Sawasdee Krub! This is the very first travel blog of mine.
This trip begins when I am looking through a bunch of photos of tourist attractions in Iceland and the aurora, the aurora that people said, "You have got to see it once in your life".
Therefore, the main purpose of this whole trip is to go and capture the incredible aurora into photos and I am going to Iceland from 2 - 13 January 2016.
My name is Vee and I am currently studying in the UK. That's why my journey get started from here. First of all, I need to apply for a Schengen Visa. I would say that the process is not that complicated. Only the online form that you need to fill in, is quite time-consuming. I apply the visa through Danish Consulate. You need to make an appointment online with the Consulate to submit your documents, then fill up the online application. The documents needed are including 1. Letter from the university 2. Life insurance 3. Bank statement 4. Travel plan 5. Visa photo 6. Supporting documents about travel arrangement such as hotel reservation, flight confirmation, and so on. After I went to hand in my documents and chose to have the visa sent to my place directly, I get it today which is 3 days later. This is totally quick and my visa lasts for 6 months. The visa is ready so I am now ready to fly to Iceland. I choose to travel with EasyJet Airline this time. The flight departs from London Stansted Airport. In addition, I pay for one checked baggage because EasyJet Airline is very strict with the number and size of the carry-on luggage. If you are not careful, you might be charged a lot extra for oversized luggage. I am also asked to put my luggage in the luggage size control before boarding but mine is fine. On the other hand, there are a few passengers have their luggage oversized so they need to rearrange their luggage right in front of the gate.
My flight departs around 3 PM and it will take around 3 hours to get to Iceland. I only had breakfast earlier but no lunch so I am hungry now while on board. I can't help but buy some snacks right away and I have got this Kit Kat.
The flight arrives in Keflavik around 6 PM.
This is the travel plan I have for this trip. I try to plan everything day by day according to the weather condition. However, I have ended up with no chance to explore the Northern part because of the very bad weather.
I have noticed the advertisement boards of the famous Blue Lagoon and Sky.is yogurt upon airport arrival. I have been told not to miss to try Sky.is yogurt because it is very delicious and have a special sticky texture.
I won't rent a car for the first day and I have reserved a room through Airbnb application. I buy a sim card of Siminn before taking a taxi to the accommodation. It is not far from the airport and the taxi fare is 20 Euro. I have only Euro with me now, haven't exchanged to the local currency yet.
I have been welcomed warmly by the owner and this is my room for tonight.
I am totally hungry so I don't hesitate to ask the owner where I can have a nice dinner right away. "There is a nice pizza place nearby, located right on the main street of the town", he answered.
It is quite cold as it is -1 degree Celsius now.
I have ordered Hawaiian pizza and it is 20 Euro. The pizza turns out to be very good with the perfect thick soft crust. I don't forget to ask the staff to take a photo of her before leaving (I am working on an album of people I meet along the trip on Snap shot).
I have actually planed to go to the supermarket today to buy foods and drinks for the whole trip but it is closed already. So, I guess I will do that tomorrow instead.
Then I go to bed straight away because tonight will be the last night on the entire trip that I will have a chance to sleep in a proper comfortable bed. The rest of the nights I will sleep in the car.
I start the official first day of the trip in Iceland at Blue Lagoon. I actually want to go there on the last day but they will close the main zone for renovation from tomorrow onward. As a result, I have moved the program to today instead.
I buy the round-trip bus ticket from the airport to Blue Lagoon but I need to exchange this receipt for the ticket first.
The staff is standing by in the room behind the counter. There is a sign stating that "Please knock for any assistance". He will be out in front at 8 AM as about the time for the bus to depart. The sky is still dark at this very moment.
I took this brochure earlier to see where those famous tourist spots are. This is to kill the time because the bus will take about half an hour to get to Blue Lagoon.
This is he first thing I see when getting close to the place.
If you have booked the ticket online in advanced, you can go straight to the two lines on the left-hand side right away.
I am lucky that they have a promotion now so I have got the Comfort Package for only 50 Euro. This price is normally for the Standard Package. And this Comfort Package that I have got, includes the use of towel, silica mud mask, algae mask, and one free drink.
I am good to go for getting changed now. The changing room for men is upstairs, for women is downstairs. You might be afraid how could you find each other later. Well, you will find one another at the exit behind the changing rooms. In addition, it is not allowed to take photo inside the changing room so I have no photo to show you here but I can tell you that you will get a huge locker in L-shape. There is also a shoe rack for you to put your shoes on. There is a shower for you to take, some shower rooms have a shower particle and some don't. So, you can choose the one you like straight ahead.
The sunrise is almost 11.30 AM today. So I start to take photos inside Blue Lagoon around this time. However, the floor is freezing cold and I don't have a slipper. I have no choice but come in and go out of the building every once in a while to keep my feet warm.
I have mistakenly remembered the wrong time of the bus. I thought the bus at 12.30 PM is heading to the airport but it is heading to downtown Reykjavik actually. Therefore, I call the car rental company that I will be late picking up the car. The staff is very kind saying that he will come and pick me up directly from Blue Lagoon. It turns out that the staff comes to pick me up to go and get the car in downtown Reykjavik, I thought that he would bring my rental car here. So, I kindly ask him to drive me to the place I stayed last night first to get my stuffs. The car rental company I choose for this trip is KUKU Camper. I know that they don't have a good reputation but I can't drive a car with the manual transmission. Hence, I only have a few choices. I choose to rent AA-type car with two sets of sleeping bags, a cooking gas, adapter, and car insurance. The car insurance that I buy doesn't cover the case that the car door is broken because of the strong wind. Guess what! I have ended up experience this case in the middle of this trip. No matter how be careful you are, you are at the high risk breaking the car door because the wind is truly strong. It is hard to hold the door while opening it. And I actually break it right in the city, not even in the countryside area.
For more information for car rental service with KUKU Camper, please click here
After going through the whole car rental process, I have got the car around 4 PM and it is getting dark already. Firstly, I have planned to go to a waterfall but I guess I need to change my plan and go to downtown Reykjavik instead. I am going to the famous Hallgrímskirkja church.
I am following the direction on my phone.
This is the interior of Hallgrímskirkja. I actually want to go up to the top of the church but it is almost the time that they will close the place. In the end, I have got only two photos inside before they close it.
I then come out to take photos from the outside.
These two photos above are taken using my camera drone. To be honest with you, I don't know how to use it much since I just bought it one week ago only. I had a chance to try using it a few times and got some tricks and tips from Khun Payont Thanasatirakul. I can't get these kinds of photos without his suggestions and he was actually the one who made me want to buy a camera drone.
You can have a look at my works here.
Personal account on Facebook: vee verapat
After having enough fun with the snow and have satisfied with the photos, I come back into the car to get some heats. The temperature right now is about -1 degree Celsius and I can't stand this kind of weather too long. Then I don't hesitate to open up the map and use my phone to check where the sky is clear tonight. I use 3 - 4 maps at the same time searching for a place to get a good photo shot and I have finally found it. The place is about 2-hour drive from the town and this is the nearest one I can find. It is my first night here so let's give it a try! I drive on Route 1 which is the main road to the Eastern part of Iceland. I have arrived at the spot where the sky is clear but I just learned that this is the wrong town. I have decided to drive on the Golden Circle route, Route 57 if I am not mistaken. This road is not easy to drive on since it is dark and some parts are slippery. The speed limit is 90 km/h. And at this moment, I can't see anything but the darkness. There are no any other cars at all and I feel like there are only 2 people in this entire world, my friend and me. I can't help but wonder why there is not a single car driving pass by. Well, I guess it might be normal here in Iceland and I continue to drive. My mission is to find the best photo shooting location but it seems like I am hopeless. There is nothing at all. However, the sky is clear and it is full with the stars. So, I think it is a good idea to make a stop and take photos. My friend (Chinese) tells me to pull up the car and park it by the road. I agree because we can park the car by the road in our countries normally. Unfortunately, the car slides off the road so I guess we can't do that here.
My friend is shocked and she is about to cry, I can tell from her face (she is always unlucky). On the other hand, I laugh and think that I might need to sleep here tonight. Someone should find us tomorrow and help us to drag the car up as I told you earlier that there is no car around at all right now.
Luckily that there is one car approaching and they stop for us.
It is good that most of people here in Iceland can speak English. They ask whether the road was too slippery so we drove out of the way or what? I just say, "Yes" because I don't want them to look at us as stupid people trying to park the car by the road to take photos. At the same time, I ask my friend to take photos and record a video how they help us out because this is exciting.
Only one of the wheels slid off the road earlier but now the whole car. This happens after they attempt to pull it up. Then they do everything they can to get our car back on the road including digging out the snow. This is tiring but they make it at the end. In addition, I have noticed that their car has all kinds of equipment that can be used in case of unaware accident like this happen and I guess all locals do the same. Lastly, they told us to be careful driving in this area before they leave.
I am so thankful that we the problem has finally been solved and I promise to myself that I won't just park the car anywhere by the road anymore. We are currently on the same road and I feel like it will lead us back to downtown Reykjavik. Anyway, we are now keep our eyes opened and look for an aurora because this should be the time. Furthermore, I was told that I should use the camera to capture the sky in case that I am wondered whether it is an aurora or not because it will be clearer than using our eyes. Suddenly, my friend said, "What is that on the right-hand side?" I don't hesitate to take out my camera and shoot a picture of it.
This is the very first picture of the aurora in my life.
It starts to move from the left to the right and I am truly thankful how lucky I am to be able to see it since the very first day of my trip.
I am very excited and don't really know what to do at this moment. Then I have decided to just stop the car and let it stay on the road. I don't want to get closer to the side of the road because I am afraid that I will experience the same incident and might not get help this time.
