Tree: The Fraud Documentary

Only a day after posting the Curse of Pleasing Others post, I stumbleed across this video which proves the point I was making to the dot. Titled Tree: Documentary, the video attempts to introduce a person by the name of Neil who, as the video claims, seeks personal enlightenment and to achieve it, he wants to embark on a 49 day long fast during which he would not eat, only drink coconut and water. The video simply could not have shown up in a more opportune moment but without further ado, let me explain exactly why I find it to be a fraud and why it proves that the curse of pleasing others is embedded within the population more deeply than anyone would care to admit.

Tree: The Fraud Documentary

The following is how I perceive the video based on how it is presented. This is my opinion, yours could be different:

The Tree: Documentary video start with an introduction of a character named Mark Matthews who wastes no time and starts right off with big time phrases that would put even the most senior marketing expert’s sales pitches to shame. The video doesn’t even get past the 20 seconds mark when the fact I brought up in the Curse of Pleasing Others post – that everything people do, they do it because other’s are watching – becomes clear beyond all doubt. In his well tailored sales pitch, Mark Matthews goes as far as to say that the Tree: Documentary project is not some David Blaine super stunt, but a documentary about a man trying to find himself. Nothing could be further from the truth. The perception of fraud gets clearer as the video continues.

Mark Matthews talks about his friend Neil who, as he says was experiencing personal crisis and went through some major stages of depression. Neil allegedly did not know what he was good for and what his purpose on this planet was. So to find the answers, Neil decided to meditate and pray underneath a tree for 49 days. Up to this point, the introduction to Neil seems pretty valid and matches what many people go through at some point in their lives. So far so good.

It all starts getting really strange soon after this quick introduction of Neil, when Mark Matthews mentions that while undergoing his 49 day long fast, Neil would be accompanied by a team of doctors and scientists who would monitor his health, and would also be accompanied by spiritual mentors and teachers who would introduce him to the world of personal enlightenment and gained consciousness.

Amazing, beyond professional sales pitches Mark Matthews is capable of pulling off continue with what seems to be an utter ridiculousness when he brings up great spiritual leaders of the past, such as Jesus Christ, Buddha, Prophet Muhammad and Moses. He subconsciously compares the quest of his friend Neil to what these huge figures underwent during their time. Mr. Matthews does it in such graceful matter, that average viewer of the video would not even realize at that point that none of the four, unlike Neil, had any doctors or scientists surround them and be there for them every second of their quest.

Needless to say, in true spirit of what just about every person follows these days, it didn’t take long before Mark Matthews made it clear that this “spiritual journey” is done to show off. That there would be a whole filming crew documenting everything that is going on with the quest to ensure that the exposure from everyone’s involvement is massive. The real, albeit hidden message appears to be: “Screw spiritual enlightenment, we want viewers, followers, commenters and subsequently invitations to festivals, theatrical releases, award ceremonies and what not, but nothing before worked for us, so we’re using this spiritual enlightenment fraud scenario cause it has a better chance to fool people”.

Second half of the video is about the main purpose of the Tree: The Fraud Documentary – money. Mark Matthews lists all of the personnel and equipment that will be involved in the production of the documentary, because it’s the documentary that this is all about. Again, screw “spiritual enlightenment”. It’s only a tool used to get attention.

The seal of approval is put in place when Mark Matthews makes it clear that if they don’t receive $40,000 in donations by August 15, 2011 – in his own words: “all bets are off”. In my mind, this translates into: “Neil is seeking “spiritual enlightenment” to find his place and purpose in life, but only if people give him and his crew $40,000. If people don’t give them the money, then he’s not interested in “spiritual enlightenment” and will not go ahead with his 49 days long fast”. Based on all this – isn’t my perception of Tree: Documentary as FRAUD perfectly justified?

With all of his cry baby talk and effective mind twisting lines, Mark Matthews does an amazing job distracting from what seems to me as the fraud part of the documentary. Throughout the video, he keeps people distracted from realizing that Neil doesn’t seem to give two rabbit crap balls about spiritual enlightenment. Mark Matthews is clearly an amazing marketer, though. He seems to be able to lie into anyone’s face without breaking the cover with wrong expressions. If I wanted a marketer, especially if honest marketing failed and I need to take on “new approach”, he’d be the man I’d seek. He would also be the last person I would want to get into verbal fight with as he would likely destroy me before I could open my mouth. But as someone who can see the forest for the trees, I hate to break it down and uncover what appears to be the true purpose behind this documentary.

Conclusion

If you make your personal quest to find yourself a super-stunt with press releases and cameras following your every step, then you are not really looking to discover yourself. You are looking for attention. I’m sorry Neil, but Buddha didn’t go on his quest with intentions to boost his popularity ranking. He went to truly discover himself and find his real purpose. In order to achieve that, he didn’t plot to take a team of promoters along to make him more popular than he was before the quest. Quest for self discovery is not the same as quest for public image boost. It takes true strength to go on a true quest. If what your video presents is a true reflection of what this project is all about, then you are still very, very far from finding what you are good for. The path to yourself is not the same as the path to please others.

iPad for Travel – In-Depth Personal Review

I recently paid a visit to my friend who travels with an iPad (an Apple product). I simply asked him if I could check up on my sites on his laptop to make sure nothing was falling apart since it looked like I was not gonna make it back home for a good while. He handed me his iPad and told me to take as much time as I need. Since I’ve been traveling with what I consider to be the best laptop for travelers, near whole day of iPad use gave me a chance to compare the two and thoroughly review the latest gadget that seems to get so much attention. Is iPad good for travelling or not? Is it better than a laptop or does it lag behind? Read on to find out all about it. This is my in-depth personal review of the Apple iPad with special focus on use by the travelers on the road.

Unfortunately, because it was my friend’s iPad that I got to use (and am reviewing here) and I used it while visiting his place, I do not have any pictures of it. I did not go to visit him to review the iPad, it just so happened that he had one. However given how popular this gadget is, I believe everybody has already seen one or knows how to look up the pictures of it.

Using iPad – First Impressions

Using iPad is no different from using any other Apple product. Nothing is where you would naturally anticipate it to be. Granted, human being is a highly adaptable creature so I eventually get used to everything working backwards, but I still think it’s just plain weird that everything would be set up to go against intuition.

Second thing you also notice right away is the awkwardness of use. This is also something that could be anticipated as iPad was stripped of all the useful things (such as a keyboard) so typing and working with text, or otherwise using any of the features is a major pain (on top of being unnatural as mentioned in a paragraph above).

Photo: Smart Travelers Travel with a Netbook, Not an iPad
Photo: Smart Travelers Travel with a Netbook, Not an iPad

The immediately noticeable positive thing is a crisp and sharp screen with very nice picture. That is also something I would call typical of Apple as usability and functionality have never been strong features of any Apple product. Instead of proper engineering, Apple clearly puts maximum focus on cute design. Regardless of how unusable a gadget is, for as long as it looks cool and has a cool screen, it seems to be enough to trick many people into buying.

How Design Overrides Quality

In the section of this blog which I used to introduce myself, I wrote a post about my past work life where I briefly mention my enterpreneurial life running a photography business. Since part of the business also focused on retail, people could buy cameras from me, but being a photographer, I never offered brands I would never buy myself.

I know really darn well that this was a poor business decision, but my personal and professional conscience made me put the business second. A good example were SONY cameras. They had these cute little buttons and really attractive designs, but while both were strong selling points, one thing hidden from a customer looking to buy a camera was quality of pictures they’d take.

Being a small retailer who had to offer added value to his products in order to survive in the shade of the big box stores, I educated all of the people who came to buy a camera from me on what they could anticipate in terms of image quality from each of the cameras. I explained to them what they would be gaining and losing if they opted for this model as opposed to that one. Being a professional photographer at the time, I had the real life expertise sales people from big box stores did not have and that was the reason many people came to buy their cameras from me.

Many however bought their cameras elsewhere and then came to ask me, whom they knew of being an expert on photography, to explain why their pictures look like crap. Often times, by mere looking at pictures I had but one question to ask – is it a SONY camera you have? More often than not, the answer was “Yes”. After brief introduction, the customer would realize that buying a camera from a big box store instead of from a photographer was a mistake and that deciding which one to take based on what the camera looked like was the main reason why important images did not work out.

Still, despite poor picture quality, SONY cameras counted among the best selling ones among the people who did not buy theirs from me. That only confirmed the fact that people are visual creatures and will side with more attractive looks rather than quality output when making purchasing decisions.

It is the same with Apple products. Ipad could be the most useless gadget to be released in centuries, but thanks to its polished black surface and shiny, sharp-pictured screen, it sees millions sold worldwide. I have seen people’s shopping decisions influenced by attractive looks before, so it does not surprise me with iPads at all.

As a brief disclaimer I would simply state that I closed my photography business down in 2005. I have not kept an eye on SONY cameras since and what I talk about above simply reflects on the knowledge I acquired while I was running said business. Things may have (and likely have) changed since. But let’s get back to iPad and its use as a gadget for travelers.

Cost of the iPad

The biggest drawback of iPads is their high cost. These underpowered, limited use calculators with movie playback capabilities (but without a DVD player) are way too expensive for what they offer. I bought my laptop for $379 Canadian and at the time, Apple iPads were available for $499 Canadian (basic version). Had I been delusional and bought an iPad instead of my Samsung N150, I would have spent more money but got far more limited device which would disallow me from being efficient and productive. This could potentially jeopardise my income to a point that I could entirely lose it. As a businessman who earns his living on a computer, an iPad could never be an option.

Yet despite its extremely limited use, it costs significantly more to buy than my small netbook with which I can do absolutely anything. In a year since the purchase, my N150 was my sole tool I used for all video editing, dozens of photo manipulations done each day, graphics design for high end customers, daily web programming and maintenance of high traffic server serving 3 million unique readers a month.

Ridiculously enough, despite being superbly overpriced to begin with, the functionality of this overpriced product is so limited, you will be stuck having to spend more money to buy various applications to actually have at least any use of your new gadget. Yet even if you were to spend thousands of dollars on aps, you still won’t get the functionality of even the cheapest, crappiest laptop available.

Paying more money to be able to do less makes no sense. As a result, buying iPad – whether for travel or anything else makes no sense. None whatsoever.

Review of iPad’s Usability by Travelers

I frequently use my laptop while standing up. Being a rigorous traveler, I often get caught in need of an immediate information and need to get on the internet to look it up. It frequently happens when I can’t find the guesthouse I want to stay in in a city I just got to. When that happens, I walk around in search of unsecured WiFi signals and get on my laptop wherever I can find it. Oftentimes there is nowhere to sit, or it could be raining so I’d be just hiding under whatever piece of roof I could find and as a result, I’m forced to use my laptop while standing up.

Using a conventional laptop standing up is not a problem. But trying that with an iPad became a major nightmare. You basically can’t use the iPad while standing up comfortably. You would either have to twist your wrist into an unnatural position to be able to type, or band your back and neck too much making for a very uncomfortable use. This thing alone makes the iPad unusable for travel.

But usability suffers in all other aspects as well. As a busy traveler, after a long day of trekking, when you’re really tired but need to check your emails and whatever else you use online, you’d like to just lay on bed with pillow folded up below your upper back to keep the upper body up so you can both relax and do your computer work, but if you have an iPad, you can’t. Putting your laptop on top of your thighs and using it while in near laying position is easy and I do it often while traveling, but it’s impossible to do with an iPad.

In order to use it, you’d have to sit up, which would require you to sit on the age of your bed because as a traveler, you won’t see many guesthouses that also have armchairs in their rooms. Sitting on the edge of the bed means that you have nothing to lean your back against and if you’re tired after a busy day, this can be a real issue. Furthermore, even if you do have an armchair or other seat in your room, because you have to lay the iPod flat on your lap, you will be forced to arch your back till it hurts which will make you feel even more tired and will significantly reduce productivity if you’re like me and earn your money on line. The only alternative to it is to hold the iPad with one hand to have it under comfortable angle but this way you will only be able to use one hand for actual work cause the other one will be stuck holding the darn thing.

As for sheer usability during traveling, iPad is completely and utterly unusable.

Review of iPad’s Functionality for Travel

Aside from being more expensive than significantly superior rivals, completely unusable by travelers and non travelers alike, iPad also lacks in basic functionality to a point that it’s ridiculous.

The iPad I tried had only one web browser on it – Safari (Apple operating systems are rather limited and not user oriented so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was no option to add a different browser to it, but I don’t know that for sure). Using Safari by travelers is beyond destructive. Let’s say that like me, you have a travel blog and you’re writing a new post. Your entry includes something you have previously talked about so you want to link that page. You open another tab and navigate through your blog to get to that page so you can copy its URL and paste it into your new entry. With the URL in your clipboard, you come back to the tab where you had your work in progress only to find out that switching tabs in Safari refreshes the pages so you will have lost all you have worked on. Imagine the frustration!

Typing using iPad is a whole new level of frustration all together. If you are responding to something, you won’t be able to see the text because it will be covered by the keyboard buttons. The iPad I used had an external keyboard (yet another expense) which made typing a little easier, but made the whole thing clunky and disorderly. As a traveler, packing and transporting a laptop is easy. But having an iPad and a separate keyboard requires extra space and makes storage and transportation more challenging. The bulk of stuff and cables turns the use of it on the road into a major headache.

Without an external keyboard, the typing is tough. There is no tab key and no arrow keys which makes navigation through text (especially if you’re trying to write something longer than a couple of sentences) a nightmare. If you need to edit a sentence two paragraphs up, you’ll be up for a major task. Many other tasks which take no time and effort on a laptop are also a major nightmare on an iPad with that touch screen – trying to edit the URL in the address bar for example is nothing short of a complete horror.

Photo editing is impossible for images larger than 2,000 pixels on any side. In other words, unless your camera is 10 years old, forget about editing your photos, even if you shelled out for the camera connection kit. Speaking of photo editing, using any of the intuitive, user friendly applications you are used to using, such as Adobe Photoshop or ULead PhotoImpact would be impossible on an iPad. You would be stuck using weird looking and functioning PhotoGene.

Major Technological Drawbacks of iPads for Travel

No Multitasking – what more needs to be added? I’m a busy webmaster. When I get on my laptop, even though it only has 1GB RAM memory, I have several windows open at the same time because I need them at the same time to do my daily tasks. This is impossible with an iPad. As such, iPad is unusable. If you are a traveler, it is quite likely you have some form of presence on the internet. If that’s the case, then lack of multitasking will make the iPad unusable while you travel. But if you make your living on the internet, then iPad is an absolute NO. Yet even if you don’t, surely you would like to have an MSN Messenger or Skype running in the background while you’re on line so when some of your friends log in, you can step in for a chat. Unfortunately, on an iPad, you can’t.

No USB Ports – If you want to be able to download pictures from your camera onto your iPad, you’d have to buy (yep, more money spending) a camera connection kit which is nothing short of ridiculous.

No Flash – this paralyzes more than you would imagine. WordPress image uploader is flash powered for example. If you run a WP powered blog, tough luck! The uploader is not the only WP feature that doesn’t work on an iPad, though. Some sites use login popup splash screens powered by Flash so if you’re a member of such and visit them on an iPad, you won’t be able to log in. Similarly, many online forms will be difficult or impossible to fill in. If they use flash, they won’t work at all, but because the keyboard doesn’t have arrows, even if it wasn’t a flash powered form, you won’t be able to navigate through it, which makes filling them up an insanity of an effort. Complete nightmare!

There is also no DVD player on an iPad, but that’s not a drawback in my mind. DVD players are a major battery wasters and are a more or less an obsolete technology so they’re not anything I’d expect to be on a portable computer anyway. With flash drives growing in size and becoming excessively popular, DVDs have no place on computers anymore. It’s much faster and more convenient to put data on a USB stick than it is to burn them on a DVD disc.

Statement iPod Ownership Makes

There is absolutely nothing that an iPad can do, what a netbook can not. On the other hand, an iPad can do no more than 5% of what an average netbook can. Yet an iPad costs significantly more than an average netbook. As such, anyone who travels with an iPad makes an undeniable statement that they got to 5 trying to add 2 and 2.

iPad – The Good

  • Looks nice
  • Crisp screen
  • Battery life seems decent

iPad – The Bad

  • Overpriced and underperforming
  • Requires additional purchases to achieve basic (yet still limited) functionality
  • Unintuitive usability
  • Impossible to use comfortably
  • Can’t use it comfortably while standing up
  • Can’t use it comfortably while laying in bed
  • Can’t use it comfortably while sitting without a desk
  • Safari is a default (and only) web browser
  • Typing is very challenging and tiring
  • Text editing is either difficult or impossible
  • No arrows or a tab key for normal navigability
  • Limited photo editing capabilities
  • Impossible to edit images over 2,000 pixels
  • No multitasking
  • No USB ports
  • No flash
  • No camera
  • Limited and difficult file management
  • Slow web browsing (web pages always load very slowly)
  • Touch screen picks up fingerprints and dust too easily
  • Made by Apple (fanboys are just plain irritating)

Review of iPad for Travel – Conclusion

Using an iPad for travel would make absolutely no sense. Even if you don’t need to do any type of computer work and only need a machine to check emails and watch YouTube videos, iPad would prove to be a major headache since even the simplest tasks (typing URLs for example) are a tiring and challenging. If however your use of the internet goes beyond email checking, then iPad is a complete No No. Yet even though iPad is nothing more than a limited use calculator with video playback capabilities, the price tag for that thing is unreasonably high which makes a consideration to buy it a sign of limited wits. The fact that so many people did pay to own it only proves how backwards much of the society is.

