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Product Review – Pokefi

Product Review – Pokefi

For all my readers out there, you will remember I reviewed a number of wifi/data products in my earlier few posts:

Review: Flexiroam – Affordable data roaming package usable anywhere anytime

Review: Pocket Wifi Router (Changi Recommends)

Cheap (Free) mobile data overseas

So far, I have always been a fervent supporter of Flexiroam especially if you are a frequent traveller. Flexiroam works great as it is really a plug (well, you can say paste) and forget kind of device because it is a thin microchip that is attached to your existing SIM card. This microchip allows you to  access Flexiroam’s low cost data roaming whilst overseas. The way it works is that it is a service where you can tap into a pool of data no matter where you are in the world. This means you can avoid i) “wasting” data that you bought but could not finish during your stay in a particular country (especially relevant in data expensive regions such as Europe) or ii) the hassle of purchasing sim cards in countries where it is difficult for a foreigner to do so. This advantage is counterbalanced by the relatively high cost of their data packages at US$29.99 per GB.

If you are not a frequent traveller, it may be most efficient if you were to consider renting a pocket wifi router. This is more so for Singapore travellers or travellers go through Singapore where such routers are on offer for as low as S$5 per day for unlimited use. While the cost appears low, this adds up over time especially if you are travelling for more than a week where the bill can be up to S$50 thereabout.

So, therefore, there appears to be no real product that seem to clinch the deal. Well, that is up until now.

In my recent travels, I came across a product on offer in Cathay Pacific’s in-flight catalogue that really caught my eye:

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They have wifi pocket routers called Pokefi on sale.

The price looked reasonable at US$120 / HKD990 with 5gb of data included. In the event you run out of usable data, more can be bought at a really reasonable price of US$15 for 5gb (averaging US$3/gb). This is way cheaper than what Flexiroam is offering and appears to me to be way more user friendly. One main flaw with Flexiroam is the fact that once you turn on the microchip, it disables your home sim such that you no longer are able to receive calls/smses until you switch back to your home sim. Pokefi, being a wifi pocket router, does not interfere with your home sim and you can continue receiving calls/smses as per normal.

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Using it appears to be simple.

Holding on to the button for 3 seconds turns it on.

It may take between 30 seconds to 60 seconds to make a connection with the surrounding network. During the interim, it will be flashing red. Once connected, it will then flash green.

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Holding on to the button for 5 seconds turns it off. There will still be one or two more green/red flashes but such flashes will not be as long and will end abruptly once the device turns itself off.

While there is no display showing the remaining amount of data or battery level, these information can be accessed via a link that you can key into your mobile browser (http://a.pokefi.). If you are connected to the device, this will bring up a dedicated page showing your usage and the existing battery level.

So far, while using it in Taiwan, I found the device to fair as good as the unit I rented from Changi during my Japan trip. My only suggestion is to keep a small battery bank with you when you carry this device around just in case you require some urgent juicing towards the end of the day or where multiple devices are connected.

Although the outlay is expensive initially, the cost savings add up quickly if you travel often. For example, my business trips are increasingly common and for longer periods. If I were to rent a unit from Changi, the costs would add up rather fast. A trip to Shanghai for just 6 days would cost me S$40 and another trip to Kaohsiung for 5 days would cost me another S$20. This would already be close to 1/3 the price of Pokefi! It may therefore make sense to actually buy one instead of renting especially if you are going to travel quite a fair bit or if you are visiting a data expensive region like Europe.

Definitely a recommended product!

Note: This, like all my other major reviews, is not sponsored products and are paid for using my hard earned cash. If you appreciate such posts, please remember to like and follow for more.

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How to apply for an India e-visa

How to apply for an India e-visa

Visiting India anytime soon? Be sure to apply for your visa prior to your trip to avoid any issues with the Indian immigration authorities on arrival. This is a short guide on how to apply for a visa yourself.

