Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ma Chi's Ferrari speed was 178kmh during crash

Ma Chi, the driver of the Ferrari who killed 2 people when he crashed into a taxi in Bugis, was speeding at 178 km/h during the crash according to speed clocked on a camera mounted in Ferrari 599 GTO:

"The Coroner's Court was shown three video clips this morning from different angles showing what happened before the fatal crash that also killed cabby Cheng Teck Hock and his passenger Ito Shigemi.
The court also saw from the footage captured on Mr Ma's in-vehicle camera that his speed had increased from 169kmh to 178kmh between the pedestrian crossing in front of Bugis Village and when he crashed."

The speed limit at that junction is 60 km per hour! This means the Ferrari was speeding almost 3 times the speed limit.

31 year old Ma Chi, a China national living in Singapore, ran a red light in front of Bugis Village and crashed into a taxi in May 2012.[2] The case created an uproar among Singaporeans, where anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise. [3]  Singapore's population grew from 4.4 million in 2006 to 5.2 million in 2011, largely the result of a higher intake of immigrants as well as guest workers and professionals. The accident also came just two months after another Chinese national hijacked a taxi and crashed and killed a Malaysian cleaner at Singapore's Changi Airport.[3]

The accident is in the court because Ma Chi's wife He Ting Ting and his mother Ma Xiao Ling took the insurer of Ma’s Ferrari AXA Singapore to court. AXA said in August that they intend to withdraw coverage for the deadly crash since the collision was not regarded an accident under its policies.

Who Ma Chi is still a mystery which is hidden behind the great firewall of China. It is alleged that he was the son of State Councillor and Secretary-General of the State Council Ma Kai, The post by journalist Cao Guoxing who claimed that Ma Chi was son of Ma Kai was, not suprisingly, deleted by internet censors within 30 minutes. Later, searches for Ma Kai's Chinese name are now blocked on Sina Weibo.[4]

Singapore Ferrari And Taxi Crash - Complete Video

[1] - Ma Chi's Ferrari reached 178kmh during crash
[2] - Two dead, 3 injured in Rochor Road accident
[3] - Ferrari crash fuels Singapore anti-foreign sentiment
[4] - Could Ferrari driver in Singapore crash be son of state councillor Ma Kai?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

UBS to cut 10,000 jobs. Singapore, India and Hong Kong are affected

Last week, Financial Times leaked the plans of Swiss bank UBS to cut 10,000 jobs and yesterday it is official: UBS unveiled plans on Tuesday to fire 10,000 staff and wind down its fixed income business. The bank plans to return to its private banking roots and will focus on wealth management and a smaller investment bank. How will these job cuts affect Singapore and Hong Kong staff?

UBS is mainly cutting staff in Switzerland, Europe and the US and on Tuesday dozens of traders were stopped from entering the UBS's London offices. [1] Good news for Australia staff, they are not affected from this round of job cuts. But Singapore and Hong Kong will be affected:

Dozens of traders at UBS's offices in London learned in the worst way that they had lost their jobs when they turned up to work to find out that their security passes no longer worked at the turnstile. 
The traders - many of them from the Swiss banking giant's fixed income department - soon discovered they had been put on two weeks special leave as part of UBS's plans to cut 10,000 staff in a retreat from fixed income.[3]

According to Singapore's state media, only less than 10 of 2,000 UBS employees in Singapore will be affected. According to a recruiter in Singapore, Singapore has already suffered redundancies in FICC sales, but some FICC (Fixed Income Clearing Corporation ) traders will be reassigned into wealth management:

"A Hong Kong headhunter with knowledge of the bank, who asked not to be named, says a few redundancies were announced in Hong Kong from 8am on Tuesday morning. Credit and rates roles were trimmed across a range of seniorities, although the number of staff affected is likely to be low proportionally. USB has emphasised that Switzerland, London and Stamford, Connecticut will be the worst-hit locations. 
FICC is bearing the brunt of the global lay-offs, including in Asia, as the bank pulls back from its less-profitable trading operations. “The key factor driving this is Basel III’s capital requirements, which reduce the profitability/ROI of the division,” says another recruiter." 
One of the worst affected country in Asia is India, where UBS is expected to make cuts in the“high double digits”, according to media reports.[2]

As usual for banks, UBS fired the staff on Tuesday with a rude and quick note: Some staff turned out in the office in the morning have discovered that their entrance card does not work any more. They have then been escorted to Human Resources where they have collected a box full of their belongings and given 2 weeks of paid leave:
Chafing at their treatment, several tweeters revived "U've Been Sacked," an invented acronym for UBS which circulated in 1998 after the bank fired hundreds of staff following the merger of the two big Swiss banks which formed today's UBS.[1]
These cuts fire 15% of UBS staff force which is currently standing at 63,745 and will be and was once 83,500 at its peak in 2007.

[1] - UBS to cut 10,000 jobs in fixed income retreat
[2] - UBS cuts: Asia affected, Australia escapes
[3] - Locked-out UBS traders head to the pub

From Singapore to Visakhapatnam direct flights by SilkAir

Visakhapatnam, popularly known as Vizag, may be the second-largest city in the state of Andhra Pradesh (after Hyderabad) and the third-largest city on the east coast (after Chennai and Kolkata) but there was no direct international air connection to and from the city. This has changed this week as SilkAir, a Singapore based full-service airline wholly owned by Singapore Airlines (SIA) has started the first direct international flights to the city, flying direct from Singapore to Visakhapatnam. The flight will connect Vizag to more than 90 international cities in the joint Singapore Airlines-SilkAir network via Singapore Changi Airport.

