Sin Do '15 and after

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by violist, Jan 31, 2015.  |  Print Topic

  1. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    US4065 DCA PVD 1300 1428 CRJ 1F
    was UA4820 BWI EWR 1038 1152 Q20 2A
    and 4693 EWR PVD 1440 1539 ER4 18A

    So it was cold out, and I didn't relish the idea of waiting
    at an assortment of bus stops so I could make this flight,
    so I got my brother to take me to BWI - this being an
    arrangement of mutual benefit: he got to drive at my expense
    and I stayed relatively warm.

    There was little traffic on the beltway and the parkway, so
    I had a fair amount of time to kick around in the gate area
    when I heard a call for all PVD passengers. Turns out that
    they had a deal for me.

    Weight and balance on plane 1, so they'd figured, oh, put me
    on the nonstop from Dulles, everything's hunky dory, I get a
    $200 bump fee and I get into Providence before my scheduled
    time. Okay by me, I was going to visit Gallagher's and spend
    $50 anyway (I later discovered that Gallagher's is gone), so
    here I save $250 on a $100 ticket. Only there's no way to
    get me to Dulles in time. Think, think. Okay, there's a
    nonstop on US Air from National at 1. Fine. They put me on a
    cab, and off we went, an hour maybe, only this very chatty
    Nigerian guy got me there in just over half, so he gets a
    decent tip, and I get Five Guys, grilled onions and double
    jalapenos, then back to gate 35X, the former 35A (what's
    that all about?), where the bus took me (yes, the changes of
    tense are deliberate) to a little CRJ, where the throne
    awaited. A quick flight out of there, good day for flying,
    and I don't know what the reason for a weight and balance
    issue was on the first plane.

    I didn't bother to call Rosemary to try to hustle her over,
    just read e-mail for an hour and went out to the curb at
    the appointed time.

    Dinner party for the family. Rosemary insisted that I stay
    out of the kitchen and proceeded to produce a substantially
    dairyful meal; luckily I had a huge stash of pills.

    We started with cheese and crackers - a decent Cheddar, a
    less decent St. Andre, and a Gorgonzbreatha that I didn't
    bother to try.

    John and Janet had brought Sea Gold crab dip, which is a
    cream-cheezoid substance mixed with what seems to be
    pickle relish and assorted stuff, but almost no real crab.
    A worthy experiment but very sweet and not worth the pills.

    Luckily for me there were cashews; Rosemary had got the
    unsalted by mistake, which was fine, as I prefer them, and
    nobody else does, but they had cheesy comestibles to
    console themselves with.

    A salad of the ordinary throw it together sort.

    Fish chowder, made with half-and-half and haddock, was
    quite nice, though there were way too many potatoes for
    my preference.

    I don't know where the cranberry chocolate chip bread came
    from, but it went nicely with Haagen Dazs (a generally
    overrated brand) chocolate chocolate chip ice cream.

    The wines:

    H3 Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet 12 from Columbia Crest was
    well made in the oversweetened American style - modest oak,
    lots of wide open berries and stone fruit; a bit of vanilla.
    You could tell it was a Cabernet, and you might be able to
    tell that it was from a global warmingized Washington state.

    Rombauer Carneros Merlot 10 was the best thing I've drunk
    in weeks. Quite a bit of acid, but tannic and with a nice
    balance. Pepper and spice and plums, and it filled the mouth
    amazingly. Long savory finish.

    Campo Viejo Rioja Garnacha 12 - I don't know where they get
    off calling it a Rioja, as it lacks any of the character of
    that appellation. This is a bright, thin, slightly sweet
    product that might as well be raspberry soda. I was glad of
    the Rombauer.

    J. Lohr Seven Oaks Pasa Robles Cabernet 12 - jug stuff in a
    double bottle. Very fresh, fruity, not notably Cabernettish.
    Perfectly pleasant for what it was, and cheap as chips.

    That was I think the only notable meal of the week. A lot
    of foraging (through cabinets and cupboards, not outside,
    where it was cold).

    One notable thing that I have just been informed of -
    Rosemary e-mailed me that on the way back from taking me to
    the train, her car was totalled by a deer hitting it. The
    car was mere months old. She's getting a hybrid next.
    Newscience, iolaire and uggboy like this.
  2. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    UA1299 BOS SFO 0600 0953 738 2A Ch9 not applicable

    upperdeck744 was in row 1 and ordogg (I think that's his
    handle) in row 3.

    upperdeck actually had a weird altercation with one of the
    FAs - he was in row 1 (no floor stowage) and asked - totally
    politely I thought - if his backpack could go in the closet.
    The otherwise okay FA pulled the FAA regulations trump card,
    claiming that they forbade stowage of passenger property
    there. upperdeck gave the universal shrug and upturned hands
    "whatever" gesture - which she took umbrage at, and I was
    beginning to wonder if I was going to have to stomp off the
    plane in solidarity (I did that once with another prominent
    FTMPer, the eventual result being an apology from UA, $1200
    in vouchers, a surprisingly nice steak dinner and a room at
    the Hilton, and Global First the next day). upperdeck did
    the wise thing and took the path of least resistance. I do
    suspect that if upperdeck had not been of a different color
    than the FA or his carryon had been a nifty suit bag that
    said Burberry on it, his request would have been cheerfully

    Otherwise a perfectly ordinary flight with the standard
    breakfast, of which I found the sausage worse than usual,
    the omelet better than usual (real or at least American-real
    Cheddar), the fruit cup exemplary. I watched Bourdain and/or
    Zimmern (they mush together after a while), and soon, rather
    early in fact, we were let off in one of the more
    unattractive passenger areas in the San Francisco airport.

    By the way, while I remember, the United Club in these 60s
    gates is undersized and dim and not very pleasant. Avoid.
    The staff are surpringly cheery, though, given the setting.
    upperdeck and ordogg invited me to the Global First lounge,
    where I had a glass of Woodford Reserve (Cognac was out) and
    one of the most misbegotten food offerings I have ever seen.

    There was a pile of air-catering-style foil containers
    stacked by a pot of simmering soup with a sign instructing
    you to take a container and ladle soup over it. The foil
    things contained noodles and sliced stew beef that was
    mostly gristle ... and the food was stone cold. So. You
    take your container (a sensible person puts the contents
    into a bowl) of cold food and puts warm, not hot, broth
    on it, and what do you get.

    The liquid isn't hot enough to heat the food or to soften
    the rather stiff noodles. So you get soggy but still hard
    starch topped with still stiff, not very tender, well,
    actually very tough, protein. The taste, with star anise and
    a bit of garlic is not bad, but the textures are all wrong
    and the temperature appalling. Oh, by the way, the noodles
    are shrimp-flavored, traditional in some places but perhaps
    a surprise to an American first-class clientele.

    ordogg left his virtually untouched. I ate mine, as I like
    stiff noodles and gristly beef. I also tolerate tepid food
    well, but this was, even with the broth, borderline cold.

    upperdeck and ordogg were off to ICN, connecting to flights
    to Singapore from there. I wished them well and see ya soon.
    Newscience, iolaire and uggboy like this.
  3. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    UA 837 SFO NRT 1100 1510 744 15A Ch9^

    Upstairs for one of the last times, if not the last. It used
    to be so exciting - one would anticipate for days after
    snagging the throne in the sky, ahead of the then not so
    abundant 1Ks and the captains (well, lieutenants maybe) of
    industry. Now, this spot, which I chose for sentimental
    reasons only, is just another pod in a larger pod. It faces
    backward, which I don't mind, and it still has the side bin,
    which I like a lot.

    Our flight attendants were veteran and professional, the
    kind you fantasize about pouring you Courvoisier all night.

    The wine on offer was Bourgogne (Nicolas Potel) 12, about as
    ordinaire as you can get. There was a bit of that meaty
    cherrylike Pinot taste, but mostly what you got seemed to be
    signs of chaptalization. I quickly switched to my usual for
    the rest of the flight.


    Chilled Appetizer
    Prosciutto and melon and California sushi roll

    Fresh Seasonal Greens
    Tomatoes, Kalamata olives, Parmesan cheese
    and croutons with your choice of GF ranch dressing
    or Italian vinaigrette

    I just said no.


    Grilled Pork Chop
    Green peppercorn sauce, shiitake mushroom bread pudding,
    white asparagus and broccolini

    Cajun-style Breast of Chicken
    Cajun cream sauce, white beans with chicken sausage,
    collard greens and grilled onions

    Newburg-style Seafood
    Fillet of turbot and shrimp with a creamy lobster sauce,
    green lentils and mixed vegetables

    Japanese Selection
    Appetizers of steamed crab and chicken skewer, lotus
    root in lemon cup, plum daikon and celery

    A main course of mixed seafood with vegetables and
    mushroom, clear soup with fish cake, salmon, vinegared
    octopus, simmered tofu, mushroom and sugar snap pea,
    steamed rice and Japanese-style pickles

    I chose the Newburg, still having fond memories of the
    turbot United used to serve decades ago out of Europe. This
    time the texture was almost right, but the fish, as oceanic
    protein so often is these days, seemed to have come right
    out of a detergent bath. Very meaty shrimp, almost too firm.
    The sauce had probably been introduced to a lobster once at
    a dance or something. I liked the lentils; for some reason
    I almost always like lentils. Maybe in a previous lifetime
    I was born in a kawali or something.


    International Cheese Selection
    Grapes and crackers served with Port

    Ice cream with your choice of toppings

    I passed in favor of a Courvoisier.


    Assorted Sandwiches
    Sun-dried tomato basil tortilla wrap with turkey and cheddar
    Hummus and Pepper Jack cheese

    Red Bean Rice Cake

    I like red bean mochi. I remembered just before the end
    of the flight to get one, hurrah.


    Herbed Scrambled Eggs
    Potato gratin and turkey sausage

    Pork Katsu
    Curry sauce, udon noodles and mixed vegetables

    Cereal and Banana
    Served with milk

    Such a strange thing! The pork probably had been crisp at
    one time, but the strange-looking and -tasting sauce had
    seeped into the breading so there was this starchy mess on
    top of what had been decent meat. I consoled myself with the
    thought that this was better than eggs, potato gratin, and
    turkey sausage. The noodles were kind of unrecognizable.

    UA no longer lists the wine selections in the menu. I'm of
    two minds about this. One, it's kind of classless for a
    business-class product. Two, on the other hand it does
    acknowledge the sad fact that much of the time the printed
    list bore faint if any resemblance to what was actually
    available on board.
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  4. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    I ran into sea777guy in the transit security line; he
    was in the regular people line; I shouted over to him that
    I'd be in the ANA 5 lounge, as there was going to be plenty
    of time to enjoy the sake bar, the noodle bar, and the semi-
    amazing beer machine (not so amazing as the United one, and
    I can't put my finger on why).

    At the end of security I didn't recognize him. Turns out he
    has gained some weight; anyhow, I thought he must have gone
    on to the lounge and walked right past him. I hung around
    the United Club a couple minutes in the offchance someone I
    knew might be there then hustled the kilometer or so to
    ANA 5, where he eventually found me.

    The food here is more elaborate than at United, and the
    drink is of a generally higher order, focusing on Japanese
    prestige brands.

    Don't bother with the squid ink noodles is my considered
    advice. They're sort of sweet and sour and flavorless.
    Stick with the Asahi from the machine and maybe a glug of
    the notably Scotchlike Hibiki whisky. There are abundant
    sweets and assorted sushi (no inarizushi, though) if you
    want that sort of thing.

    sea777guy reported that there was curry (the famous yellow
    S&B no doubt; the Japan Airlines clove-scented black stuff
    is more interesting) coming out, but I was too full and too
    lazy to seek it out. We sat in the back room like a couple
    old guys, comparing notes about recent lengthy hospital
    admissions, much fun. He had fallen and broken his wrist
    a few months back - a complicated break, as it turns out,
    requiring many procedures and much attention. He seems
    upbeat about it, though.

    An hour in, EsquireFlyer and zcat18 joined us for the usual
    round of gabbing about the best fares to places one would
    not normally go, the number of peas in the bottom of
    business-class seat beds, air traffic control issues, you

    And time for the flight, a 10-minute walk past the duty free
    shops and sushi bars and stuff.

    UA 803 NRT SIN 1805 0045 772 6C Ch9 :td:

    I found gvdIAD and upup&away in row 6 and 7 respectively.
    We clogged the aisle chatting before the flight. It wasn't
    like the good old days when we would fill the forward
    business cabin, but there were pleasant resonances.

    We took off an hour and change late. The captain was oddly
    close-mouthed about this. He made one announcement about how
    the airport was inspecting the runway, and he didn't know
    exactly why. Consultation next day with friends who had been
    on other flights yielded that there had been a bird strike
    incident; this United being less than candid stuff only
    encourages us to let our imaginations run wild.

    Hope Estate (Hunter Valley) Shiraz was if anything more
    objectionable than the Bourgogne had been. The purser had
    poured my glass with the ironic "I hope you enjoy it."
    I switched over to Courvoisier after half a glass, which
    the guy acknowledged with a sly grin.


    Fresh Seasonal Greens
    Carrots and cucumber with balsamic vinaigrette

    I actually ate a salad. It was salad.


    Thai-style Green Curry Chicken
    Shredded chicken in green curry sauce, steamed rice
    and vegetable and mushroom medley

    Fillet of Sea Bass
    Gin-an sauce, rice with black sesame seeds, enoki
    mushrooms, mizuna and carrots

    Pork Medallions
    Wasabi cream sauce, potato croquettes, shiitake
    mushroom and vegetable medley

    The pork, two substantial, well, pack of card size, slices
    from the loin, was lightly brined and tender enough, but
    somebody had ladled the sauce from the wrong drum, and I got
    a distinctive taste of putrefaction and mold blue cheese.
    After the indicated cosmetic surgery, the meat tasted okay.
    Potato croquettes were gummy and unpleasant, the vegetables
    greasy but in a good way.


    Orange cake


    Not much headwind, so we shaved a few minutes off and landed
    only an hour late.

    I hustled as fast as possible to the transit hotel, where
    lili awaited, her flight, though scheduled to come in later
    and delayed by the same incident, having preceded ours by a
    good quarter hour or more. I suspect the foreigner tax -
    hers had been on Japan Airlines.
  5. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    It is good to reserve. The transit hotel was turning people
    away left and right, but they'd saved us a nice big room for
    our whopping 6 hours. Sleeping is good, even if it costs a
    hundred smackers, one of the reasons we most frequently
    double up.

    In the morning, out into the real world, where it was
    decided that breakfast was in order. I steered us to a food
    court (they seem to be everywhere in this airport) where she
    could get American food and I could get food.

    Upstairs there's a balcony with a simulated hawker center
    plus some chain representation. I went over and inspected
    all the offerings. There was a roast meat stall that looked
    promising, so I went there and ordered a roast duck and
    pork combo without rice, S10, about double what it would
    cost in Chinatown but half what it costs at Fung Lum in
    San Fran, where I have always had good luck despite all
    the bad things you read about it on the Internet. I managed
    to ball up the payment process and annoy everyone - seems
    you order, the attendant tells you what to pay, then you go
    over to a kiosk where another attendant takes your payment
    and - this is the weird part - gives you a card that you
    then go back and give to the food person. This avoids the
    food person handling money and the money person handling
    food. I didn't get that at first.

    Meanwhile lili was off at the Mince Monarch getting a bacon
    and egg biscuit made with Halal bacon-surrogate. Another
    just say no food.

    Immigration was as always a piece of cake. lili got a few
    questions; I got none.

    It's a buck ride to town on the SMRT, with changes at Tanah
    Merah and Paya Lebar (the names alone make me feel the
    tropical breeze and smell the smell of Asia and make me want
    to go right back there). Forty minutes or so to the Conrad,
    twice what the $30 cab ride takes but more fun. You get off
    at Promenade, a new stop just a couple years old so pretty
    much off my radar, and through the mall, and there you are.

    We were hugely early and were informed that our room would
    be ready at two, but we were welcome to store our bags at
    the front desk and go up to the lounge for drinks, which we
    did. Chilled with red wine (for her) and Coke (for me), and
    then it was time to meet our colleagues for lunch at Din Tai
    Fung, one of the outlets in the now-huge, probably closing
    in on a hundred locations, dumpling empire.
  6. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    A funny thing happened on the way to the dumpling house.
    I wanted to pay homage (and perhaps have a snack) at Mang
    Kiko, the lechon stall at Somerset, but when I got there,
    there was no sign that it had ever existed - the area was
    paved over as a skateboard rink that seemed to have been
    decades old. Oh, well, thought I, another day, another
    alternate universe. Another funny thing. When we got to the
    Paragon mall, I couldn't find the restaurant, though I'd
    eaten there several times before. Turns out I'd forgotten a
    crucial left turn in the rabbit warrens under the shopping
    center (an alternate universe for sure! - next year, it will
    be a right turn, mark my words). We got there right on time
    only to find a crowd of hungry fliers milling about in the
    corridor out front. It turns out someone apparently had
    cancelled our reservation by mistake, and the staff were
    hustling to get tables set up in the back room.

