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United international WiFi experience (HKG>EWR)

by Captain G on Mar.13, 2015, under Airlines

Follow up to my previous post about United’s international WiFi offering, I’d the chance to take advantage of United’s international WiFi service on United flight 180 from Hong Kong to Newark. I’ve been doing the EWR-HKG route since my previous post but none of those flights had a working electricity outlet which prevented me from forking over US$17 for 3 hours of internet service. On this flight, the electricity outlet on my seat is working which means I’ll have about 10 hours of internet connection for $17.

Soon after leaving Chinese air space where there is no satellite coverage, I was able to login to United WiFi using my United MileagePlus credentials. The signup process was extremely smooth as my credit card on file was shown and all I had to do was to check off the terms and conditions box and the purchase button.

The next thing I did was to test if I could use my paid subscription across multiple devices. The answer is YES. I was able to login to my Mac and iPhone BUT not at the same time. Each United MileagePlus account can only pay for one United WiFi subscription. You can however switch devices using your MileagePlus account as the login.

The second thing I did was to run a speedtest to check the connection speed. Below is the result flying over Japan:

As you can see from the connection speed results, do not expect to use United’s international WiFi connection to do anything beyond checking emails, browsing basic sites such as reading news, and writing this post ;-)

For the record, I’ve tried the following services:

  • FaceTime which timed out.
  • Skype call which worked but the voice quality was unbearable.
  • Websites with rich content (video and text) such as took about 30 seconds to load.

In summary, I think the $17 for approximately 10 hours (losing 3 hours flying out of China air space and about 2 hours to get above certain altitude to receive WiFi) is worth it.

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What and where to eat in Macau (like a local)?

by Captain G on Jan.19, 2015, under Business Travel, Vacation

Did you know Macau is a great place for foodies!? The old Portuguese colony is home to many famous restaurants inside all the casinos. To get a real taste of Macau, you must go to the local eateries; not to mention much better prices. So what should you eat in Macau? Where can you find the great local restaurants? See the map below for a top level guide:

1.  Traditional Southern (Guangdong) Chinese food. Macau has many local restaurants specializing in Guangzhou dishes including seafood and some exotic foods (shark fin, birds, turtles to name a few). You can find these local restaurants in to the left (West) of the Macau Historic Center (see map below of where the Shark Fin restaurant).

1a.  Shark Fin soup. Yes. Most people are against eating shark fin and are even illegal in parts of the world. If you’re in Macau, you should try this classic Chinese delicacy. Most traditional Chinese restaurants would have it on the menu. However you can stop by Tim Fatt Sharkfin House (添發碗仔翅美食) for a single bowl (for around US$10). Soup is also served with other seafood - not just shark fin.

2.  Fresh Pastries such as almond cookies. Macau has tons of bakeries on every street corner (and casino corner for that matter). Pastries in Macau are like Starbucks in New York City. At these pastries, you need to try their almond cookies which is freshly made on premise. I recommend you bypass the famous chains (i.e., Koi Kee) and try some local shops. This is my favorite: 最香餅家, which is located a few blocks from the shark fin soup restaurant (see map below).

3. Beef and Pork Jerky. At most pastry shops, you’ll also see fresh beef and pork jerky made on premise. There are many flavors and you can try them all as they are offered by most shop owners. Similar to my recommendation on pastries you should not buy beef jerky from the chain stores. Go to a local that specializes in making beef and pork jerky. Some even have boar jerky — ask to try it. You can find these shops in the Macau Historic Center or in Taipa Village where Tai Lei Loi is located (see map below)

4.  Chinese-Portuguese food. Since Macau was a Portuguese colony, you’ll find many Chinese-Portugese restaurants in the area. There are probably some inside the casinos.

5.  Wonton and Noodles. Wonton noodle shops are stables to Southeastern Chinese food. There are many noodle shops in Macau who make their own noodles. Notably these two shops: Cheong Kei and Wong Chi Kei. You can see their locations from the map shown above.

If you’re at Cheong Kei, you must try their fried wontons as they’re the best I have ever had. Their noodles are extremely firm.

6.  Pork Chop bun is a worthy mention here. There’s a local fast food restaurant called Tai Lei Loi famous for their pork chop buns. I was recently there and found the quality has gone down hill (not to mention the increased in price as they’ve moved from an outdoor setting to a formal restaurant). I recommended you pay them a visit and try for yourself. They’re located in Taipa Village which is across the road from Galaxy Hotel. See the map below for an idea of where they’re located. In Taipa Village, you’ll also see many beef jerky shops and fresh bakeries.

For more information on how to get around Macau for free, check out my previous blog.

Enjoy your time in Macau and eat well!

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United Airline offers International WiFi (from HKG to EWR)

by Captain G on Oct.15, 2014, under Airlines

On my recent United flight from Hong Kong to Newark, I was caught off guard by the availability of WiFi being offered for an international route. And of all the airlines in the world, it was United offering this service. I was skeptical as we were flying over China and all I got was “Internet is unavailable.”

However, once I left China airspace I was successfully able to connect to the Internet using my Mileage Plus credentials. After I logged in, I see the cost to buy Internet services for the entire flight ($17) or by the hour which I believe was $4.99 per hour. The HKG to EWR flight was about 16 hours.  I was able to get service 4 hours after takeoff which leaves me 12 hours of flight time for around $20. I didn’t have to urge to check email and opted to sleep.

I believe United’s international WiFi is an awesome offering for those who need to stay connected with work while on a long haul flight. The $20 for 12 hours seems to be a fair price as well. However don’t expect to have broadband service as dial-up or 2G speed is probably more likely the norm.

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