Trip Start Jun 20, 2004
20Trip End Jul 05, 2004
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Waking up at 5.45am, 6.30am breakfast and by 7.30am we were on our coach speeding eastward towards Sweden. Feeling sleepy at 7.30am, I begin to wonder is this really a holiday? we don't get up this early even for work. Oh well, we spend our time dozing off to the bus PA system playing Abba songs. We stopped at the border of Norway and Sweden to get our Tax refunds and exchange all our remaining NOK for SEK.
By lunchtime we have reached Karlstad. Sweden didn't give me a good initial impression. While I waited to get off the bus in Karlstad, our fellow group member, a50 year oldish lady was rudely pushed away by a Swede for blocking his way. Thank god it wasn't Chris. I think I would have lost my cool and start bashing him
Amanda suggested a restaurant for lunch. Some of us went there in search of a free toilet. 5SEK was needed to enter. I wanted to pay to go in but was stopped by the stingy Malaysian man who purposely strolled slowly in order to avoid paying, asked me if it was free. I answered nope and pretended to walk away. The Malaysian foursome upon learning toilets were not free adopted this shameless parasitic tactic to avoid paying. The rest of us in the group would share the cost or take turns paying. When he was gone, I paid and used the facilities. The rest of them shared the free used of the toilet as long as you hold the door. I was gleefully happy that the Malaysians have to hold their bladders. Chris said I was being childish. Oh well, I take a certain pleasure knowing that certain parasites couldn't feed that day. The nefariousness in me wanted to take a photo of them to post it on the Internet. With my new digital camera, I could take photos without care. Sad to say, the saint in me won and I didn't deliberately take their photos.
We decided not to have lunch in the restaurant and settle for McDonalds. It wasn't really 'fast' food over here. The queue moved very slowly. Taking up to 15 minutes to get your orders though
Next stop Orebro. We stopped next to the Orebro Castle for a 20 minutes toilet/legs break. Surprisingly no one smoked in this group. While the rest went shopping (can't believe that they really shopped at every possible opportunity), we went to look around the castle and found the tourist info inside the castle and a small section selling Swedish souvenir. Next to it was a free and clean toilet.
Before heading into Stockholm, Amanda begin telling us that we have to watch out for our wallets and bags in Stockholm. She went on proclaiming that she knew most of the embassies location in Stockholm because she had to accompanied tourists who lost their passport to theft. She advised us to carry only enough cash and stashed everything else in the hotel room's safe. Jesus H. Christ, come to think of it, this is the first time we had a safe in our rooms. As I wondered how could an advance country like Sweden have such problem, Amanda explained that the Swedes 'import' their thieves
We reached Stockholm at 5.15pm. We opted for the Ice Bar and Old Town tour and Amanda took us through the old town highlighting the interesting architect found here and its history. We soon reached the Ice Bar at the Nordic Sea Hotel.
Absolut Ice Bar Stockholm - was a treat even though it was totally gimmicky. The Ice Bar is located in a Hotel and it is simply a freezer room with a bar counter, tables and ice carvings made of ice from the frozen waters of the river Torne in Sweden. The temperature is -5 degrees Celsius in there and you have to wear a eskimoish suit and gloves to protect yourself from the cold. Entrance fee was 125Kr and you are only allowed a maximum of 45 minutes in there.
While waiting for our turn to go in (They have limited Eskimos suits), 4 Americans (2 of them grade school teachers) were trying to figure which part of the world we are from. They didn't make it past the $1000 question when they guessed China.
Damn, I should have printed a few page of Singapore snippets to tell them more about Singapore. I am not offended knowing full well in a big country, one tends to read more about their own news rather than global news
The double doors of the small Ice Bar ensures that the room temperature is kept constant. I ordered my appropriately named cocktail called Aurora Borealis (a tad weak, I suspect it was only half a shot). The drinks, served with glasses made from ice, were cocktails all mixed with Absolut Vodka the only kind of alcohol served here.
Inside Abba was playing again with 'Dancing Queen' and etc. Was it done on purpose for tourists only? Did the local actually do Ice Bar? There were 2 ice carvings - one of a cow and the other a modern art thingy. My hands were nearly numb from not wearing the gloves provided as I was working my Ixus 500 hard. The Ixus worked perfectly well for 30 minutes in minus temperature.
When we came out, I had to rub my hands vigorously to warm it. We were going back to the hotel for dinner.
After dinner, at about 9pm, we walked to the HRC in Stockholm a good 20 minutes away. There we bought a total of 5 T-shirts for friends who had requested us for them. There we saw some Americans from our group and help them chose T-shirts for their children who were about our age (rather they think we are really young). We recommended them going to Denmark to get the cool Copenhagen HRC Tee with Viking ship design instead. We retired for the night after coming back from HRC. It's been a long day.