Step 1: Applying an e-visa online

You can apply for an e-visa if you hold a passport from anyone of the countries listed on the Indian immigration website (https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html). Do check the link out to see if you qualify. Major passports should have no issue applying.

India Visa

If you qualify for an e-visa, proceed to this link https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/Registration (valid as at 9 March 2018) to apply.

India Visa 1

Have the following details prepared prior to applying:

  • Port of Arrival
  • Estimated date of arrival
  • Visa Service (eg. Tourist / Medical / Business)
  • Recent colored photograph (dimensions 2in X 2in) size less than 1MB
  • Copy of Passport page containing personal particulars
  • Typical details required for form filling
  • Occupation information (Industry, employer etc) including past military experience
  • Places to be visited during this trip and also whether there have been past visits to India before
  • An Indian reference and a home country reference*

Don’t freak out when you see the Indian reference requirement. Just provide the name of the hotel you will be staying at and their relevant details like their phone number and address. It worked for my application.

While the forms aren’t too difficult to fill in, it will take some time to finish. So do allocate perhaps 10-15 minutes if you are going to apply for one. The Indian immigration authorities should definitely streamline the process.

Step 2: Paying required fees

Once you are done with the forms, you will have to proceed to pay the visa processing fee. While I would have preferred it to be a one stop process, payment is to be done separately (https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/PaymentCheck link valid as at 9 March 2018). You will need to have your Application ID when you make your payment. It cost me around SGD35.

I hope you found this mini-guide useful for your trip to India. Please remember to like and follow for more useful tips!

PS. I was originally supposed to fly to India last Saturday. However, I had to reschedule in light of my work obligations. No worries! I will still update with new content.

Kaohsiung, Taiwan: One day Cijin Island Guide

Kaohsiung, Taiwan: One day Cijin Island Guide

Hello, all! Just came back from my Taiwan trip.

One highlight of my trip was my tour of Cijin Island with my colleagues. Cijin Island is a small thin strip of land/ island lying at the entrance to Kaohsiung’s port. This island offers plenty for its visitors both in terms of things to see and do and also offer an opportunity to feast on seafood while in Kaohsiung.

Getting to Cijin Island

There are two main ways of getting to Cijin Island. Both involve taking a short 5 minutes ferry ride from Gushan Ferry Terminal. You can get to the ferry terminal either by the metro and alighting at Sizihwan station or the light rail at Hamasen station.

We took the light rail since there was a stop close to where we were staying. For those who are reading this blog for the first time, I typically stay at 85 Sky Tower Hotel while in Kaohsiung. My review of that hotel can be found here.

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The ride was slow paced since its more of a light rail than a metro line. It, however, allowed us to have a good view of the sights along the shoreline including, the Pier 2 Art Centre, the Iron Bridge (crossing the Love River) and Hamasen Railway Cultural Park where you can find disused train tracks!

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From Hamasen Station, the ferry terminal is a short walk away. There are a number of ice shaving shops along the way. While you can always grab yourself some ice shavings, there are other shops on Cijin Island as well.

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The cost of the ferry is 40 per pax. The cost of the light rail is 30 per pax. This is assuming you pay in cash. If you have their local transport cards, discounted fares apply.

Things to do while in Cijin Island

The most important thing to do is, I think, to hire for yourself a mode of transport. Either grab a bicycle or a battery powered bicycles (either 2 seaters or 4 seaters) as they will allow you to cover great distances while on the Island and allow you to not only explore all of the sights but also feast on cheaper seafood outside of the main tourist belt. My suggestion is to get a battery powered vehicle as it may be too tiring to cycle for long.

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Talk to the salesperson who you are renting the bikes from. They will normally offer a short introduction of the things to see along the route and also they own personal suggestions of where to eat.

We covered the many sights along the way in our 4 seater:

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One possible itinerary is to go along the coast and hit all of the main sights like the Rainbow Church, the huge ass clam and the Wind Power display before heading for lunch. After lunch you can then turn back towards the other half of the cycling route and finishing off at Cijin Star Tunnel, Fort and Lighthouse.

