Bangkok 21K Park Run 2024

Recently, I participated in a running event called Bangkok 21K Park Run 2024. Even though the name says 21K, I participated in the 10k event, which was my third, ever.

Even though, in my last race, I had decided I would try to break the 1 hour barrier for the 10k, because of travel, excessive heat and medical issues preceding the run I was not able to prepare well. On top of that, monsoons started in Bangkok just a few days ago, so I was not sure whether the event would even take place. So, overall, I decided I would just enjoy the run without worrying about the performance.

Anyways, luck shone on us and there was no rain on the morning of the run.

Bangkok 21k Park Run 2024 starting line
Bangkok Park Run 2024 starting line

The run was in one of the most beautiful parks in Bangkok. If it wasn’t so far from here I live, I would got here regularly to run.

Bangkok 21k Park Run 2024 starting line
Bangkok Park Run 2024 starting line

The run itself was uneventful and enjoyable with great views of the park during sunrise.

Bangkok 21k Park Run 2024
Bangkok Park Run 2024

Considering I hadn’t prepared that well, I didn’t do too bad.

Bangkok 21k Park Run 2024 statistics
Bangkok 21k Park Run 2024 statistics

Will definitely do this run again next year.

Horrible Benders

I wrote about how I went sober (But eventually failed to maintain it), I wanted to reflect back on some of the worst benders I have been through. Why? Maybe just to remind myself why I shouldn’t drink like that anymore.

Below are some of my worst benders over the years:

Nagpur

man in white long sleeved shirt on red window
Photo by abhishek goel on Pexels.com

Most of my engineering days were about booze. And since I was young, the benders were not that bad. However, there are some incidents I remember.

  • This was when I was living with my senior roommates. For some reason, one day we decided to drink whiskey at 9 AM in the morning. I have never had a good relationship with whiskey, so after many pegs, while I was at Sandeep Kalia’s house, I puked in the toilet. His kindly grandmother (We called her aaji) was very concerned what was happening, but the others told her I had eaten something bad.
  • One time we went drinking at PP’s garage pub and drank too much vodka. While others were puking, I was puzzled why I was lying awake in bed and not able to sleep. This was one of the first times I realised that alcohol affects my sleep so negatively.
  • One time we were returning from a drinking session at one of the dhabas and my motorcycle got tangled in a high tension electricity cable hanging on the road and launched into the air. I remember passing out, but luckily I was back to normal next day.

Delhi & Gurgaon

grayscale photography of bottles on top of table
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Our time in Gurgaon was the first time we had freedom to do what we wanted and we had money to spend because we were earning. Sood sahib was my roommate and very frustrated with his job. So, almost every evening, he and his degenerate colleague would come over and get drunk. It didn’t help me that I worked night shifts and went to work drunk many times. However, this was not the worst part.

  • I remember we gathered together with Chatur after a long time and started pub hopping at Saket. He came all sophisticated in a car, dressed in a suit, which we found funny, but probably helped getting us into fancy places. So we got drunk on cocktails and not being satisfied enough, drank at 2 more thekas over the night. Eventually, Chatur passed out and we somehow got home. Again, I couldn’t sleep all night while Chatur was puking in a pizza box.
  • While working night shifts, it was very common for us to go drinking after our shifts. One morning, after our shift, we went drinking with Amar sir, who was famous for making “lauly (Lovely) pegs”. We were standing on the road outside DLF Phase II Central Arcade (Less than 100m from where my parents were sleeping). Since it was peak winters, we all got drunk on dark rum. My body doesn’t react well to dark rum & I don’t remember getting back home. Next afternoon, I woke up with my knees bruised and vomit all over my bathroom. Somehow, I cleaned everything up before my parents saw but felt terrible. All afternoon I drank water and Gatorade, but there was hardly any pee and it burnt when I tried.
  • We once went on an office party and Karkose (who incidentally doesn’t drink himself) suggested I drink beer buster, which is beer mixed with tabasco sauce. It felt fun drinking it then, but I couldn’t sleep all night because my chest and stomach were burning. Horrible experience.

