Monday, June 24, 2019

When work travel really means work

I was pretty excited for my virgin work travel but the novelty has worn off. I was dreading it because I had to fly on a Sunday morning and come back on Saturday evening which meant I wasted 2 days for this. Not to mention that the flights were with PAL and small planes. I would complain less if it was SQ. In addition, I had to settle the issues with my team. Sigh.. I hate people who backstab and now I have to set aside my personal anger.

My boss did not come with me this time so I had less stress. I could go back to the hotel at 4pm+ and to continue to do my work there. The bad thing was that I essentially had to work almost until midnight to prepare for the following day and to provide updates to my boss. It was definitely more tiring compared to my first trip in January when my purpose was for training and to know the people. For this trip, I had to plan things, coordinate discussion, and keep changing agendas since there were new updates (like staff promotion). I did not even go out in the evenings. Sigh..

I spent less than 5000 peso in January and I was planning not to change any for this trip since I had more than 5000 peso leftover. Thank goodness I decided to change USD 100 to 'test water' if the money exchange here is as troublesome as in Indonesia when it comes to USD notes. They are not so next time I will just use my USD notes. Not to mention that I spent more during this trip as I tended to splurge for dinner.

One of my colleagues brought her baby and she asked to switch room. Thus I ended up sharing a 2-bedroom suite with another colleague. The suite has a washing machine/dryer so it was a win-win arrangement for me. The downside of sharing a suite was that I spent time chit-chatting and that contributed to my late nights.

Thursday was emo for me as my laundry nets were missing. Pretty sure that the housekeeping took it and they did not even attempt to set things right. Sigh.. To add to my emo-ness, my comfortable elephant pants from Bangkok reached its end of life just after 1 round of washing: threads coming off and the whole pants just shrunk. The colour wore off and it made my VJC PE shirt blue :( Sianz..

Friday was teambuilding and I woke up at 4am+ since the bus would leave office at 6am. The teambuilding was at MB Cove at Nasugbu, Batangas. The bus journey was 4 hour long. I would enjoy it more if I were not so OCD about cleanliness. I did not want to bring back dirty and wet clothes so I did not play in the water at all. I actually wanted to try the inflatables :'( The sand was brown and initially I thought the water was murky. Looking closer at the water, it was actually quite clean from rubbish.
Not a fan of beach or swimming but I would like to try the inflatables T_T
Nice to look in photo but I was not really enjoying myself there
As people were playing, I spent my time in the air-conditioned karaoke room to sing with few people who also consider themselves as bad singers. Haha yeah so bad singers unite. I played some volleyball and I had bruises on my arms. The volleyball was already the lighter ones and the bruising simply means that I am old and my blood vessels are fragile now. I took a brief nap on the hammock as well. The weather was uncomfortably hot and humid although I was thankful that there were no flies, insects, or mosquitos.

Dinner was quite interesting: they spread long tables with banana leaves and the rice and vegetables and meat were placed on top of it. That was my first time eating with my hands in God-knows-how-long. The evening was so unbearable because of the humidity and the heat and the absence of any breeze.

I was knocked out before 11pm and I had to be thankful for the other 2 guys who fell asleep before me. The boys' bedroom happened to be the karaoke room and initially I was worried that people would be singing all night. The room was so messy and I did not know who would sleep where but since I was one of the earlier sleeper, I just could not be bothered and chose my spot first. I kept waking up when people coming in and still having conversation until almost 3am. Essentially I only had uninterrupted sleep from 3am to 5am.

Looking back after the day was over, it was actually not really a bad experience. I survived a day without internet since the reception was so bad. I survived sleeping in a room with 14 guys and common toilets which were ew.. Lucky the boss (not my direct boss) that came with me from Singapore allowed me to use the bathroom in her private room so for bathing etc was alright for me.

The bus ride to Makati took 5 hours as we made quick stops to get souvenir as well as Twin Lakes Tagaytay. It was too foggy to look at Lake Taal and Volcano, though.
So difficult to see the lake and the volcano. Photo also does not capture the mountainous terrain as nicely as what my eyes saw.
I tried to use Grab to go to the airport and that was a better choice than taxi. Another good learning point. Thank God the flight back was not delayed although I was irritated by the fat lady sitting next to me who had no consideration with the amount of space she took when she was eating. Why on earth she took a middle seat considering her size and inconsideration of others around her.

I was so tired from this trip that I slept through my afternoon nap from 5pm to past midnight yesterday. I forgot to switch on my alarm. Haha.. Because of that I requested to work from home today as my tummy was very gassy. It is not bad to work from home when there is a lot of admin work but it is not ideal for actual editorial work. Well, coming back to office tomorrow.

Anyway I should learn to be grateful. Last time I was jealous with people who got the chance to travel frequently in their work. Now that I get to experience work travel, I should be happy instead of complaining about being tired, not flying with SQ, bla bla bla. Forgive me, Lord, for my ungratefulness.

For now, I would like to rest until the end of the year. Going to 4 countries (Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and the Philippines) in 2 months is very tiring. I am old liao.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

X-men: Dark Phoenix

Right from the first trailer, I know that the movie will not be good but I never expect that it will turn out to be this crappy. The movie is bad in every aspect. Since the reboot of X-men movies, the actors are nowhere as good as the original X-men trilogy so let's not go into there. The action scenes are so badly CGI-ed and lazily choreographed that they are terribly unacceptable for a superhero genre.

The plot does not even attempt to weave a story and it feels so mechanical for the purpose of having the elements that they want to feature. We start with introduction of how eventually Jean Grey will manifest her Phoenix power, sub-plot drama among Professor X, Mystique, and Beast, Jean Grey losing control and simply flying here and there, aliens appearing to tap into the Phoenix power, sub-plot to somehow put all the characters together under one circumstance so that they can fight together for the 'climax'. Everything feels so disjointed as if there is no head and no tail for the whole story.

It is not surprising that this will be the worst of all X-men movies and will be projected to lose money. For those who hate X-men: The Last Stand (which is also doing Dark Phoenix saga), suck it up :p I don't know why there is so much hate for that movie because I think it is not that bad. Now we get this Dark Phoenix to show what shit really is. Lol.

Despite knowing that this is going to be shit, I still watched it because ultimately this is the last of X-men movie as Marvel has obtained back the rights to X-men. It is quite ironic and sad that the very first X-men movie kickstarted all the superheroes genre and yet it ends with this X-garbage: Dark Rubbish.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Conan & Spidey

I finally made the special trip to Conan mural painting at Chinatown yesterday morning. Thank you for a friend who was willing to accompany me to go there and help me take photos at 8am. We were both late for about 15 minutes. I had to end the fun earlier when a group of inconsiderate (read: bastard and asshole) bicycle group arrived. Obviously I was taking photos there and they happily parked their bikes around. I especially wore the t-shirt I got from the Fans' Screening and I brought to Conan shirt I bought at Tottori. Luckily the only photo I did not manage to take is the one next to Kaito Kid's insignia with me wearing the Conan shirt from Tottori.
The restaurant next to the mural was not open yet but they never kept their tables and chairs -_-
Conan is quite nicely drawn. And yes durian is nice!
Kaito Kid's insignia
The hidden Blue Sapphire
Honestly I am not a fan of mural paintings and I am here just because of Conan. Hehehe..

I went to airport for Spiderman Meet and Greet. Haha.. Just nice that I want to replenish my supplement so I thought I might as well buy it from the airport and get the pass for the Meet and Greet. I am quite disappointed with the Spiderman as he was quite padded. It looks as if he was fat rather than lean and muscular like the movie Spiderman. With body like that, his head appeared small and rather mis-shapen =x Nevertheless, I think the guy inside did a really good job with the variety of his poses with each group. I was quite paiseh since most people were parents with little kids sia. Haha..
Too bad I cannot keep the photo pass card
Today is the Pentecost Sunday and I had my first experience involved in a church bazaar. Pentecost is the feast day of the Church of the Holy Spirit and I chose to help out for the 7am-9am slot. I am not good with cooking or promoting food so I am happy to help with money and filling cups with soya bean.

