Hola Barcelona Part 1 – IESE MBA Summer School

(yes, the title rhymes on purpose :P)

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Introduction

After a rather dreadful long haul flight (which I normally enjoy; the undisturbed self selected movies watching and books reading, but Air China didn’t have that luxury and I forgot to bring a book -_-), I landed into Barcelona again after 3.5 years under the blazing Catalunya heat! I promised to be back but indeed it has been too long… I barely remember the places I have been to but Barcelona’s food and culture has yet again imprinted a flavorful and charming impression in my heart. It was and still is one of my favorite Europe cities 🙂

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Thieves, thieves everywhere 

Nonetheless, a city with thieves…sometimes I just ponder, what life scenario must they go through, to convince and justify themselves to cheat and steal? Lucky enough, we only ALMOST got picked pocket. It wasn’t a pleasant experience of course, considering we were at that time walking in a rather wide street with passerbys at merely 10pm or so. However, I think it is worth recalling the details to learn their stealing patterns to be more alert next time round.

First he asked if we have fire for his cigarettes, then he quickly came close and asked if we’re Koreans. We tried to ignore him and walk quicker but he just leaned in and started doing random soccer kicks…and there it was, the moment of truth.

I saw the guy’s hand was on the wallet already! Then I shouted and he just laughed and said he was joking…at the moment it was hard to react because we were both shocked. Anyways, note to self: STAY ALERT when in Europe! Or basically just anywhere you go unless it’s Taiwan 😛

IESE MBA Summer School

More updates are coming up now that I have completed the primary reason on why I am in Spain: IESE MBA summer school! Sadly, the 5 days course flew by quickly, but the great thing is I have met new people, made new bonds and germinated new thoughtsIMG_8324.JPG 🙂

It was also a long 2 years since I was in a classroom again so I really treasure the time I had in class: learning new thoughts from Professor (like the implications of Brexit from Econ and ethical motivation from management prof etc.); spending hours and hours on discussions that are otherwise meaningless if not for the case presentation (but I really enjoyed the collision of ideas with my team from different backgrounds). All these are luxuries that I simply do not have anymore now that I started working. So this week-long experience together with the career advisor of IESE go me thinking about “career”. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my job, but aside from that, there isn’t really anything else going on in my life.

I always knew that your 13730655_10155030589992785_1428188748_olife only really begin after you go through the set path of academics: Kindergarten to Primary School, to Secondary School and higher education. Because once you really graduated from your basic “teachings” and enter the real world, you are solely responsible for yourself. You are basically free to choose from anything and there is no one for you to follow behind anymore. I used to think that the hardest part is getting a job, then I know the toughest thing is finding a job you love. But now I realized, THE million dollar question is: what else are you gonna do for THE REST of your life? Because a job is only a part of it. I am thankful for this week of learning because now, I am beginning to have some idea and will continue to work towards it.

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What I remember of Paris

What I remember of Paris

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I couldn’t possibly delay this any longer; despite how occupied my days were, there was a teeny part of me that kept reminding myself I have got to finish this. Of course it cannot be that I couldn’t squeeze an hour out to write this piece, perhaps a bigger, more emotional part of me did not want this to end.

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It is like if this whole documentary never ended, my memories in Europe would linger forever. In 3 weeks time, another new chapter will begin but nothing can overwrite what happened in Europe.

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I could never forget the beautiful evening on the top of Arc de Triomphe. As I moved along the rectangular roof, my eyes were drawn towards different streets and views, Avenue de Champ Elysees, Montmartre, Eiffel, La Defense etc. The wind was blowing and the sunset shadowing on us.

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Of course this gorgeous view came with a price : climbing 284 stairs was not a joke.

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I could never forget Versailles. It was so posh and huge. (Or perhaps chic is more suitable 😉

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I could never forget the confusing and overcrowded Hall of Mirrors.

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Or One of the few cleared sky rain free day in Paris

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Or the perfectly symmetrical french garden.

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Or the wide and long hallways with gigantic paintings hung up proudly on both sides.

