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A Bangkok hidden gem: Batcat Museum & Toys

Bangkok has a huge offer to discover for visitors of all tastes: amazing rooftops, wild dive bars, beautiful parks, cosy cafes, some of the most amazing temples in the world and interesting museums.

But it is true that like any other city in the world, once you live here for some years, even when there is almost always a new place to discover, you start to struggle with new locations that can put a “Waw” in your mouth.

Last Saturday I was doing a quick search online to find some hidden gems in the Thai capital that I would have not visited yet, and the Batcat Museum & Toys caught my eye.

Let’s be honest, if you are a person who enjoys taking a million selfies in the terrace of a cafe and have 0 interest in cinema, figures or Japanese manga, probably this place would not be for you. However, as my case it is really the opposite and I love retro video games, Japanese toys and figures, fantasy cinema, manga etc, I thought that I would give this place a shot, as I was a bit surprised that in more than 2 years living in Bangkok I had never heard of it.

The museum is not far from the central Sukhumvit area, but it is not in a main street, but in some alley street in Bang Kapi area, so I recommend as the easiest way just to go by taxi/Grab there, which should not cost you more than 150 bath approx. if you are in Asoke area or its surroundings.

Once I arrived, surprises already start to pop in front of your eyes. Graffitis with manga characters, a Batman car model casually parked in the building garage.. this is promising!

I entered the museum, which pretty much is a kind of 3 store residential building converted into museum, and I get greeted by the owner himself, wearing a cool Batman t-shirt, and his little daughter, wearing a twin Batman t-shirt :) Sweet!

The entrance to the museum costs 200b, and in full honesty, first I thought it was a bit overpriced. My expectation was that I would see the exhibition in just 10/15 minutes. How mistaken I was!

After paying the ticket, the owner led me to the upper floor of the museum and just explained me that I was free to roam around all the floors. I arrived at around 16:00 and the place closes at 17:00, so I went right at it. Funnily and a bit sadly, I was the only visitor at that time there. In that sense it gave me the privilege to chat a bit more here and there with the owner, who kindly explained me that he had dedicated 20 years of his life to gather that collection and that the Batman area was his favorite and most pampered, and the one he had put more effort into! He also kindly showed me some vintage figures of Batman when I asked him what were his favorite items, telling that they could cost around 2 million baht (more than 50 thousand euro).

So… what is there to see in the 3 stores of the museum, you might still be wondering… Well, pretty much fucking everything!!! The collection, comprising more than 60.000 pieces, is just breathtaking. I just hope that the photos that I add to the article make some kind of justice to the place, cause wherever you would look at, something amazing was displayed in front of your eyes: figures from Knights of the Zodiac, Star Wars, Kamen Rider, Marvel, Captain Tsubasa, Lego… the list goes on and on. Big and small, in all kind of shapes and colors, and everything displayed with taste, so even with the huge amount of items there, you could feel like it was easy to walk around every floor.

The Batman last floor, as the owner and director of the museum explained, was already a delight by itself. For a fan of retro-video games as myself, I casually spotted some jewels like the Batman Sunsoft for Megadrive or the Batman 2 for Famicom, among the other hundreds of incredible items.

I am a person who has traveled a bit and has had my share of displays of figures, toys and nerdie stuff. I have been in Japan, I have roamed the Mega Mall in Bangkok Chinatown… but still, this was like a dream I did not want to wake up from. Like getting a free VIP personal pass to Willy Wonka’s factory with all you can eat chocolate. I really could not refrained myself from exclaiming aloud in excitement and disbelief to the amazing stuff displayed there.

So… if you have some minimal interest in vintage toys, Japanese culture and manga, cinema… or if you have kids and they do like any of those things, just visit there! You will not regret my advice. I cannot believe that this place is not more popular and nobody talks about it in Bangkok social media groups. I was surprised, I was shocked and I was delighted that in some random Soi in Bangkok could be gathered such an incredible amount of gems. I have no idea how the owner was able to buy all that collection, which must cost a fortune all together, but I feel proud to have been able to experience a little fairytale during the hours I was roaming the place there, and surely I will bring friends there again.

As a final note, apart from the amazing display in the museum, at the end of the tour the building also has a small shop close to the cafe, where you can buy from a small but cosy selection of well priced figures and toys. I got myself a beautiful Batman Hot Wheels model as a small memorabilia token.

Batcat Museum & Toys FB Page:

Batcat Museum & Toys location:

Antonio's blog Blogs Outside Finland Travel

10 Great tips for a date in Bangkok

Bangkok, the vibrant and lively capital of Thailand, and probably one of the most touristic destinations in the world.

A paradise megacity of millions of inhabitants that get added to its population many more millions of tourists that pass through its 2 international airports every year. A city that offers entertainment and destinations for people with all kinds of tastes and motivations: from the never-ending party scene to beautiful parks, amazing temples, cozy cafes, and incredible shopping malls.

A city like Bangkok is of course buzzing also with single people wanting to mingle that meet in the streets or with the usual famous dating apps. Once you have established first contact and it is time for the real deal to meet face to face, the question arises: where to go?

Do not worry potential lovebirds, after more than 2 years living in Bangkok, I am here to make your life easier and give you a wide array of choices for a memorable first date that can be considered a success, and that does not necessarily break your wallet too much.

This list is my personal list, and it does not mean that there are hundreds of other great destinations for a memorable first date in Bangkok. But I have personally experienced every single one of the tips in the article, and I hope that can serve somebody as inspiration, not just for a date, but as well for just discovering new places.

  1. Barracuda rooftop Bar

Bangkok is full of amazing rooftop bars, big and small. Some of the most famous ones can be considered some of the most expensive bar destinations you can go in Bangkok, with cocktail prices that had nothing to be ashamed of when comparing to cool European or American bars. Those famous ones tend to be packed and can be quite difficult to find a table or a free reservation in advance. Therefore, I propose you Barracuda rooftop Bar, still with a good location in the center of the city, it is not so popular among visitors. It might not have the most stunning views and the most luxurious decoration, but the building entrance is classy, it tends not to be crowded, it has a nice small swimming pool to chill if you want to bring your swimsuit or bikinis, the prices are not inflated and it gives a charming private vibe to go for a date where you can chat relaxed, get to know, have intimacy all surrounded by a beautiful environment

Link here:

  • Chatuchak Weekend Market

A destination very popular not just for a date in Bangkok but for any visitor stepping into the Thai capital.

