Thursday, March 31, 2011

More about our Bali Trip, March 2011

This is a continuation from here. With any girly holidays, naturally a spa visit is a MUST. So after a satisfying martini-laden lunch on Friday, we staggered off in search of a spa. Okay. Okay. It was not that bad. We were not drunk. We actually sat and chatted over cups of latte and tea for a couple of hours.... :-P

Took a cab to coast along Jalan Seminyak Raya in search of a spa. When CC saw a sign for 'Jari Menari ' (translation: Dancing Fingers), she directed the taxi driver to go there. We were wondering why he was SNIGGERING away and seems too amused with his repeat of the shop's name. When we got into the shop, we found out that ALL the masseuse are MEN. No wonder the stupid taxi driver was sniggering away lah... he must be wondering this FOUR ladies gonna have some 'fun' in this place. Immediately thoughts of whether this place provides a bona-fide massage or otherwise crept up in our minds.
CC and JC read the brochure and I remember the words "professionally-trained" were mentioned. But WN and I were not comfortable to have male masseuses. I would be too conscious to relax and enjoy the massage. I will probably be mumbling "don't go there. don't go there" in my mind!
CC and JC were quite keen to try it, especially the FOUR hands massage but again... they weren't sure if the masseuses are really "professional". What if they are TOO sexy for the masseuse? And he cannot tahan. How?
We decided to give it a miss...
Later on, I had to google 'Jari Menari' and what do you know? It's rated No.1 Attraction in Seminyak on TripAdvisor. Some of the reviews... damn funny. Expressions like "Floated out of the Room"... CC was really keen to also "float out of the room"!
Basically, it is a bona-fide place. Not one with hanky-panky. It even provides massages for kids.

We went to Espace (No.2 on TripAdvisor) the following day. I have to say that it slightly less than satisfactory in my opinion. The premises are so-so. Showers are small and located away from the massage rooms. There are no proper hangers nor tables in the rooms to hang our clothes/store our items. The masseuse seems to be rushing to meet the 90-minute duration. There are many spas in Jakarta that have better facilities and do a better job. Most of the spas that I go to here have showers in every room; proper hangers and little boxes etc to store jewellery etc. So much more convenient. Can you imagine if you have had a scrub, and you need to dart out to the common shower room but it is occupied? Adoi!
That was my only spa visit in Bali. The other two ladies, JC and WN were on a spa-mode and visited the spa across from our hotel twice. Yup. 3 Spa visits in 4 days...

CC and I were more into lounging by the beach ... she with her Chit Lit and me with my....... iGCSE Maths!!! Hahhahah Nope. Not kidding. I was reading up on the syllabus and doing some revision (going to start tutoring.. my first class is today!), and that brought upon some questions regarding S1's Maths class at school. That started a whole chain reaction which resulted in more worries & stress for me, and a meeting with the Class Rep for Year 9 that will take place this morning at 10 AM. That will be in a separate post... don't wanna spoil this post. It is a HOLIDAY post after all.......

Basically, we didn't do any real sightseeing. Just hopping around to different places having tea, coffee and makan-makan. This allowed us to visit EXPENSIVE resorts that we would never have stayed-in, like the Como Shambala and the Ubud Hanging Gardens. With prices from USD 500 and 300/ nite respectively, it is definitely OUT of our price range. But these resorts are very very nice lor.

As WN have not been to Bali, and is planning to come with her family in June; I was more-or-less telling her the things-to-do in Bali with kids. And as Sobek (White-Water Rafting Company) is just next door to the Como Shambala, she was interested to have a look at the facilities .... thinking she could do this with her son and hubs in June. The Sobek supervisor was kind enough to walk us to the starting point (okay... not the whole way but up to where the path descends down to the Ayung). Haven't even reach, WN was grabbing my arm so hard cause she was afraid of heights. As we approached the edge, she just stopped and squatted at the side.... TERRIFIED. The three of us couldn't help laughing (okay. very very bad friends to be laughing at her vertigo but it was indeed very funny) and took our time taking photographs of the beautiful views. The Sobek supervisor wanted to guide her towards the edge but she just refused and wouldn't budge from her position! We had to go and squat with her to get a picture together (no view lah, of course). Needless to say, White-Water Rafting will NOT be in her itinerary.

Okay... gotta go. Continue later...

Do you have what it takes?

I have just been thinking... practically everything in the commercial marketplace involves sales. Be it selling a service, a product, ideas or even time. I supposed that is why there are relatively more sales jobs out there. With most jobs requiring 'selling', it makes sense for everyone to acquire this important skill. Even a school teacher would need to 'sell' her knowledge in an interesting way to her students. Don't you agree?
If you have a knack for 'selling', I guarantee that the world would be your oyster.

