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Category Archives: Travel Notes

You can’t go wrong with Hong Kong.

It had been what seems like eons since I’d checked into a hotel which I simply had to tell you about separately due to its specialness. I get to stay in some real nice hotels on my travels, it has to be said, but only once a blue moon do I come across one that’s just… exceptionally and extraordinarily exquisite :).

So I must show you a few pics of where we were last week. We were in Hong Kong, having our APAC Partner Conference – in the HK InterContinental on the shore of Kowloon. And, oh, by the hammer of Thor, what views it offered of the skyscrapers across the bay. I won’t come up with OTT adjectives, I’ll just let you have a look for yourselves…

One thing I will say is that these views never fail to impress no matter if it’s day or night, or clear and sunny, or during a typhoon! It’ll be here we’re staying at next time, that’s for sure…

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Hong Kong by night

Read on: More skyscrapers, close shot…

Isn’t it good, Norwegian fjords.

I’ve made up a list of what I feel are the Top-100 Must-See Places in the World. Number 45 in that list is ‘Norwegian fjords’ – and the entry under it says ‘Haven’t been’. But that was before last weekend. Now it needs amending to ‘Been there, done the akvavit’.

Norwegian Fjords

Read on: Turquoise water running down the cliffs…

The rainiest city in Europe. Allegedly.

According to various sites on the Internet, Bergen is the wettest, rainiest city of the European continent. Don’t believe a word of it! Me and some pals were in the city just recently and in all the three days there not a single drop of rain fell on any of us. In its absence was a preponderance of sun – so much so that our cheeks became redder than the king prawns on offer in the Bergen fish market (see pic further below).

And probably up to 200 kilometers away there was nothing but clear sunny skies too, save for a few fluffy clouds. Only on the horizon did there sometimes appear something reminiscent of light rain. The locals were also fairly amazed too – they’ve never known such rain-free summery days here ever!

Bergen, Norway

Read on: fish appetizer, fish main dish and a desert …

Muted Monaco.

Passion, speed, and the revving of motors

Well, that’s at least what you’d expect from Formula-1. But watching a Grand Prix live?… I have to tell you that, frankly, there’s little point.

The racing cars shoot past so fast you can easily miss them if you blink at the wrong moment. It makes more sense to watch it all on the box – there you get the advantage of multi-camera filming of the action non-stop. But then of course you can watch the telly anywhere on the planet. It’s much better when you have the best of both worlds: to watch the race on a TV placed a few meters from the racetrack.

You watch the TV, go and check the reality, come back to the TV, and continue back and forth like that. That way you get involved in what’s going on. Coolest of all though is watching the race from the garage, where the support teams sit and the pit stops get done in no time at all (again – no blinking!).

But you can watch a Grand Prix from the garage in one of just two cases.

The first is if you’re one of those who change the tires in three seconds; that is, you’re a very niche bio-robot who’s spent most of his adult life training for those occasional three seconds. These pit stop tech teams usually sit on foldable chairs and watch the race on TVs waiting for commands from the manager. Anyway, that’s the first option.

The second option: watching the race – on the TV – from the same garage, but as one of the lucky few bystanders allowed to stand against the wall of the garage (out of the way of the folks in the overalls). But 90 minutes stood by a wall watching the TV… also not so great.

Ultimately, best of all is when you can mix it all up a bit: combining the whoosh-reality on the track with the detailed story on TV, and also walking about the garages, around the pit stop area, being by the starting grid for the start, and also being by the podium for the champions’ champagne blow-out. Yes, that’s the way to do it. For sure :). And yes, I guess I have been lucky.

One thing you can’t do without is an experienced F1 buff to explain to the debutantes what’s actually happening on the track. Why and how is this car going faster? How does a super-speedy pit stop get performed?

Sooo. There we were, right next to the race, by the TV, under the wing of an expert: all set…

Now we can turn on the speed passion!

Formula1 Monaco Grand Prix 2014

Read on: F1 on the road and in the sea…

How I missed my plane.

I’m a mathematician.

So, based on the numbers alone – with my constant frequent flying – I’m hardly surprised: sooner or later it had to happen – I missed my plane!

It’s happened just once before – back in May 2010, towards the end of one of my customarily lengthy round-the-world tours. I’d… let my hair down a wee bit too low at a conference in Cyprus, got ’20:00′ and ’02:00′ – or something like that – mixed up, and that was that – late. Flight missed. That was in Limassol, heading for Tokyo. In the end I managed to get a flight the next day.

So, now I’ve notched up two missed flights. Still, that’s pretty good considering I fly hundreds of times a year!

