Sunday, April 29, 2007

Grounded for Now

I'm glad I did that video blogging of the trip itself, and the trip home, because otherwise in my mind it would've been some strange dream I had. It all went by way too fast to take any mental notes. That's the way these international-one-country-a-day things always go.

To follow my trip back click here to read the post called Going Home, Part 1 and then click the "Newer Post" button at the bottom to go on to the next part. That'll give you the whole story chronologically.

I'm in SF for a few weeks, then a week in NYC. End of May I go to South Africa and directly from there to Europe. Panama will be at the end of June. Then, as of July 1, I get my wings clipped for awhile as baby is due August 8 and I will not be going anywhere outside of San Francisco from that point until the end of September at the earliest.

There's no place like home.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Friday, April 27, 2007

Going Home Part 3

About to board the flight now, so I'll be uploading the rest of the story once I get to SF today (yep, I leave HK at 4:25pm local time, then arrive in SF at 1:50pm local time on the SAME DAY!!!) Time travelling, gotta love it.

This is where I'm sitting on this massive 747-400 (that's not my actual plane, obviously, but it's the same brand & model).

Upstairs on a 747 is absolutely the best. It feels like a private plane, there are only 24 passengers and 2 crew memebers. You're also less likely to get sick, since you are breathing in fewer peoples' germs.

By the time you read this, I'm probably over the Pacific Ocean somewhere . . .

Going Home Part 2

Left the hotel in a Benz (they do hook you up nicely at these Asian luxury hotels). Crusing through Kowloon on the way to the airport.

It's Saturday afternoon here, so there's no traffic whatsoever. Got to HK International in 20 minutes flat (may have had something to do with my driver going 90 miles an hour).

Time to savor my last breath of fresh air before spending the next 20 hours in airports and airplanes.

Got through immigration and security in a snap, although at the check-in desk there was some serious drama. People yelling and screaming at the check-in folks as the flight to LAX seems to be very overbooked (thank goodness I'm on the SFO flight). Not the way to handle yourself at an airport regardless of how badly they screw you. Aaah, I'm gonna forget about that one.

The Cathay Pacific biz class lounges (there are two here; The Wing and The Pier) are the best I've ever been in. There are several bars, food outlets (free cook-to-order noodles, dim sum, and western food), a video game lounge, massage chairs, and a very accomodating staff. I like to hang at The Wing.

I'm not leaving this lounge until my flight boards. No reason to.

Aaah, freshly cooked Shanghai-style noodles.

If you fly to Asia on business, and you fly a US carrier, you don't know what you're missing . . .

Going Home, Part 1

The best part of any business trip is the flight back home. Too bad the one I've gotta take today is 14 hours long (Hong Kong to San Francisco). At least it's on Cathay Pacific, not some chump outfit like United.

About to leave my hotel room at the Shangri-La Kowloon where there's a particularly amazing view of the HK skyline.

Am going to try and show you my trip home, step by step by step. Have a look:

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Random Notes from Asia

Happiness in a bowl: Nyonya Laksa in Malaysia.

The most well designed airline cabin in the world on Cathay Pacific.

Rambuttans galore in Bangkok.

A room with a view in Singapore.

Looking straight down from balcony in the same room (from 57th floor). Not for those with vertigo.

Cheap (and nerve wracking) transport in Bangkok. Called a "Tuk-Tuk" because that's the sound the motor makes. Should be more like "Choke-Choke" given all the air pollution.

I Need A Shower

It's over 100 degrees Farenheit today in Bangkok (for those of you in Celsius land that translates as TOO FREAKING HOT!!!!!). I knew this would be the case so I left the hotel at 7am to have a walk around before it got too hot. No such luck:

It's enough of a challenge to write this blog from Thailand, YouTube censorship aside. I pull up blogspot (where I write my entries) and this is what I get:

Not as confusing, though, as my breakfast this morning:

Aah, yes. The Rambuttan and Mangosteen, fruits you can only get in this part of the world. And they're in season. Open 'em up and this is what you get:

Sweet, succulent, juicy. Nothing quite like it, hard to compare to any fruit I've ever eaten.

In the Cathay Pacific lounge at Bangkok Airport waiting for the flight that takes me to the last stop on this tour, Hong Kong.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Banned in Bangkok

You won't be seeing any video from Thailand (where I currently am) because the government has banned YouTube, where I host the video for my blog.

When I go to nothing loads.

When I look at this blog from here none of the video loads.

First time I've actually seen censorship first hand.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Big Tease

I stay in some really great hotel rooms on my business trips, such as the one I'm in right now on the 58th floor of the Swissotel The Samford in Singapore. The problem is that I'm usually only in the room for a few hours (arrive late night from the airport, sleep, wake up early and go to work -- after which I go to the airport to go on to the next city (it'll be Bangkok tomorrow night).

But short stay or not, the view from my 58th floor balcony (how about that, a hotel room this high up with a balcony) is pretty darn amazing.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mmmmm. Fooooood.

This kind of business trip involves three things -- working, flying, and eating. The eating part is by far the best.

I may not get to do any sightseeing on this trip, but there is some killer local food around the Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur where I'm writing this at 6:30 Monday morning.

That's called Nasi Kampur, a popular Malay dish. It may look like a bunch of random stuff dumped on a plate, but MAN it's tasty. That's chicken sate on the upper right, a deliciously flavored chicken leg on the upper left, and under that fried egg there's a heap of Malaysian fried rice.

Work starts for me in a half-hour so it's time for breakfast now. More later...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Wha Hoppen?

I'm back on the road with a vengeance. Just stepped off a 14-hour flight from SFO and am now in Cathay Pacific's "The Wing" biz class lounge at Hong Kong International, where it's currently 7:30am on Sunday morning, waiting for a connecting flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Another 3 and a half hours in the air, oh yay.

The Cathay long-haul biz class experience was excellent as always (thank goodness for those upgrades or I'd be dead by now). Will be in Asia the remainder of the week, a different city each day, so stay tuned to see my tired ass bringing you more of the little things I can see on the way from the airport to the hotel.

Saturday, April 7, 2007


I've got something ridiculous, along the lines of 4 flights or so, that I haven't blogged on yet. I'm so sick of planes I can't even bear to write about them. So in a hope to spark some inspiration I'm moving to a more video oriented format. So here's a moment of this flight back home, in which I got an upgrade to the unparalelled domestic travel experience of United's "PS" flights between JFK and SFO/LAX. You get their international business class seat in biz class (where I sat) and I could stretch straight out and not have my feet even brush against the seat in front of me.

The 2 guys taking care of our cabin were hapless, one younger dude who was trying hard but just didn't get it, and a very very senior guy who also tried hard but was just plain forgetful. I sat next to, and had nice conversation with, one of the founders of a fantastic winery in Carneros (Napa side) who co-lamented with me on the sad state of affairs. But still, this is the best biz class domestic coast-to-coast experience currently going (please keep it up UAL).

Going Where No Man Has Gone Before

What a pompous title for a blog post. In fact, I'm just trying to get some video going on my respective blogs. If this experiment works here, you'll see me geeking out beyond belief at tonight's Giants vs Dodgers game @ AT&T/SBC/PacBell/MaysField. If not, then I gotta try something else.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Comin' to a Town near You

That is if your town happens to be New York, Johannesburg, Cape Town, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Las Vegas, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Hong Kong . . . and maybe Sydney & Melbourne. I'll be in all those places between now and mid-June. Some of them, such as Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, for less than 24 hours. What in the world have I gotten myself into here? All I need to do now is to throw Sao Paolo in there and I'll hit every continent in the next 3 months!

Except Antarctica, of course, we can't forget about those penguins and those nutcase scientists that live down there (now ducking the flames from the nutcase scientists down there).

My presence was also requested by my company in Milan, Madrid, and Mumbai (3 M's, how about that?) but either schedule conflicts or overload factor forced me to pass on those.

I was in New York a couple of weeks ago. The reason you haven't heard about that, or anything else out of me for a while for that matter, has to do with this. Tune in and you just might see my ugly mug yappin' at ya about sometin.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

ANA 008 NRT to SFO

Alcoholic beverages are not taboo in Japan the way they are in the States.

This guy seems to be having a pretty good time (billboard in the Ebisu section of Tokyo) thanks to Sapporo beer. But it seems like things quickly took a turn for the worse.

This is definitely the strongest advertisement against drinking beer that I’ve ever seen.

I’ve already raved about ANA, and keeping with the high-quality of most Asian airlines they’ve got a great lounge at Tokyo Narita complete with a cooked-to-order noodle bar.

In an earlier post I wrote about their sake brand, but this is ridiculous. I did indeed eat that thing with the ANA logo on it – I think it’s some kind of fish cake slice but I hope that those of you that know better will let me know exactly what it is. This is a bowl of “Kitsune Soba”, which is a very typical Japanese dish – buckwheat noodles in a savory soup with some seaweed and a slice of fried tofu thrown in. Tasty, filling and cheap. Even though Japan has a reputation for being very expensive, I had an amazing Sushi lunch today in the Shibuya section of Tokyo, at a “conveyor belt” sushi restaurant. Better than anything you’ll get in the States, and the check came out to $12 for 14 pieces of sushi and 2 beers. Try getting amazing sushi for that price outside of Japan.

But despite all that, it looks like Ronald is resorting to pimping out lockers in the Ebisu subway station.

Sorry state of affairs…

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Nihon-go Dekimasen, Gomen-Nasai

Always a good idea to learn how to say “I’m sorry, I don’t speak your language” wherever you go. I had to use that phrase to remind the flight attendants on ANA a couple times . . .

Culture shock is setting in already. One of my colleagues here in Tokyo recommended I take the “Airport Limousine” from Narita to my hotel, and he did warn me that “it is not a limousine.”

At least it’s the friendly kind.

“Airport Limousines” aside, the first thing you notice when you arrive in Japan are the ubiquitous vending machines.

With little street crime to speak of, these things just don’t get broken in to, so they’re everywhere. The drinks with the blue line beneath them are cold, and the red ones are hot. You can buy all kinds of stuff from vending machines in Japan, but the ones with these kinds of beverages are the most common.

Then you go to visit the restroom and it’s the most confusing experience of your life.

Toilets have control panels here, you have to get used to that. Good thing this one came with instructions on how to use the “Equipment to cleansing the buttocks with warm water.”

Despite what they’re telling you, it’s not the buttocks that gets cleansed, it’s what’s between them. I’ll spare you the details, but man, are these things accurate with their aim. At least in this particular restroom, at Narita Airport, there’s an emergency switch just in case the apparatus goes haywire.

That’s just what you need when the buttocks cleaning mechanism has you by the balls -- a guard rushing in. I wonder how often people need to use that switch.

I’ve been to Japan quite a few times and this kind of stuff still never fails to amaze me. I really, really like this place.


NH stands for ANA which stands for All Nippon Airways (so why the heck is it NH? Well, in the Japanese language Japan is either “Nippon” or “Nihon” depending on context, so I’m guessing stands for Nihon).

When you fly to Asia, always fly with an Asian carrier if you can. The concept of customer service is completely different than it is in the U.S. – they actually really want you to have a nice experience and work hard to make it happen. This becomes apparent the minute you step up to check in at the ANA counter at SFO -- there are people bowing at you like crazy and the check-in person is unbelievably friendly and efficient. Starts to get you ready for check-in at the hotel in Tokyo which is also a bowing-fest with the staff taking care of your every need and not accepting tips! I tried to tip a bellman in Japan once and he went running for his life. Takes a bit of getting used to coming from the States where so many people just don’t give a sh*t.

The crew on this flight is amazing, they come around every hour or so with different goodies to eat and drink, and the individual video screen at my seat has a Video-On-Demand system with a whole bunch of movies & TV shows. This kind of stuff really makes the 11-hour flight fly by (har-har-har, I almost injured myself there). This is all happening in coach too – I’m starting to wonder what could be going on up there in business class . . .

I think there are 5 more hours to go in this 11 hour flight. Right now I’m watching a Japanese movie about a small mining town in Hokkaido where all the women learn to hula-dance. Earlier I watched “The Hustler” with Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason shooting pool with Japanese Subtitles.

I’m one of the only non-Japanese people on this big old 777, and the flight attendants have taken to addressing me in Japanese. Feels like I’m already in Tokyo. And, hey, you gotta love an airline that has it’s own Sake brand.

The best part was when the flight attendants all lined up in the aisles after the safety announcement and bowed in unison. I wish I had gotten a picture of that.

Cap’n announced we’re landing almost an hour early, so maybe I’ll have time for a nice dinner in Tokyo tonight.

They’re not dimming the cabin lights since the reading lights are busted, but I’m not getting any sleep anyway. Enjoy the Super Bowl, everyone, I’ll be oblivious to it along with the rest of Nihon.

AA 1818 MIA to SFO

The thing about South Florida is if you don’t clean things they get dirty real fast.

That’s the view from my room at the FAAAAHHHBULOUS Deauville Beach Resort in North Miami Beach (which is a long ways away –both literally and figuratively -- from the stylish art-deco scene down in South Beach). The last event of significance at this resort was the Beatles performance there in 1964. I think there may have been some gristle under my bed that Ringo spat out after the show.

Maybe if they cleaned the roof on this place they’d be doing better business?

Look -- if your idea of a good time is hanging by the pool with a bunch of 90-year-olds and a few confused people from South America with really bad travel agents, and waking up every morning to Hassidic families pushing screaming babies in strollers down the hallway outside your room, then by all means book yourself a vacation at this place.

I had to be there for a conference so I had no choice. You can go off and make your own mistakes, but please don’t let this place be one of them.

We did manage to get over to Joe’s Stone Crab for dinner. If you’ve never had the Stone Crab then you gotta go to this place next time you’re in Miami. It’s a crab that only grows in the Gulf of Mexico, and they only harvest one claw then throw the crab back in the water. It grows a new claw just to start the torturous process anew, but man is it ever the sweetest crab meat on the planet. And I used to be a vegetarian.

Stone Crabs don’t freeze well, so you need to get them fresh, in season, and Joe’s is the place to go (they’re only open when it’s Stone Crab season so if you go there in the summertime you’re outta luck). If you’re not spending big at this place the waiters can be downright rude, but try and get yourself seated in the waiter named Michael’s section (it’s near the front) and he’s gonna take care of you.

The flight back home was the old-school American Airlines experience that I’ve come to know and loathe. MIA is a cluster f*** of an airport if there ever was one, and I try to avoid it at all costs, but it’s the only option if you want to go non-stop from SFO to South Florida without taking a red-eye. The place felt like a zoo as we tried to check in while thousands of folks just off of budget cruise tried to make heads-or-tails out of the most confusing major airport in North America. Everywhere I looked there were sunburnt couples wearing matching Hawaiian shirts, and preteen girls with bad cornrows that they were really going to regret on their first day back at school. Not pretty, folks. AA’s check in kiosks were all broken (typical) and the line at First Class check in basically didn’t move at all.

American’s crews seem to be getting really friendly these days, what happened there? Not what I’ve come to expect in recent days, and since their overall product is such a piece of crap it’s nice to get some of that thing that doesn’t cost the airlines anything to provide – POLITENESS!!! Keep it up AA flight attendants, it really DOES make a difference!

That whole Super Bowl thing is going on in Miami right now (let’s see if the NFL sues me for writing “Super Bowl” without licensing the name).

