europe trip day 02: cheesey stuff

So, you’re taking your gf to Switzerland, you’ve lived there for a while and have visited tons of places with your friends. She’s only been to a few. You want to impress her and bring her to a nice place for a day trip, meaning no more than 3 hours drive from Zurich. Where do you go?

Gruyères of course!

Beautiful cobbled street, castle with a view to die for, photogenic houses and of course, cheese, cheese and more cheese! We saw the cheese making process (a bit sterile cos of the semi-automation if you asked me) and had our first Swiss meal together on this trip. She had macaroni cheese and I had bratwurst. Yum.

We walked around the castle, which, truth be told, is a bit empty but is a nice way to spend an hour or so. It was still strange to see the Giger Museum at the entrance, now they have the alien bar opposite, it’s so weird to find alien art in the middle of a medieval castle, but yet it’s so Swiss. Hmmm.

Had tea outdoors, enjoying the sunshine and clean air. Too full to try the meringue and cream though.

On our way back we stopped at the Coop at Bulle and bought ingredients for dinner. Grilled veg, stuffed peppers, good wine, good company.

europe trip day 01: terminal flights of frivolity

Not once during our trip did I have access, let alone logged in. Withdrawal symptoms? Yes but it’s getusedable.

Obviously, there’re 2 ways of writing the trip up (well, I could chose not to write it up, or write it up elsewhere but that’s digression) – either as 1 entry or postdated. I’m going for the 2nd, because I can.

So anyway back to the 29th, I got to check-in early, the line was long so I lined up first while waiting for her. The lady at the desk was super-efficient and we got our boarding passes very quickly.

It was a night flight and there were few people around, the shops closed one by one. We bought some travel insurance using one of those “instant approval” terminals, then settled down near the gate to wait for boarding.

Our travel agent was really great, got us 30A/B, words can’t express how I love these bulkhead seats — more room, no one in front, yay! Watched a couple of films, sleep was sporadic.

Landed at Heathrow early in the morning, transit from T3 to T4 was via a 10-15 min bus journey. But we had heaps of time to spare, hours before our flight to Zurich, so no hurry. Had toasted sandwich and tea for breakfast (after walking through the entire T4 to decide), read the Independent (hate the tabloid format), slowly got used to being in the UK again. Had a quick nap at a corner of the terminal, eventually got woken up cos the 2 gates nearby were filling up with people.

Zurich was also back-of-the-mind familiar. I used my Swiss licence and credit card and pretended I still lived there. When I asked for a map, the girl at the Hertz desk joked “you should know the city”, and I said, yeah but not driving around! Nice Ford Focus we got, but I was quite nervous the first few minutes in the car, haven’t driven for a while and not used to the other side of the road.

Stopped by the office at Opfikon to pick up the keys from our friends, got to their really nice apartment, unpacked and was out pretty quickly. Went to the Reisenburo at HB to see if we can book a trip to Munich or Barcelona, but it turned out either flights were full or hotels. So we gave up the idea and decided to stay in Switzerland. In hindsight, the best idea we had — next time stay even longer in Switzerland.

Walked around a little on Bahnofstrasse, remembering the places and letting my tongue get used to the German again. When I tried getting money out I forgot my PIN the first time. Feelings of familiarity and happiness.

Met our friends for dinner at a Lebanese restaurant near Stauffacher. Even though it was a weeknight it was full, and stuffy (have to remember, no aircon). The reason was soon apparent — the food was great, the wine was great and there was belly dancing. We ordered a mix of mezze’s and lamb, it was really really good.

By the time we got home I was feeling sticky, having gone over 24 hours without a shower, I was glad the apartment wasn’t one of those that had a restriction. I fell to bed and was asleep straightaway.

withdrawal symptom

of course I’m ecstatic about going on vacation, why are you asking? Bags are packed. Hotel, cars are all booked. Dinners arranged. Friends to meet up with. Presents for all.

Just one teeny, weensy, mini angsty pang of … not regret that’s too strong, longing may be. I’m not taking the Powerbook, so it means no quiet thoughts, no pizzaorme, no writing, no fanfic. eeek. That’s gonna be a test. No. Not really. Duh.

my bed

All I could think of yesterday, stuck at the airport departure lounge waiting for the gate to open cos the flight’s delayed so they could fix the plane’s aircon, was how much I wanted to get home. A short flight but do much waiting. Plane, waiting for the luggage, waiting for the train, waiting for the taxi. Lines everywhere.

