Sunday, July 20, 2014

Simon's Travels: Singapore

As you probably already know, Simon recently went on a two-week business trip to Asia. He spent one week in Singapore, and the following week in various cities in China. Obviously, an account of this trip is something that's a good fit for a blog that is ostensibly about traveling, so here is part one of his adventure!

Los Angeles to Tokyo

I left Los Angeles midday on my first twelve hour flight across the Pacific.

To get to Singapore, I had to layover in Tokyo at the Narita Airport. Because the flight was over nine hours long, my company bought me a business first class seat for the trip.

This flight was the best flight I've ever been on. The business class seat was really comfortable,

and the flight attendants kept bringing me wine. The long flight allowed me to work on schoolwork almost uninterrupted for hours, and I got to relax, recline, and watch episodes of Cosmos.

We were served dinner an hour into the flight, and then breakfast before we landed in Toyko.

I wish I could do all of my work on transpacific flights.

We landed in Narita at 3pm local time the following day.

The airport is very clean and modern, with lots of fun signs

and foreign (to me) things to look at.

I had a three hour layover, so I explored a bit

 and talked to Steph. I also had a Japanese beer, which I paid for in yen on my business credit card.

Apparently, it's not just Detective Conan that has to worry about nefarious silhouette villains.

 It wasn't long before I had to get on my flight to Singapore.

Tokyo to Singapore

My seat on this flight was very similar to the first, but the plane was bigger.

This flight was shorter, at seven hours, but they still served two meals. After the first meal, I fell right asleep, and woke up with only an hour left in the flight. Good thing I wasn't smuggling any drugs.

When we landed in Sinagpore, it was 12:30 am on Monday. I had to find my way through the Changi Airport.

 The airport was liberally decorated with vegetation

and water features. After I exited Immigration & Customs, I immediately purchased a Singapore SIM card for my cell phone. This allowed me to message Steph - it was only 9:30 am on Sunday for her. Afterward, I took a taxi to the Swissotel in the Merchant Court area of downtown Singapore, along the Singapore River.

When I arrived at the hotel, it was close to 2 am Singapore time, so I went straight to sleep.


Singapore is a very Westernized country. The primary language is English, although it is heavily populated by bilingual Chinese, Indian and Malaysian people. But the weather is like nothing I've ever experienced.

Every day, it was over 90 degrees with nearly 100% humidity. It only rained one day, but was often overcast.

Most of my time during my week in Singapore was spent at the plant working on a trial. The plant is very unphotogenic.

Okay, some parts were cleaner than others.

Much of the time I had outside the plant was spent sleeping and eating, so a majority of my pictures are from the hotel and restaurants.

My hotel was a resort-style hotel, with small rooms and large common areas. It had a nice pool

and landscaping features.

This is a Koi pond in the hotel courtyard. 

I had breakfast in the hotel restaurant every morning. They had Western-style food, so I ate things like eggs, fried rice, beans and potatoes.

A common lunch destination for the plant workers was the nearby Chan Chye Canteen. They had food choices from several different Southeast Asian regions.

The place was intimidating at first, but I grew to enjoy the food after the third or fourth visit.

I even found some friends outside.

My last two nights in Singapore included dinners out at restaurants, the first of which was at Mirchi Taste of India with some plant personnel.

Before dinner, we did a bit of sightseeing - this is the newly finished Marina Bay Sands, a hotel that looks like it has a boat on top.

Check out this article for more information on the hotel. Here is a panorama of that area - click/tap to see a bigger version. Before dinner:

and after:

On my last night in Singapore, I went out for Chinese-style seafood at Jumbo Seafood with the two engineers who I'd been working with all week.

Chinese-style seafood is much different that Western style - we had whole shrimp, and fish with all the bones intact.

We also had the highly recommended "chili crab", a slightly crushed whole crab in very spicy chili sauce.

The food may have been good, but I was overwhelmed with the lengthy and difficult process of getting to the edible parts. It was an omen of my future dining experiences in China.

After the seafood dinner, I got to go on a boat ride on the Singapore River. This is the docking area for the boat.

We killed some time before the boat ride wandering around the nearby mall.

After about a half an hour, we boarded the sightseeing boat.

We took some pictures while sailing around on the Singapore River for about 45 minutes.

Everything along the river is very brightly lit.

Singapore was a very modern and comfortable city, and I would welcome another visit there any time.

Here is a link to the pictures that I took in Singapore.

Okay, that's all for now. We'll be back with part two of Simon's trip in a later post. Talk to you soon!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

PVG ---> LAX

So this is what I keep checking today:

Google makes it very convenient to stalk your husband's flight. Less than nine hours til he gets here! I have some stuff that I should probably do before he gets home, like take out the trash and get groceries, but I am procrastinating on those things by writing this blog. After all... I have some time.

Last week, I kept myself busy by getting out of the house in the evenings, and this week I did more of the same. Unfortunately, most of what I did I could not take pictures of due to house rules, so you will have to settle for a brief written accounting. Saturday night, I went to Largo

a club that hosts a lot of comedy shows, to see Varietopia, a monthly variety show hosted by Paul F. Tompkins. We had gone to one a couple of months ago, and it was fun, so I had been thinking of returning. But with Largo's prices between 3x and 10x what a UCB show costs, I wanted to make sure whatever I came back for was worthwhile. PFT strongly hinted that one of his guests this month would be Ben Schwartz, so I bought tickets... and then he confirmed it on Twitter the day of the show. So I was psyched.

