Humidity vs Humility in S’pore

I’m humbled by all the friendly smiles from everyday folks I meet in South East Asia. I tend to forget about that aspect once I leave the continent. It’s not just those working in the service sector and hospitality industry that smile – which in all fairness is more or less part of their job description.

Practically everyone’s default facial expression here in Singapore leans towards smiling rather than frowning.  Which I’m convinced has a lot to do with the warm climate and relatively comfortable humidity level. Especially when compared to the cold and dry air we have in northern Europe this time of year – which tends to keep smiles away and eyes turned down.

It’s hard not to put on a smile when you interact with folks with a pleasant expression. A gleaming exception to this is observation is, however, when several of my fellow guests and I are waiting for one of our hotel’s stupid elevators to show up. Though I admit to having this weird thing for OTIS elevators, I’m completely oblivious to these amazing contraptions inner workings. But ignorant as I may be, my unwavering view is that there is something terribly wrong with the four elevators at this particular hotel (supplied by Hitachi). Not only do they take forever to arrive at whatever floor you’re on, the tell-tale lights and audible indicators beep and chime unsynchronized and entirely without relevance to where in the shaft they might be. And when the elevators do finally appear, you have about 2.5 seconds to jump in before the doors close – brutally fast and irreversibly. So if you hesitate the slightest, you might have to wait another 10 minutes before the next lift arrives.

Fortunately, I’ve discovered a nifty solution to my vertical travel woes. Turns out that right next to the elevator space – on each of the hotel’s 19 floors – is a door that leads to a room where the hotel’s two staff elevators are located. One of them is broken, but the other runs super fast and reliably without a hint of glitch. That’s the silver lining of this little report from Singapore.

I shot this orchard in a nearby garden yesterday.

Return to S’pore

Currently visiting Singapore for a few days of research on autonomous vehicles (AV:s). Flew in late yesterday afternoon on a Airbus 319 from Copenhagen. It’s been 16 years since my latest visit, so obviously much has changed. Especially the cityscape which now has probably 10 times as many skyscrapers as when I was here in 2002.

I’m staying in the Bugis neighborhood, an artsy, culinary and rustic areas named after the Buginese people from the Indonesian island of Surawese. Apparently, the Buginese were seafarers/pirates/traders that roamed the Singapore Straits before the arrival of the British. Won’t have much time to explore much of Bugis during my short sstay, but I do hope to be able to enjoy at least a meal there.

Swan Song

Yet another storm front is sweeping through southern Sweden today. I’m heading eastwards for an assignment. Hope for some better weather by my return on Saturday. Maybe we’ll even get some serious snowfall to lighten things up a bit.

Shot this short swan film a while back – just after the winter’s first snow and stabilizing cold front had arrived.


Fishy Message

You know that weird feeling of being watched? That’s what I felt last night here in Malmö while having sushi with a friend. After a few rolls, I panned up to my left and saw this big red tropical fish staring down at me. It was totally fixated and clearly focused on giving me a huge guilt trip. Maybe it’s time to give up sushi? Shots were taken with my phone in pretty horrible lighting conditions.

Tree Trunk

Beyond the Anti-Climax River

There’s always an anti-climax after a really fun trip. Especially when returning home this time of year. Precipitously exchanging sunny southern California for the frigid and mostly achromatic southern Sweden takes time readjust to. I keep forgetting this.

I used to think that the older I became, the more enlightened I would get. That all those dense tree rings packed with collated experiences are somehow neurally inter-connected, providing an arsenal of shiny insights, a subtle form of clairvoyance, to help me navigate through the maze of life.

I’m increasingly skeptical to this line of thought.

Unless you somehow remain in a perpetually motionless state (which may actually be the hidden key here), it seems that much of one’s acquired experiences are more or less inapplicable. At least when trying to figure out the really important stuff.

Maybe life’s just too fluid. Like floating downstream on a feisty river. Each set of rocks you managed to flow over or survive through are so unique, that what you’ve learned from previous encounters has marginal value. Which on the other hand keeps life unpredictably exciting. As long as there’s a reasonably long stretch of calmness in-between the string of rapids.

I can only deduce that the aforementioned river metaphor stems from the horror movie Bird Box which I saw last week.

I shot the tree trunk somewhere in the Hollywood Hills in 2017.
The Wall

The Wall
Been thinking about this wall issue again. How can you not? In my travels, I’ve actually visited several of the world’s most famous/infamous walls – purpose-built to separate people.
The Iron Curtain (Germany)
Belfast’s Peace Wall (Northern Ireland)
The Great Wall (China
The West Bank Barrier (Israel/Palestine)
The Ring Wall of Visby (Sweden)

At best we can admire their architecture, engineering, and longevity.

But fundamentally, walls intended to separate people because of opposing beliefs, opinions and economic differences are nothing but proof of failure. Failure to focus on our commonality, and, ultimately our humanity. They are at best a quick fix but inevitably doomed to fall.

