Recently in Europe Category

Europe Pics


I have finally uploaded a few pictures from my trip to Finland and Vienna. I haven't had time to write many comments yet, but you can look through them in my Pictures of Europe Photo Gallery.

In general, though, I felt fairly uninspired as I looked through my photos yesterday. I took over 100 photos over my week there, but had trouble finding ones suitable for posting. Usually in Asia, I have the opposite problem of having too many pictures to post. Was it because I did a bad job of taking pictures this time? Or that Finland and Vienna just weren't as photographically inspiring to me as Asia? Or, is Thailand inherently more photogenic? Hmmmm....

Well, last night turned out to be a fun evening on the town. After a quick disco-nap I headed out to sample the Vienna nightlife. It was fairly mellow, but friendly. I met a lot of people from all over the world: America, France, Slovenia, Switzerland, and a big group from the Phillipines who adopted me for the evening.

This morning, I got up as early as I could and ran back down to the Inner Stadt to take the pictures that I had missed the weekend before. Unfortunately, the crowds were already there when I arrived, so the pictures weren't as good as what I saw last weekend, but I still think they were ok. Maybe I can post them here this weekend.

I also had a chance to walk through the Naschmarkt ("Farmer's Market"). I wish I had time to explore it more, as well as a bigger stomach to hold more of the amazingly wide selection of delicious smelling International food that can be found there.

So now it's time to go back to Bangkok and face a big pile of work that I have been able to ignore this week. It's been a very educational trip and productive trip, both professionally and personally. Professionally, the conference in Finland helped me a lot on my future PhD plans. Personally, I feel lucky to have the chance to explore my Western Civ roots a little more. (I have to admit that I appreciate those roots a lot more now that I have lived in Bangkok for two years!)

It's been a wonderful weekend in Vienna. As opposed to the almost-surreal solitary Sunday morning walk last weekend, I have now seen the other "real life" side of the city.

When I was here last weekend, I stopped by the hotel reservation center at the airport. They offered me a room in the city center for 75 euros, which seemed outrageously expensive to me. (Remember, I'm used to paying about 15 euros in Thailand!) I told them that I didn't need to be downtown, so they could just give me something near the train. I meant the subway, but they found me a hotel near the Westbanhoff train station. In any case, it was only 35 euros and very close to the subway as well. Not too bad.

Since I was over on the west side of town, I woke up early, had breakfast at the hotel and walked over to Schloss Schonbrunn, the huge palace built in 1700 and renovated and extended by Maria Theresa in the 1740s. The palace and grounds were lavish, to say the least, and I enjoyed walking around and learning how 300 years of Austrian rulers lived.

In the afternoon I took the subway over to the opposite side of town to visit famous Ferris Wheel at the Prater and the huge United Nations headquarters on the other side of the river. (Someone told me that Vienna has the third largest UN presence in the world, behind New York and Geneva.) There really wasn't much to see near the UN, other than the scenic (but not very Blue) Danube River, so I went to a river beach for a quick swim.

So between my legs and the excellent subway, I have seen a wide section of Vienna. Needless to say, I'm exhausted. But, I want to see a little nightlife too, so I think I'll go out tonight...

I have been spending the last two days walking around Vienna and seeing the sights. Internet cafes are hard to come by, and a bit expensive, so I will not write much now. Not to mention every keyboard has the y and the z keys reversed and almost all of the punctuation keys in different places. Makes it verz difficult to tzpe quicklz and correctlz!

Tomorrow I head back to Bangkok, so I guess I better get back out on the street to see a few more things before the sun goes down. I'll fill in the details later...

"Thai" Perspectives on Finland


The conference has occupied most of my time in Finland so far, but now I have a little break and can talk about my experiences here.

One of my first impressions of Finland was to wonder where all the people were. I realized that now my perspective is based on my life in Thailand, so I see Finland as being very quiet and very sparsely populated. When people-watching here, I can't help but compare the Finnish people to Thai people. In that comparison, Finns come across as being polite, but distant, perhaps to the point of being cold. I don't really know how to describe their body language, except to just throw out adjectives such as reserved, stotic, unemotional, determined, and resigned.

It seems that the people have personal philosophies of "rational pessimism". The expressions on their faces often look like they are saying. "Life is hard. Deal with it." I guess this is because of the long, dark winters. In any case, it doesn't look like they are a very happy people.

On the other hand, perhaps it seems this way because I am used to the mai bpen rai and smiling faces of the Thai people, who definitely look like they are loving every minute of their lives. And I don't mean to say that Finnish people are not nice. In fact, everyone has been very polite and hospitable. I just wouldn't ever use the word "chatty" to describe the people here.

As far as the food goes, it has been very good, but again I don't really know how to describe it. I am not really sure what "Finnish" food really is, but all of our meals have been somewhat the same: Salad with lettuce, carrots, bell peppers, and tomatoes. The main course is a starch (rice or potatoes), a meat and a thick cream sauce or gravy. Dessert is usually some kind of berry cake/pie/pastry/mouse. For some reason I have been incredibly hungry the last few days and I am eating like crazy. I hope I don't gain too much weight!

The first night of the conference, the town of Joensuu threw us a little party at their visitor's center / city museum, where they served us a buffet dinner. Last night we were driven a little bit outside of town for another buffet dinner. Last night's entertainment consisted of a group of men showing us what it was like to be a lumberjack in Finland's recent past. They demonstrated their skills in chopping wood and in log rolling. The last event was especially fun to watch the as the man and boys balanced on floating logs in the middle of the river. More often than not, they ended up in the cold water as we cheered.

Helsinki Afternoon: Tex-Mex and Finn Beer

Another layover in another city means that I can do some more exploring. This time, I have just flown to Helsinki and will take the train to Joensuu later tonight. But for now, I am free to see the sights.

Unfortunately, though (as I expected), there aren't very many sights to see. Let me just say that the highlight was going to a public swimming pool and swimming a few laps, and sitting in the sauna and steam rooms. It was very refreshing after so much walking in Vienna this morning plus 13 hours of flying time so far.

The other highlight was eating at a Tex-Mex restaurant. Yes, I know it sounds silly to fly to Finland for a burrito, but as soon as I saw the place, I couldn't resist. I washed it down with a Finn beer, if that makes it a little more authentic (or more wierd, take your pick).

So I left Bangkok last night, spent the morning in Vienna and now the afternoon in Helsinki. It's been quite a trip so far, but I won't arrive at my final destination until tomorrow morning when my train will arrive in Joensuu.

Morning Layover in Vienna

There was no way I was going to spend my five hour layover in Vienna sitting in the airport. No offense to the airport, but once I found out that the city was only 15 minutes away by train, I practically sprinted to the station.

It took me a while to figure out the train system and the routes, but soon enough I found myself in centuries-old Vienna on a bright, cool Sunday morning. I spent the next 4 hours wandering the streets and marvelling at the architecture. I was all alone, sharing the streets with only a few pigeons and a random youth or two stumbling home from a night of partying.

The city was eerily quiet. It was so quiet, in fact, that every hour I could hear not only one church bell ringing the hours, but usually three or four different churches. To add to the ambiance, the sun was slowly rising and was casting a beautiful yellow glow on the surrounding history. It was a very special experience.

But, after 4 hours, I started to get hungry. Apparently Vienna has hundreds of cool little sidewalk cafes and apparently exacty zero of them are open on Sunday morning. I could only find one place in the entire city to eat -- and again I hate to admit it -- but my first meal in Austria was at McDonalds. Sigh.

Now, it's time to fly to Helsinki...

Europe Bound


In a matter of hours I will be on a plane over... India? Russia? Who knows. I'm definitely excited for the trip and looking forward to attending an interesting conference. I don't know if I will be able to make updates to this website as I go, but I will defintely be keeping notes and I will fill in all the gaps when I return.

As I have mentioned here a few times, I am working like a dog (and feeling like a lowdown soi dog) but it's all good, because I have an exciting week ahead of me (even though the week ahead has been part of the problem).

I'm not sure if I mentioned it here before, but this weekend, I am flying to Finland. I made it official yesterday by plunking down the 35,000 baht for the ticket. Ouch. Why Finland? To attend a geeky conference called the International Conference for Advanced Learning Technologies, or ICALT 2004 for short.

Leaving my classes for a week has caused an incredible amount of extra work for me. Once the trip was approved by my boss' boss' boss, I had to 1) send a letter to Personel to tell them I wouldn't be clocking in and out every day, 2) use the school website to reserve rooms for one class, 3) talk to the computer center to reserve the lab room for the other class, 4) write a letter to my boss to tell him my makeup class times, 5) fill out 2 separate forms for each of the 6 classes I will be cancelling/making up. (The amount of paperwork that is needed in this country amazes me sometimes.) All of those things are, of course, in addition to all the other things I have to do like booking a flight and finding hotels.

But now, everything is set (I think). Finland, here I come!

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Europe category.

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