Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tourist, yeah I don't Look Like One

I guess I just look like an immigrant local most of the time. I have met people who approached me and ask about road directions by speaking in the local language like Swedish or Norwegian. In Scandinavia you will find Southeast Asian immigrants on the streets and I guess most of them could be Thais or Vietnamese. By no mean they are Malaysians for sure. So perhaps I was thought to be one of them. Or it could be that people thought I was one of the immigrant Chinese. But once a Chinese tourist whom I met on the train commented that I do not look like Chinese. And it could also be the never-cares look on my face as if the tourist attractions have no earthly business to do with me, that, I don't look like a tourist!

Bergen 30/8/2007

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Spending the Last Penny on a Beer

Some thoughts just cross my head while I was on the journey and I soon forget them given my helpless short memory. I told myself everytime that I should write them down but for no reason I just do not practice this habit.

I had a good time finishing Stephen King's Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption on the way from Gothenburg to Copenhagen, or from Stockholm to Gothenburg, I can't really remember that by now. TSR is my all time favorite movie and I got a second book from the South bank in London for 3 pound. I read some of the sections over and over again later in my journey. Hope is the best thing in life, and no good thing ever dies.

In Copenhagen I spent my very last Danish crowns on a Carlsberg, an apple and a packet of orange juice. I just want to make sure if Carlsberg tastes better in Denmark. The answer is, no. I should have got a Tuborg instead. I wanted to drink in a more fashionable style along the canal in Nyhavn but could only drink it on the train station's bench, otherwise I might be late for the bus to Oslo.

For the first time I did my own cooking in the Amager youth hostel in Copenhagen, for things were too expensive and I have to make sure all spendings were within my budget. I made the pasta, of course, and not the rice. Pasta al pomodoro, a simple dish which you could get it done quick and you don't need much ingredients for that.

Bergen 30/8/2007

Saturday, August 25, 2007

One night in Stansted

I was supposed to depart from London Stansted for Oslo Torp éarly in the morning around 6:30 on the 15th Aug. I therefore took the Nationalexpress coach from Heathrow to Stansted on the 14th night and planned to spend a night in the airport.

I did not expect Stansted to be so crowded on that night that you can´t even find a place, I mean, a proper bench or chair to sit on. Many just slept on the passage way, the waiting hall or in front of the check in counter. You put your sleeping bag on the floor and just sleep on it. The crowds must be those going for the summer vacation. The Europeans are just moving around everywhere in the whole summer.

I finally settled myself down in front of a Ryanair check in counter. Well I don´t have a sleeping bag with me so I just slept on the floor. You generally could not get a good sleep as people are walking here and there and talking loud. The worst thing was that the check in counter was opened for check in at about 4am and everyone started gathering around me. Well then half awake, I have to locate a new place to continue sleeping. I was lucky enough to secure a "series" of chair which were much more comfortable.
I actually set the mobile alarm so that I could wake up at 5:30 for the check in. During the check in I have to check in my backpack, though I was so unwilling to do to, since the airport regulation only allowed one hand carry item. I had a bad feeling when checking in that small backpack, feeling that something bad was going to happen. And that feeling came true - I was greeted by Oslo by a "almost lost" luggage. And the rain.
Copenhagen 25/8/2007

The Journey

Now the blog serves like an online diary.

9/8 Bergamo - London
10 - 14/8 London (with a trip to Bath on 13/8)
15/8 Oslo
16/8 Uppsala (Sweden)
17 - 19/8 Stockholm
20 - 21/8 Gothenburg
22 - 25/8 Copenhagen

Copenhagen 25/8/2007

Throw away the checklist!

After all, what matters most is not what you see in a city, it is how you feel about the city.

I always prefer smaller towns than huge metropolitan. In a huge city you need more time to do the pre travel preparation, there is more to be read about, accomodation reservation is always a necessity during peak season, you need to learn how to get around with the local transportation like metros, trams and buses, and there are so many sites to be visited that you need to learn how to prioritise. You don´t have such problem in smaller towns.

