Archive for September 2013

Arthur Guinness Day

It all started in 2009, as a way to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Arthur Guinness – and the Arthur Guinness Day was created. Since then, every year, the day has been celebrated in September. Whilst it is seen as a marketing ploy by Diageo, the owner’s of Guinness…which I must admit is likely the case, it still works for me…as it gives me another excuse to raise a toast to Arthur Guinness.

The Guinness Tent - Outside

The Guinness Tent – Outside

This year, Guinness Singapore opted to celebrate by arranging a free concert in Singapore – at a ‘secret venue’. 1759 tickets were on offer…and basically people had to select ways to get them, either taking a photo with Guinness symbolised somewhere, or similar. My approach was based on the Guinness tent being created at Raffles Place which was created to market the new Guinness tap – you went there, poured your own Guinness and you get 2 free tickets + a free pint to enjoy. So I did this route – haha 🙂

The Fray

The Fray @ Arthur’s Day

The concert itself was actually based on the Promenade at Bayfront, near Marina Bay Financial Centre, which for us was a perfect location – after work.

Great views inside the Tent!

Great views inside the Tent!

It was on Thursday 27th September, and the Fray (US music act) was the band that played throughout the night. I must admit it was very enjoyable, and the best thing is, people kept giving us their free Guinness vouchers, so we only paid a few pints during the night – the voucher allowed a free pint – BONUS! When we did have to buy a pint, it was only S$10 per pint, so about S$4 cheaper – so not too bad 🙂

All in all – a great night! Hic!!

Free Dental Screening – Yes Please :)

There was an email mailing at work that offered a free dental screening and check-up at T32 Dental Pearl – the closest branch from the office was One Raffles Mall near the Esplanade MRT, so I decided to go in late on Friday, to pay a visit.

They did an x-ray screening as well as a general consultation – and pretty much said my teeth were fine (bonus!). They did however, advised me that my teeth were ground down, mainly due to stress or similar, which causes the grinding during my sleep. It was also good to see that my 3 wisdom teeth were behaving themselves, although I am unsure why only 3 developed! So all-in-all, a clean bill of health.

Singapore F1GP 2013 – Fun Fun Fun

One of the other (subtle) reasons to come back to Singapore was to take part and witness the fantastic spectacle that is the Formula One Night Race on the streets of Singapore. It’s still an amazing sight, seeing the City Centre transform from a buzzling shopping and sightseeing district to an electrifying show that lasts across 3 days. In fact, the best time to walk around is when they first shut off the roads to traffic on Wednesday afternoon. It is just surreal, as you walk around the circuit as they make the final touches, and you know a couple of days later millions of dollars worth of motor car would be zooming by on the very road that you are walking along. It’s also interesting how they transform the circuit itself, removing some of the traffic lights, street lights and kerbs to make it a proper and fully-fledged F1 circuit.

This year, I decided to celebrate it across the 3 days of the race – plus a sneak preview viewing – including the Thursday evening to welcome a old work colleague from the UK who was passing on through Singapore.

Wednesday, 18th September – the traffic shut-down day
A couple of days before, the teams have all arrived to acclimatise and ‘feel’ the circuit. After work, a colleague and I went down to Turn 13 by Raffles Place (by Gate 6) to enter the circuit and walk around. We walked towards City Hall along Esplanade Drive before making it around to St Andrews Road, before come back past the Fullerton Hotel near to the Anderson Bridge. A nice and relaxing view, and we managed to bag some great photos.

Thursday, 19th September – the day before the race
A ex-colleague from the UK was travelling through Singapore for a work-trip, so after work we decided to go to Marina Bay Sands and the Ku De Ta sky-bar for some well-deserved drinks after work. It was a great buzz up there, although we failed to see any F1 drivers – who apparently usually turn up during on the few nights preceding a race. We took some wicked photos from the viewing platform, as it is amazing to see the Singapore sky-line lit-up with the F1 street lights. Amazing sight in deed!

We then decided to head down towards the pit area – and although we couldn’t go onto the pit straight itself, we stayed around Raffles Boulevard and the pit entrance to see if we can see any drivers pass by. We were told that Alonso had already walked on by, as apparently the drivers cycle, drive, or walk the circuit to get familiar with it. After about 20 minutes in the humid night skies, we decided to head on to the hotel, so we can say our goodbyes, before the rest of us went into a taxi and on our way back home.

Friday, 20th September – Practice Day
After work, I headed down to Turn 13 again, and went through the gates. I wanted to take the opportunity to try out a few good vantage spots for Qualifying and Race day. This area was good, but it was far too fast to really enjoy a good view. I then went back to Turn 11-12, and this bit was quite nice – as it a slow chicane. The sounds were electrifying and went straight through your body. I joined a couple of mates and we stayed around the City Hall Zone 4 area – to take the sights and enjoy the atmosphere. We didn’t want to stay for the concert after the racing, so for some grub at City Hall. The Mos Burger was ‘okay’ but really was needed before I headed back home to sleep on the busy MRT.

Saturday, 21st September – Qualifying Day
I took it easy in the morning, as I knew it would be a long day ahead. I headed down around 430 ish to enjoy the first few sessions of the Porsche Carrera Asia Cup and the GP2 races (practice, qualifying etc). I then headed across to Zone 1 and 2 to take advantage of this area. I got some good, and drinks, and ended up on the viewing platform at the last corner before the pits/home-straight. A great feeling here, as you can look down at the pit entrance and the pit straight area, as well as the final turning and circuit. I then agreed to meet up an ex-colleague who was with his friends at Zone 4, so headed back towards City Hall. We chilled around the Padang area, enjoyed some food, some refreshing beers, and then readied ourselves for the Killers concert – which would start after the F1 Qualifying had finished.

The concert started, and we had a great area to enjoy the show – it was fantastic, great choons, great atmosphere, great company. The Killers rock – just a shame that we only had an hour and a half set – wish it was far longer 🙂 Just makes me more prepared to see them in concert on their next world tour 🙂

Sunday, 22nd September – Race Day
On Sunday, I wanted to arrive early and enjoy the view. I decided to stay around Zone 1 and 2 – and whilst watching the Porsche Race and GP2 motor cars, I think I found a great corner just before Turn 5, it’s a nice corner, but there was this great viewing platform as the cars get close to the fence, and slow for the corner. After about an hour of watching, I decided to visit the Singapore Flyer – which is complimentary for Zone 1 ticket holders. It was a great time to visit, as it was just before Race started – so saw the Parade lap and the great pit straight, as the mechanics put the finishes touches on the F1 cars. After the 30 minute trip on the Flyer, I returned to my Turn 5 viewing platform, and enjoyed the race spin by. What a wicked atmosphere – truly love it!

As the race was getting towards the end, I raced (excuse the pun) back to Zone 4 and the Panang to meet up a friend from work, to enjoy Rihanna’s concert. After getting trapped behind some fencing, it turned out to be an access to the Mosh Pit was. After about 30 minutes waiting, they let us through, and I ended up right up close to the stage, just on the right hand side. It was a great area, and you could feel the vibe throughout. The concert itself was pretty average, I didn’t really like the dance routines, although the songs were pretty good. Personally, I am glad I saw it, ‘cos really just made up my mind that I would pay to see her in concert again 🙂

The only thing I didn’t managed to do, this time around, was walk along the pit straight, which opens up at the end of the race. Last time I did that, it was fantastic, as you can view the winning cars in the pits, within the Parc Ferme from the pit fence.

Now the magic question, should I purchase the Early Bird Tickets for 2014’s race…haha!

All in all – an incredible week of events leading up to a great race…it was Vettal’s race, so he deserved the win.

Long Weekend Holiday in Penang

Having always intended to visit Penang, I finally decided to book-up a nice long weekend last weekend. I joined with a work colleague, and the two of us just wanted to enjoy the time away and have a good time eating, walking and drinking 🙂

The good news is that I managed to finally use the S$50 discount that I received from Tiger Airlines after my complaint following my trip to Hong Kong late last year, so it was pretty reasonable 🙂 The total cost of the flight was just over S$150 (so £75) – brilliant, hey? 🙂

We decided to leave late on Friday, 7th September after work, and we arrived in good time before the rush-hour. The flight left at 5pm, so it was a good time to leave. We both decided to use the Priority Pass membership to get into one of the Lounges. It was the Green Market in Terminal 2 – which basically was a loung with a Japanese restaurant. It was okay, wasn’t really what I expected, but at least the food and drinks were free. The flight was largely uneventful, and we arrived just over an hour and 15 minutes in Penang international airport. I booked a taxi pick-up from my hotel, and the taxi was waiting as planned. It cost 45RM (about S$17), which wasn’t too bad. I didn’t realised how far George Town was from the airport, the airport was on the South of Penang island, whilst George Town (hotel was just near to George Town) was towards the North of the island. We arrived in good time, and was welcomed into the hotel.

