Diipti: We were amazed to see the robust amount of research you conducted for this trip. Do you remember you brought your Finland research dossier to Prrem’s and showed us all your notes about the route, highlights and checklists for Finland?
Manish: Wow! You remember that! Thank you. Yes, I take care of all the research when I travel with family, no travel agent, no conducted tours for me! I might have put in at least 400 hours of research if not more! I believe: if you book a hotel for me, all chances are that I will curse that hotel; this is not good, this is bad, etc. But if I have research about a place, I will never complain.
Yuktie: That’s true. There’s a different romance altogether about travelling independently! How different is your research from the actual experience?
M: There is a universal law that says - You have to feel what you want, not just see it. Feel it with all your senses, until you engrain it in your system, you will achieve it. When I started my research six to eight months ago, the same photographs that I browsed through, my son was amazed to point out that I captured exactly the same pictures! Everything that I engrained during my research I actually experienced! That’s an amazing feeling.
D: Wow, that’s something. So why did you choose Finland and what were the highlights?
M: I am fascinated with the Northern Lights! Even though we travelled there in the month of October which is not the best season for the Northern Lights, it was the only time we were free to go. So I took a chance. We flew from Bombay to Delhi, Delhi to Helsinki and from there to Ivalo, which is high up in the Arctic north. From Ivalo there is a place further north called Sarasilka, we stayed there for four nights then we drove down 12 kilometres to the igloo village, we stayed a night in a glass igloo!
Also while interacting with the locals I was amazed to find that work is not a significant part of their life, they work just about seven month, then come down to Helsinki for five months. Five hours of work and the rest is all about outdoors, parties, etc. They enjoy life, over my 8 days there, I didn’t see a single cop, hear a single honk, that’s how well behaved the locals are. There are no ticket-checking systems at stations, trams or buses. Everyone is so honest and so well behaved! I was amazed!
Y: Yes, pleasant locals always make for a beautiful experience. Do you think you missed out on something?
M: I should have stayed up all night to see the Northern Lights. I did see some clearly two or three times but we slept early and the next day a German couple told us that at 2 a.m they had an excellent view!
D: Oh! Hits and Misses, part of the game. What about winter sports?
M: Yes! A ride with the huskies was fabulous, the reindeer ride was magical, riding snow mobiles was a great rush!
For the snow mobile ride we chose to go at night. We started around 9pm and went on till 1am, riding at the speed of 70 to 80km per hour! You can imagine the chilly winds! When we reached the wilderness, it was just the four of us and a guide. The guide showed us a non destructible, tracer card and said, “If something untoward happens I will save you but if something happens to me call this number, a chopper will come and pick you up.” Imagine we went to that kind of location where the guide had to have a card on him that can be traced! I was scared!
D: What an adventure! And that too in freezing temperatures!
M: It was very cold, the first evening as we stepped out of our hotel in Helsinki, we took our jackets along but very boldly din’t carry our caps and gloves, barely a few steps ahead we were struck by a chilly gust of wind. We all ran back to bundle-up properly! Helsinki was about 4 or 5°C, with very strong winds. Up north the temperatures were as low as -10°C. I still remember the first night in Sarasilka we were struggling through each other’s winter wear!
D: Brrr! Its good you dropped by at Prrem’s before your trip! Share with us, 3 must things you must do in Finland?
M: Helsinki is good as a base. The Archipelago to the west is worth visiting, something I missed due to lack of time. If you have time I would recommend you go to Stockholm and take the ice breaker ship to Finland, that’s the grand entry to Finland. Another day trip you can do is to Tallinn, Estonia’s capital from Helsinki.
Also, there are different kind of safaris, on huskies, reindeers and snow mobiles. But to see the northern lights it is better to opt for a snow mobile. If the weather is not ok, we can quickly ride to another part of the region for better sightings.
Y: Top Travel Tips?
M: Don’t leave without camera, medicines, laminated printout of ids with all contact details. I always upload all travel document details on email, so that no matter where I am I can access them in case of an emergency. Also, don’t bother about being connected; just enjoy the beauty and the travel experience! In the countryside don’t get too adventurous, it’s very difficult to ascertain when you cross the line of risk; especially in the wilderness.
D: Where is your wanderlust taking you to next?
M: Austria. I plan to strap on my Go Pro Camera while skydiving and go click click at everything without having to hold on to it! Also in Austria everyone mostly speaks German, and I don’t, so I have to be prepared that much more.
D: We’ll look forward to hearing about your Austria experience! Thank you for chatting with us. Hope you have an amazing trip!
M: Thanks! I always enjoy meeting people equally passionate about travelling. It was fun talking to you!