Finland, Travel

HEL-lo SINKI #MyHelsinkiResidence For A Week! Here’s What I Am Excited About!


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#MyHelsinkiResidence is aimed at digital professional/influencers in creating authentic content without any schedule! I was super excited when I got the opportunity to visit Helsinki for a week in the middle of September. What even more amazing is that I get to bring a +1 – just when I was thinking about going Finland for honeymoon. Helsinki Marketing (aka Visit Helsinki) partners with a few other well-known names in the hospitality industry such as Marimekko, Aallonkoti Hotel Apartments (can’t wait to stay in the apartments with beautifully designed Nordic interiors), Visit Finland and Finnair for this amazing media program.

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Photo credits: Jussi Hellsten, My Helsinki

Helsinki in Autumn

They called it “ruska“, predominantly in Lapland but I hope to witness more of it in Helsinki. It will be a phenomenal blend of tree colours that sends photographers scrambling for their gears. Being there in September also means that there will be less tourists than the summer months. The International Grand Market and International Film Festival will be going on during the visit, good time to check it out too.

First-hand Finnish local experience!

Experiencing Helsinki from a local experience might be attractive, but I am more intrigued about the Finnish joke: ‘An introverted Finn looks at his shoes when talking to you; an extroverted Finn looks at your shoes’. The social perception of the Finns is one interesting area to watch if it matches the stereotype.  You can read more about the Finns here. In this trip, I wish to explore the local places to go – not to bring the influx of tourism there but to experience it. Be it biking in the city with vintage looking bicycles or checking out some coffee shop down the street, it feels very dreamy to me. A week is just the right amount of time to explore Helsinki, rather than 3 days or so which can be pretty rushed.

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Photo credits: Lauri Rotko, My Helsinki

Finnish Sauna

Nude sauna is the Finns’ way of life, maybe that is how they do their leisure time rather than going on Facebook. Jumping into a cold pool after a good session of sauna is like dipping nachos in cheese – not sure if I will like it. Wild sauna or electric sauna, I want to try it all. Hello Sinki indeed, I got some kiasu-ness (A Singaporean slang/dialect that means afraid to lose out).

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Photo credits: Eetu Ahanen, My Helsinki

Finnish Food

They have seasonal food, so here I am in autumn to try those speciality according to this guide. Getting ready for a ‘foodplosion’, just like the explosion of leaves colours ‘ruska’.

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Photo credits: Eetu Ahanen, My Helsinki

The Unknown!

The last but not least, a Helsinki Survival Kit will be given to us. It will contain local tips, suggestions on what to see and do and hand-picked local design, food & urban nature experiences and items that are essential for city-dwelling. How exciting is this! Though this travel concept has been commercialised to provide that excitement of not knowing your itinerary, it is still working very well on human’s nature – curiosity.

In a nutshell, I am flying to Helsinki real soon, as soon as good times fly.

 

Inspiration, Travel

This Is Why I Airbnb My Way Around The World, While On My Way To Free $1100 Airbnb Credit


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Image Credit: Airbnb


Airbnb is the current trend that people settle for when it comes to traveling in style. It started off as a home-sharing option in San Francisco in 2008 and then today, we have the opportunity to stay in cozy houses for a reasonable price. We fell for this ideation because Airbnb fits perfectly between the hotels and private long-term lease option. The world is slowly embracing it, even Chinese people is the 2nd largest group to visit Airbnb homes in Singapore. What is even more surprising is that the first spot is taken by Singapore. Singaporeans are filling local Airbnb homes faster than any other foreign travelers, which I attributed that to the staycation trend in the country. This was shared by an Airbnb rep at their downtown office in Singapore.

