Podcast #90 — More Comfortable Traveling in India; Tipping Towards Android?

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A Polite Intrusion © Mark Peacock

Lots of business travel this month — UK, India, Germany, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Madrid — so there’s a lot to talk about. The international travel lets me compare business class seats — there’s a wide range of experiences even within the same airline. While in India, a listener asks my advice on adjusting for jetlag on Asian flights. I was surprised at the amount of data my iPhone consumed while I was in Europe but I finally found the culprit. I found myself much more comfortable traveling in India the second time around. And, walking away from the Google IO conference with a new Samsung Android “Honeycomb” tablet, my iPad fixation starts to loosen. Here’s a direct link to the podcast file or you can listen to it right here by clicking on the arrow below.



Here are the transcript from TravelCommons podcast #90:

  • Intro music — Warmth by Makkina
  • It’s been another full-contact month of travel.  I was out for a 2-week stint through the UK, India, Germany, then a quick jog out to Phoenix, a week to San Francisco for the big Google IO conference, and now, just returned from a 3-day trip to Madrid
  • I got lots of comments about the Madrid trip – “Ooh, you so lucky”, “I’d love to go to Spain” – most of these coming from my wife.  Unfortunately, my Madrid trip was just another business trip sandwiched between two 8-hour plane flights.  Left at 4:30pm Tuesday, arrived 6:30am Weds, cabbed to the hotel, showered, changed, caught up on e-mail, met the rest of the team in the lobby, spent the afternoon in a customer conference room, went back to the hotel room to catch up on e-mail and conference calls, went out to dinner with the customer, back to the hotel room for more e-mail and calls, sleep 5 hours, back in the conference room for a full day of meetings, dinner, e-mail, conference calls, 4 hours of sleep, cab back to the airport Friday morning to catch a 9:30am flight home.
  • Most of my time in Madrid was spent in a conference room without windows – so it could’ve been anywhere, really. The one bit of Madrid that I had was on our last night where, instead of going to a restaurant for dinner, we did a bit of a bar crawl on the street behind our hotel – a glass of rioja, some tapas, then onto the next bar.  It was good fun, but I was out and about more in San Francisco the week before.
  • I had kinda the opposite in Mumbai, where I experienced perhaps more of the local culture than I wanted. My last day was in Pune and then I was to be driven to Mumbai Airport – a 3-4 hour drive depending on Pune and Mumbai traffic. No one told me the length of the drive until after I was India and couldn’t change my flight. My colleague’s flight left at 10pm, mine left at 2:45am. I figured I hop the same car and just hang out and nap at the airport.  The drive between Pune and Mumbai was great – cruised down a 6 lane divided toll road across some mountain range.
  • Walking into the terminal, the security guard stopped me, saying that I couldn’t get in until 4 hours before departure time.  So what to do – the cab driver is gone, and I’d purposely left myself with only a handful of rupees. I wandered around in front of the terminals, watching travelers pay their taxis, say “good-bye” and “I’m back” to their families. I played a bit of coliform roulette grabbing a bite from a food stall. Then, in my wanderings, I found the waiting area.  For 60 rupees – about a buck and a half – I could sit in air conditioning, ride the airport’s free WiFi, and use a men’s room – a bargain at twice the price.
  • Bridge Music — Flight by Ga’inja

Following Up

  • Tony White dropped me a very germane question while I was in India
    • “I enjoy listening to your show every month and I put the knowledge to good use.  I have a question regarding jetlag and long flights to Asia and or Australia from the US.  I am traveling on my first business trip to Asia and Australia in July.  I have never traveled to Asia for business only for pleasure.  How do I prepare for traveling to Asia regarding the jetlag and time change?  My first meeting will be in less than 24 hours of arriving to Asia.  Do you have a routine to prepare for those long trips?  Do you sleep on the flight or do you stay awake to try to adjust to the time change?
    • “Thank you for the podcast and taking the time to ask these questions.”
  • I’ve always time zone adjustments to Europe and Asia differently.  Going to Europe, I set my watch on European time the minute I sit down on the plane and then force myself onto that schedule — eating quickly and then putting on the eye shades and Bose headphones for sleep.
  • Asia, though, is a whole different matter.  With the long flight times (14-15 hrs between ORD and India or China) and 10-12 hr time differences, I honestly don’t even try to figure out what the destination time is.  I just go with the flow — eat, sleep, read, repeat until landing.  I find that the flights are long enough to get enough sleep that I’m rested enough when I hit the ground to work right away.  On this last trip to India, I hit Bangalore at midnight and was fine for an 8am breakfast meeting the next morning.
  • Everyone reacts differently.  I find that it’s easy for me to push through — perhaps taking a 1-hr nap before I go out to dinner the first day.  I do usually sleep poorly for the first 3 nights, but then am fine afterwards.  Everybody’s body clock is different, though. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over years of travel – you can only push your body just so far. Sleep is probably the most underrated and willingly ignored health tonic in existence.
  • And speaking of sleeping in flight, my recent travels have given me experience a number of business class seats over the past few months. Haven’t done any of the top carriers – like Singapore Air – so it haven’t had a life changing experience…  It’s been more for a search for 5 hours of sleep before the next meeting. The difference, though, has been surprising. The best seat on a United flight to London – 22-inch flat screen, complete lay-flat seat,….  The United flight to Frankfurt was a big step down – little 5-inch screen, almost flat seat.  Though it may not seem much, there’s a big difference between 170-degree and 180-degree seat recline. Your bed is 180.  At 170, you have your knees locked trying not to slip down in the seat. Not the ideal sleeping position.
  • The USAir seat from Charlotte to Madrid is probably at the bottom.  A narrow seat, no screen – instead they had some metal prongs that held a 7-inch Archos table that the flight attendant said was always wonky – volume magically went up and down, music would play while watching a movie, no real-time flight map to show position or ETA….  And the food and wine were marginal at best. Yes, it was still better than coach but that comparison isn’t going to get me on another USAir overseas flight.
  • While in the UK, I was amazed at the amount of cellular data my iPhone consumed.  I had remembered to add the 100 MB international data option to my AT&T plan before I left.  I then reset the usage counters before I hit Birmingham so I didn’t overshoot. I was OK in Birmingham, but in London, I say I was consuming 20 MB in a day!  I wasn’t downloading any music or podcasts over 3G – I saved that for the hotel WiFi.  I started paying a bit more attention to my usage.