Xiamen

Baijiu at Zhongshan Road, Xiamen
Baijiu at Zhongshan Road, Xiamen

I was drinking Baijiu at Zhongshan road with my office colleagues. It was very cold, so instead of sipping it like the others, I did shots non-stop. Big mistake! I couldn’t sleep because my chest and stomach were burning all night. I puked many times and next day the pain in my stomach was so bad, I had to see a doctor at the airport (I was travelling back to India). The doctor told me the 60% alcohol volume Baijiu had stripped my stomach of its lining and likely made ulcers. I couldn’t eat anything other than simple rice for at least a week afterwards.

I am just glad I didn’t puke in front of my colleagues.

São Paulo

happy diverse friends clinking bottles on terrace
Photo by Kampus Production on Pexels.com

I was at São Paulo for the second time and me and my colleague went drinking Caipirinhas at Eu Tu Eles. Now, Caipirinhas are one of the most deceptive drinks I have ever had. They are sweet and tasty, so it is very easy to have too many too fast without realising it. Anyway, I don’t remember how I got back to my hotel and what happened later. But next morning I woke up to find my hotel room smelling of vomit and my brain feeling like it was in a vice. I used many of the hotel towels o clean up the vomit and then hid the towels behind the AC unit on the balcony. One of the most shameful things I have ever done.

Bangkok

Once we moved to Bangkok, I discovered how cheap and easily accessible booze is. But since I have absolutely no friends here, there have not been many social occasions for me to go on benders. There have been just 3 incidents, all with office colleagues. Unlike the other incidents, I drank too much not because I was having fun, but because of peer pressure.

  • I was just visiting Bangkok and it was my farewell party. 6 of us finished many crates of beers within a few hours. I don’t remember how I got back to the hotel.
Stacks of beer bottles
Stacks of beer bottles
  • We (the wife, the kid and the dog) went to the kid’s friend’s house, whose parents are north indian. He doubted from the beginning, if me, as a Bengali would be able to drink much. To prove him wrong, I got shit-faced. Soon, I proved him correct by missing my step in the dark, losing my balance and falling into their building fountain. Again, I don’t remember how I got back home. Next day I cursed myself and promised I will never get into such a situation while out with the kid or the dog.
  • The last and most recent incident was when I went out to drink with my colleagues. 3 of us went through 8 bottles of wine in 6 hours. I came to, next day covered in bruises and my room smelling of vomit and me still drunk and stumbling about. Unfortunately, soon, the AC servicing guys came and saw the state the bathroom was in. I have never felt worse in my life than that day. My nails, my room etc all smelt of booze and I felt sick. It was truly the worst day of my life & the day I decided to give up alcohol for good.

I am still not at a stage where I can look back at all this and laugh about it. But just the act of typing all this out has strengthened my resolve to not get drunk ever again.

Kolkata: The City of (kill)joy

My family hails from Kolkata, the (supposed) grand and noble megacity. I have ranted about this city many-many times, especially during the only 1 unfortunate year in my life that I stayed here. But that was more than 15 years ago and since then, I have never stayed here more than a couple of days at best (My shortest trip was a few hours long).

Because of the holiday season in Thailand, I decided to go visit my parents for slightly longer and re-analyse this city to see what has changed.

Full disclosure: Even within Kolkata, my parents stay in an objective worse location, so my point of view may be skewed compared to people living in more affluent areas.

Nature

Kolkata is quite green, compared to other cities in India. Especially the area where my parents live, there are many trees around.

Palm Trees & Greenery
Palm Trees & Greenery

At one point of time, Kolkata was dotted with ponds & lowlands. In fact many of the neighbourhoods names end with “pukur”, which means pond. Over the years, these ponds have been paved over and lost to eternity; leaving only their namesake “paras”. However, there are still some around, in the less affluent areas.

Cleanliness

There’s no way around it; Kolkata is the filthiest city I have had the misfortune of visiting. There’s trash and filth everywhere, even the fancy neighbourhoods. No one gives 2 shits about cleanliness.

People openly spit on the streets, throw their garbage anywhere they want.

Services

If you want to get work done, Kolkata is not the right city for it. Mobile services are one example. Banking is the biggest one. I already discussed how I spent shit loads of effort doping paperwork to convert my SBI account to NRO. What came of that? Zilch. They just sent back everything without an explanation. This time, when I went there to close my account, they were quite annoyed to start their working day on a negative note of account closure.

Private banks are not much better. I required some services around my Home Loan, so I looked up “Loan servicing branches” of my bank and spent an entire morning visiting them one by one and they all refused to help me. They would either say “we can’t do this, go to xxxx branch”, or simply “We have never done this before, we don’t know how”. Eventually I did find a very good branch to assist me and my work was done.

Similarly, calling labour to your home for repair work is a nightmare with them not coming on time or not showing up at all.

One particular example. I needed to update some details on my Aadhaar card. So I looked up a list of Aadhaar processing centres across the city and went on a (seemingly) easy mission. Here’s what happened

New Alipore Useless Post Office
New Alipore Useless Post Office
  1. Attempt 1 – Hobe na (Won’t happen, no explanation given)
  2. Attempt 2 – Ekhane hoye na (This doesn’t happen here)
  3. Attempt 3 – Lok neyi (Don’t have staff)
  4. Attempt 4 – Token shesh hoye gechhe (Out of tokens)
  5. Attempt 5 – Election duty te gechhe (Gone on election duty)
  6. Attempt 6 – Kalke aashun (Come tomorrow)
Bhowanipur useless post office
Bhowanipur useless post office

Eventually, I had to go to the main office 26kms away, where my work was done reasonably fast.

Transportation

Transportation in Kolkata is a proper shit-show.

Road Transport

Kolkata people have a special affinity towards honking. Almost all the cars would start honking a few seconds before the lights turn green. Some cars even keep honking while the lights are still red. There’s honking while overtaking and especially when there’s a traffic jam. The first few nights, I could even hear the honking in my dreams.

Typical sound on Kolkata roads

If you drive your own car, it is a nightmare. People have no sense of discipline and you need to do all you can to keep yourself from getting hit. Very-very stressful experience.

One funny thing I noticed was the affinity of Kolkata Traffic Police towards road barriers.

The traffic police like to strew road barriers randomly on the streets (In the middle of major roads) with no explanation. You are driving along, minding your own business and suddenly there’s a barrier blocking your way and you either have to brake to a stop or swerve. I really don’t understand why this is. Not like the traffic is very fast here to begin with, why slow it down even further?

Random Barrier on the road
Random Barrier on the road

At traffic signals, the traffic needs to divide itself into 2 streams on the left and right sides of the barrier. Crazy.

If you decide to take a taxi, best of luck with that, too. Uber in Kolkata is notoriously bad. Every time I get a taxi, the driver calls me immediately after and tells me to cancel the trip and pay them cash. It is not even a one off incident, every time I call one, I go through 4-5 drivers who demand cash and cancel when you refuse. The cars are filthy inside and stink. The drivers also resist turning on the AC unless you keep pestering them.

The roads are also all littered with ugly billboards.

Curiously, most billboards in Kolkata are either for gold jewellery, political ads or house construction material (TMT bars, pipes etc).

Public Transport

Why use road transport you ask? Why not use public transport? Because that sucks balls, too. Kolkata people keep boasting about how they had the first metro in the country, but fail to mention how it has failed mostly into disrepair and has seen little expansion in decades.

Where else in the world can you find a metro with a frequency of 50 minutes between trains?

50 minute interval metro
50 minute interval metro

Where else in the world can you find a metro which doesn’t run on weekends? When my parents first told me about it, I thought surely they were misinformed or joking. But no, it is true.

In short, going anywhere in Kolkata is a struggle, whether you are rich or poor. We all suffer equally.

Food

Restaurant Food

Food in mid-end and high-end restaurants in India is quite costly for the value provided, but no different than the rest of India.

The good part is, there are many good restaurants and delivery is ever-present and fast.

But restaurant food is not what Kolkata is known for.

Street Food

Street food is where Kolkata really shines. It is cheap, delicious and (mostly) hygienic.

Others

Kolkata has many malls, but they compare nowhere to Delhi/Bengaluru/Mumbai mall standards.

South City Mall, Kolkata
South City Mall, Kolkata

However, the character of Kolkata lies not in the malls, but in the by-lanes.

By-lanes of Kolkata
By-lanes of Kolkata

Airport

Kolkata airport international terminal is the lousiest airport terminal I have been through. Unlike normal airports, both sides of a check in counter are named the same alphabet, but used by different airlines.

To make things more difficult for everyone, the displays above the counters don’t show flight information, but propaganda on how the airport is the “best improved” airport ever.

Guess which flight it is
Guess which flight it is

The immigration counters are sparsely staffed. When I travelled, there were 2 babus manning the counters.

The security check area has only 2 lanes.

