Monday, June 30, 2008

Viva Espana

Spain 1:0 Germany; Torres (33)

Fortunately, the power cuts that plagues Beirut for 6 hours daily did not affect the live broadcasting of Euro Cup matches on TV.

Euro Cup ended yesterday with Spain become crowned as champions, ending a 44 year wait. In my opinion, the Spaniards rightly deserved to win with their stylish play and tight ball passing.

In the words of a colleague: "Good bye Euro '08 .... Welcome Olympics 2008!"

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pictures: A Beyrouth 22 June '08

For once, my flight was on time. I was able to arrive in Beirut in time for 2nd half of the Spain vs Italy match in Euro '08 quarter-finals. To my delight, Spain won.

Algerian boy


My seat: Air Algerie flights have many damaged seats in the economy class

Close up

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bangkok Thai: Restaurant Thailandais

I kid you not, this was on the menu of Bangkok Thai, the Thai restaurant in Draria, Algiers which I frequent. I think the restaurant is making a huge mistake on it's erm...Satay is not Thai food?

Having said that, Bangkok Thai is one of my favourite restaurant in Algiers. It is the only restaurant I know that serves decent Thai food. No surprise here since the entire kitchen crew hails from Thailand.

Catering to local palette, the taste was scaled down so the food is not as spicy as true Thai fare, and also it is a lot saltier. But after dinning there several times, the chef, perhaps, learnt about our preference and tends to be more generous with the chilli and will do away the extra salt or MSG.

The Tom Yum (Mixed seafood soup with coconut milk) must not be missed. I never fail to order it because I felt it combines the best of both worlds: authentic Thai cooking and fresh Algerian squid. I usually give away the prawns to my dinner companions because of my allergy. The fragrantly wok-fried Kao Pad avec Viande (Fried Rice with meat) is another favourite.

Tom Yum Khom with Algerian squid

Appetisers: Satay and fried spring rolls

Main: Fried rice (back); (front): Pa Ka Pow beef (left) & green curry / cari vert (right)

One flip side though, the Pa Ka Pow (Stir fried) beef is not authentic but nevertheless delicious. Everytime I order the dish, it came tasting more Chinese than Thai. This could be due to the miscommunication between the Algerian waiters and the cooks because I think I'm being served another dish on the menu - Stir fried beef with oyster sauce.

But one can hardly fault the kind and gentle Algerian waiters there. By local standards, their customer service standard in Bangkok Thai is one of the best I've seen so far. That's if I go easy on the mandatory long waiting time and the frustrating communication barriers, of course. But these happens everywhere in Algeria.

The interior of the restaurant is decorated with memorabilia that seemed to have come from Bangkok's Chatuchak bazaar. What I like is that the place is kept clean and odorless. As with most restaurants in Algeria, ventilation is bad. Restaurant dining areas are filled with strong smells straight from the kitchens. This is not so obvious in Bangkok Thai.

The restaurant also provide a saloon for customers to relax. During hot months, there are two sheltered tables in the outdoors but there is no view. I'm told that there is a massage palour complete with a Thai masseur on the second floor of the restaurant. The service is provided only for women only (because the masseur cannot touch men?!).

Restaurant Bangkok Thai

Outdoor dinner area

Overall, I like this restaurant despite some drawbacks. Especially, I'm not used to paying such a high price for the kind of Thai food served in the restaurant, which, in Thailand are considered standard fare. (5 000 DA or 72 USD for 3 persons). But anyone in Algeria who enjoys good Thai food, Bangkok Thai is a must try.

Bangkok Thai
Restaurant Thailandais
Lot. "C" No 71 Draria - Alger
Tel: 0221354897 / 0552984940 / 0770925050

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Les Les Orange

cava pas

Saw the breathtaking match between Netherlands and France last evening over a BBQ at my colleague's place. Not only did I get BBQ wings, I also got my wish. Les Bleus got their French butts whipped by the Orange Army!


So now Netherlands can safely proceed into the next round in Euro 2008 after defeating France 4 goals to 1, an incredible feat that well complements the stunning victory over World Cup champions Italy.

