Wednesday, January 30, 2013

FollowMee on holidays - GPS tracking for devices

After arming myself with a few Thailand map apps and battling with my near non existent GPS location...why wouldn't I pursue a GPS tracking program?! Earlier this week we experienced cyclonic wind and rain, which cut our power, internet and running water (we have rainwater tanks and pump) for 3 days. So to have charged electronic devices once more and to be able to flush the loo using the button, is a real treat!

My android phone and tablet both have GPS, even my camera has it (for photo location purposes)! Apart from the chance that one or all might go missing at some stage, I like my family to know approximately where we are when we travel. Usually I register with Smart Traveller and send an itinerary to those in the know. Just in case!

In addition, this time, I've installed FollowMee's (free trial) app on my devices. After registering on their website, I downloaded the app firstly onto my tablet, then logged in.

Nothing! No location showing on their/my website map and the running report on my tablet showed fail after fail...although I know they must have been whispering to each other, because the website recognised how low my tablet's battery was getting. 35% according to the data under the map...and fading.

I played around with the settings a bit (walk or drive mode, updating time intervals) and with tablet in hand, jumped into my car and went for a drive around the block. Less than half a kilometre into my short trip, twelve (the maximum display) satellites showed up my GPS Test Plus app. So, yes, there's heaps out there...somewhere.

As I turned back into my driveway they started to disappear off the screen one by one. We obviously live in a GPS black hole.

Now to see if FollowMee, followed me? Not at first, as it does take a while for the website to be updated. But sure enough, it did locate me, exactly. I'd set the app on 'walking/running/cycling' mode and to update every 10 minutes, so it's not suprising the map tracker show me going nowhere at 0 km/h. The 'Address' was spot on.
Website map - Longitude and latitude have been removed for privacy.
FollowMee also gives the option to download your movements in 3 formats: HTML - which is text shown in a browser and KML File, which uses Google Maps or Google Earth (you'll need to download the latter). Or, CSV File - Import to Excel. All have the option to include mileage. FollowMee was able to place me here using Google Earth.
Yes, I really am in amongst all of those trees :)
If FollowMee continues to monitor my location accurately and consistently during the free trial period, I'll definitely be upgrading to the paid version. Stay tuned!

Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Women and maps, dangerous or not?

Apparently women's oestrogen plays havoc with our 'spatial intelligence'. Regardless, I love maps and have no problem reading them or navigating...Stray would beg to differ because I do have difficulty determining which deck I'm on or which side I'm on when travelling on ships. (They should supply maps)

In preparation for our driving holiday in Thailand I downloaded a few map apps onto my HTC Android phone. After a while I was reminded that however smart these phones are, they're really not so great for those of us with poor eyesight.

So, a little research later, I hunted down a tablet for a reasonable price which had built in GPS.

Now I'm armed with maps galore, including some old fashioned paper versions we kept from our visa run to Laos.
Notice how nice my photo looks? :) New camera too!

The three android apps downloaded?

Nostra Map Thailand by Globotech - Free - needs GPS and Internet
Thailand GPS Map by Kaart Data - $4.99 - needs GPS only!

The tablet? A Flytouch 8. This is my first Tablet and even having used computers for umpteen years and mastering my smart phone...this was a little challenging. The manual is wafer thin and finding what's where is a trifle frustrating at times.

It also comes with a GPS antennae for extra satellite detection and a GPS Test app...just so you can see how many satellites are up there watching you. A few days went by and I remained undetected and began to Google the problem. I wasn't alone. Many others were experiencing the same issue, followed by being plonked off the east coast of Africa...when they were clearly not.

Starting to panic as our departure date approaches, I downloaded, tried and deleted a few other GPS testing apps. I remained invisible until I upgraded to GPS Test Plus ($2.99). Sitting on my front veranda, antennae attached, I finally made contact with 2 satellites which put me in my correct place. Coincidental? I'll never know.

The map apps? I've started taking notes and will be writing a full run down after we return.

Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai

Friday, January 18, 2013

Mini Racing Cars, Kuah, Langkawi Island

I forgot to upload some videos from our trip to Cambodia/Malaysia. We rode to the township of Kuah, Langkawi, and stumbled upon some teeny racing cars.

Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Airport hotels, Kuala Lumpur

Way back in March...

By airport hotel, I mean one physically in the airport or one close enough to take a shower, grab a bite to eat and have a short sleep before your next flight...when it's just way to long to window shop the duty free stores and drink expensive or bad coffee.

I remember our first experience in an 'airport' hotel at Kuala Lumpur's luxurious International Airport Pan Pacific back in 2007, pre-blogging/reviewing days.Transported to reception in a golf buggy (if we'd known about it) and greeted by lovely staff, a cold refreshing drink and hot towels. Stray enjoyed one of the best Aussie steaks he'd ever had for around AU$13, paid for in 3 different currencies! The gargantuan buffet breakfast was well executed and to die for.

These days we land at KL's budget airline terminals (LCCT) and after lugging our bags from the plane, across the tarmac, through immigration, we continue on to the far side of the large car park to the Tune Hotel. A complex of small air conditioned boxes containing a bed with just enough space to walk around it, and a bathroom. Convenient and satisfactory...unless of course they're booked out.

This time we bussed it from Melaka to LCCT and caught a cab out to the Empress Hotel in Sepang, for 42 ringgit. A bit of a drive, a ways out of the airport area, but much closer than the city. A 12 storey hotel, described in its brochure as 'unfolding true Malaysian hospitality in an innovative setting surrounding by interesting local activities' - verbatim.
Translated that roughly means this is a big, old building, yet clean and comfortable. The rooms are generous and well equipped, however, the hotel looks like it was plonked smack in the centre of a sleepy, well worn suburb in the middle of whoop whoop. And, whose inhabitants seem to be doing their utmost to ignore its existence. As one would. Most of the surrounding shops were closed the afternoon we arrived, which made it, more than likely, quieter than usual.
View from the window
Another view from the window
The window
If you're fed up with watching bad quality Sat TV, hungry and or after a beer, step out the front doors, cross the road and turn left. On the corner is a Chinese owned restaurant with plenty of food choices and friendly faces.

Don't think about taking a doggy bag back to your room though, the sign in the hotel foyer clearly states NOT to bring outside food inside... and the fridges have been removed from the rooms. The hotel does have its own cafe, open from 5.00 am until 1.00 pm, and room service if I remember correctly. Brekkie was included and was more than ample.

Handy hint! Book a shuttle for the return journey to the airport when you first arrive, it'll only cost 15 ringgit.

Would I stay again? Yes, if I had to. It's simply an 'over nighter', nothing more and nothing less. No biggy, but don't believe the hotel's blurb and photos. To be honest, the stay was a little surreal, mainly due to the oddish location.
Local houses at the end of the street
Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai

Monday, January 7, 2013

What to do in Melaka Malacca!

Way back in March

Firstly, my apologies for the misspelling of Melaka/Malacca in previous posts...all amended now. Apparently my version was a tad unsavoury!

Beautiful Melaka was the last destination on this trip, apart from an airport hotel stay on our last night. As mentioned in the previous post, our hotel was a delight and well situated. 
We bought tickets at reception, a little cheaper than usual, for a River Cruise for MYR9 each. The ride lasts for around 45 minutes and I'd suggest doing this to get your bearings and two,  because you'll probably be revisiting some of the sights may have already seen before if you've been out exploring on foot.
The river is lined with many buildings, both homes, bars and cafes, colourfully decorated with murals. And as you can see, you can also walk along most of this part of the river bank. The boat will also take you down to the old kampung (village) area.
 Heading toward Jonkers Street (Jalan Hang Jebat), you'll see quite a few places of interest.
Jonker Street, the heart of China Town, is very lively, full of shops, cafes and tourists. Unfortunately we missed the night markets, but did enjoy quite a few nice meals there.
The large dragon guarding one entrance to Jonker St.
What else to do? Head for the ocean side of the city where you'll find large shopping malls and Melaka's 110 metre high revolving tower. Travel to the top for approximately 20 ringgit to take in some pretty views and put the city and sights into perspective.
Also, go for a walk up the hill to St. Paul's Church, originally built in the 1500's, if you like a bit of history and good photo opportunities...yours, not mine.
There's so much more to do and see, I'd really love to go back to explore some more.
Incense sticks on steroids.
 Been to Melaka? What did you like and do?

Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Best Western Wana Riverside Hotel (Melaka) Review

A wonderful place to stay in Melaka. All of the main attractions close by, while enjoying clean, tasteful rooms with excellent staff and pretty views.

Read my full review on Tripadvisor.

Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai