Tuesday, September 30, 2008

8-11 October: Dangerous Obsession

N. J. Crisp's psycho-thriller of a play, Dangerous Obsession, will be performed at the DBS Arts Centre in Singapore 8-11 October 2008. Showtime is 8:00 pm. Bob Corwin will be directing this Stage Club performance.

You can book tickets form Sistic, with tickets priced at $32 on Wednesday, and $38 for all subsequent performances ($19 for students).

The show looks like it could be a really gripping mystery, full of lots of twists and turns. Book your tickets now.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

The Singapore Biennale 2008

From now until 16 November, you can view Singapore's premier international contemporary art event. The exhibition is installed at the Central Promontory Site at Marina Bay. We are already about 2 weeks into the event, and I have heard lots of good things about it.

This year's Singapore Biennale features artists from all over Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Names include Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Willy Koh, Deborah Kelly, Isak Berbic, Herman Chong, Hans Op de Beeck, Anthony McCall, Sherman Ong, Isaac Montoya, Faisal, Samra, Fujiko Nakaya, Ki-bong Rhee, and Felice Varini.

The theme for the Singapore Biennale this year is "Wonder."

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Before You Go Galavanting

Before you go galavanting about the globe, you might like to have a look at the online travel magazine Galavanting. It is a travel magazine written by women for women. There are some very interesting articles there, with lots of good tips and advice.

The women who contribute to Galavanting are well-traveled, and write well too. I only came across the magazine recently, and I am very glad I did. I've been enjoying it ever since I found it, and I think you will enjoy the articles there too.

This is the only women's travel magazine I have ever come across. It is not exactly what I expected when I first started reading. In fact, it is better! I like the blend of articles there, and have especially enjoyed some of the travel tips and perspectives of women who travel often.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

The Pristine Veneer

Gotta do whatever it takes to keep up the pristine veneer.

I think I understand what they were trying to do when they designed the hospital to feel more like a shopping mall, but sometimes the incongruity is just too close to the surface.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Borneo Marathon

The Borneo Marathon will be held in KK on 12 October. That should be a very pretty site for a nice long run, with the towering Mount Kinabalu visible from the trail.

The Borneo International Marathon is planned for in October so that it is comfortably scheduled between the Penang Bridge Marathon in June and the Singapore Marathon in December.

You can still sign up, though the window is very tight now (another couple of days). The sign up fee is RM100.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Welcoming the Stranger

The feeling of being a stranger is not unfamiliar to the frequent traveler. It's a concept that has been on my mind a lot lately too. That made it a sure thing that this event would catch my eye:

Welcoming the Stranger in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages

1 to 3 October 2008
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Hosted by the Australian Catholic University
Contact name: Dr Bronwen Neil; Dr Geoffrey Dunn

Plenary speakers:
Dr Anna Silvas, University of New England
Dr Wendy Mayer, Washington DC

The period from late antiquity to the early middle ages was one of great social movement, of both individuals and people groups. How did people respond to demands made upon them for hospitality and charity?

Organized by: Australian Early Medieval Association

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mizuno Wave Run (KL)

On October 5 in KL, you can join the Mizuno Wave run 2008 at Padang Merbok (Kuala Lumpur). You can download the entry form and other relevant information (including a route map) here.

The event is organized by the Pacesetters Athletic Club, a group that promotes running as a healthy lifestyle.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Live Music Competition at the Melting Pot in Shanghai

For the first time in Shanghai, Chinese bands will join the worldwide live music competition. The contest will be on 28 September in Shanghai at the Melting Pot on Taikang Lu, and the world champ will win US$100,000.

If you've never been to Taikang Lu, that is something you should remedy soon. It is a unique area of town, with all sorts of very artsy shops and venues. The buildings are mostly older, but the atmosphere is generally bright and lively, giving it a good feel of yesterday meeting today.

At the Melting Pot, there is a regular open mic session each week, with a parade of young local and foreign musicians who entertain the audience.

