How Not To Annoy Others During While on a Plane

Recently Conde Nast Traveler published a good article / summary of the things to avoid doing while on a plane – i.e. how not to annoy your fellow passengers on a flight.   The list from that article is shown below and while it is pretty good – I am going to add to it and hopefully provide you with enough to be a good and friendly traveler in today’s cramped and fully booked flights.

Here is the list from Conde Nast Traveler:

  1. Don’t use the seats for balance as you walk down the aisle. Instead, use the overhead compartments. If you reach up and slide your hand along it, you’ll be able to catch yourself if there’s a sudden bout of turbulence. Every time you grab the corner of a seat, you create an earthquake, and if you’ve ever had someone do it to you while you’re nodding off, you know how annoying it is.
  2. Along those same lines, don’t use the seat in front of you to pull yourself up when going to the restroom. Use the arm rests to push yourself up, as grabbing and pulling on the back of a seat is on par with kicking it.
  3. Turn your bags back to front in the overhead. Time and time again, we watch people put their bags in sideways and take up the space of two. Don’t do that! It simply delays takeoff when the last people can’t find an open bin and the flight attendants have to go around turning the bags themselves.
  4. Look behind you before reclining. We know you have the right to recline, but sometimes, especially in smaller planes, we’ve wanted to knife the person sitting in front of us. If you’re on the tall side—say, 6’2″—you may have had situations where one minute you’re working on your laptop, and the next the laptop is under your chin; you couldn’t type a word comfortably even if you had Tyrannosaurus arms. Take a peek behind you and just make sure you’re not making someone more uncomfortable than the comfort those few extra inches will provide. That’s not too much to ask, right? By the way, if someone does it to you, all bets are off. We would feel no hesitation or guilt pushing on the seat to access the bag at our feet. We hate to say fight fire with fire, but sometimes it’s the only way.
  5. Don’t eat aromatic food. Notice how we didn’t say bad smelling food, as that leaves too much for interpretation. You might love the smell of tuna, but the other hundred people on the plane most likely do not. We had a man next to us eat canned octopus in garlic sauce once, and we spent the next three hours keeping the woman on our right from shoving the can down his throat.
  6. Introduce yourself to your seatmate. You have to walk a fine line with this one. We’ve all heard people complain about the passenger next to them who “wouldn’t shut up,” but at least say hi to your seatmate. We find most people are up for some conversation, and it can even turn into a pleasant back and forth. That said, feel it out and pick up on people’s signals. If they’re fiddling with their earphones, casually give them a chance to end the conversation. But, at the very least, make an effort during takeoff and landing. To us, it’s weirder to sit next to someone for three hours and not say a word than to introduce ourselves.
  7. Wait until the row in front of you deplanes before deplaning yourself. We’re not sure why there is so much confusion about this (cough, Europe!). It seems like it should be common sense (and common courtesy) yet inevitably, there always seems to be that guy who thinks he shouldn’t have to wait. We were once in the second-to-last row of the plane and had the man in the last row almost knock us over as we stood up from our aisle seat and stepped out. Needless to say, words were exchanged—it’s just plain rude. If you happen to have a tight connection, be nice and quietly ask permission to go ahead (there’s nothing worse than a panicking person screaming about a connection. It’s a rookie traveler mistake and no one takes you any more seriously whether you ask nicely or act like a knucklehead. In fact, it’s the people who are pushy we want to help the least).
  8. Don’t stand in the aisle when waiting for the bathroom. We know you have to go, but we really would rather you not stand over us while you wait. It’s already tight quarters, and hovering over someone sitting in an aisle seat doesn’t make it any better, not to mention that certain body parts tend to line up with our face. (This is also a common time for people to rest their hands on the back of seats.) Stay in your seat until there’s no line, or wait in the food galley until the person in front of you comes out. Thankfully, airlines have started to police this themselves and it doesn’t happen as often as it used to

Now, let’s enhance it – Here is the add-ons

  • Do not stretch your legs out in the aisle while in your seat.  Yes, often it is very tempting to stretch given the tight space between seats….But think before you do this.  Others will trip while walking down the isle
  • Do not recline your seat suddenly – You are likely to crush a laptop (if one is on the tray table of the fellow passenger behind you.
  • Do not spend too long arranging your belongings while the others are boarding the plane.  Move into your seat and do that, but even if one of your legs is out in the isle – most likely everyone is stopped and waiting for you — those roll-aboard bags won’t be able to pass by you.
  • Do not put small bags in the overhead bins unless everyone has boarded and space available. If your small item fits beneath the seat in-front of you, please place the item there.  We all need to be mindful of the fact that overhead bin space is limited.

