Tuesday, May 3, 2016

British Airways First Class review

This is a review of British Airways first class from Heathrow to JFK.  I would say the best part is probably playing with the window shades!  LOL.  But I digress.  Let me start from the beginning.

At Heathrow airport, they separated the first class lounge from the business class lounge.  The business class lounge is on the top floor of the airport.  It's large and there are buffet areas where you can pick up food a la cafeteria style.  I find this lounge typically packed with people.  There is no sense of serenity for sure.  Essentially not that different from the regular waiting area outside with the exception of buffet.  Well, maybe I'm being harsh.  The finishes is nicer than outside regular area but it has a hurdling cattle feel due to large number of people inside the lounge. 

Luckily I flew first class this time.  First class lounge is on the second floor, a floor below business class lounge.  The area seems smaller but obviously a lot less people fly first too.  The lounge was packed with right amount of people.  It wasn't empty but certainly was not over crowded like the business class lounge.  There are couple good things that differentiates first class lounge from the business class lounge.  One, you can reserve a resting pod where you can take a shower, make phone calls, or take a nap.  It's nice to have an amenities like this.  However, the pods get booked up quite often so if you know you want a private pod, best reserve one well in advance.  The other good thing is that there is a restaurant within the first class lounge.  Everything on the menu is free.... well, sort of, since it's included in your ticket price.  The food is actually not bad.  I would say better than your run of the mill restaurant food but below Michelin star level.  There is also free spa service right outside the first class lounge.  I believe it is shared with the business class passengers.  If you want to get a spa treatment, I would definitely put your name on the list before you enter the lounge as they seems to be very booked when I tried to get an appointment.  I did managed to get one though.

Now to the airplane experience.  I thought the seat was nice.  Not as wide as Cathay Pacific's first class (that's a review for some other time) but finishes was nice.  I thought the shape of night light was an elegant touch.  There is a large private compartment to store one's jacket which I like.  You can also put your shoes in the compartment.  The electric window shade was probably the best part of the seat.  Sounds dumb moving a window shade up and down.  But since I never done that before on an airplane, I thought it was cool.  I also like the lighting.  They had a overhead blue light which makes the cabinet looks futuristic. 

You get two giveaways from the first class.  One, you get a set of pajamas.  They are quite soft and great for lounging around.  The top has a nice BA logo with the word First on it.  The other amenity you get is a wash bag from the Refinery which is a grooming specialist brand based in London.  The bag is actually pretty nice; it is made of canvas and leather.  I can see me reusing the bag for future trips.  Inside the bag there are: revitalizer moisturizer, eye gel, lip balm, deodorant stick and shave gel.  I thought the deodorant stick was a nice touch as one doesn't typically get them in an airplane wash bags.  In addition to these Refinery brand products, the bag also has a brush/comb, disposable razor, British Airways First branded pen, reusable toothbrush and travel size tube of Colgate toothpaste.  I pretty much chucked most of these and only keep toothpaste and pen.  You also get an eye mask and a pair of socks which again, I chucked as I never use them.

The airplane food was not bad.  Not as good as the one I had at the first class lounge but they do have pretty decent selections.  For example, you can choose to have dishes such as: duck confit terrine with pickled apple puree, carrot, celeriac and grain mustard salad and a beetroot jelly or/and chicken tikka masala with dal makhani and jeera pilau rice (don't ask me what's jeera pilau rice... I just assume it's a rice from jeera pilau region....but honestly, I think they just put that in to make the dish sounds fancy).  Dessert selection includes: rhubarb and red currant tart with rhubarb compote or warm chocolate and hazelnut torte.  

After dinner, they came and fluff up my seat and turn it into a bed by adding a quilted mattress (not really a mattress.... more like mattress topper) and a duvet.  It's very civilized I must say.  The mattress did make sleeping more comfortable for sure.

I thought the service was good.  They were very friendly and when they found out it was my first time taking BA first class, they explained all the buttons to me.  Having been on their business class many times, I have to say the service in first class is noticeably better.

Overall I enjoyed the experience very much.  My understanding is that airlines such as Singapore airline or Etihad airline offers better hardware experience but since I never been on either airline before, I have no way to compare them.  But from reading online reviews, I'm sure I'll enjoy those two airlines very much.  I hope someday I get to try them!


