Monday, June 30, 2008

Words of Wisdom

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" which is the first commandment with promise: "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." Ephesians 6:1-4

The Word of the Lord contains so many truths for living. The passage above prescribes family principles. These days, broken families are so prevalent. May we turn back to God's principles to heal broken relationships.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Best Babi Guling in Bali - Bu Oka

I mentioned in my last post that Ma-de, the driver took me to the best Babi Guling (Roast Suckling Pig) in Bali. Bu Oka is a small shop or warung in Ubud, opposite the palace. The warung comprises of a stall up front where the chef prepares the food. Next to the stall, there are a few long tables with benches. To get inside the warung, you have to go up some wooden steps (per Asian custom, you need to take out your shoes). There are low tables inside and you sit on the floor.

The menu, which is on the wall is straight forward. There is babi guling, babi guling and babi guling. You would have figured out by now babi guling is their specialty. There are some variations (e.g. pork with/without skin, with intestine, with vegetables). Ma-de recommended that I try the Babi Guling Special (i.e the works with rice, veg, crispy skin and intestine). It was very delicious. The meat is so tender that it literally melts in your mouth. Ma-de explained that the suckling pig is stuffed with Balinese spices and then roasted in a pit on a roller. It then is turned slowly and roasted for many hours to get the meat tender and juicy. The skin is crispy, while the intestine taste similar to the Chinese "siu cheong" (roast intestine). The assorted vegetables were diced finely and cooked with Balinese spices. Topped with the Balinese sambal, it was an unforgettable meal!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bali - Driver or Tour Guide?

Although Bali is an island, you would need to either hire a driver and a car or join a tour if you want to venture beyond your hotel and visit the different districts. We've tried both. Go for the driver option!

When we first went to Bali, part of the package were complimentary airport pick-up and a half-day Ubud tour conducted by the same tour company. We did not have a pleasant experience. The pick-up did not arrive (apparently there was a mix-up regarding our arrival time) and all we saw of Ubud were 1 woodcarving shop, 1 batik shop, 1 art gallery and 1 silversmith shop). The reason is that the tour guide gets a commission from these shops. When we wanted to add a Kecak dance to the itinerary, they charged us more than double the price of the ticket!

This time round, I opted to hire a driver and a car. The tour agencies also provide driver and car hire services. However, a friend recommended Ma-de Murtika (Pronounced as "Ma-Day") to me. She had used his services and found him to be reliable and trustworthy. I have to agree. I contacted him on his mobile (+62 081 23997613) and was glad that he was free the following day to drive me around.

Ma-de was waiting at the hotel lobby for me before our pre-arranged pick-up time. Based on tour brochures picked up at the airport, I had already decided where I wanted to go - Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Barong Dance, Ubud & Kintamani Volcano. I had a wonderful time chatting with him during the journey which gave me a chance to practice my Bahasa, which was rather rusty. (He can also speak some English, German and Japanese). I also had a glimpse of life in Bali as he shared about Balinese culture and history.

What I liked about Ma-de:
1) He did not attempt to persuade me to go to any shops for commissions
2) He did not try to hit me with extra charges (we had agreed on a fixed price for a day's services, which included petrol and parking charges).
3) He also agreed to extend to after dinner without extra charges (pre-agreed). Some drivers charge extra after 5.30pm.
4) I can decide my own itinerary!
5) He took me to the best place for Babi Guling (Roast Suckling Pig) in Ubud (watch out for this on my next post).

Meals and entrance fees were on my own account. I also gave him a tip at the end of the journey. I'm glad I opted to hire a driver as I experienced the "real Ubud" this trip instead of just going to designated shops.

