The Best Business Lounges Around Asia

Long flight. No sleep. You’ve spent almost 20 hours in the air and now you’ve got five hours to kill in this airport 5,000 miles away from home. You don’t know anyone for thousands of miles; everyone you see is a complete stranger. You’re alone. So very, very alone. What you need is a good drink.

It’s a fact that Asia has more business travelers per capita than any other continent on the planet. The business world has its pivotal hub in the Asia Pacific region, with Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo only playing parts in the area’s distinct economic influence on the world. Therefore, the airports around Asia reflect the deep regard and respect each Asian country has for the men and women making their economies grow.

Having a good business lounge to reward today’s Business Warrior on their long travels is just another way of brightening a day fraught with temperamental children and rough turbulence. Walking through the doors of a lounge designed specifically with you in mind is like being hugged by mom.

There are lounges designed strictly for VIPs and business people, while others cater to all passengers. If you are a business traveler and you just got off a flight that included a family of five loud tourists, it would be wise to avoid going to the lounge they just stepped into. Try the one that specifically caters to you.

There are things that any lounge will have, regardless of whom gets in. They will usually have:

o Drinks
o Snacks
o Television and internet
o Comfortable seating

There are some, however, that fly just above the rainbow. Here are the select few lounges in Asia that offer exemplary class and service.

o Hong Kong International Airport (Hong Kong)

Cathay Pacific’s Wing Lounge in the Hong Kong International Airport not only caters to any specific taste, they pride themselves on improving on even the most minute of details. They offer first-class travelers private cabanas, private showers, and chaise lounges.

o Suvarnabhumi International Airport (Bangkok)

Thai Airway’s Royal Orchid Lounge not only offers the best in travel, but their layover accommodations go beyond the normal rules of class. You feel stressed? Get a Thai massage or take a hot shower. If you need to have a last second meeting, meeting rooms are right there. Also, should you need transportation anywhere, Royal Orchid has a fleet of Mercedes-Benzes at your beckon call should you need to go anywhere.

o Chengi Airport (Singapore)

This airport features almost unanimously lauded lounges. Whether you need to nap, shower, or visit the spa, they have you covered. And if you have a lot of time to kill, you can go on a Singapore Tour. Yes. For a 5-hour or longer layover you can take one of four tours around the city and make it back well before you flight.
If you don’t want to leave the airport, you can walk around in one if it’s six gardens. That’s right. And airport with six gardens. What more could you want?

o Dubai International Airport (Dubai)

Dubai is almost defined by the decadent hotels there that cater to the world’s nobility. Movie stars, world leaders, and rich heiresses have all stayed a night or two in the gold-plated, marble-floored castles for the elite. So why stop there?
The Dubai International Airport took the luxury of a 5-star hotel and transposed it into their lounges. With restaurants that feature a dining experience unparalleled in air travel, it is clear to see why people clamor to be stuck in Dubai. They offer spas, Jacuzzis, a full gym and swimming poor to all first-class passengers.

o Incheon International Airport (Seoul)

Asian airports are known to pamper their travelers. Like the airport in Singapore, Incheon offers travelers with selected layovers tours of Seoul. They went one up on them, however. The VIP lounges are catered specifically to first-class flyers. Also, for the past two years straight the lounges in Incheon International Airport have been given the Global Traveler award for the best in the world.

In a time when simply being good was never so hard, these airports looked great, seemingly without effort. Naturally, you would be just as tired of flying in a VIP lounge as you would in the terminal. But there a lot to be said about hating to fly in style, as opposed to despising it on a plastic chair in front of Gate 24. If the adage, “you get what you pay for” is true, then these lounges are worth millions.

2008 Asia Cup Cricket Tournament

The Asia Cup Cricket Tournament is an international cricket event which was conceived in the year 1983 along with the birth of the Asian Cricket Council in the same year. Originally the ACC(Asian Cricket Council))was established as a measure to promote goodwill among the Asian nations. The original plan was to hold the tournament in every two years and the first tournament was held in 1984 in Sharjah, UAE where the council’s offices were based (until 1995). ICC(International Cricket Council) has officially given One Day International status to all the matches played for the Asia Cup.

Till now Indian cricket team has won the Asia Cup the most times (4 times) and appeared in all the final matches apart from the 1986 and 2000 cup, during which period India did not participated in the Tournament due to its bad relation with host nation Sri Lanka. Recently ACC has announced that the Asia Cup Cricket tournament will be held biennially from 2008 onwards.

