Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sunday with friends in Singapore


Good evening from Singapore, just before a business dinner. After my pretty stressful Friday, it's been really good for me to lunch with my old school friend Triccie and her family; and then to meet Beth and Bertrand, a French couple I used to know very well in Tokyo for drinks. They moved to Singapore last year as Bertrand has set up his own hedge fund.

ESCAPED THE EARTHQUAKE


Bertrand was also in Japan last week and he flew back to Singapore on Friday morning, missing the Tokyo earthquake by about three hours. We spent the evening discussing Japan's disaster management strategies, the risks posed by the unstable nuclear plants in northern Japan, and where the yen and Nikkei will be headed over the next 12 months. Of course everything will drop when business opens tomorrow morning -- in a few hours -- but we were trying to analyze the longer-term scenario considering the fact that the Japanese government will have to pump money in and what foreign investors will be dumping tomorrow. It's always fun to talk to him because he has such strong and definite views about everything; and when he doesn't, he clearly says I don't know.

UPFRONT AND STRAIGHTFORWARD

I talk to lots of fund managers and so many of them simply hedge answers or give multiple choices that are just confusing. Bertrand's never wishy-washy. For example, I asked him earlier a question I often ask all my fund manager friends: "What currencies would you hold now?" Without batting an eyelash, he replied: "Aussie dollar, Canadian dollar and Sing dollar. 30-30-30." Then I said, "Aussie dollar's gone up quite a bit already. Is it still good to get in at this point?" His answer again was clear: "It went up quite a bit. But for the last six months, it's been doing nothing. I think you can still get in right now."

My last question -- a favorite one, always -- was about the euro. "Where's it headed from here?" I asked him. He shrugged this time. "I don't know. I was expecting it to go down but things may not be as bad as expected after all."

Now if only all my friends answered like this. And not just about finance.

EVERYTHING WORKS

Back to Singapore. It's so nice to be in this island-state where everything works and most neighborhoods are aesthetically not unpleasant to the eye. All the greenery, too, is wonderful. It's really too bad that Manila did away with so many of its trees so that our metropolis is now just one concrete jungle. In contrast, Singapore, one of the most progressive and forward-looking cities on this planet, is doing the exact opposite. They're continuously opening new developments, of course, like the new Marina Bay Sands complex which I hear is quite nice. But they're also taking great care to preserve all their greenery.

WORKING ON THE WAY TO SINGAPORE

I took the early morning SIA flight over from Manila. As I had quite a bit of red wine last night, everything was just ten times harder to do. I got up really early to pack dresses for a cruise and do last-minute preparations, but everything just took much longer with alcohol still in my system. I was planning to get some shut-eye on the plane as it was a three-hour plane ride -- I'd had something like two hours of sleep for two nights running now and exhaustion was finally catching up -- when I remembered a disc one of my Travelife columnists had sent me yesterday, which I had hurriedly placed in my bag on the way to the airport. I slid it into my Mac and began editing it -- and before I knew it, the flight was over and I didn't even have time to watch a movie.

Wow. Either three hours went by that quickly or I was just extra slow with the editing, especially after all the red wine last night. The article was pretty interesting though, so it was fun to edit; the only downside was that it made me really hungry for lunch.

OUT IN 14 MINUTES

But Singapore is fantastic. Our plane landed at 1145 am and I was probably the first one out. My luggage, too, was the second one to get on the conveyor belt. So in something like 14 minutes, I'd made it from the airplane to my waiting car and driver at the airport curb, and then it was 20 minutes to the hotel. As I was about to get in, I saw the WiFi sticker on the window.

"Does this car have WiFi?" I asked the driver. He replied: "Madam, all our airport cars have WiFi." Fantastic. I took out my Mac and immediately typed out a status update on our Facebook page about just how efficient and wonderful Singapore is. We really visit too rarely.

With all this efficiency, I was well in time for my lunch appointment with Triccie and her husband Mayank at what is becoming our standard restaurant for meeting up in Singapore. I'd just had Triccie over for dinner two weeks ago in Manila and hadn't expected to see her again until perhaps April or May in Singapore. But suddenly I had this one-night stopover in Singapore on my way to Bali, and of course she was one of the people I contacted for a meet up.

SINGAPORE'S HIKING TRAILS

Triccie picked me up at my hotel, a beautiful swanky new hotel called the Hotel Fort Canning, and Mayank followed after about half an hour. He'd come from a breakfast meeting and a hike through Singapore's woods at 630 AM. Yes, Singapore has woods that are apparently just wonderful for communing with nature. "You'd never think you're in Singapore when you're on one of these hiking trails," Mayank told me. "All you see is greenery and there is not one concrete building in sight. The government has also created links between the different parks so that you can just keep on going if you wish."

These are hiking trails just a few minutes' drive from the city center! How lucky for residents of Singapore to have such easy access to free and easy ways to refresh one's self.

Interested in the Travelife Turkey Tours
for May 2011?
Click here to watch an interview on ANC
with Christine Cunanan,
Travelife Magazine Publisher
Angel Aquino in Bora
for Travelife Magazine last week

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