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Showing posts from May, 2013

Europe Trip Preparation: Packing

With experience from my previous travels, I have learnt on what to pack, and what not to pack. What complicates this is what could (or rather not) be brought through the airport and customs. Another thing to consider is the type of bag to bring along, and, if it has wheels, the "retain" it would be brought through outside the airport.

You know those big fat bags with built in wheels and a handle that many people passing through the airport seem to be bringing along? You don't need to have/buy those bags. If it weren't for the handle, it would be difficult to carry, but what makes it difficult to carry in the first place? The shape of the bag, and, because of the bag's capacity, you tend to fill it up and even exceed the allowed weight of check-in and have to pay more (not cheap) if you still insist on not lightening the load to drop to the limit. Don't forget that the weight of the bag itself, including its handle and wheels, has its own weight. Also, those b…

Europe trip preparation: Accomodation

One of the most important aspect of traveling far away from home is finding a place to stay, especially if there isn't anyone in that area to stay with that I know of.
Not including my online friends that I have never met in real life, not many people I know of lived abroad. Heck, most of the people I know of hasn't even been abroad. Basically, I have no one.
Due to the flight being booked less than a month prior to the departure day, that also naturally meant that hotels aren't booked earlier since the exact dates aren't known before booking the flight.
As Paris was the first destination in Europe, that naturally means that the accommodation dates are closer, which also translates to lesser odds of finding a room at a good hotel as other people had booked it, way earlier. Sure there may be vacancies, but of non-consecutive dates, or of an undesirable price. I ended up booking an apartment, which works out to be cheaper than the available hotels I came across by as much a…

Europe trip preparation: Inter-city travel

As part of planning, how do I get around plays a large part of how much things cost, where and how to get to and from accommodation, along with related activity relating to getting to and from there.
Taxis in London are obviously out for me.
Before I talk about intercity travel, I did take a look at getting to Paris from London via Train + ferry + Train combo as opposed to taking another plane or taking the more famous Eurostar. The cost seemed only marginally cheaper, though Eurostar might be cheaper if booked months in advance, but hey, we didn't even book the plane to Europe until less than a month to departure, and obviously I can't book a train with dates unknown. The big turndown was that, this route, meant that I could have possibly missed the last train into Paris after alighting the ferry at the France side of the English Channel. The town we would be stuck at seems like a small town with only a few hotels. We decided to take the Eurostar in the end.
Either way, how do I…

Europe trip preparation: Entertainment while travelling

So, apart from making calls and using the internet, how do I pass the time during the long monotonous wait while travelling? Well, perhaps the plane taking off and landing, or train departing and arriving, and when on board meals are being served when I don't really feel bored.

But what do you do when on a 2 hour train ride, or a 9 hour stopover at an international airport that doesn't have much facilities that I could access without paying too much? You can't expect me to just stare into blank space like a zombie or walking around aimlessly forever. (Walking around for that long is tiring.)

Well, apart from going online, I could just play games, music or do some work, but I'm not bringing my iPod or gaming console, or my laptop. I could just stare at each individual stamp in my passport of the different countries that I had been to, but that's no fun when you have so many hours to kill.

Well, it turns out that I have the kindle with me. The one I bought in Decembe…

Europe trip preparation: Phone and Internet

Among the different phones networks here, I am already using a phone that is commonly used around the world, which happily includes Europe. However, overseas roaming charges are there. Calling a local number while in the country, with the SIM card of the operator back home inside, is technically seen as an overseas call, which means higher charges. One way around it is to get a local SIM card or use a payphone.

Problem with getting a local SIM card is that I would be travelling to an another country, making the call while in that other country also seen as an overseas call. In addition for prepaid SIM cards, I can't get the refund of unused balance. The same for using a phone card for payphones.

How about using coins for payphones? Well, if you have several coins of specific denominations, that wouldn't be a problem, but, for overseas calls, that means inserting coins more frequently. In practice, who would even carry so many coins of the same denomination? Sure the payphone s…

Europe trip preparation: Currency

With the introduction of the Euro in 2002, the hassle and fees of changing currencies has largely been eliminated for this trip. The problem is that my home currency is not the Euro, and the UK still uses the British Pound.

At least France and Italy, two of the countries I'm visiting, uses the Euro.

Guess what. The flight I'm taking makes a stopover in a small country in the Middle East called Quatar. (Near UAE and north eastern corner of Saudi Arabia if you didn't know where) It has its own currency called Qatari Riyal, so I don't know how am I to obtain that. I don't recall seeing it at the money changers I have been to or walked past.

On closer look, it does have money changer and has ATMs (unclear on fees or if international cards are accepted). It's not clear if my home currency is accepted there, but what is certain is that the Euro notes that I'm already bringing along would be accepted. (Some money is lost in the conversion though.)

Sadly, I can'…

Europe trip peperation: Camera

I'm preparing the camera for my trip, so I am gathering all the SD memory cards the camera uses. Check the battery, charge it, and such.

Found several mini and micro SD cards that are, at most, 2GB. Ugh... these tiny, easy-to-lose cards... At least I have the adaptor that turns it into a regular SD card. The camera may come with 2 8GB SDHC cards, but on a holiday, I want to reduce the inconvenience of changing it and, if I'm not near a computer I could use, have enough space for more shots. Oh well, something is better than nothing.

The camera is a normal point-and-shoot kind, 12.1 mega-pixels, 1080p video recording (with the capacity of those <2GB cards I mentioned earlier, that works out to less than 5 minutes. Total. With nothing else on it.). I had used it for my travels last year (2012) and I kind of like it better than other cameras I had used. What I liked is the 4x optical zoom. Handy for taking pictures of animals (or people) without getting too close and risk them…

Teary Promise (Part 18)

Woman: "Ah, I almost forgot. There are several spare uniforms at the staff room you can wear. We keep spares in case our students stained theirs with paint or blood, or gets torn apart. Wait inside the girl's toilet of the nearby park. You will attract attention if you don't change."

Why are they keeping spares at all? Why at the staff room instead of the storeroom? What is with the mention of blood and tears? Why wait inside the park toilet instead of the outside? This sounds very wrong, even for a school away from the city.

Me: "Is the bullying that bad?"

She had an odd expression on her face when I said that.

Woman: "Not all the families of the students can afford the uniform, and you know, bullying cases where they tear them apart. Some are... Left behind by students. There's a set prepared in the first cubicle in the toilet."

Why did you already prepare the uniform when I had only just met you? I felt that the conversation was very awkward …