Saturday, 23 February 2013

Smart Meter, only as Smart as the Human who installed it

Have you ever thought about actually checking your hydro meter reading against your BC Hydro bill to see if it matches?
How about checking the actual meter number with the meter number listed on your BC Hydro bill?  Although BC Hydro hates to admit they make mistakes, they did make one in our case.  The actual meter # 4122752P263  does not match the one on our bill.

You will find the Meter# listed on your bill under the heading Meter reading information on the left hand side.  Ours was off by one number.

We have only owned this house in Kelowna since Aug/12.  The house is empty, no appliances, no lights are on, the only power being used is from the fan on the gas furnace.  Our first Hydro bill was $121., the next $479???  That's when I started asking questions.   BC Hydro agreed that the $479 did seem high, and advised us to get someone to read the meter and get back to them.  BC Hydro will not go and double check for you.

I spoke to the neighbors who had noticed that the construction workers were plugging extension cords into our house and my sister went and checked the house for us at the end of December and confirmed muddy foot prints leading from a construction site to our outdoor plug.  I then contacted the Developer who investigated, and acknowledged the error, workers had been using our power and they promised it would not happen again.  Now we'd have to wait until the next bill came in to figure out an appropriate amount of reimbursement.

But the next bill was even higher $ could this be?  I called BC Hydro again, they mentioned that the smart meters had just become active for this last billing.  The chance of the meter being wrong was less than slim, it would more likely have been wrong when a human had read it.  We have all heard bad stories about these smart meters so I was skeptical.   But again, the only thing we can do is check the meter ourselves.

The developer insists they have not used our power, and offered to go check our meter for us.  We were about to drive up to Kelowna (a long drive on a snowy highway) when we received an email with the photo of our meter, from a nice man who works for the Developer.   We were all surprised that not only was the meter reading way off, the actual meter # was not the one we were being billed for.

I called BC Hydro again, they too were very surprised and will now be investigating.  We do not have to pay the last bill, they will contact us when they figure out what the bill should actually be.  I am more than relieved, this was really getting frustrating, but my happiness is going to bring anger to one of my new neighbors............the meter # we were being billed for belongs to one of them.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Playa Del Carmen, Conclusion

Things I learned during our extended stay in Playa Del Carmen:

  • The beach is one of the best we have been to, miles of white sand to walk on, sand that never gets hot, and swimming in the warm, clear turquoise water........heaven!
  • The weather is great (most of the time) you can't rely on the online weather forecasts but it will rain once and awhile.  There will also be really hot days, even I (dedicated sun worshipper) needed shade.
  • There is no old town left in Playa Del Carmen.  The City is bigger than I expected.  There are still poor areas of town, away from the tourist area.  The beachfront has been transformed to appease tourists, with high end condos, designer shops,  McDonalds, Starbucks & BugerKing, all mixed in with the little Mom and Pop places trying to sell T-shirts and souvenirs.  
  • Don't eat at the expensive restaurants on 5th Ave, not only are they overpriced the food is just disappointing.
  • Avoid Senior Frogs, every port has one, walk by, beer is 20-30 pesos($1.60-2.40) most anywhere else on the beach, $5US at Senior Frogs (price example, the whole menu is overpriced)
  • Although the restaurants and bars all look modern, the bathrooms are still mexican, no paper allowed in the toilets, as water pressure is too low.  Although in the resorts and condos, it is just like home.
  • Shop & eat at local Mexican merchants when you can, Walmart may look safe and familiar to you, but the prices and quality is better at the little Sorianna Super, and the restaurants off 5th Ave give great service because they love your business, prices are cheaper and the food is great!
  • No need to rent a car, Taxi's are cheap and much safer, but you can walk everywhere in Playa Del Carmen, it keeps you in shape, and convinces you that you deserve Happy Hour!
  • Apparently that stinky sewage smell near the beach by Mahakel, Los Palapas & down near La Pirata is not from sewage but from contaminated ground water.......but it still stinks!
  • Don't rent a condo on a busy street or near a noisy beach bar.  Cars, motorcycles, ATV's, dune buggies, buses, whatever they want to drive, may or may not have a or night 10th Ave is just too noisy!
  • We toured a few condos while we were there and next time hope to stay at Palmar Del Sol, or somewhere in Playacar, but we have yet to find the right place there.
  • Tourists are being overcharged for condos here, shop around, just because they are asking $350 a night doesn't mean they actually get it.  The rates for long term rentals can be 1/3 of the cost so most places will negotiate.  If you are Ok paying $350 a night stay at a high end. Adult only, all inclusive resort, like The Royal.
  • Isla Mujeres is worth at least a day trip and we would like to spend a week there next time at the Ixchel Hotel
  • We wish we had visited Akumal, apparently that is also a great place to rent a condo, 30 minutes from Playa Del Carmen.
  • If you love techno beat music and DJ's you should visit Playa Del Carmen during the BPM festival at the beginning of January every year, ....if you don't like the BOOM BOOM music, you should delay your stay until after Jan 15th.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Playa Del Carmen, week 7- Isla Mujeres

Near the end of week 6, I came down with a cold, so I am behind in my Blogs.  We are actually home now, but I need to write about our trip to Isla Mujeres ( eez la Moo hay ris).   We loved this small island off of Cancun.

On Tuesday we took the ADO bus from Playa Del Carmen (48 pesos per person) and then a cab(60 pesos) to the Ferry dock at Gran Puerto.  Even though I asked the cab driver to take us to Gran Puerto, we ended up at the other ferry dock of Puerto Juarez, we had no idea what they looked like so we were tricked!  It was still a ferry dock, but not for the nice Ultramar ferry, this was for Magna ferry.
We did save 5 pesos each, but not quite the same ride!  (5 pesos = 40 cents cdn)
this is Ultramar
This is what we got instead...........magna

Luckily this was the only disappointment of our trip, and a small one at that!  This small island looks like a fishing village when you arrive.  Of course there are salesman trying to sell you tours or rentals of scooters or golf carts, and there is shopping, but it just has a more laid back feel, we noticed a difference almost immediately.  There are very few cars, some taxis but mostly everyone drives golf carts or scooters, so it is so much quieter.

We could not rent a golf cart when we go there, it was a busy day for the Carnaval celebration. (Now what they think is busy is 100X quieter than Playa Del Carmen)  So we walked, had lunch at a beach front seafood restaurant, which was great and inexpensive(just as we like them).  So we continued to check out the town, and some really nice beaches, and decided to stay the night.

We walked into a couple hotels and they kindly gave us tour and showed us the rooms, prices were good $128 US at the Avalon Reef Club, but the hotel was old and nothing special to put it nicely.  

Avalon Reef Hotel....looks great from here, disappointing inside.

We decided on the Ixchel Hotel, $139 US for a King size bed, very clean, quiet and the beach was just like one in the Bahamas!  Loved this place, we will go back for a week next time.

Ixchel Hotel from the water

Beach in front of hotel, facing west to watch the sunset, shallow, warm & fish swimming all around you

We sat in beach loungers and watched the sunset, then went to find a restaurant on their pedestrian only street called Av. Hidalgo.  It is a smaller version of 5th Ave in Playa Del Carmen, but great looking places, all very reasonably priced, we had trouble choosing one.  We tried a Mexican place called Don Chepo, 2 for 1 drinks and very good food.  It would be fun to be here for a week to try more places, and so nice that they were not overpriced like Playa Del Carmen.

The next morning we had breakfast at the Rooster, and I had the best yogurt and granola I have ever had at a restaurant, covered in berries, sadly it was too big for me to finish it all!  Then we rented a golf cart and drove around the island, took about an hour, stopping to see the sights.  

We just love this Island, it is so different from Cancun, no all inclusive resorts, no Coco Bongo, so much more our speed.

looking to Cancun

At Punte Sur, with a really big Iguana

Friday, 8 February 2013

Playa Del Carmen, week 6- Condo rentals

On one hand I cannot believe we only have 7 days left here in Playa Del Carmen, but on the other hand we both agree we have been in one place a bit too long, not that we want to go home, just that we wish we hadn't rented just one condo, in just one place.

 The condo we have been living in is very nice, a small building of 11 units, quiet neighbors that come and go every week, but we have not meet many people here.  One month here would have been perfect, on week 5 we were both ready to move somewhere else, but we are locked we will know better next time.

When the weather is not cooperating, it would be nice to have the freedom to take off to Puerto Vallarta, or maybe down to Belize?   But I am really not sure I could just get on a plane and decide where to stay when I get there, I like to plan, I want to stay in a nice place and get a good deal, and not have to pack up and move every week.  (probably an age thing, I like to think it is wisdom)

We have started looking around at other condos, trying to find the quietest nighttime area, but still within walking distance to everything, like we have now.  I would love to stay in Playacar, as the beach is beautiful down there.  So far we have found some nice places but most of them are very pricey and a very long walk to town.

I don't understand how this part of Mexico got so expensive, all of the beachfront condos are $350 US a night.  You can stay in a very nice all inclusive resort for that price (or less) or you could rent a whole house for $400 a night, so why are people paying these kind of prices?  Most of the beachfront condos here do not even have a nice beach in front of them (El Taj, Ocean Plaza, El Faro, Luna Encanta), or they are beside a noisy bar.  Come on people, supply and demand, do your research before you pay these prices!  ( I feel like ranting but I will stop there)

We are not sure wether we will come back here next year or not, when prices are over $5000 a month for a condo we could go to Hawaii.  We like Mexico but it is supposed to be better weather than Hawaii and much cheaper.  The food, alcohol and restaurants in Mexico are still half the price of Hawaii.  You are not going to get a cold beer in Hawaii for 25 pesos ($1.96 cdn), or a restaurant meal for 2 with drinks for 300 pesos ($23.50).

The locals say that the 2 weeks of rain we got here at the end of January was very unusual,  and I have found a few nice condos that are closer to the $3000 a month range, so we haven't ruled out coming back here again.  We are touring some condos, The Meridian, Luna Maya, Parmar Del Sol, & Pueblito Escondito  this week, but probably won't make any decisions until we get home.   We have ruled out "The Elements" although it looks wonderful, there is a beach bar close by that plays loud music (boom boom boom) night and day that just ruins the ambiance.

Also, we know we can still rent a beautiful condo in Nuevo Vallarta for $2250 per month (example here:  The only thing missing there is the beautiful warm turquoise ocean with the white sand.  Pacific coast beaches just do not compare to the Atlantic, but the seafood on the pacific side is so much better so there are pros and cons to everything.

Doing a quick search of condos in Waikiki, Hawaii, it would not be hard to find a one bedroom there for under $3000.  (example  It would not be beachfront, but the ones I am looking at in Playa Del Carmen are not beachfront either.

While doing my condo search online I came across the blog of Wandering Earl it is a great read if you have time, not just this one post but the whole thing.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Playa Del Carmen,Week 5

It was another mixed bag of weather this past week, a couple of real rainy days where I did not even get to put on a bathing suit (yes that is bad).  When the sun was shining this week, it was very humid, so we needed to go to a beach restaurant for dinner just to have a breeze.  There are not many beach restaurants open for dinner but La Tarraya, at the foot of 2nd St is one everyone raves about.  We had been there once before and they overcharged us for the chef's special so we were not impressed.  That was a few weeks ago so we forgave them and gave it another try, very glad we did!  They make the best fish filet for 90 pesos, not a fancy place, but delicious seafood, great prices and good service, so good, we went back again last night!

We also stopped in at Wah Wah's beach bar for their 1st anniversary party, which was packed.  Good live band, and good dinner specials, but it was so busy, finding a plastic chair in the sandy bar was difficult, but not impossible, we ended up sharing a table with a nice couple from Calgary.  We will have to go back and try the ribs, and smoked pork, it did smell wonderful!


Wah Wah's doesn't look like much from outside, but it advertises free lounge chairs during the day, you just have to buy your food and drink from them of course.  The waiter's all wear t-shirts that say "WAH you want".

On the big scene behind the band they were showing a slide show of people and the beach over the past few years.  It showed how they rebuilt the beach in Early 2010 after storms erroded the beach away.  An amazing amount of sand was dredged up and rebuilt in front of this bar and the surrounding hotels, there is not much left now. The beach restoration project cost 71 million dollars so I wonder if they can afford to do it again?

With the full moon last Saturday came changes in the tides, there was a much lower tide in the morning giving us a nice 20 feet more flat area to walk on.  There is never the big tide changes like we have in BC though.   So our beach walks at the beginning of the week were a nice change but by the end of the week the beach looked like this......
Yes, the power of mother nature!

This is what it looks like a couple weeks ago, and pretty much what it looks like again today.  Except there is very strong winds today, so the waves are huge, the tide is in quite high, leaving very little room to walk, or suntan in some places.  The waves are also breaking much further off shore, so quite a lot of sand has been pulled out to sea.  It was too rough to go in the water today, but we wonder if it will be shallower when we go in tomorrow?

The good news this week is that the Pedestrian only section of 5th Ave has now been extended to 46th Street everyday after 4PM.  It used to run from 1st Street to 32nd St.  Our condo is at 38th St, so we had to dodge a bit of traffic for a few blocks before we got to the pedestrian only part. (no big deal really)  It is nicer now though, we have noticed a decrease in traffic noise, (although 10th Ave beside us is still very busy and noisy) and it is just nicer to walk down the middle the cobblestone road with no cars.  Restaurants around us now have tables out on the street and are hoping to get more business obviously.  The downside will be when more restaurants and bars move down here, and create another disturbing night time noise.  (they seem to stay open til the sun comes up here)