Archive for May, 2009

#worldview_selects

Posted in #worldview, Culture, Travel on 27/05/2009 by nicka77

A few photos from the last month… been messing around with the mac and thought i’d pull this together as it’s a hell of a lot quicker to do than the films.

I will be doing a film for every city i visit, but as an interim, here’s the slideshow.

Hope you enjoy.

Hong Kong – impressions

Posted in #worldview, Culture, Food, Travel on 25/05/2009 by nicka77

Concentrated capitalism.

My over-riding impression of Hong Kong is that it exists in a bubble of overt materialism that is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. The city drips with wealth and a consumerist philosophy that harks back to the time pre-1997 when it was a principality that existed under the Friedman ideology of pure, un-fettered capitalism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are Prada, Gucci, Chanel and Armani shops on every major shopping street, and in every mall (of which there are loads), and they are all busy. Unlike the flagship stores for luxury brands in New York or London, these stores actually have people buying stuff in them. And there are even queues outside, packed with young Chinese mainly, waiting to get in to spend their (well earned?) money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I don’t write this words disparagingly, because Hong kong is Hong Kong, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. It used to be the gateway for the West into Asia, and even now, under Chinese rule, it has retained its role as a major banking centre, funnelling global finance between the Nikkei, the Dow Jones, the NASQAQ, and the LSE.

I was lucky enough to stay with a couple of friends, who very kindly put me up and showed me the town for the weekend. And I absolutely loved it. Had a great time taking in the sights and going out for a few big nights at Dragon-i and Wagyu, and enjoying the unique pleasures that Lan Kwai Fong and Wan Chai have to offer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying with someone who works in a bank may have given me a one eyed view of Hong Kong, but it seems to me that this is a place that is pure finance. Almost everyone I met was in banking (or banking recruitment), on an ex-pat contract, and enjoying the lifestyle.

Hong Kong is decadent, hedonistic and debauched. It’s basically a party town where the people are transient, staying for only a few years before heading on to Sydney, Singapore, New York or London, and have the money to enjoy life to the full while they’re here.

And, as I say, you can’t fault the place or the people for enjoying Hong Kong for what it is. It’s a great place to live for a few years and the people I met were all great people, living life to the full.

Other than partying and recovering, I managed to explore Kowloon, which is more earthy and Chinese than the ex-pat dominated Hong Kong island. However, the first things that accosted me on disembarking from the glorious ferry ride were Prada, Gucci, Chanel and Armani shops. So it can’t be all that earthy!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst in Kowloon, I decided to try out some local Chinese food in a relatively classy restaurant, full to the brim with locals. Thought I’d play safe and ordered some calamari. What I was presented with was a plate full of 6-8 inch long octopus tentacles that were crunchy. Hardcore culinary experience!!! But I ate them… and although I can’t say I enjoyed the experience I didn’t have any after effects to report (I was slightly concerned that I’d end up spending the next few days in absolute agony).

Also, managed to blow a MASSIVE hole in my budget, even though I was only in town for a few days. A beer is £6-8!!! That is extraordinary. A basic meal is £15. And although I saved money on accommodation, thanks to the kindness of Peter & Kelly, I did go out a lot more than anticipated and ended up spending the equivalent of 2 weeks in Brazil (according to my budgetary calculations)… which has increased my desire/need to start selling some of the articles I have been writing for the #worldview project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, enough on Hong Kong, other than to say I spent a glorious Sunday at South Bay beach, recovering from the night before, checking out the talent and chilling to the beats from the beach bar. Fantastic little bay, where I took a dip in the South Pacific ocean (in my boxers!!) Vaguely embarrassing but I’d left my board shorts at the pad, so no option… luckily they weren’t white or I’d currently be serving time in a Chinese prison.

Mumbai – #worldview video

Posted in #worldview, Culture, Travel on 15/05/2009 by nicka77

TED – Ideas for India’s future

Posted in Culture, Economics, Inspirational People, The Truth Is Out There on 14/05/2009 by nicka77

This is a talk, just published by TED, where Nandan Nilekani discusses his vision for India’s future.

This is an excellent presentation, in which Nandan gives a fantastic summary of the ideologies that have made India what it is today, and what it will be tomorrow.

 

Well worth a look.

And for those who don’t know TED, it is possibly the best website around – their motto is ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’ – so check it out: http://www.ted.com/

Goa – impressions (+ the drive back to Mumbai)

Posted in #worldview, Culture, Travel on 11/05/2009 by nicka77

Just had a fantastic, relaxing week in Goa… enjoying the respite from the stresses and strains of intense cities and the pressures of work/redundancy.

To be honest, I didn’t do too much exploring, which is a pity, but it was great to do nothing except laze by the pool, or on the beach, dozing in the sun and reading a few books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, of course, pig out on delicious, fresh seafood (the diet’s not going so well… the food out here is too good!!)

The tiger prawns in particular are fantastic – and I have to recommend Electric Cats, which is a great restaurant with some lovely people working there – hats off to Ramesh, the manager. They serve fabulous, traditional Goan food… gorgeous.

Truth be told, Goa is much, much more commercialised than I had realised. It’s a magnet for European holiday makers and travellers, and of course an entire economy has sprung up around the disposable wealth that tourism brings. There are plenty of restaurants and bars, and huge numbers of make-shift shops lining the streets, selling knocked-off t-shirts and bikinis, as well as original Goan garments.

I had wanted to move around Goa, but i’ve already decided to come back to India to explore the backwaters of Kerala, and travel through Darjeeling, Rajasthan, Nepal and Delhi. This country has an unbelievable amount of diversity within it, and I don’t feel as if i’ve even touched the surface, so a return trip is guaranteed (which is partly my excuse for doing bugger all for a week).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goa was beautiful in parts (above photo excluded), and the palm-fringed beaches were idyllic… until the various bars turned up the volume with their cheesy house music battles, drowning out any pretense of serenity. It isn’t hard to see why a group of hippies and travellers came to Goa 20 years ago and never returned home. They now drift along the coast to quieter beaches, always one step ahead of the property developers, who are doing their best to turn the state into an Indian version of San Antonio in Ibiza (or, if I’m being unkind, Blackpool).

I have to be honest, I had great fun and met some great people… but culturally interesting it wasn’t. The people I met were from England, Russia, Denmark and Germany, and all were in Goa for the party scene… which was bouncing even in the off season.

There were opportunities to hire mopeds or motorbikes and ride off into the wilderness… but there is no way on God’s good earth that I’m toying with Indian drivers on a little scooter. In both Mumbai and Goa, I’ve been struck by the obscenely poor quality of driving, and the seemingly callous disregard for life that everyone seems to have. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In fact, the most exploring I did was on the drive from Goa back up to Mumbai, with a guy called Sachin. Also in the car were his wife, his sister, and his two very young children.  They were heading to Mumbai for Sachin’s brother’s wedding, and at the end of the trip I had lunch with the whole family in a suburb on the outskirts of Mumbai. They were absolutely lovely, and it’s some of the best food I’ve had out here: traditional Indian food cooked by the mother of the groom-to-be.

On the journey up to Mumbai, we drove through the Goan and Maharashtran countryside, up the Kolkan coast, which in parts was absolutely stunning: expansive rivers shimmered in the early morning light as they snaked towards the horizon, framed by sweeping vistas of mountainous terrain that lay camouflaged under layer upon layer of dense, tropical woodland.

However, I was unable to take any pictures for a few reasons…

First, he was driving incredibly fast;

Second, i thought i was going to die on numerous occasions, as Sachin drove almost exclusively on the wrong side of the road, basically overtaking anything that got in his way, whether or not the opportunity actually existed;

Third, i really thought i was going to die on a couple of occasions in the mountains where there were some double, and even triple, overtaking maneuvers on BLIND corners… horrific.