The first flight has departed from Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 a few days ago for Visakhapatnam Airport. SilkAir, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines, plans to have three flights a week to Singapore from Visakhapatnam at the moment and the flights will be served by Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft, featuring both Business and Economy class cabins. Visakhapatnam is SilkAir’s eighth destination in India after Bangalore, Chennai, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata and Thiruvananthapuram. In total SilkAir flies to 42 destinations across 12 countries.
SilkAir’s Chief Executive, Mr. Leslie Thng, anticipates strong demand for the new service and expects the launch of direct flights will provide a further boost to the growth and development of business and tourism in both countries. “This represents a significant milestone as SilkAir is the first carrier to offer international flights to and from Visakhapatnam. We are extremely delighted to add Visakhapatnam to our network and are confident that this direct service will further strengthen the strong economic ties between Singapore and India.” 
Mr. Thng added: “This new route will also give business travelers access to one of the fastest growing commercial cities in India while introducing a great sightseeing destination for the leisure-oriented tourists.”[3]
[1] - SilkAir Launches Vizag Flights
[2] - SilkAir launches direct flight from Singapore to Vizag
[3] - SilkAir to Serve Visakhapatnam

HDB Rents in Singapore up in Q3 2012

If you are looking for an HDB to rent in Singapore, yesterday brought some bad news. The rental prices, already ridiculously high compared to a few years ago, are still climbing on the shoulders of supply crunch, runaway private property prices and several cooling measures which has actually fired up the prices in the HDB segment.

According to HDB's Q3 2012 median HDB rental transactions data released yesterday, island wide, the per month rental for a 4 room (3+1) HDB flat has jumped 2.2% compared to Q2 2012 and it is 8.2% higher on average compared to a year ago (Q3 2011). The story was not much different for 3 room (2+1) HDB rental flats. The rental cost jumped 2.2% quarter-on-quarter and 8.8% year-on-year.

According to HDB data for Q3 2012, rental transactions rose by about 4% from 6,891 cases in 2nd Quarter 2012 to 7,142 cases in 3rd Quarter 2012. The total number of HDB flats approved for rental also rose to 42,920 units in 3rd Quarter 2012, compared to 41,814 units in 2nd Quarter 2012. But although the supply of rental units are rising, the demand is rising faster. Previous private property tenants who shift to HDB flats for cheaper rentals, increasing influx of foreign workers is creating a huge demand.

Here is a summary of HDB rentals by room type.

4 room HDB rents
The highest quarterly jump in 4 room (3+1) HDB rents were in Geylang (13%) followed by Bukit Merah (5.4%), Bukit Panjang (5%), Sembawang (4.9%) and Bedok (4.9%). As of Q3 2012, following HDB towns are the most expensive towns to rent a 4 room flat:

1 - Bukit Merah - $2,950 per month
2 - Queenstown - $2,900 per month
3 - Central         - $2,800 per month
4 - Toa Payoh   - $2,600 per month
5 - Clementi      - $2,600 per month

Bukit Panjang and Woodlands were the HDB towns to find the cheapest HDB rental prices (on average) followed by Sembawang:

1 - Bukit Panjang    - $2,100 per month
2 - Woodlands        - $2,100 per month
3 - Sembawang       - $2,150 per month
4 - Yishun               - $2,200 per month
5 - Choa Chu Kang - $2,250 per month

Not all HDB towns recorded rental price increases. For tenants there were also bright spots like Serangoon which recorded a 4% q-o-q decline (but still 4.3% increase year-on-year). Bishan and Queenstown also recorded q-o-q declines.

Rental prices in Bishan for 4 room flats have not changed compared to previous year.

HDB for Rent Prices (4 Room / (3+1) HDB Flats)
HDB Town Q3 2012 Q2 2012 Q3/Q2 2012 % Q3/Q2 2012 Q3 2011 Q3 2012/11 % Q3 2012/11
2,425 2,374 51 2.2% 2,241 184 8.2%
ANG MO KIO 2,400 2,400 0 0.0% 2,300 100 4.3%
BEDOK 2,400 2,300 100 4.3% 2,150 250 11.6%
BISHAN 2,500 2,550 -50 -2.0% 2,500 0 0.0%
BUKIT BATOK 2,300 2,230 70 3.1% 2,120 180 8.5%
BUKIT MERAH 2,950 2,800 150 5.4% 2,650 300 11.3%
BUKIT PANJANG 2,100 2,000 100 5.0% 2,000 100 5.0%
CENTRAL 2,800 2,800 0 0.0% 2,500 300 12.0%
CHOA CHU KANG 2,250 2,200 50 2.3% 2,100 150 7.1%
CLEMENTI 2,600 2,550 50 2.0% 2,300 300 13.0%
GEYLANG 2,500 2,200 300 13.6% 2,400 100 4.2%
HOUGANG 2,400 2,300 100 4.3% 2,100 300 14.3%
JURONG EAST 2,300 2,300 0 0.0% 2,200 100 4.5%
JURONG WEST 2,380 2,350 30 1.3% 2,180 200 9.2%
KALLANG/ WHAMPOA 2,500 2,500 0 0.0% 2,400 100 4.2%
PASIR RIS 2,300 2,300 0 0.0% 2,150 150 7.0%
PUNGGOL 2,300 2,300 0 0.0% 2,000 300 15.0%
QUEENSTOWN 2,900 2,950 -50 -1.7% 2,700 200 7.4%
SEMBAWANG 2,150 2,050 100 4.9% 2,030 120 5.9%
SENGKANG 2,350 2,300 50 2.2% 2,200 150 6.8%
SERANGOON 2,400 2,500 -100 -4.0% 2,300 100 4.3%
TAMPINES 2,400 2,350 50 2.1% 2,200 200 9.1%
TOA PAYOH 2,600 2,500 100 4.0% 2,300 300 13.0%
WOODLANDS 2,100 2,050 50 2.4% 2,000 100 5.0%
YISHUN 2,200 2,190 10 0.5% 2,000 200 10.0%

3 room HDB rent
Most expensive place in Singapore to rent a 3 room (2+1) HDB flat was central region where you need to pay 2,400 SGD per month. HDB for rent in Marine Parade was the second most expensive place:

1 - Central             - $2,400 per month
2 - Marine Parade  - $2,300 per month
3 - Queenstown      - $2,200 per month
4 - Bukit Merah      - $2,200 per month
5 - Bishan               - 2,000 per month

3 room HDBs for rent in Woodlands are the cheapest now:
1 - Woodlands        - $1,700 per month
2 - Yishun               - $1,800 per month
3 - Jurong West      - $1,800 per month
4 - Bukit Panjang    - $1,800 per month
5 - Bukit Batok       - $1,900 per month

3 room HDB rental prices has not changed in Woodlands compared to last year Yishun and Bishan recorded q-o-q decrease.

HDB for Rent Prices (3 Room / (2+1) HDB Flats)
HDB Town Q3 2012 Q2 2012 Q3/Q2 2012 % Q3/Q2 2012 Q3 2011 Q3 2012/11 % Q3 2012/11
2,009 1,966 44 2.2% 1,847 163 8.8%
ANG MO KIO 2,000 2,000 0 0.0% 1,850 150 8.1%
BEDOK 2,000 1,950 50 2.6% 1,800 200 11.1%
BISHAN 2,000 2,050 -50 -2.4% 1,900 100 5.3%
BUKIT BATOK 1,900 1,900 0 0.0% 1,800 100 5.6%
BUKIT MERAH 2,200 2,100 100 4.8% 2,000 200 10.0%
BUKIT PANJANG 1,800 1,800 0 0.0% 1,700 100 5.9%
CENTRAL 2,400 2,300 100 4.3% 2,200 200 9.1%
CLEMENTI 2,100 2,000 100 5.0% 1,900 200 10.5%
GEYLANG 1,950 1,930 20 1.0% 1,880 70 3.7%
HOUGANG 1,900 1,800 100 5.6% 1,800 100 5.6%
JURONG EAST 2,000 1,800 200 11.1% 1,700 300 17.6%
JURONG WEST 1,800 1,800 0 0.0% 1,600 200 12.5%
KALLANG/ WHAMPOA 2,030 2,000 30 1.5% 1,800 230 12.8%
MARINE PARADE 2,300 2,200 100 4.5% 1,950 350 17.9%
QUEENSTOWN 2,200 2,200 0 0.0% 2,000 200 10.0%
SERANGOON 2,000 1,950 50 2.6% 1,800 200 11.1%
TAMPINES 2,100 2,000 100 5.0% 2,000 100 5.0%
TOA PAYOH 2,000 1,980 20 1.0% 1,800 200 11.1%
WOODLANDS 1,700 1,700 0 0.0% 1,700 0 0.0%
YISHUN 1,800 1,850 -50 -2.7% 1,750 50 2.9%


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Qatar Airways will fly from Doha to Phnom Penh via Ho Chi Minh City

Qatar Airways is planning to be the first Middle Eastern carrier operating in Cambodia by starting to fly daily to Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh by Feb 2013. Qatar Airways is planning to fly from Doha to Phnom Penh International PNH Airport via  Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and serve the route with an Airbus A330. The plane will be configured two-class: 248 seats in Economy and up to 36 in Business.

Phnom Penh will be Qatar Airways’ 11th gateway in South East Asian. The airline already flies to Singapore, Bangkok, Phuket, Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Manila and Yangon. The airline has recently announced the resumption of flights to Yangon after a four-year absence with the launch of scheduled service. Qatar Airways has suspended flights to Yangon in January 2008.

Phnom Penh is Qatar Airways’ fourth new route announcement so far for 2013: The airline earlier announced Gassim in Saudi Arabia, Najaf in Iraq and Chicago, Qatar Airways's fourth US gateway, launching between January and April.

Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia and nation's center of economic and industrial activities.

Here are some Qatar Airways deals from Singapore.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dr Richard Teo Keng Siang: When we learn how to die, we learn how to live

Dr. Richard Teo Keng Siang (1972 - 2012) from Singapore was a 40 years old millionaire cosmetic surgeon who was at the peak of his life. He was a very active man and for those who had chance to know him, he has personified someone who was a remarkable all-rounder, good in sports, studies, have great leadership and matured beyond his years. But on that fateful day in March 2012, he went to check a persistent backache and a a PET scan turned his world upside down: He had a stage 4B terminal lung cancer. The acceptance did not come easily but later he has made peace with it and left behind some speech. One of them was recorded in Jan 2012, talking in Class D. In this very meaningful and deeply inspiring speech, a man looking right to the face of death shares his thought of life, wealth, success and happiness.

Dr. Richard Teo passed away on Oct 18 2012. R.I.P.

I have quoted a part below. Go and watch it, it is 22 minutes and worth every second of it to watch:
So what do I do after getting a car? It's time to buy a house, to build our own bungalows. So we go around looking for a land to build our own bungalows, we went around hunting. So how do i live my life? Well, we all think we have to mix around with the rich and famous. This is one of the Miss Universe. So we hang around with the beautiful, rich and famous. This by the way is an internet founder. So this is how we spend our lives, with dining and all the restaurants and Michelin Chefs you know. 
So I reach a point in life that I got everything for my life. I was at the pinnacle of my career and all. That's me one year ago in the gym and I thought I was like, having everything under control and reaching the pinnacle. 
Well, I was wrong. I didn't have everything under control. About last year March, I started to develop backache in the middle of nowhere. I thought maybe it was all the heavy squats I was doing. So I went to SGH, saw my classmate to do an MRI, to make sure it's not a slipped disc or anything. And that evening, he called me up and said that we found bone marrow replacement in your spine. I said, sorry what does that mean? I mean I know what it means, but I couldn't accept that. I was like “Are you serious?” I was still running around going to the gym you know. But we had more scans the next day, PET scans - positrons emission scans, they found that actually I have stage 4 terminal lung cancer. I was like "Whoa where did that come from?” It has already spread to the brain, the spine, the liver and the adrenals. And you know one moment I was there, totally thinking that I have everything under control, thinking that I've reached the pinnacle of my life. But the next moment, I have just lost it.[1]
Here is the link: Dr Richard Teo - Thoughts of Life, Wealth, Success & Happiness. You can also read his story in details here: Dr Richard Teo Keng Siang.

After late surgeons video went viral on the internet, his wife of six years spoke to the media:

"Honestly, I have mixed feelings. From a selfish point of view, I didn't wish he was my husband (struck with cancer). But I'm proud of him for leaving a legacy. I wished I could be like him. He is the best teacher God has sent to me."

The message is simple and powerful: Life is to short to neglect the real sources of happiness and those people around you. Unfortunately, one's ears are completely closed to this simple truth until he faces the death himself.

[1] -  Dr Richard Teo's testimony after cancer diagnosis

Friday, October 26, 2012

Scoot will fly from Singapore to Tokyo via Taipei by October 29th

Singaporean long-haul low-cost carrier Scoot is beginning to fly from Singapore to Tokyo's Narita Airport via Taipei from October 29th 2012 onwards. This flights will start Scoot's  flight service to Japan from Singapore. Scoot has previously announced its plans about flying to Narita in late October.

The carrier,  a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines (SIA), will serve the route daily by Boeing 777-200 aircraft, which will offer 32 business class seats and 370 economy class seats. According to Narita Airport's web site, Scoot will use Narita Airport Terminal 2.

Scoot will depart from Singapore Changi Airport daily at 12:55 a.m. and arrive Taipei Taoyuan Airport at 5:40 a.m. The flight will depart from Taipei at 6:50 a.m. and arrive Narita Airport Terminal 2 at 10:40 a.m. Return flight will depart from Narita 11:50 a.m. and arrive Taipei at 2:35 p.m. The flight then depart from Taipei at 3:45 p.m. and arrive to Singapore at Singapore at 8:10 p.m. According to Scoot's web site, return ticket price between Singapore and Tokyo is 700 - 800 SGD for economy class and 1000 SGD++ for Scoot Biz (business class). Scoot offers 3 types of economy class: Fly, FlyBag and FlyBagEat.

Scoot began operating in June 2012 from Singapore Changi Airport and currently flies from Singapore to Sydney, the Gold Coast, Bangkok, Taipei, Tianjin and Qingdao. Scoot has recently announced that it will acquire 20 fuel efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner to replace current Boeing 777-200s as part of its ongoing expansion. The aircraft will enter Scoot's service by 2014.

[1] - Narita Service by Singapore LCC "Scoot" Starting Oct 29 with Boeing 777
[2] - Scoot snaps up 20 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, cutting Jetstar's advantage

35,000 private flats will be completed in 2013 and 2014

If you are renting your accommodation in Singapore and tired of ridiculously high rental problems, there may be a relief in horizon. A huge supply of 35,000 private flats will be completed in 2013 and 2014. This will add a lot of rental units in the market where rents and prices were increasing non-stop since 2009.

The number of completed private flats is increasing every year since 2009. In 2010, 9,900 units were completed. In 2011, this number was 11,700 and in this year, 12,500 units will be completed.  Most of these units, almost 10 percent, will be completed in Bedok planning area which is followed by Geylang, Hougang, Newton and Novena. The final numbers may be as large as 40,000 since the good property sales of these days may bring many projects forward and result in early completion.

Currently, Singapore is the ninth most expensive city to rent property in the world, and third most expensive city in Asia. This is despite a moderate increase in the prices in 2011. Average rent for an unfurnished 4 room (3 bedroom) apartment in Singapore rose 3% in 2011 in Singapore dollar terms, one of the lowest in the region. In 2010, rents rose over 10%.

And even before the supply flow hit the shores, it is already a renters market in Singapore so bargain hard to lower the asking rental prices. According to Rent in Singapore web site, as of October 2012, it is pretty much a renters' market in Singapore. Rentals have been under pressure lately because of the recent worldwide economic downturn and a supply flow of new apartments coming online in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

If condo rents in Singapore is hurting your budget, you can choose to rent an HDB instead of a condo which is much cheaper and larger with the same price (See It makes more sense to rent HDB instead of Condominium).

[1] - Singapore among world’s most expensive cities to rent property
[2] - Frequently Asked Questions about renting a home in Singapore

AirAsia Japan begins inaugural budget flights from Narita to Incheon and Busan of South Korea

AirAsia Japan, a joint venture between Asia's largest low-fare, no-frills airline AirAsia and Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA)  is starting to fly between Tokyo and Seoul (Incheon) in South Korea by October 28th 2012. With Narita – Incheon flights begin operations, travelers will have a budget option to fly between Japan and South Korea. The flights from Narita to Incheon will take only about 2 hours and will be served by Airbus A320 with 180 seats. AirAsia Japan is a very young airline which has become the third budget airline to start flights in Japan in 2012. Its operations has started by a inaugural flight on August 1st 2012 from Tokyo Narita to Fukuoka.

And exactly one month after the launch of Narita - Incheon route, on November 28th 2012, AirAsia Japan will launch a daily flight between Narita Japan and Busan in South Korea.

“Subsequent to the launch of Narita to Incheon, we are extremely happy to launch yet another new international route from Narita to Busan and proud to be the first LCC in Japan to service the route. It is great to open more doors for travellers to Busan, a city with its own charm and diverse offerings such as beautiful natural wonders, historical attractions and spa and gourmet indulgences.” said AirAsia Japan CEO, Kazuyuki Iwakata. As Narita - Incheon route, Narita - Busan route will also be served by Airbus A320 aircraft with 180 seats.

Busan, with a population of approximately 3.6 million, is South Korea's second largest metropolis after Seoul. Incheon is Korea’s third most populous city after Seoul and Busan Metropolitan City.

AirAsia Japan is the third budget airline to start flights in Japan in 2012
Other than AirAsia Japan, Jetstar Japan, which serves Tokyo (Narita International Airport), Osaka (Kansai International Airport), Sapporo (New Chitose Airport ), Fukuoka (Fukuoka Airport) and Okinawa (Naha Airport), started services in July and Peach, which flies to Hong Kong and Taiwan in addition to domestic destinations, made its debut in March.

Singapore Airlines cancels non-stop Singapore - New York and Singapore - Los Angeles flights

Singapore Airlines (SIA) is halting its non-stop Singapore - New York and Singapore - Los Angeles services which were carried out ultra long-haul Airbus A 345 aircraft since 2004. By late 2013, all travelers flying to Los Angeles from Singapore by SIA will transit in Tokyo and travelers flying to New York from Singapore will transit in Frankfurt.

“Although disappointing that we will be halting these services, we remain very committed to the US market. Over the past two years we have increased capacity to both Los Angeles and New York by deploying A380 superjumbos on flights via Tokyo and Frankfurt. We will also continue to explore additional options to enhance our US services,” said SIA CEO Mr Goh Choon Phong.[1]

The non-stop Singapore - Los Angeles and Singapore - New York flights are currently world's longest commercial flights by duration and distance. The 18 hour Singapore - New York flight covers 9,500 miles and flies over Europe to US. The Los Angeles - Singapore flight covers 1,500 miles less but thanks to the headwinds over the Pacific Ocean, it takes 18 hours and 30 minutes.

The non-stop services fell victim to SIA's awful decision to convert the flights to all business class just before the 2008 financial crisis. Although the airline does not comment on the financial viability of the routes, Singapore Airlines is flying gas-guzzling Airbus A340-500s on the routes and according to Mr Shukor Yusof from Standard & Poors, Singapore Airlines is losing money from these services and will continue to lose money until they are terminated. According to Daily Mail, the only way to make money from the routes with these planes was by configuring the plane with 98 business class seats that sell for about $8,000 round trip.[2]

Worlds longest commercial flight by distance
Singapore Airlines is cancelling worlds longest commercial flight by distance.
Photo - Daily Mail[2]
Worlds longest commercial flight by duration
Singapore Airlines is cancelling worlds longest commercial flight by distance.
Photo - Daily Mail[2]

After these routes are cancelled, longest commercial flight by distance title will go to a Qantas route between Sydney and Dallas which covers about 8,500 miles (13,700 km) and worlds longest commercial flight by duration title will go to a Delta flight between Johannesburg and Atlanta, which takes 17 hours.[2]

Singapore Airlines is selling its fleet of Airbus A340-500 back to the manufacturer, Airbus, as a part of deal where it has ordered five more Airbus A380s and another 20 A350s.

[1] - Singapore Airlines to Order 25 More Airbus; Cease Non-Stop LA and Newark Flights
[2] - World's longest commercial non-stop flights - both from Singapore to the U.S. - to be cancelled

AirAsia begins inaugural flights to Lombok and Kunming from Kuala Lumpur

AirAsia, Asia's largest low-fare, no-frills airline, has launched flights between Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Lombok Island of Indonesia which will be available 3 times weekly on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Lombok, an island right next to Bali and known as "an unspoiled Bali" is a tourism destination whose popularity is gradually increasing among holiday goers. Currently, daily flights from Kuala Lumpur to Lombok have a technical stop in Surabaya in East Java.

This month, AirAsia also announced that it is launching direct flights between Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Kunming in China starting from December 10th 2012. These four times a week flights, available on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, will be AirAsia’s 24th route to China. Kunming is the capital and largest and is political, economic, communications and cultural centre of city of Yunnan Province in Southwest China.

“The addition of the Kuala Lumpur – Kunming route enables us to further strengthen our route network into China as we now have a total of 24 routes from Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Kota Kinabalu, Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Clark operating flights into 13 cities in China, including Kunming. According to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), AirAsia is the largest foreign airline by capacity into China at the moment, and we will continue to work hard to maintain this.” Said Aireen Omar, Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia.

AirAsia Cabin Crew
AirAsia Cabin Crew
To celebrate the launch of these flights, AirAsia offers promotional all-in-fares: KL - Lombok from RM 149, with the booking period from now until 21 October 2012, for travel between 3 January and 31 March 2013 and for KL - Kunming from RM 88 one way for travel between 10 December 2012 and 30 September 2013.

The airlines is also launching extra flights from Kota Kinabalu to Hong Kong and Taipei, throughout the peak holiday season from 25 December 2012 until 30 March 2013.

Kan Air will fly to Ko Pha Ngan from Bangkok

Travellers will soon have a better option to travel to Thailand's beautiful island of Ko Pha Ngan, the birth place of infamous full moon party. According to Bangkok Post Kan Air, a new Thai commuter airline, is building a 700 million baht (22.7 million US Dollar) airport on Koh Pha Ngan located in Surat Thani in the Gulf of Thailand. Kan Air is planning to operate regular flights between Bangkok's Don Mueang airport and Koh Phangan. The airline has recently acquired its first jet, the Beechcraft Premier I light aircraft which can carry 6-7 passengers. The airline is planning to lease two ATR 42, a turboprop which can carry 50 people. Currently Ko Pha Ngan is accessible by speed boat and ferry from Ko Samui, Surat Thani and Ko Tao. Bangkok Airways operates frequent flights to Ko Samui from Bangkok. Ko Pha Ngan is halfway between the islands of Ko Samui and Ko Tao.