  • The difference between Birmingham and London was that I was walking to all my London appointments and was using Google Maps to find my way around town. Resetting the usage counters again, I’d see 5 MB every time I started up Maps. I needed to find some paper maps or figure out another way to work this. I “tuned” my usage a bit – opening up Google Maps in the morning while on the hotel WiFi and then scrolling to all the places I’d visit that day, trying to load up as much of the map data as I could in memory.  I worked pretty well and kept me from blowing past the 100 MB line.  But at $200 for the 100 MB of data, I think before my summer vacation driving through Scotland and the Lake District, I’ll blow the $50 on a GPS app that comes complete with its own maps – pre-downloaded.
  • I do like the way that all my electronics charge up at warp speed when I’m overseas. Most electronics chargers will handle 110 and 220 volts – the only exception I’ve found is my kids’ Nintendo DS charger – so I don’t bring a voltage converter when I travel, just a plug adapter.  I carry a small power strip, use one plug adapter, and then plug my array of charging devices into the strip. And plugged into a 220v socket, it’s a quick charge.
  • In episode #88, I interviewed Chris Truelove at the 2011 Travel Goods show about his company Back2You.com, which helps travelers retrieve lost items.  Hopping in a taxi on the way to London Docklands airport, the driver gave me an AT&T phone that an earlier fare had left behind.  He was trying to figure out how to find the owner’s information so he could return it. I wasn’t familiar with the model, but it wasn’t locked, so I started poking around. Calling the phone wouldn’t help – it would only ring in my hand – so I flipped through the contact list.  No ICE entry – “in case of emergency” – but I did find Mom’s Cell and Dad’s Cell, so I tried to call them – international calls were blocked; not surprised. Then tried to text them – those bounced too. I played around for 20 minutes, but no luck. Now, if it had one of Chris’s bag tags, I would’ve been able to send a quick text and his company would’ve sent a text to the owner. Glad I have one of his stickers on my iPhone and cameras.
  • It was my first time flying out of London Docklands – so much more convenient than Heathrow.  I was staying near Tower Bridge and flying off to Frankfurt.  It was a 20-minute cab ride – as opposed to at least double that to Heathrow, or taking a cab to Paddington Station to then catch the Heathrow Express.  No check-in line, short security line, free WiFi, and generally just a more relaxed atmosphere than the Heathrow insanity.  It is a small airport, though. I was on a Lufthansa A319, which looked like the biggest plane they were flying out of there.  Felt like the pilot has us backed up to the end of the runway, then he locked the brakes, revved the engines ‘til the plane started to shake, popped the brake release, and off we roared like one of the Bonneville Salt Flats rocket cars.  He rotated up right at the last moment, it seemed, going nose up just as the Thames appeared beneath us.  Definitely woke me up. Recommended over Heathrow if you’re hopping over to the continent.
  • And finally, if you haven’t seen it already, head over to the TravelCommons website or the FaceBook page and look for Video #2 – One City, Five Hours: Frankfurt. I had a 6-hr layover in Frankfurt on my way home from India. Rather than sit in the Lufthansa club all day, I ran through the 5-hour tourist sprint itinerary from United Airlines’ Hemispheres in-flight magazine. The prior weekend – in Kerala on the southwest coast of India – one of my hosts showed us how he was taking and editing videos all on his iPhone 4. Which led me to videoing the Frankfurt sprint on my iPhone 4. I then pulled over to my MacBook Air and edited on the flight to ORD. It’s no where near as polished as my Vietnam video, but it’s a fun piece all the same.
  • If you have a question, a story, a comment, a travel tip – the voice of the traveler, send it along.  The e-mail address is comments@travelcommons.com — use the Voice Memo app on your iPhone or something like Virtual Recorder on your Android phone to record and send in an audio comment – or iMovie if you want to send in some video; send a Twitter message to mpeacock, or you can post your thoughts on the TravelCommons’ Facebook page — or you can always go old-school and post your thoughts on the web site at travelcommons.com.
  • Bridge Music — Rocky Road by KCentric

