Geiranger - Trollstigen Scenic Route, Norway
One of the key highlights of the Hurtigruten Norway Cruise was the Geiranger-Trollstigen scenic route. The cruise ship docked near the Geiranger bay, and we had to take a small speed craft to get to shore. The town of Geiranger was packed to the brim with tourists, probably enjoying the unusually warm summer.
The route between Geiranger via Trollstigen to Molde includes one UNESCO World Heritage site (Geirangerfjord), two National Tourist Routes (Geiranger - Trollstigen, and the Aursjøvegen Road) and one "construction of the 20th century" (the Atlantic Road). It is a 200km long stretch of road in a landscape varying from deep and narrow fjords, dramatic snowcapped mountains (in winter), cascading waterfalls and rivers, green valleys, many islands, and the signature Norwegian landscape. The 68km long road between Geiranger and Trollstigen is one of the 18 tourist routes in Norway, and undoubtedly one of the most popular one. Parts of this route is closed in winter, leaving a small window between May and October as the only possible means to visit this place. I suspect the hairpin turns, together with possible snow and avalanches in winter makes this place rather inaccessible.
The route itself consisted of a bus traversing really narrow hairpins along steep slopes. The drive is undoubtedly more dramatic than expected, and what's unique about driving in Norway is that fact that you can see people living almost everywhere. I saw farms even on the narrowest of the mountain ledges, and while many of the earliest settlers and farmers have moved on, a few remain, and bore witness to the changing times, and offered us a glimpse of how things would have been like throughout history.
First Stop. Ørnesvingen or the Eagles Road
Ørnevegen is the name of the eleven hairpin bends that ascend the steep, verdant hillside from Geiranger towards Eidsdal. There's a small waterfall that flows into the lookout and then descends below. At Ørnevegen, you can see the Geiranger town and the fjord leading into it. From here you can also see the famous waterfall “The Seven Sisters” cascading into the fjord.
Between Valldal and Trollstigen, 11 kilometres from Valldal, there's an interesting stop at the viewpoint at Gudbrandsjuvet. Gudbrandsjuvet is a 5 meter narrow and 20–25-metre high ravine through which the Valldøla River forces itself. The ravine is easily accessible from main road route 63 between Valldal and Trollstigen. This is apparently a new lookout point, and since it is along the route, it is ideal for a quick stop.
There is also a back story to this area. According to a story from the 1500s, the ravine was named after a man called Gudbrand, who ran off with his new bride and saved himself from his angry pursuers by jumping over the ravine at its narrowest point. Gudbrand was declared an outlaw for his deeds and lived the rest of his life in a stone hut in one of the side-valleys above Gudbrandsjuvet. The valley is still called Gudbrandsdalen to this day.
Point of interest: the small canyon or high ravine.
Trollstigen, 16 kilometers from Gudbrandsjuvet, is together with Geiranger one of the most visited attractions in Norway. The journey towards Trollstigen was amazing. I was captured by the curvature of the slopes that are carved by the glaciers a long time back. What's unusual was that there were trees along the steep slopes, all the way to the summit. The mountains which encircle the Trollstigen road are enormous, and the landscape changes as we climbed up.... the forests disappeared and were replaced by alpine-like vegetation.
The Stigfossen Waterfall gushes down the mountainside towards the luscious Isterdalen Valley and in the middle of all this, the Trollstigen Road winds its way up the mountainside. At the rest stop, you can take the 15-minute walk to the strategically-placed viewpoint to see the magnificent hairpin route.
The road has a steep incline of 9 percent with 11 hairpin bends as it snakes its way along the steep mountainside at its a highest point, Stigrøra, at an elevation of 858 meters above the sea level. The road brutally twists and turns through the mountainous terrain and drivers can expect rock falls, narrow lanes, steep inclines, and unpredictable weather. The route is at its most dangerous in the dark and wet which make it incredibly challenging to navigate.
It was a fine sunny day when I visited, and it was via a tour, so there wasn't any dangerous driving. If you are coming to Norway, try to make this one of the "to do" for your visit, especially if you are coming in summer. The picturesque landscapes would be all worth it!
MrWildy's personal introduction to Flam, Norway
Flam is located at the head of Aurlandsfjorden, Norway in a truly spectular setting. Honestly, Flam is not that exciting, but what's exciting was the railway leading into Flam, and the Fjord cruise departing from Flam.
As it was summer, and summer was supposed to be packed in Flam, the small village was surrounded by hordes of visitors, who were stuck in the village not knowing where else to go and what else to do.
MrWildy's Tips on visiting Flam, Norway
The Stegastein Viewpoint is easily accessible from Flam via a car or bus ride. With a panoramic view 650 metres above Aurlandsfjord, Stegastein gives an incredible detour from Flam, especially if you are already planning to stay a night at Flam. Stegastein Lookout was specially designed and is one of the most photographed viewpoints in the region, not only for the structure itself but also the fantastic views that it gives.
It is free to get into the lookout but you might need to pay for transportation up onto the viewpoint. You can book a trip from 335 NOK from the tourist office at the city centre.
Guide to Flam Railway or Flamsabana Railway, Norway
The Flam Railway is not going to be expensive, but it's listed as a "to do" in Norway in a Nutshell. And if you are planning to get into Flam and do the Fjord cruise then you should certainly take the Flam Railway into Flam!
Tips to Making the Best of Flam Railway
Fjord Cruise along the Naeroyfjord via Vison of the Fjords
One of the key reasons to visit Flam is to cruise down the Naeroyfjord, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and touted as one of the most beautify fjords of Norway. If you are able to, try to book a cruise via Vision & Future of the Fjordswww.visitflam.com/activities/fjord-cruise-naeroyfjord/.
The two vessels Vision and Future of the Fjords represent a brand-new standard in design and technology. They have been designed to maximise the tourist experience during any kind of weather, with large windows and walkways inspired by the winding trails of steep mountain terrain. Passengers are encouraged to go out on the top deck and enjoy a very different experience compared to traditional passenger vessels. Inside you will find Nordic inspired interior design offering a high level of comfort.
In fact, this was the most comfortable river cruise that I've ever been in, and the large windows on each side allows you to take in the spectacular views of the fjord.
MrWildy's Introduction of Mathallen, Oslo
I made two visits to the Mathallen Food Hall actually. On day 2 of my Oslo trip, I unwittingly chanced upon the food hall. I had such a good experience that we revisited it again on day 3. Mathallen is a good pit stop since it houses the following eateries and shops under one roof (I tried those underlined in red) :
Annis Pølsemakeri - specialised butcher's shop
Atelier Asian Tapas - Southeast Asian street food
Barramon - wine bar with pintxos and Spanish tapas
Bistro Budapest - a taste of Hungarian food and wine
Champagneria Bodega - hams and cheeses, a wine bar with tapas, and an outdoor serving area
Galopin - Shop with french confit, foie gras, cheese, wine and ham
Gutta på Haugen - cheese and cured meats, fruit, vegetables, chocolate and flowers
Hitchhiker - restaurant with street food and drinks from all over the world
Hongs Bao Bao - Dim Sum restaurant serves home made dumplings and won tons
Hopyard - bar with more than 200 types of beer and food inspired by American sub rolls
Kulinarisk Akademi - three kitchens used for food courses and training
Noodles - Asian fast food place with takeaway
Ost & Sånt - Norwegian cheeses, jams and cured meats
Paradis Gelateria - Italian ice cream
Pizzavino - Italian pizza and delicacies
SebastienBruno - chocolates, macaroons and other temptations
Smelt - grilled cheese, juices, smoothies and French baked goods
Smelteverket - 50x5-metre bar and restaurant in the basement
Solberg & Hansen - bar and shop with coffee and tea
Stangeriet - high-quality poultry and related farm products
The Cupcake & Pie Co. - home-made pies and cupcakes
Torget - Bar and foodcourt in the middle of Mathallen, where everyone is welcome to eat their food
Via Italia - Italian food products, many of them organic
Vulkan frukt og grønt - fruit, vegetables, spices, sauces and oils
Vulkanfisk - seafood bar and shop with fresh, cooked, dried and smoked fish
First stop: Paradis Gelateria
The Norway-in-a-nutshell guide brochure was the key reason to why we choose to eat gelato from Paradis Gelateria at Mathallen. They recommended a visit to Mathallen and also to try the gelato from Paradis. As a point of fact, you do not need to come to Mathallen to try the icy sweets from Paradis. Paradis also has an ice cream bar at the Oslo City shopping centre, and at Sørenga. When I arrived, there was a queue of about 4 to 5 persons waiting for their order. It was a sunny day at Oslo, and both locals and tourists alike were in the mood for something to keep themselves cool. The lady manning the counter was the only sole person juggling between taking orders, scooping ice cream and making coffee for the customers, which no doubt added to the waiting time. But everyone, including myself, was happy to wait. I took the team to get familiar with the various ice cream favours. There was the usual fruit sorbets, such as mango, strawberry, etc. The dark black one appealed to me, and upon closer look I realised that it was not black sesame but a branch of chocolate. I ordered that as well as pistachio (pistachio is always delicious) on a waffle. Upon ordering, I realised that it was only a small sweet Belgian waffle, unlike what we can find in Singapore.
