Archive for July, 2012

Google Adsense have bolloxed up NZ payments

July 17, 2012 7am in Yes, I'm a geek. | Comments (0)

Well done Google Adsense. </sarcasm>

For those people who have New Zealand bank accounts, the June 2012 Google Adsense payment was made incorrectly – Google inverted the exchange rate, meaning that everyone was only paid 60% of what they were supposed to be paid. New Zealand publishers awoke to this email:

SUBJECT: Important update about your recently issued AdSense payment

Dear publisher,

We’re writing to let you know about an issue with your June 2012 payment from AdSense. As you may have realized, an incorrect exchange rate was applied for this payment. As a result, the amount you received was only a portion of the earnings owed. We have already issued a credit to your account, and the remaining amount will be sent in a separate transaction in a few days.

We thank you in advance for your patience and understanding.

Sincerely,

The Google AdSense Team

There’s no excuse for this – simple system checks should have prevented (or at least warned) that an exchange rate was used that was wildly different to last month’s. However, not only that, Google screwed up the correction as well. A few days later, we were treated to this email:

SUBJECT: Important update about your recently displayed June AdSense earnings

Hello,

We recently contacted you to inform you of an incorrect exchange rate used when calculating your June 2012 AdSense payment.

As we work to fix this problem we issued a credit for the portion of earnings owed to you along with displaying your June AdSense earnings. You may have noticed that the adjustment credit amount issued to your account is incorrect. Rest assured we will correct this adjustment amount and this will be reflected in your account early next week.

Shortly after we will pay out your June earnings plus the correct portion of earnings owed to you as a result of the incorrect exchange rate.

We thank you in advance for your patience and understanding.

Sincerely,

The Google AdSense Team

And, proving that Google have abandoned their “Don’t be evil” motto, they did not provide a “separate transaction in a few days” as they promised, rather, they issued it as a credit to your Google Adsense account. For me, that means I have to wait a couple of months before I’ll get the underpayment while I wait for my account to get above US$100 (the lower limit).

But, for those people who don’t get a lot of traffic and took a long time to get to their US$100 lower limit, they will have to wait for it to get up to US$100 again to get the repayment – remember, this was entirely Google’s fault, yet we suffer for it. And of course – there’s no email address or telephone number for them.

SHAME ON YOU GOOGLE.

Back in December 2009, when I wrote this post, I would have been very annoyed about this mistake.

You watch, now that I’ve written this, Google will probably cancel my account. In their terms and conditions is probably something like “Thou shalt say nothing bad about the almighty Google, or thy soul shall become payable to Google along with thy first-born”.

Two days in Macau

July 9, 2012 6am in Travel | Comments (1)

Day 1

As I pulled into Macau on the ferry, the first two things I noticed was that there were a lot of casinos, and also that it had a tower that looked like Auckland’s Sky Tower.

View of Macau from ferry
VIEW OF MACAU FROM FERRY

My God immigration was a nightmare in Macau – there were so many people trying to get in and most of them were Chinese people talking extremely loudly, not respecting the queues and it was just one general free-for-all. It took about 80 minutes to get through the immigration queues – I was so happy to get out of there.

I heard that most of the big hotels have shuttle buses from the ferry terminal, and I was staying in the Hotel Lisboa which was reportedly the most well known hotel/casino Macau had. I saw where all the shuttle buses were stopping, but they were on the other side of a major road and I couldn’t for the life of me work out how to get across the road. It was a hundred degrees and I was dragging my big suitcase around so I just gave up and for once thought I’d take a taxi.

Before we got there I realised I only had Hong Kong dollars and we were now in Macau, and I didn’t have any Macau patacas. I’d read that Hong Kong dollars are accepted almost everywhere in Macau so I hoped that was true. HK Dollars are worth 3% more than Macau’s currency so I figured it was probably true. The taxi ride turned out to be only MOP$20.50 (NZD$3.50), so I’m glad that I ended up taking the taxi – it made me realise how ridiculously cheap taxis were on the island.

Macau is a former Portuguese colony and so it has official languages of Portuguese and Cantonese. Lisboa (Lisbon in English) is the capital of Portugal and so that’s where this hotel gets its name – I think! I understand that this hotel is the oldest in Macau and still contains many Chinese antiques owned by, err, some famous Chinese guy. It was quite 70s inside and was clearly very impressive in its day.

By this time it was only lunchtime and they told me I was too early to check in. So they took my big bag off me and I had three hours to kill by looking around the city. There was the Grand Lisboa, the Hotel Lisboa’s newer brother right next door, which you couldn’t miss from pretty much anywhere in Macau.

Hotel Grand Lisboa
HOTEL GRAND LISBOA

Luckily I didn’t have to worry about getting lost, because I knew that this Grand Lisboa building is so huge and so gaudy that I just have to make my way back there and I will be back at my hotel next door.

One thing I notice is that there was Chinese writing everywhere, very few of the shops had any English on them and I was getting a bit hungry by this point. But I managed to hold out. I saw some interesting looking apartment buildings, some built on the edge of cliffs.

Macau cliffside apartments
MACAU CLIFFSIDE APARTMENTS
Macau apartments
MACAU APARTMENTS

After a while I was walking and all I saw was buildings, and so I thought I’d walk to the tower, which looked about 45 minutes’ walk away which I thought was okay despite the heat and I was carrying my bag with my laptop in it because I didn’t want to leave it with the hotel staff.

Macau Tower
MACAU TOWER
Macau Tower II
MACAU TOWER II

I realised when I got to the tower that it is imaginatively called Macau Tower. I paid my fee to go to the top of the tower and saw the view.

View from Macau Tower I
VIEW FROM MACAU TOWER I
View from Macau Tower II
VIEW FROM MACAU TOWER II

There were people walking around the outside platform of the tower all harnessed in, but that cost a lot of money so I didn’t do that, plus it was quite scary! And if you stood in the right place on the observation deck, you could see people bungy jumping off the tower; they would fall right in front of you.

I took the taxi back from the Macau Tower to the Lisboa and it again cost the very small amount of MOP$20.50 (NZD$3.50). Wow, in London the minimum fee just for getting into the taxi is double this amount, incredible. But this time when I asked for the Hotel Lisboa I got dropped off at the Grand across the road, but that was fine, I survived.

I checked into my room, and decided to have a rest in the room for an hour or two. But, I had a lot of trouble getting any rest, because there was a lady in the next room yelling and swearing, and it was not just a bit of yelling, it was full on screaming and swearing for 5 or 10 minutes at a time, in English. Every now and again there was a big punch on the walls or something being hurled across the room. After a while it did stop momentarily and I fell asleep but then half an hour later it started again.

Also, at some point in my sleepy groggy haze, one of the hotel staff came into my room. I was dizzy from being woken up and I couldn’t understand what the staff member was saying but I sent him out and went back to sleep. Perhaps I had accidentally bumped the “please make up my room” switch without realising; I never worked out what he wanted.

After another half-hour of trying to sleep and getting woken up by the abuse from next door I eventually decided I had to go and ask to change rooms. I’ve never asked to change rooms in a hotel before but this was really going to ruin my holiday and also it was a 5-star hotel so I should be able to do whatever I want. The staff were very nice about it and I moved into a room two floors down and on the other side of the hallway so I even had a better view. But I had to change my king size bed for two single beds, which was a bit of a shame.

The view in the first room looked out over a roof and a bunch of air conditioning units, but the new room looked out over the tower and the hotel and the water and a major roundabout:

View from Hotel Lisboa room at night
VIEW FROM HOTEL LISBOA ROOM AT NIGHT
View from Hotel Lisboa room in the daytime
VIEW FROM HOTEL LISBOA ROOM IN THE DAYTIME

Day 2

It was a bazillion degrees today and it would have been so easy to just stay in bed but I thought no, I’ve got to get out and see the city. Being a former Portuguese colony, I understood there was a lot of nice architecture and history to see.

Senado Square
SENADO SQUARE
Instituto para os assuntos civicos e municipais
INSTITUTO PARA OS ASSUNTOS CIVICOS E MUNICIPAIS

Church in Macau
CHURCH IN MACAU
Another church in Macau
ANOTHER CHURCH IN MACAU

But also a lot of rundown apartment blocks.

Rundown Macau Apartment Blocks I
RUNDOWN MACAU APARTMENT BLOCKS I
Rundown Macau Apartment Blocks II
RUNDOWN MACAU APARTMENT BLOCKS II

The ruins of St. Paul’s were very touristy, but quite cool. This was about the only place where I saw another foreigner, or should I say, another Westerner, as we are called here.

Ruins of St. Paul's
RUINS OF ST. PAUL’S
View from the ruins of St. Paul's
VIEW FROM THE RUINS OF ST. PAUL’S

I spent the day just walking around and seeing various buildings, walking in and out of streets and getting lost. Getting lost is part of the fun, especially since I had a map given to me by the hotel!

It was really hot, and so I made sure I wore the lightest clothes I had. Walking up and down hills in the extreme humidity was a killer, but that’s why I got all the outside stuff done in one day.

I had another sleep when I got back. I was too scared to go out and try any of the local cuisine, because I’m such a fussy person and also there was so little English around. During my walks, I found a supermarket near the hotel and so I bought things like yoghurt and biscuits, and lots and lots of drinks because of the heat. They have cool drinks with bits of fruit in them and coconut and Aloe Vera and all sorts of things.

This time when I walked to the supermarket it was pouring with rain, so I took the umbrella which the hotel had provided and I went out. I tried to stick to the covered overpasses that occasionally followed the roads but I kept accidentally ending up in casinos and because I was dressed so shabbily I got Chinese guys coming up to me at the entrances speaking to me in Chinese,. I assumed they were trying to tell me that I was not welcome there in my dishevelled state. So I walked outside through the pouring rain.

I went to the casino in the hotel in the evening. My budget was strictly HKD$900, and the rest of my spending money was left in the room so I didn’t spend it – always a good idea when gambling I say.

I played Blackjack first, but it doesn’t seem so popular here and so it wasn’t long before I was the only one at the table. Perhaps I smelled bad, or perhaps it is bad luck to have a Westerner at the table. I don’t like being the only one at the table, and also, the dealer dealt really really slowly, so it made each hand take a really long time.

So I moved onto Roulette. I was a bit luckier here, and in three of the next four spins I had chips on the numbers that came up. So I spent quite a while here, and when it got to two o’clock in the morning I thought I’d better leave. I came out with HKD$2200 so that was a pretty good profit for a night’s work.

2200 Hong Kong Dollars
2200 HONG KONG DOLLARS

On the way back to my room I was followed around by a lady who kept winking at me and asking me where I was from. I heard that there were a lot of prostitutes in the Lisboa on the second floor. I just smiled and then looked away. She followed me to the lifts but then left me alone luckily! I say she, but I’m only 80% sure she was a she and not a he.

Day 3

I did nothing today except packed my bags and went back to Hong Kong. I could have got up early and went to see more things, but the humidity just meant I didn’t feel like it.

At the ferry terminal, I dutifully stood in the wrong queue for 10 minutes, I thought that it was one queue for all destinations, but each destination had its own queue because each destination was a different ferry company.

Then I went to check my luggage in before I went through the gates, because I didn’t want to get told off again. At the luggage check in there was a very flustered Scottish woman who I could tell didn’t have enough money to check in her luggage. She said “My ferry is about to leave, I don’t have that much, do you take credit card” to which the attendant said “no”. So she said she’d have to go to the cash machine to get out some cash. I asked her how much she needed and she said $10 (HKD, NZD$1.75) and so I gave it to her. Being British she of course wouldn’t take it but I made sure she took it and she said “good karma will come to you today”.

I couldn’t check in my luggage because that check-in was for some other destination. So I got on the ferry anyway and this time they let me take my bag on, and put it in the luggage space at the front of the boat. Weird.

This ferry was great, there was almost nobody on it which of course was brilliant. Again I looked like the only other Westerner except for one guy who looked like a real hardcore backpacker with his large backpack and his “unshaven for the last 5 months” look.

MORE PHOTOS ON FACEBOOK >>>HERE<<<.

From Hong Kong to Macau on the ferry

July 9, 2012 5am in Travel | Comments (3)

I flew into Hong Kong with a plan to go to Macau, which is an hour or so ferry ride from Hong Kong. If you arrive between 11am and 6pm you can get the ferry direct from Hong Kong Airport to Macau, meaning that you don’t have to go through HK immigration, but since I arrived at 7am no way was I going to sit around for four hours on the wrong side of immigration.

