Monywa: Big, Bigger, Biggest

While Bagan certainly had a few more things to offer, we had had our share of pagodas for this visit after one day of cycling through a large part of them. We decided to spend our last days in Myanmar in the cities of Monywa and Mandalay. Following another bumpy bus ride of around 4 hours, we first got lost in the dusty streets of the town. The next day we planned to explore the surroundings of this not so well visited city.
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Bagan: Brand New Old Pagodas

After 3 days of hiking our first long-distance bus ride in Myanmar was scheduled. Well shaken we eventually reached one of the most celebrated tourist attractions of Myanmar: the ancient city of Bagan, the city of thousands of pagodas. We were getting really anxious to finally see the pagodas, however we had to go through one thing first, before we were allowed to see that constructions originally from the 11th through 13th centuries: pay 15 US$ entrance fee to the archeological site. Following a lengthy search for accommodation, we could enjoy the beautiful sites from close up the next day. Once again it was interesting to observe how differently visitors approach such site: while we chose to explore by bicycle, others opted for the more convenient e-bike or horse cart and yet others let themselves drive in large air-conditioned tour buses to the biggest pagodas and miss all the rest.
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Kalaw: Heading West for 3 Days

Even though we had only 2 weeks in Myanmar, we chose to go on the 3 day trek from Inle Lake to Kalaw. We were a little bit concerned that the experience would be made to artificial for tourists. The trek led from near Inthein on Inle Lake across the rolling hills, across fields ranging from rice to chilli, through small villages to the county prefecture of Kalaw. Being famous for trekking, the town attracts many tourists and sports an excellent selection of hotels. But first we had to get there and even though it was winter, the sun was burning hot from the sky…
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Inle Lake: Real Fake Fishermen

From Yangon we dared to book a flight on KBZ Air, a domestic airline in Myanmar, promising to Fly Beyond Expectations! Reading their slogan on a barf bag seemed kind of comical… While the flight went without a hitch, experiencing Inle Lake and its surroundings was one of the absolute highlights of our trip. While already quite touristy, the region has still a lot of authenticity and going on a three-day trek through the villages gave some very interesting insights into daily Myanmar life in the countryside.
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Yangon: Yang… What??

It was going to be my first trip to South East Asia… Lenka and I had made the decision late last year, after reading a series of news paper articles about the country in a Swiss newspaper, that we would spend the Spring Festival Break in Myanmar. Another country of which only bad things appear in the news, but also a country that is changing rather quickly. Particularly when it comes to tourism. From the numbers we heard, visitors have multiplied by 5 in the last two years. Apparently prices for accommodation had doubled or even tripled. However many parts of the country remained untouched or where changing only slowly. So there still was some original Myanmar to see.

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Harbin: Ice Capital

The last stop on our journey from Moscow to Beijing by train was Harbin in North-East China. The captial of Heilongjiang provinces experienced lots of different influences which one can still recognize today. Besides these influences, especially the Russian old town, the ice plays a particularly important role when it comes to what the city is famous for.
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Irkutsk: In the Heart of Siberia

The next stop of our journey was the typical stop on any of the railway trips across Siberia: Irkutsk. One could easily recognize that Irkutsk is a very touristy pace given the numerous options for accommodation as for example Yekaterinburg and also the attractions and options for tourists. Only 70km from lake Baikal and located directly on the Angara River, the city is a perfect base to discover Siberian life a little bit. We decided to stay in Irkutsk for 4 full days.
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Yekaterinburg: At the Borders

Our first stop on our journey from Moscow to Beijing by train was Yekaterinburg. Our fellow travelers on the train asked us what reason there was to stop in Yeksterinburg, they werenâEURTMt aware of anything interesting. However the city itself has a few things to offer and an important attraction for us is located just outside this city in the Ural Mountains.
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Moscow: A New Tale Begins

For almost a year,Lenka and I have been living in Beijing. The year has brought many changes and lessons had to be learned. However the life in the Chinese capital has become every-day life. Through Chinese classes the interaction with the locals becomes easier and easier, even though there is still a lot to be learned. Although travel time has become limited Lenka and I managed to get away once more. Through the visit of my parents in Switzerland another trip from Europe to Asia became a necessity. For only the second time in my life I was to tavel across this continental divide. Last time I crossed the Bosphorus in Istanbul by boat to make the traverse, this time it was going to be the train. The adventure started in Moscow. Continue reading

Chinese Culture: Making Business, Making Friends

Like most of the cultures in this world, China is known in Europe mostly though the media. Stereotypes reign the knowledge about this far away country and every now and then somebody visited the country as a tourist or even worked there as an expat for some time. Two things are heard very often about China: firstly, one has to be very careful about prices and product quality when buying something in China. A little experience in negotiating prices and especially knowledge of the actual prices should be very important. Secondly, it should be very difficult to make friends with the Chinese. For example, the Chinese should have no interest in joining in for a drink after work. During a networking event in Beijing, in which both Chinese and foreigners participated, I had the opportunity to learn more about the background of these statements.
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