It’s been exactly two years ago since I last breathed air outside Singapore. This end of March Europe business trip is my first, since my last travel back home on 13 March 2020. Still remember that it was days when W.HO. announced Covid as a pandemic, and also the same day when Singapore announced to implement additional Covid travel precautionary measures. And for two weeks, I was mostly not allowed to enter into indoor compound, due to the need to declare non-travel for last 14 days. The circuit breaker followed shortly. Nothing memorable at all!
Thoughts before travel
Prior to my travel this time, I was honestly feeling worried as I have not contracted Covid before. To think if I am tested positive overseas and being quarantine alone in the hotel. However, I keep the faith that I will be kept healthy by the Lord and also reminded myself to pray more often during the trip for not just myself, but also people whom am with.
That said, I was also feeling somewhat excited about breathing fresh air in Europe and looking forward to meeting good old friends. It was also a trip over the weekend, making my schedule slightly more relaxed.
Anyhow, I seem to have some resistance to Covid. This is because, for several times I was with people who tested positive day after. Yet, I am all fine. My mother-in-law was with close contact with my children, but when she was positive, my children are all fine too.
Airports and planes are very full
Before I left home for the airport, I was telling my wife that I expected a quiet departure terminal. See below left pic of Changi Airport when I last travel in March 2020. It was not to be this time (see below right pic).
In fact, I was caught completely by surprise by the number of people at the airport. The picture below tells it all. The plane was also pretty full as well. In fact during this trip, all the airports and planes were all very packed.
The close to 14 long hours flight with mask on, aside from having meal is not the most comfortable. However, my complaint is really nothing compare to the cabin crew. Air stewardesses who have makeup and mask on concurrently for a full-time job at high altitude is definitely not a job that is enviable.
Perfect weather at Netherlands, and YES! NO MASKS everywhere!
Upon arriving Netherlands, the weather was superb i.e. bright sunshine with 14-20 degC in the day. Was told by many that the week I was there, is like the best weather since “ages” ago.
Below some pics I taken.
For me, first time in close to two years, mask wearing is not a common sight is very rare. Even on public transport or outside the gates of airports, masks wearing is not necessary. It is like back to the good old days of pre-pandemic in the Netherlands. There is also no checks of proof of vaccinations anywhere you go within the country.
It already felt splendidly good without mask, let alone the nice bright, yet cooling weather! Thank God for that!
When I was there in Netherlands, daily Covid cases probably 40K-ish. As I speak now, daily cases already dropped to 10K plus. Death cases are rare and hospital capacity is not drastically affected. More importantly, people have their life back to normal.
Yes.. the Netherlands is definitely more lax in it comes to Covid measures throughout the pandemic. Yet, their life throughout the pandemic is definitely better than us in Singapore with so many restrictions, sometimes not all are necessary. China is very strict in Covid measures, but what happen now makes you think if it is really necessary?
It is hard to explain tangibly, but with my long experiences travelling globally in the last two decades, somehow life in Western countries are more people oriented, more direct, more balanced and somewhat happier. In Asia, it is like government is dictating every single little thing, and the people will forever not grow up! It is like to Parenting a kid you know… “over-strict, over-instruct, over-taught” in everything will only make your kid have no experience from their own decision, and forever cannot learn from mistakes.
Next up… Hamburg
My next stop is Hamburg of Germany. Hamburg is second largest city in Germany after capital city Berlin. Hamburg is also where Europe’s third largest port is, after Rotterdam and Antwerp. After this trip, I am delighted to say I have been to all three cities of Europe with the largest ports!
Hamburg’s Covid measure is stricter than Netherlands. Outdoor is un-masked and all indoor places require face mask. Dine-in also requires fully vaccination verification.
When in Hamburg, I was lucky to be greeted by near perfect weather again, albeit slightly colder. The Ghanaian Taxi driver told us that we brought with us good weather to Hamburg. Oh yes, Taxi is definitely cheaper costing Euro 30 for 15-20 min drive, compared to at least double the rates in Netherlands.
Harbour near the largest seaworthy museum ship in the world – MS Cap San Diego that sailed the south Atlantic from 1961 to 1988 transporting goods like coffee, cotton, cocoa, beef and clothing to Germany. (Top and below pics)
Hamburg Rathaus (aka City Hall – refer pic above) building is at the heart of city and is one of the few completely preserved buildings of historicism in Hamburg. It was constructed from 1886 to 1897, a period of wealth and prosperity, in which the Kingdom of Prussia and its military defeated France in the Franco-German War and the German Empire was formed. Today, it still houses its original governmental functions with the office of the First Mayor of Hamburg and the meeting rooms for the Parliament and the Senate.
Neuer Wall located at Neudstadt (see pics above) is the shopping street of Hamburg, housed with luxurious brands, such as Hermes, Chanel, Dior, LV, Cartier, Rolex etc
At the end of Neuer Wall nearer to the Binnenalster lake, and very near to Jungfernstieg train station (one of the busiest stations in Hamburg), you can find a huge Apple store! (see below pic)
Not in posted here the pics, is a memorable dinner in Hamburg where we had Portuguese food at Restaurante Porto (Ditmar-Koel-Str. 15, 20459 Hamburg Germany). Will go there again if I am back to Hamburg.
Post Travel Thoughts
Overall, my first trip after two years was a very fruitful one. I really enjoy it. Work without travel is really too boring for me. Also, travel documentation related to Covid is not as complex as I have imagined. Airport and aircraft are already very crowded, almost back to like in the past for this trip.
Of paramount importance is that all work meetings were very successful. I am also very happy to meet many people first time face-to-face, even though we had so many TEAMS / SKYPE calls before. No matter how good the virtual technology is, it will never beat the physical hugs and hand shakes!
Above all, I am staying all healthy throughout the trip and glad that Covid test was negative before departing home safely! Thank God for that.
Lastly, weather was perfect when I was there. Guess what… since Ieaving Europe, no one day till now was with good weather! I was told that I brought good weather to Europe, but also brought it with me after I left.
This is the weather of Europe the following week after I left.
Already look forward to my next overseas trip!