heredago's blog

July 24, 2011

CyberGhost Free VPN (like Hotspotshield & TunnelBear)

Filed under: Uncategorized — heredago @ 10:26

CyberGhost VPN comes in a free version that will boot you offline after six hours or 1GB of data downloaded (although you can just reconnect when you’re disconnected) or a premium version that ranges from 4 EUR ($6 USD) to 10 EUR ($15 USD) per month depending on how much data you want to transmit. The free version is likely enough for most occasional users.

CyberGhost VPN

July 23, 2011

XBMC TV & Movie Scraping | Tagging | Tag | Identifying | Renaming

Filed under: Uncategorized — heredago @ 17:16

Guide to fully automating the flow of television shows from the tubes to your XBMC server

  • The Renamer – A superb and easily automated tool for finding and renaming your TV shows, it can also be made to work with movies but there is a better tool for that.
  • Ember Media Manager – Automatically finds and downloads information for your movies
How to Whip Your Movie and TV Show Art into Shape for XBMC and Boxee

Interactive Brokers or Questrade for a noob

Filed under: Uncategorized — heredago @ 16:32

July 21, 2011

Off the Beaten Path: Laos

Filed under: Uncategorized — heredago @ 18:04

LAOS | THURSDAY, 19 AUGUST 2010 | VIEWS [1878]

Laos is a inexpensive and especially friendly country to travel in. Our friend Stuart McDonald at dishes on how to get off the beaten path in Laos – from avoiding the banana pancake trail to learning how to say more than just “Beerlao”.

1. Get off the banana pancake trail

Most first-timers to Laos follow a very well trodden route: Enter from Thailand in the north, take a two-day boat trip to Luang Prabang, then head to Vang Vieng for tubing and then on to Vientiane (the capital) and either return to Thailand or fly to Vietnam. Luckily it’s easy to get off the beaten track. In the north, head to Luang Nam Tha or Muang Sing for trekking and village walks; Phonsavan for the Plain of Jars; Nong Kiaow for some laidback scenery. Or, in the south, check out the massive Kong Lo cave near Tha Khaek; try an island homestay near Champassak; or for the really intrepid try out the volcano lake out past Attapeu.

2. Give a bit back

It’s all too easy to cruise through Laos without meeting barely a single Lao person — don’t let it be this way. Laos remains one of the poorest countries in the world and all assistance is welcome. Try your hand at volunteering while you’re there — there are loads of opportunities in both Luang Prabang and Vientiane for this. Vientiane even has a monkchat — you can find them at Wat Ong Theu (or on Facebook of course!). Keep an eye out for the Stay Another Day publication that highlights alternative activities, with a focus on sustainable development, that may be of interest.

3. Get married

Well, not you yourself, but don’t be shy when a complete stranger buttonholes you into a Lao wedding. You will expect to dance, eat, drink and drink some more. It is a great experience and one of those uniquely Lao memories. Tip: The dancing is easy, but even easier after a few shots of lao lao.

4. Learn some of the lingo

Getting a full grasp of the Lao language is quite a challenge, but the rudiments are, well, rudimentary. Counting, hello and thank you are all easy to learn and can be picked up in a few hours. World Nomads has a handy Lao podcast/iPhone app to help you along the way. Numbers will especially help in bargaining. And don’t forget “Bor Pen Nyang” it means “never mind” or “you’re welcome”.

5. Stay in control

Beer is cheap in Laos. Lao Lao (locally made ricewine) is even cheaper — and really carries a kick. Laos is a hot country and drinking a lot, in a short period of time will go to your head quicker than you may be used to. Laos is overall a very safe country, but if you start to really lose control, others may take advantage. Note that in Vang Vieng, where there is a, let’s say, liberal policy on drugs, anything marked as “happy” refers to what is in the food — not the attitude of the waiters — so don’t buy a “happy shake” for the kids.

6. Slow down

Laos is a small country but the infrastructure is very poor. Don’t be surprised when your 200km bus trip takes 10+ hours. In wet season, landslides and breakdowns can further hamper getting around. The best antidote to this is to try and see fewer places in more time. To do the country top to tail requires at least three weeks, yet people routinely do it in one. Slowdown, and, if your time is limited, save the South for the next trip!

Community Stories: Leaving the Tourist Trail in Laos

Trekking around Muang Sing

“I travelled up north from Luang Prabang to Luang Nam Tha and then another 3 hours up the mountains via truck to Muang Sing. With each mile travelled, I felt like I was really, truly getting off the beaten path… although was still glad for a few guest houses with open doors and places to eat when we arrived.

I went to the local/community run trekking office in Muang Sing the following day and found a guide to take us even further up the mountain for a homestay trek over 2 days. This was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life – such an eye opener about a life without electricity, cars, roads or running water. Nonetheless, I also discovered a lot about the commonality of humans, family life and laughter.

I’ve done homestays in Sapa, Vietnam and loved the interaction with families and the slow time it takes to wander through the countryside… but doing this in northern Laos took it to a whole new level. Highly recommended.”

– Christy McCarthy,

The Lost Valley of the Jars

“We hopped on a bus in the early hours of the morning, leaving Vang Vieng behind us and headed for a small town called Phonsovan. We were in search of a place known as the ‘plain of jars’ – an area of rural fields and plains that feature enormous stone jars, carved out of boulders some two thousand years ago.

The bus trip was an adventure in itself, as we drove on for about eight hours through steep winding roads through the innner north of Laos. As the bus ambled past carts being towed by donkeys we realised we were well and truly off the beaten path.

At Phonsovan, we were greeted by owners of the the guest house, which featured a large collection of land mines and bombs in the front reception. This was a reminder that we were in the most heavily bombed country in the world. (Laos was bombed non-stop from 1963 to 1974 in a secret operation against the Vietcong supply chain during the Vietnam war.) We were told on our visit to the plains to only walk between the guided markers otherwise risk ourselves to UXOs (unexploded ordinance).

The jars, as they are known, were simply amazing. Looking out over the dusty fields of Laos across hundreds of large, human sized, carved out boulders, you’re left wondering “what were they used for?”. Nobody seems to know, although there are many theories, including food and water storage, fermentation of drink, and even human burial.

As we looked across the field of jars as the hazy red glow of sunlight gave way to dusk, I realised this was one of the most remote and beautiful places on earth I had ever been.”

– Ian Cumming,

Related Articles:

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to Laos

River Tubing Without Drowning

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Best Smartphone Apps for Worldwide Travel

Filed under: Uncategorized — heredago @ 18:00

As a part of an ongoing series on technology and travel (first up was my favourite USB gadgets while on the road), I’d like to post about the best smartphone apps for travel. These aren’t apps for booking your flights – I’m assuming you’ve already got that covered with hipmunk and the free hipmunk iOS app. Rather, it’s a list of useful downloads to help navigate, communicate or stay sane and safe while travelling around the world.


When I started my trip in 2008, I had no laptop and no smartphone. As the years have gone by and I’ve continued my travels, I’ve picked up a phone and kept an eye out for apps that help me as I navigate strange places, be it via language, food or helping make my life a little easier as I go.

1. Onavo (iphone only): Onavo’s aim is to shrink your data usage, and it does so by installing a configuration profile on your phone, so that the data you receive from the interwebs is streamed through their cloud-based compression service. This means that the compression takes place before it gets to your phone, and this also means Onavo saves you some money if you’re not on an unlimited data plan.

2. Skype: Being on the road for over three years means that I’ve had no SIM card and no home base. As a result, Skype has been a saviour – it allows me to use WiFi to reach my friends, I can forward its services to a local number, and I’ve added SkypeOut credit for those family members (*cough* dad *cough*) who refuse to get an account themselves.  For those of you who want to stick to apps from Google, Google Voice’s app is an alternative, allowing you to text freely within North America from anywhere in the world.

3. TripIt: TripIt has been getting rave reviews from friends and travelers alike. It’s essentially a trip organizer – forward your trip details or confirmation to them, and TripIt will build you the full itinerary, accessible from mobile or the web. If you’re a frequent traveler with plenty of reservations to keep track of, this app might make your life quite a bit easier.

4. Urbanspoon (for travel to UK, US, Canada or Australia): I’ll admit, I don’t travel often through North America or Europe; most of my trips take me further afield, tostreet food fun in Asia. But for the trips I do take in these parts, Urbanspoon is a great way to find out where I should eat. I prefer its interface and enjoy using it more than the also-popular Yelp app.

5. ICOON Global Picture Dictionary: this is near and dear to my heart and I’ve used the old-fashioned Point It Dictionary (i.e. paper) version a lot on my travels to far flung places. When words just won’t work, be it because you can’t speak the language or you need a doctor ASAP, this is your friend. Photos by category, foods, body parts, lodging basics and more. For Android, the Picture Dictionary is an option, though less pretty in design and function.

6. Google Maps: it works in a startlingly comprehensive list of countries; it helps when you’re really exhausted and just cannot figure out where your hostel is and all the street signs are in an unfamiliar language. If you’re directionally disabled like me, Google Maps is a must, especially when you can use it to show your taxi driver where you need to go in their native language

7. Speaking of language, I’m enamoured with Word Lens (iPhone only). The app instantly translates printed words from one language to another using your phone’s video camera. It’s a pretty nifty idea, and even if you don’t absolutely need to get a message across right now, you’ll have a great time playing around with translation on-the-go.

8. Oanda’s Currency Conversion App: Currency conversion is a helpful thing to have available on the road, especially farther afield where you are sometimes negotiating for rates when changing money. Those countries with a closed monetary system (Myanmar, for example) won’t really care what your app says, but for the most part it’s very helpful to have an interbank rate at your immediate disposal. I’ve used this app throughout my worldwide travels and it comes in handy not just for ensuring I get a decent rate, but also to keep track of what I’m spending by converting to USD as I go.

9. Sit or Squat (available for Blackberry or iPhone) might not be the most useful, but bonus  points for creativity and for listing 109,280 toilets around the world (and counting). Just plug in your address and find a place to relieve yourself.

Bonus: Tipping Bird. A Hipmunk user (@jyzhou) created this app and I have to say I wish I had it prior. Divided by country, the app lets you know what you ought to be tipping as you go, in a cross-section of industries. Country tips are divided by restaurants, bars, taxis and others, with info from Thailand to Argentina to the States. Looking forward to using it the next time I travel!

July 9, 2011

Started planning a year-long RTW trip with my girlfriend. Would love tips on how to research for budgeting! (

Filed under: Uncategorized — heredago @ 23:56

submitted 6 hours ago by whosdamike (_)

First, sorry: this is going to be a bit lengthy. If anyone is willing to provide some advice or insight, I’d greatly appreciate it.

I’ve started saving and planning for an epic, year-long trip with my girlfriend. We want to leave once she finishes school, so it’ll be a while. We’re in our mid-20s. We have both traveled in small bursts, but usually with other people. I traveled by myself through Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto for two weeks.

I’ve been collecting airline miles and hope to have enough by then to get two coach round-the-world tickets from oneworld. So the cost of the flights should be paid for, excepting taxes/fees. I only started planning this week, so nothing’s set in stone, but the preliminary trip looks like this .

I’ve mentally broken the trip down into two parts:

“Pacific” portion: 36 weeks

Los Angeles -> Auckland -> Sydney -> Manila -> Tokyo -> Beijing -> Saigon -> Mumbai ->

From Saigon, we want to travel by land around Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand.

“Europe/USA” portion: 16 weeks

Moscow -> Helsinki -> Athens -> Budapest -> Zurich -> London -> Dublin -> Toronto -> New York -> Los Angeles

From Finland, we’ll probably hop across and check out Estonia.

From Zurich, we want to travel to Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and Paris on the way to London.

From New York, we want to spend a couple weeks visiting Boston and Washington D.C.

We’re planning on mostly staying at hostels.

We have family/friends we can potentially stay with in: New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, Vietnam, Netherlands, Switzerland, New York.

I’d rather budget assuming that our family/friends are unable to host us, just in case.

I’ve been using Budget Your Trip to estimate the cost of different cities, taking the cost of 1 budget traveler and adding an extra 80% (to account for two of us).

Including visas, insurance, and the cost of travel (taxes on the flights, plus land travel), I’m estimating the trip willcost us $40,000, total. About half of that is spent in the Pacific and the other half in Europe/US.

Not including visas or insurance, this works out to a little over $100/day for the two of us.

The Pacific arm of the trip averages to $70/day and the Europe/US portion averages to $150/day (lousy dollar!).

So the part where I need (lots and LOTS) of advice:

1) Does my budget sound about right? Way too low, way too high? Are we going to be eating rice and beans every day for the year, or burning money the whole trip?

2) Are we trying to fit in too much stuff into one year?

3) Are there cities or countries that would be better to check out than the ones we’re hitting? Any city we should drop in favor of spending more time in other places on the list?

4) What’s the best way for us to go around Europe, on our meandering loop from Zurich to London?


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[–]reph (_) 3 points 5 hours ago*  (3|0)

10 countries in 16 weeks is pretty fast. Personally, I would recommend spending more time (maybe 3-4 wks) in fewer countries. And it could be significantly cheaper b/c then you can get longer term housing, and spend less on travel. The hard part is deciding which countries to visit and which to skip..

[–]psypiral (_) 1 point 4 hours ago (2|1)

yea, i agree. itinerary is too much. i’ve traveled quite a bit and it’s always better to spend more time in one place. try not to put yourself on a schedule. narrow down the countries you really want to explore and make those happen at it’s on pace. you’ll know when it’s time to move on. doing this will make your journey much more enjoyable. traveling on a schedule doesn’t allow your adventure to evolve by it’s own design, which is where the magic is! hang out, meet locals and travelers and see where the good stuff is at. go with it and you’ll feel as if you’re being led to stuff you were meant to see and experience. works every fucking time for some reason.

i’ve just returned from 11 months in se asia and india, here are my thoughts (hope this helps!) india was chaotic, surreal and magnificent. do not stay in mumbai! get the hell outta there as fast as possible! i bought a motorcycle and rode it to northern india where the temp was great (in summer) and visited: manali(sweet northern india small town), dharmasala (dali lamas’ small town), shrinigar(kashmir) sweet lake where you can stay on houseboat for a few bucks a night, leh (small town way the fuck up in the himalaya. also made it down to goa but that sucked ass, too many westerners.

nepal was magical, kathmandu for a few weeks then pokhara for a month and finally down to southen nepal for a elephant jungle camping trip in chitwa national park looking for tigers.

thailand was overrun with westerners and i only stayed a few weeks. even chaing mai, which is in the north wasn’t very good and the whole of thailand was expensive compared to everywhere else i visited.

cambodia and vietnam were my fav’s. cambodia in particular was mind blowing. temples at angkor wat in siem reap were unreal and phenom phen was off the hook debauchery and fun.

hope this helps you!
have fun!

[–]sa_neasy (_) 3 points 2 hours ago (3|0)

It’s always better to spend more time in one place. As for budgeting….You could travel around the world for like 2 years with that money, maybe MORE. Eat street food, stay at cheap places. When you go to Mumbai you can find a place to sleep for $1-$3. It may not be the nicest, but hey it’s cheaper. Same goes for all of SE Asia, you can stay in touristy places that are expensive and have no character and pay upwards of $10 a night, or you can stay in a hole in the wall kinda place for one or two bucks.


Think about that for a second man…When you plan things, they don’t go according to schedule….Did you account for the week you will get sick in India or SE Asia, maybe both places at different times? Will you feel like riding a bus for 9 hours when you are vomiting and shitting everywhere? I guarantee you it will happen yes sir it always does, no matter what medications you have. And this is it man, this is the world, this is travel.

Now, you can get by in Europe, on a budget, I would say for about $70-$80 a day. And if you want, the lavish meal or hotel place can be reasonable. Couchsurfing in Europe is really the way to go. You meet locals, go to the best local places, get the best deals and bang for your buck. When you’re in India or SE Asia, and you are spending MORE than $10/day, you are doing it wrong. Eat on the street, and local. It is often the best food, just make sure it’s cooked well. Stay out of the tourist places too, they are a rip off.

You can get to know other travelers better, and you might meet some veterans who know the best places, and since they are long term travelers, the cheapest places.

I would also like to add, to your “list of destinations” Nepal. It is a beautiful country that offers peace and happiness like few others…I have [1] pictures 

I took on my trip. And if you have any questions about this place, I can tell you the spots to check out, cheapest food, and best guest houses. 

Good luck to you, I hope you realize the opportunity and TRUE freedom that you are capable of in this coming future, and that you take FULL advantage of it.

[–]ydnar (_) 1 point 1 hour ago (1|0)

I’m with this guy. The kind of freedom this type of travel allows you is golden. Go at your own pace and enjoy the ride.

[–]whosdamike (_) [S] 1 point 54 minutes ago (1|0)

Is it weird couchsurfing as a couple? And can we really do Europe with two people for $70-80/day? When I open up a Lonely Planet and look at hostel prices, it’s near $50/night after converting from Euros. I’m also not clear if that’s per person or what.

[–]ChangNoi (_) 1 point 9 minutes ago (1|0)

Most of the hostels I stayed at in Europe were about $20-$30 a night, per person.

If you eat simply and stay away from tourist traps, you could get away with $70 a day. I spent quite a lot when I started out, but by the end when I was almost broke I wasn’t spending much at all.

[–]yourslice (_) 1 point 1 hour ago*  (1|0)

That budget is crazy high if it doesn’t include airfare.

How are you collecting miles for airfare? Around the world for two people sure does require a lot of points.

Sometimes for fun I like to plan around-the-world trips like the one you have listed above. I go to the sites that allow you to buy the airfare to many different cities. Then I try to book the flights city by city on my own and compare the cost. There are a LOT of low budget airlines in both Asia and Europe. Your biggest cost will be getting to Australia and then from Australia to Japan. After that you can use low budget airlines in Asia to hop around. Thailand to Moscow could cost a pretty penny too, but once in europe you have Ryan air and trains to get you around (Ryan Air is usually cheaper and if you plan in advance it could cost you just a few euros per person). Your last stop is in Dublin…you could fly from Dublin to NYC on Aer Lingus for 300 dollars a person if you book ahead and get a good time of the year.

