Just Another Customer’s Best and Worst of 2011

Sometimes the best you can give to the world are things you give yourself FIRST and only later share with others. Firstly because you want the gift’s most grateful recipient to enjoy it. And because that recipient will then polish it and make it even better when it’s released into the wider world. Call it Selfish-Beta.This post, following in last years tradition,  is Selfish-Beta v 1.0.

Till quite recently I used to think of such introspective, ‘Review of a period in time’ post as a masochist chore that I would reflexively postponed into the future (….As the Spanish aphorism cuttingly observes – “Tomorrow is the busiest day of the week” )

Things change.

Now I find myself surprisingly energized and looking forward to the activity. Does writing often make exercising the fingers over the keyboard a easier activity ? ….I suspect regular bloggers would vote in the affirmative to that query.

And books are not really reviewed below. They were done in a separate post.

Onwards.

The earlier year, 2010, was the Year of Wanderlust.

That translated into THIS happy collage below :

(click on any photo in this blog to auto expand it to its FULL size)

And 2011 was a year of years. The arc of it’s kinetic narrative moves almost exactly like it did for one specific activity I dived into in the year. Scuba.

First a sense of foreboding. Then nervousness. Followed by panic. Then a sense of calm. Then unsteady  excitement that eventually morphed into full throated Woohoo!

Luckily the last phase lasted the longest.  And in the right order instead of the reverse! And that is, in my thin book of the mind,  a Good Damn Year. I would tag 2011, That year of New Activities tried.

And the number #1 lesson reinforced this year ?

OK. Now I sense this post in danger of becoming a bit of a narcissistic  ‘above-waist self-patting’ gooey Louis Armstrong affair and so I am going to deftly veer into a different terrain.

AWARDS!

Awards that I , the customer of the below things/stuff/experiences , gave to various entities and experiences last year that I am going to now replicate this year.

This post is a ton of fun and if I do it next year in 2013 I can claim tradition (three times in 3 years in a row is tradition in my book)

Note, these below are MY home brewed opinions. And some opinions are just invitations to be proven wrong.

So without ado, here are are The JAC Awards.

#Best New Brand I came in touch with in 2010 : Air Asia
#Best New Brand I came in touch with in 2011 : Chipotle

I will sell my soul any  damn day for a lifetime lunch of their delicious burritos.

{Wins because : Simple product. very well priced. consistent and brilliantly awesome every single time. While these previous adjectives look deceptively easy to nail down, believe me. It’s not. Chipotle manages it. Consistently}
Runner Up : Thai Airways

#Best Value For Money 2010 : Street food in Bangkok
#Best Value For Money 2011 : Full body Thai Massage, @KIM at Phuket, Thailand

{Wins because : For what J and I paid, we got one of the best VFMs in 2011. 60 mins of pounding, pressing, squeezing, beating and kneading that left us born again and stunned so much was given for so LITTLE in cost. Most of the times when you exit the shop/establishment in India/anywhere you are thinking the exact OPPOSITE so this here is an ART }
Runner Up : Scuba Diving @ Ko Phi Phi

[note : in both 2010 and in 2011, all VFM propositions have emerged from ONE country : Thailand. This is not just chance I suspect. Go there someday ye frugal traveler]

#Best FREE service 2010: The Staten Island Ferry
#Best FREE service 2011:  Instapaper

{Wins because : It passes the #1 test of this category – tomorrow, if this went PAID, would I pay ? Answer : Hell Yes!! Very Happily. I donated already. Btw donate to Wikipedia you shameless users all of you. I did. Instapaper has taken my Kindle and made it into a SUPER-device, and I find myself reading less books and more deep thoughtful LONGFORM articles from publications around the world and I can confirm: They are BRILLIANT. Try it out. It’s open to all, not just Kindle users by the way. google INSTAPAPER)

Runner Up : Dropbox (what a nifty funky service)

# Best Travel Customer Service Experience 2010: Virgin Atlantic, @London Heathrow.
# Best Travel Customer Service Experience 2011: ‘Tickets episode’ with Thai Airways


{Wins because : When J and I needed our tickets changed, Thai did it without fuss, without too much bumbling and best of all for us : FREE. Most airlines would have bled us dry given half a chance. And have)

Runner Up : PP Aquanauts Diving School, Ko Phi Phi

#Best FREE city experience 2010 : Courtesy the municipality of Paris
#Best FREE city experience 2011 : Pier Seats at Boston by the Charles River

{Wins because : Helped by the balmy weather and Boston summer weekend vibe by the river, the deck chairs on the pier offerd great view of the Boston East Side shore and just sitting there and soaking in the atmosphere was priceless. Thank you dear Boston Municipality!}

#Most Unexpected Good Meal : A very unassuming bakery in Rome that served the most orgasmic lasagna I have yet tasted.
#Most Unexpected Good Meal : The Spicy Tom Yum Chicken soup at a beach side restaurant at Kata Beach, Phuket

{Wins for the sheer unexpected drug-like hit it gives the tongue. I was NOT expecting it there and promptly ordered ONLY that soup for my entire stay in Thailand!}

Runner Up : Chipolte

#Most anticipated Good Meal that delivered 2010: 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.
#Most anticipated Good Meal that delivered 2011: Steak at Ruby’s @ Cincinnati, Ohio

{Wins because : ….make NO mistakes. That above is really one of the most delicious pieces of food I have put into my mouth. Ever. My Scottish friends know how MUCH I love Holy Cow in my unholy mouth and this steak piece above above was beyond compare. People well versed in Hindu Mythology will find deep irony in a guy named ‘Shiva’ finding great joy in putting Nandi’s cousin into his mouth. Western friends : Just think of it like Santa eating his reindeers} ~ All this made possible thanks to Jackie and Mel.

