When Traveling, Ensure You Have A Global Wifi Device

[Check out my earlier blogposts about What To Do in Penang and my stay at Carnarvon House] We were in Penang for approximately 4 days (25th to 28th January 2015) but were at risk of getting lost 3 times, because we wanted to check out places that even locals may not know about, and after popping into the many interesting shops along the way, it is easy to get disoriented and l.o.s.t even after we have spotted a ‘landmark’ in the distance. Serious.

Global Wifi device

With the Global Wifi device, we did not have to buy new SIM cards for use in Penang, could surf the Net and use Whatsapp any time, and most importantly, find our way around Penang with GPS. :D

The 3 Times We (Nearly) Got Lost:

1) Our first day in Penang: Airport to Carnarvon House

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An airport taxi costs RM44.70 – steep, yes, but isn’t this the case with taxis at all airports around the world? It was about 8.45pm when we boarded the taxi, and while it is easy to locate Carnarvon House in the daytime, it’s rather difficult at night as it looks like one of the many shophouses in a row.

Our taxi driver must have gone round the area twice, navigating through very tight lanes that made him curse under his breath. I quickly found our location with the help of my Global Wifi device (wifi-on-the-go is a lifesaver!), told the driver to let us alight and we walked the rest of the 300 metres or so. He was so thankful he didn’t have to continue searching. XD

2) Our third day in Penang: Shopping Mall to Prawning Venue

One of the things we wanted to do in Penang was to go prawning (Yes, prawning. Not fishing) With the power of the Internet, my boyfriend managed to find a prawning venue in Penang, that even my friends from Penang knew nothing about! United Prawning’s facebook page can be accessed here: https://www.facebook.com/unitedprawning and its address is ‘No.288B-1-2, Fortune Court, Jalan Thean Teik, Bandar Baru, Air Itam, Penang, Malaysia’

Our taxi driver did not know where Fortune Court was, and brought us to some other ‘Court’ that had only residences. I had to use my Global Wifi device to guide him there.

A screenshot:

Global Wifi

And as luck would have it, the place was CLOSED! And probably under a new management team too. *faints*

United Prawning Penang

Moral of the story: You may have wifi, but don’t get complacent (and stupid). Call and speak with someone at the place you want to go to FIRST, before making your way there in an expensive taxi [they don’t charge by the meter; not when they can rip you off]

3) Finding Times Square

Global Wifi

Times Square in Penang is one landmark that you cannot miss once you spot it in the distance, or so we thought. Then we popped into a convenience store for a bottle of water, and a few other shops to the right and left, and before we knew it, we had no idea where we were. Couldn’t see Times Square anymore.

We even found ourselves outside a toy museum cum gift shop that was actually someone’s home too.

Once again, I had to rely on the GPS, and we made our way to Times Square eventually.

McDonalds Time Square

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Our trip to Penang would be less enjoyable if we didn’t have wifi on the go, hence this blogpost. If you’ll be traveling any time soon, pop by Global Wifi’s website (http://www.rentglobalwifi.com/) and take advantage of their promotions for reliable and affordable wifi devices:

Global Wifi

For more details: http://www.rentglobalwifi.com/

What To Do In Penang (Georgetown)

It’s my second day in Penang and I already am dreaming of staying put in Georgetown and not returning to Singapore. :D If you have been following me on Facebook, you’ll know that I had a blog coaching session here yesterday AND I also found my ‘Blogging For A Living’ books being sold in a Popular bookstore in Penang! :D

So… this might be my retirement town in future. LOL! And here’s what you should do when you come to Penang, and in particular, Georgetown:

1) Eat a lot of good food

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My boyfriend and I have been here for approximately one-and-a-half days and this is not all of what we have eaten, just a portion. :D I really do love Penang’s assam laksa, hokkien mee, char kway teow, and basically, all their street food!

And the food here is unbelievably cheaper than in Singapore. Would you say no to a plate of yummy char kway teow that costs less than S$1.70? You just can’t.

2) Snap pictures of (or with) the street art

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I definitely have more street art pictures to share with you… in my next blogpost.

The pink sling bag in the first picture is from Maku Store (20% off) at Bugis Junction #03-20. The T-rex tote bag is from Tee Saurus (www.tee-saurus.com) and so is the tee I am wearing! :D Shorts and flip flops from Aeropostale.

Maku Store Singapore

3) Forget about hotels and stay at Carnarvon House

I fell in love with this place from pictures online. Though the rooms don’t come with attached bathrooms, everything is so clean that I feel right at home here.

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The first room we stayed in is called the Carnarvon room, and the second, Kimberley room. There’s cold air-conditioning inside and warm showers outside; I cannot ask for more.

The people who run Carnarvon House are also extremely friendly and very generous with recommendations of what to eat and where to go.

(More pictures in my upcoming blogpost)

4) Visit a wet market and the Clan Jetties

It is quite an experience, I tell you! You don’t usually see an array of fish on display right at your feet, ya? Look out for the bloated brown one in the second picture…

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Besides seafood, you’ll find household items, vegetables, fruit, snacks, accessories, etc, all sold in the market! :)

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I was initially reluctant to head to the Clan Jetties. But Eunice from Carnarvon House had recommended the jetties to us so we walked there from Carnarvon House. Probably a 12 or 15 minute walk. The Chew Jetty is more ‘happening’ than the Tan Jetty. Chew had more stalls selling souvenirs, etc. And I bought some for a giveaway (at the end of this blogpost).

The clan jetties were built by clansmen in the past and traditionally occupied by people of the same surname e.g. Ong Jetty, Lim Jetty, Lee Jetty, etc. You see?! I am destined to stay here at the Tan Jetty. Lol.

5) Buy my book at a Popular bookstore near you :D

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6) Go shopping in the many malls; and share your loot with people at home

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We obviously did some serious shopping. And I could continue replying to emails, whatsapp messages and also posting on Facebook while we were out because of the Global Wifi device I got from the Changi Recommends counter (available at all terminals in Changi Airport). Check out http://www.rentglobalwifi.com if you are like me and dislike having to purchase new SIM cards in your destination country and going through all the hassle of switching SIM cards.

With this wifi device, I just switch it on, then connect my handphone via wifi to have internet access. Super convenient. More about this device and current promotions in an upcoming post. It is late and I have to sleep now. ;)

But here’s a giveaway that will start on Tues (27 Jan) at 10am:

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Just head to my facebook page (www.facebook.com/thegracetan) when the giveaway begins. :)

Learning Journey: HOST-ing at Grand Park City Hall

I managed to tick off one of the items on my bucket list: Work in F&B! I was invited to Grand Park City Hall (a 5-star hotel), given staff uniforms, and within 3 hours, I had the opportunity of working in F&B, housekeeping, and making a cameo at Reception as a HOST. :D

The hotel has a HOST program in which staff are trained to work in these 3 roles and get significantly higher pay than the other staff who are trained and work only in 1 role.

HOSTs get a fast track up the Progressive Wage Model, NOT by working longer hours, but by working smarter, being more productive and having more skills to contribute to various departments which are facing backlogs

They are empowered to earn more than the minimum salary per job title and they can ‘climb’ up the career ladder based on their capabilities and effort.

progressive wage model

 

The HOST program re-designs traditional roles to enhance employee skills and workforce flexibility through multi-skilling. So during peak periods, the HOST is fluid and skilled enough to be transferred to other sections which may be short of staff. This helps Park Hotel manage the manpower shortage faced in the hospitality industry.

I left the hotel with newfound respect for hotel staff after that learning journey.

Grand Park City Hall

I entered the hotel in my sparkly gold dress and Hello Kitty shoes, and had to change into black uniforms for each role. HR also found me some black covered shoes. I was even given a nametag; which signaled that things were getting serious.

First up, my stint in the F&B department…

1) F&B

Thankfully, there were no actual customers at that time as lunch hour had passed. So it was just a role-play. I had two pretend customers, and all they ordered was juice.

Grand Park City Hall

As luck would have it, the kitchen had a sudden flood of orders from hotel guests who wanted food sent up to them. So the juice for these two customers took an exceedingly long time to be prepared.

I eventually spotted the lady casting anxious yet amused glances in my direction.

What I learnt:

1) Don’t offer freebies – I was more than happy to offer my guests some dessert to make up for the long wait. I must have truly felt at home. LOL.

2) Let a supervisor / manager appease angry guests – If guests are really upset, let a manager handle the situation. Usually, in the face of ‘authority’, guests are easily appeased.

3) Repeat the order before walking away from the table.

*Guess what, after this learning journey, I found myself at Xin Wang Hongkong Cafe at Plaza Singapura around 5.45pm on a weekday when there weren’t many diners yet. Our order was taken by a lady who looked like a manager, because of the outfit she was wearing. I took the trouble of repeating the order for our table of three for her. And she still managed to get it wrong, and sent us an item we didn’t order. *facepalm* On top of that, our food took really long to be served, considering there were few customers at that time, and we were nearly late for our movie. Ordinarily, I would not have hesitated about sending feedback to the company. But this time, I let it slide. It truly is tough working in F&B. On top of being on your feet all the time, you have to be careful not to spill anything or drop and break anything. Customers tend to be hungry and grouchy and if you get their orders wrong, some might give you a tongue-lashing.

Having experienced the shortest of stints in F&B, I thank staff sincerely when my food is served, and not just for demonstrating good manners. I thank those who bring me to a table, and especially those who serve the food and drink. As wait staff, it’s definitely encouraging to be appreciated by those you are serving. So, complain less, praise more, and be a better customer, ok? :D

2) Housekeeping

I was truly privileged to be taught by Jun Jie, who loves his work!

First you have to load up the heavy trolley with fresh bedlinen and all, then roll the trolley out to the rooms. In the room, you have to strip the bed, and then give it fresh bedlinen as if you have OCD (the lines on the duvet cover have to be parallel to the sides of the bed, everything must look straight and crisp, etc).

And the pillows must be placed in such a fashion that the openings on the pillowcases must be facing each other (in the center of the bed) and not outwards. And don’t even get me started on the bedsheet – at the four corners of the bed, it must be folded and tucked it precisely, with that nice straight line at the corner:

At least Park Hotel has installed an Ezy-maid system under the mattress which makes a house-keeper’s work easier, smarter and safer. The Ezy-maid helps to lift the heavy mattress up, so your hands are free to tuck the covers in properly.

Grand Park City Hall

Grand Park City Hall

And, of course, the bathroom…

On top of replenishing the toiletries, and cleaning the toilet bowl, bath tub, etc, room attendants have to leave the bathroom DRY. What this means is you wipe down everything.

I was happy to let the bath tub dry on its own after giving it a scrub-down, but nooooo… I had to dry it with a towel so there’ll be no water stains after.

Grand Park City Hall

What I learnt:

1) Details, details, details! Some guests are extremely particular about how the room looks, so every corner of the bedsheet must be tucked it neatly, the bathroom must be dry, and there must not be any funky smells in the room!

2) Don’t wait around for things to happen. While the Ezy-Maid system is automatically raising the bed to a more back-friendly level, do something else, like removing pillowcases, etc.

3) Work smart – make sure your trolley has all the correct bedlinen you require. If you have to rush back to the pantry to retrieve a missing bedsheet, you are definitely not going to turn around this room in good time.

I felt so tired after ‘refreshing’ this room (I didn’t have the chance to vacuum the carpet because we were running short of time) that I told everyone present I will not mess up hotel beds anymore. I’ll probably just sleep on the cover from now on. It’s so much work for room attendants, who are also assessed based on time taken to refresh a room!

3) Front Desk

Grand Park City Hall

I didn’t get to do much at front desk besides listening to a quick introduction of their duties. When the phone rang, I didn’t dare to answer it as who knows what the guest on the other end of the line could want, right? I let the professionals do the job. :D

*pose for a photo*

Grand Park City Hall

It’s not easy working at Reception either. A lady walked up to us with a huge frown on her face, and asked to call one of the rooms. It seems that her friend was late for an appointment with her, and she could not get in touch with the person.

I was told that people who walk up to the counter to request to phone a particular guest must have their particulars verified or recorded, because guests should not be disturbed unnecessarily, especially if this guest in question is a celebrity.

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Lots of thanks to the patient and ever-smiley Jun Jie for showing me the ropes, and Amrit for teaching me how to be a good HOST :)

Grand Park City Hall

Do fill out a compliment card for these two the next time you visit Grand Park City Hall. It’ll help tremendously in their careers! :) And don’t be surprised too if you find that the front desk staff who assisted with your check-in yesterday, is the one serving you in the restaurant today, and cleaning your room after you leave the hotel tomorrow! You may have just met a multi-skilled HOST! :D

Let the HOST team share more with you in the video below:

Departure Tax: Soekarno-Hatta Airport, Indonesia

Indonesia Airport Departure Tax

If you’re traveling back from Indonesia, ensure you have 150,000 rupiah set aside to pay the airport departure tax! I paid mine at the check-in counter for AirAsia, and the sticker was pasted onto my boarding pass (I did web check-in).

Things to note at Soekarno-Hatta Airport:

1) Don’t get to your boarding gate too early – the waiting area is huge but the air-conditioning doesn’t seem to be working well, so it’s really warm in there.

2) There is a water dispenser near one of the coffee machines at the waiting area – if you have a water bottle with you, time to fill it up!

3) If you have a lot of time before your flight departs, you can head to level 2 where there’s a massage centre – a 30 minute massage costs Rp90,000. [Likewise, don’t head to the boarding gate if you still have a lot of time to kill]

4) The airport WIFI is spotty at best, so don’t count on getting much work done at the airport while waiting. Best if you read a book or take a nap.

5) The nasi ayam penyet at Laras Resto isn’t the best. I get better ayam penyet in Singapore. I’ll give that a miss the next time I’m at that airport.

6) If your flight has just landed at the airport, don’t head out of the airport to flag down a cab if you are traveling alone and are unsure about which cab companies are the safer ones to travel with. Just walk to the “public transport” counter within the Arrival Hall and request for a cab from Blue Bird Group. You’ll be quoted a high price upfront (e.g. Rp 350,000) but just insist that you’re alone and have no need for a big cab, and you can get one at Rp 220,000 (like I did).

7) The bubble tea store serves pretty decent beverages. I bought a grass jelly milk tea and enjoyed it. Best to have a cold drink in hand before stepping out of the airport and into Jakarta’s hot weather!

8) My cab ride to Sari Pan Pacific Jakarta took an hour on a Friday morning while the ride to the airport on Saturday morning took considerably less time. Still, ensure you schedule enough time for your taxi journeys so you won’t miss your flight due to Jakarta’s unpredictable traffic and sometimes really horrible traffic jams.

How To Get A Refund From World Ventures

I have received many comments on my World Ventures blogposts (like this one) regarding refunds from World Ventures. Three days ago, I got an email from a lady who is trying to get a refund and who has information to share:

World Ventures Refund

I found some interesting information on page 30 of the document she sent over:

“11.5 – Voluntary Cancellation

A participant in this network marketing plan has a right to cancel the Agreement at any time without penalty at any time, regardless of reason by giving fourteen (14) days notice in writing to WorldVentures, provided that if the termination occurs within sixty (60) days from the date the RBS is first made available to the relevant Representative online, WorldVentures will, upon request, refund the purchase of the RBS (Initial and any Monthly Fee paid).

*Representative Business System — A selection of WorldVentures training materials and business support literature that each new Representative is required to purchase. The Representative Business System is sold to Representatives at the Company’s cost.”

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I just keep learning new things about World Ventures it seems. There’s even a set of training materials that every new recruit has to purchase?! Wow.

To those WV reps who keep saying I’m stupid for not wanting to join, well, let’s just say I’m smart enough not to sign up for something I DON’T want. ;)

Chatuchak Market Map: 2014 (Jatujak)

This map was exactly what I was looking for online before I headed to Bangkok last week. Unfortunately, I didn’t find a suitable (and updated) one online. So I picked up a map when I was at Chatuchak, and have scanned it for you! :) (Leave me a comment if it’s useful for you)

Map of Chatuchak:

Chatuchak Map

Chatuchak Map

The whole market is kind of like a maze, but if you work your way through it systematically, you’ll be able to cover most (if not all) of the market.

If you are heading there anytime soon, do note that it can get quite hot in the afternoon, PLUS there is always the possibility of sudden rain. So ensure you have water, a handheld fan (if you cannot stand the heat) and a poncho or umbrella just in case it rains.

*I’m sounding like a nag but do carry your backpack in front of you and avoid carrying thin/flimsy totes which pickpockets can easily slash with a penknife.

Happy Shopping! ~

Bangkok Fashion Outlet, Prawning in Bangkok, Century The Movie Plaza, Mo Chit to Don Mueang Airport

[Travel Journal: 5th Day in Bangkok. And I’m now back in SG! :D]

Located about a 10-minute walk away from Surasak station is Bangkok Fashion Outlet. There are 3 floors for your shopping pleasure – everything from fashion to home furnishing.

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I bought Wacoal lingerie here as the designs are pretty and the prices are low.

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Then we had lunch at the basement foodcourt. Get a cashcard (with refundable balance) for hassle-free cash-less payment for food and drinks.

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I had rice with a mixture of vegetables. It tasted so-so but the chilli sauce is potent.

At the atrium sale, I spotted Melissa shoes on sale at 399 baht. The original price tags showed prices ranging from 1-2K. But they were all leftover sizes e.g. 35 / 40.

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Outside the mall, I bought 4 pairs of earrings for 100 baht. :)

We then took a taxi to a prawning place recommended by a Thai blogger pal. The taxi ride cost 53 baht. Just showed the driver a printout (in thai) regarding the place, and he managed to get us there.

Thailand Prawning

Prawning costs 100 baht/hour. Cheap! This is less than half the price we have to pay in SG.

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Caught just 1 prawn which we gave away. I had zero luck here. Thankfully, we had gotten just one prawning rod to share.

We then walked to the SENAfest mall nearby (less than a minute away). It looks and feels like our Greenwich V mall in SG – very good place to chill.

There are many restaurants and kids education centres here.

We then wanted to go to a mall near the Victory Monument via taxi. The driver of a taxi we flagged down by the road didn’t know where we wanted to go because he doesn’t speak English. Thankfully, a security guard at the mall came to our rescue and radioed for another cab whose driver seemed to know where to take us.

It was around 4pm but traffic was pretty bad already – it made me feel like jumping out of the cab actually. Total cabfare: 109 baht.

At Century The Movie Plaza, we had dinner at Yayoi again – but it was a very long wait for the food.

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Bill: 568 baht for our dinner.

We then took the train to Mo Chit station (and went out the exit near the Yamazaki bakery) then boarded the A1 bus. It was a breeze; no wait, no fuss, just pure luck. Headed straight for the airport with light traffic most of the way, then traffic slows to a crawl after. Budget at least an hour for getting to the airport if you are heading there in peak hour traffic! Otherwise, the journey should take around 15 minutes, I guess.

At the Airport, if you are flying with Scoot, head for the NokScoot counters. It is great that there are shops and cafes to head to before boarding our flight.

You’ll find below additional information about taxi rides in Bangkok and my take on Scoot flights…

~ Taxi Fares in Bangkok ~

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If you’re flagging down a taxi by the roadside (not hopping into one in front of any of the major shopping spots e.g. Platinum), it is easier to get the driver to agree to charge by the meter. If you are leaving Platinum at night and trying to get a tuk tuk or cab, you’ll likely have to bargain or agree with the driver’s proposed fee before boarding.

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Interestingly, Scoot gave us stretch seats on both our flights to and from Bangkok! I guess it is a perk of booking early?? :)

Flight time is around 2 hours and 5 minutes. And the plane’s usually packed both ways with Singaporeans.

I’ve flown with Scoot three times this year. No complaints thus far! Thumbs up! Will definitely fly with Scoot again.

Bangkok: Pat Pong Night Market and Ping Pong shows

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Pat Pong is really intriguing. It has a night bazaar but is also infamous for its nightlife. We went there rather early in the evening. Some of the clubs seemed like they were not yet ready for business but touts were everywhere – from the BTS station exit till the end of the night bazaar stretch.

Both male and female touts will approach to entice you to pick one of the “shows” / “看表演”.

The “menu” they present involves words like “ping pong”, “p***y” and even “man and woman make love”.

We walked past one club with its doors wide open and saw at least 5 scantily-dressed ladies pole-dancing. But walk into the dark abyss, we dared not.

Besides, I do not believe in encouraging businesses which exploit women.

Even if you are not interested in thai girls and what they do with ping pong balls, you can still head to pat pong for the restaurants and the night market.

The night bazaar is in the middle, between the row of restaurants on the left and the clubs on the right. Strangely enough, there is a Naraya outlet there and it has no queue at the cashier. Best place to get Naraya souvenirs in Bangkok probably!

I guess Pat Pong is an interesting place to people-watch, from the safety of restaurant premises.

