Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Most expensive visa for Indian passport holders

Holding Indian passport is probably one of the worst business credentials as this literally stops one from going to places on business without paying :)

Anyway, I am aware of many folks who are proud of the blue passport (one of them) and we have been struggling for years and this is a summary of my experiences. I could be wrong and happy to correct as the fees are pretty dynamic and with India changing the visa fee yesterday, the reciprocal actions could warrant a very quick update of this post.

So here it goes.

Some notes: I took the price and converted to USD; and the cost is per year to have a good comparison. 
VISA Charges (in USD)
VOA $35/ visit
New Zealand
Single entry typically
Sri Lanka
Single entry typically
Single entry typically
$160 / 10 years
$82 /3 months

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Just a phone number is what is needed to hack the phone - Really XXXX article

Source: CNA

There is a very clear screen showing that the user need to download + agree to give the "app" full rights to use Camera, Location, Read/Send/Delete/Modify SMS, Make/Receive Phone calls & what not.

Worse part: the link is here which looks like it can't be more suspicious than putting "click me so to get hacked in".

So this so called hacking requires:

* Person enabling "app download from unknown sources"
* Clicking a really suspicious link
* Installing by accepting all "asks" from App
* Not bothering to check why the App is not giving any coupons or promos

If the person / target / victim doesnt understand this (even after the Gov pasting posters on almost all the lifts, public places and in internet ads), then perhaps the best would be to go with a dumb phone (?) like me or pay to another weird AV firm few $ to get questionable peace of mind.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

SQ vs United: Direct flight to SFO

Just in this year, I ended up flying to SFO twice. So my first flight was on SQ while the current one (havent returned yet) is on United.

SQ is running Airbus A350 while United is going with Boeing 787. No fancy photographs, or too much details but a first hand experince from my own perspecrive.
  • Flight: My vote goes to United (787)
A350 is rather new and the pitch is 32" and width is 18" (vs 32" & 17.3 in United).  I still doesnt understand why there are single hand rests and especially in this flight it was more like a stick and I will not call it hand rest. It's pretty thin, and I cant even rest my arm properly. The plastic feel of a350 was not good as well. The humidity / pressure levels are certainly better in 787.

  • Service: I will go with United (787)
Don't get me wrong. United service is horrible and ice cold. Probably that's why I felt they are efficient. SQ service is getting worse in terms of service and its very inconvenient and you end up feeling very tired. The lunch/breakfast service was started around 0900 and they concluded around 10:45. Similarly the dinner/supper was from 1000 to 12+. All this time, we ended up stuck in the seats and can't move, sleep or enjoy the little extra space we have. Did I say, that the lights were on all the time?
Then the robotic service from the SQ is becoming very obvious; and the PA system can be thrown out to in the ocean. Why can't the voice can be gentle or keep the volume down. It's like as if they are trying to burst our ears. 

  • Punctuality, Overall E2E time: (neutral)
Both were good. Early to SFO. 
  • Entertainment: SQ (350)
United does have few hundred titles but either they are too old, or never heard movies. SQ - Clear winner. 
  • Cleanliness & Other Misc: SQ (350)
If United is smart, they should vacuum / clean the flight. The reduced weight can easily save the costs of employing the cleaners. That's how dusty it was. Toilets were good at the beginning but not when we landed at SFO. 
SQ - Spectacularly clean.

  • Value for money: United (787)
With the price I paid vs the service I received, there is no doubt I would go with United. Did I say the SQ price was almost double yet I got 50% miles loaded in my Krisflyer? While the cheaper and better (in my case) United gave me 100% miles. 

While, I am going to fly SQ for sure I really want SQ to

  1. Accelerate the meal service. Especially during night trips
  2. Normalize the PA volume. No point trying to blast your passengers ears.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

It pays to return your tray but to whom? I hate this campaign after realising the outcomes

Source: Strait times

As you can see the Foodcourt owners can implement a system to promote tray return by investing 280,000+. Now the big question is where is the business case for investing. I wish the food court owners are getting the business case from somewhere else.

What I have seen in other places (near office/home) is since the campaign on Say YES to Tray Return, the number of old uncles/aunties been reduced. So the poor cleaner uncle who used to get his pay with dignity is now jobless and getting help from the Gov (Comcare). May be its a coincidence or there was really a retrenchment.

But overall, I don't like the idea of pushing some novelty item or whims of some business person on masses. This is what it is in Asia for centuries and the service culture doesnt need to be changed because of some ideas originated from western world. There could be many reasons why US or EU does this but for Asia/SG - Do we really need to follow the values and norms of western world blindly?

I don't think so.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Mobile Internet Data Costs across region... Brunei is most affordable, India is on the other end

Source: Tech In Asia, Socialmeediaweek.org

According to above sources, the most affordable mobile internet is in Brunei, followed by Singapore while the most expensive are Timor, India, Philippines.

I think the study is good but if possible there should be some points need to be considered. Especially the bottom of pyramid folks who occupy the bottom half or more in India, timor etc. If we focus on Mobile Data subscribers that would be a good measurement.

i.e. Take the sample and calculations from those who subscribe to Mobile Data. In that case there would be a huge different IMHO.

I am sure Indonesia, Thailand would be more 'affordable'. 

This is the real FREE Wi-Fi. Kudos to Changi Airport, living up to the credentials and rankings

One thing which frustrates me throughout the world is "free wifi" logo and "unable to connect" or "try after some time" messages.

