Category Archives: Travel

Descriptions of places I have visited with tips and overviews

30 Days Time Lapse at Sea

You wouldn’t have thought a time lapse of a cargo ship sailing halfway around the world would be so relaxing and pleasant to watch. Especially 10 minutes of it. It really is though. Someone called Jeff.HK posted this on youtube and I meant to watch a little bit of it and get on with my life. Then I zoned out and watched it all. This is the combination of 80,000 high res photos – 1500GB of files.

The route was:

Red Sea — Gulf of Aden — Indian Ocean — Colombo — Malacca Strait — Singapore — South East China Sea — Hong Kong

Camera used: D750, Rokinon 12mm f/2.8

Highlights are:

0:32 Milky Way

1:17 Approaching the Port of Colombo

1:45 Cargo Operation

2:08 Departure Colombo with Rainstorm

3:13 Lightning Storm in Malacca Strait and Singapore Strait

3:29 Clear night sky Milky Way with lightning storm

5:09 Arrival Singapore

5:56 Departure Singapore

8:36 Squid Boats

9:15vArrival Hong Kong

Music:

Stellardrone – Billions And Billions

Philip G Anderson – Winter

For pictures from the time lapse fellow’s Instagram look here: http://instagram.com/Jeffrey.hk

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A Holiday in Cambodia

Dear Internet,

Sorry I haven’t written much but, like the Dead Kennedys, I have been partaking in a holiday in Cambodia. If you don’t get the reference, don’t worry about it – they were an old but great punk band.

Dawn over Angkor Wat

Dawn over Angkor Wat

Cambodia is great. I think we lucked out as Mrs Word of Ward and myself have been exploring temples and Angkor Wat and so on, and tourist levels have been really, really low. Cunningly we are here at the hottest time of year, during a particularly bad heat wave (even for Cambodia’s peak heat season), and in a country that is legendarily hot already.

According to my phone the actual temperature has been hovering around 40 Celsius but thanks to humidity, it ‘feels like’ 50. Perfect weather for a shade-less jaunt around some temples. We live in Bangkok, which is far from chilly, but at home we don’t wander about at midday in the direct sun gawking at old temples. In conclusion = it’s hot. Damn hot!

Ta Phrom - the 'Tomb Raider' temple.

Ta Phrom – the ‘Tomb Raider’ temple.

But it has been worth it and when I get back I will bore the interweb with holiday snaps. Holiday snaps of Cambodia are pretty staggering though. Dawn over Angkor Wat was on my Bucket List and it was beautiful. The huge Angkor Tom was amazing. The ‘Tomb Raider’ temple of Ta Phrom was downright cool. We also visited a selection pack of other temples, drank lots on Siem Reap’s ‘Pub Street’, and saw the absolutely incredible Cambodian Circus – Phare.

I will post more soon as our holiday in Cambodia will finally come to an end tomorrow. Hope this finds you well.

 

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Loving Vincent

LovingvincentLoving Vincent is the only film of its kind and it hasn’t even been finished yet. It has been all over social media recently as they are finally getting close after a mere 6 years and have released a trailer.

The idea is to make a film made entirely out of paintings. As in a painting in the style of Van Gogh for every single frame. Hence the 6 years and 85 exhausted artists (and counting). The result, as you can see in the trailer below, is pretty astounding.

Loving Vincent is a project that was begun by Hugh Welchman, the Oscar winning animator of Peter and the Wolf in 2006. He saw the Royal Academy’s van Gogh show in 2010 and decided he really needed a ridiculously long and involved project to sink his teeth into.

Here is an intro that has some more information and several scenes from the trailer (which is at the bottom):

I love Vincent van Gogh’s work and I’m not just saying that to impress hot art students. (Although I may have been guilty of that sort of thing in my youth.) I saw his show in London and have also been to the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. If that isn’t enough, I have also been to the house at St Remy that used to be an asylum where he lived and did a ton of paintings. It’s a pretty amazing place if you happen to be in that part France. They have van Gogh pictures in the locations where he painted them, which is a pretty nifty idea. Also, the entire setting is bloody lovely and has lavender at certain times of year. We went in May and here is a picture:

Where Vincent van Gogh lived in Southern France

Where Vincent van Gogh lived in Southern France

Good memories and I am sure it will feature in the film. Loving Vincent is due to come out in the autumn and will star Saoirse Ronan and Aidan Turner. I hope I get to see it in the cinema, because it looks incredible. For more information, check out the website: http://www.lovingvincent.com

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Best public transportation systems in the world

I currently live in Bangkok and transport is pretty dire/awesome depending on how you see it. When I first spent more than a couple of hours here in the early 90s, public transport was basically buses, taxis, tuk tuks, motorbike cabs, riverboats, songthaews, random elephants, blah and so on. There are now two skytrain lines, an underground line and an airport link line which are all pretty ok. They are a generally sane bet in a city that thrives on chaos.

Bangkok taxis

Bangkok taxis

The thing about Bangkok however, is that there are about a million taxis (give or take probably hundreds of thousands). There are a lot and they are ridiculously cheap. And this was even before the heady days of Uber. It takes me about 40 minutes in a cab to get to my thrice a week day job and that costs about 110 baht. Or £2. Even with Uber. The main problem, is that in rush hour the limited public transport fills up and Bangkok turns into a colossal traffic jam. Also, if you are a tourist you will get massively ripped off and pay triple what locals and expats pay (tip – use the meter!).

I have previously lived in Hong Kong, London and Sydney so how do their public transportation systems fare?

Sydney – I never really went that far. I lived in King’s Cross for months and there are bars everywhere. I then got a shared flat in Bondi and there is a beach and bars everywhere. I was also unemployed. Occasionally I did travel around a bit and the system seemed fine. I met someone who advised that you shouldn’t travel at night but frankly it seemed safer than the King’s Cross of 1993, so maybe maybe they were just paranoid.

Hong Kong – it was a bit different when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s but Hong Kong exists about 5-10 years in the future compared to everyone else and plans accordingly. I remember the government announcing the underground system they were going to build and that it would take about 10 years. Exactly 10 years later, an entire underground system opened (the MTR). It still works like that there. Hong Kong thinks ” Where will need transport be needed in the future and how long will it take to build?” Then it builds it. Transport there is awesome.

London underground 100 years ago. On a personal note, my grandad was alive in London when this pic was taken

London underground 100 years ago. On a personal note, my grandad was alive in London when this pic was taken, which is pretty amazing

London – Like the city, it is rough round the edges but it works. London had the first underground system in the world, so it has been desperately trying to clean up and modernise for over a 100 years. The height of some tunnels was decided on the average man plus his top hat for fuck’s sake, so cut it some slack. The tube goes to a hell of a lot of places and is bloody handy. All proper Londoners have almost the whole map in their head and can tell any tourist the best route. So it shows how often the tube is used by locals. (Routes may be debated among Londoners, however, but only by them.)

I’ve travelled to a lot of places and frankly this list could go on for hours. Most of Europe is pretty good, places I have been in India, Laos, Morocco, etc, are pretty bad. Seriously, just hire an aggressive taxi. Other places like Berlin, New York, Paris, Singapore, are pretty good. Which is just vague. So here is an infographic with the some of the best as worked out by the good people at businessinsider. Mmmmm stats….

The best public transport systems in the world

The best public transport systems in the world

Thanks to http://www.businessinsider.com/best-public-transportation-systems-around-the-world-2015-8 for the infographic.

 

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China to build Mega City One, Jing-jin-ji

Mega City One from Judge Dredd - around 100 years from now on east coast of US

Mega City One from Judge Dredd – around 100 years from now on east coast of US

China is going to build a real-life Mega City One. As I am sure you are aware, Mega City One, according to 2000AD, is due to exist around a 15-20 years from now stretching from Washington to New York and, after a few decades, from Florida to Canada. But that is just awesome fiction, whereas China’s Mega City is about to become a reality. (I will stop capitalising it now it is a real concept, rather than a name.)

China’s idea is to build a mega-city called Jing-jin-ji that encompasses the nine major conurbations that surround the Pearl River delta. There is no hyperbole when I state that this plan is going to be absolutely fucking uber huge. 132 million people in a place twice the size of Wales huge. (According to the Guardian).

Guangzhou, one of the cities in the plan in the smog.

Guangzhou, one of the cities in the plan in the smog.

China has been talking about Jing-jin-ji for a while but the plans seem to be more in place in the last week or so, and it finally has a name. I have spent around 20 years in Hong Kong, 20 years in London and am now living in Bangkok where I have spent over 3 years, so I clearly love a megalopolis. I suspect the problem with Jing-jin-ji will be that it will be impossible to breathe. Pollution in China is legendary and even when I lived and grew up in Hong Kong, the air that drifted over the border was a problem. Combining colossal cities in China makes my lungs quiver in fear.

While I love a major city, even mega-city, I am not 100% sold on this. Cities are supposed to grow and have character and develop a personality. When they are merged or artificially created, they can be weird. I have been to New York and Mumbai and whatever their faults, they are more charming than, say, Canberra (sorry but apart from the weed laws I hated it as a 21 year old in the early 90s). A combination might be better than a new city, but China’s air is godawful. As mega-cities go, I will have to wait for mega-city two.