Hope this list will make you a better traveler and one that others appreciate traveling with.  Let me know with you comments on the topic….and safe travels.

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Chiprovtsi Carpets – Now Part of the World Cultural Heritage

The new news from Bulgaria and the village of Chiprovtsi specifically is that the carpets which are woven on vertical hand-looms have been accepted in UNESCO’s world cultural heritage listing.   To be more precise, the carpets originating in Chiprovtsi have been “Inscribed in 2014 (9.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”

This is an important development as the move recognizes the uniqueness of these carpets and their value as historical and cultural element – part of the world’s history and heritage.

My family and I have been going to Chiprotsi for many years – and of course are proud owners of several of the carpets.  For those of you who have not seen them, here is a brief photo gallery

Here are also some links inside this blog as well as on the UNESCO Web site


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Fall Colors of Austin, Texas

The Fall Colors of Austin — This week the weather in Austin was very nice – a great opportunity for going out with the mountain bikes and enjoying both the exercise and the colors of the Fall.   Admittedly, Austin is no New England – the colors of tree leafs changing in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New York are spectacular, but the local ones in the Austin Hill Country are interesting enough for us to enjoy..!

Well, all I can say is judge for yourself – here is my latest gallery of snaps from one of the trails in Austin, Texas, Thanksgiving, 2014


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Organizing Photo Albums

Why photo album…?

An old saying states “…a picture is worth a thousand words…” – this statement is true (in my opinion) and while mostly it is being used in cases when we try to convey a complex idea via a pictogram or a drawing, the same adage can be applied to the notion of describing a place via photographs.

So to that effect, I decided to allocate a portion of this blog to photo albums of places I have visited and explored.

Hopefully here you will find a plethora of cool and interesting images from around the world.

Here is a sampling of the galleries I have about China…


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IHG Rewards – fails on a survey

Not sure if any of you out there have had my experience with survey taking at IHG (Intercontinental Hotels Group) – but I just had a frustrating experience.

I am sitting in the Admirals Club on my way from a very long trip in Asia and saw the email from IHG Rewards.  The email asked me to take a 15-minute survey and provide feedback on loyalty programs….So I decided to help and answer the survey.

Being tired after the long flight – the experience that followed me taking the survey, caused me to write the email below back to IHG…

What a dissapointment…!  And when you think about it – a survey is such a simple and effective tool…Except in this case it certainly will backfire on IHG – at least in my case…

======= My response to IHG Rewards is below =====

Dear IHG


In the future please FIX your survey process — So you wanted me to take a survey…. Fine!  And I did …!  But then you told me at the end of the survey – after I took the time to provide you with the information that “Sorry our quota has been filled..”


REALLY???!!!   You did not know that at the point I entered the Survey Web Page??!!!???


This is really a very bad practice!


Turned out – my attempt to reply back to IHG Rewards did not happen easily – the “Reply” action did not reach an email address.  I need to figure out how to email them.  In the mean time – my rant is on my blog…and will be on Social media…

I hope someone in IHG actually reads my rant…and decides that better treatment of your members is a good idea…!



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Plovdiv Bulgaria on Lonely Planet’s Best Travel Destinations in 2015

For those of you who have been to Bulgaria – you probably had wondered like I did for many years – why is Bulgaria essentially a destination often considered as the “off the beaten track” place…Well, things have changed drastically – Plovdiv is now on the Lonely Planet’s best places to visit in 2015.  The city made it as number 6 on that list !

Plovdiv has also been selected as the Culture Capital of Europe for 2019 – this is another proof of the great things the city has to offer to its inhabitants and visitors alike.   The city offers incredible architecture – in the old town, Roman amphitheaters – one of them actually functional, great food and nice weather.

From Plovdiv you can go and explore tons of different place around Southern Bulgaria.  Places like:

Just to name a few…

If you are now ready to head to Bulgaria, you may want to consider a few handy books:

For those of you who really want to feel as if you never left Plovdiv – then get a T-Shirt…. There is a good one above…

Other than that, you can just go ahead and plan a trip to see the place for yourself.