For Fitness or Other?

Do you own any Fitness equipment? Cross-Trainer, Treadmill, Exercise Bike or a simple pull up bar? I have a friend who will be relocating back to Canada in a month's time and she is selling off all her Fitness equipment. Though I am really tempted to get the threadmill from her, I am worried that it will only be used vigorously and frequently in the first month only. Thereafter? It will probably end up to be a clothes hanger! That was what happened to the Exercise Bike ......

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Back to the Daily Grind...

Yup. After 4 nights away from hubby, kids and chores, it's back to the daily grind.
So much so that I actually went straight from the airport to the supermarket to get some groceries.
4 nights is waaaaaay too short. :-(
But better than nothing lah.
I had a great time. Eating, Drinking, Gossiping, Chatting, Sharing, Crying, Sighseeing, Spa-ing and of course LAUGHING. Lots and lots of it.
This is what to be expected from FOUR patt-pohs!

Never miss my annual girly holiday with my girlfriends from home. They flew into Denpasar an hour earlier on Friday (25th March), and waited for me at the Black Canyon Cafe over at the airport. Blur-Blur Nomadic Mom could not find the Cafe, and thought it was closed. Called the girls and had a loud "IT IS OPEN. WE ARE INSIDE" blurted into my ear. And when I reached the Cafe, I saw a table with 3 ladies and without bothering to look at their faces, I blabbered away.... And what do you know? It wasn't my friends. Hahahhahaha. They were all sitting INSIDE the cafe. You say lah. Blur or not??

Anyway, we stayed 3 nights in a budget 3* hotel (Puri Saron on Seminyak Beach because one of my gf had 2 nights FREE. This works out to be only RM 240 per person for the 3 nights. Needless to say.... budget means no-frills in the rooms. Though I did not get bitten by bed bugs, my pillows smelled funny and I had to have my sarong draped over them. The room also didn't smell too pleasant, and the shower rail design was rather odd such that when you shower, the toilet seats will certainly get wet. The service is so-so and they didn't really have enough deck chairs. The only plus thing is that it is located right on the beach. Luckily we spent most days out of the hotel....
Nope. Will NOT stay in this hotel again.

After 3 nights, two of my gfs left for home but CC and I stayed on another night. We moved to a nicer hotel in Tanjung Benoa - The Bali Khama. Have to say that this resort is sooooooo much better. The room smells good and so did my pillows. Everything was much better. It was of course more expensive lor. Prepaid a discounted non-refundable rate of USD 123 per night for the room a few months back. Compare this approx. RM 369 per room per night with our budget RM 160 per room per night. Sure 'yatt fann cheen, yatt fann for'.

I supposed the first 3 nights in the budget was also good.... allowed us to splurge in our culinary adventures.
Where did we go?
Friday Lunch @ Anantara, Seminyak with 'shaken not stirred' Lychee Martinis
Friday Dinner @ Jimbaran Bay for seafood (More for the ambience and environment rather than the food)
Saturday Lunch @ Gabah, Kuta for yummy Indonesian foods
Saturday Drinks @ The hotel's beach bar Saturday Dinner @ Chandi, Seminyak with very potent Sangria
Sunday Coffee @ Como Shambala, Ubud
Sunday Lunch @ Ibu Oka, Ubud for BABI GULING
Sunday Tea @ Ubud Hanging Gardens
Sunday Dinner @ La Lucciola, Seminyak (Lovely beach front views!)
Monday Lunch @ Bali Khama's poolside
Monday Dinner @ Tao for Thai food
AND today, Tuesday?? Errrr... McDonald's lunch at the Airport!!

More about my holiday later...

Want a hot tub?

Have you ever imagined soaking in a hot tub with snow-capped mountains as the backdrop? Sounds dreamy and exhilarating, doesn't it? But if you are a practical person like I am, you probably would be wondering about the time required to fill-up such a tub and the cost of heating the water up. However, I just found out that you do not have to drain the water after each usage - by using proper hot tub covers. Not only that, the covers actually keep the heating bills to a minimum. Time to get that coveted hot tub?

Getting Rid of the Holiday Weight...

As with any holidays, I have a BAD habit of putting on weight. It could be a kilogram or two, depending on the length of the holiday and the activities undertaken. The worst was when I went to Melbourne last year - I put on 2 kilograms in 5 days! Can you believe it? What's the damage this holiday? Yikes!!! This 4-night holiday is just as bad. I just weighed myself and I've put on about 1.5 kilograms. Time for a fast weight loss regime. Need to lose some kilos before the Easter Break in two weeks which would mean more weight gain. Need an effective weight loss pill. I just saw some not so good lipozene reviews online. So what other weight loss pills would you suggest?

