Bestille togreise i India

Å bestille en togreise i India kan være litt tricky, men er absolutt verdt å gjøre. Det er et enormt tognettverk mellom de forskjellige byene og regionene, og stor spennvidde i hvor god plass og service du får og hvor lang tid togene benytter. Ikke minst er det en flott måte å se landet mellom byene.

Under vårt India-opphold benyttet vi Rajdhani (betyr hovedstad) mellom Mumbai og New Delhi og fikk på førsteklasse egen lugar, te, kaffe og tre-retters middag. Mellom New Delhi og Agra reiste vi med 2. klasse og hadde ingen egen lugar, men fikk egne senger og kunne begrense innsyn ved hjelp av gardin. Når du skal bestemme deg for togavgang og klasse er det to ting det kan være lurt å tenke på:

  1. Prioritet i jernbanenettet. Noen avganger får høyere prioritet enn andre, og reiser derfor raskt og enkelt igjennom verdens mest komplekse nettverk av ruter og stasjoner. For eksempel går Rajdhani-avgangene alltid på tid, og har lite forsinkelser og problemer.
  2. Komfortnivå. Det er mange kupé og billettklasser på indiske tog. Skal du reise et par timer kan det være morsomt og rimelig å reise i en enklere billettkategori, men dersom du skal overnatte eller reise langt kan det være godt å ha større plass i en luftkondisjonert vogn.

Bestillingsprosedyre

Da vi bestilte togreiser i India gjorde vi det igjennom Cleartrip. Det kan ofte være stor interesse for enkelte togavganger og pågangen er stor, derfor kan det være lurt å bestille billett god tid i forveien, men med en søkemotor, slik som Cleartrip, kan du finne alternative ruter dersom hovedforbindelsen er utsolgt. Det kan ta et par dager å bestille første reise igjennom Cleartrip ettersom du trenger en verifisering av e-post og telefonnummer for å kunne gjennomføre et kjøp igjennom det indiske togselskapet IR sitt reisebyrå IRCTC. For å gjennomføre kjøp av våre billetter gikk jeg igjennom denne gode guiden hos Indiamike. Det gode med denne gjennomgangen og Cleartrip er at når du har fått knyttet din Cleartrip-konto til IRCTC så vil du kunne bestille nye togbilletter uten store problemer. Det kjedelige med denne fremgangsmåten er at den krever at du har et pass og kan scanne dette.

Dersom du skulle ha noen problemer, ta kontakt.

The Gathering 2012

Godt plantet i en stol på Universitetet i Oslos stand på The Gathering i Hamar har jeg god utsikt utover et lyshav a LCD-skjermer og strålende datamaskiner. I en rus av energidrikk, manglende søvn, pulserende musikk og varm frossen-pizza har 5500 personer boltret seg fast i Vikingskipet på Hamar. Etter et par runder rundt i lokalet har jeg observert at spill er den mest populære aktiviteten og på en skjerm i ene enden av lokalet vises spillturneringer på storskjerm. UiO ved Institutt for Informatikk er i år en av hovedsponsorene for arrangementet og er derfor sterkt representert i hva som må være norges mest høyteknologiske lokale denne påskeferien. I løpet av datafestivalen, eller LANet om du vil, har UiO etablert Campus TG, et konsept der deltagerne får være med på mange faglige foredrag hvor de har mulighet til å lære om alt fra papirfly, forskjellige Linux-distribusjoner til spillprogrammering og sampling med Arduino. I tillegg er det arrangert workshops i lodding og demonstrasjoner av forskjellige roboter.

Mens musikken fra hovedscenen er fylt med sampling fra jingler kjent fra 8-bit Nintendo og enkelte deltagere løper rundt ikled kostymer som forestiller creepers fra Minecraft eller Pikachu fra Pokemon løses rubiks kuber og kruttsterk kaffe drikkes. I tillegg er det laget et webside hvor deltagerne kan skru av og på en lampe på UiO-standen ved hjelp av et web-interface eller delta i en krevende hacking-oppgave som involverer mange skills fra charset, cæsars-kode til nivåer jeg ennå ikke har kommet til 😛

Fra et musikkperspektiv er det morsomt å observere en tilnærmet tredeling av hvordan deltagerne hører på musikk. Fra hovedscene drønner bassen fra egenkombinerte sanger fra kreative konkurranser og fra kjente DJer (fra nesten bare elektroniske sjangere), i gruppene spilles det gamle klassikere for hverandre (om ikke GAMLE, så iallefall sommerhits fra et par år tilbake) og individuelt brukes det headset hvor flere blander alle lydene som måtte komme fra aktivitene de driver med, enten om det er spill, filmer, YouTube, programmering eller gamle episoder av Derrick. Jeg tror nok i de fleste tilfellene at musikken mer opptrer i bakgrunnen enn aktiv lytting, men med en så stor og mangfoldig gruppe er det vanskelig å si noe sikkert. Uansett, det er veldig spennende og interessant å være på denne arenaen som nå etterhvert begynner å få den oppmerksomheten den fortjener (for å si det sånn, jeg tror flere ungdommer er interessert i internett, gaming og data enn skirenn i Holmenkollen og skøyteløp i, ja, Vikingskipet). Artikler fra Vikingskipet finnes i de fleste riksmedier og fornyingsminister Åsland var med på åpningen (som du kan lese mer om på Morten Dæhlen sin blogg).

Her er utklipp fra en liten video jeg filmet i nærheten av UiO-standen.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AUYHUxYa4U[/youtube]

Edinburgh in Pictures

Throughout the four months I now have been living in Edinburgh I have occasionally taken some pictures. Here are the pictures I have taken in Edinburgh and uploaded to Flickr.

Igjennom de fire månedene jeg har bodd i Edinburgh har jeg av og til tatt noen bilder. Her er bildene jeg har tatt i Edinburgh og lastet opp til Flickr.

I have some other pictures from other places as well, if you want to check them out, they are available through the Flickr link in the box to the right.

Jeg har noen andre bilder fra andre steder også, hvis du vil sjekke de ut er de tilgjenglige gjennom Flickr-linken i boksen til høyre.

Stories from Turkey

Earlier this summer, after delivering our exams, Jules and I went to Turkey for an inexpensive and spontaneous holiday. Here is a short summary of what we saw and did. Hopefully this could prove useful if you’re planning a trip to the Anatolian peninsula, if not maybe it could teach you one or two things you did not know about Turkey.

Planning the trip
During the last months of the semester, the urge for a short holiday became more imminent. All day reading sources and writing academic papers is something which consumes a lot of willpower and energy. With the papers almost done we decided to find an inexpensive trip and not spend much time planning our holiday in advance. We decided to use Restplass.no to book our trip. This travel search engine searches through many travel agency databases, and present the results in a good and organized way. The possibility to exclude results which does not match your own criteria is useful, and when you can do a search organised both by time and prices you can really find a valuable travel. We found a trip to around 1300 NOK with travel, hotel and breakfast included. The trip was through a Swedish travel agency named Nazar which is arranging affordable trips to southeastern Europe, primarily Turkey. The only problem we experienced was that we had to make our reservation by phone, since the online order system did not work. Since they do not have any fees on travels booked on telephone the only problem is the time spent trying to refresh the order page on their web-page.

The travel included a flight with Turkish-German SunExpress both ways, and this airline company was nothing more than OK. The flight included a very very small meal and lots of noise. The flight took off when it was supposed to and arrived on time both in Oslo and in Izmir airports without delay. There were many children on the flights, and since children combined with a three hour long flight means yelling, crying, dribbling and pooping I strongly recommend that you bring with you a book and a pair of earplugs.

Safe and sound on Turkish soil we were pleased to find out that the kids were going to Aqua Fantasy – another hotel with a combined aqua theme park-, and that our trip with the poo-troop had come to an end. From the airport we got a lift with a bus chartered by Nazar, and on the way we got some basic travel info from our Swedish guide.

