Outings: A spring day on the isle of Öland.

Three weeks ago we went on an outing to southern Öland with my photo class. We tried to find a sign of spring for hours, all in vain (unless you count the fact that most of the ice had melted). Today was an entirely different story. Everywhere we went birds were chirping and the ground was covered with flowers no matter which way you looked.

I have seen countless wood anemones over the years. However, this was the first time I saw blue anemones (hepatica) in bloom other than in a garden. To make things even better, every now and then we'd stumble across a couple that were pink or purple instead of blue (like the ones in the first photo). I never even knew they existed before today.

Around here: The blue hour.

Spring's been off to a slow start, but when you look at it this way it's easy to see how much progress it's made during the month of April.

I took the above photos on April 3rd for my final photo class assignment and the photos below tonight. There might still not be that many flowers in bloom and I might have spent some time looking longingly at my colourful photos from April of last year, but there's no denying that we've come a long way in the past three weeks. And to think that the best is yet to come.

Photobook pages: February-April 2012.

This month I finally started working on my 2012 photobook! The reason why I've put it off for so long is that it felt like such a big undertaking and I wasn't sure I'd ever find the time to finish it. However, it's progressing quite well so far. I have been re-using many of the templates that I used last year which has helped speed up the process.

Here are some of the pages I've finished so far from February-April:

Spring this year is so late compared to last year! It looks like it could still be February. Hardly any flowers are in bloom yet. Meanwhile, look at those images from April of last year on the final spread above!

I'm already about to start on the month of May, but of course I always take far less photos in the late winter and early spring than later in the year, so I still have a looong way to go before the book will be done. 2011's book was almost 120 pages and I imagine this one will be just as long. I am so relieved that I've finally started working on it though!

Around here: Because it's spring.

They say third time's a charm right? This year I promise I will try harder to remember to water them. And, I have a balcony now that they can move to when it gets warmer! Wish me luck :)

Trips in 2013: Thailand part 5/5: The last day and the last last day.

Finally the day we had dreaded since we arrived in Thailand arrived. The last day. We woke up in our hotel room for the last time and ate our last breakfast at our hotel. I swam in the pool for the last time and packed up my wet swimsuit in a plastic bag that I managed to squeeze into my overflowing suitcase. We checked out from the hotel and headed for the airport. Once there, we quickly checked in our luggage and went through the security check. We were there in very good time and got to watch Baby Viktor's plane take off on its way to Stockholm. Little did we know then that our plane wouldn't be leaving two hours later, at 1 o'clock, like we expected. We saw how the plane arrived from Copenhagen and observed, more than a little bit jealous, how the passengers headed out, eager to start their vacation. Then we watched "our" cabin crew and pilots walk onto the plane. Then, nothing. We weren't asked to board the plane even though it was getting late.

After quite a while a woman arrived and announced that there were some technical issues with the plane. A spare part had been ordered from Bangkok but as soon as it had arrived it would be easy to replace and we'd be able to depart. However, unless we'd be ready to take off within three hours of our scheduled departure time, the cabin crew and pilots would be unable to fly that day. Per and I were like, come on, of course they won't pull this off in three hours. But, they went on with the charade. There we were, almost 300 passengers, stuck in a tiny airport. The airport in Krabi doesn't have any restaurants. There was one tiny store that sold drinks, sweets and crisps but it quickly ran out of stock when everyone rushed there to get hold of something to eat or drink. We hadn't brought any snacks with us since we knew we'd be served lunch as soon as our plane had taken off... Hours later we were served one sandwich each, but there weren't even enough to go round.

Late in the afternoon we watched how our bags were offloaded from the plane. It wasn't until then that the spokeswoman announced that we wouldn't be able to leave that day and that we'd all get to leave the airport and be taken to hotels for the night. It took forever for us to pass through immigration and get hold of our luggage again and then it took another hour or so until we were directed to the buses that would take us to our hotels. We heard that some people were sent to "our" hotel and figured we'd get to go back there, but instead we were sent to a hotel 1.5 hours away from the airport. I was like seriously can't we just sleep at the airport, since we figured we'd be leaving as early as possible the next morning.

