Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Singapore, Java, Kalimantan (Borneo) and Bali! October 2011

As I prepare this post about my trip to Indonesia in the Fall of this year, I have just completed another trip to Kuwait (November 14 - December 2). One of the troubles with all these trips is that I find myself so BUSY, that I cannot devote all the time I used to expend in preparing almost daily posts as a trip unfolds. Instead, I now seem to be able to only issue a summary post after-the-fact .... sometimes long after the trip is concluded. This particular trip started on October 4. I flew Continental 7 from Houston IAH to Narita, Tokyo and connected to a United flight (upgraded to First Class!) bound for Singapore. On this stopover in Singapore, I elected to stay at the new St. Regis Hotel. Wonderful hotel - highly recommended!

The following Monday (October 10) I flew to Jakarta (on the island of Java) for an overnight stay. Then it was on to Balikpapan and Lawe Lawe on Kalimantan Island - or Borneo as we in the West often refer to this Indonesian island.

On Saturday (October 15) it was back to Jakarta for a week's worth of work. Part of the time on Java was devoted to a short visit to our company's geothermal facility in Salak (west Java). Very interesting: this property is located within a national park and thanks to its high elevation, there was no need to use air conditioning in the accommodations.

Finally, with all my work completed, I managed to tack on five days of pleasure and vacation in Bali (October 21 - 25). The flight home began on October 26 with an overnight stay in Singapore and then the long flight home the following day.

I shall keep this post short and will try to issue a longer, more detailed follow-up posting of this visit to Indonesia later on - probably in the latter half of this month when I plan to take off three weeks and remain at home for the Christmas Holiday (and stay away from airports!!!).

Enjoy the photos!
A rice terrace in Bali (near Ubud).

A colorful mosque near Lawe Lawe on the island of Kalimantan (Borneo).

This tea garden is located near Salak on the western side of Java. My first ever visit to an actual functioning tea garden!!!

On my 5-day layover in Singapore, I managed to visit Sentosa Island and took in the dolphin show.

More photos of this October trip should follow in a few weeks - - - - I hope!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Singapore / Indonesia / Middle East - The Highlights of My Spring Trip (March - April)

It's been a long while since I completed this trip to Asia and the Middle East. This particular trip started on March 28 (2011) with a flight from Houston to Los Angeles LAX airport (see above photo) where I boarded a Singapore Airlines flight to Singapore (my longest flight ever at over 16 hours ++ in duration; even the flight attendant complained of the length!!).

The Singapore skyline as seen from my room at the Four Seasons Hotel. Over the years, Singapore has become my favorite foreign city - it's clean, orderly, you can drink the water, eat the food and never worry about any crime. A perfect place to recover from the loooooong flight from the USA. The Four Seasons Hotel is located on Orchard Blvd., just a few short blocks from the Orchard Rd MRT station ( a 5 - 8 minute walk).

My first sightseeing objective: the Singapore Flyer! A terrific way to see the downtown skyline.

A view from the top of the Flyer. Downtown Singapore is in the background. Off to the left side is the Sands Hotel and Casino - see the following photo.

The new Sands Casino and Hotel. The hotel comprises the three columns supporting the boat like structure at the top. The casino is out of view of this picture. (PS: you need to show a passport to gain entry to the casino floor.) At the top floor is an observation deck which affords an excellent view of the city and surrounding areas.

Another favorite tourist sight: The Orchid Garden. Bring your cameras!!!

Orchids galore!! I only had a compact camera with me on this trip. On my next venture, I will try to drag along my SLR camera for much better pictures.

On Sunday, April 3rd, I flew from Singapore to Jakarta then changed planes and flew to Pekanbaru, Sumatra for a week's worth of work in north central Sumatra.

The governor's palace in Pekanbaru - the capital of Riau province. (Riau province is where a lot of Indonesia's on-shore oil production is located.)

On Monday, April 4, I flew by chopper from Rumbai to Duri (also in Sumatra) where our company's office is located.

On the 30-minute helicopter flight to Duri, we flew over a LOT of palm groves. Sadly, much of the Sumatran rain forest is being cut down, burned and replaced with palm trees to manufacture palm oil. A tragic waste of good land if you ask me.

On the way home (Friday, April 8), the local weather was poor (too smokey from all the burning of the forest) so my chopper flight was canceled and I rode a bus from Duri to Rumbai (3 hours). Along the way, we passed MANY logging trucks carrying all the trees being cut down to make way for the palm groves. Again, a tragic loss of the rain forest.

Along the road to Rumbai, the bus stopped at a rest stop next to a mosque which is under construction.

Once in Rumbai, I took a taxi to the Pekanbaru Airport and flew to Jakarta that afternoon and then headed to the Mulia Hotel. This is an Excellent hotel. Highly recommended!!! Sadly, I only stayed one night. I checked out of the Mulia Hotel the following day (a Saturday) and caught an evening flight on Emirates to Dubai.

Emirates EK 357 bound for Dubai from Jakarta.

After a two night layover in Dubai, my next stop was Dammam, Saudi Arabia. The flight to Saudi Arabia was one hour and 15 minutes BUT the wait on line at immigration in Dammam Airport was one hour and 20 minutes!!! This was followed by a mercifully short taxi ride to Saudi Aramco in Dhahran. I did not get a chance to take many interesting pictures while I was in Dhahran. Hence, nothing to share from Saudi Arabia on this short visit.

After a few days in Dhahran, I flew to Kuwait (via Doha, Qatar) for what turned out to be a three-week stay in country (working in the usual place - Wafra!). As was the case in Saudi Arabia, I was too busy to take many interesting photos on this visit. The above photo shows a new grocery store that opened up in Kuwait - LuLu's. A nice place to shop for us expats.

Finally, I departed Kuwait on May 4 and headed to Dubai.

The Dubai skyline from my room at the Emirates Hotel. The Burj Khalifa (the world's tallest building) is in the background, off to the left side of the photo, gleaming in the afternoon sun.

The next day (May 5), I flew home to Houston, TEXAS on Emirates 211. Finally I was returned to my home-sweet-home!

PS: Following this venture overseas, I had a short vacation in New York City and Upstate NY (see the prior post) in late May and then a very quick trip to Kuwait in late June (June 22 to July 1). Sadly, there were no pictures to share from that June trip to Kuwait but frankly there was so little time (too much work to accomplish) and we had a few bad sandstorms that month so I never had the inclination to get out and snap photos anyway.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Apologies for the Long Absence!

Apologies to all my Loyal Followers! I have been most negligent (lazy, perhaps) in posting to my blog over the last several months. Part of the reason for this lapse in posting was caused by the fact that I did NOT haul my laptop with me during this circumnavigation of the globe. (Just too much baggage to carry along for so far a distance.) For the record, I departed Houston on Monday, March 28, flew to Los Angeles and then boarded Singapore Airlines bound for Singapore where I arrived - exhausted - after a 16 hour-50 minute flight early in the morning (5:20 am) of March 30. I checked in to the Four Seasons Hotel and proceeded to spend a blessed 5 days in Singapore, allowing myself three extra days over and above what the company normally permits as a reasonable layover. I find that the older I get, the more time I need to readjust my internal body clock to accommodate the 13 hour time shift (midnight Houston = 1 pm Singapore).

I had a wonderful time in Singapore - I took in the Singapore Flyer (see picture below) and stopped by the new Marina Bay casino. Also visited (again) the National Orchid Garden (excellent) and several local museums.

After Singapore, I flew (Sunday, April 3) to Jakarta, INDONESIA and then immediately connected to a Garuda flight to Pekanbaru, Sumatra for what turned out to be a one-week visit to our company's steamflood facility in Duri (Central Sumatra). On Friday (April 8) the smoke levels in the Sumatran rain forest proved so intense that my early morning chopper flight to turned into a three-hour bus ride to Rumbai. No problem - the ride was pleasant enough and afforded me a few picture taking opportunities. I boarded a Garuda flight that afternoon and returned to Jakarta and checked in to the Mulia Hotel in central Jakarta. This is an excellent 5-star hotel with great security. I thoroughly recommend the Mulia Hotel.

Next: On Saturday evening (April 9) I boarded my Emirates flight to Dubai and we departed on time and arrived into Dubai at about 10:45 pm Dubai time. I checked in to the Intercontinental Hotel (Festival City) and rested for two days.

Next: On Monday (April 11) I flew on Saudi Arabian Airlines to Dammam, Saudi Arabia. The flight lasted 1 hour and 10 minutes; then came the wait at Saudi Immigration!! That took one hour and 15 minutes!! Ten desks but only two Saudi immigration officers on duty! C'est le vie. I spent the next four days in Steineke Hall in Dhahran, courtesy of Saudi Aramco.

My brief stay in Saudi Arabia ended on Thursday, April 14 when I flew (via Doha, Qatar) on Qatar Airways to Kuwait for three weeks of work in Wafra Field (inside the Kuwaiti portion of the Partitioned Zone). I departed Kuwait on Thursday, May 5. After an overnight rest stop in Dubai, I flew home to Houston aboard Emirates 211 on Friday, May 6th.

