24
Jan 15

Why I prefer a lightweight laptop over a tablet when travelling

(This entry is part of Indiblogger’s Go Sleek! presented by Asus)

As someone who travels a fair bit, one of the biggest pains (sometimes literally) when carrying luggage is the burden of a heavy laptop. Why do I carry a laptop and not just a tablet — despite possessing both? Because typing and and getting work done is a lot easier on a physical laptop. Asus has recently introduced the sleek and powerful ASUS EeeBook X205TA notebook, and the ASUS All In One PC ET2040, a tablet-styled PC that allows for easy plug-n-play connectivity for a mouse and keyboard. But why would I still prefer a laptop?

Asus Eeebook x205TA laptop

Asus Eeebook x205TA comes in a variety of colours too (Image credit: ASUS.com)

Asus Eeebook X205TA weighs less than 1kg, 979 gms to be exact (helps to use flash storage). This makes it a tremendously light, full-fledged Windows device. It’s also very compact in size, only 1.75cm thick, meaning it takes very little physical space in your bag — be it a traditional laptop bag, or in my case, a Kata camera backpack. This leaves me enough space for other things or makes my overall backpack lighter. I remember the days when I had to carry my older HP laptop during my travels. Not only did it weigh over 3kgs, add in the charger and you are talking about lugging around quite a heavy package. All this weight, just so I could check my e-mails, transfer the photos taken during the day, use some Photoshop, and do some of my freelance work while on-the-go.

The second very important reason why I prefer a notebook such as the Asus Eeebook X205TA for my travel needs is because of its amazing battery life. You don’t know how many times, and how annoying it is, for your laptop to die out in the middle of doing something important and you just can’t find a plug point anywhere to charge it! This is a common problem while travelling, especially when finding the right plug point isn’t always the easiest thing when you are on the go. This is why the 12 hour battery back up of the Asus Eeebook X205TA is a such a boon! Getting anywhere between 10-12 hours means you only have to charge your laptop once a day, or maybe once in two days. It’s so when at an airport or in a train, you can just take out your laptop and begin work right away, wherever you are seated.

And if you are travelling across India and run into any problems, not to worry. Asus has authorized service centers in every state. Aside from all these benefits, the Asus Eeebook X205TA comes with a powerful enough 1.33-GHz Intel Atom Z3735 quad-core CPU, 2GB of DDR3 RAM, an Intel Gen7 graphics chip and built-in speakers. This means the laptop can easily play 1080p HD videos with ease, allowing for watching movies on-the-go possible. And remember that battery life? You can watch an entire movie and still have enough charge left for other work.

The 32 GB on-board storage may seem limited, ASUS gives you 500GB of online storage (for free). Not a big of a deal, since we all carry external hard drives with bigger capacities than that nowadays. As for productivity, Asus Eeebook X205TA comes pre-loaded with genuine Windows 8.1 and a 1-year license of Microsoft’s Office Suite. What more could one ask for? The online reviews for the Asus Eeebook X205TA are great as well!

asus-all-in-one-pcSo what’s wrong with the ASUS All In One PC ET2040 you ask? Not much really. It’s just that the All In One PC is better meant for household or office use. You could keep it anywhere in the house, as it takes up much less space than any laptop (if you use the touchscreen exclusively). If you think it’s a ‘tablet’ — then that is one big tablet. It’s more a ‘monitor with an embedded PC,’ and comes with all the usual connectivity ports you need, something you don’t often find in smaller tablets. The All In One PC does not make for easy travel. It’s a bit too big for that, and you can’t use the support stand to keep it up anywhere when outside. Plus, how silly would it be if you carried a USB keyboard and mouse along with it in your luggage :-)

The ASUS All In One PC ET2040 is best used as a media center PC, or one that adorns your living room or office desk, but takes very little space doing so. But I’m a traveller, so for me, the Asus Eeebook X205TA suits my lifestyle better.


08
Jan 15

Oman 2014: Landing in Muscat; Al Alam Palace, Mutrah souq and more

Date: 25th October 2014

This past October, I won a chance to fly to Oman, courtesy of Oman Tourism. This wasn’t an invite per se, but a contest win. Indiblogger.in held a contest sponsored by Oman Tourism a few months back and my submission was chosen as one among the three best. Three bloggers won the chance to visit Oman on an all expenses paid guided tour of Oman.

The flight was, of course, by Oman Air.

Bangalore take off foggy skies

My flight was early morning and Bangalore was cold and foggy

Oman Air wing above clouds

But it was all sunny and fine above the clouds

Breakfast Oman Air inflight meal

Soon after take off, we were served breakfast.

