Birthday Celebration at Pasta Zanmai

Early this month, it was Panda Foong‘s birthday and being the nice tweeples that we are, we organized a birthday dinner for him. :) What was originally a party of 9 persons soon turned into 6 when several of us couldn’t make it at the last minute. We reached Pasta Zanmai just before 8pm on a Tuesday, only to find the restaurant full! Served us right for not making a reservation in advance. So we waited and waited and we got our table about 15-20 minutes later.

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Chopsticks for us

It was my first time at Pasta Zanmai Mid Valley and I found the environment pretty clean, bright and fuss-free. Chopsticks were placed altogether in a basket instead of individually arranged. Our green tea was to be ordered in pots instead of cups, but each pot could be shared by up to 3 persons. I wonder why such a policy?

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Dining environment of Pasta Zanmai Mid Valley

I saw many items that I wanted to try that night, most of all the pasta! But Saucer had his eye on the Unagi Kabayaki set as well as the Grilled Chicken set, so being the nice person that I am *cough* I ordered the Unagi so that he could have a bit of it. The Unagi set came with quite a sizable amount of unagi, thickly sliced with sweet teriyaki sauce, a bowl of miso soup, rice and salad. The salad was nothing to shout about, just some slices of lettuce and cabbage topped with some salad dressing.

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Unagi Kabayaki Set (RM20)

The unagi slices were firm and fresh, instead of mashy. It was pretty tasty except that I would have preferred more sauce. Eating only this with white rice could prove to be rather dry.

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Unagi with teriyaki sauce

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Ready to feast? :)

We ordered 2 other dishes to be share, one of which was the Assorted Mini Canapes, which were small pieces of crackers with various fillings in between them. One of them had a slice of salmon in between, another had tuna, while the one I had was soft shell crab. Even though they looked cute, they were really quite ordinary. Definitely not something that I would order again.

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Assorted Mini Canapes

The Turkey Ham and Japanese Mushroom Pizza was one of December Specials that was recommended by the waitress. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite find anything special about it. Perhaps it had something to do with the cheese used? I found that it wasn’t fragrant or cheesy enough, if you would. It was merely a piece of savoury pastry topped with ham slices to me.

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Turkey Ham and Japanese Mushroom Pizza

One of the nicer dishes that night was actually Saucer’s Sizzling Grilled Spring Chicken with Mushroom Sauce. It definitely arrived with much fanfare, as with most sizzling dishes, and definitely became the attention of the night when mushroom sauce was poured over the chicken in front of watching patrons.

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Sizzling Grilled Spring Chicken with Mushroom Sauce

I’m happy to say that the chicken was not only gorgeous in looks and smell, it actually was tasty! Considering a spring chicken was used, it was actually quite huge. Half of it! The meat was well-marinated, the skin was lightly crispy and the the mushroom sauce was oh-so-heavenly! The meat was fall-of-the-bone tender! I almost regretted I didn’t choose this dish over the unagi. :/

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Tender and smooth chicken meat with delicious mushroom sauce

Here are some of the pictures of food ordered by the rest of the gang:

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Mini Tempura Prawn Sesame Pasta

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Unagi on Rice

Both the items above were actually part of a ‘Mini Pasta Set’, which didn’t turn out to be that mini after all! In fact, I think the unagi portion in this mini set was quite similar to the Unagi Kabayaki set that I ordered! Which was why I was so annoyed with myself for not ordering the mini set! I could have had a taste of the pasta as well! Smart people like Foong, Erika and Grey ordered this. :)

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Mini Tempura Prawn Sesame Pasta & Unagi on Rice with Miso Soup (RM23)

Eric also ordered a Mini Pasta Set, but of a different combination.

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Mini Shortneck Clamsoup Pasta

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Mini Grilled Chicken Cutlet on Rice

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Mini Shortneck Clam Soup Pasta & Mini Grilled Chicken Cutlet on Rice (RM23)

Overall, apart from the appetizers, I was quite satisfied with the quality and portion served at Pasta Zanmai. In fact, since I didn’t have the chance to eat pasta that day, I told Saucer that we had to go back there and try the set! After all, what’s a visit to Pasta Zanmai if you had not tasted their pasta before, right?

Confession: OK, I did have a taste of the pasta from Foong’s serving, but I thought telling the story the way I did would be more interesting. 😛

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Group picture: Saucer, witch, Eric, Grey and Erika (picture courtesy of Foong)

Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a group picture now, would it? As usual, Foong’s face would be off limits! Just imagine him as a Panda! LOL! Anyway, I hope he had a wonderful birthday celebration because we certainly did have a great time catching up! :)

Where is the Best Beef / Ngau Lam Noodles?

