Archive for the Sightseeing Category

Helsinki

Posted in Sightseeing on April 15, 2009 by fonglh

Opps it seems like I have forgotten to mention anything about our cruise to Helsinki. I went with NOC batch 8 and SY, right after our 1st period exams. Thanks to a membership card, it was still quite cheap though we left on a Friday.

7 hours isn’t enough for Helsinki. As it was, we nearly missed the boat and had to run for the last part. We seem to be doing that quite a lot.

At Helsinki, we visited a few churches, both Russian Orthodox and Lutheran, as well as the Rock Church. Unfortunately we couldn’t go inside the Rock Church as it was outside opening hours.

Lunch was at a Chinese restaurant for 10 euros. Finally some Chinese food which tastes acceptable, and at a quite OK price too, considering it’s Europe.

In the afternoon, we headed over to Suomenlinna, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s a fortress island and the walls are still standing. With lots of snow still lying around, it was only natural for a snowball fight to develop. An attempt by a couple of the guys to use the fortress for a flanking maneuver ended in dismal failure when they were caught in a cul de sac and found themselves pelted with snowballs.

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The view from the island was stunning. Large open seas and the winter sun in a blue sky with wispy cirrus clouds. More pictures will come later when there’s time to post them.

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Thanks Antonia for spending the whole day showing us around.

20090314helsinki_0204There she is on the left pointing something out to her tour group.

The cruise itself was quite boring. There’s supposed to be lots of stuff to do, but it basically meant that there were lots of people roaming half drunk around the upper decks. We watched movies in our cabins instead. During the 1st night, as we could hear a grinding noise above our heads as the ship sailed to Helsinki. It turned out to be ice grinding on the hull. Going up in the morning, we could see the ship sailing through a sea of ice. Very beautiful, but just a little discomforting.

The wind up on the highest deck was very strong. We could lean back a little and let the wind support us. Attempts to do vertical star jumps resulted in us being blown back by the wind.

On the return trip, we caught the sunset as the ship sailed out of Helsinki. Simply beautiful. Ok just 1 picture.

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Copenhagen

Posted in Sightseeing on April 15, 2009 by fonglh

Another weekend spent on holiday, this time I went to Copenhagen with my family.

Copenhagen is a very nice city, with an old European feel. There are buskers playing accordions on the sidewalks, and these serve to add to the atmosphere of the whole place.

However, things are really very expensive. The numbers are similar to those in Sweden, unfortunately their currency is about 1.5 times stronger.

Having just a couple of days around, we decided to explore the whole area on foot, following the suggested paths in the very useful map provided by the tourism office.

The little mermaid was a bit of a disappointment. It’s really very little.

We managed to watch the changing of the guard and covered all the marked sites in the 2 days we were there.

The free town of Christiania was quite interesting. It’s a self declared independent country which is not in the EU, so when you are leaving the entrance, it says “You are now entering the EU”. Pictures weren’t allowed inside, and especially not on Pusher Street, so named because it used to be where drug pushers peddled their wares. I think they still do so.

Took the direct train back to Stockholm on Monday night. 95 SEK!! Compared to the trip there which involved changing trains and cost over 400. SJ trains are very comfortable. The X2000 has power points for every seat, and if you’re willing to pay, there’s internet access too.

Exciting Poland

Posted in Sightseeing on March 28, 2009 by fonglh

There isn’t any more time to do detailed writeups with pictures for now, so text will have to do.

We visited Poland from the 20th of March to the 23rd. This was also my first time going to Skavsta Airport. I’ll see much more of it in future for other flights.

Our first day was basically spent on getting to the airport and making our way to Hostel Lemon in Warsaw. There were some problems with overstayers and lost keys but it seemed like there were enough beds. By the time we were settled it was dinner time, so we headed out to the nearby city area to look for a place to eat.

Dinner was at a small Polish restaurant with traditional Polish food like dumplings and pancakes. We basically ordered by picking out most of the recommendations and sharing it among everyone. Eating out in Poland is much cheaper than eating out in Stockholm. We managed to get a large variety of food for <S$10.

The shops were all about to close by the time we were done with dinner, so we went to Carrefour Express to stock up on food for our full day in Krakow the next day. Stuff in Poland can really be much cheaper.

