5 Things I Love And Hate About London

 

So it’s coming to the end of my first year living in London. It’s flown past but I won’t be living there next year. I shall be moving to San Francisco for my second year of university so I thought I’d state some of my favourite things about London and some of the things I actually despise.

Love:

1. Love the Tube and Public Transport

I find the iconic tube absolutely fascinating. In the words of the great Mr Weasley “Trains? Underground? Brilliant these muggles!” and he’s absolutely right. Every time I’m venturing somewhere in London on the underground I can’t help but think how on earth did this ever get created. It’s an engineering marvel and the fact it’s expanding with cross rail is brilliant. It’s unbelievably efficient, it carries up to a billion passengers a year and it’s absolutely ancient. The new trains are amazing and a step in the right direction, even the London Over ground is great. It’s convenient, quick and in all seriousness, relatively cheap. I tend to get a travel card. Zones 1-6 for £5.60 at student price and that can literally take me miles and miles, to places that would cost a fortune in a taxi. I had my faith restored in buses after getting the X26 direct from Kingston to Heathrow in about 40 minutes with very few stops and it only cost me £1.35. Even though Boris put the prices up every year he’s been in office it’s still pretty good price.

2. Love the Open space

One of the things I’ve always thought was great in London is the park life scene. There is more green space in London than almost any other capital city in the whole of Europe and without trying to sound to hipster, they are a great place to go and chill. Primrose Hill, Grosvenor Square and Richmond are some of my favourites. There is also the little park right next to the houses of parliament where I sometimes go and think, as long as nobody is sat on my bench. Then I walk of in a furious rage. I think park life is pretty unique in London, it’s something that London has up on many other cities in the UK .

3. Love the Choice

This one probably goes without saying for most people but there is so much to do. There is stuff to do for free, there is stuff to do cheaply and there is a never-ending amount of choice of things to do. All you have to do is follow the Londonist on twitter to receive updates of great things to do on every day of the week. From nerdy pub quizzes to tours of the dungeons and not to mention the museums that are completely free. The science museum is probably my favourite in London but that’s mainly because it’s my interest rather than the natural history and British museum, whilst fascinating, isn’t really my cup of tea.

4. Love the Pace

I’m a small town person. I live in a town with a tiny population, hardly any stores that are chains, hardly any one uses public transport and you can walk from one end to the other in about 20 minutes. Many people question whether small town people can get on with somewhere as quick paced as London but I think it fits me perfectly. The City is fast, there is logic behind it. People who are slow keep to the right, if you want to be slow be slow, if you want to be fast be fast. It’s great and someone with as much energy as me doesn’t really like to be slowed down so London is fantastic for that. Everything seems to be turned up a gear and I love that.


5. Love the convenience

As mentioned before, I live in a small town. Until recently you couldn’t even get a pizza delivered to your house. Moving to London was amazing for me in terms of settling my cravings. I can wake up at 12 in the afternoon and order a Chinese or at 3 in the morning and still be able to walk somewhere and buy a Twix. I love that, back home I would have to hop in the motor and drive about 10 miles before I would be able to reach a 24 hour shop or McDonalds Drive Thru. The tube and trains are convenient. I can get a bus back to my flat at 4am if I ‘ve been out. I can walk about 20m out of my flat and buy new clothes, a new stereo, a replacement cable. Absolutely anything is less than a stones throw away and it’s all easy to get to. I’ve never been used to this in my life, the local off license closes at 10/11pm.

Hate:

1. Tourists

It’s the cliché hate of any Londoner. The infamous tourist, the guy who rushed up the fast lane of the escalator then stops because he hasn’t a clue where he is going. The ones taking pictures in the middle of the path whilst your trying to maintain pace, the people who continuously get ripped off without realising, the people who stare without realising it’s rude. Absolutely no time for them. One of the first things I learned when I came to London is tourism ain’t cool. I did maybe 2 days of touristy stuff to get it out of my system and then gave up on it all together. Suffice to say you won’t see a picture of me by Elizabeth Tower as my profile picture anytime soon.

2. Loneliness

London is a great city to spend time with people in. You’ve never ending restaurants, bars, clubs and activities to take part in with your friends. All in all though, if your in London and your not a tourist the chances are you are busy, that’s part of the reason it’s so fast paced. I remember when I used to work at the pub back at home a cockney guy used to come in all the time and I told him I was moving to London and he told me never stay in London if your ever down or lonely because it’s the hardest place to be. I agree with him wholeheartedly. It’s so busy, every seems so self-important and people are having a great time all around you. Maybe it’s why suicides in London are pretty high, I’m not sure. Sometimes the loneliness can be a good thing, when your sat on the train lost in an awkward silence, your getting time to yourself whilst being out the house. I’m not really one to get depressed but sometimes when I’m sat in the flat and there’s so much to do and everyone’s busy with exams or work I feel pretty annoyed to be stuck inside on the internet when there is so much to experience out there.

3. The water

I must have ranted about this before, surely. I don’t understand how such a little thing could honestly put me off London in such a big way. The water from the tap is disgusting, Britta filters are a joke and the great British cup of tea tastes absolutely vile. I have to clean my kettle and showerhead all the time and it’s a joke. I miss soft water so much that I spend a fortune on Brecon Caereg in Sainsbury’s every week. Hard water will remain one of my sworn enemies for the rest of my life.

4. The Tube and Public Transport

Yes, it’s one of my favourite things about London but it’s also one of my biggest qualms. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of strangers. I’m also no the world’s biggest fan of stopping and starting. The tube, the over ground trains, the busses are pretty much this. Rush hour is a nightmare. I guess it’s not as bad as it was in Mumbai but it’s honestly the worst thing ever. I live 9 miles from Paddington yet it takes 50 minutes to get there. What is this!? There is so many human beings, some with huge personal hygiene issues and I can’t deal with it.

5. It’s 2 hours away from home

So it’s two hours from home, the train from Paddington to Newport is actually brilliant. It doesn’t stop to much, it’s hardly ever delayed and the staff are really good. It’s just two hours is fair amount of time I guess, I understand that absolutely millions of people travel for longer than this to get home but as the famous saying goes “there is no place like home”. In fact, David Attenborough, a man who has done more than so many of us and been absolutely everywhere has even suggested that his home is his favourite place on earth.

Is Google Glass The Next Bum Bag?

Google Glass, some are touting it as the future of Google. They’ve been touted as science-fiction come true, apparently will be able to be worn on top of current spectacles but the future of the project is sketchy. I’m talking about the mainstream future, the day when as many people have Google Glass as they do smart phones.

Google Glass has potential to be the lamest thing to be worn since the bum bag. It’s almost as bad as having your phone attached to your belt. They could become fashion suicide, or they could become much like Apple’s Siri. Something you only use well out of the way of other human beings. They thing is, wearing technology is almost too geeky to hit the mainstream.

There are ways they can get it right though. Size is everything; they need to cram the technology needed to run Glass into the smallest possible for factor. Controls are important yes, that touchpad to the side is probably necessary but it’s going to have to be available in size that’s both fashionable and functional. A feat I’m pretty sure won’t necessarily be easy for the hardware engineers at Google but even if they don’t pull it off in the first versions, silicon becomes more and more impressive every day in terms of how much you can fit in a small space.

Google would do themselves a lot of favours if they teamed up with the big names in the glasses world. I’m talking RayBan, Oakley, Prada, Ted Baker. All the big names in sunglasses and among the favourites of the general public and whilst they may seem like the premiums, most people who are going to be wearing glasses full time tend to have nice pair and no specs come cheap! If they could have a detachable Google Glass on a pair of WayFarers you’ve got me interested already. The idea of constantly having to have it on your eye even if you’re not using, it isn’t ideal.

I’m excited for the future of Google Glass Project, I think it has potential to make the world a better place, to make people more productive, aware and connected to the magic that is the internet. Imagine walking down the street, unaware of how to get to your destination and simply having a map projected in front of you. It’s augmented reality the way it always should have been and I can’t think of a company better than Google to pull this off. Mostly because Google’s researchers are very good at what they do. Whether an office full of people like me could come up with the most fashionable device in the world is probably not likely but the fact of the matter is Google know the potential they have with this project and will make sure it doesn’t flop and they’ve got Technology on their side, it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time, software updates can improve it without changing the hardware and they don’t have to only have one model for many years.

The one other thing I’m worried about with Google Glass is that it will make me even more reliant on technology. Yesterday I had to visit an embassy for a visa application and wasn’t allowed to take my phone. I was in absolute bits, I felt naked and vulnerable. I had given my phone to a friend to look after whilst I was at the embassy and had to result to flicking through a relatively bad magazine that was out of date just days after being printed. It’s almost terrible how reliant I am on my phone and technology but we all have this and Google Glass could make this worse. Who’d of though it’s that difficult to find a phone box in London that takes cash as well. The majority are card only now and it took me 5 minutes before I could even call my beloved phone and find out where it was!

As far as Google Glass goes overall… Bring on the future.

Books, Web, Lectures or Documentation? A New Programmers Dilemma.

Programming is something that is constantly expressed as a difficult, time-consuming thing to learn. A set of skills that once learned, a person can fall in love with. Challenging, constantly evolving and useful to the masses. There are hundreds of languages, a different syntax for each. Various evolutions of languages, different IDE’s and implications that a person must learn to be able to program effectively. So what is the best way to learn about programming? What is the best format for gaining your knowledge and skills?

