Saturday, 31 October 2009

Shopping at Supercheap

Screenshot of the Supercheap website

I attempted to use Supercheap's delivery service and end up going to Supercheap more times a week than I would like. Below is pasted an email I sent them after my experience:

Dear Sirs, good day,

I'm writing this email to inform you that the delivery service that you have is not working - at all.

I have been shoppping in Supercheap for more than a year now re: all my provisions and housekeeping materials are bought from your good store. Recently I heard that you also have a delivery service so I decided to try and use it and I duly applied for a membership card. In order to save my time I decided to order via the delivery service and faxed an order to you (Both in Thai and English).

A few hours later a person calls me and says my membership card is only for wet stuff so I come down to your good shop for applying another card and I re-send my fax order.

An hour later a person calls me and says again there is a problem. I ask how many cards do I need to process my order? Reply comes that order will be processed.

Next day I receive half of the stores ordered, only food items. I also get delivered chicken feet instead of legs (drumsticks).

I drive down to Supercheap again and ask if I can change the chicken feet and why not the whole order was delivered? I get reply that balance will be delivered today although I say I could go and pick up all items myself as I'm already at your shop. Reply is, "no need, we will send it to you".

An hour later I'm called and told that delivery today is not possible. I ask that why did you promise delivery when it is not happening? Now I need to get into my car again and drive down to Supercheap to pick up the remaining items.

Another hour later I get another call from you and a person is telling me that items are being delivered. Rightly so I get another delivery but the whole order is not there, so I have to rush down Supercheap again to buy my remaining items (worth 7000THB).

In conclusion instead of one weekly trip to buy my housekeeping and provisions (this week worth 14000THB) I had to come down to Supercheap 3 times as I was hoping to get my order delivered with no visits at all.

Do you call this Customer service?

Oh well, I received no reply and suspect I will never receive any. I can only conclude that I can only order basic stuff but nothing elaborate - they will never deliver it even if I have written it down in Thai for the people to easily understand. I just wonder how the hotels and resorts deal with this, I suppose they just send stooges to do the shopping.

For me it is a bit different as I can't trust a service that don't deliver stuff when and what I want when I am working on a deadline or with pax onboard.

It might be Supercheap but definitely delivery service is not Supergood...

Their website
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Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Later on in the evening we get down to Phuket town to see the finale of the Phuket vegetarian festival. The possessed Mah Song are going to flog themselves with boiling oil. We arrive early to see a cauldron of oil being fed by a coal fire being stirred by assistants.

Time went by slowly but the spectators were lined up in rows, both local and foreign. Finally the first possessed came by wagging his head and went to pay his respects at the altar. One by one more followed and they all gathered around the cauldron. They were speaking all the time but I was too far away to see or hear what they were saying and I presume they were mostly speaking Chinese anyways. Soon enough all mediums were given yellow rags and they started dipping them into the cauldron and the lashing themselves over their bare backs with it. I could not see anybody getting burns on their skins. After awhile these rags was shredded and thrown to the audience, needless to say there was a scuffle where the rag landed. Later on the assistants bottled the boiled oil and sold it against a donation for the temple. At this stage we left the scene and went for a vegetarian late dinner.

Next day went busy working but on Monday 26th is the grande finale at Sapan Hin in Phuket Town for the veg fest so me and Saini decide to go. When we arrive and find some parking after long searching we are emerging to a warzone. There is a continuous thump coming down form a car stereo show, rockets and bangers being fired all the time. The air is thick from cordite smell and smoke. We walk around the car stereo show and gape at the sound systems installed in the cars, just incredible show pieces. After that we wander down to the beach and see the Chinese temple and people lined up sitting and waiting. We also see construction of several bonfires. Rockets and other incendiaries are fired off continuously. We walk around and finally decide to sit down near one of the unlit bonfires.

Just one of the rockets...

We sit and chat and wonder about all the action, Saini confirms it is more fireworks than during Diwali in India and soon enough the people gets more and more. The whole field in forn tof the Chinese temple gets filled up and one can hear fireworks going off like machine guns and the smoke is gettig more dense, soon enough one can't see the sky. The noise is deafening. Pall bearers emerge from the smoke carrying effigies of Chinese Gods on chairs, carrying them to the waters edge. They are all like demons from the underworld coming from a barrage of crackers beings thrown at their feet. Everybody is covered in rags from head to toe.

