080118 iceland

On the morning of 14th August I got up and caught a plane from Bergen to Reykjavik to begin the next leg of the pre-trip in Iceland. After 9 days of backpacking through Norway, spending hours hopping on and off buses and trains to get from place to place and staying in shabby overpriced mountain cabins Iceland was a welcome change in pace. Given the duration of this trip + the variety of views and experience this trip, this’ll probably be one of the longest trip posts.

FHD0089.JPG

(Also thanks to Prat this’ll probably be the only trip with this many group photos so I will use them liberally)

Started the trip in Reykjavik where I made a last minute decision to get the Reykjavik card, subsequently spending the afternoon frantically hopping between museums to get my moneys worth. No regrets though, the museums in Reykjavik were fascinating and different from anything else I’ve seen, to say the least. Particularly enjoyed the national museum and the photography museum. I feel like the museum scene there should be given more attention; Reykjavik as a city in general tends to take a backseat in the light of the country’s natural landscapes, which is then again, completely understandable I guess. The noodle dinner there on the first day was particularly memorable for me because it was my first asian meal in 10!!!! days and having still not adapted to this overseas life at that point, 10 days felt like forever.

P1010003.jpg

The famous Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik – in reality half scaffolded for construction works, it was a little disappointing but looks nice in the photo I guess

The next day we woke up in the morning to pick up the rental car from the city centre. Driving stick again after ages was really fun and less difficult than my overthinking self expected it to be, which was really great because now I know for sure that driving a stick shift is a skill that never really leaves you – which is a nice little confidence boost I guess.

The remainder of the trip was a blur of driving from one beautiful natural attraction to another, constantly in awe at the constantly changing landscapes along the way to settle down at a different new airbnb each night. Iceland is unreal; from vast green plains to glaciers, snow capped mountains and barren wind eroded plateaus,  black sand beaches and fjords it seems like the country’s got it all. We drove the ring road (highway 1) over a week, which was admittedly a little shorter than would have been ideal which made the itinerary a little rushed and touch-and-go, but I still got to see it all and it was an amazing time.

In no particular order, I’m going to list some things that stand out to me from my memory of the trip so here goes:

Seeing a million waterfalls (seriously this country has too many of them):

FHD0018.JPGP1010112.jpgP1010015.jpg

Overlooking the black sand beach from the lighthouse, and losing my lens cap on the black sand beach:

IMG_3045.JPG

The lighthouse in the distance

P1010213.jpg

That really long walk out to the plane wreck in the middle of nowhere:

IMG_3044.JPG

IMG_3041.JPG

The 500km/6 hour long night drive on the third day to reach our airbnb way later than we thought we would, at 1am. Having nothing but The Weeknd’s Starboy album on replay for most of the drive because we were too tired/lazy/focused on reaching the destination; I still can’t listen to most of it now. Tiring (and slightly scary) as it was at the time, I’ll probably always remember it fondly now.

P1010302.jpg

Had to give the glacier lagoon a miss because of the lack of time though 😦

P1010315.jpg

Speeding along the dark, mostly empty ring road

The views of this road on the way down to Seyðisfjörður; going really out of the way to get some shots from a better angle:

P1010092.jpgP1010091.jpg

Really, really smelly but really, really impressive volcanic vents and pools:

P1010072.jpg

Don’t even want to think about what that metallic, bubbling liquid is

FHD0074.JPG

Getting caught in mad rains/winds in the vicinity of the countries most powerful waterfall (which was basically blasting water at us too), subsequently having my pants entirely drenched, freezing my ass off not being able to walking properly for most of the remainder of the day. It’s a wonder we didn’t fall sick:

IMG_3221.JPG

The only hike that we did during the trip, a short (maybe 2 hour?) climb along the side of a hill to reach yet another waterfall that no one remembers the name of:

P1010197.jpg

P1010164.jpg

P1010144.jpg

Whale watching!!! Wasn’t too excited about spending >$100 to get on a boat and look at whales for a few hours but the insane winds and choppy waters in the fjord + those mad invincible overalls they gave us to wear made it quite a fun experience. We saw a whole lot of whales too so that was cool:

IMG_3351.JPG

Didn’t manage to get any good whale shots though.

FHD0106.JPG

FHD0105.JPG

That attempt at a hike on the last day where we walked up and realised the route was way too long and then walked down. Mad views/sky though:

IMG_3523.JPG

Staying out in the outdoor hot tub at one of our accommodations, trying to catch the lights but failing. We had a number really cool accommodations over the trip (and over the whole exchange), come to think about it. Slightly regret not taking more pictures of these places.

Special mention goes to buying groceries every night, always buying too much and overcooking, and then somehow buying too much the next day anyway which was fun. Also Icelandic words are hilarious.

Road tripping made the whole trip really laid back and i’m glad to have been able to do it in such an amazing country, with company that made it work.

FHD0029.JPGFHD0030.JPGIMG_3519.JPG

Headed back 2 days earlier than the rest to go to Stockholm for a pre-semester briefing at KTH. 2 days later, I was off to Copenhagen for my 2nd ever solo trip (albeit a short one). After writing posts like this and thinking about all the things I’ve experienced it’s hard to say life isn’t good, really.

Advertisements

040118 fjord norway & jotunheimen

Kicking off my series of exchange recap posts with the first trip to Norway! Ever since I saw a picture of the Norwegian fjords for the very first time when i was 14 (or something) or years I’ve dreamt of visiting the place and hiking its mountains and driving through fjord land. My Instagram feed has always been littered with photos of Norway from photographers and to have been able to experience some these places in person and see them with my own eyes is still quite surreal even when I think about it now.

Trip started from Oslo, which was ridiculously expensive and slightly disappointing. Visited a couple of museums which were okay, and the view of the opera house was ruined by surrounding construction. It was thankfully, the only disappointing part of the trip.

We took a bus from Oslo to Gjendesheim in Jotunheimen national park after that to hike the Besseggen ridge; even though I went on so many trips after this one (with some insanely beautiful places as well) I dare say that Besseggen was the single most beautiful place I’ve visited on exchange (and possibly in my life). The hike was on the Norwegian DNT website listed as an intermediate level hike but after this hike and Preikestolen after we learnt that Norwegian hiking standards are probably higher than most out there. Besseggen took 7.5 hours to complete, and last 2-3 hours of which was spent trying to survive and get to the end ASAP. The feeling after completing the hike was reminiscent of the feeling after a route march but for the views and the feeling up there I’d do it again in a heartbeat, blisters and sore legs and ruined knee and all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Barely 30min into the first ascent and already getting crazy views

The Besseggen ridge is a mountain ridge passing between two lakes, one a deep blue colour and the other with a greener hue. The views from the top were insane and the feeling of knowing that such places exist and that I was there is something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to adequately describe.

P1010262.jpg

P1010264.jpg

We were really blessed with the weather that day as well, it rained both the day before and after our hike. The hike itself contained many steep ascents and descents; one particular portion was a nearly vertical climb that required us to use all four limbs to ascend the rocks along the thin ridge. It led to the highest point of the hike, and with a 900m vertical drop flanking us on both sides it was quite scary too.

P1010266.jpg

Triumphant!! After the gruelling vertical climb portion

P1010273.jpg

Moody scenes on the long climb down (which screwed up my knee for the next few weeks)

Following the Besseggen hike we spent a day travelling back to Oslo by bus and then catching a flight to Stavanger, where we stayed overnight and then headed to the Preikestolen mountain lodge for the next hike. This hike took about 4-5 hours and was considerably easier (and more crowded) than Besseggen, with paved steps for most of the hike and an insane amount of people.

P1010084.jpg

Taking a break along the path

P1010079.jpg

Peek of the Lysefjord on the way up

When we arrived at the top it was flooded with people; rain and fog was setting in and we decided to climb even higher to get a nice view of the Pulpit Rock itself. We got lucky, reaching a point of sufficient elevation with a good view just before the the fog completely descended and the rain came in.

P1010099.jpg

Fog setting over the Pulpit Rock

Once the rain started we started finding our way down, which took awhile because we couldn’t find the path that we took down. After being lost for awhile we found another hiker who was headed down and together we figured out the way down together. Once we got back down to the Pulpit Rock it was nearly empty, probably because every left when it started raining. We really got lucky.

These two hikes were the main highlights of the trip for me; the following days were spent travelling to Odda and then to Bergen. Bergen was a really nice city and I’m glad we decided to spend more time there, not to mention that the airbnb we got there was insane.

2018-01-04 11.16.36.jpg

Bryggen

2018-01-04 11.16.43.jpg

$30 meal at Bergen Fish Market (worth it)

2018-01-04 11.16.47.jpg

The apartment’s living room

P1010151.jpg

On top of Fløyen overlooking Bergen

The trip started exchange off on an amazing note, really, setting the tone for the next few months and living up to all the expectations I had of Norway as a country.

010118 re: distance

Landed in Singapore last night and my mind’s been in a sort of suspended state since. The feeling of returning home was underwhelming to say the least; pretty much every other life event that I’ve spent any significant amount of time looking forward to (post A-levels, ORD, etc.) turned out to be an underwhelming experience, yet for some reason I expected this to be different.  If there’s one thing to gain from this it’s the realisation that  home is a permanent fixture it is as much a place as it is people which is to say perhaps spending any amount of time away isn’t going to make it feel any less familiar, and maybe it’s the not being overwhelmed by that proverbial wave of joy that say this the loudest.

Overwhelmed is the feeling when I stepped out into Oslo the first day of pre-trip, trying to process the fact that this was actually happening; overwhelmed is the feeling walking along the Besseggen ridge, struggling to grasp that places like these are real; overwhelmed is being faced with new experiences and having to process new emotions. Home is none of these things I think, home is returning after 6 months and not having to readjust to a different environment home is my muscle memory moving me around the house flipping switches and moving appliances; home is waking up in this bed like I never left it like the entire exchange was just a dream (good thing I have pictures to prove it), home is comfort home is natural home means I can let my guard down and I think that’s what I appreciate the most.

Exchange really was a dream though (in the less literal sense of the word), and that it just happened and went by still feels so surreal. As with every new experience I’ve learnt a whole lot about myself and maybe I’ll write about it sometime if the words ever come to me. In the meantime I’ve decided that I’m going to publish a series of posts here on exchange – one for every trip that I made, ending off with a final post about life in Stockholm, in part to consolidate how I feel about everything because (as I mentioned before) i think blogging really helps with this, and also in part to put all these feelings and all down on black and white while the whole experience is still relatively fresh in my memory. Also thought it’d be a good idea to print out select pictures and compile them on a board of sorts, though knowing myself it’ll probably never materialise if it’s not done by the time the next semester begins.

On a separate note, people and playing music are the main things I missed while away and I’m really looking forward to catching up with friends with whatever time remaining before school starts.

 

201217 back

It’s been more than 3 years since I’ve published on this blog – lately I’ve been feeling the urge to start a blog again, mainly because the past couple of weeks/months have been pretty intense in more ways than just one and on multiple occasions I’ve found myself dealing with thoughts/feelings that I wished I had some kind of outlet for. Years ago, apart from blogging, social media platforms like twitter used to be my venting outlet but all of that has long fallen out of use and Instagram just doesn’t fill the same niche – quite frustrating. Also recent conversations with different people have led to the topic of keeping diaries/blogs. I’ve always felt like I like the *idea* of blogging, the thought of kinda just sitting down at the end of the day and airing all my thoughts seems so appealing. When done right I really do believe (like keeping a diary) that you gain some level of clarity and self-awareness from this but sadly my previous blogs eventually turned into sites filled with one liner angst posts and low quality content.

It’s been a rough month and I’ve been looking at all my old blogs to try and put current circumstances into perspective. It’s really helped with coping; remembering really bad times that I’ve pulled through but have long forgotten about, looking at how I’ve grown and realising that we’re all a lot stronger than we give ourselves credit for in the moment. I think I’ve come to realise that keeping a blog isn’t just valuable because you have an outlet; you’re also creating a personal archive to look back on years later. Naturally, it took looking back years later to realise this. I do believe that enough time has passed since then for me to get over the urge to post one liners, so I’ve decided that I’ve gonna give this blogging thing another shot. I’ve cleared this blog of the two sad posts that remain from my previous attempt at proper blogging, so here’s to a new start! It helps that blogging (and checking other’s blogs) isn’t really common practice anymore so I can really focus on blogging for myself – a public online diary of sorts.

Currently it is 0316, sitting on the couch in my room in Bredäng for the last time this exchange, try to process the reality that my exchange is basically over. The past few months I’ve had a daily unwinding ritual of dimming the lights, putting on some light music and planting myself on the couch at the end of the day and its really become something I’ve looked forward to every night. Sitting here fully aware that this is the last time I’ll get to do this is overwhelming, to say the least. Before exchange started the introvert in me jumped at the thought having an entire studio apartment to myself provided by the school, toilet kitchen and all. The lack of a social facet to life in this accommodation can really be a bummer sometimes but leaving this place 5.5 months later I can conclude that I appreciate the comfort (the addition of a sofa to the room was a massive bonus), peace and privacy that I’ve enjoyed here the past few months. I’ll miss this a whole lot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Couldn’t ask for a better place to stay here

Really excited for the parents arriving to Stockholm tomorrow morning mainly because it feels like home is coming to me before I actually go home but also because this city has really grown on me the past few months (so so glad to have been able to call this place home away from home) and it’s thrilling to have the opportunity to share it with the people who mean the most. Will be going to Copenhagen and Gothenburg with them as well, not sure what’s in store in Gothenburg but Copenhagen was amazing the last time round and I can’t wait to go back.

As for this exchange, I don’t think I’m at any capacity now to process the experience and the occurrences and everything I’ve gained (and maybe lost). Maybe I’ll try to write about it some other time, I mean that’s mostly why I felt the need to restart this blog in the first place.