Showing posts with label Europe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Europe. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Norway: Svalbard Part 1


Honestly, I really miss those days when Malaysian travelers used to blog about their traveling experience. There are still some around but not as much as in the past. Since traveling have become something trendy and affordable for Malaysians for the past few years, people tend to love sharing itineraries, pictures and budget rather than stories. But.. Yeah.. We travel for different reasons and mine is always to satiate my curiosity. If the place is common for others and I haven't been there, it's not because it's cliche, but because there is nothing I'm looking for there.

So I was in Norway for the polar bear because I still can't afford to join the 2 weeks Arctic Expedition. I really really want to experience the roof of the world so I searched from where does the north pole expedition usually starts because I thought that must be among the northernmost point that I can go to other than the actual north pole. There are 2 starting points; one is Svalbard, Norway and the other is Murmansk in Russia. I decided on Svalbard for the ease of travel since no visa is needed.

I tried making our route for this trip with the lowest cost possible and all of us were monitoring for ticket prices for many months. So it was,

Oslo - Tromso - Svalbard - Tromso - Bodo - Oslo

Tromso to Bodo was by bus while the others were by air with SAS and Norwegian air. I missed the cheap ticket for Oslo to Svalbard so my ticket was somewhere near 200 euros while MR's was about 100 Euros. The ticket never dropped to lesser than 100 Euros to Longyearbyen.

While on transit in tromso

For SAS flight, it stopped for about an hour in Tromso. We got off the plane and there was security and immigration check before we board the flight again. We were greeted by a tremendous view when we arrived because the weather was very good that day that there was not a single cloud in the sky.

Everything is so organized in Norway, as expected of Scandinavia. When we arrived at the airport, we don't have to worry about the transport to our guesthouse. There were three tourist buses waiting outside with each of them had their bag compartments opened and there were papers with the names of the guesthouses that they are stopping at hanging at the door of the compartments. So we just placed our luggage in the compartment with our guesthouse name and board the bus. You can either pay by cash or debit card and you will get discount if you buy the return ticket.

The view from inside our bus

The view on the way to town was splendid that I didn't regret spending so much money flying to that part of the world. Our guesthouse is located at the end of town since it is one of the very few cheap options (which is not cheap at all). It cost us  ~ RM 400+ per night for a small room but it was very comfortable and I don't have anything to complain about for as long as the heater is working well. What I like about our rooms in Norway, even though most of them were with shared bathroom but all of them have a sink and a mirror inside so it was really convenient for ablution and the water is drinkable so we don't have to go to the kitchen to get water.

On the day of our arrival we were supposed to do ice caving but there was a miscommunication between the receptionist and our guide, so our guide went off without us because he thought we were not there (^^") So we took the opportunity to walk around town that evening.

It took us more than 30 minutes walking to the center although we were told it should be around 20 minutes walk. I think it was because we were not used to walking on icy roads and we just walked slowly to avoid from falling. I did fell on my butt once because it was so slippery. We took pictures around town but sadly, besides our GoPro, all of our devices shut down because the battery can't withstand the low temperature.

I told MR, I think they are no Muslims in Svalbard. But then, as we were walking towards a convenient store, two teenagers greeted us with Salam. They were smiling broadly at us. I think it must be quite rare to see people with hijab in Svalbard or they are just happy to see another Muslim.

We went to search for some souvenirs at the store and I got myself a puzzle because I already have too many fridge magnets and mugs and I don't want to have anything that will collect dust. Surprisingly, things are cheaper on that island due to the tax free status. I was surprised to see the Coke was 3x cheaper than in Oslo. I refrained myself  from drinking Coke in Oslo because it was 25 kr (~RM 12 ++) per can there! It was 7 kr (~RM 3.60) in Svalbard. When I first saw that I literally said to MR,

"Dorang pakai currency lain ke kat sini???" And leaned closer to the price tag to look at the currency

As we walk back to our guesthouse that evening, MR and I saw 3 huge animals with white fur from afar walking towards our direction. We can't really tell what they were at first and thought they were some wandering wild huskies but then we thought, "Ade ke wild huskies? Takkan lah tuan die lepaskan macam ni?" But then as the three got closer and closer (because MR and I stopped walking because we were afraid if they are some dangerous creature), they were actually 3 reindeer! And.. both of us got excited.

