My recent two trips turned out to be beyond my expectations, largely because I had set them low to begin with. While I've heard friends rave about Beijing before, the skeptic in me was rather surprised by how modern and clean the city is, with the wide roads and skyscrapers. Too bad the pollution marred the sightseeing experience.
The visit to Jakarta last week for a meeting was even more surprising. For years, I've avoided going to Jakarta because I've heard so much about the thugs and infamous traffic jams. Well, there were jams in the city area and we were stuck in traffic for a couple of hours but somehow it didn't feel quite as bad. The traffic was orderly, just slow moving.
It helped that I was ferried around in a private car and the meeting location was in one of the best buildings in Jakarta, so I didn't have to worry about safety. In fact, security at the buildings that I went to - Grand Hyatt and Plaza Office Tower - is very tight with bag checks at many entry points.
Here is a bird's-eye view of Jakarta city from the meeting room.
With a few hours to spare, I even managed to visit Muji, who looked after my kids for 8 years in the 1990s. She is happily married with two daughters of her own now and is working as a cook in an architectural firm. It was good to see her again after ten years.