Monday, June 30, 2008

Who is Oslo?

When one think of a city, an image of a landmark (be it a building, a certain feel or evens its people) comes to mind. For example, Paris has the Eiffel Tower, London has Big Ben, Copenhagen has the Little Mermaid but is also known for being a bicycle friendly town. But for an old historical city, Oslo doesn't really have a strong identity compared to Bergen.

I don't dislike Oslo. It is a good city to visit for a day or two and not more. Being a cosmopolitan city, there a good and bad areas within the city and its difficult to give an opinion on this mainly because most tourist will only visit the better parts of this city and ignore the suburbs. I'm staying at a part of town further out of the city center and from what I can observe in a short amount of time, immigration is a big issue here in Norway, and most of the immigrants are concentrated within the Oslo area. I've talked to people who lives in Oslo on this matter and they don't believe in the country's immigration law and think the country is too naïve on this matter.

However, I feel that Oslo is going through a new change right now. The new Opera House is already Oslo's new city landmark and there is also a new mixed use development along the harbor, adding a new dynamic and demographics to the city.

Visit Oslo for its museums and cultural lessons but nothing more. However if Oslo is your first place to visit in Norway, don't be fooled by it. Norway itself have much more to offer than its capital.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Spain 1 - Germany 0

Watching the game in Oslo!

Oslo: I came, I saw, I'm satisfied

First impression when I got out of the train station, I wasn't very impressed with Oslo. I know it is a city and what to expect of it, but it does not have the Scandinavian charm like it neighbors or even her sister, Bergen.

However, there are certain parts of the city that are quite nice (mainly around the city's main shopping stretch and the waterfront).

But the thing I wanted to see was the new opera house. It is quite an impressive piece of architecture. Therefore, I am quite satisfied with the day so far.

I'll be sticking around for one more day. Further exploration needs to be done before I conclude my impression of Oslo. Till later, the next post will be a summary of Scandinavia before I head off to Berlin.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Whale anyone eat me?

So I had the pleasure to try some smoked whale meat here in Norway. The picture shows the species I had and I think the english name for it is Lesser Rorqual or commonly known as the Minke Whale. As for the meat, it is brown to almost black, very similar to the smoked reindeer meat available in this region and it had the texture and taste of ham with a hint of salmon. I have not seen fresh whale meat in the market and am not sure why. Maybe it is not the season to catch whale and I'm sure the smoked meat they are selling now were caught during the winter months and thus were smoked to preserve its longevity. Would I have it again? I'm not sure. It is legal in Norway to hunt whale commercially but there's always a guilty feeling of eating anything exotic or illegal in other countries.

Too small?

Found on the streets in Bergen. It's a tiny electric car! So cute!

Friday, June 27, 2008

March to the Top

Taking a hike up to the top of Mount Floyen (320m). Had to do it as it saves me from paying 20 dollars for a roundtrip ticket by taking the funicular up the mountain. It was a beautiful evening though.

Found: Gicci?

Found on the streets in Bergen, Norway.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Raining in Bergen

Second day in Bergen and it has been quite a pleasure, although a bit rainy but good company makes up for the grey and wet weather. But I do like Bergen despite its rainy days. It has its old town charm sitting next to big tall buildings, people trading out in the open markets, funny crooked historical buildings (like the one shown) and other bits that makes it interesting.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Empty Seats

So I'm on my way to Bergen by train, and there is a very big group (about 40 people) of elderly Japanese tourists. The train stopped at a small station on top of a mountain, and of course everyone of them who has a camera hopped off the train and took pictures. Not sure what attracted them with the view, maybe it is the snow, maybe it is the bicycles parked outside the station or perhaps it is the joy of being a tourist.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

On board to Bergen

I have left the Lofoten Island and will be travelling on the train to Bergen. It has been such great experience being up north past the Arctic Circle and I just may be glad that I can finally see the night skies again.

(Cod fish being dried)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Reine: The Lofoten Islands

Such an amazing place!

A Deeper Look: The Lofoten Islands

The Lofoten Islands surprises me. Sometime you feel like you're inland in the Swiss Alps, with rocky mountains, green pastures, flowers blooming and the next you're in a land far away like England or Ireland, with grey cloudy skies, green lands, and old ruins, or from a distance, you could feel like you're in a volcanic island like Hawaii, high steep mountains that grows up from the ocean. However, you never do feel like you're in an island with an active fishing industry. It has been a pleasant journey with new friends and new experiences of culture and life. I'm sad yet glad to leave this place (mainly because of the cold weather).

The pictures are from a small village called Eggum in the Lofoten Islands.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Big Relief: Stamsund

I've finally arrived at Stamsund, a small fishing village in one of the Lofoten Islands. After all that had happened earlier today, I'm glad I've ended up here.

As I've mentioned in the last post, I had to take a taxi from Leknes to Stamsund. Fortunately, there was a lady and a man who was going the same way, and at the end, the lady offered to pay for my fare. It was nice of her and I needed that extra boost of support after the day I had. (The fare was also quite expensive too) At the end of the day, things did turn out for the best as I saw a familiar face from my adventures from the north at the hostel.


Everything on my journey was going smoothly till I met this guy. First, he arrived at Tromso in the middle of the night the day before (I did not know this as I was already asleep), but the reception was closed for check in and the girl in my room suggested he stayed in our room as we had an extra bed. But all night long, he was snoring so loud and I could hear the girl above me tossing and turning, trying to get some sleep. I was also awaken by his loud snore and put on my earphones instead.

The next day, I was stuck with him in Tromso for half the day, tried to give hints and suggestions that I need to be alone, but still he decided to tagged along with me. I couldn't come up with an excuse as I didn't have anything planned myself, and it was his first day at Tromso. Fortunately, he found something else to do and I was happy that I finally get to roam around freely.

However, I found out that we were going to the same direction the next morning. I tried to sneak out earlier, but got caught at the end. Our bus ride together was fine as he was busy photographing the scenery while I tried to catch some sleep. It was 6.30 in the morning.

It wasn't till we parted way that things starts to fell apart. We stopped at a town to drop off passengers to the Lofoten. He suggested I take the same bus with him to the Lofoten (I was going there too but to a different town and I had obtained a different itinerary from the tourist info center) and should ask the bus driver if there's a connection to the town I was going. That wasn't a bad plan as I was doubting the journey made for me at the tourist center. There was only one minute to spare between connections and he was ahead of me trying to pay for his ride, and it took him forever to get out off the way. I started to panicked as my bag was in the other bus, and he was about to leave and yet I didn't get a chance to ask the other driver if he was going to my destination as well. Finally I decided to stick to my original route to Narvik.

Now I'm stuck at Narvik, waiting in a mall till my next bus arrives as the bus driver suggested I take the express bus at a later hour, and it's cheaper. Now I won't get to the Lofoten till late night. And buses stops running within the island after 7.00. I'll have to take a taxi to my final destination.

You can call it bad luck, bad karma or just plain unlucky that we were going to the same direction, I still blame him for everything and for doubting myself.

Tromso: Paris of the North?

That's the nickname for this city in the north. However, that may be true for a century ago, but things have change and time have passed. Our world have become smaller through global commerce and networking and things are more easily accessible nowadays. But Tromso is still a city that is worth making a pit stop for travelers heading North as it is possibly the last piece of civilization with decent entertainment and quality of lifestyle one will see up in the Arctic North. It is possibly because of this that Tromso has also been referred to as the 'Gateway to the Arctic'.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Journey to Tromso

I have left the Finnmark area of Norway and am on the way to Tromso. Total hours of my journey (bus+ferry): 11 hours.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Today is my last day at Honningsvag. It is a very small town, and the tourist mostly stopover for the night to visit the North Cape but don't usually linger for more than two days. There's also not much to see in the town, just a few tourist shop, an icebar, a museum and a gallery.

However, it has been an interesting three days for me in this little village. I've hiked to the Nordkapp (Europe Northernmost point), challenged myself on a 30km hike, experienced 24 hours daylight, but most importantly I've met some wonderful people.

To each of them Julia, Henri, and Ariane who I met at the North Cape guesthouse, I wish them all the best of luck in whatever path they choose that lies ahead for them.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

71 degrees North!!

Aaah! I'm finally at the northernmost point of Europe. This almost 8 hour long journey is not easy. I'm not even sure why I did it at the beginning, but I must say that there were some amazing views along the way, and the end fulfillment of reaching the top is also one that is highly appreciated.

30km Journey to 71 degrees North

Making my way up north from Honningsvag. The distance between Honningsvag and Nordkapp is 30 kilometres. The hike is long, and the elevation changes, unpredictable weather and strong winds does not make it any easier. It is one if the toughest thing that I've ever done so far. 5 more kilometres to go!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

70 Degrees North

It is almost 1:00am here in Honningsvag and the sun is still visible beyond the cloudy sky. Honningsvag is the closest town to Nordkapp (labeled as Europe's northern most point. Tomorrow I'll make my way up to Nordkapp as well as Knivskjelodden, which is the continent's real northern most point.

Past the Arctic Circle

Off to the Arctic North

On my 10 hour bus journey to the North! (Nordkapp)

Friday, June 13, 2008

A few more degrees North

I've arrived at Rovaniemi after a long train ride from Helsinki. But what's there to see here?

Well, except for the Santa Claus village, 8km from the town center, and the fact that it is just a few degrees below the Arctic Circle, it has the world's northern-most McDonalds!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

2:38 AM

Off to the Arctic Circle

Where to meet sketchy people?

Just hang around at a train station, and you'll soon be greeted by people of all sorts of personality.

From the picture, those two drunk guys (green shirt and blue/white stripe shirt) were trying to hit on two girls who were sitting next two me earlier. The whole scene was rather funny, as I could see that one of them wasn't really interested and was trying to find her way out of the situation. Whereas the other friend was and maybe I guess thought the situation was rather funny and decided to entertain the guy. The picture is when they were both trying to play with this thing they were kicking around and was disturbing some of the people around. The security asked them to keep it down low. From what I heard, they are from Estonia. I also heard his whole life story when the guy in stripe was talking to those two girls, which some content are not safe to mention in this blog.

Ah, the drama and entertainment you get from waiting at a train terminal.

Helsinki: A Second Take

Today is my second day in Helsinki and I have started to like the city better. Maybe it is the weather, or the fact that I've gotten to know my way around the city, or could it be that I've found the heart and soul of Helsinki from its citizens that have changed my mind on what Helsinki has to offer.

Helsinki made me realized that the utopia ideal of a city does not arrive from great planning alone, it needs its people and the role of an individual to inspire from.

1 Euro

What can 1 Euro buy you up here in the north?
1. One postcard.
2. A candy bar (with change back)
3. One cup of coffee or tea (Only in a kiosk in Helsinki).
4. Half hour of internet time in one of those sidewalk express station. (Found mostly in train station - its actually 2€ for 60 minutes)
5. One bathroom ticket! (Hold till you're back at your hotel or hostel, or buy something at a cafe to use its restroom, or you can go to Stockmann in Helsinki to use their restroom for free!)


After many days of eating the same tasteless Nordic cuisine, I decided to give in and went for some good old South East Asian food at a food court in the basement floor of Kamppi Center. The menu they had at Singapore Hot Wok was rather ambitious. There were Mamak Mee Goreng, Beef Kway Teoy, Char Kway Teoy, Nasi Goreng and some other small items. I decided to go for the Char Kway Teoy instead, as that's one of the most difficult dish to achieve outside of SEA, in my opinion.

Surprisingly, the result was really good! And no, it is not a decision based on hunger or that my taste bud have taken the like of bland, salty food, but it was purely because the ingredient was right and the spices added was the perfect touch. They even make their own sambal belacan! Syok!

(I was even sweating at the end)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Not Just An Old Town

For those of you who are just as ignorant as me, there's more to Tallinn than its old medieval town center, in fact it is quite a modern city. There are a lot of construction going at the moment, but in a year or two, I think Tallinn will be another city to watch out for.

Of course if the opportunity arise, you should go now before it gets too expensive.

The Old City of Tallinn