"This blog is not necessarily for lovers of art, it includes a variety of topics and whatever. I'm a painter who likes to know what's really going on in the world today. So you might find anything from Shamrocks to Salmiakki mentioned here on my blog. There will of course be some boring, factual and informational posts, but I'll keep them to a minimum, I promise!

And I might get a bit nostalgic now and then.

So you have been warned!"

- Alan Hogan

Showing posts with label tourism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tourism. Show all posts

Monday, June 12, 2017

Eyes Wide Open

Visiting Finland during the summer months offers the chance to experience long evenings and for a certain period the midnight sun. In most parts of Finland it doesn't get very dark at all. Where I live along the south-west coast the darkness is set at twilight, so it can be bright enough to play a game of football.

Having spent almost ten years now living in Finland I am still amazed every June as the Midsummer period arrives with it's seemingly endless hours of light. It's an eerie sensation which can create wonder and plenty of sleepless nights. Black-out blinds are an essential purchase if you want to sleep!

While I still haven't been to the northern part of Finland yet, I can almost imagine what it must be like to have the sun up all day. It's something I would still like to experience sometime. One reason I haven't been so far north in the summer may be the presence of Finland's not-so loveable mosquitos. While we do get quite a lot of these bloodsuckers here in the south of Finland, I have heard stories of mild discomfort caused by the amount they have up north. This may be over-exaggerated, but during my first few years of living in southern Finland my legs were constantly under attack. After several days of itching and scratching they resembled a pair of crusty old pizzas! I think I offered the mosquitos a new dining experience of Irish blood which they took to like a vintage wine!

Nowadays my blood may have altered a bit or become less tasteful as they don't bother me too much anymore. Perhaps my tolerence for them has levelled out,  I honestly don't know!

Anyway I thought I'd reactivate my blog here today having read about a short-film been shown at a Finnish film festival this week. It's certainly an apt film to show as it's relevent to the festival's location and this time of year. It's called 'How a Mosquito Operates', a silent animated film made way back in 1912 by American cartoonist and animator Winsor McCay. It's just one of many films been shown, full list here

This Wednesday June 14th 2017, the Midnight Sun Film Festival begins it's five-day event in Sodankylä, Finland. It's an unusual film festival as it shows films around the clock without any breaks, just as the sun shines around the clock! 
The festival began in 1986 in the village of Sodenkylä, located in Finnish Lapland, some 120 kilometres above the Arctic Circle where the sun doesn't set at all in the summertime. So if you suffer from insomnia, this is the place for you!!

..and don't worry about the mossies!

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Thanks for reading my blog and please feel free to share it with any of your friends.

- Alan


Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Day in Hong Kong, Part 2 - Kowloon 九龍

... continued from 'A Day in Hong Kong Part 1'

After that, it was back on the bus to catch the Star Ferry to Kowloon peninsula. This short boat trip which was included on our bus tour package, is normally quite cheap anyway. It's a great way to see Hong Kong's impressive skyline and the many boats that occupy the waterways.

As soon as I landed in Kowloon it was off for a stroll into it's centre. Well, to be honest I don't think there is an actual centre. As soon as I got off the boat I felt like I had just stepped into the centre, and it was suddenly moving me along! Having walked through more and more people I decided it was time to find the Big Bus again. It hard to take in the atmosphere and sights when you have to watch where you're walking all the time. Kowloon seemed more busy than Hong Kong island, with more shops and markets. The most notable thing I detected was the difference between the executive business class and the normal working class. While on one road during my bus tour I was surrounded by big brand stores, modern high rise company buildings with luxury motor cars parked outside and many jewellery stores packed with young people. Then suddenly my Big Bus then drove me only five minutes around a corner to find stacks upon stacks of run-down and shabby apartment blocks. A sad and confusing sight.

The Chung King Hotel and the Hung Sing Hotel
... and many more easy names too remember!!!

I hopped off my bus again briefly when it passed by a busy street market. It looked like I might find a bargain or two there. To my surprise it wasn't as cheap as I expected, and I became tired of seeing the 'usual suspect' brands found worldwide, Goodbye Doggy etc.!!  Luckily I was saved when I bought a small wireless speaker with Bluetooth for €10, a bargain in my book! With so many people going through this market I became a little uncomfortable and claustrophobic. 'Time to find my Big bus again. But now, with so many people and all the signage looking the same and so unfamiliar, I couldn't quite figure out from where I originally got off my bus. Only for the odd western shop-sign I would probably have missed my bus or even my flight home. Thank you Hennes and Mauritz!!!

There's so much to see in this big city, even a week would be too short I reckon. I consider myself lucky to have had a chance to see just a snippet of it. Here's a good time-lapse video I found on YouTube featuring some amazing imagery of Hong Kong. 

