[1Month2Wander] Stop 6: A Wintery Mix of Coast and Forest in Bergen by Amanda Liew

The Norway in a Nutshell fjords tour took me from Oslo to Bergen, so I stayed in Bergen for two nights. Let me tell you, this city is so insanely quaint. With the cute old-timey houses, wharfs, and cobblestone roads, there were certain parts of the city that reminded me so much of Northeast coastal towns like Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Aside from the city itself, I was lucky to have met an awesome Australian couple on my tour the day before, Cameron and Felicity, and we decided to spend the day exploring together!

It was beyond chilly out, but we went up the funicular to Mount Floyen and surely had more fun than anybody else up there. Hilariously, at the information center we asked a guide what else there was to do at the top of Mount Floyen besides see the view of the city and he said “Oh there’s a lot! There’s a lot of hiking…and a lot of people hike…” Even though it had just snowed (or rather, because it had just snowed!), we decided to actually hike portions of it and ended up seeing such a magical wintery forest.

In fact, there were moments where the magic of the forest started making us see little Norwegian trolls…oh wait, that was real. Turns out the Norwegians are legit OBSESSED with trolls, and there are dozens of troll statues hidden throughout the land! We couldn’t stop laughing at how bizarre the little creatures were, and mightily impressed with how far the troll statues seemed to extend.

We also took the time to explore Bryggen which I feel obliged to mention is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but I’m also realizing that pretty much everything is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so that’s starting to lose some meaning to me. Be a little bit more exclusive, would you, UNESCO?! Keep the cool table for the cool kids! Of course, Bryggen would still totally make the cut for the cool kids table in my book, because it was secretly cool. If you walk past the front street, you initially think “Aw, what a cute little row of houses…I guess they’re just really well preserved!” and might be tempted to walk away after a few pictures. But wait! There are actually some unlabeled passages that lead to a labyrinth of overlapping shops, cafes, and museums. We weren’t planning on spending too much time in Bryggen, but kept getting sucked into one cool store after the other. There was even a three story Christmas store!

But really, America needs to take a pointer or ten from the way Europeans do Christmas. While we didn’t go to a Christmas market in Bergen (don’t worry, I’m still hitting the upper-teens in other cities!), we did go to a Gingerbread Exhibit. Based off of the sketchy building it was in, I had some pretty low expectations for what to expect, but dang, Bergen LOVES its gingerbread. A large section of the exhibit was a recreation of Bergen itself with scaled mountains and funicular trains. Other parts were random yet wildly fun like a Quidditch field, Death Star, and Frozen castles. What’s even sweeter is that many of the gingerbread houses are made by schools and students, so it’s really a community effort!

Also, my post on Bergen can’t go without a mention of Det Lille Kaffekompaniet, an incredible coffee shop my friend Kathryn recommended. It’s right by the funicular station, so we actually went for breakfast (latte + a slice of delicious carrot cake for me) and post-forest warm-up (mint mocha, my favorite!). As a note, the Norwegians seem to love to sleep in so it didn’t actually open until 10am – my type of people!

Yet another huge thank you to Kathryn for sending over such wonderful recommendations for Oslo, the fjords trip, and Bergen! Also a load of hugs over to my new friends Cameron and Felicity for sharing such a fun day with me and being hospitable enough to welcome me into their home (aka hotel room) to warm up, provide me with a cup-of-soup dinner (backpackers know how to save money!) and even lend me a nail clipper because the travel struggle has been too real. Forest explorations and troll discoveries were so much more fun with you two, and I can’t wait until our next travel reunion!

If you're planning your own trip...


  • I stayed at the Bergen YMCA Hostel & actually would not recommend it. Surprising, right? The facilities were decent, but the shower was just absolutely infuriating. It required you to press a button every 9 seconds to keep the water on. I get that they want to conserve water & save money, but at least give us 30 seconds! 


  • Bergen is extremely walkable & we didn't need to take any public transportation or cabs during our time there!
  • I took the Flybussen from central Bergen to the airport for about 90.0 Kr. I left very early in the morning & I think they run on a different express schedule at that point, so I actually had to run from my original stop to another stop to catch the bus. One of those things where I made it on the bus & never quite figured out what I did wrong or right! Besides that, an easy trip though. 


  • Det Lille Kaffekompaniet, the cafe, for delicious coffees & cakes!


Travel: What It Means by Amanda Liew


Over the past few years my travels have defined me in ways I could never expect.

I've begun to see my trips as markers along my path purely because of how much each trip has taught me -- how I changed after I studied abroad, how my perspective on solitude changed during my first real solo trip. It's taught me a different kind of self confidence, how to interact with strangers, how to be satisfied with solitude, how to be flexible, the list goes on. 

It's also taught me how to appreciate "home."

2015 was filled with Australia, Jordan, National Parks, and 17 European cities. To say the least, it was a whirlwind. When I came back, though, I made a different kind of New Years Resolution: "to grow deeper roots."

