Mariele left for a family reunion just after we arrived in France.  Luckily, my friend Shelly from Seattle flew into Paris that same day, and we met up to explore France, Spain and Italy over the next 3 weeks.

Paris, France

We spent a few days exploring Paris.  This is a pretty expensive and large city.  Lots of stuff to do, and of course the Eiffel Tower.  We walked up the first part, and too the lift all the way to the top.  Extremely touristy, but something you have to see when you visit Paris.

Lyon, France

This is a few hours south of Paris.  We couchsurfed with a friend of Shelly for two nights, and had a great time exploring the city and going out on the town.  I had my first shot of Absinthe here and for some reason thought it would be a good idea to try and tell the locals I was from Ireland.  They believed me!

Marseille, France

This seemed like an area that a lot of French tourists visit.  We were only here for one night, so only got to explore the city for a bit.

Provence, France

We used a French ride-share website to carpool from Paris down to the south of France, and the driver, Ben, was actually also a couchsurfer, so we ended up couchsurfing at his place.  Provence is a big college town, so there were a lot of international students when we went out.  I guess a big thing is going into the fountain after a long night of drinking, so that picture is of Ben, his Canadian friend and myself in the fountain.

Barcelona, Spain

I’ve met so many bi-lingual people on my trip that I’ve been inspired to learn Spanish.  Knowing that we were headed to Spain, I actually started brushing up on it while in France.  To my disappointment, Spanish is not the official language of Barcelona.  Catalan is.

We couchsurfed with a guy from Colombia and a guy from Mexico who were studying music there, so I got to practice my Spanish a little.  We went to a huge party on the beach on a Sunday night with a bunch of locals which was quite the experience.

Madrid, Spain

We actually flew from Barcelona to Madrid because it was much cheaper to fly than it was to take the train.  We stayed right in the downtown area of Madrid at an old little hostel on the top floor of a building overlooking the main street.  We went to a bullfight, and learned that they actually kill the bull in front of you.  Somewhat traumatizing.

Rome, Italy

We did a week in Rome because we were a bit tired of bouncing around all the time, and we had already booked flights out of Rome (myself to Prague and Shelly to Athens).  Rome was a little dirtier than I thought it would be, and extremely touristy.  We visited the Coliseum, went rollerblading in the park, ate tons of pizza and pasta, went to the beach, Vatican, and even went to a waterpark “HydroMania!”.

After Rome, Shelly went to finish her trip in Athens, and I flew to Prague to meet my college friend from San Francisco, John.  We will be touring eastern Europe for the next few weeks.  On July 5th we fly out of Vienna.  Johnny is headed back to the states and I’m headed to visit Luke again, but this time in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Finally, on July 12th, I’ll be flying home to SF!

 

I left the bustling city of Bangkok and arrived in the quaint town of Karlskrona, Sweden two weeks ago.  I had a 12-hour layover in Dusseldorf, Germany, so I got to spend my first night sleeping in an airport!  It ended up not being too bad; my flight got in at 6pm, I ate dinner, played on my laptop, then found a nice quiet bench to sleep on.  I woke around 4am to the sound of the awakening airport, and caught my flight at 6.

Sweden

The first stop on my Europe trip was to see my friend Luke, who is just finishing a year-long sustainability masters program in Karlskrona, Sweden.  (For anyone interested, Luke runs TheSocioCapatilist.com.)  Sweden was insanely fun.  I helped cook for 200 people, rode bikes into the Baltic and ran a half-marathon in a skirt (Sorry gents, I’m not gay; we decided that we’d run the half-marathon and do it in silly costumes the night before after a bottle of whiskey).

Video

Karlskrona at night

Half-marathon in Gothemburg.  From left to right: Luke, me, Chris.  I finished in 2:29, Luke in 2:07 and Chris in 1:37.

Gothenburg at 3:00AM (just getting light out)

Running the half-marathon without any training in 2-year old running shoes turned out to be a horrible idea.  My legs were hurting so bad that I hobbled the last few km.  My feet hurt so bad the next day that I could barely walk.  They finally felt fully recovered yesterday, 10 days after the run.

Overall, my impression of Sweden was very positive.  Most people speak really good English, the country is beautiful and the girls are very pretty.  Sweden is definitely on my list of places I’d like to re-visit for a longer period of time.

Holland

I said goodbye to the niche of Karlskrona and flew into Amsterdam to meet my friend Mariele (from California) on Monday.  My feet were killing me, but we rented bikes and had a blast cruising around the city.  I’ve never in my life seen such a bike-friendly town; there is even a special sidewalk for bicycles.  We hung out with tourists, but the locals were very friendly and typically spoke very good English as well.

I mostly forgot to take pictures in Amsterdam, but manged to get a few:

Lots of bikes.

A seemingly excessive amount of fire protection features in our hostel.  I found this rather interesting at the time of taking the picture.

My friend Tom from the bar crawl.  From San Francisco and went to St Marys.  Small world.

Overall, I thought Amsterdam was such cool city that I didn’t get to spend as much time exploring as I had wanted to.  Definitely on my list of places I’d like to re-visit for a longer period of time.

Belgium

Mariele and I took the train out of the mayhem that was Amsterdam to the quiet town of Bruges, Belgium.  It was definitely a nice change of pace.

Canal tour.  We were the youngest by ~35 years.

View from atop the brewery.

I enjoyed my 2-day stay in Belgium, but nothing really inspired me to plan a longer trip back.

What now?

I went through France, Spain and I’m currently in Italy.  Will post pictures from those countries when I have time.  Heading to Prague next, around eastern Europe, then flying from Vienna to Edinburgh.  After Edinburgh I’m heading back to the States!  Will be back sometime in July.

 

Pictures from Asia: Thailand

Thailand was the last destination of my 3-week long tour through South East Asia.  I landed in Phuket and meandered the 800km up to Bangkok in 10 days.  Visited a few islands, went snorkeling, got a wicked sunburn, drank buckets, saw break dancers jump over people in the street, but didn’t take too many pictures.

 

Pictures from Asia: Singapore

Singapore was my second stop in my impromptu tour of South East Asia.  While it wasn’t very far away, it was still very different than Indonesia and Thailand.  I was only here for 3 days, but thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely be making a longer return trip at some point.

 

Pictures from Asia: Indonesia

Indonesia was the first stop on my impromptu tour through South East Asia.  I spent the first few nights in Kuta Beach, and it was as if I hadn’t even left Australia at all.  Nothing more than a bunch of Aussies looking to party.  Once I ventured inland I started having a lot more fun.


 

I said goodbye to Asia, left the busy city of Bangkok on Wednesday morning, and arrived in the quaint town of Karlskrona, Sweden Thursday afternoon.

After spending the last 3 weeks in the chaos of south east Asia, this calm Swedish town feels like being on another planet.  I was blown away at how opposite everything was.

Don’t get me wrong, I had the time of my life in Asia, but did grow tired of it, especially my last four days in Bangkok.  That city was the epitome of most of the things I didn’t like about Asia.  Dirty, hot, crowded, smelly, insane traffic and chaos on the roads, English isn’t widely spoken, huge city, etc.

Karlskrona is exactly the opposite.  The weather was nothing short of perfect when I arrived.  About 20c and sunny.  The sun finally set late in the evening, and it eventually got dark around 10pm.  Luke and I went for a bike ride around town, and at no point did I think I was going to die (from crazy drivers).  It actually took a little while for me to adjust back to driving on the correct (right) side of the road.

The town is beautiful and insanely quiet compared to the disorder of Bangkok.  At midnight, we wanted to grab a bite to eat, but there really wasn’t anything open.  The community was so small that Luke ran into a dozen people he knew as we were riding around town.  I finally wore my jacket again!

Sunset around 9:30pm

Whats next?

Meeting with a friend from Walnut Creek (Bay Area) in Amsterdam on Monday, Belgium a few days later, then to Paris.  Meeting with another friend from Seattle in Paris and possibly doing Spain, Italy, Greece.  Meeting with a college buddy from SF after that (mid-June) in Prague, and doing Eastern Europe.  Maybe Scotland in July?  Back to the states to eventually, with a stop in Colorado to visit Chris who landed a job out there!

If I make it back to SF with summer to spare, I’ll head up to Portland again to make a visit while the weather is still good.  Probably spend the fall in SF.

 

Green School and Green Village Bali

One of the fellow travelers I met was John, a young Irish man studying Architorture (Architecture), and interning on the “Green Village” in Bali.  On our way from Kuta to Ubud, we decided to stop and check out the free weekly “Green School” tour.  Since the Green Village is only a few kilometers away, John decided to join us for the tour.

