Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: March 2015

We recently signed up for Hulu Plus.  I(Chris) has been really excited about the possibility of accessing online the Criterion Collection via Hulu Plus, him being a Criterion fan.

Criterion Logo 11

Criterion is an American video-distribution company that sells “important classic and contemporary films” to film aficionados. It is noted for helping to standardize the letterbox format for widescreen films, bonus features, and special editions for home video. – Wikipedia

The first film we saw was Breathless (À Bout Souffle), a 1960 black-and-white piece directed by Jean-Luc Goddard, starring Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo.


It is the first time I saw the entire film from beginning to end. I can see why people say it is a very cool film in many different ways.


To promote the film, Criterion puts a clip on Youtube and cites three reasons to watch it.

Many essays have been written about this renowned film as it is one of the earliest French New Wave film, a film noir, a jazzy soundtrack, and it pioneered a modern editing technique – the jump cut. Wong Kar-Wai cited it as an influence. This film is more than 50 years old.


The second film I saw this weekend from Criterion was Tie me up ! Tie me down ! (Atame !) made by Pedro Almodóvar in 1990. I saw it when it first came out.


This technicolor, slightly noirish comedy was apparently the first Almodovar’s film released in August 2014 under Criterion. Surprising that it took so long to happen for this Spanish master. Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril are the leads.


Delightful and instantly recognizable art direction.


The choice of these two films for viewing over one weekend was purely coincidental. We are viewing Tie me up Tie me down 25 years after it was made, and it was made 30 years after Breathless. These are really quite old movies. But there are a few parallels in the narrative. SPOILER ALERT !

The male protagonist in both films came into town to look for a girl that he knew before. Both guys were small time criminal, stealing stuff everywhere they went as the need arose. Both guys insisted they loved their girl and wanted her to leave town with him in a stolen car. Both convinced their girl to sleep with them. However, the outcomes of the two films cannot be any more different.


Well, if we view some more interesting films, we will write about them here in the future.

These two films are classics (according to me).

Continuing with our tour of the most interesting hotel on this Malaysian trip …  part 1 is here.

The hotel – Seven Terraces – has a second entrance which passes through the restaurant.


The hotel’s restaurant, Kebaya, serves classically prepared Straits Chinese style dishes. We did not have a chance to try it.


Bababar – the hotel’s lounge and bar – antique bar and drink cabinets


Piano at the Bababar.


The suites are all on the upper level and there are wooden stairs at either end of the courtyard.


A walkway circles the courtyard.


Old-style furniture in the living room, except flat-screen TV. Some of the smaller ceramic decorations on the sideboard are glued onto the surface. I guess it is too tempting for some.


They served us tea upon arrival.


The shower/toilet is remarkably installed in a converted veranda which runs the entire width of the suite. In addition to the handheld shower head, there is a rain-style shower head above. No bathtub.


The entire floor is beautifully tiled. This is the biggest shower we have ever had.


The converted space has windows with frosted glass on one side and traditional dark wood doors on the other side which lead into the living room.


The bedroom is upstairs in a loft-style space.


The four poster bed occupies more than half of the floor space.


Here’s another example of a nice mix of the traditional and modern.

Old carved wood decoration on top of the bed, framed embroidery (possibly an antique), and sleek LED bedside lamps.


A balcony is provided where one can relax under the sun (or in the shade).


The balcony overlooks the historical Anglican church of Georgetown.


The ambiance of Seven Terraces is truly unique.


Love the courtyard.

After a series of posts on Malaysian street food, let’s see the most interesting hotel on this trip.

Seven Terraces is a spectacularly reimagined heritage hotel in Penang.  Located at the UNESCO World Heritage site, in the heart of Georgetown, the hotel is a conversion of a row of seven 19th century Anglo-Chinese terraces.


Around the Love Lane area in Georgetown, there are several other restored heritage hotels but 7 terraces on Lorong Stewart is the most decadently restored. A 80’s-ish Rolls Royce was parked outside the entire time while we were there.