Friday, January 26, 2007

AA 967 SFO to MIA

Just when I'm completely fed up with United, I get stuck in an old-school American Airlines coach cabin flying coast-to-coast and realize that United isn't so bad after all.

Thank goodness I have a wonderful wife who enjoys traveling with me (and more importantly she's not as jaded as I am when it comes to air travel).

The thing that kills me the most on the big US carriers is the "letter from the CEO" page in the inflight magazine. What freaking world are these guys living in? It's as if they've never flied on their own airline.

But that's really no surprise given the steep pay cuts the rank-and-file employees get forced upon them while creepy dudes like AA's CEO Gerald Arpey get 7-figure compensation packages. Listen, folks, I'm all for capitalism but come on . . .

Even thought I bitch often about the major airlines in this country, it's hard to blame a rude flight attendant for being in a pissy mood as he watches his salary and pension melt away while douchebags like Arpey make $13 million a year. Just not right. Run a perpetually money-losing company and get a comp package like that? Try that in any other industry.

Even though this flight was on a relatively new B-757 (evident by the winglets) the cabin was the usual American piece-of-crap. Dirty, not much legroom, but at least AA still doles out the complimentary blankets that somebody probably farted on during the flight before yours.

Thank goodness Jet Blue is starting service from SFO this spring.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

UA 1157 SEA to SFO

My research now concluded, I can confidently report based on observation (as well as the resigned shoulder shrugging of my colleagues in Seattle) it is indeed grey there the entire winter. Nevertheless, people have found ways to add color to the otherwise muted landscape.

The trip home was ho-hum smooth sailing. Had dinner at Anthony's at Sea-Tac, within the massive central shopping-mall-atrium-wall-audiologists-nightmare that is the Seattle Tacoma Airport's main terminal dining and shopping zone. This restaurant used to offer one of the best airport meals in the country (if you like fresh seafood), but it looks like they're slipping off a bit. You can sit at a counter that's practically in the open kitchen, which usually puts you face-to-face with the guy making the salads or frying chips. That's where I sit, and the guys didn't have their usual smart-ass spunk and hustle this time -- maybe that's why the food wasn't so good. Even the waitress was scowly.

The flight was a by-the-numbers short haul United late evening flight, with the flight attendants making it clear they just didn't care (was the end of a long day for everyone). The only thing that raised the hairs on my arms was a few times the pilot repeated the ATC instructions back wrong -- including the RUNWAY we were supposed to land on as we were on final approach into SFO. This airport has parallel runwys, and landings are always on 26 Left and 26 Right. Normally there are airplanes landing on both runways simultaneously, so if the pilot gets them mixed up, well . . .

You don't hear stuff like that too often on United's inflight audio channel 9, but it does happen. Luckily the ATC corrected the pilot and we landed safely.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


All it takes is a couple of years living on the west coast, and the whole tolerance to cold thing goes out the window. I grew up in The Bronx, along with the attendant rough NY weather. I never really minded the hot summers, but man, the cold and the snow . . .

It snowed here yesterday morning, before I arrived, and all indications point to the entire city having grinded to a halt. My company's office here is beautifully situated on a river, and some of my colleagues kayak to work. Seems like a great way to commute, unless you capsize. Try explaining that one to your boss.

The rumors about Seattle are true, it is indeed in a nearly constant state of overcast skies. This morning it seemed like the sun didn't come up until 10am. But this is more than cancelled out by the people -- some of the coolest, friendliest, laid-back people you'll meet in this country.

And the seafood . . . it took me around 2 hours to tear apart and eat a local Dungeness Crab last night at a nondescript place in the Public Market. I was kinda bummed that my favorite restaurant here, Matt's In The Market, is closed for renovations, but there's no lack of great food in this town.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

UA 308 SFO to SEA

Well, it was just one of those long days. A presentation in the morning in SF, cut short by other presenters going long. All good, regardless.

Quick taxi ride via Luxor Taxi to SFO. The United terminal was unbelievably deserted for 5pm on a weekday, got through security in 5 minutes. Even "Team SFO", arguably the best TSA security team in the USA, seemed indifferent.