The Melting Pot
288 Tai Kang Lu,
near Sinan Lu

Open 8:30pm-1am
Price Less than Y99 per couple
Accepts International Credit Cards

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Polo Bar, Singapore

Every Thursday night at the Singapore Polo Club, starting at 7:00 pm, you can enjoy a nightly drink special. The musical soundscape is hosted by DJ Chris Ho of LUSH FM 99.5.

You can come early and watch the Polo from 5:30 pm, and then enjoy the drinks and music.

The dining and bar facilities are open to the public, so non-members are welcome!

Singapore Polo Club
80 Mount Pleasant Road
Singapore 298334
Tel: 6854 3999

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Subscribe to Expat and get free wine

If you subscribe to The Expat magazine in Singapore, you can enjoy $120 worth of wine (2 bottles) from Rubicon Reserve Wines. Your subscription to the magazine costs $53.50 for 12 issues. The Expat includes loads of information that many foreigners living in The Lion City find very useful and entertaining.

Rubicon Reserve Wines specializes in wines from Australia, New Zealand, France, and Italy. They have a reputation for digging up some of the world's best wines and bringing them right here to our home in Singapore.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Nutcracker Ice Ballet

The Nutcracker, performed by St. Petersburg State Ice Ballet, will be at The Shanghai Grand Theatre in the Lyric Theatre on October 5 at 7:30 pm. Tickets start at RMB180. The tickets are selling fast, so make sure and book now to avoid disappointment!

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Applying for a Visa to China post-Olympics

I've been waiting for an announcement regarding the changes for the regulations to apply for visas to China have now that the Olympics are over. With the end of the big event, travel in and out of the country will be much less hectic, and the reversion back to a less rigid system is welcome for those of us who make the trip often.

In theory.

I was at the embassy today in hopes of renewing my multiple entry one year visa. Not possible. And, on top of it, it all still requires the same rigamarole that was needed during the Olympics, with an added difficulty — you can no longer get your visa on the same day you apply, even if you are willing to pay the fee to expedite it.

It looks like we'll have to stick to the more rigid regulations a while longer. One can only hope that it will revert back to pre-Olympic conditions again soon.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

ASH in Singapore

Ash will be performing in Singapore October 2 at Fort Canning Park. If you get your tickets before October 1, you only pay $95. On October 2, prices go up to $110.

Ash will be performing live at the Singapore Beer Festival. The first 500 tickets will receive a free ticket to the Beer Festival.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

One of the Best Ways to Defeat Jet Lag

Jet lag can be a real killer on long trips, and it can feel like "jet lag squared" when you do a turn around trip to the other side of the globe. One key to surviving a trip like that, if you have the option, is just to not really adjust to the time zone that you travel to. Catch your sleep when you can, and just survive through the hours you have to be awake. That worked out nicely for me on my recent turn around trip to the US. I managed to catch short naps here and there when I was able, so waking at 4:30 every morning wasn't quite as painful as it is when you are really trying to adapt to the new time zone.

It isn't always possible to avoid adapting to the new time zone, though, and that means finding the best ways possible to adjust quickly and painlessly. For me, I generally force myself to stay up until a little after my normal bedtime in the time zone in which I am located. If I go to bed at the normal time, I am almost certain to wake up very early in the morning (usually around 2). If I can stay up at least half an hour past my normal bedtime, and preferably a full hour, that helps a lot.

But perhaps the biggest help in recovering from jet lag is to spend time in natural light. Go outdoors during the day, and let your body know that this is the time to stay awake. Last week when I returned home from that crazy trip around the world, I went running in the middle of the afternoon. It was hot, and I was very tired, and so I ran rather slowly, and not very far. This helped me adjust to the idea that this is daytime, the time I am supposed to be awake. In addition, a little light exercise really helps loosen up joints that have grown stiff on the long flight. In many ways, a long walk or short run can be very helpful in defeating jet lag... but don't do it on a treadmill. Get outdoors and soak up the natural light. That is one of the most important ways to defeat jet lag.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Discovery Green, Houston

I was surprised to read on silken's blog that she's never been to Discovery Green in downtown Houston. It is right in the area where she lives, so I would have thought she would have visited it before. She surprised me by saying she hasn't been there.