[–]whosdamike (_) [S] 1 point 57 minutes ago*  (1|0)

I’ve looked at different plans and I’m pretty sure the RTW ticket is the best bang I can get per mile. I get 16 flights for 150,000 miles (per person).

What do you think is a reasonable budget for 8 months in Asia and 4 months in Europe, for two people? If I’m aiming too high, that’s great to hear, and I can shoot for a lower budget!

[–]tommyrockum (_) 1 point 45 minutes ago (1|0)

Careful about those rtw fares: 16 flights may mean 16 LEGS and may not get you as far as you think. Be sure to read the fine print and try planning a sample itinerary on the airline’s website and see what happens…

[–]whosdamike (_) [S] 1 point 25 minutes ago (1|0)

Yeah, the itinerary image I posted is from the airline’s website! 🙂

[–]Spinnet (_) 1 point 1 hour ago (1|0)

For hostels use this website: I recently studied in Europe and took advantage of traveling and I absolutely loved this website. The site lists them in price, along with overall rating. I stayed at some of the best hostels for not much money at all.

My mortgage prediction in ~2.5 yr

Filed under: Uncategorized — heredago @ 23:40
How will families / individuals be able to afford rates that will probably have doubled by then?

Have these people really made these calculations when buying their overpriced properties with very low variable mortgage rates since the early 2009?
At the current average home selling price in Canada, the difference between a 2.25% (current available variable rate) and a 4.50% rate is more than 500$ per month.

July 3, 2011

bundle wrapping instructions – voyage travel valise

Filed under: Uncategorized — heredago @ 18:22

July 2, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — heredago @ 22:09

Filed under: Uncategorized — heredago @ 09:20

07/05/2011 04:30 PM – 08:00 PM
Main Bowl – Beer 3
Main Bowl – Beer 3 (1 available)

07/06/2011 04:30 PM – 08:00 PM
Beer 2 ID Tent
Beer 2 ID Tent (1 available)

07/06/2011 05:30 PM – 08:00 PM
Hard Rock Cafe Stage
Hard Rock Cafe Stage (1 available)

07/06/2011 05:30 PM – 08:00 PM
Subway Stage
Subway Stage (1 available)

07/07/2011 04:30 PM – 08:00 PM
Beer 3 ID Tent
Beer 3 ID Tent (1 available)

07/07/2011 04:30 PM – 08:00 PM
Beer 4 ID Tent
Beer 4 ID Tent (1 available)

07/08/2011 04:30 PM – 08:00 PM
Main Bowl – Beer 3
Main Bowl – Beer 3 (1 available)

07/10/2011 03:00 PM – 07:30 PM
Beer 2 ID Tent
Beer 2 ID Tent (1 available)

07/10/2011 03:00 PM – 07:30 PM
Main Bowl Wine Cart
Main Bowl Wine Cart (1 available)

07/10/2011 03:00 PM – 07:30 PM
Main Bowl – Beer 3
Main Bowl – Beer 3 (1 available)

07/12/2011 04:30 PM – 08:00 PM
Beer 2 ID Tent
Beer 2 ID Tent (1 available)

07/12/2011 04:30 PM – 08:00 PM
Beer 3 ID Tent
Beer 3 ID Tent (1 available)

07/13/2011 04:30 PM – 08:00 PM
Beer 2 ID Tent
Beer 2 ID Tent (1 available)

07/13/2011 04:30 PM – 08:00 PM
Beer 3 ID Tent
Beer 3 ID Tent (1 available)

07/15/2011 04:30 PM – 08:00 PM
Main Bowl – Mill Street Pub
Main Bowl – Mill Street Pub (1 available)

07/15/2011 04:30 PM – 08:00 PM
Main Bowl – Beer 3
Main Bowl – Beer 3 (1 available)

07/16/2011 03:00 PM – 07:30 PM
Main Bowl – Beer 3
Main Bowl – Beer 3 (2 available)

07/17/2011 03:00 PM – 07:30 PM
Beer 3 ID Tent
Beer 3 ID Tent (1 available)

07/17/2011 03:00 PM – 07:30 PM
Main Bowl – Mill Street Pub
Main Bowl – Mill Street Pub (2 available)

07/17/2011 03:00 PM – 07:30 PM
Main Bowl – Beer 3
Main Bowl – Beer 3 (1 available)

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