Accommodation Options in the Arctic

It has been awhile but if you have been following my other social media channels, you would know that I was in Arctic Europe/Lapland for a week. You can check out my video here in case you have not seen it yet:

I understand that there is a huge fascination and interest to visit the Lapland region particularly for the Northern Lights and so I thought it might be useful to write a mini guide about the region. Partly also because I feel like most people only know about ONE resort in the area when there are so many other options to choose from.

Also if anyone tells you that the Northern lights are “disappearing”, I hope you know that the Northern lights is a natural phenomenon that no one can control although the locals did mention that they have seen some of the best Northern lights in their life this 2016/17 season.

When to visit:

This is possibly the most commonly asked question and because no one really knows when the Northern lights will go on display, you can only try to increase your chances by 1) Going as far north as possible, 2) Staying out in a dark dark place and 3) Pray for a cloudless night.

If you are afraid of the cold and hate snow, the local recommend the autumn season between Aug to Oct where the Northern lights would start to appear as the days get darker and you might have a chance of viewing a “Double Aurora” where the aurora reflects off a lake/river. You would not be able to do winter activities then but if you want to enjoy cheaper prices + fewer tourists and only want to chase the Northern lights then it is a good option.

However the most popular period of travel is between Nov/Dec/Jan where it is the darkest and coldest period. You would have to be okay with paying premium prices, squeezing with other tourists and dealing with the frigid cold (-20 to 30 degrees type of cold).

So personally if you were to ask me, I would recommend March as a good month to go because 1) There is still snow to do winter activities 2) There is more sun and daylight 3) It is not so cold 4) There are less tourists around and 5) You still have a good opportunity to see the Northern lights.

Where to stay

I think that we need to take price out of the consideration here because you have to be prepared to spend should you wish to visit Scandinavia. Instead we should consider what type of experience you would like to go for, other than viewing the Northern lights.

Rovaniemi

The most popular destination is Rovaniemi because it is marketed as the “Home of Santa Claus”. You can get there by plane or an overnight VR train from Helsinki.

There are many hotels to choose from including:

  1. Arctic Snow Hotel – They have a very cool Snow Sauna!
  2. Santa Arctic Circle Glass Igloos

It is a good place to go for an all rounded trip where you can visit Santa Claus, visit the Snowhotel, do winter activities and also pop over to Kemi to do the Ice Breaker that I did in this video:

However it is also the most commercial place to visit and you have to expect a lot of tourists.

Luosto

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If you would like to be near Rovaneimi but slightly further away from the crowd, you can consider Luosto which has these igloos at Santa Aurora Hotel and nearby there are log cabins as well at Lapland Hotel Luostotunturi.

In this area they have an Amethyst mine which I have not personally visited but know that it is quite a popular attraction there.

Nellim/Muotka

For a more homey, cosy experience, I would recommend visiting Nellim or Muotka. It is accessible via flight from Helsinki to Ivalo. These two places are run by a couple and they offer unique accommodation like…

This Aurora Cabin in Muotka:

Muotka Wilderness Lodge

These log cabins in Nellim:

Nellim Wilderness Lodge

And these Aurora Bubbles in Nellim:

Somehow when I was there, I felt very connected with nature and it felt like a very peaceful escapade. I believe that there are also good cross country skiing spots there too.

Kirkenes

It is also possible to combine a visit to Inari (near Muotka/Nellim) with a visit to Kirkenes as well. In Kirkenes they have a Snowhotel which is worth a visit, these cosy Gamme cabins as pictured above and King Crabs!

A fun fact is that you are actually helping the environment eating the King Crabs there because there are so many of them there that they are destroying the seabed and when they run out of food they actually…eat each other.

It was also in Kirkenes that I got to go on a local home visit which made the experience that much more special. It was so cute that the locals were so enthusiastic and excited to have us visit their homes. I believe that this activity can soon be booked through the Snowhotel in Kirkenes.

There are many other options of course but these are a few that I am familiar with and also enjoy working with. Hope this will be useful to anyone planning your next Northern Lights holiday!

Hokkaido June 2016

I cannot complain about how the first half of the year has unfolded for me. I definitely was not expecting to be travelling this much at the start of the year but I am thankful for many different trips to spend time with friends and family. Yes I traded 1 LDR for many LDRs but I am happy to be able to create memories with my loved ones in different parts of the world.

Last week saw me flying from Stockholm to Hokkaido to meet my parents for a week. It might not have been that many days but it was enough for me to fall in love with Japan (even more than I already do). Before the trip even ended, my parents and I were already briefly discussing about meeting up in a different part of Japan next year.

I did not take a day by day log of what we did but perhaps this jumbled lot of photographs would summarise our trip succinctly.

Left: My first meal at the airport with my parents who so patiently waited for me. And even though my luggage was missing, seeing my parents again and having fresh sashimi and perfectly marinated beef made it all okay.

Right: Sightseeing stopovers while on the road and this was the Oshinkoshin Falls. We were shivering, can you tell?

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And then we eat more again. What else. This was a mixed dinner from a food court.

Left: Stopover to do a quick footbath onsen in acidic water in Kawayu.

Right: Take more touristy pictures and eat loads of Hokkaido soft serves.

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We randomly stopped the car whenever we spotted animals. This trip we saw many horses, a baby fox and deers while on the road.

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Eat again, of course.

This was us feasting on King Crabs which was caught in the morning. It was so fresh and sweet and good. I need to eat this meal again.

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It was nice that other than having fixed destinations, we kept our itinerary relatively free and easy so we could just go with the flow as we travelled around the island and stopped whenever we saw something interesting. While we may not have covered not have covered ALL the tourist attractions (which is impossible in one week), we definitely had a good time just exploring a new place together.