    Our table featured chiefs and indians in about the right
    proportion, though there still turned out to be some
    duplication in ordering, not that much of a problem, as
    at the far end there were some young trenchermen who would
    (and did) eat almost anything. Over at our end, three
    finicky eaters in a row, spaceman, gvdIAD, and lili. More
    for me, I thought evilly, though that turned out not to be
    the case.

    The small steamed soup dumplings are the specialty of the
    house. These are the dish that earned at least one of the
    outlets a Michelin star (which all the others have taken
    credit for, as if by osmosis); they come in various flavors,
    and we got several - pork (the classic), pork and crab
    (Greg likes these), and chicken (I don't know whose
    fault these were). They came all jumbled up, several trays
    at a time, without any indication of what was what. Solution
    - I took one from each tray and pronounced which was which.
    Greg was ceded most of the crabbies, as that was pretty
    much all he was going to eat. I ended up with mostly chicken
    - rightly eschewed by most of the company -, which didn't
    have the intensity of flavor of the pork ones.

    There were the usual run of shrimp pastries (good but not
    special and quite expensive) and big bao dze (some filled
    with pork and crab, a mistake, as the crab adds to the cost
    but gets lost in the puffy wondrous bread); also some
    oddities. Someone ordered star-anise beef shin; I changed
    the order to two; three came. I love this dish - sort of
    Chinese souse made of tendony meat, not unlike what topped
    the noodles at the First lounge -, but others not so much,
    so I ended up with a bunch of that, too. Greg was intrigued
    by the pork and cucumber in hoisin, so we got that, and it
    turned out to be dreadful and was sent over to the other
    end of the table, where it may or may not have been eaten.

    The bill was more than it would have been with centralized
    and careful ordering but still quite within range, even
    including an arbitrary number of Tiger beers.
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  7. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Back to the Conrad, where by now we'd been given a room and
    our bags deposited in it. It wasn't my favorite room, being
    foot or two shorter than what I'm accustomed to and facing
    the other (apparently more prestigious though, as it has an
    ocean view, if you peek out past the Pan Pacific and the
    Mandarin) side. I am not sure, but I think that when I'm
    alone I get a king room that feels slightly more spacious.

    Afternoon tea with dim sum that just cannot compare, big
    surprise; assorted sandwich fixings and salads; and sweets,
    some of which are decent, especially the panna cotta. I
    recommend the panna cotta.

    Oh yeah, there's a Cabernet and a Shiraz-Cabernet. Get
    the former. Remember to add the clearly enunciated word
    Sauvignon. You won't be sorry.

    We passed up the large FT gathering for a smaller one that
    infoworks prearranged for a group of old friends at the Kok
    Sen Coffeehouse, scene of our former triumphs before the Do
    outgrew it.

    A delicious Cantonese comfort-food meal washed down with
    Tiger beers. I went light on the beers in anticipation of
    the nocturnal nomadism to follow. Our dishes:

    roast chicken - standard, nicely done with a soy-basted very
    dark appetizing-looking skin; I ate more skin than meat, as
    my tastes run different from most westerners';

    beef with scallions - ditto, ordered for lili's benefit,
    tame but good with the sambal provided on the side;

    fried pomfret - this was absolutely delicious, the fish of
    utmost freshness, fried crisp outside, tender and flaky
    inside, in a soy-scallion-ginger sauce that I associate with
    steamed fish; and for the veggie lovers,

    gailan in garlic sauce and baby bok choy in the usual white
    Cantonese sauce, both fresh and good.

    Much hilarity amid a select group that have known each other
    for over a decade. I sort of regret missing the big dinner
    but sort of don't regret it, if you know what I mean.

    At closing time we reluctantly said our goodbyes, and
    infoworks accompanied me to Boat Quay, where the partygoers
    were gathering at the fashionable nightspot Mogambo before
    the traditional midnight hawker center event at Lau Pa Sat.

    Beers here are four times what they were at Kok Sen, plus
    they were warm. One does get to watch the long-legged young
    girls and the young men who circle them like flies.

    After a few beers the call was not to Lau Pa Sat but rather
    Newton - which is more hopping at night and, importantly,
    closer to the Hyatt and the Sheraton and the Marriott where
    most of the people were staying. I had had my heart set on
    Lau Pa Sat, though, but was told that all the stalls would
    be closed anyway. I said tsai jien to everyone, and
    infoworks and I walked northward, he to the IC, I back home.

    It was a bit of an adventure to get there, though, as owing
    to construction and the lateness of the hour, the route I
    normally take was closed off in several spots, so instead of
    the nice relaxing walk along the river to the Esplanade and
    the heartwarming view of the lit-up Merlion, I was detoured
    around through a closed parking garage, a construction site,
    an operational parking garage, and finally to the hotel.
  8. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Breakfast at the Conrad is the usual cornucopia, but there
    were a few disappointments, largely attributable to our
    showing up shortly before closing time. First, the Chinese
    noodles were gummier than usual (of course: they were old).
    Then I was heading for the sushi bar, which was kind of
    sparsely furnished by this time, when a bunch of young
    lean types beat me to it; these were wearing Conrad logo
    bicycling outfits and were all obviously part of a gang,
    some taking the food while their mates watched their backs.
    When they'd locusted up, there were but three little sad
    slices of white fish left, of which I took two, consoling
    myself with a few slices of admittedly excellent smoked
    salmon. Staff had stopped refilling the juice carafes by
    this time, so that was bad (you could ask for orange, but
    I really wanted the guava and watermelon and others that
    were out). Finally, the fresh fruit were like rocks. Not
    to complain too much, there was still plenty to eat,
    such as the industrial dim sum and the bacon (placed
    thoughtfully next to the halal chicken sausage) and whatnot.
    lili had a quite contrasting experience. She ordered a
    waffle at the counter, and when the waffles came out she
    grabbed one and returned to the table. Whereupon the chef
    came out and smilingly handed her another, her custom-made
    one! So I got my first taste of the Conrad waffle. It was
    good. Note: the syrup that came with the custom waffle was
    not real - it was jie mai ma or similar; that on the buffet
    is real maple, and, yes, the difference is noticeable.

    We walked around town a bit - lili reminded me that the
    first time we had done this, I'd showed her around town but
    very slowly, as I was in the middle of heart failure at the
    time, and this day we were relatively sprightly. Our
    destination, Lau Pa Sat, which I had my heart set on seeing
    after its recent renovation. Well, it's renovated. Well,
    it's only about half rented. There's the usual run of stuff,
    plus some oddities - a South American stall, for example.

    Guess what we found. Mang Kiko, or at least an offspring of
    it. I got a lechon kawali and "vegetable" combo special.
    lili said, you're going to the Philippines in a few days,
    why eat Filipino food now? to which the response was, I like
    it (plus it's cheap). The fried pork belly was excellent.
    The rice was excellent. The "vegetable" was black-eyed peas,
    which I disdain, cooked to a mush. Luckily, the condiment
    table offered vinegar and chopped hot peppers. Also, there's
    a tureen of free-flow pork bone soup (well spiced, salty,
    sour) to drink and to moisten your rice and flavor your
    vegetable. lili consented to try a couple bites of pork
    (she said she liked it) but made most of her meal of a
    bottle of Diet Coke.

    We ducked into the Fullerton to enjoy the expansiveness of
    the interior, plus the restrooms and the air conditioning,
    and then walked back along the river and Esplanade route
    that had been blocked the previous night, passing the
    government buildings, the Jose Rizal monument, and a whole
    string of lurid anti-crime posters plastered up around the
    construction sites. It was a gorgeous day, the temperature
    about 27 (80F) with a gentle breeze.

    A relaxed afternoon, followed by drinks at the lounge, and
    an 8:00 rendezvous in the lobby to sort out transport. Only
    two cabs were required, as the focus of this gathering has
    changed to the Grand Hyatt; back in the olden mjm-led days
    we'd get multiple vans from the Conrad.

    I wonder about the continued viability of the SIN Dos,
    though. I say this as participant in eleven of the thirteen
    events. It used to be a way to maximize use of expiring SWUs
    on $700 upgradeable fares and stay in $50 4-star hotels.
    Or one could stay at the Conrad for $100-odd or in Little
    India for $20. I used to do this on my own before Dos and
    perhaps before FT but welcomed the company of likeminded
    folks when the time came. Gradually, though, as the city has
    reinvented itself as a playground for the rich and famous,
    it's begun to price itself out of my range - it's certainly
    not a bargain destination any more, and, aside from the
    excellent food and the opportunity to thaw out in the midst
    of the northeastern winter, the original reasons for doing
    the Do are gone. I've heard rumors that the MLK weekend
    Do may be relocating? I'd recommend Manila, but there are
    those among us who hate Manila. Taipei? Bangkok?
  9. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    Anyhow, on to Jumbo Dempsey Hill, where four or five big
    tables were set up to accommodate us. I sat at the lots o'
    crab table, where lowjhg, the younger of our organizers, had
    ordered a bunch of stuff. I suspect that a bit more ordering
    went on as people waxed nostalgic or lustful for a
    particular dish or another. We ended up with a lot of food,
    of which I ate the following.

