- How Long?
- [Thursday 26th March 2009]
How long has it been? How long ago did I first look at the skyline of Tokyo at night? How many things happened to me on this side of the world?
It's the last night before stepping on the plan that will bring me back to Italy, after almost one month around Asia around Thailand, Hong Kong, China, Korea and Japan.
Still Japan has a special place in my heart, too many memories, too many feelings are linked to this place.
Every time I have to leave is like the first time, in 1998, when I packed my suitcase after the best year of my life so far, wondering what it will happen next, where life would send me to... That time I didn't even knew if I was going to go back to Japan ever again, and now I think back and I have been here at LEAST 30 to 40 times in the past 10 years.
From my room I can see the Park Hyatt, where we had a great night with John when he was living here, to the left there is Shinjuku, a place that I now know better than many other Japanese that live here.
going back it's never easy, you never know what changed, you never know what it's there to wait for you, you only know what you are leaving.
To be fair I do not know if I could live here again, having to work in a society that it's quite crazy under certain points of view, but still I'd give it a chance if the offer was good.
My mum sent me a mail, telling me that since I left Italy to go to England I am always on the move, running from a place to another, just like when I was a kid but on a larger scale. She also added that sometimes is better to stop and think about one's life, to be close to the people that really care about you.
As only mothers can be, she is spot on. The problem is that the life of the jet set traveller (to use an expression that Rob used to describe me) is one way only. You can certainly stop, but that means no more trips to Asia and quite probably a lower responsibility (money)... To be honest I am not thinking about it YET, although my life in Florence if I have to continue like this, has very little future...
We will see, I still remember the first time I got on a plane by myself. I was 8 and I was going to Sardinia to see my grandmother (God bless her soul now that she's not more with us).
That time I thought that in my life I would never travel by myself anymore, either with my family or my friends....
I was wrong.
- Quiet Sunday at "home"
- [Sunday 22nd March 2009]
As I enter into the last week of this long business trip, I got to use a weekend for the sole purpose of resting.
Saturday spent around Tokyo in a very good sunny day, a bit windy perhaps, going to the places where I usually like to hang around, Meji Jingu for a spot of praying, Harajuku for a spot of shopping, then Shibuya to see the latest things that I might have missed in the other two places, and this time I also decided to add Shinjuku Gyoen, a park in Shinjuku where I went with John some time ago.
I had it planned to go to Nikko for the day, but the real problem there is that one day is just not enough to explain 4 hours on the train to go and back, so I will probably have to do other arrangements in the future, like staying there for one night...
On Sunday the weather turned sour and extremely windy, so I was off to buy a couple of things and grab some food in the morning but now that is afternoon, I am back at the hotel doing nothing.
Yesterday as I was walking through Shinjuku Gyoen, I was struck by the fact that I am always by myself.
In a typical "manga-esque" setting I could be one of the "bad guys" that walks around the park, full of people eating, laughing, running, playing and with my aura of destruction and solitude, as I pass by, change that into sadness and sorrow.
Fortunately it did not happen, which means that my superpowers are not that strong yet! :D
The funny thing is that when I go back home, most of the time I want to be my myself, just resting and not caring about anything else !!! It's a bit of a contradiction I guess, but that's how it is, after all these long trips are really vexing on the spirit and on the body.
Now sauna time! Tonight I am going out with Kutsunugi san to have dinner and talk about the latest developments in the business field, which needs to be said, it's in a tragic state...
- Only in Asia
- [Friday 20th March 2009]
Yesterday I was in Kyoto with a potential client that we managed to convince to take on our products. The rule of business in Asia wants that you have to go out for dinner, where you actually talk about the important parts of the relationship that you are about to establish, and we ended up in one of the best Italian restaurant that I have ever been abroad.
The dinner took immediately a "good" tone, when the president of the company that we work with ordered TWO bottles of wine (one red and one white) for the three people that we were...
Then grappa was served at the end of the dinner together with a bottle of beer, just to be on the safe side.
Here begins the typical night out with the clients in Asia, it's quite common to all the countries where I have been, apart from China.
We moved to a bar, to drink whisky this time, where there are nice young ladies that sit next to you and talk. That's it, they are just there to entertain you and your hosts, no sex, no touching, no nothing. Just chit chat, a lot of "oooooooo" said in awe when something gives a concept deeper than "I am drunk", and then after two hours you go away, considerably poorer (this kind of entertainment is quite expensive).
We then moved to another location in Kyoto, now the name escapes me, but it's only for local people. A series of bars, very small, with private rooms. The owner of the company that was taking me and the agent out of course is a well known person here, he "re-opened" his favourite place (that was about to close), got the private room and we started drinking more, this time sake.
In this kind of place there are no women included, it's just a chill out room where you sit, drink and chat. Eventually my client got asleep, and it took 20 minutes to wake him up and put him in the taxi completely drunk to go home...
The ladies at the bar did not ask for any money (that shows that he's a regular) and even helped him to go to the taxi as if they were his sisters...
I have had similar experiences in Thailand, Taiwan and Korea, some places were a bit more explicit (see here, this must be one of the best pieces that I have ever written so far), others like yesterday were more subtle. Still I wonder... WHY?!?
I guess we have similar places in Europe, but at least the ladies get NAKED, there is actually a point for them to be there rather than look impressed at the bullshit that we say... I guess that probably I must have missed some points along the way, maybe if you call the numbers on the business cards that they give you there is a "after club session" thing (well it's pretty common in Kyabakura in Japan to choose the lady first and then call her later, you know privacy...), but still I only saw these things in Asia.
Oh well, that's the nice part of travelling for sure, you DO see a lot of different things!
- Things that happen in China
- [Tuesday 9th - Saturday 14th March 2009]
the trip is taking me further into Asia, this time I got to Zhongshang by boat from Hong Kong. From there a series of 1 day stops, first in Dongguan then Guangzhou to end up in Beijing for two nights.
I am working every day now, even today and tomorrow (when I also move to Shanghai), this is one of the hardest business trips that I have ever done so far. And it's not even at its half yet!! I still have two more weeks to go, but in Japan at least I will have the weekend to recover...
Coming to China this has to be recorded as one of the most unlucky trips ever under the services in Zhongshang the room that I was given had a problem with the electrical system and it took them half an hour to figure out that it was better to give me another room, shame that I didn't have time to prepare or anything and I had to rush for dinner after the boat trip...
In Beijing the unlucky spell intensified, first I was given a room that was ALREADY OCCUPIED (and I found out by chance just before I was leaving it), technically I was given an "upgrade" for the inconvenience, but in fact the only thing that was upgraded was the floor (from 6th to 7th) as the room was exactly the same as the previous one.
Then I tried to go to see the forbidden city, after we worked all morning on Saturday at one of our shops to do the visual display of our products, in the shop (an Italian department store) I was offered lunch but they forgot to bring my stuff, even if I asked TWICE...
Then I rushed to Tien-an-min square to the forbidden palace to find out that I arrived JUST IN TIME to see it closing...
To cap it all off the taxi driver back to my hotel didn't know the way, he took me to the opposite direction and then moved me to another taxi that knew the way and got back to the hotel after 1 hour...
I really hope that I have seen the end of all this misfortune because frankly speaking I have had enough... Still I never got upset, I never screamed at them or anything, I am behaving like a perfect Englishman under that point of view!
- Woke up in Hong Kong
- [Sunday 8th March 2009]
The trip from the hotel in Bangkok to the other hotel in Hong Kong was mostly characterized by sleep. I slept on the taxi to the airport, I slept on the plane, and when I arrived I had to sleep for a good three hours, before getting dressed and going out for some dinner.
The place of choice has been this "San Francisco Steak House", now I have never been there, but I hope that they have other typical recipes that are not grilled meat!
Then back to the hotel, where I could depress myself listening to an internet radio commentary of Fiorentina's last endeavours (lost at home with a crap side), and then thanks to Mrs.Sleeping Pill, more sleep ensued...
Now off to work!
- Hard man humble
- [Sunday 8th March 2009]
Bangkok will make an hard man humble, so they say here.
It is not hard to believe the contrary, this country is really great but as many other countries in the south east Asian area, lives on contrasts that are sometimes hard to come by.
I spent the day of Saturday immersed in the little souks of Bangkok, this time I had a great walking tour of the flower and vegetables market and then into Little India and Chinatown. The day before my clients took me to the very outskirts of Bangkok to eat, a great experience that I will later pass onto you guys via the usual pictures.
Thailand is a place where I could happily live, a bit like Singapore, the centre of Bangkok is really new and grand, there is no way you can feel homesick there, you can find almost everything that you might need. The country has a strong culture and that makes this place double interesting.
I'll skip any comment on the local people, they are all nice, very polite.
Then you have the contrasts of girls that would be top models in any other place walking down the street in the midst of garbage, beggars. A Lamorghini driving next to a tuk-tuk (a sort of motorbike taxi) crowded with a family that it's trying to save some money going all together. The heat is quite as bad as pollution.
The colours of fruits and vegetables are stunning, as much as the dirty individuals that normally sell this stuff on the streets.
I took a boat-bus to get around this time, the river is filthy but it was worth the trip because the experience was quite nice.
Marvellous food caps it all up, Thailand is certainly a place that I would like to explore a lot more, as a tourist.
We'll see what will happen, now I am in the lounge going to Hong Kong, the real hard part of the trip starts here...
- [Thursday 5th March 2009]
My attempts of beating jet lag going to bed late did not succeed this time. I think it's probably because I actually managed to sleep on the plane (that must be the firs time in my long experience of long haul flights).
Went out for a little stroll around the centre of Bangkok, grabbed a quick meal at a Thai Restaurant and bought a T-shirt for Saturday, when I will have the day to roam around the city. As a matter of fact I did not bring any T-shirts with me, considering that the trip will end ion places where currently there are 4 degrees Celsius, but that was a mistake as the temperature here is quite hot (30 degrees).
The meal was a bit disappointing, considering that they forgot to bring me one of the courses that I have ordered, but the good side is that I managed to shop around the supermarket in Siam Paragon and bought some very interesting curries that I am eager to try when I go back home.
Nothing much to add, the hotel is not as nice as the precious one where I have been and they have this crap internet connection, that works buying a card at the lobby. Tonight I want to go for a massage, the place where I used to go before seemed nowhere to be found (maybe closed? maybe I forgot the place?)...
- [Tuesday 2nd March 2009]
The dawn of yet another business trip.
This time I get to leave from Florence in the afternoon, Bangkok is my first stop on the way that will take me around Asia once more.
As usual I am tense, nervous, feeling the pressure of a long haul flight and of a business that is crippled by the economic crisis that leaves a lot of open questions and very few answers.
This time I get to stay out of Italy for more than three weeks, 24 days to be precise, it is one of the longest trips that I have even done, the suitcase packing was quite hard this time as I will start in a place where there are 30 degrees Celsius to move later to places where (at the moment) there are 4 degrees.
Do I have expectations? Yes. I hope that it will be a safe journey, I hope that it's going to be at least mildly positive and more than everything I hope that when I come back I will not be too shattered due to the frequent movements around Asia that I will have to do.
I will see people, things, buildings, I will certainly make some new experiences, that's always a good side of going away for so long.
On the other side it's not a bed of roses, I am going to be there for work, this is a detail that people seem to overlook quite often.
I'll try to keep you posted with news and pictures of the places that I will see, it would be nice to keep an ongoing diary of the places that I will visit. This time I will add Dongguan and Guangzhou to the list of places that I have never been to.
And when I am back, if all goes well, I will have to come to terms with another birthday, move from our current house and get a surgery to my right knee... The beginning of 2009 is certainly very busy for me!
Sun is breaking through from the distant hills, this day will last almost 1 month, I am in for a long ride...
- Lox, Lorenzo... ME!!
- A little introduction about the author and the blog itself. Plus contacts and CVs... You never know!
- A Selection of the best pictures that I have taken all over the world during the years, all nicely indexed by year and geographical area. Jolly good!
- History of this Blog
- A collection of all the articles that I have wrote so far, divided by month/year.
I have had the bad idea of writing my e-mail address on the board before, so this time I'll try to prevent some spam to get to me by putting this little image.. Let's hope it does the trick!
A reminder to Myself
Left and right
Like day and night
That's what makes the world go round
In and out
Thin and stout
That's what makes the world go round
For every up there is a down
For every square there is a round
For every high there is a low
For every to there is a fro
To and fro
Stop and go
That's what makes the world go round
You must set your sights upon the heights
Don't be a mediocrity
Don't just wait and trust to fate
And say, that's how it's meant to be
It's up to you how far you go
If you don't try you'll never know
And so my lad as I've explained
Nothing ventured, nothing gained
You see my boy it's nature's way
Upon the weak the strong ones prey
The human life it's also true
The strong will try to conquer you
That is what you must expect
Unless you use your intellect
Brains and brawn, weak and strong
That's what makes the world go round