Thursday, September 07, 2006

The End

We came back in London a few days ago. That was a big shock! After two months in Asia, we had completely forgotten about the grey weather, utility bills, how to cook and grocery shopping... let alone work.

The trip was of course fantastic. People, landscape, food, weather, transportation, hotels... we experienced the good, the bad and the ugly but those two months will, without a doubt, stay in my memory for decades!

Now a new adventure is about to begin. I'm starting my new job next week. It's going to be hard and I'll probably have a few gruesome days (weeks?) but I hope it will be challenging and rewarding. I'm afraid there won't be much time to blog and therefore, I have decided to close this blog. Better not to blog at all than writing an occasional post every three months and hope for readers to stick around.

In the future, depending on the workload and how I'm able to manage my schedule, I'll try to start a new blog, dedicated mostly to the professional aspect of my life. It will be some kind of "Day in the Life of a Management Consultant" blog. If I do this, I intend to keep it completely under the radar of my new employer for obvious reasons but I will write a short note on this blog to provide the new URL. Therefore, if you are interested, keep the feed in your newsreader or check this blog from time to time.

Good luck to all of you.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Final step

We are in Myanmar since a few days now. After roughly one week in Laos, where we visited Luang Prabang and Vientiane, we flew to Yangon, the capital of Myanmar. What a change from the other three countries. Yangon is a big city of 5 million people and it doesn't look like a typical South East Asian city. Actually, it reminded us more of Delhi than Bangkok with its traces of British architecture and the way people (men mostly) stared at us (well, at my girlfriend mostly). It was not at all an animosity look but more one of curiosity since there are very few Western tourists wandering in the streets.

We did not stay long in Yangon: just enough to see the Shwedagon Pagoda (one of the most beautiful in the world according to various guide books and we'd have to agree) and a bit around the city center. We then took the train to Mandalay. It's a 700km ride that takes 15 hours. We took the superior sleeper class that has four berths and a separate bathroom. Well, it was not quite what we expected for $55/pax: it was old, dusty and dirty and a bit creepy since there was no access to the rest of the train from our private cabin. But overall it went ok. Sure, we had a terrible night but we arrived safe in Mandalay.

We are now in Mandalay, a city much smaller than Yangon and we are getting ready for our nine hours boat trip tomorrow to Bagan. That sure is going to be another adventure...

I won't blog much more since we are getting deeper into the country and my guess is that there won't be an easy access to Internet from there. We are then back to Bangkok on the 28 where we booked the last three nights of our trip in a five star hotel to forget about the $10 guesthouses we stayed in throughout our trip.... and then back to London on August 31.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Live from Phnom Penh

We are in the capital of Cambodia since three days, after a visit of Angkor. We took a plane from Bangkok to Siem Reap. Siem Reap is used as a base to visit the Angkor complex: about 1000 temples on a 400 sq km surface, most of them build between the 9th and the 12th century.

We visited the main temples in two days but you can buy 3-days or even 7-days pass. Unless you are a real fan of old stones, you won't be staying seven days in Angkor but two days was quite fine. Since it is currently not allowed to rent motobikes, we used a tuk-tuk to drive us around the temples. Now if you were thinking that you would be going around the temples alone, like Lara Croft (since the Tomb Raider movie was shot in Angkor), well think again. It is quite a crowded place with lots of tourists pouring into the main temples out from their huge A/C buses. Even when going early, you will see other tourists (believe me, we went at 5am on the first day) but still, it's a must-see in South East Asia.

We then took the bus for Phnom Penh (6 hrs ride) and it's a nice city on the river with lots of bars and restaurants to spend some quality time but we are not staying long: we are off to Vientiane (Laos) in two days.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Open Water PADI

We are now Level 1 Open Water PADI certified, which means that we can scuba dive to a depth of 18 meters without an instructor... That's right mister!

We did not really plan to pass the PADI but after reading about the crystal clear water of Ko Tao, we decided that we should really scuba dive to enjoy the fishs, corals and other wonders of the sea.

So after Chiang Mai and the mountain trek, we flew to Ko Samui (Bangkok Airways) where we meet with my brother and his girlfriend who are speed-visiting Thailand... Funny that I am living in London, he is living in Cameroon and we are meeting in Thailand... Anyway: we stayed for three nights in a great hotel in Ko Samui, the Ayaraburi Boutique Resort with its private swimming pool and little beach. It was way above our budget range (2300 THB/night) but whatever. We enjoyed it very much.

We then split and with my girlfriend, we continued to Ko Tao using the Lompraya Catamaran boat service. It's about 90mn from Samui but instead of going to Ko Tao, we went to Koh Nangyang, a very small island just in front of Ko Tao.

Koh Nangyang is probably one of the most beautiful island in the world: three pieces of land connected by a white sand beach surrounded by blue crystal water. There is only one hotel on the island, a bit pricey but worth it in my opinion. There is also a dive center and that's where we passed our Level 1 PADI certification. You need at least three days to pass the level so we stayed four nights on the island and we didn't move from it so we did not go to Ko Tao itself.

We are now back in Bangkok to spend two days partying with my brother and tomorrow, we are off to Cambodia to visit Angkor.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Back from the jungle

After three nights in Bangkok, we took a plane for Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand. It's a complete change from Bangkok: the city is much smaller and quite welcoming with more bookshops and temples that you could ever visit.

We did some sightseeing in the city but our main objective was to arrange a trek in the jungle and we are actually just back from a three days trek where we visited the hilltribe villages in the region. We had a fantastic time, even if going down a small muddy path through the jungle with tennis shoes is a bit tricky... We slept in bamboo houses, drank Thai whisky with the local villagers and even did some elephant riding!

We are now getting ready for the beaches: we are taking a plane to Ko Samui in two days for one week in Koh Tao and Ko Phan Ngang.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

In the heat of Bangkok

After a long flight with a three-hour connection in Dubai, we landed in Bangkok on Tuesday. After spending some time at the Bangkok Airways ticket counter to arrange our next flights in the region, we took a cab for Siam Square and managed to find a correct guest house: the A-One-Inn hotel which is relatively correct for the price (600B).

First impressions of Bangkok: the most modern city I have visited in the developing world, although I'm not sure Thailand is a developing country anymore. Modern skytrain, very clean streets, Western style malls with all the same shit that we have home (KFC, Starbuck and the other usual suspects...). What a change from the African cities or even Saigon and Bombay for that matter!

We are off to Chang Mai in a few day for trekking and relaxing in the Northern part of Thailand. Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

This is over...

Yep, this time it is the end... Yesterday was Congregation day for the Full-Time MBA Program. The closing speech from the Dean Laura Tyson concluded two years of education at the London Business School for me. I hope never to read another business case from now :)

It was a fine day. We were all wearing nice gowns and all went on stage to shake the hand of the Dean and receive a piece of paper saying that we attended the Congregation ceremony. The actual diploma will be sent by post in a couple of weeks.

My parents and girlfriend were here and most of the other students had their families with them. Some students went on stage with their kids, the most impressive being an American girl who went on stage with her twins that she had during the second year. How did she managed to survive, I'll never know!

The mood was a bit darkened by the two minutes of silence to honor the dead of the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London but life has to go on.

So what's next for me? Well, first thing is watching the World Cup Final tomorrow and hope that France will make it... Then, I'm leaving with my girlfriend for Bangkok on Monday for a two months trip in South East Asia. Back in London in September and then one week training in San Francisco for the Consulting company that has hired me. After that, back to Europe for the first consulting project and then, who knows...