Categories
Reviews Travel

London Hotel Review: Kingsland Locke

A couple of days back ago I got back from a 10-day trip to London. Other than a day stopover in 2018 on my way from LA, it was my first time back in London since 2015. I flew Kuwait Airways which btw, is so much better than flying British Airways. Firstly the timings of the flights make a lot more sense (no late night flight so no need to sleep on the plane) but also the overall experience is better because of the Kuwait Airways airport and the less busy flight. Because I was staying for 10 days I needed a reasonably priced hotel that wasn’t a shoebox, was somewhat trendy looking and located in a great area. After doing a ton of research I decided to stay at the Kingsland Locke in Dalston.

I hadn’t heard of Dalston nor had I been to it up until this trip. It’s an area in East London, part of the Hackney borough. If you’ve been to Shoreditch before then it’s around a 30-minute walk up from there. Dalston turned out to be the best place I could imagine staying. I had the award-winning bakery The Dusty Knuckle like a 5-minute walk from my hotel so that sorted out my breakfast and coffee routine every morning. Instead of losing weight on this trip because of all the walking, I think I put on weight because of all the pastries I was having every morning. I was also within walking distance from the bar 🔶🟥🔵 which became my go-to spot for a nightcap and to chill at the end of the day.

I was also surrounded by loads of grocery stores including M&S and Amazon Fresh (post on that coming soon). There was also a Pret-A-Manger, a community garden and an amazing Indian restaurant called Attawa all a few minute’s walk.

The area is connected to the rest of London via Overground and there were two different stations next to the hotel, one that was a 2-minute walk and another a 5-minute walk. Both stations were on different lines so it made getting anywhere rather simple and quick. Shoreditch and Peckham were both reachable without swapping any trains while areas like Oxford Circus or Notting Hill would require swapping to the Underground line which was just 2-stops away.

The hotel itself was pretty cool. It gave off a slight hipster vibe but it was subtle. The interior was nicely designed, and the staff were friendly. The hotel works like a short stay apartment which it what helps keep the costs down. It’s like a tiny studio apartment so you get a fully functioning kitchen in the room and a laundry area in the basement if you need it. There isn’t a daily cleaning service, depending on how long you’re staying you might get a complimentary clean included or you can request it for an extra cost. If you want new towels, shampoos, toilet paper etc, you can just request those at the front desk.

I stayed in their City Studio room which was fairly small but larger than the room I stayed in last year at The Hoxton in Paris (which also cost twice as much). The bed and pillows were super comfy, and the whole room gave a very cozy vibe. Even though this hotel was one of the affordable ones I found, it still cost KD60 a night, so it’s attainable but wouldn’t call it cheap. You can obviously find cheaper rooms but don’t think you can find one that has as cool a personality and vibe that was located in a good area. I’d totally stay there again if I go back.

If you’re traveling to London this Eid and haven’t booked a place to stay in yet then check this place out. Here is a link to the hotel website Link

Categories
Apple Reviews

iPad Mini 2021 Followup Review

A couple of months back I got a new iPad Mini from Xcite and posted a review about it. I spoke about how it would most likely replace my 12.9″ iPad Pro for traveling because of it’s small form factor, and since that post, I’ve actually done just that. I’ve taken my iPad Mini on three trips so far and here is a quick followup review.

Firstly, as I had predicted, the size of the iPad Mini is perfect for traveling. It’s light so it doesn’t add much weight to my backpack, and it’s small enough to fit on the plane’s dropdown table even when not fully extended. I wish I had a photo but I also managed to fit it right next to my food tray, I just had it angled on a corner so I could eat and watch my shows at the same time. The battery life has also been great, unless you’re on a long-haul 16-hour flight from Dubai to LA, you’re not going to need to charge the iPad Mini for the whole trip.

I did come across a downside though and that’s the storage space. I have the 64GB version which I thought would be more than enough for storing shows and movies for my flights but that’s not the case. Well, I also like to take a lot more shows and movies than there is time to watch because I like to have options. So for a two-hour trip I’d like to have around 20 hours worth of content to watch and I can just choose what I want. I mix it up with different genres as well as durations, so some 20min shows, some longer 50min ones, some comedy, some drama etc. But now I’m traveling to London tomorrow and I don’t have enough space to carry the ratio of content to trip duration (In my case it’s like 10:1 I guess 😅). So far this is the content I have downloaded for my trip:

Amazon Video
The Outlaws – 6 Episodes

Apple TV+
CODA – Movie
Severance – 1 Episode
Slow Horses – 1 Episode
The Afterparty – 4 Episodes

HBO MAX
Julia – 3 Episodes
Raised by Wolves – 4 Episodes

Netflix
Indian Matchmaking – 4 Episodes
Formula 1: Drive to Survive – 3 Episodes
Cobra Kai – 6 Episodes
Space Force – 6 Episodes
The Tinder Swindler – Movie
Kate – Movie
Murderville – 6 Episodes

Paramount+
Star Trek: Picard – 4 Episodes
Mayor of Kingstown – 4 Episodes

Showtime
American Rust – 4 Episodes

Not sure if you think that’s a lot or not but for a 6+ hour trip that’s not enough content for me to pick and choose from. In addition to the above, I have around 21 magazines downloaded and I just tried downloading one more and it’s telling me I don’t have enough space. So unlike what I originally stated in my review, 64GB actually isn’t enough and I’d now recommend the 256GB version instead. Other than that, the iPad Mini is the perfect media companion on flights. Here is a link to my previous review.

