Archive for January, 2009

To the airport

Posted in Getting around, Sightseeing on January 30, 2009 by fonglh

Since yh and zq were arriving, I wanted to figure out how to get to the airport to meet them, without spending a cent if possible. Wikipedia revealed that there IS a way to reach the airport from the city using SL public transport all the way, meaning that my travelcard is valid. For those who don’t know, take the pendaltag J36 to Märsta (the last stop), then transfer to bus 583 or 583X. It’s actually quite convenient because the buses are timed to the train schedule, so once you get there, you don’t have to wait too long before the bus leaves.

I missed the subway train I wanted to take at first, so I was left with 15 mins to wander around Universitetet. The station was deserted so early in the morning.

Universitetet

Some of you may have heard or read about the artwork in Stockholm’s subway network. Every station is different. Some samples from Universitetet are shown below.

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Deserted station in the morning

Deserted station in the morning

Managed to meet zq and yh at the airport. They saw me in the arrival hall, a very good thing since they had no local handphone numbers here yet, so we had to rely on the old fashioned way of meeting up. Here’s a picture of Arlanda’s control tower on a clear winter morning.

Arlanda Control Tower

I went back to Lappis after that. Security here is kind of like the one at PGP. First an electronic tag is needed to get into each block, then a security code is needed for the corridor, and finally you use the key to get into your own room.

Here’s what the security pad looks like.

corridor security

corridor security

After seeing overcast skies for the past few days, it looked like it was going to be a beautiful clear day, so I headed off to the beach again to take some pictures.

Sunrise through the trees

View from Lappis Beach

View of homes across the water

The City at Night

Posted in Sightseeing on January 26, 2009 by fonglh

We had the ISS campus tour in the morning. They led a large group of clueless exchange students around the campus, attempting to explain the various buildings. Most of us couldn’t hear a thing so we followed along blindly and chatted.

Free red bull

Just like in SG, there are red bull girls handing out cans of free red bull. I like the car, very eye catching.

KTH

Here’s one of the courtyards. It just looks nice, I have no idea what the significance of this place is besides the fact that the afternoon’s information meeting is somewhere around here.

After the info meeting, it was about 4 plus, but the sky was totally dark. No matter, we headed off to explore Gamla Stan and the city area at night.

Gamla Stan street at night

Here’s a picture of one of the side streets at night.

Royal Palace

After walking out from Gamla Stan, we moved along to the water side and saw the Royal Palace at night.

Riksdag

The parliament building at night. I only found out what it’s called and its significance some time later, but that’ll be another story. At that time it was enough that it looked pretty.

Drottninggatan

One of the major shopping streets at night.

Pretty street decor

This is just some pretty looking street decor.

Starlit

During the city tour, I took a picture of this street and the stars too, but it was during the day. Now at night, with the lights on, the stars simply look beautiful.

Sunny Winter Morning

Posted in Sightseeing on January 22, 2009 by fonglh

Woke up early again and realised that it was a beautiful day, so I went off to Lappis beach to try to take some photos.

Lappis Sunrise

Here’s one of the first pictures I took. If you look closely you’ll see that the water is frozen.

Tree in ice

Walking further along the coast, I came across this fallen tree in the ice.

Beautiful sky

My favourite picture of the morning. Beautiful sky colour. The trees blocked the view of the sunrise though, but this will do.

Lappis Beach

Here’s a picture of the beach after the sun came up. The water near the edge is frozen, but nope, I didn’t go test it.

Bus stop

A picture of one of the bus stops. The clear plastic walls are really appreciated on a cold winter day when the wind blows.

Cheese and more cheese!!

This isn’t the full selection of cheese available. The whole fridge is about twice the length as what the picture shows, and there is still another section some distance away which sells yet more types of cheese.

Art in metro

Here’s an example of the artwork in their metro system. Every station has something different and they’re really quite interesting.

Initial Days

Posted in Sightseeing on January 22, 2009 by fonglh

Here’s a picture of the sunrise at Lappis.

Lappis Sunrise

It’s much easier to get sunrises here than back home, especially right after landing. A bit of jet lag made it easy to sleep early and rise early, plus the sun rises late in winter, most convenient.

There was a tour organised by the International Student’s Service (ISS) on the 9th. When we got there, we found out what their idea of a tour was. They gave us a piece of paper with some directions and explanations of the various landmarks along the way. There were some questions we could answer too. We could either find our own way around or follow one of the student volunteers. We started by following one of them around, but he was going way too fast and there was no time to relax and appreciate what was written on the paper. In the end a few of us fell behind and decided to follow the paper ourselves.

It was a nice sunny day with blue skies. Made it a bit tricky to get good pictures cause there was so much contrast. Here are some pictures from our walk around the city.

The final part involved climbing up to some place for a drink or something, but it was quite late by then so we didn’t bother but went to check out Ikea instead.

The Ikea was really quite large, and we went around the entire showroom before heading to the warehouse area to pick up a few things. I wanted to get a pair of slippers so this seemed like a good time.

After wandering around, we found this pair of slippers for 19 SEK, then went to the cashier to pay. That was when we realised that the sign actually said 19 SEK is for members, while the non member price is 39 SEK. However, when the cashier found out we couldn’t speak Swedish, she gave us the discount anyway. Now this is an excellent example of employees who are enpowered to make decisions to achieve customer satisfaction. Something which is severely lacking in sg stores. I went back recently and saw the price notice again. Indeed, beside the price of 19 was written memberpris, which clearly means member price, but it was something we both didn’t see the first time.

Ikea Slippers

Arrival

Posted in Getting around on January 20, 2009 by Cosine

Thanks to JJ’s excellent instructions, it wasn’t too hard to overcome the first hurdle and find a way to the city centre. The airport coach flygbussarna travels quite frequently between Arlanda and the city centre. Due to some promotion, we got tickets for 2 for 150 SEK.

After getting to T Centralen, the next step was to figure out how to take the metro to the school and find the accommodation office. Which way to go was easy, how to pay was not. A quick enquiry told us that the 30 day pass costs 690SEK, while a single trip costs 40 SEK. We only wanted to go 4 stops, $8 seemed like quite a ripoff. However, we didn’t have so much cash easily accessible, it was carried in a travel pouch. Taking stuff from a travel pouch in public is most awkward, so we went to look for a toilet. Turns out that toilets costs 10 SEK (S$2). Considering I try to avoid 10 cent toilets, this was quite a large sum of money. At least it was a very clean toilet, unlike most of the 10 cent ones, which are usually dirtier than the free ones.

The 30 day pass allows for unlimited travel on all SL transport, be it buses, the metro, regional trains etc etc. It’s really great, especially for us to make many short trips. It’s actually the adult price, we can’t buy the student one without a union card. No silly 4 train ride restriction here.

Moving a 30+ kg suitcase around a train station was still manageable, except for the lifts, which are quite different. They have a couple of buttons labelled in Swedish. One probably says ground floor while the other says upper floor or something like that. There’s something that looks like a door open button and a few which look like emergency buttons. There’s only 1 door at each level, so there’s no door on the lift itself and you can see the walls move right beside you. The main problem was figuring out how to get the door to do what we wanted. But somehow we did it and got ourselves to the school’s accomodation office.

To us people who live in the tropics, snow is a wonderful novelty, and cobbled streets are quintessentially European. All very nice for photos and experience, but just try pulling a 30kg wheeled suitcase uphill on a snowy cobbled street. No fun at all. You’ll feel hot inside because of the exertion, and cold outside because it’s snowing.

Getting the key was straightforward enough, now it was back to the metro station to take the train 1 stop further to where the accommodation is located. It’s not exactly within walking distance, and certainly not with 40kg of luggage. Incidentally, the lift there was broken, so we had the challenge of getting the luggage onto the escalator without it rolling all the way down.

My room is on the 4th floor in a building with no lift. I happened to meet the caretaker while trying to heft 30kg up 1 step at a time. He helped me carry it up, using just 1 hand. At the top, I tried the security code but it didn’t work, so he helped me to open the door too. Good thing I met him. I found out later when returning to the accommodation office that they had given me the wrong code. If I hadn’t met him I would have been stuck outside.

The previous owner had left quite a bit of useful stuff in the room, including a LAN cable. I plugged it in and was able to get online right away. Not everyone is so lucky. So here’s the first picture I took in Sweden.

View from window

View from window

Ok strictly speaking it’s the second. The first was slightly underexposed due to the snow. Other useful stuff includes a table lamp, working window blinds, toilet paper, hangers, a small pillow, a full length mirror and some other stuff. Not so useful stuff includes a bedsheet of unknown cleanliness, a green and black blanket with black spots on the green which are not part of the design, a large pillow which won’t fit into my pillowcase and again, some other stuff.

You can see a photosynth of my room at here. A download is necessary. No idea if it works for a Mac.

Departure

Posted in Getting around on January 20, 2009 by Cosine

Flew off on Thai Airways on the 7th of Jan. Being the last minute person I’ve always been, I left the final packing till the flight date itself. Lucky my mom helped me to pack, or I might never have got everything in on time. As it turned out, the extra 10 kg baggage allowance I got from Thai airways was totally necessary. Even with that, my luggage was still overweight.

I think the check in staff saw the size of my backpack and insisted on weighing it. Of course it was heavier than 7 kg, so I had to take out some stuff and reweigh it. However they don’t really enforce so I put the stuff back after that. After all, who goes on exchange without a laptop and camera?

Thanks to all those who came to send me off. I really appreciate it. To EH and van, I’ve forgotten what you told me already 😛

This was my first time flying totally alone. Quite a bore actually. The entire flight was in darkness. The aircraft to Bangkok had those personal entertainment screens, so I managed to catch nearly all of City of Ember. Missed a bit of the ending cause the plane landed. Everytime an inflight announcement is made, the movie will be paused, but when it resumes, it’ll skip ahead a little. Good thing it was on demand video, so could rewind and watch the bits I missed.

Bangkok airport is really large. I walked like 300-400m just to reach the first intersection and find a transit counter. After getting my boarding pass checked, I had to walk to the other end of the terminal. Signs indicated that it’s 700m away. Quite a distance, but there are travellators, which made it easier. Managed to find my fellow NUS SEP student sy there. We happened to be on the same flight although we didn’t book together.

The 10+ hour flight to Stockholm was a total bore. There was no inflight entertainment, they didn’t even have playing cards any more. Thank to winter, the whole flight was in darkness. Wasn’t much use in having a window seat, it just made it very troublesome to get out and walk around or go to the toilet. At least it was overnight, so much of the time was spent sleeping. During the final 2 hours of a flight, they showed some cowboy movie. Being in front of the main screens, I got to watch it on a tiny CRT TV hanging from the top of the aisle. One side of the screen was slightly blocked by the bulkhead. Landing was a most welcome relief.

Away from home

Posted in Getting around on January 18, 2009 by Cosine

Ahh ok I’ve finally got this blog started. It’s meant to record my SEP experience, because captions on fb pics simply don’t do some places justice. Will try to keep it updated, but it might be hard. I’m doing 42 ECTS when the norm here is 30. ECTS are like MCs in NUS. Hopefully it’s actually possible to pass everything without too much effort, or else there won’t be enough time to go have fun.