I´m back home since about two weeks, enjoying Swedish fall at its best.
For those of you with a good memory probably remember that I said something about going home for a few weeks in October to attend a seminar, finally getting done with my master´s degree in education management. That´s happening on November 13th (yes, it´s a Friday). Since I got back to Sweden two weeks ago, I have been preparing for next year and the big trip (it actually starts on Dec. 27th) basically going back and forth between my hometown and Stockholm. I have been trying to get as much as possible done concerning visas and passports as well as gearing up and researching my trip. While I have been focusing on this, this has been a time when friends have pulled through and made my life a lot easier. Ever since I sold my apartment in July I have been able to borrow apartments from different friends, keeping the stays in Stockholm on a reasonable level budget wise. I can´t even begin to say how much that means to me.
I will be back in the Ukraine in two weeks, meeting up Skip in Kiev. As of now I am planning on spending another three weeks in the Ukraine before going home for Christmas. (There will also be a pub crawl in Stockholm on the 12th of December along the route of Bus No 1. It´ll be my last one for quite some time.)
On the other side of Christmas, at noon on December 27th, I will be flying out of Copenhagen airport heading for Beijing. After having spent one night in Beijing, I´ll board a plane belonging to Air Koryo which will bring me to Pyongyang. Yes, I am spending New Year´s Eve in North Korea. I believe this will be one of those unforgettable holidays. Especially so since this is the first New Year´s weekend North Korea allows tourists into the country (at least according to the travel agency). It´s comforting to know that whatever happens, New Year´s of 2015 will be unforgettable. My stay in North Korea will only be for five days. On January 2nd, North Korean officials will make sure I board the train I am booked on, taking me to the Chinese city of Harbin in Manchuria and the Ice festival there. I have no doubt this will be one of the coldest experiences of my life but since I have been wanting to go there for ages I will just have to enjoy the fantastic sculptures and forget about the cold. I´m just hoping it won´t be too cold for my camera. (A few pictures from last year on the official page: http://www.icefestivalharbin.com/photo-p4-59-harbin-ice-and-snow-world.html.)
Naturally, things are a bit sketchier from there on. The only thing I know is that I am going to spend the Chinese New Year (8th of February) in Taiwan. Since everything shuts down during that holiday (we´re talking about a week), I´ll probably be stuck in Taipei for a while. But I can see worse places to be stuck in. I have experienced National day in China, but never New Year´s. Since I have no idea what to expect, tips of what I have to see and/or do is greatly appreciated. And a piece of information for you who are eager to learn things: we are heading into the year of the Monkey.
After Taiwan I am planning on heading north to Japan and South Korea and then back into China. Then – I don´t know. Either I will be heading south, heading to South East Asia, or I will be heading west, going to Central Asia. I will have the freedom to choose, and I will take advantage of and enjoy that freedom – right there and then. I am getting ready to pack up my camera and backpack and take off, yet again realizing what a tiny place Stockholm is in the world. It´s good to be reminded of that once in a while…