Subscribe RSS

Tag-Archive for "Trip report"

Trip report from Iceland Jun 30

Gard_Nikki_Langjokull_glacierNikki and I went to Iceland in May 2016! We stayed in Reykjavik and used that as a base to see a bit of south Iceland including Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, Seljavallalaug, Blue Lagoon, Gullfoss and geysers. But we also did some more action packed activities like snorkeling in the ice cold glacier water at Silfra, we went into the Langajokull glacier and we took a lift to get into an old and dormant volcano! We also got to test out a bit of the Icelandic cuisine including horse and whale meat but also puffin! Read the trip report with photos, links and maps on the homepage. Here is the Iceland trip report! Get in touch if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to answer. You can reach me on gardkarlsen @ .

Gard – trip reports and pictures

Category: Travel  | Tags: , ,  | Leave a Comment
Trip report from Myanmar Sep 24

My wife and I went to Myanmar in July 2015. We got to check out Yangon, the amazing temple zone in Bagan and then Mandalay. I have posted a long trip report with pictures and links on my homepage . You can also see lots of photos on this page.  It was amazing to check out Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon and look at the view of all the temples of Bagan at sunset. Go now and check out Myanmar before it gets too crowded! Get in touch if you have any questions or comments :-)

Gard – trip reports and pictures

Trip report from Macau Feb 18

In November 2014 Nikki and I went to Macau in China for a few days. We got to see the historical city center in this former Portuguese colony and we got to try out some of the Macanese specialties. But we also got to check out the view from the Macau Tower – and when I say check out the view I mean the view from the very top. We took an organized climb to the top of the mast of the tower and the view from 338 meters was spectacular. You can read the trip report with photos, links and maps in this Macau trip report on . Get in touch if you have any questions.

Gard – trip reports and pictures


Category: Travel  | Tags: , ,  | Leave a Comment
Trip report from the Philippines in July 2014 Aug 25

Gard and Nikki in sunset on Boracay. Photo by Dongeun MinNikki and I went to the Philippines in July 2014 and we had a chance to check out metro Manila, Bohol/Panglao, Boracay and a short stop in Cebu. The most amazing moments were probably swimming with whale sharks in Oslob in Cebu and coming to our hotel in Boracay and seeing the beautiful White beach for the first time.  You can check out the trip report with pictures, links and maps on the homepage . I hope that the trip report can be of use to other people that are planning a visit to the Philippines. Get in touch if you have any questions or comments.

Gard – trip reports and pictures

Category: Travel  | Tags: , ,  | Leave a Comment
Hotel Ombak Sunset–Gili Trwangan, Indonesia Jul 28

P1030970We stayed at Hotel Ombak Sunset on Gili Trawangan in juli 2013. We stayed on the island for 4 days and it was tricky choosing a hotel. We were not sure if we should stay in the center where most of the activities happens, if we wanted a villa or not etc. In the end we decided on Ombak Sunset as the reviews were good, the price was good and the rooms seemed to be nice – and there was a big pool. I booked the hotel online before the trip on as that gave a better deal than booking on the hotel itself and I booked a regular room.

We came to Gili by boat from Bali and took a horse and carriage to the hotel. The driver wanted 190.000 Rupiah and my wife bargained it to 150.000 Rupiah. Later on it turned out that the fixed price for this distance is 75.000 Rupiah (about 7.5 USD).

P1030956Hotel Ombak Sunset is located on the west side of the island but it seems like some maps indicates that it is on the east side (like the one on TripAdvisor) – Hotel Ombak Sunset should not be confused with Hotel Villa Ombak that is located on the south east side of the island. Check in at the hotel was done in the enormous lobby (which was totally empty by the way) and we got a welcome drink while they did the paperwork. We got an upgrade to a villa (or island bungalow as it is called) instead of a room and it seems like this happens quite often and I assume that it has something to do with the fact that all the rooms are not completed yet. We got villa 2025 if I’m not mistaken and the guy that checked us in walked us over to the villa.

P1030965The bungalow had a small terrace in front with a sofa and table. The room was a bit dim when entering the room but the standard seemed good. The floor was in creamy colored marble tiles, the walls were light and there were dark wooden furniture in the room. In addition to the king size bed (that really was BIG) there were two chairs with a small table, a 32 inch flat screen TV on top of a wooden cabinet (it was a bit too far from the bed), a small fridge, a water boiler and there was also a wardrobe with robes. The wardrobe also contained a small safe but it was locked in an open position and after reporting this a few times, it finally got fixed. The bed was comfortable but the pillows were a bit on the firm side. The aircon was controlled by a remote and worked just fine – the wifi was free but it was a bit of a hassle as we got a username and password and I had to type it in basically every time I wanted to go online. We got several bottles of water each day and it was not a problem to get more if we ran out.

