OP-ED: Amazon’s arrogance is extraordinary!


Please note:  By continuing to read this post, you accept the terms of this website and you accept that you are reading an opinionated blog.

I am gobsmacked by the sheer arrogance and incompetence of Amazon who lost a package and simply refused to do anything more than issue empty apologies and meaningless credit vouchers.  I am so disappointed by their lack of care that I have refused to accept their e-vouchers because this implies that: I have accepted their lame indifference; I waive away any rights; and more importantly, that Amazon is off the hook.

Rather than be pissed off about this and grumble quietly, I will now dedicate myself to translate my piss-off-ness into meaningful effect.

Watch this space ….  There is one seriously Grumbly Pixie about!



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Disclaimer:  the opinions, viewpoints and experiences expressed here are by definition ‘personal’.  As such,  @ZombifiedPixie asserts that her specific personal experience outlined in this blog   may  or  may  not   be applicable to others.  It is therefore up to the reader to make his/her own mind about the merits of this opinionated blog.

Furthermore, whilst every effort is made to be honest and accurate, @ZombifiedPixie makes no claim that all details here are factual, representative or complete.  Therefore, anyone researching any of the named parties are strongly advised to continue with his/her own research to form a more robust finding.  To be blunt, this is an honest but opinionated diary and therefore should not be used in isolation when forming an opinion about any of the named parties.  @ZombifiedPixie accepts no liability if the reader mis-translates an opinion as a fact.

Feedback, correction and/or alternative viewpoints, please contact feedback@zombifiedpixie.com.



OP-ED: the dog ate my homework!

Please note:  opinions, viewpoints and experiences are by definition ‘personal’.  As such,  @ZombifiedPixie asserts that her specific personal experience outlined in this blog   may  or  may  not   be applicable to others.  It is therefore up to the reader to make his/her own mind about the merits of this opinionated blog.

Furthermore, whilst every effort is made to be honest and accurate, @ZombifiedPixie makes no claim that all details here are factual, representative or complete.  Therefore, anyone researching any of the named parties are strongly advised to continue with his/her own research to form a more robust finding.  To be blunt, this is an honest but opinionated diary and therefore should not be used in isolation when forming an opinion about any of the named parties.    

By continuing to read this post, you accept the terms of this website and you accept that you are reading an opinionated blog. @ZombifiedPixie accepts no liability if the reader mis-translates an opinion as a fact.

Feedback, correction and/or alternative viewpoints, please contact feedback@zombifiedpixie.com.

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Yesteryear’s excuse of “my dog ate my homework” has been upgraded.   It’s now “oops — your email was inadvertently sent to my junk folder and thus I missed your email”.   To be fair, I do know of genuine cases where this has happened.  BUT, in this particular case, the person shirking responsibility and accountability has previously received and responded to my emails.  As such and unless this person’s email system was recently infected with a virus, her system has already accepted and processed my email account as “non-junk”.

After a follow-up email (and after enough time has passed to render the original request more difficult to fulfil), the person in question wrote to say:

“I apologise for not responding sooner, for some reason the original email went into my junk email folder, however I have added you to my contact list so this does not happen again.

Unfortunately as the development is now complete and the builders are off site it really is too late for us to make and changes to the units.

I am sorry we cannot assist you on this occasion.”

Needless to say and assuming that her company’s email system is unadulterated, I thought this person’s response was highly unprofessional and lacked integrity.  If the request cannot be fulfilled then I thought she should have advised accordingly instead of hiding behind the “dog ate my homework” excuse whilst “running down the clock”.

In short, this is yet more reason, methinks and based on my personal experience, that I’ll never recommend Acorn New Homes to my family and friends.


OP-ED: Shame on me !!!

Please note:  opinions, viewpoints and experiences are by definition ‘personal’.  As such,  @ZombifiedPixie asserts that her specific personal experience outlined in this blog   may  or  may  not   be applicable to others.  It is therefore up to the reader to make his/her own mind about the merits of this opinionated blog.

Furthermore, whilst every effort is made to be honest and accurate, @ZombifiedPixie makes no claim that all details here are factual, representative or complete.  Therefore, anyone researching any of the named parties are strongly advised to continue with his/her own research to form a more robust finding.  To be blunt, this is an honest but opinionated diary and therefore should not be used in isolation when forming an opinion about any of the named parties.    

By continuing to read this post, you accept the terms of this website and you accept that you are reading an opinionated blog. @ZombifiedPixie accepts no liability if the reader mis-translates an opinion as a fact.

Feedback, correction and/or alternative viewpoints, please contact feedback@zombifiedpixie.com.

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Shame on me!  Shame on me!  I’ve been fooled.  Despite my very best and determined efforts and ‘street smarts’, I’ve been hoodwinked.  I hang my head low in shame.

Damn the London property agents!

After the fiasco with 325 Borough High Street (see earlier blog), I wonder if my immune system against property-agent-developer-bullshit was compromised and therefore I was more susceptible to making foolhardy decisions.  Or, perhaps it was the pressure of seeing the property market rocket ahead and the fear of incurring an opportunity cost for not proceeding rapidly enough with another property that made me listen/accept/digest the bullshit from the next property agent.  Regardless, I blame only myself for not recognising the deft high-pressure sales tactic used by a Daniel Cobb (London Bridge branch) agent.

When I’d received this email from the agent on July 11, 2014, alarm bells should have gone off:

“An offer has come in from a bulk buyer to purchase all remaining units in the XXXXX. I understand from your previous correspondence that you are returning to HK today/tonight however the developer’s would like to know if you would like to pursue unit XXX asap.”

As I was about to hop onto a 12+ hour flight (read:  no internet access), I had to make a very quick decision.  And so, I’d advised my husband that he should proceed with the purchase of Flat XXX  before the “bulk buyer” snaps it up.

It later transpired (according to the same agent) that the developer rejected the offer to purchase all remaining units from this bulk buyer.  Unfortunately,  we discovered this only after the contract was signed.   I now wonder (and this is only a supposition) whether or not there was ever a real bulk buyer.   Have we been hoodwinked into making a significant financial decision based on smoke and mirrors?

The other major disappointment experienced was that I was led to believe, by the very same property agent who pressurised me to make an immediate decision,  was that once the newly built apartments are completed, there would be an uptick in property value.  This is because (rough quote here) most buyers want to see the completed product to examine the fixtures and fittings.  Furthermore, a completed product has certainty whereas an off-plan product has more inherent risks (such as delays in completion date, construction problems, etc) and therefore an off-plan is usually priced at a discount to reflect the higher risks.

