Journey of A Lifetime: Day 1 (28 July 2018) – arriving in Bergen

It has always been a pleasant experience to fly on Malaysia Airlines to London, and I look forward to fly on their new A350-WB. But they had used the bigger A380 instead because of high passenger demand in summer. I managed to get a descent amount of sleep during the flight. MH2 arrived in London Heathrow 30 minutes earlier than scheduled and provided me plenty of time to connect to my next flight. Because there’s no interlining between Malaysia Airline and SAS, I need to go through immigration, collected my checked luggage, transfer by tube from Terminal 4 to Terminal 2 and checked-in into the next flight. It can be stressful but Alhamdullilah it went smoothly. SAS was kind enough not to charge me with the access baggage. All the anxiety had gone and I still had 2 hours to spare before boarding, enough time for a cuppa and stretched my legs before the next leg of the journey.

SAS flight

In all it was 24 hours of flight time plus transfer and transit. The flight from Oslo to Bergen was a couple of hours delayed. By the time I arrived in Bergen, I can only think of a good bed to rest. Glad that I have booked a bunk bed in a dormitory at Marken Guesthouse instead of camping. From the Bergen Airport I took the bus to Bergen Busstasjon in the city centre. Then it’s about 10-minute walk to the hostel. What I didn’t expect was mostly they are cobbled streets. So dragging 2 bags on wheels were not as straight forward easy.

Day 1 - route bus terminal to hostel

The staff at the hostel reception was very friendly and I was given the key to my shared dormitory on the 4th floor. The cost is NOK345 per night and it has free Wi-Fi,  For now, it’s time for me to get some rest. Do keep following and see you in my next post.

Journey of A Lifetime -Day 0 (27 July 2018)

After a painful 17 month saving plan, the time had finally come for another solo trip. This time I’ll be covering land of the Vikings, the Baltic states, Eastern European capital cities and Greece over the next 2 months. In all I will be visiting 10 countries. I will share the detail of the trip route as we go along.

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Keeping in mind that I’ll be hopping between flights, trains, buses and ferries. in and out of hostels/hotels, another challenge was to pack as light as possible. With a varied climate of the places I intend to visit, it didn’t make the tasks any easier. The checked luggage must not exceed 20kg, the limit of many budget airlines in Europe. That was the plan. It was easier said than done. By the time I had finished packing, I knew I had gone over the limit since I struggled to lift the luggage. Once I had it weighed at the airport, I was almost 12 kg over the 20 kg limit I had set. I took out almost 5 kg and that brought me down to 27kg. No problem with Malaysia Airlines since I have a 30kg baggage allowance, but my onward flight to Norway via SAS only allows me 23kg. That means I have 4kg of access baggage.

In the bag I have basic clothing for 4 days which include a pair of jeans, hiking pants, waterproof pants, 2 T-shirts, 1 long sleeve shirts, 2 pairs of merino thermal inners, 2 pairs of hiking inners, 1 fleece, a pair of short, 1 swim suit, 2 pairs of merino socks, 2 pairs of normal sock, a towel, 4 pairs of underwear, toiletries, packs of wet tissue, a pair of hiking shoes and a hotel slipper, battery chargers, power converter, a walking stick, a tripod, a waterproof daypack, a thermos, a water bottle and a small tupperware. I also packed along some food from rice, instant noodles, canned food, aunchovies’ sambal, fruit cakes, instant coffee, milo, tea bags and a few zipper bags which were the main contributor to the access weight. In another bag, I have a spare change of clothes, a tooth brush, a pack of wet tissue, a laptop, 2 powerbanks, a mobile phone, a headphone, a weatherproof jacket, a winter jacket, 2 cameras, travel documents, a small notebook and some snacks which I carry on board the flight.