The Green School

The Green School is an international private elementary school with a focus on sustainability.  Everything is made of Bamboo, a highly renewable building material.  They teach the students to be environmentally friendly, in their classrooms made of Bamboo.  Students come from all over the world for an education here, and from what I’ve heard, the tuition is not cheap.

Recreation Area

Classroom

Me testing the Bamboo chairs.

Bamboo pirate ship.  Yarrr

Baby chicken!  Yum…

Study Area

The Green Village

The Green Village is a for-profit, commercial development a few kilometers down the road from the Green School, built by the same contractor who does work for the Green School.  Because we were friends with Irish John, we got a private VIP tour of the Green Village project.

The first thing to note is the differences in safety standards between a construction site in Bali and a construction site in the US.  If you were to walk a job in the US, you’d have to sign a waver, wear proper boots and pants, a reflective vest, eye protection and a hard hat.  In Bali, we strolled in wearing flip-flops and shorts.  The workers were wearing just the same.

The workers construct the buildings based off of stick models, rather than a set of drawings.  I don’t think this would EVER fly in the United States.

The Green Village is a dozen or so bamboo villas right by the river.  The houses are beautiful and blend in with the surrounding nature.  Some were already finished and occupied, while others were still getting started.  We had the privilege to walk through the houses under construction.

Irish John showing us his stick model

My Opinion as a LEED Acredited, Member of the 2008 ASC LEED Competition National Champion Team


While that doesn’t exactly provide the best qualification to share my opinions about these projects, I’ll don’t care and I’m going to share my thoughts anyway.

Bamboo is considered a renewable building material because it grows so fast.  It can grow as fast as a few feet a day, so you could literally watch it grow.  Currently, it is tough to adapt to use in western buildings, but projects like this help develop the uses for it and test new applications in buildings.

Now for my criticisms: When I first heard someone mention going to the “Green School”, I was thinking of more advanced sustainable features: water reclamation, solar panels, passive ventilation, natural lighting, etc.  I wasn’t exactly expecting a bunch of bamboo huts without walls.

The buildings in the Green Village are only guaranteed for 20 years, cost over a million dollars, and you don’t even own the land.  These are massive structures designed for rich ex-pats.  Fundamentally, this doesn’t seem very “sustainable” to me.

While I think it is great that renewable materials such as Bamboo are being experimented with and further developed, I feel that the whole “Green” label is used partially as a marketing technique for these projects.

Don’t get me wrong; I fully support the ideals behind these projects, but I was just expecting a little more.

 

Made it to Bali

Just a quick post to mention that I made it into Bali.

I mis-read my itinerary and was under the impression that my flight was direct from Melbourne to Denpasar.  I was frantically running around the international terminal at Melbourne Airport wondering where my flight was.  Eventually noticed the “Terminal: Domestic” on my itinerary, which failed to also mention my layover in Darwin.  Oops.

Bali is hot, stuff is cheap.  First night was spent in the most touristy part, and it was as if I hadn’t even left Australia at all.  Thought it was pretty lame.  Now I’m out in the area with mostly locals, and its way more fun.  Heading further inland via motorbikes tomorrow with some fellow travelers.

 

Last Week in Australia

My flight to Bali departs on Friday, April 29 at 1:00pm Melbourne time.  I’ve got one week left here.

It really doesn’t feel like it has been 2 months.  The time seems to have passed by quickly, but I have plenty of wonderful memories from my stay here.  I’m not quite ready to say goodbye, but winter is rolling in quickly, and I have so much more of the world to see.  I’ll have to come back for a full summer sometime.

Here are some more random pictures:

Yay, lets get close to the waves!

Too close.

At a “Footie” match at the MCG.

Animal-themed house party.  I dressed as an American…

Random shot of my bedroom.

 

Australia Update

Still living in the land down under.  I’ve done tons of fun stuff down here, but getting ready for some new adventures.

Beautiful waterfall on the Great Ocean Road

Here’s the view from the top of the waterfall.

A Koala!

Kangroos!  Finally saw and ate them.

Inside a bar bathroom.  Became a competition.

Aussies just make up their own rules for football…

F1 came to Melbourne

The stray cat that always wanders into my “office”.