Stop 4 Shenzhen / 深圳 – a modern city

Having heard nice things about ShenZhen, I decided to take a slower route from HK to Vietnam by stopping by ShenZhen, GuangZhou and take the bus from NanNing into Hanoi. Of course, also because I can then meet some old acquaintances on the way.

Being a fruit of the economic boom in the past, ShenZhen looks slick and modern. Clean streets and well built infrastructure give you a warm welcome. Since most workers are from out of town, during the New Year, there is almost nobody in the city and most stores are closed down. Many opened restaurants are short staffed and were not able to service many customers at once.

On the hills just behind the central government building, one can overlook the new city center. Tall buildings stem from the ground forming a modern city center. I think it looks really like any modern city. There is no iconic buildings that I recognize.

Otherwise, I was not able to see much from the city since I was busy meeting friends and doing laundries. I was able to quickly peek into the library and saw many people studying there.

You can see a reflection of the educational system on their desks. Most people are just doing mock exams, only mock exams. Someone is studying English by writing down vocabularies. In the end, what is the most important is to pass the entrance exam into the universities. How will the knowledge be applied? That is not very much taken care of in those days. I am not saying that the western system is better, but it provides you more possibilities to apply what you have learned and pushes you more to think yourself.

I met mom of a friend of mine, and her friend. I was the best man at her wedding and we know each other from that event. She kindly invited me to her home as well to chat and see how my friend’s wife grew up. The older lady is learning Chinese and is currently visiting ShenZhen to pick up more Chinese. She would regularly return to China and intends to do so in the future too to continue learning Chinese.

I also met Tao, with whom we started our studies at ETH. We were discussing about the current Chinese society. Anger, unhappiness, fear is spread in different society levels. And if you don’t get loud, some people just don’t take you seriously. The effort for dignity in your normal life is way too high. It is a bit ironic that you actually needs to shout or being angry in order to be treated what we consider normal. And just as it happened, I heard someone wants to change some laws in China.

It was nice seeing you guys again, hope next time won’t be too far away.

Me, in Ninh Binh,



Stop 3.4 People in Hong Kong

Again, people are an essential part of the trip. I spent some days by meeting people I knew, going to places with them, going to places with people I met in Taiwan a week ago or even meeting new people I got introduced to.

It is really interesting sometimes how much you get to know someone even during a very short time. (Taxi or Uber drive)

Disclaimer: actually, after reviewing what I wrote, it seems a bit boring how I described everyone. But in the end, their part of life is interesting to look into.

  • Will & Donald
    I have introduced these guys in the first post.
  • The Taxi driver
    We met the taxi driver on the first night when we went back to Kowloon after going out. He is 75 years old. He worked for the government and is now retired. His 3 kids all went to UK to school since government officials have such fringe benefits to send their kids to UK for education for free. The oldest son is now a professor somewhere in UK and earns 10k pounds a month. Apparently this is not enough and his daughter who works in the financial industry earns more than that.
  • 阿Bing
    I met 阿Bing in Ohana的天空 in Taichung. We went out to have food couple of times there. Now we met in HK again and she showed me around at the NY market in the Victoria’s Park. I am very thankful for this short afternoon for the walk. She told me about some political backgrounds of the scenes and told me about stories why certains things are sold there. Also some puns in cantonese which got put up as slogans in the market. Her family has a flower shop setup in the market and her aunt is running that place. She wanted to help and also meet maybe other relatives. The flower shop that her aunt has need to run at the market since this would bring up the revenue and even out the normally not so flourishing business in her usual shop. Her dad works as air conditioning engineer and her mom is now without a job since the previous admin job made her suffer. 阿bing went to university and is now working as a nurse. Her family lives on Lantau thus living a normal HK life. She has been exchanging and also did an internship in NY.
  • Moris
    I know Moris from Zurich because we met several times at our infamous night sessions making a fire in the woods. We went to the Horse race on Wednesday. The atmosphere is very casual and using a simple swipe of your octopus card, you can enter to bet and have a drink with your friends. Apparently compared to the Sunday race, it is more social on wed and people are generally having more fun. I also met some other PhD fellows from the HKCU. Pedron is from Iran and seemed a very outgoing person. There is Christian and Hanna and another German student whose name I forgot. Also another persian student who likes Gin. There is also Lawrence who is originally from SH and came to HK to study as a visiting student from Vancouver.

