Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

28th November
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The last year we have been travelling a lot. We have visited Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, The Netherlands and Spain and even managed to stay a few months in our home country Denmark as well. In that time things have been crazy busy (but then again – everybody seems busy these days to a point where it doesn’t mean anything to say you’re busy).

Travelling takes a lot of time, but we have also found time to start up our own business, Monzoom, doing consultant work for a couple of Danish companies (e.g. internationally known Danish toy company known for “blocks” – you know who I mean, right?) and we have found time to make our first product xiive. I’m really scratching my own itch with xiive – it’s a social media filtering site with special emphasis on how much a topic is mentioned (seen over time) and comparing these numbers with those of other topics.

There are already many such sites, but the special thing about xiive is that we did not follow the traditional model of letting the user choose x topics (usually 3) to track in private. We have chosen instead to make all the data public so it can be shared, embedded, compared and discussed.

We are currently in private beta, and I can’t wait to show the site to the world. You can sign up for an invite here if you want, but I have to warn you – we don’t really like those “viral” beta invite sites, so you will not get in front of the line by inviting your friends. We think you should only call on your social network if you really mean it and not to get special treatment.

Today we launched a new landing page and I think it is quite the improvement, but you be the judge of that. Here is the old landing page and the new landing page:

Old landing page - xiive

Old landing page for xiive

New landing page for xiive

New landing page for xiive

Right now we sit in a hotel apartment in Bangkok (no flood in sight here, but some areas are badly hit). We have just been in southern Thailand for a month and we are going to stay in Bangkok for a month and then go home to Denmark for Christmas.

Life is good!

11th November
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As so many other turists visiting Hanoi we also booked a cruise in Ha Long Bay. Beautiful and tranquil Ha Long Bay. After a few days in Hanoi you really long for a relaxing and most importantly quiet oasis and that is exactly what Ha Long Bay is.

Ha Long Bay - rock formation

Amazing rock formations can be seen all over Ha Long Bay

There is not much to tell about the cruise as we really just relaxed a lot and ate some really fresh seafood. We saw a stalactite cave and some friendly monkeys and that was it.

To sum it up here are some pictures. It was a bit misty (even foggy at times) so the pictures are not as colorful as they could be.

Ha Long Bay - view

A view from above

Ha Long Bay - view from ship

A view from below

Ha Long Bay - cave

From inside a cave

Ha Long Bay - monkeys

Monkeys - notice the really young one clinging to its mother

Ha Long Bay - sunset

Sailing along while the sun was setting

Ha Long Bay - boat

Our boat

Ha Long Bay - dinner table

Ready for the superb food

Ha Long Bay - Bed

Our bed at the boat

Ha Long Bay - bathroom

Our small but private bathroom

6th November
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Last Monday morning we finally left Denmark on a looooong adventure. 23 hours, 3 plane rides and many cups of coffee later we landed safe, but tired in Hanoi, Vietnam. Underway we almost missed a flight from Hongkong to Hanoi; tired and stressed we left the plane in Hongkong and with it we left our treasured camera behind. We had 30 minutes to transfer to another plane in another terminal at the other end of the airport and 15 minutes into that we discovered that we did not have our camera bag with us. Fortunately we did not have anything else important in the bag other than the camera and because we had people waiting for us in Hanoi airport we decided to get on the next plane without our camera thinking that we might never see it again.

Fortunately we were travelling with Cathay Pacific and they were very professional and helpful. We contacted them as soon as we got to Hanoi and even though there were some language barriers we got the message through. The next few days we called them frequently with the help from our friendly and (most importantly) english-speaking hotel staff here in Hanoi and finally they told us that they had found our camera and was shipping it to us in Hanoi. Much to our surprise this service even included shipping to our hotel from the airport and for a very small fee (300.000 VND) they delivered it express so we could have it with us for our trip to Halong Bay. We are amazed and grateful that this was even possible.

First impressions of Hanoi was not entirely good. We arrived stressed, tired and a bit sick from the flight and the city is very dirty and noisy. Fortunately we got a hotel room without a window facing the street noise – well, we even got a room without windows. At first it seemed weird not to have windows but after a few days in Hanoi we now realize that it is actually a good thing – not all of the people we have met here are that lucky, and we have been told that it is not easy sleeping and trying to get over jetlag when your room has windows facing the busy streets of Hanoi. Most of the noise comes from the traffic (there are motorbikes everywhere and they use their horn every 3 seconds) but even during the night there is also construction work going on and just general people noise.

The worst thing here is without doubt traffic. Crossing the street here is an adventure and you fear for your life every time. After the first day we realized that the best strategy is actually just to walk with purpose and keep a steady pace so that the drivers can predict where you will be at any given time – and ignore that the motorbikes are whizzing past you with centimetres/inches to spare. Hanoi is a very busy place. Even just trying to follow a sidewalk is impossible because life in Hanoi gets in the way all the time – the businesses spill out into the street and street kitchens pop up whereever you can fit a pot and two kid size plastic chairs. The pollution from the traffic is also really bad and it is a usual sight to see vietnamese with face masks.

