Arata @Uptown

After the good experience at Hokano, Ban and I tried Arata which is just next door. It specialises in udon and you can view, via glass panels, the chef making the udon.

Arata 1

For a change, I'll start with what Ban had: udon with sliced pork. He did top up with some other dishes. He said it was ok but the all-important fact is that he's willing to have it again :) Yay!

Arata 2

I had kitsune udon that also came with 2 slices of omelette. The kitsune was as sweet as expected. The soup was clear, not oily and with simple taste. The udon was firm but not hard. Overall, I liked it.

Arata 3

Ban and I each had an egg as topping. It looked plain and tasted normal like hardboiled egg, which was a little disappointing.

Arata 4

I had this as my topping. The char siu had significant amount of fat. It was juicy and not dry like most char siu I had. I sent my compliment to the restaurant about this. Worth it.

Arata 5

Ban had this as topping. Sorry, I forgot to write down his thoughts and I can't remember but it must have been not bad because he's willing to have it again :)

Oh, and the udon soup was MSG free. Thumbs up!

We definitely will be back there again and we told the staff there that. Hopefully the quality and quantity will be as good or even better.

Crusader Kings 2: House of Zee Mau interlude

Much has happened since the last update but I'll take a break to jot down this thought:

Through a marriage, my ruler, the King of Andalusia, is also now the King of Bavaria, a kingdom that was part of the Holy Roman Empire ("HRE"). Unfortunately, this kingdom is scattered all over HRE. HRE, understandably, wants it back and so I've been under regular attack from HRE.

These days, I am busy putting out rebellions (especially during change of ruler, aggravated by existence of far flung land) and defending against HRE who takes nearly every single opportunity to declare war on my rebelling vassals. I can't help but be reminded of the situation in Ukraine. A rough comparison (reality in bracket) is as follows:

There was a change in the ruler of Bavaria (change in Ukraine's government) and shortly later the County of Gent (Crimea) took the opportunity to rebel against King of Bavaria (Ukraine's new government) to gain independence. The Emperor of HRE (Putin), being the de jure liege of the Count of Gent (Crimean government), took advantage of the situation to declare war to regain the county.

The comparison fails only at the end i.e. HRE declared war on Gent whereas Russia (sort of) "declared war" on Ukraine.

SSM business certificate renewal

It's been a year since I registered my business as a sole proprietorship. For some reasons, I thought that I had some grace period after the expiry date (12 March 2014). However, since I was going to be in Australia in March, I decided to renew the certificate earlier.

It was a fortunate turn of event: I received a letter from SSM notifying me that my business cert is up for renewal and it has to be done 30 days before the expiry date @@

I vaguely recalled that the renewal can be done online. Several log-ins and online searches later, I concluded that the way to do it was to get the physical form, fill it up, scan it and upload the softcopy to the myPortal website for onward submission to the relevant authority.

The problem was that I was in Seremban and had no access to a printer to print the form and to scan. Yes, I could go to SSM office in town to obtain the form but I still can't scan. I then had another idea:

BSN SSM Business Cert Renewal

Yes, it can be renewed at any BSN branches and there is one in the housing estate where I live in Seremban. Yay!

I got the form from them and waited for my number to be called. It was a short queue, fortunately. However, when it was my turn, the bank staff told me I had to bring the certificate along as well. Huh? I didn't make a fuss but in my mind, I recall that all I needed was my IC and the completed Form A1. Humph!

Since I had the form, I had the choice of doing it online or attempt to renew at BSN again. I decided to try BSN again and did it in SS2 in PJ. The procedure was painless and all they did was to print out a new certificate. I opted for a 5-year renewal (RM30 for each year) to avoid needing to renew this every year.

Share investment Mar 14 Part 2

(continue from Part 1)

Here are the dividend yields on cost for shares that I've held for at least 1 year:

Share investment Mar 14 Part 1

All of them fulfill my criteria of 5% dividend yield except for SBS Transit, where its price has dropped a lot compared to the my average cost and so unsurprisingly its dividend has also dropped over the years.

