[Finland] Part 1 Turku (April 2014)

To Finland, with love. Yes, I loved you.

First trip out of Asia... Finnair stewardesses were really old. Not that I had an issue, but it's really different from Asian airlines. Couldn't help noticing.

First trip out of Asia… Finnair stewardesses were really old. Not that I had an issue, but it’s really different from Asian airlines. Couldn’t help noticing.

I sat beside a German lecturer/tutor and post graduate student. He was probably my age, if not early thirties. Specialises in international economics or something. One irrelevant fact keeps popping up in my mind though. He was rather huge for the economy seat, and his thigh were held at an acute angle from his upper body. Let’s just say… I’m glad for my size. And oh yes, he threw up from food in Little India. Yes, on the plane, if you were wondering. Within 15 minutes of take-off. He was very considerate though, and asked me very calmly if I had a paper bag in my seat pocket as he couldn’t find his. I thought it was for a possible emergency. I didn’t expect it to be for an immediate and actual emergency. And, oh, it wasn’t that bad, if again, you were wondering. He was really considerate. Even though I bet he felt downright miserable.

Been touring South East Asia I heard, and despite all the food in Cambodia and Vietnam, Singapore was the first place to have given him his stomach upset on that trip. Missed a number of connecting flights too. It sounded like a horrible flight experience, especially for someone like me who has never missed flights.

During my 6 hours transit waiting at the Helsinki airport for the connecting flight to Turku, I spent some time with a Taiwanese girl who was on her way to visit her boyfriend in Norway. When I told her I was single, she reminded me very emphatically that I needed to find a boyfriend. She found hers because she loved the Norwegian language and wanted to learn it. She was caught in a flight delay and missed her transfer flight. So they gave her some food voucher, which she shared with me, and we had a meal (sandwiches, fruits and water) at one of the airport cafes. Then, feeling tired, we went to find a long bench beside a charging station to charge our phones while we napped. Actually, the charger was the reason why we started talking to each other. I lent her my charger because she sounded very flustered  on her phone speaking to her friend (in Chinese) about her flight booking. Her battery was dying. I have already forgotten her name now. And we didn’t leave any contact details.

That is, I think, one of the interesting things about meeting strangers on travel. Sometimes you share many good conversations and events with no expectation of catching up again or even getting anything out of that encounter. And it can be liberating… and very refreshing. But without that awkwardness that came from sharing your contact details and eventually finding out from subsequent communications that there’s no further commonalities between the two of you, and that magical 4-5 hours that you both shared with such abandon sort of faded away amidst socially obligatory words of, how are you and how have you been.

Finally, I appreciate what Jesse and Céline did. Because I totally understand that feeling now and why the best meetings need not have ended with a line for further communication. (ref: Before Sunrise)

In Turku

Walking along the river, behind my hotel in Turku

Walking along the river, behind my hotel in Turku

Stayed in Radisson Blu, Turku. It was a pleasure to stroll around the city. Very cool, nice pace of life. I went to check out their shops and super market.

Empty streets. Weather was perfect though. Cool. 10 degree thereabout.

Empty streets. Weather was perfect though. Cool. 10 degrees thereabout.

Left my luggage in the hotel and sneaked out immediately to take a stroll and to find a supermarket to buy fruits and water, and to explore the life in town. My favourite past time in any city.

Really nice flowers. I love the shop. It's rather quaint.

Really nice flowers. I love the shop. It’s rather quaint.

The supermarket was another 5 mins walk from this I believe. There’s something rather strange about Finland’s bottled water industry though! Everyone buys and sells soda water/carbonated water. Every time I bought back bottles expecting it to be simple mineral water, it ends up being carbonated. They serve the same thing in restaurants and in meeting rooms. Being my first time in Europe, I can’t say if that experience is the same elsewhere. The Finnish are generally very pleasant people though. No fuss, simple guys who are direct and to the point. Pretty good English generally, so there was no difficulty getting around.

300 hectares of personal farm

300 hectares of personal farm

One of the client’s business partners. We had dinner at his farm. A table of say 20 people, with a full formal three course dinner and at least 6 different types of alcohol ranging from champagne, sparking wine, white, red, dessert to whisky. Served by two uniformed attendants in a 100 years old wood-built house. One of the more curious things I remembered was that one of the owner’s daughters, during her wedding, was given a wedding present of 3 cows by her neighbours.

Wine culture

Wine culture

I do have to admit, walking into a restaurant at any corner of the street and finding that every place serves a decent selection of wine to accompany your meal at a very affordable price is a really nice feeling. It’s not something I would typically do in Singapore, and I’m not sure if it’s the pace of life there, or just the weather and the people… but something makes you feel like slowing down your pace, just sipping the wine and enjoying every bite of the food you eat. There is a heightened sense of awareness of living, of people and of the place.

It could also just be the thing about travelling alone and being in a new place. I love that feeling. Turku was peaceful and calm and very much appreciated. I’ll update on Helsinki another day…

Spot the red glove...

Spot the red glove…

Nights, people. Flying out of Turku. (Oh yes, flight was in the afternoon. However, daylight lasted until 8-9 pm when I was there in April.)

My mini plane out of Turku.

My mini plane out of Turku.

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