Friday, 25 July 2014

Malaysia Airlines, Keep Flying!

Keep the wau soaring high

The recent tragic fate of MH17 following the missing MH370 flight put the Malaysia Airlines brand name to its worst. Stuck in a loss making situation, the lost of lives of passengers and crew on board is devasting not only to their loved ones, the nation sang the same tune of sorrow for the families.

With one airliner still missing since March and one allegedly shot down in the airspace of Ukraine, it is only normal for people to relate Malaysia Airlines as unlucky and being a customer would cast the same bad luck on you. Then, there is another group which complains about everything possible about the airline, from it’s food, customer service, the plane seat, how the airline is run etc. etc. and their brilliant suggestion is to shutdown our national carrier.

I beg to differ. 

1. A sense of pride

It is difficult times for Malaysia Airlines but having a national carrier is a nation’s pride. Seeing the symbolic wau at the tail of airplanes in foreign land brings not only pride that our country’s presence is felt but also a sense of home. Isn’t the ability of our less than 6 decade old nation to have fleet landing into airports around the world something to be proud of?

2. Government independence

Without our own airline would translate into a dependency on airlines of other countries and of course, the very famous budget airline which charges for every single tiny thing. In the time when Malaysians needs to be airlifted out countries where a revolution had taken place. Without MAS, Putrajaya would probably have to request for the help of other nations for their airlines to bring our citizens to safety. Why should a nation like ours put ourselves at the mercy of other countries?

3. Losing subsidiaries

Losing Malaysia Airlines as a whole would possibly bring a closure to their subsidiaries like MASWings which focuses on inter-Borneo flight, connecting the smaller parts of Borneo to the world. Catering to the more secluded areas, MASWings is possibly a lifeline for the population in Borneo. Take that away and having to depend on other airlines to set up a rural area services (which may not be profitable) is a foolish idea.

4. Economic importance

A national carrier serves indirect to promote the tourism of our country bringing in more tourist to the country, to assist our economic development and foreign investment and most importantly, a symbol of sovereignty and independence of our citizens in air travels. Put our import and export needs in the hands of other country's airlines rather than our own MASKargo There is no need for a dependency on other nations or airlines. Why create a definitely choice of contributing to the economy of other countries by having to take their planes when there is an option to contribute to our own? 

I am guilty of taking other cheaper options especially returning for summer holidays but I clearly didn’t enjoy my Emirates flight although it was cheaper.

5. Domestic travels and inflight services

Although budget airlines are growing like mushrooms to cater for the domestic demands, the national carrier remain to have most options for domestic travels. Budget airlines function with the basic demand curves. So, it's not surprising to be paying less on certain MAS flights sometimes. 

And finally, I despise the idea of being coerced to pay for a gulp of water or suffer in thirst. Like it or not, MAS is probably keeping the budget airlines prices in check for domestic routes.

Undoubtedly, there is much to improve. But let’s not lose hope in our nation’s flag carrier. Even though today in my London-Kuala Lumpur flight the prawns in my nasi lemak is tinier than the dried shrimps from the market; like many have circulated online, the words ‘kepada warganegara Malaysia, selamat pulang ke tanah air’ brought out a strong sense of belonging.

Keep soaring Malaysia Airlines!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Goodbye London

It all seemed like yesterday when I landed in Terminal 4 of Heathrow Airport wearing a ridiculously ugly suit; all pumped up for a brand new adventure in the English land. Having paid a visit to London in 2009, I knew from the very first moment when stepping into London to begin my life as an undergraduate, it would be an adventure of a lifetime and a roller coaster ride that I would enjoy. Clearly, I did.

Looking ridiculous in suit

London was very much a second home for me. No matter what mess that I get embroiled in here, I loved this city to bits. Except for the human traffic jams in the touristy area. London had became so much of a home to an extent I would defend London when tourist criticised it for its lack of culture and good food. Coming to its defence as though it was a home of my own.

Unknowingly 3 years flew by and now I’m sitting in Terminal 4, the very same terminal that I first arrived, the same terminal that took me home in the first summer; but it all feels so different. Packing up my room into boxes and suitcases was something to look forward to every June because that meant it was time for home. However, this time around packing felt different. This time around there is no “See you again in September”.

London is more than a place of good memories and great times, it was the home for my legal knowledge, a place where friendships were forged, the platform for personal growth and the gateway to my European adventures. Being a top city destination for tourist, there are no words to expressed how bless it feels to be just footsteps away from the iconic Big Ben. Though there will always be ‘what if’ and ‘I should have’, my 3 years is complete with all the things a tourist would do. Watched the change of guards, stroll in the iconic parks, soak in the free museums, eat in local markets and much more.

The experience to be in a melting pot of culture and to be able to embrace a city rich in history and modern development will always be something that remains vivid in memories. Being at King’s was an amazing part of my London adventures. Despite being with Asians most of the time, the Malaysian and Singaporean society had made my life as an undergrad more exciting than ever.

Today having graduated with a law degree, the time has come for me to part ways with a place I’ve called home for 3 years; the friends I’ve met along the away in a foreign land. 

Saying goodbye can be no harder. Thank you for the memories.

The KDU gang, thank you for sticking through the 3 years with me :D
The KCLMSS people who made uni life so much more fun. Can't find an EXCO picture in my archive somehow but being in the EXCO was the main bulk of the fun
The ex-housemates and mahjong kaki-s, life would never be the same without them!
The most memorable NYE - 7 hours of waiting in the freezing winter for a view like this.
I’ll be back one day and walk through these memories filled streets again; definitely!

and 3 years end with a Pulled Pork soup from Pret

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Eating Out For Less

Despite my love for cooking, dining out is something I could never completely remove from my life in London. Being a melting pot of culture, the variety of food in London is endless. From my favourite Penang delights to an exotic African meal, you name it and London probably has it; okay may be not the weird fried insects found in Thailand and Cambodia night markets.

Eating out can be expensive especially with the rising cost of living in London. As a student, I find it difficult to have much to spend on dining out but at the same time, trying out new restaurants, meeting up with friends or having a catch up meal is hard to brush aside. So, here’s how I manage to reduce the damage.

1. Sign Up for Free Dining Discount Card Trials

Taste Card, Gourmet Society, Hi-Life Diners and a few other dining cards offer a great discount on thousands of restaurants. Most of these cards offer a free trial. The free trial period mostly last for 1 month but with special codes, they can stretch up to 2 months or longer. With the right planning, it is actually possible to have at least one active discount for an entire year.

For the past year, I’ve managed to get 2-months Taste Card trial, 1-month Time Out Card and a 6-months Hi-Life Diners Club trial for free. Plus, a 4-months Gourmet Society trial for £1.99. Although all the trial is only valid once per user, there are promotions which gives existing user another chance at the trial. Earlier in May, Taste Card had a competition offering 1-year of free membership even to those who had previously taken up the free trial. Those who didn’t win could get a free 2-months membership trial. So, there’s another 2- months  Taste Card trial!

With thousands of participating restaurants, there is bound to be something worth trying. Although most participating restaurants are mediocre, I’ve managed to find a few which serves an exquisite fair. If having the discount card is a must, never get them on full price! Most of the time, there are promotions on the 1-year membership. The Taste Card which cost £79.99 could go as low as £29.99. So, waiting for an offer on the membership actually acquire more savings.

The only downside is the discounts mostly do not apply on Fridays and Saturdays. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers.

*For those who love grabbing a quick bite on the go in train stations, sign up for a BITE card! With offers for fast food joints like Burger King, Upper Crust and The Pasty Shop, there’s a little saving for each purchase. BITE card is free so sign up and keep it handy whenever needed.

2. Student Discount

One thing that I would definitely miss after graduating! Most places offers student discount. There’s always no harm to ask for student discount. Even the not-so-friendly restaurants in Chinatown offers student discount. Four Season which is famous for their roast duck offers a student discount in their Wardour Street joint. If you prefer the Gold Mine roast duck instead (like me!) and happen to be a student in selected London universities, there’s a student discount too!

Just be ready to flash your student card when ordering and enjoy a little saving. Remember that only cash is accepted in Four Seasons and Gold Mine when student discount is applied, so flash the cash too.

Those high street joints like ASK Italian, Pizza Express etc also offers a great discount for student. Subscribing to student dedicated websites like Student Beans and Student Money Saver is a great way to be in the loop for the latest student deals and discounts.

Though the student discounts are a minute amount, it could mount into a large sum if frequently used.

3. Subscribing to Mailing List

Despite the promotional spam on its way, there are attractive discounts when signing up for the mailing list. My favourite being Loch Fyne. With a £10 off £30 spend voucher, that’s a whooping maximum discount of 33%. So grabbing a friend along for a meal and ordering cautiously up to £30 comes with great savings.

Some other restaurants offer a buy 1 free 1 or free wine when signing up for their mailing list.

4. Discount Days

Similar to the happy hour in pubs, there are things like Happy Mondays (or whichever day) offering discounts up to 50% on food. Slug & Lettuce has Happy Monday promotions which reduces all the food to half price. Located only 5 minutes from my campus, it was a favourite haunt on Mondays. As all Londoners would know, the amazing Dutch pancake joint, My Old Dutch has pancakes for only £5 every Monday (except Bank Holidays)!

So, why pay more when you can have the same thing for less on these days!

5. Discount Vouchers

There’s a great variety of discount voucher website out there. Voucher Codes, Voucher Clouds etc has some discount deals for dining out. Either printed or using the smartphone app, the vouchers are easily accessible.

Groupon, Living Social and Amazon Local are other amazing place for eating out for less. Taking time to check out the dining out deals, there could be great hidden deals. Amongst those amazing money-worthy deals that I’ve tried were Lobster with Seafood Noodles for 2 for £30, half kilo gelato from Venchi for £7, and £40 to spend in See Sushi for £20. Selecting the right deals could result in massive savings and a satisfied tummy!

You may now officially call me a cheapskate :P

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

A Glimpse of Le Tour de France

Le Tour de France is one of the most prestigious bicycle race and it’s something that always fill up the sports column in the newspaper. Cycling had never been a sport that I’ve followed closely but knowing that Le Tour de France cyclists were going to cycle past London, it’s a must to try catch a glimpse of these impressive racers.

Cycling from Cambridge to London in Stage 3, the cyclists past through the Olympic Park, Tower Hill and finally Big Ben before heading for the finish line near St. James Park. Living only minutes away from Westminister, it was the best chance to catch a glimpse of the cyclist during the finishing sprint near the Big Ben. Plus, it’s a great practice for my photography skills.

The crowd waiting anxiously

For the first time, I decided not to camp for a spot. The crowd was larger than I’d thought. It seemed like cycling is a big thing in Europe! Finding a spot was hard. So, I sort of gently slide in between spaces near the railing about an hour before the cyclists pass by to get a clear view. Probably offended some who waited hours at their spot >.<

The wait was bearable if not for the pouring rain. Somehow BBC is lying about the weather again. It was suppose to be sunny with light clouds but in reality, it was pouring for a good 30 minutes. The same incorrect forecast as Trooping the Colours. (I wonder if they do it on purpose so the crowd will turn up)

As fast as the wind, the cyclists pass by at the speed of light and the leader of the pack was gone within seconds. No courage to pan while shooting for more dramatic effect because everything happened so fast. Here’s a photo spam!

The insane things people to catch a glimpse of the cyclists
Cycling enthusiast riding by

Monday, 7 July 2014

London’s Oldest Greek Restaurant – Elysée

Greek cuisine had never made it to the top of my favourites. Except for their amazing lamb and seafood dishes; the essentials like hummus, feta cheese and olives had never caught my attention. Eager for some Greek food after a year from my Greece getaway, I settled for Elysée.

Situated in the streets of Fitzrovia, Elysée claiming to be the oldest Greek restaurant in London serves a great fair of Greek cuisines. The Elysée opened its doors in 1936 and had played host to many acclaimed figures like HRH Prince Phillip and The Beatles. Pretty impressive huh? Alongside with its list of impressive patrons, Elysée’s food really does live up to its name.

Starting off with appetizers, the calamari is nicely done. Although the calamari did not stand out, the keftedes were to die for!

Calamari @ £7.o0
The classic favourite in my list - deep fried squid in batter. Coated with crispy batter, the calamari was crispy on the outside and not too oily for my liking. Nothing extraordinary to shout about but it's nicely done.
Keftedes@ £6.00
The 4 large lamb meatballs were to die for. Tender and juicy with the right amount of seasoning! The combination with tomato sauce made it a wonderful appetizer.
Plus, the meatballs had no gamey smell. So even those who are not a huge fan of lamb could give it a try.

Moving on to main courses, souvlaki is common in all Greek restaurants’ menu. Elysée is no exception. Other traditional Greek items like moussaka and kleftiko are part of the menu.

Lamb Souvlaki @ £15.00
A skewer of grilled lamb served with rice and salad, the lamb was not quite as tender as I would like them to be. Nevertheless, still well marinated and pleasantly executed.
The aromatic rice was a wonderful side. Well cooked grains with butter, small cubes of beans and broccoli.
Kleftiko @ £16.00
Lamb knuckle slow cooked the Greek way! My absolute favourite in Greek cuisine and something I've ordered almost every meal during my Greece trip.
The kleftiko here is spot on! The lamb was well braised, creating a juicy tender meat which falls off the bone easily.
Grilled Whole Seabass @ £18.00
Given a choice to be serve with or without bone, the seabass is a little charred but not overcooked. Fresh and still had the juiciness locked in despite the charred look.
Chose to be served without bone, BUT plenty of bones were still left in the fish. Be careful with the tiny bones especially on the sides.
Located in Percy Street, off the busy Tottenham Court Road; Elysée consist of a main restaurant, a bar and a roof garden. With high ceiling and plaster decor, the main restaurant brings a touch of class. The roof garden on the other hand is simple with rattan chair and plenty of sunshine.

Dining on two occasions using TasteCard for a 50% discount, the service is amicable. On my first visit, we were offered a table in the roof garden although it wasn’t allowed for customers using the TasteCard discount. On a second visit, the service was equally excellent.

Main restaurant interior
Elysée entrance

Elysée is pinned in red

Finding Elysée is easy. Just 5 minutes walk from the nearest tube station.

Elysée Restaurant 
13 Percy Street
London, W1T 1DP

Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road (Northern Line, Central Line)
GPS coordinate: 51.518396, -0.133142

Food rating: 8/10
*Whilst some dishes were heavenly, some were just mediocre.
Service rating: 8/10
*Service was great generally but calling for attention is one big problem.
Ambience rating: 8/10
Overall rating: 8/10

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Recipe: Crispy Roasted Pork Belly (燒肉)

Roast Pork
Crispy Roasted Pork Belly
One of the essential trios in most Chinese roast poultry stalls, crispy roasted pork belly or siew yuk is somehow my least favourite. The layers of fats on the belly is not quite as appealing. On occasions where crispy roasted pork belly is part of my meal, it is a requirement for the skin to be crispy, to consist tender layers of meat and layers of fat as thin as possible or even better non-existent.

Despite the lack of liking for crispy roasted pork belly, this dish was the first new dish I attempted some time last year. The success in making siew yuk gave me to confidence to explore further. So, here’s sharing my recipe which I’ve plucked off the internet some time ago.

Crispy Roasted Pork Belly (燒肉) – serves 4-5


750g pork belly
Rice vinegar
250g coarse sea salt

1/2 tbsp five-spice powder
1/4 tsp white pepper powder


1. Wash the pork belly with cold water. Scrap the layer of the pork skin with a knife to remove impurities. Remove all hair from the skin. Pat dry with kitchen towel.
TIP: Choose a pork belly slab which is evenly thick to make it easier for it to cook evenly.

2. Using a small knife, make small slits on the skin without piercing through to the meat layer.

3. Rub the marinade on the meat only. If any of the marinade gets on the skin, wipe off with a towel.

4. Refrigerate the pork belly overnight; uncovered with the skin side up. This allows the skin to dry thoroughly to produce a crispy skin.

5. Pre heat the oven to 170C.

6. Wrap the pork belly with alumminium foil (allowing it to sit in the foil like a container) and brush a thin layer of vinegar on the skin. Cover the skin with coarse sea salt.

Roast Pork1
Wrap the pork in aluminium foil
Roast Pork2
Cover with a layer of coarse sea salt

7. Bake the pork belly at 170C for 45 minutes.

8. Remove the pork belly from the oven and remove the coarse sea salt layer. Remove the pork belly from the aluminium foil. Using a skewer, poke the skin of the pork belly making multiple small holes on the skin layer.
TIP: Remember not to poke through to the meat.

9. Return the pork belly to the oven and switch to grill mode (top heat). Broil for 15 minutes in the oven. Check if all parts of the skin has begin to bubble. This allows the oil from the skin and fats layer to create a deep frying effect on the skin.
Continue to poke the parts of the skin which is still soft. 

10. Return to the grill and allow the pork belly skin to broil for another 15 minutes or until evenly browned.

Roast Pork4
A slightly charred slab of siew yuk
11. Remove from oven and allow to cool before cutting. Slice and enjoy!

The success of making my own crispy roasted pork belly is amazingly satisfying because now I don’t have to splurge to eat them in restaurants. Besides, hearing the sound of the crispy pork skin being munched by the guest of my siew yuk feast is the best part!


Thursday, 3 July 2014

Touching Stonehenge

normal_Stonehenge Remember this? Well, technically I believe everyone who has used Windows laptops or desktops would have seen this classic wallpaper someway or another.

Stonehenge is nothing more than the remains of a ring of standing stones from the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Open to visitors throughout the year (except Christmas and Solstice), the stones are cordon off and visitors could only see them from a distance. Touching Stonehenge is only possible during the Winter and Summer Solstice when all barriers are removed. Winter Solstice is the shortest day in the year which falls on 22nd of December whilst Summer Solstice is the longest day in the year and it occurs on 21st of June.

As an ancient prayer ground, Stonehenge has free access to the public during the solstice. Thousands throng the grounds each year during solstice for a chance to see and touch the stones. And this year, I contributed to the number.

During the solstice, special local shuttles are available from Salisbury and the fares are relatively reasonable. A return ticket cost £10. Arriving at the visitor centre, everyone is expected to walk at least 20 minutes to the stones. The shuttle runs until 1am and the return shuttle starts operating from 4.30am in the next morning. So technically, everyone spends the night under the stars. Although it’s June, spending the night in the open is no joke. It felt very much like winter.

The crowd in the inner circle of the stones
Stonehenge in the middle of the night
Entertainment of the night
Several rows of portaloo and stalls selling food and hot drinks were set up. But well, everything was overpriced. A regular hot chocolate was £3. In the cold with freezing wind, the makeshift food stalls were milking money out of everyone.
The first light of day
Breaking dawn

After an endless hours of freezing in the cold, day break was finally here.  Watching the sun rise over the stones, it was mesmorising. Starting with an orange glow, the sun slowly rises above the horizon into an orange blob on the sky, piercing through the gaps of the stone. The Stonehenge is built in a magnificent way that the sun rays will shine through the gaps of the stones.

An orange glow from behind the stone
Watching the sun rising from the horizon
Caught the reflection of the stones when a lady held her crystal ball up
Touching the stones because I can!
After the sunrise, the crowd begin to disperse to their cars and the visitor centre for a ride back to Salisbury. Despite the long trail of crowd, the shuttle buses were extremely efficient. Almost a bus every 2-3 minutes!
Goodbye Stonehenge
Staying the night in Stonehenge and witnessing the sunrise was an amazing experience. Instead of paying an exorbitant amount for a private time with the stones, summer solstice is a great way to get free access. Also, it was an eventful night watching rituals by pagan and druids.