Sunday, September 17, 2006

My Bangalore Trip

I was in Bangalore on Saturday, Sept 16, 2006, for a speaking assignment... An event organized by Silicon India that was focused towards experienced IT professsionals; sort of like a job fair, but targeted towards those who are more hardcore.

This was probably the shortest trip I have made anywhere other than when I am transiting through an airport ... And the traffic at Bangalore keeps getting worse every time I visit the place; a far cry from how the city was from early childhood memories.

Surprisingly, over 200 guys and gals turned up at 9AM for the job fair...we had a decent sized booth and our staffing guys were kept busy with resumes and queries.

The panel discussion on Product Development Trends in India (for which I was here), started 45 mins late from the scheduled time; somethings never change, I guess ... and I had to be back at the airport before 1PM for my flight.

The presentations were not of the greatest quality with the other speakers focusing solely on what their companies were doing; also given the late start, the moderator decided to entertain only one question!!

After a quick stop at a handicraft store (Karnataka handicrafts are still special to me from my childhood days), dashed back to the airport... Was returning to Pune via Bombay, but after we boarded, the Pune guys decided to keep the flight waiting for an hour because of some reason... got back home only at 7PM.

Nandini immediately decided she would keep the handcrafted peacock and hawk and wouldn't let me take them to the showcase. I hope they are not broken by the time I can do that :(


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Business Class over the Pacific

If you are travelling from India to the West Coast of USA over the Pacific, the two best airlines for Busines Class travel are Singapore Airlines and Cathay-Pacific. While both of them have the best-in-class audio-video on-board (on-demand, larger screens, noise-reducing headphones, etc.), these are almost always only available on the US-leg of the travel; the India-leg has older cabins and is not upgraded to the latest equipment.

Singapore Airlines provides 80+ movies with many foriegn language selections (including Hindi and Tamil); gave me an opportunity to watch King and the Clown, a Korean block-buster set during historical times. Must say I liked the movie, but some things did strike me as female lead; gay characters in a mainstream movie, etc.
For sleeping through the flight, I think Cathay has a slight edge...the seat recline and ergonomics are better, though only slightly. The Singapore Girl does make up for any slight edge Cathay's seat may have... and I mean hospitality, of course!

Food on Singapore Business class is great (or as great as airline food can be!). The Indian selection is quite good too; probably the only airline on which I choose Indian food some times (Sanjeev Kapoor is on thier culinary panel). Always choose the Satay chicken for starters; it is awesome!

Since I end up spending hours at the airport (Singapore or Hong Kong) many times the lounges in the airport make a big difference to my travel experience. I have realized that those travelling over the Pacific definitely have an advantage over those that travel over the Atlantic. European airports have a long way to go before they can catch up with the quality of Asian lounges (Hong Kong, Singapore, etc.)

The Business Lounge at Hong Kong airport is all grey granite...stone everywhere. Design looks like a large maze with comfortable sofas and chairs everywhere...partitions of low height provide privacy...shower stalls (better than at Changi/Singapore with each shower stall provided with a suite of shampoos, conditioners, moisturisers, toothbrush and shaving sets, etc.). The Noodle Bar serves great noodle soup and dimsums, always hot and fresh from their kitchen. Internet areas and music stations with noise-cancelling headphones.

Singapore/Changi airport has a great lounge too for business class. Great bar and good snack items always available including sandwitces, local decicacies, soups, etc. The best thing here is the Slumberette section which is darkened and has pillows and blankets for a quick nap. Shower rooms here too, but smaller in number and not as well equipped as the one in Hong Kong. Much better shopping choices in this airport for those who want to...


Sunday, September 10, 2006

San Francisco Again!

San Francisco after a zillion years (seems like!)...I was looking forward to it... but had to make a quick stop at Santa Monica first. Singapore Airlines again, and the upgraded security checks weren't as bad as I had thought they would be. Didn't buy any 'liquids' though, this time
Strangely wasn't able to sleep through the flights this time, like I usually do...ended up watching the Da Vinci Code (not bad, even though I had read the book), XMen III (gr8), and The Sentinel (you can miss this one; time Micheal Douglas retired gracefully...he's no Clint Eastwood)...

BTW, if you are travelling Business Class, you should try some of the local food they always serve in the Kris Flyer lounge...I really liked some of the Fish-ball Soup thingy I found there... also the Curried Vegetables and Fish that they have for breakfast.

I was in the Doubletree at Santa Monica; closer to the 3rd Street Promenade and walked down during the evening... Puzzle Zoo on the 3rd Street has some real cool toys and games for kids (3-10 yrs); I always get something for Nandini when I am here...

Went to Monsoon Cafe for dinner...great place... had Sake for the first time...didn't know what to expect, but liked it... warmed me up enough to not feel the cooler night as I walked back to the hotel...

San Francisco was chilly (always seems to be that way during the evenings). The hotel (St. Regis) was great: 24-hour butler service, two plasma tvs, everything controlled from one bedside panel, etc., etc... it's fun when you stay at these expensive hotels, especially so when someone else is paying :)

The ambience at the bar was great...flames all around, black and amber...and the restaurant at the lobby level serves great Fusion food (Japanese-American) too.