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Oh and that Delicious lunch (oh so small portion) and the sauce! The sauce was the heart and soul of the dish.

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As I was queuing to get in, I turned around and stared at the far end of the palace.  I tried to imagine what is must be like 300 years ago when there was nothing BUT this gigantic, lavish palace.

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Where the King purposely took the imperial power away from the people (Paris); where only the selected few nobles can “watch the king rise from bed”. Where horses and carriages were used instead of automobiles. What the world must be like back then! (Almost forgot there was no flush either!)

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I could never forget the concentrated faces in Musee de Orsay, sketching famous sculptures. I mean will you ever see that in Hong Kong? I doubt it.

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The very last time I walked these symmetrical gardens. Trimmed trees and no grass.

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Then of course there was Disneyland. I thought I would be ecstatic but I wasn’t. Is it because I am old now? I mean after all it is special, the 20th anniversary of Disneyland Paris (what a coincident there).

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I had fun of course, the Hollywood Tower Hotel ride was such a huge surprise. I could still see how freaked out my friend and I were in the “haunted elevator”.

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But honestly, it was not that great. I remembered Hong Kong Disneyland and Florida to be so much more fun. Or was it because I was younger?

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Well, at least I learnt something new: This is Duffy, I first met him in Florida. He is a special bear Minnie made for Mickey to bring along to his sailing journeys. Mickey’s very own travel buddy. So “he would never be lonely.”

“ne se sente jamais seul”

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Secret Wallet.

Gums and Ricola. Think again.

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Good idea to outsmart thieves I think 😉

Final Chapter – Paris, Part 1.

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The final trip of my first exchange to Europe. Paris. In all honesty, I loved the French Riviera more. But how can I skip Paris while visiting Europe? It just cannot be. So this is me and Paris in a week.

1) Montmartre

Looks familiar? The carousel must remind you of Amelie, fascinating movie. We went to the Cafe where she worked in and had tea there. P1120898

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The girl who loves the sound of tapping spoon on creme brulee crust. Super touristy I know, but I just couldn’t resist 😉

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After climbing what seemed like never ending stairs, we arrived the gigantic Basilica. It was filled with people on a warm Sunday afternoon. It felt so local to be lying on the grass slope sunbathing and sitting on the staircase watching impossible performances.

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Within this green district, time paused. No one cared how long they have spent doing nothing . Everything else was secondary and we were all there for one glorious purpose – chill.

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This performer climbed up the lamp post with his football, spinning and flying like he was spiderman or something. His performance was so good that I actually gave him money at the end.  Coming from a poor student, this must mean something.

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Montmartre is also famous for its artists. We saw numerous painters in the square and I was so close to actually getting a portrait of myself, but then I thought, what if it turned out to be really ugly? Or what if it turned out to be so pretty that isn’t like me? Or perhaps, I was just too stingy after all 😛

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Over 100 euros for a show in Moulin Rouge. Sigh. I will definitely watch it when I start earning my own money.

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2) La Defense

This slick architecture is the icon of La Defense. Central Business District with Shopping malls and everything. You can actually see it from the Arc de Triomphe at the end of Champs Elysees. I watched Iron Man 3 here!

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3) The Louvre

Speaking of this world-renowned museum, we were kind of ashamed because after merely an hour, we fell asleep while resting on the indoor bench. I blame the heating. But seriously, Mona Lisa was just so small with so many people pushing to get closer (which is still like a meter away). The most fun part was taking photos of ourselves 😛

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The sign on the pyramid is the Trinity sign. Kind of like two infinity signs blended together.

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Even after a few months in France, I still couldn’t locate my love for Western Arts. I am just so not an Art-museum lover after all. These interactive exhibitions, however, were much more entertaining.

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4) Avenue des Champs Elysees

They say it’s the most beautiful avenue on earth. Well may be it is. Even the A&F store there was super glamourous.

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Who knew Benz produces perfume?! While we were strolling along the street after dinner, I commented that people who live on this street must be extremely wealthy.

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Then my friend added, “either that or they are hobos.” Haha. Very true. We did see homeless people sitting outside of branded stores that were already closed. What a striking contrast.