Books

Books may be considered out-of-date and old school now but they are still absolutely fantastic educational resources. The problem with programming books is that now we have regular updates to programming related software, documentation, syntax etc. print books can quickly become out of date. For example, I’ve recently started to try and learn C# for iOS development and after visiting the university library I soon found out that the only books they had for iOS development, Cocoa touch and C# were for older versions. On the plus side though, a lot of what these books have is timeless, especially for some of the older languages and they make for great reference material. After all we don’t all have vast amounts of screen real estate and it’s a lot more natural looking down at your desk then back up to the screen anyway.

Web

Ah, the web! Created by programmers in itself. Always up to date and in most cases free. You can learn a ton of different tips and tricks from experienced programmers, get feedback on code and read up on every language imaginable. The web is fantastic. Website like W3 Schools make learning certain languages incredibly easy and have great tools for helping you along the way although not all languages or protocols have websites as well designed as W3 Schools. Sometimes it can all get a bit to busy and you’ll be searching for hours before you’ve found what you need. If you plan to learn programming mainly from a computer it probably helps to have a multiple screen set up, something I would recommend anyway. The web is a fantastic resource and the obvious choice for a lot of new programmers.

Lectures/Videos

Not available to everyone. I am a university student and have had Java lectures every week for the past year and I have to be honest they haven’t been entirely useful. This is a lot more personal, some people can take a lot from lectures and slide-based tutoring. I can’t. There is little interaction and it’s not 100% suited to programming. That said, when learning certain things such as algorithms and methodology; there are some absolutely fantastic lectures available for free on YouTube and iTunesU including lectures from world class universities. Sometimes I find myself watching a programming lecture in my spare time where it is inconvenient to be coding or reading about it such as whilst travelling on the train.

Documentation

Documentation is the go to reference for most languages. It’s a fantastic resource that you should have saved or have a physical copy of for every language you are going to be using. A lot of experienced developers will be able to quickly learn the syntax of a new language and simply use the documentation to find the bits they need for their programs from the documentation. It’s not really the way to go for learning a language if your a beginner in the programming world but experienced programmers may be able to use the documentation to apply their already acquired skills to a new language.

Overall, I would say there is no problem in combining them all. I’ve used various websites and books mainly to learn what I know thus far and I’m still learning more and more every day, as are many other developers! Lectures can help, utilise the resources available to you with websites like W3Schools, StackOverflow and services like YouTube and iTunesU. In this day and age if you put the effort in the resources are available for you to learn almost anything you like for free!

7th And Last Day In Mumbai!

 

Today we visited a Hindi temple and I’ve never felt so out of place in my life. As an atheist/agnostic and being the most prominent looking guy in the temple wearing a very low cut t-shirt and a pair of chinos I must of looked absolutely ridiculous. I know next to nothing about Hindi religion but was assured that visiting a temple is something I must do whilst here.
Upon entry we handed over our shoes to the shoe keeper and continued in through the clearly marked entry sign and joined a queue where you are to be blessed by a man who puts some sort of golden colored pot on your head. The donations pot was full to the brim with rupees which I assume are used to maintain the temple. Some of the biggest donations to religious establishments have happened in India. The temple was absolutely beautiful, it was really well kept, the architecture was relatively fascinating and it was full of old Hindi artifacts such as traditional clothing and statues. People were sat reflecting as well as a group of people singing prayer songs and playing music through the P.A system. There was also a sort of religious market selling foods, books, coloring books and prayer beads. On weekends the temple offers free portions of food for people who attend a teaching. The colors of some of the outfits were absolutely stunning and it’s something many of the religious people of India take really seriously. After feeling extremely awkward penguin for about 10 minutes we left the temple and got back to the car. As an avid fan of the traditional cup of tea in Britain, our driver wanted to take us for traditional Indian Street tea or Chai. My friend had told me it’s something I should give a bash anyway but I’ve denied it because I am paranoid to do literally anything that puts me at risk of being ill. So much that every flying thing I see, I shout “malaria” and run as far from it as possible. The driver assured us that it was safe and took us to one of his favorite spots for Chai. I would have been naïve to expect a Starbucks but deep down it’s what I kind of hoped for, you know all clean and all that but that was obviously unlikely. Hence “street tea”. The driver pulled up to a table with a few men stood round. No sign, no advertising, just a table. A few pots, and a guy who seemed to be very skilled with a ladle creating Chai in a pot, flicking small amounts onto his hand to taste whether it was ready or not. When we first turned up it looked like he was stirring a thick paste and my heart sank a bit but by the time he served it in the small traditional glasses it was much more similar to a texture I would hope for. This guy seemed like he really knew what he was doing with the tea which may sound a tad ridiculous but this man has been selling tea in the same place, everyday for the majority of his life. The driver seemed excited to see my reaction to trying his favorite little stores goods and my first reaction was actually “ahhh it’s hot!”. But after leaving it a few seconds to cool down it was actually very pleasant. It tastes a slight bit more herbal and powerful to your average cup of Tetley but that was to be expected. It was actually slightly thicker as well, I’m guessing this is down to the milk they use but another notable thing about the way tea is drank In India is that they use much smaller cups, more like the size of a double espresso shot. The Chai was also sweetened by the gent making the tea so where as I would usually drink tea without sugar or sweetener here I didn’t really have a choice. I think you need it with this more powerful tea though, it’s the three ingredients that make it so nice. It’s not the same as your average cuppa but delightful and enjoyable none the less and of course you get the experience of sitting on a broken breeze block watching the chaos that is Mumbai go past.