Here's the breakdown of my portfolio according to percentage of amount of investment in each share counter:

Share investment Mar 14 Part 2

SBS Transit now occupies the biggest piece of the pie but still at a smallish percentage of 11%. This is due to my additional purchase of the shares when its price dropped to at least 20% below the average cost. Hmmm I should probably try to keep the percentage to not more than 10%.

Here is the average cost of each share counter compared to its then prevailing price as at 12 March 2014:

Share investment Mar 14 Part 3

As you can see, price of SBS Transit has fallen by a lot compared to the average cost. I hope I'm not making a mistake here by continuing to invest in it. Venture is another concern but at least I understand that its 2013 4th quarter's result was pretty good.

Share investment Mar 14 Part 1

It's been nearly a year since my last review of my portfolio of shares.

Since then, I have not sold any shares and have bought more (especially since I have more money to invest after the sale of my house):

(1)  Bought more shares in Capitamall Trust, SP Ausnet and SBS Transit. I added more of the former two when their share price dropped sufficiently such that the then prevailing dividend yield was attractive. They remained strong share counters.

As for SBS Transit, its share price dropped to at least 20% below my cost price (twice within the last year!) and that triggered my purchase. This share counter is a cause of concern. Apparently, the increase in fare (subject to government's approval) had not kept up with the increase in cost. Strangely, I can't find much chatter/analysis done on this company in recent years. After much thought, I decided to keep this share counter and top up on weakness in price simply because of its economic moat i.e. being the only public transport company that provides bus service in Singapore - something that Singapore still sorely needs given the prohibitive cost of owning cars.

(2) I've initiated long position in

(a) Cache Logistics Trust, a REIT investing in "income-producing real
estate used for logistics purposes in Asia-Pacific, as well as real
estate-related assets". I've been eyeing this REIT for sometime. Although I have reservation about the fee structure for REIT's manager in general, I bought this as a mean of diversification and, of course, its attractive yield and good record.

(b) Fraser Centrepoint Trust, a REIT that owns popular suburban malls in Singapore where most of them have captive market. It also has investment in Hektar REIT in Malaysia that owns a few popular malls. I used to own this before and I'm happy to own it again when its price dropped.

(c) Kingsmen Creatives, a company that "specialises in the design and production of exhibits for trade shows, museums and visitor centres, events, as well as interiors for retail stores, restaurants, corporate offices, showrooms and other commercial interiors. In recent years, Kingsmen has ventured into other areas of specialty which include thematic & scenic works, brand activation and out-of-home media".

Ok, here's what I know in laymen's term: you know those decoration at malls during festive seasons? Or how about various exhibition at, say, Suntec or at Expo or at museums? Or how about when a company redesign the partitions for its office? I used to think that it's all done in-house. Apparently there's company such as Kingsmen that specialises in such project. Interesting field. Given that Singapore is a MICE centre, it has been doing well and, if I'm not mistaken, it has also ventured abroad.

(d) Singapore Press Holdings ("SPH"), the dominant printing press in Singapore, owning a variety of newspapers, magazines and online portals as well as some properties and event management entreprise. Yes, I know that popularity of printed papers, magazines etc is slowly being eroded by, essentially, the availability of free information on the net but SPH still has many years to go before being endangered. It is not vulnerable currently and so it is looking at and growing alternate sources of earnings in the meantime.

(e) Singapore Technologies Engineering, "specialising in innovative solutions and services in the Aerospace, Electronics, Land Systems and Marine sectors." A conglomerate with over 100 subsidiaries and associated companies globally, which fits in nicely with my search for diversification beyond Singapore business. It has no debt.

(f) STI ETF, an ETF that aims to replicate the movement in STI. It also provides dividends. I bought this when STI was below the psychological barrier of 3000 in the hope for capital gain in future.

