The Daily Explorer

September 22, 2011

From Sing-a-Berlin to Singapore

Singapore: September 2011

MOZZIE BYTE (Editor): A warm welcome to all our Daily Explorer readers. For those of you who are joining us for the first time, Ray has been travelling and living nomadically for almost six years since he left England in November 2005, visiting 20 different countries so far on his journey. We have been publishing exclusive news and stories about his experiences (you will find all of these in our Previous Issues archive). Our aim at The Daily Explorer is to create a great publication for you, so please keep sending us your comments and suggestions as to how we can improve what we are doing. You can use the comments box on this site, or email Ray (ray@thedailyexplorer.com), ‘Mozzie’ or any of our correspondents at mozzie@thedailyexplorer.com.

Everyone at The Daily Explorer office has now returned after our summer break, and we waste no time in bringing you our latest issue. We have an update from Singapore as our intrepid explorer pursues the possibility of entering the Asian business world to coach managers and executives in the region. To finalise his preparation, he takes part in a week-long training programme with Coach In A Box. We also take a look back at Ray’s last few days in Berlin and find out what happened during his brief stopover in Chiang Mai as he returned to Asia.

In case you missed our last issue, Ray was taking a break from global travel for a few weeks to discover and enjoy life in the fabulous city of Berlin with his girlfriend Silky. We also accompanied them as they made a short trip across the border to Switzerland to visit Ray’s ex-wife Charlotte giving us an intimate, behind the scenes view of a part of our travellers personal history. You can read it now at: The Swiss Connection

Above: In our last issue, we followed Ray to the beautiful and captivating city of Berlin which he was exploring with girlfriend and fellow traveller Silky. You can read all about it at: The Swiss Connection

The business world is something we rarely touch on at The Daily Explorer, as we mainly observe and report on Ray’s experiences as a nomadic traveller. So I was particularly intrigued to find out more about the nature of Ray’s recent visit to Singapore and the possible implications for him. But first, I wanted to know more about his departure from Berlin as I could tell from our last issue that he was really enjoying his time in the city. “You are absolutely right Mozzie – Berlin has to be one of the most interesting, chic, bohemian and sexy cities that I have visited on my travels and certainly enters my list of places I would be happy to live in, or at least return to many times” said Ray. “First, it has a truly compelling history, with its years of division either side of the wall and its eventual re-unification. I was utterly fascinated as I discovered remnants of this period of the city’s austere and tragic story. Like most major European cities, Berlin has a very varied mix of culture, architecture and cuisine which gives you a sense of great character. Yet unlike London and Paris, prices are relatively low although I am sure they are catching up fast. To any of our readers based in Europe, if you haven’t been to Berlin, I highly recommend it, at the very least as a long weekend break destination” he added.

 

Above: The Spree river used to be the dividing line between East and West in some parts of the city (left). A residential street in Charlottenburg (centre) – “Some parts of the city are stunningly beautiful and very peaceful” observed Ray, who celebrated his 51st birthday before he left Germany. “Silky made me a beautiful birthday cake” (right), “which I must tell you was full of very nutritious nuts, fruits and other nourishing contents” laughed our health-conscious traveller (Photo’s: S Piehler)

Below: Silky took Ray to see the Reichstag building (left), which is the home of the German government. And if you are into shopping, no trip to Berlin would be complete without a visit to Kurfürstendamn, which is one of the most famous avenues in Berlin – “If you half close your eyes here, it is easy to imagine you are in New York (right), except the buildings are not quite as tall” observed Ray

Above: Our nomadic traveller explores the Palace at Charlottenburg, which was built at the end of the 17th century and is the largest palace in Berlin (Photo: S Piehler)

Below: Potsdamer Platz in the city centre. The grassy banked area was once a huge section of ‘No Man’s Land’ between East and West, divided by the Berlin Wall. If you are interested, you can read more about the fascinating history of this area at the Wikipedia site