So at the completion phase (Dec 2014 – Feb2015 …. due to unexpected construction delays), not only was I incredibly surprised to find out that of the 19 flats in the building, only 6 flats (including ours) have been sold.  And, instead of the price uptick linked to product completion, there was a drop of 5-11% in the asking price of the remaining units!  And this is during a period when prices in London are still increasing (albeit a slower growth rate …. but a growth rate nonetheless)!

Again, I have to ask myself whether or not there was ever a real bulk-buyer for the remaining units.  If there was indeed one, then I could only surmise that the developers (Northstar 2000 & Acorn New Homes) must be kicking themselves dreadfully because they would have sold the remaining 13 units at a much higher price.  Instead, the remaining units are now on the market at a steep discount.

The only conclusion that I could reach that made sense to me is that the apartments were originally overpriced and thus did not sell well and as a consequence, the Daniel Cobb agent took advantage of my flight to Hong Kong to pressurised me to make a quick decision.

Shame on me for not recognising the high-pressure tactic!

In short, as bitter as the above pill is to swallow, I confess that I’m still at peace with completing the property purchase.   (This is an owner-occupied purchase and not an investment purchase.  As such, the no-rent-to-pay offsets some of the bitterness.)  Regrets are terrible and I didn’t want the enjoyment of the new flat to be tarnished by what transpired previously.  I’ve therefore filed my experiences above as “lessons learned” and hoped that in the future, I will be a little smarter and less likely to be hoodwinked by (in my opinion) untrustworthy sales agents.  And that by the time my husband and I decide to move on and sell the property, we would not be in negative equity.


OP-ED: Snowden – Hero or Traitor?


[ Gentle reminder:  please see #ZPDisclaimer. ]

It is unquestionably right that The Guardian, The New York Times and The Washington Post broke the Snowden-NSA story.  So, if I wholly support the journalists, editors, and publishers for exposing the egregious surveillance scandal, then why do I still consider Edward Snowden to be an unquestionable traitor?

Ultimately, I think that he is a traitor to his country because he has gone beyond his national and moral obligation as a whistleblower.  Had he exposed his story to the papers without defecting to Hong Kong/China and Russia, then I would be applauding Snowden for his brave patriotism and for the supporting civil liberties.

By defecting to Hong Kong and then to Russia, he has allowed foreign powers access to his laptop which held US state secrets.  Although I cannot be certain, I do not think it was his intentions to reveal US state secrets.  But, as he was cornered into an impossible position (for which he has to take some responsibilities because he placed himself into this restrictive position), he had to negotiate an exit and the price was revealing US secrets.   Whether intentional or not, Snowden damaged the national interests and materially weakened his country.  Ergo, he is a traitor.

His justification for revealing the NSA scandal is that the government must be held accountable for it’s action.  Agreed.  But so too must Snowden.  He must also be held accountable for the damage done by allowing China and Russia access to his laptop.

In short, he is not a journalist.  He is a whistleblower with the very best intentions but is someone who miscalculated the best way to expose the scandal and is thus suffering from the consequences of his miscalculation.  Whilst I support the idea and ideals of Snowden, I cannot support the man because of his miscalculated actions and the damages done.

PondScum Award: Rutgers University

@ZombifiedPixie awards her next PondScum Award to Rutgers University on the grounds that – in her opinion –  it is exceedingly shameful that it took this organisation **decades** to update it’s deeply sexists anthem.   It was only in 2013 that Rutgers FINALLY showed it’s female alumni and students the respect they deserved by changing the offensive lyrics.




OP-ED: An Open Letter to Scottish Voters …


Will the vote for Scottish independence unleash a tsunami of unexpected and uncontrollable forces rippling across the global theatre in the same way the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo did in the last century?  It may sound absurd to compare the cataclysmic ramifications of this assassination with a simple gesture to voice a desire to live in an independent country.  But in this highly globalised and interconnected world,  a vote for Scottish independence would be used by a spectrum of political entities to endorse, justify and amplify waves of nationalism throughout the global stage which in turn will destabilise the West at the time unity and cooperation are most needed.   A fragile West will only encourage the imperialist appetite of not just Russia but also China.

If the YES vote prevails, many assume that the divorce will be amicable.  Sadly, I think not.  The Scottish referendum has not only stirred the sovereign will of the Scottish people, but, it has also stirred the sovereign will of the English people.  The juvenile and sarky comments by Alex Salmond about the national debt (“What are the Brits going to do?  Invade?) has deeply angered many mild-mannered English and as such the path of acrimony is newly paved.  For example, the 18+ months to negotiate the split is a timetable proposed by Scottish interests  — it has not been agreed to or endorsed by the Unionists.  As such, the balance of power over the negotiation of the divorce settlement will shift in favour of the British.  If Britain so decides, then she can make this separation as painful as possible.  Although this undermines the national interests of both countries, the political fervour and sovereign will of the English will demand deeply punitive penalties against Scotland.

The first casualty will obviously be Scotland.

The second casualty will be a national shift away from the current mainstream leaders and towards the more nationalistic and untested (and therefore dangerous) UKIP.   As a result, the UK will likely ‘devolve’ or exit from the EU.

The third casualty will be the infrastructure, treaties and alliances that the West has steadfastly built during the Cold War and post-Cold War eras.  A distracted Britain and the inexperience of UKIP on the global stage will undermine NATO, the World Bank, the IMF, the EU and many other entities.

The fourth casualty will be the stability in Western Europe and the Balkans as regional nationalists will be emboldened by the Scottish vote.

A destabilised Western Europe is an ineffective counterbalance to the ongoing ISIS-jihadist threats, the new Putin-machismo territorial expansion, and the Chinese imperialistic desire over the South China Seas.

In short, the Scottish vote may be the thin edge of the wedge that ripples across the political ocean in unexpected ways.  The lurch towards nationalism and the weakened West could be the ignition that sets off the global firestorm.

It is right that each person should have the right to decide the fate of their future and the legitimacy of the Scottish referendum is unquestioned.  It is my hope that the Scottish voters will pull back from the abyss and vote against independence because IT IS IN THEIR INTERESTS to remain within the Union.  A strong UK is in their interests and in the world’s interests.

It’s not all Jane Austen and Duran Duran . . .


Perhaps it is a caricature, but there is truth in the portrayal of the British as brilliantly resilient in public and grumbly in private.  Although I’m not British, I am very grumbly — privately … as well as publicly.  But there are three things about British life that I would NEVER grumble about:  the BBC, the NHS and the quality of London theatres.