I’d like to shed light on the security in Mumbai. I think I mentioned in a previous post about the hotels and how they check the cars for bombs and you go through airport style scanners upon entry to any of the 5* establishments but since then we’ve visited many other places and nearly every single on of them has airport style security. From the malls to the cinemas and from the temples to the markets. Absolutely everywhere is secure as anything, I can only assume this is due to previous terrorist threats and the huge gap in the class system. I’ve never really been exposed to security like this, when I was bought up in Wales the only time I’d ever seen a security gate was at the airports going to holiday and when I once went to the Welsh Assembly for a tour of the building. I even had the shock of my life during fresher’s week when I went to a club and they insisted on searching me at absolutely every entrance point. I don’t even mean just a casual search either, I had a bottle opener key ring confiscated, my boxer waste band checked and everything. They didn’t hang about and it’s the same here. In Cardiff, Newport and just about anywhere I’ve been out or spend time the chances of bumping into a security scanner are slim to none. I guess we don’t have as much trouble or threats in Wales but that’s not to say it’s trouble free.
The evening was a day that everyone told me would be fantastic. I would be attending a pre-wedding party. This envolved many things I’ve never seen in my life before such as a wedding quiz, saree’s and an open bar! The bar was offering up free whiskey, free kingfisher and various drinks such as Mojito and vodka mixers. One of the best parts of the early stages of the party was that they had people constantly walking round with “snacks”. These weren’t snacks like you get at home, you know, the peanuts and crisps but different types of chicken and lamb. In fact Mutton is more of a thing out here than at home, I guess they can get away with using more aged meat because the spices make up for it. The food that came round was sterling, I mean what we think is good in a curry house back home is good on a tray here. They really know what their doing with their chicken.


Indian’s love to be fashionably late but not just slightly, by hours. The do started at about 19:30 but nobody really turned up until 21:30pm. Then after about an hour of whisky fueled fun people started hitting the dance floor. Again, more house music. I’ve noticed since being in India that they don’t really do ageism. Usually if a forty-five year old walked into a club that was more an 18-25 year old scene they would get stares off everyone but that doesn’t happen in India. People just love to have a good time and they don’t let age get in the way of it. In fact, a man who could hardly walk and relied on a stick to get him up to the dance floor threw away his stick by the time he was at the dance floor and had a jolly good rave. So much respect for that fella! He dropped his stick and swung around all over the place it was like a miracle!


There was also choreographed dancing by the hosts, there was a quiz on what the future bride and groom knew about each other and there was some absolutely amazing food knocking about. Constantly being presented by the waiters, unlimited stashes of drink and food! It was great fun and I had a really enjoyable last evening.
My experience in Mumbai was fascinating. I learned so much about the culture, the poverty and the political system. I’ve tried countless new foods and drinks, visited some fascinating land marks and learned more about the history between India and Britain. I am sure I’ll return at some point in my life and hopefully not experience the same culture shock I did in the first few days!

6th Day In Mumbai

Tim Ford in Hard Rock Cafe Mumbai

Today started a tad late.  Tired as ever and after some rather berserk dreams we wandered out to the car and drove to the Palladium. A super mall that you would never expect to reside in India what so ever. This place is stacked with designer shops much like you’d expect to see on the most exclusive streets in London. From Burberry to Gucii and Emporio Armani to Diesel. This place really had every designer store you could expect. If it didn’t lack a Tiffany’s it would probably surpass the biggest most expensive mall I’ve been to in Boston, Massachusetts.  The Palladium is without a doubt the most expensive shopping venue within Mumbai. Things cost more in these super-premium outlets than they would in a shop back home. A pair of Diesel jeans would probably set you back £150 more here than they would at home.

After a brief walk round the extortion that is the Palladium we ventured into TGIF for a beer. Here was a bit more reasonable despite being within the actual building. It was around 170 rupees for a beer before tax however it actually happened to be happy hour so it was buy one get one free on beverages. We enjoyed a couple beers and a chat in TGIF which is safe to say is exactly the same as any other TGIF you might find. The smell, the staff and the menu’s were exactly as expected. I’ve actually got a mild hatred of TGIF in the UK because it’s so darn expensive, full of chavs and the food is on par with Weatherspoons.

After our beers we got in the car and drove to the Hard Rock Café in Mumbai. I’ve been to a Hard Rock in almost every city I’ve been to that happens to have one and bought a cocktail glass and managed to get them home safe and sound. They sit proudly on the glass in the Kitchen and each one carries with it a little story and some  insight into the places me and my family have travelled. Unfortunately this Hard Rock Café did not have a cocktail glass so I ended up buying two shot glasses instead. We each ordered the legendary burger and of course a Kingfisher to accompany it after having to sort of beg for a table as they were fully reserved for a Michael Jackson show that they were having that night. It was hosted by Mumbai’s Radio 1 and was a tribute show to the King of Pop. The burger was absolutely incredible, the service sterling and the beer as expected. Fair play, the Mumbai Hard Rock Café was one of the most impressive I’ve been in. Absolutely massive, reassuringly luxurious and most welcoming in every way. We left the Hard Rock Café absolutely stuffed, hardly any room left for beer or anything!

Next stop was back to the palladium to visit the Comedy store. A comedy club that has only previously graced two cities. Manchester and London. Who on earth thought that the next logical step was to build one in Mumbai, I really don’t know but it’s here and it’s awesome. The three comedians on site were Mickey Hutton, Markus Birdman and Quincy. We had front row seats and I was one of 3 white people in the building and clearly stuck out as an easy target. Although the only person who came on stage and went for me was Mickey Hutton he was relatively sound and said things that had only gone through my head. Comparing the monsoons of India to Welsh rain and that we would be fine when really it’s twice as bad here. He was actually relatively in the know with Indian culture, especially in Mumbai. Maybe this is because he has been here many times before. The other two comedians I’ve not been familiarized with before however they were equally as funny as any of the comedians on the circuit right now and Markus Birdman will be at Edinburgh festival in the coming weeks!

The drive back to the flat felt relatively long however gave me an insight to a real city that never sleeps. I don’t really understand London, when I’ve been out on nights out really late and ended up wandering the city at 5am it seems like there is not a soul in the world; even though the city is one of the biggest economic centers in the world, it certainly seems to sleep. Mumbai seems like you would be able to get what you wanted at any point of time, always somebody somewhere willing to sell you what you want or even deliver it to your house. Incredible!

5th Day In Mumbai

Today started relatively relaxed. No need to get up early or anything and simply a trip to the health club for a swim and a bit of fitness before starting the evening. We decided that we would eat in a vegetarian restaurant that evening before heading out for a few drinks anywhere that seemed appropriate at the time.

Dinner was around 7pm at a place in Mumbai called the Banana Leaf. The Banana Leaf served only vegetable based dishes and no meat or alcohol. A very clean cut restaurant with fantastic decoration and had a very traditional southern Indian vibe to it. Drinking out of metal beakers and eating off a leaf! The food was very nice although the Paneer we had for main was peanut and onion based I enjoyed the sauce but due to a strong distaste for cheese the chunks were left untouched. The chutneys that accompanied the Dosa were absolutely fantastic!

We then headed to a bar that has only been around a few months in town and had a few beers. There was a good vibe to this place and it seemed like despite the ban of clubbing and the fact the government are frowning upon the late night social scene that people are still willing to come out and have a good time. The bar was busy and happening and it was fun in there. The press actually turned  up and tried to film everyone which was a tad awkward. We decided that they may be filming for the local news channel to say that Mumbai is still a happening place although turning up at 9pm was a bit tame, apparently the places don’t pack out until around 11pm.

We decided that there had to be another place worth going for a bit and made our way toward a club called Firangi Paani. A sort of strange restaurant meets club ideal. When we got out of the lift onto the third floor where the “clubraunt” was based we went to the ticket desk and asked for admission. It was 500 rupees however these are returned to you in vouchers. The idea is that you don’t just turn up and not buy drinks and bum around in their venue for a few hours. Makes perfect sense really, unlike a lot of things in Mumbai! They were a bit edgy about letting me in because I was wearing shorts and flip-flops although they eventually gave in and said we were aloud in as long as I didn’t go on the dance floor. Only problem being that by the time we entered they were playing decadent house music and I can hardly resist a dance floor when the house tunes are dropping. The DJ was actually awesome and this showed a much more laid back and less booze fuelled fun although people all seem to be willing to let there hair down and have a good time. It was great fun, I sank a few and then ignored my dance floor curfew in aim of a little rave under the strobes and lasted a good 20 minutes before being asked to leave! All in good nature though, the bouncers were all massive just like they are at home although they just said “sorry, you can’t dance here” and pointed off the dance floor rather than how they would go about in the UK, you know, the whole “oh, I’m in a head lock being dragged outside” sort of thing.

Tim Ford Timothy

The night ended relatively late and we came back to Juhu and had a glass of wine and then hit the sack. A rather successful night I felt! Despite the hardcore restrictions imposed on clubs the Indian people still seem like they want to go out and have a good time, I’m sad for them that these stupid ideologies are restricting them from staying out as late as they’d like!

