Duomo

Taking in Florence, Italy

By | travels | No Comments

I am so excited to be spending my summer holiday in Italy. I haven’t been to Italy in a long while, so I am ready for culture, art, blue skies and amazing food. [There was that infamous IBWE weekend with a trip to Venice in 2009. But that time we drank mostly Spritz and then dressed up as Romans.]

I will be spending 3.5 days in the city and yesterday was my first day of exploration.

My hotel is the very chic and convenient Room Mate Luca, that’s just a skip and a hop away from Michelangelo’s David and a ten minute walk to the Duomo.


I arrived around lunch time, was very thankful for my early check-in opportunity and then started my city exploration with a huge portion of gelato and sunscreen. It seemed best to escape the sweltering heat by ducking into the first museum that didn’t require standing in line: the Gucci Museum. A beautiful place that spans over three floors and covers all historic masterpieces from luggage, to camping, to evening robes and hand bags. Truly beautiful.



The Dante House is described as a don’t-miss in the Lonely Planet, however, I highly recommend to be a rebel and give it a miss. What is definitely worth a visit though is the Uffizi. After an hour I felt slightly beat by those larger than life Renaissance paintings. After covering the essential Botticelli, da Vinci and Michelangelo highlights, I felt like Pizza and Rosé, followed by Santa Croce and then a walk by the Arno. I finished my day with a splurge on Spritz atop the Continental Hotel’s La Terrazza rooftop bar from where I had a splendid sunset view.










Diving the Philippines

Shanghai Weekend Getaway – Anilao, Philippines

By | travels | No Comments

For the May holiday I felt like it was about time to get out of Shanghai for a bit and the Philippines offer the perfect opportunity to do so.
Tranquility, sunshine, great underwater life and friendly people at our doorstep. A mere 4.5 hour flight from Shanghai, Manila is a quick and easy option for city dwellers, looking to get away from it all for a few days.


I hadn’t been back to the Philippines since my initial trip to Palawan back in December 2012, so it was about time. Since it was only going to be a short 4 day trip, it was an obvious decision to not take any connecting flight but instead organize an airport pick-up that would take us south of Manila, down to Anilao.

We decided to stay at Portulano Dive Resort, as diving was the main objective.


The resort is located along a hillside – the downside is clearly the lack of beach of possibility to go anywhere. If you don’t want to dive, there’s the option to rent kayaks, hike up the hill or read books. Snorkeling is not too impressive, even though the diving is rather shallow at around 10 to 20 meters.

Food is great, staff is helpful and friendly and four days are easily spent. Four dives a day come in easily, with two in the morning, an afternoon dive as well as a night dive. There are many critters and small things around, but you also see the occasional jack fish, giant clam and trevally.




Besides diving I also managed to almost finish the 5th installation of Game of Thrones – a truly never-ending read that I honestly can’t wait to be done with. Snorkeling and kayaking rounded off a great trip.



See all pictures on Flickr.

Cycling from Yilan to Kenting, Taiwan

By | travels | One Comment

For the Chinese New Year holiday I set off to cycle from Yilan on Taiwan’s east coast all the way down to Kenting, the very southernmost point of Taiwan. I did this with my good friend Jeff, who is a much stronger cyclist than I am and – as opposed to myself – loves mountains. Taiwan’s coastline is rather mountainous, especially for a flatlander (Münster, Germany – home sweet home) like me. I ended up renting a bike from a Taipei Specialized store. What’s great about that is that not only the bike I got was an Allez Roadbike that did an ace job for me, but also that the rental investment was a store credit that I later on ended up trading in for a Garmin 800. Not a bad deal all in all.

We took a bus out from Taipei to Yilan to skip the way out of the city. It’s a good hour on the bus and you’re right on the coast and all you need to do is head south. The first night we slept outside in hammocks, but after I had a near freeze to death experience I vetoed all further camping endeavors and insisted on roofed nights.

Day 1 took us from Yilan to Hualian and after a day of battling traffic both uphill and downhill (the holiday season is busy. And busy is an understatement) I thought the hardest mountains were behind me, little did I know. Despite all the traffic the coastline was absolutely stunning and my mantra from day one on was “Every mountain has a peak”.. I would repeat that in the rhythm of my cadence.

Day 2 then continued down to Chenggong, once again a bit mountainous, but also long stretches of coast.

Day 3 brought on the rain. We got up early to see the sun rise, but there was nothing to see except for low clouds and shortly after it would start to drizzle. It would prove to be a rather rough day. Our butts hurt, we were tired, and we had to stop a few times. During one stop Jeff left his glasses so he had to detour (a traffic policeman kindly gave him a ride on his scooter while I napped on the roadside) and finally we ended up taking long breaks and having a beer at around three to revitalize. We still ended up doing around 120km that day all the way to Dawu, but it was hard. We did reward ourselves with amazing seafood at night, which did make up for being wet and tired all day long.

Day four then was going to be the best one yet. Kenting was the goal and even though we didn’t manage to get going very early we had a long day. Day one’s mountains were outdone by far and these were the steepest one we had to conquer. The whole ride was stunning that day. The further we ventured south, the more tropical the roadside became. We finally left the big roads and traffic behind and saw monkey’s playing in the woods, had some amazing downhill runs and finally hit the coast, where strong winds blew but also the sun came out. Finally. I was in amazing spirits and ready to cycle for ever. That is until I got hungry and tired, which was shortly before sunset, right on time with the return of rain. We ended up making it safely into Kenting, after a short stop at the Southernmost Point of Taiwan. The evening was filled with streetfoods and beers and more food and more beers.

The next day we caught the bus to Kaohsiung and from there we then took the high speed train back to Taipei, where I had another spare day before returning home to Shanghai.

It was fabulous and I can highly recommend the ride. For the full album, proceed!

Visiting Bhaktapur, Boudhanath and Pashupatinath, Nepal

By | travels | One Comment

Upon returning from the Himalayans there was one spare day left before we all had to go back to where we came from, also known as home. Or onwards travels.
We hadn’t had the chance yet to visit the culturally most important gems. Fun fact (and if you know me you’ll know that I’m a sucker for Unesco World Heritage Sites): Kathmandu has one of the highest densities of Unesco World Heritage Sites in the world, all in all 7, including important pilgrimage sites for both Hindus and Buddhists.

So for the last day, we went to visit Bhaktapur, which is also know as the City of Culture, Living Heritage, Nepal’s Cultural Gem, an open museum and a City of Devotees.

Then we carried on to Boudhanath, which is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Kathmandu. The stupa’s massive mandala makes it one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal. The stupa itself is the largest in the world and it’s absolutely beautiful.

The final stop of the day then was Pashupatinath Temple. Here the Hindu people come to burn their dead, and indeed, upon arrival at the site, there are burning bodies abound. It’s a bit surreal but not in a bad way at all. I found it rather fascinating as death becomes such a natural part of the circle of life. This all is merged with wild monkeys and dogs who roam freely throughout the temple. You will also find the occasional holy cow. Kids play freely in between the burning pedestals and it’s a sport to fish for coins that were given to the dead in the river.

I loved every minute of that day – it’s such a diverse and culturally dense place that I could have easily spend another day exploring.

For more of Nepal, check out the entire picture set.

Hike to Annapurna Basecamp, Nepal

By | travels | No Comments

This trip now was a while ago, but I hadn’t gotten around to actually share our itinerary and hiking experience through the Himalayan mountains.

We set off from Pokhara on the morning of September 24th (oh dear, I am far far behind on this one) and returned ten days later.

Within those ten days we took 110.604 steps (according to Nike Fuelband), walked 54.1 miles and spend a total of 86.44 hours hiking. So much for the statistics.

Day 1 took us from Pokhara into the first steps of Himalayan mountain. We had lunch in Dhampus and ended up spending the night at Tolka – this day we totaled 19.115 steps and 9.5 miles. Mostly steep uphill while it was still subtropically hot.

