Work + travel

summer internship

Summer is slowly coming towards the end and so is my internship with Equinor, so I can finally share some more details on what I have been doing this past two and a half months. I've been very fortunate to intern twice at the biggest company in Norway, last year working in Stavanger and this year closer to home, in Oslo. Both times working in HR and business/ brand communications.

My tasks were really varied and I have collaborated with a range of different people and disciplines, but my main priority however, has been in employer branding activities, specifically content marketing. It's been an amazing job because it has given me the opportunity to travel and meet new people all the time. The best part is that I get to combine my hobbies, creativity and business education into my career, while at the same time learn so much more about the company, the industry, and develop my professional network along the way. 

Bergen

This week I was on a business trip to Bergen to wrap up my final series of location videos that I have been producing throughout this summer. As a multinational company, Equinor aims to showcase more of its culture and different office locations around the world, and I'm excited that I've managed to kick-off this project not only in Norway and the UK, but also in Houston, Texas, and more pending locations such as Brazil, Singapore, Russia etc. It's been a lot of fun working with a project that has fed my wanderlust. 

With the camera with me at all times, I took the opportunity to film some short clips of Bergen during my visit this week. The video below is completely unrelated to work, but shows a little bit of my days exploring the city after work hours. Last year when I was there I stayed the weekend as well, but I didn't have time this time so here are some super brief snippets:

Despite being the second largest city in Norway, Bergen is famous for its small-town charm. It's picturesque mountain and fjords landscape, cobblestone alleyways and wooden houses, and of course, the delicious fresh seafood at the buzzing fish markets are reasons alone to visit. Last year I stayed at Hotel Scandic Strand with epic views of Brygga, while this year I stayed in the historic Villa Terminus in the city center. It was such a lovely experience, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone visiting Bergen. The food there was amazing too. I'd go to sleep early only to fast forward to breakfast.

And although the weather wasn't great this week, I still managed to hike up and down Mount Fløyen without getting soaked in the rain. The Fløibanen was definitly an option, but you don't get twice as good the view from there than if you were to do the hike. I'd rather save the cable car experience for Ulriken643, which is another great attraction in Bergen. You can read more about my previous trip to Bergen and Ulriken-experience here.

I hope you enjoyed my little update from Bergen. I still have one more week of work left and then I'm off to Croatia. So excited to explore a new country, reunite with the mister and get a proper beach vacation after working this whole summer. Until next time!

Exploring Bergen

My internship this summer sent me on a business trip to Bergen, so I took full advantage and set out to explore the city during the weekend off work. I stayed at Hotel Scandic Strand, situated only 200 meters away from the picturesque Bryggen and overlooking Mount Fløyen. I couldn't have asked for a more central location to maximise my four days of solo-exploration.

Bergen is known as the rainiest city in Norway. While I was there, it had been raining 138 out of 175 days. It rained every single day in the whole month of June! Surprisingly not my visit was no exception, but for some miraculous reason I managed to stay dry during my entire hike up to Mount Fløyen. I even got some sun as I reached the peak. On the way down I took the famous Fløibanen funicular for the sake of experiencing it, but I enjoyed the hike better - less crowded, and free.

Mount Ulriken was next on the itinerary. Ulriken643 Panorama Tour took me to the top of the mountain by cable car in 7 minutes, and the full view of Bergen from the top was just beautiful. Sea, fjords and hills in one scenery easily make Bergen one of the prettiest countries in Norway. 

I hiked all the way down instead of taking the cable car, which I realised half way wasn't the best decision this time. It was a long, tough route covered in slippery mud and it was pouring rain too - definitely not ideal when traveling alone after 6pm. In other words, these were the moments my mom always warned me about. Nevertheless I'm glad I was accompanied by two other hikers who made the experience feel a little bit safer.

One Night in Bangkok

- All journeys have a secret destination of which the traveler is unaware -

I had a very interesting 'Night in Bangkok'. After a quite structured day with a packed itinerary, I decided to make the evening more spontaneous and ended up at Sky Bar Rooftop at Lebua, which was featured in the Hangover II movie. Note I was by myself again and it was definitely a Singapore-déjà-vu-moment. Once again my social anxiety seemed little to non-existent and I had no issue rocking up at this venue where people were having fancy cocktails with their friends while I stood there as a major loner asking for a glass of water. I probably would've avoided that scenario back in Europe but at this moment (as well as in Singapore) I just thought... Who actually gives a damn? I was having a great time enjoying this amazing view - for free! 

While I stood by the railing admiring the lights of Bangkok, another solo-traveller approached me and hence the rest of my night in Lebua was spent chatting away with this person from South Korea. I couldn't help but think how funny and coincidental it was that the very first person I met during my first days in Shanghai - and the very last person I met on my final Asia-adventure in Bangkok, were both Koreans - from the very same small town that I had never heard of before. 

As the clock passed 2am (did I mention I went for a two-hours long massage at 11pm), I got hungry (as usual) so I decided to grab a taxi to the nearest night market to get a take-away, then head back to the hotel to rest a couple hours before leaving to the airport. And in those next moments I got all these flashbacks from my last nine months in Asia... Thinking what a crazy, amazing, out-of-this-world experience this has been for me!? What a life-changing time of my life. You know, all those deep thoughts you suddenly get when you're eating Thai papaya salad at 3AM alone in Bangkok, having conversations with a sketchy taxi driver who could've been a murder or rapist for all I know. Looking back I think I was being a little crazy and naive, and I certainly will not tell my mom about this particular adventure - but as usual, everything turned out just fine. Another great personal memory for the books!

Singapore by Night

- If you only had 16 hours in Singapore, what would you do? - 

Enjoying the beautiful lights and hoping the guy wasn't running away with my camera.

Like my ticket from Shanghai to Sydney where I intentionally booked a long layover in Kuala Lumpur, I decided to do the same for my return from Melbourne to Hong Kong. I found a cheap ticket with AirAsia with a long layover in Singapore. Unfortunately the flight times were not as good as the previous, as the flight arrived in the evening and departed in the morning, which gave me minimal daytime to explore. But I can’t complain, because Singapore by night is something really special in itself. The skyscrapers and unique buildings light up the city and reflects the water in Marina Bay. So beautiful!

It took me an hour to walk around the bay because I stopped every twenty footstep to enjoy the view from a new different angle. Same same, but different. Also, it was very nice to just sit down and feel at ease in my own company. If anything, the people were really friendly.

I walked and saw so much in such a short time because I wanted to get the most out of my layover. It got to the point where I worried I would be exhausted for my whole weekend in Hong Kong, but luckily Singaporeans love their food, and so do I - so at least my energy levels were never low for too long. To be fair I probably had plenty of reserved energy from all the family dinners in Melbourne, because those were never-ending. 

Gardens by the Bay

Ok, so funny story. I managed to enter a VIP club and get my way into the Marina Bay Sands Infinity Pool where a full cocktail party was going on. There I was by myself in my low-key outfit and no makeup on, trying to keep away from drunkies offering me cigarettes. Lol!

Great view from the top - for free!

Similar to my day in Kuala Lumpur, I think I can safely say that long layovers are worth it if you’re on point with your planning and do some pre-research on how to get around (it will save you a lot of time). But also talk to people! Be social. It's not a bad thing, as long as you’re being sensible (not saying I was when I crashed the roof-top party but spontaneous is fun too la...) At least I have a good memory for myself to remember.

Singapore, see you next time!

Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

The world famous Bondi beach that everyone talks about was one of the places I wanted to visit during my time in Sydney. However, when I came there I got a massive flashback and I realised I'd been there before back in 2008. It was one of the pit stops for our family road trip. Been there, done that, I just forgot about it.

Despite no company, I decided to walk the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. It was stunning as expected and I had a nice time wandering by myself while the sun was setting. I love sunsets!!

I really think that travelling solo has helped me feel more confident in myself and embrace the person that I am. The more I travel, the more I realise what is important for me and what is not. And because I have met so many incredible people on my journey who never fails to believe in me, I just know that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. 

Sydney Harbour Sunrise

A video posted by Martha Huynh (@marthahuynh) on

If there’s a list of things I’ve been actively chasing on my travels, it would be tall buildings, temples, scenic spots, and the sun.

On my last day in Sydney I decided to wake up at 5:30AM to catch the sunrise by the harbour, because if not now, when? I didn't plan this initially, but when I went to one of the docks to go to Manly Beach the previous day, I was recommended to go in the early hours instead to catch a better view. Probably one of the best advices yet. I met a lovely British girl the day before who kept me company. So glad to meet new people on my travels!

Sunrises and sunsets waits for no one, so it was essential that we didn’t miss the ferry. Fortunately we made it just in time as it was about to depart and the guys there were so nice to let us on even though we didn’t have enough time to purchase the tickets. A free ride to Manly with the most stunning view. 

When we arrived In Manly we had a delicious pancake breakfast at The Pantry, which was situated just along the beach. 

