Saturday, April 28, 2012

Eco Alcala Suites Review

In Madrid, I stayed at the Sercotel Eco Alcala Suites.  This was near the eastern side of the city, about 5 minutes walk from the Ciudad Lineal metro station. The walk there is actually a bit more difficult than it looks on google maps as there is a steep decline down to the hotel. This isn't much of a problem going *to* the hotel from the metro station but going *from* the hotel every morning to the metro is a bit of an exercise!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tree With Deep Roots Review (2011)

Drama Rating: ****
Personal Rating: All time favourite!!

The story tells the tale of the great King Sejong beginning with the turbulent era of his youth to the handover of power from his father King Taejong. Ddol Bok, son of a slave, believes Sejong to be behind the death of his father and resolves to take revenge. Meanwhile, a secret conspiracy named Milbon appears to have taken root during his father's reign and threatens to overturn the peaceful beginnings of the Joseon Dynasty. How will Sejong face these threats to his reign?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Haken no Hinkaku Review (2007)

Drama Rating: ***
Personal Rating: Loved it!

Disappearing after each three month contract, Oomae Haruko reappears at S&F in the newly formed Marketing department after her most recent hiatus. Satonaka Kensuke has just been asked to head the group and immediately has to deal with leading a ragtag group of full-timers and temporary employees. Oomae herself, a super-competent, straight shooting 'haken', adds further tensions as she doesn't mince words, especially with the adjoining Sales department chief Shouji Takeshi. Will Oomae be able to help unify the group or will she divide them further?

Friday, April 20, 2012

NTU, shaved ice and A380s

Stopped by the pretty famous National Taiwan University (NTU) area for a brief visit with a friend.

The campus is filled with plenty of palm trees and an interesting sign barring megaphones:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Love Generation Review (1997)

Drama Rating: *****
Personal Rating: All time favourite!!

Katagiri Teppei is newly transferred to the Marketing Department and discovers that Uesugi Riko, a chance acquaintance he had spent the night with in a love hotel a day earlier, is a secretary in his new department. Quickly, they develop an interesting rapport as they learn more about themselves and each other. Incidentally, Teppei learns his brother Soichiro is engaged to his ex-high school girlfriend Mizuhara Sanae. Predictably, confused feelings abound as the drama takes you on a spectacular emotional roller coaster ride.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Long Vacation Review (1996)

Drama Rating: *****
Personal Rating: All time favourite!!

Racing through the streets of Tokyo in full wedding dress, Minami Haruo barges into Sena's apartment looking for Asakura, her groom-to-be, who had apparently left her at the altar. With this rather unusual introduction, Sena takes in Minami (or rather, Minami forces herself into the apartment) as his apartment-mate. Thus begins their strange friendship as they confide in each other's life and relationship problems. As they grow accustomed to each other, will their feelings lead to something more than just friends?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

National Palace Museum

The National Palace Musuem is one of the largest and most impressive museums located in Taipei. Its collection, as mentioned in this poster, spans over eight thousand years of Chinese history and contains many pieces from the various dynasties.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Galileo Review (2007)

Drama Rating: ****
Personal Rating: Enjoyable

Kaoru Utsumi is a newly transferred detective assigned to investigate criminal cases, replacing the successful Shunpei Kusanagi. Eager to impress and in need of some investigative advice, Kusanagi suggests she try consulting Professor Manabu Yukawa, an somewhat eccentric physics professor at Teito University for help.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

With numerous valuable transfer partners, no foreign transaction fees and a waived first year annual fee, this is quite simply one of the most valuable cards out there in the market today . The Chase Sapphire Preferred card (referral link here) offers a great initial bonus (currently 50k points) which can be transferred to a number of valuable transfer partners such as Southwest, Hyatt, United Airlines etc. and you can get an additional 5k points for adding an additional cardmember.

While I wouldn't suggest transferring to partners like IHG or Marriott, the ability to transfer to one of the airlines in each of the 3 main airline alliances and also to Hyatt offer tremendous value. In addition, earning double points on airlines, hotels, car rentals and dining with no foreign transaction fees means this is pretty much the go-to card for travelling and eating out.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Chase Marriott Premier Card

I almost feel like I'm addicted to writing credit card posts!  But somehow, they're rather fun and satisfying so here goes with another one! The latest card I wanted to write about was the Chase Marriott Premier Visa card. I had applied for this card last summer in anticipation of my trip to Seoul and it was certainly not a bad credit card to have around, especially with the juicy 50k Marriott Reward bonus point offer after first use (although Chase has occasionally raised this bonus to a whopping 70k points!)

Marriott offers a wide selection of hotels around the world and the Courtyard Marriott Seoul Times Square was just one of the hotels I stayed at using Marriott Reward points. However, it is probably noteworthy that Marriott, like Starwood and Hilton, have recently undergone a round of point devaluation with their category changes thus making their points worth somewhat less than they did a few months ago.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

American Express Hilton Surpass Card

*Updated May 7, 2013*

For those who already hold the American Express Hilton Card, there's another card that might be worth considering. The Amex Hilton Surpass Card offers an additional 50k bonus Hilton HHonors points to existing Hilton cardholders and offers complimentary Hilton Gold status for the first year of cardmembership. For new cardmembers, there is a 60k offer available here. It should be noted though that this card also has a $75 annual fee attached which makes this offer a bit less appealing.

The other key difference is the addition of the free priority pass membership which allows access to over 600 airport lounges (but keep in mind you still need to pay a $27 day fee for usage).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Virgin Atlantic American Express Card Review

While this public link has been out for a few days now, I figured I might as well also do a brief review of this credit card while I'm on the topic recently.  This Amex card is offered by Bank of America (that alone should be enough incentive for savvy card point collectors to perk up as most of the amazing deals are offered by American Express Bank, Chase and Citi to some extent).

While the card supposedly offers 65k miles, only 45k-50k are relatively easy to get. The first 20k can be had after your first purchase and a further 25k can be attained after $2500 spend in the first 90 days (3 months). Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles are mainly useful to fly to and from London, meaning that only if you are a frequent visitor to that city does it really make any sense to collect those miles.  Mileage point redemptions compared to other airlines for such transatlantic hops (from the US) or Asia-London hops are relatively low, however the taxes and fuel surcharges can be quite hefty.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Citi Hilton HHonors Card

I'm a big fan of the Amex Hilton card as I outline here, but I also wanted to introduce the Citibank version of the Hilton HHonors card. As per this FT thread, you can find an application link for 50k HHonors points after spending just $1500 in 6 months but since that doesn't show the actual offer, you'll have to trust in the FT thread. You can probably also find the standard 40k offer here.

Hilton's HHonors program, IMHO, gives the best value for points than almost any other program as I explained here. Here's a sample of a Category 5 (moving up to 6 on April 30) Embassy Suites Montreal hotel. Without rehashing all the details I've already gone through with the Amex card, I'd like to highlight some differences between these two cards so that you can decide whether this makes sense for you or not.

Monday, April 9, 2012

US Airways Barclays Mastercard

Just recently applied and got approved for the US Airways Barclays Mastercard which offers a 60k mile bonus (40000 easy) as per this public link.

This is the best offer Barclays has put out for their US Airways Mastercard and while its not as competitive as some of the other 50k, 75k and 100k offers that came out in 2011, this might be good to consider for broadening you card issuers (especially if you're heavy on the Chase and Amex and even Citi cards). Also, Barclays typically pulls from the Transunion credit bureau which is usually pulled less and thus shouldn't dent your credit scores at other bureaus.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Trick Review (2000 / 2002 / 2003)

Drama Rating: ***
Personal Rating: Loved it!

Yamada Naoko, a mediocre magician who doesn't believe in spiritualists, is constantly being chased by her landlady for her overdue rent. Desperate for some cash, she decides to accept a challenge issued by Assistant Professor Ueda, a physics genius, who offers money to someone who can prove to him that magic exists. Naoko uses a simple magic trick and dupes the professor, uncovering his true purpose - to find someone to help him uncover the tricks used by a cult. Thus, their hilarious partnership begins as they start to root out all magical and spiritual impostors.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Chase British Airways Card

British Airways is once again back with their 100,000 Avios point bonus although slightly less lucrative this year due to the heavy spend requirement. Additionally, due to the revaluation of the new BA Avios miles, this deal is not as good as last year particularly if you don't live in a Oneworld hub city or you tend to fly long distances (as their new award charts are more based on distance).

At the current redemption chart rates and assuming you can accomplish the $20k spend, you can still get 2 roundtrip tickets from the continental US to London for 50k Avios each.  Flights with partners though can get pretty pricey as the distance begins to go up.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wieliczka Salt Mine

One of the most famous attractions in Krakow is the huge Wieliczka Salt Mine located not far from the city. There is a public bus near Plac Jana Matejki which you can take directly to the Salt Mine bus station.

Monday, April 2, 2012

An Evening of Music in Krakow

After a scrumptious dinner at Jadetkol's, after dinner entertainment was at Bonerewski Palace located at the north end of the main market square.