Face masks in Hanoi

The Vietnamese people often wear face masks

The traffic here follows a speciel kind of pattern...

Street business

On the other hand once you get over the jetlag and learn to walk the streets of Hanoi without fear there is a lot of great things about this city. First of all: everything is very cheap. And some of it is very good; like the food. Every meal here has been a pleasure. Even the breakfast at our cheap hotel Gia Thinh is great. The selection is small, but very delicious. The prices are about 20-33% of what the Danish prices would have been. We only eat at high-end restaurants (meaning places where they speak a bit of english and not street kitchens) and the price is about 200.000 VND on average (about 60 DKK or 10 USD for food and beverages for 2 people).

Breakfast at the Gia Thinh Hotel in Hanoi Old Quarter

Lunch at a cafe by the Hoan Kiem lake

And the people here are very friendly. They will help you if they can. The guides, the hotel staff and the shop owners are all smiling and will try to make conversation even with limited english skills. Life in Vietnam is very different to life in Denmark, so we can’t walk past a street corner without seeing something interesting (just don’t visit the food market – it gets a bit too interesting when you see how they treat meat, and what animals the meat could be coming from).

Meat and fish sold on the sidewalk

Oh, and have I mentioned the food here? Tasty, fresh and flavorful. Mmmmmmm.

29th August
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It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon and I’m day dreaming about travelling. I’m just looking through my holiday pictures from last years trip to Rome… What a beautiful city! I could see myself living in Rome – especially if I ever find the time to learn Italian.

Being in Rome as a turist can be a little stressful because there is so many things to see and places to go. I have been to Rome a few times now and have found my favorite places to hang out, take pictures and just revel in being a turist. For me these places are the essense of turist Rome. I will just share my top 5 with you – one blog post at a time… They are all places you should go see but I have ordered them so that I will write about my favorite place in Rome last and number five first.

My fifth favorite place in Rome is… the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s square.

I could use endless hours in the Vatican looking at art from the different ages – some religious art, some not so religious. The range of different styles of art is amazing and it’s coming from all corners of the catholic World as paintings, sculptures and even furniture. St. Peter’s square is just around the corner from the Vatican Museums and it is a must-see. The number of people coming to this place every day is enough reason to come here too, but also just to feel the historic presence standing in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. I have only been inside the Basilica once and for me it is not worth the long line and the security checkpoint – I much prefer the square in front and the museums.

For at day at the Vatican Museums I have a few pointers coming from my own experience:

A day in the Vatican Museum is hard – you should make sure that you have saved up strenght, that you wear sensible shoes and that you conserve your energy before going (and bring food and water). If you buy tickets in advance online, you can skip the usual VERY LONG line, so consider it. We didn’t buy tickets in advance last fall and had to stand in line for more than an hour outside in the rain. We also walked half way across the city center to come to the Vatican – I can recommend taking a bus or a taxi, so you have more steps left in you when you get to the museum – though it is an impressive walk over the bridge and up to St. Peter’s square.

Once you are inside the Museums, take your time. I see a lot of people just following the crowd the long way to the Sixtine Chapel without taking the time to see the amazing art on the way there. The tour through the museum can feel like standing/walking in line for 30 minutes if you just follow the crowd. Take some time in the central yard to plan your trip through the museum and make sure you see the pieces that you really want to. I prefer egyptian, roman and greek art a couple of thousand years old and there is plenty to see.

Oh – and consider bringing lunch because the food inside the Vatican museums can be expensive and bad. I tried a pizza slice and it was mostly just dough – not enough toppings to cover the whole slice. I don’t know what alternatives that are inside the museums but I can advise you to stay away from the pizza.

And make sure to take in the architecture – one of my favorite photos from our trip to the Vatican Museums last year is the stairs at the exit.

I think that is all the advice I have about the Vatican Museums. If you have more, I would love to read about it in the comment section.

22nd August
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As I have said before – I love the RSA Animate videos. This one is about enlightenment, which I as a scientist at heart feel is a very important subject.

Because of our upcoming trip I can’t help but to read an extra level of enlightenment of travel into this video and the term “global empathy” really hit the nail on the head for me. I hope to learn much from our journey through the world and feeling the global empathy more is one of those fields I hope to improve in. Sometimes it is about the journey and not the destination.

1st August
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It’s been underway for some time, but now I can make it official: I quit my job.

I’ve been called stupid because I quit my well-paying job right in the midst of a financial crisis, where jobs are scarce and as a graduate from 2009 (the lost generation) I should count my blessings for just having a job. On the other hand I have had a lot of people congratulate me for daring to go on this adventure – and there is an adventure underway.

I did not quit to end my current job (but of course that is a side effect), I quit to start a new phase of my life – a travelling phase. November 1. 2010 I’m going to leave Denmark to go travelling Asia with my husband. Not much is planned yet except the departure date, so if you know a place that we just have to see, please let us know in the comments of this blog.

We are hesitant to put an end date to this adventure, but just to be able to tell people something, we have said that this adventure will take a year. This could of course turn out to be 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years or whatever…

The last few months we have started to prepare this trip by giving notice to leave our rented apartment (we had to give a 3 months notice), I have quit my job, I have been going to doctors to make sure my nose will be fixed before we leave (it’s broken – long story), we put all our money in a travel fund and I have been researching places to go and sights to see.

I have arranged with my father that we can stay at his place from the date that we have to leave the apartment and until we leave the country, and our parents are going to store our furniture, while we are gone.

Along the way I will try to get some freelance work, either as a coder (I would love to do some Android, web or Java/C#-work), a photographer (learning something new every day) or as a blogger but if that doesn’t work out, I will start writing some e-books or tutorials and find some funding through advertising. I have also sold how-to videos before and if my nose get fixed I will consider making more.

Just writing this I get butterflies in my stomach – I can’t wait to start this adventure!

Bangkok by night - image by Poul Foged

Bangkok by night - photo taken by Poul Foged

10th June
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Last winter we visited Thailand for the first time. We have recently extended our family with a branch in Thailand (long story) and we wanted to see their country and learn about their history and culture.

Our trip started out in Bangkok. The city is, as all big cities, crowded, busy and sizzling. We loved it from Day 1. From a Danish perspective the prices seems ridiculously low with an hour of foot massage for 200 Bath, which is about 30 DKK or 5 Dollars and you could probably find it even cheaper. Shopping in Bangkok is an incredible experience and I bought so many books, some clothes, bags and gifts for the family back home.

We visited at Christmas time and the decorations was tacky and beautiful all at once. You can’t help but smile when you see how far the Thai people will go to mark a holiday that is not even celebrated by the majority of Thais. The dominant religion in Thailand is Buddhism but they do a lot for the turists at Christmas. The Christmas decorations on the big photo of the Bangkok traffic is the same as the one at the header of this blog.

Bangkok traffic

Even in winter Bangkok is hot, hot, hot and a whole day walking around the city can be hard work. A great break is a trip on the river with one of the fast boats. We chose the biggest turist boat and regretted it.

Thai boat

Fast boat on the river in Bangkok

After New Years Eve we decided to find us a deserted bounty beach and we rented a car (driver included) and headed south to a place called Blue Beach Resort near Pranburi. The only thing we knew about the place was that they had a website, free internet and free kayak’s. The place was a mixed experience. We stayed in the cheap rooms at first but had to move to a better room because the beds in the cheap rooms was really only a wooden board with a blanket over. On the other hand we found our deserted bounty beach. It was beyond words.

The Blue Beach Resort was a nice place but a bit plain and simple, so we decided to explore some of the other hotels at the same beach. We found a great place with a pool just up the beach. They served the best food, drinks and even though they had some problems understanding and speaking english the service was great. They brought us towels so we could use their pool even though we weren’t guests at their hotel. We ended up hanging out for a couple of days at this hotel only returning to our own to sleep at night.

The pool

We had 10 beautiful, happy days at that bounty beach with just a few days on tours to Hua-Hin and it was almost perfect. We returned to Bangkok a few days before we had to fly home and did some more shopping. Both of us were sad to leave Thailand.

6th June
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“We like to travel!”

Let me just break that sentence down for you. “We” are a Danish married couple (Poul and Therese) – both geeks working in IT as software developers.

The word “like” is a bit of an understatement – we actually love to travel but “love” is an overused word which we try to avoid. Alternatively we could have written “We ♥ to travel” or “We ♥ travelling” but that is also much too cliché – so we settled for “like”.

And then we come to “travel”. By travelling we mean both vacation, business travel, adventure and just getting out of the country for any reason. Denmark is a very lovely country but 30+ years here is enough; we need to see something new. In 2009 we travelled 8 times between us – some for business but mostly recreationally. We started the year in the African continent, spent most of our days in the European continent, visited the North-American continent and ended the year in the Asian continent. Our plans for 2010 is to work hard and eventually save enough money to travel in Asia for 6 months to a year.

So yes, we like to travel!

This blog is our diary

We started this blog because we would like to have a channel of communication when we travel and also to have a place to rave about our geeky projects. Right now we are both working full-time while also doing our own projects in our free-time and trying to keep up with interesting trends in software development. Our background include 3 ScrumMaster Certifications between us, one academic education as a Computer Scientist and one education as a Computer Engineer and we have been working for IBM, “Den Blå Avis” (Ebay), Lego, Aarhus University, one local hospital and the JAOO IT-conference to name a few.

When we travel we tend to take a lot of photographs and we intend to share a lot of them with our blog readers. The photo in the blog header is also one from our travels – it is taken in Bangkok at Christmas time. The blue spots on the picture are Christmas decorations that hung in front of the view. Beautiful isn’t it?

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