Hayman Island

Recently we headed off to Hayman Island for a break.

Hayman is a bit of a favourite for us and we've been a number of times: by ourselves, with work and this time with friends.

One small gripe was the price of airfares to Hamilton Island (try $1300 for two people!) and Hamilton Island airport (60 minute queue to check in to the Sydney flight!) but the rest of the experience was awesome as usual.

One of my biggest challenges is that I don't 'relax' particularly well by other people's standards, but what most people don't appreciate is that I relax by doing something that is going through my mind and having completed it.

This time I spent most of the time with a book and a Sun Paradise cocktail... probably largely due to the fact that Vodafone subscribers have no coverage on the island - only Telstra and Optus provide partial coverage.

We are big fans of the Pool Access rooms as your balcony has direct access to the pool, but if your budget stretches a bit further, the Beach Villa looks pretty cool!

If relaxation is your plan, I highly recommend the hot stone massage, hopping on a speedboat to nearby Langford Island/Reef and taking in the sun, or heading up to the Great Barrier Reef for some snorkeling or a helicopter tour over heart reef.

I can't say I'm a fan of the restaurants. You are on an island so when it comes for charging for anything, you are a captive consumer so the price reflect that. We tried something new this time and it was definitely something I'd recommend to anyone: book a private cabana - it was far more enjoyable.

If you haven't been to Hayman, do yourself a favour and go chill out there for a few days.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:10 AM, ,

Ontario, Canada

Just recently I traveled over to Ontario, Canada to attend Open Text's annual sales kick-off and training on the SAP Value Engineering process and tools.

This was my first trip to Toronto (although I'd been over to Ottawa before) and luckily I did get some chances to look around despite the work most days.

Firstly, where to stay: the company put us up in the Sheraton Center Toronto - it's okay but not my pick if it were my money as it's a typical North American Sheraton with not much character. Definitely corporate, not holiday material.

One of the evening activities Open Text arranged was at Polson Pier. As you'd have guessed, I was quite partial to the Go-Karts. :-)

Well worth a visit is CN Tower. The 30 minute queue to get up the tower on a Saturday was a bit painful but we were soon on our way up. The lift has a glass section which was not bad going up, but on the way down I was a little nervous - the tower is really quite high! Compared to Sydney Tower whose observation deck is at 250 m, CN Tower's is at 325m.

We chickened out and didn't go to the Skypod level up at 450m after looking at the additional 30 minute queue... and the incident with the kids on the mesh separating us from the 325m drop (I freaked out a little bit!).

We then headed over to Open Text's corporate head office in Waterloo (which is about 1hr 30min drive from Toronto), via Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls isn't what I expected. It was a LOT smaller than I had imagined. Perhaps we missed a good opportunity to have gone down to the base of the falls either by foot or by boat? I'm sure the perspective from down there would have been significantly different.

The drive from Niagara to Waterloo was punctuated with flooding on the QEW which meant a good 4-5hrs in the car. Not fun at all! Still, we got to Waterloo okay and the trip was worth it.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:53 AM, ,

Flying from Sydney to the US with Qantas

Back in April '09, I blogged about Flying from Sydney to the US but just recently had the opportunity to fly over to Toronto via Los Angeles to attend a sales conference and training course.

Fortunately, I was booked on Qantas Premium Economy and was upgraded both ways to Business Class on the SYD<>LAX legs [those who traveled with me would know there is a story there but I'm not going to go into that online].

I'm a big fan of the First Class lounge at Sydney Airport, winner of numerous design awards. This really just sets up the flight to Los Angeles nicely as you can check-in (I was there around 8.30am for a 10.15am flight), wander on up to the lounge, enjoy a nice breakfast and get onto your flight stress-free.

I flew on a B747 on the way over to LA and ironically was seated next to a colleague. That really did make the trip a whole lot more enjoyable as you can chat where as things can often be... frosty... when seated next to a complete stranger. If you can get the seat, row 11 is awesome - it's the first row in the bubble. Whilst the windows up there in the bubble are useless (as I need to bend over 2ft to see out) the window seats up there are best due to the storage bins next to the seats meaning you aren't up and down like a yo-yo during the flight.

On the return flight, I was on an A380 which has a lot of pluses. It is definitely a lot quieter than the B747 and the new seats are better for a raft of reasons: fully flat, more leg room meaning you don't have to pole vault over the passenger next to you to get out and the screens are in the armrests as opposed to the seat back in front of you. But there are some drawbacks... Firstly, it takes a while to load the plane due to the number of passengers. Secondly, I think the cabin service isn't as good - I think the primary reason for that is in the bubble of a B747 there are two crew members for the 22 passengers vs the A380s 72 passengers that share the business class staff throughout.

Interestingly, I didn't recall seeing any V Australia planes at LAX. When I last checked their business class fares to the US, they were significantly cheaper than Qantas and that doesn't seem to have changed one bit - looking for flights departing on 6 Sept '09 and returning on 16 Sept yields a price of $6328.82 vs $13632.70 (Delta were $9,597.92 - right in the middle).

The same gap didn't exist for Premium Economy fares, $3339.82 vs $2975.70, but the reasons for that are interesting. Firstly, V Australia didn't have a deal available for one leg which really is a price hike. Secondly, whilst the direct flights to LAX weren't available on Qantas for the 6th, the flights on the 5th were and both legs were really cheap (Delta doesn't offer a Premium Economy product on the SYD<>LA route).

That would seem to indicate yields on Qantas' Business Class seats to the US have picked up.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:05 AM, ,

10 Cultural Faux Pas You Should Never Make in India

CIO has a great article titled 10 Cultural Faux Pas You Should Never Make in India.

Considering that all of us operate in a global business environment, whether we're aware of it or not, these tips are a good reminder that awareness of culture is important and valuable - moreover, it can give you a competitive advantage!

Image by Zsolt Zátrok Dr.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 9:27 PM, ,

How not to run a business

Back in June, I blogged about Where to leave your car at Sydney Domestic terminals for those of you that are frequent day-trippers via Sydney airport.

For trips longer than same-day, leaving the car there gets a bit expensive, so in order to keep the accountants happy I recommend finding another way.

I'm not a big fan of the standard taxi for a couple of reasons. The first is the inconvenience of having to wait for them as opposed to having them waiting for you. When you do enough travel, that time adds up and is unproductive. The second reason is probably more reflective of my own phobias, but Sydney cabs don't have a reputation for being clean and Sydney cab drivers don't have a reputation for being hygienic or familiar with the streets.

As such, I've always attempted to use a Silver Service, Prestige Cab or other hire car where it can be booked and they are waiting, the car is clean and the driver is professional.

However, I would like to share with you a recommendation of who not to use as well as an example of how not to run a business... at least if you want to stay around for long.

I tried elimousine & ecotaxi recently as a friend who manages a hotel recommended them a while back.

The concept seems cool but the execution was anything but. Out of four pickups I arranged with them, they only picked me up once - the first time.

On the second instance, I was left hanging at Sydney T3 as 'the driver had the wrong information about my flight's landing time because his blackberry had a javascript problem with Qantas' website and would take 20 minutes to get to me'. It took only 15 minutes to wait for a regular cab. The manager of the business was 'kind enough' not to charge me for the missed pickup - really! Like he had any grounds to charge me!

On the third instance, I was offloaded to Silver Service, which wasn't really a bad thing.

In the final instance, I was just left at Sydney International with no indication as to why they weren't there or anyone answering the phone to make alternative arrangements. Upon email the manager of the business, I was told he was "very surprised to hear that" and that he "will address tomorrow morning"... which he never did.

Clearly, I won't recommend using them to anyone but at least they serve as a good example to the rest of us how you shouldn't run a business.

Checkout these Demotivational Posters at www.despair.com

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:00 AM, ,

Hyatt Regency Auckland

One of my recommendations if you are traveling to Auckland is to stay at the Hyatt Regency Auckland.

Yes, it's a bit 'corporate' and wouldn't be a recommendation if you are looking for a romantic getaway in the City of Sails, but it's a reasonably priced hotel (so it will satisfy the company accountants) and if you ask to get a room in the new wing of the hotel, you'll enjoy a huge room with the bedroom separate to the living area and a cosy kitchenette. The icing on the cake is the big-assed flat-screen TV in the living room. Nice!


posted by Lee Gale @ 2:54 AM, ,

Where to leave your car at Sydney Domestic terminals

I know, a blog about where to park at Sydney's Domestic terminals isn't exactly the most exciting of topics, but if you do many day-trips from Sydney, your choices of transport aren't as simple as you think.

Firstly, do you take a taxi?

For day trips, I've found the price of a cab each way to be comparable to parking but without all the annoying stuff you get with a cab. Actually having the car there when you want to get into it is a plus. Beyond that, how many times have you jumped into a cab in Sydney, only to have immediate concerns about the road-worthiness of the vehicle, the ability of the driver to either speak English, know what they are doing or use deodorant?

As for parking, there are a number of options at the airport as you can see from their website.

Assuming you don't have the time (or are inclined to waste what time you do have) on self-parking, I'd recommend Pronto's Valet parking. You drive straight into the car park, which is conveniently sandwiched between T2 and T3 terminals, and leave them your keys. Easy! Retrieving the car is just as easy, especially if you ask nicely and have them leave you car right in front of the pay station :-)

I used to use Qantas Valet parking as it is in T2 itself, which should theoretically make entry and exit rapid - but it rarely turned out that way. There seems to always be a queue when picking up the car and I've only had my car waiting as promised once. To top it off, where as Pronto keep your car in under-cover parking (which anyone with a dark coloured car will appreciate), Qantas use the long-term car park (or something else out in the open) as a holding area. Not happy Jan!


posted by Lee Gale @ 2:39 AM, ,

Where am I?

