Dream Person

A couple of days ago, “Dream Person” by the Cranberries was being played on Aramco radio station. My office small radio was on and I couldn’t resist the urge to crank it up. I truly love this song. It reminds me of the famous Hong Kong movie “Chungking Express” by Wong Kar-Wai. Its main theme is a cover of the same song, done by its main actress and Chinese pop star, Faye Wang. Whenever I watch this movie or even remember it, I go in a nostalgic mood, remembering the united states. Another famous song being played around the movie is the Mamas and Papas’ “California Dreaming”. It sure gave another dimension to this fresh love story that takes place in the urban side of Hong Kong.

In June, I have been on medical leave for two weeks due to an abdominal surgery and during those two weeks I have been having recurring dreams about my years in the states and my college life.

I truly miss it. Even though I could have made things different back then, even corrected a lot of stupidities due to my young age and immaturity, in general I don’t regret it at all.

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First Class Lounge, DOH

This post is about Doha’s International Airport Premium First and Business class lounges in its Premium terminal. I’ve been to this lounge a couple of times and it is worth writing a post about.

Now, this terminal is dedicated only for Business and First class travelers on Qatar Airways. Business Class has it own lounge and thus First Class as well. The camera snaps in this post are from the First Class side.

This lounge is magnificent. You’re talking about a great breakfast/lunch/dinner buffet with a dedicated steak and sushi bar. I’ve heard that there’s an à la carte menu as well, but didn’t have the chance to try it. On the side there’s a dedicated bar for drinks and fresh juices. There are dedicated lounge staff who would service all kinds of hot drinks upon request. For all smokers, there’s a dedicated cigar lounge with nice leather seats and great view of the airport. The seating area is very big and flight update monitors can be found almost everywhere.

The most remarkable feature of this lounge is the spa. There’s a dedicated spa with jacuzzi and massage services. To enjoy it, your stay in the lounge shouldn’t be around one hour only. I’ve gotten used to their massage lazyboys chairs. For a whole hour, I couldn’t get my ass off it.

Outisde of the seating area, there is a business center for those who need to finish their office work. There is a private room for kids with video games consoles and multiple screens. A praying room with abolition is made available as well.

In general, this is one of the best lounges that I have been to in GCC region. I haven’t tried the Emirates First Class lounge in DXB, but in the meantime this stands as the best in my own opinion.

The Gulf Hotel, Bahrain

 

Believed to be the oldest hotel in Bahrain, The Gulf Hotel maintains its colossal shape over Al Adliya area in Bahrain. Arguably it could be labelled the biggest hotel in Bahrain in covered area, Gulf Hotel still maintains attraction to foreign and local visitors through its high variety of restaurants, nightlife, private parties, weddings, conventions and sports-related activities during summer.

I have stayed once before in Gulf Hotel in 2008 and I have stayed in its regular rooms, which are not yet renovated and I had a very negative feedback about it. The carpet was old, the furniture was dreadful and the TV was the old tube type. It was not a pleasant stay for me. I’ve decided to give Gulf Hotel a shot and try it again with my family on August 28th, 2011. I’ve decided to go for the executive rooms which are newly built and made are in the new tower. They cost more than the typical rooms, but are worth the money.

Here are some snaps of the room.

And what’s truly nice about this room is the bathroom and its huge tub.

Still, I have to put some of my personal remarks about Gulf Hotel. For start, their reception desk needs more staff and better training at dealing with patrons. There are usually two to three personnel and they’re always busy with something. The patrons lines do extend to a level that people start losing their patience. Their local staff are not well trained in the sense of respecting the patrons nor providing the most of their skills. I’ve been to hotel where hotel staff went out of their way to provide 110% of services and support. Gulf Hotel reception staff don’t seem to reach 90%.

Another issues is the price of services. The breakfast buffet rate per person is pretty steep. The internet is chargeable and it’s not that cheap either. I’ve seen many people go out and bring food from nearby restaurants due to the high prices of Gulf Hotel establishments.  I think the management should deeply look into this and revise their course of process.