Friday, April 29, 2016

Not your usual flooring

Are you tire of the usual wood planks on your floor?  I recently came across Jamie Beckwith's collection of floor tiles by Los Angeles based designer Windsor Smith and I have to say I'm in love with her flooring.  Specifically the Hot to Trot wood tiles.  It basically consists of interlocking I shapes and I find the pattern interesting and new.  It really gives more depth to the once boring floor wood planks.  Honestly I'm thinking to myself why didn't I think of this? 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

My favorite line of paint

I always advise people buy the best paint you can afford as it'll save you time and money.  For me, it's Benjamin Moore's Aura line.  I love this line as it saves time and has wonderful coverage.  For example, if you want to paint your dining room wall a shade of dark brown.  First what you need to do after prepping the wall is prime the wall.  After primer dries, then you need to put on minimally three coats and sometimes even four coats if you want to make sure everything comes out even.  So minimally you are painting the exact same wall four times if not five.  I don't know about you, but I don't have time to paint the same wall that many times! 

Aura line is great because the paint includes primer so you don't have to prime the wall.  Plus because paint is thick, you really only have to paint the same wall twice or in case of light color, maybe even one time with some touch ups here and there.  This is a huge time saver for most people.  On top of that, Aura paint contains zero VOC.  VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compound.  It's basically the smelly stuff you smell from freshly painted walls to new furniture.  Personally I'm not big on paint fumes so I always use Aura line paint for my own home.  Aura line paint cost more than typical paint one finds at home supply stores.  But to me time is money.  Unless you have nothing better to do, why would you want to paint the same wall over and over again to gain full coverage?  Plus you have to use more paint with the cheap stuff.  At the end of the day, you may need more cans of cheap paint which may ended up costing the same as Aura paint.  For my time and money, I go with Aura paint every time.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Gaggan Restaurant, the best Indian food I ever had!

According to the World's Best 50 Restaurant Guide, Gaggan restaurant came in at number 10.  It is the brainchild of Kolkata-born Gaggan Anand.  Surprisingly the restaurant is NOT in India but in Bangkok, Thailand.  I suppose close enough.  I, for one, isn't crazy about Indian food in general.  I like some dishes but honestly not enough for me to volunteer to go to an Indian restaurant.  However, I was very curious about Gaggan and knowing that I will be in Bangkok and that this restaurant is in top 10 of World's Best 50 Restaurant Guide list, I figure it should minimally be good if not great.

After the fabulous dinner I had there few weeks ago, let's just say if I live in Bangkok, I would come here every few months to eat!  The food is that good!  It's absolutely not to be missed when you come to Bangkok if you are a foodie.  The prefixed menu started with bites such as "dew drop", "edible plastic spiced nuts", "foie gras sundae", etc. then the main entrees are compose of dishes called "magic mushroom", "story of fish called Kin-Medai", the obligatory "I want my Curry!!!", etc. Just symphony of specialized herbs that only master chefs like Gaggan can pull off.  And of course you get three desserts to top of a looong list of dishes with ingredients like pistachio cake, sake ice cream, and grape snow.

I look forward to return to Gaggan in the future.  I can't wait to see what new dishes he will have come up with when I come back next time.        

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Four Seasons Resort at Koh Samui

Having stayed at several Four Seasons Hotels/ Resorts in the past, I have to give kudos to the Four Seasons Resort at Koh Samui for their service.  This resort had given me better service than any other resort/ hotel I have ever been to.  Case and point.  When my bed was not as soft as it could be, the housekeeping team came right away to rectify the situation.  When I took the house car to visit places recommend by their concierge, the head of housekeeping was waiting next to the car in the carport wondering if her team had made the bed soft enough to my satisfaction!  I have never been to any hotel/resort where the head of housekeeping is so concern with my comfort and took the time to talk to me face to face to ensure her team had done a satisfactory job.  The staff is really there to make sure everything is to your liking.  I have to give credit to Jeff, the general manager at this Four Seasons Resort.  The service standard is so high here that I don't think I'll ever encounter anything like it anywhere else in the future.  And that's just a slice of the excellent service I received at this hotel.  I can go on and on but enough of the service and let's talk about the resort.

The resort is on a lush hillside.  I believe there are a total of 60 villas and 12 estate lodges.  The estates lodges are basically houses with multiple bedrooms.  The villas, on the other hand, are all basically one bedrooms.  I believe there maybe couple family villa where there is two bedrooms but most are just one bedrooms.  There are basically three categories of villas: duo standing, single standing, and single standing with a pool.  The duo standing and single standing villas also have pools but they are more like dipping pool than swimming pools.  There are three single standing villas with a swimming pool and all are walking distance to the beach.  If your rooms are in the 900s then you can definitely walk to the beach from your villa.  But this also means that you will hear noises from the beach where beach bar/ beach pool is located at.  It's a trade off.  The three freestanding villa with swimming pool is off to the quiet side of the beach.  To access #908 and #909, you will have some small hill to climb.  #910 is literally right on the beach but because it's all the way on the side, paradoxically, it's actually the most private one.  To me, the worst one of the bunch is #908 as if you are walking to #909, you can actually see into #908's pool.  Although I have to think that particular pathway is used seldomly.  I had the pleasure to stay at both #909 and #910.  While #909 is most private of the three, people staying in the Estate lodges can actually look into your pool from afar.  However, because the way #910 is situated, even though you are more or less right on the beach, you can literally swim naked in the pool and no one can see that.  My favorite villa is #910 as it has easy access to the beach and at the same time, the private pool is private when you are in it.  I believe the layout for all the villas are the same and it's laid out beautifully.  The only thing I wish they would change is the outdoor shower only spew out cold water so it's really more about washing chlorine off you than being an actual usable outdoor shower (unless you like taking cold showers).

The public area is quite nice.  The newly renovated pool is huge.  They serve food on the lounge next to the pool.  There is also a restaurant called Pla Pla next to the pool.  It's mostly continental food like burgers, pasta, and such.  If you want Thai food, you have to go up to Thai Kitchen up in the high point of the resort.  The Thai Kitchen can cook anything you want.  I ordered some Thai food that was not on the menu and chef was able to make them easily.  The Health Club is also on a high point so when you do your cardio on a machine, you have a beautiful view of Siam bay.  There is also a boxing area where you can see the other side of the island.  I would say Spa is their weakest point for me.  I got a Thai massage which was good but what's not good about it is the long trek I had to make from the spa reception area to the massage room.  You have to walk outside through jungle on a path that goes up and down.  Normally I don't mind going up and down stairs to reach a destination but after I got a massage, I'm relaxed and the last thing I want to do is trek up and down stairs to go back to the reception area.  When I complained, the receptionist said that they also do in villa treatments too.  So that's what I would recommend, have them come to your villa.

The time I was there happened to be Easter so there were a lot of families in the resort.  Luckily most of the kids are well behaved so I didn't hear a lot of nagging and crying sound.  My guess is Four Seasons wants the family crowd.  I believe there is also a kids play area right under the gym.  I wouldn't necessarily dissuade honeymooners from going to this resort but do make sure you pick the time when kids are in school if you want to avoid them.

There are a lot of water sports activities you can do at the resort.   There are plenty of two person boats, several paddle boards, two water bicycles, etc.  Water is quite shallow overall until you pass the reefs.  There is a resort owned barge pass the reefs where you can put on snorkeling gear.  There are definitely fishes out there but I would say I saw more fishes at Hanauma Bay in Hawaii or Blue Lagoon in Bali.  But this one is right at the resort which is definitely more convenient than the other two.

Couple precautions.... If you hate the sound of cicadas, then this is not the resort for you. The sound comes and go and sometimes can be very loud.  To me that's just part of the nature as we are in a jungle but if that sound really bothers you, then you will have a miserable time if you come here. Also there are definitely mosquito at the resort.  They do provide you with natural and regular sprays but I would suggest you bring your own as you may be allergic to their spray.  And lastly, because Koh Samui is in a bay so don't expect waves.  If you want waves, go to Phuket.  The plus side of being in a bay is that chance of tsunami is very slim.

Overall I would highly recommend this resort to anyone especially if you are very particular about service standard.  Again, I have never encounter such excellent service and don't expect to encounter that again until I return to this Four Seasons Resort. 


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A console to remember by

It's hard to make new forms in furniture design.  Just about everything had been done under the sun.  Somehow Kara Mann, for Baker furniture, was able to come up with a new way to construct a console table.  Her new wrap console table is a nice fresh take on a form that has been around forever.  It doesn't hurt that her collection for Baker furniture can be had in 2-4 weeks time when industry average is 8-12 weeks for American made furniture and 16-22 weeks for European counterpart.  I love the clean line of her wrap console.  The correct gold tone is perfect to bring out the glamour in an interior without being tacky. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Clean sleek modern fruit "basket"

We've all seen typical fruit baskets.  They are essentially a large bowl-shaped vessel.  Aparentment decided to switch it up.  Why not use a donut-shaped vessel instead?  Hence we got a super clean and chic "fruit basket" without the usual generic bowl shape container.  Clever.  This Spanish made Marblelous Ring can be yours for $295.  Not a bad price point.