Jun 30 2016

Exited EU messed up their hotel operations too?

I input July 14-17, 3 nights, 3/room at St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London, and got this quote (@ 5:38 pm)

Junior Suite, Club lounge access, Suite, 1 King, Chambers Wing
The rate for this room changes on 07/15/16 to 370 (GBP) per night 499

An agent is dangling on the screen for a live chat, so I connected to make sure all taxes are included, and the last two nights cost £370.  The agent wrote: yes, the price will include taxes. However, an extra £50 for the child and

Thusday night will be 499, Friday will be 370, and Saturday night will be 389, for a total of 1,258 GBP.

I’m not please: the rate is for 3 a room – it didn’t ask the age of the third person, why now charge £50 for the child? Also, the site indicates July 15 and 16 is £370 – Ok, I’ll give them if it means only the night of 15 to 16, not July 15 and 16.  The agent told me to click blue Select to see the rate detail, did I know, no room for this rate is actual unavailable (at 5:44 pm).  I went back to refresh the price quote and I’m still getting the same rate (@ 5:48 pm). Unbelievable. WTH … exit EU messed up their hotel operation too?

为了准确, 俺和他们酒店网聊 才知道他们好烂: 税是包括 但是第三人需要加 £50/夜 (我明明点的三个人喔!!!!!) 第三夜是 £389. 更可恶的是: 这个价钱根本就没有房 – 这不是涮人吗? 浪费俺的时间 脱欧脱的酒店都糊涂了??

Matt P (6/30/2016, 5:32:46 PM): You have been connected to Matt P. How may I help you?
Me (6/30/2016, 5:33:20 PM): i need room for 3 – parents and 16 years old child, July 14-17
Me (6/30/2016, 5:34:06 PM): Junior Suite, Club lounge access, Suite, 1 King, Chambers Wing
The rate for this room changes on 07/15/16 to 370 (GBP) per night 499 – is all taxes included?
Matt P (6/30/2016, 5:34:17 PM): I’d be more than happy to assist you with this. To confirm, you’re looking to stay at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London, correct?
Me (6/30/2016, 5:34:28 PM): yes
Matt P (6/30/2016, 5:35:55 PM): Thank you. This rate will include all taxes, though there is a 50 GBP extra person charge. One moment please while I see if your child is exempt.
Me (6/30/2016, 5:36:04 PM): Thur is 499, and Fri and Sat is 370, is this correct?
Matt P (6/30/2016, 5:37:13 PM): Thusday night will be 499, Friday will be 370, and Saturday night will be 389, for a total of 1,258 GBP.
Matt P (6/30/2016, 5:38:09 PM): According to the hotel, the extra adult charge will apply, bringing your total to 1,408 GBP.
Me (6/30/2016, 5:38:40 PM): … but I did input 3/room, and getting the rate … why it is different?
Matt P (6/30/2016, 5:40:15 PM): This hotel does charge an additional fee for every guest over 12 after the first two adults. This charge is 50 GBP per night, for a total of 150 GBP.
Me (6/30/2016, 5:41:00 PM): what about the 370 per night on July 15 and 16? It’s on your site
Matt P (6/30/2016, 5:43:04 PM): I am showing that the rate does change on the night of the 16th to 389 GBP. For a full breakdown of the rates, charges, and fees, click the blue “Select” button next to the rate you’d like to book.
Me (6/30/2016, 5:44:48 PM): no room available
Me (6/30/2016, 5:45:43 PM): wondering how and why am I even got a room with prices??
Matt P (6/30/2016, 5:46:49 PM): It does appear that this room has sold out for these dates.
Me (6/30/2016, 5:47:28 PM): No, I just refreshed the page and is still showing as available
Matt P (6/30/2016, 5:48:36 PM): If this room is still showing as available on your end, I would recommend booking it quickly as it is most likely the last one available.
Me (6/30/2016, 5:49:26 PM): Ok: the situation is, is shows available but when I click Select, your site shows NOT available. What’s going on????
Matt P (6/30/2016, 5:50:48 PM): I would recommend clicking the grey “Find” button as opposed to refreshing the page to force the site to re-check it’s inventory.

