Zara blazers are hot!

IMG_20180628_133811.jpgComing from a tropical county, I’ve often wondered how people in temperate countries still could wear a blazer even in summer.

The jackets and suits that I own are perfect for Singapore’s air-conditioned buildings but not suitable to be worn outdoor in the 30 plus degrees Celsius weather for long.

Hence, I was delighted when I spotted a blazer in Zara during my trip to Taipei (it was sweltering). Priced at around S$120, the light blue blazer came with a half-inner lining so that it doesn’t feel so warm.

Flamingo pin.jpgThe material has a netting sort of texture, making it an easy match for both formal and business casual wear. For an added touch, Zara paired the blazer with a red flamingo pin on the lapel.

When I wore in the first time in Singapore, several persons stopped and gave me the thumbs up.

Yesterday, I visited an exhibition at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and decided to check out Zara. That same blazer was up for grab at S$59.90 — that’s half the price. And the choice of colours was more than in Taipei.

I couldn’t let the opportunity pass so I bought one in navy blue. Guess this sort of even out the price per blazer.

When I told the cashier that I had bought a similar blazer at the original price in Taipei, she commented that many overseas shoppers were very happy when they come to the shop. It seems that such sales are not common in Zara outlets elsewhere.

Many other items are going at reduced prices at the Zara outlet at 10 Bayfront Avenue, B2-08 & B2-113, The Shoppes at Marina Bay. Think the sale should also be on at the VivoCity outlet.

So, if you’re into Zara clothing and are looking for great bargains, now’s a great time to drop head there.

 

To Subang and back on propellors

IMG_20180620_085251Think of flying to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore and immediate thoughts are to search for a flight to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

That was precisely what I thought when I was trying to book a trip to the Malaysian capital this week. I was surprised when someone told me that it’s better to fly to Subang to get to the office in Petaling Jaya. Subang is only about 15 minutes away from my meeting venue compared to the 45 minutes’ journey from KLIA.

I went online, did some research and booked a flight on Firefly. The price was comparable to a Malaysian Airline flight to KLIA.

When I arrived at Changi Airport on Wednesday, I was in for another surprise. Instead of boarding via an aerobridge, I had to take a bus to the parking bay where I was greeted by as ATR 72, a twin-engine turboprop aircraft.

It brought back memories of days long ago when I hopped onto a military C130 aircraft for a joyride.

The single-aisle aircraft reminded me of the domestic flights I took in the US. When I looked around before boarding, I realised that I wasn’t the only one intrigued. Several of my fellow passengers were whipping out their smartphones and taking photos of the plane.

With such a compact feel, I was bracing myself for a bumpy ride as the sky was cloudy with light rain. Thankfully, the take-off was smooth and I managed to see more of Changi Airport than before as I was allocated a window seat. I usually pick an aisle seat but seeing that the flight was just a little over an hour, I decided that seating doesn’t really matter and it’s not worth paying to pick a seat.

IMG_20180620_151149The seat was simple with no in-flight entertainment but I was impressed by the branding on the seat belt. I’ve taken flights on many airlines but this is the first I’ve seen — OK, maybe I didn’t notice in some of the rest.

In-flight service included a snack and drinks. Fifteen minutes into the flight and the crew offered soya bean drink or mango juice and peanuts or curry puff. As I wasn’t hungry, I chose mango juice and peanuts.

Before I knew it, it was time to buckle up and prepare for landing — not that I unbuckled my seat belt in the first place.

Overall, the flight was smooth, stable, comfortable, and pleasantly quiet. I was expecting it to be louder than conventional jet but think it’s quieter.

IMG_20180620_104316The aircraft parked at the gate and it was only a short walk from the gate to the immigration counter, baggage claim and customs.

Subang Airport or Subang Skypark, now called Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, used to be the main airport for Malaysia until KLIA took over in 1998. One of my first trips overseas was to Genting Highlands and I vividly remember landing in Subang.

Today’s Subang reminds me of a smaller Don Muang Airport, which has been replaced by Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.

IMG_20180620_104954

A friend picked me up from the Arrival driveway — nearly everyone else was taking a Grab vehicle. The trip to my meeting venue was short, very short — under 10 minutes.

My meeting itself was just a tad longer at about an hour.

After a quick lunch, I headed back to the airport for my return trip. Everything was a breeze — check in, immigration clearance and customs check.

IMG_20180620_142218On the second flight, I picked the curry puff for snack. The pastry was tasty and came with a couple of chicken bits. As it was pre-packed, it wasn’t crispy enough. There again, it’s a nice touch for a short haul flight — much better than the mainstream airlines.

IMG_20180620_154900I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of flying on the turboprop aircraft and through Subang Airport. It’s something I’d like to do again if the opportunity arises.

The sad thing is that Firefly has been reported to be shifting to Seletar Airport by the end of 2018 as Changi Airport wants to focus on purely mainstream jet aircraft.

Yu Jan Shin’s butter puffs take the cake

Yu Jan Shin butter pastry

For years, the only proven pastry I’d buy from Taiwan are Chia Te’s lau puo ping (wives cake). I’ve tried many others, thanks to the generosity of family and friends, but nothing comes close — until my trip to Taipei last week.

My younger daughter and I were walking by pastry outlets at the Basement of Taipei 101 when one of the promoters offered us a piece of pastry each. I’m not one to accept such offers but somehow, something prompted me to take and try, which I did.

We walked a few steps away and took our first bites. Truth be told, it was very nice.

