Bushire - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile




Bushire is a seaport in Iran and is the capital city of Bushehr Province. It is located around 750 miles south of Tehran. In the nineteenth century, Bushire was the main seaport of the area although there are currently several other prominent ports in the country. Great Britain occupied the port in 1856 during the Anglo-Persian War and again in 1915. In recent times, Bushire was in the news as being close to the site of Bushire Nuclear Power Plant. The project was conceived as early as 1975 but was finally commissioned only in September 2011.







Philatelic Profile:

Philatelic items from Bushire include used in Bushire’ stamps from India and Great Britain along with Iranian stamps with “BushireUnder British Occupation” overprints issued in 1915. Most of the stamps from the period are sought after and highly collectible. Valuable Indian stamps used in Bushire include early issues with the 308 overprint in Used condition from the period between 1854 and the turn of the century. Certain inverted overprints and other errors also exist although there are very well executed forgeries in the market as well. Iranian stamp designs with the “Bushire UnderBritish Occupation” overprints include Ahmad Shah portrait issues, the Imperial Crown issues, King Darius Farvahar overhead issues, and ruins of Persepolis issues in different colors and denominations. A notable variety among theoverprints is the “no period after OCCUPATION” issues which fetch roughly double the premium compared to the regular varieties without the period. There are a total of twenty nine stamps along with fourteen “no period” varieties. It will however require quite an effort to assemble the complete set of these issues as some of them are very rare and valuable. The 2c blue & car, the 5c red, and the 6c olive green & car are the rarest and feature the Imperial Crown design. All the stamps in that set (Scott #N15 to #N29) issued in September 1915 fetch a premium upwards of $500 in Used or Mint condition. The first set (Scott #N1 to #N14) is also sought after and catalogs for around $2600 for Mint and around $2K for Used. The issues have the Lion watermark (161) and form a step in identifying forgeries. The “Used in Bushire” examples are also very collectible although the values vary widely depending on condition and whether the examples are on cover.

Coins and Collectible Memorabilia:

Bushire had a mint (Abu Shahr) and several coins of the nineteenth century were produced there. Copper coins with animal designs form the majority of the issues and they fetch around $40 or so in VF. Originalpostcards and photographs showing local scenes of nineteenth century life in Bushire fetch a premium into the $100s depending on condition. First editionsof Persian books covering the area are also very collectible.


Last Updated: 12/2015.

Holyland Trip - Jordan - Other Sites

The rest of Jordan has many sites and our trip covered only the sites closest to Amman and could be covered in one afternoon. Other prominent sites that we had to reluctantly gave a miss this time around include:

  1. Petra, the Red Rose City is one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World” rediscovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812. It is a city carved in a mountain from the Nabatean period located around 250 KM (3.5 hours) South-West of Amman via Route 15. The site features huge colorful rocks in pink – the entrance is through a 1.25 KM narrow gorge in the mountain called the Siq. Structures carved into the rocks include temples, theaters, monasteries, houses and roads. Half a mile from the Siq is the site of a famous scene in an Indiana Jones movie.
  2. Jerash, a well-preserved Roman town with colonnaded streets, Corinthian arches, Roman Theaters, etc is a Decapolis city called the Pompeii of the East. The area surrounding the ruins is one of the most scenic in the country with ancient olive groves and oak/pine woodlands. Jerash is located around 55 KM due North from Amman on Route 35.
  3. Wadi Rum, a desert full of mountains and hills located south of Jordan. It is considered as the most stunning desert in the world with massive mountains rising vertically and cliffs of weather-bed stone in a pink desert setting creating a place of breathtaking beauty. The site is mainly known for its association with Lawrence of Arabia.
  4. Mukawir is the hilltop location were John the Baptist was ordered to be beheaded by Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great.

 Related Posts:

  1. Holyland Trip Report - Jordan - Mount Nebo, Madaba - Day 1.
  2. Holyland Trip Report – Israel - Yardenit, Tiberias, Tabgha, Cappernaum, Ginosar, Sea of Galilee (Day 2).
  3. Holyland Trip Report - Israel - Nazareth, Cana, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, and Bethlehem (Day 3).
  4. Holyland Trip Report - Israel - Jerusalem (Day 4).
  5. Holyland Trip Report – Israel – Jerusalem, Jericho, Dead Sea (Day 5).
  6. Holyland Trip Report – Egypt – Red Sea, Sinai (Day 6).
  7. Holyland Trip Report – Suez Canal, Cairo - Day 7.
  8. Holyland Trip Report - Old Cairo - Day 8.
  9. Holyland Trip - Gotchas to avoid.  
  10. Holyland Trip - Jordan - Other Sites
Last Updated: 12/2012.