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Beijing Pollution – Yet Again a Key Topic

It feels like I just finished writing about this a few minutes ago and here it is – yet another posting on the impact of pollution in Beijing.  This time it is on a very public event – the Beijing marathon.  The article and photos from International Business Times (link here) certainly provides a grim view of the event…

 Beijing Pollution   Yet Again a Key Topic

Hm… Would you like to be a runner in the group above???

For those of you who are driven by facts, here is the table updated on a regular basis by the US Embassy in Beijing and this link will get you the latest measurements summarized by the Embassy: Beijing Air Quality Guide

Here of course is the link to my previous posting on the subject – just last week…


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Beijing Pollution – Center Stage Again

I like traveling in China – it is a vast country with a long history, interesting places to see and learn about.  There are certainly also tons of places to see for their natural beauty.  Having said that – you need to be aware of some not-so-pleasant aspects of traveling and/or living in China – the pollution problem of Beijing.

I have posted on that topic a number of times – here are some previous postings, but the topic keeps coming up as the situation does not appear to improve.  In a recent article the situation is highlighted again

Days of heavy smog shrouding swathes of northern China pushed pollution to more than 20 times safe levels on Friday, despite government promises to tackle environmental blight.

Visibility dropped dramatically as measures of small pollutant particles known as PM2.5, which can embed themselves deep in the lungs, reached more than 500 micrograms per cubic metre in parts of Hebei, a province bordering Beijing.

The World Health Organization’s guideline for maximum healthy exposure is 25.

In the capital, buildings were obscured by a thick haze, with PM2.5 levels in the city staying above 300 micrograms per cubic metre since Wednesday afternoon and authorities issuing an “orange” alert.

“It’s very worrying, the main worry is my health,” said a 28-year-old marketing worker surnamed Hu, carrying an anti-smog mask decorated with a pink pig’s nose as she walked in central Beijing. (from a Guardian article)

I think this problem will continue until Beijing enforces strict rules on burning coal, reduces the heavy use of two cycle motorcycles — yes, those smog spewing little machines that are used across the city – and encourages the use of bicycles…YES! bicycles – I lived in Beijing in 1987-1988 and bicycles were everywhere — now cars have taken their place…

To give you an idea that this smog problem is not a new one – you can see some photos I had taken back in 2006 (and I am sure I can find more from 2004, and 2005….and 2001) that show the haze in the city – and those two photos are from different place – one of the 3rd loop road, and a second from Houhai (park area)

BeijingSmog 150x150 Beijing Pollution   Center Stage Again

View from 3rd loop road in Chaoyang district

HouHai BeijingAug2006 150x150 Beijing Pollution   Center Stage Again

Beijing Houhai Park

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Seat Pitch – Useful information on Seating across Major US Airlines

Have you wondered what is going on with space in economy class on various US airlines…?  I bet all of you have been thinking – it feels that each flight you take the space between your knees and the seat in front of you is shrinking… I know, I feel that way… Well you are not imagining things.  The reality is that over the last few years, the major airlines in the US have been re-configuring planes and seating in an effort to improve the efficiency of each plane.  After all – with increasing fuel costs and big competition for each passenger, the airline’s ability to both fill seats and increase capacity per plane, is the way to drive profitability.

Turns out in some cases we the passengers are more than willing to use the tighter configured planes if they give us low cost plane travel….

So do you have a choice in the matter?  Turns out recently a quick study has been done comparing the seat pitch for the major US based airlines.  Here is the summary view (courtesy of Conde’Nast Traveller)

541b305d17e4b1f634ef1127 CNT legroom infographic 01 Seat Pitch   Useful information on Seating across Major US Airlines

So – per this anaysis you really can decide which airline can give you the most comfortable journey for the flight you need to take.

If you are looking to compare global airlines, you can look at this site – I am not sure of the quality of the data, but it looks pretty comprehensive…

In parallel you can look at for specific seats and flights and decide what to purchase for your upcoming flight.

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Beautiful Venice!

This summer, my daughter and I had the fortunate opportunity to visit Venice, Italy for the first time.  I don’t know how Venice is the rest of the year, but in early June, it is magical.  The temperature was in the mid to high 70’s, and it was sunny every day, with sudden, brief downpours in the late afternoon.  Being relatively early in the season, there weren’t an overwhelming number of visitors and the only place that really felt overcrowded was the Piazza San Marco–home of the most-visited of Venice’s attractions.  Check out some pictures:

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