A delicious breakfast with a view.

We took the fast ferry back after strolling around Manly for a bit, because I wanted to walk the Sydney Harbour Bridge in time before my flight departed to Melbourne. I’m so glad the timing worked out fine and that I can tick this off my bucket-list. The bonus is that it had ‘height’, ’scenery’ and ‘sun’ all in one day!

Postcards from Australia

I decided quite spontaneously that Australia would be my next destination after China. I love re-visiting places after a while, because my perspectives of a place changes each time as I grow older. But what hasn't changed is my love for taking photos and being creative with photography.

Inspired by "Dear, Photograph" I printed out this photo of me from 2008 before coming to Sydney, eight years later.

#postcardsRTW

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Norwegian Constitution Day

- Serendipity in Sydney -

Norwegian Constitution Day-celebration in Sydney 🇳🇴 @monamariee #serendipity #martharoundtheworld

A video posted by Martha Huynh (@marthahuynh) on

This year I thought that I wouldn’t be able to celebrate the Norwegian constitution day (the 17th of May) the traditional way. I really wanted to, but the cruise-event arranged by ANSA was fully booked, so I had planned my day to just sightsee around the city on my own. While checking into my accommodation, I randomly approached Mona who coincidentally was Norwegian too, and she was on her way to the public 17th of May celebration in St. James that I initially didn't know about at all. I thought, perfect why not?!

Eventually I found myself amongst a big group of friendly strangers, walking around the streets of Sydney with our waving flags, singing by the Opera house and genuinely being proud Norwegians in Australia. The day proceeded with champagne by the harbour, dinner at The Rocks and hanging out till late at night by the promenade gardens. 

I had such a great time and I’m very grateful for the people I met that day. I couldn't ask for a better first day back in Sydney after eight years.

Pit stop, Malaysia

- Maximising my extended layover in Kuala Lumpur -

Hello, Kuala Lumpur! 🇲🇾 Follow #martharoundtheworld on snapchat: marthah

A photo posted by Martha Huynh (@marthahuynh) on

I try to avoid budget airlines whenever I can, because my flight to Seoul in January traumatised me for life. But this time I took a chance and booked a budget flight from China to Australia, via Malaysia.

One of the reason it’s called ‘budget' is because the transit from destination A to B is ridiculously long and they don’t feed you (so I had to buy food at the airport and ended up getting food poisoned, but that’s another story.) My flight from Shanghai to Sydney had a 17 hours layover in Kuala Lumpur, which might sound dreadful but that was exactly what I wanted. Who said I was going to spend all those hours at the airport anyway. I landed in KL in the morning and departed again at night, enabling me to get a whole day of sightseeing.

I looked for the cheapest ticket to Sydney that I could find (about 1300RMB) with the most ‘convenient' layover - and voila, two countries for the price of one. 
Prior to my journey I would of course make sure if I needed a visa etc, find out how long it would take me to the airport into the city, pre-purchase the tickets online to avoid queuing at the airport and so on. Little things like planning a bit a head really helped me maximise my time to explore the city.

During my time in Kuala Lumpur I got to see the Patronas Twin Tower, the KL Tower, window shop at Central Market, sightsee around Chinatown and eat from local food stands (risking more food poison but yolo), visit one Hindu and one Buddhist temple and two different mosques, get familiar with the city’s metro, eat Malaysian cuisine, get attacked by monkeys at Batu Caves etc. Great times! Although half of my time was spent wandering around alone, I felt so happy and content. 

They say that travel broadens the mind, and opens a person up to different cultures and new experiences. This is certainly true, and if you are a woman traveling alone, even more so. It takes inner strength coupled with a sense of adventure to travel solo, yet it can be one of life’s most rewarding experiences
— Victoria Cox

Librairie Avant-Garde

- Turn something rotten into a miracle -

Librairie Avant-Garde is a vast underground parking lot that was once used as a bomb shelter, now turned into a church-looking bookstore.

I didn’t have many places on my itinerary for Nanjing since I wanted to keep it spontaneous. However, Librairie Avant-Garde was a must-go from the start. It took me nearly an hour of walking/ getting lost, and a few metro rides to get there, since it was a true hidden gem. But it was well worth it and I ended up spending almost an hour just roaming around, flipping pages. It was a happy moment in my favourite bookstore in the world. 

Although most of the books were in Chinese, I found and bought the ‘Little Prince’. It's written in English, Chinese and French all in one and I can’t wait to re-read it during my travels. Last time I read it was in middle school for an English class assignment, and I don't think I understood the true meaning of it back then. It's going to be interesting to see what impact it will make this time around.

So to anyone who will be travelling to Nanjing in the future, I highly recommend to check out Librairie Avant-Garde. It's different and I loved it.

A photo posted by Martha Huynh (@marthahuynh) on

Next stop, Nanjing!

- Say yes to new adventures -

A short hour has passed since I finished my first exam for this semester, and I’m currently on the train on my way to Nanjing. I’m not sure how smart of a decision this is considering my next and final exam is in two days. But at the same time I feel very relaxed and confident that I’ll be OK. Speaking of taking full advantage of this rare situation and the opportunity to explore a new city during my remaining four days in China. 

It’s a funny feeling of wanderlust and desperation, I think, mixed with a dash of “Yolo”-attitude as I try to squeeze in another travel at this period of time where everyone are stressing about exams. But I can’t help but ask if not now, when? Nanjing has always been on my bucket list and on top of that I’ve been craving a solo-experience outside of Ningbo as of late. This is the perfect mid-week get-away to destress and recharge the batteries if you ask me! We should all do this more often. I should’ve done this more often.

I got a few things on the agenda in Nanjing, other than that I'm just going to do spontaneous sightseeing. Regardless, I'm excited!

Chinese New Year in Beijing

- Peking City -

The last two days in Beijing I spent on my own, wandering among millions of people in a new, unfamiliar city. A déjà vu from my first time solo travelling in Shanghai, except this time it was in the midst of the biggest Chinese celebration of the year and everywhere was packed with people. I felt a bit nervous staying an extra couple of days after my travel partner left, and I considered to just book my flights straight back to campus and get comfortable there until uni started again. But I'm so glad I didn't, because I had an unforgettable Chinese New Year's Eve with the coolest people that I met during my stay. On the 7th we went for dumplings, which I learnt is a very common dish in North China during CNY. It is believed to bring prosperity to the new year. And because I was in a feast-mode as usual, I introduced them to my absolute favorite roasted peking duck the same evening, which is Beijing's signature dish. I'm shameless to say that that was my third duck in three days.

Sleepwalking in a food coma, we then went to Hou Hai Lake to watch the fireworks and ring in the New Year of the Monkey. We ended up on a rooftop bar where we got a great panorama view. Despite getting loads of fireworks ashes on our heads because we were a bit too high up, the night was such a bliss! Sharing moments like these with people who I've literally just got to know was such a memorable experience and it makes me feel proud of the receptive person that I've become since I moved away from home. I think growing up in Norway got me so used to being reserved and shy/ sceptical to 'the unknown' that now I'm just rebelling - and loving it. It's been great to meet and talk to people regardless of where they're from, what languages they speak or whether we've met before or not. For me, every person I've met on the travelling road has taught me something new about their culture, inspired me in one way or another and contributed to my increasingly open mindset. 

Here's a quick video I put together to show you some of the scenes from the night. I have so much footage from all my travels that I don't know what to do with them all. Hopefully you'll enjoy little clips like these, because I've got much more in store.

Cheers for a Happy New Year!

China: A New Chapter Begins

- I have arrived in Ningbo, China -

Exactly one month has past since I dragged my overweight luggage through High Street of the university campus drenched in sweat, mixed emotions and jet lag. I arrived one week before induction week, and campus was so empty I had to ask myself if this was China. I solo travelled around Shanghai for four days prior and I was beginning to get used to overcrowding. It was one of the most revitalising experiences of my life by the way, but I'll save that story for later. Anyway, it was an interesting phase I went through those first few days living alone in my new flat while waiting for my flatmates to arrive. I was excited and ready to start my new life in China, but at the same time I felt homesick, slightly lonely and more than anything - a thousand miles away from my comfort zone. Language barriers certainly wasn't making the situation any better.

It took me a couple of weeks to get used to the environment; to hear Chinese language everywhere I went; to learn how to say 'I don't eat pork' in Mandarin and then get it served anyway; or to simply realise that crossing the streets on green light is considered a safety risk. Culture shock is a matter of course, and eventually I'll be able to embrace it all. Embrace those squat toilets; embrace that people spits on the streets wherever I go (this is a hard one); embrace the smell of stinky tofu; embrace the air quality in China; embrace the fact that my grandma runs faster than the Internet.. The list is as long as the river I'll cry if I think about them all. But don't get me wrong. I believe that every little thing offers something unique and valuable, even if the signs are not so clear (or totally mis-translated like most English signs around here). Quoting a poster at the mall: "You are my love, my angel. Don't treat me like potato."

