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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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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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March’s Movie – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I was lucky to visit one of London’s best cinema’s to see my favourite film of the year so far – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. A British comedy, which I originally thought was going to be a bit of a ‘raa-raa’ filled with its cast of British Legends. But as it has persisted in the cinema since January, I thought it would be worth a shout. And so did the rest of the picture house – the cinema was almost full. Unfortunately with the type of audience that would normally make me shudder. Old people.

Gasp – I am in a cinema for the retired! Watching a film about the retired! Is this a film for me?

Thank goodness for British Comedy. You see, the great thing about the British sense of humour is that it is legendary. First of all, the bulk of people in the UK are actually quite humourless. This could be through irony, or through the fact that most Brits are miserable. Maybe it is the weather. Who knows? But the British can make a great comedy. That has mass appeal. Just like Indian films, British Comedies are designed for everyone. Young, old, abroad and at home, to make an impact in the cinema and for years to come on television. While British films oin general suffer from bad marketing in general, its comedies are actually one of the stronger points of the general European cinematic scene. A bit like avant garde French films, comedies are what defines British film making at its best. And The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel surely proved that.

Everyone in the cinema, me included laughed their heads off at the antic of…yes, old people. Who thought that a bunch of retirees could be so funny, but the plot line was fantastic, along with great acting. And also, surprisingly touching. While Best Marigold was a comedy, there was a lot of heart. Particular kudos has to go to Tom Wilkinson and the writers who penned his character’s story. It was possibly one of the most heartfelt moments in recent cinema. I will not spoil this moment, it is something that you have to see. Plus it is great to see Dev Patel on screen again, he is cool a what he does!

The only complaint I have to make (and it is small) is the underutilisation of Lillete Dubey (best known to western audiences through Monsoon Wedding). She was just not used enough, and to have added her character’s story to the ensemble would have made this film truly heartwarming, and added another dimension to the film.

However, I will not detract, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is definitely the best film I have seen this year. Entertaining, fun with some real big heart moments, it lets you walk out of the cinema with a smile on your face and longing to have one more go to watch it again, either on cinema or on TV. Well worth my two hours of time, I cannot recommend this movie enough!

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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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I have four games…

Just downloading Kid Icarus onto my 3DS.

Sorry about the lack of blogs. I am currently going to the Sacred Meadow in Zelda. If you know what I am talking about, then you know that Saria is Link’s babe. And she does not like to wait for him…

(I told you I have lost my life…)

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3DS vs Gameboy – Modern and Retro Compared

I have two consoles. A twenty year old Gameboy and from this week, a 3DS. Both Nintendo handhelds. Now do not get me wrong, I am no Nintendo fanboy. Nintendo are famed for robustly built but notoriously underpowered consoles and I think this is a rip off for gamers. Usually, with each of their systems, there is a fundamental flaw with them. The Gameboy (vs the Sega Gamegear) was monochrome, not colour. The SNES had a slower processor than the Sega Megadrive, the N64 was cartridge based while the PS1 was disc based. Even the Wii is just a hyped up Gamecube, seriously underpowered compared to the other consoles in the current generation. Even the 3DS has a major flaw, its awful battery life.

But I love Nintendo’s cartoony games. Yes, I know not every gamer likes these, that some prefer the realistic games of the other systems, but I really do love cartoon fun! It entertains the child inside of me.

For some reason, since the earliest days of Game and Watch, Nintendo have dominated the handheld market. A phenomena that continues to this day, although its main rivals are no longer other Video Game manufacturers but Smartphones.

So, with my Ninteodo tirade over and done, let me compare the two handhelds that I own.

Looks:

Similar and different. That is what I can say. Let us be honest, how much can you change a handheld console around. It has to have some sort of D-Pad, and some sort of buttons to press. Yes, there are more on the 3DS, but that is to be expected.

Game Format:

Again, similar and different. Nintendo still loves to use a cartridge based format for their games, but do remember that in the late 1980’s when the Gameboy was first released, this was revolutionary. It was the first mainstream handheld to feature this.

However, Nintendo are slowly embracing internet downloads for their games and there is also an App mentality to the 3DS’ design. But that come under…

Interface:

The Gameboy has one screen. Monochrome. Without a backlight. Which means you could not play in bed as a kid, you needed a light source to see the damn screen. Plus, let us be honest, the graphics sucked.

However, the Gameboy is simple. Put in a cartrdige, switch on, play. Easy, quick and simple.

The 3DS is much more like a laptop. It boots up, it has a sleep mode. You can chose to play the game in the cartridge slot, or a game on the SD Card or you can take photos or make a nice cup of tea with it. Plus it has two screens, a 3-D screen and a touch screen. And yes, the 3DS is all very nice and lovely and the 3-D is amazing.

And complex if you are used to a one screen, one cartridge mentality.

Yes, as I have been away from the gaming world for that long, it is all still new and exciting for me…

Battery Life:

Portable systems depend on battery for their life source. As, they are…portable!

And the 3DS, well, sucks. Figure on charging the system daily. For someone that does not have a smartphone, this has come as a shock to me.

The four AA batteries on my Gameboy can go for eons before needing to be recharged. In one way, technology has taken one hell of a backwards step.

Build Quality:

The Gameboy screams toughness. Hell, I have dropped it a ton of times, and the bugger just does not die, despite the obvious scars that it has. Plus, at twenty years old, it still plays games. Let us be blunt here, do you have a twenty year old computer still in perfect working order after dropping the hell out of it?

The 3DS screams like a little child. A flip screen that you know could be snapped in one deft movement. Dainty buttons and a 3D slider that you know is asking to be broken.

I wonder if my 3DS will be playable in 20 years time. You know, the sad thing is that I reckon the Gameboy will still be playable in 2031. I do not know if I can say that with any confidence about my 3DS.

Software:

The Gameboy has an esrtablished reputation and still, very playable games (as can be evidenced by the amount of time I have spent on it this last year).

The 3DS started poorly, but now has four killer games (Zelda, Marioland 3D, Mariokart 7 and Starfox), plus it has the awesome back-catalogue of the DS (which is why I bought it, for access to those games). It looks like a promising 2012 as well for the system. This is one place where Nintendo have succeeded. Their software. Everyone knows it is games that make or break a gaming system, and so far, it looks like my 3DS has been a wise buy…

Coda:

For a long time, I have resisted gaming systems, because of life being too busy. It is a reason why I do not have a Wii or PS3 or XBOX because of the time hassle. But, after finding my Gameboy in 2010 and playing like crazy on it, I have begun to appreciate and miss the gaming lifestyle.

As a result, when the price dropped, I made the jump back into gaming and got a 3DS. That portable ability, to pick up and stop playing at a moments notice is important for time. But also, it is a great way to spend some leisure time.

I am from the generation that grew up with games. They are fun to play, normal for us to use, and just like reading a book or watching the idiot box, a part and parcel of leisure time in the home.

I do have a laundry list of games that I want to buy, and with more disposable income than when I was a kid, in one year I may well own more games for my 3DS then I have for my Gameboy. Back in the day, it was a game at Christmas, and one for my birthday. That was it.

Now, it is a game when I feel like treating myself 🙂 Ad let the gaming fun commence…once my battery is recharged 😦

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Back in Budapest 5 – A final look round

You know, there are so many things I could write about Budapest. In fact a friend of mine yesterday was thinking of taking his partner there for a romantic weekend, so I pointed him over here, to this blog to have a gander.

And I myself have a few more things to say and show about the city. Let me start at my favourite point in the city, the Liberty Bridge:


(World’s most romantic, iconic, styled, metal over water thingy!)

One of the city’s most iconic structures, would this be anywhere else in the world, it would be a symbol of the city. In Budapest, it is merely a bridge for couples to hang their padlocks on.

Budapest is famous for Statue Park (officially called Momento Park), a large piece of green on the edge of the city where the grand busts of the Communist Era now spend their retirement looking on at the Glorious state of freedom that now exists in an ordinary Hungarian suburb. I did not manage to get here.

Of course, that has meant that the centre of Budapest has a lot of places that need filling up with art work…


(Good Dog!)

And Budapest is a green city. Parks and Squares adorn the centre of the city, and while City Park is justly famed, there are a whole host of smaller suqares and green plazas dotted around the city. These Green lungs provide rest and shade as well as a wonderful place to weave in between the traffic when traversing the city on foot:


(Sunshine, parks, what more could I want?)

The Central Market Hall in Budapest, just by the the Liberty Bridge on the Pest Side of the River is a wonderful example of a tourist trap. But is actually rather good. Really! One of my favourite places in all of Budapest, it is a fantastic place to sample some wholesome Hungarian food in the centre of the city. This is the place where it gets as close to the Asian Hawker Stall concept as you can imagine. Which means wholesome food at good prices 😉

Now, for some reason, there was a picture of HM Queen Margret hanging high in the Central Market Place. With a piece of propaganda that is almost as good as the old Soviet Statues, here is a monument to Capitalism that may get its own museum entry in a generation or so. Let us see how the current economic crisis pans out…


(She killed the Communists so you could be free to buy flowers instead of pluck them!)

Getting around Budapest is a blast. Although there was the option of the car, that would be suicide. After all, why would I want to use such an instrument of automation when I could hop on the city’s trams, buses, trains or tube lines? With Line 4 being constructed at a pace that made the construction of the Jubilee Line seem quick in comparison, it is still easy to traverse the city. A lot of the Metro it is inherited from the Communist Period as well as from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but the network runs very well and seems to cope the crowds of modern Budapest. Along with the trams, why would you drive in this city?


(Russian Chic!)

The views are stunning across the city from Buda’s hills. There are so many vistas that I want to share, but really, there are only so many photos that can be uploaded in one blog post.


(Beyond the city, there be wild beasties – look!)

Well thank you Budapest. You are a most hospitable place and have made yourself available to this humble traveller for a second year in a row. I do not know when I will next return, but hopefully, one day soon, I will be back. If you want a travel recommendation from Europe then this is it – head to Budapest! You will not be disappointed…


(Hint – look up while in Budapest. It is pretty!)

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