Posts tagged: Shanghai

Man vs Wild OR Aussie Pete vs Shanghainese Food

By , February 9, 2011 8:30 pm

Bear GryllsThis is an article to make even the infamous Bear Grylls envious!

OK, so at least the star of the hit Discovery Channel show has more courage than me – he eats his exotic dishes raw (and even still alive) most of the time.

Now I’m not talking about your every day food that can be found anywhere in most parts of Asia – such as fish head soup, chickens feet or pigs trotters – whenever I’m in Shanghai, I often find myself outdone by my wife when it comes to how much my stomach (and mind) can handle (and she’s not very happy that I’m ‘making fun’ of the local food – but really, I’m not… I truly am envious!!)

For my ‘western’ readers, perhaps now might be a good time to look away if you’ve yet to eat dinner tonight.

The following are pictures I’ve taken of a few examples of the dishes that have been served to me over recent days here in China.

Let’s begin with something that I’d already previously had the pleasure of partaking in (once in Taiwan)… the well-known and recognised ‘ducks tongue’:

Ducks Tongue

Next – and maybe not that exotic to many – ‘spicy frog‘… for those connoisseurs of European food, I’m not talking about your expensive delicasy that is frogs legs… this is the real thing – the whole frog in all of it’s glory!:

Spicy Frog

We’ve all eaten our share of prawns… but quite frankly, I prefer mine cooked and not still twitching:

Raw Prawns

The thing that I was so impressed about when we were served this deep-fried snake, was the very skillful way they carefully sliced then rolled the skin to form parts of the side ‘salad’ (the black and white striped slivers in this picture):

Deep Fried Snake

OK – so maybe we were not really asked to eat a cow’s head… but I was intrigued to see our beef served up on a platter that was the real skull of a once-live bovid:

Cow Skull

Last but not least – we didn’t actually eat this, but it is a common belief in many parts of China, that young children when they are ready to start weaning on to solid foods should first be given a very small sip of soup made from the stock of a goose head – this is said to help if the baby should fall down as they start toddling… it is believed that extra strength will be given to the neck to avoid the baby hitting their head – so this dish was especially for Casey… Jaime also had a sip of the same when he was ready to start weaning:

Goose Head

2011 CNY – Another Year of the Pig?

By , February 3, 2011 9:35 pm

CNY Portrait

Of course, everybody knows that we are now in the Year of the Rabbit… but if you take note of what I’ve been eating over the last week in Shanghai, you would be forgiven for thinking that I should be back in 2007… the Year of the Pig (because I’ve been gorging myself like an absolute swine)!!

Year of the RabbitI’m putting any weight gain down to the slower metabolism due to the cold weather up here north of the equator… the day we arrived it was -3C with a little snow. Although I do know that the activities we partake in during the festive season are probably large contributors to the shift in belly circumference… here in China during Lunar New Year, it’s nothing but Eat… Play… Sleep… Eat… Play… Sleep (*repeat*) 🙁

Anyway, just for a quick update on the activities so far, here are a few of the highlights:

1. Dinner with the immediate family

[Click here for the full gallery from the evening]

[And Here for Part 2]

CNY Family Dinner

CNY Family Dinner

2. Official Studio Photo Shoot for the two boys

[Click here for the full gallery from Casey’s Photo Shoot]

Casey Photo Shoot

[Click here for the full gallery from Jaime’s Photo Shoot]

Jaime Photo Shoot

3. Sammi’s (First) 2011 Birthday Dinner – Another much larger one planned tomorrow lunch and dinner with extended family

[Click here for the full gallery from Sammi’s First Birthday Dinner]

Sammi First Birthday Dinner

Sammi First Birthday Dinner

4. Bringing in the New Year and Wishing for Longevity and Prosperity through Fire Works

[Click here for the full gallery from CNY Eve Fireworks]

CNY Fireworks

CNY Fireworks

So there you go (for now)… stay tuned for more updates!!

Oh Dear, SIA!! – Why Hast Thou Foresaken Me?

By , December 2, 2010 11:03 pm

Whenever any friends, family or even readers of my blog have contacted me for advice or suggestions on which airline they should engage to travel within the region, I have unhesitatingly always replied, “Singapore Airlines… they may be more expensive than many other carriers, but for the service and comfort that they offer, I think it’s worth the extra investment”.

Kris FlyerIn literally decades of travelling around Asia, whether for business or leisure, I have always booked my (and my family’s) flights through SIA. Over the years, I have always been either a Gold or Silver Kris Flyer member (some years I’ve travelled more than others).

In all, I consider myself to be a completely dedicated and extremely loyal customer of the airline (even though we’ve sometimes had the odd mix-up in seating arrangements and non-availability of an infant’s meal a couple of times – these kind of issues are not commonplace and have not been enough to discourage me from still keeping SIA as my carrier of choice).

Unfortunately, just today, all the faith and confidence that I’ve built up over the years was completely crushed. Oh my dear SIA – Why hast thou forsaken me??

I don’t wish to complicate our plight too much with detailed explanation, so I will simplify and summarize as briefly as I can (at least I’ll try, anyway).

Singapore Airlines

In preparation for our annual pilgrimage back to visit immediate and extended family in Shanghai for Chinese New Year, 2011, my wife had done the usual research on how we could get the best deal through SIA for our preferred departure dates.

All was looking quite encouraging. Flights were available and we had enough frequent flyer miles to secure two adult tickets (which require payment for just the taxes and charges).

The total cost scenario for booking online, without using frequent flyer miles, for two adults, one child and an infant would be as follows (on a ‘sweet deal’):

SIA Price

That’s not too bad, right?? – So far, so good!!

So, next step was to actually make the booking. Given that we wanted to use frequent flyer miles to redeem the two adult fares, I knew that I would need to contact SIA customer service to make sure that there were enough seats available on the same flights for the whole family, also to link the redeemed itinerary with the kid’s tickets… of course, it’s not possible to book a flight online for a child or infant without booking a flight for at least one adult at the same time. NOR can you link current adult tickets or itineraries online to make a booking for a child or an infant.

OK – *ring, ring* – the customer service hotline was very efficient – I got through to a representative almost immediately. Smiling to myself, knowing that this is the kind of service that I’m used to from SIA, I began to explain my requirements.

The first lady with whom I spoke was very helpful, but did explain that I would need to make the online miles redemption for the two adult tickets first, so that I could provide them with the booking reference (not just the flight information), for them to check availability for the child ticket and a bassinet confirmation for the infant fare.

That’s ok – quickly back online, and I use what is a very efficient service to redeem the two adult tickets using frequent flyer miles. All confirmed, and at a total cost of just $548.60 (taxes and charges), thereby saving $1,100 (the top line of the above ‘sweet deal’ price). Pretty neat, hey? And feeling very proud of myself at this stage!!

Singapore Airlines - Economy Class

So – *ring, ring* – back to SIA customer service again – and the same prompt service and immediate answering of my call.

This time, I spoke to a very helpful gentleman. I gave him the booking reference for our two adult redeemed tickets, and he very gladly looked up the flight availability for the child fare. Great news – there are plenty of seats still available. He told me that he will hold the seat for me, while he quickly checked the availability of a bassinet seat for the infant.

Before moving to this next section of the call, he explained to me the cost of the child ticket onboard the same flight… this is where things got very ugly indeed!!

I almost fell off my seat when he explained that the cost for one child would be $1,380.80!! Furthermore, because I was making the booking by telephone, I would be subject to a $50 processing fee – total child fare of $1,430!!

Wait a minute!!! That’s three times what we could purchase the child ticket online for! That’s more than half of the original cost to book all four tickets online – two adults, one child and one infant!

Absolutely aghast, I asked the customer service representative to repeat what he had just said… I know my hearing plays up sometimes from the years that I spent as a DJ in a nightclub in my early 20s. But alas, no, I did indeed hear him correctly!!

I proceeded to explain to him this gross price difference, and although very empathetic, the gentleman just replied that this was the best deal he could offer me over the telephone. I then asked if I could escalate this to someone more senior… “Of course, Sir – but this is still the best deal that we can offer you over the telephone”.

usdollarsHe also explained that if I made the booking online I could get a cheaper price – I reiterated that I could not book online, because the system requires that at least one adult ticket is booked at the same time and that we already have both the adult tickets (through frequent flyer redemption), nor can we somehow link our current tickets or reference to a child and infant booking online. He replied, “Yes, I know that Sir, but that’s the best deal I can offer you over the telephone”.

* SIGH!!!!! *

Now, I’d been left with two choices:

1. Pay the full child fare as offered by SIA along with the infant fare, thus taking the total price with our adult fare taxes and charges to almost the same full price of $2,500, which I could have paid for online with no miles redemption for all four of us. This means I would have practically forfeited 68,000 frequent flyer miles for no value – at the ‘sell price’ offered by SIA to ‘Top Up’ miles (US$40 per 1,000 miles), I would be forfeiting US$2,720 worth of frequent flyer miles!!!

2. Cancel the online miles redemption tickets I had purchased just 15 minutes earlier and purchase the entire package of flights for $2,525.80. The catch?? – A $40 cancellation fee!!

Let’s just pause a moment and do the math:

Booking through frequent flyer miles and adding child and infant tickets:

Total Tickets, Taxes and Fees Cost (app S$2,200) + Cost of Flyer Miles (US$2,720)
= well in excess of S$5,000!!

Booking directly online for two adults, one child and one infant:

= S$2,525!!

Curse WordsSo there you have it… I obviously opted for choice number ‘2’, but when cancelling the tickets I had already redeemed, and finding out also that it takes 10-days for SIA to return the money back to my credit card (minus the $40 fee), then booking the full suite of tickets for $2,500 ($1,100 more than I thought I would be paying thanks to frequent flyer miles accrued as a result of my ongoing commitment and loyalty to the airline), I couldn’t help but feel the blood pressure rising in my cheeks, and I sincerely hope that my colleagues could not hear the very obscene curse words that escaped my lips!!

In all, I feel that I was punished financially for SIA’s system inadequacies of not being able to link redeemed flights with child or infants tickets. The system is not flexible enough to cope with something that I would think might be a fairly common scenario, thereby costing me serious $$.

Even with such system inadequacies, I would have hoped that SIA customer service would have been much more attuned to their customers’ needs – especially long-term, loyal and committed ones like me. The staff I spoke to on the phone were very professional and even empathetic (sympathetic?), but at the end of the day, that served very little purpose nor does it make the bitter pill any less difficult to swallow.

NB: As well as posting this very unfortunate experience on both my highly-trafficked and award-winning blog, http://www.aussiepete.com/ and my ‘star blog’, blog.omy.sg/aussiepete, I will be forwarding a copy of this article to SIA directly and through any official PR route, of which I am yet to determine. I do this in the hope that Singapore Airlines will address this process inefficiency and improve it in such a way that no other (loyal) customers are disadvantaged in this manner in the future.

‘Legend Of The Seas’ – Or Legends In Our Own Minds?

By , November 25, 2010 1:41 am

Captain Pete and Mark TwainMonday this week seemed like just the ideal opportunity to take a vacation day off work! Little did I know that instead of just attending a tour of a cruise ship followed up with a wonderful lunch, I would actually be getting teased so much with pure luxury and the atmosphere of a tropical holiday, that I was seriously contemplating how I might be able to deceive security and customs and stow-away for the real voyage… *still singing Agadoo in my head (push pineapples, shake the tree) to relive the atmoshpere*

Royal Caribbean ‘Legend Of The Seas’ – that’s the name of the cruise ship… but included among the invited guests were the ‘Who’s Who’ of the Singapore Blogosphere… Real legends in their own right! (or at least in our own minds) 🙂

Some of the 'Who's Who' of the SG Blogosphere

Some of the 'Who's Who' of the SG Blogosphere

The tour organized by OMY, has spurred mine (and my wife’s) interest and yearning – you see, neither of us have been on a real cruise (for vacation) in our lives. Over recent months, Sammi has been hassling me to organize our next holiday – amazingly enough, I found each one of her preferred destinations included in one single package advertised in the brochures handed out – Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Given that we travel back home to the in-laws in Shanghai often, a cruise that starts out there, stops at Okinawa, Taipei and then Hong Kong would earn me huge brownie points!