P1030955The bathroom was partially outdoors and included a toilet, sink and a shower corner and a small garden. The shower had decent pressure and hot water and there were amenities as shampoo, bath gel and conditioner in small containers. Being open and with a small garden means that you also have to deal with the wildlife. There were a number of centipedes that were on a constant march and a couple of fairly big spiders crawled around. The turn down service was also quite good with decorations on the bed, curtains closed and also an electric bug repellent turned on.

P1030969The pool was enormous – I think it must be the biggest pool on the tiny island. The pool was about 140 cm deep and on the one end there was a pool bar where you could get drinks all day long and they had happy hour with 2 drinks for the price of one in the afternoon. There is also a smaller pool for children next to the main pool and a couple of small plunge pools. Across the small road was the beach that was beautiful but this place is not ideal for swimming as it is quite shallow and there are lots and lots of dead, sharp corals. The hotel has a restaurant on the beach itself where you can have drinks while watching the sun set – and it was spectacular to see the sun go down in the ocean. You also get a good view to the mountains on Bali. The restaurant served some excellent seafood – we were a bit skeptical when eating there as we were basically the only guests but the seafood was probably the best we had on Gili.

Breakfast in the morning was served a la carte and included fruit, some bread, eggs, cereal etc. The service was kind and the food was served pretty fast. I’m not sure what the deal is with all the cats by the way but there were cats in the lobby, in the restaurants and on the beach itself. There were afternoon tea by the pool and we could get tea or coffee together with some Indonesian style sweet cakes. We were not that impressed by the small cakes or the coffee.

P1040020Location of the hotel is both good and bad I guess. The great part is that the hotel is located a bit away from the main strip and you avoid a lot of “noise”. You also get a view to the spectacular sunset in the ocean. It is only 2.3 km (or about 1.4 miles) to e.g. Ko Ko Mo where the strip starts and you can rent bikes at the hotel to get around. Just note that it is pitch black dark in between the places so I was very happy that my wife had brought along a head torch. Also note that in some places the sand has blown onto the road and it made it tricky to bike there. The bikes at the hotel could be rented for a day or half a day and I think it was like 50.000 for a day. The bikes were not in great conditions but at least the breaks worked.

Right next to the bike rental store there were a couple of other stores: a small convenience store, a place to book diving trips and the spa. The store was closed one evening but they opened it up for me when I asked in the lobby – great service.

P1030979We had a great stay at Hotel Ombak sunset. The hotel is located a bit away from the main strip but it was not much of a problem for us as we biked there in about 15 minutes – just bring a good head torch. The pool was also great and we enjoyed some amazing sunsets on the beach. The room was pretty decent and the outdoor bathroom provided some excitement in the form of huge spiders. The staff was polite and friendly. If we go back to Gili Trawangan I would not mind staying at this hotel again.


P1040017P1040019P1040001P1040029  P1040065P1040077

Turkish Airlines business class–tried & tested Jun 23

IMG_7389I used Turkish Airlines on a trip to Beijing in May 2012. It was actually my first trip with Turkish Airlines and I chose it as the price was quite good compared to the alternatives for going to Beijing. I have used Scandinavian Airlines a lot as they have had good prices to Asia but their prices to Beijing was a lot higher than on Turkish Airlines and it was one of the reasons for choosing this airline. My trip started in Copenhagen and it was a fairly new Boeing 737-800 if I’m not mistaken. The flight from Copenhagen to Istanbul is about 3 hours and I was seated on 4D on business class. I’m not sure why but it seemed like it took forever to get the people on board this flight – Scandinavian Airlines seems to be better to get people on board more efficiently.

IMG_7393The seat was a proper business class seat with a 2+2 configuration. There was of course an offer of having champagne to start with and they also handed out a big menu where the options were sea bass, chicken breast or pasta. When I wanted some red wine together with the food, the flight attendant asked me if I wanted Turkish or French wine. I have not gotten the memo that Turkey is a great wine producing country so I went for French wine and the FA was like “why does everyone want the French wine?” The various starters were great but the chicken breast was dry as it often is on flights.  My colleague ordered a glass of cognac after the food and we asked what kind of cognac it was. The FA replied that it was “VIP cognac”. It is not a brand that we are familiar with and I guess she could say that we were wondering about her answer. So she went to get the bottle and it was a Hennesey VSOP (so VSOP became VIP) – but all in all we got great service and the FA seemed to be enjoying her job.

IMG_3834As I had a bit of time at Istanbul Ataturk airport I had the pleasure of waiting a bit in the Turkish Airlines lounge. It is a huge lounge and I guess it is needed as Istanbul airport has become quite a busy airport and hence there were lots of people in the lounge. Here you can get something to eat, wine and spirits was available, they have recliners, TV screens and with a username and password you can also get online.

IMG_7397The flight to Beijing was at about 11 pm and I think boarding started about 1 hour prior to departure.  We had to take a bus out to the plane so there was no business entrance into the plane like you often see on larger airports. When we checked in my colleague and I got seats behind each other and when we got into the plane we asked if we could change seats and if the flight was full or not. She replied that the flight was full but it later turned out that there were lots of seats available on business class and we did get to sit next to each other. The Turkish Airlines flight TK020 is a Boeing 777-300ER and the configuration in business class is a kind of strange 2+3+2 configuration.
The seat was good and when inclined it links up with the foot stool (or ottoman) in front of it to form a bed that is almost completely flat (I think it is 177 degrees). Blankets, slippers, amenities pack and headphones were already laid out in advance before I came on the plane which is a good solution in my opinion.

IMG_7404In front of each seat there was a 15” screen and the in in-flight entertainment system seemed to be quite good with lots of movies on demand. But it was kinda annoying to have the control docked in a space next to the seat on the right hand side – it was hard to reach when I started reclining the seat!  I was not that impressed with the headphones – I’m not sure it is noise cancelling or not but they didn’t feel like it at least. After takeoff I got the menu and it was quite extensive. I had a choice of two starters and I chose the potpourri of Mediterranean meze and it also came with a small salad, some yogurt and cucumber etc. It was also possible to get a soup before going to the main meal where I went for the mushroom ravioli.

IMG_7405When they brought in the meal it was served on a tray of course but the various dishes was served on glass plates and I got real cutlery. Each tray also had a small salt and pepper shaker – the only “problem” was that the butter was brick hard! I tried chicken as a starter, I tried the leak soup and finally the mushroom ravioli. At the time I was getting hungry so I found the meal to be very good. After dinner they walk past with a dessert trolley and I asked for the chocolate “fondant” and tiramisu. This was not very good in my opinion – it did not resemble real tiramisu.
The amenity kit was contained in a rather big bag and it contained some lip balm, toothbrush, eye shade, comb/brush, ear plugs, socks etc. The toothbrush was horrible as it was built up by two parts and it kept on falling apart when I used it. The toilet on board the 777 was a bit larger than what I’m used to on the SAS Airbus A340 which means that it is easier if you want to slip into a pajama before you try to get some sleep.

IMG_7407The seat is quite good and when you recline it, it connects to the foot stool in front to give you a long and almost flat bed. It is also great that there is room under the stool as you can store e.g. shoes there. I had a pretty good sleep when flying to Beijing and I actually did not wake up until they announced that we were descending and seats had to be in an upright position. I shouldn’t complain about that of course but when I got the menu at takeoff I did fill out my breakfast menu and handed this over to the FA and indicated that I wanted breakfast but no one woke me up and by the time I did wake up it was too late for breakfast. The 2+3+2 configurations seems a bit strange but it seemed to work out pretty good – there is a small gap between the seats so you can get out without having to step on the passenger next to you – and there is also a small wall that you can raise if you want a bit more privacy. But it can’t compete with the amazing configuration of the business class on Singapore Airlines.

IMG_7410On the way back I flew the same route – Beijing-Istanbul-Copenhagen on business class. The plane on the way back to Europe was also a Boeing 777 so it was very similar to the one that I had when flying to China. Again the amenities were laid out prior to passengers coming onboard – everything was pretty much the same but the toiletry bag was a smaller version with different brand of lip balm and moisturizing cream. It is a bit weird that this has not been standardized.  This time I got a menu with my name on it and the food was once again quite good. IMG_7447The business class was completely full on this flight and it seemed like they were struggling a bit to serve all the business class passengers at more or less the same time so the FA seemed a bit stressed out. One asked me if I wanted some more red wine and I said “yes please” but I never saw the wine. When she was serving dessert I asked for port wine and I think she remembered as she first gave me some dessert and then she ran off and brought me a huge glass of port. Once again I slept pretty well in the seat but again I was not woken up for breakfast even if I had put the sticker on the seat indicating that I wanted breakfast service and once again the breakfast menu that I filled out was ignored. In the end I had to call the FA and ask for breakfast and what I got was not what I had ordered but at least I got something to eat.

IMG_7445From Istanbul to Copenhagen the rather new Boeing 737 was replaced by an older Airbus A321 and it contained seats in a horrible cyan/ turquoise color. Instead of having a proper business class seat and a 2+2 configuration, this plane had standard seats with a 3+3 configuration with the middle seat blocked to give each passengers a bit more space. But once again the service was very good and I got a very good breakfast including one of the best omelets that I have had on a plane.

I think Turkish Airlines long haul business class is quite good. The seat is almost horizontal and provides the possibility to sleep well when traveling for many hours and the service is quite good with a decent menu with various options and several options when it comes to the wine. But it seems like they are struggling a bit with the breakfast menu setup or at least it failed both ways when I used them. The on board entertainment is quite good as you can start watching a movie right away and you can watch it until you land basically – not like SAS where it takes forever to start it and they terminate it like 30 minutes prior to landing.

Gard – trip reports and pictures

To the top of Petronas Twin Towers Mar 01

IMG_6998I go to Kuala Lumpur (or KL as it is also called) in Malaysia on business from time to time and I have had the great pleasure of actually working in Petronas Twin Towers and I have been to the skybridge when I went on vacation to Malaysia a few years back (see my KL trip report on my homepage ). As I have worked in the towers I have had the chance to stop by the skylobby on 41st and 42nd floor all the time – but a few months back I came across some information saying that it was also possible to get to the 86th floor – IMG_1258which means that you practically get to the very top as there are 88th floors. So one day when going to work in the towers, I stopped by to check out the ticket situation. The tickets can be bought in the lower level and you reach it by using the escalator leading down near the lobby of either tower 1 or tower 2. When I did the skybridge a few years back when I was in KL on vacation the tickets were free and it was a “first come, first serve” basis and the tickets were only given out day by day. It seems like they have changed that now – these days you can buy tickets in advance for a given time and the tickets are 50 Ringgit (17 USD). The ticket gives you access to the Skybridge and the 86th floor.

IMG_1280So on a Sunday afternoon at 4 pm I had a ticket and I got there 15 minutes ahead of time as instructed. After an introduction where the animation was displayed on water vapor(!) I was allowed to enter the elevator. The whole thing was organized in a great way as people got different color badges and hence it was easy to instruct people around. The elevator that took me up to the skybridge on 41st floor is really a service elevator I guess but they have pimped it a bit as there were screens on the wall displaying the view of the KLCC area as if the elevator was a glass elevator.  IMG_1284The view from the skybridge is pretty good but not amazing in any way – but as it is located about 170 meters above the ground (about 560 feet) you get a good view of the KLCC park and area but a lot of the view is also blocked by the towers. Due to this I have always recommended people to rather check out the view from KL tower instead. After about 10 minutes on the skybridge I was summoned by one of the guards and we were pushed into the elevator once again and this time I was transported to 83rd floor. From here there was a passage where they had posted info about some of the tallest buildings in the world (like Burj Khalifa in Dubai which I had the pleasure of visiting a while back …see ). Once again we had to get into an elevator – this time much smaller and much slower as it only took us 3 floors up to 86th floor.

IMG_1275The 86th floor was actually a lot bigger than I thought it would be – when I have enjoyed the view from the lounge at Traders hotel (see my review of this great hotel on ) the top of the towers looks so small – but in reality there was quite a lot of room and the best thing was of course that there was a view in more or less all directions!  It was unreal to see how tiny buildings like Citybank and Traders were compared to the height of the Petronas tower! IMG_1276The 86th floor is located about 360 meters above the ground so the view is just spectacular! Apart from the view there were also various models of the city, of the towers and also a model of how the future of KLCC might be. They also had a couple of screens with some augmented reality (so hang on to your ticket after you go in). After 10-15 minutes at the top we were called again by the guards and after a quick stop on 83rd floor, we took the lift all the way down from 83rd to the ground level (or sub level actually) where we had to go through the gift shop on the way out. If you are into skyscrapers and buildings with a view you should definitely stop by Petronas Twin Towers to enjoy the view from the 86th floor ;-)

Gard – trip reports and pictures

IMG_1277 IMG_1278

IMG_1281 IMG_1285

IMG_1270 IMG_1271

Category: Travel, Video  | Tags: , ,  | 3 Comments
My trip report from Lisbon Jan 01

Hi everyone and happy new year!