If you are a person who likes discovering places more than a night party animal, this destination can make a wonderful first date. As the biggest street market in Bangkok, the offer of things in display is unbelievable, both in the market itself and in the surrounding malls. It makes a perfect destination for a weekend day where to observe what is offered in terms of handicraft, souvenirs, clothes, exotic animals, furniture…. Surely you will not run out of topics to talk about and get to know better the tastes of your companion when you are exposed to thousands of exotic animals or all kind of vintage and new items. Around the market there are also some small cozy cafes and bars where you can stop to have a bite or a cold drink

Link here:

  • Cabbages & Condoms Restaurant

A unique restaurant where the main decoration theme all around is… condoms! This sets up the vibe for a first date, right? 

The place is totally worthy to see, and the decoration turns to be charming and beautiful in some of the restaurant areas. For sure it will provoke some giggles with your date when you explore around and then you can just enjoy some good food and drinks. Beware that prices are not so cheap compared to other restaurants in the center of Bangkok, as it has become known as a cult place to visit. But well, it is quite unique and certainly an original idea for a first date. Besides, when you end up having dinner, you can take for free some condoms offered in the desks there… so it might be a signal that things are proceeding well in the date and magic is not far from happening…

Link here:

  • Vivi the Coffee Place

Bangkok is full of cozy and beautiful cafes with a great selection of beverages for all tastes, but not many offer such a romantic location as Vivi the Coffee Place. With a small patio with a fountain where you can even see turtles swimming and a balcony with a direct frontal view to Wat Arun temple, this place offers a fantastic opportunity to enjoy a romantic sunset in good company. Besides, it is not on walking distant from other famous sightseeing locations like the Royal Palace Complex or the Flowers Market.

Beware that sometimes can be quite crowded, especially the best balcony seats in front of the river/temple, as it is a very hot “instagramable” spots for the young generations that enjoy taking 1 million selfies in 1 hour

Link here:

  • King Rama IX Park

Although visitors tend to comment more about the noisy traffic and selection of bars and massage parlous that the Thai capital offers, Bangkok has a fantastic selection of green areas where you can go for long walks, relax, and observe amazing flora and fauna. Out of the most famous centrally located ones like Lumphini Park or Benjakitti Park, one of my favorite ones that I consider a bit of a hidden gem is King Rama IX Park.

Its location is a bit far from the center, but nothing that cannot be sorted out with a Grab Taxi for less than 300 baht from central Sukhumvit. Also, at the entrance you will have to pay a small 10-baht fee to access the park, but it is totally worthy, believe me.

You will encounter a magnificent green scenery inside, with a lot of interesting areas to explore inside the park: thematic small gardens like Japanese garden or English style garden, a huge lake in the center of the park, monitor lizards and turtles roaming around its channels, a lot of birds, a couple of huge green houses that host an amazing array of plants…  The park is huge, so be ready to spend a few hours marveling around.

A great destination to get to know a first date in a more relaxed environment, prepare a picnic on the grass or just walk for hours holding hands.

  • “Find The Locker Room” cocktail bar.

Bangkok is also not short of amazing cocktail bars, some of them will make you feel like you are in New York trying to discover some of their famous “hidden bars”.

In this category of (not so) hidden bar, it is worthy a visit to “Find the Locker Room” in Thonglor. Behind a door that resembles a locker from a gym, you will have 2 floors with tasty decoration and amazing selection of cocktails that will turn your night date into a fun shared adventure, both for the experience to find the place and then to taste the amazing cocktails they prepare.

The service when I have been there is very kind and attentive, but beware that is not a cheap price for Bangkok average pricing, so have your wallet ready.

As an extra tip, not far from there on the other side of Thonglor main street, you can continue the night in another of my favorite cocktail bars in the city: “The Rabbit Hole”.  Another one with great selection of cocktails and intimate environment to create some special bonding with your date.

Link here:

  • The marble temple: Wat Benchamabophit

Bangkok has hundreds of temples so it would be impossible to recommend just one to visit. But if you are looking for one that is beautiful, not so massified by hordes of visitors and has beautiful romantic gardens around to go for a stroll, I would undoubtedly point for a visit to The Marble Temple.

The temple itself is not very big once you enter, but one of the most beautiful ones you can see in Bangkok. If I remember correctly foreigners must pay a small fee entrance, but that might depend on the mood of the staff/security people around. After you have visited the main patio of the temple and marveled with its architecture and the statues around, it is time to have some well-deserved ice coffee and go for a stroll in the well-maintained garden around, with a picturesque channel crossing them.

A charming destination where you do not need to spend many hours, but that surely will delight you and your date before continuing the day in some other location.

Link here:

  • Tuba bar

Another interesting bar between Thonglor and Ekkamai area. Tuba bar has a very special “kitsch” decoration all over the walls and on the tables, a great selection of local Thai craft beers and an adjacent weed dispensary for those who want to stimulate their brains with the “good green stuff” (remember that cannabis sales are legal in Thailand right now).

A great place to bring a date for first time, for sure not a boring environment!

Link here:

  • Night train market Srinagarindra

Another “semi-hidden gem” of Bangkok is this amazing night market. You can see some foreigners roaming around, but the crowd is mostly composed of local Thai people. A huge area where you can find cozy bars with live music, shops, handicrafts, seafood restaurants and a lot of vintages and secondhand clothing.

I have purchased there in the last years amazing music vinyl, old Super Famicom cartridges and awesome t-shirts and manga figures for an excellent price. But also, beware that shops tend to change and close quickly in Thailand, so sometimes can happen that the place where you buy something a few months before is never to be found again a few months later.

The atmosphere is very chilled, some areas have a hippie vibe, and some areas have some rock music blasting from small speakers, but in general is a great location to explore, where you can see from amazing vintage American cars to cool motorbikes to souvenirs to be purchased for dirt cheap prices. And when you feel tired, the offer to chill with some good drinks/food is amazing. Totally recommended place to have a great first date experience in Bangkok!

  1. Iron balls cocktail bar

One last tip if you want to go to enjoy a fancy drink at night in Bangkok. Iron Balls cocktail bar offers a fantastic “steam punk” asthetics decoration and delicious cocktails where you can start or end the night. As many of the cool fancy cocktail bars around Asoke, Phrong Phong, Thonglor and Ekkamai areas, its prices are not cheap, but it sets you on a great fantastic vibe for the rest of the night to be a huge success. Visit it if you have the chance!

Besides, the name of the place is an open invitation for naughty jokes, right? 

Link here:

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My 20 favorite movie scenes

Oh cinema! The art that has given us so many hours of entertainment, the pleasure to feel emotions through the screen and cry, laugh and empathize with the characters!
These are my personal 20 favorite and most memorable movie scenes, in no particular ranking order, that are kept in my mind as unforgettable ones. Share in comments which ones are yours! Do you share any of these ones or what others are your personal favorite ones?

20. Final shooting in “Road to Perdition”

Tom Hank‘s performance, the amazing picture of the scene under the rain, Paul Newman’s final words… I get goosebumps every time I see this one:

19. Jesus can roll in “The Big Lebowski”

The man, the legend, the… Jesus! What a scene in slow motion from one of the most iconic John Turturro‘s character!

18. The chicken scene in “Schindlers List”

So many memorable scenes in this movie that is difficult to choose just one, but my pick will go to this one, where the brutality of war, the irony and the intelligence to survive are masterfully combined:

17. Something forgotten it is in your beer, in “Memento”

What a fabulous script and what a direction by Christopher Nolan, and what great performances by Guy Pierce and Carrie Ann-Moss! But be careful what you drink, buddy!

16. Omaha beach scene in “Saving Private Ryan”

Probably the most realistic, shocking and brutal war scene ever filmed in cinema history by the genius Spielberg:

15. Tears in the rain – “Blade Runner”

Ruger Hauer delivering one of the most iconic monologues in the history of cinema to Harrison Ford, you cannot ask much more than this…

14. The gang is united till the end in “Toy Story 3

There is no way I can see this scene without some tear escaping my eyes. A gang of animated toys showed us what unconditional friendship is about:

13. What a loving relationship is about in “Up”

We are not done with animation movies that shred a tear. This next one could go as the best ever scene made in any animation movie in history. What a mix of beautiness and sadness the masterminds of Pixar delivered at the start of “Up” movie:

12. The grief of Don Corleone in “The Godfather”

Marlon Brando‘s interpretation of Vito Corleone will go down the cinema history. Here you can see why, in this amazing scene of his grief from a lost killed son:

11. Pen scene in “Casino”

How can you be the smallest and at the same time the scariest guy in a room? Well, ask Danny DeVito about it and he will kindly explain it to you writing it carefully with a pen on you skin…

10. Shootout in “Miller’s Crossing”

We started our list with Tom Hank‘s handling the machine gun like a ghost of death, but has the song of death from a Thompson ever been displayed more beautifully as in this historical scene?

9. Bank robbery shootout in “Heat”

And if we have to remember another memorable scene of shootouts, here is this one from Heat, probably no shootout scene in cinema history has ever had the most realistic, defying and shocking sound as this one:

8. Laser sable fight in “The Phantom Menace”

As a die hard Star Wars fan, I could have completed the list with iconic moments from the saga, but here is my favorite one, something we had never seen before, 2 Jedi masters versus a Sith holding 2 sable swords… the choreography, the music, the epic of the encounter…

7. A final surprise in “Usual Suspects”

This one could very well be considered the most epic twist in the history of recent cinema. What a cherry on top of the cream for such an epic movie and such an epic cast!

6. Nobody puts Baby in the Corner in “Dirty Dancing”

Summer is gone, love seems lost… until Patrick Swayze enters the room and delivers one last epic dance. Brings you back to those times that were the times of your life…

5. The real William Munny shows up in “Unforgiven”

What a powerful performance by Clint Eastwood here. When the old killing machine wakes up on revenge of his old friend, they get to know whom they are messing around:

4. To read about life is not the same as living life in “Good Will Hunting”

I recently spent 10 days at hospital while my Dad was slowly abandoning this world, so it is difficult for me not to cry with this masterful speech by Robin Williams “…because the doctors could see in your eyes that the terms “visiting hours” don’t apply to you…” What a scene!

3. Balrog vs Gandalf in “Lord of the Rings”

Because we all need a friend like Gandalf when the most terrifying creature in Middle Earth decides to wipe us on a bridge. A scene that captures the essence of the book masterfully!

2. Opera to give hope in “Shawshank Redemption”

Shawshank Redemption is my favorite movie ever. A Masterpiece from start to finish. Here is my favorite scene from the movie, a little jewel full of defiance, beauty and hope:

1.Final Scene in “The last of the Mohicans”

This scene compresses to me what cinema is about. Impossible not to be touched by the display of emotions here: the tremendous and powerful music, the sacrifice, the fight, the love… These are minutes of pure CINEMA.

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Glasgow Elite Men Road Cycling World Championship 2023 – The best classic of the year?

2023 is a year that has given again outstanding performances in this “golden” age that we are lucky to experience nowadays: The victories of Van der Poel in Milan-San Remo or Paris Roubaix, Evenepoel‘s exhibitions in Liege-Bastogne-Liege or San Sebastian Classic, Pogacar epic win in Tour de Flandes and his epic battles with Vingegaard in Tour de France, Roglic winning in the last time trial the Giro de Italia against the combative old lion Geraint Thomas… and on and on.

But oh, what we were able to see in Glasgow a few days ago was, maybe, the best classic one single race of the year 2023 and one that will be in the memory of cycling fans for years to come (I only remember enjoying a World Championship so much many years ago, the WC in Colombia, with Olano, Indurain and Pantani in the podium after a grueling and super exciting mountain course).