Fourth, i couldn’t believe he had his whole young family in the back – without seatbelts – and was driving like this…. it’s one thing driving like a lunatic with a Western tourist in tow, but surely with your own family in the car a slightly more considered approach might have been called for. Am I wrong?

Fifth, every time we saw a crashed car on the side, or an overturned truck (which was more often than I was happy about), Sachin would look at me, smile, and say “Nice Parking”.

Sixth, i really thought i might die.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To be honest, he could probably charge a lot more by marketing his services to adrenaline junkies who are bored of base jumping or leaping out of aeroplanes without parachutes.

Anyway, other than that, the drive was extremely pleasant…..

OK, final thing to say about Goa – the hotel I stayed at was fabulous: completely removed from the madness and surrounded by copious amounts of elaborate foliage and opulent palms… an oasis of calm. I definitely recommend Alidia if anyone’s going to Baga in the northern part of the state… It’s run by a Goan family and is a very chilled out place to stay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that was Goa, and now I’m back in Mumbai for a few more #worldview meetings, and then onto Hong Kong…. very exciting.

IPL – Cricket in India

Posted in Culture, Sport, Travel on 05/05/2009 by nicka77

I’ve always known that cricket on the sub-continent was huge, but i had never expected the whole place to be so utterly, insanely mad about it.

There are entire cable channels dedicated to cricket, and mainstream terrestrial stations that dedicate every second of primetime to the sport.

And this is during the elections. The politicians can hardly get a look in.

Admittedly, it is the IPL right now (that’s the Indian Premier League for those who don’t know), and money definitely talks.

The new, hugely popular 20-20 version of the sport comes complete with big money international stars, bigger money auctions, US-style dancing girls, ‘strategic’ breaks to cram more adverts in, and the stars of Bollywood & Indian business. All of these elements  come together in an explosion of fame, fanaticism and fanfare to create what can only be described as ‘fantasy cricket’ for the modern era.

I have to say I’m loving it – being out here while it’s going on has given me an insight into the tournament and the passions that surround it. Everyone on the streets talks about it and its a great way to spark up conversations in a bar. I am now officially a Mumbai Indians fan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s such a massive pity that the tournament itself isn’t here in India. As you may already know, due to the security concerns surrounding the elections (particularly in light of the terrorist attacks 2 months ago), the Indian Govt simply couldn’t guarantee the security of fans or players, and the organisers had no choice but to move the tournament or cancel it completely.

So, it’s taking place in South Africa. But what this has done, in my opinion, is created an incredibly interesting experiment for domestic sporting tournaments that have global reach (like, for example, the Premier League, La Liga, the NBA, the NFL, etc etc etc).

By demonstrating that a tournament can take place anywhere, as long as it has the right players, the right global sponsorship deals, and the fans still come in droves to create the right atmosphere, then a match can feasibly take place anywhere. Just look at the way the NFL now play one official points-scoring game a year at Wembley.

The problem with this is that it plays into Richard Scudamore’s hands for his ridiculous 39th Game in the Premier League. I’m not against games abroad per se (although they would have to prove that no team were disadvantaged by the arrangement), but to have a 39th game creates statistical anomalies that would render the league a farce. So let’s hope he never gets that one off the ground.

Anyway, I have digressed massively from the point.

Attached is a commercial by JWT from 2007 for Nike that I believe captures the spirit of India and its passionate love of cricket. I also think this TVC does a great job of portraying the energy and vibrancy of Mumbai, where I was last week, and will be returning to in a few days.

I was lucky enough to spend some time with Agnello Dias (or Aggy), the creative director behind this work, who has recently set up his own agency – TapRoot India. I’m meeting him again next week when he has agreed to take me around the ‘real’ Bombay, to see the places where he has grown up and lived throughout his life. Should be brilliant.

I also met up with Colvyn Harris, CEO JWT India, and I’ll be talking about those conversations, and the others I’ve had in India, on my blog on campaignlive.com 

However, I have once again digressed – the point of the this post is that cricket creates an almost religious fanatacism over here, and it’s a joy to be here while the IPL is on – come on Mumbai Indians!!!!