It has been a tiring week and I have barely a week to recover before flying to the Phillipines next Sunday for work.

Friday, June 7, 2019

End of Bangkok trip

I only slept for 3 hours yesterday. My family's flight was at 6am and mine was at 830am. To make things simpler, I just followed them to the airport. I had trouble staying awake while waiting for my check in (desk was only open at 610am) and I was very happy that the eateries at Suvarnabumi Airport were already open: whether the usual breakfast or coffee places as well as sushi restaurants and proper meal restaurants.

I was still quite full and it was a dilemma to consume my last Priority Pass free lounge entry vs experiencing a lounge other than at Changi. I ended up choosing the second and I went to Miracle First Class Lounge. Miracle Business Lounge is just next to it and from the interior design, the names reflects the atmospheres aptly. Since both are Priority Pass lounges, it was a no-brainer to choose the First Class Lounge. The food choices were similar to Western spread of a typical hotel breakfast buffet (omelette, sausages, bacons) so I could enjoy. I decided to try Singha beer as I keep seeing this brand lol. Since it was free, I was not obliged to finish the whole can.
No more beer trying after this.. All beers taste similar.
I think my trip to the lounge is justified for the TOILET. Haha.. The toilet is special because it is a private toilet cubicle with sink, urinal, and toilet bowl. I normally avoid shitting at public toilet if I can but this toilet was really good. Haha.. There was even a pair of slippers provided to make 'manouvering' inside easier. Lol. Now I no longer wonder why this lounge is one of the Global Airport Lounge of the Year winner according to Priority Pass.

The flight back was initially irritating as there were so many noisy kids and babies and I wanted to sleep. Miraculously after taking off, somehow these kids and babies were asleep so I was able to catch on my sleep.

I was considering to return to office in the afternoon to save half day of my annual leave. In the end I have to accept that I am an old man now and I am too tired. I was crossing my fingers for Burger and Lobster or Shake Shack at JEWEL to no avail. The queues for both were madness. Luckily Pokemon Center had no queue. I am not a fan of Pokemon but cannot help myself from getting souvenirs =x
Pokemon Center Singapore special
Not something unique to Pokemon Center Singapore but Lapras and Pikachu are one of the more likeable Pokemons so who can avoid both together hehe..
There is Spiderman Far From Home event tie-up at Changi Airport currently. Like the previous Harry Potter event tie-up, most of the decors is cardboard and meh. The only interesting display is the three Spiderman suits for the movie.
Spoiler for the movie: the middle suit is called stealth suit or something according to the signage

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Bangkok Trip Day 2

Today is the last day of the trip and I did not manage to shop what I wanted to get. My dad insisted on showing us MBK center (MBK stands for Mahboonkrong) which turns out to be rather rubbish. Instead of the feel of Thai markets, MBK center feels more like Lucky Plaza to me. There are more shops run by South Asians instead of the Thais and most of the items are not the usual Thai souvenirs. Don't even think of finding 100 baht stuff here.

We went to Platinum Fashion Mall and it took almost 1.5 hours just to wait for Grab and the actual ride. Yes, that is how crazy the traffic was. Now this is the shopping that I love from Thailand. Sadly, being unprepared for a trip means not knowing that the mall closes at 8pm and the shops are already preparing to close from 715pm. Sigh.. We reached there only at 6pm and there was simply not enough time to shop :( I only bought one bucket hat. Before entering the shop and trying, my sister said it was cute. As I was about to pay, my sister said it made me look like Korean ahjumma. Oh well.. 250 baht for a souvenir and to pay for my curiosity to see if this hat will flatten my hair. Initially I wanted to get the one with rabbit design but the inside of the fabric has some marker writings. The other one with the same design had the rabbit less conspicuous (the design is actually based on Alice in the Wonderland) so I ended up with a green leaves design.

I finished my remaining THB at Big C to get a discounted Adidas sleeveless shirt (700 baht) and red singlet (495 baht) with Superman logo. I still prefer the green singlet and the Mickey muay thai that I saw at Asiatique yesterday :( They are not cheap too! I just don't want to bring and exchange back the THB so never mind.

What made me rather happy today was fast food. I tried salted egg chocolate drink (no joke!) from Cafe Amazon. I was expecting it to be quite weird but surprisingly the contrasting taste actually worked. In the morning, my sister and I saw the chicken skin at KFC. We went to KFC at Platinum Fashion Mall but there was no chicken skin. I ended up getting Pop Zeed which is essentially like popcorn chicken. It was supposed to have 21 pcs but I felt there were more than that. It was spicy but not in a stomach burning way like McD's spicy mcnuggets. Hahaha... We bought the chicken skin at KFC Big C (the chicken skin is only available at certain stores) and it was not up to my nostalgia standard. I closed the day with pork burger from McD.

I accompanied my sister to visit LINE Village in the morning. We spent about 2 hours there and I personally think 990 baht is quite expensive. As a comparison, it is slightly less than half of 1-day ticket to Tokyo Disneyland or Disneysea. No way the fun or value at LINE Village is even a quarter of Disneyland. I am also not really a fan of LINE but since I was already spending money and time, I might as well maximise the time to take photos as if I were a fan.

LIVE Village consists of various rooms decorated after LINE characters. One thing that I must commend is the staff. Although they are not present in every room and their main job is to watch people not to damage things, they are very proactive in asking if we want help to take photos. Some of the rooms have mirrors and the staff also made effort to position themselves so as not to get reflected while helping to take photos. I am really impressed.

The experience here is highly dependent on the other visitors. If you are together with others who are inconsiderate and unable to share the space for respectful photo taking, you will be miserable. If you are together with others who are here to also take photos, usually it will be ok as we will respect one another.

I feel rather pissed at the end of today but I guess I should not be complaining. I decided that I am just a follower for this trip and I just want to spend sometime with family. It is kinda irritating that I did not really manage to shop but my bigger irritation is how we are always 'quarreling' every 1-2 hours over the simple things: where to go, what to eat, what to do. I am not really rigid with itinerary planning during travelling but a trip with zero planning whatsoever is really horrible. No wonder I am antisocial and prefer travelling alone.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Bangkok Trip Day 1

The last time I visited Bangkok was in 2008. I recently watched a Thai drama series on Youtube and it makes me want to re-visit. It was a nice surprise that my family is going to Bangkok during this Hari Raya. It was quite sudden and I felt quite torn between tired (this is between my Taiwan holiday and my upcoming work trip to the Philippines) and to save leave vs a holiday with an aunt who hardly goes overseas. Not to mention that for some selfish reasons, my family is taking 6am flight back on the Friday :( That means I will be only spending 2 days and wasting my leave on Friday just to fly back when we could have flown back on Saturday instead.

I only exchanged $87 worth of SGD to THB and it was ridiculous that my trip to the airport this morning cost half of that. Thanks to the limousine cab assigned to my advance booking. Next time I should remember to ask for regular taxi.

I had a surprise in getting seat 1B on the flight. Too bad it was on Scoot so first row is still Economy. Usually they charge $40-80 extra for first row so I shall count my blessings. The boarding gate was a bus gate so my 'Board me First' was only for boarding the bus to the plane. Lame. The overhead compartment for the first row is reserved for plane stuff so it was quite troublesome to put it on the second row. I usually avoid front seats as there is no seat in front to put in my valuables bag. I thought front seats would mean putting everything on the overhead compartment but on this flight, we were asked to put behind metal bar under our own seats. Overall I had quite a good first row experience haha. It allowed me to leave the plane early and coupled with early flight timing, I had zero queue for the immigration too.

