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.