The hotel was actually very nice – a truly refreshing boutique Museum hotel – located a stone throw from the centre of George Town (just look for the Zurich Office landmark, located nearby to find your way back to the hotel!). It is a fascinating place, built as a colonial home, with plenty of antiques and artifacts on display. The service is excellent, the front desk and the lounge staff are truly pleasant, they certainly help out as much as they can.

While the breakfast choice is limited to 4 dishes, which you are required to order before 10pm the preceding day, it actually is perfect for my needs, although a little limited in terms of choice. They serve it with style and grace and it is top quality indeed, and you eat it in such a nice breakfast room, you just can’t help but chill and relax as you plan your day ahead. The front desk and staff really are very supportive and are keen to help you in any way they can, and are very pleasant, and are always smiling.

The next few days we spent walking around George Street, finding pleasant places to eat, places to relax and chill, and enjoy the sight and sounds of this delightful place. We managed to do quite a bit, and ate most of the key things that we had to eat in Penang, so a bonus! My friend left on the Sunday evening, whilst I took off Monday as well – and managed to do another walk around George street. I actually found a nice tea shop, which I found on Trip Advisor – Huang Chen Hao Tea Art Shop (also known as ‘Wuyi Tea Art Centre’), located on Jalan Campbell (Campbell Street), I ended up talking to the owner for about 2 hours, sipping the tea, and also made a purchase – as I found it sooo refreshing.

I would definitely recommend a visit to Penang – and I think about 3-4 days is just the right amount of time – but overall an enjoyable trip.

Work Hard, Play Hard

Well as the motto goes, when one works hard, you play hard…or should that be play ‘harder’. So after a few weeks (well okay months) of hard graft, I am sure looking forward to a nice long weekend in Penang.

I have been wanting to pay a visit for ages, so decided to book it up a few weeks back, and managed to persuade a work colleague to spend the time with me. I am certainly looking forward to it…it reminds me a little bit of the Malacca Trip, as everyone says you basically eat, drink, walk and sleep for the whole trip…so as they say eat little but often, and I am sure going to try out that motto 🙂

I will be leaving on Friday, 6th September (evening flight) and I decided to take Monday off from work, so will be arriving back early evening on Monday, 9th September. Back to work on the Tuesday – I can’t wait … Haha!!

I will tell you more after the holiday, hopefully it will be a fun-packed trip :). And I do hope I manage to relax and chill a bit too…

My tenth year anniversary at Amex

10 years ago to the day, I embarked on what would become a new life adventure. Never would I have thought of the work style I would have encountered during this period – and fun of course!

I initially joined Amex on an IT Graduate Scheme on 1st September 2003, a scheme that was piloted in 2003 after a period of absence in the Amex Tech (AET) division, due to the dot com crash in 2000. The then CIO, Glen Salow, commented that after an absence of graduates in IT, it was important to bring in and develop new talent into the AET division, and the IT Graduate Scheme was developed with this sole purpose in mind.

Unlike the previous approach which resulted in 1-2 graduates being recruited as part of the wider company wide scheme – which continued, but focused on sales, operations, project management, marketing etc, the IT one focused on IT only (you could have guessed that from the title of the scheme) and with an increase intake of 30 graduates a year, with the intention to convert about 10% as full term employees at the end of the 2 year scheme. They event sponsored a Masters of Science as part of the programme.

I succeeded in completing the graduate scheme and got a distinction in the MSc degree as well…bonus! … and enjoyed the experience in the Project Management field.

After 18 months I managed to secure a permanent position in the GNS business (jumping from Tech to Business) on 1st December, and actually the timing resulted in me attending the Global employee conference in Miami. Wow that was a spot of luck and a great opportunity to meet and great all of my fellow colleagues in the division. I had some really enjoyable experiences, including working on some really high-profile, challenging but enjoyable projects, and did a few business trips as well. In March 2008, I was prompted to a Senior PM in the same team. I continued to do well in my role, including driving consultancy placements in Greece, Latvia and in 2011 in Saudi Arabia – the latter involved providing PM training to the Partner Bank organisation a that was an experience.

I then managed to secure a secondment (as part of a Global Rotation Programme) in the second half of 2011, and did well on this. So much so, I managed to secure an Internal transfer into the JAPA region, based on Singapore starting on 1st January 2013. I continue to do well in my role, helping to implement key initiatives, and take on a more operational role too (which is certainly different to my role in the UK).

And as they say the rest is history. 10 years on, I don’t know what the future will have for me. I have seen many interesting experiences (some good, some ‘different’), and I have managed to bypass several retrenchments over the past decade as well…phew!

Let’s see what happens in the next 10 years…where will I be, what will I be doing? Who knows!! One thing for sure, I will still be having fun and more importantly smiling strong 🙂

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