The Vacationist

Doctor by profession. Traveller by heart.
  • Day10

    Oslo, Norway

    September 16 in Norway

    Woke up at 3.30am today and left the hostel by 4.30am. We reached the airport, surrendered our rental car, got out tax refunds, chilled out a little and then boarded our flight to Oslo at 7.50am. We reached Oslo at around noon. It is 2 hours ahead in Oslo.

    We were picked up by a friend and then explored the city on foot for a bit. We saw the opera house which had a weird sort of modern architecture. People can actually walk on the roof. Unfortunately, its been raining so we didn't spend much time there.

    Then we took the subway and so the royal palace. Apparently its just the formal residence but the.royal family doesn't live there, well most of the time anyway.

    We hung out at a cafe by the harbour for a while. There is a custard bread with coconut shavings called skollebolle. Weird name but tastes great.

    Then we went to a restaurant called Frognerseteren up on a hill. It was pretty classy. There was supposed to be a view but because of rain and fog we couldn't see anything. Delicious food nonetheless.

    We stayed in Anker Hostel and it felt like a prison with its multiple fire doors and horrible wifi that restricted our connection with the rest of the world. Also bed linen isn't provided. You have to pay an extra NOK 20 for it.

    Anyway, flight back to KLIA tomorrow with a 3 hour transit at Bangkok. Luckily its at 2.15pm so no waking up early tomorrow.
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  • Day9

    Today is our last day of Icelandic adventure as we have a flight to Oslo at 7.50am tomorrow. We are headed back towards Reykjavik today so our first stop was seal watching at Ytri Tunga beach, which is a part if Snaæfellsjökull National Park. There are grey and harbour seals here. We got to see some but they were far away in the water as there was a large tour group on the beach.

    Then we continued to the Gerđuberg Cliffs (also a part of the national park). These cliffs are the longest belt of basalt columns in Iceland. Getting on top of them was pretty easy. It was really windy so we didn't stay there for long.

    Then we drove another one and a half hours to þingvellir National Park because we had booked Silfra snorkelling at 1pm with Troll Expeditions. Its interesting because we were actually snorkelling in a the Silfra fissure between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates. This fissure is filler with glacial water so we could actually drink it while moving through it. The water was so clear, not to mention cold. 0It was 2°C but we wore dry suits so only our faces and hands had contact with water. My hair got wet too but I didn't realize it until after I took off the mask. The whole tour took around 30 minutes. After that we were given hot chocolate and cookies. Perfect way to end our trip in Iceland.

    Nothing much after that. We just went to our hostel at the outskirts of Reykjavik called Vibrant Iceland hostel to rest for the day. Got to wake up early for out flight back to Oslo later.
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  • Day8

    Journey to Snæfellnes Peninsula

    September 14 in Iceland

    We left at about 8am in the morning. Took about an hour drive til we reached a secluded hot pot called Gunđrúnarlaug. There was nobody there when we got there and there is a small changing room. So my friends jumped in. I just soaked my feet because I was too lazy to change. We spent about half an hour here before hitting the road again.

    On the way to the next town, Stykkishólmur, we passed by some scenic sights. We saw the Breiđafjörđur islands from the road. In Stykkishólmir we walked up the hill towards the lighthouse and took some scenic shots from the cliffs by the sea.

    Then we continued driving and stumbled upon Mt. Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellfoss (the waterfall). This has been known as the most photographed spot in island and I can understand why now that I've seen it personally.

    It was around 3pm when we reached the Northstar Guesthouse in Ólafsvík. We checked in and headed out again toward Snæfellsjökull National Park. Plenty of rock formations and sea scapes to be seen. But most importantly, we can see Snæfellsjökull itself even while driving in the car. This 700000 year old stratovolcano looks simply spectacular even from a distance.

    We returned to Ólafsvík feeling famished so we went to the restaurant next to our guesthouse and gobbled down a generous amount of food. The place was called Hraun and they were known for their blue mussels. So naturally that is what we ordered. We also tried their lobster pizza. The food was splendid. Of course, so was the bill. But oh well. Times like these I tell myself YOLO!
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  • Day7

    Exploring North Iceland

    September 13 in Iceland

    We drove to the next town westbound, Siglufjörđur. It is famous for herring and its processing. We went to the Herring Era Museum. We reached at about 10am and it was supposedly closed til 1pm but they were open for a bit for a tour group. The fee is ISK 1800 but we popped in for a bit for free as the tour was still going on. Basically, we escaped paying the fee.