We leave you here the video if you want to watch again this historical event, and we give you some of the analysis of the race:

  1. The course
    It was criticized by many fans and riders alike, but in the end you have to give to the organization that the course track was perfect for entertaining. With no long climbing, but with explosive obstacles disseminated in a very technical circuit with a lot of turns left and right, this race looked almost like a cyclocross race on asphalt. Positioning was the key if riders wanted to have a chance to win in the end, cause recovering positions was really really complicated.
  2. The riders’ attitude
    It is an old saying in professional cycling that the hard a day race is depends more on the riders than on the course itself. Here in Glasgow we saw fireworks from the favorites from… 150 kms to the finish line! Alaphilippe attacking, strong teams like Denmark or Italy trying to break hostilities from the first laps in the circuit, attacks from big names like Van der Poel, Evenepoel, Pogacar, Pedersen with 100 kilometers to go… it was a marvellous madness of a race in an age where so many times spectator has to wait to the last kilometers to see some action happening.
  3. Italy is always there
    They might not have always the strongest riders, although Trentin (sadly out cause of a crash) or Bettiol were serious contenders, but you cannot deny their compromise and their attitude as a team. They attacked when needed to attack, they worked great as a formation and Bettiol’s sneaky attack was just one lap away from giving him the victory.
    The same cannot be said of other teams like Spain, pretty much disappeared without options most of the race, or even the great favourites, Belgium itself, where the team seemed fractured most of the race between defending the interests of Wout van Aert and Evenepoel trying to win his second WC in a row.

    4. The big names do not disappoint

    Van der Poel: He has shown in 2023 that he is probably the strongers classic races rider in the world nowadays. He has learnt how not to waste too much energy through the race and improved tactically to the point that the spots where he launches the final attacks are perfect. And of course, all that backed up with the incredible explosive power that his legs are able to carry. He was the strongest rider of the day, and not even a crash in the final kilometers could deprive him of a well deserved victory

    Pogacar: If you like professional cycling, you have to like Tadej Pogacar. A man not afraid to compete and give everything both in 3 weeks races or in the most demanding classics of the year. To his disadvantage, he had to spend too much energy reacting to attacks way too far from the finish line, and in the last 2 laps he recognized that he was already suffering. But in any case, it is always a big show to see him race and attack. He does not leave anything left in his tank, and the bronze medal is a more than fair reward to his attitude and talent.

    Wout van Aert: Again another silver medal for his collection. And again the feeling for many fans that, even when Van Aert is one of the biggest cycling talents arousing in the last years, he is wasting too many good chances to achieve more remarkable victories year after year. In Paris Roubais was an unfortunate puncture at the end of the last pave section. Today he just lacked the legs to follow Van der Poel in his decisive attack. For many other riders, a silver would be a fantastic result, but for Van Aert, the bittersweet feeling of another great chance missed is there. We hope that some day we can see him wearing the rainbow jersey. His talent deserves it.

    Evenepoel: it is true that with such a technical track, Evenepoel did not have it easy to repeat victory in Glasgow. But from the favorites, his performance was certainly the most surprising. He got himself cut several times from the lead bunch due to bad positioning, then when it seemed like he did not have the legs, he performed a couple of strong attacks, and then again he got cut and gave up on pursuing… For much that he is one of the most talented riders out there, explosive, maybe the best time-trial specialist in the world, and a pleasure to see him attacking faraway, he should improve still a lot on his mental focus if he wants to be a consistent winners against the strongest opponents out there.
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Ho Chi Minh – Travel tips and hidden gems of Saigon

Sadly, during the last 3 years living in Singapore and Bangkok, I could not fulfill the dream of most expats in South East Asia: to travel around the region. Luckily, now that restrictions have eased up and traveling has reignited (although flight prices are in general more outrageously higher than what they used to be in the pre Covid era), it was time for my first visit to Vietnam. Destination: Ho Chi Minh, a pearl to discover the essence of Saigon.

It is advisable that depending on your nationality, you check if there is the need to apply for a visa before your flight. Vietnam allows visa free entry to some nationalities and some others not. In my particular case, being Spaniard, we are allowed a stay of no longer than 15 days for tourism with no need of applying and paying for any special visa.

Preparations for the trip

For flights, I tend to use Skycanner search engine and for hotels, Hotels in Saigon go in a wide array of price ranges, but you can get a nice one with a good location relatively cheap if you pay attention. I always like reading the reviews of previous users, especially filtering by the recent ones, to have a clear idea of the place I am getting into.

My choice of stay was Singita Saigon Boutique Hotel, located in district 1. Nothing luxurious but clean and tidy, with friendly hotel staff and in a very easy location that allowed me to go walking to many of the sightseeing main spots quite easily. Besides, on my last day, as my flight back to Bangkok was late in the evening, paying a small extra fee, they allowed me to stay until the evening in the hotel room. Even if you do not want to do that, they still offer the chance to take a shower when you want to refresh before going to the airport, so extra kudos for the kindness to them!

Arriving in the city

The international airport of Tan Son Nhat is not far from the city center. Expect some traffic, but in any case, if your place of stay is located in any of the central districts, you should arrive at your destination in 30 minutes or less.

I pre booked a taxi so they would pick me up more comfortably as my arrival time was a bit late in the evening, but if you are tight on budget, you can also order a Grab Taxi from the airport and it will be a cheaper option. In general, I advise you to install Grab app. as you can easily use it in many cities in South East Asia (although it is true that in Bangkok the prices have been raising in the last year). Still, in Ho Chi Minh, most of my rides, when a destination was far away to walk to, were costing 5 euro or less. Quite a bargain, especially if you share the cost with travel partners.

I also recommend doing a bit of investigation when you arrive in the new city and have some spots listed that you want to visit during the next few days. I stayed a total of 4 days in Ho Chi Min, and had more than enough time to see the main highlighted spots that I wanted to see.

Things to see:

  • Cafes

If you are a coffee lover, you are really gonna love Saigon. There are so many cafes and restaurants around, and the Vietnamese there really seem to love the coffee culture, always accompanied by delicious cakes and snacks. When I arrive in a new city, I love walking around and then resting and having a good coffee when I feel a bit tired after a long stroll. The city center is perfect for this. Some nice places I visited during my stay that I recommend:

La Viet Coffee Saigon

Charming cafe with free wifi and nice sandwiches. I visited there on my way to Xa Loi Temple and enjoyed sitting on its terrace. Nice variety of cold and hot coffees, and you could see a big crowd of IT nomads around there.

Paris Baguette

Big cafe with a nice cozy terrace on the upper floor. Big selection of bakery to enjoy while having your caffeine dose.

  • Churches

Cha Tam Church

Beautiful yellow church. When I visited it was very quiet so pretty much entering inside, I had all the church for myself. Worthy to see

Tao Dinh Church

Absolutely beautiful pink colored church. The bad side is that it was closed when I tried to visit, so my only chance was to snap a few pictures from outside.

Notre-Dame de Saigon Cathedral

Nice to walk around, but currently it was undergoing renovations so it did not look so spectacular from outside. In any case, nice to visit as then you can also see nearby the bookshops street and the old Post Office

  • Temples

Ten thousand Buddha Pagoda

One of the hidden gems in the city and I absolutely loved visiting it here. When you face the building, it looks almost like a normal housing building, but when you enter, the more you climb the stairs, the nicer the temple looks, with a gorgeous last floor that could serve as a background for a videogame scene. Do not miss this one!

Giac Lam Buddhist temple

Apart from the beautiful main pagoda, the complex allows you to visit different temples with a lot of charm and nice statues. Another must see if you visit Saigon!

  • Museums

War Remnants Museum

It displays outside its main building a nice collection of war machines from the Vietnam War era: planes, tanks, motorboats. Inside the exhibitions are really interesting, but beware that they are not for sensitive stomachs, many of the photos displaying death, torture and the cruelty of the war can cause a deep impression in your mind. And obviously, the whole tone of the museum is clearly very Anti American. Very interesting to see, but think if you are ready mentally for the content displayed inside, cause it can sour your day.

Ho Chih Minh City Museum

Very interesting displays about the city history inside, and you also have a small collection of war machines in the gardens outside. It seems to be a favorite place for the young local ladies to snap millions of photos and selfies of themselves, which can be slightly annoying when you want to see the exhibitions in peace, but still recommended and easy to access in the city center.

Reunification Palace

I put this one in the Museum category as it is pretty much the function that remains nowadays of the old Government Palace. Very picturesque garden outside, with some old war tanks displayed in the gardens, and interesting halls inside.

Shopping souvenirs

You can buy a lot of small souvenirs around for a decent price, bargaining a bit is recommended as they will try to give you the tourist price. I especially liked buying some presents at the Saigon Kitch shop. It had many interesting items mixing the Vietnamese flavor with Western popular culture characters.

Nightlife and Dating

I really did not go out so much during the night, as my goal was more to visit the city during the daytime. However I discovered a very cool cocktail bar with a very friendly waiter and delicious cocktails that I consider another hidden gem in the city:

Nightcap Saigon – Cocktail Bar

If you are a single male looking for some dating and female company, be aware of your surroundings. Many girls look gorgeous, but a big majority will be freelancers trying to get your money. The same applies if you use dating apps like Tinder, a lot of freelancers or girls who have some “professional” intentions like serving you as tourist guide. So pay attention and filter very well before meeting anybody.

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When Finns exceptionally scream

Defining Finns as maybe the most socially awkward society in Europe would certainly be not very far from reality. Known for their introverted and shy behavior, one also has to love them after time spent among them when discovering their honesty, transparency and straightforwardness.

Although in many situations, being surrounded by Finns could resemble the attendance to a funeral due to the absolute silence around, legend says that people heard Finns screaming in exceptional situations such as:

1. When someone leaves the sauna door open.
2. When Finland wins the Hockey World Championship.
3. When Finland loses against Sweden in the Hockey World Championship.
4.When reindeers block the road
5.When at any concert of any band, someone asks to play “Paranoid” (including even in a Black Sabbath concert)
6.When you are the co-pilot of a rally car and a stone goes up your ass.
7.At a night bus at 4:00 a.m. returning home from a bar.
8.Belonging to the Choir of Screaming Men of Oulu.

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R.I.P. David Bowie

Today one of the greatest artists of the last century, David Bowie, passed away at the age of 69.

I had the luck to see him for first and last time performing live during the year 2004 at Provinssirock festival in Finland. A very fun festival with great environment. Being 24 years old, as you can imagine, the fun was just equally enjoying the music and also the booze and pretty girls around. It was a rainy weekend, but when Bowie appeared on stage the sun appeared on the horizont.

Lizard Dusk

I was not even a huge David Bowie fan at that time, knew a few of his famous songs, but I was at that point more into hard rock and epic heavy metal. However, Bowie not only captivated me, but the whole audience. His charisma on stage was unbelievable, joking with the audience, moving like the star he was, making everybody have a great time putting the cherry on top of the cake to a superb weekend of music. I can certainly say after many years, many concerts and many artists checked live after that night, that Bowie was probably the artist that most unexpectedly blew my mind when I saw him first time live.

Few days after that concert Bowie’s health got worse and he never stepped on stage again, although recently he had released a new album. However, his music and his memories will remain among us. In the years to come, I will always remember with a smile on my face that I was there, I saw the man with the million faces on stage making the audience fall in love. And that piece of memory will remain. Rest in piece Ziggy!

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“Choke”, probably the best documentary on MMA ever made

Nowadays Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a well recognized sport that provokes admirationa nd moves a good amount of money and fans around the world. Right at my office we can have a discussion with my co-workers about Ronda Rousey´s defeat or Emelianenko coming back from retirement like if we would be talking about the latest football match. UFC is a big organization in USA, you can see reality shows in TV channels where future fighters are getting prepared to go pro, the fighters are multidisciplinary athletes that can both perform great standing up, kicking, punching or going to the ground and working on submission techniques…

But if we take a look back not so many years ago, mixed martial arts were pretty much unknown to the great sports public and most of people who had heard about it would consider it a brutal activity done by some crazy violent people. The Gracie family was one of the pioneers to expand MMA to the big audience, and at the same time promote their Gracie Brazilian Jiu Jitsu style, and Rickson Gracie was the jewel of the crown for the family, never officially defeated in any fight before.

