Travel Technology Highlights
So this morning I’m on a flight for work. Apart from the stupidly early start, the myriad of mainlanders clogging up the airport and shoe horning my enlarged posterior into an economy class seat, I’m quite happy. Not happy that the baby in front of me is wailing like a banshee, but happy because I can only see it as the sound is muted. Muted because of some wonderful earphones. This brings me nicely onto technology. Technology for the grown up and technology for the expat nestling into the fragrant harbour. So let’s start with the source of happiness, my earphones.
The Ultimate Earphones
Given most of us find ourselves travelling for work and living away from family, it’s quite likely that we have to endure a long haul flight back at least once a year. I quickly realised that optimising comfort would go hand in hand with some noise cancelling headphones. These things aren’t cheap, so you want to pick a winner. It’s not easy choosing the right set-up, but there are a multitude of websites offering their advice or consumer reviews.
The best place that I have found to try them? The Apple Store in IFC. The best headphones? Well that is a lot more complex. I have some Beats by Dre Studio headphones with noise cancelling, but these (and the Bose alternatives) are a bit big for hand luggage and aren’t too comfortable for sleeping upright whilst wearing.
I finally opted for some Shures. They come in a wide range of costs and after a flight on Air New Zealand blew a pair, I now have the top end ones which are epic. However, what makes them special is the custom made, bespoke ear moulds. These were made for me by Jaben in Mongkok in a process which involved having liquid resin poured into my ear canals, so it was a rather odd experience, but after a few weeks wait, they are without a doubt amazing. The only exception to this is that the wife objects to them on a flight with the kids as they render me pretty useless when the little darlings start squawking.
If money was no object and I flew less, I’d go for some B&W P5s (or maybe the newer and cheaper P3s). Lastly on this front you will need a few extra bits and bobs to ensure try noise cancelling on the plane.
- A couple of adapters for the headphones to go into the plane headphone jack
- A volume reducer as the sound quality from the hand out headphones is so low that if you put in a proper pair of headphones/earphones, they will deafen you – especially when you get a cabin announcement.
Missing the shows from home? One option to overcome this is to opt for a remote VPN. Essentially it allows you to bounce your IP address via another server so that you are seen to be in the UK, the US or wherever you want. The great thing here for me was BBC iPlayer. It has fantastic programmes on it whenever you want. The only note of caution is that on a Sunday night the download speed is so slow that you may as well not bother, which is the biggest issue with watching TV on demand via a VPN. You can have the same for access in the US or other parts of Europe, so as more content becomes available on line, the better it is. Some of the better options include StreamVIA and Overplay.
If you are a lover of all things Apple, then their TV option is pretty good. The unit is less than HK$800, and then it’s a case of pay per programme/series. You can also access the Netflix catalogue and it makes sense if you are already an Apple household – everything is easily accessed via iTunes.
The word on the street is that Slingbox is actually the best thing out there. It’s the equivalent of satellite TV and it comes via the net to your home. You need someone in the host country to have an additional decoder that is dedicated to the Slingbox, but once it’s set up, you can watch and record the TV of your choice. Definitely a great solution and available to buy in HK and across the world.
Where to buy?
The Wan Chai Computer Centre is literally above the MTR station. I think this is the best place on the island to get anything computer related. It feels a bit like Shenzhen at times, but its easy to get to and you can pick up pretty much everything for cheaper than anywhere reputable.
Otherwise camera equipment is pretty good from TST up to Mong Kok. You need to know what you are going to buy down to the model and the likely cost out of HK. Be prepared to haggle and walk away. I think sometimes you can get a bargain, otherwise Fortress may be just as good.
Lastly you can get all manner of cables/widgets and other useful tech stuff at Sham Shui Po Market, in particular Apliu Street. There is a mind boggling array of components so, again just be sure of what you are going for as otherwise you will be overwhelmed with choice.
Finally, on-line shopping in HK can be much easier with the aide of a repacking service with a service like My US. It allows you to buy stuff from any site with distribution in the US, and then it’s repacked and sent on to HK – as they bundle up your orders, shipping costs are lowered.