Thailand's famous all-night beach party, Full Moon Party, has originated in Haad Rin on Ko Pha Ngan. The Full Moon parties are held on the night before or after every full moon and the first one was organized in a wooden disco not far from the Haad Rin beach in 1985 for giving thanks to about 20-30 travelers. Thanks to word of mouth, the event quickly became a hit and now draws 20,000-30,000 every full moon evening.

Full moon party Haad Rin on Ko Pha Ngan
Full moon party Haad Rin on Ko Pha Ngan
Construction of the airport in Ko Pha Ngan is in full swing and the airport will be up and running in the second half of 2013. This will be the first time direct air access to Koh Phangan:
The airport, with a 1,100-metre runway and thatched-roof terminal, is located on the eastern side of Koh Phangan.Because of its relatively short runway, the airport is not required to have an environmental impact assessment that may take a long time and subject the development to opponents, Mr Somphong said. 
Kan Air is also discussing the lease of two Brazilian-made Embraer ERJ 145 jets, each with 50 seats, to support its plan to expand its network through its new hub of Don Mueang in addition to its current base in Chiang Mai.[1]

[1] - Kan Air ready for take-off

Catarina Migliorini sells her virginity for a good cause(!)

Catarina Migliorini, a 20 years old Brazilian women, rose to instant fame after her virginity is sold to a Japanese man for $780,000! She says she does it for charity, to help homeless people, but according to the organizer of the auction, which drew 15 bids from around the world, it was for profit and self-promotion. "I was surprised she said that because in all my dealings with her, she made it clear that it was a business decision for her," declared Australian filmmaker Justin Sisely. "Now, given how big this story is in Brazil, she's trapped. If she doesn't give any money to charity, she's going to look bad."[1]

The problem, or maybe not a problem for the young woman - sorry young soon to be woman, is that it will be difficult to find a charity which accepts money from someone who got it by selling herself. Although she claims that this is not prostitution because she is doing it for once, it is still prostitution and worse it is basically promoting one time basis of selling woman's body. Plus, if she was not this much hyped and known, she would sell her virginity again and again thanks to hymenorrhaphy, surgical restoration of the hymen. But the worst part of this story is that it is giving ultra high value to virginity, intactness of a membrane that surrounds or partially covers the external vaginal, when we are proceeding into 2000s.

So, what will happen now? Since the asset of Catarina Migliorini bought by the  Japanese man called "Natsu", the delivery will be done on a plane flying between Australia and USA. But before, both Natsu and Migliorini will be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

The auction was done for a documentary called "Virgins Wanted". According to auction site (see the screenshot below), which currently stamps Catarina Migliorini as sold, 15 people bid for her. 1 from Japan, 3 from USA, 1 from India, one from Australia, 1 unknown and the rest were Brazilian. A jocker even bid $1 dollar (this a'int eBay bro!). According to The Terms & Conditions page, the female virgin is undergoing a medical examination by an accredited gynecologist and provide the winning bidder with medical evidence of her virginity.

Screenshot of the auction
[1] - Catarina Migliorini, Woman Auctioning Her Virginity, At Odds With Organizer Over Charity Claims

Further tightening of SPass work visa holder inflow

To further slowdown the increase of the number of foreign workers in Singapore, The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is now looking at tightening the increase of S-Pass holders here. S Pass is a Singapore work visa type designed for mid-level skilled foreign workers employed by companies operating in Singapore.[1] Foreign workers earning more than $2000 per month in supervisory or junior PME (Professional, Managerial Executive) hold this type of work visa. The number of foreign workers holding S-Pass in Singapore has jumped by 14,200 in the past year and now there are 128,100 S-Pass holders in Singapore according to recently released population statistics.

While number of SPass holders jumped, number of Employment Pass holders slighttly went down from 175,400 to 174,700. This suggests that companies are applying SPass for new hires or renewing their employee passes with SPass instead of Employment Pass due to the restrictions introduced in Employment Pass category (salary lower limits for Employment Pass holders was increased in the beginning of the year):

"Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said that it is likely that companies are using S Passes to bring in
more junior-level professionals, managers and executives (PMEs).  “The S Pass is a sector we are not totally comfortable with, because there’s a lot of transference of lower (level) Employment Pass into S Pass and we are now exploring measures to perhaps tighten that segment,” he added.[2]

The sentiment on the ground is that S-Pass holders are taking up decent paying jobs that could have gone to Singaporeans. Also as a more worrying trend, the work force is still increasing despite a significant slowdown in Singapore's economy which is resulting in productivity decline in Singapore. It seems like Singapore's economy is only expanding by adding more working age people to its population and excessive borrowing (especially the construction sector is running on near zero interest rate fueled mortgage spike), which is quite unsustainable and also reduces the wealth of man on the street while the GDP goes up, rather than increasing productivity.

Although the number of foreign workers is continuously increasing, super unproductive SMEs of Singapore seems to not get enough of them. A recent Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) survey
of some 200 companies found that eight in 10 currently face manpower shortages, following the tightening of
regulations on foreign labour.[2] A few weeks ago, an SME boss was telling "we cannot increase productivity in many cases since it is not feasible". He gave an example of small bakeries who needs automated baking machines to increase the individually because they do not have enough revenue to finance it. He basically told bringing more worker is the only choice and otherwise the bakeries will bankrupt. In my opinion this this is exactly what should happen: Let's say there are 5 bakeries like this. If the constant influx of cheap labour which is sustaining their unproductive business practices goes, some will definitely go out of business. But 1 or 2 out of these 5 (probably 2 of the 10 in ASME surveys) will survive and armed with an increased share in market, they will be able to finance a baking machine. They will also hire the locals working for the other companies with probably higher salaries thanks to the productivity increase. Is this process painful? Yes, it is but it is constructive destruction and after the initial pain it will be win-win for all Singaporeans and Singapore economy. Enter Joseph Schumpeter's creative destruction.

