Saturday, December 31, 2016

2017 - My Year To Avoid Mediocracy

As I celebrated the end of 2016 with a game of poker and then promptly begin 2017 with my period, I realised how bumpy the year was before. The whole job fiasco, my grandfather passing away, moving to my in-laws then moving to my grandmother's place, working as a freelancer, chasing for money as a freelancer, putting on a massive amount of weight, our honeymoon to Iceland, I published a book, watched my plays come to life on stage and so so much more.

There were wonderful ups and horrible downs - but all memorable in their own right. I'm still thankful for them. What are shitty situations if not talking points at a party right? But I look at myself, and think about what I've accomplished as a person and I think... not much! I struggled so much this year that I forgot to give back, and I forgot to accomplish things.

So while I struggled, and eventually found my footing in 2016, I'm taking 2017 to avoid mediocracy.


Taking cue from one of the best books in the universe - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, I shall believe in 6 impossible things a day and try to accomplish as many. Who am I kidding, I don't even have time to go buy contact lenses. hahahah

I'll try.

Okay that's it. I've nothing important to say today. Love to everyone.







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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Iceland 8 Day Honeymoon Roadtrip [DAY 8] We swim through Silfra and go to the Blue Lagoon

DAY 8

After an amazing rest in the Buubble, Abel and I were gearing up for our final day. We had two more activities before heading back to the airport. We were going to snorkel through Silfra and head to the Blue Lagoon.

Swim through Silfra

coordinates: 64.255297, -21.116805

We got in touch with Dive.is, a PADI certified group that conducted both diving and snorkelling trips through Silfra.


What, however, took the longest, was putting on the damn dry suit. So you don't have to worry, while you're swimming in 3 deg C water, you'll be more or less dry. I wore two layers of leggings, one undershirt and a regular t-shirt while they stuffed me like a sausage into a dry suit. Only your lips and hands get cold.



That's just the first part of the suit. 

If you love the water, you'll love this. It's almost terrifying, with all the rocks at the bottom forming deep caravans into the deep unknowns. I love also that the water is so clean that you can DRINK it.

In total, you'll take about 3 hours. The swim itself is about 1/2hour, it's putting on and taking off the clothes that takes up time. They warm you up after with hot chocolate and biscuits.

Take a relaxing dip in the Blue Lagoon

 add: 240, Grindavik 420-8800, Iceland, tel: +354 420 8800
coordinates: 63.879294, -22.445388

We heard a lot of negative things about the Blue Lagoon. It's too touristy, very crowded, water isn't that great, but Abel and I had a FABULOUS time. We went at night, which I suppose could be the reason we enjoyed it more. Entered from the indoor pool to the main area, and just floated around, looking for hot spots and watching people make fools of themselves.



The milky water was warm, salty and painful if it got into your eyes, but otherwise a complete delight. The bath was huge, almost as large as a football pitch, and twisting and meandering throughout the space. At one end you had the drinks store, the other, the booth to grab some free mud for your face.


Even though there were so many people, it was nicely spaced out so you had plenty of room for yourself. 




Notes:
1) You have to book in advance
2) Wear slippers out. The floor is really cold
3) NEVER dip your head in the water - as my husband found out
4) It's really drying so put conditioner before to protect your hair (don't wash it off!) and more after you leave.
5) No need to bring any shampoo etc, you pay shit tons of money just for entry so thankfully they have all the amenities you need - from shampoo and conditioner to a hair dryer and cotton buds.

After the lagoon, we rushed straight to the airport. It was time for us to leave. But we're happy to say the last Icelandic sunset we enjoyed was on the way to the Blue Lagoon. Such a wonderful way to end our trip.




<< Iceland 8 Day Honeymoon Roadtrip [DAY 7]                  Basics and Other Important Things >>


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Iceland 8 Day Honeymoon Roadtrip [DAY 7] Staying in a Bubble Tent

DAY 7

Today was relatively more exciting. We were heading towards a fantastic stay: the Buubble. Also known as the 5 million star hotel. But check in time was only at 12pm, so we decided to just have a look see around the area before coming to a stop at the Buubble.

Visit Thingvellir Iceland's National Park

coordinates: 64.255862, -21.130255

Abel and I were very amused, but also full of admiration for the country. I mean in a country that IS basically a continent-sized national park, Thingviller seemed a little redundant. But it was beautiful, shades of red and yellow with pockets of moss popping out around a giant glacier lake. Most of it surrounded Silfra, that huge crack between the North American and Eurasian plates.

All the water in the glacier lake is so clean!
Visit Laugarvatn Fontana thermal baths

add: Hverabraut 1, Laugarbraut, 840 Laugarvatn, Iceland, tel: +354 486 1400
coordinates: 64.214720, -20.730172


We decided to stop for lunch at Fontana. This was a small thermal bath, powered by the nearby steam vents. It seemed like a health spa, all the employees dressed in a light blue. Next door to it is a local swimming pool, so if you're looking for a shower (those campers) head there, it's just 500ISK. We had lunch there, cause they provided a buffet. It was hearty, fruits, vegetables, some curries, soups and of course Plokurfiskur. 

Join the tourists at Geysir

coordinates: 64.310407, -20.302342

That... is NOT Geysir. That's it's smaller cousin, Strokkur. So in 2008, there was an earthquake that turn the active, and much larger, geysir into a pool of still water. But it shook Strokkur awake. So now, hordes of tourists gather around it, waiting to get the money shot. It's a beautiful thing to witness, and a really pleasant, short hike to do in the beautifully chilly weather. See:



Stay at the Buubble

add: They only reveal the address after you've booked to help maintain the privacy of the tents

I found the Buubble stay by chance online. So as you can see, it's a transparent bubble-shaped tent. Warm air is pumped into the tent, where there's a super-soft bed inside (all ikea stuff). The toilet is located AWAY from the tent, in a little box where there's a working kitchen, a table, coffee and tea facilities and shower facilities. Think of it as glamping. If you're concerned about privacy, you have nothing to worry about, there are about five bubble tents in total, all spaced far away from each other and surrounded by trees. Located on a remote farm (they give you the coordinates to the place about a month before your stay) there are no lights, so no one will be able to see you change. Each tent's equipped with a small torch and lamp, so that's good enough for light.



As the sun fades, a soft orange glow rises, apparently, it's the glow from the greenhouses close by. But come midnight, it fades away and you see actual stars (as long as its not a cloudy night).

No lie. It was magical, special, and we stayed from 3pm (check in time) till 12pm (check out time) the next day. It was so good to finally have a bed after sleeping on a thin mattress for so long.

<<Iceland 8 Day Honeymoon Roadtrip [DAY 6]     Iceland 8 Day Honeymoon Roadtrip [DAY 8]>>


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Iceland 8 Day Honeymoon Roadtrip [DAY 6] The charms of Akureyri

DAY 6

We finally reached Akureyri, the captial of the North. Unlike ugly Reykjavik, Akureyri was exactly what I imagined of a beautiful European town. Quaint houses, quiet streets, and a shopping area of littler just abotu 150m only. It was picturesque and peaceful. 

We woke up late that day cause I had cooked curry the night before and... well.. had a bad stomachache lol. It was nice though, the campsite wardens were so pleasant.

Our goal today was to explore Akureyri and then head closer towards the golden circle.

Explore Akureyri's shopping district

You'll need to head to the bank to get a "clock". That's sort of like a parking coupon, but it's a complimentary adjustable paper clock to show the warden what time you'll be there from. From there you can have a gander around the whole area where you'll spot things like:


Have lunch at Akureyri Fish Restaurant

add: 12 600, Skipagata, 600 Akureyri, Iceland, tel: +354 414 6050
coordinates: 65.681981, -18.089389

Amazing fish and chips is to be had here. They have an excellent range of fish and chips dishes. You've got the common fish and chips, breaded fish with curly fries (I had that and I LOVED it)


As well as Plokurfisker: that's an Icelandic dish of mashed fish, mixed with potatoes, cream and butter baked in a cast iron pan. 


Grab some delicious cakes and baked goods

Baked goods in Akureyri is pretty delicious. The nearby bakery, Kristjans Bakari Bakery and Cafe is good for sandwiches and doughnuts, but a cool place to stop is Blaa Kannan Cafe which is a traditional cafe. Cosy, all covered in a natural wood and a display of beautiful cakes and pastries. Then stop by Kaffi Akureyri for their amazing Das Bomba:


This unhealthy confectionery of sunshine starts with a layer of toffee coated rice krispies as a base, topped with soft, whipped cream and giant chunks of meringues. I loooovveddd it!

Stop by Snorri's Pool

coordinates: 64.142430, -19.841877

This legendary pool was where historian Snorri (don't you dare laugh at his name!) would meet guests. So he'd come out that little door, chill in his pool and entertain guests. It was located in a little town that seemed very dead. Like, silent hill scary. So we skedaddled out of there after admiring the once warm and toasty pool. Now it was all mossy and cold cold cold. The pool's located in a town dedicated to Snorri, it's called Snorrastofa (the coordinates are to this town) and has a bunch of other landmarks dedicated to the guy. Honestly, the town isn't all that interesting, so only stop by here if it is on the way. You'll be passing through the Reykholt area.

Visit a steaming hot spring Deildartunguhver

coordinates: 64.664405, -21.411645

What was amazing about this steaming heap of mud and moss, surrounded by bubbling hot water, was the dog that accompanied it:

He let us pet him and everything!

What a majestic doggy
So a tour bus came after us, and the guide said that in the two to three years he's been coming there, this dog has been there to greet visitors. He didn't have a collar, was drinking from puddles, but seemed otherwise healthy and bright-eyed. We figured he belonged to the caretaker or something, cause someone left out fresh tomatoes on a cart daily for people to buy on the honor system. Take a bag, leave 300ISK. How nice right?! The dog was Iceland's very own breed of sheepdog. Immensely thick fur, big rolls of fat/muscle to keep them warm, and soft, soft fur.

Camp at Hverinn

add: Borgarfjarðarbraut, Kleppjárnsreykir, Iceland, web: hverinn.is, tel: +354 571 4433
coordinates: 64.655847, -21.407284
No pictures, but we much enjoyed this campsite. The shower was a communal one that could be shared by two people, and was in a little shed behind the restaurant. The owners of the restaurant served up delicious soup, and were such pleasant people. It felt so homely.
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ICELAND 8 DAY HONEYMOON ROADTRIP [DAY 5] The fabulous Myvatn

DAY 5


After a really boring day of bad weather and driving, we wanted a win -  a day full of blue skies and plenty of things to see. Lucky, we were headed to the gorgeous Myvatn. We left Asbyrgi, a campsite in the middle of nowhere to head to the very happening Myvatn - volcano city surrounding a lake.

Stop by Myvatn's Visitor Centre

add: Hraunvegi 8, 660 Mývatni, tel:+354 464 4390
coordinates: 65.641535, -16.910958
It's great to stop here and speak to the service officer. There's a lot of things to do here, and she can help you decide what you ACTUALLY want to see. Abel and I stopped here to head to the supermarket that was just behind the centre, next door to look at some handicrafts, and just have a bit of down time from the whole travelling thing.

It was also here that we were told that using the F-roads (off-roads) to get back down to the Golden Circle would be a bigger  waste of time, as compared to taking the longer, but smoother, Ring Road. With that advice, we were give more time to explore gorgeous Myvatn

Visit Dimmuborgir

coordinates: 65.590989, -16.910509

A short drive around the lake and up a small hill, you'll find the entrance to Dimmuborgir, it's a maze of lava formations. The visitor's centre, which is also a cool cafe, at the top serves up a fantastic soup buffet, and from there, you get a great view of the entire lava maze.  They've marked out several paths too take along the maze, some shorter, some longer, depending on how far you want to walk. We took the shortest path hahahaha cause it was cold and we're lazy. It was a lovely walk, there were sheep just wandering amongst these contorted, majestic formations, the ground was covered in soft moss with small holes that look like gnome holes all over the place. Just look:

A wild sheep just chilling

The little holes in the rock really reminded me of gnome holes!
Just a short walk really opens your eyes to the magic of Iceland. Apparently, there are 13 gnome / goblin brothers around the lava formations that will trick you into following them hahaha.

Explore the boiling mud pools of Hverir

coordinates: 65.640910, -16.809290

You'll be able to smell Hverir a mile away. Actually, you'll be able to smell sulphur all over the place. The town and a few others are powered by steam from these amazing natural formations and other vents peppered around the region. Hverir is like a desert, albeit a cold one, peppered with boiling pots of mud and vents bursting with steam:


Head upwards to Viti Crater

coordinates: 65.047139, -16.725676

Viti, actually means "hell". See, it's a giant explosion crater on top of Krafla, but it looks nothing like hell. It's a deep shade of cloudy aquamarine that stretches at the bottom of the crater. Every time the wind blew (which was often), the surface of the water danced, and once again, it was exceptionally magical. 



Pop by Grjotagja to visit where Game of Thrones was filmed

coordinates: 65.615657, -16.853333

Like most of the attractions in Myvatn, you'll be able to spot this with the help of a huge number of cars gathered around a seemingly unimportant hole in a hill. But crawl down the hole, and you'll find a soothing pool of steaming water. It's the pool from Game of Thrones where Jon Snow and Ygritte got it on! You know, this scene:



But the pool is filled with clear, warm water at about 40-ish degrees, perfect for a dip in the cold weather. In the cave, you'll be sheltered, with just steam filling the cave. Unfortunately, the cave is off limits for a dip cause of the crumbling rocks. But you can climb in the take pictures!

Take a bath at the Myvatn Nature Baths

add: Jardbadsholar 660 Myvatn, Iceland, tel: +354 464 4411
coordinates: 65.631000, -16.847990

After a long day of tourist-ing we needed a LONG shower or... a hot bath! And the exciting thing was that the Myvatn Nature Baths were right by us. We stuffed our bags with swimming wear, towels, slippers and shampoo. Then there we went, past the SUPER cute guy at the reception and into the bath:


After you get past the communal showers (the number of naked bodies!) step out into the cold, you run into the somewhat warm waters of the immensely cool infinity bath. The milky waters had a current of warmth that spread throughout the bath, we moved around a lot trying to find that current of warmth. The bottom is sandy, sometimes pebbly, the sulphur smell permeates the area, but isn't completely unpleasant. There's a little stone bath just outside the pool that has hot water at a controlled temperature. Perfect!


I love it so much, but the only trouble was the people. Oh. My. God. What a tourist hole. The Americans really surprised me with their comments. There was a group of girls who crowded around the mossy stones where the water was warmer. Here are some choice quotes - cue very, very strong valleygirl accents:

"I feel like, you know, this year's my year." 
"I used to like, date, only hot guys. I mean, my ex, you should have seen this guy, he was hot. Like, seriously hot. So I told myself I needed a change, so I went for someone nice you know? Just... nice." 
"Like we were supposed to go out, but he said he had something special on that day, and it was like, he celebrates the anniversary of his new kidney, and like I had no idea! It's like a thing!" 
"Then he said, 'I fucking love you!' So I had to like say it back you know? But I like, I guess I just said it like, 'I fucking love you too!'"

Kill me.

We left after a soak in the tub, just in time to see the sun set over that beautiful place. 

Then, it was a quick drive to the capital of the north, Akureyri.

< Iceland 8 Day Honeymoon Roadtrip [DAY 6] >>



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Iceland 8 Day Honeymoon Roadtrip [DAY 3 & 4] Northern lights and lots of driving!

DAY 3 


Like the night before, dinner was cooked on our portable stove, but was brought out to the campsite's table. We used their washing up facilities, soap etc, and some of their cutlery. It was a sumptuous brekkie.

Today was going to be mostly driving. We wanted to head to the East Fjords where we heard reindeer and puffins roamed. Our goal was to reach the seaside village of Borgarfjörður Eystri.



















Stop to see a rainbow


We were amazed at how large and beautiful the rainbow was! By then, we were travelling on the coastal road, so we were so blessed to see such a giant one. Thanks to our monster "Bodyguard", we powered up a gravelly hill to get closer to the rainbow. We found, throughout the many hours of driving, you're NEVER bored on the Icelandic roads. 1) Some gravelly roads are too dangerous to snooze on 2) There's always something different to see, be it volcanos, sea, different types of shrubbery and plenty of gorgeous waterfalls!