Above: The restaurant on the top floor at the Kaufhaus des Westens (“Department Store of the West”), usually abbreviated to KaDeWe, which is in central Berlin. With over 60,000 square metres of selling space and more than 380,000 articles available, it is the second largest department store in Europe (left). Trumped only by Harrods in London. It attracts 40,000 to 50,000 visitors every day. Elsewhere, our traveller spotted these rather colourful bears in a nearby street (right) – “They are being exhibited all over the world” Ray told me. “Up to 25 million people on five continents have admired them. The Buddy Bears stand together hand in hand in a peaceful circle, promoting tolerance and understanding among different nations, cultures and religions. Each Buddy Bear has been designed by an artist on behalf of his or her native country. The international artists’ different styles are joined together in one work of art, spreading the zest for life. The diverse design of the Buddy Bears – always typical for the respective countries – enables the visitors to experience a journey around the globe. Buddy Bear activities and aid for children in need have formed an inseparable unit. To date, over €1,768,000 has been raised through donations and auctions in aid of UNICEF and local child relief organizations” said our well-informed traveller

Below: Silky stands outside ‘Kaffeehaus Sowohlalsauch‘ on Kollwitzstraße, Prenzlauer Berg – “As a visitor in a new city, there are very few things you get to experience more than once as you tend to want to experiment and try new things as much as you can” said Ray. “However, the breakfast was so good at this particular brasserie, I ended up going back there several times during my stay and I highly recommend it if you go to Berlin” he told me

Above: Just before he left Germany, Ray took his bicycle to Potsdam (left), which is situated on the River Havel, about 24 kilometres southwest of Berlin city centre. Potsdam has several claims to national and international notability. In Germany, it had the status Windsor has in Britain: it was the residence of the Prussian kings and German Kaisers, until 1918. Around the city there are a series of interconnected lakes and unique cultural landmarks, in particular the parks and palaces of Sanssouci (right), the largest World Heritage Site in Germany (Photo’s: S Piehler)

Below: Silky takes our traveller for a closer look at the palace at Sanssouci – the former summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. It is often counted among the German rivals of Versailles. The palace was designed between 1745 and 1747 to fulfill King Frederick’s need for a private residence where he could relax away from the pomp and ceremony of the Berlin court. After World War II, the palace became a tourist attraction in East Germany. It was fully maintained with due respect to its historical importance, and was open to the public. Following German reunification in 1990, the final wish of Frederick came to pass: his body was finally returned to his beloved palace and buried in a new tomb overlooking the gardens he had created. Sanssouci and its extensive gardens became a World Heritage Site in 1990 under the protection of UNESCO. These palaces are now visited by more than two million people a year from all over the world

No visit to Berlin would be complete without an excursion to Mauerpark, in Prenzlauer Berg district. “This is the area where Silky lives and where I was renting my apartment” explained Ray. “On a Sunday, a huge flea market is in operation and if the weather is good, thousands of Berliners come to enjoy the market, food and the street entertainment on offer. Like Potsdamer Platz, the site was formerly an area of ‘No Mans Land’ between East and West Germany, which adds something special to the atmosphere of being there” he added. “The first time Silky took me there, it was on a Sunday afternoon and we watched the weekly open-air karaoke taking place. This is so popular that well over a thousand people gather at the amphi-theatre in the park every week to be part of it. One by one, courageous members of the community step forward (voluntarily) to sing and (hopefully) entertain people in crowd. There is a really great sound system and the musical backing tracks are excellent – it is very well run by the guys who organise it. People in the audience recognise that those taking the stage need a lot of support and encouragement, as most of them are not performers, so the crowd enthusiastically cheers, dances and applauds everyone, no matter how terrible they are! When I went the first time, I just knew I would not be satisfied to leave Berlin without having a go myself” said our traveller. “My nerves got the better of me for several weeks, which meant I left it until my last weekend” recalled Ray. “I arrived at the park and put my name down to sing “When You Say Nothing At All” by Ronan Keating, as it’s a lovely ballad and I know the words pretty well. Then I sat in the crowd with Silky, who helped to keep me calm and watched the others do their numbers while I waited for my name to be called. It was probably two of the most stressful hours of my life! But once I got to the stage and got going, I calmed down a lot and was able to get the crowd onside. Silky thought I was both crazy and courageous in equal amounts although I think she appreciated the song being dedicated to her – the crowd certainly gave a loud cheer when I told them” said our romantic singing traveller.

Above: A bit like an outdoor version of “Pop Idol” or “Britain’s Got Talent”, well over a thousand people gather every week (left) in Mauerpark for the Karaoke which creates a daunting prospect for anyone wanting to take the microphone and have a go, although it did not seem to deter this little girl (right) who was on just before our global nomad (Photo’s: S Piehler)

Below: With the crowd completely behind our traveller, he gave it his all and kept the people of Berlin entertained (the audience is not in view as Ray is actually facing them) – “It was my way of thanking the people of the city for having me stay there and being so good to me, although I am not sure if they liked my way of doing it” he laughed (Photo: S Piehler)

For those of you who would like to be reminded of how it should be done, here is a video clip of the man himself performing live:

Some of you may recall from previous issues of The Daily Explorer that Ray has been exploring the possibility of working part-time as a business coach in Asia and he made significant progress towards that aim during his time in Berlin. “Earlier this year, I was introduced to an organisation in Singapore called Coach In A Box (CiAB) who have corporate clients in several countries in Asia. I explained to them that I had not been involved with business for about six years and wanted to try out working part-time so that I could still travel and engage in not-for-profit activities, as well as being able to make progress with writing my book. As it happens, they are expanding their client base in Asia and require more coaches in the near future, but cannot accurately predict the level of demand they will be expected to meet. So they are looking for people like me to join the team as an associate and be available as and when needed” explained Ray. “On paper, it seemed like the perfect match, so I agreed to enrol in their Associate Development Programme, which started (for me) in March this year. They offer a coaching service to their clients using the telephone or Skype, which is one of the major attractions for me as it is not location dependent. For both me and CiAB to see if their would be a good fit, the first thing they asked me to do was to be coached for about six weeks by one of their established people. This was really important because it would enable me to see how they do things and experience the service my own future clients would be expected to receive when I work with them. I was very impressed with Kenny Toh, who was my coach and it gave me a lot of confidence in CiAB as an organisation” added Ray.

Ray completed this phase of his training programme and in phase two, the roles were reversed. This time, it was Ray’s turn to be the coach. “There were several new associates joining the team at the same time, which made it possible for us to pair up and work with each other to gain experience of using their unique coaching tools” explained Ray. “I was asked to coach Pramod Gothi in Mumbai, India for about six weeks (during July and August), using a typical CiAB programme normally provided to commercial clients. Some of my calls with Pramod were recorded for assessment and I was also given feedback at various stages by my mentor so I could get a sense of what to focus my attention on to improve my own coaching capability. It also gave CiAB the opportunity to see what my level of capability is and make decisions about future deployment. It has been an extremely supportive and enjoyable process and I am really impressed with the Coach In A Box culture. In many ways, their culture reminds me of the business I used to run in England so I feel very ‘at home’ in their team and surrounded by a great group of people – a bit like joining an International community” said our traveller. “I am looking forward to the final phase of training for this year, which involves attending a five-day workshop in Singapore. It will be an opportunity to learn, which is always welcome, as well as meet the entire team in Asia. I have spoken to many of them on the phone so it will be great to see them in person” said Ray as he departed from Berlin and headed for Chiang Mai in Thailand.