Chinese Temple at Sapan Hin

Eventually I can see there is a lull in the activity and some kind of ceremony is underway in the middle of the field, I can't see it, just a huge parasol is held up at the centre of activities. Finally it starts moving and the parasol heads for the sea. People gather around the pyre with burning torches, guards go around and wards off anybody trying to light the pyre too early. Finally the parasol reaches the waterfront and the pyre is set on fire. It quickly gathers momentum and the heat is incredible, me and people around me retreats back. This seems to be the highlight of the proceedings so after this me and Saini head back for the car and the ship.

Sending off a lantern for good luck

The traffic is same as during rush hour despite it is midnight and we try to find a circuitous route out of Phuket Town and finally manage to do it. Doing tis we discover that all roads coming from Chinese Temples are covered in red paper debris coming from the fireworks being thrown at the people walking to Sapan Hin. No wonder they all were covered in rags from top to toe and looked like Bat's out of Hell when they arrived...

More of The Nine Emperor Gods Festival
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Saturday, 24 October 2009

Toby's 40th birthday bash

On the 23rd was Toby Koehler's 40th birthday. Toby is our agent here in Phuket and he invited us among all other yachties to participate in the party that was going to take place on Nai Yang beach at the Beach Club.

The birthday boy himself

We left Kalizma by 7pm and arrived just in time for the kickoff. Crew and me gifted Toby with a bottle of very old single malt and a coloring book (the cover said for all ages)...

After sitting down it was beer time and I was looking around, slowly also people I knew started to turn up, Gordon Fernandes, Toby's boss arrived. I also saw Nick Wyatt and Zara Tremlett from the Yacht Have marina. Further on I saw Peter from Queen of Andaman and Ted from Yanneke Too.

Nong Kae from "the living room" at Yacht Haven

A band started playing blues and old rock, terrific vocalist. Can't recall their name but they usually play at the Irish Pub in Patong Beach.

I met Michael Bosch too that last year was on a dinner party onboard, he still recalled vividly the Whyte and Mackay we consumed that time. I also assume the other guests, including Toby, remembers our fun night.

Nick "the Greek" and Jeab doing the "dirty dancing" :)

Later on I also bumped into Nick "the Greek", a Cypriot that used to work for Gordon but is now doing something else for rich people, lovely guy and I got to use my Greek language skills too.

Toby giving the beat

At one point Toby demonstrated his drumming skills and performed with a bongo drum and ankle maracas. Really good beat.

After this the party started going with dancing and stuff. A bit later we had to go home as Richard had had enough.

Richard in great form

All in all, great bash Toby & welcome to the Old farts club! :D :D :D
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Sunday, 18 October 2009

Diwali celebration

As per Saini's explanation Diwali is in celebration of homecoming of Ram after his exile. Those who want to know more may click this link

Anyway, I decided we'll celebrate the Diwali at Chao Mai beach doing some BBQ and relaxing in Trang province. We set off with me, Jira, Saini and Kalpu with Vivek and Rajaram to join us later.

17th we are busy chasing BBQ items for the Diwali celebration, we already got rockets in advance. Jira's brother N. Thuen ascertains we can fire rockets and do BBQ at Chao Wai Beach so we decide that there is where our celebration will take place. Rest of afternoon is spent guiding Vivek to Trang and he finally arrives shortly after dusk.
The beach itself is huge and very shallow. I waded out several hundred meters and was only ankle deep in the sea. It was low tide at the time so it was not surprising.

After dark we built up a fire from the drift wood on the beach so one could see what one was eating. The menu was squid, shrimp, fish and chicken with spicy Thai dipping sauce and beer of course. This time we had no Kingfisher as we had depleted our stock in the Lumut drydock.

Saini was busy guiding Vivek as he tended to get lost on the Thai highway, eventually he found the way and arrived after dark with Rajaram. They also brought the ghetto blaster so after that it was Indie pop time.