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Old footage of Hong Kong from 1938

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Hong Kong 2014

If you have ever been to Hong Kong you will find this fascinating. It’s pretty interesting even if you haven’t. This clip shows old footage of Hong Kong from 1938. So pre WW2. It was is travel clip called Hong Kong, Gateway to China. The place has changed a lot but it seems like it was always a interesting destination where cultures meet and mix. As someone who was born there in the 70s, lived there for 21 years, and who still visits regularly – I am always shocked how much it changes year to year, let alone decade to decade. Seeing it in the 30s is awesome.

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Australia, Morocco, Thailand – Three True Travel Stories

I haven’t done this in a while, so please show some support. I have just moved back to Bangkok and need some Somtam money so thought I would plug my travel book: Australia, Morocco, Thailand – Three True Travel Stories. I have a few reviews on the Amazon UK site but only one on the Amazon US site. You can buy it by clicking this link here that you are looking at now.

Fortunately the lovely lady who wrote the US review was very nice about it. So instead of my usual blurb, I will just post her 5 star review. My dearest American buddies, a few more reviews would make my day. Thanking you in advance. Here is the review of Australia, Morocco, and Thailand. Three True Travel Stories:

A belly laugh from start to finish!

Some young folks hit the backpacker trail to gain self-enlightenment and seek spiritual awareness and save the world. With admirable honesty, the author admits that (at twenty-one) he was looking for fun, with the emphasis on avoiding boredom, staying drunk, and getting laid. Not surprisingly, he had more luck in the first two areas than in the third.

Don’t make the mistake of dismissing this as a stoned-and-stupid Spring Break saga. This man is a professional writer and a damned good one, and he knows how to tell a story. He also has a keen eye for the absurd, even when he’s looking in the mirror. The first (and longest) section recounts an adventure in Australia when he and three friends try to earn traveling money picking pears. Unfortunately, the beautiful farm of his imagination (think A TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL) turns out to be an “outback gulag” and the friendly, generous rural inhabitants consist of a hostile, dishonest farm owner and a pair of hard-working (and hard-drinking) Albanians.

The second story involves getting stranded in the Atlas Mountains during rainy season and taking a hair-raising ride back to civilization (or closer, anyway) in a van packed with Berber tribesmen. Why are the windows covered? “Il est preferable de ne pas regarder.” (It’s better not to look.) The third finds our hero living in Bangkok with his American-educated Thai fiancee Nim where he experiences a strange (typically Thai) overthrow of the government. The Prime Minister is unpopular, so the military steps in, sends the police home, the King okays the deal, and Happy Hour goes on. (That was in 2006 and the former PM is still in exile, but his sister is now PM!)

My only complaint about the book is that it is far too short and I wasn’t ready for it to end. The author writes science fiction, but I sincerely hope he will take a break soon and give us some more non-fiction. I also think that a snappier title and more interesting cover art would keep this very good book from being overlooked.

Just on the off chance I haven’t linked to my wonderful little book enough here you go:


 

 

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New windowless planes

I am just a couple of payments away from paying off my private jet, so imagine how annoyed I am that some new planes are set to make mine look like the Amish knocked it up. (Apologies to all my Amish readers – feel free to email your complaints.)

Windowless planes

Windowless planes

The idea the plane boffins have had is to get rid of all the windows and turn the walls into massive screens. This has the benefit of reducing weight (apparently) and making the whole fuselage more structurally sound. Another big benefit is that it looks fucking awesome. Essentially, cameras will film the outside and then project the images on the inside.

People may argue that this might make the metal tube you are in more claustrophobic, but I disagree. Firstly, those windows you get now are crap and unless you have a window seat, you don’t see much anyway. Secondly, we are barely more evolved than monkeys (albeit monkeys that can make shit hot aircraft screens) and our eyes are limited. They could replace the windows with hi-def 3d TV screens now and we wouldn’t notice. I think this will make the trip much more pleasant. In fact, it could be mega exciting. If I had my choice we would be on an alien planet or in space. Like this:

Windowless plane in space!

Windowless plane in space!

Or even better:

We have arrived at our destination, please buckle your seat belts, there may be some turbulence

We have arrived at our destination, please buckle your seat belts, there may be some turbulence

In case I have laboured this subject to death already, here is a video.

IXION Windowless Jet Concept from Technicon Design – France on Vimeo.

 

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Assassin’s Creed real life Parkour

If you have ever played Assassin’s Creed for hours then left the house, you sometimes find yourself looking at real life buildings to assess easy access to rooftops or cool things to run over. This subconscious analysis gets even stronger when you visit cities that feature in the games and you suddenly realise that you know your way around and that the easiest way to get to where you want to be is to climb a certain wall, run across the roofs of several buildings then dive into a river and hey presto, you’re there.

The crushing reality I felt when I visited places like Rome, Venice, and Florence was that even though it was pretty damned cool that I could navigate between some major sites based purely upon a game, I would probably injure myself just trying to jump over a small wall. Happily, while that would be the case for most of us, it is not true for practitioners of Parkour – that amazing sport/hobby/boastful exercise thing where people jump over street objects in an impressive manner.

Finally, someone has linked these two strands together and proved that Assassin’s Creed could definitely happen. (Although maybe not the ‘leap of faith into some straw’ bit if you have played the game.)

So if you like Assassin’s Creed or Parkour then you should enjoy this 3 minute clip set in Paris. It all looks pretty easy actually although the video shows that it is probably still quicker to take the bus.

 

Nice in France

Dear Internet,

Sorry I haven’t written in ages but I was moving house and then had a delightful couple of weeks in the south of France. But I am back in London now and will soon be returning to the drudgery of work and a normal existence. I will be writing a lot more from that point on, I promise. Our first stop was Nice, which is no misnomer. In fact the city could be called Bloody Lovely and it would still hold true. We then went to Antibes, Aix-en-Pronce, Chateauneuf-de-Pape, Avignon, then Paris. With a few little stops in places like Eze and Monaco.

Here’s a picture of what some of it looked like:

The Cote d'Azur

The Cote d’Azur 

As you can see, it was bloody lovely and hence not a lot of writing got done. I should also add that a glass of wine in that part of the world is cheaper than mineral water or coffee, so I was half drunk a lot of the trip. We were on a budget you see…

So prepare yourselves for an explosion of shallow stuff as The Word of Ward returns to business. Tonight I am seeing Monty Python live and tomorrow we are off to Hyde Park to see Black Sabbath, Soundgarden, Faith No More, and so on. Then it is back to business.

Please bear with me for this difficult period.

Yours affectionately,

The Word of Ward

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myhotel, Brighton

This isn’t really a hotel review as such – it’s more of an excuse as to why I have been a bit negligent toward the poor old www.thewordofward.co.uk website.

The reason is that I have been busy at work and then busy holidaying. I’m not sure that is a good reason but that is the way it is. While there we stayed at the fantastic Myhotel in Brighton. That isn’t a typo by the way, it is supposed to look like that because it’s all hip and shit.

It was Mrs Wordofward’s birthday and the good thing about Brighton is that it is chock full of cool bars, cafes, restaurants and pubs. All of which we are fans of. I’ve stayed at the Myhotel before in Brighton and it is in a superb location in the hip and cool North Lanes, just a short walk from the hip and cool South Lanes and consequently the not quite so hip and cool waterfront. (I am always disappointed by the pier at Brighton and while there is the odd nice cafe/bar by the beach, if it isn’t a sunny day then the Lanes are the place to be.) In fact, every other male I saw in the Lanes had a beard which shows how hip(ster) it is.

Another great thing about Brighton is that it is less than an hour from London.

Anyway, if you fancy Brighton I recommend the myhotel. It is like living in a hotel in Logan’s Run. Imagine the future as designed by someone from the seventies and you’ll get the idea. There is a great coffeeshop, cool bar – you get a free cocktail and they play retro movies on multiple screens while fish swim in tanks, and a modern Indian fusion restaurant which is also apparently pretty good.

So apologies for a slight lapse. Service has now resumed and fascinating things dealing with science and reviews of stuff and things will soon be forthcoming. In the meantime, here is a photo of our room:

myhotel room.

myhotel room.

 

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Conwy Castle, Wales

Conwy Castle exterior

Conwy Castle exterior

Apologies for not having written much of late but work was sparse so Mrs Word of Ward and I went a-wondering. I won’t gloat about the places we went (although I might later) as they were mostly sunny and warm. One place that wasn’t either of these, but was still pretty great, was Conwy Castle in North Wales. If you like castles or spectacular decaying edifices, I highly recommend it. It was actually pretty fun to go on a bleak mid-week afternoon in January as well, as we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

A photo of Conwy from a better photographer on a  nicer day.

A photo of Conwy from a better photographer on a nicer day.

Conwy castle was built the late 13th century. As in just before 1300ish, for King Edward 1st. Or King Edward as he was known back then. It was a major base for King Ed as he was conquering the Welsh – although it is probably best not mentioning that when you visit as they have never quite forgiven us horrible English types.

