Sunday, January 25, 2009

Journey to Jakarta

On Friday I made a quick day trip to Jakarta for some customer meetings. Jakarta is only a little bit south -east of Singapore but it is in a different time zone, possibly because most of Indonesia is further east. When I asked at the hotel for a taxi to the airport they were very surprised that I had no luggage. I had to keep telling them and the taxi driver that I was only going for the day, this is obviously not a frequent occurrence. I told the taxi driver I wanted to go to Terminal 2, he was very talkative and when he found out I was going to Jakarta he started rambling. I wasn't really paying attention as it was early in the morning and I was tired. When I got out of the taxi I realized he had dropped me off at the wrong terminal. Garuda air is the national airline of Indonesia so in all his talking he must have just assumed I was flying that airline and ignored the fact that I told him I needed to go to Terminal 2. No problems though as there is a sky train to go between the terminals.

A quick 90 minutes later and I was in Jakarta. I was told to go to the visa on arrival desk for a visa so naturally I followed the signs which was a mistake. I found out after that most people don't read signs in Jakarta, people have been known to drive the wrong way down the streets. After finally getting to the desk I was surprised to find out that the price of the visa is advertised in USD. Had I known this I would have brought my US dollars with me, all I had was Singapore dollars so they had to convert to Singapore dollars and then give me change in the local currency Rupiah. For a $10 visa I got 10000 Rupiah note in change.

As soon as you clear customs at the airport there are a number of private taxi stands in the airport which try to get you to book a taxi with them. I had a pre-booked taxi but it was interesting to see the hawkers trying to get business directly in the terminal, typically this occurs once you walk outside. Traffic is an absolute nightmare in Jakarta.

It took about 90 minutes to get to and from the meeting site which should have probably only taken about 30 minutes. Given the insanity of traffic many people ride bikes, which reminded me a lot of Paris. The only difference is that frequently there are 2 and even 3 people on a single bike.

The meeting went well and I finished within the allocated time which was important as we had to make sure we did not interfere with the prayer time. The Regus office we were in had a small prayer room to accommodate visitors. Those that weren't praying women and non-Muslims went off to a Chinese restaurant for lunch - the others joined us after their prayers. The food was amazing and absolutely gorged myself. I ate so much I didn't even eat dinner that night. I tried chicken feet - very strange mostly skin and lots of tiny little bones. My most favorite thing though was a drink that I saw others get. I had to ask when it arrived since it was green. It is avocado and chocolate and is a local favorite. It is very rich but well worth it. If you ever go I recommend you try it.

After a nice leisurely lunch it was time for a return trip to the airport even though the flight wasn't until 5, as traffic can be impossible it is better to give yourself plenty of time. What was odd is that it took forever to get a taxi. The office building is attached to a mall and there is a taxi stand but those taxis won't take you to the airport instead we had to book a taxi similar to the one I took from the airport, we had to wait about 30 minutes. Luckily we still had an hour to spare once we arrived. In the taxi on the way to the airport I was so tempted to take out my camera and start taking pictures from the window. The only reason I didn't is that I was sharing a cab with a colleague. Along the way to the airport there were all kinds of little shops and shanty towns that were so picturesque, oh well I'll have to go back.

Boarding at the airport was something I had never seen before which is unusual. Instead of boarding by row or zone or a free for all you are given a colored card at the gate. Boarding is then conducted by color, when you board you need to hand over the card, if you have the wrong color card you are told to wait. My question was how many people walk off with the cards?

That's it for Jakarta, tomorrow or later in the week I will post a summary of the week in Singapore.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Photo Friday - Singapore Edition

It's been a long and tiring week so instead of blogging about my trip to Jakarta today I figured I would take advantage of the fact that it is Friday.

The Merlion

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inaugural Activities

The Fullerton Hotel where I am staying sent a letter around saying that the bar would be airing the live inauguration and offering specials. Two mini burgers and a beer for S$28 and also a Presidential Sling for S$16. Being the crazy American that I am I decided to go downstairs to watch the event - bear in mind that the inauguration occurs at 12 PM which is 1 AM in Singapore.

I met a co-worker in the bar for dinner and after we ordered a manager came over and asked if we wouldn't mind being interviewed as Channel News Asia was coming in to cover the celebration. I figured what the heck. We were then brought over the Presidential Sling as they wanted these to feature in the coverage being filmed. So now in front of me I have a beer, a sling and a glass of wine (we had ordered a bottle before ordering dinner) decisions, decisions, decisions.
We have our dinner and then about 30 minutes later the news crew shows up we get moved to another table and since our slings were not fresh we were brought new ones as well as new burgers. They took shots of the food and drinks alone, then they started directing us:
  • Eating I don't eat burgers so I just went for the fries.
  • Talking and looking at the TV coverage (the inauguration wasn't on at the time).
  • Toasting with our Presidential Slings

After these shots were taken we were interviewed. I was asked what I thought of Obama's election, what I wanted to hear him say during his speech, what I was hoping he would bring to office and a couple of other things as well which I can't remember at this point. My co-worker was asked as an Australian what the inauguration meant to him. It was a lot of fun and being given free food and drinks was a nice little benefit.

I stayed up to watch the speech and at 1 AM (Noon eastern) there was a round of applause after Obama was inaugurated and the bar passed out free champagne. My co-worker texted me in the morning to let me know that he had just seen me on the news I missed it unfortunately, I keep checking the website to see if they post it and the hotel has said they will try and get me a copy of the clip as well. The web does have videos posted and I may be in 1 of them but my computer can't show the video clips :(

In case you were wondering what is exactly in a Presidential Sling - Jim Beam, Gin, Southern Comfort, Pineapple Juice, Blueberries Grenadine and some other stuff as well.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy Anniversary

That's right today marks my second anniversary as life as an expat. I was actually torn today whether on what to blog about as there were some interesting occurrences last night. I'll likely blog about those later today. Below is a summary of some of the highlights from the past year:

Cheapest Meal
Most Expensive Meal
100th and 200th blog post
Introduction of a new travel companion

On leap day I composed a list of 29 places I wanted to visit and since then I have managed to visit 5 of them since this:
  • Poland
  • Hong Kong
  • Great Wall of China
  • Singapore
  • Cuba
I visited 10 other places for the first time:
  • Whistler
  • Luxembourg
  • Bergen
  • Dublin
  • Becket
  • Disneyland Paris
  • Shanghai
  • Beijing
  • Barcelona
  • Key Largo

It's hard to believe that two years have gone by already. Looking forward to see what year 3 brings.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I've been learning a lot about Singapore the last couple of days and enjoying the nice warm weather. On Sunday I wandered around Little India. Most of Singapore seems to be about shopping in little India I went to Tekka Market. At one end of the market is the raw fish and meat being butchered, in the middle is the food court. Tables are reserved by placing a packet of tissues down and then you can go and order your food knowing that you have a table. Much better than wandering around looking for a table with a tray full of food. At the other end of the market are the clothes, shoes and household items. So many vibrant colours but the stalls seemed to all be selling the same things.

Driving around yesterday I learned that London took the idea of a congestion charge from Singapore. During the weekday there are charges for driving into the city. All charges are handled electronically via a smart card that is attached to the windshield similar to the fast lane or e-z pass system for tolls in the US. These device also handles charges for all parking garages - no need to stop and get a ticket or worry about losing the ticket. The devices automatically deduct the appropriate amount from your account. These appear to be mandatory for all cars as this is the only way that tolls are received.

