On a Camel (08/01/10)

This morning, went to the Jain temples I missed yesterday. There are five, as it happens, interlocking, interconnected, criss-crossing the streets. They're very good, closeted and enclosed after the airy, openness of Ranakpur. This afternoon a camel "safari" --- on the way, we stopped off at a Mausoleum and then another Jain temple which we didn't actually go in. The safari was a camel ride for two hours to some dunes, where we had fresh-cooked pakora, biscuits and a snack which tasted like a cross between poppadoms and monster munch. It was really fun in a donkey ride kind of sense. The town is the middle of a cold snap which made the desert pleasant. We're still on the waiting list for the train. We have a backup plan now involving a bus; apparently, without the tickets, we can…

Jodphur (05/01/2010)

Today started with a hairy car journey to the Ranakpur Jain temple. I know very little about the Jain religion except for extreme veggie tendencies. One thing is clear, though --- they make very impressive temples. It was a place of singing and joy. As with as the religious and tourists, there were a bunch of school children from Bali --- they were expect at posing, 10 of them could form up in an instant and they delighted in having their picture taken. Bali turned out to be a village 30km away as we found out on the journey; it was bumpy, unpleasant and, erm, thrilling. The horn beeping was constant until night fell, then we drove with dipped lights until the a car or lorry approached in the opposite direction, when full beams were used. Indicators were constantly deployed, also, but I ha…

Udaipur (04/01/10)

A day late, but got here eventually. It's much warmer than Delhi. The hotel is good enough and a blessed relief after last nights mouse pit. Udaipur is a city on the lake; Octopussy was filmed here, but you can't blame the setting for the rubbish movie; it's striking and beautiful here with two buildings in the lake itself --- a hotel and a temple. We see a native dance show --- the Goan dance was rather camp, with one guy in a dress riding on the back of another, while a third pranced around stage. The others were graceful rather than athletic, with the dancers in magnificent colours. Afterwards, we found a slightly dodgy rooftop restaurant; the place was a bit of a dump, but the food was excellent. Sadly, we have less than 24 hours here.


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In Delhi (03/01/10 pm)

Got fogged off and missed our connection. Now stuck in Delhi. The airport was chaos. It took us over 2 hours before we got a new ticket, and then a hotel transfer. The hotel is, well, a genuine cultural experience. Hot water --- at least if you turn the boiler on first. The room not too clean with a strange smell. And no heating, which is unfortunate in the middle of winter. Food was good though --- we all went veggie --- everyone else to be on the safe side. Took me a while to convince them that the chick peas would make up for the lack of protein. I didn't point out the mouse running free by then, as it wouldn't have helped. Explains the strange smell. I'm hoping that my DEET is effective against insects other than mosquitos.

In the Airport (03/01/10 am)

The flight from Dhaka is belayed due to the weather; while the ever-present smog has saved my a fortune in suntan cream, now it's not nearly so good. We managed to avoid the madness of airport security by means of the VIP lounge; the name of our gracious host proved less effective on the way out than on the way in, but they seemed to accept the magic incantation of an EU passport. Inside the airport secure zone, it's calm and relaxed; I don't discount the possibility that this due to the absence of planes. Wandering around a photo of the Pink Palace from yesterday blares out at me, lurid in it's impossibly pink false colour. It makes me want to see it, even though I know that the reality is more muted. It's been a strange experience. This is a country of extremes and contradictions, which …

A trip up the river (2/1/10)

Today, we went to the bazaar in old Dhaka. After a long drag across town for an hour in polluted air, we got to Sadarghat ferry terminal where we took a dubious ride across the river; again, we were the focus of attention at the river. It's clear that they don't get too much crazy westerners down there. The boat trip which is a narrow, flat bottomed boat, skulled by one of the three people who appeared to make their living from it. The river, again, was polluted with an oily surface and lots of nasty things floating in it; surprisingly, it even had some plants floating on the surface; it was slow-running and smooth. Many of the boats shuttle sand up and down the river; these amazing vehicles float unloaded about 3m out of the water, proudly displaying their load lines high above our heads;…

Conclusions from Ontogenesis

The Ontogenesis knowledgeblog meeting has now finished; it's been a fascinating experience and one that I've enjoyed very much. I was hoping for two things out of the meeting; the first was to get some content. There has been a pressing need introductory material on ontologies for a long time now. We were never going to address this completely in a two day meeting even with the significant number of people that we had in the room. But, we managed to write quite a number of articles between us --- I rather let the side-down with only one small article, but I have the excuse that I was busy answering questions. Most of these have not achieved the required number of reviews yet, although I've just done the second reviews for Mikel's, so once that's posted, we should be there for at least one …

Old Dhaka (1/1/10)

Not much to say about yesterday; it was new year, so we had a party and food. All good, but not particularly notable. Today, we had a tour of Old Dhaka. The chaos of Gulshan is nothing compared to there; in Old Dhaka, the rickshaws and tuk-tuks far outnumber the cars --- cheaper are far more suited toward the smaller and narrow streets. We saw the local university and Lalbagh Fort --- the grounds are impressive although the building is, perhaps, less so. The museum is mostly 18th century --- the manuscripts and paintings being most impressive. Throughout, we were as much a centre of attention as the other artefacts on show. Later, back at the hotel, ready for a nap, clearing the results of pollution and the car drive from my head.

In the Dhaka Westin (30/12/09)

I started today with a late breakfast --- I went for a combination Bangladeshi-English breakfast with both curry and hash-browns. Tomorrow, I'll drop the rice, and have the fresh bread that they are make on the spot. Later, we went out for shoes and currency. Roads here are scary; there are no real pavements, lanes are an expression of broad intentions --- 2 lanes mean no more than 4 vehicles abreast. Despite this, it feels less dangerous than Brazil; everyone wanted to get on, but fewer people wanted to be a forumla one driver. As elsewhere, the begging is bad, with a gauntlet surrounding the hotel. Again, it didn't feel aggressive, just unpleasant. On the way to the bank, we pass a small food market, with waste food rotting in a skip, picked over by feral sheep. Back in the hotel, read t…