Aloo ISDN by Fasttelco

Posted by Mark

A couple of weeks back Fasttelco hooked me up with a product they have called Aloo ISDN. Aloo ISDN is a phone line to use when traveling which will allow me to make and receive unlimited calls to and from Kuwait for free. It’s a really great simple product but a bit complicated to explain so I will try my best to be very clear.

– When you sign up to Aloo ISDN, Fasttelco will provide you with a local number, in my case its 22200XXX (XXX because I don’t want everyone to have my number)

– Once you get the number you then need to download the free app “Media5” from the app Store and follow Fasttelco’s setup instructions. I am personally using the application “Bria” instead of Media5 but it isn’t free. Both these apps work on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

The product requires the internet to work so your device needs to be connected to WiFi or 3G/4G LTE. I used Aloo this past weekend while in Lebanon and I thought it was great.

Before I left Kuwait I forwarded my Viva number to my Aloo number so that any phone call I receive while in Lebanon I would get to answer using my Aloo number. You don’t have to do that but I found it easier than giving everyone my “travel number” and that way I also avoid getting calls on my regular number and paying roaming charges.

The product works. I didn’t have access to WiFi while in Lebanon but I did have a 3G connection. I used the Aloo number a bunch of times and only on one occasion did I have a connection problem but at the time I was driving on a mountain road so my guess is the 3G connection was dropping. Using the number is fairly easy. When you get a phone call the app would pop up and ask me if I want to answer the phone call. To make a phone call I just launch the app and either dial the number or find one from my contact book. I was actually surprised I was able to use the service with a Lebanese 3G connection since the connection in Lebanon isn’t that fast. If it works in Lebanon it should work even better in European countries or the States.

If you travel a lot and pay a lot of roaming charges then this product could save you a lot of money. For a regular number is costs KD70 the first year and then KD60 every year after that so unless you make and receive over KD60 worth of roaming calls a year Aloo is not worth getting. They also have more premium numbers, the number they gave me for example is a silver number and costs KD120 the first year, gold costs KD200 the first year, platinum 500, diamond 1000 and royal 5000. All the numbers then cost KD60 a year after that. If you’re interested in signing up or getting more information you can call Fasttelco on 1838485.


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The Jaguar F-Type

Posted by Mark

A couple of weeks ago I was driving on the highway when a Jaguar F-Type drove past me. It was the first time I had seen one in person and I thought the rear end looked amazing which is why once I got home I emailed my contact at Jaguar asking if I could borrow the car, which I did, last week.

The F-Type turned out to be smaller than I was expecting it to be and that’s a good thing since I’m not a fan of large sports cars. It’s a 2-seat roadster convertible with a soft top that comes with either a V6 or a V8 engine. The model I tested had the V6 S-type engine which has 40 more horsepower compared to the regular V6.

The F-Type is by far the best looking Jaguar in production right now and is easily one of the hotest looking roadsters available on the market. I love the direction they went with the rear end but even the front of the car looks slick and aggressive. The interior of the car I drove was a combination of black and tan. I’m not usually a big fan of tan but since the dashboard and everything else was black and just the leather seats and leather trim in tan, the combination looked pretty good.

Performance wise although the car I drove was the F-Type S it wasn’t as fast as I was hoping it would be. Don’t get me wrong, I risked deportation a number of times while driving the car (by accident of course) but it wasn’t the “this car is going to kill me” kinda fast. On the other hand the car sounds INSANE! The model I drove was the fully loaded F-Type S with the optional exhaust system installed and if there is one option you have to get with this car this is the one. The exhaust system by default sounds fairly normal but there is a little switch on the centre console which once pressed transforms the exhaust into a completely different beast. The car was easy to drive (slow and fast) and it felt pretty responsive and agile weaving in and out of traffic.