Before I lived abroad, I drank the Kool-Aid that the freedom of the press and the right of free speech are the divine blood rights of all Americans and because of this unique heritage, American news is the world’s gold standard.   And I believed that America’s ‘gift to the world’ is proof that a free press is integral to the protection and promotion of a democracy and a dynamic society.  Furthermore, I believed that American news is the sole pillar that protects the Western world against the darkness of { fill in the blank }.   I wholeheartedly believed that because I just didn’t know any better.

With 15+ years living abroad (in Europe and Asia), I’m now a little more worldwise.   Although I still consume American news (mostly NYT, CNN, the Washington Post and npr.org) to get the ‘American perspective’, I esteem the BBC above all as the quality and caliber of its journalism is without any peers.

It goes without saying that the BBC news website and the BBC World News channel are exemplary.  Although the BBC may not always be “the first” in the very competitive field of  delivering breaking news, the BBC provides more in-depth and measured reporting.  In short, I’m happy to get my breaking news a few nanoseconds later than Sky or CNN if it means that I get more accurate information.

Moving beyond breaking news, the BBC is spectacular at providing diverse, informative and objective analysis.    I have the deepest respect for the journalists in their ranks — in particular, John Simpson, Lyse Doucet, Mark Urban, Orla Guerin, Jeremy Paxman, and Evan Davis.  And, I particularly LOVE ‘From Our Own Correspondents’ — this is my night time current affairs lullaby.  The beauty and genus of this program is that the BBC uses it’s extensive networks of international correspondents to provide their personal insights and perspectives to many topical events.

The British appears to have a love-hate relationship with the BBC — which is something I’ve never quite understood.  Of course the BBC is not perfect.  But, good journalism and good content provider needs funding.  Without consistent and generous support from the public (via TV licenses), the BBC will have to follow the American model and rely on commercials and adverts.  And anyone who has seen American news know how pervasive and toxic commercial interests are.

Succinctly, the BBC is a national institution that punches well above it’s weight and is in fact a very effective “soft” power in the British arsenal on the global stage —  as seen in the newspaper propaganda below.

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Another national institution that is much maligned by the British public but one that I highly esteem is the NHS.  I fully accept that the NHS has many flaws and its monolithic nature means that the quality of care varies county by county.  But, despite the myriad issues, the NHS is a godsend when compared to the highly dysfunctional and corrupt commercial medical complex in America.

In the US, a serious illness or injury can result in soul destroying bankruptcy.  If that alone is not enough to indict the medical system, then the fact that the system is highly rigged against the ordinary person is borderline criminal.  Writing from experience, I can attest to why I detest the American medical system and thus why I respect and appreciate the NHS.

Years ago, before my pending relocation to London, I decided to have a full medical checkup.  As per normal procedure, I submitted my claims to the insurance company for reimbursement.  And to my surprise, US Healthcare rejected my claim on the ground that the medical checkup was done after my insurance was terminated.  Huh?  Thankfully, it is in my nature to make copies of everything.  As such, I had photocopies of the receipts and could therefore prove that my checkup was done whilst my insurance was still valid.  With irrefutable proof submitted, US Healthcare could no longer justify their position and thus reimbursed my expenses.   The sad thing is that the insurance company already had the ‘proof’ on file —  I did not submit any new information.  I simply proved to the insurance company that I was willing to fight them.   In my opinion, it was shameful that the company tried to squirm out of it’s legal obligation by employing ‘the computer says no’ policy by default.  In doing so, the onerous is placed on the ordinary person to fight his/her corner and the insurance company avoids paying if the claimant is too ill/busy/not available to fight back.

The private, for-profit insurance complex is not only highly bureaucratic with layers upon layers of paperwork, it is also highly corrosive.  Years ago, my father suffered a stroke.  Although my family had one of the best private medical insurance and my father’s illness was covered by this policy, the stress of complying with the myriad procedures and forms was debilitating for my poor mother.  Moreover, at times it seemed that medical decisions were made for the benefit of the insurance company’s best interests and not for my father’s best medical interests.  Thankfully, there are 4 medical doctors in my family and thus we had the medical knowledge to push back on the nonsensical (commercial) decisions and as such we were able to ensure that my father received decent care as per his medical insurance policy.

I compare my father’s medical treatment in the US with my father-in-law’s treatment for cancer in the UK under the NHS and it is clear to me that the NHS has a more compassionate and more comprehensive model.  In particular, I was particularly impress that the NHS doctor actually did home visits — whilst this is a simple matter, it actually made a big difference in terms of the patient’s comfort.

In short, it is very easy to demonise the NHS — and in many cases, the rebukes are valid.  NHS imperfections aside, I would argue that the alternative (private medical care instead of public medical care) is a big step backward and in the wrong direction.  The NHS, like the BBC, needs investments — because all good things require effort.

(  to be continued . . .  )


Lunch with Rambo …

I had lunch with Rambo yesterday — no, not that Rambo.  My Rambo was a Asian salesgirl with her hair tightly tied in a ponytail, immaculate makeup and dressed in a smart black shop keeper uniform.   In the crowded tiny noodle shop, this salesgirl blended perfectly in the mass of humanity slurping their noodles.  She only caught my attention as I lifted my eyes from my noodle bowl and noticed her memorable name on a name tag attached to her shop uniform.  And it made my chuckle a bit …

Whilst her name is incongruous, it is not the most unusual “English” name I’ve come across in my time in Hong Kong.  That honour goes to a woman who worked at a major American bank in the Private Wealth Department — and her English name is “Chewbacca”.  Honestly.

It is traditional for young Hongkers to select an English nickname during their pre-teen years.  As such, whilst I could understand these cool and funky childhood nicknames, I find it bizarre that people would continue to use these nicknames in their professional/business life.   That said, it’s their choice and bravo to them!

So I thought of Chewbacca as I shared my communal table with Rambo at my favourite noodle shop.

Nam Kee, on Stanley Street, is my ‘spicy wonton noodle’ mecca for the past seven years.  It’s almost always packed to the gill because the noodle soup is so satisfying and relatively inexpensive.   Sad to admit it, but, I only ever order the spicy wonton noodle dish.  I should try other noodles but each time I order at the counter, I default to what I know and what I love.  It’s always “#6 please with a large soybean milk drink”.

In 2007, a bowl of spicy wonton noodle was HKD 23.  Now, it is HKD 32.  Whilst it is still very affordable, the price has increased almost by 40% in seven years!  And, hidden in the price increase is the “value engineering” which happened in the interim.  The wontons are now a little smaller and a little less meaty than before.   I’ll still happily pay 9 dollars more for my favourite Chinese noodles, but, I often wondered about the price increase on the local community.  Nam Kee is the go-to place for locals, students and shop assistants for cheap and hearty eating.

