Friday, July 07, 2017

Budget Trip Across The Arctic Circle

I decided to write about my trip to Finland in search of the aurora borealis because few people believe that I can do it within a budget of SGD4000 (all prices mentioned in this blog are in Singapore dollars). Like May Teng who told her colleague about it and they laughed at her, saying it's not possible, a trip like this will be at least SGD6000. I feel bad about it XD.

Well, so here I am, finished the trip last year in March 2016 with a budget of USD4000. Of course you can do it with a even lower budget but I am talking about a trip with reasonable comfort.

My trip was about 13 days, I spent 4 days in Ivalo, 4 days in Inari and the rest in Helsinki. Traveling with 1 friend.

The most expensive expenditure in a holiday will of course be your air ticket and accommodation. If you can get a reasonably priced air tic and accom, you are halfway there already! I looked for all ways and means for me to get to Ivalo and Inari (2 small towns in north Finland) in the cheapest way. There wasn't much I can do with the air ticket so I booked one on the Finnair website. My air ticket includes the flight to Helsinki, transfer to Ivalo and then from Ivalo back to Helsinki for a short stay and then back to Singapore. The total air fare was SGD1350.

Next would be accommodation.


My first choice was Naverniemi Holiday Center. It looks really pretty and I was looking forward to staying there! But unfortunately there was a double booking and I was informed like a few weeks before departure that I have find another hotel. zzz...

They then referred me to Hotel Kultahippu with a discount. Turned out I really like that hotel and I will recommend it to people.

I checked the original price is $127 (I was lucky to get some discount because of the blunder XD), so a 3-night stay will be about $190.50 after splitting the bill with a friend. That night I was excited to see if I can spot the aurora, but nope I didn't. Lol~ patience! I told myself.

My comfy room~ I love it. After checking in, I went to the hotel recep and asked her how's the cloud situation like tomorrow. She told me there was possibility of a clear night sky!! That was what we want to see the aurora, with the clear sky and some luck, we might just catch it! So we booked an excursion with the hotel. I saw some ads on the notice board, there was an excursion at 99euro for 4 hours! It's a good bargain but unfortunately they stopped this excursion a few months after I came back. So yeah, we booked a field trip~~~

This hotel serves breakfast at 9 euro. It's a steal considering the breakfast was a buffet and the food was nice, well at least to me, taste is subjective. Yummy breakfast!!

Ok I admit the photos aren't that appetizing but it really wasn't bad. Kekeke.... There was also bread and biscuits, coffe and tea etc.

The first activity for the day was visiting the Wild Spirit Park~ It sounds like some mystical, huge place with exotic animals, but really it is just a small park taken care by a few people. But do not judge it! Tho it's small, it was totally worth a visit. So anyway I checked with the hotel recep on where to get the bus and I was told to go to this cute little tiny bus stop.

Yeap, this is a bus stop. But I made a mistake, I didn't ask what time the bus will arrive. >< I took for granted that buses arrive frequently like inn Singapore but nooooooo.... I waited about an hour for it. The bus ride was 3 euro or so for the 10 minute ride, pretty expensive huh. 

And then more bad luck to come, I was told that the Wild Spirit Park opens at 10am but when I got there around 11:30am, it was closed. >.> Apparently they had some stuff going in there, husky sledding I think, and the opening time was delayed to 1pm. I was in a dilemma to go back first or wait. But then the bus comes only once per hour so we decided to just wait it out. And shoot MVs, make snowmen, take photos... while waiting. My advise is to email or FB message the park to check on their opening hours.

This is a 'doorbell', kekeke, pretty cute, I knocked on it many times to check on the opening time but no one came. Like I said, this place is taken care by a few people so when they are busy with an activity, no one tends the gate.

Tried making a snowman but it's a failure lmao...

So yeay at 1pm finally it opened!!

This park is only available with guided tours so you can't simply just wander about yourself. I would love to explore on my own though, too bad I can't. The entrance fee was only 8euro.

Look at this pretty arctic fox! I love their pretty eyes ^^.

Wild boars, they don't look big here but they are like GIGANTIC. Like.. seriously...


Ok, point made. I also get to feed the boars with bread. :D

The guide, Tiina, then led us to this small hunting cottage which she has already warmed up with a stove and some brewed some tea.

 Then of course they have lots of huskies in the farm! Huskies are sooooo lively and active. I have never seen them like this before. I guess the hot weather in Singapore made them lazy. They are so super active over there, whinig (yes whining!) and barking to catch your attention!

Huskies are so trusting like everyone is their friend. They wag their tails and jump around when people walk near them. XD I fell in love with huskies after the trip!

There are more animals in the park but I shall stop here cuz I don't wanna make my blog a kilometer long. lol~

After the visit, we took a bus back. Fortunately this time we didn't wait long. Took only like 15 minutes for it to come. kekeke~

Back at the hotel, we took a break, went to the supermarket to get lunch and strolled a bit. I know, I know, lunch at supermarket? Yeap, part of my budget trip includes lunch from supermarket.

 I love these salad bars in the Finnish supermarkets. I always have them for lunch over there. You take a plastic bowl, fill it up with whatever you want, weigh it and pay at the cashier. It was very efficient. Like I can choose my preferred veg, instead of buying a bag of veg and end up not being able to finish. This is a much better solution. You take what you can eat.

And then you can grab a condiment for like 40cents and croutons for... I forgot how much.

Yeah that basket over there was mine. XD

Salad and some bread, my lunch was about 6 euro.

420km from Nordkapp. I have half a mind to one day visit Nordkapp~ lol but it's quite inaccessible. The thought of going to the northernmost tip of Europe is tempting though.

Finally night falls! And our guide for our aurora hunting field trip starts!!! We were extremely lucky because it was a cloudless night. And of the 6 nights I stayed there, we only had like 1 clear cloudless night. Cloudless night is the key to seeing aurora. I will write another post about aurora hunting and tips I received from locals.

When I was waiting for the bus, a kind waiter told me 'aurora' and pointed out the window. And then I saw it right at our hotel, this thin streak of aurora vertical across the sky!!!! OMGGGG It was my dream come true. The bus soon came and we quickly scrambled on. The guide was hyped too and the bus dashed off this this superb location for aurora viewing. I came to know the place we watched aurora was called the 'money lake' lol. The guide told us we have to get away from the city lights to see it clearly. While in the bus I nervously stalked that green streak of aurora, afraid that it will just vanish suddenly.

Then we reached Money Lake, which was frozen, and was welcomed by a display of aurora! There were some clouds when we got there so the lights were not at their full glory yet but still!!! Those tourists in our bus starting squealing and cheering and shouting 'YESSSSSS'. I heard from the guide they drove all the way to Norway last night but there was no luck. So today was a lucky day!!

Here is a pic of it, with some clouds, not many of them fortunately.

In case you are wondering, this photo wasn't taken by me. LOL~ the guide took it and send them to all of us. Told ya it was a good deal for 99euro.

We stayed there for a very long time since our trip was supposed to be 4 hours. So like after an hour, the little clouds start to clear and and gave us a full clear sky.

It was so pretty.. it doesn't seem real, it was surreal.

Those 2 person in the photo isn't me, lol, I posted this pic cuz I like the lights behind.

The lights kept moving and changing shapes, it was mesmerizing, I couldn't take my eyes off it. And some dude actually lay on the snow to watch it. It was so cold tho.. like... seriously cold I can't feel my hands.

One of our guides, I think he was the driver, started making sausages and brewing tea.

Holding a cup of warm blueberry juice and munching sausage under the aurora, am I in heaven???

After about 3 hours, we left, the aurora was still on display but time's up! We had to head back. It was so sad to leaveeeeeeeeeeeeee T______T

Me and my friend~ and that lady who spoilt the picture!!! zzzz....

That night we rested early cuz we are gonna husky sledding the next day~~ I was looking forward to it so much! We booked this package online, 4 hours sledging including lunch for 182euro. Pricey I know but I think I want to have longer sledging hours because it's once a lifetime experience and I really love dogs.

For this package you get to 'drive' the sledge to the destination and then your friend will 'drive' it back. The drive to the destination was longer than the return trip. My friend was scared to drive at first, she told me she can't do it and the dogs might run amok and we will both fall from the sledge. So in the end I did the first drive.

The dogs queuing up, ready to run. Now some of you might think this is cruelty to the dogs but you should see how excited they were when they were selected to be in the run. It's like they can't wait to run and they kept tugging at the sledge, getting all hyped.

After a brief lesson from the guide, we all get on the sledge, stepping on the brakes. Even with the brakes on, the dogs were pulling the sledge so hard, it was starting to inch forward.

My friend comfortably sitting while I prepare to 'drive'. The driver can't take any photos unfortunately, you need to have both hands on the sledge, so I left all the photo taking to my friend.

Of we go!!! 

Husky sledging was super fun! I really feel that everyone should try it, it's a once in a lifetime experience. Enjoy the cool breeze while you wheeze past the trees and watching the dogs run and poop at the same time, it's quite a sight!!

After sledding for about an hour, we arrived at this small area with a tent, the guide will be cooking lunch for us while we walk around, playing with the tired huskies.

IDK if this particular cutie is trying to do what huh. Putting his paw on me like... don't gooooo. lol

Our lunch was reindeer meat sausage soup with potatoes, I must admit it tasted really good! Or maybe I was too hungry from the drive. XD

We changed hands on the trip back, it was Peijia's turn to drive. XD but the return trip was shorter, only about 30min. She overcame her fear of driving the sledge and enjoyed herself thoroughly~ Unfortunately the return trip was much shorter so she kinda regretted not driving first. XD ok ok, there will be a chance again for you since you fly to Finland so often. Kekeke....