Peter Lyons

Dec 17, 2014

Singapore and JSConf Asia

OK this is a bit of a back-dated catch-up post to finish up the SE Asia trip.

Going back to Friday November 14th, I had dinner at the Tops grocery near our Chiang Mai apartment - a plate of chicken and rice for $1.07. Saturday we got up at 5:30 AM with the intention of watching sunrise at the famous Wat Phrat Doi Suthep (the one on the mountain). We took one Songthaew to the edge of the city and a second one up the long, winding road to Doi Suthep. There were plenty of cyclists pedaling up the road and monks walking out to collect their morning food.

We explored the Wat for a long time and watched the day begin and the clouds over Chiang Mai melt away in the sun. Around 9AM as the thicker groups of tourists arrived, our Songthaew driver came and found us and excitedly communicated to us that it was time to go back. I understood that perhaps she would have to pay for more parking if we stayed any longer. We got back into the Songthaew, now joined by a monk on his way to the city, and headed back.

We ate delicious breakfast at The Larder Cafe. A "breakfast hot dog" served split lengthwise on a roll with an egg and avocado as well as french toast with berries. We relaxed in the afternoon then ventured to the nearby town of Baan Tawai by taxi so Shannon could shop for wood carvings. We walked through several rows of small storefronts displaying all manner of wooden crafts and furniture from tiny wooden spoons up through huge dining tables. We finished out the day with dinner at Cafe de Nimman, which was next door to the Punspace coworking and was very tasty.

Sunday I mostly worked in anticipation of losing a work day sightseeing Monday and to travel on Tuesday. I visited the Dude Cafe and Cafe Roubaix and also worked a bit on Sparkhelp.

Monday we did the Baan Chang Elephant Park, which Shannon was looking forward to with fervent excitement. I minibus picked us up and we drove around Chiang Mai picking up the others in our group: a pair of girls from Mexico, two young guys staying at a hostel, and another pair of girls from Israel and Spain I think. We spent all day with the elephants - fed them, learned the voice commands the handlers use, rode them around their exercise route along the park perimeter, and finally bathed them. Shannon really went bananas for this experience (rimshot!). We finished out the day back in Chiang Mai with dinner at Limoncello and delicious ice cream.

Tuesday I worked and then we took a tuk-tuk to the airport and flew to Singapore where I was attending JS Conf Asia. Our hotel in Singapore was really, really small. Wednesday after breakfast at an Australian restaurant I found a "coworking space" right around the corner from our hotel. It was really more of an office but for some reason they advertised online as a coworking space. I was able to work there and pay them, but it was pretty clear almost no one ever did that as they had to call a bunch of people to figure out how much it was supposed to cost, who was supposed to collect the money, etc. But I was happy since they had blazing fast Internet and a real office chair and a table for me to work at. I worked 6.5 hours without a break which I think was my longest session of the trip. After that I headed to the CSS Conf afterparty which doubled as the JSConf preparty and watched some fire performers. The location was on a pretty spot reachable only by a long rope bridge with nice views of the Singapore skyline.

Thursday I attended JS Conf Asia at a resort hotel on Sentosa Island. The speakers were surprisingly unusual, interesting, and inspiring. It was fun to have folks to talk shop with, too. Friday to close out the conference there was a final afterparty and Shannon was planning on attending. I tried to catch her arriving on the shuttlebuses the resort runs every 15 minutes from the MRT train station on the mainland, but after a few rounds of not catching her, I walked along the beach to the bar where the party was. On the way I got an email from one of the conference speakers saying "Shannon is here and is looking for you". Apparently she was on one of the earlier shuttlebuses but we missed each other.

But I found her and we had some dinner and talked with different folks from all over. We both took turns getting into giant inflatable hamster wheels and rolling around on the pool. We had a really good time and then took the MRT back to our hotel toward 11PM.

Saturday we tried to make some travel arrangements from a Starbucks after checking out of our hotel and eventually, after much struggle, got booked for flights to Bangkok and then from Bangkok to Los Angeles then on to Denver. We flew to Bangkok that evening and checked into a "service apartment" Shannon had found that was really nice.

Sunday we went to a fancy hotel in Bangkok for Dim Sum, then Shannon went to explore more Wats near Chinatown. I walked a long way back to the hotel, passing the US Embassy and the US Ambassador's residence. I walked through a park and saw a huge komodo dragon casually emerge from the underbrush and walk directly in front of me on the sidewalk. No one else seemed to react, so I take it these are quite common, but I was certainly caught off guard by a 3-ft dragon appearing in my immediate vicinity.

I worked the rest of the day from the apartment. We flew Bangkok to Seoul on Monday morning, had a brief layover, then the long leg to LAX. Due to some confusion and miscommunication getting flights booked and details confirmed over the phone, our LAX->DEN flight didn't leave until Tuesday evening. We rented a car and drove to Irvine to stay with Shannon's friend Sid who is a physics professor there. We were joined by another friend for dinner of gourmet ramen noodles then soaked in a hot tub.

Tuesday we had lunch with Sid then headed to the airport early as I was paranoid about Thanksgiving travel in combination with LA traffic. We arrived in plenty of time and even won the TSA lottery for a surprise pre-check meaning our security screening was faster and more cursory than normal. We were glad to be early though when we saw on the airport TV news that protestors reacting to the Michael Brown grand jury were shutting down a nearby section of highway. Our flight was delayed a while then they found another aircraft and reduced the delay so we finally left around 10PM or so and made it to Denver where Ian who had been staying in my house during the trip came to pick us up.

We were glad to be home and looking forward to Thanksgiving.

Here's my "Best of SE Asia Trip" slideshow.

Top quotes of the SE Asia Trip with Shannon Hughes

SH: It's the best hot chocolate ever!

PL: Are you putting a power adapter connected to 220 volts into your mouth?

SH: Oh that's why I'm sleepy. I only slept for like 11 hours.

PL: No one can invite us to their birthday party!

PL: I have to set my chat status to "riding elephants".

PL: Look, I'm swimming in the ocean. And I'm not even computer programming. Not even a little bit.