(This is a run-down of updates since Thursday since I neglected to post them earlier. I’m back home now.)
Friday morning, 3/19:
Yesterday we had our first training session and it went well; lots of good dialogue without much of a language barrier.
After work, we had the bus drop us off in Little India, where we strolled for a while before arriving at Muthu’s Curry, a large (you guessed it) Indian restaurant. I rarely eat Indian in Harrisburg, but my teammate says that a restaurant downtown makes this food pretty authentically. I enjoyed the rice, the mutton curry, and the tandoori chicken most of all. A mango lassi drink was a great dessert.
After stuffing ourselves at Muthu’s we found a subway stop and our host took us over to Raffles City Tower, a 70-story beast with an awesome view of the skyline. I could have stayed up there all night looking at the city. Finding the New Asia bar there a bit loud and expensive, we headed down to the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel. Apparently famous for its “Singapore Sling” drink (I wouldn’t know), my companions enjoyed them as I enjoyed an Asahi beer.
Another night of walking around the city came to an end as we took the subway back to our hotel and found some of our workmates at the lobby bar. A little bit of conversation was a great end to the day.
I actually slept the best night I have here – slept in until 6. I’ve been getting up between 4-5am the days before this. Just in time as I head out tomorrow!
Sunday morning, 3/21:
I arrived back safely yesterday and I’m surprised that I slept from 11-5:30am local time my first night back. Perhaps I won’t see much jetlag at all! The flights back were OK, except that I was the unlucky one on my Tokyo->DC flight who didn’t have a working headphones jack. The two flight attendants made up for it by fawning over me and snagging me an iPod airline adaper cable so that I could watch the movies on the iPod Touch I was borrowing on the ~13″ LCD dedicated to my seat. United’s Business Class on the upper deck of the B747-400 (20 full-reclining seats and 2 dedicated flight attendants) was the best leg of the trip for me even without all the amenities.
Not much to talk about from Friday – the second day of our Singapore session went well and the whole group went down to Orchard Road (the main shopping district). We visited an open-air restaurant on the 7th level with a great overhead view of the bustling streets below. I had a Singapore Sling (not as good as Long Bar’s – no pineapple slice!) and plenty of beer and food. I even tried fried calamari, which looked like onion rings. Tasted OK. Unfortunately, our host couldn’t attend since he was feeling sick during our presentation and was flying to Harrisburg for global leadership meetings over the weekend. He wanted to rest up for that.
Headed out of the hotel at 5am early Saturday morning. No surprises on the bill and had a cab I requested waiting on us; my teammate had a flight to Guangzhou leaving a little after mine. Smooth ride to the airport and a smooth check-in as well.
While we’re talking about airports, let me compare my experiences since I detest the security theater at them. All the airports I visited had the 3-1-1 bag rule for liquids in carry-on luggage and requested that you remove laptops from their bags. They also requested that you remove jackets for screening. That was about as bad as it got. In the US, the extra thing that you had to do (“requested” to do to avoid additional screening) was to take off shoes and have them x-rayed. Also, the US was the only country where it was mandatory to go through re-screening after arrival from a foreign country to be allowed to take a connecting flight. We also had to claim and recheck our bags. I was a lucky passenger in DC that got his hands checked for explosives residue and had a bag pulled for extra inspection. Apparently there aren’t enough titanium USB memory sticks on keychains out there yet.
Personally, I think the liquids ban and the shoe rule should be dropped immediately without a second thought. Way too much trouble for too little security benefit. Enough preaching.
Overall impressions of the trip: I had a lot more fun than I anticipated. In my limited explorations in China the language barrier was rarely experienced. I benefitted from the experience from the perspective of my job since I met a lot of other peers in person and got a view of how operations work outside the US. I felt that Singapore would be the easier of the two for me to stay an extended period because of the prevalence of English, the more normal traffic (even though it’s left-handed) and the excellent subway system. Both locations offered a lot of insight into their people and I recommend both as tourist destinations.