Tokyo 2017

by: xtian001

In: Japan | Travel

21 Jun 2017

This is our third time to visit Japan, our second time in Tokyo. We were in Tokyo on 2010 and though we stayed for 15 days, it wasn’t enough for us. There were still places we wanted to visit and revisit.

Our trip started early in the morning of June 21. We landed at Narita and got the N’EX TOKYO Round Trip Tickets which provide a direct trip from the airport to Shibuya and vice versa. The discounted tickets cost 4,000 yen (130QAR/1800Php) per person. On all instances that we‘ve used the airport trains (including Osaka), they were never really full. The seats were wide and comfortable and have enough spaces for luggage in the front and back of each cart.

If it is your first time in Japan, you should know that their train stations are huge. Some stations have malls built above them or as oart of the station itself. The number of levels and trains are also confusing. Carrying big luggage will also prove to be an exercise as some stations would not have elevators nor escalators or finding one would be difficult to get to.

Getting out of Shibuya station became a challenge for us as it was raining when we arrived. Our apartment was about a 8-10 minute walk from the station but getting a taxi was also difficult. We braved the rain and since we only had 2 umbrellas, I got soaked while I pushed 2 big luggage across streets. After some stops along the way, we finally made it to My Castle Shibuya, our home for the next 7 days.


Ok, so Netflix is now available in Qatar. As mentioned in my previous post, you can subscribe with a 1 month FREE TRIAL but you would need a credit card or paypal. You can cancel anytime before the trial expires.

But how is Netflix in Qatar in terms of the actual service? It seems that the video catalog for each country differs and this is what I found out yesterday after trying out Netflix on my Amazon Fire TV stick. I was trying to see if I can watch FRIENDS through Netflix so I did a search and came up with nothing. I went online to see that there may have been some issues with it and people were saying you have to type in “F.R.I.E.N.D.S.” to find it. I did that as well and still nada.

Hmm…so I went on my PC, used a VPN service, registered for a US Account and voila, FRIENDS is indeed available. This is only though a VPN service which configures your IP Address to be in the US. The full FRIENDS Episodes we’re available and were streaming. So I logged out of my previous Qatar Netflix Account and tried to login to my US Netflix Account. Still, no FRIENDS. That also means that we are missing out on probably thousands of Movies and TV Shows available in the US Netlix Catalog! This is Netflix Geo-blocking in which the number of available TV Shows and Movies are limited by your geographic location, mostly in part, due to licensing agreements.

Doing more research, here is what I found out about the the Netflix Catalog:


United States Qatar Philippines
Movies and
TV Shows
6994 1647 849

To be more precise about the numbers, Netflix Qatar provides us with 217 Shows and 1430 Movies. (You can access the full lists by clicking the numbers) We are still luckier as the Philippines were only provided 849 shows and movies to access.

I don’t see FRIENDS, Walking Dead, Fraiser, Cheers, Gilmore Girls and even animes like Sword Art Online and Attack on Titan which are all available in the US Netflix Catalog!  I am not sure yet if Netflix will actually expand its Qatar Catalog in the very near future.

With that in mind, if you were using Ooredoo’s Mozaic service before, you may want to hold on to it for a little while as a Netflix subscription may not be as worthy as we all thought it would be since their launch in Qatar yesterday.

Netflix in Qatar - logoNetflix is available in Qatar!

This is after the announcement yesterday that Netflix had switched on its service in 130 additional countries, including Qatar. So no more VPNs or tedious and even costly workarounds if you really are into Netflix and reside in Doha.

For those in Qatar who doesn’t have a clue what Netflix is, it is a subscription-based video streaming service in which movies and TV show episodes are streamed over the Internet, not being downloaded, directly to your TV or your phone. It’s basically YouTube with actual movies and TV Shows.

You can watch shows like Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Flash, Arrow, Gotham, and more, on demand, anytime you want to watch them without missing a single episode due to some event or activity you need to attend. You can rewatch your favorite Friends episode, The A Team, Gilmore Girls, and more. And I’m not even talking about movies yet. Plus you have loads of stuff for kids as well. Oh, and Netflix has their own produced TV Shows and Movies that are really good like Jessica Jones and Daredevil.

You do have to pay a monthly fee, based on your service plan, to use Netflix and require a device from where to run it like an Xbox, Playstation, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Firestick or your smartTV may have it as an app. Tablets and phones can easily be installed with Netflix as well.