    Chilli crab, a large heaping platter, and pepper crab, a
    moderately large heaping platter. Both were excellent,
    the crabs fresh and the sauces well executed. The chilli
    sauce was subtler and less sweet than at many other places,
    but I still prefer pepper crab, as the savoriness and bite
    of the pepper contrasts well with the sweet meat; with the
    chilli, it's sweet upon sweet. Note to future table
    captains, if such there be: one can also get salted egg
    crab and numerous other equally tasty preparations.

    Shrimp wrapped in bean curd skin was the usual thing - I
    suspect someone wanted it as an homage to his childhood.
    Not that I'm complaining, of course.

    A whole tilapia invited invidious comparison with the
    pomfret from the other night. This fish was not the mushy
    tank-farmed thing that we get as cheap protein here in the
    States, but it still didn't compare with that pomfret.

    Sambal kangkong was a nice example, and it was a big

    Lots of beer. We were also at the lots o' beer table.

    lili reports that the no seafood table spent a little more
    than half the 90 we did. The menu sounded pretty good too,
    but I don't regret the extra expense, especially given I
    got all the crab I could chow down on.

    It became time to adjourn, and, though I thought I wasn't
    going to, the fact was that I wasn't flying out the next
    day, so, party at bschaff1's suite on top of the Hyatt?

    Sure thing.

    Long story short, the party didn't disperse until after 3,
    and I had quite a bit of this Explorers' Club Spice Road
    stuff. bschaff1 asked me what I thought of it. Delicious,
    very smooth, but a little generic and a little sweet. The
    spiciness implied by the name didn't hit me much, but a
    little citrusy or apricotty aroma came out with the
    (rather moderate) smoke. Noting my dubiety, he said, but
    you'd pay forty bucks for it, right? I allowed as I would.

    Thank goodness for twos, of which I had a wad to get home
    with. I staggered in and hit the sack.
  10. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    A lost day. I obviously didn't wake for breakfast and didn't
    particularly feel like doing anything during the day. So the
    lounge saw a lot of me. I recommend the panna cotta.

    Of dinner, if any, I remember naught.


    3K 765 SIN MNL 1630 2010 320 14DE

    lili agreed to breakfast in the executive lounge, which
    offers most of the things I would want and enough to satisfy
    her, especially after I informed her she could order an
    omelet or other special eggs from downstairs. She ended up
    having scrambled anyway. There are no longer bottles of
    Chandon (Australia) bubbly out for self-service. I didn't
    check to see if it was available on order but suspect it is.

    We had 2 pm checkouts and at that time reversed our route
    on the subway, getting to the airport early with few false
    steps. We'd consolidated bags so as to have to check only
    one, which was accepted without fee (I think this is a
    negotiated deal with Expedia).

    Passport control took seconds.

    lili was shaking with hunger but insisted on soldiering on
    until it became clear that there wasn't any food near this
    particular gate area, so we backtracked to Immigration,
    where she had seen numerous (as it turns out illusory)
    restaurants. We ended up at a food court on the second floor
    where I could get a beer (something like $12) and she could
    get some crunchy gucka from Texas Chicken (less than that)
    that turned out to be not too bad. Mashed taters (from an
    unknown source and manufacturing technique) and gravy (from
    beef bouillon) were wretched, and a biscuit was laughable.

    We returned to the gate area around last call. Security and
    boarding were a snap, and there was still plenty of overhead
    space when we got to our seats, which had wretched Asia-size
    legroom but were otherwise okay. Our seatmate at the window
    had to get up several times, but that was okay.

    A bumpyish flight.

    At some point lili, who had extra SGD in her pocket, wanted
    wine and offered to buy me an Asahi for S$6. Well, a
    Budweiser and party snack combo cost the same, and Asahi is
    not substantially better, so that's what I had. Her Barossa
    Shiraz (strange name, Kook's or something) was better than
    airplane wine usually is, though a little sweet and obvious.
    Party snack, by the way, includes wasabi peas, fava beans,
    peanuts, spicy cracker things, and assorted floor sweepings,
    though not bad for that.

    The flight came in quite early, and the bags came out within
    10 of landing, so we were on our way before the scheduled
    arrival time, immigration taking mere seconds and changing
    money (not a bad rate at the kiosk) not much more than that.

    I'd e-mailed the hotel about getting a car service, with no
    response. Optimistically, I went off to see if the car from
    the hotel had come anyway, which it hadn't. Some tout came
    up and offered to call the hotel for us. He said the number
    didn't work. I was sure he called a dummy number. Luckily,
    lili's phone has an international calling capability, which
    she'd never used before. It came in handy, even at $2 a
    minute. I got hold of the front desk, which told me that
    they'd discontinued the car service (this hasn't been
    communicated to Venere, Agoda, Orbitz, Expedia, and so on).
    The tout triumphantly led us to his company's kiosk, where
    a battered rate sheet showed P1200 for the trip. Having
    done our research, we knew that the private car was P660 and
    a regular metered taxi was going to be P200 or under. We
    said no to the guy, who looked very crestfallen. We went off
    and another tout accosted us. P440. What the heck, I said,
    we'll do it. In retrospect, this appears to be a multilevel
    scam: the 1200 tout is there just to prepare us for the 440
    tout, but if he gets a bite at 1200, so much the better.
    Anyhow, the ride was in a brand spanking new clean van, with
    a driver who seemed competent. We were at our hotel in half
    an hour, traffic being as it is.
  11. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    Metro Manila consists of I believe 17 cities, only one of
    which is Manila. The central business district is Makati,
    in which there are offices, shopping malls, the stock
    exchange, and the Shangri-La, Renaissance, Peninsula,
    Fairmont, you get the idea. If you saw only downtown, you'd
    imagine a modern metropolis a la Singapore. Actually, to me
    the vibe is similar to that I found when I first visited
    Singapore and KL a couple decades ago.

    The hotel I chose, after some research, the Guijo Suites
    Makati, isn't quite in what people think of as Makati (it's
    near the seedier part of Santa Ana to the north), but it's
    convenient enough, and safe enough, and the accommodations
    turned out to be fine. We were assigned to the newer
    building of two, all the rooms having a decent window; the
    major complaint about across the street was that some of
    the rooms had inadequate windows.

    The front desk staff were, even at a relatively late hour,
    cheery and helpful. The digs were of a decent size, the
    bathroom fixtures all worked, as did the air conditioning,
    so pretty much all was fine. We shared a somewhat mildewed
    bathroom, which, after a night of having the fan on and the
    light on, pretty much cleaned itself up.

    When we had installed ourselves and staked out territories,
    the next order of business was to check out the lobby bar.

    Prices were competitive (we found divey places during the
    week that charged about 25% less, but they were pretty
    scuzzy). San Mig pale and light were both 5% alcohol and
    P60; Nottage Hill Shiraz was an absurd 1500 the bottle,
    so lili did without, settling for Jack Daniel's at 200 a
    shot plus extra for mixers. So it was easy to get modestly
    buzzed for a modest amount of money. By the way, San Miguel
    Pale tastes completely different here than in the US. I far
    prefer the export product and in the future ordered the
    light instead. In fact, several of the establishments we
    later patronized served only the light.

    Note to bargain hunters: the minibar San Mig light is P45,
    though the regular runs 60 there.


    Breakfast is included. It's adequate but sort of peculiar.

    The constants are scrambled eggs, cereal and milk, breakfast
    breads, coffee, water (iced or tepid), plain rice, and
    substandard fruit - unripe pineapple and unripe watermelon.

    The variables are soup, a pasta dish, and some protein.

    On this first day:

    Pumpkin soup was a medium-thin puree with probably a chicken
    base; it was not bad at all, actually.

    What was labeled as tomato mushroom pasta was essentially
    plain spaghetti with butter and basil. Perhaps someone had
    picked all the tomatoes and mushrooms out already.

    Ham, gelatinized and tasteless, was there every day but one.

    There was a beef sausage of an odd crumbly texture and
    pretty much no flavor.

    Enough to kick-start one's day.

