I overspent while in Sydney

I enjoyed my time in Sydney. Amazing people. Amazing beaches. Amazing cuisine. But what I didn’t expect was how badly I underestimated my travelling budget to be. I utterly overspent while vacationing in Sydney. Now I have to suffer the consequences of eating grass for the next few months!

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Heading to Sydney without an itinerary.

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Now this is going to be interesting. My upcoming trip to Sydney will be my first solo trip without an itinerary. Yeap, that’s right. I did not plan anything for my upcoming trip. The only thing that I planned was my flight, my accommodations, and one outdoor activity that I decided to book in advance just in case of limited slot availability. I seriously do not know how my trip will turn out. It can visualise my trip as going in either directions; either it’s going to be fucking awesome, or it could be the most boring trip I have ever made as a solo traveller in my entire life. We shall see.

So why did I not have a plan? Partly the reason is that I am so busy with work and school that I just do not have the time to sit down and really draft a proper itinerary. Another reason could be that after I book my flights, I am starting to get cold feet on this trip. I am suddenly not in the mood anymore. Strangely, I’m not exactly looking forward to this trip. Yes I am busy, and I feel burned out sometimes, and I know that this trip is exactly what I need to get myself refreshed before facing the onslaught of work and school. But so far, my ‘busyness’ had dampened the mood somewhat. Just a little more than 2 weeks before my trip and the thought of vacation hasn’t reached to the top of my mind yet. Usually, by this time, my vacation is the only thing I can think of right now. My mind would be so distracted that I wouldn’t be able to focus on work or just about anything else other than the trip itself. This has never happened before. For the first time, I am not feeling excited about my holiday and it’s kinda worrying. I love to travel. Somehow that love has died for some reason.

Pains me to ditch my camera for my upcoming trip

Early on while planning my trip to Vancouver, I made a firm decision to ditch my Olympus camera and all the lenses that I own. I wanted to pack light. I am doing a number of hikes around Vancouver, some of which are pretty challenging. So it is a no-brainer that lugging your entire camera gear while hiking in those magnificent but challenging trails will be unfeasible.

Everything was fine and dandy when I recently volunteered to cover a 3-day conference as a photographer. I gladly accepted it, since firstly, I have never covered such an event as a photographer before. Secondly, it has been quite a while since I used my camera that extensively. I must admit though, my interest in photography has waned a little bit ever since I got the camera a couple of years ago.

As I completed covering the event, I uploaded all the photos I shot to Lightroom and started reviewing them one by one. I had to select the best to submit to the organiser of the event. At the same time, my annual account subscription for Smugmug was due, and it started prompting me via email to renew my account or risk having all the photos I have taken and showcased on the website deleted. Begrudgingly, I renewed, despite the fact that the website has become inactive for quite a while and I rarely uploaded new photos to showcase my works nowadays. As I renewed my account and checked the website that everything was running the way it was, I looked back at some of the photos I took and I was suddenly hit by a pang of nostalgia. It made me realise the true purpose of why I took up photography. And the true purpose was that I just love to travel, and what better way to chronicle my adventures through pictures.

All of a sudden, my interest in photography was reignited. As I reviewed the photos that I took during the conference, it also made me realise something else; those photos look pretty good. Not award-winning, but pretty good considering the camera and lenses that I have. I made me realise also that I have some pretty good camera gear and those were meant to last. I spent a significant amount of money buying those gear years ago and now it’s been largely unused.

So now that my interest in photography have been rekindled, I am facing a dilemma. To bring or not to bring my camera? The answer is pretty straightforward actually. I simply cannot bring my gear, since I have firmly made my decision to pack light. On a practical side of things, it would simply be too cumbersome to bring my camera along for the hike. Now that makes me sad. I have to rely on my iphone 7 Plus, now that it is the only device that could take photos. And the trails that I am hiking in Vancouver will no doubt offer exquisite views of the surrounding landscape, views that I will be unable capture in all its glory. That makes me really sad. The iphone 7 plus camera would no doubt take good photos, but it will be a little trickier and I will always have that nagging feeling that somehow I will miss something along the way.

 

Iceland Adventure Day 1

Thirty minutes into our flight, the captain of the aircraft spoke through the intercom.

Singapore Airlines flight SQ352, bound for Copenhagen, Denmark was being diverted back to Changi Airport. The left engine of the Boeing 777-200ER began powering down due to a technical fault. We were now flying on only one engine. As we approached the airport, the pilots began circling the aircraft in the air just off the coast of Singapore and began dumping excess fuel. Because of the long, direct flight to Copenhagen (13 hours, 10,000 km in total), the aircraft was carrying too much fuel to safely land the aircraft. Hundreds of thousands of litres of fuel were needed to be dumped before landing. As we look out of the window of the plane, we could see a thick stream of fuel rapidly evaporating into bands of contrails from the tip of the wings. The fuel dumping process took almost 45 minutes before the plane could safely land. We returned to Changi Airport safely and were glad to hear that while we were heading back, the ground crew at Changi Airport were making preparations readying a spare plane for us to board and continue our journey. We were very fortunate. We originally departed at 11.55pm. Our entire journey was delayed by 3 hours. The ground crews were kind enough to set up refreshment stations, handling out sandwiches, water, juice, coffee and tea for the passengers waiting in the gate holding area. Not a single passenger made a fuss. There were no flared tempers, no sighs of frustration. Everyone was just glad to board our replacement aircraft. 13 hours later in addition to the 3-hour delay, we arrived safely in Copenhagen, Denmark at 9am the next morning.

First of many selfies taken during the trip.
When this minor incident happened, we were relieved that the flight delay did not affect our travel itinerary one bit. We made a decision early on to stay in Copenhagen for the night upon arrival, before continuing our journey to Reykjavik the next day. These delays were anticipated during our planning process and we were lucky that we had enough buffer time so that subsequent connecting flights were not affected.

Sixteen hours later, we arrived.

The excitement that we all felt was electric. We got off the plane and briskly walked into the long arrival corridors of Copenhagen Airport towards the luggage belt. The long flight made me groggy. I have difficulty sleeping when I’m flying. The long flight and huge time difference exacerbated my jet lag. Once we collected our luggage we made our way out and began looking for the train ticket counters to purchase our train tickets and make our way to Copenhagen Central Station. It was a short, 20-minute ride to Copenhagen Central Station from the airport. Our hostel, called Urban House was just beside Central Station, which was highly convenient given the fact that we had 4 hulking luggage with us (not including our individual backpacks, and camera bags) We booked a 4-bed private room with a private bathroom to stay for the night. A little luxury wouldn’t hurt after a long flight.

On our way to Urban House, just up ahead.
We were extremely impressed with Urban House Hostel. It is close to the Central Station which is a bonus and has nice chic decor, homely decorated lounges, with comfortable sofas, bean bags to chill, various bookshelves, a pool table, and warm interior lighting to give the space a homely ambience. The communal kitchen, which we did not get a chance to use, is really spacious with fully furnished dining tables for guests to have their meals together and houses top-notch kitchen appliances for them to cook their meals. The bar area has a cosy stage where live bands can perform during the night. The staff were extremely friendly and the private room that they gave us has 2 bunk beds with a surprisingly large bathroom for a hostel.
Weeks before our adventure we decided to go on a free walking tour of Copenhagen organized by Sandeman. We reserved our slots online for the walking tour scheduled at 2pm on the day of our arrival. Since we arrive early in the morning, we had plenty of time to leave our luggage in the hostel and explore the city on our own. We had lunch comprising of sandwiches from Copenhagen’s biggest bakery chain Lagkagehuset before making our way to central Copenhagen, passing by City Hall and to the shopping lanes of Vestegade. The meeting place for the walking tour was just upon the steps of City Hall itself.

City Hall
By noon, we traced our steps back to City Hall and met with out tour guide from Sandeman who was waiting for other tourists who also signed up for the walking tour. The walk lasted almost 3 hours. As we walked the tour guide covered the length and breadth of Denmarks’s history and pointed out important landmarks dotted across Copenhagen’s city center. It was a good walk as it allowed us to orientate and familiarize ourselves layout of the city, recognizing key landmarks so that we won’t get lost when we explore the city on our own. I admit that I didn’t really pay much attention to the tour guide. I was pretty much jet lagged and groggy from the long flight. I did enjoy the walk, taking in the sights, observing people, appreciating old architectural buildings and generally admiring the wonderful city.

Nyhavn
When the tour was over, it was nearing nightfall. The temperature started to plummet, and we headed back to our hostel. We made a short stop to an authentic Italian restaurant on our way back, where we had a hearty meal of pizzas. We decided to hit the sack early, for tomorrow, comes the real adventure.
To view the rest of the pictures, click here.

Iceland Adventure Day 0

Planning for this Grand Adventure began more than 6 months ago.

Back then, we were throwing around ideas on our next big holiday. The Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, and Greenland) often came up during our almost weekly discussions over dinner meet ups. At that point of time, we weren’t very keen due to the costs involved, but after exploring other viable options and seeing them as neither attractive nor interesting, it started to become clear that we might eventually end up there for our next adventure. One of the main reasons why we chose that region of the world was the chance to see the Northern Lights. We all agreed that seeing the Northern Lights has always been in our bucket list. Sweden, Norway, and Finland were prime candidates to see such a magical event. We also decided to do a road trip in one of those countries, renting a car and just driving from town to town, soaking in the beautiful sights and natural wonders that these nordic countries had to offer. But to drive during winter can be a little bit of a challenge in those countries. Short daylight hours in the northernmost part of those countries weren’t ideal for a road trip. Plummeting freezing temperatures were another issue. And simply chasing Northern Lights alone at the expense of everything else would not make our trip enjoyable in the long run. Furthermore, these countries are huge. It is simply too vast of a distance to cover thoroughly by car, especially when travelling a circuitous route to end up where you began.

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Signalling all those concerns, Iceland quickly fell into our sight. And so, in the subsequent weeks, we began researching more about Iceland and what it had to offer. The more we researched, the more we were satisfied that Iceland might meet our holiday “objectives”. And those objectives were to see the Northern Lights, go on a road trip during winter, and experience the Nordic climate during our stay without much logistical challenges. The primary goal however, was to experience something out of this world. To come back with memories worth sharing, and cherishing it for years to come.

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Going on a road trip means renting a car, planning our route and staying at guesthouses, hotels, or farmstays at different parts of country. We decided to make our lives a little simpler. We approached Nordic Visitor, a very reputable tour agency to help us plan our adventure based on what we want to do and where we want to go. We chose a simple 10-day self-drive tour package with some customisations on our own. In the package, they would provide the rented car, help us book all the accommodations, issue a printed itinerary, a comprehensive travel map, an emergency phone, a 24-hour hotline and even include personal pickup and drop-off at the airport and our first accommodation. Everything would be arranged for us in the most professional way. What really drew us to Nordic Visitor was the ability to truly customise the itinerary to fit us. We planned to travel around Iceland for 13 days and do a couple of outdoor activities. Nordic visitor was generous enough to modify the original itinerary to suit us and they did it all without fuss, adding a couple of days stay here and there during our stay, helping us book our glacier and ice-cave tours with the outdoor tour companies well in advance. Everything was sorted through email and they were professional and prompt in their responses to any queries we had prior to committing to the tour.

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And soon we realise it was just a month before our grand adventure would begin. Four weeks became three. Three became two. Packing lists were created, insurances bought, flights finalised, camera gear checked and ready to shoot. Passports ready. All of a sudden, in a blink of an eye, in the midst of all the preparation and the anticipation, it was time for us to go.

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.

Picture of the Week: Outskirts of Phnom Penh

I was in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for a short weekend trip with a friend of mine. He wanted to visit a village that was on the outskirts of Phnom Penh that he had been to, while doing volunteer work. He was there for a few weeks previously, teaching the kids music, english and helping out with some construction and maintenance of a nearby school over there. I met with some of the kids who went to that school and they were simply adorable. The rural areas of Phnom Penh is absolutely gorgeous and peaceful, unlike none I have ever experienced.

 

To view more photos of my travels, please visit jasdp.smugmug.com

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