SIN Do 11

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by violist, Feb 7, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Continuation of this thread.
    Our guides left us in the confident hands of Lawrence, whose
    last name I couldn't catch (Tan?), the station manager for
    United - a well-informed and well-spoken gent of a few years
    fewer than me, most polite and hospitable to our motley
    bunch. He presented about UA's operation at SIN and how he
    coordinated with SATS to provide the best travel experience
    available for the price; then we were introduced to his
    staff - the phone desk chief, the maintenance supervisor,
    and so on - and were led next door to the SATS offices,
    where we heard an informative but very organizational- and
    marketing-strong presentation.

    A pair of SATS buses came to take us on the snaky route to
    the catering facility (the number 2, as it turns out) in
    Changi city. Well, I must say they saved the best for last.

    After a pretty detailed presentation about the capacities
    and challenges of the catering operation, we were unleashed
    upon goody bags (huge, sturdy, valuable UA totes!) and
    probably the most opulent airline lunch I'll ever see.

    Sliced filet mignon, tender as a cloud, of a quality one
    would expect if sitting on cloudlike upholstery at 30000

    Hainan chicken rice, pretty authentic, but the chicken
    interestingly slightly rare (which was fine with me: I
    don't understand the prejudice against rare chicken);

    a fish curry that was savory but unspicy - a nod to the
    tastes of the masses and perhaps to the supposed weirdness
    of tastebuds at 30,000 feet - wouldn't put the Banana Leaf
    Apolo out of business;

    vegetables in coconut curry - pretty good, sort of like
    what I might make if I were more into vegetables.

    Salad. Impeccable greens and I'm sure what a United
    Airlines salad looks like when it's loaded on the plane.

    Fragrant breads.

    There was a seafood platter that included scallops,
    lobster, and shrimp - impressive and costly, but they
    couldn't hold a candle to good old cold-water shellfish
    out of the North Atlantic. Salmon was very good, though.

    The desserts looked nice, but my attention was diverted to
    the chocolate platter.

    Jewels artisan chocolate is SATS' venture into the retail
    gourmet food market. I'm dubious, but Then Chui Foong is a
    talented chef. And they gave us as many free chockies as we
    could eat, what could be bad. With an amused little smile,
    Lawrence joined the gluttons' table, and we spent a while
    talking over each of the chocolates. I cut the pieces into
    tasting bits, so we ended up having only about 4 each total:
    my own gluttony manifested itself when I scarfed up all the
    leftover bits that people didn't want.

    What we were offered:

    Lavalier - refreshing & gentle taste of lychee
    - pretty standard

    Amber - mild acidity of passion with fragrant dill -
    When I tasted this, I said "dill?!" to nobody in particular.
    Which led Lawrence to find the Jewels brochure, and dill
    it was.

    Coral - cola taste on tip of tongue, with a chilli
    aftertaste - that sounds a bit odd, doesn't it; but it's
    a perfect description. The chile was mild but noticeable.

    Red Ruby - raspberry ganache paired with dark chocolate -
    pretty standard.

    Kyanite - a melting pot of pandan, coconut & white
    chocolate - mostly coconutty, but with a discernible
    "South Asian" aspect, which I couldn't identify without

    Jade - a floral bouquet of jasmine tea - I thought it was
    green tea flavor. Pretty good for that.

    Chrysolite - Champagne, fresh cream & dark chocolate dipped
    in white chocolate - not my style; tasted like sour cream.

    Cornelian [sic] - caramel ganache coated with dark chocolate
    topped with caramel nibs - way too sweet but attractive.

    French Nougat - praline paste with nougat chips &
    feuillantine - reminded me of all the other soft and crunch
    combinations, and I wasn't impressed.

    I didn't taste these below, though they were offered: they
    sounded, especially the first, intriguing.

    Aventurine - chocolate coated almond strips roasted with
    maple syrup

    Perle Noir - the black pearl - silky champagne ganache
    enrobed with dark chocolate pearls

    Peridot - pistachio ganache layered with praline paste
    coated in dark chocolate.
    tuapekastar, sobore, magic111 and 4 others like this.
  2. Great report, but do you have pictures of the food by chance? ;)
  3. sithlord
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    sithlord Silver Member

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    Always enjoy the detailed wine and food choices!
  4. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    I don't have a camera. Not even on the mobile phone!
  5. jswong
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    jswong Gold Member

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    sobore, Gargoyle and tom911 like this.
  6. jswong
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    jswong Gold Member

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    Of course violist this was my meal not yours!

    Fredd likes this.
  7. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Thank you Jeff - my plate didn't have any ziti on it.
  8. work2fly
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    work2fly Gold Member

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    Nice report!
  9. jpatokal
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    jpatokal Silver Member

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    That's actually a sign of authenticity -- properly done Hainanese chicken is still supposed to be red against the bone, not purple or black.
  10. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    When I've had well-regarded versions, it's been just barely white
    throughout. My own white-cooked chicken regularly comes out
    red around the thigh bones and keel: bring stock to the boil;
    plop the rinsed, salted, and seasoned bird in, with ginger and
    a scallion knot; put a towel over the top; clap the lid on; turn
    the heat off; when the water reaches ambient, the chicken is
    deemed done.
  11. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    We were so engrossed in the parade of sweets that we were
    almost left behind and were last to go for the tour, prep
    for which was an impressive routine of being swathed in
    white plastic garb, washing up in a simulacrum of operating
    room technique, and going through an air scrubber designed
    to get rid of any stray hair or particles of debris on our
    person. Then the tour began. It was - as with the airport
    tour itself - more circumscribed than what we are used to
    in the rough-and-tumble stateside world but still very
    worthwhile. We wended our way through and around hundreds
    of catering carts from thirty-something airlines and
    thousands of meals in the making.

    The bakery exuded such appetizing fragrances that I was
    tempted to rethink my policy of not eating airline baked
    goods; mounds of crisp lettuces ditto regarding salads.
    It must have been a conscious plan, filling us to bursting
    before unleashing us on the kitchens - otherwise we'd have
    been sorely tempted to snitch and sample.

    The Halal kitchens made me think - why not just have the
    entire facility be Halal?

    Goodbyes were protracted by some sort of misunderstanding
    and substantial delays in the arrival of our buses: fine,
    as it rained during much of this time, and by the time
    we were accommodated, the skies had decided to behave in
    a more neighborly fashion. We eventually returned to the
    airport, whence we found our own way back downtown - many
    by taxi, but a couple of us by SBS bus 36, which I highly
    recommend, as it takes about 20 more minutes than a cab
    but costs only $2, letting of at Suntec Center, Orchard
    Road, and other handy locations.

    A visit to the executive lounge, then naptime, then I
    shook myself awake and discovered that it I'd missed
    cocktails at the hotel formerly known as Le Meridien
    and was none too early for the midnight Newton event.
    There didn't seem to be anyone around, and lili didn't
    answer a page, so I hopped a taxi by myself and found
    our colleagues at the hawker center at about one. There
    was an abundance of Tiger beer, as usual; and also as
    usual, I can't speak for the food, though rumor has it
    some intrepid souls tried the durian:D I'd have joined in
    the fun had I known about ahead of time, I swear.
    magic111 and cockpitvisit like this.
  12. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    The breakfast routine for the next few days: find lili.
    Go to the lounge and look for more colleagues. Visit.
    Have real breakfast at Oscar's, which many find preferable
    for the variety. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. By the way, I
    disagree with those who find a substantial advantage at
    Oscar's (which was discovered a few years back by people
    irritated by the overcrowding upstairs) - to me, the
    lounge has all you need, plus Champagne; the only major
    advantage of Oscar's is the Belgian waffle and ice cream
    station, and I seldom indulge in either of these.

    Today: Marina Bay Sands. We'd seen the construction last
    year, so lili wanted to check out the finished product, at
    least the public areas. It's an easy walk from the Conrad,
    across the world's first double-helical bridge (silly),
    through a humongous casino-cum-shopping mall, then across
    to the hotel itself and finally, after spending S$20 a head
    (10% discount for seniors, which by the liberal standards
    applied here, we both qualify for), taking the elevator to
    the roof, which is made up into something between a tropical
    island and the pool deck of a cruise vessel. It's all
    impressive, silly, expensive-looking, self-indulgent, and
    after not too much time, boring. Fine, it was starting to
    thunder and rain anyhow. We were on the last elevator down
    before the heavens opened up (at 4, like clockwork). No big
    tragedy if we hadn't - there's a bar up there.

    It was a short enough shower, so soon it was time to catch
    up with the day's plan - lili back to the hotel for Zs; me
    toddling off toward the Boat Quay beer event, organized by
    bseller. It was better than last year (we were seduced by
    some other storefront that promised Tiger pitchers at an
    advantageous rate, but what we got was clearly not Tiger)
    but not so good as two years ago (bseller had negotiated a
    deal with the manager lady, but she's since gone off to
    other employ). Plus it rained a lot.

    Question: free booze or costly booze. I went back to the
    Conrad lounge.

    alex0683de I think those are the right numbers brought some
    Darting Durkheimer Spielberg Riesling kabinett trocken 09,
    of which we were invited to guess the price. Guesses ranged
    from 50 to 500% too high. It's nice at the price (I guessed
    about 200% too high). It was pleasantly minerally and fruity
    and worth at least what I guessed.

    We were a certain percentage in the bag when it was time to
    take our taxi caravan from the Conrad to Long Beach UDMC, a
    new entrant in the chilli-crabfest stakes. And worthy it
    turned out to be. It's old style, i.e., open air, no air
    con but fans, no chrome but plastic furniture, but enjoyable
    as the new iterations aren't. All the major crab joints have
    evolved thus, Jumbo and No Signboard opening upmarket
    outlets in the fashionable parts of town. Not that these are
    bad, but there's something more authentic-feeling about
    places such as this.

    We had a traditional and unadventurous menu: chilli crab
    (I really liked this this year, as it was considerably less
    sweet than at the other places - I am not hugely fond of
    ketchup with seafood); pepper crab, appropriately spunky;
    crispy duck, altogether too well done for my taste, and
    also not quite crispy; and gailan. We filled up the
    interstices with lots of fluffy man tou, the steamed bread
    (I really liked this this year, as it was considerably more
    sweet than at the other places - I am not averse to sugar,
    and for me breads should be sweet rather than salt; I love
    the Florentine saltfree bread, for example, something that
    most tourists pale at). As I did only part of the ordering,
    our table was not the most expensive, even counting the
    multiple beer towers, I forget the local name: most of us
    drank copiously from them, but there were a couple
    abstainers. I am not sure whether they were made to
    contribute to our debauchery - I hope not, as the towers
    added about S$12 to each bill.

