Step into my world

Thoughts, ideas, hopes and dreams

It’s the final countdown

In one month from today I will be leaving Asia and head back to Europe, and it makes me really sad. I am not yet ready to leave this place – just a few months here haven’t been enough for me to fully enjoy it. I am not ready to say good-bye to the awesome people I met here and most importantly, I am not ready to face reality. Once exchange is over, it means that I would have to go back to my responsibilities, which means sorting out my life and pulling myself together in order to figure out what am I going to do after graduation. Oh man, and I am so confused on what it’s going to happen next…

But I just want to enjoy my last weeks here and try to leave my worries behind. Afterall, worrying will make me more worried – which probably is already happening. I just hope this month will help me figure out the big questions still floating in my mind. There are still a few things I want to do here, like going to Macau and Ocean’s Park – so I will definitely keep myself busy. There are a few more projects and presentations to finish and two exams. There are still evenings to be spent with friends and goodbye dinners to held.

But every time I am thinking of the moment I will head to the airport and board on my plane, I start getting an empty feeling in my stomach. It can’t be over so soon. I just have to make the best out of the time I still have here.

Singapore for a weekend

When I was considering my options for exchange, I had a very big inner struggle on whether Singapore should be my first choice or not. It was my first choice until three days before I had to submit my application – something didn’t click anymore, and I thought Hong Kong will be the place to be. After almost 3 months in Asia, it was high time for me to go Singapore and see if I made the right decision or not. But mostly importantly, I wanted to finally get to see my best friend  – so it was more like going home to my person.

Anne-Fleur and I left on Thursday night to Singapore and got there at a ridiculous 2am, and by that time our brains were completely shut down. Our first ‘experience’ with Singapore was the very funny taxi driver, whom, for the record, we couldn’t really understand what he was saying but he was incredibly funny and had an interesting life story. But when we got to the hostel it was rather funny, as we felt we were breaking in into someone’s house, as the reception was closed and we had to pick up our key from a dropbox. The room looked odd in the dark, but we were too tired to care anymore so we just tried to sleep to get ready for an exciting day.

After barely 4 hours of sleep we met with Denisa at Raffles Place – no need to say that Denisa and I were all over the place with the excitement of seeing each other after so long. So, we had our own private guide – we went to see Chinatown and Little India and tried out the famous butter chicken and some Indian bread which was delicious. Afterwards, we went to see Merlion – and this is when the fun began. In China, we had all these Chinese people taking pictures with us..but now..it was indians. And they kept coming and asking for pictures. In the beginning was funny, but afterwards, we’ve had enough of being a ‘tourist attraction’. During the evening we went to Clarke Quay for dinner and drinks on the bridge and then we went to a super nice club on the 61st floor and ended up having a small Rotterdam reunion. So, it was a fun night.

The next day we went to Marina Bay Sands and the infinity pool. First off, the view from up there is A M A Z I N G and now I am making all my friends jealous with my pictures. Well, sometimes I just get incredibly lucky. In the afternoon we went to Gardens by the Bay. one of the domes was a bit disappointing, except the funny Christmas theme – at 30 degrees Celsius Santa is coming to town! But the second dome was way nicer. But the highlight of the gardens is the Tree Grove, especially when they lighten up in the evening. We spend the evening at the sky bar at Marina Bay Sands, which made for a very chill evening with friends. The sad part was when I had to say bye to Denisa. Two days spent with her was not enough to fill in for the months we haven’t seen each other.

On Sundaym it was Anne-Fleur and I again – so what were we to do? We went back to childhood for a few hours and went to Universal Studios and had so much fun with all the rides. The coolest one was a 3D ride, where you were sitting in a car and you were in a Transformers setting and you were fighting with the robots or falling from the building. It was so cool – it gave me a feeling of empty stomach so badly. After that we went with some rollercoasters, watched a Shrek 4D movie, went in a water ride and got soaking wet – of course, it had to be us who got soaked 😦 . Afterwards we went to Aquarium – which was nice to see, but nothing really WOW. We ended up having dinner with burgers and fries at Clarke Quay and then we called it a night. We had to wake up at 3 in the morning the next day due to our flight scheduled at a ridiculous time – again…And we even made it to class on Monday!

All in all, I liked Singapore and I found it a cool place. It is extremely modern, full of rules and very clean.  and also everything is really expensive. But in a way, it appeared to me a bit too artificial, lacking substance. Also, it didn’t feel too much of a cultural experience, because everything is so much easier there as every one speaks English or..Singlish – because they have such a funny accent. But at the end of the day I realized I made the right decision with Hong Kong. 🙂

9 days in Vietnam

I had a reading week – and by reading week I actually had a holiday…that I decided to spend in Vietnam with my two besties here in Hong Kong. I’ve wanted to see Vietnam for so long and I was really excited for the trip.

We started off in Hanoi, which is one of the most bustling and buzziest cities I’ve ever seen. I was surprised to notice the very lively street life, the honking of the cars and motorbikes, the people eating street food…There weren’t that many things to do or see and two days there were more than enough to get a grasp of Hanoi’s life and culture. I guess Hanoi will always remain in my mind as a theater – the life’s theater: a show filled with people, colours, foods, and liveliness.

We continued our trip with a three days tour around Halong Bay – an UNESCO heritage and the 7th world wonder. It was impressive to see this magnificent scenery. I was a bit disappointed that we could not enjoy a clear blue sky and colorful sunsets – but apparently during autumn the sky is always a bit foggy. We saw one of the most beautiful caves I’ve ever seen and went kayaking for the first time – at which I totally sucked, but that’s a completely different story. We spent the first night on a boat and made new friends – I guess the biggest advantage of travelling with a small group is that you will always meet people along the way.

The next day we ended at the Monkey Island and guess what? we actually got to see monkeys. I think I was incredibly fascinated about them – and I was so surprised to see how much they resemble humans. They were kissing and holding one another like humans do – and to be honest, I’ve never expected myself to witness such a thing. But I guess, sometimes I just get lucky to see these things I would have never dreamt of seeing. I actually had this inner reflection that sometimes I am a very unlucky person. And things in my life never turn out the way I want them to turn out. I messed up so many things before coming here and I kept blaming myself for not being better and smarter.  But I guess sometimes you just have to make the best out of which is given to you. Because only now I realised how lucky I actually am. And I coming back to terms with myself and this is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

When our trip along Halong Bay ended, we were supposed to take a bus to Sa Pa, so we ended up spending 6 hours in one of the dodgiest and crappiest bus stations one could ever imagine. It was literally in the middle of nowhere and there was nothing else to do..unless…we noticed that the lady at the ticket counter was watching the TV. So, in order to entertain ourselves, we decided to be creative and turned the seats to face the TV screen and…we had our own private cinema, watching Pearl Harbour. Did we cry? Of course we did! Imagine: three girls getting all the attention in a bus station in Vietnam, crying because of a movie…that was once in a lifetime experience, wasn’t it?

Anyway, after being really stressed that our bus will never show up and that we will end up spending the night whoever knows where, the bus came. It was one of the sleeping buses, that I have never tried before – as you can see, Vietnam was all about doing things for the first time. I was surprised about how comfy the bus was and I could actually sleep quite a lot, or I guess I was just too tired to care that I was on a bus. When we got to Lao Cai at 6.30am I was still sleeping and the driver had to wake me up. I can be very moody when people wake me up for my sleep and I started asking the guy very annoyed why do we have to get off. Of course he didn’t have the patience to deal with my ‘I’m such a daddy’s girl’ attitude, and he said we all have to get off immediately to take another bus to Sa Pa. People warned us that the road from Lao Cai to Sa Pa will be quite dangerous – and I’ve been before on snaky roads, so I was not scared. And to be honest, the road wasn’t even that bad.

We were all tired but during the day we did some sightseeing – went to see the Love Waterfall and Ta Phin village. The next day we had a local guide and we did a 14km trekking tour. The stories about the communities living there were totally impressive – they have such a simple, but still out of the ordinary life there. The girls get married at the age of 14 and have babies at 16. Some of them don’t even go to school. And most of them learn English from the tourists. They only eat white rice and some sort of cabbage. They are forced to wear some long-sleeved clothes even in summer’s high temperatures. They walk kilometres everyday. They wake up at 4am to prepare the meals for the whole family. They work on the rice fields with their hands. Everything is so different..but I was surprised to hear our guide saying that now things are changing because of so many tourists – but she doesn’t mind change; change is always good.

I was surprised, because I feel these kind of places shouldn’t be altered by consumerism and people’s spending power. This place seemed like from a different world: the nature was so beautiful and people were also incredibly different. They don’t have much in terms of wealth, but they are happy with their simple lives. And I guess this is one of the awe-inspiring lessons Vietnam taught me: you can be happy even with little. However, I could see everything is getting very touristic and the ladies there are nice to tourists just to make the buy something from them. And this is something that left a bitter taste in my mouth, unfortunately.

To go back, we had to take a train to Hanoi, which was a horrible experience. We first had to take a car to the train station and this time the road looked incredibly scary – or at least this time I was wide awake to notice that there are no protective panels on the sides, that the driver was engaging in dangerous overtaking of other cars, and that people drive like crazy in Vietnam. The train was extremely old and keep moving from one side to the other on the rails. We couldn’t get much sleep and by the time we got to the airport (after another extremely dangerous car ride) we just needed a place to sit and wait for our flight. The airport was old; there was nothing to do really and by the time we got back to Hong Kong we were so happy to be back.

After 9 days in Vietnam and sleeping in 6 different places ( including a boat, a bus and a train), I must say that this was a great journey. And I loved Vietnam and its people, and the people we met along the way, and the food and the beautiful landscapes. But I guess Hong Kong is becoming more and more like home every time we come back from another traveling adventure. And I keep realising how much I am liking this place and how this city is slowly but surely capturing a bit of my heart. And there are two months left until I will have to come back to Europe…but I just do not want it to end. Someone, freeze the time for me now and let me enjoy it more here.

5 things you will learn as an European in China

On 1 October, Chinese people are celebrating their national day – so, we had a long weekend that we decided to spend nowhere else than…you guessed it right… China. After doubting whether we should go both to Shanghai and Beijing, we ended up going to Beijing only. Coming from a former communist country, I was very excited to see Beijing and try to find similarities between them and Romania. I am writing this quite late, but anyway, here are the 5 things I’ve learnt while being in Beijing.

  1. In Romania, we have this saying that translated to English literally means ‘Whoever wakes up early in the morning, will go further during the day’.

Being in China and especially Beijing during the Golden week can be a challenge. There are masses of people travelling to the capital to visit the city and see the parade. We didn’t think about that when we booked our tickets- of course, we didn’t!. We were only warned afterwards that we will go crazy because of the trillions of people travelling to Beijing during these days. What we did in order to avoid crowds? Wake up early, my friend! And it eventually worked out. At the Great Wall we expected to stroll through a see a people but that did not happen. At the Forbidden City we ended up not queuing at all and so on…

  1. In China, you can have more than 30 seconds of fame.

I didn’t really get this to be honest – all these people wanting to take pictures with us just because we are blondes and white. Say what? Where we celebrities for a couple of days or just some monkeys that everybody wanted to take picture with. In the beginning was funny, but by the end of the weekend everybody has had enough. I guess we’ll all miss our shiny moments of fame – or maybe not…

  1. It’s a jungle out there.

I’ve always thought Bucharest is hectic and people sometimes can be quite obnoxious. However, nothing, LITERALLY nothing can compare to China – people cut the line, people push you to cut the line, they prefer to stay like sardines in the metros and all these stuff…

  1. No one understands you…and in case you were wondering, you will understand no one.

The first day we decided to go to the Great Wall 10 minutes before we landed in Beijing. We randomly talked to a girl on our flight and she gave us a phone number of a driver that spoke English. However, this guy was away from the city so he put us in contact with one of his friends…who didn’t understand us whatsoever. And the list can go on with people on the streets, taxi drivers, markets…et cetera.

  1. Communism is everywhere.

This might sound a bit biased but oh well, China is a communist country and coming from Romania it was interesting to see what this means to China. Beijing at least looks extremely industrial and grey. People seemed quite sad to me and there did not seem to have too much joie de vivre. You could also easily see the difference between people from the city and people from the country side. Back home, on festive days, people from the country side wear their best clothes and head to the city. And this is exactly what happens in China as well. Of course, Romania is not communist anymore, but it’s still trying to shape its individuality after more than 20 years since Ceausescu’s regime was abolished. However, China is a country of contrasts, that’s for sure.

I guess this was my experience with China. I liked it but in the same time I didn’t. I think it is a nice place to explore and visit, but for me…it did not offer me the feeling of wanting to go back. But at least I got too see the Great Wall – and let’s face it, that’s pretty much one of the coolest things to do life. Another thing crossed off from my Bucket List!

Taipei or how to chase typhoons

It took me a while to find time to write this post, but here it is. I feel it’s getting very hectic around here lately – especially with all the trips I am planning and then the catching up with school work during the weekdays.

We started off the trip on Thursday and the moment we arrive at Taoyuan Airport we literally had no clue where we have to go. I’ve never felt so lost in any of the trips I’ve been too – but this is mainly because my parents always know where we have to go. We took a random taxi to our hostel – yes, I knew the address for this one! and the trip was quite hilarious in the sense that we were panicking we won’t be able to ever check-in – as my reservation papers said the check-in counter operated only until 12 midnight. Say what ? – a hostel ( which was even called  B A C K P A C K E R S ) not having a 24h reception desk? How stupid was that? Oh well, as you might have figured it out by now it was open – of course!

The next day, we woke up with somewhat more energy than the night before and we were all ready to start exploring the city. With a little help from one of our friends living there now, we could see lots of things. Our hostel was close to the Peace Park and then we walked by the Presidential Office  Building towards  Chiang Kay-she Memorial. One of the first things I’ve noticed, compared to Hong Kong at least, was that the humidity was not as bad as HK. And, also, something I really loved and missed were the open and wide streets and not having people bumping into you all the time. We then went to Longshan Temple which was quite interesting as it was an actual temple and I’ve never seen a proper one before. We had lunch at a one Michelin star restaurant that served amazing food for such cheap prices – wish I could go there more often. Taipei 101 was impressive to see – but I realized that the skyline in Hong Kong is far more fascinating and breathtaking than in Taipei.

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And if you were wondering how we spent our night out on Friday you might have probably guessed it right by now – in a club! And it was like an actual club – with cocktails (for free haha!) and good music and a large space to dance. I assume I must have really enjoyed at as we got back to the hostel at sunrise….but then we wake up at 12 and had brunch at 3pm with…burgers and french fries. Such a culinary feast!

Saturday went by quite fast – only took the gondola to Maokong to enjoy some tea and then to Shilin Night Market. I really loved the market – and I really mean it. I am usually skeptical about trying out street food as you never know how it is cooked or whatever – but the food there was really delicious! Not to mention how cheap everything was…IMG_7739IMG_7744IMG_7741

And as there was a typhoon going on during our trip there, Sunday was quite rainy so there was not much to do. As there was a typhoon going on in Hong Kong three days ago before our trip, we started wondering if the typhoon was chasing us or we were the ones chasing the typhoon – still wondering about that. We went to National Palace Museum which was nice to see..but I am not a museum-type of person as I never have the patience to walk around and stare at paintings, handcrafts or whatever…

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In Taipei they have all sorts of themed-restaurant and my friends wanted to try the Toilet Restaurant. I was very skeptical at first because the idea of eating from toilet-inspired plates didn’t seem very appealing. But after I got used to the idea, I think it was a very fun experience.

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We ended our day with some cocktails toasting for a great weekend with both old and new friends and looking forward to the next trips.

…but on Monday, waking up at 4.30am to get ready to go to the airport we were so tired and the cruel reality slapped us in our face: time to go to school again. But now it’s already time to think about how awesome next week is going to be – Beijing here we come!

A summary of a great weekend – Lantau Island and Sai Wan

After having had a mix of trying to be productive and going out last week, the weekend was a total blast. First off, we came to the realization that our jetlag is only getting worse now. In the first days here we were going quite a lot out so we never actually got the time to get used to the time-zone here, but this weekend we figured out that we keep getting hungry at European hours and can’t fall asleep at night because it’s too early in Europe. Then, we just feel tired the whole day – and morning are the worse. And i’ve always loved morning, but here I so wish we could skip them.

So our weekend started off with catching up on sleep on Friday, which didn’t go as planned anyway, due to the above reason. But on Saturday we went on this kind of school trip organized by our University to Lantau Island to see the Big Buddha. This is the largest outdoor Buddha in the world, and I mast say it is quite impressive. The Buddha is overlooking from a peak and there are more than 200 stairs to walk to go up – luckily, the bus took us right to the top, so we only had to walk down the stairs. The building in itself is massive, and overwhelming, but somehow I expected the interior to be more spiritual. However, it wasn’t what I expected – I had in mind a temple, but the three floors only had some art works and Buddha’s relict – a rice-sized relic though. But the legend says that if you see it, than you can see the Buddha.

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The right hand means ‘not to fear’, while the left hand means ‘share the happiness’.

After a vegetarian traditional lunch (which was not so bad afterall) we walked around for a bit in market-village and I managed to get some super nice chopsticks from a stored filled with only..chopsticks. But some models and patterns was just pure art!

The second part of the trip was to Tai O Village, which is a fishermen village. What impressed me most about this place was that it looked so different – the floating houses, the fish smell that you could feel everywhere, very simple people. The stands in the markets where filled with different kinds of dry fish (and some random cats sitting next to them) and people could also try out some traditional sweets. Disregarding the huge amount of calories, I tried out some donuts – very sweet, but quite good actually. However, they texture was different from the Romanian ‘gogoasa infuriata’, the American donuts or the Dutch oliebollen. But it was worth a try. IMG_7437 IMG_7458 IMG_7459

However, the crown jewel of the weekend was hiking and cliff diving on Sunday. We had to wake up quite early to meet the others at the MTR station in Central (so we had to catch a bus from our place to get there). And what started off with 5 people, turned out into a group of more than 20 people! We had to take a change to MTR lines, take a minibus to Sai Kung and then a taxi to this place called Sai Wan Pavilion. What I’ve learnt today about taxi drivers: never tell them before getting in the car where you want to go, they will most probably say no instantly and drive away. Thank you, sir!

Our hike started from Sai Wan Pavilion and it was quite a walk through the sun in order to get to the waterfall. The walk was quite straightforward, even though in the beginning I was afraid we will take the long trail. The hardcore part started when we actually had to climb on some rocks to get to the waterfall. The rocks were quite slippery, but I was wearing proper shoes so it was not that bad in the end. The place was full of people taking dives into the water from 8m height. I think I didn’t know what 8m looked like until I actually got up to jump off myself. Oh well, I freaked out initially. I am never an extreme sports person and I prefer to live on the safe-side of life. So, anything that seems dangerous or out of my comfort zone will scare the shit out of me. It took me a while to convince myself that I will be alive tomorrow – and my lovely friends came up to tell me that nothing can happen. And it happened – I actually jumped off a cliff! The craziest thing I did in my life and I will never regret it – i would have regretted  not doing it actually. The fall was not that bad, but the adrenaline rush was huge. But I can cross this off my bucket list now, haha! And it’s going to be a nice story to tell to my grandchildren!

After that, we walked further away to a remote, white-sand, crystal clear water beach that was literally in the middle of nowhere. So far, this has been the most amazing beach I’ve seen in my life and the water was perfect. As the hike back to where  we came from was quite long and it was getting late, we had to take a boat back to Sai Kung. The problem was that all boats were booked and we could only get on a  boat at 7.15pm, so we spent around 3 hours on the beach, but time flew quite fast. We got to see the sun setting behind the mountains – yes, you’ve read it well: mountains and beaches all in the same place. It was already really dark when we got on the boat and I felt a bit dizzy and sea-sick in the beginning, especially due to tiredness. But when we got back to the sure, we all agreed that it was definitely worth it. One thing I particularly liked is that we could see the stars up in the sky – thing which does not happen that often anyway, so it looked quite spectacular I’d say.

I am now wondering from where I am getting the energy to write this peace. It’s been a long weekend, but definitely a great one! I love it here, and the people are so much fun. But now, it’s time to turn off my laptop and take a good sleep.

Selfish and narcissitic being

In the class I was talking to you about in an older posts, we were asked to write an essay about the reasons why ‘I’ am selfish and narcissistic and how these make me less smarter than I think I am. Hmm..tough one, I’d say.

Personally, I have always looked at myself from both the positive and negative sides. And every time I look in the mirror I try to go far behind the physical features; I want to see a reflection of my inner self – who am I? where am I heading? what can I do to be a better-self? I was raised with moral principles of the utmost value and God was always part of my upbringing. My parents and my grandparents always tried to make the best out of me – you should not be selfish, you should be tolerant and considerate to others, you should not lie, you should be polite and respectful to the elderly, and all the like. I am grateful for the education I was given back home, what we generically call in Romania ‘the 7-years education’. But as I grew older, I realised I cannot be perfect – I make mistakes and oh well, I know for sure that I can be a selfish and narcissistic person. (at the end of the day, I think we all are selfish and narcissistic to a certain extent)’

It’s not like I wouldn’t share my favorite food and drinks with my family and friends – I’d do that for sure!, but I think it’s more how I want things to happen in my life . I am not the ‘i would step on dead bodies’-in-order-to-reach-my-goals kind of person, but I like to get what I want and oh man, when I don’t get what I want, it’s a whole drama. Sometimes, I just want to guide myself by the principle of ‘don’t think about what other are doing, just think about yourself and how can you be happy’. During the years, I realised that this principle is quite good actually. At the end of the day, I know I only have myself and this myself is the only one capable of really taking care of me and getting me where I want to get. Does this make me a bad person? Am I not as smart or good as I think I am?

Probably I am not. Probably I am am too self-centered sometimes and I want the best for me. Maybe I want to get all the attention I need. Maybe I want people to look up to me and admire me for who I am. Maybe I need to change the way I think about myself. Maybe I can be smarter and plain better one day. I need to see the world, I need to be less judgmental, and I need to have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. I need to learn more from other and their stories. I need to be more open-minded, I need to stop over-thinking. I need to be more considerate and I need to reorganize my ambitions and prioritize them.

Yes, one day…I will be less selfish. One day, I will be smarter.