The reception area was airy and richly decorated; instead of sofas, installed around the “lobby” area are several antique opium den beds. Each bed accommodates two who share a little table in the middle.


The beds are made with dark hard wood inlaid with marble and mother of pearl. The marble was cool to the touch, perfect for hot weather.


They have even laid out antique opium paraphernalia to complete the picture.


We cannot remember her name, the girl at the concierge desk was super efficient and very helpful (she helped us tracked down someone at when we had to postpone our trip to Langkawi).

Also on display is an antique Chinese bridal head dress. We’ve only seen them on TV in period drama or Chinese opera. The real thing looked enormous and must weigh a ton.


The hotel has 18 suites which overlook a Chinese courtyard. I(Chris) love courtyard, any style, it’s like sunshine and nature captured for one’s private enjoyment.


We suspect the courtyard was created by knocking down the walls that separated the seven smaller yards of the original terrace houses.


We applaud the combining of traditional Asian architectural elements and modernism harmoniously in this hotel.


Behind the reception is a lounge area and a lap pool. On a hot day, the water is simply irresistible.


Swam a little bit and ate some cakes, which were served during afternoon tea time.


As all the suites are on the upper level, a bit of 20th century convenience is provided.


We are not sure what this metal fan was used for. It says Singapore grocery corporation. Since there were a pair of them, each with a long handle, they were likely used in a parade.


Breakfast was served on the other side of the reception.


This combination of papaya, passion fruit, water melon and banana was simple but surprisingly tasty.


Check out their website here. We will post some pictures of our room in the next post.

After walking around for about 20 or so minutes in the street market, we came to the center where the food court is located. The food court is a bright and airy plaza which is covered (we can’t imagine what the night market would be like in a monsoon downpour which we experienced the day before in Melacca). But it was a fine evening when we were there.


There were almost 100 stalls or counters on either side of the plaza. Each are numbered clearly.


We guessed that these stalls are licensed by the local authorities. They do not want any unlicensed merchants to open business inside, otherwise, it will be just like the market outside.


Fixed tables are also numbered and installed in the middle. We were at No. 33A.


When patrons place an order, they mention their table number.  When the food is ready, the stall owner brings it to the table and collect the money. For one of our dishes, the stall owner’s children brought the food – helping out the family after school.


For this stall, one has to pay first. The live crabs and snails must be worth a bit.


For dinner, we ordered only classic Malaysian dishes – starting with fruit rojack. The term “rojak” is Malay for mixture. According to Wikipedia, fruit rojak consists typically of cucumber, pineapple, benkoang (jicama), bean sprouts, taupok (puffy, deep-fried tofu) and youtiao (cut-up Chinese-style fritters). The thick dressing is made up of water, belacan (shrimp paste), sugar, chili, and lime juice.


We ordered bak kut teh 肉骨茶. Wikipedia says: the name literally translates as “meat bone tea”, and at its simplest, consists of meaty pork ribs simmered in a complex broth of herbs and spices (including star anise, cinnamon, cloves, dang gui, fennel seeds and garlic) for hours. Despite its name, there is in fact no tea in the dish itself; the name refers to a strong oolong Chinese tea which is usually served alongside the soup in the belief that it dilutes or dissolves the copious amount of fat consumed in this pork-laden dish. We had fried tofu puff, enoki and dried black shitake mushrooms in our pot.


The dish on the bottom-right with three small dishes of spicy sauces was our charcoal-grilled stingray, IT had it before and wanted to try again.


Back at stall no. 55 where we ordered it, the stingray portions were sold by weight – the grey wedges with white spots. It tasted like normal fish despite its appearance.


The stirred fried clams in a black bean, chili-based sauce was fantastic. We all loved it so much that we almost ordered a second plate.


We also ordered fried rice and the famous fried kuey teow which will be the subject of our next post.

This stall sold desserts. We had the classic cendol. Wikipedia says: the dessert’s basic ingredients are coconut milk, jelly noodles made from rice flour with green food coloring (usually derived from the pandan leaf), shaved ice and palm sugar (the brown substance). Other ingredients such as red beans, glutinous rice, grass jelly, creamed corn, might also be included.


