Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sumatra Jungle Trek

One thing that I learned from living in Singapore was that Indonesia has a lot to offer. The multiple pages taken up in my passport by single-entry visas were totally worth it. From relaxing in Bali to volcano hiking to taking over a private island, Indonesia has its memories for me. For my birthday, I decided to join a group heading to the jungle on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.

Our excursion was organized by Thomas Jungle Tours and included everything from transfer from the airport to accommodation and food. But the best part was the eclectic and knowledgable tour guides. We got in late on a Friday night and stayed at Thomas's lodge and then set out first thing in the morning for a long hike. Along the way we learned about the jungle and its most unique inhabiters...orangutans! 

When we reached the campsite, we were able to take a dip in the river and relax. In true jungle style, it started pouring and the scene was amazing. We had a great night of food, beer, and games and then passed out in our rough "tents." The next morning was the best part of the trip, where we rafted down the river (instead of hiked) back to the lodge. Somehow none of our stuff got ruined by the rapids and we all made it out of the jungle!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Beach Getaway in Langkawi

Southeast Asia has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and I was happy to explore the Langkawi Island in Malaysia for a weekend, which is just a short flight from Singapore. We stayed at The Andaman resort and didn't really leave because it was absolutely amazing. Upon arrival, we knew we had picked a perfect location to relax. The pictures speak for themselves!

Beautiful location, perfect weather, and great friends...what more could you ask for?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Coffee and Monkeys in Ubud, Bali

Following the trek up Mt. Batur, we made our way to Ubud, the which is a quaint town in the center of Bali known for its yoga retreats and hippie lifestyle (think Wicker Park in Bali). We walked into a random cafe for internet and they had vegan energy balls and pastries, my kind of place! 

First, we stopped at this amazing rice paddy, the picture above shows just a part of it. The scenery in this area of ​​the world is just so different from what I've seen before.

Just outside of Ubud, our tour guide took us to a small coffee plantation where we could learn about the process and samples different types of teas and coffees. 

For an extra price, the sampling included the famous Coffee Comedy coffee (above). To make this coffee, a civet (rodent-type mammal) on the farm eats the coffee beans and presumably selects the best ones. It then digests them and the Farmers pick up the stool and clean out the beans and then brew the coffee. Sounds gross but the coffee was actually quite good! Very rich and almost chocolatey. However, I ended up buying the coconut coffee mix (below) and I keep it in my locker at school. As you know, I do not eat dairy and I love coconut milk so this mix to make a latte is perfect.

Final stop in Ubud was the monkey forest! Monkeys were everywhere and we had fun messing with them and giving them bananas. It's amazing how they are unafraid of humans.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mt. Batur Sunrise Trek

On my New Years trip to Bali, I had a lot of relax time by the pool but also wanted to do something adventurous. A week earlier, one of my other classmates did a sunrise trek on Mt. Batur and his pictures looked amazing (see the one below). So, we booked a trek with Bali Sunrise Trekking and Tours and got picked up at 1 am to head to the mountains.

Unfortunately, the day was overcast and the mountain was in the clouds so instead of the above view my friend sent me, we had the cloudy one below. We hiked up the volcano in the middle of the night and got to the top just as sun was starting to rise.

Once at the top, our guides made us breakfast, which included boiling eggs in the steam from the volcano. Warmed bananas, toast, and tea were also on the menu.

Next stop on the trek was to see and feed some monkeys! Apparently they enjoy the volcanic steam to warm up. (Although, it's warm in Bali all year around so I'm not sure why they don't just stay in the forest). 

On the way down we passed by an overgrown temple and then finally got out of the clouds to get a nice view of the nearby lake. Even though we didn't get to see the sunrise on top of the mountain, it was still a great trek and I recommend to anyone looking for adventure in Bali!

Monday, February 9, 2015

New Years in Bali

After taking class in Abu Dhabi, I didn't take a break to go home and went straight to the INSEAD campus in Singapore, from which I left to Bali in Indonesia to spend the week around New Years before starting up with class again. 16 of my classmates and I rented the amazing Villa Manis and had a fantastic week.

Since we were all pretty exhausted from traveling around the world, we spent the first few days relaxing by the pool and getting massages. The in-house cooks make amazing fresh food and even served us coconut water straight from the source.

We checked out nearby beaches but were unimpressed. Apparently there is a huge problem with trash floating from more populated places in Indonesia and landing on the beaches of the island. There are great surf spots but I wouldn't go to Bali for the beaches. But having a nice villa with great people is definitely worth it.

While it did rain often throughout the days, the evenings seemed to always give us amazing views. And yes, that's a rice field directly next to the villa.

For New Years Eve, we threw a fun party with some more classmates from a nearby villa. There's a picture of the group below. I'll post more about what we did outside of the villa in following posts!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Recipe: Asian Shrimp Noodle Stir Fry

As you may have seen by my Facebook and Twitter updates, I'm in Singapore now! Continuing my MBA education at the INSEAD Singapore campus. I'll be posting lots about my travels around Southeast Asia. One of the things I'm most excited for about living here is the food! I got pretty tried of French food and it's honestly not the healthiest or best for my stomach. Way too much cheese and bread, I will miss the cheap good wine though.

Here's a classic stir fry for which the ingredients were super easy to find in the corner grocery. I love that Asian food includes a lot of rice and vegetables, both excellent staples. I'll be posting lots about my forays into Asian food in the next few months.

  • 400 g rice noodles
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 300 g defrosted uncooked shrimp
  • 100 g mushrooms
  • 250 g Japanese greens (e.g. bok choy)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup soy sauce
  • chili sauce to taste


  • Cook rice noodles according to package directions
  • Heat coconut oil in a pan over medium heat
  • Add shrimp and cook until slightly pink (not translucent)
  • Add mushrooms and stir for one minute, add more coconut oil if necessary
  • Add cooked rice noodles to pan, keeping some of the water to make the mixture moist
  • Add greens and stir in until wilted
  • Add soy sauce and chili sauce to taste and enjoy!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Earlier this week I wrote about my trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai but I wanted to also share my amazing photos from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. It is quite stunning and unlike anything I've ever seen before!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Abu Dhabi and Dubai

Right after finals in December, I went on to visit the INSEAD campus in Abu Dhabi for a special module/class on doing business in the Middle East. There was a group of 40 students and we learned about different industries in the region and made various company visits. Read my posts from the module on my professional blog, Nuclear Undone, about Wealth Before DevelopmentBeyond the Oil Era, Masdar: The Sustainable City, and Sustainable Urbanization.

We did get to do some fun stuff, besides class and company visits, on our day off. We took a ride through the desert dunes and met some camels. Then, we had team building activities and a BBQ at night, when we could see the stars clearly over the desert darkness.

I also spent a couple of days in Dubai before heading on my next trip to Singapore. The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world and quite stunning. I'm used to tall building in Chicago but this was something else.

The malls are quite an attraction in Dubai and remind of the ones in the U.S., but more like Mall of America on steroids. The Mall of Emirates a ski hill within a tube (above). So, you can go skiing anytime of the year! The Dubai Mall contains just about any North American store and restaurant you can think of, including Garrett's Popcorn!! I was walking by and thought I recognized the smell and then I couldn't believe my eyes! After being in the French countryside for a few months it was nice to get a dose of home and my favorite Chicago staple.

After an intense four months of class, it was nice to spend a day at the Palm relaxing on the beach. You can see the famous Burj Al Arab in the distance below.