The beginning of the Spring season in Langkawi, Malaysia, is the BEST time to visit the island - the temperature is bearable and the almost daily nighttime showers leave everything clean and crisp during the daytime. If you want the PERFECT honeymoon in south-east Asia, without the hassling crowds and noise, then book a place at The Andaman, a Luxury Collection Resort, Langkawi. The place will blow your mind away. We spent five nights here and it was the time of our lives. Highly recommended. Contact them HERE.
My wife and I would like to give a special thanks to Hong Kong based Passenger Services Officer, Ms. Koyi Wong from Cathay Dragon. After our flight was delayed from Shanghai Pudong to Hong Kong, we evidently ended up missing the HKG-KUL flight as well. Ms. Koyi Wong went out of her way to help us get not only onto our next flight, but also to make sure that our luggage arrived safely onto our next flight from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi (which was with Malaysia Airlines on a different ticket).
Koyi is a customer service professional extraordinaire, and in all my travels so far I have never come across an airline personnel who genuinely goes out of their way to help passengers. If it was not for her, we would have missed our flight to Langkawi from KL and it would have occurred us extra charges and delays etc. She deserves a special mention in your company newsletter or similar communication materials and I hope she can become more successful in her career and life. There are some truly amazing people in the aviation industry and Ms. Koyi Wong is definitely one of them. Amazing human. I did not take her photo, but here is a photo of her badge, which she quite rightly deserves to wear with sheer pride. People like Koyi ALL work for airlines (except for the ones who work in hospitals...or ambulances...or rescue helicopters etc.). My hats off.
OK, secret is out! For everyone who was wondering how I managed to stay warm during the Chinese wedding in the freezing rural village...I had these self-heating pads stuck to my back underneath my waistcoat. Inspired from Japan- they have limestones inside which react with the body and so heat up to keep you warm for about four hours on the go. There is no luxury of any Central Heating or AC there so this did the trick.
Exactly a year after we first met in London, we tied the knot on a cold day in the Chinese city of Yangzhou on the 31st of January 2017. Click here to see more photos.
Airline pilots are apparently trained not to spill drinks while in-flight. Interestingly, after our flight was delayed by nearly three hours (they like to avoid the insurance claims, so the delays are always just below three hours!), these chaps were in such a rush to get me to my wedding in Yangzhou that we ended up spilling the drinks in-flight!
The last time I stayed at a Kerry hotel was in Shanghai in 2012 (time really flies by...it feels like yesterday!). With that mind, I very much excited about checking out the Beijing branch of the Shangri-La group owned property. The best thing about the visit was that this is during the Chinese New Year - so it wasn't going to be as busy as one would experience otherwise.
Located in the heart of Beijing’s Central Business District (CBD), the Kerry Hotel is conveniently connected within waling distance to two luxury retail arcades offering plenty of tasty and convenient options for eating out (though, during this trip, most of them were empty because of Chinese New Year). The closest metro station is Guomao subway station (line one) and is only five stops away from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
Our experience started the moment we arrived. We were whisked away to check-in at the Club Lounge, where we were welcomed by the General Manager and the Communications Director. Complimentary welcome drinks, as well as personal welcome to make sure that my family and I had a carefree stay at the fabulous hotel, made the initial impression a positive one.
Some of the positive points of the hotel are that it offers a well-stocked complimentary bar in every room, complimentary wireless in rooms (naturally), and a paperless check-in that’s quick and easy. If you are staying at one of the Club level rooms, then there are added perks such as access to the Club Lounge, where you can have daily breakfast with stunning views across to Guomao in a quiet and much less crowded environment, and evening cocktail drinks and canape finger food from 5-8pm in the happy hour.
The bathroom is an adventure waiting to be explored. With a built-in TV in the mirror, a bathtub for loved-up couples and a rain forest shower and an entire drawer filled with items like shaving cream, toothbrushes and luxury amenities, you'll be spoilt for choice. The Japanese-style toilet won't let you down either- it comes with a nifty set of buttons allowing you to conjure water to wash and massage the various unmentionable bits- keep it clean!.
The hotel's 24-hour gym is one of the best things ever, especially if you want to burn those calories while you are jet-lagged in the middle of the night (actually pilots and cabin crew may want to do that- the hotel is a preferred choice for United Airlines, Thai Airways and few other airlines).
