Vin Crosbie's Personal Blog

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Don’t Go to Hong Kong: visit Singapore Instead

For several centuries, Hong Kong was called the ‘Gateway to the the East‘. Western businessmen make the British Crown Colony their Far Eastern base of operations. Western tourists planning to make their first trip to Asia more often than not made it their first stop. I know many retirement age Americans who still want or suggest Hong Kong as a destination. That was fine advice until the turn of the millenium. In 1997, the British handed Hong Kong back to the the mainland Chinese government, and the Chinese Communiist Party (CCP) has since wasted no time transforming the Hong Kong into another province or city of the People’s Republic. Shanghai, rather than Hong Kong, has become the largest business city regarding China. International businesses are moving either there or to another ity that I’m about to mention. The CCP has enacted censorship and cracked down on political dissent. Hong Kong is a democracy no more. It’s still a wonderful, fascinating place, but it’s not the old Hong Kong of the 20th Century. Instead, as The Economist news magazine verifies, Singapore has replaced Hong Kong as the major business city, with the exception of Tokyo, in the Far East: “Singapore is no paradise. The pleasantness of its urban fabric is thanks mainly to the toil of the foreign migrant workers who make up nearly a third of the workforce. Their contribution is a curious blind spot. Meanwhile, politics is tightly constrained, as is civil society: you may be arrested for holding up a placard with a smiley face. The media is cloyingly tame, while foreign journalists, it is made clear, are here on sufferance. With nearly 500 executions in the past three decades, 70% of them for drug offences, Singapore’s use of capital punishment is grotesque. “Still, a far brighter future beckons for Singapore’s young than for their counterparts in Hong Kong. They are slowly pushing at Singapore’s rigid boundaries. This month, in a first, a few hundred activists gathered on Labour Day to call for greater rights for, among others, foreign workers. The launch of Jom reflects a growing desire for independent voices. In Hong Kong, by contrast, a transport-news website promoting road safety, of all things, this week became the latest target of the authorities and was forced to close. Singapore is at a crossroads. Hong Kong has hit a dead end.” I know both cities. Hong Kong is fun to […]

Singapore Airlines SQ21 over Connecticut

Overhead: the World’s Longest Airline Flight

[If the color photo that heads this post doesn’t appear on you smartphone, click here to view it.] Each morning at approximately 10:15 a.m. New York time (15:15 UTC), I can gaze upwards from my home a watch a jet airliner pass three miles over me and heading northeast. While that’s not unusual because I live 30 miles (48 kilometers), 40 miles (63 km), and 50 miles (96 km) respectively from the New York City area’s LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy (JFK), and Newark Liberty airports, this daily airliner is special. It’s approximately six minutes into the world’s longest non-stop airliner flight. Even without binoculars, I can see the stylized gold dragon against a blue background on the tail of this mostly otherwise white aircraft: a new, twin-engine Airbus a350-900 ULR (Ultra Long Range) model. It’s Singapore Airlines’ legendary Flight SQ21 and will be aloft some 18-hour before it completes its 9,534 mile non-stop flight from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). Singapore Airlines flew this route, setting the all-time record for a scheduled jet airline flight, from 2004 to 2013, then relaunched SQ21 this past October. (By the way, Cable News Network covered the relaunch of the route as if no airliner had ever flown that far before. Didn’t anybody at CNN know that Singapore Airlines had flown it from 2004 to 2013?) The earlier version of SQ21 used a long-range version of the four-engine Airbus a340 aircraft and carried a mix of coach and business class passengers. However, the route perennially lost money because these a350s had to be fitted with fewer than normal seats in coach due to the extra weight of the fuel needed to fly that long. By 2010, Singapore Airways had converted the a350s on this route to carry only 100 business class seats.  Nonetheless, that wasn’t economical. The airline revived the route after Airbus Industries designed for it this special model of the new a350, which can carry both coach and business class while using less fuel than the a340s did.  The a340 versions of SQ21 usually headed due north from New York City, flying over the North Pole, then south across Siberia, China, and Southeast Asia to Singapore. Depending upon the jet stream in the northern hemisphere, the a350 new versions of this flight will use that same route or follow a much more divergent route: using the jet stream to give the aircraft […]

In the Mood Today for East Asia

I’m in an eastern Asian mood today. Many things have reminded me of it. For instance, Thailand is renown for its Public Services advertisements on television. Here is a recent example, a full movie told in only three minutes: Click here to read Adweek’s story about why and how it was produced.  The same producers two years earlier created a possibly even better Public Services short, about compassion: The story behind that one is here. ∅   Kudos to Chinese pharmaceuticals billionaire Li Jinyuan who took 6,400 of his employees on a nine-day vacation in France.  They arrived aboard 84 commercial flights and occupied 140 hotels.  the cost was €15 million ($18 million). ∅   Who exactly won? Forty years after Communist North Vietnam took over capitalist South Vietnam, an international poll reports that Vietnam is now the world’s most capitalist country. China was ranked fourth. ∅ When traveling to such places, or anywhere in the world, I’d always thought that the best passport to have was Swiss, because nobody blocks the politically neutral Swiss. However, CNN reports that the best passport to have is actually U.S. or U.K., followed by France, South Korea, or Germany, or Sweden, or Italy, or Denmark, Singapore, Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, or Netherlands, and only then Swiss. Those groupings are based upon how many countries the passport holder is allowed to enter either without a visa or by relatively easily obtaining a visa upon arrival at the border. One hundred forty-seven countries permit that for U.S. or U.K. passport holders. ∅ Speaking of travel, it was interesting to see the the CEO of the Starwood Hotel Group concede that his company’s Sheraton brand has become tired and in need of change. ∅ You might say that I’m sensitive to submarines. Although my naval officer father served aboard surface ships during World War II and the Korean Conflict, I grew up around New London, Connecticut, headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s submarine fleet. Seeing nuclear submarines silently leave that port (which was actually across the river in the town of Groton) was a routine sight. By far the most advanced submarines in the world are the Seawolf-class submarines constructed just after the end of the Cold War. These ships indeed are parts of a trio of U.S. ‘superweapons’ that no other nation possess. The other two in the trio are the super-accurate LGM-30G Minuteman III missiles (each capable of delivering within 30-minutes a thermonuclear warhead, […]