You might be wondering what I do for a living. Well, let's just say I'm responsible to manage and to look for projects at a consulting company that deals with everything from socio-economic issues to unicorn grooming. My days are spent scouring for unique projects to win over, but sometimes I even get to go on adventures in the field (think Indiana Jones, but with more spreadsheets). That makes me a corporate nomad, constantly being whisked away for various projects biztrips around the world. I have been working in this industry for almost a decade, and it has taken me to destinations I never could have imagined visiting before.
So why did I choose to document my biztrip now? Probably because right now I am literally in the middle of one, and I actually have some data collection to do but this seems like a more interesting use of my time with my last functioning brain cell that has been fried by the heat of Africa.
Being on a biztrip is like juggling two full-time jobs. My goal is to wrap up everything before sunset so that I can actually have some time for myself. It's a genius plan, but when I finally collapse into my business suite with a drink in hand and a whole new selection of Netflix options, suddenly the motivation to work on that important report just vanishes. How does that even happen?
While some may see biztrips as glamorous jet-setting adventures, biztrip is actually exhausting. I often end up 10-hour days of back-to-back meetings and conducting researches while fighting jet lag and a lack of sleep. It's a constant game of trying to look presentable while secretly dreaming of my comfy bed back home. Biztrip is intense, stressfull, and exciting at the same time, a rollercoaster ride - or at least it is to me. And just like a rollercoaster, I always end up feeling a little bit exhilarated and a little bit queasy at the same time. It's funny how when you're in the thick of it, all you want is to be back home. Yet, when you are finally back home, all you can think about is your next adventure on the road.
I guess that's just the life of a corporate nomad - always yearning for something different and new.
But as much as I enjoy traveling and experiencing different cultures, there's no denying that being away from home for extended periods of time can take its toll. Being constantly on the go can be physically and mentally draining, and it's not always easy to maintain relationships with loved ones back home. Yet somehow, despite all these challenges, biztrips have become a part of who I am. It has shaped me into a more adaptable and resilient person. And let's be real, it doesn't hurt that it looks pretty impressive on my resume too. The truth is, not everyone is cut out for this lifestyle. It takes a certain type of person to thrive in this fast-paced environment where every day brings new challenges and adventures. But for those who do choose this path, they know that it's not just about fancy hotels and exotic destinations. It's about hard work, dedication, and passion for what we do.
So as I land at my destination and step off the plane with my trusty carry-on in tow once again, I am reminded that this is where my heart truly lies - constantly chasing after opportunities and experiences that expand my horizons and push me out of my comfort zone. One country that has become a familiar destination for me is Guinea Conakry - who would have thought? My first business trip there was in 2017 when I got pulled into a project with the UNDP and African Development Bank that had me jetting back and forth to this country multiple times. The pandemic put a halt on my travels in general, but now I'm back on the road again.
And Guinea Conakry, here I come (again)
And Guinea Conakry, here I come (again)
Things have changed in Guinea Conakry since my last trip in November 2019. The military regime that took over the country in 2021 did bring some major changes to the country, in a good way and the bad way. After a long flight, I finally landed at Sekou Touré airport at 9PM on a Saturday. But little did I know, my journey was far from over. A seemingly short 7km ride to the hotel turned into a three-hour adventure filled with unexpected detours, chaotic traffic and unsolicited spot checks. The recent escape of political prisoners had created a tense atmosphere in Conakry, causing the military to set up barricade gates on major roads in a chaotic attempt to monitor passing vehicles. The once smooth and busy roads are now dotted with military checkpoints, manned by stern-looking soldiers with guns at the ready. The smell of exhaust fumes and burning rubber fills the air as cars and motorcycles idle in long lines at the chaotic scene - military soldiers armed with guns, barricade gates blocking the road, and a sea of angry drivers honking their horns in frustration. Welcome to Guinea Conakry!
When I finally arrived at the Noom hotel, my eyelids drooping with exhaustion. The receptionist must have taken pity on me because I was upgraded to a room on the 5th floor - fancy, right? After a much-needed shower, I belly-flopped onto the plush bed and passed out until morning. Didn't even bother unpacking or letting Nico know I made it in one piece. Priorities, you know?
