Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tourism and Human Rights

Matthew from Live and Let's Fly wrote an amazing article about his trip to Baku, Azerbaijan.

What impressed about his article was his discussion about mortality of traveling to certain counties. He correctly asks, "it becomes reasonable to question whether your money spent as a tourist is going to support a government that abuses human rights."

As Matthew writes, Azerbaijan is a country in transition. By definition  the country is a democracy since it holds elections except those elections tend to be rigged. The current President of the country won reelection with 85% of the vote. The Azerbaijan Election Commission was so confident about the results of the elections that they announced that the current President the winner the day before the election occurred. Opps! Matthew correctly points out that "Human rights organizations accuse the government of severe beatings, torture, arbitrary arrests, indefinite detentions, and forced disappearances."

He goes on to ask, "Does the money you spend in airport taxes, hotel taxes, and to visit historic state-run sites underwrite the abuses that many allege?" As a tourists, we rarely take the moment to think how the money we spend at a restaurant, a hotel or at a gift shop effects the lives of the locals. In many countries, tourism is a main stay of the local and countries' economy. In certain countries, every dollar that you spend strengthen the hands of the rulers to oppress their citizens further.

In other countries, the oppression occurs on those who come from other countries to work. As Ben from One Mile At Time noticed on his first trip to the United Arab Emirates. He wrote afterwards:

"But here’s what’s depressing about the UAE — it’s the first place I’ve honestly felt sorry for the people serving me, be it in a restaurant, hotel, taxi, or elsewhere. I’ve been to a ton of third world countries, but I’ve never felt “sorry” for the average person there. That’s simply because I don’t think there’s a connection between wealth and happiness. You see families in India living in poverty that are happy because they value what’s important in life (health, family, etc.), while you see depressed billionaires in the US. That’s actually probably one of the first lessons I ever learned from traveling — there’s not much of a correlation between wealth and happiness.
But the UAE is an exception, because no matter which person in the service industry you talk to, the story is identical. They’re here on a temporary work permit (usually 2-5 years), and work 12+ hours per day, 6-7 days per week. But what makes the UAE different than most other places in the world where people work “hard” is that they’re separated from their family. They’re literally bused to work, work all day, bused back to their “compound,” sleep, and start the cycle all over again."
This begs the questions are we enablers. Does our desire to travel the world and visit unique and different countries continue the oppression?  Its a questions that I have pondered for a few years. Should I only visit countries that strive to protect the rights of their citizens or should I visit countries regardless of their human rights record?

Matthew answer to this question was the best I have ever read:

"But if no one ever visits Azerbaijan will the situation ever change? I do not believe in boycotting countries: studying past boycotts, the Cuban Embargo in particular, is an examination of failure and a government determined to abuse its citizens will find a way to do so, at least for a time. Sanctions rather than boycotts seem to be a more effective strategy for compulsory change, though the jury is still out on that too."
He is correct. By not visiting countries, we are turning a blind eye. We are turning a blind eye to what is occurring within a country. Every time that we visit a country and report back what we see, we start the slow process of helping ensuring human rights are upheld within a country. While I wouldn't speak up while visiting the country, let people know about your experience when you get home.

The worst happens when we turn a blind eye.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Should You Tip A Bathroom Attendant?

Over the past weekend, I stopped into the United Club in Houston's E Terminal. As I previously wrote, I used one of my free club passes from my Chase United Visa. My goal of the visit was to kill time before my next flight, but also to take a shower.

After my shower, a question popped into my head. Should I be leaving a tip for the bathroom attendant?

The bathroom seems to be cleaned/refreshed after each customer. When I visit there were fresh towels, the shower was dry and the toilet paper folded. As many of you know, I am particular about the cleanliness of my bathrooms. This bathroom passed my test.

I decided to leave a couple of bucks as a tip. My justification was that I typically tip housekeeping in a hotel. Yes, a hotel room is bigger than just a bathroom. However, the bathroom in an airline club sees a lot more people than a hotel room in a day.  For example, a typically visit for a client is somewhere between 10-20 minutes. Add in about 10 minutes for a cleaning and each client eats 30 minutes. Assume the club is open 12 hours, around 24 clients may visit a shower. That's a lot of people using the bathroom.

Similarly, I tipped the bartender at the club bar. I ordered a beer and left her a buck. Yes, I know that cheap, but I am of the $1 tip per drink method. The bartender got a tip and all she did was pour a beer and not very well I say. What time did it take the bartender to pour the beer? 1 minute? Did she deserve a tip? Probably not, but I felt obliged to.

I go back to my question, should I have tipped the bathroom attendant? Yes! The bathroom doesn't get clean on its own. Your tip is a thank you for their hard work.
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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

IHG's The Big Win: Status Update

IHG's The Big Win Promotion is a little less than half way over, so I thought that a status update was due.

Since the beginning of the promotion, I have made 3 stays at IHG hotels:

Crowne Plaza - National Airport

Candlewood Suites - Hampton, VA

Holiday Inn Express - Riverwood, IL

Those three stays have accomplished about 75% of the requirements of the promotion.

All that I have left is 2 more stays, one of which needs to be on Saturday. There is still 68,000 points available for me to earn. How do I know this?

IHG has been sending me emails letting me know that I have completed a task. Every time I completed a task, I got an email with the heading "Nice Work. You Just Earned Another Win." 

IHG should be applauded for there proactive notifications. One of the biggest gripes of our community is the lack of notification during contests. During the no defunct US Airway's Grandslam, one of the biggest complaint was that you never knew what tasks you completed. You had to have blind faith in US Airways. That isn't the case with this IHG promotion.

If the emails were not enough, the promotion has its own webpage tracking your progress. 

The webpage has a section for each promotion requirements:

Overall, this is a great promotion. It requires strategy, offers a big reward and provides a tracking system. I wish all promotions were like this one.

How are you doing with the promotion?

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Omaha to Renovate Airport

Yesterday, I wrote that I thought that Omaha's airport needed a renovation badly. I even suggested asking for the renovation as part of the approval of Keystone Pipeline. Knowing Congress, a new airport would be granted in seconds is Nebraska to drop its opposition to the pipeline,. Not a renovation, a brand new internation airport and possible space portal. 

Well, reader Clay, a Nebraskan, sent me this article from The Omaha Airport Authority last week approved a plan to be submitted to the FAA, which would:

"The plan would consolidate Eppley's baggage claim areas, ticket counters and security checkpoints, add a new parking garage to the north of the existing garage, which would itself be renovated, and expand and renovate the airport's north and south concourses, adding eight aircraft gates to the current 20."

The plan which has three phases would cost $750 million ($1.2 Billion with inflation). The phases will only occur if the airport hits a target annual passenger level:

Baseline projects
  • New parking garage north of the existing facility with 2,000 public parking stalls and 1,000 rental car stalls.
  • Renovation of the existing garage, with improved signage, lighting, paint and guardrails.
  • Checkpoint and curbfront improvements.
First phase (This phase would kick in when the airport reaches 4.8 million annual passengers.)
  •  Moving and replacing the facility's central utility plant.
  •  Phase one expansion of the north concourse.
  •  New de-icing pad for aircraft.
  •  Information technology infrastructure.
  •  Maintenance facility expansion.
Second phase (5.4 million annual passengers)
  •  Expansion and renovation of the existing terminal, including consolidation of the ticketing counters, security checkpoints and baggage claim areas.
  •  Increase in checkpoint security lanes from six to 10.
  •  Runway and taxiway reconstructions.
Third phase (7 million annual passengers)
  • North and south concourse expansion, adding eight aircraft gates to the current 20.
  • Expansion of the new north parking garage.
  • New aircraft waste disposal building.
  • North and south overnight aircraft parking.
  •  Expansion of the south economy parking lot.
  •  Fire station renovation.
The airport has about 4 million passenger annually. Therefore, phase one could start within a few years.

The cost of the airport will be paid for by FAA grants, airport revenue, bonds and new passenger and customer facility charges. The passenger facility charge — set at a maximum of $4.50 per passenger by the FAA — would be implemented as a fee for passengers by the airlines.
The master plan submitted to the FAA is a 20 year plan. 20 YEARS! By that time, the airport is going to be even more out dated than it currently it is.

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

What I Learned On My Most Recent Mileage Run

On Saturday, I took to the big blue sky for a good old fashion mileage run. My goal: Washington, DC to Omaha in one day via United. Over my 18 hours of travel, I learned a few things:

  • Stop Drinking The Night Before Mileage Runs
          My past two mileage runs, I went over drinking the night beforehand. In both cases, I 
          got home at midnight and needed to wake a few hours later to leave for the airport. 
          Not a great idea.

          On this most recent trip, I was dehydrated, tired and grumpy. A great trio of things to 
          be before traveling. Typically, I sleep like a baby on the first leg of the trip, because I 
          am most likely still drunk. The next leg kicks in the hangover and by the third leg, 
          the mack truck running you over feeling kicks in.

          Maybe, I should have a movie night in before mileage runs in the future

  •  Food Options Don't Open at DCA Until 5 am

         My goal was to arrive at the airport. Get a greasy sandwich and get on the plane. 
         Boarding started at 5:10am for my first flight.

         I get to the airport by 4:45. Clear through normal security by 4:55. Yes, I have 
         prechek, but the line for prechek had 25 people in it. The normal security
         line had 3 people. Went with normal, took my shoes off, took out my laptop
         etc. I then went to find my greasy sandwich: darkness. All the restaurants with 
         food were dark, the ones opened only had drinks, save McDonald's, whose line
         was 20 people deep.

         So, I waited and at 5:00 am, on the dot, the lights came on at the bagel shop
         and they started selling food. Thank goodness for carbs!

  • United Needs New Commercials 

After flying United multiple times over the past year, United needs new commercial.
         I have seen the same customer service commericals over and over again. Please
         get some new commercials and rotate them in and out. All of them have the same

  • Omaha's Terminal B is Old

         I only spent 30 minutes in the terminal, but the place was out of 1970s. Everything 
         needs to be redone from the chairs, to monitors, to the bathrooms, etc. Yes, I only 
         was in one terminal, but its needs to be updated.

         Maybe they can get a new airport out of the passage of the Keystone Pipeline!

  • Shipley's Do-Nuts Are Tasty

           Blog post to follow explaining more!

          I only saw the hotel from the tram, but it looks kinda fun to stay in:

  • President George Bush Has An Awesome Statue

         Located in the C Terminal, the statue "Winds of Change" is impressive:  


           Around the statue is a quick history of the President. You only need 5 minutes to 
           visit the whole monument. Perfect stop for a layover.

  • Star Alliance Gold & Silver Does Not Give You Free Standbys
           Many of you might already know this, but I thought I would share anyway.

           When I got to Omaha, I noticed that the plane I just got off was headed back to
           Houston in 30 minutes. I was scheduled to leave in 2 12 hours. I thought best to 
           try to get to a bigger airport in case something happened along the way. So, I
           asked about stand bye on the earlier flight to IAH. He asked if I had status on
           United and I said no. He said typically it would cost $75, but today he would 
           do it for free.

           I mixed up the benefit of Star Alliance Silver. Its priority on the standby list,
           not free standbys. Learn something new everyday!
  • Club Passes Come In Handy
        With a five hour+ layover at IAH, I needed something to do. Lucikly, I put a free 
        United Club pass, from my Chase United Card, in my wallet.

       United has at least 3 clubs at the IAH airport. After asking twitter, people highly
       recommended the one in the "E" concourse or international concourse. 

       Check-in was easy. The agent even saw that I had Star Alliance Silver status 
       and mentioned that a few more trips, they might be seeing me more often. That
       was a nice touch.

       My first item was to take a shower. I was feeling shitty and I hoped a shower
       would make me feel better. I climbed the stairs to the third floor and inquired 
       about a shower.

       A quick 15 minute shower made all the difference.

  • The Third Floor Of the United Club Is Less Crowded

I had heard this from other bloggers/travelers, but never been to a three floor
          United club. The second floor was packed, but the third floor only 1/2 full.
          Maybe the reason is there is no escalator up to the third floor and you have to
          walk. Also, maybe the bar is on the second floor.

          Either way, go up to the third floor.

  • Finally, Its Only Polite to Hand A Women an Unfolded Boarding Pass
          When I checked in for a shower, the attendant asked for my boarding pass.
           I handed over my boarding pass, which was folded up and got scolded.
           She said, "Sir, its only polite to hand a women an unfolded boarding pass."

          Wait, what?

          Since she was at least 30+ years my senior, I did what she told me to do.

          So remember guys, open a car door for a lady, pull out her seat for her and
          always hand unfolded boarding passes to them!

Overall, a long, but exciting trip.

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Packing for My Mileage Run

Previously, I wrote that I was over-packing for a mileage run. Looking back, I think I packed way to much.