Oman Air border sea flight

After a nap, I woke up to the sight of Oman

Oman coast from airplane

Two things Oman is famous for: clear blue seas & rocky landscapes

Oman mountains from airplane

Very mountainous country

Oman village mountains from sky

Can’t imagine life in the middle of all this… but there is

Muscat townships airplane landing

We were about to land at Muscat airport

The visa was arranged by Oman Tourism but we were only sent an e-copy. I had to collect the original from Muscat airport’s visa on arrival section. I had to go back and forth, one counter to another for while, but all was good in the end and I was out in about 30 minutes time. Unfortunately, when I went to the arrivals area, I couldn’t find anybody holding a board with my name on it. It was only after 5 minutes of walking around, I noticed a guy and a girl who looked like they could be Indian bloggers looking just as puzzled. We finally met the man assigned to pick us up as he was holding a board that said “Indiblogger winners”.

The two other bloggers that won the contest aside from me were Aseem Rastogi and Manjulika Pramod. We hopped in the car and made our way to the hotel.

Inside taxi Muscat Oman

Looking out, Muscat didn’t seem as fancy as Manama (Bahrain) or Dubai on first impressions. But still, it felt good to be back in the Gulf :)

Radisson Blu hotel Muscat Oman

We were going to be staying at the Radisson Blu in Al Khuwair the next two nights

Radisson Blu lobby Muscat Oman

I believe it’s a 4 Star hotel

Since it was an early check-in, all three of our rooms weren’t available, so we had to wait in one that was available. I left my luggage in there and chose to step out.

Muscat Al Khuwair Oman

I needed to get a local SIM card

Al Khuwair looked pretty normal, but no matter which GCC country I land in, they all start to the look the same and the sights, the roads, the buildings — all bring back memories of growing up in Bahrain.

Mobile shop Al Khuwair Muscat

I went in to this mobile store and picked up an Oman Tel SIM card and used it to message my family

Meat shops Al Khuwair Muscat

Small businesses all around

By the time I got back to the hotel my room was ready.

Radisson Blu rooms Muscat

The hotel has 153 beds

Radisson Blu hotel room Muscat Oman

For someone who is more used to staying at hostels in his travels, this was a welcome upgrade :)

Inside room Radisson Blu toilet Muscat

The room had all the amenities. A mini fridge with the usual suspects, electric kettle, water bottles, ironing board, steam press. In the toilet though, I found the bath water wasn’t draining out easily. Oh, and they provided all other toiletries — except a tooth brush, but you can always call up reception and ask for one.

After freshening up, we were a bit confused as to where we had to have our lunch. Our itinerary said lunch was at a restaurant called Kargeen Caffe, but we were confused as to how we would get there.

Olivos restaurant Radisson Blu Muscat

So went to the Olivos restaurant at the hotel and sat down there

We were on the verge of ordering food when we were finally contacted by our tour organizer in Muscat and told us that a driver is coming to pick us up and take us to Kargeen. We had to cancel our orders and we waited for our driver at the lobby.

Hills Muscat road Oman

It was the same driver from morning, and we drove a bit to get to the restaurant. Gave us the opportunity to see a bit more of Muscat. Hills all around.

When we arrived at Kargeen, we finally met our tour organizer, and expressed our grief over the lack of communication. We exchanged phone numbers and he would give us the details for the next few days of touring.

Kargeen buffet Muscat Oman

It was a buffet lunch of Omani food… which looked awfully familiar to Indian food

Kargeen arabic food Muscat Oman

I missed Arabian cuisine, so I vowed to make up for it in the next 5 days

Kargeen Caffe restaurant Muscat Oman

The interiors were nice

Kargeen Cafe outdoor seating Muscat

Kargeen has an outdoor area modeled along the lines of a typical Arabian coffee shop

Muscat road Oman

Post lunch, a new driver received us from Kargeen and took us for a tour across Muscat city

Muscat hill view Oman

We stopped for a bit at this view point, which our guide told was an old village

Aseem Manjulika Mithun Muscat Oman

We were the 3 winning bloggers. L-R: Aseem, Manjulika and me. And no, my tummy wasn’t that big after lunch. That’s just wind making its way inside my t-shirt.

Tourists Muscat Oman hill

There were other tourists on the same route

Bait al Zubair Muscat Oman

Our first stop on the tour was at Bait Al Zubair, a museum complex housing 3 attractions.

Unfortunately, no photography was allowed inside and so I had to leave the DSLR in the car. Inside Bait al Zubair was Bait Al Bagh, the main museum. It gives visitors a good run through of the history of Oman. From relics belonging to the sultans, old paintings, maps, coins, weapons, clothes, way of life, etc.

Bait Al Oud Muscat Oman

Bait Al Oud

After that, we went to Bait Al Oud next door. This three-storey building contains a large exhibition hall and reception area on the ground floor, with early European maps of the Arabian Peninsula and typical Muscati furniture on the first floor. The second floor includes early prints of the Arabian Peninsula and photographs of Muscat with an exhibit of historic cameras. The third floor also housed a rather large collection of old coins. Again, no photography allowed inside — which was sad, because Bait Al Oud was quite impressive!