Power on for a multitude of hours to little Breiðdalsvík

add: 25, Sólvellir, Breiðdalsvík, Iceland, tel: +354 475 6670
coordinates: 64.792067, -14.009430

This was a gorgeous little town in the middle of a deep valley. Their proudest achievement? Having a population of 139. Hahaha so cute right?! There we went to their main attraction, the old general store - a charming general store with an attached cafe. It felt like a lovely day cafe hopping in Singapore! No regrets, best food of the day:


A thick, fluffy cake with smooth, creamy ganache - this is what a REAL chocolate cake should taste like. Little chocolate shavings give it a crumbly top, a fresh whipped cream help break the intensity of the chocolate. So.. Perfect! 


Abel and I spent time there drinking soup, eating cake and planning our route before heading off for the drive again.















Drive through Egilsstadir and Mynes




It's a hell of a long drive to the final destination of the day, so it's a great thing the scenery is so fantastic. It's like a drive through golden California vine yards. 

Camp at Borgarfjörður Eystrinor and try to catch the Northern Lights aka Aurora Boralis


We actually drove all the way here cause they had a famous puffin look out. We only just realized that it was the wrong season to head there AFTER we arrived from the perilous mountain roads (so dangerous!! Seriously!) I peed in the loneliest toilet in the world:

We headed to the campsite where we met another couple who were camping IN A TENT. What champions. Up in the Eastfjords, we were so close to the arctic circle, the temperature had dropped to 5 degrees at night. They said that had camped there for two nights in a row cause they heard that town was the best place to see the lights. See the lights we did:





See the northern lights on a clear night


It was a special moment, fleeting. At midnight, the lights came out in full force, the cloud cover from 7pm gone. Abel stuck his head out of our sunroof, grabbed the tripod and took a multitude of photos:

video


Next morning, we spoke to the couple, turns out they fell asleep and missed it. :/ yikes. 

Notes:
1) There are websites like Aurora Forecast you can use to track the cloud cover and chances of aurora sighting. We were blessed to be at the right place at the right time, but maybe you'll be able to plan your chances! 
2) Any digital camera that allows you to change the shutter speed is enough for the lights. A tripod is KEY to getting a clear picture. 
3) The minute you see a glow in the sky, WHIP OUT YOUR CAMERA!

Take time to explore Borgarfjörður Eystrinor


The landscape of this seaside town, so close to the artic circle, was just what I expected of an Icelandic town. Intimate, quaint and with picturesque spots all over. There was even a lookout hill where puffins come to roost in September. Unfortunately we had missed it. But there was plenty to see:

Spotted along the potentionally trecherous road.
A quaint, nordic-style home built by an Icelandic poet

The brilliant coastline of the edge of Iceland

DAY 4


It was an uneventful day full of driving. It was near impossible to go out and do anything, simply because of the torrential rain and ridiculously heavy mist. We merely took the roads to get to point A to point B. 

Here is the only thing of excitment we saw after hours of driving:

Dettifoss

coordinates: 65.815137, -16.385624

This was the first of the monster waterfalls we were to see. It was hell driving here. It was a rocky road that was FULL of potholes. It was the first shitty road we had come to. But it was a pretty miraculous waterfall I would say.

Notes:
1) When driving on a a pothole-filled gravel road, DON'T drive off road. (You will crack the underside of your car)
2) When it's windy, DON'T open the door. (It will fly off the handles)
3) Drive slow at night, DON'T forget to turn on your light.

Camp at Asbyrgi

Also known the "shelter of the gods", it was a gorgeous campsite in the shelter of a craggy canyon. But getting there was a bitch. Long, bumpy and not-so-cool. The facilities were really good too, laundry, drying cabinets, 500isk (100isk coins) showers and warm, cosy toilets. Perfect place!

<< Iceland 8 Day Honeymoon Roadtrip [DAY 2]     Iceland 8 Day Honeymoon Roadtrip [DAY 5] >>



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