Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Street Art in Bali

walking around Bali, i noticed many interesting bits of street art/graffiti, and thought i’d share some here. i don’t recall using any instagram filters either. wonder how many more there are that i missed?

Graffiti girl
Graffiti girl II
Graffiti girl III
Printed Christ

Boxing Day in London

Time For Nothing by Richard Baquié (1985)There is a lot said about Boxing Day sales in London and the great shopping experience you can enjoy. I got to be part of this on the 26th of December 2012.

First thing you should know about most of Central London. A tube strike has been happening for several years now. The unions want to ensure people get paid better to work on this day, but there’s been no solution. As a consequence, most central tube lines or areas stop functioning.

Buses work. Taxis work. Taxis are also on regular metered fares on the 26th, which is unlike on Christmas Day (the 25th). 

Getting to Harrods (Knightsbridge) or most of the High Street (Oxford Circus, Bond Street) is a challenge if you can’t use the tube. So use a taxi.

What about the sales themselves?

Some stores have genuinely good discounts. Some stores like Selfridges also have an online presence, so whatever you get in store is also available via online delivery.

The crowds are insane. Walking around Bond St will confirm that. Many queue to get into stores, seen at Next & Selfridges, but for the latter there are other entrances so use common sense.

I get the feeling that Londoners usually don’t shop on this day. Its mostly out of towners or tourists.

Many stores continue to have sales right up till January. Same prices, same deals, even on January 4 the following year! Just no more crowds :)

John Lewis apparently remains closed on the 26th, electing to open on the 27th only.

Overall, its OK if you want to get 30% off something at Dior/Chanel/Hermes/Prada/etc. It seems those brands generally don’t continue sales maybe past that day. But for anything else? I’m not so sure…

Watches are also on sale. But I’ve never paid retail prices for nice watches to begin with – shops usually provide discounts anyway.

Should you go for the experience? Only if you enjoy crowds & sale bins. You will queue to go in. You will be shopping in a rush. You will queue to pay. Bring entertainment to quell the waiting periods!

security theatre: bodyscanners

I generally “opt-out” and head for a manual pat down by the TSA at airports in the USA. Today, I decided to try the bodyscanner at san francisco airport (SFO). I was tired from an active night of wine drinking & mingling. I cleared all my pockets and proceeded to get scanned.

Today I was wearing my Dockers Mobile Pants. This is the older model with two zippered pockets. After spending some three seconds in that machine with my hands up, I walked out to see that the image suggested I had something on me. It turns out that it picked up my zips on the mobile pants and required me to get a manual pat down. To make matters even more fun, they swabbed my hands for residue.

I told the TSA agent that the machine is broken and he said that its very sensitive and is working. It picks up zips. I asked what about the regular zip for my pants. He had no answer.

I guess there’s absolutely no point in doing this bodyscanner thing at all. I’ll continue getting my manual pat downs and pretend to enjoy it. I don’t care if they claim its safe either.

Food in Dublin, Ireland

Creamier, tastier but considerably quite pricey - a pint sets you back 4.50-5.20 euros. Sin tax must be high, like in malaysiaSteak and Guinness pie, mash and a pint - supposedly very traditionally IrishIt is not hard to find a pub in Dublin, so go to any and they would probably serve you an excellent pint of Guinness. It may not be the cheapest though — 4.50-5.20 Euros per pint. Sin tax must be high.

I had Hanley’s Cornish Pasties. Its like a stew, put into pastry ;) A must try. Many pubs also serve a steak & Guinness pie… Well worth eating a traditional cuisine.

We did end up eating some very nice sushi as well as Lebanese food. All around the Grafton St area and Dublin 2/Dublin 4.

Ice cream infused with Get 27

Dessert. Absolutely fabulousI just had the most amazing mint ice-cream ever. Its ice-cream with a gelato like feel that is made from Get 27. Get 27 is a liquor with mint, created in 1796 but now produced by the Bacardi group. Goes well with a glass of Chartreuse (local to this region). Available at Les Cloyeres, Grenoble, France (technically, Grenoble-Bernin).Chartreuse base aperitif

Notes from Granada & Barcelona, Spain

This is my first time in Spain and I’m happy to say I’ve visited Granada and Barcelona all in one. Some quick notes:

  • This is an EU nation, yet you’ll have to fill in some kind of landing form if you’re not an EU national. They don’t ask you to retain the departure card, preferring instead to keep the whole sheet. It proved no issue leaving the country either.
  • Churros are meant to be eaten with thick hot chocolate. No wonder people gave me funny looks when I just ate it as is.
  • The Spanish are friendly. A fairly good looking person just sat across me on my table at breakfast one morning. Upon looking up only did she realize she should have asked first.
  • The cuisine is awesome. Lots of little dishes. Olives stuffed with anchovies in brine. Fried green peppers. Paella served with an obligatory sangria. The list goes on and on. Sometimes though I found some of the tapas a little too salty for my liking.
  • Getting an English-language newspaper is a challenge in Granada, on Spanair, in the Barcelona airport lounges. In Barcelona though, international hotels and the Ramblas area will serve up some English magazines as well as the Financial Times.
  • Siesta is something I cannot fathom/get used to. Yes, it is a significantly lengthy lunch hour, but I guess its something cultural.
  • Speaking English is a challenge. Hotel staff too find it difficult to understand sometimes. And outside of Barcelona/Madrid, it’s going to be hard to find an international chain, so be prepared to speak slowly and explain yourself clearly.
  • Pretty much everything (retail) is closed on Sunday in Barcelona. Save for shopping malls. Gasp!
  • There are over fifteen Michelin-star rated restaurants in Barcelona. Make sure you get bookings in up to two weeks in advance. Many finer restaurants also have tasting menus (which really are set menus, IMHO).
  • Beware the Ramblas area. Plenty of places tell you, you can get three tapas and a drink for a certain sum of money, but the tapas is always limited to what they choose, and the drink tends to be really small. In Barcelona you pay for your tapas, it doesn’t come for free when you order your drink. Don’t be fooled by paella on the streets either — ask what you’re getting (chicken paella is quite a common set menu dish). I found it a nice street to walk on, but eating I picked elsewhere.
  • On a Saturday night, within a 10km radius of the Ramblas area, the most popular destination checked-in on Foursquare had 14 people. Not a huge number by any means. Recommendations are mostly in Spanish on the service, so it proved to be hard to decipher for me.
  • Finding WiFi is not really common. Of course around the touristic areas many places offer up wifi with a drink.
  • Cava is common. Its like Spanish champagne/bubbly. It is also cheap. Don’t hesitate to ask for a glass before lunch/dinner.
  • Cafe Zurich at the end of Ramblas is a very nice place to sit and people watch. In fact people sit in a Parisian fashion looking towards the street.
  • There’s a market in the middle of the Ramblas area. Reminds me of Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. They even give you a map. Very colourful, nice to take pictures of, and clearly its a destination in itself.
  • Television here is all pretty much Spanish-based. English shows dubbed in Spanish. There usually is some variant of CNN or BBC though for an English-language fix.