Girly Holiday Shots

Just came back from my annual girly holiday with my girlfriends in Bali. We were there for 4 nights, and that is definitely too short. Don't you think? We had a blast! Eating, drinking, chatting, gossiping, sightseeing, lazing, spa-ing and of course laughing till our bellies ached. Couldn't be better.... Wait a minute. It could have been better if we had brought our digital slr cameras for great photos. Unfortunately, all of us were travelling light and brought only our point-and-shoots and camera phones. Hopefully, we will still get some decent quality photos of our 2011 Girly Trip.

Friday, March 25, 2011

So Many Things to do...So Little Time...

Ok. Perhaps that is not true.
It is just me procrastinating for the longest of time, coupled with my lazy piggy body that got me into this frenzy.
So many things cropping up and things happening.
Besides the issue of searching for a new house and the move etc etc, I had to deal with a little "blackmailer" (too long to elaborate here), stop a small "business", do some research on anothet "business" and now to study iGCSE Maths. And what do I do with the little time I have? I fly off to Bali to meet my girlfriends. not exactly using my time effectively and productively!!
Okay. Later...

A Long Weekend of Fun, Food, Sand and ....

WooHoooooo.... The time has finally come.
After ticking off the days on my calender, I am OFF for my annual girly trip for some fun, food, sand and perhaps some eye candies?? Shhhhhhh... don't tell the hubs.
Now where are we girls off to this year?
Yup. It is Bali again - the Island of the Gods.
Better be off now. Flight is in 3 hours. Have I packed everything?
Swimwear, flip-flops, sunblock lotion, etc etc... and most importantly the adipex diet pill bottle. Wouldn't want to be 5 pounds heavier from all the yummilicious food and drinks, do we??

Monday, March 21, 2011

Singapore, Warsaw, Helsinki and ???

This should be a continuation from here.
If you have been following my blog, you would have known that my life has been a roller-coaster ride since the beginning of 2010.

Started off with us wanting to move to Singapore in July 2010. With me visiting the International Schools in Singapore in April 2010. There were nights whereby I worry about the various education systems (British, Singapore, IB etc etc), the high cost of living (housing, etc etc), and the worry was kinda 'useless' as we ended up staying till end-2010.

Then came end-2010, H's boss wanted us to move to Warsaw, Poland. But as mentioned here, H kept trying to sway his boss to offer him Singapore but that backfired, and Helsinki was in. I spent sooooo many hours worrying, being stressed, surfing the net to check out the houses etc etc. I was to go for a look-see at Helsinki, and we were to move in July 2011 once boys finishes their school.
And whilst I was there, Helsinki was taken off the table. Found out two days before I was due to leave the country. I had actually planned to visit the Malaysian Embassy on Thursday, and the School on Friday. So with this sudden change, I cancelled the appointments and ended up jalan-jalan in the city.

So where was offered?????
Huntingon, UK or Dallas, Texas
As the cost of living is so high compared to the US, Dallas was sorta selected.
So for the week I was back in Jakarta, I was surfing the net for housing and schools etc etc.
Thank you, bp for giving me the site for schools.

Again, spent hours researching and decided that if we do move to Dallas, I want to live in Coppell District. Why?
The school district is highly rated, and ALL the high schools are rated 10 (out of 10) in the Texas State Exams. Median Household income is over USD 110 K, Median House prices is USD 248 K, and most schools have a 15-20% of Asian students. The number of 'economically challenged' student is low at about 3%. Some schools have a high percentage like 75%. I don't mean to be mean or snooty, but these numbers are important as I don't want my kids to be robbed of their iTouch or Nike shoes. The higher number of Asians would also mean that there would be a bit of kiasu-ism in the academics, thus the higher ratings in the Exams!! (Some schools are like 80 % Hispanics and Blacks. No. Not racist. Just think my kids need some friends of the same colour as them)
What's more? I saw a reaaaaaaaally nice 3500 sq ft house with terrace and pool at USD 375 K. Malaysia or Singapore where can get? I was ready to pack my bags liow...

But But... would H be happy to do this job for long????
What about his 'venture' and 'plans' here?

We had so much uncertainties that we were arguing quite a bit since he came back from Helsinki... but somehow, when we were discussing last Friday, there were no arguments. I was pretty calm and even told him to go ahead... and.....

S2's ABRSM Exam was THIS Morning!