Nikki and I went to Lisbon in May 2011 and I have finally posted my trip report on  my homepage. As you will see it includes photos, links, videos etc. I have also made this interactive google map: . It shows were some of the attractions are located and also the restaurants that we went to – you can click on the markers to get more info. I hope that this trip report can be of use to others traveling to Lisbon – get in touch if you have any questions or comments :-)

Gard – trip reports and pictures

Category: News, Travel  | Tags: , , ,  | One Comment
Video from the Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) Sep 04

As I live in Stavanger, I have had the pleasure of visiting the amazing Pulpit Rock (or Preikestolen as it is called in Norwegian) many times. I went there in June 2011 and the weather was perfect for trekking. Here is a short video showing you what you can expect if you do this trek in the summer time. You can also read more about it in this trip report.

Gard – trip reports and pictures

Category: Travel, Video  | Tags: , ,  | Leave a Comment
All seats available for points on SAS? Mar 08

SAS_addMy feelings when it comes to SAS has gone  up and down over the years – I have been furious with them (like when I had to fly on economy from Asia to Europe even if I had a business class ticket – and I had to pay business class price as well) and I have been very happy with them when flying business class to Asia. I’m a pretty loyal StarAlliance and Eurobonus member and in 2010 I flew 43 SAS flights and in total I flew about 150.000 km (with various airlines) so I think I fly a bit more than the average passenger. The following is not meant as a whining note – just a feedback from a loyal StarAlliance member to SAS as I have mixed feelings with them.

I have been fortunate to fly to Asia on business with SAS a few times and for the price they are…well, not maybe a bargain but at least an affordable alternative when looking at companies like Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines. The business class service is quite good, the food is not bad at all at least you get a sort of flat bed (even if I can’t understand why it is not possible to get the bed completely horizontal). But their product is getting a bit outdated…the entertainment system is a bit of a joke these days compared to what you find on e.g. Singapore Airlines and Emirates both in terms of size of screen and selection of movies, games and music and the StarAlliance business lounges are not amazing. But I guess it is the lack of some sort of recognition that annoys me a bit. I’m not expecting to be carried on board the plane just because I I have been a Eurobonus gold card member for several years but it would be great to see that they appreciate that I’m loyal to them and StarAlliance.

When going from Stavanger to Geneva on vacation I asked at Stavanger airport if it was possible to upgrade from economy to business and how many points it would cost – after all the add says “All seats available for points”. The lady at the check in counter had no clue and she called the ticket office and they had no clue either. But she told me that she had put me on standby upgrade and I could check at the gate and they would provide me with all the info. When boarding from Stavanger to Copenhagen I asked at the gate and the guy was like “No, I don’t think that is possible and why would you?…you don’t get more legroom” So this is how the ground staff promotes one of the advantages of being a Eurobonus member (upgrading with points)? But he told me to check at the gate in Copenhagen when boarding for Geneva. When boarding in Geneva I asked again if it was possible with an upgrade and how much it would cost and finally I got a clear answer “No, it is not possible to upgrade from Economy to business”. I’m fine with that but wouldn’t it be great if the ground staff at Stavanger airport had this information and could have informed me from the very start? So I got onboard the flight to Geneva and was seated almost at the very back of the Airbus A321 and as far as I could tell there were still seats available on Economy Extra and business. There are more and more ways of earning Eurobonus points (SAS Mastercard, Trumf points etc) and yet it seems like there are more and more restrictions on how to use them.

On a two hours flight it is not a big deal where you sit in the plane and what kind of service that you get – but I just find it strange that SAS doesn’t do anything to reward loyal members. Wouldn’t it be great if they tried to put in a bit of extra effort for Eurobonus goldcard members? I would have been thrilled if they said “As you are a loyal member, have a gold card etc of course you can upgrade with the following amount of points” Today it just seems very random – like when I was upgraded without warning or asking on a short flight from Berlin to Copenhagen.
Over the last couple of years I have had a couple of long flights with Emirates and on my second trip I reached Silver status. On my next flight the flight attendant came to me and carefully tried to pronounce my name. I confirmed that it was me and I was wondering what I had done wrong but then he greeted me and said welcome back on Emirates….and that is “just” as a Silver member.

Well, maybe this just makes me sound like a spoiled brat and maybe I’m just expecting too much out of SAS these days. I’m honestly really happy with the perks of the Eurobonus gold card (the lounge access, the extra baggage etc) but sometimes I just get a bit frustrated as I feel like SAS is not really going out of their way to take good care of their loyal customers and the information that I get from SAS employees can be vague or even wrong. But rumor has it that even with a SAS Pandion card you don’t get that much recognition – maybe that kind of service is not a part of the Scandinavian culture. But the conclusion after this trip is…all seats are not available for points.

at the very back of SK617 bound for Geneva

Category: Airlines, Travel  | Tags: ,  | 3 Comments