There are quite a few useful apps you can use to share your travel plans with your online social networks.

I've been a user of Dopplr for over a year now. It's got an easy to use interface through which you can: connect with your friends and share your travel plans, link it to your Facebook profile and publish you plans there, as well as see when who you are in the same city as at any point. It does a whole lot more, but that is primarily what I am using it for.

I'm going to attempt to use the mobile version as my travel picks up in the coming months but as yet, it remains untested.

But I'm also a member of Linked In. And Dopplr doesn't post my travel plans to Linked In but I did notice that TripIt does. It was shortly after that I read VentureBeat's article TripIt launches iPhone app — puts itineraries at your fingertips.

So I've now signed up with TripIt, installed the iPhone app and connected to my Linked In account.

Based on my initial use of both TripIt's iPhone app and Dopplr's mobile version via Safari, I think TripIt is winning in the usability stakes.

As I mentioned, there are a few apps out there. Another one that will probably take off, more in a real-time use, is Google's Latitude which I read about in ReadWriteWeb's article Google Latitude: Ready to Tell Your Friends (and Google) Where You Are?. There is also a great video there worth watching that I've posted at the base of this blog. As the article suggests:
"Google Latitude allows you to share location-based information with friends. And it's incredibly easy to get started. Simply install the app on your smartphone (no iPhone yet) or iGoogle. You have the option of sharing your location by dynamically updating the service using your phone or by manually updating your location on the Web."
I'm not sure I'm ready to go there just yet...

For an interesting peek into the future for users of the Google service, it's worth reading
ReadWriteWeb's other article Did Google Just Kill All the Other Mobile Social Networks?. In that article they look at how online social networks are evolving and how proximity mapping might evolve as a feature for those networks.

Checkout Google Latitude on YouTube:

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:01 AM, ,

Flying from Sydney to the US

It certainly seems in the past three years, business & first class air travel has moved forwards in leaps & bounds.

What sparked this blog? The article How the Rich Guys Fly: Sneak Peek at SWISS's New First Class Cabin.

For the past 7 years, I've travelled from Sydney to California at last once per year. During one 12 month period I did the trip 6 times. During that time you only had two choices of airline for direct flights from Sydney to either LA or San Francisco: Qantas or United Airlines.

Qantas' business class product was always my preferred choice as the service was usually good (you'd have the occasional problem) and seat itself was great, despite not being fully flat. My last flights were in November and December last year on a Qantas B747 and both times the experience was great. I've yet to travel on a Qantas A380 and therefore experience Marc Newson's Qantas A380 Interiors and the new fully flat business class seat. I expect it might be a while before I do as we don't have any international trips in our diary at the moment and the days of travelling business class for work will likely not return for a while. :-( Hopefully I can keep my points balance up and snare upgrades! :-)

I've only ever experienced United Airlines internationally once... but I can't say much about their business class product other than it reflects their profitability in recent years. Interestingly, the price for their flights wasn't far off Qantas' price for a far superior product.

Thankfully, the options for direct flights from Sydney to the US are increasing.

V Australia's business class product looks to match Qantas' product. Checking costs of flights for both airlines using their own websites from Sydney to LA indicates V will likely be picking up a lot of passengers as their price is much better than Qantas for a comparable product (V was $7762 versus $14250 for Qantas, both departing 1 July, returning the 8th. To be fair, Qantas fares of ~$11052 are available via online travel agents but it's still a big gap). Details of the upcoming Delta flights on the same route are sparse but their business class product looks comparable to both Qantas and V.

If you are willing to do a stop-over to save a bit of money, both Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand have great products as well (although I find Cathay's seats from Sydney to Hong Kong on their A330's to be a little claustrophobic).

Of course, if you simply must travel first class, Qantas offers the only option at this stage on that route. I've not travelled first class with Qantas for quite some time but have had the pleasure of free upgrades on both Cathay Pacific and a Qantas code-share flight operated by British Airways. With the BA flight (from Singapore to Sydney), I confess that I can't really see the value in their product over business class. By contrast, Cathay's product (from Hong Kong to San Francisco) was outstanding, primarily because of the service provided by the crew. Perhaps I'm unfairly comparing an overnight flight where they expect you to sleep with a day/night flight?

Regardless, getting back to the reason I started this in the first place, the SWISS first class cabin looks very nice indeed.

