Monday, 25 October 2010

Final days in Bali

Soon its time to leave the island. Just a few nice memories will be left and a the wish to return soon again. A few surf sessions still will be performed and then my plane is taking off on Thursday to cold Europe. In a week I will have the "pleasure" to be at my first MBA-session near Vienna. A week together with "high potentials" and a lot of competition. I am very curious how I will fit in the world of power and money again.

Before I leave I have a few days left and try to enjoy them to the max. My shopping is also almost done and I have a few nice clothes now. Just need to buy a few business shirts and I'm done. Of course I have to buy some interesting things to eat and I already have bought the clove cigarettes. They need to last until I come back so I have plenty of them. Who knows when I can afford such a travel again as almost all of my funds are gone by now. The future will bring a lot of new challenges but I definitely need to get a decent income again.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Back in Bali

It seems that today its a good day to write a little bit after being a couple of days in Bali. I'm again in Bali for surfing. I luckily could manage to come once again and squeeze it into my vanishing budget. The big difference to last year is the weather. Last year at the same time it only rained once and now at least heavy rain every second day. As I already have bought a rain poncho it of course never rained when I was on the street.

I'll stay here until the 28th of October before I head home. Right after I arrive at home I have my first week at the MBA at the University of economics in Vienna. I'm very curious about that and it will be a completely new world form that what I now experience.

My days are as usual here: Morning surf, eat, sometimes afternoon surf, eat, drink , chit-chat and go to bed. It was very hard for me to get up that early. Every day between 4 and 5AM!
I now live in an apartment not far from my friends. The cost is very reasonable and that also supports my stay here. The traffic situation got worse from last year as more and more vehicles are on the road. I'm very curious how that will be solved in the future.

Unfortunately I have to finish this short report right now because I have to go surfing. I'll try to do some updates over the next few days.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

...Darling, I Just Go For Cigarettes!

...But wait, those things are no cigarettes - It's surf wax. In fact I'm out of Indonesian cigarettes (Kretek) and I'm in desperate need to surf again. Luckily I could manage with my last reserves to go on travel again. On Friday I will be off to Thailand and then to Bali. The weather forecast is not the best but you always have to give it a try. Conditions can always change and if there is no surf there is maybe the possibility to kite-surf or something completely different.

It's also time for some new, spectacular, travel photos. As I'm still working on my new website I need some new material to present. Some action shots and pictures from exotic places will do the trick. The website will soon be active at:

Thursday, 24 June 2010


Unusual for an intensive travel I write my travel experience at the end of the journey. I’m currently on the final flight from Dubai to Vienna and just an hour travel time is left.

The previous two weeks I have been travelling with the Austrian Journalist Club (OeJC) through China. Starting from Shanghai over Shenzhen to Xi’an and finally spending a few days in Beijing we had a very intensive Journey. The daytime was always full of official meetings and learning to know country and people in more detail. After dinner night-life has started and we wanted to come in touch with the locals to get a better picture about China. It was very helpful for us to have as much controversial influences as possible.
Our first stop in Shanghai was a great beginning. Starting the journey in such a bustling city was an easy introduction to an uprising country. Everything is everywhere on the jump to become bigger and better. Maxims are standard in common vocabulary and the direction of progress is fast forward. I have been already 12 years ago in Shanghai and the change has been very dramatically. The development zone around the oriental pearl tower was fully completed, the Olympic Games have been held and now the Expo 2010 is going on. The transformation is of course not finished. In Shanghai still construction is going on as in the rest of China. Everywhere old buildings are wrecked down and new constructions erected. Also thousands of people are relocated in focus of national development.

The Expo 2010 is a perfect showcase to get an idea about the speed and seriousness of the wish to become a modern economy. We have visited the Expo twice and the dimensions of the exhibition area and the buildings are breathtaking. The most imposing landmark and one of the few buildings, which will remain after the Expo, is the Chinese pavilion. It is a red giant and constructed based on traditional buildings.
Shenzhen in the south is an uprising city with a long historical background. Many low wage industries are located there and its home to a big industrial development zone.  Thousands of farmers have been converted to industrial workers and their fames had to make place to new streets and buildings of all kind.
The next big stop was in the geometric middle of the country – Xi’an. Well known for history and the roots of unified China. The first dynasty has been there. World famous was the terracotta army of the first Dynasty. We’ve visited the national museum, the terracotta army and an Austrian-Chinese joint venture before heading to Beijing.

The capital city was the final stop on our tour through China. It was also a good example for the meaning of the words “big” and “mega”. Everything there is simply bigger than usual. Distances, building, squares streets etc.. Just around the corner usually means a short drive from 15 to 45 minutes. Walking just one block can be a nightmare just walking around for ages. There are many hotspots in the city like an art district, night market, Forbidden City and so on.

My personal impression from this trip is that I want to come back again and see how the nation can cope with the rapid transformation from a communistic society to a hi-tech country. It seems for me that there are a lot of efforts to make a better future like going green. At the other hand there are still a lot of restrictions that make it hard to believe that this kind of changes will be in a short time. Many people still are stuck in the system of former times and there are just a few signs of a transformation to a new democracy.

Friday, 5 March 2010

The Dragon Has Landed - Back In Austria

It's now almost a week now that I'm back in Austria and I still try to get used to "good" old Austria. I'm almost finished rearranging the apartment. During the travel a friend stayed in the apartment and she has had her stuff also in the apartment together with the other stuff that was already in. Now I am cleaning, washing clothes, organising winter gear and working on the computer. The stupid computer reboots every hour and I haven't found the reason yet. I have the feeling that this will cost me many hours to solve.

The trip back was quite a nightmare. Especially the part from the Dominican Republic to San Francisco. American airlines really suck. It's literally like riding on a truck stuffed full of people. No service, no fun! The biggest surprise was for me how luggage can be treated. In Atlanta I was sitting above the cargo door and could see how my luggage was loaded. First my two bags were thrown on the conveyor belt very rudely. At the baggage checkout before I had to remove a broken bottle of fine 8 year old rum because the bag was thrown around! I was in fear that that could happen again. Then I saw my surfboard. It was on top of the cart and to be sent up as the last and bulky piece. The baggage handler just threw it on the conveyor belt and didn't waste a second look on it before he took off to get another full cart. In the meantime the surfboard almost slipped of the belt and was ready to fall down. Luckily the guy came back in the last moment and threw it on the belt again. It was just the same as before. The board didn't get up and got stuck. This time the guy kicked it from the conveyor belt to free it for the upcoming luggage. The surfboard pack has fallen down at least from 1,5m height. Needless to mention that a surfboard is very fragile and it was also clearly labelled as fragile!! I was shocked and the worst thing was that I couldn't do anything. The guy was out there on the apron area and I was in the plane. I was sooo mad!
Fortunately nothing happened. My two bars of cigarettes have saved my boards and I have used a lot of protective layers for safty.

Today I have exchanged my surfboard to a snowboard. If everything is fine I get a chance to go snowboarding at the weekend. In Austria there is still a lot of snow at the moment and I have missed snowboarding and the Alps really much. Back I will continue with my tasks and with picture processing, I still have a lot in the queue to process. Even the photos of the Africa trip need to be processed. I sure can say that it will not get boring in the near future.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Leaving The Caribbean

Finally my long trip is almost over. The bags are packed and everything is prepared for my leave tomorrow. Today there was no wind and also no people on the beach. It is really surprising here at "kite beach". Usually nice beaches in the Caribbean are packed with people. Here it just depends on the wind of the beach is full or not. Yesterday more than 60 kites where out in the water and a lot of spectators, instructors and friends on the beach. Today: not more than 10 people over the whole beach on a nice sunny day.

Leaving Cabarete is now a welcomed change for me. I love the Caribbean but I must admit that I prefer Bali over all. Maybe I start once a rum and cigar business there to adopt it too my needs ;)) Kitesurfing turned out to be quite nice but not overexciting. Its just the same bunch of people that preferred windsurfing a while ago. Surfing in the Caribbean is challenging but only to find some bigger waves. The surf beach Encuentro is truly a nice spot for surfing and relaxing. There are just a few people and mainly surfers and affiliates. The surf is as mentioned not too big and pretty shallow because of the coral reef. Several surf schools are lined up along the beach and also rent out all kind of surfboards in various sizes. It's a good idea to rent a surfboard there because the waves are usually not very high and you could end up bringing an own board and just have a few rides during your stay. It is also a wise idea to check the additional fees for surfboard transport on the plane. The prices are 100-200 USD per board!! Of course one-way.
One of the latest attractions here is the new circus that is currently setting up at the backyard of the gym. It's a trapeze!! Everyone who is willing and has no fear of height is invited for lessons. It's too bad that they are just finishing it now. It would have fun giving it a try.

Tomorrow, Friday, I have my big travel day. At noon I have to go via guagua (local minibus) to the airport from Puerto Plata. Then to San Francisco via Atlanta where I am happy to meet Joke and Will on a short stop-over. After that just straight to Frankfurt and from there to Graz where I'll arrive at Sunday afternoon. Of course if there are no delays and hopefully my luggage arrives as well. It's great to arrive at the last day of February so I can get started on Monday the 1st of March with my new plans :))

Monday, 22 February 2010

Cuba – A Trip Back In Time

The two weeks in Cuba have been a very special experience for me. It was just like a travel back in time! Crumbling buildings aside to fresh painted facades in pastel colours surrounded by old, classic US cars. It’s astounding how much contraction and renovation is going on. There is literally everywhere someone in charge to do small repairs, sweep the floor or do other necessary things to bring Havana back to former glory.

Travelling through Cuba is not so difficult but rather expensive. Life for Foreigners has some similarities to the Cuban life. It is difficult to find something you need and when you finally found it the price will surprisingly high. Even for public transport foreigners have to pay in CUC – The convertible peso exclusively for Foreigners to buy imported or “luxurious” goods. There are plenty of shops around where only the CUC is accepted. Many Cubans are in desperate need for the CUC because they can only buy things in Foreigner shops with CUC. The national peso is good to buy things for daily life including food and drinks.

To keep the costs down it’s wise to live in a “casa particular”. That is a private house that is entitled to rent out a room to foreigners. It’s usually much cheaper as a hotel and in addition much more comfortable. Another bonus is the close contact with the locals! In Santiago de Cuba, The first capitol of Cuba before relocated to Havana, the landlord of the casa particular was working in the famous “Canay” distillery. It was well known as the Bacardi headquarter before the revolution. Now many different brands including Havana Club are produced there. On his birthday he served me the finest 30 Year old rum I ever had.

In two weeks time it was easy to explore many cities and sights in Cuba. Many of them are recognised by the UNESCO and the Cubans are really proud of them. After the first days in Havana it was time to explore one of the many national parks: Viñales. It is a picturesque valley surrounded by high mountains. The soil is rich of minerals and agriculture has been practiced there since the Stone Age. Of course also a visit to a cigar factory was on the list after passing by endless tobacco fields.

The second trip was a road trip through Cuba. Beginning in Havana and visiting the cities Trinidad, Cienfuegos and Santa Clara before heading to Santiago de Cuba. All cities have their own charm and a large amount of fresh renovated buildings. The highlight for me was lovely Trinidad with the cobblestone streets. It was really peaceful there. Santiago de Cuba was great for all the music I’ve heard. Compay Segundo also is from this city and the people really love music. It can easily happen that people stop by when they hear music and start to dance on the street. I just was a little upset that I didn’t have my audio recorder with me. I had a lot of opportunities to capture great music. It seems that i have to come back again. Maybe after the next revolution ;)

After all it was really great to visit this special country. There are so many interesting little things like empty highways, old cars, cigars, well educated and warm people and a good sense for culture and music. Cuba is doing well now in tourism, environmental issues and sustainability. Of course on the downside the lack of basic human rights is also evident as press freedom, the right to speak a repressive political system and much more. I have visited many countries in Latin America and walked through many slums. Compared with these countries Cuba is miles ahead and still far behind. It only depends on the point of view.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

La Próxima Estación: Cuba


Today I have prepared my entire luggage for the trip to Santo Domingo tomorrow. I leave all my sport equipment and other stuff I don’t need here at the extreme hotel for my return. The journey will be 5 hours with the late afternoon bus to Santo Domingo and from there to the international airport. I hope to find a comfy bench to spend the night on because the flight will be in the early morning over Panama to Havana. It’s for the same price as the direct flight from Santiago to Havana with the national Cuban airline. The reason I didn’t get the direct flight is that there was no possibility to book the flight online. Copa Airlines has a nice reservation system and I could manage to get the cheapest tickets.

The travel to Cuba will be for roughly two weeks and then I return back to the “extreme hotel” for a final week here. It has been a long time in the Dominican Republic and I am happy to be on the road again. December and January with tropical rain, power cuts and poor Internet connection left often only one combination: rum and cigars! Sure it was fun but after some time it gets really boring and with no alternatives it’s difficult not to get crazy. When I have talked with people that I plan to go to Cuba their response was: why? It’s the same there as here but much poorer!

I personally think that it will be quite similar. Both countries are pretty poor but Cuba will for sure suffer a lot from the long term US-embargo. People love to enjoy life on both islands and are happy even they are poor. I will also adapt to the situation on Cuba and will be off the Internet for two weeks. What a strange feeling not to be connected. But that should be a good experience as well.

On Friday the 19th I will be back in Cabarete again and ready for the final week. After that I’ll be on the long way home to Austria: Puerto Plata – Atlanta – San Francisco – Frankfurt – Graz. This long flight should cure me for a while from travelling – Lets see!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Final Travel Schedule

Today I've received my final travel confirmation here is an update about the upcoming travels in January and February. Also the trouble getting out of the US didn't cause touble to get the new electronic permit to enter the country. I am very curious if I will face a discussion with the immigration officers when I have to show my passport. Last time in Miami the immigration officers left the green card in my passport and I had to hand it over to a stewardess in the plane.

Here are the new and confirmed dates:
  • Cuba: 03-02-2010
  • República Dominicana: 18-02-2010
  • San Francisco: 26-02-2010
  • Austria: 28-02-2010

At the 1st of March I will be officially back in Graz, Austria. I will then prepare and organize my full schedule for 2010 and be back to business.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Back To Business

After weeks of rain, power cuts, crappy Internet and much more, it seems that everything is getting back to normal. Of course the crappy Internet didn't get better. Just from time to time the connection is good enough to transmit some photos, reports and mail.

Today was a very busy day. Surf is picking up, the wind blows constantly and even skating was great today. After a day of kitesurfing the event of the day was at the skate ramp. Pro skaters from different parts of the world came together for a nice session. Even the designer of the skate ramp Helmut Ludwig, an ex skate pro from Austria, was skating. A lot of good vibes and so many pro level tricks. It was great to watch and feel the energy of the guys! In parallel to skateboarding was a big celebration at the attached bar-restaurant. The leading world champion of kiteboarding celebrated his world-championship with free drinks and attracted a big crowd.

This is now the final, extended, week in Cabarete before the trip to Cuba. After Cuba I'll pick up my stuff in Cabarete and stay a few days here before I go on my final trip to Austria. I hope there to do all the many things there are already on my task list in quick time to focus on some decent snowboarding. After all the sun and warm temperatures I look forward to some action in the snow and already miss it.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Finally, Nice Weather Again!

After weeks of rain finally the clouds have passed by and now there is nice "Caribbean" weather again. Now it doesn't matter so much if there is a long power cut when you can be outside and do useful things. Today I have rented again a scooter and it is great fun to move around to different areas. The only drawback is that the mosquitoes are now very active. The local ones are real buggers- They fly silent and you don't feel them sting. Just when they fly off by interruption you get a bump and itchy spot.

At the moment I am checking flights to Cuba and after that trip connecting flights home. Now it looks like I stay here until the end of the month and then go to Cuba over Santo Domingo. The planned stay in Cuba is three weeks and then home at the end of February.When I finally know my schedule I'll post it here.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

A major loss of life is feared in Haiti after a 7.3 earthquake hits, toppling buildings and leaving victims buried under rubble. Hispaniola is the island separated in the middle with Haiti and the Dominican Republic. At 16:53 local time there was a quake with an epic centre 15km (10 miles) south-west of the capital, which was quickly followed by two strong aftershocks of 5.9 and 5.5 magnitude.The effect of the quake was also also clearly recognizable in Cabarete,Dominican Republic in just 200 km distance. In Cabarete we just felt a strange moving sensation without any damages so far.

The following report, including the teaser image is courtesy of the BBC:

A 7.3-magnitude earthquake which struck off the coast of Haiti is feared to have caused major loss of life in and around the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Haiti's envoy to the US said it was a "catastrophe of major proportions".

Buildings, including a hospital, are said to have collapsed, and rescue efforts are under way.

The quake, which struck about 15km (10 miles) south-west of the capital, was quickly followed by two strong aftershocks of 5.9 and 5.5 magnitude.

The tremor hit at 1653 (2153 GMT), the US Geological Survey said. Phone lines to the country failed shortly afterwards.

A Reuters reporter in Port-au-Prince said he had seen "dozens of dead and injured people" in the rubble of fallen buildings.

Karel Zelenka, a Catholic Relief Services representative in Port-au-Prince, told colleagues in the US "there must be thousands of people dead".

The aid worker had managed to phone his colleagues before communication links went down.

The BBC's Nick Davies in neighbouring Jamaica says the ground apparently shook for more than a minute in Haiti.

Local people, he said, were using anything they could get their hands on - including farm equipment - to help release those trapped in the quake.

Our correspondent adds that, as the poorest country in the western hemisphere, Haiti is likely to need international aid in order to cope with the quake's impact.

'Three million affected'

US President Barack Obama said in a statement that his "thoughts and prayers" were with the people of Haiti and America stood ready to assist them.

I just hear a tremendous amount of noise and shouting and screaming in the distance
Henry Bahn
US Department of Agriculture official, visiting Haiti

UN officials said they were having trouble contacting their mission in Haiti to get a clear picture of the aftermath.

"We are trying to get in touch with our people on the ground but we are experiencing communication problems, which is not unusual in a disaster such as this," spokeswoman Stephanie Bunker told AFP news agency in New York.

Raymond Joseph, Haiti's ambassador to the US, told CNN: "I think it is really a catastrophe of major proportions."

He said he had just spoken to a government colleague in Port-au-Prince:

"He had to stop his car just about half an hour ago, and take to the streets, start walking, but he said houses were crumbling on the right side of the street and the left side of the street.

"He does not know whether he would reach his home, not knowing what he would find, because he had a bridge to cross to get there."

Mike Blanpied of the US Geological Survey said that, based on the location and size of the quake, about three million people will have been severely shaken by its impact.

"This quake occurred under land as opposed to off-shore, so a lot of people were directly exposed to the shaking coming off that earthquake fault, which was quite shallow," he told the BBC.

He added that as the quake had occurred near a highly populated urban area, the aftershocks could cause additional damage to already shaken buildings.

'Rubble and wire'

An Associated Press cameraman saw the wrecked hospital in Petionville, a hilly suburb of the capital, and Henry Bahn, a visiting official from the US Department of Agriculture, said he had seen houses which had tumbled into a ravine.

"Everybody is just totally, totally freaked out and shaken," said Mr Bahn, who described the sky as "just grey with dust".

He said he had been walking to his hotel room when the ground began to shake.

"I just held on and bounced across the wall," he said.

"I just hear a tremendous amount of noise and shouting and screaming in the distance."

He said rocks were strewn all over the place, and the ravine where several homes had fallen in was "just full of collapsed walls and rubble and barbed wire".

BBC News website readers in the Dominican Republic, which borders Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, said they had also felt the quake.

"My family is on the 8th floor of a tower in downtown Santo Domingo," wrote Max Levine.

"We felt a swaying of the building for 5-10 seconds. All the lamps were swinging. There was a 20-second pause and then another similar sway. We rushed out of the building with many others to the street."

In the immediate aftermath of the quake, a tsunami watch was put out for Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas, but this was later lifted.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Tropical Rain

The time here in Cabarete is very special for me. The perfect image of the Caribbean is blue sky, white beaches, warm water and fun for all. But the weather can turn it all around. It's raining very, very often! Almost all the time and activities are limited. For the ones who have experienced tropical rain it needs no further explanation. After a big rain shower the streets are flooded, muddy and you never know when it starts again. It's also difficult to go to the center of Cabarete because of the uncertainty of the next rainfall.

The power situation is now better. There are not so many power cuts and Internet is becoming also slowly better. But you never know when the infrastructure fails. Today it was water and a few Internet problems. I've got soaking wet several times times today and now my stuff is drying. Yesterday I had also a fun time at the big skate ramp. It was partially flooded but I could manage to have a few good runs. I'm curious when I can go to the flooded ramp again.

In the meantime there are indoor activities to perform. In the picture above is a nice starter set. The drink is a local speciality: Mamajuana. It's a multi-purpose and strange tasting drink consisting of rum, red wine, honey, palm wood and spices. The best think of the drink is the bottle. It's in a used rum bottle and the label is very promising and in three languages:

This Product Makes The Sexual Potential Bigger And Guaranty You An Excellent Dream
Dieser Product Eröht Die Männliche Vitalitat Und Heilsam Schlafen

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Christmas and New Year in the Caribbean

Again Christmas, again New Year - the same as every year but just a little bit different. That is Christmas in the Caribbean! The Dominican Republic has a long term Spanish and therefore catholic history. For me it seems that everything is just like home. "Nochebuena" (Christmas Eve) is the most important day where families come together, have dinner and a few drinks. The most common dish is suckling pig with "pastel en hoja" (mashed bananas with minced meat, wrapped and cooked in a banana leaf). Usually a few drinks are a lot of drinks and it can get quite crazy on Nochebuena.

New Year is celebrated as everywhere. Just here with a Caribbean touch. Drinking and dancing until midnight - then short fireworks with a lot of ah’s and oh’s on the beach followed by drinking and dancing afterwards. It's really great scenery to observe what's going on at the beach. Just the weather is the only factor that limits fun here. As for Europe ice and snow are here heavy rain falls and cold weather. That means that there is no action regarding kiteboarding and the skate ramp is under water. Just surfing is possible but that is also not so much fun in the cold and rainy weather. The only option is to stay in the hotel and wait for the rain to stop and the wind to come.

In two weeks I will continue on to Cuba. At the moment I’m checking cheap flights to Cuba but it’s very expensive from here. Just two flight hours away the price for a round ticket is 600USD – From San Francisco to the Dominican Republic it was just 350 USD. It seems that poor countries are double unfortunate – Little money and higher expenses!

The Internet connection is very unreliable at the moment it is often down and there are frequent power cuts too that make life hell here. With no power and no Internet just reading is an option and waiting for the rain to stop. I really hope the weather will be better in Cub. Otherwise it would be really a strange travel in the rain.