Under the (scooter)hood

I like to be prepared as much as I like lists. Here’s a rundown of items that could be stored in a scooter compartment:

  • Poncho
  • Plastic shopping bags
  • Phone ‘Powerbank’ + cable
  • Sarong for impromptu temple visits
  • Sunglasses (clear for night anti-bug driving + UV for sunlight)
  • Pollution mask
  • Rag for wiping the seat/cleaning mirrors
  • Old fashioned road map
  • Jumper for cold rides
  • Some water
  • Pen & paper
  • Torch
  • Tiny bit of extra petrol
  • Shirt, pants + toothbrush for unexpected overnight stays
  • Bug spray
  • Copy of your passport
  • Bike papers
  • Secret money stash
  • Betadine + bandage + plasters
  • Toilet paper

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 Tags: Random   Published: 24th June '14

Coworking spaces in Bali

Thanks to improving internet speeds, Bali is becoming a growing destination for digital nomads. With that, there’s a growing number of coworking spaces to shelter these folk:

 Tags: Random   Published: 13th June '14

The perils of rain

Driving a scooter is dangerous. Driving a scooter in the rain; a thousand times more so. Let’s examine the plethora of reasons why:

  • The waterproof jacket flaps around in the rain and creates a blind spot in the mirrors.
  • You’re inclined to drive in the middle of the road. Not everyone can fit there.
  • Breaking speeds are significantly lengthened, obviously.
  • If, on the rare chance, it gets a bit chilly, then fog can build up on the visor.
  • It’s necessary to use the visor or your eyes get a battering. The curvature of the visor trends to bend the light from oncoming traffic, or something like that.
  • You can be tempted to sway out into the road to avoid a large puddle. Not helpful with overtaking cars.
  • Mirrors are all but useless with raindrops blurring the vision.
  • Many locals drive with one hand in the air as a makeshift visor. Cue slower braking speeds and less driving control.
  • It’s far trickier to make out road markings. It can even be hard to make out the curb.
  • Overflowing drains brings up all sorts. All sorts of sanitary issues.
  • Probably not impossible for the long rain jacket to get stuck in a moving part or melted from the engine’s heat.
  • You can’t see (and anticipate for) potholes (and there are many).
  • Most people have resided to the fact that they’re going to get wet and drive slower. But there’s still people who think that going faster will help then avoid raindrops.
  • You can aqua plane across large puddles and lose grip on the road.
  • Splashes from cars on the other side of the road isn’t fun and could be dangerous.
  • I’ve seen roads closed from landslides and fallen trees. I’d not like to be on the road when this happens.

The conclusion is that when it’s raining, it’s better to pull in, sit it out and enjoy a cup of tea.

Update:

  • You sometimes spot some real clowns who drive with an umbrella in one hand.
 Tags: Random   Published: 5th November '13

List of Co-working & co-living events

It’s amazing to see the explosion of co-working spaces popping up in every corner of the globe. Co-living and co-working events and spaces, often in rather exotic locations, are also springing up quickly.

Here’s a roundup of all the events that I’m aware of. I’ve featured a mixture of events (often running once annually) and permanent fixtures where you can potentially just drop-in whenever.

  • Project Getaway: The one that started it all. Originally just held in Bali, it’s now spreading globally with events occurring throughout the year. Typically for 1-month and open to around 20 folk. Packages are all inclusive, even including a weekly massage. Luxurious, fun, and inspiring. It’s great to now see the concept now spread.
  • Startup Getaway: The PG spin-off, if you like, where you can live in a villa in a quiet spot in Bali. Available year-round, with rates being fully inclusive (food, laundry etc). Great networking opportunities with international and local minds.
  • deceler8 me: A bit of a different event; a 5-day retreat geared towards taking things slow and reflecting. The inaugural event occurs this October on the sleepy Indonesian island of Gilli Air. Open to around a dozen entrepreneurs.
  • Change Ventures: 20 person event occurring for the first time this September, also in Bali. B&B package in a luxury villa setup. Small team of business mentors makes this a bit more unique.
  • Coworking Camp: An all inclusive event (even including flights!) kicking off at the end of this year in Egypt. Open to a massive 75 participants.
  • 47Ronin: A permanent co-living/working space in Kyoto. Pretty rad opportunity to live and work in a very cool city. Accommodation is shared, but quite affordable.
  • Startup Abroad: A 2-week event for 10 entrepreneurs that happened last year in Ubud, Bali (a super town). This year it’s in southern Italy!
  • Sunny Office: A German-lead event that occurs in various spots in Spain, with the next even happening in Barcelona in September 2013.
  • The Surf Office: A permanent fixture in Gran Canaria. A lovely island with perfect year-round weather. A large house with office space. Offers just bed, desk space, and encouragement to hit the waves. Now expanded to Santa Cruz as well.
  • Coco Vivo: An isolated villa in Panama where you can escape to live and work with solar power and snail paced Wifi.
  • Cork Screw – Spark: A one-month event occuring throughout the year in a few global spots, including good old England. All inclusive package with a very focused schedule of activities.
  • The Ignition Lab: 4-day event in Nicaragua. Only available to a small group, with lots of time spent with the founding partners. Quite expensive, but aimed at those with a good track record looking to develop ideas amongst a private group.

Please leave a comment if you’re aware of any others.

Update #2: Some additions:

  • Nest Copenhagen: A co-living space being created in downtown Copenhagen. Made up of 4 apartments, it’ll house 17. Kicks off in January 2014.
  • Hus24: Same as the above, but in central Stockholm.
  • BlackBox Mansion: Communal living and working in the heart of Silicon Valley (in FB’s hood). As covered by the BBC. A way of entering into the right networks for the next big thing. Was bookable with Airbnb, but seems to be no longer available.

Update #3:

  • Startup Abroad: is going ahead again this year. This time it 2-weeks in Italy.

Update #4:

  • Exosphere: A couple of months in Chile.
  • Campus: A bunch of co-living/working houses in SF/Silicon Valley, geared towards creative folk and not just nerds.

Update #5:

  • Hacker Paradise: 3-month event in Costa Rice. Starts early September 2014. Aimed at programmers. Transforms intro a travelling hacker circus in 2015.

Update #6:

  • Snowcode: A twist from all the tropical weather spirited events above. 2015 will be their 5th event.

Update #7:

 Tags: Random   Published: 20th July '13

Paradise: Mashup of Bali & Thailand?

I seem to spend a good chunk of my time split between Thailand and Bali. It’s a bit boring, perhaps, but they are cracking spots. Still, it’d be even better if we there was a third place that blended the best of both. Here’s a go of what our paradise shall contain:

  • Thai design, fashion and architectural aesthetics and sensibilities.
  • Thai prices, except for petrol.
  • Colours and smells of Hinduism.
  • Relative simplicity and pleasant tone of the Indonesian language.
  • Thai food, with some extra additions.
  • Ready access to cheap, fresh fruits on every corner in Thailand.
  • Clean water sidewalk dispensers in Thailand.
  • The mixed crowd of Thai nightlife.
  • Walking markets of Thailand.
  • Less obsession with sugar in Bali.
  • Beaches of Thailand.
  • Vivid greens of Bali rice fields and foliage.
  • Roads and infrastructure of Thailand.
  • Beauty of Balinese people.
  • Reliable, fast and affordable Internet speeds in Thailand.
  • Way less dumping of trash in Thailand.
  • Less traffic and crop-burning pollution in Bali (relatively!).
  • Less stinky drains in Bali.
  • Much less evident sex tourism in Bali.
  • Balinese use of natural building materials.

I think I’ve said this a dozen times with like-minded folk; Thailand is a far more rational choice as a location to do what it is that I do (cheaper and better Internet being two important factors), yet Bali has a rather special charm that wins over the heart vs. the brain.

I fully know this is written with an extremely narrow vision; there is much I have yet to see in these respective locations and across the world.

Any omissions dear readers?

 Tags: Random   Published: 2nd June '13

AdSense Checker w/ Twilio Call, SMS & Email Alerts

Many moons ago I posted a little script that I had made. It scraped the AdSense UI, extracted some top line figures (revenue so far today, yesterday’s revenue amount) and printed it out in simple HTML. The main purpose was to allow me to check my AdSense revenue on-the-go without utilising a 3rd party service (which is a security no-no). After some further hacking, the script also made a prediction for the day’s income (using an understanding of the intraday trending of revenue during a typical day) which was handy for knowing how your revenue was shaping out for that day.

Anyway, all that broke some months ago (scraping data puts you at the mercy of updates that can instantly self-destruct everything). I’ve now had it re-made using the official AdSense API, thus making it full-proof for the indefinite future. I’ve been flexing my own development skills recently, so managed to also tack on the Twilio API. So now I have the script execute once daily (shortly after the stroke of midnight PST time when Adsense starts a new day), and it sends me an SMS and makes a phone call (using text-to-voice) to let me know how things are going. I also added an email alert if yesterday’s revenue was below an accepted threshold. Now the whole script has a real use-case – it let’s you know when things are going amiss, letting you take immediate action to rectify issues. You can hack it to make it work how you want it – so you only get a SMS if the revenue is below a threshold, and maybe a phone call just on super good days.

Download the script here. I was going to get fancy and put it on Github as an open source thing. Let’s see if anyone finds it useful first. Warning: the code is a mess. But it works, just. You’ll need to go through the code and make a bunch of changes for your setup, replacing “XXXXXXXXXXXXXX” with your API keys and what-not. Feel free to make improvements and share them back :)

 Tags: Random   Published: 21st May '13

Introducing Freebie-Finder.co.uk

A new site has joined the Lunatude family; Freebie-Finder.co.uk. It’s my biggest acquisition to date and represents a huge opportunity to grow the business.

The website provides guidance on where users can obtain “freebies” (ie. free products, trials for services, free samples and so on) and makes some revenue through partnerships with companies offering some kind of free offer.

Here’s the current homepage, which will be getting a fresh lick of paint in due course:

freebiehomepage

 Tags: Introducing   Published: 3rd January '13

Ubud Top Picks

Ubud is full of superb spots to eat, and after a ~4-month stint here, I’ve tried quite a few places. Here are some standout locations (in no particular order):

  • Clear Cafe: A firm favourite. Only vegetarian, but so good you quickly forget.
  • Kafe: The original local hangout.
  • Seniman Coffee Studio: Funky coffee place.
  • Biah-Biah: Balinese food, tapas-style, and cheap.
  • Melting Wok: Well deserving of it’s uber high TripAdvisor ranking. Attentive service and cheap, good eats.
  • Warung Saya: One man show. Great food, but be expecting a bit of a wait.
  • Cafe Pomegranate: Amazing location in the rice fields. Great food too. A must see.
  • Gaya Gelato at Gaya Fusion: Silly good gelato.
  • Ibu Oka: Famously suckling pig, favoured by bus loads of tourists and locals alike. Of by Anythony Bourdain fame.
  • Palau Kelapa: Located next door to the $100+/head Mosaic. Wooden chalet building. Pan-Indo. Cheap and really great.
  • Kebun: A step into the Med.
  • Five Elements: 20-mins outside of Ubud, but deserving a mention. Beautiful resort. Only vegan/raw. Pricey.
  • Taksu Spa: A spa with a restaurant. Set in the jungle, comfy, fast-wifi, free Tea refills and a smashing breakie.

Some other really rather great, but not outstanding places:

  • Dayu’s Warung: Same road as Sopa – great organic fare.
  • Alchemy: Kinda expensive, but delightful salad bar. Vegan, so salad options is a bit lacking.
  • Warung Sopa: Just vegetarian. But also great.
  • White Box: The closest thing you’ll get to a French patisserie in Ubud.
  • Bali Buddha: An old favourite with a great dessert menu.
  • Fair Warung Bale: Charity outfit claiming the #1 spot on TripAdvisor. Good food with profits going to charity. Fair enough.
  • Mojo’s Flying Burritos: Best burrito in town.
  • Naughty Nuri’s: Also popularised by Anthony Bourdain. Probably the best ribs in town.
  • Bernadette’s: Known for its Rendang; my favourite Indo dish.
  • Warung Schnitzel: A great schnitizel and killer deserts.
  • Cafe des Artist: Best steak I’ve had in Ubud.
  • Four Seasons: Incredible souffle!
  • Bettlenut: An event location. Good food, I thought.
  • Sari Organik: Great setting just beyond Cafe Pomegranate. Overrated, I think.
  • Putu’s Wild Ginger: Nice fare.
  • Il Giardino: Probably the best Italian in town.
  • Lamak: Souffles! Upmarket joint.