    I asked the front desk for a city map, which most reputable
    hotels offer for free, and was told that I'd have to go to
    the National Book Store in the mall district in downtown
    Makati. I didn't want to brave downtown Makati without a map
    so an Internet search yielded an outlet of what seems to be
    the Barnes & Noble of the Philippines at the Cash & Carry
    shopping center just a kilometer from the hotel.

    It turns out that at morning rush this is quite a harrowing
    kilometer, crossing a busy road with adequate but generally
    disobeyed lights and then a large highway with little if any
    guidance (but every couple blocks, there's a cop stationed,
    so the more timid are occasionally given a chance).

    The National Book Store has a whole assortment of maps and
    atlases, so we got the Metro Manila Citiatlas by Accu-map
    ("18 years cartography excellence"), a pretty comprehensive
    book covering the whole area. It turned out to be quite
    worthwhile, for even though we mostly confined our
    wanderings to Makati and two adjoining municipalities, it
    was helpful to check out all the streets in our vicinity
    and be reassured of exactly where we were.

    Just for the sake of science, we checked out the food court
    on the second floor, where among other promising places I
    found Sisig Hooray, a stall dedicated to the proposition
    that pig hash goes well with rice (it is traditionally eaten
    straight up and washed down with beer). Turns out this
    version was maybe the best I've ever had, atypical, though.
    It had fewer naughty bits and more crunchy crackling, which
    is points in favor in my book; also this dry preparation has
    condiments mixed in to order (vinegar, soy, patis, hot
    peppers, red onion, calamansi) so that instead of it sitting
    around getting soggy it's a nice combination of crisp and
    freshly softened. It comes with a big mound of decent rice.
    I asked for double hot peppers, which got a dubious glance
    from the attendant; it was enough, just barely. P65 for a
    generous meal that could have fed two in a pinch.
  12. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    Back to home base, walking via the Buendia train station
    (filthy and chaotic - though I'd planned on using public
    transport, it was agreed that we would take taxis instead),
    Gil Puyat Avenue, Ayala Avenue, and the Sacred Heart
    Cathedral, an early 21st-century monument in the faceless
    modern Catholic architecture style.

    Showers in the middle of the day are a good idea.

    I had been given the impression that lili wanted to see the
    Glorietta and Greenbelt mall complex, so I dragged her down
    there (a bit over a mile down Ayala) only to find that what
    she really wanted to see was the Ayala Museum.

    On the way we passed a McDonalds, actually several of them.
    Someone partook gratefully. A Big Mac costs almost what it
    does in the US.

    We walked around Glorietta a little and noted Mad Max's,
    which is supposed to be one of the best spots for a
    popular-priced steak. No wine and beer license, but a
    corkage arrangement. We noted all this for later (but
    ended up not coming back).

    Interesting that whenever you walk into a bank, shopping
    center, or public building, you get either a hand search
    or metal detected. I wonder what the incidence of armed
    crime is here (it is certainly high down south).

    The Ayala Museum, as it turns out, is a pretty worthwhile
    destination. You start at the top, with its famous funerary
    gold collection and assorted Asian ceramics, then go down
    stairs to the art galleries that feature works of apparently
    influential local artists Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo, and
    Fernando Zobel. Another flight down brings you to a set of
    60 dioramas that give a Cliff's Notes version of Philippine
    history. We spent a happy couple hours here; the admission
    is relatively high, but we thought it worth the expense. It
    closes at 6, so we had just time to hustle back to the hotel
    while it was light enough to ensure I wouldn't fall into a
    hole or ditch (of which there are many, even in this fairly
    civilized part of town). Allow an hour; double that if you
    want to do the diorama thing.

    In looking for places to eat near the hotel, one in
    particular caught my eye - TJ Grill, according to Google
    about 3 blocks away. Looked like a good place to get roast
    meat and beer, so we went off to where we thought it should
    be. Not there. Just another block or two, we kept saying.
    Eventually we met a guy closing his shop who said he knew
    the place and pointed still further down the road, so we
    kept slogging on. Next thing we knew, we were way off near
    the Cruz train station, no restaurant. Nothing promising
    even when we fanned a block in one direction or another.
    Defeated, we returned to the hotel, where drinks beckoned.
    For about five times the price of the delicious crispy sisig
    at Cash & Carry, the hotel served us (me, actually, though I
    picked out a few safe morsels for lili to taste) a totally
    different sisig, this one more like what I'm accustomed to -
    a hash of pig parts (liver, ears, snout, skin, blood, with
    some shoulder) seasoned with vinegar and topped with an egg.
    This was also delicious but not as delicious, and in a
    totally different way. It was a serving enough for a main
    dish for two, despite its being on the appetizer list.
    So I didn't go to bed hungry.
    Newscience likes this.
  13. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Breakfast stuff: egg drop soup, chicken bee hoon, a sausage
    thing with raisins called embutido, and a pandan coconut
    agar sweet that I made most of my meal of.

    We had the doorman call us a cab to Manila. I wanted to pay
    homage to the father of Philippine independence, having done
    so in Singapore not so long ago, after all, and anyhow
    that's what you do in this country.

    Rizal Park was closed. I should have figured, because that's
    where the Pope had celebrated his last Mass in the country
    the day before. Though the cleanup was pretty much complete,
    the barriers were still up, so we walked around rather than
    through the park (not much fun) and decided to cut over to
    Intramuros, the original Spanish fortification and the main
    historical district of the city. It's not old by either
    Asian or European standards, having been originally built
    in 1574, but it's what they've got, and it's worthwhile.

    There are touts everywhere.

    We pushed past them and up General Luna, the main drag, to
    the church of S. Agustin, a UNESCO World Heritage site
    dating from 1607 and the only major structure that survived
    the earthquake of 1863. A Mass was being celebrated, so we
    didn't linger long there. Then we veered off away from the
    tourist area to the PC barracks ruins and then the Baluarte
    de San Diego, within which have been planted gardens that
    were featured in the Hemispheres Three Perfect Days a year
    or two ago. Nice bonsai, and lili found the bonsai master
    and chatted with him for a while. This was a highlight.

    We walked along the wall as far as possible and then visited
    the Cathedral, a mid-20th structure that recently underwent
    extensive renovations and that has within the year been

    North to Fort Santiago, site of some of the most notable
    events of Philippine history, where we spent a couple hours.
    In addition to the fort itself (16th century, damaged and
    restored several times, most notably during WWII) there is
    the Rizal shrine and museum, offering a facsimile of his
    ancestral home and what is billed as the actual cell he
    was confined in before his execution.

    We had this cockamamie idea to ride the Pasig River ferry
    back home, which entailed finding the Plaza Mexico (not in
    my atlas). Luckily, there were cops around, and after some
    serious consultation it was decided that we should walk
    about six blocks over and to the river. And that's where
    it was, just past the Intendencia ruins (looked just like
    any decrepit building in any decrepit town). There's a
    ticket window, the ubiquitous security check, and a nice
    outdoor waiting area from which we watched the local street
    urchins diving into the murky river and swimming to the
    giant lily islands that floated past. The ferry came a bit
    late, and one got the impression that it was more a proof
    of concept than a working operation. This run was a fairly
    modern catamaran that accommodated 30-odd - hardly enough
    to make a dent in the commuter traffic to and from the city
    but at least a good idea. It was a pleasant enough ride
    along a very urban but not too disgusting waterway.

    We got off at the Santa Ana market building - by this time
    mostly closed up for the day, just a few stalls left
    desperately trying to unload some picked-over vegetables -
    and walked south through a slightly dodgy neighborhood down
    toward Chino Roces and the hotel. It was just about dark by
    the time we got there.

    101 Hawker Food House is a renowned cheap eats restaurant
    right among the Makati office towers. I'd heard good things
    and was especially looking forward to trying the Filipino
    take on Chinese braised pork shoulder and was pleased to
    find it a component of the sampler platter, so we ordered
    this to split. Consternation on the face of the young waiter
    - turns out they couldn't make the sampler platter, because
    the braised pork was out :( :( :( I suggested that a second
    order of lechon kawali (crispy pork belly) be substituted,
    which was readily agreed to. The lechon was quite good,
    though the skin was more hard than it ought to be (if basted
    properly during cooking, it bubbles up and becomes crunchy
    tender rather than crunchy hard). Also on the platter were
    asado (beef stew) and soy sauce chicken, both unremarkable
    but wholesome. Accompaniments: chicken soup that tasted like
    bouillon; a capsicum sauce that was much more green peppery
    than spicy; a ginger-garlic sauce that I kind of liked;
    kecap manis (sweet soy) out of a bottle; and hot oil, of
    which I used the whole dish. A dish of strange dryish rice
    cost P20 extra. San Mig Light was P40 only.

    It was dark going home, and I turned my ankle a little -
    nothing that a little stretching couldn't deal with, though.
  14. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    Breakfast: spinach soup, Singapore noodles (quite poor);
    dried anchovies and salted egg; chicken hot dog; a replay of
    the agar. This time barely enough to forage. The soup was
    especially notable for tasting like rotted leaves.

    A taxi to the National Museum took almost the exact route
    that the previous one had - it looks on the map to be a bit
    zigzaggy, but I think (mind I say I think) the drivers
    avoid some bottlenecks this way, either that or there's some
    grand conspiracy among the industry. Two subsequent rides in
    the other direction took closely parallel routes.

    The Museum of the Filipino People is mostly made up of a
    pretty interesting ethnological collection with some cursory
    nods to the natural sciences and some cool archeological
    stuff (though, interestingly, the Philippine gold, so richly
    displayed at the Ayala, was nowhere to be found). Allow an
    hour to two hours depending on whether you like old-style
    museums or whether they annoy you.

    Across Finance Rd. and down the way is the National Art
    Museum; there's not a safe place to cross, but a museum
    staffer wades out in traffic and holds his hand up, and you
    scurry around the trucks and taxis to get to the other side.
    Cheaper than building an overpass I suppose. A notable
    feature is that the permanent collection, such as is
    displayed here, is all of Filipino artists. There are a few
    works by foreigners in some temporary exhibits, but all of
    them lived in the Philippines. I was struck by a room of
    mid-20th-century impressionist/realists collectively called
    Dimasalang (after Jose Rizal's pen-name) - Sym Mendoza,
    Romulo Galiciano, and others -, who painted evocative images
    of Manila from that generation. The permanent collection
    also includes a lot of religious stuff, which didn't move
    me; it was reminiscent of Spanish and German art of a few
    centuries before. Fistfuls of modern art, mostly leftist in
    theme; nothing, not a piece, by my new favorite Zobel, who I
    thought from what I'd seen was a particularly bright light
    in Filipino art. Turns out he was a Spanish citizen, so that
    might be part of why he is excluded from the exhibitions;
    also that he was from a prominent fascist-leaning family,
    which also might color things. So why is his work so
    prominently featured at the Ayala Museum and not elsewhere?
    It turns out his full name was Fernando Zobel de Ayala y
    Montojo, and the Ayala Museum, though not built under his
    watch, had been his idea. Allow 90 minutes to two hours.

    As we were close to Intramuros, and I was hungry, we walked
    to the well-reviewed Patio de Conchita, which is in an old
    house and has a really wonderful seedy old feeling about it.
    It was of course siesta time, but they opened the cafeteria
    line for us, and we had a tasty if shopworn meal. Instead of
    keeping the food warm on the steam table, each individual
    dish is warmed up in a skillet when ordered and has that
    reheated taste that some don't mind and some (read lili)
    abhor. I got two dishes for us, rice, and a bunch of beers.

    Adobo smelled pretty good, so I asked for that. The first
    piece, which looked nice and fatty, I gave to lili, and she
    ate it with pleasure. Unfortunately the rest was a mixture
    of chicken and beef, obviously leftovers from the lunch
    rush thrown into one dish, rather shrivelled but tasty.

    Pork belly in sweet soy was pretty decent, though also not
    in its first youth. It was also from a native pig, so rather
    gamy (good) and not very fatty (bad). Which led me to the
    speculation of what would happen if you force-fed pigs to
    make foie gras. Which reminds me that, contrary to popular
    impression, pigs will stop eating when they are no longer

    The rice was good, and lili deigned to eat some of that.

    I tried a Red Horse, San Miguel's strong product. It was
    malty and alcoholly, nothing special - like the light with a
    shot of Tanduay in it. lili had a San Mig light, P20 less. I
    wish I'd read the writeup on the product site: "Red Horse
    Beer is your extra strong beer that brings you that pure
    alcoholic experience. It is not your ordinary beer -
    rebellious and flavorful yet bold and intense. It is sweet
    and bitter smooth, giving you a fueled kick. Excite yourself
    with this deeply hued distinct tasting beer." Pure alcoholic
    experience? Fueled kick? All righty then.

    The taxi back to the hotel, hailed from near Plaza Espana,
    was meter plus 100 (rush hour, the driver said). I shrugged
    and said okay, whereupon the guy took us on a hair-raising
    trip through the worst of traffic that got us back in half
    the time the trip over had, at only about P75 more. Well
    worth it.

    That had been a small meal - for her a tiny one -, so we
    went off prowling for more sustenance shortly after dark.
    This involved crossing a number of busy streets and barely
    avoiding various holes in the sidewalk.

    I found a stall off Chino Roces that smelled really good;
    we plopped down on the plastic chairs out there and had an
    assortment of satays and a Coke; this came to P59 for a
    modest meal. Pork was standard, that is to say pretty
    yummy. Chicken gizzard, which lili wouldn't touch, was
    crunchy rather than chewy, the yummiest of all. Chicken
    intestine was stuffed in the Latin style, which made it
    kind of strange (we encountered this issue as well with the
    beef intestine at Don Julio in Buenos Aires), but it was
    inoffensive enough. I believe lili wouldn't even look at me
    when I ate this.

    By way of reward, I took her to McDonalds on the corner of
    Kamagong for a Big Mac, which she found less fresh and less
    good than that in downtown Makati a day or two before. Still
    it did the job.

    Back at the hotel I had a shot or two of Fundador (quite
    acrid, not much fruit, lots of neutral spiritlike taste,
    worse than what I recall it being) instead of my usual.
  15. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    The soup of the day was congee. I passed so can't report.
    Garlic rice and tomato pasta. Sardines, which I eschewed
    in favor with some almost palatable chicken sausage with
    herbs. Later I rethought my decision and went back for a
    sardine, but they were gone by then.

    Today there was, for no discernible reason, a lot of
    difficulty getting a cab, as in an hour.

    Our destination: the Southwestern bus terminal in Uniwide
    Coastal Mall, whence we were to ride to Tagaytay and the
    famous Taal volcano. When we got there a dispatcher waved
    us onto the Celyrosa Express (not unlike United Express),
    to which we paid P60, half what the air-conditioned nonstop
    buses cost. I think we lost half an hour using it, but I
    doubt that was crucial. It's a local bus, but it uses the
    same route as the fancy ones. This all was fine, but the
    ride was so fraught with strange mechanical noises that I
    was fearful that the bus might break down at any moment. In
    fact, the only unscheduled stop was halfway, for gas. I'd
    probably happily do it again, though the un-air-conditioned
    nature of the ride meant that back at the hotel I scraped
    untold amounts of soot and grime off my skin.

    Problem. I thought I'd conveyed my hoped-for destination
    (the jeepney terminal) to the conductor, but the guy put us
    off in the wrong place in Tagaytay. Not too bad, as it was
    near the local Jollibee, and having seen stores all through
    metro Manila, lili thought it was time to try it out. Now
    the stores in the city heavily advertise chicken and fries,
    so that's what she had her mouth set for ... only chicken
    was off, fries were off. By way of consolation, she had a
    Champ (Big Burger Goodness), an apparent competitor of the
    Whopper. This was super-dreadful, the burger being a soggy
    meatloaf analogue. It being well into lunchtime, I had
    garlic pepper beef and rice with three "Shanghai rolls" for
    half the price of the burger. The flavor of the food wasn't
    too bad - discernible spice, lots of garlic chips on top -,
    but the meat itself was just a bunch of gristle. I didn't
    particularly object, as I like gristle; what I objected to
    was that the Shanghai rolls - little lumpias filled with
    vegetables and pork, sort of like flautas in size; these
    aren't bad in concept, but in reality they tasted as though
    they had been boiled in soap. I blame rancid coconut oil.
    Some guys who were sort of randomly hanging out on the stoop
    of the restaurant tried to sell us a kris, pretty weird.

