Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Quantum of the Seas balcony stateroom tour

During our short weekend trip on Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas pre-inaugural sailing, we stayed at a superior ocean view balcony stateroom. These rooms are typically about 198 sq ft in size in addition to a 55 sq ft ocean facing balcony. Our cabin is room 228 located on deck 10 (10228).

The room comes with a large king size bed, shower room, a large Samsung TV, numerous storage space, a desk with two USB sockets, a telephone and sofa. Our room also has a connecting door to the adjacent cabins, which can be formed together as a family connected junior suite with a single large balcony. This can accommodate 8 to 10 guests via three separate bedrooms.

Configurations will vary, but the short video above will hopefully give you an idea to the layout and size of a typical balcony stateroom.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

King's Cross St Pancras tunnel

The new Pancras Square has been connected to King's Cross St Pancras underground station by a tunnel since July of last year. It is well hidden - so much so, that in fact, I've walked past the tunnel a couple of times without ever realising it was there. Not that I never needed to use the tunnel itself as it isn't exactly a short cut to anywhere particular interesting (unless you are a property developer/speculator).

Still, in a redevelopment that has thrown up its fair share of bland and uninteresting design, the tunnel is perhaps, along with the redesigned King's Cross Railway Station, worthy of a visit for anyone interested in architecture (or at least pretending they live in a Star Trek fantasyland). The 90m tunnel is equipped on one side with an integrated LED light wall which displays a radiating form of light show.

The entrance to the tunnel is at One Pancras Square building. It is located at Pancras Square, part of a massive redevelopment and gentrification of St Pancras & Somers Town district.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Setting sail on Royal Caribbean's newest smart ship 'Quantum of the Seas'

Me, on board our first ever cruise
Last week my partner and I were invited to board Royal Caribbean's newest ship, Quantum of the Seas, at their pre-inaugural sail from Southampton for two nights. This was an event catered for the media, members of the press, bloggers, VIPs, travel agents and staff members.
Two70 lounge which can be reconfigured as a performance theatre
This was our first cruise so I had no idea of what to expect. The closest I have ever experience anything like this was in Vegas almost twenty years ago. A mini city resort on a giant boat is probably the closest I can describe this ship. Quantum of the Seas is the first of a new breed of smart ships called the Quantum-class, and is currently the second largest cruise ship in the world, just behind Royal Caribbean's own massive Oasis-class ships. Read on for my impressions.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer featuring Brockley (and some other stuff)

Marvel Studios and Disney today released the first public trailer of Avengers: Age of Ultron, next year's guaranteed superhero blockbuster. I won't bore you with my analysis, except, well, you just have to watch it. If it is at least half as good as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, then I will be happy bunny - and it sure looks like it may.
More importantly, within all the shots of Ultron in its various incarnation, Iron Man's Hulkbuster and Hulk destroying half of Johannesburg and Hawkeye being Hawkeye, is a short blink it or miss it 1940s flashback sequence featuring Captain America with who I believe is Stark Senior or Bucky, and Peggy Carter. This was shot back in April at Brockley's very own art deco Rivoli Ballroom.

April 2015 can't come soon enough. Hail Hydra.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

London Street Food

Street food is all the rage these days, as it has always been. The quality has improved beyond anything we've had before, and often if I need my daily dose of calorie boost I would seek out a food truck.

Here are my picks for some of the best street food operating in London right now, in no particular order.

Bleecker St Burger (Spitalfields Market, South Bank Queen's Walk, Street Feast Dalston Feast)

Bleecker St Burger won the annual London Burger Bash with their special New York style burger made out black pudding sandwiched between two patties of beef. And it tastes so darn good. Top it off with a cup of their delicious sweet potato fries.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Taruna Homestay review

Taruna Homestay is a family run bed and breakfast in Pemuteran, North Bali. We stayed there for two nights during our trip to Bali last month (wow, has it only been that long?). Of all the places we've been and stayed in, Taruna was in one of the least touristy and developed area, which suited us just fine.

Each of the twelve bedroom is designed as an individual villa, with their own private entrances and terrace via the courtyard (which leads to a small but nice swimming pool). The bedrooms comes with their individual outdoor shower and toilet area, which we found unnerving at first.
Pemuteran beach
Our room has air conditioning but we did not use it often preferring to use the ceiling fan instead. The room was clean, if a bit outdated in decor and dark. As a budget homestay, there isn't such luxuries like a TV (why would you want one?), but you do get a kettle, daily mineral water and free wifi access for your Instagramming needs. You won't get much privacy as each rooms are on the ground floor unless you have the curtains shut at all times.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bali: A GoPro holiday

Hello! It's been a while since I wrote on here. We've just returned from our holiday in Malaysia and Bali. Malaysia is the country of birth where I last visited 7-8 years ago, so it was more of a catch up visit (mainly with food).

