Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

T-Mobile USA changes their pay-as-you-go plans

I’ve had a T-Mobile USA prepaid number for quite some time. It was a brilliant service — you turn on unlimited calls & data (200MB at high speeds, and then it goes down to 2G speeds) when you’re in town for a mere USD$3/day. If you can live with 2G speeds, it cost USD$2/day. And when you didn’t use it, you just went into a mode that would charge you upon usage. 

All this was and still is changeable online on your T-Mobile account. A bonus: add $100 credit, and you’ve got validity for 365 days.

Now, they’ve decided that the moment you go to one of those $2-3 plans, you can’t go back to the old “idle” mode. Now you’re charged a minimum of USD$3/month just to keep your number alive & active. So that’s $36/year to keep your number alive.

I don’t mind the extra charge, but I think its quite dishonest to change existing customers to this. A lot of people praise T-Mobile, but even they falter. 

Art in Siem Reap

I enjoy looking at art, and occasionally purchasing art and our visit to Siem Reap was no exception. There’s an old blog post about the art scene in Siem Reap on Travelfish (the Hotel de la Paix they refer to is now the Park Hyatt Siem Reap). I find that a lot of the art scene is foreigner influenced, and there’s very little offering from Cambodian artists – I wish this would change going forward.

The Park Hyatt Siem Reap offered quite a few interesting pieces, in-room even. Robert Powell numbered pieces exist.

In-room art, Park Hyatt Siem Reap
Northwest Tower of Ta Keo, Angkor, Robert Powell

In-room art, Park Hyatt Siem Reap
Preah Palilay, Angkor, Robert Powell

Managed to pickup a local piece from Sopheng, who is the proprietor of Sopheng Art Gallery, near the Old Market.

Sopheng Art Gallery, Siem Reap

Who’s popular? John McDermott and his collection of McDermott Galleries. He makes use of B&W infrared photography, something I noticed quite quickly. Pickup up a print made sense. I also quite liked the items in the WA Gallery Concept Store (they have a couple of outlets near the FCC Angkor) — started by some French expats.

If you’re into the art’s scene, the Park Hyatt is a great starting point. To finish off, a quick pic from the Park Hyatt Siem Reap:

In-room art, Park Hyatt Siem Reap

Bookstores

Book vendorI’ve lamented the fact that there are very few stores in downtown San Francisco that I care about. The closure of bookstores, music stores, tech shops, etc. has been quite annoying to a frequent visitor. 

Today after lunch I took a different path back and stumbled upon Alexander Book Co, on 2nd Street (between Market & Mission). I immediately went in. I saw a book that I liked, and the first thing I did? I whipped out my phone and checked it on Amazon. It was about USD$3 cheaper online. 

Then I remembered that we have to support these indie retailers that are taking the trouble to still run a bricks & mortar store. I put my phone away and continued to find more interesting books, magazines, papers and more.

After browsing three floors, I walked out with many dead tree print items. I felt good. I know I spent more than if I had gotten it from Amazon, but I also know I would have never bought any of those items because I would have never discovered it online.

You can’t beat a physical space for discovery.

Street Art in Bali

walking around Bali, i noticed many interesting bits of street art/graffiti, and thought i’d share some here. i don’t recall using any instagram filters either. wonder how many more there are that i missed?

Graffiti girl
Graffiti girl II
Graffiti girl III
Printed Christ

Boxing Day in London

Time For Nothing by Richard Baquié (1985)There is a lot said about Boxing Day sales in London and the great shopping experience you can enjoy. I got to be part of this on the 26th of December 2012.

First thing you should know about most of Central London. A tube strike has been happening for several years now. The unions want to ensure people get paid better to work on this day, but there’s been no solution. As a consequence, most central tube lines or areas stop functioning.

Buses work. Taxis work. Taxis are also on regular metered fares on the 26th, which is unlike on Christmas Day (the 25th). 

Getting to Harrods (Knightsbridge) or most of the High Street (Oxford Circus, Bond Street) is a challenge if you can’t use the tube. So use a taxi.

What about the sales themselves?

Some stores have genuinely good discounts. Some stores like Selfridges also have an online presence, so whatever you get in store is also available via online delivery.

The crowds are insane. Walking around Bond St will confirm that. Many queue to get into stores, seen at Next & Selfridges, but for the latter there are other entrances so use common sense.

I get the feeling that Londoners usually don’t shop on this day. Its mostly out of towners or tourists.

Many stores continue to have sales right up till January. Same prices, same deals, even on January 4 the following year! Just no more crowds :)

John Lewis apparently remains closed on the 26th, electing to open on the 27th only.

Overall, its OK if you want to get 30% off something at Dior/Chanel/Hermes/Prada/etc. It seems those brands generally don’t continue sales maybe past that day. But for anything else? I’m not so sure…

Watches are also on sale. But I’ve never paid retail prices for nice watches to begin with – shops usually provide discounts anyway.

Should you go for the experience? Only if you enjoy crowds & sale bins. You will queue to go in. You will be shopping in a rush. You will queue to pay. Bring entertainment to quell the waiting periods!

security theatre: bodyscanners

I generally “opt-out” and head for a manual pat down by the TSA at airports in the USA. Today, I decided to try the bodyscanner at san francisco airport (SFO). I was tired from an active night of wine drinking & mingling. I cleared all my pockets and proceeded to get scanned.

Today I was wearing my Dockers Mobile Pants. This is the older model with two zippered pockets. After spending some three seconds in that machine with my hands up, I walked out to see that the image suggested I had something on me. It turns out that it picked up my zips on the mobile pants and required me to get a manual pat down. To make matters even more fun, they swabbed my hands for residue.

I told the TSA agent that the machine is broken and he said that its very sensitive and is working. It picks up zips. I asked what about the regular zip for my pants. He had no answer.

I guess there’s absolutely no point in doing this bodyscanner thing at all. I’ll continue getting my manual pat downs and pretend to enjoy it. I don’t care if they claim its safe either.


i