    From here we took a jeepney (new minimum 8.50) back through
    town and to the terminal, where someone tried to talk us
    into a trishaw ride to our destination for a hugely inflated
    price - I offered 1/3, or five times what the jeepney would
    cost, and he said no. The jeepney costs P18 to People's Park
    in the Sky, designed as a retreat for Ronald Reagan on his
    scheduled visit to see his friend Marcos - when Marcos was
    deposed, the project was abandoned, and now what's there is
    a shell designed for a palace with what is said to be one of
    the finest views in the country. Of course, when we arrived,
    it almost completely socked in. Also rather cool and very
    windy - the whistling through the radio tower and the ruins
    could have served as the soundtrack for a film about Scott's
    explorations. We waited around for an hour for the fog to
    blow off, but it didn't. Got a jeepney to take us to the bus
    stop, where more touts ushered us on to another bus, this
    time air-conditioned and rather nice but with the regular
    small seats, run by Cavite Batangas. For 78 you get not only
    the a/c but a movie, today the recent thriller Lucy, which
    stars Scarlett Johannsen and Morgan Freeman, though from our
    spot in the back I could tell them only by voice (there was
    a speaker a couple feet from my head). This was also a local
    local and took almost as long as the ramshackle one had; it,
    unlike what the guidebooks say, didn't return us to the bus
    depot but rather let us off at a busy crossroads several
    blocks away. At rush hour. No taxis. Seeing our bewilderment
    a tout came to our rescue and flagged one down by the easy
    expedient of standing in its way in the middle of the road.
    The quoted rate - meter plus 50. I gave the tout 20, and the
    taxi driver gave him 20, and everyone was happy. This driver
    too got us expeditiously back to the hotel, where a shower
    and a beer were most welcome.

    lili having been disappointed with her lunch, we went off to
    look for fried chicken. Not particularly wanting same, I
    returned to the place that had the good satays and picked up
    a skewered stuffed squid for a buck and joined lili at KFC,
    where the only breast they had was a spicy (she wanted the
    skin but can't eat spicy), and the only thigh they had was a
    mild. In addition, with the "loaded meal" they threw in a
    regular wing, gravy and mash, two big lumps of rice, and
    beignets with chocolate sauce that lili likened to Bosco.
    So I got the skin and leavings of a breast piece, most of
    a thigh, and the less attractive (to her) bits of the wing.
    The thigh skin went to satisfy her crunch craving.

    My squid was unfortunately stuffed with hashed unripe tomato
    with a little onion, no more. I squeezed out this
    unappetizing mixture and ate the body, which was pretty
    good, with one of the lumps of rice.

    The beignets were sort of like erasers.
  16. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    Breakfast: tomato soup, really a thickened clear broth with
    bits of tomato; fried bangus (milkfish), bony but tasty; and
    penne pesto.

    We walked down Ayala yet again (despite lili's saying that
    she never wanted to see that street again, with its roots
    and stumps and vendors of fishy-smelling things), because I
    needed stamps for my postcards, and what hotel desk doesn't
    sell stamps? this one.

    The post office, a local landmark, is at the corner of Ayala
    and Malugay (I persisted in calling it malunggay, which
    means horseradish), or so we thought. There's a door on
    Malugay with a signboard outside "Manila Post Office," so in
    we went, only to find that it was the employee entrance. No
    worries, the guard led us through the mail sorting rooms and
    to the public lobby, where I got my stamps and all was well.

    The Yuchengco Museum is right near there, and it sounded
    interesting. The Yuchengcos are a wealthy old Filipino
    Chinese clan, and the museum, in the Rizal Bank building,
    is mostly a collection of the family's stuff. On the top
    floor is a history of the bank and a paean to the patriarch
    Alfonso, with the obligatory shrine to Rizal. Downstairs are
    the art collection, with a more modern or experimental focus
    than the other museums. I found few things to admire, but
    the sculptures and the small traditional textiles display
    were kind of interesting. The price is P100, a bit steep
    considering the National Museums cost only P150. Allow half
    to one hour, probably not more.

    When we got back to the hotel we discovered we'd been locked
    out of our room. This was fixed promptly, and it was close
    to checkout anyhow. We got our traps together and trundled
    them down and had a bunch of beers.

    A cab to the airport came when ordered and got us there in a
    real jiffy, it being a weekend.

    As you need a boarding pass to get in the building, outside
    was a mess, with people waiting for their people, milling
    around, trying to sell stuff, and so on. For those with the
    fancy blue passport at least, the initial security was

    A long line at the Jetstar checkin showed that it hadn't
    opened yet, so we waited for half an hour until that
    happened. The line is a lot shorter for people who have
    pre-web-checked-in; it's to the left.

    The second security was negligible as well, as was payment
    of the exit fee (P550 - Internet reports anything between 0
    and 750). Emigration was easy, though lili got slightly held
    up for some unknown reason.

    Terminal 1 is in the throes of major renovation. You can
    see that it aspires to be a mini-Changi, but there's a way
    to go. It's not so horrid as people claim, but food and
    diversions are scanty.

    I was not entitled to access to any of the lounges here, as
    I was not on either a OneWorld or a Star flight; lili is,
    through Priority Pass, and she gets to have a guest admitted
    for $27, while the public a la carte price is $20 (P894).
    What's with that? I paid the fee, still having a bunch of
    pesos left, and we went in. Some time later, one of the
    attendants chased me down with my 6 pesos change.

    Bargain hunters note: there are also the middle-class lounge
    at P650 and what is apparently another lounge at P450. It is
    said that the 650 has better booze but worse internet.

    The room: reasonably attractive, pretty comfortable seating
    in adequate quantity. Good lighting and interesting reading
    material (newspapers, magazines, airline magazines).


    a murky soup served with mantou; this looked unappetizing
    enough that I didn't bother even trying;

    penne carbonara was like mac and cheese with bits of deli
    ham loaf - bland but probably comforting enough for a
    particularly unadventurous segment of the western clientele;

    industrial but palatable roast pork buns of which I had two.

    A chocolate brownie was extremely mediocre but Tanduay rum,
    also not so special on its own, made it terrific.

    Blueberry panna cotta was somewhat better but ever more

    Napoleon VSOP from the oldest Philippine distillery,
    whose name shall be discreetly and forgottenly unnamed,
    was pretty nasty. This bottle oddly carried a label "Makati
    Supermarket Alambang P210.50." What the lounge was doing
    buying booze retail I haven't a clue. The product is raw
    and uncouth - not worth the calories.

    Other liquors, neither generic nor top shelf, were also
    available, as was a cooler with San Mig, Tiger, and soft
    dhammer53 likes this.
  17. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    3K 764 MNL SIN 1740 2120 320 8DE

    This took off from gate 8, which we walked right past
    (there is a big Royal Orchid sign that obtrudes in front of
    the tiny gate 8 sign); not a big deal as row 8 is in the
    last boarding group. There was still plenty of overhead
    space. The flight was manned by staff who did their job in
    a somewhat impersonal way, not a big problem. lili had
    another hit of that Koo Coo stuff; I passed. Some guy across
    the way, apparently an elite of some kind, JetStar or maybe
    Qantas, had preordered chicken rice, which although it
    smelled like chicken and green peppers, seemed okay, and he
    ate it in a jiffy (and bought another). Me, nah, the steamed
    buns had been enough.

    Again, my bag came out expeditiously - not so amazingly fast
    as in Manila; I imagine it had a bigger system to negotiate.

    I'd picked the Capri by Fraser because it advertises a
    shuttle, but repeated e-mail inquiry met with no response,
    so we had to wing it. It so happens that the service leaves
    from the bus depot in the bowels of the terminal (B2 I
    think); the stop is marked by a sign that reads, in very
    un-Singaporean fashion (I paraphrase)
    Grand Mercure r Grand Mercure Grand Mercure
    Grand Mercare Grand Mercure
    Grand Mercure n Grand Mercure
    Grand Mercure d Capri Grand Mercure
    Grand Mercure Gr nd Mercure Grand Mercure
    It turns out we'd just missed the shuttle by a couple
    minutes, so we called to find that the next wasn't coming
    for another hour.

    Some guy nearby was helping a discommoded family and also
    took us under his wing; it turned out he managed ground
    handling for Emirates. Thank you, whoever you are - a
    fine ambassador for Singapore and for Emirates. We got a
    taxi driven by a Hainanese Singaporean guy who drove us
    around a bit, purporting to get a little lost (as in
    getting near but across two lanes of traffic or a
    construction site from the place, and so on) - the fare
    was $12. Whatever, we were just happy to find a place to
    sleep. We walked in to a bright snazzy lobby and a huge
    waft of aromatic lavender/evergreen aromas, a bit jarring.
    Check-in was polite and easy, but I asked for a shuttle for
    0400. Turns out the shuttle doesn't start until 6; as I had
    an 0700 flight, this seemed to be cutting it a little close.
    So I arranged for a cab.

    The room was quite large, well appointed, brand spanking new
    - not bad at all. I characterized this as like an Aloft or
    Element (which I am not totally hostile to despite my horrid
    experience at the Aloft at Dulles, which was never quite
    satisfactorily resolved); lili added "on steroids." I
    recommend this (if you can get the shuttle) as an alternate
    to the Ambassador Transit Hotel, whose rates it is said are
    expected to increase dramatically in the coming year.

    The cab came right on time at 0500 - same guy. Same price.
    He must have this down to a science.
  18. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    UA 804 SIN NRT 0700 1440 772 20B Ch9^

    Check-in was a model of Singaporean efficiency.

