Whale watching in Tromsø, one year ago.

I just met a good friend for dinner, and we realised something.

The last time we met more than a year ago, life could not have been more different for both of us. Especially for her.

The last time we saw each other was in October last year in Copenhagen. At the time, I was wide-eyed with fascination after moving 10,000 km up north, while she had felt trapped living in Singapore and wanted to move somewhere else. That was what compelled her to go on a solo trip to Europe, and I was lucky enough to have her visit me while I was still studying in Denmark.

Fast forward a year later, she is living half a world away in San Francisco, a whole new world of opportunities right in front of her. While what brought her there might not be a job like how she had planned, she did break free in the end and is in the midst of her own kind of adventures.

Whereas for me, I am situated slightly less up north than last year. While I knew that I had signed up for a life of uncertainties when I decided to drop everything back home and enroll into my Master’s programme, it still did not prepare me for just how different and unexpected things could be in a year’s time.

Exactly this day last year, my sister would be arriving at the Central Station in Aarhus and we were about to embark on an exciting adventure in Norway. I would have broken down the night before because my computer had crashed 10 minutes before my exam deadline, forcing me to submit an incomplete paper without the bibliography. I would have feared that I might get expelled for accidental plagiarism and might have called my programme coordinator crying and begging her to still allow me to go to Berkeley even if I were to fail that exam (I passed). I would also have barely recovered from the shock of having my room broken into in the midst of my exam period.

This year, I am having a quiet night in my cosy room in London (theft-free, hopefully) on a Saturday, my legs sore from standing for 7 hours a day for the past 5 days working in a shop in Camden Market. Instead of going further up north for my winter break, I am flying home to see my family and friends again after having been away for only 4 months.

And as I am sitting on my bed overlooking the misty night pondering about this, I realised something else about myself.

That I truly am a procastinator.

It has been exactly a year ago since I went to Tromsø. Whilst I did manage to scrape something up about my successful Northern Lights chase, I have completely ignored writing about another major nature wonder that we did in the lovely city (and had spent equally a lot of money on): the whale watching.

Being a great travel planner that I am, I did not even know that whale watching is a highly recommended activity in Tromsø. It was not until a random guy who came to teach us fishing in the freezing cold on our first night there told us about it that we came to know about such expeditions.

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The said random Norwegian fishing guy.

At first we brushed the idea aside as some kind of tours that tourists get cheated into. However, when we failed to see the Northern Lights on our first attempt, my sister and I resolved that we would not leave Tromsø until we saw something else other than some snow and the all-day darkness.

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Okay and maybe the pretty city lights.

Continue reading “Whale watching in Tromsø, one year ago.”

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Stockholm, for the fifth time.

I rave so much about Copenhagen and London in this blog – and rightfully so, they are my two most visited cities in Europe – that you would think I love no other cities in this beautiful continent apart from those two. But there is a third city that I have visited just as many times, and adore just as much, but have not written a single post on it in this blog.

Stockholm.

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And like I said, it’s not because I dislike Stockholm in any way – in fact, the capital of Scandinavia has always been one of my favourite cities; there is nothing not to love about its beautiful architecture, the people, the culture and gorgeous waterfront views.

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Continue reading “Stockholm, for the fifth time.”

A crazy month that was December.

I realised that this turned out to be a very long post, so I have decided to give subtitles to each event (it must be the influence of all the academic writing that I had to do last semester) and you can just pick which of these interest you the most. I could have broken these into a few posts, but I think it is paramount to put them all together to show what a month it had been.

Happy New Year!

First thing first, I figured that most of you would probably not realise that I have updated the ‘about missruslee‘ page, so do check it out!

Now that it is January, I feel I can very safely talk about December last year (!!!). Some people might refer to the month as a series of unfortunate events for me, but I prefer, as I told a friend of mine who faced similar predicaments at one point in the month, to think of it as Murphy’s law being at its full force and me somehow having guardian angels in the form of strangers, neighbours and classmates.

So here goes, in chronological order:

The Prequel

To be fair, it was not entirely December’s doing. It probably started some time late November when, for reasons only the dear bus driver knows, the Aarhus Airport Bus decided to leave without me even though I was already dragging my luggage to board the bus. It was probably the first panic attack that I have had in years, when it sank on me that there was a real chance that I could have missed my flight to Copenhagen, which would mean that I would have missed my connecting flight to Shanghai, which would mean that I would have had to miss my best friend’s wedding where I was the maid of honour.

But I made it to the flight in the end. In the midst of my panic attack, two very kind strangers saw what happened (including me running after the bus with my luggage flailing), approached me, and sorted things out for me. They called a taxi, and one of them waited for me until the taxi arrived to explain the situation to the driver (since I was in no condition to speak due to the said panic attack), and the driver assured me that I would still make it for my flight and I would be compensated by the Airport Bus company for the cost of the taxi (which amounted to a whopping DKK 567 or USD 82, unheard of for me even if I decided to take a tour of Singapore in a cab).

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Still can’t believe I made it.

The Flight Delay

I think I was not destined to take the airport bus during that trip. On the way back to Aarhus, my flight from Beijing to Copenhagen was delayed by more than an hour due to the horrible weather in the capital of China.

Continue reading “A crazy month that was December.”

The unforgettable Sun Moon Lake.

I just came back from a trip to Taiwan with a friend, and it was wonderful. Lots of interesting things happened, mainly because of our lack of planning. Most of them were great, and I will have a few accommodation places to recommend if you are looking for something affordable and interesting in different parts of Taiwan.

But before all that, I have to talk about Sun Moon Lake, the main highlight of our trip. Which is ironic because if you have asked me about Sun Moon Lake before this trip, I would have told you that there was nothing too memorable about the place, save for a giant lake and a few temples.

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My first visit to Sun Moon Lake in 2011.

But this time round, Sun Moon Lake was determined to make itself memorable. It has definitely surged up to become the highlight of my trip, although not necessarily in a very conventional way.

We arrived at the Shui She Pier, the main pier of Sun Moon Lake, from Puli some time in the late afternoon and realised that our hostel was at the other side of the lake, at a village called Ita Thao, which was away from all the main attractions and the walking trails.

Continue reading “The unforgettable Sun Moon Lake.”

A blast from the past: 2009 travel memories.

As I have mentioned in passing several times, earlier this month I moved out of the flat I have been staying here in Singapore for the past eight years.

A lot of people warned me that I would hate moving – it’s troublesome, dirty and tiring. While it was definitely not my idea of absolute fun, I found it pretty entertaining. Having stayed put in a place means I collected a lot of memories, as well as mountains of junk and forgotten things. The junk made me question my decision making ability (why would I ever think of buying those things?) while finding the forgotten things felt a bit like treasure hunting.

I will save you from the gory details of what junk I found in my house. Instead I will just show you the sole most important finding through it all:

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A child’s trip to Liberty Island.

I love looking at old travel pictures. Besides bringing back so many wonderful memories, they give me the reassurance that I have indeed grown up over the past few years, albeit very slightly.

My visit to the Statue of Liberty was testimony of this. Since the conversation about New York City has come up a few times recently, I decided to look through pictures from my very first visit to New York and the United States back in 2009. And boy, I know people have often called me childish, but if they had seen how I behaved back then, they would probably think I am a proper mature adult now.

The visit started normally enough. We made our way from Wall Street to Battery Park Ferry Terminal rather uneventfully, except for some cheeky stranger who deliberately told us to take the wrong Subway line and me pretending that the clouds were speech bubbles.

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And off we went to Liberty Island, leaving Manhattan behind us.

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Continue reading “A child’s trip to Liberty Island.”