That's it.
It is over.
Almost 7 months, and I am now going home... How weird.
Home.
I don't think it has sunken in yet, even though I've been home for 3 days. It just feels like we've arrived to the next stop in a bigger journey, and that we will only stay for a couple of days and then move on. 7 months. Where did the time go? It just can't be over yet. It just can't. Just imagine the panic when they in the airplane speakers called "We will soon be landing at Arlanda. The weather is 5 degrees below zero and there is a mild snow storm." Great... There are several silver linings though, family and friends obviously, but also football, sleeping in my own bed, cooking my own food, normally salted butter, and not being sweaty at ALL THE TIME (although I know I'll regret that wish in less then a week and miss the heat incredibly). It is sort of nice to be home, but when will we move on? I woke up the other day wanting to go surfing, but perhaps not in 4 degrees water. I think I'll be time sooner rather than later, don't you?
See you later, alligator

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Hey, man!
The "only" thing left on our bucket list was surfing, and to that we dedicated the rest of our stay. Having heard so much about the waves and beaches in Ulu Watu, that was where we started. Another reason was team AJA (Alva, Julia, and Amanda) who happened to be there as well. Alva is one of my oldest friends and it was amazing to meet her (and the others as well, of course). Have you ever seen Eat, Pray, Love? You know the Bali beach scenes? Yeah? That's where we spent our day, splashing around in the impossibly turquoise water and trying for the first time to maneuver a surf board on the smaller swells. With instructions and gentle pushes both of us actually managed to stand up. It wasn't pretty, for sure, but it sure was good fun. AJA coming from a town called Canggu, convinced us that this was the place to spend our last precious days in. Here we spent the days surfing in the morning, organic brunching, walking/driving around in the afternoon, and sunset at Old Man's. Living the sweet life, making the most out if the last days. I also, not so spontaneously, got a tattoo. At first the tattoo artist was really quite stern and intimidating, and made me feel incredibly self conscious, however, he did warmed towards us and was real nice. I guess he just wanted to make sure that I knew what I was doing. I did. I hope.
Last stop, last day.
Gulp...
See you later, alligator

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Hello there!
After our mountain adventure we took the ferry back to Bali, and from there to Nusa Lembongan. From somewhere unknown we had heard that it would only take about 30ish minutes to walk from the ferry beach to ours, so we thought we'd save our money. Some hours and a sunset later our choice might be questioned. Still, we have legs for a reason. Our first day on Nusa we rented a scooter and drove all over the island, up and down, and up and down. Through mangrove forests, over bridges, and past rural villages. We also had a much needed massage, untying some of the many knots in our backs. Drift dive just off the Nusa Penida coast was the agenda for the second day. The reef was colorful and the fish plentiful. So, so beautiful. Starting at 10.30, 2 dives and lunch, we arrived back to the beach in the late afternoon, and topped off the day with a foot massage. It feels like I spend more time in the water then on dry land. Perhaps I'll soon jump in and forget to get up, turning into a gigantic raisin. And that was that. In the early morning we boarded the boat taking us back to Bali.
Not long left now. Mmmmm... Don't know how I feel about that.
'Till next time
See you later, alligator.

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Howdy!
After our time in Lipah it was once again time to pack our backpacks and head off into the unknown, this time through Gilis. We started with the biggest of the three, Gili Trawangan. Party island numero uno... Very touristic and crowded, so not really our scene, but the beaches were beautiful and the water like a dream. We snorkeled and although the corals was a depressing sight, the  sea turtles we saw made it worth our while. Two days on Gili T and then we hopped on the ferry for two days on Gili Air, which was more our scene. Calm and serene, with crystal clear water.
Now to a really adventure: mountain climbing. We decided to head to Lombok and climb Gunung Rinjani. Due to the (previous) season heavy rainfall causing landslides the top was closed. We signed up for a three day-tour, were driven to our included accommodation, and there I got sick. Great timing, don't you think? Oh well, apparently nothing that 7 hours of sleep couldn't fix, although admittedly it must be added that I was a very quiet, tired, weak, and frankly probably a bit whiny zombie for the first part of the next day's climb to the rim of the big crater, a steep 7 hours up the mountain side. We joined a smaller group of 4 Brits who never seemed to stop taking (and I think I have them to thank for that I actually reached the top. They were a great distraction) and 2 very angry French speaking Canadians. We had a guide, Fami, and 4 porters all in all. After lunch it went easier for me. All the led-legged steps was worth it however when we finally reached the top of the rim. The mountain chain is actually a big inactive volcano in which a lake has formed in the crater, and in the center of which a second smaller, active volcano now sits. Vulcanception. It was simply magical. Tired and sore we all fell into our tents as soon as the sun had set.
The second day started with a sleep-in (at least compared to the previous days 3am start). A "short" walk/climb of 2 hours took us down to the crater lake and the hot springs (which, due to the rain was no hot springs at all but a roaring waterfall). Yes, a shower! We spent the day splashing about its strong currents. After lunch we once again ascended to our top camp. Fami collected sticks and branches along the way and when dusk came he made a bonfire. We all dragged out our mats and sleeping bags and sat up telling ghost stories (with a lot of comic relief) and staring at the stars.
The next day we descended.  A walk that took us almost 7 and a half hours up, took us less then 5 hours down. Well at the gate we were met with a hilarious sight: a HUGE banner hanging over the gate pronouncing that the mountain is closed for climbing from January 1st until March 31st. So that was why we had to leave so early: to avoid the mountain rangers sending people back down. Ehe... But, hey! We are all alive and that's what matters, right?
See you later, alligator!

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Can you fall in love with a place?
Who cares?
I AM!
Lipah is the place where I belong, the place where I was meant to be, my home in Asia. It was beautiful, and so, so homey. It is the first time I really have felt at home and like I, as a person, truly belong, like I have a place to fill, and that someone, except for Elsa, would notice if I didn't show up. It is a nice feeling. I don't know what did it, the miniscule village along the Amed coast, the including people, or the fact that I dove for the very first time. Arriving hungry at noon on February 15th to rain, we sought out the first local warung with available WiFi, had lunch and googled diving places. Euro Divers won, so we took 2 motos along the coast line, spontaneously appearing at the doorstep of their office. I signed upp for the Open Water Diver-course and Elsa for the refresher. They recommended a local homestay and there we lived. We later realized that most people probably plan and book stuff like this long in advance, and here we just showed up. Good they had time. Still, it was low season so we were pretty much the only once there, actually as good as the only tourists in town.
Day 1 was a day of studying and exploring. The second day started early with meeting my diving instructor, Matthias Graeub from Switzerland. We worked well together. He was fantastic, so interested and clear. A quick theory lesson, before moving on to technical skills and my first dive. WOW! That's all I can say. How can I have avoided diving for so long? What was I thinking? Even though it was just mock-diving (diving along the sand bottom looking for interesting things) , it was amazing. The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to further studying. After diner we made friends. We were more or less bullied (no, not literally) into joining the next table, consisting of 3 local guys and a French girl. It was very nice. We sat there for a time, until the early hours despite me having to wake at sunrise to take the diver's exam. 100%. YES! And a second dive. A sunken Japanese ship in the middle of a great coral reef. We were then picked up by our new friends on scooter driving to the sunset point to watch the sunset, sort of pointless as it was cloudy. It was still really fun though. I got to drive back for dinner. The evening was spent playing cards with face painting as looser's punishment. We looked reeeal pretty by bed time, me prettiest of us all (aka most losses). Elsa got sick during the night and had to pass on the last day's diving. Unfortunately this wast the dive. A US military battleship sunken by the Japanese during the 2nd World War. Oh. My. Gosh. WOW! And just like that I am a certified diver. But that also ment that our to time in Lipah had come to a close. Our last night was spent stargazing. I miss it already. I miss the guys, bungalow, and Matthias. This is a place I will come back to. Maybe even live in for a period of time. Maybe becoming a diver instructor and work there for a while. A want to get stuck.
I left with a heavy heart.
See you later, alligator.

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Hello there!
So after our tearful separation from the rest of the group we boarded our plane to Bali, flying to Denpassar, and spending the first nights in Kuta. We were dead set convinced that we would hate Kuta as it is the most touristy place you can imagine, one of those kind of places we have tried to stay clear of. But, the big but, we actually really liked it. We strolled through the shop-lined alleys and swam in the meter high waves, watching the surfers do their thing. We absolutely intend to surf ourselves, but we saved that treat for later and used this first day to just unwind and get into the Bali-not-a-problem-in-the-world-can-stress-me-mode. We cheated and abandoned our tradition of only eating local food, and went for Greek breakfast, ceasar salad lunch, and taco dinner, as we figured that in Kuta that is perhaps more "local"  than the local. It was a welcomed contrast to our usual fried rice and noodles diet.
We then got on a bus and ended up in Ubud, the "yoga center of Asia". It was beautiful, if a little expensive on a backpacker's budget. Still we managed to squeeze in the traditional museum, the monkey sanctuary, traditional dancing in the royal palace, and early morning yoga. The morning yoga was a total cliché, from the serene music and big open room with an evergreen bamboo forest dotted with stone Buddha statues right outside the floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows, to the overly bendable yoga instructor, and yet, I really, really enjoyed it! The session came to an abrupt halt when we had to grab our bags and run to catch our bus (which turned up more then 30 minutes late, of course). Going from south to north.
To be continued
See you later, alligator!

