baliAdventures

Instead of simply flying back to Germany after my little Shanghai adventure, I took the chance and spend some amazing days in Bali and Singapore – 5 days Bali and 3 days Singapore. Working for 3 months in another country also means that you have some stuff, ok A LOT of stuff to carry with you so I knew that this is not going to be a backpacking-kind of vacation. All I wanted was to relax and do some sightseeing. And that’s exactly what I did 🙂 My hotel was the Artotel and opened in June 2016.

It is located in Sanur on the east side of Bali. The hotel staff was very friendly and the rooms had an artistic style. I had some clouds over my bed and loved it. But my favorite spot was the infinity pool on the rooftop. The perfect place to relax and enjoy the sun. Well, I enjoyed the sun a little bit too much on my first day and got a very very bad sunburn.

Perfect timing to do some sightseeing on the countryside. Actually, my first plan was to go to the western side of Bali to stay at some beaches, but my driver convinced me to go to Ubud instead. I’ve already heard that Ubud is a MUST when you’re in Bali. Now I know why. It has so much to offer. In Ubud you can get a real feeling of the Balinese culture which is very inspiring. So I ended up with two tours to Ubud within these five days. During the first tour, we visited a family that produced silver and gold items like souvenirs and jewelry, and a coffee plantation.

That’s a typical tour from Sanur to Ubud. You pay the driver a fixed price and he shows you different places on the way to your destination. Of course, it’s made for tourists, but it was still pretty cool to see 🙂  My main destination on my first tour was the famous monkey forest located in the middle of Ubud. Yes, it is full of tourists but still definitely worth a visit. I could have taken pictures of them all day.

On my second tour I went to see the rice terrace in Tegalalang. This is also something I would definitely recommend to see. There is actually a trail you can walk along. So you really can spend some time there.

The second stop was at the Goa Gajah Temple, also known as the Elephant Cave. A very old temple area. Unfortunately it rained quite heavy and of course I had no umbrella with me. But a lady from a souvenir shop borrowed me her umbrella. I should have known that this was not only an act of kindness, but a trick to get me into buying something from her store. After I refused, she wanted me to pay for taking her umbrella. So I gave her a some money for the umbrella and we both could go on with our own lives. The temple was nice to visit, but I would not go there a second time. I’m pretty sure that Bali has more fascinating temples than that.

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Another thing I would like to share with you was my trip to Gili Air. Gili Air is part of the Gili Islands, a group of very very small islands called Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan. It is very uncommon to go there for a day trip but as I did not have enough time and way too much luggage, I did it anyway. The boat leaves in the morning and takes around 2-2,5 hours to Gili Air and goes back somewhen in the afternoon. So I only had a couple of hours which was perfect to walk around the whole island. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to go snorkeling but it was good enough to get a first impression. What can I say, turquoise water, white sand, beach bars…Next time, I will definitely stay there for a few nights.

On my way back, I got the chance to stay on top of the boat with a couple of others. And thanks to our late start, we were cruising right into the sunset. It was simply breathtaking. It seemed like the world stopped turning for a moment. And then the waves came in and brought as back to reality in no time. One wave after the other caught us and we all were soaking wet. There was also no chance to go back inside the boat as it was way too shaky. So I ended up trying to save my backpack that carried my newly bought camera and my mobile phone by trying to cover it with my body (I was convinced they were broken but surprisingly they survived!). Yeah, that’s the price the cool kids have to pay just because they wanted to sit on top of a boat. Sometimes, karma is a b**** 🙂 Still, I would do it again any time!!!

As always, time was flying and five days were over faster than ever. Even though I did not see much of Bali I absolutely fall in love with its culture, the food and the Balinese art. There is no doubt that I will go back there sometime. The Balinese are one of the most friendly people I’ve ever met which is probably partly based in their religion – the Balinese hinduism. The key belief of Balinese hinduism is the never-ending cycle of reincarnation. Little side fact: the majority of Indonesia’s population is Muslim.

Bali, it was an honor to be your guest. I will come back for sure!

 

 

 

 

shanghai roundup – sharing your happiness

It’s over. My time in Shanghai came to an end. It has only been 4 days since I left China but it feels like months. Ok, maybe I can blame Bali for that. Right at this moment, I’m starring at the Indian ocean, next to me an exotic cocktail. Non-alcohol of course. So I guess it is more a smoothie than a cocktail. Whatever, I think you got my point.

Still, I would like to give something like a Shanghai roundup. I cannot believe it is already over. I still remember how excited I was when I heard about going to Shanghai. So how do I think about it now?

