The so-called Gili Islands are composed of three tiny islands: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. The term “Gili Islands” is a pleonasm on its own as “Gili” is the exact word-to-word Bahasa translation for “Island”. Nevertheless, the popular term used to describe the region in different sources of documentation still refers to this archipelago as “Gili Islands” (if you ever need to look them up online). Despite the reputation of “party island” Gili Trawangan has, we still chose it as our only destination out of three for its amazing scubadiving sites, an activity that was definitely on our to-do list while in Indonesia. For my part, I’ve been a certified Open Water Diver for 9 years. Cath did not seem so thrilled about sacrificing a full vacation week studying day and night to get certified. On the other hand, Sophie and Joanie made it their mission.
After two hours of delay for our flight from Malang, we finally arrived in Bali. We have been up since midnight. That's 18 hours straight with substantial physical activities including a hike up a volcano. Landing in Bali already gave us a different taste of Indonesia. From the tarmac, we could notice the large road signs advertising some of the most beautiful sights on this very touristy island. Pictures of impressive resorts with swimming pools offering a stunning view on the Indian Ocean made us understand very quickly that our time on the so-called "Paradise Island" was meant to be very different from what we have experienced so far in Indonesia.
After eight hours spent on a train, we finally arrived in Malang, a city Cath and I judged to be the best access point in order to climb up Mount Bromo - one of the volcanos in East Java still active today. Malang and Probolinggo were the best suited options to access the volcano. Only, we had to think ahead about our next move in order to choose our destination wisely.
With all the travels I have made this year, it's quite hard to believe - even for myself - that in this fourth quarter I am finally taking my first vacation. For the occasion, my good friend Cath and I have decided to meet in Indonesia for a full three-weeks of adventure with nothing planned but a first flight from Jakarta to Yogyakarta. I met Cath in Montreal during my first master's degree in Project Management. With her still living there and my short term assignment in China brought to a term, we coordinated both our flight schedules to minimize the waiting time at the airport before officially kicking off vacation season.
Just like a rap album from the early 2000's, a bonus track was added to the regular listing. Indeed, I learnt last week that I would spend a few days in Vietnam to visit a newly settled factory around an hour driving outside of Ho Chi Minh City. This business trip within a business trip was not originally planned and I only had a little amount of time to figure out the visa, flight ticket and accommodation. Alls well ends well, I managed to book everything on time and off I flew from Guangzhou to the city locals still refer to as Saigon.
Alejandro was a Mexican-American from the southern state of Georgia. He was on a two-month travel through Asia which started in Seoul a few days ago. He then made it to Beijing the same day I met him. He entered the hutong cantine the same way a Bandolero would step into a saloon in a Western Spaghetti. We shared a look and nodded at each other - a sign foreigners share between themselves while in an area predominantly frequented by locals. In China, although a lot of tourists come to see the wonders of this beautiful country, we foreigners are still highly outnumbered by the local population. Therefore, whenever we cross a "Western" (as they call us), we show some kind of acknowledgement.
As my short-term assignment is coming to an end, I finally got the chance to travel to Beijing. I only had two main sights I absolutely wanted to visit while travelling to the North Capital: The Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City. Based on my previous experiences while travelling through China, I knew that visiting the main sights during the Chinese summer vacations would guarantee large crowds, which would prevent me from fully enjoying my travel.
Zhangjiajie is about 12 hours away from Lushan - where I am currently located. This means the optimal way to get there was again the train. The first part of my commute was between Nanchang and Changsha and only took two hours on a G-Train - the Chinese bullet train. The second part was about 8 hours and left from a different train station. So I took a cab from the Changsha Railway Station to the Changsha South Railway Station for 30 minutes and 27 Yuan - a tiny detail which will be helpful toward the end of this post.
Just as stated in my previous post, Hong Kong is a city within a city. Therefore, I thought I'd tell another story within the same location as I literally opened a gate to the past during my weekend spent in Hong Kong. The main purpose of my visit was to reactivate my Business Visa which - although it allows me to enter the People's Republic of China through multiple entries - needs to be reactivated every 60 days. As a first-timer visiting the Fragrant Harbor, this was the perfect occasion to discover the city over a weekend.
The sun is setting on the Cantonese skies of Shenzhen as I am saying my last goodbye to the factory team who have treated me like nothing but a king during my stay at their facilities. We have just finished dinner in a local joint nearby and I am now sitting in the back of an SUV - with the "itis" hitting me hard - while my driver is bringing me to the Shenzhen Bay Control Point to cross the border to Hong Kong.
This weekend calls once more for adventure as I am travelling to Xi’an for two full days. This time, I rejected the option of commuting on a night train given my far-fetched experience from two weeks ago. Although, this well-thought-out change of strategy made me learn at my own expense that Chinese flights are rarely on time. Indeed, it is not uncommon to have flights delayed several hours.
On my first evening in the "City Above the Sea", a few guys I met at the hostel and I decided to team up for some sightseeing around the Old Town. On our way back from a full day of exploration, we decided to walk along the Huangpu River. As we were discussing while enjoying the skyscraper view along The Bund boardwalk, two ladies disturbed our friendly conversation by complimenting my outfit and uncommon haircut.
I should have known that I was in for a crazy ride when I decided to go for the cheapest option possible to get to Shanghai for the weekend - a night train in 2nd. Class. In my defense, I am neither aware of the different commuting options in China, nor of the gap that separates First Class from "the people" (lower case).
I finally made it to the People's Republic of China despite a rocky preparation. As you know from my previous post, I am here for a Short Term Assignement of three (3) months to work closely on improving production with our suppliers. I have just completed the first part of my assignment at the first factory, so it's the perfect moment to reflect on my first impressions about The People's Republic of China.
This month, I had the opportunity to travel to China for a short term assignment at work. Murphy's Law being always faithful to itself, my preparation for this STA was far from easy. Of course, things being what they are in a large global organization, no one was really aware of the process to follow to support me in this preparation. Fingers were crosspointed at each department (e.g. home location pointing at host location and vice versa). On top of that, I am sure you can imagine how complex the administrative process to obtain a Chinese visa could be. Add to this the good old German bureaucracy and you got yourself a very elaborate cocktail of mayhem.
No, this is not a typo! For those who don't know yet, Ljubljana is the capital city of the tiny - yet lovely - country that is Slovenia. The capital counts about 190,000 citizens and its country, a little over 2 million people. Surrounded by Austria, Italy and Croatia, it is easy to imagine how these neighbor countries have a strong influence on Slovenia's food, architecture and natural scenery.
As a true sports fanatic, I often find myself being most entertained while watching live sporting events, especially football. It just awakens in me such intense emotions as I witness the most impressive prowess from top class athletes...
While being relocated in a new country, I believe it is my duty as a new comer to get acquainted with the local customs and traditions, and as a citizen of the world to satisfy my thirst for general knowledge and culture...
I was not necessarily planning on going to Oktoberfest this year, as I just came back from a delightful two week vacation in the Balkans. But, when I learnt that my great friend Jo' was coming to town to visit me, resistance was out of the question!
After a long flight, we finally arrived in Rio de Janeiro for the 2014 FIFA World Cup ™. It has been almost ten months since my friend Phil and I have been preparing for this journey, achieving the ultimate dream of any football fan and here we are!
Already three years have passed since the last time life allowed me to brandish my blue passport. This life often places us face to face with a dilemma, thus asking us to choose between the human wealth that a trip can bring us and the logical choice that seems to be the most beneficial in the long term in terms of social security.