i joking you

On my way back from the beach on Muoi’s motorbike yesterday, she stopped about a kilometer from my hotel and asked, “you walk from here?” “Uhm…sure,” I said and started to climb off the motorbike. “I joking you!” she said, cracking herself up. This is how all the Vietnamese I’ve spent time with here have treated me, and they get me every time. I feel like the kid who always falls for the “what’s-that-on-your-shirt?” trick. […] Read More

lazy days in hoi an

Yesterday, before I went to the beach – and after – I was somewhat apprehensive about spending four lazy days in Hoi An. My friend Dao was supposed to have met me at the Danang airport Monday morning and then join me for a busy day of sightseeing. When I arrived, however, a driver from my hotel was there instead, so I decided to spend some relaxing, agenda-free hours at the beach – not knowing […] Read More

beach commerce

I spent most of yesterday at Cua Dai beach – reading, dozing, fending off vendors. The vendors have a captive audience at the beach, so they’re a little more aggressive there than elsewhere in Hoi An. And Hoi An vendors in general are a little more aggressive than those found in the cities of Vietnam. Hoi An is a poor town, and the people here are more dependent on tourists for their income here than […] Read More

nguyen ha van

I spent most of my one full day in Hanoi with Van. My original plan was to look at some paintings, with the hope of finding something to bring home. That’s how Van and I spent the first part of our day, and I did completely fall in love with one painting by an artist named Nguyen Dinh Quang, but it was priced at $3,000 and too big for my home. It was a very […] Read More

angel’s eye view

This morning my Malay friend Elena, whom I met in Hanoi, called me while I was waiting for my ramen to cool at the Lucky Plaza food court. It was an interesting coincidence, because I was hours away from flying back to Hanoi. It still amazes me that I can go Vietnam for a weekend, on a $100 plane ticket, spend $13 on a beautiful hotel room, and find myself surrounded by a completely different […] Read More

starcrossed saturday

I woke up feeling a little under the weather today. I think it’s mainly a result of working too hard, sleeping too little and exercising not at all for about a month. I went to get a haircut, and the place was full. They told me to come back in 10 minutes, and when I did, their power was out. I also finally got through to Singapore Airlines to change my flight, but there are […] Read More

local rhythm

Every place has its rhythm. The rhythm of a place is expressed in the pace and density of foot traffic. It’s expressed by the number of people who stand on escalators compared to the number who walk. It’s expressed in the amount of eye contact. It’s expressed through the presence or absence of a musical score – in buses, taxis, shops, alleys and pubs. It’s expressed in the negotiations between pedestrians and drivers – and […] Read More

mummy’s choice

As my Sunday was getting started, I received a text message from a friend asking, “is it u in the papers 2day?” I thought, oh god… I grabbed my copy of the Sunday Times from outside my apartment door, and on the front page I quickly noticed the headline, Cleo’s eligible bachelors: He’s not mummy’s choice next to a photo of floorballer Lionel Sing (one of the Cleo 50). I flipped to the article and […] Read More

bachelors (redux) and brix

Work has thankfully slowed down a bit… Well, that’s not quite true. There’s just as much work as ever, but I’ve decided to return to a more humane schedule regardless. Thursday night, I went to Brix for the first time – along with a colleague – on the recommendation of one of my clients, who told me it’s his favourite club in Singapore. Brix is fairly notorious for being full of working girls, but my […] Read More

bachelor bail-out

I was supposed to go for my Bachelors Finale “fitting” tonight, to try on the “sporty” wardrobe and learn how to walk the catwalk. I opted out. The Eligible Bachelors issue hit the newsstands over the weekend, and it was pretty anti-climactic. I received a copy by courier from the CLEO offices, flipped to the article and spotted myself, bachelor #2. The picture is silly, and I have no recollection of having said anything in […] Read More

peeling back the layers

Monday was Tracy’s birthday, and we spent the morning wandering through the Yu Gardens and Market. It was in the Yu Gardens that we suddenly saw all the foreigners and tourists that had been conspicuously absent in our previous wanderings around the city. As the Lonely Planet book opined, the Yu Gardens presented sort of a Disneyland version of Chinese dynastic culture, but there were lots of pretty little nooks and niches and some nice […] Read More

schooled in shanghai

In all my experiences of international travel, I’ve been able to get by in English without too much difficulty, and where I’ve had trouble with English I’ve generally been met with very accommodating, apologetic service. And so, as a native English speaker, it’s hard to walk through the world without a little cultural arrogance. A hundred and fifty years ago, England held a global empire achieved through its military might. More recently, as the British […] Read More

