Tuesday/ Bangkok the world’s ‘best’ tourist city?

I was a little stunned to learn that Travel+Leisure magazine’s readers – 16,000 of them voted –  awarded the No. 1 ranking to Bangkok as the world’s best city (to travel to).    I do think their hospitality is top-notch.   And the temples are gorgeous, the airport is great and modern.   But for the rest – a somewhat run-down metropolis with high-rise buildings dotting it.    What about Paris in the spring?  Or Cape Town in April?    

The readers cast votes from December to March and the polling stopped a few days before civil disorder erupted in Bangkok that lasted 10 weeks and ended May 19 with nearly 90 dead and 1,400 hurt.   Picture – Bangkok Gov. Sukhumbhand Paribatra poses with World’s Best city award during a press conference in Bangkok earlier this year.

Monday .. again/ those ATMs

(This is a late post).   Boy.  Working Saturday and Sunday makes the real Monday feel like it’s the third one in a row.  I posted a similar ATM screen shot a few months ago, and this one is too cute to pass up.  PLEASE DO NOT USE THE ATM IF SOMEONE PEEP OR DISTURB, SUCH AS INQUIRY, PAT ON YOUR SHOULDER, COLLIDE, ETC.    In the vein of ATM bank cards : one of us here had his card swallowed by an ATM.   So the bank sent a replacement card to the address here which goes something like this :  Building 01 North of Nuclear Avenue, Room 201, Daya Bay, Guangdong Province, China.    As one can do these days my co-worker could track the card’s journey across the continents on Fedex’s website.  Finally it arrives in Shenzhen, and Fedex was scheduled to show up.  Turns out the delivery guy did, was in the building, could not find room 210 (the wrong room number was recorded), and left.   The next day the recipient went out with a car and MET him to make sure he got his hands on the card.  You will not believe what happened next.   When he tried to activate the card, he found that the bank issued one with a number identical to the cancelled number of the one swallowed by the ATM.  There was nothing they could do from across the water to remedy the situation.   They are now sending a second card.    Incompetence which maak jou slange vang (Afrikaans for ‘makes you so angry you feel like catching snakes’).


Sunday/ at work

It is Sunday and we are working.   Before they adopted the Western-style week, the Chinese originally used a ten-day cycle known as a 旬 xún in ordering their daily lives and activities.  Although the Christian week with the Sunday was not unknown (for instance, it was known from contact with the Jesuits in the 16th-18th centuries), the seven-day week as we know it first became widely familiar in the 19th century with the coming of traders and missionaries from Western powers.   It was finally officially adopted by the Chinese government in 1912, after the fall of the last Imperial dynasty.

Even with a 7-day week, there are still differences of interpretation : is Sunday the first day or the last day of the week? International operator that I am, I’ll go with the international standard ISO 8601 that stipulates Sunday to be the seventh and last day of the week.

The picture is a depiction of Máni, the personified moon, and his sister Sól, the personified sun, from Norse mythology (1895) by Lorenz Frølich.  [Source : Wikipedia]

Saturday/ back to work

Saturday night here, and yes – we worked all day,  and will tomorrow.   Cannot have two Chinese holidays as well as a weekend in a row.      Check out the new logo for P r i c e W a t e r h o u s e C o o p e r s – which takes tooo long to say and to write.   It’s now a revamped logo and brand simply called PwC (an abbreviation which has been in use for some time already by the clients we work with, and we ourselves).    The design is by Wolff Olins (see http://www.wolffolins.com/ who also designed the logo for the successful 2012 London Olympics bid.    But is there anything new under the sun?   Does the new PwC logo not look like a 70s throwback, with those touchy-feely orangy and pink colors?

Friday/ returning from Bangkok

The hotel’s swimming pool is where we spent most of Friday.    I will spare my readers the sight of my lily white body getting a little sun!  .. and then it was time to check out and make for the airport.    The blue placard is from the Democrat Party.   Remember the red shirt protests in May?  Things have settled down but there was another peaceful march in the streets on Thursday and the country’s political state is very much unsettled, still.

