Interesting Websites and Podcasts

Here are some interesting websites and podcasts that I visit or listen to frequently. I’ve separated them into four categories:

  • News
  • Personal Growth
  • General Interest
  • Travel

News

I try to find reliable sources of news so my head doesn’t fill with skewed information that fits someone else’s narrative and furthers their agenda.

Monocle Magazine Podcasts

Most days during my commute to work I listen to one of Monocle’s podcasts, mainly The Globalist, to keep up to date with global affairs or the shorter, House View.

Monocle have a range of shows exploring culture, business, news and opinion. Click here for their full guide. In the catch up section you’ll see their The Golden Age of Aviation series, which I thought was great.

I also subscribe to Monocle magazine.

The Economist

The Economist might be the best mainstream news outlet for unbiased fact-checked news. You’ll get much more out of reading this than you will any other newspaper. I read this weekly instead of a daily paper.

John Pilger

John Pilger is the type of journalist the world needs now as much as ever. He tells you what’s going on in a way the big news corporations never will. Reading his articles on big issues will help you develop a balanced and informed point of view.

At 80 years old, John has a lifetime of experience in the world and its recent history. As an independent journalist, his reports are uncensored and full of important details. Click here to visit his website where you can read his articles and sign up to his newsletter.

John has created a number of films that are worth watching. His latest is The Dirty War on the NHS. Publicity for its ITV showing was banned during the December UK elections. His films are all crowd-funded, so if you like his stuff please consider chipping in.

The Intercept

To Be honest, I don’t visit the Intercept that much, but I know the importance of having such a news organisation in existence. Headed up by Glenn Greenwald, the man behind the publication of the Edward Snowden files, The Intercept is, in their own words, “an award-winning news organization dedicated to holding the powerful accountable through fearless, adversarial journalism. Its in-depth investigations and unflinching analysis focus on politics, war, surveillance, corruption, the environment, technology, criminal justice, the media, and more. The Intercept gives its journalists the editorial freedom and legal support they need to expose corruption and injustice wherever they find it.”

Personal Growth

The way I see it is that the way you live your life should be greater and more important than anything you produce. You should try to live your best, most beautiful life while staying true to yourself, your desires, your integrity.

We’re all a work-in-progress. There’s so much we can learn to help us become the person we want to be. I should mention the Tim Ferriss podcast because I used to be a frequent listener, so go check that out on the off-chance you haven’t already. Here’s a couple of sites you might not know already:

Farnam Street

I’ve been receiving the Farnam Street’s newsletter ‘Brain Food’ since the start of 2014. Shane Parrish and the team behind Farnam Street are all about introducing you to the ways (mental tools and systems) you can master/improve how you approach and deal with life and goals. They also provide great book recommendations.

Farnam Street has a podcast called The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish. If you know the name of the intro music, please tell me.

The Art of Manliness

The Art of Manliness is, in their own words: “a one-stop resource for actionable advice that covers every aspect of a man’s life: character, career, relationships, fitness, style, skills, and much more. Through weekly podcasts and articles, AoM tackles subjects from the philosophical and serious to the practical and fun. AoM differentiates itself from other men’s lifestyle media outlets in providing content that is intelligent, thoughtful, thorough, eminently useful, and clickbait-free.”

It presents a lot of practical skills in one place that should appeal to every man, especially those in their late teens and twenties. Some examples: How to take care of rope; 6 ways to sharpen your pencils; How to change oil on a motorcycle.

They also have articles and podcasts on great men from history, like Jack London, Winston Churchill and Teddy Roosevelt.

Be sure to check out their stuff. One of my favourite podcast episode is Podcast #225: The Real James Bond

General Interest

Stratechery

Stratechery: Strategic Technology – Ben Thompson looks at tech from a different angle. In his own words: “Stratechery provides analysis of the strategy and business side of technology and media, and the impact of technology on society. Weekly Articles are free, while three Daily Updates a week are for subscribers only.”

The associated podcast runs weekly and is called Exponent. You can listen to it here.

Ear Hustle Podcast

Ear Hustle is all about life in San Quentin State Prison. I found it through Monocle Magazine. It’s run by former and current inmates and artist Nigel Poor. The first episode I listened to is called Tell Christy I love her. I’d never heard anything like it before, a powerful real life story that could just as easily have been part of a film.

Ear Hustle takes you inside the prison, introduces you to a facet of society you might know little about and shows you the human side of incarceration.

Finances

At the start of 1998 I put all my savings into a stocks and shares ISA. By the end of 1998 I was pulling out 3/4 of the amount I’d put in. I had lost £250 – a lot of money to a 16 year old. I was not happy.

It took me almost 20 years to give the stock market another try. In August 2017, while staying in a flat on the outskirts of Bangkok, I listened to a few Tim Ferriss podcasts, watched some youtube videos of Warren Buffett, read chapters 8 and 20 of Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor and read Tony Robbins’s Unshakeable.

I wish I had done all of the above much much earlier. I’m 38 now. If I did things back in 1998 the way I do now, learned from those people listed above, my savings would have doubled multiple times through compounding interest and by following the upward trend of the financial markets.

Mr Money Moustache

Anyone who wants to get their savings in order could do a lot worse than check out Mr Money Moustache and learn how he and many like him deal with money. This site focusses on frugality as much as what kind of savings account to open.

Monevator

Monevator is a UK equivalent to Mr Money Moustache. In finances there’s a lot of things to consider such as currency fluctuations and withholding taxes. So for UK residents it might be better to invest in the FTSE and opposed to the S&P 500. It’s a topic I need to research a bit more; I won’t wait another 20 years to do so.

In his own words, “Monevator is a personal blog about money: making, saving, growing, and sometimes even spending it.” The author is not “flogging a financial product or luring you into some cult pyramid scheme where you have to spend your Saturday nights posting coupons to all the Ts in the phone book.”

I recommend anyone in the UK interested in saving read the blog.

Travel

The man in seat 61

My preferred method of travel is by train. The Man in Seat 61 has helped me plan trips such as Paris to Moscow, Moscow to Beijing, Berlin to Amsterdam and my upcoming Amsterdam to Lisbon. If you like train travel, his site is a great resource.

P.S.

If you liked this article on interesting websites and podcasts, maybe you’ll enjoy other posts on my site. Check out my travel blogs or if you prefer something tangible to read, get a copy of my novel Vagabundo. Buying it will help keep it and this website alive.

Ubud

Is Ubud worth visiting in 2020? Read on and see what you think.

Overview

Early morning is the best time to experience Ubud. Picture yourself on Jalan Gootama. The offerings have just been placed on the threasholds, incense smoke rises into the morning haze, filling the air with the scent of sandalwood, champak and frangipani.

Local shoppers crowd the junction at Bisma Ubud buying their fruit and vegetables from sellers seated on cloths at the roadside. Scooters and cars push and shove inches away, ferrying Yoga practitioners to their shalas or day trippers to the waterfalls, beaches and temples.

The restaurants and cafes are coming to life; eggs are frying on skillets, vegetables are being tossed in woks, palm leaves are being cut to fit wicker plates.

The School Run
Analogue photo of Monkey Forest Road in Ubud
Monkey Forest Road
Analogue photo of Jalan Hanoman in Ubud
Hanoman

Ubud has done well to keep its character under the pressure of tourism and globalisation. However, change, modernisation, progress, or whatever you want to call it is at work, erroding the very thing that makes many people go there. Finding the right balance is never easy.

Tegallalang, the beautiful rice terraces from Ron Fricke’s Baraka are now more like a Disney imitation than the real thing. Where once you could walk up and down the clay paths, seeing the locals tending their paddies, or selling coconuts from their bamboo huts, you can now swing in front of purpose built statutes and greenery tended only for that perfect, but unoriginal photo, a snapshot of a purely superficial experience.

The surrounding rice fields are, one by one, being sold off as building plots; the colours and smells of nature giving way for white washed walls of modern villas.

Ubud now has not one but two Starbucks.

Despite all that, Ubud is still an amazing place. The majority of restaurants are locally ran and the atmosphere in town is very good. It’s a place where you can make lasting friendships with both Balinese and foreigners alike.

Analogue photo of the Ubud rice fields at sunset
View from Sari Organik

Where to eat

You really are spoiled for choice here. So you can’t go wrong with wherever you end up. The following are the restaurants I visit again and again but there are many more I want to try. Just walk down Jalan Gootama on your first day.

Analogue photo of a paved pathway through the rice fields of Ubud
Path to Pomegranate

Where to go

pastel shades of yellow and violet in the ubud sky at sunset
the ubud pedestrian bridge is no longer in use
A girl rides a bicycle in the ubud suburbs
  • Jump on a scooter or find a driver and go explore the surrounding area. You’ll soon find yourself in a sea of green rice fields under a blue sky, with a view of (I think) four volcanoes in the hazy distance. You can find the above by driving straight up Jalan Suweta, like I did, and you could even visit the Pyramids of Chi up there for some sound healing – Let me know if it’s any good.
  • Camuphan Ridge walk. It’s fully paved and has great views of nature on either side. Before turning back, I stopped off at Karsa Spa for a Jamu and a young coconut while watching a Javan pond heron take two carp from the pond.
  • Walk through the rice fields from the main street (Jalan Raya Ubud). Access across from Lazy Cats Cafe for the path that leads to Cafe Pomegranate – one of the best places to see the sunset, or from behind The Paon restaurant, where you can follow the path to Sweet Orange Warung and beyond.
  • On the subjects of sunset, I’ve stayed in a few hotels and homestays in Ubud. My favourite for watching the sunrise or sunset is Iman Homestay on Jalan Gootama. It has amazing views over town. I got a room on the top floor facing east and left the blinds open so the sunrise would wake me. With only two rooms on each floor, there was no need for anyone to be going past that window (which led nowhere) at 6 in the morning. So it was a little embarrassing as I stood naked looking out when the cleaner suddenly blocked my view and began moping the balcony.

What to do

A man lights a flaming candelabra before the kecak dance at pura dalem ubud
The resident band at LOL bar in ubud performs
LOL Bar
Unb'rocken performing at the Laughing Buddha
Unb’rocken performing at the Laughing Buddha
  • Get a traditional Balinese oil massage. My favourite spa is StarChild.
  • The Laughing Buddha has some great live music. I like the Monday nights when Unb’rocken are playing. As I publish this (February 2020) they are on tour in Australia for 2 months.
  • LOL Reggae bar is a great place to go with cheap local wine.
  • Go see the Kecak Dance at Pura Dalem.
  • Latin night in No Mas.
  • CP Lounge if you fancy a late night – They have a little sound-proof disco house to the right of the main entrance.
  • Melting Pot Saloon to play pool.
  • Bali Bohemia supposedly holds great open mic nights. I haven’t had a chance to check them out yet, so let me know what you think.
  • Go to Soma Cafe on a Friday night for an Ojas Builder and to watch and listen to the Yoga Barners jam. Bring ear plugs just in case.
  • See a film at the Earth Cafe.
  • If you’re there for at least three weeks, you could go learn ashtanga yoga with Prem and Radha at the Ashtanga Yoga Bali Research Centre. Be prepared to sweat.

is ubud worth visiting in 2020?

I would say a definite yes.

The Balinese people are some of the most hospitable people in the world, the food is excellent and the country itself has an abundance of natural beauty. It’s no wonder that you seldom meet anyone who has been there once without returning or without having plans to return.

In spite of the selling-off of the rice fields, the two Starbucks and the death of Tegallalang, Ubud retains the local culture and upholds its customs more than any place I’ve been to in Bali. Hopefully when you’re there you’ll see one of the local ceremonies where the people dress in their best traditional clothing and get fully involved.

Like most places in Bali, Ubud is very much worth a visit, and will continue to welcome tourists of all kinds for many years to come.

If you’re considering going to Ubud, like most things in life it’s best to do it now. The ‘golden age’ of Ubud and Bali might be long gone, but your very own golden age may just be beginning. Don’t put off the things you want to do until tomorrow, because as Cat Stevens says ‘you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.’

The present is guaranteed but the future isn’t.

Sapodilla Pool During the day
Sapodilla pool at night

P.S. Are you as adventurous and generous as I think you are?

I want to put my novel in your hands. If you found this post useful, share the love by getting a copy next time you’re on Amazon. It’s best suited to readers of literary/classic fiction, but it’s good for anyone who wants to read something different. You can buy it for only £2.99 Kindle/£6.99 paperback (or your currency equivalent). Your purchase will help keep Vagabundo and this blog alive. Click here to read more or search Vagabundo by Steven-John Tait on Amazon. Why not take it to Ubud with you?

Prague

2019 – Prague Analogue Photo Blog

Prague is a beer lover’s paradise. On my first trip there I explored the city bar by bar trying out the different brands, Pilsner Urquell, Krusovice, Budwieser Budvar, Staropramen… I’d never tasted beer like it, and it was the cheapest in Europe (you’ll still find a pint for under £1.20). I almost cried when I got home and had my first taste of Scottish normality.

Since then, thanks to the craft brewing scene, the quality of beer has improved all over the world, but you still can’t beat the stuff in Prague. Like its beer, the city has remained unchanged, in my mind anyway. It’s a beautiful place, filled with history, culture and friendly people.

I’ve had some amazing experiences in Prague. It’s a great city to get lost in and an easy place to find an interesting conversation. Prague manages the seemingly impossible task of catering to everyone. If you’re looking for classical music and history you’ll find it here. Prefer to drink all night and sleep all day? You can do that too and much more besides. No matter what you’re into, Prague has something for you.

Analogue photo of a couple using a selfie stick to take a picture of themselves in front of the bridges of Prague
Analogue photo of men cleaning the windows of a barge on the Vltava River in front of Prague castle
An analogue photo of a girl in a black hat and black jacket with white oblongs crouches at the waterside to take a photo of a swan. Prague
Analogue photo of a statue of Jesus on the Charles Bridge Prague
Analogue photo of a one man band with banjo, horns and percussion on his back standing on Charles Bridge, Prague
analogue photo of the intricate pattern of cobbles on the street under Charles Bridge, Prague
Analogue photo of a Prague street with a sculpture of a man hanging from a pole extended from a 4 storey building
analogue photo of a man in a trench coat crossing a cobbled street in the sunshine holding two cups of coffee. Prague
Analogue photo of the window from inside James Dean Prague
Analogue photo of an old business man walking down a dimly lit alley

Ideas for Prague

  • Maitrea – My favourite restaurant in Prague. P.S. It’s a vegetarian restaurant.
  • Hemingway Bar – Drink expensive cocktails in a nice setting.
  • Tretter’s – Drink expensive cocktails in a nice setting.
  • U Sudu – Labyrinthine, smokey, dark cellar bar.
  • James Dean – American Diner by day, underground drinking den by night. My go-to place for breakfast.
  • Zazemi – Student bar with live music.
  • The Metronome – Hike up there for good views over the city.
  • Underground tour – see the names of politicians scratched into the stone walls of the astronomical clock building cellar where they were held prisoner. It didn’t end well for them.
  • Synagogue tour – see 5 of Prague’s synagogues including the Španělská synagoga.
  • Buy a book from Shakespeare and Sons deceptively big book shop.
  • Develop your photos at Ultralab & Syn.

Recommended Reading for Prague

My reading section is too short!

Got a book to suggest or know a place I should go on my next visit – Please leave comment or send me an email.

P.S. I’m taking my novel Vagabundo on the road.

On the 15th of June 2019 I published Vagabundo after years of obsessive work. It’s based in a fictional version of Jericoacoara Brazil and follows a man who, having withdrawn from society years before, arrives in town and tries to fit in, but he’s not welcome there. Vagabundo has been receiving good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.com. Click here to learn more.

Thanks for visiting my Prague Analogue Photo Blog.

Tokyo

I travelled to Tokyo on the 26th of November 2019 and stayed for 5 nights. I wish it could have been 5 months. This analogue photo blog gives a snapshot of my time there and might give you an idea of what you can get up to there. Scroll to the end for my Tokyo recommended reading list.

Yoyogi Park

Late afternoon. Golden light. Musicians come here to practice so they don’t disturb their neighbours. A man creates bubbles with a net he swings around his head. The kids chase after them. An infant flaps her hands about popping them all, her laugh rings out. Cyclists and runners loop the ring road. Girls pose for photos against the ginkgo trees surrounded by fallen fan-shaped leaves.

35mm Analogue Photo taken in Yoyogi Park Tokyo
35mm Analogue Photo taken in Yoyogi Park Tokyo
35mm Analogue Photo taken in Yoyogi Park Tokyo
35mm Analogue Photo taken in Yoyogi Park Tokyo
35mm Analogue Photo taken in Yoyogi Park Tokyo

Shinjuki

Day. Mister Donut. Coffee. Commuters. Hunt for Cinestill 800T. Zero stock in all of Tokyo. Shinjuku Gyoen. 4/4 Seasons coffee and cake. Unplan Hostel. Should I visit the Robot Restaurant? Night. Kuyakusho-dori: African hustlers. Hey man, where you from? Local working girls. Massagie? Dug Jazz bar. Silent. Expensive. Vagabond Izakaya. Warm lights glow within tassel bell shades, horns sound from the corner, Aga fixes a Moscow Mule. Liveatdominoes talks of Portugal in my ear. Where’s the bar with all the vinyl records I visited in 2017?

35mm Analogue Photo taken in Shinjuku

Shibuya

Shibuya crossing. Umbrella Battle Royale. Takeshi Kitano watching from the wall. Tower Records. Hear the Wind Sing. Shakeys Pizza, Dance, Dance, Dance. Scramble bar. Milan Nataraj corner table Saag Paneer. Hello to the 3 art students. The Millennials Hostel.

Senso Ji and Asakusa

35mm Analogue Photo taken at Senso Ji Tokyo
35mm Analogue Photo taken at Senso Ji Tokyo
35mm Analogue Photo taken at Senso Ji Tokyo
35mm Analogue Photo taken at Senso Ji Tokyo

Yokocho – Golden Gai, Omoide Yokocho, Nonbei Yokocho

Lanterns, drunks, karaoke. Members only. Cover charge. Death Match in Hell bar. Say hi to Wayne. Kameya Shinjuku Tentama Soba. Fish stock ramen with vegetable tempura. 5 Years vegetarian. Ended. Sake from square wooden cups. Hibiki Whisky. Winestand Bouteille. Louis musician from Kent talks Japanese to the bartender as the Swedish cider makers sample natural wines. Glasses clink. Empties rattle. 3:30 in the morning. Chairs upside down on counters of vacant bars.

35mm Analogue Photo taken at Golden Gai Tokyo
35mm Analogue Photo taken at Omoide Yokocho Tokyo
35mm Analogue Photo taken at Omoide Yokocho Tokyo

Recommended Reading for Tokyo

If you liked Tokyo Analogue Photo Blog, check out some of my other travel posts.

P.S.

I left copies of my novel Vagabundo all over Tokyo. Did you find one? Tell me where on the forum.

Hong Kong

I first visited Hong Kong in 2014 then lived there for one year from June 2016 to 2017. It’s one of my favourite cities for a number of reasons and a place I would love to spend more time in.

Most of these photos were taken with a Canon 6D camera before I gave it away to five kids pointing a gun at me in Rio de Janerio. Since 2018 I’ve been shooting film.

What’s would my perfect day in Hong Kong look like?

  • Breakfast at The Flying Pan
  • Visit to Tin Hau Temple in Yau Ma Tei
  • See a film at The Broadway Cinemateque
  • Have a lunch of vegetarian honey roast pork and rice at one of the Buddhist vegetarian restaurants
  • Go for a walk in one of the parks then stroll around the galleries and antique shops between Sheung Wan and The Mid-levels
  • Watch the sunset from the Kowloon Public Pier
  • Eat a slice of Pizza at the Mong Kok branch of Paisano’s
  • Watch the races at Happy Valley (it would have to be a Wednesday. I always put money on horse 9 to win the 9pm race).
  • Go see live music at The Wanch or Salon Number 10
  • Put some songs on at the jukebox in Le Jardin in LKF

Recommended reading for Hong Kong

Recommended watching for Hong Kong