Thanks to my Premiere Exec status with United I got upgraded to First. Double meaning there -- First Class and first row on the plane. This is not always as great as it seems.

I often pity those that pay for these domestic first class seats. This would've probably cost $2,000 to buy outright, and for goodness sakes it has less legroom than coach.

The flight attendant that took care of the massive 2 rows in First on this 737 was a "senior" menber of the United crew, but she was very attentive, even serving pre-flight cocktails old-school style (United normally doesn't do that anymore, even when I'm flying on a $6,000 biz class ticket so it was a nice surprise). No food, even on a dinner-time flight, so that was a dissapointment.

The Sea-Tac arrival was pretty smooth, despite the snowstorm, although whenever you arrive at an airport with this going on you gotta wonder:

I wound up sitting next to one of my colleagues on the flight, who as it turned out saw my presentation this morning, so we had alot to talk about. My usual driver from Sea-Tac to downtown was unavailabe. so we shared a cab to the Alexis Hotel, where we're both staying.

Top tip if you stay at the Alexis, or any of the Kimpton hotels -- if you belong to their frequent stay program (free to join) they usually upgrade you. I opened the door to my room and this is what I saw...

This was a very good sign (it is always a good sign when you open your hotel room door and can't see the whole thing right away, usually this means you've got a pretty big suite on your hands). Full suite, full kichen, balcony with downtown views. If you at least belong to the frequent stay program you get treated better -- that's the way it works.

The Alexis kicks butt in these ways, despite the fact that I've got this right across the street...

Aah . . . beautiful downtown Seatle. All the guns and porno you can eat. What more can a blue-blooded American ask for?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Dreading The 1 Day Tokyo Tango

For reasons I don't want to get into, I'm doing a fly-in fly-out meeting in Tokyo in the near future . . . in COACH. Not a pretty picture - outta SFO on Sunday morning, arrive NRT Monday night, work Tuesday, come home Wednesday.

In these situations there's no question, you fly with an Asian carrier if the ticket's in the same ballpark as the US carriers (in my case, the coach ticket on ANA - on actual ANA aircraft - was a few hundred less than the ticket on the United/ANA codeshare which is on United aircraft with the attendant uneven crew attitude & service level, not to mention the $5 for drinks which are free and of much better quality/selection on ANA).

Check out the ANA coach seat and you'll see what I mean. Don't be fooled by that photo of the lady in the seat, though, she's of normal Asian proportions. Put my 6 foot 3 inch butt in that seat and that equals me pacing up and down the aisle every hour or so. Apologies in advance to anyone sitting near me on that flight. Just offer me a sake and say Kampai!

I'll be in Seattle the next few days, so as always I'm looking for restaurant recommendations (especially seafood places) so please send me a comment if you know of anything I should check out.

On The Road Again

Welcome to BizFlyer, my second foray into the blogosphere.

You can read my professional blog Bob Donlon's Digital Video Blog if you have any interest in video production. If not, never mind. This blog has nothing to do with that.

As part of my job with Adobe Systems, I travel the globe far and wide (flew around 200,000 miles in 2006), something I've been doing with regularity for over 8 years. I hold elite frequent flier status with both Star Alliance and One World, as well as elite guest status with Hilton, Fairmont, and Starwood.

Basically, I spend about half of my life on the road. I live in San Francisco but manage to set foot on every continent in the course of a given year. I was blogging about my business travel quite a bit on my Adobe blog, but as its readership grew (to my own surprise) I felt it was better to stay focused on video related stuff. That's why I started this blog. You should read it if:

1) You're a business traveler and want unbiased opinions from a fellow road warrior, or

2) You like travel in general, or
3) You have interest in seeing what strange places I happen to be in.

I hope you find it informative and entertaining. This year is already looking to be busy as I'll be in Seattle starting tomorrow, then Miami for a bit, then a quickie to Tokyo (there for 1 day then back to SF).