New Years beverage

This  kombucha (dried seaweed) tea comes looking like shishi- mai (獅子舞) - the lion dance lion. You drop him in a cup, pour hot water and wait for a couple of minutes. Your patience will be rewarded with kombucha and a small chewy snack

Hiding places, Anh Cafe in Saigon

I miss cold war movies. There would often be a scene where some western agent would be interrogating a soviet spy. The spy would be tortured, asked to reveal his hideout. Groaning with pain, yet resolute, the comrade will mumble "Nyet!! kapitalisticheskaya sobaka - never!! capitalist pig!!". Well, you don't even have to tickle me - or play k-pop in endless loop, I am happy to reveal my hideouts. This particular one in Saigon is called Anh Cafe just behind the Ben Thanh Market. Spot a building trying to one up the Bitexco tower, it may not have the hight but is probably more carbon neutral with the green wall. The entry is hidden away, a narrow walkway between two shops with the walls decorated with photos. Hike up the staircase into my well appointed hideout. If you see me, say the code phrase "Привет, незнакомец", the coffee will be on me.

Stories in Saigon

The future of learning is already here. It is called communities. We had an interesting bunch - Travelers, educators, tech folks, readers and writers sharing stories of their recent adventures.

Nostalgic food from all over

Random food and beverages from my several homes. Growing up in parts of India, you often come across the Jamun tree. The fruit has a purple bitter sweet flesh. This drink from India tries to capture the flavour for urban people who miss jamun picking. Next is a popular rice cake from Hanoi, North Vietnam (thanks to childhood friend Trang for getting it for me). This cake is made by a family business in the Hang Than Street - that had many similar rice cake shops. Nguyen means origin, and Ninh is derived from the name of the hometown (Yen Ninh) of the original owner of the cake shop. Last is a well being/health drink from Indonesia, contains honey and several herbs. You can buy these sachets from convenience stores or small shops across Indonesia.

Will miss these in Musashi-Koyama

I am still not over the loss of Hanoi's Zone 9, and one more of my hangout is falling victim to "development". One station from us is a neighbourhood called Musashi-Koyama. The dozens of unique small shops next to the station - eating places and bars are shutting down, being replaced with a construction project. Perhaps, we should invite the little shops to our Meguro. Japan Times also laments the loss of such community spaces.

Conditions for my home

I am often asked, why I have so many homes? Well, my conditions for accepting a place as home are very simple. As long I can get free food, and if my phone remembers the wifi password, I am home. One additional condition is the presence of a library or a second hand book shop. One such place is my hideout in Phrom Phong. 

Today's readings - a book on the history of Assam published In the 1930s and a book of Vietnamese legends. Now I know that when I see a beautiful girl, I should remark "she is probably from the land of bliss" 

And do you know that my neighbourhood houses a North Korean restaurant. Many years back, there used to be one in another neighbourhood, went out of business around 2007. We used to go there and talk to the staff - girls who used to sing and dance, and spoke good Chinese. Still remember the song "내이름 묻지 마세요"

Finally, a decent swim tracker - Misfit Speedo Shine

I have been looking for swim trackers for a while. I tried the app on the original Pebble smartwatch - it worked sometimes, but often missed laps. I tried the app again on the Sony Smartwatch 3 (the only waterproof Android wear device at the moment) and it failed to synchronise the swim data every time.

Earlier this week I bought the new Misfit Speedo Shine device. After three days of trying it out, I can say that this device is perfect.

Back in 2013, Misfit folks gave me the original Shine to try out. I liked using it, until it decided to jump out of the hoop and hide while I was on a Saigon - Hanoi flight.  I like the fact that you don't have to charge this, that is one cable less to carry. 

Just you wait - Ну,погоди ! (Nu Pogodi !)

My neighbourhood always has fun stuff waiting to be discovered. Today, I found a shop selling Soviet memorabilia. I bought a badge featuring a character from my favorite Soviet Union childhood cartoon Nu Pogodi. The TV show features a wolf called Volk and he is always plotting to catch and eat a hare Zayats. The hare always outsmarts the wolf, the last scene has Volk crying out Nu Pogodi!! (just you wait). I think the other character on the badge is Mishka - the 1980 Moscow Olympic mascot.

The future, in Jakarta

This time round the Jakarta book club was talking about the future - we had a science fiction themed meet. I am always curious about how people in non-western countries see the future, and keen to discover locally written science fictions. And Jakarta always reminds of that old German movie - metropolis - high rises reaching up to the clouds, rising over humber dwellings. 

Thanks Ollie for the picture.