Sunset View Bungalow on Don Det, Laos

During my three day visit to Don Det, I stayed at Sunset View Bungalow. I always check a few available accommodation options to compare what I’d be getting for my money and when it came to Don Det, Sunset View Bungalow seemed like the best of both world.

When you are on an island that’s not all that big, there is a limited number of things that you can do. But when it comes to night time activities, this number is further reduced significantly. The main reason why I opted for Sunset View Bungalow over everything else on Don Det was the atmosphere at the outdoor restaurant that’s within the ground.

Photo: Sunset View Bungalow Restaurant - The Happening Place on Don Det
Photo: Sunset View Bungalow Restaurant - The Happening Place on Don Det

Several cool looking people were chilling with a Beer Lao at the table, a guitar in their hands and trance music on the stereo. On top of that, an unmissable sign of good mood was in the air as skilfully rolled joints were being passed around.

Sunset View Bungalow Price

As I was told by the French fellow who was in charge of showing new comers the premises, a bungalow at the Sunset View cost 30,000 Lao Kip (about $3,60 US) per night. There were bungalows and guesthouse rooms for as little as 25,000 Kip per night on Don Det, but none of these appeared to have had the atmosphere of Sunset View Bungalow. Even though slightly above average priced, Sunset View Bungalow was the hangout spot so that’s where I decided to stay.

Photo: Sunset View Bungalow Acces Gate
Photo: Sunset View Bungalow Acces Gate

Cheap Accommodation in Laos?

In a rundown of my experiences in Laos, I mentioned that Laos is a surprisingly expensive country to travel through. Yet the very first accommodation I scored cost less than $5 per night so how is that expensive, right? While I do admit 30,000 Kip per night for a private place is not expensive by any stretch of imagination, one needs to put things into a perspective and compare it to the type of accommodation this amount of money would land you in similar countries.

The bungalow I got was about a foot on each side larger than the bed inside. There was not enough space to even turn around, never mind safely storing a backpack. Aside from a wooden bunk bed with a simulated mattress and a pillow, there was only a stained mosquito net with holes in it hanging over it.

Truly partisan style bathroom and a shower were outside to be shared by dozens of others. Bungalows also had a porch with hammock but given the size of that porch, one had to tiptoe around to not fall off on the way inside. Small opening on one of the walls served as a window which when opened, offered the room slightly larger appearance.

Photo: Sunset View Bungalow - Seems Bigger in Picture than It Really Is
Photo: Sunset View Bungalow - Seems Bigger in Picture than It Really Is

Sunset View Bungalow was a backpacker’s paradise. Nothing much to complain about because it was truly cheap, however when compared to what I was getting in Cambodia for $3, this was still slightly pricey and a clear introduction to how expensive Laos is going to be.

More Luxurious Accommodation at Sunset View Bungalow

Aside from the 30,000 Kip bungalows described above, Sunset View also offered slightly more comfortable huts for 50,000 Kip per night (about $6 US). These were a bit more spacious, had more spacious verandas with hammocks for two people and an en suite bathroom. I’ve never tried one of those, I was just shown and opted for a less expensive, true backpacker accommodation.

Sunsets at Sunset View Bungalow

If you catch a cloudless day while on Don Det and are into all that romantic stuff, then you’re gonna like the view of sunsets from Sunset View Bungalow. Located on the north-west corner of Don Det, Sunset View Bungalow offers spectacular sunset views though most of the bungalows don’t face that way. You can enjoy the view from the restaurant, though.

The downside is that because of tin roofs, it gets pretty hot inside a bungalow in the afternoon. East side of the island peak where all the guesthouses are faces the same issue in the early morning hours when rising sun turns the rooms into a steaming sauna.

What I Liked Sunset View Bungalow

After personally checking out most other places offering accommodation on Don Det I maintain that Sunset View Bungalow is the best option. There are not many places in Laos where you can stay a night for less than $5 so if you make it on Don Det, enjoy the one place where it’s possible. You’ll get what you pay for, but at least what you pay is not much. Laos is otherwise surprisingly expensive (compared to most other countries in South East Asia) and even though Sunset View Bungalow seem to be the opposite, when compared what you’d get for this type of money in comparable countries, it’s definitely not cheap.

Hanging out and chilling with other backpackers is the best part of Sunset View Bungalow and as such, is unrivalled anywhere on Don Det, or entire 4,000 Islands for that matter. I would wholeheartedly recommend every backpacker coming to Don Det to check this place out.

Don Det is a small island and everything is concentrated in the same area. While staying at Sunset View Bungalow, you’re never too far away from anything, however that could be said about any other accommodation on the island. Other places just seem a bit too formal so if leisurely talk with other travelers, former strangers but now friends is not alien to you, then Sunset View Bungalow is the place to be. Grab a bottle of cold BeerLao and have yourself good time while on Don Det.

Photo: Don Det of Four Thousand Islands, Southern Laos
Photo: Don Det of Four Thousand Islands, Southern Laos

What I Didn’t Like About Sunset View Bungalow

I can’t say there was anything I really didn’t like about Sunset View Bungalow. It’s a cheap (for Laos) place with great atmosphere, fun management, cold beer and that stuff I shouldn’t talk openly about. Shared bathroom and shower are a bit grotty and lower priced bungalows are a bit squishy, but Sunset View Bungalow is not about fancy accommodation. It’s about having a good time and enjoying yourself with all your worries left behind. If it’s upscale accommodation you seek, check out Don Khong or Don Khon islands instead.

There are a few other things that could be brought up in the “didn’t like” section, but they are not specific to Sunset View Bungalow, but rather apply to whole island (or whole area). While there is little motorized traffic on any of the 4,000 islands, making them reasonably quiet, fisherman boats make way more noise than any motorcycle and start running around like there’s no tomorrow before sun dawn. Most accommodations on Don Det consist of wooden rooms that are as far from being sound proof as they get. Those few non air tight wooden planks that serve as walls will let all of the noise from the outside right in so if you stayed out drinking beer with other backpackers till 2am and get awakened at 5am by loud fishing boats the noise of which never seems to fade into distance, you won’t be too amazed. That would take place no matter where on Don Det you decide to stay.

Also, being an isolated island (not so isolated anymore, but still), many things on Don Det are expensive because they have to be brought in from the mainland, but the most expensive thing of all is internet. At the time of my visit, there were three internet cafes on Don Det, each charging an unholy 400 Kip per minute. Translated into English, this is a $3 for an hour on line. I have been on far more isolated islands since, I have been in the middle of the jungle, but have yet to come to a place where internet would be this expensive. You best update that page before coming over and leave next update until you have gotten elsewhere or prepare to shell out some heavy bucks for the privilege of surfing the net. As if Laos as a country was not expensive enough, Don Det takes it to a whole new level. Compared to much of mainland, beer is also expensive here (11,000 Kip for a bottle of BeerLao compared to 8,000 for the same in Pakse), however budget restaurants offer food for prices comparable to the rest of Laos.

One more time – expensive internet and loud boats buzzing around since early morning are the reality of an entire 4,000 Island area. That’s something you would be exposed to whether you decide to stay at Sunset View Bungalow or somewhere else. Don Det is a wonderful place full of friendly people and should not be missed out by any traveller passing through the area. Kick back a few BeerLao and enjoy the real laid back lifestyle, whether at Sunset View Bungalow or somewhere else on Don Det.

Local Cambodian Restaurant

While most locally run Cambodian businesses are not very customer friendly, there were exceptions worth doing business with. One of them was a local Cambodian restaurant on the east bank of the Siem Reap river, a block north of the independence bridge (about three houses back). The restaurant was clearly not targeting tourists as it was not on any popular tourist path and it didn’t even have an English name. None of the staff spoke any English, but where there is will, there is way to communicate.

Photo: This Local Cambodian Restaurant Has No English Name
Photo: This Local Cambodian Restaurant Has No English Name

Even though this restaurant was locally owned and run, it did not support discrimination and the same rates applied along the full spectrum of customers, regardless of their color of skin. Menu had items listed in Khmer language with some English translations to the right of it. Those translations seemed to have been put together by consulting a dictionary, instead of an English speaking person and had to be taken with a grain of salt, but gave reasonably clear idea as to the dish. There were occasional surprises, though:

Several items in the menu were translated into English as “Chicken and Vegetables” however what it ended up being was chicken stomachs with vegetables. Similarly, there would be a column of five dishes each with different Khmer name, but English translation for each of them was the same. The very first meal I ordered had its name listed in English as “Fried Egg with Tuna”. This was pretty close to what I got, except that the fish that came within this uniquely looking and tasting omelette was not tuna. It was some small, fresh water fish. Not a big deal.