Return to Palisades Park

Return to Palisades Park

No trip to L.A. would feel complete without a visit to Palisades Park where I shot this aloe plant at. The park’s north end is on the border between Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades and it stretches thinly along the bluff above the Pacific Coast Highway and all the way down to the Santa Monica Pier sign. The park is meticulously maintained yet never, ever crowded. There are plenty of places for picnics, playing chess or shuffleboard. There’s even a camera obscura somewhere in the middle of the park.

When we were living in Santa Monica during the fall and winter of 2013-2014, Charlotte and I would either together or separately run the park’s entire length, then jog down to the end of the pier, cross over to the bike path and run up the stairs, take the bridge over PCH and then run up the walkway to Idaho Avenue where are apartment was. Can’t remember the distance, but it may be around 5k.

I didn’t run in the park during this last visit, but I did walk up and down its length all the while admiring the season’s spectacular flora. Though I’ve not seen any winter flowers here in Malmö, it’s still unusually green for January. #hopingforanearlyspring

L.A. Rooftop Planes

Back in Sweden again after an uneventful flight over the Atlantic and a short ride from Gatwick to Copenhagen. Saw a couple of pretty bad films on the way over, but one classic and seemingly always current, All the President’s Men with a very young Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford.

Shot this from the rooftop at H Hotel where we stayed our last night near the entrance to LAX.


Back at LAX
We’re packed and just about ready to take the shuttle to the Tom Bradley Terminal here at LAX. It’s raining now, which might just be what we need to readjust to the weather back home.
Shot the LAX sign last night after returning to the H Hilton from yet another great family dinner at Culver City’s premiere cantina, Paco’s Tacos. I don’t know exactly why, but that place reminds me somehow of a restaurant Charlotte and I ate at somewhere along Calle Revolucion in Tijuana several years ago. Come to think of it, Paco’s Tacos is a little like a Mexican version of TGI Friday’s – where you almost overdose from all the noise, excessive kitsch, and flare. That said, the food and service at Paco’s are by far superior to what’s served up at any TGI I’ve ever been to.
I have been flying in and out of LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) more or less annually for the last 50 years. My very first flight was way back in 1966, probably in a SAS DC-8 that flew from L.A. to Torslanda (near Gothenburg, Sweden) via New York, Reykjavik and London. I was three years old and was probably taken by a cabin crew up to see the cockpit during the flight. I might even have been given one of those shiny SAS wing pins to put on the lapel of my little jacket.
I go through a lot of airports every year, especially Kastrup which is our local airfield. Most airports I transition through are either super small or ginormous, like Frankfurt, Heathrow, Zürich, and Schiphol. With recent extensions to accommodate an increase in passengers, Kastrup is, unfortunately, losing some of its medium-sized airport charms. It’s still my favorite and nowhere nearly as confusing to navigate through as, say, Frankfurt or Heathrow is. And certainly tenfold nicer than JFK or Newark. While the arrival hall isn’t all the welcoming, I do find Bangkok’s Souvannaphoum International to offer a pretty good airport experience. But of all the Thai airports I’ve traveled to thus far, the outdoor, tropical airport on Koh Samui is without a doubt my favorite.
In 2018, I stayed in about 30 different hotels during visits to Santa Teresa (Costa Rica), Stockholm, Chamonix, Lisbon, Goa, Berlin, Palma (Mallorca), La Horadada (Alicante), Phuket, Bangkok, Siem Reap (Cambodia), New York, Stockholm, Los Angeles, Joshua Tree and finally, Encinitas. That’s an inexcusably large carbon footprint that I aim to reduce significantly in 2019. That’s not to say I won’t be traveling at all, just not as much as last year. And preferably more via trains than on planes.
Here’s a couple of interesting facts. LAX was founded in all the way back in 1930 and according to L.A. Magazine, there are 1,578 landings and takeoffs here every 24 hours. That means there’s a plane either arriving or departing every single minute 24/7/365.
The Breakfast Bagel at Coffee Coffee in Encinitas

The Breakfast Bagel

Here’s what I’ve been eating for breakfast during the last week. The Breakfast Bagel they serve at Coffee Coffee in Leucadia/Encinitas is among the tastiest I’ve ever eaten. It comes with avocado, scrambled eggs, cream cheese, onions, tomatoes and is perfectly salted and peppered.

It’s almost time to leave Southern California. The sun was out again this morning, but it rained heavily here in Encinitas last night and I heard L.A. received a torrential downpour with some flash flooding, even.

I’ve already packed my stuff, including the yoga mat, wetsuit, camera gear and drone. Not looking forward to leaving. Like my heart, the suitcase now feels heavier somehow. Could be all the sand residue from pretty much every beach we’ve surfed on since arriving almost three weeks ago.

With the amazing family gatherings, great surfing, plenty of sunshine, friendly smiles and all the sumptuous breakfasts, lunches and dinners, how could leaving California feel anything but a bit melancholic? That said, I feel there’s now more than ever an incentive to return soon again.