Kruger National Park

5 comments

We finished the first leg of our road trip Wednesday which was a quick three nights through Kruger park. Though Kruger park is one of the largest game reserves in the world a lot of people had mentioned that Kruger isn't really one of the best places for animal watching as it's just so huge and at this time of year (going into fall) the brush is relatively overgrown. In the end I was blown away by everything we saw. It was my first time seeing so many animals in the wild. We saw everything from elephants to warthogs to crocodile.. and dang, african elephants are HUGE! I think if one had the time five days in the park would be ideal. We didn't spot any cats or rhino, but hey.. now there's reason to go back ;-)

Phone calls anywhere

no comments

Since I started traveling about a year and a half ago staying in contact with people has been one of the most difficult things for me (the bizarre local calling systems don't help either :)). This is especially true with people who can't get online, like my Grandma. Figuring out a decent phone system has been really tough and I even recently had to change my "permanent" number which I've already written about here and here.

I think I've finally got a great system worked out. Something that will work for anyone who travels internationally a lot. It will get a lot simpler and cheaper when Google Voice goes international or Skype gets SkypeIn numbers in Canada.

The problems:

  1. Over the past 1.5 years I've "lived" in 6 countries and had a local cellphone number in 4 of them.
  2. Roaming for me to call out is prohibitively expensive.
  3. My family never has any idea of how to get a hold of me. All of my friends that I maintain decent relationships with are online so that's not so much of a problem.
  4. In emergencies I need to be contactable.
  5. I don't want my family and friends to pay a fortune just to call me.

The solution:

  1. A local (Vancouver) VoIP number that never changes (ideally)
  2. A US SkypeIn number and SkypeOut subscription
  3. A local cellphone number

I switched to Voice Network in September for my VoIP service and so far have been happy with them. I pay $4.50/month for my Vancouver phone number and 1c/min to anywhere in Canada, 1.5c/min for US.

Skype is really a lifesaver. Without it I don't believe my life would be nearly as comfortable. I have a subscription to Skype "Unlimited US & Canada" which gives me virtually unlimited North American calling for $2.80/month. I recently picked up a US SkypeIn that costs me $4.46/month.

I also make a habit of getting a local phone number for my cellphone in any country I'm in for a decent amount of time just to make my life easier. (A SIM card in South Africa cost me 14c CAD compared to $40CAD in Vancouver :-/ so really most places the local number is virtually free to get and then just pay per use).

My setup:
1. For people who want to contact me... either call me on Skype or call my Vancouver VoIP number listed on the left hand side of my blog. I forward my VoIP number to my SkypeIn number and then either answer the Skype call on my computer, go to voicemail or forward it to my local cellphone number (in SA it's ~30c/min, so I don't do that unless I'm expecting a call).

2. For me to call out has never been a problem, and I just use Skype for that.

The total cost to me is about $12/month which is well worth it for a permanent local phone number wherever I am in the world. (In addition to these services, I also use a Logitech ClearChat Wireless Headset which I use for all my phone calls).

I'm only a bit embarrassed that it took me this long to get going with the SkypeIn number... it really does simplify everything and makes things run so much smoother.

The political situation in Thailand

2 comments

Thailand is the first country I've visited that has a fairly heightened level of political unrest (perhaps with the exception of South Africa). Almost exactly one year ago Thai protesters occupied their international airport for one week and had numerous violent protests in the streets of Bangkok, all for reasons that I had no clue about. Before arriving in the country I kept a close eye on the political climate but still didn't fully understand the situation. I tried to learn more about it while I was there both just for safety reasons and also because I found it really quite interesting.

I'm a Scuba Diver for Halloween!

no comments

Today I successfully passed all the requirements for my PADI Open Water Diving certification. w00t! Unfortunately they don't really celebrate Halloween in Thailand, so this is as good as I could do:

I suppose the alternative would have been to dress up like a woman and pretended to belong to one of their many transvestite cabaret shows...

p.s. There are a few options for companies to use for diving in Phuket, I went with Marina Divers, initially because they were slightly cheaper than everyone else, but they also ended up being really great too :).

Fish Massage

4 comments

All over Khaosan Road there are people trying to push things on you and get you to buy things; tuk tuk rides, suits, thai massage, little wooden frogs, clothes, random gadgets, fish massage, etc. We got suckered into all of them at one point or another, the last being the "fish massage".

We'd seen other people doing it, and really, it just looked too bizarre to not try. It works by dipping your feet into a fish tank full of Garra Rufa (??), also known as doctor fish, at which point the fish flock to you and nibble the dead skin off your feet.