Stockholm, capital for the good-lookings

Stockholm, capital for the good-lookings

Chapter II Part II

Stockholm, capital of the good-lookings

City: Stockholm
Country: Sweden

Currency: Swedish Krona (1€ = 9.4 SEK)

Travel dates: 27 Dec 2007 – 30 Dec 2007

Accommodation: Archipelago Hostel

Travel buddies: Egon, Clare, Rahma, Siddharth, Stella, Meghan

Caption: Stadhuset, the most famous Stockholm's landmark

A good night sleep had totally recharged the seven souls. Second day in Stockholm, we were both physically and mentally ready for the capital once again. Travel time allocated for Stockholm was only a measly two days from the one-month winter trip. After the first day, we were deeply regretted on such idiotic decision.

Therefore, to seize the day, we kick-started with Stadhuset (the city hall), the most important landmark of the capital. Located at the edge of Kungsholmen island, the Stadhuset is arguably the most visited spot in Stockholm, if not the most film killing (or memory card eating) monument. I bet it would definitely be stunning during summer time. However, the waterfront city hall in front of my eyes looked coldly inactive during winter time.

Walked into the city hall centre square, we could hardly see anyone, although a crowd of guided tour was spotted occasionally. For one moment, we could even take picture with no tourist interruption. It was definitely the perfect opportunity to shoot some captivating landscape photos, only if the weather was supportive.

Since ascending to the top of the city hall tower, which allow you to grab the entire panoramic Stockholm city view, was impossible during winter period, due to the so called windy condition even in this calm slightly sunny day, we were only loitering at the garden in between the city hall and Riddarfjärden (river or lake, I’m not sure).

Caption: Inside Stadhuset (left) and waterfront view from Stadhuset

Bored after 10 minutes, we continued our journey to the so-far-untouched island located at the south, Södermalm, via Gamla Stan. I think by now, the walking capacity of us is unquestionable anymore, right? We had been told by the lovely lady at the reception of our hostel that Södermalm is the hub for pubs and clubs in Stockholm. Of course, this wasn’t something we witnessed in the morning time.

I was not feeling disappointed, even though I was really eager to spend huge bucks entrance fee just to visit the famous ice bar, because after all pubs remain as pubs. Södermalm in the morning is purely a living quarter for Swedish. Climbing up various highly steep bricks-paved roads, it was certainly an eerily tiring walk (or climb). While I was walking, I couldn’t help but wondering whether one needs extremely excellent driving skill or highly powerful motors to reach this place.

Södermalm has nothing special for tourists in the morning. However, compared to Stadhuset in winter time, it was slightly worthy as we were able to capture the whole Stadhuset-Gamla Stan view from this hill. Again, the depressing cloudy weather killed our pictures. *puzzled*

Caption: Steep slope at Södermalm (left) and a view from Gamla Stan to Södermalm

It was Saturday, one of three days when a changing of guards at the Royal Palace took place during winter time. For those who are travelling to Stockholm during summer time, it would be a daily event. Since this changing of guards is claimed to be the best in Scandinavia, we have had this plan well under penned months before. However, from our experience in Oslo, we were not having huge expectation to it.

Ten minutes before the event begun, we waited at the square of Royal Palace. It was clear to us that the square was well prepared for its tourist. Fenced with a huge circle in the middle, tourists were restricted in entering the main square where the changing of guards took place. It was a surprise to us. Surprise was not because of the fences, it was the crowd.

Caption: Part of the crowd during the changing of guards (left) and the later featured guard

Naïvely thinking that this would be just another lame changing of guards which attracts no tourists, except the seven bored and having-too-much-time-to-waste wanderers, we were shocked to learn that some hundreds of tourists if not thousands were waiting for the event.

Another surprise was the event wasn’t started on time. It was definitely unusual. But no man left. After a few false crowd movements, the real event was finally started with the company of two-man musical band. Oh yea, only a two-man band.

We saw a team of guards marching through the gate. They were only about 20. It was pretty obvious that the seven of us were concluding silently in our hearts with the ‘as expected’ expression on the face. It wasn’t long enough before soon when we were slapped on the face with two more teams of guards marching in to the square. Everyone started to feel grateful that no one uttered the like-that-only words. But very soon, we focused on the two-man band as a way of self-ascertain.

Caption: The marching guards (left) and guards in action

Nothing special to describe about the event since it was conducted in a language we have absolutely zero idea, except for the highly hilarious jumping-running-marching movement.

It sounds very boring. But it was also at this time when the cruelty of human being was demonstrated nakedly in front of us. The crowd dissolved, with some headed to ticket counter, some headed out of the square, and some busy taking photos with guards.

I wasn’t really fond of taking photos with guard since we were restricted to stand outside a circle which is simply a long gun radius from the guard. But it was an exception to me this time. The guard was so good looking. I started to shoot photos of the guard, so as many other tourists. Sounds like a very normal process. But what was not normal was, out of so many cameras focusing at him, the guard was only looking into my camera.

If you are thinking I was standing right in the middle, you are wrong. In fact, this was also my initial thought. But from the pair of glance in my camera, I was assured that it was indeed a too shallow thought. I deliberately walked to different directions and started shooting. Not to my surprise, the pair of eyes followed my camera. A sense of victory surged in my heart, quietly whispering to me that I’ve won him. Ha.

Caption: Okay, this is the result when I couldn't help myself but taking too many photos. Look! He cracked!

My own arrogance took control of my logical sense until I missed the chance of taking photo with the guard as he was replaced by another guard. Thinking of taking photo with this newly placed guard as compensation, I quickly learnt how rapidly the photo shooting crowd disappeared. I took a glimpse at the guard, obviously, he was not as good looking as the previous one, and that explained everything.

I couldn’t help myself but wondered, is this a place only for the good-lookings? Life is cruel, isn’t it? What? Did I take photo with the guard? You bet I didn’t. What?! Peers pressure.

It was a visit to the inside of Royal Palace after the changing of guards. It was very similar to a museum, which of course was not my cup of tea. So, I was literally walked through the many different halls. The rest of the day was purely hunting for souvenirs for some while it was just a relaxing afternoon to me.

Back to hostel at night, nothing much going on as everyone has an early flight to our third country, Poland, the post-war capital.

Stockholm, the capital of Scandinavia

Chapter II Part I

Stockholm, the capital of Scandinavia

City: Stockholm
Country: Swed
Currency: Swedish Krona (1€ = 9.4 SEK)
Travel dates: 27 Dec 2007 – 30 Dec 2007
Accommodation: Archipelago Hostel
Travel buddies: Egon, Clare, Rahma, Siddharth, Stella, Meghan

Caption: Stockholm in the morning

It was in the afternoon of Dec 27, when the six of us took our first international train crossing the border of Norway-Sweden, to our second destination of the grand trip, Sweden. Taking trains in Scandinavia could be really pricey if you fail to get the minipris ticket. Our initial ticket price could go up to 900SEK.

Fortunately, the train ticket which we booked months before our trip only costed 96SEK, which is dirt cheap in the eyes of Scandinavians. Of course, we were not excluded in the possession of such opinion. In fact, this is the beauty of travelling by trains in Europe. Tip: Book your train ticket as early as possible.

It was a long journey. We reached Sweden only at night, after 7 hours of keeping our butts glued to the luxurious train seats. However, the fresh air which welcomed us from the moment we stepped out from the train station was totally refreshing. Despite the fact that we were dragging monstrous luggages containing food leftover from Oslo, we eagerly scrutinised the every facet of this capital of Scandinavia in the dark by paying close attention to every buildings.

Of course, the only things we saw were merely shades of buildings and scattered neon lights. However, Sweden remained very impressive in our eyes. Indeed, the first impression might mislead us since the comparison was only made relatively to Oslo, the only capital we have seen in Europe. But it actually also means that our curiosity to explore the city was escalating.

Caption: Gamla Stan in the morning. Notice how narrow is the street.

Our hostel, Archipelago Hostel, is situated in the middle of Gamla Stan, the old town of Sweden which is an island itself, and is only about 10 minutes of walking from the train station. The walk along the main street of Gamla Stan was fascinating. The coluourful lights from the building and the few bunches of celebrating crowd on the street clearly told us, Christmas had ended and it was time to get back to parties.

Getting into our hostel, we were only welcomed by an envelope with key inside. Slowly opening the door of our room, we were filled with immense anticipation. Would it be as decent as Anker Hostel in Oslo? The door was fully opened, and without hesitation, our hearts plunged into the deepest valley of our body, our jaws dropped as if the hinges of the jaw muscles were experiencing malfunction.

It was a nightmare, a complete disaster!

Three double-deckers, for six people, in an area of less than ten metres square?


Soon after the shock, our sense of condolence started to work its magic wand, we appreciated the fact that we were kept in the same room with no strangers. But still, the immaculate impression of Sweden was scarred with this imperfection and burst in the middle of air. Our expectation to Stockholm gradually decreased with the time. Convincing ourselves Stockholm would be exciting, we went to bed with again, anticipations.

Caption: No exaggeration in the description of the hostel, right?

