Monday, June 30, 2014

Meet-Me-Halfway Honeymoon: Part 2 - Oslo, Norway

After spending 2 days in Stockholm, it was time to bid goodbye to Sweden and continue on our journey in Norway, starting with a 'budget' overnight bus ride to the city of Oslo. Honestly, we felt like we could have just spent one full day in Oslo instead of two coz there weren't much to see or do in the city. Anyway, big thank you to Jared for giving us a brief tour of Oslo and treating us with the best meal we had throughout this trip. =)

May 15 (Thurs): Oslo Opera House - Royal Palace - Vigeland Park

We know that traveling on an overnight bus is not comfortable but it saved us a lot of time and money. In fact, the cheapest way to travel is when we're young coz these are the years where we can sleep in hostels and take overnight bus/train rides without it being taxing on our bodies. =P Surprisingly, we slept quite well throughout the 7.5 hours journey and the sky was already bright at 5am!   

Arrived Oslo bus terminal at 6am and the temperature was 5 celcius...brrr!! Our day in Oslo started pretty rough coz we arrived early in the morning and couldn't check-in or drop our luggage at our Airbnb apartment till 4pm (that's one major downside of Airbnb as compared to hostel/hotel). Not a good way to start the day with an empty stomach so we had this very expensive hotdog & choco milk that cost NOK55 (RM 30) for breakfast. =P

After 3 boring hours of sitting in the train station and waiting for time to past, we finally got off our butts and walked to the Oslo Opera House with our luggage. This opera house looks pretty 'sophisticated' but the one in Sydney is much prettier. =P The surrounding was kinda a let down with all the construction works going on around.    

Managed to secure a good spot with a perfect view of the opera house. The weather was very nice so we ended up sitting there for 1.5 hours taking pictures, boat-watch, and people-watch...just chillin' and tanning. =)

It costs NOK60 (RM32) to rent a locker at the train station but I brilliantly found this Use-it place that allowed us to store our luggage for free! =P However, do take note of the opening hours. This place is an information center for young travelers between the 13 and 26 (I'm still 26 now), and they offer free luggage storage, free internet, free information, and free maps. Pretty awesome to find this 'free' place in this expensive city!!! 

Felt so good after dropping off our 'burdens' and off we go with few more hours of sightseeing before we call it a day. On our way to the Royal Palace, we bumped into this group of people who were all dressed up in suits and national costumes for a parade in conjunction with the 200th Anniversary of the Norwegian Constitution Day on May 17. 

It was just an ordinary Thursday and we saw all these kiddos and their teachers picnicking around Palace Park. So fun to be a kid but so stressful to be a kindy teacher in Norway!! =P  

The Royal Palace. The procession that we saw earlier ended at the Royal Palace with a group photo followed by a luncheon with the royalties...lucky us to witness this! =) We failed to see the changing of the guards in Oslo as!!  

Saw some nice buildings and cute 'mini' cars along our 2km walk from the Royal Palace to Vigeland Park. These mini cars are actually 'Buddy' electronic cars...yes the brand is really called Buddy. =P Why do we not have this car in Penang?? It's so environmentally friendly and it'll definitely help to reduce the traffic here!! See how it's parked in the middle pic!!

The Vigeland Park...the world's largest sculpture park made by a single artist.

Posed with some interesting sculptures in the park and of course gotta take some selfies. =P

Passed by Grand Hotel and Stortinget (Parliament Building) passing by Karl Johanns Gate on our way back to collect our luggage then check-in to our apartment. 

Finally checked-in our Airbnb apartment after a long day...pheww!! Our hosts, Anna and Preben was very welcoming and made us feel at home. The apartment was also very comfortable and cozy. Made pasta for dinner, took a nice hot shower (after 24 hours without shower), and totally passed out at 6pm till the next morning...seriously dead tired!! 

May 16 (Fri): Nobel Peace Center - Aker Brygge - Festningen Restaurant

Another beautiful day in Oslo. After a good night's rest, we left the apartment at noon and stored our luggage at the train station as we were gonna leave Oslo at night and take an overnight train to Stavanger. 