Verdict: I found the gelato to be too thick and too sweet. Had to drink lots of water post-gelato.
Negroni and some pinchos
As explained, the gelato got us really parched, and we decided to settle down at Torget where M had his Aperol Spritz while I had my Negroni. I have fallen in love with the citrusy bitter drink since a few moons back, and would try to taste different versions of it as and when I can. A glass of cocktail would easily cost 120 NOR, which is the equivalent of SGD 18.50. Not really that cheap!
There was a nearby eatery offering pinchos, which was something not easy to find in Singapore. A typical snack of the Basque Country and Navarre, "pinchos" consist of small slices of bread upon which an ingredient or mixture of ingredients is placed and fastened with a toothpick, which gives the food its name "pincho", meaning "spike." We decided to have 2 pinchos with our drinks, and ordered from Barramon. The pinchos were delicious and we finished it before we could take any photos! It would have been nice to try the different types of pinchos if they were not too expensive. All in all, the negroni was nice, but not as good as the one I had at Mamma Pizza the day earlier. For the pinchos, they were definitely appetizing.
Duck Confit Sandwich at Galopin
The following day, we decided to return to Mathallen Food Hall, since it was enroute to the famous row of old houses at Damstredet & Telthusbakken. M read about the duck confit sandwiches and wanted to try it. It has also started to rain, hence Mathallen was a natural shelter from the elements of the weather.
We both ordered the same Duck Confit Sandwich with extra meat. I had an additional Orange Wine, which was supposedly a locally-produced wine. The sandwich was amazingly filled with duck confit, and it tasted really good, with the bitter rocket leaves balancing the saltiness of the duck confit. Worth trying it if you happen to be at Mathallen for lunch!
Oslo Opera House
Introduction and background
The Oslo Opera House (Norwegian: Operahuset) is the home of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, and the national opera theatre in Norway. The building is situated in the Bjørvika neighbourhood of central Oslo, at the head of the Oslofjord. It was completed in 2007 and then opened to the public in 2008.
Architecture of Oslo Opera House
The Oslo Opera House (Operahuset in Norwegian) reflects the landscape of Norway and also the aesthetics of its people. The government wanted the new Opera House to become a cultural landmark for Norway. They launched an international competition and invited the public to review the proposals. Some 70,000 residents responded. Out of 350 entries, they chose the Norwegian architecture firm, Snøhetta. Here are highlights of the built design.
a. Connecting Sea to Land: Approaching the house of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet from the harbor in Oslo, you may imagine that the building is an enormous glacier sliding into the fjord. White granite combines with Italian marble to create the illusion of glistening ice. The sloping roof angles down to the water like a jagged chunk of frozen water. In winter, natural ice flows make this architecture indistinguishable from its environment.
Architects from Snøhetta proposed a building that would become an integral part of the City of Oslo. Connecting land and sea, the Opera House would seem to rise up from the fjord. The sculpted landscape would become not just a theater for opera and ballet, but also a plaza open to the public.
b. Walking on the Roof: From the ground, the roof of the Oslo Opera House slopes steeply up, creating an expansive walkway past the high glass windows of the interior foyer. Visitors can stroll up the incline, stand directly over the main theater, and enjoy views of Oslo and the fjord.
c. Marrying Art with Modernity and Tradition: The architects at Snøhetta worked closely with artists to integrate details that would capture the play of light and shadow. Walkways and the roof plaza are paved with slabs of La Facciata, a brilliant white Italian marble. Designed by artists Kristian Blystad, Kalle Grude, and Jorunn Sannes, the slabs form a complex, non-repetitive pattern of cuts, ledges, and textures.
Aluminum cladding around the stage tower is punched with convex and concave spheres. Artists Astrid Løvaas and Kirsten Wagle borrowed from old weaving patterns to create the design.
My Personal Take
The angular shaped facade, mixed with glass and steel, and ramp-like slopes that invites the visitor to move around the buildling creates a casual interaction with the visitors. The building almost invites the visitor to explore the building. At night, the light emanate3s from within, making the Oslo Opera House look almost like a lantern whose reflections are captured in the frigid cold waters.
