A Jakarta Burger

The Park Lane Cheeseburger
The Park Lane Cheeseburger

I had a burger today and decided that I should include travelling burgers as well as just those in Singapore.

This then is the first of the Jakarta burgers.

I had it at the Park Lane – an older 5-star hotel. The burger I would rate as a 4/10 2/10 [it was noted to me by Dr Dan that 4/10 was just below average whereas 2 or 3 out of 10 was awful – leaving 0 and 1 out of 10 for the absolutely dreadful]. It was kind of dry and the beef bacon was chewy and did not have a good texture. The patty was beef but had just the minimum of seasoning and little in the way of extra flavour.

There was something that looked like a peppery thousand Island dressing so I asked for tomato ketchup. The tomato, and lettuce was limp – the tomato looked like it has been sliced yesterday and left out of the fridge. The onion still had one layer of skin around the outside. I avoided the pickle altogether and never noticed the mushrooms under the cheese until just now, looking at the picture again.

Overall, this is perhaps the worst burger I have had in the last 12 months with the possible exception of one at the Bull and Bear in Singapore where the centre of the meat patty was a lump, as if minced meat had been minced then squeezed together and frozen then not properly thawed.

Today’s burger was enough to turn me vegetarian – quick, give me a salad!

Looking out my backdoor – Singapore

2012-09-16 15.50.37This is the normal view looking out my backdoor. OK, looking out the lounge room window. The view is out over Chinatown and in the middle distance the new Park Royal Hotel is still under construction.

The area is normally alive with bustle and cooking smells from the many Chinese, Korean and Japanese restaurants in the area.

2013-06-21 08.09.32This morning, however, the view looked like this.

Normally Singapore’s air is as clean as any European, American or Australian citizen (and better than many I would wager). However, during the period of the Southwest Monsoon, the end of the peninsula (Malaysia, Singapore etc) experience dry conditions and prevailing winds from the south-east to south-west. Sumatra is also dry at this time of the year.

So, during the dry spells here and in Sumatra during the Southwest Monsoon, the number of hotspots on Sumatra may increase. The hotspots have two main causes. One is natural fires as that area of Sumatra is apparently rich in peat which will burn and burn under the surface if ignited, much like coal seams can. Burning Mountain in New South Wales is a good example of that and it has been burning for some 6,000 years. Peat, however, is closer to the surface and therefore will give off more smoke to the atmosphere.

The other cause is illegal land clearing to clear natural vegetation to make way for the planting of palm oil trees. This is probably the single main cause of the haze. Interestingly, Indonesia has not signed the S.E. Asia Haze reduction agreement, the only country in the area not to. In fact, today, one of the Indonesian ministers noted that Sumatra sent Singapore oxygen all year so Singaporeans should stop being cry babies about a little smoke. I note that he was in Jakarta when he said that.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) here publishes a 3-hour rolling average of the PSI – the pollution index. The chart below shows yesterdays readings. Note that I have back-calculated the raw hour-by-hour data as well.


The red line is the official published figure. As I am used to from fires in Australia, I note that the smoke level is lowest overnight when fire activity is dampened a little then increases towards the middle of the day. Around 2pm yesterday there was a brief wind shift and an increase in wind strength for a while which caused a drop. As the day progresses, so the levels eventually diminish as well. The NEA also publishes a guideline to public Safety with regards to the haze and notes various warning levels.

As the haze has increased, so has the use of masks by the population and today it seems that it is impossible to buy an N95 surgical mask anywhere in the city-state.

I can only imagine that this is not that far off the London’s Great Smog of 1952 – at least it is drier here and less of the smoke is seeping indoors. Added to that, indoors there are in many cases air-conditioners which have a chance to clean some of the particulates out of the air. Today is shaping up as bad or worse than yesterday.

I hope tomorrow is better.

A Most Bizarre Flight

20120907_161457As regulars here will know Thomo spends a good deal of time in aircraft flying from here to there and back again. In my time I have flown on some pretty amazing airlines, some very ordinary airlines and some downright scary. Friday night’s flight on Garuda back to Singapore was perhaps the most bizarre one.

I was flying GA834 from Soekarno-Hatta Jakarta to Changi Singapore.

The oddness started when the tannoy announced that they were boarding the flight whilst I was still walking to the gate – and I was walking there 5 minutes before scheduled boarding. Arrived at the gate to find that the aircraft had not arrived yet. I then spent a pleasant 10 minutes considering what we could board instead of the aircraft.

Another tannoy announcement, distorted in the best Sydney CityRail manner, but which sounded something like “Mr Thompson Ian Leslie please see the desk staff”.

“Hmm” thinks I, “flight looks very full, wonder what this is?”

I was asked if I minded swapping seats as a father was travelling with his son and they could not get seats next to each other. I agreed and went back to waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.

In fact, we waited another 45 minutes or so past departure time before boarding. We boarded. Once the doors were closed, the two seats beside me were still empty and where I was sitting before swapping was, sure enough, taken up by a man with his son next to him. Two people turned up from the business section and sat next to me. The ‘plane was disconnected from the air-bridge and started engine power-up.

The co-pilot then came out of the business class toilet and sat back down in the cockpit. The cabin crew closed the door again. It was fortunate that he had finished in the toilet as an old gentleman travelling in business class needed the toilet and as he was unsteady on his legs, he had to be assisted into the cubicle.

We  reached the end of the taxiway but the old guy was still in the toilet. The ‘plane then sat and waited until the old chap could be persuaded back out of the toilet and re-seated. The gentleman now sitting next to me was called forward to assist as it seems it was his father. We waited and eventually he was brought back to his seat, at which point the cockpit was informed and the aircraft powered onto the runway, then accelerated and took off, by now 60 minutes late.

At this point I was getting ready to assume my usual flying position of eyes closed and dozing when the cockpit door flew wide open. This permitted those of us with an aisle seat an uninterrupted view of the “office” of the aircraft. We saw the co-pilot’s arms reaching out to switch switches on or off and generally do flying type things. It was interesting, I must admit to watch the arcane movements off the flight crew taking the ‘plane off. I did wonder what the spinning thing was next to the throttles on the Boeing 737-800. I thought flight decks were all computerised now and fly by wire.

After all that, I was very concerned then about selecting the chicken or the fish.