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5) Eiffel Tower

Unfortunately we didn’t see it light up at night because everyday the sun set at 10pm and we live an hour away from city, which means we have to go home by 9pm latest 😦

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During our free tour, the guide told us a touching story about the Eiffel Tower. Before Hitler arrived Paris, the French cut down the elevator chord to the top of Eiffel Tower. Thus, Hitler could only look up from the ground during the 4 years occupation and never actually stepped foot the tower. Even when the world was crumbling down, falling into the wrong hands and covered with blood stains, Eiffel Tower was always free. I hope it will always remain free.

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The famous Notre Dame de Paris where the “Hunchback” lived. It was the last Cathedral I visited in Europe. Coincidentally, it reminded me a lot of the church I first saw in Monaco. Where have the time gone?

6) Seine River

Along the banks, I saw so many stalls selling paintings and mini Eiffel Towers. Highly recommend buying from these stores instead of hawkers on the street. (Because we saw a hawker pissed on the street and touched his merchandize without washing his hands.)

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From afar, I thought the bridge had golden fences. On a closer look, however, all the golden were locks! Love locks, where lovers throw the key into the river after securing it on the bridge.  So that their love/promise whatever will stay forever.

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I wonder who started it. The whole thing doesn’t make much sense. I guess it’s supposed to be romantic. My dad suggested that I should sell these locks and copy a million keys so every time after the couples left, I can unlock it and resell it again 😉

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7) Place de la Concorde and Tuileries Garden

This pointy thing is  an Obelisk (yes I wiki-ed it). Turns out the French not only robbed artifacts from around the world, claimed ownership over them and placed them in the Louvre; they actually helped decrypt the Ancient Egyptian language! That’s why their Government thanked them with this “stairway to heaven.”

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This is just me resting (second thing I did most in Paris, after tea-ing) next to the big fountain in the Tuileries Garden. Interestingly, all gardens in France are highly symmetrical. This is because they think symmetry is the most beautiful form. The tour guide also told us that’s why you don’t see much grass in French gardens… grass were very difficult to maintain back in the days, so you see a lot of sand instead. They are more “manipulatable” (Control Freaks!)

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8) Food. Along this road with purple trees, we had a “reunion dinner” sort of.

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Yes, Laduree is in Hong Kong now ! But they don’t have the ice cream with half a macaron on top… I handled some bank issues at BNP while eating the Coffee flavored ice cream. I almost left my bank card on the table but most certainly remembered my cup of ice cream.

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9) Glass ceiling of Galeries Lafayette

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This is where we saw high tech and extremely chic kitchen tools. This is also where we fantasized being future housewives/great cooks/ mothers. Brunch on Sundays and our kids playing together! Oh, I hope that day will come soon when I get that auto pepper grinder with light as housewarming gift 😉

End of Part 1

Netherlands – part 2 (Maastricht, Eindhoven)

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Definitely the longest time I have put my blog on hold as I have finally returned to reality; back to GMT +8. Now finally, a break from meeting family and friends, time for some self indulgent me-time.

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I know I know, a Church in Europe, no big deal. But hey, guess what’s actually inside?

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Wait a minute, doesn’t that look kind of like a bookstore? Well because it IS a bookstore! For once, 9gag posts aren’t myths! Of course there is big Miffy at child section 🙂

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On a side note, highly recommend this funny and enlightening book from Sweden “The hundred- year -old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared.” It made me laughed a few times on my flight back.

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Haven’t had any good waffles after my visit to Belgium in late Feb…until I met this pink store! They actually put chocolate sticks INTO hot waffles so by the time you bite till the middle, it melts in your mouth. hmm delicious.

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I have seen many tourist trains, but solar paneled ones? Definitely the first time!

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Somehow everyday was bright sun white cloud blue sky in Netherlands. Chilling by the river under the swaying shadows of slender trees; resting alongside people smoking weed, ahem, I mean enjoying themselves under the sun; watching mean black ducks chasing kinder ones  on the water surface… I can picture myself doing this for another few months.

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Perks of being young: seemingly infinite time we’ve got. Seconds, minutes, hours that make up lives. Yet, the last 5 months flew by so quickly and before I can fully process it, I am into my last year in college. Time is so precious, do what you want to do and meet who you want to meet. Tomorrow might sound like a big promise but it really is no guarantee.

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I was told the Treaty that created a common currency – Euro was signed right here at Maastricht 😉 To be honest, politicians should be more creative than naming their treaties after where they signed it…

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Young adults playing saxophone next to the river, and I assume that’s what they do every weekend!

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Then a nice long reading break with…unknown drink, well we ordered lemonade but as long as it’s cold I am happy.

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Roads are paved completely in old tiles making it extremely difficult to ride a bike.

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It felt like Spring, everything blooming and you never know what to expect around the next corner 🙂 So many things are just waiting to happen.

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Banks in Eindhoven somehow looked like big mansions…

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And that’s a store inside an egg. Why is every building so unexpected?

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Lastly, the first time I live in a room all by myself. The door number was not the luckiest but it was such a lovely single room. I actually had to buy an old school clock as my phone was lost :/ thank god I did not miss my flight. NOT even once. 😉

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Rotterdam, where every police I met was a woman~

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First off, why on earth have I met 4 police woman in the politie station? Well, just a few weeks before going back to Hong Kong, I have accidentally (?) dropped my phone 😦 in somewhere that I wasn’t 100% sure. But well that matter had been settled, what was REALLY strange was every police I encountered was a middle aged woman :O. Completely opposite to the stereotypical masculine police figure. Anyway they have been so nice to me and based on my “rather” limited encounter with police, I think they are all really kind people who tend to swear a lot.

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Now back to Rotterdam, it seemed like a decent city, but there really was just one touristic place: Kinderdijk. There are 19 windmills that have been there forever; long enough to be listed a UNESCO. Most importantly, it was completely free!

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We rented a bike (haha, another funny story) for a few euros and got to enjoy the postcard views along the rivers of those tall old windmills.

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That above is obviously too big to be my bike. I am not good at cycling at all given that this is merely my third time riding one, but turned out I was not the worst! I managed the entire journey back and worth without falling.

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Indeed there were some occasional sudden breaks, brushing against pedestrians, screaming and shouting. But but but, I still managed. Once when I stopped suddenly, a man walked by and said to me “I am Dutch, do you need me to teach you some lessons?” hahaha embarrassing.

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Of course biking is no big deal, but for me it is. I figured out that it wasn’t the balancing that really frightens me. It was the being out of control. Instead of trusting my legs, I have to rely on 2 wheels that don’t even attach directly on me!

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But I was still able to enjoy the view flying by me on both sides (yes, flying because I know the faster I go, the more steady it would be) of the bike despite my constant murmur to myself that I will not fall.

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What made it even harder was the pedestrians who always move out of my way too slow, and the rather “narrow” road surrounded by water, another fear of mine. At the end I bruised my little right finger perhaps from brushing against the pedestrians too often 😛

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I stopped occasionally when there were more things to see. I ran into 2 duckling families running some errands together. It was definitely one of the CUTEST scenes I have EVER seen in my exchange so far!

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A big and a small family 🙂 With mommy and daddy protecting them from back and front!

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Couples with the same pace in life.

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Then of course we should never forget about the tea part!

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And yet another day of TEAAaaaa. Now I am starting to have a rough idea where my extra weight might have came from 😉

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There was then these strangely tilted dices they made into a HOUSE. It was cheap to go in, but it made us all very dizzy. I guess we human are too used to the normal straight line boxes.

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AND of course the pancake boat. It wasn’t that special really, what was SUPER surprising…was the playroom they have under the boat!

