Monthly Archives: February 2012

Photo Singapore

Strict Rule in Singapore

Singapore is famous for its very strict rules to keep this country clean.

But… This is just outrageous. 


No durian in subway station!

Indonesia Photo

Mr. Bean Bag

So, apparently, Rowan Atkinson has own business in Bali.

He needs to find better marketers… 🙂


Indonesia Photo




Food Thought

Scenes from an Indonesian Restaurant


It is always nice to find favorite restaurant during trip. When I do, I visit them often, sometimes daily basis. We are more likely to have good experience with different menu in the proven restaurant than trying different restaurants.

So here we are, paying our fifth visit to this restaurant, we found ourselves discussing why their service is so bad.

Yes, our favorite restaurant in Bali has really bad service. Waitresses are very unfriendly and unwelcoming. Food is often late. One time, waitress dropped used spoon with oil onto my wife’s pants, leaving stain. She laughed and said oops, but no apology.

Everything else is perfect. Perfect location, being on Monkey Forest Rd (yes, it’s a real street). Food is amazing with great price. We keep coming back here because of cheap price and high quality of food (good service is luxury for us).

While we were waiting for our food (it took them 50 minutes to prepare our food this time, and there were only two other groups in the restaurant.), we started talking about why they had to have such a bad service. We came up with a couple of theories.


1. Law of Pick Two

You might have seen this triangle chart. In college life, you can only have two of these three qualities (Sleep, Grade and Social Life). If you want good grade with social life, you can not have enough sleep, etc.

Similarly, we discussed, we may only expect two out of three qualities from restaurants: Reasonable Price, Tasty Food, Good Service.

So in this case, if we chose Reasonable Price and Tasty Food, we must say good bye to Good Service. We had also experienced Good Service restaurant with Reasonable Price but crappy food. There are of course high end place with Tasty Food with Good Service, but they are very expensive. So the theory works?

Maybe not. Good Service is cheaper than other two. A major part of Good Service can be achieved by having the right state of mind. What troubling us most was how waitresses are unfriendly. Smiling while talking with customer takes no big effort, yet they can’t do it somehow.


2. They are highly intelligent AI robots

You see we were ready to explore every possible way…

Well, they look emotionless. They never smile to customers. Greetings are very automatic. You know Indonesia is one of the fastest growing countries in the world today. Maybe their technology is so advanced without us knowing, and they have already built human-looking super-intelligent android, while my country is stuck with this.

As much as I like to believe this theory, if this is true, then it means the end of Japanese robotics. So, no.


3. They were trained to be unwelcoming

They are meant to behave this way. Maybe they are trained to be like this!

First we thought it is very unlikely. I mean, who will train its employees how to be unfriendly, unwelcoming, and unhelpful? But when we examined this further, we realized that this might be it.


3.1 They think it’s character

In Japan, there used to be some restaurants, typically run by an old man (we call them Ganko Oyaji), serving really good food with questionable service. If customers were busy talking without touching food, Ganko Oyaji will yell at them, “Stop talking, and finish your food!”. When customers order a food, another Ganko Oyaji may refuse to take order, and force them to eat what he think customers should eat (“Are you stupid ordering this? You should eat this instead.”).

And you know how some (not all, obviously) Japanese react to this? They adore them for its character.

But, this isn’t the case here.

Those Ganko Oyaji had reasons for their raging. They wanted their customers to eat their food in the best condition (Foods are best eaten right after served, and many foods have good season to eat).

These waitresses are unfriendly for no reason…


3.2 Battle of who could take tips

Good service leads to better tips, and maybe that was the problem.

Maybe there were times when waitresses fought over who should take tips from what table. Maybe one day some drunken guy left huge tip, creating huge quarrel. I could see some name-calling and slapping. Maybe the manager thought the root of all evil was tipping itself, and decided to train them to be mean waitresses to avoid further quarrels.