To me, that meant spending more time in New York City & deepening my roots in my faith, my relationships, my job, and my community.

It has been a beautiful year of exactly that: growing roots deep. After 8 months of limiting myself to a few domestic trips here and there, in 3 short days I embark on my first international trip of the year: Iceland. I feel that familiar sense of excitement tingling in my stomach, my wanderlust ready to burst out, my eyes already imagining incredible photographic shots, and more.

To add to the excitement even more, this trip is the first time I get to share my love for travel with my wonderful boyfriend, Caleb. We joked at the beginning of our relationship that there were different "versions" of ourselves - Party Caleb, Outdoorsy Caleb, California Amanda, Get Down to Business Amanda, and more. A beautiful part of our relationship has been discovering new sides of each other, and finally, finally...Travel Amanda gets to step into her element. And with that, I get to share an extremely important aspect of my life.

Travel on.

ABCD Trip Part 2: Antelope Canyon by Amanda Liew

It's embarrassing, but 2016 has flown by so fast, that I am only now getting to editing my ABCD Trip from...September 2015. Corey, Benedetto, and Dana have been bugging me for nearly a year to see my photos, but between my extra travels through Europe, starting a new job, entering a new relationship, and more, it's been hard to find the time to sit down and edit the thousands (literally) of photos that I have on backlog.

 Nevertheless, I am absolutely determined to blog all aspects of my travelventures before my memory fades, if only for myself & my own pleasure.

After leaving the Grand Canyon, the four of us drove from the Grand Canyon to Antelope Canyon. While the drive straight through was supposed to be 2 hours and 40 minutes, one of our big regrets was not leaving ourselves enough time to see the Grand Canyon from a different view along the drive. There were so many points that we wanted to stop & just couldn’t because we were trying to make our first tour at 10am in Upper Antelope Canyon. We also naively thought we could just “pop in” to Horseshoe Bend to take a quick look & did not factor in a mini hike to a proper viewpoint.  

Nevertheless, this was one of the most incredible parts of our trip! Based off of our research, you have to do a guided tour for both the Upper & Lower portions of the canyon (details below). We did Upper at 9am in the morning, went to Page for lunch, did Lower at 1:30pm and then caught the sunset at Horseshoe Bend around 5pm.  

Without a doubt, Antelope Canyon is every photographer’s dream. The way the canyon changes throughout the day, the way the rocks can appear blue, purple, red, or pink just with light and shadows, the way that the entire canyon was carved out of wind and water…it’s all just incredible. This was by far my most photographic-centric part of the trip, especially since the “hikes” themselves were not strenuous at all for our group. I loved how abstract the photos came out & how you can't always tell if you're looking up or through the canyon. The way the light beams would hit the ground below or bounce through certain crevices only made the canyon all the more magical.

If you’re planning your own trip:


  • There are a lot of tours that go through Upper & Lower Antelope Canyon. I picked the following based off of some other reviews, but to be honest there is only one “route” through the canyons and therefore I would assume the tours can’t differ too much.
  • Upper Antelope Canyon: Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours, $40/person*
  • Lower Antelope Canyon: Ken’s Tours, $20/person*
  • Navajo Grounds Entrance Fee: $8/person*
  • *As of September 2015 


  • Best Western View of Lake Powell Hotel - a pretty decent hotel! There was a great pool and jacuzzi with a view. Nothing out of this world, but it gets the job done, was decently sized, and clean.


  • Big John’s Texas BBQ (https://www.yelp.com/biz/big-johns-texas-bbq-page) - surprising to find a Texas BBQ spot in the middle of Page, but this was legit. We ordered a huge fill of ribs, brisket, sides, and ate to our heart’s content. Incredibly friendly waitstaff too! Definitely the perfect meal in between our tours.

DSLR Photography: 

  • If you are looking to get some really spectacular shots, keep in mind that the regular tours move pretty quickly through the canyons & you won’t have an opportunity to set up a tripod. Admittedly, I skirted the rules a bit by lingering behind as much as possible on our tours to get certain shots with long exposures (sans tripod), but it was very rushed.
  • I noticed that some of the other companies have Photography Tours which cost much more, but unfortunately that would have meant going without my 3 friends which wasn’t really an option.
  • Given limits on shutter speed & wanting to use a pretty large depth of field, you’ll certainly need a high ISO. I could get away with shooting at ISO 3200, f/4.0, 1/25 for some of my handheld shots, but other times would have to rely on steadying my camera against a rock of some sort.


[1Month2Wander] STOP 5: Fjords and Snowcapped Mountains In Flam by Amanda Liew

On one hand, I’m tempted to not even write a blog post for my Norwegian fjords tour and just let the photos speak for themselves, but on the other hand, I can’t help but absolutely gush at how out of this world the experience was. A thousand thanks to my wonderful friend Kathryn whose photos essentially convinced me to do Norway to begin with. At one point I was considering just taking a train straight from Oslo to Bergen, but I’m so happy I decided to do Norway in a Nutshell instead! During the entire journey, I was able to see vast snowy landscapes, rushing icy waterfalls, and of course, fjords fjords and more fjords. Not just any fjord, my friends, oh no, we got to pass through Sognefjord, Norway’s longest and largest fjord! We even went through it’s narrowest part, which is only 980 feet across. The trip was just so breathtakingly beautiful and it was one of those moments where I kept thinking, “I can’t believe I’m really here. I can’t believe. I’m really. HERE." Even though I've continued on to other cities full of beautiful sights, I think this experience ranks #1 in terms of awe-inspiring. It was so unbelievable to see the multiple waterfalls cascading down the mountains throughout our trip, and the picture above might be one of my all-time favorites.

Now, to let the pictures speak for themselves!

Details for those of you planning on doing the trip yourself:

Norway in a Nutshell is essentially a perfectly scheduled trip from Oslo to Bergen with a variety of trains, buses, and boats in between that provide maximum scenery. Since it’s not actually a tour, there are quite a few blog posts out there that provide advice on how to do-it-yourself, but I didn’t have the time to handle all of the bookings myself and decided the convenience and peace-of-mind was worth the extra cost. After finishing the trip, I can tell you without a doubt that paying the steep price for Norway in a Nutshell was well worth it.

The Just Wanderlust blog (JW) was particularly useful for reading more details about the trip, so I recommend checking this post out. The following is a mixture of her seating advice & my post-trip opinions since I went at a different time!

Oslo to Myrdal Train (4 hours): We left at 8am, and I was running on so little sleep that I really wished I could have kept my eyes open longer – even this part of the trip was absolutely stunning. I lucked out because it had just snowed, so the scenery was a gorgeous white infinity. This portion of the trip gives you an exact train & seat assignment, but since I was traveling off-season, I was able to move over to the left-hand side to get some better pictures as recommended by JW. The train itself was very comfortable and each seat had an electrical outlet!

Myrdal to Flam Train (50 minutes): It’s an adorable old green train and while I loved the boat ride, I think this was actually my favorite because of the incredible waterfall that the train takes a pitstop at. Our first train was running with a delay, but since the majority of the passengers are from Norway in a Nutshell, our second train waited for us. JW had recommended getting a seat in the front or back of the car since the windows can be opened for better pictures. I’ll add on to that & mention that the very front of the train has a section you can stand in (between the conductor and the seating area of the first car), and you might as well go to those windows for photos!

Break in Flam: As a few blogs recommended, I bought groceries for lunch the night before in Oslo since I didn’t want to pay the steep prices for the Flam restaurants. The town itself is quite small, and I was a little too hungry and tired at this point to explore so I found a table in the information center to eat at.

Flam to Gundvagen Boat Ride (2 hours): The most anticipated part of the trip! An incredible ride through the fjords themselves. I believe JW went during peak-season, and I’m assuming her seat recommendation is due to the boat being quite crowded. For my trip, however, we were able to walk and sit pretty freely since there weren’t too many people onboard. I found that the 2nd level front was the best spot for photos – the 3rd level front unfortunately has too much boating equipment so you can only get side shots. One issue we did run into, though, was fading daylight! Doing this trip in early December meant that the sun set around 4pm, which was halfway through the boat trip (note that the schedule may change day-to-day. I wish we didn’t have the break in Flam so we could have gotten more daylight for the boat!).

Gundvagen to Voss Bus Ride (45 minutes) / Voss to Bergen Train Ride (1 hour): Sadly we did these both totally in the dark so we didn’t actually see any of the sights out the window. However, I already knew the majority of the sights were in the first section, so I wasn’t too concerned.

General Thoughts:

·      If you’re doing the trip in the winter and have the same issues with daylight, you could consider doing this trip backwards from Bergen to Oslo

·      Bring food! It will save money and you can eat at your own pace during the non-incredible portions of the trip

·      There are quite a few blogs that suggested splitting up the trip into 2-3 days, but if you’re going in the winter, like me, I don’t think this makes as much sense. I think there’s quite a bit of nature and hiking to do in Flam during the spring / summer, but I thought one day was perfect for me.

·      Consider going in the winter…AND the spring! I was so blown away by this trip and what a winter wonderland it was. However, I am 100% planning on coming back in the spring or summer because I’m sure it’s completely different. Both are such unique visions, but definitely don’t rule out the winter! I was actually quite annoyed that none of the gift shops sold any winter scenery postcards since I thought the snowy capped mountains were just so incredible.

·      Follow the herd and make friends! Chances are, there are quite a few people who are doing the whole trip, and you’ll be spending the next 12 hours together so you might as well make friends.