Stop 31.2 Medellin – Some free days

I decided not to extend my Spanish lessons. Otherwise I would not be going around much and practicing is something you can doing during the trip as well.

On Saturday, I went to Sante Fe de Antioquia with the school. There was Anderson, who was managing the school and playing the guide that day. Cristina also went along, who was new in the school in Bogotá and was getting to know how the school in Medellín worked. She would occasionally take some pictures and actually spoke a bit of German. Anderson did actually our introduction and he seems to be a very steady guy. He always talks calmly and without much “ehms” or “aehs”. This was very satisfying to listen to.

Sasha, Robert, Marco and Jimmy joined the trip. Actually, I promised Sasha that I would take him with me with the Uber. And Friday we went out with Wout, Sasha and Paul together to Calle Setenta. Others went on to the bars and clubs at the park of El Poblado and I went home instead. And of course Sasha was not able to wake up and I had to tell the guards to call the family to wake him up. In the end, we were like 25 minutes late. Robert is a guy from Australia with a strong Gringo accent. He works as a contractor for tunnel systems and is traveling before finding a job in London (I believe).

The town itself is very colonial and not too shabby. We went to some squares, a museum, and a bridge before heading to a restaurant to chill or watch the Champions League final. There was a girl who was playing Chopin on the piano in the courtyard of the museum and we sticked there to listen. We actually met these guys afterwards again at the main square and Jimmy went straight up to talk to them. It was just a small chat about what they do but the attitude of Jimmy is quite awesome of just initiating discussions of things that interest him. And the 2 were happy to talk to us. They were actually some music students who were practicing for their concert tonight.

One sight on the main square:

After this, we wanted to go to Guatepe on Sunday and we ended up making plans to take the bus at 9 the next day with Robert, Jimmy and Marco. Robert sent a picture around where we can meet but it resulted in some major misunderstanding. Long story short, we were waiting half an hour on 2 different spots and ended up taking different buses to Guatape. I felt a bit guilty since I anticipated this could happen but did not try my best to find the other spot.

Jimmy, his main objective is to learn Spanish on his trip. So he was trying every opportunities to do that. Even though our level do not match, I tried to do that as well, but others would retreat to English once it gets too complicated. Robert’s and Marco’s level are even worse than mine. Jimmy was even trying to enforce this a little bit as soon as the others tried to speak English. But at the same time, he gets annoyed by Robert’s gringo accent. For me, there are people who are just not good with pronunciations so you should be a bit more tolerant.

And more and more, I feel like Robert is a bit like an adult child. He was not taking any responsibility or was not realizing that he could have done better for the meet up. Also, when we wanted to go for a boat trip, he asked something and wanted to do that and was trying to call us to his spot. But he was not even discussing with us what we wanted to do. He would neither pay attention sometimes and would get himself into confused situations.

I also talked to Jimmy a little more on the bus ride home. He finished his biology Bachelor degrees at Stanford and is about to study at the Med School at Stanford. The motivation is cool that he wants to help more people. But when we talked about my university I was getting a feeling of him judging people based on their education. We talked a bit about the jobs in Switzerland, and about how my job could also be done by someone from a less famous university if he does well at interviews. For me, the personal skills or attitudes are way more important. But the American system, or even maybe the modern education system has shaped our thinking into this way. I remember talking to a Chinese friend about this who graduated from QingHua (the best in China). She said that she knew that this is not good but amongst the millions of people in China, this provided the quickest way to find out whether your thinking would fit with your opposite.

But the view in Guatape is amazing:

I also went to Parque Arví with Wout and got my Yellow Fever shot since I wanted to go to the Amazons and head further on to Peru afterwards. Me and Wout decided to go to Cartagena together and also later maybe doing the Lost City trek and go to the most northern point of Colombia.

Also at the dinner table, we talked about divorce rate. In Colombia, we noticed that many families are separated and people seem to act normal about it. Simón’s parents are divorced and Angela confirmed this as well. But for Angela’s case, her husband died a few years ago. After we checked as well that well developed countries have way higher divorce rate (almost 50%) and in Colombia it is actually lower. But Angela said that it is very expensive to get a divorce here so people just live separately. I would really like to know a bit more about the reasons. To me, the ultimate commitment is sort of the best romance.

And here is also a picture of Medellín. I quite liked the city. It also had parts which remembered me of the hill side on HongKong island. And the setup in the valley just amazes you everytime.

Me, enjoying the sun in Cusco.


Stop 32: Cartagena

We stayed in One Day hostel in Getsemani which is a really cool area with colorful walls in the streets. At night we got to talk to Jonas, where Wout just very simply asked the question: where are you from, and the conversation flows from there.

Jonas is a German mechanical engineering student who is travelling between semesters. Students are usually on a tight budget and when we were talking about dinner options, he opted for the cheaper pizza place where Wout and I went to a restaurant he used to go to. It was a good fit that Wout is actually willing to spend some more money on food. This is also something I came to realize that travelling in Backpacking hostels sometimes indicates that people are short on budget. After working for 2 years, spending a bit more money on comfort and food is actually not a problem anymore.

The restaurant was also quite cool which is called Las Indias. You can get lunch for 15k COP with amazing food. The owner himself actually went to Barcelona and a lot of places in Europe. That was also why we were able to talk a lot about different kind of topics such as cultures around the coast area. Maybe have been travelling does make people more open in some ways.

We also got to talk to Josh, who is from Australia. He will be traveling for a while and currently, he is collecting stories to write a book, I believe. Compared to the girl I met in Don Det, this sounds like a better motivation and he is also meeting his friends here as well. Funny enough when he talked to a short haired girl, I met this girl on my flight from Bogota to Leticia afterwards as well. (But this was just a 5 minute talk and she disappeared in Leticia again)

I also briefly remember a short conversation with a German medical student who spent like 4 months in Azaibaidjan studying some toxology I believe. I thought she was quite brave to go all by herself in Colombia.

Then there was also this Scottish girl called Kate. We had like a conversation of 10 minutes. We introduced ourselves and somehow started to make jokes already. Wout sent me a video and I was saying aloud that, Did you just send me a video wout? She went: wuh, that is really inappropriate. I said back: you know what is really inappropriate? let me open this video and play it in front of everybody. Well, we wanted to meet for another beer actually but in the end, we got stuck at Plaza del Trinidad again so we did not talk again.

That was actually it in Cartagena. We shortly visited the Nueva Lengua there as well. Quickly said hi to Anael and Naty, that was about it.

Some pictures:

Oh and the plankton tour. This was so magical and the most beautiful thing I have seen so far in my trip. If you want to do anything in Cartagena, please, do this.

Ah and on this boat I got into conversation with some girls from Chile, and 3 guys from NY who are going to start some accounting program at PWC.

Me, spending the last day in Arequipa, not sure when I will find another computer to use in the next weeks.

Stop 31.1 Medellín – Spanish Language School

The first day in Bogotá, I have organized my one week Spanish school in Medellín. There was not much to do in Bogotá, so I chose Medellín since it would be a good base to go around too. I learned Spanish as a tentative course back in my last year (or was it 2 years?) of high school. We had basic conversations and watched movies from time to time. After 10 years, I really don’t remember much. So hopefully, with this week, I will be able to recap some Spanish, learn some more and be able to travel the rest with it.

I chose to stay with a host family since this is the better option to learn Spanish and considering that I have never done this before, it is cool to try out.

The flight is rather short and the taxi ride to the family took actually longer. Also, given the situation with Medellin, I was still a bit nervous when I was sitting the cab. The driver spoke some English and was telling me some things on the way. The road is usually bi-directional, but Sunday afternoon, all the people who went away for the weekend came back and it becomes uni-directional for some time. He also met another driver he knew and waved at him. He told me that this guy is always smiling but if you take his taxi, he will try to charge you way more. So behind his smiles, there were a hidden judgement just like in the rest of the world.

At the house, I met Andrea together with a Dutch guy who was staying in the same family. I did not expect that but why not. When I talked to Andrea, I realized that my Spanish is so bad that I couldn’t understand anything at all … I then got to meet Angela who is the host and Andrea’s mom and she cooked dinner for us. I can’t remember what we talked about in all those evenings but I will try to summarize in the end.

I can’t really describe all the people I met in Medellin here but I will try to list a few key people.

Sasha is a German mechanical engineering student. I went to the museum with him the first afternoon and the next day again since the attempt on the Monday afternoon turned out to be unsuccessful. He has a very (very) strong German accent when he is speaking Spanish. With 4 years of Spanish course, he was not bad at all. But the German accent killed him. The uber driver nor other people can understand him well. In this short period of time, I can’t say special things about him since he is quite typically German. Maybe only thing that was funny is that he is chatting on Tinder all the time.

