burma chronicles

February 19, 2009


Guy Delisle’s latest book was my favourite Christmas present this year. Everyone seemed to think the same, as at one point six of us were reading the book simultaneously. This involved lots of snatched reading while the previous reader was in the shower/had gone shopping/to get a drink. But no fighting (and in fact, quite a lot of considerate leaving outside of bedroom doors after turning in), and I think we all finished it in the end. Surely you couldn’t ask for better testimony.

Delisle seems to have created a bit of an odd niche for himself, depicting life as he experiences it in the more bizzare and/or oppressive corners of the world, like in Pyongyang and Shenzhen. His Burma stay was a little different in that he accompanied his wife there while she worked for MSF, and spent his time mainly drawing and looking after their baby son. His simple line drawings succeed as they have before in describing his adventures in an understated manner (though there seemed to be fairly heavy focus on toilet troubles this time around).

The aid aspect of his wife’s work there may have politicized this book more than his previous ones, but to good effect. That side of his experiences was a bit less developed in his last two books, possibly as the result of his more transitory stay. Even so, I think Delisle struggles here to overcome to ‘otherness’ of the Burmese, perhaps due to the language barrier.

Although the blogging wind fell away from my sails for a while there, this post had to be even more delayed as it was a surprise birthday present to Ms. D… which then took ages to arrive. And when it did, the Bean Counter promptly took control of it during our recent reunion weekend. A charming little read about a country and people that deserve better than the government they have today.

torta imperial

December 20, 2008

torta imperial

In a previous Myyear life, I worked with Clever and Smart, who taught me everything I needed to know about lasers, and more. In addition, they did their very best to Sevillify me, and it certainly worked. From gazpacho to the sevillana, Santa Cruz to Triana, manzanilla to Andalu’, I spent every moment I wasn’t working discovering everything the city was about.

A brief email exchange about this refuge put us back in touch, and then on Friday, my very own torta imperial appeared in the post, all the way from Seville. It reminds me of the time I shocked Clever by buying turron at the height of summer. Muchas gracias y feliz navidad!


December 19, 2008


I’ve been very selective about joining social/specialist networks until now. Then this week, due to this list of the Top 100 sites for the year ahead and an invitation, I ended up joining two. And have already been told off for not being active enough!

The first, Goodreads, allows you to share books and your ratings and reviews of which with friends. This morning I finally filled in some books (happy now, L?), and I’ve used it a fair amount (considering I’ve only been a member for a week) to see what everyone else is reading and what they thought about it. It also has the added benefit of the best-looking ‘currently reading’ flash-based widget I’ve found so far (despite it not being supported by WordPress!).

Dopplr is different in that it aims to hook you up with your friends during your random wanderings around the world. A recent such coincidence meant I had a great weekend in Boston, but also missed the French Troll (I’m not quite sure how) while attending the same large meeting in LA once. There’s also a Tripadvisor-like section for recommendations and questions, but I think Tripadvisor is still better by far.

The downside with both networks is that they require a certain amount of (manual) data entering to be of any use, though the process is easy in both. Dopplr will suffer more than Goodreads if this isn’t done, but at least for me the number of trips I make is a bit more limited.

I suppose only time will tell which of these sites will thrive and which will just crash and burn, but these are the two that I’ve decided to test. Jeans suggested Tripit and of course fun stuff happens when all these applications collide, like when Moo met Dopplr.

Have you found something cool I should know about?


November 7, 2008


I’m happy to report that I’m staying put in Oslo for a while now – at least until Christmas! A faithful reader has already complained that the rate of myyear’s country-hopping makes him dizzy. But that doesn’t stop me from reading about new places to visit, or enjoying beautiful pictures.

Over the years, I’ve dipped into Wanderlust, Travel+Leisure, Condé Nast Traveller and more, but more recently they all seem to run the same stories about the same places and travel ideas. It’s hardly that I’ve been to all the places they cover, but the tack, ideas and coverage seem tired and recycled. Until I discovered Destination while home in KL in August. A visit to their website showed that this Jakarta-based magazine has been going from strength to strength since 2001.

As the name suggests, the magazine concentrates on Asian cultures and trips, but as the August issue shows, manages to seek out alternative activities and interesting corners of the continent, such as the remote Ogasawara Islands of Japan, kayaking the River Kwai, classic Korean pubs and the alternative art scene in KL (which led us to our resident alien).