What “Choke”, a documentary shot during a Vale Tudo fighting tournament in Japan in 1995 and released in 1999, shows is a period where mixed martial arts was growing and in development, where the fighters were still not so well rounded in multiple disciplines but were more defending their different styles of fighting and where you could see a more brutal way of fighting than nowadays, where the rules are much more measured. At that time, pretty much everything except of hitting the genitals of the opponent would be allowed between fighters.

“Choke” counts with a wide array of memorable moments for the spectator. Apart from the usual and a bit boring ranting from Gracie family members always self promoting their style, you see the real Rickson gracie backstage between fights. The documentary revolves about his figure: masculine, handsome, dominant. But he also shows that outside that facade, he is also like the rest of the fighter human, nevous before a fight, sometimes humble, sometimes big-mouthed.

As some mythical scenes and moments to remember we can see Rickson godalike enjoying the energy of the freezing water under a cascade in a Japanese river, his umbelievable training and movement of his abdominal muscles like they would not belong to his body (maybe you remember to have watched exactly the same if you saw “The Hulk” movie with Edward Norton training with Rickson in Brazil), the recognition in front of the camera of holding the rule not to have sex with his wife 2 weeks prior a fight, the moment at the fighting venue when he surprises his brothers telling he literally needs to take a crap seconds before having to go to the arena to fight, Rickson throwing Yamamoto during his first fight out of the ring noticeably pissed off at him for holding on the ropes all the time, his cat flip on the air during his fight with Kimura (his son Rockson, sadly deceased years after this documentary on a motorbike accident, commenting in the dressng room that he saw him flying like Superman) the moment before the final of the the fight when suddenly he says he wants next time to get a belt as a champion instead of a trophy…

Choke Rickson Gracie

The show however gets partially stolen from Rickson by the other finalist of the fighting tournament, the small but brave Japanese Yuki Nakai. A small wrestling specialist that subsequently will lose the vision in one eye due to his fight with Gerard Geordeau (who will pass to the history as one of the dirtiest MMA fighters ever stepping onto a ring) who soccer kicked him on the head and gouged on his right eye. Nakai shows a total lack of concert about his own health, and as a true samurai, challenges guys double his size. He also became a legend by hiding for years that this tournament provoked him to be blind in one eye for the rest of his life just to protect the reputation of mixed martial arts. On favour of Rickson Gracie, we have to say that he avoided as much as possible punching Nakai on the face and moved the fight just to a grappling match.

The documentary is not the best technically shot, neither has the best structure or dialogues. But nowadays you cannot deny is an instant classic to understand the roots of MMA sport. And the best is that is fully available for free in Youtube to watch. Enjoy:

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Huominen on Huomenna. Finnish music MTV style…

Not sure what I find more distorted in this video, if the portray of Finland as being in a beach in Brazil or Spain with drunk Finn brainless wannabe cool teenages on a spring break… or Anna Abreu showing boobies…

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Kids Rock in Finland… if they have the money to pay for it

There is a series of concerts aimed at Finnish kids called KidsRock! that is touring around the biggest cities of the country, ending in the capital the 2 of December with artists that the younger (and not so younger) of the families get crazy about such as Antti Tuisku, Anna Abreu or Anna Puu.

A great initiative, until I checked the list of prices and realized that the tickets for children below 15 years old were 19 euro. Not really the most affordable price for kids who supposedly do not have any source of income yet apart from asking money from their parents, isn´t it?

Winnie goes to jail

So Finland seems to love that their children love rock…as far as they pay. Not a good example? Check then this recent case of a 9 years old girl whose house was visited by the Finnish police because she downloaded some songs from her favorite singer Chisu (a singer I also love too, by the way).


The mental image of a big Finnish policeman leaving the house carrying the Winnieh the Pooh laptop seems more proper of the sick imagination of a drunk stand up comedian than of the duties that the officers in charge of protecting law and order should be performing in Finland. Not the first case when you see police resources wasted. Check in the streets if you are some day lucky some public demonstration with 20 pacific demonstrators and 50 policemen sorrounding them, or how it seems to be needed 100 officers located in a space of 50 square metres to check in customs area the cars that come from Tallinn or make alcohol tests to drivers at the weekends… Meanwhile this is happening, you could perfectly walk outside some bar areas at night sorrounded by agressive drunkards with no police office in sight…

Let the children enjoy their music in peace… and please, also cheaply. And let´s encourage the police to do their job in a meaningful way that matters, not just chasing shadows. If I would be a father, I `d be kind of scared to let my child go to Kaapelitehdas concert in December in case the police decides to raid the place…

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Pedro Delgado – the romantic ideal of the everyday Spanish hero

I am a great fan of cyclist competitions since I was a little child, basically since I have memory I remember following on TV the heroic acts of the Spanish competitors in the hot summer evenings during Tour de France competition.

This evening there was a day in cyclist history to be remembered, a great victory by the Spanish champion Alberto Contador who threw an attack like in the good old times, many kilometers away from the final line, over his also Spanish opponent “Purito” Rodriguez. A very emotional victory for Contador just after his comeback to the big competition (he was involved in a very unclear case of doping too complicated to explain here). And also not forgetting the loser, “Purito” behaving like a gentleman and a true sportsman in a very bitter day.

Pedro Delgado

One of the commentators in the Spanish national TV channel is another great ex-champion, actually the one I grew up following to: Pedro Delgado, nicknamed “Perico” for the whole Spanish nation during the 80s and beginning of the 90s.

