Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Brussels/Brussel/Bruxelles (Part 1)

Last weekend, Schrobbenmaster and I went for a quick trip to Brussels. He had received two first-class train tickets to Brussels for doing the NS Try Out Festival 2009. Although I had done the newspaper for it, I wasn't around till the end, so I didn't get anything *sniff*.

Luckily he received two tickets, so we booked a night's stay at Le Meridien and hopped onto the international train.

I didn't know what to expect at all. From Schrobbenmaster's stories about Brugge and Antwerp, I assumed that Brussels would be a kind of small Amsterdam.

Boy, was I wrong.

Just arrived at Brussel Centraal, or Bruxelles Centrale in French.

Brussels uses two main languages of Dutch and French, but in recent times, the French influence has gained more momentum. It's quite funny to see all signboards in both Dutch and French. Now I don't have to feel so annoyed when I see both Malay and English used on our signboards.

Le Meridien is directly opposite the train station so it was very convenient upon arrival to check in early and when we left, to just pick up our bags and go within a few minutes.

Schrobbenmaster tried speaking Dutch to the receptionists but they insisted on speaking French. I guess that although all their signs are dual language, some people are just more French-minded.

And just as a note, the hotel was nice, but the staff weren't and most especially the concierges. You'd expect the concierges to be the most courteous and helpful, but once, when I asked, "Do you have a plaster?", he just said, "... Non.". And they answer your requests for maps or baggage keep without a single smile. Only the receptionist on our checkout actually smiled and even switched to Dutch when she saw Schrobbenmaster's name.

Anyway, after checkin, we headed straight back out towards the only tourist spot we knew (no research done beforehand), which was the Grand Place or Grote Markt.

(I think for ease of reading, I'll call the places by their French names, since everyone there speaks French)

Touristy street with restaurants.

And... Grand Place! I was awestruck by its grandness. As I said before, I only expected a mini Amsterdam, but by George, the buildings here are even grander and richer than the ones in Dam Square.

Yah, it was so nice that I had to take photos of every single corner and side.

Pretty flowers!!

Just outside Grand Place, looking at directional signboards, although we really didn't know where else to head to. So we just walked.

Look how busy it is, by the way. And I wonder what that girl on the left saw.

Okay, break for now, heading home from work. To be continued!

The Top 10

For all the complaining that I do about Dutchland, I know that I should be thankful for being here as well. Some of the reasons are:

  1. I have a stable job and I'm still a designer, not a supermarket cashier (!)
  2. I'm earning in euros (well... it better start improving)
  3. We have a car that we don't have to pay for
  4. Pretty flowers in summer on the balcony
  5. I have the opportunity to learn a foreign language and culture
  6. People are (mostly) friendly and speak English
  7. Cleaner air and water
  8. I can travel around Europe more easily
  9. Cleaner public toilets
  10. Super fast internet
Then again, maybe I haven't complained enough...

  1. It's too bloody cold to shower for half the year
  2. Things and places are older and less modern-equipped
  3. I feel so pressured to speak Dutch
  4. Can't see my family, friends or my dogs
  5. Food is only half as good and not cheap
  6. Moviegoing and other Malaysian "necessities" are expensive
  7. The Dutch selfishness, masked as "individualism"
  8. No good mix drinks in clubs
  9. I can't buy books or magazines in English - small selection + very expensive
  10. Less variety of affordable boutiques (ie. no Telawi)


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Next step to independence! And the attic party.

I made an achievement today - I biked out on my own for the first time, to watch a movie! It's my day off today and I didn't have anything to do at home, so when Bin suggested that I go out for a movie, I jumped at the idea.

I knew Schrobbenmaster didn't want to watch Sex & The City 2, so I decided to watch that. I thought it was a really fun movie. Not as good as the first, nor the original TV series, but light, girly fun all the same. I love going for movies and I never take movies very seriously, except if they really mean to make it a smart, intelligent drama. But for this? It's just a light-hearted film, so I just kicked back and enjoyed the ride.

Was a little nervous about chaining my bike cuz it's the first time I'm doing it on my own, but *phew*, when I came out of the cinema, it was still there hehe.

Anyway, several weeks ago, Schrobbenmaster and I were invited to an "attic party". It was someone's birthday, but he had organised this really cool cosy gathering with friends in his attic apartment, and got 3 performer friends to perform live for us. It was really cosy and an awesome idea for a party, not only providing entertainment for us, but also exposure for those 3 performers. And unlike Asia's party, we actually all sat down on the floor to give our full attention to the performers who had prepared 3-5 songs each, including their own visuals on the wall behind.

My camera died out near the beginning so I only have a few pictures and videos of the first two performers, but that's alright with me because I found the third (and looooongest) performance to be the most sleep-inducing. Typical folk kind of songs that damn near put me into a coma. Okay, they had good voices and good harmonising, but I wish they would've been more considerate to perform 3 songs like the previous two performers, instead of 6 very long lullabies.