Finally. Done.
Had been grilling this boy to Practise. Practise. Practise.
There was some frustrations, tantrums, some anger and even some tears...
Even at yesterday night's practice, our friend was still making mistakes.
Anyway, it took place at 8.59 AM this morning and he said he was at the music department to do some last minute practice and to get some tips from his music teacher. The Examiner was English, as usual.

When I picked him up this afternoon and asked him how it was, he said it was GOOD and then added with his typical "SKIIIILLLLLL" (skill) remark. He said "perhaps can get a merit" and then a couple of minutes later said "if I fail, I will shave my head!" Hahahhaa
Well, this Mommy is certainly happy that this is out of the way .... phew....
The next thing is to wait for the results.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Who is Moving to Helsinki???

Errr... NOT us.
Especially since I went all the way to Helsinki to have a look-see. I was telling H that luckily the decision came towards the end of my trip (Wed, 2nd March), when there was only 2 days left. Otherwise, I really don't know what to do with so many days in Helsinki. Can't exactly be a tourist everyday, especially when I am not a museum person.I had actually spent the first week checking out the markets, Asian grocery stores, department stores, book shops etc to check out how much things costs, what is the variety etc.

I have to say that Helsinki is a very livable city, if you don't mind the cold winters (Brrrr... ). How else would the country be ranked the best in the world in the 2010 Newsweek survey based on health, economic dynamism, education, political environment and quality of life? It is also the second most stable country in the world. Read more about Finland at Wikipedia's page.

Remember my worries about moving there and the language? Well, really no need to worry!! Besides, everyone speaks English. The moment you hesistate, people will speak English to you. H was saying that this taxi driver of his, an Argentinian married to a Finnish girl was complaining that he has been there for over 5 years and yet he can't speak Finnish as everybody speaks English to him. The only thing I have to say is that you do need to learn to read - so that KNOW about discounts on magazines that is only printed in Finnish!

Asian grocery stores? NO problemo.
There are many around the Hakaniemi Metro Station. Right at the station, there's a kind of Pakistani/Indian grocery store (donno the name)- basmati rice, Thai Jasmine rice and some Chinese and Thai sauces amongst the halal items. Then there's Aseanic Trading on Kolmas Linja. This shop was recommended by the Thai owner of a Thai Food Stall. True enough, it was very well-stocked.... even more than some Jakarta supermarkets. There's even the dried lotus leaf for hor-yeep-fann and dried leaves for bak-chang. Kepoh Nomadic Mom struck up a conversation with the cashier - a Malaysian lady married to a Finn. Her bosses are all Malaysians, and according to her, there are about 300-400 Malaysians in Finland (very few!), and funnily she asked if I was planning to open a restaurant in Helsinki. Not far away, there is another Asian grocery store called Vii Voan stocking all the Vietnamese goodies amongst other things. And on the same road, there are two more Indian grocery stores. I'm told by the Malaysian lady that there is another one around the area....but I didn't check that one out. So between these 5 shops, you can actually buy all your Asian groceries to cook up a storm or perhaps a banquet!
The prices ? I thought they were quite reasonable..... probably because Jakarta is notorious for expensive imported items.
If you wanna eat Asian, you probably need to cook because we went to a Chinese restaurant in town and it really sucked. Big Time. Not to mention expensive. Our Euro 11 Fried noodle was really really sad. Even my son can fry better noodles.

How about English books? No problem too... And there's also the imported magazines... But then these days, don't really need to buy physical books when you can just download onto the iPad.

Departmental stores? Stockmann just has about everything though some things are kinda pricey. But there are more affordable ones lah... but I don't remember their names.

One thing I notice about Finland is that their household items and furniture is really really nice. You would probably think Scandinavian design. Actually, Finland is not Scandinavian. It is actually a Nordic country. Because we live sooooooooooooooo far from this place, we don't really know about their brands such as Pentik, Marimekko etc. But I have to say that they are lovely lovey lovey.

Transportation in Helsinki is great... Buses, Trams and Metro all run on time. Got around on my own okay. Not probs. But of course if you really move there, probably get a 4WD???

The only thing that deters people is the cost of living. Housing especially.... scarily high. Not to mention the tax. Read that it can be 60%!!! Wariow!

So where are we moving to?
Well, that deserves to have its own blog post!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Random Photos of Helsinki...