Delgado could symbolize very well the Spanish nation. A short average looking guy, friendly always, with great skills to climb but also eager to do crazy amazing unexpected attacks and with a touch of drama and passion revolving around all his actions and circumstances on the road and outside the road, able to lose time in the most stupid way arriving himself late to the beginning of the first stage of Tour de France one year later he would have won, that being among one of his most famous anecdotes.

I had the pleasure to meet and interview “Perico” more than 10 years ago, when I was just a journalist student in Madrid. They proposed us to try to interview to whoever person or idol we would have, and I did not hesitate to contact him. We met and chatted in a restaurant near his home in Segovia, a town not far from Madrid where he is still a legend (actually he remains as one of the most beloved sportsman in Spain).

Not every day one can meet his idol face to face, and I was a bit nervous. But when Delgado appeared on his bike at the door of his restaurant and started to joke about how hard was to climb that mountain, I instantly felt that the image of great guy he exhales on TV was actually how he really is. We talked for almost 2 hours about his career while the owner of the restaurant could not believe that “Perico” was just there, asking us to take some photographs altogether at the end of the interview, and of course inviting us for free to all the drinks and food… interviewing a legend has its little privileges…

George Orwell used to account in his memories of the Spanish Civil War how the Spaniards were horrible about planning war, being on time, taking discipline… but how they were so good about making a visitor feel welcome and sharing everything they had and enjoying the little things of life to the fullest.

Now it seems that internationally there is talk about Spain only in a negative side due to the economical crisis (and yeah, our Mediterranean temper seems to affect us negatively in trying always to cheat the system and break the rules), but I would also like to pinpoint that, similar to these amazing cyclists, the Spanish every day men and women, those anonymous heroes that try to make the ends reach with microscopic salaries and huge loans, are also full of joy, a romantic touch of craziness and stubbornness in lost causes and a philosophy of not taking life too seriously and sometimes making fun of everything themselves. As another great writer, William Shakespeare, said “All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players”.

Pedro Delgado. Tour de France 1988

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Stories of the backstage. Press passes are not candies.

From time to time, there is always some friend who knows that I work as editor and freelance journalist and I have the good luck to cover some great gigs and festivals, mainly in Finland, who asks me the same question: “Hey, and could you get me also a free press ticket?”

They tend to forget that press passes are not delivered like candies. Usually you (still) need to work as a journalist. You need to have arranged interviews or reviews of the events, and deliver the content once you assisted. Often you miss the best concerts in the festival while you are making your interviews in the backstage, far from where the action is happening, and for a person having a small publication like I have; many times even the editor in chief will end up with empty hands. Organization can have a limited number of press tickets, the artists themselves decide to give only to the big media, or simply they do not trust on you if they do not know you and you think you are just another of the millions of bloggers around.

Press passes

So no, press passes are not easy to get, they are not just a VIP free invitation delivered to your group of friends. Only a few times you can have the luck to count with a photographer to cover a concert with you, which on the other hand is nice if you go alone to a gig, because otherwise tends to be boring if you do not know anybody around and you are just waiting for your turn to make the interview.

So what can people expect in that mystified media area in the festivals of Finland, behind the fence, where only a few humans can have access under the gaze of the security guys? Well, most of the times… nothing special. Usually the journalist has to pay for the drinks at exactly the same price than outside the media area. Finland is a small country, so people who work in the media industry usually know each other and assist to the same concerts, clubs and parties. So most probably they will have a good time getting drunk together and remembering past battles and anecdotes while you sip your drink in a corner and from time to time they look at you wondering who the hell that foreigner is. On the other hand, if you have friends around, it can be fun. A few advantages is that usually you do not have to wait for long queues at the portable toilets and maybe you can order a drink faster than in the bar outside where the rest of the people queues for eternal minutes. Also if you are lucky, sometimes you can get some free merchandise like a free CD from some band performing.

And no, do not get mistaken again. The press pass that allows you to the media area is not the same than having an all area access pass. So you are not going to be mingling much with the artists, unless that they want to go out and drink with some friends who happen to be journalists or marketing people from their record company.

So as you see, on the other side of the fence, there is not so much glamour as you could expect ;not many wild stories of wild sex with groupies, drugs and tones of booze. That does not mean that sometimes cannot be fun. Artists are usually bored backstage before or after their concerts, so it has happened a few times than after the interview we would enjoy a great conversation and drinks together. I remember having quite too many drinks with the guys of Black Lips long time ago at Provinssirock, or how friendly and gentle Ginger (the leader of The Wildhearts and nowadays part of Michael Monroe´s band) was at the backstage at Rabarock in Estonia as well as how enjoyable was to talk to the Portuguese Moonspell during their visit to Tuska festival in Helsinki some years ago, or how I continued the night partying with the guys of Lovex after their gig in Tammerfest, especially with his great bass player Jason.

But still no, usually if you want crazy stories about rock bands and backstages, you`d better have to read some Neil Strauss´s books to find them. And no, I still will not get a free press pass for you!

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Vincent Chase vs. Hank Moody

Well, obviously in the last couple of years, TV series have gained a lot of quality, popularity and budget (thanks in great part to the appearance of HBO channel). While when I was a child, the humor on the TV series was more related to theatrical situations, nowadays it is raw, sexy and closer to a Hollywood movie than any other thing.

Relationships and sex have a key role in some of the most successful series of the last years. Is there any young woman who does not list Sex and the City among her favorite TV series in any social network lately? Women and series for women have gained more and more space in the schedule of the big major channels, with the major companies wisely realizing that they are probably the most powerful sector at home (who controls the remote controller, controls the world indoors).

Adrian Grenier

However, because I cannot deny I am a man, I prefer to watch more “masculine” series (not meaning that those series are just for men and women, but certainly they have different target audiences in the producer’s minds). The ones that lately have caught my attention are Californication and Entourage.
I am not going to explain here the plot of every one of those, if you don´t know them, because you can easily check them out in Internet. But among other things, both series share a couple of features: they are full of beautiful women, and they both have characters that seem to get more pussy than George Clooney and Brad Pitt together: Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and Hank Moody (David Duchovny).

Honestly, although I do not complain about the abundant beautiful female presence in both series, it is not one of the main reasons I like them (although obviously I neither complain). I like series with good script, humor and a lot of winks and references to music and cinema; some things that the scriptwriters there had been able to create wonderfully, apart from choosing a great cast. Some of the secondary actors in Entourage like Kevin Dillon or Jeremy Piven are just awesome.

However, although both main characters, Chase and Moody, are always surrounded by beautiful women, there are quite a few differences between both of them. I feel like Moody could be like an older brother or a young cousin that you know it will be fun to go out with to a crazy trip, party or holiday. Even if he naturally attracts women, he is intelligent enough to make everybody have a good time, and apart from the good looks, he always has a witty comment and sarcasm. He does not need to get laid, but basically that makes him get laid.

David Duchovny

However, Chase is the typical pretty boy who has not read more than 10 books in his life, but has been favored by the gods having great looks and a puppy gaze that uses to “seduce”. Well, he basically does not need to seduce, women just throw themselves at him, and he just needs not to fuck the situation up keeping quiet. It is true that he is caring with his friends and not always shelfish, but he has those strange changes of moods proper of stars that sometimes do not live in the real world. While Moody would become a great experienced partner to hang around, Chase would be the typical case of the “pretty boy” of the gang of friends who would end up making out in the back door with the girl you had been dreaming about all night. But he is so charming that you would forgive him next morning.

Which one do you prefer as a comrade, partner in crime or potential lover, Moody or Chase?

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Game of Thrones – Will George R.R. Martin finish the saga of Song of Ice & Fire?

The first season of the TV series Game of Thrones is over. Yes, I confess, I am also a fan. I was already a fan of the books before the series started, so as many others, I was expecting it with joy and fear. And the result, I must say, has been superb! Congratulations to HBO, because it was not an easy task to comprise the first book in just 10 hours (10 chapters of 1 hour), and they did an amazing job with a great script, decoration and cast.

Of course, there will be always fans that won´t be totally happy with everything. Some complained that the werewolves were not much shown, others that there were important scenes cut, etc. I think that all in all, you cannot ask for much more in a TV adaptation of such a twisted saga of books. The cast was mostly nailed (maybe I am not totally satisfied with Catelyn Stark, but well…) and the extra scenes added that did not appear in the book, such as the fight between Jamie and Edward Stark, did really give some extra value there. Besides, the intro is one of the best I have ever seen in cinematographic history, and the soundtrack really gets you hooked, I already have the intro song as ringtone in my mobile phone ;)


Now the sad part is that we will have to wait for another year for the second season, that it is reported to being shot in Ireland this summer. The task becomes bigger and bigger, the plot in the books gets more diversified, with more characters added, more magic, more important situations that are keyword to understand for what is coming next… Will HBO be able to pull the rabbit out of the hat again? It is a difficult question, taking into account that more special effects will be needed. And even more important, how would it develop in the series, as in the 4th and 5th book, they narrate the story of only half of the characters? Will the fans have to wait one year for example if this reaches season 4 to see later what Tyrion is up to?

Questions with no answers yet, for the moment we will have to pray that at least the series continue offering the same level of quality. And if somebody can do it, those are the guys of HBO, who by the way also deployed a super official site for the series, sometimes even offering the chapters to see fully for free there.
I had the chance to interview the author of the books, George R.R. Martin, a couple of summers ago, during his visit to Tallinn. And I have to say I have a bittersweet memory of the encounter. First, he held a meeting with the fans, and was all sympathy and jokes. Somebody asked about the possibility of he not finishing the saga, and he just joked that he was keeping at a safe distance of the buses. But when I repeated politely the question in the interview, he was quite cold about it. And let´s be honest, it is the question that everybody is wondering about. We wish George a long happy life, but he is not a child anymore, and the last book had continuous delays. My interview took place in summer 2009, and he said that the new 5th book, A Dance with Dragons, would be released that September. Well, it has been released just some weeks ago, 2 years after he announced that. And magically, it happens to be released at the same time that the TV series first season is over.

Was the book ready for 1 or 2 years, and they preferred to have the marketing strategy of making the fans wait, to take more advantage for the sales of the heat of the TV series? It looks like, which was not very polite and considered for the fans that had been years waiting for an update in the saga.

George R.R. Martin in Tallinn

Martin also dedicated himself in the middle of the interview to sign books that were on the table, which I do not consider a very polite gesture towards the interviewer. He has been journalist himself, so should have a better notion about these things. And the cherry on top of the cream came when at the end of the interview, his wife came very angrily to tell me she had not liked the question about his future and the possibility that he would not finish the saga, and I should erase it from the interview. Martin was a few meters away, and he did not open his mouth to try to smooth the situation.

Was it not polite to ask him? Well, it is what all the fans are wondering about, and I only asked if he had any other author in mind that he would like to continue his saga if for any reason he could not finish it (does it ring a bell the unfortunate death of Robert Jordan and his amazing Wheel of Time saga?). It shocked me that they showed their best friendly face to the fans who asked the same things, and then with me, a journalist from a small media (who is basically a fan), they were so annoyed and not totally polite. Reality is the way it is, if it takes 3-4 years for him to release a new book, and there are still at least 2 to be written, what would happen when the TV series, that it is broadcasted 1 season per book, reaches the stage where the last book was published?

Good news could be that while the release of the fifth book was procrastinated, maybe Martin was already advancing the work for the 6th book. But probably nobody knows except of himself and his publicists.

All in all, I think that a fantasy and science fiction writer like him owes respect and seriousness in his work to the fans, who are the ones that made him famous and gave him money. So maybe instead of embarking in long tours around the world to have a full stomach eating well and get bathed by the adoration of masses, and assisting HBO with the series, he should do what he can do best as a one of the greatest fiction writers nowadays: to sit and write and end the saga. Millions of fans are craving for it, and they have been waiting already too long.

Game of Thrones – Trailer

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Ostrich running free in the city centre of Tartu (Estonia)

And when you thought that drunkards, skin heads, crazy students crossing the bridge and hot girls in mini skirts were the only thing to see in Tartu…

Ostrich in the city centre of Tartu