Today, I am off on my first solo mileage run to Omaha, Nebraska. Unfortunately, its a same day trip with no time to leave the airport. Therefore, there is no need for overnight clothes.

Here is what I am bringing:

I am trying to bring less this time: 
  • Laptop
  • Powercord
  • 3 Magazines
  • Kindle Fire
  • Tissues
  • Toothbrush & Paste
  • Pen and Pad of Paper
  • Phone Charger
  • Empty Waterbottle 
  • Sweatshirt

You can never truly be prepared for Mileage Run. All you can do is cross your fingers that it all works out.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Congressman Saves Man On Airplane

MSNBC is reporting that California Congressmen Raul Ruiz resuscitated a man who had passed out on an American Airlines flight to Dallas-Fort Worth.

Ruiz, an emergency room physician, jumped to action 30 minutes into the flight when the passenger lost consciousness. The 60 year old passenger was provided oxygen and hooked up to defibrillator to track his vitals. The flight made an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airports before continuing onto Dallas.

Worse is that this isn't the first time Ruiz has step-up to help on his flight home: 

"Ruiz told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth that this was not the first such incident. He said he's been able to help a handful of other passengers who've passed out on flights home from D.C."
Having a medical professional on an airplane is a blessing. Their ability to jump to action can help stabilize a sick passenger. One a flight to Denver, a little girl had a seizure and a nurse 3 seats back jumped to action within a minute of the seizure occurring. Her quick action probably help the little girl.

I take my hat off to you Congressmen Ruiz and all those who jump to action to help a person in need!

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Free Night from Fairmont and American Express

This morning in my sleepiness, I saw this this tweet on my feed:

I took the bait and clicked on the link and was brought to this webpage

According to the promotion, book a stay with your American Express at a participating Fairmont hotel and get a free night after X paid nights. For most of the participating hotels, the free night is either the 3rd or 4th consecutive night. In addition, they will throw in late check-out free. 

Here is a list of the participating hotels:

You need to book by 12/31/13 and your stay must be between completed by 3/31/14.

To take part of this promotion, you must go to the website and click on the link of the property that you want to stay at. The promotion will only work booking this way, according to the T & C.

While this isn't a new promotion, it is a lucrative promotion if you are planning on staying at a Fairmont. What boggles me is why this offer isn't with the Chase. Fairmont has a cobranded credit card with Chase.

 Isn't this promotion tantamount to cheating? Why wouldn't you offer something like this with Chase?

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Earn 500 Amtrak Points for One Phone Call

Metlife and Amtrak have hooked up to provide a special offer.  After one phone call to get a quote on auto and homeowner's insurance, you can earn 500 Amtrak points.

To earn the points, you will need to call 1-866-203-9527, give the agent offer code BXW and your Amtrak Guest Reward member number:

This offer is only available for those living in the following states: AL, AK, CA, CO, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MN, MS, MT, NE, NH, NJ, NC, OR, PA, SC, TN, TX, VT, VA, WA, WI and WY.

Some might say only 500 points? Well, a one way trip from Washington, DC to New York is only 4,500 points. I used Amtrak points transferred from Ultimate Rewards to take the train to New York in August. Therefore, this one call can earn you 1/9 of a ticket.

Don't phew phew 500 points!

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Experience With Southwest Airline's Live TV

As I wrote here, my Southwest airplane to Chicago was going to be equipped with WIFI/Live TV. I was excited about trying it out. You see Southwest is trying something different. Instead of equipping their planes with entertainment systems, they have created a system that transmits entertainment content directly to passengers' ipads, computers, or even cellphones.

Here is a video describing Southwest's new service:

My Experience With Southwest's Live TV

My flight from Washington's Dulles (IAD) airport to Chicago's Midway airport was only about an 105 minutes long. This gave me about 75 minutes with the new system.

First, I tried to use the system on my Kindle Fire. I was able to log into the wifi, but I couldn't get the Live TV to play.

I then tried to access the Live TV on my netbook and had success. After opening the wifi on my laptop, the Southwest's entertainment website opened up. On this screen, there will be a drop down menu detailing the options available to you:

Under the games section, there are two games. Both of which are free:
I then went to see which movies were available. The selection of movies that were available was amazing. I counted over 25 movies ranging from comedies to drama to children's movies. There was something for every member of the family.