Jan 5 2011

The red mailboxes

I’m obsessed with mailboxes ..

my little red mailbox, circa 1961 Beijing

July 4, 2010, London

Oct 15 2010

By train in Europe

EuroStar London-Paris July 5th: US$74 (one way)
Paris-Strasbourg-Heidelberg-Frankfurt: July 11-13: US$48 (€39)
– TGV Paris-Strasbourg
– TGV Strasbourg-Heidelberg
– Commuter train Heidelberg-Ffm
ICE Frankfurt-Cologne July 23rd: US$60 (round trip)

I like to travel by train. Nostalgia aside, its convenient and relaxing. Getting to the airport and having to endure the screening, it has becoming a trip of its own – a weary one.

Even during the high of summer, the trains, in Germany anyway are not fully booked. Even if it is, one could still sit in the dining car. We took the early AM train to Köln, wasn’t full but we had breakfast there anyway. The ride was little over an hour, so by the time we finsihed our last bite, the tip of the Cathedral (Dom) came into our view.


the slow commuter train fm Heidelberg to Frankfurt

trains in Germany are still mostly empty ..

Aug 29 2010

Europe 1982

With my less than ideal travel document DI, I was able to secure an visa to United Kingdom. It’s issued on July 8, 1982 (use by Oct 8, 1982). Upon arrival on Sept 23, the immigration officer at Gatwick granted me two months stay. I left London on Nov 20 to Milan; then took train to Venice, Florence and down to Rome for a week: Nov 20-27. The Italian visa was obtained in London, issued on 16 Nov 1982 (use by Nov 30, 1982). Then I went to Athens for two days (Nov 27 and 28) and took the Thai airline home. The plane stopped by Bankok, dropped off and picked up few passengers. When we finally landed in Hong Kong, it was nearing mid night. The airport was deserrted but there were plenty police. As if they were expecting a drug bust.
Most people were in shorts and t-shirts, except me, in a winter coat because I wasn’t feeling well.
So, the custom officers picked on me.
They searched my small carry on luggage thoroughly – I always travel light. One agent played nice cop and other bad. They looked at the heels of my shoes, poked my napkins .. then decided to send me to a room.
I was kind of sleepy and clueless.
I waited in the cold room for a while, a female agent came in and asked me to jump over a small chair (?).
That was some memorable conclusion of a trip.

Aug 14 2010


The 2010 Europe trip

Aug 10 2010

The Blarney Stone

While travelling through the airport, please be courteous when dealing with our staff.

Our staff are trying to help you with your journey.

Any threats, verbal abuse or violence towards our staff will be taken seriously and you may be prosecuted.

I found this troubling note posted at the service counter of Aer Lingus in Dublin. My first thought was .. lord, some civilization out here. Then somewhat understood or sympathetic with passengers who might lose their cool in the heat of an argument or long travel because we just experienced one at that moment.
One night in the spring we were driving home, kids asked me where we were going this summer.
They laughed and joked about the Blarney Stone, among few things.
I smiled to myself, the memory of watching it with them still vivid.
At that time, I was looking for air fares and when I saw Aer Lingus, I grabbed it.
Just to amuse the kids.
Good lesson learnt for not doing any research on an airline that I’ve never dealt with.

Fast forward to this past July. We had an early morning connecting flight in Heathrow: arriving from Frankfurt at 8:10 on BA and departing at 9:50 by Aer Lingus. Aer Lingus doesn’t have a check in machine at FFM airport so we had to do in at LHR (I thought it would .. lesson #1: never assume ..). Luckily BA arrived well before 8am and we sat at row 4 so we got off quickly with our carry ons feeling relaxed. Then from Terminal 5 to T1 by bus took nearly 30 minutes. No speedy rails. I travel light, only had carry on so we were ok. Aer Lingus doesn’t provide auto check in machines inside – we didn’t have to go through immigration. The counter had only one agent and the queue as longer than I felt comfortable with. After 3 minutes of waiting, I started walk toward the counter then I heard the agent announced that his machine wasn’t working, broken.
“Please go straight to Gate 77-84, the agent there will check you in.”

