7/23/10

Helsinki, Finland


Back in April, my planned visit to the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania was abruptly aborted. As you all know, an Icelandic volcano decided to throw a terrific tantrum which grounded all planes going to and from northern Europe. In the chaotic weeks that followed, I desperately tried to sort out things and I eventually ended up having my frequent flier miles re-deposited back to my Marco Polo account without penalty :) As summer approached, I was faced with a dilemma as where I should go. Destinations came up to my mind and I was toying with the idea of either going up north to Alaska or going south to Ecuador - both with volcanoes that may potentially erupt and cause travel disruptions again.

I was hoping more to get a free ticket to Anchorage using my Emirates miles (accrued by merely flying one roundtrip to India) since that's the farthest destination I could go to maximize the 25,000 miles needed to get an award seat. However, their partner airline United took forever to confirm seat availability and I was just too itchy to go just about anywhere. That's when I decided to check for airfares instead but I couldn't find any good price for either Alaska or Ecuador. When I checked airfares to Europe, I got excited as I found something that would allow me to push through with my original travel plan while at the same time, earn miles flying there. Thankfully, my friend Erwin agreed to be my travel buddy so I got someone to split the land portion of the costs with. I booked the tickets and that's how I end up in Europe for summer.

in-flight meal on BA 0798

In London, I met up with Erwin where he lives. I was expecting to see him at Heathrow after spending time with another friend but as fate would have it, we were actually in the same train going to the airport. We were almost late for the flight but we made it to the gate just in time for boarding and took a bus ride to the remote stand where our British Airways flight 0978 to Helsinki was waiting. Flight time to Helsinki was about two hours on an Airbus A320, leaving London just after 6 PM. In-flight entertainment was nil but at least, they served a sandwich for dinner. Arriving in Helsinki just 5 minutes before 11 PM didn't feel like it was close to midnight - the daylight made it feel like the day was just starting! How strange indeed. Passing through Finnish immigration was swift it took us less than 5 minutes.


daylight at 10:55 PM!

There are two cheap options going to downtown Helsinki from the airport: by Finnair city bus and local bus #615. We took the latter and paid 4 Euros each. The trip took about 40 minutes all the way to the Helsinki Central Railway Station where we got off and walked some 15 minutes to our hotel at the Radisson Blu Royal - but not after asking several Finns, all of whom speak fluent English. I must say Helsinki is alive and kicking even at midnight as teenagers were still romping around the sidewalks. Just before reaching the hotel building, we bumped into an Asian - voila, she was actually a Pinay! We got into our room and was impressed with it especially since the price came to just $95 per night (including buffet breakfast). A hostel stay on a private room with shared bathroom would have cost us $65 so we decided on a better upgrade. Europe is certainly not cheap, even hostels come close to hotel prices as we discovered, this at the peak of summer!

our room at the Radisson Blu Royal

breakfast spread

my plate

A Radisson bed (which they call Magic Dreams bed) is so heavenly it's like they're made for 8-10 hours of sleep. I don't get this much sleep in my own bedroom! Of course, I drag myself out of bed at 8 AM in order to get some fuel for my body and get ready for the long day ahead. The breakfast room was already abuzz with people partaking on a thankfully good selection of food. We sat next to a lone Japanese - the only other Asian in this room full of blondes - who asked where we both came from. Instead of me saying "I'm from New York" and Erwin saying "I'm from London", we chorused "We're from the Philippines!" The Jap was surprised as if he didn't expect Pinoys to go all the way here. He was even more surprised to find out where we were going - he was only staying in Helsinki. At least, he did say he visited Manila once for business. Before leaving him and wishing him well on his journey, we told him to see more of the Philippines beyond Manila. Next time.

For our part, we have Helsinki to explore today.

5 comments:

  1. However, their partner airline United took forever to confirm seat availability and I was just too itchy to go just about anywhere. >>> wow! ecuador and alaska?! amazing list. it's like you're just going to quiapo when you choose these places

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  2. FIFA_fan6:07:00 AM

    Have a great summer, sir! Shall be waiting for the stories that come with the pictures.

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  3. ...pinoy airport people should learn a thing or two from finnish immigration people.

    maiba ako; that breakfast spread just winked at me. =)

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  4. helsinki feels like unchartered territory to pinoy bloggers. thanks for being a trailblazer.

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  5. oohh... that brekkie plate of yours made me hungry!

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