The aurora borealis keeps dancing in front of us. I feel like I can't move, it totally blows my mind. I even forget to take many photos of it (Tonight is actually the night that the aurora we see is the most beautiful in our trip). We are here at the right place and at the right time. Then one car is approaching on the other side of the road. This is when I realize that I need to take a photo of the aurora and I have ended up having only 3 photos before continue to drive. We still keep looking up into the sky but it is not that easy while in the car. When we have found a new good spot, it turns out that there are cars approaching from time to time and this is quite difficult to take a photo. Once there is no car, it is a little to late and the aurora starts to disappear. In the end, we continue to drive further hoping to find a good spot where we can take photos conveniently.
We have found a good spot again but the aurora is almost gone. The bright light on the right-hand side should be from from the volcano, I guess.
Firstly, I think we should just sleep here tonight. But after rethinking, it seems to us that this place is quite far from attractions we plan to see tomorrow. Then we heat the chicken from KFC up and eat before making the final decision.
Lastly, we have come up with the final decision that we will continue to drive since it is not even midnight yet. Who would have known that this is when I experience the most terrifying situation. My friend is sleeping in the back of the car while I am driving. It is raining now and I am not aware that the water on the road surface will turn into ice and it will make the road very slippery. It occurs to me that the other side of the road seems to be better with less ice coated. So, I decide to drive on that lane right away, as there is no car approaching from that lane this time. However, it is still slippery even with the speed of 50 - 60 km/h. Suddenly, the car starts to swing for almost 180 degree for 4 - 5 times. Stuffs in the car fall out of their places. I try to control the car because I don't want it to slide off the road again but I am totally nervous right now. I put my foot out of the speed control and start to step on the brake control slowly. I know that if I brake the car all of a sudden, the car will swing badly. This also wakes my friend up. She asks me right away, "What happened?" "The road is slippery a bit", I answered. I try to answer her calmly but I am out of my mind actually. I don't think we should drive further so we better find a place to sleep as soon as possible. We have finally found a parking lot of a hotel and we will sleep here tonight.
We have found out in the morning that this is a school or university not a hotel like we thought. We sneak in into the restroom pretending that we are the students here to brush our teeth and wash our faces. Anyway, it is pretty obvious that we are not, since we don't dress like one of them and we are Asian.
This is the parking lot I am talking about.
Then we are heading to Gullfoss Waterfall right away. However, we are attracted to the famous Icelandic horses in the middle of the way.
They are very tame so we can touch them easily. Some of them are even running toward us. Their hairs are also soft.
We are here for quite sometimes. I also let my camera drone fly and expect it to capture the moment these horses run. Guess what! They don't run. They just stand still. We leave this place when there are more and more people coming and stopping by here.
There are 4 - 5 hours only with the daylight in winter in Iceland. As a result, we choose to go to places that good for taking photos only. And today, we are here at Gullfoss. This is actually one of the places we come to Iceland for.
There is a walkway down to get closer to the waterfall, but unfortunately that it is closed today. Therefore, these are photos I can capture from up here. Even though it is pretty far from the waterfall, the water spray is still able to reach us a lot. We need to wipe our camera lens all the time.
The wind is very strong here and the weather is freezing cold. It is cold enough to freeze the battery and stop my camera drone from flying.
There is also another walkway up that will lead you to one amazing corner. This corner is actually more beautiful than the one down below. This walkway is quite long and there is a spot at the edge where it is scary but offer incredible view. I actually want to have my camera drone flown while I am standing at this spot but like I said the battery is too cold. So, I can't help but give up and go back to the car. I have sausages and some snack to ease my hunger. Then I continue to drive on Route 1 since it is getting dark already. I have checked the weather and the sky will be clear at one of the waterfalls area.
My petrol tank is only half full right now. I am kind of worried whether I can find a gas station along the way or not since this is the new route for me.
This dried-fish doesn't taste good at all so please don't buy it. For your information, you can't use your credit card to top up the mobile phone credit here, you need to stop at one of the kiosks and get the ticket to do online top up. I choose to buy 5 GB more data in order to upload my photos, check the whether forecast, and share the Internet with my friend.
Not long after, we have found a gas station finally. Furthermore, please be aware of the speed limit especially when getting into a town! The speed limit is 50 km/h and there is a speed camera as well.
After that, we have found this spot which I think it is a good photo shooting location. We don't hesitate to stop for a photo. This photo looks nice but I want to tell you that the wind is very strong. We get a quick photo shots then run back to the car straight away but run backward though.
I don't really know where the GPS I am after will lead me to. But I have made up my mind, not to think too much. Even though it is getting dark and taking photo might not be as beautiful, I take it anyway. The main reason is that I don't know whether I would have a chance to come back here or not.
I am totally wet getting the photo from right behind the waterfall, the same with my camera.
After taking enough photos, we have decided to stay here because we might be able to see the aurora here tonight. It is already dark now as well.
The sky in this area will be clear from midnight to 3 AM. So, we will kill the time by cooking, eating and sleeping. We have beef today and hamburger is a good choice for cooking. And in the end, It turns out that we sleep from 9 PM - 11.30 PM.