Kind of funny, because I was there just this past May when I went to Houston to visit my parents, having traveled from the other side of the globe. I thought the spot nicely put together, and enjoyed the walk around the area with my parents and my two nephews. The boys loved the facilities for playing, including the water park and sprawling playground. It is just the sort of place kids in the city need, if they are ever to get out and enjoy the outdoors a little.

One disappointment for us the day we were there was that we were a little too late to get to enjoy the remote control boats that others were sailing on the lake. There was not quite enough time for us to get a boat and sail it before the stall closed, but we did enjoy watching those who had gotten there earlier and got started at an hour that would allow them to get their money's worth. It was a pretty sight, watching the little boats on the pond, and especially fun to see the parents and kids all out there together.

For us, Discovery Green turned out to be a good spot to while away a late afternoon, and melt the disappointment we felt when the activity we had originally planned fell through. We had actually traveled downtown to see an Astros game at Minute Maid Park, but were unable to get tickets. Discovery Green, nestled in beside Minute Maid Park and the George R. Brown Convention Centre, offered a nice place to walk, let the kids play, and enjoy an ice cream before heading home.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Home Field Advantage?

It's going to be interesting to see how Hurricane Ike affects this year's baseball playoffs, which begin in about 3 weeks. With the recent storm surging through Houston, the Astros postponed their 3-game series with the Cubs, supposed to begin at Minute Maid Park this past Friday evening. There were hopes that the series would be made up on Sunday and Monday in Houston, but that is not going to happen. Instead, both teams will travel to Miller Park, where Houston will "host" Chicago.

It is odd. This amounts, essentially, to something like a home series for the Cubs. After the series is over, Houston will travel on for their next series in Florida, but the Cubs will stay put to play the Brewers. That makes a nice stretch of games in one spot for Chicago... oh, and it's all in a place right down the road from their own home ballpark. And you can bet the Brewers' fans will be cheering for Chicago, along with Cubs fans who make the drive to see the series (and I bet there will be a lot of them). The Brewers would prefer to see Chicago win and get the currently hot-handed Astros back out of the race for the Wild Card.

This all can't be helped, I know. A storm is a storm, and no one had any control over what Ike would do. It is, all the same, an unfortunate turn of events for the 'Stros, and a very strange situation for them. I hope they can make up for it on the field. It might be the sort of story that baseball fans always seem to enjoy, if the Astros manage to do anything with the rest of their season.

But I've probably already said too much... this kind of talk always seems to jinx a baseball team that is otherwise rolling along nicely.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Zhong Qiu Jie

Zhong Qiu Jie (the Mid-autumn Festival) is one of the favorite holidays on the Chinese calendar. It falls on the 15th day of the 8th month, and is celebrated by eating mooncakes and pomelo, drinking tea, admiring the full moon, and reciting poetry. In Singapore, we also carry lanterns on that day, though I understand that this tradition is practiced on Yuan Xiao Jie in China (the last day of Chinese New Year).

There are many legends that go along with Zhong Qiu Jie, but certainly one of good reason for celebrating the holiday is that it marks the end of the Hungry Ghost month. It is a fun time of celebration, with families gathering to enjoy the time together.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ellis Island Portraits in St. Paul

In St. Paul, Minnesota, you still have a few days to have a look at the Augustus F. Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits, 1905 - 1920 exhibit at the Minnesota History Center.

I was passing through Minnesota in my recent travels. While I did not get to stop over long enough to see the whole exhibit, the samples that I did see were quite stunning. There are portraits there that really bring to life an age gone by, and all that Ellis Island stood for a century ago.

