checking out Czech

well, okay, Prague to be exact.

neither my husband nor i have ever been there, so this was our first time ever. and my verdict is: love the city, hate the tourists! 😀 (i guess that includes us, LOL!)

i’m too tired to put descriptions in the pics, so here’s the short(er) story of the whole trip.

upon arriving, i immediately noticed something in the air that was quite familiar. it was very hot and damp that night, so that already brought me back to Indonesia, but the air was filled with incense scent. and i mean like everywhere! this of course brought my mind back to Bali, where they have incense-scented offerings everywhere on the street. i had no idea why there was an abundant smell of incense in the whole city, but when i heard church bells near our hotel, then i thought maybe the reason was that there is plenty of these churches in Prague, and perhaps they use incense in there? i didn’t hang around in churches to find out, so i guess i’ll never know.

if you are an honest and naive tourist like me, you might want to be extra careful where you buy your groceries. :p i learned it the hard way there when on our first night, since it was hot and we were tired, we only managed to go to a nearby mini-mart to get some water bottles. we had a small idea of how tourist stores ( = any store in a tourist-y area) mark up their prices, but it wasn’t until we got back to our hotel that we found out how badly ripped off we were. 11€ for 2 big bottles and 1 small bottle of water is NOT normal, i can tell u that. 😀 the next day we found a bigger mini-mart and paid 1,50€ for 2 small bottles of water. go figure.

if you’re an anti-tourist like me, avoid Charles bridge at all cost! LOL. i put a picture i took from there just to show you how many people there were at that time… and remember, this was not even a peak season yet, and the temperature was somewhere between 30-32C degrees. it was blazing hot, and tourists with their selfie sticks were just taking pictures upon pictures with every effin’ step they made, people walking behind them would just have to wait patiently because, well, the crowds were everywhere…. unbelievable.

there are soooo many castles in Prague, and soooooooo many beautiful gardens to come with those castles. so they said. we tried to see just the gardens (because, well, the castles would be filled with tourists… again), and since we’re so used to free gardens in Finland, we were taken aback with the fact that we had to pay tickets to view the gardens of the castles in Prague. 😀 and since apparently they really don’t want to let people view it for free, they had to make walls around the gardens as well. no castles and no gardens, then! 😀

we did go to the Alphonse Mucha museum, for my sake. it was small and non air-conditioned, but whatever. i’m glad it wasn’t as famous and hence full of tourists, so that was nice! no pictures are allowed in there, that’s why i don’t have any.

i got this tip from a colleague of mine, and apparently it’s true: you can only buy stamps in Prague in the post office. 😀 in Finland (and i think even in Indonesia) you can buy stamps from kiosks and mini-marts, but when i asked a souvenir store in Prague if they sell stamps… their answer is: no, but the post office is right there on the main street. so off i went there, took a queue number from the machine (in case you’re wondering, it’s “other services>selling stamps and other products”!) and went to the cashier just to get 1 stamp for a postcard! wow. and then there’s the matter of figuring out how to work out the mailbox. there are plenty of them around the city, but the instructions (or whatever they are) are all in Czech. hmm. i hope my postcard arrives to where i’m sending it to! 😀

you will find many places offering Trdelnik aka chimney cake, for various prices. however, after the water bottle incident, i was quite careful about spending money there. i remember seeing a place selling traditional Trdelnik for as cheap as 20 Kr, but since it was far away and i was too tired to go back there, i decided to go to the one nearest to our hotel that offered it for 50 Kr. i tried the cinnamon one, and boy, was it good! i wish i had tried the one filled with ice cream, but maybe i’ll do it some other time!

another thing worth mentioning is the dogs of Prague. i can’t tell for sure if they are local or tourist dogs, but i found many dogs were let loose in Prague (as in, not bound on a leash) and yet they didn’t run away! ❤ the first one i saw was a cute dachshund on the loose and i had to fight back the urge not to pick it up and bring it home! 😀 another one i saw was inside a small souvenir shop, with no leash of course, just looking out of the store as if it’s the owner of the store, looking for new customers. i managed to take a candid picture of 1 dog i saw that was just sooooo sooooo sweet, i couldn’t resist it…. if you’re the owner of that dog, i’m sorry i had to steal a picture of your doggy! good thing you put a leash on it! 😀

lastly, just a few pics of the hotel we stayed at, called Blue Oak.

it was such a lovely place! we were looking for a place with air conditioning (not all hotels in Prague have them, we knew there would be this heatwave coming when we were looking for the place) and possibly a microwave. and wow, we didn’t even expect the room to be so big, but it was! on the last day of our trip, there was a big thunderstorm with lots of hail and we got to view it from our bedroom window. just like in a tropical place, it only lasted for a short time, and made the weather much more bearable afterwards.

and there you have it, Prague from my very small & short point of view! 😀 i highly recommend it if you appreciate architecture… and beer, obviously, LOL. but if the larger-than-life tourist thing bothers you, you might want to go there when it’s really a very low peak season instead. 😉


… stands for a Surprise Short-trip to Singapore!

just like the name, it was a surprise trip–not something we planned for from a long time–and it was short. the main idea was just to meet my parents and spend quality time together.

and that we did!

and because that was the main idea, i don’t really have much to tell about the trip itself, nor that much pictures. we mainly stayed in, going out only to get lunch and dinner, talked & played cards. might be boring for you to see, but it was so much fun for us. 🙂 most of the pics we got was from our last full day together, when we visited the Botanic Gardens, the only place we went to other than restaurants/grocery stores. 😀 (okay, we also went to Mustafa Centre, of course, but that doesn’t count.)

though the jetlag left us tired but it was at the same time so refreshing and came at just the right moment when i was so fed up with work. i miss my parents again already now, but hopefully our next gathering isn’t too far away from now. 🙂

happy summer & mid-year (and soon midsummer), everyone! ❤

PS. the pictures were taken by 4 different people and 5 different cameras, hence the quality differences.

the highlight of 2015

after a dark period in my life in spring/summer 2015, something came up that cheered me up and made me look forward to it. you know how you get excited when there’s something good to look forward to? it gets you going no matter how tough your present day feels like.

this thing is a gift from my mum: a year-end trip to Bali, Indonesia.

before i start, i would just like to say that many people (Indonesian and others) take it for granted that they can be around their families throughout the year. many of the people i know who live outside of their own home countries can visit their home countries & families at least once a year, some even many times a year. those people are quite lucky, and i hope they know it.

the last time i went to Indonesia and met my family was 4,5 years ago. the last time i spent Christmas and new year’s eve with them was 10 years ago. i couldn’t even remember anymore what it feels like to celebrate both events in +30C degrees!

the last time i went to Bali was about 5,5 years ago, and all my life i had only always visited Bali for a maximum 7 day trip. this time, i was there for 2 weeks.

so what all did i do there in 2 weeks, you might wonder. which temples did i go to, did i surf, did i snorkel, did i dive… well, sorry to disappoint you, but both my husband & i had been there as tourists a few times that now we didn’t even do any tourist-y thing. the main point was to just spend as much time with my family as possible, doing everyday stuff that might be boring for some but very precious to me as i can never do it while i’m here and my family is half a world away.

in a true Indonesian style, to be honest we had some mishaps in our trip, one of them was my sister getting food poisoning right on Christmas day and ended up in the emergency room. other mishaps included unexpected traffic jams that lasted 2 hours (it was in front of the Monkey Forest in Ubud), the AC in our hotel room being broken (not funny when it was otherwise +35C degrees outside), and… actually, let’s just forget about the other mishaps. :p because the most important thing is, i was with my family! yay!

the highlight of this trip, and probably of my whole 2015, was the new year’s eve. my whole family & i went to stay at a villa in Umalas, and not only the place itself was gorgeous, but what we did was something i hadn’t done in a long time with my family: sitting down together watching TV, playing cards and dominoes, listening to my dad’s choices of music, having lots of laugh… and when midnight came, we watched the fireworks (& flying lanterns) from all around Bali and hugged each other at 12 o’ clock. 🙂 that was simply priceless.

now i am back here in cold Finland (it just turned -20C degrees right on the day we came back here. thanks a lot, mother nature!), and seeing these pics got me teary-eyed again. i don’t think parting with my family will ever get any easier, no matter how many times i have visited my home country and family over the course of my stay abroad.

but anyway, without further ado, here are some pics of my trip.

first, our hotel, which is more like a lodge than a hotel, since it only has 10 rooms. very peaceful & lovely.

next, the sights we saw and things we did when we visited Ubud. unfortunately it rained every day when we were there, and then there were the traffic jams. but like i said, at least we were all together during those days!

after our stay in Ubud, these were all the other things we did, which was fun for us but maybe boring to you… 😀 some were taken in Sanur beach, some were in Batu Bolong beach, and most of them just around our hotel.

and lastly, our new year celebration. 🙂

that’s it for now, and my, what a lengthy post this turned out to be! again, i wish you all a great 2016! may love and happiness always be with us! 🙂

PS. the pictures shown in this blog post were taken by 3 different cameras & people, but most of them were by my husband and my sister. thanks for letting me use them here!

one day

until very recently, when you want to go to the Helsinki-Vantaa airport, you could not reach it by train. there are buses, of course, but as you know when traveling with big luggage it might be a bit hard for you to stow them in the bus, and the ones that actually let you put them in the trunk usually don’t have that many stops in the city. luckily for us, our prayers were heard and finally, a few weeks ago they opened the new railroad that connects the airport to the other parts of the city.

this certainly calls for a test drive, but we also had another thing in mind.

i am one of those people who like to stay at a hotel, even just for one night, just to feel the luxury of it. what, nobody else enjoys this? :p anyway, sometimes i even do this when the hotel is actually near my home. it’s still a great escape from your ordinary, day-to-day life, a change of scenery, etc. i definitely encourage you to try it when you have nothing else to do. sometimes it even makes me feel like a tourist in my own city. you see things differently somehow when you’re staying away from your home, no matter how nearby it actually is. i’m glad my husband also enjoys this (see? i’m not the only one!)

so to make this airport train test drive complete, we also decided to stay for a night… in Copenhagen! 😀

first, our journey started with the train ride.

for now there is not yet an exit straight at the airport, so they provide a free shuttle bus to both terminals at the airport (the whole ride takes about 3 minutes). the shuttle bus comes in every 8-10 minutes, maybe even quicker sometimes. so it really isn’t the end of the world if you just missed the previous one, the next one will come right away! 🙂 later in October, the exit at the airport should be done and so you can access the train straight from the airport & vice versa. perfect timing for autumn/winter, since you won’t need to step outside at all!

the flight to Copenhagen took a very short time, and just like that we had a change of sceneries!

you might remember that i had been complaining about the rainy weather at my place… so it was really nice to be greeted with a sunny & warm day in Copenhagen. it was about 6 pm when we arrived, so we didn’t have much time to explore the downtown area anymore since the stores & attraction places close at 6, 7, and 8 pm already. when we took a walk around the central railway station, there were many interesting looking stores that were already closed. oh well!

i must admit that i had no idea what to see in Copenhagen. i had heard of some places like Tivoli, and some museums, but since it was already quite late i didn’t feel like paying the admission fees just for an hour’s worth of sightseeing. so we decided to just walk around. our feet brought us to the King’s Garden by chance, where we caught a glimpse of the Castle. it was also nice to just see the shapes of the buildings on the streets, the houses in quieter areas.

a little while ago, i just saw a picture of a free street library in Dusseldorf – Germany posted by Indonesia in My Pocket blog. i thought it was a brilliant idea, and though in Finland you can find a similar thing at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport, it’s still a different sight when the bookshelf is outdoor on some street.

so when i saw it myself in Copenhagen near the beach, i got overly excited and just had to take a picture of it! imagine taking a book you like from there and spending the whole day at the beach to read it. nice way to spend a summer day! unfortunately of course all the books were in Danish, so i didn’t take any, nor did i have any book with me to leave on the shelf.

after eating dinner and buying food for the next day’s breakfast, it was 9 pm and we still decided to continue with our stroll.

this time we decided to explore the beach. we took the metro and stopped at the Femøren station, and walked towards the beach called Amager Beach Park.

i must say, this was a nice icing on the cake! it was a vast area of sandy beach, and it looked so nice i had a hard time trying to hold myself back from dipping myself to the water.

if there was one thing i knew well about Denmark other than their bakery goods, it was the cool Bridge TV series they have made in cooperation with Sweden. the original one, of course, not the US version. (seriously, if you like crime TV series as much as i do and have not yet seen the 2 seasons of this show, you MUST!) going to this lovely beach and seeing the bridge in the background was just perfect to sum up our extra mini holiday. 🙂

the next day, we didn’t have any free time at all but went straight to the airport where we jumped back into our plane and flew back home.


our ride back home was waiting patiently.

overall, it was a sweet little getaway. and it truly was the perfect reason to try on the new train to the airport! 😀

that moment

at times in life, you are reminded of how you should be grateful for the things you have, no matter how small or big it is, and whether it’s tangible or intangible. this time, my reminder came from the lovely writer behind the blog Indonesia in my pocket, in the celebration of her blog’s 2nd birthday. to win the giveaway she is having, we (all of you, who feel like it!) are supposed to tell her about the most fun we’ve had in the last 2 years and why. to see the complete rules, please visit the link.

for Indonesia in my pocket: thank you, for the chance of remembering the fun i’ve had. your blog rocks!

below is my attempt/entry for her giveaway, in exactly 150 words. 🙂

going abroad, other than to Indonesia, is somewhat rare in our household. naturally, once we do, it’s always exciting and exotic to me. the one we did last year to Amsterdam was one of the first few of those and it has remained one of the most fun i’ve had in the last 2 years.

i tried and failed to point a finger to what it is exactly that makes it fun, because in truth, the whole process & experience was a joy. starting from years of working with no trip-abroad holidays, to the small surprise from my husband that we would actually go someplace new, to not expecting too much but getting much more from the trip, to seeing my husband’s first product on the display of his dream store, to finding nostalgic things from this foreign city.