Bullish options strategies for value investors



Bullish options strategies provide value investors a great set of tools to implement a bullish bias in their portfolios with time limits. It is also possible to implement strategies that mimic the level of bullishness you would like to see reflected in the portfolio. Below are the strategies that can be used:

Strongly bullish strategies:

The simplest bullish strategies involve buying calls or selling puts. Long calls or short puts on one of the ETFs covering the major markets (SPY, VTI, QQQ, etc) can be used to build a strong bullish bias that will correlate with the specific market as a whole. However investing in derivatives of the major market indexes has downsides including the fact that it is suitable only when the markets have bottomed out – determining the exact bottom is a gamble best avoided. So, it is best to use a series of non-correlated securities to implement this strategy in your portfolio. The classic dilemma that face value investors using long calls or short puts as a strategy is deciding how much to commit and timing.

Value investors generally have the defining characteristic that they are risk-averse. Basically, they are willing to sacrifice some portfolio performance, if there is a sizable reduction in the associated risk. For this reason, long calls should be preferred over short puts by value investors, as the downside is very high – you can loose a lot more than the premiums received. The only time when it makes sense for value investors to use short puts is as a chance to initiate a long position at a future point at a reduced cost compared to the current market price – the strategy has the downside that assignment is not guaranteed but atleast the premiums will be yours to keep, if that scenario plays out.

Long calls are not a compatible strategy either for risk-averse investors as they represent capital at risk - one of the outcomes of such positions is the loss of all the monies committed to the strategy. So, value investors have to come to terms with this basic fact before committing monies. Given the risk-averse philosophy, it is best to aim to keep no more than a maximum of 2-4% of their total portfolio value invested in long calls.

Deciding on the timing aspect is more art than science. It is however vital as you stand to lose all the capital if what you foresaw plays out a few days/weeks after the expiry date of your position. It is a fool’s game to predict the exact timing of anticipated positive outcomes for a security price. Even when some anticipated event occurs, macro situations can drive the security in the opposite direction temporarily. Even so, chances of success are higher when positioning based on anticipated events/dates: earnings announcement, new product announcements, litigation result, regulatory approval, and favorable macro environment.

Moderately bullish strategies:

The Holy Grail with a long call position is unlimited upside. Long call positions can be altered to a moderately bullish position by using an opposite position that reduces the overall cost. The classic way to do this is using bull call spreads – it allows reducing the cost of a long call option position by using an opposite position that limits the potential upside. Reducing the duration of the contract will also reduce the cost but that is not usually possible - value investors need to incorporate a good margin for error in their estimate of the timing of the bullish scenario playing out.

The bane of short put positions is its large downside risk. The bullish position can be altered to a moderately bullish position by using an opposite position that limits the downside risk. The classic way to do this is using bull put spreads – it allows reducing the downside risk of a short put position by using an opposite position that limits that downside.

  1. Bull call spreads: Bull call spreads involve combining a long at-the-money (ATM) call position with a short out-the-money (OTM) call position (higher strike price) on the same security, in the same quantity, and using the same expiration month. You are in effect sacrificing some potential upside of your long call position by collecting some premium upfront from a corresponding short call position that is far enough out of the money so that if you are assigned, you still exit with a very good profit. As an example, say Google (GOOG) is trading at $600 and your research indicates that analysts may be overly pessimistic of the company’s prospects for next quarter. So, you bought a call option on Google (GOOG) shares at a strike price of $600 for $30 (premium of $3000) expiring next month immediately after earnings. The analyst expectations shifted as the earnings date approached and the sentiment change resulted in the stock trading at $640 two weeks from earnings. At this point, you estimate the upside is now somewhat limited to $660 or so. A good way to reduce the cost of your original position at this point is by establishing a new short long position at a strike price of $660 at 20 (premium of $2000). In effect, you have managed to reduce the cost of your original long position from $3000 to $1000 while sacrificing the upside over $660. If the stock trades above $660 at expiry, your gains are limited but still very good: ($660-$600)*100-$1000=$5000. There is not much downside protection other than the fact that you reduced the risk capital from $3000 to $1000. The classic bull call spread strategy involves simultaneously buying ATM calls and selling OTM calls on the same security and expiration month, rather than waiting for a period of time to establish the latter position. The cost reduction will be lower when using that strategy as far-out-the-money calls will have very limited premiums associated with them.
  2. Bull put spreads: Bull put spreads involve combining a long at-the-money (ATM) put position with a short in-the-money (ITM) put position (higher strike price) on the same security, in the same quantity, and using the same expiration month. You are in effect reducing the downside risk by sacrificing some premium to purchase a protective put.  As an example, say Google (GOOG) is trading at $600 and your research indicates that analysts may be overly pessimistic of the company’s prospects for next quarter. So, you sold an ITM put position at $630 for $35 ($3500 premium) expiring next month, immediately after earnings –the idea is to keep the premium, when your bullish prediction plays out. The position has no downside protection. For example, if the stock dropped to $500 at expiry, you stand to loose a whopping $9500 (630-500-35), almost three times the premium received. To avoid this situation, you buy an at-the-money (ATM) put position simultaneously at $600 for $10 ($1000 premium). In this scenario, if the stock dropped to $500 at expiry, you loose only $500 ($9500 – $9000). The cost of reducing this downside risk was the put premium of $1000 you paid for the long ATM put position.

The bull spreads above are called vertical spreads as the strike price is used to implement the spread. A variation that uses the expiry to implement the spread is called calendar spreads. Longer term long calls are offset by short-term short calls.

Mildly bullish strategies:

Long positions represent a strong bullish stance on the company concerned. The strong bullish stance of a long position can be reduced to a mild bullish stance by selling covered calls. Out-of-the-money covered calls are preferred unless you think the stock price is already over-extended. The covered call premium provides a small amount of downside protection. Also, out-of-the-money covered calls provide a way to exit the stock at a nice profit, if the stock goes up. There is no downside protection beyond the call premium realized upfront. Premiums go up as the time to expiration increase but chances of getting assigned also increase. Also, a series of shorter term option positions realize more premium income compared to a leap position of same duration and so in most situations going with shorter-term duration (three months or less) is the most beneficial when implementing this strategy.

Bearish options strategies for value investors



Bearish options strategies provide value investors a great set of tools to implement a bearish bias in their portfolios with time limits. It is also possible to implement strategies that mimic the level of bearishness you would like to see reflected in the portfolio. Below are the strategies that can be used:

Strong bearish strategies:

The simplest bearish strategies involve buying puts or selling calls. Long puts or short calls on one of the ETFs covering the major markets (SPY, VTI, QQQ, etc) can be used to build a strong bearish bias that will inversely correlate with the specific market as a whole. However investing in derivatives of the major market indexes has downsides including the fact that it is suitable only when the markets have topped out – determining the exact top is a gamble best avoided. The classic dilemma that face value investors using long puts or short calls as a strategy is deciding how much to commit and timing.

Value investors generally have the defining characteristic that they are risk-averse. Basically, they are willing to sacrifice some portfolio performance, if there is a sizable reduction in the associated risk. For this reason, long puts should be preferred over short calls by value investors, as the downside is very high with short calls – you can loose a lot more than the premiums received. The only time when it makes sense for value investors to use short calls is as a chance to initiate a short position at a future point at a higher price compared to the current market price – the strategy has the downside that assignment is not guaranteed but atleast the premiums will be yours to keep, if that scenario plays out.

Long puts are not a compatible strategy either for risk-averse investors as they represent capital at risk - one of the outcomes of such positions is the loss of all the monies committed to the strategy. So, value investors have to come to terms with this basic fact before committing monies. Given the risk-averse philosophy, it is best to aim to keep no more than a maximum of 2-4% of their total portfolio value invested in long puts.

Deciding on the timing aspect is more art than science. It is however vital as you stand to lose all the capital if what you foresaw plays out a few days/weeks after the expiry date of your position. It is a fool’s game to predict the exact timing of anticipated negative outcomes for a security price. Even when some anticipated event occurs, macro situations can drive the security in the opposite direction temporarily. Even so, chances of success are higher when positioning based on anticipated events/dates: earnings announcement, new product announcements, litigation result, regulatory approval, and favorable macro environment.

Moderately bearish strategies:

The Holy Grail with a long put position is almost unlimited upside. Long put positions can be altered to a moderately bearish position by using an opposite position that reduces the overall cost. The classic way to do this is using bear put spreads – it allows reducing the cost of a long put option position by using an opposite position that limits the potential upside. Reducing the duration of the contract will also reduce the cost but that is not usually possible - value investors need to incorporate a good margin for error in their estimate of the timing of the bearish scenario playing out.

The bane of short call positions is its unlimited downside risk. The bearish position can be altered to a moderately bearish position by using an opposite position that limits the downside risk. The classic way to do this is using bear call spreads – it allows reducing the downside risk of a short call position by using an opposite position that limits that downside.

  1. Bear put spreads: Bear put spreads involve combining a long at-the-money (ATM) put position with a short out-the-money (OTM) put position (lower strike price) on the same security, in the same quantity, and using the same expiration month. You are in effect sacrificing some potential upside of your short put position by collecting some premium upfront from a corresponding long put position that is far enough out of the money so that if you are assigned, you still exit with a very good profit. As an example, say Google (GOOG) is trading at $600 and your research indicates that analysts may be overly optimistic of the company’s prospects for next quarter. So, you bought a put option on Google (GOOG) shares at a strike price of $600 for $30 (premium of $3000) expiring next month immediately after earnings. The analyst expectations shifted as the earnings date approached and the sentiment change resulted in the stock trading at $560 two weeks from earnings. At this point, you estimate the upside is now somewhat limited to $540 or so. A good way to reduce the cost of your original position at this point is by establishing a new short put position at a strike price of $540 at 20 (premium of $2000). In effect, you have managed to reduce the cost of your original long position from $3000 to $1000 while sacrificing the upside from the price dropping below $540. If the stock trades below $540 at expiry, your gains are limited but still very good: ($600-$540)*100-$1000=$5000. There is not much downside protection other than the fact that you reduced the risk capital from $3000 to $1000. The classic bear put spread strategy involves simultaneously buying ATM puts and selling OTM puts on the same security and expiration month, rather than waiting for a period of time to establish the latter position. The cost reduction will be lower when using that strategy as far-out-the-money puts will have very limited premiums associated with them.
  2. Bear call spreads: Bear call spreads involve combining a long at-the-money (ATM) call position with a short in-the-money (ITM) call position (lower strike price) on the same security, in the same quantity, and using the same expiration month. You are in effect reducing the downside risk by sacrificing some premium to purchase a protective call.  As an example, say Google (GOOG) is trading at $600 and your research indicates that analysts may be overly optimistic of the company’s prospects for next quarter. So, you sold an ITM call position at $570 for $35 ($3500 premium) expiring next month, immediately after earnings –the idea is to keep the premium, when your bearish prediction plays out. The position has no downside protection. For example, if the stock spiked to $700 at expiry, you stand to loose a whopping $9500 (700-600-35), almost three times the premium received. To avoid this situation, you buy an at-the-money (ATM) call position simultaneously at $600 for $10 ($1000 premium). In this scenario, if the stock spiked to $700 at expiry, you loose only $500 ($9500 – $9000). The cost of reducing this downside risk was the call premium of $1000 you paid for the long ATM call position.

The bear spreads above are called vertical spreads as the strike price is used to implement the spread. A variation that uses the expiry to implement the spread is called calendar spreads. Longer term long puts are offset by short-term short puts.

Mildly bearish strategies:

Short positions represent a strong bearish stance on the company concerned. The strong bearish stance of a short position can be reduced to a mild bearish stance by selling puts. Out-of-the-money puts are preferred unless you think the stock price is already starting to tank. The put premium provides a small amount of downside protection. Also, out-of-the-money puts provide a way to exit the stock at a nice profit, if the stock goes down. There is no downside protection beyond the put premium realized upfront. Premiums go up as the time to expiration increase but chances of getting assigned also increase. Also, a series of shorter term option positions realize more premium income compared to a leap position of same duration and so in most situations going with shorter-term duration (three months or less) is the most beneficial when implementing this strategy.


Tracking George Soros's Portfolio - Q3 2012 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights George Soros's moves this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:



Tracking David Einhorn's Greenlight Capital Portfolio - Q3 2012 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights David Einhorn's moves this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:



Tracking Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Portfolio - Q3 2012 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights Warren Buffett's moves this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:



Tracking Bruce Berkowitz's Fairholme Portfolio - Q3 2012 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights Bruce Berkowitz's moves this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:



Tracking Bill Ackman's Pershing Square Holdings - Q3 2012 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights Bill Ackman's moves this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:


Tracking Seth Klarman's Baupost Group Holdings - Q3 2012 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights Seth Klarman's moves this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:



Tracking Mohnish Pabrai's - Q3 2012 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights Mohnish Pabrai's moves this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:


Tracking John Paulson's Paulson and Co. Holdings - Q3 2012 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that shows the changes to Paulson's 13F US long portfolio as of Q3 2012. For a look at how his portfolio has progressed, see our Q2 2012 update:


Paulson's portfolio went up around 11% this quarter from around $11.28B to around $12.54B. Notable new positions include ~2% stake in MetroPCS (PCS), ~1.8% stake in Conseco Financial Group, and ~1% stakes in Nexen Inc. (NXY) and Shire PLC ADR (SHPG). The largest three stake increases were Grifols S A (GRFS), Life Technologies (LIFE), and Equinix (EQIX).

Tracking Prem Watsa's Fairfax Financial Holdings - Q3 2012 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that shows changes to Prem Watsa's 13F US long holdings as of Q3 2012. To have a look at how the portfolio has progressed, see our previous update:


The portfolio size increased slightly from around $1.91B to $1.97B. There is one new position worth over a million dollars, and that is a very small stake in Nexen Inc. (NXY). The main activity in the quarter include:
  1.  Roughly doubling the large position in Research in Motion (RIMM) at prices between $6.30 and $8.29. The stock currently trades at $9.20. Watsa's original stake in RIMM has a much higher cost basis as he purchased the bulk of that stake in Q4 2011 and Q1 2012 at prices between $12.52 and $24.42. 
  2. The stake in US Bancorp (USB) was reduced by around 30% at prices between $31.90 and $34.93. USB is a long-term holding which was reduced substantially in 2010. The stake reduction indicates a bearish bias. 
  3. USG Corp. (USG) stake was reduced to an insignificantly small stake as of Q3 2012 at prices between $15.76 and $23.72. 
  4. Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) stake was reduced by around 40% this quarter at prices between $32.85 and $36.13. 
  5. The stake Resolute Forest Products (RFP) was marginally increased.
As a deep value investor that digs for opportunities where the market has mispriced securities, Prem Watsa has said that he expects his holdings to go down in value after his stake initiations. But, he is still able to realize capital gains constantly as other areas of the portfolio outperform as the market values holdings correctly. RIMM and USG are both examples of how the philosophy works in practice: RIMM has gone down drastically since his purchase but he continues to build that position. USG was an underperforming security in the portfolio for a number of years, but this year the stock doubled and Watsa has harvested it.


Tracking Ian Cumming and Joseph Steinberg's Leucadia National Portfolio - Q3 2012 Update

This article is part of an ongoing series that provides analysis of the changes made to Ian Cumming & Joseph Steinberg’s Leucadia National's (LUK) US stock portfolio on a quarterly basis. Their US long portfolio currently has just three names and there was only one change from the previous quarter.
The spreadsheet below show Cumming's US stock holdings as of Q3 2012. Please visit our previous updates to get an idea on how the portfolio has progressed:


The portfolio size dropped by one-third this quarter from $1.23B to $830M. The drop was primarily because of the disposal of Mueller Industries (MLI) which had accounted for ~36% of the portfolio as of last quarter - Mueller Industries (MLI) bought Leucadia's (LUK) stake in Mueller for ~$430M in September. The huge position in Jefferies Corp (JEF) account for most of Leucadia's US long portfolio. LUK announced their plans to merge with JEF earlier this month and that has resulted in a pop in the shares of JEF. 

Tracking Carl Icahn's Holdings - Q3 2012 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that shows Carl Icahn's US long portfolio holdings as of Q3 2012. To know more on how his holdings have progress, check-out our previous update:


Icahn's portfolio value increased by around 7% this quarter from $10.47B to $11.19B. There were several marginal increases and just one marginal decrease (Commercial Metals - CMC) to his holdings this quarter. The two large stakes in natural gas related businesses were left untouched during the quarter: CVR Energy Inc. (CVI) and Chesapeake Energy Corporation (CHK). Other activity in the quarter include a ~17% stake increase to the long-term Forest Labs (FRX) position and a ~25% increase to the Navistar (NAV) position. FRX and NAV are trading near the lows for the year and so they are good option to consider for anyone following Ichan's trades. The only other significant activity was a 0.6% stake in Netflix (NFLX). The position has since been built up to a stake more than 10% and Icahn is getting ready for another of his famed proxy battles with the company management.



Tracking David Swensen's Yale Endowment Holdings - Q3 2012 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that shows the changes to Yale Endowment's US long portfolio holdings as of Q3 2012. To have an idea of how the endowment's holdings have progressed click on our previous update:



After reducing Yale Endowment's US long portfolio to an insignificant amount of just under $30M last quarter compared to the Endowment total value of well over $20B, this quarter saw some very minor adjustments. The US long portfolio is a little bit higher, as new but still rather insignificant positions were established in Carter's Inc. (CRI), China Kanghui Holdings (KH), Insulet Corporation (PODD), Marsh & McLennan (MMC), and Qihoo 360 (QIHU). KH was acquired by Medtronic (MDT) on 9/28/2012 for $31.75 cash - it might have been an arbitrage position to capture the price difference between the market price after the deal announcement and the price it traded at. The only other trade of any significance was the ~70% reduction in the iShares MSCI EAFE ETF (EFA) position.


Tracking Glenn Greenberg's Brave Warrior Associates Portfolio - Q3 2012 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights the changes to in Glenn Greenberg's Brave Warrior Associates US long stock portfolio as of Q3 2012. To see how his portfolio has progressed, check our previous update:


 The portfolio increased in value from around $1.41B to $1.61B. The positions were all adjusted incrementally although the number of positions in the portfolio remained steady at 12.



Tracking Wilbur Ross's Holdings - Q3 2012 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that shows changes to Wilbur Ross's US long portfolio as of Q3 2012. To see how his portfolio has progressed, click on our previous update:


The portfolio remained largely steady during the quarter. The only changes were minor stake reductions in three very small holdings: Bioscrip Inc. (BIOS), Key Energy Services (KEG), and United Continental (UAL).


Thai-Malaysia Trip – Gotchas to Avoid

While it is entirely possible to arrange for flight tickets and hotel packages online, we found it better in many ways to go with a tour company specializing in outbound travel services. Moreover, our Holyland trip reservation prepared us to better deal with the shortcomings of the tour company personnel. Even so, many surprises lurk for a first-time South Asia bound traveler. Below is a list of gotchas to avoid when reserving a trip to South Asian countries from Kerala:

  1. Travel agents offer vanilla packages that include a city tour and/or one or more attractions, depending on the number of days planned for a particular city. The standard packages are very economical. They are only slightly flexible when it comes to adding/deleting items in the package itinerary and upgrading hotels. Half-day city tours are a given for many of these packages and are worthwhile only for first-time visitors. In general, tour companies do not favor altering packages for it involves more work on their part. We preferred Taman Nagara instead of Genting for the Malaysia wing and it took the tour company a few weeks before getting back to us – the quote was a whopping $2700 compared to the $1000 for the Genting package.
  2. When choosing packages, it is vital one is clear on what exactly is offered. The itineraries provided tend to be on the cryptic side. It pays to ask and verify what the offer comprises of before signing up. Further, it is best to contact the tour providers in the host country directly with one’s concerns as opposed to the tour company you signed up with in Kerala. The local tour company representatives are not the final authority and in many cases can be fairly inaccurate.
  3. August-September is a pretty good time to visit Thailand, Malaysia, and other South Asian countries – though it can be a little bit wet in September. For the Middle East, December through February is the best time to go.
  4. Phuket is a lot more popular that Pattaya as a beach town. Our package offered Pattaya although switching to Phuket was no big deal for the tour operator. That option is slightly more expensive as a local flight is necessary to get to Phuket. From our perspective, Pattaya worked just as well and we have no reservations recommending it.
  5. The tour companies provide visa services at reasonable costs – Rs 1500 and Rs 2400 respectively for Malaysia and Thailand. We didn’t avail this option, instead decided to deal with this at the airports concerned. As per the recommendation for the US consular affairs – there is no charge for visas for US citizens in Malaysia and Thailand.
  6. The tour operators primarily offer packages with full-service airlines. When we approached for a quote, we were routed through Bangalore or Madras in either Malaysian or Thai flights. These options were comparatively more expensive than direct flights through Air Asia. Furthermore, Air Asia’s discounted fares when purchased directly from their website could not be matched by our tour operator even after we informed them about the discrepancy. Finally, we paid around $50 more per person going through the tour operator for our Air Asia tickets – as our credit/debit cards were not getting accepted when trying to purchase tickets directly from Air Asia website, we bit the bullet and went with what the tour operator offered.
  7. Air Asia flight ticket rates can vary vastly depending on the date chosen. So, it is worthwhile to play with the rated quotes, if dates are flexible. Our initial quote from our tour company was with Thai Airways flight via Madras for about $175 more per person compared to the Air Asia flight they first quoted. After playing with the website, we suggested different dates which brought down the pricing further by around $110 more per person.
  8. Online check-in is a breeze and highly recommended for Air Asia flights as otherwise one might end-up in crappy seats – online check-in can be done 7 days in advance. There are pages to sign-up for seat selection, seating upgrades, travel insurance, etc. But, there was no option to purchase meals in that interface. Better to do that via your travel agent or through the website.
  9. US dollars are generally not accepted by retail vendors in both countries. Airport counters are generally not that competitive compared to money exchange counters in the cities. Exchange minimal amounts at the airport and do the bulk of your exchange needs once you are in the city.
  10. The LCC Terminal in KUL is exclusive to Air Asia and facilities are very limited. A new one is being built with a tentative opening date of April 2013. We had a long wait at LCC Terminal and transfer counters didn’t open till 7AM in the morning. Even though we were on transit, we still had to go through immigration and get a 30-day visa. They do have a 120-hour transit permit option, but we were told to go through immigration – not sure why. Departure gates open only 3 hours before the scheduled flight. That is a bummer, as outside there is limited seating while many retail shops and much better seating and food options are available once inside the departure gates. We managed to find seats to spend about 5 hours overnight only to find special waiting room and a premium lounge by the side of the transit counters later – definitely a better option, if only we were aware.
  11. The 7 kg Air Asia cabin-baggage limit is enforced during the first check-in and there were no other checks for the rest of the flights.
  12. It is preferable to ask men instead of women for directions in Thailand. Possibly because of a lack of respect for women, being rude is second nature to many women. Also, it is worth being aware that Thailand is big on white-worshipping.
  13. Alcohol is readily available in Thailand. But, it is very expensive and harder to find in Malaysia – it is heavily taxed and hence it is best to get it at a duty-free before arrival.
  14. Accommodation can be iffy, if the travel agent’s default package is accepted at face value. If one can afford, it is worthwhile to get an upgrade to better hotels – online travel review sites can be a great resource in this regard.
  15. For half-day city tours, marketing stops are mandatory and it is best to hurry through them – their offerings are generally overpriced. Sometimes cabs offer hugely discounted fares, if you volunteer to go inside their client’s retail shop. This can be a good deal, if you can resist buying their wares.
  16. Genting First World hotel can be a frenzied experience although if you know how things work, things can go very smoothly: Check-in counters in the main lobby uses a ticket-based system – take a ticket and wait for your number to be called. Most places you would want to go are accessible via the indoor walkways – sticking to them is preferable to going out into the street and trying to locate the building. Check-out can be a breeze, if the kiosk is used. The bell counters work OK but there can be a big line at certain times of the day. Buffet breakfast can be very chaotic unless you go really early (6:30 AM) – vegetarian section is usually empty.

Related Posts:


  1. Trip Report to Genting
  2. Trip Report to Kuala Lumpur (KL)
  3. Trip Report to Pattaya
  4. Trip Report to Bangkok
 
Last Updated: 10/2012. 

 

British Honduras - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile



British Honduras is present-day Belize located in the North East of Central America bordered by Mexico to the North, Guatemala to the South and West and the Caribbean Sea to the East covering around 8700 square miles. The area was first colonized by Spain in the seventeenth century but became a British Crown Colony in 1862, subordinate to Jamaica. It became an independent British colony in 1884. The colony was renamed as Belize in 1973 and became the last continental possession of the United Kingdom to become independent in 1981.  From 1964 to 1981, the colony was self-governing.