The great thing about this 5-night cruise package, is firstly the price. The cost for the two of us in one of the luxurious suites is actually significantly cheaper than flying to each of the destinations and paying for hotels. But wait, there’s more! – our first discussion on the idea of a cruise vacation, was around what to do with the kids. Problem solved – not only would we be checking into the family suite, which is absolutely huge with separate rooms and balcony (it’s like an apartment on the ocean), Royal Caribbean have the award-winning ‘Adventure Ocean Youth Program’. “Led by qualified staff and designed for children from six months to 17 years old, the kids will find themselves having fun and making new friends”… Don’t get me wrong, we would want to spend most of the time experiencing the awesome holiday with both of the boys – but at least we have the comfort of knowing that we would still have ample opportunity to sneak off to the casino on our own sometimes, or maybe even bask in the sunshine for some romantic kanoodling by the pool. 🙂

Shanghai - Hong Kong (Itinery)

For my friends and regular readers, you will know that Casey’s way too young when we’re in Shanghai for CNY, 2011 – he’ll be just 4-months old, but that’s ok because when the weather will be quite cold then – I’m guessing the perfect time would be the 8th October, 2011 cruise… *mind starts wandering again in anticipation*

Shanghai to Hong Kong (Cruise Details)

Anyway, I digress. The cruise ship tour has completely caused the travel bug to bite. The only real issue, is that once we get into the family suite, it’s going to be difficult to leave the room. With all of the activities available, we could be risking not making the most of the cruise – perhaps we might have to take two trips back-to-back. Whether it’s playing mahjong, relaxing in the library, eating (and eating), gambling, rock-climbing, golfing, swimming, or partying until the wee hours – I’m not sure how to fit it all into 5-nights. It’s certainly going to require some serious scheduling on our part.

Don’t take my word for it – check it out for yourself:

[youtube 5wUNF11mOeY]

A huge thank you to OMY and Royal Caribbean for the opportunity on Monday. You have successfully gained a true fan and future customer (and online influencer) – James, our tour guide did a wonderful job, and it was thoroughly enjoyable to break the diet at the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ dining room for the mouth-watering lamb shank and ‘chef’s surprise’ dessert.

Royal Caribbean LogoOMY Logo

Aside: there’s one major thing that I didn’t tell my wife for fear of a credit card blow-out… the onboard shopping is akin to an upmarket department store – with a price guarantee!! (that is, if something is cheaper at any of the stopover locations, they will match the price on-board – what the?? – that’s almost like a guranteed perpetual sale). 🙂

Do yourself a favour – join Royal Caribbean and sail the high seas in luxury on board ‘Legend of the Seas ‘- we, without doubt, certainly will be!!

Blogger's Prize

Survival Guide To Wedding Anniversaries (For Men)

By , July 21, 2010 12:26 am

Today was very special for a number of reasons – not only did my wife and I celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary, but I came out of it smelling like roses and should have earned myself enough brownie points to last until our next anniversary (which also happens to be this year – I was married in Shanghai, China, where the registration is often done some months in advance of the formal ceremony… resulting in two wedding anniversaries every year).

Let me explain – I’ve learned over time that the wedding anniversary is just as (if not more) important to one’s wife than her birthday, Christmas day or any other gift-giving celebration time.