    Someone (seanthepilot?) negotiated a big van to take bunches
    of us back to the hotel, where the routine was a nightcap -
    much more modest in scope than last year, and I think the
    staff were thankful for that - and a snooze.
  13. opushomes
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    opushomes Silver Member

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    A photo to add to part of this report.

    Fredd likes this.
  14. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    = =
    The antisocial day. It wasn't exactly planned this way, but
    it started with several strikes against it. First, I woke
    way late. Next, lili wanted breakfast. In addition, nobody
    seemed to know where to meet for this Canopy walk. Okay,
    executive decision time. There was a bus direct from Suntec
    to Henderson Waves, which, though a good distance east of
    the Canopy itself, is the highlight of the Southern Ridges
    trail system, so we decided to go straight there, and if we
    saw any of the rest of you, fine, and if not, fine. We
    didn't see you. Henderson Waves, it turns out, is prettier
    in pictures than in real life. The idea is fine, but it's
    peeling, badly maintained, fenced off in spots for reasons
    unknown; and the nice view you see in the guides and news
    articles is of the outside, which you see from the road.
    OK, we've seen it. We decided to walk back to Harbourfront
    via the Jewel Box instead of continuing toward the Canopy,
    as it was getting quite warm, and once you've seen a tree,
    you've seen them all, right.

    The Jewel Box, like Sentosa and perhaps Singapore itself, is
    a completely artificial attraction. This is the terminus for
    the Sentosa cable car, and at the pleasant restaurants -
    there are at least two in the building - I guess you pay a
    premium for the opportunity to see other people having fun.
    The beers run S$15+++, but they are cold. We saw an affluent
    young local family demolish a lunch of western food, so at
    least somebody goes there to eat and apparently enjoys it.

    The trail down to Harbourfront has a number of cautionary
    signs attached to it. It is in fact an older and slightly
    less civilized set of stairs, of which you could, if you
    had to, fall down a few in the dark if you were very drunk.

    I left lili behind and took the MRT to Little India and met
    the crowd - and a large crowd it was - at Muthu, just in
    time to order for those around me. I stand by my choices.

    Chicken masala and potato-pea curry were well-executed
    standard dishes, the mutton in dry chile being spicier,
    gamier, and more daunting than the regular fare, though
    not so much as at the Banana Leaf Apolo, my own favorite
    down the street, where the dish is hotter and is full
    of bones. Biryani rice and regular rice as well as
    copious Tigers accompanied. I also tasted a lovely
    crabmeat curry (courtesy of Alysia and seanthepilot) and a
    mutton curry from farther down the table.

    After lunch, I joined a number of Conradites on a walk to
    the hotel. In Singapore I take every opportunity to find
    air conditioning and pushed for a route that was quite a
    bit more comfortable but was several blocks longer than
    the direct: perhaps it's an overcautious concern for my
    delicate postoperative fluid balance, but I've become
    quite timid in this regard. Still, I was modestly dried out
    by the time I got to the lounge and had had several pops
    when I was waylaid by opushomes and convinced to join
    infoworks at his favorite nonya place down south of
    Chinatown. It sounded like a good idea.

    So a bunch of us trekked to the IC for drinks and a taxi
    to this gastronomic mecca (apparently very well regarded
    among locals) only to find that it was closed. A place a
    few doors down, Good Chance Popiah, was recommended to us,
    and we gamely agreed among ourselves to try it.

    Present: Alysia, infoworks, lili, opushomes, violist.

    The specialty is Hokkien popiah, an omeletty-crepy sort
    of arrangement that you fill with your choice of toppings
    and then fold up like an envelope. The usual ingredients
    are bean sprouts and various veggies and a meat or two:
    for meat I suggested Chinese sausage, of which I am fond.
    Fried shrimp, quite good, baby gailan, quite good, and
    hongshao tipon, not quite up to snuff, rounded out the
    meal. I found this last slightly dead in taste - cooked
    too long and not enough seasoning I thought. It was a
    particularly fatty example, so I got a lot to eat.

    Afterward, we had a heck of a time finding a taxi - perhaps
    there is an etiquette regarding hailing one near a bus stop?

    It was more critical for infoworks, as he had a plane to
    catch, so we gave him the first one that came by and had
    to wait a bit for another.
  15. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    It's a nice thing that Diamonds (Golds, too, I understand)
    can request late check-out. After considerable lolling
    about and lounge lizarding, it was time to check out and
    ride that 36 bus again accompanied by lili as usual and
    Bundy Bear, who was on his way to Bali. We're all keen on
    public trans and saving a couple bucks, so what's half an
    extra hour if we saved S$4 each? It's not a bad ride at
    all but gets crowded in places, as it's a local local.

    We arrived right on schedule, half an hour earlier than we'd
    allowed for, and chatted in the rather arid public area
    until upup&away, rendezvousing with Bundy, showed up
    actually a few minutes early for his appointment. After
    the usual greetings and small talk we bade them goodbye
    and left them to find their way to Bali without us.

    I don't remember why we found ourselves in the food court
    at T3, but we were rather peckish when we did - lili went
    off and got Popeye's fried chicken, while I had a very
    respectable duck noodle for S$5 or so: lots of thin
    wheat noodles, not very much duck, but what there was was
    good, rich, and flavorful; some gailan; a bowl of the
    usual all-purpose soup. The Popeye's was somewhat different
    from what we've come to know and love, the breading having
    an odd corn taste and the chicken itself very salty.

    It was still early, and we had another hour; so after
    returning to T1 and checking in (and a bag apiece, too!),
    we hit the poolside bar, where Tigers were on special, for
    S$15. Wine, quite mediocre, was more.

    3K 595 SIN PNH 1925 2030 320 16AB

    Nonelite boarding, nonelite seating amid the polloi! A shock
    to both our systems. We were far back enough that we had a
    fighting chance to stow our carryons, but we didn't know
    that the boarding would be so orderly in the Singaporean way
    but the enforcement of the carryon weight was nonexistent,
    in a quite non-Singaporean way.

    Our seats were not hugely uncomfortable but did warrant the
    investment in some booze. Kanga red wine, a quarter liter in
    a can, and a Tiger were each S5. As the former has three
    times the alcohol, it might seem to be a better deal; but
    one taste of the Hawaiian-punchiness dispels that thought.
    Australia, please stick to Grange and do what you do well!
  16. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    After a perfectly fine though somewhat cramped ride we
    stepped out into the balmy Cambodian breezes. We managed
    to hit every wrong or closing immigration line and
    essentially didn't get out until people cleared out and
    multiple lines opened up. I still don't know what that
    was all about. Luckily the driver from the hotel was still
    there. He was pleasant, and his car was modern and had
    good a/c. He had quite good English, and he told us how he
    had had to labor for a dollar a day until he found the
    driving job, and now he was saving money to send home to
    his poor family and to go to English school. We chatted a
    bit, during which he gave us some good advice and some
    self-serving bad advice. On balance a not too wild and
    pretty decent ride, and I considered hiring him to take us
    out to Choeng Ek in a couple days, a suggestion he brushed
    aside, saying that we should contact the hotel, and the
    hotel would contact the company, and the company would
    assign a driver. It seems that poaching of customers is
    severely punished by this company, that's a guess. It was
    close to a half an hour ride, despite the actual distance
    covered being ten miles or so.

    The Frangipani Suites are pleasant enough, situated in a
    decent neighborhood (the driver told us, the rich people
    live here) near the Vietnam Embassy. Imagine a condo
    complex in Houston. Add tourists.

    We were greeted with smiles and excellent pineapple juice,
    after which we bought drinks - for me, an Angkor 640 for
    US3, and for lili a Johnny Walker red for the same (with
    other brands in other sizes at diminishing prices, but
    we didn't go there, fearing a Mekong substitution). The
    Johnny seemed better than the real thing.

    There had been quite a bit of e-mail correspondence
    regarding our room requirements, and we were surprised
    to have been issued a double room (we'd asked for and
    had been offered a suite with two beds); that was
    resolved quickly and with smiles and wais all round.

    Our two nights here turned out to be wholly satisfactory.

    In the morning, a set breakfast - eggs over easy and hard at
    the same time, but not bad for that; one thin slice of loaf
    ham; "toast," which was the first day plain bread and the
    second excellent French bread; then a fruit plate of banana,
    pineapple, and watermelon.

    As the hotel is near the genocide museum, we started off by
    walking there. The traffical chaos put us in mind of what
    our driver had said - that one really has to keep one's head
    to keep one's head in Cambodia. It's an adventure, a frogger
    game in real life. But we made it unscathed, between my
    urban experience and lili's eyesight.

    The museum, on the site of Pol Pot's detention camp, is
    hideously depressing but, as with Dachau and such places, a
    must-visit. We spent an agonizing hour there and then
    tuk-tukked it to the National Museum, a thing of serene
    beauty and a complete contrast. If you like Buddhist
    art, particularly sculpture, this is the place to go.
    Buddhism runs as a current through Cambodian life: Pol Pot
    himself was once a novice, something of which much is made.

    There was a civil insurrection of tuk-tuk drivers in front
    when we got there. No idea what that was about; but I
    demonstrated to lili my hold head up high, clutch valuables,
    and ignore the riffraff walk. Once inside, one felt as in
    an oasis of peace and goodwill. Aside from the extraordinary
    collection of sculpture, there were worthwhile exhibits of
    Khmer artifacts and a temporary one of photographs of the
    Royal Cambodian ballet. It's a superb way of spending US3,
    and one could easily stay here half a day.

    Friends, a restaurant run by an NGO that takes children off
    the street and turns them into waitstaff (I am simplifying
    but not by much), is a couple blocks away. It comes highly
    recommended by the guidebooks. We had numerous iterations of
    the same Angkor beer at the same US3 price that seems to
    obtain at all the tourist places.

    Leave it to lili to find tacos on the menu. They were better
    and probably beefier than Taco Bell but surprisingly
    similar. The salsa, though, was more like spaghetti sauce
    than anything else.

