Getting ready for the World’s Longest Flight

I travel to Los Angeles today so that I can join United Airlines for the launch of their LAX to Singapore flight tonight.  At 17 hours 55 minutes, this will grab the title as longest flight from the U.S.

I’ll be one of the lucky ducks flying in the cabin of a 787 offering United’s swank Polaris service and surroundings but, still, that’s an awfully long time to spend on a plane.

So I’ve been putting together a list of activities and projects to make sure I stay occupied, entertained and productive.

Here’s what I have so far:

Watch some movies.
Learn some Italian (Next month: trip to Florence!)
Hem pants
Get to inbox zero
Have (only) one drink
Check out the menu, but don’t eat too much.
Charge Fitbit. Get my 11001 steps.
Interview at least 4 other passengers about how they are staying occupied.
Finish two or three assignements due next week
Start that will.
Outline my next book.
Finish reading that book about King Leopold.
Sleep some. Or a lot.

What else should I add?

Of course, I said yes to flying to Singapore because what many believe is the World’s Greatest Airport is there. Singapore Changi, with multiple gardens, free movie theaters, a giant slide, cool art, over-the-top floral installations, shops galore and much, much more, is a destination unto itself and while I’m in town a brand new terminal opens.  Joy!

See Singapore Airlines’ glamorous new safety video

Singapore Airlines has unveiled its new in-flight safety video, which not only reminds passengers of the safety procedures to be mindful of, but takes viewers on a panoramic journey across Singapore.

In the video, passengers follow the Singapore Girl as she travels to landmarks such as Boat Quay, The Intan Peranakan Home Museum, River Safari, Haji Lane, Adventure Cove Waterpark, Henderson Waves, Capitol Theatre and Gardens by the Bay.


Take a look:


Report: Singapore World Street Food Congress

01_World Street Food Congress

Visitors to the recent World Street Food Congress in Singapore were urged to celebrate heritage dishes and street food culture worldwide and dine on “food that you can’t even pronounce.”

With dishes like gudeg, sisig, apom and hoy tord on some menus and close to two dozen carefully selected stalls representing specialties from Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and nine other countries, that wasn’t at all hard to do.

Hungry? Here are some dishes spotted at the international street food fest.

02_Singapore_White Carrot Cake_

Bearing no resemblance to the moist, dark, carrot-flecked cake covered in cream cheese frosting you might find in a U.S. coffee shop, the white carrot cake popular in Singapore looks more like a potato pancake. This one, by Chey Sua Carrot Cake, is made with rice flour and white radish (called white carrot) that is first steamed and then fried with garlic and eggs.


Known for its Chili Crab (made with spices and thick gravy) and a dish called Moonlight Hor Fun, Singapore’s Keng Eng Kee Seafood (KEK) dished up a seafood sampler platter with soft shell crab, calamari, eggplant and a trio of tasty dipping sauces.


The traditional Javanese breakfast dish, gudeg, is a sweet stew made from unripe jackfruits and cooked – for up to 3 days – with a variety of spices. At its stall, Gudeg Yu Nap, from Indonesia, served the stew with greens, crispy cow skin crackers and grilled chicken.

5__Phillipines_Truffle Lechon Diva_Pork with Truffle Rice

In the Philippines, the much-heralded private dining venue known as Pepita’s Kitchen is famous for the special twist a stuffing of white truffle oil paella gives to the popular street food fare, lechon, a roast suckling pig dish. At the World Street Food Congress, a plate of Pepita’s Truffle Lechon Diva included roasted pork slices and crispy pork skin pieces on a bed of that flavorful rice.


In addition to authentic German bratwurst – a chunky pork sausage – Singapore-based Bratworks served up Germany’s national street food: currywurst sausage blended with masala and covered with Heinz curry tomato ketchup.

07_New York_Deep Fried Anchovy

Street food from the United States was represented with churros sundaes by Portland, Oregon’s Churros Locos, two Asian-inspired dishes from Austin’s East Side King and a Jersey-style deep fried anchovies dish by Bon Chovie, from New York City.

Big plans for Yotel hotel chain of tiny rooms

If you’ve endured long layovers at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport or at London’s Heathrow or Gatwick airports, Yotel may already be part of your travel vocabulary.

Yotel Room mockup, June 2010Designed by Rockwell group, NY

New York City Yotel room – Courtesy Yotel

Since 2007, the small chain has been well-known for its short-stay, in-terminal hotels offering hip, ultra space-saving rooms inspired by the design of first-class airplane cabins. Because the average stay is about seven hours, these locations have a very healthy 200 percent occupancy rate.

The brand’s first off-airport hotel was the 669-room Yotel New York, which opened near Times Square in 2011 and quickly became popular with both leisure and business travelers seeking affordable, amenity-rich lodging in one of the world’s most expensive cities.

“It’s a mix of tourists looking for a bargain and business people on a budget,” said Chris Heywood of NYC & Company, the city’s marketing and tourism organization. “You feel like you’re in a cool place, but the amenities make it easy to get business done.”

Now a deal has been announced for construction of a 600-room Yotel on Singapore’s bustling main shopping street, Orchard Road, which is home to numerous upscale malls and many four- and five-star luxury hotels.

“Yotel is another fantastic partner, bringing its unique ‘affordable luxury’ and offering travelers even more flexibility in their accommodations selection in the heart of our central district,” said Serene Tan, regional director for Singapore Tourism Board Americas.

Singapore’s Yotel opening is set for 2018.

“We want to use the Singapore deal as a springboard for expansion into Asia and are targeting a number of cities and airports there,” said Yotel CEO Gerard Greene. Meantime, he said, additional Yotel properties are being planned for other major cities and their airports in the United States and Europe. Details about some of these locations will be available in a few weeks, but Greene is confident “there will be sites that will open before Singapore.”

Rooms (“cabins” in Yotel-speak) at the Singapore and other in-city Yotels will have the same ergonomically attentive, compact design as those in New York. There, basic “premium” cabins are about 170 square feet (small even by New York City standards, but larger than the 100 square-foot airport cabins) and include a motorized bed that converts to a couch, a large flat-screen TV and a small desk with multiple power ports. A curtain separates the work/sleep space from the sink, shower and toilet nook, and there are complimentary hot beverages in a 24-hour kitchen on each floor. Room rates (which in New York begin around $200,) include robust property-wide Wi-Fi and a breakfast of muffins and tea and coffee.

Yotel robot

Yobot robot stores luggage at New York City Yotel – photo Harriet Baskas

There’s no word yet on whether any of the new Yotels will have a robotic arm, or Yobot, like the one that can be seen tirelessly storing and retrieving luggage in the lobby of the Yotel New York, but I sure hope so.

(My story about the expansion of the Yotel hotel chain first appeared on the CNBC Road Warrior blog)

Even more gardens at Singapore’s Changi Airport

Among the many amenities at Singapore’s Changi Airport are themed gardens – a cactus garden (Terminal 1), an Orchid Garden and a Sunflower Garden (Terminal 2) and the Butterfly Garden (Terminal 3). There are also an ever-changing array of seasonal floral decorations that can take your breath away.

Changi butterflies

Evidently that’s not enough. Because now there’s a brand new garden at Changi Airport: in place of the Fern Garden, there’s now an “Enchanted Garden” in the Terminal 2 departure transit mall.


In the center of the garden are four giant glass bouquet sculptures decorated with a mosaic of reflective and shimmering stained-glass. Freshly-cut flower and ferns are nestled inside the glass bouquets.

The garden isn’t just pretty to look at: it’s interactive. As passengers walk by, motion sensors trigger nature sounds and the ‘blooming’ of flowers as well as sparkling lights in the floor. There’s also a fish pond stocked with koi and archerfish and opportunities to feed them.


(Enchanted Garden photos courtesy Changi Airport Group; Butterfly Garden: Harriet Baskas