And I'll leave you for now with a few from the balcony of my hotel room.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Invisible Kangaroo on the A380

Last night was the flight I was looking forward to - the business class seats on the A380. The boarding of the flight occurs from 2 different gates, 1 gate for the lower level seats and 1 gate for the upper level seats. This I am sure greatly expedites the boarding process. Everything for boarding went smoothly we pushed back from the gate, started to taxi and then stopped. The pilot came on to say that something wasn't right so we needed to go back to the gate. They thought it would only take 30 minutes but 3.5 hours later they announce that the plane is getting powered down and powered back up as everything they have tried so far isn't working. Luckily that did the trick and we were able to take off. If this hadn't worked we weren't going to be able to leave as the crew was approaching their time limit.

Thankfully Ike and I were in business class where the seats are twice as wide and much more comfortable.

Ike wasn't sure whether he wanted to share the seat with me or sit on the footrest.
Once the video programming started Ike decided since the screen was much larger than usual he would sit in the seat with me.
By the time the flight took off it was about 2 AM, all I wanted to do was sleep but I forced myself to eat, I was paying for business class I was going to enjoy all the perks of it. The dinner menu was:

  • Gooseliver terrine and duck rillette with fig and mixed salad
  • Braised chicken in mustard vinegar sauce with green beans and celeriac-potato puree
  • Gourmet Cheeses
  • Vanilla creme brulee


The only good thing about the flight being delayed 4 hours is that I ended up arriving at SIN (yes that's the official airport abbreviation for Singapore) at the same time as my friend Michelle so we were able to share a taxi to the hotel. After a quick drink on the patio of the hotel bar I managed to sleep - hopefully jetlag won't set in again, once in a week is enough for me.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ready, Set, Go

Next week is a big week. In 12 hours I'm jetting off to Singapore and just found out I get a side trip to Jakarta! Not to worry I'll take loads of pictures to document this starting in 12 hours when I board the fancy new A380. The other big thing next week is my 2 year anniversary, my how time flies. I've already been compiling information for a special post to commemorate the occasion - stay tuned.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Something New

I've decided to try something different this year and see how many flights I can take without flying BA. They do have a monopoly on UK flights so I might have to be creative. In the spirit of this I was booked on a Lufthansa flight to Munich. They have this neat new technology where you can get your boarding pass emailed to you. You do the on-line check in bit and instead of printing out a boarding pass they email you details and a little bar code. You then pass your mobile phone over the scanner and when it beeps you can board. It saves time and the environment - I like it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

All Good Things Must End

My nice long vacation has now come to a close. I arrived back at Heathrow at 12 PM today after 19 days away. Not that it matters all that much as I'm only here for about 24 hours before I'm jetting off again. Spending so much time back home I realized a couple of things:

1) ATMs in the US are designed for people to lose their cards, money comes first then the card. In the UK the money isn't dispensed until the card is removed from the machine.

2) I miss the snow. I really love the look of fresh fallen snow on trees, especially when I don't have to drive.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Splish Splash

After much drama the bathroom remodel is complete. Here are some photos of the finished product as well as the requisite before shots so you can see how much more pretty it is now.



Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Here I Go Again

Today marked the first flight of the year. I left my hotel in Boston at 5:30 AM and arrived at Whistler at 5:30 PM. Keep in mind there is a 3 hour time difference between the east and west coast so I was travelling for a total of 15 hours. I think it would have been just as long if I had flown directly from London, but then I wouldn't have had the pleasure of spending time with family and friends over the past few weeks. The other pleasure I had was seeing my completed bathroom yesterday before I left. A few finishing touches and an inspection this week but it is basically done and signed off on. Will post the pictures tomorrow am too tired right now to figure out how my camera works :)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

It's a new year so I figured it was time for a new look for the blog. Let me know what you think of the new template. The new list of the places I've been has been started. This year I will also be tracking the miles I've flown, I'm wondering if I can hit 100K miles.

Since my last post I've been catching up with friends and family in the states, checking on the progress of my bathroom remodel (no I don't want to talk about it), and relaxing.

Ike on the other hand has been rather excited he had his first Christmas:

and his first snowstorm (he loves making snow angels).

January is going to be a busy month for me with trips to Whistler, Munich, and Singapore, not to mention the second anniversary of my expat adventures. There should be much to blog about.