The secret to good noodle eating in Hong Kong is to ‘be local’ and not just to ‘go local’.   A clear and obvious truism is that you should always go where the local goes. But, what is often unsaid is that visiting local establishments is not enough.  To be local, you actually needs to be a little pushy and unapologetically determined.  This is especially true during the peak hours.  When the noodle shop is packed full,  the moment a seat at the communal table becomes free, you need to secure this seat with a pack of tissues (or something of no monetary value) to signal that the spot is now reserved.  Then order your noodles at the counter.   Your noodles are prepared fresh and your number will be called (in Cantonese!) at the collection counter.  99.9% of the time, the seat that you’ve reserved is respected.  But if someone is sitting at your seat, then you will need to challenge this and 99.9% of the time, you will prevail.  During peak hours, it is not unusual to have strangers hoover over you waiting for you to finish so that they can claim your seat once you are done.  For some, this can be off-putting.  But, this is how the locals do it.  And, to be frank, this is worth it for a good bowl of noodles.

Good noodles.  At a relatively good price.  And, sometimes, you get a good chuckle with your noodles if someone interesting, like Rambo, sits at your table.

OP-ED: I regret . . .

Please Note:   I, personally, am not bound by a non-disclosure or gag clause.  As such, I am at complete liberty to write about my opinions, my views and my experiences as they relate to a particular event.

Opinions, viewpoints and experiences are by definition ‘personal’.  As such,  @ZombifiedPixie asserts that her specific personal experience outlined in this blog   may  or  may  not   be applicable to others.

Furthermore, whilst every effort is made to be honest and accurate, @ZombifiedPixie makes no claim that all details here are factual, representative or complete.  Therefore, anyone researching any of the named parties are strongly advised to continue with his/her own research to form a more robust finding.  To be blunt, this is an honest but opinionated diary and therefore should not be used in isolation when forming an opinion about any of the named parties.

For the avoidance of doubt, be advised that @ZombifiedPixie recounts the events below from the viewpoint of an observer and as an advisor to her husband.  Succinctly, @ZombifiedPixie has NOT engaged in any contractual relationship with any of the named parties.  In short and in the interest of clarity, @ZombifiedPixie has an outsider’s perspective.  It is therefore up to the reader to make his/her own mind about the merits of this opinionated blog.

By continuing to read this post, you accept the terms of this website and you accept that you are reading an opinionated blog. @ZombifiedPixie accepts no liability if the reader mis-translates an opinion as a fact.   

Feedback, correction and/or alternative viewpoints, please contact feedback@zombifiedpixie.com.

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I regret LifeLessOrdinaryLondonProperty

Not wanting to be one-of-those-idiotic-overseas-buyers-who-buy-offplan-and-ends-up-buying-a-dump, I was very careful in selecting potential properties.   An advantage that I have is that I know London very well after having lived there for 9+ years and could therefore quickly discount the bullshit in the glossy marketing materials.   For example, “25 minutes from central London” is quite attractive on paper but is actually quite meaningless in reality.  Why?  Well, “central London” is not well defined and as such, it could mean 25 minutes from the the furthest point in Zone1 . . .  and Zone1 is quite massive.  Furthermore, the ’25 minutes’ claim is also ambiguous.  A real Londoner would use the travel time published by Transport for London (TfL) to get a more accurate ‘guestimates’ rather than rely on the travel time published in the posh marketing.  (That said, TfL times are actually ‘guestimates’ at best because the Underground is consistently unreliable.)

I also used Google to de-select  and whittle down potential properties from my search list.  Whilst extremely helpful, Google is no substitute for first-hand research.  As such, a trip to London was mandatory before any serious money is exchanged.

As the property that we were interested in is a new-build and as the construction has not started yet, my goals in visiting London to assess this potential property at 325 Borough High Street (SE1) were:

(1) walk around the neighbourhood at multiple times during the day to assess the quality-of-life —  i.e.,  traffic volume during the morning and evening rush hours;  clubs/pubs/social places in the vicinity that could cause nuisance issues;  volume of litter (if any) on the street; the personality of the neighbourhood, etc.

(2) view the vacant lot and “size” up the property.  Floor plans are great but walking around the actual perimeter is a priceless assessment opportunity.

(3) view the developer’s past (completed) projects to assess the quality of the build and the quality of the fixtures and fittings.  In addition, I wanted to interview nearby residents of the completed projects to get feedback on the construction crew.  It is my opinion that a good developer hires a good construction crew.  And, as such, this feedback would be a very valuable barometer in assessing the overall merit of this property purchase.

[ Reminder – please note #ZPDisclaimer. ]

Once the agent emailed me that the offer was accepted (subject to contract and with the reservation fee paid), I hopped onto a plane bound to London in Feb 2014 to conduct my own assessment.

In short, I recommended to my husband that this was a ‘good purchase’ based on the following factors:  I assessed the neighbourhood and liked the area very much;  the feedback from nearby businesses and tenants about the construction crew (from a recently completed project) was positive; the build quality of this completed project seemed to be of a high standard; I had personally met with the Heenal Lakhani, one of the directors of the property development company (‘Life Less Ordinary London Property Developers‘), and had a positive first impression; and finally, I did a Google-search on the company, the company directors, and their past credit histories — with no significant red flags raised.   In short, I concluded that everything about this property appeared to be positive.

I was wrong.

Many months later and based on everything that I have observed (and in perfect hindsight), I look back at this trip with serious regrets.   I regret wasting my time and my energy in assessing this property.  More importantly, I regret advising my husband that based on my opinion he should pursue the purchase of this new-build apartment.  And, I regret that we wasted many months of our time and our solicitor’s time reading thru countless documents and search-conveyancing results.

In hindsight, I’m not sure what more due diligence I could have done.  The ‘curve ball’ that was thrown was completely unforeseen and in my opinion, more research would not have been helpful in uncovering it.  Furthermore, our solicitor has advised that in his 20+ years of experience, he has never encountered this type of ‘curve ball’ before.

If there is a silver lining in this unpleasant event, then it is that we have purchased a better apartment elsewhere (but in the same neighbourhood).  It is also a new-build and of the same quality specifications.  More importantly, it is with a more established (and  in  my  opinion, a more reputable) developer.  Unfortunately, the replacement flat is more expensive (because the London property market dramatically increased during the many months we wasted with the original property and as a consequence, we were out-of-pocket financially with respect to the opportunity costs associated with a rising market).