I did not take taxi for few reasons: I wanted to try the train system, I wanted to avoid morning rush traffic jam, and I was afraid if the taxi driver brought me elsewhere. I borrow a Rabbit card from a colleague which turns out to be only useable for BTS. Airport Rail Link is a separate system and I had to buy separate ticket. The machine does not accept 1000 baht note so thank God 7-11 could give me change although I only bought 11 baht mineral water. It is also interesting that instead of usual paper card for the train ticket, a plastic token is used instead. This token is to be tapped like a card upon entrance and is to be slotted into the gantry upon exit.
My first time so I find this very fascinating
The train ride experience itself was quite horrendous. It was packed and warm. There is no demarcation on the seats so people were just squeezing their butts to sit as long as they could fit. The guy next to me was quite sweaty and did not make any attempt to keep his arm and leg away from me. Haiz. It cost 45 baht and took about half an hour from airport to the other end (Phayathai) for me to change to BTS. I realised that Thai pronounciation is not always the same as reading the English as Phayathai sounds like 'viathai' to me and the other stations also do not sound like how I expect the English letters to be read.

BTS saves my impression on the trains here. The train is cooling and is as nice as Singapore MRT. Bangkok is the first overseas city I visited for holiday in 2008 and being first, I took some photos on the road and shopping malls even when they were just like any other shopping malls. Those photos are useful today as they help me to orientate myself to walk from the BTS station to the hotel although that big Gaysorn signage is gone now.

The first thing that my dad did was to return the angpaus I gave my grandma since Monkey year. She had not even opened them :( I was not upset about the money but more of the reminder that my grandma just passed away last year.

We went to Big C next to the hotel for the money changer. Since there are 5 of us, we somehow decide that Grab is indeed the most convenient way to go around since we can specify a 6-seater request.

We went to ICONSIAM which my ex-colleague recommended. The mall is too atas for me to shop and the decoration is too artificial for me to enjoy taking photos so definitely it is not my cup of tea. However the night market area is quite amazing for traditional street food and souvenirs. I think the prices are reasonable and the quality is still above average at least. The theme-ing of the toilets is interesting although not my cup of tea to take photos haha..

Within 5 hours here, I had 2 cups of drink: Thai Milk Tea from Cha Trai Mue and Okinawa Magma Lava from Kamu Tea. According to the picture, Okinawa Magma Lava has tiramisu in the center and topped with cocoa. The cocoa was good but I did not really taste any tiramisu. Anyway both are too sweet for me and I was not asked about sugar level.

The mall is next to a river and when we wanted to go out in the afternoon, it was raining. The mall was lending umbrellas for people to go out. Amazing service indeed. I did not go out since the view was nothing unique or different from any other rivers.

We took Grab to Asiatique which is open only from 4pm. From a high end shopping mall, Asiatique feels super warm and humid. Nonetheless I was so excited to see 100-200 baht t-shirts and pants. I bought an elephant pants (100 baht) and a thai silk shirt (300 baht). I decided to KIV a green singlet (150 baht which I thought quite expensive for a singlet) and a singlet with Mickey muay thai picture (180 baht). I did not manage to find shorts or baggy pants with elephant designs with reasonable price. I was eyeing for hats that look like bowler hat/fishermen hat but they seem not to be made of fabric and hence not collapsible. I think it will be a hassle to keep. I think can get one for 150-200 baht. I saw one made of green fabric but it was 400 baht. Ow.. No way I am paying that much. I am not a hat or cap person as it will flatten my hair. However I want to try this type of rather tall hat since I think the top will not be pressing down and flatten my hair. 400 baht just to experiment is too much.

Japanese and Western food are dominating Asiatique. We chose a Thai-Asian restaurant which I thought was just mediocre at best. I prefer more authentic Thai taste like the ones we had in ICONSIAM earlier.

Despite the tiredness, I decided to finish souvenir shopping by tonight. Big C had crazy queue past 9pm as fhe tour groups are rushing to end their tour. I went to the shopping mall next door (called Market) in hope of finding other supermarket. There is a souvenir food shop instead and that is good enough.

I am glad that after 11 years, Bangkok remains a nice place to do shopping as cheap as 100 baht (though most of the minimum seems to be at 200 baht). There is nice skywalk connecting Siam area all the way to Pratunam for covered walking now. One major change that I feel, however, is that people seem to be less friendly as compared to the past.