    Most of the shops were closed til 1pm, we found out at the tourist information centre/library. Except for the bakery, famous for its coffee, Ađalbakarí. So naturally we went there to kill time. The coffee and hot chocolate was delicious.

    Not wanting to wait any longer, we drove to the south side of the town to a place that offers horse riding on pure bred Icelandic horses but they seemed fully booked so we just took pictures of horses in the fields. They are smaller than the regular horses and have thicker fur. Really majestic creatures.

    We continued driving and reached the Troll peninsula or Tröllaskagi. We just stopped by and took some pictures by the high cliffs facing the sea. We could see þórđarhöfđi which is a volcanic island which is connected to the mainland by two volcanic necks.

    We went a little off road to search for a natural hot pot called Fosslaug. On the way there we encountered another beautiful waterfall called Reykjafoss. A little further up was a small hot pot by the river which was full of naked people. There is no changing room hete so people just strip down and jump in. We decided to keep our clothes on as it was 5°C today. So we just took pictures and left.

    It was only 4pm but we had no other plans so we headed to our hostel in Blönduós. Its called Kiljan Guesthouse. Sadly, no kitchen so we couldn't cook so we ate whatever easy instant stuff we had. There is a café downstairs but we didn't go. Off to bed early today to rest up for a longer journey tomorrow.
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  • Day6

    Lunar Landscapes of Lake Mývatn

    September 12 in Iceland

    The smell of eggs in the morning. No, i'm not talking about breakfast, I meant sulphur. We went to the Námafjall Geothermal Area a.k.a. Hverir the first thing in the morning, and man, it felt like we were on a different planet. There is a lot of geothermal activity here. The openings in the Earth's crust cause it to form smoking fumaroles and boiling mud pots. We took a couple of good photographs for a price, the overwhelming smell of eggs.

    After that we hit Route 864 which was pretty much deserted so we stopped and took pictures in the middle of the road. We made another stop, the Dettifoss Waterfall which just so happens to be Europe's most powerful waterfall. We got upclose and personal with this one as we can go right upto the edge of it to take pictures. The sound of falling water was simply astounding.

    As we continued on our way, we encountered Botnstjörn Pond in Ásbyrgi (also part of the Vatnajökull National Park. This pond is surrounded by high cliffs and autumn colours (since its the beginning of autumn now). You can also hike up the cliffs but it takes a couple of hours and we didn't really have time for that so we skipped it.

    We had lunch in the park and were on our merry way again. We arrived at a town called Húsavík. This place is known for whale and puffin watching. Unfortunately puffin season is out. They leave from August til May so maybe next time. We did however go whale watching. It costs ISL 10500 per person by we got 10% off as we took the last boat of the day. The ride took 3 hours and I was so seasick I thought I would puke my internal organs out since I had emptied myself dry but was still gagging like a maniac. Fortunately I did get to see humpback whales in between my hurling episodes. So maybe the trip was worth it, but oh man, never again am I doing that.

    As we reached land I felt my insides slowly regaining its normal physiology. In no time we were on the road again. This time heading towards Akureyri. Along the way we stopped by the heavenly Gođafoss waterfall. Its not so much the height but the width of it that made it have that 'wow' effect on me. It also looked like where the water came out from a top loading washing machine. And the water was blue in colour! I'm not kidding!

    Following that, we drove another 40 minutes and reached the town of Akureyri. We put up the night in Akureyri Guesthouse which is located among a row of shops. The best part, I got my souvenirs at a relatively cheaper price here and the shop is just next to the guest house. Another day awaits tomorrow!
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  • Day5

    Fjords and Fishing Villages

    September 11 in Iceland

    Today was a rather relaxing day. We drove to a nearby town called Seyðisfjörður. Its basically a fishing orientated town with some very cute looking houses. Just so happens we arrived on a Tuesday, the day when a giant cruise ship called MS Norrona from Denmark arrives. So we were lucky to see that.

    We explored the town for a little bit. Hiked up a small hill nearby to get an ariel view of the town. When we got up the hill, we saw sculptures called Tvísöngur. They are 5 interconnected domes of different sizes which represents Icelandic musical tradition of five tone harmony. We spent about half an hour up that hill mainly taking pictures of scenery. Then, we headed back down and walked by the harbour for a while. Of course we also visited the Rainbow Street which had a Blue Church instead of a pot of gold at the end of it.

    After lunch, we drove out of Seyðisfjörður to head east toward the Lake Mývatn region. We took Route 93 and made a brief stop at Gufufoss Waterfall by the road. Fun fact: This route and waterfall were featured in the movie "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty".