BTW, "Ma-de" is a very common name in Bali. It means 2nd child in the family. So, usually, you would use the full name when calling a person.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Balinese Cuisine at Bumbu Bali

On our first night in Bali, we decided to have a Balinese dinner at the Bumbu Bali, located in Tanjung Benoa. Bumbu Bali claims to be the first authentic Balinese restaurant and was created following the principals used in designing a traditional Balinese home compound. Surprisingly, the owner of the restaurant is Heinz von Holzen, a Swiss, married to a Balinese. Heinz used to be the Executive Chef at the Grand Hyatt and Ritz Carlton Bali.
Having missed out on the Bumbu Bali during our first visit to Bali a couple of years back, we decided to make reservations for the night so as to not miss out again. It was also very convenient that the restaurant provides complimentary transportation to the restaurant from Nusa Dua hotels guests. The Bumbu Bali is so popular that the driver told us on the way back that it was his 8th trip to the Melia Bali that night.

At the restaurant, the kitchen staff greeted each guest with a cheery "Selamat Malam" or Good Night (which in Bali, is used as a welcome greeting as opposed to in Malaysia where it is used as a farewell greeting). The guests, both male and female are given a frangipani to be worn on the ear.

We opted for the set meal called the Rijsttafel (yeah, it's a mouthful, isn't it?), which means "Rice Table" (Indonesian dishes are always served in the center of the table surrounding a large basket of steamed white rice). We also complemented it with Hasil Laut Bumbu Kuning (Assorted Seafood in Yellow Turmeric Sauce), which was recommended by the waitress.


Sambel be Tongkol (Tuna Salad)
Sate Babi, Ayam, Lilit (Pork, Chicken and Seafood Sate)
Peanut Sauce
Lawar - Vegetable Salad
Verdict: The sates were absolutely delicious. The sauce was smooth and had a flavourful peanut taste (it definitely was made from roasted peanuts and not peanut butter). The lawar was fresh and crunchy.

Cram Cam (Clear Chicken Soup with Shallots)
Verdict: The soup was seasoned with aromatic Balinese spices. Tasted quite similar to soto ayam.

Ayam Betutu (Roast Chicken in Banana Leaf)
Be Celeng Base Manis (Pork in Sweet Soy Sauce)
Be Sampi Mebase Bali (Braised Beef in Coconut Milk)
Kambing Mekuah (Lamb Stew in Coconut Milk)
Ikan Bakar (Grilled Fish Fillet)
Pesan be Pasih (Diced Fish Grilled in Banana Leaf)
Sayur (Selection of Daily Vegetables)
Nasi Kuning, Merah, Putih (Yellow, Red and Steamed Rice)

Ala carte: Hasil Laut Bumbu Kuning (Assorted Seafood in Yellow Turmeric Sauce)
Verdict: Each dish was simply oozing with flavour. The lamb stew and braised beef literally melts in your mouth. The fish and seafood dishes were very fresh. The pork in sweet soy sauce tastes very much like the Chinese style dish we have in Malaysia.

Kueh Bali (Selection of Balinese Cakes)
Bubuh Injin (Black Rice Pudding)
Jaja Batun Bedil (Glutinous Rice Flour Dumplings in Palm Sugar Sauce)
Buah-Buahan (Seasonal Fruits)
Balinese Coffee or Tea

Verdict: At this stage, we were already quite full. But, we couldn't resist sampling the dessert. My favourite dessert is the Glutinous Rice Flour Dumplings in Palm Sugar Sauce. It was absolutely delicious and not-to-be-missed. The dumplings had a soft chewy texture and the palm sugar sauce was so fragrant. The black rice pudding is similar to what we have in Malaysia (not surprisingly since there are similarities in our cultures).

Final verdict: I'm glad we managed to taste the food at the Bumbu Bali this trip. Absolutely delicious!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Irish Blessing

An Old Irish Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

I love this blessing. The Irish certainly has a way with words.

Friday, June 20, 2008

My Blog is now 3 Columns

Since I've started blogging, I've picked up new IT skills. Truly, the internet is a wealth of information. I found this really useful site called "Tips for New Bloggers - A dummies guide, blog tips, tricks, help for all new bloggers on Web templates, Blog templates, designs, widgets, layout, JavaScript, HTML codes, SEO, Google AdSense, gadgets, diagnostic tools, and how to monetize Blogger or Blogspot blogs."