Would I recommend ‘Life Less Ordinary London Property Developers‘ (www.l-l-o.com) to my family and friends?   Based on my specific personal experience and based on what I have observed —  No, absolutely not.


The Power of Grumbling…


[ Please see the disclaimer. ]

Yes, I am opinionated.  And yes, I grumble.  But, I grumble with a purpose and more often than not, I grumble with effect!

The Freedom of Information Act . . .  is your friend! 

I once mentioned to a London black cab driver how I was able to fight a parking ticket using The Freedom of Information Act and the cabbie was so interested that he actually stopped the taxi so that he could talk to me without distraction.

Whilst I understand why councils must police parking space, in London, this has completely gotten out of hand!  And from personal experience, this is especially true in Westminster.  On three separate occasions, I had seriously over-zealous parking wardens issuing very dubious tickets.

  • In the first instance, Westminster temporarily cancelled the parking bay (with the cancellation kicking off in 48 hours) whilst my car was parked in the affected bay.  The warden saw the cancellation notice but didn’t read the details and thus issued a ticket.
  • In the second (and unrelated) instance, Westminster City Council **moved** the car (without permission) and parked it up the road.   Got a ticket because the new spot was not a valid parking bay.  (PCN timestamp matches the council’s notice of removal timestamp!  This was seriously dubious!)
  • In the third instance, there were multiple faded yellow lines on the street to delineate the parameters of the parking bay.   As such, it wasn’t completely clear which lines were valid.   After many years parking on the street (and in this particular bay) without any issue, I got a PCN one day out of the blue.

As you know, I am not afraid to complain.  I’m also very detailed and more importantly, I am very persistent.   Thus, I’d challenged each PCNs and after a very lengthy process, Westminster City Council magnanimously “forgave” me and cancelled the tickets.

And, I did it using the Freedom of Information Act.

Here’s how I did it:

  • NOTE:  before using FIA, please ensure that you are wholly in the right.   In other words, don’t abuse this Act.
  • First, go through the official channels to protest the parking ticket.  (This first step is necessary as it demonstrates your compliance to the council’s processes and procedures.  This is especially important if the council in question ratchets up the fees & penalties if there are delay.)
  •  When your council rejects your appeal (which they surely will despite the strength of your case), then it is time to invoke FIA.  Although it is not necessary, I choose to communicate with the council via written letters. And I always send my letters via registered mail.  Thus, I have a record of what was said and more importantly, when the FIA questions were raised (as the council must reply to FIA requests under a tight deadline).
  • I used the FIA to hold the council accountable to the actions of their agents.  And, I use the FIA to make the appeal process as painful to the council as it is painful to me.
  • With regards to my particular cases, the questions I’d raised were mostly centred on challenging the validity of the PCN by challenging the quality/competency/integrity of the warden.  For example:

a.  training — length of training, curriculum, certification, etc.

b. competency — what % of tickets has this warden issued this year that has been challenged and successfully appealed?  What was the % for the past X years?  How does the rate of successful appeal for this warden compare to the rate of successful appeal for the general population of parking wardens working for the council, etc.

c.  integrity — is this warden under a financial incentive scheme for the number of PCNs issued?   If so, what are the details?

d.  fairness & transparency — how many PCNs were issued on { the street } in the past year?  And, what % of these PCNs were challenged and what was the successful appeal rate, etc. etc. etc.

In my case, Westminster tried to absolved itself from the actions of the parking warden by stating that they are “outsourced”.   Silly response because it only made me more determined to hold Westminster accountable.  Thus, my follow-up FIA requests were:

e.   if the wardens are not employees of Westminster City Council, then why are they wearing uniforms that have Westminster’s logo?  And, as they execute powers on behalf of Westminster, then who in Westminster is responsible for managing and administering this setup?  Who in Westminster Council actually negotiated and signed the contract which allowed for a third party to act as agents for Westminster but yet Westmister is somehow not accountable for their actions, etc. etc. etc.

Needless to say, after these questions were raised, Westminster decided it was easier to ‘forgive and cancel’ the ticket(s) then it was to reply to my FIA requests!

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority . . .  is also your friend!

I have found this organisation (ASA) to be extremely useful whenever I “rage against the machine” when it comes to deceptive marketing and I need an ally.

The first time I’d enlisted the ASA was when I was mis-sold a trip by a UK travel company.  The company advertised in it’s marketing dossier that it doesn’t subcontract their trips but yet they extensively used subcontracted agents throughout.  After I had filed the complaint with the ASA in 2010, the travel company removed the misleading statement from their marketing materials.

The ASA was also instrumental in getting an airline company to be more honest and upfront in their marketing for their complimentary airport transfer service.  In this incident, the airline heavily promoted this service but yet (in my opinion) hid the restrictions in fine prints and in it’s opaque online booking system.

But, your best friend is . . . .   YOURSELF!

Without using any quangos or invoking any Acts, I was able to fight against being ripped off by a top law firm by simply using common sense and dogged persistence.

BTW  . . . . 

So if I would never use this law  firm again on the grounds that that I found their work to be incredibly sloppy and their execution to be incredibly  incompetent, why haven’t I blogged about this firm in the same detail as I have about other firms when I grumble?

Remember my motto:

ZombifiedPixie Banner

As terrible as my experience was with this firm, instead of hiding behind defensive postures, the firm at least acknowledged and admitted their litany of errors.  And, they refunded me for the work that they mucked up.  Thus, this firm gets some @ZombifiedPixie credit!



Grumblings in the Departure Lounge…


[ Please see Disclaimer … ]

Thankfully I have never flown with Ryanair or with EasyJet (and I pray that I will never have to!).   So, you ask, if I never had to deal with the legendary massive scrums boarding one of these planes, and, if I never had to deal with the ‘nickel-and-dime fee gouging malarkey’ that these low-costs airlines are infamous for, what could I possibly grumble about?  Whilst it is true that I have thankfully been spared the above experiences, I have flown on third-world  ‘Air Chicken‘ and ‘Air Decrepit‘ and have raked enough carbon footprint to (regrettably) be responsible for a small island somewhere in the Pacifics to be under real threat of oceanic flooding in the very near future.

That said, flying is _still_ a joy to me.  Perhaps this is because I had an epiphany at a very young age that in the total history of mankind, only a very small percentage of human beings have the privilege to actually fly.  So, despite the everyday grind of getting to the airport, dealing with obtrusive airport security, and being greeted by some of the most unpleasant people on earth at the immigration desks (especially at the JFK’s passport control desk), flying is still very much a privilege.

