Tesla in the Middle East? – Oct 21

Have always been a techie at heart and one of the things I have been pondering on lately is a wish list item – A Tesla. I always push myself to have goals for fear of being bored by life in general – be it a skill, spiritual or materialistic. And now that my Mustang is about 5+ years old and I think about my next goal – my love of technology, cars and want for being sustainable – a tesla seems to check a lot of boxes for a worthy goal.

After a bit of research, here’s a summary of findings that you might find useful to either satiate your curiosity or if you, like me, are also pondering such things.

Tesla at a Glance : S3XY (Oct 21)

Tesla At A Glance, Data courtesy Tesla.com UAE, summarized by @robinbmac

Which one should you get?

  • Budget Conscious?
    • If you are budget conscious first and foremost, this car is probably not for you as even the cheapest of the lot is quite so very expensive. But if you still do want to get one, then I’d recommend sticking to the Model 3 or the Model Y.
      • The Model 3 if you are either single or have a small family and do not need to carry around too much when shopping.
      • The Model Y if you have a regular size family and also do need space when traveling or shopping. Waiting for a 7 seater model to be available in UAE however, which isn’t the case as of now.
  • Tech Savvy?
    • If you are Tech Savvy, any of these machines would actually do depending on the space you need for yourself or your family. It is completely stocked with tech from a mobile app, self-parking, sentry mode to other cool things. Maybe even spring some extra money for the full self-driving.
  • Traveler?
    • If you love to travel, then definitely consider the long range models of the car that you prefer as it would most definitely come in handy in the ‘long-run’ (get it, haha – sorry I had to).
  • Best of the Best?
    • If you only want the best of the best, you have to consider the Plaid versions seriously – why you ask?:
      • Quickest accelerating and highest torque
      • 3 High Performance Motors
      • Torque vectoring (Torque vectoring is a technology employed in automobile differentials that has the ability to vary the torque to each half-shaft with an electronic system. This method of power transfer has recently become popular in all-wheel drive vehicles.)

Other things to keep in mind?

  • Firstly, the Tesla isn’t cheap (even the cheapest of the lot) and to be able to use it regularly you definitely need to know when and where you can charge your car. So if you do not have a house where you can overnight charge or an area where you have multiple fast chargers you can access – this is not the car for you.
  • If you can wait, please consider that the deliveries take up to 2 quarters (4-6 months) on average; also check out the competition from Ford, Porsche and others. Tesla definitely is a tech company before anything else and they are learning how to manufacture cars and consider ranges etc., however, car companies producing electric cars have much more experience with what car owners expect. So expect a bit of a shock on how a car functions when buying from Tesla. One example of such a case is – when Tesla is approaching 0 km in distance to empty, consider fueling up asap as zero is actually zero and sometimes earlier; whereas a Ford Mustang Mach-E even at zero has some way to go before it stops fully.
  • If you have a place of your own, consider getting a Tesla Powerwall and also some Solar Panels – consider going fully green, this would be great for your bills (car & home) in the long run and the planet. πŸ™‚

Go to Tesla.com to learn more and maybe order one for yourself if you are the impulsive type.

Hope you enjoyed the read as much as I enjoyed writing it. Do like and subscribe for more.

Cheers! πŸ™‚

Ski Days @ Gudauri, Georgia – Apr 2021

Ever had that feeling of being in snow because you’ve had enough of the desert for the last 20+ years; okay maybe not that latter part, but at-least the want for the snow. Well if you live in the Middle East or Europe – Gudauri, Georgia might be that spontaneous break you might need. This was our second time in the country and still an amazing one.

We had a similar feeling back in April this year, and after a year and then some of being stuck at home – and we did, thanks to my wife ‘the amazing vacation whisperer’ us and two friends dashed off to the snowy side of Georgia for some sun, snow, ski and fireside pizza on the slopes of Gudauri. If you are itching to do the same, read on – details on what we recommend.