It really is a very useful resource to help new bloggers like me enhance our blog. I've used it before to add the "Recent Comments" page element to help me see who has made comments on which post at one glance. Today I used it to add another column to my blog for more versatility. And it's all really simple. I can't wait to try out the other tips!

More petrol saving tips

Little changes to our cars and driving style helps. Again, these tips have been circulating in the e-mail.

12 Tips To Save Petrol !
1 ) Pump up your tyres. Keeping your tyres inflated is one of the easiest and most important things. If a range is recommended by the manufacturer, the higher pressure should be used to maximize fuel efficiency. Deflated tyres run hot and jeopardize safety. It will also cause the tyres to wear out prematurely, affect the vehicles adversely, and hurt the fuel economy by increasing the rolling resistance. Tyres lose about 1 psi pressure per month due to air loss caused by the tyre hitting holes, bumps and kerbs. Therefore, the tyres should be checked at least once a month. Just 1 tyre deflated by 2 psi will result in a 1% increase in fuel consumption.

2) Drive at moderate speed. Avoiding high speeds on open roads results in safer driving and better fuel economy. In highway driving, over 50% of the power produced by the engine is used to overcome erodynamic drag. Drag and thus fuel consumption increases rapidly at speeds above 90km/h. On the average, a car uses about 15% more fuel at 100km/h, and 25% more fuel at 110km/h compared to when it is doing only 90km/h. However, this should not lead one to conclude that the lower the speed, the better the fuel economy - because it is not. The fuel consumption of an average car increases sharply at speeds below 50km/h.

3) Clean the air-filter regularly. Clogged air filters increase fuel consumption by restricting airflow to the engine, and thus should be cleaned/replaced when necessary. Clogged air filters can increase fuel consumption by up to 10%.

4) Use thinner tyres. Tyres with thick width will improve the handling of your car. However, it will also increase your car's fuel consumption. Thicker tyres mean more rolling resistance, and thus will consume more fuel.

5) Start up the car properly. With today's cars, it is not necessary to prime the engine first by pumping the accelerator pedal repeatedly. Do not crank the engine excessively This only wastes fuel. When starting the engine, idle it no more than 30 seconds to warm it up. An engine will warm up faster on the road. However, avoid sudden acceleration before the engine has warmed up sufficiently.

6) Drive in high gear (overdrive). The engine runs most efficiently between around 1,500 and 2,500 rpm. To maintain these low revs you should change up through the gears as soon as practical and before the revs reach 2500 rpm. For automatic transmission cars, you should always switch on your overdrive to help save fuel. Overdrive will allow your engine to change gears at lower revs. It also puts your transmission into an "economy" mode and lets it engage the final "overdrive" gear when cruising to keep the rpms extra low, thereby increasing fuel economy.

7) Travel light. Avoid carrying any unnecessary weight in your car. On the average, every 50kg added load in your car will increase fuel consumption by 2%.

8) Anticipate traffic ahead. A driver can reduce fuel consumption by up to 10% by anticipating traffic conditions ahead and adjusting the speed accordingly, and avoiding tailgating and thus unnecessary braking and acceleration. Accelerations and decelerations waste fuel. Braking and abrupt stops can be minimized by not following too closely and slowing down gradually when approaching a red light. It takes up to six times as much fuel to move a car from a dead stop than it does for one moving at just a few km/h.

9) Avoid strong acceleration. The fuel consumption remains at a minimum during steady driving at a moderate speed of about 90km/h. Keep in mind that every time the accelerator is hard pressed, the engine goes into a "fuel-enrichment" mode of operation that wastes fuel.The vehicle should always be gradually and smoothly accelerated. Using cruise control on highways can help maintain a constant speed and reduce fuel consumption.

10) Minimise aerodynamic drag. Additional parts on the exterior of a vehicle such as roof racks and spoilers, or having the window open, Roof racks are bad for fuel economy increases air resistance and fuel consumption, in some cases by over 20%.

11) Don't let your engine idle. Minimize fuel wasted in idling by stopping the engine whenever your car is stopped or held up for an extended period of time. Idling more than a minute consumes much more fuel than restarting the engine. By having the engine switched off, you will save more fuel than is lost from the burst of fuel involved in restarting the engine. The net increased wear and tear from this practice is negligible.

12) Use the air-con sparingly. Air conditioners can use about 10 per cent extra fuel when operating. However, at speeds of over 80 km/h, use of air conditioning is better for fuel economy than an open window.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tong Kee Egg Tart

I was in KL today and decided to drop by the Tong Kee shop nestled in Pudu (16 Jalan Brunai Utara, Pudu). Tong Kee egg tart is my all-time favourite egg tart. I have yet to taste egg tart in Malaysia that can rival Tong Kee. The pastry is fluffy and melts in your mouth, and the egg custard filling is soft, juicy and sweet (but not too sweet). Just the way I like it.

Ai and I bought up 1 whole tray. Shows how much we love it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Petrol Saving Tips at the Pump

Ouch...Petrol prices are hurting everyone (except for the oil companies). Here in Malaysia, we were enjoying subsidised petrol for a while. Of course, when the government decided to raise petrol prices by 41%, ouch..ouch... we could all see our money going down the pumps (pun intended). Anyway, since every little bit helps, here are some tips which have been circulating on the e-mail.

1) Pump petrol in the early morning when the ground temperature is still cold. Remember that all service stations have their storage tanks buried below ground. The colder the ground, the denser the fuel, when it gets warmer petrol expands, so buying in the afternoon or in the evening.... your litre is not exactly a litre.
2)When you're filling up, squeeze the trigger of the nozzle to a slow mode. If you look, you will see that the trigger has three (3) stages: low, middle, and high. In slow mode, you should be pumping on low speed, thereby minimizing the vapours that are created, while you are pumping. All hoses at the pump have a vapour return. If you are pumping on the fast rate, some of the liquid that goes to your tank becomes vapour. Those vapours are being sucked up and back into the underground storage tank so you're getting less worth for your money.
3)Fill up when your tank is half full. The reason for this is, the more fuel you have in your tank, the less air occupying its empty space. Petrol evaporates faster than you can imagine. Petroleum storage tanks have an internal floating roof. This roof serves as zero clearance between the petrol and the atmosphere, so it minimizes the evaporation.
4)If there is a fuel truck pumping into the storage tanks, do not fill up - most likely the petrol/diesel is being stirred up as the fuel is being delivered, and you might pick up some of the dirt that normally settles on the bottom.

Of course, you could save even more petrol by switching from your car to your bicycle, public transportation or rely on your own 2 feet. But somehow, I don't think we're willing to give up our cars yet...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Mystery Shopper

"You get what you measure"

Companies who are serious about customer service will seek to measure the customer experience. Apart from customer survey, another method that is increasingly being used is mystery shopper. Mystery shoppers are hired to visit the shop and service centre and phone-in to the call centre to test out the company's level of service. The mystery shopper will be given a survey sheet to grade the service level of the staff. Based on the feedback from the mystery shopper, companies can re-adjust training and re-think their strategies. It also keeps customer service personnel on their toes as they do not who the mystery shopper is. It's a win win situation for both the company and the customers.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bali - Lazy Day by the Beach

When I travel, I usually like to move around, go sight-seeing, hiking, shopping, etc. I reserve lazing around when I'm at home. After all, if I'm going to spend money to go to another country, I should maximise my time there and see and do all that I possibly can, right?
So, in a very "unlike me" fashion, I actually spent half a day lazing by the beach in Bali, during my recent trip there. Because I live in sunny Malaysia, having sunshine is no big deal. In fact, a lot of Malaysians, especially women, prefer to stay out of the sun as they don't want to get tanned. Tha't why whitening skin products are such a hit here. For me, I am naturally tanned (thanks to my half Nyonya heritage), so I don't mind the sun as much.