it was, in short, a perfectly fun time in my life.

around Riga & Stockholm (short holiday, pt. 3)

as promised, this time i’m going to post the other things we saw and did in Riga & Stockholm other than museums. just a small warning, there are even more pics this time! feel free to skip this post if it’s just too much for you already. 😀

again i’m going to point out that we had 3 days in Riga, and 2 days in Stockholm, but most of them were all rainy, which is why it might seem that we didn’t get to do much (plus we’re quite lazy travelers, we don’t usually put so much in our to-do list because we want to actually have a relaxed time at our destinations). i’m putting the pics into separate sections along with a few background stories for each section.

Riga Parks

i guess the title could be a bit misleading, since it was actually just one BIIIIG park. it’s called the Bastion Hill park (or Bastejkalns park), and it was the closest to our hotel. right next to this park there is the Freedom Monument. we always walked through this park when going to or from the Stockmann supermarket where we bought our daily needs. there are plenty of statues in this park, but i only took a picture of one that seemed rather special for me. 😉 there’s a canal running right in the middle of this park, and surely enough, in the summer there are plenty of boats for rent if you want to have a small water tour along the canal.

another special thing about this park is the lock bridge. the superstition goes something like this: when a couple gets married in Riga, they go to this bridge and put a padlock onto the bridge. the stronger the padlock the better, because it also represents how strong their marriage bond will be. and then, they throw away the key to that padlock to the river (or canal in this case). at the time when i saw this bridge, i had never heard of this thing. but apparently, now that i searched about it, you can find this lock bridge thing elsewhere too. nonetheless, it was a pretty special sight to see, and it just so happened that when we were there in the park, there was a young couple getting married there. 🙂

Riga’s Old Town

since our hotel is right there in the Old Town of Riga, this area is also one that we could not help but to go through every day. the buildings here are surprisingly in very good conditions (at least from the outside), it could be that the people of Riga had done quite a big renovation right after they had their freedom from the Soviet Union.

there are sooooooooo so so many restaurants and shops like you wouldn’t believe, but there they are! there are also traditional markets on the street, where the stuffs are sold from wooden carts/wagons. the one nice thing about these shops (and also those that are outside the Old Town) is that they’re open up to later time in the night than in Finland. there were lots of small shops that were still open till around 10 pm at night in the weekend. that sure was a rare sight, since everything in Finland closes already at 6 pm in the weekend.

i must say that i know nothing about the names of these buildings i took pictures of (like some specific church or whatever). i took pics of them just because they look nice and very different from the view we have here in Finland.

Riga Streets

these pics were taken when we walked outside the Old Town. some areas are as well kept as in the Old Town, but some are unfortunately in quite sad conditions… again i’m only speculating, but they are most likely leftovers from the Soviet Union era.

the first few pics were taken when we took a walk on the second day in Riga. we walked a bit more to the northeast direction from the Freedom Monument and there were actually lots of churches along the way. but since it was around 8 or 9 pm on a Sunday, most museums and churches were no longer open for viewing.

the warehouses in Spīķeri district are worth to see, and it was also my intention, however we only got the time to go there during the last day and decided to look at the Riga Ghetto museum instead. the Spīķeri district is basically old warehouses that have been turned into rather hip & arty places, with all kinds of hip restaurants, (modern) art galleries, and i think also shops with things from new & upcoming Latvian designers. it sounds promising, but i guess i do need longer time to be able to enjoy it (and also better weather!). if you have the chance, do go and visit this area!

Riga’s Central Market

every city or town in Europe has one, whether it’s called central market or market hall. this one was built inside an old hangar, so of course my husband insisted on seeing it.

it turned out that the “market” isn’t just inside the old hangar… but also outside and all around it. basically, it’s almost as big as Jakarta’s Blok M, and it actually looks like it too. 😀 got pretty nostalgic just because of that, though i can’t say the same thing about the prices. the things surprisingly cost more here than, say, the Dappermarkt in Amsterdam. weird, huh? though the quality of the things actually look pretty much the same. inside the hangar, the products cost around 50 cents more, but otherwise, the “collection” itself is pretty much the same whether the booth is located outdoor or indoor. and as to what it is exactly that they sell? pretty much everything and anything, from fresh meat, vegetables, milk, cheese, to clothes, bags, sandals, toys, etc.

i didn’t take pics of the market outdoor, because i wanted to keep my purse safe. it was so crowded, i could barely keep an eye on it (and still see the booths at the same time!). i didn’t get any good findings here, since all the clothes i kind of liked costed around 15-20€ and i figured i could get similar item for the same price from Finland as well. there was just nothing that special that i felt like i had to get. we did end up getting some stuffs just because we felt a tiny bit sorry for the seller (an old lady).