Now Moris is very excited about the life in HK because it is so different. Everyday it gives him a new perspective which is unexpected to him. Compared to some white dudes who wants to live in Asia because life is just simpler than back in Europe, Moris is eager to get to know the culture and learn the language and because the differences just excite him.

And soon on Friday I met most of them again for Poker at the campus. Hanna is actually an undergrad who spent some years in South Africa and Africa because of her parents. I also got to know Perdron a little bit more who likes to make jokes but turned out to be playing safe all the time during poker.

  • Sebastian
    This is actually the first guy I had a longer conversation with in HK. He was skyping with his dad in German with a very strong Austrian accent. When he finished up and said Hi, I jokingly told him sorry that I actually understood everything. This encounter is actually very similar to the one time I was in Hiroshima and met a Swiss guy called Nils. Of course he looked baffled and ended up letting people guess where I am from whenever we met new people in the hostel.
    He has been in HK for some time now and has been on working holidays and travelling for 2 years in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. He is looking for a job in HK and spends most of his time in the hostel somehow. He is very knowledgable at many things such as materials for teeth replacements and was interested in Swiss political system which Me and another Swiss guy had difficulties to explain in the very details. (Shame on me and I hope people don’t take away my swiss passport because I wrote this :D) He is a very casual chilling guy and likes to joke around. After one week somehow he is still putting together his portfolio for a designer job in HK. I hope he will be successful in that and not ending up chilling too much.
  • A interlude on society
    When I entered my dorm in Tsin Sha Tsui (TST), Sebastian mentioned the 2 typical life style here in HK which are the expat and the HK local life style. I would say there are things in between too. It is very comparable in Shanghai, where in my family circle, my cousins would still live with the parents and would only move out once they marry. The usual jobs they have can’t let them afford to rent an apartment on their own. Also our families live a little bit outside of the center (between first and second circle). I also know people, who had a good university degree, work in good companies and can rent a place and live in Shanghai. But again, going out is not really an activity on their usual ToDo list for the weekend. My families do invest in stock markets to make some extra money, but in the end, they are just small investors who follow the follow and if it is a bullish market, all good, if bearish, you are stuck in a sink hole.
  • Stephen
    Stephen is half american and half Taiwanese. Although he is good looking and tall, he is a bit shy. He also quited his job in November and was travelling in south east Asia for some months now. He is also in HK for more than a week and sometimes, he would come back early and sit on the bed or sofa to read a book. He is a good companion who is OK with a lot of the suggestions. This is maybe where I see my own reflections a little bit. I am OK with many things but then I don’t always think upfront what I want to do. Once people are without clues, then someone needs to step up with a suggestion. I need to do that more if the situation is like that. Hence when I was with him I am more able to lead a bit more for exercises since we ended up going to Shenzhen together.
  • Pablo
    Pablo is a Swiss master student whom I met only for a night before returning to Switzerland. He is actually half Indian and half Spanish, interesting mix. He is in HK to interview a few people for his Master Thesis.
  • Harry
    Harry is an ABC that my previous boss introduced me to. He works at PWC as Senior Manager. We talked about some career opportunities and of course the life style in HK. Also expats consider the life expenses very high and seem to be under some pressure just as locals.
  • Zhang xin yi
    She is a niece from a friend of mine at the EXPO 2010. She is about to graduate and we talked a bit about some career options and about my recent break up ?. For her age, she seemed very much mature. She knows a lot of things that she should do in a relationship to make it work better. Things I wish that I would have said to someone too. She is a Mechanical Engineering student. I wonder whether engineering student have the tendency to have a desire to understand the world better and hence reflect more on what have happened in the past.
  • The Uber driver
    After poker at the campus I called up an Uber. The driver is 23 years old and used to be not interested at all in school and ended up with some friends who brought him down the wrong path. He used to go out one or two times a week and spend 6-7k HKD (~800CHF) in the club. Now his family not doing well anymore and is of course not able to supply him with the money as before. That made him realize that making money is not that easy. Especially when you don’t have a good education degree. He is now managing a local burger shop (not sure whether he owns it or not) and was making some extra money on late nights during the chinese NY. Is it sometimes really necessary to experience things ourselves so that we finally understand some truth of life?