Every 'bad' experience is just a way for me to gain new perspectives and appreciate cultural differences even more. Since I don't always have VPN to access social media, I've become more social and outgoing in real life. When I'm forced to use antibac ten times a day, it makes me question basic hygiene. Here in China I have witnessed parents let their kids wee in the middle of the street; a chef spitting on the kitchen floor; a Golden Retriever running around the restaurant while I was having dinner.. Yesterday me and my friends even saw a women throwing up in the bus and then throw the bag of puke out of the window without even closing the bag!? As much as it was traumatising for all us other passengers, imagine the trauma of the person who had the bag landed on. Imagine casually riding your bicycle, life is beautiful - flowers & rainbows - and then out of nowhere, bam! a flying bag of puke in the face.

So how come some things so freakin' strange be considered a normality here? Or rather, why am I reacting to it while others are not? Isn't it just so interesting that we are all human beings only separated by geographical borders, yet it's like we come from two separate worlds. I'm getting too philosophical, but my point is... The contrast between Norway and China is enormous and so for me, the privileges of my life becomes so much more apparent. Edinburgh certainly was a life-changing experience, but I think that China will change me in a totally different way and I'm excited. 

I know a blog post can only give so much insight of what has actually been going on in my life this past month. My effort to stay active on social media lately hasn't been great either, so I might have a bit of catch-up to do. At the same time I really enjoy the time 'offline' with good friends, doing new things every day and truly live in the moment. I've been a shameless phone addict for way too long, so to no longer feel the need to constantly check my phone has been a great personal achievement. I hope to keep it up, but I'll make sure to take some good photos along the way to post on Instagram every now and then.

Meanwhile I'm just going to take each day as it comes. The most amazing places and people that I've met so far have all been serendipitous surprises and I've got a feeling that the best is yet to come. Stay tuned for another update after the Chinese national holiday! Tomorrow I'm off on a backpacking trip to Taizhou to explore more of Zhejiang province. This week is supposed to be the peak time for travel in China, so fingers crossed that everything goes well.

Welcome to China!

- My first days in 上海 Shanghai -

In September 2015 I spent four days alone in Shanghai before starting university. It was a revitalising experience and it took me a long time to gather all my thoughts and put them into words. I started this post in September, but I never finished and I've postponed it since so here we go.


After rather emotional farewelll with my parents at the airport in Oslo, a cancelled flight in London, a layover in Amsterdam, a 14-hours long flight journey and an acute feeling of homesickness, I finally touched ground in Shanghai. And what better way to be greeted at the airport in a far foreign country where no one spoke English, than by two Chinese taxi drivers literally fist-fighting each other over who could rip me off the most. Ironically, both were illegal black cabs that I had just read about before in an article "Top 5 Biggest Tourist Scams in China". So obviously I didn't go with neither of them, which saved me 500RMB and the potential scenario of ending up in someone's back truck.

Warm, exhausted and jet-lagged, I couldn't wait to arrive at Kingtown Riverside Hotel - my home for the next four days. It had merely gone ten hours since I landed but yet I'd been heavily struck by culture shock. I spent the first night in bed recovering from all of the new impressions and the water poison, while simultaneously crying out of loneliness in-between. With no functional sim-card, a lagging Wi-Fi and no VPN, I had discovered the recipe to complete isolation. But since I have an appetite that needs to be fed every second hour, I was eventually forced out of bed and into the wilderness: the street food markets. I'm not gonna lie, Shanghai was so far out of my comfort zone that I have ever been in my life. To the extent that buying my first meal out was so nerve-wracking in terms of communication that I just pointed at something randomly and hoped for the best. 

The next days got better though. I was slowly familiarising myself with the environment around me. The sound of shouting street vendors, the non-stop car honking, the spitting... Mmm, like music to my ears by now. Jokes. But I slowly learnt to enjoy the crazy new experiences, and being in my own company. I got confident enough to take the metro around the city and see different places. I even approached another solo-traveller from South Korea that was my age, and we spent a whole day together being tourists and eating good food. Thanks to her I went places I wouldn't have gone otherwise! 

My first time Shanghai was much more than just another travel. It was four days filled with new perspectives, new cultures and experiences, and the start of a new beginning. But it was also the moment I could finally say I had accomplished one of my biggest dreams that I've worked so hard for! And although leaving everyone and everything to move across the world by myself hasn't always been easy, I know it will be worth it. So let the adventures begin!