Everybody was enjoying until Saini fired off a volley of rockets. It did not take many minutes for the park wardens to come around and tell us to put out the fire and stop shooting rockets off. Oh well, we put on the car lights and slowly winded down the BBQ and headed for home.
Sunset at Chao Mai Beach On our way back to Khuan Kun we get permission from Jira's father to shoot off all rockets in front of his house the spirit returns to Saini, Raja Ram and Vivek. We arrive there shortly and park & start to offload rockets. Saini & Co start to shoot off a most incredible amount of incendiaries. At times it seems Vivek got an infinite supply in his car trunk but it also showed signs of coming to an end when he whipped out the "badawala" rocket battery. Finally after abt 30min of incessant firing of rockets and the neighborhood awakened we had finished all our stuff. I said I'm going to sleep but Raja Ram said he had not had enough to eat so he needed something to eat, same as Saini and Vivek. I sent N. Thuen to get the guys fed and headed myself for some shuteye...
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Friday, 16 October 2009

Footnote on the Lumut drydocking

After having voiced my and my offices dissatisfaction of what went down in Lumut I was approached by the Manager, Mr. Nick Coombes, of APS Langkawi to meet on the 16th to sort out some issues at hand.

Fortunately Cmde S.K.Mongia was also visiting Phuket at this time so I could coordinate to have a mutual meeting and saving a lot of emailing afterwards.

We met on the 16th at 10am onboard and went through the events of the DD and came to our grievances that eventualy boiled down to a discount of the final DD invoice.

To cut the story short I have the deepest respect for Nick by assuming responsibility of his bad business decision and granted us a considerable discount on his Company's expense.

The only party coming out of this mess "unscathed" is the main culprit "Grade One Marine Shipyard", they must've been laughing all the way to the bank.

Oh well, I'm sure they will now be missing many Yacht repair contracts as I'm sure APS Langkawi won't be promoting them as the place to haul out in SE Asia.

In case anyone asks me for a reference I'll give one too - a negative one. I have no positive thoughts whatsoever for this "run-by-night" establishment. In fact I have reported their disgusting antics to the Malaysian yacht and Shipyard associations.

Rainbow just off Yacht Haven
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Friday, 2 October 2009

Drydocking Lumut

Years ago on m/v Columbus Caravelle where we once spent an annual docking in Guangzhou for 2 humid weeks I thought that was bad. Then in 2003 when I was working on Project m/y Turama I thought I’d seen it all. Last year in Langkawi Wavemaster I thought I had hit rock bottom but I was once again proven wrong this year in Lumut by Grade One Marine Shipyard that set records in shafting the Client.

Lifted up after more than 24hrs of wrangling

As you may have glimpsed in my previous blogs that our drydocking has not gone quite as smoothly as anticipated I am not exaggerating this. It is usual that there are always some squabbles that are then solved by giving a bit and taking a bit after some discussions. Not so with Grade One Marine Shipyard.

Weight dials on the shiplift put us on abt 350mt displacement

Asia Pacific Superyachts of Langkawi had recommended this yard as they had successfully lifted there abt 10 boats. I visited the facility in May and they visited us in Langkawi in order to work out a quote. The facility is new and seemed promising in my eyes. Once I left Langkawi again there was not much movement on the quote despite emails back and forth. It seemed yard only moved for us when John Orr went down to Lumut to chase them.

Furthermore, APS put themselves as a go between as agents and so in effect we were the client of APS and APS the client of the yard. My management expressed their dismay to such an arrangement and warned APS that they are putting themselves in a precarious position in case problems arise. We were told this is the only way yard wants to deal with yachts, via APS Langkawi, so we digressed. APS assured that there will not be any problems and floating will go smoothly. Well, as it happened all went to hell and relationship between vessel and APS Langkawi is discontinued indefinitely.

Yard has following muppets to show: Operations Manager Fuad bin Rasol, slick prick that promises even the moon from the sky in order to get you to his yard. Seems to have poor conception of reality and hence does not know what his labor is doing or perhaps just pretends to be that way. Haji Nasir, senior costing officer, promises that anything can be done in a blink of an eye, next day goes back on his word. Costing stooge Mahat, Nasirs right hand man, hopeless blabber and interrupts anyone who starts to give him facts or question his facts. Project Manager Azlan is as useless as tits on a donkey, unfortunately he was appointed to us. Shiplift supervisor Captain Ahmad, formerly known in Rebak, Langkawi as Mr. 10%, proud person, cannot take advice.

View through our rudder pintles

The only persons that really earned recognition for good work and ability to problem solve was Mr. Saeran and Mr. Teoh, the first is in charge of mechanical issues and did our rudder and props, the latter is underwater hull supervisor from cleaning to painting. Especially Mr. Teoh never vacillated on any job at hand, he just did it.

Project Manager Yin was the only PM that seemed to know what he was doing, he was appointed to do all the other government ships that was being overhauled, when at times PM Azlan lost his only marble the yard sent Yin over for few days and this kept on going during whole yard stay.

As a conclusion of our visit I can say that we have been had totally by APS Langkawi and Grade One Marine Shipyard and I am thoroughly disgusted by their antics. It was not probably the brightest idea to come and do a drydocking in a muslim country during their fasting month but we were assured that it would not affect productivity as they also employ staff from other religions. I initially planned arrival 1st August but it was changed for budgetary reasons. Seeing that the yards clients mostly consists on government vessels from the marine police, coastguard and navy I assume they just do a shoddy job, charge it triple or quadruple and get paid for it, no adjustments are never asked for as it is a government job and bureaucrats just sign whatever is put in front of them.

Finally on the way to be floated

Needless to say we will never ever visit this yard again, one can only take so much of being overcharged, held for ransom and being blackmailed.

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Thursday, 1 October 2009

Around Lumut

Having spent over a month in Lumut I have gotten to know the area a bit. Obviously the biggest attraction here is the Pangkor Island resorts and Pangkor Laut where movie stars visit. I did not visit there as I am not that keen on such places, seen one beach, seen ‘em all…

Lumut itself is more like a thoroughfare for tourists on their way to Pangkor although there are numerous hotels and restaurants in the area. The town itself has only one main road that passes in front of the ferry terminal for Pangkor. The road is lined with souvenir shops and stalls, at end of the road or edge of the town is a big Nasi Kandar where you can get a cheap Indian or Malay fare.

This restaurant was often frequented by my crew. Behind this Nasi Kandar (you need to go behind the stalls) is a side road that leads to a restaurant called Rockefelle, it has a nice and fairly cheap menu that caters for foreigners, on Sundays they do a BBQ. Staff is friendly, mixed Thai and Malay.

Towards the other direction from the Nasi Kandar you can see Jook’s Joint Bistro that also sports a foreign menu and a very active Malay staff that tends to your needs. I recommend the chili con carne with nachos that is not featured on the menu. Pizzas here are also very tasty.

Behind Jook’s joint is an Italian restaurant called Capri, although the food is excellent (at least the pizzas) it is quite expensive, for this reason I ate there only twice.

North of the International Lumut Marina are 3 restaurants that are managed by an Italian Owner, Massimo, and his Singaporean wife Judy. Only the Italian restaurant is open and staff is from Myanmar. The pizza topping was great but the crust was made of wrong kind of wheat flour and not so tasty compared to Jook’s or Capri.

Front of Lumut International Yacht marina

Coming down south next to Massimo’s is the Marina and after them is Lumut Country Resort where I stayed during the visit. The resort is really basic and a bit run down but the ambience is nice and you get warm shower and aircon as well as a breakfast with the daily paper. Rooms went for 105 RM a night. They also have a swimming pool if you fancy that.

Going further south from the resort is Jook’s Joint Bar, the only place in town where expats go for beers and demi-mondaines. Almost opposite Jook’s is The Green Door.

The Green Door is a Chinese restaurant run by Ah Pau (look for sign that says “Restoran Kepala Kari Ikan”) where you get a delicious fare. Pork is also on the menu, pricing is a bit over the top in my opinion. These are my recollections of any note worthy restaurants in Lumut, I tried a few others too but the food was bad.

Now going out of Lumut towards Sitiawan you will arrive to a crossing with a KFC on your left side (this is the ecenter of Sitiawan), turn right and continue for abt 1km, keep your eyes focused on left side for a restaurant called Bei King (I suppose it means Peking), the food is excellent and reasonably priced.

Near the Grade One yard, at the first light crossing towards Lumut, is a restaurant called Hai Lam Village, we got most of our lunches there, very affordable and good food. Eat inside as outside is a lot of flies coming from neighboring chicken farms.

Furthermore for shopping drive towards Sitiawan or Ipoh and you will many supermarkets where everything is available. For technical stuff you can’t find near Lumut - go to Ipoh (60minutes drive). Same applies for sightseeing more of Perak.

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