But First, the checklist:

  • Visa Related – for UAE Residents there is visa on arrival
  • Travel Essentials:
    • Toiletries – the usual depending on hostel or hotel stay
    • Tech – just your phone+power-bank would do apart from a universal power adapter; GoPro, Drone, Insta360 if you love good video captures
  • Snow Gear – the usual snow jackets with a hoodie, pants, socks, shoes, gloves at the minimum
  • Thermal Underwear – Trust me, do not go cheap on these, totally worth the spend; and get more than one as things don’t dry as well in the snow – even indoors.
  • About 50 Georgian Lari or GEL (local currency) per day – depending on how much exploring you plan to do – does not cover hotel stay. 1 Lari = 1.18 AED (Sep 2021) plus some extra for the Covid Test you might have to do based on the length of the stay and for the exit out of the country. Skiing is relatively cheap in Georgia.
  • Translator App – since most don’t speak English well, though do expect quite a few english speaking people even if broken english, the Georgians are a very kind people mostly we’ve found
  • Roaming Data or Local SIM – would be useful out of the airport to use the Bolt App (similar to Uber/Careem) for transport, really cheap compared to Taxi’s & booking.com travel service + there’s a cash option to pay. Also keep in mind once you get to Gudauri, there is no bolt so better make friends with the local cabbies – cheaper than hotel transport I assure you.
  • Also read up on the most current Covid Regulations to be aware – during our time, curfews started at 9pm i.e. no one outside after 9pm or else you get fined. And no restaurants open on the weekends (Saturday & Sunday) and I mean none of them.

The Flight & Drive to Gudauri

The Flight is a relatively short one from Dubai International Airport to Tbilisi International in Georgia clocking in 3 Hours 30 min. And if you are traveling from the Middle East to Eastern Europe, it is a frequently travelled route that would cost in the range of AED 1000/- to AED 1,600/- on average in 2021 depending on the time of the year. Though if it is specifically for snow days then best to go between December to April.

If you go through the slide show on the left, you would see that once the scenery passing your window shifts to pink lakes and then snow you know you are in Eastern Europe. And then finally it is a 2 Hours 30 min drive from the airport till snowy Gudauri that cost about 60 GEL (Georgian Lari).

Day 1 – Walking around in snow

Once we landed and drove down to Best Western in Gudauri, we rested up for a bit, got into our snow gear and walked up the mountain to the ‘Drunk Cherry’ restaurant – always look to Google & Trip Advisor Reviews to find the best places.

Slide show on the right showing the snowy areas around our hotel and the scenic snowy mountain sides; the walk up towards Drunken Cherry and finally the delicious food there.

Was a first day well spent, we even ran into cops on the way down back to the hotel as we were a little bit past curfew. The cops were sweet enough to tell us not be out past 10pm and to plan our outings accordingly. The curfews of course are in place due to the Covid pandemic and impact not only evenings but also the weekends – when no restaurants are to be open. Apart from that it’s pretty free up in Gudauri.

Day 2 – To Ski or not to Ski

When around on the first day we did enquire around about the rental’s for the ski equipment and for the ski slope pass to use the snow lifts. So as we began the second day we had a plan after breakfast on where to go and what to do. Surprisingly enough the ski equipment and the slopes were relatively inexpensive. We even got a training instructor each in order to learn the right way to ski. I decided to learn snowboarding whereas the rest chose to ski.

The Bill for Skiing comes up as below:

  • Ski Pass x 2 Days = 80 GEL
  • Ski Gear x 2 Days = 80 GEL
  • Ski Instructor / Hour = 60 GEL

Apart from the above to consider would be the food and drink to get through the day as it does get quite exhausting, especially when considering the effort exerted when learning and more importantly when you see kids 5 years old that ski effortlessly and want to be half as good.

The pictures to the left don’t do justice to the actual view in person – but seeing that the pictures itself are so good that the in person view is truly magnificent. Some good restaurants along the slopes as well to satisfy the appetite that comes along and you get to meet some amazing friends along the way too.

Other things to do before you head out

There are other restaurants that we visited during our time there apart from Drunken Cherry, VITA MIN and the food at the Best Western.

We had some good food and drink at the Platforma Restaurant and Varstla Restaurant as well. These places were good too; not great though. Platforma was such a good ambiance and service comparatively though for a big meal and some variety. Varstla was more a home cooked feel though the variety wasn’t the best.

In particular there is a Sparkling Pear Lemonade popular in Georgia that you have to try; quite a unique taste that most might really like in my opinion.

Also keep in mind to make friends with the local taxi drivers as the hotel transfers are always far more expensive – i.e. double if not more.

Last but not the least, we chose Best Western primarily because of the Hot Tub Jaccuzi on the roof in the open snow, which was definitely an amazing highlight of our evenings and nights there. Something about being in the snow in hot bubbly water that is just plan enjoyable.

Hope you enjoyed the read. Do like and subscribe for more.

Cheers! πŸ™‚

Azerbaijan – Aug 2019

‘We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.’

β€” Anonymous

For the first post we explore the latest trip this August, Azerbaijan. The best part of the trip was the coincidence of having a friend being in the same country at the same time – isn’t the world a small place. A great short trip with some amazing landscape and tech explored.

To help Navigate I’ve created sections so that you can navigate to the section you are interested in: The Pre-Trip checklist, Our Journey Summarized and specific location based details and experience. This way you can focus on and jump to sections you are interested in. I have also mentioned the time in brackets, for ex: Gobustan (1 Day Trip) or Gobuland (1 Hour), to give you a thumb rule of how much time you should aim to spend at each location.

Minimal Pre-Trip Checklist for August travel:

  • Visa Related – for UAE Residents there is visa on arrival
  • Travel Essentials:
    • Toiletries – the usual depending on hostel or hotel stay
    • Tech – just your phone+power-bank would do apart from a universal power adapter; GoPro, Drone, Insta360 if you love good video captures
  • Umbrella / Rain cover
  • About 100 Manat (local currency) per day – depending on how much exploring you plan to do – does not cover hotel stay. 1 Manat = 2.15 AED (Aug 2019)
  • Translator App – since most don’t speak English well
  • Roaming Data or Local SIM – would be useful out of the airport to use the Bolt App (similar to Uber/Careem) for transport, really cheap compared to Taxi’s & booking.com travel service + there’s a cash option to pay.
  • Clothes for rainy and humid weather mostly + 1 hoody or jacket for cable car ride to the top in Gebele.

Our Journey

Day 1: Baku Fountain Square Stroll > Sea Side Walk > Crazzy Bear (Conceptual Pub)

Day 2: Fountain Square (Starbucks, Morning Coffee) > Fountain Square (Koz Plus Doner, Lunch) >Yanar Dag (Fire Mountain) > Heydar Aliyev Center (Abstract Art Museum) > Old City Baku (La Mangerie, Dinner)

Day 3: Tour Day 1, Gobustan – Mud Volcano > Rock Art Cultural Museum > Rock Art Landscape > Bibiheybat Mosque > Great Mardakan Fortress > Fountain Square (Coffee House, Break) > Little Venice > People By Eleven (ISR Plaza, Restaurant & Lounge)

Day 4: Tour Day 2, Gebele – Gobuland (Breakfast with a view) > Jummah Mosque > Garagaya Rope Bridge & Mini Trek > Nohur Lake (Lunch with locals dancing in the background if you’re lucky) > Tufandag Mountain Resort (Cable Car ride to the top with a view) > Fountain Square (Bayramoglu, Dinner)

Day 5: Morning Flight back to Dubai

Baku

As soon as you land or before if you the proactive type download and install the Bolt app for all travel in Baku & other major cities in Azerbaijan – it’s their Uber! Compared to any Taxi or Travel booking service this is way more convenient to use. Also helps if you don’t speak the language.

Fountain Square at Night

Also recommended is staying somewhere central to the city, we stayed near Fountain Square – very easy to just walk around and find things to do, places to eat as well as walk to the Sea Side and Old Town. If you are from or familiar with Dubai you are more likely to find this place like home with all the regular shops, places to eat, coffee shops, shisha spots, bars and clubs – one key difference though, all of these places are a short walk away. The fountain square area comes alive in the evening with droves of people just walking around, sitting, chatting and catching up. Lots of cartoon character mascots, men with monkeys you can pet, pet friendly. Lots of tourists from the Middle East to be found here. The city goes through extra effort to keep clean and maintain order.

Some great places to just chill in Baku Central that we can recommend are:

  • Little Venice, Sea Side near the Carpet Museum – exactly what it sounds like, a mini version of Venice with restaurants and shisha lounges on either side and boats passing through.
  • La Mangerie, Old City – great restaurant ambiance and decor, great place for some snacks, drinks and a chat. A little on the pricey side though.
  • Koz Plus, Fountain Square near Hard Rock – Great Doner and local food options.
  • Starbucks, Fountain Square near Hard Rock – Morning Coffee and yes before you ask, I’m biased on this one.
  • Bayramoglu, Fountain Square near McDonalds – Good Shawarma and decent shisha
  • Crazzy Bear, near Fountain Square, Google it – Can not recommend this place enough, make reservations if possible or go early (around 6/7pm) if you can’t – good food and once evening turns to night the place comes alive with music and dance. Amazing decor and ambiance too!
  • People By Eleven, ISR Plaza, Fountain Square – Music, dance, food; make reservations early on (the bouncer here is pricey) decent crowd if you’re willing to get the party started.