I will try to take some screenshots from places like SFO, LAX, HKG, NRT where the WiFi experience  is killed by unnecessary advertisements, and clicks. ICN is different but plz take note my korean friends that very few travellers transiting /traveling in ICN international can read korean. Places like CGK, BKK, DEL, BOM, MNL are as good as trying to get free wifi in an US motel. So no point talking about them.  Out of these, CGK used to be the better one but recently the lack of maintenance or increased user traffic started to kill the experience. BKK is shine and shine outside and no substance inside so no comments on that. DEL, BOM: they are interested in your money, so never ever pay for the WiFi (which I did so naively) after the first 30 min free wifi. It doesnt work and they can double charge your credit card.

As always, Singapore is different. Here is a screenshot taken sometime ago at Changi :) Only downside or improvement they can make is the removal of OTP. It can be a registration or certification issue for past visitors (device ID/MAC may be or SIM authentication)

Taking Uber in Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport to City

Uber is so popular in US, EU and other developed countries where taking a taxi means you need to extremely lucky to get it first, then prepare a fortune, make sure your sense of smell is dead, and finally be humble to get robbed in the forms of tips. 

In asian countries, taxis are not bad and probably you don't need a uber in places like Korea, Hongkong and Singapore. The raid hailing apps or private car sharing apps like Uber, Grab getting plenty of attention in Indonesia, Malaysia & Thailand however. Reasons are mainly due to lack of discipline and professionalism. Be it faulty meter, taking wrong turns, or not going in that direction or cant understand language etc etc. 

So this is my experience during a recent trip to BKK. I saw the taxi queue which was going through multiple rounds and I tried Uber. There is a fixed price for Uber from Airport to City area and the charges shown was THB 355 including tolls. This is great actually as the traffic conditions are unknown in BKK just as in CGK. 

So the app asked me pickup location which I took the "Level-2, Arrivals, Gate-08". So this is just at the same floor after collecting baggage and you need to get out of the place. There is no strict "arrival pickup" place there but just hang-on there. One small tip is to call the driver and share that you are outside the place. Get a local SIM card and this will be very useful. 

The car came in 4 minutes (GPS/App was showing driver was 4 min away) and the car is in much better shape than any taxi. It was a Mazda-3 and the driver can speak basic english which is again a rarity in bangkok. I don't really know why, but the driver choose not to follow the GPS and made few turns here and there before bringing me to my destination. It was on the express way and its a fixed fare so i didnt really bothered. 

Total time it took was around 40 min and THB 355 including tools was the damage. Compared to regular taxi during non-peak hours or no-traffic hours of  THB200-250+THB55 toll+THB50Airport fee, Uber is much cheaper and most importantly this was charged to my credit card. What was not measurable in $ is the service and the feeling of beating hour long queue and able to converse with the taxi driver in english :) 

Friday, January 29, 2016

new direct flight from Singapore to San Francisco. Hurray

Source: CNA

Finally.. That's my feeling. With the large, and comfortable flights the long-haul flights should be a reality but thanks to sky high oil price, the justification failed it. Thanks to shale, or whatever now this is becoming a reality and I am really looking forward to reach my destination in less than 20 hours.

Ofcourse I still wish Concorde is here and I could potentially reach in 8 hours but doubt that is going to happen. Supersonic passenger flights are really a dream for current generation. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

SG Bloggers did a great job by writing an e-book (Investing your first 20,000 dollars), but no recommendation for CPF?

Came across this at work while having a nice cup of coffee to throw the bad feelings on the first monday morning of the year.


This is a good book and the suggestions are wonderful. Probably these young & mature investors are way better than my banker or myself or my friends when it comes to personal finance. But when I looked at the details, and surprisingly one thing is missing.  So the gist of the book is to invest 20K and have some brain dumps.

* you have 20,000 which you do not need for a long time
* No debts and no emergency needs.

Most of the bloggers ended up recommending investing in Index funds or REITs. I am surprised that not even a single soul thought of recommending CPF which is probably the best 'fund' for us according to CNBC

If one were to start at 25, and by simply putting 20,000 in CPF and getting a 4%-5% interest would turn this in to 80,000 after 35 years which would be quite sufficient to cover the Medisave :)

Furthermore, there is no headache of worrying about index funds or REIT out of world asset valuations.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Indian students saga - Why students are deported from USA and common misconceptions about VISA

Recently there is a huge issue in Indian state of Andhra pradesh (& a bit in Telengana) about the ill-treatment by USA. As usual the media tried to blow it out of proportion and put emotional headings such as treating students like terrorists, keeping them with some unwanted people (??).  News articles here, here, here, here & here

But if one notices and do a simple search about what is a US VISA, one can clearly see,


A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. port-of-entry, and the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immigration inspector authorizes or denies admission to the United States

Similarly, many nations have a 'disclaimer' stating that the VISA doesnt guarantee an entry. Singapore recently became popular with certain nationalities and specific profiles. ICA even explained in an article here

So in a nutshell if someone need to take the blame and be responsible it is none other than the students themselves & their families. First of all, they are just trying to exploit the system of United States and trying to enter under the context of education but with a different motive. It is very clear to any layman that why people are going for studies but with less than $5 in their pockets and with dubious financial arrangements (e.g. my friend will pay first, then i will repay. This was an actual statement from a student).

Probably the Gov need to educate the people and perhaps put a exit visa for students as a sanity check. Be it the people going to middle east on "tourism" visa and end up as workers under horrible conditions (??) or students been deported from USA (may be UK, AU next). But knowing the way India works, it is going to be a dream. Wish, this new year some of my dreams will come true. :)