Coatepec, Veracruz, México

Montgomery, Alabama, USA

Los Pinos, Mexico City, México

Jaipur, India

29064023_10157177011033998_4048605717487913638_o

On the way from Agra to Jaipur, I stopped by this place with a temple.

29352013_10157177019628998_6878899196046750314_o

29352235_10157177017503998_8768081471686428450_o

As well as a step well.

29351592_10157180607123998_9085090029330301816_o

Jaipur was the capital of a powerful who maintained quasi-independence even during the British colonial era as the King made friends with them.

29351732_10157180615003998_6150108272971150196_o

It’s known as the “pink city”, as when His Royal Highness Albert, the Prince Consort visited, they painted the entire city pink, after the wind palace here. Nowadays, the city isn’t that pink any more, and the King actually repainted the wind palace mostly yellow.

29351977_10157180606388998_3510064740859528135_o29352028_10157180628458998_7382081178972692598_o

The Amber Fort is outside the city proper of Jaipur, and was the royal residence.

29352464_10157180624013998_3039054582411839807_o

The floating palace. Now a governmental building.

29354511_10157180626913998_7516511411041330355_o

The royal palace was heavily fortified with many random alleys. This is the centre of it, the dining place as well as the bathing areas for the queens.

29354556_10157180636853998_4660830434963602194_o

The Scottish delicacy chicken tikka masala.

29354631_10157177021628998_125212913818416460_o29355202_10157180630833998_4186133409470414275_o

29662327_10157177012283998_8983951361672717418_o29662525_10157180610018998_2828633608645346238_o29662529_10157177014423998_4358791540638714392_o29662592_10157180608923998_1567822853516825313_o29662728_10157180611833998_371904672633048785_o

The observatory.

29662877_10157180622743998_6849322154148642827_o

Even though the King was Hindu, the palace was built mostly in an Islamic style.

29663006_10157180622098998_3455340298956982976_o29663053_10157177011638998_2483088726342557422_o29663085_10157180607683998_1598002642980271085_o29664868_10157180631953998_6106757551023962728_o29665091_10157180629728998_2140302600468913942_o29665585_10157180618028998_1198180169917088432_o29665590_10157180611308998_8223707850536464000_o

The wind palace, its main attraction.

29744280_10157180626273998_1926437559578242241_o29744827_10157180635088998_3500921113053168213_o29745000_10157180633523998_3517413824164144364_o29745042_10157180613678998_5760688228282356605_o29749829_10157180612508998_4160941887278476763_o29749915_10157180634188998_7937773746343000628_o29750034_10157180623668998_3664990287583599811_o29872098_10157180635858998_6689970482365328298_o

On this trip, practically the only magnificent structures not built by Muslims.

New Delhi, India

19142970_10157169107758998_4906148737805442390_o

The largest mosque in New Delhi. A ticket is needed for photographs inside the complex.

29060320_10157169113718998_1593998492974064975_o

The tomb of a Muslim emperor.

29060728_10157169110993998_8764626148948871660_o

The main attraction in Delhi.

29060909_10157169116238998_3095076095904205236_o

New Delhi, or just Delhi, is the capital of India, and has been since the last British colonial days. Before that, the Islamic Empire also once set it as its capital.

29063867_10157169122198998_2504224295059945686_o

In Hinduism, cows are holy animals, and they walk around everywhere in India. But the holy ones are the female ones, not the buffalos.

29064034_10157169105308998_6111040574370739268_o

Red Fort.

29064160_10157169120003998_8636365636229343504_o

Unlike in Hinduism, where people cremate corpses, Muslims bury their bodies and thus monuments such as these were built.

29064356_10157169109913998_6007529586193238928_o

The India Gate, built by the British for the Indian lives lost in WWI.

29064477_10157169114898998_8089156211258901406_o

Evidence that the complex used to be a Hindu temple.

29351484_10157169101933998_5622362579987686872_o

A step well. A very deep well that has the area next to it dug in order for the dropping water to be obtained easily.

29352418_10157169106313998_6747564096217714109_o

The metropolis is the second biggest in the heavily populated country. Perhaps because I have lived most of my lives in heavily populated cities, it didn’t seem to be particularly populated to me.

