Sunday, February 28, 2016

Singapore Days 1-2

Resetting My Circadian Rhythms and Getting My Bearings

Years ago I remember reading about an experiment where a subject descended into a cave for a prolonged period. No longer subject to regular work and lunar cycles, the experiment carefully recorded changes to his natural waking and sleeping patterns. Soon "normal" waking and sleeping cycles began to evolve. Without natural light his normal "free-running" awake cycle approached a full 24  hours before he'd sleep. 

Our bodies actually need natural cycles called circadian rhythms. The rhythms are influenced by light, seasons and other cyclical patterns like eating.  Once the cycles are set we secrete melatonin at key times, we eat at key times and, correspondingly, produce regular doses of insulin. And when we sleep regularly and fully, we descend into deep REM sleep. During REM we produce human growth hormone which keeps our brains sharp and slows down our aging. So people who play internet video all night, or are subject to sleep apnea, or jet lag have disrupted their circadian rhythms. 

I am sort of super sensitized to this after living in Alaska where I experienced my own energy levels fluctuate when exposed to 21 hours of daylight in June or 21 hours of darkness in December.

So when I travel exceptionally long distances I now try to add (and sort of partially write-off) two or three days to allow my circadian rhythms to reset. 

So my first few days in Singapore have been spent adjusting my sleep and eating patterns incrementally to match the local time. When I arrive I fast a bit to align my eating cycles with my new environment. I try to stay awake and take light sightseeing walks. I avoid set tours that force you to hit the ground running. For me reset time is time well spent. I use it to study local culture, learn how to use mass transit, get used to local currency and begin to start enjoying local foods. And, after 2-3 days, I'm usually feeling pretty good and ready to more fully appreciate my new surroundings.

Critical to this is a good, reasonably quiet hotel, with a fine bed. If it is close to a local street scene that provides lots of good food options even better.

Using the above scorecard I gambled on a recently renovated hotel in Singapore's Chinatown with strong recent ratings on TripAdvisor called "The Club". had a really great rate on it too so each night counts towards my "11th night free" electronic punchcard.

The choice has turned out to be a hit out-of-the-park!

  The Club

It is located in a meticulously renovated 1900's era heritage building on a small side street. In one direction it is steps from a wonderful and eclectic restaurant scene. In the other direction it is just steps from the Maxwell Food Centre (a wonderful "hawker" center). 

It offers only 20 beautifully equipped rooms, no two of which are the same shape.  Although small, it also offers great food and beverage venues (one on the roof).

My Perfect Jet Lag Recovery Chamber  

Great Bath Too! 

So on day 1 (arriving Changi Airport at 3:30 AM) I simply arrived at the hotel and crashed.  Around noon I took a walking tour of Chinatown and on to Singapore's Fort Canning Park. The park dates back to colonial times. It sits on a hill right smack in the middle of this bustling city / state. The top of the hill is a well guarded and sealed reservoir. It is a botanists dream with tropical trees, flowers and a spice garden. I also encountered historic artifacts, an art museum, sculpture garden even Singapore's wedding registry.

A View From Fort Canning

 The Wedding Registry

The wedding registry is a governmental office that is a one stop marriage factory. You obtain your license here, there are photographers, there are wedding chapels and gardens. I am starting to appreciate how efficient (and practical) Singapore truly is.

 The National Museum

I plan to spend more time in the National Museum when I am more alert! So I just walked through it (to enjoy some air conditioning). As I left the park I came across an amazing Hindu Temple.

Entry Portal to The Sri Thendayuthapani Hundu Temple
(A magnificent structure dating back to 1859)

With No Land to Waste 
Many Singapore Buildings Feature Elaborate Sky Gardens

I finished my first day's walk along the Singapore River at Clarke Quay. Here I found a micro brewery and enjoyed a pretty great raspberry ale. Then it was back to the hotel and dinner at a restaurant called "Fat Saigon Boy" featuring Vietnamese / Australian Cuisine. All I know is my pork belly and shrimp summer roll, chicken vermicelli (which included fried shallots, peanuts and chicken cooked in coconut milk) and a mug of mango lemongrass sangria hit all the right spots.  Was in bed by 7:30 PM.  Slept about 13 hours.