It was good to finally see the Big Bus again, and lucky for me it was on it's last tour of the day. It dropped me off close to the Star ferry terminal, where I had an hour or so to find a toilet and look around at more shops and sights. I also got a chance to see the lights from accross the bay over Hong Kong island. Every evening an event called the 'Symphony of Lights' takes place. I had heard about this previously and wanted to see it. So I waited. And then I waited more. Nothing spectacular was happening. I got the feeling it would begin as soon as I was gone. I couldn't wait around any longer and had to dash for my ferry and train to the airport, it was getting late. I managed to see this lighting spectacle on YouTube when I got to the airport, and to be honest I wasn't impressed. The fact that this show takes place every night and the amount of energy it must use up is sad and a little worrying. The regular city lights were impressive enough for me.


I must say Hong Kong was very interesting and worth the visit, even if for just one day. I would have liked to stay a little longer and perhaps if I had known some local people, I think I would have loved to go out and sample some bars with them, especially a karaoke bar! 

Both Hong Kong and Kowloon were a bit of a culture shock for this easy-going european, but that won't stop me going back again if the chance ever arises again. All the time I spent walking around this city I never once felt intimidated or uneasy. 

I want to finish this blog with a video of my own which captures a small taste of this huge city. Sadly there's no karaoke bars, Big Buddah or even Bruce Lee statues. But it does have exciting escalators and me on the Big Bus!

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- Alan



A Day in Hong Kong, Part 1 香港

Last month I spent a day in the city of Hong Kong. It was primarily a stopover period of over 17 hours at Hong Kong airport which I decided to turn into a city day-trip. Luckily there is a good train link direct from the airport which only take 30 minutes. The airport itself is huge with plenty of places to grab a snooze if necessary. There's even a private area to rest and have a shower after your long flight for a payment. A range of packages are on offer, the cheapest being €18 for the use of a shower for an hour (there was no half-hour for €9 option available. I mean,who spends an hour in a shower anyway?)  The main feature at the airport for me was the long travelator or moving walkway which stretches from one end of the airport to the other!

After a 30-minute train journey into Hong Kong city  I immediately went for an early morning stroll outside. The first thing I noticed was the poor air quality. Having walked for a short while (30 minutes) I could feel a caustic-like irritation down my throat and I needed to cough a little. There wasn't a lot to see either as an early curtin of smog blocked any of the nearby views. This was not an early morning mist!

Early morning haze at Hong Kong airport

The air quality may not have bothered me so much a few years ago, but now that I have been living in a small rural town in Finland for a while this was a big change. I do recall experiencing days of poor air quality while living back in Dublin and visiting London, but this was different.

Anyway enough of the moaning, the Big Bus Tour awaited...Yayy!!! :D ... (said the hypocrite...)

I fully recommend this bus tour as it offers good package deals which can include tickets for the Star Ferry to Kowloon, Bus tour of Kowloon, Tram to Victoria's Peak including admission to the Peak viewing platform and lots of other attractions!  It's a chance to enjoy the city and relax in between long walks, especially if you're a daytripper like myself on this occasion. 
'Still early morning and having passed through the modern financial part of town (boring!) the first stop I got off at was for the tram to Victoria's Peak. My brother recommended this to me after he visited here a year or two ago. I wasn't disappointed either. I was even more surprised on discovering a multi-storey shopping mall was waiting to greet me when I got off the tram at the top. This was special, and the views were something else! ... Amazing! (luckily the smog had blown away just enough so not to hinder my view)

Impressive view from Victoria's Peak

On arriving back down from the Peak I noticed a massive queue for the next tram up. I felt slightly relieved that I had made this little excursion earlier in the day.
'Back onto the Big Bus tour and into the old part of Hong Kong city this time. Having stepped off the bus and strolled around briefly the sheer population density of this great city was becoming more and more evident to me. It's population of 7,184,000 is greater than the whole of Finland (5,454,444). It didn't bother me at all though as I quickly found the Central-Mid-Levels escalator, so I didn't have to hustle my way through any crowds. This is the longest escalator in the world covering over 800 metres in distance and elevating over 135 metres from bottom to top. At times it seemed like it would never end!  On the way up and down I noticed a variety of shops and restaurants, the air odour changing rapidly to one of delicious food and spices. I decided to stop and try out some food at a small Indonesian place called 'So Bali Bali'. The food wasn't cheap like some may think, but it tasted delicious and got two beers for the price of one during Happy hour. So a reasonable result!

A tower of marinated chicken at the So Bali Bali
Indonesian restaurant in Hong Kong.

During our stroll around Hong Kong I stumbled upon an interesting exhibition of photography called The Portfolios 10 Exhibition. Here I saw a fine collection of contemporary imagery, some quite unique and inspirational. There's a selection of images from this exhibition on a previous blog of mine called Hong Kong Hot Shots

After that, it was back on the bus to catch the Star Ferry to Kowloon peninsula. This short boat trip which was included on our bus tour package, is normally quite cheap anyway. It's a great way to see Hong Kong's impressive skyline and the many boats that occupy the waterways.

Read Part 2 of this blog in my next post HERE

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You can receive my blogposts direct to your email or facebook profile by pressing the follow button at NetworkedBlogs  and you are welcome to visit my art page on Facebook by clicking the 'Like' button under my signature below.

- Alan


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Postcard from Kinvara

... And so to part two of my Irish summer holiday recollections. This time a look at the village of Kinvara in County Galway on Ireland's west coast. This was to be our basecamp as planned back in Finland since way back in January beforehand. I even mentioned my plans to Irish radio presenter Hector Ó hEochagáin on his breakfast show to warn him I was coming over! 

Kinvara can be found on the map below just south of Galway city in the centre of the picture. The village name can also be spelt Kinvarra as on the map here, but please don't ask me why!
After driving non-stop from Dublin it was nice to stretch the legs and find our pre-booked accommodation. And we were not disappointed!

Click on image to enlarge

View of Kinvara harbour with the Burren hills behind in the distance.
Our house rental is in the centre of this photo.
Click on image to enlarge

Nice living space with all mod cons and free wi-fi! 
Click on image to enlarge

Hawthorn / Fushia House Rentals
Click on image to enlarge

This was our home for three hot days and nights (that's something you don't hear too often in Ireland!).  It got so warm that the asphalt on the roads started to melt. Unusual weather for Ireland, but always welcome. We prebooked our accommodation at the Hawthorn home rental after we booked our flights back in Finland. 

Patio view of the harbour

Patio view with free parking

The tide comes in!

The tide goes out!

Kinvara Garda Station (Police)

Watching the sun set at a nearby beach

Old ruins close to Kinvara

A boat

A wall

A closed Pub???

For some reason P.J.Flatley's pub seemed to be closed while we were in Kinvara. I heard about a cellar bar there which interested me. But a visit wasn't to be had!  
Luckily there's no shortage of bars and pubs in this small village, and over our short stay I got to visit a few of them. We got to hear some traditional Irish music in a pub called Connollys. Even though it's a pub aimed at the tourist trade, it came with a decent pint and prices weren't a rip-off like so many other tourist pubs. We also popped our heads into a pub called Conole's, but skipped having a drink as it lacked any atmosphere whatsoever. Instead we headed up the street to Tullys Bar which was just what I was looking for. A normal bar with a tv and music playing in the background. It also had a pool-table and friendly staff behind the bar. I wouldn't call Tullys a tourist pub, but it's a good place to meet and chat with the friendly locals. I couldn't have found a nicer place even though some dog ran off with the cue-ball in his mouth! 
A decent pint of Guinness also.... mighty!!!

Good Morning Kinvara! Maidin mhaith!!

After a pleasant Guinness-fuelled sleep it was great to open my bedroom window to the smell of the sea. I've done this on occasions in Finland also, but it's never the same. It's a completely different experience. The sea looks and smells very different with salty water and seaweed everywhere.

Kinvara, Co.Galway

During our time in Kinvara we used the facilities in our house rental as often as we could. I got to cook a full-Irish breakfast to my Finnish guests which was hard work but fun. I then watched as they all tried to figure out how a typical Irish heating and shower system works, which was even funnier! Yep, some things are different in Ireland.

We did get to sample some of Kinvara's restaurants and pub-grub, the best being served at the Merriman Hotel where the staff were excellent.

Using Kinvara as a base on the westcoast we also travelled to nearby Doolin in County Clare, driving through the Burren and visiting the Cliffs of Moher. We also took a boat-trip over to the Aran Islands as well as driving around the Connemara loop. But I'm gonna write about that on my next blogpost.
Before leaving the west coast and heading to the city of Kilkenny we visited Kinvara's main tourist attraction Dunguaire Castle.

Dunguaire Castle, Kinvara, Co.Galway

Check out this program from the BBC here which shows more scenes from Ireland's west coast as well as some interesting bits of history. Might be a good idea to go full screen for this one!

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This is part 6 of a set of 'Ireland' travel posts here on my blog. Click on the destinations below to read the rest!

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Thanks for reading my blog and please feel free to share it with any of your friends.

You can receive my blogposts direct to your email or facebook profile by pressing the follow button at NetworkedBlogs  and you are welcome to visit my art page on Facebook by clicking the 'Like' button under my signature below.

- Alan 


The Art Garage, Finland

The Art Garage, Finland
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