(g) Saizen REIT, which invests in apartments in Japan. Interesting, isn't it? I'm a little skeptical about buying this share counter at first because of forex risk. Yen has already fallen gradually against SGD for the past year or so and it's possible that it falls further. I don't know much about forex and I'm not about to start predicting anything. However, I am interested in REIT with business outside of Singapore and so far, from another blogger's experience with this REIT, Saizen has been quite good over the years.

(h) Sembcorp Industries, a conglomerate that are involved in the business of utilities, marine and offshore engineering, and urban development, globally. It's a great fit for my portfolio, with decent economic moats and no debt. I was really lucky to get in when its price dropped sufficiently enough to provide decent dividend yield.

(i) Singapore Shipping Corp, which is into the following operations: "a) ship-owning, ship management and chartering; and (b) warehousing, bunkering, agency and logistics services." Again, this industry is a new addition to my portfolio. The management has made some quite shrewd investment decision in the past and that's chiefly due to its founder. I'll see and hope this goes well.

(3) As at 13 Mar 14, I have investment in 22 companies and 1 ETF (I've also indicated whether their source of business is solely in Singapore only or not):

Second Chance Properties (Singapore only)
AIMS-AMP Industrial REIT (Singapore only)
Boustead Singapore Ltd
Cache Logistics Trust (Singapore only)
CapitaCommercial Trust (Singapore only)
CapitaMall Trust (Singapore only)
CapitaRetailChina REIT
First REIT
Fraser Centrepoint Trust
Kingsmen Creatives
M1 (Singapore only)
SBS Transit Ltd (Singapore only)
SIA Engineering
SP AusNet
Singapore Press Holdings
Singapore Technologies Engineering
STI ETF
Saizen REIT
Sembcorp Industries
Singpost
SingTel
Singapore Shipping Corp
Venture Corp

Hokano @Uptown

When I visited iSmile Dental Clinic, I noticed the two Japanese restaurants that are on its right: Hokano and Arata. After checking with a friend who are more familiar with the area, I kept a mental note to dine at these restaurants.

First up is Hokano.

Hokano 1

As with any new Japanese restaurant that serves sushi, the benchmark I use is the salmon sushi. I also ordered white tuna sushi. The sliced salmon fish was thick and its size was appropriate for its price tag of RM3 each. The white tuna was sweet and juicy but with small amount of rice. It cost RM5 each. I'll definitely have these again, especially the salmon sushi :P

Hokano 2

The salmon avocado handroll tasted good but small for the price of RM6. Don't think I'll have this again.

Ban and I shared a bowl of edamame (sorry, forgot to take a photo of it) which was fresh but not sweet enough. It was, however, a large amount for only RM4.50.

I tried to go there again but it was close (on Tuesday? Gosh, I better make sure).

Transit at Adelaide

For quite some time, Melbourne has been my choice of transit to Canberra (come on Canberra, build an international terminal!) for a few reasons:

  • Chief reason is that its international terminal building is not separated from its domestic terminal building like Sydney
  • There are many more flights to/from Canberra and to/from KL compared to, say, Perth
  • There are flights with appropriate time of arrival at Canberra and KL
Air Asia X late last year launched flights between KL and Adelaide and as expected had cheap tickets for its inaugural flights (horrendous experience yet to be told). After confirming that Adelaide airport housed both its international and domestic terminals under the same building, I bought a return ticket.

Here are my thoughts on Adelaide airport
  • Building looked new (good)
  • Far fewer people than Melbourne (good)
  • But negated by fewer immigration and custom check counters (bad)
  • Small and so could get to departure gate quickly (good)
  • Fewer choices of food (bad)
  • I had expensive less-than-average-quality California rolls whereas Melbourne had good cheap ones (bad)
All-in-all, it took me about 80 mins to pass through immigration and custom checks, similarly long as Melbourne's. This time, however, right after the immigration counter, an officer "conversed" with me at great length:
  • Why are you going to Canberra?
  • Have you booked your connecting flight?
  • Which airline are you flying on to Canberra?
  • How long has your sister been living in Canberra?
  • What is she doing in Canberra?
  • How often do you visit her?
  • What did you study?
  • What's your job now?
  • Etc
Gosh, I thought I was giving verbal autobiography :) It went well though and done professionally. Kudos to the officers for such random checks.

