My travels through Asia and beyond

Random header image... Refresh for more!

Clothing rental for your vacation – crazy or sensible idea?

I was just reading an article on a company that is starting a new service that enables travelers to rent their clothes for their holiday. The idea is that it cuts down the need for having to carry around heavy luggage on your holiday. When I first read the article, it sounded more like an April fool’s day joke to me.

The founder of the new service is Catharine MacIntosh and the company is called Zero Baggage. Maybe the idea is more appealing to women, but I wonder how many women could really travel with no luggage?

I generally travel light anyway. Most of my luggage is made up of my laptop and various accessories like cameras and other equipment. Presumably I could get these items also at Zero Baggage, but I would waste time trying to set up a new laptop how I like it. The new netbooks that are available are small and light anyway. I don’t like carrying too many clothes and one pair of shoes and some sandals is generally enough.

I know many people don’t like having to wait for their luggage at the baggage claim area at the airport, but even though it sometimes seems like an eternity, I am sure in reality it’s usually only about 5-10 minutes. I have never understood how people are in such a mad rush to get off the plane when it lands and then they only have to wait to pick up their luggage.

If you have no luggage on a plane, especially on a long flight I would imagine that you might raise some suspicions with immigration and customs of most countries.

Imagine after landing in your new destination you have to visit a store or somewhere to try on an pick out your clothes. I believe the service is done all online, so perhaps this isn’t necessary, but how many times do you try on something and it fits the first time?

From the company’s website as to why the service was started:

Allowing for an environmentally responsible, anxiety-free way of living and travelling brings us closer to a state of seamless travel and weightless living. Less, truly becomes more. Movement and circulation of items create a robust new business model generating greater wealth over a longer period of time.

Is it just me or is one of the most ludicrous ideas for a travel related business?

September 17, 2009   7 Comments

Big trouble in Thailand

I just watched the first episode of the new British television series “Big Trouble in Thailand“. I have seen some posts on Thailand forums arguing that it will keep tourists away and others that say it will only encourage more people to visit.

We often hear of reports how the police are corrupt in Thailand, but in most cases the foreigners involved in the incidents were drunk and out of control and pretty much all of their own doing. The warnings for drug use in Thailand are pretty clear.

The exception is the jet ski incident where a British marine rents a jet ski on the beach at Phuket, and the operator claims he damaged it. He demands 40,000 baht for repairs. There’s a stand off when a senior marine tries to negotiate a lower fee. He ends up having to pay 35,000 baht to the jet ski operator.

It’s probably a good idea not to ever rent a jet ski, but the same trouble can happen with motorbikes or cars. A young girl is caught by police for drug possession and faces a couple of months in jail, because she cannot pay the fine.

The program also feature the foreign tourist police volunteers. There seems a lot negativity towards them by other foreigners, but watching the program they seemed to do a good enough job. In the case of the drunk Australian guy he probably would have ended up in a police cell, if they weren’t there to assist. They helped call his father, who came and picked him up.

If you saw the program, what did you think of it?

September 10, 2009   2 Comments

Planning a visit to Thailand?

I have just written an article When is the best time to visit Thailand.

I hope it helps people decide when they should visit Thailand.

August 21, 2009   No Comments

Beer mat lady Annice Smoel goes free

Annice Smoel aka. “the beer mat lady” has pleaded guilty and got off with a small fine for stealing a beer mat from the Aussie Bar in Phuket.

Crikey had a good wrap of the story from the media’s perspective:

Are we so prejudiced nowadays that any Aussie who is arrested for a misdemeanour in Asia is front page news? The beat up about the Melbourne “beer mat mum”, Annice Smoel, suggests the Australian media will grab any chance it can to condemn the authorities — particularly the judiciary — of our Asian neighbours.
The Daily Telegraph’s headline on Tuesday summed up the tone with “Beer mat mum faces Thai jail hell.”
As we all now know, Smoel received a suspended sentence and a fine of just $40. She walked free from court and is reportedly on her way home this morning. The sentence was a mile away from the potential “five years in jail” mooted by the media over the last week.

I am sure the Australian Women’s Weekly magazine are writing the check now for her story. For the people that wanted her theft to be dealt with more harshly, you will just have to be satisfied that she will be called the “Phuket Beer Mat Lady” for the rest of her life.

May 22, 2009   2 Comments

Australian mum arrested in Thailand for stealing bar mat

An Australian tourist and mother of three children, Annice Smoel was arrested in Phuket, Thailand for stealing a ‘bar mat’. She says one of her friends put the mat in her bag as a joke. When undercover police confronted her in the bar, she left the bar, but police caught up with her and she spent the following two nights in a holding cell.

Typical outrage is going on from the Australian media, including who have some interviews with her Australian lawyer, Annice herself and her husband. Australians always seem surprised when they get caught for something overseas, that the government doesn’t come running to get them out of jail.

It is a sad story – a fun night that goes completely wrong, but she now has to face the Thai justice system. Since the story has now broken and international media have picked it up, it will be interesting to see if this will help or hinder her case. She faces two to five years jail time.

There are already talks of Australians planning to boycott visiting Phuket.

May 18, 2009   4 Comments

Red Garden – Penang

I have mentioned it a few times on this blog, but I really love the island of Penang in Malaysia. Ok, the beaches aren’t the best in Asia, but this is made up for the fantastic food Penang has to offer.

I have been going to Red Garden Food Paradise the past few days and I can’t get enough of the place. It’s an outdoor food court with food vendors selling Thai, Penang specialities, Japanese, sate and of course Malaysian food.

There’s even live music and older Chinese folk enjoy a bit of dancing. It’s located on Penang Road close to Penang’s biggest hotels.





April 29, 2009   4 Comments

In Indonesia for a while

Sorry, for the lack of updates, but I have decided to stay in Indonesia for a while. I have a two month visa which I have now used one month of.

I have started a new website on Indonesia.

So I will be here for at least another month and then back to Malaysia for a visa run.

March 24, 2009   2 Comments

Old Penang townhouses

Penang or Georgetown would have to be one of the best places in Asia for walking tours, especially if you like old, heritage buildings. In Asia’s rush for economic prosperity most of the old residential houses and buildings are slowly being replaced by modern high rises.

Thankfully Georgetown is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site ensuring its architecture will survive rampant development.

If I had the cash I would buy and renovate of these townhouses. There are still plenty of unrenovated buildings. Some of the renovated places have been made into backpacker hostels, art galleries, residences and tea houses.

This place looks like it is for sale, with a price of around 300,000 ringgit, which is less than US$100,000 – a bargain if this is right.

Penang architecture

Another renovator’s delight.

Penang architecture

And finally in the same street a renovated place, which I believe is owned by a French guy. I had a peek inside the other day when the door was open and it looks great inside also.

Penang architecture

February 17, 2009   7 Comments

So long Philippines

It’s been almost a week now since I left the Philippines. I was thinking that it might be a place I would like to stay longer, but in some ways I was glad to leave.

Philippine food has the worst reputation in Asia, and sadly I confirm that it is true. I can spend months in Thailand eating at cheap restaurants, food vendors and hotels and I have rarely had a bad meal. Sometimes the western dishes might be a little strange, but you can’t complain really with any of the local food, and if you stay anywhere near the coast you will experience the best seafood ever.

Everything in the Philippines seemed to be sugary, salty or fatty. Most of the restaurants were either American or local chains. Jolibee is local version of McDonalds and in the bigger cities, you find them on almost every corner. Also the smell of fast food restaurants seemed to linger everywhere in the streets and even in the malls.

I have read reports of foreigners getting mugged in Bangkok, but I always felt safe there. In the Philippines though, especially in Manila and Cebu I just didn’t feel safe at all walking around at night. I don’t know if I was just being paranoid, but you don’t see any other foreigners walking around. I caught taxis everywhere, which fortunately are cheap and the drivers were pretty good, always switching on the meters.

One thing which was hard was all of the street kids begging for money at night. The Philippines is not only country in Asia which is bad for this, but there just seemed to be so many, like in Cebu city. The kids were dirty and ran around with no shoes. They slept outside on the concrete paths – it was really sad.

I stopped off in a smaller town called Iroiro, which was a six hour bus ride from Boracay. It seemed like a more pleasant place than Cebu and Manila. Boracay was nice, but crowded when I went. The islands around Palawan are supposed to be the best for beaches and for diving. I should have gone there first, but I was interested to see what Cebu was like, as I know a lot of foreigners choose to retire there. Why is this? Well, I will let you guess.

Boracay Philippines

February 16, 2009   6 Comments

Happy Chinese New Year from Boracay

I have already been here in the Philippines for nearly two weeks and this is my first post. After traveling to many countries now, I have finally made it to the Philippines. Air Asia have cheap flights from Kuala Lumpur which fly into Angeles city, about two hours from the country’s capital Manila.

The biggest surprise has been the level of armed security guards here. I am not sure if that makes more worried or if I feel safer. One of my first meals was at McDonalds and they had an armed guard standing out front and another one inside. These guys don’t just have handguns, but heavy machine guns slung over their shoulders. Since the store was pretty small, I couldn’t help staring at this guy thinking about the level of security that was apparently needed for a pretty small McDonalds.

Security staff at hotels also carry handguns and they all seem to have 24 hour surveillance.

I caught a flight to Boracay from Manila, actually a city just across from Boracay as the island is too small to have its own airport. I knew Chinese New Year was approaching, but I didn’t realize it would be the same time as I was here. Lots of Chinese and Koreans here right now and all flights are booked out of the island for the next week. I might have to travel by bus to another airport if I want to leave sooner.

Boracay is your typical postcard perfect tropical beach resort. They seem to have handled development reasonably and the beach and water is still really nice. The usual touts are not too pushy. Hotels are a little more pricey than what you would pay in say Thailand. The food is not as good as other destinations in Asia, but not too bad. Americans would feel at home as there is every available fast food franchise available here, with a few local ones thrown in.

One consolation for me is that the beer is great and cheap!

boracay philippines

boracay philippines

boracay philippines

boracay philippines

Cebu Airlines plane

January 27, 2009   2 Comments