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Posts Tagged ‘Asia’

Travel: San Thome Basilica, Madras (now Chennai)

October 14, 2015 Leave a comment

Just yards from the beach, south of Chennai, this Church is traditionally built near to or over the site where ‘Doubting’ Thomas, the Apostle to India, was reputedly martyred in AD72, having come to India in AD52.

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This large white Roman Catholic Cathedral dates from 1896, and was given the status of Basilica in 1956.

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It is one of only three churches worldwide said to contain the tomb of one of the twelve disciples of Jesus.

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Marco Polo recorded a chapel on the seashore during his travels in Asia in 1293. The original small church was built by the Portuguese in 1523. The Prelates on this brass plaque in the Basilica date back to 1600.

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Book Trade – Photo Report; London Book Fair 2012

April 17, 2012 3 comments

Photography – Nightscape on the Singapore River

February 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Opinion – the Flight Path to the World

September 21, 2011 Leave a comment

This month I flew to Singapore once again. On a regular flight like this, you get to know the route pretty well. One’s routine on the flight is fixed in order to pass away the 12 or 13 hours at 39,000 feet as quickly as possible. Keeping a weather eye on the in-flight map display is just a part of that routine.

This time, it struck me forcibly that the route across these countries on the way down to the Far East represented a snapshot of the challenges and problems that face us all as members of the human race:

Europe = almost entirely secularised and experiencing massive economic turmoil.

Iran and Afghanistan = convulsed by war and civil unrest, impact of repressive regimes.

India = hugely complex, terrible poverty, rising wealth, frequent floods and earthquakes.

Malaysia and Indonesia = emerging Islamic powers.

This is a truly a big and complicated world, often hard to fully comprehend. I recognise that in being both British and Western in outlook, I bring a set of prejudices and preconceptions to my interpretation of the issues facing this planet which may or may not be right, depending on your own viewpoint. Culture clash is quite clearly inevitable!

There is a massive battle of ideas going on everywhere – Secularism versus Atheism versus Christianity versus Islam versus Hinduism versus Buddhism.

In this confusing context of the soup of competing big ideas; what is Truth? Who do you listen to and whom can you trust?  For me – and without wishing to be hopelessly simplistic – it only makes sense by my belief in God, a trust in Christ and dependence on the teachings found in God’s word, the Bible.  Don’t interpret that statement to equate to holding solely to an Evangelical Christian position. Faith is so much bigger than any one interpretation.

Psalm 24: ‘The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in It, the World and all who live in it’.

Travel – Singapore Nightscape at Clarke Quay

September 14, 2011 Leave a comment

For my other nightscape photos of Singapore, click here and here.

Travel; Wonder Full – The Light and Water Spectacular at Marina Bay Sands

April 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Back in February, I went to bed early whilst on a business trip to Singapore. In so doing, I missed the Grand Opening Night of the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort, hearing about it the next day en route for the airport. The climax of the opening was the ‘Wonder Full Show’ billed as ‘the largest light and water spectacular in Southeast Asia’.

‘Using lasers, searchlights, LEDs, video projectors and giant water screens to create stunning visual effects, Marina Bay Sands will present a breathtaking 360-degree sensory experience portraying Light and Water creating Life, choreographed to an inspiring original score. The soundtrack is performed by a 140-piece symphony orchestra’.

Fortunately for me, the Wonder Full Show was set to run ‘until attendance levels drop off’, which in Singapore means it could go on for quite a while yet! So I caught it again on my next visit in April. There are two free 13-minute performances each night at 8pm and 9:30pm, increasing to three at weekends.

I watched the spectacle from the other side of Marina Bay, close to the iconic Merlion which was shrouded in scaffolding and enclosed by a temporary 5-star suite; The Merlion Hotel. This ‘room’ is fully booked for each of the 32 nights in operation (yep … only in Singapore!). Great views across Marina Bay though!

Apparently the MBS Light and Water Show cost US$15m not that that’s a problem for the somewhat controversial Singapore IR, centred as it is on a giant casino. In February, it was reported that in nine months, the two IR’s (there’s another one on nearby Sentosa) had already contributed S$3.7 billion towards the City State’s GDP. Incredibly, this made up almost half of what tourism put into the economy during the same period; S$7.9b. No wonder this building project was controversial and no wonder the MBS owners are already thinking of expanding their operations in Singapore!

