Archive for January, 2012

The Thai Challenge

New Years resolutions are so 2011 (and hard to keep, too!), which is why I decided to do things differently this year. Instead of dropping my usual resolution within days, I went a different route and chose to take on a new language. Next month, I will be heading off to Thailand so I’ve decided to take on this crazy challenge on an extremely tight schedule. Within the next 30 days, I want to learn Thai. That’s right, by the time I leave on February 4th, I want to be comfortable with the basics of Thai so that I can get around Thailand a little easier.

What?

Learning basic Thai in order to be able to interact with people using simple sentences for common situations such as asking for directions, ordering food or trying to bargain when possible. I don’t plan to be able to hold a conversation but I want to be able to flesh out the conversation instead of relying on hand gestures and saying ‘yes please’ repeatedly.

When?

I’m leaving in 30 days so this is basically a month-long challenge and it gives me exactly 4 weeks to reach my goal. I will put the focus on different things every week but the idea is to learn as much as possible in that time.

How?

This isn’t the first language I learn so I’ll probably rely on proven methods (lists of words! Cue cards! Phonetic learning! Chocolate?) to be able to learn as much as possible in as little time as possible. I do have a few reference tools like my trusty Lonely Planet and an iPad app, which will probably be the 2 tools I’ll use the most. I don’t plan on buying a dictionary or anything like that as I won’t be gone long enough for it to be worth the money and at the end of the day, I’ll learn the words phonetically, not the spelling, so a dictionary wouldn’t be the best tool anyway.

Why?

I’ve never felt like I had to learn a language before heading to a foreign country for two reasons; I don’t travel for more than a few weeks at a time and I’ve simply never felt the need to. I can usually get around easily with the languages I know as I’ve always been to places where French, Spanish or English are spoken either as a first or second language.

Things are different this time around as Thailand, much like Asia in general, simply feels like a whole different world and as the saying goes, when in Rome, do as Romans do. Obviously, it’s also a sign of respect to at least be able to use a few basic words, even if most of the conversation will probably end up being done in English.

Stay tuned to follow my process and see if I’ll be able to reach my goal or if I’ll need to rely on hand gestures, smiles and nods when I get to Thailand in February!

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Are Upgrades Worth It?

I’ll start the New Year with a confession; I always shop around for what sometimes feel like forever for the cheapest plane tickets I can find. It’s no secret that almost everyone does it but when you’re flying from Eastern Canada, even the most basic flights usually end up more expensive so shopping around is often the only way to spend a little less on plane tickets in the hope of maximizing the budget and focusing on the trip itself instead of the getting there. I never bothered giving much attention to the prices listed as “Elite”, “First Class” or anything relating to something other than cheap seats and questionable meal choices. In reality, I would have sold my soul for a seat/bed in first class when I flew to Australia but the $8000 price tag brought me back to reality rather quickly.

When I flew to Belgium this year there were still upgrades available at the time of boarding and although my flight was only about 7 hours, I caved in and decided to splurge on an upgrade. The good thing is my original ticket was so inexpensive that, at the end of the day, the total price was still more than decent for a flight to Europe.

Now onto the upgrade itself;

Seat space is probably what I fell in love with the most. I’m not a giant but apparently 6 feet is enough to feel stuffed in regular seats on quite a few airlines. This time, I had room to spare and to be honest, I loved every extra inch of it.

Flight attendants attention is something that really stuck out to me. Don’t get me wrong, I respect cabin crew people beyond words; their work ethic and professionalism always impresses me, but I never came close to that kind of attention before. I truly command them on the work they do in general but particularly in first class, which is obviously a section with a large amount of demanding guests and even more varied services offered.

Food certainly could have been first on my list but I felt better putting it in the middle so I don’t sound like someone who paid quite a few dollars for better food. The fact of the matter is, the food was plentiful and it was so very good. There’s absolutely nothing I would say I didn’t enjoy; which is a lot more than I can usually say about airplane food! Obviously I wouldn’t upgrade just for the food but it’s certainly a perk I enjoyed.

Alcohol is always available on planes but free alcohol is so much better. I’m sure I’m not the only one but I always felt weird paying $6-8 for a tiny glass of cheap wine to go with a bland tasting meal eaten with plastic utensils.

I have to admit right now that I’m a sucker for goodies and freebies in general. I have so many things from launches and work-related evens that I could potentially do a giveaway every day for maybe 3 months and still have stuff to spare. I didn’t include this just to brag but to say that the little goodies bag with a blanket, inflatable pillow, socks (!) and more is pretty much a bag of awesome if you ask me.

So there you have it; I think that about covers all the cool things you get from an upgrade (I won’t mention priority boarding or being the first off the plane but look at them as added bonuses!) and in a way I’d say all those things make for a fun experience but you really need to weigh the price for what it gives you in the end; you might be better off saving your money to visit, eat or make purchases once you get to your destination.

Do you usually fly first class? Any reason in particular? Is it the luxury, the comfort or something else?