I have problem transferring the pics from my GoPro so it's going to be a while for the next post, I guess...

To be continued...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

From Amsterdam to Brussels


So after Iceland we flew back to London and then went to Amsterdam. We arrived rather late at night and we found it hard to find our hostel. And, unfortunately,  I had mistakenly made two bookings at the same hostel for the same dates. The hostel actually emailed me for confirmation when we were still on the way to Amsterdam but I couldn't access my email while we were in Luton so I have to pay anyway huhuhu

The streets on which we lived was rather scary however there were quite a number of halal food options in the area. And I wouldn't recommend this hostel anyway because I think they lack security. The girls who shared room with us just came back from the police station when we checked in. One of their room mate the night before had stolen their stuffs which include their credit cards.

So, first thing the next morning was getting ourselves the public transport tickets. We went to the train station at first but then was directed to another building which was about 5 minutes walk from the station. We went to the counter and asked how to go to Zaanse Schans. I remember the two guys at the counter were very funny and helpful at the same time.

So there are two options; one is to buy a ticket like the one above and another one is to purchase the IAmsterdam card which entitles you to free entrance in selected museums and attractions, free GVB public transport and discounts on items in selected outlets. Which is better? It really depends on your itinerary. We took the 48 hours IAmsterdam card and then bought another 24 hours public transport ticket. They are activated upon the first use and this is by element. Lets say you use tram at 8 am and enter a museum at 10 am, so the transport element is activated at 8am and ends at 8 am 2 days later while your  museum  element will end at 10 am 2 days later. Faham ka? hahaha

We took a bus to Zaanse Schans. I remember it took us around 40 minutes to get there. I'd thought that Amsterdam was a rather well-preserved old city since the buildings were mostly dated back in the 19th century. How do we know? Most of the buildings have the year of construction imprinted on the building. But when we arrived in Zaanse Schans, it felt like as if we just got off from a time machine. Everything look so.. antique; the houses, the boats and of course the windmills. 

This man was singing some dutch songs when we arrived. When we got to the platform to watch the sails of the windmill, he continued singing from below. 

So sweeeeetttt~

There used to be thousands of windmills here in the olden days and this village used to be one of the most important industrial center for the Dutch . Many of them were destroyed. Today, there are only a few which are restored and some are newly built windmills. We were very fascinated actually because these are real working windmills in which they solely depend on the wind energy to get things done!

On top is the oil mill in which they produce oil from grinding peanuts! 

This is the saw mill which is one of the new windmill. We were shown the video of how it was constructed  before we enter the windmill itself. Bukan sanang ok! They tried to mimic exactly how the ancient windmill was built so it requires very high precision and accuracy. 

Aku selalu fikir, sebab dulu2 teda sangat benda yang melalaikan, sebab tu dorang punya inventions mengagumkan hahaha

Believe me, we spent more than an hour in this windmill and I think we were the most interested visitor of the day. The manager just stood there with us the whole time answering our endless questions.This place really incite our curiosity. We watched the whole process; from moving the log from the canal into the windmill then removing the bark and to the cutting process. Some people do find this place boring. But we really appreciate the hard work, the complex and immaculate design and engineering of the windmill and all the machinery, and of course the end product. 

Later that evening, we decided to do the canal cruise since it's free with our IAmsterdam card. We met some Indonesians who were there for some conference in one of the University.

I was very impressed with the captain's maneuver. The canal is very narrow and at one time we even did a u turn. I predicted the captain would need to adjust the position several times before we could complete the u turn. But No! He just did a single spin on the steering wheel and succeeded!
I think the cruise is very interesting and everybody should try at least once if you happen to be in Amsterdam. It gives you the opportunity to view the boat houses up-close and you can even peek into some of them to see what it's like inside. I saw a couple having early dinner in one of the boat house.

Since Brussels is just a few hours away so why not hop in a train and head there. 

We stayed in Meininger Hotel and booked a six bed dorm. I say we made the best choice! The hotel is about 2-3 minutes from the subway and there were many halal food around. We didn't know there were many Muslims in the area.

When we arrived there we were confused about the location of the hotel and I guess it was clear inour face that it prods this lady to approach us. She can't speak a word of English so I initially didn't know what she wants from us. Then she just took the booking voucher from me, look at the address and instructed us to go straight in French.

"Ooooo nak tolong rupenye. Ingatkan nak ape tadi.. Merci beaucoup!"

If you ask me, Brussels is my second favourite European city after Prague. It's extremely beautiful and the crowd and the pace is hurm tolerable hahaha eyh ka aku pernah cakap Lucerne 2nd after Prague?
But really, I love it there!

The waffles are very popular but we didn't try it because we were not confident with the ingredients. But we went to this chocolate shop and shopped like crazy. At first the lady was hesitant and was rather harsh when I asked "Do you have those that don't have alcohol in it?"
"Of course we have.." I sensed annoyance in her tone..
I think, I should have asked "which one of your chocolate that has no alcohol in it?"

Ha! Ada drama tahu masa dalam kedai chocolate itu!
It's not about the lady because she transformed into a very sweet chocolatier when she saw each of our basket were filled to the brim

A few minutes after we entered the shop, suddenly a swarm of Chinese tourists came in to shop as well. And then came this blonde lady who always held her handbag in front of her. I actually noticed her because I think her behaviour was rather odd, you know. The way she was looking around was weird.. And the way she held her bag was weird... Yang sangkut beg d tangan macam pegang bakul d pasar tu bha..

And I found it strange that she was the only one who was just looking around and didn't pick up any product to look at the flavour, ingredients or what ever. Okay, I was not staring. Aku memang jenis kalo ko lalu depan aku, I can notice 90% of what you're wearing, how you behave... I don't know why.. Super power kali...

So... Mo d jadikan cerita.. This woman stood next to me at one point... I just ignore her because I was busy choosing chocolates.. The area has free wifi and suddenly I felt my phone vibrate and when I slip my hand into my bag to grab my phone, guess what! There was another hand inside!!!!!!!!!!!!

She was going to steal my purse!!!!! Luckily I had too many stuffs inside my sling bag that she might have found it hard to find which one is my purse \(^^")/
i was stupefied! I went to the back of the shop and start rummaging my bag and fuh~ my purse was still in there...

MR was the first to notice my panic reaction.
 "GG kenape?"
"Perasan tak pompuan yang blonde ade beg kat depan tu. OMG! Die seluk beg GG!"
"Huh? Alamak tadi die berdiri sebelah kite jugak!"
And MR start to rummage her bag as well and Alhamdulillah nothing was stolen too~ 

RA and me had an extra day in Amsterdam so we spent an entire day sight seeing. Surprisingly, we found it was very different during the weekends compared to the weekdays. There were so many things going on on the streets and we even saw a man in a penis suit walking around and it looked like someone dared him to do that, you know. It was really funny, though.

We took a tram just to get this cliche picture.. I think almost everybody who went to Amsterdam must get this one, right?

We went to Madame Tussaud, went to find some souvenirs and then went back early to pack our stuffs...

So that's the end of our Eurotrip.. Actually, there are a lot more things that happened and I didn't get to write everything.. InshaAllah, we'll be back to Europe again in 2015.. Oleh itu, aku harus berjimat cermat tahap dewa mulai saat dan ketika ini.. Oh tidak! Tiba2 lapar...

Monday, September 22, 2014

Iceland: Part 4


So now where were we...? Oooo.... Okay, right after Skeftafell we chose to spend a night in Hofn since the next destination was still hours away from us. Surprisingly, the room that we booked in Hofn was actually a small cabin with two cozy bunk beds, a kitchen, equipped with a heater and an ensuite bathroom and toilet for a price of €70 per night so it cost us around RM 70. The reception counter was inside a restaurant and I remember the waiters and waitresses were very friendly and cheerful and each of them greeted us with a broad grin.

The next morning we head to The Golden Circle route and started with Gullfoss. The scenery on the way there was utterly stunning. Similar to our journey in the southeast,  the landscape keeps on changing over this side of the country too. The difference is just that there are more greenery, and we crossed some gorge and at times the land become so barren with only black rocks and sand surrounding us.

When we reached the parking lot, it was full with tourist buses but still the area is huge enough that it didn't look crowded at all. It was so windy and we fought our way towards the lookout for a better view of the mighty waterfall. The force is so incredible that you can feel water spray from all directions. Gullfoss is the largest waterfall that I've ever seen so far.

In the past, it was once threatened when some party wanted to turn it into a power plant to generate hydro electrical power. But then it was saved by a woman who had fought against it. So thanks to this woman that we are still able to witness this nature wonder to this day :)

I still remember the very friendly boy who worked at the cashier that afternoon at the gift shop. He must be around 14 or 15 and worked there for the summer. He thought I was chinese because the shop was actually crammed with tourists from China at that time and they didn't speak a word of English. So when it was my turn to pay and he heard me speak English he said,

"Phew! Finally a Chinese who speaks English.."
"But I'm not a Chinese... I'm a Malaysian..."
And we had a short conversation at the counter. He said he never met a Malaysian before and have mistaken me for a Chinese..

After Gullfoss, we drove towards Geysir to see the famous geysers. Unfortunately, the great Geysir has been inactive and have not sprayed water for quite some time.. So we waited for Strokkur to be in action. The area was actually chained to a few metres from the spring to ensure that visitors are at safe distance when the water shoot into the air because the temperature could be markedly high.

Strokkur from the parking lot when we arrive

Geyser is considered a rare phenomenon and can only be found in certain areas with volcanic activity. The spring actually extend to a few hundred or thousand metres below the ground where the water become in contact with hot rocks. And when the highly pressurized water reaches the boiling point, it causes the geyser effect and the water and steam shoots into the air

What I called 'Short Swell'

According to the signage there, Strokkur is supposed to produce a spray every 8-10 minutes but sometimes the eruption could be small and unsatisfactory hahaha when we arrived at the parking lot, Strokkur was producing a very high spray but we were too far to record it. And 10 minutes after that Strokkur only produce a short swell and and didn't produce a spray (^^") So I continue to hold my camera faithfully so that I could capture the best of this rare phenomenon. And when the water start to swell and rise I heard whispers saying "Cmon... Cmon.." and when the water spouts upward, everybody cheered and that includes us! \(^^)/ like some football team just scored a winning gooooaaaalll!!!!! We waited some more until Strokkur produce two more sprays before leaving to Thingvellir.

We were in a hurry because we need to return the rental car by 5 pm and we are still far from Reykjavik. If I ever have the chance to go to Iceland again, I most likely go to Thingvellir first because it is such a beautiful place and we only spend so little time there. It is another place in Iceland with a magical vibe where the surrounding look so.. hurm.. nothing on earth... I was driving so I didn't took pictures of the surrounding.. But really it was so different..

We stopped to walk on the trail up to one of the waterfall. The path was built in between huge boulders so I felt as if I was walking in some enchanted kingdom belonging to the.. hurm trolls perhaps hahaha

Anyway, we didn't spend much time at all.. Macam touch and go.. And to think of it, I really really going to go there first if I ever go to Iceland again. Actually, that evening, we ran out of gas and was slightly bewildered when the GPS showed that the next gas station was quite far from the park. We rolled down the windows and drove slowly towards the gas station.. Syukor lah cukop minyak itu \\(",)

We returned the car that evening and walked to a seafood restaurant whose owner is married to a Philipino. We enjoyed our time at the restaurant because the owner is so bubbly and he even explained to us how to eat each of the dishes on the buffet; like in which sauce to dip them in etc.

We spent the rest of the evening walking around Reykjavik before leaving the next morning.

Our visit to Iceland is so memorable because there are just too many things that we saw there and have not yet seen in any other places that we went to. We learned a lot about geology for sure hahaha

So for the coming post, I might just combine Netherlands and Brussels in one post because it was really a short visit..

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Iceland: Part 3


To be honest it is really hard to precisely recollect everything that occured during our trip which is now dated more than a year ago.... But I will try my best to write everything during my break from travelling... Pastilah annual leave aku suda habis kan..