cold city, part 2

We saw nothing interesting about the architecture as we walked through the French Concession district of Shanghai, and our language issues persisted. There’s literally an English-speaking façade here in the sense that storefronts, billboards and even highway signs display messages in both English and Chinese. You might see a place called (in English) “Such-and-Such Tea House and Bakery,” for example, but once inside you find there’s no English on the menu, and the service staff […] Read More

cold city, part 1

Shanghai has not felt warm since we arrived, in any sense of the word. It was 5° C last night, and I woke up to a bomb blast. Well, not literally. Just before I went to sleep last night, I was flipping through the TV channels. On one of them was some kind of hotel announcement, which I ignored. Except that the word “blasting” caught my eye. I switched back to the channel, and read […] Read More

5 degrees, and 5 stars in shanghai

I’m in the chilly city of Shanghai this week, in a neighborhood called the Bund. I’m here with my colleague and good friend Tracy, at the Westin, which may very well be the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever stayed in. The lobby of the Westin Shanghai is designed around an amazing illuminated glass staircase by Color Kinetics, and the centerpiece is an elaborate Chihuly sculpture. As for my room, I honestly got lost in it […] Read More

izzy is izzy

My last post – about writing fearlessly and honestly – generated a few concerned emails, including one from my mom. And, folks, that’s exactly why I’m afraid to write fearlessly and honestly. I’m certainly no Izzy, and I have no personal interest in the kind of life she leads (subtext: Don’t worry mom, I’m a good boy). I only appreciate her willingness to reveal everything. Compared to her, I’m practically a churchmouse (same subtext). And […] Read More

lime juice and sugar

I met D for lunch and a movie today. We’ve been exchanging phone calls, but I hadn’t actually seen her in about two months. I had nearly forgotten her disarming (to use a euphemism from the movie we saw) smile and the way it flickers between her eyes and mouth. We ate at a Vietnamese restaurant called Mai, owned and staffed by Vietnamese. We shared a pomelo salad – chunks of fresh pomelo, steamed prawns, […] Read More

28 hours in bangkok

I was in thailand for 28 hours over the weekend – from touchdown to takeoff. The occasion was a stag party for one of my colleagues, who’s flying back to the states to get married next week. Bangkok was hot. Skin-melting hot. The air is hot. The earth is hot. You can feel the pavement through your shoes. Thai food, of course, is hot. And Thai women… Well, I don’t like to generalise about such […] Read More

the briefing

I had to report to CLEO’s offices today for an “image consultation” and briefing about the “bachelors finale”. I came straight from a meeting in the city, so I arrived in a shirt and tie. A lavender-coloured Hugo Boss shirt and a lavender-striped tie by Michael Kors. I looked damn good if I do say so myself. About half the guys were there, in the full range of attire. Everything from low-rider jeans and baggy […] Read More


I saw a dance performance tonight at the Esplanade by Shen Wei, a Chinese choreographer now based in New York. The first piece was called The Rite of Spring, after the Stravinsky piece. The choreographer describes the piece as, essentially, an exploration of the music itself: When I first heard Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in China in 1989, I was enthralled by the rich and evocative texture of the score. Over the next 12 […] Read More

back “home”

I’m back in the little lion city state after a week in San Francisco. In the end, I was able to get one night of well-needed sleep, although I undid the healing effects a little the next night, via several bottles of wine and three friends in my hotel room. On Saturday, right before I left, my friend Leilani asked me what I will miss about Singapore when I leave it for good (assuming I […] Read More

Signs you’ve been in Singapore too long

A funny spam from my boss. Probably nothing new to Singaporeans, but as Homer Simpson might say, “It’s funny cuz it’s true!” The following signs suggest you’ve been in Singapore too long, especially if you come from a Western country… You’ve lost your sense of irony, sarcasm, and cynicism. You don’t know what’s lame and what isn’t anymore. You think there’s nothing wrong with putting chili sauce on everything you eat. You wait for instructions […] Read More

a traveller in my own city

I’m in San Francisco this week, and because I have tenants living in my apartment, I’m staying a hotel near Union Square. I thought it would be fun, but honestly it feels a bit lonely. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but I think it has something to do with the fact that my familiar life, my friends, etc. are just on the other side of my window, while what’s on this side […] Read More


