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Monthly Archives: July 2015

This is no. 5 in a series of posts that is about funny business names that we captured on film. Since we are now living in continental Europe, from time to time we come across English names that makes us laugh.

See Hilarity in names #1, #2, #3 and #4 here.

Boner – a lamp store in Berlin

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LSD = Love Sex Dreams (possibly too small to see in photo), Berlin

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Tattoo Mums, Copenhagen

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Just Eat, Copenhagen

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Restaurant Live Food, Catania, Sicily – if you read the menu, you will notice the last item on the meat column is “Chicken Chest” !

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Burger King in Italy have on its menu “Angry Whopper” – we thought it might have something to do with Angry Birds but there was no other visible promotional text or items to confirm.

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Slut Spurt – no idea what it means in Danish (even after checking Google Translate), Copenhagen

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Well, Danish colleague confirmed that it means something like a last minute dash in a race – here, I guess it means a last chance sale.

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After the UEFA Champions League Final game on a Saturday in June (click here to see the post), we stayed an extra day in Berlin. As expected on a Sunday, most of the shops were closed. So we were pleased to discover Volkswagon Group’s “flagship” store, not far from Checkpoint Charlie on Friedrichstrasse 84/Unter den Linden. See the Forum’s site here.

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Apparently, it was only a month old when we visited in June 2015. Following extensive remodelling with a completely new design, the former Automobil Forum reopened with all of VW group’s twelve brands under one roof.

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The Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT, ŠKODA, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Ducati, Volkswagen trucks, Scania and MAN brands are presented.

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The VW brand was represented by a rally race car.
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Apparently, all Porsche dashboard looks the same.

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In Europe, more than one in four cars are made by the group. Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft is the largest company in Europe, apparently, and this is their communication platform on mobility.

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Not following auto news, we had no idea that Lambo and Bentley are both VW brands.

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The Lambo’s shark look is comical, as is the over-tanned rolly polly Bentley.

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According to their website (click here ):

“The Volkswagen Group Forum gives us the opportunity to further enliven its economic and social role. Here in the heart of the capital, we want to establish a continuing dialogue with people.”

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The Group operates 119 (May 26, 2015) production plants in 20 European countries and a further 11 countries in the Americas, Asia and Africa. Every weekday, 592,586 employees worldwide produce nearly 41,000 vehicles, and work in vehicle-related services or other fields of business. The Volkswagen Group sells its vehicles in 153 countries.

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Interacting with digital exhibits, the visitors can discover both the past and present of the Volkswagen Group.

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Of course, they are selling the brands here not the actual cars, but they sell books and other branded paraphrenalia. But the range of merchandise here pales in comparison with what was on offer at BMW Welt in Munich (click here to see the post).

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There were several walls full of miniature models on display. The model cars were not available for sale. They serve a documentary purpose.

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Volkswagen started producing Sambas in 1951. In the sixties this version became popular as a hippie bus. Instead of a sliding door at the side the Samba had two pivot doors. In addition the Samba had a fabric sunroof. At that time Volkswagen advertised with the idea of using the Samba to make tourist trips through the Alps. Sambas were standard painted in two colors. Usually, the upper part was colored white. The two colored sections were separated by a decorative strip. Further the bus had a so-called “hat”: at the front of the van the roof was just a little longer than the car itself to block the sun for the driver.

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We assume they would make a model only if the real car existed – but Porsche police car ?  Only in Germany !

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The forum offers conference spaces and two restaurants – the eateries sounded interesting but we did not have time to try them.

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A fun place to spend half an hour.

While in Sicily, it was easy to find good inexpensive restaurants. We are not vegetarian but really enjoyed the offering at this vegetarian restaurant – Moon, in Ortigia.

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MOON is an acronym for “Move Ortigia Out of Normality”.

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The place has a bar, a dozen or so tables, a stage for performances possibly accompanied by a baby grand, and a small yard.

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The outdoor space is more suited to drinks than a sit-down dinner in our opinion.

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The white walls gives it the ambiance of an atelier. The space offers high ceilings, original moldings, exposed beams, etc.

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The bar appears to be made from cabinet drawers. The liquors are framed.

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Some tables top look like Rothko’s.

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We had a citrus salad – orange and lemon trees are over the place – and it was very good.

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The pasta dishes were also very good. IT had a vegetarian pasta carbonara.

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I had a pasta with perfume of the sea. All very clever and well executed. Never thought the taste of a traditional Italian pasta can be pleasantly replicated with vegetarian ingredients only.

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The transparent plastic place mats are decorated with sewing machine-made stitches and embroidery.

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Prominent in the middle is a stage for musical performance.

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The owner told us that each summer they provide food and board for a visiting musician who performs in the evenings. Too bad we were around long enough to see it.

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We thought this machine was in working condition but it was not in use while we were there.

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The restaurant organized a graphic design contest to find its logo.