Book Trade; eBook debate – a view from Singapore

April 6, 2011 2 comments

Next week the global book trade will gather in London for the annual London Book Fair. Once again, the ongoing eBook debate will dominate both the trade agenda and the fair programme.

The burning question continues to be, amongst all the hype and speculation, what will happen to physical book sales in the light of the widely predicted digital onslaught? Opinions range wildly from ‘Do nothing; we’ve seen this kind of thing before’ to ‘Get out quickly whilst you are still able to salvage something of value’. Is this truly a ‘Caxton’ moment or will life carry on much as it has before?

 As I write this, I’m in Singapore, probably one of the most wired societies on the planet. The answer to the question here seems to be that there is no discernable impact yet on sales, which to my mind is mildly surprising. Even the mighty Amazon has only a limited Asian presence (although there is an Amazon Japanese site). Singaporeans, if they use Amazon, log on via the UK or American sites.

I met with a significant general market distributor and they reported seeing no real impact on their business. Even Borders troubles here are put down to poor chain management rather than sales being siphoned away through digital stealth. I therefore conclude that, as in the rest of the world, no-one really knows quite what is going on although it seems clear to most in the wider trade that something pretty significant is beginning to stir in the undergrowth!

What is abundantly clear, however, is that all sections of the trade have their own particular fears and are watching the developing situation incredibly closely, leading to some sharply divergent views; 

  • Retailers – seeing their business disappearing online and wonder where it’s all going to end
  • Publishers – scrambling to find a viable rights and pricing model as authors potentially disappear from view hand-in-hand with online retailers
  • Distributors – wondering if they will be cut out of the action all together
  • Authors – either upset by inferior internet royalties or sensing new opportunities to cut out the publisher and self-publish via the big internet players such as Amazon

Back in February, the International Publishers Association (IPA) asked its various members for their views on their own embryonic eBook markets. These findings, widely reported at the time in the trade press, are worth summarising;

  •  The proliferation of smart phones and tablet computers (such as the iPad) is radically fuelling the eBook market as millions of these devices cry out for content
  • Amazon.com’s eBook sales were recently reported as surpassing their print unit sales
  • Most reference and academic journal publishing has already largely migrated online
  • USA newspapers have started to incorporate eBook sales into their regular bestseller lists
  • The UK e-market is around 18 months behind the USA – but the gap is fast shrinking
  • Amazon, Apple and Google exhibit every sign of becoming ePublishing competitors!
  • The existing copyright and territorial rights are not always relevant to the digital environment
  • The new model significantly challenges territorial marketing as eBooks are effectively global in reach
  • The proliferation and ease of digital piracy and file sharing is a major worry particularly in certain emerging markets
  • Price remains contentious as consumers expect digital texts to cost less than the printed work
  • Savings in print and distribution are largely offset by technology costs, new services and VAT
  • Surprise, surprise! French publishers are lobbying to extend fixed retail print prices to all eBooks sold in France!

The overall conclusion to all this seems to be that, yes, this market is changing faster than we realise but, in the words of IPA, ‘the day eBooks will outsell print is not imminent’.

No doubt the debate – and the opinions – will continue for a while yet.

Travel – Airports and the new World Order

February 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Airports are under development everywhere. I travelled through London Heathrow this past week. Hurrah – Terminal 2 has been knocked down and is being rebuilt (costing £1bn, opening in 2014). Terminal 1 will be next. Shed no tears, it’s long overdue (as per my previous rant). T3 was crowded, noisy and unpleasant and, on the way back, it took over 50 minutes for my bags to appear! LHR remains the world’s busiest airport – with over 66m people passing though last year – but for how much longer, I wondered, particularly now that its third runway has been kicked into the long grass.

As I write I’m in Singapore, flying home from Changi airport; consistently voted as one of the best airports in the world. It truly is – due to a heady mix involving acres of space, unanticipated zones of peace and quiet plus wonderful levels of efficiency and … the Butterfly House! During 2010, Changi handled 42 million passengers and won 25 ‘Best Airport’ awards.

There’s a revolution going on in the world of the airport. The ongoing growth of the Gulf and Asian airlines is being matched by an explosion in new airport infrastructure. Europe is losing out. Its legacy airport hub system is aging and under extreme pressure as the stop-over traffic moves elsewhere. Airline business and passenger traffic is rapidly moving east. Heathrow, Frankfurt and Schiphol are losing out to the likes of Dubai and Changi, particularly when it comes to flying to Australia. Passengers on the ‘Kangaroo route’ are deliberately choosing to fly with the Gulf and Asian airlines, boycotting European carriers on grounds of lower cost, better service and increased flexibility. British Airways and the European carriers are seeing Emirates, Qatar and Singapore Airlines dilute their traditional market via competitive pricing, newer planes and increased connections.