So whilst I will grumble (and grumble quite vociferously) about air travel,  the whinging centers mostly on the stupidity of stupid airline policies and on my personal experiences during my travels.   Interspersed in this opinionated blog are some tips on how to have a better travel experience whilst in the moving aluminium can.

‘I’m sorry — you can’t have a bottle of water’

Huh???  But, I’m in business class!   Oh, silly me — I forgot that I’m flying American Airlines.  Oh joy …  I still have 5 more hours left on this flight.

As someone who does not fly domestic flights often in the US and as someone who has read the myriad horror stories in the general media about the deteriorating level of service on American domestic carriers, it never quite occurred to me how bad the situation was until I had to fly from New York to San Francisco.  The first clue was at check-in when I was told that business class lounge access was only for international flights.  (Ok … that is a pisser, but, I guess they have capacity issues and thus this is why they are restricting access.) Then, whilst I was waiting to board the plane, the tannoy overhead boomed with the following message (note:  I’m paraphrasing here….) “if you are flying economy, then you are advised to buy your own food before boarding because your ticket class does not include food.  You can purchase sandwiches, cookies, coffee on the flight for ….”  (WOW — in all my years flying around Europe and Asia, I’ve never heard that before!  But, if people are bring their own food onboard, won’t it be messier and smellier as the airline cannot control what is taken onto the air craft?)  And then the water bottle incident happened. . .

After takeoff, the flight attendant handed out bottles of water to passengers in business class.  But, these were not ordinary water bottles — these were half-sized bottles that one might give to elementary kids during a school outing.  During the flight, my bottle slipped from my grip and rolled down the plane.  I’d asked the flight crew for another bottle and was then told that they could not give me another bottle.  Instead, I was offered a glass of water from a plastic cup.  I supposed that ultimately how the water was delivered was immaterial as my thirst was quenched but the penny-pinching experience was an real eye-opener.

Yummylicious in Economy

I do not accept that flying Economy means settling for less and I detest airlines that penny pinch and gouge the travelling public.  As such and wherever possible, I avoid them because I don’t believe in supporting the lowest common denominator because the LCD would soon become the norm and set the standard.

There are plenty of airlines which offer good Economy services .  One in particular ranks highly for me because I enjoy the quality of their lunch and dinner food.  Seriously and really.  The honour goes to Korean Air and to my delight the airline managed to produce a very yummylicious bibimbap.  (I still kick myself for once booking a flight that was on the cusp of lunch service so instead of getting my bibimbap, I had an ordinary breakfast.)

 “This is the Captain speaking — for the third time, please STOP smoking in the lavatory!” 

Welcome to Central Asia!  This is the land where rules become guidances and guidances can be ignored.  Thus, if someone wants to smoke on a flight, then that someone will smoke on the flight.  The above was overheard on an international flight flying into Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

“If you want to do X, then please press Y . . .  if you want to speak to an actual human being, then FORGET ABOUT IT” 

Nothing makes my blood vessel pops more than the automated telephone selection menus.  I certainly understand why airline companies use them as a first port-of-service in order to filter out easy FAQs.   But it is shameful when a company uses these automated systems to hide from direct customer interaction.  Whist I give Cathay Pacific high marks for good in-flight customer service, I detest Cathay’s overall general customer service as it is almost impossible to actually speak to real human being unless I am willing to wait hours on-hold.  (Even the gold-card Marco Polo Membership hotline is useless!)  ARRGGGGHHHHHH!

I once had a time-urgent issue and I’d tried the Cathay hotline.  Rubbish.  Then, I’d tried the Marco Polo hotline.  Rubbish.  Then, I’d Google-searched for an alternative contact method and emailed Cathay. Rubbish.  I finally got a callback from Cathay on the back of my email, but by then the time-urgent issue expired (because the long delay killed the issue).  IMHO, Cathay’s response was pointless, disappointing, and completely rubbish.

Going Downhill . . . .

As a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club member since 1998,  my loyalty to Virgin was once unimpeachable because I loved the caliber of their service and Virgin was a brand that I could identify with.  (I LOVED LOVED LOVED their ‘Freedom Menu’ — but sadly, this is no longer on offer anymore.)  Even when I was flying Economy on Virgin, I never really felt that it was Economy Class because of the little things that Virgin did to make the overall experience more pleasant.  For example, Virgin was one of the first airlines to offer on-demand movies and inflight entertainment in Economy Class.  But sadly, the company that I once loved (and often recommended to family and friends) is no more . . .   In my opinion, Virgin Atlantic has gone downhill.

I’ve recently had the wrong special meal delivered to me.  I had purchased extra legroom seats but these were only allocated out at the check-in desk and thus it was not possible to do online check-in.  As a result, there was a big brouhaha at the check-in desk to get the right seats.  I thought that the Premium Economy check-in girl at the Heathrow Airport desk to be inattentive and careless with the checked bags and thus mixed up the baggage and the passenger.  But, the straw that broke my faith with Virgin Atlantic was the way in which they, IMHO, shamefully handled (or, rather mis-handled) a Special Assistance request on a recent flight.

[ TIP:  if you pre-order a special meal, then you will be served before the rest of the cabin.  Thus, if you are on a long/overnight flight, it is usually helpful to eat as early as possible on the flight so that you get the maximum time to sleep.  Furthermore, by getting your meal earlier, you finish earlier and therefore do not have to queue for the rest room at the end of meal service.  The downside of ordering a special meal is that you will not be offered a choice and will be given whatever the airline catering company has prepared that day.  That said, I’ve never had a bad ‘low sodium’ special meal. ]

Ship it instead . . . .

Excessive baggage fees are  bane of all travellers and so this grumble is neither new nor surprising.  When it is not possible to avoid excessive baggage, the traveller needs to either cough up and pay the fees, or, ship it.

Unfortunately, on my recent trip to Mongolia, it was the former.  Aero Mongolia was fastidious (and rightly so as this was clearly stated as a condition on the e-ticket) about weighing every single bag (checked bags as well as carry-ons).  Thus, my fees were almost as expensive as my flight!  In hindsight, I wished that I took the time to ship my sleeping bags and horse riding gears by DHL, etc. in order to avoid the exorbitant baggage fees.   Next time, I will be smarter!

TIP: if shipping to a remote region, it might be worth the extra costs to ship your belongings as a registered parcel so that it could be traced in the event the parcel is mis-delivered. ]

Go With the Flow . . . .