Photo: This is What My Favorite Local Cambodian Restaurant Looked Like Inside
Photo: This is What My Favorite Local Cambodian Restaurant Looked Like Inside

The same menus were used by everyone – locals and foreigners alike and the same prices applied to everyone equally. Everyone regardless of their ethnic background also received the same level of service and courtesy, although I could only compare it with myself as I have never seen another foreigner ever dine in that restaurant. Still, despite being a foreigner, I have never been charged extra just because I looked different.

Photo: All Customers Get More Rice Than They Can Eat
Photo: All Customers Get More Rice Than They Can Eat

Virtually every meal they had in the menu was listed at mere 7,000 Riels (approximately $1.75) which included unlimited rice and tea (within reason, of course). Best of all, despite being a local restaurant, all customers were provided with safe-for-drinking ice to cool the tea down with. This was great since many locally run eateries use cheaper, industrial ice which is produced in unsanitary conditions using unsafe tap water. For your information – safe ice has smooth, cylindrical shape with hole in the middle of it, whereas unsafe ice is just an irregularly shaped crushed mass.

Photo: Safe Ice Served by the Local Cambodian Restaurant
Photo: Safe Ice Served by the Local Cambodian Restaurant

Food in the restaurant was fantastic. Preparation never took too long and every dish I tried had great taste to it. I also asked the students in my English class to teach me how to request no MSG in my food in Khmer language because no one in the restaurant spoke any English and I wouldn’t be able to continue dining there if they kept adding it to my food. Luckily, the cook had no issue with cooking without MSG for me so I was all set. BTW, it’s easy to remember how to say No MSG in Khmer – it sounds very similar to saying “No BJ” in English. You literally just use the abbreviation of “blowjob” and add “No” before it. If you can memorize “No BJ, no masau soup” they will know exactly what you are asking for and will gladly leave it out of your food.

Photo: Customers Also Got Complimentary Chilli Peppers
Photo: Customers Also Got Complimentary Chilli Peppers

For a few weeks, this local Cambodian restaurant was my favourite place for eating. It got pretty busy around lunch hour so I tried to avoid going there at noon but outside of breakfast (very early in the morning), lunch and dinner times the place was quiet and enjoyable. Everything was a little too perfect about it. They did not discriminate, food was great and well priced, ice was safe and No MSG requests were complied with. They never tried to overcharge me just because I was a foreigner so I kept supporting the business until the day the owner crossed the line and attempted an overcharge.

Photo: Fried Morning Glory with Fish - My Favorite Dish
Photo: Fried Morning Glory with Fish - My Favorite Dish

It was after a very long time of regularly dining there and never having a problem, when some woman walked in with a tray full of rice cakes. These were small, pinky sized rolls of rice wrapped in a banana leaf. Presence of raisins and some other fruit gave them slightly sweet taste which worked perfectly as an after-meal desert. Because this took place after I had spent more than a month in Cambodia, I could already understand some of the language, especially the numbers, so I overheard her asking for 100 RielS when she was offering the cakes to other customers (other locals who were also dining in the restaurant).

After having offered her rice cakes to everybody else, the woman eventually came to me. I had just finished my meal and the owner of the restaurant was by my table as I was paying for my food. Realizing that the woman didn’t speak any English, I made a hand sign with the money I was still holding in my hand for her to show me how much per cake. At that point the owner of the restaurant who was still by my table and felt compelled to “help” me understand the price took the receipt and wrote “200” on it.

Photo: Complete Meal for 7,000 Riels. Too Bad the Owner Got Greedy
Photo: Complete Meal for 7,000 Riels. Too Bad the Owner Got Greedy

I ended up buying that one cake for 200 Riel but felt like this was a major breach of trust. Needless to say, it was the last time I dined in the restaurant. He was always fair with me before so it was really disappointing to reach the point at which he would try to rip me off because I was a foreigner. Was the desire to earn easy 100 Riels by overcharging a foreigner really worth losing a loyal customer?

Prohm Roth Guesthouse in Siem Reap – Personal Review

After Two Dragons, Prohm Roth Guesthouse was the second guesthouse I have stayed in during my long term stay in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I have chosen Prohm Roth Guesthouse due to its absolutely phenomenal location within Siem Reap town, closeness to Preah Prom Rath Temple, great prices and friendly, responsive nature of Meang who takes care of email enquiries. Unlike Two Dragons, Prohm Roth Guesthouse is Khmer owned and run, meaning that by staying there I would be directly supporting local people. This comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, however there is no other guesthouse in Siem Reap where I would have stayed more times than in Prohm Roth. Let me go through what I liked and disliked about Prohm Roth Guesthouse in more detail. This is my personal review of this accommodation option in the most touristy town of Cambodia.

Photo: Prohm Roth Guesthouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Photo: Prohm Roth Guesthouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Prohm Roth Guesthouse Review – First Impressions

Prohm Roth Guesthouse is a nice looking and newly built building that stands out like a sore thumb among the slums of surrounding huts. The main advantage of this is the fact that nothing obstructs the windows of rooms that are rented out so your room will be bright and happy, unlike it was at Two Dragons where rooms are dark and gloomy because within a meter of each window there is another building that obstructs all natural light from entering the room. Being a new building, interior is very cozy and nicely decorated which again was a major step up from cold, unwelcoming insides of Two Dragons.

The main reason why I opted for Two Dragons as my first guesthouse in Siem Reap was amazing responsiveness of Gordon, the owner who’s a native speaker of English which made communication smooth and to the point. Meang, one of two owners of Prohm Roth Guesthouse was the second most responsive guesthouse representative and the most responsive out of native Cambodians. Just as was the case with Gordon of Two Dragons, Meang addressed all questions in his responses and never opted for cut and paste replies. Both Gordon of Two Dragons and Meang of Prohm Roth Guesthouse deserve props for amazing pre-sale support and responsiveness. However, coming from the Western world, I must admit that I found responses from Meang really cute. Asian people may sound over the top when trying to earn your business, but take a look at a sample of how I was being addressed in emails sent to me and tell me if that’s not the cutest way to try to earn your business:

Dearest Sir Mark,

How are you doing? It’s such a great joy to read your message! I pray and hope that you are doing great, so thus your wonderful family!

How could you possibly not want to stay with someone who addresses you like this… Unfortunately, when it comes to most Khmer owned guesthouses in Siem Reap, an option to enquire by email either doesn’t exist or responses are way too slow and don’t address your questions. This makes such guesthouses unusable by first time visitors to Cambodia who would like to have everything arranged before they leave their home country. Luckily guesthouses such as Two Dragons or Prohm Roth do exist so one can easily make all arrangements from abroad utilizing internet communication tools.

Photo: Hallway with Nice Wooden Staircase in Prohm Roth Guesthouse
Photo: Hallway with Nice Wooden Staircase in Prohm Roth Guesthouse

The Room Review

September is the peak of rainy season in Cambodia which means it’s not particularly the high season month so room availability is oftentimes unlimited. I had several options varying from room with just a fan, through room with a fan and hot water all the way to the finest room in all of Prohm Roth Guesthouse – the one overlooking the Preah Prom Rath Temple. This was the most expensive room and had both air conditioning and hot water.

I asked about possibility of preferential pricing should I stay at the guesthouse for an extended period of time and was offered reasonable discount with each of the options. Upon my move to Prohm Roth Guesthouse, the best room was taken, but the couple occupying it was leaving the following day. So I’ve made arrangements that I would stay in another room for the night but once the best room becomes available, I would move there.

Photo: Double Room with Air-Conditioning and View of Wat Preah Prom Rath
Photo: Double Room with Air-Conditioning and View of Wat Preah Prom Rath

My first room was only equipped with a ceiling fan, but had hot water so it was one of the mid grade ones. Not having air conditioning in this heat was pretty tough. Especially since I’ve only been in Siem Reap for a week which wasn’t long enough to get used to such high temperatures and near 100% humidity (because of all the rain). Luckily, I got moved to the nicely spacious and air conditioning equipped room the following day and totally loved it.

The room had large windows on two walls making for a very bright atmosphere. It was a breath of fresh air after a week in super gloomy room at Two Dragons. It had two beds, some basic furniture, small TV set and a very uncomfortable chair I haven’t used at all, but it served well as a hanger for my sweaty t-shirts that got drenched after each visit outdoors.

Photo: View of Preah Prom Roth Pagoda Through Window of Prohm Roth Guesthouse
Photo: View of Preah Prom Roth Pagoda Through Window of Prohm Roth Guesthouse

The view from those large windows was the best thing about the room – overlooking the Preah Prom Rath temple gave the room a very high end feel. The only thing I could complain about was slight moldy smell coming from the built in closet (the smaller room I stayed in for one night had the same moldy smell coming from its closet as well) and there was an open hole in the washroom wall which had a fan in it to draw the air from the outside into the washroom which unfortunately was large enough to allow mosquitoes to safely fly into the room even if the fan was turned on. No matter how hard I tried, there were always dozens of blood hungry mosquitoes, the vectors of malaria and dengue fever in the room. The room was otherwise fantastic.

Photo: Small But Cozy Washroom Had Toilet Bowl, Tiny Sink, Mirror and a Shower Hose
Photo: Small But Cozy Washroom Had Toilet Bowl, Tiny Sink, Mirror and a Shower Hose

Prohm Roth Guesthouse Prices

Per night rates for twin rooms with just a fan start at $10. Same size twin room but with air conditioning costs $13 per night, whereas large double room with view of the temple costs $18 per night. I have enquired about per week and per month prices and was quoted $40 per week for a twin toom with a fan and $60 per week for a twin room with air con. Monthly quotes were at $170 and $260 respectively. Those quotes did not include the double room with view of the temple, because I was initially only looking for the least expensive accommodation possible. My thinking has changed once I have seen the big room.

I really liked the large room so when I was told it was gonna be available the following day, I have immediately asked to have it reserved for me. I was offered a rate of $75 per week for that room and ended up staying for 2 weeks. I think Meang and his partner were happy after I was leaving because the interest in Prohm Roth Guesthouse kept growing on a daily basis and their finest room was taken at a very attractive (for me, not them) rate.

Agreement was an agreement, though so Meang and his partner honored the quote they have provided me with and I have used Prohm Roth Guesthouse on each of my subsequent returns to Siem Reap. I had very few complaints about this guesthouse but the location as well as everything else I could think of was so great, I was not interested in trying out other guesthouses.

Unfortunately, unlike Two Dragons, it is not possible to pay for your stay at Prohm Roth Guesthouse with a credit card.

Photo: Blue Tinged Windows Above Entrance to Prohm Roth Guesthouse in Siem Reap
Photo: Blue Tinged Windows Above Entrance to Prohm Roth Guesthouse in Siem Reap

Prohm Roth Guesthouse Location Review

Perhaps the best thing about Prohm Roth Guesthouse was its location. Placed directly on a Pub Street extension, it took less than a minute on foot to get to the heart of all happening in Siem Reap. It was also just across the street from Wat Preah Prom Rath where I was teaching English so it took me less than a minute to get to the classroom making it even more convenient. Angkor Trade Center – one of main shopping malls in Siem Reap was also only minutes away.

Best of all, though – Prohm Roth Guesthouse is only around the corner from Pokambor Avenue, the road which leads all the way to Angkor Archaeological Park which was on my to-do-next list so strategically, this guesthouse is located very well.

Unfortunately, the slums surrounding the guesthouse are not very pretty. Piles of garbage nobody ever cleans make for nasty environment and the fact that the street is not illuminated makes for a bit dodgy walks home. It only takes a minute to get to the guesthouse from Pub Street, however it’s a minute through a very dark street inhabited by people living in sketchy looking huts with no electricity. I’ve never had a problem, but it was still rather scary. If someone was to get mugged in that street, there would be no helping them.

Photo: Wooden Wheels Decorate the Fence Surrounding the Prohm Roth Guesthouse in Siem Reap
Photo: Wooden Wheels Decorate the Fence Surrounding the Prohm Roth Guesthouse in Siem Reap

Prohm Roth Guesthouse Staff Review

All of the staff at Prohm Roth Guesthouse are always very positive and very friendly making you feel better about your day no matter how shitty it may have been. They were always smiling and always seemed happy to see everyone. At times it felt a bit uncomfortable because you would expect to see everyone pissed off at least at some point of time, but I grew to really appreciate their smiles and positive attitude.

As it was with Two Dragons, Prohm Roth Guesthouse also promises to deliver a bottle of water to their patrons every day. However, unlike at Two Dragons, their bottle of water was handed to you by someone who would be at the desk when you get back to the guesthouse after a day out in the scorching sun. Unfortunately, more often than not nobody would get a chance to get you one so you end up without a bottle of water you should be getting. At Two dragons, you would find your bottle in your room after your room has been done. It would never be otherwise. Whereas at Prohm Roth Guesthouse it would only depend on who is at the reception desk and whether they are busy at the time.

It was the same with daily room service. Prohm Roth Guesthouse promises to offer daily room service, but room has not been attended to every day, only some days. Again, this would not have happened at Two Dragons. When it comes to daily bottle of water and daily room service, Two Dragons Guesthouse excels and gets 10 out of 10 points. Prohm Roth Guesthouse lacks in this regard quite a bit.

Prohm Roth Guesthouse Free Internet Review

Just as was the case with Two Dragons, Prohm Roth Guesthouse offered free wireless internet to its guests and as was the case with Two Dragons, the owners of Prohm Roth cheaped out on it. It is free and can be used for emergencies, but good luck trying to load a simple website. Dial Up access would fly by the speed of the internet available at Prohm Roth Guesthouse. It is there, but it’s literally as though there was none. You can’t get anything done when internet is this slow. You will spend hours trying to load up one email message until you can’t do it anymore and end up going to the Temple Club or Khmer Family Restaurant the owners of which (same owner for both) didn’t cheap out so their free WiFi signal makes your internet fly.

Photo: Prohm Roth Guesthouse Common Area with Resting Chairs
Photo: Prohm Roth Guesthouse Common Area with Resting Chairs

Prohm Roth Guesthouse Website

I don’t know who designed their website, but Prohm Roth Guesthouse has hands down the shittiest website on the entire internet. It’s atrociously horrible. And if stupid animations, awful mouse pointer and nauseous graphic were not bad enough, once you click through to the main content, music starts playing pretty loud with no option provided to mute it. I can think of nothing they could do to their website to make it any more heinous than it is right now. Take a look for yourself at:

www.prohmroth-guesthouse.com

Prohm Roth Review – Conclusion

GOOD:

  • Attractive Discounts Available for Long Term Stay
  • Responsive and Courteous with Pre Sale Enquiries
  • Rooms Are Bright and Spacious
  • Non Smoking Rooms (smokers can smoke in the hallway sitting area)
  • Excellent Location Close To Everything That’s Important in Siem Reap
  • Friendly and Welcoming Staff

BAD:

  • Cash Only for Payments (No Credit Cards)
  • Daily Water and Daily Room Service Remain a Promise, Not Reality
  • Shitty Internet
  • Moldy Smell in Built-In Closets

Although it’s certainly not perfect and has its downsides, Prohm Roth remains the best guesthouse I have stayed in in Siem Reap. Each time I left the town and came back, I headed straight for Prohm Roth Guesthouse and never regretted the decision. Reliable, honest and friendly management is one of the finest to deal with and prices are reasonable. It’s a great value for money and perhaps the best location in Siem Reap given the price. Unless something unpredictable happens, I will be sending Meang an email to secure myself a room at Prohm Roth Guesthouse each time I’m gonna head back to Siem Reap. Prohm Roth Guesthouse is my guesthouse of choice. Thumbs up!

Temple Club in Siem Reap – Personal Review

Having been in Siem Reap for almost a week, I had to go to town’s most prominent entertainment venue – Temple Club. Located in the center of Pub Street, Temple Club is Siem Reap’s heart and pulse of night life. There is a big sign above the entrance on the canopy which reads: “Recommended by Lonely Planet”. This was precisely why it took me a week to pay a mandatory visit to the venue. I’m not particularly fond of places where “everybody else” goes. This is my personal review of the Temple Club as seen and experienced through my own eyes.

Photo: Temple Club in Siem Reap During the Day
Photo: Temple Club in Siem Reap During the Day

Pub Street comes very much alive at night. While it is true that the very reason why the town sees so many tourists lies in the temples of Angkor, when the sun sets and the area falls dark, all those foreigners come out to take advantage of extremely cheap beer (2000 Cambodian Riel which is about 50 Cents US) and well priced food. They are all naturally drawn to Pub Street because that’s where all they are looking for is available at high density. It was no different with me. Even if you’ve never heard of Pub Street, once you come to Siem Reap you’ll learn about it quickly and end up on it one way or another.

Cambodian police come to Pub Street every evening and block both sides of it with their motorcycles to prevent access of any motor vehicles to the street. This is because the street gets so busy at night that there is simply no room for vehicles and besides, something needed to be done to protect those drunk tourists from being run over. There is a lot of movement on Pub Street and a lot of noise from local pubs too. Since Temple Club tends to be the loudest, you notice it right away. You make your first visit to Pub Street after dusk and you’ll be well aware of Temple Club and their bragging sign that they are recommended by the Lonely Planet.

Aside from deafening music, Temple Club also attracts passerbys’ attention by visual leads – laser disco lights the beams of which make it all the way to the street. The thing with Cambodia is that it’s located in the tropical zone, so it’s always hot there. As such, none of the clubs or restaurants have any windows. It’s all wide open, patio style street sitting everywhere you go. This makes Temple Club wide open to the strollers randomly checking out the Pub Street at night and as they hear the music and see colorful lights, they are naturally attracted and come to see what is going on there.

Photo: Temple Club and Pub Street at Night Time
Photo: Temple Club and Pub Street at Night Time

Temple Club – What I Liked

Location is great, food albeit slightly above average for Siem Reap, is well prepared, extremely delicious and well presented on a plate. Beer is definitely above average for Siem Reap, being priced at $.75, making it 50% more expensive than most other restaurants on Pub Street but still not too bad. Service is decent and as is the case with most of Cambodia’s hospitality establishments, you are not expected to tip, even though tips are always appreciated. The biggest positive of Temple Club – free Apsara shows.

I have already witnessed Amateur Apsara Dancing, but was eager to see an actual choreographed show with paid to dance dancers and musicians. There are several venues throughout Siem Reap offering paid Apsara dancing shows but for the most part they are obscenely expensive. I went to enquire about the price at Apsara Theater near Wat Bo temple, which is supposed to offer some of the finest Apsara performances in Cambodia, but their entrance fees were obscene. Several upscale hotels offer free Apsara shows, but as a guest, you are usually expected to at least order a meal the price of which usually matches their primary clientele.

Having a club on Pub Street offering free Apsara shows every evening is invaluable for travellers on a budget who would like to experience this must see Cambodian art form. Temple Club offers their free Apsara Shows every day from 7.30pm to 9.30pm on their upper floor. Lower floor has small dance floor, pool tables, large screen TVs playing sports channels and a DJ playing gay music, hence that’s where drinkers hang out. Upper floor is dedicated to visitors who seek more from a visit to a Lonely Planet recommended club and anticipate quality dining experience as well as cultural uplift. As such, the upper floor delivers.

Photo: Apsara Dancer from the Free Show at Temple Club Upstairs
Photo: Apsara Dancer from the Free Show at Temple Club Upstairs

One of the biggest positives (and the only reason why I’ve ventured to Temple Club more than once) was fast wireless internet that’s available to their customers. My initial visit to Temple Club was to attend my first Apsara Show. I didn’t have my laptop with me, just a camera for a few pictures and couldn’t stay for too long because of mosquitoes. My subsequent visits were strictly related to the use of their fast wifi internet. I unpacked my laptop, asked for a password and surfed the net without any member of staff coming to imply that I should order something. The internet is fast (for Cambodia) and reasonably reliable.

Temple Club – What I Didn’t Like

Temple Club is too busy, often full of finest sample of loud and obnoxious tourists who take good advantage of cheap beer. Music they play downstairs is absolutely atrocious. I don’t even understand where they are able to pull this crap from. I’m surprised shitty music of this kind is not illegal. Every now and again they would hit an odd good song, but overall it’s all about truly awful crap hip hop and mainstream junk. I’m also not into sports so there was nothing to attract me on their big screens.

Being the hottest club in Siem Reap, Temple Club is frequented by prostitutes and con artists. Theft is very common as are other forms of scam so hang on to your belongings really tight and never ever assume that this local person is nice because they like you. They never do. They only like themselves and the only reason they treat you like you’re a goddess is because they want to brainwash you into trusting them so they can take advantage of you.

If you are one of the guys who attract mosquitoes like honey does bees, you will be having damn awful time at Temple Club. This downside is not unique to Temple Club though, rather to most similar venues in Siem Reap and elsewhere in Cambodia. They are wide open leaving you thoroughly exposed to the blood suckers. If you forget to cover up in bug spray, you won’t last very long. This was unfortunately my case too. I went to see their free Apsara Show on my last night at Two Dragons and couldn’t even stay until the end as I was getting eaten alive. This is never any fun in areas where malaria and dengue fever are endemic – such as Cambodia.

What I didn’t like about Temple Club the most was the fact that they are so obviously bragging about being recommended by Lonely Planet. There’s a thing – even though Lonely Planet contributors plea they never take incentives to recommend certain places, everybody who’s not entirely naive can understand that it’s not quite the case. There is a lot of money in stake and this cross promotion gives it all away. Besides, from what I understand, owners of Temple Club seem to be on the mission to monopolize Pub Street. As far as I know, there are several restaurants and clubs on Pub Street alone that are owned by the same people who own Temple Club (including Khmer Family Restaurant). Any business that’s too big and spreads uncontrollably destroying all smaller business owners around gets a thumbs down from me.

Photo: Pub Street in Siem Reap
Photo: Pub Street in Siem Reap

Temple Club Personal Review Conclusion

I’ve enjoyed free Apsara Show provided upstairs at the club and found it to be a must visit gig for everyone who comes to Siem Reap. If you like big crowds of drunk people and enjoy attention con artists and prostitutes give their potential “clients” until they get what they want from them, then downstairs of Temple Club is for you. Being Siem Reap’s epicenter of petty crime, one needs to be very careful about their belongings or should not bring any valuables with them and only as much money as you are going to need for food and drinks. I personally prefer more intelligent entertainment venues so I’ve only visited Temple Club a couple of times. It is definitely worth visiting if you just want a beer or two and need to get on the internet with your laptop while you’re at it. Just keep it low profile so you don’t attract too much attention of truly dangerous Cambodian con artist upon yourself.

Stop Theft Tag – Security Tracking of Office Property

After I had my laptop stolen, I realized that one of the most powerful and easiest to implement ways to deter theft and identify yourself as a rightful owner even if the laptop is not in your hands is by permanently watermarking your unit. If you are able to make a permanent, irremovable mark on a visible part of your laptop, than chances of resale drop significantly, value drops insanely and chances of recovery increase. Writing your name and contact email address with accompanying text that identifies you as the rightful owner with a permanent marker would be somewhat good, but carving the information in just in case someone uses a solution that can wipe off the permanent ink is even better. This is what I was going to do but then I found out about much better a solution, one that serves a bunch of other good causes – Stop Theft Tag for Security Tracking of Office Property.

Photo: Stop Theft - Security Tracking of Office Property Package
Photo: Stop Theft - Security Tracking of Office Property Package

Stop Theft is a security plate that gets permanently attached to your office equipment (most popular with laptops, but can be used with other office equipment) and requires great amount of force to remove. Any attempt to remove Stop Theft tag results in visible damage to the equipment which significantly decreases its resale value. Removal of the plate also reveals the etching below which is permanently tattooed on the casing of your equipment and contains words “Stolen Property” along with the toll free number (+1 800 488 STOP) which connects to the Stop Theft’s recovery hotline. This toll free number also appears on the security tag along with bar-coded ID. There is a highly visible, well worded warning on the tag which makes everyone aware that tagged laptop is police identifiable and contains other information to quickly facilitate the recovery of your laptop whether it’s stolen, lost or misplaced.

While the Stop Theft tagged laptop is under your control, its value is increased. However if stolen, the tag which is attached at a prominent location, along with the chemically bonded tattoo below make it impossible to explain to a potential buyer, completely eliminating the elicit resale value of the property. Because Stop Theft tag links the equipment to one particular user, this user can sell the equipment along with the access to their Stop Theft account which could serve as added value that comes with the laptop, increasing its potential worth.

The downside of permanently marking your laptop at a highly visible spot is that it ties the laptop to you forever. That diminishes its resale value even if you as a rightful owner decide to sell it. It could also deface your notebook and make it look very visually unpleasing or downright hideously ugly. Stop Theft Security Tracking Tag solves these issues with style, provides the same effect as you would achieve with your own, hand crafted watermark, adds a patented method that etches a permanent, unremovable tattoo to your equipment but also provides easy and free ways for contact rightful owner without disclosing their identity and contains strong language that would make would-be thieves think twice before they touch your laptop. Most of all, unlike self made watermark, Stop Theft Security Tracking Tag adds resale value to your laptop for as long as it is the rightful owner who is looking to sell it. In the hands of the thief, it does exact opposite.

Photo: Stop Theft Tag Applied on My Samsung N150 Netbook
Photo: Stop Theft Tag Applied on My Samsung N150 Netbook

Stop Theft Security Tracking Tag costs only $20 to buy. If you purchase larger quantities of the tag, price per tag becomes significantly lower. This can be particularly invaluable for the use by organizations with many portable devices (such as laptops). Because of attractive price when you buy a bulk of 10 plates and because of savings on shipping, I thought of buying 10 at the same time and possibly using it overtime on new laptops I may buy in the future or some other equipment (use of Stop Theft Security Tracking Plates is not limited to laptops). However I have eventually decided to go with only one after discussing my options with Doug Belfiore, one of the people behind Stop Theft.

Talking with Doug of Stop Theft was a positive experience that further proved the company is on top of the game and uses coveted human approach. Replies were timely and contained no cut and paste phrases. Doug was responding directly to me, addressing directly everything I asked about and talked like a friend, rather than some machine that must deal with customers every day. I had no doubt that Stop Theft is a solid company. I did my research and found nothing but good things that people had to say about them and their product. It is a great value for money and an invaluable security feature that could save you from a lot of grief.

Because Stop Theft is a US based company (located in Norwalk, Connecticut), the tags are shipped from there which means longer waiting times and higher overall cost for all of use who don’t live in the US. Shipping to Canada was almost $12 US (shipped by USPS – the less expensive of two available options) which increased the cost of the whole ordeal by more than 50% however the plate came well packaged and was shipped swiftly (USPS tracking number was emailed to me within hours of order placement), causing no delays in application. I was truly excited when I got the parcel as it made me instantly feel as though the chances of losing my laptop to a theft again dropped significantly. I could not wait to apply the security sticker to my machine.

Stop Theft Security Tracking of Office Property Website is located on www.stoptheft.com

DISCLAIMER:

The preceding is my personal review of the office equipment security tracking system Stop Theft. I have not been paid to post this review.

Check out how I tagged my laptop with Stop Theft plate to prevent theft.

Samsung N150 Netbook Canada

My awesome Samsung laptop was gone and all the data on it went with it. It was a horrible loss the repercussions of which are still very much painful. However, this milk was already spilled, crying over it would not make it better. It was time to move on and start looking at buying a new laptop. This time around I took well into account the most important argument one mustn’t forget when buying a laptop to travel overseas with. I was more than happy with the Samsung laptop I bought before and the same company has just released a new netbook with latest Intel N450 processor (known for low power usage) so I went to take a good look at it. It was called Samsung N150 and like it’s bigger brother, it was only available in Mac like white in Canada.

That bothered me not. I knew Samsung makes solid portable computers and as I was looking up N150’s specs, I had no doubt that just like Q320 in laptops, this is the best netbook on Canadian market and it’s also the best value for money. Unlike great deal of its competition, Samsung N150 netbook was sold for $399 or less at Canadian big box electronics stores which beat many inferior models by $50 to $100 Canadian.

Future Shop Canada had Samsung N150 listed for $399 and since I bought my previous laptop with them, including an extended warranty (never ever again), I thought of giving them a call to see if they’d be able to work something out for me. Afterall, I had just spent $300 half a year ago which they can stick right in their pocket as there will never be any warranty claims against that purchase. I phoned the Future Shop location in West Edmonton where I bought my laptop and asked to speak with the computer department manager. It was a bit difficult to get to him but I was persistent as non managerial person would not be able to address my issue.

I eventually got a manager on the line and explained that I had spent $300 for 3 years of extended warranty with Future Shop but the laptop was stolen so I won’t make any claims with it hence basically all of it goes unused because the laptop was still under manufacturer’s warranty. I told him that I would be interested in purchasing a new laptop with them if they were able to work out part of the money I spent on the extended warranty towards the purchase of my new Samsung N150 netbook.

The manager was a complete ass and acted like the world belonged to him. Once he was done explaining how important he and the company he works for were, he mentioned that he would be able to put part of the extended warranty I had already purchased towards the purchase of a new extended warranty. In other words, I lost $300 once and he used it as an opportunity to upsale me with another rip off extended warranty. Nevermind the fact that Samsung Q320 which I had stolen was more than 3 times as expensive as N150 so extended warranty for my new netbook should be less than one third of what I paid for Q320. That means that not only should I get the extended warranty for free, there should be the left over money on it to use towards the purchase of the netbook itself.

At that point the manager concluded that he needed to go and couldn’t discuss this matter with me over the phone. I went to visit said Future Shop in person yet when I asked for the manager and explained who I was, I only got a message that he’s not coming out of his hiding, but one of the staff can work out some kind of a discount for an extended warranty I should purchase for my new netbook. Wow! What a manager. Extended warranties are not worth it to begin with, no matter what kind of discount he’d offer, I’d be losing on it, Future Shop would be the only one benefiting. So they were using my huge financial loss for their own enrichment and the manager didn’t even find the respect to come and greet me and talk to the staff on my behalf. Future Shop – you can keep my $300 I spent for the extended warranty on Q320. I will not ever buy from you again!

I went to the nearby Best Buy Canada shop and checked out what they had there. I really enjoyed the treatment there much more than in Future Shop. Too bad they didn’t have Samsung Q320 when I was buying it prior to my first departure. I would have bought from them but at that time the model was just released and Future Shop was the only outlet in Canada that carried it right away. Best Buy started to carry it later, but I was already gone.

I tried a nice N150 at Best Buy and definitely loved everything about it, except from ridiculously low screen resolution. This was gonna be a tough one to get used to but it was only gonna cost $400 total so I had little room to complain. Best Buy sales people are not commission paid – unlike Future Shop sales people. You experience way less pressure at Best Buy however because Best Buy sells electronic with very little margin, their financial sustainability depends on sales people’s ability to sell extended warranty with each purchase. These try hard attempts to sell extended warranty were too blatant from start to end. I wasn’t even buying, just enquiring yet the debate kept going towards extended warranties all the time.

Never the less, the treatment I have received from people at Best Buy was far better than that from Future Shop so I had nothing to think about. However, the only Samsung N150 model they had in the store was the display one. Unfortunately, on top of already pre-loaded bloatware, Best Buy display models are loaded with more bloatware to display their own sales pitches, mostly geared towards promotion of their Geek Squad.

They expected a new delivery next week so I went home without buying. I still had a couple of weeks before the departure so I didn’t need to rush with the purchase that much. Oddly enough, Best Buy updates their prices on Thursday so when I went to check out their website the following week, I found the price of Samsung N150 dropped down to $369 Canadian. That was my cue – this netbook is not gonna go any lower than this. It was already priced extremely well for what it had at $399 but to see it at even better price was an instant cue to buy it while this special lasts.

I knew that Best Buy in West Edmonton was out of N150s when I was there (except from the display model) so I called them to make sure they did get a delivery of new ones before I travel half way across the city to buy it. Unfortunately, they didn’t. I called their North end location and those guys only had a display model too. That was kind of disappointing and as the days were passing by, I was getting closer to Thursday when prices get updated again so I eventually went and bought it online at BestBuy.ca – good idea.

Photo: My Brand New Samsung N150 Netbook
Photo: My Brand New Samsung N150 Netbook

Processing of their on line orders is very smooth and fast. My netbook was shipped to me the following day from British Columbia and I got it the day after. From the beginning it seemed as though there will be a charge for delivery, but it turned out not being the case. It’s just that their website is a bit confusing. The good thing about buying on line is that you have no sales person throwing at you their well tested arguments to make you buy the extended warranty package. It is offered on one page when placing on line orders which I declined and that was it. I had my brand spanking new, super awesome Samsung N150 Netbook ready to roll. I was mobile again.

Extended Warranty – Worth It or Not?

I paid more than $300 for an extended warranty on a laptop I got stolen. That made the financial loss associated with the theft so much more severe and made me question the worth of extended warranties. I have done some research and found out that number of laptops that get stolen is significantly higher than number of laptops that need a pricey repair. What this means is that the chances that your laptop gets stolen (or lost – there is also a great deal of laptops people simply forget at a snack shop of an airport and won’t realize that until after takeoff) are far greater than chances of it breaking down. Taking all that into account – are extended warranties worth it or not? Let’s take a closer look at it:

Manufacturer’s Warranty vs Extended Warranty

Laptops, as well as other electronic devices come with manufacturer’s warranty included in price. In most cases, manufacturer’s warranty covers the product for one year and oftentimes applies worldwide. My Samsung Q320 laptop came with one year worldwide warranty and if you buy an equally reputable brand product, you will likely get the same with it. If something was unstable about the product you buy, it would show within a year of use. If on the other hand the product was solid built, chances are it will serve you well for many years without issues. That thing alone makes extended warranty NOT worth it. If there is an issue, it will show during manufacturer’s warranty. If there is no issue, chances are fair the product will work like it should way beyond the coverage of your extended warranty.

Photo: Sticker on My Laptop Signifying That I Came with One Year International Warranty from a Manufacturer
Photo: Sticker on My Laptop Signifying That I Came with One Year International Warranty from a Manufacturer

Extended Warranty Claims

If you look up statistics on the internet, you will find out that only about 3% of extended warranty cases end up paying for themselves. 97% of extended warranties purchased are a waste of money. The thing is that many people realize that they are facing a possibility of having the money wasted, but since extended warranty is a peace of mind, they are willing to consider that as an option. Sales people know that very well and have a handful of arguments at the ready to throw at you when you are buying a product. There is no wonder why extended warranty upsales make up for most of sales people’s wages. They are aware of statistics themselves and know that for the most part, vast part of extended warranties they sell will expire without any claims made, which literally means it’s hundreds of dollars straight in their pocket with nothing being given in return.

Cost of Extended Warranties

The cost of an extended warranty is not low at all. It’s typically 1/4 to 1/3 of the price of the item. So if you are buying a $1,000 worth of a laptop, you are looking at good $300 for an extended warranty. That’s a big chunk of money if you look at it. But it gets better – consider this:

If you do spend $300 for 3 years of extended warranty for your laptop, you will have your laptop “protected” until such time that it will be an obsolete piece of junk you won’t be able to use because modern application will not run on it. It’s a simple fact that technology progress is immense. You won’t even reach the end of your extended warranty and you will already start looking around for a new laptop that will contain all latest components cause your old one doesn’t have it. Had you not used the $300 for an extended warranty with purchase of this one, but used this money towards the fund for purchase of a new laptop, you’d be much better off right now. Because even if your laptop quits on you after three years, with an extended warranty you could get it fixed but end up with the same obsolete piece. Whereas if you put this money to work for you in the meantime, gain on its worth and use it towards the purchase of new laptop, you would end up with latest technology piece that will far and wide outdo your old one. Fast aging of electronic devices makes extended warranties not worth it. We’re not in the 1920’s when products were expensive, but were made to last. We are living in the age of disposable electronics. What you buy is not built to last, so don’t fix it, replace it.

Replacing a product after a period of use with newer, better, more feature rich and more up to date version is better than having an old one repaired on many accounts. Let it serve you for as long as it will and when its time comes, upgrade to a newer version. Gateway and Dell – makers of portable computers have both admitted that they have seen minimal increase in costs for warranty claims after they started offering extended warranties, but the increase in revenue grew substantially. That means that prior to offering extended warranties their cost of taking care of regular warranties may have been in the $16 Million mark, but as they started offering extended warranties, the cost of taking care of claims rose to $17 Million mark, but their revenue grew by $33 Million which came from sales of extended warranties.

Extended Warranty Scams

Savvy buyers know that many specialty coverages are a scam. Good example is rust protection for your new car. Car sales men like to offer special coating for your newly purchased car and since you are spending $20,000 on it, you should definitely consider investing additional $1,000 to have your body covered with special anti rust coating, right? It would normally make sense, unless you look deeper into it. And if you do, you find out that car body already comes with 10 years of anti rust manufacturer’s warranty. In other words, car dealership will try to sell you protection for your car that will do the same job factory applied protection does.

This scam is by no means limited to car dealerships. It is not uncommon to have extended warranties for laptops that cover certain parts of it for certain periods of time. But if you were to take a closer look at what is covered by an extended warranty, you would see such thing as “3 years replacement coverage for RAM chips” but oddly enough, most RAM chips come covered for a minimum of 3 years by the manufacturer.

Scams of that sort are very common. Retail outlets will try to sell you something your purchased item already comes with by default. This is yet another reason that makes purchasing extended warranties NOT worth it!

Who Does The Extended Warranty Work?

If you buy an extended warranty with a retailer, it will be the retailer or their sub-contractors who will perform the warranty work. During the course of my research, I have spoken with a number of people who had purchased extended warranties. Vast majority has never made any use of it. Few could have used it, but after 3 years they were not able to locate the receipts which nulled their eligibility for a warranty claim. Then there were a couple who did need to get something repaired and they each had bad experience. It was not uncommon to be told that something is not covered by an extended warranty, however even if a legitimate claim was made, the repair will be performed by their own people who often lack quality expertise and the job will be poorly done. There is nothing more frustrating than wasting time waiting to get your unit repaired, only to find out that after you got it back eventually, the issue still persists.

Conclusion: Extended Warranty – Worth It or Not?

Two things to consider:

  • Unless you are buying an item made by a company notorious for lousy, prone to breaking products (most Apple products, for example), then an extended warranty is most likely NOT worth it
  • If you know yourself as someone who looks after their stuff and doesn’t abuse it, then extended warranty is most likely NOT worth it. If on the other hand you often leave your laptop on the floor covered with an endless pile of garbage so you may end up stepping on it cause you couldn’t see it, and if you have a history of leaving your laptop on an anthill to let all forms of insects get into it, or if you use your laptop as tray for food and drink you consume while you are driving, then perhaps in such cases you should consider extended warranty. In your case it may be worth it.

In conclusion, and as a general rule – extended warranties are NOT worth it. They are extremely overpriced and in most cases end up being nothing more than money straight down the drain. If you do want to have peace of mind no matter the cost, then at least negotiate with the retailer and make sure you do not spend more than 20% of the item’s price on an extended warranty. Even so, if you are willing to admit that the item has a 20% chance of breaking down on you, then perhaps you should do your research better and opt for a brand that’s not notorious for having 20% of their product break down on consumers. If you go with a solid brand, chances that your purchase will serve you well are far greater than chances it will break.

Consider the odds. If you are buying portable electronics, chances of it getting stolen are far greater than chances of it breaking down. If you are going to spend the money, spend it on theft insurance or tracing software so you can increase the chances of recovery.

Products seldom break during the duration of extended warranty. Majority breaks while still under manufacturer’s warranty or die entirely long after your extended warranty has expired.

Given the cost of extended warranties, you are often better off using the money to start the “product repair fund” so you can take care of future issues and if none arise, use the fund towards the purchase of an upgraded version of the product.

If you make an extended warranty claim, you may not see your product for a month. If it’s something you need, such as a laptop for work, you will be screwed. You did not buy a laptop to be a month without it. Loss of productivity you will have incurred far outweighs the peace of mind offered by an extended warranty.

Finally, take a look at all the electronics you have bought throughout your life. How many of those have failed? Imagine you’d have bought an extended warranty for each of them – where would you be now? Would you have saved money or wasted it?

Buying an extended warranty is like going to a casino. The party that takes money from you, does so by making you believe that you are likely to get a lot in return. At the end of the day, whether you spent the money in a casino or for an extended warranty, it’s the receiver of your money who wins, not you. It’s a gamble. That’s why they do it. It’s because they know the odds are heavily against you. On occasion, someone wins, but vast majority lose. Though the reason why stores like Best Buy or Future Shop where I bought my laptop are able to offer near no mark up prices for products is because they rip people off on extended warranties. So I guess I better shut up now because without extended warranties, they would have to bump prices of the products they sell up to stay afloat. The more people buy extended warranties, the more it ensures low, near wholesale prices for products. Yeah, extended warranties are not worth it, but they ensure extremely low prices for gadgets I need. Keep buying, people 😉

Home Cocktail Restaurant in Siem Reap

Tired and worn out from exposure to heat I was not used to, I headed back to my room at Two Dragons. It’s been a while since I’ve had my breakfast at Khmer Family Restaurant and my stomach was becoming vocal about getting some more food so I went for walk within the vicinity of Two Dragons guesthouse to see where I could have supper. The Home Cocktail Restaurant is only 1 minute walk from Two Dragons, around the corner, directly on Wat Bo Road.

Rustic Look Adds Atmosphere to the Home Cocktail Restaurant
Rustic Look Adds Atmosphere to the Home Cocktail Restaurant

Since my first introduction to Cambodian food I’ve been using Khmer Family Restaurant as benchmark. While my happy day special which included food and Angkor Beer cost only $3, I decided to give the Home Cocktail Restaurant a try even though their set was listed in the menu at $4. But unlike Khmer Family Restaurant, $4 at Home Cocktail Restaurant also landed me with a starter (2 springrolls with spicy, yet tasty dip) and a desert (fried banana – so yummy).

While dining at Home Cocktail Restaurant I have noticed rather unpleasant way Khmer establishment treat their customers. A person who is serving you will be there, right behind your shoulder at all times. From their standpoint this means that they are always there, ready to serve you. However from your standpoint it looks extremely awful, makes you feel uncomfortable and pressured. This wasn’t an incident isolated to Home Cocktail Restaurant, it’s all over you place and bit by bit you will be taking it for granted, yet it always makes for a very unpleasant feeling. I will elaborate on this later.

Home Cocktail Restaurant Interior Features Character Furnishing
Home Cocktail Restaurant Interior Features Character Furnishing

It is necessary to point out that my server at Home Cocktail Restaurant was very courteous and professional at all times. Food was absolutely delicious from first bite at the springroll, through main course all the way to desert. I have subsequently visited Home Cocktail Restaurant several times while I was still housed at Two Dragons. That only lasted for one week so after I have moved out of there, it was also the end of me eating at Home Cocktail Restaurant.

It is an amazing restaurant which I would not hesitate to recommend. The decoration and overall feel of the restaurant is very rustic so aside from eating local food, you will also feel local from the outside. I really liked it there. One day I dined there during heavy rainfall and the only unpleasant thing were mosquitoes. The thatched rooftop covering the patio, bamboo chairs, wooden walls with large cart wheels made for pleasant stay while rain was ravaging just feet away from me. Home Cocktail Restaurant = great dining establishment.

Front End of the Home Cocktail Restaurant in Siem Reap
Front End of the Home Cocktail Restaurant in Siem Reap