    I had that supposedly traditional Cambodian dish, honey
    garlic meatballs, very tasty in a high-class party dish
    involving grape jelly and BBQ sauce way and decadent in a
    here is a week's meat intake for a family of four sort of
    way. Khmer fried rice, more in balance and in tune with
    reality, was disappointingly almost exactly what I would
    make at home, and I have no known Cambodian blood in me.
  17. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Next on tap was the Royal Palace, an easy walk south through
    an unpromising but evocative landscape - by what might have
    been a park but has become mostly a dog toilet and some
    once-stately buildings that seemed not to have been
    maintained since the French skedaddled many decades ago.

    The public entrance is on Sothea Ros, which parallels the
    quay within sight of the water. We didn't walk the quay,
    partially because it was 100 meters out of the way in the
    heat, partially perhaps because of reports (not well
    documented) of brick-throwing thugs on motorbikes targeting
    foreigners. I very much doubt that we'd have been victims
    of such crime, being a pair of relatively harmless tourists
    in upper middle age, but why take the chance. At the ticket
    booth there's a sign that essentially says no short shorts,
    doggies and kitties, hats, backpacks, or firearms.

    If you have the urge to see all the palaces in the world,
    this is a must-see. If you like Khmer architecture, this is
    a may-see. If you're me, ehh. And the King was in residence,
    so even fewer of the buildings than usual were open.

    The Silver Pagoda is the piece de resistance - it's quite
    big and quite ornate and has lots of precious stuff in it.
    Next I figure come the Ramayana frescoes, which though just
    a hundred years old carry an air of mystic antiquity;
    besides, they're in terrible condition, which makes them
    seem a lot older than they are.

    Phnom Mondop is a quaint artificial hill maybe thirty feet
    high with a temple on top - in this setting it's sort of
    peculiar, but it was quite crowded, presumably as a place
    of veneration. I thought of climbing it but was dissuaded
    by the number of apparent beggars up there - turns out they
    are gainfully employed as fortune tellers, so the books say.

    There is an assortment of shrines, stupas, and ceremonial
    buildings that are interesting enough. And a pond with giant
    koi and several varieties of turtles.

    Outside the compound itself is a tourist soaking area with
    a snack bar and shops. Also a display of elephant platforms
    (I don't know what the real name is) from which dignitaries
    used to attend parades and such festivities. While we were
    there a concert of traditional music was being held.

    Surprisingly, we took nearly two hours there, so it must
    not have been so arid as I make it out to be.
  18. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    lili wanted to see what the big thing was about Street 240
    (the city has a cool system that makes it relatively hard to
    get lost: the odd-numbered streets run north-south with
    the quay presumably being the #1, and the even ones run
    east-west, #2 being way north of anyplace we'd go). This is
    supposed to be the fashionable shopping street in town. It
    was of course still daylight when we got there, so any
    eye-popping displays of neon weren't visible. Otherwise it
    looks like any other street, though instead of staples and
    necessities such as a household might require, the shops
    offer mostly tourist goodies - textiles, objets d'art, and
    beer. Frizz is said to be one of the most happening places
    in town, but in the late afternoon, it's as sleepy as any
    other restaurant. We had the usual Angkor 640, but for just
    US1.50, followed, just for variety's sake, by a malty Lao
    beer for the same price. Perhaps we should have stayed there
    and drunk the afternoon away, followed by the famed Frizz
    Cambodian BBQ, but there was still plenty of daylight, so
    we walked back via the Independence monument.

    Returning to the hotel on foot was a bit of an adventure,
    as it was coming on rush hour, and crossing the main streets
    - risky enough during the day - was compounded by perhaps
    double the traffic of when we had set out. The Independence
    monument itself is pretty impressive, but you can't get to
    it without crossing the traffic circle, so we didn't, as
    to get back, you'd have to cross the circle again. We
    contented ourselves with a distant view of it before
    sprinting riskily across the street - even one of the local
    guys in the traffic island shook his finger at me. At
    length we got back home to more beers in the gathering dark.
  19. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    A walk in the humid but not unpleasant night seemed like a
    good idea, and we resolved to not go too far; within a few
    blocks this dodging of cracked sidewalks and not seeing much
    became tiresome, and, oddly, we had become kind of peckish,
    and there was this place across the way from the hotel, so
    it didn't take too much to convince each other to duck in
    there for a bite.

    We entered into what looked like a large room, dimly lit
    so I was unable to see much, with long tables populated by
    many Cambodians, who all seemed to have beers in front of
    them - my kind of place. At one far corner there was a
    tiny brazier going with meaty smells emanating.

    A small kid appeared to be deputized as the English speaker
    for the restaurant - the two foodstuffs he seemed to know
    the English for were beef and beer. Thank goodness they
    weren't squid and durian, otherwise lili would have had a
    difficult time of it. Beer (or perhaps the child's beer
    vocabulary) was available in small or big. I tried to ask
    for a pitcher but forgot that in this part of the world a
    pitcher is called a jug, and if I asked for a pitcher,
    someone should miraculously appear and borrow our camera.
    So I asked for a big beer, quoted at US$4; this term was
    previously interpreted in this city as a 640 ml Angkor,
    so $4 wasn't a great price, and I was hoping for a pitcher
    anyway. What came: the same size beer tower that had cost
    us SGD63 in Singapore - 3 or 4 L or so of Angkor. lili has
    a photo on her website. People looked and laughed, let it
    suffice to say.

