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Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Gallimaufry#133

Just a gallimaufry of AI-generated photos, real photos and ramblings 📸
Urban peddler
 I can't figure out what he was selling, though.

TRAVEL TALES

Traveling as an Asian tourist in a Western country can sometimes feel like you're wearing a "scam me" sign. I've almost fallen victim to scams multiple times, but thankfully, our tour guide always had our backs. Even within the safety of our group, shielded by our knowledgeable leader, we encountered the audacious ploys of two brazen gypsies in Athens. Story here.

Allow me to share some of my cautionary tales so you can stay one step ahead and enjoy your travels without falling into common traps.

BRACELET SCAM

The bracelet scam is a common trick used by scammers in various tourist hotspots around the world. Here's how it typically works:

  1. Approach: A scammer, often friendly and seemingly harmless, approaches you. They might strike up a conversation or simply walk up with a smile.

  2. Bracelet Offer: The scammer quickly ties a bracelet around your wrist, sometimes without asking for permission. They might say it's a gift or a token of friendship.

  3. Friendly Chat: While tying the bracelet, they engage you in a friendly chat to distract you. They might ask where you're from or compliment you to make you feel at ease.

  4. Demand for Payment: Once the bracelet is on, the scammer's demeanor changes. They demand payment for the bracelet, often at an inflated price. They might claim it's for charity or insist you agree to buy it.

  5. Intimidation: If you refuse to pay, they can become aggressive or call over accomplices to pressure you. The goal is to intimidate you into paying rather than causing a scene.

  6. Payment: To avoid confrontation, many tourists end up paying. The scammer then moves on to the next target.

ART SCAM

The art scam is another crafty tactic used by scammers in bustling tourist areas. Here’s how it usually works:

  1. Street Setup: Scammers set up a display on a busy street, presenting themselves as "artists" with various art pieces spread out before them. These pieces are often photocopied prints designed to look like original artwork.

  2. Strategic Placement: As you walk past, the scammer discreetly pushes one of the art pieces under your feet, making it appear accidental.

  3. Fake Outrage: Once you’ve stepped on the artwork, the scammer pretends to be very angry and upset. They might accuse you of damaging their precious art and creating a scene to attract attention.

  4. Demand for Payment: The scammer then demands payment for the "damaged" art, often insisting on a high price. They may use guilt or intimidation tactics, pressuring you to pay to resolve the situation quickly and avoid embarrassment.

  5. Confrontation: If you hesitate or refuse to pay, the scammer might escalate the situation, drawing in accomplices or bystanders to apply more pressure.

  6. Reluctant Payment: To avoid further confrontation or public embarrassment, many tourists end up paying the demanded amount. The scammer quickly collects the money and moves on to the next unsuspecting passerby.

EMPATHY SCAM

The cup of coins scam is a clever trick often used in busy tourist areas to exploit people's empathy. Here's how it typically unfolds:

  1. Setup: A child beggar places a paper cup with a coin or two inside on the ground in a crowded area where tourists frequently pass by.

  2. Strategic Placement: The cup is deliberately positioned in such a way that it's easy for an unsuspecting tourist to accidentally kick it over as they walk by.

  3. Emotional Play: When the cup is kicked, the coins scatter, and the child quickly acts distressed, looking sad and upset. This immediately evokes feelings of guilt and sympathy in the tourist.

  4. Soliciting Donations: The tourist, feeling responsible and wanting to help, often reaches into their pocket to give some money to the child to make up for the accident.

  5. Frequent Targets: The child collects the money and resets the cup, ready to repeat the process with the next passerby. This cycle continues throughout the day, targeting multiple tourists.

HOTEL SCAM

The hotel scam is a deceptive trick where scammers pose as fellow guests to steal valuables. Here's how it typically works:

  1. Disguise as Guests: Scammers book a room at a hotel and blend in with genuine guests, often targeting places with breakfast buffets.

  2. Survey the Scene: During the breakfast rush, they observe guests who leave their bags, phones, cameras, or other valuables unattended on tables or chairs while getting food.

  3. Quick Theft: Once a target is identified, the scammers quickly and discreetly take the unattended items, blending back into the crowd before anyone notices.

  4. Swift Exit: With the stolen items, the scammers make a quick exit, often leaving the hotel entirely or retreating to their room to stash the loot.

  5. Delayed Realization: The victim only realizes their belongings are missing after returning to their table, by which time the scammers are long gone.

This actually happened to one of our tour group members during a buffet breakfast in a hotel in Amsterdam. Thank God it was our last day of the tour, as her passport, cash, phone, and credit cards were in the bag that was stolen. While the rest of us went to the Keukenhof Gardens after breakfast, she had to take a taxi to the police station to file a report and later joined us at the airport for our departure back to Malaysia.

She was almost hysterical, dealing with the police, the hotel staff, and the embassy to ensure she could leave the country without her passport. We all felt her anxiety and frustration, and it put a damper on what was supposed to be a relaxing final day. Fortunately or unfortunately for her, the incident happened on a Friday. Imagine if it were to happen on a weekend or public holiday, when embassy services might not be readily available. She might have had to extend her stay in Amsterdam, dealing with the bureaucracy, while the rest of us would already be back in Malaysia.

And imagine if this had happened on the first day of our tour. She would have spent the entire trip dealing with the fallout of the theft instead of enjoying the beautiful sights and experiences we had planned. It was a stark reminder of how important it is to stay vigilant and keep our belongings secure, no matter how safe the environment seems. Let her experience serve as a cautionary tale for all of us to always stay alert and never leave our valuables unattended.

Mouse tourists
Let's take a wefie. Say "cheese!"
Dinner @ Chili's - ancho-rubbed fish
Tridax daisies
To some, it’s but a humble weed; to others, a bloom untamed. Yet through my eyes, it’s simply a blossom adrift. It may seem a mere speck, a floral trifle smaller than a dime’s breadth; yet in the whimsical world where mice roam, these tridax daisies rise as stately blooms, each petal a canvas of nature’s splendor. To the tiny forager, these are not mere weeds but daisies of the perfect size, gathered with care to adorn its quaint abode with the essence of a wildflower’s charm.
I was cleaning out a drawer when I found a stack of expired complimentary spa vouchers from hotel stays over the years that I have not used. I've come to realize that I'm just not a spa girl. The allure of luxurious robes, soothing music, and the promise of deep relaxation doesn't quite resonate with me. While many find bliss in the gentle hum of a massage room or the tranquil waters of a hot tub, the thought of spending hours in a spa feels more like an obligation than a treat. For me, comfort isn't found under a layer of exfoliating masks or in the scented mist of essential oils.
Manicures and pedicures aren’t my thing either. While some find joy in perfectly polished nails and the ritual of a salon visit, I’m more at home with my sometimes turmeric-stained nails from the curries I make regularly, free from the need for constant upkeep.
If I’m looking for a bit of luxury, you’ll find me chilling under a cabana, sipping a cool drink, and listening to the gentle crash of ocean waves. That’s my kind of paradise.


Royal Ascot 2024

The allure of the Royal Ascot has always captivated me—the grandeur, the pageantry, and, of course, those fancy hats that defy gravity. Yet, even if presented with the opportunity to attend in person, I must confess I would decline. The thought of navigating such an elite affair makes me feel like a fish out of water, and I wouldn’t have the faintest idea of what attire would be suitable. 
image source - MSN
Thus, I shall continue to savor the event vicariously through my AI mice.
Sir Squeak-alot was the talk of the Royal Ascot. His flamboyant dressing certainly turned heads. But what really set him apart was his penchant for flowers.
Many loyal Princess Di fans will disagree with me, but I am a great admirer of Queen Camilla. I love how she stays in the background most of the time and stepped up for royal duties when Charles and Kate were absent due to their recent cancer battles.
image source - Yahoo
Queen Camilla has demonstrated remarkable resilience and adaptability throughout her life. Despite facing significant public scrutiny and challenges, she has gracefully embraced her role within the British royal family. Her dedication to various charitable causes, particularly in areas like literacy, domestic violence, and osteoporosis awareness, showcases her commitment to making a positive impact on society. Her ability to connect with people and support meaningful initiatives reflects her compassionate and steadfast nature.