Categories
Reviews Travel

RIMOWA After-Sales Service Review

Back in 2019 I bought my first RIMOWA bag, a medium-sized check-in Original which is part of their aluminum series. Since then I’ve fallen more in love with the brand and ended up purchasing two more, a cabin version of the bag and a large check-in.

I bought the large bag recently, back in October when I was in Europe. I ended up shopping a lot more than I expected and so couldn’t fit all my stuff in my medium-sized bag and so decided to buy the large one to match my other two. I used the bag once on that trip to fly back to Kuwait, and then I used it again when I went to Istanbul last month.

When I got to Istanbul I removed the sticky luggage tag from the handle and noticed the paint peeled off the handle. I don’t mind my bag getting dented and scratched up, it’s part of the reason I got a metal suitcase to begin with, but paint peeling off the plastic handle just looked bad. It was also weird because it didn’t happen with my other two bags which I’ve owned for longer and traveled with a lot more. I figured it must be a production issue so once I got back to Kuwait I shot off an email to customer support on the main RIMOWA website to get the problem sorted under warranty.

In less than 24 hours I got a response back from RIMOWA asking for my bag’s serial number as well as asking me some questions and if I could share a photo. Then the next day I got a phone call from the RIMOWA dealer in Kuwait who were super nice and asked me to drop off the bag whenever I was free to their store in Avenues. When I did drop the bag off they even offered to fix the dents on my bag which I told them to not to. A day or two later I got a call back telling me the bag was ready to pick up, they had replaced the handle with a new one.

It was super easy, probably the easiest warranty fix experience I’ve ever had with any brand which is why I wanted to write about it. After living with the RIMOWA bags for a few years now, and after having dealt with the local dealer, I can’t recommend the brand enough. No competition, they’re the best travel luggage you can get.

Categories
Apple Reviews

Review: Apple’s New 14-inch MacBook Pro

Back in 2020, I purchased the 16-inch MacBook Pro. I’d never been a fan of large laptops and so not sure what got into me but decided I’d buy the largest one Apple sold and I regretted the minute I got it. I mentioned in my original review that a month into using the laptop I had gotten slightly more comfortable with it but it really didn’t progress much further than that. It definitely wasn’t a laptop to take on trips with, and I’m not even talking plane trips, I hated taking my laptop to the office or into the next room just because of how big and bulky it was.

I don’t tend to change laptops a lot, my average cycle is around once every 4 years so this is the quickest change I’ve done, 2 years after purchasing the 16-inch MacBook Pro I went ahead and purchased the latest 14-inch one.

The new 14-inch Macbook Pro might be the best laptop I’ve ever owned, even competing with all my favorite iBooks from the early 2000’s including the 12″ PowerBook.

Where do I begin? Let’s talk about the size first, although 14″ doesn’t sound much smaller than 16″, and even though in photos it doesn’t look that much smaller, in reality, the difference is huge. As I’ve been doing since 2001, the first thing I order when I buy a new laptop is a black Waterfield SleeveCase. The sleeve offers plenty of protection so I tend to throw around my laptops into the backseat of my car, on the car floor, or onto my desk. Throwing around the 14-inch feels so easy now that I’ve come from the larger 16-inch. I know how easy throwing around a laptop isn’t something you’d think of when buying a new laptop but it’s really something that we all do. The 14-inch is easier to carry around, shove into places, and is a much more portable machine than the 16-inch was.

Another issue I had with the 16-inch was the battery life. It wasn’t that great and lasted around 4-hours. The new 14-inch lasts so much longer that I’m going to compare it to my iPad. I don’t charge my iPad daily even though I use it daily. The new MacBook is the same, since I got my MacBook over a month ago if I really think about it I could probably tell you exactly how many times I’ve charged it. The battery easily lasts over 10 hours so I don’t charge it every night but more like every 3 or 4 days now. I usually keep the laptop on my couch in my living room when I go to sleep while with the 16-inch I’d take it back to my desk so I can charge it and have it ready for the next day. It feels freeing not having to charge the laptop every night.

The keyboard is another thing that is just amazing about the laptop, the best keyboard I’ve used to date on any laptop. Firstly the touch bar is gone which is good news. Although I was a huge fan of it when it first came out, Apple never really expanded its features or abilities so over time I just started wishing I had regular buttons.

Other things to mention, the laptop has a notch similar to how new iPhones do but they’re less noticeable on the MacBook. It doesn’t bother me at all and it makes me feel like I have more screen space because the menu bar has now moved up to where the camera is, instead of it feeling like the menu bar is eating up important screen real estate. That top menu bar strip feels like bonus space. Apple also brought back some ports including the SD card slot which I just got to use now for the first time to move photos from my camera to my laptop. Very practical but I won’t use it that much myself. I also need to mention how good the new MacBook feels to hold. Both my MacBook Air and my 16-inch MacBook Pro have sharp edges whole the new 14-inch has softer rounded edges and so feels really great in my hands. Finally, the new MacBook looks very hot, one of the best-looking laptops to date.

