Chai Digest: More Malvides, More North Korea, and more

Is New York’s Hudson Street Passport Services Office the “The Most Efficient Office in the World“? (Slate)

7 awesome exotic trips using American Airlines miles (Mile Adventures). Great, implementable ideas.

Airline Luxury Battles Between New York and L.A. (WSJ). I have tried United ps service between JFK and SFO twice in the past month, both planes were decrepit and laughable compared to Delta’s, though I hear I just drew a band hand twice as they also have some nice planes on that route.

The Distance and Seclusion of the Maldives are a Feature Not a Bug (for me) – But You Can Still Go for Less (View from the Wing). A well-reasoned justification of why the Maldives works for one busy traveler. I had a similar benefit of being disconnected in North Korea, though for the unfortunate reasons that the country is so closed, my two trips there have been the most relaxing I have taken anywhere due to everything being arranged and totally disconnected. Not that I did not wear myself out on them. Traveler now can pay a hefty sum for a SIM card with 3G at impressive speeds.

North Korea Showcases Its Military Might at a Mass Rally (NYT). It was breathtaking to see in person.

Kim Jong-un gives nod to Hong Kong firm to redesign Pyongyang airport (South China Morning Post). In my visit last week all departures are through the old arrivals hall and the main building has been torn down with a rudimentary concrete frame in its place, far from taking shape.

My Week in North Korea (reason.com), perspective from a Soviet-American.

Uruguay votes to create world’s first national legal marijuana market (The Guardian). Uruguay is a very chill place, much like Argentina with more reasonable prices. See my Uruguay in 22 Hours parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Where the Short Customs Lines Are (WSJ). Get Global Entry if you are eligible.

Okinawa: the Scotland of Asia? (The Diplomat). Visiting a couple weeks ago, to the outsider, Okinawa feels very Japanese and very densely populated, hard for a casual visitor to unearth the remnants of Ryuku culture other that a few preserved sites.

The Secrets to Shipping (Departures).

Moldova: embracing its status as Europe’s least-visited country (Lonely Planet via MileQuest). The big draw for me was self-proclaimed Transnistria, a bit dull, though Moldova is more so unless into night clubs.

A Great Solution to Airplane Stiff Neck Syndrome (The Travel Insider).

Star Wars home of Anakin Skywalker threatened by dune (BBC). This is a prequel set so I don’t mind it going away, I gave them a pass to focus on the original sets when I road tripped around Tunisia.

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  • john

    That article about AA miles is great. I was just looking at the oneworld map a week ago and missed some of those routes.

    That article from the Soviet-American was by far the best I ever read about a trip to North Korea. thank you for that. Its the first time I actually hear someone of getting some sincerity from one of the locals instead of just laughing at them.

    Short customs lines…. preclearance really is a good idea at heart but it all comes down to implementation. I dislike how the article fails to mention that.
    I only have experienced preclearance in AUA and it is a complete, ridiculous, disaster. In short, they are understaffed, there is only one line (no kiosks) and you always have to wait for over an hour.
    Even before global entry I extremely rarely had to wait more than an hour at a US port of entry.
    So to end up waiting longer in this fancy newfangled way of doing it is a joke.
    In the end, I think it is a matter of scale. It is hard for a small airport with a few flights a day (all at the same time) to handle things reasonably. They cannot really justify hiring extra officers for a 3 hour workday…
    Meanwhile a place like MIA handles scale much better and they even have kiosks (imagine that).
    I really wonder if preclearance works better in the other locations or if they have kiosks.

  • @john – AUA is the one that I have heard is the worst for the reasons you have stated. I have barely touched the Caribbean so my preclearance experience is primarily Canada and once in Ireland. Montreal was awful, between the Canada security screenings and the US, even with Global Entry the US makes people in line after the kiosks to see an officer, when we tried to breeze by, pretending to not see the signs, we were scolded and told, “Every customs location is different.” I muttered my feelings about that one under my breath.

  • john

    interesting point/experience. I think that jives with that US passport office article. So govt locations have some autonomy. I did not know that. I also wonder if the preclearance locations get less scrutiny/visits from Washington being overseas.