As I write this, jackhammers are pummelling the earth around me, land that did not exist as recently as 20 years ago. I live on a reclaimed site in Singapore, and in my youth, while I had dreamt of having a home by the sea, I hadn't actually thought I'd be living on it
Every now and then, when I have flights of fancy, I imagine my feet to be where the ocean bed is, fish nibbling at my toes (it's actually a form of foot massage in Asia), and I am seated within a conch shell typing away on a waterproof MacHydro.
Reality reminds me that the Tanjong Rhu precinct where I live is being completely dug up, tunneled and reshaped to accommodate a new super-duper highway and a train network that will ensure no one has to walk more than 10 minutes to get to any station all over tiny Singapore.
The light at the end of the tunnel, I am reassured by friends, is the rise in real estate value. This is a big deal in Singapore, where every square foot is precious. For now, I have to live amid constant noise and chaos.
I know I am not alone in this predicament of living in a city that's still being built around me. Every city in Asia is being reimagined. The media may be screaming of economic slowdown, but on the streets, everywhere you visit -- from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Manila, Philippines, from Hong Kong to Tokyo -- you see signs of cities on the move and middle-class folks with big aspirations to travel and build better lives.Victoria Harbor reimagined
Hong Kong, the city I lived in for 11 years, is hardly recognizable. Each time I return, something new has happened or is taking shape.
As I looked down at Victoria Harbor from the Horizon Club Lounge of the Island Shangri-La, I saw a massive construction site. There's a $1.6 billion plan to transform this picturesque and historical waterfront. The project has elicited protests and lots of opinions, but the vision is to transform it into a gathering place as lively as the waterfronts in Sydney, Vancouver and Barcelona.
The day I was there, Marco Polo Hotels announced it would be converting the historical Murray Building, which its parent company, Wharf Holdings, acquired in 2013, into a 336-room Niccolo Hotel, its luxury brand.
A total of $902 million is expected to be spent on the transformation. They've hired only the best. Foster + Partners, architects whose works include the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank headquarters and the Hong Kong Airport, will design the project, and you can expect the Murray, when it opens in October 2017, to be a standout in a city already known for some of the world's best hotels. Tokyo readies for Olympics 2020
With the Rio Games now over, all eyes are turning to Tokyo as the next Summer Olympics host, and in September, construction started on the National Stadium. The building is expected to be completed by the end of November 2019. There's very little margin for delay but knowing Japanese efficiency, it will be done on time.
The Games are breathing new life into one of Asia's economic giants, which has lately been thrust into the shadows by the rising economic power of China. And travel and tourism is flying high.
With the lifting of visa restrictions on visitors from Southeast Asia, Japan has seen a boom in inbound arrivals, and emboldened by that success, the government has doubled the target for visitor numbers to 40 million by 2020.
Japan is one of my favorite destinations in Asia. Its hospitality, its modernity, which sits comfortably alongside age-old traditions, its diversity of landscapes, from sandy beaches to snowcapped mountains, makes it an unbeatable place to visit. As more foreigners visit, it has become easier and more accessible to explore. And you know what? Even if you don't speak Japanese, you won't ever get lost. Japanese people are the most helpful folks I know.
Once, a taxi driver, to make sure he had taken me to the right address, escorted me right to the door of the restaurant where I was dining. In New York, you'd be dumped and left to find your own way.
Hong Kong is in the midst of a $1.6 billion plan to transform its waterfront. Photo Credit: Yeoh Siew Hoon