Largo has a few strange rules. Some I don't like at all, like no photographs during the show. There is a photographer that walks around taking pictures at shows there, but those pictures aren't regularly posted anywhere, so that is unhelpful. A rule that I do like is their first come, first served seating. They start handing out seat assignments for the theater at 6pm (usually), so as long as you get in line between 5:30 - 5:45, you can get front row seats. Since we live only a couple miles away, we often go there, get the tickets and then go home to eat, coming back just in time for the show. And on Saturday, that is just what I did.

The show was, in my opinion, better than the last edition that we attended. PFT did a bit of a comedic monologue, and then guest Drennon Davis did a short set. His set consisted of mimicking the sounds of flipping through radio stations while adding in comedic bits, and then closing on a song. If you click on his name, it looks like a performance of this song is on his website. Kind of strange, but not bad.

Next up was Ben Schwartz and PFT, who sat in chairs on stage for a few minutes to talk about Ben's appearance on the Dead Author's Podcast a couple of months ago. Having been at that as well, I enjoyed hearing the debriefing. After a few minutes of conversation, they got up to some mischief with kazoos, and then it was time for the musical guest, Benmont Tench. All of these bits were interspersed with more PFT and comedic interviews of the band that plays to open and close the show.

Finally, the entire ensemble came out to perform "Jet" by Wings... there was even a kazoo solo in there. Loved it. If it sounds like a bit of an eclectic show... it was, but that's one of the things I like about it.

Sunday evening, I actually went back to Largo for a fundraiser that Nick Offerman hosted for Forty Panes, which is a documentary being made about author Wendell Berry. I wasn't initially going to go because the show was priced very high, as is typical for fundraising events. But the day before the show, they halved the ticket price so I decided to check it out.

To be perfectly honest, I do not know much about Wendell Berry other than what was presented at this fundraiser, and I have never read anything he's written. But Nick Offerman really likes him, and had a bunch of people perform for this fundraiser. Megan Amram, Bo Burnham, Will Forte, Johnathan RiceRob Delaney and Nick Offerman all did short sets, and it was a good mix of comedy and music. I hope that the show helped toward finishing the documentary.

On Monday night, I attended my first ever panel hosted by the SAG Foundation: a screening and Q&A for one of our favorite TV shows, Comedy Bang! Bang!. As I soon discovered, the SAG Foundation has screenings and Q&A's all the time, but they are typically only open to SAG members. But this event was open to the public, and the SAG building is literally five blocks from our apartment, so I registered to go. First, we watched the most recent episode of the show that aired on TV, which I had not seen since we don't have cable. Then, they went to the Q&A. Here's the Q&A portion of the panel in its entirety:

I love going to events like this, because the people who are being interviewed often remind me that they, too, started from scratch and worked their way up. It's refreshing and inspiring to hear success stories like that, as well as hearing more about the process of creating and writing for a TV show. And now I'm tempted to join SAG just for their screenings.

Tuesday night, I went to see Doug Loves Movies, since Doug had hinted last week that this week would be a really good one. Clearly, many people had picked up on that hint - I got there a half hour earlier than last week and was in the same spot in line (maybe even a little further back) than I had been the week before.

The guests weren't immediately recognizable, but they were kind of a big deal. Phil Lord and Chris Miller are the writer-director team responsible for The Lego Movie and both of the Jump Street movies. With them was an actress from 22 Jump Street and Workaholics, Jillian Bell.

It was a fun show, and though yet again they only got through a couple rounds of the Leonard Maltin game, I enjoyed myself.

I stayed in Wednesday night, and then Thursday night, walked over to LACMA to see a free screening and Q&A for the film I Origins.

I wasn't really grabbed by the title when the event was announced, but once I read the description I realized that one of my favorite actors, Michael Pitt, had the starring role in the film. He's fairly selective about roles, and hadn't done anything for a while (except for a recent arc on the tv show Hannibal, which I have zero interest in seeing). So I was really happy to see that he was back on screen, and would be at the Q&A. Since it was just me, I went super early so I could get good seats, and ended up in the middle of the front row. 

I'm not going to post the trailer, since I think it gives away more than it needs to, but I really enjoyed the movie. A lot of critics have taken issue with it, and honestly, I think many of them have fair criticisms, but I don't really care. I loved the writer/director's aesthetic, and thought it was an interesting story.

After the screening, Elvis Mitchell interviewed the writer & director Mike Cahill, and stars Michael Pitt, Brit Marling, and Astrid Berg├Ęs-Frisbey. I snuck a few pictures toward the end of the panel, since I'm not one to stick around afterward clamoring for an autograph or photo, and they all came out great.

I don't get star-struck very often anymore, but it was rather exciting to see someone whose work I've followed and enjoyed for literally half of my life in person. It certainly doesn't hurt that he's an incredibly good-looking fellow. 

So that brings us to last night, when I just stayed in to relax. During the week, I had spent my days doing a combination of job-hunting, apartment-hunting, and a little bit of writing, so I gave myself the night off from all that, and it was nice. Today, all I've managed to do is eat breakfast, tidy up after the cats and write this blog post, and look!

How quickly time flies. Simon will now be here in 7 hours! We'll definitely be doing a couple entries about his time in Singapore and China, since he's taken a lot of pictures and experienced a lot of new things. 

We'll be keeping a low profile for the rest of the week... until Thursday, when we go to San Diego for Comic Con! And I am very, very excited for that. Talk to you soon, and have an awesome weekend!