Baku round-up

Baku Azerbaijan Old City Flame TowersBaku Azerbaijan Old City catBaku Azerbaijan Old CityBaku Azerbaijan Old CityBaku Azerbaijan Old CityBaku Azerbaijan Old City bread womanMosque and flame towers BakuBaku by nightBaku highway and Trump TowerHeydar Aliyev Cultural Center BakuHeydar Aliyev Cultural Center Baku birdBaku Azerbaijan FountainBaku Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev Baku Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev placeBaku Azerbaijan Old CityBaku Azerbaijan Old City
Earlier this week I said that I would reserve my impressions of Baku until the end of the week, and I sit at the airport en route to Bangkok, here they are:

1. Baku is a strange city, a mix of Soviet and Turkish influences. A strange mix of old buildings and new, and new buildings made to look old.

2. Crossing roads here is akin to shark diving without the cage. There are very few crossings, people drive like crazy and at times outright ignore things like red lights.

3. More scary than crossing the road is going in the cabs. Here it seems perfectly acceptable for the cab driver to be driving, talking on the phone and smoking at the same time.

4. Here is a quick cab guide in case you ever visit: I paid 15 AZN from the city to the airport which should serve as a guide to your negotiations;chances are the cab driver has no idea where you are going; and insist on the meter (I will do a separate blog post on the cabs in Baku).

5. The airport wifi is fast and free.

6. Data is cheap cheap cheap. When I arrived I managed to buy a micro sim for my iPhone in 5 mins for 10 ANZ (about 12 dollars I guess). A 1GB data bundle costs a little over 6 USD. In NYC I pay 25 USD for 1GB on my prepaid arrangement.

7. A great walk is along Nizami street, through the Old Town and up to the Flame towers. A bad walk is one to the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centrer (the white organic building in the photos).

8. I got stared at a lot walking around, which was strange because I don’t really stand out there and often got addressed in the local language or in Russian. It was a major difference from New York where no one makes eye contact on the street.

Nairobi instagrammed

Welcome to Nairobi
Last week I spent four days in Nairobi, Kenya, for work. I dragged my camera there with me but didn’t really have any opportunities to take serious photos – just to instagram some of the things that caught my fancy. I have been to Kenya four times now – three times for work and once for the most amazing holiday in Mombasa and Diani Beach (which I would recommend to anyone). The work trips all involve a lot of time inside conference venues, and going out on the town is not wildly encouraged by work particularly in light of recent explosions etc in the city. This time I was very lucky to be with a great group of people and on the Tuesday night we went out to a local bar because the Americans wanted to try “local” food, and on the Wednesday one of my colleagues who is based in Nairobi took us for hot-pot at her favourite Chinese restaurant. Nairobi is not what you’d call beautiful – lots of old grey buildings that have seen better days, and lots of architecturally-questionable new structures. But I really enjoy going to Kenya, there is a great vibe about it.

Once again I was taken aback at how easily available (and free) wifi is – much more so than here. And while my hotel room in Nairobi had free unlimited wifi, the City Lodge I stayed in on Thursday night in Joburg (which cost a fair amount more) offered patrons a measly 15 minutes of free access. Embarrassing really…