Anyway, since I stayed at the Melia Bali on Nusa Dua Beach, I decided to take advantage fo the private beach on the resort property. Even though, I don't mind the sun, I don't intentionally go sun-tanning. So, I found a deck chair in a shady spot and settled down with a good book to read.

P.S. These weren't the Melia Bali deck chairs. It belonged to a nearby resort but I thought that it warranted a picture coz it was so unusual.
It really was very relaxing listening to the sound of the waves and the chirping of the birds. Occasionally, a tree squirrel would come down the tree, hoping for some nuts from the sun-bathing guests.
When I looked up from my chair, I could see the blue sky peeking out from among the tree leaves. When I looked out, I could see a boat floating in the air. No, it's not a scene from the Pirates of the Carribean, it's actually a kite. During low tide, I ventured to the pool for a cool dip.
Very pleasant indeed. I could get used to this...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Words of Wisdom

"One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things." –- Henry Miller

I love to travel. It broadens my mind. Changes the way I view people, places and life.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hancock, A different kind of superhero

i) Who plays the eponymous character in the movie Hancock? Will Smith

ii) Fill in the blanks: In a bid to save a gray whale, Hancock heaves it out to sea, only to see it smash a sailboat.

Review of Hancock
Hancock - From drunk to sober? Sloppy to cool? Hated to beloved?
If ever there was an atypical hero, Hancock is it.
If ever there was a candidate in desperate need for a makeover, Hancock is it.

And since everyone loves a good makeover (judging by the success of makeover shows ranging from personal looks, to homes, to restaurants), just on that basis alone, the movie Hancock will draw in the audiences. Add Will Smith (of Bad Boys and Men In Black fame) to the equation, and you'll have a box office hit.

Hancock is a hero that leaves a trail of destruction (sounds familiar?) whilst saving the day. He's rude, drunk, sloppy and homeless. Perfect candidate for a makeover. In comes Ray, the PR guy, who wants to do the job. So, off to jail Hancock goes (they reckon that the people will miss him when he's not around to fight crime). It works...Out he comes again, complete with a brand new super hero look - tight leather outfit and all that jazz...Does it work? Can our atypical hero be transformed to the perfect superhero? Watch the movie and find out.

Want to enter the contest too? Click on AllMalaysia.Info.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lumpini Park, Bangkok

Lumpini Park is an oasis in the bustling city of Bangkok. When we relocated to Bangkok 2 years ago, living in the heart of Bangkok city was a new experience for me. I missed the peace and quiet of suburban living. So, it was a blessing to live a mere 10-minutes walk to Lumpini Park, which is located on the busy junction of Rama IV and Ratchadamri roads. I could go and escape from the hustle bustle of city living and grid-lock traffic.

Once inside the 140-acre park, a sense of peace immediately prevails.

There is a huge lake in the centre of the park where boating activities take place.
People, young and old, jog, walk, roller-blade and cycle. They play basketball, practice yoga, tai-chi, dance and martial arts. They laze around by the lake or people-watch on the bench.

They benchpress in the open-air gym. swim laps in the pool or play tennis. In the mornings, the older folks meet at their regular spots for a game of mahjong and breakfast. In the evenings, the office workers come for free aerobic sessions. During Loy Krathong, Thais gather to release their boats on the lake. The park's wildlife inhabitants co-exist peacefully with the human visitors.
Lumpini Park really is a charming hodge podge of people, wildlife and events that adds to Bangkok's fascinating facet.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Tribute to Dad

The fruit of our labour

While I inherited my passion for cooking from my mum, I picked up a knack for gardening from my dad. Dad has worked with plants all his life, beginning his career with the government agriculture department. After his retirement, he ventured into the private sector and currently at age 70+, he works part-time as a landscape contractor. He can’t seem to give up his plants!

Growing up, we’ve always had a garden full of plants. In fact, our house was like an orchard sometimes. At one time, when dad went through his cactus phase, our garden resembled a desert in Texas.

We don’t always realize the lasting impact our parents have on us. Honestly, I hardly spent any time in the garden during my childhood. When I grew up and had my own home, it was dad who gave us our first plants for our home. The red palm is still with us many years later (provided Kess, our beagle doesn’t chew it up. She has already mangled its twin).