Sometimes, when it can’t be avoided, it’s best to go with the flow.  That was my motto when I realised that the Air Bagan plane I was about to get on  was a Fokker out-of-production-aircraft.   Although I suspected that Air Bagan probably didn’t have the best maintenance record, I was quite queasy about flying on the Fokker because the out-of-production status meant that access to affordable and functioning spare parts were questionable.   In the end, I had to decide whether to continue with the vacation and board the plane, or, ditch-n-hitch.   Ultimately, the decision reached was ‘go with the flow’ . . .   thankfully, the flight was uneventful.


****  to be continued ***


OP-ED: Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class – seriously disappointing experience

Once upon a time, Virgin Atlantic was my ‘darling airline’ and I would bend over backwards to fly with Virgin.  If my office booked me on a non-Virgin flight, then I would cough up the difference and pay from my own pockets so that I could fly with Virgin.

I flew Virgin so often and so much that I had plenty of air miles to burn.  Thus, when I was on an extended business trip to Tokyo, I used my miles to fly my partner over from London round-trip on Upper Class.

But sadly, the Virgin Atlantic that I knew and once loved is, in my opinion, no more.

This Opinion-Editorial is written based on my experience with Virgin Atlantic from June 2013 – Jan 2014.   The views and opinions expressed here are based on my personal experiences which  may or may not be applicable to others.  Whilst every effort is made to be factual and honest, I make no claims that the information is representative or accurate.   As such, readers must make their own decision about the merits of this blog.

I have found my recent experiences with Virgin to be seriously disappointing on many grounds — but rather than focus on the little annoying things, this OP-ED will focus on two major criticism.   First, I thought that their marketing of the limousine service to be very misleading; second, I thought that their failure to deliver (pre-arranged and tripled-confirmed) Special Assistance support at the arrival gate to be shameful and unprofessional.

Misleading Marketing

[  I’m happy to write that this issue has since been ameliorated.   In response to my experience with Virgin’s misleading marketing, I’d filed a complaint against Virgin to the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency and the ASA has ruled in my favour.  As a consequence, Virgin has amended their website and online booking system.  ]

At the time I made my online booking, Virgin heavily marketed their car service as a part of the ‘Upper Class experience’.  At no point on primary Upper Class page did Virgin advised the travelling public that this transfer service was restricted to a certain class of Upper Class tickets.



BTW — this is what their amended website looks like nowlimo2

Thus, at the time I made the booking via their website, I had no idea that this service is restricted to just J, D, C or I booking classes.

In addition to not being upfront about their restriction in their web marketing, Virgin was — in my opinion —  also not upfront about this restriction in the online booking system.

For this particular trip, my dates were fixed.  Thus, I did not need extra flexibility with my tickets.  As such, when I booked the flights online, I obviously chosed the flight that  was the lowest fare in the class I wanted.   I was not aware that the “flexible” fare had perks that the “lowest” fare lacked.   I’d assumed that “flexible” meant that the ticket was flexible to future amendments (i.e. date changes).  Please note from the screenshot below that there was no mention that ‘lowest’ fare entailed restrictions.

booking flights

The actual restriction was buried two-layers deep in fine prints.  ( The first layer was the general summary and the second layer was the complete fare summary — see below screenshot for more details. )  In truth, I did not look for this restriction because I did not know that it was in place given the very prominent marketing of this service.  In other words, it was as surprising to me that the transfer was not included in the ‘Upper Class experience’ as if  I was told that access to the lounge, or, that access to the bar on the plane was restricted to just a subset of booking classes on Upper Class.


Furthermore, please note that during the ticket selection, purchase and confirmation phases, the ticket booking class was not published.   Thus, assuming that I was aware that the transfer service was only available to J, D, C or I booking classes, it would NOT be possible for me to change my booking class because this information was withheld.

In the selection phase, the ticket was simply describe as either “lowest” or “flexible”.

In the purchase phase, the ticket was simply described as “Upper Class”.  There was no mention of ticket class type.

In the web confirmation phase (see below) the ticket was also simply described as “Upper Class”.  There was no mention of ticket class type.

That said, it was only at this phase that I saw the first upfront (i.e.,  not hidden in fine prints) notice that the service transfer was not included.  And bizarrely, it was only in the e-tickets that the exact ticket type class is made known to me for the first time.  BTW –it was a class “Z” ticket …. pretty pointless to know this information once I have purchased the flights.

screenshot from the web confirmation page
Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 9.09.14 AM
from email e-ticket . . .

On the whole, this was a very disappointing experience.  I therefore wrote to Virgin’s Customer Service regarding what I perceived to be misleading advertising (supported by an opaque booking system).   I found their response to be disappointing (general apologies and offer of some air miles — I’d declined the air miles because my objective was not compensation but rather an acknowledgement/ acceptance of the issues I’d raised).  As a consequence of their insipid response, I took my complaint to the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority.

No-Show Special Assistance 

I booked my mother-in-law onto an Upper Class flight and had made arrangements for Special Assistance to provide support (specifically, wheelchair) once she arrived at the gate in Heathrow Airport.

I booked this request by email.  I then confirmed the booking by email — twice.  In addition to this, at the check-in desk, I’d confirmed that Virgin was aware that she would need assistance once she arrived into London and Virgin assured me that they have the request ‘in the system’ and that Special Assistance will be there to help her at the gate.

Despite the pre-booking, email confirmations and the face-to-face confirmation, Special Assistance was over-booked and as such, she did NOT receive wheelchair assistance.   She was advised by the ground crew that she needed to wait until another wheelchair became available and that this was anticipated to be a 30-minute wait.  But, as she was travelling by herself and as she had a private car booked to take her home directly, she feared that the driver would interpret her lateness as a no-show and thus leave.  She did not want to be left abandoned at the airport by herself.  In panic, she decided to not wait for the next available wheelchair.  Thus, she followed (by foot and under her own steam) the Special Assistance team wheeling someone else thru the terminal.   Although my mother-in-law is mobile, she had hip surgery a few years back and therefore could not walk long distances without experiencing pain.

I __specifically__ purchased an Upper Class ticket for her so that I could be assured that she would be “well looked after”.  What happened to her was exactly what I was hoping to avoid.  I was completely wrong to expect that ‘Upper Class’ meant good service.

Given that my mother-in-law was travelling by herself, I do not have first-hand experience about what transpired.  I have to rely solely on her words and her description of what happened.  Based on her testimony, I wrote to Virgin Atlantic to complain.

Virgin’s response to my complaint was disappointing.  This was their response:

Thank you for your e-mail, regarding Mrs xxx’s experience at London Heathrow.

It goes without saying that I am genuinely sorry for the discontent felt, about the wait for assistance, which your mother-in-law had when she arrived at London Heathrow. I know you had done all possible to ensure this was provided, to make her journey seamless for her and I do apologise for the upset which transpired.