We had no idea which direction we were headed in but later we found out that our new hotel was located further south, near the town Pak Meng. We arrived there around seven o'clock and were served a buffet dinner as soon as we had checked in. We had hardly eaten anything since breakfast so you can imagine how hungry we were. The food was delicious, especially the desserts:

The silverlining to this whole ordeal was that the hotel we were sent to, Anantara Si Koi, was super fancy. When we arrived it was already dark outside so we weren't able to see much of the surroundings, but our room was so nice! Later we heard that some Danish couple had been even luckier and got to stay in the honeymoon suite lol. I guess they had to use every available room to accommodate such a big number of guests. It was quite impressive how the hotel staff rose to the occasion and prepared food for everyone and everything, and on such short notice too.

Our room :)

After dinner we took a bubble bath and marvelled at what a bizarre day we'd had. We got a text message from the travel agency saying that we wouldn't be leaving until 6:30 pm the next day so I texted my secretary to say that we'd be missing work on Friday and asked her to tell Per's co-workers. I felt so overwhelmed by everything that had happened that it took me forever to fall asleep.

Nevertheless, we got up quite early the next day. I think we were both looking forward to exploring our new surroundings and making the most of our extra day. Our time was quite limited since we knew we'd have to leave for the airport already at 1:30. Before breakfast we went for a walk around the hotel area. It really was beautifully situated right next to the beach and had a lovely pool area too.

Our last last breakfast was delicious. Just like at our hotel, there was a cook making omelettes and frying eggs to order, but there was also a pancake machine! And chocolate milk and many other things that we didn't have at our hotel. We admitted (somewhat reluctantly) that this hotel was fancier than our old hotel.

After breakfast we continued to explore the hotel and its surroundings. We discovered another pool closer to our room that was for adults only and decided to hang out there rather than in the bigger pool area. We decided against putting on sunscreen because after all, we weren't even supposed to be there so surely we wouldn't get burned by the sun? I was too restless to lie in the sun like Per did so I alternated between swimming in the pool and taking a million photos because everything was so pretty lol. Unfortunately we couldn't stay there forever and after a few hours we had to head back to our room to pack (again). We were served a lunch buffet complete with desserts just as good as the night before. Per said he wasn't even that hungry since we'd had breakfast just a few hours earlier, but I told him to eat because who knew when we were going to get food again?

The "other" pool.

The bus ride back to the airport was a bit more interesting than the night before since it was light outside and it didn't feel as long. We got to the airport three whole hours before the plane was due to leave and I couldn't help but feel annoyed that they'd picked us up from the hotel so early. We could just as well have stayed there another hour rather than be stuck at the boring airport again. What was even more annoying was that a plane to Helsinki and one to Stockholm were departing almost at the same time as ours so about 1,000 northern Europeans were cramped together in the tiny airport, ugh. We realized that there wouldn't even be anywhere to sit in the departure hall so we headed down to the arrivals hall and spent two hours there rather than go through the security check straight away. When we eventually got there we were told almost straight away that our plane was delayed again, this time an hour and fifteen minutes. Sigh! The planes to Helsinki and Stockholm departed on time but we were, once again, stuck at the airport with nothing to eat. At long last we got to board the plane and took off, over 31 hours late. The rest is history.

This trip made me get over my prejudice against "beach vacations" once and for all. Granted I don't know anything about "typical" Mediterranean beach resorts, but based on this trip and the one to Spain last summer (and going to Sardinia forever ago) I've learned that beach vacations don't need to be all about lying in the sun for hours and getting burnt and burning your feet on the warm sand and getting sand everywhere like I used to think. Just as when I went to Spain last year this vacation was the perfect mix between pool/beach time and exploring. It's all about what you make of it. I felt no pressure to come back with the perfect tan because at the end of the day my goal was to experience as much as possible.

This vacation was also my first time experiencing summer weather when it wasn't summer back home. I figured coming home to winter/early spring after experiencing heat more intense than I ever experience at home would make me all confused and not enjoy the warmer seasons around here as much. However, the transition hasn't been as hard as I expected. I've mostly picked up where I left off and am looking forward to spring and summer here just as much as I would have otherwise. I can definitely see myself going on a trip like this again.

Really this trip has reminded me how wonderful and great the world is and how much there is to explore, and how much I have yet to experience. I am already looking forward to my next trip, wherever that will take me.

