Saturday, 19 March 2016

Towards Helsinki - Finland

After the lively company of Dan and May in Stockholm, the company of Jay whom I met in Lisbon previously was waiting for me in Helsinki. Jay couldn’t host me but was gracious enough to accompany me everyday sightseeing Helsinki. In fact I wondered who was bringing whom around sometime but truth be told some parts of Helsinki Jay brought me was the boring local stuff …. But then again I enjoyed those norms more than the tourist part.

He was enthusiast in showing me around and in some way he was also exploring a little bit on his own which I can tell when he is undecided where to go. He did persuade me to get a 48 hours transport card which we abuse to the max taking tramps and boat every chance we get to sightsee almost every part of Helsinki.
I only had 2 nights in Helsinki. First meal and I requested for the all traditional Finish food. Budget is not a problem I
Reindeer with Mash Potato & Berries
said so Jay brought me to a nice restaurant where they served Reindeer meet with mash potato and berries. It was a strong tasting meat close to dear or lamb but flavour of a stronger kind. Lovely but not one that I could eat for prolonged time. Felt like I wont get any points for Christmas.

The first day he brought me to Suami Island which was a short boat ride away a Unesco heritage site of a fortified island in the old times to protect shipping route into Helsinki.
Summer was really appearing in Europe now and I could feel most of the lovely weather. We parted early the first day just as the weather got bad and dinner was approaching.
Suami Island
I cooked my dinner that night, standard staple of spaghetti, bacon and sausages with green pepper. Next day again we met for lunch and this time the weather was not so kind in Helsinki with rain pattering us throughout the day. I suggested the market square where they also serve a lot of traditional finish food in cosy little tents.
Reindeer Meatballs & Salmon Steak & Salmon Soup
We got stuck there due to the rain but was a lovely lunch with reindeer meatballs and salmon steak top off with salmon soup, coffee and rye bread. The company of Jay was an odd one but I quickly adapted to his unique character and enjoyed Helsinki like a lost little boy. He brought me places along the tram, metro, bus just to see the city on an overview. But my fav of all was the market ... the local market where they sold things I have never dream off .... Canned Bear meat anyone ??
Finish Meat Market

Bear Meat Anyone?  

Local Finish Market

By night fall I asked if he had seen the new Jurassic World movie. Nope he said and I suggested seeing it. We caught it, I love it … dunnu about Jay and by midnight it was an awkward silence if we were to part ways or to walk around.
Casino was next to the cinema. ….. lets go have a look
Some Interesting Advert ...
Janne said knowing I had a weekspot for Casino. I had explained my compulsion to him when I was in Portugal about gambling. So we went in and oh yeah I forgot the second day was actually Janne Birthday.

I strong armed the casino reception guys and guilt them to giving us free drinks coupons and free chips to play. Determine not to stumble down into darkness I only played one round of roulette after walking around the casino with Jay for a long time …. And that was also only the free chips.
First round did not bore fruit and I suggested leaving before I cant control myself. Jay does not gamble due to the Bahai faith and I don’t feel combatable dragging a person when I am gambling. The compulsion really work worst when I am alone anyway.

When we parted ways at the bus station in front of the main train station, me waiting for the tram and looking and Jay slow and reluctant walk away, a lonely soul, I understand but one can only learn oneself when face with the difficulty of life. I wish him well Jay …..

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Nothing Beats a Local Host on Midsummer in Sweden - Things that are Priceless when Travelling

Train ride to Stockholm, I did saw the conductor but no police nor dogs. Smuggling mission complete. 5 hours for the cheapest train ride in Sweden. Even the locals did not believe the price I got at 189 SEK.

Dan greet me at the train station as soon as I got off the train and it was warm and sunshine. I feel weird like I do not know how to behave anymore with people around me. I use to be able to say whatever I want but now I am more conscious of how people might be offended accidentally. Back to the apartment and a big smile from tired May.
I had to pop the question sooner than later I guess, so I just asked Dan…… Nope they don’t smoke they say ….. at least they were not offended …. Bring it to Midsummer they said … maybe some of our friends might like a smoke J

Sweden Midsummer was a thing that if you don’t have a local to guide you, then you will never experience it fully. I was fortunate to meet May and Dan and they brought me on the journey to Valangar somewhere north of Sweden where the sun never sets. Midsummer means the longest day of the year and it was wonderful.
Cabin Retreat in Sweden
I met their friends which was a bunch. Dan2 & Nue, Pod & Ann, Jor & Lin & Dav & Kiro. We went to a Cabin out in the countryside where they bought solely for the use of summer. It was a lovely cabin like a hideaway retreat house fully equipped with even a boat.