Since there is no direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Norway, I had purchased a one-way ticket to London Heathrow using air-miles I accumulated travelling on Malaysia Airlines and the Enrich miles collected from utilizing my credit card over the past 2 years, and connect via Scandinavian Airline (SAS) to Bergen in Norway. The KUL-LHR sector only cost me RM80, so it was a great savings, whilst the LHR-BGO sector cost me €260 (RM1,313). Actually, there is a cheaper flight to Bergen from Gatwick, however I need to overnight in London and plus the transportation cost to Gatwick, the total cost come to almost about the same.

 

A bird’s paradise in Kuala Lumpur

Located in the serene and scenic Kuala Lumpur Lake Gardens, KL Bird Park is only 10 minutes drive away from the city centre of Kuala Lumpur. It  claimed to be the home to more than 3,000 birds of approximately 200 species of local and foreign birds. One of its most extraordinary feature is that birds are let free in the aviary which closely resembles their natural habitat. 

Last weekend was my 3rd visit to the park. Personally, I like this park because it allows visitors to come close with the birds. It gives me great pleasure watching colorful and melodic birds perching and winging about freely while relaxing in a natural and beautifully landscaped surrounding. It is also an educational experience. Understanding of the bird’s behaviour and habitat give me a better chance of spotting them in the wild.

The moment I stepped into the park  egrets, heron and yellow billed storks can be seen near the man-made pond. I noticed there’s seem to be more birds compared to my previous visit in 2002.The man-made ponds and waterfalls in the park also no longer look like a concrete structure. Overtime,  growth of plants and moss makes them look more natural and what is more important the birds seem to be happy.

I was keeping an eye on a blue male peacock, hoping to capture some photographs of this colorful peasant, when I saw a Blue Indian peafowl busy picking dry sticks. I followed the peafowl, keeping sufficient distance in order not to distract him, and to my delight he has a nest on one of the trees and his partner is waiting, probably incubating their eggs.

After seeing a spectacular courtship display of the peacock about 45 minutes later, I chose a less busy path where the man-made waterfall flow into a stream. There’s a grassy area where I saw a few egrets, storks and a pair of red flamingos. The egrets and one of the red flamingos were busy searching for food on the edge of the water. The other red flamingo was just sitting on the grass. When I was trying to capture some pictures of the sitting flamingo I realised that it has an egg. They seem to take turns guarding and incubating the eggs whilst one of them searched for food. I was very excited and I can’t believe my luck to see this.

Seeing the bigger birds are easy but for the smaller songbirds having a binoculars would be handy because they are most likely to be high on the trees. I was lucky because my housemate who tagged along have very sharp eyes and spotted many of the small birds. She is my walking binoculars. Photographing them would be another daunting tasks because they tend to move quiet a lot. Patience is a virtue, and in this visit I was blessed seeing many beautiful songbirds in their natural element. 

The flamingo pond seems to be a bit crowded, not of visitors but of birds. May be the park management need to right size the area since they seem to have a successful breeding programme. My final stop of the visit is the hornbill zone.  Feeling exhausted, I decided to skip the non-flying birds zone.

Entrance fee to the park is RM48 (RM25 with MyKad) and opens from 9.00 a.m – 7.00 p.m. Some tips, bring drinking water because Malaysian weather is very humid. Wear good walking shoes, some area can be slippery especially after rain. Bring a small towel to wipe off the sweat. A hat or cap is recommended for additional shade. At the free flight aviary zone, birds will be flying above you and some will be on the trees, so the hat can also act as protection from bird droppings. Walk slowly and enjoy…

Dance of the peacock…

Peacocks are large, colorful pheasants known for their long tails. The blue peacock originates from India and Sri Lanka, while the green peacock is found mainly in Southeast Asia. Their tail feathers spread out  in a distinctive train, arched into a magnificent fan that reaches across the bird’s back boasting colorful “eye” markings of blue, gold, red, and other hues. This act is used in mating rituals and courtship displays.  Females are believed to choose their mates according to the size, color, and quality of these outrageous feather.

In my recent visit to the KL Bird Park, these peacocks are plentiful and I was fortunate enough to see their courtship displays. The male peacock will make loud calls to attract females. Once a female is nearby, the male peacock will spread his tail feathers, turning left and right and in between rattle his feather strongly to get the attention of the females. The scene is as if he is dancing, showing off the beauty of his tail and hoping to impress the females. The whole rituals can last between 10 – 30 minutes.  

Some say the peacock looks arrogant

The male peacock will make loud call to attract females

Dance starts with a few rounds of turning his spread fan like tail to the left and right

The peacock rattles his tail strongly to attract the females…

Another peacock with green feather tail doing the courtship dance…

Accessible Wild Australia

In Australia, it is very easy to get close and encounter Australia’s “wildlife”. During my vacation down under in 2012, I had an opportunity to see and get up close with koalas and kangaroos at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary which is only 45 minutes by bus from the city of Brisbane. Near the coast there are very high chance to come across with seabirds and the pretty colorful lorikeet. We even had three wild kangaroos crossing right infront of our car when we were at Hydeaway Bay Whitsundays. Luckily we were on sightseeing mode and was driving very slowly.  At the Sydney Royal Botanical Garden, you can see cockatoos and the fruit bats in abundance. And don’t be surprised if the cameleon is lurking under the bushes to say hello. The sight of underwater world at the Hardy Reef will surely make the trip to the Great Barrier Reef worth every single penny. Swimming among the school of fishes, seeing the nemo, giant clams and colorful corals will stay in my memory for a very long time.

Paris in memory…

In 2003, we spent 10 days to explore and see the best of Paris. Paris is indeed a beautiful city day and night.

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These are incidents that is still fresh in my memory….

In a city that is throng with tourists like Paris, you will need a lot of patience as the queue to some of the main attractions can be very long. When we were queuing to buy tickets for Eiffel Tower, there were not less than 100 people in front of us. Then we were saved by the rain…hahha!. Other visitors had run for cover, but we were prepared with rain jacket and had stayed on. Suddenly, there were less than 15 people in front of us, we braved the rain and got our tickets in less than 30 minutes. I guess we were lucky. But even you had to queue for 1 – 2 hours; it will be all worth it. To go up on one of the man-made wonders of the world is one thing; the view from the top was just breathtaking.

Cruising on the river Seine also gives you a different perspective of Paris. We took the day cruise. The cruise last for about 90 minutes. But be warned when the boat goes under the bridge, there were teenagers throwing flour onto the visitors in the boat. Depends on how you take it, but we were annoyed but at the same time chuckles on the incident. Another incident that had stick to my memory is when the boat make a U-turn at a tiny island called Ile des Cygne. This is how we first found out that the mini version of the Statue of Liberty existed in Paris. We were overly excited and rushed to take photos. It was a daunting task because the boat is making a U-turn and suddenly the statue was already on your wrong side, so we had to keep repositioning ourselves for the photo shoot.

Paris has many parks. When the sun shines, it’s a nice place to have a picnic and watch how the Parisian enjoys their summer. We spent for about 3 hours at Jardin du Luxemborg; met a French guy who speaks English, so finally we had a good conversation without sign language with a local, had a wonderful ice cream (though not as good as the one at Berthillon…hu2), watched a game of chess and feed the pigeons with Granola (our favourite snack that we carry along when travelling).

There is also a good chance when you are in Paris, the public transportation service is reduced due to worker’s strike. We were unfortunate that on the day we planned to go to Disneyland, there was only limited train service available. At the train station platform, there was no display on the next train. However, there was announcement in French informing passengers the destination of each train. It seems in France, each platform can service multiple destinations. We totally haven’t got a clue which train to take. We missed the first available train to Marne La Vallee and start arguing with each other. Then, Mr nice guy seeing that we were confused and frustrated came and inform us the next two train will be the train to Disneyland. The train was packed. We could not wait for another train because may be there is no Mr nice guy who speaks English to tell us which train is going to Disneyland. We squeezed into the train and I could hardly breathe. But we did arrive at Marne La Vallee in one piece to fulfill our childhood dream going to Disneyland.     

Paris will always be one of my favourite city destination.