Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Vancouver observations

It has been a while since I visited Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. This time I didn’t go as a tourist, so no trip to Grouse Mountain or anything.

While walking the streets, I overheard a conversation between 2 folk about how hard it was to buy Bitcoin. This is in contrast to nearly every street corner having a marijuana dispensary, some looking very inviting like a hipster coffee shop. People buy and smoke openly, even though its not entirely legal, yet.

However, I did go to a bar, the Lamplighter Public House and found a HoneyBadger ATM. Withdrawals and deposits do work for Bitcoin/Ethereum/Litecoin.

For steaks, The Keg Steakhouse & Bar seem to be very good value for money. It is highly recommended.

Instead of the Bloody Mary, you can have a Caesar that comes with Clamato (a mixture of clam and tomato juices). Yes, clams. Why do I talk about a Bloody Mary? Because I thought I could try a local variant at the St Regis (it is a ritual, a signature cocktail at the St Regis since 1934). It turns out that this is not a regular Starwood St Regis, so a fake. Read more at: Would The Real St. Regis Please Stand Up?.

I tend not to have a sweet tooth, but my weakness is good tasting ice cream or gelato. I am fond of the gelato affogato, but in Vancouver, I felt like a kid at Bella Gelateria (yes, one night I consumed a handful of scoops as dinner). They’ve won awards, and their gelato is excellent. I learned to eat gelato when I lived in Melbourne, and Lygon St had plenty. Even better? Upon returning the staff recognise you, which is amazing considering the long queues that they tend to have.

I had a massive suite at the Hyatt, and there was a user accessible balcony on the 30th floor. This is something that one would find rather odd in Asia!

Being able to walk, see parks, the water, I can see why the quality of life is generally quite good in Vancouver. I can see why they make it as a liveable city in most rankings.

Roaming data, revisited

I’m reminded about roaming data as we’re now in 2018.

For me, in the last few years, it has already become common to turn on roaming data at the RM36/day rate for unlimited Internet access. I of course plan/optimise this (since it follows a midnight-midnight regime). I tend not to have roaming data turned on when it is RM56/day (so in the USA, UK, I actually have local SIM cards; I have them in a few other places too, but the reality is they’re for other things like local banks, etc.).

Lately, it’s becoming more common to get for RM25, a 3-day pass, with roaming data. It’s not unlimited, but maybe capped at 2–4GB. 2GB in 3 days is pretty generous. Sure I don’t download podcasts over the 4G connection. But it suffices for all my mobile and tethering needs generally.

This to me has recently become somewhat of a new window, because in a country like China where you almost definitely need to turn on your VPN, you’re still getting a Malaysian IP while roaming and still enjoying access to all websites as per normal (so its great for Google products; still no Medium access though).

I have still not bothered to try a service like Flexiroam.

Shorter cables

I travel a lot and I one of the things I constantly do is refine what goes into my backpack (and luggage). For this trip, I decided to add a refinement — reduce cable clutter.

Apple gives you 1m USB to Lightning cables when you buy the iPhone or iPad. Its nice, but folding this all is quite a burden even when I have a cord pouch to organise it all. For almost a year now, I’ve had to carry an Apple Watch charger as well.

So why not get shorter cables? Apple makes 0.5m USB to Lightning cables which are much shorter and are all I need. After all, I’m charging on the desk with an Anker 5-port USB charger. Apple decided against making a 0.5m Apple Watch charger, so I’ve settled on the 1m Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Cable.

This is a good setup. I’m saving space when it comes to folding cables. The desk looks neater no matter where I am. I found one caveat though – the 0.5m USB to Lightning cable might not be long enough for you to charge your device on a plane. For this, I still have a spare 1m cable that is attached to my powerbank.

Safety in Malaysia and the external perception

I am sitting at The Pier, a Cathay Pacific Lounge in the Hong Kong airport. While I still occasionally swing by The Wing, The Bridge, and The Cabin (in that order), this lounge has become my favourite, as you can get a 20-30 minute complimentary massage, which makes the transit a lot more bearable.

Today’s interesting conversation in the massage area (it is usually quiet, but occasionally you get a chatty passenger) happened to be with a gentleman on the same flight I would be on. He was born in Kerala, but grew up in New Delhi, and spent the last four years as an expat in Kuala Lumpur. His masseuse, like all ours at The Pier, are from Nepal.

She had been to Kuala Lumpur when she was about sixteen. And her friends and her were planning on going to Kuala Lumpur in September 2015, but they are rethinking it due to the fact that Kuala Lumpur is not safe.

Hong Kong she says is very safe. She takes a bus at 4am to reach the airport at 5.30am. She thinks that Singapore is safe. But KL lately, is not safe. The expat agrees. Whether true or perception, this is going to affect our tourist arrival numbers!

As a Malaysian, I wonder how many of us are waking up to this reality? What are we going to do to fix it?

Coffee with luxury print purchases

I visited an Assouline bookstore in Seoul, S. Korea. After you make a purchase, you get the opportunity to have a drink at their attached cafe.

Recently we were in London, and Sara & I got to visit the Maison Assouline, nearby Picadilly Circus. It is a very beautiful store, with cafe to boot. Go upstairs, and you’ll end up seeing a professional bookbinder — he does everything by hand. Takes at least a week, average cost starts at £500. Same deal as above — purchase, have a drink.

When my family left London, I walked to the Monocle shop at George St, wanting to buy their new travel guides. I was told to go to their offices as they were going to have an event there. Fair enough, it was just a few blocks away. After making a purchase? They again said, visit their cafe, a few blocks away, to have a coffee or beer. I noticed this was happening at the shop at George St too (they don’t have an attached cafe). This again, is very smart cross-promotion of your retail adventures.

Is print luxury? Do you then expand the experience by ensuring people get to slow down, and consume more with a coffee?

Underground WiFi

I remember when Malaysia first got the LRT back in the mid-90s. There were four stations where you would never get any cellphone coverage – Ampang Park, KLCC, Kampung Baru and Dang Wangi. These were the underground stations. 

Then by ’98 or ’99, Celcom got execlusive rights to implement mobile base stations for the underground. This was great for Celcom customers (which I was back then – before switching to Maxis, and finally landing with DiGi). It was exclusive, and it meant you were sending SMS messages or speaking while others were out of reach. 

By now, everyone has coverage underground I’m sure. 

I’m in London and it wasn’t too long ago that Virgin Media brought WiFi to the underground. You have to pay for it nowadays. It still doesn’t mean your cellphone works for calls, etc (unless this is done over WiFi).

I appreciate that this is the oldest rapid transit system in the world. I just wish we would be better connected. 

Circumstances here make people read books, newspapers, magazines, Kindle or listen to audiobooks. I did notice people also playing games. 


i