Day 2 began with a local breakfast of kaya toast (toast square grilled with a filling of custard), good strong coffee, fried dough (sort of a Singapore churro) and 2 soft boiled eggs. Aside from the eggs it was carbo-hell and I really enjoyed it.

My walk began with a stop at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple as it was literally just a block from m hotel. As I entered I realized a prayer and chant service was in progress. This temple is only a decade old and, yes it houses some sort of tooth relic from Myanmar.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple at Night
(Photo from Wikipedia)

 Inside the Buddhist Temple - Prayers & Chants

From there it was time to learn the subway system. I found it to be modern, clean, cheap and efficient. Good thing too in a country where a license to buy a car costs far more than the car itself and expires in 10 years.  Unlike other car-centric Asian countries, Singaporeans have traded cars and traffic jams for superb public transportation and home ownership. This is a country where 90.3% (this is a fact) of its residents own there own home.

I decided to walk through the once infamous Bugis District. Now filled with shopping streets and Saturday stalls with every kind of mystical event (tarot, tea leaves, palm readings etc.) on sale. 

Still some remnants of heritage homes in the shadows of highrises in every direction.  

Something Magical About All of The Spiral Staircases 

My last stop of the day was a trip to Orchard Road. This is Singapore's high end shopping street. The first mall I came across had signs for Vuitton, Dior, Tiffany, Prada and Dolce and Gabana all side by side. 

I actually made only two stops on Orchard Road. One at a noodle stand in the Ion Center food court and another for a double scoop (passionfruit and mango) of Hokkaido ice cream in the Takashimaya department store's basement food court. We spent lots of time eating our way through Tokyo's flagship Takashimaya basement, so this brought back some nice memories. 

As I get older my interest in luxury stuff is something less than nil, so my visit to Orchard Road was a check off, been there, done that thing. 

I did love the giant painted french bulldog.

Overpriced Handbags and Shoes
Available the World Over

 Kinda Loved the Dog

I was fading fast. So it was time to make my way back to Chinatown and The Club. Along the way I stopped to scope out the Maxwell Food Centre (Tomorrow I'll try Singapore's famous chicken and rice).

Returned to My Hotel Through Chinatown

The Maxwell Food Centre

Bagged dinner tonight and was asleep by 8:30. Old guy muscles all sore from another really nice day of gentle exploration.

Roadboy's Travels © 2016

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Roadboy's Journey to Singapore

By Any Measure Amazing

One hundred years ago the journey from Los Angeles to Singapore would have meant a train trip to the west coast followed by a very long ocean steamer trip across the Pacific.

Fifty years ago the trip could have been taken on Boeing's miracle of travel, the 747 Jumbo Jet in its inaugural year of service.

I remember those early 747's well. After a 30 minute flight around the SF Bay sponsored by a dad's club at my school my mom decided she was ok with flying. And soon she and her sister booked a trip to Hawaii from San Francisco.  When they got to SFO they were informed by United that somehow the airline had given their seats to someone else. But, in those days airlines fixed stuff and promptly moved them to first class. 

They came back with stories of a piano bar in an upstairs lounge and a journey that began with flutes of champagne and silver trays filled with shellfish on ice.

For me my Cross pacific journey began in the expanded Tom Bradley Terminal at LAX.  Although I've been working with the lA World Airports on other projects at LAX, I had yet to experience the new terminal as a passenger.

I found new departure halls with all of the requisite luxury boutiques gently illuminated from a series of giant shell shaped roof / light scoops.  Frankly, the scoops are more dramatic from the exterior that they are from the interior.  Sort of the same way the exterior of Washington Dulles is so breathtaking as you approach it (especially at night) only to enter it and find it confusing and claustrophobic on the inside.

Wayfinding at the new Bradley is just ok, but I did love the 4 story digital artwork.

The New Bradley Terminal

This flight is my first trip on the much hyped Singapore Airlines and my first on an Airbus A380 (that big whale of a double decker super jumbo).