Unlike a lot of tourist attraction castles, the interior doesn’t have too much crap in it like signs or gift shops or anything. The mood is pretty unspoilt and you are allowed to wander around and climb things. Here is another picture but this time of the interior:

Conwy castle interior

Conwy castle interior

Nice eh? You can almost imagine all the lords and ladies and knights and dragons and so on. Here is another that was taken from what would have been a basement. Note that in the distance of both of these pictures you can see Conwy’s turrets – more on that after the picture.

20140129_132740If you don’t mind twisty steep dark staircases, then I highly recommend you climb one of the turrets. The view is bloody spectacular. Here is a both a superb vista and a brilliant example of modern phone’s ability to do a panorama shot.

Panorama from a Conwy turret.

Panorama from a Conwy turret.

Now, here is a shaky video on a windy day from the top, which may or may not load properly.

I said end it all but here are a couple of bonus pictures as you have been so good. I mentioned how there wasn’t too much crap to distract you from the awesomeness of Conwy castle but there are a couple of random touches that I thoroughly enjoyed. I think they ‘re there to give kiddywinks something to find. There are a few of these. My favourites were:

The ghostly head of King Edward!

The ghostly head of King Edward!

and

A pile of armour with a helmet, crown, and spike in a deep pit. For some reason.

A pile of armour with a helmet, crown, and spike in a deep pit. For some reason.

So you can see the kid friendly, slightly spooky vibe they are going for. If you get the chance, I highly recommend Conwy castle. As you can see it’s a good balance of castle, decay, random sights, great views, and a general Game of Thrones type vibe.

Thanks to http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/daysout/conwycastle/?lang=en for the picture. You can also get more info there.

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Octoberfest Munich

I’m a bit late with this, given that we got back from Octoberfest a month ago but it stays pretty much the same each year. So for those who are merely interested, this will be a fascinating account as usual. For people going to Octoberfest 2014, this should give a bit of a heads up as to what to expect. Hint: bring Berocca. I wrote this soon after we got back to London.

OCTOBERFEST!!! What is there to say? My bucket list has been pretty shortened recently what with a visit to Pompeii and now a slurring stumble through OCTOBERFEST!!! (That’s how it has to be pronounced I’m afraid.)

Augustiner tent

Augustiner tent

So what is OCTOBERFEST!!! (alright, I’ll stop now) actually like? Mrs Word of Ward and myself were a bit mental in that we went in October. Most of it is in September, but the Bavarians obviously decided Septemberfest sounded stupid. I highly recommend going mid-week because it can get ridiculously busy at weekends or holidays. Our first day was a Monday and we found a seat in several ‘tents’ pretty easily, which was a relief and erroneously made us think things would always be this civilised. Each time we moved to a new tent we wandered about, found a bench, then chatted to the other inebriates at the table. It was a pleasant international pissup indeed and a fine way to start the week.

Here’s a breakdown of things as they happened.

We arrived at around 3pm and headed for one of the bigger tents – the legendary Augustiner Festhalle (www.festhalle-augustiner.com). We found a seat pretty quickly – between an older couple from Vancouver and a group of drunken Italians. A middle aged German waitress, who was very much in charge and a little bit scary, took our order. Which was pretty easy because there were just two options – a litre of lager or nothing. She then took several other orders. Five minutes later she was back and carrying TEN litres of beer. Just one is heavy, ten beers weighs more than my wife. Probably.

There is a band in each Octoberfest tent and every 15 minutes or so they play a drinking song which then necessitates everyone to cheers each other. Or specifically – say ‘Prost’ and smack glasses together. Everyone on our table chatted to each and it was all remarkably friendly. The Augustiner beer is probably my favourite lager there and I pride myself on being a beer connoisseur/mild alcoholic.

Octoberfest

Octoberfest

After our first litre we went for a wander. The festival is a bit like a standard fair with several roads lined with food stalls, fairground games, a few rides, and lots of drunks (the latter are common in British fairs too but at least here there is an excuse). The Octoberfest beer halls are immense – some can hold up to 10,000 people. The amount of beer being drunk is quite awesome and inspiring to behold.

We decided to check out a few more of the beer halls because that was the whole point of being at Octoberfest after all. We had a guide we had printed from the all-knowing internet that gave a rough overview of each hall and their differences and specialties. Frankly, by our fourth ‘Festhalle’, we realised that they were all pretty much the same. A massive hall with a band in it and tons of wasted people singing and shouting ‘prost’ every few minutes while incredibly strong German women charged around with tankards of ale. Of course it could also have been that after four litres (actually a bit more as I gallantly helped Mrs Word of Ward with some of hers), your ability to analyse, discern, or even see is somewhat compromised.

As the evening wore on, the halls got more and more packed and the people got more and more drunk. By the time we left I was amazed that so many were still able to walk, although there were a few casualties sleeping it off here and there. If this had been anywhere in Britain there would have been fights, vomiting, rioting, random nudity and so forth, but the Octoberfest was ridiculously nice.

20131001_155321On the second day we got there in the early afternoon and it was noticeably more packed. It was the 2nd of October and the 3rd is German reunification day and a national holiday. It seemed as if everyone had taken the afternoon off, knowing they could sleep in the next day. We went to a tent called Schützen-Festzelt (www.schuetzen-festzelt.de) as it was legendary for its suckling pig. Unlike the previous day, it was a nightmare finding a seat. After half an hour we lucked out when a group of young, traditionally dressed Germans took pity and let us join them at the end of their table. From that point on, the aisles started to fill with people so we really were quite fortunate. We ordered more beer and the tent specialty – roasted piggy. The huge slab of pig and crackling was amazing. Perfect beer food. Our table was entirely local Bavarians and the smaller tent felt very German. I didn’t hear any other languages being spoken anywhere and we felt a bit left out when loads of German beer songs started to get sung. By the end of our epic porcine breakfast/lunch the place was heaving and it was a relief to get out.

We wandered around a bit more but the crowds were getting pretty oppressive. We then found a seat outside a tent and got a couple more litres in. Our table was once again full of chatty local Munich people. They asked if I thought German was a harsh language, which was hard to answer without being rude. I basically stated that at least it wasn’t French and left it at that. Some guys started singing and suddenly everyone else did too. This had a slightly more passionate edge to it than the happy go lucky drinking tunes of the tents and one of our neighbours explained that it was a football thing.

It was then that we realised that it really is essential to be inside a beer hall. Being outside in a beer garden, we could have been anywhere and the atmosphere inside was a hell of a lot more fun.

After a couple more halls we were done. It was too busy. By 7pm, there were now queues forming outside each beer hall and we couldn’t be bothered. One tent, called Fischer Vroni was famous for fish. Outside they were cooking them whole over a long line of coal. We bought one and it was bloody delicious. I highly recommend it. At 16 Euros, it was expensive but it really was worth it. Also each beer costs 10 Euros, so it’s all relative.

Awesome fish at Fischer Vroni

Awesome fish at Fischer Vroni

So what tips can give?

-Bring lots of money. A bottle of water was 4 Euros, and beer was 10 (actually a bit under that but the waitresses really deserved a tip).

-Pick your day carefully. If it’s a weekend or holiday then get to the tents early. You can book a table for a couple of hours if it’s busy but otherwise it is fun to wander around and share seats. Most tents have a reserved area and a free-for-all area.

-Most evenings get pretty packed. Be prepared to queue. Or beat the system and get drunk early.

-The atmosphere inside the tents is much more fun than outside.

-The food can be pricey but they are American (or Bavarian) sized portions and are good for two people. Unless you are American or Bavarian.

-Eat the fish cooked over coals, it’s seriously nice.

-As I said at the start – bring Berocca.

Erm… that’s all I can think of. Octoberfest is pretty much what you imagine it will be. A massive pissup organised by Germans and enjoyed by all. In a tent.

 

 

 

 

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Railay Beach, Thailand

As I have mentioned frequently over the last few weeks, I am currently on holiday in Thailand. For some reason this caused a lot of envy-laden comments amongst my Facebook buddies. Bastards. I suppose, to be fair, I had just posted a link to this website from a hammock. Which would annoy me too if I had read it. But hey, bollocks to them.This is going to be way more annoying.

I know Thailand incredibly well. I even used to write for a well known travel website on the country. For some reason however, I had never been to Railay beach even though I had always wanted to. It is a stunningly beautiful part of the world and I highly encourage you to go.

The main problem you are likely to face is where to stay. The entire peninsula is basically a load of interlinked resorts, which is a bit of a shame. On the West side, there is the main gorgeous beach, lined with posh resorts. They seem nice enough, but the food we had was ok and a bit overpriced. Another option however, is to head for the East side, (which is a bit swampy) and enjoy the cheaper nosh there. A third option is to do what we did: stay in Ao Nang (which is ok but has good food) and just take longtail boats everywhere.

If you are in Thailand and haven’t visited, you should. It’s gorgeous. If you don’t believe me, here is a photo:

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Here’s a panorama. Because I can. Unfortunately my wife’s arm moved and now she looks like a mutant. The beach is nice though.

20130317_162144

Railay Beach

 

 

 

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Coming to you live from Bangkok!