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One last special thing, THE largest “vending machine” I HAVE EVER SEEN in my life 🙂

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I-Amsterdam (A phrase I never quite understood)

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Apr 30th.  Trip to Amsterdam on “drumrollll” QUEEN’s DAY! And it wasn’t even a deliberate decision. That’s why things are sometimes best when they are unintentional 🙂 Those days at Netherlands had some of the best weather I have ever seen in Europe. Everyday infinite blue sky and huge white clouds no matter where you look. 🙂

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Queen’s day is the biggest thing for the Dutch every year and we had the luck to witness the parties, the wastes on the floor, the orange, and the horrifying smell of piss -_- (because they love Beer, Heineken, and after beer -> they go to the “public toilets” which are practically just mailbox size pissing stands with no doors -_-)

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We had these tiny pancakes which were just super cute. Also based on inductive logic we thought this stall must have the best ones 😉

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The weather was so great along with the Queen’s day vibe. A couple even moved their sofa OUT on their foyer for a sunbath!

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Spring finally came along and flowers were blooming everywhere. Although it was really dirty during Queen’s day, the next morning the roads were swept clean again like nothing has happened!

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This is Anne Frank’s house. I never thought I would be able to get behind the ACTUAL bookshelf secret chamber. This exchange to Europe has fulfilled way beyond my dreams, and I’m not even 20 yet! 🙂

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We also went to this slick library in Amsterdam which really made the Central Library in Hong Kong a midget. The Netherlands is so homo friendly that there are dedicated bookshelves of books related to homosexual topics 🙂 and they are in pink.

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There were too many fluffy sofas and comfy chairs everywhere.

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And this, the adorable child section. Everyone shrunk back to a kid in this zone.

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Imagine studying in this library, I would never want to leave.

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Who can miss the beautiful Tulips when visiting Holland! Keukenhof was the flower “Theme park.”

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Name any color and you probably can see it there.

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I never knew Miffy was from the Netherlands. Within Keukenhof, there was a cutie miffy playground and there was this little girl stuck, yelling “MOM I can’t get out of here” in English, probably a tourist. I was going to help her but I was afraid she might scream” Mom someone’s kidnapping me”.

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After the flowers, the red light district come into mind! And oh my, of course the red light district is huge. Out of respect, and also fear of being spilled pee, I dare not take any photos of the workers. It was kind of eye-opening for me because I actually saw people asking for prices and going in. 50 euros for 15 mins. Imagine that.

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Wonderful mornings mean magical evenings. This was a super decadent trip. But the food in Netherlands was not particularly remarkable. The coffee was better in Italy, apple strudel better in Vienna, and well the waffles was just as good as Belgian ones.

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But I would still think it is the best Europe country for me to live in if I ever have to pick one. It’s food is decent, living standard normal (better than Swiss and UK) but people can speak English so well! (better than Spain,France,Italy) and the weather seemed great. (If it was just trying to fool me, it succeeded)

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WE did climb up the statue! Risking our lives, no exaggeration. But the only photo with the whole word was without us :/

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That on the left is an anti-pee device. Apparently it will splash right back at you when you pee at that corner xD (obviously I didn’t/couldn’t try) They said back in the days it was hooked to electricity :O.

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Another outstanding observation: the houses in Amsterdam looked awfully tilted and when I thought I was either hallucinating (not that I did any weed 😉 or the architects were drunk; it’s neither of those reasons! You see pulleys at the top of the buildings and buildings are usually tilted outwards so when things gets moved up back in the days (no elevators, and stairs too narrow), it won’t bang into the window!

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As an ending to Amsterdam, we visited this hmm, I’m not sure what these are called. Let’s say it’s a dormitory for single woman over 30. Seems like a legit place to stay really, safe and sound.

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Roadtrip with Dad at a glance (Evian les Bains, Thonon les Bains, Interlaken and Montreux)

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Here is the town where the so-called best water, Evian, came from! We stayed in a cozy and small hotel. This was a really good lunch for 18 euros only before we checked in.

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The beautiful weather followed us from Geneva and as I entered the room, I was overwhelmed by just how sweet everything was!

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There were small sofas with stuffed bears at the corridor. They also used my favorite keys to lock the wardrobe. P1100802 P1100786

Our room opened out to a gorgeous balcony overlooking Lake Geneva and Lausanne, on the other side of the “lake” that actually looked more like an ocean 😛 And guess what came complimentary with the room? Evian brand water. OF COURSE.

