The Wandering Continues...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Former Indonesian President died

Soeharto, former Indonesian President and known dictactor who ruled the country for 32 years died today at the age of 86. He was taken to hospital due to multiple organ failure 24 days ago and had been living with help of life-support machines.
Current Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, called for a week mourning to pay respect to the services he did to the country.

Soeharto was known as father figure who helped the country to develop its economy. He was asked to resign from his power in 1998 when the economic crisis hit the region and Indonesia suffered the worse impact of it. He was also held responsible for many corruption acts and political misconducts.

I am not quite sure how the Indonesian people feel about him at the moment. Whether or not they think of him as a hero of the nation or otherwise.

I found an interesting pooling in CNN today about how will former Indonesian president Suharto be remember and the result is quite interesting.

Visiniorary architect of modern Indonesia 9% (82 votes)
Brutal & corrupt dictactor 55% (493 votes)
Both 31% (280 votes)
Neither 5% (44 votes)
Total voters = 899

I hope, disregard on how the people feel about him, the country's current political & economical stability will not be affected by it.

Detailed story can be read here

*Photo taken from CNN.

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Rio de Janeiro – It’s all about caipirinha and beaches

After some flight rerouting confusion in Iguazu, we finally arrived in Rio by 6 pm (originally scheduled at midday). Some other couples we met in Iguazu didn’t arrive until 8 pm. The weather in Rio was raining and heavy thunderstorm, but the next days were no longer raining but with lots of clouds. We stayed for 5 days and only starting from the third day that it turned to be sunny and blue sky. As for the temperature goes, Rio de Janeiro is located in the southern hemisphere so it was around 31 degree. Warm enough to be at the beach in January.

Our hotel was located in Ipanema beach, which we like a lot better than the Copacabana. But if you are into partying days and nights then the Copacabana beach is the one you want to go to.

The beach was good in terms of waves and sands. The only problem is that there are too many street sellers in the beach area which I found quite annoying if you just aim to have a nice relaxing nap. Perhaps this is also the reason why you are advised not to bring expensive items to the beach areas and of course, topless sunbathing.

We stayed mostly at the beach. We spent only one day touring the city of Rio, mainly to the two biggest tourist attractions, Corcovado Mountain where the Cristo Redentor is located and the Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) where you can take good panoramic picture of Rio. We were not very lucky in the Corcovado Mountain as it is always covered with clouds. Oh well...

The city center of Rio is not really interesting (sorry to say). Perhaps the only two things worth to see is the Sambódromo where they hold the annual Carnival (we were surprised to find out that the size of the Carnival street was only 700m long, it sure looks longer than this in the TV!) and the Favelas, the place where the poor community people live in Brazil. They are located also in the city, just side by side with the skyscrapers and it is strongly advised to the tourists not to go near these areas!

PS: Cristo Redentor is recently named as one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

Pictures from the trip.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Snowing in Shanghai!!

It's's snowing..
It normally doesn't snow in Shanghai!!!

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

My first Chinese Birthday Party

I was invited to a one-month-birthday party of my colleague's son and it ended up as a dinner of 200 people (20 tables). 99% of the invitees are of course adults and they are mostly friends of his and his wife's parents. Only 2-3 tables were actually his friends (or his wife).

The dinner started quite early at 5.30 pm but ended also around 8.30. It was like a free flow of food, I think there were about 20 kind of dishes served on the table and we gave up after the 8th dish. This is actually normal in chinese culture. There is actually a saying that a good host should order more than the guests can eat. Some even say that the guests should only be able to eat maximal 30-50% of what you've ordered. It is totally different than western culture. HSBC once made an interesting advertising about it. I'll post it a the end of this entry.

Also to my surprise, we were given some gifts after the party, consists of 2 kinds of chinese cakes/cookies and I estimate about 2 dozen of eggs! Yup, raw eggs! 2 dozen! I don't know what I should do with them now, perhaps I should return them in exchange for a cake? Well, apparently the chinese believe that eggs is the symbol of fertility and new beginning. As for me, that will mean we'll have scrambled egg for breakfast tomorrow, and the days after...

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Adventure Iguazu (part 2)

If you haven’t read part 1, please read it first.

We stayed one full day in Iguazu. Our hotel was located in the Brazilian side but we landed in the Argentinean airport. We took a taxi to the hotel and we paid a fixed amount of 90 pesos and the taxi driver took care of all the immigration procedures in both Argentinean and Brazilian borders.

We read that we could also take bus to cross the border but we were too tired with our cliffhanging adventure before so we opted for a more comfortable option. Also it was still very hot when we landed, about 37 degree Celsius so a nice air-conditioning taxi drive was more appreciated. We made a correct decision because our taxi driver then offered us a day tour to the Iguazu and he arranged all the transports for full day for 400 pesos. Much cheaper price than if you would have arranged it from Brazil (note: Brazilian real is more expensive than Argentinean pesos). We keep the contact info from the taxi driver for reference, you can contact me if you are interested.

One hint for you who plan the same journey, remember to ask your taxi/bus driver to stop by the border of Brazil if you intend to stay there for more than a day. There is an immigration check in Argentina so you won’t miss it, but in the Brazilian side, there is no immigration check unless you request to do so and if you plan to stay in Brazil more than a day, then you will have to fill out an arrival card which you have to surrender upon departure. Failure to do so will result into big penalty and may delay your departure.

I would strongly recommend you to stay a full day in Iguazu and make your visit to both sides. In Brazilian side you can take a very nice picture of Garganta del Diablo but in Argentinean side you can do a nice trekking in the area and enjoy the nature. Be prepare for the hot and sweats! When we were there, it was almost 40 degree and we actually had our first sunburn from the trip. Some girls opted for bikini but I forgot mine in the hotel!

In Argentinean side, based on the recommendation from our taxi driver, we took Gran Aventura from Iguazu Jungle Explorer. We had to trek 3 circuits of total about 10 km, then take a boat ride to the second biggest fall in Argentinean side (they cannot take us to Garganta del Diablo since it is located in Brazilian side) and finished with 8 km truck ride in the jungle. It was quite fun, especially for the boat ride but you will definitely get wet!

Iguazu is really a large area. The falls consist of almost 300 falls. I have been to Niagara Falls in US/Canada border and I have to say that it was nothing compared to Iguazu. I really love it and I cannot stop taking pictures. The nature in Argentinean side is also very nice. Living in crowded city like Shanghai will make you miss the sound of birds and the smell of fresh air. All in short, this is the best part in my whole journey!

Some pictures from the journey:

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Adventure Iguazu (part 1)

The trip to Iguazu Falls was beyond expectation! It was fun and adventurous! I would really like to share it with you but I will have to break into 2 parts so it won’t bore you too much!

Everything went fantastic with the flight from Mexico City to Buenos Aires. We actually flew with free mileage from MilesandMore and were upgraded to Business Class flight since the Economy were fully booked. I fly with Business Class quite often for business travel, but I can tell you that the business class section of Mexicana Airlines is unbelievably spacious.

When we arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, we were stuck for quite a long queue in the immigration. We also realized, when we were queuing, that we have to fly to Iguazu from a different airport. We landed from Mexico City in Ezeiza Ministro Pistarini Airport and we had to take the domestic flight from Jorge Newbery airport which is about 45 minutes away. We only had 2 hours to complete the immigration, get our luggage and transfer to the other airport!

We hailed a cab, hoping to catch the connection. Unfortunately the first cab we got was driven by a quite eccentric old driver with beard and long hair and although we have asked him to drive as quickly as possible, he drove as per speed limit! In Buenos Aires! We can actually see all cars passing us while our driver sat back, relax and busy talking to us about nonsense! We were so bored and upset so we ignored him until we noticed that he started to slow down after sometimes. Guess what!! He felt asleep driving! Beat that! We almost screamed to him to wake him up and he had to pour water to his face to stay awake!! Unbelievable!!!

Anyway, after 1 hour, we finally arrived in the other airport. We were so sure that we will miss our flight and had to stay over in Buenos Aires. Guess again! The flight from Aerolineas Argentina was delayed for about 3 hours so we were just in time to get into that flight! In fact, the ticketing lady saw our hopeless faces and decided to upgrade us again to Business Class! They rushed us into the plane and the flight attendance immediately handed each of us a glass of champagne. Pfffewwww!!!!

An hour and half later we landed in Iguazu and found out that the pilot decided to put more gasoline to anticipate for the bad weather condition rather than bring our luggage. Not sure how he got the idea from as the weather in Iguazu was quite nice and hot! The luggage arrived in our hotel at around midnight. By that time we were totally exhausted and just had one thing in mind, sleeping!

We stayed the next day in Iguazu and made a trip for both Brazilian and Argentinean sides. The day after we were scheduled to fly to Rio with a 10 am flight with TAM Brazil and our flight was AGAIN cancelled and we had to be rerouted via Sao Paolo. Later we found out that flight delays and cancellations are two common things in South America. One hint for you, make sure you have enough connection time to allow for delays! Especially if you have to make international connections!

To be continued with the day trip in Iguazu.

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