Dear readers, I apologise most profusely for my lack writing. But I do have a pretty awesome excuse.

I hate moving

I left my flat of 4 years and had to pack everything in storage. As anyone who has ever moved apartment will know, this was a massive stressful ball-ache. Not just the lifting but calling half of Britain to cancel direct debits. Just try calling Camden council and you will see that the stress induced is reason enough for my not having time to write.

Not enough?

I am in the final stage of my degree and am now entering the ‘Massive Bastard Essays’ stage. I have two huge fiction essays to write and accompanying essays of several 1000s of words. This is all while moving. I probably shouldn’t be writing this in fact.

More?

As well as being technically homeless, I am now technically unemployed as well. I probably shouldn’t say this but both of those facts are brilliant and I love being in this state of limbo. Consequently though, I am now constantly scouring the job pages to persuade someone, anyone, to hire me. To do anything. I work in TV, write fiction, am a journalist, and can teach, so please send me an offer at thewordofward@gmail.com. This leads on to the next time consuming point.

Final excuse:

This photo could well be in colour.

I also left Britain. Quite frankly, it was cold and the natives were grumpy. Maybe these points are connected. I flew to my old home and place of birth – Hong Kong. I bloody love it there and in the 5 days we stayed we drank, met people, and generally revelled in the futuristic awesomeness that is Hong Kong. Superb place. I also applied for some jobs while there in addition to looking at property and writing the aforementioned essays. Busy but brilliant times.

Hong Kong is from the future

The next stop was the current one. Bangkok! Again, a place where I have lived and loved and lagered. I spent a couple of years as a journalist here and that is another option on the cards. I have spent the last week looking up old contacts and going out with friends. A lot. Oh yeah, and the essays.

Bangkok!

So there you go. I’ve been a busy boy so cut me some slack. If you are rich and live in Hong Kong/ Bangkok/ Singapore and want to hire someone to write some stuff or work in a TV studio you own, give me shout. Then I can write more here as well and everyone’s happy.

In case you feel a twinge of pity, there really is no need. I am headed to this beach in a couple of days. Bye for now.

Railay Beach

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Florence

Ok. Here’s an attempt to post a picture or two.

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I’m in Florence

I probably won’t be writing much for the next few days as I am in Florence. That’s in Italy, in case you are a tad geographically challenged. If you have never been here before, you should. It’s bloody gorgeous. One of the Assassin’s Creed games was set here and bizarrely, it helped me find my way around. I have had to fight my urges to climb and stab people though.
On the plus side, (the negative being that I won’t be writing much) I will have lots of lovely pictures. I recently bought a new phone – a galaxy note 2 – and the camera is actually better than my camera. Which is a bit odd. If I can work out how to post pictures from it then you will be inundated with holiday snaps. If I can’t then I will gripe about it when I am back in London.

Hong Kong. What’s it like?

Hong Kong

I was born in Hong Kong and lived there until I was 21. It is a superlative place. It is like living about 10 years in the future. Hong Kong is like Blade Runner mixed with Minority Report/5th Element/Coruscant. We are actually thinking about moving back there in a couple of years.

People often ask, ‘What is Hong Kong like?’ They just imagine hordes of people shuffling between glass skyscrapers. Which is actually pretty accurate in the business part of town but it has so much more. I could go on and provide a breathtaking description of the contrasting juxtapositions of colonial and modern, of steel towers and palm trees, of ultra modern living and street markets. But I can’t be bothered. So here is a short video that shows all that instead. It is really worth a watch and brought a nostalgic lump to my throat.

So Long, My Hong Kong from Gregory Kane on Vimeo.

 

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I turned 40 and have fled to Prague

Yikes! A few days ago, the 31st to be precise, I turned forty. That would officially make me middle aged if it wasn’t for the fact that life expectancy in the West is now over 82 and will be higher by the time I get up to my octogenarian milestone. So I have a couple of years. There’s also the fact that I have known deep down that I will live to 400 at least (I can’t reveal how at this moment but it’s going to happen).

Consequently I’m not too depressed. It did seem a good excuse to flee to the Czech Republic and revel in an orgy of beer for a week however. Or pivo as it’s quaintly known as here. I’ve been to Prague a ton of times over the last 15 years and love it. Not just for some of the best beer in the world either, although that is a plus.

Rybka Cafe

Prague is just so gloriously bohemian and the prefect place to write in. I’m not just saying that as a pretentious prick either – it is actually in Bohemia. It’s ideal for drinking coffee all morning in a cozy cool cafe while scribing, then in the afternoon you can switch to beer. Often in the same place. The beer is legendary, cheap, and so fresh and organic that you can drink buckets of it and if you drink some water before you go to bed you don’t even get a hangover. Unless you match it with an absinthe shot, in which case you may wish for death the next day.

