Chai Digest March 16-22: Saudi transit visa, PT Cruiser Rentals and more

Matthew at Live and Let’s Fly provides an excellent story and detail on the Saudi transit visa process. My effort to go there for a few days has been on-again, off-again, I may eventually settle for the 24-hour transit option.

Why RSS still matters  (The Verge) and James Fallows (The Atlantic) on the effect of Google routinely canceling products – people stop trying them out of expectation that they will be killed. He includes a roundup of several similar articles, prompted by the recently announced death of Reader and launch of a new, unrelated product called Keep. Google is also killing print editions of Frommer’s guidebooks (Skift). I have used Frommer’s books a few times in the US when there is limited coverage from Lonely Planet or Moon. I find it perplexing that they feel there is not a market for fully offline-capable travel guidebooks. On my trips I always make some photocopies of key pages and maps that I tuck in my pocket, pulling out attention-attractive tablets is not a prudent practice. Matador hopes that the new owner of Lonely Planet will not follow suite.

A Sultan’s Quixotic Quest on the self-declared Sultan of Sulu’s spending of his supporter’s lives in an effort seemingly out of the history books to claim/reclaim the Malaysian-controlled state of Sabah on Borneo. (WSJ Southeast Asia Realtime)

Kurd Locked in Solitary Cell Holds Key to Turkish Peace. (WSJ)

For Chinese, Maldives Boycott Goes Beyond Instant Noodles. Allegations that resorts and Maldives remove hot water kettles from rooms due to Chinese cooking in them, eschewing resort restaurants touch a nationalistic nerve that is quick to explode at any perceived international slight. Access to hot water at all times of the day is serious business to Chinese, really serious. I was reminded of this the past few weeks in my Shanghai office, seeing the constant competition for streams of hot water from the overworked machines set in clusters of 3 throughout the office. (IHT Rendezvous)

Defying Predictions, the Japanese Yen Has Weakened to a Rate of 96 to the Dollar from Arthur Frommer argues that Japan has finally become relatively affordable.

Air Asia buys a 49% stake in the Philippines’ Zest Airways. (China National News)

Don’t make products with German military designs, it is a no-win proposition. (China National News)

Good Riddance, PT Cruiser Rentals (Businessweek):

Inevitably you’re stuck with a plum-colored PT Cruiser, those odd little Chryslers that for the past decade have populated rental car outlets across the country. “They’re just so awful,” says Stephanie Springer, a former research associate at a large biotech company in Boston. Springer and her colleagues once visited Los Angeles and were issued a whole fleet of PT Cruisers. “We ended up carpooling because the people who had PT Cruisers refused to use them,” she says. They briefly considered the possibility that the office administrator who’d booked their itineraries despised them.

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  1. Good that you brought up something about guide books. Given how much you travel, I figured you are the right person to get some guidance.

    I have many complaints about guide books and I feel they are stuck in middle ages, I am looking for following features.. I know you can’t have a perfect guidebook but if solve 80% of the problem for 80% of the people that would be a good start.

    – are there any guidebooks for frequent travelers and people who only have a few days?
    – guidebook should tell me what’s unique and must see for the destination.. I don’t want to go to a every museum in every city I visit. That info may be good for locals but for those who have visited better museums, it becomes boring. Same with lakes, churches and parks.
    – I hate reading a long guide book without photos or ratings. I need photos to quickly make up my mind.. I guess it cost money to put photos in paper books but hasn’t anybody figured out travel ebooks yet?
    – I find documentaries about a place when possible but having a guided audio or video tour of a location would be awesome.. there are a few I’ve used but nothing that has been game changing
    – I would like to find more resources like, it makes the job of deciding a hotel quite easy (if they have a review)

    I understand people have diverse interests but having a default tour and then info on how to modify it for your taste would be cool.. most guidebooks are like data.. very little of it is information and even smaller portion is useful.

    I’m sure you face this problem.. I enjoy trip planning but there has to be a better way of doing it.. how do you plan your itineraries?

    I found something I liked for an upcoming trip to canadian rockies from this website:

  2. @Andreas – not quite what you are asking, but I usually look at the lonely planet continent level books for the truly ‘must sees’ as most countries are only a few pages. This way you can quickly get a feel for it. Plus the itineraries or top ten lists in these books help too. Very often the country level books go on and on about the same types of things as you said.

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