I have never traveled so intensely before in my life and I am not sure if I will have the chance to do it again. I am quite glad that I managed to see quite a few places in Europe before the summer months (= expensive flights) started. 🙂
Together with Yudi, I visited Lex in the Netherlands again over the Easter break. In Amsterdam, we managed to meet Yixin for dinner one night. It was really funny to think how each of them around the table got to know me at different phases of my life – I met Yudi in middle school, Lex in Hong Kong during my undergraduate studies and Yixin in London during my postgraduate studies. I would want to stay connected to these people. 🙂 In the Netherlands, I remember we rented a boat and I steered it while Lex tried to give me directions. It was quite fun because some of the canal bridges were very low and we had to bend low to get past the bridges. When we finally got back to the rental place 3 h later, the guy who rented the boat to us was not there but we somehow managed to dock the boat – pretty amazing! We also saw Keukenhof and Kinderdijk during our time there. What I remember best was how we somehow managed to lock ourselves out of Lex’s room in Rotterdam and we tried all kinds of funny methods to open the door but failed miserably. In the end, we had to pay for the very expensive locksmith to open the door for us. That was quite memorable!
Early one morning, we took the train to Berlin from Amsterdam and spent 4 days in the capital of Germany. I had a really nice history class in Berlin about the Second World War, Cold War and the SS. We also had really interesting dining experiences at Clärchens Ballhaus (a restaurant that offers ballroom dancing experience as well), Burgermeister (a burger stand that was transformed from a U-Bahn toilet) and Restauration Tucholsky (great traditional German food). We met up with Line, a Danish girl whom we met in Hong Kong during the exchange program, for dinner at Restauration Tucholsky and it was so nice to be together again! 🙂 I really like Berlin, I like how it displays the worst of its history to remind the visitors and its own people not to repeat the same mistakes, I like how it is very different from many other cities in Europe. A lot of construction is currently going on in Berlin; can’t wait to know how it will look in 10 years’ time.
I visited Martina, a Czech girl who used to stay at Lee Abbey London as well, in Liberec for a weekend. On Saturday, we did some hiking in Bohemian Paradise with her family (it’s so nice that her whole family does hiking together!) and it was really beautiful. I love the rock formation. I also attempted to learn the difference between fir and pine in the Czech forests. 🙂 On the next day, we took the bus to Prague and saw quite a lot of the city. Martina was a really good guide, she had it all planned and she told me a lot about the city and its history. I didn’t know Czech Republic is such a young country until I met Martina. I remember we spent some time trying to unravel the mysteries of rock candy and I remember the stories about the little mole. 🙂
I went for Ben and Jerry’s Free Cone Day with Yixin. That was her first free cone day but like what I told her, I have been going for Free Cone Day every year since high school unless I was super duper busy. That is a Singaporean for you. Unlike Free Cone Day in Singapore where the queues for the free ice cream are insanely long, we had to wait a mere ~15 min to get our free ice cream. In addition, we got to select the flavour we wanted. This is different from Singapore where they usually only served one flavour. What is also different is that very few Ben and Jerry’s chains in London actually take part in this event. In Singapore, every Ben and Jerry’s chain gives out free ice cream on this day. Because the queue was so short, we went for a second helping. 😀
My parents came over for a visit again. Unlike their previous visit, this time round, my brother and I couldn’t spend all the time with them because I had to work in the lab and my brother had exams to study for. In the end, we took turns to spend time with them. I visited Cambridge with them and we did punting. Here is a happy picture of us with the Bridge of Sigh (now a rather famous bridge among Singaporeans). We also went to Scotland (Edinburgh and Scottish Highlands) one weekend together, it was still rather cold in April but my parents really enjoyed themselves there. My mum even said that Scotland is her favourite country. 😀
There were two bank holidays in May and for the first bank holiday, I traveled to Oslo with Yixin. It was really nice to spend some time with her and get to know her. It was a slow and quiet weekend, we spent time appreciating the quiet Scandinavian nature (woods, lake, islands) and art galleries. What I remember best was we were looking at Edvard Munch’s paintings (e.g. The Scream, Death in the Sickroom) and interestingly, we didn’t share similar sentiments about the artworks. Art, just like many other things in life, really depends on perception. I also remember the not very nice conversation we had with the Columbian lady about Chinese, particularly Chinese tourists. This reminds me of the quote from Daniel Kahneman, “What you see is all there is.” Sometimes people see things in a way so as to support their hypothesis about the workings of the world and their stereotypes. I know that and I don’t like that but sometimes I caught myself guilty as charged. Cognitive laziness is something that is hard to correct.
One Saturday, I went with my 2nd cousin, Amandas, to do some hiking at Kinder Scout. It is quite funny how I have to come all the way to London to get to know her, especially since we are born in the same year! Funny enough, it was easy to find the way up through Jacob’s Ladder but it was really difficult to get down. What was really odd was that there were many people who were climbing beside us but when we started walking at the top, we did not see anyone around us! So in the end, we went down a fairly dangerous way but we still managed to get back to London in one piece. 😀 Can’t wait to embark on our next adventure together!
For the second bank holiday in May, I visited Strasbourg with Rosa. We have a nice story, I met Jing who is from the US in Hong Kong when we did our study abroad and Jing introduced Rosa (her co-worker) to me. Funny enough, while I got to know Jing in Hong Kong, Rosa did a case competition in Singapore and met Sing. It is a nice, small world. 🙂 We visited 3 romantic towns in 3 days – Strasbourg, Heidelberg and Colmar. I remember watching and walking beside storks (a kind of bird that symbolizes good luck in Alsace) in Strasbourg, I remember we stumbled accidentally into a private rose garden in Heidelberg, I remember seeing 2 beavers in the river of Colmar. And of course, I remember how we had 2 bottles of wine between us in the restaurants beside the river in Strasbourg one night and that was really romantic even though I got a bit too tipsy. Here is a happy picture of us by the river in Colmar. 😀
One rainy day, as I was walking along Cromwell Road, I reunited with Weijie. We have a nice story as well, we met in Australia 6 years ago when we were travelling in Australia with our families. Then, we realized we actually went to the same high school and we went out a few times. One Sunday, we went to Richmond and did rowing together. Rowing is really tough because you have to be really balanced with the force on both arms if not the boat will not go straight. It took us some time to figure out and get the hang of it and it was quite fun. 😀 I remember we had fish and chips beside the river, I remember we were critical of the strange books in the bookshops and I remember the crazy tube ride back with crazy, drunk passengers.
I did some hiking along the Jurassic Coast with my classmates, Yixin, Chenxue and Runzhong one weekend. It was pretty exhausting to go up and down those cliffs but nonetheless, I am really happy that we did it together. 😀 The weather was perfect! We spent a night in Topsham and had some really interesting conversations about stereotypes.
The week-long trip to Sweden/Norway with Rosa, Jing and Henrik is really special to me and in some sense, it felt like a fun team-bonding excursion. We had to do many things as a team – sail, drive, cook, clean up and hike etc. I really enjoyed this trip with these awesome people, we had so much fun and I learnt so much about them during the trip. 😀 We spent 2.5 days in Sweden before heading off to Norway. We had a tour of the magical city of Stockholm, drank at a medieval bar, made meat balls and we sailed around the Swedish Archipelagos. I like how we all became Henrik’s crew when we had to dock the sailboat. I would never forget the nice Swedish meal we had on the sailboat and that difficult conversation about our greatest fear in life while we watched the sun slowly made its descent around 11 pm.
What was also unforgettable was the hike in Kjerag in Norway. Gosh, I just realized I actually hiked quite a bit! We drove from Stockholm to Kjerag (the roads towards Kjerag were super winding!) and that was a pretty long way. Even though it was already late June, the mountains were still covered in snow and at some point, my leg actually dropped into the snow and that was quite scary. Thank god for Rosa. 😀 It was a really difficult and dangerous hike, we had to hold onto chains for certain segments and climbed on rocks for others. All of us managed to climb onto that famous rock – Kjeragbolten. 😀 To be honest, it was scary to stand on that rock but that rock was not as memorable as the view of the fjord, the waterfall and mountains from that point. I am sure everyone on the trip will remember this hike for a very long time. The day after we did the Kjerag hike, we did the Preikestolen hike which was a lot easier and safer. I have never done back-to-back hikes before until this trip. While we were in Norway, we also visited Stavanger and learnt a bit about Norway’s oil. We also celebrated Midsummer Night and Jing’s birthday and had really deep conversations about life in Norway. What great times! 😀
For the last weekend of June, I visit Nîmes with Yixin. We visited Avignon, Arles as well as the lavender and sunflower fields. I am a very big fan of the sunflowers! We also rode a boat down Gorges du Verdon and that was really fun and memorable. The colour of the water is turquoise and so charming and I really wouldn’t mind spending some more time in that gorge. 🙂 We visited some spots that Vincent Van Gogh painted in Arles and that was quite interesting. I remember we had some food and rose wine beside the river in Avignon one night and that is really romantic. 😀