I am personally not a huge fan of beef tripe noodles or ‘ngau lam mee’ in Cantonese. Saucer, though, is more active in looking for nice beef noodles whenever he’s in the mood. When his friend came over to visit him a few months ago, they found out that the beef tripe noodles at Chong Loy Restaurant were good!

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Beef Tripe Noodles

So, one fine day, I suggested to Saucer to revisit the restaurant since I haven’t been there before. We were there on a Sunday morning around 10+am to find the restaurant more than half full.

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Interior of Chong Loy restaurant

What struck me the most was how polite and friendly the lady owner was! I was walking in at the entrance, wondering if I should place my order at the counter or take a seat first, when the lady gave me a big warm smile and asked me what I wanted. She, in the midst of cooking the noodles, immediately put me at ease, unlike many stall owners who don’t have the courtesy to ask the customers what they want.

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Freshly roasted duck, chicken and pork

After placing my order, I actually changed it a few times – first I ordered medium sized noodles, then I went back and changed to small sized noodles but adding a bowl of ‘sui kow’ and a plate of BBQ pork ‘char siew’, and then Saucer went back again and requested for her to add in some roasted pork ‘siu yoke’ as well. But all those times, she was just smiling and never showing even a sign of irritation! I love her already! :)

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BBQ pork and roasted pork (Char siew and siu yoke)

The plate of roasted meat arrived first, and I hungrily gobbled up the ‘char siew‘ which was charred at the edges and had lean meat, just the way I like it! It is also important to note that the lean meat was tender and juicy instead of dry. Of course, the addition of gravy on top gave it a thumbs-up! Unfortunately, I couldn’t say the same for the roasted pork or ‘siu yoke’, which turned out to be rather dry and hard. I also thought that the skin could be more fragrant and crispy compared to what they served that morning.

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Delicious char siew

The dumpling or ‘sui kow’ came in sizable pieces, even larger than the size of a spoon! It was filled with minced meat, chives and mushrooms, making the whole combination a delight to eat. In actual fact, I’m a sucker for any ‘sui kow’ which is large and had thin skin. :)

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Delicious and huge ‘sui kow’

Last but not least, the main star of the day – Beef Tripe noodles or Ngau Lam Mee! Even though we ordered the ‘small’ size, it was big enough to make me full. And I’m not a small eater, really. The noodles used were not of the springy type, but more like the soft and smooth version, the ones that you could slurp them in heartily. :) Even from the pictures, one could tell that they’re pretty generous with the amount of beef tripe served! They were tender and fragrant, but with no gamey smell at all. I could tell that the beef tripe was definitely braised for some hours to result in such a soft and tender goodness.

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Beef tripe noodles

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witch enjoying her noodles

The total bill for everything we had (2 plates of ngau lam mein, a bowl of ‘sui kow’, a plate of roasted pork and ‘char siew’ with 2 drinks) was RM24. Reasonable? To be honest, this was my first time having beef tripe and innards noodles after I moved to KL and I thought this was very good. I’m sure there are many more of the same kind out there, just waiting to be discovered! After this try, I’m sold! Where is the next Ngau Lam Mein restaurant that I should go to? Suggestions? :)

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Restoran Chong Loy

Restoran Chong Loy (Beef Brisket Noodles)
Jalan PJS 10/9,
Bandar Sunway
46150 Petaling Jaya,
Selangor Darul Ehsan,
Malaysia.
GPS: 3.076731, 101.603934

Second Best Hotel in Xiamen, China – Part 3

As mentioned earlier in my first post of Xiamen, we were supposed to switch hotels after the first night. The second hotel, without a doubt, was much better than the one we stayed in. The next morning, we went for breakfast, packed and took a cab to the next hotel.

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Couldn’t resist taking the picture of giant sneakers!

The hotel that we were going to was called Wyndham Hotel Xiamen, which is also ranked #2 by TripAdvisor. Once we entered the lobby, it felt like we were in a different world altogether. The majestic chandeliers were so grand and sparkly, the floors so smooth and shiny, and the area so spacious! Luxurious, definitely luxurious.

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Grand chandelier in the lobby

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Spiral staircase

While Saucer was performing the necessary check in procedures, I couldn’t help but be awed by my surroundings.

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Spacious reception area

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witch at Wyndham Hotel

Soon, our room was ready and we were given a key card. Look, even the lift lobby was so classy!

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Lift lobby at 15th floor

We were given a twin bed room, but each bed was wide enough for 2 persons! It was larger than the standard size single bed, but just slightly smaller than a queen bed. Best of all? The bed was super comfy and the pillows were made from down. Heavenly! :)

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The large twin beds

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Study desk by the window

The room had a floor to ceiling window which opened to a  glorious view of the river!

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View of the room

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Coffee and tea making facilities

Each day, two bottles of complimentary water were given.

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Complimentary drinking water

The bathroom was spacious, with a cubicle for shower and a cubicle for toilet.

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Basin in the washroom

The shower head was huge with strong water pressure – exactly what a good shower is made of. :)

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Huge shower head

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Toilet bowl in a separate cubicle

But what I love most of the wash room is the bath tub! I actually spent a lot of my time in the tub having a bubble bath! Exceptionally delightful especially after working out in the gym. :)

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Bathtub

Every morning, we woke up to the amazing view of the river.

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Morning view from the room

And every evening, we were treated to a beautiful sunset, all from the comfort of our room. The island opposite of the river is called Gulangyu, which is synonymous to Xiamen’s pride. It’s an island that we visited a few days later, together with my friends from Beijing. :)

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Sunset from our room

Needless to say, our experience in Wyndham Hotel had been nothing short of fabulous. Well, when the room rate is about RMB1,000+ per night, some expectations are bound to be there, no?

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Wyndham Hotel Xiamen

For more information of the hotel, check out this website: http://www.wyndham.com/hotels/XMNHT/main.wnt

Street Food in Xiamen – Part 2

As a continuation of Part 1 in Xiamen, once we reached the famous Zhong Shan Lu Pedestrian Street, we started looking for food! Our first meal of the day was 6 hours ago in the plane and we were famished! After a few minutes of walking, we spotted a busy shop with a long queue. Our principle was simple, if there’s a long queue, it’s good. 😛 Don’t judge us!

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Walking along the Zhong Shan Lu

The shop apparently sold noodles with various types of toppings! Again, we couldn’t understand the Chinese words which were apparently the directions on how to order, so we just watched and learnt. :) So we were supposed to order either noodles or dumplings (two of their specialties), and if we chose noodles, then we had to point out which toppings we wanted. Since we weren’t sure how they charged, we just chose around 3 toppings each.

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Various toppings for noodles

I chose the shrimps, squid rings and pork belly, while Saucer chose mostly pork innards and pork belly, which seemed popular with the locals! We also ordered a dumpling and when everything was ready, we paid. By then only we found out that each bowl of noodle was only charged RMB5, regardless of the number of toppings chosen! Aisay, should have chosen more! *kiasu*

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沙茶面 “Sha Cha Mian” – literally Sand Tea Noodles (RMB5)

So these noodles are actually known as 沙茶面 “Sha Cha Mian“, literally translated to Sand Tea Noodles. These noodles are actually very popular in Xiamen, for you could see them being sold in almost every noodle shop. The soup had a clay colour, due to the addition of pulverised peanuts, which made it very aromatic. There was also a hint of spiciness to it, though not strong. Overall, the soup was just thick and hearty, flavourful and warming to the stomach!

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Saucer’s noodles with pork innards

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My noodles with shrimp, squid rings and pork belly

We loved the noodles so much that we went back a few days later! :) Of course, not to forget their dumpling which was another specialty. The dumpling was different from the ones we have back in Malaysia, in that the amount of filling used was less and the rice much softer. It was also customary to eat it with chilli sauce, which I found to be quite special. After a few bites, I got used to it and found myself enjoying it! :)

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Rice Dumpling

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Restaurant 1980 – famous for Noodles and Dumplings

After the satisfying meal, we continued our adventure down the Zhong Shan Road. It’s actually a really long road and we were barely a quarter way through! Remember I was saying how Xiamen is famous for tea leaves? You could even see Chinese tea pot and cups as statues for a fountain!

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Cute fountain

Since we didn’t have any drinks during our meal, we were hunting for something to soothe our thirst. And we spotted this unassuming booth almost hidden just under an escalator, named 700cc. Fortunately, they had pictures on the booth or we would have had difficulty ordering.

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700cc Pearl Milk Tea stall

The stall sold Pearl Milk Tea of various flavours served in a 700cc cup, which was actually quite large, all for RMB3! Yes, you heard me right! Only RMB3, which translated to about RM1.50 for a large glass of Pearl Milk Tea! Oh my, we were really happy with our find! And best of all, it was delicious! They gave PLENTY of pearls and the tea was fragrant and strong. I loved it!