It’s not that simple to answer. Some of you might have heard about my challenges. It was tougher than I thought. I already mentioned that I lived quite far outside from the city center. Yes, that was a little bit annoying. On the other hand, it gave me the ‘real’ China experience. I never saw a foreigner, in that case Western people like me, in a public bus. Taxi drivers declined more than once to take me somewhere. I don’t know if it was because of the distance or if they simply did not know the address. Who knows?! So yes, it was a challenge. BUT, I was proud to have handled it that well. In the end, I always got where I wanted to go.

The biggest challenge of course was the cultural difference. I am someone who values good manners especially when it comes to eating. It is not a secret that there is a huge difference between the Western eating culture and the Chinese one. I knew about these differences. I knew, that smacking and slurping was common and especially
used to demonstrate the enjoyment of eating. Knowing something and experiencing something are two totally different things.

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…what I couldn’t eat

In addition to the smacking, there is the spitting. And I totally get it. While we (Western people) are spoiled with boneless tender chicken breast, the Chinese chop the whole damn chicken. And when I say whole chicken, I mean whole chicken. If you don’t want to grab into your mouth after every bite to get out every little piece of bone (or whatever else you don’t want to eat), then spitting is the only way to go. At least if you’re planning to finish your meal within the next hours.

I want to make clear that this is not a judgement. Every culture is different, which is great and I totally respect that. I just want to point out HOW different cultures can be and how easy it is to underestimate even the smallest things.

Another thing that fascinated me is the relationship between Chinese and their smartphones. It already annoyed me back in Germany. Friends sitting next to each other and every one is starring at their phone. Sure, I am not an angel and it happens to me too. But I also don’t like that behavior on me and I try to avoid it as much as possible. When I came to Shanghai I had to realize that Germany is NOTHING compared to that. People were watching TV shows on their smartphones. Not necessarily with their headphones on. And if they don’t watch TV shows, they were talking into their phones. Dictating messages to their friends. So when I will be back in Germany and see people playing around on their smartphone, I will simply smile and think back to my time in Shanghai.

 Of course, I also should mention the city itself, not only its culture. Restaurants over restaurants. Nothing you cannot find. Amazing skyscrapers. Lights. Everywhere are lights. Huge shopping malls. Luxury stores. Have I already mentioned restaurants. Crazy traffic. Scooters. People. People. People.

I know that this post probably sounds more negative than I want it to be. It is a different culture and that’s what I want to make clear. At least, that’s what I realized for myself. I definitely learned a lot during the past three months. Not only about my patience, but also ‘to share my happiness’. Every time, a colleague got married, became a parent or simply came back from vacation, he or she brought presents for the others. I got a present from someone who became a father and from someone who got married. I have never met these colleagues. I still don’t know them. But they wanted to share their happiness with everyone. That’s the tradition. I couldn’t help myself but to compare it with Germany. Sure, it is not necessary to bring EVERYONE a present. But wouldn’t it be nice to change our general mindset a little bit? Just imagine, you’re on Facebook and you’re looking at beautiful pictures from your ‘friends’ who are obviously enjoying their life right now. I am pretty sure that your first thought was not ‘oh, how nice. They want to share their happiness with me (and probably a thousand other Facebook users)’. It is more likely that you had negative associations with these photos. Maybe you were even blaming them of making you jealous. I had these thoughts too a couple of times. And I didn’t like it. Who knows, maybe all they wanted to do is sharing their happiness. Ok, let’s assume it was not their intention to share their happiness. Maybe they were not even happy at all. I know I will be. Simply because I like the idea of ‘sharing your happiness’. It takes away my negative thoughts and give me some free capacity for being happy 🙂

…Ok, ok. I admit this is easy said while starring at the Indian ocean with a non-alcoholic-cocktail-like-smoothie on the side…more about that later!

the magic of disneyland

On 16th June 2016, the first Disney park in mainland China opened its doors to the world. With 4.9 billion EUR it’s one of China’s biggest foreign investments. Of course, Disney hopes to attract lots of people – already 330 million people are living in the area around the park. The price of 499 RMB (68 EUR) for one ticket did not shock me. I mean we are talking about Disneyland. But considering that the average monthly income in China is around 250 EUR, it is quite a high price. Still, I can assure you that lots of people found their way to the park. I saw it with my own eyes…

2nd of August, 2016. A date I was very much looking forward to. As an old Disney maniac, I was going to the newly opened Disney Resort in Shanghai. Every day I checked the weather hoping for a magical cool down. Heads-up, there was no magic. The weather stayed hot and humid. But that shouldn’t keep me from conquering Shanghai’s Disneyland! Together with two German colleagues and their daughter, I entered the world of Disney. The first thing we did was buying some traditional Minnie Mouse ears – for 95 RMB (13 EUR). I’m pretty sure Disney almost make no money with these. Ok, maybe a little bit. But come on, they are REAL Minnie Mouse ears! Oh, I can smell your jealousy from here 🙂 Right after entering the park, you can see the beautiful castle. This one is really really magical. Especially for the little princess in us!