What impressed me was that each movie was only $5. That's a great price. $5 is the top price I pay to rent movies from Amazon. I did not rent a movie, because I didn't have enough flight time to watch it. 

Another cool feature of the system is that it shows the time left on the flight. On the top bar, there is a little airplane to show the progress of the flight:

The status is a great feature, but the plane did not move on its own. You had to refresh the screen to see how much time was left in the flight. This is something Southwest should fixed.

Click on the Destination button and you will get a flight map. The map shows where the flight is at the moment. The screen also has monitors showing the altitude, heading and ground speed.

Below the map is a five day forecast of the destination of the flight:

The one section that I did try was the live television.  Currently, the live television is free due to Dish. Thanks Dish! There is 15 Live Channels and about 30+ TV Shows. The preloaded TV shows are from the TLC, Food Network etc. Nothing really excited me. Therefore, I decided to watch some live TV.

As you can see, there is a wide range of channels. Once you load the live TV, a television schedule appears with what is on each channel. Again, the schedule does not update as time goes on. Another thing that needs to be fixed, Southwest. 

The TV screen is tiny. Super tiny. This little picture is less than 1/4 of my computer screen. I though there was a button to increase the size of the screen, but no one existed.

I was very impressed with the quality of the live television. It was clear, next froze or needed to be rebooted. The other thing that impressed me was the speed in the show loading after switching channels. I switched channels at least 50 times and only once did the show not load. That's amazing!

Overall, I was very impressed with Southwest's IFE system. There decision to use passenger's systems is brilliant. Instead of spending money on putting TVs in each seat, Southwest built a great platform to use. I only used the Live TV feature, but I am excited to use the wifi to surf internet and movie features on future flights.

Two thumbs up on my first experience.

Have you used Southwest's new IFE system?

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Monday, October 21, 2013

5 Reasons Why I Love Traveling Alone

As a single guy, I frequently take trips solo. My friends aren't as adventurous as I am, so they aren't always gun-ho about flying across the world. That has created a dilemma for me. I want to see the world, try new foods, and experience new cultures. I could wait for someone to come with me on trips or I have to go on my own. I have chosen to do the later and I am not sorry for it. In the past 3 years, I have been to Asia, Europe and Africa all on my own.

Many people have written about the problems of traveling solo, but there are quite a few benefits. Here are my top 5 Reasons Why I Love Traveling Alone:

1) Freedom

One of the best benefits of traveling by yourself is freedom. There isn't anyone to share making decisions with. You want to stay at the Hyatt, no problem. Want to sleep in, eat at a particular restaurant, skip a monument, also no problem. By traveling by yourself, you are the main decision maker.

I like not having anyone to share decision making with. When I travel, I tend to go hardcore. I may leave the hotel at 9 am and might not get back to the hotel until 9 pm. Not everyone can go 12 hours with little to no break. With only me, I get to set the pace and what I want to see. Freedom has allowed me to visit places that I couldn't if I was traveling with a friend or two. For instance, a few years ago, I took a road trip throughout Virginia. I wanted to visit my fraternity's headquarters in Richmond. With no one else with me, I took a detour from my planned trip and visited the headquarters.

2) Peace

With no one to share decision making with, there is peace. When traveling with others, tension always tend to boil underneath. Some people can keep the tension underneath, never letting others know it exists. Not me. At some point, my emotions get the best of me and I vocalize my frustrations. Its one of my flaws.

When I travel by myself, I have no one to blame, but me. If something happens, I caused it. During my trip to Tokyo, I was alone and I was at peace. With peace, your senses are at their highest, because your mind is clear. You start to experience things that you would otherwise not feel, see, smell or touch; mostly due to your mind being somewhere else.

Having peace is an amazing thing on vacation.

3) Time With Yourself

Solo traveling is not easy. You are in a foreign place by yourself. Under these circumstances, there is a lot of time by yourself. For some, the silence is to much to handle. However, I love the feeling especially in foreign countries that you don’t speak or understand the language. For instance, in Mali, I made the decision to quit my job of 5+ years. I had struggled with the decision to resign for months. Always putting the decision off, because I was busy with something else. In Mali, I had no distractions. No cell phone, no internet, no friends, only me and my thoughts.

I had the same clarity in Tokyo. Outside a few conversations with fellow travelers, I spoke few words. One day, I maybe said 10 words, all of them while ordering food. That silence can give you the time needed to make major decisions or look back on a situation. In Tokyo, I had time to review 2012 and lay out goals for 2013. I don't think I would have had the time/lack of distractions to do this if I spent the holidays in Connecticut.