Waked up late in the morning, we were welcomed by a beam of sunlight penetrating through the huge glass windows in our room. Wasn’t this supposed to be in the winter? We had no complain as sun is always welcome. We spent our day wandering around Gamla Stan, Skeppsholmen, Skansen and Ostermalm. All these are islands of which Stockholm is formed. If you haven’t known about Stockholm, it is actually a city consists of 14 islands where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea. Therefore, islands-hopping is the top tourist attraction in Stockholm.

Unfortunately, we were visiting Stockholm at the wrong season. Boats for islands hopping were all out of service in the winter even though the sea surface was not frozen. Slightly disappointed after considering the cost of a boat trip, we resumed our endless walk on different islands.

There weren’t a lot of things going on in Stockholm during the winter season. However, our anticipation a night before was met. Stockholm truly deserves to be named the capital of Scandinavia. With all the mega-sized building dated centuries back in the history, one couldn’t resist himself in taking loads of pictures of them. The buildings in the city clearly revealed the age of this fairly young ancient city.

A walk in the Gamla Stan was especially attractive. The uniqueness of the slender buildings of no more than four floors high, attached to each other with very narrow pedestrians’ paths in between was surely sufficient to drown one with cultures. Tiny shops with tonnes of souvenirs targeting the wallet of tourists were simply more than enough that a tourist can digest. And most importantly, Swedish doesn’t like to confine themselves to their homes as much as Norwegian. Walking side by side with Stockholm-ians brought our enjoyment to the highest and melted our barrier as foreigners. For one second, we had totally forgotten the role of tourists.

Caption: At Gamla Stan where Clare was with her monstrous candy (left) and Meghan was getting a kiss

After spending much time impressing ourselves with extraordinary souvenirs in Gamla Stan, we reached Djurgården by foot after stopping by at a boat selling marzipan. I am not a fan of museum, but in Stockholm, you have to visit Vasamuseet in Djurgården. It is a museum presenting the fully intact Vasa ship which sank on her maiden voyage. After a long day walking around different islands, we came to the museum approaching its closing time, which means we were sadly having to give a pass to this famous museum.

Continued with our walk under the rain (the nasty Scandinavian weather was obviously having no exception in Stockholm), we reached Kaknästower – tv tower in Stockholm. It is a bit costly to ascend to the cosy café located at the top of the tower. However, if getting a 360 degree view of the massive archipelago capital is your cup of tea, it is definitely worth the money.

Again, unluckiness didn’t willing to separate itself from us, we only managed to catch a blur glimpse of Stockholm’s night view under the rain. However, getting a shelter after drenching ourselves soaking wet in nearly zero degree coldness, with rain, for more than six hours, the café seemed to be heaven.

Shortly before the café was closing, we headed back to Stockholm new town, Norrmalm. This time, we decided to take bus as the rain was started to pour mercilessly.

Norrmalm is a totally different face of Stockholm. You will never find the richness of history in this new town area. However, what you could get is the lively shopping district for your retail therapy. For one moment, I was questioning myself whether was I staying in Tokyo from the resemblance of the surroundings in Norrmalm to Tokyo.

Caption: Shopping at old town, Gamla Stan (left) and new town, Norrmalm

Not intending to burn our pockets despite the fact that winter sale which had just started two days ago was absolutely alluring, we headed back to hostel along Drottninggatan, the main street of Norrmalm which connects to the main street in Gamla Stan for our dinner.

However, we paused and we decided to stop in the middle of the street, in front of a restaurant. Clare insisted that we should have at least a proper meal during the trip. We agreed, without realising that this proper meal suggestion would turn to a proper-meal-per-city policy during the entire winter trip.

The restaurant was named D6, which simply means Drottninggatan 6. Ordered four different cuisines at a surprisingly reasonable price with approximately 100SEK per person, it was definitely the best expense on this far of the journey. One of the most interesting dish, which is also a must try for tourists was the Swedish meatballs.

Served together with cranberry sauce, the saltiness of the meatball and the sourness and sweetness from the cranberry distinctly distinguished the specialty of Swedish meatballs with ordinary meatballs. Savouring the taste of Swedish meatballs in Sweden was undoubtedly different from having it in Ikea. And for this reason, I stopped questioning myself about the ingredient of the meatball but to fully immerse myself in the tantalising meatballs’ world.