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A great place for food, drinks and music on this ancient island.

Just a quick post about what we ate while in Berlin. The places mentioned in these food diary entries are all memorable for various reasons and definitely recommendable.

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Don’t remember why we wanted to have ramen in Germany. IT’s friend recommended this place Cocolo Ramen in Kreuzberg.

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Since we were hungry, we took a cab from our hotel (near the zoo) to Kruezberg, an area with a lot of immigrants and a canal runs through it. The restaurent is on Paul-Lincke-Ufer. We were sure the driver did not take the most direct route.

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This area feels a bit like the canal area in Milano – numerous bars and restaurants line the sides of the canal, very local and without the touristy fares. Click here to see our post on the Naviglio Grande in Milano.

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Cocolo was packed on the outside since the weather was agreeable. We quickly found a table inside next to a big window.

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The locals must love it because the inside was quickly filled up too.

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Standard ramen on the menu. Nothing surprising. Authentic and tasty is how we would describe it.

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Definitely worth the trip seeking it out if you crave ramen in Berlin.

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But on the next day, we found a second Cocolo (probably its parent) in Mitte. Cocolo is apparently a growing enterprise.

Just a couple of short posts about what we ate while in Berlin. The places mentioned in these food diary entries are all memorable for various reasons and definitely recommendable.

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KaDeWe is a large luxury department store in Berlin, equivalent to Harrods in London or Shinsegae in Seoul. They have the most extensive gourmet food retail area on the entire 6th floor.

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I(Chris) had sang praises about this place in earlier posts, some of which reported on my attempt to count how many different types of sausages were available for sale in the store. If you are curious, click here and here to find out. At that previous visit, I was by myself and chose to enjoy a bowl of bouillbaise on a bar dedicated to serving this dish. Click here to see it.

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This time, there were four of us, and since all the food bars were serving interesting and delicious-looking dishes. It took us quite a bit of walking around and debate among ourselves before settling down for the seafood and oyster bar, Austernbar.

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The place was packed and the staff was very energized. One guy’s job was mostly opening oyster – he used a long hinged blade fixed onto the counter rather than a small shucking knife. He had to be fast. See the orders in front of him.

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The variety of oysters on the menu was extensive – originating from Scottish waters (which was the tastiest in our opinion) to French Atlantic coast, around Sylt, and the Mediterranean, etc. We had a sampler of six different kinds.

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IT had the smoked eel which was very tasty – just the right amount of smoky flavor with a touch of natural sweetness.

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We also had a couple of grilled seafood platters. Yummy.

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Definitely a fun place to have a chilled glass of champagne and oysters.

This June, we were the lucky guests of IT again for the UEFA Champions League Final 2015 which was held in Berlin, Germany.

Beside Sue and IT, we were joined by MW(HK) and MI(CH). We arrived at the Olympiastadion around dusk after much traffic congestion, despite being transported in a VIP bus provided by the game’s sponsors.

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The Olympiastadion was built for the 1936 Olympic Games, the 11th Summer Olympics. Adolf Hitler wanted to use the stadium for propaganda and ordered the construction of a new sports complex rather than renovating an existing Deutsches Stadion.

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We waited quite a bit on the outside before being let in through a VIP entrance. As we learnt afterwards, there were as many as 5000 counterfeit tickets in circulation and UEFA was trying to deal with it outside the stadium.

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The stadium was renovated in 2004 and hosted 6 matches including the final for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Its capacity is about 75,000 spectators – the largest football stadium in Germany.

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The two teams in this year’s Champion League final are FC Barcelona, Spain and Juventus from Torino, Italy.

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Juve was the underdog team.

We had seats in midfield, half way up the side facing the player’s entrance.

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The Barça fans are on our left and Juve fans on the right.

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The game started with a short opening ceremony.

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Having been to Camp Nou – the clubhouse of FC Barcelona (click here for the post), I(Chris) knows the Barça team better. Now they have 3 South American star players – Messi, Neymar and Suarez.

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The game was very exciting, top-level play, without excessive pushing or tripping. We were truly surprised when the half time whistle was blown as the game was so engrossing that we did not even look at our watches.

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Barça won the game 3-1, being the overall better team. Juve had its moment after they scored an equalizer but their high spirit was quickly lost when Barça scored its second goal. Even before the third goal was scored in the last minutes of the game, it was all over for Juventus already.

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This was our third attendance of a Champions League final game (lucky us) and this game was the most enjoyable to watch.

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We saw the other two games – 2012 in Munich (Allianz stadium, Chelsea beat Bayern Munich, click here to see us holding the actual cup before the game and also here) and 2013 in London (Wembley, Bayern Munich beat Borussia Dortmund, click here). The stadium and hospitality service in Berlin was better than Wembley and on par with Allianz.

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All thanks to IT.

 

 

Back in Georgetown, Penang, among many of the heritage buildings, the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (張弼士故居) is one of the most celebrated example. UNESCO recognized it with an award in Heritage conservation in 2000.

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We were treated to a glimpse of how a Chinese tycoon lived at the turn of the century (19th-20th).

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The mansion is now a boutique hotel as well as a restored cultural landmark. It served as a back drop for the French movie – Indochine, which won the Academy award in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

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It can only be visited by appointment in a daily tour, unless you reserve a room under its Homestay program.

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The property has a 38 rooms and is available for themed functions like weddings.

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Compared to where we were staying –  Seven Terraces – which is also a restored heritage property –  the architecture of the place appears much more authentic. Seven Terraces is more a product of the restorer’s imagination and potentially made more dazzling. Click the link to see our pictures of Seven Terraces parts 1 and 2.

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The tour of the mansion must be a very popular item on the tourists’ map as more than 50 people showed up.

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Our tour guide is a member of the group who bought the property from the original family owners and restored it to its current state. She seemed slightly offended when someone asked if the government or a charity rescued and restored the property.

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A lot of research as well as money was expanded on restoring the property accurately.

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She also seemed knowledgeable about characters in the original Cheong family. Apparently, there were some restrictions (we forgot the details) on the disposition of the property which prevented it from being transferred until recently (somebody in the Cheong family died), and as a result, the property fell into disrepair and was for years occupied by squatters (laundry hanging from ropes draped all over the central courtyard, etc).

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The story of Cheong Fatt Tze (1840-1916) is fascinating and we are surprised that not more stories based on him are made into TV dramas or movies. He was known as a financier, tycoon, diplomat, philanthropist and minister living in splendid mansions dotted around southeast Asia with 8 wives and 14 children.

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There is a lot of information on both the architecture and history of the house as well as the life of Cheong Fatt Tze on the official website – go explore here.

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This is part 2 of our post on Langkawi’s Kilim Geoforest Park. Part 1 is here.

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We made a few stops along the boat trip. The first is a short walk through a tropical jungle and a bat cave on a paved path. The bat was very hard to see from a distance as they were tiny and hanging on the side and roof of the cave in the dark. The only thing we saw was this rattlesnake, probably venomous given the triangular shape of its head. Mind you, this snake was not caged but just coiled up on a tree trunk.

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The next notable animal we saw is this swimming reptile. It was at least 4-5 feet long.

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Moving up the evolutionary scale, after the reptiles, we saw birds of prey.

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These birds are accustomed to being “fed” by tourists and “trained” to fly and dive into the river for handouts (thrown into the water).

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Not sure what type of  birds we were seeing, they have orange wings and black “fingers” and a white body.

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At a couple of places, the boat slowed to a crawl where we can “interact” with the monkeys onshore. The guide gave us bags of peanuts.

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Sue did not want any of the attention we were receiving from the simian mob.

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This monkey boarded our boat and it was obviously very familiar with tourists and felt entitled to whatever that was onboard.

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Neither shy nor aggressive. After some peanuts, it pooped on our boat, then disembarked by hopping into the water and swam ashore as our boat pulled away from its gang.

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All in all an interesting day.

While in Langkawi, the last stop of our Malaysian trip, we wanted to see a bit of nature (after KL and Penang). So we just signed up for a boat tour of the mangroves around the island. It was all very touristy but convenient.

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As expected, we were picked up by the tour operator at the hotel in a mini van, delivered to a pier where the boat operators received us (and guests from other hotels and resorts).

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The tourism industry has organized itself into efficient segments, the tour operators who sell the tour and transport the tourists to the boat operators who provide the tour guide and the boat, and deliver us to the fisherman (part time cook) who provided us with lunch.

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The tour started with our boat speeding through open water in the Anderman sea, very reminiscent of our trip to the islands from Ko Samui in the Gulf of Thailand. See our earlier post here.

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Many hidden beaches and odd-looking rocky islets with dramatic cliffs.

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This park is made of several elongated hills and islands with narrow limestone karst valleys in between, and these valleys are home to a unique mangrove forest.

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We entered a river mouth where the mangroves are located.

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Our boat went through some narrow gaps including the one below with an unbelievably low ceiling.

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We studied mangroves in geography class but never saw one until now. The word “mangroves” refers to the trees and shrubs that grow in intertidal saline water and evolved roots systems to deal with the salt and wave action.

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The mangroove forest is considered a distinct biome as we saw here.

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We made several stops including a couple at aquaculture stations. These are floating platforms under which where fishes are kept and sold to passing tourists.

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These are mom-n-pop operations catering to tourists. But aquaculture is a major industry in this part of Asia, providing the world with affordable and sustainable shrimp and tilapia (for example). But we did not see any commercial fish farm here.

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We saw various kinds of fishes, including tuna and eel. They are all on the menu.

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The tuna was swimming fast in circles. It could put up quite a fight when a net is lowered … however we did not get to see it.

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More photos of the wild life in our next post …

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