Images from Wallpaper


posted by Lee Gale @ 5:45 AM, ,

San Francisco & the Kensington Park Hotel

Well, I love San Francisco, so I'll separate our SF experience this time from the hotel choice.

Let me set the scene: we're coming from Las Vegas and we want to spend the weekend someone other than Vegas (we don't gamble). We have to be in San Jose on the Sunday for Adobe's annual World-Wide Sales Conference. So we decide to spend the Thursday-Saturday nights in SF.

Problem: conference in town on the Friday and Saturday at the Moscone Center (the 50th Annual ASH Meeting & Expo is sponsored by the American Society of Hematology in case you were wondering) which means finding a hotel room around Union Square is next to impossible.

After some research by my trusty Virtual Assistant found us a room at the Kensington Park Hotel. The hotel is okay, nothing outstanding, nothing terrible... but the room rate changed how we rated it.

For US$400 per night, I expect quite a bit and it doesn't deliver. The rooms and the experience couldn't be further from the one we had at the London West Hollywood in LA.

Oh well, at least we were in town which cut down on our travel times and costs... the glass half-full, right?

PS - the room picture below must have been taken with a very wide-angle lens!


posted by Lee Gale @ 6:49 AM, ,

Virgin America

Well, I must say, I went into the flight from Vegas to San Francisco with mixed feelings.

I have such a low opinion of American airlines (not AA specifically, but all airlines) so that weighed down on expectations, but at the same time I really bought into Virgin America's (VA) marketing so that lifted my expectations a little.

And you know what? They really delivered!

The boarding process was on time and the planes are new Airbus A319's - which means the seats are wider than the Boeing 737's used by other airlines - and VA has put together a great product. I'm tall and usually wedge my knees between the seats in front for the duration of the flight. Not here - the seats had a decent amount of leg-room, so I can forgive VA for charging more for the exit row seats (a trick I usually try at check-in to get economy class seats with more room).

I'm not sure if our experience was limited to the short Vegas to San Francisco leg. Write to me if you've got feedback from another sector. I guess the true test would be flights from/to Los Angeles - possibly the worst airport in the world.

Another point: one example doesn't make a trend, so I suppose more sampling would need to take place before I would make any firm recommendations, but so far, they are looking good.

Give them a go yourself - I will for my next trip on routes they service.


posted by Lee Gale @ 6:32 AM, ,

Grand Canyon Helicopter tour

After a few hiccups with one tour company, we got our Grand Canyon tour sorted out and it was awesome!

We went with Maverick and they were great. The tour took us over the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, over and into the Canyon and back over Vegas at night.


posted by Lee Gale @ 9:29 AM, ,

Las Vegas & The Bellagio Hotel

After having spent 5 days in LA catching up with friends and generally lounging around, we drove to Las Vegas where we stayed at the Bellagio hotel. I will say that if you want a great deal on accommodation, the first week of December is a good time to be here (ie right after Thanksgiving), but the current economic situation has probably also had an impact.

Andreas will not be as happy about this hotel choice... the gym is run separately to the hotel and US$25 per person per visit is a bit steep in my books. :-(

Now, neither my partner or I are big gamblers, so we were here for the atmosphere and the Grand Canyon tour (more on that later).

The dining experience was interesting. The food was good to great in most places we went, but the service is what really distinguishes one place from another. We seemed to have a bias for classic French cuisine this week. For a view of the fountains show whilst enjoying a good meal, try Mon Ami Gabi's which is out front of the Paris Hotel or Eiffel Tower Restaurant which is above it.


posted by Lee Gale @ 10:46 AM, ,

Los Angeles & The London West Hollywood

Sorry for the gap in posting - we've been travelling on holidays since the 27th of November.

We flew from Sydney to Los Angeles with Qantas (thank you for the upgrade Qantas!) and stayed at The London West Hollywood. Normally we'd stay with friends, but everyone is completely flat-out with work at the moment so we felt checking into a hotel was the fairest decision for everyone (our friends would never say no, even if they really should!).

Let me say, the hotel was great. Aside from being located right near all our friends, which made catching up easy, the hotel room was brilliant, the gym had enough of the equipment we needed, the service was great, the rooftop pool was magnificent and the restaurant was great value.

I'd thoroughly recommend the hotel if you are visiting LA.


posted by Lee Gale @ 10:31 AM, ,

First A380 delivery to Qantas

Last Sunday, Qantas took delivery of it's first A380.

Check it out online, here:
and here:

We managed to see her doing fly-overs of Sydney harbour from our balcony. It was both simultaneously exciting and mundane. I guess at the end of the day, she's just a big aircraft and not nearly as exciting as the "Jumbo Jet" was... and still is. As Jeremy noted in his book, The 747 is a unit of measurement in most people's vocabulary: "the size of a Jumbo Jet".

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posted by Lee Gale @ 9:07 PM, ,