Autumn in Paris: Day 1

I like autumn. I especially like autumn in Paris with the crisp autumn air and the sound of leaves rustling as the wind gently blows through.  The rich golden red of the maple tree confirms that autumn is here and contrasts sharply with the green grass.  Parisians have all taken out their chic jackets and leather booths, fashionably beautiful. This trip, we’ve kept it simple without planned itineraries or to-do lists (which I usually can’t do without) and I discover that it really does make the trip somewhat more enjoyable.

There’s no hopping from point A to point B and missing all in between. Instead we look at the map, see where the Eiffel tower is, check out the Arc de Triomphe, and just walk. Its awesome. You really get to see life.  Along the way we get some sandwiches from the local bakery ‘Paul’ which can be found at almost every corner and I have to say it never fails to disappoint.  Upon reaching the park by the Eiffel, we find ourselves a spot with a full view and just relax.  We’re lucky we got unusally warm weather in the mid twenties  for a day or two.  The eiffel never fails to put me in awe with its sheer size.

After people watching and bird watching, we walk towards the Trocadero, opting out of going up after seeing the long lines. We make it to the Charles de Gaulle Etoile and find another spot with which to just sit and take it all in. The french really do a wonderful job of having benches everywhere for you to just sit and enjoy the view and life.

Champs Elysees comes next with its grand boulvlevard and grand buildings. Coming from quiet charming Lisboa, you see the contrast. Lisboa is a remnant of former glories, of a city by the ocean with grand ambitions.  It has now fallen on harsh times and the differances in wealth between the Lisboans and Parisians stands out clearly.  No chic bags or fancy smartphones can be seen, life is simpler in Lisboa.  Slower paced.   I must say I miss quiet Lisboa and the local pastelarias that can be found everywhere offering you a ‘bica’ for less than a euro. A price unimagineable in Paris.

We keep walking the entire length of the Champs Elysees and find ourselves looking at an egyptian obelisk taken from Luxor. It reminds me of europe’s former fascination with egypt. It stands beautifully in the middle of Place de la Concorde, the former revolution square where Marie Antoinette was quillotined. How different life was then.

We end the day walking up to the Opera then the Boulevard Haussmann for a little shopping at the Galeries Lafayette and check out their supermarket. I love checking out supermarkets wherever we go. There are always so many kinds of food.  The Musee de Louvre and the Notre Dame will be for the next day…

Bangkok Dining: Wine I love you @ CDC

Finally the weekend is here and what else is there to think about other than good food and good company?  (I, however, will be home resting since the flu has caught up on me and going around with my sore throat and stuffy nose is just not good).    Although my tastebuds are currently tasteless from the flu, I do have some craving for some sphaghetti and hamburgers which reminded me of this place I went to a few weekends ago.  It’s called “Wine I Love You” and is located at the CDC also known as Crystal Design Centre.
I have to admit, the last time I went to CDC was when it was just newly opened with few shops and hardly any people.  Now on weekends, it’s bustling and full of activity. Absolutely amazing.  With shops, comes restaurants and wanting to try something new, Alex and I decided to try out “Wine I Love You.”

The decor has a bistro kind of feel to it, and it reminds me of a wonderful hamburger place I went to in D.C.  I felt like I was living somewhere else other than Bangkok.   The decor was lovely, wine decorated the walls, and the high ceiling made it feel spacious.  The seating, however, was a bit uncomfortable.  Or maybe I just got one with a low table, but others seemed okay with it.   The music also seemed somewhat off with the place.  I would think that if they played jazz it would have been a better choice, but instead it was a mix of pop rock music.

Food?  They serve western dishes, from salads to spaghetti, sandwiches and even pizza.  We ordered the spaghetti carbonara and a lamb hamburger.  Yes, we were not on a diet.  It was a hot, humid day and we were both hungry.  Eat then exercise.  That’s what we do.  All exercise and no eating makes life no fun.

What did I think of the food?  The sphaghetti was delicious.  I loved the creamy texture and it wasn’t
too salty.  I finished the entire dish by myself, however, it was served with an extra egg yolk and after a few bites it started making the dish a bit too rich for me.  Definitely not something to eat if you are watching your cholesterol level.  If, however, you really enjoy the dish rich and creamy, this is the one for you.  The hamburger too was good.  Medium rare it was juicy, and served with large fries.  Not spectacular, but a satisfying hamburger.

I think the fact that service was extremely slow might have affected the overall experience.   It took a while for the spaghetti to arrive and the hamburger took what seemed a very long time to arrive.  We finished the spaghetti, sat and chatted, asked about our hamburger, and still it did not arrive.   The staff were cordial, thought we would have appreciated a little more attention or a little “sorry” considering how long it took for the food to arrive.