The show will continue through Sept 21. It should be worth catching, if the samples I saw offer a true indication.

Minnesota History Center
345 W Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Trips Planned for the Upcoming Year

I am on my way home from Malaysia right now. It's the first time I've gotten to take a nice road trip in Malaysia in several years, due to my busy China-related travel schedule during that time. I will continue to be busy with travel to and from China for some time to come, but I do plan to try to make a few trips in the upcoming year as well.

The US
Next on the agenda is the US. In fact, I'm probably in the States (again) even as you read. I'll have a very short stay, though. I'll only be there about a few days before turning around to fly back home. All in all, I'll be away from Singapore for right about a week, but with the long travel times involved, that means I'll only be in the US for a total of about 4 nights.

Right after returning from the US, I'll be heading up to China for another extended study stay. I should be there for about 2 months, give or take. This time I plan to venture out of Shanghai, meeting some friends at Hainan before returning to Singapore in November. I will probably have a similar stay coming up in Spring next year, and hope to visit other parts of China then too.

An Unknown Destination
Just before my typically busy summer starts, I will take a trip with some friends, but we have not yet decided where we are going. We are going to watch the offers in the travel section of the newspaper and just hit the road for a fun trip, aiming for a destination none of us have been to before.

Paya Indah Wetlands
The park around Paya Indah Wetlands will be reopened sometime next year, and we plan to spend part of Singapore's June holidays visiting the park. It is a beautiful area just south of KL, and we are looking forward to the visit.

The US, again
Sometime next year I will need to make a more lengthy trip to the States again, this one work related. I am hoping not to spend any longer than a month there, but it might have to stretch into six weeks.

Kota Kinabalu
It might be roughly 1 year from now before we get to make this trip, but several friends and I are already laying the groundwork to make our way to KK next year and climb Mount Kinabalu. We'll spend the 3 days required for that, then spend a little time touring around the area. I've talked about doing this for some time, but have never quite managed to get it together with friends and make the trip. I am really excited about it. The plan right now is for September next year.

Cycling tour
With the look of the above schedule, it seems it might be difficult for me to join a cycling tour with SpiceRoads within the next year, but I hope to do so as soon as I can get to it. I am eager to give the service a try, having only found out about them recently. I am not sure if I will just join a group that they have formed, or if I will try to form a group with some of my own friends. Either way, it looks like an exciting way to travel, and I am eager to try it out.

That's the travel I have planned more or less definitely for the next year. I have 2 longer stays in China (minimum of 2 months each) and a long-ish stay in the States (minimum of 1 month). It seems that I will not see much of Singapore between now and this time next year.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

San Francisco Opera: The Bonesetter's Daughter

Amy Tan's adaptation of her novel The Bonesetter's Daughter into opera form opens in San Francisco on Sept 13. Shows will run through Friday, October 3.

Tan's collaboration with Stewart Wallace marks her debut as a librettist. Wallace gives high praise for her work, saying that she was a natural, fearless about doing "violence" to the novel in order to fit it to its new medium.

Sat Sep 13 2008 8 pm
Tue Sep 16 2008 8 pm
Sat Sep 20 2008 2 pm
Thu Sep 25 2008 7:30 pm
Sun Sep 28 2008 2 pm
Tue Sep 30 2008 7:30 pm
Fri Oct 3 2008 8 pm

Prices for the matinees begin at $50. For the evening performances, you can find tickets for as little as $20.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Travel with Kids — why don't airlines cooperate a little more?

I had a very frustrating experience with Northwest Airlines last week. I was bringing my two nephews, ages 7 and 8, home after their summer-long visit with me. On the long leg of the flight, we were assigned seats in separate parts of the cabin. These are two energetic boys, and need attention pretty much all the time. I explained this to the airline, repeatedly asking them to try their best to assign our seats together.