    At lili's suggestion I took a little tour of the place to
    see what people were eating. This was not such a good idea,
    as I can't see well, much less in the dark.

    At the next table were some well-fed young Cambodians
    drinking Angkor and eating unhealthy-looking salady things.
    We gave them some beer, whereupon they started being a
    little importunate, but what for is unclear from language
    issues. Perhaps they expected the oldsters to want to hire
    them for an orgy or something. Anyhow, after some somewhat
    uneasy banter back and forth, they lost interest, and anyhow
    food was coming. We ended up with a plate of caramel beef
    sided with nicely cut raw vegetables (which we ate, danger
    of dysentery notwithstanding). Pretty good. We continued to
    suck down malty liquid until there were but a couple pints
    remaining, which we abandoned, and presently came a piece
    of paper with a big $7 written on it, easily paid.

    This adventure was not as adventurous as it sounds - as our
    driver had approvingly said on our first approach to the
    hotel, "this is where the rich people live," as he pointed
    out some massive compounds on the way, including one next
    door to this beer parlor. Anyhow, the hotel was just a few
    steps away, and so it was.
  20. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    The same breakfast but this time with excellent French bread
    - they'd given us Wonder-type American bread before, maybe
    because that's what Americans like.

    The day before we'd arranged with the company under contract
    to (in cahoots with) our hotel for a whole-day car and driver
    for a quite sizable amount, $50, given that the daily wage
    in the city is about $3-4 a day. We could have got a tuk-tuk
    for less than half the price, but this decision saved us
    from respiratory ills and the possibility of sheared limbs
    or cracked noggins. Our driver showed up right on time, but
    there was a contretemps with the hotel, which claimed that
    we'd misappropriated a piece of decorative fabric, which,
    they said, had been draped over the toilet seat when we
    arrived. So I went back upstairs to help them look - no
    luck; then the suggestion was made that we open our bags
    (which had already been deposited in the car); as I began
    to haul the bags back, the thing was miraculously found, or
    so they said. Was it an honest mistake on housekeeping's
    part or a shakedown for extra dosh? No idea: but I'd been
    considering leaving a couple bucks tip in the tip jar at
    the desk, and they didn't get that, so whatever it was, it
    was counterproductive. I retreated to the car, where lili
    had been acquainting herself with our young driver, who
    had rather poor English but communicated to us how he had
    had to labor for a dollar a day until he found the driving
    job, and now he was saving money to send home to his poor
    family and to go to English school. Familiar story?

    I'd been hoping for the same driver who had picked us up
    at the airport, who was bright and interesting. But you
    get what you get.

    Our itinerary: Tonle Bati, Choeng Ek, and airport. I tried
    to tack on another couple sites, but the driver said that
    that would take too long. Whatever.

    Tonle Bati is maybe ten miles outside the city, but it
    could just as well be a hundred. The roads are pitted dirt,
    with police extortion posts now and again, and it takes
    over an hour to get there. An unpromising flat alluvial
    landscape, mostly rice farms, and fishing villages. At the
    site itself are a couple of temples - Ta Prohm, which is
    pre-Ankgor, and Yeah Pean, which has an ancient component
    and a modern component. The former is very like a mini
    Ankgor Wat, with the trees still overgrowing the temple
    ruins - most picturesque. The downside is that there are
    numerous squatting families that swarm you, continually
    bugging you for handouts: from toddlers to toothless
    grannies who in reality are probably younger than we are
    by a fair margin. All right, their lives are hard, and what
    does 50c or a buck mean to me, but it is not irrelevant that
    their momentary happiness sinks them deeper into the vortex
    of hopelessness. No dough for you. Yeah Pean's original
    edifice is over a thousand years old; instead of keeping it
    up, a large annex has been built, which is the modern
    temple. I suppose one can't expect historical informedness
    in situations like this, but I was a bit disappointed.
    Around has been built what looks like a children's
    playground gone amok, that's the only description I can
    give. Rather grating and odd. When we were tired of this,
    we returned to our car, and our driver took us to the
    riverside, where we were sort of semi-expected to buy
    lunch. From what little I understood from him and the
    numerous vendors (who seemed to be waiting all day for the
    couple tourist cars a day), the order of the day was carp
    or catfish, neither of which I particularly care for or
    which lili will eat at all. So we passed.
  21. infoworks
    Original Member

    infoworks Silver Member

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    It's taken me a while to get here, but good memories of the do, and seeing some wonderful people again.
  22. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    I'd find it difficult to miss - and it'd be difficult to find a more
    entertaining set of companions.
  23. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    A sign that our driver was trying to get rid of us: he
    tootled right past Choeng Ek ... realizing later that he
    was supposed to drop us off there for a couple hours, so
    back we tracked.

    The site is small, unprepossessing, and not too awful on
    the face of it - a peaceful place along the river, and it
    is hard to imagine that thousands of people were murdered
    here. The area has just a few structures - a museum, some
    outbuildings, and a memorial in the middle that is quite
    lovely, but when you get closer you realize that it is
    really depressing as only a tower of human bones can be.
    Grim thoughts are thought here.

    Although the visit was worthwhile (probably the only
    must-see of the trip), it's not one to be repeated.