Foods in Riga

ahh, now this is the most fun part! as i said earlier, i wanted to try local food, and in the end i did not get to try local food, but instead found a new favourite and ate Russian foods (well, that is almost local, i guess).

the first four pics are from my new fave: Wok to Walk. if you have it in your country, lucky you, but we don’t have it in Finland (though we do have Singaporean wok restaurant that’s reeeeaaallly good too). the system is a bit like Subway, where you get to choose what kind of noodle/rice you want as the base, and the side dishes (meat/veggies/mushrooms), and the sauce. then, if you eat it at the restaurant, you can choose whether to eat it from a plate or from a box. they ask for your name at the cashier (think Starbucks), and will call you by name when your order is done.

we saw an ad of this place in one of the tourist maps, and thought that it was just one of those fake Asian restaurants. but when we were walking in hunger (and rain) on the first night, we smelled something really good and came upon this restaurant! so we went in, and decided to try it. it was Saturday night, so the place was rather deserted, but so what! we did our orders (i took Udon noodles with shrimps & squids, and hot Asia sauce–the hottest sauce there was!), and took a seat at a windowsill. yes, we literally sat on a windowsill with a small round table in the middle, just enough to hold our foods.

the chefs were loudly talking to each other, shouting above the sizzling of the woks, and i felt just like at home, as in ‘Jakarta’ home. the interior of the restaurant was also meant to look ‘humble’ and street vendor-like, very down to earth and warm.

they wrote & pronounced my name correctly (what a big difference with Starbucks!), and we happily ate our noodles while looking outside the window at the rainy night and people walking by. very nostalgic and wonderful feeling, and the price? about 11-12€ in total for both of our meals combined. it wasn’t of course that kind of BIG portion, but it was enough even for us who love to eat!

we liked the place so much we ended up eating there again on the third day just before we left Riga… it was again rainy, but this time it was lunchtime on a Monday, so it was jam packed full of people, tourists and locals (students & executives) alike. i really wish this restaurant would come to Finland one day, preferably soon!

the rest of the pics are from the Russian restaurant called Uncle Vanya, or Tēvocis Vaņa. about 2 days before going to Riga, i quickly searched for any good restaurant we could try while we were there, and found this at the number 8 from the list of best restaurants in Riga in Trip Advisor. it was very close to our hotel, but whenever we passed it by, it looked rather empty, so we waited until the second day to try it.

and it was lucky for us that we did! we went there at around 3 pm, so it wasn’t a rush hour anymore. we easily got our seats, though not long afterwards there were many customers coming in.

as we were looking at the menu, the waiter served us appetizers, on the house, which consisted of black breads (kind of like Finnish limppu) with green butter (obviously mixed with some herbs, which explains the colour). hmm!! very yummy! we then said our orders to the waiter.

not long after we gave our orders, the waiter came back again bringing something in jars… one for each of us. then he said to us that they were 3 meat pâtés, compliments from the chef. wow! we certainly didn’t expect this! the jar looked rather suspicious, it was as if there was fog inside… we opened them, and there actually was smoke in the jar, not going anywhere until we poked the pâté with our spoons. only then did the smoke start to evaporate! cool! 😀 it was reaaaally good, and the bread slices you see in the pic were actually very thin and crispy, very very good indeed!

after two free appetizers, the waiter finally brought our real appetizer, one we actually paid for. 😀 we both ordered borsch soup, and so it was served from a humongous bowl (!!), poured by the waiter to each of our bowl, and then we each also got a slice of bread and a cup of sour cream/smetana. in case you don’t know what borsch soup is, it’s beetroot soup with pieces of meat, and the sour cream is meant to be poured into the soup. this was my first time eating borsch soup, and i nearly died and went straight to heaven from the deliciousness. it’s THAT good.

for the main dish, my husband went for the safe option of beef stroganoff (well, he did say it was VERY good, probably best he had ever tasted), while i opted for a more exotic choice: cooked veal tongue. i mean, as an Indonesian, i can tell you that i LOVE eating cow’s tongue dishes, but i certainly never tried it in any other country’s way than the Indonesian way! and if it was possible, it was even BETTER than the borsch soup. very tender (since it’s from a veal), just perfectly seasoned, and worked very well with the horseradish sauce it was served with. cow’s tongue had never tasted better than this!

