Archive for May, 2007

rocked the boat

It was my first time on a cruise last weekend, and truth be told, I spent more time on board DFDS Pearl of Scandinavia than running around Copenhagen one cold, rainy Saturday. Neil and I dashed from one spot to another, trying to see as much (and camwhore as much) of the city.

We checked the shopping scene along the miles-long, car-free Strøget, the giant phalluses in the Erotica Museum, the Tivoli Gardens, the colorful houses and docked boats in Nyhavn, and of course, possibly one of Copenhagen’s icons – the Little Mermaid. I didn’t actually root myself deeply in the experience since the whole seven hours on land just whizzed by. It was just a whirlwind city sightseeing. The only time we ate in Copenhagen was at 11 am, at KFC. Later that day on our way back to the boat, we picked up some takeaway and surprise, surprise, a Filipina crew gave us free chicken pieces in addition to our order. So instead of five, I took home eight! Haha!

So that basically sums up my stay in Copenhagen.

But it was the boat trip that made this whole adventure worthwhile. Despite some heavy waves which lulled the ship crazy that I felt like throwing up and the small inside cabin with thin walls you could hear the party going on next door, it was a good cruise all in all. Thanks to a great company, I laughed a lot, drank a lot, danced a lot. It was so fun dancing with all these cute Scandinavian guys and this one Kylie Minogue-looking girl. It was like everyone knew each other. Boys dancing with girls. Girls dancing with girls. Boys dancing with boys. I don’t think those cute Scandinavian guys were gay at all, but they were grinding with us, communicating across the disco-lit room, and looking just ultra hot. Thank the heavens for beer!

Who would’ve thought that one day, I’d find myself in a packed dancefloor, in the middle of an open sea, crossing two countries? It was just fun.


in transit: copenhagen, denmark

I’ll get off work at 3:30 PM tomorrow and meet Neil for our weekend trip to Copenhagen. We are taking a medium-sized cruise ship from Oslo to Copenhagen, so the trip is already half the journey. Our ship sails out at 5 PM and we’ll be in Copenhagen 9 the following morning. Then we only have eight hours on land until the ship sets sail back to Oslo which arrives 12 noon on Sunday.

I’m sure it would be fun, on the boat, in the shopping streets of Copenhagen, and by the statue of the Little Mermaid. We also got tickets to the Tivoli Gardens, where we could try some thrill rides. But one of the highlights of this trip would be raiding the local KFC (yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken) shops and devouring as much finger-lickin’ goodness as we could.

Have a nice weekend everyone!

starbucks cometh

Okay, my life has spiralled back to the normal routine and there’s really nothing much to blog about. Well, at least not until the next couple of days. Anyway, I found these bottled Starbucks drinks recently, and as you know, not a single Starbucks store can be found here in Norway so I just had to grab them.

My god they’re freaking expensive! A bottle costs 39 kroner = 6.45 USD = 4.81 Euros! Now I know Starbucks ain’t the best brew out there but with that money, I could already buy two freshly-brewed and whipped-cream-topped Venti Frappuccinos in one of the many Starbucks stores in Manila. I guess I won’t be having any more Starbucks fix here in Norway soon. But is this the start of Starbucks invading the Nordic countries? If I have the money, I would open the first Starbucks store here. I’m sure it’d be a big hit, what with Norwegians being one of, if not the biggest coffee drinkers in Europe. Hmmm…

17th of may

Today is the National Day of Norway. And as a first-timer for this grand celebration, I had to wake up early to see the festivities down in Karl Johan, the road leading to the Royal Castle where every year, the Royal Family comes out to the palace balcony and greets the people of Oslo.

The day started with the march of school children at 10 AM towards the Royal Castle. This year, 111 schools from all over Greater Oslo paraded in their colorful regalia and with their school’s musical corps. So as you can imagine, there’s the traditional sausages, ice cream and soda stands everywhere to keep these kids happy. In the afternoon, graduating high school students took their turn and paraded towards the City Hall in their trademark red jumpers and caps. This year though, the infamous bling-bling buses didn’t make their way across the crowd. But these hot Royal Guards did, and of course, they were led by who else? An Asian, that’s who.