Trips in 2013: Thailand part 4/5: Monkeys.

I didn't include this part yesterday because lord knows that entry was long enough already. Thus, it had to become an entry of its own, but there's nothing wrong with that since it's pretty awesome if I do say so myself :)

Our first monkey encounter happened after our visit to the emerald pool. As we were waiting for the car to pick us up we heard a loud thud and saw how a whole branch fell off a tree onto the roof of a restaurant. I saw a monkey sitting in the tree above the restaurant but by the time I had got my camera out it was gone, probably just as scared as the guests at that restaurant. I was disappointed that we didn't get to see more of it.

The next day we walked to the very end of the beach in Ao Nang (where the stairs to Pai Plong Bay began). I noticed a monkey from afar and we figured that it belonged to somebody. However, as we got closer we realized that we had stumbled across a whole colony of cute little monkeys who lived there! There were many curious tourists there and some of them were feeding the monkeys bananas. We decided to stock up on fruit and come back the next day so that evening we bought a bag of grapes and a bunch of bananas.

I was so excited when we came back. Turns out that the monkeys weren't all that polite though, they didn't exactly line up and wait for us to hand them fruit. As soon as Per opened his backpack one of the bigger monkeys came up and grabbed the plastic bag that held the grapes and pulled it until it broke. Then it ran off with a whole lot of grapes! The first image below is of the thief/evil monkey :P So rude haha. I think they could sense that there was fruit in the backpack because they gathered around us. One of the bigger ones climbed up on Per and ended up scratching his arm (or biting him?). Per was quite affronted. He was like, here we come bearing gifts and what do we get in return? Monkey rabies? Lol.

And it didn't end there. A little while later I crouched down to hand a smaller monkey a banana and Per was like, there's a big one behind you. As soon as he'd said it I felt it climb up on my back and put its hands on my neck! I asked Per to remove it and he was like how? I tried bending forward to tip it off me, but that didn't work, so all I could do was wait for it to climb back down again. This encounter didn't last more than a few second so I barely had time to register what happened or get afraid, but it was a bit creepy.

We agreed that we didn't like the bigger monkeys but the little ones were so adorable that it was hard to resist feeding them! Just look at them, aww :) There were some monkeys with teeny tiny babies hanging on to them too! It was so much fun to watch them run around and play with each other, especially when they hung in the branches of some trees right next to their little pond and pushed each other off into the water.

When we went to Phra Nang Cave a few days later we stumbled upon another little colony of monkeys of the same breed (I think?). They were far calmer and kept to themselves. Perhaps they weren't used to people feeding them and didn't expect anything.

The last one was just a baby, but he left his mum to play a bit on his own in the branches for a little while :) The monkey photos are some of my favourite from the trip. Whenever I look at them I can't help but smile.

Trips in 2013: Thailand part 3/5: Outings.

While I loved hanging out by the hotel pool or in downtown Ao Nang it would have got a bit boring in the long run. As luck would have it, Ao Nang is a great starting point for exploring the Krabi province of Thailand and we ended up going on quite a few outings during our stay there.

Our first outing was the traditional "Four Islands" outing that a myriad of the more or less serious little travel agencies in Ao Nang offer. Our rendition of the trip was far from perfectly organized but we ended up having a good time anyway. As per usual when it comes to these trips the travel agency sent a car to pick us up at the hotel. The guide was loud and pretty strange, but in a charming way. We were taken to a little harbour outside of Ao Nang and once there we got on the boat that would take us of a tour of the islands closest to Ao Nang. Based on the itinerary, we expected that we'd start by having lunch on the beach so we didn't eat anything more than breakfast before we left. However, as it turned out, the meal included in the outing was dinner. Fortunately, we managed to stock up on snacks on the first island we went to, which was Tup Island. During low tide Tup Island is connected to the nearby Chicken Island (I think you can tell where the latter gets its name based on the 4th image below). When we got there the islands weren't yet connected but in the hour that we stayed there the water pulled back to reveal a thin little strip of sand that connected the islands (which you can see in the 3rd image). We walked across to Chicken Island and back again and (to someone who isn't used to tidal changes at all) it was fascinating to see how much wider the path had grown in the short time that it took us to walk across.

Once we left those two islands we went to a nearby island where we got the opportunity to do some snorkeling. I am a coward when it comes to water so I refrained, but I managed to see quite a few fish when I went swimming in the water near the boat. This was actually my first time swimming in the sea on this trip.

Later on we visited Poda Island and had our longawaited dinner - barbecued fish and chicken. We also got to watch the sun set and see it get almost completely dark. The island was uninhabited and our group was the last one to leave. As we were eating we saw thousands of bats flying above us which was pretty surreal. I guess they were off on their nightly hunting trip on another island or maybe on the mainland.

Since we'd had enough of boats for a while we decided to make our next outing one where we wouldn't have to leave the mainland. We ended up going to the Klong Thom Thermal Waterfall, also known as Krabi's hot springs. It's a small waterfall fed by a hot spring where the water gets as high as 50 degrees. It was such a weird feeling to swim in such warm water, especially considering that it was over 30 degrees in the air. The little pond where the water gathers before it runs down to the river below was too warm for me but Per stayed in for several minutes. I only dipped my feet in it. It was quite pleasant to swim where the water mixed with the cooler river water though.

After our visit to the hot springs we ventured on to this scenic pond in the middle of the jungle and went swimming there as well.

On our way home we made one final stop during which we got to ride on elephants! It was my first time and I was more than a little bit nervous when I got up on it. At first Per and I both sat on the seat on its back but then Per got to sit beneath on the elephant. I told him I was glad it was him and not me, but about halfway through the ride the guide asked me if I wanted to sit on the elephant too and I figured why not and went through with. It was actually not that scary, except the one time the elephant walked pretty close to the edge of a hill that overlooked the pond we ended up going into later on. Obviously I realized that it wouldn't do anything crazy like jump in from so high up but eeek it made me nervous lol. Our guide didn't speak English very well but I gathered that our elephant was about twenty years old. We got to feed it bananas at the end. Elephants are such magnificent yet gentle creatures, I find them so fascinating.

One day we decided to see where the staircase at the end of the beach in Ao Nang led to. I had looked at a map and seen that there was a resort just on the other side of the cliff at the edge of the beach, so I suspected that that was where we'd end up, but the staircase could just as well have had a dead-end because it was pretty worn down. As it turned out my suspicion was right and the staircase ended in Pai Plong Bay, which is on the mainland but only accessible by boat or by walking across the cliff that surrounds it, which is what we did. The bay didn't seem to be very well known because we and a handful of other tourists where the only ones who'd found our way there that day. It was also home to the Centara Resort which had its share of guests, but there were very few people hanging out on the beach. We ended up staying there for several hours, marvelling at how beautiful it was. Being there felt a bit like being stuck in a postcard, in a good way :) The water was great for swimming, and the hotel restaurant by the beach had the best food and I got another pretty drink. I would definitely like to go back there someday, perhaps even stay at the resort for a few days.

A few days later we felt ready for another outing by boat so we headed for Hong Island. On the way there we made a short stop at Pak Bia Island where we got to swim for a while and feed a school of fish with bananas.

Before reaching Hong Island we also visited Lading Island. It also goes by the name of Paradise Island and it was pretty obvious why :) We had lunch there and treated another school of fish to a bunch of bananas and grapes. It was so cool to be completely surrounded by fish eating fruit out of my hand! (You'll have to excuse the outfit, I had got a bit burnt in the sun the previous day and deemed that regular sun screen wouldn't be enough so I borrowed a tee from Per to swim in.)

Finally, we reached Hong Island. At first we visited Hong Lagoon and then got to spend the rest of the day on the beach. It was a bit crowded, but soo lovely.

The day before we went home we caught a long-tail boat to the famous Railay Beach. Just like Pai Plong Bay it's surrounded by high limestone cliffs and only accessible by boat. Railay Beach is far more developed though and has quite a few hotels, restaurants and shops. We didn't like it as much as Pai Plong Bay for that reason but I am glad we got to see what it's like, and it certainly wasn't unpretty:

We also walked across the Railay peninsula to the more secluded Phra Nang Cave beach and got to see the Phra Nang Cave.

I hope this entry wasn't too overwhelming. I tried not to make it too detailed but I realize it got quite long anyway since I had so much ground to cover :P