Monthly Archives: July 2011

Rajasthan beauty


The post I recently wrote about Mumbai reminded me of my trip to Rajasthan a few years ago. I’ve always loved India and its people, its diversity of landscapes, languages, food and cultures. But I especially love Rajasthan. Rajasthan is the largest state of India and lies it the North-West of the continent, bordered by Pakistan. A large proportion of it is arid and the Great Thar desert occupies the Western side of the state. Rajasthan architecture is of particular interest. The palaces of Jaipur (the state’s capital), the lake of Udaipur, and the desert forts of Jodhpur, Bikaner & Jaisalmer rank among the most beautiful in the world and attract Indian as well as foreign tourists. Muslims make up around 10% of Rajasthan’s population and their influence can be seen in the architecture, the music and the way of life. My favourite place, Jaisalmer, close to Pakistan, often reminds tourists of an arabic city. Lots of colours, great food, blue skies, interesting wildlife and varied landscapes make Rajasthan a great place to visit. Staying in one of the old forts or castles transformed into hotels is one of the highlights of a trip there. And the Taj Mahal at Agra is not very far, so you shouldn’t miss this amazing landmark either.

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Bombay shots


I spent four days in Bombay (renamed Mumbai) last week on my way back from South Africa to Hong Kong. I had been there once before, almost ten years ago. The city remains an Indian city, with its noisy streets (Drivers can’t help tooting every two seconds or so), its strong smells, whether pleasant or not (Toilets can be smelled at a distance), its constant crowds, and its shocking poverty. However I noticed many new and expensive-looking apartment blocks and office towers, and a high number of beautiful, brand-new cars. There is even a very impressive, one year old, 5.7 kilometer long, eight lane bridge built over the Arabian sea circumventing the city and making the trip to the airport shorter. But what makes India hasn’t changed: its people, their smiles, their beauty and their warm welcome. India is always a rewarding experience. By the way, did I mention the food? Worth the trip by itself… Here are a few random shots.

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Now You See Me, by S. J. Bolton


What a great crime novel! S. J. Bolton’s Now You See Me will keep you on your toes from beginning to end. Guaranteed. Her characters are real and interesting and the plot flows. It’s never boring, and the “yuk” factor is there when needed, although not straight in your face as in other novels. I found the story riveting, and of course, I missed the whole point until the very end! I just didn’t see it coming, which I love in a good story. Bolton writes well, and I’m looking forward to more of her novels. In fact, I liked this one so much that I have already bought another one of hers: Sacrifice. I’ll let you if it’s as good as the other one. As for Now You See Me, the plot goes something like this: While investigating rape issues in London suburbs, detective Lacey Flint finds herself with a dying woman in her arms. The woman is only the first of a series of gruesome murders that seem to copy the famous serial murderer Jack the Ripper. For some reason, the murderer seems to have a keen interest in Flint, which arouses the police’s suspicion (and the reader’s, of course). The truth is much worse – and much more surprising – than what you’d expect.

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In a Better World (Hævnen)


In a Better World (Hævnen in Danish) has won many awards, including the 2011 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards. It’s easy to see why. The acting is superb, the story subtle and moving, and the relationships between the characters beautifully drawn. It avoids all the usual cliches and exaggerated characterisation that you find is so many films these days. The film is the story of two school friends in a small Danish town, and of their families. Elias is bullied at school; his parents are in the process of separating, and his father spends a large amount of time working as a doctor in a Sudanese refugee camp where he is confronted to his own issues. Christian is Elias’ mate; he has just lost his mother and blames his father for her passing. As a consequence of his mother’s loss, he has become aggressive and dangerous, with a steely attitude. He will drag Elias into doing things they may regret for the rest of their lives.

In a better World was directed by Susanne Bier and released in 2010. It features Mikael PersbrandtTrine Dyrholm and Markus Rygaard.

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No Strings Attached


The last two movies I have reviewed were great. No Strings Attached is not. It’s got two really good actors in it, Natalie Portman, and Ashton Kutcher, but that’s not enough to make it interesting. It’s in the comedy/romance genre and the plot goes something like this: Two old friends decide to become “sex buddies” and avoid the usual relationship dramas. But love is stronger than their their wills, and they find themselves falling in love, thereby breaking the rules they set up as they embarked on their “sex buddy” relationship. Right, flimsy plot. In fact, it’s boring. And the character played by Portman, a doctor who is scared as hell of relationships is not only simplistic, it’s dumb. The film was released in 2011 and was directed by Ivan Reitman.

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Kruger cats


Kruger National Park in the North of South Africa is a great place to spot “cats”. In a matter of a few hours we were able to see several lions, cheetahs, a leopard, and jackals. The odd ones here (because they are not cats but dogs) are wild dogs (lycaon) and hyenas.

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South African safari


I came back last week from a five-day safari in Kruger National Park in South Africa. I was literally blown away. It was winter and the perfect time to see animals; at that time grass is yellow and burned, so it is harder for the game to hide. And the moderate temperatures make it very comfortable. Kruger National Park itself is around two million hectares (as big as Israel). Add the private reserves and you end up with a huge area in which animals roam freely. There are roads and paths throughout the park and you can drive your own vehicle if you wish or hire a guide. Of course you are not allowed to leave the vehicle (You would not survive long), neither are you allowed to leave the designated paths (not that you would really want to…). It is quite amazing how many animals you can actually see from the road, as they come very close, sometimes onto the road itself. Hiring a guide facilitates the spotting of game as their vehicles are higher and more open, so it makes for a more interesting experience. We saw the big five (which means the five more dangerous animals for hunters: buffalo, lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros), but also giraffes, impalas, waterbucks, hippos, jackals, zebras, steenboks, wildebeests, without mentioning other gazelles, birds, and crocs of course. As for the private reserve game drives, there are two major differences which make them worthwhile: the four-wheel drive, all terrain vehicle you sit in is totally open and it goes off-road, literally… This means that you get up-close to the animals. And I mean real close: three of four metres at the most! There is a driver and a tracker, armed with a gun (not that I think it would make a huge difference if you were charged by an elephant or a herd of buffalos). The combination of private reserve game drives and Kruger exploration is really the best. I’ll try to limit the number of pictures I’m going to post here, but I know it’s going to be hard, so I’ll write a separate post for Kruger cats.

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