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For lunch, we had it at “Wan Er”. It appears to be a more of a no frills restaurant where their chefs prepare dishes and place them on a counter. You take the dishes that you want and pay for them at the designated counter using vouchers which you can purchase from their main counter for cash (third pic below). Don’t worry, any excess vouchers can be swapped back for cash. You can park your bicycle nearby. The battery powered bikes come with a key so you can just remove it while you feast away. Our little feast here was only a 1000 Taiwan Dollars and we had scallops, abalone, a huge fish, some kind of mock abalone and some broth:

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We finished off the day at the main street on Cijin island after returning our bikes. There were plenty of stores there selling both touristy items and also local eats. We decided to pop into a ice shavings shop for our well deserved ice shavings having burnt large amounts of calories climbing up to both the Fort and also the Lighthouse:

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For those who still have some time left, you can also consider popping over to the other side and visiting the British Consular Residence which lies on top of a hill also overlooking the small gap leading into the harbour. It is a short walk away from Gushan Ferry Terminal and offers pretty decent scenic views of both the Lighthouse and also the harbour itself.

Remember to like and follow if you have not done so!

Travel Hack: A better way to find cheaper (cheapest) flights

Different travellers have their own “travel hack” on how to get the cheapest travel deal.

For some, it means booking on a Tuesday (Don’t ask me why but there appears to be some rumour that that the cheapest deals are on Tuesdays). For others, it might mean arranging your holidays such that your flights are scheduled on less popular weekday slots or odd hour slots. Then you have package deals on Expedia where bundling gets you a better value than you would have had booking separately. Why not also include the price guarantees offered on travel sites?    

Is there a simpler way? Something like a “An Idiot’s Guide to Travel Hacking”?

Have a look at Matrix Airfare Search.

This search engine is amazing as it offers what appears to be an independent search of  available flights (Note: the engine appears unable to identify budget airlines). “Independent” here is reflected by the fact that the engine is not managed by a travel agency. The operator neither sells any tickets nor earns any commission from your purchases. The site will show the relevant airlines and you can either book your tickets directly with the airline online or through an agent. If booking via an agent, Matrix will provide you the relevant booking codes.

Use the site as either a confirmation of your other price research or as a preliminary search to get a sense of the price for a particular leg.

Make sure to search both “Cheapest Available” and “Business Class or higher” options when using the search feature. Sometimes you may find good bargains where flying business will cost you just a few hundred dollars more. For example, for my upcoming trip to Delhi from Singapore. A direct return flight via Jet Airways would have cost me S$400. Flying business class via Malaysia Airlines with a stop in KL would just require a top up of another S$400. Definitely worth the bit more for a better flight experience.

There are also better examples like this where the options on Expedia although cheaper is just slightly cheaper than if you had flown business:

Expedia: Singapore to Kaohsiung, Taiwan (Assuming you are unable or unwilling to fly Scoot):

Vietnam Airlines Economy S$830.50

11 February 2018 (SG – KHH)

1.25pm – 9.55pm

13 February 2018 (KHH- SG)

7.30am – 7.25pm

 

Cathay Pacific Economy S$1,387.60

11 February 2018 (SG – KHH)

6.50am – 2.10pm

13 February 2018 (KHH-SG)

9.25pm – 11.55am

 

Matrix: Singapore to Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Vietnam Airlines Mixed S$1,125

11 February 2018 (SG – KHH) (Economy)

1.25pm – 9.55pm

13 February 2018 (KHH- SG) (Business, Part)

7.30am – 7.25pm

 

Vietnam Airlines Mixed S$1,624

11 February 2018 (SG – KHH) (Business, Part)

1.25pm – 9.55pm

13 February 2018 (KHH- SG) (Business)

7.30am – 7.25pm

This opens up a lot of options for you.