The rest of the pictures are of billboards on the way to the airport.  The Shingha beer bottle lion is my favorite.   We flew on an Air-Asia plane like the one sitting on the tarmac across from ours.   The flight went smoothly without delays – a welcome difference from the flight in on Tuesday night.   On that flight one passenger held the plane’s departure up for almost two hours.    There was a mix-up with his baggage, he claimed.    The end result was that he stepped off of a plane full of very irate passengers.   Sir!  We do not know your problem.  But SIT down! yelled some passengers. Others came forward and complained to the captain and the flight attendants.   All while the flight attendant call button dinged repeatedly – another way passengers showed their discontent.

Thursday/ in Bangkok

Since we saw lots of temples and buddhas on Wednesday, we spent some time at the hotel’s swimming pool.    The first picture shows some of the Marriott hotel property on the left with the water taxi on the Chao Phraya river (Thai: แม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา).   The Chao Praya is a major river in Thailand and it ends in the Gulf of Siam.

On the other side of the river we tuk (took) a tuk-tuk to downtown.  The picture is taken from the one we are on, and our tuk-tuk is similar to the green one with the poor mascot dangling from the rear bumper – see it?  (A roughish ride it is with limited side vision out from under the canopy!)

The evening show with traditional folk dancing and costume was put up right at the hotel later that night.   Another trip out on the water showed what the river and some city skylines look like at night.  Bangkok does not have a city center with clustered skyscrapers.  The tall buildings stand apart.

Wednesday/ in Bangkok

I am in Bangkok !  (Long Thai names and lots of pictures of buddhas and temples ahead.   I will post pictures of street scenes and more mundane items tomorrow).

The greater Bangkok has some 12 million of the 64 million people living in Thailand.   95% of Thais are Buddhists of the Theravada  tradition.   Buddhist temples in Thailand are characterized by tall golden stupas, and the Buddhist architecture of Thailand is similar to that in other Southeast Asian countries, particularly Cambodia  and Laos.

My co-worker Will and I hired a private tour guide to take us around to the temples.   The first series of pictures are from the former Wat Pho Buddhist temple – the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.  The full name is Wat Phra Chettuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Ratchaworamahawihan  (Thai: วัดพระเชตุพนวิมลมังคลารามราชวรมหาวิหาร) and it is located in Phra Nakhon district directly adjacent to the Grand Palace.     The mother-of-pearl elephant is one of dozens of inlays in the Reclining Buddha’s feet.   All the other pictures up to the water bottle with the red and white lion on was taken in and around this temple.   It is hot and humid – we are only 14 degrees north of the equator, after all.

Next up was The Grand Palace (Thai: พระบรมมหาราชวัง, Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang).  It is a complex of buildings and has served as the official residence of the Kings of Thailand from the 18th century onwards.  Construction of the Palace began in 1782, during the reign of King Rama I, when he moved the capital across the river from Thonburi  to Bangkok.  The Palace has been constantly expanded and many additional structures were added over time.

The pictures painted on the walls in this hallway have intricate detail of battle scenes with mythical creatures and gods.

Our final stop for the day was at Wat Trai Mit –  one of the most popular tourist destinations for Bangkok visitors because of the Golden Buddha statue.  It is 3 meters (9 ft) high and made out of 5500 kg pure, solid gold – it’s the biggest Buddha statue made out of gold in the whole world, and it is estimated that is more than 700 years old, created during the Sukothai period.

Tuesday/ the Mid-Autumn Festival starts

There was an inch or two of rain last night from the typhoon, but nothing the roads and streets couldn’t handle.

Today marks the start of this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival* – also known as the Moon Festival or in Chinese Zhongqiujie (traditional Chinese: 中秋節) or in Vietnamese  “Tết Trung Thu” ,  is a popular harvest festival celebrated by Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese people.  It dates back over 3,000 years to moon worship in China’s Shang Dynasty.  The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the four most important Chinese festivals.

*an odd name given that it’s the start of autumn

Mooncakes (not the same as moon pies) are Chinese bakery products traditionally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival.  The festival is for lunar worship and moon watching and moon cakes are regarded as an indispensable delicacy on this occasion.   Mooncakes are offered between friends or on family gatherings while celebrating the festival.