A friend once shared that at one show he watched in Thailand with his wife, the ladies simply bathed before the guests. And he did share that you must know the ‘right’ places to go to so they don’t harass you for more money after you’ve paid for and consumed that mandatory first drink.

As for me, I’d rather spend that money on shopping. ;)

Bangkok: Platinum, Palladium, Hello Kitty Cafe, Siam Center – Greyhound Cafe

[Day 4 in Bangkok – Reporting ‘Live’ from the Land of a Thousand Shopping Malls (or more)]

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(Above) Is that a Batman shirt?! Oh wait… it’s ButtMan. :D LOL

Platinum is probably a 15-20 minute walk from Chit Lom BTS. We decided not to hire any tuk tuks or taxis on this trip, relying on ourselves and the BTS to get us everywhere.

Pratunam (opposite Platinum) looks terrible so we did not head there.

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At Platinum, we had lunch at Yum Saap. The longan and crab stick salad which the wait staff had said would be “little spicy” for us turned out to be very spicy. #eatitallnonetheless

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He had a green curry chicken and fishcake set while I ate the pad thai, which is good ‘cos it’s sweet, which I like. Will be back for this again. Total bill: 274 baht.

When we got tired of walking & shopping, we headed to Red Mango (at the Platinum building below Novotel) and had frozen yoghurt with mango and lychee toppings. Total cost: 159 baht.

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Because it was raining when we left Platinum, *thankful I brought ponchos and an umbrella!* we went to Palladium which is across the road from Platinum. Massages are cheaper there: 250baht at Platinum but 199 at Palldium (150baht for 40min).

I also bought a pair of rainbow flats for 100 baht here.

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At Platinum, I did not buy much though I saw many people dragging trolley bags filled with their purchases.

The only shop (on the ground floor) which earned the most money from me:

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I bought 3 dresses here at the “wholesale price” of 390 baht each. Really love the tulip print! :)

*Tip: Money changers at the basement offer better rates than those upstairs.

After Palladium, we headed back to MBK for his shirt fitting and ate at A&W on the way there. Oops. Could not resist!!! :D

And of course, like any self-respecting Hello Kitty fan, I had to visit the Hello Kitty cafe at Siam Square 1. There was a really long queue outside (the cafe was nice enough to provide benches). The cafe is located at the back of the mall on level 1. It is impossible to miss.

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I did not want to queue for kitty food, which likely will not taste nice anyway; just good for photography purposes. So we went to Greyhound Cafe at Siam Center.

He ordered the Buffalo Burger made from squid ink while I had the fettuccini with shrimp and mushroom cream sauce. The fettuccini was really yummy. Usually, pastas with cream sauce do not taste very good after the first mouthful. But this one was mindblowingly awesome. Must try!

We also ordered some vietnamese spring rolls – not bad but not awesome either. I could taste only the egg yolk:

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We then went to Pat Pong Night Market, near Sala Daeng BTS station. (That’s for another blogpost) ;)

Review: Boss Suites Nana Hotel – Bangkok

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The hotel looks great in pictures online but it’s actually not that awesome. The bed is huge but hard. And shower facilities are old.

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The hotel is pretty far from the BTS station. So they provide a free “tuk tuk” service to Nana BTS station. There’s no particular schedule to this. You can get a ride any time when you are leaving the hotel in the morning, but on the way back, there is no way of knowing when you can hitch a ride back. So we walk.

Grand Sukhumvit is much nearer to the BTS station. Boss Suites is another 10 – 15 minute walk from GS.

The massages here aren’t more expensive than outside the hotel though. So that’s good. 300baht for an hour of foot massage is just what I need after a long day of shopping. Great that I can just head back to the hotel room and wash that massage cream off immediately.

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We must have unknowingly booked a hotel in the ‘red light district’. At night, one cannot help but come across streetwalkers at every corner. Others work in pubs and wear the skankiest of outfits while they stand at the door and beckon to passerbys. If you’re a guy in search of nocturnal adventures, you’ll be very happy in Bangkok.

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Also, there are mothers (some very young) begging at street corners and on bridges while carrying their infants. It is a sight I don’t see in SG but it is pretty common in BKK. I have so many questions: Where’s the kid’s dad? Why do you have to beg for a living? Why don’t you get a job or start a stall selling something? These questions will probably never get answered.