Popular places that don’t really float my boat:

  • Fly Cafe: Frequented by older ex-pats.
  • Ibu Rai: Nice setting, but only so-s0.
  • Bebek Bengil: Famous duck that just isn’s so special.
  • Taco Casa: Good Mexican, probably the best in town, but best restaurant in Ubud? Nah.

For spa’s, I’d recommend these:

  • Putri Spa
  • Cintika
  • Taksu Spa

Many more places to check-out. I’ll give this another update sometime.

 Tags: Random   Published: 26th December '12

Global Airport Lounge Access for £50

Despite supposedly inventing the concept of a credit card (or charge card, to be more accurate), holding a Diners Club card is fairly pointless.

However, one of the perhaps lesser-known perks of the card is that it entitles you to complimentary access to airport lounges. We’re not talking about First Class lounges for flagship airlines, but rather generic independently-branded lounges. You’ll typically find that you’ll get a more comfy area to rest, free snacks, drinks (including alcoholic), wi-fi, and sometimes showers and other amenities.

With lounges located in all major airports, obtaining unlimited free-access for £50/year (the annual cost for a Diners Club card in the UK) is a no-brainer for a frequent flyer. If you conservatively value all of the above for £5, you’d need only fly through an airline 10-times during the year for it to make sense. AMEX offers a similar perk on with a Platinum card costing £450/year, whilst the similar access-providing PriorityPass card costs £259/year.

Update: Diners Club has effectively closed this little perk – they now charge £15 per lounge visit, which makes it fairly worthless unless you have a lot of hours to kill at the airport.

 Tags: Random   Published: 1st November '12

Some Travel Tips

Downtown and need a pee? Skip Starbucks and head to the nearest 5*/posh hotel (typically located in handy to find spots) and defecate in style. Refresh yourself with some Molton Brown hand cream and congratulate yourself on a job well done. The fancier the hotel, the more likely that staff have been trained not to confront people wandering around. It helps to walk with purpose and head to the bar/restaraunt area; the toilets are likely to be adjacent. Sniff it out, so to speak.

Downpour? A cheeky extension of the above; take the persona of a guest and hang a little while by the exit. The doorman/bellboy will promptly offer you a nice branded Golf umbrella. Give it back afterwards, of course.

Concierge as your guide. Hotel staff are less likely to do you up like a kipper – use them to get ahold of maps, advice and proper recommendations. Asking for their 2nd favourite restaurant might jolt them out of recommending their “preferred” default option.

Pack light, really light. It makes jumping on and off public transport so much easier, security improves, and wondering around in the heat no longer poses a health hazard. I’ve been working on perfecting my packing list for the past year – I’ll post a video on here someday. The general trick is to get yourself a small backpack; thus forcing you to pack little. I’ve got a 28-litre bag, which is a bit extreme – something around 35-litres is just right. Be prepared to rotate through clothes at a rapid rate.

Opt for small, quality gear. Good stuff lasts longer, generally speaking. You can get pretty hi-tech with even your underwear and making the right choices helps keep the size/weight of your backpack under control, plus see you through different environmental conditions. My packing list wouldn’t work in Wintery conditions, but I surprisingly feel that I have too much, rather than too little.

Don’t plan too much, especially if you’re on a budget. Book your first night in a new location in advance, if you must. But you’re usually better off sniffing out things when you arrive by just wondering around and asking people. You’ll get better deals haggling in person too; paying the rack-rate is balmy.

For fancier urban hotels, using the Internet is a must. “Secret Hotels” on Lastminute.com can get you a real bargain, as can Priceline’s “Name Your Price” model. Hotels typically pay some 20% commission to OTAs (online travel agents; Expedia etc) – call up the hotel direct and state the best price you spotted. They’ll typically match the price on their own website anyway, but propose that you book direct (generating more revenue for them) in return for an upgrade, or a free breakfast.

Use airport websites when searching for flights. Kayak is a superb meta search engine with a very comprehensive data set. However, it doesn’t yet have data feeds for every low-cost airline. A smart way to uncover who flies in and out of an airport is to check their live departures/arrivals section on their website.

 Tags: Random   Published: 28th October '12