On day 2 we then continued via New Bridge for lunch to Jhino. Not only did we take 15.328 steps that day and covered 7.5 miles, we also got to have a bath in the local hotsprings. Day 3 then marked my thirty-first birthday, and what better way to spend it than taking 17.506 steps, eating lunch in Bamboo and sleeping at Dovan.

My birthday cake was made of apple slices and bananas and it got me perfectly well over the 8.6 miles we covered that day.

The next day then took us to Deuvrali for lunch and onwards via a total of 6.5 miles and 13.323 steps to Machhapuchhre Base Camp, where we decided to spend the night. The initial tropical weather had turned into miserable ice cold rain at this stage and even though Annapurna basecamp was only another short hike away, we decided to call it a day. This day was a tough one and naps were taken consistently at every opportunity that arose.

On the 5th day, we then waited for the rain to clear up a but, thus deciding to definitely miss out on a potentially pretty sunrise (thankfully, there then really wasn’t one.. clouds were all that was to be seen) and set off to reach Annapurna Basecamp at mid-day. We took our luggage along just in case – if it had been nice, we would have spent the night there. As it was, the weather was still cloudy and cold so we then returned to Machhapuchhre Base Camp for a quick lunch and then hiked onwards to Dobhan for a total of 22.525 steps that day and 11 miles.

Day 6 then took us further downhill to Chomrung, where we arrived at lunchtime and then also stayed. This day we managed to take 14.043 steps and cover 6.9 miles.

On the following day we then bundled up in rain gear and arrived in Chuile for lunch and a bit of a dry off and then slept at Tadapani where we arrived after 14.384 steps and 7.0 miles. On the 8th day we once again had lunch at Deuvrali and then slept in Ghorepani where we totaled 12.807 steps and 6.3 miles – entirely soaked and covered in leeches, but in high spirits. Day 9 then lead us through Tikhedhunga to Birethanti, this was to be the biggest day yet with a total of 23.844 steps and 11.7 miles.

All downhill and finished off with some semi-cold golden liquid. We celebrated our success accordingly and the next day we then returned to Pokhara.

The main impressions from a flora and fauna perspective that remain are a lot of bamboo forest, rhododendron forest, marihuana trees, wild peonies, leeches, more leeches and wild snapdragons. While hiking through these mountains the song that constantly played in my head was Bonnie Tyler’s “It’s a Jungle out There”.

We consumed 4 things on a daily basis and in big quantities – prices depend on altitude:
Dal Bhat (300 Rupees to 560 Rupees)
Egg Vegetable Fried Rice (240)
Beer (360 to 650)
Masala Tea (60 per cup)

It was an amazing route and we will surely be back for me. Mount Everest Base Camp is up next, as soon as I can muster up a three week holiday!

See the entire Nepal picture set and check out the articles on Kathmandu and Pokhara as well as my packing list.

How 2013 was an amazing year. Pt. 2.

By | personalized, travels | No Comments

Dears. It’s already halfway through 2014 (this is how I feel.. where did January go?!) and I hadn’t gotten around to share my 2nd half of 2013. It may or may not feel slightly obsolete now, but before jumping right back into the latest travel adventures, here’s to rounding up an amazing 2013.

July took me to Japan to climb Mount Fuji and then to be over the moon at Fuji Rock Festival. I also went to Taiwan for the first time in my life. And it was the month that I ran the Inner Mongolia Grassland Marathon. What a month!

mount fuji

August continued with a trip to HongKong as well as a bike tour to Suzhou. And then straight into September, which was filled with yet another HongKong trip and then an epic Nepal adventure that included a stint in Kathmandu, Phokara where I went paragliding for the first time in my life and finally hiking to Annapurna Basecamp.

Nepal

October then was a month of visitors, which was super nice – 5 friends in 4 weeks. November took me back to Taiwan, where I dipped into the world of Totoro (more on that later) and finally my dad arrived in December and we set off to explore Myanmar.

This gives you an outlook of what’s still to expect and I conclude by wishing you a most fabulous year of the horse, which – according to my Chinese friends – is one of the luckiest.

How 2013 was an Amazing Year!

By | personalized | No Comments

So, I just went through my Instagram to have a look at the past year. And man! It was fucking amazing! (excuse my language, but hell yeah!) (oops. I did it again!)

January kicked off with an amazing visit to Borneo. We dove Sipadan, played with Orang-Utans and climbed Mount Kinabalu. How to better ring in the New Year.

Kota Kinabalu

In February – after a short stint in Shenyang – I went to Ischgl, for some decent skiing with the girls. That trip was imminently followed by some diving in Thailand.

ischgl

In March, we celebrated St. Patricks Day, I started riding loads as the weather got warmer and I made plans for summer.

paddy's day

April came along, accompanied by some travels to Germany, Berlin and Paris.

Paris Breakfast

In May, I went to dive Qiandao Lake – coldest and most miserable dive of my life. I also went to see Clarissa in Beijing for some cycling adventure and sightseeing and we went to the Great Wall Music Festival with none other than the drugged up David Guetta.

Qiandao Lake Dive

June then came along. I had to find a new apartment, get ready for the Inner Mongolia trail run half marathon, travel to Taiwan and ride out to Yangcheng lake.

Yangcheng Lake

This was the first half of 2013 – the 2nd half continued in just the same crazy pace full excitement and joy. So I’ll make sure to get back to that. Now it’s time to pack – my dad and I will head out to Myanmar tomorrow to celebrate Christmas and the New Year – family style.

I wish you an amazing start into the New Year. I highly recommend to focus on only ONE goal for the new year, and make it count.

Happy holidays!

travel * Kathmandu, Nepal

By | travels | No Comments

Kathmandu is one beautiful small-large city. It’s small in the sense that a lot of the exploration can take place on foot, yet at the same time it is packed and busy and bustling and you have to pay the same amount of attention to scooters when crossing the street that you would have to in Shanghai. It’s colorful and the smells and sounds are a bit overwhelming when you arrive here from the quiet realms that are Europe.
For us, however, it didn’t feel so different from China, expect for everyone being more friendly, less pushy and no spitting.

You can buy teas, colorful prayer flags and incense at every corner and when wandering through the little streets there will be religious shrines and stupas abound.


We stayed at the Peace Guesthouse, however, upon arrival I accidentally went with the wrong pick-up person – much to the dismay of my actual pick-up person – and ended up at the very beautiful Kantipur Temple House. I was a bit befuddled but thought: peace or temple – what’s the big difference, that may happen. Unfortunately we quickly discovered my misplacement and I was kindly chauffeured to my actual, much cheaper home for the next 2 nights.

















From Kathmandu we went onwards to Phokara, for some paragliding and then to start our adventure towards Annapurna Basecamp. And we had a little white water river rafting stop on the way. More on that in the next episode.

travel * paragliding over Phokara

By | travels | One Comment

Having done bungee jumping and sky diving, I thought running of a mountain and gliding through the sky would be a good next step. After arriving in Phokara we scheduled an hour-long flight from Sarangkot with one of the many local agencies. If you check trip-advisor, there’s many that have been operating for a very long time out of Phokara and they are all equally fun and safe.





We flew with the thermals and above the clouds and although we were a but unlucky with the weather, as it was too cloudy to see the Annapurna range, the view was still spectacular. Spiraling down over the lake turned my stomach a bit, but it was so exhilarating and fun that the moment passed quickly. Definitely an amazing experience to include into your trip to the Outdoors paradise of Nepal.

travel * planning a trip to Nepal to hike to Annapurna Basecamp, what to pack, where to start

By | travels | 3 Comments

I took two weeks of holiday in late September and early October, coinciding with the Chinese Golden Week holiday.

Nepal Sunset

A few friends and I set off to Nepal for the ultimate hiking adventure. We all met up in Kathmandu and from there we planned our trip.

Since we hadn’t traveled together previously in this combination and also not everyone knew everyone, we felt it was easiest to plan the whole trip out, as to avoid discussions and uncertainties along the way. This was my first time to go with an ‘organized tour’ – albeit I organized this tour, so it still felt like I was on an independent trip. A good friend from college, who grew up in Nepal, recommended us to get in touch with Hari Gautam (who turned out to be rather legendary!) as she had heard good things about him. Hari did an amazing job in meeting all of our demands. We wanted

  • full flexibility, as we were a group of different levels of fitness, experience and expectation
  • not only hike, but also go rafting and paragliding
  • see the important sites around Kathmandu (as you may know, I’m a big fan of UNESCO world heritage sites and Nepal happens to have a ton!)

and Hari managed to put together just that.

We had a total of 15 days so we ended up with 2 days in Kathmandu, 2 days in Phokara, 1 day rafting on the Trisuli river and 10 days of hiking.

What we packed:
Clothes

  • tight & longsleeve as functional underwear, 2 sets, different warmth
  • jeanshort – can be combined with leggings or functional underwear or worn on its own
    sweatpant – for the evenings to chill out and keep warm
  • 5 PES (polyester/quick drying) tees and tanks – cotton will never dry on the mountain
    warm fleece jacket
  • seamsealed rain jacket and pant (we really needed this, even though we traveled in what should have been dry season)
  • hiking socks – several pairs, there will be sweat, rain, leeches, and the likes
  • sports bras and quick drying underwear
  • beanie and gloves as well as a scarf – it gets cold on the mountain, especially during breaks
  • down sleeping bag until comfort level 3C as well as a light silk sleeping bag to stay clean and homie in not so clean sheets
  • quick drying, small towel
  • pyjama
  • bikini or bathing suit as well as boardshorts and UV longsleeve – the latter for your rafting trip down Trisuli river, but also for the lake in Phokara, for the hot springs along the way..
  • hiking boots, running shoes and flip flops

Medicine
Ibuprofen, Magnesium, something against Diarrhea, to purify the water, against a cold, some bandaids, disinfectant, muscle relaxation cream

Toiletries

  • toothpaste and brush – obviously
  • UPF 50 (Unless you’re Indiana Jones-esque) sunscreen for body and face
  • hydrating facial and body cream – thin air, dry skin..
  • shampoo, shower gel, conditioner
  • basic make-up – Kathmandu does have a barscene and there’s nothing wrong with some mascara and lipstick
  • travel detergent for the odd basin socks/underwear/tees washing session
  • lip chapstick – ideally with UPF
  • wet wipes – nothing is handier..

Practicalities

  • passport and passport pictures – at least 4 for the permits, visa etc that you’ll need
  • around 1.000 USD for bigger payments, local rupies can be withdrawn at any ATM in Kathmandu
  • cap, sunglasses, prescription glasses
  • camera
  • cellphone (but network won’t be available the higher up you get in the Annapurna region)
  • charger for your electronics as well as a portable battery that can be your powersource for several days, electricity will be scarce all along
  • big backpack and daypack
  • ear plugs
  • books – as electricity is scarce, don’t rely on your kindle, go analog! and you can swap along the way with your friends. take a few books, you will read a lot as you are likely to arrive at the guesthouses in the afternoon and there is not much else to do. I finished 3 books in two weeks.
  • guidebook – depending on how much read up front and how organized your trip is already, we had one travel friend that never read a single piece of information on this trip
  • headlamp and/or torch – for early morning ascends or descends and the nightly bathroom trip
  • needle and thread, safety pins – I never travel without
  • umbrella – a little one will come in handy for rain or shine
  • water bottle – bottled water will not be available after a certain altitude, so you need to refill from boiled water
  • plastic bags or trash bags – keeps dirty and clean clothes seperated, the contents of your bag dry and you can even sit on it
  • cards and dice – for when you don’t want to read anymore. also the Nepali love card games, it’s an easy way to make friends
  • pocket knife – to cut up that yak cheese or cut off that leech

More about this utmost fabulous trip to come!