4th Day in Mumbai

Today we visited Bandra, a part of  West-Central Mumbai that houses a large mix of religions and some relatively impressive buildings! Many of which seemed pillared and in the style of many western countries modern architecture.

We drove round Bandra for a fair amount of time enjoying the sites before stopping of at the Taj Lands End. A five star hotel with an absolutely massive lobby containing a smart lounge-style bar and a Louis Vuitton store. Based around the Lands End area of Bandra  which is right on the sea and has views of a fort on the sea front.

For dinner we visited a Malaysian style restaurant called Lemon Grass and tried various dishes such as chicken dumplings and chicken kebabs also accompanied by an Indian white wine. The chicken was cooked in an east Asian style yet had Indian spices added and it was absolutely stunning. The food was cheap and tantalizingly tasty.

We also checked out a mall in central Mumbai that contained many designer stores and to my surprise a Marks and Spencer’s! How on earth did that disgracefully middle class store end up in a country which is renowned for it’s lack of middle class!

The evening ended with a trip to a bar called MochaMojo. We sat down and decided on beverages whilst sat next to a group of pretty drunk Americans who were ordering these sort of dispensers of Kingfisher. I decided to stick with the usual and order myself a Kingfisher also. They had it on draught here which was one of the few places that did and the fella asked me whether I’d like a large or a small and I opted for the large… obviously and then when it turned up it was insanely large. I mean it was an entire litere of beer in one glass. Absolutely fantastic! We finished 2 of these off before heading back to the flat to get our heads down! A great vibe in that bar, some decent house tunes and relatively good prices.

3rd Day In Mumbai

Timothy Ford Timothy Charles Ford Tim Ford Tim Ford

After arising far later than planned and avoiding the swimming pool out of sheer laziness we decided to take the morning off and take it easy at the flat. Allowing me to catch up on what was happening in the world back home and ponder what I’d seen for the last few days.

Lunch was cooked by my friends mother and we had a traditional chicken curry served with rice bread and various Indian vegetables. The curry was absolutely sterling and I really enjoyed it. I’m refraining from calling the food lovely because that is the exact word I’ve used to describe nearly every dish that has been put in front of me and it’s getting old. So instead I’ll describe lunch as splendid, scrumptious and delightful. Following lunch I was to be introduced to an Indian Ice Cream parlor. Apparently Indian people adore ice cream and it doesn’t surprise me for two reasons. One is that it’s absolutely boiling here and absolutely anything that will cool you down is desirable, the other being that the ice cream here is incredible. From mango to chocolate there are numerous flavors to choose from and they will bring it from within the parlor straight to your car. Almost like a drive-thru but without the window.

We drove around Mumbai and looked at various houses that Indian celebrities live in and came to the conclusion that Indians spend a lot more money on the inside of their homes than they do the outside. In fact most Indians don’t really mind what their home looks like on the outside as they don’t spend too much time outside staring at the building. Makes sense I guess, doesn’t really go with the “making a statement” thing that most rich Indians do though. I mean the wealthiest people in Mumbai have cars like Rollers and 7 series.

The evening approached and we went for a meal in a traditional Indian restaurant. After a long discussion in which I tried to explain to my friend what a “poppadum” was he just didn’t get it. Although when we got inside the restaurant he said I’ll order the food and you can just try it. He ordered some food and before I know it, two poppadum’s are there right in front of us and I was like “that’s a poppadum” and he explained how he’d never heard the term. I made a massive school boy error at this point pouring loads of the thick green sauce out of the chutney point onto my poppadum expecting it to be mint dip but it was more like eating a few ground up ghost chilies. My mouth was practically on fire and the only way to solve this was to order Kinfisher or two! We followed up with butter chicken for main with a side of different nan’s. This was served on metal plates and the staff were incredibly useful. In fact something I’ve found since I’ve been here is that every single restaurant, hotel, bar etc. we’ve been to seems to be incredibly over staffed and this makes service all round much better. I can only assume it’s to do with cheaper labor.

We left the curry house and decided we would go and see a film in the evening and the screening was for Rock of Ages at 11pm. We had a fair amount of time on our hands so headed up to the JW Mariott for a swift beer before making our way to the Movie theatre which was located in a mall. Something that I have found fascinating since I have been here is that some places in Mumbai are exactly and I don’t mean slightly but exactly like home and the cinema was a perfect example of this. The complete layout was just impossibly similar to my local cinemas back in Wales. The air con was a notable blessing as after the curry I was feeling a little like I’d been sat in a furnace for a fair amount of time and I also managed to buy a huge Pepsi for about £1. Not exactly the rip off prices you might find in your local Cineworld…  That said even the ticket for the movie was only £1.50 odd.

