Iceland Adventure Day 2

Today, the real adventure begins.

Our flight to Iceland was not until 1.20pm in the afternoon. We got up early and had a fulfilling American style breakfast at Mad Restaurant. We needed to have a heavy breakfast because we decided to skip lunch and have a nice dinner instead upon arrival in Reykjavik, Iceland. As we ate, we planned on what we had to do upon arrival in the capital, before actually starting our road trip. Since we won’t be collecting our car till the following morning, we would have time to explore the city of Reykjavik and do some grocery shopping, stocking up on food for our road trip.
We headed back to our hostel, packed our luggage and prepared to check out of our hostel just before noon. My only regret was not being able to spend more time there, especially using that time to mingle with the other visitors and backpackers in the hostel, chilling in the lounge area, and finding out what other people were cooking up in the kitchens. The hostel fondly reminded me of the old days during my backpacking trip. Gosh I am getting old. Who knew, we could make a friend or two there if we stayed there for a couple more days.
As we arrived at the airport, we immediately checked in. Checked luggage weight restriction imposed by Iceland Air is 23kg per checked luggage. This is less generous than Singapore Airlines’s 30kg. But it wasn’t a problem for us. All of our huge luggage barely eked out 20kg each. Check-in was swift, as we did it ourselves using the self check-in terminal. All we simply had to do was loop our luggage tags around our luggage handles and hand over the luggage to the staff manning the conveyor belts. Once we were relieved of the burden, we calmly went through security and took our time to explore the transit area of Copenhagen Airport.
The transit area of Copenhagen Airport is quite nice. It’s not that big, but big enough to ensure that you are well occupied in terms of shopping and dining instead of being bored with nothing to do. They have a great selection of dining options, and had some interesting boutique shops selling interesting things from local brand names. Dark parquet furnishings covered the entire floorspace of the airport that softens the harsh concrete and steel facade. After exploring the airport to our heart’s content, we headed to our gate, where our plane awaited. This is the first time that all of us would board the plane of Iceland’s flagship carrier, Iceland Air.

Copenhagen Airport
It was a fairly short hop. Three hours from Copenhagen to Reykjavik. We knew that meals were not served onboard and comes at a premium, so we didn’t order any. I did not expect that there would be personal in-flight entertainment onboard the plane. Iceland Air exceeded all expectations. The screens behind each seat were large and in high resolution. Interacting with the entertainment system was done by touch. The screen itself is a touchscreen interface. The plane is fairly new, very clean. The seats, flushed leather, was wide. However, the legroom leaves something to be desired. It was not a big deal, as it was just a three hour journey. The cabin crews were polite and professional, which I appreciated very much. I realised much later that each and every Iceland Air plane had a name. The plane that we boarded was Hengill, named after a volcano on the southwest of Iceland. Neat.

3 hour flight to Iceland.

Didn’t take long before we see land.
Once we landed, we collected our luggage and headed out. We were informed earlier that someone would be there to pick us up. Someone with my name on a placard. I scanned the throng of people waiting just outside the doors, past the immigration checkpoint and managed to spot a man with my name on it. I approached him and he welcomed us to Iceland. As we exited the airport, and to his car (a Mercedes taxi to be precise, very posh), the first thing I realised was the immediate landscape. It was white! Everything was white! Snow everywhere. Packed snow grounded noisily beneath my shoes as I walked. It was truly the first time travelling to a country that has snow everywhere. I initially had a hard time walking, but I trudge my way forward nonetheless and soon found solid footing. I realised that I made the right decision in switching my pair of leather shoes to a pair of waterproof hiking boots. It made walking on slick ice and snow much easier.
The drive to our hotel took 45 minutes. We soon realized that it is conveniently located close to Laugavegur, a popular shopping street with lots of souvenir shops, fancy restaurants, clothing boutique stores, grocery stores, bars and pubs. Nordic Visitor certainly has chosen a very good location for our first night’s stay. Upon arrival, the taxi driver gave us a welcome package from Nordic Visitor, containing a folio. The folio is printed with the company logo, and in it contained a personal welcome letter, signed by our tour agent who arranged everything for us, our reservation vouchers for all our accommodation and outdoor activities, customized itinerary, a huge foldable travel map, meticulously annotated by hand by the man himself, a road trip guide book, and an emergency phone with credit and emergency numbers on speed dial. Colour me impressed. They not only value you as a tourist and a customer, but also value your safety while you are out there driving. That is how you treat your customers, with care and respect.

Our welcome package complete with personal letter signed by the travel agent himself. That’s him with his business card on the bottom left.

Our map, handwritten annotations by the man himself. Such effort!
We got ourselves settled, admiring the cosy rooms that the hotel allocated to us. We headed out to the main street of Laugavegur, did a little bit of grocery shopping, and finally, finding a fancy little restaurant where can splurge for dinner, celebrating the momentous occasion of arriving in Iceland safely.

Our first accommodation.
To view more photos, click here.
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I just came back from Iceland

And boy! What an adventure! There is so much to share! Hopefully I will find the time to share all my stories of my adventures in The Land of Ice and Fire! But for now, I need some sleep. So jet lagged. And I have tons of photos to upload, convert and process which will take weeks. Done all the unpacking. Laundry is underway, and I am back in my cosy little room, cooling off, now that I am back in hot and humid Singapore just as when I was getting used to the weather in Iceland.

Amazon Cloud Drive Impressions

The Amazon Cloud Drive offers unlimited storage to backup your files to the Amazon Cloud. A relatively new player in providing unlimited file storage for just 50 bucks a year, its practically a steal. So how does it perform? And does the service suit my needs well? Remember I am trying to find an inexpensive, if albeit inefficient way to back up my photos archive that I have slowly accumulated over the years, either through photography, or from the photos I took using my iPhone.

The Amazon Cloud Drive offers a very simple service to anyone who wishes to upload files, big and small to the Cloud. It has potential, but currently, I feel that the services offered are a little too simplistic and basic. Unlike more sophisticated offerings from Dropbox, Box, Google Drive or Microsoft One Drive, you simply use the web or app interface to upload your files to the Amazon Cloud Drive. No fuss, no gimmicks, it works as intended. However, there are several key features that are not present yet on the Amazon Cloud Drive, features that are already mainstays from the more mature platforms like Dropbox.

For one, there is no auto sync feature. You can download a third party software to manage your files from your computer to the Amazon Cloud Drive, but some of which would require additional fees for licensing and usage of said software.

Managing thousands of files using the simplistic web interface is a little too unwieldy. It does not have the more complex set of features and functions that would make file management from the Cloud a little more efficient. The Amazon Cloud Drive app is a very basic app, that only allows you to upload (or download) files to and from the Cloud. You cannot (yet) do any file management functions from the app. The app only functions 2 things; upload and download. The Cloud Drive is also unable to edit files like word documents, or excel sheets or powerpoint presentation. You can view photos you have uploaded, but for most other file formats, there is very little you can do from within the web interface itself.

However simple it is, the Amazon Cloud Drive, is strangely still my favourite, not just because of its low price point, but also the fact that its a simple, no gimmick Cloud service. Th upload speed to the Amazon Cloud Drive is by far the fastest and most reliable among the other services I have used, making uploading of large amounts of files relatively easy. I organise my thousands of photos into its various folders, making my entire photo collection neat and tidy. Such neat organisation makes it easy to export the same file structure and files within those folders to the Cloud. And because I rarely access or modify those photos that I have already archived, not being able to sync and update the files in the Cloud is not really a big issue, yet. Remember, I am primarily using the Amazon Cloud Drive to merely dump all my photos into a safe place. Yes, I have half a terabyte of photos to upload and it will take days over time, but eventually when it is finished, I simply have to upload any new photos I took and saved periodically, maintaining my file organisation that I have adopted for my older photos.

Will I stick to Amazon Cloud Drive main repository for all my photos? Maybe. I am still split on whether to invest in local storage solutions like NAS or DAS, or simply just go the way of the Cloud. Both has its pros and cons, which I need to constantly evaluate as I consider how I would like to store my photos. But for now, Amazon Cloud Drive is the most cost effective way to keep my photos safe. Until then, it might just be my solution of choice, until something better comes along.

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That sense of purpose.

It’s been a little more than 2 weeks since I started work and things have gone pretty smoothly. As a research officer, I am blessed to be under a supervisor that laid out his research plans and strategies to tackle certain research problems openly with me right at the beginning. This open communication with my supervisor has enabled me to to have the same vision with him when it comes to research. With that, I am glad to have a sense of purpose when I’m doing my work. I know what needs to be done and how it needs to be done to accomplish the research goals and objectives that he has laid out before me. 

My research involves skin research, and my team is interested in finding treatment strategies to treat and alleviate a certain genetic disease that affects the function of normal skin. My supervisor spent 2 hours on a one-on-one presentation and information sharing session with me and it was really an eye opener. He already laid the groundwork for me on what needs to be done with regards to this research. After hearing him out, I finally had a sense of purpose! Not just what I need to do in the lab, but the very nature of the project itself. I am doing research that could potentially help a lot of people with this skin disease! It may be a small step forward, but it is highly significant if it turns out really well. I am, for the first time, contributing something meaningful to society. I am truly using my skills and effort in my work to really make a difference in people’s lives.

I don’t know how the project will turn out. Will it succeed? Or will it fail? What I do know for sure, is that with that sense of purpose, I can now go to work with the proper motivation, drive and mind frame. And I think that is very important for me. With a sense of purpose, I am eager to go to work and do my best and work closely with my supervisor. I cannot let him down, and I definitely cannot let myself down.