and out.

Regardless of the downfalls, I did managed to save money – a pair of Geox shoes –  was the only thing that made the trip worthwhile.

I feel for Phuket. It deserves a better outlet mall with real deals. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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November 15, 2015

Capital Segway City Tour, Washington DC…best way to see any big city

Segway tours are the best way to see any big city. It’s a wonderful feeling – zipping around in the crisp air and the front row seat to the city with tour guides and you don’t have to deal with parking, buses or throngs of tourists. Plus it’s fun!!

The tour stops at all of the highlights you will want to see. As far as the Capitol & the White House. Be advised that you don’t get to go in anything on this tour only learn about the area and see everything from the exterior. There is one stop on the tour where we were able to get off the Segway – at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial.

Having been on many Segway tours, I can knowledgeably say that the difference between one Segway tour to another is the quality of the tour guide. A funny, witty, informative and animated one who gives fun facts along the way would make the tour worth every cent you’ve paid. Our guide was not the best, but he was not the worst either.

Do it! This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

capital segway city tour dc

November 1, 2015

Madame Tussards, Singapore…How much fun did I have? About 15 minutes worth

Since I am obviously not cool enough to have real celebrity friends, I usually like to spend a day at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum everywhere I go and pretend to mingle with the A-listers.  I would take selfies of me shaking hands with President Obama, posing with Angelina Jolie, or fulfilling my dream of doing sit-ups alongside David Beckham!

Madame Tussauds, which considers itself the plus ultra of wax artistry has sunk to the depths with this overpriced and cheesy display in Singapore. The exhibits in Singapore are boring and it’s way too short. The four-minute boat ride called Spirit of Singapore does not add any value to the museum. If you have been to Madame Tussaud’s in London, Los Angeles or New York City you will be extremely disappointment by this museum.

How much fun did I have at Madame Tussards Singapore? About 15 minutes worth. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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