Rock of Ages was one of those extremely cheesy movies but it was still good fun. I’ve not been to see the musical in London yet despite being a fan of some of the songs featured and having seen extremely cheap tickets knocking about the internet. Maybe I will go and see the live performance when I have a chance at home.

So that’s about it for day 3, I’m really enjoying it out here and by now I’d found the city of Mumbai starting to grow on me. The culture shock is starting to take a bit of a back seat and I’m less on edge when we are snaking our way in and out of the worlds stupidest traffic system.

Microsoft Is Back.

Microsoft Surface tablet Windows 8

 

Over the past few years more and more people have been piping up about how Apple are continuously innovating(They aren’t) and how much more beautiful and flawless they are than competitors products (They aren’t).

Apple’s brand took over when the iPod, Mac and iPad entered a more and more mainstream market and that little fruit with a bite out of it became one of the most valuable brands in the world. Meanwhile Microsoft pumped out Vista that was an initial disaster and took 3 service packs before it was actually anything close to good. Then came Windows 7, a fantastic operating system that boasted great multi-tasking features and took away all the problems that Vista had.

Now Microsoft has a mobile platform that is actually really good, relying mainly on Nokia for the chance to take a bit of the market share that it lost with the Windows Mobile series and late entrance to the modern smart phone market. It’s also got the Xbox 360, despite it’s age it continues to improve. Microsoft doing what they best and continually improving the software making it better and with the addition of SmartGlass they have a chance to dominate the living room.

Now for Windows 8, I’ve fiddled with the OS for a few days on a virtual machine on a desktop PC and I didn’t get on with it too well. It was an early version and it didn’t work to well with the standard mouse and keyboard set up however what I can say is that it will work amazingly well on the Tablet and that’s great because Microsoft have just announced their new tablets that are produced and sold by Microsoft just like the Xbox and Zune hardware has been in the past.  The reason Microsoft didn’t stick to it’s traditional software routes? Windows 8 is so dramatically different from previous Windows that the hardware it’s on needs to be just as good as the hardware itself if they are going to convince consumers and enterprise customers to buy the OS and they can’t leave that just down to the OEMs.

The Microsoft Surface tablet will be launching “around the same time” as Windows 8 and will be priced competitively against other Windows 8, ARM based tablets. This operating system has lots of potential to completely take over the Android market share and compete head on with iOS and the iPad. The reason I suggest this is many users never had the choice to use a Microsoft tablet in the past because there just wasn’t a suitable OS for one. They either bought an iPad and synced it up to their PC with the god awful iTunes software or they bought an Android and used their drag and drop file system to transfer files or used it as a sole computer.

The advantage of the Windows 8 tablet is that it is the computer and will be your computer from the start. It took Apple an age to introduce the ability to set up your iPad or iPhone without plugging into a computer and you are almost certainly required to use a computer still if you want to do a few things but a Windows 8 tablet is a PC and therefore can do anything a PC can do. I mean no additional adapters or expensive cables to get your photo’s from your camera to your tablet, no need to worry whether you’ll be able to watch a DVD as you could just plug in an external drive. Granted some tasks like this are old school and be done other ways but that’s not to say the option isn’t nice. A full sized USB port on the Surface could be one of the tablets biggest selling points.

Having the option of a Windows 8 tablet made by Microsoft will allow for amazing integration across other Microsoft products. Your Xbox 360, Windows Phone, Surface and desktop PC can all work together in perfect harmony. Something Apple products have in effect been able to do for a long time although maybe Microsoft has the price edge here. If that’s the case and Microsoft maintain their absolutely massive Windows market then developers will flock to the platform and that will benefit both Windows Phone and Windows 8 because the Metro development style is so similar.

Can we rely on Microsoft not to screw this up? If the tablet is as good as many tech journalists are suggesting and Windows Phone 8 is as good as anticipated then Microsoft may be on to a winner. They’ve managed to drag 7 long years out of the Xbox 360 and it continues to improve and there is no doubt that a succession to the console is in development. The house may once again be dominated by the big M and for good reason, the software they are producing is finally meeting consumer demands and with the help of their own tablet they could start winning customers back from competitors.

2nd Day In Mumbai

Today was the day I was going to sort out my sleeping pattern for the adjusted time zone. It’s 4.5 hours ahead of the UK here which means I had to power through yesterday and start fresh today. I turned up at 11:45am on Saturday after getting no sleep in the air.

