Friday, 3 February 2017

Final Semester.

Attending university seems to be the life goal that many of us have been fed by society from the moment we were young. Ever since I was four I have been in education. That's 19 years. Nineteen straight years whereby my life was primarily organised around the academic calendar of kindergarten, primary school, secondary school, and now university.

Strangely enough, this will come to an end in a mere four months. That's scary.
In four months, the majority of how I've spent my entire life would change.
My life will no longer be dictated by an academic year but by a work schedule that may or may not be kind.

Not to forget, this will be my last 'summer holiday' (if I manage to get hired for a job for September that is).

That takes us to another wonderful stress factor.
In the next four weeks I have to both finish my thesis and attend assessments by companies that I've applied for. That's a lot to prepare. The thesis counts for a third of my final grade while these job applications determine my future.

Thesis writing is no fun game. Thankfully, I really do love the topic I've chosen and I can't wait to see the finished product, but getting there is extremely difficult and stressful. Despite the fact that I have three scheduled hours of class per week (I know that sounds like heaven, I do agree). But I really am pretty much spending my time in front of my laptop from morning to night trying to complete my project bit by bit.

The assessment days have been very challenging to be honest. Personally it's a strange situation where my own internal feelings conflict. You want to be the best and show the company that you're the candidate they're looking for. Simultaneously, you're put into groups, you make friends, and you also want them to succeed. You hear about their stories and how hard they worked to get there as well. Then, you also pick out the people in the group who act friendly but those feelings aren't sincere. At the end of the day, it really challenges you mentally. Of course I've only attended two so far, but I definitely needed to take a break after the whole day just to rest my brain.

Taking a day out to be with any loved ones can sometimes feel like a guilty pleasure - as if to say, I shouldn't be socialising, but be looking up more research. Not to forget, exams are in May but of course, there's no time to think about them at this moment. Other things bear more priority.

It's tough.
I'm just thinking out loud.
I know it'll get better.

I know it's all worth it.
Just need to keep reminding myself that.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Iceland: Golden Circle & Reykjavik City

This year, we decided to really begin 2017 with a bang and went for a family trip to Reykjavik!
Sam had flown over from Malaysia as well so the three siblings were together once more.

So since it was Sonya's treat for us, I took on the role of being the trip's planner! I booked us a deluxe two-bedroom apartment with Reykjavik4u which was smack in the middle of town (Laugavegur 85) and a tour package deal with Iceland Travel (5 for 4: Winterland Wonderland Day Tour Package).

The apartment was excellent. Would absolutely recommend it. It was a very modern and high-quality apartment which had two bedrooms (double bed; double bed & single bed), one bathroom, a fully equipped kitchen (with dishwasher and coffee machine + coffee!), a living room (2 sofa beds). There was even a pre-loaded basic mobile phone which we could use for no extra charge. 

The tour package included:-
  1. Return airport pick up and drop off
  2. Golden Circle Classic Tour
  3. Northern Lights Mystery Tour
  4. Return transfer to the Blue Lagoon
For each of the above, the company picked and dropped us directly at our accommodation. 

For those who may be interested in travelling to Iceland, here's a breakdown of how much it cost!

Return flights Dublin-Reykjavik with WowAir - €262.43
Return carry-on luggage upgrade (12kg) - €34.00 
5D/4N apartment stay - €1156 total; €192 per person; €48 per person per night
Iceland Travel package - €172.00
Food - roughly €100.00 per person (we mainly cooked our own meals buying groceries from Bonus, the cheapest grocery store)

Total per person - €760.43

So unfortunately due to a miscommunication, I didn't realise we had to pre-book tickets to the Blue Lagoon so by the time I did, they were sold out, so we cancelled that part of our trip. But if you wanted to add that to your trip, it would be an additional €40 per person.

First stop on the Golden Circle Tour - Gullfoss Waterfall.

It was super cold and wet but the views were spectacular.


Next up was the Geysir geothermal area

Where we excitedly anticipated the geysirs to erupt.

And the final stop on the Golden Circle tour was the Thingvellir National Park.

On the 3rd of January the weather really cleared and the youngins (minus the parents) headed out for the free walking tour which meets in the centre of town held by City Walk.

City Walk organises three tours everyday at 10:30AM, 12PM or 2PM. 
The meeting point is at Austurvöllur in front of the House of Parliament (Alþingi) which is very easy to get to as well. They run fully on a tipping basis. So after the tour, it's up to each person to give how much they would like to.

Meet our tour guide, Jóhannes, who brought us on a 2 hour tour around Reykjavik city.

One of my favourite spots, featured this large rock. The rumour is, elves live in that rock and anybody who would touch it would be cursed. As elves move house every 6th of January, these elves demanded for this rock to be placed in the very middle of downtown Reykjavik. Ever since their demand has been met, no havoc has been caused.

As trees are pretty sparse in Reykjavik, there is the "Best Tree" competition each year and this is supposedly the winner of 2016 who quote unquote, won it due to its "charisma and good looks".

As food is pretty pricey in Reykjavik, we ate out about thrice in total. This was probably the most expensive meal we had there. Sonya treated us to a meal at Sægreifinn. It was a seafood restaurant where you could choose the number of readily-prepared raw skewers of seafood for the chefs to grill. There was also some lobster soup that day.

We got some grilled salmon up there.

And some yummy shrimp as well. Each skewer cost around 1500kr which is about €13 so we obviously didn't fill our stomachs with them, it was just more to have a taste.

The restaurant is located just near the docklands which have some pretty beautiful views of the nearby mountains.

Since our tummies weren't exactly full, we headed to the famous hotdog stand, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (BBP), which sold hotdogs for only 480kr each which is about €4. It's probably the cheapest food you're able to find in Reykjavik but it's also pretty well-known due to several famous people who've popularised it.

One of which was Bill Clinton who supposedly said it was the best hot dog he ever had.

It had different sauces to it rather than just the typical ketchup and mustard. There were also crunchy onion bits below each sausage. Fun fact, the sausages there are supposedly 70% lamb meat in comparison to beef or pork which is the norm.

We of course stopped by the iconic church in the middle of the city, Hallgrímskirkja
It's the biggest church in Iceland and is open for visitors for free from 9-5 every day.
You're able to go to the top tower for a bird's eye view of the city but you'll need to pay a fee of 900kr which is about €7.50 

We did try to find the Northern Lights but unfortunately despite the supposed good weather conditions for that day, it was a failure of a search expedition. Instead we did get several hours of Icelandic saga tales on the bus by a very humorous and sarcastic tour guide, 30 minutes of waiting in the shivering cold, entertainment by a random man who played the trumpet and a collective sing-along by by all the bus drivers (about ten of them).

Other activities which lacked photographs due to privacy and fear of camera breakage that we did were ice skating and local swimming pool relaxing, 

Firstly, Lorcan and I went ice skating at the Laugardalur Ice Rink (Skautahöllin í Laugardal) which cost 1500kr (€12.50) for skate rental and unlimited skating time. The ice was nice and smooth and there were only about seven of us on the ice.
For those who'd enjoy some skating I'd really recommend it.

Then ten minutes walk away is the local swimming pool, Laugardalslaug, which features heated outdoor and indoor pools both for swimming and soaking. Entry cost 950kr (€8) per person. Don't forget to bring your own towel or else you'd have to pay a lot to rent one! 

Interesting part was that, everyone had to take a fully naked shower prior to entry of the pool. Genders were separated of course, but you'd have to communally shower with other people of your own gender. 

Steps to going to a local swimming pool in Iceland.
1. Pay rental fee and receive rubber bracelet which allows you to use a locker.
2. Put stuff in your locker, bring your towel to the shower area and wash yourself thoroughly as there is a person who may call you out for not washing certain areas (very embarrassing if so). Soap is provided!
3. Put on your swimgear and head to the pools.
4. When you're done, shower once more and dry yourself off before returning to the locker area as they're very strict on keeping the place dry. 

The place is mostly filled with locals and hardly any tourists so if you're looking for a non-touristy option of the Blue Lagoon, it's probably better.

Iceland was absolutely beautiful and would definitely recommend it as a holiday destination. Yes it is a pricey place to visit. So, apartments, airbnbs and self-catering there would definitely help to bring the price down for you! 

Thank you again to Sonya for sponsoring the trip.
It was a once in a lifetime experience.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Amsterdam: Foodhallen, Van Gogh & Ice-skating

As always, my life revolves around food. 
So, as we woke up on the Monday and craved for breakfast, we headed towards the Foodhallen indoor food market. 

Thankfully it was not very busy as it was a Monday and there were so many cuisines to choose from such as 
Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Mexican, French, Indian, Dutch, and many more.

We scouted our way around the place and decided to, once again, get a little bit of everything.

First up, we got some spicy Korean fried chicken!

Second up was siu mai which is a type of Chinese dim sum which is steamed dumpling filled with minced pork, shrimp and mushroom. 

And Vietnamese rice rolls filled with beef, rice noodles and fresh vegetables served with sweet chilli sauce on the side.

We slightly power walked towards the Van Gogh Museum along, yet another one of Amsterdam's canals. 

So we arrived with our pre-booked tickets (which I once again advise to do if you're planning on coming here to skip the queue). The museum had three floors of Van Gogh's artwork along with the history of his personal life and paintings of those who inspired him.

On the very top floor, starred one of Van Gogh's most famous artworks - Almond Blossom.
It was a really lovely museum as it both incorporated the artist's personal life and his works which made it seem like you were being put into the shoes of Van Gogh.

The museum really encouraged each visitor to take the perspective of Van Gogh along with interactive opportunities of attempting to adopt his techniques.

Which we obviously, absolutely, nailed.

At the end of it all, we only had two hours left in Amsterdam before we had to head back to the hotel to get our luggage to get to the airport. So we were thinking of returning back to Westermarkt to go boat paddling (which we had planned on doing).

But then we suddenly so an outdoor ice skating rink on our way and thought,
What the heck, let's just go ice skating instead! 
It was probably the craziest ice skating experience I've ever had as there were just so many children skating all around the place.

It definitely was a memorable way of wrapping up our trip in Amsterdam and we soon left to the airport with all of our belongings.

And.....that's pretty much a summary of how Amsterdam went.

Our first trip abroad together.
With many more to come in the future :)