after the main course, though we felt almost so full, we decided to still order desserts. chocolate pies were our choices, and though the name hinted “pie”, it was actually kind of like chocolate fondant, where it’s shaped like chocolate cake but with chocolate melt in the inside. and they were just perfect! the chocolate melt was perfectly warm in contrast to the cold vanilla ice cream, and the texture of the cake itself was also just perfect. this restaurant’s chef really knew what he (or she) was doing, plus, we were again given compliments in the form of blackcurrant shot drinks, one for each. that’s 3 free numbers we were given in one seating, how generous of them! and though i generally don’t like alcoholic drinks, i drank it out of respect and because, hell, i was on holiday! i suppose it was good, though i really can’t tell, since i know nothing about alcohol/shots. 😀

in the middle of our eating, i suddenly got nervous to see the bill because i didn’t have that much cash with me at the time, but i really shouldn’t have. the total damage turned out to be around 50€, which–compared to the prices of similar restaurants in Finland–is quite reasonable. this was for a 3 course meal with a bonus of 2 extra appetizers and shot drinks, and perfect taste all round. the atmosphere was also very comfortable and homey, you get the feeling of visiting an old friend’s house or even dining at your own home, but with a waiter serving you instead! well worth the money! i highly recommend this restaurant if you want a more special place to eat at or just curious to try authentic Russian foods.

Sightseeing in Stockholm

i’ve now been to Stockholm around 5 times, and almost each and every time we also went to the Old Town. i think i’ve pretty much taken pics of it before this trip, the only thing different this time was that we went to the Royal Palace area, and also to the seaside.

when i said we went to the Royal Palace area, i meant that we didn’t actually go inside the palace. to do so we needed to pay admission fees, and since we weren’t in Riga anymore, the fees are quite pricey and they only work for separate sections of the palace. different section needs different ticket, and since we were already going back in the afternoon, we decided to do it some other time. we did go to the free-pass areas, and i managed to take a few pictures.

then we continued walking to the seaside because my husband wanted to show me some steamboats. from there, we could see the old town buildings from a literally different point of view. we went past Birger Jarl, an old cruise ship that has now turned into a floating hostel ever since it stopped sailing in 2013. there’s still the small bridge by which passengers could get into the ship (nowadays used for hostel customers to enter the ship). i think it would be nice to stay there one day.

so this is the end of my “short  holiday” post series (not so short if you count it by the many pictures and words!). all in all, i had such a great time, and like i said before, it really felt like luck was on our side the whole time (except for the weather), as we got so many delightful surprises from here and there. it was an unforgettable experience, and i personally highly recommend Riga as your next holiday destination!

thanks to all of you who have patiently followed my stories, have a great weekend! ❤

6 days, 5 nights, and 4 beds (short holiday, pt. 1)

last week my short summer holiday officially started! for this short holiday, i had 1,5 week off from work (the rest of the summer holiday is coming soon!). my husband had suggested that we did something different for this short holiday. instead of spending the time in just one holiday destination, we would be spending time in two destinations and also en route to these destinations. so our itinerary was: Helsinki-Riga-Stockholm-Helsinki, with flight first to Riga, and then cruise ship to Stockholm, and also cruise ship to Helsinki. the cruise ship means we would also spend the night on the ship.

i will write about the Riga & Stockholm experiences itself in separate posts, this is now just for the accommodations. 😉

anyway, everything went so smoothly from the beginning to the very end, even with rains and everything, and we even got more than we expected!

the plane we took to Riga was a propeller plane. i’ve never been in one before, and neither had my husband (except in simulators). it was an exciting ride, especially the taking off (very quick & swift) and landing. since it was a propeller plane, the sound in the plane was also not as loud as in jet planes.

we arrived in Riga at around 12 pm, and as we came to the hotel we were told that the check-in starts at around 3 pm. to kill the time, we went around the hotel to grab lunch and walk around the parks. when we came back to check-in, the receptionist had a pleasant surprise for us: the bathroom in our room had a jacuzzi! 😀 i don’t think all their rooms have one, so it was really a nice surprise. i’ve never even been in a jacuzzi before! 😀 we of course used it for both nights that we spent there, it was so relaxing, especially after a day of walking around in the rain.


breakfast was included in the room rate, but even if it wasn’t, there was a small bakery right across the street and a “Street Fries” booth right next to it. i managed to find 70 cents to try this bun (i didn’t quite catch the name, if you know what it is, do tell!).

bun it was a lot like kue soes of Indonesia, with somewhat hard texture on the outside and soft in the inside, and had a cream on the inside. instead of sweet cream like kue soes, this one had (probably) quark or something sour-ish, very good and refreshing! unfortunately i didn’t get to try the Street Fries, but they are basically potato fries (you can choose between Belgian fries and Home Style fries, which is slightly bigger cuts than French fries) eaten with dips. they have about a dozen different dip sauces and each costs only 50 cents, whereas the fries itself costs 1.40€ for a big-sized paper cone. yes, THAT CHEAP!

