The truth of travelling in India and possibly anywhere in the world.

India is a place rich with stories; in the classic sense, we can appreciate the immensity of a performance of the Ramayana and the reach of the latest Bollywood offering from Shah Rukh Khan, and this extends right down to our own individual experiences as travellers in a place that seems exotic and fantastic…

It is not despite the chaos, contradictions and confrontations that I love travelling in India; it is because of them and the stories they allow us to live out as protagonists and participants.

An extract from “Belly of the beast: the country that will change you” (Sydney Morning Herald)

Microsoft Research Asia Researcher Awarded the 2008 MIT TR35 Young Innovator Prize


Dr HUA Xian-Sheng, a lead reseacher from the Internet Media Group (Microsoft Research Asia) was awarded the 2008 MIT Technology Review Young Innovator prize. This award is given in recognition of Hua’s work in the content-based video analysis.

The amount of video on the Web is growing at an ­incredible rate. Effectively searching online video, however, remains difficult.

Hua hopes to crack the problem by teaching computers to recognize objects, scenes, events, and other elements of digital images. He uses machine-learning techniques and annotated videos to train computers to automatically categorize new videos. Click here to view a flowchart explaining Hua’s video search system.

Congrats Xian-Sheng!

Related links:

Aussies, Need a Day Off? Let’s Invade New Zealand!

Last week, The Pitch Challenge (The Gruen Transfer, ABC) is to develop an advertisement to sell the unsellable – Convince Aussie to invade it’s close neighbour – New Zealand. Why would anyone want to invade such a beautiful and peaceful country like NZ?

The two agencies tasked with this brief came up with two smart ads, one that would really appeal to the (some) Aussies and the other, a cheeky play with NZ runaway success tourism campaign. Brilliant!

Apparently after the show was broadcasted, a small group of Kiwis took offence with the plot. In response, the producer of the show will give the Kiwis a fair go (Aussie slang) to “take their revenge” on the final episode of the show.

Related links:

PS: This brief is not authorised by the Australian Government, Canberra (at least not publicly acknowledged)

My 2008 Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi) Trip Experience

saigon-uncle-ho-ho-chi-minh-vietnam
Vietnam is a beautiful country with diverse richness in every sense – people, history, natural produce and amazing sights. Recently, I had the opportunity to experience all these first hand in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), formerly known as Saigon and Hanoi (the capital of Vietnam).

The friendly, good natured nature and genuine warm Vietnamese people struck me when I stepped out of the airport, hotel and onto the streets. There are plenty of motorbikes taxis (xe om) and street hawkers but they are not rude nor overly pushy. Almost all the time, a “No, thank you” and a simple smile from me is returned with a bigger smile.

Vietnam’s history is chequered with many foreign powers influences. Chinese, French and American powers had left cultural, institutional, economics and psychological impressions on this rich and fertile land. The Chinese brought in the Chinese language, important institutions like University, monetary policy and Confucianism. The period of the French colonisation, interference and exploitation left a bitter aftertaste in the older Vietnamese’ psyche. The French contributed in the development of the Vietnamese romanised alphabet (Quoc Ngu), the introduction of Christianity (Catholicism) and many colonial cultural artifacts like the Opera Houses of Hanoi and Saigon. The America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, developed the Vietnamese sense of triumph over externals threats and a deep appreciation for their autonomy that came at such great human cost.

Vietnam’s rich and fertile land fed by the great Mekong and Red River Deltas and its coastline bordered by the South China Sea meant that the country has some amazing quality of fresh produces and cuisine. Every day while I was there, I had either bowls of Pho (rice noodles with rich clear beef broth), Bun Cha (grilled pork, herbs with rice vermicelli served in vinegar-ed fish sauce) or Com (rice). The food was GREAT! If you love tropical fruits, you would reckon Vietnam is the gateway to Eden. Dragon fruit, logan, lychee, mangosteen, bananas, jambu and even strawberries :D .

There are so many breath taking sights in Vietnam. Places like Ha Long Bay, the Cu Chi Tunnels, Cao Dai Temple, Ben Thanh Market and War Remnants Museum are my must-see places around Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Below are a summary of pictures taken during my journey. Each picture is linked to even more pictures from the location. You can find my entire selection Vietnam trip pictures (even places not mentioned in the above) from my flickr Vietnam collection.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Cao-Dai-worshippers Tay Ninh Temple – Cao Dai Holy See

Cao Dai is a Vietnam indigenous religion, officially established
in Tay Ninh, southern Vietnam. It combines elements of Taoism,
Buddhism, Christianity – Catholicism and even Hinduism

Cu Chi Tunnels

The Cu Chi Tunnels are an immense network of connecting
underground tunnels located in the Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh
City, Vietnam. These tunnels were the location of several military
campaigns during the Vietnam War against the Americans.

The Vietnamese guerrillas used these tunnels as hiding spots
during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes,
hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters.

Ben-Thanh-Market-Main-Enterance Ben Thanh Market

During the day, it is an exciting places to have an authentic
Vietnamese lunch with the locals, pick up some fresh bread, produces
and even tourist souvenirs. The market is similar to Melbourne’s Queen
Victoria Market during the day.

In the evening, the market closes and cooked to order seafood
operators operated around the parameters of the market plus some
night market retail hawkers too.

Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee Building Ho Chi Minh City Sights

The sights and colour of Vietnam’s economic engine which includes pictures of the Notre Dame Cathedral – Saigon.

Hanoi

Victims-of-Agent-Orange War Remanats Museum

See the pictures taken by military journalists and photographers. Read about the various accounts of the Vietnam War from the war correspondents and the Vietnamese side of the story. The chemical warfare section was very graphical as it narrated the unbelievable pain and suffering unleashed on the civilian and Vietcong during the Vietnam War. Pictures from this section had been omitted in my photo collections.

There is no JUST WAR in this world.

Vietnam-Water-Puppets-3 Hanoi Water Puppets

Vietnamese water puppetry, literally means “puppets that dance on water.” The tradition dates back as far as the tenth century when it originated in the Red River Delta area of northern Vietnam. When the rice fields would flood the villages, villagers would entertain each other using this puppet form.

The puppets are built out of wood and the shows are performed in a waist-deep pool. A large rod supports the puppet under the water and is used by the puppeteers to control them. The appearance is of the puppets moving over the water. When the rice fields would flood the villagers, would entertain each other using this puppet form.(wiki)

Video of the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater display (12 secs)

IMG_2164 Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Quảng Ninh province, Vietnam. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes. (wiki)

rice-field-harvest-vietnam-farmers-working-background Harvesting Rice in Vietnam

Vietnam is the world’s second largest producers of rice.

Vietnamese-women-on-the-inner-streets Hanoi City Sights

A selection of pictures taken in Hanoi which reflects the sights and colour of Vietnam’s capital – Hanoi

2008 Annual World Most Livable Cities Ranking by Monocole

1. Copenhagen, Denmark
2. Munich, Germany
3. Tokyo, Japan
4. Zurich, Switzerland
5. Helsinki, Finland
6. Vienna, Austria
7. Stockholm, Sweden
8. Vancouver, Canada
9. Melbourne, Australia
10. Paris, France
11. Sydney, Australia
12. Honolulu, Hawaii
13. Madrid, Spain
14. Berlin, Germany
15. Barcelona, Spain
16. Montreal, Canada
17. Fukuoka, Japan
18. Amsterdam, Netherlands
19. Minneapolis, United States
20. Kyoto, Japan

Key: Green – City I visited, Blue – City I wish to visit one day

Analysis
I’m surprised to see no mention of any east coast cities like Boston. Also there is a heavy gearing towards European cities but not totally without merit. Good to see Australia retained two spots within the list through Melbourne (#9) and Sydney (#11). With such survey, the devil is in the details (ranking methodology). My top concerns for these two cities to retain it’s liveable status are the housing affordability and the state of public infrastructure.

Related link: A Singaporean reporter response to this listing (mypaper, SPH)

Monocle is my current fav mag read after I discovered it in Melbourne in Mar 08. The articles are original, well read and offers a diverse coverage within affairs, business, culture, design and excellent editoral (most important component to me). I also appreciate it’s compact size and excellent colour print.

A truly well made magazine. Check out the distribution link to see if it is distributed in your country.

2008 Passion Run: 15km – 8 June 2008

IMG_1127-straighten

Yesterday, I took part in the 15km 2008 Passion Run (8 June 2008 ) held at the East Coast Parkway. My time was 1hr 31mins 44secs and my final position was #712 out of 2048. The event was well organised. However, the running route was along the standard East Coast Park jogging route, which actually makes it quite boring. My fav run is still the Melbourne Marathon (the sea, the suburbs, the city and the MCG!)

My gratitude goes out to the volunteers who cheered on the runners across the route.

More pictures are avaliable from my 2008 Passion Run pictures (flickr)

2008-passion-run-15km-finisher-medal

Berno and Spidey

Synchronous Web Search: Microsoft SearchTogether

 

Download SearchTogether (beta)

Microsoft SearchTogether is a free Internet Explorer plug-in that allows groups of people to collaborate on Web searches.

SearchTogether can benefit any group of people who are interested in investigating a topic together, such as students working on a group report, colleagues working on a joint project, or friends planning a shared vacation or other social activities. SearchTogether supports both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration styles.

SearchTogether allows each group member to customize their search preferences; choices include Windows Live Search, Yahoo!, and Google.

SearchTogether is a project from Microsoft Research. See SearchTogether page for more details.

Download and Explore the Universe from your Desktop – Microsoft WorldWide Telescope

Today, Microsoft Research announced the availability of the public beta of WorldWide Telescope.

“The WorldWide Telescope is a powerful tool for science and education that makes it possible for everyone to explore the universe,” said Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft.

“By combining terabytes of incredible imagery and data with easy-to-use software for viewing and moving through all that information, the WorldWide Telescope opens the door to new ways to see and experience the wonders of space. Our hope is that it will inspire young people to explore astronomy and science, and help researchers in their quest to better understand the universe.”

I encourage all of you to try it at http://www.worldwidetelescope.org

Related link: Capturing screenshots from Worldwide Telescope (Long Zheng, istartedsomething.com)

2008 Mother’s Day Celebration at the Marina Oriental Hotel

Last evening, my sister and I took our Mum and Dad out for a buffet dinner treat at the Marina Oriental – one of my fav hotel in Singapor (the other favs are the Shangrila and the Ritz Carlton. I admit I have quite cina taste)

The Melt: the World Cafe is a beautiful and spacious dining venue. The staff members are very attentive and friendly. The layout of the various food station is quite attractive. The offering includes cooked to order BBQ, Thai, India, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese mains, assorted variety of cheese, nice range of tasty salads and a decent range of desserts. However, when it comes to the taste, it’s only mediocre, at best average. I guess that is what happens when you opted for the buffet. The focus is on variety and quantity and less on quality.

Don’t get me wrong. The food is fresh but it’s not really special. The chilled seafood is a yawn. I wonder where have all the flavours gone? Maybe the restaurant used them to make seafood broth in their ala carte menu. There isn’t a particular station that truly stands out.

My Shangrila buffet remains the gold standard. I guess what’s important is the memory of having a family dinner together to celebrate Mother’s Day together. More Pictures