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700cc Pearl Milk Tea (RMB3)

It was getting dark and Zhong Shan Lu was getting busier by the minute. What was initially a rather quiet road had turned to be busy with people!

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Look at the crowd!

The street was lined with lots of fashion stores, restaurants, fast foods, tea shops and souvenir shops! Just like this one that Saucer was looking at!

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Souvenir shop

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KFC spotted!

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So was McDonald’s!

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Zhong Shan Lu

Further towards the middle of the road, there was a cross road with more hawker stalls selling street food! The street with hawker stalls was really narrow and packed with people that it was a chore just standing there waiting for our food! One of my favourite was the BBQ squid! This man was really kind and could customize the squid according to your liking. I asked for extra hot and spicy, and he put in extra spices and chilli while he was grilling it. *drools*

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Grilled BBQ Squid stall

This stall was quite hard to miss, not because of the seller but because of the smell! It was seriously the stall with the most fragrant smell along the street! I guess it must be the spices he used, it kept me going back for more. *LOL*

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Grilled Squid (RMB5/each)

Another popular street food there was this popiah-like roll, which was filled with lots of chopped vegetables and tea leaves. The tea leaves added added another dimension to the otherwise plain vegetable roll. Very creative, don’t you think? Best of all, it only cost RMB2 each!

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Vegetable popiah (RMB2)

There were plenty of other hawker stalls along the street, but we didn’t have a big enough stomach for all of them! *LOL* Let me just show you some of the street food available.

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Looked like beef

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Variety of meat skewers

Oh Saucer tried this jelly-like thing which was filled with octopus and some other weird stuff! Don’t really know why he’s into these weird cuisines but they’re certainly not my cup of tea!

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Octopus in jelly?

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Looked like agar-agar

Last but not least, before we headed back to the hotel, we stopped by for a last dosage of dessert! It was a glass of mixed beans and nuts which was pretty filling.

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The Dessert Stall

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Concoction of mixed beans, nuts, yam and sweet potato

With that, we walked back to the hotel happily but exhausted! Look at how pretty the street was at night!

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Zhong Shan Lu Pedestrian street at night

The next day, we would be checking out and move to another hotel paid by Saucer’s company. *hint: More luxurious!* Wait for it!

Landing in Xiamen, China – Part 1

If you have been following my Twitter updates, you would have known that Saucer and I flew (again!), this time to Xiamen, Fujian province, China, about one month ago. It was technically Saucer’s company trip which was supposed to last 3 days, but we extended it to a week since we were already there. We arrived a day before his conference started, so the first night’s hotel was under our own expenses. I consulted my Beijing friends on the hotel recommendations and we ended up staying at this hotel called East Vanguard or Wan Jia Dong Fang (万佳东方) Hotel.

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Wan Jia Dong Fang Hotel

It is quite a pain if you don’t know Chinese whenever you visit China, because most of the communication is being done in Mandarin. Also, if you noticed, the hotel name is also purely in Chinese characters! So, if you’re Chinese-blind like both of us, you better start jotting down the names on paper. :) From the Xiamen airport, we took a cab to the hotel (by showing the driver my piece of paper :P) and it was only less than RMB40 (~RM20) for the ride!

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Customary tea set in every hotel we stayed in Xiamen

When we reached the reception, it was another headache as I muttered out the little Mandarin that I knew, trying to get my room reservation. Luckily, the girls understood my difficulty and were really friendly to me! Before long, we were given keys to our double room! I must say, for RMB288/night (~RM144), we got a pretty good deal!

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King-sized bed

The bed was King sized, with comforter and plush pillows. One gripe though, for I felt that the bed was a little too hard! *LOL* Also, I realized that out of the 2 hotels that we stayed in, both provided the tea-making facilities. I soon found out that Xiamen was actually famous in producing “Tie Kuan Yin” tea leaves, hence you can see loads of tea shops in Xiamen!

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King-sized bed

The room also came with a flat screen LCD TV! Not bad, right? But I didn’t really watch that much TV as most of the programmes were local and in Chinese. 😛

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Flat screen LCD

The bathroom and toilet were spotlessly clean, and there was even a bathtub!

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Bathroom

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Bathtub with window to the bed :)

Toiletries were plentiful and I loved their comb and toothbrushes! They looked like they’re of higher quality compared to the normal toothbrushes I found from hotels. Will show you a picture perhaps in the next post? 😉

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Toiletries

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Artsy painting on the wall

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Entrance of Wan Jia Dong Fang Hotel, Xiamen

On our first day, by the time we checked in, it was already past 3pm. Since we were hungry, we decided to go out and look for food. We asked the receptionists for recommendations and they asked us to walk to their famous Zhong Shan Lu Pedestrian Market, which was about 15 minutes away. Considering their cool weather that time (around 16C), we decided to walk and do some sightseeing along the way.