So like I mentioned at the start of this post, this new 14-inch MacBook Pro is one of the best laptops I’ve ever owned. I love it a lot and already feel so attached to it that I put up my 16-inch for sale without hesitation. I also got it for a pretty good deal, Amazon had a $200 off offer on the 14-inch so I ended up buying it for KD530. I just checked now and they actually have the laptop discounted right now at KD546, so not as good a deal as I got but still cheaper than retail. If you’re looking for a laptop I can’t recommend this one enough. Definitely get it.

Categories
Apple Reviews

Review: Apple iPad Mini (2021)

I’ve always been very fascinated with compact computers I guess ever since I saw the original Nokia Communicator 9000 with Val Kilmer in the 1997 film, The Saint. Since then I’ve had a bunch of mini computers including the Nokia Communicator 9110, Sony Clie UX-50, Asus Eee 900, and the MSI Wind. I think this is why I’ve always wanted an iPad Mini and after spotting the purple one at an Apple store in Amsterdam while on vacation, I decided it was time I got one. So after getting back to Kuwait I got in touch with Xcite and managed to get my hands on one.

Full disclosure, I have a long-standing relationship with Xcite who provided me with this iPad. They’ve been very supportive of the blog from the very early days and they’ve lent or given me a number of items over the years to review, as well as hooking me up with discounts. I’m a huge Xcite fan.

Firstly right off the bat, I’ll tell you that I tried my best to capture in the photos how beautiful the purple color of this new iPad Mini is, but I’ve failed at doing so. The purple Mini combined with the dark cherry Apple cover I got for it looks amazing, you really need to see it in person because my photos don’t do it justice. Color aside, I also love the new form factor of the Mini which now follows the updated design language of the larger iPads and new iPhones. Gone are the curvy soft edges which are now replaced with the sharper sides that I think give it a timeless look. One reason I felt so comfortable with the Mini right away is that it feels like a Kindle in my hands, and side by side with one, you’ll see below they’re pretty close.

The iPad Mini is tiny and incredibly light, especially when compared to my huge 12.9″ iPad Pro. It’s not as light as my Kindle, but it’s light enough that I can hold it for an hour while reading magazines and not feel bothered by the weight. And yeah, I’ve mostly been using my Mini to read magazines, RSS feeds, and documents. Although my iPad Pro’s larger screen makes the magazine experience more natural due to the size of the pages on the screen, it’s a much more comfortable experience on the Mini because of how lightweight it is. One thing I found surprising, the iPad Mini is actually small enough to fit into the front pockets of my pants. I wouldn’t walk around with an iPad in my front pocket, but the idea that I could, if I needed to, makes it very convenient.

I’ve had the iPad Mini for a few weeks now and it’s replaced both my laptop and iPhone for casual browsing while watching TV. It’s kinda like having a phone in your hands but better because of the larger screen. But, it is a very odd size and I’m not sure who I would recommend this iPad for. It’s not going to replace your phone since it’s not a phone, but it’s also really small so if you’re thinking of getting an iPad, it wouldn’t be the size you’d want to get. It’s not even the cheapest iPad so it wouldn’t be the one you’d get for your kids either.

I think the iPad Mini is meant for people like me who already have a regular-sized iPad and a regular-sized iPhone and are looking for something in between. It’s not something I need, but something I’m finding uses for. For example, I currently take my iPad Pro with me when I travel so I can watch shows on the plane. But I don’t like taking my MacBook Air with me when I do that since my backpack becomes too heavy. Now I can take both my MacBook Air and iPad Mini with me and the weight is fine. I’ve also started using the iPad Mini when working on my cars to load up documents. Previously I was using my iPhone, but the Mini’s larger screen makes reading instructions from a distance much easier. If you get a Mini you’ll find uses for it.

One issue I should mention I have with the Mini is the battery life. According to Apple, both my larger iPad Pro and new iPad Mini have a similar battery life, but that can’t be the case because I feel my iPad Mini’s battery drains a lot faster. Maybe it’s because I spend so much time on it, more than I would on the Pro, but I don’t think so. Another thing I’m kind of disappointed about is the fact Apple doesn’t make a keyboard for the iPad Mini. It’s the one thing I really wish it had because my idea of a mini computer always involves a keyboard. There are some third-party ones available, but I haven’t found one yet that I liked. I do have the Apple Pen which works with the Mini, but I rarely use it. Finally, the last issue I have with the Mini is the Touch ID. The iPad Mini doesn’t have facial recognition and instead uses Touch ID which is located on the power button to unlock the iPad. You’re meant to touch it and it scans your fingerprint and then unlocks. It’s been a few weeks and I still haven’t gotten used to it yet and I tend to spend a lot of time accidentally turning off the iPad when trying to unlock it. It’s super annoying.

When I spoke to Xcite about getting an iPad Mini I requested the entry-level 64GB model because that’s really more than enough for my needs. Also, because this is going to supplement my various Macbooks, iPads and phone, it doesn’t really make sense financially to get anything more expensive than the entry-level model which already costs quite a bit at KD160. So that’s the model I’d recommend, I also wouldn’t bother with the 5G models since you can always tether your iPad to your phone.

In conclusion, I’m loving my Mini. Not sure who to recommend it to but if you’ve been thinking about getting one I’d pull the trigger and get it. It’s fast, the speakers are loud and the size is perfect. To check out the various iPad Mini models and colors available, here is a link to the Xcite website.

Categories
Reviews

Review: Princess Smart Glass Heater

The weather suddenly got a lot cooler last week so I decided I’d get a heater for my apartment. I didn’t have any heaters since I tend to buy those cheap 8-10kd oil heaters and then give them away at the end of winter because they take up a lot of space. To stop myself from giving the heater away this year, I decided I’d splurge and get a nice fancy one, that way I’d be forced to find a place to store it till I need it again next year.

I checked out Best, Xcite, Eureka and the new Cloud9 store for oil heaters and I narrowed my options down to two, a DeLonghi and a Heller. But, I also spotted an interesting-looking heater on the Xcite website, the Princess Smart Glass heater. It was a convection panel heater, came with Wifi and also had the option to connect to Alexa and Siri. Since I wanted the heater that same day, I decided I’d head to Xcite Al-Rai and pick it up myself instead of having to wait for them to deliver it.

The Glass Heater comes in two colors, black and white. I ended up going with the black which compliments my living room nicely. It’s a slim heater and so I managed to tuck it into a dead corner of my room which actually means I can keep it there all year round and not have to store it anywhere. Setting up the heater was fairly easy but I wasn’t able to add it to Alexa. The Alexa “Skill” required to be installed to add the heater is located on the Amazon UK website while my Alexa is set up to use the Amazon US website which doesn’t have the required skill. But I did download the heater app on my phone and I now use it to turn off and on the heater as well as control the temperature but I would have preferred to just say “Alexa, turn on the heater”.

As a heater, the unit performs really well. I tend to turn it off when I leave the house and then turn it on remotely before I’m back again. My living room is around 5x5m and it heats it fairly easily. At KD55 it’s one of the most expensive home heaters you can buy but it’s such a nice looking heater that I don’t mind. Plus, the ability to connect to it remotely is also a big benefit since it means I can just turn the heater on before getting home instead of having to come home to a cold room and then turn it on and wait for it to heat up.

Now the only issue is that as of this post, both the black and white versions of the heater are sold out on the Xcite website. I think I picked up the last black one and there was another guy who I think bought the last white one at the same time while I was there. They did have both models on display in their Al-Rai showroom so you might still be able to buy the display models if they haven’t been sold already.

Here is the link to both the black and white versions on Xcite. Link

Categories
Photography Reviews Videos

Review: DJI Mini 2 Drone

It’s been a year now since the DJI Mini 2 got launched but I just got mine a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been wanting the DJI Mini 2 ever since it was released so a few weeks ago I got in touch with Xcite and asked them if I could get one to review. I’m not a drone expert so this review is directed at other people like me, beginners basically. The Mini 2 shoots in 4K, is pretty tiny, and it’s also really light weighing just 249g. If you want more detailed specs of the Mini 2 there are tons of videos on YouTube that do just that. Instead, I’m going to give you my opinion on why I think this is the best drone a beginner can get right now.

Full disclosure, I have a long-standing relationship with Xcite who provided me with this drone. They’ve been very supportive of the blog from the very early days and they’ve lent or given me a number of items over the years to review, as well as hooking me up with discounts. I’m a huge Xcite fan.

I’m not sure where to start this review since I’m really excited about the drone, and I wasn’t expecting to be. If you’ve never owned a drone before it can be a bit intimidating at first and even if you have had a drone before, maybe a basic one like the original Mini 1 or the Spark, then flying probably still intimidates because of certain limitations like the battery life and connection issues. At least those were the two things that kept me from flying my drone often and both those things no longer are an issue with the Mini 2.

The last drone I had was the DJI Spark which was pretty good but most of the time I’d have connection issues once it got to a certain height, distance or if I was flying in an area like Salmiya which caused a lot of interference. It was freaky because I didn’t want to lose the drone and it made me a lot more cautious whenever I wanted to take it out. The DJI Mini 2 on the other hand uses a different connection technology called OcuSync and I think this is my favorite new feature. I haven’t had a single situation, not even for a second where I had a connection problem. I’ve flown it out far and as high as it can get and haven’t had a signal drop or even a low signal warning. It’s made flying the drone so much more enjoyable and it’s given me much more confidence.

The other feature I’ve been loving on the Mini 2 is the battery life which now lasts up to 30 minutes. That’s a lot of time which is great cuz I always felt so rushed with the Spark which only had around 15 minutes of battery life. Last week I headed out to Sulaibikhat to film the flamingos and I actually spent a lot of time just hovering my drone low near the water just watching them on my screen. It would take around 5 minutes to reach them since I was parked pretty far from their location and another 5 minutes to get back but with that, I still had around 20 minutes left of just pure stalking time. It’s enough time to get completely immersed and zoned out, I literally spent all my time just watching flamingos catch their food and eat as if I had my own private National Geographic channel. Whenever the battery was going to die the drone would just let me know and then start flying back to me. Really easy.

OcuSync and the battery life together have made me want to take out the drone more often and not have to worry about anything which is why I think it’s the perfect beginner’s drone. I can just focus on shooting and not worry about the other things. When the weather was misty this past weekend I just parked next to the Kuwait Towers and casually took the drone out to see if I can capture the towers coming out through the fog. It’s such an easy thing to do now and it’s because I’m no longer worried about flying the drone. After reaching a height taller than the towers I realized the fog was too high and had completely engulfed it, so I decided instead to fly towards the city to see if I could capture Hamra Tower. I didn’t end up getting a good shot but just the fact that I was able to on a whim head into the city with my drone is something I’d never have done with the Spark.

The DJI Mini 2 is really everything I’ve wanted into a drone. Something small, light, have a long battery life, and no connection issues. It’s made me want to fly the drone much more and given me the confidence to do so. If you want to get into drone photography, this has to be the best drone to start off with. I got the DJI Mini 2 “Fly More Combo” pack which comes with three batteries, a charging hub, extra propellers, and even a nice carrying case. The price of the full package is 175KD and you can get one from Xcite.

Categories
Automotive Geek Reviews

Track Your Car or Pet with Tracki

A couple of weeks ago when I posted about my Datsun, a reader suggested I install a hidden GPS tracker on it. I thought about it and it kinda made sense so I decided to see how much one would cost. After doing a lot of research, I ended up getting a GPS tracker called Tracki.

There were a number of reasons I chose Tracki including:
– it came with a sim card
– it would work worldwide
– the monthly subscription was around $14
– it has a 4 out 5 rating on Amazon with 24,000+ reviews
– the tracker cost only $10!

Other things I also looked at were battery life and what kind of connection it had, in this case, Tracki charged over normal micro-USB and battery life depended on how often I wanted it to ping back the location. For example, if I wanted to update the location every 2 hours, then the battery life would last 12-15 days. If I wanted the location to be updated every 6 hours then the battery life would last 22-26 days. On the other hand, if I wanted live tracking where the tracker would update the location every few minutes, then battery life would only last 3-5 days.

The battery life clearly isn’t that great but there is a simple workaround. You could either hardwire the tracker into your car either by getting an adapter to plug it into your OBD port (most new cars have it), or you could run a USB cable to the tracker from your cars USB port of fusebox, that way whenever the car is on it’s charging your tracker. In my case, I decided I would just strap a power bank to it. I have a few laying around the house that I don’t use and one is more than enough to keep the tracker running for a couple of months. Even if I have to swap the battery out every month that wouldn’t be too much of an issue.

So does it work? Yeah, it does. At any time I can just launch the Tracki app and check and see where my car is or where it was. So not only can I know where my car is at any given moment, but I can also view the history of where it’s been. That’s useful if say your car was stolen and then taken and parked somewhere underground. You could at least track the car before it went underground. And then if say for some reason the tracker can’t get you an accurate GPS point, it can continue to give you a rough idea of where it is using wifi or cell towers to triangulate its location.

Attaching the tracker to your car is very easy, you can either use the magnet on the back of the unit to attach it to a metal surface, or use the double-sided tape that came with it to stick it somewhere. If you’re connecting it to the collar of your pet, you could use the rubber case which has a lanyard or keychain hole in it.

There are a couple of negatives with Track the first being the Tracki app. It just feels over-complicated and buggy. For example, sometimes I try to save settings and get an error when in reality it actually saved the settings. Also, battery life is probably the biggest issue. Not sure if it’s because I was playing with the settings too much or what exactly, but I have the tracker set up to update the location every 4 hours which means the battery life should last 18-22 days, but it ended up lasting me just a week. It’s not that big of a deal since I’ll be strapping a battery pack to it, but if you’re using the tracker say to track your pet, you can’t really attach a battery pack to it. One more thing that is annoying is that 1 subscription covers 1 device. So if you get a tracker for all your cars you don’t get to share an account or even a discounted rate.

If you’re interested in getting Tracki, the price on Amazon fluctuates between $9.88 and $14.88. Amazon can also ship the device to you directly and that cost me an additional $21.59. You could ship it to your Aramex Shop&Ship account and pay less but I didn’t want to wait that long. Here is the link to Tracki on Amazon.com

Categories
Apple Reviews

Should you get the new iPhone 13 Pro?

After accidentally pre-ordering the wrong iPhone 13 Pro from the online Apple Store, I finally got my hands on the one I wanted from Xcite. I skipped the iPhone 12 Pro last year so was really looking forward to seeing how different the 13 was going to be from my 11 Pro. In short, turns out not that different really.

Full disclosure, I have a long-standing relationship with Xcite who provided me with this iPhone to keep. They’ve been very supportive of the blog from the very early days and they’ve lent or given me a number of items over the years to review, as well as hooking me up with discounts. I’m a huge Xcite fan.

Firstly let’s get the price out of the way since that seems to be the most controversial thing. Purchasing the iPhone locally even from authorized resellers is a lot more expensive than purchasing the phone from the US Apple Store online. When I accidentally ordered the 512GB iPhone 13 Pro online, with shipping to Kuwait and with Apple’s silicon case the total came out to 420KD. In Kuwait, the official retail price of the 512GB is 470KD. That’s 50KD more and doesn’t even include the case which costs around 20KD. So 70KD more expensive than ordering it from the US. But, on the bright side, the prices in Kuwait are cheaper than Europe. I considered buying the iPhone when I was in Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago but the prices there were more expensive than in Kuwait. The 512GB was selling for 525KD at the Apple Store which is 55KD more expensive than Kuwait. So Europe > Kuwait > US.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the phone. Going from the iPhone 11 Pro to the 13 Pro I was expecting to see a big jump. Not sure why since my 11 Pro was doing perfectly fine. I didn’t think my phone was slow, the battery was lasting great, the cameras were good, the OLED screen was fantastic and facial recognition was the best thing although I wished it had a fingerprint reader last year. I’ve been using the 13 Pro for around a week now and it still feels like I have my old phone. No major difference, in fact, other than the more boxy shape of the phone and the 3x zoom vs the 2x zoom on my previous phone, I don’t think I’d be able to tell I was using a different phone.

The new iPhone 13 Pro has a much higher screen refresh rate, 120Hz vs 60Hz in the old phone. The higher refresh rate is meant to make scrolling look smoother but in reality, I don’t see any difference. Maybe if I put my old phone next to my new one and scroll down a long website at the same time I’ll notice a difference, but that’s now how I use my phone. I think this is a feature that’s been overhyped, I’m sure it’s good to have, just wouldn’t be something I’d highlight. The notch on top is also meant to be smaller but I only noticed the difference a while ago while taking the side-by-side shots with my old phone. Finally, the camera which improves every year is also meant to be better but again in normal use, I’m not seeing much of a difference. The whole transition to this new phone has been very… subtle.

I think the biggest difference between my new phone and old one is how much louder the speakers are on the new phone. They’re at least 25 to 50% louder and I love that. Another great improvement I noticed just yesterday is the battery life. I was out of the house all day and by 7PM I had 20% battery left and the phone hadn’t been charged all day, not even in the car since I was in my old Alfa.

Really the things that are catching my attention are mostly negative. For example, the new zoom lens on the iPhone is 3x zoom vs 2x on the previous models. I tend to shoot food shots mostly with the 2x zoom since it allows me to avoid shadows but I still haven’t gotten used to the new 3x zoom and thats because I now have to move further away from my food to the point I have to push my chair back to be able to fit my subject onto the phone. 3x is better than 2x most of the time, so I just need to get used to it. Another issue I have with the phone is the magnetic back. I’ve been using a magnet to mount my phones in the car for years. It’s super practical, you just put this very thin metal between your phone and phone cover, and then it just snaps onto the magnetic phone mount that came with it. It makes removing and mounting your phone super easy. The only issue is you can’t use the wireless charging feature because of the metal plate. Starting with last year’s iPhones, Apple placed magnets inside the phone to use with various accessories like phone covers and magnetic wireless chargers. I was hoping this would mean I would no longer have to place the metal plate behind my iPhone but turns out I still have to. Although the iPhone can attach to my car mount without a metal plate now, it’s not strong enough to hold it on rough roads and so my phone would keep falling.

OK, I’ve realized my post is starting to sound negative but I’m not trying to be. The new iPhone is great, it’s better than my 11 Pro in every way and will be better than any older iPhone. But, if you’re expecting a big jump going up from the 11 Pro or the 12 Pro, you’re going to be disappointed. When friends have been asking me if they should upgrade or not I’ve only been telling people with the iPhone X or older phones to get the new one. If you’re on the 11 or 12 Pro you don’t really need to make the jump. The iPhones are so good they can easily hold you for a few years without really losing out on much.

If you’re interested in getting a new iPhone, they’re pretty hard to come by since they’re in high demand. Xcite have a few of the iPhone 13 models in stock as of this post and you can check them all out on their website.

Categories
Reviews Shopping

Drops Grocery Store App

You’ve probably seen the ads on the roads for Drops, they’re a grocery store app where you order your items from and they’d deliver them to you. There are a bunch of other grocery store delivery apps but I was attracted to Drops for the simplicity which is why I’ve been using them.

I generally used to love grocery shopping in person but that was mostly when Sultan Center Shaab was open. The place was never too busy and it was always a good calming experience shopping there. Once that location shut down I never really got used to shopping at another supermarket and covid after that just made things worse. I live next to Lulu in Salmiya but that place is so overcrowded and tight, it’s never a chill experience shopping there. The old Sultan Center in Salmiya on the other hand looks great with their new redesigned interior but somehow managed to make the checkout process an even worse experience than before. I’ve stopped shopping there completely because of the checkout layout which is chaotic, squeezed and so old-fashioned. They really should have installed some self-checkout counters at least, it’s 2021! Or at least, at the very least set up a single queue multiple counters layout.

When vacationing in Europe a couple of weeks back I barely dealt with any cashiers, most places I shopped in were self-checkout and a lot of places now had RFID baskets where you just place your items next to the checkout screen and the machine prices everything in it. Super convenient.

Anyway back to Drops. I’ve used them a few times and I like them. Unlike some other apps, with Drops you don’t pick a supermarket and then shop for items. Instead, you treat Drops as a large supermarket and not just a delivery platform. You can shop either by category, brand, or just search for the specific items directly and add it to your cart. You can also create various “wishlists” of items you usually order to make it easier to add the next time. I’ve used them a bunch of times and the items generally arrive within 2 hours. The first time it took longer than 2 hours and they credited my account back with the delivery charge. All the items arrive in Drops branded boxes or bags and the delivery guy has a small trolly so you can order boxes of water for example and not feel guilty about the delivery guy having to carry them.

The worst thing about Drops though is their tracking system is shit. All my orders that were already delivered still showing as “Being Prepared”. When the item goes out for delivery you can’t tell nor can you track the driver even though these features are built into the app, they just never progress past the “Being Prepared” stage.

The prices of the items on Drops are similar to what I pay when I go to the supermarket myself. The only difference is I now pay 1KD to have them deliver the items which really isn’t that bad considering how much time they save me as well as having them deliver the heavy boxes of water instead of me having to carry them up from my car in multiple trips.

If you want to try them out they’re on instagram @dropskuwait and you can download the app from the Apple and Android app stores.

Categories
Reviews Shopping

DesertCart Free Shipping Works

Last month I posted about DesertCart Plus, a service by the Amazon dropshipping website DesertCart where for 5KD a month you get unlimited free shipping. The only caveat was it only applied to items that weren’t oversized, and DesertCart refused to define what “oversized” was exactly. So you’d only know if your item was oversized or not after placing the order. I mentioned I was going to order a few things small things to try it out and I ended up doing just that.

I signed up to the DesertCart Plus free trial and ordered two items, both very small and cheap, cheap as in shipping would cost more than the item which would mean it usually wouldn’t be worth ordering. One item was an adapter for my tire inflator (KD 2.900) and the other a battery disconnect switch (KD 3.200).

Both items ended up shipping and being delivered to me for free, just as described. In hindsight, I should have tried ordering a larger item to see if I’d run into any issues, but since DesertCart doesn’t define what oversized is, I don’t think that would have been very helpful of a test anyway unless I ordered multiple items in different weights.

Would I sign up to DesertCart Plus? No, but only because the service isn’t useful to me. This service is for people who tend to order a lot of small, light and cheap things off Amazon on a monthly basis. If you fall under that category then the service works. They offer a free trial anyway so you can give it a go yourself without paying the KD 5 monthly fee. Link

Categories
Food Reviews

Bonjiri Yakitori Restaurant

I’ve been meaning to try Bonjiri ever since they opened a few months ago but only got around to passing by last night. Bonjiri is located a couple of streets down from my place in Salmiya, right next to Tampopo. It’s actually for the same owner as Tampopo, Chef Maryam Alnusif (or just Mimi).

Yakitori means grilled bird in Japanese and that’s what the menu at Bonjiri mainly revolves around. The menu has a small appetizer section and a main section featuring a large selection of skewers, each made using a different part of the chicken. For example, you can order a chicken skewer that is made of inner thighs, or back meat, or breasts. If you’re really adventurous you can choose chicken tail, liver, or knee cartilage. There is no meat on the menu but there is duck, and sometimes, depending on her supplier, there could be seafood (there was octopus last night).

Since I hadn’t tried 90% of the chicken parts on the menu I had Mimi choose the skewers for me which resulted in a fairly exciting experience. I didn’t know what I would get until it was served to me and I was down to eat whatever she grilled as long as it wasn’t chicken wings (I’d rather eat chicken ass -which I did last night- but not eat chicken wings). Looking at my bill now, I had a total of 6 or 7 skewers with my favorite easily being the Tsukune Don. Tsukune is a chicken and duck meatball and comes with a side of tare egg yolk. You’re meant to burst the egg yolk using the tip of the skewer and then mix the sauce up before dropping and rolling your skewer into it. Once you’re done with your skewers, you pour the remaining sauce over a small bowl of butter rice and eat that. It was really delicious and like everything else I tried last night, it was a new flavor I hadn’t experience before.

The interior to Bonjiri is also one of my favorite parts. Mimi took everything she learned with Tampopo and created a new space that was similar in concept, just with all the bottlenecks and issues of Tampopo sorted out. The interior has a bar on both sides surrounding the kitchen which is now located in the middle of the space. Visually it looks like nothing else in Kuwait and as busy as the place will get, it won’t feel overcrowded and tight like it does at Tampopo.

Bonjiri has two prices for the skewers, KD1.750 for the main ones and KD1.500 for the “bold” skewers. There are also a few appetizers to choose from and an Eton Mess dessert to finish up with. If you’re interested to check the place out, they currently open only on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays from 3 to 9 PM. So if you can’t make it today, you’re going to have to wait till next Sunday to pass by. Here is their location on Google Maps and you can find them on Instagram @bonjiri.yakitori

Categories
Food Reviews

Golden Dragon Restaurant

Around 12 years ago I was introduced to a restaurant that had Korean BBQ, the only condition was I wouldn’t be allowed to post about it. I didn’t mind that, I had a few places that were just mine and not to share and just added Golden Dragon to that list. It was one of my favorite places and I used to frequent it a lot. It used to always be busy since the Huawei staff lived in a building nearby and they’d always pack the place. But, a few years ago I just stopped going, no particular reason, maybe because it was too far or some other reason I forgot, but I only went back again for the first time last week.

Golden Dragon is a small hole-in-the-wall Chinese/Korean restaurant in Mahboula. It used to be an interesting-looking space because of the network of DIY-looking vents that ran around the ceiling and would drop down to the table (the picture above is an old picture I took). These vents could be pulled down onto the table and be used to extract all the smoke and carbon monoxide coming out of the charcoal grill located in the middle of every table.

The place looks a lot different now, based on images posted up on Google it looks like the change happened 3 years ago around the time I stopped going. The interior is a lot darker than it used to be and the walls are now covered in wood with all the seating replaced with wooden benches and tables. It kinda looks more like a steakhouse than a Korean grill. The other major change is the fact the charcoal grills are no longer in the middle of the table but off to the side with the smoke extraction system built into the grill. It doesn’t work as efficiently as the previous system but does look more professional. I personally don’t like the way the place looks like now, and because the vents don’t work as well, you will 100% leave smelling like a BBQ.

I’ve only tried one thing on their menu, the beef. That’s it, never tried anything else on the menu nor am I interested to try anything else. I just like getting the raw beef and grilling it on the charcoal grill. I hate that the grill is off to the side now since previously when I’d go with friends everyone would grill their own food in the middle of the table. With the new set up you now need to assign a griller to do the grilling and that person is going to be the one closest to the grill.

The beef is still as good as I remember it being. They slice the beef a bit thicker now but it still tastes the same. The price of the dish is KD3.5 and you would need one per person plus maybe veggies on the side to grill (I go for sweet potato). I’m not aware of any other place in Kuwait that has a charcoal grill built into the table so Golden Dragon is unique in that. If you want to check the place out, here is their location on Google Maps.

Categories
Reviews Shopping

My DesertCart Experience

If you’ve ever searched for a product on Google then you’ve most likely come across the website DesertCart. It’s an online store that will ship and deliver items to you from around the world, think of it like if Amazon and Shop&Ship merged together because that’s what DesertCart is. DesertCart’s catalog is composed of items from various other websites but with the added convenience of being able to ship the items directly to you.

I haven’t had a reason to ever use them, I just order my stuff directly from Amazon to Kuwait or have items shipped to my Shop&Ship mailbox. But, a couple of weeks ago, I ordered a Dewalt Cordless Tire Inflator from Amazon. It’s really the best cordless inflator you can buy and my friend has one which we use at the race track. It’s super convenient and runs on batteries which you need to purchase separately since they aren’t included with it. The local Dewalt dealer sells 18V 5000mAh batteries for 35KD but I wanted to get 20V batteries which they don’t get locally. Amazon also doesn’t ship batteries directly to Kuwait nor does Shop&Ship. MyUS do ship batteries but they’re too expensive and so wouldn’t make sense with such a low-value item. So I started googling other options and I ended up finding a Dewalt 20V 4000mAh battery for sale on Desert Cart for 29.600KD plus 3KD to ship to Kuwait. So 32.600KD total and that also included customs. So I placed the order.

The battery turned out to be available in the UAE and within a couple of hours, it got sent to the DHL warehouse and prepared for shipping. I got a notice by email that the item was classified as “dangerous goods” and that it needed more handling and packaging but that they would still ship it. Due to it being classified as dangerous, shipping took a bit longer than usual since I don’t think batteries can’t be mailed on regular flights. A week later, I got the item.

Throughout the whole process, my order tracking was updated constantly, and overall my experience was pretty great and I’d order through them again, but I did run into issues:

  • Originally I wanted to purchase two batteries, for me and my friend, but every time I tried to pay for the items I got a weird error regarding payment. I got in touch with their customer support through live chat which was impressive, but after trying a few things and placing the order from different browsers, we couldn’t figure out the issue. I then tried purchasing just 1 battery and the order went through. Turns out that there was only 1 battery in stock which is why my previous orders were confusing their system.

  • The second issue I ran into was with my account. I have an account but no password, everytime I try to log in I need to enter a code that gets emailed to me. There doesn’t seem to be a way for me to create a password for my account and I think I have three different accounts with them all using the same email and number? I don’t know, it’s confusing because when I log in from the app on my phone, I can see my previous order. When I log in from the browser on my Macs, I can’t. Also, I verified my phone number on my MacBook but now when I logged in to DeserCart from my iMac I noticed my phone number wasn’t verified so I just verified it again. It’s really buggy.

  • All my issues with them seem to be related to random strange bugs, the menu button on the iPhone app for example pulls up an empty list (see above). It’s really odd because they’ve been around for years now so how come no one has run into all these issues before?

But, as I mentioned, my experience was pretty positive since I ended up getting an item which under normal circumstances I wouldn’t be able to get. Even talking to their customer support was a positive experience. I’m still not sure what I’d use DesertCart for again since I don’t need any more batteries, but what’s going to happen from now on is that anytime I want to order anything online, I’m going to check and compare the cost to DesertCart. I just really hope they work out all their kinks. Check them out at desertcart.com.kw

Have you tried them before? Did you face any issues?

Categories
Food Reviews

Hot Pot at the China Great Wall Restaurant

China Great Wall is my go-to hole in the wall for hot pot. Hot pot if you don’t know is a way of cooking at your table using a boiling pot of soup stock that you throw your raw ingredients into. You can order the pot in different flavors like spicy or none spicy or order a two-way pot which is a pot split in half and containing two different flavors of stock. You then have two pages worth of items you can order to cook ranging from different proteins like beef or lamb, to veggies like mushrooms and greens. It’s a lot of fun and the hot pot at China Great Wall is pretty good.

The price is also great costing just 2.5KD for a single flavored pot or 3.5KD if you want a two-way. In addition to the pot you then pay per ingredient, so a dish of raw beef for example is 2.250KD, pakchoi is 1KD, morning glory 750fils etc.. The place is fairly small with just 5 tables so it tends to get busy really quickly.

If you’re interested in trying China Great Wall, their instagram is @chinagreatwallrestaurant and here is their location on Google Maps.