Philatelic Profile:

The first stamps of British Honduras were QV key types issued in 1866. Prior to that, philatelic items of the area consist of certain prestamp philatelic markings and Great Britain stamps used in British Honduras. The first set consisted of three stamps (Scott #1 to #3) in different colors and denominations that ranged from 1p to 1sh. The set is sought after and catalogs in the $800 range for Mint and less than half that for used. Certain combinations in vertical and horizontal gutter pairs are known to exist and they catalog upwards of $30,000 - the distinct combinations exist as the 6p and 1sh denominations were printed only in a sheet with 1p early on. Surcharge varieties of the first set were the primary stamps used in British Honduras till around 1891. Several rare surcharge markings from this period exist and they fetch a premium well into the 1000s. Another QV key type set debut in 1891 (Scott #38 to #46) and that along with some charge varieties and key types ofKEVII and KGV formed the bulk of British Honduran stamp issues during the period through 1937. The only other issues from the area were common design types. Many of the issues from the period are sought after and very collectible.

The first original issue of British Honduras was a long set of twelve stamps (Scott #115 to #126) issued in 1938. The set is valuable and catalogs for around $80 MNH and around $45 Used. The designs show a KGVI head portrait as an inset along with a scene of local relevance: Mayan Figures, Chicle Tapping, Cohune Palm, Local Products, Grapefruit Industry, Mahogany Logs on River, Sergeant’s Cay, Dory, Chicle Industry, Belize Court House, Mahogany Cutting, and Seal of Colony.

Several Common Design Types were the mainstay of British Honduras stamp issues during the period till 1953. The only release outside this theme was a set of six stamps (Scott #131 to #136) issued on January 10, 1949 to mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of St. George’s Cay. The designs show St. George’s Cay and H.M.S. Merlin. The set is common and can be had for a few dollars. It is however very collectible. A local scenes set of twelve stamps (Scott #144 to #155) appeared in 1953 and that set continued to be sold till 1957. The designs show a QEII head portrait as inset along with local scenes: Arms, Tapir, Legislative Council Chamber and mace, Pine industry, Spiny lobster, Stanley Field Airport, Mayan Frieze, Blue Butterfly, Maya, Armadillo, Hawkesworth Bridge, and Pine Ridge Orchid.

Common Design Types continued to dominate the scene until 1962 when British Honduras started issuing stamps in brilliant colors to promote visual appeal. First was a stunningly beautiful set of twelve stamps featuring Birds issued in April 1962 in the theme “Birds in Natural Colors”. The set is very sought after and catalogs for around $75 MNH and around one-third that for Used. The designs show QEII head portrait as a top-right inset along with the main bird design: Great Curassow, Red-legged honeycreeper, American Jacana, Great Kiskadee, Scarlet-rumped tanager, Scarlet Macaw, Massena Trogon, Redfooted Booby, Keel-billed Toucan, Magnificent Frigate Bird, Rufoustailed Jacamar, Montezuma Oropendola. Another very collectible set is the Fish type, a set of twelve stamps released on October 15, 1968. It uses a very similar design with the British Crown instead of QEII as inset: Jewfish, White-lipped Peccary, Sea Bass (Grouper), Collared Anteater, Bonefish, Paca, Dolphinfish, Kinkajou, Yellow-and-green-banded muttonfish, Tayra, Great Barracudas, and Mountain Lion.


Numismatic Profile:

Several countermarked coins were in use in the area starting around the late 18th century. The ‘GR’ monogram was used in several coins in the early 19th century and crown over ‘GR’ was in use as well. The first such issue was a six shilling 1 penny silver coin dated between 1810 and 1818 with host dates between 1808 and 1811 (Mexico City 8 Reales). The issue is very valuable and fetch upwards of $800 in VF - better varieties are not known to exist.  Several other varieties exist and they generally fetch around the same price.

Decimal Coinage debut in 1885 with the issue of QV headcents in Bronze. They have mintage mintage in the 100,000 range. UNC varieties go for upwards of $75 and Proofs can be had for upwards of $250. Denominations from 1c to 50c exist and the higher denominations are in silver.  Premiums go up to around $1,500 for a 50 cent QV silver proof dated 1894. Token coinage consists of Brass Indian Head Rialsof 1871 and Copper numerals Pence by Henry Gansz of 1885. Mintages are unknown and UNC varieties go for upwards of $500.

Last Updated: 12/2015.

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