Sunday, January 26, 2014

How to avoid tourist restaurants!

There is a world of difference between “tourist” restaurants and restaurants catering to tourists. That difference is often lost on review sites like TripAdvisor where the common tourist critic “This is a tourist restaurant ...” immediately sets a negative view of the restaurant and makes you click to the next choice. I wish it was that simple!

A “tourist” restaurant is a large restaurant with an industrial kitchen and often coach parking nearby. It is designed to serve tourist groups fast with a boring international set menu and, sometimes, a “tamed” local specialty added. That pretty much defines what you ate on the flight over, right? It is not bad, but certainly not memorable. On the positive side, you are not going to be surprised with odd exotic flavors and you will be in and out in no time, group tours do lunch or dinner in one hour flat! It is also likely to be inexpensive assuming the restaurant offers the same menu to walk-in tourists as they do to booked tours. The downside being that the meal can be pretty bad (but you will not get sick! Because tour operators generally do not care about quality or taste as long as no one gets sick), overly priced (the price shown on menu may be far higher than what groups actually pay … because it makes the group tourists think they are getting a fancy and expensive meal!) or you sit and wait, being ignored while they serve two groups of 50 tourists.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Is Thailand still safe for tourists?

As the anti-government protests continue in Bangkok now with two violent incidents days apart, I field many questions from increasingly worried Europeans about to go to Thailand or thinking thinking about it. Most everyone understands that the events unfolding in Thailand have no parallel whatsoever with the violent events of the Arab Spring. This is not about religious extremism or nationalism, the two opposing factions are actually relatively moderate ideologically. At the root of the current crisis is the enduring social and economic divide that far too frequently has caused chronic political crises and recurring military coups for the last forty years of modern Thailand.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The not so "free" hotel WiFi

According to HotelChatter, two-third of hotels now include free WiFi, notice that I say “include” not “offer” as WiFi should be a convenience like a shower and a TV. So, you book, check-in and ask for your Internet access key. No problem, front desk hands you a small sheet of paper with access code and instructions. You get comfortable in your room, kick of the shoes and log-in …

If this hotel is honest (and smart), login is quick,simple and you do indeed get good and free WiFi in your room, as you expected. Unfortunately, in too many hotels claiming to offer free WiFi, that’s not the case. Let’s break down these hotels in three categories: