Sunday, August 28, 2011

Part 4 of 4: Thailand

*Links (2) to all of our pictures now on the right! 
Arriving back in Bangkok in the afternoon, we gave Emily and David their first "cultural" experience just walking from the subway to our condo! If you've been here, you know what I mean. We ventured out for Thai food for dinner which brought David to tears. Not because it was beautiful or made him sad, but the spice was quite intense. I remember Emily saying, "I'll never eat that spicy of food ever again." To be honest, it was even spicy for us!
Emily and David at Indy Tree. I think David is next to Greg sipping his Heineken trying to ease the burn!

The next day we ventured to Koh Chang again. We enjoyed the beach, a water fall, and elephants during our short stay.
We all took turns swimming in the pool at the bottom.  It was nice and refreshing after the hike to get to it! 
Sunset on the pier

Elephant rides through the jungle and me on the beach!
Back in Bangkok, Greg went to work and Emily and David had two days to explore. 1 day was spent with tour guide Pam and the other with our driver. (Emily and David plan on writing a post of their own about their trip within the next month or so.) Their last day here was HM The Queen's birthday so we spent the holiday all together before sending them on their way back to the US!

We walked through Lumpini Park in the morning. 
Views from the Bayoke Tower. We've taken nearly all our visitors to this the tallest building in Bangkok. This day was proved to be the best yet. You could easily make out the mountains and the city looked beautiful. 
Our theory is that on holiday weekends enough people leave town that the  decrease in pollution  (less cars, less street vendors lighting up their charcoal grills, etc) make way for clear skies!

Thanks for coming Emily and David!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Part 3: Helsinki, Again

After returning to Finland we dropped off our luggage and made our way to a well known church. We tried to go to "Rock Church" a few days earlier, but found it closed to the public. That's what you get when you try to visit a church on a Sunday as a tourist!

We also ended up exploring a beautiful cemetery and walking along the beach before make our way to Greenbike. We rented our cute 1-speed Jopo bikes for 5 hours to tour Helsinki. We estimate we rode around 30KM. Stops were made for lunch at the harbor market, at the Russian Orthodox Church, to watch kite surfing in a bay, for ice cream and of course to check the map (Greg's job). This was one of our favorite activities on the trip. With the wind in your hair, the cool ocean breezes, and the warm sun no one got too hot or too cold during the journey. (I felt the sun afterwards though!) Highly recommended!


At the end of the day we headed to a roof top bar that Greg had visited on his trip to Helsinki in December 2009 for a drink and great view. Catching the bus to the airport we arrived in plenty of time to brush our teeth, put on some extra deodorant, and then check our luggage before boarding our red eye back to Bangkok. Everyone slept well and we arrived in Thailand ready to continue our adventure. Part 4 of 4: Thailand!

Pictures from our last walk around Helsinki. The shirts were a part of an art exhibit and Greg is  peering at us though his beer in a wine glass at our last meal in Europe. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Part 2: Stockholm

For those of you who check our blog regularly (maybe that's no one and I'm just trying to make myself feel special) here's the long awaited Part 2 of our trip. Part 2 includes the overnight boat to Stockholm where we slept in tiny hot room located under the car park next to the engine room. The boat ride also included (we paid for it of course with our ticket) an all you can eat and drink dinner buffet and breakfast buffet. Fresh Salmon and lots of cheese, wine and beer on tap (for dinner only)! Do I need to explain more... we loved it!

Once we arrived in Stockholm we checked into our centrally located hotel, Frey's Hotel, and purchased our Stockholm cards from the front desk.We could use these cards for public transportation, enter most museums, and do some sightseeing things like a harbor tour. If traveling to Stockholm, we'd highly recommend them if you want to do a lot of sightseeing. Our hotel with good service, 300+ beers at the restaurant and great location, was spectacular as well.

So, we put our cards to work exploring the city. Our first day stops included the Vasa Museum, the Nordic Museum, a harbor tour, and a walking tour of Gamla Stan (Old Town) lead by our friend Rick. Who is Rick? Emily and David checked out the Rick Steves Scandinavia book and brought it along. Rick helped guide us to places and quickly became a resourceful travel companion.  While exploring all these places we soaked up the  nice cool (relatively speaking with highs around 80) weather and quickly fell in love with Stockholm.

Outside The Nordic Museum
Emily & David in front of the impressive  1628 Warship: Vasa. It was raised from the sea and salvaged in 1961. 

Impressive wood work. They think that all the details were painted with bright colors. 

On our walking tour of Gamla Stan. Stops included visiting the smallest public statue in Stockholm and exploring the cobblestone streets. Gamla Stan's cute cafes, well kept buildings, interesting sights, and quiet alleys had us returning there many times. 

Alleys of Gamla Stan. 
The other full day in Stockholm was started a great museum of photography, Fotografiska with the afternoon spent at Skansen. Opening in 1891, Skansen is a huge open air museum made up of over 150 houses from all over the country. Again, we recommend both of these places if you are visiting Stockholm.

We saw the pattern on the left painted in an 100+ year old farmstead house in Skansen. The pattern on the right was the wallpaper in our hotel room. It was neat to see the similarities in design across time.

Skansen Open Air Museum. Yes, that is a lemur in the bottom left corner. There was a small zoo on the grounds as well . We took the old tram in the middle back to our hotel. 

We headed to Gamla Stan for our last dinner and enjoyed the beautiful views of the city on the way home.
Before boarding our second overnight boat to head back to Helsinki, we spent our last day touring the palace's armory museum as well viewing the changing to the guard. We grabbed a lunch in Gamla Stan and  then headed to the boat for the beautiful ride back to Finland.

Emily and David brought me Swedish Fish from the US. I felt it appropriate to take a photo with them in their homeland.

Changing of the guard.

Emily in Gamla Stan. Good bye Sweden!

Scenes captured from the boat. 
Part 3: Helsinki, Again (which includes one of our favorite days in Scandinavia) is coming soon!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Part 1: Helsinki

On the 30th of July, Greg and I started a 1 1/2 week vacation that would have us doing everything from riding in a plane, a boat, on trains, on trams, on a bus, on bikes, in a car, on an elephant, and in a taxi. One day of our trip was alone, but the others we were blessed to have Emily and David Cutter (Emily is Greg's sister) as our traveling companions. 

Our first stop was Helsinki. We had the entire day (from  on) there by ourselves and after dropping off our luggage in our downtown hotel we made our way to the pier. Taking a suggestion from my Bangkok Finnish friend Nina and other traveling websites, we spent the day out at Suomenlinna Island. Hiking around the old Sea Fortress was a perfect way to keep us moving on our first day. We especially enjoyed the bucket of peaches and cheese we picked up from the local supermarket for lunch!

The train and bus station across from our hotel. Local electric trams  going by.
Stopping by the city Lutheran Cathedral on the way to the harbor. 
A collage of pictures from the island. 
In the evening, also taking a recommendation from Nina, we walked about 10 minutes to Lappi, a restaurant serving  Lapland (Finnish) Food in a traditional atmosphere. We shared  the Lappish game selection for two: Roasted elk, reindeer sausages, braised reindeer, winter vegetables and potato fondant with creamy game sauce enjoyed with a bottle of fruit wine. For desert we treated ourselves to the cheese platter. 

Dinner at Lappi.

The next morning we met Emily and David at the bus station right across the street from our hotel, helped them store their luggage and started exploring the city. It turns out it's difficult to sight see on a Sunday morning. Most things are closed, but wandering the nearly empty streets was peaceful way to begin our day catching up. Our lunch of reindeer sausage and fresh cherries was eaten at the Harbor Market.  We retrieved our luggage in the late afternoon and then boarded our overnight boat to Stockholm. 

A collage of pictures from our first day in Helsinki with David and Emily. We did lots of walking, visited the city museum, and enjoyed yummy food. The sunny yet cool weather was heavenly. There are also pictures from the boat on our way to Stockholm!