The price was reasonable for a nicely decorated fashionable place.  The two dishes amounted to a little less than 500thb.  Yes, its a great place to go chill and enjoy the ambiance if you are in no rush and do not mind waiting.  Perhaps the low table offers a good excuse to lean in to talk to the other person opposite you.  Perhaps at night it is a good place for drinks and wine.   I must go see it in the evening one day.

iPad 2 vs. iPad 1

I have a love for gadgets.  It’s something that I think many of us share is this day and age when technology is just at your fingertips.  Everything can be ordered and viewed online.  Since the iPad’s 2 launch exactly a week ago I have been drooling over it.   I’m tempted, very tempted.  I keep watching the adverts on youtube.  But now that the iPad 1 is almost a hundred dollars cheaper, which would make the more practical buy?  Do I really need one considering the lifestyle I have now?

This past week, in order not to have an “impulse buy” I’ve been thinking about it.  (Actually, I’ve been thinking about it since the launch of iPad, but could not reason getting one considering it seems like a bigger version of my iPhone.)  Now with iPad 2, my desire for one gets stronger.  It’s just a matter of time.  

As technology evolves, so does our future.  In the future I envision many households having at least one iPad and one e-book like the Kindle.  Everything is online and everything is downloadable.  We’ll be using less paper, but we’ll be using other forms of energy to fuel our gadgets. I can’t quite figure which one is the more eco-friendly one.  If you know, please share your thoughts!

And so my desire for iPad  has gotten my brain searching for justification of the purchase.  It switches back and forth between decisions for an against. 

Reasons for getting iPad 2 goes likes this:  “Hmm..I know the price tag is a bit high, but it is the same as it was for the iPad 1, so it isn’t really that much.  It has a dual core processor which makes it faster, its now 30% thinner and 15% lighter.  My arms will feel better holding it up for reading. I can order magazines online and not have a house full of magazines that have to later be sorted out and cleaned.  I can load pictures, play games (not that I really do) and surf the internet.  I can sit on the sofa and play around. (which I already do with the iPhone and my not so big netbook)

After all this, I think my main temptation are the magazines that can be loaded in colour.  I can keep back issues and have them all at my finger tips when I want to browse through them. Hmm.. tempting.

Now reasons for getting the iPad 1 versus iPad 2.  First of all, iPad 1 is now almost a hundred dollars cheaper.  It’s not too much of a saving, but if I did every purchase $100 cheaper, I’d have saved enough for a short weekend trip somewhere.  Now I always value traveling.  One learns so much through travel.  Secondly, I don’t really need the fast dual core processor which of course would be most beneficial if I played games (which I don’t).  There’s only so much so and so speed I need to browse the web, read magazines and look at my pictures.  Third, thinner though lighter, could also mean its more fragile.  Being the clumsy person I am, I’m bound to drop it one day sooner or later.  So which one would be more durable?  Lighter may be fragile, but has less weight on impact.? (Okay I’m lost now)  And lastly,  I think magazines work equally well on iPad 1 as they do on iPad 2.   As for buying it here in Bangkok or elsewhere? Price is roughly the same. 

I probably won’t be using the huge iPad 2 to take any pictures or videos either.  I have my Nikon SLR and a small camcorder already.  So after all this debate what would you buy?  (Not considering resale value.)   I suppose one has to look at how you will use it.  If you look at the “logical” purchase for me, you would say I should get the iPad 1.  My brain says “iPad 1”, but the “little me” inside is telling me “iPad 2.”  I mean it’s simple,  iPad 2 has the magnetic cover in such lovely colours! Love it.

Which one should I follow?  Logical me or little me? Which one would you?  To tempt you, check out their website…

iPad: Singapore or Bangkok?

When traveling, everyone always tries to buy goods that are cheaper than what they can get back home.  Being in Singapore, where a lot of people come to buy electronics I had to go check out the prices.  My mission was to find out if electronic products (especially the iPad) are cheaper here or in Bangkok.

Singapore has a mall that specializes in electronics called Funan. It’s easily accessible by MRT (undergound), just get off at City Hall and exit on North Ridge Road.  Funan is just down the street.  It’s like Fortune and Panthip Plaza in Bangkok, but its more quiet and more orderly.

