Product/Service review


My business class experience with Spicejet’s #spicebiz

Recently Spicejet – one of India’s leading airlines rolled out its all-new business class offering – SpiceBiz – and invited me to try it out. Needless to say It took me absolutely no time to get on board. Literally 😉

The airline is offering a dedicated business class cabin with 43-inch seat pitch and 7-inch recline, complimentary lounge access, higher baggage allowance, gourmet meals/beverages, priority services and much more. There’s also a dedicated cabin crew for business class passengers. This was going to be my first experience of business class, even if on a domestic airline. So I was very eager to try it out. I had a choice of a few sectors that this seating is currently available on from Delhi, so I chose a Delhi to Calcutta and back trip (Boeing 737). Last I had been to Cal was in the 90’s. And I had been aching to visit ever since.

Depending on the aircraft configuration, SpiceJet offers 8, 12 and 28 business-class seats on its B737-700/800/900 aircrafts respectively. The front row and the over-wing exit rows of the economy cabin are offered as the premium economy seats – SpiceMax.

Now I’ll share my experience of various Spicebiz offerings.

dedicated Checkin experience with spicebiz:

On 27th May, I reached the T1 terminal, Delhi to board my Spicejet flight to Kolkata. I already had a window seat – in fact the first passenger seat. So all I had to do was drop my baggage & collect boarding passes. Spicejet has dedicated check-in counters for all SpiceBiz customers at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Srinagar, Jammu, Goa, Port Blair, Guwahati, Varanasi, Jaipur, Coimbatore, Kochi and Patna. At all other stations, passengers have access to a shared check-in counter with SpiceMax passengers. So I had a dedicated counter for me which was empty. The staff was smartly dressed, friendly and swift in their job. There’s a dedicated loader also for Spicebiz customers who helps load the luggage. Normally one has to load the luggage oneself on to the conveyor belt. I was handed over my boarding pass as well as lounge coupon by the Lady in Red. And I was assigned a special attendant from Spicejet, to escort me through to the boarding point. Please note, the attendant is NOT part of the Spicebiz offering but it was an additional VIP service I was provided with, to ensure my comfort. Basically I was a VIP customer And I highly appreciated it.  🙂 I proceeded from here to the lounge partner of Spicejet airlines – which was Plaza Premium lounge at the Delhi T1 airport.

Exclusive counter for Spicebiz customers

Well dressed staff with exclusive loader for spicebiz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lounge access with spicebiz:

SpiceBiz passengers currently have access to airport lounges at Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Varanasi, Jaipur, Guwahati, and Kochi airports. This service will soon be available at other airports.

Since their partner at T1 terminal, Delhi was Plaza premium lounge, I was escorted by the attendant to this lounge. I had around an hour during which I had a light breakfast. The meals are complimentary for all the guests who have access to the lounge. The buffet was pretty standard. The usual quick bite option of fruits, bread/butter/jam was  there. The meals are basically 5 dishes which are a mix of Indian and Continental cuisines. Beverages were tea & coffee (no juices/lassi etc).

Special assistance given to VIP customers i.e. Moi 🙂

Buffet at plaza premium lounge at T1

Seating area at plaza premium lounge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way back for my Kolkata to Delhi flight, at the Netaji Subhash Chandra airport, I relaxed at the Travel Club lounge. I found their catering much better than the Delhi one. And they had specific terminals where one could use one’s laptop. For travellers it is a very helpful addition. Once again, I had been escorted by a person from Spicejet providing assistance, something that’s available only for VIP’s and that Spicejet was kind enough to extend to me :). He even escorted me right up till my seat in the aircraft.

Travel club lounge at Kolkata

Special terminals in the lounge where one can use their devices comfortably

VIP assistance right up till my seat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enhanced baggage allowance with spicebiz:

Passengers travelling in business class are entitled to additional baggage allowance. All domestic passengers have a check-in allowance of 30 kg (up from the regular 15 kg). Hand baggage allowance for passengers travelling on domestic routes has also been extended to 10 kg (excluding laptops), from the current 7 kg. I was travelling light so I wasn’t carrying a lot with me. But it was nice to know that I could shop a LOT from Calcutta and still be within my luggage limit ;). In fact I bought a hand bag from there and also carried back some of my extra shopping as hand baggage on my return flight.

Priority services with spicebiz:

All SpiceBiz customers get the priority services offered by the airline, such as priority check-in, priority boarding and priority baggage. This basically means that YOUR luggage gets checked in first. Spicebiz customers get to board the plane or the coach leading to the plane – first. And once you arrive at the destination, the priority baggage ensures that the entire crowd from the plane would be standing next to the conveyor belt at arrivals, and the first and only piece of luggage that comes up is yours 🙂 . It was fascinating.

