Travel, Technology and Time Machines – My Foot!

I’ve always maintained that travelling is educational and recently my visit to Singapore for the first time taught me many new things. It also stimulated thoughts that would never have been exposed whilst in London.

You see, when at home in London, it is extremely easy to embrace routine and continue to base life around that routine. I personally dislike prolonged routines. It’s okay to maintain a routine, but that routine must also evolve with the times, I believe. Sometimes that is easier said than done. That’s why travelling expands the mind and provides the stimulation to change. It is education as I say.

As a technologist, I once tried to embrace video conferencing in a bid to lower travel costs and of course to be greener, but with that comes a hidden trade off. It is the ability to touch and feel other cultures. There really is no substitution for that face to face experience.

On my recent trip to Singapore I experienced what I can only describe as a Geo-Fusion. Many cities claim they are multicultural and cosmopolitan and most are, but Singapore has a visible harmony to their mix of cultures. The fusion provides a friendly carefree environment that I do believe is an example to the rest of the world.

During my MBA studies I exchanged many discussions with students across the globe based around a topic and I learnt a great deal. It was an excellent transfer of knowledge, but it wasn’t quite the same as experiencing the same topic through the eyes of the students around the world. I took this opportunity to do just that.

A stark difference I noticed was their attitude to technology. Whist Singapore is awash with technology, their consumer habits are not the same as say the US and the UK. E-Commerce is not there yet and yet still they are thriving without it. I say this with little research but simply on the face of my visit.

There is no comparable returns policy in the shops and very little evidence of online shopping and I believe there is a reason for that. There is a rich market environment in Chinatown, Little India and throughout the HBD (council estates) areas. Where the people spend the day socialising over a meal/snack or simply a cup of coffee (as we do in the our cities).

Walking through the HDB areas (which are not visibly segregated in any way they simply blend into the landscape), it was evident how trade continues to thrive with very little change. Singapore historically was a trading port and to this day that culture is stronger than ever. From the Samsui women making a living the only way they know how, to the affluent professionals also making a living the only way they know how, through trading they live side by side in what I can only describe as harmony.

If you ever wanted to experience time travel, Singapore provides the machine. I witnessed supplier, wholesale and retail in one glance at the side of the street as one man cycled up to a weighing station with his wares, exchange his goods for money and another exchanging money for goods to sell to the consumer through the wholesaler. It was simple, effective and fast; golden rules for anyone in business.

Another inspiring sight I witnessed was the business of reflexology. A very successful chain called My Foot provides employment for many local people with disabilities in particular visually impaired individuals that are skillfully trained. These talented therapists provide the most relaxing environment and effective reflexology in the country. My Foot provides an opportunity to an otherwise limited community to earn a good living by developing the skills that are in demand. Having experienced reflexology, it can be quite addictive, particularly if it has cured an otherwise tired pair of feet as it did in my case! I need to find an equivalent in London.


Welcome to Singapore

My first visit to Singapore was met with a welcome I did not expect. First of all a 12 hour 40 minute flight from Heathrow on the faultless (until they flew me) Singapore Airlines felt more like 7 or 8 hours. This was the longest flight I had taken but it certainly didn’t feel that way. The service, the food, the entertainment, the seats and the time I chose were perfect!

Singapore and therefore Singaporeans pride themselves in being somewhat faultless and set an example to the rest of the world from their pioneering ERP traffic system to their chewing gum law (some say crazy, but it works!), and clearly were ashamed when I landed and had to eventually report to the Lost and Found office to report my missing luggage…along with another 20 or so passengers. Mutterings could be heard from a few locals around the baggage claim that this must have been a fault at Heathrow, it could not be a fault of Singapore Airlines. However, no sooner had I arrived in the lost and found office about to fill out the form, when we were informed that our luggage had just arrived on the carousel! The extended wait was not impressive, and the fault was with the container lifts, it broke down just before unloading the last set of cases off… mine!

Of course if there’s is a remote chance that Singapore airline staff are reading this, “You bozos, this is the first time I’ve flow with you to your home country and THIS is the welcome I get? An extended chance to stare at your conveyor belt? Feel free to comment here to apologise and I will let you know my KrisFlyer number for you to apologise in miles.”;-)

Having left the Airport I headed to my sister’s pad just off Grange Road. An impressive tree lined street with modern high rises appearing through the tree tops. Looking out of her apartment there are certain angles that appear as if you are looking down on a mini rain forest. Very impressive.

A quick shower and change and it was off to the Funan DigitalLife Mall. Now, this is an interesting place. Immediately and obviously, it is 7 levels of technology, geek’s paradise filled with everything IT hardware/software and gadgets galore. If you know what you want then this is the place, there’s plenty of options and competitive pricing too. If you are browsing, then after two floors your vision becomes blurred and you will hallucinate and begin to simply see mice everywhere, of the computer kind of course!

A few gems came out of that visit:

Curry Puffs – A mouth watering smell that was torture for my nephew Sebastian.

Kaya Toast – Thanks to my nephew Julian for warning me that the filling is green.

– Fresh Sugar Cane Drink

Coffee-O or Kopi-O – It’s instant, but really delicious with a drop of condensed milk and certainly a caffine boost.

$10 – 10 minute haircut! Not something I’ve tried yet but intrigued nonetheless. Obviously a Japanese idea for the busy individual who needs coiffure housekeeping but with very little time. A quick tidy up followed by a vacuum (of your head) and your comb as a souvenir, I hear to ensure hygiene, is a must try. Can’t see that model working in the UK; 10 minutes for £10 is not much of bargain, let alone a haircut, and translated; 3 minutes for £3, I hate to think. I will try it out later in the week.

Yes, the things that I was impressed with were the sidelines in the technology mall.

To conclude, dinner at my sister’s place was better than any oriental restaurant I’ve ever visited and to top it off, as I write this, my taste buds are screaming for more, but I can’t remember seeing what happened to it. 😦 Arrgg! Begs the question, what is the standard of the restaurants? I’m sure I’ll find out, but credit to Elisa and Juve for cooking up such a taste sensation! Let me know where the left overs are next time :-P.

Anyway, I must try and get some sleep, I’ve got to be up in less than 4 hours to continue my cultural learnings.