Caption: Swedish meatballs with cranberry sauce in Restaurant D6

Stockholm, after our first day of visit, was totally impressive. Our expectation to this capital was never running this high before we went to bed. What would be in stock for us in the coming day? We were curiously waiting…

(to be continued)

Oslo, the capital of one day

Chapter I

Oslo, the capital of one day

(Rule of thumb: Click on images to enlarge)

City: Oslo
ountry: Norway
Travel d
ates: 24 Dec 2007 – 27 Dec 2007
Currency: Norwegian Krone (1€=8NOK)

n: Anker Hostel
Travel buddies: E
gon, Clare, Rahma, Siddharth, Stella

Caption: Karl Johan Gate

After three months of preparation, the month long winter trip kicked start at home base, Norway. It is such a shame to mention that a visit to its capital, Oslo has never been carried out even though I’ve been staying in Trondheim for four months.

Divided into two groups, Egon and I departed from Vaernes Airport in Trondheim to Gardemon Airport in Oslo by Norwegian airline, while the others were riding on train running by NSB at the same day.

The travel time in Oslo was obviously a horrible one. It was scheduled right around the Christmas days. We, a bunch of smart alecks, learnt from the extremely leisure working environment in Norway, thinking there would be no supermarket opened when we were visiting to Oslo, stuffed our luggage with immense amount of food, including two turkeys for Christmas dinner. The pale faces with serious lack of blood circulation due to densely packed luggage were certainly pitiful.

It was well thought. However, it wasn’t necessary at all. To our realisation after arriving in Oslo, shops were only closed on Christmas day itself. Nevertheless, efforts were not wasted as the first meal on Christmas’ Eve was a grand celebration to the official introduction of winter travel to everyone of us, though we were forced to prepare our meal only on two hot plates. Imagine the pain of waiting food to be cooked.

Caption: Some night scenes of Oslo

Oslo wasn’t as snowy as in Trondheim when we visited. Instead, snow was melting in this early winter time. Our dreams to a white Christmas vanished in no time. However, this certainly wasn’t a bad news to us. The absence of snow indeed favoured walking tour around the city of Oslo. The ease of walk on normal paved roads was indeed gratefully appreciated, not to mention the spare from risking ourselves with broken arms and legs.

With the desire to truly experience a metropolitan city in Norway, after being confined in small town Trondheim for months, we soon came to a disappointment after the first day of walking. Capital of the country, suppose to be the hub of trades and social interactions, is relatively small if compared to any other capital in the world.

By giving it a serious thought, it wasn’t hard for us to realise that there isn’t really a need to develop a city so huge when you only have to accommodate a population of less than one million. Indeed, everything is without surprise but has to be in smaller scale, including its capital, in this approximately four millions population country.

Again, not intended to linger around the topic of size, it was absolutely coming to my surprise on how everyone I approached for direction knew the location of my hostel in their finger tips. I couldn’t help but wonder, is the hostel a really well known one or is it really because the city is so small until everyone has the power to remember the name of every street.

Of course, it is kind of unfair to emphasise just on the size of the city.

Despite its tiny appearance, Oslo city has everything it needs to be the nation’s capital. A well developed centrum, city hall, royal palace, harbour and surrounding fortress, shopping district, great number of pubs and clubs, and various tourist destinations, for example the Vigeslands Park are all what one can find in this city, with most of them located in the main street of Oslo, Karl Johan Gate.

However, let me assure you, a visit to all the aforementioned points of interest can really be done in one single day, with free time to spare.

If you ask me what are the most visit-worthy places in Oslo, it is definitely not a challenge before Nobel Peace Price Centre and Vigeslands Park slip out of my mouth. The former clearly leaves a message about the importance of peace and the desperate need in environmental conservation after your visit, while the latter fascinates you with its enormous amount of human sculptures in one park. The latter is also one of the newest tourist attractions in Oslo.

Caption: Previous Nobel Peace Prize winners and one of the interactive boards.

By having said that, the desire of the municipality to develop the capital as a tourist-friendly destination is vividly demonstrated. However, to a visitor who is paying big bucks in this most expensive country in the world, it certainly doesn’t strike a balance between expenses and satisfaction, if one is looking from an economical point of view.

There were two special events in Oslo for us; the visit to the house of Rahma’s mother’s friend, and the visit of Erik, our Norwegian friend in Oslo. It was definitely a pleasant evening with simple post-Christmas dinner. The generosity of the host in receiving us warmed our hearts fairly quickly in the winter, and thus, the impression of reserved Norwegian faded away, temporarily.

On the other hand, visit of Erik was totally a golden opportunity for him to reminisce his good old days as a guard in the royal palace. Under his guidance, we have got to know a lot about the behind-the-scene stories of a guard’s life in the royal palace, while witnessing the in-my-opinion lame changing of guards.

Night life in Oslo is pretty active. Of course, the statement was made based on a Norwegian point of view. Contrary to the relaxed environment among the pubs in Trondheim, youngsters hanging around in pubs in Oslo are certainly dress to impress. If you enjoy night clubs, these clubs in Oslo are definitely recommended. But then again, if you can enjoy yourself so much more in Stockholm while paying so much less, why visit to Oslo?

Having said that, it brings us to our next chapter; Sweden, the capital of Scandinavia.

Caption: Vigeslands Park with its dominant sculpture column (left) and group photo.

A Youth Backpacker in Europe - Foreword


Touring Europe, it is indeed a cliché. With Lonely Planet’s immense amount of publications on the northern hemisphere, it is absolutely challenging for anyone to pen down any extraordinary chapter of travel information. Not negligible is also the convenience of accessing such information, either by holding a printed copy purchased from major bookstores on hands, or with only few clicks away to essentially useful information in the cyber world.

It requires no strength for deep thought before one could simply conclude the reasoning behind the enormously pathetic poll created two weeks ago in this column: You’re not interested or you are shy (Yea, right!). Regardless of how ‘overwhelming’ the response to the poll was, the final verdict is to resume with the sharing of the grand travel trip.

By having said that, from this week onwards, there would be a series of travel stories, or travel diaries if you like it, to be shared. Most often, a city would be featured each week. However, in certain cases, an extended experience sharing session to some of the highlights and exciting events would also be presented.

What to expect are general information about a city, review of hostel, fascinating tourist destinations, expenses estimation, vital transportation and connection information, and writer’s comments, from a youth backpacker’s point of view. Therefore, remember that it is not the intention to glamorise living in Europe via this column.

Which cities would be featured? Well, if you have noticed (and deliberately ignored) the poll, then you would have learnt about cities. Nevertheless, repetition would be carried out here despite the risk of being labelled as whiner.

The cities covered during the winter trip are: Oslo (Norway), Stockholm (Sweden), Warsaw (Poland), Krakow (Poland), Prague (Czech Rep.), Vienna (Austria), Budapest (Hungary), Munich (Germany) and Berlin (Germany).

Besides, staying in the Netherlands currently also conveys the message that exploration to major cities in the Netherlands and its adjacent cities is affirmative. And with trip to Paris and Brussels and summer trip under plans, this column is surely intending to supply readers with the ultimate pleasure in touring Europe over the internet (provided readers share the same burning passion with the writer).

To cut short, come back soon (and I mean it literally) and join me for the endless voyage to My Grand European Journey.


Jiann Chyuan is wondering whether realisation of problems a sign of improvement.

Do we always call it problem? Or do we prefer to call it unresolved challenge? How would these two terms affect the way of thinking of people? Does it really sound more optimistic by labelling a problem as challenge?

What are your problems?

I have had a few conversations with Malaysian friends on the current hottest topic back home: general election. Many of them told me a change of course in the parliament is necessary and therefore they will vote for the opposition. I opine this is absolutely reasonable as I would also like to see how far the system can go in Malaysia.

But the problem (or challenge) is: Do we base our votes on the selection of parties or on the credibility of the candidates? Oh yes, you would say that they are evenly vital. But still, which one will you prioritise during the holy moment when you cast down your vote? Can we afford to gamble our future 5-year on two crosses?

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t imply voting against the so called mainstream is lethally risky. It is just that, are we truly prepared to face the uncertainties in the future before putting down our preference on a piece of paper?

Let’s leave the macroscopic view of problem. When the boundary of problems is constrained, we come to what we used to call personal problems. Working on a project in Zeeland, province of south Holland, I realise there are many problems (or challenges) within myself.

It is wise for me to stop blaming UTM because it didn’t arm me with essential and powerful weapons for post-graduate study. Because the utmost urgent task to be completed is to analyse how to increase my understanding in various fields within the shortest time possible. Oh yea, your bet on the plunging self esteem after studying in TU Delft is undoubtedly right.

I think it is similar to the English situation of Kin Fook. When you stop reflecting yourself in the mirror, you will tend to forget how imperfect you are. Staying inside the comfort zone wouldn’t do us anything good. Timely self check is therefore critical for everyone. However, I am wondering how much flaw am I able to bear before I give up permanently. Or will these cruel realities put me off at all?

Problems do exist. For example, I have zero idea about why visitors to this site hesitate to vote anonymously in the poll I have created on the right hand side. Are they not interested? Does this mean I don’t have to spend time writing and selecting the beautiful pictures from my photo album?

I am curious, and I would love to know what the problem is. Enlightenment is appreciated.