Saturday, October 06, 2012

Staying connected

I just read of a user's experience using the internet in a San Francisco Hotel. She said that the hotel charged for internet use by the IP of the device. So if you used all 3 of your mobile devices, say an iPhone, an iPad and your MacBook, you end up paying internet access for all 3 devices. If the charge is $15 per IP, that's going to be $45 if you switch on all 3 devices' wifi. That's expensive and, as the user wrote, ignores the reality of today's pervasive use of mobile technologies.

At the Novotel Platinum Bangkok where I stayed last week, each room was given an internet access account and password. Each occupant in the room could use the same account concurrently up to a maximum of 2 devices each. So each one could log in to the internet access on his PC Notebook and smartphone, or any combination of whatever mobile device you have. If you attempt to use that same account on more devices, you will be denied. The good thing is that it informs you that you have exceeded the number of connections allowed and to switch off the connection that another device might still have connected to the IP that you are not using. No additional charges, just a friendly reminder, which is better than what the user in the San Francisco Hotel got. That said, sometimes the system miscounts the connections, so you would want to shut down the device instead of just switching off the wifi. I had this problem one evening - denied access because too many devices were already connected. This in spite of my turning off the wifi on all my devices and then reconnecting with just one of them. I was too tired that evening anyway, so I left it alone and went to bed, believing that the problem will sort itself out in the morning.  And it did.

This is not a perfect system, but I think a fair one. I would have preferred a wired connection in the room, for the speed. But hotels would realise that guests can use a mifi device and begin gobbling up bandwidth. Technology has certainly become  more complex since I last travel overseas 2 years ago. If you are going to be dependent on internet access when you travel, it is a good idea to understand how the hotel makes available its internet access, free or paid.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Novotel

Oh, and where did I stay while I was in Bangkok last week? The Novotel Bangkok Platinum Hotel - an excellent hotel for a couple of reasons:

  1. Location. It is just above Zone 3 of the Platinum Fashion Mall and just across the street from the very extensive Pratunam Market. If you are there for the first time, it will save you a lot of travelling time, which you can otherwise spend shopping. Zone 3 is next to Zone 2, which is next to Zone 1 (obviously) which, in turn, is one building away from Pantip Plaza. It is also next to the river where water taxis ply. Whether you choose to take the water taxis or not, its there beside where you stay. You can enter and exit Zone 3 directly through the 6th floor of the hotel. The convenience can't be beat.
  2. It is relatively new. Opened only last November (i.e. 2011), its furnishings are still fresh, and if you stayed at their Executive rooms, it is relatively private as they are all located in the highest floors. 
  3. Facilities are decent. There is the lounge where live music is played every night, a decent-sized restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Swimming pools, etc, are nothing to shout about though,, but they are available. The bedroom amenities are comprehensive., from the beds to the washrooms. The hotel provides each guest an access card, with a third inserted in the room's power slot. So effectively you have three cards for a double room. In the hotels that I have stayed in, I have always had to approach the hotel to provide me a third card. There is free and unlimited wifi for getting on the internet in the rooms as well as in the Premium Lounge.
  4. If you choose to pay a bit more for its Executive rooms (I believe it is S$30 more per person per day), you have exclusive access to its Premier Lounge, located at the 24th floor.The lounge has an almost wall-to-wall glass window (panel) that looks out to parts of Bangkok. You can order any drink any time of the day (coffee, tea, juices, etc.) on the house. 2 friendly and helpful staff are around all the time to attend to your needs. You check-in and check-out of the hotel from here, so you don't need to join in a queue. When you are tired from your shopping, just pop up here for a breather and a drink, in relative privacy, instead of going into a McDonalds or Starbucks downstairs and squeeze with the rest of Bangkok with your shopping bags. Tea and snacks are served from 5 to 7pm (buffet style), all on the house. The chairs are very comfortable. When you are rested, just continue with your shopping downstairs. Its worth every additional baht. Pamper yourself, I say.

  1. The staff are all very friendly and attentive. You get the feeling that they care about your comfort and needs but are sensitive enough to leave you alone when you don't want to be disturbed.
The only downside is the hotel is not near any BTS station. It is certainly more than a stone's throw away. But there are plentiful Tuk-tuks and Taxis around. So if you are not too concerned about the traffic jams, you can still get around relatively cheap.

Overall, I'd recommend this hotel. I will certainly return to this hotel when I next visit Bangkok.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Bargain or not

Bangkok still is a shopper's paradise. It is great for buying clothes, both for men and women, bags, shoes and accessories such as wallets/purses. It is NOT, I am sad to say, for IT products. The prices of big ticket items such as the iPad is not very different from Singapore's. Even if you save a couple of tens of dollars, it is just not worth the risk of getting it fixed should it break down within the warranty period. International warranty, I am told, is for one year. Local warranty is 2 years. If you are looking for IT products, and you live in Singapore, Sim Lim Square is just as good. For small tickets items? Check out, or any of the China-based online retailers. They will give you just as good a price, if not better. And the quality isn't any less good than the ones you will find in Bangkok. In fact, I saw some of these gadgets on display at Pantip Plaza. There are also available at these online stores. By the way, I was told and I have read reviews on the internet that Pantip is one of the best for IT products, price and assortment wise. My actual experience is anything but when it came to the price category.

I was told that I could get the iPad a hundred or two cheaper than what I would get in Singapore. The Apple shop at Pantip Plaza listed a 16GB Wi-Fi-only iPad at B16,500. A shop that sold accessories proudly announced that it also sold the iPad. I was quoted a price of B18,500 for the same 16GB Wi-Fi-only model. Even if I bargained on the price, how much lower can it go? B16,000? Maybe B14,000 if I am a seasoned pro bargainer. Realistically, it would be nearer B15,000, which isn't all that different if I had bought from the Apple store. The bargainer must realise that the retailer will first mark up his prices so that he wouldn't lose a cent (or a baht) after the obligatory bargaining dance. You think you've got a good deal, but really, the retailer is the one walking away with the biggest smile. 

Not so the merchandise that list prices already cheaper than those you get at home. And these are the clothes, bags and shoes which is available in huge quantities and assortment.  You can really save after a good bargaining session, and the retailer gains too because his costs are already low. I spent 2 days trawling Pratunam Market and the Platinum Fashion Mall and don't think I have covered every inch, even though I lived just on top of it. You should plan for 3 solid days just in this part of Bangkok if you are there for the first time on a purely shopping trip. You see, the Fashion Mall closes at 7pm. Of course, there is the night market which, unfortunately, I didn't visit. Perhaps next time, soon.