Purpose of the month:
1) Two weeks enjoying Cape Town winter
2) One week business in Hong Kong
3) One week "holiday" in North Korea (for a really good read
, check out my Dad's North Korea Blog
Start off the month by flying the quick two-hour domestic flight from Joburg to Cape Town after finishing a 3-week camping safari throughout southern Africa.
Was in Cape Town in January, during the height of their summer, so I look forward to experiencing it in the winter.
Doing an exotic/luxury car rental, so the company is waiting for me just past baggage claim. I take the convertible BMW Z4 again which is a blast to drive.
Go over to Camps Bay and stay at a friend's amazing villa for the next two weeks. He's away, so I have the whole place to myself.
I'm worried I won't like the winter here, because I freak out with the smallest bit of cold or rain, but it really isn't that bad. Most days are at least sunny, and the lack of crowds make it quite pleasant.
I hit all my favorite restaurants: Paranga, Caprice, Willoughby's, and even the incredible 5-star Overture @ Hidden Valley in the Stellenbosch wine-lands. And discover a few new restaurants, like Fork, for Spanish tapas place, and Addis in Cape, for Ethiopian in downtown. Ethiopian food is eaten with your hands, which somehow makes it taste better. Discover a great Vietnamese place called Saigon, which is quite modern inside. Its right across from an authentic Thai place called Yindees, which is also next to a Thai massage place.
Hike lion's head.
Weekend food market in Hout Bay with shots of wheat grass, and fresh springbok biltong (beef jerky). And market in the Cape Quarter, with perfectly brewed Argentinian yerba maté.
The guy staying in the guest house for a few months is building a brand new yacht, so I go to the boat yard about an hour away, to see everything under construction. Its fascinating to see the boat building process, and walk through the giant monolithic catamarans that look like alien space ships. Each boat is about $1M+, and will be very sturdy for ocean crossings. Talk with the naval architect about LED lighting options, and give them some samples.
I hang out with a buddy from NYC who happens to be in SA at the same time, plus a buddy from Belgium who's working in Joburg.
Fly Emirates First to Dubai on the 777, hang out at the lounge for breakfast, massage, and haircut. Then A380 to Hong Kong. I like the Lufthansa A380 much more, but the Emirates shower / "spa experience" at 40,000 feet is quite fun.
The last few months have been nothing but fun, fun fun. But its time to do a bit of work, and keep moving things forward in the biz. Hit the ground running in Hong Kong, and crank out a week's work of solid work, going to the office everyday, meeting with the team, programming, and developing new systems. So far, really proud of what they've done in my absence.
A week at a time is about my limit for the massively fast-paced Hong Kong, so I take a break to North Korea for a week.
(For a really good read, check out my Dad's North Korea Blog)
Fly to Beijing for a night, and stay at the Opposite House (hotel) in Sanlitun area.
Next morning fly to Pyongyang, the capital of the DPRK / North Korea / "Democratic" People's Republic of Korea.
I haven't the slightest idea how to begin to describe this place. The best way I'd summarize is: bizarre, yet beautiful.
The country-side (scenery) is really pretty. The sky is blue, un-polluted, and clean. The streets are clean. There's NO crime. Probably the safest place on earth.
If you have $2000, and a week to kill, you should go. Its a fascinating place. (KoryoGroup.com is one of the best tours for westerners.)
Its like I was dropped into an alien planet. Its impossible for my western mind to understand the mindset of anyone in this country. Everything is about the The Great Leader General Kim il-Sung. And those words are spoken in full each time they are mentioned. Everybody wears a pin with his image on it, and everybody has a photo of him in their house.
There's NO advertisement billboards, except government propaganda.
There's virtually NO visible commercial activity.
Everything is run by the government.
The military is omnipresent.
Everywhere you look, thousands of people are marching, or waiting to march.
Obviously its disallowed to have any communication with the outside world. That means the DPRK has its own internal, closed cell network. Foreign phones / GPS's mustn't be brought in. Obviously no Internet either.
I eat more Korean food in a week, than the last 27 years combined. Most of it is surprisingly good.
Foreigners are always escorted by a number of local "minders", who keep a very watchful eye, and are always stressed. If you cause trouble, their livelihood, and their families livelihood is at major risk.