Kuşadası
Even though our guide book didn’t really say anything nice about this city it had its beautiful places and moments. The pigeon island, the beaches and the view from some parts of the city had a good postcard potential, but the main street didn’t provide anything else than tourist bars, tourist shops and tourist restaurants. The first thing to do in Kuşadası is to get used to be perceived as a western tourist thus being a potential to earn some dough. The local tourist industry is cynical and noisy. Of this reason you should always be prepared to say “no, thank you”, “Sorry, I don’t want anything today” and “I’m not interested” This could sound fair enough but believe me, after going through the city three or four times you will get tired of people running after you trying to get you into one or another business deal. If you want to avoid this, just keep on walking. For God sake do not window shop. Do also stay away from the tourist industry restaurants. There are several of them located along the main street, but the tacky factor is incredibly high. If you want to sing along to “I beg you pardon, I never promised you a rose garden”, have a waiter that dances to the music next to your table and expects you to like it and brings cowboys hat and light sticks you are welcome to go to one of these restaurants, if not, you have been warned.

On the other hand, there is more to Kuşadası than tacky terrible restaurants and people interrupting you more than on a Ryanair flight. Let us take a stroll on the bright side. During our week in Turkey we spent every second day in Kuşadası, and we enjoyed it. The pigeon island, the local market with small local restaurants and the beaches. There are many things worth a visit in Kuşadası. During your stay you should pay Yusuf at Albatros a visit. This restaurant is, like the other restaurants located nearby, an oasis where you can eat great Turkish food at affordable prices. Service is good, and it is an enjoyable place where you can go to speak with the locals and have a cup of Turkish coffee or Apple Tea. This market square is located between the city center and the central bus station.

If you want to indulge with a drink and at the same time enjoy a spectacular sunset, the restaurant at pigeon island is a nice place. Here you can enjoy an Efes beer or a glass of wine near to an old Ottoman fortress. Here are some pictures from Kushadasi:

[nggallery id=4]

Ephesus
Once one of the most populated cities in the world, just second to Rome, Ephesus consists of a great collection of old ruins from a once a mighty city in a mighty empire. Containing some really nice buildings such as the Celcius Library it is worth a visit. Are you staying in Kuşadası it is also very short and cheap to get there traveling by Dolmus. Stay away from the tourist companies’ travels unless you want a guide to show you and tell you about the escarvation site. A book explaining the interesting story of the city, a bottle of water and good shoes are the only things you really need, and of course money to pay for the entrance.

From Ephesus the local town Selçuk there is just a short walk. After visiting the escarvation site you can go here by foot, and if you want to see another attraction you can walk past the caves of the seven sleepers on the way. Just follow the small road to the right before the main road. You can’t miss.

Pamukale

Pamukale literary means “Cotton Castle” in Turkish. The area is located around three hours with bus east of Kuşadası. According to our Tukish guide this place is worth a visit when the cotton flowers blossom, but it is also more to this place than cotton. Located on the hill ridges nearby are several hot springs with high mineral concentration, they give the local hill sides a characteristic white colour. The aestetics of this area and the health bringing effects this water bring have made Pamukale a well known attraction (Also a Kebab shop in Hamburg). Already in archaic times these hills were popular and the Romans founded two cities in this area, the Heliopolis and Necropolis, meaning health and death city. You will find many interesting tombs here, and also a natural spring in which Cleopatra of Egypt had a bath long long time ago. This bath is said to have an health effect. The most interesting part of this trip however is the lovely white ridges which you have to walk in order to get to the top. Here hot water is flowing down the hillside tickling your feet while you enjoy the bright white hillside. Great success.

[nggallery id=7]

Izmir

Izmir is the third most populous city in Turkey, and is the “capital” of the region bordering to the Anatolian sea. The city is worth a visit, and there are buses going between Kuşadası and Izmir each hour. The bus station is located outside the city so you have to take a Dolmus or Taxi to get into the city center. Once you get here you can stroll around without any further need of public transportation. The city has a nice promenade alongside the sea, and this is worth a visit. Here you can find the Ataturk museum, and a lot of places to enjoy apple tea, a beer or a cup of coffee. A great venue we found in a nice old house, 1888, here they have a great selection of food a la carte, but they do also do barbecues. This is also a place where small artists (by publicity, bit size) play under colourful lanterns. A place to visit if you are in Izmir.

The last bus back departs around midnight and plan around 40-50 minutes getting from the city center out to the bus terminal.

Summary

If you are in need of a holiday, traveling with charter company can be an inexpensive solution since they will sell the travels at a low rate right before departure. The destinations may be crowded with tourists, but if you have a look around, and get a couple of tips on the surroundings the holiday can be great. Even though you can not communicate with the locals, they are in most cases interested in helping you and with a smile and interest you can experience a lot. I wish you a nice travel.

The post is lacking some pictures from the last three destinations. This will be added later.

The World Expo

The World Exhibition has been around for over 150 years and been arranged in several important cities. Many would say that these cities are considered to be power centres of their contemporary, just look at the examples. In 1851, when it all began, it was held in London, the centre of the British Empire. In 1899, it was held in Paris. At that time, as well as earlier and later, one of the most influential cities of literature, art and philosophy. In the 1933 it was arranged in Chicago. Other cities include Brussels, New York, Barcelona and Lisbon. This years another nation has got the possibility and responsibility of hosting the Expo. Shanghai and China are the proud hosts of this years world attraction. Beckoning people from all over the world, and with massive commercials targeted on its own population China hopes to break two records this year:  most visitors and largest expo area.

Yesterday, at least I, could recognise that this is the biggest fun fair/exhibition/trade arrangement I have ever been to, with some of the over 150 pavilions individually being bigger than my biggest so far experience. There would be wrong for both parts to compare the Norwegian educational fairs with the WORLD EXPO, but the latter’s size goes beyond imagination. During our stay at the expo we got ourselves a little passport to collect stamps from the different participants. We got trough 12 pavilions where we got stamps, and one stand which didn’t have a stamp at the moment of our visit. The countries were in general located geographically, but a fun observation we found on our Axis of Evil Expo Tour ™ was that Democratic Republic of Korea and Islamistic Republic of Iran both were located in their own corner. Both stands telling a story about their culture and identity more than better city, better life which is the main focus of The World Expo 2010. North-Korea claimed to be a paradise for people, and Iran a place where empathy, justice and fairness prevail. Iran did also have a model of an atomic power facility. Luckily both countries did also focus on some of their more human features, such as their deep roots in pre-revolutionary history and their people, who is often forgotten in the political power play. From the North-Korean pavilion I got two books, one explaining the historical events important for their existence and ideology, and one just explaining their ideology. I look forward to read these and to learn more about how a nation built on military powers and in the name of the workers and farmers can still exist after the Cold War, standing alone on the more and more globalized world arena. We also tried to find the Iraqi pavilion, but where it was meant to be we only found several bunkers for the local security staff.

During our first hours we did also visit Israel, where we were shown a short film about technology – mainly within micro-computing, water extraction and purification, but also within aerospace and medicine. After our visit to the middle east we went through Turkmenistan to Nepal. While many of the other countries were focusing on technology, pipelines, industry and existence Nepal choose to show some of their rich and beautiful culture. With a pavilion, not shaped as a spaceship or a pokémon as many other pavilions, rather as a Nepalese temple it gave a short brake, and time to perceive some of the detailed handmade artworks.

On our way back to Europe – as in the exhibition area, and not the continent – we went through the UN, who in an interesting way presented different statistics about countries and presented their work as the one organization working for you and at the same time being the most international organization, or to express it with the UN’s own words “One world. One UN”.

Going from Asia – excluded China, Chinese foreign territories and Japan – to the Europe section clearly shown how the economic resources in the world is divided. Not that many of the Asian pavilions were not impressive, it is just that the European ones were bigger, had more installation and a more expensive touch. Not that this is a success criterion, it just points out who that spends most money. In “Europe” we first got some frites from the Belgian pavilion, then we went to the Norwegian – powered by nature – which was made in wood and shown films that looked like a manifestation of the visitnorway.com graphical guidelines. I liked it. The most amazing European pavilion, I would say is the Dutch, reminding me of old city fantasies from my childhood with an elevated street going trough a “tree-house-town”.