This was my first trip to Bali and it was amazing. Long story short, we stayed at Kuta for a couple of nights, more out of obligation than necessity. A bit of advice - avoid Kuta and Denpasar as a whole, as the area is a bit of a hell hole and brings out the worst in Bali and tourists.

We moved on to North Bali and stayed at Pemuteran for a couple of nights. The B&B we stayed in is Taruna, a small family run business who were keen to help out with the planning of all our activities. While Kuta is populated by families and surfers, North Bali is far quieter. The people are friendlier and you meet all sorts of European backpackers. Pemuteran is a great base for those wishing to dive in Menjangan Island or visit the beaches of Lovina.

For this trip, my Nikon stayed at home. In its place was a GoPro Hero3+ action camera. We had a couple of reason for bringing a GoPro instead of a high quality image shooter. Firstly, we wanted to travel light and secondly, a waterproof case for a SLR costs more than a GoPro itself. And finally, I just wanted to get my hands dirty on trying out video shooting and editing.

In any case, here's five minutes of our Bali trip, edited down from tens of hours of footage using GoPro's excellent Studio 2.0 program with their Hero3 reel template. Bring on next year!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Roti King review

Nasi Lemak
Roti King is a Malaysian cafe/restaurant located close to London Euston railway station. Formerly located in Charring Cross, they moved there earlier this year.

Good and cheap Malaysian food are hard to come by in London. There are a couple - for example Malaysian Hall in Bayswater area is run by the Malaysian government, and Malaysian Deli in our very own Brockley. But Roti King does something that neither of those does - proper roti canai.

Roti canai is a type of fluffy flat bread sold in Malaysia, an is normally eaten as a side with curry or dhal (lentil) sauce. It is a versatile dish, and can be combined with other ingredients like eggs and meat, but the best is still the plain ol kind. It is light and fluffier that the kind of flatbread that are normally served in Indian restaurants in this country. When I used to live in Malaysia, I would have it for breakfast, lunch an occasionally, dinner.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Street Feast Lewisham - Model Market

Today marks the launch of the Lewisham chapter of Street Feast. Hosted at the derelict abandoned 1950s Model Market just off Lewisham High Street, the organisers has used to opportunity to inject some much needed vibe into the local scene. Foodies who lives in Lewisham has one less reason to make the trek to East London. A good thing too as I personally find East London to be a victim of its own success.

Argument about the march of gentrification aside, the feeling that I've got from speaking with some longer term residents as well as newer residents like us, is that Lewisham has been waiting for something like this to happen to their beloved by often neglected town centre.  After all, Lewisham (and by extension, South East London) has long been a laughing stock of inner London (fun fact: Lewisham is the only inner London borough that isn't connected to the London Underground).

Monday, June 16, 2014

EasyAcc Powerbank PB5000C review

Despite the ever increasing power of smartphone, with high guzzling 1080p and hopelessly useless but diserable 2.5K displays, as well as quad core (and octa-core processors on the way), more powerful cameras and operating systems that are so woefully inefficient, battery technology has yet to catch up. Manufacturers insistence that we need ultra thin smartphones at the expense of battery capacity is also a culprit.

I have been a huge fan of my Nexus 5 device, but its sheer power is only matched by its inadequate battery. The Nexus 5's pitiful 8Whr battery lags far behind even the groundbreaking Motorola RAZR MAXX, which was released two years ago with a still unsurpassed 12.5Whr battery (only bigger unwieldy phablets like the Lumia 1520 has a larger battery capacity, and only just).

Monday, April 14, 2014

The day the Avengers came to Brockley, London

Last Friday, Marvel Studios came down to film a scene at the Rivoli Ballroom in Crofton Park, Brockley in South East London. My partner and I were walking down Brockley Road when we stumbled upon a film crew filming "After Party". The Rivoli Ballroom is no stranger to film - it has featured in Doctor Who and the Muppets Most Wanted, but this one was big. We could tell by the twenty of so trucks that were lining up on Brockley Road and Marnock Road. Curiously a couple crew members had shirts with Guardians of the Galaxy printed on it.

As the filming of the Guardians of the Galaxy has already wrapped up and is currently in post production, the only logical conclusion was that (OMG, this was when my jaws dropped when realisation hit me), they were a Marvel Studios film crew filming the next Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero movie - Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron! With crews and visitors in t-shirts bearing Captain America's logo and Converse's Chuck Taylor All-Star logo (you know with the big five pointed star in the middle, you didn't need to be a genius to figure it out. The symbolism was strong. It all hinted that whatever was going on in the ballroom had something to do with Captain America.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Dear TalkTalk

Dear TalkTalk,

You win. I give up. I won't fight anymore.

There is no point. I have a life, and my life is worth more than £50. You can have that £50 you earned dishonestly, but you could have had so much more if you worked to make this right from the beginning.

I could have given you more than just £50 but because you wanted the money the quick and dishonest way, I will be leaving you in November.

We could have a long term relationship where you will eventually earn thousands of pounds from me. But you really wanted that £50, and that £50 will cost you. Have it, I shan't fight you any more.

Unless you bill me of things I did not agree of again, this will be the last of it. The next time you will hear from me will be in October when I give my one month notice to be freed of your tyranny.

Good luck, you will need it.


TalkTalk are still scamming people

Well if you thought our war against TalkTalk has ended, you are sadly mistaken. Upon checking my last bill with TalkTalk, I found that they applied an engineer charge of £50.00. This was done without my consent.

If you remember, TalkTalk was supposed to connect us to the internet in November, but failed to do so under terms of the contract. After persisting for a week they finally relented and agreed to send an engineer to connect us. In my calls to TalkTalk, they never once told me they would apply a call out charge - and why should they? They fucked it up first.

So I sent them a stern e-mail questioning this frankly illegal charge. Here is their condescending reply.
Thank you for contacting TalkTalk about your bill. 
I am very sorry to hear of your recent disappointment with our services. We assure you that customer satisfaction is our top priority, and we want our services to reflect that principle. I would like to apologise for any inconvenience this matter may have caused you.
I have checked your account and would like to confirm you that you have been charged £50.00 for the Engineer visit on 27th of November 2013. Engineer did not found any fault by attending the premises. Hence the charge is applicable to all the customers under the T&C acceptance.
I would love to give you the full refund of £50.00 but trust me I can't. As everything is not in our hand. I've checked your account and there are no notes to confirm that you've had a free Engineer visit at your property. So we are unable to credit you for the Engineer charge on your account.
Please, accept my sincere apologies.
Thanks for contacting TalkTalk. 
What a bunch of liars. An engineer came to fix a problem with TalkTalk after not connecting us for more than one week, and not once in my phone call with their customer service was I told that I had to pay if there were no faults found (which is frankly a lie, as we weren't connected for one week after we were supposed to go online).

When I called TalkTalk in October to move house, TalkTalk promised to reconnect me for free, and thus booked a free OpenReach engineer to come. This engineer failed to come and connect us. In fact, I still have a text by OpenReach claiming they didn't need to visit our property to connect us).

Now £50 is not much, but if TalkTalk thinks they can get away with secretly charging me £50, then who knows how many people they have scammed. I imagine they prey on elderly people who has no motivation to fight their dishonest predatory practice.

Our contract ends in November 2014 - that date can't come soon enough. In the meantime I urge you all not to sign up with them. They will do all they can to scam you. If you think Ofcom will put a stop on this practice you will be mistaken - these telecom companies have Ofcom in their pockets.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier mini-review

Yesterday I attended an advance screening of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, courtesy of Skype (thanks!). The screening was held at the Odeon Marble Arch and was shown in 3D, perhaps the only two negative things I can make about the evening (okay, three if you count the forgettable soundtrack). I visited that Odeon 14 years ago and it is still as bad as it was back then. As for 3D, well my hatred for the format is well documented. Moving on...

After a day to think about it, I can safely say that The Winter Soldier has elevated itself to perhaps my favourite movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a full rung above the Avengers. Which is pretty neat as the first Captain America movie was pretty meh. Coupled with the fact that the godawful Iron Man 3 and incredibly meh Thor 2 has me worried on whether MCU is a sustainable franchise. Good thing they got it with Captain America 2.

While CGI heavy in places, The Winter Soldier feels like a much more realistic movie thanks to some brilliant Bourne franchise-style fighting choreography and use of heavy artillery and proper weapons (lasers, who needs them?). Captain America has learned some new modern fighting movies and some of his take downs are pretty epic. I could watch Cap destroying that plane after escaping the Triskelion on repeat.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Newspaper: Let's slag people off for trying to be helpful

So Courtney Love read a plea asking for people to help find that missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane, and she does so, in her own best way. Cue slagging from people, as well as national newspapers, like the Guardian, who in a very Daily-Mail'ish post, not only mocked her for trying to help, but also her intelligence. Because she ain't no expert, innit (as if the writer was).