3.3 Controlled entry

Tokyo Disneyland celebrate New Year countdown nicely, but they have to limit the number of visitors to ease congestion. Similarly this restaurant, being as awesome as Disneyland, maybe be trying to control the incoming flow of visitors. Having limited tables might not help, because their food and price is good, people will wait inside of restaurant.

I once went to this really popular restaurant. After waiting for over an hour, we got a table right next to the waiting crowd. That wasn’t pleasant. People were chatting right next to me and peeking at our foods. Maybe this is exactly this restaurant is trying to accomplish here. They want to keep all tables full, but they don’t want too many people waiting for their tables. After years of experiences, they found perfect balance in providing great food and price with terrible service…


4. Occam’s razor

Do you know Occam’s razor? It’s a principle that says the simplest explanation is the most plausible one.

After maybe 50-minute discussion on dinner table, generating many theories mentioned above, we concluded that the simplest explanation must be the answer here too.

So, what could be the simplest explanation here?

This is just a lousy restaurant. They are just lucky to have a great cook, and they are so lazy to update their price, maintaining the same price for years.


Feel like a winner, but I’m sure I will be pondering on this for a while…


Emptying the Vessel

When you cast away things, you’re also casting away the self-related others that are symbolically related to those things. You start a cleaning-out process. You begin to empty the vessel.

– Glen, from Stephen King’s novel, “The Stand”

I thought it would be a little inconvenient not having many things with me on the road. I now have less than a half of stuff I used to bring for one-week vacation. I only have few clothes. Hand-washing them is my daily activity. On cold night a couple weeks ago in Australia, I had to wear four shirts and two pants to sleep through the night in my rent-a-car.

Inconvenience isn’t all bad.

Picking what to wear for the day is no brainer. For entertainment, I only have kindle, iPod, and my laptop (which is mostly offline). I now read a lot more, and I read slower. Music used to be something in background, but now I enjoy listening them. Offline computer is only good for viewing pictures and writing blogs like this, but I enjoy writing whenever I have power outlet.

There aren’t much to do, but I do few things more, maybe in better “quality.”

Not only my small entertainment became more rewarding, I actually started feeling better in more general way.

While I was enjoying my life with few things, I was reading Stephen King’s novel, The Stand. Glen, one of the protagonists, is a professor in sociology, and explaining to his friends why God in the Bible sent his devoted followers, like Moses, to wilderness to suffer. In his opinion, it was to purify their minds so that they can “charge.”

Your brain runs on chemically converted electrical current. For that matter, your muscles run on tiny charges, too. … Everything you think, everything you do, it all has to run off the battery. Like the accessories in a car.

Watching TV, reading books, talking with friends, eating a big dinner … all of it runs off the battery. A normal life—at least in what used to be Western civilization—was like running a car with power windows, power brakes, power seats, all the goodies. But the more goodies you have, the less the battery can charge.

I still read my books, but by giving up many other “goodies,” I must also be recharging.

When you empty out the vessel, you also empty out all the crap floating around in there,” Glen said. “The additives. The impurities. Sure it feels good. It’s a whole-body, whole-mind enema.”

That was such an a-ha moment. No wonder why I am feeling good. It’s whole-mind enema!



A Perfect Lifestyle

I was daydreaming at my dinner table in Balinese restaurant.

Food here is good price and healthy enough. I can hear sound of wind and rain. Waitress gently smiles at us every time our eyes met.

I once heard creating lifestyle was human’s biggest art piece. You can go mainstream, work from 9 to 5, or you could create your own.

I daydreamed about living in Bali. I wake up to the crying sound of rooster. I have breakfast full of fruits with Balinese coffee. I work in the morning, then have slow lunch. After lunch, of course I will have my usual siesta. Late afternoon, I walk around town, maybe some grocery shopping. I have slow basic dinner, then I am off to reading and some more work.

If we can pick any belief we want, then we might as well pick pleasant one. I believe we should be able to create own lifestyle as we like.

Traveling itself is my passion, but I have several side-projects going on. One of them is to find lifestyle that suits us.

Search continues…