Will I fly via Adelaide in future? Probably not, chiefly because Melbourne has more choices of flights to/from Canberra and that makes it easier to coordinate with my sister. Sorry, Adelaide!

Oiso @Tropicana City Mall

Oiso 1

Normally, if we're headed to Tropicana City Mall for dinner, inevitably we'll dine at Sushi Tei because it has Ban's favourite dish (and the only favourite dish!). So, it was generous of him to agree to try this new Korean restaurant. Thanks, honey!

Oiso 2

Oiso 3

Oiso 4

Oiso 5
'
I love their interior design and decorations. It had a subtle modern look. They probably had traditional elements but I do not know enough to recognise it. Plants looked green and healthy, giving a "alive" feeling to the place. The restaurant itself was spacious and neat. So comfortable.

Oiso 6

This is the "Korean No. 1 Coffee"...which tasted quite normal. Nothing special.

Oiso 7

Oiso 8

I ordered Japchae, which is a sweet potato noodle - a dish that I love. I'm always on a hunt for such noodle at Korean restaurant and often than not it would be the determining factor in whether I'll dine there or not. In fact, I do check supermarket for it as it's easy to cook.

This was delicious but a tad too sweet. It was fragrant (probably from sesame oil) and not oily. All ingredients except for the sliced chicken was bland but it would have been better if the chicken was also bland, given how sweet the noodle was.

Side dishes:
  • Soup was a little salty but its vegetable (seaweed?) was nice and soft
  • The leafy vegetable was tough
  • As expected, I didn't like the kimchi.
  • The anchovy was salty and so definitely didn't go well with the Japchae
I would want to visit Oiso again and try something else but it's not possible if dining out with Ban because he rather eat at Sushi Tei. Oh, well :)

Unfathomable

Ban: My honey has mysterious ritual *wavy gesture with his hands in front*

Me: Whaaatt? I would think I'm the least mysterious person because there are usually reasons for all my actions.

Ban: Unfathomable reason! *waves his hands above his head*

Me: *laughs* Ok, why don't you tell me what this mysterious ritual is and I'll explain it.

Ban: Every Sunday lunch, you want to eat at the corner food centre opposite CIMB Bank.

Me: I like the lou shu fan kon lo and char kuay teow there. They open only during lunch. Since we have chap fan for lunch from Monday to Saturday, that leaves only Sunday to eat at that food centre.

Ban: OoOoOohhhh. I would never have figured it out.

Me: *laughs* I'm quite sure you could have if you had thought about it a little harder.

Ban: Unfathomable reaaaaasonnnnnn *waves his hands above his head*

Me: *laughs*

Anxious before trip

It is quite normal to feel a little anxious before my trip to OZ. Need to make sure I pack in the right stuff, including items I'm ferrying for my sister. Need to make sure tickets and boarding passes are printed. Bring both local and foreign currencies. So on and so forth. It helps that I make a list.

However, this time, I feel more anxious than usual, so much so that at times I feel like not doing such long distance trip any more. I tried to rationalise this feeling and concluded that it's due to work.

There is an ongoing project that was scheduled to reach a milestone on Friday, 28 Feb. However, this could not be achieved because the client disagreed with our resultss (what's new?!). Now it'll drag on until at least 7 March and thus eating into my vacation time.

To be fair, I did give a buffer of 2 weeks i.e. until mid-March to completely finish the project. It just that it would be great to finish the project as expected so that I can spend my precious vacation time with my sister and her family.

Oh well, let's hope for the best!