Another issue is the after-sale services. I have stayed in Gulf hotel due to an offer on frequent flyer miles with many airlines. The offer was to get 500 miles per night and I was staying four nights, and this seemed very good offer indeed for me. I have made the reservation for that offer only with all confirmations and such and providing my FFP card. After a couple of weeks, and upon initiating communications from my side to them since they didn’t credit my stay to the FFP, they replied back to me that they’re only offering 500 miles and that’s the normal there. Even sending multiple emails to their management and their customer support with all the supporting documents, they wouldn’t budge down. Then , I had to go to World hotels, which had the original promo and Gulf Hotel is part of it. They were very supportive and credited me all the remaining balance after they took on Gulf hotel management on my behalf. I truly appreciated their gesture and their apologies for the mismanagement of how this issues was dealt with.

In general, this is a fairly good hotel to stay at only if you’re willing to stay in the costly executive rooms. Otherwise, go there for the nightlife and the restaurants.

 

iPhone Travel Apps: Supporting Apps

The third post in the series after the airlines and hotels, comes this post which is of supporting apps that are must have for all frequent travelers. I hope that this list, I can cover most of the essential iPhone apps that could come handy for everyone.

eCurrency App:

This app is a must have, in my opinion. A very handy currency exchange app that could allow you to have up to 8 active exchanges, with different bases for each choice. This is not usually found in other apps. For example, you can have US dollar Vs Japanese Yen in the first slot, then British pound Vs Saudi Riyal in the next and so on. And there’s a calculator that you can use along, which is an awesome extra. The app is usually updated to the latest rates and it never crashed on me and has been my first choice to check rates. It is a paid app, but worth every penny, highly recommended.

Priority Pass App:

This is a must have for all users of the Priority Pass services worldwide. Instead of the heavy booklet which they usually send along in the membership kit and usually takes space in any brief case, this app covers it all. It uses GPS to locate the nearest lounge at your location that accepts Priority Pass. You can also review the lounges in whichever destination you may be heading to. Also, it downloads the latest additional lounges and updates about the current one, in case of changes in policies and such. In some lounges, images are provided but not all of them. I wish that the developer would add in renewal of the membership in the app for easier service and access.

Diners Club App:

I’m an ex-user of Diner Club and I have to say that I’ve started using it in its last years of fame and power. I have acquired mine 2-3 years ago locally in Kuwait and honestly, this powerful credit card is fading away. Yet, it comes very handy for lounge entrees and recognition when you’re traveling. This app is designed to fulfill the basic needs of any Diner Club holder, instead of going straight for their website. You can check for ATM machines which accept Diner Club cards, airport lounges, and some essential services such as merchant offers, currency convertor and customer support. Of course, don’t expect too much from the merchant offers since most business started to take down the Diner Club card sign from their business. The app is a must have only for Diner Club card owners.

American Express App:

Here’s another credit card-based app that would be handy for frequent travelers. American Express has been improving its cyber services and developed an app that would come handy for its owners. Unfortunately, this app is only for AmEx cards issued from the states. There’s no other app for other countries. So much can be achieved from this app for anyone living outside of the states. There are some services that can be utilized like checking for international merchant offers and such. But I have known that with this app, if you have an American AmEx, you can check your balance and pay your dues and more for your account. Otherwise, let’s hope that American Express would recognize its international customers and provide us with an alternative.

Cathay Pacific Lounge, BAH

In my last trip to Malaysia in last November, I have used Cathay Pacific for my trip, departing from Bahrain. This gave me the only shot to have the privilege to enter its lounge in BAH airport and review it here, after my first post about it.

Cathay Pacific (CX) maintains a dedicated lounge for their patrons in the upper level in Bahrain International Airport (BAH),across from Dilmun Lounge, which both can be accessed via the escalators at gate 16.

Upon checking-in at the lounge counter, it could be seen that this lounge is the smallest lounge in Bahrain Airport, when it comes to size. Very limited seats that can only accommodate First/Business class travelers on Cathay Pacific or Marco Polo Club Silver/Gold/Platinum tier frequent flyers and One World Alliance high tiers, traveling on Cathay Pacific.

