Transport Tycoon (iOS version) – review

How time flies – it’s been 8 years since I last reviewed a Chris Sawyer game on Leidartikel. You’d recall that Chris Sawyer’s Transport Tycoon for the DOS system is still one of the finest business strategy games ever conceived for the PC and I also think that Locomotion (a spiritual successor to the first Transport Tycoon) is not as bad as most people thought it to be.

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Moving forward, we know that mobile apps have more or less taken over daily lives (for those with smartphones) these days. If we’re not playing games, we take to social media. Booking flight tickets online, movie tickets – the possibilities are endless.

Certain entertaining apps like ‘Clash of Clans’, ‘Samurai Siege’, Simpsons: Tapped Out’, ‘Sonic Dash’ and so on, are a few examples of firm favorites (as at time of writing, at least) and which is reflected in its healthy chart-topping positions within the Apple App Store. There’s a certain kind of exciting familiarity when you see a random stranger at a café placing an iPad in front of him/her and when you peer curiously at the screen, you could see a militant, medieval village sprawled across a lush, green background with its owner tapping away at gold coins and purplish elixir.

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The thing is – I personally thought that newer games developed from the ground up for the iOS (or Android, if you prefer) appears to be a solid investment for users as opposed to an established game franchise dug up again (some by EA who destroys most of the gaming nostalgia) and redeveloped for the smartphone or tablet. 

I’ll explain – some months back, I saw the App Store advertising the sale of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for the iOS.

While it was (and is) a great game (and I do admit deferring the decision to my heart first over my head) I still have a copy of the game on PlayStation 2 –  so buying and downloading this app wasn’t terribly appealing after all. Add to that equation the poor battery life of the iPhone 5 and the not so spacious storage space on a 16GB model, you could see why I didn’t entertain further thoughts of making a purchase.

Some weeks back, I was flipping through the App Store charts for new games to play and saw this Transport Tycoon app for sale at USD6.99. I was intrigued and after reading a few reviews of the game, bought and downloaded it on the same day.

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If you look closely at the startup screens, you’d be awash with familiarity. These are from ‘Locomotion’ in case these images didn’t ring a bell.

Almost immediately, the realization sunk in – this is ‘Locomotion’ updated for the iOS, and marketed as a new ‘Transport Tycoon’. The jazz music from the original TT game is present, so there’s some déjà vu there if you’re into this sort of thing.

Having said that, I wanted to try the game anyway, since I’ve paid close to USD7 for this. No harm, I’d be happy to write a review, looking out at the same time for any notable improvements over the PC versions of the past.

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So, let’s skim the help guide first. Everything has been simplified for the translation to iOS and the interface and instructions are very simple and clear. The icons aren’t descriptive but you could tap on each one in turn to see what they meant if you have the time.

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John Broomhall is credited as the music composer of this game whereas Allister Brimble (who wrote and arranged the music for ‘Locomotion’) is now credited for his part on the original sound FX.

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Once at the scenario selection menu, I think that the sole factor which irked me was the lack of a terrain generator for this game to ensure continued replayability. As it stands – this means that once I’ve completed all of the pre-set scenarios (set across five varying difficulty levels), then this game is a favorite candidate for deletion to free up vital storage space.

If you’ve played ‘Locomotion’ before in late 2004 on the PC, you may be hit by the sudden awareness that the scenarios available back then are replicated faithfully for this iOS version as well. In addition, for seasoned ‘Locomotion’ gamers, you would have been familiar with the e.g. ‘Great Britain and Ireland’ or the ‘North America (East)’ terrain which are omnipresent across the different difficulty levels (with only the winning condition and era being the distinguishing characteristics). So, with the lack of new scenarios present on this iOS version, I’d run out of adjectives to reasonably describe my disappointment at this stage.

For the benefit of gamers who are new to this series, though, I’d try to make the following as unbiased as possible.

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I started a game in the North America (East) map since it’s one of the easiest to make money on and erase most loan debts within five years of incorporation. This would also make my review easier since I don’t need to balance keeping my transport enterprise afloat and also to take notes which would form the backbone of this review at the same time.

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Buying vehicles is easy. Placing them on the track / road isn’t terribly difficult but it’s slightly more tedious than ‘Locomotion’ since you need to exit from the vehicle purchase window and switch to your vehicle inventory list to be able to deploy your newly-acquired moneymaking asset.

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I noticed that trams make spades of money in whatever scenario you choose to play, so consider this as a free tip. Plus – trams run on a fixed track (as long as there’s a complete u-turn loop) so you don’t need to assign destinations to each vehicle running on the circuit as it would stop at all stations which you have designated along the way.

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As the cities develop over the game years, the increased population density ensures that your tram networks are often profitable.

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Expand your transport efficiency by making sure that your customers (i.e. the people waiting at the stations) or materials are quickly whisked away from the station of origin. The destination is immaterial –you’d be paid accordingly depending on the distance ferried and the speed at which the people or goods are transported.

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Aircraft makes the most money in the long run with fewer maintenance issues to be bothered with.

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With the scenario won, I had nothing else to fight for, so I started a new game on the Swiss Alps at the turn of last century.

Again, I started off with a tram network to rake in the dough early. That would solve some of the debt financing issues which could seriously debilitate your ability to maneuver out of fiscal trouble close to the start of the game.

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With some cash reserves, I then built a train platform above the roads to eliminate the need to tear down existing buildings. I’m not concerned about town authorities’ ratings but I’m more interested in the urban development rate, since for every townhouse that I tear down, it would mean lesser chance of passengers converging into the station(s) that I’d be constructing in the immediate vicinity.

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Trains running parallel with the tram line means that other terrain obstacles remain pristine. I built my trains using a 3 passenger / 1 mail van setup since it’s still early days when the locomotives aren’t powerful enough for longer combinations.

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I also enjoyed playing the Swiss Alps scenario because it offers the chance to build tram lines leading to the ski resorts which dot the entire map.

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There was this one time when I finished constructing a tram line connecting a town to a ski resort and next thing I knew was that resort suddenly packed up and closed shop before my very eyes. I had to re-route the entire line to the nearest (which isn’t the case) ski resort some ways off. Not funny.   

I’m still halfway through this scenario so this is all that I can report at this moment.

Right – it’s time to tabulate the scores now.

Gameplay: 3.5 / 5

If you are playing the game for the first time, then I’d say it’s a mighty fine choice. It’s a solid business sim and the mechanics are easy to grasp even for a newcomer. There are many industries to tinker about with and if you are aiming to play it safe, you could always rely on the good old passenger lines to get you out of a tight spot.

The challenges aren’t difficult to complete but some degree of business acumen would be helpful since the rival companies controlled by the AI are given certain privileges like the anti-sabotage protection (where you are prevented from building anything on an area which the rival is about to construct on) and also that the AI-controlled opponents tend to have the lion’s share of customers/goods displacement than you would.

For the laidback gamer, there’s always that sense of fun in deploying a well-planned transport route and lay down your vehicles and then watch your money rolling in.

Otherwise (for long-standing fans of this series), it’s the same ‘Locomotion’ game that was released about 10 years ago.

By the way, the AI hasn’t improved much since the TT days. Have a look:

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Why are all of those loops even necessary?

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A rival tram bulldozing its way through town just to get a piece of the action.

Interface: 3.5 / 5

It should take a lot of hard work to fit most of the game’s features on a small touchscreen, so credit must given where it’s due. Plus, the menus are concise and easy to understand, so there’s no excuse for you to screw up. My only gripe is the terraforming tool which is a hit or a miss most of the time. I could blame my fingers for being thick and clumsy here, I guess.

The world map is available at a touch but I have some difficulty reading the very small text. Yea, and then you’d tell me that I should play it on an iPad instead, right?

Music: 4 / 5

The familiar tracks from the original TT which you love has been re-mastered for this iOS version. I‘m quite a fan of the ‘Locomotion’ music tracks as well but between the two sets, I’m partial to the classic soundtrack by John Broomhall. ‘Aliens Ate My Railway’, anyone?

Graphics: 2.5 / 5

I won’t rate this section very highly since very little was done to polish up the dated graphics from last decade. It is clearly a direct port of ‘Locomotion’ visuals where the terrain is heavily pixelated. I mean there are lots of good graphic mods offered by third parties and I don’t understand as to why some of the better ones are not marked for inclusion in this version.

Value: 2 / 5

Low replayability. There should have been a terrain generator in the game at the very least if not a scenario editor. For a price of USD 6.99, it’s not a bad price but returning fans of Transport Tycoon would be sorely disappointed at this rehash of ‘Locomotion’ seeing as there are not many new features onboard. In fact, I struggle to think of even one.

On the other hand, it’s quite a good, thoroughly absorbing game to have in your apps library. The powerful hardware of the iPhone 5 allows the game to run quite smoothly on this mobile device as well.

Conclusion:

Should you get this game? It’s a matter of small debate but I’d think that only the most ardent fans of Chris Sawyer’s games would do it.              

        

 

  

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Wong Tai Sin Temple (黄大仙祠), Hong Kong Trip, 13 October 2013

I was sorting thru some of the pictures taken during the great vacation period of three months (October, November and December 2013) as it was taking up quite a lot of space in my new laptop and there was this series of pictures that I’ve taken of the famous temple in Wong Tai Sin District in Kowloon.

The temple is probably most famous for the commonly held belief that ‘what you wish for is what you get’, the process of which may be interpreted via fortune sticks.

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Incidentally, the day that we visited Wong Tai Sin Temple was the Double Ninth Festival (重九節) or the Chung Yeung Festival (重陽節) in 2013 (more on that later). As usual, festival or not, the temple was crowded with tourists and locals alike.

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It was a sunny, late summer day in Hong Kong but the weather was not as humid as in Malaysia.

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Quite a number of visitors love to touch the pair of ‘piyao’ at the entrance of the temple. Normally, the Mainland Chinese are seen doing this as evidenced by the fat guy at the bottom right corner.

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Yue Lao greets you cordially near the entrance as you make your way to the main temple complex.

He is widely believed by the Chinese to be the deity of marriage and love. Devotees to the temple could tie a red string upon either one of the red ropes leading to a married couple (of different gender, of course) located on either side of Yue Lao. If you are female, then you should tie on the bridegroom’s side – and vice versa for the male devotee. There are instructions in Chinese to do this ritual correctly and it involves some fingerwork.  

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Out of respect and consideration of other devotees, I didn’t take pictures of the main prayer hall. In addition, all temple visitors are required to carry out their prayers outside the main prayer hall (i.e. place the joss sticks at the incense urns) as the sheltered area is off limits, presumably to preserve the sanctity of the inner temple.

I did make a wish within this area and obtained a fortune stick in divine reply. Since the ‘cim’ was inscribed in classical form of Chinese, I left the interpretation to one of those fortune tellers who set up shop just a short way to the side.

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Apparently, the fortune teller who attended to me could speak English as well although I‘m also comfortable with Cantonese. In the end, we both communicated in smattering mixture of both since her halting English made some vital meanings lost on me whereas some deeper Cantonese terms are alien to my vocabulary. To illustrate – as I’ve said earlier, we visited Wong Tai Sin Temple on the Chung Yeung festival day itself (although I learnt of this in hindsight when we were comfortably back in our serviced apartment in Jordan) – the clairvoyant explained something along the lines that one of my predictions was special because it was the day that ‘people in Hong Kong go up the mountain and it is very good because it signified rising up.’…or something like that Thinking smile .

One tip as well if you are a believer – you are also allowed to close your eyes and pick a fortune paper from the stacks the clairvoyant has in her store too if you have any additional wishes that you didn’t manage to pray for within the main prayer area. According to her, it’s the same as making a wish up at the main prayer area. Mind – I haven’t yet seen the fruition of my wishes till today although everything in the predictions were (and I mean it literally) top of the world etc., so I’d say – just keep the faith!

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Now, with these certain positive buoyancy assured (sometimes, these positive vibes are good for the soul), we headed to the lovely gardens behind the main temple complex. This is the Nine Dragon Wall pictured with the pond filled with turtles, although it’s not possible to see any in the above picture.

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This is a closer look at the same pond. Just look at the amount of coins which litter the bottom.

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This is the commemorative tablet to mark the diamond jubilee of the Sik Sik Yuen Organization (嗇色園). On the assumption that ‘diamond jubilee’ meant the 60th anniversary (as opposed to the similarly attributed 75th anniversary), then it would mean that the organization was formed in 1921 (i.e. 1981 – 60 years).

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This is the narrow pathway leading to the pavilion behind the Nine-Dragon Wall.

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Well, here we are – the second pond.

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Here is the pathway leading to the exit.

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I wanted to take pictures of the Buddhist prayer hall as well as the Confucian hall but security personnel within the area were cordoning off some areas as we were told that priests would be forming a procession leading to the main prayer hall shortly.

All in all, it was a lovely morning. I wish that I’d taken more pictures but I was also an active participant myself in the prayer rituals. Next time, perhaps, and soon.   

 

 

 

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Tokyo Trip (15 December 2013 to 18 December 2013)–Tsukiji, Ginza and Tokyo Daijingu @ Iidabashi (midday 16 December 2013)

After a most exciting hour or so at Asakusa, it is time to make way for another segment of my itinerary – Tsukiji.

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I didn’t enter the tuna auction area as it was already late morning when I arrived. Determined to make the most of whatever is left to see there, I ventured into the open market area, and came away impressed.

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(You have indeed arrived at Tsukiji when you see the welcome sign near the park and this crossing)

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One of the many things I marvel about Japan – the area may be a market but it was not inundated with rubbish like a pasar malam in Malaysia. I did not mean that the place was spotlessly clean but the area seemed so pleasant to meander around and look idly at the wares on sale.

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This is the Tsukiji Shouro shop famous for its tamagoyaki. I bought some by saying exactly what some local dude called this thing when placing an order. See – it’s not so hard is it? The vendors are very polite to a fault, so just tell them whichever stuff you want by pointing. And yes, it’s very delicious although it was refrigerated – I’d rather have mine slightly warm.

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Some ways down the Shouro shop, there are some vendors openly roasting oysters on a barbecue pit. One juicy oyster for 100 yen? I want! 

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This was simply awesome.

The smoky flavor is still prevalent and the oyster was well cooked. I was travelling alone, as most of you are aware, so I abstained from overeating street food I come across. Believe me, it’s not easy when there’s so much delightful choices at affordable prices.

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If I had a serviced apartment with my own kitchenette during my stay in Tokyo, I’d get some of these to be cooked.

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The market itself is lined with many small eating establishments which looked awfully packed that I didn’t wanted to spend time inside as my own itinerary is rushed. My main objective was to get a Japanese Dreamcast console from Akihabara and I was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough time to experience Tokyo to a decent level of satisfaction if I spent too much time at one place.

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There are lots of places serving ramen, udon and many other dishes. You’d have to eat standing up, though for the most part and I was not terribly hungry since I’ve had eaten and was carrying some more Lawson convenience store’s onigiri for rations. They taste so good.

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Ginza isn’t far away from Tsukiji, so I decided to drop by to take some pics. This is the Kabuki-za.

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Here are more pictures of Ginza district. I was also there on the second consecutive day – the Christmas atmosphere was excellent and the cold winter weather was great for walking extensively.

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After that, it was a short trip to Iidabashi – which is the site of the Tokyo Daijingu shrine (東京大神宮). This was my first visit to a Shinto shrine and I read up on the rituals beforehand. I learnt that this shrine is also famous with women, girls, females etc. for its ability to grant wishes for love. When I arrived (which is somewhat off the main road although my instincts guided me well), there were some ladies coming out from the shrine.

