Thursday, August 21, 2008

What to do when you're not travelling

August 21, 2008

I've done this trick in front of people many times and I realise that doing it on video require a better videographer than simply setting the camera on the table top! haha.
Treat this as a rehearsal while I try and find someone who can video the event later, ok?
There's a bit of editing, because the camera fell, which in no way affected the illusion.

In case you can't see what happening, the new coke can is emptied, then re-sealed and re-opened and poured out again. You can almost make out that the container has doubled its volume. Well, this is temporarily back on request by my sis. Until the new video is out....

Friday, August 15, 2008

No such thing as a free lunch?

No takers for a free trip!

In the year 2000, I gave up my job traveling on business and took on an ‘earth bound’ job. Over the past years I had travel almost everywhere, including making round-the-world trips. One of the perks was frequent flyer points.
I had milege points from almost every airline program including Star Alliance, One World and independents like EVA, ANA, MAS etc.

In Nov 2001, I was informed by Star Alliance that 125,000 points were to expire by 31st Dec that I had to utilize or forfeit.

I offered all my colleagues a free trip to almost anyway. You think they would jump on this chance? No! None of them actually believed I was genuine. There's no such thing as a free lunch! they said.

With the deadline almost due, I finally decided that I would take a trip by myself then to London and by First Class on SIA. In all my years, I had not flown first class and this was the opportunity of a lifetime, and it took exactly 120,000 points for a 1st class ticket.

The day before I was due to make the booking, I bumped into Joyce, a colleague whom I remembered had just got married to Fred, who used to work with me at another branch.
“Hey, how would you and Fred like a free honeymoon anywhere in Asia?”
I asked.
“No catch, just that I had to go along and you have to pay for your own hotel and meals”

And so it was that Joyce and Fred made their first overseas trip to Japan with me in February 2002. We flew Business class on ANA. Stayed 5 days and toured Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Nara.

The following year when again I had to utilize my frequent flyer points, you can bet there was no shortage of eager friends!

Changi Airport ANA Business Class Lounge___________ Fred & Joyce

Joyce & me______________________________ Tokyo Japan

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My sister in Texas

13 August 2008

My sister Jenette, lives in Texas, in a city called Grapevine, near the Dallas-Forth Worth Airport.
She tells me that she's planning a vacation to San Francisco very soon.
Just wanted to tell her 2 things.

Firstly, go before 15 September 2008, Jen. That's when the (US) airlines will cut 15% of their schedules due to the high cost of fuel. This means less seats available and pre-planned schedules will be in jeopardy.

Secondly, to tell you about Rule 240.
Rule 240 is all about flight delays, getting bumped or having your flight cancelled. It affects only american carriers with flights originating in the US. It's something which most airlines will not tell you about but it's in the 'conditions of carriage' fine print which you would probably never read anyway. Knowing this rule would mean the difference between fuming at the airport and jetting away as scheduled.

Simply put, Rule 240 says that in the event of a delay or cancellation which is not caused by weather or for reasons which the airline has no control over, then they are obliged to put you on the next available flight out. Mechanical faults, aircraft arriving late, crew missing etc are reasons which the airlines are responsible for and for which Rule 240 applies.

Rule 240 also mean the next flight to your destination and not on their next scheduled flight. It can be on any other airline. Exceptions are airlines that don't have interline code sharing like Southwest, Jetblue, etc, so avoid these.

If this happens to you, simply ask for the supervisor or shift manager and tell him you are invoking Rule 240. It will be better if you asked for it and not demand for it. You can imagine the desk crew being harried by all the upset passengers about the delay or cancellation. A nice request will be usually be more receptive to the check-in personnel, who are empowered to changed your ticket.

So much the better if you can check the departing flights available beforehand and make a suggestion like "I'd like you to put me on the Delta that's departing in 45 mins". Remember, it need not be the same airline that you've booked on.

Of course, the airlines will try and put you off by offering vouchers, meals, or what not to keep the business. They'll be further obliged if you can prove you have a connecting flight to catch, even to an international destination like Singapore. They have to make the arrangements all the way to your final destination.

Happy vacation, Jen, and hope you won't need to 'Rule 240' 'em

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Safe cracking at Nirwana Gardens Resort

2 August - 3rd August 2008.

My store had been undergoing renovations for the past 3 weeks. I have not had a break for the past 14 days. So it was a godsend when I was given the weekend off to 'recharge my batteries'. "Go take the weekend off and come back fresh and ready for the grand opening of the store" .

So where do you go on a weekend break? The spa resort at Bintan!
And it so happens Pricebreakers had a special running for Bintan Resorts at $118.

Angsana Spa Resort? Sorry, fully booked for the weekend.
Banyan Tree Spa Resort? Sorry , no room available.
The neighbouring Nirwana Gardens Resort? Sorry, fully booked for the next 2 weekends. Urgghh. There goes my weekend spa!

So I did my own searching on the Net and what did I find out?
Angsana was full, Banyan Tree was full, but Nirwana Gardens had rooms!
So I took the chance and booked a Deluxe (meaning 'sea-facing') room at $185.

In travel terminology, you gotta be careful with descriptions such as 'sea facing', 'near the beach', 'deluxe', etc. They literally mean what they write and not what you assume it is.
For example, my room was about 100m from the seafront. Yes, it's facing the direction of the sea but there's about 100 metres of development in between, which they conveniently forget to mention in the brochures.

But the good part was that I got upgraded to a Suite!
What better way to chill out. Sitting on your own balcony with your cold beers instead of being cramped in a 'deluxe' room.

This was the sea facing suite that i was upgraded to.
The sea is somewhere behind the trees.
(click on the pictures for a larger view)

Relaxing meant the spa treatments. Though Nirwana Resort had an in-house spa, it was the trusted Angsana Spa and Banyan Tree Spa that I went to.

The spa treatments really deserve a writeup of its own but now I just gotta tell you about the safe cracking incident at Nirwana Resort which i witnessed and actually captured on film!
The audacity of the Resort staff taking a safe from the guest's room and cracking it open to get at the contents!

Ok ok, so it was the safe from my own suite and wasn't an Ocean's Eleven heist haha.
Typical of Murphy's Law, I had tried out the safe a few times opening and locking it to make sure it works. Once assured that I got the combination right, I placed my mobile phone, wallet and passports into the safe and, voila, the safe wont open again!

The front desk sent the night manager who tried his earnest to unlock the safe using their special electronic unlocking tool. Three times it failed causing the safe to go into a security countdown mode which meant no one could do anything for next 30 minutes. So in all, wasted an hour and a half including 2 calls to their Singapore support office and still the safe won't open.

In desperation, the manager said that he would call engineering the next day to cut open the safe. The pictures above are of that safe cracking operation.

You won't believe how easy it was!
Took less than a minute to cut the weld in 2 places at the back and simply remove the back panel. Now I know how secure the room safes are! Next time put your stuff at the front desk security boxes, but I suspect it can be just as easily opened.