I would like to assure you we take your comments and Mrs xxx’s experience very seriously, as it’s not our intention to disappoint you or your mother-in-law.

I completely understand your frustration and upset about what happened, particularly as you had booked your mother in Upper Class and understandably expected a more appropriate service for her.

As required by the EU regulation 1107/2006 concerning the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air, it is the responsibility of the managing body of the individual airport to establish and deliver the assistance required by a passenger in the airport, as long as they have received at least 48 hours’ notice from the airline. If notification has not been given the managing body of the airport will make all reasonable efforts to provide the assistance.

I can confirm that notification of the assistance your mother-in-law required was sent to London Heathrow airport and I am sending your e-mail directly to the airport management, and asking them to respond to you. Whilst they use external companies to provide the service they prefer any complaints to be sent directly to them. I have also logged your complaint in our database in order to monitor the on-going performance of the services delivered at the airport.

I do realise how this entire situation reflects very poorly upon us, however I am afraid we have no control over the service contract provided by the airport authority. They do indeed have service level agreements, which are set for them by the airport authority and the delay, which resulted in Mrs xxxx  managing independently, is indeed unacceptable.

 I want to assure you that we do have regular meetings with the airport management and work closely with them to improve the services provided to our customers, as we know how we are being perceived as a result of poor service.

 I do apologise unreservedly for the anxiety this has caused and as a gesture I would like to send your mother-in-law a bouquet of flowers. I would be grateful if you could advise the best address to send this to and I will organise these straight away.

 I understand that you also had various other concerns and these have been passed to the appropriate department for them to be addressed directly.

 Once again, I am so sorry you feel so let down by us. We truly are committed to providing the best care we can to any customer who needs that extra consideration throughout their journey. If Mrs xxx  travels with us again, please do let me know and I will gladly oversee the arrangements and help facilitate a much better service for her throughout the airport.

Yours sincerely

(I’d declined the offer of flowers.  The purpose of my letter was to affect change and not to receive token apologies.)

In short, this issue was punted over to airport management.  First, airport management claimed that my mother-in-law arrived at Immigrations via buggy.  This was NOT the case.   The Special Assistance team at the gate was over-booked.  So the Special Assistance person scanned my mother-in-law’s boarding pass so that she was registered in the system.  But, she was neither transported via wheelchair nor via buggy.  She confirmed that she walked the entire distance from gate to the car by her own steam.

To settle this matter, I’d requested that airport management review the CCTV footage.  Unfortunately, airport management has advised that this is protected information under the Data Protection Act.   Thus, this issue remained unresolved — airport management system has her in the system as transported by buggie and I have her testimony that she had no assistance at the airport.

The above aside, I am bitterly disappointed with Virgin for not ensuring that my mother-in-law’s wheelchair was not allocated out to someone who didn’t reserve one in advance.    What was the point of reserving (and confirming) the Special Assistance request if the Virgin ground crew allocates-out the wheelchair on a first-come, first-served basis?

Overall, a disappointing and shockingly bad experience . . . . .




PondScum Award: TripAdvisor

@ZombifiedPixie awards her first 2015 PondScum Award to TripAdvisor on the grounds that – in her opinion –  it is kowtowing to corporate interests by labelling an honest-but-critical-review-which-is-based-on-first-hand-experience as “defamatory” and threatening (bullying!!!) to report this “to the authorities”.

GO AHEAD TripAdvisor!   This will only yield bad publicity and it will showcase the inherent bias against honest feedback.



Best & Worst . . . Club Sandwiches


Whenever and wherever possible, I always try to sample the local food and will seek out street food as this is consistently the best tasting food available.   But sometime, I arrive at an unsociable hour and/or I just crave the simplicity of room service.   The @ZombifiedPixie’s Club Sandwich Index is something that has grown organically and unintentionally.   This index is something that I have often joked about compiling … until today.

In my opinion, the best HOTEL club sandwich is from The Kempinski Khan Palace in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

I had these before (as well as after) visiting rural, rustic western Mongolia.  Thus, it cannot be said that the club sandwiches had an unfair advantage of being a delicious alternative after a week of eating nothing but muttons and potatoes.

The worst hotel club sandwich is from The W Hotel, Union Square, NYC.   I was jet lagged, tired, and hungry and would almost eat anything — except for the fries that accompanied the room service club sandwich.  The sandwich itself was fine, but, the fries were embarrassingly bad.   They were cold, wimpy and limpy, and covered with oily parmesan cheese.   These were obviously fried hours ago and left under a hot lamp to wilt.  If I wasn’t too tired, I would have called hotel management to complain (but I gave feedback in my post trip email survey).

Other hotel club sandwiches considered:


  • The Meridan, New Delhi, India
  • The Westin, Bangkok, Thailand
  • Swissotel, Istanbul, Turkey
  • Swissotel, Gocek, Turkey
  • Amanjiwo, Borobudur, Indonesia


  • The Sheraton Park Lane, Green Park, London
  • The Intercontinental, New Delhi, India
  • The Intercontinental, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
  • Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra, Cambodia
  • The Sheraton, Saigon, Vietnam
  • Queen’s Hotel, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Best & Worst . . . Spa Experience


The Oberoi spa experience was so fantastic that I actually came back again the next night for a repeat treatment!

The Claremont spa experience was just terrible — plus, it was impossible to relax because the masseuse kept insisting that that I relax.  All she  really need to do is SHUT UP!

Despite one bad experience at The Four Seasons Hong Kong, the spa team is generally extraordinary.  The Landmark also rates highly — but if I have a pet peeve, it is that it is necessary to reserve in advance some of the ‘free’ spa rooms which makes it inconvenient if I want to be spontaneous.   I LOVE LOVE LOVE the herbal ball spa treatment at Pimalai Resort and this resort is in strong 2nd place for the best spa experience ever.

Dishonourable Mentions include:

  • Le Meridien, New Delhi, India — dull, boring, uneventful, ineffective.   No repeat.
  • InterContinental, Phnom Penh, Cambodia — my spa experience was fine, but, hubby’s masseuse was too busy answering her many mobile phone calls and just wasn’t interested in doing her job!!!!


Best & Worst . . . Kedgeree


The best kedgeree tasted (thus far) is from The Wolseley in London.  This is my go-to place for brunch in London and I’ve tried this dish more than I can remember.  H O W E V E R, there is a problem with taste consistency at The Wolseley.    Depending on who is the chef in the kitchen that day, the dish varied from deliciously unctuous to good-but-not-that-memorable.

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