since we were going to depart from Riga by a cruise ship that leaves in the afternoon (around 5 pm), we needed to keep our hotel room for a bit longer than the usual time for check-outs. the hotel was fully booked when we were there, so we were advised to ask about late check-outs in the morning of our departure. we did, and were told that we got to keep the room till 2 pm for free of charge, but afterwards we needed to pay a small amount (forgot how much). so we decided to stay till 3 pm, it was nice enough for them to let us keep the room for 2 extra hours for free.

not long after we got back to our room after asking that, we got a phone call… it was the receptionist, telling us that we got to keep the room till 3 pm for free after all! 😀 another pleasant surprise from them!

at first, we were planning to walk to the harbour to board the ship, since it really wasn’t that far. but it was raining quite heavily when we checked out, so we decided to take a taxi instead. we were prepared to pay for this small comfort, but even in a small traffic jam the taxi ride only costed 4.40€! 😀

in the ship, our cabin was at the front part, so we could see where the ship was going.

there was a bowl of fresh fruits waiting for us, and the mini bar was jam packed full of all kinds of soda and liquor (which were all included in the cabin rate). i was so exhausted from our extensive walks around Riga for the past 3 days, so we ended up only taking a small stroll around the decks, the shop/supermarket, and ate dinner, and then headed back to our cabin. i fell asleep almost right away after shower, and didn’t wake up when (said my husband) the ship hit a bit of a storm that caused big waves & rocked our ship for a while.

breakfast was also included in the rate, so with new full energy the next morning, we arrived in Stockholm.

we had the same ‘problem’ again when we were going to check-in, since we arrived in the morning and the check-in time wasn’t until around 3 pm. and again, it was slightly raining that day. but, the show must go on. after leaving our stuffs at the hotel’s storage room, we went downtown to grab a bite & look around.

right away we noticed how ‘expensive’ it was to go around in Stockholm when staying at a hotel outside of the downtown area. we chose this hotel because it was so close to the harbour (and there was also nostalgic reasons for my husband), but everything we wanted to see was downtown, and also the restaurants we could go to were there. in Riga, everything seemed so close, and we practically got around everywhere by foot. we had no expenses at all for public transport, except for getting to the hotel from the airport and from the hotel to the harbour (and only because it was raining).

it was a nice standard room at the hotel, so Scandinavian with all the woods in the interior & furniture, and also the style was still kind of back in the 80’s. the interior of the whole hotel itself was clearly still in its 80’s. it was cute! we stayed at the standard room, so there wasn’t even any fridge in the room. the view was to the sea, so we could see the ships coming in and out of the harbour. it was a real nice experience!

other than slightly rainy, it was also kind of cold that day, so we only went out again once after checking in, just to get dinner. the next day promised to be warmer & sunnier, so we decided to do more exploring the next day instead.

the breakfast, as you guessed, was included in the room rate. it was Scandinavian style, and there was a place to eat the breakfast on the terrace. we almost did, until we saw the seagulls. i HATE seagulls. so we chose to eat indoor. right afterwards, we again asked for late check-out. it was possible for a small fee per hour, so we decided to keep the room till 4 pm. then, it was time to go to the old town (more on those later). when my feet couldn’t take it any longer, we went back to the hotel and checked-in to the last ship of our trip.

everything was fine when we checked-in, until we left the check-in booth and saw our key cards. the card always shows what room/class we’re staying at, and this time it said some class that was more expensive (like around 400€ more expensive… and luxurious) than what we paid for. thinking that there must be a mistake, we went back to the booth and asked them to check. the representative didn’t even hesitate when he answered that no, there hadn’t been any mistake… his boss told him earlier to upgrade our cabin class for some reason, free of charge. ❤

that was probably the best surprise of this whole trip! suddenly we were treated like VIPs, for God knows what reason. 😀 this particular ship we were going with was just recently renovated as well. some new stores were built, the tax free store got enlarged, and some cabins got retouched, including this cabin that we were just upgraded to.

we went on board, and as we entered our “VIP” area, we were greeted with our own “steward” (who served all the guests in this same class, not just us, LOL!) who called us by our last names and showed us our cabin. there was also a lounge just for the guests of this cabin class, with small bites to eat and stuffs. for free. the steward asked if we’d like to book any restaurants for dinner, as he would do it for free. gosh, it really felt different when we’re treated as VIPs! we told him we’d look around first, since we had no idea where to eat yet.

the cabin was just as big as our previous hotel rooms, there was a bathtub in the bathroom (usually in the ships, there are only showers), lots of drawers and closets for us to store our stuffs, a TV room, and we could also sit on the window to watch the sea. there was fresh bowl of fruits again waiting for us, a bowl of candies, and everything in the fridge was once again included in the rate. it even had a blu-ray/dvd player. between me & my husband, this was the biggest cabin we’ve ever stayed at on a ship. he had never stayed at this kind of luxurious cabin, and me? i didn’t even know this kind of cabins existed, LOL.

