Kadikoy – Istanbul – The Asia Side

Kadikoy – Istanbul

If you are visiting Istanbul, you will enjoy a hop on the ferry from one of the many terminals on the European side and crossing over to the Asia side of this cosmopolitan city. To reach Kadikoy we boarded a ferry from Beşiktaş – and even the ferry ride itself was very enjoyable as it allows you to see the city and many of its sites from a different vantage point.


Kadikoy and its numerous cafes, restaurants, art shops, is considered by many as the cultural centre of the Anatolian side of Istanbul.  Enjoy!

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Qingdao Update

Qingdao – a nice place to visit, an interesting city with a mix of European and of course Chinese flare


I have visited Qingdao on several occasions and each time there is something new to discover.  Here are a couple of postings from previous experiences.  This time around will add some more on several sites:

  • Qingdao Catholic Church:  This church has several names and I am not completely sure why that is the case, but it is being referred to as also the Zhejiang Road Catholic Church, as well as St.Michael’s Church.  Most often though it is being called simply the “Catholic Church” – after all it is a famous landmark of the city.  The church is a result of the strong German presence in the city and in Shandong province during the 19th and 20th centuries.  Apparently, having being damaged during the Cultural revolution, the building was restored in the 1980s – opened for religious services in 1981 (according to the local government) and has been opened to the public since 1999.


The Church sits on top of a hill and is located at 15 Zhejiang Road – check it out.  Good to see and experience…

  • Tian Hou Dian TempleTian Hou Dian Temple: an old taoist temple located in the city within walking distance from multiple other places to see.   This temple is dedicated to the Goddess of Heaven – Ma Zu.  The temple has a figure of the Goddess (which supposedly originated from Fujian province around 960 A.D.)  – the figure has been carved from camphor tree;

Enjoy Qingdao and stay warm…!  More photos here


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Liulichang Beijing

Liulichang – Often Visited but Still Interesting Site in Beijing


Liulichang is a well known place in Beijing – today it is a mixture of private and state owned stores.   However, even if you do not purchase anything, it is an interesting place to see old Beijing…Here is a link from the Beijing Government….


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Taipei Fall

Taipei Fall Collage


More photos from Taipei here

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WiFi on Commercial Flights

WiFiIt is amazing how connected out lives have become. The a large percent of the population around the world, being ‘on-line’ is the norm, family and friends schedules revolve around shared calendars, news get announced via short messages (SMS or social media), and on and on.

Take away that connectivity and many feel completely isolated.

WiFiTo the effect airports and many airlines have started to offer WiFi connectivity on flights across North America, Asia and Europe.  Here in this article we will focus on the airlines offering WiFi (free or for a fee) service:


Airline WiFi Being Offered Comments
American Airlines Yes-Gogo service $16 pass for 24-hours (you can use on any airline with goo service
Alaska Yes – Gogo Services $1.95 to $39.95 on board or via gogoair.com
Delta Yes – Gogo services similar to American and Alaska; Next year will start new service
JetBlue Yes – Free! The only US airline to offer free WiFi service (I think)
Southwest Yes $8 flat rate on all Boeing 737-800, 700; Service is VERY slow though
Japan Airlines JAL Yes – Satellite based GoGo Service The fees vary by route;

Being offered on both domestic and international routes

Norwegian Yes, Free! On all Boeing 737-800 aircraft
 Lufthansa  Yes  9-euro to 17-euro (for 24 hours)
British Airways Only 1 route London to New York only $14 to $25
Turkish Airlines Some On some B777-300ERs and gradually on A330-300
United Yes Boeing 747 and 757; Also Gogo service
Virgin America Yes – Continental only Gogo Service from $2 to $39.95
Air France Trials Working with Orange since Summer 2015 – limited trials;

Had offered couple of flights only previously

Air Canada Yes Uses Gogo service – leverage pass from Gogo

Overall, the WiFi service is still relatively spotty.  It was interesting to discover that new flights on AA Boeing 777-300ER / 77W have started to offer WiFi for about $19 for international flights.  So hopefully better services are still ahead of us.


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Fast Path Through Immigration and Customs

Global-entryFast Path at the Border

For those of you who may have not heard about it, Global Entry has been around in the US for more than 4-5 years now.  It is a great program for those who travel internationally even if not on a regular basis. Why?  Because Global Entry provides you with a number of benefits, namely:

  • You do not have to wait in long lines at the point of entry in the US – trust me – those lines CAN be very, very long.  If you are entering in the US at one of the major airports like Chicago, Dallas, New York….the line can take 45-minutes to an hour;
  • You get to be eligible for TSA Pre✓® TSA Pre-approved – a great program that will allow you to go through security as you did many years ago, pre-9/11 style
  • Global Entry extends its benefits beyond the US border – there are already several countries that are collaborating with US by offering fast path to the Global Entry members – example Australia with their SmartGate program;   Here is the summary on the program from the US CBP (Customs and Border Protection):  “To be eligible to use SmartGate in Australia you must:
    • be a currently registered member of the U.S. Global Entry Program
    • travel on a valid U.S. ePassport
    • be at least 16 years old”

There are other countries that are in the process of implementing similar programs – best to check the CBP web site on a regular basis to verify if things have changed and what new agreements are in place.