4) Plenty of Time To Read Books

I love to read books. Its a passion of mine that I don't get to do to often. My life in Washington, DC sometimes is hectic. I very rarely have time to sit down and read a book. Therefore, on vacations, I am a reading machine. Typically, I can knock out 5 to 6 books on a 7 day vacation.

When traveling by myself, I can read books anywhere I want: on airplanes, subway rides, park etc. Since I don't have a travel companion, I'm not being rude reading. Actually, I enjoy stopping in parks to read for 15 or 20 minutes. Its a nice way to break up a day of sightseeing. Another place I read a lot is at dinner. Without anyone to converse with, I can pull out a book between courses and read. Frequently, I get looks from other guests in the restaurant, but I don't pay much attention.

One of the down sides of my love of reading is that I pick up books constantly. I prefer the real book to an e-book. It something about the feel and smell of the book. Since I only really read on vacation, I amass lots of books. Anytime there is a used bookstore or a library sale, I tend to stop and buy books.

When I finish a book, I tend to leave them where ever I am. My books have been left on planes, subways, airport bathrooms, hotel rooms, park benches. I have no use for them after I am finished plus I need their space in my luggage for souvenirs. Here are some of the books waiting to be read:

5) The New Friends You Will Meet

When traveling by yourself, you are more likely to meet new people. Its logically. If you are traveling with another person or group of people, you tend to congregate with those you know. You can't do this traveling solo. It is only you. This opens you up to meet new people.

At some point, the silence is going to get to much. You are going to crave verbal human contact. In Japan, I went to a public bath. While chilling out in one of the springs, a gentlemen starting talking to me. Since I was one of the few white guys there and by myself, I was a prime target. For the next 30 minutes, I talk to my new friend. After getting over the uncomfortableness of being naked and having a conversation with a complete stranger, I actually enjoy talking to him. He told me about restaurants to try, places to visit outside of Tokyo, and a cheaper way to get to the airport. If I was traveling with a friend, I would not have had this opportunity to meet this stranger.

My public bath experience was similar to this minus the read cover-ups and males only:

Overall, traveling solo is a very rewarding experience. I encourage everything to try traveling alone. Start small. Maybe an overnight or weekend in a different city in the US. After getting over being alone, you might just enjoy seeing the world by yourself.

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

6 Weirdest Ways to Get Your Food Worldwide

Gadling has a list of the 6 Weirdest Ways to Get Your Food Worldwide. The list has some interesting ways to serve food.

1. Coin-operated Belgian Fries
If you want a cornet of classic Belgian fries, look no further than a vending machine. A coin-operated machine in Brussels has been specifically developed to produce fries made with beef fat. Customers pay €2.50 (£2.13) for a 90-second fry-up of a 135g portion of chips accompanied by fork, salt and ketchup or mayonnaise, with or without harissa, but definitely without the customary moules.

2. Ice Cream from a Monster Truck
You've seen food trucks, but have you ever seen a monster food truck? Czech carmaker Skoda turned a 5.5 ton van into an ice cream truck, deeming it the "world's largest ice cream truck."
3. Vending Machine Champagne
In Berlin you can get your bubbles from a vending machine. The gourmet food vending machine at delicatessen Floris Feinkost not only has pint-sized bottles of champagne available for sale, but also Dutch stroopwaffels and flavored salts. That's what you call one stop shopping.

4. Sparkling Water from a Fountain
It would seem that only in Paris would you be able to get sparkling water from a fountain (which you can do at three different parks in the city). I am not a fan of Sparkling Water, so I am gonna pass on this one. 

5. Carry-out Bacon Bar
A restaurant isn't such an odd or intriguing thing, but a carry-out bacon bar is. In Chicago you now know exactly where to order your bacon when you're having that random craving thanks to Burke's Bacon Bar which offers up mini sandwiches stuffed with bacon. 

6. The In-Car Rice Maker
Want food on the go? For those looking for a little more homecooked of a meal while they're traveling, you might want the new Japanese in-car rice cookerDesigned by Japan Professional Network, the TK plugs into any 12-volt electrical car socket and is fitted with special insulation that not only lets the rice cook in just 25 minutes and but also keeps it warmer longer.

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