Category Archives: fun

The 10 Places I loved visiting (and would love to go back to!)

Carrying on from Sunday’s blog post, here are ten places in the world that I truly loved visiting and, in a heartbeat, would run back to if money, time and common sense were chucked out of the window. I have only been to 35 countries but I have seen a fair few sights which really should be shared with the rest of you. So without a do, here are my top ten places that I have visited and would definitely visit again in a heartbeat:

10) Seychelles.

I know I have a bias towards the Seychelles as it is my mother’s country, but I have to be blunt. I really do love this country. I also love Sri Lanka, my father’s country, but due to its security situation, I really do not want to go back there for pleasure. You see, Seychelles attracts me, not just for family, but for the islands themselves. There are over 100 islands in the archipelago, and I have only seen four of them. And it is not just beaches. Great wildlife, a steamy hot and mountainous interior and wonderful old colonial architecture give the islands one hell of a lot of variety for such a small place. Plus, the culture, a polyglot of the islanders’ ancestery means that this is a fascinating place to see and meet people. Yes, the Seychelles are expensive, they are a pain to get to but it truly is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

(Last visited 2008)

9) San Francisco.

I love America, and I jump at the opportunity to travel there. The country is so vast, and is naturally blessed with some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. America’s cities are also some of the best that humanity has ever built. New York, Philadelphia and Boston are wonderful places that were launched on the backs of their old colonial past. But for me, San Francisco is the place to get to. A wonderful city in probably one of the most naturally beautiful places on Earth. And it is not too big or small, San Francisco is just that right size where you can explore and relax in equal amounts. A city steeped in history but also at the forefront of modern technology, this really is one of the happiest places on Earth.

(Last visited 1994)

8) Mexico.

All right, I know this is a big one, but Mexico is one hell of a country, and I have to return here one day. From the magnificent ruins of Chichen Itza, to the wonderful beauty is Chiapas and the frenetic capital of Mexico City itself – which I have to point out as one of the best cities I have ever visited!

I saw a hell of a lot of this country, but a visit back is a must for me. I loved my time here, and would happily go back and this time see the north of Mexico as well has head to the coasts for a bit of R&R.

(Last visited 2002)

7) Budapest.

One of three European cities on my list – and surprising, as I have only really begun to explore Europe in the past two years. But Budapest is truly beautiful. Split by the Danube you have the flat and fun Pest on one side of the river and the hilly, snooty but really beautiful Buda on the other bank. One thing, the Danube really shapes this city and its history. I am probably biased to this city, and I have a lot of fond memories of the place, which is also why I do want to hedd back here. But genuinely, memories are not the only thing. Budapest has tons of stuff to see, and has awoken from its communist stupor with vigour. Check it out when you have the chance, you will not regret it! I will certainly be heading back there.

(Last visited 2011)

6) Meghalaya.

The wettest place on Earth may seem like a strange place to recommend, but Meghalaya is truly a cultural gem of this world. Its unique hilltop location on a ridge overlooking the Gangetic plain both isolates and links it to the surrounding country in one fell swoop. Three unique cultures dot the state, and its pristine environment truly makes this one of India’s great surprises. I have never felt do relaxed and refreshed in my life as I have in Meghalaya. Whether it is the excess amounts of water, the wholesome food or the really cool locals, Meghalaya is a place I could visit time and time again.

(Last visited 2009)

5) Yunnan.

One of China’s true gems, Yunnan has it all. Great food, spectacular countryside and a culture that intertwines South East Asia, Mainland China and Tibet all rolled into one easily accessible destination – no small feat for a country as difficult as China. From the border with Burma to the fringes of the Tibetan Plateau there is something for everyone. Dotted with the famed backpacker hangouts of Dali and Lijiang, it is easy to be an independent traveler or to mosey in and relax with the crowd. It is definitely a part of China that I would not hesitate to visit again!

(Last visited 2001)

4) Krakow.

Wow, wow, and wow would be the best three adjectives to describe Krakow.

I know, it is surprising to include this city here, but really, my Poland bias aside, I really have to recommend Krakow and it is a city I would run back to in a heartbeat. To simply put it, there is A LOT to do in Krakow, and Poland’s piss-poor marketing skills means that it is a destination that flies far beneath the radar. Without the crowds you get in other European hotspots (unless it is a stag-do summer), you can feel a little like a pioneer coming here with all the ease of mainstream European travel. There is so much to recommend about Krakow, go on, treat yourself, and take some time out over here.

(Last visited 2011)

3) Xinjiang.

China’s biggest province is arguably it emptiest as well. Yes, there are a hell of a lot of tensions over here, with a separatist movement that is far more bloody than Tibet’s. And it is hard work to travel across here. But it is a culturally fascinating area. Plus it is a desert, now that counts as a huge amount of kudos for me. I have spent an inordinate amount of time here. It really was the first place that I experienced ‘independent’ travel, far cut-off from family, friends and anyone else, having to survive on my own with my interactions meaning the difference between food or nothing. I also crossed this vast area by foot (took me two months and lost a third of my body weight) which drove me slightly nutty.

Xinjiang is definitely a place with strong emotional ties, but I can also safely say that this is a part of the world that has a hell of a lot to give to the outside visitor. And despite beinfg in China, it is ironically the easiest part of Central Asia to visit, and that is a spectacular region of the world to taste…

(Last visited 2003)

2) Berlin.

Surprised? Well, you really shouldn’t be. Berlin has it all. An all encompassing history, easily accessible tourist spots, all at a reasonable price. Whether you are looking for cool bars, great food or simple fun, Berlin has something for everyone. London and Paris may get all the glitz and glamour. Barcelona and Milan get all the cool kids. But Berlin itself is simply magnificent. There is far too much to see and do that can be simply described in a short paragraph. There is so much I have left to see. I will be back here, and probably sooner rather than later.

(Last visited 2012)

1) Assam.

There really is not an order to this list, and while Assam currently takes the number 1 spot, I would go back to any of these destinations if I had instant access to cash. But the reason I value Assam so highly is multiple. Firstly, it was my first destination in India, and so I will always have an emotional attachment here. Secondly, it is so big, and so the variety is there. Thirdly, it is undiscovered; despite its huge size and obvious attractions, foreign tourists are few and far between, partly as it is so cut off.

But Assam is truly a stellar destination. It is easy to get round, once you get there! It is also really friendly, with a shockingly competent Tourist Office that will go out of its way to give you information. With a wide variation in Geography from lowland plains to mountainous, I just did not have the time to see all there was. There is a magnificent history, one of Asia’s great civilisations nestled here in the fields. Lush forests and wildlife that will make your jaw drop (I saw my first Rhino here!)

I will go back to India again, and while there is so much of the country I have not seen, I will have to make a beeline for Assam.

(Last visited 2009)

So that is my top ten of places I have seen, and ideally, would love to go to again. Any comments, drop them in the box below. And have you been to any of these places? Agree with me and what would be your top ten?

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The (Original) Legend of Zelda – a review

A quarter of a century after its release, I finally played, and completed the original Legend of Zelda. For me, such a Zelda fanboy, it is so inconceivable that I have waited this long to actually get my hands on this legendary game. But what do I think of it, as a geek in his thirties instead of some pre-teen gaming fanatic? Is this a well aged game or am I just playing for the sake of nostalgia?

But I was never the owner of an NES system. In fact, my first contact with Zelda came via a school friend. We both had Super Nintendo systems. This friend told me of Zelda on the Super Nintendo. I bought it, and the rest, as they say, is history. I was hooked on this series. My next Zelda game was Link’s Awakening on my beloved Gameboy. And then I grew up and forgot about gaming.

Well, I never forgot about gaming. I knew of the legendary Ocarina of Time, but never bought a N64. Of course, when I got my 3DS this year, the first game I played was the Ocarina of Time 3D – brilliant.

Anyway, back to the original Legend of Zelda. It was released on the 3DS’ e-shop this year, and I got it. I knew it was tough, but I had to experience the original game, the origins of the legend. Otherwise, how could I, a self certified fanboy ever truly appreciate the characters and games that I dearly love. So, what did I think of the Original Legend of Zelda?

First of all, how open the world of Hyrule is. And how free Hyrule is. A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, and Koholint Island in Link’s Awakening opens up slowly, as you complete dungeons and get items to open blocked paths. However, in the original Legend of Zelda, there are no blocked paths. In theory you could enter the final dungeon without a sword…well, if you can get past all the Octorocks.

Secondly, how difficult this game is. Wow, Zelda is hard. No hints, no tips, and no direction. And badass enemies. While the first few dungeons are a breeze, the last four are tough as nails. And, I am sad to admit, but I needed a walkthrough for Spectacle Rock as my brain just hurt. Also, I just do not have the time to faff. Life is, well, busy, and while I love playing video games, repetitively going through the same area to find the lost key or something is…well, I just do not have the time.

Still , you have to give credit where it is due. This game is 25 years old, and still very playable. On my 3DS it is my 10th most used App, and out of all the downloaded games, it is the one I have played the most. The stats do not lie, and I have thoroughly enjoyed this adventure. Will I be playing it again, probably, but not for a good couple of years. I need to find more free time.

Overall, I would give this game a ‘B’. And, for a game that is a quarter of a century old, that is a pretty good score. The Legend of Zelda is definitely one for the Zelda fans out there, rather than the casual gamer. If you want to see a piece of gaming history at its very best, then look no further than this iconic game. You will get hours of fun from it!

(Rating – B. A solid game that has stood the test of time)

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Research ;)

Hey, I am making a movie here. ANd what better way to make a film then to atch other films…ah…it’s a tough life 😉

Explanations to follow, never fear. Even woth my limited timespan, some fun must be slotted in…

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The April Fools this year?

Every year, as tradition goes, the British newspapers love to fool the general public into thinking that something completely serious is actually a joke. Because, of course, it is April Fools, and the British like to believe that we have a sense of humour.

Anyway, here are my guesses.

The Guardian’s one is pretty good, although very obvious. A nice dig at the ruling classe and our Prime Minister’s posh background.

The Independent has a very good one. It almost had me fooled, that is how pedantic we as a nation have become.

The Telegraph has been tricky. I am not too sure, but I am going to plump for the Vodka swilling Queen Mother.

The Mirror’s one is obviously funny. I like it, thick with humour.

The Daily Mail is quite smart. I leik it a lot.

Any that I missed?

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Tube travel…the fun way…

Unfortunately over the past couple of weeks I have spent far too much time on the London Underground network than I really needed to be. It is all part of my general busy-ness, which is why my blog posts have been so thin on the ground.

But, if I was in Germany, there would have been a more fun way to travel around town…

Enjoy the weekend, I should be back to regular blogging in the next week!

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My life is over – I have a 3ds…

For those regular readers of this blog, you may realise that I have a video game fetish. More accurately, I have a Zelda fetish, but pretty much anything animated and playable, I am game for it.

For my generation, this is perfectly normal. While we grew up with lousy Vic 20’s and BBC Micros, there was always an element of fun behind the serious stuff of spreadsheets and word processing and early 1980’s databases. And then Nintendo came along, and truly gave us what we wanted from the microchip – purile fun!

And so began the steady decline of my generation to video game addiction. An addiction that has lasted to this day.

When I found my Gameboy last year, I was in seventh heaven. I was lucky enough to have it bought for me at the tender age of eleven. And while I have churned through a SNES and a Sega Megadrive, for some reason, I have clung onto my Gameboy like a faithful friend. And for good reason, back in 1991, it cost £70 and my first standalone game, Super Mario Land cost £20 – not small change!

And over the past year and a half I have enjoyed my bouts of handheld gaming. So much so, that at the beginning of 2011 I was very tempted to buy a DS to get back into the whole gaming scene. Then I found out that Nintendo were going to release a 3d Version of their handheld, and I waited. And waited, with growing impatience. And a whole host of terrible ads. (I would have been more convinced by the Greek ads). Until last week, when I saw the bundle at a price I could afford and bought it.

And I also bought Zelda 3D. Oh baby…

Do not underestimate how long I have wanted to play Ocarina of Time. Despite the fact that I have only played two Zelda Games in their entirety up until this point, their impact on me during my childhood has been immeasurable. And so last night, against my better judgement, I popped Ocarina of Time into the slot. And played. And then worked. Then played. Then worked. And played. Throughout the night.

I have never had such a night of such joy and such woe as last night.

In addition I have another two games on the system. Super Mario 3d Land (see a pattern emerging here from my Gameboy days) and the free download, Four Swords. As I registered all my bumf, in the next few days I should also be getting a free download of Kid Icarus, a port of the NES Original. I do have a couple more games that I want to buy when I can afford them, and then I will rest on my laurels and slowly buy releases as they come out.

Part of the reason I bought the 3ds now (despite the absolutely s**t battery life) is that it has access to the DS’ back catalogue. There are also a few games from there that I will be sniffing around.

I must admit, it is quite a different experience from the old Gameboy. It has gone beyod the switching cartridges around and switching the system on. The whole gaming experience has become a lot more sophisticated over the past decade and a half. I do have a lot of catching up to do. And I am looking forward to it…

I will not be around much for the…next…week..month…or…so…

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Mixed Britannia

Human Beings are incredibly wonderful. They can also be incredibly cruel too. Mob mentality and Democracy – there is a fine line between the two. One man’s approval is another man’s disaster.

With that thought in mind, last night, the programme Mixed Britannia was broadcast on the Beeb and is currently on the iPlayer for those in the UK to catch up on (as I did). It focuses on the story of mixed race relationships in the UK over the past 100 years, surprising, as I thought that history would have only been significant after WWII.

It is fascinating to see the reviews for that programme TV in the British Press, most of all as they use colourful language. Thornier? Eh!? I will come onto that later.

First of all, it is a fascinating biopic on life. Looking at raw statistics, it is life. And while the internet trolls, the bums and the usual suspects in the English Defence League will shout, beat, or whatever they do, it is not usually with women)…anyway, as I said a fascinating biopic. Of course I will also say that as here is a pic of Mum (Creole) and Dad (Tamil) to illustrate why:

I am a cheeky sod when people ask me the following: Do you find it confusing? Which side are you closer to? Do you love you mum or dad’s family more? Which country do you like better? My reply is that yes, it is really confusing. I always s**t out of my backside, while the people around me s**t out of their mouths. With that as my rapid response answer, I will let you figure out the answer to those seminal questions that people ask me.

And this is the reality. While people in Ivory Towers still see people who are from different countries as exotic, different or something to be handled with kid gloves, the rest of us are getting on with life. I work with people from diverse backgrounds, both in McJob and as a film maker. There is not one person I can say is this or that based on race. Of course, by default, many members of my family are from different parts of the world (America to Fiji – try that for a free place stay).

Back to the newspapers. Things do not change much, and the dinosaurs in the media industry are amongst the best. Thank goodness they will soon be out of business, really, the guys who peddle such tripe are not fit to flip burgers (before you get sanctimonious, I have also done my stint at the burger bar – all 3 weeks and 6 days of it before I jetted off to Sri Lanka as a summer job). Despite the fact that this is the 21st Century, Multicaulturalism, Mixed Race, Evil Darkies or whatever the term you wish to use has been a part of the country for the best part of a century, we still get the word thornier to describe the cultural whole. Josephine seems to be Cameron’s new BF. You need to get in the real world guys.

Now back to the documentary, a fascinating look at what is a very British phenomena. And interesting as the UK is a far more welcoming place to people of different backgrounds compared to the rest of continental Europe. And unlike Australia, South Africa or America, there were no segregation laws over here. Usually as our politicians are too obsessed with trying to squeeze the system dry to care about people’s private life. Also, remember that in the UK, we have a healthy distaste and mistrust of officialdom, which helps when it comes to their governance over the private lives of individuals.

In fact, if I were to have children, I would not want to raise them anywhere else in Europe, as I know they would have a hard time out there. They would not be able to avail themselves of any opportunity that may arise, unlike here in the UK were the possibilities are endless. My story would be very different if my parents had chosen France or Germany instead of the UK as their destination…

My generation is exceptionally useless in this world (OMG let me jerk off on Facebook!), but we are good in one thing. We are exceptionally tolerant. Actually, let me rephrase that; everything for us is passe, nothing is shocking, and we pretty much go with the flow. We are not rebellious like the guys from the 1960’s or different like the guys from the 1970’s but rather more accepting of everything. Live and let live. Which is probably the reason why Mixed Race Peoples are the fastest growing section of the UK’s population. We just think with our crotches and not much else 😉

Personally, I cannot wait for the rest of the series and I am looking forward to the rest of this biopic. I was raised in a Britain that was on the tail end of its insidious racism and the world I live in today is very different from the one I was a child in. I was one of the very few mixed race children in the class but there was nothing ‘unusual’ or ‘conflicting’ (sorry to disappoint you wanabe Eugenicists) about being me. I am who I am, and it was fun. Different foods, different languages, different holidays but also very samey. Just like any other household, we laughed, we cried, we had fun, we argued. It was normal. Really, nothing special.

In a way I almost feel honoured that there is a biopic about people like me – do I really deserve this splurge of taxpayers’ money? But this first programme was an eye opener – I never realised the depth or history of mixed race families in the UK. And one of the interviewees made a great observation. The English Women who married men from different parts of the world (as the bulk of relationships before WWII were between foreign men and English Women) were Great Matriarchs. To quote, They followed their hearts instead of their heads. And it is fascinating to see the pictures of these trail blazing families. Nothing special, just ordinary people going about their daily business. But culturally, they were part of something far more fascinating. I wonder, if they were alive today, what they would think of the Mixed Britannia that is here today?

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