Another long walk to the gate, in about 15 minutes we found this agent at the counter. The info board about the flight departures was hanging high to the right. It was few minutes before 9am and the Status of our flight indicated:
Go to Gate
10 minutes passed. The agent was leisurely doing what she was suppose to do and the line did not move an inch.
I turned around asking the girl behind us where they were going.
Good, we were on the same boat.
As it turned out, her family, Dad and Mom just arrived from Boston.
Our flight status changed to
I tried to talk to the agent to check us in first but all the passengers before us were trying to get on this flight as well, although they might have different issues.
I was wondering: where was the first agent whose machine wasn’t working, shouldn’t he be here to help out? This agent was in no hurry, took her sweet time talking on the phone, etc.
The Boston Mom had left for the gate
“I’ll tell them to wait for us ..”
Actually it was another brisk 20 minutes on foot distance and she doubled back.
We both talked to the agent asking please just let us go ..
She wouldn’t hear us, continued her phone conversation and said,
“I’ll hand them to you ..”
Our flight status changed to
Gate closed
She looked at the Boston Mom and I said,
“You have to re-book. Go out to the service counter .. ” and mentioned that we might have to pay.
Then went back to her phone conversation and said,
“I’m going to take a break ..”
The queue hadn’t moved and there were at least 15 passengers waiting for some sort of assistance.
Our blood was curdling was an understatement.
I wasn’t sure if we both pressed hard at this slow agent she would react the same way as JetBlue attendant Steven Slater.

We reluctantly went outside (from the connecting flight area, a.k.a. gone through the immigration). The BM tried to talk to a supervisor to avoid this unnecessary step but to no avail. As soon as we arrived at the out side service counter, I saw the sign (top right). There were few empty self check in machines.
Two young girls were manning the counter and they immediately said all the flight were booked full and called some one. A middle aged lady came, business-like who didn’t mention additional payment at all. Few moments past as she was busily typing into the computer. The Boston family would take 2pm flight out to Shannon and the Engs would take 11am to Dublin and 5pm flight back to JFK.

It was the female agent’s attitude that was truly irritating, terrible to say the least. How could she even entertain the idea of taking a break while the passengers were waiting [at least kept that to herself]. Where were others to help out at the moment of break down?
Lesson learnt.
End of my Blarney Stone story.
[I’m sure this was the highlight of our trip for kids .. JK!!]

Jul 4 2010

Kew Gardens

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, (usually referred to simply as Kew Gardens). More pics here

Natural wonderland … The Butterfly Lovers .. 梁山伯与祝英台?

Waterlily House

Waterlily House

Heliconia rostrata

firecracker flower

Firecracker flower is an ornamental plant, which may be refer to the Crossandra infundibuliformis of Indian Subcontinent

Zingiber spectabile .. Malaysia

Zingiber spectabile .. Malaysia

Acalypha hispida

Hibiscus storckii

Hibiscus storckii .. Hibiscus grew well in my backyard too ..

Below, at Planting Fields


Jul 4 2010

Tianjin Girls in uniform

Training at a Tianjin Girls’ High School
Tianjin gaodeng nu xuetang da yancao 天津高等女学堂大演操

This image is an early example of a print with revolutionary themes. Five girls are being drilled with their rifles by a female instructor.
Another version in the collection shows an armed cavalry unit. In both prints, the girls wear brightly coloured outfits, flowered hats and leather boots on their small but unbound feet.
Education for girls began late in China. In the early 20th century some prints in folk-art style urged social reforms, including better education as well as social, political and military participation for girls. Several prints on this subject have been traced back to their original workshops. This example is from the Xifuxing print shop at Yangliuqing.
Yangliuqing near Tianjin, Hebei, 1920-30
Woodblock print in ink and colour on paper
Asia 1982, 1217.0.296

The British Museum


Jul 4 2010

Xiao Yin 小尹 then and now..

For the good humor I wore the same top..
The little girl is now managing a bank branch in London, after graduating from Cambridge and speaks Queens English, If that makes one feeling prestigious, so much power to them. She’s dating a smashing looking cricket player (as hobby) from Sir Lanka.

July 4, 2010, London

Oct, 1989, New York

Jul 4 2010

The British Museum

Museums in London are free. Pretty cool .. but .. well .. the The British Museum sucks. More pix on FB; Tianjin girls in uniform

July 4, 2010

They enclosed the once opened space with this new addition .. it felt so caged in .. .. a bazaar..

lady ..