There was barely a queue for “Visitors” for immigration and I got my bag straight away from the baggage carousel. To get to Hong Kong from the airport you can get the Airport Express for HKD$90 (NZD$15) or buses to pretty much anywhere for around HKD$40 (NZD$7). Being cheap like I am the decision was an easy one for me! Plus, I figured you’d be able to see more from a bus than a train which was most likely underground.

There’s a great website here where you can see where all the buses go to from the airport, then you can click on the routes and see a map of where they go. I worked out beforehand that the bus from the airport to the Macau ferry terminal on Hong Kong Island was A11. I worked out that it was the first stop after going through a big tunnel but I didn’t need to know that because the airport bus had a good information display that showed what the next stop was plus in Chinese and in English, plus if you buy your ticket from the window they give you a bus map as well which is really clear.

On the plane ride a guy and his girlfriend wanted to sit together but were sitting one in front of the other instead in the middle seats. The guy asked the four people around if any of them would consider swapping seats so they could sit together. I was the only one of the four that responded and I said “no, I like the window seat, sorry”. So that made for a bit of an uncomfortable flight. Surprise surprise, these two were also on the A11 bus that I took from the airport, sitting right in front of me. Needless to say we didn’t say anything to each other!

Getting on the bus, I could see very dark clouds forming, and near to getting off the bus, it started pouring with rain. The rain was sideways rain and very strong. But luckily it stopped just before my stop.

I knew it was going to be hot in Hong Kong in June, but when I got off the air-conditioned bus, I think my words were “holy Mother of God it’s hot”. It’s really humid and it looks like it is going to rain all the time – dark clouds are always looming. The high during the day was 32 degrees and the low at night was 28 degrees. Macau was exactly the same.

Getting off the bus stop labelled “Macau Ferry terminal”, it wasn’t clear where the ferry terminal actually was. You get dropped off under a big overpass, and there were construction fences as well so you couldn’t see any buildings. Plus it was morning rush hour and people were all walking in one direction, so I decided to follow them. The crowds led me to Sheung Wan MTR station (Hong Kong’s tube / metro / underground system), so I figured that was wrong. I walked back in the other direction, and found the vehicle entrance to the Macau Ferry, but pedestrians couldn’t walk in there. I was so glad I was really early and had plenty of time so I didn’t need to stress.

So I walked back to the bus stop, and tried to find a map or something. Everybody looked in a hurry and I wasn’t sure how many people spoke English so I just kept looking. By chance I turned behind me away from the road and saw between the construction “TurboJet ferries”. Hooray! So the moral of the story is, get off the bus, turn 180 degrees and walk straight ahead to find the ferry terminal!

I dragged my bags up the series of escalators to get to the ferry ticket office, and I noticed I was the only one with any real luggage, and also the only foreigner. I bought my ticket which cost HKD$151 and went through the “departures” area. Someone pulled me aside, saying “your luggage is oversized; you need to go that way”. He pointed me in the direction of the luggage check in. He weighed the bag and said “That’ll be HDK$20 please” because it weighed 20.5kg. Apparently if it weighed 20kg or less, it would have been free. Oh well, that’s fine. Customs grilled me about the contents of my bag and seemed a bit surprised that I was taking such a big bag to Macau. I convinced him that it contained nothing but clothes, but I bet he looked through it anyway. At this point I was just impressed and happy that everybody I had encountered spoke English.

I was tired after the flight and had completely forgotten that leaving Hong Kong and entering Macau is treated as an international trip, despite both places being part of China, so I was surprised that I had to go through a passport check. The waiting area after that was chaotic, people everywhere talking really loud and really crowded, lucky there were big signs saying which gate is for which ferry. I wouldn’t have wanted to end up somewhere in Mainland China.

When the ferry was ready to board, everybody piled forward in a big push. I heard the guy by the gate shouting at some girls “Seat number!! Seat number!!” and I managed to work out that you were supposed to go and get a seat number from the little table to the right. I’m glad I found that out before the guy started yelling at me! I got seat 9A. Then I got on the ferry and the staff showed me where to sit. Finally I could relax and check out all the big buildings of Hong Kong which seemed to go on forever.

Hong Kong from Macau ferry 1
HONG KONG FROM MACAU FERRY 1
Hong Kong from Macau Ferry 2
HONG KONG FROM MACAU FERRY 2