An Alaskan Cruise

Last summer, I went on a cruise with my parents. In Alaska, we stopped at Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay National Park, and Ketchikan. The trip was so long ago I honestly can’t remember that much anymore. This post will be mostly pictures.

Our first order of business in Juneau was to eat some king crab legs.

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We then took the tram up the mountain and found some trees with fun roots.

Next up, Mendenhall Glacier.

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En route to the glacier, we trekked across this bridge of stones. While crossing, my mom told me to be careful not to fall in. She fell in immediately after.

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Back on the boat, we confusedly signed up for a drinks plan. We ended up drinking mocktails every day, so the plan wouldn’t go completely to waste. So many no-jitos. My diet during this trip could be summed up by mocktails, seafood, and beer.

The next stop, Skagway, was my favorite stop of the trip. It was the one day where it didn’t rain, so went spent most of it hiking.

Glacier Bay was next, also very pretty. A less sunny day, but I did enjoy the mysterious effect of the fog. I think the park would be even more majestic if experienced by kayak. Being on a giant cruise ship, it’s hard to fully appreciate the size of the glaciers. Maybe someday I’ll be outdoorsy enough to return.

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This poor glacier was getting no love. Though to be fair I don’t think anyone realized it was also a glacier.

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Final stop in Alaska was Ketchikan, the salmon capital of the world. I spent a good hour or so wondering what the horrible smell was before I realized it was streams filled with dead salmon.

The cutest part of town was Creek Street, which used to be the red light district.

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Most notable part of this stop was some wildlife spotting.

I’ll end this post with some words of wisdom from a waiter on the cruise ship. “If you are looking for whales and you don’t see any, just drink some more beer, and you’ll see some.”

 

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Norway

After Iceland, we took a quick tour of southern Norway via the Norway in a Nutshell route. Most of the trip was spent sitting on a train trying to take decent pictures while moving and with glass windows in the way. We then sat on a ferry trying to take decent pictures while the sun set and the light slowly disappeared.

The Flam Railway was pretty cute. With all the tunnels, it was like playing peek-a-boo with the mountains.

In the middle of the trip, we spent a night in Bergen, which is where things got interesting. Once we got off the train, we headed out into the city to find some food. At dinner, I discovered the most unhelpful translations ever. I applaud the effort to be inclusive, but…

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Now onto the disaster that was trying to find our airbnb. We had arranged to have our host pick us up at the train station. Unfortunately, his wife went into labor right at that moment, so we were left to find our own way. Confused by his bus directions, we decided to walk. Along the way we must have looked quite lost because a student asked us if we needed directions as we passed through a university campus. We were actually lost, so that was pretty helpful. When we finally made it to the apartment complex, I discovered my phone had decided to stop working because it was too cold. That was rather unfortunate because the instructions on which apartment to ring were on there. So I tried my best to remember what I had read and made an educated guess. I got lucky. It was the right one.

Iceland (Part 5) – The Last Day

This day began with aimlessly strolling through the streets of Reykjavík while waiting for the bus to the Blue Lagoon. A nice grandma caught us staring at a building and wondering what it was, so she asked if we’d been inside. Upon discovering that we hadn’t, she proceeded to take us on a mini tour of the area. It turned out she was on her way to a political meeting and had an hour or two to spare. First, she led us to the catholic church, pointing out embassies, museums, and government buildings along the way. At the church, she said a prayer and lit a candle while I stood in the back trying not to disturb anything. We then browsed a small souvenir shop where the proceeds go to charity. Top tip: you can tell mittens weren’t made in Iceland if they have felt lining on the inside. Next, we accompanied nice grandma to the liquor store to buy wine for her dinner. After dropping the wine off at her car, it was time for her meeting, so she brought us to the meeting place, we shook hands with a member of parliament, and then we went our separate ways.

Thinking we had some time before the bus arrived, we quickly browsed the flea market. We were wrong. We missed our bus pick up time. Why did they write “Show up half an hour early” in such small print. Cue mad dash to the bus station to try and catch it before it left for the Blue Lagoon. Running through the city with my fancy hiking backpack made me feel like I was on the Amazing Race. It was great. We didn’t catch the bus, so we took a taxi out of fear of missing our entrance time. Our taxi driver was a nice guy who spent his early years in Seattle before his family moved back to Iceland. He told us about how his family drove across the country to fly out of NYC at a time when the flight took over 20 hours. On his first day in Reykjavík, his mom gave him some money and told him he could go anywhere he wanted because it was so much safer than where they lived in the US. As a young boy, he got his first job at the age of 7 to 10 ish. Oh by the way, he worked for an English spy. What.

Finally, we arrived at the Blue Lagoon. We ate lunch at the Lava restaurant, and it. was. amazing. More specifically, the lobster sauce was the most phenomenal thing I have ever eaten in my life. I would eat it on anything and everything and please can I have a bathtub full of it. Forget the fish it was on (though that was good too). But the sauce. Yum.

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Also, the receipt was the fanciest receipt I’ve ever received.

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The actual lagoon part was an interesting experience. It was raining at first, which wasn’t too bad. Then the rain turned into ice, which was less enjoyable. So pretty much my body was warm and happy, and my face was being attacked by mini ice knives. Intent on getting as much as we could out of the experience, we tried both face masks, drank sparkling strawberry wine as we waded around, and braved the cold air to try out the steam room.

That night we spent all the money on dinner. I can’t remember how much money because I don’t want to remember how much money. All the money. Cue images of lobster feast.

During dinner, we noticed that we were seated in a room all alone while everyone else was in the next room over. My guess is that we were quarantined for our tourist-y attire. Or because we were Asian. I kid I kid.

Iceland (Part 4) – Glacier Hike and Game of Thrones

Last semester I stopped posting on this blog because I was all kinds of busy. This semester I’ve just been lazy. Time to be better.

Our fourth day in Iceland began with an early morning hike on one of Vatnajökull’s outlet glaciers. I must admit I was slightly terrified when our guide casually pointed out a 40m deep hole and told us not to fall into it. Other fun points of the hike included wandering into a glacier crevasse, tasting a piece of the glacier, and taking shots of brandy from a hole drilled into a particularly large block of ice that our guide had freed from the glacier below us. Did I mention it was pretty?

We also happened to be at the glacier where Game of Thrones was filming. They weren’t too happy about us stomping our way through the background of their shot. Oh well.

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The next stop of the day was Reynisfjara, the black sand beach, home of the deadly sneaker waves. IMG_6517

Despite the silly name, the waves are actually quite dangerous. Beach is still pretty. Just don’t take selfies with your back to the water. Top tip: don’t pay to use the bathrooms at the beach. The machine is broken and will eat your money. Also, there are free bathrooms inside.

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The last stop of the tour before heading back to Reykjavík was Seljalandsfoss. All the paths had completely iced over, so we had a lot of fun skating around and sliding down the sloped edges of the bridge.

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One thing I noticed on our three day journey along the coast is the multipurpose nature of so many buildings. The hotel we stayed at during the second night of the tour had a lobby that was also a restaurant and a history museum. We also stopped by a gas station where you can buy snow boots.

Back in Reykjavík, we headed over to the Beer Garden to grab some dinner. Since we accidentally went in through the hotel entrance instead of the bar entrance, it look a bit of searching to find. It wasn’t too difficult since we could just follow the smell of beer. I ordered a burger. It was yummy.

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After dinner, we walked across to the other side of the downtown area to get ice cream. Was it worth the walk? Yes. They had a rainbow unicorn in the shop. Real or plastic? You’ll have to go find out for yourself.

Iceland (Part 3) – South Coast/Ice Cave

This day started out on a rough note when I accidentally put sugar on my eggs at breakfast. Would not recommend.

We then drove along the South Coast, stopping at various photo ops.

We also passed the place where they filmed the opening scene for Rogue One. Looks a little different covered in snow.

Eventually we arrived at Jökulsárlón, the glacial lagoon. The wind here was so strong that it actually managed to push me over. For some reason I still thought it would be a great idea to battle my way up to the top of the hill to get a better view.

The icebergs are much more impressive in person. My photography skills need work. If you could just imagine them as massive giants looming over you that’d be great. Thanks.

After exploring the lagoon, it was time for the highlight of the day: the ice cave. In order to reach the glacier, we loaded up a van with massive tires and headed off down the bumpiest of roads. Quick tip: pee beforehand.

Ice is so pretty.

The last stop of the day was Diamond Beach. Also very pretty.

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Iceland (Part 2) – The Golden Circle

Day 2 begins with us departing on a 3-day tour with Extreme Iceland, led by our wonderful guide Magnus. As we headed out of the city towards Þingvellir National Park, we were greeted by a stupidly beautiful sunrise. I tried my best to get a picture of the pink glow and endless snow, but it turns out I’m not that great at taking pictures, especially from a moving bus. Here’s my best effort:

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#nofilter

The majority of the day consisted of us driving from Þingvellir to the Geysir area and then to Gulfoss. We stopped for pictures of course.

Visiting Iceland in winter means it is perpetually sunrise/sunset, which means all the dramatic pictures.

A note from the day: the restroom at Þingvellir costs money. Restrooms elsewhere don’t. Pee wisely. Just kidding it’s not that expensive but still you could buy a postcard with that money… and not much else.

After Gulfoss, we headed for the South Coast. Along the way, Magnus entertained us with stories. Most of them went something like this: so these tourists went hiking and never came back. Magnus out.

We stopped at a gas station at one point, and you’ll never guess what music they were playing. A remix of Donna Lewis’ “I Love You Always Forever.” What. Ok.

Last sightseeing stop of the day: Skógafoss.

Nothing like a hike to the top of a waterfall to tell you you’re out of shape.

Iceland (Part 1) – Reykjavík

I’ve been dreaming about visiting Iceland since I did a project on the country in 5th grade. This winter break, I got the chance to go. Now I’m dreaming about when I’ll be back.

The story begins with dinner at Newark before our red-eye to Reykjavík. I discerned that many Asian travelers must pass through that airport because never before have I seen rice as an option to accompany a burger.

img_4762At the Keflavík airport, I accidentally walked into the duty free store while looking for the baggage claim. Such a cleverly designed airport. Speaking of clever, look at this gem of a deal:

img_4763 At the time, I thought this meant buy 5 and get 6 free. In retrospect they probably meant buy 5 and get 6 total.

After dropping off our luggage and locating the nearest coffee shop, my friend and I walked through the city to find the National Museum. On the way, I discovered yet another misleading sign.

img_4764At the museum, a group of small schoolchildren was learning about the remains of a woman buried with her child. I found myself trying to sneak glances at how cute the kids were without seeming too creepy. Upon exiting the museum at 11AM, the sun was staring to rise. Perfect time for walking around and taking pretty pictures.

You can buy a ticket to take the elevator up to the top of the church. We bought tickets. Nobody collected them. Icelanders seem to be very trusting people.

That night we went to Cafe Loki to try some infamous Icelandic food.

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Most of it was fine, but then you get to something like the sheep head jelly. Odd texture, strangely sweet. I think I’d prefer an unjellified version. Next on the odd list: dried fish. Taste was actually pretty good, especially when smothered in butter. However, it is incredibly difficult to eat because it’s so hard to chew. The fermented shark was not nearly as unoffensive. At first, it didn’t taste that bad, sweet even. But as I chewed, it got worse and worse. The fishy chemical taste started to grow, but the worst part was the burning. It literally hurt to eat it. I suppose it wouldn’t be too bad if you just swallowed it immediately. Maybe that’s the way to go.