Tuesday, December 14, 2010

273. Travel Tips: Europe & Winter

Dec 14, 2010
Hotel Papillo, Rome
7 hours' difference from Singapore as it is 4.56 am. Tour group of around 49 people from Singapore are sleeping. Left Singapore's messy renovating and dark Terminal 3 Changi Airport, Dec 14, 2010 at 2am. Reached Dubai at 4am (Dubai time), said to be 6 hours' of travel by plane. Waited >4 hours. Boarded Emirates Air again to Rome for another 6 hours. 3 pm bright and sunny blue skies at an old dark airport at Rome (could be a minor airport as there were 2 or 3 small Alitalia planes?).

I took a vacation break from Singapore from Dec 13 to 27, 2010 to refresh my mind and gain a different perspective in my veterinary practice and life. Travel does broaden your mind if you are receptive and alert to differences in people and places seen.

For some Singapore ladies, it is the inexpensive branded handbag and fashion shopping. Nothing matters. "I bought an LV handbag at $1,800," the single office girl in her late 20s declared: "It is cheap compared to Singapore where it sells for $2,400."

Here are some travellers' tips applicable to veterinary practice business and life.

Dubai Airport Terminal 3, at 4 - 6 am is a very busy place unlike Singapore's Changi Airport at this time (I was at Terminal 3 on Dec 13). Planeloads of tourists or people keep the shops very busy. With high traffic, money is generated. More profits are ploughed to renovate and beat the competition by upgrading and providing more vendors and shops. In veterinary practice, this traffic does matter too.

2. NEW ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN IMPRESS CLIENTS. Both Terminal 3 airports can compete in architectural impression as both were big, bright and newer. Rome's airport where I landed looks dated and gloomy. The circular design of the celing lights on arrival are attractive and brightens the place (see picture later).

3. FREE BREAKFAST FOR TRANSIT PASSENGERS OVER 4 HOURS. I discovered this by accident when I asked a lady who was soliciting breakfast clients for her restaurant as to why there was a long queue opposite her restaurant. My family had filled their stomachs with deep fried chips and onion rings and burgers at this Cosy and Burger Restaurant just below this free breakfast. Our transit was more than 4 hours. I went up to inspect as I try to refrain from fried fast food or eat little. The queue was due to one man verifying the 4-hour rule. His lady colleague just stamp and issue receipts with no verification to reduce the long waiting time.

Breakfast menu: Fruit juices, canned drinks, sausages, fried rice, canned beans, hard boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, buns, apples, bannanas. Certainly healthier than fried chips and onion rings which the young adults of Singapore are prone to eat.

4. PORTABLE HARD DISC (IOMEGA). In Singapore, I rushed to Harvey Norman at Yishun's Northpoint at the last minute to buy Toshiba hard disc. Since it does not sell Toshiba which I like for its design, I bought the Iomega 500GB. I thought its cable to transfer my pic from camera to hard disc was the same as Toshiba and so did not bring the Iomega's cable. I bought a different cable which could not fit into IOMEGA's input as it was much smaller in size. Always bring the same cable from the hard disc supplier. Fortunately I had one cable for the Canon camera but this meant that I had to download pic to computer hard disc from camera using this sole cable. Then disconnect the camera, take out the camera and connect the Iomega drive to computer to download the folder now saved in the laptop.

5. TWO-PIN mulitple plug for Europe. I bought one. So, now I connect to the laptop but cannot charge my handphone since I don't have another. Always bring 2 or 3.

6. ACCESS CODE FOR INTERNET CONNECT AT HOTEL PAPILLO. I went down to see the young man at 11 am to get the code to exercise a bit. Wet cold outside the hotel which is clean and white (marbled flooring is white) and carpets are pale brown green colours making the hotel look clean and bigger.

He gave me in CAPITAL letter of 6 alphabets. I keyed in the first two codes as instructed. No connection. Then I phoned him to get another code. CAPITAL LETTERS AGAIN from him over the phone. Can't connect. "Is it in capital letters?" Julia asked. "Yes," I said. I thought maybe, should use non-capital letters. It connected me.