Back around 10 years ago, most tourists were lured to try the Beijing Duck at 32 Qianmen Avenue in the old part of Beijing. Nowadays, almost every top hotel in the capital is offering the best authentic Beijing Duck experience), so it was no surprise that we were offered one of the nest dining experiences for eating Beijing Duck at the splendid Horizon Restaurant, which is located on the ground floor, just after the lobby. Guests are welcomed by traditional Chinese design elements like a wall of bamboo strips inspired by dim sum steam baskets, wooden cabinets to lock away personalised tea, and elegant pendant lamps. I would highly recommended booking in advance.
We tried ten of Horizon’s specialities, including their Ya Yuan Authentic Beijing Duck. If you want to try the dim sum set then that would be highly recommended to. It will simply blow your mind away. So, go ahead and bag a table next to the glassed-in duck ovens to watch the gifted Chef Yuan and his team roast these beautiful birds over a traditional jujube wood fire.
Lastly, no visit to the Kerry Hotel is complete without the the liveliest hotel bars in Beijing – Centro – which is open 24 hours a day (did someone say insomnia for jet=lagged passengers and crew?!)- not to complain though. Kerry Hotel, Beijing, I will be back...sooner than I would like to imagine.
Below are two images of the same view seen exactly 24 hours apart at 7am from my bedroom window at the Kerry Hotel in Beijing's Guo Mao area. The first image shows Beijing's sky being blue and crisp clear (rare), while the second image shows what the weather in Beijing is usually like on most days, sadly.
Wedding cake and card given by Emirates airline cabin crew on flight to Dubai from London. Great flight...photos on their camera came out better (yes, hard to believe that a PHOTOGRAPHER could not take his own photo!)...never had 12 crew surrounding my seat...what a celebration!: Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
It is late evening on Saturday, you have four days left to go on your wedding and honeymoon to the Far East...and suddenly, without your own fault, as you turn around to answer a friend's call out, your arm hits a wall while you are holding your camera and the lens breaks off...what do you do?! The ONLY saviours in this emergency were Fixation in Vauxhall (London). I could not sleep the whole night, and knowing that they opened the workshop at 8am, I arrived at 7.30am. These guys deserve more attention than they get. Fixed my camera and lens in two days. Cost a bit but well worth it. Click here to check their website for more!
When your fiancée is flying from London back to her hometown in China for Chinese New Year and in order to prepare for our wedding (which is on Chinese New Year itself!), you want to do something to make her trip extra special. Unfortunately because of logistical and personal reasons, I could not go on the same flight as her, and will be joining her a week later in Yangzhou. So, I passed a kind request to the lovely team in the PR department at British Airways to see if they could do something. I was hoping that the Captain would make an announcement, but the wonderful crew of flight BA169 from London to Shanghai exceeded all expectations. Not only did they upgrade her to Business Class (known as Club World at BA), but she was given a surprise congratulatory announcement in-flight. I could only wish I was there, but what a flight she had. Great stuff. Massive thanks to the Senior Purser, Captain and the whole operating crew of BA169, and of course, the ground staff at BA's head office in London. You guys are amazing. The perfect customer service that one can ever hope for.
The tube strike in London has brought some positive news...had an interesting commute to work on an old London bus this morning- complete with a conductor, who not only collects tickets but provides a full customer service and controls the number of passengers on the bus: "Hold on tight then", "No passengers allowed to stand up on bus"... Last time I took one of these was in the 1980s!
Finally, we can all say "Thank god it is over"....I am, of course, referring to seeing the end of 2016. In a year that saw Brexit, the rise of Donald Trump as President-elect of the United States of America, numerous terrorist attacks around the world, terrible natural disasters in Italy, Chile among other places, and the deaths of many famous people, I am sure we would all like to put this year behind us and move forward.
For me personally, 2016 has been good because I got engaged to a wonderful woman, and 2017 is going to be an even exciting time as we both prepare to get married in January during Chinese New Year. I have been overwhelmed by a feeling of thankfulness. This year has been perhaps the best year of my life so far. I am grateful for the support and love of my friends and family and above else, I am grateful for an amazing job and a career that many others dream of having- I LOVE my job as a writer. I am grateful for my fiancée, Vicky, for the incredible positive influence she has had on my life and the constant motivation she provides to me.
This was my first time to visit the New Year eve's fireworks in London. Usually, every year we stay at home and watch the event on TV. However, given that I was provided two media tickets to cover the event, both Vicky and I enjoyed what must be the best New Year festivities ever. It was also nice to bump into the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who took time out of his busy schedule to come and briefly chat to the media. What a year it has been for him and if there is one piece of great positive news in 2016, then it has to be Sadiq Khan being elected by the people of this great city as their mayor.
One piece of advice for anyone who wants to visit the fireworks display next year - try to stay on the Embankment side of the river as that is the place to capture the best views (and avoid the thick smog from the fireworks afterwards!). Here's cheers to a healthy, prosperous, safe and joyful 2017 for all of us.
Looking for a nice, quiet and elegant place to have your anniversary dinner? I would highly recommend the Les 110 de Taillevent in Cavendish Square in London- just perfect. The chef may also conjure up a few culinary surprises too!
Sad to read about the death of British writer AA Gill, who provided inspiration to many writers, including me. I was never his friend but it was clear from his writings that the man possesed a talent and gift for words that rarely you come across in the industry...his mind spoke and his fingers danced...the heavens have gained a gifted food critic.
The UK Sunday Times columnist told the newspaper last month that he had been diagnosed with the "full English" of cancers. Gill, who had been having chemotherapy, said that he did not "feel cheated" and had been "very lucky" in his life. Sunday Times editor Martin Ivens said Gill had been "a giant among journalists" and the "heart and soul" of the paper he joined in 1993.
May god bless AA Gill. Amen
Many congratulations to my mate and colleague, Owen Smith, for being voted in third in the BBC's Countryfile readers photo competition. Owen made it into the top ten shortlist in his first photography competition, out of over 700 entries. He was voted by over 300 of his friends and family to come third in the public vote. You can see the final top 10 here, which includes some stunning shots.
With less than 20 days to go to Christmas, official figures revealed today by YouTube Ads Leaderboard show that the digital Christmas ad by UK retailer John Lewis named ‘Buster the Boxer’ tops their annual festive leaderboard globally. However, supermarket retailer Sainsbury’s ‘The Greatest Gift’ was most popular with the British audience.
Supermarkets and department stores continue to dominate the digital ad space during the Christmas season; however, luxury retailers such as Burberry and pure-play digital companies such as Very.co.uk are also showing promising results.
As Christmas adverts have become a key part of the holiday season, much like the Super Bowl in the US, people across UK – and the world – are turning to YouTube to search for the best. As a result, there has been a 53% increase in the number of UK views of the 2016 top 10 vs the 2015 top 10.
The top 10 Christmas ads* of 2016 in the UK were:
1. Sainsbury's OFFICIAL Christmas advert 2016 -The Greatest Gift
2. John Lewis Christmas Advert 2016 - #BusterTheBoxer
3. M&S 2016 Christmas Ad: Christmas with love from Mrs Claus
4. Waitrose Christmas TV ad 2016 | #HomeForChristmas
5. The Tale of Thomas Burberry - Burberry Festive Film 2016
6. Very.co.uk Christmas Advert 2016 - Get More Out of Giving
7. Big Dilemma (Asda)
8. The Argos Christmas Yetis TV Advert
9. Aldi Christmas Advert 2016 – Kevin The Carrot
10. #BootsChristmas TV advert 2016 - the gift of beauty
And the leaderboard globally* was as follows:
1. John Lewis Christmas Advert 2016 - #BusterTheBoxer
2. Sainsbury's OFFICIAL Christmas advert 2016 -The Greatest Gift
3. The Tale of Thomas Burberry - Burberry Festive Film 2016
4. #Zeitschenken – EDEKA Weihnachtswerbung
5. Neste Natal, agradeça com Coca-Cola
6. Apple - Frankie’s Holiday
7. M&S 2016 Christmas Ad: Christmas with love from Mrs Claus
8. Come Together – directed by Wes Anderson starring Adrien Brody – H&M
9. TEMPTATIONS™ - Keep them busy (30)
10. Coming Home for Christmas | Heathrow Airport
* Both leaderboards are ranked based on an algorithm that includes paid views, organic views and how much of a video people watched. The UK list includes only views from people in the UK. For both lists we applied a filter to capture the ads that were referring to Christmas.