Well, we did not get too many green jelly noodles here. Instead of noodles in solid pastel green (the traditional kind), we got some brighter green transparent chunks.


It was a fun and tasty dinner – we could have eaten more there – but we saved ourselves for the king of fruits – durian. J took us to a special place for durian … the post is coming up.

This is part 2 of our post on the night market at SS2. Part one is here.  To recap, our friend J who grew up locally showed us the sights around KL. She suggested the night market at SS2 since it is “open” only on Monday night.

Street food is so much a part of Southeast Asian culture and it is an essential element of a night market. Click here to see our post on street food at Hong Kong’s Lunar New Year flower market.

Food truck at the night market.


Satay !  Quintessential.


Hand-plucked corn, steamed and then roasted.


An interesting way to prepare corn. See the corn the lady is spooning into the styrofoam cup.


Hakka-style Yong Tau Foo – 釀豆腐 – the main ingredient is tofu – mostly deep-fied, various shapes with meat stuffed into it, and it may include various vegetables, either stuffed or just by itself, and fish balls – all cooked briefly in a broth and eaten with a dipping sauce. I(Chris) had eaten some form of Yong Tau Foo growing up in Hong Kong but not at a scale like this.


People were just standing around and eating, a bit like a steamboat (hotpot) meal without a table. Notice the sticks of deep-fried tofu and fish balls were held in slots that had been cut into a big block of ice which acted as a bench and cold storage.


J bought us these crispy pancakes. The filling was a thin layer of dry brown fine powdery substance – sugary and nutty.


This guy was making a gigantic version of the pancake – “PJ pan cake”. The base is paper thin and crispy.


Body parts of some animals made even more scary-looking inside a glass container without description or price.


Another cake stand with English Earl Grey red bean cake (a new item apparently), white coffee hazelnut cake, black sesame layered cake, mango apricot layered cake and choc blackcurrant cake – that’s what the little flags said.


So we wandered around the night market until we got hungry, then we headed into the open-air food court. Next post …


The next few posts are dedicated to the very lively, popular, and wonderfully diverse night market (Pasar Malam) at SS2, Petaling Jaya – one of the largest in the area. The market sells various types of goods (clothes, toys, electronics, etc.) but the main reason to come is the street food.


Monday night is market night ! We were there early-ish and the parking area was filling up quickly. There were hundreds of stalls just setting up when we arrived.


We have never heard of this market, let alone finding it which lies just outside Kuala Lumpur.  So thanks to our local friend J who drove us to SS2 and showed us the place.


Petaling Jaya (known locally as PJ) was a satellite town set up in the 50’s to deal with the overpopulation of Kuala Lumpur. It was granted its city status in 2006. SS2 is one of its districts.


The Chinese word means “explode” – it comes in cheese or wasabi flavor.


Deep-dried jackfruit – we had some – nothing special – I (Chris) don’t see the point of deep-frying it.


J bought us some otak-otak. We have no idea what is sandwiched between the two blades of leaves.


It was toasted on a strip of hot metal. The inside is mystery meat – similar to the material used to make fish ball. An interesting way (and certainly ecologically-conscious) to cook and serve food.


This contraption is (I believe) for making salt-baked chicken. Please insert a comment if I got this wrong.


Salt-baked chicken (I think) looked delish … but since we were going to have a sit-down dinner at the open-air food court, we were deterred from trying this out.


At the open-air market and food court, there were more Chinese food here than Malay or Indian dishes. Wikipedia says the demographic of PJ is more than 50% Chinese.


Other than cooked food, there were many fruit and vegetable stands.


As much as the food was not covered, nobody seems to be worried about hygiene or spoilage due to weather – there were no flies – this is partly because the food was freshly made and sold immediately.


We saw many cake stands too –  on the left is vanilla milky cranberry cake, yam cake in the middle and green tea-red bean cake on the right.


More street food stands to come in the next post. Click here to see our post of a market on the other side of the world, in Vienna, Austria.

The night before we left Budapest, we saw an opera with my colleague A and her husband M at the Hungarian State Opera House (i.e., Magyar Állami Operaház).


We saw Tosca despite the giant display says Cosi fan tutte.


The foyer was very ornate, reminded us a little bit of Versailles (see pictures here).


Months in advance, A booked the tickets online but we were lucky that tickets were still available online just a few days before.


We picked up the tickets up just before the opera starts. The house was full.


The horseshoe-shaped, three-floored auditorium is intimate and a dazzling construct of red and gold.


It was built in nine years and completed in 1884. Miklós Ybl’s neo-renaissance palace has remained virtually unchanged in the 130 years.


The boxes are decorated with gilded balustrades and arm rests.


Between the boxes are dividing guardrails made from gilded tin and shaped to resemble leaves and the head of a Greek or Roman soldier.


The round ceiling is decorated with Károly Lotz’s monumental cupola fresco.


Refreshments during intermissions.


The buffet hall where patrons can drink, socialize and walk outside to a terrace overlooking the main street.


There were several couples, dressed elegantly or flamboyantly (depending on your sensibility) in formal wear, posing for selfies on the grand staircase.


While in NYC, we went to the opera occasionally. But we really enjoyed this performance of Puccini’s Tosca. These are our Mario, Floria and Baron Scarpia. Bravo.


If you are visiting Budapest, seeing an opera is a really enjoyable and affordable experience, and it was convenient since they have a helpful website.

These are the photos I (Chris) took and posted on Facebook. The series was started in March of 2013. There is no theme – just something random and visually interesting. We gave each a title and noted where it was taken (to the extent we could remember the city).

random photo #146 – tree on rock – Harriman, NY



random photo #147 – Toys’R’Us – NYC


random photo #148 – homes – Seoul


random photo #149 – cows – Dorset, UK



random photo #150 – shaved – St. Martin



If you are interested in seeing other Random Photos, click on the  random  tag on the left.

If you see any ads below here, it has nothing to do with us.

The Danube is the longest river in the EU. We had no idea.

danube bridges-12

It originates from the Black Forest in Germany (see our post about it here) and travels southeast through four capitals before entering the Black Sea at the border of Romania and Ukraine. The four capitals are Vienna (see a sample of our posts about Vienna here), Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade. Now we have seen two of the four captials.

danube bridges-14

The river is known as Donau in Germany and Duna in Hungarian. We walked across it a couple of times, one time at night. It was very atmospheric as it was foggy.

danube bridges-15

There are at least 10 bridges that cross the Danube in Budapest. The most famous one is the Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Chain Bridge or Széchenyi lánchíd) which is in front of the Gresham Palace (click here to see the palace) on the Pest side of the river.

danube bridges-16

Designed by an English man and funded by a Greek merchant, it was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary, and was opened in 1849. It is famous for the lion sculptures.

danube bridges-17

On the Buda side, it is connected to Adam Clark Square, near the Zero Kilometer Stone and the lower end of the Castle Hill Funicular, leading to Buda Castle. We were just getting out of the tunnel beneath the Castle Hill Funicular.

danube bridges-6

The Buda Castle offers a panoramic view across the Danube of the Pest side of the city. We just found out that the banks of the Danube as well as the Buda Castle Quarter (where some of these pictures were taken) are both recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

danube bridges-1

The Parliament on the bank of Duna

danube bridges-10.

danube bridges-13

Our one-day hop-on-hop-off tourist bus pass allowed us to go back and forth freely between Buda and Pest, hence all these pictures of the bridges.

Margaret Bridge (Margit híd)

danube bridges-2.

danube bridges-7

Elisabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd)

danube bridges-8

Liberty Bridge (Szabadság híd)

danube bridges-3.

danube bridges-4


danube bridges-5

If one is to sail downstream from Bratislava to Budapest and then to Belgrade, the bridges that will be encountered are in order:  Margaret Bridge (Margit híd), Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Széchenyi lánchíd), Elisabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd) and Liberty Bridge (Szabadság híd).