While travelling in a city you need to always look at the map to figure out places that you are heading to. The map is like a checklist, you take note of which are the "must-do" places that you have been to. You find bus sightseeing tours and canal tours in every corner of the city. The pedestrian streets get crowded with lost tourists and noisy locals. You got scared by the prices displayed at the price list board of those eateries at the popular squares. You got tired of walking, a full whole day, from morning till night, hoping for a good sleep in the hostel dormitory that you have to share with another 4 or 5.

It doesn´t matter if you get to see all the sites in the city, this idea crossed my mind one day while I was walking around the archipelago city of Stockholm. After all when you got asked "hey what do you like about that place" you wouldn´t want to give an answer like "I like it because I like that building or that park". You want to answer in a more thoughtful way like "I like the melancholy feel of it". Don´t you?
Copenhagen 25/8/2007

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The rainy cities

London, arrived on 9th August.

Let's turn the page to London now. It's nice catching up with old pals in this biggest capital of the Europe. which I used to not like it very much in the past. Sometimes you just don't like a city for no reason at all. I guess I don't London for the very bad first impression that the airport officers had given me, the pretty strong racism sentiment that you could feel once you enter any airport in London. Well, that's perhaps just my personal opinion. But I have learnt to like London better during this trip, again, for no reason at all. The city is well organised, easy to roam around, and the countryside is undoubtedly beautiful.

I stayed with my friend Cathy in rural London near Heathrow. Cathy and her husband, Will were trying to make sure i don't get hungry all the time. Both are funny and nice pals, making you feel cozy staying in their house. I did make a trip to Bath but the weather was pretty sad on that day.

Met several friends working in London. Again we love going to the China Town for the meet up. It was good to catch up with my ex colleague, Terence, who used to be my senior manager back then when I was in KL and it was great that he got promoted not too long ago. Terence told me you actually bring your clients for a luxury premier league match that costs a few hundred pounds per head, that you get to sit in the VIP boxes so close to the field. That sounds good, as in Malaysia you can probably bring your client to the F1.

Departed for Oslo on the 15th August. It was forecast that it was going to be a rainy day in Oslo. So I was moving from a rainy city to another.

Copenhagen 23/8/2007

Leaving Italy

It could take pages to start writing from the time when I left Perugia. That was the final week of August. I packed my stuff, emptied the room that I have stayed for a good 3 months, and took the train north to the town called Vercelli. I was supposed to catch the bus from Vercelli to Alice Castello, the little medieval town where my friend Pei is staying, a town that I could not even locate in the Avis driving map.

Pei was nice to accommodate me for almost a week in her home, given the fact that we have not even met each other before. I had a really good "agriturismo" vacation staying with her (that's what the Italians call for a farm house vacation), catching up with her on her life in Italy, and having fun roaming around the town on bicycle with her kids. Life is slow in Italy, but it is even slower here. Time is never important. The colour of the sky tells the time of your meal.

Pei and her husband have grains planted on their piece of land. The have zucchini for this summer since the harvest season was over for the grains and the land was put to rest for several months before continuing with the next planting. Most of the folks in the town are farmers or shop keepers. The question on social status never exixts in the town, no one cares if you are a white-collared.

Pei is a great cook. I enjoyed the most during eating time, looking forward to what she is going to make for lunch and dinner each and every day. In Italy you can never eat lousy, and you eat even much better in an Italian family. Pei's cooking was perhaps closer to the northern Italian style, with the use of eggs, mayonise, and more frequently than the south that you will see rice (risotto) appears on the dining table. Pei has a passion in poetry writing, and the Chinese old songs in the 20s and 30s, those Night Shanghai era hymns. That's perhaps her little secret garden out from the life of a normal housewife and mother, that she insists in keeping after all these years of staying far away abroad from home.

The day I left for Bergamo for the flight to London, Pei told me to come back whenever I feel tired of travelling. I know I am going to feel warm thinking of her cooking everytime I got tired of sanwiches on the road.

Copenhagen 23/8/2007