2 lanes of security check
2 lanes of security check

The duty free section (as pcthepathfinder aptly said) looks like a stall at Pragati Maidan.

Kolkata Airport Duty Free joke
Kolkata Airport Duty Free joke
Bengali Airport Fight

Overall, I am glad to turn my back to this city and go back home.

Time Travel

Time travel has been a popular trope for decades, in books, TV shows and movies. It is not uncommon to see people going back and forth in time and being heroes (or dicks) in general. Recently I have been reading up on and thinking about the scientific aspects of it.

black and white photo of clocks
Photo by Andrey Grushnikov on Pexels.com

After doing some research and reading up various journals, here are my thoughts on time travel:

Time travel to the past

I am a firm believer of the notion that time flows in one direction and it is impossible to reverse the flow of time and “travel” into the past. As such, the various temporal paradoxes are null-and-void. It is impossible to go into the past and change what has already happened.

The biggest proof? If this was possible, someone from the future would have come to our present or past and left evidence.

What I believe you can do is “look” into the past. You can do that today when you look at distant stars. Whether you can see past events at places not far away (like earth)? I am not sure but I don’t think so.

At some level, I feel comfort in the fact that the events in the past are set in stone and cannot be changed.

Time travel to the future

I believe time travel to the future is possible, but not in the way you think. It is a well known fact that gravity and velocity influence how you perceive the passage of time. Such effects have already been observed, albeit at a small scale.

So technically, you can travel (say) 10 years into the future at the cost of only 1 year of your personal time. But, as per the previous topic, this is a one way street. When you do this, you leave behind your time forever and cannot go back.

How?

You can do this in 2 ways

  1. Travelling every fast at relativistic speeds (Special relativity) :

    Eg you can travel to earth as it will be in 200 years, if you travel 2 years at 99.995% the speed of light. However, since the closer you get to the speed of light, the higher your mass becomes, it may be impossible to accelerate a human to such speeds.

    However, lower returns, like travelling to earth 4.5 years from now at the expense of 2 years of personal time is possible at just 90% of the speed of light. At 90% of the speed of light, a 100kg mass will only increase its mass to 229.4kg.
  2. Being in close proximity to a huge gravitational well (General relativity):

    This was beautifully demonstrated in the movie Interstellar, in which, due to their close proximity to a black hole, the protagonist travels 14 years into the future from the reference frame of earth, at the expense of only 45 minutes of his personal time.

Again, none of this is science fiction; all this has been repeatedly confirmed by experiments. At this point, it is not a physics problem, but an engineering problem. Will take a few massive leaps in spacecraft propulsion technology and all this will become everyday affair.

Mathematical Predictive Time Window

You know how you can calculate (on paper) that when one billiard ball hits another, what path they both travel? You can do that with 3,4 balls, too. As you scale up, the problem becomes too difficult to calculate on paper, but computers can do this at a much higher scale already.

Now imagine a computer powerful enough to calculate/predict the path and behaviour of individual atoms. Now, if you were to build a sufficiently powerful computer that can predict the path and behaviour of all the atoms on earth, you could easily predict the future and see what is going to happen days, months and years into the future.

Similarly, if you reverse the billiard ball concept, and you measure what speed and angle each ball is travelling at, you can predict the starting position of each ball (and the cue stick). Extending this concept to extremely powerful computers, you could theoretically look back in time into the past.

The Roadblocks

There are however the following problems with this concept:

  • Measurement : Measuring the position and movement of each atom instantaneously is almost impossible, because by the time you measure them, these parameters have already changed.
  • Storage : If you were to store the data of each atom (1 bit), even with the most efficient storage mechanism, it would require a like-for-like atom in the computer. So to store the data of each atom on earth, you need at least a computer with the same number of atoms. To simulate the whole universe, you need at least another universe.
  • Free Will : All of this assumes that a living creature’s behaviour is purely a product of the neurons firing in the brains, in turn their behaviour at the atomic level. Which also assumes that everyone’s behaviour is pre-determined and there’s no such thing as free will.

SWU Run Together ‘24

Recently, I participated in a 10k running event organised by Srinakarinwirot University called SWU Run Together ‘24. It was my second 10k in Bangkok.

My last 10k didn’t go too well because my knees started seizing up around the 5km mark. Which was strange, because I regularly run more than that on Sundays without issues. So for this race, I re-evaluated my tactic. Instead of matching pace with everyone else and running slow, but consistent, I decided to run faster at my natural pace but slow myself to a walk for 50 metres every 500 metres.

Luckily, this tactic paid off and I finished the race with much better numbers than last time.

Amazing Thailand Marathon Bangkok 2023 statsSWU Run Together 2024 stats
Amazing Thailand vs SWU Run Together 2024 statistics
Amazing Thailand Marathon Bangkok 2023 splitsSWU Run Together 2024 splits
Amazing Thailand vs SWU Run Together ‘24 splits
Amazing Thailand Marathon Bangkok 2023 HR ZonesSWU Run Together 2024 HR Zones
Amazing Thailand vs SWU Run Together 2024 HR Zones

Overall, this run wasn’t as well organised as the last one (They couldn’t completely block traffic and we had to dodge between cars), but was more fun, because it included climbing up (and down) some flyovers and bridges over khlongs.

As you can see above, I finished the 10k almost 20 minutes before the last one. My heart rate also stayed consistently at the higher zones.

My only regret? Missing a sub 1 hour 10k by 48 seconds (As per the official race results; my watch started tracking early).

Maybe next time?

The shoes performed pretty well, too.

Bye Bye Alcohol!

I have had a long relationship with alcohol, full of ups and downs. When I was young, the “ups” far outweighed the “downs”. Nearing 40, that is unfortunately not true anymore. It fucks up my sleep pretty badly and the after effects get worse every year. Notably, 2 very bad recent experiences recently led me to take steps.

Many times, I have tried to drink in moderation, which is all well and good before one starts, but after a few, everything goes out the window. After wondering why I do something that causes so much grief, I decided to give up on alcohol altogether.

What Next?

The most difficult part was, I had been conditioned to hold a bottle or can while doing certain things – watching TV, sitting on my balcony. And it felt weird to do these things empty handed. So I decided to swap alcohol with non-alcoholic drinks.

Drinks, but without alcohol
Drinks, but without alcohol

So now I have stocked my refrigerator with non-alcoholic drinks. Eventually, I would wean off these, too, as they have lots of sugar. One particular drink I really like is Bundaberg Root beer. Everyone around me seems to hate them, but I can’t get over how tasty they are.

I had assumed that the hardest part would be social events, but it is much easier to tell people you don’t drink (No one tries to coerce you) than to say you want to stop drinking after a few (Come on, just one more). For pure booze events, I decline them altogether now.

As of today, 1 month sober and counting, I notice these changes in my life:

  1. I am spending less time in bed on weekends, but still waking up more refreshed and have more energy throughout the day.
  2. I am not waking up to pee in the middle of the night anymore.
  3. I have more energy while running. Especially, my weekend runs now feel much easier.

Let’s see how long it lasts.

How to handle Jet Lag

My current job requires a lot of travel & I also live in a different country than my extended family. Consequently, I have to travel frequently across time zones both east and west. Over the years, I have learnt how to handle jet lag or adjusting your body to time zone differences effectively.

Note, this is specifically for people like me who have more difficulty falling asleep than staying awake. People who can fall asleep easily but have difficulty staying awake will need different techniques.

Below are my techniques to handle jet lag in various scenarios.

Few hours east

For this scenario, I draw from my travel experiences from India to Thailand, China and Australia, which are anywhere between 1.5 to 4.5 hours east of India, or coming back east from Europe/Middle East.

When you travel east, you end up at a place where it is time to sleep earlier than usual. As such, you may find it impossible to fall sleep on time.

The trick is to not try too hard to sleep on time, but make sure to wake up on time (as per the local time), even if you haven’t slept enough. Fight the temptation to sleep in or wake up as per your home time zone even if it is a holiday. It will be difficult 1 or 2 mornings, but the sleep deprivation will eventually catch up and let you sleep early soon enough.

In most cases, I suffer only one morning and am fine after.

Summary : Don’t wake up late.

asian street with lanterns and masks
Photo by Ryutaro Tsukata on Pexels.com

Few hours west

For this scenario, I draw from my travel experiences to Europe/Middle east which are up to 5 hours west or coming back west from China, Thailand or Australia.

When you travel west, you may find yourself feeling sleepy much before it is time to sleep as per the local time zone. If you’re like me, it would be easy to push through. Just resist the temptation to sleep early. The problem would be that you may wake up very very early as per the local time zone. In most cases, I can fall back asleep and wake up at the designated hour. Even if you can’t fall back asleep and find yourself wide awake at 3 AM, just get on with your day. But as said before, resist the urge to go to sleep early the following night. After a day or 2, your body should adjust.