Our first night in Hostel Lemon was filled with incidents. We slept early because we had to wake up at 4am to catch the train to Krakow. A couple of hours later, we were woken up by a Nigerian guy asking who had taken his bed. He had the key to the locker and all, but somehow he had no reservation for the bed, neither had his company paid yet. This was settled amicably and he moved to another room, but by then most of us were awake.

A short while later most of us woke up again when someone else came in and turned on the lights. It didn’t help that the mattresses were so thin that we could feel the metal bars of the bed frame through it.

The highlight of the night was when an old Pole came in. We had wondered whether anyone was using the bed with an old battered suitcase under it, like the kind used by Mr Bean. He wandered in at about 3 am, switched on the lights, and proceeded to mutter very loudly to himself. He seemed to have a couple of screws lose, as he then proceeded to undress himself right there.

After a while he settled down and went to sleep, but by then it was nearly 4 and we woke up to get ready. The old guy woke up too and went to make a cup of tea, muttering continuously in Polish.

Due to the lack of good sleep from the previous night, most of us slept on the 3 hour train ride to Krakow. We arrived and were taken to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. The tour guide brought us around the first camp, showing us the living spaces and some other exhibits documenting the Nazi’s atrocities during the war. All of us were lent wireless headsets, so hearing what she was saying was not a problem.

After a short break, we were brought over to the much larger camp at Birkenau. It’s a huge place, with rows and rows of wooden and brick huts stretching out into the distance. Railway lines divide the camp into 2, and the ruins of the gas chambers flanked the lines. Most of the people who arrived at this camp never even survived one day. If they were deemed unfit for work, they were just gassed immediately.

We returned to the city of Krakow and had a few hours to wander around before taking our train back to Warsaw.

Ok it’s time to sleep and I’m going to Copenhagen later. Will add more about this next time.

Uppsala

Posted in Sightseeing on March 17, 2009 by fonglh

I visited Uppsala over a month ago, but there wasn’t time to blog about it.

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This picture shows the central river running through Uppsala.

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This is the huge cathedral that is one of the central attractions of Uppsala.

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The library in Uppsala. It looks really nice and there are even books on the higher levels from the 1800s.

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The silver bible. Apparently it’s meant more for decorative purposes.

Since it was still winter, a lot of stuff was closed in Uppsala.

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Here’s the view of the botanical gardens, covered in snow and seen through the gate.

After walking around a bit, we headed back to the cathedral to see the inside. They weren’t open earlier in the day. It’s really big inside as you can see.

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Here’s a picture of someone admiring the stained glass windows at the back of the cathedral.

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Look closely, she’s not real. I didn’t realise it until it occurred to me that she was standing way too still to be real.

The cathedral has an old organ which looks very nice.

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I’m not sure whether there’s something wrong with it or perhaps it’s no longer good enough for their purposes. Anyway, they have a new, very high tech and sleek looking one.

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Here’s a final picture of the cathedral. An example of the stained glass.

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After lunch at Subway, we proceeded to take the bus to Gamla Uppsala.

The snow there was very thick and it wasn’t long before we tried building a snowman.

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Gamla Uppsala is supposed to be an old site with burial mounds. That’s just about what we saw. A lot of open space with some mounds. The gray dreary sky and the white fields didn’t exactly help to lift the mood.

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The mounds on the right are the burial mounds.

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A white field and a nearly white sky.

After wandering around Gamla Uppsala, we took the bus back to the main city area. Either the clouds were really low or the cathedral is really high, but anyway, here’s a picture of the spires of the cathedral swathed in cloud.

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I then entered the Gustavianum, which used to be Uppsala University’s main building but is now a museum. It houses the anatomical theatre, where dissections were carried out both for teaching medical students as well as for public spectacles.

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The steps leading up to the theatre are very steep. There’s also very little space to stand around the viewing gallery.

The river flowing through Uppsala has these tiny waterfalls. Not sure what they’re for, but the certainly look manmade. I just like the blurred effect of water when taken with a slow shutter speed.

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The weather seemed to be getting darker and drearier, no thanks to the early setting winter sun and the cloudy sky.

Here’s another picture of the cathedral, further covered in the low clouds.

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After dinner, we went to the train station in a futile attempt to change our train timing. Most of the shops in Uppsala were closed as it was a Saturday and we wanted to head back earlier. However, we could not as the ticket we had booked was non rebookable.