Typical mooncakes are round or rectangular pastries, measuring about 10 cm in diameter and 4-5 cm thick. A thick filling usually made from lotus seed paste is surrounded by a relatively thin (2-3 mm) crust and may contain yolks from salted duck eggs.   Mooncakes are usually eaten in small wedges accompanied by Chinese tea.   [Information from Wikipedia].

I am off to Bangkok tonight on a red-eye flight .. one night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster! says the 1984 song sung by Murray Head.    So I will report back if that’s the case!

Monday/ what color is your bridge?

It looks like the typhoon will pass to the north of the coastline here, so we should be OK.  (If it can blow away some of the damp humid air and replace it will cool air that will be a welcome relief).

What color is your bridge*?   This bridge is close by and has the same colored lighting strips than the ones fitted to my apartment building.  All the pictures were taken in a total time of a minute or two.

*a word play on the famous manual for job-hunters and career-changers ‘What color is your parachute?’

Sunday/ tracking typhoon Fanapi

We are working today and next weekend to make up for the Chinese holiday Wed-Fri.   Here is another one .. typhoon Fanapi actually has made landfall in Taiwan.   ‘TV stations aired footage of branches being ripped from trees in Hualien and a lorry overturned while driving along an exposed stretch of road’ reports the BBC on its website. (I smile at the word lorry – perfect British English – but we call all of those trucks in the USA).

I posted a Google map that shows Daya Bay’s location (the red balloon)  .. for all intent and purposes* we are right next to Hong Kong.  *Such as – is the typhoon headed OUR WAY?

p.s.  The name of the new building in yesterday’s post is  Ocean Crown.

Severe Typhoon FANAPI
at 11:00 HKT 19 September 2010

( 23.3 N, 121.2 E,
about 730 km east of Hong Kong )

Saturday in Dameisha

I cleaned the apartment this morning and this afternoon went for a swim in the King Key hotel’s’ swimming pool.  Some of our team members stay there and could get us in.  Then I went for a walk around Dameisha.  The elephant is from the lobby of the Pattaya Hotel, a Thai-themed hotel.  (A harbinger of my plans to visit Bangkok next week during the upcoming Chinese holidays!).  The next picture shows my apartment building in the center.  Then I walked up to the OCT theme park close by to check in at the Starbucks (Pike Place roast with some Chinese, see?).  The industrial artwork of a flying horse (Pegasus?) is also from OCT, and charming enough to be worth a picture, I thought.

Finally, a cryptic name on yet another new apartment building under construction here.   The lettering running top to bottom on the right is English, believe it or not.  What does it say?  Need a clue? – Neptune.  I’ll give the answer tomorrow : ).

Friday/ team dinner

Friday night and we went out to a team dinner since most of the team sticks around for the weekend to work on Sunday.   We have been at this restaurant before – its signature dish is young pigeon – of which we had some to start with.  (Makes you feel like a mean carnivore, eating the pigeon! Aww).   The food in the front on the picture is a lotus root-carrot-broccolini-black mushroom stir fry, pork with the same mushroom and a whole eggplant in foil.   Afterward we went to Dameisha beach to stick our feet in the lukewarm water.  The picture is of one of the stalls on the beach selling trinkets and food and sodas.  There is still a lot of people that come out to the beach over the weekend even though the days are getting shorter.

Thursday/ baseline configuration

The foundation of the SAP ‘house’ – the system – we are building, is in.   We call it the baseline configuration.  It was a really big milestone and went with pulling of the hair and gnashing of the teeth this week, since some teams were very, very far behind compared to where they needed to be.    (Behind for so many reasons, some of their own making, some not!).

Meanwhile the days are getting shorter and I discovered my apartment building has a gaudy neon strip running along the top floors.   It has not been turned on before.  The picture shows the multi-color mode and the colors actually scroll from left to right in an animated fashion.   I think all of this would be too much to handle for the occupants of an American condo or apartment building ! 

Wednesday/ the spicy restaurant

Over the hump of the week, sort of.   We have Saturday off but we are working on Sunday to accommodate some Chinese holidays next week.    We are also working to meet a deadline that has actually come and gone.    I guess the deadline is dead .. or the goal of meeting it is dead ! 