Mice’s 2024 4th of July BBQ Bash
Wishing my American buddies a happy 4th of July! 

Enjoy the celebrations! 🎉

My Corner of the World

Friday, June 21, 2024

Gallimaufry#132

Just a gallimaufry of AI-generated photos, real photos and ramblings 📸

FROM THE TRAVEL ARCHIVES

I saw this sign displayed in the marble-clad lobby of the Divani Palace Acropolis while waiting for the rest of our tour members to check out. The receptionist informed me that the hotel houses a preserved portion of the ancient Themistoclean Wall in its basement. How cool is that

Unfortunately, time did not permit so here's an image I snagged from the internet.
image source - https://www.atlasobscura.com/
During renovations at the Divani Palace Acropolis hotel, a large section of the Themistoclean Wall was discovered. Greece’s strict laws protecting archaeological sites allowed the hotel to adjust its plans, preserving the ancient wall while enabling public admiration. Visitors can find this southwest portion of the wall on display 24/7 in the hotel’s lower level, right at the base of the main staircase in the lobby. Hotel security closely monitors the area, and respectful behavior is greatly appreciated.

Goddess Demeter
Demeter is the ancient Greek goddess of agriculture, harvest, and fertility. Revered for her vital role in ensuring the earth's fertility and the cycle of life and death, she is a central figure in Greek mythology. Demeter is often depicted holding sheaves of wheat or a cornucopia, symbolizing abundance and nourishment. Her most famous myth involves the abduction of her daughter Persephone by Hades, which explains the changing seasons. When Persephone is in the underworld, Demeter mourns, causing winter; when Persephone returns, Demeter's joy brings spring and summer, symbolizing rebirth and renewal

Replica of David, Piazza della Signoria, Florence
I like to believe that when Michelangelo said, "Within every block of stone, there is a statue, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it," he had some help from the mice. 

Imagine a cozy studio where tiny, artistic mice scurry about, their delicate paws expertly chiseling away at marble. By candlelight, they work side by side with the great master, their whiskers twitching with concentration as they reveal the hidden beauty within each stone. 

It's a charming thought, isn't it? 

That perhaps, in the quiet corners of history, these little sculptors played their part in crafting masterpieces


El Greco Hotel, Santorini 2023
I absolutely adore the cubic Cycladic architecture of the hotels in Santorini. The pristine white structures with their simple, geometric lines and blue accents blend seamlessly with the stunning Aegean Sea and sky. It's a perfect harmony of design and nature that exudes both elegance and tranquility.

Inspiration strikes!
Bath city hop-on hop-off bus


Dinner - Peranakan
The term "Peranakan" refers to the descendants of Chinese immigrants who came to the Malay archipelago, including Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, between the 15th and 17th centuries. These immigrants intermarried with the local Malay population, creating a unique culture that blends Chinese and Malay traditions.

Cincaluk okra - my absolute favourite
Cincaluk

Cincalok, also known as cencaluk, is a traditional Southeast Asian condiment that originated in Malacca, Malaysia. It’s consumed by Malays, Peranakans, and Kristangs. This unique condiment is made from small shrimp or krill, known as udang geragau in Melaka, which are fermented. The result is a predominantly salty taste, often served with chillis, shallots, and lime juice.

Here's a funny story to share, my first time opening a bottle of cincaluk.