She was just trying to help, which is more than I can say for the mass media (who aren't experts as well) who has done nothing but speculate, and more importantly, impend the investigation, whilst taking advantage of a tragic event to generate clicks and advertising revenue.

If this isn't an example of gross sexism I do not know what is.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Browns of Brockley review

I have a confession. When I was first introduced to Brockley, the area we now live in, it was through the wonder of London's specialty coffee scene. Brockley is an odd place to visit for coffee, but it was how it was. In any case, our chance visit to this part of Lewisham opened our eyes to its lovely Victorian housing stock, many of which were largely ignored, but so many potential. The rest was history.

Browns is located conventionality in a row of terrace opposite Brockley railway station, making it an ideal spot to hang out in the wee morning when a train breaks down somewhere down the line. The shop is small and unassuming from the outside, and neutral and unpretentious on the inside. Delicious cakes and bagels greet you as you enter the shop. Oh, and the sweet smell of good coffee.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Get your own sign in London Underground Johnston

Hibernacula is a pop up art gallery featuring photographs, prints, poetry and fine art by some of East London finest artists. You can find them at an old office beside Leytonstone London Underground station. One of the artist who is exhibiting there is Russell Frost of Hooksmith Press. Originally from New Zeland, Russell has a small selection of his Letterpress prints on display as well as a working vintage letter press and London Underground's famous Johnston typeface press blocks. Up till 26 February, you can have anything you like set in arguably one of the world's famous typeface. So, what are you waiting for? Go.

Brockley: Lewisham Micro Library

Lewisham Micro Library is a community book swap micro library located on the border of Lewisham and Brockley. It is located on the south side of Lewisham Way where it meets with Loampit Hill, on the corner of Tyrwhitt Road, just outside Brockley Market.

The micro library is made up of a classic K2 red phone box. As with all free book swap libraries, you take a book to read and replace that with an old book you have already ready.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Our experience with buying a house in London

There is hardly a day that goes by without any form of news regarding the housing boom in London and Britain in general. Just over two months ago we completed and moved to a modest Victorian terrace in South East London, I feel that I had to write about our experience. If only I hope that our experience can help others to their advantage during this feeding frenzy, even if it is during this so-called off-peak winter period.

We started exploring the idea of moving out from St Albans into London around last year but Visa issues meant we had to delay until this year. That was an expensive mistake, as buying last year would have saved a lot more than what we paid for in the end, but something we had no control of. The reasons to moving to London is plenty, and while I understand that not everyone loves the idea of living in a capital, we just love it here.

When we started looking we narrowed down our range to East and South East London, particularly Rotherhithe and Hackney area, but it soon dawned on us that we could only get two bed flats with our budget. This wasn't an issue initially, and indeed we actually offered on a two bed riverside flat in Surrey Docks, only to be beaten by a cash buyer. In hindsight we dodged a bullet there, but the delay meant we were able to up our deposit and look for something bigger, and more importantly, a forever home.

As we've decided that perhaps we did not want to move into a larger flat, only to outgrow it in a few years and move again, we had a new focus. Being priced out of an area meant we had to look further afield. Fortunately the London Overground's East London Line expansion has brought us towards previously unconsidered areas of hip and trendy Brockley, Forest Hill, Peckham and Nunhead areas. Much to our delight, these areas contain a huge abundance of Victorian and Edwardian housing stock.

We registered with a couple of estate agents via emails, Rightmove/Zoopla and phone calls. We were naive initially believing we can always offer lower and enter a negotiation, but alas that proved fatal. Each and every time a new property gets listed, it gets offered on the next day. It was mental. We also made a mistake by offering lower than the asking price, only to be told that they've had multiple offers on the asking price.

The trick is to call the EAs every day. They have hundreds of interested buyers on their list so whenever a new property comes on their book, they only have so many people they can call. Just call, or better yet, visit them (do not bother with Rightmove if your priority is to be quick as most agents lists houses on Rightmove after they have contacted prospective buyers). Eventually these suits will remember that you are a serious buyer and, with luck, whenever they get a new instruction.

We got on really well with a particular agent. In fact we became 'hot buyers' (estate agent's words, not ours), so when the sale of a house we were interested in fell through, we were the first contacted. We viewed and offered on the property the evening after. Four months later we completed and moved in. We've lived here for two months now, and while the property has thrown endless of hidden problems (as do all homes new or old), we still love it here.

It was all stress for a couple of months, but in the end it was worth it. But we sure wouldn't want to repeat this process again anytime soon!