Mobile-PassportWell, now, the other new program being introduced by CBP is based on the usage of Smart Phones – Android or iPhone – both being acceptable.

The new service requires you to download and install a new application – link is located here – which then in turn creates the necessary capability on your Smart Phone.

At any rate, this application will also simplify the process of entering the US with valid passport etc.  The procedure for using the App is as follows:   “…Travelers will be prompted to create a profile via the app with their passport information. The profile includes the traveler’s name, gender, date of birth, and country of citizenship. Upon landing in the United States, travelers will complete the “New Trip” section by selecting their arrival airport and airline, taking a self-photo, and answering a series of custom declaration questions. Once the traveler submits their customs declaration form through the app, the traveler will receive an electronic receipt with an Encrypted Quick Response (QR) code. This receipt will expire four hours after being issued. Travelers then bring their passport and mobile device with their digital bar-coded receipt to a CBP officer to finalize their inspection for entry into the United States…”

Overall, this appears a very good and well planned execution.  I will be downloading the application and taking it for a spin….Sounds like a good thing to try!

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Istanbul, a Few Photos a Day – Topkapi Palace

Istanbul Topkapi Palace The Istanbul Topkapi Palace (otherwise known in Turkish as Topkapı Saray) is a large palace located in the old town of Istanbul and is currently a museum.   The palace served as a main residence of the Ottoman … Continue reading

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Istanbul, a Few Photos a Day – Installment 4

Well, time to add some more photos from Istanbul.   Hopefully, by seeing those images you will develop an interest in visiting this incredible diverse and full of history city. This time around will share with you images from

  • Bomonti (the new part of the city) situated on a hill overlooking the ancient area with Hagia Sophia, Topkapi…
  • Hagia Sophia – just a few images and then will get to a story about this incredible church converted to a mosque – in subsequent posting
  • Topkapi – the sultan’s palace for several centuries – another site that will have its own posting soon enough here





This is a continuation of several previous installments…Enjoy!

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Sunsets in Austin – Incredible…

This gallery contains 3 photos.

I have lived in Austin for almost 14 years (my family and I were out of the country for a couple of years in the middle of those years)….I think the sunsets of Austin are one of the memorable things … Continue reading

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Business Travel and European Hotels

I believe I have always paid attention to cultural differences in various parts of the world.  My career and the nature of my job have been very important factor in allowing me to see various countries (many of them on multiple occasions) and interact and experience their subtle or major differences.  Admittedly, I am not exactly someone with a fixed and stable origins and background – my own life has developed over the years across three continents and in several countries – you can say – major identity crisis – but one thing I have had as a common experience – that has been my last 20+ years in hi-tech companies in the US with occasional long term or short term stints overseas (besides just business trips)

Long introduction to my posting – but I thought it will be important to establish a point of reference.

In my travels, I have stayed in many hotels – many of them chains (Hilton, IHG, Sheraton, Marriott, Hyatt, Shangri-La, La’Meridien….) and many boutique ones.

My latest trip which included hotel stays in both major chains – Hilton (at CDG-Paris) and JW Marriott (Bucharest) – and boutique ones: Auberge Du Pecheur (in Ghent, Belgium),Germany-Boutique-HotelLandaus Am See (in Garbsen, Germany), and Prinzregent (Munich, Germany).

I was very surprised to conclude that while on business the European traveller does not care to conduct business in their respective hotel rooms.   Why do I say that?  Well, empirical evidence from multiple hotels across multiple European countries !   All the hotels that I listed above with the exception of the JW Marriott in Bucharest, Romania, had one MAJOR flaw where business travel is concerned – the only telephone that one could find in the rooms was right next to the bed and with a short cord on top of that.

So here is the scenario – in my multi-year experience – when you are traveling on business there are two things that ALWAY happen:

  1. You have plenty of business related meetings during the day
  2. When you return to your hotel room you inevitably have to check tons of emails (that have accumulated while you were at the business events) and in most days you would have a conference call with the home office or another office of the most likely global company you work with.

Now, what do you do if you have a business related conference call?   Well usually, you would like to

a) have a good work area / desk for your laptop and a comfortable seating – hm….how about the hotel desk and chair…

b) have a phone to use as most likely using your own mobile phone while roaming internationally for a hour or longer conference call could be expensive.

If you agree with the above setup – then guess how many hotels in my recent business trip in Europe offered those simple business related amenities …?   Well, I sort of already stated that – only ONE !!!

Following the train of thought then, what can one conclude – the usual traveller staying in these hotels is either (a) not a business traveller;   or (b) business travelers in Europe enjoy the stay in their hotel room for other purposes and not conducting business calls …

My experience from the stays in these hotels was definitely different – picture this – a person hunched over a telephone (due to its short cord) on a bed by a bedside table trying to balance a laptop with reference material… What an experience…..!   I would help you – not a pleasant one…

On the positive note – JW Marriott obviously cares…..!   Thank you JW Marriott staff…

Brussels-Hannover-plane Interesting-Hotel-Lille Paris-France  Lille-France-Hotel

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