WARNING: I’ve hardly posted anything these last two weeks. I’ve been working long long days for a difficult client. So, there hasn’t been a whole lot of interestin’ readin’ here lately, and I’m about to talk about doors. The doors of Singapore. In the US, Doors are usually clearly labelled “Push” or “Pull”. This seems straightforward enough, but often the handle design suggests a particular (and contradictory method). This is where it gets problematic. A […] Read More

final fifty

So there’s a bit of news I’ve been too embarassed to share until now, but I might as well get it out… I’ve been named one of CLEO Magazine’s 50 Most Eligible Bachelors of Singapore for 2005. [pause for laughter] When the whole thing first came up, I had enough liquid courage in me to say ‘yes’ to the idea. Not being a reader of magazines for young ladies, I had never heard of CLEO, […] Read More

trees without tops and cats without tails

I spent yesterday cycling around (the island of) Pulau Ubin with Tracy, Crystal and Jimmy. It’s an easy day trip from the center of Singapore, and a nice place to be outdoors. One of the things we noticed around the island were a number of palm trees missing their “tops”. Just trunks sticking up into the sky. This led Tracy to observe that around Singapore, most of the feral cats seem to be missing their […] Read More

a few reviews

The Lucky Hotel in Hanoi sits on a quiet street a few hundred meters from Hoan Kiem Lake (the only lake in Hanoi that matters). It’s a short walk from the hotel to the Old Quarter, the Hang Da Market, the Water Puppet Theatre and basically all the best things the city has to offer. At US$20-25 per night, it’s not really a bargain by Hanoi standards, but the staff is very friendly, and that’s […] Read More

photos of vietnam (and elsewhere)

En route from Vientiane to Hanoi, I met a frenchman named Fabrice. He and I crossed paths again in Hanoi and exchanged stories over dinner. I’ve just now found his URL on a slip of paper, and I’m looking at some pictures from his travels. He has a lot of great pictures of Vietnam traffic, but I can’t figure out a way to bookmark individual pages on his website, so you’ll just have to go […] Read More

street food

I survived most of my trip through Bangkok, Laos and Vietnam on street food, and although many other travellers – as well as friends back home – told me how “brave” they thought I was, I had no problems. Eating alone in restaurants always feels a bit strange to me, but there is no such stigma with regard to street food, so there’s a kind of social comfort factor. The street is also the place […] Read More

some things i saw in vietnam but did not photograph

I’ve been back in Singapore for a week now. Since I returned, I’ve worked five 16-hour days, and my culture shock has recovered enough to enable me to spend S$82 on two rounds of three drinks each (Thumper last night with Thavy and Shelly). Last week I posted my pictures from Bangkok, Laos and Vietnam, but there were some notable things I was not able to photgraph… I saw a young boy lay his motorbike […] Read More

photos from bangkok, laos and vietnam

I have more to write about my trip, but I’m completely buried by work for the next few days. In the meantime, I’ve whipped up a small gallery of photos from my arc through Southeast Asia. When I have time (at the end of the week or so), I’ll put some of these in context – within my blog. Unfortunately my camera’s default shutter speed seems to be slower than I thought, so even the […] Read More


Well, I’ve returned “home” to Singapore, and it’s going to take a bit of time for me to readjust – especially to Singapore prices. I went to the supermarket today to restock my kitchen, and I left empty-handed after about five minutes. Yesterday in Hoi An, I paid US$0.40 for a whole, local, fresh-picked pineapple – including expert peeling, slicing and packaging. I was about to put one in my cart at Cold Storage this […] Read More

through my tourist’s eyes

As I’ve travelled the Vietnam countryside, I’ve seen many many times the folkloric image of the bamboo-hat-adorned farmer stooping among the chartreuse blades of a rice field, or leading a water buffalo through mud and mist. To my eyes, it always looks like a postcard or a sweeping location shot from a movie. To the farmer, it’s no doubt just another day of work. Still, the Vietnamese themselves seem to see the beauty this image […] Read More

body hair

I went for a massage yesterday, and at the end, my masseuse took the liberty of waxing my back hair. That may be too much information for the squeamish, but I do want to stress that I had very little back hair to begin with. Asians don’t typically have as much body hair as westerners, and some Vietnamese seem particularly fascinated with the hair that they see on us. I’ve seen kids, for example, run […] Read More


The other day I met a couple of post-middle-aged social workers from California. The wife was half Vietnamese but looked somehow Peruvian. The husband was caucasian. One of the observations the husband made was that in Asia, life moved at a slower pace. Things are more relaxed, and people have more time to nurture family and community. Life in Asia, he said, is less hurried, less competitive. Perhaps his observation is a testament to our […] Read More

the apparently universal language of footbag

In Laos, the boys play a game that looks like a cross between footbag and volleyball. They kick a small wicker ball back and forth over a real or imagined net, performing various tricks. The main rules are, you can’t touch the ball with your hands, and you can’t let it hit the ground. In Vietnam, young people play a game that looks even more like footbag. They form a circle and kick a small […] Read More

cha ca

I’ve had a lot of delicious food on this trip, but one of the highlights has been a local Hanoi creation called cha ca, which requires a fair amount of table space to accommodate its various components. The main and most important bit is crispy pieces of mild white fish, fried with green onions, challots, yellow onions, parsley and various other herbs – served on a sizzling hot plate. A second tray contains an array […] Read More

traffic in hanoi

A popular joke in Hanoi says that when you buy a car or motorbike, the first thing you check is the horn. After five days, the most amazing thing to me about Hanoi is the noisy ballet of vehicles on the streets. In Bali, Bangkok and Vientiane, road rules are loose to say the least. Vietnam takes it to another level. There’s a speed limit and a side of the road you’re generally meant to […] Read More

happy new year

I heard once that whatever you’re doing when the clock strikes midnight on new year’s eve will define what your coming year will be like. If that’s the case, then my 2005 will be defined by travelling with new friends, mobile sleeping or cold weather. When the clock struck the end of 2004, I was on a sleeper train out of Hanoi, bound for Lao Cai on the Chinese border. My travel companion was my […] Read More

the butterfly

My nightlife on this trip has included a lot of billiards, mostly because a game like billiards provides a good venue for a solo traveller to meet and chat with people. The billiards tables in southeast asia – in Singapore, Thailand and Laos anyway – all seem to serve the same mix of clientele: travellers, ex-pats, working girls and non-working locals. As a side note, Vietnam is thankfully a bit different. I haven’t seen working […] Read More

Thanks again, my good friends!

I just checked my work email for the first time in a week, and I was very moved by all the emails you sent me, letting me know how much you care about my safety and well-being. I feel very blessed to have you in my life. For anyone who wants to keep informed or help those affected by the disaster, here are some links… American Red Cross International Response Fund Americares Direct Relief International […] Read More

new plan

I met a Malaysian woman at breakfast this morning, and she and I will head north tomorrow to the mountain villages around Sapa. She’s in Hanoi on a work assignment (travel & tourism industry). I’m guessing she’s close to fifty years old, but she calls herself a “girl”, seems to have a good sense of adventure and definitely has a good sense of humor. She took me to the Ho Chi Minh museum this morning […] Read More


I just received word that I have been shortlisted for the 50 most eligible bachelors of Singapore issue of cleo! I’ll have to cut this trip one day short in order to make the photo shoot(!), but how could I possibly pass up this opportunity? Here are the details (from my email)… DATE: 9 January , Sunday TIME: 9.30am PLACE: MOX Bar and Café, 4th level, 21 Tanjong Pagar Road Please bring along the following […] Read More

the tourism opportunity

The tourism opportunity represented by the rapid changes taking place in Laos is not lost on the people there. My monk and novice friends, for example, both said they imagined becoming tour guides in the future. This explains their eagerness to volunteer – they saw it as a training opportunity. I was lucky enough to be one of their beta testers. As a side note, the monks I met in Laos seemed to treat their […] Read More

final random observations on laos

ON the beaten path… There were many many tourists in Vientiane. My first impression was that there were more tourists than local residents, and I heard from a number of travellers that this was even more striking in Luang Prabang. This is a bit of a paradox, because many people had made their way to Laos specifically because it is billed as an undiscovered destination. The Lonely Planet book on Laos, for example – admittedly […] Read More

dharma walking

Yesterday, I met a young novice (monk-in-training) while taking pictures by the river. Phong Sawaph is his name, and the first words out of his mouth to me were “please to walk with me.” I was a bit taken aback, but it was so out-of-the-blue, I had to allow the moment to have its way. We ended up walking for several kilometers along the river and through various back alleys of Vientiane, and he showed […] Read More

southeast asia update

I stopped into my favourite Internet cafe to check email, and I was hugely relieved to see Crystal and Jimmy are OK!!! in my inbox. Crystal is the colleague I hadn’t heard about or from (per my last post), and apparently she and her husband were right in the line of fire. They spent four hours clinging to a tree yesterday before making it to safety. They’re now at the US embassy, trying to figure […] Read More

south asian earthquake and tsunamis

I’m too far inland to have felt anything myself, but two of my colleagues are travelling in southern Thailand. Thankfully, I heard from Tracy last night, and she and Max are safe. She reported that they literally missed a tidal wave by minutes and that the place where they were planning to dive (off Phi Phi) was hit hard. Hundreds who were there are still missing. As for my other colleague – no word yet, […] Read More

sunset on the mekong

I have to revise my earlier prediction about updating this blog. As it turns out, not only are there Internet cafes everywhere, but I’m actually motivated to take the time to post. For about a dollar, I had an amazing dinner beside the Mekong River this evening. It was a kind of warm noodle salad with all kinds of vegetables, chilis, fruits and some slices of the local style pork sausage all mixed together. My […] Read More

onward into laos

Bangkok was fun but hardly relaxing. It’s a shopping and partying destination mostly, and I’d like this trip to be about winding down, not winding up. The next time I visit, I’d like to go with a friend. If Bangkok is New York City, then Vientiane is Tucson. The capital of Laos, nicknamed the jewel of the Mekong, Vientiane stretches along a lazy bend in the Mekong River, and its small size and slow pace […] Read More

christmas in thailand

It’s Christmas day here, ahead of the US. I’ve tried a handful of times to reach Angie’s sister, but I haven’t had any luck, so it’s a solitary Christmas for me. Christmas music is everywhere here, but this seems to be mostly for the benefit of the ex-pats and travellers. For the Thai people, Christmas is merely a reason to engage a passing foreigner with a smile and a holiday greeting. For those who are […] Read More

first 24 hours in bangkok

Bangkok is a bustling, crowded, smoggy, lively, dirty, vibrant place, on par with any major world city. The roads are packed with cars, Tuk Tuks and little 125CC motorcycles. The sidewalks are filled with street vendors selling everything from knockoff designer products to hill tribe handicrafts. So far, I’ve managed to navigate around the city via an assortment of modes. The Sky Train is easy but limited. I was able to take it to the […] Read More

see y’all next year

Well, I’m off to Thailand, Laos and Vietnam until 9 January. I had been planning to buy a motorcycle in Hanoi for my trip down the coast (apparently you can get a reliable Russian-made bike for less than US$500), but Tuesday’s Straits Times cover story was all about fatal motorcycle accidents, which has made me think twice. It seems that every time I get close to becoming a rider, I see a motorcycle accident, or […] Read More

bean town girl

I called Thavy tonight to see if she was up for having dinner before I depart. She was game, and we met at one of the Italian restauraunts on Unity Street (by Fraser Place). There are two there, and I can never remember their names. An older asian gentleman was providing the soundtrack, with the help of a mic’d acoustic guitar. He sang mostly Simon & Garfunkel tunes and had a voice like Mr. Bean. […] Read More

seeing ravens

I have a few butterflies about my trip. It’s been a while since I was a solo tourist with complete control over my itinerary. I’ve been paying a lot of attention to gut feelings, and as I prepare to embark, I’m perhaps a bit more superstitious than usual. In the past few days I’ve seen a number of black bird I’ve been calling ravens. I don’t remember having seen them here before, and I always […] Read More

dreaming of a wet christmas

Despite the fact that it’s the rainy season here, Christmas seems to be very popular in Singapore. It makes sense. Singapore revolves around shopping. Christmas revolves around shopping. It’s a perfect marriage. Here at Fraser Suites, Christmas music has been piped into the hallways and public areas for the last few weeks. My bathroom window faces the pool, and the shape of the building carries the music up into my apartment. Along the way, it […] Read More

mile high club

Friday night I went with D and some of her cabin crew friends to a club called Thumper. There were seven of us in all, and I bought the first round of drinks. Alcohol in Singapore is crazy expensive. The round of seven draft beers cost me around S$100. Lucky (or unlucky) for me, my round was followed by six beers paid for by my friends. One of whom knew a group of girls we […] Read More

singapore idol, or: “Wah lao eh, why you so chao ah beng one?”

Last month, Singapore Idol was the talk of the town. In the week leading up to the final episode, I couldn’t get into a lift or a bus without overhearing “who do you think will win?” or “I prefer Taufik” or “Sly is a typical ah beng ah.” I’m not just saying this to protect my uber-cool image, but I didn’t really watch the show. OK, I saw one episode. Taufik was the better singer, […] Read More

northward bound

I visited the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Embassy today to apply for my visa. Last week I bought my plane ticket to Bangkok, and yesterday I booked my first two nights’ accommodation. I’m headed north for 17 days, starting next week. I was overly ambitious when I began planning this trip. I had imagined travelling north from Bangkok toward Chiang Mai, then east into Laos, further east to Hanoi, south to Danang then west and […] Read More

my mother the road warrior

A month ago, my mom packed up all her worldly possessions and headed west. After several decades in the Philadelphia area, she’s migrated to Silver City, New Mexico. In her own words, here’s the tale of her road trip… Luke and I had a great trip together coming out. Luke knows the way well; he’s traveled Route 40 about four times in the last two years. We pulled out of my driveway at about 4 […] Read More