So to all the other married guys out there reading my blog, I want to share my experiences and offer to you Aussie Pete’s “Survival Guide for Wedding Anniversaries (For Men)”. All it takes is to follow three very simple guidelines to achieve eternal success and happiness:

1. NEVER FORGET!!
This may seem obvious, but it is very possible that with our everyday chaotic lifestyle at work, we might sometimes forget even the important stuff. If you do happen to forget your anniversary, the next thing you’ll be looking to remember is just where to find that dog house to sleep in. There is a Japanese term used in process improvement, “poka yoke” – loosely translated, it means to ‘failsafe’ or ‘idiot-proof’ something. In the case of your wedding anniversary, the perfect poka yoke solution is to schedule it in your calendar – whether it’s Outlook, Google Calendar or just your iPhone Calendar, schedule in an ‘all day event’ for your wedding anniversary to recur annually with a popup reminder set for the day before. Easy right? – Now you will never forget again and you will have 24-hours to search for that perfect gift… Of course, do not tell your wife that you have scheduled an annual reminder for your wedding anniversary, because by doing so, it could actually have a negative effect on what you’re trying to achieve.


2. MIX IT UP!!
Keep her guessing… Did he remember, or didn’t he? – so on one occasion, wake up and give your wife a big cuddle and say “Happy Anniversary, darling”. Then next time, leave for work without saying anything and surprise her with her gift when you come home. The important message here, is don’t become predictable.

3. A GIFT FROM THE HEART!!
Now if you’re anything like me, buying a present for any occasion can be a very stressful and arduous task. It’s not unusual for me to walk the entire length and breadth of Suntec City for two hours and still have absolutely no idea what to buy. Here’s my secret solution: As I’m sure you already know, there are certain ‘traditions’ for each annual stage of married life. Follow the traditional gifts and let your wife know you’ve done so. Then regardless of what you buy, your partner will always know that you’ve bought the gift with the right romantic intentions. Personally, I have to research again every year to discover what is appropriate, so I am listing them below so that I have a record of which to refer for the rest of our lives.

On a very, very funny note, there is a YouTube video that’s been circulating for a couple of years (from Saturday Night Live – Justin Timberlake feat. Andy – “**** In A Box”) and it makes me roll on the floor with laughter no matter how much I watch it – Although it’s the censored version, I didn’t think it appropriate to embed it here on my OMY blog, so have done so on this same article on the ‘legacy’ Aussie Pete blog – CLICK HERE TO VIEW!! – But be warned, it is very much for 16+ readers only. This kind of present should only be given to your wife if you have been married for a long time and your relationship is at the right level. 🙂

Therefore, for all my new OMY readers, I have embedded something a little more romantic – my diehard fans at the legacy blog have seen this video (more than once)… here’s a ‘trailer’ of our Shanghai wedding from 2006 – “Happy Anniversary, Sammi!!”

[youtube _l49et5RVKI]

TRADITIONAL AND MODERN GIFTS

Year Traditional (U.S.) Traditional (U.K.) Modern (U.S.)
1st Paper Cotton Clocks
2nd Cotton Paper China
3rd Leather Leather Crystal, Glass
4th Linen, Silk Fruit and Flower Appliances (electrical)
5th Wood Wooden Silverware
6th Iron Sugar Wood objects
7th Wool, Copper Woollen Desk sets/Pen & Pencil sets
8th Bronze Salt, Pottery Linens, Lace
9th Pottery, China Copper Leather goods
10th Tin, Aluminum Tin, coal Diamond jewelry
11th Steel Scent Fashion jewelry, accessories
12th Silk Silk and Fine Linen Pearls, Colored gems
13th Lace Barometer Textiles, Furs
14th Ivory Clock Gold jewelry
15th Crystal Crystal Watches
16th Tourmaline Holloware Silver Holloware
17th Furniture Furniture Furniture
18th Turquoise Coloured Gems Porcelain
19th Aquamarine Furniture Bronze
20th China China Platinum
21st     Brass, Nickel
22nd     Copper
23rd     Silver plate
24th Opal   Musical Instruments
25th Silver Silver Silver
29th      
30th Pearl Pearl Diamond
35th Coral, Jade Coral Jade
40th Ruby Ruby Ruby
45th Sapphire Sapphire Sapphire
50th Gold Gold Gold
55th Emerald Emerald Emerald
60th Diamond (Yellow) Diamond Diamond
65th   Blue Sapphire Star Sapphire (Gray)
70th   Platinum  
75th Diamond, Gold Diamond Diamond, Gold
80th Oak Oak  
90th   Granite Granite

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