I had always assumed since it is configured for 354 passengers boarding would be tortured. But with multiple jet bridges it was a model of efficiency.
Upper Deck: Has 86 Business Class Pods
 Lower Deck: 12 Enclosed Suites, 36 Premium Economy Seats, 220 Coach Seats

And, after my flight I can emphatically confirm the A380 to be quite simply the most comfortable and smooth aircraft on which I have ever traveled.

I flew Singapore Airlines as I have always heard about Singapore's remarkable service. I had hoped to fly Business Class but the fare was $5,700 (i.e. way the hell out of my client's budget). so I booked their newest product Premium Economy at $1,710 which was about $500 more than standard coach.
While my aircraft did not have Jennifer Anniston's Emirate's shower or United's piano bar, but the service, food and seating on Singapore Airlines even in Premium Economy was all pretty wonderful.

Of course Singapore also offers its own "suites" at $13,230 each. But those are reserved for people who understand and subscribe to Reaganomics.
Premium Economy Seating
(It will never be mistaken for business class - but at less than one third of the price, it was just fine)

Seating 2 - 4 -2 
(In Premium Economy you get a big pillow, nice blanket, 
large screens with a noise cancelling headset,
fairly decent legroom, lots of power outlets
premium meals and an open bar)

So when I put iot in persepctive, I just made a journey to the complete other side of the world in comfort in about 20 hours of in air flight time.

I'd call the journey pretty amazing.

Roadboy's Travels © 2016

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Off to Singapore

The Other Side of the World

Wednesday Roadboy departs for almost three weeks in Singapore.  The trip is 75% business and 25% leisure.

Our office is planning new cutting edge laboratory facilities in Singapore and will be conducting back-to-back planning workshops.

I've opted to arrive a few days early so that I can begin to recover from jet lag, reset my circadian rhythms and get my bearings before participating in our technical workshops. My personal time in Singapore will begin with a day of sleep followed by a little sightseeing.

In between our two weeks of workshops we'll have a weekend to do some more sightseeing. Then at the end of week two (after the rest of my team departs) I'll stay on to spend a couple of additional days exploring before I return home. But then I have to get home as Ms. M then departs Wednesday for her TokyoPop / Popcom book signing tour in Germany.

I'm really looking forward to the work and experiencing Singapore (and I am certainly anticipating the food!)

To help explore various districts in Singapore I've booked myself into a number of hotels.  The first is The Club (a boutique hotel in Chinatown).  It has only 20 rooms.  I will then move on to the classic Hotel Fort Canning (near our client's offices). When the weekend arrives (between workshops) we are splurging on two nights at the amazing Marina Bay Sands (with its spectacular rooftop pool). 

 The 3 Towers of the Marina Bay Sands
(The "Boat" Across the Top of the Three Towers is a Swimming Pool in the Sky)

 Swimming 55 Stories Above Singapore

Sunday evening we return to a business hotel until Thursday when the workshops wrap up. At that point the other members of our team plan to depart.  But I'll remain one more weekend (checking into TripAdvisor's #3 ranked hotel (The Hotel Vagabond) in Singapore's East Indian district.

I am hoping that moving around will provide a more immersive experience with Singapore's distinct neighborhoods.

My flights are Phoenix to LA, LA to Tokyo and Tokyo to Singapore.  Amazingly (at least to me), was the realization that there are currently no direct flights from the US mainland to Singapore (even on Singapore Air).  In June 2016 I understand that United Airlines will launch non-stop service to Singapore.  

I had really hoped to fly a Boeing 787 Dreamliner on this trip, but testimonials all confirm that coach in United and American's 787's are configured to resemble the seventh pit of hell.

So I'm opting to fly Singapore Airlines.  This will also be my first flight on this highly rated airline. It will also be my first flight on an Airbus 380 (the double decker). I am testing out Singapore's new Premium Economy class.

Stay tuned!

Roadboy's Travels © 2016

Sunday, February 7, 2016


Roadboy's 2016 Arizona Collector Car Auction Roundup

It takes a lot to get me to go to Scottsdale.