It is quite easy to subscribe to a plan of your choosing. What’s is good about it is that you get 1 month free trial the moment you register to the service. You may cancel or even upgrade your plan in between subscription.

Free 1 month Netflix

Of course, signing up would require you to give your credit card information or you can also pay through Paypal. I was able to register in just 2 minutes as it only required my email address, a password and paypal info.

Netflix Prices in Qatar

Netflix Prices in Qatar

So how much is Netflix subscription in Qatar? The Basic plan would cost you about 30QR (USD 7.99) in which you can watch on 1 screen with standard definition quality. It gets better on a Standard plan for about 37QR (USD 9.99) as it gives you the option to watch on 2 screens at a time (maybe your SmartTV at home and your tablet/phone) plus you get to watch in HD. For 44QR, the Premium Plan gives for UltraHD Content plus you can watch on 4 screens at the same time. You best bet would be Standard Plan especially if you have the 25mbps connection from Ooredoo.

Speaking of which, Netflix presents a big challenge for Ooredoo and its Mozaic service. Ooredoo’s Mozaic service costs about 17QR (4.65 USD) on top of your Fibre connection. It gives you some channels which goes on replay for basically a month. By the end of 3 days, you get the same programming over and over again. I am now trying to find out if I can unsubscribe from Ooredoo’s Mozaic so I can just have Netflix. I do hope that Netflix doesn’t get blocked in Qatar.

What do you think? Already thinking of signing up for Netflix?

“The balikbayan box arose in the 1980s when Section 105 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines as amended by Executive Order No. 206 provides duty and tax free privileges to overseas foreign workers ( OFW ) enacted by former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos due to resurgence of Filipinos working overseas.[citation needed] The Philippine Bureau of Customs Circular allowed tax-free entry of personal goods in the country from Filipinos overseas. People then began sending items through friends and co-workers who were returning to the Philippines.” – Wikipedia

There has been a lot of talk on the news and social media regarding the announcement of the Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) wanting to impose a tighter control on the inspection of “Balikbayan boxes” arriving in the Philippine ports. Balikbayan boxes are like “care packages” of goodies, clothes, food, toys toiletries, etc., placed in a corrugated box, sent to the families of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) back in the Philippines through freight forwarders or brought by the OFW when returning home. It is part of the Filipino culture in which travelers usually brought “pasalubong” back to their families after travelling. See my old (really old) post regarding Balikbayan boxes here.

As per the Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina, the main reason for implementing more stringent rules on these balikbayan boxes is that some of these balikbayan boxes are used to ship taxable items and are being undetected which causes the loss of Php50 million or Php600 million a year for BOC. The BOC reiterated some of the following guidelines for balikbayan boxes:

  1. Contents of the balikbayan box must not exceed US$500 (current rate of php23,000)  Php10,000 in value
  2. Goods must not exceed a dozen of each kind. i.e. You are now limited to sending more than 12 of those corned beef cans!
  3. Apparel/clothes, whether used of not, must not exceed 3 yards per cut.
  4. Home appliances are not allowed unless these are consigned to returning Filipino residents and overseas contract workers.

With this, the BOC intends to conduct “random” inspections of incoming balikbayan boxes and impose taxes on goods contained in these boxes if found that they don’t adhere to the guidelines. This is where I and my fellow OFWs cry foul.

Those balikbayan boxes are our personal belongings, each and every item we carefully pack and send are fruits of our hard work, and a symbol of our everyday sacrifice being away from our loved ones just to earn a living. Just imagining the smiles on the faces of our families opening our gifts through these boxes makes it worth our sacrifices.

“Kung di ka nanakawan ng mga freight-forwarders, BOC naman and magnanakaw sa iyo! Ano pa matitira sa padala mo?”

Even before the news of the BOC implementation came out, OFWs were already faced with issues when sending their balikbayan boxes. Some boxes takes a lot of time to be delivered than the expected date of arrival; a box sent through sea cargo and expected to be delivered in 45 days sometimes get delivered after 90 days, if it doesn’t get “lost” in transit. Oftentimes, these boxes are purposely opened and looted by freight-forwarders or those delivering the items in the Philippines. Damaged boxes through mishandling are also common. Imagine the distress of the OFW who suffers any of the situation above!

I myself don’t have any qualms regarding the guidelines imposed by BOC for balikbayan boxes. My budget each year for my balikbayan doesn’t exceed Php23,000 and I don’t intend to sell goods in the Philippines either. I can’t fully say that all OFWs adhere to the guidelines, some entities may indeed be using these balikbayan privileges to smuggle taxable items into Philippines shores as explained by BOC.

The reputation of the Philippines Bureau of Customs isn’t outstanding, to say the least. For them to inspect and open my balikbayan box gives way for looting my hard-earned “pasalubong”, making excuses and placing taxes on items that should be non-taxable and mishandling the now opened box. Would they seal the box with outmost care as much as we’ve given when we packed the box to prevent damages to the items? This only presents a 2nd layer of issues stated before; aside from the looting from freight-forwarders, BOC inspectors now have a “legal” basis to loot these boxes. “Kung di ka nanakawan ng mga freight-forwarders, BOC naman and magnanakaw sa iyo! Ano pa matitira sa padala mo?” If a balikbayan box arrives opened, the freight-forwarder can easily say that it was BOC who opened the boxes for inspection so any loss of item is blamed at BOC though it might have been the employees of the freight-forwarder who took the items. Who do you go after? Who becomes responsible?

How can BOC allay the fear of looting when in the history of BOC, inspectors are one of the most corrupt officials in the government? Some people have suggested that CCTV cameras can keep a watchful eye on these inspections but who wants to go to the process of bureaucracy when one complains about missing items on their boxes? Shouldn’t there be a better way of conducting inspections by using X-ray machines instead of “random” inspections? In the first place, why target small boxes sent by OFWs when the Philippine ports are gateways for big smugglers of rice, sugar, imported goods, gas and cars which are worth billions in taxes if caught by BOC. Even garbage from other countries gets through without inspection from BOC so why put a hand in our balikbayan boxes when you can’t even properly implement a system to catch large scale illegal smugglers.

How can OFWs entrust you with their balikbayan boxes when the BOC stinks of malaise and corruption. Clean up your act and have some credibility before you impose anything on these hard-earned boxes.

“Qatar today officially launches one of its most “significant” labour reforms to guarantee migrant workers’ wages.
The Wage Protection System (WPS) aims to ensure that migrant labourers, many working on 2022 World Cup-related projects, receive their pay on time.
Under the new system, workers will be paid either twice a month or monthly, and the wages electronically transferred direct to their bank accounts.
Failure to pay salaries on time, especially for blue-collar workers, has been a complaint voiced by some rights groups against companies in the state.” – Gulf Times

This should be good news indeed for employees who don’t receive their payments on time. Those who are employed by smaller companies or even those who work at engineering companies typically face this problem. You work and toll throughout the month, expecting that you’ll get paid on time but when the end of the month arrives, you don’t get your money or your check and your bank account stays close to empty.

I myself experienced when I was working as a consultant for Saudi Aramco years before. Since we are hired by a 3rd party company to work for Aramco, it’s the contracting company who pays our salary, which should be at the end of the month. The first few month were ok and we were paid without any delays, but then slowly, the delays became days, and then weeks. It didn’t affect me much since I have some extra savings but it is frustrating. How much more for people who depend on receiving their salaries on a specific day of the month to pay bills, arrears or as part of their monthly budget.
I am not really sure how the inspectors of Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs could monitor all businesses here in Qatar and implement the Wage Protection System in Qatar. Would it mean that any registered business should submit a list of all their employees? What if they have say 1,000 employees but only submit 500 names on the list, is that a possible loophole?

Lastly, this doesn’t really cover the thousands of people employed as household help and suffer the same delayed payment, or even non-payment, of salary due to them by their employers. If the Qatar Government wants to succeed in this initiative, they should start with the recruitment agencies and monitor all incoming workers coming through these agencies and verify the contracts agreed and signed by the employee and the employer. People who are recruited by these agencies are sometimes given a contract that covers the job they are to be doing and compensation but when they are passed to the employers, none of the agreed and signed details of the contract are followed; a sales person turns into a maid and the agreed 2000QR salary becomes 800QR. If this issue is closely monitored by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs along with the Wage Protection System, and in which it covers not only registered businesses but any worker employed through the recruiting agency, then this should truly be a step ahead on the right direction towards positive reforms in Qatar labor.

About our blog

It's been 10 years since the San Juan Family started their blog documenting their lives in this little spot called Qatar. Follow Chris, Mavis and Xianelle as they share what Doha has to offer.

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