Of Miri and Norway.

Waiting in KLIA in thirst.

There goes the first week of my summer holidays at home in Malaysia. I didn’t do much apart from staying at home. Today actually marks the first time I come out to the downtown area.  It is always fun to check out what has changed here over the past year when I was not around – the renovated houses, a new church building, and a new hotel etc. Of course, I’m on a lookout for new eateries as well, though I haven’t even eaten any of my long-awaited local food like mee kolok and laksa. It is indeed saddening that most of my go-out-to-eat kakis are not back home at the moment. (Yc puts it as no driver, which is partially true.  :P)

The weather and air quality here has been pretty unbearable and the radio just proved me right few days ago when it announced that there are only two places in the whole country which are currently still classified under hazardous air quality – Penang and Miri. (Congrates to you too, lynn. XD) And so, I am badly longing for UK weather though it rains forever in Manchester, just like how I long for Malaysia weather during those frosty winter days when we are walking on the streets in the cold. With the lovely temperature here, I can sweat by chilling in my room.

On a side note, exam results might be released today (That was yesterday (: Results are out and *sigh of relief*). One of the most nerve-wrecking times of the year apart from our oral exams. It is rather early for the 3rd and 4th years as the results are obviously needed before graduation takes place in early-mid July. We only had 2 papers for our Semester 2 exams, a change from 5 or 6 in past experiences. Got to admit it felt awesome to start later and end earlier than most students wheehehe.

2 days after my exams ended, I was off to Norway with a whole bunch of friends – 14 of us altogether to be exact. There is so so much I have to thank God for. With my carelessness and lacking in organization, many things could have gone wrong right from the beginning but somehow He just sorted them out more than I could have asked for. Thank Him for keeping us safe throughout the trip – we all came back in one piece and no one lost anything. I thank Him also for easy-going companionship despite the feared conflicts normally coming from large groups. And sorry friends, if I appeared fierce at any point lol, maybe I was over-worried about being late or something. X)

Stortinget | Parliament of Norway.

Norway is indeed a beautiful place seeping with peace, including its capital Oslo. It has got to be the most serene capital city I have ever visited, even though I imagined it to be slightly cleaner than it is. However, its history seems to go deeper than I thought. All I knew was the Vikings so the Parliament House tour gave a better insight of the country’s formation and its interactions with neighbour Sweden.

Vigeland Sculpture Park.

Vigeland Sculpture Park had great landscaping but we could not make sense out of the weird sculptures, especially the tallest one at the top of the stairs. It appears to be a pile of people. O_O I thought I like art but this is totally out of my league. Holmenkollen Ski Jump provided us with some climbing exercise but the architecture of the ski jump was quite brilliant; plus we got to hop on the Ski Simulator which jerked us around crazily. Fun stuff. :D

Holmenkollen Ski Jump, a distance away from the city centre.

Operahuset | The Norwegian Opera and Ballet.

The Opera House by the sea is another icon of the city with accessible rooftop, with the blue sea as backdrop. Gorgeous sunbeams had us sitting there until we decided to set off for lunch. Prompted by the offer for our hostel’s guests in a restaurant, we headed there and ended up waiting a good 45 mins for our meals.  The waiter even insisted on his food philosophy and forbade us from having our waffles first. XD

Aboard the ferry to Bydgoy.

With the travel pass, we hopped on the ferry to Bygdoy where a couple of museums were located. Fram had a pretty cool ship in which some of us got a shock from the dark little room. The entrance tickets for the Viking Ship museum and National Cultural and History museum sent us off, but it was a relaxing walk around the surrounding residential area before returning to the ferry port.

Nobel Fredssenter, Oslo.

Another not-to-be-missed landmark is the Nobel Peace Center (Nobel Fredssenter) located near the harbour and City Hall where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year on 10th December. Right in front of the building is an odd metal rectangular structure which beckons you to walk through. The walls are perforated and with a closer look (which I sadly did not do so), you’ll realize the holes form a map of the world. There should also be the S-LAUGHTER lights above the box with the letter ‘S’ blinking, bringing in a sense of unspoken contradiction and reminding us how laughter could easily vanish with slaughter, or more optimistically, the other way round. The center itself holds a rich digital display of the stories behind the works of Nobel Peace Prize laureates, along with other Nobel-associated information.

Salmon@ Zupperia, Bergen.

Hake fish@ Lofoten Restaurant, Oslo.

Baked cod fish@ Bergen Fisketorget.

Norwegian food is largely seafood-based as expected, which is how I ended up eating it almost every day, most of the time salmon. Such wonderful Omega 3 intake. Scallops and cod fish at Bergen fish market are my favourites as well.  Besides that, I had my first meal at a Michelin-recommended restaurant – no Michelin stars but still, ;). It is called the Lofoten Fiskerestaurant, situated at the Aker Brygge area by the sea in Oslo. I quite enjoyed my Fish of the Day which is hake fish, the only downside would be the portion – the ‘fine-dining portion’.  But no worries, a double-scoop Swiss Movenpick ice-cream and golden sunshine by the dock after lunch was glorious. My only little regret is not having the sandwich ice-cream sold in all the convenience shops.