    It took a 2 hour drive along this scenic route but we finally arrived at Krafla Lava Fields. We passed by a geothermal station prior to that and the sulphur smell really has a way of getting into the car even with windows closed and air conditioning off. A little bit of Krafla - The Krafla Fires were a series of volcanic eruption between the 1970s and 1980s, the last being September 1984. Currently the lava fields still have steam actively blowing out of the ground.

    The last stop was the highlight of my day - The Mývatn Naturebath. About 10 minutes drive from our previous stop and ISK 5000 per entry, this blue lagoon is simply magnificent. It's brilliant blue waters and warm temperature coupled with the cool Icelandic air is simply the best spa treat anyone could ask for.
    We have been on the move the past few days so this rest stop was much needed. We spent almost 2 hours here and got out once our hands became wrinkly.

    About 10 minutes away lied our accomodation Vogafjos Guesthouse where we rested up before our next move tomorrow.
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  • Day4

    Glaciers and Icebergs

    September 10 in Iceland

    Today is all about the cold part of Iceland.

    First up, hiking up a famous glacier. We went to Vatnajökull National Park and paid ISK 10900 per person for the hiking up Fjallsjökull which is one of the famous glacial tongues of Vatnajökull icecap. This icecap covers 8% of Iceland's land. We hiked up in a group with a guide and it took us 3 hours both ways. Crampons were handed to us in order to help us walk on the glacier. These are spikes places at the bottom of the shoes. Along the way, we had some geology lessons on glaciers. There is something called a glacier mouse, which is small pieces of glacier rolling down and collecting organic debris along the way. Eventually moss forms evenly around it and this process takes about 20 years. These glacier mice have their own little ecosystem on them with tiny creatures inhabiting them. Another fun fact: Iceland's glaciers are dirty white because they contain volcanic ash as they are actually formed on hidden volcanos.

    After that educational hike, we visited more places with ice. Just so happens we passed by a place where many other cars were parked and so we decided to check it out. Fjallsárlón Iceberg Lagoon we discovered had many chunks of fallen glaciers in a lake and to me was a spectacular site. Looks pretty heavenly in my opinion. And the best part, its free!

    As we continued driving eastward, we stopped by at the Diamond Beach. This beach is a strip of black sand belonging to the Breiðamerkursandur glacial plain, located adjacent to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. So thr glaciers from that lagoon drift into the sea and gets washed ashore to this beach creating a black (the sand) and white (the ice) contrast.

    So the next stop was obviously Jökulsàrlòn Glacier Lagoon, you know, since it was nearby. The ice here is huge. Bigger than that of Fjallsàrlòn's and they have a bluish hue. Tourists were way more here. Not only that, they were many seagulls hovering and seals swimming in the water.

    By the time that was done, it was already 6pm. We wanted to visit Stokkness, which is one of Iceland's most photographed mountains by the coast but it was raining and it was getting dark so we just drove to our next stop: Framtiđ Hostel in the village of Djúpivogur. Its a quaint little place built in 1906 and its unbelievably cozy. It had a kitchen so we cooked our dinner and then got ready for bed. My legs were hurting thanks to that glacial hike so a good rest was warranted.
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  • Day3

    Waterfalls and Volcanic Beaches

    September 9 in Iceland

    A series of waterfalls and country's most famous volcanic beach.

    After a homemade waffle breakfast, we put on our waterproof clothing and headed to the nearest waterfall, Seljalandfoss. This waterfall drops from a height of 60 metres. But what's fascinating about this waterfall is that you can go behind it and experience the water curtain falling before you. But the cold weather and the constant bombardment with cold water droplets makes you freeze. Taking pictures were difficult as my hands became numb.

    Skógafoss was next in line. Also standing at an incredible height of 60 metres, its source of water comes from two glaciers which I names I can hardly spell or pronounce. You can opt to climb 370 steps to get above the waterfall and get an ariel view of it.

    Note: Both these waterfalls are free to access.

    After that we took a short hike to Seljavellir, one of the oldest man made swimming pools smack in the middle of the outdoors. Built in 1923, the pool water is warmed by natural hot spring from the hillside. To me the water was lukewarm but full of algae. Murky at some areas. Not a fan. Access is free here too. Its just that its easily passed by if you are not looking for it.

    We then decided to visit a plane wreck. Yeah, you read correctly, a plane wreck. You have to walk a total of 7km (back and forth) to get to a wreck. Worth the walk if you are into debris. But otherwise, skip it and visit volcanic beaches or something. Located in Sólheimasandur, the US Navy DC plane crashed in 1973 after it ran out of fuel. However, it was later discovered that the pilot simply switched over to the wrong fuel tank. Talk about a big blunder!

