How to find a cheap hotel room

Which online service offers the best deals for hotel rooms: Expedia, Hotels.com, TravelPony Booking, Hotwire, or Priceline? Nomadic Matt has the answer!

Orikaso: folding, cheap, amazing polypropylene flat-pack dinnerware



Orikaso is a line of super-cheap, incredibly durable, brilliantly conceived flat-pack plates, cups and bowls, created by Jay Cousins (here's his blog). They're made out of super-durable, long-lived, environmentally sound polypropylene. Folding them takes bare seconds, and once folded, they stay folded and are perfectly water-tight. They unfold in seconds, and are (theoretically -- I haven't tested this) top-shelf dishwasher safe. My favorite piece is the cup, which has lots of grace-notes, like metric volume measurements on both side and imperial on the other, and a handle that's so clever I actually giggled the first time I used it. The whole thing is basically a magic-trick.

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Vietnamese swimmers ferry passengers across flooded rivers in plastic bags

When remote areas of Vietnam are flooded out, entrepreneurial swimmers set up informal ferries in which passengers climb into sturdy plastic bags and are then swum across the river against the current. The Vietnamese explanation accompanying the video is beyond Google Translate, but I'd love it if anyone out there could help flesh this out, because it's pretty amazing. (via Kottke)

Crowdfunding Without People: a photobook of deserted places

Marko Rakar writes, "Croatian journalist and editor Oleg Mastruko visited more than 47 countries in the past 10 years and made a number of postapocalyptic pictures in deserted places. Pictures include abandoned airforce bases, Cairo's City of the Dead, old military factories, a Nevada ghost town, were markedly void of people, 'a vision of failed civilization,' as Mastruko describes it. Oleg is currently running a campaign at Indiegogo in order to fund a picture book called 'Without people.'

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Now: XKCD helps you visualize the time of day all over the world


In Now, the latest XKCD cartoon, Randall Munroe provides a handy, continuously updated way to visualize the current time all over the world. I happen to know that Munroe is an inveterate long-distance driver who likes to pass the hours on the road by calling friends; I imagine that a wheel like this would be handy for helping him figure out which continent he should be searching for in his address-book in order to find conversational partners at any hour of day.

XKCD: Now

Reporters document Sochi's Potemkin hotels

As journalists descend on Sochi for the most corrupt Olympics in history, they're discovering the region's Potemkin hospitality industry. The hotels that were meant to billet them while they reported on the games are half-built, unbuilt, falling to bits: but at least they've had their portraits of Vladimir Putin installed. Slave labor just isn't what it used to be.

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Torpedo charger: light saber-y cigarette-lighter USB charger with its own battery

The Brunton Torpedo charger is a light-saberoid* cigarette-lighter USB charger with an integrated battery. Use it to charge up to two devices in your car, then take it with when you go and it supplies 2800mHa of power (enough for two phone recharges) on its own. Sounds like a great travel-bag item, perfect for rental cars: charge your phone while you navigate with it in a strange town, then pocket the charger and use it to recharge halfway through the day.

Brunton Torpedo 2800 2x Charger

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Shanghai hotel provides smog-masks for guests


Redditor Mthomaseddy snapped this photo of the elegantly packaged "gas mask" (apparently an air-filter mask, not something to be used in gas-attacks) that was waiting in his room at the Shanghai Fairmont when he checked in. China's pretty damned smoggy these days.

Shanghai hotels know how to pamper you (via Super Punch)

Drawstring travel-pouch that opens to lay flat


The Lay-N-Go Traveler is a water-repellent polyester drawstring bag that opens out to lay flat, making it ideal for carrying small, fiddly travel-stuff that you're forever losing in the dark corners of your pouches and sacks. It's got a pocket for tucking in the drawstring, and it locks in place with a fastener when it's closed. 20" in diameter, $30.

Lay-N-Go Traveler (via Lifehacker)

Glitter nail-polish is the best tamper-evident seal


At a talk at the 30C3 in Hamburg, Ryan Lackey proposed an ingenious solution to detecting tampering with your computer, phone or tablet: paint the seams and screw-tops with glitter nail-polish and snap a photo of the random pattern formed by the glitter after it dries.

Security-conscious travelers have long used tamper-evident seals over their devices' screws and seams, but as Lackey points out, those seals are easy for spies, customs officials and other snoops to reproduce, especially if they can work in private (as happens when your laptop is taken away for a border inspection). But reproducing the random pattern of glitter polish is substantially more expensive that replicating a security seal -- it also takes longer, and there are no set procedures for doing so.

Lackey also recommends using stickers as an alternative seal; it's unlikely that a spy agency or a customs official has access to your favorite vintage Wacky Package sticker.

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Air travel in the 50s and 60s sucked

Smoke, vomit, boredom, segregation and death: and you paid about five times as much for the privilege. [Fast Company]

Complete meal cooking with a hotel coffee-maker


Inspired by her nephew's stories of bad food at the mess hall when he was on deployment in Afghanistan, retired photographer Jody Anderson created a recipe-book of meals that could be prepared using a coffee-maker (soldiers were allowed to have coffee-makers in their rooms), and posted some online. Coffee-makers are quick to clean, and the different stages of the coffee-maker give you different, simultaneous, cooking options (grilling, poaching and steaming). All useful stuff for frequent travellers: beats the old "cooking salmon in three thicknesses of foil using the ironing-board and iron" technique.

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A visit to a 7th century Japanese hot spring

Danny Choo visited the Ikaho Hot Springs in Japan and took lots of photos (as he always does whenever he posts something to his entertaining website). As I scrolled through the photos, I was worried that Danny forgot to bring his dolls with him, but I was relieved to see that he didn't.

Founded in the 7th century, Ikaho Onsen [伊香保温泉] (Ikaho Hot Springs) is one of Japan's most popular hot spring resort areas located in the Gunma Prefecture [群馬県].

The hot springs are concentrated around Ishidan [石段] - a 365 flight of stone steps which are also lined with traditional inns and shops.

Wifey and I managed to spend a day at Ikaho filming for a wee bit - today we take a look at the hot spring area and the traditional inn that we stayed at.

Places to visit in Japan: Ikaho Onsen

Long-form YouTube: videos of entire long-distance train journeys

YouTube has been an existence-proof of forms of video that were lurking in potentia, unable to come into existence due to limitations of the distribution channel. The two-to-three-minute video has now been firmly established as a genre (with the six-second video hot on its heels), but there's plenty of room at the long end of the scale. Case in point: subculture of YouTubers who post full-length train journeys, hours and hours' worth -- and if that's not long-form enough, how about 134-hour sea crossings?

Given the modern vogue/panic about short-reads being mere "linkblogging" and the practice of spinning out a few hundred words into a "serious, long-form journalism" wheeze that is split across eight or more screens, this may just be the video form for our age (and please let it be a short one!).

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Soon, you might be able to use certain electronic devices during takeoff and landing

Pilots are allowed to use iPads during takeoff and landing, but passengers aren't. That might change after an FAA advisory committee recommended yesterday that "passengers should be permitted to use smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and other personal electronic devices during taxi, takeoff and landing," says MacRumors.

Under today’s recommendation, passengers would be able to use most devices, though some, like Apple’s iPhone, would need to be switched to airplane mode. Downloading data, browsing the web, and talking on the phone would remain prohibited, though reading e-books, listening to music, watching movies, and playing games would be permitted during all phases of flight.

Next week, the advisory committee will deliver the recommendation to the FAA (does it take a week to deliver an electronic document?) and the FAA will then take its sweet time deciding which parts of the recommendation, if any, will be allowed.

FAA Advisory Committee Recommends Relaxation of Electronic Device Restrictions on Commercial Aircraft