Picture this: there I was, a cincaluk newbie, ready to dive into the world of fermented krill. I had my first bottle in hand, completely unaware of the culinary adventure that awaited me. As I pried the cap, it was like I had launched a rocket! The hissing bottle shot up, hitting the ceiling and raining down its pink, potent contents. In an instant, I was wearing more cincaluk than the dish I was cooking! My hair and clothes were a mess, and the smell… well, it's a scent that grows on you. So, that was my initiation into the cincaluk club - a hair-raising, ceiling-touching, laughter-inducing explosion of flavor! ðŸ˜„

Note:
When opening a bottle of cincalok, you need to be careful because the fermentation process can produce a significant amount of gas, causing pressure to build up inside the bottle. To safely release this pressure, use a bottle opener to gently pry the edge of the crown cap. By lifting the side of the cap slightly, you allow the gas to escape slowly, preventing the contents from spraying out explosively. Continue to carefully lift the cap until all the pressure is released before removing it completely.

After that explosive encounter, I’ve developed a bit of a phobia when it comes to opening a bottle of cincaluk. Every time I see one, I can’t help but remember the day I became a human cincaluk fountain. There’s still a  stubborn stain on the ceiling of my kitchen as a constant reminder of that fateful incident! 
My Corner of the World

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Gallimaufry#131

Just a gallimaufry of AI-generated photos, real photos and ramblings 📸
Oh no! Somewhere out there, some poor mouse lost one of his itty bitty Crocs.

Mystery solved! It's a Jibbitz that came off my son's Crocs! 

Phew! I hate to think that a mouse is frantically searching for his missing Crocs.
I'm thrilled to share that my foster kitty, who has been through a lot of challenges, finally has a new buddy. After a tough start, including an unsuccessful adoption where the resident cat rejected him, he now has a friend to share his days with. Seeing them together and happy fills my heart with joy.
Lunch - sourdough sandwich
Crazy weather in Malaysia: temperatures soaring into the 30s, hitting 37°C today, and then it rains like cats and dogs in the evenings. The heat has killed my appetite, so I just had a sourdough sandwich. The restaurant owner was lamenting how the erratic weather here affects the dough, making sourdough bread quite a challenge to perfect.

FROM THE TRAVEL ARCHIVES

One of my bucket list dreams in London was to ride the London Eye, in one of those sleek ovoidal capsules, taking in the breathtaking views of the city. We were in St. James's Park and could see the Eye from where we were, but regrettably, we never had the chance to experience it in person. 

So near yet so far.
Now, I'm living the adventure vicariously through my AI mice buddies.
Haha! AI is amazing! Just look at the expression of awe of the mouse on the extreme right! I did not specify that in my generation of this photo!

Cine Manto
Cine Manto in Mykonos is a charming outdoor cinema located in a lush garden in the town center.
Open during the summer, it offers a magical setting to watch a diverse range of films under the stars, from recent blockbusters to international features.

 The on-site café and restaurant serve local and Mediterranean cuisine
MICE MOVIE NIGHT

Care for an outdoor movie?
Too scary? How about Jaws?
No? Something heartwarming?
When was the last time you watched an outdoor movie?

JAPANESE GARDEN MEMORY

Growing up in the 60s in our sleepy hometown felt like living in a timeless bubble. With no digital devices to distract us, our days were simple and slow, each one blending into the next. The highlight of our week, the moment we all eagerly awaited, came after Sunday evening mass.

We would pile into the family car  and head to the Japanese garden on the edge of town. It was a place of magic, a stark contrast to our everyday lives. The garden was a serene haven, meticulously maintained with its perfectly raked gravel paths and carefully pruned bonsai trees.

But the centerpiece, the part that held the most wonder for us, was the koi pond. A wooden plank bridge stretched across the water, inviting us to test our balance and courage. My sisters and I would line up, and take turns crossing the bridge. We moved gingerly, each step slow and deliberate, as the colorful koi swam lazily beneath us.

The garden seemed to wrap us in a peaceful embrace, each visit a cherished escape from the routine of our small-town life. But as darkness fell and mosquitoes began to bite, it was a signal to leave. Our once-a-week dinner out completed the week. Those Sunday evenings remain some of the most treasured memories of my childhood.

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!

My Corner of the World