Greetings from Australia

Australia - 26.7.2018 21:34

Check out our video from Australia: https://vimeo.com/281873808

Password: 1205

Well actually we are already in Hawaii, but we have had too much fun to have the time to write. Now we are waiting for our flight from Honolulu to Maui so I’ll catch up with what’s been happening lately.

We had a wonderful time in Australia! It was just six days, but we loved it there in Down Under. It was their winter, but it doesn’t really look like winter when you talk about it with Finnish people. The weather was sunny and clear, around 20 degrees, except at the Blue Mountains where it was around 10 degrees, during the day. Nights were cold.

We stayed with my cousins in Sydney, and they made sure we had a great time, food and everything we wanted. They let us use their car to visit my friend Uncle-Peter (Piggy) in Katoomba, at the mountains. On our way we stopped at Featherdale wildlife park where we could feed kangaroos and pat koalas. I had already spent nine months in Australia in 2009 so I had seen many things before but for Deborah it was all wonderful and new! And she really didn’t want to leave Oz without seeing the iconic animals. A picture with a koala was high on the bucket list. And they had many koalas in the park, although they were all asleep. We found out that they sleep between 18 and 20 hours a day, and are most active during the night. So chances of having a nice picture with the fluffy package were slim. We did get (pay) a nice picture even though our friend was asleep. The roos instead were wide awake hopping around.

Lots of memories came back as I entered Peter’s home where I once stayed for a month. The garden was as wild as before, and the gardener hadn’t changed either. Happy as always. He showed us around his most inspirational spots: the three sisters and the anonymous cafe. In return I showed him around my secret lookout near the farm where I worked, and the Hargraves lookout over the Megalong valley. In return he explained us what Megalong meant. Apparently it’s not really megalong, it’s just an aboriginal word. We learned a lot of other history as well on that day. The day ended splendidly in Leura, where Uncle Piggy took us to an exquisite restaurant for dinner. Well done, mate!

The next day we went touring around Sydney with my aunt. We crossed the iconic Harbour bridge and learned about it in one of the pylons that held a museum about the bridge inside. On top of the pylon there is a great viewpoint looking at the bridge, the Opera house, and the city. That is well worth the visit, and I hadn’t done it before.

Sydney is a beautiful city, and the harbour area with the bridge and opera house look so good. Also, the sky is most often blue, sun is shining and making people smile. Besides, the harbour area has so many bays and nice gardens. We took a ferry from the harbour to Manly, which is by the sea. It’s a nice area with beautiful beaches. We hiked around it, altogether some 16km before going back to the city to eat with my uncle Rade. He had reserved a table in a really nice restaurant for us at revolving O bar overlooking the city. Second night in a row we were treated like royals.

Saturday we slept in a bit, had another great breakfast with pancakes, and then went out with my aunt and uncle. They showed us around the southern side of Sydney. We went to visit the Gap which is notorious for suicides. But it’s a beautiful place actually. We continued to the famous Bondi beach where there is always a lot of people surfing, swimming and exercising. Even some were sun bathing! I went in the cool and clear sea to hit the waves, which is so much fun. But I couldn’t stay too long otherwise I would have turned blue. But it was definitely warmer water than in Hammerfest!

We walked from Bondi to Bronte along the coast and then to another beach (there are so many!) for tasty fish and chips. It looks like life there is good. In some ways it reminds me of Switzerland. It doesn’t have the mountains but it has the beaches and the sea. Both countries enjoy a good wine culture. People look good and relaxed. Lots of young families playing with their kids outside.

That evening we went to an evening service at Hillsong city church. The sermon by Joel A’bell was really a challenging one, about Him increasing in us, and us decreasing. Very good. We met a Finnish guy, Oskari, who had come there to a bible college and ended up staying and is now one of the youth pastors! He and his wife were excited about the Hillsong conference that had just ended a week ago. Would be excellent to get a chance to join some year!

After the church service we went to have dinner in Newtown, which is a very busy bar and restaurant district. We must have looked for parking for 20 minutes! After dinner we went to a restaurant called “The Last Course”. It was a dessert restaurant serving delicious last courses. A nice concept, I don’t know why it isn’t more popular.

On Sunday we drove down to Wollongong, about 1hr south of Sydney. We met there with the Forrests, whom we had met about a year ago in Switzerland when they were returning from their mission at MercyShips. My wife got to know them when they were serving together in Madagascar. They are a lovely family. The father, Dave, showed me his woodwork and I got him excited about making a “kuksa”, which is a carved wooden cup used by hikers in Finland. The Forrests took us to a wonderful picnic by the sea and up a hill for great views of the coast. In the water we saw many surfers and also dolphins. Dave is involved in a very inspiring ministry mentoring men about fatherhood. It’s a new ministry, which has had a very positive reception. I hope this kind ministry would go across the Australian borders to all around the world.

That Sunday evening we still made it to the evening service at the main Hillsong campus at Hills. It was another kind of church experience! Hillsong has 88 services in a week in Australia. This particular building held about 3,500 people and they have 4 services there on a Sunday. It’s amazing how many people have been reached through this church, which has become global. They sell so many CDs across the world every year that they keep getting the Australian grammy awards for their records sales, which are the best of any Australian band. But it’s more than just good music.

After the church we had a delicious farewell barbecue dinner with my family at their place, and even enjoyed a sauna and some local craft ciders from the Blue Mountains. Our visit to Australia was a very joyful one and we would have loved to stay longer. There were still people and many places we didn’t have time to see, that’ll be next time.

Family dinner with Kikka, Zac and Rade Feeding the friendly roos  Koala Scenery at Blue Mountains Uncle-Piggy and his three sisters! Anonymous coffee in Blackheath with synonymous company A nice message from the chef at the Silk's of Leura  The Opera House Manly Australian coast line Sydney Sydney Harbour bridge Fancy dinner with aunt and uncle at O bar in Sydney  With Kikka and Rade at the gap Ocean pools at Bondi  At the Last Course restaurant in Newtown Picnic lunch with the Forrests in Wollongong    At Hillsong church

 

 

Byebye Bangkok

Thaimaa - 17.7.2018 21:54

Check out the video of our travels in Thailand here: https://vimeo.com/280392096

Password: 1205

We are now sitting at the gate waiting to board our plane from Bangkok to Singapore and then to Sydney, with handwritten boarding passes, which have already created amusement at the security check, passport control, and duty free. Nevertheless, we managed to board our 10th flight of the journey.

Once we returned from Krabi to Bangkok my dad had just arrived from Bhutan the same day. Bangkok is a great hub in Southeast Asia for many organizations. My dad is based there to work in a regional role with Fida International, and he seems to be traveling more than staying in Bangkok. I think he has now Been to about 70 countries, whereas I’ve unlocked a bit more than 50. Don’t know if I’ll ever reach 70!

As we knew that there will be quite much traveling ahead, we wanted to take it easy in Bangkok; eating REALLY well, going to the gym in the mornings, and playing boardgames for example.

Dad and Heather were around just for a couple of more days and then they flew to Finland for a holiday. As they were leaving, there was a beautiful fireworks show on the river just in front of us!

So we had the apartment for ourselves for a couple of days, nice! We continued eating well and going to gym and the pools, and even tried the sauna the last evening. On Sunday morning we went to the Life church in Siam. It was really good to be able to attend church, worship God and hear the word first time after leaving Switzerland. We met some nice people there and had lunch together. It was an international crowd of people working for different organizations, and somehow you feel like you know each other already.

After lunch we went to Chatuchak weekend market, which is so huge that you can easily spend a day there and still not see everything. It’s quite busy though so we were ready to leave after 3 hours. We found some nice little accessories and clothing. It’s good we have very limited space in our luggage so we avoid extra carefully buying anything unnecessary. In three hours we didn’t even get to the furniture, arts, or plants sections. Didn’t think we could fit any of those in though.

Sunday evening went along eating take away Thai food from our favorite kitchen around the corner and watching World Cup football just like on Saturday. Belgium was great and deserved their best ever World Cup result being third. We so hoped the petit Croatia would have conquered Les Bleus, but second place was a great achievement also.

Monday was the last evening and we decided to go check out the latest movie technology max 4D-hold your seats nose and breath- in your face-kick ass cinematography. The conclusion was that we still prefer the good old 2D movies. The Ant man was good though!

On the last day I still took advantage of the 3$ hair cut before saying good bye to our wonderful place in Bangkok. It was all so convenient and comfortable. Thank you. We have many reasons to come back.

Like best friends  The River residents' boat serviceThe girls played Scrabble while the boys competed in Agricola   Shabu shabu Farewell fireworks Lunch after church  Trying out another local eatery Sticky toast Our favorite local kitchen  This is how we started most of our mornings Our handwritten boarding passes

Belgium lost and the weather changed

Thaimaa - 12.7.2018 14:52

It was quite disappointing, we stayed up to watch the semifinal until the wee hours. I really thought Belgium was going to be the champion this time. But no, France was better and they went to the World Cup final. (Now we hope Croatia will keep making history!)

Although it was quite dire to wake up for breakfast after a short night’s sleep, it was worth it since the sun started to break through the clouds and the sky was blue after a while! We headed to the beach, but it was still too early as the tide was high, so we waited. While Deb stayed to watch the climbers at the beach, I decided to make a sacrifice for the sake of nice pictures and climbed the still muddy trail (that was closed during the rain) to a viewpoint. Actually I really enjoyed it, and the views were definitely worth the sweat and mosquitoes (it’s remarkable what kind of a jungle can live on a lime stone). The sacrifice was just in the form of blue shoes turning terra-cotta red.

When the tide went out we were able to reach the nice part of the beach for some cool photos and video. People had been waiting for the beach weather and now they were arriving with boats from the nearby ports.

After the beach we went back to our hotel for lunch and I got ready for my afternoon activity, rock climbing! I’ve heard the Krabi area is some kind of a Mecca for rock climbers, and I understand why. The limestone formations are not only wonderful looking but also really nice features for rock climbing. The rock is really nice to climb; plenty of interesting features and good holds as well. I went top rope climbing with a group of different level climbers. A lot of great climbers there, many of which are Chinese actually. I was climbing and belaying also. The fun cost me some 30$ and offered me the gear and a couple of hours of climbing. I did six different routes which were quite different from each other. Some were with a bit more overhang and climbing over ledges, so heavier on the arms, whereas some were more acrobatic on the feet. The climbing pace was quite high and soon the group was tired already. I however, managed to climb all the routes in the section we went to. Perhaps the most difficult one was a 6a+ route that was also the highest one (maybe some 30m) and had a tricky section just at the top before the finish where the rock didn’t have much features anymore. It was a great sensation to reach the end of that one!

We went for a massage still before dinner, which did very good after the climbing. Dinner was a BBQ buffet accompanied with cultural performance shows. The fire dance almost set the place on fire. The weather has been constantly hot and humid in any case. Good that the rooms have AC and that we haven’t caught a cold, which we both are prone to. Also, we haven’t spent a day sick in bed because of a stomach bug or anything else *knock wood*. Apparently food poisoning and that stuff are quite common at Railay.. we ate lunch almost every day at Local Thai, which was good and the staff was friendly. The last day at Krabi we had some time to walk around the “island” in dry weather and discovered that walking all the way up the east Railay is more quiet and has a really nice restaurant/bar Tew Ley Bar with really nice views and a cool sea breeze. Also, the Great View Resort looked really nice although it’s about a 10′-15′ walk from the beach and restaurants of Railay.

We are happy that we had some sunshine, and could see how beautiful Railay is, the limestones are amazing. And I am so glad I was able to try rock climbing in this special spot! Now we are on our way back to Bangkok, looking forward to seeing Dad and Heather again!

Thai long boats The steep route up to the viewpointRailay  Time to try out rock climbing So many sweet holds in the rock   6a+ This was the climbing spot at Railay Looking gorgeous <3  The cool views and breeze at Tew Ley

Greetings from Thailand

Thaimaa - 9.7.2018 20:37

We have arrived well in Thailand and are getting used to the tropical sauna and the spicy curries. Our time here has been relaxing. We’ve been staying with my family in Bangkok, enjoy the resort lifestyle, and did one week of traveling to the jungles of the north in Chiang Mai and the beaches of the south in Krabi.

Bangkok alone has already been the great holiday. Great food at Heather’s kitchen, with amazing views of the city and the river full of life. Starting the mornings with a run at the gym and relaxing by the pools after breakfast (homemade Karelian pies!). Then playing boardgames(Agricola!) or shopping during the day and delicious dinners in the evenings.

In Chiang Mai we were the chefs for one evening when we took a Thai cooking class. The half day class started by going to the local food market to get to know the ingredients, after which we went to the home garden to learn about the different spices and vegetables. With pink aprons on we started cooking our first dishes, the stir fry. I had chosen the famous Pad Thai while Deb chose a local delicacy Hot Basil Chicken, so we could experiment both. First we prepared all the needed ingredients and then cooked the stir fry. Pad Thai was supposed to be a fairly complicated one to cook, but it turned out well! Next up were spring rolls, which Deb had previous experience of already, so she mastered making a neat looking tasty deep fried roll with crunchy vegetables. There were still two more dishes to make, the curry and the dessert. I made red curry while Deb made panang curry. We had to make the curry paste ourselves by crunching a ton of chilies, and then it was adjusted to the dish. My curry would have needed some more fish sauce to have enough salt, while Deb’s panang curry was delicious! Finally we learned how to prepare the famous mango sticky rice dessert, which was finalized with a pretty blue flower (that had also given the blue color for the rice). To do it again at home, we both received cook books at the end of our class. I would highly recommend this wonderful experience when in Thailand!

Another day in Chiang Mai we spent taking care of rescued elephants. The elephants were rescued from logging, tourist trekking or other activity where the elephants are being ill-treated, drugged, punished, controlled by fear, and don’t live the life elephants should. The way Elephant Nature Reserve rescues these elephants is simply to buy them from their previous owner and take care of them. Our guide told us that the price of an elephant can be from 35,000$ to 150,000$ depending on the gender, age and health of the elephant. And they eat an enormous amount of food every day, so keeping them must not be cheap either, plus all the medicine and rehab needed to get the elephants back to a good health. So we spent a day in the jungle taking care of three female elephants in their 40’s. We fed them a lot of watermelons and pumpkins. Apparently that’s how you make friends with elephants. Then they were happy to go for a couple of hours hike with us in the jungle. It’s impressive how the gigantic animal can walk so smoothly, and even manage narrow paths and steep muddy hills. Once in the forest we kept of feeding them with bananas and rice balls we made. The bananas they grabbed with their trunks but the rice balls we could feed to their mouths. After this we were so dirty that we took a bath with the elephants in the river, and that’s how our day ended with the elephants, giving them a bath. They are such cute and calm animals, very adorable. Huge, yet not scary.

We were in Chiang Mai altogether more or less 4 days, which was enough time to do some activities and also explore the old town. The food there is great! Also lots of temples, but we enjoyed rather spending our time with a good foot massage, Deb took a manicure and pedicure, and then together we had two hour full body massages by ex women prisoners. A long massage like that still cost less than a meal in Europe. Also, lots of things were for sale at the busy Night Bazaar, which was nice to visit since it was so bustling with life compared to the more quiet old town of Chiang Mai.

Transportation in Chiang Mai was convenient with Grab, a local version of the Uber app. We had bought a local sim when we arrived, which was really easy, and made it possible to use the phone with data. It was also useful for finding recommended restaurants when in town. Otherwise, it’s also possible to just jump on Red Trucks that take you to a certain direction for about 1$. There are also lots of bicycles for rent, and even motorbikes, but the traffic looked too busy for an enjoyable ride, and apparently the rental companies try to scam the tourists there, so better just rent bikes once in a smaller town.

From CM we took a 2 hour flight to Krabi, but arrived when it was getting dark so arriving at our final destination at Railay beach was interesting since we still needed a bus and a boat to get there. In CM it got dark quite a bit later than in Krabi, it’s a long country! Fortunately there was still a boat from Ao Nammao beach to Railay after 19:30. We arrived to our honeymoon hotel safe and sound, and were happy to get and upgrade to our room as we arrived.

It’s the monsoon season, so weather at Railay has been more or less (mostly more) rainy, all the time. Therefore we haven’t been able to enjoy the beach and work on our tans much, nor go rock climbing, but we have eaten and rested well, recharged our batteries by reading books, playing games and watching movies. We still have almost two full days here before we head back to Bangkok, so let’s hope we get some dry weather still. But now, to watch Belgium-France! Even though the game starts here at 1am, we must watch and support the Reds!

Family time in Bangkok with Dad and Heather Father-Son time Some more Father-Son time Views of Bangkok and the river, scary high up! Some say, the best pool in Bangkok..?   Our hotel room in Chiang Mai was very nicely prepared Making your own curry paste is HARD work Thai cooking class Pad Thai à la Lauri Mango with sticky rice Preparing the apero for the elephants  Feeding the trunks  Happy! The elephant looks amusing too Gentle touch of a lady Taking the elephants for a walk ...and then for a bath  Eating out in Chian Mai (Ginger & Kafe) Enjoying good treatments in CM   Not a wedding photo Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai Womens' massage center (ex prisoners) in Chiang Mai The weather in Krabi at the moment Dreaming in a cafe on a rainy day Rainy day activities   No matter the weather, food is good!  At Railay beach  Hard to smile when you have salt in the eyes.. ;)  

 

1 day in Kiev

Ukraina - 1.7.2018 19:20

At first I was wondering why we needed to go through passport control when leaving Brussels in the morning. Even when we arrived in Ukraine I happily kept my mobile data on. I knew they didn’t use the Euro but not every EU country does anyway. Wait a second, we had to go through passport control again and this time we got our passports stamped. Hey, Ukraine isn’t part of the EU? I found out while enjoying my mobile data, which was soon turned off.

It was rather easy to get to down town Kiev from the airport. The tourist info at the airport was very friendly, as were other people we met while in Ukraine. We took the skybuss from the airport to Kharviska (or something) for 2€ and then a metro to Zoloty Vorota for 30cents. All in all it took about an hour and the busses and metros are frequent.

In Kiev we saw a mixture of old and new, local and international. There are some really trendy cafes run by young local people. We had an amazing breakfast at the Blue Cup, where staff was very friendly and spoke English. Common to a previously Soviet country, there are impressive monuments and buildings around. We visited them at the Maidan square where there is the monument of independence. That is also the place where a well known demonstration took place in 2013, where the people protested the president from moving politically closer to Russia than the EU. Since, the president was changed and Ukraine is taking steps towards becoming an EU member.

Perhaps the most impressive in Kiev were the numerous big churches. We visited the nice and shiny bright blue St Michael’s church, St Andrew’s church in front of which they were filming an episode of Ukrainien Masterchef, and the iconic St Sophia’s Cathedral and its Bell tower.

Kiev and its people were nice, and definitely worth the visit if you have a long stop over. Especially the food and service we had in the couple of cafes we stayed was really good, and put us on a good mood!

St Michael  Master Chef at St Andrew  St Sophia Golden Gates  Maidan 

Last days before the take off to the World Tour

Before and after Paris we also had good times in around Belgium and the Netherlands. This included our fourth wedding celebration (civil and church wedding parties in Switzerland, party in Finland and now in Belgium), not the celebration of our fourth wedding but the fourth celebration of our wedding..! We entertained a crowd of some 30+ people with a grande dessert buffet, photoshoot, videoshows, there was even a great speech, and we did some dancing too. It was a fun event and at least by now I have the approval of my wife’s friends and family, I hope, since I met most of them this time.

The next day after the wedding celebration we were invited by Deb’s Pakistani friends for a brunch. I love these people. I met them at Christmas too. They are so warm and welcoming, I almost feel part of their family too. We had a great breakfast together and the whole big family was there. After the breakfast we continued to a huge playground/open air museum in Bokrijk where we enjoyed the swings and climbing like we were children again. But we went there for Deb’s goddaughter, right. It was also good fun trying out old school toys and games and see the typical life style of the people living there from the 17th century.

Another highlight was to go and watch the World Cup game between Belgium and England. I had never been to an outdoor event where hundreds of people are gathered like that to watch a game and support their team, it was a great atmosphere, and even better since Belgium won! We went there together with Deb’s (and now mine too, hehe) friends Gio, Aliya and Sharon.

We also did a one day visit to nearby Maastricht in Holland. It was a nice lively town with the Maas river running through it. They had turned an old church into a book store because they had too many churches in that area. It was an interesting concept but I wasn’t used to it. Crossing the border from Belgium to Holland was simple. I didn’t even see a border but the road signs were different so that’s how we knew.

Time in Belgium flew by! We had a really nice time there with Deb’s family, they took such good care of us. We were able to relax by going to the movies twice, barbecuing, watching football and sleeping well!

Now, however, the intercontinental travel begins. We will head out to Thailand after spending a stop over day in Kiev first. We’ll keep you posted!

Finally, here’s a video Deb made of our time in and around Belgium: https://vimeo.com/278255784

Password: 1205

 The crew of the fourth wedding party Meet Gio, the dance choreographer Arisha, Deb's Goddaughter Swinging with Arisha Bokrijk Belgium-England, 1-0! RailbikingBeertasting at Leffe BBQ   Farewell breakfast in Hasselt