Where to buy a MacBook Air in Bangkok?

Scalpers selling iPhone 6 outside of Causeway Bay
Apple Store in Hong Kong.  © Jotman. 
So you've decided you want to buy a new MacBook Air, but you're in Bangkok.  Should you go to the Apple Store Online, a department store, Pantip Plaza, an Apple specialty store like iStudio?

I'd say none of the above.

Instead, I recommend that you book a flight to Hong Kong.  First, only for the Macbook Air, but for most Apple products--regular Macbooks, iPads, and peripherals--the prices are significantly lower in Hong Kong. Second, Hong Kong's official Apple stores will have the most up-to-date models in stock. Third, you're assured responsive Apple Care service service should you ever need it (see below).

Why not buy your MBA in Bangkok?
As of this time, none of the Apple stores in Thailand stock Macbook Air with 8GB RAM. Also, unless you don't mind a Thai language keyboard, your Eng
lish keyboard configuration will probably have to be special-ordered.  

If you hand over a hefty deposit iStudio will order you a 8GB machine with an English keyboard, but that will take a few weeks. You'll haver to pay Thailand VAT tax (which you can get back at the airport--if you leave yourself enough time!--and show them the computer you bought). Then you have to purchase Apple Care+ separately --and then register it yourself-- if you want it. 

Hong Kong Apple Stores
There are three official apple stores in Hong Kong: Mong Kok (Causeway Bay Station), the architecturally stunning IFC Mall Apple Store (Hong Kong/Central Station), and one in Kowloon. 

I recently visited both the Causeway Bay store and the IFC store to get an iPhone repaired. These two stores share with the store in Manhattan the distinction of being the "word's busiest Apple stores."  Causeway Bay was my choice.  It offered the earliest "genius" appointment, its staff had more of a can-do attitude, and it was super-convenient to a high quality hostel.  

Causeway Bay store occupies the first, second and third floors of Hysan Place Mall which is above the Causeway Bay Metro station.  Use exit F2 which is marked "Hysan Place."  Hysan Place Mall also has a decent bookstore that sells an incredible range of imported paper-related products. There is a grocery store and Starbucks in the basement.  

If you need a cheap, clean and convenient place to stay, YesInn hostel is only a block from the Causeway Bay Apple Store.  They have dorm rooms (starting at 22 USD) and single rooms (62 USD).  

If you only have a few hours in Hong Kong, the IFC Mall Apple Store is the most convenient to the airport.  It's located near to the Hong Kong Station terminus of the airport express train.   To get to Causeway Bay you have to transfer to Island Line. It's only a few stations.
International Finance Centre Mall & Airport Express Hong Kong Station
8 Finance St, Hong Kong
+852 3972 1500 
Causeway Bay Plaza 1
489 Hennessy Rd, Hong Kong

+852 3979 3100
80 Tat Chee Ave Kowloon Tong
Hong Kong +852 3979 3600
Apple Care
If you buy your Macbook Air in Hong Kong you're at least assured speedy and attentive Apple Care service in Hong Kong and perhaps elsewhere if you need it.  On the other hand, if you buy an Apple product in Thailand, you're serviced from Australia.  There is a small office in Discover Centre Mall that handles Apple Care issues for residents of Thailand.  In my experience, this is how it works: you leave your product with this office, they describe the problem to someone in Australia, and a week later you're informed of Australia's excuse not to help you.  For example, Australia's Apple Service Center declined to service my issue (defective power cord).  A few months later I took the same cable to a North American Apple store and  I received a free replacement cord in an instant.  Apple is treating their Thai customers like trash. Trust me, you don't want to have anything to do with this shitty arrangement.  If you buy your Apple product in Thailand, you may have no choice.

If you want to buy an iPhone 6 or 6+, I explain how to obtain one at the Causeway Bay store in this post.  

Monks Painting a Temple, Luang Prabang

© Jotarazzi 2014

Earthquake Damage to Washington Monument?

They closed the Lincoln Memorial.   Photo by Jotman.  Aug 23/11

Standing 169 meters, the Washington Monument is the tallest stone structure in the world.  The scariest place in the world on Tuesday Aug 23 at 1:51pm was the undoubtedly the observation deck at the top of the shaking obelisk.

Two hours after the earthquake struck I spoke with two National Park rangers about how the monument weathered the earthquake.  One ranger told small pieces of stone had fallen off the monument during the quake. Another ranger claimed "stones" had fallen off the ceiling of the lookout room at the very top of the monument, hitting several tourists.

I watched a helicopter conduct an inspection of the monument.

There are reports that the earthquake caused some new cracks at the very top.

A helicopter (right) inspected the Washington Monument in the
 hours after the earthquake.  Photo by Jotman, Aug. 23/11

Washington D.C. monuments closed in the aftermath of the earthquake Tuesday included the Lincoln Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.  Buildings on Capitol Hill were evacuated.

Since my visit to the National Mall in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, CNN has reported:
A helicopter inspected the Washington Monument, and it was found to be structurally sound, the National Park Service said. 
But a secondary inspection revealed cracking in the stones at the top of the monument. Structural engineers on Wednesday will determine the best way to repair the monument before it is reopened, the agency said. The grounds have been reopened except for an area about 100 feet outside the plaza.

U.S. Park Police spokesman David Schlosser said to his eye, the monument was "clearly not leaning. It's standing tall and proud."
The  LA Times described "conflicting reports" about the condition of the monument:
There were conflicting reports late Tuesday about whether the Washington Monument -- one of the most instantly recognizable symbols of the nation's capital -- suffered any damage. The Associated Press reported that a crack was found near the top of the monument, which is both the world's tallest stone structure and the world's tallest obelisk, standing just over 555 feet tall.

But the National Park Service posted a different message on its website that made no mention of such damage: "The NPS has completed a preliminary inspection of the Washington Monument and has found it to be structurally sound. The Washington Monument grounds are being reopened except for the plaza and the Monument itself. The NPS will continue to inspect the interior of the Monument before any decisions are made about reopening it to the public."

The National Park Service temporarily closed the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial and the Old Post Office Tower as a precaution following the earthquake, and those monuments could reopen to the public as early as Wednesday pending a safety clearance.

For now, though, "the Washington Monument, because of its structural complexities, will remain closed until further notice," the NPS website said.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the World War II Memorial, Vietnam Memorial and the Korean War Memorial remain open, the NPS said.
Not the "The Leaning Tower of Washington."  Photo by Jotman, Aug. 23/11

Is the 2010 MacBook Air just an overpriced netbook?

Having tested Apple's new ultralight MacBook Air for over a week, one and only one thing tempers Jotman’s enthusiasm for this beautiful new travel laptop.

The 13" MacBook Air.

Apple Computer's new 11" and 13" MacBook Air laptops are not the least expensive machines in the world, but neither is Lance Armstrong's racing bicycle.   If you were to tell Lance Armstrong his bike is "overpriced," he would just assume that you don't know what you're talking about.

That's how I feel about some comments people are making about the MacBook Air.   I would like to address a ridiculous misconception that has sprung up across the Internet:  the idea that the new 11 and 12" inch MacBook Air notebooks are overpriced.

How to rent a felucca in Egypt

View from Jotman's felucca on the Nile at Aswan.  Photo by Jotman.

Feluccas have been sailing the waters of the Mediterranean for hundreds of years.  Today, one of the few places they still operate is the Nile.

If you find yourself in Aswan, the southernmost Egyptian town before Lake Nasser, you will be tempted by offers to go for a felucca ride.    On a recent trip to Aswan, I decided to take a Nubian captain up on the  fair-sounding offer he made.

Thai monkeys attack tourist

Phuket Gazzete:
PHUKET: -- A British woman with a life-long fear of monkeys was seriously injured by several primates while visiting Monkey Beach on Phi Phi Don Island on May 21....   Ms Darwell, whose father kept an “evil” chimpanzee that fostered her “intense dislike” for primates....
It was as if the animals could sense that this woman hated them.

Map of world's most touristy places

Great places-to-avoid heatmap using distribution of photos on Panoramio. By BlueMoon.ee (hat-tip EricScherer) :
World map color-coded by level of touristiness, based on analysis of photos on Panoramio. Yellow indicates high touristiness, red medium touristiness, and blue low touristiness. Areas having no Panoramio photos at all are grey.

Occupancy rate on Bangkok's Khao San Road

Bangkok's night curfew has meant that even the city's notorious girly bars are boarded up at night, their neon lights dead. The few travellers who sit in Khao San's street-front bars, enjoying a cool beer in the hot afternoon, will retreat to their nearby hotels by 9pm when the curfew is enforced by soldiers.

Occupancy rates in the city's budget hotels have plummeted from a normal 80 per cent to, at best, 10 per cent. The Viengtai Hotel has 205 rooms but only 13 are occupied with 23 tourists. The nearby Khaosan Park Resort is the same. Each day the Viengtai Hotel receives cancellations, sometimes as many as 10, as people are still wary of coming to Bangkok, despite calm returning to the city after troops put down a nine-week protest on Wednesday.

Jotman has the latest on Thailand's political crisis.  You can follow Jotman on Twitter.

Does Thailand's government hate tourists?

After Saturday's blood bath, the question begs to be asked.

Video of foreigner getting shot during battle on Bangkok's Khao San Road

The following video was shot by Florian Witulski, a 23-year-old student from Germany who has been living in Bangkok for the past two years.

Violence in Bangkok: Is Khao San Road safe for tourists?

For up-to date information about the situation in Bangkok, see my current events blog.


Andrew Walker of New Mandala:
There were more shrines and pools of blood at the entry to the haven of bohemians the world over, Khao San Rd. itself. That image of the road- the most desolate and empty I have ever seen it, blocked off by bullethole-ridden vehicles and makeshift barricades, will never leave my head, and nor would the sight of the bewildered tourists picking their way through the rubble, pulling their suitcases along behind them, clearly having gotten off the plane only hours earlier and wondering just what they had gotten themselves into.

Airline charges passengers for use of overhead compartment

Spirit Airlines announced Tuesday that it will charge its customers $20 to $45 for items they place in the overhead bins. 

Each passenger will still able to bring one personal item that fits under a seat for free, such as a purse, briefcase, backpack or laptop computer. They also won't have to pay extra for items such as diaper bags, pet containers and cameras.
I don't like the sound of this.  Hefty fees for additional checked bags created the problem.

Drug resistant malaria in Thailand

Medics on the Thai-Burma border are reporting incidences of a scary new drug-resistant strain of malaria.  More here.

Air France: Obese passengers must now pay for two seats

In response to an investigation into a crash landing in which Air France staff struggled to free a fat passenger from a seat while the jet burned, Air France has announced that obese passengers must pay for an extra seat.
  • Purchase of a second seat costs 75% more.
  • Extra fee applies only if the flight is full.
Two years ago Canada became the first country in which a court ruling stipulated that the country's airlines may not charge fat people a surcharge.   It costs more to carry heavier passengers, so I don't understand why an airline -- and less heavy passengers -- should be forced to pay the subsidy. 

Personally, I don't think there should be a single cut-off after which you pay twice.  Instead, a portion of the calculation of each passenger's fare might be based on the passenger's weight.   Ideally, a tax on junk food -- soft drinks, candy -- might compensate airlines for the cost of transporting fat passengers.  

The new policy appears to posted at the website of Air France under the heading "Passagers à forte corpulence"  (English translation via Google here).

Bali rabies epidemic

"Once the signs and symptoms of rabies start to appear, there is no treatment and the disease is almost always fatal."  - World Health Organization
Bites from stray dogs have recently led to the death of many people in Bali.   Bali Discovery (h/t Odinius):
The latest death of a 45 year-old woman, Ni Ketut Ardini, on Monday, March 8, 2010 has brought to 40 the number of fatalities tied to the continuing scourge of rabies in Bali.

Why tourists who buy fake art suck

I am thinking about conversations I have had with a number of artists based in different regions of Southeast Asia. It seems to me the big problem, anywhere you go -- from Bangkok to Bali -- is that most Westerners do not buy art thoughtfully. They all seem to want paintings of flowers or Buddha heads or people surfing. Of course, it's worse than that: relatively few Westerners seem to know -- or care -- about the difference between a mass produced object and an original piece of artwork. I once assumed it was only Americans and Australians who bought art like this. These days, many Europeans are equally thoughtless.

Maybe the tourists like the art, you say. If they like how it looks, so what? What difference does it make if everybody does not appreciate the distinction between fake art and the real thing?
Extracted from:  "When the Consumption Ethic is lose-lose" by Jotman

Is it safe to visit Bangkok during the red shirt prostests?

UPDATE: April 10, 2010. See this post.

Cambodia: scary new strain of malaria

Pailin is the epicenter of strains of malaria that have baffled healthcare experts worldwide, raising fears a dangerous new form of malaria could already be spreading across the globe.

"The fear is what we're observing right now could be the starting point for something worse regionally and globally," said Dr. Charles Delacollette, Mekong Malaria Program Coordinator at the World Health Organization.

A New England Journal of Medicine study last year showed that conventional malaria-fighting treatments derived from artemisinin took almost twice as long to clear the parasites that cause the disease in patients in Pailin and others in northwestern Thailand, suggesting the drugs were losing potency in the area.

Killer rogue wave hits Louis Majesty

About reports that a "26-foot rogue wave hit the Cyprus-based cruise ship the Louis Majesty today while the ship was sailing near the French Mediterranean port of Marseilles. Two passengers were killed and six others were injured. The Louis Majesty, operated by Louis Cruise Lines, was sailing from Barcelona to Genoa with 1350 passengers and 580 crew onboard."

According to Wikipedia,"rogue waves (also known as freak waves, monster waves, killer waves, and extreme waves) are relatively large and spontaneous ocean surface waves that are a threat even to large ships and ocean liners." 

Fake bomb detectors

Travelers have been given a false sense of security.   Bomb detector wands are a scam.

Although Iraq and the UK have banned the devices, Thailand's Prime Minister and Army Chief are in denial.  The fraudulent bomb detector devices have been used throughout Southeast Asia by major hotel chains, airports, and department stores.

Western governments, ostensibly concerned about protecting their nationals from terrorism, have failed to alert the travel and tourism industry that these devices are ineffective.  

You can find out more about these bomb detectors here.