Summary : Don’t sleep early.

photo of santorini greece
Photo by jimmy teoh on Pexels.com

Other side of the world

For this scenario, I draw from my travel experiences to North and South America, or return from. These techniques are valid for anywhere above 8 hours of time difference.

When you travel that far, there’s no concept of early or late anymore, as everything is topsy-turvy; day is night and night is day. My trick for handling such situations is to not sleep much on the (very long) flight(s) to the destination and arrive as sleep deprived as possible. Actually I couldn’t sleep much on planes even if I wanted to. What I do is, as soon as I get on the first (of many) flights, I reject my local time zone and start following the destination time zone. The brief naps I take, I take only if it is night at the destination.

It is difficult to stay awake so long (even for me), but it works. By the time I reach the destination, I am so tired, I can sleep any time I want.

Just make sure that if you reach your destination in the morning, you shouldn’t sleep as soon as you get there, but sleep at the appropriate time at night.

Summary :

  1. Arrive at the destination sleep deprived.
  2. Don’t sleep early
  3. Don’t wake up late
narrow alley and skyscrapers behind in los angeles
Photo by Kevin Charles Macaraeg on Pexels.com

One note for all the above scenarios : Don’t overcompensate with coffee, which can make things worse. Keep your caffeine intake at your regular levels.

Running with Hoka

I have been running regularly for almost 2 years now. Below is my experience running with different Hoka shoes.

Hoka Arahi 6

Hoka Arahi 6
Hoka Arahi 6

These were my first “proper” running shoes, recommended by Ashish. Before this, I was running with very cheap shoes and suffering from constant ankle pain. Running with Hoka Arahi 6 completely solved the ankle pain problem.

However, I forgot to replace them in time, ran almost 800 km in them and the ankle pain came back. So I decided to replace them with another Hoka.

Hoka Bondi X

Hoka Bondi X
Hoka Bondi X

My first choice was to buy the same shoe yet again, but then I saw a huge discount on Hoka carbon plated shoes and decided to “upgrade” my shoes.

The first impression of carbon plated shoes is that they are completely stiff and it is impossible to bend them with your hands.

Running with the Hoka Bondi X is an experience in contradiction. Running in carbon plated shoes feels like running downhill; the boost provided by the carbon plate is noticeable instantly.

6K Run Hoka Arahi 66K Run Hoka Bondi X
Hoka Arahi 6 vs Bondi X 6 km stats
Splits with Hoka Arahi 6Splits with Hoka Bondi X
Hoka Arahi 6 vs Bondi X 6 km splits

As you can see, the Bondi X shaved off full 2 minutes from my 6K run, which is nothing to sneeze at.

The other side of the contradiction is that the Bondi X are so soft, it feels like running through molasses. Even 1km into my run, my calves and thighs felt like they were on fire.

Surely, when I do a heart rate comparison between my last Arahi 6 6K run and my first Bondi X 6K run, I see that I spent significantly more time in the upper zones.

Heart Rate 6K Hoka Arahi 6Heart Rate 6K Hoka Bondi X
Hoka Arahi 6 vs Bondi X 6 km heart rate

After a few runs, the shoes became noticeably less soft, but they still remained difficult to run in. Soon, I also started getting soreness in my knees, so just after 100km, I decided to replace them again.

Hoka Clifton 9

Hoka Clifton 9
Hoka Clifton 9

These were my third Hokas. Unlike the Bondi, these immediately felt more responsive while running, but not as much as the Arahi. I did miss the boost provided by the carbon plate, but the burning in my calves caused by the Bondi was gone. And the good part is, they have been holding up and not degrading over the past few months.

6K Run Hoka Clifton 9
6K Run Hoka Clifton 9
Splits with Hoka Clifton 9
Splits with Hoka Clifton 9

It couldn’t match the lap times of the Bondi-X but at least I didn’t feel like I should stop running, anymore.

Cities

I think at this point in my life, I can safely call myself well travelled. Although I have never been to the quintessential western cities (Like New York, London or Paris), I have been to some pretty off-beat places.

raised building frame
Photo by Peng LIU on Pexels.com

I have a job where it is quite easy to shift my base to different places. I had a few offers to move again recently, and I was conflicted about it. So recently I started making a list of ratings for various cities I have been to, based on different parameters. These parameters are only based on things that are important to me.