In fact, when we booked our tickets nearly a year ago, I asked that the seats be assigned together. Then, they said it was too early to assign the seats. So, about 2 weeks ago, before we traveled to Malaysia, I called again. Still too early. When we got back from Malaysia, it was still several days before our departure, but the airline phone centre wasn't open until Monday morning. When I finally got through.... it was too late. I was told that we could not get seats together. And not only that, but the seats we were assigned were in completely separate parts of the plane, with a large partition separating us.

The really frustrating part was that when I went online to do the changes myself, seats were actually available, but were blocked out. In every instance, the airline would allow me to change either the boys' seats or mine, but not put all 3 together.

If the trip were me and a friend or other adult family member, it would not be a problem to each sit on our own. But of course the children don't like the idea of being separated from me, nor do I like the idea of the chaos that could ensue if that scenario were to come about. I explained this to the airline, and while the gentleman agreed, he was unwilling to do anything about it. I finally told him that if this was the case, then the airline staff was going to have to help the children, as I was seated quite far from them. He only replied, "Well, you will have to see if you can arrange that with them when you board."

At the end of the day, I fixed up the seats on my own, asking for help from fellow passengers. The other passengers were helpful, which was markedly different from most of the Northwest staff I encountered on this trip. There was very notable exception within the Northwest staff: Janice, who was the attendant who helped us on the first sector of our trip. The airline had made some errors with the kids' meal selection. We were ready to just accept that, but she didn't like the ideas of the boys not having "age-appropriate" meals, and so called ahead to our upcoming flights to get it settled. In addition, she brought them meals back from business class, and gave us soem extra bottles of water, and even gave us a few vouchers for redeeming extra miles for our rewards program.

Even though everything worked out in the end, it was more through my persistence than the airline's helpfulness. I have flown Northwest for years (I have accumulated about 200,000 miles with them), and have to say that their service is going steadily downhill. Worst of it is, it really wasn't that good to begin with.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Book Ad Space Direct on This PR3 Travel Blog

I've begun a new service at my blog here. I am allowing advertisers to book ad space direct from me, not going through any third party advertising company.

Here is the most current information I have about my blog, for those who might be interested in placing an ad here:

• receives roughly 1,000 page hits per month from over 700 unique visitors
• traffic is mostly from Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, the US, Canada, and the UK
• there is also consistent (though not heavy) traffic from other parts of Europe and Asia
• present Page Rank: 3

I have placed ads on this site that have been booked through third-party ad companies. It consistently generates traffic to the websites that advertise here, and has generated a regular flow of income via advertising. I am offering the ad space direct because the quality of traffic generated here seems to warrant it, and because direct dealings between advertiser and publisher help defray the cost of advertising.

The pricing is as follows, for now:

in-post ad: $7/50 word post
sitewide text links: $7/month or $75/year
125x125 button: $10/month or $100/year
banner: $18/month or $170/year

You will notice that it is cheaper to book ad space here for a whole year than it is to do so on a monthly basis. I am very willing to work out package deals for anyone who would like to make special arrangements, such as booking more than one type of ad, or blocking off periods of time for the ad to appear that may not be reflected in the above pricing.

Fill up the request form if you are interested, and I will contact you to make the necessary arrangements. All requests will be read by me, and I will respond to you to arrange the details of your advertisements. By requesting your ad through this form, you get your ad space directly from me, without a third party advertising company standing in between.

Please, no pornography or violent images, no ads for racist or sexist sites. And please keep it clean and family friendly.

If you are interested in arranging a package deal for advertising across my network of blogs and websites, please indicate that in your request, and I will contact you to work out the details.

I will look forward to hearing from you!

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Fraser's Hill, Malaysia

It's been a long time since I was last in Fraser's Hill, up in the highlands in Malaysia, but I was able to remedy that last week. I was there for a retreat, and have to say there could hardly be a more ideal spot for an activity like this. It is quiet and secluded, and invites a quiet mind geared towards solitude. The accommodations (I stayed in the Methodist House) are simple but comfortable, and the food is home-cooked. Nature is around you at every moment, offering views that can overwhelm the senses.