PS: I managed a short (9-day) vacation in the New York City area from May 19 to May 27. I visited a long-time friend in Long Island; met up with another long-time friend that Saturday and the three of us took in Billy Elliot ($135 per person!!) at a theater on 45th St. This was an excellent play by the way! Then a few days in upstate New York followed by a return home from LaGuardia Airport that following Friday (May 27).

And there you have it!

I will endeavor to post some memorable pictures of my journeys as soon as possible. Frankly, my life has become quite hectic recently and I find precious little time to manage this blog. I hope my followers will please be patient during these seemingly long absences of mine!

Monday, January 17, 2011

More Kuwait, Then to Abu Dhabi - Finally, Home for the Holidays!!

Photo: Jumeirah Emirates Tower Hotel
Dubai, UAE
Finishing Up in Kuwait -
First: My sincere apologies to all my Loyal Followers for the loooooong absence!! There were several reasons for my not blogging regularly over the past two months: (a) too much work (!!); (b) an injury (I encountered some barbed wire in the desert outside Abu Dhabi); and (c) 32 days of blessed vacation at home in Houston for the Christmas and New Year Holidays.

Herewith I present some highlights of the last half of my stay in Kuwait (I flew in from Dubai on October 28 and departed Kuwait on November 27). Then some pictures from my first ever visit to Abu Dhabi (one of the seven Emirates in the UAE - a short 1-1/2 drive overland from Dubai).

About mid-way into my stay in Kuwait, I visited the new "360 Mall". The mall is located at the intersection of Highway 60 and the 6th Ring Road. There are plenty of 'high-end' or luxury stores!!!

Life With Cacao: Located inside the 360 Mall, this cafe was a real find!! I spent 2 KD for a heavenly hot chocolate (ca. $7.00 USD!).

The skyline of downtown Kuwait City .... note the distinctive telecommunications tower near the left side of the photo.

GREAT NEWS: The Starbucks in Al Zour is reopening!!! Followers of my blog may recall when this place opened - then shut after a short two-month run. Something about a licensing issue?? Anyway, they were cleaning the store and restocking the place. It should be open by now!!! .

MY TRIP TO ABU DHABI (from November 27 to December 2):

I flew to Abu Dhabi from Kuwait International Airport on November 27 (only a 1-1/2 hour flight). My first 'tourist attraction' was Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. A 'must-see' for any tourist!!! And it's free - no admission fee!

I took a desert 'safari' on November 29. One problem: I stumbled on a strand of barbed wire while viewing some camels, tore up my pants and received two cuts to my legs. (I visited a local clinic later that night for cleaning the wounds and a tetanus shot!!)

Once my work in Abu Dhabi was concluded and the 3-day conference ended (at which yours truly was a speaker), I managed to play 'tourist' and visited the Emirates Palace Hotel. Clearly this hotel is THE place to be in Abu Dhabi! Friends told me this hotel was where they filmed Sex and the City 2. However, that fact turns out NOT to be true - the film was in fact shot in Morocco. Nevertheless, this place is definitely worth a visit. In fact so many folks were wondering through the hotel and shooting pictures that I felt at ease. Too bad I could not stay at this place (the rate is a tad too rich for my company's expense account limit!). Just take a look at these photos:

The front entrance to the Emirates Palace Hotel ...........

The lobby of the Emirates Palace Hotel ....

The grand staircase ...................

I decided to indulge in a hot chocolate at the lobby cafe and watch the passers-by imagining myself as being one of the local sheikhs!!

I kid you not! This photo is no fake - there is actually a vending machine for gold bars of varying size and value to suit one's budget!! I suppose this convenience is aimed at all those sheikhs with 'disposable income'!! You would never know there is a world-wide recession going on .....

And this was my humble abode during my 5-day stay in Abu Dhabi. The Rotana Beach Hotel, located in the middle of waht I'd call the city center. Nice enough - although a tad lower on the economic food chain that the Emirates Palace Hotel!

An interesting building under construction - whatever it is for I know not!

I spotted this at a supermarket in the Abu Dhabi Mall adjacent to my hotel. Can you imagine anyone needing to purchase a 5 kg (11 pound) sack of tea???!!!

This aptly summarizes how I was feeling on December 2! I contracted with a driver who drove me from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. Turns out December 2 was a national holiday - it was the 39th anniversary of statehood for the UAE!
After the 1-1/2 hour drive, I checked into the Emirates Tower Hotel (see the picture at the top of this posting) and enjoyed my final night in the UAE. The following morning, December 3, I flew Emirates 211 from Dubai to Houston! Only 14 hours of flight time!

I arrived home in Houston on December 3 and after three days of work the following week, I took off 32 days of vacation for Christmas and New Years Day! And I am pleased to report there was absolutely no travel at all during my time off!!

To all my followers/readers: Happy New Year!!!

Your comments are most welcome: