Monday, December 01, 2008 - Come Join the Fun!

And with this entry, we conclude Linköpinglivin'.

It's been a great journey - for which I am so grateful to all the faithful and occasional readers and commenters - and I can't wait to get back to Sweden someday soon.

Until then, please come join the fun in Thailand:

Vi ses en dag snart, Sverige!

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Thailand Time Out

For someone so compelled by Europe’s history, culture, food, people and grandeur, and for someone who proudly declares how much he prefers cool weather to hot weather, and for someone who still had not explored so many areas of Europe that simply cannot be missed (Ireland, Spain, ITALY!), an excursion to Thailand might have seemed like a curious choice.

Sure, plenty of Swedes take that flight from Stockholm to Bangkok, and then they head straight to Thailand’s famous beaches and islands, but Sean never went anywhere in Europe for beaches or warm weather (Russia in November?).

“Okay, I’ll come down, hang out in Thailand for a couple weeks, then I gotta get back to Europe and continue my escapade until I go home for Christmas.” This was my plan.

There was an empty seat on my plane from Bangkok to Rome that left last Thursday morning.

Amazing how travel and life priorities can be altered when someone captures your heart….

I’ll be staying in Thailand for a little while, but despite my ever-changing plans, you can always rely on a weekly blog entry to cover the story of some travel adventures, some cultural discoveries and, apparently, some unexpected (though welcomed) turns on the journey of life.

However, a blog entitled Linköpinglivin’ simply won’t suffice in Thailand.

Next week will mark the last official blog entry to Linköpinglivin’ in the form of a link to a new blog about my “time out” in Thailand. Blog title suggestions are currently being accepted.

See you next week, one last time before we “all” make the jump to Linköpinglivin’, the sequel.

Pictures above:

1. Just another day guiding a bamboo raft in the mountains of Thailand.

2. Paige and Sean river rafting, Thailand-style.

3. A Thai barbecue helps celebrate a birthday of some of Paige's students.

4. In the back of a "Tuk-tuk" motorbike taxi, the best form of road transportation in Thailand.

5. Baby elephants are large, but cute.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thailand Part 2: Chiang Mai

As my post-Sweden/Thailand experience continues, and Bangkok just becomes bigger and bigger with endless opportunities for new sights, exploration and ways to enjoy the warmth of climate and people, I remember that any trek to Thailand must include getting away from Bangkok and its metropolitan city-life in order to be exposed to a truer Thailand, a more revealing perspective of what distinguishes Thailand and this regional culture from other countries in the world.

Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second city and a 12-hour overnight train ride will get you to this northern, mountain enclave for a completely different experience of Thailand. Chiang Mai is almost like an overgrown village. Not too many large buildings, just a few scattered highways and very little of it screams “commercialism.” All you need to know is, despite Chiang Mai’s population of nearly 1 million people, you have to search far and wide to find a McDonalds, which I just had to look up on the internet in order to know if there even was one.

Though a popular tourist destination for backpackers and other “farang” (foreigners) for the many markets, festivals, elephant riding, cooking and massage classes, Chiang Mai has a much more personal and comfortable atmosphere than Bangkok, still maintaining pieces of culture which include Thai, Lao, Burmese and Chinese influences due to its location on a historically significant trade route.

And if you travel enough, every-once-in-awhile, your scheduling benefits from your complete lack of planning and awareness – unbeknown to me, Thailand’s famous Loi Kratong festival was taking place three of the four nights I was there, so the night sky was lit up with flame-powered air lanterns and the river was speckled with candles resting on banana leafs celebrating the 12th month’s full moon.

Yes, I’m a long way from Sweden.

And the United States.

Perhaps one of the best parts for the visiting “farang” from the north is that Chiang Mai’s mountain climate decreases the temperature dramatically, which was welcomed by this converted Swede still getting used to temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius.

More from Thailand next week, including some clarity to my ever-changing personal plans for post-Sweden.
Pictures above:
1. "Sawat-dee k'ap" from Thailand!
2. The elephant is the animal symbol of Thailand. Asian elephants are smaller and have smaller ears than their more famous African counterparts.
3. Night festivals for Loi Kratong include endless colors, décor and lights. Thailand is very good at color, décor and light.
4. A Loi Kratong hot-air lantern takes to the sky (picture courtesy of the internet).
5. This is Paige – the reason I am in Thailand. More about Paige on Linköpinglivin’ next week.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Thailand Part 1: Bangkok

This week, my post-Sweden life began by stepping off a plane in a part of the world I had never before experienced, South East Asia. While I had been to Shanghai as a teenager (back when going to China wasn’t cool), I had never been this far south on our globe - quite the shock after having never been that far north in Sweden.

My vision of Bangkok before arriving was a huge, chaotic, congestion-filled, dirty, hot and unruly city that would be, well, quite a change from Scandinavia.

This perception is accurate, but I’ve already learned to get past the initial traumatic welcome to one of the world’s biggest cities (10 million live in Bangkok) and discover what lies behind the big city organized chaos.

Two things strike the unsuspecting visitor to Thailand: Warmth of climate and warmth of people. For those of you in Sweden, brace yourselves. Thailand has been hovring at about 30 degrees this week (88 Farenheit). Yeah, it's tropical. Yeah, it's nice. Yeah, even for someone who generally prefers the cooler weather, it's not so bad.
More importantly though, even in the big city, due to the friend I am visiting here, I have been able to connect with Thai people in a way that surpasses what travelers usually experience. This has made all the difference in my first week in Thailand. The Thai people on the street and in the home are quick to smile, quick to laugh and display a warmth and friendliness that touches the traveler from the beginning.

My advice when travelling to any part of the world: Get past the initial impressions of the place, be they positive or negative, and get to know the people. After just five full days in Bangkok, the warmth of hospitality and welcome that Thai people have developed a reputation for is clear.

Check back next week for more from Thailand and what my post-Sweden life is bringing…

Pictures above:

1. Thailand’s flag.
2. Temples abound throughout Thailand, but the most illustrious and ornate are found in the heart of touristy Bangkok.
3. More mesmerizing temples.
4. Three examples of transportation in Bangkok: Taxi, bus and “tuk-tuk,” the tourist’s favorite way to get from point A to point B in Bangkok.
5. Welcome to Thailand, Sean.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A New Adventure: Thailand

It was a somewhat remarkable and wholly unexpected set of circumstances that brought me to Sweden and now it is a remarkable and wholly unexpected set of circumstances that will take me to Thailand, my first stop in my post-Sweden life. I fly to Bangkok tomorrow.

I can just hear all you Swedes saying “one last vintage Swedish experience for Sean, because flying to Thailand has indeed become a very Swedish experience.” It’s estimated that 4% of all Swedes went to Thailand last year (360,000!), but I assure you that my plans don’t include sitting on a beach all day every day, okay maybe just a few days…

As this is the final blog entry about this country that I have come to appreciate and enjoy so much, I want to extend a word of “tack så mycket” to the many Swedish, American and other readers for their contributions and faithful reading of Linköpinglivin’ over the past two-plus years. This blog, and the enjoyment I have found through it, has been one of the most unexpected highlights of my Swedish experience. You helped make this a rich and rewarding Sunday/Monday evening exercise.

And to emphasize the point once again, though the Swedish influence on this blog will be concluding with this entry, the blog itself will continue, so if you’d like to stick around and see what the next adventure has in store, you would be most welcome.

Svenskar, jag har kommit att älska dina land och människor. Jag kommer sakna er, Linköping, Stockholm, fika, sommar ljus, vinter snö, köttbullar, prinsesstårta, Santa Lucia, Domkyrkan, Kanevad, Åbacka, Mjellerums Gård, Norins Ost, Äntligen bröd, Bilar, Stora Torget, Bosses Glassbar, LHC, röda sommar stugor, Ryttargårdskyrka, kanelbullar, Svenskaspråket och så mycket om Sverige. Tack så jätte mycket för allt. Ska komma tillbaka snart!

Hej då Linköping, hej då Sverige. Vi ses.

To Thailand. Please come along.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Linköpinglivin' Welcomes Budget Travel Readers

A special welcome to Linköping and Sweden for all readers discovering Linköpinglivin’ for the first time.

Budget Travel, one of the most popular monthly travel magazines in the United States, seeks to help the common traveler find unique and affordable experiences of travel both inside the U.S. and worldwide. The November issue of Budget Travel has a feature about how to start a travel blog and includes some advice from (and a link to) Linköpinglivin’.

For over two years, Linköpinglivin’ has taken a sometimes playful and sometimes meaningful look at Sweden through the eyes of a foreigner. Linköping (pronounced "Lin-shipping") is found two hours south of Stockholm and is Sweden's fifth largest city. This blog can be intriguing for Americans of Swedish or Scandinavian descent, helpful for foreigners who have responsibilities or relationships with Swedes and entertaining, maybe even enlightening, for Swedish readers who until now have made up more than half of the weekly readers.

However, this is an interesting time to potentially increase the Linköpinglivin' readership level since my memorable experience of living and working in Sweden will be coming to an end next week. While the blog itself will continue as my travel and new cultural exposures are only just beginning, the Swedish focus will be shifting, and shifting quite dramatically, too.

After one more journey to Prague to visit my Dad this coming week, my adventure abroad will continue, but far from the European escapade that I have come to enjoy so much.

Linköpinglivin’ welcomes first-time readers and promises all readers that if you’ve come to look forward to this weekly perspective on culture and travel, rest assured that your best procrastination excuse will indeed be continuing.

See you next week as we wrap-up Sweden and look to the next great experience of people and travel a long way from where we started.
Pictures above:
1. The November issue of Budget Travel (see an earlier blog entry on the subject of starting a travel blog from April 2008 on Linköpinglivin').
2. Though all Scandinavian flags have this type of cross pattern, Sweden's is the beloved blå o gul, blue and yellow.
3. Me during my first adventure in Gamla Stan, Stockholm's Old Town, in 2006.
4. Linköping has a massive cathedral called Domkyrkan. I've always enjoyed the smaller town community and charm of this humble city with some really great people. They will all be missed.
5. Bikes are the friendly mode of transportation for many in Sweden and Linköping's main square always reveals this....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Swedish Fun Facts: One Last Time...

It’s been over two years, but new things keep popping up in Sweden (or old things that I realize I never mentioned on Linköpinglivin’), so settle in for one last go 'round of Swedish Fun Facts:

*Swedes refer to the weeks of the year not as “the last week in February” or “the middle weekend in October,” but, predictably in Sweden, the weeks of the year all have numbers. The first week in January is Week 1, the fourth week in January is Week 4, etc. Christmas is always Week 52 and as for the other week numbers, who in the world could ever keep track? Well, not even the Swedes. That’s why they have a handy website: Just click here and all your woes about the weeks will be solved! The numbers of the week starts to work as soon as you get a calendar which includes them…

*Many of you have started to notice the wide array of “köping” towns located in southern Sweden. In addition to Linköping and the previously mentioned Norrköping and Söderköping, there is also Nyköping, Enköping, Jonköping, and just Köping. Köpa means “to buy” in Swedish and these were commercial towns on the way from Stockholm to Malmö and the rest of Europe in days gone by.

*Sweden is a country, similar to what is well known about Japan, where guests are generally expected to remove their shoes upon entering a home. Those shoes are usually full of snow, mud, rainwater and such that mess up what is usually a nice Swedish hardwood floor.

*Worldwide opinion considers Swedes to be very open about sex and there is a strong perception of strong promiscuity among Swedish women. This mis-perception came from a Swedish film in the early 70s that pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable and became internationally acclaimed. The fact is that Swedes are very modest in public and are extra sensitive when a woman is publicly degraded for the sake of advertising or tabloids.

*However, Swedes are also known for letting go a little bit when they leave the boundaries of their own country! Apparently, lagom (“not too much, not too little, just right”) often only applies to a Swede only while in Sweden…

*In Sweden, if you don't want to receive advertisements in your mailbox, you merely need to post a sign or attach a sticker "Ingen reklam, tack," which means "No advertisements, thanks." How un-American of them!

*I heard recently that as high as 4% of the Swedish population traveled to Thailand last year alone (approximately 360,000). That’s the same percentage of Americans that OWN a passport… (other recent popular travel spots for Swedes escaping the darkness of winter have been the Canary Islands and the Costa Del Sol in Spain).

*Swedes usually consider November the longest month of winter (even though it’s not officially winter yet) because it’s too early for snow, but it’s getting darker and darker every day and the next festive occasion is still a month away… Glad I’m skipping town before November’s darkness arrives!

This has been fun. There’s plenty more interesting, curious and unexplained fun facts about Sweden and her people, but you’ll just have to come here and find out for yourself from now on. I will leave Sweden in two weeks.

After lamenting recently about my overlooking of Stockholm’s bar made entirely of ice, I decided to try it out during my last trip to Sweden’s capital. Tons of fun, as I knew it would be. It was really "cool."

Unexpectedly, I had one more visitor to Sweden, the last of my 26. Kelly Ronan, a former student with whom I worked at the University of Washington made the trek up from Romania where she is working for the fall. From Stockholm to Linköping, IKEA to the Ice Bar, frukost to fika, Kelly was a more than memorable final guest. Thanks for the impressive pilgrimage, Robo, and for our continuing friendship long after Seattle.

Pictures above;

1. One recently-captured crayfish looks much bigger than it actually is in the hands of a student with whom I work.

2. That is one American-sized kanelbulle found in a storefront window in Linköping.

3 - 5. Friend and final visitor, Kelly, enjoys a boat ride and a cold bar in Stockholm.