Monday, January 29, 2007

Some jet-lagged rambling

It took about 26 hours to get from my hotel in Singapore to my home in Virginia. That's a whole lot of flying and hanging around in airports.

The trip was Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia then Singapore again. I've already blogged a bit about the Philippines, but there are a couple of other points worth mentioning. When you arrive at the airport in Manila, there's a sign warning about SARS and H5N1 bird flu. Then you walk through an infrared scanner to see if you're running a temperature. That's a bit disconcerting.

The city of Manila is a mostly depressing scene of widespread poverty. But Makati City, the upscale business district, is different. When you pull up to a hotel or office building, your car is checked, to widely varying degrees of thoroughness, for bombs and/or weapons. Concern over crime is one reason. Abu Sayyaf in the south is another.

Kuala Lumpur was nothing like what I expected. It's easy to get around without knowing any language besides English. And as the capital city of an officially Muslim country, I expected a bit of, well, dourness. Contrary to my expectations, it's a pretty happenin' place. Even more surprising was the active sex trade.

And just like many of us, they're often slow in taking down their Christmas decorations:

Our corporate travel folks have some pretty good hotel options when traveling in Asia, and all the places we stayed at were quite nice. I'm generally not one for taking pictures of hotels, but of course I had to get this one of an actual pool bar at the Sheraton Imperial in Kuala Lumpur:

But Singapore was my favorite of the stops, and I was glad to get back there for a few more days before heading home. Singapore, even more so than Malaysia, is Asia for Dummies. Or as a colleague put it, Asia with training wheels.

English is not just widely spoken in Singapore, it's the official language of the city-state. Signs are not just bilingual, they're English only. So you get the cultural experience without the culture shock.

But some of the food can be kind of shocking. The next time the subject of "what's the strangest thing you've ever eaten" comes up, my response will be "frog saliva". Or maybe it was frog ovaries. Whatever.

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