This time I was late for my plane leaving London for Nice in France. So how did I manage it?

Well, due to some bizarre oversight, I looked at the wrong place on the piece of paper that had my flight details on it, and instead of having my taxi take me to Terminal 5, I asked the cockney driver to head for Terminal 4! Once I realized the mix-up upon arrival, I got onto the Heathrow Express to get to T5 – but then that took 40 (!) minutes (I’d have been better taking a taxi, darn it!).

This was after the journey from downtown to the airport, which took 80 minutes (London + Saturday = traffic jams). Should have taken the Tube! The following Monday was a bank holiday (national day-off), so maybe that was why there was even more traffic than usual. And we’d left the hotel with loads of time to spare! All the same, the terminal mix-up decided my fate that day. Late. Flight missed. :-/.

But – oh what joy! Turned out that an hour later a second plane would be taking off to Nice “for those who’d missed the first one” ( :%) ). I really needed to race to make that one – and I don’t mean a steady jog but a sprint. But I rushed in vain. The plane stood for another hour on the ground since Heathrow too was suffering from bad traffic (also due to the bank holiday?). An airport traffic jam. In short, it wasn’t my day. The following day thankfully made up for that…

Heathrow traffic jams

Heathrow traffic jams

See you tomorrow… Au revoir!

Ice axe allergy.

Hi all!

You’d be a fool not to climb Mount Fuji. Doubly so to climb it twice.

~ A traditional nugget of Japanese wisdom

I agree: to be in Japan and not go up the most beautiful mountain in the country – that’s just silly. But to do it again is also pretty bonkers. I wonder if a third ascent would cancel out the madness? Hope so, because last Saturday was my second climb up Fuji!

Mount Fuji Japan

Fuji from below…

Mount Fuji Japan

…and from the top!

Read on: Fujiyama or Fuji-san?…

A capital that’s become truly capital.

The more I keep coming back to London, the more I like it…

I was first here in the Smoke in 1992. But back then and for the following several years I was never too impressed with the city, never feeling quite at ease here. Severe and imposing imperial architecture, the interminably awful traffic, far too many folks on the sidewalks, the dirty Thames… ugh – not nice.

But then I started to see the city change – bit by bit, year by year. They largely solved the problem of city center traffic congestion – helped by the introduction of a bike-sharing scheme (‘Boris Bikes’). They tidied up the embankments, cleaned up the Thames, and added a Gherkin, Cheesegrater, Walkie-talkie and Shard among other progressive architectural delights. Then there was the London Eye, then the Olympics… Two decades ago the place was completely different: somber, bleak and wearisome. Now it’s just the opposite: cheerful, accomodating and lively!

Of course, the addition of our finally up and running new office makes the place even more of a hit. Around 150 KLers will be based here furthering the struggle to maintain a secure and peaceful cyberspace. Have to say I envy them a bit – they’ve got everything: great city, great office, great work :).

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Read on:…

Life on the Island.

Now I’d like to write about some other places on Hawaii which I liked and which stuck in my memory.

For some reason, I took a real liking to a place called Waikoloa on the west coast of the Big Island.

It’s a small town (really more of a village) with hotels, beaches and small houses, built amidst a huge field of lava which appeared some time around the mid-19th century. The western part of the island is dry and rocky, while the eastern part is wet, covered by jungle and swamp. On the dry west coast, the lava streams have remained bare and deserted for more than 150 years, never seeing any vegetation. But then, a man came and decided to build a garden city in this desert. No sooner said than invested and done, producing a stunning – and highly photogenic – miracle. See for yourself.

Waikoloa village Hawaii

Read on: a terrifying story of captain James Cook…

A Big Volcano on a Big Island.

The Hawaiian Islands are a chain of active and extinct volcanoes, so various manifestations of volcanic activity are abundant here, like craters, calderaslava streamssulfuric steam vents and other subsurface natural features. However, not a single geyser was detected, no hot springs… That’s strange given the amount of precipitation and the rivers here – there must be some springs somewhere. But there are none.

Hawaiian volcanisms

Hawaiian volcanisms

Read on: The geological origin of Hawaii is absolutely unique…

Those born to swim cannot fly.

“Those born to crawl cannot fly, but sometimes the bastards crawl up to a great height,” to very loosely paraphrase a revolutionary phrase.

Open your eyes and let your jaw drop, because there is a fish on this earth of ours that sometimes flies to an altitude of 100 m or more. The O’opu lives in Hawaii’s Kolekole Stream and in the 130-meter Akaka falls.

Akaka falls Hawaii

Read on: A merciless evolution…