Freezing in Rovaniemi, Finland

Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland, November 2021.

It was early in the morning, around 8AM, and all my female hostel roommates are still sound asleep at the female wing of Hostel Koti. I have been prepping and moving silently like a kitten so that I would not wake them up. We all slept so late because we tried to see the Aurora Borealis by some lake, but failed. But I want to see the sunrise this time.

After showering, dressing up, and preparing the green tea that I will bring outside, I decided to eat two of my energy bars for breakfast. At first I was thinking of going back to McDonald’s Rovaniemi, but it was a little far from my location.

Dammit, I don’t think I have concrete plans today.

I spontaneously looked at Google Maps and saw that there was this Angry Birds Activity Park by the river, so I decided to take a walk and go there. Damn, it was a cold morning.

It was very beautiful to see the golden rays of the sun shine at the white frozen river and snow-covered surroundings. It was very beautiful to see people taking a walk, having runs, walking their dogs, and appreciating nature. I have read a couple of books about Finnish culture and how they are very much into nature, and I find it amazing that they can casually go outside in the cold just exactly how I do it in the Philippines. It was -16 degrees Celsius that day and my whole body was freezing.

Rovaniemi, Finland
Rovaniemi, Finland

I reached the Angry Birds Activity Park and it looked like a life-sized Angry Birds game! I only found out recently that Angry Birds originated from Finland, and the Finnish people must be so proud of it becoming a worldwide hit when it first came out as a mobile application/game. I took silly selfies around the corner. Then I got an Instagram DM.

It was the guy from last night, one of my hostelmates who went to try to see the Aurora Borealis with us. He was asking about my plans for the day (I am planning to see the Arctic Museum), and he asked if he can join me.

I sent him the link to my location, the Angry Birds Activity Park, and we went to the museum together.

Rovaniemi is so beautiful, and I still can’t believe I made it to Finland.

“That’s where the tourists go”

Whenever visiting a new place, chances are, you will end up asking people for recommendations on spots to visit where they will name a couple of them followed by “That’s where the tourists go”. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2016)

After having lunch at the food court of Pavilion KL, my college classmates and I hailed a cab to Merdeka Square. We are staying in an Airbnb at the KLCC area, so it took us a while to get there, plus there was a traffic jam.

Our cab driver dropped us off in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and said, “There, that’s where the tourists go” while pointing at the Merdeka Square and the museums surrounding it.

I remembered specifically requesting my classmates to visit museums because I need to get some information for a paper on Southeast Asian Art that I was then writing for grad school. I am pretty sure they don’t like it but said yes anyway.

We met another classmate for dinner at Jalan Alor in Bukit Bintang where a lot of street food stalls are located. He asked me, “Ano, Sher, okay ka na sa museums mo?” (“So, Sher, were you able to do your museum thing?) That’s how I confirmed it. Everybody wants something else that afternoon, but they went to the museums with me anyway.

What the actual fuck. I’m not traveling with other people again.

Jakarta, Indonesia (2019)

After attending an academic event at Surabaya in East Java, I decided to sleep on a friend’s couch because I wasn’t feeling well and I can’t die alone inside my hotel room just in case (sometimes I play the ‘worst case scenario’ game like how Randall and Beth do it on This Is Us).

Naturally, I asked her for recommendations on where to go, and she told me that I can take the train to Kota Tua, and Cafe Batavia is “where the tourists go”. She added that it’s a very touristy cafe, therefore the food is expensive.

Jakarta, Indonesia
Jakarta, Indonesia

This time I did not mind visiting the cafe. It has a colonial vibe, old, rustic interiors, and damn, the toilet is so selfie-friendly. The nasi goreng I had was one of the best. I also had the most expensive coconut juice, ever. It was a lovely day.

Sherlyn @ 30 (in Serbia)

Of all places, I found myself celebrating my 30th birthday in Serbia. This is wild.

There’s no better way to compensate for my stupidity over missing my bus from Sarajevo to Belgrade than to (1) hire a private car (for 180 fucking Euros), (2) stay in a 4-star hotel, and (3) go book shopping.

No, I’m kidding. Actually, I’m not. I should be punishing myself for messing up my itinerary and wasting a couple of Euros, but instead I ended up spending more.

It’s my 30th birthday in a few hours and I don’t want to be hard on myself, just for a day.

While carrying my 2 huge-ass luggages and a backpack on my way to my lovely hotel, I passed by this very nice Mexican restaurant and promised myself to get some burrito before I go sightseeing. After checking in at my room (and having my usual self-prepped welcome drink aka a hot decaf flat white), I took a short break by settling down while casting episodes from The Office on the TV screen.

I went to take a walk outside, and apparently my hotel is located by Knez Mihalova Street, the most popular street in Belgrade. There were high-end shops and fast fashion boutiques, and the bright Christmas lights illuminate the whole area. There are also a bunch of bookstores, and you know what happened next.

I went book shopping. Oh of course, I did. And as promised, I went to that Mexican restaurant to have the most delicious burrito I had in my life. You can fucking customize your burrito there. Oh my God. Happy birthday to me.

Do you know that feeling you feel after shopping? Something like ‘oh-shit-my-money-i-did-it-again’ feeling? I felt that. After going back to my hotel, I continued streaming The Office episodes (this time I queued all the Christmas episodes) and started browsing McDonald’s menu. Damn, Serbian McDonald’s has an awesome menu selection. I need a cake for my birthday salubong, so I was eyeing for the iconic McCafe cheesecake. I also went to search the nearest convenience store because I needed a lighter to light my 3 and 0 candles (because, 30).

I went out of my hotel only to find out that there was a grocery right at the corner of the street. I ended up not going further because it had everything I needed: a lighter, cheesecake, Greek salad, Coke Zero, Lay’s, and a large bottled water.

I went back to take photos inside my lovely old rose-themed aesthetic hotel room and celebrated my birthday all by myself.

Never, ever, in my wildest dreams, I will find myself celebrating my 30th birthday in Belgrade, Serbia. Life is lovely. Life is wild. Life is full of surprises and I’m looking forward to be surprised a lot in the next decade of my life.