For example, instead of flying economy on Cathay and paying S$1,387, you have the option of flying the cheaper Vietnam flight at S$1,125 to experience Business Class for one part of your journey or topping up slightly for the S$1,624 flight for a more complete Business Class experience.

While using Matrix doesn’t guarantee that you will find cheaper tickets, it opens up more options to choose from. I hope you will find it useful and will incorporate it into your holiday planning.

Remember to like and follow for more travel hacks and tips!

My (not so) near death experience – Fugu dining

My (not so) near death experience – Fugu dining

I always dreamed of trying and experiencing something unique. Sort of like marking significant milestones in my life. One such milestone is cheating death by eating Fugu or what is commonly known as pufferfish or blowfish.

Fugu? What is Fugu (Pufferfish aka Blowfish)?

For those wondering what Fugu is, National Geographic nicely describes this deadly fish as:

ABOUT PUFFERFISH

Biologists think pufferfish, also known as blowfish, developed their famous “inflatability” because their slow, somewhat clumsy swimming style makes them vulnerable to predators. In lieu of escape, pufferfish use their highly elastic stomachs and the ability to quickly ingest huge amounts of water (and even air when necessary) to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size. Some species also have spines on their skin to make them even less palatable.

Toxicity

A predator that manages to snag a puffer before it inflates won’t feel lucky for long. Almost all pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them foul tasting and often lethal to fish. To humans, tetrodotoxin is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. There is enough toxin in one pufferfish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote.

I was about to put something 1200 times deadlier than cyanide on my plate and hope to almighty God that I don’t die from it.

Well sort of.

Pufferfish, if prepared correctly is not toxic. Only certain parts of the fish will cause death if ingested. The emphasis here is “if prepared correctly”.

If done wrongly, I would be 6 feet under.

Evidently, I didn’t die. If not, you will be the first person reading a blog entry from the other world.

How does Pufferfish Taste Like?

I had it in Tokyo, Japan after my whirlwind tour of Hokkaido with my girlfriend where we visited Hakodate, Noboribetsu, Sapporo and Otaru. It was our last meal in Tokyo and we wanted to try something unique.

We went for Fugu at Torafugu-tei near the famous Shibuya Crossing. You can’t miss it since it has a huge ass Fugu right above the store front!

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This restaurant serves a variety of Fugu called “Tiger Blowfish”.

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Great to know that the restaurant serves “Only the safest product”

There’s a la carte and also meal courses on offer. When we were there, there were two courses on offer. One going for 4,980 yen before taxes. The other going for 6,480 yen before taxes. While we were a little puzzled by the menu, there appears to be only minor differences with the menu (the more expensive comes with “Deep Fried Blowfish” while the cheaper menu instead comes with “Blowfish under-skin”), we decided to go big (if it’s going to be our last meal after all) and ordered the 6,480 yen set.

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First up, came the Blowfish Skin. If you had jellyfish before, it has a similar chewy texture. It was very refreshing due to the sauce it was served in. It was citrusy like a mix of soy sauce and some kind citrus fruit. The grated ginger (that reddish thing) was not overpowering and helped balance out any fishiness (although I didn’t feel that the dish was at all fishy in taste). I would have loved it even more if it had been a hot summer day as the dish was served chilled.

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Blowfish Sashimi was up next. Surprisingly, unlike our typical experience with Japanese Sashimi, it was not served with wasabi. Instead, again you find a small portion of ginger on the side to go with your soy sauce. There was also a slice of lime, if required. This was, I think, the key point in the meal as you get to experience the actual taste of fugu. Its surprisingly neutral tasting and very “clean” tasting. It doesn’t have a taste per se unlike Salmon and/or Tuna. Or it’s just me not having grown up with fugu and not recognising a “fugu” taste. The flesh is very firm and slightly chewy. Likely from all that muscle gained from puffing away? I actually felt something while having the sashimi. My lips felt slightly numb. Was it just my brain working overtime or was it really true that a master fugu chef will just leave a slight amount of toxin on the flesh to tease diners?