    Reynisjfara, the black sand beach near the village of Vík, formed from lava. Not only the sand is black, it also has basalt columns, towering cliffs and caves.
    All formed when lava flowed and slowly cooled forming interesting structures. The Gardar basalt columns on the Reynisjfall Mountain is one the popular photography sites here. We even managed to catch a glimpse of a pre-wedding photoshoot on it.
    Otherwise, there is also a cave called Hàlsanefshellir at the bottom of Gardar. There are many other rock formations to check out here like Dyrhòlaey or the 'door hole' where boats can go through if the tide is low enough. Plenty of pictures to take at this beach. Although, beware the sneaker waves as it consumes lives. They say "don't turn your back on the waves" for a reason.

    We then drove 70km to a place called Fjađrárgljúfur. It is a massive canyon of 100 metres and 2 kilometres long with river Fjađrá running at the bottom. The canyon was formed by progressive erosion by flowing water from glaciers through the rocks. However, the water level of river Fjađrá is rather low now so people can safely walk inside the canyon.

    After all that it was already 6pm so we headed off to our accomodation for the night not too far from the canyon, the Hvoll Guesthouse. We got a cozy room to ourselves with a view of the lake.

    I made a total of 30000 steps today so you can imagine the soreness of my old knees. Hence, I'm off to bed. Good night.
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  • Day2

    The Golden Circle

    September 8 in Iceland

    We left our hostel at around 9am today after having breakfast. First up, on the Golden Circle route was þingvellir National Park, where we got to see parliamentary ruins and a huge lake called þingvallavatn Lake. The scenery was indeed something that pictures could not do justice to.

    Then we continued driving and reached our second stop, Haukadalur Geothermal Field, where there were multiple geysers. There was one active geyser which shoots every 8-10 minutes called Strokkur and I managed to get it on video. It can go upto 35 metres high.

    Next up, the majestic Gullfoss, also known as the Golden Waterfall (direct translation). It consists of 2 waterfalls, first at 11 metres height and the second at 20 metres. Some even says it outdoes Niagara. Truly a sight worth seeing.

    Then we headed to Keriđ crater. This place was formed 6500 years ago thanks to a cone volcano that collapsed on itself after it depleted its magma reserve. There is a pool of water at the bottom which is at the same level as the water table and its not due to rainfall.

    By this time it was already 5pm local time so we drove to our guesthouse for the night which was located in Hvolsvöllur. Kennarabùstađur house is a cute little cottage amidst the vast meadows. Very cosy indeed. Incidentally we met up with other guests who also happened to be Malaysian. This place also had a kitchen so it made preparing meals very convenient since we had a lot of ingredients.

    We turned in early for a head start tomorrow. Hopibg to dip in some hot springs tomorrow.
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  • Day1

    KL-Bangkok-Oslo-Reykjavik

    September 7 in Norway

    One of my most awaited trips - Iceland. We managed to get super cheap flight tickets using Thai Airways. Flew from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok and then an 11 hour flight to Oslo. Transitted at Oslo Airport for 6 hours and then took Icelandair for 2 hours to Reykjavik. Arrived at 2.00pm local time. Our rental car was waiting at the airport so we hopped aboard and began our Icelandic adventure.

    Weirdly though, we decided to go souvenir window shopping but ended up buying some instead. Thought we scout and compare prices first but instead gave in to tempation. We went to Laugavegur for this. Its a lively street with many energetic folks dancing and laughing about.

    After that we walked down to the seaside and saw the Sun Voyager sculpture where many other tourists were swarming about taking pictures. The wind was strong and cold so we headed back up the road and ended up at Hallgrímskirkja church. This 74.5m church is the largest church in Iceland and also amongst the tallest structures in the country. Even the interior is extravagant with a huge organ on one wall.

    By then, it was already almost 8pm, so we got into the car and drove to Grotta lighthouse to see the sunset. Sunset was at 8.30pm and we made it there at 8.10pm. We took some pictures and quickly scurried back to our car as the wind was blowing colder than ever.

    With daylight running low, we checked into our hostel which was fairly near. It was called Reykjavik City Hostel and it has a kitchen so cooked spaghetti bolognese (we brought a whole lot of food supplies from home in order to save costs). At first we thought we got the whole room of 3 bunk beds to ourselves but 2 hours later 2 other guests appeared. Anyway, it wasn't too big of a deal as we were all tired and nodded off to sleep soon enough.
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