Electronics Ban on Planes to be Lifted By FAA

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I have been on a few airlines that didn’t care if you had your iPad out reading magazines or watching shows, or watching movies or your laptop. But a majority of airlines prefer you not to use your electronics or your mobile phones during take-off and landing due to it “interfering” with the plane, I never knew an iPod can mess with a plane.

This was due to the original rule from the FAA in the US and everyone followed suit, but thankfully after such a long time they have come to their senses and realized that phones can not bring down an Airbus or Boeing because a guy is looking for a phone signal to send off his last email. Lets see how soon airlines adopt this new line of thought.

Link: Wired

Amsterdam – Food & Stops – Love This City

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For the 2nd time visitng Amsterdam I wanted to make sure I get to expolore it as much as possible, and every time I like it even more and after this trip I do love this city. It has the unique capability to combine classic with modern design in their structures which I love.

These are the list of places that we enjoyed on this trip and every time we are surprised, some places stuffed in these smalls streets, and those places turn out to be huge, there is no way to tell.

Restaurants:

  • Momo
  • IZAKAYA – Sir Albert Hotel
  • Brasserie Harkema
  • The Butcher’s Den – Burger Bar
  • Burgermeester
  • Starbucks The Bank – A very unique Starbucks location

The Red Light District is a must visit, it is just such a unique piece of the history and just something different to see. People walk around there like it is a zoo, well it is sort of like a zoo. Watching the women behind the glass with lots of other people looking to as we all walk by. It is a unique piece of Amsterdam’s night life that isn’t in any other city, not in this way at least. It is really worth a visit because you see some bizarre things and so many people just walking about there and the women in their underwear behind the glass even when it’s near freezing outside. There are different zones which designate where women from different regions are in, and there are areas for transvestites which is very freaky. You have to see it at least once, and you will laugh, there are some hilarious sights.

This is city is full of charm and I love to walk around the city, we ended up walking at least 8 miles a day because of the conference then we keep walking around after that. It is a city built for walking. But when you walk around you have to watch for a lot of things to make sure you stay alive, the streets are a sort of organized chaos. There are car lanes and bike lanes, but scooters can use the bike lanes but not motorcycles, then there are the trams. You have to keep your eyes open for the Cars, Trams, Bicycles, Scooters, & Motorcycles. And there were some close calls because sometimes the sidewalk and bicycle lane sometimes looks similar and these guys fly.

The city has a certain charm with a lot of character and the people are genuinely nice, and it is one of those places that you have to explore in Europe.

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Frankfurt Airport – The German Experience

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It seems the most difficult Schengen Visa to get is from the German one, all the others were more routine and less difficult with the paper work. I can understand if they wanted to clarify paperwork, but they out right refuse any bookings from a local travel agency, the whole process was annoying and if you just want to make a one or two week stop they just give you a one month or two month visa. Previously they used to give 3 to 5 year visas without an issue. If you get it from Italy or Spain they still do that and 3 years from the French Embassy and the French used to take the longest. At least the British have a normal two week process or a 45 KD VIP process which takes 3 to 5 days.

I have my Visa and took off with a one day trip to Frankfurt and the rest of the week in Amsterdam. Unluckily for us there were probably two planes that landed from China because the lines were insanely long and these people do not know how to que. A new line opened up which one lady went to who wasn’t European and so I tried my luck and so did a friend. The lady immigrations officer was thinking of letting us pass on the European line since there were no Europeans but the guy next to her told her to send him back and he sent me back to the insanely long line. We understand rules but there was no one there and the lines for Europe remained empty.

We got back in line and waited, the Chinese were getting stamped without any questions and I would say at least 80% of them didn’t speak a word of English. They didn’t even bother looking at their paper work. We thought at least the line will move quickly.

When it came to our turn, instead of taking 2 mins it took 20 mins. The guy wanted my confirmation booking in Frankfurt and in Amsterdam, and he wanted to see my ticket back to Kuwait. I told him I have the printed booking from Lufthansa that I already gave to him and my confirmations are on my phone. He looked at my phone and then shrugged, he asked me why I didn’t have a ticket with me, I told him no airline issues a ticket one week before the flight. He went through my passport twice and kept typing on the computer, I was done to his annoyance and my friend was still going through questioning. The Chinese guy behind me walked out 30 seconds after me.

That was a very strange experience, and I’m surprised that Germany is turning into this, since when I spoke to people about it they told me it isn’t an isolated incident.

Now as for when we were leaving my cousin wanted to do the tax refund as he had one item from Frankfurt and one item from Amsterdam. In Amsterdam the Customs people told us he would have to exit the European Union to get the customs stamp so in his case he would get it done in Germany. When we went to Germany they stamped all the things of the Chinese guy in line in front of us without asking a question or asking to see the items.

When my cousin step up he just had to invoices with the details filled out but he refuse to stamp the one from Amsterdam and we explained to him what we were told and he simply said it wasn’t his problem. Then he refused to stamp the other invoice and said he would get it done after immigrations, but then when we went inside they told us it was only Jewelery at the inside customs not a Tumi bag.

This was the strangest experience I have had at Frankfurt Airport, it seems they are getting a bit aggressive with arabs from what I can tell. In Frankfurt itself it was easy and an enjoyable trip for me even though I was just there for 24 hrs but this treatment at the airport was not expected.

I AMSTERDAM

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Went to Amsterdam for about 5 days and 1 day in Frankfurt, had to go for a big technology conference called the IBC and its huge. We went from meeting to meeting over the five day period but still we made sure to enjoy the city when we can. We stayed at the Conservatorium Hotel and it was a beautiful hotel, a modern European hotel with a historic twist, and staff that were just amazing.

This is the second time I visit the city and I honestly fell in love with it. When crossing the road you have to watch out for people, bicycles, cars, scooters, motorcycles, and Trams. This city has an organized level of chaos going on but you can feel that there is a level of mutual respect that is why it works. I loved walking around the city, we would walk at least 10 to 15 km a day, and there are so many amazing restaurants to eat in. We had a lot of work to do so we didn’t have enough time to enjoy ourselves, so on my next European vacation this will be a spot I want to visit.

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Bulgari Hotel London

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I remember hearing about the Bulgari Hotel in Milan Italy when it first opened, nobody thought a Jewelry chain would open its own hotel, it never made sense, but now everyone is opening their own hotel. I was going to London for 48 hours and decided to try a new hotel and this hotel was an interesting one to see. London has a lot of choices, but I called American Express Platinum services to see if they had any deals on hotels on a short notice, and they did for about 40% off the normal price for a junior suite and when I got there I got upgraded to a higher level suite when I checked into the Bulgari Hotel. There are lots of hotels in London and so many boutique hotels but this was worth checking out.

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Basically I got a very large suite for the price of a room in London which rarely happens, but they said during Ramadan it is very quiet in London and that was what you could see out on the streets. I saw a few Saudi & Qatari Supercars parked on some of the more famous roads in London, and they never moved, I asked the doorman what was going on they said that they paid for the parking for up to two months so they won’t lose the spot and its cheaper then shipping the car back home, it seems some people love their spots.

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The hotel has this sleek modern feel to it, very stylish with a lot of interesting amenities. I was told they have a beautiful pool but I didn’t have a chance to check it out. The hotel is located in Knightsbridge, and most women would know this area because its where most of their shopping takes place. Personally I’m not too keen on the area because there is a lot of traffic at that location.

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Going into the room it felt like an apartment, not a room, a large living room with two types closets, a small dining table and beautiful bathroom. The first night of my arrival I had a late night burger because I didn’t have a chance to eat while I was out and I wasn’t too impressed with it, I expected room service to be a lot better, but the staff were fantastic. Very helpful and always going the extra mile to get anything I requested done.

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The room was quite different then what I expected in London, even for a suite it was huge, and it was very spacious. They hid all the power plugs in drawers and the wifi was strong all over the room which was great. And the bathroom was the best part of the room, it was huge and the shower had amazing pressure, even the size of the shower was fantastic.

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This hotel was a surprise for me, I wasn’t expecting the the rooms to be like that, and the lobby is always buzzing with people. It is one of those funky hotels you have to try at least once, I don’t think I will stay there again. One thing that is a problem for me is the high price of the rooms, I got a deal this time around but on normal days this would have been a very expensive 48 hours. I would prefer trying another one of the amazing hotels in London but this is an amazing hotel, and one I don’t mind repeating.

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Phoenix Palace – The Need For Chinese

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Late night food and very hungry, the only thing that could satisfy my hunger while in London was going to the Phoenix Palace. I go there and the place is packed but there is always space, and still the people from years ago remember me and gave me a nice spot, they know I like to order a good amount of food even if it was for one person, and I thought in London I usually walk around enough to justify burning off this food.

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I wasn’t going mess around with the food or try something new, I was hungry and I wanted to go to a late night movie, so my options were clear. And I knew exactly what I wanted.

  • Vegetable Spring Roll
  • Prawn On Toast
  • Hot & Sour Soup
  • Vegetable Crispy Noodles
  • Half Peking Duck

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That was a good amount of food and I love that one item keeps coming right after the other, people can complain about Chinese food but when its good its really good. Honestly I haven’t found any Chinese place better then in London and there are quite a few good ones there. After the meal I was hoping not to pass out during the movie but luckily enough it was an action packed movie so I was wide awake during the whole thing, and even then I had some sweet popcorn.

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Jones The Grocer – Dubai

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A lot of restaurants open in Dubai and usually in or around some sort of mall and over the recent years that is Dubai Mall since everyone flocks over there to that mall. Rarely do you explore other locations, but thanks to MFW he took to me a new location a little while back, and thats Jones The Grocer, a singular building next to Jumeirah’s residential area just off of Sheikh Zayed Road. Literally nothing around it but a small shopping complex with a few businesses and a gas station.