That, in addition to gorgeous overall typesetting and stunning photoreportage from the Hunza valley in the Karakoram monutains, or Pakistan’s Shangri-La, makes for a quality read. Even their coverage on one of Asia’s most touristed islands, Bali, was full of refreshingly interesting ideas.

Although it suffers slightly from the same obsession with the identikit sleek minimalistic designer hotels as many other travel magazines, at least the prices of the ones that Destinasian features seem more within reach. Unfortunately, the Europe subscription price seems unreasonably high compared to similar American magazines, which is making me wonder if I should just give their digital subscription a go. I read enough material online, but still enjoy the feel of and interaction with paper, especially when it comes to photos. Has anyone else tried this?


November 6, 2008


The caption for this picture, taken by Michael O’Reilly, read: Goree Island, Senegal: A boy with a bucket on his head tries to walk through a hole in a wall. Which explained exactly nothing to me except the location of this scene. Taken from an angle the whole photo has a vivid motion that caught my eye.

Upon Wiki-ing it, I realized that I did know Goree after all, as a pilgrimage site for those seeking to commemorate the slave trade to the Americas, although its unique topography off the coast of Dakar was new to me.

dark and stormy

November 6, 2008


What are new friends for but to introduce you to new follies? This particular one, a Dark and Stormy, was partaken of in great company, on the 57th floor of this building with fabulous nighttime views over Boston. Hello Tristan and P, and cheers to Mr. Obama’s brand new job!

info on iceland

November 4, 2008

Due to my extremely limited time in Iceland, I have had to widen my sources of information in this entry to Special K and Little Jacket, both of whom have visited previously. I give you the latest in Myyear’s country series!

1. Every person in Iceland has at least one sweater of this design.

2. It is possible to bake bread by burying dough in a wooden cask in the ground close to a hot spring. It can be picked up the next day, ready to eat, and will have a slight sulphuric taste.

3. According to Icelandic tradition, an angler has to bite the caudal fin off the first salmon they ever catch.

4. In storms or high winds, the Icelandic Search and Rescue Association come around in trucks like these to pick up any sorry soul who still happens to be outside on foot.

5. Hot pots are natural or man-made pools of thermal water dotted around the country, and are a good spot to steam and catch up on the news with your neighbour.

And finally, a word of warning should you ever find yourself in Iceland. Don’t steal the puffins.


waking window iii

November 3, 2008

Another new entry in a series of waking windows. This one greeted me from my room on the 17th floor at this establishment. Funky enough (if a little small) rooms, friendly and efficient staff, with not a square inch of florals in sight, good shower treats, a cocktail sets (including salt rimmers) in each room and an iPod docking station.

Best of all, there was a wine reception between 5 and 6 pm every evening in the hotel living room! Red and white wines were being poured on the house, and delicious little snacks snowed up on silver trays at regular intervals. A brilliant way to wind down after a day’s work, or if by chance that might apply, to have a course of the hair of the dog.

la clique

November 3, 2008

“I haven’t been to the circus for ages!” exclaimed the Bean Counter excitedly as, newly arm-banded, we clattered up the stairs to our circle seats at the Hippodrome. Bandstand music set the scene for La Clique, who after making their name at the Edinburgh Fringe and touring the world, played their inaugural weekend in their new London home.

The burlesque variety show more than lived up to expectations for an excellent night out. Each member of the La Clique family has their very own talent, from Cabaret Decadanse‘s raunchy puppetry:

to Ursula Martinez’s astonishing disappearing abilities,

and Mario the Queen-sound tracked juggler.

A poll among our motley crew showed two men in joint first place for best act. David O’Mer’s er, gymnastic ability impressed many (including Ms. D).

I leant more towards the contortionist Captain Frodo and his tennis racquets, and not just because he is Norwegian.

I laughed so much I cried. Definitely go see if you get the chance!


November 3, 2008

I know it’s called Iceland, so why I was so surprised to find it in full winter mode when I transited in Reykjavik I have no idea. But the snow-covered plateaus and rocky outcrops were stunning from the plane. (For the best views when flying to Iceland from (continental) Europe, ask for a seat on the right side of the plane when facing the cockpit.) For great distances, the faint outline of a ramrod straight road was the only indication of human life. It also took me ages to figure out the white bits floating in the sea were ice floes. Mind boggling that anyone lives here at all, let alone 300 000 people.