caveat emptor

Doh! Today I went to buy extra memory sticks for my camera, so I can take lots of pictures when I head north to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia later this month. I paid S$120 or something like that for a 256MB “Memory Stick Pro”, only to find out that my camera doesn’t accept the “Pro” version. I guess my camera is an amateur. Anyway, I had bargained the woman down, and I paid cash. I […] Read More

high bar

I left Thavy a voicemail on Thursday night, not knowing she’s in Japan until next week. By coincidence, her friend Shelly called me Friday to see if I wanted to meet her at New Asia. Although I’d heard good things about it, I hadn’t been there before. It’s part of the equinox complex and located 70 storeys above the street, in the Swissôtel Stamford, so you get a birdseye view of the Raffles Hotel and […] Read More

a day in the life, part one: radio singapore

I set an alarm clock here every day. My morning hasn’t been dictated by an alarm clock since I was a schoolboy. Someone – I’m guessing the previous occupant of my apartment – set the alarm for 6:45 and tuned the radio to something called Power 98. 6:45 is when I need to get up in the morning, and I was willing to give Power 98 a shot, so I didn’t change a thing. Now, […] Read More

the bubble of american supremacy

In the Straits Times today, there was an unusual amount of attention paid to the US, and an unusual amount of it was unusually unflattering. The Singaporeans seem to be fans of the US for the most part, and as if to press the point, the Straits Times often features a sort of G.I. Joe rah rah shot of US soldiers in action. In fact, if anyone in Singapore is embarassed about the US, Bush, […] Read More

here they just call ’em girls

You hear people talk about the concept of an identity crisis. Every once in a while I have what you might call a geography crisis. I’ll be staring out the window of my speeding taxi at a row of palm trees, or I’ll pause to reflect while waiting in a queue for Yong Tao Foo at a hawker center, and I’ll suddenly have a sort of mild panic attack. Holy crap, I’ll suddenly think, I’m […] Read More

singlish lah

Nearly everyone in Singapore speaks more than one language. Many speak three or four. The “official national” language is Malay, but there are three other “official” languages: Chinese, English and Tamil. The Straits Times (the local English daily) of late has published a series of articles about the bilingual education system – specifically, the teaching of English and Chinese. From what I gather, the two languages are taught concurrently from the very beginning of a […] Read More

a few facts about singapore

From the CIA World Factbook Land Area: Slightly more than 3.5 times the size of Washington D.C. Arable Land: 1.64% Permanent Crops: 0 Population: 4.3 million, 0.96 male(s)/female Ethnic Groups: Chinese 76.7%, Malay 14%, Indian 7.9%, other 1.4% Languages: Malay (national). Chinese, English and Tamil (official) Literacy: 92.5% Government: parliamentary republic Voting Age: 21; universal and compulsory Land-line Phones: 1,896,100 Mobile Phones: 3,521,800 Labor Force: manufacturing 18%, construction 6%, transportation and communication 11%, financial, business, […] Read More

sick and tired

I’ve missed a couple days of posts because I came down with my first cold since I’ve been here. Thavy and Shelly called Wednesday night to see if I wanted to go for dinner. I’d already eaten, but I agreed to meet them for a beer or two. After dinner, they dragged me into a taxi, and we went to a bar called Carnegie’s. A lot of ex-pats hang out there, and apparently its gimmick, […] Read More

ulu watu and sunset at blue point

Early Saturday morning, D called me to tell me she was coming to Bali. She had originally planned to just make a surprise appearance but then thought it would be smart to call and confirm. She asked me whether it was okay, and during the pause that followed, she told me that in any case she was already at the Changi airport and her plane would be boarding soon. So… surprise! I have to admit […] Read More

uk english

You may have noticed I’ve been using UK English lately. I’m not trying to affect a sophisticated, globe-trotter persona. It’s just that on the Singapore Airlines project, I have to use Singapore English (same as UK) in all my presentations. The same holds true for Singapore in general. If I say “line” or “trunk”, no one knows what I’m talking about, so I’ve gotten into the habit of saying “queue” and “boot”. I’m starting to […] Read More


Cockfighting is illegal in Bali, but the authorities turn a blind eye during the full moon celebrations. I stumbled into one that was going on right next to a temple I was visiting. I asked Nyoman to escort me into the crowd of men and make sure it was ok for me to take some pictures. 100s of motorbikes a proud cock handler another handler Nyoman told me that something like 2 million Rupiah (about […] Read More

the barong dance

The Barong dance is a traditional dance performed daily in Bali. It’s a story of good versus evil – the Barong versus Rangda – full of action and humor. There are variations on the storyline, but the Barong is basically a sacred lion (sometimes translated as tiger) and protector of the people. Rangda is an evil spirit, who in one storyline sends his evil minions to kidnap a princess. The forces of good, then, backed […] Read More

full moon

Every month the Balinese celebrate the full moon, and this month it happened on Friday. Women and girls wear brightly coloured blouses, while men and boys wear white headbands and shirts. All wear colourful sarongs. Some of them press rice into their foreheads, and they trek to their local temple to leave an offering to their god.

bali: day one… dialing it back a notch

Nyoman dropped me off at my hotel, the Puri Naga Seaside Cottages, at about 1:30, and rather than kicking off my whirlwind sightseeing bonanza right away, I decided to spend my first afternoon in Bali just chilling at the hotel, getting acquainted with the adjacent beach and maybe going for a massage. My room at the Puri Naga was pretty barebones but not without character. It had a nice little porch, and the hotel gardens […] Read More

bali: ketut and nyoman

In traditional Balinese culture, there are only four names a person can have, and these are completely dependent on the birth order. Regardless of whether the children are male or female, the firstborn is Wayan, second is Made, third is Nyoman and fourth is Ketut. With the fifth child on, the cycle just starts over again. This must make for interesting morning roll calls in Balinese classrooms. On the recommendation of my friend Leilani, I […] Read More

bali: arriving, and line-cutting Americans

From what I’d experienced of Changi (Singapore) airport, and from what I’d heard about Bali, I expected my arrival to be like going from the back seat of a limousine to the back of a motorbike. The Denpasar airport, however, was quiet, clean, stylish in a very Balinese way – all red brick, tile, wood, water features and statues. For citizens of about a dozen countries – including the US – Bali has a visa […] Read More

bali bound

Found 15 minutes of free Internet at the Changi (Singapore) airport. Time’s almost up. I’m off to Bali for the weekend. Happy Thanksgiving my American friends! Happy weekend everyone else.

food courts and hawker centers or, congee – it’s not just for breakfast anymore

In Singapore, food courts and hawker centers are where the locals eat. They’re where you go to get good food cheap. A food court is just what it sounds like – a collection of food stalls located inside a mall or shopping center. A hawker center is the grandfather of the food court – a collection of outdoor food stalls (and often vendors selling dry goods, bath items, etc.). A true hawker center, though, is […] Read More

life of pi and runaway horses

“There are always those who take it upon themselves to defend God, as if Ultimate Reality, as if the sustaining frame of existence, were something weak and helpless. These people walk by a widow deformed by leprosy begging for a few paise, walk by children dressed in rags living in the street, and they think, “Business as usual.” But if they perceive a slight against God, it is a different story… These people fail to […] Read More

istana open house

Yesterday, for the Hari Raya holiday, the Istana (“palace” in Malay), the official residence of the President of the Republic of Singapore, was open to the public. Apparently, this happens just a few times a year. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside the residence, but here are a few shots of the grounds: If I’d been allowed to take one picture inside the residence, I would have captured the function room where a number […] Read More

McDelivery for the extreme couch potato

I haven’t watched a lot of tv in Singapore, but the other night I saw the end of an episode of Singapore Idol, and it was interesting to note that all the voiceovers – mostly naming sponsors – were spoken by an American. Everything else on the show (except for the, well, entire concept) seemed to be localised. A couple nights before that, I watched a show that some of my colleagues are referring to […] Read More

hari raya in geylang serai

So, shopping and more shopping. The Hari Raya celebration, too, was all about shopping. Geylang Serai last night was basically a big clearance sale. It was wall-to-wall people and nearly impossible to get around. Crossing a street during a break in auto traffic was a bit like walking into heavy surf or an epic battle scene from Braveheart or Troy or [pick your favorite ancient period piece]. We’d watch people gather on the other side […] Read More

living in caucasia

On the subject of incredible customer service… This is a potentially delicate topic, but it makes a difference that I’m caucasian. It seemed to make a difference on the flight, and it has made a difference here on the ground. Yesterday, I found myself third-in-line behind an asian couple and a teenager in a grocery store queue, and the clerk pointed at me and waved me ahead. It was a little embarassing, and I tried […] Read More

deepavali and hari raya

It’s time to revisit my earlier first impressions of Singapore. I mentioned its reputation as a “boringly sterile” land of laws. I left that quote unattributed, but it came from the Lonely Planet book I think. A single jet-lagged stroll down Orchard Street served as the basis for my first impression of Singapore as a land of malls. It is a shopper’s nirvana for sure, but I’m discovering more and more all the time. This […] Read More

