(Bora Vuth, a Cambodain based in the US, took his first trip to Iceland known for “Ice + Land”. Bora is kind to share his story with us on this platform, so that travelers from Cambodia or other countries can find some insight from his personal trip to one of the coldest places on Earth.)
It started off with just a simple sentence “I’m visiting Iceland!”. After that, I became bombarded with a bunch of questions, “Iceland? Why Iceland? What’s there to see? Isn’t it just like the name of the country implies, ‘Ice’ and ‘Land’? Why are you going there? Why not Hong Kong, Italy, France?” And the question goes on and on. My answer is simple, “It’s on my bucket list”.
I was reading up about Iceland here and there couple years back. I’ve associated Iceland with the following words, “ice, fire, aurora, lava, volcano, tectonic plate”. I mean, where else on earth can you find a country having such unique characteristics – boasting many active volcanos and one of the largest glaciers, positing itself on the tectonic plates between North America and Europe? So, without hesitation, I said yes when my friend asked me whether I wanted to join a trip to Iceland.
There it began.
We took an evening flight, which means that we would spend the night over the plane. Most of the time, I found it hard to get any sleep on the plane. With restricted space, the uncomfortable chair, and the loud engine noise, that was just tough! However, on this particular flight, I believe it was the best thing that could happen to me. About four hours into the flight, I took a glance through the window to see what’s out there. Not a bird, not the cloud, but the northern light. You have probably heard people talking how amazing it is, how beautiful it is, but nothing has prepared you enough seeing it with your own eyes. The light brightly lit up the night sky. It was dancing like a big green curtain moving around. It lasted about 30 minutes till the plane left its sight. And, that’s what I called ‘starting the trip off on a high note’.
Caption: Northern Light from the window of the airplane
Within the next two weeks, we constantly moved from place to place: the mountains, the glaciers, the waterfalls, the lava fields, the volcano cave, the hot springs, the mud pots, all over the places. We started off at Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland, and moved up north, then east, then south , and finally returned to Reykjavik to catch the flight back to the States. So, yes, that’s the whole island. We tried to hit as many attractions along our paths as possible. It was still quite aggressive to do that even within just two weeks.
Some interesting facts and my personal observation about Iceland:
- Population on the island is less than 500,000 people. Literally that means they have more sheep than the real human being on that island.
- The only native animal on that island is the arctic fox. Cows, sheep and horses are all being introduced during the settlement period.
- Vikings are the first settlers on the island, since 9th century.
- Most towns are fishing town. And most of the men living in those towns are working in fish factory or as fisherman.
- Since it sits right between North American and European tectonic plates, the ridge keeps expanding around 3cms per year. (Holy Sh*t! The landscape of this country keep changing year over year)
- Due to that reason, volcano is expected to be erupted every 5 years or so. The last one which was erupted in 2010 caused some traffic mayhem or the air travel in Europe, as the ash cloud moved by the wind blocking visibility in the sky.
- Apparently Burger and Pizza are on the menu at almost any restaurants.
- Recommended dishes: Lamb burger, vegetable soup, lamb soup, and don’t forget to try “catch of the day”, which guaranteed fresh fish dish.
- Average expense for a meal at a restaurant: $25
- Every town has a swimming pool and hot pot: should definitely go there to relax in the evening before dinner. Guaranteed that you’ll have a good night sleep.
- And if you’re Games of Thrones fan, you’re in luck. SPOILER ALERT: The show shoots a lot of scenes on this beautiful landscape (The Wall…)
There are so many highlights about this trip, but if I have to pick one, it’s the one that happened on one evening. That evening, we went to one of the oldest men who made hot springs in Iceland. The place was built in 1923, situated right in between valleys, southern part of Iceland. We spent an hour or so in the pool relaxing and chit chatting. By the time we headed back, it was pitch-dark. While walking back, all of a sudden, the moon started rising up from the valley on the left-hand side. The more we walked forward, the more the moon started to show itself in a full form. Moonlight started to light up the whole valley. The full moon on a clear night sky was so captivating that I could almost see the entire landscape of the valley. While others continued walking forward, I stopped there for a long moment soaking up the moonlight on a quiet night in between the valleys. That’s one of the most memorable moments yet from the trip.
I’ve said that to many of my friends, and I’m going to say it again. I’ve never seen any country as beautiful as Iceland. Its landscape will definitely mesmerize you in so many unexpected ways. The moment you think you’ve seen it enough, there is always the next thing that amazes you, either the clear blue lagoon, or the amazing crater. So, I strongly recommend people to go there if they can.