How good is the Camelbak Arc Quick Grip?

3 years ago today, I bought myself a super useful water bottle, the Camelbak Arc Quick Grip.

How do I know it was 3 years ago today, do I hear you ask?

Through my photo archive, that’s how.

I took the photos used in this review on the day I bought it.

For the past 3 years, I have used this convenient, hand-held water bottle on a very, very regular basis.

Not quite daily, but on average 5/6 times a week.  I use it when I go running, when I walk my dogs, and I take it on my travels.

It is almost as good as new, despite heavy usage, and the occasional “helpful” carrying by my big goofy dog.

Like this evening:

There are 2 pockets, one of which zips, and where I usually put my car keys.  I find I can carry enough water (300ml) for a regular run, as well as keys, Kleenex and a few nuts or sweets.

It is tough, light, easy to drink from, doesn’t leak, & is curved to fit one’s hand.

A good buy, and excellent value because, as I said, mine is still going strong after 3 years of heavy use.

Personally recommended.

I bought my water bottle, and Camelbak has no idea that I blog or write product reviews.

Crazy Rich Asians

Loved the book.

Loved the movie.

“Crazy Rich Asians” is a happy, feel-good, rom-com with a twist.

Which is…that every single actor is Asian.  I think there might have been a few, inconsequential non-Asians in crowd scenes, but all the parts, big or small, belong to Asians, and there was a real coming-of-age feel to the film.

Oh yes, hang on, there were 2 snobby Brits and a nice Brit in the opening scene of the film, but those were, I think, the only non-Asians who spoke even a couple of lines.

In the sadly depressing world in which we live today, a happy film, peopled by gorgeous youngsters, wearing amazing clothes, is just the tonic one needs.

The film is based on the book (which I reviewed in my book review blog a few weeks ago – here you go, here’s the link) but there is enough divergence to make the film different.

Most of the actors were beyond perfect for their characters.

The dreamy Nick Young is portrayed by the totally dreamy Henry Golding, seen here (below) with his true love, Rachel Chu (right) and his formidable grandmother, played perfectly, absolutely perfectly, by the wonderful 91 year old Lisa Lu.

Michelle Yeoh (above) is also perfect as Nick’s manipulative mother, though Eleanor is not half as wicked on screen as she is in the book, I might add.

Gemma Chan as Astrid is spot-on.  Drop-dead gorgeous and with an ethereal quality to her.

Although much of the frenzied shopping trips, the endless name-dropping, the luxury one-up-man-ship of the book is missing from the film, the world of luxury and privilege is there for us all to see.  Singapore looks smashing, and seeing it on screen made me want to revisit, after way too many years away.

This is a fun, visually gorgeous movie.

You absolutely don’t need to have read the book at all to enjoy it, not at all.  My daughter and I had both read and loved the book, & we both thoroughly enjoyed the film.

My husband hadn’t read the book, and also thoroughly enjoyed the film.

Stand-out actors?

Nico Santos (below) as Oliver.  He is perfect.

Awkwafina (below) as Peik Lin.  She is a scene stealer.  Absolute star.Who else did I love?

The gorgeous Sonoya Mizuno as Araminta.

Her arrival at her wedding was epic:

Enjoy the film.

It is visually gorgeous, has a happier ending than the book, and even made me shed a tear or two.

What’s not to love?

And I DO hope there will be sequel…

How good are ASICS running shorts?

Dislosure first.

Along with about 30 other people in my running group, I was given the shorts I am about to review by ASICS, as part of our team kit for the Ladakh Marathon last month.

By way of background, I live in New Delhi, India, in a society not really given to women wearing shorts, so in the 5 years since I started running, I have tended to stick to wearing long running trousers or capris.

But Delhi’s summers are brutally humid, so last year, wearied of always feeling so hot & sticky while my male colleagues ran in shorts, I experimented with a pair of shorts with a flap in front – making it look more like a tennis skirt.

Un-be-lie-va-ble chafing.

Agonising.

So I bought another pair, same design, different, lighter fabric, but still with the flap thingy in front.

Un-be-lie-va-ble chafing.

Agonising.

So when our ASICS running coach gave us all Ts and shorts for Ladakh, I privately decided I’d probably not wear the shorts that much, given previous experience.

Wow.

Totally different experience.

These shorts are super light, and in the weeks that I have worn them, have not given me one moment’s discomfort.  Not one moment.

To run chafing-free in high humidity…what a relief.

The shorts are so super lightweight that you hardly notice you’re wearing them.  They have no seams to chafe, have a small zipped pocket, just enough for a key for instance, and the pocket is lined in rubber – sweat-proofing, I assume.

I have worn my shorts in Delhi, in Ladakh, and in hot and humid Bangkok, and I am already a fan.

They are discreet – thanks to the double layer.  They are ultra lightweight. They have a pocket.  Tick all the boxes.

Personally tried & tested & recommended.

I was not asked to review these shorts, by the way.

EATHAI

There are food courts in malls the world over.

And then there’s Eathai in Bangkok’s Central Embassy Mall.

Eathai is in a class of its own, and deservedly so.

Amazing food, amazing variety of cuisines, and all served with elegance and – important in a food court where there are lots of office workers – efficiency and speed.

As tourists, we had all the time in the world, but for office workers, quick, efficient service has to be key, and Eathai  delivers.

Whatever one thinks off food courts, they work for a couple like us: hubby highly allergic to any form of fish and shellfish + I don’t eat any kind of meat, but do eat fish + he loathes chillies (AND he’s Indian :P) and I crave ‘em.

Plus, and this one is on us, we don’t speak or read a word of Thai.

Eathai showcases Thai cuisine from all over the country, at separate food and cooking stations and – one thing I really appreciated – detailed explanations in English on the menu boards (above).

The system is very easy to use.  On entering the vast Eathai, in the basement of the mall, you are given a credit card which you use to buy your food.  And you settle at the cashier’s on the way out.  So no issues there.Since the food court is, as I said, vast, you never feel crowded.

Tables have lots of room between them, and the staff even deliver dishes that require more cooking time to your table.

  

I had scallops and garlic – it might not look anything special from the photo, below, but it was pure heaven.

Trust me.

Heaven.

Eating at Eathai is definitely more expensive than eating at a street food vendor, but for the location, the air conditioning, access to loos, service – it can’t be beaten.  This is a food court like no other.

We paid our own way (Baht 525 for 2 of us) and no-one in the mall knew that I blog or write reviews.

Aladdin in New Delhi

Come on, Delhites!

Wake up!

If you haven’t ready been to see “Aladdin”, do so now!

Judging by the tragically more-than-half-empty auditorium last night, people are not exactly flocking to see this great musical production.

In the short speech of thanks after the show, the director Shruti Sharma specifically thanked us all for coming “on a Tuesday”.  I do hope she hasn’t had to make a similar comment about every other day of the week.

I really & truly hope for the remaining shows that the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium is packed, and (sorry for saying this) packed with a more appreciative audience than ours last night.

When we arrived, the delightful crew of ushers (more anon) told everyone to move further down towards the stage, regardless of where our purchased tickets were.  There were stickers on row after row after row of seats, indicating they were empty.

How disheartening for the cast, especially since they went down into the audience at times to sing, and so would have been confronted by rows of empty seats.

Perhaps we just got a particularly dull & unappreciative audience, but my goodness me, were they stinting in their applause.  A cast of super talented youngsters sang and danced their hearts out, and there was scant applause, and when we stood up to give them their much deserved standing ovation at the end, we were asked to sit down by the people behind us.

Anyway, this review isn’t actually about the people sitting around us, arriving late, checking their mobiles during the show, hardly applauding – no, begone with such dull, unappreciative souls!  This review is about the amazing singing and dancing and the enthusiasm of this talented cast.

The show was great fun, and there were moments of sheer magic – the magic carpet for one.

We were a group of 6, namely 2 sets of parents with their 2 daughters, both in their late 20s (bet you thought I was going to say they were little girls, right?! :P) and let me tell you, these 2 young ladies, die-hard fans of the 1992 film, a staple of their childhood, were very excited and also very intrigued at how the magic carpet scene would play out.

Just let me say that it was brilliantly done (I won’t spoil your surprise, don’t worry).  A super moment that did not disappoint.

It is invidious to single out individual actors, in what was a great all-round ensemble effort, but the show stopper is the Genie, played by Mantra, and he is an absolute knockout.

Weaving Hindi into the script, with local jokes and references, he is absolutely fantastic.  His arrival on stage created an instant buzz, and his portrayal of the Genie as slightly camp was hilarious.

Good fun.

An insight into just how much wonderful singing and dancing talent there is here in India – for this is an entirely Indian cast.

So, if you haven’t already seen Aladdin, what are you waiting for?

Hurry up & go, and PLEASE applaud and show these hard working artists that you appreciate their talent.

Oh yes, the ushers.  Remember I mentioned them at the outset?

Every one of these smiling youngsters greeted us with a courteous “adab”, welcoming us to the venue as though into their home.  Same on the way out, hoping we had enjoyed the show, and thanking us for coming.  Delightful touch 🙂

Disclaimer

We paid for our tickets, and no-one connected to the show knows that I blog and write reviews.

Another Hound Café in Bangkok

In Bangkok last week, our family had the usual issues of finding a mutually acceptable restaurant for our complicated dietary set-up.  Namely:

1 carnivore who is highly allergic to any seafood.  Even a hint provokes rapid & very bad reactions

+

1 carnivore who will eat some shellfish but is still a tad worried about allergies

+

1 vegetarian

+

1 pescatarian

Another Hound Café, located in the plush Siam Paragon Mall, came up trumps.

Billing itself as Italian with an Asian twist, the café is stylish and quirky, with excellent service.  We all ate well, and we all had interesting, different, not your usual run-of-the-mill food.

Plus they have the coolest “chandeliers” ever.

Super stylish bread basket, too:

The café’s justifiably popular oyster platter starter (below) was divine.

4 huge oysters served with very interesting dipping sauces, a bowl of fried shallots and cha-om tips (climbing wattle).

A vegetarian version of the cold Japanese salad (below) was declared a resounding success:

Everyone was happy with their food, and we all tasted as many of the dishes as our complicated dietary requirements permitted.

Below is a simple-sounding spinach tagliatelle dish was excellent.

Good food.  Polite efficient service.

We paid our own way, and I didn’t tell the staff that I blog and review.

Personally recommended.

 

How good are La Sportiva G2 SM climbing boots?

Although I have climbed a few mountains, I still feel a tad wary of describing myself as a “mountaineer”.  So this review of my new La Sportiva G2 SM climbing boots might not be full of pukka technical terms, but it most definitely comes from the heart.

By way of background, I started climbing very late in life, and most of my recent climbs have been in the 6000m+ range, and all of them in the Himalayas in India (where I live), and they have all brought me huge joy.

With one caveat.

The only blot on my climbing horizon had been using hired climbing boots, which are usually heavy to carry and to wear, and exhausting to lace up, especially on summit night, when fingers inextricably turn to thumbs, and nerves are at their most tightly-wound.

As a not too experienced climber, I came to dread putting on and lacing up the double boots I would rent.

So in April this year I invested in a pair of La Sportive G2 SM boots and my life has changed for ever.

They are THE most wonderful boots ever.

I am beyond in love with them.

If the truth be told, I fell in love with them the moment I unboxed them.

But there was that $64,000 question – did these beauties need breaking in?

I imagined they did, BUT I had less than a month between purchase and leaving to climb Banderpoonch, a mountain in Uttarakhand in India.

I live in Delhi, where May temperatures are in the upper 30sC/low 40sC, so there was no way I was going to go for a walk in my boots, to break them in.  I’d probably have passed out from the heat.  So I wore them a couple of times inside the house, clumping round inelegantly in shorts against the heat, and wearing my boots.

And then off I went to climb, secretly wondering if I was being foolish & was going to suffer from blisters or other aches and pains, having not worn my boots enough.

No need to worry at all.

These beauties were like slippers from Day One.

I wore them on an acclimatisation hike up from our Base Camp to Camp One, and the boots were fabulous from the word go.  This was the only time I wore them before we hit the snow and the proper climbing started.

     

Comfortable, super easy to put on, and oh-so-blissfully easy to lace up.

I was in heaven.

I never had one moment’s discomfort or stress in these boots.  Not one.

They were easy to put on, requiring none of the contortions I remember from the hired double boots.

The inner is super easy to put on, and fastens with Velcro, and so is easily and painlessly adjustable.  They weigh next to nothing, and each night I’d pop them inside my sleeping bag and we were all as warm as toast.

The outer boot…what total and utter bliss the La Sportiva G2 SM Boa lacing system is.

It is so easy and simple, and is perfect for folks like me, who get slightly stressed on summit night.  On earlier climbs, I remember beginning to hyperventilate as I tried to bend over and lace up first the inner and then the outer boots, with all my layers of clothes on, in the cold, and inevitably in the middle of the night.

No such stress this time round:

1.Velcro the inner boot.

2.Snap the outer boot tight – the Boa lacing system is super easy to use, with 2 dials allowing you to adjust the tightness of your upper and lower feet.

3.Zip up the incorporated gaiters and you’re A for Away.

Here is the one and only Simone Moro (the SM of the name) talking about these boots.

They were light to wear, and so (obviously) light to carry.

They were blissfully comfortable and stress-free to put on.And – call me shallow – I think they are pretty cool looking.

I bought the boots myself, and neither the supplier nor La Sportiva knows that I blog and review.

So, to answer the question I posed in the title of this review – how good are these boots?

They are wonderful. Totally, 100% recommended.

White Magic Adventure Travel does it again!

It is almost 5 years since I was introduced to the best climbing and trekking company in India – there you go, colours nailed firmly to the mast! – and the high standards of WM never cease to amaze.  And impress.  And reassure.

I just returned a few days ago from climbing Banderpoonch, a 6316m peak in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand.  We made it to 6120m, before Avilash Bisht, one of the owners & founders of WM & our leader on this climb, made the decision to turn us all round, since the remaining approx 200 vertical metres were, in his expert opinion, just too difficult and risky for us.

And it is for moments like that – when Avilash, in consultation with his brilliant team of Sherpas makes a tough call – that I love and respect White Magic Adventure Travel.

Safety is their undisputed #1 priority.

There was absolutely nothing to fault about our expedition.

Nothing at all.

WM carried out another perfectly organised trip, despite potential obstacles.  Like Avilash having a serious family emergency a couple of days before departure.  Sanjeev Rai seamlessly  took over the reins, and it was a joy to meet such a serious and competent young man.  Sanjeev guided us from Dehra Dun to Uttarkashi to Forest Camp to Base Camp to Camp One, when Avilash finally joined us, after a mammoth trek up the mountain.  Now THAT is called devotion to duty.

We were a team of 7 climbers + a Liasion Officer from the IMF + Sanjeev, Avilash, the one and only Mohan, a cook & an assistant cook, and  4 sherpas.  Plus teams of porters to ferry our luggage and supplies to and from Base Camp.

Everything was flawless.

No sooner arrived in camp, than our tents would be up in a jiffy, along with a mess tent and toilet tents  – ladies & gents –  such luxury.

Every need was catered for, from loads of good, nutritious food, to twice daily monitoring of our oxygen saturation levels, from clean water for drinking to warm water to wash our hands in before meals.  WM runs an efficient set up, with every member of their staff pitching in for any and every job, and always with a smile.  Imagine the luxury of being woken up every morning in your tent with a cup of “bed tea” –  though, actually, I suppose “sleeping bag tea” is a more accurate name. Even at Summit Camp, sleeping on the ice, we were woken up with tea and a smile.

We were treated to a delicious birthday cake, carried up from Base Camp to Camp One, for Vandana, one of the climbers.

We had a celebration cake on our last night under canvas.  Don’t miss Banderpoonch iced onto the cake!

We had pakoras and endless cups of tea, soup to keep us warm, popcorn, Maggi – the cooks kept producing delicious food, regardless of the altitude. Heck, Avilash & Sanjeev even made us a thermos of coffee in the dark and cold of summit night, to give us all that extra kick to keep on going.

I am a diehard White Magic Adventure Travel fan, and cannot envisage travelling with any other climbing or trekking company.  Ever.

Our climbing party of 7 stands testament to the loyalty WM engenders.  We were all repeat clients and we spent most of the descent planning and discussing our next climb –  a discussion that has continued on our WhatsApp group since we all, reluctantly, got back to our daily city lives

I cannot recommend White Magic Adventure Travel too highly.

Safety, skilled staff, the kindest team of Sherpas going, good equipment – I have nothing but praise for this company.

Would I use them again?

Of course!

As I said, we’re already planning our next climb…

I paid my own way, and even though the guys at WM know I blog, they have never, ever once made mention of the fact.  Total class act.

Here are just a few moments from a lifetime of memories:

Waking up to a view like this from your tent (above & below) is too, too fabulous.

Forest Camp (below)

Picnic lunch on the go (above).

Sanjeev checking the route (& looking pretty damned impressive as he does so!)

Mohan (below) the heart and soul of every climb I have done with WM.

How good are “Nature Forever” bird feeders?

They are brilliant.

End of review.

Seriously, what’s not to like about the Nature Forever range of bird feeders, which are very reasonably priced, available here in India on Amazon (don’t worry – the relevant links are below) and, in our case at least, have attracted loads of birds and squirrels, almost from Day 1.

The bird feeders are made from plastic, and can easily be attached to a hook, or to the branch of a strong enough plant.

We put “bajra” (millet) in the bird feeder, and from the moment we hung it up on our balcony, we’ve had birds non-stop, as well as squirrels.

Pigeons (you have to accept their presence, there is no way of discouraging them), doves, bulbuls, mynah, parakeets – they all come to feed, all the time.

[jwplayer mediaid=”27533″]

Because the squirrels were guzzling all the millet, we moved the bird feeder a little out of their reach, and then bought them their own squirrel feeder…of course we did!

Like so:

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In a tit-for-tat revenge move, the pigeons have also muscled in on the squirrel feeder and we have had some hilarious encounters.

The best one, which sadly I didn’t manage to film, featured a young squirrel sitting happily inside the feeder – that’s the joy of the glass panel, you can see what’s going on – when a pigeon stuck its head through one of the side holes.

One startled squirrel shot out of the feeder scattering millet all over the place, and scarpered, leaving the pigeom happily tucking in.

As I said, what’s not to love?

They’re cheap, you’re encouraging nature to come to your balcony or terrace, you’re supporting a good cause, and there is always something to watch.

Warning, you might well end up like me, doing time-lapses of the frenetic feeding activity.

Like so:

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Totally recommended.

Here are the links to buy both types of feeder.

Enjoy!

FULLMOON CAFE, Havelock Island

Revisiting the Andamans after many, many years, it was as though we were discovering the islands for the first time, so much had things changed.

One of the lovely discoveries we made was the trendy Fullmoon Café on Havelock Island, which was not only the eatery for our little hotel, but also a popular hang out for tourists and divers from all over Havelock Island.

And deservedly so.

Chill vibe.

Great food.

Excellent service.

Golden Retrievers and a cat.

What more needs to be said?

The dogs flop at your feet, the cat curls up on your lap, all adding to the relaxed mood of this open-air café that gives onto the beach.

 

Thoroughly recommended, for the excellent food, great menu choices and reasonable prices.  To serve such a varied menu, given the logistics of island life, is seriously impressive.

We paid our own way, and I did not tell the staff at Fullmoon Café that I blog and write reviews.

A great little place.