To kill the 2 hours, we headed off towards a park. Here’s a picture of a lot of ducks sleeping on a frozen pond. When we first saw them from a distance, they looked like little rocks.

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The park would be a real nice place in summer under a clear blue sky. As it was, we had to make do with seeing it in winter under a dark night sky with street lamps for illumination. There is a small pond with an island in the middle, linked by a few bridges to the rest of the park.

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With time to spare before we had to catch the train, we proceeded to build another snowman. This time, the snow was sticky and could be rolled very easily to form a large ball. It didn’t take very long at all for the 3 of us to build one as tall as ourselves.

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We build the snowman on the island in the middle of the pond. By the time we were done, there wasn’t much untouched snow left on that island anymore.

Here you can see the snowman as we left to catch the train. It’s holding a Lidl shopping bag.

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As we walked back to the train station, we saw an example of people blatantly ignoring a sign.

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In conclusion, Uppsala isn’t really worth visiting during winter. A lot of the attractions are closed and this really limits what there is to see. I guess it’ll be a lot nicer in summer when the attractions are open and the history of the town containing the oldest university in the Nordic countries can be better appreciated.

Abisko, Kiruna, Finland

Posted in Sightseeing on March 6, 2009 by fonglh

Just got back from Northern Sweden, the part within the Arctic Circle. We were lucky enough to catch the Northern Lights for both nights in Abisko. The internetworking exam is next Tuesday so a detailed post will come after that. Meanwhile, here’s a quick summary.

Our flight to Kiruna got delayed so we thought we missed the bus to Abisko. We called a cab but then another bus came so we went for it instead. It turned out that they organised another bus to cater to the delayed flight. We managed to see the aurora when the hostel owner came in and told us about it. After going for the sauna, we walked towards the lake to try finding a darker spot so we could see the aurora better.

There was a school on the way with an iced up soccer court of some kind, so we divided ourselves into 2 teams and played soccer with a large snowball. The slippery court made it a hilarious affair with everyone sliding around clumsily. Whenever the snowball became too small we got a new one. Plus we only played on half the court, so it was like half court basketball played like soccer but on a ice hockey rink with a snowball.

We went cross country skiing the next day. It was quite fun and we managed to make our way down towards the camp near the lake. It’s much easier to slide down long slopes than to walk down them. We took a break at around lunch time to go grocery shopping and have lunch before heading back out to the lake. After dinner and another sauna, we headed back out to the lake again. It was nice and dark there so we got a good view. Unfortunately the aurora faded quite a bit when we got there. It was quite cold to stand there and wait so we played very active orientation games to keep warm. Some of them tried to drink beer to get warm but it was a pretty hopeless affair since it was mostly frozen. The beer cans had been quite badly shaken too since we transported them down an icy road on a sled in pitch darkness.

We took the bus back to Kiruna the next day and bought 1000+ sek worth of groceries to stock up for the next 3 days in Camp Alta. It was like a massive shopping spree.

The second day in Kiruna consisted of the dogsled tour. Quite an interesting experience. On hindsight, snowmobile might be more fun. After the tour, we asked to be sent to Europcar and rented a van from them. We hadn’t planned to do so at first but our camp alta cabin is 2km away from the main facilities and we also wanted to go to the Ice Hotel and see other stuff.

The afternoon was spent at the Ice Hotel. They have very interesting rooms, although some of the themes were a bit naughty.

After dinner, we decided to head over to Finland. It didn’t look too far on the map, so off we went. Didn’t manage to catch the aurora there but hey we’ve been to Finland.

The next day, we visited the iron mine in Kiruna. We had expected more but the tour was still quite informative. Played Pictionary with a laptop at night. Quite a hilarious game.

We spent the final morning eating up all the food we had bought. There was a bit too much of it but we were left with quite little. The only major waste was the huge tub of Euroshopper lingonberry jam which didn’t taste too good.

Overall, it was a very fun trip full of spontaneous moments and great experiences. If anyone is thinking of going to Kiruna, do go up to Abisko, it’s worth the trouble.

Ok time to mug, more details after my exam next week.

Lappis Forest

Posted in Daily life, Sightseeing on February 25, 2009 by fonglh

The forest around Lappis is a beautiful place, especially when it is covered in snow and the sun is out with a beautiful blue sky. It’s a nice place to go for a walk.

