We flew with Qantas into Beijing from Sydney. Technically we started in Melbourne, but the international leg departed from Sydney. We had tried to get Qantas to let me join the flight in Sydney, instead of flying down to Melbourne, and then back up to Sydney again. But they said no, at least not without paying $1500 to change my ticket.
I studied Chinese in high school, all the way to year 12, though I barely remember any now. I’ve eaten with chopsticks since I was a kid. I just remember chopsticks being in the cutlery drawer with everything else, like the little cake forks you use to eat cake. They’ve always just been there.
I’ve been to Hong Kong a few times, either as a 3 or 4 day stop over going to or from somewhere else, or for around a week with the school band, I played the bass clarinet. But I had never made it to mainland China.
Dad had been interested in going for years. Dad convinced mum to go by organising the trip through an agent with dedicated guides and drivers each day to take us around.
After spending a couple of days in Helsinki I figured I had rested my ankle enough, and I wanted to head a little way out of the city. I installed the local Helsinki public transport app on my phone, and asked Google Maps for directions. Nuuksio (which I still have no idea how it is pronounced) was two busses away. I knew I didn’t want to be trying to get back to Helsinki in the dark, so I set out quite early in the morning, in the dark.
Day 2 was a little different to day 1. The weather was not on our side. Thomas didn’t want to head out until later in the evening to maximise the chances of seeing something. He met me at the hotel around 9:30 and we set off north. The biggest challenge tonight was to find clear skies, and to find them we were driving north.
One of the things I was most eager for on this trip was a chance to see the aurora borealis, or the northern lights. There are also the aurora australis or southern lights that occasionally pop up in the south of Tasmania, but due to geography and physics, they aren’t nearly as strong or prevalent.
When booking the holiday I looked around to find a guide to take me out to hunt the aurora. There were some options for self supported cabins in the far north of Finland, but that seemed a bit much. I found a guide, Thomas, who operated out of a town called Oulu, about halfway up Finland on the coast, that seemed to be a good compromise. I booked two nights, the theory being if we don’t have good weather on one of the nights I would get a second chance the next day.
On our second day in Chiang Mai my sister organised for a Thai cooking lesson. We were picked up from the hotel in a songthaew (or สี่ล้อ / S̄ī̀ l̂x – four wheels). The car did a lap of Chiang Mai picking up other groups are other hotels.
One group got in the back with us. Michael started talking with them and we soon found out they were a family from France, and their father was Greek. They then got on like a house on fire for the rest of the afternoon.