Blogging From All Over The World

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A Nice Little Saturday Lined Up...

"Go to the zoo, look at lions, orang utans. Maybe see a play. I don't know, I don't know if we'll have TIME."

That's basically what my first Saturday was like in Singapore. It was a packed day that began around 11am (in Singapore, nothing gets started before 11) when Anji called and we made a plan to meet up to visit the Singapore Zoo. We had talked about going to the zoo earlier in the week, and Singapore's zoo has a good reputation. I was excited as well because we were getting out of downtown and had a chance to ride the MRT and buses on a different route, for a change. We met up with Anji at the MRT and then boarded a bus for the ride over to the zoo. We got there around 1:30pm, which is usually blazing hot, but this week we've had cool, pleasant weather. So we headed into the zoo and casually strolled around for a couple hours. The zoo itself is very beautiful, incorporating lots of greenery and picturesque lake. In fact, the zoo hosts weddings and yesterday there was one scheduled for later in the evening. Nima was fascinated with the baby chimp who was playing with his daddy, "monkeying around" and climbing all over his back. Anjali was excited to see penguins at the Singapore zoo, though we didn't catch them sliding on their bellies like in March of the Penguins. I personally could relate with the giraffe, since both of us can see clear over the top of everyone else here in Singapore.

After finishing up with the zoo, we headed back home to get ready for the big date Nima planned for the night. We had dinner reservations at Paddy Fields, and then tickets to "Photographs from S-21", a play at the Esplanade, Singapore's world-class performing arts venue.

Without going any further, let me say: Paddy Fields is the best Thai food I've ever had in my life. Period. The entire experience was amazing. The restaurant provides a charming, authentic, warming atmosphere and the staff is curteous and friendly. The menu itself tells a story and is well designed, and offers more than enough choices for everyone's tastes. What I really appreciated were the creative dishes on the menu, including many authentic ingredients such as kang kong, potato leaves, and olive rice. These are items you simply won't find at standard Thai restaurants in the U.S. We started with shrimp lettuce wraps and a mushroom-coconut milk soup. The soup was very tasty and we were impressed with the way the coconut flavor came through without adding sweetness to the soup.

For dinner, Nima and I split the steamed bass with Thai chilli and basil, stir-fried kang kong with black soy sauce, and pineapple rice. First of all, thank goodness we didn't order they suggested 1 main course and 1 vegetable per person, because I was about ready to explode when dinner was done. The kang kong was very tasty and I was pleased I ordered it despite not knowing really what kang kong is. The pineapple rice was served inside a hollowed out pineapple, with cashews and pineapple chunks. It was ridiculously good, I could easily have been satisfied with just the rice. And the steamed bass - we ordered a half portion - was gigantic and flavorful. It was served in an authentic fish-shaped steel dish with a burner underneath to keep it steamed throughout dinner. The fish was a bit spicy for my taste, but the Thai iced tea and pineapple rice were more than sufficent for cooling me off. The blend of Thai basil flavor came through nicely.

The dessert menu looked appealing as well, though we were completely stuffed after dinner. The restaurant was running a promotion, giving free dessert when you show your Singapore Airlines boarding pass. However, we didn't qualify because despite the abundant amount of food we ordered, our total bill came to less than $60SGD. In the U.S. you spend more at Olive Garden for a dinner for two. Its probably better we didn't get dessert right then, though we definitely hit up Haagen Daas later on.

After dinner we headed to the Esplanade to see "The Glass Box", a contemporary Cambodian dance and "Photographs from S-21", a play about the prisioners in one of the brutal Cambodian killing camps. Both performances are part of the Singapore Fringe Festival, an art festival focused on healing and awareness of those suffering around the world.

The dance was somewhat interesting but not really what I was there to see. I have a reputation of falling asleep at performances (Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, Harry Potter 3 at the movie theater, Nima's 25th birthday dinner in NYC), and the dance was dangerously close to putting me to sleep. The play, however was very good.

I personally am very ignorant about the history and politics of Cambodia - basically I knew it was overtaken by rebels and there was a long spell of genocide and brutal killings. This performance derived from the "Photographs from S-21" exhibit in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, an exhibit that showed photos of many of the prisioners who were detained, put to work, and killed in in Cambodia. The play took an angle of brining to life a man and woman who's photos were in the exhibit, and told their stories and personified what the ghosts of those people might say or think when observing the exhibit. I wish I knew more context about what happened in Cambodia before seeing the show, but it definitely prompted me to do some more reading.