I won’t lie – this statement piqued my interest and I wanted to see for myself as well. And no, I’m not going there to ogle at the girls, in case I didn’t make myself clear.

So, this trip to Iidabashi (which is not one of those ‘let’s go there since it’s along the way’ kind if you know what I mean) was a special one. There’s a guy there too – see the pic below?

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I also visited the juyosho (shrine visitor center) to get some omamori – the one for good luck. It might be useful to pick up a few Japanese phrases when dealing with the young girls manning the store. Better yet, do some research on the types of omamori on sale if you are into buying these protective amulets.

Until the next post then – stay tuned for more scenes from Day 1.      

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Tokyo Trip (15 December 2013 to 18 December 2013)–Asakusa (Day 1) (early half of 16 December 2013)

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Ohayou gozaimasu, Tokyo! I woke up to the bright sunshine streaming in through the curtains. It is an excellent day for sightseeing and fun!

I did have a luxury of riches in the places I planned to visit but I settled for Asakusa upon recommendation from a friend.

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This is my hotel room. I thought that I could suffer from claustrophobia if I were to stay in it for the entire day.

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Anamori-inari train station. This is the main terminal for all my travel plans.

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This is my daily onigiri breakfast. It’s important to start the day with a filling meal but not one which takes so much time that it induces guilt. So, I got my daily supplies from the Lawson convenience store just down the footpath directly across the hotel.

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There are lots of bored people on the train but that’s how I’d feel too if I need to get to work.

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Changing lines at Keikyū Kamata station no one taught me this, I had to study the train maps very carefully the night before and explore the routes to get to where I wanted to.

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Ok, so this is Asakusa. Most stations have numerous exit points so be sure to read the area descriptions first before exiting the premises. You could wind up getting lost if you ignore it.

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Nice. Tourist spots such as Asakusa feature English directions on most maps. Be sure to check them if you lost your bearings.

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Maybe not such a great pic because of the position of the sun in the sky but that’d do for now : (

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Hordes of tourists at the Kaminarimon. Some of them speak Cantonese, most of them converse with each other in Mandarin. I even picked out a handful of counterparts who were talking loudly in Hokkien (my dialect)!

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(top) This is the famous Nakamise-dori – lined with stalls on either side of the street selling snacks, souvenirs, clothes and more! Just being here makes me feel exuberant to be alive!

(above) this is the route to the Hōzōmon. Lots of people are seen resting by the fence on the left and eating the food which they have bought earlier. One gripe I have is the lack of trash cans in Tokyo which means that I’ve to hang onto my rubbish longer than I should have. 

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And this is the Hōzōmon which is the main entrance to the Sensō-ji temple complex.

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I’m happy to let the pictures do the talking here. Out of respect, I did not take any pictures of the Sensō-ji temple’s interior. Apparently, it is not appropriate to do so at any part of the temple where there’s a roof over it. Please feel free to comment if my understanding is correct. 

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This is the Hōzōmon from the inner temple’s vantage point. See if you could spot the giant straw sandals (waraji) which weigh 400 kg each? The sun is also amazingly close to Earth.

Before leaving the temple, I bought some omamori (protective amulets) from the juyosho. (More pictures of the temple in the evening on Day 2. Yes, I loved Asakusa so much that I returned to it the following day.)

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This is the imposing and impressive Tokyo Skytree in nearby Sumida.

In the next entry, I’d be visiting Tsukiji open market (not the tuna bidding area which I could not gain entry into but never mind).

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Tokyo Trip (15 December 2013 to 18 December 2013)–JAL City Haneda (1st night)

The year 2013 has been one which I wondered if I was heading anywhere – career has been shite (no comment), love life basically non-existent (trust me – I‘ve tried, I’ve tried), feeling drained of all inspiration to do something meaningful in life, getting older…

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So, one night in early December 2013, I lay awake in bed and decided that my life could be better if I changed my way I perceived it.

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And right there and then – I made the decision that I’d travel to Japan alone and fulfill my dreams one by one. Starting with getting a Dreamcast in Akihabara! I’m born on the Gemini-Cancer cusp by the way (24 June – yes, you can argue all you want that it stops at 23 June but I know that I don’t possess the inherent homebody of a Cancer native because I could never sit still at home and I’ve always lost interest in things very quickly) and part of my character involves making the most random decisions ever, provided that it sounds fun! And once I’ve made up my mind, nothing will make me change it.

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I know lots of people would raise a skeptical eyebrow when I declared that one of my long-held wish is to get a Sega Dreamcast console. It’s an old video game console, marked for failure when the PlayStation 2 was released in 2000. Next – it was the oldest of all the 6th generation video game consoles, which means that whatever stock I could lay hands on are likely to be machines of at least 12 years in existence. The answer is simple – I’ve always supported underdogs and I liked Sega a lot, especially since the MegaDrive days when every kid clamored to play Sonic the Hedgehog and not Mario Bros.

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So, I spilled my travel plans to my closest work friends and everyone I spoke to wished me luck. They said language is a barrier, the things in Japan are expensive etc.

But I would have none of it. Nothing is going to change my mind once I could see the possibility of my dream becoming a reality. Mark my words!

I’ve also grown tired of Malaysia. I’ve lived here all of my life and I yearned to be a jetsetter – to travel, to write about my travels and to spread the message to the world that there are so many beautiful and wondrous marvels that we are all destined to enjoy if we work hard to make it come true.

Another reason is this – I’ve just visited Hong Kong and Macau in October 2013, went to Bangkok in November 2013 and I said, just for the record, let’s make it three months in a row that I’m travelling outside of Malaysia. So, Japan – here I come!

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I won’t lie – planning for this trip is not one of the easiest that I’ve ever managed. My HK trip was largely handled by my brother and my sis-in-law. The Bangkok holiday was a company trip. I was on my own for this one!

First step is to apply for a few days’ annual leave from my boss. Check. Next, book a flight. AirAsia has got plenty of seats. Then, based on the flight itinerary, book a hotel room. Since I’d arrive at Haneda airport close to midnight, I’d have to stay someplace nearby, otherwise I’d end up paying exorbitant taxi fees. I’d initially wanted to stay at Sunroute Shinjuku but as I’ve said – I won’t pay crazy fares for transportation. A friend who has just gone to Japan in October said that staying close to the city centre is better for travel and I’m inclined to agree but I stuck to my decision and did not regret it at all. Next is the most important – my travel itinerary and schedule. So, I’d have to do extensive but necessary research on the transportation, estimated time from one station to another, food that I’d be consuming, shopping plans etc.

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One thing that made a lasting impression upon me was the sight of the airport ground crew bowing to the plane when it stopped. Nowhere in this world could this spectacle be seen. Tokyo is going to be so fun.

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I did not bring any warm clothing in my hand carry which was a dumb thing to do. I had winter wear stocked in the check-in luggage but that would have to wait. It was close to 5 degrees Celsius outside and getting a nasty cold is the last thing I need.

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It was freezing cold when I took this picture. Actually, lots of things were playing in my head too – could I clear customs on time before the last train on the Keikyū line? I also needed to get to a washroom quickly to alleviate bladder pressure. Did I fill up my entry documents correctly? I was so sleepy on board, watching over my personal stuff, my passport, my neatly folded Japanese yen notes etc. keeping it from prying eyes and quick fingers. That’s what you should expect by travelling alone. You are solely responsible for yourself.

Fortunately, most of my initial concerns were quickly laid to rest. Everything went very smoothly and before long, I was heading to the Pasmo machines to get this card:

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Pasmo card is the contactless card system for train travel in Tokyo. You could buy one and load up sufficient credit on it, say e.g. 5000 yen. This allows you to travel within the Tokyo metropolitan area railways without queuing up to purchase tickets, you could also switch train lines with different operators and even buy groceries and stuff at participating stores. Its counterpart is the Suica card which functions more or less in the same fashion. Since I’m on the Keikyū line the only card issued at the stations are the Pasmo. Understand that there are promotional day passes which you could benefit from and which would suit your own travel plans, so don’t follow my route blindly. I did it because I wanted to travel from station to station with merely a quick swipe of the card instead of carefully treading on certain limitations imposed on day passes (e.g. territorial restrictions) that would hinder rather than help my journey. I’m not renowned for my patience too, by the way. It may not be the most cost-efficient way but I deduced that I could swing it.

There are instructions in English if you do opt to get your card from the Pasmo machines. You could get your very own personalized card (with your name on it) and that’s so cool. It’s so painless that your card could be issued in your name within three minutes (inclusive of inserting notes into the machines to complete the purchase thereof).

I then boarded the airport shuttle bus to the JAL City Haneda Airport Hotel. I had initially thought that it would be difficult to board one but it was super duper easy. It was already close to midnight by then but my mind was so excited! I couldn’t stop smiling to myself. I did it! I’m finally in Japan!

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I checked into the hotel fairly easily as well. The staff’s command of English is fairly rudimentary but they were efficient and got things done.

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I did say it was cold, right? So cut me some slack if these pictures of the hotel ain’t so hot.

Anyway, the next morning is a crucial one. So, stay tuned for the next entry!  

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Yung Kee Restaurant (鏞記酒家), 32-40 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong (Day 7–HK Trip)

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I know this might freak people out but I first read about this famous restaurant from a Reader’s Digest article (circa 1991) which is a biography on the famous Chinese author, Lin Yu-Tang written by his daughter, the late Lin Tai-Yi. There was this particular section in the article which narrates the father visiting Hong Kong with his daughter and ate at this famous restaurant. After consuming its most famous dish, roast goose, the elderly gentleman reportedly vomited blood at night.

That was in 1991 when I was an earnest 10 year old but strangely, I didn’t remember Yung Kee in a negative light – conversely speaking, I was actually more curious as to what this amazing roast goose could do to the health and whether this delicacy is indeed as delicious as what most people readily assert. That biography also mentioned other dishes like ‘Eight Precious Duck’ and roast lamb which the subject matter apparently enjoys a lot. Remember that these were the days before the internet invaded our daily lives, so I could only dream as to what roast goose or that particular duck would taste like.

Ok – enough reminiscing already. Moving back to the present, Yung Kee is the glittering jewel in Wellington Street, Central. You could see the aura emanating from the busy intersection and as you approach, you’d not miss the dazzling golden-coloured building. It’s located opposite Tsui Wah Restaurant (where we had dinner the day before).

Consisting of two dining floors, Yung Kee offers seating arrangements on both the ground floor and the (upper) first floor. Still, it’s best to place a reservation early for a table as walk-in patrons often found themselves on the waiting list for a pretty long time. We saw a long line of people still waiting to be seated when we finished dinner. Two weeks prior reservation is no exaggeration.