One day at the Expo is clearly not enough, but if you want to see it all and catch all the stamps, you should get going. The expo is just opened until the end of October and you will need a week or more if you want to get through it all, and remember the queues are insane and in order to get to some of the pavilions you need to make a reservation to get in.

Here are some pictures I took at the Expo. The illustrating picture is not from the expo but from one of the many installations around in Shanghai containing the mascot and the logo of the World Expo. Enjoy.

[nggallery id=6]

Lost in translation

It’s been a couple of days without updates, but here is an end to that. Shanghai is amazing and since we came we have just explored small fragments of this enormous city. The city is a former multi-cultural gathering place for 1900-century imperial European powers, and this can be found in today’s division of the city. At the Bund, where the former British customs building and HSBC headquarters can be found was the entry to the city located on on the riverbanks. The French concession, where our hotel is located, is yet another example of earlier imperialism earlier housing French missions to the Far East among others.

Today Shanghai is trying to find its own way, somewhere in between Chinese and International culture. All street names are, in addition to Mandarin also available in English, but most of the Chinese population do not know these names. The English language proficiency on the street are in most cases non-existent. When that is said, it is interesting how the international ambitions are implemented into various services. The taxi services is a good example portraying this. As soon as you enter a taxi the taxi driver starts the taximeter and it announces information in both Chinese and English. If you have some questions during you travel, you can call a number to get in touch with an English speaking operator, who can translate between you and the driver. As you leave the taxi a farewell are presented in Chinese and English.

The last days we have been enjoying several activities and attractions: The Shanghai Aquarium, An amazing Circus, old town, the Bund, Pudong and the French Concession. I will come back with updates from these, and our trip to the World Exhibition next time I find some time to write an update. I will also return with some highlights from the history of Shanghai, which is not a pretty history including western decadence, drugs and prostitution, so stay tuned.

My camera is still without a USB-cable, so until I get back to Norway I will be unable to put any pictures online, not even to illustrate the posts at this blog. Once more Flicker and nice people who share and care saved the day. Today’s beautiful picture showing the Bund is taken by Wolfgang Staudt and is shared under Creative Common. For details check the link stated above.

First day in China

Finally in Shanghai. After a long flight where Harald Swart’s movie the Karate Kid was showed and where one of the radio channels available was dedicated to Oktoberfest music we arrived Pudong Airport. China is massive, and Shanghai is a good example portraying this. Due to the world exhibition and being a major actor on the stage of international business Shanghai is a city of contrasts, a mixture of everything, where high business towers are raging just meters from local sweetshops and windy, worn-down houses. This could tell us of  the last decades of city development as well some of the city’s social problems. With that said, touristwise, the contrast makes this city into such an interesting place. Knowing that most of the buildings visible in the skyline are built within a timespan of 20-30 years, ever since Maos successor Deng Xiaoping declared that communism could be mixed with capitalistic economy. Today these enourmous towers are showing the influence and the power of companies such as HSBC, Aurora and others, and after dark these buildings on the Pudong side of the river Huangpu are showing a massive light show for the viewers. We also visited a viewing platform on the Bund side of the river, and from there you have a good view over to Pudong.

So to some of the experiences from yesterday and this morning:

To get from the airport to our hotel we took the Maglev – I think it means something like magnetic levitation – train which on good days can reach almost 500 kilometer per hour. To reach this speeds the train is placed upon a magnetic railway who literary makes the train fly between the stations. Just one of many new and high-tec technologies which are to be found in China.

The language barrier could pose a problem in China since the language skills are rather limited. Outside the hotel we experienced difficulties asking questions, and even if some says they speak English, it could be hard to understand the meaning because of strong intonation.

There are also customary differences from back home. Last night after we came home and watched a movie, all of a sudden, a Chinese woman stood in our room. She just wanted to give us a newspaper. In Chinese.

The first day in Shanghai was funny and interesting, despite little sleep on our way over. Today we have been having a great breakfast at the hotel, and now we are ready to have a closer look at the city of Shanghai.

By accident I forgot the cable to tansfer photos from my camera to my computer. I will try to find one here in Shanghai. Luckily I found a good photo on flickr. This photo is taken by Sprengben.

China tomorrow

After weeks of waiting we are finally ready to depart for China tomorrow. Last week we got our visas and now the bags are packed, the last clothes are just hours from getting dry, and the itinerary and the hotel reservation is printed out and packed in the onboard bag. Our trip starts at Gardermoen at 14.20, from there we are traveling for 2 hours to change flight in Frankfurt and onboard a 747, until recently the world largest passenger aircraft, for a long haul lasting for 10 hours to Pudong International Airport in Shanghai.

We are going to stay in China for 6 nights and hopefully get to know both the Chinese culture and the multicultural Shanghai, or at least some of it. We have not planned in detail what we are going to see, but from several guides on the Internet, youtube, the Lonely Planet book I got from Magnus for my birthday and tips from Jenny, Dragana and Gunn it seems like there is a lot to do in Shanghai, and I hope to see the things I got recommended. The Pudong financial area with several skyscrapers, flashing lights and business-like culture seems like a “must-see”, and from there it could be cool to experience the difference in an old-fashion, but at the same time neat and traditional, old part of the town where apperantly Mission Possible was shoot. There are many parks as well, and one or two mornings it could be cool to skip the compulsory egg and bacon hotel breakfast to join in and do some morning gymnastics. I can’t wait too experience the city.  I am also curious to check out the Chinese cuisine, but I have to admit that I’m a bit afraid of being served scorpions, dog or other too-unusual specialities.  When that is said I will try to find my culture relativist inside me, and percive Shanghai and China without missing brown cheese at the breakfast table or be shocked to find out that skiing is not an activity well-know in Shanghai.

Shanghai is also the proud host of the world exhibition, and I’m looking forward – like a child – to see the different pavillions at this gigantic venue. We have already decided to visit several, and it will be interesting to see which perspectives the different countries have on this Expo’s focus which is better cities, better life. Hopefully I can pick up some inspiration for my masters studies along the way.

I will try to get back with an update in a couple of days. For the next two, many hours will be spent in the air, maybe with a Harry Potter movie and a glass of red wine. For more frequently updates, check out my twitter page

The illustrational picture is found on Flickr and is licenced under Creative Commons by the user stuck in customs

Tyskland – England

I Audimax auditoriet på Universitetet i Hamburg var det på søndag gjort klart for det store europeiske oppgjøret mellom Tyskland og England. Audimax var fullsatt da vi kom dit, og mange hadde med seg tyske flagg og forskjellige Mannschaft-effekter. Det var bare ett engelsk flagg og når dette ble trukket fram og viftet med skapte dette en stor oppstandelse i det tyske publikummet. Settingen var enkel, faktisk så enkel at hvilket som helst auditorium med videokanon og stoler kunne hatt det samme arrangementet. Nå det er sagt er det ikke de tekniske innrettnignene som betød noe denne søndag ettermiddagen. Stemningen var super, og når tyskland på kort tid klarte å få inn to mål, kokte publikum. Spenningen nådde et høydepunkt når de engelske spillerne skjøt fart og nådde en offensiv topp mot slutten av første omgang. I andre omgang viste det tyske Mannschaft at de hadde stålkontroll, og det engelske laget fikk for alvor vist at de vakler.

Etter andre omgang var ekstasen i gatene et faktum og overalt var fargene i det tyske flagget. På biler var det sidespeilfuturaler i det tyske flagget, og vimpler og vuvuzelaer var også i svart, rødt og gult. I gatene tutet bilene og i Sternschanze hadde hver eneste kiosk, butikk og uterestaurant en flatskjerm som de viste fotball på. Selv om jeg ikke er spesielt fotballinteressert var det spennende å være med på en slik feiring. Spenningen og stemningen både i Audimax og på gatene i Hamburg viste at VM engasjerer, og jeg ble selv revet med.