2010 has drawn to a close, the lists and best/worst awards are all being punctually distributed. I am going to add mine to the mix. 2010 was an awesome year and here is to 2011 making it look ‘meh’. Happy New Year.
Here goes the totally gut based unscientifically selected winners …and added bonus for me: Of all the posts I penned so far on my blog, this one I really really enjoyed writing. Didn’t feel like a chore at all.
#Best New Brand I came in touch with in 2010 : Air Asia
Low Low prices. Smokin hottt crew. Sanitary bathrooms. Clean new planes. So I am totally rah-rah’ing behind them for being able to demonstrate how you can be Cheap without being ‘Cheap’. Something demonstrated by Air India and American Airlines to be astoundingly easy.
Take Away : Being able to convincingly demonstrate an inverse link between the product experience and its pricing is an art and Air Asia is looking like Van Gogh.
#Best Value For Money : Street food in Bangkok
Back here, low-priced food means you are also involuntarily participating in heath roulette. You may or may not get sick you brave gambler you. Not so in Bangkok. Low prices only meant you just didn’t get the silverware with the food. All else was totally top notch.
Take Away : being able to demonstrate how you can be low-priced without being unhealthy/poisonous.
#Best FREE service: The Staten Island Ferry
There is no better way to glimpse Lady Liberty, enjoy the view of Manhattan from a distance AND avoid the hassles of a touristy trap up close than this surprisingly free ride to Staten Island and back on the ferry. The ferry is clean, well maintained and run by a decent crew.
Take Away : being able to demonstrate how you can be govt owned and run without being dirty or inefficient.
# Best Customer Service Experience : Virgin Atlantic, @London Heathrow. Missing a Virgin Atlantic London Delhi flight by 9 minutes and getting a NO CHARGE NO HASSLE next day ticket in the next 9 minutes. Stupid me did not catch the name of the customer service rep girl. But she made her airline look bloody darn good. Take Away : Being able to demonstrate all airline reps are not hostile surly harridans.
#Best FREE city experience : Courtesy the municipality of Paris. Free deck chairs at the Jardin des Tuileries near the Louvre in the summer, allowing anyone to park their tired selves and just enjoy straight line views of the Arc De Triomphe and the Eiffel.Take Away : Sometimes all the citizens want is a good view and a place to see it from.
#Most Unexpected Good Meal : A very unassuming bakery in Rome that served the most orgasmic lasagna I have yet tasted. And a price that did not do justice to what the dish managed to do to your tongue and mood. For those interested, this one is right at the entrance of the Battistini Metro Station. A bowl of mussels at a restaurant near the Nation metro St in Paris comes a close second and beaten because the price was too damn low for the lasagna.
#Most anticipated Good Meal that delivered: Cu Cha (sea food like you will never taste again or have before) and W.A.W (world’s best chicken wings) on Jalan Alor St. I could just park permanently at these two places, drink the local beer and watch the Kuala Lumpur crowd all day till the inevitable heart attack from obesity gets me.
#Worst Rip off at a tourist trap : The visually inviting street side restaurants near the common tourist spots in Rome. Justyna and I were parted with what was a frightening amount of our euros for what was a very bland and forgetful meal near the Pantheon.
Take Away : Location.Location.Location. We get it. But don’t just stop there. Work on the damn product!
#Best FREE quality Performances : Edinburgh Festival, August 2010. The theater was the street and by God, what theater!
#Best FREE sublime experience : Crowd watching parked on the fountain footsteps near the Pantheon, Rome. The people, the passing performers and sheer variety of tiny interesting people related episodes unfolding before you is a treat, made sweeter by the fact it’s totally absolutely free.
#Product I(we?) have the most ‘love hate’ relationship with.
#Most Welcoming Experience : Being allowed INSIDE Harvard Business School’s famed Baker Library AND its underground book depository collection without being a student or bring escorted by one. The whole campus had a vibe around ‘visitors’ that was so amazingly friendly for a place of its size and importance. Local 2 bit malls’ here are 100 times more paranoid, brooding and hostile to the casual visitor.
Take Away : For proving importance CAN have a inverse relationship with security theater vs a direct one.
#Most reliably consistent product : The BlackBerry Bold 9000. Dropped it in snow, concrete, puddles, from a height plus a myriad other abuses and it just keep on getting and diligently sending them emails. BlackBerry…oh how I love thee.
Take Away : sometime being a hedgehog that does one thing very well and consistently is all a user wants,needs and requires of a product. When commercially profitable, pander to the instinct if you can.
#Most irritating company to deal with as a customer either by telephone or on their website : Lloyds Bank!
#Most overpriced service/product not worth repeating : the GMAT exam as ‘sold’ by gmac.
#City that quite doesn’t deliver : Singapore. It’s a fantastic city but feels a tad too sterile and unimaginative. But I am still going to say I am a fan. Sue me for the contradictions.
#Most stunning good discovery : At the ‘will be crowded soon’ I.G.I-T3 Food Court : My travel buddy and I came across this food joint. Best fries ever. Name ? Like that best burger episode from HIMYM, I do NOT remember. ‘Four’ something . If you know which place i refer to, gimme a shout.
#Best website you probably don’t know about on the net : www.couchsurfing.com~ the experience it encourages will solve so such of all that is wrong out there in the world and as a bonus, will give its users one hell of an eye-opening experience in the process. Huge fan. Second Spot : www.AirBnB.com. Just plain works as advertised on the tin. I paid 900 rupees (=$18) a day for a 3 bedroom flat all to myself in Budapest.
#Experience I regret rushing through : The Met in NYC and the Louvre in Paris. I made the cardinal sin of seeing them in a hurry. Shame on me.
#Best author discovered this year : Ouch. This one is close. So I will (because I can!) award it to two geniuses I stumbled onto this year : V.S.Naipaul. Christopher Hitches.
And now the GRAND Prizes….
###Product of the Year : Amazon Kindle.Where do I even begin. Yes, I am a bibliophile and so it may feel nerdy to vote for this but here is the kicker: This year I ALSO came into an iPhone 3G and the latter doesn’t hold a candle. And that IS saying something, considering the rabid fans and press apple enjoys. From the physical product to the reading experience to the ease of purchase and download of books, this 200 gms baby is a true game changer. It has actually fuelled one of my resolutions to have NO physical books in 5 years. Move everything to this tiny marvel, an ode to all this is right about technology.
###Location of the Year : Soi Rambutri St, Bangkok.
There is, on this venerable street, a restaurant that spills over onto the street with a sheesha seller near by (order the double apple flavor) This place is by policy and open boast: NEVER closed. From early every evening till very very late at night (4 am), if you are looking for the experience to cherish : just get your mates, order the double apple sheesa from Rahul, a few bottles of chilled Singha beers and just sit back for the world’s best ‘lounge music + street fashion show’ combo experience. And end it with a non-sleazy massage at the myriad options nearby. Welcome to the good life. no riders. no big bill at the end.
###Experience of the Year : Paris.
To watch the Eiffel light up at midnight, with your gf, on your birthday, on a anchored boat on the Seine that you surreptitiously sneaked into at midnight, with beers and pizza, under a cool evening. Hard to top. But then…..would you really want to ?