June 10, 2008

Free Internet @ Changi Airport, Singapore

When i arrived at Singapore i saw couple of guys sitting here and there and using the internet. I had heard from Bajaj as well about free Wi-Fi access at the airport but when you connect to the free Wi-Fi first, it redirects you to a Q-max page for every URL. The catch is you need to login before you can actually access Wi-Fi.

Just below the login page, there is an account creation page. It asks you couple of details including your phone number, passport number and email id. I mention these three because this is what you can use to obtain your access password. By default, they send your new a/c password to your email id and phone number and for most of the people like me, the phone is NOT on international roaming.

Once registered, you don't know the password but you can go to "Forgot password" link. They will re-ask your passport details, phone number and email id and allow you to reset. Thats it. You are ready to go. Apparently this registration is valid for next 3 years and allows you to access free Wi-Fi from many airports having the same service provider. A small trick helps you access free Wi-Fi and internet and you feel back home. :-) After i went through the work-around, i helped couple more guys who were coming back with me from SFO to India.

June 02, 2008

My first visit to U S of A - Part I

Well i wasn't as excited as Borat was during his first visit but still there was a thought in mind of exploring what a lot of people consider an achievement of lifetime. Believe it or not; when people return from U S of A, they sometimes cook a lot of stories that would make you feel sorry if you haven't been there. Be thankful to me, cause i'm not going to glorify anything like that :-) Here is my "balance sheet" about U S of A and the silicon valley (yup i went to San Francisco Bay Area in California).

I left on 17th midnight on a Singapore Airlines flight. RPG had suggested to leave atleast 3 hrs before the flight's time to be sure that immigration check etc. get done fast and i had obliged. Luckily i was among the first 10 passengers (guests :D) to reach for that flight. So i had more than 2 and a half hours to kill at bangalore airport (the old HAL one). If you have a company (unfortunately i had none and found none in the waiting area), it probably makes sense to get done fast with the documentation and wait in the seating/waiting area. For me, i got bored; though watching different kind of people(well that includes cute girls!!) waiting in the queue and then reaction from the first timers when they get their immigration done is something you can watch for sometime. :D

My flight was scheduled late night at 11:00PM and i entered the flight around 10:15PM or something. There was a looong queue at the boarding gate, couple of people watching IPL; some food joint nearby and then again some people waiting in nearby seats. The interior of the flight was good and i didn't really know before that this flight would be so big. Their were 3-4-3 seats each row. At the entrance of the gate, two air hostesses would great you: one chinese/singaporean and one indian (well this happened for all the connecting flights on my way from BLR to SFO and vice versa). The idea is good, they have more than 5 female attendants on the flight, atleast one being indian and then couple more male attendants. And useless to mention, all the attendants were good looking and charming :-P

After boarding they served some juices and then i thought to take my regular sleep. Damn, right at 1:30 or 2:00 AM they woke me up for dinner when i was deep in sleep. I felt like hitting that air hostess, but then in sleep i did oblige. :-) When i started, another shock! Somehow my travel agent thought i would be a hardcore veggie that too south indian, she had made special "South Indian Veg Meal" request on my behalf to the airlines. WTH!! Anyway, once served, you can't really do much; that too when you are awaken from a deep sleep; had i started it would have been a fight; so i preferred eating whatever was served. [Moral: Make sure you know what your travel agent is doing with your itinerary before you leave]

I reached Singapore at around 4:00AM IST(Singapore time some 6:00AM). At the transit they will stick a sticker with SFO written on your shirt (well thats mandatory) and give you a transit card like thing. I was told my gate number and that i need to catch some skytrain to reach the next terminal. At first i thought WTH is skytrain, something again that will fly me to the next terminal. Took me sometime to figure that out, but there were "Information Center" counters in my boarding terminal and they were really helpful in finding out where to get this "UFO" (my terminology may not sound appropriate, but thats something i was expecting it to be; something that will fly me to the next terminal and i didn't know what the heck it is, so UFO :D). BTW the "Information Center" counters that i talked about are a great thing for first timers like me. You can wander anywhere with in the airport and if lost, just show your ticket/boarding pass and they will direct you to right way. And the attendants at these counters were all good looking and charming chinese girls [;-)](counting them for couple of my friends).

At my nearest skytrain station, the big display told me that the next one would be coming in a minute. And in exactly a minute a metro like train arrived with two boggies. It was spacious and not crowded at all. Skytrains run from one terminal to another with six minutes frequency. Thats really cool, so if you find a skytrain getting crowded, just wait for the next one. Its all programmed and runs automatically. A loud announcement will tell you before the train doors are going to close. I liked the concept very much. I was dropped at my boarding terminal in a minute or so. I started looking for my boarding gate which seemed quite far from where i had got down on the terminal. Anyways, after walking sometime i reached there. The ambiance at the terminal was really cool. I had kept walking on the floor though there were walking escalators at every regular gaps. And btw you have free wi-fi access at the airport; slight trick gets it working. I wasnt sure about it on my onward journey, explored it while returning to BLR at the lounge. More on this here.

I found free internet terminals at the boarding lounge, every time you login, you have a 15 minute session before the terminal automatically kicks you out. I sent a mail to my friends about my journey so far. Till then i had had my experience with the paper and that was hurting my bum for sometime. I tried making a call from the phone boxes kept in the airport terminal but a human voice responded and asked for my credit card number. I did take risk of revealing my card number but that guy on the other side was real dumb. I repeated the number of couple of times and then hung up. Sincere advice-"Sign up to www.airtelcallhome.com for smaller amounts" and use the toll free numbers to call India from anywhere in the world. I hear couple of my friends also use www.relianceindiacall.com Whatever you choose to use, do create an a/c for smaller amounts (min 5$) before you leave India.

When i reached Singapore, I was feeling like an alien in a new place; but after i left Singapore, i was feeling more comfortable and confident and the later part of journey until SFO was almost unhappening and boring (nothing new). I had to break my journey at Seoul(Korea) before reaching SFO and Seoul was nowhere as compared to Singapore though it was all clean, less crowded and all that. All so boring more because of the south india veggie food, dozing aunty ji sitting in the next seat and my tired mind. You can estimate my boredom if i tell you that i watched Om Shanti Om en tour and i actually liked parts of the movie... :D I know couple of you would be laughing out loud.. thats what happens when you are alone and bored and have no good company. Whatever!!!! I finally reached SFO. Wait for the next part of my travelogue...