Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Long Transits in Dubai with Emirates

Trying to capture this tallest building inside the frame
I used to be a frequent traveler of Emirates when Colombo was my central airport. After a long time, we were back to Emirates. This time we had a transit of 12 hours and 40 minutes. Emirates offer free visa (otherwise would cost ~120 AED), free accommodation with meals and transport to/free the accommodation in Dubai, as long as certain conditions are met. The transit should be long (more than 9 hours, if I remember correct), and should be the shortest possible transit in the route (means, you cannot choose to book a latter flight just to be eligible to this offer, when an earlier option is available).

We had a nice sleep, and felt refreshed for our onward journey. Also the hotel had a package tour for 2 hours where they took us around the city and dropped us back for 30 USD/person. It was a good experience. Emirates actually do not advertise this free stay during transits in their web site. The entire thing is kind of obfuscated. Probably they do not want this to be an advertising/marketing point. Everything was smooth. Thanks Emirates. Impressed again.

Beware of Robbers in the Public Transport

Colombo, feels just like a very familiar city. Deja vu.
So I was in this bus during a recent visit to Sri Lanka. This conductor guy was standing next to me when I was about to get down. I felt he was too close and some touches in the backside of my backpack. I assumed he mistakenly was touching as the bus was moving. As I got down, my glass box fell down from the small front pocket of my bag. Now it all made sense to me. He assumed that was my wallet in the small pocket. He thought I was easy prey. Because of his stupidity, the box broke falling down. He kept staring at me as the bus moved on - he probably did that involuntarily as he noticed me taking the box from the ground, or probably he wanted to see whether I identify his trick and react (how? by chasing the moving bus? or by shouting? I did not react except giving an angry face at our failed system). He managed to wide open the bag though nothing valuable was there for him to steal. It is a sad state - the conductors are expected to serve the passengers, not to rob them. Next time when you are in Sri Lanka, beware of these bus conductors. From my overall experience, most of these guys are unpleasant. Based on the last experience, some can be robbers too!

A similar incident happened in Brussels Nord train station too. We were boarding the train, tired after a long flight. One middle-aged woman (~35) presumably of east European origin based on her looks, jumped the queue. Then another 2 of her friends, jumped in front of me, making a distance between me and my girl. We were with luggage. One woman, inside the train, was pulling my girl's big luggage talking something in a language that sounded new and strange, as if she was helping her (but actually she was merely dragging. not helping). In the mean time, the 3rd woman in front of me, was pretending to help me drag luggage too. I was kinda annoyed by that time. No one jumps queues in Europe usually. At least in the west. These were women. So I tend to let them pass. However, we were with luggage. No reason to make us suffer. But when I got in, I noticed my girl's front bag (where she had her cash, mobile, and all other valuable items) was wide open. 

While one woman managed to distract her by pulling her big luggage, and other doing the same trick on me, the other one in the middle managed to wide open her small front bag (that usually is for passport, documents, and cash during the flights). Luckily for us, as soon as I boarded the train, I noticed the bag open. I loudly announced, "Your bag is open. We have robbers in this bus". I looked at the women. Not because I immediately guessed they were the robbers. But they were the ones interacting with us. It took me a second to realize what is going on. By this time, sensing a retaliation, one of those robbers told me quick, "Oh, we are going to airport. Wrong train", and all 3 robbers jumped the train and disappeared in a second!

My girl confirmed she did not lose anything. The robbers almost rob us. So it can be decent looking women too. Don't assume the robbers are usually ugly men. The sad part of the entire story - no one in the train was bothered to listen, interfere, or react while we were having these conversations or when I announced that we were almost robbed. Probably they are used to all these dramas. Or probably they thought we all belong to a same team, giving a performance to rob someone else? Who knows.

This is the second scam we encountered in Brussels. To read more about the first one: How to Overcome an Uber Scam.

Back to my EMJD-DC busy life.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Luxembourg by Public Transport

Louvain-la-Neuve, the village of the second (current) university of my PhD sleeps during the Sundays. Almost everything shuts down, as students disappear from the village to their hometowns during Friday evenings to reappear only on Sunday nights. Since it was getting a bit boring during the weekends in this small village, we decided to visit the nearest country, Luxembourg. We first have to go to Ottignies and transit there to take a train to Luxembourg, that originates from Brussels - Midi station.

Usually, this costs 51.60 Euro/person to go to Luxembourg by train from the village. However, on weekends, the local public transport has a 50% discount in Belgium. This leads to the final price of 35.40 Euro/person in the weekends. One ticket from Louvain-la-Neuve to Arlon (Belgium) that costs 23 Euro for a return trip, and the next from Arlon to Luxembourg for return trip for 12.40 Euro. The transit remains the same though the tickets are broken as the above to separate the local trip from the international part of the journey.

For 4 euros, you may purchase a daily pass that you can use to travel anywhere in the country by bus or train. Hop on Hop off buses and toy trains were not available during our visit, as they start only from April. Many shops were closed on Sundays. Some were closed as it is still off-season. However, tourists were already there. Luxembourg city was quite boring compared to other cities. Even Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, scored better in my opinion. But Luxembourg is still worth visiting once. If you ask me, any country is worth a visit at least once, anyway.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Cut the LinkedIn Small Talk

One of the most annoying LinkedIn marketers I have encountered - those who add you out of nowhere (3rd degree connections, usually). Then they start a small talk with you.

Some advises:
1. Don't add random people and start messaging them in LinkedIn - at least read their profile well to see whether they would be interested in your message. No need to waste both of your time by a boring chat.
2. If you have the urge to do so, do it as a single message, a paragraph. I don't use LinkedIn as a chat client.

The marketer small talk usually goes weird and slow, as if they were asking me out. I help them these days to cut this small talk short. By this way, I help them end this within  a few minutes.

In the above chat, I helped end the chat sooner with the counter-question "How can I help you?" instead of answering "I am fine, thanks, how are you?", then waiting for their follow up answer and further small talk on how bad the weather these days. Second, the short and direct reply "No" helped them stop the chat without further small talk such as "Good bye", "Hope to make business with you again".

Though I come across rude in the above chat and sharing this blog post, you should realize that this is not a single message. We, each of us, receive a ton of such messages in LinkedIn. So this is a collective annoyance.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Thiruvannamalai 2017

The temple before the sun rise!
Paying a visit to Thiruvannamalai was in our list for a long time. Eventually, had the opportunity. It was a magical experience to visit the temple before the sun rise, and experience the morning sun.