#Worst Rip off at a tourist trap 2010 : The visually inviting street side restaurants near the common tourist spots in Rome.
#Worst Rip off at a tourist trap 2011 : Meal at Las Iguanas at SouthBank, London

{Bloody Waste of Lot of Money. Horrible}

#Best FREE sublime experience 2010 : Crowd watching parked on the fountain footsteps near the Pantheon, Rome.
#Best FREE sublime experience 2011 : Watching sunsets over Goa (snap below taken on iphone and then Instagram’d)

#Product I(we?) have the most ‘love hate’ relationship with : Facebook
#Product I(we?) have the most ‘love hate’ relationship with : Facebook [Still]

#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.
#Most Welcoming Experience : Stay at Hotel CasaBlanca, Phuket

{imagine staying at a cozy clean new hotel. where you never see other guests. and the staff wait on you hand and foot. and at midnight, drunk, you go the closed pool. and swim. and dry off. and no one bothers you. That pool you see above was just OUR pool!)

#Most reliably consistent product : The BlackBerry Bold 9000
#Most reliably consistent product : Omron Pedometer

{Wins because : Really. I never went anywhere without it. for a year. And it delivered. And I am fitter}

#Most irritating company to deal with as a customer either by telephone or on their website : Lloyds Bank!
#Most irritating company to deal with as a customer either by telephone or on their website : Ebay

{Their customer service is a very bad joke. On the Customer. Nothing shows their disdain than the way they treat anyone trying to reach out to ebay india. 17 emails and NOT ONE REPLY}

#City that quite doesn’t deliver : Singapore
#City that quite doesn’t deliver : NCR

Really?!!? you want me EXPAND and EXPLAIN this ?!!?! The smog, the crimes, the filth and the stray cows and dogs are not the worst of it actually. It’s the sheer rudeness of the residents. Painfully visible in the way Old people are shoved aside in the metro and the way traffic rules are totally disregarded. NCR is not so much a city as the waiting room to Hell.
Runner Up :  Phuket TOWN- Boring place versus all else Thailand has to offer. An in-between stop at best.

#Most overpriced service/product not worth repeating : The GMAT exam as ‘sold’ by gmac.
#Most overpriced service/product not worth repeating :  Phi Phi Island Cabana Hotel, Ko Phi Phi

#Most stunning good discovery : At the ‘will be crowded soon’ I.G.I-T3 Food Court, 4Fingers.
#Most stunning good discovery : Hotel Casa Blanca, Phuket

#Best website you probably don’t know about on the net : http://www.couchsurfing.com
#Best website you probably don’t know about on the net : http://www.longreads.com

{seriously, Longreads + Instapaper + Kindle = Goodbye boredom. Forever}

#Experience I regret rushing through : The Met in NYC and the Louvre in Paris.
#Experience I regret rushing through : Lake Shore Drive Area, Chicago

{Really. should have spent way way longer time there. did’nt. Totally regretted it}

#Most consistent brand in 2011 : Flipkart

{Just works. Exactly as advertised on the tin}

#Best author discovered this year : V.S.Naipaul. Christopher Hitches.
#Best author discovered this year : J.M Coetzee

{The Prose. OMG. What a t a l e n t e d dude. Read at once.}

#Product of the Year : Amazon Kindle
#Product of the Year : Timex Heart monitor

{Has TOTALLY redefined my approach at the gym. I now ONLY do as the watch tells me. “The Zone” is all}

#Location of the Year : Soi Rambutri St, Bangkok.
#Location of the Year : Ko Phi Phi

[click on this pic belos to see it in its actual AWESOME size, taken by a friend who was with us there – Lou]

Runner Up : Cambridge (snap you see below was taken by VERY talented gf bobbing  and punting on our boat!)

#Experience of the Year : Paris.
#Experience of the Year : Diving at Ko Phi Phi

{There I was. On the edge of the boat. With a lifelong fear of deep water. Strapped to 20 litres of oxygen. Being egged on by my dive mater to jump in. After what seemed like an eternity, I did. Where the only sound was my own shallow scared breathing consuming that oxygen way too fast. And after a few minutes, when the initial terror subsided, I opened my eyes. And everything till then, leading to THAT ONE moment, …all that…they became worth it. I was in another world and I knew it then : I’ll forever remember this moment }

After all that happened this wonderful year, one of my all time fave author captures it’s Spark.

So 2012 has a high benchmark to top. This will have to be driven by the RIGHT question. As all good things are. And what’s The Question driving 2012 for me ??

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7 thoughts on “Just Another Customer’s Best and Worst of 2011

  1. Very cool Shiva….You are going places…literally and beautifully immersing yourself in the lovely experiences…way to go! All the best for another year of _______ !!

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