7. ENQUIRE INTERNET COSTS. According to the receptionist, it is free for 10 hours of operating time. High speed broadband laptop connection is available in this hotel.

8. SPILLAGE OF ORANGE JUICE onto my camera. I sat on the aisle seat of 3. The Emirates Airplane has 3-4-3 seating arrangement. Very cramped. I like the touch-screen viewing. As I handed the drinks to Julia and Jason from the stewardess holding a tray of drinks in cups, I accidentally knocked one. Orange juice spilled out onto my trousers and camera. Only one SLR which I depend on for its sharpness and zoon and now, wet with sweet orange juice. My pants wetted but I was worried that the camera was disabled by orange juice. Nothing happened.

9. STANDBY SMALL CAMERA. Unlike my Myanmar trip, this time I am wise enough to carry a small Limux camera. It is not great in taking close ups and its auto features are ok in daylight. I should have another SLR back up. Hope this SLR Camera EOS 550 does not malfunction as the previous Camera EOS 50D I bought to Mynamar tour in 2008 failed me at the crucial last 3 days of the trip.

10. STUDENTS' POWER. On arrival at Rome yesterday, the tour guide said the students blocked downtown and therefore the Colosseum and downtown would be risky for tourists. The Italian tour guide took us to the Vatican which had no student demonstrations. "The students demonstrated against the Prime Minister, some 50,000 of them," the guide said to me. "But the Prime Minister won. By two votes." Political power is still the controlling factor.

11. BROADEN YOUR MIND BY KNOWING MORE ABOUT THE VATICAN CITY AND CHRISTIAN EMPERORS AND WARS. We had more time at the Vatican and I would say that it takes more than 3 hours to appreciate the beauty of Mary and Christ on her lap sculpture by Michaelangelo, the various mosaic altars of Christianity. The tour group was not that keen into Catholcisim and the Pope and so the guide was not keen to talk much as the group scattered to take pictures.

If you watch movies (I can't remember the thriller name), you would see as the guide pointed out, the central of 3 balconies where the Pope would stand out to bless the crowd on Christmas Day. Also the second room from the right of a building near the St Peterburg's church which is the Pope's office. Took some pictures. I don't think my tour companions care two hoots about catholicism and the history of Christianity.
Probably more interested in fashion and shopping in Milan. Since the colesseum was closed, the tour leader took us there at night when the students had left. It was very cold and we could view the outside only. The tour leader said we could see the colosseum at Verona where Juliet lived and where she declared her love for Romeo. "Must pay to see the inside of the house," he said. "Outside, see the balcony, it is free." I doubt there are any romantics in the tour group although we have two newly married. I used to see Shakespeare's house and bedroom at Stratford upon Avon when I was an undergraduate in Glasgow some 50 years ago. I really paid to see the room and the short bed he slept on. Shakespeare was taught in literature in Singapore schools. Now, the schools have thrown out literature for most junior college students. So, Romeo and Juliet's play and Verona means nothing to the younger Singaporeans. "Anybody watch the 'LETTERS TO JULIET' movie in the Emirates Airplane?" the guide asked. Julia did. I did not. Guess I am not a romantic. I enjoyed watching "THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY" Western which I watched some 40 years ago. The plot is still riveting. I also watched "ROMANCING THE STONE" which has young Mike Douglas as an adventurer. It is a sob romantic story with rapid action scenes of life in Colombia. The young Singaporeans will never watch such movies in my opinion. It is a pity as they are "evergreens". What are evergreens? They are interesting good movies for all generations to come as they have excellent plots, pacing and character. But Avatar and new movies beat them in design and impressive visuals on the younger generation.

12. NO AIR COND. VERY HOT INSIDE BUS. One complaint from a big-sized Singaporean lady. The outside air is 10 degrees C. The driver switched on the ventilator or something.

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