Traveling South East Asia

To all my loyal readers out there, I hope you had a relaxing and joyful holiday season, and my best wishes to you and your families for 2007! My year at INSEAD is now over, so I only have a few posts on my blog left describing the final stages of my studies.

The first one is about my weekend trips in Asia. After completing my job search and most of my credits in P4, I had some time in P5, i.e. November and December, to explore South East Asia. If you have the opportunity to spend some time on INSEAD’s Singapore campus, don’t miss out on all the traveling.

For some reason, B turned out to be the name of the game. Besides my trip to Bali, I also spend a few days on Boracay, a beautiful tropical island in the Philippines, and Bangkok, Thailand’s unique and vibrant capital. Oh, and we did hike through Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in the middle of Singapore.

In the middle of November, we took off to the Philippines. Boracay, apparently the most developed holiday destination in the country, is simply amazing. White Beach streches along its south western coast line as far as the eye can see, and the sea is clear and colorful. Don’t miss out on the fruitshakes from Jonas or happy hour cocktails at sunset!

White Beach White Beach again
Boracay sand castle Sunset over White Beach

Hiking through Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is an experience out of this world – a tropical rainforest in the middle of Singapore, the city of fancy cars and skyscrapers. And it’s good for your health, too!

Ready to rumble! Stairway to … well, the top of the hill

For my last weekend in Asia we booked the Lebua, a luxury hotel in Bangkok‘s State Tower. The top floor is home to The Dome, a fancy restaurant, as well the Sky Bar, a place for the bold and the beautiful, with breathtaking views of the Thai capital.

The State Tower The Dome at night
One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster … … the bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free

Bangkok is a city of extremes – tranquil Buddhist monastries next to the bustling temples of modern capitalism (aka. shopping malls), the world’s most expensive sports cars next to rattling tuk-tuks, and European designer clothes next to panhandling beggars. Wat Pho, the city’s oldest Buddhist temple, is home to the Reclining Buddha, a gigantic gold-plated statue – definitely worth a visit.

Great food is available in abundance, although the Thai cuisine is a bit too spicy for my European taste buds. For an excellent surprise menu in an extraordinary setting, try the Bed Supperclub; for original Thai cuisine, head over to Baan Khanita. Thanks to Mickey and Lindsay for those delicious recommendations!

Reclining Buddha Wat Pho
Shopping Temple No, no, it’s not spicy …

Singapore Accomodation

Now finding accomodation in Singapore is not easy, especially close to the INSEAD campus. But if you are one of the lucky few with an apartment in either Dover or Heritage and wonder what it will be like, don’t worry. Swimming pools, barbecue pits and stunning views from the top floors all in walking distance from campus – I can honestly say that I never lived more in style than in those Heritage towers.

Entrance to Heritage Heritage Towers
The main pool INSEAD Singapore

The end is near

Today I am getting nostalgic. After returning from Singapore last Thursday, joining some 150 classmates of mine for our graduation trip in Val Thorens (see photos below) and spending the night at Shangri-La (thanks Will!), I am back on the Fontainebleau campus for the first time after six months. Every step brings back memories, about National Weeks, Vorspiel Friday, as well as 8:30 lectures, endless group meetings and gruelling exams.

Will and me on top of the mountain Val and Will skiing down
Ready to hike Hiking in snowshoes

Tomorrow afternoon is our graduation ceremony at the Palais de Congrès in Versailles for which my parents and my brother will be in town as well. In the evening we have our graduation party, the final event of my MBA program. The end is near.

I have been asked whether my MBA has been worth the investment – and without a doubt, the answer is yes. Not only did I meet exceptional people, learned a lot about subjects of interest to me and visited exotic places all around the world. Most importantly, the MBA program opened my eyes for a range of career options unknown to me before, and gave me the tools and the courage to pursue them. I am looking forward to the road ahead.

Greek Bureaucracy

People often ask me – especially here at INSEAD – whether I have a Greek passport after they find out that I am half Greek. Some are surprised when I tell them that I don’t. Thanks to Stefanos, a classmate from the July 2007 promotion, I can now just point to his entry about his “Passport Odyssey” to explain my reasons.

No further comment required.

Joining Bain

Bain & CompanySo it is official now – I will join Bain & Company as a Consultant in their Munich office next year. It is a great relief to know that my job search is over.

Why did I chose to go into consulting? Mainly for two reasons – lifelong learning and continuous challenge. No other job I found offered a steeper learning curve and a more demanding environment. In that sense, Bain will be the continuation of my MBA program here at INSEAD.

In addition, the network I will join at Bain is phenomenal – its alumni base includes leaders as diverse as Kevin Rollins, CEO of Dell, and Meg Whitman, CEO of eBay, to Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity, and Mitt Romney, Governor of Massachusetts.

Trip to Bali

Last week we flew over to Bali for a long weekend – an incredibly beautiful island! We stayed at the Sienna Villas, a couple of truly spectacular houses in Seminyak. If you are looking for a quiet and relaxing hideout, this is where you want to go. A nice garden with swimming pools, spacious rooms, comfortable beds as well as drinks, food and massages on demand – what else could you ask for?

Deck chairs and pool Pool and barbecue pit
Small villa and pool Main villa

On Friday, we hired a driver to take us around the island – we had lunch with a spectacular view of the volcano, visited the monkey sanctuary in Ubud and enjoyed the sunset at Tanah Lot, one of the Balinese sea temples.

The volcano Matt, myself and Bruno at lunch
A monkey enjoying a banana Another monkey poses for the camera
In sarongs and scarves at the temple Tanah Lot

After a wild party on Friday night – both outside and inside our swimming pool – we spent Saturday on the beach and in our villas, and ended the day with sunset cocktails at Ku De Ta and a delicious buffet dinner back at our place.

Fun at the pool If everybody had an ocean, …

Thanks to Ellen and Turab for organizing this unforgettable escape.

dsc00205.jpg dsc00207.jpg dsc00211.jpg dsc00206.jpg

My own iPod Shuffle

I just got my very own iPod Shuffle yesterday. The thing is amazing – 14 grams, clips on to your clothing and holds a gigabyte of music – what else yould you ask for?

What’s even more amazing is that I am one of the first worldwide to hold this baby in my hands – Apple just started shipping it last Friday, and I got mine on Tuesday afternoon. Love it!

Ruriko, my Japanese classmate, told me that I was more Japanese than her, given my excitement about electronic gadgets. I take that as a compliment!