 

The coffee is good too and the cool coffeeshops nearly always have free wifi. Plus you can smoke (although I am quitting at the end of this holiday). The Czechs do pretty well when it comes to famous writers – not as good as the English or Americans obviously – but Havel, Kundera, Kafka and others are an impressive intellectual group. Like the French and English creative types of yore, they used to enjoy being creative in cafes/bars. The cafes here are superb to write in and have been used by writers for decades. I miss that in England. Since the smoking ban, cafes in London are full of mothers who let their kids run riot while smiling proudly. It’s not good for writing in unless you are writing about a crèche or being irritable. The smoky cafe where intellectuals and students drank coffee and alcohol while discussing Kafka have sadly gone from the Uk.

Anyway, I will stop whinging about Britain. I’m happy. I’m writing and drinking beer in a place called the Rybka cafe and loving it. I’m surrounded scruffy unshaven types drinking wine and ale and chatting about literature and art or tapping on laptops or (in my case) my iPad. The walls are lined with books, art and, a little bit bizarrely, typewriters. Soon we will move to somewhere similar but different.

This is the sort of lifestyle I intend to lead for the next decade. One full of booze, writing, coffee and culture. Also, if this blog entry is anything to go by, a hugely pretentious and up my own ass decade. Prague seems a good place for it.

Or possibly Berlin.

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The slow boat to Luang Prabang. Part Three

 

Pakbeng. To summarize: Nice enough.

Pakbeng is a small and not particularly brilliant little town. It was clearly just a little village that was fortunate enough to be roughly half way between Houie Xai and Luang Prabang. It exists as it is now because of the boat. The hotels and guesthouses are fine for a night, but in comparison to most places are pretty shit. Our hotel was ok for £10 a night, but you could get a better deal pretty much anywhere in Thailand outside Bangkok. And we were in Laos, which is even cheaper. But it was perfectly adequate for 1 night, so I won’t grumble. The town has beer, ok food, and sold pillows and baguettes. I happily bought a pillow.

The next day we were up at dawn and the Mekong looked stunning below our balcony in the morning light. The evening before I had been dreading the second half of the trip but despite the solid bed and bizarrely huge and rock hard pillows in our room, I found myself eager for the trip. The boat was due to leave at 9am, so at 8am we loaded up on baguettes, and snagged some great cloth-covered seats at the front left hand side of the boat. My buttocks loved the added comfort of the pillow.

 

Ignoring the wires, the view from our hotel balcony was stunning.

Pakbeng has some nice views.

The morning was the aforementioned ‘bracing’ and when the boat left at the crack of 9:35, everyone was wrapped up in jackets. The day and the view then proceeded to be pretty identical to the one before. The difference this time was that the temperature remained superb until about 2pm. The scenery remained spectacularly beautiful. Our new improved seats were similarly awesome. We were so content and comfortable we celebrated with a Beerlao at 11am. Others on the boat were enjoying Sangsom Whisky and coffee which was pretty damned civilized of them.

The boat was a nicer one on the second day for some reason. The lady selling snacks, coffee and beer at the back even had a little counter. The toilet was nicer as well although I was still pleased not to have to sit on it. This was fortunate as we were supposed to be on the boat for at least 8 hours. Or thereabouts. We were originally told we would get to Luang Prabang at 4pm. Someone near us said that they had heard 3pm and someone else said 5pm.

At about 4pm I saw something I recognised. The Pak Ou caves. I had been there before on a boat rented from Luang Prabang. The caves are at the foot of massive cliff and are filled with thousands of Buddha statues. It’s pretty cool and well worth a visit. I confidently predicted another 10 minutes or so which was a mighty relief as everyone was getting a bit fed up again. It is a long time to be sitting in boat, no matter how gorgeous your surroundings.

Same old gorgeous Mekong

Over an hour later, there it was. Luang Prabang at last. A finger of raised land that sticks into the confluence of the mighty Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. I could see temples and bars all along its side high above the river. It looked like the promised land. It looked lovely and relaxing. The only negative aspect was that, like around northern Thailand, the locals think it is an awesome idea to burn down half the forest. It makes farming easier and if that means a few people choking to death, what the hell. On the plus side, the smoky atmosphere made for some spectacular sunsets. The whole area is beautiful.

The looks didn’t deceive. Luang Prabang remains awesome. The trip was worth it.

You might cough up your lungs but the smoke makes for a nice evening.

In case you navigated to part 3 by accident, part 1 is here.

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