After Bait Al Oud, we went inside Bait Al Daleel, an old house restored and renovated to give visitors an idea of how Omanis lived in the past. The house included a majilis (guest lounge), bedrooms and domestic date store. Bait Al Daleel also houses a coffee shop and art gallery – showing Omani artists work that can be purchased.

Inside Omani house Muscat

This is the living room (and that’s our guide posing for us)

Traditional old Oman house

The bed room

Table Oman house Muscat

The coffee shop area

Muscat museum ibix art Oman

Oryx art installations. The Arabian oryx is the national animal of Oman. We left Bait al Zubair and drove to our next stop.

Ford Mustang Muscat Oman

We were going to see Al Alam Palace

Royal Palace marble pavements Oman

Now for some royalty

Royal Palace lawn Muscat Oman

Al Alam Palace is also called the Royal Palace, but this is not where the Sultan lives

Al Alam Palace gates Muscat Oman

Al Alam Palace is the ceremonial palace

Royal Palace Muscat parade ground Oman

These ceremonial grounds plays host to parade marches and large gatherings for special occasions

Sultan Palace parade ground Oman panorama

A panorama of the ceremonial ground

Behind Al Alam Palace Muscat

We then drove behind the palace

Police army fort Muscat Oman

Our guide told us this was a police fort

Sea hill Muscat

We drove down the marina road

Muscat marina mosque Oman

A mosque by the sea

Marina road Muscat Oman

Our guide parked the car across the road and we walked to the marina

Sultan Oman mega yacht Muscat

That’s the Sultan of Oman’s mega yacht, called Al Said

Mutrah souq Muscat Oman

Next we crossed the road to go to Mutrah Souq

Marina entrance Mutrah square Muscat

I checked the prices for some souvenirs just to gauge what to expect from the other shops inside Mutrah Souq

Perfume shop Mutrah Souq Muscat Oman

Mutrah Souq is one of the oldest souqs (markets) in Muscat. So you find shops selling perfumes, scents…

Oud perfume scents store Mutrah Souq Oman

… and frankincense and a lot more

Mutrah Souq narrow lane Muscat Oman

Mutrah Souq has narrow bylanes on its sides

Mutrah Souq ceiling Muscat Oman

Looking at the roof, Mutrah Souq looks like it has seen some renovation work

Arabian jewelry Mutrah souq Oman

All sorts of funky jewelry

Souvenir silverware Mutrah souq Muscat

The bent sword designs you see are khanjars. A khanjar is a traditional dagger originating from Oman.

Souvenir shop Mutrah souq Oman

You get enough signs this souq easily caters to tourists more than locals

Mutrah souq Center Muscat Oman

You have an extension going left and right. We went left

Mutrah souq glass decor Oman

Loved the decor

General store Mutrah souq Muscat Oman

There are a few general stores, but hardly saw anybody buying their daily groceries here. Many of these general stores looked like they were run by Gujaratis, who have been in Oman for decades

Mutrah souq shop Muscat Oman

Each extension has stores selling more of the less the same thing

Incense shop Mutrah souq Muscat

More frankincense shops

Mutrah souq back entrance Muscat

We reached the back exit of Mutrah Souq

Outside Mutrah souq Muscat Oman

More shops outside

Mutrah Souq lane Muscat Oman

We went back in and made our way back to our taxi

Sweet nut shop Mutrah souq

On the way back, we saw a confectionery shop. I picked up some Turkish (compound) chocolates from here.

Shops Mutrah souq Muscat Oman

Before leaving Mutrah Souq I picked up some souvenirs

Perfume shop Mutrah souq Oman

I was tempted to pick some Arabian scents too, but didn’t know if these shops were all selling genuine stuff

Inside car driving Muscat night

Our tour was done for the day

Fish chips Radisson Blu hotel Muscat

Dinner was back at the hotel, and I ended the night with some fish & chips

First impression of Oman? Not very exciting, but trust me, that would change in the coming days. I went to bed early as I didn’t get much sleep since last night. Tomorrow, we were hitting the seas to see dolphins!


03
Jan 15

THE BEST OF DUBAI SHOPPING FESTIVAL

(This is a guest post by a reader)

Dubai is a land of richness and larger than life living that has many tourist destinations and incredible architecture. This region of United Arab Emirates is also famous for its merchandise and other shopping elements. More than one third of the tourists visiting Dubai have a sole purpose of shopping and this notion gave birth to “Dubai Shopping Festival”.

There are many Dubai Shopping Festival packages available in the market today, with which you can easily travel and save a lot of money. After its launch on 16 February 1995, this massive retail event is than considered and promoted as a tourist destination. Considering these facts in my mind, I decided to visit this one of its kind carnival and I instantly booked my package. Continue reading “THE BEST OF DUBAI SHOPPING FESTIVAL” »

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