The good thing about this lounge is the view of the runway and seeing airplanes taxing off to their destinations.

The choice of food is limited and less space is dedicated for that, although they share the same supplying kitchen that supplies Gulf Air Lounge and Dilmun Lounge. Of course, the liquor has to be made available!

The reading materials are variant, including Chinese magazines and newspapers as well major international publications.

These are some dedicated desktops for usage, but no praying space and a small bathroom. Only TV monitor is provided for the current news and I don’t remember seeing any dedicated screen for flights updates.

The lounge has been used by Gulf Air during its renovations of its lounge only for its business/first class travelers and it used to get packed to the extent that people started depending on Dilmun Lounge bathrooms for comfort.

In general, this is a very minimal lounge and doesn’t offer exclusive privileges and maintains a very quiet resting area till boarding time. I think Cathay Pacific could do more with this lounge.

McDonald’s Arch Deluxe: A tribute

This is in memory of one tasty burger that I still miss. Considered one of the biggest flops in McDonald’s history, this adult-oriented burger has been taken down like a tyrant king in a bloody revolt. It didn’t hit well according to sales and the prompt to meet Burger King’s Whopper didn’t match well. A full Wikipedia article about it can be found here.

I have always gone for this burger (minus the porky bacon) when it premiered in 1996/1997 in our campus’ student center. The bun is one of the finest that I’ve seen by McDonald’s and I can’t see them doing it again. The sauce is one of the finest and most intriguing and matching for the meat. This burger never left the American shore for the remaining globe to try it, but I can guarantee it would have made an impact here in the GCC region. I wish McDonald’s would hear us out and bring back Arch Deluxe back!!

Arch Deluxe,…..you were the greatest!!

Rotana Beach, Abu Dhabi

Back to business! Well, I have stayed in this hotel for numerous times and it prompts me to review it. I have patronized this establishment in the last two years due to my business trips to Abu Dhabi. The selection was for obvious reasons. The hotel is connected to Abu Dhabi Mall, one of the three big malls in the area. For a change, you can go window shopping, eating and to enjoy the available establishments at the mall. Also, Rotana Beach has some of the finest restaurants in the Abu Dhabi. I’ve always found this hotel full with patrons during daytime and evening as well. Of course, my favorite spot is Trader’s Vic where it is the main place for nightlife in the hotel. Good drinks, good food and good music, nothing more to ask for!

The staff is pretty friendly and accommodating to all needs. I have never faced any problems in Rotana Beach, except when it comes to being placed in the 7th floor and the Wi-Fi reception gets weaker to the point that you can’t connect to it. I have communicated that to the management and they positively replied that they would be looking into it and address it accordingly. Another comment was that Wi-Fi is still chargeable in Rotana Beach and other Rotana establishments and this is being common in Abu Dhabi and we have provided numerous feedback on this issue.

Please note that Rotana Beach has different configuration for accommodations, from its other establishments in the GCC region. Rotana Beach has (if I remember correctly) three towers and each has a specialized accommodation level. The pics below from the main the building where it overlooks the restaurants and main body. I’ve stayed once in another tower, where it holds the premium and larger rooms. The third tower hold the serviced apartments.

Here are pics from the regular classic room. The room size if pretty decent for business traveler, although I may note that it’s a bit clustered for me.

Another good thing in Rotana Beach is their Zen the Spa. I have tried it! It is located in the basement of the hotel and it has a very unique atmosphere, where a one can enjoy a good rub and relax after multiple meetings. I highly recommend giving it a shot! I may add that Rotana Hotel Chain in general has one of the finest room service menus. You have to try it once (go for the burgers and the Club sandwiches)! Aside from that, I can’t deny my passion for their vegetable soap bars which they supplement in their rooms. It smells and fells nice and smooth. I would always come back to Rotana Beach for their outstanding customer service and moderate prices, as well its location.