Tips on Explore Oslo Opera Houes
And the Complete Norway trip starts!
This is the most expensive trip that I have ever paid for in my entire life (up till now). I suppose Norway as a destination is a very expensive place to visit. I will be sharing more about the exorbitant Norway prices later on, but let me insert my itinerary first.
Complete Norway Itinerary (20 Aug to 4 Sep 2019)
A short walk to the Opera House
20 Aug - We arrived at about 2pm with a jetlag, but that didn't stop me from going around the Thon Hotel area to do a little bit of sight-seeing. I was happy that the hotel gave us the top floor with the best view - overseeing the waterfront as well as the city proper. The Opera House itself was filled with hordes of locals and tourists alike, basking in the warm summer sun. The winds were gusty and cold though, and if you look closely at the 360 photo, you will see a lady tourist trying to catch her hat which was being blown away from a sudden strong gust of wind!
Wellaholic’s vision is to help their customers look their best, via the use of technology-based treatments and scientifically-researched supplements. Wellaholic started in 2016, at their first outlet at Lavender. In 2017, they opened our second outlet at Clarke Quay and third outlet at Orchard. They opened our fourth outlet and HQ at Tai Seng in 2019. Their fifth outlet, Tanjong Pagar outlet was opened in July 2019.
This is the stairway leading up to the Wellaholic (TP) outlet. Look at all the lovely paintings and prints!
Tras Street is a street located in Tanjong Pagar in the Outram Planning Area and Downtown Core in Singapore. The road connects Enggor Street and Gopeng Street to Cook Street, and is intersected by Wallich Street.
Tras Street today is lined with many shophouses, many of which are two- and three-storey buildings. These shophouses, some of which are conserved pre-war buildings, are home to shops, eating places, pubs, boutiques and offices. The street is in fact a well-known night spot because of its string of bars.
Regent Hotel Singapore was opened 1988 as The Pavilion Inter-Continental Singapore, converted to Regent and managed by Four Seasons Hotel 1992. Following Regent's takeover by Carlson hotels in 1998, the hotel was rebranded as 'Regent Singapore, A Four Seasons Hotel' to distinguish it from other Regent hotels that were not managed by Four Seasons. Pontiac Land Group, of which the owner of the hotel, and Four Seasons, mutually agreed not to extend the management contract when it expired on 12/31/18. It was originally planned to have the hotel managed by Capella Hotel Group, an affiliate of Pontiac Land Group, yet a management contract with InterContinental Hotels Group was signed whereby the hotel stays within Regent's portfolio.
In March 2018, the InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) announced that it has agreed to buy a 51% majority stake in Regent Hotels for $39 million and hopes to expand the brand's footprints to 40 hotels from the current six hotels.
Under the URA Draft Master Plan 2019, future public housing will be planned around the six former Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) blocks and the iconic courtyard space at Dakota Crescent.
I was driving past the Dakota Crescent area just the other day. The empty playground, with the boarded-up flats stirred something in me, and I decided to make a U-turn and take a look at this small estate before it makes way for another new development, as with the fates of several other aged developments in Singapore.
Dakota Crescent area comprises rental flats previously developed in 1958 by the Singapore Improvement Trust, predecessor to HDB. In 2014, it was announced that Dakota Crescent was to be redeveloped. Residents were able to relocate to a nearby estate of new HDB flats as the flats in Dakota Crescent had aged over time. Like Tiong Bahru, her more famous Singapore Improvement Trust cousin, Dakota Crescent is one of few estates built by HDB’s colonial predecessor to remain. Both estates are relatively low-rise and are located short distances from the city centre but that are where similarities end.
To meet the needs of a growing population, there is always pressure on the government to tear down older developments to create newer and better townships. Notwithstanding, old buildings and architecture embody with them fond memories we carry with us from young. I do remember bussing past Dakota Crescent after my weekend NCC (Land) trainings at the NCC Haig Road Camp (which has also given way to new developments). With the passage of time, I do have difficulties recollecting the ex-buildings that I used to interact with. There used to be a MPH at Stamford Road that I visited after going to the National Library. There was also the Van Kleef Aquarium I went as a young boy.....
For Dakota Crescent, I believe what stirred in me was an empathy, and perhaps a brooding realisation that the passage of time coupled with the quest of modernity will ravage everything; buildings, people and all. And if we can, let's pause and see Dakota Crescent one more time, before it disappears and eventually fade from our memories too.