The end of the Ding Dong – The mental link between cake and the U.S. class-divide

Normally I like to write about the adventures in Singapore like maybe today’s venture to Funan, which was temporarily paused by the torrential 20-minute downpour that seems to occur every afternoon. Yes, we are in rainy season for the next 3-4 months. I have a really nice umbrella therefore I don’t mind! Plus, seeing lightning strikes occur near the top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel reminds me how cool our view is during a major storm.

But what was most interesting to me this weekend was the demise of Hostess Brands. They make my favorite snack not sold here in Singapore: Ding Dongs.  Don’t start to snicker – I do mean the foil-wrapped chocolate cakes that parents all over the U.S. used to sneak in their kid’s lunch bags back before words like saturated fat, cholesterol, and obesity made everyone run for the hills or ban the 7-11 Big Gulp cup. They also make those really good small chocolate covered doughnuts that last forever not to mention the iconic Twinkie. The doughnuts got me through many a long work night.

Today I was checking out CNN and read the reader comments that followed the Hostess story. Over 8,600 comments so far.


A few made me laugh and a few reminded me of some conversations over here after the Presidential election last week. First, the fact that people actually spent time writing about the improper use of grammar or calling each other “asshats” made me laugh. At the same time, it made me cringe. Is this what our communication has come to? Do we use social media to come up with Zingers while wasting time writing about things not even related to the article? I wonder how many saw that of the 13,500 employees being laid off because of a union strike, the union in question represents only 5,000 of the overall employee base. I won’t venture a guess at how many scratched cars and egged homes are occurring in that part of the U.S.

What makes me sad though were the large number of comments back and forth blaming President Obama or Romney, or the vice-versa. I won’t get into a political discussion because frankly, I think we’re at that tipping point and someone else will write about it in some history book of the U.S. after its demise or takeover by zombies. No, its not that bad but when you read some of the comments, you’d think the U.S. is optimally set to soon follow the Roman Empire into the sunset.

If you have read this far, what is interesting and what this reminded me of was the reaction here in Singapore after the election. “Good, there will be little change in foreign policy” is pretty much what most would say. “Another election done” might be some others. Very basic and seemingly ambivalent. These are NOT the comments I would see on friend’s Facebook postings. No one here was going back and forth about the death of the US because the democrats are staying in power. Granted, they have their own politics to worry about and that makes sense.

But you know what else they ask? They want to know why the U.S. has such a class warfare system. I had to think or a bit. There are other countries where class warfare exists maybe in a caste system or maybe the urban versus rural populace. When I am asked that about my own country, I don’t have an answer. When did politics become so decisive that friends turn on each other while writing on a social media site that has become the way we now communicate! Yes, I use it too but sometimes I just feel it has even made us more disconnected. Will it change? Will the next generation realize they can’t move forward unless there is a way to really work together to move the entire country forward? Will they even be able to balance a checkbook or has interest in math, chemistry, and science gone down the test tubes.

Or will they still spend weeks being angry at something that is done, over, tallied. Will every four years be like this? I hope when we come back in a few years, things have gotten better.  I am just throwing my thoughts out there since that is what I like to do!



Working through our Insomnia at end of four months

A few days ago, we were officially here now for 4 months. Only 20 more months to go! Things continue to settle down and we continue to run around and find new locations (to shop, to eat, etc.).

A little over a week ago, I spent the day at a writers/publishers seminar. It was part of the weeklong Writer’s Festival here in Singapore. I think this was the third or maybe the fourth year. The day I attended, there were a number of different seminars covering writing a novel, working on biographies, legal rights in this self-publishing age, and quite a few discussions around publishing via the Internet on your own (Amazon, Kobo Writing Life) versus the traditional way of finding a publisher and putting your book out in print. The online publishers of course see bookstores going the way of Blockbuster or the other video rental stores you used to know but can no longer find. With the large amounts of iPads, Kindles, and the like, reading books electronically has picked up steam.

One of the authors at the seminar was Neil Humphreys who I have mentioned before. ( Neil has written a number of books about life here in Singapore –from the ex-UK, ex-Aussie point of view. I was able to spend 10 minutes talking to him before his lecture and he really is an interesting guy. You figured he was more laid back that the rest when you saw him seated on the panel. The others wore slacks and button downs or even a sports coat. Neil was in older jeans and a t-shirt. The debate between him, preferring to work with a publisher and brick-and-mortar bookstores vs. a female author who has published exclusively online, was really heated. I won’t spend hours on this topic but if you are interested in writing and publishing online, even short stories, Kobo Writing Life is worth a look (

It was a fun day actually. I thought I would be fairly bored but the afternoon arguments…discussions around self-publishing were worth the day.

I won’t spend too much time here about work either. Not sure anyone is really that interested. However, I now not only do technical pre-sales, project management, and partner enablement, but now am I suddenly the lead salesperson for Southeast Asia. Not sure how it happened but I hope the Selling for Dummies book now sitting on my desk will help! I get leads through an internal system and then I have to call them to figure out there interest. I have one good one right now I am working with but this is all new to me. Likely the biggest challenge since trying to implement Lean in the hospital where nobody really cared! Always fun that one.

I am not even sure what else is new. It just seems to be a normal existence these last few weeks. We found another cool restaurant, Medz, which I will write about separately. We’ve been going out at night to the clubs on the weekends – well maybe not your idea of clubs but the places we go are free, have good cover bands, and offer really interesting people watching! Last week we tried Chijmes’ Insomnia which had a not-so-good cover band, a few working ladies, but was really small and boring. Yet we had heard Insomnia was the place to go. Not sure why!! We still are on our quest to find clubs with good music and no cover charge! Maybe I’ll add another blog entry about that. We are going to ZoukOut in another 2 weeks. It is the 2-day all-night rave party at the resort beach island here. No, we won’t last two-nights, being in our 40s, but we will last at least 1 night! I don’t think I have even been to a beach rave! I wonder what the dress code for that event is. We won’t have insomnia after that.

YAW’s work is still tough but I think it will work itself out soon. Next week is Thanksgiving, not a holiday here of course, but we found out the Fullerton Hotel, an 8-10 minute walk, has a Thanksgiving buffet on Saturday. There are some other Americans here working with YAW and we are going to go as a small group. That will be fun and I not only looking forward to all-you-can-eat pumpkin pie, but the ability to waddle home in a few minutes will be nice.

We are also addicted to the classes now at Pure Fitness at Asia Square, the one with the all black outfits provided. The classes are the same, many of them, as the ones offered by 24-hour Fitness or Bally’s in the US – i.e. Body Pump, but the class sizes are usually smaller. I was in one the other day with 12 women and me. That is the benefit of course of working at home and going mid-afternoon. I am not sure I stand out because I am the only guy or the only Ang Mo! Maybe both. On the weekends, we go together and that way when we both can’t walk after, no one wants to go to the crowded malls and we don’t feel guilty about being lazy at home.

Well it is Sunday at noon and we have to venture out today to one of the geek malls, either Funan or Sim Lim, to find some computer equipment. And yes, the equipment is for work! Strange I get to go shopping or work-related stuff. What happened to the guy tai days of lounging by the pool….

No longer a ‘Guy Tai’: Working once again as Week 16 Ends.

Here we are close to the end of 16 weeks. Yes, 16 weeks. It seems to have gone by very fast. It seems we have been here much longer. It seems we have a long way to go. I think sometimes our “seems” are coming apart! Yes, things have been hectic these last few weeks and I have not had time for my weekly rants. Therefore, now that my workday is done (yes, I’ll cover the fact I work now), it is time for a little reflection. What the heck has been going on?

YAW is still struggling with work. Maybe juggling is the more appropriate term actually. I don’t think either of us thought a 40-hour workweek would become such a distant memory, like the thread of a happier time tugging away at the back of your mind. Aaaah, remember a 9-hour day? Those were nice too! I don’t really write about my wife’s work but its crazy!! She is like a pet storeowner coming in after the monkey has opened the cages and the mice and cats are running around! You know those cats… Just think about your team and coworkers. If, within 2 days total, one tells you they are writing a resignation letter, another walks out and comes back a few days later and a 3rd does all they can so that the customer doesn’t like them and kicks them out, well how do you think that is working out?

The good news or at least my version of it? It is all coming to a head. It will either be a big awesome blowout or someone will finally come to their senses and support the wife’s plan to slow things down, smooth them out, and get it done! I am keeping a close eye. I could write several pages about the work issue. I have plenty of Kevin thoughts on this but I will refrain. She knows what she is doing. Let’s just say if I knew what this would be like and how it would impact my wife, I might be still driving a car down PCH.