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This home-sharing concept is fresh and inviting to the younger generations, yet proved to be difficult penetrating the older generations in terms of usage. I am certainly not working for Airbnb, nor an advocate for them. But I have to admit that they have changed the way I travel, or rather the way I choose my accommodation option from Vietnam to New York. Indirectly, by choosing to stay in these homes we are also helping the hosts that are willing to lease out their properties – to make use of empty rooms/apartments to generate income. Just like car-pool and bike-sharing, or even commercial business like Uber, the idea revolves around tweaking private ownership to increase social welfare. This social thing, I am an advocate for that.

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Thanks to my readers who tried or signed up Airbnb first-time through my referral! Slowly but surely to the cap of USD 5,000

 

I worked with brands to help manage my cost of travel and that is in exchange for content creation – something which I love doing. Airbnb’s referral programme is another good opportunity to leverage on as a travel writer. Educating people through my content (authentic and practical experiences) is one of reasons why I started writing. This way, I have ‘inspired’ about 32 people (first-time users and counting) around the globe to try out Airbnb so far. The referral programme works for every Airbnb users out there, you can start referring your family and friends to give them and yourself travel credits! If you have read my post about Iceland itinerary, I have a good amount of users who signed up through that because no one is going to build a hotel in the middle of nowhere where the local population is just 2.3k (as of 2016). This way, Airbnb has opened up the option for hosts to accommodate travelers in these remote areas. We are looking at a travel game-changer here.

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Airbnb cottages in East Iceland

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Image Credit: Airbnb

I like the way new businesses do their marketing nowadays, that is through their new customers’ word of mouth, nothing beats the review coming from an existing customer. This probably explains why traditional marketing is not effective for some brands out there. If we look at Airbnb’s cancellation policy, they left it up to hosts to decide their cancellation policy which in a way, determines the percentage of fee (3% or 5%) they give to Airbnb. This is another reason why I like them, because the percentage is much lesser than branded OTAs out there. The resulting effect is that more money to be spilt between the host and the guest – another social benefit.

Since the inception of Airbnb, I have been staying in Airbnb homes except for the times when I was on a campervan road trip in New Zealand or partnering with accommodation providers. There are humble rooms in the city of Tokyo to luxury villas in Europe top-notch locations. It is an experience that is vastly different from staying in a hotel (sometimes I do miss it). Compare walking out of your apartment surrounding by locals on the street of Okinawa to walking into your Sheraton hotel lobby full of tourists.

Last but not least, this is not a call for my readers to sign up with Airbnb through my link but a pure sharing session. But if you really need it, it is here.

If you are a first time user of Airbnb, use my link to get a USD33 credit which can be used for your bookings. By doing so, I get a credit of USD20 too. It helps to sustain me longer on the road to create content for my readers.

 

New Zealand, Travel

True Mud Therapy in Rotorua, New Zealand – Hells Gate Geothermal Park and Mud Bath Spa


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The smell of rotten eggs engulfed us once we drove into Rotorua. Located within the geothermal areas of the North Island, Rotorua is the place to go for an authentic mud adventure. The muds are famous for their bathing, relaxation, healing and overall well-being. It has been used by the Maori for more than 800 years.

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Spot the face!

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There are plenty of parking spots on site right outside the entrance. We chose to have the geothermal walk to explore the park first and enjoy the mud bath and spa later. It was right in the middle of winter which makes the experience even better – less crowds and having a hot spa in winter is just perfect.

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There is a path that leads off the the hot water fall, looking like a scene out of fairytale

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We had the opportunity to try out the Wai Ora Mud Bath & Spa package (NZD105). It includes the geothermal walk, private mud bath experience and the sulphur spa.

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Public mud bath area

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Sulphur spa pool area for you to relax in after the private mud bath experience

The private mud experience is wonderful because of the privacy that comes with it. Especially if you are going to get ‘mugly’!

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We left Rotorua, longing for that familiar rotten egg scent which had turned pleasantly soothing and wonderfully experienced Hells Gate!

Thanks to Hells Gate for the unique experience and making this trip possible! As always, all opinions are my own to provide my readers unbiased content.