Category: Travel

Ahoj, 2016!

Thank you for the great time, 2015… let’s hope 2016 will be as wonderful¬†ūüôā

Now, a little bit of what happened at the end of 2015…

To explain the title, which means Hello, 2016!” in Czech, it’s because¬†for the new year’s eve we decided to join a friend’s plan to stay at¬†a holiday house a.k.a ferienhaus somewhere up in the mountains of¬†Czech Republic: with 5x bedrooms and 2x bathrooms/toilets for 10 – max. 22 persons, without landlord. Judging from my past experiences of staying in a ferienhaus in Horn√≠ Blatn√°, and by looking at the pictures (above), I imagined a holiday house in a small village surrounded by forest, with tranquil and romantic atmosphere. However… in reality…

Do you see the little house there surrounded by plattenbau instead? ūüėÄ ^^;;

Anyway, it was a nice place although… with 22 people in a house *and only 2 bathrooms!* it was a bit too crowded for me :”>. We got to eat the very yummy and¬†tasty Czech food though, and drink cheap but good pilsner *for bear*, because during our 2 nights there we always had dinner at a restaurant, so I won’t complain much ;).

Cat Café in Singapore

My sister just arrived in Singapore when we decided to visit the Chinatown area. Right after we got out from the MRT station, we stumbled upon a cat café! It is called The Company of Cats, located in the Mosque St.

Now, a¬†little bit of history about cat caf√©…¬†The world’s first cat caf√©, “Cat Flower Garden”, opened its doors in Taipei, Taiwan, in 1998.¬†Then, the concept blossomed in Japan and became very popular, with¬†seventy nine cat caf√©s opened across the country.Wikipedia

Even though I’m an avid cat lover, and these kind of caf√©s have been¬†around the world for quite a while, this would be¬†my first cat caf√© experience. The caf√© was right in front of us, and we felt that the cats were calling for us to come in, so we thought… why not, let’s go!

No wonder we felt being called… with that many maneki-neko!

Before playing with the cats,¬†we had to wash our hands first. Then, the lady there made sure that we know¬†the rules in the caf√©, such as..¬†Don’t lift the cats. Don’t wake the cats up. Don’t kidnap the cats *grin*.¬†Okay, hands are clean, rules are laid down, let’s play!

Singapore Night Festival

The festival happened around two weeks after Singapore celebrates its¬†golden¬†jubilee, August 21-22 and 28-29. Actually, I found out about this festival accidentally, I’m so glad I didn’t miss it :).

After the ‘Cat & Bear’s trip to Tioman Island, Malaysia’ (will write about this soon),¬†we arrived back in Singapore on Monday, August 24 evening. On our way to the nearest 7 Eleven to have our dinner, ehem… ’cause I was craving steamy¬†ramen cup :D, we met¬†these cute little fellas in front of National Museum of Singapore..

They’re so cute! I can’t stop moving my body when they start dancing ūüôā

We got a booklet about the festival from a guy hanging around there, that’s how we found out about this. The big events happened only on Friday and Saturday (21-22 and 28-29), but the Anooki, the cute Inuits, celebrates SG50¬†at the Fa√ßade of National Museum of Singapore throughout the week, continuously (with 3 min break each time) from 7:30 PM to 11:00 PM, along with the free exhibitions inside (and outside) the museum. Lucky us!

The Bear wasn’t so lucky, because we missed the first weekend of events, and he had to leave Singapore¬†on Tuesday¬†night, August 24. Bummer ūüôĀ Well, at least he met the Anooki.¬†But… my sister was indeed very lucky, because she visited me the weekend after, August 28-31. What a perfect timing! Even though we didn’t know about the festival beforehand.

Huzzah!! Free shows! ūüôā

Trip to Bali and Ijen

The first part of my Bali trip with my family can be read here. 

Om swastiastu… cat and bear were in Bali! Finally the cat could show (a small part of) Indonesia to the bear. We¬†spent 5 days travelling around in Bali. However,¬†one night was actually spent in Banyuwangi, at the east coast of Java, since we wanted to hike to¬†Ijen crater.

In front of Ijen crater

*WARNING* this post is going to be looong :D. If you want to skip the stories, just check the pictures from the trip here.

Day 1: Bali Bird Park, Double Six beach

After visiting Bali Bird Park and sent my family back home, in the evening, we just relaxed at Double Six¬†beach, had a good chat, while listening to live music and watching planes landing in the airport (as you know, the bear is a flying enthusiast :p). Both of us agree that, “Hey, this trip starts very nicely, let’s hope that the rest of it will also be great.” ūüôā

Bali, the Island of Gods

After more than 20 years living in Java, its neighboring island, I finally get a chance to visit Bali! This famous island that people often mention¬†whenever I tell them¬†I’m from Indonesia, “I know Bali!” they will say :). “Yeah, but I’ve never been there,” is what I usually respond with. Well, even though Bali strait can be easily crossed with ferry from the eastern point of Java, my hometown is in the west part of Java, with around 900 km air distance to Bali ^^; Not so close…

As I mentioned few blog-posts ago, I was there for a conference. But then my family joined the trip for the weekend after the conference, and after that also the bear for another week. Yippee, summer holiday time!

With my family, we did the usual touristic routes in Bali. It was a very convenient trip since we hired a car plus driver for 3 days, and the driver is a local who became our tourist guide too. He told us¬†stories about Balinese Hinduism‘s rituals and myths… and ghosts (a.k.a Leak) :D.

The complete collection of pictures from the trip can be found here.

The Bear and Bahasa Indonesia

So… finally! The bear had a chance to visit Indonesia ūüôā

picture is taken from here

Before coming, the only phrase he knows is selamat malam [good evening]. After spending a week in Indonesia, Bali and Banyuwangi to be exact, he almost becomes a native speaker of Indonesian language! Kidding :p. But at least he knows some more words now, hehe.

Selamat pagi, siang, sore, malam

After knowing selamat malam [good evening], the next step would be to learn the greetings for other parts of the day: selamat pagi [good morning], selamat siang [good afternoon], selamat sore [good afternoon/evening]. Oh, and also the other selamat like selamat makan [enjoy your meal/buon appetito/guten Appetit] and selamat tidur [good night].

Makasih!

Yeah, I taught him how to say ‘thanks’ like a native :p. Once, he said that to a street vendor after buying a bottle of water and biscuits, and the guy corrected him that it should be terima kasih [thank you] :D.

Of A Very Shiny Crystal Ball Called Google (Part 2)


Z√ľrichsee, from Arboretum, a small park at the very top of the lake

Exactly one day after I published this blog post here, a recruiter from Google contacted me, saying that there is an open position fitting my profile:

Analytical Linguist, NLU in Machine Intelligence (Thai and Indonesian)

Understanding natural language is at the core of Google’s¬†technologies. The Natural Language Understanding (NLU) team¬†in Google Research guides, builds, and innovates¬†methodologies around semantic analysis and representation,¬†syntactic parsing and realization, morphology and lexicon¬†development. Our work directly impacts Conversational Search¬†in Google Now, the Knowledge Graph, and Google Translate, as¬†well as other Machine Intelligence research.

As an Analytical Linguist, you will collaborate with Researchers and Engineers in NLU/Machine Intelligence to achieve high quality data that improves our ability to understand and generate natural language systems. To this end, you will also be managing a team of junior linguists and vendors to derive linguistic databases as well as propose direction for approaches to language specific problems.

Target languages: Thai and Indonesian

My first reaction was… amazed. How come, just right after I posted a writing about my epic failure at the previous interview?? ūüėÄ What amazed me even more was that this opportunity answered my question back then, quoted exactly as it is: “what else could be the¬†reason to work at Google other than having something ‚Äėshiny‚Äô in your CV? :p”

Workation in Gran Canaria

A workation is a trip or vacation where you must perform some task for your regular work. Although you may be in a new or exotic locale, you may have to attend meetings, telecommute, or complete projects for your job. — www.wisegeek.com

I think companies should really consider to do this once in a while *grin*, this is what it looks like… Well, in my case, as a PhD student I have the¬†flexibility to do this kind of stuff. The bear is actually Dr. Bear now, but¬†as a Postdoc who hasn’t started his teaching activity yet, he has the same flexibility. So yeah, we decided to give it a shot. And the¬†destination for our first workation is… Gran Canaria, in Canary Islands!

Why there? Because… it’s November, autumn was gradually changing into winter in Italy, Trento/Bolzano was showering most of the time, and we want warm place, with sun! Our first¬†option was¬†Egypt, but I need to get a visa to go there, while Canary Islands are still in Schengen area (Spanish islands), hence no visa is needed, my residence permit¬†is enough.