The impact of the A380 on the travel market has been huge. This is the plane of choice now for many, myself included, despite the recent shock of the Qantas / Rolls Royce engine explosion (since resolved). Emirates alone ordered another 32 of the superjumbos last year to add to the 58 aircraft already arriving. Singapore Airlines currently operates 11 of these planes (with 8 more on order) – but BA has deferred its order for 12 planes and will not take delivery until between 2012 and 2016.

The Gulf States are either building from new or upgrading their airport facilities at a frenetic pace. Their goal is to provide world-class transit hubs from which travellers, especially those from the emerging markets of India and China, can reach the rest of the world, bypassing the need to route via the older European gateways. For these countries, Europe is no longer the hub for reaching the world but simply a destination. Transiting via Dubai is like watching the entire world on the move, with people passing through en route to seemingly every country in the world.

  

  

 

 

Dubai alone welcomes 120 different airlines from around the world and has just opened the new Al Maktoum airport with its five runways. Qatar is overhauling its Doha airport, completely replacing the current facility. This will open in 2012 thereby doubling its capacity. At 22 sq. km. it will be one of the largest airports in the world, half of it built from land reclaimed from the sea. Oman will complete a brand new terminal building later this year.

The Economist reported recently that ‘there will soon be more capacity at Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha than at Heathrow, Paris and Frankfurt combined’; the revolution in air travel is indeed gathering pace.

The one cloud on the horizon may be the gathering political turbulence across the Middle East, potentially threatening its stability. Will air travellers continue to want to transit via an increasingly volatile region?

Travel – Boat Quay at dusk, Singapore

August 25, 2010 2 comments

Travel – A380; Flying from London Heathrow to Singapore Changi

May 26, 2010 5 comments

Flying to Singapore from the UK presents a number of choices; which airline, which route, which aircraft, what are the seats like, how about the in-flight entertainment etc?  As with most things in life, it can simply come down to getting the lowest ticket price. I avoid flying with BA wherever possible as the Middle Eastern or Asian carriers now beat their European rivals’ hands-down in almost every area on this route.  

Airline

Emirates usually offer lower ticket prices than SIA

Singapore Airlines – in my view, the overall experience is marginally better with SIA

Route

Emirates – two 6 to 7hr legs from LHR Terminal 3 – with a 1 to 2 hour stop-over in Dubai

Singapore Airlines – a direct 13 to 14 hr flight leaving from LHR Terminal 3

Aircraft

Emirates – usually use B777’s with 10-across seating in economy making it feel very cramped. This is the main downside of using Emirates on this route even with the pleasant short break in Dubai.

Singapore Airlines – often uses the latest A380 500-seater double-decker plane on this route. In my view, this is the most comfortable aircraft flying at present – quiet, roomy with lots of space to walk around + a rear stairwell down to the lower deck.  If flying economy, try to book seats on the upper deck as this generally gives a superior experience. There appears to be more room around the seats and there is a gap (+ a good floor level storage bin) between the seat and the side of the airplane making it feel much more spacious. I could not use the laptop on the 777 as there was not enough room on the tray but it can be used on the A380 with plenty of room to work, even in economy.

Interestingly, Air France has just announced that it will take on Eurostar in flying the A380 on the short-hop from Paris to London between June and August 2010. Fares are from £80 one way. British Airways do not yet fly the A380 but Singapore Airlines now have 12 such aircraft in their fleet.

Service and food

Singapore Airlines – again in my view, their overall offering is slightly better than Emirates. However, the staff of both airlines offer great customer service and are equally attentive and helpful.  I feel that the food on SIA has the edge and is good quality serving up western and regional menus.  Both airlines offer good state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment with a wide range of movies and music.

Airports

Changi Airport Singapore is – rightly in my opinion – rated as one of the best airports in the world; simply an amazing experience with so much to distract and offer passengers. This time, I discovered the Changi Butterfly House, chocked full of beautiful butterflies and tropical plants – and built inside the airport terminal, truly a delight!  

15 hours later, I had the misfortune to land at LHR Terminal 3 which felt grubby, tired and in need of some TLC and a bit of paint + a few wall-hangings!

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