What amazed me was that people actually took their time to dress to the nines – suits for the gentlemen and dresses for the ladies – or clad themselves in the traditional costume of Norway called bunad. I didn’t know that these special handmade bunads are expensive, fetching from around 25,000 kroner (EUR 3,000 = GBP 2,100 = USD 4,100) apiece. I want something like the one pictured below, but I don’t think this one is designed for the Oslo region. Each region in Norway has its own bunad design. Or something like that. Hehe.

Anyway, I also dressed my part and took to the streets of Oslo with friends.

With Neil in front of the Stortinget or the Parliament, where each year the Norwegian President waves to the crowd.
With the group across Stortinget where we waited for the Russetog or that marching troop of high school students.
Walking around town. Believe me, after spending some time walking along Karl Johan, you’d want to walk along side streets to escape the crowd.
Later in the afternoon, we invited our friends to the rooftop terrace of our apartment where we had some champagne and small snacks. The view was fantastic from up there – one could see the Oslo fjord, the mountains, and the major cityscape.Also, the weather was absolutely nice, the sky was at its bluest, and the wind was just chilly enough to keep the temperature in our flute glasses just the right degree for our drinks. Okay, that last one was an exaggeration. We ended the day with Kill Bill Vol. 2. Where did that come from? Hahaha!

Happy National Day, Norway! Thank you for having me.

hello from helsinki: camwhoring in the city

I’m so glad you all liked my photos from Helsinki. I have more to share, now that I got my laptop up and running again. You see, I left my laptop charger in the hotel room last Sunday and fortunately, Holiday Inn found it. Here’s the last installment of photos from my trip to the land of thousand lakes.

The Second Day
I noticed that Helsinki must be a land of thousand hills, too. The roads all over the city are warped like this one pictured here.

This was taken from Esplanadi Park, site of the Europe Market that showcased each participating country’s culture, wares and tourism. On the periphery of the park are two of the most exclusive shopping lanes in the city. One of which serves as the stellar address of Kamp Hotel, probably the poshest hotel Helsinki has to offer.

This was taken in front of the EuroClub, the Eurovision Song Contest’s official site for parties and events, located at the Old Student House.

The Market Square is one of Helsinki’s most famous market places and tourist attractions. It was brimming with stalls selling various wares – from the must-try fried Baltic herring to reindeer hide. At the background, you can see the other iconic cathedral in Helsinki – Uspenski Cathedral – which looks very Russian.

The Third Day
In the morning, we met Ola Salo of The Ark, which represented Sweden. We saw them outside their hotel, a neighbor to ours. God I’m such a cheesy fan!

The rest of the day was spent shopping and trying out the world-famous Fazer chocolates of Finland. I looked at Stockmann, one of Finland’s largest department stores, but got nothing. I moved to Moda where I found an Esprit collared short-sleeved shirt and to the big Diesel store where I got a nice white summer tee.

Afterwards, we spent a cozy afternoon at the Karl Fazer Cafe, built in 1891, where I had these citrus-flavored mousse and sponge cake and a specially-made Eurovision cake with chocolate and white truffle layers.

That night, after six months of waiting we finally found our way to the Hartwall Arena where the Eurovision finals was staged. I was impressed with how everything – from getting tickets for the train ride to the security check at the arena – went smoothly.

I was also impressed with the show, well at least from the performances we heard inside Hartwall. When I saw a short replay on TV the day after, I wasn’t so impressed with the vocals of some artists. Anyway, I was happy with the winner Serbia, as well as with Ukraine’s and Russia’s second and third placings respectively. The Ukraine act was so crazy everybody inside the arena was dancing and jumping to him. Of course, my crushes also fared nicely in the competition – Belarus, Spain, Greece, and Turkey. I took around 300 photos of the show from where we were seated, but unfortunately, most of them were blurry due to the slow shutter response of my cam, my distance from the stage and the performers’ constant movement.

Back home, but wait!
We flew back to Oslo last Sunday from the Helsinki Vantaa Airport, and while waiting for the boarding time, we strolled around and saw a couple of artists – Croatia’s duo (which were so horrible in the semi-finals) and Germany’s Roger Cicero who was doing an ambush interview. Of course, since he’s a cutie, I had to take my photo taken with him. And you know how I love guys who can swing. Le sigh.

That’s it! I hope you enjoyed my adventures in Helsinki. Thanks for dropping by!

hello from helsinki: the cathedral on senate square

One of the highlights of my second-day exploration of Helsinki is the majestic Cathedral overlooking the Senate Square. At any time of the day, the Cathedral casts an impression that lingers long after you’ve stared at its splendor or sat on its steps and stared out into the horizon with the occassional cruise ship breaking the skyline. In the light of day, the Cathedral blinds you with its pristine white facade. At night, the Cathedral glows against the blanket of darkness.

hello from helsinki: day 1

We arrived in Helsinki around 11 in the morning and the airport was oddly quiet and empty, the only people there were those from the Finnair flight we took from Oslo Gardermoen. The bus from the airport took only around 30 minutes to the city center and we got off at the central bus terminal, right in front of the hotel we’re staying in for the next four days – Holiday Inn Helsinki City Center.

I would recommend it for its unbeatable central location. The room is on the small side, though, with unmistakable Finnish-design interiors. The wide windows offer expansive views of the central terminal, the busy boulevard beyond, and some of the city’s iconic skyline tops – the Cathedral dome and the Central Terminal clocktower.

After settling in, we decided to explore the city. Helsinki is a big city much like Stockholm minus the dramatic bridges. Compared to Oslo, Helsinki has a more international appeal, has that old-world Russian feel, grand boulevards lined with buildings throwing back to turn-of-the-century Art Noueveau and Classicism. Like any boy from Asia who has only been to a couple of other European countries, I was wide-eyed while battling the cold wind that stings my contact-lenses-laden eyes.

The main purpose of our visit to Helsinki is the Eurovision Song Contest 2007. Everywhere, the city is clothed with the contest’s colorful patterns – from flags fluttering in the wind to trams and taxis bearing the design. A Eurovision Village was also set up on Narinkkatori in front of the modern Kamppi Shopping Mall. There are tents selling official Eurovision merchandise, wide screens from where people could see both the semi-final and final shows, a stage for performances by top artists, and a European Year pavilion. There is a EuroClub at the Old Student House, site of parties and events related to the song competition.

We then headed off to Con Hombres at around 9 pm for the live broadcast of the semi-finals. Con Hombres is touted as the Eurovision Bar, and you can clearly see why when you enter. They play non-stop Eurovision songs from then and now, and the walls are covered with Eurovision memorabilia and album covers.

The basement dance floor was converted to a viewing room with a huge wall screen. We easily got front seats from where we enjoyed each of the 28 performances. Well, some were just a bore, which were basically cues to visit the toilet to relieve one’s self after drinking some martinis. My top favorites include Belarus’ “Work Your Magic” with singer Dmitri Koldun hot, tall, and perfectly tanned, as well as Serbia’s “lesbian love” power ballad “Molitva” performed by obviously-gay and Dolce & Gabbana-clad Marija Serifovic. Austria’s Eric Papilaya and Turkey’s Kenan Dogulu both looked sexy and good, as well as that black guy from Poland. Scandinavian entries did their fabulous best in the semi-finals – Icelandic rocker Eirikur, Danish drag queen DQ, and Norwegian accompished performer Guri, who had three costume changes, ripping one expensive Swarovski-sewn dress into another, all under three minutes. But all their efforts proved weak compared to the apparently strong voting prowess of the Eastern European countries, who obviously were voting for each other. Nine out of ten who went to the finals were from Eastern Europe, and well, Turkey who also comes from that part of the continent. Well, most deserve to be there, but others came as a shocker.

Well, enough for the night. There is still the Finals we are seeing live on Saturday night at the Hartwall Arena. Can’t wait to see other favorites like Greece’s Yassou Maria, France’s L’amour a la Francaise, Sweden’s The Worrying Kind, Russia’s Song No. 1, Ukraine’s Dancing Lasha Tumbai, Spain’s I Love You Mi Vida, and Finland’s Leave Me Alone.

Good night!

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