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There is No Starbucks Here

ICELAND | Saturday, 18 June 2011 | Views [5856]

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

Good evening from Iceland! This is a milestone because this is the first country I've ever been to (USA, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, UK) that was never part of the mighty British Empire. It's 11:30 p.m. and it is still daylight outside. It's tripping me out because I thought it was a lot earlier than it was. I'm curious to see what time it actually gets dark here. I am writing from my tiny hotel room in Reykjavik. I take back everything bad I had said about my London hotel room because this room is not what you'd expect at this kind of price. I'm staying at this hotel for the next 10 days, but starting on the 5th night I'm in an upgraded room for the rest of my time here. That was unintentional; I originally thought I would stay in Reykjavik for a few days only and then stay in other parts of the country, but literally every other place was booked so I had to adjust my trip to stay only in Reykjavik. So hence the 2 different hotel rooms in the same hotel. I'm glad I have a better room later on though because I think I will be depressed staying in this specific room my whole time here. Oh the things I will do for a free breakfast buffet. Oh and the bathroom smells like sulfur (like rotten eggs). Why, you ask? Because the hot water actually comes from geothermal power plants, which makes it good for bathing but not drinking. Otherwise though the water is exceptionally pure, I had a cup of Icelandic water on the airplane and a glass of tap water at dinner, and they were the most refreshing drinks I've had in years.

I set out really early this morning to take the Picadilly Line in London to Heathrow Airport. Way too early because the subway heading that direction wasn't crowded at all, but I was paranoid. At least I got a full breakfast at the airport. It was a pretty smooth flight. My checked luggage and my carry-on were both over the limit, but just by a bit so the airline guy let it go. Yay. The plane was pretty full but not overbooked and I managed to fall in and out of sleep during the 3-hour flight. The flight attendants said everything in Icelandic and then in English, which was a relief. All Icelanders seem to be bilingual, and unsurprisingly everyone starts speaking in English to me right before I even say anything. I guess there must be something about me says I'm not an Icelander.  =)

The customs line at Keflavik Airport was like a dream-come true. Remember back in the good old days (from what I've seen on tv shows and movies) when all you had to do when you entered a foreign country was to show your passport, get it stamped, and then mosey on through? That's all I had to do here. No customs form to fill out, just show the guy my passport, answer 2 questions, get my passport stamped, and just walk all the way through customs. It was so nice. Then after I picked up my luggage I went to book a Flybus ticket to get dropped off at my hotel. The worker seemed amused when I bought my ticket; I think all the foreigners had asked the same stupid question of which bus we were supposed to get on and he had to keep pointing at the first bus in line parked 15 feet away.

It was a peaceful ride into Reykjavik. The ride lasted about 45 minutes and whether people were just taking in the scenery or were tired from the flight, hardly anyone said anything on the bus. I could have ridden on that bus for 3 more hours. I love these types of buses. They're the semi-luxury liners with reclining seats and luggage holders – my bread and butter when I traveled around New Zealand – and it just felt so comfortable and familiar. Then I got dropped off at my hotel here and walked into my room and after seeing it, locked my stuff quickly in my room safe and got out of there as fast as I could to explore the city.

Reykjavik central is definitely a lot different than I expected it to be. I walked along one of the bigger streets into town but the place felt very quiet – but not in a good way. It felt very dead. It could just have been the time of day too – 5 p.m. On a Saturday probably doesn't get very crowded here. Once I hit the heart of the city and actually saw more people I felt better. There's this metal sculpture of a Viking ship right on the edge of the water, and all the other tourists seemed to flock there like it was some religious idol. We all just sort of stood or sat there for a few minutes holding our cameras. It was cloudy when I arrived but by then the sun was out and the weather felt great so I think everyone was just enjoying the sun. As I'm writing in my hotel room I have the radiator off and the window open. The weather is probably nicer now than it was in London when I left, where it was pouring rain.

I had dinner at this sort of hole-in-the-wall Thai place called Krau Thai. It was located in some far-off corner but it was recommended in my Bradt travel guide and it was actually a decent-sized meal. Then I got lost walking around the city center while making mental notes about where to eat the rest of my time here. There are a lot of small cafes and bars and I think the nightlife is known for being really good here. That being said, I need to start booking all my day trips because if all I had to do here was check out the bars and restaurants I would get bored very quickly. London was a more suitable place for that. Now it's time to get away from the city.

I haven't booked anything for tomorrow yet. Possible options include the Blue Lagoon, whitewater rafting, snorkeling – basically anything that can be done in half a day since I'll need to book it in the morning and won't have time for the huge day trips until Monday at least.

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