We departed Singapore and got to experience their electronic tourist refund scheme (eTRS), for collecting your GST back. To think, at the cashier’s desk when we made the purchase, we were wondering why we couldn’t just use a Global Blue refund card (useful in most of Europe).
At the point of purchase, you are given a receipt with a barcode. When you visit the airport, just follow a touch-screen based interface that says you accept the conditions (i.e. this stuff is for export/you’re not Singaporean), swipe your passport (yes, it reads it all very well), say when you entered Singapore (you can get a popup calendar), scan the receipts you’ve received via the barcode (which will display the store you purchased things from, etc.), choose a refund method (we chose to just swipe a credit card), and voila! you get a notification receipt saying all is well. There was no physical inspection required, and with the other 5 people around, none of them had that requirement.
Apparently the monies get refunded back to the credit card within 10 days. This is extremely efficient — compared to even checking out in the UK or Europe. There you still have to get stamps on receipts, usually by lining up in a pretty long queue, then posting stuff back.
The efficiency definitely leaves a very good aftertaste.
I decided to try out Lufthansa’s in-flight internet access at a cost of €17/24 hours. This was good as I got to write emails, do some work, etc while on a pretty long HND-FRA-EZE flight (yes, it works on connections too).
The connectivity isn’t that reliable. Yes, your VPN barely works. Sure they say you shouldn’t make voice calls (but use of the in-flight phone is fine – so it’s not to prevent annoying passengers, it’s to protect a revenue stream). FaceTime (audio & video work). Streaming Netflix doesn’t.
Many times the connectivity would drop, sometimes for hours on end.
But the ability to be able to Whatsapp, iMessage, or FaceTime (with headphones) your loved ones from mid-air? Priceless.
(Written on an iPad, using Lufthansa FlyNet, pretty close to South America as I hit publish)
I tend to travel on planes quite often, and I’ve always been annoyed by the fact that you have to turn off your electronic devices during take-off and landing. I thought life would be better when you could keep your tablets on in flight mode (thus not requiring me to carry physical newspapers on-board or even magazines).
In the USA and in the UK, this is no longer a problem (it hasn’t been at least since the end of last year), I was always hoping that the Asian carriers I tend to fly (Singapore Airlines & Cathay Pacific in particular) would modernise.
Sometimes I fly to Singapore from KL, and that’s about a 45-minute flight. One day I measured how much time I was wasting without using electronic devices:
- 26 minutes 45 seconds upon takeoff – announcement, taxi, takeoff (KUL-SIN)
- 14 minutes upon landing – here during taxi, you can use electronic devices
41 minutes wasted, is almost as long as the flight ;-)
So it is with great pleasure that since the middle of the year (July 2014), Singapore Airlines allows you to use your devices (not laptops, but thats ok – tablets/phones are good enough for now) in flight-safe mode, and Cathay Pacific just allowed this as of mid-September 2014.
Now, when will Malaysia Airlines, and AirAsia wake up? Presumably this has a lot to do with the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation.
Apparently taxis can be dangerous for ladies at night in Seoul. So there is a program called the Safe Return Home Service now in Seoul.
How does it work? The assumption is that many people have NFC enabled phones. They just need to tap their phone on this NFC-enabled pad, and automatically a text message is sent to one’s guardian giving the taxi’s model, current time & location, and probably more.
This ensures that you now travel with a better sense of security. Read the press release, which suggests this is a program from SK Planet (I’ve had the pleasure of working with this group in the past).
I think something like this can be really useful in markets like Malaysia, where the taxi system requires a serious overhaul.
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.
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.
Northwest Tower of Ta Keo, Angkor, Robert Powell
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.
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: