Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Blast from the Reality Past

While we were in Southeast Asia we watched a DVD of the Amazing Race Asia season 1 (not shown in the UK, but my sister is a huge fan of the show so lends me all her episodes).

Anyway, we started watching it, and then this couple, Howard and Sahran from Sri Lanka appeared (described as "best friends").



You know how it slowly dawns on you that you've met someone before? That was the feeling I got.

Then I remembered that years ago, when visiting Columbo (Sri Lanka's capital), I had met Sahran who used to use the hotel swimming pool. He had befriended us and took us out to dinner one evening at a really nice restaurant. I remember at the time being a bit suspicious about his motives - why was he being so friendly, but it turns out that all he wanted to be was friendly and nice.

So it was odd to see him now on a reality game show, especially as the Amazing Race is one of those shows which really tests your mettle by exposing you to continual stress and placing you in quite dangerous situations involving jumping off buildings or scary animals.

While I remember Sahran as very calm on confident while he showed us round Columbo, he revealed a rather less calm side during the Race. Not that I blame him - I would have probably needed hospitalisation had I been on it. And me and my fella tend to have a blazing row if we arrive at someone's house more than 5 minutes late, so I imagine we would have made very good tv on the Amazing Race, although would have thoroughly humiliated ourselves.

Though I was rooting for them, the boys didn't win sadly, but were eliminated halfway through. Still, good for them - I hope it led to better things.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

His face is his fortune



I have been playing Uncharted: Drakes Fortune on the PS3. It's an action adventure game where you take the role of the above not-unattractive looking collection of pixels in order to search for the lost treasure of Eldorado. It's a bit like being in an Indiana Jones film - there's a plucky pretty girl, an evil villain who talks in an English accent and lots of South American henchmen who try and kill you. Most of the time you are running around lush tropical islands or searching through secret temples - the rendering of the scenery is quite beautiful - I hardly feel the need to go on holiday ever again.

This rather blurry demo hardly does it justice

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Environmental dilemma

My old car (a Mercedes A Class) was very nice for doing motorway driving from Lancaster to Bristol, but since I moved back to Lancaster, it's been in the garage for repairs a few times - the problem is that Lancaster has a lot of speed bumps - we have a very green city council and they don't really approve of cars. The odd speed bump is OK, but when your car is going over them all the time, it starts to cause problems with the electrics and the suspension and on one or two occasions there have been horrible scraping noises which have resulted in major problems. So I've traded it in for this:



It's big, black and evil. I took it out on a test drive and it hardly knew the speed bumps were there.

It looks a little bit like the Range Rover that Captain Jack of Torchwood drives round in:



However, I'm sure it isn't very environmentally friendly. It has a 2.2 engine and takes diesel petrol. I suspect it might even be a type of SUV which probably means I'm going to Hell.

As a penance, I've bought a Marks and Spencer "bag for life". And at least I won't be wasting money having to get the other one repaired all the time.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I've never been much of a hat wearer, but I quite like these two pictures of me.



What I'm reading and watching

Back in the UK and I am exchanging sunburn and mosquito bites with wind chill and frost bite. Britain has many great things but it's weather isn't one of them. The problem with 2 week holidays is that work really starts to mount up while you away. I tried to limit checking email to every other day, and only worked for 2 days out of the 14, but today was a bit of a nightmare catching up with stuff.

I read a good but depressing book while I was away - the Shackled Continent, which my sister bought my fella for Christmas. It's written by a journalist for the Economist and is about why Africa is in such a bad way. Chiefly to blame are its nutty and/or corrupt political leaders - Mugabe and co. It's cruel but I was thinking of turning it into a board game - a kind of anti-empire building game where the object is to try and kill off as many of your citizens as possible by starting civil wars, denying that AIDS exists or spending all the foreign aid on your 80th birthday party celebrations. You win if everyone is dead. In return for this evil book, I have lent my sister the first series of Prison Break - which she says makes her feel anxious and tense every time she watches it.

Meanwhile, I have been watching Firefly - a sci-fi show from a few years back which got cancelled after one season. It's a shame because it is pretty good - it's about a group of slightly illegal space travellers who all seem to dress and act like they are fighting the American civil war. The theme tune is all twangy banjos. They are led by hunky Nathan Fillion (NSFW link) - they swear in Chinese and have a high-class prostitute on board and everyone has an attitude problem. It's a lot more fun than Battlestar Galactica - which I love, but it can get a bit heavy-going at times, wondering who are all the sleeper cylons and sleeper lesbians (Starbuck).

Friday, January 11, 2008

In Cambodia



It feels like I've been out of the UK for ages. The last leg of my holiday is at Siem Reap in Cambodia, famous for the World Heritage Site of Ankor Wat which has transformed the region into a beautiful tourist resort. Ankor Wat is a series of massive, intricately designed and breath-taking temples, some overgrown with hundreds of years old trees - it's where Angelina Jolie filmed Tomb Raider - she's had a good relationship with the region ever since and I can see why.

I have stuffed myself on hotel buffet food for two nights in a row and am now paying the price. I also have sunburn and a big mosquito bite by my eye. And I think I was woken up by a lizard crawling over my face last night. Still, I'm not really looking forward to exchanging all this heat and sunshine for British winter.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The insanity of traffic in Vietnam

Forget the Green Cross Code. There are just two rules: 1) start walking 2) hope for the best.

Friday, January 04, 2008

On an elephant



We are now in Hanoi. While Bangkok seems to have embraced capitalism with its shiny towers and Starbucks everywhere, Hanoi is a lot more low-rise and shows signs of clunky communism - its Revolution Museum proudly displays tyres and plastic buckets that were made in Vietnam. From some of the stares I'm getting on the streets, I don't think many Vietnamese get to travel much - as a caucasian, I feel like I'm exotic. The Vietnamese currency is badly in need of devaluation - 100,000 Dong is worth about £3.33. We have a stack of bank-notes to get rid of, which looks like we've robbed a bank. The coins are so worthless that they are sellotaped together in bundles. We went to a shop selling Communist Vietnamese propaganda paintings - my fella bought one for his office. We couldn't work out whether it was supposed to be ironically kitsch or not though.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Happy New Year

Went on an elephant ride yesterday. I like elephants (it stems back from seeing Dumbo as a child). They seem to have a good sense of humour anyway. Halfway through the ride (we were in a group of other tourists - ah the thrill of non-authentic tourism), our non-English speaking driver took us off on a different track to everyone else and then got out a plastic envelope full of.....DRUGS! (I've seen The Bill, I know what they look like.) He sort of held it up to us for a few seconds and put it away. I don't get offered drugs very much (I look sort of square) and even less so when I am with my fella (who resembles a policeman or vicar). I suspect we are the last people in the world who don't do drugs anyway.

Afterwards, we had a meal overlooking the Bridge on the River Kwai (the one the film was based on) and then walked across it. Then we went to a museum about the PoWs who had to build the bridge and the railway during WWII. It was very depressing - and suggested that there was still a lot of hatred towards the Japanese prison guards. Understandable, considering the circumstances.

Our tour guide all day was a very camp Thai woman who did not stop talking. During the 2 hour drive, she would frequently turn round to face us in the back of the car and say something like "Oh my god, you know what, Thailand imports 60% of its rice to Europe" or some fact like that. To be fair, she was very well-versed in statistics about Thailand - I wish I had paid more attention, as now I would be too.