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Blowfish hotpot. Yep, we graduated from the raw food portion of the meal. So, what happened was the restaurant staff had laid out a sort of paper bowl in the middle of the table that is above an induction heater. The bowl had a metal piece in it that heats up the broth. The broth was very simple (essentially a piece of seaweed to give some flavour). I guess the idea was to not overwhelm the delicate taste of the blowfish. Any heavier and/or stronger tasting broth would have covered the little taste of the fugu. We were told to cook between 6-7 minutes per piece (longer for bigger pieces and shorter for smaller pieces). The flesh, when boiled, was tender. There was no fishy smell at all. For those who are used to having fish soup of some kind, you will normally assume to soup to have some kind of fishy taste/smell to it. Oddly, there was none. It really goes towards showing how neutral tasting the fish actually is. I did try drinking of the broth towards the end. It was a pleasant tasting soup with a slight sweetness from all those vegetables that came with the hotpot. But not much taste attributable to the fugu itself. HINT: Don’t drink too much of the broth. One or two spoonsful is/are good enough as the broth has one more task to perform.

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Midway into our hotpot came the fried blowfish. Make a guess what did it taste like. Like fried chicken, of course. Honestly, I believe you can actually pass off fried fugu as a nice piece of fried chicken. The entire thing was crispy and tender. Absolutely delightful.

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Blowfish Porridge. Well, there is no blowfish involved here. Instead, the staff will prepare the porridge at your table using the broth leftover from the hotpot. They will add in a bowl of rice to soak in all that goodness before pouring in an egg for flavour before topping it off with some spring onions and some soy sauce. It was more than plenty for the two of us. We found that the waitress was a bit light on the soy sauce and we decided to add it a bit more. The porridge evolves with time. At first, its watery before turning thick after absorbing in all that broth. I found it to be very filling and my advice is that if you think you are already about full, you might want to ask the waitress to cut back on the rice so that you won’t have too much porridge.

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We ended our meal with a small dessert – a mini ice cream sandwich.

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Post fugu meal – I didn’t die!!!

As time ticked by, I knew I was safe. I cheated death.

Would I recommend Fugu? Yes! Definitely. I do think most should at least try it once during their lifetime. But do remember to have it at proper establishments with proper fugu chefs. While deaths do occur, they can be attributed to amateurs who had no idea what they were actually doing.

Have you tried fugu? Let me know in the comments.

As usual, please remember to LIKE and if you haven’t done so already, please FOLLOW!

 

Fantastic 2017! Whats up 2018?

Fantastic 2017! Whats up 2018?

A happy new year to all my readers out there.

It has been a roller coaster year for me.

2017 saw me leaving the honourable profession of being a lawyer and going in-house as a legal counsel (which I still hope is an honourable profession). 2017 also saw me starting up my own spot in the world wide web with the creation of Etraveller Times. When I started this blog, I thought it would be merely a hobby of sorts where I get to share the many tips and tricks I picked up along the way. Well, that was how I saw it back then in August with me posting what I thought was cool travel hacks or tips that can make your travel a better one. I sought to answer questions like:

The blog then started to take a life of its own.

From a mere how to guide, it became my diary of sorts where I record the many experiences I had overseas and locally here in Singapore. Part diary and part guide to any willing reader wanting to know more. It started off as a simple introduction to Singapore’s attractions and must eat foods. That saw me making a special trip down to Singapore’s very own Botanical Gardens and the Chinese Gardens. It also saw me being a glutton taking in rich and exotic foods like Bone Marrow.

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Sup Tulang aka Bone Soup

Sup Tulang, Golden Mile Food Centre, Singapore

It then branched out to a mini-Taiwan guide (as a result of my constant business trips to Kaohsiung) where I discussed its night markets, its custom of betel nut chewing and my first in depth hotel review – 85 Sky Tower Hotel (again compliments of my generous employer).