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Zhong Shan garden

Along the way, we passed by the Zhong Shan garden, but we didn’t go in, because I was already famished! In fact, the only thing I was paying attention to was food! *LOL*

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Balloons outside the Zhong Shan Garden

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Building just opposite the Zhong Shan road

Soon, we saw the road that we were looking for! Zhong Shan Lu Pedestrian Street!

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Welcome to Zhong Shan Lu Pedestrian Street

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Saucer at Zhong Shan Lu

We were actually at the other end of the Zhong Shan Lu, the quieter end, in fact. The road stretches for quite long, perhaps over 1km? And it ends just by the sea, overlooking an island. Anyway, once we entered the road, we spotted a few young girls sitting on their skateboards.

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Young girls on skating boards

They chatted for a while and soon, they were all sliding down the slightly sloped road having fun!

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Sliding down the road

If you noticed, this road is also special because it’s closed to motorists! Which meant that one could walk anywhere along the road without much danger of getting knocked down. And I liked that! Most of the time, pedestrian streets are usually packed with people but here, the roads were so wide I actually felt comfortable walking along them.

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The wide streets of Zhong Shan Road

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Can you spot Saucer?

Of course, we didn’t just go there to walk! My mission was to look for food, and indeed, we found a really nice noodles place! That will have to be saved for my next entry, since my stomach is growling again now. *LOL* (Why am I always hungry?)

EveryoneConnects Turns One!

Telekom Malaysia Berhad’s (TM) youth-oriented website www.everyoneconnects.net recently celebrated its 1st anniversary with a fresh look and feel as well as the introduction of new features and applications.

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1st Anniversary Celebration

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Bunkface!

At the event, TM unveiled The World of EveryoneConnects, the newly enhanced interactive website of www.everyoneconnects.net where fans will be able to interact within their own communities, send greetings to one another, listen to music, view sporting events and movies as well as participate in more interactive and upcoming events.

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Cake-cutting ceremony

Features of The World of EveryoneConnects

Among the features of the newly-enhanced website include the Stadium, the Jamming Garage, Open House and Sini Maa, representing diverse communities and interests of EveryoneConnects’s fans. I found the concept really interesting and new, so I went to the website and created an avatar of myself! :)

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Choosing my avatar

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Hello there! Isn’t she cute? :)

Once created, the Avatar is free to move around and enter the few stations available:

The Stadium is designed as a sports locker room. From here, fans will be able to access “hot off the pitch” features which showcase news, highlights, interviews and videos from Manchester United TV or MUTV. These rich football content are offered by TM in collaboration with Manchester United as the Official Integrated Telecommunications Partner of Manchester United in Malaysia. Another feature of the webpage is a game play board that also serves as a chat room for fans.

The Jamming Garage emulates aspects of a garage music studio. This studio features “Camp Bunkface”, where fans can get all the information they need about Bunkface, listen to their songs and watch video previews as well as exchange music information.

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I entered Jamming Garage!

Sini Maa is a playful webpage for movies. This webpage highlights movie trailers and videos available on Hypptv (UniFi), and Hypp.tv (web channels) including video clips from Pilih Kasih, the acting reality program sponsored by TM. The webpage also features Movie Buzz, a chat room for film buffs.

To provide further opportunities for fans to connect, communicate and collaborate, Open House is the perfect place for fans of EveryoneConnects to extend various messages and wishes for birthdays, festivals and celebrations. The Open House is designed to appeal to all Malaysians and features video wishes, a wish board called Spread Some Love, and a selection of personalized e-cards for the user’s selection.

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Open House – Can send greeting cards from here!

The EC Hall of Fame webpage is a walk down memory lane for all the activities that have occurred since EveryoneConnects first launched in November 2009. The webpage highlights previous content of www.everyoneconnects.net and fans can sign the guestbook and view videos and photos of past events and activities.

In addition to the featured webpages, The World of EveryoneConnects brings out the personalities of EC fans who love music, movies, sports and more as they can select their own personalized avatars as they enter the website. Via their online avatars, fans can truly connect, communicate and collaborate with each other online in real time.

Quick create your own Avatar now and get connected! :)

At the event, TM unveiled The World of EveryoneConnects, the newly enhanced interactive website of www.everyoneconnects.net where fans will be able to interact within their own communities, send greetings to one another, listen to music, view sporting events and movies as well as participate in more interactive and upcoming events.