As a result, unlike some Malaysian homes, we decided to keep our front garden instead of tiling it up to make space for another car park space. In fact, we did the opposite to our back yard and converted the cement floor into a garden. We like to do our entertaining at our back patio and enjoy the little garden we have out back. Unlike dad, I don’t really have green fingers but I do enjoy puttering around the garden. Sure, it takes work. Weeding, trimming, watering, fertilizing. But the fruits of the labour is worth it.
Happy Fathers Day, dad!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Words of Wisdom

"So encourage each other and build each other up..."

This week, I picked a verse from 1 Thessalonians 5:11 on encouragement. So often, we underestimate the power of encouragement. Even a simple "Thank you" for a job well done, for a favour, for an act of kindness can do wonders to warm the heart of the person on the receiving end. It's a basic human need to want to be appreciated.

In the blogging world, I am grateful to you dear friends who have taken the time to share your thoughts with me and Kess. You are an encouragement! Have a great week ahead.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Breast Cancer - Help Make June Survivor Month

Sweet Jasmine tagged me to pass on the message about the ongoing campaign in The Breast Cancer Site to get as many clicks as possible by end of June to reach their target of 8 million clicks in order for their sponsors to donate $10,000 more for free mammograms.
Visit the site and click on the pink button as many times as you can. Remember each click you gave will give hope to a woman in getting free mammogram. Do join us by continuing the tag and click on.
P.S. Lindsey has requested for me to add on a link for a related cause. ServeNation and its affiliated websites have served individuals and non-profits throughout the world for the past five years with its various products. They have a Breast Cancer Gift Card Centre to help raise funds for breast cancer. Check it out.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

ChokChai Farm, Bangkok, Thailand

There is more to Bangkok than just shopping, temples, food and adult entertainment. There is something for kids too. One such place is ChokChai Farm. When my 5-year old niece came over to visit us in Bangkok, we decided to pay a visit to the farm. To our pleasant surprise, we adults enjoyed it too.

ChokChai Farm (named after its founder) is located about 1.5 hours drive out of Bangkok. The farm produces milk and milk-related products as well as beef for local consumption. The farm conducts Agro Tours to give tourists a chance to experience farm life and watch various types of animals and cowboy performances. A little point to note - the tour is conducted in Thai. But you know what, it really doesn't matter if you don't understand the language as the performances don't really need words.

The tour starts off with a short introductory video of the beginnings of the farm. Then, the group is ushered to the milking parlor. Volunteers are given the opportunity to try it out themselves!

Next, we head to the Ice Cream workshop where we watched a video and see how ice cream is made. Then, we got a small ice-cream to sample. After you've tasted the milky ice-cream, you'll be tempted to stop at one of the many stores during the tour to buy one! (I guess that's the whole point...)

Hop on the open-air wagon cum bus and we're off on the tour of the farm. During the sunflower season (December), we passed by cheerful fields of sunflowers and rolls of hay. After a short ride, we arrive at the cowboy station where we were entertained by skilled Thai cowboys performing riding, lassoing and gun slinging tricks.

You can also pay a small fee to ride on the horses. If horses aren't your cup of tea, have a go at the ATVS.
A short bus ride away, we arrive at the children's favourite stop. Be entertained by the clever Chok Chai dogs. There are lots more pictures on Kess' blog.
Then, experience the animals first-hand at the petting zoo. Come eye-to-eye with a deer.
Cuddle a soft, wooly lamb...
...and feed a hungry calf.
Fulfill a child's dream to ride on a pony.
End the tour with a delicious steak at ChokChai's Steakhouse located at the entrance of the farm. Unfortunately, we were too hungry and polished off our plates before we took any pictures. Last but not least, finish off with milk ice cream for dessert and buy some souveniers for your family and friends. The milk sweets are yummy. All in all, ChokChai Farm makes a great family outing. There is more to Bangkok!

P.S. This is not a paid post.