SWEDAPURA RECOMMENDS

My Hokkaido attractions recommendation would be: 1) Visiting Furano Flower Farm when in season 2) Take a boat to the tip of Shiretoko (UNESCO Heritage site) 3) Try an onsen 4) Go hiking in Shiretoko (would go back to do that to be honest).

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If I could fly one airline for the rest of my life, I would say that it would be JAL handsdown. It might be a close call between JAL and Qatar but really, this AirMos burger just took the cake for me.

Maybe I have not flown enough but a burger in the air? I love how I had to assemble my meal myself!

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And oh yes, one can never leave Japan without a stash of snacks. There is no such thing as overkill when it comes to snacks (for me).

Ending this post off with a cute picture of my cute parents and if you click on it, you would head over to our video filmed in a Japanese convenience store!

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See you in a month!

Out in the Woods w the Marklunds

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Last weekend, Jens and I went back to his hometown to visit his family.

It has been awhile since I have seen them, the last being before I went back to Singapore, so it was nice to see them again (why is Sweden so big?!).

Anyway, it was a belated birthday celebration of sorts for Jens’s brother Viktor who requested for a picnic out in the forest.

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Look Ma, I am walking on water.

After Viktor flew his plane for awhile, we made our way to a BBQ area and while the kids were busy climbing trees and taking selfies…

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The parents were hard at work to get the BBQ going…

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A sidenote to my family: If the wooden shed above looks appealing, an overnight stay can be arranged during your visit this summer. I am very sure Mum would love it. Not.

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So after all the hard work by Pappa and Mamma Marklund, the fire was ready to grill the bacon wrapped sausages.

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And now we can officially say, Spring is here and we have had our first BBQ of the year.

But of course as you can tell, Spring was only in our heads because we still had to have many layers on.

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Although soon, very soon, we can enjoy more days outdoors like this and these perfectly roasted sausages would stay warm for longer.

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It was a lovely day to be out nonetheless and probably the best Saturday we have had this year.

Till the next time!

Swedapura Goes to a Castle

Ahh, I have been away from this space for a little bit longer than I hoped but the past few weeks have been pretty hectic and I hardly had any time to sit down and blog. Anyway, thank you all for checking back every now and then and I have to say that Sweden has been treating me pretty well so far, in spite of the colder weather and lesser sunshine. Autumn is officially in full swing and the trees are a lovely 50 shades of orange.

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One of the major highlights from the last weekend was a lovely weekend staycation at a castle outside of Stockholm, courtesy of Jens parents. As it was Jens’s birthday at the beginning of this month, his parents wanted to surprise him with a short getaway and they found this sweet deal which included a one night stay at the castle + 3 course dinner + Breakfast the next morning.

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I wanted to keep it a surprise till the last minute so I only told Jens to pack an overnight bag and directed him to the castle with the help of Google maps. When the signs started pointing very obviously to “Häringe Slött”, Jens was in slight disbelief. He asked, “Is this where we are staying tonight?”

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For anyone living in Stockholm and looking for a quick getaway, I would say that this is a really nice option. However I would only recommend it if you can get the weekend staycation deal because we were able to eat almost the cost of the stay with our meal choices at dinner. It was nice that we could select whatever we wanted to eat from the menu so being a typical Singaporean, I only looked at the expensive dishes. I was really pleased with my choice of Scallops for starters, Deer with kantarell (wild mushroom) cheesecake and an Ice cream cake for dessert.

This is a short video of us exploring the castle which I hope you would enjoy!

p.s. I will update Instagram with a few more photos because it was such an “instagrammable” place!

Till the next time!

Swedapura Goes To Norway (Part 2)

I did not manage to squeeze out another post before my Norway trip but I am now back with Part 2 of my Norwegian adventure! This time around I managed to document bits of my trip on video so I would share the link to the Youtube video at the end of this post.

Instead of doing a day by day recount, I thought that I should instead share a few of my favourites during this trip. My favourite hotel was Ullensvang Hotel. The rooms are not particularly new/modern BUT there are a few key reasons why I really enjoyed my stay there:

1)The view from the hotel is just…so beautiful. They had a bonfire going the first night I was there so we could chill by the water and enjoy the view while still staying warm.

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Just had to include one more picture. And if you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen their swimming pool. I wished I had the time to swim but it seemed almost comparable to swimming at MBS’s infinity pool.

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2) Their buffet spreads was the best hotel food I had the whole trip. Every night we were spoilt for choice with a mixture of cold seafood and hot roast meats. They even had crayfish, hehe! Plus their dessert spread was too good to resist. I had a plate of many small pieces of at least 8 different types of cake each night.

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3) Most of all, their service was the best. I don’t know if it is because it is a family business but it was my first time visiting a hotel where the manager would specially welcome you and bid you farewell. The staff were also all very cheerful and helpful. At the Bergen hotel we stayed in (not sure if I should name it), the front desk staff always had a sour look on their face and it was such a turnoff.

My favourite little town was Aurland. I think I enjoyed it the most because of the company I had whilst I was there. I had spicy instant noodles and local beer with fellow Asians after a rainy day out, took evening walks around the area and enjoyed this view every day/night.

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It was also where we went hiking and I had the opportunity to meet this Norwegian guide who was so enthusiastic with teaching us Norwegian songs. And in case you are wondering, he did do the whole hike with that umbrella in his hand, haha!

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My favourite meal was at Cornelius Restaurant. I don’t know if I was just really hungry or because it was the most expensive meal but it was really really good. This was the Hake main course and everything was so fresh and went so well together. I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting Bergen.

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Finally ending off this post with a rare sight of a sunny day in Bergen since it is usually always raining there. Click on this link to watch my little Norwegian vlog!

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Till the next time!