SE Asian fun facts

The entire country of Singapore is only 276 square miles which is 2/3 the size of New York City.

In Singapore you must purchase a vehicle medallion for $60,000 before you can buy a car. The medallion is valid for 10 years and stays with the car. If you sell a car after five years you must buy another medallion to buy a new car. At the end if 10 years the car is confiscated and shipped out of Singapore.

Indonesia consists of over 20,000 islands of which 8,000 are inhabited.

Kretek are cigarettes made with a blend of tobacco, cloves and other flavors. The word “kretek” itself is a term for the crackling sound of burning cloves. The Indonesian government subsidizes cigarettes that are a blend of cloves and tobacco to limit imports. The majority of smokers buy the locally made cigarettes which have an unusual smell. Smoking is allowed in bars and restaurants.

Almost everyone in Indonesia is a millionaire. The currency is the rupia. The value is 12,000 : $1USD. $84.00 USD is worth over rp 1,000,000.

I had lunch with two Muslim Indonesian paint salesman. They do not eat pork, snake, dog or any wild animals. They also advised they cannot have a dog, snake or a pig for a pet.

On the ceiling in every hotel room in Indonesia is an arrow pointing the direction to Mecca so the faithful can pray each day. The first prayer of the day blasts out over loud speakers all around Jakarta beginning at dawn which is 4:30 AM. Muslim’s pray five times each day.

Spicy rain and dew in Shanghai

On a recent trip to Shanghai, it was my pleasure to meet with my former neighbor from Lake Bluff, David Brode and his fiancé Joanne Jaing. David was the executive chef for the Wrigley family for three years. He travelled with the Wrigley’s on their private jets and yachts and cooked for notable friends of the Wrigley’s such as Warren Buffett. David travelled to Shanghai several years ago and opened and closed two oyster themed restaurants. Joanne has a successful wine and gourmet food business called Cuve. The company name is derived from the wine term cuvée which is the first 2,050 litres of grape juice gently pressed from 4,000 kg of grapes. Joanne dropped the second “e” from the name to make it easier for the Chinese to pronounce.

Joanne’s Chinese name is Yulu Jaing. Yu means water and Lu means dew. Jaing means spicy so her Chinese name translates as spicy rain and dew. It was her parents intention to name her Lu Jaing. However, after a meeting with a feng shui expert at her birth it was determined that she had a high percentage of fire in her spirit. Feng shui is a Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment. It identifies the five elements of air, water, fire metal and wood. Dew was not enough to balance her strong fire spirit so they added Yu (water) to make her name Yulu. It is said that only 1% of the population have all five elements. She has all five elements. Since she has fire as her strongest element, success in business comes more easily when you build on that that strength. Alcohol is good for creating a fire so success in importing wine was almost guaranteed.

Prior to starting her business, Joanne attended Aston University in Birmingham, England where she earned her degree in marketing. She wanted to attend school in the USA but her parents were fearful because there are too many guns and crimes there. After graduation she was hired by Bentley in a management development program. The top three executives at Bentley attended Aston University and recruited heavily at that school. She came to realize that the top management track at Bentley was a 15 year process that would require her to spend five years in Boston and five years in Australia before returning to Asia. She worked at Bentley for 3 three years and left to start her own business.

Joanne’s mother is a gourmet cook gets along very well with Dave. In fact Dave is always happy to hear that his future mother-in-law is coming to visit so they can compare recipes and cook together.

Their wedding will be held in Shanghai on January 18, 2015 and a second ceremony will be held in Spain on February 8 to commemorate the place where David proposed. A reception will also be held in the Chicago area in the spring.

The happy couple – Joanne (Wulu) Jaing and David Brode

The story of Lot Lot

I cannot tell the story of Lot Lot without first giving a brief history of Penang, Malaysia. Penang is an island on the west coast of Malaysia in the Andaman sea, south of Thailand. It was given to the British in 1786 by the Sultan in return for protection from the Kingdom of Siam. British captain Francis Light became the first Superintendent and renamed Penang Island to be the Prince of Wales Island. To expedite jungle clearing by laborers, Captain Light fired silver coins from his ship cannons into the dense vegetation, and the land was cleared in no time. He named the main settlement Georgetown in honor of King George III.
As Singapore and Hong Kong became more popular trading destinations Georgetown fell on hard times. In World War II the British abandoned Penang just prior to the Japanese invasion, leaving the Malays to suffer atrocities at the hands of the Japanese.

While spending the weekend in Penang I decided to take a trishaw tour of colonial Georgetown. A trishaw is a three wheeled bicycle rickshaw. My driver was Lot Lot. He is a 45 year old Malay who was orphaned at birth and raised by a single Chinese mother. Growing up in the Chinatown section of Georgetown he is fluent in four dialects of Chinese – Mandarin, Cantonese, Fuking and Hakka as well as Malay. My work associate Dick Chan from Hong Kong accompanied me on this trishaw tour and handled the translation from Mandarin to English. Lot Lot spent several years as a fisherman before settling on his career as a trishaw driver. He was an excellent tour guide. He shared a lot of the history of Georgetown and pointed out several hostels that charge $6.00 per night with no air conditioning and $20 per night with air conditioning. We know we over paid him for the 1.5 hour trishaw tour. We gave him $20. The one hour taxi ride from the airport to my hotel was $25. Getting to know Lot Lot and hearing his story was well worth the $20.