Because we had placed a reservation more than a month before, we were quickly ushered to our seats. The anticipation was already growing inside…

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Since this place is an august establishment, the waiters are naturally more courteous than the usual ‘cha chaan tengs’. We had a thorough look at the menu items and decided that the prices aren’t overpriced as what one would be led to believe. But we definitely knew what we came here for – roast goose!

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Now – if I have to make a choice between roast goose and roasted duck, I’d prefer the former.

I’m no food connoisseur, but I thought that the texture of the goose meat and its flavour is more appealing than roasted duck meat which could taste gamey on occasion. The sudden dopamine release when sinking my teeth into the glistening roasted skin is indescribable – it was succulent and well-done. Goose is slightly fatty, though, and looked more oily than regular duck. For me, the chance to savour roast goose doesn’t come everyday so it didn’t matter a bit.

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We also had these delectable treats – century eggs!

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The sulphur aroma is very distinct, all right – and the egg yolk was surprisingly creamy. Let’s not compare these to the country where I come from ok – I’ve already given up.

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The century egg had some patterns in it but my Iphone 5 camera couldn’t accurately capture the designs. See if you could spot it near the middle left side.

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This is crab meat served on a bed of broccoli. Wonderful combo. Goes well with white rice.

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Any fan of roasted meat shouldn’t miss these – it’s char siew + soy sauce chicken + roasted pork.

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Spreading the meat aside – you could see yellow beans concealed underneath.

I thought the roast pork was too fatty but the char siew was one of the best we’ve eaten in HK. The chicken was, in my view, so-so only.

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This is another smashing dish – tofu with sea cucumber and mince pork. The humble sea cucumber looked deceptively like carrots in the above picture, but I assure you that the combo of all three ingredients is something quite special. Have it with some white rice.

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No, we weren’t done yet.

As Dad was dutifully polishing off the last slivers of soy sauce chicken, we were poring over the menu again and settled on something we had not enjoyed for a very long time (10 years to be precise) – roasted pigeon.

Whereas the roast goose was unabashedly bathed in oil, the roasted pigeon was served with almost no visible oil streak on the serving dish.

The question as to the taste of pigeon is also difficult to answer accurately – it tasted more like duck than chicken and has a rather pungent and gamey aftertaste. There isn’t much meat in the entire bird, but we just wanted to get reacquainted with the taste – and we weren’t disappointed. Every single piece of the pigeon was polished up – skin and all. There was some sour plum powder / sauce to enjoy it with too.

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The total bill came up to RM640 (approximately HKD1,580) which is affordable in my view. We don’t pamper ourselves very often, so this is definitely money well spent.

We did a bit of shopping at HMV (located at the Entertainment Building) which is not far from the restaurant. I bought ‘The Simpsons: First Season’ on DVD, Leslie Cheung’s ‘Final Encounter’ album and lots of button badges for friends as souvenirs.

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Overall, it was a lovely evening. Great food and shopping – only in Hong Kong!

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Senado Square (Largo do Senado), Macau (Day 4)

I believe that some TVB series seriously damaged the reputation of Macau by constantly having its viewers believe that this ex-Portuguese enclave is the place where Hongkies go and gamble at one of the many casinos of Macau, lose so much money that the protagonists are scared to go home to face the consequences (or become the target of loan sharks), or was so engrossed in winning money that the TV characters lost track of time and eventually missed the last ferry back to home sweet Hong Kong.

But if you pay a visit to this lovely place once, you’d want to come back – for the food, the lovely views and the glittering casinos, of course.

I won’t be drawn into comparing Las Vegas and to deliberate derisory statements like ‘Macau is the Las Vegas of the East’ or ‘Las Vegas is the Macau of the West’. As far as I know, this tiny enclave at one of the many southern tips of Mainland China has dreamt big and have acted accordingly as well.

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The impressive Hotel Lisboa taking a peek from a distance.

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St. Dominic’s Church.

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We were obviously looking for the St. Paul’s Ruins.

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Koi Kei Confectionary outlets leading the way to the Ruins. Competition law in Macau isn’t in place yet, so we may see monopolies like these ruling the roost for years. The next is famed jewelers, ‘Chow Tai Fook’.

In a taxi on the way to Senado Square, we saw no less than seven (7) branches all over the routes leading there. In one street alone, we counted five outlets in one golden chain. Five! Why does one company need five shops selling more or less the same things in a tight vicinity?? The mind continues to reel at what Macau has to offer.

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Remember to buy these Portuguese egg tarts early. These pastries are very popular and will be sold out fairly early.

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(These pics were taken back at the hotel. The egg tarts still taste good despite not being consumed immediately after purchase)

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Ok, we’re almost there…

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That’s it – that’s it! I managed to capture the entire frame!

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The Ruins from the side profile.

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To the right is Fortaleza do Monte (Mount Fortress)

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Sunset from the top of the Fortaleza…

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The entrance to the Fort…

 

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Wow, the fortress was ‘only’ demilitarized in 1976. In the age of modern warfare, the fortress is probably only a fickle idea of militarism, not one of practicality.

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This is another ‘If that guy is not sitting there, this would be a great pic’ moment. Ah well…

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A small map of the fort and surrounding areas. Don’t get it why Portuguese town planning is so weird. Just look at the Malacca map of old.

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At the top of Mount Hill at last…

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Grand Lisboa is owned by Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau, SA – you’d be better off remembering that Macau gambling mogul Stanley Ho founded the company.

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This is the Museum of Macau. It was upon closing time when we decided to take a peek at its exterior.

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While we were not allowed into the exhibition area, we were permitted to take the escalators down to the base of the hill, which is cool because we don’t need to walk all the way down using the fort’s primitive staircases.

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Here are some external exhibits which are on display…

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St. Dominic’s Church at night.

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One more longing look at the square…

How to get there: Take a cab to Senado Square. Macau doesn’t have the ease which the HK MTR affords, so most of the travelling is either by cab or by the hotel shuttle vans/buses.

Macau cab drivers are also quite rude, so be prepared to swallow your pride if you could look beyond their petty remarks. They also tend to return your cab fare in Macao Pataca (MOP) which sucks because the HK dollar is worth slightly more (troublesome when you return to HK and want to convert the cash back), and also because most Macau casino slot machines only accept HKD. Therefore, try to exchange your MOP with HKD at casino cashiers, who usually have no problem accepting such conversion.

Come to the Senado Square for the historical culture and for the delicacies to take home for your family and friends. There are also breathtaking views of the city – we watched the sunset from the fortress itself. The place itself is also clean and well-maintained – there are also public toilets within convenient walking distance from the main tourist attractions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tsui Wah Restaurant (翠華餐廳), Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong (Day 6)

During our Hong Kong trip, mealtimes become something of a novelty because we don’t eat at a same restaurant twice (except perhaps with the Australia Dairy Company where we took home the steamed milk pudding after dinner at neighbouring ‘Mak Man Kee Noodle Shop’ on Day 3 of the trip, but that was it). So, when my sister-in-law suggested for us to try this somewhat high-classed ‘cha chaan teng’, we forgot how tired we were walking around Soho and Central and look forward to trying the dishes there.

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Nice location – right opposite ‘Yung Kee Restaurant’ in Wellington Street (we’d be having dinner there the following day, and in particular, to savour the roast goose –  wheeeee!)

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Believe me – it may be dark outside but it was only 6:40 p.m.

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The dinner crowd hasn’t arrived yet. And good thing too, because our food came very quickly. And when our food started making its way to our table, more and more people started seating themselves around us.

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This is my sis-in-law’s Kagoshima Style Pork Cartilage with tossed instant noodles. The serving looks small, though but tasted great (we couldn’t hold off sampling some!). Slightly above at the top right hand corner is the pumpkin soup which tasted just alright.

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My ‘Curry Katsu’ dish: Pork Cutlet in Japanese curry.

Let me relate to you an anecdote: there was this strange guy I shared tables with at the now defunct Sin Seng Nam Restaurant six years ago who kept raving to me that HK food is great and better than Malaysian food (with every bite of his Hainanese chicken chop while I sat there not knowing what to reply even though I didn’t really need to). I took his words with a pinch of salt then, but not anymore after this trip! The curry wasn’t spicy but it was one of the best curries I’ve ever eaten.

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Dad’s ‘Hainanese Chicken Rice’. He’s an enemy of all culinary adventures, so he mostly sticks to the most common grub available. Boring…

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Yeung Chow Fried Rice. The menu said something about olives being added as well but either way, every delectable spoonful was great! This dish was shared among all of us.

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Mom’s ‘Baked Cheese Pork Chop Rice’. Better than anything else we could similarly get back home in Malaysia.

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Tsui Wah generally meets our approval. The service is also quite good and not garnished with the typical HK attitude.

I should warn you, though, that the prices here aren’t cheap – my curry pork cutlet rice is HKD55.00 and the Hainanese Chicken Rice is also of similar pricing. A family of five could expect to spend no less than HKD300.00 at this place.

Still, for a culinary trip, this place would be a fine choice. I’d definitely return again – once I’m back in HK. This particular branch is also open 24 hours daily. Like its parent city that never sleeps… 

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Avenue of Stars, Tsim Sha Tsui–Symphony of Lights show (Day 3)

It was a very cold, late summer night with rain clouds looming at a distance but as our itinerary was tight (we were supposed to travel to Macau the very next noon), we decided to go to this fashionable promenade anyway. We also planned to watch the ‘Symphony of Lights’ show which starts at 8 p.m. every night except for terribly inclement weather. Apparently, the Avenue of Stars provided one of the best locations to view the show.

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Throngs of people from God knows where – most of them were tourists anyway. If you are snapping a photo, it’s very likely that you are one.

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A majestic scene of Hong Kong. Shimmering waves gently reflecting dazzling lights.

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At the bottom left hand corner, you could see the railings which you could sit on to enjoy the lights show later on. Come early and pick a good seat. You’d have to be very careful sitting on these makeshift seats, though – no one could come and save you on time if you fall into the cold sea below.

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The sea waves got quite turbulent after 7:30 p.m.

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I love this picture. Man, I really love Hong Kong now!

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Some areas were brightly lit whereas most others were not. That was the only gripe I’ve got about the place.

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Yes, that’s a good spot to watch the show. There are many of these vantage points, though, if you move farther along the avenue.

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Dad asked me to take this, otherwise, I wouldn’t be arsed to do so.

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Mom’s favourite singer – Samuel Hui.

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Sorry that it’s not very clear – it’s Bruce Lee! There’s a statue of him below as well. Lots of shutterbugs asked their friends to pose here. I got off this shot in a rare moment of lull in activity.

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Jackie Chan also has his own star and set of handprints.

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Not far from Jackie Chan’s star – Leslie Cheung Kwok Wing.

Geez, I hunted really far for this. I couldn’t get a satisfactory shot of this particular star, no thanks to the lack of street lights, so this should do.

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Here’s where you could get some delicious roasted cuttlefish snacks. We bought some and they were gone in a wink, else I’d take some pictures for your viewing pleasure.

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Look at how far we’ve gone…

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Ok, show’s about to start, and we have selected this vantage point.

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Quiet, boys and girls –  it’s showtime!

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A building behind the avenue also wants to join in the fun!

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For a free spectacle, I’d say that it’s quite worth the trip there. If admittance costs money, I’d demand for a refund. Ok, I’m just joking – it was actually something quite special and it’s great that HK Tourism Board came up with something quite original to lure people to flock to the Avenue of Stars at night.

Heading back to our serviced apartment – taking another scenic view of Kowloon:

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This pic would have been quite nice but for that idiot poser standing at the bottom left hand corner.

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Heading home – next itinerary on the trip – Macau!

 

 

 

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Rua do Cunha, Macau (Day 5)

After a fairly interesting period of gambling at the Venetian Macao during the earlier half of the day, we decided to travel to the other part of Taipa, Macau which is famous for its culinary delights – Rua do Cunha.

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When you arrive at the place, there would be two rival bakeries immediately vying for your undivided attention and wallet contents: at the right, the Koi Kei Confectionary billboard features Hong Kong TVB actor, Edwin Siu (of which the TVB serial, Brother’s Keeper is currently airing in HK as well, and the story is inspired by the real life experience of Koi Kei’s founder, Leong Chan Kuong); and ‘Choi Heong Yuen Bakery’ on the left with another zany advert of a boy and some dude (carrying the kid).

I’m only saying this as comparison but Koi Kei certainly seems more popular in Macau, judging by the astounding presence of its number of stores and customers all over the famous tourist spots.

Taking a sharp right turn from the above pic, here’s a look at the road where we are actually heading to:

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We are going to ‘San Hou Lei’ which is located on the same street. Honestly, I was getting pretty tired of having any more pork buns but my brother assured me that SHL’s version is worth a shot.

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One of the owners of SHL was playing with a kid.

Macau seemed more chillax than in HK. This doesn’t mean that all Macau people are more friendly, though. Some also seem to have their own peculiar moods and other idiosyncrasies – but it’s more of taxi and bus drivers displaying such curt behaviour.

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Take a closer look at the shopsign. It seems quite unique that most shops in Macau still display the trade name in Portuguese which facilitates me doing further research on the place while writing this piece.

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The smiley and knowing look on one of the waiters confirms that they have seen their fair amount of shutterbugs all the time. There are more seats inside if you would like an air-conditioned setting.

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Mmm, bird’s nest egg tart. Not very flavourful but quite a novelty to enjoy.

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Regular Portuguese egg tarts. I don’t find it any different than the Koi Kei variety but nonetheless, still as tasty as any that one could find in this enclave.

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More pork chop buns. I must admit that this version tastes pretty good. At first look, it does appear to be quite dry, but it’s not. Another thumbs up, despite me consuming its relatives for almost three occasions in a row. Best of all, the serving is rather big, so those with smaller appetites may want to share this. The health-conscious and weight-watcher may want to dab the oil first before attacking the meat proper.

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We were there for the wonton noodles as well.

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I know that I ‘m partial to the wonton noodles from ‘Mak Man Kee Noodle Shop’ but in this respect, this doesn’t even come close to challenging the HK version, which is more like the Malaysian ‘kon loh’ kind – dark sauce, more meat than shrimp wonton, very dry noodles.

I don’t find it bad, just not exceptionally tasty. The serving is quite big as well, so it’s not really all that bad. This came recommended from my brother as well who was raving to us about it since last year, but I think he got it all wrong there. Maybe I was indeed spoiled by Mak Man Kee such that it’s hard for me to agree with him on this one.

We then left the place for more gambling at the Hard Rock Hotel and returned to Rua do Cunha at about 7:30 p.m. to enjoy dinner at another famous place, ‘Seng Cheong’, which is located within the same narrow street as depicted in the first picture above.

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We heard that this place is most famous for its crab porridge, so we ordered the smaller serving.

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The crab porridge serves 2-3 persons and costs MOP150.00. It tastes alright, I suppose, but nothing in it screams special. I should add that I’m not a fan of rice congee, so it’s probably just me.

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Green pepper chicken. This is quite good, although the meat is rather dry.

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This is something special – pacific clams with fresh broccoli. Best of all, it’s quite cheap at MOP150.00 as well. The clams probably came from a certain tin can but we don’t really mind as the greens were very fresh.

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This is also another dish worthy of your attention – beancurd pieces with dried scallops. The combination goes very well with white rice.

‘Seng Cheong’ is also a popular dining spot, so you may have to come a bit earlier than normal if you don’t intend to wait long to be seated.

Rua do Cunha is easily accessible by taxi and certain buses. Take care of your personal belongings there as there are quite a number of deserted streets at night.

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