The Acting Manpower Minister, however, stressed that Singapore cannot continue to rely on low-cost foreign labor to grow the economy, as it is “a race to the bottom”:

“We will not be able to sustain our competitiveness against our neighbours, who will always have more ready access to lowcost labour,” he said, noting that textile firms in China are relocating to other countries with even lower labour costs.[2]

[1] - Singapore S-Pass
[2] - Govt may further tighten inflow of foreign workers

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Microsoft launched Windows 8

Microsoft has just launched it Microsoft Windows 8 Operating System, which will hopefully bridge the gap between laptops and touch screen devices and make tablets a productive working environment (which are definitely not under Apple iOS and Googles Android). Microsoft made a very dramatic move and significantly changed its operating system, whose previous version, Windows 7 has sold more than 670 million copies (yes 670,000,000 copies!).[1] As I will cover shortly in my Windows 8 review (Windows 8 Beta was available for a while to test drive the new Operating System) this is an end of era in Microsofts history. Windows as we know it in the past 17 years (since Windows 95) has gone and this completely new thing, still called Windows and changed ground up to be an OS choice for both touchscreen devices and laptops, is, well at this point of time for me, not Windows.

The design of Windows 8 clearly shows that Microsoft thinks, touchscreen devices are the future and laptops will be history thanks to Windows 8, which will transform tablets to something merging laptops and tablets (with docking stations maybe). There are 4 versions of Windows 8 to choose from: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, Windows 8 Enterprise and Windows 8 RT. The first three runs on standard PC CPU and Windows 8 RT, which is technically an entirely different operating system than the first 3, runs on ARM-based processors. You will have several options to upgrade to the new OS other than buying a new Windows 8 PC. You can for example download Windows 8 from Windows web site and upgrade your current version by paying something around 35 USD (for existing Vista, XP and 7 users).

Microsoft 8 is a great leap to some direction. In my opinion it is to a right direction and time will tell if it is forward or down the hill. But I was really not expecting this entire shift which is completely closing the OS lineage from Windows 95 to highly successful Windows 7 and creating a completely new OS lineage.

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, introduces Windows 8
Photo - NBC News

How different is it from previous versions of Windows? Since Wednesfay, I answer this question by referring to a story told by Oo Gin Lee in Digital Life (The Straits Times). He let's his 9 years old daughter to play with Windows 8 for 15 minutes (on a laptop) and the little girl asks "Papa, can I please have Windows instead" lol :D Like her, I have almost only knew Windows except my early teens with Commodore 64 (yes I am old) and a brief year with pure DOS (no, I am not that old). Then on that faitful day in 1996, in the computer lab of my university, I have typed "WIN" at the command prompt of DOS and the world of wonders of Windows opened in front of me. I went in and never looked back.

Once upon a time Windows. This is Windows 3.1.  If you find this
ridiculously primitive, try searching images of Windows 1 and 2.
 Then a few months later, Windows 95 came (actually it came in August 1995 to world but came to our computer lab more than a year later). At the time, it looked like futuristic. Unlike 3.1, this was really an operating system on its own. Yes, it looks primitive from now but do not be harsh. We are talking about a time when the best available hardware for the man on the street was a Pentium 166 MMX with 64 MB RAM and 2GB harddisk and the super computer in the faculty building was half the specs of an iPhone of today. And although it looks primitive now, as you can see from the screenshot below, it is very similar to all Windows version we have lived in the past 17 years.

Windows 95
 And in these 17 long years, we got so used to the features of this new operating system that Windows 8 is not for us. Just think about the good old Start button which survived until Windows 7. Windows 8 does not have it and without it for a while, I felt like that uncle I met in a vfarm years ago and tried to teach how to use Windows with mouse (he had only used DoS for years). Although Windows is redesigned from ground up to  be a natural OS for touchscreen devices, the new interface on the desktop made me feel, well I am sorry to say this Bill Gates because I am a fan, sick and I have panicked. I have panicked because new PCs will be launched with only Windows 8 from now on and for a second I had this crazy idea to rush to Funan Digital Mall and stock as much as Windows 7 laptop as I can! I said, this is blasphemy against the gods! An OS without start button! This is madness ...! Oh no, this is Windows 8.

I must admit I have panicked when I saw this.
This is blasphemy ! This is madness!
Madness ..? This is Windows 8!
 But luckily, I was exaggerating. Windows 8 Start Screen is, luckily, like a skin on the top of Windows 7. So if you prefer working in the good old Desktop mode there is a pre-installed Desktop app (yes app :( ) and when you run it, something almost like desktop is launched. Another shock, Microsoft have taken out the Start button from the Windows forever and expects you to get used to call programs, apps! This ain't iOS. I still refused to conform, and luckily many early Windows 8 beta testers were like me. A company named Starcdock saw our pain and created a program (ah God forgive me, it is an app) called Start 8. It puts aWindows 7-style Start menu with Windows 8 enhancements and boot directly to the Windows 8 desktop. Worth every penny of 4.99 USD paid! After Start 8, I have really had some kind of hope to get used to this new beast (no I am not ready to call Windows 8 a Windows OS).

Since Microsoft is calling plain old programs as apps now, they are naturally providing a must have for apps: Yes an appstore. Windows 8 Store currently has 1,000 plus apps and the number looks like a joke compared to half a million apps in Apple appStore. But unlike Apple's one, whose numbers are inflated mostly thanks to the zillions of copy cat apps like multiple PDF readers, this store is clean and lean with full of quality applications. Of course some key ones are missing, like Google Maps (well for a PC user it is not a big deal).