Considering that I stayed in Helsinki for a total of 8 nights (19 Feb - 25 Feb and 2 Mar - 4 Mar), I didn't take as many photos compared to the 2 nights in Salzburg or the 3 nights in Munich. That is primarily because it was FREAKING COLD.... like waaaaaaay below freezing (-18 deg C!!) whereas the temperature at Salzburg and Munich was warmer at about 3-5 deg C. And to fiddle with my DSLR, I had to remove my gloves and that is certainly NO fun. Thus the lesser number of photos...
Anyway, the photos in this post are not in any geographical order.

We stayed at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel on Mikonkatu, right in the center of the city. Very convenient for me to wander around the city on my own.

A snowy view of the Park beside Radisson Blu Plaza

Naked Lady Statue...wonder if she is freezing???

Wood Carving in the Park... Sweet!

Frozen Baltic Sea - seen from Kauppatori
If cold enough, ice roads are open to the islands
During warmer months, Flower stalls surround this fountain
(this is near Kauppatori)

Statue of Alexandra ?? of Russia at Senate Square

Government Palace
(I think)

Helsinki Cathedral

Big Square in front of the Central Railway Station

Ateneum Art Museum

Some Music Theater near the Hotel

Check out this 'STUCK' Boat
Taken near the Kauppatori
Me and my BIG handbag
Frozen Tortoise??

Uspenski Cathedral
Statue in the Park at The Explanadi

Where is the Park Bench?
There it is!!!
Hard at Work to remove the Tonnes of Snow!

Restaurant in the Park by the Esplanadi
(cannot remember the name)
Inside the Restaurant....
Walkway by the Park, Esplanadi
Statues at the Esplanadi Park... They look like they are touching..

But actually, they are not...

That's it. So few, yeah? Plus I forgot to load the battery into my DSLR when I went to Tallinn, Estonia. So no photos from there. Bleah...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Helsinki's Old Market Hall

Many of Helsinki's markets are Indoors as outside temperatures can be waaaaaaay below freezing. The first week I was in Helsinki, the temperatures were -20 deg Celsius to about -10 deg Celsius. This is certainly not very pleasant. Read about my BRAIN FREEZE episodes here.

As I have a penchant of visiting markets in foreign cities, I headed out to Kauppatori - an open market square. But it was waaaaaaaay too cold and I think there were only 2 or 3 stalls in the market square. But you can't really tell that they were stalls as it was hidden beneath covered tents. When I peeked into one of them, it was a stall selling fresh fish. I am told in warmer weather, especially summer, the whole place will be hustling and bustling with flower stalls etc etc.

I guessed in this below-freezing weather, enclosed indoor market makes sense!

The following photos are taken at the Old Market Hall near to the Kauppatori.

Corridor along the Old Market Hall,

Cheese Stall

Pork Stall

Vege Stall

Fruit Stall

Handmade Chocolates

Reindeer, Bear, Elk Meat etc

Handmade Chocolates

Smoked Fish of All Sorts

Fresh Fish... lots of Salmon
Salmon is the cheapest fish...

Cooked Shrimps and More Fish

Lobster, Shrimps and Snow Crabs
Whole Range of Olives

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Two Nights in Salzburg, Austria...

As mentioned here and here, we flew into Munich from Helsinki on the 25th of Feb and took a regional train to Salzburg. We stayed two nights at the 4* Crown Plaza - The Pitter at a rate of USD 99/nite booked through Priceline's Name Your Own Price. What's more? We were upgraded to a Junior Suite. I checked the rate online and a Junior Suite is Euros 135/nite. That's like a discount of USD 100/nite. Wah! D@mn happy lor!

Salzburg is such a pretty city, and it's listing on UNESCO's World Heritage Site is indeed worthy.
Read up more on theis beautiful city here.
We were very lucky as the weather was good with clear blue skies...
What did we do here?
Sight-see. Eat. Drink.

Here are some of my photos...

Festung Hohensalzburg
Walked up. Almost the cable car is NON-operational in winter!

View of Salzburg from Festung Hohensalzburg

One of Salzburg's Oldest Streets

Christmas in Salzburg
Year-Round Xmas Shop

Mozart's Birthplace on Getreidegasse

Mirabell Palace

Meeting Place for The Sound of Music TOUR

Mirabell Gardens
Maria and the Children were singing Do-Re-Mi all over these gardens

Hellbrunn Palace

The Sound of Music Gazebo

Beautiful Views

The Mondsee Cathedral
Wedding Scene in the Movie (not actual...)

We had apple strudel here at Mondsee

Forgot to upload photos of Leopoldskron Palace...where the Terrace and Boating scenes from The Sound of Music were shot. Go to Wikipedia for a picture of it.

After two nights in Salzburg, we took the train back to Munich on Sunday, 27th Feb. Go here for Munich posts.