Stop 3.3 Macau / 澳门 – shiny things

Macau is only an one-hour boat trip away from Hong Kong. There is a boat almost every half an hour.

Under portuguese influence, you can feel the mediterranean style in many places. But today, the town is filled with chinese tourists. The usual scenaries are probably a bit boring since they are simply ruins from the time the Portuguese were there. Also the brief history of Macau was mentioned in the HK history museum so I just quickly walked through.

Some food I had: congee, pork steak bum and some Portuguese style food (it is supposed to be a bit different than the original Portugues food, a similar comparison is to try French food in Vietnam). I was waiting half an hour for a egg tart, but stupidly enough, I didn’t get a ordering ticket before queueing for the pick up (it was not signalized). There is a couple from Beijing too and did the same mistake, they were 2 people and were kind enough to let me join their order. But in the end, they were not able to get the right batch so we gave up. It was nice to observe that how in this kind of situation, they reacted to the owner. They stayed calm and wanted to suggest that the shop put up a sign to inform how they organized themselves.

Of course, the main attraction are the casinos. The largest one on the island that I arrived at is the Lisboa. A really weirdly shaped building. Is it a leaf? Is it a feather? It is built with the money that people gambled away, that is for sure.

On the other island of Macau, I discovered some narrow roads which reminded me just of mediterranean cities. A small restaurant with some candle lights brings you into the right mood.

The largest casinos of course: The Venetian, The Parisien, The Galaxy. I didn’t end up having too much time to observe so I just spent 15 minutes in the Venetian. Jesus it was huge. The minimum bet I saw was 500 HKD. Quite ridiculous. And people there gamble away in a serious face wanting to win so badly. Where is the joy? Just like I saw in Helsinki once in the casino, people don’t really enjoy themselves. Even when someone wins something in roulette, it is just an expected return. Expectation! We often expect so much and are let down once we don’t get what we expected or hoped to get. Especially when we expect anything from things/people that we can’t really control. Should we ever expect anything from others? Of course we want to be treated the way we treat other people, but in the end if they don’t … we might feel angry, we might feel sad, we might get hurt, especially if  you cared a lot about that person. Where is the balance of setting expectations? If you cease to expect anything at all, don’t you loose your motivation sometimes? Or is it ok to expect and just deal with the consequence?

Me, in Guangzhou, just said goodbye to a travel friend I met 3 years ago again for 2 days


Stop 3.2 Hong Kong – A hike to the peak

After a lazy Sunday with only a visit to the history museum of HK (actually a well-made, large museum. it had recreated how HK looked like in the past years, the parts about the formation of the land was a bit toooo far fetched, but the recent histories were well made), I went for a hike to the Peak on HK island. As usual, I will not post the usual scenary photots but only the photo below.

The interesting elements in this photo are:

  • Grandma, who is living on the HK island and walking up to the peak everyday.
  • The giant teddy bear in the apartment
  • Of course the high buildings representing the state of living on the HK island
  • I would love to add something else on the picture which I saw on the way: Philipino maid walking with a young western boy

I talked to Grandma and asked her about her living. She is 76  years old and is living with her child (married, the she lives together with the couple) somewhere on the island. They work in a bank and construction business. Her grandchildren are off to somewhere (she mentioned UK) in the world to study. (no surprise) I asked her whether they are coming back for the CNY. She said, she doesn’t know. Compared to the taxi driver I met on Saturday, who is 75, she seemed much older.

The above picture is a part of Grandma’s daily routine and I think this is typical for the modern day living in HK (or in any major asian city such as Shanghai). A generation of people, formed by their own experience, want to provide a better (‘better’ in parents’ interpretation) living condition for their kids (I am one of those kids and my parents belong to this generation). They go out in the world and try their hardest to work and provide those conditions (conditions can be different things). Often, they wouldn’t be able to spend time with the kids. The teddy bear would be something symbolic for that. The child might feel lonely and just want something that he/she can hug. Grandparents would help out in such cases and take care of the children, or, missing on this pictures, having a nanny to help out. In case of a nanny, who might even become the closest person that the child is with, can shape the kid’s character in certain ways too.

I still think that the most important thing for a kid’s childhood is parenting. The things that get taught in school are more or less standard for everyone. But the right mindset/attitude and value standards are taught by our parents. With the lack of time to do the actual parenting, it is difficult to shape the children’s mind or character. He/she might get lost or end up in wrong paths and never come back. (I actually met a Uber driver on my last night in HK who had this kind of experience, but he made it back luckily)

So while some people are focusing on providing materials for the younger generation, which is understandable due to the conditions in the past, some other things are neglected. In the end, what is the meaning of parenting? And what is the meaning of being or become an adult? Also what is love from parents to their children, is it just to give them whatever they want? To spoil them and let them drown within that kind of definition of love? How will such kids be able to handle the adult life once there is no such support anymore? I don’t want any bad things to happen to anyone, but one day, our parents will grow old and might not be able to do what they used to do, one day, maybe the market will crash and they will loose all their assets. Everyone should live a happy life and enjoy themselves. Our parents should do that too. Why let them worry about us? Let them go out and have a good time too. Being adult means ultimately to be responsible for ourselves and go through life and deal with everything that comes at us. Life isn’t easy for anyone. Why make it harder if you can make it easier for your parents?


me, just shortly after the first post of HK, I am catching up 🙂

Stop 3.1 Hong Kong – A Saturday night’s out

The first night I arrived in Hong Kong I already met up with Will, who I know back from Zurich. We worked in the same company, but he is in the HK branch.

After some communication difficulties, we finally met in Central, on a Rooftop bar called CeLaVi. Not surprising at all, the scene is dominated by western people. Just like I know back from Shanghai 2010.

On the rooftop, the floor manager (can be spotted through different clothing) is Chinese. I was not able to find my friend since his FB message didn’t come through. So I ordered a beer myself and started observing  (100 HKD for a beer is ridiculously expensive, it costs actually 97, but the guy at the bar did not even bother to give me the change back).

You can see different groups. White girls celebrating someone’s birthday, some mid age chinese guys, lying there as if they the greatest. Some other young (maybe english) guys, one ordered a beer at the bar and based on his watch on the wrist and his age, I would think that his family is wealthy, but of course, this can be totally wrong)

I finally met Will and his friend Donald. They know each other from sports and he is working in his family import business. He spent some years in Australia and now came back to HK. A typical story from a HK guy in such scenes, there are a lot of HK guys in London when I did my exchange program there.

Then we went downstairs again around the block. It was packed with party people.

Now a small side story: Donald knew some Russian girls from an App and went looking for them. We went to a small shisha place and realized that the bar is filled with some other Russians and two were obviously working their shifts that night with barely nothing on them. At the table beside, a bunch of asian guys were looking really fucked up lying on the sofa. We quickly said hi and left the place.

We stepped into another bar where Donald knew the bar manager. That bar is dark, there is a DJ playing some music but there is of course no space for a dance floor. You have booths filled with shots and champagne and people talking there. The usual setup is that some guys order the booth and invite some girls they know, and they might bring along some of other friends as well.

That night, Will would initiate conversations with some girls and we would talk to get to know them. There were a couple who were sisters, and the younger was difficult to have a conversation with (one way conversation and too loud). The other group we met were an australian friend who knew Donald’s friend. They have similar background as Donald. One girl seemed to be easy going, who ofc went to UK for school and worked in Beijing and Shanghai in the past 1 or 2 years and now came back to HK. She is doing cosmetic tattoos (like tattooed eyebrow) if I remember correctly. She seemed more easy going and was actually providing inputs to the conversation.

Nobody will see this text but I kind of like it because the faces are blurred due to the flash of the cam.

We came out around 2 or 3 and below is what I saw on the street. It is most probably right that such places are nothing for the mid class or poor. The right question though is to ask what are we looking for when we go out? It is a good place to meet new people and have fun dancing around or enjoy the music, become a bit tipsy and relief the stress from the day/week, but if it is to show your social status and pump up your ego … this is not my type of thing. But in the end, such people are everywhere and such thinking should not be preventing me to go anywhere. Keep a positive mind and it is always interesting to find out what kind of a person your opposite is.

The last typical western stop (at least, typical for CH): kebap.

To conclude, it was a really interesting night out in HK. Compared to Shanghai, it is more mixed, and a bit closer to the western reality. Thanks for Don, Will and Don’s friend for taking me out! 🙂

Me, sitting in a hotel room in Shenzhen with a huge curved QHD screen, mechanical keyboard, which costs like 25.- CHF per night.

P.S.: actually the taxi driver back to Kowloon was also telling interesting stories, but more to that, later in the 3.2 post.

Stop 2: Kaohsiung + Taichung

For the rest of the days in Taiwan, I didn’t really do much. We arrived in Kaohsiung late and just visited the biggest night market. We went to 旗津 next day and just chilled in the art district the day after before meeting a friend in 善化. That night, we went to taichung to stay in a friendly hostel named Ohana的天空 recommended by my friend. The owner would tell every guest to come down and share a story in the evening.

We arrived late and it seemed that some people may already have left the scene. That night, there were mostly university students who are doing their exams for master programs the next day. Looking at their faces, I realize how fresh they look.

The owner is a soft mid aged man who wants to let others know that getting to know other people can actually be the most interesting part of a trip. He said looking at Taiwan, the sceneries might not be the greatest on the world, but the people are an “attraction”. This is where we can learn a lot of new things and I totally agree with that. So far, people from Taiwan are really heart warming. (this is actually a topic that can be discussed further, just compare to the people in Zurich) Also a lot of the statements on the wall resonate with my current thoughts.

The below one says, no one that can decide what kind of person we should become, except ourselves.

is to find our way back home,
is to get to know ourselves better,
is to become someone interesting. (I believe I translated this sentence correctly, and using this as a base, my comment would be, we don’t need to travel to become interesting, there are different ways to become interesting, genuinely speaking, being interested and curious is what will make us an interesting person. Hence, this should not be a motivation to travel. Rather, that we are eager to discover new things. Becoming more interesting is merely a [possible] outcome of the travel. Be well noted that I added the word possible because looking at how chinese people travel, it is really not an enrichment to their lives.)

When you look at the owner, he has his own communication styles. He makes jokes about how he would prefer girls as guests rather than guys. It is difficult to describe it in exact words here (maybe I will try later), but he tries his best to loosen the pressure when strangers meet. He likes to craft things. For example he creates his own glasses by cutting the half of a normal beer bottle and smoothes the edges. The last night, he offered us to make a coin, where we can engrave our own words on it. I chose “Shit happens” with “Deal with it” on the back side.

The Taichung national museum is actually well made. Unfortunately I had to hurry to my next BBQ reservation so I had only 40 minutes to run through. The first exhibition comes with the explanation from the artist and this is exactly what I always miss in modern art expos. I need to find the explanations for the below two pics and attach them here too.

And for the last, some food pictures to conclude the whole week in Taiwan.

If you scrolled down here, you maybe have noticed that I was too lazy to format all the pictures and make space etc. But I am happy that you made it this far :). I will try to post less pics next post.

Me, drafted this 2,3 days ago in HK and finishing this up after a long day in Macau. (Holy fuck the the casinos are too big … [sry, never been to Vegas before])


Stop 1.2 Tainan / 台南 – Food

This one will contain mostly just fotos … We did not do much in Tainan but eating from one stand to the next one. To summarize: there are so many things to try out in Tainan (or Taiwan in general) but there really was not anything that blew your mind to be honest. If I need to pick one, then the squid soup is the best from them.

Most of the food are located on 国华路 as Kate showed us, starting from 永乐广场 going south. But the following pictures are not ordered by location nor time.

This is the squid soup. Tasted light but exactly right.

This is some fish skins and meat. Tasted fresh.

Squid plus some fish balls and shrimps.

This one is kind of special. It is enclosed with in the bread and the filling we had is with cream and some vegetables.

This is the longest queue we had. Mostly intestines from beef.

Chocolate ice cream. This store only offers one single taste every day. By their own choice. A good way to market I guess.

“Schnitzel” from a night market. We were 3 people and we were too hungry so that we all took the same thing. That filled us up good and we didn’t have enough room to try much more other stuff afterwards …

Some gilled stuff. 1 Franc for one stew.

Breakfast I had in a local market. Quite sweet and filled with meet.

me, on the second night in Hong Kong.

Stop 1.1: Tainan / 台南 – People

After the long flight Zurich-Dubai-HongKong-Kaohsiung, the first longer stay is in Tainan. I chose a hostel which is a bit further away from the center but the reviews revealed that the owner Kate is apparently very nice. I arrived roughly around 16:00 and was then chatting with some of her friends.  

They met through biking tours. Actually I did not pay attention to the english name of the hostel which is exactly “Bike”. The guy on the right is working in Mosambique since 3 years on the farms. He knows the company’s owner through university who is from Mosambique and met his wife in Taiwan during his studies. The other one on the left used to be in the (Taiwan equivalent of) “navy seal” and now is doing super ironman to keep him fit. He wants to turn pro but the financial side is not easy to manage. He is now managing some cooling facilities and tries to earn more from selling seafood to premium clients. Usually seafood are prepared with some extra stuff to make them look bigger and more fresh. So he is selling more healthy seafood with no extra.

Now to other hostel guests.

The 2 girls on the right are from Sweden. Just graduated from High school, have been working in retail for some months, now they started to travel for 4 months in Southeast Asia. This apparently a common thing to do for the gap year and they already met a lot of the previous classmates. The guy at the bottom is from Spain. He works in Berlin as a vet but quited his current job (too) because he did not come along with the boss. He also spent some months in Changmai volunteering as a dog vet. He is rather a reserved guy and did not talk much. The guy with the glasses is an exchange student from Berlin from Qinghua. To describe him shortly, I would say he is the pretty standard German guy that I picture in my mind. After one day or two, you can only find out that much and of course there is so much more than what meets the eyes. The young chinese girl is called Ebby. She is in the 2nd grade High school and is currently helping out Kate in the Hostel. In Taiwan, such things are more common compared to mainland (which I wished I would have done something like that as well, one of the Swedish girls did a gap year in Illinois too in a guest family). She is very open and for her young age, compared to myself, will do just great in the future. Actually her mom sells insurances to Kate. That baffled me a bit that you can actually become friends with the guy that sells you insurance … where you know some profits are inbetween.

Of course, now to the main character: Kate.

The reviews of course prove themselves right. She is so warm and you almost feel like she is an aunt to you. Not sure what details make you feel this way but she just seemed authentic. Once she was even worried that we should hurry up to go outside and not to “squander” the day inside even it was freaking cold in Tainan (10 degrees). She would bring the guests to close by spots to show them street food from the neighbourhood. She would also invite her friends along to the hostel to chat with the guests. She would take guests to a local restaurant and order local food for them. And she is so uncomplicated, extending the stay, switching rooms and all are all not a problem. Maybe she just remembers me of the old days how my aunt was treating us.

More people of course. It was a short night chat just before the day we left Tainan. There are 2 canadian chefs on this picture who work in Hyatt. One is hold back and the other one has a lot energies and is the kind of the loud and crazy person in the group. There is an English guy who studies in Beijing because he thinks Chinese will be useful. There is Danish guy with Arabic origins who is now living in Taiwan since roughly 4 years and his Chinese was pretty impressive. He met his girlfriend through his roommate and adopted a dog who was put in front of one of his friends house. His girlfriend actually knows Kate from picking one of her friend once in the hostel. Now they are friends and Kate would say that she is a bit of the crazy kind. (I would say this more just open minded and curious person). And of course there is my friend whom I know from Shanghai EXPO 8 years ago.

Well, this is a short summary of the people I met in the past few days and they are what make the travels special. And now I actually realilze that writing a blog takes time and you do rethink of what happened. This is a good way of reflection …

Me, in Kaohsiung again, waiting to eat more food. And this is what the next post will be about 😀


Hello World!

I still remember 19 years ago, when my flight took off from Shanghai to Munich, the expression on mom’s face. Although it was just for a short year, leaving what you have known for 40 years is something special. I never imagined that I could relate to that. Leaving Shanghai 2 times never struck me that much. Somehow today, I was not overwhelmed with excitement, but rather with the feeling that I will miss everything in Zurich. With the people especially. Over the last 3 years, it is only now that I realize what I had experienced and what I have now. Whatever broke me in 2017 is maybe the best thing that happened to make me experience what I experience now. It makes me feel alive and not just a walking zombie in the daily routines.

Now ahead to the adventures, feel the fear and do it anyway. Look laziness in the eye, pet him calmly and smile away.

Me, somewhere over the middle east.