Most of all I wanted my bed. It’s not the biggest, or has the best mattress, or the best linen, but it’s my comfy bed that’s all mine. A simple Ikea queen size pine bed with slats. A heavy hard mattress that I turn over whenever I remember.

Hotel beds are nice, clean sheets everyday, more pillows than I need, but it’s not my bed.

Hotel beds are huge, even more huge than mine, but it’s not my bed.

I miss curling up inside my 2 duvets, the same 2 duvets regardless of whether it’s summer or winter.

I miss the feel of the sheets and the duvet cover on my skin. Oh yes my bed has one big rule, the wearing of clothing is optional and highly overrated.

I miss the clock at the side table.

I even miss the sunshine breaking through the curtains in the morning.

Sigh.

music to go

I’ve been adding to my iTunes collection, after nearly 6 months. Don’t think I’ve done much since I got into the weblogging business (and hidden doors). It’s hard to divide up the attention I guess.

Besides, where I used to do a lot of downloading, drumbeat, is gone. I know the trick now is to get IRC, but I have to get the time.

Upgraded to a newer version of limewire and found more, much more, available than before. The feature I like best is browse host so I can see what other’s have got. Neat.

giselle’s site

I created another website, instead of it sitting on the same server space as invisiblecompany.com, I decided to splash out and put it on a brand new space. Still with icdsoft.

It’s separate from my own website, and is basically for my niece. She’ll be 3 in November and I thought it’s time to register her name and get some space. Don’t think my sis wants too much but I think setting up a simple weblog will be nice.

I’m going to use wordpress, not MT. Think about it as practice.

Day 57

This should be my last trip to Singapore this year, over 60 days and there’s tax stuff to worry about. Today is day 57 of 2004. Wow.

Was extremely lazy and skived off. Went to carrefour to get some things for the girls in the office, had lunch with aloi at a Penang buffet. An hour of foot and shoulder massage, then to the airport early. Walking around waiting for the gate to open. My last chance at Changi airport to buy Singapore stuff or absorb the ambience. Oookay. Look round. Yeah, done. What’s so sentimental about an airport? Hee.

Can’t help this mood, thinking too much about holiday. But hey, we both deserve it.

stream of unconsciousness

all I can think of is, in a week’s time we’ll be on vacation. Not all details are finalised, but who cares? We’re getting some time off.

I’m drinking too much Diet Coke nowadays.

I took a tub of plain yogurt from the hotel this morning and it’s still here, all room temperature.

I finished training the staff a day early, now for the rest of the week I can pretend to be working.

I want a mini iPod, no not really. They’re real nice but my one hasn’t expired yet so it’s not justified.

Sigh.

Episode 4-6

The DVD set is finally out (except I saw a set last weekend in one of those dodgy DVD/VCD shops, before the official launch, what’s up with that?). But I don’t have a great urge to go buy it, not cos of the price, but I’m reading people’s take on it and there’s a part of me that’s disappointed at the changes from the original version.

  • Han and Greedo’s blaster fight — they seem to fire at the same time, why even make that change?
  • Jabba appears
  • Naboo appears
  • Cosmetic changes to the Emperor’s hologram and the white face of Anakin just before he dies
  • Hayden Christiansen at the end of Jedi that’s really terrible

The 1977 version of Star Wars wasn’t perfect, looking back the effects were rather shabby. But it appealed to the imagination of whole generations. And is appreciated, warts and all. It’s a bit like airbrushing models. I’m sure the DVDs look really really good. All up-to-date CG effects and all. But does it mean that in, say 2 years time, when we have even better effects that it’s time to update?

Sometimes the fun of watching the original films is to appreciate what the filmmakers were able to do at that time, with the technology and resources available then.

obsessing about laundry

I fight a constant battle with having enough clean clothes. The washing machine is on all.the.time it seems.

May be cos I don’t have enough clothes? But that’s not true I have a large closet.
May be cos I only wear a small percentage of my entire clothing collection. Probably.
May be cos I wear something only once, when it’s taken off when I get home it goes straight to the basket, that includes times when I’m home but I’m due to go out again. Definitely.

I don’t like the smells my clothes accumulate outside, particularly in restaurants. The material just sucks up the food smell and doesn’t go away. Pretty gross.

Some clothes are not “allowed” to go outside, they are reserved for home wearing only, cos I don’t want to spoil them. Not because they’re expensive or anything, just too comfortable.

