PGD student Alexandra Jourdan-Astruc arrived on campus a few weeks ago from Paris (but not before taking a couple of months to travel in the Far East).
I have just arrived on campus but my international experience began two months ago! In the euphoria of the news of my acceptance to Les Roches, I booked a multi-destination plane ticket in April. I would start with Indonesia, one month in Bali with a friend from law school and then meet my best friend from high school, with the same name as me -Alexandra-, who is going be doing an internship in Hanoi Hospital with 4 other medical students in Vietnam.
The day after I finished my exams in Paris, I packed all my stuff and moved out from my flat in Paris and two days later I was on the plane to Bali.
I left Paris on the 9th June and arrived 20 hours later, after taking two planes and doing a short stopover in Doha, Qatar.
FIST STOP: BALI
In Bali, we started at the north of the island and spent a week in Lovina. The beach is not a paradisiac one but Lovina was so quiet and it was perfect for get some rest from our year studying. We went all around Lovina and saw rice fields, coffee plantations, Mundunk and the Gitgit Waterfall; we took a bath in the HotSpring with Balinese people, went to the traditional market and with some fishermen one morning at 5.30 am to try to see some dolphins – and we did, a lot of them!
One day we decided to go diving at one of the best places on the island – Menjangan, in the north west. We took a car for 3 hours and then a boat to get to the island. Even if a lot of tourists were also there with us, I have never seen so many beautiful fishes before – it was really amazing.
Then, after Lovina we thought about going east to Amed but after some talks with locals and other tourists, we decided to skip it for the time being and to directly go to the Gilis -Indonesian name for islands. The Gilis, attached to Lombok island, another island from Indonesia, are 3 islands, well known for their beautiful beaches and wonderful views of the Indonesian volcanos. So we left Bali for 4 days, we took a fast boat and arrived in Gili Trawagan, the largest island. After enjoying a lot of different fresh fruit juices on the beach, we rented bikes and did a tour of the island, and even though it was really hot, we took our time and found a lot of magic places with some amazing views and really nice swing sets all along the way.
After a few days in paradise, we took a boat to go back to Bali to the famous and quintessential village of Ubud, in the center of Bali.
Once we got there, we had a magical stay. Rafting on the Ayung river, Mount Batur climbing, Campuhan walk among rice fields and elephant grass and finally a typical Balinese massage to have some rest, just before a traditional Balinese show at Ubud Palace.
Finally, we spent one week in the South of the Island, between Kuta and Semyniak. We met up with two friends there, one currently on an internship in Jakarta and the other travelling around Indonesia for one year.
Even if we spent a really nice week all together, Kuta is really not a must see – it is very busy day and night, and the Balinese people tend to be aggressive with tourists there, while everywhere else on the island everybody was so kind to us.
However, Kuta is the best spot on the island for surfing, the waves are so huge you are not allowed to go swimming.
And it really is a good place for night life – you can meet every nationality in the most famous clubs. Sky Garden may be good for starting the night with a rooftop and a view on Kuta, then get a moto cab and go to Jenja for a really good electro night.
OFF TO VIETNAM!
After one month well spent in Bali, it was time for the four of us to leave each other and this is when I left for Vietnam. After a really long 12-hour stopover at Singapore airport, I finally got to Hanoi the day after at noon.
The second I stepped off the plane, I felt the heavy climate of Hanoi – the biggest difference to Bali and maybe the hardest part for me, accustomed as I am to Europe.
My friends were waiting for me at the house they had rented for a month in the French district of Hanoi.
The morning after my arrival we left at 6 o’clock to spend 3 days in Halong Bay. No wonder this bay is so famous – what a strange and fantastic place at the same time. We went on a cruise around the bay and the islands with fog patches everywhere. The day after was sunny and we had the feeling we were in a different place. Floating villages, Cat Ba Island, kayaking around, jumping out of a cliff… one more magical day in Vietnam.
We finally went back home and spent a week in Hanoi, having Bun Bo everyday, walking around the city at 40 degrees – from the Temple of Literature to the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and to Hoan Kiem Lake to the Old Town.
Since my friends were working at the Viet Duc Hospital every day, I even got a chance to visit it and to see an operation in the operating room.
Next weekend, we took a night bus for 6 hours and went North, to Sapa. There we met a Hmong woman, Mao, who guided us among Sapa area and we stayed one night there with her family. We had dinner and rice wine all together and that may be the best experience we had in Vietnam.
We got to spend some real time with them and this was amazing. The next day, even if waking up was a bit difficult, we went back to Sapa by foot and we did a wonderful trek on the mountains. We were exhausted but we could see it was worth it. We took the night bus again to go back to Hanoi. One last day in the city, one last farewell night for me and the day after I was in a plane, going back home to France.
20 hours later I was home and I realized I had had the best weeks of my life in Asia with these people: wonderful places, amazing adventures, new friendships, old friendships getting even deeper, I could not have asked for more!
THE SWISS ADVENTURE BEGINS!
Even if I was a little nostalgic, I was not sad because I knew that I might have even more to come since one week from now I would be leaving for Switzerland and starting my PGD at Les Roches. And I was right not to be, because it has been only 5 days since I arrived and I have met already some great people from all over the world.
Clearly, my journey did not end when I landed back in Paris!