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You walk in and it is genuinely a unique restaurant/cafe/store, they have a very nice food selection in their menu. Loved their salads and sandwiches, I have been there close to a dozen times over the past 6 months, I make it a point to go there and try something new when I go.

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It’s not your typical place, different types of seating in different sides of the building, with the cafe display cases in the middle, and the outer areas of the restaurant has cooking and food related items for sale from high end coffee machines to cook books and Turkish delights. Literally something for everyone in that place, and if you are cheese connoisseur you will enjoy the selection they have. Try the greek salad with steak and the chicken sandwich, they are very good dishes, and even the meat dishes are good there.

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If you have been there then you are missing out since it out there not next to anything you feel like you are in a unique hip place. Feels like a place that should be in New York or San Francisco, it has this unique vibe to it and the best thing is that the food tastes just as good as the place looks.

Link: JonesTheGrocer

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‘GoSleep’ Sleeping Pods in Abu Dhabi International Airport

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At Abu Dhabi International Airport, sleep comes for about $13/hour! A thoughtful initiative by Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC), Abu International Airport terminals 1 and 3 is now hub to “GoSleep” sleeping pods for passengers to take a quick nap.

Now they really are thinking ahead and the comfort of the passengers, even if its only 10 of them at the moment. In Dubai International Airport they have the SnoozeCube which is a bit more expensive per hour, basically a small room with some amenities, but this pod is really a sleeping pod. I wouldn’t mind using it watch movies comfortably while waiting for my next flight if it was available in a lounge. I don’t think we would be seeing this in Kuwait Airport any time soon, also I don’t think they would have any space to put them. What nice about these pods thats different about a room is that they recline into a full sleeper so you can stretch your legs or you can have them slightly reclined, a relaxed way to spend a few hours, something I’m willing to try out but I haven’t been to Abu Dhabi International Airport yet.

Link: ADAC

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The Microsoft Store – A Different Experience

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I think there is a lot of inherent dislike towards Microsoft, they have just done too many wrong things over the years and Apple has done an excellent job of painting them as idiots with their Mac vs. PC ads over the past decade. Also it doesn’t help that Microsoft made Microsoft ME which is probably the worst iteration of Microsoft out there, Vista was pretty bad too off the start, but got progressively better.

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Microsoft does try and in this case they launched the Microsoft stores, after all this time they know that Apple is successful with their stores and every Apple store employee is supposed to know everything about every product that Apple has and they inherently love Apple. So people love the Apple stores.

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Recently I had a chance to spend some time in an Apple store and this one had people in it. I have recently gotten into the Windows Phone 8 and so I decided to venture into the store and mess around with the machines. I played around with the Microsoft Surface Pro and it is a very interesting machine, very solid and smooth, I liked how it felt. they had a selection of hardware from Acer, Asus, HP, and Sony, not including the Windows Phone section and the XBox Section. People get a hands on feel for Windows 8 across different hardware and the Windows Phone 8 platform as well.

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Microsoft is really trying to make you feel that you are in one environment, that everything is connected and they are trying to connect things but they aren’t there yet. Apple doesn’t release a feature unless it knows it works 100%, except for Apple maps, that was a blunder that Apple has never seen, but Microsoft would rather release a broke feature then no feature, that is their problem from my aspect.

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The store was a fun experience and honestly they have a good range of products, and the staff who are there are good but they are lacking a bit in information, sometimes I know that I knew more about a product then they did which shouldn’t be the case.

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In-Flight Wifi on Lufthansa Flights

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This turned out to be a surprising feature on Lufthansa, In-Flight wifi that was useable, something I wasn’t expecting. I just flew back form the the US and on the flight back I was supposed to sleep to try to get my sleep in order, but that didn’t work out as I planned.

When I connected to the wireless I had a few emails to shoot and then I was done, I thought the connection was going to be mediocre at best because of previous in-flight wifi experience. I was wrong, to my surprise the connection was good, I was getting speeds from 3 to 5 MB which made surfing decent, I went through all my emails, and started going through my RSS Feeds on Google Reader. Even youtube streaming was working fine to my surprise, not lightning fast but pretty decent.

Pricing:

  • HotSpot Pass Sky 1 hour: €10.95 or 3,500 miles
  • HotSpot Pass Sky 24 hours: €19.95 or 7,000 miles

I went with the 24 hour option because that worked out perfectly for use on my flight back to Kuwait as well.

After using it for a while, I was very impressed, surfing was pretty good and some high bandwidth websites were operating fine. But don’t expect downloads to do much, overall I think Lufthansa did a fantastic job with the system they have setup. But from their website I understood coverage only works over the Atlantic, US, Europe and Middle East but not all the other regions yet. Also it isn’t on every plane, some planes have it and some don’t.