[ICELAND 2015] Day 1: Amsterdam (Stopover) & Iceland (KUL-AMS-KEF)

Iceland has been on my bucket list ever since we flew over it on my KUL-NYC flight. It was only a glimpse of Iceland from above, but it was enough to convince me that Iceland is a beautiful country and that I would love to visit it one day. And then I saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - I think anyone who watched that movie thought "I have to visit Greenland & Iceland one day!" (I'm still working on the Greenland thing fyi lol.)

So when a local backpacking tour group BLA (BucketListAbroad or @bucketlistabroad on Instagram) put up an advert on their instagram an Iceland trip in November, I snapped it up without any thought. So basically, I planned for another impromptu visit some time in May 2015 lol - I usually plan my holidays out a year in advance at least, but I thought I would never have this kind of chance to go again, and so why not?

Why not, indeed. I think the trip kind of grew a mind of its own lol - initially I was only going to stay in Amsterdam for a night or two, but the wanderlust was too strong and I ended up extending my stay in Iceland for 3 nights and the stay in Amsterdam for 4 nights, lol. This is why I shouldn't do any impromptu plans! Luckily KLM was very accommodating with my flight change (I think I changed it two times lol, but KLM has a great service, where you can just contact them through FB or Twitter) and since booking.com has great cancellable / modifiable hotel deals, I made my final changes to my initial itinerary.

And then it was time to go!

So the concept of BLA is that of a backpacking / budget traveller kind of travelling - any youth and adults can join, but there's a maximum number of around 20-25 people max who will join one trip at one time. It's more suited to youths or those travelling without children (e.g. infants, kids below the age of 8yo) because of the travelling style (sleeping in trains, sleeping in busses, a lot of walking and taking public transport etc.)

Seeing as how I only began travelling alone in May, I thought joining BLA would be a great option as I would be going with a group of like-minded Malaysians, so it wouldn't be so bad. (I mean, travelling to Japan alone doesn't sound as daunting as I've been there twice, but travelling to Iceland alone is totally different.)

The decision to join BLA was basically one of the best decisions I've made when it comes to travelling. Not only did I meet like-minded people on this trip, we clicked almost instantly and we basically became travel buddies because we're planning for another Iceland trip on our own in 2016/2017 hahahaha.

So yeah, when in doubt or when you're not so confident about travelling alone, you can always opt to join this kind of group. I opted for BLA because the price was reasonable and the timing was right :) Plus it was Iceland for RM5.6k! That's pretty cheap, considering the flight from Malaysia to Iceland alone costs approximately RM3.6k! (Be aware that cheap comes at a cost: you're not going to be staying in a 5-star hotel that's for sure. But hey we're in Iceland for the sceneries, not for the 5-star hotel bed.)

Anyway. I first met a few of the people from the BLAiceland group before we boarded the plane; although it was kind of awkward at first, by the time we agreed on exploring Amsterdam during the 7 hours' layover, I was sold on the fact that this was my kind of people.

During the layover, we bought train tickets to Amsterdam city centre early in the morning (since we arrived around 6am) and it was suuuper cold - that was only an indication of the kind of temperature we were to expect in Iceland, lol.

Depending on how many hours of layover you have (I would say more than 5-9 hours is the safest number, but the lesser the hours, the less sites you will be able to visit - always ensure you leave ample time to return back to the airport!), I would recommend visiting the following sites: 

1. Amsterdam Centraal Station
You can't run away from here if you're transiting to Amsterdam! A few minutes walk and you'll be in the city centre in no time - depending on the hour of your arrival, you could go and fine breakfast/lunch/dinner, window shop, or even book a cruise tour!

We were so early that the sun's just come up at this point of time, heh.

2. Museumplein - Rijksmuseum / Van Gogh Museum / Iamsterdam sign 
Yes, the infamous Iamsterdam sign, Rijksmuseum & Van Gogh Museum are all situated within the Museumplein area. Getting there via tram is easy enough, as you just get off at Museumplein and follow the signs (or GPS map!) to Rijksmuseum, where you will then find your first sighting of the Iamsterdam sign.

For the Hard Rock cafe / merchandise enthusiast, the Hard Rock cafe and store is somewhere nearby too. You can find it going from Museumplein and making your way to the entrance of Vondelpark - the bridge on the opposite site of the Vondelpark entrance will lead you to the cafe.

With the BLA crew - join BLA and make lifelong friends! The quintessential iamsterdam shot lol

3. Prinsengracht
These are where all the infamous canal views are found - feel free to get yourself lost in the maze of canals looking for that perfect photo op :) (Note: Only advisable if you have more than 6 hours of layover to spare!)

Having a GPS map (or an old-fashioned map if you're feeling adventurous) would help you a lot in finding your way back to Centraal Station. When in doubt, ask the local shops, or look for the nearest tram station to find your bearings.

I will be posting more on Amsterdam later on as I would be staying there for 4D3N after the conclusion of my Iceland trip :)

And so, after all the walking we did around Amsterdam city, we had a mad rush back to the airport for our next flight to Amsterdam via Icelandair. I'm so excited!!!

Lookit the cup!!! Iceland why you so cute with the marketing.