I didn’t have or spot any major issues with the car during the time I had it but I was supposed to drop a friend off at the airport with the car and I couldn’t. The trunk of the F-Type is so small that I couldn’t fit a medium sized bag into it. I also had an issue with the car dials, during the day they just seemed a bit dark and I kept wishing they were much brighter. Finally the soft top, it’s not just with this Jaguar but in general I’m just not a fan of soft tops in Kuwait. For the good part of the year the roof is going to be closed and a foldable hard top would be much more practical solution for our weather.

One thing that surprised me about the car was the price. Whenever a friend asked me how much the car was worth I told them I didn’t know but that I assumed it cost upwards of KD30,000. When I was returning the car I found out the car actually starts at around KD22,000 which I felt was undervalued. The car looks like it’s worth a lot more than that and if you look at what else is available at that price range the Jag looks like a great buy. Of course with all the extra options the price does add up. If you want the F-Type S that starts at 25,000 and the model I drove was a fully loaded F-Type S (exhaust, rear camera, 20inch wheels etc..) which costs 29,500. The V8 model is even more expensive of course.

Anyway if you’re interested in test driving the car yourself you can pass by the Jaguar dealer in Al-Rai (Al-Zayani) and check it out there.


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Hayete Bed & Breakfast – Beirut

Posted by Mark

I really shouldn’t be posting about this place since I love it so much and don’t want it to be fully booked every time I want to go down to Lebanon. But, since I always put the blog ahead of myself, here is everything you need to know.

Hayete is a small bed & breakfast situated in the very beautiful and super busy Achrafieh area. It’s an apartment located inside a traditional/old Achrafieh style building that was converted into a cozy little guesthouse. The place is managed by a very friendly husband and wife and I’ve stayed there two times so far and on both occasions I had a great experience.

Hayete which means “My Life” in Arabic has just 4 rooms. Two of the rooms share a bathroom, the third room has its own bathroom and the 4th one has its own bathroom and an extra room (so it’s actually two rooms with two beds). The first time I stayed in the large two room room while the second time I stayed in the regular room with a shared bathroom. I loved staying there on both those visits.

No two rooms are furnished the same or even look the same. The floor tiles are exposed showing the original apartment tiling while the furniture is all vintage and really beautiful. There is a nice lobby area for entertaining guests and a balcony as well with a wooden table and benches in case you feel like sitting outside. I usually rent a car when I’m in Lebanon but since Hayete is located in Achrafieh, I usually prefer to skip the rental and cab it instead. Hayete is a 5 minutes walk to the main road where you can easily find a cab. More importantly though, Hayete is a short walk to the trendy Gemayzee street.

The rooms are pretty affordable starting at around $75 a night and that includes a traditional Lebanese breakfast served on the balcony every morning. It’s a super cozy guesthouse that feels like an apartment which is why my friends always love coming over to hang out a bit before heading down to Gemayzee. I highly recommend the place unless I find it fully booked the next time I plan a trip and then I’m going to delete this post. For more information and beautiful pictures of the place, checkout their Facebook page [Here]


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Review: Kindle Paperwhite

Posted by Mark

A few months back I upgraded from the entry level Kindle to the Kindle Paperwhite and although I hated it at first I’ve grown to like it, a lot.

Literally 10 minutes after getting the Kindle Paperwhite in the mail I was offering it up for sale because I hated it so much. I found it incredibly sluggish and hated the new graphical interface. I just couldn’t see myself using the Paperwhite without hurling it out the window 2 minutes later and I just wanted to get rid of it right away. Thankfully I didn’t. Some of my followers who found the Paperwhite frustrating at first told me if I used it for awhile I’d get used to it and a week later I was.

Once you get used to the Paperwhite it’s actually a pretty good ereader. First of all the biggest improvement over my entry level Kindle is the fact the Papwerwhite is backlit which means I can use it in complete darkness. The second improvement is the fact the Paperwhite has no buttons and uses a touch screen. At first this annoyed me but after using it on the beach a few times I now appreciate the fact the Paperwhite doesn’t have any buttons where little grains of sand can hide under. The Paperwhite is slightly larger and heavier than the entry level Kindle but I no longer notice the difference. Battery life is still extremely long, even with the backlit on it still lasts over 2 weeks with me per charge, maybe even more.

Yes the interface is still sluggish specially when compared to other touch devices like the iPad or any touch screen phone on the market, but I’ve really gotten used to it and it doesn’t bother me as much anymore. I’ve now given my older Kindle away because I can no longer go back to it and yesterday when a friend asked me which Kindle to get I recommended the Paperwhite to them. Even with whatever little faults it has, at KD35 it’s a really good deal. [Amazon Link]


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Four Seasons Hotel – Beirut

Posted by Mark

I was in Beirut over the weekend and on this trip I ended up staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in Downtown Beirut. The hotel is located in what I think is one of the nicest looking towers in Beirut, right in front of the very popular Zaituna Bay and so I was really looking forward to staying there.

Right from the moment I stepped out of my rental I knew I was going to be enjoying my stay at the hotel. The customer service at the hotel was just better then any other I had previously stayed in before and I’ve stayed at many. The feeling I kept getting is that every single employee wanted to help make your stay better, and by every single employee I don’t mean just the reception staff or managers, I mean everyone from the valet guys, to the housekeepers to the waiters. I think its the words they use but you just get this feeling that you can ask them for whatever you want and they’d love to do it and that made me super comfortable in asking them for stuff which I tend not to do.

Other than the excellent service my room was also very comfortable. I had overpacked on this trip but there was more than enough closest space and drawers to accomodate all my stuff. The room wasn’t that big but the bathroom was with a large sink area, tub, shower room, toilet room and a makeup table. The room had a balcony that was big enough to fit a table and two chairs and finally there was free wifi in the room and the whole hotel. My favorite part of the hotel though would have to be the roof. During the day the roof is a cool place to swim and tan but at night it’s an open air lounge overlooking the Mediterranean sea and Beirut.

I do have two minor complaints though. The first issue the hotel really can’t do much about but the view from my room could have been better if there wasn’t a large sand lot right outside. I live in Kuwait so I would rather not see sand lots when I travel. Even though the hotel is right in front of Zaituna Bay, my room was more on the side and I could only see the marina if I was on the balcony looking left which was disappointing. The other issue I had was with their breakfast. It’s not a breakfast buffet and one of the things I look forward to the most in hotels is their breakfast buffets. At the Four Seasons they have a dried fruit, fresh fruit and cereal buffet but if you want any hot dishes you have to order them. The advantage obviously is your breakfast is made for you and so is fresh, but the disadvantage is it takes time to make and you also can’t just fill up your plate with whatever looks good like you would do at a regular buffet.

In the end though I had a really good time at the hotel. I generally don’t tend to spend much time at hotels but on this trip I was having all my friends come over so we could just chill out on the roof. The incredibly friendly service and the lounge on the roof made me really love my stay. I’d most likely stay there again once I’m done reviewing other hotels in Beirut.

Here is the link to their [Website]


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Review: Bang & Olufsen A9

Posted by Mark

When I picked up the B&O Beolit 12 last month I also ended up picking up the Bang & Olufsen A9. I wasn’t planning to originally but it was so hard to resist. I first spotted the A9 when I was at the B&O store in Prague and it was love at first sight. It’s an AirPlay compatible speaker that will allow you to stream music onto it wirelessly and in case you don’t have Wifi you can connect your iPhone/iPod using a USB cable. The speaker has a very minimal design being just a circle with no buttons on the front and even in the back other than the power button there isn’t anything else. To increase and decrease the volume you just caress the speaker on the top from the left to right, to decrease the volume you swipe your hand right to left and to mute it you just hold the speaker on the top. The touch controls are very practical to use.

Sound wise the speaker is pretty loud and bassy for it’s size. That’s what actually sold me since I was not expecting the sound to be that big. I mostly listen to indie and electronic music on it and so far there isn’t anything really that it had difficultly playing. If we go back to the looks I should mention the speaker can be customized when it comes to colors. The front fabric cover by default comes in white but you can purchase different colors as well to match your environment like black, red, green etc.. Same with the wooden legs, you can get them in 3 different colors. In case you want to mount the speaker on the wall you can do that too.

Setting up the device was as easy as setting up the Beolit 12 and I didn’t have any trouble although a lot of people do get stuck and frustrated but that’s because they don’t follow instructions. I actually love the iPhone App since it allows me to control the settings on both my B&O devices with great ease.

My only gripe about the A9 and one many of you will remark on is the price, it’s KD890 (including the legs). At that price point it’s pretty much competing with full fledged sound systems that would deliver a lot more bang for the buck. But obviously none would look as good as the A9 or come in as simple a setup. The only other speaker system that I imagine could compete with the A9 is the Parrot Design Zikmu by Philippe Starck. But that isn’t affordable either costing around KD600 and the A9 is nearly 5 times more powerful (100w vs 480w RMS). It’s a luxury product that’s for sure but that’s the case with everything B&O produce. I love it and don’t regret getting it.


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Nu Hotel – Milan

Posted by Mark

Last weekend I went to Milan and stayed at a trendy little hotel called Nu. It was actually my second choice since I had originally set my eyes on Hotel Straf, but Nu Hotel ended up coming in at half the price which made it the obvious choice.

The hotel is not located in the city center and is not walking distance to Duomo which is actually a good thing. Duomo is in the city center where all the cathedrals, department stores, franchises, luxury brands and ALL the tourist are. Many people actually want to be in Duomo which is fine by me but I would rather shop and stay in places with more locals than tourists. The hotel is located 5 minutes away from the Metro anyway which means a ride to any part of Milan will mostly take just under 20 minutes.

My room was pretty spacious for European standards but what probably helped the room look even more spacious was the super large window that occupied most of one wall. It brought in a lot of soft natural light into the room even on an overcast day. The room had all the regular amenities like free interent, mini bar, a safe and breakfast in bed should you choose. The customer service was fantastic, I was having minor issues with my AC since in typical person from Kuwait style I wanted it on all the time and at the coldest possible temperature and they were extremely helpful with sorting that issue out for me.

There wasn’t much going on around the hotel other than a happening bar across the street. Other than that everything on the street was usually closed by nightfall. If I ever go back to Milan I wouldn’t hesitate staying at Nu Hotel. Here is the link to their [Website]


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Review: Rio, the Brazilian steakhouse

Posted by Mark

Rio is a new Brazilian steakhouse that has been open for around a month and last night I decided to pass by and try it out. Unlike regular restaurants, the way the Rio menu works is slightly different since there is just one fixed price of KD15.5. For that price you get to choose one starter from a list of about eight, you get to choose an unlimited amount of side orders and then it’s all you can eat beef, fish and chicken. It’s similar to a buffet except you never have to get out of your seat.

Rio is located on the ground floor of Jawhara Tower in Kuwait City. It’s the same building that has Ubon and a few other restaurant. But from the restaurants that are currently located there, Rio has to be the biggest, probably double the size of the others. I was actually pretty surprised at how spacious Rio was compared to the other restaurants next door. The interior was also very trendy and nicely lit with large windows on two sides creating a very open and spacious look. You could easily forget the fact that you’re not in Kuwait once you’re inside. Once we sat down the waitress proceeded to explain to us how the menu works and then provided us with two coasters, one side had a red circle the other side a green circle. You put the coasters on the table with the green side up when you want your plate refilled and the red side up when you want to stop.

I was with my brother so we got to order two starters, the Carpaccio and the rocket salad. Between the two dishes I surprisingly favored the rocket salad but that’s probably because the balsamic dressing was so ridiculously good. One thing I found a bit annoying was the fact the starters came out so quickly after we ordered and then before we were completely done with the dishes they wanted to clear the plates so they could bring in the main course. I felt a bit rushed but that’s probably due to the lack of experience since they just opened. We ordered a whole bunch of sides to go with our main course, I ordered healthy sides like mushrooms, broccoli and carrots while my brother ordered potato wedges, onion rings and fried banana. We also had 6 or 8 sauces to choose from and we decided to order all of them so we could try them out.

They serve around 14 different kinds of meats and I would say 12 of them are served on skewers that they bring to your table and slice onto your plate. One after the other a waiter would come with a different skewer for us to try like various kinds of steaks, grilled shrimps, grilled chicken and sausages and even grilled pineapple. As they would fill our plate and walk away another skewer would come which meant we didn’t have enough time to start eating. Then I remembered the colored coasters the waitress told us about so we flipped ours to “red” and the food stopped coming. Since there are so many different kinds of skewers there are bound to be some you won’t favor and in my case I didn’t favor a few but the ones I did end up liking, I liked a lot (the sliced chicken and the chicken sausage being my favorites).

I do have a few gripes about the place and it mostly has to do with the service. The whole experience just felt very rushed. Right as soon as we sat down and the waitress explained to us the concept she wanted to take our order right then on the spot even though we didn’t have time to take a look at the menu. Then as I mentioned, the starters came out very quickly after the order was taken and before the starters were completely finished the plates were being cleared for the main course. Then the way you get bombarded with one grill after the other is also a bit overwhelming. Another issue I had is when we had gone through maybe 8 or 10 grills they started coming back with grills that we had already tried. When I asked the waiter if we were done trying all the grills he said yes. Since we were pretty full we decided to ask for the bill. When the bill arrived a waiter came with chicken sausages which we hadn’t been served before. So we each took one. Then I paid the bill and another skewer came this time with beef sausages, again we hadn’t tried those before. So I asked the waiter why he would tell us we were done trying out all the grills when we hadn’t and I don’t think he understood us. I think it must have been just a language issue but it’s kinda awkward to ask for the bill and pay for it while food is still arriving. I also have an issue with the price. At KD15.5 I would have appreciated if soft drinks were included or at the very least have free refills. If you want dessert that is also an additional cost. I think dessert should be included in the price since when you go to a buffet or order a set menu, generally all the food is included.

Rio is an interesting concept and a great looking place in a good location with a ton of parking spaces all around. It’s also probably the closest thing you’re going to get to an all you can eat steak buffet in Kuwait. As a matter of fact, this is probably the closest thing you’re also going to get to a healthy buffet since the menu is mostly made up of grilled protein. My issues mostly revolve around the service but they should easily be fixable by just slowing things down a notch. If you’re interested in trying Rio here is a [Map] to the location and their phone number is 22260788.

Update: I forgot to add they’re currently in a soft launch stage and so are only open from 7PM to 11PM


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Review: Bang & Olufsen Beolit 12

Posted by Mark

I’ve had my eye on the Bang & Olufsen Beolit 12 for some time now and last week I finally decided to splurge and get it. The Beolit 12 is a portable speaker that can operate on battery or electricity. When I first got the Beolit I had buyers remorse but that feeling has since long gone.

Unlike most other portable speaker systems, the Beolit uses AirPlay instead of Bluetooth which can be a good or bad thing depending on your requirements. Setting it up for the first time took around 5 minutes and was a fairly simple process as long as you follow the instructions. A lot of people online have complained about the setup being too complicated but I have no idea why. All you need to do is download the Beolit app from the Apple App Store and then follow the on screen instructions.

The Beolit 12 looks ridiculously cool. It comes in four colors, two being fairly safe grey tones and the other two coming in either blue or yellow. Mine is the yellow model which I think looks the best. The Beolit 12 has a leather handle which makes the whole thing resemble a picnic basket but it also makes the Beolit easy to carry around while giving it a bit of a retro feel. I took the Beolit with me to the beach and also out tagging and in both occasions I thought the Beolit performed really well. On the beach the Beolit was loud sounding like a full fledged sound system. The Beolit pumps out 100w worth of power and at full blast the sound is just too loud for comfort when you’re close to it. A couple of days later I took the Beolit with me to an abandoned parking lot where I did some tagging and the Beolit was super loud again with music most likely being heard by people passing by on the outside. Even though the speaker is fairly small it still manages to pump out a decent amount of bass for its size.

When home, I keep the Beolit in my bedroom connected to electricity, turned on and connected to the wifi network. That way when I want to play music on the Beolit it’s available right away. If you don’t keep your Beolit on with wifi on then it will take around a minute for it to turn on and connect to the wifi network before you can stream music to it. According to B&O battery life is 8 hours unless you’re using AirPlay then its 4 hours. I had the Beolit on the beach for 3 hours playing music at 80% volume and battery was down to around 54% by then. So I guess at lower volumes it could last 8 hours and maybe even more.

I have two gripes about the device. The first night I had the Beolit on the table and when I tried to slide it towards me one of the rubber feet came off. I put it back on and it hasn’t fallen since but I informed the dealer and they told me to let them know if it falls off again. Hopefully it won’t. The second issue is the lack of Bluetooth. Although I love AirPlay at home when I’m out of the house I would rather stream music wirelessly to the Beolit and not have to use a USB cable.

Other than those two issues I really love the Beolit 12. It costs KD250 which is pretty pricy but there really isn’t any other portable unit that delivers the same sound quality while still looking this good.


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Review: Breville 800 Juicer

Posted by Mark

Around a month ago I picked up the Breville 800 Juicer and since then I have been using it on practically a daily basis. I love it, like really love it.

I was wandering the Xcite aisles in Avenues killing time waiting for a friend when I stopped by the juicers section. I was checking out some of the Philips juicers which I thought looked pretty cool when a salesman came up and started telling me about a deal they had on the Breville juicer. I hadn’t heard of the brand before and was kinda bothered he was showing the Breville to me when I told him I had my eye on the Philips. I decided to check and see what the reviews on Amazon had to say about the Breville juicer and to my surprise there were over 900 reviews giving the juicer an average rating of 4.5 out of 5. I was intrigued.

My friend had come by then and we left the store but I still had the juicer stuck in my mind. Over 900 reviews and a 4.5? How good is this freakin’ juicer? I started researching it a bit on my phone and from what I read it was basically the best home juicer you could by so once I was done with dinner I headed back to the store and picked one up.

The Breville 800 is heavy since the whole unit is made of stainless steel. Everything about it screams heavy duty including the old school button and switch. The one on Amazon is listed as 1000watts but the one I picked up is a whopping 1,500. No idea if the Americans measure watts differently or if the US machines are electronically detuned so they’re more eco friendly but the fact that the 1,000w version got such high ratings made me wonder how much of a rating the exact same machine with 50% more power would get.

Using this juicer like every other juicer is fairly simple, you throw the fruits in from one end and juice flows out from the other. But while some juicers might struggle with some hard fruits I couldn’t find anything that would give the Breville 800 difficulty. I’ve actually been making juice from random vegetables and fruits I have lying around in the fridge from apples and carrots to asparagus and zuccini. I don’t cut or peel anything not even the apples. I just throw everything in and the juicer juices without any issues.

My only complaint about the machine isn’t really a complaint but more of a fantasy request which is someone needs to invent a juicer that will clean itself. Although the Breville is pretty easy to clean and take apart it’s still a chore. Other than that flaw I really really love this juicer. I don’t remember the exact price I paid for the juicer, I think it was originally priced at around 126 and they had a special offer and selling it for KD66. But, I just checked the Xcite website and it’s showing the retail price at KD99 and after discount the price is now KD54. My guess is they dropped the price even further to sell all their stock because the website is now showing the juicer is out of stock. So sucks for anyone who wants one cuz looks like you can’t get one anymore. [Link]

Note: All photos except for the first one on top are stock photos.

Update: Looks like juicer is now back in stock

Update2: Ok it’s back out of stock again…


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