Category: Romania

Oct 22 2009

Bucharest, Romania

Romania has around 22 million people which is the second biggest eastern european country just after Poland. Bucharest is a city of 2 million and is the capital.
I noticed that in Romanian there are some similar words to Spanish. Compared to some other languages with Latin roots (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian..), the Romanian language is the closest to Latin.
Arrived in Bucharest at around 9.30am
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so the ride took around 11 hours. I got another couch here and my host is Aline. It’s very nice of her to come pick me up at the train station and my couch is actually in a dorm in a technical university.

main train station Gara de Nord
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The city Bucharest looks a little torned, I am not sure what’s the word to describe it but it looks neglected like other ex-communist countries. There are some old and grey buildings.
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Fishing
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Wide street and junction, a legacy from the communist times

However, close to Piata Unirii, there are some nice historical buildings around the Parliament.
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Parliament Palace (the world’s second largest building after the US Pentagon) spans 12 stories, 3100 rooms and covers over 330,000 sq m.

Ci?migiu Garden
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Theater
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A very good interactive site about the maps of buildings in Bucharest

Getting local food at Carefour because of the varieties and it’s cheap
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With Aline’s friends (Lucia, Aline, Peter, Daniela, Mihail) in the dorm. They are very friendly and I had a great time with them.
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Next day,
Arch of Triumph
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Visited the Peasant’s museum in the morning (1.5LEI). It’s a very interesting museum where different kinds of houses from different parts of Romania were bought to this site.
The Peasant’s museum
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Swing/Merry go round
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Since I have an interest in Chinese economy and Chinese businesses, I took metro to Obor and then took a tram to the northeast direction. Walked 5 minutes to the northeast side from the last stop, to Europa, sort of a chinese market for the retail side. Spoke with a Chinese shopowner
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and he moved to Romania 10 years ago. He mentioned that China is developing so fast and even though quality of life in his town QingTian (a small town of 400,000 people and 250,000 live in overseas) is better than in Romania now but it’s hard for him to move back because China is too competitive and it’s hard to start all over again. The economy crisis did affect business for this year. He has 2 children in China. His past time after work is to surf the internet and he would like to go back to China soon.
Like in other countries, Chinese usually keep to themselves and don’t assimilate well with the local society. This is a pity because most Chinese immigrants are not highly educated so it’s harder for them to communicate with the locals.
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Retail Side
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Unlike in Budapest where there Chinese restaurants are everywhere, I don’t see a lot here in Romania. Walking in the city I didn’t really see any trace of Chinese businesses until I went to the market.
Wholesale side
This is just Dragonul building 2, there are Dragonul 1 to 7 so the market is huge. The complex sells pretty much everything in bulks.

Inside
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Food court selling chinese food
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I thought the Chinese market in Budapest is huge, but this is even bigger. The wholesale stores are behind the retail market and the whole area is around 2kmX2km.

After visiting a few Chinese market, I am amazed by the magnitude of Chinese businesses. This does not sound like Communism and those guys mean business, this is why China has a huge trade surplus.

Visited a Romanian market at Carigasi
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Took an overnight train to Sofia, Bulgaria at 8.04pm (130 LEI ~ 30 Euro)
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Oct 21 2009

Cluj Napoca, Romania

Cluj Napoca is the capital of the region Transylvania in Romania. Transylvania is synonymous with the birth place of Dracula but it’s just a myth.

Spent the day walking around the city. The city is pretty small, around 300,000 people and doesn’t require a lot of time to walk around it. I read that the city is ranked as one of the top five growing city by the magazine Monocle and there are some offshoring activities by European companies here because there is a big talent pool of students. According to the American magazine InformationWeek, Cluj-Napoca is quickly becoming Romania’s technopolis. There are many ethnic Hungarians here that sometimes indentify more with Hungary than Romania.

Ate at Agape, sort of like a food court in the city center.
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Chatted with a lady and she talked about there is an upcoming election and how she is dissapointed with the Politicians in Romania. After traveling across the Balkans and Eastern Europe, all I heard is that every ex-communist countries citizens complain about their corrupted and incompetant leaders. After the Soviet Union collapsed, many state firms were sold at a low price to people who were well connected with the governments and those well connected people are still running the government behind the scene today. So even though, there are good leaders out there but it’s hard for them to be elected because of the behind the scene power. I remembered that this is sort of mentioned in Joseph Stiglitz book, Globalization and its discontent.
Cluj is a nice university town
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There are 2 big malls in Cluj and visited Iulius mall
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and Polus mall
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with bus 24.
Took an overnight train to Bucharest at 11.30pm (9 hours train ride, 500km, 54LEI~`13Euros)

Some guys at the Hostel. There is a Portuguese, Finnish and Romanian.
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From the hostel, walked 30 minutes to the train station and took an overnight train to Bucharest at 10.30pm (54 LEI ~ 12 Euros).
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Romanian is a football crazy country, met some football fans on the train who are traveling to see the match between Red Star vs Fenerbahce.

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Oct 19 2009

still Budapest

St. Stephen Cathedral (Szent István Bazilika)
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Was walking around outside the Cathederal and heard some people speaking in Singaporean and Malaysian accent. There are in the book publisher business and came for a book expo.
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Parliament Building
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A shopping mall at Vaci Ut. Vaci Ut is something like a shopping street.
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Market
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Budapest is a famous spa city. It has more thermal and medicinal water springs than any other capital city in the world.
Széchényi Spa
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Joined a communist tour in the afternoon at 3.30pm. It’s quite educational and Gabor the tour guide talked about the history about communism in Hungary. The guide mentioned that even though Hungary achieved independence almost 20 years ago but people still have the communist mindset. Most Hungarians from the older generation still feel a sense of nostalgia about that time because during communism, goods and travels were more affordable. But right now, prices of goods are maybe 80% of Western Europe but average monthly salary is around 450 Euros so times are harder now. Hungary is still a poor country and even though the country joined EU in 2004 but the country still have not fulfill the Maastricht criteria so the country still can’t adopt the Euro currency.
Communist Style building in the city of Budapest
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The only Soviet monument in Budapest. There is a fence surrounding the monument to prevent vandalism by Hungarian nationalist.
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Next day, hiked up Gellert Hill which has a pretty nice view of Buda.
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and Pest
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Took a bus, Orangeways which is a new low cost bus company to Cluj Napoca at 3pm. Originally I was planning to go direct to Bucharest but the train ticket is quite expensive, around 80-90 Euros. The bus to Cluj Napoca cost around 4000 Forint ~13 Euros and then I can take a train from Cluj to Bucharest that should be much cheaper. At the same time, I can visit the capital of Transylvania.
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Arrived in Cluj Napoca at 11pm after 6 hours bus ride, here it’s an hour faster than Hungary. Tried to find my way to the hostel by walking. The city was very quiet at night and it took around 30 minutes walk from the bus station to
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Hostel Transylvania (47 RON ~11 Euros).
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Met some hostel mates and went to a bar/club called My Way. Surprisingly the place was packed with young people. This made sense because Cluj is a college town with 3 big universities. One of the biggest and best university in Romania, Babe?-Bolyai University is located here as well.
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