The butter pastry was flaky and light while the filling was buttery. Compared to Chia Te’s soft pastry lau puo ping, this pastry was crispy yet not hard. The bite feel is good and the mouth feel great.

We went back to the counter called Yu Jan Shin and ordered a box to sample in our accommodation. The pastry came in two sizes — normal and large, which can be cut into pieces to share.

We bought the large version which came in a box of three. Our intention was to try it once more before deciding if it’s worth buying more for the folks back home.

Further taste test in our room confirmed the results — the butter pastry scores top marks.

Both of us made a mental note to go by Taipei 101 to get some of these goodies later in the week.

The next night, we were enjoying a walk through Raohe Night Market, our favourite night market in Taipei, when we chanced upon a Yu Jan Shin shop at No. 189, Raohe Street, Songshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 105.

As a shop, this was definitely bigger and had more products than the counter at Taipei 101. We sampled some other pastries but found the butter pastry to be the best.

Our family back home liked what we bought so next time I’m in Taipei, I’ve got an alternative place to buy great pastry.

Ichiran Ramen: The only ramen for me

IMG_20180605_121654Confession time. I’m no fan of ramen, pasta or any form of noodles that’s not Chinese. In my mind, there’s nothing like Chinese mee. It’s something I miss dearly whenever I travel, except for perhaps Southeast and East Asian countries.

During my trip to Japan last December, one of my family’s biggest concern was my meals. I’ve got a Chinese mouth and prefer Chinese food for my main courses. I can do with the occasional Western or fast food, or even Southeast Asian food, but shockingly for most, I haven’t quite picked up a taste for Japanese.

On the other hand, my family loves Japanese food. Being considerate to my preferences, they usually go for a good Japanese meal only when I’m away.

Back to my Japan trip. I was persuaded to try ramen for the first time in my life. Confession time again — I was hooked! The ramen is soooooooo good! In fact, it was so good that we went there three times in under a week.

IMG_20180605_122803.jpgI’m talking about Ichiran Ramen. Everything about it is so good — the soup, the ramen and even the experience.

The pork-bone soup is rich, tasty and skimmed to perfection. The ramen is springy and gives a good bite feel — cooked according to the customer’s preference. I opted for medium. The bowl is topped by a few slices of pork. Add a couple of teaspoons of powdered chilli and the meal is simply delicious.

Those who prefer more ingredients can choose to add an egg or more meat.

And the experience, wow, it’s quite something. Admittedly, we went during dinner time and there was a queue each time we arrived. Thankfully, the staff was efficient and we managed to get in in under 30 minutes each time! Order and payment was done via a vending machine.

You can choose to eat individually — bar-stool counter style with a separator between diners — or as a group in traditional round or rectangular tables.

The outlets we went to in Osaka were open 24 hours a day. Imagine my delight when I discovered that there was an outlet in Taipei while I was there last week.

IMG_20180605_123116.jpgIMG_20180605_123049.jpgWithout thinking twice, I headed to No. 97號, Songren Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110 for lunch. Like in Osaka, there was a queue. And similarly, the queue moved fast and we were in in under 15 minutes.

While some reviewers have said that the Taipei version is not as good, I did not notice any difference. It tasted the same as the ones I had in Osaka.

While Ichiran Ramen has made me a convert, my daughter was quick to point out that not all ramen taste the same. Her advice is all I need. I did try one ramen when I came back to Singapore and that experience only proved how correct she was.

That settled it. Ichiran Ramen is the only ramen for me. And for now, it’s either Taipei or Japan for my next fix.

Targus Mobile ViP Backpack makes travelling a breeze

Targus frontVendors often give out so-called premium at press events, conferences and exhibition. While receiving them is a thrill, many of these premiums or tchoichkes end up in the bin, given to someone else or hidden in a stash somewhere.

While at Computex this week, I received a gift from a vendor that will definitely be used. Why? Because it is practical and very useful especially for travelling.

The gift is a Targus Mobile ViP Backpack with the ARM logo.

Upon first look, it looks big but that’s because it has several compartments and can house up to a 16-inch notebook. Surprisingly, it’s light and the construction is such that it doesn’t feel heavy even when filled.

What makes this backpack fantastic for travelling is it’s patented design where it can be unzipped and placed at the airport scanner without needing to remove the notebook. That’s a boon for frequent travellers as one of the biggest pain of clearing security is having to remove the notebook and other electronic devices, among other things.

Why I like the Targus Mobile ViP Backpack:

  1. Targus sideBig and spacious: There are enough pockets for lots of stuff — a notebook pocket, an adjustable main pocket, three front pockets, and two side pockets.
  2. Practical and great for travelling: There’s no need to remove the notebook to clear TSA check plus loads of room for other stuff.
  3. Protects the notebook: A feature called the SafePort Sling keeps the notebook secure so that it doesn’t hit the floor when the bag’s placed down. The backpack also stands sturdily so there’s no need to try to balance it between the legs or rest it against a chair or wall.
  4. Attaches to rolling luggage: Simply slip the strap on the handle of the rolling luggage for easier movement.
  5. Fits up to 16-inch notebooks: This is a great plus because many bags cannot fit notebooks larger than 14 inches without looking bulged. What’s more, there another pocket for a 12-inch tablet. Enough said.

For frequent travellers or even professionals who have to bring their notebooks around, the Targus Mobile ViP Backpack is a great option. Thanks, ARM, for the wonderful gift!

You may order the backpack from Targus at US$89.99.