“It’s fantastic to see our Very.co.uk Christmas advert riding high in the YouTube Christmas Ads Leaderboard. YouTube plays an important part in every campaign we run, and never more so than at Christmas due in part to the ‘Christmas ad battle’ where you see people crowding around monitors to watch adverts, or sharing links on email.” Said Kenyatte Nelson, Group Marketing Director at Shop Direct.
“This year we created a longer-length Christmas ad specifically for YouTube, which allows us to tell our Christmas story in greater depth. YouTube as always is a great partner in getting the content we create in front of the people we think it will resonate with, and we’re thrilled to see our Christmas ad getting such a great response.”
David Black, MD of Branding at Google UK, said: “We see people coming to YouTube again and again to look for their favourite Christmas ads. In fact, they start searching before the ads are launched on TV - we have seen a 40% year on year increase in Google searches for Christmas ads.
“Brands know the value of YouTube as the destination for Christmas ads and when they use paid, owned and earned media together, they see strong results. They see YouTube as a platform for creativity and storytelling, where they can harness the power of sight, sound and motion to connect with consumers.”
“More brands than ever are making Christmas ads that users love. Now, the likes of H&M, Burberry, Coca-Cola and even Heathrow Airport are joining John Lewis and Sainsbury’s and performing brilliantly this year.”
“Here in the UK, Sainsbury’s quintessentially British commercial, playing on our love of stop-motion animation, has captured the public’s imagination. It’s great to see UK brands leading the way with Christmas ads, and exciting to see American, Brazilian and German brands tapping into this opportunity to put themselves at the heart of a global cultural moment every year.”
December has arrived (finally), and as we get ready to say goodbye to 2016 and welcome the festive season, the White House has found an interesting way to open up the iconic building to the whole nation - through innovative technology and interactive storytelling.
In a symbol of how digital is having an impact on all aspects of our lives and how important digital is, Nexus Studios’ innovative Interactive Arts division have created and featured animation from Nexus Studios director Jack Cunningham, with a new, free mobile app '1600', which will allow the public to explore the White House using augmented reality (AR) technology. The experience is narrated by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest and tracks a stunningly intricate AR animation off a one-dollar bill.
1600 is an immersive and interactive mobile experience; a beautifully realized animation celebrating the traditional events that unfold each year at the White House. It continues President Obama’s legacy of using digital innovation to increase accessibility to the White House.
All you need to do is open the app '1600' and point your phone at George Washington. Watch as the White House beautifully augments the one-dollar bill and move freely around it in 360 degrees as different events take place in and around the White House.
From the Easter Egg Roll to a press conference in the Rose Garden, users will experience all four seasons at the White House, as they try to spot President Obama and the First Lady or President Kennedy or even President Lincoln.
There are also a number of moments that can only be revealed through exploration; try tapping on the oval office or the White House roof for a hidden surprise.
Additionally, users can literally pause the entire scene to explore the action in detail, zooming in and out and take photos for sharing on social media.
Nexus Studios was pleased to use Unity as its game engine of choice to develop this animated AR experience #madewithunity.
Luke Ritchie, Head of Interactive Arts at Nexus Studios, said: "It's a great honour and pleasure to have worked with the White House Historical Association and the Executive Office of the President on their first AR story. We believe interactive storytelling and emerging technologies can be unbelievably valuable in reaching audiences and with 1600 we've worked hard to tell an important story in the most beautiful and unexpected way".
Effectively, anybody with access to a smartphone will for the first time be able to enjoy the story and experience a year at the White House in Augmented Reality. This digitally innovative experience is a fitting collaboration to mark the end of the Obama’s administration that has sought to engage the tech community in government at an unprecedented level.
Very proud of the staff at the Hyatt Regency Kathmandu, which has been recognized by the World Travel Awards as Nepal’s leading hotel in 2016 in a recent event held in Vietnam.
Sinead O’Reilly Henell, General Manager at the hotel said, “We are excited to be recognized as Nepal’s leading hotel 2016 and will continue to strive to be the preferred brand in the hospitality industry. Also, we feel humbled by this honor and do attribute it to the continued dedication of our associates, love and affection extended by our guests and partners and the support of our Hyatt™ family. ”
I had the pleasure of staying at this fine property in August 2015, and I hope to be back soon. I do miss Nepal a lot- especially the beautiful temples and scenary.
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