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Hey! Long time no see.
There has been so much to do so I haven't really had time to write, but now I will try and recapture the last days of our Laos-Thailand round-trip.
Our boat took us to the the Thai immigration boarder at Chiang Khong in northern Thailand, and where everyone passed smoothly by, with me as only exception. With my long stay visa and 3 refreshers the immigration officer eyed me suspiciously, to say the least, for a looong time before eventually letting me in. So I found myself back in dear old Thailand, home sweet home. We stayed only for the night in Chiang Khong before heading off to Chiang Mai. Here we stayed for 2 days. Jessie, Luise, Carly, Elsa, and I went on a bike tour around the countryside, seeing all kind of things; rice fields, chili plantations, coffin makers, rural houses, gigantic spiders, and local restaurants. We also went to the night market and saw a lady-boys show. The show was real fun, but I still have mixed feelings about it. After Chiang Mai we took the night train to Bangkok, where Carly and I spent an entire day at Thailand's biggest market. We didn't buy much, it was more the general feeling of strolling through the crammed booth-lined alleys.
Then it was time to say goodbye. It was awful! By this point we had grown real tight and it was tough to leave them behind. But we'll keep in touch, and see each other again someday I'm sure.
So until then,
See you later, alligator!

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Hi there!
We are now back in a country with some kind of working WiFi after our trip through Laos. After meeting up with our G-adventures group in Hanoi on February 1st we hopped on the plane the next day heading off to our first stop - the capital of Laos: Vientiane. The group consists of a nice mix of people from all over the world and it was awesome! And as there was no Internet to be found anywhere in the country I'll give it to you all at once.
Intinerary
1 - Sapa/Hanoi - G adventures
2 - Hanoi /Vientiane - G adventures
3 - Vientiane /Vang Vieng
4 - Vang Vieng
5 - Vang Vieng /Luang Prabang
6 - Luang Prabang
7 - Luang Prabang /boat
8 - boat /Chiang khong
9 - Chiang Khong /Chiang Mai
10 - Chiang Mai
11 - Bangkok
12 - Bangkok /Bali

Vientiane

So, our first stop - Vientiane.
The capital of Laos.
When we got there we could hardly believe that this was the capital. It was just too small, quiet, and deserted, especially compared to the ear splitting, ever-honking noise of Hanoi. We got there in time to have a street food-dinner and check out the night market. The next day Elsa and I decided to get up early to have time to see everything in the city before we got on the but that was taking us to out next stop - the quaint little city of Vang Vieng.
(2-3/2 2017)

Vang Vieng

Our second stop was a little city in the mountains called Vang Vieng, to which you get to by a 5 hours bus ride. We had our own minivan so it was a very nice and comfy ride. When we got there we checked in to our hotel and went out for drinks on a sunset terrace by the river Som. We also booked our activities for the following day, and at 8.30 the pickup arrived to take us to the tubing. As it turns out, tubing is sitting in a inflated tyre of a truck pulling a rope in a pitch black cave in ice cold water. Fortunately we had head torches and the advantage of being vikings and could thus deal with the cold. It was super cool. After that we went on a short trekk visiting the elephant cave, and then headed to the kayaks. After a nice lunch in a bungalow on the river we grabbed a paddle and tried our best not to get stuck on the shallows of the river. The sun was shining and the water was warm. It was pretty much all you could ask for. Making our way down the river we met up with the truck which took us to the blue lagoon. It was blue indeed, but a bit touristy for my taste. We got back around 5ish, ate dinner, and left for Luang Prabang at 8 the next morning.
(3-5/2)