Above: Our intrepid explorer thoroughly enjoyed his visit to Berlin, with the possible exception of some very early starts, like the one here at 3 am for a ‘community learning’ conference call with the CiAB team (left) – “I guess I have forgotten that being part of the corporate world sometimes eats into one’s personal time” said Ray. “Because I am affiliated to the Asian team, everything usually happens for me during normal business hours when I am in Asia, but since I made a spontaneous decision to extend my visit in Berlin by a few weeks, I had to get up five or six hours earlier than my Asian colleagues to be present for our weekly calls” recalled Ray. Another one of the new associates to join CiAB is Pramod Gothi (right) from Mumbai, India – “He is a charming man and very modest. He has recently retired from working in a large corporation and wants to spend some of his twilight years passing on his knowledge and experience to younger executives who are learning the ropes. He graciously allowed me to coach him which gave me my first experience of using some of the CiAB coaching tools. Thank God for modern technology, like Skype!” exclaimed our traveller

When I telephoned Ray in Chiang Mai, I discovered that the Associate Development Programme with CiAB had led our traveller to an unusual opportunity to contribute to the work of an NGO involved in helping communities tackle social problems. “It amazes me sometimes how random events connect up to produce completely unexpected outcomes” said Ray. “One of my colleagues at CiAB who was coaching me on the phone suggested I find someone in Chiang Mai and coach them on a pro-bono basis (free) in order to gain further practise in using the tools we had been given. I thought this was a great idea, so after I arrived I approached a friend of mine called Gaston Schmitz, who works for an organisation called “The Constellation“. They help poor communities around the world by sending facilitators to their villages and working with them to come up with workable solutions to local problems such as AIDS, pollution, domestic violence and the like. Gaston has been totally committed to his work for a couple of years and asked me if I would have a chat with him about a couple of decisions he was considering related to his career, which I was very happy to do. Shortly afterwards, he telephoned me to say that he was making a short video about the work of The Constellation, which is funded entirely by donation, and asked me if I would record the narrated voiceover for the film. I love new experiences so I joyfully accepted and went to their office where I spent a few hours refining and practising with the script before finally recording the soundtrack. It was great fun to do it and I am really happy to give my energy to something which is truly worthwhile” explained Ray, who tells me that Gaston has now gone to Europe to get married. His fiancée Laurence has also been working in Chiang Mai and our traveller tells me that both of them are fantastic people. On behalf of everyone here at The Daily Explorer, we offer them our sincere congratulations and best wishes for a very happy life together!

Above: Our traveller enjoyed his brief return to Chiang Mai, en route to Singapore and managed to spot a couple of unusual things in the city which he enjoys so much. First, the ‘HUG’ Academy (left) – “I can’t help wondering what entry criteria they have but the idea of going doesn’t really grab me” said our curious observer.  Another sighting which had Ray intrigued was this woman in her garden (right) – “I heard that scientists have really made advances with the genetic modification of fruits, but this seems like a bit of a cock-up to me” he laughed

Below: Shortly after his arrival in Chiang Mai, Ray was invited to the office of the AIDS Network Development Foundation (left) to record the narrated voiceover for a short video describing the work of The Constellation. The invitation came from his friend Gaston Schmitz (right – grey shirt) who had also enrolled Rachan Peace to assist with the recording and editing

Above: Rachan (left) and Gaston (right) work on the dialogue in the script and decide how they want the voiceover to sound to get the desired impact for the viewer – “I had never done voiceover work before and I discovered that there is a lot more to it than meets the eye” said Ray

Below: For any of our readers who would like to hear our global nomad narrating the final cut, you can watch this short video clip. For more information about The Constellation, visit their web site

With the voiceover in the can, Ray departed for Singapore to join his CiAB colleagues for a five-day training programme that marked the end of the first phase of training for new associates joining the team. “I am really impressed with everybody at CiAB” re-iterated Ray. “They work to very high standards, which are reflected in everything they do including the way our training event was run. There were about 18 people in our working group and those of us coming from outside Singapore were accommodated in wonderful apartments in groups of four, which gave the whole event a ‘summer camp’ feel. I established a great connection with my three room-mates and feel like I have joined a like-minded community of sparkling people from all over Asia. I am very happy to be part of the team” Ray told me.

Did he have to work hard during the training? “The toughest part was facilitating one of the modules on the course for the rest of the group” he recalled. “I have experience in coaching people, but not in running training groups and it is very daunting to be given that task when your audience is made up of experienced facilitators! Still, I did the very best I could and prepared thoroughly so that my session, which I co-facilitated with one of my colleagues, would come across well. And judging from all of the feedback we received afterwards, it seems to have worked” added our relieved traveller. “The five-day programme was crammed full of exercises and working sessions and all of us were fully absorbed by it. I have made a lot of new friends and learnt a lot from my colleagues and trainers and am very excited about working with clients going forward. It has been a long time since I put my ‘business’ hat on, but it still fits very well” he laughed.

Above: The venue for the Coach In A Box five-day training programme in Singapore was the Lotus Residence near Joo Chiat – “It was a great place to be together and enabled all of us to get to know other members of our group, creating a strong sense of community. This is something which is very valuable and important to me” said Ray

Below: The people taking part in the Coach In A Box five-day training. Back Row, from left to right: Leo (Shanghai), Julian (Shanghai), Ian (Dubai), Ray, Kenny Toh (Singapore), April (Singapore), Jason (Hong Kong), Pramod (India). Front Row, from left to right: Cynthia (Hong Kong), Marisa (Thailand), Michelle (Singapore), Poyee (Shanghai), Jane – Group Leader (UK), Felicia (Singapore), Sabrina (South Korea) and Paula (Japan)

Above: Everyone was given an opportunity to practise facilitating a session for the rest of the group. Here, it is Ian and Pramod’s turn (left). Ray and April are keen to capture what they are learning (right) – “My turn to lead the group came on Wednesday morning, halfway through the week, so I found the second half of the course a bit more relaxing than the first half, during which I was decidedly nervous” recalled Ray

Below: There were plenty of opportunities for the new CiAB team members to get to know each other, including a group supper event (left) and some short trips downtown to explore the city (right) – “The organisation in Asia is only a couple of years old and is growing quite quickly, so it is good to join the team at this time as there are many opportunities to grow with it” Ray told me

Above: As far as Singapore attractions go, there was really only one thing on Ray’s “must see” list, which is the highly acclaimed Marina Bay Sands Resort. It is billed as the world’s most expensive standalone casino property at S$8 billion, including the cost of the prime land. Originally set to open in 2009, the owners faced delays caused by escalating costs of material and labour shortages from the onset. The severe global financial crisis also pressured the company to delay its projects elsewhere to complete the integrated resort. It was officially opened with a two-day celebration on 23 June 2010

Below: Adjacent to the Marina Bay Sands resort is an exhibition concerning sustainable development in the rapidly growing city-state, which was of great interest to our visitor

Above and below: With the casino complete, the Marina Bay Sands resort features a 2,561-room hotel, a 1,300,000 square-foot (121,000 square metres) convention-exhibition centre, the 800,000 square-foot (74,000 square metres) shopping mall, an iconic ArtScience museum, two large theatres, seven “celebrity chef” restaurants, two floating Crystal Pavilions, an ice skating rink, and the world’s largest atrium casino with 500 tables and 1,600 slot machines. The complex is topped by a 340 metre long ‘Sky Park’ with a capacity of 3,900 people and a 150m infinity swimming pool, set on top of the world’s largest public cantilevered platform, which overhangs the north tower by 67 metres

Above and below: The Sky Park is home to the world’s longest elevated swimming pool, with a 146-metre vanishing edge, perched 191 metres above the ground. The pools are made up of 422,000 pounds of stainless steel and can hold 376,500 gallons (1,424 cubic metres) of water. The Sky Park also boasts rooftop restaurants, lush gardens, hundreds of trees and plants, and a public observatory deck on the cantilever with 360-degree views of the Singapore skyline. There are four movement joints beneath the main pools, designed to help them withstand the natural motion of the towers, and each joint has a unique range of motion. The total range of motion is 500 millimetres (19.68 inches). In addition to wind, the hotel towers are also subject to settlement in the earth over time, so engineers built and installed custom jack legs to allow for future adjustment at more than 500 points beneath the pool system. This jacking system is important primarily to ensure the infinity edge of the pool continues to function properly. The developer declared the undertaking as “one of the world’s most challenging construction projects and certainly the most expensive stand-alone integrated resort property ever built”. It expects the casino to generate at least $1 billion in annual profit. The casino attracts around 25,000 visitors daily, about a third being Singaporeans and permanent residents who pay a $100 daily entry levy or $2,000 for annual unlimited access. Half a million gamblers passed through the casino in June 2010. For the economy, Marina Bay Sands is projected to stimulate an addition of $2.7 billion or 0.8% to Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product by 2015, employing 10,000 people directly and 20,000 jobs being created in other industries

Above: Hopefully, many of the gamblers who visit the Marina Bay Sands resort will have some money left over for shopping, which is something that Singapore is famous for. Ray sent us this picture, taken on Orchard Road which is home to several mega-malls and department stores

Below: Ray spotted this unusual troupe on Orchard Road – If you would like to suggest a caption to accompany this picture, you can send me your ideas in an email (mozzie@thedailyexplorer.com). We will publish the best caption in our next issue!

Editors Note: Ray has briefly returned to Chiang Mai and will be leaving for India in a few days. I spoke with him on Skype to get more information about his itinerary. “I have been meaning to visit India for a long time, ever since 2009 but put it off to train for the New York marathon and establish my “Calling All Angels” Fundraising Campaign. One thing led to another and life took me elsewhere for a while. I am back on track with it now” he explained. “I will initially go to Delhi and then travel through the country for a couple of weeks before I head for Dharamsala in northern India. This is the home of the Dalai Lama and many thousand Tibetan monks who live there in exile. I aim to be there in time for the Dalai Lama’s teachings and explore the region. It is eight years since I was last in India and even then it was only for two weeks. So I am very excited about returning to fully experience the vibrancy, energy, colour, smells and tastes of this incredible and challenging country” said our global nomad.

That’s about it for now. Before you sign out, you might want to check out the advertisement in the video clip below, which was sent to us by one of our readers. It has a rather haunting theme and a very unusual twist at the end!

Our aim at The Daily Explorer is to create a great publication for you, so please keep sending us your comments and suggestions as to how we can improve what we are doing. You can use the comments box on this site, or email Ray (ray@thedailyexplorer.com), ‘Mozzie’ or any of our correspondents at mozzie@thedailyexplorer.com. We will be following Ray as he travels through India and should have our next issue of The Daily Explorer online in a few weeks. We will keep you posted!

MOZZIE BYTE

Above: One of our readers sent us this rather unusual TV commercial, which has a very unexpected twist at the end. Enjoy!

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4 Comments »

  1. Loved this edition very much as I have missed Singapore AND you so got a good dose of both. Love hearing about your relationship and further travels…..keep on trucking xxx

    Comment by Angie Calder — September 23, 2011 @ 7:01 pm

  2. My wondeful CiAB coach-mate; what an inspiring journal of exploration and self-growth! Have a good trip to India. Some time in the future, China”
    April

    Comment by April — September 24, 2011 @ 2:47 pm

  3. WOW! The Marina Bay Sands resort looks incredible… I always wanted to swim in this pool and wondering if you did? What a fascinating blog. You really have got around during the past few months! Berlin… Singapore… Chiang Mai and now you’re off to India! I must read it all over again… just TOO much to absorb in a few minutes. I look forward to reading about your experiences there. I LOVED India though the hagglers were relentless and it was like running the gauntlet every time I went out! However, it was all part of the Indian experience! I can’t wait to do it again but in the mean time have a GREAT trip. I’m waiting in eager anticipation for you next report. Huge hug and best of luck from us both here in Chiang Mai! XXX Susie Cream and J.T XXX

    Comment by Susie Moberly — September 27, 2011 @ 11:33 pm

  4. Thanks Susie – unfortunately I did not get a chance to swim in the pool and will make sure I do when I return!

    Comment by The Daily Explorer — September 28, 2011 @ 12:00 am


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