There are a zillion shops selling laptops and computers.  I walk around and just enjoy browsing through all the gadgets and gizmos.  I always had a particular fondness for electronics and the techonology always fascinates me.  Its actually more fun than looking for clothes… 

I check out the price of the ILuv clock radio for iPod and iPhone dual charge. It’s S$399.  With exchange rate of 23.1 thb to 1 SGD, it’s consderably more expensive than the 6,100 THB price tag in Bangkok.   Then I spy beautiful cases for the iPhone and want to get some for my lovely iPhone, but sadly the same brands and design too convert to be slightly more expensive than in Bangkok. 

Not significantly different, but why pay more if you can pay less right?

Anyways, I make my way to the Mac Shop and check the iPad price.

16GB Wifi it S$728,
32 GB Wifi S$878
64 GB Wifi S$1028

Converted to THB, Thailand still remains slightly cheaper.    As I walk around Orchard, I check out the iPad at all the shops I spy..There is practically one at every mall. There is a Mac shop at 313Somerset which is packed with people, but if you want personal time to play around the iPad without interruption, head to the neighboring mall which is opposite Robinsons. Its so quiet there and you can spend a good ten or fifteen minutes playing with the iPad.

What about the iPhone 4? I check out the price and that too is equivalent to the iPhone 4 in Bangkok.

I am tempted, very tempted but I still have time to decide… if I want I can also go buy it in Bangkok.   So in conclusion,  if you want any apple product, between Singapore and Bangkok, it is now currently cheaper in Bangkok. (Exchange rate of 23.1THB to 1SGD)  🙂

Shopping on Singapore’s Orchard Road: Tips and Ideas

Most people who come to Singapore either Eat then Shop or Shop then Eat or if you are not a big fan of eating then you’d Shop.  Most girls I know who come here go crazy with all the shopping malls and variety of brands.  So today (and yesterday) I went round exploring the shopping scene in Singapore as well as to buy everything that’s on my shopping list for friends and family.  I discovered some new malls and also a new route for which to shop.

Before Id ‘always just get off at Orchard MRT for shopping at Orchard Road, but this trip I discovered Somerset MRT.  Somerset MRT actually gives you access to the East side of Orchard road which is awesome if you want to shop at Robinsons, Centre Point, 313@ Somerset before making your way to Paragon, Takashimaya, Wisma and ION.

What and Where:

Robinsons is great if you want to buy Vitamins and other health related products.  They have a section in most Robinsons on the same floor as the comestics and there are almost always some kind of sales or promotions.  Compared to Thailand, there are more brands and the promotions are good. Three bottles of 90 gelcaps Alaskan Salmon Fish Oil was on sale for S$57.   Cross the street once you are off the Somerset MRT on the Orchard Road side.

Centre Point is actually the plaza in which Robinsons is located. I ventured out and discovered the HK brand Sasa cosmetic shops which sells cosmetics at a discount to the department stores.  They had some sales of 15% to 20% for products that were normal priced elsewhere.

313@ Somerset is a newly opened shopping mall (for me anyways) and what stood out was the HUGE Forever 21 shop.  This is great if you are a Forever 21 fan.  It goes up 4 stories but beware, on weekends there was a long line to all the dressing rooms.

By the time you’ve walked through all these crowded shopping malls a great place to relax and have some respite from the chaos of people is at Paragon. Just across the street, it is a fairly peaceful shopping mall with slightly higher end brands.  A great place to have lunch though is at P.S. Cafe which is on the 3rd floor.  It’s part of the Project Shop which sells funky clothing, but their cafe is good and sells great food and cakes.  Dishes range from S$15 upwards . (They have a website of course:  They have other locations too.  If  you want simpler foods at Paragon, they also have Crystal Jade and a basement which has a number of restaurants and coffee shops.  Oh, and if you have kids, Paragon has a Toys R Us shop on the top floor. 😀 

Now to the mega shopping mall of Takashimaya which is a must visit for me.  For girls, I love their shoe section.  There are lots of different brands and everytime I come there is always some promotion.  If you like brands, Tods was fairly crowded and had some lovely shoes and bags to tempt.   Knowing guys (who find it hard to understand why women shop) there is Kinokuniya bookstore on the plaza side of the third floor I think. It’s absolutely huge and I was told one of the biggest in Asia.  So if you don’t want to shop, you can spend a good deal of time browsing through the books.  Note it also gets very crowded on weekends.

In the basement of Takashimaya, I am in happy land  where there is a large section on cooking utensils and housewares.  I love pots and pans and all the baking stuff.  Then on the lower basement there are food and snacks to tempt me.  They have a wonderful Cold Storage Supermarket there which has lots of scrumptious food, and outside there is a variety of japanese cream puffs, takoyaki, hokkaido ice cream..cookies, Royce chocolate, tea as well as a huge section of Harrods.  It used to be a small section, but this time it has significantly grown.  There is also a new more orderly foodcourt where all the korean, vietnamese and other foods have been relocated.  It’s a great place if you want to sit down and have a simple meal.  It’s just very crowded and the noise level can go quite high on weekends.

From Takashimaya, I walked along the underground levels which connect you to Wisma Atria and eventually Ion.  Walk underground, there are lots of shops ranging from Zara, Bossini, Guess, Charles and Keith, Pretty Fit, and Forever 21.  Depending on what you want to look at, there is everything.  Wisma also has Topshop.

Then I arrive at ION which is one of the newest additions to Orchard Road.  If you look at it from outside, it is a beautifully shaped building full of curves and windows.  On the stops up to the entrance where Louis Vuitton and Gucci just blind you with their displays there is a beautiful scultpure of people going about their business.  There is a man reading a newspaper, a lady shopping and a business man rushing by….each in various colours.  Lovely. Ion has a wonderfully large Sephora store where I spent a good deal of time.  They have OPI nail colours and all the usual brands.  Oh, there is also Uniglo 🙂

ION for me is a great place to end the shopping route.  It is directly connected to the MRT station so just follow the signs or ask someone and you can just hop back to your hotel 🙂

Pricewise, I have to say that Bangkok is cheaper.  Bangkok too has a wonderful shopping scene, yet the variety and the intensity in which people shop cannot be compared to Singapore.  Singaporeans go to Orchard to shop, expatriates go to Orchard to shop and tourists go to Orchard to shop.  Even if you don’t plan on shopping much, its definitely a road you should visit to just experience how people can go crazy shopping. 🙂  Happy Shopping!!

Jordi at the Khan al-Khalili Bazaar


After digressing from my travels to my micro marathon, today I write about an activity almost every girl cannot resist: shopping.  This time though, it’s about shopping in Cairo.  If you are anything like me, whenever I travel abroad I always want to take a piece of it back with me for “memories” sake.   So where do people go to shop in Cairo?  You go to the Khan al-Khalili Bazaar which also happens to be one of the oldest and biggest bazaars in the middle east.

This bazaar is not only a place for tourists to go shopping, but it is itself a great place to get lost in and discover a part of ancient life in Egypt.  Since 1382, this had been a place where merchants from afar came to sell their goods, have coffee, smoke a sheesha and perhaps spend a night in one of the travel lodges.  It’s filled with small alleyways and crammed with shops selling anything they can.

As you walk by, merchants call out to grab your attention in a number of international languages.  To my surprise a lot of them speak Thai.  You squeeze pass strangers in small alleyways and then suddenly find yourself standing before huge medieval gates carved in beautiful stone.  They are breath taking.  I walk around some more, peer into a dark shop and upon entering discover how beautiful its ancient ceilings are.  The owners quickly turn on the lights and show us the beauty of their shop.  They have exquisite but expensive Egyptian decorations. I like it.

Outside, the smaller shops sell egyptian lamps, brass, leather goods, and other hand made products.  I see beautiful boxes with inlaid mother of pearl, silverware with beautiful motifs, leather seats, copper trays, bracelets and even papyrus pictures.  There are egyptian cotton scarves and jewelry shops with beautiful exotic designs. 

Now almost all the shops require you to do a lot of haggling before finally getting the desired price, but there is this one shop that I was taken to called “Jordi.”  The owner I believe is Spanish (well he spoke spanish anyways) and its great in that everything here has a price tag.  No haggling required.  Everything is at very reasonable price and so you are able to do your souvenir shopping in peace of mind.

You have to go up a steep flight of steps before you find the place, but I think if you ask around you will find someone to direct you to it.  Up the stairs, you find yourself on a balcony with several rooms looking over a courtyard.  Jordi occupies around 3 rooms each selling different varieties of products.  One sells scarves, clothing while others sell wooden inlaid boxes, papyrus bookmarks, magnets and other souvenirs. They even have silver earrings and jewelry, but they are all piled into plastic boxes and you have to find your own pair.  It’s fun.   I buy some gifts for friends and family before once again wandering out into the chaotic bazaar.

On some cobblestoned street I spot someone with a large tray of the traditional Aish bread on their head walking around looking for customers.  It’s amazing how he can carry such a large tray like that.  As evening arrives the lights from the colourful egyptian lamps shine out and the belly dancing costumes glitter.  I love the colours that fills up this bazaar.  It’s full of colour and excitement.  As I find my way back to my ride home, I look back and wonder what it was like thousands of years ago when camels probably brought all these goods along.  What did people sell back then?