Posts tagged ‘travel’

Traffic in a Mumbai Slum

The chaos and fascination of India really came into being along a stretch of road in central Mumbai,  the third most populous city on earth.

A recent trip there was intense,  a bit like this moment in a Mumbai slum traffic was…

May 10, 2014 at 11:09 am Leave a comment

Ramadan Singers in Arusha, Tanzania

My first night in Arusha, Tanzania was greeted by door-to-door Ramadan signers hoping for a donation. I am in bit of a culture shock, I think this place is great!

Check out the video:

September 6, 2009 at 12:56 pm Leave a comment

140 Year Old Vines – La Mancha Spain

140 Year Old Vines – La Mancha Spain

Originally uploaded by Rivard

The other part of my Spanish journey was spent in La Mancha, a couple hours south of Madrid. The land that made “Don Chicote” famous.

What impressed me the most about this region is the scenery of course but also the ancient vineyards that have vines whose average age is well over a 100 years. The wine is good, under valued I think and worth looking at more seriously and the quality of what I tasted was excellent.

October 18, 2007 at 8:38 am Leave a comment

North Korean Girl

Had a great traditional North Korean lunch at a border town. A facinating experience…

The North Koreans are obviously a proud people and did their best to impress us with their hospitality and cuisine!

We were treated to traditional dance and signing while we were eating and of course a little bit of propaganda how how great their leader is, etc, etc.

The surroundings outside were rather bleak but inside this restaurant, you temporarily forgot that North Korea was a repressive regime where a lot of its citizens are either starving of facing a harsh quality of life…

July 24, 2007 at 5:26 am Leave a comment

Visa Run to Laos

Living in Thailand is great. The weather is almost always perfect; the people are super nice to you. Most people are respectful, serene, the food is amazing, and there is always something very interesting going on somewhere.

However, there is one annoying thing that the majority of foreigners living in Thailand have to do every two or three months. That is to leave Thailand….

Most do not leave because they want to. They leave because they have to. It is one of these silly laws by the Thai government that stipulates that unless you are hired by a Thai company and are paid over an “X “ amount of money, are married to Thai person or are just independently rich or own a business, you must leave the country to re-new your visa outside the country. Actually, the law makes perfect sense but it is still annoying to do.

Having freshly arrived back into Thailand after being gone over a month I had to leave Thailand again for the sake of my wife and kid’s visa renewal, which was almost due. They had been in Thailand for just about two months on a tourist visa and now came the time to renew the visa or change it to a “Non-Immigration” visa now that my wife is now employed (this would give her three months in the country).

The country we chose to have our visa renewed was Laos. It is the cheapest and closest country to Bangkok to do this. A trip into the unknown for a wife and three small children can be very stressful so it was decided that I would accompany them there and help with this ordeal even though I did not need to have my visa renewed then. Actually, the whole experience was great! It proved to be a bit of a family holiday and we all loved the capital Vientiane.
We took an overnight train ride to the North Eastern border town of Nong Kai where we went through the border crossing procedures. After applying for a Lao entry visa at the border, paying (US$42 per person…ouch!) and crossing, we all got unto a tuk-tuk and headed to Vientiane.

Not having any idea where to stay the night or where accommodations were located, we ask some locals some good places to stay. One very nice woman who spoke a few words of English was able to direct the tuk-tuk driver to bring us to a general area on the shores of the Mekong River where many guesthouses congregated. Once we go there, we had a place to stay within a few minutes…very convenient!

Vientiane is a wonderful city, a very relaxed, easy going and easy to get around. After submitting passports at the Thai Embassy in Vientiane, we visited a large Buddha park, the morning markets, the Laos equivalent of the “L’Arc de Triumph” and a few of the old French colony neibourhoods.
We met up with John and Libby, our old friends from Tonghua who have moved to Vientiane the previous summer, had a great French dinner, drank wine (it is very cheap in Laos) and learned about Laos’s culture.

The fact that you can buy fresh French baguettes, croissant and excellent coffee on mornings anywhere in Vientiane for just a few pennies was a great plus for us. Therefore, after picking up our passports with new Thai visas the next day, we headed back into Thailand and home to Bangkok and we vowed to come back to Laos’s semi regularly. If not for a holiday, certainly for another Thai imposed “Visa Run”….

January 20, 2007 at 1:32 am Leave a comment

A Canadian Whirlwind Tour…

From the moment of my arrival in Bangkok, it has been a very busy time. Settling in our new home, getting acquainted with the area, meeting new friends and working every other hour available on building the new business plan for the company I am setting up.

Part of the business development included a trip to Canada to visit with clients, meet new ones, negotiate with new wine suppliers, do presentations with investors, government agencies, etc.

Therefore, about a week after arriving in Bangkok, off to Canada I went. My first stop was Vancouver. It was great to visit with old friends there. Then a drive to the Similkameen to make some wine with Forbidden Fruit Winery was in the works. The wines there are so amazing! I can say that I am truly proud of the quality wines being made there. It is always a pure pleasure to work with such passionate people such as owners Kim and Steve.

Back to Vancouver to catch a flight to Calgary to make more wine, this time at Fieldstone Fruit wines. I attended a wine trade show there and was very happy with the great positive response the wines are getting. Marvin and Elaine are doing a great job and the brisk sales are proof of that!

Then, onto Montreal to meet with Robert, a good friend of mine about a project we may do together in Laos, meet with family and enjoy good food! The stop there was brief as people were waiting for me in Southern Ontario. Meetings and presentations were the name of the game. With George of Norfolk Estates, we finished off the purchase of Icewine juice and Late harvest wine juice for this years production. He helped me out with negotiations with Canada’s largest icewine production facility for distribution deals into Asia and then drove with me to the Collingwood area to oversee the setting up of a large apple wine processing facility which I will use to produce some of my wines. While still fighting jet lag, all this has kept me busy and very tired.

Going back to Montreal to finish things off and finally relax will be well deserved…

January 19, 2007 at 1:26 am Leave a comment

Standing Room Only!

I am used to “cushy” travel in China. When I am not traveling by air, or being chauffeured, it is usually by train in first class with beds, air conditioning, 1st class waiting rooms, etc.

Last night due to busy circumstances, I bought my ticket about 10 minutes before the train left so it was a mad rush… There were no seats left as trains are always oversold so it was standing room only in the third class cars.

The train was very crowded, full of smoke, hot and very humid. The smell inside the train was enough to make the non-accustomed retch. Half the occupants (most of them peasants and transient workers) were standing or sprawled on the floor on sheets of newspaper. It reminded me a bit of a movie scene involving train rides to concentration camps…very crowded, hot and uncomfortable. It’s a good thing the train trip for me was only a few hours long.

I saw how the “other side” travels that night and I gave myself a mental note to buy my tickets more early next time…

August 18, 2006 at 10:34 am Leave a comment

The Piramids of Kogury

We were in Ji’an County over the day and were able to learn a little about an old civilization that once rules in this area. I visited a couple ancient tombs and pyramids of some of the rulers of the Kogury empire. The area was a bit of a “Valley of the King’s of the Ji’an Country. It was not something I expected to see as the tombs looked like they could have been something out of Mayan or Aztec history….

The whole area is quite beautiful. This is not a place that most foreigners think about visiting when coming to China as it is off the main travel circuit. However, it was very interesting nonetheless and most foreign visitors here are South Koreans as they believe that this area is the birthplace of their culture.

Here is a bit of a brief intro on the town and its history:

Ji’an City, located in the southeast of Jilin Province, lies opposite to the DPRK with the Yalu River running in between, borders Liaoning Province to the southwest, and neighbors Tonghua City and Baishan City of Jilin Province to the north. It is one of China’s three major ports opened to Korea, and the main drag and window of economic, technological and cultural exchanges between China and the Korea Peninsula as well as the Northeast Asian Business Community. Under its jurisdiction there are one economic development zone, ten villages and towns, and three sub-district offices, with nine nationalities living in the city, including the Han, Korean, Manchu, Hui and so on.

The time-honored Ji’an City is ancient and mysterious with rich cultural heritage. In 37BC, Chinese northern ethnic minority, Kogury, set up its regime in the middle reaches of the Yalu River and the Hunjiang River valley. In 3AD, Kogury moved its capital to Guonei (today’s Ji’an), which served as capital for the Kogury empire for 425 years.

May 30, 2006 at 12:55 am Leave a comment

Went to North Korea today…

I was in Jian today, which is a town on the border with North Korea. It was a beautiful day so I decided to rent a boat and take a short trip along the river separating the two countries.

As I ventured into the North Korean side of the river and very close to the shore I was able to spot numerous DPRK army personnel with machine guns patrolling the river shore. I presume to make sure none of its citizens have the strange idea of trying to escape to China and flee their crazy regime, extreme poverty and hunger. The boat driver mentioned that many people are shot every year trying to do just that and we should not get too much closer to the shore or we may face the risk of being at the receiving end of a North Korean bullet. I agreed with him and we headed back to China promptly after taking a few pictures.

The little of DPRK that I saw was very poor, no cars, signs, advertising of any kind, just a few army trucks speeding down dirt roads and mud brink homes. I did see a few people waving at us but their wave signified us to leave, not a “hello” type of wave. The whole feeling was just a bit creepy…

Going back towards China felt like a relief even though this part of China is also very poor, it looked like Disneyland compared to what I saw of North Korea.

After this short boat ride along the shores of North Korea, I enjoyed a nice meal and a beer by the Chinese riverside and felt thankful that I was lucky enough to have been born on the “other” side…

May 28, 2006 at 12:51 am Leave a comment

London Calling

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
— Samuel Johnson

I find this quote very true. On my last visit to London, I was really invigorated by the sheer pulse this city exudes.

I flew from Düsseldorf to London on “Ryan air” for a grand total of 25 Euros, taxes and fees included. You’ve got to love these European discount airlines! I wanted to rough it a little so I decided to stay the night at a famous backpacker hostel near London Bridge called “St. Christopher’s Village”. It is supposed to be one of the most famous youth hostels in the world and it was certainly interesting when at 1am I had to wake up a sleeping guest who had decided to sleep in my bed and at the same time all 14 people in the dormitory woke up as a result of this…

The morning was spent walking around central London and taking in the sights, including a very short visit at the National Gallery while waiting for our meeting that was set up near Piccadilly Circus. The amount of activity, life and culture is amazing and a bit overwhelming.

All in all, our quick trip in London brought home and reminded me how much I love this city…I just wish I could spend more time there or at least be able to afford it.

April 13, 2006 at 11:07 am Leave a comment

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Lover, father, global winemaking consultant, winemaker/exporter, hobby farmer, author and modern-day nomad...

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