Since we don’t have cars here, and I have to sometimes go to work now, I have been trying out the bus system. Once you learn how to read one of their maps, which looks like the pipe system in the basement of a hospital, it is very convenient. I actually took the bus today a whole 1.5 kilometers! I went to my first customer visit now that I am back working. It was pouring rain, as it tends to do starting this time of year, therefore a taxi to the customer and a bus back seemed the drier thing to do.

Three weeks ago I started as a contractor working for a previous US employer. They are continuing to expand in this region and knew I am living here. This means my three months of leisure (pool, gym, pool, mall, subway, food, mall, food, etc.) has come to an end. A few days after I started, I spent a week in Boston with the International team for their kick-off. This was great because I had to wear a jacket! It was cold out. I even went shopping at Costco. Oh that brought back memories.  I also had to pack and wear pants. Hello! Do they not know I didn’t wear pants for three months! Don’t forget the tie; I hadn’t worn one for 7 months! (I was very proud to do my last four months at the hospital with no tie). You should have seen the beard! I even had YAW help pick the twigs out of my hair before hopping on the plane. All that cleaning up was exhausting.

Ah Boston was fun. I met some great people, many in the regions near me, and it was worth the 4 airports, 3 plane rides, 30+ hours each way (as long as once a year, no more!). I also got to see my cousin who I had not visited with for a long time. I think 10-12 years! Not so good at remembering those past events (sorry sis).

But here we are, fully back and awake in the Singapore time zone. We joined the gym I mentioned in a previous post and spend several hours a week in our black outfits. I still think there is a secret room for Ninja school. I know some of the classes feel like their testing my tolerance for pain. It is a great gym though. We can go at 6:30 PM and the classes don’t feel crowded. I highly recommend a visit to Pure Fitness if you are in the neighborhood.

Things are progressing. I spend my time working at home, getting caught up with software and systems I have not played with for a few years, while YAW gets up and goes to the Octagon for a bit of business warfare. We are settling in. Now we have to get off our duffs and start calling the people we have met since arriving here. Well, that and go see James Bond this Sunday. Yes!! Bond, James Bond.


CUT by Wolfgang Puck, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands

CUT by Wolfgang Puck: Expensive but well worth it.

UPDATE: January 2013 – I have to say this place will be the financial death of us! After our 3rd visit there just this month, we calculated over 10 visits since the first time we tried The Cut last fall. It never disappoints! We now eat at the bar every time and my standard is the US filet medium-rare. Once we found out they also have a less expensive steak and frites meal, which is the perfect size, that seemed to clench it. The bartenders are great and they talk to you! We haven’t found this as true at DB or Mozza’s which are across the way in the mall

Steak. The Final Frontier. Wait, that’s not right. Well you know what, for today it is! There are a few things we really miss living in Singapore. One of course is a good steak. I am talking about the juicy, medium-rare, bone-in, grade-A, cooked in 10 pounds of butter, filet from Mastro’s that I so miss. The second is good Mexican food. I am not going to spend any time on the latter here. It is an ongoing quest and we are coming close.

But Steak I have found and the restaurant is Wolfgang Puck’s CUT here in the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. Located inside the busy (and way too expensive) mall, this restaurant is the classical dark wood interior you would expect from a good steak house. CUT is the 3rd steakhouse for Chef Puck, the first being in Beverly Hills, CA of course. As you walk in, there is the obligatory bar and a few tables. This is especially handy if your first time to CUT you do not know shorts are not allowed in the dining room! Fine, I’ll eat at the bar. We did, but this is our 2nd visit.

The bar experience, during our first visit, was great. The bartenders are young and willing to chat. The restaurant plays classic rock most of the time and asking the bartenders if they know the song or group from around 10-15 years before they were born is an interesting game. I’ll warn you they cheat! There is an app for the iPhone that tries to identity the song it hears and of course they use this trick, albeit on the sly. When I ask the name of the song and I see one hand dart under the large bar, I know they are cheating yet once again. However, it is good sport. Both times, Lugis was there and he has great drink recommendations. Watching the bartenders here mix the drinks, using super large ice cubes, shaking, and pouring, is as much fun as ordering. Keep in mind this is Singapore. Cocktails are not cheap

On this 2nd visit, we spent a few minutes at the bar but then, being appropriately attired for an evening out with the wife, we proceeded to the dining room.  By the way, it was Saturday night because when I called on Wed. for Fri reservations, they were booked. Call early in the week! Continuing, the mix of patrons is young and old, some local many tourists, and the atmosphere is relatively quiet. The wait staff is hyper-attentive and is on-hand immediately should you need anything. When they ask you about bread, get the pretzel rolls! They are the best!

For this dinner, YAW had the filet (always a good choice) and I had the steak sampler. Yes, you read that right.  It is actually called the “Tasting of New York Sirloin”.  The tasting includes one USDA PRIME Illinois Corn Fed (120g), one American “Kobe Style” from Snake River Farms (Idaho, US. 120g) and a final piece of Japanese Wagyu from the Shiga Prefecture (Honsu, Japan. 60g). The cuts are served left to right in the order I listed (see photo too) with a sauce to match each style.

Sauce?! This is steak! No, I did not use the sauce although I did sample the flavors.  All 3 cuts of meat were fantastic and cooked perfectly. Of course the Wagyu was amazing and very tender. It was hard to save that for last or at least a majority of it.

New York Tasting Menu

In the picture, you can see the cuts and the side of bone marrow. That stuff is so rich it is like melted butter (good to try once but likely not again).



As a side vegetable, we had a butternut squash dish that was fantastic! We also had a bottle of wine, flown all the way from Santa Barbara, CA. Only we would order wine a 2-hour drive  from home in CA when living 10,000 miles away


To top this off, we had one order of the Baked Alaska desert. Yes, I asked them if they would light it on fire at my table. No, they did not. I think the wait staff thought I was crazy when I asked. Is that only on cruises? It was really good and I look forward to trying it again, even with no fire.

Baked Alaska – okay maybe a little fire.

We love this place and it is high on the list of where we would go often if money were no object. Yes, that is one of our ratings. We don’t use the 5-point system, we use the ‘what if we won the lottery (which doesn’t exist here) and could eat anywhere anytime’ system!

It is well worth the visit for that special dinner. And if any of our friends actually make it over here, we might even treat! (Might).

This small sampler is provided with the large bill




Singapore Shopping – The Remora Effect

Any, and yes I really mean ANY, magazine, tour book, guide, newspaper, and especially the touristy maps will identify Singapore as a shopping mecca. This is the spot in the ASEAN region to shop!  ASEAN = Association of Southeast Asian Nations.  You will find a shopping center at every subway stop. On Orchard Road, easily the Beverly Hills of Singapore shopping, you can find multiple Hermes, LV, and Chanel stores within blocks of each other. The malls do their best to one up each other on glamour and glitz. Bright lights. Big Screens. More food. Cleaner bathrooms.  (No, they don’t advertise that but I know which are better). At night it appears to rival the Las Vegas strip, or some of my PS3 games, for who’s display can cause the most seizures as the public passed by.

You can read about shopping on any number of blogs therefore I won’t delve much into it here except for the Remora effect. But before that, I do have to mention I am not sure why this is the shopping mecca. Prices even after the exchange rate are often higher than the U.S. by at least 25%! Our iPhone is one of the best cost-savings tools we own. We use it to find the same goods online in the U.S., figure out the conversion and tax differences, and often say “What the hell! Are you crazy?” Then we leave without a purchase. Hence, a very valuable cost savings tool. I recommend it highly.

Another cost-savings tool is the Remora effect. “Huh? What is that?” Have you ever seen Shark Week on the Discovery channel and noticed those small fish attached to the shark? Those suckerfish are called Remora. How does this relate to shopping?

When you walk into the majority of stores here, a salesperson will immediately come over and ask if they can assist you. “I am just looking” is not a sufficient answer if you have issues watching someone become befuddled. Don’t you want to buy a pretty bauble? You can say that you are wandering and begin to browse. The salesperson will follow you, often within striking distance for a good shot to the face. In the U.S., it is almost the opposite. You’re lucky if you can find a salesperson not busy fixing their nails or looking out into space wondering how to get out from the bright-light trap that is the makeup counter at Nordstrom (I shop with my wife by the way, so no I do not go there on my own! My shopping is usually a 5-minute in-out experience even as a Guy Tai).

Here the Remora clerk really will follow you every step of the way. What is strange is when you start to turn around, they will move quickly to the side but you can always notice something lingering in your peripheral vision. They don’t leave! After a while, you start to get used to this effect. Where it becomes painful is when you want to have a purchase discussion about “should we or shouldn’t we” with your significant other. It is uncomfortable standing there and saying “didn’t we see these sheets somewhere else for less?” or “Do we need another dung beetle paperweight?” while the clerk is hovering. You often want some privacy.

When you have this feeling, you can tell them, ideally with a smile, you’d like them to go elsewhere while you have this short discourse with your ‘money-manager’. Often, they will retreat a few meters but they still lurk ready to pounce. And heaven forbid you make eye contact! All in all, shopping here is a sport. It is great for people watching and you’ll realize the entire country is in the malls on the weekend. Keep in mind aircon (air-conditioning) is free and many young people live at home into their early thirties (has to do with age and marital status rules for buying homes here – another topic). Therefore the only place to escape is…The Mall. Think South Coast Plaza at Christmas but all year round. It also helps that most people take the MRT or bus, therefore parking is not an issue for them or us. This makes it even easier to pack them in.

When you decide to come here for shopping, watch for the Remora. Tell me I am wrong. Please don’t hurt them! Good luck!

Just another Billionaire?

Here is our story of the day, or week, or month. As we were walking back from the Bollywood class (I tried it for YAW), there was a man in front of our building who I met when he and his family (entourage, friends, etc.) viewed our apartment last month. I did not know Raj, that is his name, has a personal net worth of $1.5 Billion and his real estate assets are over $3 Billion. This officially makes him the wealthiest man we have ever met. Congrats Raj! We wondered who had the very nice black Rolls Royce with a driver standing by.

See, our apartment is up for sale and therefore I occasionally have to give tours, being the homemaker that I am, to potential buyers. We figure most look at it as an investment property.  Evidently they have not read my blogs on the noisy neighbor and shoddy construction. Wait until I write about the light bulbs!

I remembered when Raj and his group were here, he was one of the friendliest people to come through. He also mentioned he was going to Los Angeles this year to look at property. Being that I am from L.A., we chatted most of the time he was in the apartment. This was rare for most walk throughs. I mentioned YAW was here working with one of the big Singapore banks. At the time, I thought he was just another average investor. I had no clue to his history.

Today, I saw he remembered me therefore I stopped and introduced YAW.  Raj Kumar Hiranandani introduced himself to YAW. As we chatted about him visiting our building again to look at other units, he mentioned he just got back from Europe after looking at the ‘Marriott portfolio’. Since we didn’t know anything about him yet, we didn’t know what it meant. He said he is still planning a trip to LA at the end of October but is spending time now picking up additional properties in Singapore. By now I am thinking “How many properties does this guy have?” There must be something I am missing.

As we were talking, he looked at YAW and remembered she was the one working with the large bank here, calling it by the actual name! He had not met her previously but remembered that part of our conversation from his tour a month before. That was very impressive and really cool. YAW was instantly wondering “who is this guy?”.

Of course, we then parted ways. Once YAW and I got back upstairs, I hopped in the shower and figured YAW was having some water. As soon as I got out, I heard “Come here!” What do you think YAW was doing? Yes, of course she immediately went on Google! Turns out Raj, chairman of the Royal Brothers Group, is the 11th wealthiest man in Singapore. He also owns a few hotels including some Marriotts (now we get it!) and some shopping centers here in the Lion City. I think by now we weren’t super surprised but the fact he took the time to chat with us and remember her banking customer by name was so impressive that we wanted to blog it. He was so down to earth – something you may not believe until you meet him.

In case you are wondering: and

For some reason, we don’t think this is true of Donald Trump. Maybe because we have seen him say “You’re fired” too many times.

Happy Saturday. Time to go shopping at Orchard Road. Look out Tods, here we come.


Pure Fitness, Subway (MRT), Light bulbs, and Dreams – End of Week 12

At the beginning of this week, I started a 7-day pass for one of the gyms nearby. Pure Fitness has a new 32,000 sq. ft. facility about a 10-minute walk at Asia Square. It would be a 4-minute walk if it weren’t for the construction of a new downtown line subway (MRT) station being built between us and the Asia Square (Citibank) complex. I don’t even know if the new MRT station will be done while we still live here but if it is, it will be a 3-minute walk to that one! Cool.

Today was my 4th experience at the gym, as I took a day off in-between, and I have to say it is one of the nicest gyms I have been too. Granted, my experience is a local Bally’s or 24-hour fitness. I think, if I had ventured to SportsClub LA or the one in Irvine, it would be closer to this. The first day I showed up to try a kickboxing class around 1:00 PM on a Monday afternoon. I was smart to do so right after the UK and Aussies were going back to work. This gym is in the heart of the financial district. I won’t say anymore about that.

As I walked in wearing my gym clothes consisting of some gray shorts and a white t-shirt which says “Think Differently” on the back (a few people might get that!), the first thing I noticed was everyone was in black. Black T and black shorts. They all matched. Luckily not black socks. Black socks and white sneakers always make me think a 290 registrant (think Megan’s law). If their heads had been shaved, I would have thought I was back in boot camp but I know we wore blue.

It seemed a little strange to me coming from gyms where you were lucky if the person next to you didn’t have brown stains under their armpits or holes in their shorts. There were a few exceptions at Pure Fitness but for the most part everyone was similar. Now I know why bright orange or blind-me yellow sneakers are so popular here. They need a little color with their uniforms. Once I walked to the locker room (they give you a key when you check in), I immediately noticed the shelves held different sizes of black Ts and shorts. Now I get it. I thought maybe as a gift for joining a gym with fees around S$150 per month, they gave you a pair of shorts or two! I put on a black t, kept my gray shorts (for the rebel Ang Mo that I am), and proceeded to class.

Before you completely freak out about wearing the shirts and shorts, I worked in a hospital before this where the surgery teams all wore the same scrubs. These were also on shelves as you walked into the respective locker rooms. I was lucky enough to watch a few surgeries over the course of a few weeks and therefore I had to wear the scrubs. The scrubs are sent out to a laundry service, much like the t-shirts here, therefore I don’t really see it as an issue. Granted, the shorts I do see as an issue actually so I may meet you in the middle on that freak out. I think it a great idea, this color matching of clothes. As Stephen Colbert might say, I don’t see race. Plus, if you come from work and have to go back, suckers, then you just need your tennies. They even supply cold washcloths you might need before you pass out from exertion in a class. I admit I looked like a beet and needed one of those. There is no overt showing off of clothing styles (except the girl in the pink…well I am not really sure legally they could be called shorts) and this makes it much less of a meat market like the gyms in the U.S. That is a good thing (Hi honey!).

Over the past week, I took the kickboxing class and today a TRX class. You would have to look the TRX up but basically there are two straps hanging from the ceiling that allow you to work out, mainly while leaning very forward or back, in a way to focuses on your abs and kills your arms and legs. Really, I hurt already. Have I mentioned I washed my paper 7-day trial card after my 2nd trip? Took 15 minutes to find it stuck in the dryer. Luckily they let me in with my “contact number” which is I guess is different than my phone number. Actually, what else could you answer your contact number with? “Hey I have tin can number 2. Call me before the rust permeates my ear.”

The other few days were just running amok trying out all the different equipment from heavy bags, to weights, to machines, to the indoor 50 meter sprint track; all good stuff and fun. Remember, I don’t work therefore I can spend from 1 PM to 2:30 PM, or so, in a gym  only 20 other people are around. And this place is big.

Tomorrow I am dragging YAW to try a few days and yes, I will take the Bollywood class with her. Ugh. The things I do. One nice thing about this gym is the nearby food court (down 4 levels – the gym is on floor 6). Now I have worked it out where I can eat a snack before then grab a fresh meal after!  Ah, the life of leisure.


That was a much longer update than I expected, therefore I will hold my new stories about why I can’t change a light bulb in Singapore and my recent mobile phone dream. Good stuff.

I will leave you with one subway story. Make sure before you visit that you walk a lot and use the stairs a few times. I finally rode the MRT (subway) during rush hour this week. The station I use has three escalators from the entrance to the ticket machines and then a pair of up/down escalators to the platform. Normally, the set of three escalators to the ticket machines have 2 down and 1 up. Sometimes reverse. I was swimming upstream the day I went. This means even as I was walking toward the station, thousands, and yes I mean thousands, of people were passing me towards the financial district.

When I got to my MRT station, ALL the escalators were moving in one direction – UP. All these people flowing at me – I am so glad I am taller than most so that I can see my goal! When this occurs, you take the stairs. All of them. Each set that eventually leads you down to the platform.  Step by step. It was also one of the first times that the sign showing times for the next train arrival said “Do Not Board”. I think that train was full.

Happy Friday!

PS. Cafe at Palais on Orchard Road

PS. Cafe has four locations in Singapore and it was highly recommended for Brunch. But being that we are sometimes a tad lazy on weekends, we stopped by at 2:00 PM on a Sunday afternoon one September weekend (yes, this is a late entry – I realized I am lacking on foodie details!). It was a 15 minute wait but you sit right by the dessert case and it is worth a look. I actually debated skipping right to some of the cakes and the apparently famous pineapple meringue that looks like a volcano! That is usual for me, by the way – skipping to dessert. Just ask someone who knows me. Ha!

Overall, the atmosphere is really good at this PS. Cafe and for the food, we would go again. (Our new rating – “go as often as money allows”, “go again”, “once was okay”, “yuck” or something like that.)

We split our food, which seems to be one of the handy Asian customs I am getting used to (unless steak is involved then watchyour fingers!). Our dishes were the chicken tenders with steak fries and a hamburger that is a mix of Waygu and sirloin. Since the tenders already had fries, we switched the side for the burger to a salad. The chicken tenders were some of the best we have ever had. The covering was lightly breaded and crispy but not greasy. The burger was okay and the salad – well it was salad! It was good but I still have a slight aversion to vegetables.. The aversion works well here in Singapore as I find most dishes don’t come with a big portion of veggies if at all! Good for me!

Dessert was a shared carrot cake and a cappuccino. Yes, I shared the dessert buy in my, and the cake’s, defense it was a big slice! It was pretty good. We will go back at some point and have more chicken tenders and try the volcano-looking meringue.

Citibank: Part 4! Finally!

The Thursday before we left for Bali, I dropped off a new signed copy of our US W9 (or 4, now I forget! – see Citibank Part 3) to the City Hall branch in Singapore. They still had not fully activated our account. The customer service representative I dealt with was not even there. I learned that all Citibank employees go to the main branch first thing in the morning for some training, probably about paper forms, before they go to the local branches. Therefore I left the signed copy with a note: “If this is not working by Monday, I will be in to close the account and withdraw all funds”.

We left for Bali on Friday and honestly I did not think nor care about Citibank for the weekend! Since we decided to stay a day longer on vacation, I also did not check my ATM card on Monday. Tuesday I did logon but could not do some of the online banking! Stupid Citibank! How long does this take?

I did not wander over to Citibank until Wednesday, September 26th, to test the ATM card. In my head I was rehearsing my speech for closing the account. “Give me my check now. I want to go to UOB and deposit my money there!” I know, not very sarcastic, bombastic, fantastic, or whichever modifier I need to make a stronger point. At this point, I was just plain tired.

I used my ATM card to access the account (which I could always do) but this time…it spit out money! Yes, Citibank finally allowed me access to our funds after 25 days. Not bad. I mean think about it. If we all had to wait 25 days to get any of our deposited funds, how happy the credit card companies would be? They could rake in some dough (if you did not pay on time. Maybe you need 50 days to do so). Or alternatively, how much we would have in savings after living off PB&J for 3 weeks. This was a ridiculous experience with a bank that has been in Singapore since 1902. Yes, over a 110 years of banking excellence still led to a bunch of incorrect signatures on forms and almost 4 weeks to access our funds. Now it seemed too much trouble to cancel out of principle alone. I let it go. Breathe out.

As YAW said in her recent FB posting, maybe Citibank SIngapore can use the interest they earned off holding our money to once again buy electronic signature pads. That would make life easier for the next banking customer.

Bali – Ayana Resort: The End

I better finish this article off as I have other new stuff to write about (vent, complain, in awe, etc.). Therefore I will make Part 3 relatively short just to cover the highlights you need to know if you would like to spend three relaxing, sun-filled (albeit umbrella covered) days doing as little as possible. No, we never ventured off the grounds to see the rest of the big island that is Bali. We decided next trip, we may stay on the volcano side to see more of the island and so I can take a snorkeling trip!

I already wrote about the Saturday fish dinner and this being “Sunday” in the plan, we ended up there again. It was just as good a meal, an even better sunset since there was no cloud cover, and the same great wait staff. The only drawback was the table of 12 Aussies talking it up at the table behind us and taking their pictures right next to us! But even so, you can’t beat the view and the food. Just focus on that.

I do have to say there is a slight language barrier and we figured we caught 40-50% of what was being said to us in English. But I have become used to that because even with English as one of the official languages in Singapore, there are still heavy accents and grammar moved around. Think Yoda but with a heavy Asian accent. I am okay with this and I get better each week. I find it a fun challenge to figure out how much you understand of the entire conversation, the context, by focusing on the few words you do pick up. Most often, it is enough lah.

Sunday morning we walked down to the Rock Pool before breakfast. This is right next to the seafood restaurant and the island-wide famous Rock Bar, both at the bottom of the resort cliff. At night, there is a long line for the Rock Bar which uses an inclinator to get down the cliff.

We thought you could drop your stuff off and go eat but because this pool has very limited space, you are only allowed to leave for 15 minutes before they kick-out your stuff.

Therefore we stayed and enjoyed the quiet, the fantastic view, and the lack of people until about 9:30 AM when it was time to go up and eat.

The pool has an infinity edge about 40 feet above the beach (12 meters for you local folks). We could prop our arms and head on that edge all day just to view the ocean and the occasional fishing boat trawling nearby.

Since I will not really have a Part 4, 5, etc., I will say now we did the exact same thing on Monday morning before our flight home. The pool is so relaxing early in the morning. Then it is the perfect time to eat (plus the buffet closes at 10 AM). The buffet breakfast was just as good on Day 2 and 3.The local Indonesian dishes changed and it was great to try a variety each day. Of course each day included some Western fare on our plates – mainly 2 eggs over easy and a few strips of bacon. After all, if I can’t have fun clogging my arteries while on vacation, then I am not following my American roots.


On Sunday, after our meal and some gestation time, we walked around the resort to find the other pool (near the villas) and look at all the wedding guests go by. There seemed to be 3 weddings each weekend day and the mix was quite interesting. They have specific buildings with special views set aside for the weddings.

Once we found the river pool, we lounged there for a few hours. There were only 3 other couples at the large pool. Part of that could be it appears to be hidden in the trees with no ocean view. It is higher up in the resort, therefore has a good breeze. The pool construction was really interesting. It had multiple levels and edges.

We found the 18-hole practice-your-putting golf course and although it looked fun, and we said let’s try it, we never did. Too much fun doing very little. That was my motto and it worked out well.

Sunday night came and went and Monday it was time to leave. After our Rock Pool and buffet breakfast morning, we had a little wait time before checkout and the ride back to the airport. As we left, we once again meandered through a one-lane dirt road, merged into heavy scooter traffic, and passed the general populace on the way to the airport. Two minutes out of the resort gate we passed a small ramshackle hut where an elderly woman was just sitting down on her front steps in a skirt, and only a skirt. No top. You already have seen the jokes about very elderly women’s chests therefore I do not have to elaborate. It was that exact stereotypical image, I kid you not!

The flight home, a whole 2.5 hours, was uneventful which is exactly what you want to hear about any plane flight. We were the only two in the exit row and that meant plenty of elbowroom and plenty of legroom. This was our first time flying into Singapore since we received our government IDs and we weren’t really sure how that would work. I did know we no longer had to go into the long passport line for visitors. We went to the Resident line and asked the guard. He said this was the correct line but asked, since we were relatively new, if we had tried the automated line to the right. We said no but we shall!

You insert your passport into the slot and if it works, you go to the next kiosk for your thumbprint. And if that works, you go on through. It worked and this was super easy! It makes me want to fly again just to bypass the line. We had signed up for the same process at LAX about 6 months before we moved and only got to use it once or twice. Very handy but this time no background interviews with Customs.

That was the extend of our Bali trip and we are actively planning our next regional trip. I think Maldives will wait until December but there are so many options.  And at each, I shall keep my American-tuned eye open for some interesting things.