After the play we spent some time on the roof terrace with all the other Singaporean teenage kids to take in a great view of the Singapore skyline, and then went down to Haagen Daas and had dessert. Though a "Cookie Crunch" runs close to $10USD, you can tell by the picture its absolutely worth it.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Orchard Road

Singapore is synonymous with shopping and shopping malls. The first thing that comes to mind when asked to describe Singapore is the plethora of shopping malls, literally on every street corner. The heart of the shopping district is Orchard Road, and until you've seen it you won't believe how there can be so many malls in such a small area. There are malls for everyone. Paragon mall (see picture) is the highest end mall I've ever seen in my life, it makes Tyson's II look like Wal-Mart. I had to go in there to visit the Singapore Airlines office but the place was chock full of fashonistas and rich expat wifes with nothing else to do. Down the road, Funan DigiLife Mall is a technogeek's (see Nima) paradise, as it's seven floors of electronics stores. We had to stop in there to get some plug converters for when I get to Sri Lanka. Even many of the MRT stations have shopping malls built-in. Of course, spending an afternoon in a clean, air-conditioned shopping mall might not be a bad way to beat the Singapore heat. And pretty much all shopping malls include a bottom floor food court with dozens of choices for places to eat while your sister or girlfriend are looking to pick up yet another pair of shoes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Singapore Sling

After 20+ hours in 5 different airports in one journey, I finally made it to Singapore safe and sound on Wednesday morning (Singapore time). I know 2 things about Singapore: Its clean, and its warm. I love it.

I'm tentatively here for a few days before heading to Sri Lanka, and I'll be spending them with Anjali and Nima. Here's a view from Nima's phat apartment near the Novena MRT station.

I think my body's having a little struggle adjusting to the time here, a just woke up from a deep 12 hour slumber which could have gone for another 8 hours. Today Anji and I are going to run some errands including getting a phone, and hope to check out East Coast Park later today. And of course, eat some good food!

Thanks for all the comments, keep em coming. How the heck did UVA beat Boston College?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Left JFK, Not Quite in Singapore Yet

Just a quick check in here - I left JFK on time at 9:00, and many thanks to Sac for taking me there and having a beer or 3 with me. Currently, its 11:45pm EST and I'm over the Atlantic Ocean. As I checked in this evening, there was a guy by the ticketing desk hanging out free 30 minute prepaid wifi cards for use on the plane. Singapore Airlines has two flights on which wireless is available, and this one is one of them. So this blog entry is literally being written on an airplane over the Atlantic. Here's a screen capture of exactly where I am right now. Pretty cool, huh? Anyway, gotta go, I'll check back in when I'm back on terra firma.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Asia, here I come

Welcome to the first post of my blog. As most of you readers (i.e. friends) already know, I'm about to embark on a 6 month journey through Asia, primarily in Sri Lanka, with stops in Singapore, India, and hopefully many other countries.

The idea of such a trip across the world has been festering in my head for years now. I have been restless for some time now, living in the same town in which I grew up. I have many great friends here in Reston, VA but I've been struggling and battling with the urge inside me to get out of Northern Virginia and experience something new. I've talked about moving to Chicago, Austin, Charlotte, and San Francisco, to the point where I've all but arranged a transfer within Accenture to one of these offices. But ultimately I stuck around here, as the right opportunity for me simply never came up.

Enter Accenture Development Partnerships. As part of Accenture's effort at corporate citizenship, the firm developed a non-profit "wing" in which we take on consulting work in developing countries and non-profit organizations and provide economic, technology, and management consulting services at no profit to Accenture. Accenture does its part by reducing the cost to the client by cutting out margins, reducing overhead, and requiring the employee (that would be me) to take a 50% paycut while on assignment. So over the next 6 months, I hope to have an experience of a lifetime, even without the discrectionary income!

I actually applied and was accepted to the ADP scheduling pool over a year ago, and beginning the middle of 2005 I began the process to actually get staffed on a project overseas. I attended core ADP training in December, and after then I was sold on the prospect of working on a project overeas. In addition, my lovely girlfriend Nima as well as my rockin' little sister Anjali are both currently in Singapore for work and school, so I can't deny there was an addition incentive to get me over to that part of the world.

After months of looking for a role within Accenture (both ADP and regular), ADP came through with a potential project with a non-profit that works closely with the Government of Sri Lanka to advance technology services both within the government and to its citizens. The role is a perfect fit for me as it involved strategic planning for a government portal, which is right up my alley in terms of experience. I expressed interest to the ADP management team and we're in the very final stages of making this project a reality. I've been slated to be a member of the team. The project, based in Colombo, is scheduled to go from late February through June.

I'm all set for my journey, as I'll be taking of from DC, connecting through New York, hopping on an 18 hour direct flight to Singapore, and spending a week with Nima and Anjali before reporting to Sri Lanka for work.

I set up this blog as a place for me to share my experiences, thoughts, and photos with my friends and family around the world. Check in often (subscribe to the ATOM feed in Firefox) to share my experience, and remember that comments and emails are much appreciated. I look forward to being in touch with all and I hope you enjoy the blog!