By Tod Gimbel Special to Published Jul 23, 2011 at 8:11 AM

SINGAPORE – I am leaving the far eastern tropics and headed home to the USA. A 17-hour flight separates me from Los Angeles and then, in a week, Milwaukee. I'm looking forward to a nice visit with friends and family and a dose of that hometown medicine.

I will be leaving the "developing" world and headed to the "developed" world. Singapore is close to first world with its nice infrastructure (you can drink tap water), stunning skyline (see the picture) and miles of stores selling luxury goods I can't afford.

Despite this, there are many reasons why it is not first world (don't get me on that tangent). Most of the rest of Asia is still very firmly 2nd and 3rd world. Countries like China and India are on the rise, but they have a long way to rise to get where they need to be. Others like Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines have an even further way to go.

Five-star hotels are across the street from slums in many cities and most people have about as much money per day to live on as we toss into our change drawer as we take off our pants.

The U.S., of course, is solid first world. Yes, there are poor people, slums and poverty, but nothing close to Asia. The water is drinkable, food is pretty safe and people's rights are pretty well protected and respected.

The irony is that I will be leaving from Changi airport in Singapore on Singapore Airlines and landing at LAX and moving on to U.S. based airlines.
Skytrax, which bills itself as the world's largest airline review site, gives Changi a five-star rating (8.3 out of 10). They give Singapore Airlines five Stars (8.7 out of 10). LAX gets no stars (4.5 out of 10). (Milwaukee is not rated, but the reviews are good).

All (except Jet Blue at four) of the U.S. airlines are three-star (United, US Airways, Delta, Frontier). By the way, two-star airlines are the likes of Air Zimbawe, Yemenia Yemen Airlines and there is only one one-star airline – Air KORYO, the official airline of North Korea.

On board SQ (as we locals call Singapore Airlines) a 17-hour flight in business class is like being at a nice hotel. A huge, fully flat bed, a 16-inch TV, iPod hook up, real pillows and a duvet. There are about 80 on-demand movies, TV shows, music and top notch games. Food is almost too much and of course, booze flows freely. Even the coach seats and service rival most U.S. business or first class. I will be able to read, listen to music, watch great movies, eat well, sleep and drink.

Once flying inside the U.S. I will be able to pay to check a bag, buy bad food, beg for a second cup of coke, have minimal legroom and be treated like dirt by unhelpful flight attendants.

The good news is that I will only have a few U.S. flights before settling in back on the Singapore Airlines A380 (world's biggest plane) and heading back to the heat and humidity that for me, for now, is home!

Tod Gimbel Special to
Tod Gimbel has lived in Asia for five years, and while it's easy to keep connected to Milwaukee from here (or anywhere for that matter) he also finds Milwaukee connections over here all the time. Yes, a few people do actually seem to venture out beyond even Chicago. If all goes well, he hopes to tell some of those stories here at