Anyway this time I'll try to finish about Iceland... So on our first day we stopped at Jokulsarlon. We didn't do much since the cruise have ended for the day and decided to come again in the morning. We met a father and son of Indian descendent who flew all the way from America just to see the icebergs. That evening we drove further east to the only youth hostel in that area.

In this leg of our journey, there was only one gas station where you can refill your tank so make sure to check that the tank has enough fuel until the next stop. We stopped to have fish and chips at the gas station restaurant and was surprised by the fact that the guy at the counter knew some Malay words. He later told us he's been to Malaysia and traveled for a couple of months there in 2011 and still remember a few words.

As for the youth hostel, it was very basic however with excellent internet connection! The kitchen was neat and clean and the room was spacious enough that we had a comfortable space for prayer.

The funny thing was we had to share bathroom with the other guests and unfortunately one of us witnessed a sore sight of an unclothed old man. And we talked about it during dinner while this particular man was sitting next to me! And my friend was like,

"Gg, tadi mase aku kuar dari bilik mandi... Pakcik sebelah ko ni lap badan kat luar... tak pakai baju..."

He has no idea that we were talking about him heeeeee

So we head off to Jokulsarlon first thing in the morning to catch the earliest cruise. There were already a lot of tourists there so we queued for the ticket. There are two types of tours; one uses a smaller boat which will enable you to get closer to the icebergs and it will even take you to the glacier from where the icebergs originate. We opted the amphibian boat which on first glance reminds me of Sponge Bob's boat car. It was quite packed per tour but for the amount we paid (which was much cheaper than the small boat price), I actually enjoyed the tour very much and the tour guide did an excellent job in explaining to us about the geological process involved; from the formation of the glacier to the formation of the lagoon and facts about the icebergs itself.

The magical thing about Jokuksarlon is how the luminous blue, white and black of the whole landscape blend in perfect symphony. It took my breath away and by far one of the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life. I learnt that the blue icebergs are the older ones.  They underwent years  and years (perhaps hundreds??) of compression process that when the sun rays hit, it reflects the blue colour. The white icebergs are the younger ones and of course the guide also mentioned about how the bottom of the iceberg is actually significantly massive than what we saw afloat.

The guide also explained that at times the icebergs do flip over. But I don't remember how to tell which iceberg have just flipped over although I'm pretty sure he did point that out during the tour... (^^")

After Jokulsarlon we drove to Skaftafell National Park.. Unfortunately, the weather gotten worse and it start to drizzle. We forced ourselves to walk in the gnawing frigid air just to get a closer look at the glacier. Actually there are many walking trails in this national park; some lead to famous waterfalls and caves and you can actually hire a guide to take you for a walk on the glacier. But due to the weather and our very limited time, we took the short walk which I think is still interesting.

Along the path, there are sign boards that explain about the history and geological processes that occurred in a particular vicinity.
I remember one sign board saying that we were standing on a spot where the glacier used to extend 40 years ago. The glacier had somehow shrunk due to global warming. And at one point, there were so many rocks with cracks on them

I later learn that the cracks are actually caused by water moisture that are trapped within the fine pores of these rocks. The water alternately froze and thawed and during this continuous cycle, the expansion of frozen water caused the rock to crack.. Okay that's how I understand it.. I don't know how to correctly describe it though..

And then we went over to see the pool and walked on the charcoal colour volcanic sand and stones to see the glacier. It was my first time ever to see a glacier before my eyes so I was completely blown away. We didn't get to see any glacier in France nor Swiss so I was quite excited. Even from afar, the vibrant blue colour of the glacier was vivid to the naked eyes and we could also see streaks of black soot in contrast which are the result from volcanic eruption debris...

Okay... Wow! That's a lot of geological thingy, isn't it?

This is what travelling is to me.. Travelling, in my definion, is not just walking nonchalantly in a foreign land.. Not just having another background in a selfie.. Not just another fridge magnet on the fridge door..

It's about connecting ourselves with the unfamiliar; meeting new people, witnessing other cultures and seeking knowledge of the formations and phenomenon that are unprecedented in my own land..

It's a humbling experience, you know... Because every time I buckle up my seat belt on an airplane bound to the place I call home, I would inhale deeply and tilt my head back and start thinking how I'm just an insignificant speck in this world and how vast the knowledge of the Almighty...