Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dubai: The Burj Khalifa from Bottom to Top and Top to Bottom

At 2,717 feet (818m), the Burj Khalifa is pretty spectacular! This picture above was taken on the bridge that is visible in the picture below which was taken from the observation deck on the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa (of 162 floors). That tall building there is The Address Hotel, which is a "mere" 63 stories and 1,004 feet (306m). 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Oman: Khasab and the Khors of Musandam

Over the weekend, I headed up to Khasab in Oman with my best friend. He needed to do a visa run to refresh his UAE visa, and Oman is a popular destination for doing just that in addition to the attraction of the natural beauty of the fjords and the wildlife that lives there. While it's easy to get to Khasab today, it obviously hasn't always been that way and even today the minuscule villages in the fjords themselves are accessible only by boat. After the break, I'll have some photos from Khasab and from the dhow cruise in the fjords.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Flight Report: To Abu Dhabi with Lufthansa for $130

Two nights ago I touched down in Abu Dhabi, so visit a friend who is working on the regional rail system that's being planned. The only reason I could afford to come out here on such short notice was that my round trip ticket was a grand total of $130 for taxes and fees.

I used my miles (earned from my trips back to the US last year) to come here, which is why it was so cheap. An award ticket between Europe and the Middle East is only 35,000 miles, which is a steal when you consider that a regular ticket at such short notice is $616 right now. That means a redemption value of 0.014 cents per mile, which is a above average. In short, it's a good deal thanks to the mileage game. If it wasn't for mileage programs I simply wouldn't be here. :)

But how were the actual flights? Well, read on!

Friday, April 15, 2011

What people do for miles: An Epic Mileage Run

I mentioned in an earlier post that the mileage game can work in your favor if you watch out for the pitfalls, but some people take this stuff seriously. In this post, I give a tribute to a FlyerTalk member known as "colonius" who decided he wanted to keep his top tier elite status with United in December of last year, but found that he was some 47,000 miles short. What to do?

A mileage run of epic proportions: 47,000 miles in 11 days.


That's Seattle to Denver to Honolulu to Los Angeles to San Francisco to Sydney (Australia) to Melbourne back to Sydney back to San Francisco to Los Angeles back to Honolulu and back again to San Fransisco then to Chicago to connect to Munich (Germany) to Paris (France) to Frankfurt (Germany) to, once again, San Francisco and out to Honolulu one last time before heading back to Seattle via San Francisco one final time. All in 11 days. $3,000 for the tickets, all economy (before his upgrades). I don't even want to calculate how much time he actually spent on the plane and in the airports.

So why on earth would you do this just for honor of being "1K", or an upper tier elite? Does this sort of thing even make sense?

Well, maybe.

  • With his current elite bonus, he'll earn 94,000 redeemable miles. That's almost two tickets to Europe or two tickets to the Caribbean plus one domestic ticket or one and a half tickets to Asia or half of a round the world ticket.
  • During his mileage run, he got several upgrades to first class due to his elite status. If he is flying a lot next year, he'll keep getting those upgrades.
  • Those 47,000 miles go towards his lifetime mileage on United, which at 1,000,000 miles gets you free elite status for life. That's 4.5% of that goal done in 11 days. 
  • In his case in particular, he did have business in Europe so at least PART of the trip was work related
colonius, I salute your tireless pursuit of miles and your truly epic mileage run.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hey! You! Follow me!

Over the next few months, I'm going to be traveling more than usual which means fresh and interesting places will be appearing here between now and the end of the year. If you've been enjoying my blog and where I've been so far (not to mention my tips and tricks for making travel even easier and better), why not subscribe?

Here's a preview of where I'll be going between now and August (yes, August):

  • I'll be headed to Abu Dhabi and Oman for a week to visit a friend working on a major planning project there. While there, we'll be headed up to Dubai for a couple of days to visit the Burj Khalifa. 
  • Istanbul and the Greek Isles are also on my list for late May. My girlfriend and I will be headed to Athens, Milos, Santorini, and Naxos before heading back to Stockholm.
  • A week after that, I depart for Russia. I'll start in St. Petersburg and work my way east through Moscow, Vladimir, Tomsk, and Irkutsk before swinging south for a few days in Mongolia.
  • Plus, there's always my regular tips, international McDonald's reports, and food Fridays. 
  • Oh, and any developments in regard to Kindlefish will be posted here as well.
Sound interesting? I think so!

    Saturday, April 09, 2011

    Kindlefish - Update for K1/K2/DX Users

    I just wanted to give an update on what's going on with Kindlefish and to clarify the situation for users of the Kindle 1, 2, and DX models. I've had some great help from Charlie Wallace of Encinitas, CA with getting Kindlefish to working on the K1, and recently my friend loaned me his DX Graphite to get to the bottom of what can be done for previous generations of the Kindle. Combined, it's given a clear picture about what's going on.

    For users of the Kindle 3G, you can ignore this post. Kindlefish works for you. If you can see the site, you can translate! If you can't, it's a temporary outage of the website and not an issue with your device. :)

    For users of the K1, K2, and DX, Kindlefish works for you two, but with one caveat: There is no support for languages that use non-Latin characters, like Japanese, Greek, or Russian, among others. Unfortunately, this is a limitation of the Kindle itself. ごめんなさい! I will keep an eye out for a solution, but the tools that would be able to solve aren't available through an API to the public from Google yet. If I see a work around, I'll put it in there. In the mean time, I've finished up a Kindlefish version just for you guys. It's available here.

    A more permanent fix that you can do yourself is to jailbreak your kindle and install the expanded font support that Amazon left out (plus you'll get the ability to set custom screen savers!). The MobileRead Wiki has the details on how to do this, and there's another nice write up over here at howtogeek, but as with all unofficial modifications this comes with a disclaimer. Font and screen saver hacks seem to be very safe and easily reversible, but the usb networking hack comes with a more strongly worded warning. While these hacks should be safe, please do your research before hand!

    Kindlefish has been tested and works on the Kindle 1 (B001), the Kindle DX Graphite (B009), and Kindle 3G (B006). 

    Asian languages are unfortunately not supported by the device itself

    Kindlefish ought to work on the Kindle 2 (B002, B003), Kindle DX (B004, B005), and the rest of the Kindle 3 family (B008, B00A) as well, but has not been verified. If you own one of these devices and can test it, please let me know by filling out this brief survey here so I can update this list.

    Friday, April 08, 2011

    Food Fridays: Winkel in Amsterdam

    Apple pie is not just an American tradition, but a Dutch tradition too. While in Amsterdam, we ended up in a great little cafe called Cafe Winkel, over in the northern part of the Jordaan. The highlight of the visit was definitely the apple pie: Delicious, great balance of cinnamom and apple, and a crust that's a little more like a crumble cake than a full on pie. In the background: Mint tea and the square that the cafe sits on.

    Friday, April 01, 2011

    Amsterdam: Good (17th Century) Urban Planning

    It's said that we shape buildings, but thereafter they shape us. Nothing could be more true. Buildings are a reflection of the values and social structures of the period when they are build, and are designed to enable (and reinforce) the social norms of the time. When a particular building style or convention takes off, it literally does reshape the social interactions that are possible within that space. Similarly, we also shape cities, but thereafter they shape the lives of all residents within the city. So far, Amsterdam is the best example of this that I've found.

    The canals of Amsterdam are the result of urban planners of the 17th century grappling with the challenge of how to facilitate seemingly endless trade in the city of Amsterdam during the dutch golden age. Being a low country, any canal dug will fill with water easily and this was used to put virtually every building in old Amsterdam within walking distance of a point where boats could bring goods in and out. The steam engine didn't exist, which meant that all serious trade happened by way of the water. Building canals was like building superhighways: it made trade and travel cheap and easy inside of Holland. It was a practical solution for the time, but today it's more seen as charming than functional.

    The choice to build extensive canals gave us Amsterdam today. The signature buildings that we find today along the canal where built with hoists to offload cargo from boats and designed with large loft spaces for craft and business (as well as living quarters). Today new shops shoehorn themselves into these tiny but functional spaces, using space vertically instead of horizontally to fit the new function into the old form. Investing in water traffic also meant a practical limitation on how much ground transport the city could support which has made cars relatively rare in the center of the city. Of course, it's not that the Dutch dislike cars, but the center of the city doesn't cater to them and the thought of trading a canal for a street is unthinkable today.

    But what else is there in Amsterdam? More photos of Amsterdam, Tulips, and late night local street food after the break!