A Travellerspoint blog

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Hm... Better on my second visit I suppose?

It's the 65th largest country, but 13th most populous country. 132nd in GDP/capita. It's 16th in biodiversity. There are 55 ethnic groups, though about 86% are Viet. 8% are Buddhist, 7.5% are Christian, and about 82% are largely areligious.

Well, Vietnam still isn't my favorite country, but I did have a few good experiences. It's hard to not let people constantly trying to cheat and steal from you bother you. The cruise in Ha Long Bay was definitely worth it, and Hanoi was surprisingly cool. A lot of the war museums are worth seeing, and it's really interesting seeing all of the propaganda. Most of the sites are a little underwhelming after seeing the wilderness of Borneo and the history of the Khmer, but the uniquely Vietnamese things (like dance, music, theatre...) are cool.

Posted by ErnieLG 10:02 Comments (0)

Days 73-78: Jyväskylä, Finland

Rai time!

sunny 20 °C
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After a good 30 hours in transit, I finally made it to Helsinki where Anni was waiting for me. Then onto another train for a few hours to see Raisa. We got to hang out for a few hours, and I'm staying at her place, so I'll get to see a lot of her. We explored the town a little bit. Very quaint. Good times. Finland is sooo quiet. There are barely any people. Something like 8 million in the whole country. But the Finns are great people. They're very reserved and reluctant to make contact with someone new, but they're very friendly and nice when they open up. The way they express themselves is just very understated.

Raisa's mom came over and we had some drinks and stuff. It's funny how much the Finns like alcohol. Did I tell you that sunset is at about 1030 and sunrise is at 4? So you go to sleep and wake up, and it's still day. Between those sunrise and sunset, it's never really night; it just kinda stays like twilight.

So Rai, her mom, and I went to her uncle's cottage at the lake. This lake was huuge. Their houses were centuries old, too, and they just built around and renovated all the old pieces. They have old pictures of their family for like 6 generations or something. We rowed around; tried fishing but not really. Hung out in their sauna, which was interesting. It was a very Finnish day.

The next day we walked around her town's lake and hung out on some boats. Raisa had to leave town, though, so I figured it was time for me to move on, too. I was starting to clean everything, and I was about to start rearranging the furniture, so it's a good thing that I left.

Every time I look at anyone, it's like they could be Raisa's cousin or aunt or uncle or something. It's so funny being in these homogenous cultures.


Some stock photos:

Posted by ErnieLG 12:05 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

Days 79-80: Tampere, Finland

Blue water and red bricks.

sunny 25 °C
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Hitch-hiked to the next town. A cool guy who gave me a lift. Trying to get a ride, it's a little disheartening at first that not everyone smiles back at you, since the Finns are so... Polite. No one looks you in the eye when you're walking down the street and stuff. Any country I go to there are people who stare at me, but once I look up, everyone averts their gaze. But you know, it's an interesting change from people touching me or yelling at me or asking to take pictures with me or for me to hold their babies. So I had to extend my friendliness aura to the max, and I soon started getting some smiles and waves. Only took about 45 min or so til I got picked up.

A local met me downtown and made me eat some mustamalkara (Tampere black sausage) with... Lingonberry? Pretty good! And she had a foldout couch, which is awesome.

It was real cold when I got to Finland (like 5), but now it's between 30 and 15. It's real nice actually. There's no night, and it's never over 30. Finnish summer is awesome.

This town sits on an isthmus between two giant lakes. Finland has a million epic lakes. So I hung out on the waterfront, checked out all these old brick buildings, went to some observation towers, saw an Andy Warhol exhibit, went to an aquarium, went inside some traditional homes from the 19th century, saw an art museum, ate some weird Finnish donuts and cider... Then I helped Virva's neighborhood clean up their block and do some gardening. We had a little barbecue and stuff.


some stock photos:


Sara Hilden Museum: 9.5
Observation Tower: 9.5
Aquarium: 8.5
Amuri Workers Museum: 8.5
Pyynikki Tower & Cafe: 9
Art Museum: 6

Posted by ErnieLG 12:06 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

Days 81-87: Turku, Finland

My new roomie!

semi-overcast 15 °C
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Ended up waiting about 1.5hr when I was hitching, but one guy drove me part way there, and another guy finished the job. Freaking sunny. I couldn't believe how warm and sunny it was here. But after a few days it got cold. Back to like 12 degrees or something.

Been hanging out at Ola's (a Polish girl) extra room in her flat. She had people from Turkey, Poland, and Germany all at her house. We drank at the river, and we went to a Nicolas Cage Film Festival complete with Nic Cage masks. We went to some bars downtown with them, too. Pretty funny. We saw some funny bands.


I helped out in Ola's English class that she teaches. It was pretty entertaining. I tried some salmiakki (finnish licorice alcohol), some Polish candy, and this big Finnish cinnamon roll thing.

Went to a little, old, wooden town on the water... Checked out Turku's pretty sweet library. Went to some cool art museums. Saw a big cathedral. Checked out the subterranean ruins of the city. This usedta be the biggest city in Finland, but now it's the third. I saw an old castle from 1280, too. I got to try on some armor and stuff. Chain mail weighs a shit-load. Like, a good 20kg.





Turku Cathedral: 7
Naantali: 7
Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova Museums: 10
Turku Castle: 10
Turku Library: 8.5

Posted by ErnieLG 12:07 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

Days 88-94: Helsinki, Finland

The "big" city

sunny 25 °C
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Took less than half an hour to hitch this time. Some cool dudes from Nepal picked me up. Had to take a train and a tram, but I eventually got to Emma's place. She and her BF were nice enough to let me crash on their couch for a while.

We played pétanque in the park, this funny French game like horseshoes or curling. We mostly hung out around town and did the things they usually do. There're some cool churches and government buildings, and everyone is outside at the markets and harbors.

We checked out an island that had a fortress from around the 18th century. We went to another forested island with examples of ancient Finnish buildings. There're quite a lot of tiny islands, some big enough for people to put a few buildings or a summer cottage. But in winter, all of the bay freezes, and they can even drive cars on them. Maybe I only think this is cool.




Fortress of Suomenlinna: 9
Seurasaari Open-Air Museum: 9
Linnanmaki Amusement Park: 6
Ateneum Art Museum (Konstmuseet Ateneum): 9

Posted by ErnieLG 19:38 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

Days 95-99: Kontiolahti, Finland

Living with Raisa's fam

sunny 20 °C
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Raisa's brother hooked it up with a ride to their hometown which was like... 7 hours out or something. It was pretty cool. Really just a tiny town. But they live like .5km from the lake. We went fishing with her brother, but all of us caught nothing. We emptied their nets, though, and there were some fish there, so we ate 'em. We had a barbecue on a little island, too. We did some cool hiking in their woods and some gardening at their house. We went to visit Rai's grandma which was funny. Simo drove me back to Helsinki, but I didn't have much luck hitching, so I just took a bus. 20 euros is, sadly, a good deal. My friend didn't tell me she was leaving, so I just slept outside. Got poop attacked by birds. Luckily, I met this guy named Juha who let me crash at his place. We're camping together at Roskilde and Ozora.

ESLG: *hitching-hiking on the side of the freeway*
Police: *roll up in a van*
Police: What are you doing. You can't do this here.
ESLG: Oh, sorry, uh...
Police: You can't get a ride here. Cars can't stop here.
ESLG: Ah...! Er...
Police: Get in the van.
ESLG: Yeah..! I... *gets in the van*
Police: *drives for 15min all over the roads and sidewalks, backwards and perpendicular*
Police: It's better if you wait here at the beginning of the motorway. All of the cars drive by here.
ESLG: Oh... Thanks!

It was 20m away from where they'd picked me up.


Posted by ErnieLG 19:40 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

Days 100-102: Mariehamn, Finland

Between Finland and Sweden

all seasons in one day 20 °C
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I hopped on a giant cruise ship (10 floors) to get to Åland, an archipelago of thousands of islands. This is now Swedish-speaking territory which, despite my affinity for the Finns, is much easier to understand than Finnish.

I hung out with this local dude named Benji. We checked out some cool, bluegrass, old school country-type bands at the bars. It's a cool little town. Quaint, like most things in Northern Europe.

I rented a bike and rode... I dunno, 50k? Checked out some old castles and stuff. Pretty cool! Wish I could've seen a little more here. But you know how it is... Outta time!


Kastelholms Slott Castle: 8.5

Posted by ErnieLG 19:40 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

Days 103-106: Stockholm, Sweden

The Cup's starting! Lotsa exercise, too...

sunny 25 °C
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Stayed with a couple locals. These people were like super climbers and athletes. They took me to the big climbing gym they work at and showed me a few courses. Some of the medium level stuff I could do, but I don't have all of those muscles in your fingers and hands that you need. We did this biking fund raiser, and they showed me around town. I biked about 30k/day. And I won some free breakfast from the biking fund-raiser. Oh, and we watched a lot of soccer.

I saw some pretty cool museums and galleries. There's this huge warship from the 17th century that's almost in perfect condition. Check out this epic photographer named Sebastiao Salgado.





Fotografiska Photo Gallery: 9.5
Millesgarden Art Gallery: 9
Vasa Ship Museum: 9.5

Posted by ErnieLG 19:41 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

Days 107-111: Oslo, Norway

Socialists and Vikings

sunny 25 °C
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I actually didn't hitch to this spot, cuz I'd heard from other people taking days to get here from Stockholm. Unfortunately, I have only 2 weeks in Sweden and Norway. So I'll be taking trains. I stayed with an architect from Northern Norway who was hosting a bunch of couchsurfers. It was good.

We saw all of these actually cool museums with ancient viking ships that were centuries old. We saw a museum about the voyages through the polar regions like Roald Amundsen's trip to the South Pole, and we got to go on the boat that did it. And we saw a huge park with traditional buildings from all over Norway.






And we saw a couple galleries. One was all about Munch, the guy who did the Scream. At the other we saw some Manet, de Goya, El Greco, and some Norwegians I'd never heard of.

We went to some Socialist Party party and danced all night to soul music until about... 7am. We celebrated the solstice with some swedes and ate some Swedish food. We saw some bands play by the river.

Viking Museum: 9.5
Fram Polar Museum: 9.5
Kon-Tiki Museum: 8.5
Maritime Museum: 8
Folk Museum: 9.5
Munch Museum: 8
National Gallery: 9

Posted by ErnieLG 19:42 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Days 112-113: Flam, Norway

Crazy scenery and snow and mountains and lakes and fjords and kayaking

sunny 25 °C
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I took this train that went through the mountains and all these lakes and forests and waterfalls and tunnels. It was pretty cool. I went kayaking through part of Sognefjord called Aurlandsfjord and saw some waterfalls and ancient biking burial mounds. They have 12 day trips that go all the way to the ocean. I wish I could've done that. I jumped in this waterfall... It was so cold. A fjord is a canyon carved through glacial movement over millennia. This bigger fjord is something like the 4th longest in the world.


Aurlands Fjord Kayaking: 9
Flambana Railway: 10

Posted by ErnieLG 19:43 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Day 114: Stavanger, Norway

EPIC, amazing hiking and climbing and cliffs and fjords

sunny 25 °C
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OMG. I went to these cliffs that overlook this fjord. It was freaking crazy. I was hiking and bouldering for a good 4 hours. I was dangling my legs over this cliff that went straight down to the fjord on all sides. It was a good km fall. I could see all over the land and water. It was pretty epic... I would've stayed and camped if I had more time. But like I said, I've only got a week in Norway. Which is kinda good, cuz it's so freaking expensive. It's pretty much one of the most expensive places in the world. Costs like a dollar just to use the bathroom. But ppl are so trusting. You could never by a ticket for buses or ferries if you didn't want to, because they trust that you just have a ticket, and they don't ever check.


Preikistolen Cliffs: 10

Posted by ErnieLG 19:43 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Days 115-117: Copenhagen, Denmark

Scandinavia is a good place, and it might be the best here.

sunny 25 °C
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Copenhagen's really cool. Took me nearly 20 hours on trains no buses, but I got here.

I went on some tours and pubcrawls. It was with a company that used to work for (Sandeman's), the company I worked for in Madrid.

I didn't have nearly enough time to see everything here. I did see some cool galleries and museums and churches and palaces and castles and gardens and parks. Saw a lot of Islamic Art. I saw a funny Psycho (the Hitchcock film) street performance with 4 ppl in it.

Everyone's pretty festive since it's the middle of summer and all the high schoolers are graduating, too. They ride around town in giant trucks drinking and dancing in the bed and have super loud music. They do that for bout 3 days. They jump and play in the fountains and... They're funny. There's also a weird hippie commune town that exists in Copenhagen, and it has all of it's own laws and rules.


David Collection Museum: 9.5
Rundetaarn Observatory: 8
National Museum: 9.5

Posted by ErnieLG 19:44 Archived in Denmark Comments (0)

Days 118-126: Roskilde, Denmark

A week of camping, partying, and music

all seasons in one day 25 °C
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So I took a train down to Roskilde, one of the bigger cities in Denmark near Copenhagen. I met up with my camp, Strangers with Candy. I only really knew a couple of them before coming here. The peeps in our camp were from America, Belgium, Australia, Norway, Austria, Denmark, Finland, and Scotland. I got a tent, mattress, sleeping bag, and a bunch of beer. And it was pretty awesome overall. Some of the acts I saw were the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Outkast, Arctic Monkeys, Jack White, Major Lazer, Daman Albarn, Lykke Li, Manu Chao, and Dilated Peoples. I left all of my camping supplies, but I ended up finding some other sweet gear like a cowboy hat, leis, utensils, duct tape, a bunch of alcohol and tuna fish, a scarf from Australia, a Guy Fawkes mask, and a horse mask. Oh, and I saw some of the old town which was pretty sweet. I went to this cathedral from around the 12th century or something, and I got in for free. Then I went to the viking museum, and I went on two sailing trips in viking ships for free. That was pretty awesome.


Roskilde Fest: 10
Roskilde Cathedral: 9
Viking Ship Museum/Sailing: 10

Posted by ErnieLG 19:44 Archived in Denmark Comments (0)

Days 127-128: Kiel, Germany

Yay! Germany!

semi-overcast 25 °C
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Well, my friend Ninette let me stay at her place with her fiancé. It was a nice intro to Germany, but more importantly, I got to get really clean after camping and being so dirty for a week. I didn't really have time to see much of the town.

Ninette took me to her work, and we drove around the countryside to some farms. We went to this super old village that was restored and turned into a super expensive resort spa with a beach.

Oh, and we saw the Germany Brazil game at this theatre full of... Germans, of course. It was crazy.


Posted by ErnieLG 19:46 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Days 129-131: Hamburg, Germany

sunny 25 °C
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Hamburg was pretty cool. I went on some tours, and explored the city a lot. I stayed with a German, and she showed me around, too. We went to the beach, went on some ferries, walked through some tunnels, watched some football... There're lotsa old-looking brick buildings and churches and stuff. Oh, I got offered a job to be a tour guide.


Michaelis Church: 9
Miniatur Wunderland: 8.5
Town Hall: 7.5
Hamburg Port: 7.5
Warehouse District: 7.5
Alter Elbtunnel: 7.5
St. Nikolai Church Memorial: 8.5

Posted by ErnieLG 19:48 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

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