Then there was Jimmy. He is an ABC whose family is from Shanghai as well. He grew up somewhere close to San Fransisco and got accepted to Stanford medical school for the next semester. He spoke already very well Spanish since he was learning a lot with an Argentinian private teacher back in the states. He is usually very pushy about speaking Spanish, so basically every conversation that we were having, was in Spanish. This is really helpful when you want to improve. But some things later in the second chapter.

There was also Paul, another German guy who was staying within a shared apartment. He is going to study in Lisbon and wanted to improve his Spanish before heading down there and start with another language. He tried different things in Medellin already such as language exchanges and stayed in hostels for a while too. We did not talk that much actually so the only thing more was that he likes to drink aguadiente.

And there was Marco, a Swiss guy from Bern who had almost no knowledge in Spanish. I was paired with him in the same class with Simón, our teacher for the week. I got to know Marco a bit better since we were having classes together and also conversation classes where we would talk about anything. It turned out to be more in English since he really wanted to express his opinions on some matters. He quited his job as an asset manager in BKW (a power plant company of Bern) and found this new job for some regulations in the government. Between these 2 jobs, he is trying to learn some Spanish but I think one of the reasons was also the last breakup in his relationship with this lawyer girl whom he met on Tinder.

So we ended up having vocabulary and grammar classes with Simón and conversation classes with Estuban.

Simón is actually very young (23) and is still studying some thing lcose to linguistic. He seemed to be a very bright person and patient in explaining things to us. He also spoke very slowly to let us hear all the words.

Estuban looked more like a personal trainer form the Gym. It turned out, Picking up women is actually one of his passionate topics and he read all the stuff from Mystery to the Game. I remember this PUA thing to be very popular back in the days and I read actually the Game as well. It compelled to me to certain extent because in the beginning I was not that conversational with women. But the end of the book of the Game, which actually I liked a lot, is actually about the motives why some people try out PUA. Many guys are insecure and need to be successful with women to prove their worth, or maybe rather, they want to get the girl in bed and feel proud about themselves after as a hunter who just caught his prey. In Spanish actually, it is quite funny that they use “conquer” when it is about going out. Actually this is a bigger topic to talk about and I will not write more here. Back to Estuban, who is almost 40 years old and still lives with his mom. So, other female students in the school mentioned this topic too and felt rather molested from him (maybe molest is a too strong word). But from the conversational classes, I can say that Estuban really wants to be good in picking up women.

Back at home, I got to know Wout a bit better. He is a geology student who finished his bachelors and worked 7 months and now wants to travel south America for 1.5 years. He is also learning Spanish in the beginning and was in Cartagena for 7 weeks already. But now the school does not have sufficient materials for him so he shortened his booking from 21 weeks to 12 weeks. He seemed very rational about everything (actually many Dutch people are like that) and when discussing about things, always comes up with facts and so on to argue.

Angela is the centre mother figure and cares about you like your family member. The first afternoon when I got back from the center, she was so concerned. The centre (parque barrio) is not somewhere they would normally go because it is not safe (yes there are weird people standing around and looking at you). At dinner table, we sometimes talk about politics since the election is going on. Also we would talk about some Chinese culture since this is not something people get to know in Colombia. Also, one of the first questions you get is whether you have a girlfriend, or you are married or how many kids you have. She was also so nice to organize the yellow fever shot for me.

Andrea works in a transportation company as a manager. I think she coordinates certain things and sometimes she gets quite busy. There was one night when a very good friend visited. She started to get emotional and they started to talk about certain topics they triggered her to cry. It was in general about being a human being and some morals but it felt a bit weird with me and Wout sitting beside on the sofa. Wout said they were in general being like everything will turn out fine and they start to get to the spiritual part. Wout is a very rational person and tends to think only toward solutions and does not want unnecessary emotions. But going through some things myself I know it is difficult to cope with thoughts.

Carolina is the older daughter of the family and works in a vet clinic as an assistant. Her ringtone is indeed a horse screaming. I don’t really know much about her since she is living only next door. But her family does not like her boyfriend much because he is obviously lying sometimes.

There was also a funny encounter with Angela’s sister. Most people in Colombia are religious and when she was saying goodbye, she said “god bless you”, to which I replied “thank you”. Lolz. I had a good chuckle as well afterwards.

There were some more students at the school, but we just had very short small talks. I went to the Casa de la memoria, a football match of Nacional which had great atmosphere and surprisingly a lot of women. Other than that, that concludes the first 5 days at school.

Me, drafted this along the road maybe in Lima as well, but finishing up in Cuzco

Stop 30: Bogotá

It was early morning when I arrived in Bogotá. Actually, I was feeling a bit anxious considering what you hear about the security situation in Colombia. You are not supposed to walk alone in the night, take a taxi to go anywhere etc. So even when I stepped out of the airport to look for a taxi, I was watching left and right to see whether there were any suspicious people or not. Even standing in line and watch what kind of taxi comes next became a bit stressful.

But of course, I arrived at Reto’s without problems. The bricky building were fun to watch and the streets are not as bad as I imagined. Reto, with whom I worked with in CS quited his job after 2 years and came to Colombia to study. Not that the universities here are famous, but rather his amor is from Colombia. It is great to see that this worked out for him considering the distance.

So the interesting thing in Bogota is actually, that smaller blocks are categorized from 1-6. 1 basically means that it is a homeless area, starting from 3, things get better. Chapinero, where Reto stays, is a 4. We went after briefly to a square where you can pass by areas of 6. Actually 4s already came with security guards so I don’t really know what the standard for 6 is.

With 13 hours of difference, it is difficult for me to be awake around late evening. The first day I fell a sleep at 8 and couldn’t sleep after 3 or 4. So it is good that I got a place to adjust my jetlag.

In the end, I only met a few university friends from Reto on Saturday when they celebrated the end of the semester. They are mostly working part time already and are quite nice people. Reto’s girlfriend was telling cultural differences when she met Reto (at least I thought so) and we ended up doing drinking games. Before we left for the club, some were quite drunk already and the night turned out to be short for Reto (again).

It was fun to observe in the club. People are dancing mostly in pairs and I have heard already that dancing with strangers with very close body contact does not mean anything here. But nevertheless I was surprised to see someone just simply pull over a girl and danced with her for like half an hour.

Bogotá itself does not provide much things to see. I was on the monserrate hill, museo del oro, museo botero and did a graffiti tour which was recommended by a friend. The graffiti tour turned out to be really great. Bogotá is actually a place where doing graffiti is either legal nor illegal. You don’t have to go to jail if you get caught. But yea, do the tour yourself if you can, the artwork is beautiful.

Some pics to the end:

Some graffitis

Me, last night in Iquitos before heading to Lima,finishing up in cuzco, fucking cold here in the night

Stop 29: Shanghai and LA

One of the initial reasons to travel is to see other cultures because I was in doubt on certain things. I have seen Southeast Asia, which is still relatable to other Asian cultures, and that leaves me either with Africa or South America (other I consider western cultures, but now thinking about it, Maori would be an interesting one. Considering the health conditions, I chose South America and also because I have a friend in Bogota). So from Singapore, it does not really matter in which direction I go in order to reach South America. To see some more families and friends, I decided to quickly go home.

Shanghai, a place I call home but sometimes does not feel like home. Since 15 years, I have mostly been living at my aunt/cousins place when I go back. But every time when I am back, except visiting, there is not really many things to do in Shanghai. Maybe I can visit some museums, go for some shopping, but that is mostly it. After 4,5 days, it gets boring. I guess feeling home also means to have some routines and feeling of belongingness when you can find a place where you are needed.

Except the ones I saw in Singapore, I also visited other aunties and grandpa. But really, the relationships between generations in China is somewhat a bit weird. It never feels like a real conversation and maybe I am just too used to the old way where relatives ask you questions and you just try to answer. Maybe there should be more things coming back from me.

Friends. This is something that you can choose. I used to meet the childhood friends from Secondary school where we used to play together. But this time, I decided not to say anything. It would have been a good thing to catch up, but it just feels weird that I am expected to invite them every time … So I only met with Nana, who is running a tattoo shop now, Tao, whom I met already in ShenZhen and JingWeng with whom I travel sometimes. Besides, I also quickly met up with the girl in the bus from NanNing to Hanoi. That was actually a quite funny encounter again. She studies at the sports academy and showed me around the campus. Apparently, the PingPong facility is super rich and has its own hotel facility (the champions mostly come from here).

There is not many pictures to show from Shanghai. I guess the Bike rental business is going out of control and see below …

The roastery is quite nice and considering Shanghai’s reputation, it is actually on par with New York, London and etc.

Los Angeles.

I opted for the more expensive flight to change only once in LA. The option is to change once in Dallas, once in Fort Lauderdale (close to Miami) and each has a layover of 9+ hours. No, I should treat myself a bit better and save the troubles.

The airport is quite weird with 7 terminals. The united flights were in one and I needed to go out of the airport to transfer. Well, then consider I did LA this time as well.

I actually needed to buy an outward flight ticket for Colombia and this is what made the 5h layover less boring. I went for a ticket from Bogotá to Zurich around end of July since it is one of the cheapest airports apparently in South America.

Me, just arrived in Iquitos after a 14 hour long boat ride on the Amazonas, and surprisingly found a computer in the hostel and acceptable internet connection. And 1:1 BRA-SUI wopwop.

Stop 28 Singpore

Initially I was not sure whether I will be crossing Singapore at the right time or not because I considered it as a starting point of my trip. But I dedcided to make the effort to be there because family is family. Also, I have some friends in Singapore I can visit, plus, some ex work colleagues for CS.

The first 2 nights I stayed at Val’s place, a university friend of mine. He has been doing his PhD in Singapore since 3 years already. Cool to catch up again and get to know some funny stories about the local people from a Swiss guy’s perspective. Later I also met a Chinese friend who used to study in Zurich, someone I met in London with whom we played football together.

Meeting family is always fun. The cousin who is getting married actually left Shanghai roughly at the same time as I did. In those 15 years, we met only once, which was 10 years ago. We used to visit grandma together and I often went to the oldest cousin’s place because we lived close to each other. Well I don’t want to turn this into a tale of my family tree and you can find out more about the general Singapore attrations in other places too.

The other day I also wento to EXPO to visit the CS office so that I can meet some of my ex colleagues who I never saw face to face. When you only see the profile pictures and hear their voices, you have a certain picture of someone and when you actually meet them, things get mlre interesting. Some got thinner, some turned out to be older, some turned out to be cooler. It is somewhat like a Shroedingers box, you are so curious to find out what is in the box and once you know what is beneath, the magic is sort of gone.

After the wedding, a Swiss friend visited so we went to explore Singapore as well. We also made a day trip to Bintan Islands on the other side of Singapore which was pretty neat.

Otherwise, I did not meet any new people except the ones from the wedding. On that very short hectic day there was not much interactions going on since everybody was sort of busy preparing things and we, from a remote place, are not much of a help.

I do want to say that the Singapore wedding is way more chilled than the ones from Shanghai. The couple wouldn’t end up tired as fuck when everybody has left.

Now picture time

Ah some seafood. Large crab from Sri Lanka

The left is the oldest, other is the one who is getting married

The money shot, the one I like the most.

That actually shortly concludes the 12 days I spent in Singapore. Very densely packed post, good for catching up. And really these days in Singapore felt like living in a normal city. Modern transportation, meeting friends here and there.

Me, last night in Santa Marta, I feel pretty good to finish 3 posts, although the pictures seem to be gone, which I directly copy pasted. Now I am only 4 weeks behind! Publishing at the airport actually.

Stop 27 Ventiane – Don Det / 4000 Islands

Ventiane is the capital of Laos and most people say there is not much to do there, so I decided to take an early bus and just have an afternoon there before heading to the 4000 islands with a night bus.

One Swiss girl was with me on the bus and she is travelling before her next job in another canton. I believe that she is doing something in psychology and has been travelling 3 weeks (?). It is funny that I remembered this conversation as easy going but can’t remember too many details of it. She travelled with an organized tour in Myanmar where she met also a broadway actor who was able to entertain her. There was also someone who has been travelling for many many years (more than 20 I think, but again, details are fading). She stayed in a treehouse in the north of Laos as well which she recommended (zip lining between the trees in order to reach them was particularly cool) but for the 10 days that I have, there is not enough time for me to explore the north as well (but other people have suggested that to me too).

The only thing I visited was the COPE centre. It makes prosthetic legs for victims of the remaining bombs in Laos. The first section of the exhibition tells you that Laos was the most bombed country during the Vietnam war actually because that was the supply lines into Vietnam. I can’t remember the exact numbers but a lot more than what was dropped in Vietnam. The second part consists of stories of different victims and people that got help from the center. It remembers me of that helper in ThaBarWa center who lost his leg due to a bomb.

Back at the bus company, I met 2 UK girls who are also going to Don Det. One looked a bit nordic and has a very beautiful body. But again, the conversation with them seem very typical where it is mostly “I centric” just like the ones I had during the Kalaw trek. It was raining cats and dogs when we were in the pickup van and luckily the rest of the way was more or less covered. I was also told that sleeping buses (not all) in Laos have bed spots for 2 and this was actually what I got. Luckily, during the whole trip, nobody wanted to share it with me. Uff. Otherwise, it is actuallly quite comfortable and I woke up quite rested in Pakse where a smaller bus took us to the boat terminal to go onto the island.

The sleeping bus. (and there was thunder and lightening everywhere when we departed)

There are not a lot of hostels on the island and I chose the Happy Bar Backpackers. As the name suggests and the review revealed as well, it was quite a hippie place. Manni is from UK and has been staying on the island for 7  years or so. Initially he was just travelling there and just got stuck because it is so nice to chill out there. He is easy going and really chills the fuck out. There were also a guy named Chris and some other more-or-less permanent guests over there and they enjoy smoking a joint from time to time (within the same day). Also occasionally (once during my stay), Manni gets a delivery of a tupperware full of mushrooms.

The hostel and the mushrooms. (no i did not try)

At kayaking (again), I met some other people. At breakfast, I got to know Luzi, Sami and Davi. I believe Luzi and Davi are Dutch and Sami tagged along with them in Cambodia. Luzi had this pun which went: Been There, Don Det (lolz). And Davi had a tattoo on the leg for a good friend of his who passed away in an accident. This was the way to remember him with his group of friends. There was a French couple (or friends, not sure) who are travelling in Laos together, but travelling elsewhere after Laos. They seem very easy going and I met them again the next day when I was riding the bike so we spent the day together again. The guy (I think his name was Jo) prefers to practice his English and the girls has worked in Basel as well. On the bike road, we also met some people from French Polynesia. When we were looking for another water fall, we picked up a German student and had dinner together as well. Ah, and the two British girls were at the kayaking tour as well and along other young people as well. I remember once that we needed to help others to put up the kayak onto the truck and you can see exactly who is helping and who is still in the water taking a bath (the men at least).

The night when I came back from the kayaking, I ran into Manni and everyone from the hostel at a billiard place. I stopped for a beer and talked to a petite Aussie girl. She is trying to figure out what she wants to do and ideally become a writer or something like a blogger. Of course she is on budget too and need to see how she can bridge the days without spending much money. This is somewhat typical for the hippie people just trying to get by the days. They seem to not to look into the future or just are justing trying to think about it. This is something that just doesn’t align with my attitude. I prefer to face the problems and running away is just not an option. Sometimes, travelling feels a little bit like running away to me because you are not living the normal life. Also meeting people during this time is such a short termed relationship where you don’t need to invest a lot. If you don’t like someone, if something does not fit, you simply choose other ones or move on by yourself. Life is full of compromises and I still believe, in order to maintain a good relationship, you need to make sacrifices. But (!), what I also learned is that, there is a bottom line which can not be crossed. This brings the topic back to balance. Too much of anything is never good and this is somehow very true in many perspectives of our lives. Ah yah, this was also the night where Chris got drunk pretty early and started to become loud and somewhat of a duche.

There was also topics about weed farms in the US and Canada. There were 2 people in the hostel where on has rented a farm to grow weed and the other one had worked on a weed farm to earn some money. There was also a Turkish animal doctor who is working with horses. I think he had worked in Australia or something and is now heading to another place, or vice versa. Can’t remember …

The last night, it rained heavily and one lightening struck right above our head. You know that was fucking close when the thunder was synchronous. And all the light went out after that … what thunder was really something.

There was also this cook from Tirol who quited his job to travel a bit. The next morning I did not recognize him which made things a bit awkward (for me at least) and he is not a guy with many words. We met again during the return trip to Pakse and actually flew to Bangkok with the same plane.

Oh Bangkok again. I had 5 hours transit time to change from BKK to DMK for my flight to Singapore. I wanted to do another fitting at the tailor but the taxi driver was not the most sincere guy and I think he made a big detour. The traffic was not helping so mid way, I decided to go straight to DMK. (And going on the high ways cost you money and you need to pay that as well)

Some more pictures to the end:

the view from the hostel balkony

small waterfall

big water fall (the biggestin southeast asia)

somewhere on an island in cambodia where we tried to watch some river dolphins. some saw the fins and jaws, i did not see shit

Me, on a lazy Sunday afternoon in Santa Marta, no barber shops open unfortunately.

Stop 26 Vang Vieng

I have heard various things before heading to Vang Vieng. Some say it is dead since government closed it down, some say there are still bars and the scenery is still nice. Stephen was there now too so I thought I would just stop by.

The drive from Luang Prabang was actually very nice. The curvy roads through the mountains set you in awe. (the gif is not that good)

The nana backpack hostel is actually run by the brother of the owner of the one I stayed in Luang Prabang. They are not from Laos but Vietnamese. Apparently there are some Vietnamese businesses here and it is funny to see that Laos people can’t run businesses on their own.

The day I arrived, I did not do much except reading a bit and enjoy a cold beer Lao. I met the one English guy from my dorm who is travelling since a few months and he lamented a bit about how it is everytime a new effort to get to know new people. You need to start to tell your story from scratch again. I am sitting here in my 5th month of travel and I can actually relate. But I wouldn’t complain about it, this is just how it is. And hence, always being on the road is not my thing either since the good things in life like long lasting relationships take time and effort. And now a little effort in introducing yourself doesn’t seem too far off.

The next day I took a half day tour kayaking in rivers. I met Matt from New York who used to work in a E-trading company and now has quited his job to live in Maui because the job was not what he wanted. He is now working on the island in a restaurant and giving some yoga lessons. The rest of his time, he enjoys his time with his dog and surfing on the beach. One thing I know is that I need stimulus to my mind to not get bored, and physical exercises are usually not my thing. Working in a restaurant is maybe nice to interact with people, but your brain will rott pretty quickly.

The Kayaking is actually a good choice since the traditional tubing, which is sitting in a tube floating down the river, stop at bars to get drunk, is very slow in the dry season. The water is very shallow and you often get stuck in the stones as well. Before 2007, there were yearly 30 people dying due to tubing. That was because the whole thing is opened until 10pm and when it gets dark, you can’t see much. When someone is shitfaced, slipped through tube and drowned, you wouldn’t have noticed. Also there were slides to jump into the water. People hit the rocks with their heads and die. After the government took action, there was only 3 bars and they need to close before sunset.

In the evening, I met Stephen again as well. And of course, when you meet other Swiss people, you meet them in larger numbers. Independently from each other, there were suddenly 5 Swiss People standing in the street … (5th one missing in the pic)

I also met this girl I saw in Inle Lake (Marloes friend, whose name I remembered when I met her). But if you think back, there was never a deep connection so we didn’t even chat much.

That is actually about it in Vang Vieng. Il Postino is a really good Pizza place, actually run by an Italian. (Is this the first time I talk about restaurants?)

The view of another restaurant

Also, there are a lot of puppies.

And a huge load of Korean tourists. They even started drumming their own music in a blue lagoon.

Me, just came back from a burger in Santa Marta and finished this in 20 minutes.


Stop 25 Luang Prabang

Since I needed to get to Singapore for my cousins wedding before the 1st of May, I only have 10 days left for Laos. I was even considering doing something else. But some friends said that I can’t miss Laos so I went for it nevertheless.

First prelude ist actually someone called Jade. I got matched with her on Tinder. On the day when I was moving from Bangkok to Luang Prabang she was already asking whether we should move to a cheaper hostel and share a room to save cost. That came across as a bit surprising and alerting. I guess that crossed my line too quickly. She was even trying to call on LINE and I did not understand why. (I guess I am just not comfortable with some stranger wanting to call me very badly)

The landing in Luang Prabang is actually very nice scenery since it is within the mountains. It resembles GuiLin in some ways (it is also geographically close). At the airport, with no big problems I got into a taxi into town. Everything seemed smooth and people appreared to be more relaxed here and something was soothing your mind somehow and I can’t say what.

At the hostel I first met Stephen who was sitting in front of the reception after I checked in and came back out to ask more questions. It turned out that he is Swiss and works for the Aargauer Kantonalbank. After some minutes a Dutch couple asked us whether we want to join some dice games. We happily accepted. I forgot the name of the game but it involves rolling 6 sices and collect points and get above 10k. 3 dices of the same kind would be a few hundred points and so on. The Dutch guy runs the main bar at the main square in Eindhoven. He met his girlfriend while she was working there. I believe there are 10 years of difference between them. It was pretty fun hanging out with them and we went to dinner together where we also met a French girl whom Stephen talked to in a cafe and along she brought her friend from HK as well.

The French girl is doing consulting on career changes and is somewhat taking a time off from Bali in Laos. The HK girl has a lot of cats at home and while she is travelling her mom is taking care of them (I believe she has at least dozen). We continued our conversation at a bar called Utopia and went back afterwards.

At the hostel I got to talk to Sylvia/Jade. She was complaining a bit of how it was difficult to communicate with me since I never picked up the phone. Well, whose fault is that? We briefly said that we can go to the water fall the next day and went to sleep.

The next day I went first to MandaLao, an elephant refugee program that Stephen recommended. It was not the cheapest but it sounded very morally correct since they don’t let you ride one them (Which hurts their physics and make them infertile). Coming back to the hostel there was again some problems with Jade. The hostel owner said that my friend wanted to take the minibus at another hour than what we initially had planned so I got consufed. Finally we sorted it out and the water fall is amazing!

On the ride we bought some food and shared with others, amongst them a Korean uncle as well. This is a good way to make new friends, I got offered once in train in Myanmar and in my flight back to HK from Taiwan as well. The Korean uncle recognized us later as well and said hi.

At night, we went to a good cheap restaurant. But of Course Sylvia had to stream the whole dinner since she has 50k followers on instagram. More on that later… Back at the hostel we rolled a joint and met actually another Swiss guy. He is tamil and it’s a funny encounter indeed. The following picture sums it up well.

Then it was the elephant experience day. Sylvia joined last minute and I was wondering why she can afford this but needs to count pennies for accommodation. We got some general information up front from the guru who also works with Rapperswil Kinderzoo. (More info about the elephants maybe later, I took some notes, but it is not needed for this post) We met also Renee, a Deloitte finance partner who has a few days off after her Singapore business trip. She seemed easy to talk to. On the road back Sylvia told me a bit more about what she is doing.

She used to do financial consulting in HK and has her own company. But it can’t compete with the big 4s with the customers and now she is trying to persue her dreams of making movies. She thinks that she is a female entrepreneur and wants to prove that it is possible to make it. Her instagram account has 50k followers. It is possible to express your thoughts and influence people on instagram by having more followers and there is nothing wrong that many women on instagram try to motivate everyone that a woman should be independent and deserves the same right as men. But then she complains that she can’t even a discounted dinner at a good French restaurant in Luang Prabang with her 50k followers. (They were only willing to give a free desert) Well, if this is what you are looking for when you have more followers then I don’t have much sympathy with you not being successful. She lamented about how hard it is to be a female entrepreneur, it is not easy not to have to show your skin in order to become successful. After all, I have a feeling she is pressing too much on finding excuses why she is not successful (or things not working out) rather than to action on things that she can improve on. Sometimes there are so many other reasons that things don’t work as expected. It does not always lead back to your gender, skin color or where you are from. Also she talked about her ex in Singapore. She was not able to pay the bills anymore and her Ex did not like that . She said, comon, she will pay later once she has made it. She sort of has a strong expectation towards the support of her Ex, which well … I didn’t like either.

The next day we also went to a story telling show. With the intention of a friend, I told her that I can reserve a spot (buying the ticket already) for her since she is not able to find the spot. When I asked her to pay me back the entrance fee, she said: “oh I thought you are treating me”. It did not even jump to my mind that she still thinks that I am interested in her. That gave me a chuckle.

Actually I lot have happened in Luang Prabang, and I liked the vibe very much so that I extended for another day. The last morning I also met the Japanese American girl who I briefly talked to in Dalat.

Oh yah, there were also 3 Israel guys in my dorm, with only small talks, I did not get to know them much.

Otherwise, more pictures. Sunset on Mehkong.

Feeding the elephants

Me, having drafted this on the trip to Guarija, finishing up in Santa Marta and desperately wanting to catch up with all the posts.