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The weather stayed picturesque long enough for us to roam around this rather empty town with nothing much to see. Then it showered heavily and we went into a Casino. Strangely, in all those little towns we went to, there would always be a Casino nearby.

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There was almost nobody there which is good, I was quite tired of tourists pushing around by then (although I am a tourist too :P) Along the way we saw fountains that basically offers drinkable water (I know because I drank it and I am still perfectly healthy by now). That water is probably “Evian” water. Research has shown that Evian kept the location to where they bottle their water undisclosed to prevent people from polluting their “products”.

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Since there was nothing much to do, we decided to drive to a Chinese restaurant we found on the GPS when the sky started raining hard. And to our surprise, we found ourselves at a different town – Thonon.

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There’s me and my beloved dad 🙂 And after my first decent 3 courses 1 soup and rice Chinese meal in 4 months, the rain stopped and lovely puddles formed.

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Although the sky was hardly dark, it was “too late” for shops to be opened. And when one’s bored, one does strange and retarded things. Well, that “one” was just me.

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Next morning we headed for Interlaken and stopped by Montreux. Seriously a picture says a thousand words. I don’t know what else I can talk about these places because  there really was nothing much to do. Nonetheless, simply breathing the fresh air and indulging our eyes with the gorgeous snowy mountains was worth it already.

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Again, loving old couples under the postcard view. They have this look that says “wow, we’re both old, but it doesn’t matter because we still have each other”.

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Interlaken was again back in the Swiss border. People were paragliding in the warm afternoon and there was a gigantic carpet of grass right between the snow-topped mountains. Again, nothing much for me to say, see it for yourself.

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After crossing the lawn, we saw this really interesting “competition” between 2 churches.

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The one above is Protestant and the one below Catholic. Well, they were perhaps fighting for believers because at 5pm both churches started ringing their bells really loudly and it was so chaotic! Really my first time to see this and I actually found it funny.

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Cheese fondue again along with local beer that tasted mighty fine.

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Finally our last stop, the OpenAir Museum that showcased the lives of Swiss back in the days. I LOVE open air museums, you get to play around with things and touch all kinds of displays that are forbidden to touch in a typical museum!

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This cute little kid ignored her parents when they were walking away from her. Brave little girl.

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Then me and dad tried to halved that piece of wood like people do in the old days. It was NOT easy at all.

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Then the local ladies were so eager to teach me how to knit…I kept failing but they simply wouldn’t give up showing me so eventually I sort of was able to do a few stitches hahaha.

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That was our lunch, mushroom risotto and sausages, it didn’t look appealing, but trust me, it tasted really good 🙂

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We saw chickens and cows and goats and it was all just so much fun, going up and down their houses, climbing the stairs and playing with their kitchen and playrooms aaaah definitely worth bringing your kids there. It was my favorite place.

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We could spend all day there just but no we stopped after visiting 1/3 of it because we had a schedule to catch! Zurich was our last stop.

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This has got to be the best trip ever. No I’m not saying this just because dad pays for everything. Or that we get to have Japanese food, Hot pot etc… No. It was just so nice to have someone absolutely reliable, to have someone to talk to non-stop, who gives advices and encouragements occasionally. Just like all dads would to their child.

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A big part of why I am who I am today is because of my Dad. Always supportive and caring even when I make mistakes. One thing I hate the most is letting him down. Despite of all the lessons I have learnt, overcoming my fear of the dark, of strangers, of carrying heavy stuff etc. I will always be the small girl I was.

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Lessons my dad taught me (ones that I still remember)

1) Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. As long as the holes are not detrimental, I will let you fall into it and you will crawl out by yourself.  

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2) You don’t have to be the smartest person out there. The world needs a lot of smart people and you will do just fine.

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3) Be nice to people, it’s a privilege that you can offer more.

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Me: When can you accept that I get married?

Dad: Well you do know that after 21 years old, you don’t need my signature anymore to be legally married, right?