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Then came my Bangkok series where I shared my 1-day itinerary historic/cultural itinerary and half day itinerary shopping/spa itinerary. Don’t worry, I have more installed for Bangkok ><.

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Jogjakarta was another awesome place to visit (especially for all those quitting from Drew & Napier’s Insolvency Team – Apparently it has become a pilgrimage for all of us quitters). Its more than just temples with an awesome hidden beach with a death defying gondola ride and also an exhilarating jeep ride to an active volcano:

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If that doesn’t sound like enough for a year, I also visited Malaysia’s Melaka (Malacca) and Johor Bahru before finishing the year in Hokkaido, Japan feasting on my many bowls of Kaisendons, drooling over fresh seafood all around me, looking at my girlfriend hugging a kick ass cabbage instead of me, soaking our feet in a natural hot spring river and seeing snow fall for the first time.

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What a wonderful year it has been for me! How has your year been?  

  

Review: Pocket Wifi Router (Changi Recommends)

Review: Pocket Wifi Router (Changi Recommends)

For those wondering how not to burn a hole in your wallet while remaining connected in Japan, I covered some great tips and alternatives in one of my earlier post. This is a follow up article where I share my experience using a Pocket Wifi Router that I got from Changi Recommends.

Collection of Pocket Wifi Router at Changi Airport Terminals

A really seamless process. Just order online and head over to the booth at the airport terminal. Place a deposit and you are done. Returning the device is likewise straightforward.

The kit comes in a pouch with the router (pre-charged) and a power charger. The power charger appears to have been set up for the region you are travelling to (i.e. with the correct socket plug type):

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Value for money

For those lost, these routers are small little gadgets that emit a wifi signal that your phone / laptop can tap into such that you have a mobile unlimited data wifi hotspot with you all the time. The data allowance for such routers are generally unlimited (subject maybe to a speed throttle in cases where the fair usage amount is consumed). While such routers are generally expensive (averaging USD100 for around 9 days of use), Changi Recommends offers a very reasonably priced router (unlimited data) at just SGD5 per day with the first day rental being free. This is a bargain at SGD40/USD30 for 9 days of unlimited data coverage!

Easy to use

Unlike other fanciful travel hacks (e.g. flexiroam – a sort of international data roaming service which I also use from time to time – check out my post here), there isn’t much fiddling to do to start using the router. It is as simple as turning it on and finding it on your phone’s/laptops wifi list and keying in the password that is located at the back of the router. Nothing complicated.

Fast connection

I don’t know whether you feel the same way but hotel wifi connections are terrible. Even for 5 star hotels, you sometimes have trouble getting a decent and fast connection.

The pocket wifi router solved all of that. The connection was fast and during my stay in Japan we used it for not only the most basic of things (emails/social media/google maps) but also the more data intensive applications like watching youtube videos and given the odd game or two of Mobile Legends (Side note: Japanese Mobile Legend players are insane ><)

The connection also held up away from Tokyo and worked spectacularly while we were in Hokkaido.

While the connection was generally good on the Shinkansen, there were certain times when the connection was weak. This is to be expected as the train was passing through tunnels with poor signal strength.

Battery Life

While there are other reviews claiming the battery life is awesome, my experience is that it actually depends on your use. Sure, if you just turn it off after each use, the router can definitely last for ages. But if you are like me and would prefer to feel like you are back at your home country (i.e. free access to data the whole day), you will likely keep the router on the whole day. Expect it to last approximately 8 hours before it goes flat (assuming two users). Less if there are more users tapping into the router. So be sure to have a power bank or two to juice up your device in the late afternoon.

I hope my review is helpful. If you are heading to Japan anytime soon, be sure to get one router for yourself.

As usual, please remember to like and follow! Each like goes a long way to help support this blog!!!

 

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