Tuesday, September 17, 2019

When you travel to the same city later once more

It has happened to me more than once. But this year was a prominent example. I visited Porto precisely six years later. Porto was so unique and close to me. It had so much of romantic and energetic memories cramped in - all from 2013 summer. After that, we planned to visit it on multiple occasions. But somehow, we always ended up choosing a new city, instead of Porto every time we had time.

Deciding whether to repeat a city that left us with good memories, or finding a new country/city to visit is also a tough choice. Sometimes, we leave a town with such positive memories, and it is hard to resist the desire to go back. Porto was one excellent example. Since we did not revisit it until we left Portugal in 2018 summer, it almost felt like visiting Porto maybe a distant dream.

But then my Ph.D. defense was scheduled, and my university in Belgium was managing my flight. I found that flight via Porto was much cheaper than flying to Lisboa from Brussels. I used it as my opportunity to visit Porto once more!

Porto was still charming. However, it was much colder. Interesting, given that it was the same days as in 2013. I could not jump into the ocean although I was walking by the Matosinhos beach, the same beach we visited last time. I almost felt like having time-traveled, if not for those differences in the weather and the minor changes in the city. For once, the metro line between Sao Bento and Jardim do Morro was closed for renovations. On a night, I took the bus from Sao Bento to Jardim do Morro and walked along the metro line from Jardim do Morro back to Sao Bento. The silence and noise from far restaurants were an exciting mix.

However, those moments from the first trip can never be replicated. We always have the memories of the past, and it is often challenging to have the same excitement. We also end up with disappointment when our expectation from the previous visit was not met during the second or a later visit — for instance, the weather. Not a single sunny day in Porto this time to enjoy a beach day, during the three days of my visit!

We happened to visit Houston recently. It is one of those cities that we will revisit. Not because we like it so much. Of course, the city was lovely - at least the food and its diversity. But the actual reason to revisit is its Chinese consulate. Since the Chinese consulate is in Houston, I have a feeling that we may revisit it in 2021. I am looking forward to seeing how Houston will treat us next time!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Younger Siblings of GSoC

There is a younger version of GSoC aiming at school students (age 13 - 17). Format is different. It is more of a contest of several small tasks. I mentored once for Haiku OS. If you feel bored during the weekends now that the GSoC is over, consideer to apply to be an organization. ;)

and another interesting one that happens in October. https://hacktoberfest.digitalocean.com/faq
Open source is changing the world – one pull request at a time.(209 kB)

^ The format is simple. Organizations register with their github profile and tag a few issues as "Hacktoberfest". Then students can pick up and resolve those issues with PRs. The student who completed 4 PRs receive a tshirt.

and a December version of it - https://24pullrequests.com/

24 Pull Requests is a yearly initiative to encourage contributors around the world to send 24 pull requests between December 1st and December 24th.(44 kB)

.. and if you want to give yourself or someone else a certificate, here is the tool that Google/GSoC uses - https://github.com/google/certificate-maker
An experimental tool for turning HTML templates into PDF files.
<https://github.com/google/certificate-maker|google/certificate-maker>google/certificate-maker | Jan 30th | Added by GitHub

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Is Vayama a scam?

Vayama FAQ on Coupons
Unfortunately, online travel agent websites are filled with so many scams. Most of the sites that you would find in well-known listing sites such as Skyscanner do not fit into the traditional definition of a scam. Therefore, they easily evade any lawsuits. Their terms and conditions are listed in fine-print, if you manage to read them when you purchase the flight ticket before the page times out in a few minutes.

Vayama is one of those shady predatory sites that you must avoid, if at all possible. If you must use them, especially if you have found the cheapest of the flight, make sure not to buy any of the add-ons. They promised a 40$ discount coupon for my next flight purchase when I purchased their premium package for my previous flight for 26$. I always land on Vayama from Skyscanner. But when I try to use my discount code, there was no way to input it. 

I contacted them  after purchasing the ticket, as their FAQ page seems to suggest that: "If your booking is not older than 2 days and if it meets the conditions, we can still add the discount code to your booking."

Their India-based support team replied to my complain. Their only repeated reply was "Your flight purchase is ineligible for this discount code since you landed in our web site through Skyscanner." Their logic, I must land on their site directly to be able to use their coupon code. Not through Skyscanner, Google, Kayak, or any other listing or search engines. Seriously? There was no mention of that when promoting their 26$ garbage package.

The only mention is in FAQ, which is no way linked to that terms and conditions listed for the 26$ premium package. The FAQ mentions:
"- Make a purchase directly on our website, not through one of our partners' website"

I and many others who complain on the same situation. Vayama using Skyscanner as an excuse not to provide the discount that we PURCHASED! Even Skyscanner got involved as a courtesy. Skyscanner sent me the below email with their reply:

 Hi again Pradeeban,

I hope you are well.

I have received a reply from Vayama group and they said they will make it clearer in their terms and conditions that the discount can only be applied when the search and the booking are both made on their website directly.

I'm sorry about this issue and that I wasn't able to help.

If there anything we can do or you have concerns  - please let me know, Pradeeban.


Vayama is such a shady business. Please also read some other serious allegations against Vayama here. If they at least fix their wording on their page that sells their discount coupons, customers won't be deceived to purchase the 26$ package, hoping to get a 40$ discount in the next purchase. Hope they will stick to their promise and make these conditions clearer.

Verdict: Avoid this shady travel website.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Are Vayama.com discount vouchers a scam?

So I bought the 26$ voucher on my previous Vayama booking that would qualify me a 40$ discount on my next booking. But guess what? My next booking did not receive the discount. When I asked why, their reply was:

"Dear Pradeeban,
I have noticed you made your booking on skyscannerus This means your booking has not been made directly on our website and therefore the code cannot be redeemed. To redeem the discount, you have to book directly on our website.

To use the discount code, you must meet the following conditions:

- Book directly on our website, not on a different website.
- Check if all spaces are deleted at the beginning and at the end of the code
- Don't return to the previous page after entering the code
- Check if you haven't mixed up 0 (the number) and O (the letter)
- Check the validity of the code. The code is valid for 1 year from your booking date.
- Use the same email address as during booking
- Valid on flights only"

I replied back:
I find it strange. Skyscanner is just a listing site. I still made the booking through your website, except landing on your site through Skyscanner.

I believe my booking qualifies for the 40$ discount. Could you please double check?"

Of course, no positive reply!

Later I found that they are using this 40$ discount code as a way to scam money out of people. Specifically, those who land on their site through Skyscanner.com and similar listing sites. I am not alone!

Hearing my story on Twitter, Skyscanner interacted with Vayama to see what is going on. Vayama apparently gave the Skyscanner representative the same reply as he did to me!

In short, avoid this misleading 40$ discount on your next trip in Vayama.com for 26$. It is a trap. You will never be able to redeem it. Basically, avoid Vayama.com additional services at all, if you must use Vayama. Their customer service is non-existing.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Is Trip.com a scam?

Trip.com is a weird company. 

You will be charged instantly for the full flight price. But you will receive your ticket only 168 hours before the flight, "as this is a special fare" (Hint: No, it is not). They may also decline your ticket and refund the price you paid at the last moment (i.e., 168 hours before the departure). By then, the flight prices would have high-rocketed. Of course, these are in the fine print when you buy the tickets. But who reads them anyway? Probably a way to oversell their tickets.

I received my ticket in a few hours. But I won't use this site again to maintain peace of mind.