though we had a view to the sea again from our cabin, since the weather was kind of good & warm we decided to see the departure from the sun deck. we got to see our hotel room that we just left minutes ago, and said goodbye to Stockholm. then, it was time to decide where to eat.

after choosing the restaurant we thought would be best, we first asked them directly what time we could get a place to dine there. they said since we didn’t book it earlier, the earliest time we could get was at 8 pm… and it was only 6.30 pm at the time. gaaak, i could die in hunger!

so we went to seek our steward, and told him we would like to eat at this particular restaurant and was told that the earliest we could get was at 8 pm. could he possibly get seats for us earlier? he most certainly could.

with a small phone call, he got us seats for right there and then. 😀 that, ladies and gents, is how amazing (and sad) a VIP treatment is.

we went back to the restaurant, and the same usher who told us earlier that we could get a place there at 8 pm was now telling us how there were always some “reserved places” for certain conditions. i guess that means for VIPs like us, ahem.

it was very good food, but we didn’t stay for dessert… because we had the lounge at our disposal, with all kinds of small bites for FREE. 😀 yay!

since our cabin was so comfy, we again mostly stayed in there. we watched the sunset while eating our desserts (we were allowed to bring the foods from the lounge to our own cabins) and just relaxed on our last part of the holiday trip.

the breakfast on the next morning was also a bit special. when we booked for the cabin, the breakfast was also included, but it was at a “normal” buffet restaurant. now, since we got upgraded, we got a special breakfast at a… well, let’s just say, a more posh restaurant. 😀 at first, we were slightly worried if the selection wasn’t as big as the normal buffet restaurant, but we needed not to get worried. there was of course less amount of food, but there was also only a few of people who could eat there for breakfast (yep, only the VIPs). right away, we got a glass of champagne (for breakfast???? apparently so!), and on the table there was a small menu of warm breakfast that we could choose one from, and they would then prepare it for us. we ordered ours, and while waiting for it to be prepared, we took the food from the small buffet. there was a (probably) duck liver pâté, omelette rolls with fish roes, fish roes with smetana to be eaten with toast breads, all kinds of sausages and cheese… and there were even carrot cakes. ahh… it really was the perfect way to end our trip.

so here are a few tips i can give you for this kind of holiday trip:

1. always check the time for check-ins at the hotel you are going to stay at. if they have it at 3 pm and you’re arriving way earlier, ask if they have a safe storage room where you can leave your bags while you walk around. be prepared for small discomforts like having to carry around your bags for a few hours, but most of the hotels do have safe storage rooms.

2. this trip is certainly more special to me than just going to places with planes. you get to experience everything slowly and enjoy the process & view of getting to one place from another. but it can also be tiring, especially since this means you have to pack and unpack everyday. bring as small bag as possible, with minimum clothes (i chose to bring dresses as they were easier to put on and i didn’t have to worry at all about mix & matching them!). a foldable shopping bag is a good problem solver for me, it didn’t take any space at all and if i had to carry around maps, umbrella, drink bottle, and other stuffs, i could just unfold the bag and put everything–including my usual purse–in it.

3. if possible, bring as small cash as you could. it’s always easy to get carried away and forget to protect your bag from thieves and also to stop yourself from spending too much. having no cash might not seem like a big deal (there’s always credit cards and ATMs, right?), but it does help when you’re in the midst of the euphoria of buying something at a market with no credit card accepted and have to walk away to the nearest ATM… the walk there clears your head a bit and you will hopefully decide not to buy the thing after all. 🙂 plus, if you carry cash to different countries with different currencies, you will end up always losing a bit of your money when you exchange them.

4. find hotels nearest to the attractions you want to visit. it might be that some hotels have cheaper rates somewhere further away, and you would think that it saves money that way, when it doesn’t. you could end up spending just as much anyway for the public transport, plus all the extra effort & time to take those public transports.

5. on a short holiday like this, having an itinerary is good, so you will know where to go to, etc. but avoid making a minute by minute or even hourly schedule, as you will then be too stressed about keeping up with the schedule rather than enjoy your time there. not having a too strict itinerary also gives you a chance to be pleasantly surprised by things you didn’t expect to see or find just around the corner.

that’s all for now! i’m not that good in giving tips, and i guess these are things most of you already know anyway. :p all in all, i must say i thoroughly enjoyed this holiday, and wouldn’t mind doing a similar kind of trip in the future.

coming up next are the Riga & Stockholm experiences! 🙂 and happy Midsummer to you all!