Category Archives: trip

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 …

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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.

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Loyal readership despite blog inactivity

Wow! My last post to this blog was on April 15, almost a month ago. During that time, my blog received an avergae of 65 page views per day, and last Wednesday it peaked at 113, the highest number of views I can remember! To me, this indicates that I have a loyal group of readers out there who follow this blog regularly, and who I have let down during the past few weeks. Don’t worry, I haven’t given up on my blog (yet ;-). I will try to post more regularly in the weeks to come.

The past few weeks have been intense: April 17 to 21 was Greek/Roman Week here on campus, which was a big success. I helped out a bit as well (remember, I have Greek roots), and was very happy to see how much the organizing team put in, even though our exams were less than a week away.

The following week saw three exams, and another three the week after. As always, it is difficult to predict how well I did (more so since we get relative, not absolute grades here at INSEAD), but I will find out on Friday when we get our grades for P2 (sorry, I will not be allowed to talk about them on my blog due to INSEAD’s non-disclosure policy on grades). On the weekend in between, I had a nice break as a few of my friends from university visited Paris for Labor Day weekend, and I joined them for an excellent dinner at one of my friend’s home on Saturday night. Christian and Carine, if you ever open your own restaurant (and I do encourage you to!), I would love to be both an investor and your best customer :-)

Immediately after the last exam, I took off to Greece with a few fellow classmates for the break, visiting Athens and Spetses, a tiny island in the Saronic gulf. We also met up with some more Greek classmates, and even joined the participants of a sailing trip from the July promotion for cocktails with local Alumni in Athens. It was nice to see so many familiar faces on this trip.

Back in Fontainebleau, I have just completed my first week of classes of P3, the third of my five two-month periods here at INSEAD. Classes are already in full swing again, half of which are electives, so it promises to be an interesting period.

I will try to post pictures of all these events in the next few days. Stay tuned, and thank you for your continued readership!

PS: Congratulations to my fellow INSEAD blogger Olivier, whose blog made it to the Top Ten of ClearAdmit’s Best of Blogging Awards.

Marrakech

Last week, we – Marina, Ruriko, Irene and myself – went on a short trip to Marrakech in Morocco during the four day break between our first and second period of classes. We stayed at the Riad Tanine, a small hotel in the middle of the Medina, Marrakesh’s old city.

Our hotel, Riad Tanine
Our hotel, Riad Tanine

The Medina consists of a maze of streets and sideways, crowded during the day and completely deserted at night. In its middle is Jamaa El Fna, the square of the Dead.

Jamaa El Fna Square
Jamaa El Fna Square

Dried Fruit and Orange Juice on Offer
Remember Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much”?

One evening, we had dinner at stall no. 1 on the square – the food is ok, but we ate much better than that elsewhere. I highly recommend Le Tobsil in the Medina, Al Faissa in the Gueliz district and the restaurant of the five-star hotel La Mamounia.

Dinner at Stall No. 1
Dinner at Stall No. 1

Our favourite mode of transport were the horse carriages, which will get you anywhere for a few Dirham. Make sure you haggle with them though, because their first quoted price is typically 5 to 10 times the fixed tariff they are required to charge.

Riding the Horse Carriage
Irene, Marina and Ruriko in a carriage, with the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque in the background

Marrakech is full of exotic colours and shapes. Here are some of my impressions from the museums, parks and various merchants in the Medina.

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Weekend activities

Friday we spend the whole day visiting the Corporate and Investment Banking division of Deutsche Bank in London. It was actually quite insightful and I am glad I had the opportunity to go. A coach took us from Fontainebleau to Gare de Nord in Paris, from where we took the Eurostar to London. In the end, we spend about eleven hours traveling for just over three hours of face time at Deutsche’s offices. A bit more time for the actual visit would have been even more insightful, I guess.

Below left are the Greeks who came along. From right to left, this is Costas (sitting), Bernard (standing), Ioannis (sitting), myself, Maria, another Ioannis and Hussam (in front) – although Hussam is really from Jordan and the UK, we have taught him enough Greek swearwords to qualify. During the whole trip, the Greeks were easy to spot – they were the ones chatting away in stentorian voices, keeping everyone else awake. My apologies to the people around us, including those poor non-suspecting business travelers on the seats next to us on the Eurostar who just wanted to rest on their way home.

Saturday I still felt a bit sick, so I decided not to go to Paris. It was a smart move, as I did recover substantially. After a whole day of rest, I felt well enough to make it to Jemma’s and Vikrant’s party in Veneux-les-Sablons. It was nice to chat to a few classmates in a more quiet setting than those overcrowded INSEAD parties. Below right are the usual suspects at the party: Costas, Hussam, Bernard and Diego (from left to right).

The Greeks on their way to Deutsche Bank the usual suspects

Today I was invited to lunch at Ellie’s and John’s house here in Bourron. We enjoyed a yummy lamb stew, a delicious chocolate baiser (thanks, Gallit!) followed by cheese, English tea and a glass of excellent port wine. Did I get to study much today? Don’t ask!

Das Jetset-Leben in Fontainebleau

Leider fühle ich mich seit Dienstag Abend nicht besonders – scheine entweder was Schlechtes gegessen zu haben oder mir einen Virus eingefangen zu haben. Meine Verdauung spielt derzeit ein wenig verrückt und mein Magen rumort; ich hoffe, dass sich das bald bessert.

An der Uni ist soweit alles in Ordnung, bislang einen Test geschrieben und zwei group assignments abgegeben. Mit den vergebenen Noten bin ich sehr zufrieden – daraufhin habe ich die letzten Tage den Fuß vom Gas genommen, zumindest was das Lernen angeht. Ich hoffe, ich wiege mich nicht in falscher Sicherheit – spätestens Anfang März wird sich das zeigen. Die fünf Prüfungen nach der ersten period sind Montag bis Mittwoch, direkt nach meinem Geburtstag am Sonntag :-( aber da muß man durch, Feiertage gibt es bei INSEAD ja grundsätzlich keine – dafür wird hier jeden Tag gefeiert.

An der social front ist alles in bester Ordnung, habe diese Woche drei dinner erlebt – eines mit meinen Mitbewohnern (im Restaurant – da ist mir eventuell das schlechte Essen untergekommen), eines bei meinem Buddy, und eines mit den deutschen und schweizer Kommilitonen. Arthur, mein Buddy, ist ein deutscher Kommilitone aus dem höheren Semester, der mir bei Fragen mit Rat und Tat zur Seite steht. Eine gute Einrichtung, man bekommt mehr mit und kann außerdem sein persönliches Netzwerk erweitern.

Morgen geht es den Tag über nach London, die Investmentbank der Deutschen Bank besuchen – bin schon sehr gespannt. Samstag wollte ich mit ein paar Kommilitonen nach Paris aufbrechen, vielleicht schaffe ich es ja, Christian und Carine zu sehen. Morgen London, übermorgen Paris – schönes Jetset-Leben, das wir hier führen :-) Leider ist es jetzt schon halb zwei und um sechs morgen früh brechen wir auf – daher muss ich jetzt ins Bett!