However, it seems that most of the others loved them the most, so... *shrug*.

Give it a listen... it's a cover of Adele's 'Chasing Pavements'. Or maybe just watch the Road Runner cartoon in the background :P

The second performers were a duo who was performing in public for the first time that night.

I liked these guys the most of all three that night. If you don't want to watch them, at least watch the video for the cute dalmatian in there, hehe.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Some things are just ridiculous

Some incredible things about life here...


A few days ago I felt like the tyres on our VW Golf were a little sluggish so I insisted on visiting a petrol station to fill air.

And ya know what? Ya have to friggin pay for the air!

Pay for air!

They give you 5 minutes for 50 cents.

We didn't know how long we would take, so just in case, we prepared everything before inserting the coin. In the end, we took 3 minutes to finish up, and that's with the two of us. Wow, they really cut it thin, don't they?

Pay for air!!


Drivers on the road don't care about the sidewalks. Driving, parking, reversing... they'll do it all on the sidewalk if they have to. No wonder there're so many shitty old cars here. If you have a shiny new car, people will call you a bastard and think, "Serves you right" if you get a scratch. Basically, having a shitty car is almost a way of survival.

Yesterday, while stuck at a standstill near Rotterdam Centraal, there was a DHL van mounted on the little island sidewalk next to us. The driver had delivered something nearby and was now back in her van, trying to get out. So she inched forward, trying to turn the van around and out of there. And, never bothering to reverse and adjust herself, she inches forward all the way and scrapes our car... pretty badly.

So I get down to check the damage. She continues adjusting her van, then just simply drives off!

Such good road manners, I tell you. Naturally, we called DHL to complain today and report her van license plate.

But seriously, in the whole 10 years that I've been driving in KL, I've never seen so many cars just drive over sidewalks as if they're not there, as in the 6 months that I've been here.

Asia's Sail Away birthday party in Den Haag

Finally, finally, finally I can post these pictures! I was almost getting sick of seeing them on my desktop already.

Schrobbenmaster's Polish friend, Asia (pronounced Asha) had a costume party for her birthday on May 1. The theme was Sail Away, but only a few ppl came dressed in 'costume'. Most just made the effort to wear stripes.

There was a live band called Vuigtuig (try saying that aloud and you'll probably get it wrong - not talking to you, eenbrauw). They were pretty good, I liked their music, kind of a moody punk sound.

Watch the video below for a sample of the music. It starts soft and slow so you'll first hear the buzz of the crowd, but wait a bit and it'll become nicer.

Snake Plissken from Escape from... LA?

He actually looks kinda like a little Japanese boy who attracts those perverty Japanese uncles.

If you're wondering what they're doing, check out the video :D

Next up, an attic party! Very bohemian experience.

Happy (belated) Mother's Day :)

I finally found this photo amongst all the bits and pieces of photos that make up my computer.

It's a Mother's Day cake! I took this photo to give Mumsy Bumsy on her day because the post is so unreliable from NL to KL. Schrobbenmaster posted me a Valentine's card this year and I never got it. I, on the other hand, was so paranoid that he wouldn't get it from KL that I actually took photos of the outside and inside before I posted it, just so he could still see it if the post failed on me.

On the bottom left, a translation:

A shiny heart
In the deepest
Strawberry red
For a mother
With a heart of gold

Anyway, Mumsy Bumsy, I'm looking forward to yours and Yelleh Belleh's arrival! Will buy you both a nice cake to make up for all the times I'm not in KL to makan with you guys :D

Coffee breaks in Rotterdam II

I forgot to post about this place yesterday amidst all the internet going haywire and dying on us in Amsterdam. During the Netherlands match. I suppose you can guess why it died :)

Urban Espresso Bar on Pannekoekstraat (website)

I actually forgot the name of this place, but one thing I love about NL is that you can find anything and everything online, even a small cafe such as this. Well, it's small, but it's trendy. I've even seen people sitting outside in drizzle at this place. Which is ridiculous to me, but I dunno, maybe their showers aren't working.

The name of this street is also really cute, if you haven't noticed it yet from last year's 'Word of the Day's. Pannekoekstraat means Pancake Street. And awesomely, there is a pancake restaurant right on the corner of the street. Never been there though.

Anyway, at this cafe I had a 'Rijk Chocolade Taart', which means Rich Chocolate Cake. Not many places have chocolate cakes, so I jumped on this immediately, of course.

It looks yummy, doesn't it? It was just okay though. I know I've been spoilt by Alexis' awesome awesome oh-so-awesome Chocolate Cinnamon cake, but I can still tell when another chocolate cake is good or not. I would definitely order this again, but only because there's nothing better around.

Schrobbenmaster had an apple tart, which he really enjoyed. Also, he finally got his wish for lemon tea, which isn't to be found in many places here. Apple tart though, you can find absolutely everywhere. I'm not a big fan though, as I find that the apple can be either too sweet or sour sometimes. I'm more a fan of the pastry part of tarts. I love it when bakers get the right texture of pastry. Which is why I'm also quite picky with my egg tarts. But of course, sigh... being here, I have to suck it up and eat whatever quality of egg tarts I can find.

To end, here's a really cute picture of Pim.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Coffee breaks in Rotterdam I

Sometimes eating out is too expensive (and the quality of food not as hoped) but we wanna head out on a nice sunny day. So we go for coffee and cakes. Here are two places - besides Bagels n Beans - that we go to once in a while.

Mockamore on Korte Hoogstraat
Very trendy place, sometimes with queues coming in - doesn't say an awful much about the place though, since as you can see, the door is right next to the ordering counter. The coffee and service is just normal, but prices are pretty steep. One would only go there for the trendiness and cosy look of the place. However, there are loads of cafes that look like this in KL anyway, so, nah, I'm not gonna be hanging out very often here.

Cappuccino on Korte Hoogstraat
I really like the look of this place. It looks posh, and while it could easily go wrong and look more like a wannabe bar, it does succeed very well. Always very packed and it is worth the steeper prices and smaller portions of drinks just because the ambience works.

It's not really this dark in there ;)

Look at my chocolate-flavoured cappuccino!

So nicely presented! The chocolate chunks were tasty too. It's almost like a snack instead of just a drink. I like!

Not very busy at work today, so I'm working on my next post already... photos from a birthday party I attended on, well, the 1st of May.


Wow, the internet of the whole office just went down, causing my post to be halted on its way to blogger. Thank goodness the whole thing is still here (I think). And that's why I disappeared off MSN for so long, apologies, frachely!

And this whole internet going down thing is due to... the World Cup!!! So many people are watching live streams via internet that it just couldn't take it. Wow. At least it gave us an early day home :D

Monday, June 14, 2010

Our new balcony!

I'm so excited this weekend because we just got a new balcony!

Well, I say new balcony, but I really mean a "new" balcony, since obviously when one stays in apartments, one can't just get a completely new balcony.


Our balcony used to be pretty messy and used somewhat as a store "room" for things that can last the wet and cold winters. Big rubbish bin, ladder, buckets, empty plant pots, outdoor broom and other not very pretty odds and ends.

I've always wanted a really nice balcony to enjoy, especially as our balcony is rather sizeable compared to other parts of the house. What made me rue the state of our balcony even more was that our next door neighbour has one of the nicest balconies on our whole street, and definitely the nicest in our view. Seriously, it's like a year-round garden there, with cushioned sofa and plants hanging everywhere.

So, finally, Schrobbenmaster agreed to start the balcony project with me and we headed to the garden centre yesterday. After walking for a bit, we found our perfect set of furniture, and then decided to also get a plant to give the balcony a warmer feel.

Chose a modern black pot for it and named the plant, Bess.

I'm so thankful we have a car now, because without it, many things wouldn't be possible!

Unfortunately, we don't have an assigned parking space, so we have to park wherever we can find the space, and in this instance, it was a little far and we both had heavy things to carry.

Anyway, we made it, and brought everything out to the balcony to fix up. A couple weeks ago we had gone to IKEA to buy some shelves and knick knacks. We now opened the box for the new balcony shelf and here's me making it.

We bought a white shelf cuz most of our furniture is white (except in the living room and office), but in the end we realised that forward planning would have been a good idea, as a black/grey shelf would have matched better. But oh well. I DID want a black and white balcony after all.

Now to unpack the main event, the 'bistroset'! The two chairs and a table.

It wasn't difficult but a little tricky putting together.

And, voila! The end result...

I'm so happy with it! It actually looks nicer now because at the time of photo-taking, Bess was still on top of the white shelf, whereas she's actually supposed to be on the wooden table. Try to picture it in your mind, since it's dark and grey skies now and I don't feel like taking a photo.

Now I just need to start collecting black pots, ornaments and whatever other outdoor decorations I can find to fill the top two rows on the shelf. Whoever wants to bring a gift for me, here's an idea! :D

Today, we had lunch outside, naturally.

It was really lovely at lunchtime because it was cool with only a light breeze - winds just usually spoil everything as it becomes too cold to do anything. I was telling Schrobbenmaster that that moment was really perfect because I was experiencing all the important things at the same time - European weather and greenery, and eating Asian food (I haven't had noodles all weeeeeeeek!).

Later in the day, we took a little impromptu road trip to Zeeland, 1.5 hours away from Rotterdam so that Schrobbenmaster could pick up his newly bought iPad from Alejo. The journey was beautiful, but the place itself wasn't very exciting. The town we went to, Terneuzen, near the Belgian border, was pretty dead, the only highlight being that the country's biggest 'coffee shop' is there. I have some photos, but they can wait for another time, if I ever deem it interesting enough to write about again. Haha.