Below are the cities, I have been to, rated on various parameters between 1 to 10.

Some things to remember

  1. I am only including major or metropolitan cities
  2. These ratings are purely based on my preferences and observations. Does not take into account other metrics I don’ deem important to me
  3. I do not take into account finances like income or cost of living. I assume proportional income everywhere
CityInfraFoodWeatherWalkabilityHistoryFriendlyDogTotal
Istanbul81069107555
São Paulo879958955
Bangkok6910679653
Melbourne10681042950
Budapest855896950
Vienna865894949
San Francisco757857948
Prague855894948
Helsinki9521043942
Kuala Lumpur655665336
Shanghai752852231
Bengaluru178364231
New Delhi281277027
Kolkata183165226
City Ratings

Infrastructure

This is probably the first thing one notices about a city, when you enter the airport and then when you leave it.

No doubt, Melbourne is the best city in this regard I have been to. Everything is clean and perfect. The roads, buildings etc. are all as should be in a utopian society.

Although I didn’t spend too much time in Helsinki, I found its infrastructure to be top-notch, too. The heated pavements were something I had never seen or imagined.

Budapest/Vienna/Prague all rank pretty high in this regard, too and São Paulo feels just like a quintessential European city.

San Francisco is beautiful, too, but I couldn’t un-see the mounds of human feces on every street corner and the sheer amount of homeless people.

Indian cities rank lowest. Although Delhi has a pretty good metro system, that is it. Everything is filthy and unkempt. Kolkata is even worse. Bengaluru, which has a huge potential has horrible roads and no water.

Food

Food is subjective, so the ratings are purely based on my own personal preferences.

Truly, I have never had food as good as Istanbul, ever.

Bangkok comes second, because of the sheer variety of the food available here. You have cheap (but hygienic) street food vendors as well as many Michelin starred restaurants within a block of each other.

Delhi and Kolkata come next, followed by São Paulo & Bengaluru.

view of a beyti kebab dish on a white plate
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Weather and Air Quality

Weather is subjective and since I prefer warmer weather, I have rated Bangkok the highest.

Delhi and Kolkata are lowest because of the filthy air quality year round. Delhi is even lower than Kolkata because of the extreme heat during summers and unbearable (because there’s no heating anywhere) winters.

Walkability

I love walking (and street running), so walkability is important to me in a city. Perhaps it is not too surprising that these ratings mirror the ones for infrastructure as both these things are closely related.

Most cities in my list are extremely walkable, except the Indian cities, where walking on the streets is like gambling with your life. Maybe a few important ares in the cities have proper pavements, but certainly not throughout the city. To top it off, most motorcycle drivers feel free to ride on the pavements and cars try to run you down even at zebra crossings.

Historical Artifacts

Istanbul again wins hands down in this regard, being one of the oldest cities in the list and having been shaped by multiple empires.

European cities rank next, I love the thousands of years old architecture.

Most of the monuments in Delhi are a few hundred years old, but it is not difficult to find ones which are thousands of years old.

European colonised cities rank lowest, simply because they are not old enough to have significant historical artefacts, especially with the propensity of these colonisers to erase ethnic history.

brown and black mosque under white and blue cloudy sky
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Friendliness towards outsiders

These ratings are purely about how the locals treat foreigners and expats.

Bangkok rates pretty high, because Thais, with some exceptions are very friendly and welcoming people. Although, if your appearance is very different from what they’re used to seeing, expect stares. Brazilians in São Paulo are also very friendly and welcoming. Because of their multi-cultural make up, there’s no one in the world who looks “weird” enough not to fit in there.

I have already written about the Chinese here.

I found most Europeans if not outright racist, at least pretty cold towards outsiders.

Australians are the worst. Although I did meet a few friendly Australians, most of them are racist pricks.

Dog Friendliness

I admit, some of the cities in the list above I visited before I had a dog and didn’t really notice how dog friendly they were, so the rating for those cities is from internet research.

Most cities in developed countries and São Paulo are as dog friendly as can be. Dogs are allowed almost everywhere – in malls, restaurants, cafés, bars, public transport, hotels. There are very little restrictions on what the dogs can do and where they can go, because their parents have enough common sense. These cities also have public dog parks.