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Thanks to the weather and millions of other guests, we only made it to four attractions. Ok, let’s say two ‘real’ attractions and two little ones’, like the ‘Honey Pot Spin’ and the ‘Fantasy Carousel’. Better than nothing. The waiting time for the most famous attractions always was around 130-180 minutes. No, thank you! So we walked around the whole park and I probably sweat out 10 liters. I felt so sorry for all the artists who had to walk around in their costumes all day. No idea how they survive that. Probably with some Disney magic.

Within the park you can find different themes like Fantasyland, Adventure Isle, Mickey Avenue, Treasure Cove and Tomorrowland. While walking through these theme parks, you can really feel and enjoy the Disney spirit. My favorite ride was in the Tomorrowland park – the roller coaster ‘TRON’. The official waiting time for that one was 90 minutes. But thank god, this ride also offered the ‘single rider’ lane. So we chose that one and passed hundreds of people waiting for their turn. The number of people in front of us? One! Minutes we waited for our ride? Five. Of course, we did it two times in a row. I don’t know if the Chinese were not aware of the ‘single rider concept’, if they simply like to wait for hours in a queue or if they are afraid of the word ‘single’. Probably everything.

It wouldn’t be Disneyland if the food would not be served in form of Mickey Mouse. In our case, we had a Mickey Mouse Pizza. I also found some cute Mickey Mouse muffins that I’d really like to copy as soon as I live again in a place with a well-equipped kitchen. Hopefully in a few weeks.

Another thing, you cannot miss while visiting Disneyland is the parade in the afternoon. Amazing costumes, songs you simply have to sing along, crazy wagons, one Disney character after another, etc.

As this was not the first time I’ve been to Disneyland, I could not help myself but to compare it to the one in California. Sorry Shanghai, but you cannot keep up with that one. Maybe it was the crazy amount of people or the hot weather. I don’t know. Or maybe it’s simply because Walt Disney was born in America. Who knows?

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Anyway, I’m glad to have made that experience and I do not regret it. Disney will always be a part of me 🙂 Hakuna matata!

Talking about my trip to Disneyland, I start to ask myself why I am so fascinated with the whole Disney thing. Of course, most of the movies represent the concept of true love and though that is a nice thing to believe in, it is not what keeps me a ‘Disney girl’. Maybe it was 20 years ago, but not anymore. I think what really catches me is the idea of living in a totally different world. A world full of adventures, speaking animals, friendship, and yes okay, true love. A world only your imagination can take you. I am 27 years old and I still need this world. A place to escape from reality. Especially from our world today. Even if it’s only for 90 minutes or a few hours in Disneyland. Not to mention the feeling to watch a Disney movie with one of your best friends 🙂 It connects people!

being a tourist for a weekend

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Studying or working abroad implicates the risk to miss out on being a tourist and do some sightseeing. Before going abroad I always like to buy some travel guides to be fully prepared for my new destination. I had two for San Diego and now I have one for Shanghai. I also wanted to buy a travel guide for Slovakia but the lady in the book store told me that they don’t have them in stock, but that I could have one for Slovenia instead. I still try to understand why I should buy a travel guide for Slovenia when I was going to Slovakia. Very strange sales approach. Anyway, I just love to look through those guides – to feel my excitement rising with every page. Then the day of traveling comes and the guide is hidden somewhere save in my suitcase. Unfortunately, it stays at that sacred place for far too long.

Going abroad for studying or working usually means that you will spend more than a couple of days in a new country. In my case, it was one year in San Diego, two months in Slovakia and now 3 months in China. So what happens is you arrive at this new place and decide to settle in first before doing all this crazy (and exhausting) sightseeing stuff. Then, you suddenly realize that you only have a few days left and you have to admit that you barely saw a thing. At least not the things you were reading about in your little travel guide. That’s usually the point when I start to panic a little bit and dig out this little book. The best thing that can actually happen in such a situation is to have a very good friend visiting you. This time I got lucky! Not only my friend was planning a 3 day stopover in Shanghai, but also my uncle was coming for one day, as he had some business in another town close by. Small world, right?  So, I had 3 three days to fill with Shanghai’s hot spots. Oh, and HOT is the keyword here. That weekend was the hottest weekend since I’m here. No, I think it was even the hottest weekend in my whole life. The temperature was somewhere around 38°C, which feels like 45-49°C. What doesn’t burn you makes you stronger, right?

Another advantage of having a friend over is to have a reason to sleep in a nice hotel in the downtown area. We chose the Radisson Blu Hotel at People’s Square. Just a few steps from the subway station. Oh, I’m still dreaming of their breakfast buffet and their beds. We ate and slept very very good. But the most impressive part of the Radisson is the Skybar in the 45th floor. Unfortunately, we discovered it on our last day, so we did not get a chance to see it at night. It must be amazing! This is my insider tip for everyone who is looking for a nice view over Shanghai. From there, you can see EVERYTHING! And the restaurant is turning. How cool is that? Ok, enough about the hotel. We also did some other things besides eating and sleeping. Practicing our negotiation skills at the fake market is only one example. We also went to the ‘Shanghai Circus World’ to see one of their acrobatic shows. Unfortunately, taking pictures and making videos was strictly prohibited. The show was just incredible. Not sure if incredible good or incredible insane. I think I go with the latter. Let’s say, there was more than one moment where we had to look away because we were too afraid of people getting seriously injured.

 

Check out the pictures below to get an impression of our little sightseeing adventure 🙂

Shanghai Tower: with 632m the 2nd highest tower in the world. The entrance fee was 160 RMB which is quite high. There are better places to enjoy the view for less money.

Tianzifang: area with lots of souvenir shops, bars and restaurants.

Xintiandi: small boutiques, restaurants and modern art. It also locates one of the famous Paulaner.

Vue Bar: famous and exclusive sky bar (Hyatt Hotel on the Bund). Of course, exactly on that day, Shanghai decided to save some energy and switched off the Pearl Tower.

Yu Garden: classical garden with traditional pavilions, old tea houses, little lakes full of koi-carps, and not to forget a lot of tourists.

Skybar within the Radisson Blu Hotel: very much recommended!

It was an awesome weekend and it meant a lot to me to show my friend where I spent the past two months. I really appreciate her visit.



Living in another country has a huge impact on one’s personality. At least I believe it does have on mine. Today, it is so easy to share photos and to stay in contact with your friends and family while living in a different country. Of course, that is a great thing. Still, you cannot communicate all the experiences you make – good AND bad, the places you see, the people you hang out with. This is why it is kinda big of a deal to visit your friends and family abroad. At least if you really want to understand what they are going through – why they come back as a slightly different person. This is something facebook, instagram or snapchat simply cannot do for you. And not to mention the fact that it gives you a great opportunity to explore the world! Take that chance! You will not only make your friend/family very happy – it will also enrich YOUR life!

 

language barriers

In my last article, I gave you an overview about my arrival in Shanghai, my first impressions and challenges. Challenges. That’s exactly where I would like to dig a little bit deeper. As I mentioned before, the language barrier is one of the biggest challenges. I already faced that challenge during my time in Slovakia. There is one common behavior people show when they do not speak the same language. They start to speak very slow, very clear or/and very loud. What they do not realise is that they can speak as slow and clear and loud as they want, I will never understand them as long as I don’t learn their language. Ok, I admit that Romance languages have some similarities and there is a chance to communicate by speaking slow and clear and loud. But I’m talking about Slovak and Chinese. In this case, body language/pantomime is the key (or google translator, but hey, where is the fun in that?).

One example from two days ago. I wanted to unlock my bike (it actually belongs to my colleague). Suddenly, a Chinese man stand next to me and started talking to me. He choses the loud way to communicate. As I just explained, the volume did not change the fact that I was not able to understand him. He kept talking in Chinese. I kept talking in English. It was anything else but an efficient conversation. I had no idea what he wanted from me. Then he pointed at the bike. Then I pointed at the bike (no idea, why I did that). He started nodding his head and showed two fingers. Ah okay. A number. So that can only mean one thing. Money. I showed him my purse and he nodded again. I could feel that we were getting closer to an agreement. Then he went to his little security house and I followed him. By the way, he is the guy that opens the gate for the cars. What I did not know, he is also the guy who takes care of the bicycle park. I also did not know that it costs money to park my bike over there. Anyway, I paid him 20 RMB and our conversation was over. This is just one simple example between two people that do not speak a word of each other languages but still were able to communicate somehow.