Luang Prabang

Next stop - The Unesco protected city of Luang Prabang.
After a scenic bus ride and lunch at a mountain top we arrived in the heated sleepy afternoon. We climbed the temple mountain and watched the sun slowly set along with about a thousand selfie-taking Chinese tourists, before dining at the night market. The thing to do in Luang Prabang is to go and see the waterfalls, so that is what we did. I must admit that I was a bit skeptical initially, expecting it to be similar to the blue lagoon in Vang Vieng and full of tourists, but I was wonderfully wrong. The waterfalls were beautiful! First you come to the bear sanctuary, where bears in captivity are rehabilitated and released back into the wild. You then head up the wood trail and reach the base of the river. You walk along the river and the water was wonderfully clear blue due to the limestone cliffs. At the base of the waterfall there was a picturesque bridge, which leads to the really steep off track trail up to the top of the roaring falls.
Luang Prabang is as mentioned a Unesco protected city and therefore has a 12 a'clock curfew, so after dinner we had to take a tuktuk to the outskirts of town to go bowling. In the morning of the 7th, after giving alms to the monks on the street at 5 am, we started our 2 days boat ride on the Mekong River to get from Laos and popping out in Thailand.
(5-7/2)

The Mekong River

First thought - it's fu@*# freezing!

And it was, in the morning before the sun rose, sitting in a boat with no walls, windy, with only a thin blanket. But it got better. So. Much. Better. As the sun rose, the temperature rose with it. And with it the spirit of us. We played cards and talked, and it was so cozy. By this time we had all gotten close and when we got cold we huddled up next to each other. The night was spent in a tiny village with about 60 kids. We ate, played, and took a lot of photos. It was truly interesting to see how they lived, their lives so different from ours.

Then another day of landscape gazing and cards until it was time to cross the Thai boarder. And that was the end of our stay in Laos.

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Hello!
Wanna hear a funny story? Because it is quite funny now in retrospect. But it was so, so, SO close to be a very NOT funny story. NOT. AT. ALL. So here it goes.
For not the first time we jumped on the bus, this time to get from Hoi An to Hanoi. Everything started smoothly, and we had nice seats and everything. At about 9 pm we stopped for dinner and leg stretching. 30 minutes. They were very clear about this. 30 minutes. Alright. So we get off and eat some food, bonding with another Swedish couple. And then we all went to the bathroom. Still 7 minutes left, no stress. So we do what you do, and then just look out to make sure everything is okay. That is when we see it. The bus. Leaving. So we run out to the restaurant and see a buss parked there. Puuh! Close one there. And then we look at the  restaurant owner who smilingly shakes his head and points to the fading backlights OUR bus. RUN! And we did. Waving like crazy, trying to get the driver's attention. And we did. The bus pulled over after about 300 meters. We caught up, all blushed, sweating, and flushed. So close. So, so, close. Let's put it this way, we are now more on our toes.
So yeah.
See you later, alligator.

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Hoi An.
Hoi An in new year spirit.
We arrived with the rain early in the morning of the 25th. We had nothing booked, but looked around some and found a homestay a bit outside the center of ancient Hoi An, called Petunia Garden Homestay. Not quite what we expected but a very nice helpful family and the cutest puppy. After taking a shower and dumping our bags we set off to explore the city which by this time was starting to fill up. Even though one could have wished for better weather there was little to wish for in the way I'd history and beauty in the city. We asked around town, and saw all that you "have" to see, like the old pagodas and meeting halls. We ate the local dish Cao Lau, which we more or less lived on for from that moment. Hoi An is beautiful. It is all ancient houses, lights, and lanterns. The streets were all decorated with lanterns of all the colors of the rainbow, with restaurant boats lining the river shore, and paper flowers with candles floated serenely about on the water. All in the spirit of welcoming the new year with a light festival. It was truly beautiful.  The next day we continued our exploration of the cobblestone alleys. We were cunningly tricked by an little old lady in the market, where she first almost forced us to take a picture with her, and as we didn't want to be rude we did, and then she demanded money for us having taken the photo. Not a chance said we and left. You can always try I guess, and others did but we won't fall into that trap again anytime soon. However, the greatest adventure of that day was that we rented a scooter and drove to the marble mountains. The marble mountains are five "mountains" in an otherwise flat landscape which are filled with caves, pagodas, sculptures, tops, and viewing platforms. We got the high top to ourselves and it was well worth the climb. Elsa drive a scooter for the first time on our way back which was hilarious. For diner we allowed ourselves to be dragged along into an alley restaurant which only served one thing. This thing however was everything. We got to try all the specialities of Hoi An. Weird pancakes
with shrimps, soup, and a sort of rice paper wrap. One of the beat meals of the entire trip, I dare say. The last day we only had a little time before the buss came to pick us up to go to Hanoi and from there on to Sapa, so we just strolled down the streets one last time, saying goodbye and hopefully I'll see you again.
So, see you later, alligator

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