Whenever I travel I bring a ziploc bag full or washing powder and the bathroom rapidly becomes the airing cupboard.

Anyway I was especially pleased when I got a hotel room that includes 3 pieces of clothing laundered a day. So this morning I put my black polo shirt and a t-shirt in the little bag, filled in the slip and left it by the closet for laundry. And wow! They came back individually wrapped in plastic, ironed and with a cardboard backing. That’s the first time that little blue t-shirt has been ironed, like ever! It looks so good I don’t want to unwrap it.

I have enough for this trip, but I’m sure gonna use up my daily quota. Yes siree.

On the plane again

Woke up at 6am to catch the 0855 flight to Singapore. Tired. Tired. Tired.

Had McDonalds for breakfast, long time since we’ve had breakfast there. Even after I saw Supersize me.

Something funny she said that stuck to my mind, that I’m bringing the same bag whether I’m gone for a 3 week trip or a 4 day trip. That’s so true. It did cross my mind that perhaps I could use the new trolley bag but I was half packed and all the usual stuff like spare tissues, spare iPod earphone sponge, tea bags etc are all in the side pockets and it’ll be too much of a hassle to reorganise.

Unusually I was late getting to the gate, most people had boarded.

Got to hotel at lunchtime, this time I could check in immediately. But the TV didn’t work, so had to get maintenance.

On my way to the supermarket I came across the food expo, so I went there and bought 10 sticks of satay and some dried pork. At Carrefour I bought the usual drinks, including calamansi juice for mm.

After I had the satay for tea, I was too full for dinner, the salad I bought is still in the fridge.

So tired. Need to sleep.

me, my phone and not answering

They’re talking about not polling to cellphones. But really, people are ditching their landlines in droves nowadays.

Which is something I’ve thought about. I use the phone to make calls when I’m home but when it comes to incoming calls I adopt a mainly “leave me the hell alone” attitude. I only answer calls from numbers I recognise and even then I don’t answer if I don’t feel like it, I just let it ring and ring and ring. I gave away my answering machine ages ago.

This means I don’t have many calls and that suits me just fine thank you very much. So I can be left in peace when I’m home. I mean, you think, why am I being so difficult I don’t want to talk to you for a few minutes? Well, if 3 people think that, I have to spare 3 times the x minutes expected. And between that and cooking and eating dinner and taking a shower and powerbooking, that doesn’t leave me with any time for myself right? Right?

So anyway, I don’t need my home phone, I can get a cheap enough service with lots of minutes on my cellphone. So why don’t I take the step? May be soon.

I hate it …

… when I don’t get home till late and by the time I finished dinner and showered there’s precious little time on my own to read, surf.

… when people ask stupid questions that they should know the answer to.

… when I know I need to focus on planning our holiday but I don’t have time.

… when there’s another trip to Singapore between now and holiday time and I’m not even remotely prepared for that one.

… when I’m forever having to worry about laundry, watering plants and what to have for lunch.

… when I realise how much I’ve eaten in a day, and how little exercise I’ve done in, oh well, years.

… when it can’t decide between staying hot or turning cooler.

bored staff

The guards at my building are ever so helpful. I come back from my trip with loads of luggage and the newest one helped me carry it up 2 sets of lifts and to my doorstep. I feel so embarassed, thinking, do I need to tip him?

I thank him profusely of course, but he then said, it’s alright there’s nothing much else to do, it gets boring. So I’m helping relieve his boredom.

I guess that’s right. There are always 2 of them at the front desk and all they do are open doors and go patrolling. Waiting for something, anything, to happen.

The lifeguards are even worst, they sit by the pool all day but have to stay alert. Most times the pool’s empty. They clean, hose, move the chairs about. Now that opening hours have been extended to 7am till 10pm I feel even more sorry for them.

full

This is very private but I need to write it down. Really appreciate if no one reads this.

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we’ve been “back together” for just over a year now, so strange that a story that started over 12 years ago still has its twists and turns. I’m less obsessed about dates and times nowadays, and after so many ups and downs I don’t remember the exact date we decided to be together again. All I remember is being in bed and us kissing and then finally there’s the sex.

Sex. That’s the thing. There are certain things one expects when one’s in a relationship. Companionship, friendship, hand-holding, snuggling, talking on the phone, generally being together. And sex. Of course it should not be the only thing in a relationship, but shouldn’t it at least be a part? No matter how small a part, but at least there, preferably more (hee).

For us, it’s not been well on that front. For a start there’s a huge discrepancy on our respective wants and needs that’s gotten more and more pronounced. She says I’m the normal one and it’s her. When I get turned down (which does happen quite often) that does cross my mind. But it can’t be, this is something that takes place between 2 people so there can’t be only one party at fault if something’s not going well.

Yes, she’s not had the desire and she needs to really build hers up. And yes, I’ve been overly insatiable, may be too much fanfic. It’s just that we don’t live together and only get to spend two, sometimes only one, night together every week. Plus all of my travelling this year … excuses excuses. So all my saved up want manifests every weekend and it seems to her like that’s all I want. Sigh.

Anyway.

We made an appointment this weekend. Not in so many words but nakedness was expected. Really. How crass. But we did. For Saturday night. And I blew it. I was so tired both friday and sat night that I fell asleep as soon as I got into bed. It’s funny if you think about it.

But we made up for it today after lunch. We were way too lazy to go out. I was doing my online grocery shopping, the site kept crashing, so I was real frustrated. She was watching TV.

She said “come get me when you’re finished.”

I finally did, went outside to the living room, held out my hand and took her into the bedroom.

We didn’t start straightaway, there was mucho nice-o cuddling.

But when it came, or should I say when we came, it was an explosion. Or more accurately, 2 separate explosions. I couldn’t stop laughing, she shuddered.

Now I feel whole.

Full.

checking in

I’m in the CX lounge of Seoul’s Incheon airport. I realised that I’ve been in so many airports this year that I should start a category just on airports. Like how to get to and from the airport to the city, whether or not there’s public transportation, what’s the food and shopping situation like.

Like the worst, I mean totally worst airport has to be JFK. Separate terminals, no facilities, if you haven’t made arrangements or if no one is picking you up then god help you trying to get into NY.

The best airport for me would be one of the modern Asia airports. Hong Kong, Singapore, even where I am now, Incheon. Clean, efficient, easy access. Zurich’s good, compact, functional and how can you beat those fantastic trolleys that you can take on escalators. Heathrow’s too big, the walk to the Heathrow Express is too long, and having to haul your luggage down to the platform is a minus. The long wait for baggage is also a big downer.

I dunno. Just a thought.

i walk and walk and walk

Today was a day of walking. And walking. And walking.

Went north from the hotel, 20, 25 minutes to Insa-dong. On sundays it’s closed to traffic and stalls are set up, mainly antiques and bric-a-brac. lots of people but not yet at the very crowded stage. Browsed around, looking at the antiques, toys, jewelry, food.

Almost decided to have lunch at a safe place — on the main strip, English menu available, touristy looking. But decided against it. Went in one of the narrow side alleys and to a local looking place, small with low tables on a tatami. Asked the lady waitress to order for me, she knew a little English, I think she ordered the “full course” for me, then again she could have said fish course.

When it arrived, there were like 10 or so small dishes, different types of kimchi, non-spicy vegetables, steamed egg, pickles, grilled fish, rice, soup. Cold tea on the house. Nice. Very nice.

Walked on through some local side streets to the Changdeokgung Palace, which charged W2,300 admission, and the last English tour had finished. Entrance with a tour only, I had the choice of Korean or Japanese tour. I chose not to go. Walked to the Royal Shrine, looking at the map it seemed there was an entrance on the Palace side, except it wasn’t. So I had to virtually walk around the whole shrine enclosure to get to the entrance proper.

More empty but nice looking buildings. There was a footbridge to the Changgyeongung Palace (right next door to the other one). By that time I was pretty tired so I just did a short circle and headed out. Wished I knew more Korean to be able to take a bus. Didn’t want to take a taxi so walked back toward Insa-dong. Got a subway at the end, 2 stops to City Hall.

Dinner was ginseng chicken soup, with a whole chicken stuffed with rice and ginseng roots. The restaurant actually only had 2 items on the menu, the chicken in soup, or whole roast chicken. A real specialist place.

Thought about another 32cm ice cream but decided against it. Bought a local rice wine, a bit like mild sake, I think it’s better than ice cream.

exploring the new

Usually in a new country the language is new, but in asia and some of europe it’s possible to make out some of the words. The Korean language is nothing like the western alphabet, so I’d see shop signs and will have absolutely no idea what kind of a shop it is. Feels a little bit disorientated.

But I walk on nonetheless.

First was a visit to the Deoksugung Palace. W1,000 entrance to see a handful of empty palace buildings. Still in very good condition and very peaceful, quite a good way to spend an hour or so. Took a picture for a couple of girls on a disposable camera, filed it away as a potential story idea.

Walked south toward the Namdaemun (south gate) and the big market next to it. So much available, from food to clothing to everyday items. Fresh food, kimchi, dried fish, a whole alley of small restaurants. Leather jackets (oh, so tempting), a whole street of women’s clothing, shoes. Household items, stationery, even one stall that seemed to sell nothing but hangers.

Lunch was at stalls along the way. Some glutinous cake in spicy sauce, deep fried batter, small Japanese style skewers, energy drinks from the 7-11 type stores.

Back to hotel in the afternoon for a rest.

Dinner with my colleague at Myeongdong, which is almost a replica of Shinjuku in Tokyo, all narrow streets and bright neon lights and street stalls. Had bbq beef and pork, a glass of wine included. W41,000 for 2 persons. Walked around and had soft ice-cream, which they serve very tall — 32cm apparently.

Bought some small souvenirs of a prominent actor/idol (no clue who he is, but his face is everywhere, looks a bit like Harry Potter) for the girls at the service centre, next time I visit.

Tired now.

a brand new country

I’m jumping up and down (metaphorically), cos now I can add a new country to my visited countries list.

I’m in Seoul.

The new airport was so much more impressive than the Taipei airport, wide and straight highway into the city. Staying at the Lotte Hotel, the largest in Korea, with over 1,000 rooms. Once in the room, it’s just like any other hotel room. it’s got a fax, printer and desktop PC. Which kinda annoys me cos I can’t plug my Powerbook into the broadband. I’ll just use the PC then.

The minibar has the most number of canned drinks I’ve ever seen, it’s choc-a-bloc, all 3 shelves with soda, beer, water, all sorts. The soda here is sold in tall, thin 100ml cans, a bit like the ones in Japan. And there’re some unknown types I don’t really know if I should try or not.

I’m watching the Pentagon Channel, which is obviously aimed toward US army people based outside the US. The programs themselves are pretty updated, like the most recent versions of Leno, Letterman and Access Hollywood. There’s Survivor, The Apprentice, 7th Heaven, and some other programs.

But the ads are really strange. Promotion for the armed forces. Telling people to be vigilant and not reveal potentially sensitive information. Appeal to learn the host countries’ languages. It’s so sincere it’s bordering on the crass.

I need my sleep. See what time I wake up tomorrow. Yawn.

Taiwan day 2

So tired. So tired. So difficult to wake up this morning. Problem with office email continue, making it even more difficult to work.

Lunched at a really famous dumpling place Din Tai Fung. 3 of us had lots of steamed buns, a large bowl of chicken soup each, veg and steamed thousand layer sponge for dessert.

Night-time we went to another street market, smaller than last night’s but again full of food stalls and stalls selling all sorts of goodies. Had pork rib herbal soup (taiwan’s version of bak kuh teh), sausage, pepper buns (with unknown meat – either pork or beef – filling). And a half hour foot massage.

My colleague went to the 24 hour bookstore afterward, but I was too tired. Back to the hotel.

Taiwan day one

Last time I visited Taipei was a few years ago, only for a weekend. This time I’m as clueless as before, I feel like I should understand the signs and stuff, but I totally glaze over.

People drive like maniacs here, cutting in lane, not letting other cars pass. I’m in the taxi and I see how close it gets to the other cars. But it seems like it’s par for the course. Millions of motorbikes as well. Go to any large junction and when the light is red, watch the bikes build up at the front of the line. Smell the diesel, hear the revs. Then as the light turns green, whoosh! there they go.

The hotel is in the same complex as the office, the next tower along. Room is big, with a walk-in closet! Don’t quite like the use of dark colouring though, gets a bit old and depressing compared with light decorations.

Last night my colleague took me to the Shilin night market. Hundreds of small stalls selling all sorts of food and merchandise. We ate such a lot, she ordered like mad — most of my colleagues are mom-types, and their maternal instincts usually take over when it comes to food. Oyster omlette, bamboo stick glutinous rice, smelly tofu, roasted sweetcorn (with a weird aniseed flavoured covering) and ice desert (like the ice kacang in Singapore). Then she bought some deep fried duck/chicken parts for snacks. For me she was more conservative, wings, heart, kidney. But for her husband she bought neck, head, parts that are usually thrown away.

Wasn’t that interested in the stalls, cheap though they were. Mainly clothing, jewelry, handbags and the like. Not my scene.