As I have written before here (Microsoft Surface - The tablet I was waiting for?), I am hoping that some laptop, tablet hybrids with clever docking mechanisms will let me have a single machine to work, play and communicate on. I am even hoping for an innovation which combines a smart phone, tablet and laptop. You dock phone into something and it becomes a tablet, than dock tablet into something and it becomes laptop. So I can carry the phone part or tablet when I am out (i.e. out for a presentation) and then plug tablet into a dock at work and it becomes a PC. unplug it from office dock and plug it to home dock, and it becomes my home PC.

[1] - Microsoft launches Windows 8

Desaru beach weekend getaway from Singapore

Singapore may be a tropical island but its beaches have given way to land reclamation long time ago and there is no natural beaches and crystal clear waters to swim on the ultra urbanized main island. Southern islands offer some but for real beaches you need to either take ferry to Batam and Bintam or head to Malaysia.

One Malaysian resort is Desaru which is a very popular weekend escape destination for residents of Singapore (as well as Johor Bahru). The place is quite near to Singapore and unlike Batam and Bintan you can drive there. The beach, which is on the South China Sea, is located just 88 kilometers east of Johor Bahru/Malaysia. Thanks to newly opened Senai–Desaru Expressway (Highway E22) and cable-span bridge across Sungai Johor, it is only 1:30 hours drive away from Johor Bahru and around 2:15 hours away from Singapore! You can also take a public bus to Desaru and a boat service is available from Changi Point, Singapore to Tanjong Belungkor, Malaysia.

Desaru's main attraction is its clean, sandy beaches spanning almost 22 km and shallow and clear water. The place is not well developed which is makes it an ideal weekend escape for many. Desaru was very popular in 80s and early 90s and most aging Desaru resorts are from this period. But thanks to renewed interest for the place from Singapore and Johor, the hotels went into a quite heavy renovation in the past few years and they provide good facilities and service for the tourists.

If you plan to go there you should also check coupon deal sites where Desaru vouchers are advertised frequently. For example there is a 1-Day Desaru Lobster & Fireflies Tour deal which is only for $65 per pax and includes visit to Ostrich Farm & Desaru Fruit Farm Centre, lunch & dinner, shopping and travel in air-conditioned coach.

1-Day Desaru Lobster & Fireflies Tour deal
Other than swimming, snorkeling (do not expect a magical underwater life like Tioman Island - not even close) and surfing are several other attractions in Desaru. For example, Desaru Ostrich Farm where you can ride one of these big birds, Desaru Fruit Farm where you can enjoy tropical fruits, fireflies watching and Tanjung Balau (Fishermen Village) for fresh and tasty seafood.

if skuba diving is in your mind, Desaru itself is not the destination for you, but you can take a skuba diving tour from here to southern islands of Malaysia.

Other popular weekend getaway destinations from Singapore
Batam Island Bintan Island  Kuala Lumpur

Ski holidays in South Korea

You do not need to hit the road for all the long way to Europe to have a ski holiday: South Korea offers a lot of popular ski locations for tourists around the world. Yes, Korea may not be the first country that will come to your mind as a ski holiday destination but fantastic slopes and hotels to provide you a great winter holiday. Between mid-November and mid-February,  a powdery blanket of snow is laid down on the two dozen or so ski hills that lie within a few hours’ drive of Seoul. Many of these hills are huge, multi-run slopes with world-class facilities. And of course, some have also natural hot springs which makes a winter holiday in Korea like no other.

So where to go for a ski holiday in South Korea?, Asia’s leading hotel booking site, offers some recommendations on fantastic hotels to take advantage of the crisp and popular ski season in South Korea:

"But it’s not only pros that come to South Korea to strap on a pair of skis (or a snowboard!) to try their luck on some epic runs, such as the 6km-long Silk Road Slope at Muju Ski Resort. A full range of facilities at almost every location you choose makes sure that everyone from beginners to intermediates to families with small children can enjoy the full experience of a winter ski vacation. World-class restaurants prepare expansive meals, areas for skating or tobogganing are ready to enjoy, and many resorts offer extras like casinos, movie theaters or live music performances if you want to take some time away from skiing. 
Indeed, the hotels suggested below have long played a big part in helping guests enjoy their ski vacation in Korea. As an example, a previous guest at the Intercontinental Alpensia Pyeongchang Resort said: “The hotel was very clean and the facilities were top notch. The room and bed was so comfortable that my husband wanted to stay an extra day! It is next to Alpensia ski area, but the Yong Pyong ski area is less than 5km away. There is also an indoor water park in the resort complex that families would find a lot of fun, or for couples who want to soak in the hot tubs after skiing all day."
Source : recommends top hotels for ski holidays in Korea
Korea is not the first country which comes in mind as a ski holiday destination.
But they have ski, they have bikini and they have bikini ski festival!  
Agoda recommends the following ski resorts:
1 - Intercontinental Alpensia Pyeongchang Resort
The hotel is surrounded by great ski slopes for beginners and amateurs as well as professionals (the high jump for the 2018 Winter Olympics is nearby).

2 - Phoenix Park Hotel & Condo
This is one of the best places for ski lovers in South Korea. The hotel is right next to Phoenix park ski resort and it offers hotel rooms as well as condo units.

3 - Holiday Inn Resort Alpensia Pyeongchang
This beautiful resort is not only famous with its facilities and big and clean rooms, it is also famous with its delicious food.

4 - High1 Hotel
Although High1 hotel is the farthest hotel from the main ski resort, it is well connected to it by a shuttle bus that runs every 20 mins to casino and resorts and the gondolas run on week end to the peak.