Internet on the Trip [by Larry]Hotels - Joido Hotel, Seoul, Korea; Victoria Angkor Resort, Seam Reap, Cambodia; and The Park Royal, Yangon, Myanmar.
All the hotels provided internet was very good, with very little contention for bandwidth. At the Park Royal they had both wifi which was fine, and in the rooms there was a direct cable connection. The direct connection provided response that was just about as good as cable provides at home, and I was able to upload all photos from the trip during the Oct 2/3 layover..
Amapura - The ship technically provided wifi in the lounge area. The ship info indicated that the wifi was spotty along the Irrawaddy River - varying from "not at all" to weak and slow. Reviews on Cruise Critic by passengers of earlier cruises indicated that service was poor or non-existent.
So being the sort that suffers severe deprivation if the internet is poor (not to mention the need for internet to upload Janice's blog postings). I did some research before the cruise and found the following via reports on the net.
There are 3 companies providing internet service for cell phones: MPT, Telenor and Ooredoo. MPT is the original government company, reported to have the best coverage but with older technology and slower service. Telenor and Ooredoo are new private companies which initiated service and expanded quickly in Myanmar over a very few years. From subjective user reports I chose Ooredoo, a company based in Qatar. Click here to get a comparison of the companies operating in Myranmar
Based on my expectation that others on the trip would want to have access to the internet while on the Amapura, my plan was to bring both Janice's and my unlocked cell phones to provide service by rigging the phones as "hot spots". From internet advice, I knew that at the Yangon Airport there would be booths that sell SIM cards. Ooredoo had such a booth in the baggage area, and offered SIM cards with a month's credit to access 2.7Gbs of data. At home I pay $5 for each 100mb of data - that would amount to $135 for 2.7Gb - so getting a SIM card and $135 of data for $7 amounts to phenomenal deal. The tech at the booth installed the SIM cards in place of the ones from our Canadian provider (Koodoo) and taped our Koodo cards to the empty Ooredoo SIM card holder.
So how does the internet package on our cell phones help provide wifi service to our travel colleges on the ship and in tour buses? Well, most phones have a function called "Tethering". This means that the phone can be set up as a "hot spot" providing wifi service to other computers, ipads or smart phones. My phone was set up as "Intrepid_1" and Janice's as "Intrepid_2" so our travel friends could sign-on if they were nearby.
The Ooredoo service on the Irrawaddy River seemed to be much better and more consistent than the ship service. The ship uses MPT, but on the ship the service is shared with everyone on the ship and was not very available The Intrepid service was mostly restricted to a smaller number users so there was usually a great advantage of using our hotspot Ooredoo service. The service was a little spotty but not too bad, depending on our location. At times our phones would indicated a strong cell signal but no internet service. Hard to explain that.
The happy Intrepid users used up the 2.7Gb on each phone fairly quickly. During a couple of stops along the way I was able to purchase "Top Up" cards which enabled recharging the phones with more data. Janice's phone was Topped Up very little but mine received several.
In summary 2 Top Ups were purchased for a total of about Cdn$28 (ie 30000 kyats). Intrepid user contributions covered all the costs. Total data used on the buses, on the ship, and at some airports was:
Larry's Phone: 13.7 Gb
Jan's Phone: 4.3 Gb for a total of 18 Gb
Man, that is a lot of data! - an ebook is roughly 1Mb of data. So all of us used the equivalent of 18,000 ebooks. (oh, yes I did give the password to a couple of non-Intrepids so usage is not all ours!!...and do you think that some Netflix use occurred!!?)
With the Intrepid_1 and Intrepid_2 phones giving wifi hotspot service some interesting phenomenon occurred around our cabin. Internet "Lurkers" accumulated outside our door on the ship. We invited them in when we saw them...but "Lurkers", were found to be shy, bashful, focused and reluctant to leave their place.
As well there was a mysterious message left on our Florida phone number by some of these Lurkers: