Category: Travel.

Difficult answer

“How was your flight?”

For the record, I enjoy flying. I like airplane food, even those served in the economy class. I don’t mind the small lavatories and I am still amused by the fact that everything is wrapped in plastic. What I do not like is being asked if I had a good flight. We sit in rows in a metal tube breathing highly compressed air. We get distracted by clouds, inflight movies, bellowing babies, and/or seat inclines. What is there to say about a flight?

When I respond that it is ok, the questioner often sound disappointed (Oh. Just ok?). Why do people do that?

We hit a slight turbulence shortly after reaching cruising level so the hot drinks service was suspended for 10 minutes. My Krisworld entertainment unit worked fine. Did you know they are already showing [the current blockbuster]? I had poached salmon and a warm crab salad, which were very good. Although the pushback was delayed, the captain made up time with strong tailwinds. He also landed the plane very smoothly and in one piece, hardly any bump. Also, no one stole my wallet and laptop and I did not spill anything on myself. I guess that is similar to my last few flight experiences. So yes, it was ok.

This always go through my head and this is probably why I am not the most easy-going person.

Do what the locals do

On most of the business trips, I tend to ‘window-shop’ and ‘sight-see’ from a moving vehicle between the office and the hotel. The routine and simplicity do not bother me. It is still going to work except in a different currency.

When I am done soaking up the quiet, I like to venture into the crowds and listen to the conversations of the local. It is my little way to taste the life of what it can be. Of what it might have been, perhaps. Then when I get lost in the massive underground train system or be rejected by cab drivers who do not like reading maps, I will just pretend to be a contestant in the amazing race.

Of sensing and relaxing; busy night street / sedated lounge

Stuff from random shopping in Seoul and Taipei; lego pendants / earphone winder / pencil case

Quickly by Hotel Nikko Kansai

It was my first time in Hotel Nikko Kansai. Minutes after you clear the Kansai immigration, you will arrive at this simple facility that stays true to the status as an airport hotel. Frankly, after hearing the dreadful stories from the co-workers, I was not exactly looking forward to the stay. Good thing, they were wrong.

The convenient location is ideal for transit travellers or those who need to stay close to the airport. You can reach the JR and local train stations in 5 minutes on foot, and the trains will bring you to Osaka downtown in 40 minutes. Oh from the guests I saw in the lobby, it is also a hit with tourists who wish to visit the Rinku Premium Factory Outlet. The free shuttle (with a gorgeous seaview on-route) helps!

Back to the accommodation.

Room is modestly appointed with a good sized bed for one. View is calm. Internet connection is a breeze. BBC World is the only English channel. Bathroom is stocked and underwhelming-ly decorated with a single stalk of plastic lily. Space is tight but overall rather comfortable. If I must have one complaint, the key card is printed with the name of the hotel and room number. Not much for security.

Then the colleagues warned me about the (lack of) food. If only they know how addicted I am to Japanese cuisine. The airport has plenty of choices and the restaurant in the hotel, Hanazato, serves up decent dishes too.

Sigh, I’ve got to stop talking about food.

Yup.

Commuting rush and style

I am proud to be a fairly tolerant commuter. Toe-stomping umbrellas and shoulder-bobbing heads don’t really bother me. There is one thing that really gets to me – the irresponsibility of allowing children to step on the seats with their shoes on. Most common defence from parents – the shoes are not that dirty. Really?

Then I saw this in Osaka. It must be the norm in that part of town. Almost every child (those who wish to put their feet up) will remove their shoes without being told/asked. It is a small thing, perhaps to most people. But it certainly can be done.

Ever been shoved and literally pressed against a stranger’s back? At least in Singapore, you are not expected to go cheek-to-cheek even during peak hours. Tokyo metro is crazy as it is, the morning rush is something I can do without. I must apologise to the people who had to put up with my laptop-backpack. I never do have the chance to put it down or up!

So before anyone decides to berate Singaporeans and their ugliness while on their way to work, one should realise that such behaviour is not unique. Clustering at the doors is your best bet to getting off at the right stop, and not the one after.

Devoted to Kazumi

Being a bore, I tend to dine in the same restaurants when I am overseas. In Shanghai, it will be Kazumi at Renaissance Yangtze.

It may not have the best of best sliced seafood or fine dining delicacies, the entire team always make it a point to make my visit most enjoyable. The staff is friendly but not intrusive. The thick sashimi is served cool and the cooked food is always hot. The head chef will replace what I don’t eat with my favourites. When I am alone, they will provide fresh reading material. Don’t be mistaken – I am not a big spender. A plate of sashimi and a piece of grilled cod do not really cover the night’s paycheck. When the folks are proud of what they do, they do it well.

Lucy, I can eat at least another portion of the below set!

Single portion of sashimi combo

One of the staff thought I should try one of the signature rolls. It was alright. Big portion but I am not a fan of fried shrimp (anymore). Too bad I don’t have a picture of the beautiful cod.

Kazumi signature shrimp roll

Looking forward to the next Japanese meal.

Befitting the grey in Shanghai

Yesterday, it was a dark dark day. My X1 lost consciousness right in my palm. After a painful resuscitation (over a delicious sashimi dinner), I crazily installed an update and it flat-lined again. I cannot understand my lack of sense or explain the sudden loss of simple intellect. Then spent the next two hours reloading and customising the plugins and settings. Achievement. Just when I’d switched off the lights to go to bed, I heard the dreadful beep for the third time. It had hard-resetted itself. Pain.

I woke up this morning to an actual dark foggy day. As soon as I began blaming the drizzle for the low visibility of the World Expo site from the Lupu bridge, we were stopped by guards along the quiet road. The grand locale is not available for commoners yet. I had been fooled by the hotel information booklet. Quite silly, now that I think about it. So the cab headed back to the hotel. He was kind to crawl on the bridge for me to peek and check out the pavillions. Through the damp window pane, they look lonely.

In the departure lounge surrounded by folks in warm lined coats with a horizonless view of the runway, one will never guess this is April in Shanghai.

Vast and grey @ Pudong International Airport

Ground handlers @ Pudong Int'l Airport

Ready to board.

Smiling back at you, Bangkok

I admit that I might have been too biased with memories smeared by past experiences. Bangkok cab service has definitely improved. Though still consistently trapped in the good old heavy traffic, I did not once fear for my life. Previously. zigzagging cabs in tight one-way streets flipped my heart arteries all the time. Because of that, I have always rejected vacation ideas that will land me in this city.

Beijing cleaned up for the Olympics. Singapore put up prettier Christmas lights for APEC. If Bangkok has changed because of some event, I am very happy that whatever-that-is has taken place here.

I commented one night that this city is full of Manhattan-like lights. Then I was reminded that this is really the city of smiles. Yes indeed. It has even rubbed off on the usually stoic customs officers. Not just in the official airport where they are probably contractually binded to smile at tourists, even the tireless ones in the free trade zones are surprisingly nice.

I may actually be ready to return for a touristy visit soon. But right now, I just want a confirmed flight home.