It was the end of 2018 when I visited Bali. It’s funny to reflect on it now, two years after… But somehow I’m drawn into that trip right now. Bali seemed a bit blurry to me. It was a time in my life where I couldn’t let go of my inner struggles and actually ENJOY the place. I was stuck in my head and it gave me blurry goggles. Seeing the Bali island in its true glory wasn’t possible.
Instead of feeling bad about not being able to enjoy the trip to the fullest, I have come to peace with it. It was a trip that was ment to be like that for me. I was in my own bubble, wanting to, or actually, NEEDING to control many things. But regardless of the mental absence, I still feel I went through many important lessons during that trip. Be it in my mind or in the physical.
For example, every time I felt anxious or bad, or uncomfortable feelings in general, I let them dominate my life. Those moments could last for hours or even days. I let myself stay very low. And I can understand it now. I didn’t have the skills to rise above those feelings. Maybe that’s why it feels so nice to go through this trip now. Because I have come a long journey from that! Being in those downs, lows, unpleasant feelings, it is impossible to see the bigger picture. And now, two years later, the picture has become clearer.
Due to my description, it would be misleading to leave the text here. Because it was not the only experience I had at Bali; feeling miserable or suffering. I had also great times. But the general energy was low, and I let that be the canvas for my being. Taking unpleasant emotions too seriously led me into believing them. That there was something wrong in me, or in the trip, because I wasn’t just happy all the time.
And that is why I will let this Bali trip always be my teacher. It showed me that like the trip, life is not supposed to feel happy all the time. I experienced and outlived weird growing pains and lows, and it was still (or maybe just because of that) an important and amazing adventure.
After Ho Chi Minh City, our family traveled to Phu Quoc, which is an island that belongs to Vietnam. It is located in front of the cost of Cambodia, and there lives around 100 000 people. It is growing as a tourist island attraction.
We stayed at a hotel resort, where we made some daytrips from. For example, we went snorkling! To get to the place we hopped on a cabel car above the island coast. The island we traveled with the cabel car to was called the Hon Thom island.
They had a pearl farm right under the cable car route; we could see the areas where the shells were collected!
We ate more of the delicious Vietnamese food.
Lotus root chips (also called the”renkon chips”) and coconut ice cream.
Vietnamese rice paper veggierolls with sesame-peanut-sauce and Vietnamese tapas-plate.
And we visited a pepper farm. Phu Quoc is famous for its many pepper farms. Didn’t know that this is how pepper looks like when it’s growing!
Phu Quoc is also an island with some horrible history. They had a war memorial that was a prison museum dedicated to remind of the terrible times during the Vietnam war. It is also called The Coconut Tree prison.
We visited that place and could sense the torturing even after decades of time passed. They had human sized figures displaying the punishment methods they were forced to participate in.
Even though we did see the island a little bit, most of our time passed by at the resort, which is probably how most of the tourists spent their days while traveling to this island… But once we planned to be active, there was many interesting places to see.
It was an island under construction in many ways, and there were lots of new hotels coming together. But in the not so touristic areas of the island you could really tap into the feelings of the laid-back, island lifestyle.
There were many restaurants and cafes which were displaying local artists’ art.
In general, Phu Quoc was a vacation island for a reason. It was relaxing, and the sunsets and the beaches were beautiful.
I traveled to Vietnam in the end of 2018 to visit my family. They had moved to Ho Chi Minh City because of a job situation, and we planned to spend some familytime when my sister and I were able to fly to their new occasional home.
I had no expectations. Other than it’s gonna be warm! And warm it was, and humid!
I got some kind of a picture of the city of Ho Chi Minh (previously known as Saigon), but I got to experience only a fracture of it. The few days I spent in the metropolis (almost 13 million people living there!) left me with a curious attitude towards the historical city, and the country in general.
The first impression: there are scooters everywhere! And so much of them!
The second impression: people seem kind.
The third impression: it’s a city of contrasts: very poor/very fancy.
I got to walk around in couple of parts of the city and it was very versatile. In some corner there was a street food market, in some corner there was a chain hotel.
The city’s feeling was French and Asian. In a way that the buildings were very decorative that reminded of Paris for example, but the traffic with scooters and the humid weather with tropical plants put you right into the Southeast Asian “vibe”.
Ho Chi Minh City radiated appreciation of beauty and also some kind of a humbleness. It must come from the devastating near history with the Vietnam War. Without going too much to that topic, I can only say that it felt like there was a new time developing after tough times. To me that is always beautiful how humanity is able to rise from hard times.
Left photo: Notre Dam Cathedral of Saigon. It’s located in the Paris Square. Represents times when Vietnam was a French colony during 1880-1945 (wonder why it felt so French.. ;D). Right photo: Saigon station. Picture of Ho Tši Minh himself (former president of Vietnam).
The food was very colorful. What I remember best was the Vietnamese crepes, which were filled with all kinds of vegetables and yummy sauces. The fruit were also just from a different planet I was used to having in the cold north.
What I also will never ever forget, is the strenght of Vietnamese coffee. We were in for a treat when our familys’ friend kindly took me and my sister to their coffee place and introduced us to their traditional ways of drinking caffeine. Plainly, with a slow dripper (like in the photo) it was like hard liquor. I think I even got drunk from it (lol).
The other way we tasted it was as ice coffee. That was done by adding condensed milk and ice to the coffee. It was interesting! And much more pleasant for me. The beans most used in Vietnamese coffee is robusta, and that has a unique rosted flavour to it.
As we were in Ho Chi Minh for a short period of time, we wanted to go for an organized tourist trip with my sister to see Vietnam from a different view. We decided to hop on a tour bus one day that took us to a Buddhist temple and to a river tour at Mekong Delta.
This was the part in the Buddhist temple.
This was the part in the are of the Mekong Delta river. We learned that there are several “tribes” living in the river area in very primal circumstances. They make a living from tourism.
After our day trip, we were tired but happy to have seen such different ways of living.
We still had one day left in Ho Chi Minh before other plans, and my family took me to the famous market, Ben Thanh Market. It was full of food and other stuff! My focus was mainly in the colourful fruits and veggies. So pretty!
After seeing some city attractions, taking the tourist tour and visiting the Ben Thanh Market, it was time to pack up my belongies and start the next advernture in the “vacation island” of Vietnam: Phu Quoc.
I visited Åland a couple years ago for the first time and I fell in love with the place. The small island between Finland and Sweden charmed me with its carefree vibe and rustic beauty. Last year I traveled to Åland again and I was just as delighted.
Me and my boyfriend spent our midsummer biking around the pretty island and sleeping in cute accommodations.
We took a boat (Viking Line) from Stockholm to Mariehamn on a Friday morning. The trip took approximately 7 hours. After arrival we rented our rides for the weekend from a bike rental right opposite to the boat terminal. We strolled to Mariehamn’s cozy city center where we enjoyed ice creams and soon started our biking journey to our first destination.
Our first adventure was to bike 20 kilometers to our first accommodation. It took us only about one and a half hours, which gave us lots of time to enjoy the surroundings of our first home for the night. We stayed in a guesthouse called Amalia. We had cows as our neighbours and fields as our yard.
In general, during our trip, we saw lots of cows, and I discovered that they are really calming animals. And curious. They really want to know what’s going on when you get closer to them! Animals are amazing.
Anyways, in Amalia we had a small room, just with beds. Everything else was shared with other travellers; toilets, showers and the kitchen. In the morning of Saturday we ate a fulfilling breakfast from their breakfast buffet and I found my new favourite drink; pasteurized apple juice, straight from the applegardens of Åland. It’s so good! ❤
After the breakfast, we continued our biking and headed to the harbour of Långnäs. As we approached the destination, we soon understood that during midsummer (and the weekend) the ferry schedules weren’t that vibrant. We had planned to spend the day island hopping and seeing Åland from the coast, but our plan changed as we discovered that we would have to wait the ferries for looong times. This meant that we would reach our second accommodation only quite late in the night. So, we made a choice to stay on the mainland and biked right back where we had just gotten from… 😀 A little detour and some extra kilometers didn’t luckily bother us. It was a beautiful midsummer day and we had a lot of time to bike towards the next accommodation with a new plan.
This turned out to be a nice option, as we stopped at my old favourite little cafe on the way, Brobacka. We had coffees and pastries. Rhubarb pie and Åland’s pancake. I stayed at Brobacka the last time I visited Åland with a friend, and it was so nice to stop by this time again. It is the coziest little B&B!
After our little fika (coffeepause), our route took us to a restaurant called Smakby, and to a medieval castle right next to it; Kastelholm. These are both popular tourist attractions which were so nice to see! And we got to taste probably the best ice cream on earth; Smakby’s home made old vanilla ice cream. Ridiculously amazing. Btw, Smakby is the “dream project” of the famous chef Michael Björklund, and their focus is on quality local produce. I have been wanting to go there for a long time, so this new “detour” we took was clearly a better route Universe had in store for us. 😉
After eating and enjoying the beautiful area of the old castle Kastelholm, we started our last part of biking that day and eventually arrived to our second home for the night, Stalldalen. This was a hotel close to a brewery called Stallhagen, where we went for a dinner that evening. These two were walking distance apart from each other. (But of course we biked there.) We ate good meals in the evening and had a little craft beer tasting as well. And for dessert, another rhubarb pie with vanilla ice cream.
Came Sunday morning and we were spoiled with an amazing breakfast, homemade kombucha included! After the luxury, we hopped on our bikes and started our last day of biking and headed towards a beach which was recommended to us by the owner of the hotel we stayed in.
There we went on our bikes again, and arrived to a beautiful spot in the middle of solitude. We settled on smooth rocks and enjoyed the peaceful place.
We still had around 20km to bike towards Mariehamn, so we decided not to relax for too long. It was time to jump on our rides again. We drove by cute villages and went from biking in the middle of forests to suddenly biking on Mariehamn’s airport streets. (Google maps isn’t always a friend. :D) Finally we found our way back to the city and rewarded ourselves with yet again tasty ice creams before handing the bikes back in and heading to the boat.
We ended up biking around 75 kilometers that weekend. In Åland the biking is quite pleasing because the roads are in good shape and it is not that hilly. Here is our route in total: Mariehamn to Amalia 20km, Amalia (with the detour) to Stalldalen 35km, and Stalldalen to Mariehamn 20km. In summary, we biked, we ate, we biked, we ate, we biked and we ate 😀 ❤
In the boat on our way back to Stockholm, tired but happy, I couldn’t help to think that Åland had a pretty special place in my heart.
Till the next time then, Åland!
Would love to hear your thoughts about Åland if you have any experiences?
I feel like that place is full of magic and it is full of food for the soul. 😉 ❤