Shop, shop, shop in Malaysia till September

Care to buy an apartment such as one in M Vertica Cheras?
Care to buy an apartment such as one in M Vertica Cheras?

Malaysia’s goods and services tax (GST) will be abolished from tomorrow (June 1). This translates to a six-percent savings — a substantial amount especially for big ticket items such as property, cars, jewelry, and high-end gadgets.

It’s a tax-free window that will last till September when the government plans to implement a sales and services tax (SST).

If people open their purses, it’s going to be at least 90 days of boom town for businesses in Malaysia.

GDPR comes into effect

GPDRI’ve had more email than usual this week. Adding to my regular email, which includes loads of spam, are messages concerning GDPR, which stands for General Data Protection Regulation.

If you’re wondering what GDPR is and why you’re receiving so many email about it this week, it is a regulation in European Union *EU) law that kicks in today (May 25).

This law is on data protection and privacy for individuals within the EU and applies to all doing business from or with EU and the European Economic Asia (EEA). Essentially, it applies to nearly, if not all multinational companies.

GDPR aims to give control to citizens and residents over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying the regulation within the EU.

This protection extends to us residing outside the EU as well because many of the entities we deal with, the online shops we buy from, do business with the EU.

Simply put, the law allows sites that capture our personal data to only use it for the specific purpose of that particular transaction and nothing more.

Hopefully, this will prevent a repeat of the Facebook debacle with Cambridge Analytica.

Regrets, I’ve had a few

Baubax adA friend recommended it. The post kept appearing on my Facebook page. I watched the video on the Kickstarter page and…I was sold!

Don’t know if any of you had the same feeling but sometimes, some things just seem too good not to buy — especially if you’re a sucker for techie stuff like me.

I mean, who could turn away from a jacket that is designed for travelling and comes with 15 features such as a built-in neck pillow, eye mask, gloves, earphone holders, drink pocket, and pockets for practically everything, including one that can fit an iPad?

It’s a dream come true. Finally, here was a company that knew what travellers really need.
Without much hesitation, I joined thousands of others who pledged to bring the project to fruition. The cost was US$149 (plus another US$20 for shipping) — much more than I would have liked to pay for a hoodie but the thrill got to me.
The delivery was supposed to be in November 2015 so I was looking forward to bringing it for my year end holiday.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. The company encountered problems with finding the right manufacturers and parts. In the name of quality control and lack of experience, it asked for understanding and the wait began.
I waited and waited. The only consolation is that I wasn’t alone — I had more than 40,000 others on the same boat. Some of them were very vocal and voiced their displeasure on Kickstarter.
IMG_20180523_111158Four months later, l received a notification that the package was on the way. It finally arrived in March 2016.
I don’t know if it was the long wait that killed off the initial enthusiasm I had for the travel hoodie. But, when I held it in my hand and tried it, I was kind of ambivalent.
IMG_20180523_140820What’s good
  1. The travel pillow is the best I’ve had. Inflating and deflating are simple and the felt material makes for a comfortable rest.
  2. The hidden hand warmer is perfect for a cold winter’s day or even a chilly flight.
  3. The eye mask is helpful for getting some shut-eye on flights or train/bus rides.

What’s bad

  1. The jacket is heavy. Even without putting anything in the pockets, it’s heavy to carry and wear. Hence, the travel practicality was negated.
  2. The colour wasn’t as vibrant as pictured. Even taking into consideration the lighting, it was not close and looked faded.
  3.  The price. OK, I willingly paid the price for it. Nobody held a gun to my head. But, ultimately, the end product is not worth the price.

Lesson learnt here is not to be overly enthusiastic, especially to the point that I did not weigh the price against the benefits properly. Thankfully, this is only one of a handful of regrets with my purchases.

Malaysia to axe GST on June 1

Proton PerdanaMaking good of its election pledge, the new Malaysia government is abolishing the goods and services tax (GST) effective June 1. In its place will be a sales and services tax (SST) to be implemented at another date.

To consumers in Malaysia, this works out to be a six-percent savings on purchases. Between now and June 1, it would be wise to put off purchase of luxury and big ticket items such as cars and property as the savings can be substantial.

Take for instance, the Proton Perdana 2.4 AT (above) which has a nett selling price of RM133,733.56. The savings is around RM7,569.82.

Even buys such as smartphones and computers can result in savings that can be used to purchase accessories such as power banks and headsets.

It’s time to get ready for some big time shopping come June 1.

Enjoy the savings until the SST, which is expected to be lower than six-percent, comes on board.

Feiyu SPG gimbal: Takes some practise

Feiyu SPG gimbal boxOne of the biggest problems with taking video clips on smartphones is stability, especially when capturing clips while on the move. No matter how good the phone’s camera and software is or how skillful the user is, it’s near impossible to get jerk free videos while running.

One solution is the gimbal, which is gaining popularity among the media, bloggers and video enthusiasts.

Imagine my joy when my daughter got one for me yesterday. Her present to me was the Feiyu SPG three-axis video stabiliser handheld gimbal.

The box looks really large for something I had expected to be much smaller.

Feiyu SPG gimbal unboxed

This gadget comes in an interesting-shaped bag, kind of reminds me of a steak.

After unboxing and pulling the gimbal out of the bag, I inserted the battery, slotted in my smartphone and tried to get in up and running.

Here’s where it pays to read the instructions carefully.

For all my efforts — all of 30 minutes — I struggled to get my smartphone to balance on the device.

Feiyu SPG gimbal standing

After charging the battery and following the instructions,

Lesson 1 is to read the instructions. I should have referred to the set up notes.

Lesson 2 is to charge the battery. I had assumed that it was at least half-charged, like most that come with smartphones. But I was wrong. It was totally uncharged.