France and Italy are now facing possible elimination this early in the games. Both teams now have to fight hard with each other in their next game to gain points. Both teams might get a chance if Romania doesn't beat the Dutch in their match also on the same day.

I can't wait to watch the two matches to see which is the next team, in the group of death, that will qualify.

Picture source:

Update (21 June):

And the Dutch are out! =(
Their fitness just weren't able to compare to the energetic Russian side in extra time. The Russians won the game 3:1 to go into semi-finals.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Prague (Part 3)

As promised, I'm going to blog about my European trip. This entry is about my second day (24 Apr '08) in Prague, Czech Republic.

This day in Prague was spent quite leisurely. I didn't have to go for training at the local office until the late afternoon.

So with a map, a camera and a bottle of water in a backpack, I went out walking. My target was to go to Prague Castle on foot.

The weather wasn't as cold as initially forecasted, but at below 15 degrees celsius, a light jacket was necessary to keep the wind out.

Along the way, I was treated to beautiful buildings and scenery reflecting an old central European charm. I also encountered a park along the way that presented some nice photographic moments.


Street along Mala Strana

Sculptures in park along Mala Strana


Eventually I made my way to St. Nicholas Church at Lesser Town (Mala Strana). Facing the church was a row of pubs and restaurant that looked really appealing. I reminded myself to come this way on the return trip to try one restaurant there.

Observing a concert queue formed outside the church, I vaguely remembered that central Europe was famous for their love of classical philharmonic music (unverified knowledge). It occured to me that it would be a pleasureable experience to enjoy a concert here. However, this time, I didn't have the right company nor the time for it.

St Nicholas Church

St Nicholas Church

Concert goers at St Nicholas Church

Statue near St Nicholas Church

Passing the St. Nicholas Church, up a steep sloping road that eventually led me on a left turn around more restaurants and finally Up the a steep flight of stairs, I arrived to the Prague Castle at last.

By that time, I had already covered about 4 km on foot, including some very steep stair climbing. Forgot to mention that in the morning, I had a 2.4km morning run and some exercise at the hotel gym and the legs were already aching.

So I was quite tired and seriously entertaining the thought of hailing a taxi for the return trip.

Prague Castle - Hradcany
Glimpse of Prague Castle

When I arrived, I was in time to catch the the changing of guard parade. A band was playing on the second floor on the right during the parade.

Changing of the guard parade

It was mentioned in Lonely Planet that the uniform of the guard was designed by the costume designer for the film Amadeus. Nice!

Prague castle is an amazing place! It is the largest castle in the world and has been for a long time, the seat of the country's government, including the current president. Inside the castle is a complex of buildings each reflecting different architectural styles, creating a captivating ambience.

My personal favourite building is the cathedral of St. Vitus. The sight of this gothic church looming over other buildings added a forboding and eerie dimension to the beauty of the place.

Unfortunately, I was not able to enter the church because I didn't have any Czech crowns on me as I didn't want to break my 500 Euro notes. There was also a long queue of waiting tourists outside the cathedral and I didn't have so much time.

Prague Castle entrance displaying statues of clashing titans

St Vitus Cathedral

St Vitus Cathedral

St Vitus Cathedral

St Vitus Cathedral

Street Cafe at Prague Castle

An Idle Noon

Pivnice U Glaubicu - Czech Pub

Honoring my promise to self, I made my way back to the row of restaurants near St. Nicholas Church for lunch. I chose one that has a name I cannot even pronounce. From outside, it looked like a traditional pub diner but I realized there were more extensions that housed several more dining chambers inside, making it bigger than I've imagined.

In Singapore, when we dine with our Muslim friends, we try to avoid non-halal food out of respect. Yesterday while dinning with my Algerian colleague, I stuck to ordering halal food, although I had some beer. This time, since I was eating lunch by myself, I had no qualms about ordering anything. I've been dying to try the popular traditional Czech dishes of roasted pork and duck.

Lunch: vegetable soup & Pilsner

Lunch: Roasted Pork Knuckle

I chose roasted pork knuckles over the duck. The serving size of half a duck would be too much for me. The pub's customer service was slow so I had to wait for my lunch. After relieving the mug of half its pilsner, my roasted pork knuckle at last landed in front of me. Weighing almost 1 kg, I ate heartily and sumptuously. The Czechs really know how to prepare their meat and I thought that I could definitely live here comfortably. Food compatibility is important to me.