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Through the reeds

A narrow path through the reeds. I’m quite sure that it’s the frozen lake below the snow.

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Walking on water (frozen) is simply irresistible. Clearly I’m not the only one to think so. Those footprints are all from others.

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A lone horse grazing in a snowy field. It has a blanket too.

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A bird hopping along the ground.

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There are some goats around too.

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The view of the later afternoon sun from my corridor window.

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One of my favourite pictures. Taken at the hill behind Forskarbacken.

Stockholm Weekend

Posted in Sightseeing on February 18, 2009 by fonglh

yh and zq came over from Linköping on the last weekend of January, so you can see that these posts are about 2 weeks late.

I hadn’t had the chance to watch the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace, so since we were nearby at that time, we decided to stay and watch it. It’s quite a grand affair with a marching band performing precision drills. There was a soldier attempting to explain the procedure and history, but as he was reading to the paper, we couldn’t hear anything. The crowd also made it hard to get a good view, especially as Asians are generally shorter.

Band

Band

Band marching out

Band marching out

After they were done they marched out to a nearby square and posed for pictures with the public.

yh looks a bit like a penguin :P

yh looks a bit like a penguin 😛

The band members are quite cheeky too. Here’s the view from the back as they pose for someone else’s picture.

Cheeky pose

Cheeky pose

The picture below shows yet another view of Gamla Stan. The large building on the right is the Royal Palace. The area below the church is where the band stops and mingles with the public.

On the way back to Gamla Stan, zq’s shoelace came off. Being a cold day, he was loathe to take off his gloves.

Tying shoelace with gloves

Tying shoelace with gloves

Showing incredible dexterity and great skill, he managed to tie his shoelaces with his leather gloves on. The final result is shown below.

Successful knot

Successful knot

We wandered through Gamla Stan. After all it’s one of those must see places on guidebooks. One of them had heard about a little place called Cafe Art where we could have lunch, and that was where we went.

Inside Cafe Art

Inside Cafe Art

It’s a nice place in what looks like the cellar of an old building. To reach it, you have to go a short way down a small alley, then down a steep stone staircase. The ceiling is rather low at times so one must be careful not to knock his head. The salmon quiche was very nice. As with most other places I’ve seen in Stockholm so far, the toilets are clean but have very limited capacity. In the case of this cafe there was just one shared toilet with a queue about 4-5 persons long.

Sunset in winter is early. After eating and getting warm again, the sun was already about to set as we left the cafe, resulting in a beautiful sky.

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We crossed the bridge to Södermalm, south of Gamla Stan and walked around the shops there. The building with the Å on it is Åhlens, a large department store.

Södermalm

Södermalm

The round thing you see down the road is Globen, or the Globe Arena. They have ice hockey matches there but I haven’t watched any there yet.

After a relatively expensive lunch, dinner was a simple self cooked affair.

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They very nicely helped me to carry out a few bags of trash after that. Thanks guys 🙂 Over here we are responsible for the cleanliness of our own corridor and kitchen. Since these are common areas, there’s a self organized duty roster and it happened to be my week for clearing the trash. No cleaner uncles and aunties here.

We woke up fairly early the following morning to explore the forest around Lappis. The water around the beach was a little frozen but clearly not safe to walk on. Here’s what happens when a piece of ice is thrown at it.

Breaking through the ice

Breaking through the ice

Someone’s dog. Looks very nice.

Nice dog

Nice dog

Moving on, we have a food chain like scenario.

Photography food chain

Photography food chain

For a better example of a food chain, check out the Sherman Lagoon’s comic below.

The forest was a nice place, and this time we reached the far lake which can be seen on Google Maps. yh was happily snapping photos every few paces while zq has freezing his toes off. He couldn’t snap away cause he didn’t bring his camera charger.

See his dedication as a photographer.

Taking a picture of a pine cone

Taking a picture of a pine cone

After taking a picture of this and realising that the exposure hadn’t come out right, he walked back, found it again on the floor and took a few more pictures.

The rest of the day for them was spent shopping. Joined them for lunch at a small shop which sells 30 SEK kebab with bread. It’s at Hötorget, in the small lane between the PUB building and the cinema.