Had a business trip to Seoul a couple of weeks ago and took the opportunity to spend a few extra days there with wifey. Accommodation in Seoul was at Park Hyatt Seoul and that was generally a positive experience. The office had arranged for early check-in so that I could shower and tidy up before my afternoon meeting started but this was sadly not honoured by the hotel. Instead I was offered the use of the hotel’s spa which was essentially a mini jjimjilbang to freshen up. Not exactly a convenient alternative so I just opted for a shave and change of clothes.

Coming back after lunch to their club room was more positive. The hotel clearly has location as one of its main draws. Overlooking the COEX Mall and Intercontinental, the room takes full advantage of the view by installing a floor to ceiling glass window which I think is quite mesmerizing.

Once business was taken care of, we headed to Suwon for the weekend and promptly ate our way into a food coma. I like Suwon. The air is much cleaner and you can hear yourself think. Did a bit walking with the family and took in the latest food trend of lamb satay and the usual favourites of pork ribs, jajangmyeon and loads of walking.


A New Chapter

For the next 3 to 4 years our daughter will be studying at King’s College London. More than 21 years ago my wife and I said goodbye to the UK after completing our studies and got called to the Bar at Middle Temple. Seems like a lifetime ago … and I guess it is a lifetime ago.

Helping her settle in does bring back a lot of memories of our time in London and I think she’s going to enjoy her time here and grow as a person. It’s not an easy city to live in nor is it the cheapest but I dare say it’s one of the most exciting for a young person looking to spread their wings and discover themselves.

Han River early summer

The flowers are in bloom and the weather is perfect for a picnic and walk along the riverbank.

Loads of poppies! And there is even a reproduction of the monster from the movie The Host gracing the fields next to the Han River.

Ramyeon in a jiffy when you’re out and about

During a short trip to Seoul recently we decided to take a walk along the Han River, hoping to get in as much of the 10,000 steps per day target as possible. Came across a convenience store which bro-in-law recommended we try as there’s recently the latest trend of cooking ramyeon on an induction cooker and having it by the river. Process was simple enough and starts with buying a packet of ramyeon and getting a cardboard container with a metallic bottom. There are a number of induction cookers just outside the convenience store.

You scan the barcode on the ramyeon packaging at the machine so that it knows what noodles you are cooking. Open up the packaging and place contents in the cardboard container and place on the induction cooker. With a press of the button indicated on the screen, water is dispensed into the container and the cooking process begins. A couple of minutes later it is done and you just need to carry it and walk to nearby benches along the Han River to feast.

I have to say it was quite a unique experience and highly enjoyable for a quick meal that a bit more substantial than your average cup noodle fare. There machines apparently cost US$300 but I would think the store makes its investment back very quickly looking at the huge crowd of people getting their ramyeon fix there and enjoying the views along the Han River.

A New Malaysia

Today history was made. The ruling coalition that is Barisan Nasional has been punished by the voters for their hubris. I, like many others, had hoped for this development but had never thought it would come to pass because of the way the system has been gamed to ensure BN stayed in power. I hope to see urgent changes made to the Election Commission in making them a fair and impartial body. I hope to see changes being made to institutions like the AG’s Chambers and the Police to make them professional and effective in enforcing laws to serve the people and not a single master.

I’m personally happy to see arrogant ministers given the boot and thumbs down by voters. For far too long they have lorded over the people thinking their position is their birthright and expect the people to be beholden to them and thus forgetting that it is they who were put in a position of power by the people to serve.

I am nervous, like most, about the future of my country but I have faith that we are walking the correct path. Even if the next 5 years turns out to be a complete farce, what #GE14 has shown is that the people have the power to implement change and no political party or coalition is immune to the will of the people.

McDonald’s Nasi Lemak Burger

McDonald’s in Singapore had recently done a limited run of a burger inspired by the humble but famous nasi lemak which is a common dish found in Malaysia and Singapore consisting of rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves (screwpine) and accompanied by servings of fried or curry chicken, fried or hard boiled eggs, fried ikan bilis (anchovies) and spicy sambal.

The McDonald’s burger was a reasonable interpretation of the nasi lemak, substituting the rice with burger buns. The sambal was decent and with an appropriate amount of spicy heat. Definitely worth a try. 

Breakfast of champions 

There’s a humble little stall that operates out of a small coffee shop nearby home that’s really a treat on cheat days. Selling the Indian fried flat bread called “roti canai” accompanied by a dhal curry with a dollop of spicy sambal, this hawker is usually assisted by either his wife or his son. Not what you would want to eat frequently because of the ghee (clarified butter) that’s used in the preparation that makes it sinfully tasty and smells so good.

The oily dough is pressed flat and flipped a couple of times to spread it out thin and then folded into a square which is then pan fried till crispy and golden. Eaten with an accompaniment of a dhal curry, it guarantees a hearty and filling breakfast that lasts well till lunch time.

Here’s where the guy is located.

Stews on a cold night

It’s been raining the past couple of nights and the wife was in the mood for some loach soup or 추어탕 (chuo tang). There’s this Korean soup restaurant near my office which serves really good loach soup called Seorak Chuotang, located along Jl Senopati, South Jakarta. The place was packed with Korean salary men having their weekly dinner and drink session with the boss and even for lunch this place is normally packed with Korean office employees and I’d be hard pressed to identify any local clientele.

I opted for something more substantial as the cold and wet night demanded something heavier/hearty. Went for the 해장국 (HaeJang Guk) or hangover soup instead and it was simply a thing of beauty. There’s nothing quite like a bubbling pot of spicy stew with beef and dried mustard greens topped with spring onions.


HaeJang Guk which costs Rp90,000 or USD6.70

Polished off 1.5 bowls of rice with the soup. Not exactly diet friendly food.

Sometimes I hate flying

Between the weekly flights, the mad rush among frequent fliers to board first, checking in online early enough to avoid the dreaded middle seat, I’ve developed quite a list of things that make me dread Mondays and Fridays when it’s time to head to the airport.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been getting very familiar with Air Asia (less so after QZ8501), Garuda, CGK and SIN. Flying is truly an experience of observing what can be the best and also the worst in human behaviour in economy/coach/cattle class.

MIDDLE SEAT. Right on top of my list of pet peeves is being assigned the middle seat in a flight. Now I know someone has to sit there but frequent fliers will avoid it like a plague. Being sandwiched in between 2 other passengers is bad enough but when it escalates into a war contest for the arm rests, this is truly a special kind of hell. If you are familiar with Garuda’s A330-200 you will know that the middle seat offers only half of the space available for your legs as compared to the window seat due to the placement of the life vest container under the front seat. It should not be that difficult to be nice and allow the person in the middle seat the benefit of arm rests. Early check-in normally solves this issue, but if not (especially when it’s a full flight and you’re flying alone) abuse that platinum frequent flier/skyteam priority status at the check in counter and be extra friendly to the counter staff.

MULTIPLE AND/OR LARGE CARRY-ON BAGS. There’s a reason why frequent fliers are always rearing to board first. With airlines fitting in more seats on planes and often charging for checked luggage, the overhead luggage bin space is in high demand. Many airlines are still being too lenient when enforcing the carry on luggage limits and on every flight I’ve been on there will be passengers boarding at the end that will find that they have to check their baggage in simply because there’s no more space in the overhead bins. With airlines warning that no valuables should be checked in, you’re basically up shit creek should anything happen to your carry on that had to be checked in. Garuda has this habit of storing blankets in the overhead bins, thus further reducing the available space for passengers – something I find really annoying. Unless you have priority boarding, the best solution would be to opt for a seat at the rear of the plane since passengers sitting there will almost always be boarded first.

SEAT KICKER/SCREEN PUNCHER. A problem that as prevalent in a plane as it is in a cinema. More often than not it is a kid that doesn’t know better but if the parent is sitting beside him/her, you would expect them to intervene and tell their kid not to kick the seat in front. Being a kid does not give them a free pass to jack hammer the crap out of the front seat. The adults tend to be the ones jabbing at the touch screens/monitors with such intensity and ferocity that you’d think they were trying to finger punch their way out of a coffin buried under 6-feet of earth ala Kill Bill.


I can only imagine the situation getting worse with airlines continuing to find ways of fitting in more and more seats in their never ending quest to improve margins, all at the expense of passenger comfort (hopefully not safety).