I slept like a baby and woke up to this ridiculously gorgeous view from my window.
I was the first one to arrive because I have to set up logistic for my expert team is part of my job too. My team finally arrived the next day and the field mission began. Endless meetings and bureaucratic nonsense ensued, but that's not what you're here for, dear reader. No, no, I'm here to spill all the juicy details and behind-the-scenes shenanigans, because let's be real - that's the good stuff. LOL.. Okay, I'm sorry if I mislead you, I write as if anything that sort of interesting happened. If you're looking for a story about trysts, wild after work parties, embezzlement, and all that jazz, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but my life isn't a Hollywood blockbuster movie. It's more like a low-budget indie flick, to be honest.
So, instead of giving you a thrilling, action-packed story with CGI special effects, I'm going to whine and rant about my bittersweet love-hate relationship with this crazy country with some mediocre pics I managed to take with my phone. So grab some popcorn and get ready for the drama!
I previously mentioned that I got upgraded to ocean-view, business suite on the 5th floor, right? At this overpriced with subpar quality, you had to pay more to get an ocean view. So I was pretty stoked about it. Little did I know, my room had a faulty window seal that decided to leak during a random rainstorm in December
I woke up in the morning not knowing that half of the room was flooded. As I stepped onto the tile flooring, slick with water, I lost my footing and fell face-first onto the mattress. Luckily, my head hit the soft surface of the bed instead of hitting the corner of a table or slamming into hard tile flooring. If I hadn't been so lucky, this trip could've ended in disaster with me getting knocked unconscious or worse. But as it was, I was lying there in a daze with no pants on (because who sleeps in pyjamas with bottoms in a hot country?) and wondering how on earth this happened. I haven't had my coffee so my deduction skill was off. At first I couldn't understand where the hell all this water came from, it's on the opposite of the bathroom so it can't be the plumbing. Then it dawned on me when I look at the writhing wall paint, the water actually came from the poorly sealed window.
The walls, once as pristine as a freshly polished mirror, now resembled the aftermath of a wild party - disheveled, distorted and thoroughly drenched. Looks like these walls couldn't handle their liquor... or rather, their water. It was so obvious that this wasn't the first incident with water.
I let out a sigh of frustration and went directly to the reception for help after putting on a more proper clothes than wet pyjamas. Their solution was less than satisfactory - they simply promised me to switch me to another room without giving any concern for the damage or inconvenience caused.
I went on about my day because I had a full schedule that day. I was expecting to get a new room when I got back, but you know what, they didn't even find a room for me as they promised. Talking about client service and the lack of it! Jesus! I think I deserve an upgrade or discount for the inconvenience at this point, and they promised that. I had a long day and I was just too tired to argue so I accepted to sleep in the same room for another night. That night rained again, but it wasn't as violent as the one before so my room wasn't flooded. The next morning, before I left for my meeting, I reminded the front desk to find me a new room. They asked about how my night was and was it flooded again this morning. I said luckily it did not, and they had the audacity to comment "so you still want to change your room just because you don't like it, is that so?"
WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK???!!!
My blood was boiled, seriously, but I held my composure because it's clearly it was a waste of time talking to these people with zero client service, they wouldn't even let me talk to their manager. I did not turn into a Karen although when I think about it, I should have. Arrrghhh.. just by typing this paragraphs made me mad. I booked for more than two weeks at the hotel, paid full price, and they gave me a defective room??!! Fucking hell. They told me they are fully booked so they couldn't get me a new room ASAP, YET, they are still selling rooms on booking.com and through their own website. I confronted them with this fact and they just ignore it. No words of apologize, nothing.
They got me a new room on the 2nd floor the next day and I decided to stay in the same hotel because I didn't want to go through the hassle of finding a new one and potentially causing inconvenience for my team. However, I made it clear to the front desk that I was not happy with their service. Once again, they showed no remorse or care for their guests' experience.
Well, that was a wild experience! I'll definitely be crossing this hotel off my list and sharing the cautionary tale with all my friends. It's a shame when a supposedly high-class establishment can't even get basic hospitality right. Talk about dropping the ball (or in this case, an entire stack of them).
Out of all the hotels I've had the joy (or rather, torture) of staying at during my frequent trips to Guinea for work so far, Riviera Hotel stands out as my favorite. Sure, it doesn't have a view of the ocean, but what it lacks in scenery it makes up for with top-notch service and a management team that actually knows what they're doing (a rarity in this industry in this country, let me tell you). And let's not forget the amenities - a night club, casino, gym, and not one, but two restaurants (one of them being an Asian fusion spot!). As an Asian, having easy access to food I'm familiar with (aka Asian cuisine) is a major plus. Sure, their prices might make your bank account cry, but at least you'll be crying in a luxurious and sparkling clean environment. Plus, the standard rooms are like little bungalows for added privacy while the suites are located in the main building. Talk about fancy shmancy!
The last time I was here, my room had some slight plumbing issues. You know, like a faint aroma of sewage wafting through the air from time to time. But after a quick call to reception, they upgraded me to a Junior Suite, which was basically the size of a small apartment with no extra cost, and they apologized for the inconvenience as if the smell was as bad as a gas chamber.
The weekend getaway at Iles des Los
Îles de Los - Conakry Island Chain
Anyhoo, despite the disaster of a hotel and the packed schedule, I still managed to have some fun and explore the city. Normally I prefer to spend off time alone during biztrip, but this weekend a colleague and I decided to go to an island nearby together and share the cost. We went on a daytrip to Kassa Island, 30 minutes away by motorized pirogue from Conakry. The bustling Conakry port was our destination, where we would board a pirogue for our journey.
The military presence at the port was heavy, and we were warned not to take any photos of the area. It was clear that the new military regime was eager to control the image of poverty associated with Guinea. Despite the strict atmosphere, the port itself was a lively and vibrant place (though it stink to high heaven).
Fish auctions were in full swing, as fishermen worked tirelessly to unload their fresh catch of the day, and the locals get on and off the pirogues that gathered by the doc. It was a flurry of sights, sounds, and smells that overwhelmed the senses. I was grateful that we rented a private pirogue. The pirogue ride over was like something out of a dream - not that I've ever dreamed about pirogues before.
In 2019, I went on a similar adventure by myself. That time I went to Room Island. It was a hidden gem, a slice of paradise nestled away from the chaos of Conakry. It was like finding a rare treasure in a sea of chaos - crystal clear waters, palm trees swaying seductively, and the sun's warm embrace. #blessed
I adore both islands experience, but Room Island definitely has my heart.
As you might have noticed, I am a connoisseur of all things local - from the fancy fusion dishes to the questionable street food. I've devoured every item on the hotel's restaurant menu, much to the dismay of my wallet and waistline. But hey, when in Rome (or any other city), right?
During my stay in Guinea Conakry, I have never met a dish I didn't like, from poulet Yassa to Tchep, from Sauce Konkoé to Sauce Manioc, You get the idea. And don't even get me started on the endless side dishes of fonio, fufu, alloco, placali, atieke... , you name it, I tasted it and loved it!
I must admit tho, as much as I love local specialities, I kinda miss my simple Asian food after a while. I did attempt a few Asian menu at some big restaurants that happen to serve Pad Thai or Tom Yum among their menu, but let's just say it didn't go as planned. My taste buds were in for a wild ride...of disappointment!
However, it didn't make me lose hope of finding a decent Asian restaurant in Guinea Conakry. As they say, we Asians are like glitter - we can shine anywhere. So when I saw a Vietnamese restaurant called Hanoi just a few kilometers from the hotel on Google, I took my chance! I hopped into a cab and made a beeline for the restaurant. And holy guacamole, what a hidden gem! It's so discreet on the outside, you'd think it was just another someone's house (??). It's one of the place that only people who knows, knows, you know. The food was seriously good, I mean, we don't even have any Vietnamese restaurant in Quebec close as good as this one. So that's it, now that I found where I can get good Asian food, I am ready to pitch a tent and stay in Conakry forever, my love for pho knows no bounds!