India is not at all dog friendly. While pets are tolerated in Bengaluru and Kolkata, there are very few places where pets can go, limited to designated pet-specific businesses. Taxis won’t agree to take you if you have a pet. The public transport is not even human friendly, so I won’t even talk about dogs.

Delhi is the worst of all. People there actually hate dogs. There are severe restrictions on having dogs even in your own homes. Dogs need to take a separate lift when going out and they can’t be walked within the society grounds.

Bangkok is somewhere in the middle. Most people love dogs. Dogs are allowed in taxis and Tuktuks , but not in metros and buses. Most restaurants/cafes and malls allow dogs in the outdoor areas on leash and indoors in a pet buggy. Some malls and restaurants allow pets freely.

Consciousness

Over the last few years, I have, more and more, been thinking about the hard problem of consciousness. What does consciousness mean? Where does it come from? What happens to it after death? With this post, I have tried to wax philosophical and give structure to my thoughts on this topic.

Overall, I think the possibilities can be summarised into the below three

Scenario 1 – Consciousness is purely a by-product of the physical structure of the brain and the neurons firing inside.

Scenario 2 – Consciousnesses is a combination of the physical structure of the brain and additionally something we cannot “see” or measure today. Some say it may be quantum phenomena. Both physical & quantum are tied to each other and cannot exist without each other.

Scenario 3 – Consciousness resides in the brain, but can free itself from the brain at death or during a Near-Death Experience. Is what most religious people call a “soul”.

Now let’s try comparing all three scenarios during hypothetical situations.

Teleportation & Consciousness

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Teleportation is a (theoretical) mechanism in which a machine reads your atomic structures at the “source” and relays it to another machine at the “destination”. Then the source machine disintegrates your body and the destination machine replicates it at the same time. Using this technique, you are supposed to instantaneously (Or at least at the speed of information transfer) travel from one place to another.

  • If Scenario 1 is true, then teleportation should theoretically work just fine. One simply enters on one side and seamlessly emerges on the other side. But if you think a bit deeper, a few paradoxes arise:

What if you don’t disintegrate the body at the source? Even better, what if you recreate the body at 2 destinations twice? Where does the person’s consciousness reside then?

Does the same consciousness exist at 2 (or more) places at the same time? Imagine the feeling.

As per me, the more likely explanation is that when you teleport, the person at the destination is not you, but a copy of you with your memories. So basically, when you undergo teleportation, your consciousness dies and a clone with your memories is born at the destination with a new consciousness.

  • If Scenario 2 is true, then teleportation will kill you at the source and just create a new body at the destination, which will be a brain-dead body. A working teleportation system will be next to impossible to develop in this scenario.
  • If Scenario 3 is true, then there’s no current theoretical basis of teleportation, but once we crack the mystery, it may turn out to be the easiest method of all. Your consciousness can easily transfer from one body to another. This is shown in many movies and TV shows like Altered Carbon.

Death and Consciousness

grey skulls piled on ground
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The concept of consciousness has a profound impact on death (and finding ways to avoid it).

  • If Scenario 1 is true, it would be easy to cheat death. A common Sci-Fi trope is gaining immortality by transferring yourself to a computer. But the same paradoxes as teleportation arise. What if you transfer yourself to a computer before you die? Or you copy yourself to two different computers? Does your consciousness exist at 2 different places at the same time?

The more likely explanation is that it is impossible for consciousness to exist in a computer. Your digital clone may behave like you, but won’t have consciousness.

In such a case, the only way to cheat death would be to prevent the biological degradation of the body.

  • If Scenario 2 is true, the only way to cheat death would be to prevent the biological degradation of the body.
  • If Scenario 3 is true, we have no way (currently) to cheat death, but once the secret is cracked, it may be easiest of them all. Just transfer your consciousness to another body or a computer. This concept is shown in this specific episode of Black Mirror (One of my favourite TV episodes of all time). Or maybe after you die, your consciousness automatically moves to another body. This would translate to the concept of reincarnation in some religions. Maybe a soul can even exist without a body, which is where afterlife comes in.

Personally, I think Scenario 2 is true and human civilisation will perish long before we figure out the secrets of consciousness.

Personally, I hope Scenario 3 is true and one day we figure out how to do the things mentioned above, once we stop killing each other and the planet.

Earth bound misfit, I