The ninth edition of the Asia Cup Cricket Tournament will be held in Pakistan from 24th June 2008 onwards and will continue till 6th July 2008.This would be the first time Pakistan would be hosting the three-side tournament, including Bangladesh. In this edition the participant nations are India, Pakistan, Srilanka, UAE, Hong Kong and Bangladesh. There will be three teams in each group and the top two teams from each group will qualify for the second round.

From the second round top two teams will contest the final. Karachi will host 10 of the 13 matches, while Lahore will host three and all matches will be day-night affairs, starting late in the afternoon about 04:00 PM local time. As per a recent news article, former Pakistani Cricket captain Wasim Akram was saying India is the most favourite for the 2008 Asia Cup Champion considering the current conditions of arch-rival Pakistan team. He says “Though Karachi’s hot weather will be an additional rival for the participating teams in the Asia Cup, I see India as hot favourites for the event,” the Dawn quoted Akram as saying. Till date India has performed very well in all the Asia Cup tournaments and has won the Championship 4 times.

Considering their current exposure to IPL matches and the well praised performance in the ongoing Bangladesh Tri-Series, they are certainly the favourite for this edition of the championship also. However, tournament host & arch rival Pakistan and mighty Srilanka wont let it happen without pain. Let us see who comes out as the Champion in the 9th edition of 2008 Asia Cup Cricket Tournament!

Travel to Asia to Experience How the Other Side of the World Lives

It was our honeymoon trip to Southeast Asia that hooked us.

Two weeks traveling around Thailand melted the Massachusetts winter snow from our shoes, relaxed our work-stressed muscles and opened our eyes to a new way of living — one that focused more on a “What can I do for you?” approach instead of the “What can you do for me?” attitude we’d experienced for so long living in the western hemisphere.

Having been raised in the Persian Gulf and South Africa and having traveled extensively throughout my life, I was always open to experiencing change but I was not prepared for my husband to be so affected by this trip.

I’ll always remember the moment. Sitting on the bed in a guesthouse in Chiang Mai, my husband, Skip, turned to me and asked: “How would you feel about living here?”

From that point on, it went like this. In September 2009, we sold our house. In January, 2010, Skip quit his high profile (and high pressure) job to the great surprise and shock of his colleagues and friends. Over the next few months, we sold our cars, gave away most of our belongings and put the rest of our stuff into a storage unit.

And in June, we boarded a plane to Cambodia, with a one-way ticket to Phnom Penh.

We’re now volunteering at a couple of Cambodian NGOs, living in a lovely apartment and soaking up the experience of peeling back layer after layer of this fascinating country.

Since the trip to Thailand almost four years ago, Skip had made it his mission to find a way for us to return to Asia and, after months of research, came upon VIA (Volunteers In Asia) which places volunteers in various positions throughout the continent. While our first choice had been Thailand, VIA had other plans for us, and Cambodia became our destination. It was a country we knew very little about and had never visited before but we were open to the adventure.

It wasn’t easy for me at first. Skip slipped right into the experience while I became stuck in a very different state of mind. Phnom Penh was not what I’d expected. It was hot, dirty and smelly. The road from the airport to our guesthouse was crowded and filled with motos, tuktuks, cars and bicycles weaving in a senseless mess of disorder and chaos. There was nothing sophisticated, quaint or pretty. We saw a rat outside our guesthouse. Everything felt difficult, unpleasant and uncomfortable.

It also didn’t help that our organization had planned an outing for us the day after our arrival which took us to the Killing Fields outside Phnom Penh. While still reeling and overwhelmed from landing in this alien spot, I found myself walking around in blistering 90 degree heat, surrounded by the devastating reminders of a country which had been torn apart and tortured in every way. But then something changed. I’m not sure if it was the presence of other people with similar experiences. Or discovering some of the gentler sides of life. Or meeting some of the delightful people who make up this country.

It was about getting comfortable with the uncomfortable and, now, just a couple of months into the experience, Skip and I continue to be fascinated, amazed and impressed by this interesting country which we have made our home.

One thing that helped me to shift my perspective was going with a colleague to a cafe on a beautiful, leafy balcony where I settled back into the wicker couch and realized there actually were places that could be havens when the heat and dust became too much to handle.

But, funnily enough, it didn’t make me seek more expat havens. It gave me more of a perspective on the city and a realization that I had flown thousands of miles from home to learn about another culture, not one that I could get at home.

Bit by bit, I started to see through different eyes. I found delight in racing across town in a tuktuk observing orange-wrapped monks with umbrellas and multiple passengers piled onto motos with huge panes of glass, leafy trees or live chickens. I noticed the shimmering roof of the palace as we walked home at night. And I was no longer fearful about looking into the sidewalk food stalls selling unidentifiable dishes as we strolled across town.

Most of all, I found myself drawn to the people who must be among the most beautiful race in the world – both inside and out. Having been raised in this war-torn country – most of whom have lost family and friends during the Pol Pot regime – they are incredibly resilient, gentle and without self pity. Their smiles are enough to brighten my day and every doe-eyed child melts my heart when they wave and beam from the back of a moto or the side of the street.

As we started feeling more comfortable with the city, we found an apartment in a quiet part of town which, happily, possessed the unusual amenities of a bathtub and a stove (not normal in most apartments in Phnom Penh). And, bit by bit, we ventured farther and deeper into the streets of the city and the lives of the people.

While we were often in the company of our fellow volunteers, we also sought out local friends, one of whom appeared in the shape of our tuktuk driver, SomOn. A friendly and amicable soul, SomOn ferried us back and forth every day to language classes and Skip decided he wanted to invite him and his family to our home for dinner.

Sunday evening arrived and SomOn rolled up in his tuktuk, smartly dressed and escorting a wife, two adorable children and two of his sisters whom he’d decided should come along too. Thirty minutes later, SomOn’s brother came as well…and so did his brother’s friend! And as we scrambled to find additional plates and silverware, the women took over our kitchen and cooked more dishes to add to Skip’s chicken curry, then cleaned everything from top to bottom

It was a perfectly wonderful evening. SomOn and his family sat, beaming widely, unable to speak much English but saying volumes in their smiles and their gratitude.

It is experiences like those which are enriching our lives. Sure, it’s lovely to go to the upscale jazz lounge and sip martinis while nibbling on $1 tapas. It’s also nice to have dinner in the rooftop restaurant at the FCC (Foreign Correspondent’s Club) overlooking the river.

But Skip and I both agree we are more stimulated by the contact we have with the people who live here.

Like the night his cycling guide, Bontree, came to our house (with two friends in tow, of course) and they all ended up sitting on the living room floor with Lillian, the volunteer coordinator singing along as she played “If I Were A Boy” on the guitar.

Or the evening we went to karaoke with six of Skip’s office mates and they had no hesitation in singing loudly and tunelessly to the songs on the screen. We soon discovered that karaoke is very big here and very different to the karaoke we know in the west. Here, you rent a private room and have a couple of attractive hostesses dressed in sequined gowns pour drinks and bring fruit as you direct them to the song you would like to sing.

Living in Cambodia, we have found, tends to be an easier way of life than living in the west. At home, we’d sometimes make plans with friends several weeks in advance. Here, immediacy is the key and it’s not unusual to bump into someone (or meet a stranger) and have them invite you to their home that same evening.

It’s also so much cheaper to live and play here. Meals generally cost between $5 and $20 for two and the most we have paid for an incredible, gourmet dinner (without wine) was $52.

As far as living costs go, we’ve found everything to be cheaper than back home (with a possible exception of postage) and the food in most cases is tasty and varied – ranging from the ubiquitous Cambodian rice and noodle dishes to such interesting western dishes as Mint and Aubergine (eggplant) Burrito and Goat’s Cheese Sandwich with Pesto and Grilled Eggplant on Anadama Bread. There’s also more of a selection of luscious fruit drinks than anything I’ve ever seen including mango lassi, ginger presse, coconut, pineapple and banana smoothies, papaya, watermelon and carrot fresh juices. And, in contrast, you’ll also see such delicacies on offer as goat, tarantula, fried bowel and “cavorted rooster” (we’ve still to learn what that is!)

It’s a way of life that is worlds away from that which we’re used to and, while there are bumps along the way, there are more things that make me grateful for pulling up roots and planting them here.

To get up in the morning, jump into SomOn’s tuktuk and weave across town to work. To visit the Russian Market with ream upon ream of shimmering silk, bootlegged DVDs and carved wooden Buddha statues. To hear the eggman and the breadman walk past our apartment chanting their wares every day. To watch hundreds of peoples’ nightly exercise regime at the Olympic stadium where anyone can teach an aerobics class if they have a big set of speakers and a pair of sneakers. To see black clouds roll across the sky and run for cover as the heavens open and torrents of water drown everything in sight.

It’s these things and many more which make me happy I’m here.