    I wanted to find an Internet cafe to check in and get
    boarding passes, but our driver said there weren't any
    that he knew of. Also a place to get lunch: I asked him
    for a recommendation and offered to buy him his meal in
    return for the information. Still unforthcoming, he said
    that it would be best to eat at the airport. Whatever: it
    was quite clear that he wanted to unload us and do whatever
    young Cambodians do when they are off work.

    He took what appears to be a relatively new cutoff avoiding
    the city, paying the tolls himself, and left us off at the
    featureless terminal sometime before 4. What to do? We tried
    to pay the departure tax, but once we got to the inspector,
    we were told that we had to have boarding passes in hand
    before doing so. Other adventures: we found a passport and
    took the trouble to search out its owner. He was almost
    indignant, as though we'd stolen it from him, and I noted
    audibly that it would have been just as well if we'd thrown
    the thing out. Of course, I wasn't in the best of moods,
    because we couldn't get checked in for three hours, much
    less get past security, and was getting tickeder and
    tickeder until we discovered La Terrasse, a snack bar in a
    quiet corner of the airport courtyard out past international
    arrivals. My mood was appropriately adjusted by a pitcher of
    Angkor and 4 wing pieces (decent though previously frozen
    and probably flown in from the Tyson factory) with very
    crispy fries ($6); we entertained ourselves for a while with
    beer and peoplewatching; after that, lili, hungry for real
    food, led me on a quest that ended at a DQ, where her
    heart's desire was satisfied with a hot dog that did a
    reasonable imitation of a Fenway Frank 8800 miles from the
    Green Monster. That didn't do it for me, so back to La
    Terrasse for a repeat.

    Checkin itself, when the desk opened, was painless, and
    soon we were back in the (much shorter) line for departure
    tax and were turned away again. Why? Because, the inspector
    pointed out, Jetstar had already paid it - something one
    doesn't expect from a budget airline; that was good news.

    Security was also painless.

    Shortly after the checkpoint, Le Salon is tucked off to the
    right - it's mostly for premium passengers on Thai, Cathay,
    and Dragonair; we got there just as a huffy young woman was
    being turned away for being a mere Star Gold. That was the
    credential that we were going to try to use, so immediately
    we changed our tack and inquired if there was a buy-up
    option; it turns out that this luxury is available to the
    plebs for a fee of $12 per, a sizable dent in the travel
    budget for a local person but negligible for rich tourists;
    furthermore, free dim sum (based on shrimp and/or cabbage so
    not appealing to lili), Angkor beer, and wi-fi further
    sweetened the deal. The Star Gold lady saw the light and
    also paid.
  24. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    3K 596 PNH SIN 2115 0010 320 7AB

    This time we'd decided not to check bags, as that tends to
    cause trouble. As we were in the last boarding group, my
    selfish plan was to have us pull the need-extra-time-down-
    the-jetway act and hobble gray-hairedly to our seats so as
    to claim overhead space in an unabashed gate-licish way.
    But luckily, they just called general boarding as a
    free-for-all; not by rows, which was good for us tonight.
    There was overhead space enow.

    Another tolerable trip in only slightly uncomfortable and
    cramped quarters, and we were back in SIN by midnight.

    The Ambassador Transit Hotel in T1 is much cleaned up since
    I first stayed there years ago and is almost up to the
    standard of the other ones. We shared a room for the sake
    of economy - it was all right; two child-size beds, bare
    amenities, no wi-fi - but perfect for 5 hours of sleep.

    There being no incentive to stick around for that last
    paid-for hour, so we went right along to the UA transfer
    desk and thence for a visit to the Silver Kris, where
    breakfast was less tasty than usual, but the Otard XO
    made up.

    UA 876 SIN NRT 0800 1530 777 13AB Ch9^:td:
    was UA 804 SIN NRT 0720 1450 777 9HJ

    When they screwed up the schedule, they screwed up our seats
    - this despite the aircraft being the same in every way. So
    I asked for this row, which, rumor has it, is a good row.

    We ran into Condition One and gvdIAD on this flight, a
    pleasant surprise. They had the mirror seats to ours on
    the right side of the cabin.

    Channel 9 started out on but went away at some point.

    SIN-NRT (B85-S89) 260C119-2

    Your selected entree will be accompanied by fresh fruit and
    breakfast breads

    main course
    Spanish omelette with roasted red pepper sauce, spicy
    chorizo sausage and Lyonnaise potatoes
    e-fu noodles with braised chicken, lotus seeds and red
    , kailan and sliced carrots
    continental breakfast - selection of fresh seasonal
    fruit, cereal and yogurt
    The Chinese breakfast was edible, though a bit
    medicinal-tasting. According to eyewitness reports, the
    American breakfast was not nice.

    prior to arrival
    teriyaki chicken and bell pepper tortilla wrap, teriyaki
    marinated red and yellow pepper with olive tapenade on
    , pesto mayonnaise
    The chicken wrap, not particularly teriyakiish, was
    palatable but spewed mayo every which way when bitten into.
    This bothered me not too much, as I bite carefully; others,
    I am told, suffered a little.

    The wines were the same as on the previous flight.

    Fairly attentive service in the Asian style.

    We landed 15 early but drove around the universe looking
    for a parking spot; then deplaning took longer than it
    ought. The Other security was open and empty, so we had
    time for Amazing Beer at the NH lounge.
  25. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    UA 890 NRT LAX 1645 0927 777 13HJ Ch9^^

    NRT-LAX/SEA (LD83-B87) 261C002-1

    smoked salmon rose, sweet sesame pork, vegetable
    sushi and pickled ginger
    seasonal mixed greens, blue cheese or sesame vinaigrette
    The salmon, nicely presented, was saltier than usual; the
    pork somewhat tough and dry. The sushi were a cucumber and
    stuff roll and a non-traditional-shaped inarizushi that was
    not so nice as what the NH lounge offers.

    main course
    pan-seared filet mignon with balsamic onion demi-glace,
    baked stuffed potato with chives and asparagus
    country-style chicken with chicken jus lie, penne
    pasta with three cheese sauce and spring peas
    Washoku Zen selection - appetizers of snapper sushi,
    simmered shrimp, lightly salted flounder wrapped in seaweed,
    chicken in cod egg roll, baby bamboo with dried fish flakes,
    beef sirloin with Japanese dressing, maitake mushroom and
    cha-soba noodles topped with tenkasu. A main course of sea
    bass wakasa yaki with gin-an, simmered enoki mushroom and
    mizuna and baby asparagus served with steamed rice and
    Japanese pickled vegetables. Served with green tea.
    Items in this meal may contain MSG.
    There was nothing that called my name and nothing that
    repelled me, so I asked the crew to surprise me, and
    surprise me they did, putting the Japanese meal in front of
    me. It was all right, as usual the small dishes superior
    to the main course, which tasted old and reheated, which
    it no doubt was.

    to finish
    artisan cheese selection served with red grapes and
    crackers - Colby Jack, Camembert
    Specialty dessert
    The specialty dessert was vanilla ice cream. For some
    reason I ate it. It was pretty decent.

    prior to arrival
    vegetable frittata with oven-roasted tomato sauce,
    pork link sausages
    fresh seasonal fruit plate with creamy yogurt
    Hockey puck eggs, starchy bangerlike sausages.

    The wines were the same as on the previous flight, with
    the addition of Gekkeikan.

    We were treated to decent service that accomplished the
    requirements in the matronly style. I think that perhaps
    these are the crews about whom complaint is made - they
    are used to sedate older customers and pace themselves
    accordingly, which may be unfair to younger premium
    flyers who require more attention, booze, and so on.
    That's no explanation for why both flight crews seemed to
    treat lili as a second-class citizen. Perhaps she's not
    sedate enough. After I showed her due deference the
    US-based attendants started doing so as well.

    We arrived half an hour early, all of which advantage was
    eaten up by waiting for gates to open up and for a tug to
    tow us in. Who cares, my onward gate was right next to the
    club, so we repaired to it. Off to the quiet room, but I
    couldn't get on the Internet from there, so we slouched to
    the bar, where our bartender gave us lots of Bogle Cabernet
    and lots of Bud Light, and oh yes, a glass or two of Jim
    Beam white, our drinking being circumscribed by budgetary

    UA 31 LAX IAD 1205 1938 777 3B was 18A Ch9 :td:
    was 31 LAX IAD 1205 1938 763 2A
    was 856 LAX IAD 1258 2053 763 2H
    was 31 LAX IAD 1245 2035 320 2A was 6A

    A checkered history on this flight. I was originally booked
    on a Bus, upgraded early on; then reservations changed my
    flight to the later one for a tiny schedule change, and then
    back to the previous one, with the previous seat assignment,
    which was now in 3-cabin F. At some point it got changed yet
    again, the equipment becoming God knows what, with my seat
    going away altogether. A conference with an RCC angel at LAX
    got me a confirmation and an F BP1, but no seat assignment
    and a suggestion that I check back in an hour, which I did,
    the result being that angel 2 offered the information that
    seat assignments were being done at the gate, which was now
    69A, i.e., a CO gate and about as far from the club as any.
    Uh oh, I thought, CO equipment. So we hightailed it out
    there to find a UA 777, domestic configuration, and a
    confused CO gate agent who told me that he was working on
    it, and I would end up going on the flight in F.

    Eventually that happened. Fond farewells to lili, and I
    swam past a huge number of gate lice of all sorts. Sample
    interaction. I see boarding and start heading in that
    direction, bypassing people who are not going forward. Hey!
    someone says. I ask, are you in first class, if so, sorry.
    Uh, no, we thought this was the Zone 4 line. By the time I
    found my way to the reader, Zone 1 was giving way to Zone 2.

    Ch9 was refused.

    Lunch was tomato lentil soup accompanying a Southwestern
    chicken salad or turkey sandwich. As usual, given equally
    uninspiring options, I give the whatever response. this time
    getting a smile and a squeeze around the shoulder by the
    attractive black somewhat younger than me FA. I got the
    salad, an enormous piece of quite salty but not untasty
    chicken over greens, minced onion, black beans, and corn.
    The soup was quite good, for soup. Courvoisier accompanied.

    The Sheraton Reston is one of my go-tos for cheap weekend
    stay credit. For some reason I needed to stay on a weekday,
    with the rates over double. I got the same kind of room
    on the same floor, with the same nonclub lounge (the top
    floor elevator lobby with some comfy chairs, a table or
    two, a chafing dish that is usually empty but occasionally
    contains Costco hors d'oeuvres, and a cooler with soft

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