#6monthstravel – Start of an epic journey – Iceland


Me at Stokkur geysir
Me at Stokkur geysir

It’s been a dream of mine to be able to travel the world for an extended period instead of just the usual 2-3 weeks holiday that I have been taking as annual leave from work. While many may think 2-3 weeks is a long time to be away, I feel it is never enough to experience the many places in the world that I want to visit. Many people do a gap year in their younger years after finishing school and some even go further on to traveling for a few years and funding themselves through finding short-term work opportunities or odd jobs in different countries. I haven’t had the luxury and opportunity to afford that in my younger years, and I have come to a point in my life that I can and I decided to take that chance.

I initially wanted to travel for a year, but having given it a thought, a year might seem too long for me to get back to reality of working and living what most people consider a normal life. While it is true that I do desire to lead a more adventurous and spontaenous life, part of me wants the routine and knowing what to do the next day. I think a good compromise I made was to do 6 months travel. That way, it is long enough to experience traveling for an extended period, yet not too long that coming back to where I used to live becomes too much of a culture shock all of a sudden.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to talk to my boss and for him to allow me to travel for the last 6 months. Of course, I wasn’t getting paid for this period, and it also took some discussions from the management before they agreed to it, but at least my employer decided to keep my position for me, and I definitely had a job to get back to.

That said, I had a few places in mind that I wanted to see, and things that I wanted to do during this period. To start off my list, the very first item was to run in the Reykjavik Half marathon and see Iceland. And here is what happened:

ICELAND (16 Aug – 21 Aug 2016):
Keflavik International Airport (16 August):

Keflavik International Airport
Keflavik International Airport

The airport arrivals area was surprisingly very chaotic! I thought I had landed in a small airport with not that many incoming flights, but it turns out that it is one of the low-cost hubs for flights into Europe from North America! They now have so many flights arriving from different parts of the US, Canada and across Europe, and they only have 3 baggage carousels at arrivals! It felt like a small warehouse-turned-baggage claim area. Though it seems that they are expanding the airport to cope with the demand, I think they have not managed the expansion very well.

Harpa Concert Hall
Harpa Concert Hall

I took the Flybus shuttle to get into downtown Reykjavik. The travel time from Keflavik airport  to downtown Reykjavik is roughly 50mins, through the lava fields of Reykjanes peninsula. Flybus was good, they have free wifi onboard, and when one bus is full, they immediately had another bus arriving to take passengers to downtown Reykjavik. On arrival at BSI bus terminal at downtown Reykjavik, those with a Flybus Plus ticket were asked to board a smaller shuttle to their respective hotels and hostels.

I arrived in the evening and after having taken 4 flights in 40 hours just to get from Sydney to Reykjavik, I was feeling so tired. I was also hungry, so I had to fight my tiredness to find a place to eat. I ended up choosing to have dinner at Messinn. But before I could have dinner, I was asked to wait 30mins for a table. I decided to go down the road to check out Harpa concert hall, which is this impressive glass crystal-shaped building and is their version of the Opera House.

I was shocked at the prices in Iceland, I spent nearly $50 for a meal and drink and it wasn’t even a posh or expensive restaurant! After dinner, I was so tired from the long journey that I went straight to bed.

Day 2 – Golden Circle tour


I started the day with a quick breakfast at Kaffitar, across the road from Loft Hostel. It’s like the Icelandic version of Starbucks, but still the food I found was rather expensive! A ham and cheese croissant and coffee costs AU$18, which is too much for a coffee chain like that! I guess I really have to just adjust to the exorbitant food prices in Iceland!

I had pre-book a tour with Reykjavik Excursions, as they had a discount special for marathon participants. The pickup by Reykjavik Excursion from near the hostel was late, but good thing the tour bus that we were going on waited for us at the BSI bus terminal.

Our tour guide was Helga. She was really good and knowledgeable about Iceland and Reykjavik and was very accommodating. The drive took us through some of the stark but beautiful lava fields that dot the island and covered with lots of ancient moss.

Our first stop was a greenhouse that grew tomatoes all year round – a novelty for a place like Iceland that has a harsh climate and terrain. It was called the Fridmar Greenhouse and they had some items for sale to try out their fresh tomato produce. I tried the tomato soup that they sold and it was really hearty and good!

Fridmar Greenhouse
Fridmar Greenhouse

Next stop was the geysers, where the geyser “Geysir” used to be. Geysir has stopped putting on a show for a few years now and the famous one now is just next to it called Stokkur. Stokkur is quite active and seems to erupt every 5-10mins. Around the area are lots of hot pools and small geysers, with a larger one just around the corner from Stokkur (but not as active as Stokkur)

Stokkur Geysir
Stokkur Geysir

After Geysir, we went to Gulfoss. The view was amazing! The falls, though not tall or wide, was spectacular to look at and you can either do the walk above for a panoramic view or walk down to get up close to the waterfall. It was a great experience to do both and get wet with the splashes near the falls.

Gulfoss - up close
Gulfoss – up close

After Gulfoss, the tour went to drop some of us off at Fontana wellness spa in Laugavatn, which is by the shore of a lake that also has some thermal activity. The spa has a few thermal pools as well as steam baths and sauna facilities. But before we were let into the spa, a guide took us to the shores of the lake to show us how they make bread by burying them in the hot sands of the lake. It looked similar to what the Maoris in New Zealand do with the hangi. The spa and sauna was a great relaxing stop for the day, and we spent nearly 2 hours just chilling in the wellness complex.

Fontana Wellnes Spa
Fontana Wellnes Spa

Our tour finished at Thingvellir National Park, the area where the first parliament session in the world occurred when the leaders from different sections of Iceland gathered to pass laws. The national park is also where you can see the North American and Eurasian plates meet. It’s one of the most important sites in Iceland, one that the nation holds a lot of pride.


Overall, it was a great day exploring the Golden Circle of Iceland. It showcased the important places that Iceland is known for, and gives a glimpse of the beautiful scenery that the country has to offer. More on the rest of my trip to Iceland in the next post..

The Golden Road to Samarkand

The Romance of the Silk Road

Shah-i-Zinda Samarkand

Samarkand – the name conjures romantic images of the ancient Silk Road that stretched from China all the way to Europe. It was the subject of a famous poem by English poet James Elroy Flecker. It was at the heart of one of the mightiest kingdoms of Asia in the Middle Ages, a crossroads between East and West. But where in the world is Samarkand?

If you have not heard about Samarkand, it is not a lost mythical city, it does exist and is still called by the same name today. In case you’re wondering, Samarkand is a city in Uzbekistan, a nation that was part of the former Soviet Union and is now an independent Central Asian nation. Uzbekistan is a landlocked nation that is bordered by the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.

Not many tourists consider Uzbekistan as a destination, unless they are familiar with the Silk Road, the kingdom of Tamerlane (Amir Timur) or fascinated with Soviet architecture. But to those who do, they will be rewarded with amazing edifices built with intricate mosaic patterns and in a grand way.

What is there to see in Samarkand?

Continue reading The Golden Road to Samarkand

Across Russia on the Trans-Siberian railway – Vladivostok (Part 1)

Across Russia on the Trans-Siberian – Vladivostok (Part 1)

Part 1 – The Beginning : Vladivostok

Vladivostok Train Station sign
Vladivostok Train Station sign

The longest rail journey in the world – the Trans-Siberian railway. It crosses 8 timezones and covers almost the entire breadth of the biggest country in the world, Russia. The classic route from Moscow to Vladivostok or vice versa have been a thing of many travellers’ imagination from all over the world. The vast land with varying landscapes of steppes, taigas and the odd small town found every now and then along the way is one that draws people in, but more importantly, the experience of being in the midst of ordinary Russians, watching them go about their daily life as the train passes by is more of the adventure that travellers are after.

Continue reading Across Russia on the Trans-Siberian railway – Vladivostok (Part 1)

Photoblog: Temples of Bagan

The Temples of Bagan are a compilation of thousands of ancient temples spread over the vast plains along the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar (Burma). It’s been applied to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is easily accessible from the town of Nyaung Oo (Nyaung U). To get there, you can fly from Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon to the town of Nyaung U, which is around 15-20 minutes away by car from the temples of Bagan.

While these temples have not yet been listed officially by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, the sheer number of 3,000 temples strewn across the plains is a sight to behold. Many of the temples date back to 11th Century, with many of them containing ancient frescoes and impressive statues of Buddha.
Continue reading Photoblog: Temples of Bagan

Chasing the Northern Lights

The Northern Lights

Northern Lights in Lapland, FInland
Northern Lights in Lapland, FInland

Aurora Borealis – a.k.a. “Northern Lights” -is one that is in many people’s bucket list these days, and one can understand why. It is one of nature’s most awe-inspiring light displays, caused by the collision of the sun’s solar flare particles and the earth’s magnetic field that produces these beautiful light displays around the polar regions. In the northern hemisphere, it is called “Aurora Borealis”, and it is called “Aurora Australis” in the southern hemisphere.

Due to the latitude and availability of accessible land mass in the region where this phenomenon occurs, the Aurora Borealis is much easier to see than its southern counterpart, the Aurora Australis. Countries like Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Canada and the US state of Alaska are the best places to spot the Northern Lights.
Continue reading Chasing the Northern Lights

World’s Whitest Beach

World’s Whitest Beach?

Hyams Beach Jervis Bay
Hyams Beach Jervis Bay

If you thought you saw the whitest sand in the world somewhere in the Caribbean, Asia or the Pacific, perhaps you ought to read this. It’s not quite in any of the tropical paradise that most people would associate a nice white sand beach to. I never thought that a world record existed for the World’s Whitest Beach or World’s Whitest Sand, but it apparently is in the Guinness Book of World Records. I really wonder I recently came back from a short trip over Easter, and this is how I found out about the record. As you can tell, I love spending time on the beach. My dream is to own a house by the beach, where I can just walk out of my backyard and step into some fine white sand beach. Thus, I was extremely curious when someone told me about the world’s whitest beach!

Continue reading World’s Whitest Beach

Land Divers of Pentecost Island

The Original Bungy Jumpers

Land Diver (Nagol) Vanuatu
Land Diver (Nagol) Vanuatu

Bungy Jumping, as we know it today, has its roots from the most unusual place in the world. It’s been practiced for way longer than when AJ Hackett invented the adrenaline-pumping experience that many people come to know. Bungy jumping did not come from New Zealand. The original idea can be traced from the Melanesian islands of Vanuatu (formerly called New Hebrides).

The tropical islands of Vanuatu is renowned for its magnificent diving, very friendly people and the more than a dozen active volcanos that dot its country. Most tourist visit the islands for its rugged mountains, tropical forest and well-preserved and rich marine life. But there is one unique thing that only few people have come to know – Vanuatu is home of the land divers (called Naghol or N’gol in the local language).

Continue reading Land Divers of Pentecost Island

Welcome to the new Fabulous Journeys!

Glass Igloo Hotel Finland Aurora Borealis

To our fans and followers of Fabulous Journeys.net – our website has suffered a setback and we’re trying to recover all the fabulous travel tips for you as soon as we can.

We’re still reconstructing the website to be a better one for you, so watch this space! 🙂