    I didn't get upgraded, oh the heartbreak. I'd thought of
    upfaring to a Q, but unheeding of common sense I chose to
    save a couple hundred dollars and stuck with my W, with
    this sad result.

    So no Silver Kris for me. Instead the SATS lounge beckoned.
    Truth to tell, it is much better than the old one - reminds
    me of the United Club in Hong Kong, with a substantial open
    area, fairly attractive in the impersonal glass and metal
    way. Relatively few facilities, though (read: I couldn't
    find the bathroom). Catering pretty decent. A Hampton-like
    spread was offered; in addition, a steamer with assembly-
    line but tasty enough shrimp dumplings and two kinds of bao
    - minced weird pork and minced chicken with mushrooms
    (tentative identifications). The best food on offer was
    Indian - those broken rice cakes called I think idli served
    with a coconut sambar and a fairly spicy and quite excellent
    lentil curry of which only a few tablespoons remained, alas.

    On the plane, the digs were okay - more than enough legroom,
    more than enough seat width (I am not too fat), but no
    recline, I believe because the machinery was broken. Still,
    it was comfy enough, and given my lifetime Platinum I can
    have this seat preassigned, and maybe it's K and L fares in
    my future. My seatmate was quiet and pleasant and managed to
    crawl across me without waking me when on the way to the
    lavatory. Speaking of which, despite the lack of recline
    and my tendency to slump off into the aisle, I got a good
    3 hours of sleep on a 6-hour flight.

    A genial Indian flight attendant chatted pleasantly with
    us before the flight and was moderately attentive during it.

    I woke up for breakfast, which I'm glad for, as it was
    better than most of what I was served in business on the
    other flights: soy sauce chicken, half a very fatty thigh,
    over shrimp roe vermicelli with a few shreds of bok choy,
    a mediocre fruit assortment, and a plastic-wrapped almond
    cream bun. I like scraps, and the chicken was right up my
    alley. My seatmate looked at it, wrinkled up her nose, and
    pushed it aside. I didn't scavenge her leftovers but thought
    of asking to do so.

    The flight, fairly bumpy with a bit of a tailwind, got in
    close to half an hour early, and we were to the gate in
    close on record time. Further, they'd opened the premier
    security lane (though the divider was ignored by many), and
    the extra security was relatively quick, so I had a good
    hour and half. I thought of going to the ANA lounge in 4
    this time (it's dim and dark but less crowded; also closer
    to my next gate), but as I passed the RCC, it didn't look
    crowded. I asked the guardian if it was going to be busy;
    she allowed that this was a quiet time of day, so I decided
    to give it a try.

    The living rooms were half full, and most of the carrels in
    back were empty.

    Lunch was soba noodles, chicken Smisnuggets, and a cream of
    corn soup that tasted as if it actually had been made with
    cream. There were also I believe little sandwiches on offer,
    plus the usual edamame, potato chips, and such. Sadly, no
    inarizushi, something I look forward to for its filling
    sweet starchy diabetogenicity.

    I eschewed my normal homage to the amazing beer machine and
    checked out the red wines - Ginestet Bordeaux and something
    from the Pays de l'Herault, no thank you -, and ended up
    with a double shot of Kirin VSOP brandy. Word to the wise:
    just say no. There's a hint of grape flavor, but mostly it's
    a neutral spirits taste. Next time back to the beer machine.

    I'd had a shower at the hotel, really, truly, and it had
    been only a 6-hr flight, but I felt almost as sticky as
    after that unairconditioned bus ride to Tagaytay. Maybe it
    was the unfamiliar experience of coach. There was no wait
    for the rooms, and the attendant was especially genial and
    polite. The rooms have been renovated fairly recently, and
    though the water pressure is still dicey, it's a generally
    pleasant and refreshing experience. Someone asked me about
    the amenities, and I said that they're handed out on a
    need-to-use basis now. This is still the case.

    It was a one-minute stroll to the gate, where boarding was
    in full swing.
  19. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    UA 804 NRT IAD 1635 1505 772 8C Ch9^

    The only problem with this seat is that people in the aisle
    turn right from the entrance and bump into your seat, which
    at least is sturdy enough to protect your shins from the
    impact (this is I believe generally inadvertent); plus then
    instead of going through the public area ahead to cut over
    to the other side of the plane, some want to use our foot
    space, which makes it tough to relax (this I believe is
    generally deliberate).

    My seatmate was a man of few words, fine with me, and what
    words came out seemed well formed and well informed.
    However, communication with the cabin crew was in grunts
    and hand signals only. I don't know what the staff think
    about this, but I was sort of amused.


    Chilled Appetizer
    Vegetable roll and sweet sesame pork with mango-chile sauce

    Fresh Seasonal Greens
    Carrots, cucumber and croutons
    with your choice of creamy wasabi dressing or
    shiso vinaigrette

    I can't speak for any of this.


    Tenderloin of Beef
    Mushroom bordelaise sauce, twice-baked potato
    and asparagus

    Breast of Chicken
    Morel mushroom sauce, chive mashed potatoes, green
    beans and carrots

    Fillet of Striped Bass
    Lemon herb sauce, saffron basmati rice and mixed

    Japanese Selection
    Appetizers of braised duck, grilled prawn, salmon and kelp
    roll, abalone and yuzu citrus

    Actually, it seemed to be grilled duck and braised
    prawn, fine with me. The duck, maybe a third of a large
    breast half, was insufficiently fatted to my taste but
    full of flavor; the shrimp, rather overcooked, still had
    a lot of juice and fat in the head, which redeemed it.
    The kelp thing turned out to be a mess of assorted
    matchstick-shaped scraps, not a roll at all, seaweed,
    dried squid, maybe a little salmon: didn't taste bad.
    The abalone was a whole little 1/2 oz one in its pretty
    brick-red shell; if it wasn't canned it might as well
    have been. The yuzu was candied, surprisingly appealing
    in texture, surprisingly tasteless.

    A main course of braised sea bream with leek, carrot, okra
    and tofu, simmered turnip with minced chicken sauce, shrimp,
    shiitake mushroom and peas, marinated sugar snap peas,
    mushroom and cod roe, vinegared tomato and crab salad, miso
    soup with pork and vegetables, steamed rice and Japanese-
    style pickles

    Other than the fish being way overcooked, this was an
    interesting meal. The veggies were very soft (no leek) but
    pleasant. The simmered turnip, really tasteless, was topped
    by an egg-drop cornstarch sauce with mince, a small chunk of
    shrimp, and peas and maybe a sliver of shiitake. Sugar snaps
    were marinated in what passes in Japan for mayonnaise (it's
    more like Miracle Whip). The crab salad would have been okay
    if there had been enough to taste - I guess a tablespoon
    mounded up over half a giant tomato. Funny about that soup
    - I took a slurp and found that it tasted kind of like tea.
    In fact, it must have been loaded onboard dry and then been
    reconstituted. After a stir, the stuff tasted almost
    recognizable. No vegetables to speak of except for a slice
    or two of scallion; no pork except for a Sen-Sen-sized white
    unidentifiability. No pickles.


    International Cheese Selection
    Grapes and crackers served with Port

    Ice cream with your choice of toppings

    No dessert for me. The Germanish FA tried to test my
    resolve but accepted my excuses that the main meal had been
    too big, which it actually was. I did accept a glass of
    Quinta do Noval LBV 08 Port, which was well balanced, with
    the usual menthol, wood, and stone fruit flavors, not too
    sticky sweet and of a decent texture.

    Fruit and light snacks are available at any time following
    the menu service. Please help yourself or ask a flight
    attendant for today's selection.


    Potatoes, pork loin and pork sausage

    Scallop and Shrimp Yakisoba
    Sauteed noodles with scallops, shrimp and vegetables

    Cereal and Banana
    Served with milk

    By this point 10 hours into the flight, the food had
    begun to push the boundaries of edibility, the noodles
    congealing into gum and the seafood into erasers. I am
    usually disappointed with Japanese scallops anyway, far
    preferring north Atlantic ones, but these could just as
    well have been surimi. At least, if they were surimi, the
    manufacturer has gotten the texture close. The shrimp were
    of a rather high marine taste but hardly shrimplike. None
    of this came as an enormous surprise.

    After the main meal I slept nine hours almost solid, waking
    up about 3 minutes before breakfast.

    I had planned a US Air segment run to anticipatorily protect
    my OneWorld Sapphire shininess, but this blizzard thing
    intervened, and I lost out on 8 segments for $250. I guess
    I'll have to do a bunch of Charleston turnarounds to make
    up for this (from Washington, as low as 77 roundtrip, check
    it out).


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