The In flight experience

The flight was extremely comfortable. The business class leg room was a lot! It didn’t feel claustrophobic and my knees didn’t knock on any front seat. I didn’t get edema in my ankles (that I typically get during airline travel). The seat was pretty comfortable without having to recline it. And once reclined, it was almost like lying down! I had 3 whole windows with me that was a big bonus since I love taking aerial pictures. It was a nice feeling not having to hunch into a convex shape while getting into my seat because there was so much space. Here are a few images that describe the experience. I took them once the Aircraft got empty.

Upright and reclined seat, as well as the leg space

A cushion is provided to all passengers. Blanket – on request.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twilight from the ample window space.

Window space with reclined seat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gourmet meals aboard spicebiz: 

Once on board, business class customers were offered a refreshing cool towel. It was much needed given the heat! Then we were presented with beverages like Coconut water, watermelon juice, tea & coffee. I had a chilled coconut water (and Lemonade on my flight back) and what better on a hot summer morning! I was impressed with SpiceJet’s three-course culinary journey, aimed at balancing health and indulgence. The selections were very contemporary and suiting modern palates. People can also order their meal beforehand and in case of prior booking, I Was told by the flight attendant, the variety in the menu is a lot more. Soon enough, one of the smartly dressed flight attendants spread linen on my tray table and then based on my choice, proceeded to serve me my meal on fine bone china, with sleek cutlery that had the Spicejet insignia on it.

The Spicebiz menu. Love the star anise

Spicebiz breakfast menu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Muesli with yogurt, fresh fruits & croissant

Rawa masala dosa & Quinoa Upma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were breakfast meals and no I didn’t have two of them 🙂 . The lunch/dinner meals are more elaborate and also include an extra course of various kinds of breads! Lunch/dinner meals also include a sumptuous dessert .

Selection of breads before lunch

Veg Manchurian with Veg noodles with braised Pakchoi, Dahi bhalla chaat & Chocolate dome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exquisite cutlery with Spicejet Insignia

Dinner menu of Spicebiz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the meal,  we were handed hot towels to wipe our hands with. We were offered beverages throughout the duration of the flight as well. I must say Taj SATS did a fine catering job here.

I had a great experience traveling in luxury with plush seats, gourmet meals and lounge access. Go ahead and try it! SpiceJet will soon be offering SpiceBiz on select international routes too. Wonder if they will invite me for that too 😉



My most memorable selfie

Much as I don’t like this word “selfie” and prefer the original and very elegant word used by photographers – “self portrait”, no one can deny that it has become second nature to millennials and many others alike. At the same time, sometimes when one is alone and there’s no one to capture a particular moment, the “self portrait” tool on phones, or the “selfie” comes most handy!

Since this post is about my most memorable selfie, there’s one that captures one of the most thrilling moments of my life. As we all know, India and Pakistan share a border at many locations. Wagah border at Amritsar is one such location and there is much fanfare at the beating retreat everyday over there. There is a high level of security as well, understandably. I’m a partition grandchild. Both sets of my grandparents migrated from Punjab’s portion in Pakistan, much like almost all Delhites’. In May 1947 my paternal grandfather had got a brand new Haveli constructed that they had to leave in a tearing hurry in August 1947. My maternal grandparents had a similar fate. As a result, even though we share a bitter sweet relationship with our neighbouring country, I have always wanted to visit Pakistan and retrace the steps of my grandparents. I don’t know if THAT is possible at all, but I always wanted to be as close to it as possible and took the second best thing – visiting the borders of our country.

 

So a few months back I visited Wagah border at Amritsar. Of course once there, one realises borders are merely a man made construct for our own consumption. Humans are more tied down with this social construct and relatively animals and birds cross them freely! I could see stray dogs and birds cross from India to Pakistan and vice versa, throughout the time I was there. But of course us humans have no such luck!

Then came a point, when through special permission I could get to a specific portion of the wagah border where there’s absolutely nothing except for a short fence. Both Indian and Pakistani rangers stand side by side protecting it and patrolling this area. Beyond this all one can see is greenery and wheat farms. It’s the complete opposite of the heavy gates just a few metres away. 

Much to my excitement a Pakistani ranger was standing right there within touching distance! Of course I didn’t try to touch him, but I could just not believe that if I stretched my arm, it would be in Pakistani air space!

 

 

It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life! And Without much ado I quickly captured a selfie with the Pakistani ranger in the frame! However I had used my trusted old ipad3 for this selfie and Sadly as you can see I would have liked to capture my full face as well as more of the border, the beautiful wheat farms, the green lawns & lovely lillies on the Pakistan side. And well, some birds flying across both countries would have been “sone par suhaga”. I think if I had had a good selfie camera phone like Mobiistar with its dual selfie camera that captures a 120° wide-angle shot, I may have had some shot at my desired image! However I was and will always be very excited that at least I got to capture one of the most thrilling moments of my life. Of course, if possible I would love to revisit this location with a better selfie experience phone and capture many more shots at this location with a lot more in view.

 

Which is your most memorable selfie? Do share in comments.

 

This post was written as part of an activity on Indiblogger.in

 

 



The 55″ HOM Ultra HD Smart TV

Around 2.5 years back, I FINALLY upgraded from a yesteryear CRT TV to a high tech state of the art Ultra HD 4K Smart TV with android. That was quite a jump right? Needless to say my content viewing *completely* changed after that and well that was the idea as well. But such TV’s don’t come for anything less than 35K-40K. So what does one do if one wants to upgrade, get a better viewing experience, be able to speak to one’s TV, queue the latest music/movies/series on demand and not spend a bombshell doing that?

Enter :

The 55″ HOM Smart TV

HOM, introduces the 55” Smart LED 4K TV which promises to change your TV watching experience! This is the 1st TV in India to enter the market at the lowest price, making this a must have for every home. HOM provides an immersive experience for their viewers with a wide range of content available at the click of a button – Movies, music, sports, games, online content — whatever you’re watching, whatever the source.

First let’s imagine a 55inch TV to begin with. It’s going to cover a decent portion of any wall and is capable of transporting one to a “movie environment”. Now for the salient features:, it has the following:
  • 4K HD Display
  • Android 4.4
  • 1 GB RAM
  • HD Display
  • Built in Wi-Fi
  • RJ45 (Ethernet)
  • 3 HDMI Port
  • 1 VGA Port
  • 2 USB Port
  • 1 Video Input
  • Smart Remote
  • Weather Update
The features are quite exciting. With an Android Smart TV with Miracast Technology, the sky is the limit to watching content. One can easily mirror one’s android phone on to the TV WITHOUT any cables! After this whatever you can watch on the phone becomes watchable on TV as well! Be it your images, videos or well just whatsapp! And if one combines a voice assistant to this setup , then all you need to do is speak what your heart desires and your TV will play it seamlessly! The TV’s have Inbuilt apps which keep tv watchers entertained (games), active, informed (live updates every 30 mins) and fit (fat burn program).

However that’s just the cake. The icing on top is the fact that this TV is now available in India for under INR 30k! The HOM TV’s would very soon be available at mobile phone stores apart from just regular TV stores. May be that’s why their slogan very aptly says “HOM: Har Family ka member, Mobile se sasta TV”. So if you are planning to upgrade your TV, then instead of waiting for diwali sales, you can quickly headover to http://www.homindia.in/ .

Here are some images that highlight the TV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The TV’s come with a 365 days replacement guarantee (with T&C).

Note : This post was written for an initiative on Indiblogger.


Restaurant Review – After Stories

I recently visited After stories as part of a large group and tried a bite from a number of dishes. It is very close to the IFFCO chowk Metro Station in Gurgaon and is known for its freshly brewed Beer. Here’s a quick review.

Ambience:

It is naturally well lit and has a nice ambience. The interiors looked good and music played at a comfortable volume (where you can hear yourself talk).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food & drinks:

They have multiple cuisines which includes North Indian, Continental, Chinese, Mexican and fusion of these. The Prices are a bit on the higher side but one must try it out. The Service staff was pleasant and knowledgeable about the food.

In drinks I tasted the Apple cider & Kala Khatta (signature drink). Both were quite nice.

For appetisers, I tried :

Peri peri cottage cheese fingers : Paneer was soft, exterior was crisp but needed more of the Peri peri as I couldnt taste it at all .

Tandoori Mushroom with double cheese : Quite nice.

Crispy aloo sabutdana : To be honest it wasn’t too crispy. Potato wedges are usually crispier.

Falafel with pita and humus : Nice and crispy falafels served with pita bread and 3 types of humus – one of them was made with black chana too.

Veg Spring Rolls : Average

Cottage cheese in Schezwan sauce : Crispy on the outside, nice taste. But personally I feel there are just too many paneer dishes.

Chicken jujeh Kebab : was nice and tangy.

Baked filo puff – The pastry was quite nice and flaky but the filling (in the Veg one) mainly tasted of carrots and cheese. Could add some other flavours.

Mexican Style mutton seekh with salsa and sour cream – different flavours from usual punjabi style but nice.

For main course I stayed away from Indian food though others seemed to enjoy it a lot. I tried the pastas which had the right italian flavours and were not their Indian versions.

I also had Mumbai style chicken manchurian served with fried egg and sichuan rice. The manchurian was a bit tough and dry else the dish looked good and tasted good.

For dessert I tasted the Churros with Mandarin sauce and clotted cream as well as the variant with strawberry and chocolate sauce. I found the latter combination better. The churros were a bit dry because they were quite thick. But tasted nice. The chocolate and walnut brownie with ice cream was quite nice and gooey.

Here are some images to describe what one can’t in words!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The food was nice, not too spicy. Main course portions are ok only for one person per dish. They also have interesting events like Cinderella nights on Wednesday, Thirsty nightingale on Thursday (free beer for all & also a karaoke night) , Story teller Sunday and more. It occupies the basement, ground floor and first floor and also has outdoor seating. There is a long flight of stairs that leads up to the 1st floor. There’s no elevator. The parking is free. Overall this place is well worth a visit.

 

After Stories Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato  


10 reasons to stay at Treehouse Anuraga Palace when visiting Ranthambore

Some time back I had the opportunity to visit Treehouse Anuraga Palace at Ranthambore and my stay there was quite fulfilling. Here are the reasons why you should plan a stay there on your visit to Ranthambore. 

Close to Ranthambore tiger reserve & fort

The main attraction – the Ranthambore tiger reserve hosts not only magnificent Tigers but many other exotic animals including Leopards, Jackals, Foxes, Black Bucks, Deer, Nilgai, Sloth Bears, Desert Cats, Mongoose, and a large number of birds including peacocks, darter, treepie, quails, and many many others. The Treehouse Anuraga Palace hotel is very conveniently located from the reserve. The Ranthambore fort is another must visit attraction which is in the same reserve. It hosts a well known temple – The Trinetra Ganesha Temple which is famous for having Lord Ganesha and all of his family together at one place. 

 

While climbing stairs of the #ranthambore Fort, comes the entire family of Shiv, Parvati, Ganesha & others. Very rarely seen together. #rajasthan #_soi #travel #travelphotography #temple

A post shared by Priyanka Sachar 📸🍃🌱🍝💅💒🏞️🇮🇳 (@twilightfairy) on

 

Right next to the artistic sawai madhopur railway station

The Treenhouse Anuraga Palace is very very close to the very artistic Sawai Madhopur railway station. The distance is barely 5 minutes by car. Hence reaching their by train or by road is most convenient.

Beautiful architecture & elegant decor

The architecture of the Treehouse Anuraga Palace is very nice & majestic. Not only does it have the typical Jharokhas, chhatris, jaalis & the haveli look of Rajasthani architecture, the rooms are also decorated in a palatial way. It has a central courtyard with a fountain and garden seating is available for tea/coffee. It has been built according to vastu and one corner of the campus has a high tower for auspiciousness. One look at the hotel, and you know it’s not your typical modern building and you are in for a different experience. Moreover the decor is fabulous and has been catered to personally by the family that owns it. The entire hotel has light curtains which flow with the breeze and give the place a very nice relaxed ambience.

Architecture complying to vastu

Architecture complying to Vastu

Beautiful Architecture of Treehouse Anuraga Palace

Beautiful Architecture of Treehouse Anuraga Palace

Flowy curtains in all corridors

Flowy curtains in all corridors

Elegant Decor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organic veggies & organic milk from shabri farm

The Treehouse Anuraga has a restaurant named Basant. Open from Morning till late night, it serves a variety of dishes from across the globe. The breakfast buffet is lavish and so are the other meals. The best part however is that all veggies and milk products used in their daily meals are organic! Not only that, all these come from their own farms! I had the opportunity to visit their farm a little distance away from the hotel. It is a haven that one can only dream of owning. Veggies and fruits growing without pesticide, compost being made at the farm and cows/buffalos having a variety of healthy stuff that makes their milk more flavourful – are some of the sights one sees. No pesticides or antibiotics used anywhere – which is how our daily intake should be but isn’t. Even the chutneys and pickles present at the buffet are organic and have been prepared at the farm. When was the last time you ate so healthy?

Shabri farms

Amla trees at Shabri farms

Amla trees at Shabri farms

Onions and garlic drying

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pigeons at the farm

Dairy area at Shabri farm

Dairy area at Shabri farm

All veggies including organic ones are grown at Shabri farms

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hospitality & family feeling

Rajasthani hospitality is famous. Considering that hotels are a part of the hospitality industry, one would assume that the service would be great. But more often than not one finds that to be lacking. Not at Treehouse Anuraga though! Every single member (and I do mean every single member) of the staff, no matter how senior or how junior, smiles and greets all the guests. It doesn’t stop just there. They will ask you how comfortable you are and try to increase that comfort even more. At the restaurant also, The chef and cooks are friendly and will offer to make your favourite dishes if you feel that you don’t want anything from the buffet. The homely tradition of insisting that your guests take some more servings of the food even when they are full, is actually followed here! Waiters and the staff at the restaurant insist on pouring something more into your plate or getting that one extra chapati or customizing your meal. It feels like one is eating with family and not with strangers at a hotel.

Spa services

 

Spa area

Spa services are also available at Treehouse Anuraga. It is not the full range of services like Spa, steam and Sauna but the spa massages are good. There’s a variety of massages available. They have 2 lady masseurs and 2 gents. I tried the “Lomi Lomi” massage which is derived from the ancient polynesians and is performed using the forearm, knuckles and palms. This helps in toxin release and improving muscle strength. Most massages are available for 60 or 90 minutes. One has to make an appointment in advance. I found the massage very relaxing. This was followed by a hot bath that seals all the moisture in.

 

 

 

Special dining at rooftop

The hospitality I mentioned earlier, goes one step further. If one wishes, one can dine at the rooftop under a specially painted canopy for a sit down meal. You can tell your meal preference in advance and then you will be served various courses at the rooftop privately, instead of having a buffet meal at the restaurant. Since the stuff is not cooked at the rooftop, they have an arrangement of a microwave to reheat anything in case it gets cold. I am sure later the facilities available at the rooftop will expand much more. And of course the view from the rooftop is to die for.

Magnificent view from the rooftop

Painted ceiling at the rooftop

The rooftop area all set for dinner

The table all set for sit down dinner!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entertainment & Experiences

Treehouse Anuraga can arrange for the jungle safari if you haven’t booked a ticket for yourself already. The general public way is to book ticket online (no control over timing allotted) or to buy ticket from the ticket counter at the Ranthambore tiger reserve (one can still choose between morning/evening timings & type of vehicle). One can choose between a gypsy (6 seater) and a canter (12 seater). But all hotels in the vicinity also provide booking through their own agents and charge a fees over the ticket cost for the same. “Gypsy vs canter” is a thing for another post. Apart from the Jungle safari that the Treehouse Anuraga can arrange for you, they have a daily magic show in the evening and camel rides (paid separately) are available as well. They also have outdoor and indoor play areas for kids. An inviting swimming pool is also at the premises and can be used any time. In terms of experiences, they offer a whole plethora. The rooftop special dining also comes under that. A visit to the Shabri farm where all the organic veggies come from is another one. A sun downer at the Ranthambore fort is another – where one dines at the fort and a meal is served there while watching the sunset. Apart from this there are a host of other activities like evening tea, naturalist talks, wildlife films, available for the evening.

Tranquility

The Treehouse Anuraga is a quiet & serene place. There’s a temple at the premises and there are yoga sessions and Arti in the morning. Apart from this whatever suits you – a swim, meditation, prayers or spa treatment – everything to relax and achieve tranquility is available. 

Pool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stunning rooms

This is the cherry on top of a luscious cake that is Treehouse Anuraga. The rooms, Especially the suites are absolutely mindblowing. The suites have been given the name based on the Indian Flowers of Jasmine, Rose, Marigold and Lotus and every element adds up to create a story around the theme. My family and I stayed in 2 thematic suites – Rose suite and Jasmine suite. These large spacious suites have a separate living area and bedroom area. Everything in the suites is decorated according to the theme. I must mention that all the decor is personally handled by the daughter of the owners of Treehouse Anuraga. Not only this , some of the paintings and artwork inside the rooms is also handcrafted by them. They are a family of multi-talented people!

The Jasmine suite

Matching bathrooms

Jasmine Suite

Jasmine Suite

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flouncy curtains in all rooms

Matching bathrooms

Rose suite with its painted ceiling

Rose suite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After going through all these reasons, what are you still waiting for? Visit TreeHouse Anuraga Palace to experience it for yourself 🙂 The best time to visit Ranthambore is October to June. The sanctuary is closed the rest of the months of the year.