But it’s quite dirty and messy, and the air was absolutely awful. I developed a pretty bad cough from the very first day, and don’t forget I already live in Mexico City, one of the cities that’s known for their poor air quality.

29662742_10157169107108998_3519362579564299003_o

Indian spices from the big spice market. I bought some tea leaves and powder for fish tikka.

29662869_10157169118653998_7682649078048082416_o29663180_10157169112353998_5953424314141390914_o

The base on an unfinished tower.

29664679_10157169119358998_8776502458826000468_o

Most of the impressive structures built in India today seemed to have been built by Muslims.

29744351_10157169108193998_5182842031557564453_o29744486_10157169117498998_815712932826352552_o29744747_10157169108743998_8567238482318546914_o

Very dirty water.

Vatican / The Holy See

11694002_10154016259328998_5999161393219275891_n

Even though Vatican City is in the other side of Rome, it remains a must-see place regardless of your religious views and affiliation. The truth is, despite not possessing most qualities a country is supposed to have, The Holy See is one of the most powerful in the world.

11011465_10154016259758998_9196234607550199682_n

The city-state was so small it was probably of a similar size to an airport, but they did pack plenty in it. There were numerous souvenir shops, most trying to pretend Benedict didn’t exist, and the amount of Francis products does make you wonder whether the Biblical God would be happy with the papacy.

You also get certain embassies you don’t see in most places, like the Republic of China (Taiwan) one.

The churches around were also empty, btw.

11781748_10154016257983998_4290648300834342910_n

I believe they stole the column from Egypt. Not the only item they’d stolen.

11218787_10154016259018998_135088595002918868_n

Seeing the Swiss guards was a high point for me, and not just for the erotic fantasies. After all, the institution is historic and they are one of the very few remaining forces in this form. Some dressed more elaborately than the others, no doubt for the entertainment of certain servants of God.

11742705_10154016491698998_8914090596979536932_n

Do you know I can be the next pope? All you need is be is 1. male, 2. baptized Catholic. Can you imagine me as a demigod?

Rome, Italy

11011554_10154016267928998_794129441365102953_n

Rome, where the Roman Republic/Empire started. Coincidentally, also my favourite historical city. It has everything I like – impressive, imperial buildings, ancient ruins, and everything’s reasonably close.

The structure above was my absolute No 1 in the metropolis. It’s extraordinarily well-maintained and you can go on it and get a marvellous view of the city.

11174991_10154015211823998_1269383945821539479_n

Proof.

11174991_10154016262253998_2699015715294412924_n

It was awfully hot though – around 35 degrees. Would probably have died had there not been literally water fountains everywhere downtown!

But it was so hot that despite the fact that I kept drinking and drinking water, I never really needed to go to the loo.

11220076_10154013369448998_5807122969456957711_n

The complex looked much better in the evening with the lights, even though it might have been more difficult to take good photos of them.

11737819_10154016256128998_4317357868370677142_n

Rome is a highly walkable city (you’d need to be a big walker tho), ever if you want to walk from the central station (where I stayed) all the way to the Vatican and back. It’s quite a nice walk too, with all the unique and stylish ancient buildings at every corner.

11742766_10154016267308998_772811967006007569_n

One thing that stood out to me was the atmosphere in the city. The archaeological sites had all aged quite a bit, and they were all ruins beyond repair. Yet, Rome still felt like very much the seat of an empire, albeit one that had fallen a long, long time ago.

On another note, they projected videos and images on to some of the walls and that was cool.

11742846_10154015213723998_6154548851990168628_n

Still an impressive building but didn’t look as good as it was in the evening.

11755117_10154013343073998_8270185230391953275_n

The trouble with visiting Rome is that once you’ve got there, you won’t find Athens that special…

11760221_10154015211533998_4012638255221253961_n

The churches are all empty, btw. Very cool tho so good to visit during a heat wave.

11781701_10154016262718998_5766414036516416285_n

Apparently Italians are exceptionally sceptical of air-conditioning, so you can’t expect to have that in most places.

11781797_10154013368108998_1516888289621987249_n

Prague, Czech Republic

My adventure as a Czech hunter. (Didn’t hunt any actually.)

10407933_10154010989108998_7838699203533782359_n

Prague, the capital city of Czech Republic, is a historic capital of the Holy Roman Empire. It was a very different place to be, as even though it was still Europe, they didn’t have the level of wealth of development western Europe enjoys.

11169484_10154011000408998_9032728595121019744_n

The most famous landmark of the city, Charles Bridge.

The juxtaposition of this structure reminding one of the heavy Christian background of the country, and the fact that it’s now practically a pornography capital, was interesting at least. But then, the Vatican funded porn and Jesus never really said anything against it.

11188295_10154010997518998_3336748334245822102_n

One special thing about the Czech capital was how historic the whole city looked. It didn’t feel homogenous like Bath or Oxford, but you also wouldn’t see a modern building out of nowhere. It didn’t feel particularly imperial, despite its history, but still a nice sight to see.

11205528_10154011014553998_1270521851509667301_n

When I went to Vienna earlier, it was Prague it reminded me of. I’m not entirely who predates who, but it was the streets with old European plain buildings on the sides that made me feel that way.

Now, I didn’t actually find Prague all that interesting, perhaps due to the fact that I had only really an obsession with grand buildings, but it was nevertheless a decent town. Just don’t expect any recognizable landmarks or impressive, breathtaking structures towering over you.

11232900_10154011022433998_2609083218951948202_n11249701_10154010989753998_3291000771427460545_n

This was probably my favourite, especially the inside of it (pictured below).

11694957_10154011023188998_5993239876656603138_n11703375_10154010996753998_6459135090400351082_n

The river was not bad too. It’s a relatively relaxing place to be, and you can always just stroll around aimlessly.

11707459_10154011820268998_8730638237852787879_n11709548_10154012215193998_3051988346058479651_n

The inside of the aforementioned building.

11737819_10154010982843998_1854764730061199228_n11737876_10154011946163998_6044817897498679833_n

I believe my favourite composer, Mozart, performed here.

11738134_10154011819688998_4705214390614771260_n11745587_10154010994578998_895386889023729600_n

A typical street.

11745630_10154010987948998_3001215896913290950_n11745933_10154010998018998_1760724413950838469_n11751849_10154010989643998_7274256023986862994_n

Looked very much like the Bridge of Signs in Venice.

11751925_10154010998308998_1258576854858940955_n11754254_10154010993333998_1348057212062618395_n

Like elsewhere in Europe. there were likewise more than a handful of empty churches for you to rest in.

11755207_10154011023328998_6495182518881201371_n11755269_10154011024493998_791280163641831702_n11755671_10154010982968998_8019399197540174939_n11760146_10154011013473998_569418338771281874_n11760204_10154012215648998_3599601101166878754_n11781865_10154011018718998_4016217440084773770_n

Leeds, Yorkshire, England

11090_10153391190638998_4961980046259340141_n

Despite not being the county capital, Leeds is by far the largest city in Yorkshire. This, along with the fact that it’s got several big historical buildings built when it was filled with coal money (see Billy Elliot for what happened to it), and I guess also that it’s usually quite cold, makes it the real-life Winterfell.

It wasn’t a terribly eventful place, but good enough for a short excursion to the north. The buses were hella confusing though: we kept trying to pay but not sure how. As it turned out, there’s a staff selling tickets to you after everyone’s on the bus, but since it was so incredibly packed, he never managed to get to us.

10857949_10153391191713998_5141754871858156787_n

One of the malls even had real reindeer! None of them had a red nose tho.

Instead of staying in a proper place, we were a bit more adventurous and stayed at a bathhouse (they’ve got actual rooms). I will spare you the juicy details of our night, but it was quite unsettling the next day, when we learned that the cars parked outside were all smashed  – an actual hate crime – and that the establishment increased security due to a homophobic attack (literally a mob trashed the reception) a few years back. So I guess it was also a bit like King’s Landing.

The Oxonian Experience (Part 2 of Oxford), England

10997483_10153654262793998_9165251804359441613_n

The biggest benefit of living in Oxford – you get to meet Prof Richard Dawkins fairly often.

19702873_10156245520058998_87688367095912120_o

This is part 2 of Oxford city. The post will focus on the life of residing in Oxford, rather than just introducing the sights.

This is of course not going to be a comprehensive guide, and I don’t have the photos to demonstrate everything (some intentionally withheld as I don’t want to post photos where my friends’ faces are visible).

11059557_10153961451443998_8096824748386251017_o

The typical applicant may start their Oxonian experience by going to an open day. Staff and current students work on the days as helpers and we get a free exclusive Oxford-branded t-shirt as a gift.

There are many different information sessions so you will need to do your research before getting there, as even walking through the city looking at the buildings would cost you the entire day.

10256773_10153226824418998_2093616518124668495_o

Congratulations! You have been accepted and you have met your offer!

After your first week, you are expected to show up for matriculation, the official ceremony that makes you a member of the University. You have to do it in your first two terms or you’re sent down. If you are a graduate who has attended Cambridge, Trinity College Dublin, or Oxford as an undergraduate, you go for the aforementioned incorporation route instead. Basically, you don’t do anything and you get an instant degree just by living another day.

Us matriculants, with our gowns – either the commoner’s gown for undergrads or the advanced students’ gown for grads – wait our turn to sit in the Sheldonian Theatre. The latter gown is a full version of the former. You will need your gown for many events, such as certain dinners at your college, your graduation, your examinations (if you do one at the Examination Schools in person), your viva (if you’re a doctoral candidate), the honorary degree ceremony (if you manage to get a ticket), and if unfortunately you are being disciplined.

The mortarboard/cap is a controversial part of this. Many say you don’t wear it before you’ve graduated, but that’s just a myth. In reality, no-one cares when you’re outdoors, and traditionally, you’re only asked to take it off indoors (if you’re a man) before it’d be improper for a man to wear a hat indoors.

10304791_10153292609723998_1159939013316296249_n

After the ceremony, you go to your college and take individual and group photos. And you eat.

You don’t just walk around with your gown, but with your sub-fusc. In Latin, it means dark brown; at Oxford, it means this – shirt with black trousers/skirts (with a suit if you’re a man), white or black bowtie, or black necktie (white bows are the traditional and most common one), or a black ribbon if like Shania Twain, you feel like a woman (you don’t have to actually be a woman to go for the traditionally feminine rendition of this). If you don’t want the cap, you wear a soft cap (feminine alternative) – but you can’t take it off if you choose that option. Very, very few people go for a soft cap.

If you don’t have the correct attire, you can actually be denied entry. Your college may ask you to buy something on the spot, or maybe someone will be able to lend you something.

10682257_10153222908993998_5646882734589809159_o

A big part of student life is to go to the Oxford Union.

The Oxford Union is not the students’ union but a debating society. It has produced many prominent politicians such as some British prime ministers, the first female prime minister in the Islamic world, as well as other people like Secretary Boris Johnson, former mayor of London.

Many famous people, such as Shakira, Michael Jackson, Stephen Fry, Sir Ian McKellan, and President Dilma of Brazil have spoken at the Union.

If you’re very keen, you may participate in student politics here. If you’re active enough, you may get the title “union hack”.

I never really cared for the union but I was a representative for social sciences graduates at the Oxford University Student Union (used to be called OUSU, now Oxford SU). I sat on the University’s Social Sciences Board, Social Sciences Graduate Studies Committee, and Social Sciences Library Committee. It was an extremely interesting experience.

10845590_10153613639998998_281583322399836895_o

After that, you will probably start going into other colleges just to sightsee. This was from Hertford College.

10440850_10153340141933998_6329388594221534885_n

Then you will also need to study. This was taken in the library of the OUP.

10517344_10153252732188998_6654123015730734127_o

How about some sports? Not good at sports? Don’t worry!

There’s always quidditch. Yes, the one from Harry Potter. It’s for everyone.

10471509_10153278801013998_2923629224912221133_n

Along with my other stuff, I volunteered a lot.

I was the coordinator and English tutor at St Gregory’s The Great Catholic School for the Schools Plus programme at Oxford Hub. I was a trainer and active listener at Oxford Nightline. I was a mentor at IntoUniversity.

As a member of Hong Kong Round Table, I joined Oxford Round Table as a guest member and helped them out with the annual Fawkes’s night bonfire and fieworks.

1911062_10153278801088998_516492684636537715_o

We had to build it up very tall. 

10623686_10153278801388998_2688695858227760324_o

Some people just like to watch the world burn.

11289420_10153854478503998_4376182065153481349_o

You probably will join societies and attend events.

This was a talk with the Chancellor of the University, The Rt Hon Lord Patten, advisor to His Holiness The Pope, former chairman of the Conservative and Unionist Party, former Secretary of State, former European Commissioner, former chairman of the BBC Trust, and of course the last governor of Hong Kong.

That was an event organized by the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA). It was free to join during freshers’ week.

11164692_10153758469608998_7452653064784575320_o11148488_10153758470933998_9203263077449494215_o

Inevitably, you will want to try punting. It’s quite physical and not that easy, but still fun.

Lots of ducks.

11188372_10153769058093998_2656073372674250292_n

If you’re a graduate student, you may also do some graduate stuff like making an academic presentation.

I was presenting my research on Ed Ball’s Day.

10959851_10153536341418998_4554126012370942002_n10931009_10153536341358998_5351214131971737708_n

If you’re lucky, you can see a day of snow!

Needless to say, there are many student parties but I’m not going to post any of those photos. They are called “bops”.

1002525_10153294729308998_2399843928378609025_n

To make a tiny little bit of money, you can also volunteer at your college. This was me stealing a Master of Arts as a helper. We had a graduation ceremony that day.

11270678_10153940664003998_3463838747204791458_o

I got a ticket to the encarnia, the honorary degree ceremony! Dame Hilary Mantel was honored there.

1496507_10153949930173998_2208105497387557954_o

Towards the end of the year, you get to the balls’ season. (There are balls throughout the year but most of them are in May/June.)

I went to my college’s ball and pictured above was at Magd’s ball. Some balls are black tie, few are white. The white ones are more expensive and more formal. Different colleges do different things, but it’s basically a night of excessive drinking until 3am.

11312613_10153888611013998_7108023053506561255_o

Gay pride. LGBT History month is a big thing at Oxford with many colleges flying the rainbow flag, even some of the religious PPHs.

19575111_10156245520403998_5965162616612135245_o

In the end, you graduate.

I actually missed my own ceremony – we can delay for however long we want, but I didn’t want to wait, and I didn’t realize there were ceremonies during the summer as well, so I opted to graduate in absentia.

I went back this summer partly to take photos. Different degrees get different colours on the hood, and different levels of degree get different types of gown.

19800637_10156245521028998_31855646791239285_o

That’s Keble College. I thought it was absolutely beautiful from the inside, but back in the days, people hated it. St John’s College has/had this thing to steal one brick from Keble at a time until it collapses (it was built on John’s land).

19702735_10156245520793998_8204190521883468547_o

If you have a bike, you will need to secure it. Oxford and Cambridge are the Top 2 cities in the nation for bike theft.

19679023_10156245520068998_7933172130501969313_o

My department’s garden, As a graduate student, you get a mail box not just at your college (and wherever you’re living in), but also at your department. You also get two email addresses – one with your college’s name in it, one with your department like the one used by academics.

19667731_10156245519683998_1644032157323943471_o19667623_10156245520048998_389471508337086085_o19621349_10156245520668998_3067821575593929032_o

Inside of my college.

19621352_10156245519693998_1282363520730272609_o

Exeter College.

19679254_10156245520358998_3698790066722598954_o

Your thesis, if you have one, is forever stored in the Bodleian Libraries (even though it may be in the closed stack if it’s old). If you were awarded distinction, you get a sticker (pictured above).

As for the study experience, the undergrad and postgrad experiences are quite different, and different postgrads courses certainly vary depends on your discipline and specific course. But if you have a question, you’re welcome to ask me!

I did quite a lot during my year, actually. Apart from the above and the parties and normal socials and pulling and a student union representative (I even attended an NUS conference in London), I was a coordinating tutor at St Gregory’s The Great Catholic School on the Schools Plus programme at Oxford Hub, a mentor for IntoUniversity, and trainer at Oxford Nightline.

Beyond being an MSc, a member of Kellogg and the Education Department, I have several more connections to Oxford. I’m a life donor of the Bod, a “friend” of Exeter, and one of my exes went to Magdalen. I was, for two years, also a “country champion” at Oxford Education Society.


With my Oxford part concluding (for now), I’m planning to update this blog only periodically. I’m currently thinking of one update per week. We will see I guess!