L8r conrad

Here’s one last look at my view from the 30th floor of the Conrad: Yesterday, I moved ino the serviced apartments at Fraser Suites. The place is alright. It doesn’t have a lot of character, but it will definitely be comfortable enough for the next four months. kitchen complete with standard bachelor frige contents unfortunately, the art is attached to the wall my favorite thing about this place: spying on my neighbors


The other night a small group of us went to see a play called “godeatgod” by local playrwright, Haresh Sharma. On our first or second day here, Tracy handed me an eye-catching post card, and ever since then I’d been spotting them around town. post cards for godeatgod The cards quote a review from the sold-out 2002 run and describe the show as “a layered and moving exploration of power, sexuality, spirituality and survival in […] Read More

dave the tailor, parts I and II

Last week, the team pitched in to get me a tailor-made shirt for my birthday. Skip and Darrell took me to Dave the tailor for my measurements, and since Dave is such persuasive salesman, I also signed up for four pairs of trousers. I don’t know Dave’s last name – his business card just says “Dave” – but for his shop, I love how he simply coopted a couple of designer names and called it […] Read More

applied memetics for disillusioned dems

By way of Brett, whose friend Nathan Piazza has authored an eloquent primer for honing the rhetoric of the left… “As I contemplated the depressing outcome of last night’s election, one thought kept bugging me. How incompetent can the Democrats be when it comes to the cutting edge of political manipulation? Throughout the Clinton presidency I always felt that the sharpest operators were on the left’s side. We controlled cultural discourse. We understood the media. […] Read More

halloween birthday in a chinese temple

One advantage of being on this side of the dateline is that my birthday went on for 42 hours. I got lots of in-person birthday wishes from the SAA redesign team, then lots of remote wishes from friends and family in the US. I celebrated with a nice day of exploring. I toured Singapore’s Chinatown in the sweltering heat with a native Singaporean named D who took me through the prayer ritual at the quarter’s […] Read More

scariest halloween costumes for 2004

Just in time for Halloween, the scariest costumes for 2004. So wrong it hurts. Thanks Rebecca! Ralph Nader Put the fear of God in John Kerry and his Democratic supporters with this easy approximation of Green Party leader/Democratic ticket spoiler Ralph Nader. With just hand-me-down Sunday-best clothes and Grandma’s old cocktail wig, you’ve got yourself a real live Ralph Nader. Total cost: Free! Total time: Under 15 minutes.

cancer sticks and pottie pie

Singapore, of course, is notorious for being being a boringly sterile land of laws. I’ll have to get back to you on that, but in such a harsh legal climate, one would expect smoking to be outlawed. It’s not, but you could say it’s strongly discouraged: The cigarette packs themselves convey a pretty strong anti-smoking message. Rather than a wordy Surgeon General’s warning (USA) or a direct declaration like “SMOKING KILLS” (UK and Canada), the […] Read More

livin’ large

So, everything they say about Singapore Airlines is true. The level of in-flight service was far beyond anything I’ve experienced. The food was excellent, the entertainment selection was massive, and the flight attendendants seemed to be able to read minds – bringing green tea and fresh fruit, for example, just when it was most needed. I was too embarassed to take pictures, but I promise to try to get over that on the return flight. […] Read More

(far) eastward bound

For some reason we can’t remember, we decided to fly Singapore Airlines out of LAX instead of SFO, which meant we had to create our own connecting flight on the front end. It meant we could fly from the US to Singapore nonstop, but it also added a few hours to the overall journey. A quick poll of the team suggests this route was the client’s recommendation. We followed it without questioning it, and Tracy […] Read More

New Yahoo! in beta

Yahoo! has made available a “beta” version of a proposed new home page. The main improvement I see is their reorganization of their various web properties (News, Sports, People Search, Personals, etc.) into a simple alphabetical list: Previously, these were grouped into blurry categories like “Connect, Organize, Fun…” Other changes include a general visual design refresh of the icons and module wrappers, and a demotion of the Directory.

dim sum pizza

Monday. That means all-you-can-eat dim sum style pizza tonight at Goat Hill Pizza! Basically, that means they serve all their regular pizza varieties, but they walk around like dim sum servers, offering little slices to the salivating throng. And pizza, of course, means… beer! Beer lovers, check out RateBeer.com, the creation and pet project of one Joseph Tucker. I interviewed him once, for a job at Vodafone. He was tremendously qualified – far too qualified […] Read More