There was a load of thunder and lightning when we left the hotel and went to bed last night which was strangely soothing and a great send off. I arose at 10:00am feeling fresh, the air con (aka god send) had kept the room at a constant temperature all night and I was ready to go out today, the plan being for me to experience the trains and visit more of central Mumbai (currently staying in the suburbs).  After a bacon fueled breakfast and a quick shower we headed out of the flat and onto the street to find an Auto-rickshaw to get us to the train station. There are famous photos of Indian public transport with hundreds of people hanging out of the trains and sat on top of them. Apparently that photo is a bit of a one off but people do really hang out of the trains and things. After a brief amount of time in the Auto we headed to the ticket counter and paid about 160 Rupees (£1.80)  for two first class tickets to central Mumbai. Second class or normal tickets are around 5 Rupees (3p)  and whilst that may seem like a sharp hike for first class my chance of survival in the normal carriages was minimal. They are jam packed, busier than the tube at rush hour, busier than anything in Britain at rush hour. The doors are mainly open, there are metal handles at the top for you to hold onto there are hundreds of people crammed into small spaces. People hanging out of the open doors to see where they are and then swiftly pulling back into a carriage when a pole is approaching. Eventually the train broke down on the return which I’ve been assured is not a regular occurrence but this caused absolute chaos on the platforms! On the way into Mumbai you would pass slums followed by sky scrapers followed by random plots of land with tents on that people were sleeping in. This was my first real insight to the poverty of Mumbai. People sleep on the platforms of train stations without anything covering them maybe they will be next to a stray dog  or a naked child. No matter how much you expect to witness poverty when you come to India, it won’t really sink in until you see it. I’ve witnessed people who sleep under plastic sheets in the central reservation of a road and try to make money by selling what ever they can find to people who can pity them.

One of the strange things is there can be a massive 5 star hotel right next to an area of poverty. Some people are paying 10% of what I spend on a beer on dinner for a week.  The slums are obviously one of the things people have heard about, half of the British population basing their knowledge of India on the film Slumdog Millionaire, but I don’t think I’ll actually go and visit. They are sketchy little places and despite people offering “tours” of slums it doesn’t sound like my idea of a day out or even the most ethical thing to do. Paying someone a couple quid to walk round and view poverty without doing anything about it isn’t really my scene. The cost of land in Mumbai is higher than nearly anywhere on the planet. The most you could probably do by donating all your money is help feed them for a bit but the problem with the slums and the reason they are still how they are despite worldwide knowledge of them is there is no obvious answer or solution. It’s a touchy subject that I really do not know enough about to go into so I won’t. I’ve heard of the redevelopment scheme but apparently the corruption in Indian government and politicians who are in it for themselves restrict the ability to solve help.

By the time we had got to the center of Mumbai it seemed a lot more touristy, less slums, more hotels and more people with their camera’s out taking pictures of the gateway of India. When leaving the train station we walked to a hotel called the Intercontinental which houses a rooftop bar called The Dome. Unfortunately The Dome happened to be closed so instead we left the hotel and continued on our venture around the city.  Auto-rickshaws are banned from the center of Mumbai unlike in the suburbs so we got a taxi towards the gateway on India. A famous monument build by the Brits in 1924. The rain was absolutely pouring at this point and we refused to buy an umbrella on the grounds that we could get into a hotel as soon as possible and get a drink. The obvious choice was the Taj Mahal Hotel, a 5* hotel renowned around the world. It opened in 1903 and housed many celebrity guests and even royalty (saw a great picture of Prince Charles by the Louis Vuitton shop). The hotel is massive, it contains numerous restaurants, many shops including Mont Blanc, Rolex and Louis Vuitton. The entrance is as grand as one might expect from something called the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower. Parked outside we’re a series of high end cars including an Audi R8 Spyder, A Porsche 911 and a couple of Mercedes. How people can afford to import these cars when there is a 200% tax on import automobiles I can’t imagine. We headed up the large flared staircase to the Sea View room and sat with a pint of Kingfisher chatting away and looking over the sea front. A very lounge based atmosphere in this room, slightly relaxed which also came across with the service. It took us a fair amount of time to have our requests acknowledged despite a relatively quiet restaurant.

After leaving the hotel we hopped back in a taxi and drove towards the train station where there are many British styled buildings. Mumbai University looks just like something you might see in Oxford or Cambridge and even has a clock tower based on Big Ben. On return to Juhu we showered and chilled for a bit before heading out to the Novotel for a swift cocktail by the beach. The Novotel is another large hotel in the Juhu area that looks right over the sea front, after a Mojito we decided to head back out to in search of dinner and returned to health club for some cheap dinner and cheap beer. It was about £1 for a 660ml bottle of Kingfisher and food was of reasonable quality at a reasonable price. Various chicken dishes served with salad and sauces were incredibly nice and a change from the more formal setting the meals we have previously had thus far.

 The end to the night came with a quick trip to one more hotel. Again, in Juhu on the sea front. The Sea Princess was a quick stop off for an end of night Coffee by the sea. This hotel used to house one of the best clubs in Mumbai. A very exclusive sea front club that originally only allowed members in if they had a credit card. Unfortunately due to the new laws the club was obviosuly closed and the night ended there. A short drive back to the flat and off to bed.