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Thoughts

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Dubai Airport is a major hub for traffic between Europe and Asia, and with Emirates’ services to local airports across Europe it can provide better choices than some national carriers: for example, you no longer have to face the nightmare journey (and expense) of departures from London to reach the Far East and Australia.

There are a few things to note ‘tho:

The terminal at Dubai is huge (by some measures the largest building on earth). Transfers between gates can involve an underground train journey and can take up to 45 minutes. There are cafes, shops and toilets all over the place, so it’s advisable to get to your departure gate and then look around.
This is particularly the case if you disembark ‘off gate’ and have to get to the terminal by bus. The journey can go on for ages, to the visible consternation of people who have not experienced this before – as long as 30 minutes to the terminal after getting off the plane.

Dubai is famous for shopping and the airport particularly so. It’s surreal to arrive at a major shopping mall in the middle of a desert in the middle of the night, to find it full of people from every corner of the globe – often in national dress – and all spending like crazy…
However: be sure to have a currency converter with you because I have found that prices in the ‘Duty Free’ are not very competitive and they do not carry the latest and most up to date stock lines.

For example: in August 2014 I checked prices on a Fujipix XP70 camera.  The price in Thailand was 5990 Bht, Dubai Duty Free were charging 7,800 Bht for the same camera, some 30% more than the Thai tax paid high street price.
The currency is often the cause of the problem, Dubai prices goods in Emirates Dirham and US Dollars (at their conversion rate), if you don’t understand current rates you may assume you and getting a duty free bargain when you are not. The same camera would actually be cheaper from Amazon in the UK (with free delivery), including the UK 20% VAT/ sales tax…

High pricing continues in most areas of the airport: a small can of Fosters lager is 35 Dirham, (£5.67 or 306 Bht), and whilst I accept that airports are premium priced venues, this is still very high (a pint of lager in Suvarnabhumi BKK is 250 Bht). Coffee is around £3 depending on what style you order.

Another issue is that they will take most currencies, but give you change in Dirham. So if you break a £10 or a £20, then effectively that is what you are spending – unless of course you are staying here. It’s not uncommon to see people checking price lists, to see what massively overpriced items they can use up their change on.
Despite any loading, it’s probably better to pay by card, and always in the local currency, don’t let them convert it to dollars, sterling or whatever, ‘for your convenience’…

The airport offers WiFi: DBX Free WiFi shows up as connected, but I can never make it work. Instead you are redirected to a service from Boingo, which offers a free 30 minutes but wants you to sign up… yada yada yada – they have other priced plans as well. Not worth the bother really, sounds like the gateway to a lifetime of spam.

So; Dubai offers some attractive transfer options for global travel from local destinations – but check your prices if you intend to snap up a duty free bargain.

 

As yet another big player suffers a security breach (Ebay), it really is time to consider NOT using the same password everywhere – I know many of you do… and to change some of the ones that you have in use now.

Its a good idea to give different details to sites as well – I can see no good reason why a shopping site needs to know my date of birth, apart from to confirm I am over 18 – so I usually give incorrect information, reserving the correct date for sites where it is essential to be accurate: HMRC, DVLA, banks etc.
A few years ago I was the victim of identity fraud and my correct DOB was the only thing the fraudster got wrong.

How to store all these passwords and ‘incorrect’ data? I use Password Safe. This is a PC application that creates an encrypted data file that can only be opened via the application and only with one entry password.
You can create folders within the application if you wish (ie: one for banks, one for shopping etc) and can add notes about each site/ password. The application will also generate passwords if you wish – but these are of the **vsy$jj variety and you will never remember them!

Finally… the application is also available as a phone app (Android only), and the encrypted storage files can be shared/ synced between PC and phone – so you can carry your encrypted password safe with you.

Links here:

Password Safe for PC

Password Safe for Android

Service standards are rightly famous across South East Asia; supported by the fact that people are generally kind and polite in this part of the world. It’s a cultural and often religious thing; we have mostly abandoned both of these influences in the west.

It can however get ‘a bit much’. The place I’m staying in at the moment is a smallish hotel in a trendy part of Bali; I guess you could use the word boutique if you were so inclined.
It would also seem that I am the only guest at the moment so the staff are hyper attentive; and no matter how familiar you are with this level of service, there is something distinctly unnerving about looking up from your breakfast and seeing 3 vigilant staff watching you intently from behind the bar; knowing that your slightest movement or glance is being interpreted as a request of some kind, when in fact you just need to scratch your arse.
It’s also somewhat disconcerting that the second you finish with a dish one of them sweeps in to clear it, reaching almost comic proportions when they come in on a parabolic trajectory to try and fool you, it was obvious he was coming for me, there was no one else there…

They also seem a bit wary of me, which is my fault entirely; whilst I am normally sweetness personified, I was somewhat fractious when I got here yesterday. The result of a 2am wake up call and a very early departure from Bangkok. After a four and a half hour flight I then had to deal with the taxi twonks at Bali Airport, who, whilst sitting in front of a sign stating that the price to my destination was 80,000 asked for 120,000. (now; the value is not important, but the difference is, and no one like to feel ripped off; however I have also learnt that saving 50p and ending up making the journey in the back of a cattle truck is not really a win…)
On arrival at the hotel there was some shenanigans with my credit card, then they took me to a room with some building work going on nearby, and I might have accidentally said ‘if that doesn’t fucking stop right now I’m out of here’.
The direct approach doesn’t usually work here, but the building and drilling was wrapped up quickly and the staff have been on pins ever since.

There are also a lot of staff, some of them are tarting the place up with fresh paint, but there are loads of people floating about – often with brooms – and others involved with ‘security’… Security against what I have no idea, as it’s hard to imagine a calmer place. One of the security peoples’ main duties seems to be to keep an eye on me, or at least it seems that way as he’s stationed across from my room just watching all day. Perhaps he works for Obama. Obama follows me on twitter actually, so that would be pointless. You can check, Hi Barak…

Anyway, I digress…

I’m sure the service will calm down a bit when another guest arrives – but until then I guess I will learn to live with it. What with all this being watched and the smell of fresh paint I think I know how the Queen feels.

Just booked a little trip to Sukothai – the old capital. But getting there is turning out to be more complex than I thought.
Bus tickets are only available from the Bus Station in Chiang Mai (for this destination) – and then you have to locate the company that serves your destination – I can manage that bit, even in Thai.

However:
The only VIP bus (direct and with a toilet) goes at 7pm for a 5 hour trip = first day gone. They won’t sell me a return, so whilst it probably would be OK there are no guarantees.

Regular buses are more frequent but I’m concerned about the quality – could be the journey from hell:

I asked a travel agent what the regular buses are like – she said they were second class.
I asked her what the seats where like – she said they were third class.

Fuck it, I’m going to dance with the devil and I’ve hired a car…

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