Something I’ve already learned about the Chinese culture is that the louder they talk the more they appreciate you. Talking loud is considered as being polite. As a professional bus taker, I can tell you they appreciate each other a lot. Thinking back to my experience with the security guy, it was actually a very polite conversation.

There are two words I always try to learn right in the beginning:

THANK YOU
Slovak = Dakujem
Chinese = Xiè xiè

welcome to shanghai

60 days. Since 60 days I live in Shanghai. One of the biggest city in the world – and I have no doubt about that. In this blog post, I would like to share my very first impressions and experiences. I’ve never visited China before. During my time in San Diego, I’ve met some Chinese students, so I thought that I’m at least a little bit familiar with their culture. And come on, we are talking about Shanghai. One of the most western cities in China, so it won’t be that big of a deal, right? Oh boy, was I wrong. I remember getting out of the plane and fighting myself through the security checks at the airport. It felt like hours since I finally got through. People in uniforms standing everywhere looking at me with – how to put it in words – let’s say anything but a welcoming face. Great. Let’s just get out of here, and I did it. I passed the exit and saw the driver with my name on a sign. I was save. Until I got in the car. The drive to my apartment only took around 40 minutes. 40 minutes of pure astonishment while watching the traffic. Nobody cares about rules, thIMG_1403eir cars or even their lives. That’s at least the impression I got – and still have. Unfortunately, they also don’t care about my life, so here is my first advice: keep your eyes WIDE OPEN. Thankfully, I arrived at the apartment as a complete human being without any accidents.

After checking on the map where the hell I was, I had to acknowledge that I’m pretty far away from the downtown area. It takes me at least one hour by public transportation to get to the other side of the river where all the action is. If you have been to Shanghai before, you might already have guessed that I am located in Pudong. And not the part of Pudong with all the futuristic skyscraper you know from all those touristic photos. One good thing about my location is that I only need 20 minutes by walk to the office. If you can actually reach something in Shanghai by WALKING, it means that you are damn close. Thanks to my colleagues who met me on the next day to show me where the next supermarkets are, I made it through the first days.

I still remember how afraid I was to take the bus. I already found out that the bus driver don’t speak any English (or other language beside Chinese) and all the bus stops are written in Chinese. The next subway stations are 2-3 km away from my apartment, so there was no other option but taking the bus to get at least to the subway station or the supermarkets. After one week (and a lot of walking), a colleague showed me how to take the bus and it changed my life. Now, 61 days later, I consider myself as a professional Shanghai bus taker. Basically, all I had to do was buying the ‘Shanghai Public Transportation Card’ and get in that bus. With this card, I finally could say/scream/sing ‘Shanghai, here I come’. You need load some money on that beautiful little purple card and you can start exploring Shanghai. Public transportation is extremely cheap. Though I need at least 1-1.5 hours from my apartment to downtown, it only costs me 6 RMB (80-90 ct). Taking a taxi or Uber is also very common and cheap (though it might happen that a taxi driver kicks you out, but that’s a different story). I’ve used both and never paid over 7 EUR from downtown to my apartment (ca. 20-25 km). BUT, you need the address in Chinese. Taxi driver only speak Chinese. The challenge you might face with taking Uber is that the driver calls you and wants to know where you are. Usually, they also don’t speak English. So what I did was simply running to the next Chinese and pressed my phone against his ear. They will do the talking for you.

Yes, the language barrier is one of the biggest challenges but definitely not the only thing that drags me out of my comfort zone. More on that later.

 

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view from my room on a rainy day
Three words to the weather: humid  – hot – rainy.
Months not recommended to go to Shanghai:June – July – August.
Months I’m staying in Shanghai: June – July – August.

See where I’m going here? 🙂

Anyway: NEVER STOP EXPLORING!

about me

Hi! I’m Maria. A 27 year old German girl. Born and raised in Iserlohn. Moved to Hamburg in 2015. During my studies, I got the chance to live in Americas Finest City – San Diego in California. And once again, thanks to my job, I got another chance to travel and live in different countries and explore different cultures. Thinking about all my experiences and little adventures, I felt the need to somehow capture and share those memories so I created this blog. There are still tons of things I need to cross from my bucket list and I will take you with me. So here we go…

Never stop exploring!

 

I chose to write this blog in English, though it is not my mother tongue. But it is the language that reaches out to most of you. My apologies for possible mistakes.