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!

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Svenska Som Andraspråk

So for those of you that have been following me on Youtube, you would have known that I am now done with Swedish For Immigrants ie SFI.

While a lot of people give the system a whole lot of crap, I must say that even though I am still not fluent in Swedish, it was better than not doing anything at all. I switched to evening classes when I started working and it forced me to listen to full Swedish for at least 2.5 hours a week. I found that my Swedish (in terms of reading and listening especially) got better over time although it might also be because I am more exposed to the language when living here.

Anyway being done with SFI feels good, a bit like a mini accomplishment. However I was also a bit clueless as to what to do next. My teacher at SFI literally told me, “Congrats. All the best. Good luck!”.

So I went a big round trying to email different schools/departments/people to eventually learn that I need to fill out an application on my kommun’s education portal to enroll for class. I required Jens help because the online portal was not user friendly especially for non-fluent Swedish users.

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The course in my kommun was once a week at 5pm which meant that I would never make it on time so I requested to be placed in a school in the city instead. Thankfully my kommun approved my request and I applied to ABF. It is a school that was highly recommended by my friends who have been through the system and also just perfect that the school is near my workplace. Thankfully I was accepted and I just started out in the beginner’s course for Swedish Som Andraspråk ie SAS.

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When we went for the first lesson, we had to take a test which comprised of a comprehension test and a letter writing segment. On the second lesson, we were split into different “levels” and I was shifted to SAS Grund 2. There are 3 Grund courses in total so essentially I got to “skip” one course.

I really appreciate the fact that we have a proper study plan and homework every lesson because it makes the whole course more structured (and also intense). We are basically going through bits of the textbook every lesson and chapters in the storybook so by the end of the course (ie before Christmas) we need to be done with the storybook so that we can write an exam. In fact there would be 4 components to the exam for this course incl Comprehension, Listening, Speaking and Literature.

The texts that we are given to read now involve more complex Swedish words that I have never seen before and till now cannot remember. Hence usually by 2030, my brain is double fried from both work and school.

I really hope that I can keep this up but the commitment level is very high and while the spirit is willing, the flesh is quite weak. I usually come home too tired to move and would need to drag my feet to work the next day.

Anyway I hope this is remotely useful for anyone going through Swedish and if you need any tips just drop me a comment!

Weekend in London

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It is almost as if I am trying to tick off all the big cities in the world (although I am not). But anyway, I made my way to London two weekends ago to hang out with my hall mates from Singapore.

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I have been to London many times during my exchange days but it is always fun to make new memories with old friends.

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We did a couple of touristy things and ticked off a few of the main London sights.

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And tried free coconut water.

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And had one too many beers.

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And of course, indulged in good food. I finally got to try Burger and Lobster!

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And these scones from the Muffin Man.

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And this random but tasty paella from Portobello market.

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And this Zi Char meal at Gold Mine.

I wish my friends would come to this part of the world more often because it is so nice to be in their company.

Till the next time we meet, here is a video of them reacting to Swedapura videos. How…embarrassing.

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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!