More Comfortable Traveling in India

  • At the end of April, I did my second annual trip to India.  I changed some things up – rather than doing the 15-hour non-stop from ORD to Delhi, I stopped off in Europe – for meeting in the UK on the way over; for the extended layover that I videoed on the way back.  This meant that I could skip Delhi and stay in the southern part of India – Bangalore, Chennai, Kerala. That made things a bit more temperate – 80’s instead of the 100’s in Delhi that I got to experience my last trip.
  • And I found myself a bit more comfortable with India. Until my last day, driving through Mumbai to the airport, I didn’t see the abject poverty that I saw last year in Delhi.  I didn’t feel the need to cling to my “travel bubble” quite as tightly as I did on my first visit, which I talked about in episode #83.
  • It started with some of the planning – choosing and booking my own hotels in Bangalore, arranging many of my internal flights. Seems petty, but on my first visit, my vendors organized everything.  I just arrived and was taken from place to place.  Now, planning, doing some research, and then making sure I had ways to get from Point A to Point B made me a more active participant in this trip – not just a passenger.
  • I was also ready for some of the uniquely Indian travel rituals.  Like the welcoming ceremony at each hotel – usually a combination of arati – an oil candle circled in front of you followed by a tilak – the red thumb mark applied between your eyebrows.
  • And like Indian security at airports. At Cochin airport in Kerala, we started counting the security checks.  The first one was just to get into the airport – either a printed itinerary or a printed boarding pass (I never saw anyone use a boarding pass on a smart phone) and ID. Learning my lesson from last year, I printed out all my itineraries before I left for India. Now through the front door, we walked 200 ft and hit another security check – looking at the same papers – before we could get to the check-in desk. We then took an immediate left and put our bags on the X-ray machine.  After coming out the other end, a guy taped the suitcase’s zipper tabs together and sent us off another couple hundred feet to the check-in desk.
  • Checked in, we head over to the security line. Our boarding passes are checked going into the queue.  We head to the Men’s security line.  The Ladies’ line is off to the side with a curtained pat-down area.  We put our carry-on bags through the X-ray machine, but get to keep our shoes on.  We queue up in front of the metal detector.  We walk through and then onto a wooden step where a security guard wands and pats us down. It’s the same whether you set off the metal detector or not. I’m not quite sure why they have the metal detector there other than to help form the line.
  • After the patdown, the guard stamps my boarding pass, proving that I’ve been patted down. I pick up my carry-on. It too has been stamped – on a blank address tag – to prove that it’s been x-rayed.
  • At boarding, the gate agent scans our boarding pass while another security guard looks for the security stamps on the boarding passes and the carry-on luggage tag.  No stamps and back you go.  We get on a bus that travels all of 500 ft and drops us at our plane. Another security guard checks our boarding pass and then we’re allowed to climb the steps and enter the plane – after 7 separate security checks. I had 5 flights in 7 days I was in India. I got pretty comfortable with the drill.
  • But this trip, I was a lot more comfortable just walking down the street. Maybe because in Cochin in Kerala, there are enough European tourists that I’m not the only white guy. But then, walking through a huge crowd after a IPL cricket match on Monday night in Chennai, I wasn’t uncomfortable – or any more so than walking through the crowd after, say, a University of Michigan football game.
  • A little more familiar, a little less alien.  I wasn’t clinging to my travel bubble quite so hard.  And so when I hit Mumbai airport and couldn’t get inside for 4 hours, it didn’t make me uncomfortable.  Annoyed, yes, but not uncomfortable.
  • Bridge Music — Wilderness Dance by DJ Squirrel King

Travel Tech — Tipping Towards Android?

  • Me and 5,000 other Google IO attendees walked out of Moscone West in SF with some great schwag, specifically a pre-release version of Samsung’s 10.1-inch Galaxy Android tablet.  It’s a nice piece of work – slightly longer, slightly narrower, and slightly lighter than the iPad2.  No neat Smart Cover, but the screen is nice. The setup was easy – just logged in with my Gmail ID and it automatically loaded all the apps I have on my Droid2.  I was carrying it around with me all conference – as was everyone else – and found that I really liked it.
  • There are definitely a few rough edges that you’d expect with a pre-release model – like plugging in the power cord makes it think you’re trying to sync it with your PC and so doesn’t appear to let you use it and charge it at the same time – but the tablet version of Android – version 3.0 or “Honeycomb” if you’re into Google’s dessert naming scheme – is pretty stable.  The Android browser locked up and crashed a couple of times on me – but then again, so does my iPad Safari browser.  And the Android browser runs Flash so I can use it on all the restaurant web sites that won’t display on the iPad.  By the way, I agree that they should all swap out Flash for HTML 5, but until then, I would still like to be able to read their menus.  Can’t do it on the iPad.
  • But it makes no sense to carry around two tablets. Indeed, people keep asking me why I carry a MacBook Air and an iPad.  So right now, I’m traveling with the iPad2 – more out of habit than anything else – but find myself using the Samsung Android tablet around the house more and more.
  • The bonus prize from the conference – I’d call it the lagniappe if Google IO was held in New Orleans – was the Samsung Verizon 4G hot spot they tossed in because the Samsungs they gave us are WiFi only tablets.  I had been playing around with it in SF, but not so much because the city is blanketed in WiFi. However, sitting on the plane this week in Charlotte, waiting to head out to Madrid – long story about why I took this connection, or actually short, it saved me $3,000.  Anyhow, sitting on kind of a beat-up US Air 767 trying to pull the last bit of e-mail onto my iPad before take off and I was getting nothing, in spite of seeing a full house of 3G bars.  On a whim, I pulled out the Samsung hot spot out of my bag, fired it up and it connected immediately.  On another whim, I fired up the Speedtest.net app.  I got 13 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload speeds – phenomenal.  Trying it in just now in the TravelCommons studios outside Chicago, I got 7.4 down and 7 up – compared to 2.7 down and 0.9 up on AT&T 3G.
  • Not to pile onto AT&T – ‘cause that’s a bit of a fish-in-a-barrel shooting exercise – but if the next iPhone iteration doesn’t have 4G, now that might be enough to push me to hug the little green guy.

Closing

  • Closing music — iTunes link to iconPictures of You by Evangeline
  • OK, that’s it, that’s the end of TravelCommons podcast #90
  • I hope you all enjoyed this podcast and I hope you decide to stay subscribed.
  • Bridge music from the Podsafe Music Network
  • If you have a story, thought, comment, gripe – the voice of the traveler — send ‘em along, text or audio file, to comments@travelcommons.com or to @mpeacock on Twitter, or post them on our website at travelcommons.com. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to send in e-mails, Tweets and post comments on the website
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Leave a comment

4 Comments.

  1. Steve Soechtig

    Marc –

    Loved the post and particularly the idea of bringing a small power strip plus a voltage adapter for devices. That’s clever.

    I’d throw one more thing out there, as a benefit to Apple. The interchangeable external power adapter allows me to plug my Macbook into EU, UK, and AUS power outlets (so far), and the I have a micro 4 port USB adapter that I plug into the laptop – effectively giving me charging for the mobile, the iPad (yes, I still travel with both), and the headset. Just a thought, as the USB adapter is probably 4″ x 1/2″ by 1/4″. Very small.

    Only other comment I’d make is “USAir? Are you crazy???” 😉

    Love the podcast – been reading for years. Look forward to speaking soon.

    Steve

  2. Some quick thoughts on the overseas data problem. When you are done with one your current GSM phones (in your case, the iPhone.) Don’t discard it — keep it for travels. When you get overseas, buy a sim card and data plan. It can be a phenomenal savings.

    In Australia I paid $30 (AUD) for a card that came loaded with bonuses — about $250 (AUD) worth of calling and data.

    In Germany, it wasn’t quite as good but still a better deal than roaming by a long shot.

    In Fiji, it was a solid deal.

    You get the picture. You use this phone for email, Google Maps (which now allows you to pre-load data) and web browsing.

    Keep the sim cards for return visits — you just need to top them up. That’s easy in most countries – you can even do it at ATMs in many places.

    If you are crafty, you could use your current phone. The sim card will give you a new phone number (and for you, that’s a big problem — hence the suggestion for the old phone.) But I bet that there has to be a way to use Google Voice to forward those calls to the new number.

    I LOVE the bio page pic of you — that hat is from the South African Life Boat Service (the NSRI). I’d bet a few Rand that you picked it up in Cape Town at the Sea Rescue store in the V&A Waterfront…

    Best,

    Jim

  3. Jim –

    I’m going to see if I can find a couple of Rand coin to send to you. You pegged the picture. I did pick up that cap from the Sea Rescue store on the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. That picture is me waiting for my wife and daughter to come out of some store so that I can get a beer.

    Cheers,
    Mark

    • I LOVE Cape Town and especially the waterfront. It’s been 7 years since I was there. I need to remedy that.

      And, I have a few things from that shop too.

      Jim