Tonight we ate at one of our regular restaurants, ‘The Spicy One’.  The food may not look spicy but all of the dishes are hott! : the green beans, the shrimp on a stick and the potato slices with a basil-green veggie and meat garnish.    It made me break out in a sweat. 

Tuesday/ Ulaanbataar, Mongolia

There is a PricewaterhouseCoopers communication in my inbox this morning that the PwC office in Ulaanbataar, Mongolia is now officially open.    The opening coincides with the start of the Discover Mongolia 2010 Mining Conference.

Let me borrow the start of Wikipedia’s entry for Ulaanbataar – look up the rest, it is very interesting!

Ulan Bator (pronounced /ˈuːlɑːn ˈbɑːtər/) or Ulaanbaatar  (/ˈuːlɑːn ˈbɑːtɑr/; Mongolian: Улаанбаатар, English: The Red Hero), is the capital and largest city of Mongolia. The city is an independent municipality, not part of any province, and its population as of 2008 was just over one million.

Located in the north central part of the country, the city lies at an elevation of about 1,310 metres (4,300 ft) in a valley on the Tuul River. It is the cultural, industrial, and financial heart of the country. It is also the center of Mongolia’s road network, and connected by rail to the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Chinese railway network.

Monday/ team dinner

It has been a long weary day packed with someone stopping by my cubicle every 5 minutes with a question or issue.  And we have a LOT of those.   So I was very tempted to beg out of the monthly team dinner, but then went nonetheless.    We’ve been to this restaurant here in Dameisha before; we simply call it ‘The Restaurant Under The Tree’.  I’ll have to find out the Chinese name.  They bring one dish after the other to the table and the eggplant in garlic butter was one of my favorites tonight.  The second picture was taken on the walk back to my apartment; that’s the King Key Palace Hotel’s light reflected on the water.  The shot came out nice enough on my compact camera after I darkened the picture a little bit to make the water an inky black.

Sunday/ arrived at Dameisha

‘My boss is getting married on 10-10-10 at 10 am’, said the guy in front of me to someone as we were boarding for the Hong Kong flight.   The ‘Relax’ sign is posted at Hong Kong airport at the top of two giant escalators that run down to the shuttle train that takes one to the main terminal.   In other words :  don’t rush down the escalator two steps at a time to the train waiting below and then fall down and break a leg!

I did get some sleep on the plane, but I am ready for more – so off to bed with me.

Saturday/ at the airport

I’m at Seattle airport.    The security process was pretty normal, and with the summer travel season over, the airport is not too crowded.  Of course it could be due to it being Sept 11 as well.

I thought I would post a picture of an intrepid traveler other than ME this morning .. found his picture at one of the pubs here in the airport.  Frank Dorbandi, Teller Alaska.   So Teller is a location in Alaska? Yes, see the spot marked A on the Google map!     Intrepid* indeed!  with the year being 1929 and with a flying machine that could hardly be called an aircraft.

*Intrepid -characterized by resolute fearlessness, fortitude and endurance : )

Friday/ checking in for trip #8

I am checked in already for my flights to San Francisco and Hong Kong.  I leaving tomorrow morning.   Yes – Sept 11, not the best day to fly I would imagine! – but I have to be at Daya Bay on Monday morning.

A neighborhood right by the San Francisco International airport is in the news this morning.  A natural gas explosion started a fire that destroyed about 50 homes. At least one person was killed and more than 20 others injured.

The two pictures below the one of the fire were taken with my new camera in Seattle’s SoDo (South of Downtown) neighborhood this morning.  The Komodo dragon is at Starbucks headquarters, and the mural from a grocery store on 4th Ave close by.    Click on them to blow them up .. the truth comes out then, which is that the compact camera has a much smaller sensor than an single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, and therefore it cannot possibly match the detail of an SLR’s pictures.

Thursday/ new compact camera

One would think a Canon EOS-7D monster camera with a full frame sensor is enough, but for me it isn’t!  Or rather – it is too much camera sometimes, at 1.6 lbs to lug.  And my Blackberry cell phone takes terrible pictures, especially in low light situations.  Hence the new acquisition, a Nikon Coolpix S8000 and a steal at $250.   The 10x optical zoom wide-angle lens, the 14 Mp pictures and the snappy shutter made me buy it instead of a Canon model.