phone/internet

Switzerland: Skydiving The Alps & Plates of Lies

Continuing our journey, our next step was in Zurich, Switzerland. We took a 4 hour or so train from Munich to Zurich. Getting around Zurich is really easy as long as you can get to the main station. Everything feeds out of there and made getting to and from our hotel and the city center a breeze. We set up shop at the Hotel Allegra which was about 15 minutes by train from the main station.  Overall, I found Zurich to be a really nice, clean and accessible city. People spoke english just about every where you would need them to and it made getting around really easy. The one thing I was looking forward to most on this entire trip (along with Oktoberfest) was skydiving over the swiss alps.

switzerland-skydive-me-upside-down-vid

For our first day we didn’t have anything planned and instead just grabbed dinner in the city. Our ‘group leaders’ are vegan and found a place (Hiltl) that worked for them which actually ended up being the oldest vegan restaurant in Switzerland (or maybe just Zurich). I don’t think everyone knew that it was a fully vegan place and seeing things at the buffet like calzones with ham and cheese, or chicken nuggets, was misleading. As my buddy Kevin said after learning of the full vegan menu… “this is a plate of lies”. I don’t mind eating vegan foods, I can eat veggies and fruits… it’s when they try to pass things off for meat that I get sad :(. (more…)


London Town: Mates, Markets and The Return of the Mexican

While my trip to London wasn’t what I had originally planned it to be, I made the most out of my few days there. The original plan was to meet the writer for my book there for a few days of research. He had to change plans and instead of losing about $800 in airfare and lodging, I decided to play the tourist for a few days.

london thymes river london eye from far

I arrived to Heathrow around 4pm and walked to the underground, stopping along the way for some SIM cards. I  broke my own rule by not making sure the cards worked before leaving the store and, sure enough, the cards I got for my MIFI didn’t work. In a place like Asia it would not have been that big of a deal, but in London those cards cost me around 30 Euros. With no way of getting in touch with this little bodega, I’ve already disputed the charge thru my CC company.

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Cambodia: Not For Human Consumption

Visa Schmeeza

So here we sit. We are in the airport in Cambodia (siem reap), where we’ve been stranded for a few hours. Poor planning on our part, but apparently you need a visa prior to arrival for vietnam. We thought we could grab one on arrival as we did in cambodia and as you can in many places. Once we were denied checkin, we jumped online to myvietnamvisa.com to try and get our visas arranged. they have an expedited option for 79.00 for two people. After 2 hours, and having not received our email yet with our visa letter, I asked one of the agents at the desk if they could recommend another site. They said to try govietnamvisa.com. I chatted with a support rep there and they assured me we could get a visa within the hour. I canceled the request with myvietnamvisa and paid the $140 for a guaranteed 1 hr turn around. We got our new visa and, having missed our flight, rebooked for a 20$ fee for the new flight. It was an adventure and a lesson learned for sure. Just one more thing in the list of things that cambodia kicked our asses on. More to follow.angkor wat temple in cambodia at sunrise from the front hdr

Back to the start

We had two flights to take to get from Bali to Cambodia. The first was a 4+ hour flight from bali to bangkok and then about 1+ hour flight from bangkok to cambodia. The flights were pretty standard although neither had any entertainment. Getting into cambodia we needed a headshot (again, didnt know this). I happened to have a copy of my passport so they used that. After, I realized I could have just paid a $1 and they would have made a copy of my passport photo.

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Bali Butt, Roosters, BBQ, Sushi and Submarines

Our first stop in Bali was over in Seminyak. Once I got through immigration I was greeted by the driver from our villa. We made a stop to pick up sim cards for my phone (unlocked iphone) and mifi unit (this one). It took about 30 minutes and cost about $40 for everything. There is just something very reassuring and comforting knowing that you have cell service wherever you are. Lots of the other people on the trip relied on wifi at restaurants or bars, but I prefer to have the constant connection. It gives me a bit of peace of mind to know that if I get separated or lost, I can just pull out my phone and make a call or pull up google maps.. It’s also important for me to have ‘reliable’ (this is said with a grain of salt in asia) wifi seeing as most hotels or in this case villas have TERRIBLE wifi connections and I would need to be doing some work during the trip.

Seminyak is pretty accessible although it is a complete free-for-all when it comes to driving on the road. Between the scooters and taxis, you really have to pay attention to whats going on. The area we stayed in was pretty well populated and our villa was located just a few short turns off the main strip. The beach was about a 10 minute walk and all the shops and restaurants we need were between us and there. If you are interested in getting a villa here in bali, you should check out Villa Zara in seminyak.

our villa and cabana in seminyak, bali indonesia

I arrived at the villa and was greeted by everyone with a big “happy birthday” (it was my 30th on the day of my arrival).We had secured two villas right next to each other which made making plans and partying super easy. We divided up the rooms and starting boozing. Each villa had 4 bedrooms surrounding a large pool area.

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Phone/Internet Service Spain/France

I realize I haven’t touched on this as of yet. Being that I need internet and phone service to conduct business and to get around town in general I’ve done quite a bit to make that happen. I am currently utilizing my iPhone 4s and a MIFI unit from Huawei (the E5331). I was a bit nervous before I left that I would be unable to access my emails while on the trip and also be unable to access Google Maps (which I use 100 times a day). However, so far, I have found that I’ve been able to find good solutions for cell/data service.

MIFI:

The mifi unit I bought was around $85 dollars and it comes completely UNLOCKED, which means you can use any telecom provider for it. This is great and much easier then the process of getting an unlocked phone.

iPhone:

This was not easy. I knew that I really wanted a smartphone so I would be able to use apps like email, google maps, internet, yelp/foursquare, etc. I called AT&T to see what options I had for getting international coverage for both data and voice on my current phone. After 2 hours on the phone we got a $200ish dollar plan set up. (the plans were all quite expensive and the data plans specifically didnt offer much in the way of actual bandwith. They don’t have any gigabit or more plans and everything was in the low hundreds (200-300 megabits) of data allowance. Anyone who uses their smartphone on a regular basis for internet/email/apps/etc knows that this is not enough for a whole month of usage. But, this was my only option for now so I went with it. I had my mifi (see below) and a basic, unlocked phone from a friend which I would get local sim cards for.  Before the end of the call the rep informed me that I may be able to actually unlock my phone and get sim cards for that. OK!! now we are talking… lets do that.

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