At certain times of the day, especially if it is rainy (like it was during my stay), the mists float across the valleys, hiding one peak from another. This gives you a feeling of mystery and magic, making the place appear like a regular Shangri-La. (The difficulty in getting up the hill might bring that enchanted place to mind too — do take note of the times that the road is open if you plan to make the trip: odd hours for going up, and even hours for coming down.) The spot is just so idyllic and captivating — the perfect place for cleansing jaded urban sensibilities. While the rain made it a little cooler than those of us who live in the tropics might like, it also helped keep a feeling of freshness in the air, to go along with the mystique it created.

The jungle that covers the hills and valleys of Bukit Fraser is thick, and rich in wildlife. The morning that we set out to return home, a whole family of monkeys came to visit right behind our lodge. They were all together up in the top of one tree, and filed past us, taking turns to leap to the branches of an adjacent tree. There must have been a dozen or so monkeys, and they each took their turn to hop across the space between the trees, putting on quite a show for us.
The whole group of participants in the retreat stood watching and enjoying the monkeys. Though it is not unusual to see monkeys, even in the very urbanized neighborhood where I live, these were of a different breed, and were obviously used to a very different lifestyle than their pampered relatives from the city. It was fun watching them in their homeland, especially as they came to the fruit trees just below the lodge and sat down for a late breakfast.

The scenery at Fraser's Hill can be quite amazing. If you are looking for a good retreat setting, it is hard to beat this one.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Turn-Around Trip to the Other Side of the Globe

There is very little to enjoy about a turn-around trip to the other side of the globe. It is tiring, and generates a strange sort of jet lag, to make the long flight both ways in less than one week. With jet lag, you never know whether it is night or day. With this particular breed of jet lag, you also never quite know whether you are coming or going, awake or asleep, hungry or full, or much of anything else. It can be quite disorienting.

I've found that the best way to defeat this sort of jet lag is to not try to adjust. Just do the things you have to do, whatever time of the day they have to be done, and sleep when you can. You won't quite feel like you have enough sleep, whenever you do manage to catch a nap, so just get what you can and readjust when life gets back to normal.

I'll have a look at this sage advice again next week, when I am arriving back home from just such a trip.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Aima Maria: Waltzes and Operas

Event: Aima Maria plays Waltzes and Operas
Date: 4th Sep '08
Time: 7.30pm – 8.45pm
Venue: The Republic Cultural Centre (TRCC) Studio, Level 2, Republic Polytechnic
Admission: Free

Served up on the Arts Platter for you at Republic Poly Cultural Centre is pianist Aima Maria, leading you on a musical journey through waltzes and operas.

Enjoy the free performance, this Thursday evening.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Pan Pacific Singapore

I have stayed in Pan Pacific hotels in various cities, and often visit the one in Singapore, but not as an overnight guest there. I show up there from time to time for various functions, and like to go there for high tea.

The Pan Pacific is one of the three hotels connected to the Marina Square shopping centre. On my first visit to Singapore 20 years ago, when I was an exchange student, this was a regular meeting point for me and my host family. It is a noted landmark.

Inside the Pan Pacific, you will find plenty of world class rooms, many with stunning views of downtown Singapore. The standard of service at the hotel is exceptional, and both the facilities and their location are beautiful.

There is a lot of good food available inside the hotel as well. The Hai Tien Lo Cantonese restaurant on the 37th floor offers not only excellent food, but a spectacular view as well. It is always a favorite spot for diners. Other choices include Keyaki Japanese restaurant, Global Kitchen, Rang Mahal, and the Atrium Deli. All offer excellent cuisine, and the sort of service you would expect from Pan Pacific hotels.

Since the time that I first came to Singapore and used the Pan Pac as a landmark from which I could always find my way home, many other shopping centres, hotels, and a huge convention centre have grown up around Marina Square and the three hotels that surround it. For me, though, the Pan Pacific always stands out as a favorite spot.

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