Lesson 3 is to download the app, without which the smartphone cannot be paired to the gimbal.

By the time I was done charging, my daughters were back and they took over the setting up.

With the phone adjusted to balance on the holder, turning on the device automatically balances the phone.

The Feiyu SPG works only with the app, which is used for communication and capturing photos/videos.

The first couple of test clips looks great but I’ll have to spend more time getting used to it.

I’ll post a more detailed review another time. Meanwhile, here are a few reasons why I like this gadget already:

  1. It’s compact. Fits nicely in my sling bag without taking up much space.
  2. It comes with a bag. Protects the gimbal and is really useful for bringing it around.
  3. It has a tripod mount. Handy for taking long videos.
  4. It’s versatile. Supports phones of different sizes and iOS and Android.
  5. It’s affordable. Amazon lists this for US$169.90.

Click and book airport run

Grab logoLiving near the airport has its pros and cons. While a trip to and from the airport is a  breeze, taking a taxi back from the airport is an entirely different experience.

Whenever I tell the driver my destination after boarding, the response often is stony black face or worst yet, sarcasm on a couple of occassions.

The reason is because they feel that they are not getting enough mileage for their long wait at the airport. They would prefer to pick up someone heading to the city or the outermost corners of the island. Looks like even the airport surcharge is not enough for them.

To make up for their disappointment, I often give them a generous tip.

Thankfully, such trips happen only once or twice a year when the entire family goes on holiday together. Otherwise, one of us will do the airport run.

Salvation at hand
In recent years, this is no longer an issue. It’s not because the taxi drivers have somehow realised the folly of their ways but because of the rise of ride-hailing services.

The advent of Uber and Grab means that we can just click and book a car easily. In under 10 minutes, a car will arrive and the driver often helps with loading the luggage — something that taxi drivers don’t usually do because they claimed to be afraid of hurting themselves.

The ride is pleasant, the driver relaxed and me, the passenger, stress-free on the way home.

Of course, during peak periods, the wait can be a little longer. There again, does it really matter? The taxi queue would also be equally long.

By next week, Uber will no longer exist in Southeast Asia. Grab is taking over of Uber to become the region’s biggest player. In the run up, regular customers have already started to feel the pinch.

There seems to be fewer discount codes and promotions, leading to more costly rides. In reality, this is a better reflection of actual prices. Otherwise, the ride-hailing service providers will continue to bleed and remain unprofitable. If that happens, once their funding runs out, so will the services and customers will suffer.

The buzz is that other players are looking at filling the void created by the merger. The highly popular GoJek in Indonesia has been reported to be thinking of setting up shop in Singapore. Singapore-based carpooling app Ryde has expanded to private-hire car service.

Change in commuting
Overall, Grab and the likes have made a difference in the way I commute. Instead of heading to the taxi stand when I arrive at my destination airport, I will just whip up the Grab or Uber, or even Lyft, app in my smartphone and book my ride.

The only challenge is communication in non-English speaking countries. When I was in Bangkok last week, the Grab driver and I were lost in translation. We were messaging each other at the airport but somehow, when he said that he had arrived, he was nowhere to be found near me. Turned out that he was in the departure area while we were waiting at the arrival area.

The lesson learnt is to be near someone who understands English and speaks the local language when waiting for a ride.

Another experience is that Uber can be cheaper than taxi in California. A taxi trip from San Francisco International Airport to San Jose comes with a 50-percent markup so that the driver can return to San Francisco. There’s no such markup with a Uber ride so it’s a straight upfront 50 percent savings.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed Grab and Uber services so far. Long may they live.

Mango dessert that leaves one longing for more


Mention Swensen’s and memories of rich ice cream desserts decked with interesting sweet condiments come to mind. When the ice cream chain first arrived in Singapore, I remember hanging out there once or twice a week after tennis sessions with my friends.

It used to offer their desserts in two sizes — standard and Swensen’s size, which is double the normal ones.

We used to challenge each other to take on Earthquake in Swensen’s size. If the person can finish the entire dish in one go, the rest of us will pay for it. One of our friends took up the challenge once and he gobbled everything down — to the last drop! We paid for it with our pocket but he paid for it with a massive calorie infusion.

Looking back, it was kind of a silly challenge considering that our tennis workout was intended to help us stay fit and loose weight.

Anyway, I was in Bangkok last weekend and a visit to Swensen’s is usually a must-do, simply because the desserts cost less than in Singapore.

While looking for a place to rest our tired feet at MBK, my wife and I looked for the ice cream outlet and found it at level 3.

Before heading in, I noticed a standee promoting its mango offerings and was drawn to one that comes with bingsu, the Korean-styled ice shaving.

As it was priced at 219 baht (about S$9.20), we decided to share one.

We were told to wait for 15 minutes so I guess the dessert must take some preparation.

When it arrived, we were mesmerised. The bingsu was topped milk and mango syrup plus a couple of mint leaves and a piece of Swensen’s chocolate, and surrounded by chunks of mango.

After digging in, we discovered a large scoop of mango ice cream supported by green sticky rice at the bottom.

Swensen’s accompanied the dessert with additional milk and mango syrup on the side.

Simply heavenly
The taste was simply heavenly! The rich, creamy taste of the ice cream blended so well with the light, cold bingsu and slightly saltish sticky rice.

It was pure delight for the senses. The additional milk and mango syrup came in handy once we cleared the outer layer of the bingsu.

When we were done, there was a craving for a little more. But, on hindsight, the portion is just nice for two persons.

My conclusion is that this dessert is really worth a go, if you happen to be in Thailand. It left me longing for more.

Swensen’s has taken the traditional mango sticky rice and given it a major boost with bingsu and ice cream.

I’m not sure how long this item will stay on the menu though — guess it depends on the mango season.