Yanar Dag or Fire Mountain

One of the most underwhelming points of the trip was the visit to the Fire Mountain. Yes, there’s fire but not there’s no mountain on fire. Due to natural and plentiful availability of natural gas and it seeping into the atmosphere from the porous rocks there’s a small subsection of the rock side on fire. This was accidentally discovered by a shepherd when lighting a fire near here and now serves as a tourist attraction. There’s a bridge near here taking you to the top of the hillside – don’t go there with high hopes though, no more natural fires to be seen across the hillscape.

Heydar Aliyev Center

This Center in Baku (2 to 3 hours) is a sight to behold, the architecture alone will have you mesmerized for a good while – inside and outside. A building architects keep in their bucket list to visit!

The contents inside are no less, from the abstract art sculptures on the ground floor all the way till the heritage floor, toy floor, 3-D Building Model floor and the art & history floor – there’s something to capture everyone’s attention; even the non-musem goer’s.

My favorite was the toy floor, the detailing on some of the toys and models was spectacular. There were even abstract toys around. An artform to behold in my opinion – the building and the contents inside.

Gobustan or Qobustan (1/2 to 3/4 day trip)

Mud Volcano Pit

Before you head out of Baku Central do keep in mind to have a good guide with you who speaks both English and Azerbaijani for trips outside the city – will definitely save a lot of translation time plus you help out the tourism economy a little.

Gobustan is an interesting place to visit, the way here too explains clearly the rich and easy availability of crude oil and natural gas in the region. The Mud Volcano’s (3/4 hour) are an interesting visit, bubbling mud pits and hundreds of them small and large spread across the landscape. People believe the mud to have properties good for the skin as well in case you are in the mood for a mud bath or take some home in a bottle for later.

The next stop could be the Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Center (1 to 2 hours), a UNESCO World Heritage preserved site for its rock art collection from the past 40,000 years! Do ensure not to spend too much time in the Center though (unless you’re into that sort of thing) and head on over to the actual path through the eroded hillscape for the real thing. Art through the ages depicted across the walls here for you to admire and ponder over what the Azeri ancestral society of that age was going through when carving these out.

Drone’s aren’t allowed here, so ensure to get some really long selfie sticks if you want to get a heightened view or get up close for some shots.

There’s also some good look out points where the rocks fall off towards the landscape.

Bibiheybat Mosque & Great Mardakan Fortress (part of the Gobustan Trip)

The Mosque (1/2 hour) isn’t that impressive considering you are from the Middle East or a Muslim influenced country. Though once you get to the inside is where this is totally different – shiny green tiles, gold center, beautiful architecture and design; something pictures cannot do justice to. Comparatively a short stop unless you want to also look towards Caspian Sea and the dock below.

The Great Fortress (1/2 hour) a little ways away is one of five that you can look at, a strategic viewpoint in it’s heyday and currently just a view point to a suburb from days past. A stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of Baku Central.

Gebele, Gabala or Qabala (1 Day Trip)

We decided to start our tour mornings early (7am) so we could get more done, take our time and also maybe get back early – for this day, didn’t quite work out that way but was a good day nonetheless. This was the day though that we realized the importance of a tour guide who spoke both languages, since ours didn’t show up.

We started the day with a great big breakfast at Gobuland (1 Hour)! Totally recommend it just for the view. A deck balcony overlooking a small (probably man-made) lake. The staff here don’t speak the language so be careful of what you end up eating since there’s no menu. They usually bring a set menu to the table which is a whole host of things from bread and butter to honey and olives – send back what you don’t need as soon as it is set on the table. Can also ask for some other items apart from the breakfast set if you’re still hungry. Also, very much recommend the honey.

The Jummah Mosque is a quick stop (1/2 hour) with a great history and some good reconstructed architecture.

Garagaya Rope Bridge & Trek (part of Gebele Trip)

Save most of your time (2 to 3 hours if you chose to trek as well) for the Garagaya Rope Bridge on the way to Gebele! Not only is the crossing worth it over the flowing stream below, there’s hot tea waiting on the other end (not free of course). The most exciting thing is the trek around the hill and downwards towards the water stream below. Some cold gushing water, a great rocky river bed and a breathtaking view all around. Can also try to head to the little village up top for something to drink (something we regretfully did not find the time for). The trek is an easy one if you are experienced and a medium difficulty one if not. Keep in mind a local at the bridge entrance charges about 1/2 Manat per person.