Frankly, I've just never really much liked the place. Perhaps its the fact they can't get left turn signals to come up in the correct order. Maybe its because they call a wide spot in an irrigation canal a "waterfront".

But once each year in January I spend a glorious day walking all over Scottsdale's Westworld enjoying the Barrett Jackson Collector Car Auction.

I love the auction. The cars on display are always amazing, the people watching is equally fun and there is lots of suitably greasy and calorific comfort food to be had.

I also kind of like how each year's auction develops its own unique persona; one that mirrors society.

While buyers and sellers run the gamut of ages and socioeconomic strata, a whole bunch of the buyers are guys reaching a tender age when kids are out of college and midsections and checking accounts are both expanding. A time when dreams wistfully turn to reclaiming a bit of their youth.

And, while no amount of money will allow the repurchase of youth, some come to bid on the cars they lusted after when they were young. Hence, the trend line of what is popular (and fetching big bucks) morphs a little each year. The last few years have seen amazing prices for corvettes, mustangs and muscle cars from the 70's and 80's.

This year the Barrett Jackson alone sold 1469 automobiles. That's a car sold about every 3-5 minutes for 6 straight days.

And that is just one of the five collector car events taking place in the valley at the same time as the Barrett Jackson.

The Barrett Jackson At Scottsdale's Westworld

Personally, my love is the one of a kind cars: old Packards, MG's, Deusenberg's, Delahaye's, Jaguar's and Cords.

I also believe these auctions mirror the overall economy. All you need do is compare the sales of high value cars from year to year (i.e. how many cars each year pass the $1,000,000 mark). This year high dollar transactions declined a bit yet still accounted for $101,757,000 in sales.

Perhaps the decline in high dollar sales in is just due to competition from all of the other auctions that have sprung up over the past decade.

Here's Roadboy's rundown of big $$ sales.

Once again this year Sotheby's (RM) at the Arizona Biltmore garnered the most high dollar sales ($35M worth of $1M plus cars). While still a lot of money, it is $5M dollars less than last year. One of RM's cars flirted with a price of $10,000,000 (a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster that sold for a breathtaking $9,900,000).

The breakdown for million dollar babies was:

Sotheby's RM 18 cars = $35,635,000
Gooding's 8 cars = $21,287,000
Bonham's 6 cars = $8,742,000
Barrett Jackson 3 cars = $4,445,000
Russo and Steele = no million dollar cars this year.

2016 was another year dominated by Ferrari.  Of the 35 vehicles selling for more than $1,000,000, twelve were Ferrari's followed by Mercedes Benz with 6 MB's selling over the million dollar mark.

Here are my snaps...

My First Stop is The "Salon" Collection
1925 Renault 40 CV
Did Not Meet Reserve

Stunning Hood Art 1924 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A
Did Not Meet Reserve

1950 Ferrari 195 S Inter Superleggera
Did Not Meet Reserve
 VIN #001 2017 Acura NSX
Sold for $1.2 Million
(All to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and Camp Southern Ground)

1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster Custom Woody Convertible
With "Tag Along" Trailer
Sold for $89,100

1960 Chevrolet Impala Convertible
Final Gavel Drop at $121,000

The Bidding Hall

There were also some beautiful boats, motorcycles and new cars on display.

And, of course, there was the usual kitsch: big Japanese massage chairs, fishing trips to Alaska and the "art" that the gold chain and boob job crowd appreciates.

We finished the day watching a few "Thursday" cars go under the gavel (including the 1960 Impala). This car brought back memories for me as my dad owned a beautiful black and white '61 Impala hardtop. It had a huge back window and as a kid, during our annual summer cross country road trips, I could lean back and at night and survey the heavens from the back seat.

With the trend of more and more of today's Millennial's opting to avoid driving (many not even bothering to get licenses to drive) I have to wonder what the long term future holds for events like this.

For Roadboy's photos from 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 (I didn't post for 2011) Click Here:

See you next year in Scottsdale!

Roadboy's Travels © 2016