First day and it was simple and easy, some drink and lots of chilling for everyone reach there late, but then again what is late when the sun never sets. The next day morning I had a
Town House in Valangar
taste of Midsummer tradition at the town house where they had the big penis put up and I join in with all the little 5 year old kids dancing around the pole to their song. Dan was kind enough to be my partner and translated everything for me. It was really for the children but what great fun. It reminded me of Bon Odori festival of the Japanese which we sometime join in the fun back in Malaysia.
A Midsummer in Sweden  
I was the focus I guess during lunch. They were having really really traditional Swedish dishes for lunch since it was a traditional festival of sorts.

Delicious Swedish Food:)
Try this one … its Hearing marinated in xxx sauce, if you don’t like it you can pass it to me. Nom Nom Nom ….
Delicious …. !!! and I got big eyes stared by everyone.
Try this one its more of a traditional Hearing not much marinated ….. Nom Nom Nom … Delicious !!! and I got bigger eyes stared ….

Try this Snapps which is the most awful one there is of all the bunch ….. gulp gulp …. Not too bad …. I had worst Chinese medicine …. Jaw was dropped all over the table.
Apparently not many people likes Swedish food … but it was like those kind of dishes where its taste only suited the season warrior ….. an acquired taste I told them and they agreed that some of them when young did not like it either but grew up to like it. Stuffed like pig we all lay there chatting away and eventually someone suggested a sauna.

Wood Flame Boiler
The sauna was one thing I did not expected to be an awe moment experience. We took the boat out to a small little peninsular where no roads were around, dock at the jetty and proceeded to the sauna which was a public one built out of traditional wooden hut with wood flaming boiler to heat the stone, in the middle of nowhere.
You need a boat to get here .... or a local friend.
The sauna had a large window to view outside which was beautiful beyond words. Only locals here they said … no tourist … you need a local with a boat to get here …. The Swedish sure know how to enjoy life when summer comes
We even had to chop our own firewood to heat up the sauna …. Between overheating and jumping in to freezing water … it was a memorable experience.

Getting back it was time for dinner …. Time for a little extra something Dan2 said …. And I brought out the joint with a big smile on my face …. I was laughing my ass off by late evening and so was Dav but Pod went dark silent quiet and Dan2 went OD crazy. Dinner was a haphazard of people drumming and mimicking some sort of instrument to the background music we had blasting all the way.
I am pretty sure most of us did not remember what the food taste like that night thou we all knew it was BBQ. Pass me the bowl of salad please …. NO !! … this bowl is crucial for my drum beat said Dav … and everyone hogged whatever was in front of them using knife and fork as a drum stick and singing and shouting every other second.

Swedish singing song ….. and skol !!! a shot of snapps … and more snapps ….. a night no one remember fully
Morning after was a hilarious thing. I survived nicely and got up early with a bath. The rest trickle out with confused look in their eyes trying to piece together what happened that night. Nothing too crazy as far as I remember but the fact that everyone had difficulty remembering was a victory in itself.

The Countryside of Sweden during Midsummer.. ... This was the darkest it got the whole day

Late afternoon and Dan decided he was good enough to visit his family relative nearby. I tag along and was welcome into the fold like long lost friend. This experience is priceless I told Dan and his family …. A tourist see only the superficial things when going to a place but a traveller like me could not appreciate more the hospitality of a local host and the experience of a local lifestyle.
Next day it was time to leave and one by one all of us parted way.

We reached back to Stockholm in the evening and I reminded Dan & May that I am really happy for the experience and would be so so happy to chip in for all the expenses. I think they went easy on my but I gave them what they said the cost was … 540 Kr. I was pretty sure it was more
I parted with Dan and May the very next day after Midsummer holiday ended … On a boat to Helsinki …. Time was running short and I had to get to Istanbul ….

I hope one day all of them will visit me in Malaysia where I could shower them with the warm hospitality that they have showed me.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Lazing in Lund – Sweden

I am like a cranky old car that takes a while and a push to start the engine. Not long after starting the travel again from England I find myself slacking away in Lund only after the first town, Copenhagen.

I took a risk and decided to *tapau* two joint’s from Christiana for Dan and May thinking that if there were smokers they would have greatly appreciate the effort. Thou I had no idea if they were or even if they would be offended at the gesture. I took a gamble anyway and risk capture and smuggle it into Sweden.
Train ride was a simple one only an hour long. Bought the ticket from the train station (Danish Crown Kr 109) and I was on my way to Lund and did not even see a conductor let alone a security check plus dog. Then again I was pretty confident I could fool the dog since the joint was bought already in air tight plastic tubes and I double the effort in placing in inside my only air tight container plus packed it dead smack middle of the backpack. Excitement without an event is much safer I guess.

Like any new country … first establish your shelter …. Food …. And finally source of money …..
So when I finally reach Lund there was the question of Money. Previously I had changed all my Dannish Crown to Swedish Krona in the Copenhagen train station for I found a nice money changer with good rates and no exchange fee. Still it was not going to be enough. Should I use the sterling pound and change locally or should I withdraw from the bank? In the end I decided to draw a mere sum of 2000 kr which was about SGD 380. I figured the pound would be usefull for those short days I will be in some eastern Europe country.

Lund was a nice university town and very boring. Plus the time I was there the weather was pouring rain and windy cold. I ended up walking no more than 3 hours around the whole town in the whole 3 days that I was there.
The good side was the hostel was a new one at Windstrupp Hostel. Expensive but at least they give you your money worth. Lovely kitchen plus good wifi and barely any people around made me decided to set camp again and really do nothing for the tree days before taking the train to Stockholm to see Dan and May.

If there was one thing I miss when I was in Copenhagen – Denmark despite all the joyful entertainment was the fact that now in Sweden I could download via Torrent. Denmark apparently blocked all source of download …. And Sweden had great download speed for pirating. 3 days I slacked cooking and just munching on TV series ….
The road is just another home.
Lund - Sweden

Sunday, 6 March 2016

The Unexpected Chance Upon a Friend ….. & Christiana - Copenhagen

The unexpected happened in Copenhagen. Christ (an American) the guy I met on my first RTW trip nearly 3 years back when I was in Korea in a hostel was in Copenhagen. I thought he was still in China working. I always forgot it has been 3 years since the first trip. It feels like yesterday when you meet up people but at the same time like a decade ago when you try to recall memory.

Christ saw my check in on Facebook for Copenhagen and he immediately message me. Sure why not meet up and have a chat. Now if I had not met Christ, even thou I had decided to go walking around Christhaven I would never have found Christiana.
What do you wanna do Christ asked me? Since I have walk almost everywhere in downtown Copenhagen I was planning to take a walk to Christhaven. The guide map says it a cosy place to visit with interesting shops. Christ gave me a chuckle and said ok and me not knowing then did not see the signs and hints of his facial expression.
He brought me straight to Christiana in Christhaven. First thing I notice was the no photograph sign which I pointed out and Christ just replied Yeah. Wait I smell weed and looking closely everyone was smoking and some were even selling. Christ was looking at me, observing wondering how I would react to it.
I just need to get some cookies and we can take a walk the other side he said. I thought he meant a snack no a loaded cookie. Going to the cookie booth I finally understood it was a special cookie when I saw the plants and joints selling alongside them. The sellers had a black netting screen in front to obscure the face of the seller and even then the seller was fully clothed with ski mask and gloved.
Now the chuckle, smile, snicker, No Photograph …. The lovely vibe, chillax pace, greenery makes so much sense. 
Get me a joint I told Christ and I’ll pay for all these, cookies and everything … my treat I said.
He was shocked when I said that …
I didn’t know how you would react to this so I was just keeping quiet and wondering he said.
Yep I smoke …. Every chance I get I told him … just not at home where it’s a death sentence.
So it was a nice day smoking around Christiana in Copenhagen, got so stoned I was not thinking very well. I forgot that it hits you with a time delay so I had one puff too many. Good music, good smoke, good food and we talk crap all the while or rather Christ kept up the conversation going and I tried to focus and chip in here and there before my head clears.

By the time we parted it was midnight …. It was an unexpected meet up in a beautiful place.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Touring Copenhagen – Denmark

What can I say about Copenhagen … It’s a perfect City for a paranoid tourist. Old rustic feel of a European City although history will tell you that it burned down three times so what looks like rustic aint that old as London but still it’s charming. The city is absolutely safe unlike other parts of Europe and whatever you want it’s all here, Architectural, museums, Castle, Royal family, folklore, theme parks, gardens, incomprehensible language, boat canals in the city, hippie places, jazz, bicycles, …. Copenhagen is quite a charming city
Copenhagen - Denmark 
I find it a lovely place to be in but then again I was there during summer. Plus like any equator born child the cold is a joy that we crave and of course we never really understood the miserable pain of cold year after year. I find it even more attractive when I realized they had royalty that is still alive and not hanged from any revolution.

Roast Pork
Anyway Copenhagen was a nice restart to my travelling journey. Little mermaid was a famous figure visited by the hoards in bus groups and the querky restaurants by the canals packed with rich class tourist. A charming town …. But expensive too …. I have heard that Scandinavia was expensive … life of a truly upper tier society   

The Little Mermaid - Copenhagen

Copenhagen canals

Tivoli - One of the oldest theme park in the world