We didn't have much planned for the day and the only 2 things we had on our list were to visit the Nobel Peace Center and meet my high school friend, Jared for dinner at the restaurant where he works. Beautiful weather and view of Aker Brygge from Akershus Fortress.

The Nobel Peace Center. We were supposed to pay NOK60 (RM32) per person for the student ticket but the ground floor exhibition center was closed so we got a 50% discount. =) To be honest, this kind of 'deep' place doesn't suit me and I was just accompanying Daniel. As expected, it was pretty boring inside and there were so much to read (I could just read all these on the internet). I was more interested with the view outside and the free wifi in the building. =P   

Chillin' at the park nearby while waiting for we really chilled a lot in Oslo!! That white house by the fortress (bottom left pic) was where we had our dinner. =)

Finally met up with Jared and he brought us for a tour around Aker Brygge. He's been working in Oslo for almost 2 years and it's been awhile since we last met so this trip was a great opportunity to catch up. =)

According to Jared, the day we visited was the first day Festningen Restaurant launched their outdoor patio and it was only opened for invited guests so we were really lucky. =) The ambiance, weather, view, food, company...ahh...everything was PERFECTO!! 

This panoramic photo doesn't do justice to the breathtaking view of the harbour.

Prawns, sea bass, fish & chips, steak, mussels, choco nom nom!! Best food we had throughout this trip!!  

Big thank you to Jared for treating us to all these yummylicious delicacies (especially the dessert)!! Great catch up indeed!! =) All the best to you in Norway and keep making delicious pastries!! 

After bidding goodbye to Jared, we headed back to the train station to collect our luggage and took the 10.23pm overnight train from Oslo to Stavanger. 

We purchased our train tickets 2 months ahead and got the discounted 'Minipris' ticket for NOK249 (RM140) per person...very cheap for Norway's standard! The NSB trains are very clean and comfortable. Each seat has power socket and all passengers on the night train get a special package containing pillow, travel blanket, eye mask and ear plugs...nice!! =D 

So what's next after our overnight train ride? Next post...a strenuous hike awaits us at Stavanger!!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Meet-Me-Halfway Honeymoon: Part 1 - Stockholm, Sweden

Finally finished editing all the photos from our meet-me-halfway honeymoon in Sweden & Norway (still working on the collage and videos) so I should start blogging about the trip while it's still fresh in my mind. I'm gonna split this trip into few posts coz there's sooo much to blog about and it'll probably take me at least 2 months to finish blogging about this 2-weeks' trip. =P

May 13 (Tues): Penang - KL - Frankfurt - Stockholm

Daniel's United flight was from Nashville-New York-Stockholm. Thanks to Donny for waking up in the middle of the night and drove 1.5 hours to drop him off at Nashville airport. =) He arrived Stockholm 5 hours ahead of me and had few extra hours for some sightseeing. 

I booked my flight from KL-Frankfurt-Stockholm on Lufthansa at the beginning of March and the exact same ticket price dropped by RM1000 2 weeks later...what a bummer!! Oh well, tough luck. Anyway, this was my first time traveling on Lufthansa and overall I was quite happy with it. It's under Star Alliance so it was good for my Mileage Plus. I boarded the flight from KL at 12am and had 2 seats for myself coz the flight was quite empty. Made myself comfortable laying down and slept quite a good bit throughout the 12 hours flight to Frankfurt. =)

Arrived Frankfurt airport at 6am and spent the next 4-hours chilling at the Relax Zone while enjoying the view of this busy airport.

Boarded the 10.05am flight to Stockholm. 

After traveling for almost 22 hours, I finally made it to Stockholm Arlanda airport!! Bought the 24-hours SL Access card from the airport for SEK115 (RM56). This is not the easiest way to get to the city but it's the cheapest option and it gives access to all public transportation (bus, metro, rail, tram, & ferry) in Stockholm for 24 hours.

First leg of my Stockholm public transportation adventure...a 20 min bus ride (bus 583) from the airport to Märsta station. The plane in the bottom right pic is actually a hostel converted from a decommissioned 747-200 jetliner. Pretty cool huh!

Second leg...40 min commuter train ride from Märsta station to Stockholm Central Station. Good that I was carrying a backpack, much easier to walk around. =) 

Third leg...5 min metro ride from Central Station to Slussen station. When I arrived at the platform, I didn't know which direction I should get on. While I was exploring the metro map, a guy standing beside me probably saw that I looked lost so he asked where I wanted to go and told me the right direction...thank you random Swedish guy!! =P

I was supposed to take another bus from the metro station to the hostel but couldn't find where to board the bus so I ended up walking to the hostel along the waterfront. =P 

While I was busy traveling on various modes of transportation, Daniel went for sightseeing at the City Hall while waiting for my arrival.

Finally made it to Best Hostel Old Town Skeppsbron and hubby was already waiting for me at the hostel for the past hour. =) Been looking forward to spend these 2 weeks together since our wedding 5 months ago. We booked a cozy private room and was lucky to get one with a view of the waterfront. The hostel is strategically located in Gamla Stan, right next to the Royal Palace and along the waterfront. 

After dropping off my luggage, it was time to get going with a bit of sightseeing before we call it a day. We've both been traveling for more than 24 hours without shower, that explains our 'sleepy' look. =P

Our first meal at Nystekt Strömming. This famous street-food stall is "the best place to get a quick snack of freshly fried herring in Stockholm is this humble cart outside the tunnelbana station at Slussen." I ordered the most popular Skåning (SEK40 ; RM22) and Daniel ordered the Strömmingsrulle wrap (SEK70 ; RM37). The weather was perfect for us to enjoy the yummylicious meal at the outdoor seating. =) 

Continued our sightseeing with a walk to Monteliusvägen Vagen...a great place for a tranquil walk and a spectacular view of Stockholm

Filled with old houses, steep hills and cobble stoned streets, this beautiful district gives a nice and cozy feeling of how Stockholm used to look in the 18th and 19th century.

Bird's-eye view over Stockholm Old Town, City Hall and Riddarfjärden. =)

B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L!! Perfect view to wrap up our first day in Stockholm.

May is definitely a good time to travel coz the sun sets really late, making the day feels so much longer. Nice view from our room. =)

May 14 (Wed): Stockholm

After a good night's rest, it was time to continue with our second and last day of sightseeing in Stockholm. As we had plenty of time to kill before catching our overnight bus to Oslo, we decided to start our day later and went to the Royal Palace around 11am.

Wanted to watch the changing of guards at the Royal Palace but I think we got the time wrong and left too early. =P We didn't see changing of the guards but at least we saw some!!

Panoramic view of the Royal Palace.

View of the city from the Royal Palace. The weather pretty shitty and it started drizzling so we kinda lost the mood for to walk further and spent the afternoon just strolling around Gamla Stan.   

Souvenir shopping and goofing around with hubby. =P

It was nice walking around the old town which consists of medieval alleyways, cobbled streets, and archaic architecture. The place in the top middle photo is Mårten Trotzigs Gränd, the narrowest alley in the city (less than 1m wide).

Found this nice little place to take a break and chill.

Pit stop for Swedish meatballs at The Temple Bar...yumsss!

We left our luggage at the hostel after checking out but we had few more hours to kill. The hostel was nice enough to let us chill in the dining area and shower before we headed out to the bus station to catch our overnight bus.

The city looked so pretty at dusk! It was still pretty bright at 8.30pm.

Walked almost 2km from the hostel to the bus terminal. Kinda tiring but the scenery along the way was pretty so the walk wasn't too bad after all. =P  

Took the 10.20pm Swebus from Stockholm to Oslo. We booked the tickets online for SEK259 (RM145) per parson. As I mentioned before, public transportation is expensive but this bus was a pretty good deal coz it helped us save on one night's accommodation. =)

That's all for Stockholm, next up...Oslo!!