LZ-approved Norwegian Lobster.

As for the sceneries in Norway, there is no doubt about its magnificence – and to think that I have not even seen the best the country has to offer. Along the way to Myrdal on the Oslo-Bergen railway, we passed through the Hardangervidda Plateau where we were allowed to get off the train twice for a short while. It was snowing in the high altitudes and the dark-coloured rocks were half-covered by the snow. Scattered lakes, big and small alike, were frozen. It looked surreal, the last image my eyes captured as I was about to clamber back on the train.

Unexpected scenery for a summer trip. (;

I admire those who built the railway.

Similarly, Myrdal was snowing. Tourists swarmed into the small station building for warmth (or toilets and souvenir shop lol) upon reaching the station, except for some enthusiastic photographers lingering around the platforms for more pictures. I think this was where I cooked up some impromptu ridiculous story about the history of trolls to Yeemei, sorry for the nonsense hahah! Soon, the Myrdal-Flam train came, which is the only other rail line besides the one heading for Oslo/Bergen. The crowd poured out onto the platform so quickly and I hurried my herd of clowns onto one of the wagons. Here’s where I thank God for – the passing by train conductor’s sharp eyes which caught sight of the train tickets in my hands. There was a wagon reserved for me (and the rest), literally. It was pasted on the windows, the train door – “This wagon is reserved for Caroline Lee”. How cool is that!! :P

Myrdal-Flam railway is claimed as one of the steepest railways in the world with 5 separate brake systems in operation. Either I wasn’t paying enough attention but it didn’t quite go so steep for us to exclaim about it. The train was in tunnels a lot, but when it wasn’t, the views were rather nice – mostly of valleys and waterfalls. As advertised, the train stopped halfway and let us down for Waterfall. Our wagon being the last one, stopped in the tunnel so we had to run along the wooden path to the open platform overlooking the waterfall right in front. I have to admit I find Swallow Falls in Betws-y-Coed more to my liking.

View from the Flam Railway.

Inhabitance blending into nature beautifully.

There were a lot more narrow waterfalls gushing down the mountainsides along the way, which seems to be the case everywhere. The picturesque village along the river with brightly-coloured cottages and the old little stave church was a delight.  Soon after, we hopped onto the Fjord1 ferry after arriving at the little village of Flam to find it totally brimming with China tourists. It must be a whole group of them on the Norway in a Nutshell tour. We could only find sufficient space on the highest deck which was all cool since the scenery there is the best…until the cold wind gets to you and half of the people succumb by going downstairs. X) Apart from that, it was a totally wonderful time for me – sitting with my legs propped up against the railing and staring at the sceneries along the fjord. The specks of white on the mountain tops with rocky edges lining the two sides of the fjord, often having one or two streams of water running down. One thing you have to look out for, is the seagulls. Somehow, the elderly China aunties and uncles enjoy feeding the birds a lot; so with all those hands stretching out to lure the birds with bread or biscuits, the seagulls were flapping above the ferry nonstop. I hope they manage to find their way home after that.

On the ferry cruise from Flam to Gudvangen.

Gudvangen surroundings.

From Gudvangen we took a ride on the public bus to Voss. The bus got me sleepy in no time and I had my power nap before I started absorbing the views outside again. Everyone appeared with puffy eyes after we came down from the bus so we headed straight on to Bergen on the next train instead of wandering around Voss.

Bergen from mountain top.

Thick fog upon descend on cable car.

Bryggen – UNESCO World Heritage.

The harbour at sunset.

Bergen is a gem of its kind, very different from Oslo. My first impression of it was a small seaside town and I could just walk around to a destination without a map as long as I have a rough idea where it is. This notion had to be crossed out when I had a bird’s eye view of the city on high grounds after riding up in a cable car. The view was enjoyable but could have been much more splendid if not for the rainy weather on top of wind and fog. I realized that the city is much bigger than I thought as most of the tourists attractions were clustered around the bay area, the prestigious one being UNESCO Heritage Bryggen where a row of historical coloured shops stand in a slanted angle.

Hello penguin. (:

For one like me who hasn’t seen penguins before however, the aquarium we visited was more fun. Penguins look cuter in reality compared to on the telly! The way they walk wobbling from side to side hahaha! The seals were equally entertaining as they perform jumps as instructed by their trainer. I also scooped out a starfish from the Touch Aquarium but not the crab after much hesitation. We spent the rest of our time scanning crocodiles, snakes, reptile representatives lol, baby sharks, fancy fish and schools of fish.

To cut cost for accommodation, we returned to Oslo via an overnight train. Tired, it was the journey I slept the most on but I’m really happy I didn’t miss the night scenery of the huge moon hanging silently just above silhouettes of the jagged plateau. Pity I missed the chance to capture it on my camera as I dare not disturb the gentleman beside me who never stopped watching movies the entire journey. :X

End of travel review! There is so much more to talk about the trip but that would bore you out. I look forward to my next trip! Need to make the most out of my final year in UK – and I have to say this again to first years, go travel around while you can! (;