Nohur Lake (part of Gebele Trip)

It might have been timing or just plain luck that we ended up here for lunch (1.5 hours) in the open ground Sahil restaurant during the Eid Break. A whole host of locals took to dancing on a makeshift stage – men, women and kids of all ages having the time of their lives; a better look into their culture we couldn’t have asked for and that too while having some delicious local food.

Tufandag Mountain Resort Cable Car Ride (part of Gebele Trip)

Another exciting part of the trip for us (2 to 3 hours), would recommend to go for the 3 line cable car ride to the top and also be prepared for cold weather – check the local forecast. Depending on when you travel (usually evening if you are coming in from Baku) you’ll see fog covered mountains great cold climate, maybe even some rain on your ride to the top. There’s also a restaurant up top should you feel the need for a hot cup of coffee or tea. They charge about 22 Manat per person for the 3 Line Cable Car rides.

Hope this helps plan your next trip to Azerbaijan! Use the comments section to let us know your experience. Can also follow my exploits on Instagram or reach out to me on Twitter – links on the Home Page!

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Essential Travel Tech!

In this post we talk about the Tech essentials when it comes to travel .. mostly cos I love tech – the actual and only essential is the smartphone everything else is an aid to up your photography and videography game. Since the smartphone season has begun, kicked off officially by the Samsung Galaxy & Fold , this is as best a time as any ..

  • The Smartphone
  • The Action Cam
  • The Gimmick Cam
  • The Drone

What we do not talk about here is the basics i.e. the cables, power banks and selfie sticks since I believe those are usually taken care of in general anyhow. Something I can cover in a later post about interesting basic tech that up the travel experience.

First up, The Smartphone has come a long way since the days of the popular Nokia’s and the age of the Blackberry. Today’s smartphone can do almost anything that you used to need cameras as well as laptops to do. Excellent photos and videos can be taken, edited, stored and posted as well directly from the little metal slab in your palm.

Samsung Galaxy S10+

The ‘best smartphone’ is an extremely subjective term these days with so many options. There are expensive all rounders (One Plus 8T) but there’s also a phone for note taking powerusers (Galaxy Note 10+), one photographers (upcoming Pixel 6 or Huawei P50 Pro), another for videographers (iPhone 12 or 12 Pro Max), for gamers (Asus ROG 5S) and so on. Ultimately it’s all about the budget – if you are someone who wants the best but for the least, then the One Plus is your best bet; if money is not such a concern then spend some time figuring out which phone fits your need the best.

The key point to note is that if you have a good phone you don’t need much else and the rest of the gadgets below are just minor increments in the wow factor of your captures.

Next up, are the add-on gadgets, you don’t need em, but it is pretty great if they are around.

To start with, the Action Cam, a rough and tough photo and video capture buddy that can take a beating, handle the heat, snow, water and still not complain. Pretty necessary especially if you love activity and sport in general. The Go Pro 9 series or the DJI Osmo Action for this one and you can’t go wrong. Whats more important are the accessories that go along with. Something to strap the gadget to your arm, head, chest or just to make sure it doesn’t sink and you should be covered for all occasions.

Next up, the Gimmick Cam, keep in mind though, today’s gimmick is tomorrow’s main stream device; trouble is you never know which gimmick succeeds.

Insta360 One X

Some great options if you’d like to start with are the Insta 360 One X2, Go Pro Max and Ricoh Theta Z1. This enables some great quality 360 video with a mobile editor to support point of view video editing and you end up looking like a professional videographer. Not to mention some VR support and you can come as close as possible to reliving the experience without stepping out of the comfort of your home. Needs some serious commitment though towards continuous use, photo/video editing and store or else it gets added to the gimmick gadget drawer that we all have (though we don’t want to admit it).

Drones, the more hyped about gimmick gadget than most, especially now. It definitely seems a lot more fun than it actually is and takes a bit of effort currently to set up and use. But real good capture once you learn to use it well. My recommendation would be to start small (depending on budget – the DJI Tello or the DJI Mavic Air or just borrow if that’s possible) – practice with this, get the feel for the gadget and once you understand that this is your thing then you can go out and get a proper drone.

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