The heavy lunch was definitely the culprit for making me sleepy during the rest of the day. In addition, I became tired from the walk back to the hotel. In total I covered 10 km in distance by running and walking in just half a day.

During the training, I had to rely on a few cups of coffee to keep myself attentive. I could barely work up an appetite and had little for dinner in the evening, even though it was a amazing restaurant, named Cowboy, with an excellent night view of the city.

To be continued...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dutch Thwarted World Champions Italy

I didn't catch the full game as I was out for dinner. Managed to catch the game from the last 20 mins including the 80 min third goal by Van Bronckhorst for the Dutch side.

YEY!! =D

(Picture source:
I hope they will beat the French also.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Scuba Divers vs Komodo Dragon

Interesting piece of news about scuba diving that I read today.

Several European divers swept by current 30 kilometres away from their dive site, scrambled onto the small island of Rinca to avoid drifting out into the open water, only to face a hostile Komodo Dragon. They defended themselves against the reptile by pelting debris and won. They were rescued the next day.

I miss diving...

Stranded scuba divers chase off Komodo dragon on remote Indonesian island

By ALI KOTARUMALOS,Associated Press Writer

Indonesia - European scuba divers swept away in strong currents survived 12 hours in shark-infested waters and then scrambled onto a remote Indonesian island where they faced yet another threat: a Komodo dragon.

The divers _ three from Britain and one each from France and Sweden _ came face-to face with the giant, carnivorous lizard on Rinca island's palm-fringed beach, and fought it off by pelting it with rocks and pieces of wood, port official Pariman said Sunday.

"Luckily, they were able to chase it away," said Pariman, who, like many Indonesians, goes by only one name.

The beasts have sharp, serrated teeth and often come out when they smell something new, including humans, whom they've been known to kill, Pariman said.

The divers encountered treacherous currents after plunging from their wooden boat off Tatawa island on Thursday afternoon. They drifted 20 miles (30 kilometers) from their dive site before swimming to Rinca, their last chance to avoid being swept into the open ocean.

"We struggled against the current for several hours, but eventually stopped," 31-year-old Laurent Pinel, of France, told The Sunday Times of London. We "tied ourselves together by our diving vests to preserve energy."

They ran into the Komodo dragon on Friday afternoon. The next day, rescuers plying the waters in more than 30 boats spotted them waving frantically on the shore and took them to Flores island for medical treatment.

The area where the diving trip took place is famous for its rich marine diversity, including sharks, manta rays and sea turtles. But it is also known for its treacherous and unpredictable seas.

Recommended only for experienced divers, it is in a place where the Indian and Pacific Oceans meet, creating currents that converge and separate. Whirlpools and eddies can pull divers downwards.

"We're safe but absolutely exhausted and dehydrated," Charlotte Allin, a 25-year-old British diver, was quoted by The Sunday Times of London as telling her parents from the hospital where the five were taken.

Komodo dragons, which can grow up to 10 feet (3 meters) long and weigh as much as 365 pounds (165 kilograms), are only found in the wild on Rinca and Komodo island. There are believed to be 4,000 left in the world.

Thousands of tourists visit the area in eastern Indonesia each year to see the lizards in their natural habitat. They are normally shown around the arid and rocky island by guides who carry large, forked sticks to ward off the lizards.

8th June Back In Beirut

Finally, I arrived in Beirut yesterday midnight after being away for 46 days!

The Air Algerie flight was delayed as usual, departing 2 hours later than the original 4 pm schedule. However, I was able to land in Beirut just an hour late.

It was a pleasant surprise that Air Algerie was serving water to waiting passengers in the terminal for the delayed flight. Small things but it counts a lot towards customer service.

Anyway, it's great to be back....but I'll be leaving for Algiers again next week.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Crazy Domestic Help

We just never had any luck with our domestic help for the guesthouses that can provide a peace of mind.

The domestic helper in Algeria has a tendency to do something that drives me up the wall. They do stupid things to my stuff like stealing (food, washing powder!!!), mess up the order of the house, using a single piece of cloth to clean the toilet as well as my dining table!

My favorite story, and this was witnessed by an ex-colleague, the domestic helper was caught using his room-mate's toothbrush to clean the sink! Yew!!!

This current domestic helper at the Palm Beach guesthouse is recently scaling new heights in her stupidity! Just two days ago, she threw away my half pot of soup that was sitting on the stove, lid enclosed. My dinner just went down the drain that evening.

If you think I'm picking on her? I now have pictures to prove it. Today I discovered that she has decided to put my shoes on a side table, near my stove, that is used by me to place food!!! On the bottom left of the picture, you can see that she had place my tea bags together with my shoes!!!

Who puts shoes with food?!?!

The point that this was after moving day with most of the food gone is irrelevant. I have occupied this apartment for more than six month. Since she cleans everyday, I assume she will have a good grasp of the layout and organization. Why she acted upon a sudden whim to reorganize with such scant regard to hygiene and basic common sense is beyond me!


Sometimes life's a bitch. Or maybe management's the bitch!

As I mentioned previously, just as the beach-going weather sets in, I received instructions to move out of the guesthouse at Palm Beach, Sidi Fredj.

Conditions at Sidi Fredj is very bad but at least there is a beach to spend the summer. The Cheraga guesthouse can provide better comfort but the surrounding area is really boring. Both places cancel each other out in different pluses and minuses so I really can't complain.

The bottom line is that I hate moving!

Moving Day/ Traffic
On moving day yesterday, I could see the road leading to Palm Beach jam packed with beach goers. The queue of cars trying to enter the beach was so long even during the late hours in the afternoon. Probably the late sunset at after 7 pm helped as people could stay at the beach longer.

With heavy traffic everywhere, it was nice to see policemen stationed at almost every junction to direct traffic. I think that this is one of the things Algeria is superior to Morocco. In Morocco, I see a lot of policemen on the road doing nothing about the traffic. They are just there to collect bribes. Yes, the Moroccan police are that disgusting!!!

Isn't it labor intensive and expensive to expend so much manpower to direct traffic, you'll ask? Yes, it is. But judging from the Algerian driving style which disregards most traffic rules, the roads will be impossible to drive with every vehicle trying to meander around each other. Bottlenecks will appear everywhere. So the human "touch" is necessary!

Last Moments At Sidi Fredj?
While the bulk of my things were already transfered, I will continue to stay at Sidi Fredj for the remaining two days of this visit. I leave tomorrow for Beirut.

Trying to maximize my remaining time at Sidi Fredj, I mingled a bit with my fellow tenants, the ICTs. I was invited by the Chinese (3 of them) ICTs to their apartment for dinner for several times. Once I contributed a dish - ABC soup, South-east Asian style.

A home-made Chinese dinner, easily tastier than Restorante Mudan at Hotel Mecure

Me and Pablo, my Colombian colleague, being the other manager there, were also invited to an evening teaparty organized by the Syrians and Egyptian ICTs. We munched on digestives, sipped beverage and shared our general disdain for most of the commercially prepared Algerian food we can. It was a nice evening that uplifted Pablo's spirit after Colombia's defeat to France in a friendly soccer match that day.

The boo boo-factor at Cheraga is the lack of social activities. Cheraga guesthouse is occupied by senior managers and they aren't a lot of fun. Most of them just want to drink, smoke and sleep.

At The Beach
Yesterday, I visited the beach with Pablo. It wasn't the best but it wasn't that bad. At least there were efforts to keep the beach clean.

The lack of safety consciousness in Algeria showed in few instances at the beach. In particular, young men are especially prone to reckless and dangerous behaviour.

For instance, many riding motorcycles were observed to be dashing across junctions and traffic at breakneck speed along crowded roads. Some were doing willys. None of them wore helmets. Perhaps they think they look cool but they could endanger theirs and others life.

Things were not safer at the beach either. I saw young people riding jetski along and very close to the coastline. These people own the jetski, so they are rich and probably well educated. But yet, they also don't have the consciousness that riding that close to the coast line could endanger the safety of people in the water, especially children.

I'm no stranger to high speed ocean going crafts, so I know how difficult it is to spot a head bobbling in the ocean. And also I wonder in the first place, why are these people jetskiing so near the coastline when the ocean is so big?! If not to draw attention to themselves than what else?

Algerians are sometimes stupidly crazy like this. Everything that can be done, they will do it.

While I was observing the jetskiers, a rider on a horse galloping along the beach came into my view. I know that there is a horse riding school nearby but didn't the rider think about safety also. What if the horse got startled by something, went berserk and started trampling on the sun tanners? Can a rider control the horse 100% of the time? I think not, especially in a place with so much distraction.

It wasn't all bad though. I did get to enjoy a nice sunset and experienced some interesting activities of the local people at the beach.

I thougth they were playing majong (popular Asian domino game)
So in love.... =P

Merry makers at the beach - drum n dance

Thursday, June 05, 2008

No Water

This morning, after returning from a jog, I discovered that there was no water in my apartment.

Can you imagine returning all sweaty from exercise to realize that you may not have enough water to take a shower? Plus, I need to go to work for half a day (We work half-day on Thursday in our Algerian company). I got a little desperate and went after the care-taker of the building.

Turns out, summer is coming so they are starting to fill up the swimming pool. The water in the tank was diverted to fill the pool. After he turned off the hose filling water to the swimiming pool, Viola!, I got water again.

Probably once the pool is filled, we won't have water problems anymore. Or else, they are forcing me to take my bath in the swimming pool!!! =P

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Negative Feedback

Getting Bashed
Sometimes I get comments on my blog entries like this:

"Score mate you had burgers and fast food since you were a kid... that obviously makes you much better than algerians??? how stupid is this? When you read what you wrote did it make you feel good? in fact did you even try to understand why
there are no fast foods in algeria or does this require too much brains which
surely you don't have." -Anonymous-
This was a comment on the entry "Fast Food & Algeria" that I blogged sometime back. It was about Algeria finally getting their first corporate fast food. The commentor sounds a bit defensive although I don't understand for what?

I believe that my entry was more an observation than a judgetment. I'm merely trying note down my personal observation of that experience.

The Levels of Online Debates
A while ago, I came across an interesting post on the Movie Blog entitled,"The Levels of Movie Debate on Film Websites". (Link) It talks about how people have differing opinions and true and effective debate can be successfully conducted only when people are doing it the right way.

As the post suggests, online commentaries can be categorized into several categories from the worst to the best.

I will reproduce in summary the main categories and examples as mentioned in that post here:

7. Name-calling
Apparently the weakest and stupidest form of disagreement, and it goes like this:"You're an idiot if you think Star Wars isn't the best movie ever."

6. Ad Hominem
This means attacking the messenger instead of the message. "How can you not like Juno? Like you would know a good movie from a bad one. You didn't even like Hot Fuzz." The main issue was not addressed but instead the disagreeing party is jumping to another topic.

5. Responding To Tone
"I don't like the way you said that!" This kind of comments just waste space and the time taken to read them.

4. Contradiction
It is fine to be contradictory about an opinion or idea without debating the merits of another persons idea or opinions. "I didn't really enjoy Star Wars." I think that the world is big enough for people with differing opinions to breathe the same air without imposing on each other.

3. Counter-argument
A step ahead of just being contradictory in that the disagreeing party gives reasons for being contradictory. "I didn't enjoy Star Wars because of A,B,C...."

2. Refutation
This is when objective, measurable facts are supplied by the disagreeing party to counter an opinion or view. It provides a good learning experience for the refuted party.

1. Refuting the Central Point
Accordingly, the best form of argument in that opinions, ideas and facts were freely exchanged while staying on the central idea.

So What Were You Trying To Tell Me, Anonymous Dude?
Now back to the bashing comment, it doesn't even deserve any of my response because it doesn't leave any room for discussion (i.e. Category #7). But what the hell, I'm behind in my blogging anyway. =)

It would be more fruitful if the commentor had pointed out to me what he disagreed with me rather than just plain disagreement and name-calling. If I was too judgemental let me know where was I being judgemental? Wouldn't it be nice if the commentor could refute what I've said based on facts that I don't know about?

Who knows, our conversation might have sprout an online friendship?